Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is encouraging retailers to start operating next Friday as “retail to go,” in which customers would order ahead of time and pick up items curbside. State parks will reopen Monday, but visitors will be required to wear face coverings, he said. Restrictions on non-coronavirus-related surgeries and procedures will also be loosened.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump seemingly took the side of protesters in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia who are defying social distancing orders to rally against the states’ safety measures intended to stop the coronavirus spread. In back-to-back tweets, Trump wrote: “LIBERATE MINNESOTA” and then, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and then, “LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!”
On Thursday Trump unveiled broad guidelines to slowly begin reopening the United States, but left specific plans up to governors.
In other significant developments:
—Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, sparred Friday over the federal role in reopening the economy, with Cuomo calling for more financial help from Washington for testing and Trump telling him to spend less time complaining.
—China’s gross domestic product shrank for the first time in decades as the coronavirus pandemic delivered a devastating blow to the world’s second-largest economy — a glimpse of what may be to come around the world.
—The death toll in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak in China, was revised upward by 50% on Friday. The change followed widespread criticism of China’s data, although officials offered several reasons for the revision, including at-home deaths that were not included in earlier statistics.
—U. S. stocks soared as investors responded to a report that Gilead’s antiviral medicine Remdesivir is showing success against severe COVID-19 symptoms. But the trial involved only 125 people, and the preliminary results have not been peer-reviewed.
“It’s not a slam dunk by any means. I don’t think it’s a cure for the virus,” former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said of Remdesivir.
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In Texas, In consultation with a “strike force” composed of business leaders and medical professionals, some restrictions are being lifted almost immediately, more will be announced April 27 and even more in May if certain criteria, like hospital capacity and testing, are met, Abbott said at a news conference.
State parks will reopen Monday, but visitors will be required to wear face coverings. Beginning next Friday, Abbott is encouraging retail stores to reopen and operate as “retail to go,” in which customers would order ahead of time and pick up their items curbside.
Restrictions on non-coronavirus-related surgeries and procedures will also be loosened, he said. Schools, however, will remain closed through the end of the academic year.
By April 27, Abbott said it is possible that he will announce the reopening of large venues like restaurants and movie theaters, provided they can adhere to certain social distancing protocols.
“We’ll be focusing on all strategies that may open up Texas while also keeping us protected from the expansion of COVID-19,” Abbott said.
The state is under a stay-at-home order that expires April 30, but Abbott said that could be lifted when the state announces more easing of restrictions April 27.
Elsewhere Friday, the governor of Mississippi pleaded with his state’s residents Friday to have more patience with stay-at-home and business closure policies, at a time when leaders of many states are struggling to balance the restrictions with fierce calls to restart the economy.
“I have to ask you for one more week. One more week of vigilance. One more week of sheltering in place,” Gov. Tate Reeves, R, said, the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger reported. “We need one more week to break the back of our enemy.”
But Reeves also reminded his state of his desire to end restrictions as the crushing economic loss during the pandemic further snowballs. The state has experienced a 14,000 percent spike in lost jobs, he said Thursday on Twitter.
“This is insane — the bleeding has to stop. Lives depend on this as well. Please pray for wisdom as we consider all options,” he said. “Our people can’t take much more.”
This week, New York and the District of Columbia extended their stay-at-home orders through at least May 15.
Protests have erupted in several states to pressure governors to end restrictions, including in Michigan. In an ABC interview defending her policies, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, D, that “it’s better to be six feet apart right now than six feet under.”
She expressed optimism that some restrictions could ease by May 1.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, D, laid out a reopening plan that he said would require benchmarks, like having adequate protective equipment for medical workers and data showing a decline in new cases. He did not provide a timeline.
Minnesota will loosen some business and recreation restrictions, including golfing, boating bait shops, outdoor shooting ranges and other activities, according to the Minneapolis-based Star-Tribune. Earlier this month, Gov. Tim Walz, D, extended restrictions to May 4.
In Europe, another 847 people died in hospitals in the United Kingdom in the last 24 hours from the novel coronavirus, the U.K.’s Health Ministry reported.
In France, 761 people died, 418 of them in hospitals and 343 in nursing homes. In Italy, 575 people died over the same period, a considerable decline from the country’s peak in deaths at the end of March.
Each of the three countries is at a different stage of its epidemic. But the death counts underscore the toll the virus continues to take across Europe, even as the pandemic ebbs and flows in intensity and pressure grows on governments to find ways to reopen parts of their economies.
“Today’s number of announced deaths indicates three things. Firstly, the U.K. is one of the hardest hit countries in the world from this first wave,” James Naismith, the director of the U.K.’s Rosalind Franklin Institute, told Reuters.
“Secondly, the U.K. seems to have passed the peak for the first wave,” Naismith said. “Finally, we will likely see only a gradual decrease from the peak and this means we will see several hundreds of announced deaths every day for some time ahead.”
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The Washington Post’s Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.