Health and Science

Dr. Birx says US needs a 'breakthrough' on coronavirus testing to aid re-opening

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  • Global cases: More than 2.9 million
  • Global deaths: At least 205,900
  • US cases: More than 963,000
  • US deaths: At least 54,600

The data above was compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

All times below are in Eastern time.

4:20 pm:  Birx says US needs a 'breakthrough' on antigen testing to aid in reopening 

Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator, speaks during a news conference at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.
Michael Reynolds | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, told NBC News' "Meet the Press" Sunday that while the coronavirus trends give her "great hope" for slow reopenings over the next few months, many of the social distancing measures that have upended American life will be a constant fixture through the summer.

And, while President Donald Trump and many governors press to re-open the economy, Birx said the U.S. needs a "breakthrough" on coronavirus testing to help screen Americans and get a more accurate picture of the virus' spread.

Birx said the task force intends to continue working with states to scale up testing for those sick with the virus. "At the same time," she added, "we have to realize that we have to have a breakthrough innovation in testing" for those who have already had the virus but had either mild or no symptoms. —NBC News

3:19 pm: Public companies took far more small business loans than first thought — here's the latest tally 

Even as the U.S. small business relief program is set to reopen Monday with fresh funding, the full extent that public companies tapped the emergency facility is only now becoming clear.

More than 200 public companies applied for at least $854.7 million from the government program that was billed as for small businesses without access to other sources of capital, according to Washington D.C.-based data analytics firm FactSquared. 

The government's Paycheck Protection Program sparked outrage after its initial $350 billion allotment quickly ran out and it was revealed that big public companies secured loans while hundreds of thousands of small businesses seeking relatively tiny amounts were left in limbo.

Last week, the Small Business Administration attempted to close that loophole, saying that big public companies "with substantial market value and access to capital markets" aren't eligible and that firms that already tapped the fund had two weeks to return the PPP money. —Hugh Son 

2:25 pm: British PM Boris Johnson back at Downing Street after coronavirus recovery 

A file photo dated on March 18, 2020 shows British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaving Number 10 at Downing Street, London.
Ray Tang | Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to 10 Downing Street on Sunday, Sky News reported, after spending a week in the hospital with Covid-19 and two weeks recovering at his country residence.

A Downing Street spokeswoman declined to comment on Johnson's whereabouts.

The government had previously announced he would be back at work on Monday. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who has been deputizing for him in his absence, said Johnson was "raring to go". —Reuters

2:15 pm:  Turkey registers decrease in deaths, new coronavirus infections

Turkey's health ministry has announced 99 new deaths from Covid-19, the lowest in nearly two weeks. The total death toll has risen to 2,805.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca shared daily figures Sunday, showing 2,357 new confirmed cases, bringing the number of confirmed infections to 110,130. —Reuters

2:09 pm: For some New York City businesses, making masks has provided a new lifeline 

Father-daughter team Steve and Leah Kim model the masks their New York City alterations business, Master Tailor, started making when the coronavirus hit.
Leah Kim

As guidance to wear mask gets stronger, and some retailers refuse entrance to customers not wearing them, many New Yorkers have scrambled to find suitable masks. Now, some New York-based businesses are stepping in to help

When New York City largely shut down last month due to the spread of Covid-19, it was a devastating blow for some businesses. 

That included the Master Tailor, an alteration shop on Manhattan's Upper West Side that had only been open for about a year. 

The father-daughter team who own the shop, Steve and Leah Kim,  pivoted to make masks for their family, due to the late shipment of an online order.

Simultaneously, a customer requested they make masks for her family and neighbors. And a new source of business income was created. —Lorie Konish

1:30 pm: New York plans to phase re-opening after regional hospitalization rates have been in decline for 14 days

New York will eventually re-open in phases once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says state and regional hospitalization rates have been in decline for 14 days, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday.

Phase one of the reopening will involve construction and manufacturing. In phase two, businesses will need to design plans for re-opening, including having personal protective equipment and imposing social distancing.

"We're going to reopen in phases ... look at the regional analysis, make a determination and then monitor whatever you do," Cuomo said at a press briefing.

Cuomo said a re-opening plan must not attract visitors from other regions or states. —Emma Newburger

1:17 pm: Sports arenas could require 'necessary renovations' for social distancing, architect firm says 

TDECU Stadium Houston
Slyworks Photography, courtesy of DLR Group

With the coronavirus pandemic dictating the capacity of social gatherings, a return to the design of original Major League Baseball stadiums could be in the future, said an architect and engineering firm.

Don Barnum, of firm DLR Group, said teams would need to make "required and necessary renovations" to sports stadiums to honor social distancing guidelines, at least in the short term. 

Barnum, who leads the firm's global sports studio, added the changes shouldn't be too costly. "You just modify them [arenas]; take out the seats," he said.

Barnum used the 1900s original versions of Wrigley Field in Chicago and Fenway Park in Boston to forecast temporary seating arrangements. The seating back then resembled box seats with a railing that separated people. —Jabari Young

12:23 pm: Bank of America CEO Moynihan calls for Congress to 'fully fund' small business loan program

Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan said the small business loan program passed by Congress should be expanded so that it no longer runs on a first-come, first-served basis. 

"It's clear that between Congress, the administration and the American people, we need to get all these funded and not make this a foot race. Just get the work done," Moynihan said on CBS's "Face the Nation."

Moynihan, whose bank was the first major lender to launch its application portal for the first round, said there is "great debate" as to how much the program needs, but said the government should commit to fully funding it until the eligible businesses can get the money.

"The difference between this program and unemployment is if you qualify for this program, it's like getting unemployment authorization and then having a foot race to the office," Moynihan said. "We need to take away the first-come, first-served aspects of this and make sure it's fully funded. Because at the end of the day, it's going to where people want it: small businesses, 25% in our case to businesses in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods, business with small numbers of employees. We just need to finish the funding and finish the work." —Jesse Pound

12:12 pm: New York death, hospitalization and intubation rates continue to slow, Cuomo says

The most challenging and intense period: Mt. Sinai Health System Co-chair
The most challenging and intense period: Mt. Sinai Health System Co-chair

There were 367 deaths from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours in New York, down from 437 deaths reported on Saturday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The overall hospitalization rate is down, along with the number of intubations and new virus cases in the state.

At least 16, 966 people have died from the virus in New York, although that number doesn't include the thousands of probable deaths in New York City. —Emma Newburger

11:30 am: White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett says unemployment rate will approach Great Depression

White House economic advisor Kevin Hassett warned on Sunday that unemployment could hit levels not seen since the Great Depression as the economy contracts dramatically while businesses in most parts of the nation remain shuttered due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Speaking to reporters on the White House lawn on Sunday morning, Hassett said the unemployment rate could hit 16% and "the next couple of months are going to be terrible" for economic data.

"We see an unemployment rate that approaches rates we saw during the Great Depression," Hassett told ABC's "This Week." "During the Great Recession we lost 8.7 million jobs in the whole thing. Now we're losing that many every 10 days, so the lift for economic-policy makers is an extraordinary one." —Eric Rosenbaum

11:16 am: New York City needs $7.4 billion in federal aid, Mayor de Blasio says

New York City needs $7.4 billion in federal aid to offset economic losses from the coronavirus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday, urging President Donald Trump to push his fellow Republicans in the Senate to back more relief funding for states and cities.

"The federal government must make us whole for us to be able to be in a position to restart," de Blasio, a Democrat, said in an interview on Fox News. "If New York City is not whole, it will drag down the entire region, and it will hold up the entire national economic restart." —Reuters

10:44 am: Mnuchin hopes PPP small business loan fund will 'run out of money quickly'

Main Street left with more questions after PPP funding runs out
Main Street left with more questions after PPP funding runs out

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Sunday that he is not worried about the second round of the Payroll Protection Program being drained quickly.

"To me it's not a matter of how long it lasts. Actually, I think the sooner the money is disbursed the better," Mnuchin said on "Fox News Sunday."

"The first round impacted about 30 million workers. I think this round will be about the same," he said. "That'll be close to 50% of the private workforce.  So I actually hope we run out of money quickly so we can get that money into workers' pockets."

Congress approved another $310 million for the program last week after the initial amount ran out in just under two weeks. The program was criticized for allowing some large public companies to receive loans, leading the Treasury Department to release updated guidelines that encouraged those companies to return the loans. Mnuchin said he expected the average loan size to "go down significantly" for the second round.

Mnuchin also told reporters at the White House that the additional $600 a week added to unemployment benefits as part of the CARES Act was "not a long-term solution."

When added to unemployment benefits paid by states, the additional benefit means some low-wage employees make more on unemployment than they did working, potentially making it difficult for employers to rehire and meet the rules of the PPP. —Jesse Pound

10:14 am: Azar's future unclear at HHS

The future of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is unclear after a report that members of the Trump administration were considering firing him.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday that officials were considering removing Azar, citing six sources familiar with the discussions. White House spokesman Judd Deere denied that any move was imminent, saying "any speculation about personnel is irresponsible and a distraction from our whole-of-government response to Covid-19."

Trump defended Azar from criticism last month, saying on Twitter that Azar had "the complete confidence" of himself and Vice President Mike Pence. —Jesse Pound 

9:54 am: Economic damage is hitting the lowest level of wage earners hardest

What it's like being unemployed because of coronavirus
What it's like being unemployed because of coronavirus

Lower-income groups, who depend on the service industry for jobs, are taking the biggest impact from the shutdown of an economy that is driven by services like hotels, bars and restaurants. They work in the hard-hit retail sector and are dependent on others being able to shop and dine and travel, activities which all have been sharply curtailed during the current shutdown.

While government programs have been focused on keeping people afloat who have been displaced by the efforts to curtail the coronavirus spread, the pain is likely to be long lasting.

"The largest body blows are to the travel industry, the retail industry, parts of the health care industry that are on the front lines battling the virus. Those are generally low-paying jobs, so the folks in the bottom part of the income wealth distribution are going to get creamed by this," said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Analytics. "There's no doubt about it." —Jeff Cox

9:40 am: Social distancing measures will continue 'through the summer,' Birx says

White House health advisor Dr. Deborah Birx told NBC News' Chuck Todd on "Meet the Press" that Americans will need to continue using social distancing measures even if the pandemic weakens by the end of May.

"Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another as we move through these phases," Birx said.

Birx's comments came after Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News on Friday that "by Memorial Day weekend we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us." Birx said that Pence's statement was based on models the White House task force has looked at that use data from Detroit and Louisiana. — Jesse Pound

9:32 am: Pelosi says cash-strapped local governments will get funding in next relief bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Sunday that the next coronavirus relief package will include the state and local funding in high demand across the country.

Asked if House Democrats made a tactical error in backing the latest aid package, which didn't include state and local funding, Pelosi told CNN's Jake Tapper to "just calm down."

"We will have state and local and we will have it in a significant way," Pelosi said.

Congress passed, and President Trump signed, a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid bill last week that provided $370 billion for small businesses, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for testing. Democrats had demanded $150 billion for states and local governments in that legislation, but Republicans successfully rejected that money. —Emma Newburger

9:03 am: Reported cases and deaths in the US

Read CNBC's coverage from CNBC's Asia-Pacific and Europe teams overnight here: China says all Wuhan patients have been discharged, Russia cases top 80,000