Health and Science

California reports 'deadliest day' yet, global lockdowns ease

Here's what you need to know about Gilead's 'flopped' Remdesivir drug trial
Here's what you need to know about Gilead's 'flopped' Remdesivir drug trial

The coverage on this live blog has ended — but for up-to-the-minute coverage on the coronavirus, visit the live blog from CNBC's Asia-Pacific team.

The House passed a $484 billion stimulus package to bolster small businesses and hospitals ravaged by the coronavirus crisis in the latest effort from lawmakers to ease the effects of coronavirus shutdowns on the economy. Vice President Pence said that 16 states currently have plans in place to reopen local businesses, though health officials continue to warn of relaxing mitigation efforts too quickly.

This is CNBC's live blog covering all the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak. All times below are in Eastern time. This blog will be updated throughout the day as the news breaks. 

  • Global cases: More than 2.7 million
  • Global deaths: At least 190,303
  • US cases: More than 864,400
  • US deaths: At least 49,748

The data above was compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

8:30 pm: San Francisco begins closing off some streets to encourage social distancing

San Francisco began closing off some residential streets to daytime traffic this week.

The closure is part of its "Slow Streets" initiative, announced on Monday by Mayor London Breed. The closures are meant to give pedestrians and bikers a way to get around, without violating physical distancing orders, and without having to crowd onto sidewalks or dodge traffic.

The selected thoroughfares in San Francisco are only open to pedestrians, bikers, vehicles making deliveries to local residents or businesses, and emergency responders during the day. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency shared images on social media of people maintaining a good physical distance from each other while strolling down Golden Gate Avenue in the city's Tenderloin neighborhood.

Neighboring Oakland implemented a similar initiative with fitness in mind earlier this month. —Lora Kolodny


8 pm: Dubai opens restaurants and cafes, resumes public transportation

Dubai on Thursday allowed cafes and restaurants to resume business, and shopping malls to be opened partially from 12 p.m until 10 p.m, but with a maximum capacity of 30%, Dubai's media office announced in a statement.

The statement added that it would also allow resuming public transportation services including subways starting April 26. —Reuters

7:40 pm: United Airlines will require flight attendants to wear masks. The labor union wants passengers to wear them, too

United Airlines says effective Friday flight attendants will have to wear masks or other face coverings while on duty, a measure aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus. The airline will provide flight attendants with surgical masks but they are also allowed to wear their own cloth masks. "We understand that many aspects of the flight attendant's duties, both on and off the aircraft, can make practicing social distancing challenging, which is why this new initiative is so important," United said. While few travelers are currently flying because of the virus and stay-at-home orders airlines are rethinking precautions to stop the virus from spreading.

The Association of Flight Attendants, which represents some 50,000 cabin crew members including those at United and asked for the measure at United, wants to go further. The union asked federal authorities to require that travelers as well as crews be required to wear masks to reduce the risk of spreading the disease. "As some of the most frequent travelers, flight attendants feel a deep responsibility to ensure that our workplace risks of acquiring and spreading communicable diseases are minimized as much as possible," AFA's president, Sara Nelson, wrote in a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar." —Leslie Josephs

7:30 pm: Trump 'not at all happy' with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp's plan to re-open businesses

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp listens to a question from the press during a tour of a massive temporary hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center on Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Atlanta.
Ron Harris | AP

President Trump said at a press conference that he was "not at all happy" with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, who plans to re-open certain businesses in the state starting Friday, April 24, even though the Covid-19 outbreak is still a public health threat there.

On Monday, Governor Kemp said the state would allow spas, tattoo parlors, salons, barbershops, bowling alleys, and soon movie theaters and restaurants to open up again in Georgia, as long as they implement physical distancing and other measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The President said, of Kemp and his plans, on Thursday: "I want the states to open much more than he does!" But he added, "I didn't like to see spas opening, frankly. I wasn't happy with Brian Kemp. I wasn't at all happy." The President emphasized that he was leaving it up to governors to make decisions for their own states. Referring to small businesses, he said: "I want them to open as soon as possible. And I want the state to open. But I wasn't happy with Brian Kemp." —Lora Kolodny

7:17 pm: Bill Gates explains what we need to do to stop the coronavirus pandemic and reopen the economy

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates outlined what the world needs to do to stop the Covid-19 pandemic and reopen the economy in a blog post Thursday

Gates said the world must advance its treatments, vaccines, testing and contact tracing. It also needs to examine its policies for opening up global economies, he said. He compared the pandemic to a war.

There were five areas he outlines as needing attention:

  1. Treatment: Gates acknowledged that many treatments may fail, but said he's optimistic some will be successful in reducing the coronavirus burden.
  2. Vaccines: "Short of a miracle treatment," the only way for people to return to some sense of normal is through a vaccine, Gates said.
  3. Testing: Gates said the United States needs to prioritize and speed up Covid-19 testing to have results in one day.
  4. Contact tracing: Gates said that people who have been in close contact with someone who tested positive should be prioritized for testing and self-isolate.
  5. Opening up: Gates believes that most developed countries will enter the second phase of the pandemic in the next two months. That's where the world is semi-normal, though people still practice social distancing.

"During World War II, an amazing amount of innovation, including radar, reliable torpedoes, and code-breaking, helped end the war faster," Gates said. "This will be the same with the pandemic." Gates has been vocal on the Covid-19 pandemic and has described its spread as a "nightmare scenario." —Jessica Bursztynsky

6:58 pm: Updated map of global cases, which now total 2,708,590

6:53 pm: Trump says he may extend coronavirus social distancing guidelines to early summer

Trump: At a certain point, we'll be able to contain
Trump: At a certain point, we'll be able to contain

President Donald Trump said that his administration may extend its national social distancing guidelines until early in the summer or later.

"We may, and we may go beyond that,"  Trump said at a White House press briefing when asked if the federal guidelines would need to be extended at least until the start of summer.

"We're going to have to see where it is," Trump said. "I think people are going to know just out of common sense. At some point, we won't have to do that. But until we feel safe, we're going to be extending."

The coronavirus guidelines, which were first shared in mid-March and had already been extended once, were set to expire at the end of April. —Amanda Macias, Kevin Breuninger

6:41 pm: Pence says 16 states have released plans to lift coronavirus restrictions

Pence: 16 states have released formal reopening plans
Pence: 16 states have released formal reopening plans

Sixteen states have released "formal reopening plans" to lift coronavirus restrictions, Vice President Mike Pence said.

"At the present moment, 16 states have released formal reopening plans," Pence said at a news briefing. "States are beginning to make those plans and we're encouraged to see so many states embracing the phased approach to reopening their economies that's contemplated in our guidelines for opening up America again."

Missouri, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Idaho have all released plans to lift restrictions meant to curb the spread of the coronavirus, Pence said. The White House did not immediately respond to CNBC's request for the complete list of states.

The administration is now also calling on states to resume elective surgeries, which were largely suspended as health systems sought to boost capacity for an expected surge of Covid-19 patients, Pence announced. He said several states have already unveiled plans to do so, including Arizona and Indiana. —Will Feuer

6:34 pm: The FDA just approved Columbia's Covid-19 plasma therapy study, backed by Amazon

A scientist is at work in the VirPath university laboratory, classified as "P3" level of safety, on February 5, 2020 as they try to find an effective treatment against COVID-19.
JEFF PACHOUD | AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration just green-lit a clinical trial at Columbia University to determine whether the plasma collected from Covid-19 survivors can effectively protect health care workers on the frontlines and alleviate symptoms in those who are severely ill

The study is funded by $2.5 million from Amazon

Using convalescent plasma -- a component of blood -- as a treatment is a decades-old idea, and has been used to treat other diseases like influenza and measles. When a patient recovers from a disease, they produce antibodies to fight the presence of the antigen that caused the disease, and those proteins will remain in the blood for a few months.

The hope is that plasma from recovered coronavirus patients can be transfused into severely ill patients, helping them recover more quickly. It could also help health care workers develop some immunity. It's not an alternative to a vaccine, but researchers believe that the approach has potential. —Christina Farr

6:26 pm: US stock futures are flat after Wall Street's roller-coaster session

U.S. stock futures were flat on Thursday night as investors continued to weigh the prospects of a potential coronavirus treatment.

Dow Jones Industrial Average futures were up just 8 points, or 0.03%. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures also hovered around the flatline. —Fred Imbert

6 pm: UAW opposes restarting auto production in early-May

The United Auto Workers believes restarting U.S. auto production in early-May is "too soon and too risky" for its members, according to a statement released Thursday by UAW President Rory Gamble.

"At this point in time, the UAW does not believe the scientific data is conclusive that it is safe to have our members back in the workplace," he said. "We have not done enough testing to really understand the threat our members face."

Fiat Chrysler, as well as other automakers earlier this month, announced plans to resume production on May 4. General Motors and Ford Motor have not announced a timeframe to restart production, which is costing them billions in idled production.

Most U.S. auto plants, including those for the Detroit automakers, ceased production in mid-March due to Covid-19. The Detroit automakers employ about 150,000 UAW members.

Gamble's statement comes a day after discussions took place between Gamble and GM and Chairman CEO Mary Barra, Ford CEO and President Jim Hackett and Fiat Chrysler CEO Mike Manley about reopening plants.

Gamble said the union is "happy with the auto companies' response and cooperation on working through the health and safety protocols we will need in the workplace when it is appropriate to restart."

Automakers such as Tesla, Toyota Motor and Honda Motor, after several delays, have announced plans or are expected to restart production in early-May. —Mike Wayland

5:40 pm: House has the votes to pass $484 billion bill to boost small businesses and hospitals, send it to Trump

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. arrives on Capitol Hill, Thursday, April 23, 2020, in Washington.
Andrew Harnik | AP

The House had the votes to pass a $484 billion package to bolster small businesses and hospitals ravaged by the coronavirus crisis and expand testing desperately needed to start the return to normal life.

Donning face coverings and voting in alphabetical sets to cut the risk of infection, representatives were set to approve the bill easily. The House vote will send the proposal to President Donald Trump, who is set to sign it into law in the coming hours.

Before the chamber cleared the plan to try to rescue a crumbling U.S. economy, it also approved a Democratic-majority select subcommittee to oversee the Trump administration's use of a $500 billion pool of aid for corporations, states and municipalities. Between votes, House staff swept through the chamber to clean and disinfect it. —Jacob Pramuk

5:30 pm: Google to cut marketing budgets by as much as half, directors warned of hiring freezes

Google is slashing its marketing budgets by as much as half for the second half of the year, according to internal materials viewed by CNBC.

One email about the cuts went out to marketing employees this week, noting the budget cuts and a new hiring freeze for full-time and contract employees.

"There are budget cuts and hiring freezes happening across marketing and across Google," said one message from a global director sent to employees Wednesday. "We, along with the rest of marketing, have been asked to cut our budget by about half for H2."

A company spokesperon confirmed that some areas' budgets are being cut by as much as half, but added that others may not be since it is still in the process of "recalibrating." —Jennifer Elias

5:15 pm: Tech companies pull back on hiring, flashing another grim warning sign for the U.S. economy

Tech companies have pulled back sharply on hiring, adding to the cascade of negative economic shocks caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

It's been roughly one month since the country's first stay-at-home order came down in the San Francisco Bay Area. In the weeks since then, shutdowns to control the pandemic's spread have unleashed havoc on industries ranging from retail to travel and tourism. The pace and scale of the economic damage have been striking. An additional 4.4 million Americans filed for jobless claims last week, bringing the total to 26 million over the past five weeks. And some economists are predicting the U.S. unemployment rate could soon eclipse 30% — up from a 50-year low of 3.5% in February.

On the other side of the ledger, hiring trends are painting an equally distressing picture. And, despite the shift to remote work and the surge in demand for certain online services, tech is not immune to the pullback. —J.R. Reed

4:45 pm: California leads in the number of jobless claims by state

California leads in the number of jobless claims by state
California leads in the number of jobless claims by state

4:20 pm: WHO reports five-fold increase in cyber attacks, nearly 450 hacked emails

Nearly 450 emails and passwords linked to World Health Organization officials and others working on the coronavirus response were leaked online this week, the organization said in a statement. WHO said scammers have been impersonating officials in emails targeted toward the general public in order to obtain donations. The organization is now migrating affected systems to a more secure authentication system, the organization said.

The leaked credentials did not put any WHO systems at risk because the data was not recent, the organization said. However, WHO said the attack did impact an older system used by current and retired staff as well as partners. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has seen a dramatic increase in the number of cyber attacks directed at its staff, and email scams targeting the public at large. There have been five times the number of cyber attacks directed at the organization now than reported during the same period last year.

"It is deeply disappointing that as we and partners work to save lives from the virus, we are under attack in this way as well as on social media. This has to stop," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on Twitter. —Noah Higgins-Dunn

4:10 pm: Stocks close flat after wild session as investors assess Gilead coronavirus treatment

Stocks were taken for a wild ride on Thursday that showed just how important finding a treatment for the coronavirus is for Wall Street.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed just 39.44 points higher, or 0.2%, at 23,515.26. Earlier in the day, the Dow rallied more than 400 points. The S&P 500 dipped 0.1% to 2,797.80 while the Nasdaq Composite closed just below breakeven at 8,494.75. Both the Nasdaq and S&P 500 were up more than 1% at their session highs.

The Financial Times said  — citing documents accidentally published by the World Health Organization — that Gilead Sciences' drug remdesivir did not improve patients' condition or reduce the coronavirus pathogen in their bloodstream. Those findings, according to the report, came from a clinical trial in China.  —Fred Imbert, Thomas Frank

4:04 pm: 25% of US pork production hit by coronavirus closures, union says

Meatpacking plants responsible for 10% of beef production and 25% of pork production been affected by closures, according to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

As the coronavirus spreads among meatpacking workers who often work in close proximity, concerns are growing about potential meat shortages — and the nation's overall food supply. 

"When they have to start closing these plants down or they have to spread the lines out for social distancing or slow them down in some ways, which we're calling for as it relates to these line speed waivers, it will in fact create some shortages in the stores," UFCW President Marc Perrone said. "I don't think there's any doubt about it."

The union, which represents 80% of beef and pork production workers, said that 13 packing and food processing workers have died after contracting Covid-19 and 5,000 have tested positive or been exposed. —Amelia Lucas

4:00 pm: Czech government eases restrictions on free movement, lifts ban on international travel

The Czech government will cancel restrictions on free movement as of Friday and allow groups of up to 10 people to meet in public as it scales back measures to fight the spread of the new coronavirus, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said.

The government had earlier banned movement aside from work, family visits and trips to nature as well as meetings of more than two people in public.

The country also lifted a previous ban on travel abroad. —Reuters with contribution from CNBC

3:51 pm: California endures 'deadliest day' yet due to coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom says

Marin Food Bank hands out 1600 food bags at a pop-up pantry at Bayview Opera House in San Francisco, Calif., on Monday, April 20, 2020. Work furloughs and layoffs created by coronavirus shelter-in-place orders are driving thousands to seek food assistance.
Scott Strazzante | The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

California reported 115 deaths due to Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, marking the "deadliest day" so far in the state's fight to contain the coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

"Yesterday was the deadliest day for this virus in this state. 115 human beings lost their lives, families torn apart," he said. "It's also a reminder we're not out of the woods yet."

That's an 8.5% increase compared to deaths from the day before, Newsom said, adding that there was a 5.6% increase in the number of people who tested positive. The number of hospitalizations and people in intensive care due to Covid-19 both dropped, he said. 

Separately, Newsom signed an executive order that prevents debt collectors from garnishing CARES Act stimulus checks. The order is effective immediately and is also retroactive.

"If you're a debt collector and you did garnish those contributions, those checks, you gotta give them back," Newsom said at a press briefing Thursday. Newsom said that checks can be garnished if an individual owes child, spousal or victim support. —Will Feuer, Hannah Miller

3:39 pm: Cord cutting accelerates as live sports stay offline

Cord cutting accelerates as live sports stays offline
Cord cutting accelerates as live sports stays offline

3:37 pm: Toyota to gradually resume North America production starting May 4

Toyota Motor Corp said it expects to gradually resume North American production starting May 4 and will impose significant new safety procedures after it halted operations in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The largest Japanese automaker said it expects production will be slow next month. The company added it is not yet clear when the industry will be allowed to resume operations in Mexico. Toyota will add temperature checks for all plant employees, personal protective gear, use "touchless" entrances and exits and will even bar non-emergency use of elevators.

"There is no going back to normal for the foreseeable future," said Toyota Motor North America chief administrative officer Chris Reynolds, who said he expects production will ramp up later in May "to meet consumer demand." —Reuters

3:29 pm: South Africa to begin phased easing of lockdown on May 1

South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government will allow a partial reopening of the economy on May 1, with travel restrictions eased and some industries allowed to operate under a five-level risk system.

Ramaphosa said the National Coronavirus Command Council decided restrictions will be lowered from level 5 to level 4 from next Friday. International borders will remain closed while travel will be only allowed for essential services. —Reuters

3:21 pm: EU agrees to revamp budget and set up recovery fund

Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, delivers a speech during a special address on day two of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020.

European Leaders agreed to revamp its long-term budget and set up a massive recovery fund to tackle the impact of the coronavirus and help rebuild the 27-nation bloc's ravaged economies.

"There is only one instrument that can deliver this magnitude of task behind the recovery and that is the European budget clearly linked to the recovery fund," European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said.

However, deep differences remain over the best way to achieve those goals, as hard-hit countries like Spain and Italy are urgently in need of funds. They lack confidence that relatively wealthier northern EU partners who have suffered less from the disease are willing to take swift, sweeping measures backed by real economic firepower. —Associated Press

3:06 pm: Illinois governor to extend stay-at-home order

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker was expected to extend his state's stay-at-home order, which was to expire on April 30, to stem the spread of Covid-19, local media reported.

The state saw 2,049 new cases on Wednesday, the largest one-day increase since the outbreak of the pandemic began.It was unclear how long the extension will be, but several media outlets reported that it could go until May 30 or longer. —Reuters

3:00 pm: JPMorgan tells small business customers to apply with other banks on fear that funds will run out

JPMorgan Chase is warning some customers that even if fresh funds for the federal small business relief program are approved, the money won't last and they might be better off applying elsewhere.

JPMorgan on late Wednesday emailed thousands of customers who have applied to the Paycheck Protection Program to say that while Congress is headed towards replenishing the effort, the bank is concerned "that funds could run out again quickly," according to a copy obtained by CNBC.

The bank, which has been inundated with requests for more than $40 billion in loans since April 3, has placed customers in one of four categories indicating the progress of applications. Those furthest back in line are in Stage 1, and they received the starkest language:

"Your application is still in Stage 1, with an extremely large volume of applications ahead yours,"  the bank said. "We wanted to give you this information, so that you can decide if you would like to try applying with another lender." —Hugh Son

Here are the guidelines for round two of PPP
Here are the guidelines for round two of PPP

2:57 pm: Dubai opens restaurants and cafes, resumes public transportation

Dubai allowed cafes and restaurants to resume business, and shopping malls to be opened partially from 12 p.m until 10 p.m, but with a maximum capacity of 30%, Dubai's media office announced in a statement.

The statement added that it would also allow resuming public transportation services including subways starting April 26. —Reuters

2:49 pm: Fed announces greater transparency for CARES lending programs

In an effort to provide greater transparency around business loans issued through the CARES Act, the Federal Reserve announced it will provide detailed information on who gets the money. Monthly releases will include names and details of participants in each facility, the amounts borrowed and interest charged, and costs, revenues and fees for each program.

"The Federal Reserve is committed to transparency and accountability by providing the
public and Congress detailed information about our actions to support the economy during this difficult time," Chair Jerome H. Powell said in a statement. Controversy erupted earlier this week when it was revealed that multiple publicly traded companies had received funding through loan programs intended for small businesses. —Jeff Cox

2:16 pm: S&P 500 turns negative in volatile session

Stocks were taken for a wild ride that showed just how important finding a treatment for the coronavirus is for Wall Street. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average slashed a 400-point gain and nearly went negative after The Financial Times said  — citing documents accidentally published by the World Health Organization — that Gilead Sciences' drug remdesivir did not improve patients' condition or reduce the coronavirus pathogen in their bloodstream. Those findings, according to the report, came from a clinical trial in China. 

The S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite cut their gains on the report, while Gilead was briefly halted for volatility. —Fred Imbert, Thomas Franck

2:01 pm: Cases in Peru top 20,000, doubling in 9 days

Peru's reported coronavirus cases have rapidly increased this week and topped 20,000, doubling in nine days and continuing to disrupt the economy of the world's No. 2 copper producer.

The health ministry says it expects patient numbers to peak within days or in the following week.

Peru recorded its first coronavirus case on March 6 and took 25 days to reach 1,000 cases. It took only 14 more days to reach 10,000 cases on April 14, according to a Reuters tally. Cases doubled again to 20,914 confirmed cases on Thursday. Peru has a total of 572 deaths.

Peru has the second highest number of cases in South America after Brazil, despite a tough lockdown aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus. —Reuters

1:45 pm: Hawaii, Kentucky and Michigan hit the hardest with job losses

Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania are seeing surges in claims for unemployment benefits as workers and state health officials in those states struggle to strike a balance between economic wellbeing and safety from the coronavirus.

Hawaii, Kentucky, Michigan, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Nevada and Georgia have seen the most concentrated spikes in jobless claims since mid-March, when employers began to lay off droves of workers. Here are all the states getting hit the hardest. —Thomas Franck, John Schoen

1:38 pm: New York Gov. Cuomo rips Senate leader Mitch McConnell's 'really dumb' suggestion to let states declare bankruptcy

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo tore into Sen. Mitch McConnell over the Senate Republican leader's support for letting states declare bankruptcy as they grapple with the coronavirus pandemic.

"This is one of the really dumb ideas of all time," Cuomo, a Democrat, said during a press conference in Albany. 

"You will see a collapse of this national economy" if states such as New York and California declare bankruptcy, Cuomo said. "So just don't."

On Wednesday, McConnell, of Kentucky, told radio host Hugh Hewitt that he supports allowing states to declare bankruptcy rather than getting federal money to cover budget shortfalls as tax revenue dives. —Kevin Breuninger, Jacob Pramuk

NY Gov. Cuomo rips McConnell's 'really dumb' idea to let states go bankrupt
NY Gov. Cuomo rips McConnell's 'really dumb' idea to let states go bankrupt

1:35 pm: Gilead says draft of coronavirus treatment results contains 'inappropriate characterization' and are 'inconclusive'

Gilead Sciences said that a draft document showing disappointing results from a closely watched clinical trial of the company's treatment for the coronavirus contained "inappropriate characterizations" and that the study's findings were "inconclusive."

Shares of the biotech firm fell 4% in intraday trading after the Financial Times reported that antiviral Remdesivir did not improve Covid-19 patients' condition or reduce the virus' presence in the bloodstream in a phase 3 clinical trial, citing a draft document that was accidentally published by the World Health Organization.

"We regret that the WHO prematurely posted information regarding the study, which has since been removed. The investigators in this study did not provide permission for publication of results," a Gilead spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC. 

"Furthermore, we believe the post included inappropriate characterizations of the study. Importantly, because this study was terminated early due to low enrollment, it was underpowered to enable statistically meaningful conclusions," according to Gilead. "As such, the study results are inconclusive, though trends in the data suggest a potential benefit for remdesivir, particularly among patients treated early in disease." —Berkeley Lovelace Jr. 

1:28 pm: Housing demand may have started to bounce back from coronavirus impact

Sales of both newly built and existing homes tanked in March, as potential buyers hunkered down and potential sellers pulled their homes from the market, both watching their economy in free fall from the coronavirus.

Now, suddenly, buyer demand at least may be climbing back.

Pending home sales — a measure of signed contracts, not closings — are about 32% lower annually now, according to research by Zillow. But the week-over-week change in pending sales turned positive in the week ending April 15. Pending sales were up 6.2% week over week as of the seven days ending April 19.

Zillow also noted that web traffic on for-sale listings and requests to connect with real estate agents have grown in recent weeks as well. While web traffic to Zillow listings in some markets is still way down from a year ago, the national total jumped 13% annually for the week ending April 13. In 30 of the 35 largest metro areas, web traffic to for-sale listings was higher annually during the second week of April. Traffic was still lower in Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia, Boston and New York City. —Diana Olick

1:17 pm: Ousted vaccine doctor felt pressure to rush possible Covid-19 treatment after Trump spoke to Oracle boss Larry Ellison

Oracle Chairman and Chief Technolgoy Officer Larry Ellison delivers a keynote address during the Oracle OpenWorld conference in San Francisco on October 22, 2018.
Justin Sullivan | Getty Images

A top federal doctor who was ousted from his post this week felt pressured to rush out expanded access to a potential treatment for coronavirus patients after President Donald Trump discussed the drug with Larry Ellison, the chairman of tech giant Oracle, NBC News reported Thursday.

The report comes a day after vaccine expert Dr. Rick Bright went public with a bombshell statement saying he was  removed from leading a federal agency heavily involved in coronavirus response efforts after he "resisted efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections."

A source close to Bright who spoke with NBC News said that Bright was told to put in place a national program geared to expanding access to the drug hydroxychloroquine after Ellison, who has raised campaign funds for Trump, and the president spoke about it. —Dan Mangan

1:08 pm: New data on Gilead's remdesivir, released by accident, show no benefit for coronavirus patients. Company still sees reason for hope

The antiviral medicine remdesivir from Gilead Sciences failed to speed the improvement of patients with Covid-19 or prevent them from dying, according to results from a long-awaited clinical trial conducted in China. Gilead, however, said the data suggest a "potential benefit."

A summary of the study results was inadvertently posted to the website of the World Health Organization and seen by STAT on Thursday, but then removed. 

"A draft document was provided by the authors to WHO and inadvertently posted on the website and taken down as soon as the mistake was noticed. The manuscript is undergoing peer review and we are waiting for a final version before WHO comments," said WHO spokesperson Tarik Jasarevic. —STAT News

12:58 pm: Stocks quickly cut gains after report says potential Gilead virus treatment flops in trial

Stocks slashed earlier gains after a report said Gilead Sciences' remdesivir flopped in a Chinese trial aimed at treating coronavirus patients. 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 116 points, or 0.5%, after jumping more than 400 points earlier in the day. The S&P 500 was up just 0.4% along with the Nasdaq Composite. Both indexes were up more than 1% earlier in the session. —Fred Imbert, Thomas Franck

12:43 pm: UK to expand testing to cover all key workers

A man passes a mural showing a woman wearing a face mask, in Shoreditch, east London, as the UK continues in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus.
Dominic Lipinski | Getty Images

Britain's health minister Matt Hancock promised to expand coronavirus testing to all those considered key workers after the government faced criticism for failing to roll out mass checks.

Previously only healthcare employees and those working in nursing homes have been able to get tests.

The government classifies as key workers people working in jobs such as teachers, government employees and delivery drivers.

"We can make it easier and faster and simpler for an essential worker in England who needs a test to get a test," Hancock told reporters. "This all applies to essential worker households too. It is all part of getting Britain back on her feet." —Reuters

12:29 pm: 44 states are already paying the extra $600 in additional unemployment benefits

While the number of Americans without jobs keeps rising, more states are stepping in to provide expanded unemployment benefits. 

About 4.4 million new workers applied for unemployment during the week ending April 18, bringing the total number of out-of-work Americans to 26.5 million over the past five weeks, the Labor Department reported. 

"With the nation unable to mount the public health response needed to re-open businesses, unemployment benefits are carrying the weight and serving as the last line of defense for millions of struggling families," says Andrew Stettner, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a leading unemployment expert.

But there is some good news. As of April 22, 44 states have started making $600 weekly payments from the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program that was put in place as part of the $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package Congress passed in late March, a Department of Labor spokesperson tells CNBC Make It. —Megan Leonhardt

12:21 pm: Italy's daily coronavirus death toll edges up, but new cases fall

Customers at a bookshop in Rome on the first day of reopening during lockdown, on April 20, 2020 in Rome, Italy.
Simona Granati - Corbis

Deaths from the Covid-19 epidemic in Italy climbed by 464 on Thursday, against 437 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, but the daily tally of new infections declined to 2,646 from 3,370 on Wednesday.

The total official death toll since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 now stands at 25,549, the agency said, the second-highest in the world after that of the United States.

The number of confirmed cases was 189,973, the third-highest global tally behind those of the United States and Spain.

People registered as currently carrying the illness fell to 106,848 from 107,699 on Wednesday, a fourth consecutive daily decline.

For the first time, the civil protection unit published data on how many people had been tested for the virus so far in Italy, putting the number at 1.053 million, out of a population of around 60 million. —Reuters

12:07 pm: New York antibody study estimates 13.9% of residents have had the coronavirus, Cuomo says

People wearing protective face masks wait in line outside NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health Morrisania neighborhood health center, one of New York City's new walk-in COVID-19 testing centers, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Bronx, New York, April 20, 2020.
Mike Segar | Reuters