Friday morning news – April 17, 2020

White House announces new guidance to ease virus restrictions in some areas » At the White House Thursday, President Trump said the United States is winning the battle against the coronavirus and it’s time to move cautiously forward. 

TRUMP: Based on the latest data, our team of experts now agrees that we can begin the next front in our war, which we are calling opening up America again. 

The president and other top officials announced new guidelines aimed at easing restrictions in areas with low transmission while holding the line in harder-hit areas. It will be up to governors to determine what’s appropriate in each state.

The new guidance outlines three phases on the road to recovery. White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx…

BRIX: Phase One begins with all vulnerable individuals, including those with comorbidities continuing to shelter in place, and ensuring that those that first go out into the public are not those that are most vulnerable to bad outcomes in this disease. 

Phase One calls for all Americans to minimize non-essential travel, to keep as much physical distance as possible from others, and avoid gatherings of 10 or more people where that’s not practical. 

It also calls on companies to bring employees back to work in phases and to continue to encourage working from home. 

Phase Two loosens guidelines on group settings and travel. And Phase Three allows for the reopening of gyms, movie theaters, bars, and large venues with—quote—“limited physical distancing protocols.”

The government’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci cautioned…

FAUCI: There may be some setbacks. I mean, let’s face it. This is uncharted water. There may be some setbacks where we have to pull back a little and then go forward. 

Fauci said paying close attention to the data at the local level will be critical.

Paycheck Protection Program runs out of cash » The government’s Paycheck Protection Program for small businesses is out of money. The Small Business Administration said Thursday that it reached the $349 billion lending limit for the program. That means it’s on hold for now. 

That comes as new unemployment numbers show another 5.2 million Americans filed for jobless benefits last week. 

Thousands of small business owners are now waiting on Congress to approve a Trump administration request for another $250 billion to refuel the program. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Thursday that he’s waiting on Democrats. 

MCCONNELL: Every Senate Republican was ready to act today. Today. But Democrats would not let us reopen the program. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Democrats want the legislation to address other needs as well. 

PELOSI: We wanted to negotiate on how we can do more for hospitals, state and local government, that is police, fire, education, etc., as well as recognizing the revenue lost from many of these states and municipalities. 

Pelosi said Democratic leaders are actively negotiating with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and hope to reach an agreement soon.

Esper has “an open mind” about reinstating Capt. Crozier » Defense Secretary Mark Esper says he has “an open mind” about possibly reinstating the Navy captain fired over his handling of coronavirus concerns aboard his ship. WORLD Radio’s Anna Johansen has more. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: Esper stated Thursday that he directed an investigation into the matter two weeks ago. It concluded last week. He said—quote—“It is now with the Navy, it will come to me at some point in time” 

He added that he can’t comment on the investigation now, but will “keep an open mind.”

Crozier lost his command of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt last month. He penned a letter voicing his concerns that the Navy wasn’t doing enough to protect the ship’s crew and it was later leaked to the media. Former acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Crozier distributed the letter too widely and violated the chain of command.  

But Modly later resigned over his handling of Crozier’s removal.  

The New York Times reported this week that the Navy is actively considering whether it can reinstate Crozier as captain of the Roosevelt

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen. 

U.S. intel investigating whether virus came from Wuhan lab » U.S. intelligence agencies are investigating whether the coronavirus emerged from a laboratory in Wuhan, China. 

According to an NBC News report, “spy agencies have ruled out that the virus was man-made.” But intel officials are examining evidence that a lab employee studying diseases in bats may have become infected and then unknowingly spread the virus.   

The report, citing a U.S. intelligence official, states that scientists at a military and a civilian lab in Wuhan “are known to have conducted ongoing research on coronaviruses.”  

And this week Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley confirmed that officials are investigating evidence surrounding the Wuhan lab.  

MILLEY: It should be no surprise to you that we’ve taken a keen interest in that. We’ve had a lot of intelligence take a hard look at that. 

He said the results of that investigation so far are inconclusive. 

MLB participating in nationwide antibody test »27 Major League Baseball teams are participating in a nationwide coronavirus antibody study. Antibody tests could help determine if a person has been infected in the past and if they have developed immunity.  WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has that story.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: As many as 10,000 league employees will receive tests to detect COVID-19 antibodies. 

Stanford University researcher Dr. Daniel Eichner is the president of the Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory. He said he asked Major League Baseball to take part in the study, and the league didn’t hesitate. 

With teams scattered from Seattle to San Diego and Boston to Miami, the MLB’s involvement provides geographic diversity. And people of many different ages, ethnicities, and physical conditions will participate, not just the players. Eichner said everybody “from general managers to hot dog vendors.”

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(AP Photo/Alex Brandon) President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Thursday, April 16, 2020, in Washington. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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