The number of reported deaths in the U.S. from the new coronavirus spiked to nearly double the prior record Thursday, as governors extended their lockdown orders, and the Trump administration released new federal guidelines to reopen the economy.
In the 24 hours ending at 8 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, 4,591 people were reported to have died from Covid-19, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of data from Johns Hopkins University. The prior record was 2,569 on Wednesday.
The number of new reported U.S. cases, meanwhile, was roughly equal with that on Wednesday at 31,451.
In total, there have been more than 671,000 coronavirus cases and 33,000 deaths in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins. Globally, confirmed cases of the virus have reached more than 2.15 million, with the number of deaths world-wide topping 144,000.
Under the new guidelines, President Trump said governors would determine a timeline for reopening their states. “Every state is very different,” he said. “If they need to remain closed, we will allow them to do that.”
While he pushed to open the economy, Mr. Trump acknowledged the continued risk and said Americans should continue to practice “vigorous” hygiene practices, including social-distancing and, when possible, teleworking.
Mr. Trump expressed optimism that as many as 29 states would be ready to open their economies “relatively soon,” though he declined to provide specifics.
The new guidelines come as lawmakers and business leaders press the administration to expand virus testing, and days after Mr. Trump said that he—not governors—was the final arbiter on when to reopen the country.
“You’re going to call your own shots,” Mr. Trump told the governors on a call Thursday, according to a person who was briefed on the matter. “We’ll be standing right alongside of you and we’re going to get our country open.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom described the new guidelines’ approach, which he said was based on county and state-specific conditions, as “thoughtful and judicious.”
“It certainly was in line with what we were hoping to hear,” said Mr. Newsom, who added that he was only on the call with Mr. Trump for the first 40 minutes.
The White House guidelines say states should move to the first phase of reopening after exhibiting a downward trend of documented cases or positive tests over a two-week period.
In the first phase, movie theaters, restaurants, sports venues, places of worship, gyms and other venues could open with strict social distancing guidelines in place. The plan recommends that vulnerable people stay at home during the first phase, and prohibits visits to nursing homes and hospitals. Some people could return to work in phases, although telework would still be encouraged.
In the second phase, nonessential travel could resume and bars could open with some restrictions. Schools and youth activities could reopen.
For phase three, there would be no restrictions on workplaces and vulnerable people could resume social interactions, but should seek to follow social distancing. Visits to hospitals and nursing homes could resume.
Groups of governors this week said they would coordinate regional reopening plans with an emphasis on testing and contact-tracing measures to better control the virus’s spread as social-distancing measures loosen.
A group of bipartisan governors in seven Midwestern states—Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Kentucky—on Thursday outlined a new coalition similar to those formed by leaders along the East and West coasts.
In New York, the hardest-hit U.S. state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended shutdown orders for nonessential businesses and public gatherings until at least May 15, though the rate of infections and hospitalizations has slowed and the number of new confirmed cases stabilized. Wisconsin and Missouri also extended their stay-at-home measures.
He also said the state would send 100 ventilators to neighboring New Jersey, which has the second-highest confirmed infections of any U.S. state. More than 60 people died recently in an outbreak at a New Jersey nursing home.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday called for a federal bailout for the city, noting the bailouts of banks and the auto industry in the past.
The city Tuesday said 3,778 people who likely died from the virus didn’t get tested or died before results arrived. Officially, more than 10,000 people in New York City have died from the pandemic.
Chicago officials this week said they had succeeded in slowing the spread of the virus, with new Covid-19 cases now doubling every 12 days—down from every two to three days a month ago.
Washington, D.C., reported its highest single-day increase in coronavirus deaths this week, as officials braced for the peak in hospitalizations, which they said could come as late as the end of May.
An additional 5.2 million Americans last week sought unemployment benefits as the pandemic shut down large segments of the U.S. economy, raising the total for the month to 22 million.
Programs designed to ease the economic damage are showing signs of strain: The Small Business Administration said funding had been exhausted for the $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program, and it won’t be accepting new aid applications or enrolling new lenders.
U.S. stocks swung between small gains and losses, following mixed trading in Europe and Asia.
Shares of Gilead Sciences Inc. rose 15.1% after-hours after a report that the company’s experimental drug remdesivir might be performing well in clinical trials of Covid-19 patients.
A Chicago doctor told colleagues that her hospital had enrolled 125 patients in two Gilead-sponsored trials of remdesivir, most of whom were severely ill, and that most patients had been discharged from the hospital, according to an article in the online health-news publication STAT.
Analysts cautioned that the severe-patient study doesn’t include a comparison group, making it difficult to interpret the results.
New Chinese export restrictions are exacerbating the chronic shortage of protective gear in the U.S. Face masks, test kits and other medical equipment bound for the U.S. are sitting in warehouses across China unable to receive necessary official clearances, some suppliers and brokers told The Wall Street Journal.
Chinese officials have said the policies, instituted this month, are intended to ensure the quality of exported medical products and to make sure needed goods aren’t being shipped out of China. They have created bottlenecks at a time of urgent need, according to the suppliers, brokers and the State Department memos.
In the U.K., the government extended a national lockdown for at least three more weeks.
“We need to be patient a while longer,” said U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. The number of people in U.K. hospital beds with Covid-19 has started to fall, but the U.K.’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance said restrictions should be maintained to prevent another flare-up.
Meanwhile, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who has said the risk from the coronavirus is low and called for Brazil to stay open for business, fired his health minister Thursday after the two clashed over how to handle the pandemic.
In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe expanded a state of emergency to the whole country after the death toll reached a daily high of 17 on Wednesday, bringing the total to 136. Under Japanese law, the state of emergency doesn’t force any business to close, but has led many offices to institute work-from-home policies and caused stores to pull down their shutters.
In Italy, the heart of the pandemic in Europe, many critics have faulted regional and national authorities for the death toll in the Lombardy region, which has recorded 11,400 Covid-19 fatalities.
Italian prosecutors have opened investigations into whether there was culpable negligence in specific deaths, such as in nursing homes.
France remains in lockdown while other European countries begin to lift some restrictions. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced plans Wednesday to gradually reopen the nation, even as it recorded 315 Covid-19 deaths, the first 24-hour count above 300.
As European nations consider next steps to reopen their economies, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the country “strongly supports” a plan from the Group of 20 that allows low-income economies to suspend their debt payments to free up money to fight the pandemic in their nations, and added the U.S. was exploring further options to relieve the debt burden in these countries.
China reported 46 new coronavirus cases, 34 of them imported, and no new deaths as of midnight on Wednesday.
Authorities in Wuhan, the coronavirus pandemic’s original epicenter, have started testing for antibodies among thousands of people returning to work, and others without symptoms, to gain a clearer picture of immunity levels in the city and try to prevent a second wave of disease. Initial results suggest many people were infected without realizing it.