WhatsApp releases 21 NEW sticker emoji about coronavirus life – including 'underwear video call'

WHATSAPP has launched a series of new sticker emojis themed around quarantine and coronavirus self-isolation.

There are 21 new stickers in total – including one about making video calls in your underwear.

⚠️ Read our coronavirus live blog for the latest news & updates

All of the new stickers were created in partnership with the World Health Organisation.

You'll need to update your app to access the new 'Together At Home' stick pack.

There is an "Are You OK?" text sticker, a "Pilates With Your Pet" sticker and a hand-washing icon too.

"We hope people enjoy using these stickers to check-in on loved ones, particularly those that are feeling isolated, alone, and scared," WhatsApp said.

"This pack offers creative ways to remind people to wash their hands, maintain distance, exercise and importantly to celebrate medical heroes as well as the personal heroes in all of our lives."

WhatsApp has made a number of changes in recent weeks to help tackle the coronavirus crisis.

Yesterday, the app began testing raising the Group Call limit from four people to eight.

And WhatsApp has also limited forwarding chain messages to just one chat – to fight fake coronavirus news.

WhatsApp is also testing a few other features to prevent fake news from spreading.

In the beta version of WhatsApp, a magnifying glass icon is appearing next to frequently forwarded messages.

You can use this to send the text to a web search, so you can find news results or other sources of info.

It's a way to check a message before forwarding it on, and should make users think twice before mindlessly passing chain texts along.

However, WhatsApp hasn't confirmed whether this feature will be rolled out more widely.

And last month, it launched a Coronavirus Information Hub inside the app, to deliver verified advice to users.

The UK Government also teamed up with WhatsApp to launch a coronavirus advice chatbot.

It's free for anyone to text, and is updated regularly with new information.

In other news, find out how to fingerprint lock your WhatsApp chats.

This is how to read WhatsApp texts without the sender knowing.

You can sign up to the beta version of the app to get all of the latest features before the general public.

And another secret trick lets you change your WhatsApp font to confuse your mates.

What else do you think tech firms should be doing to help tackle the coronavirus crisis? Let us know in the comments!

Source: Read Full Article

State pension claims may be able to be backdated but there are limits in place – be aware

State pension payments will start coming through once the claimant hits their state pension age. State pension age is currently set at 65 but it is gradually being increased over the coming months.

READ MORE

  • State pensioners may be able to receive Universal Credit

It will be 66, for everyone, by October 2020 and there are plans to increase it to 68 in the coming years.

The increases are being implemented in in stages and the next rise will be on May 6.

There is no need to claim state pension age at all if the person involved does not wish to.

If a state pension is deferred they payments could be increased by the time it is actually claimed.

It is up to the individual’s discretion as to when state pension will be claimed, providing a certain amount of freedom.

However, it should be noted that if a state pension is delayed there are certain limits in place which can affect if it can be backdated.

The government detail that a person can’t backdate their state pension claim more than 12 months before the date in which they receive it.

They go on to explain that if the claimant asks the government to backdate a claim, they will work out how much state pension the claimant is due back to the date the person tells them they want the claim to start from.

DON’T MISS:
State pension warning: Claimants to face ‘significant’ impact [WARNING]
State Pension age: Britons likely to be forced to work ‘longer’ [INSIGHT]
Martin Lewis: Some state pensioners could get Council Tax discount
 [EXPERT]

It will be this calculated amount that will be paid out.

The payment does not include any interest and the claimant will not earn extra state pension for the period they backdate the claim for.

State pension payments in general are dependent on a person’s national insurance record.

To receive any amount, a person will need at least 10 years of contributions.

READ MORE

  • State pension: how to claim payments before reaching state pension age

To receive the full amount, 35 years of contributions will be needed. The “full” amount is £175.20 per week but this can be increased further.

Delaying state pension can increase it’s payments when it’s eventually claimed. The longer the deferment lasts, the larger the increases will be.

State pension will increase for every week it is deferred, so long as it is deferred for at least nine weeks. It will increase by the equivalent of one percent for every nine weeks of deferment.

This works out at nearly a six percent increase for every 52 weeks. The extra amount will be paid along with the regular state pension, it will not come through in a separate payment.

Extra state pension payments can be taxed if the extra income puts a person over their “personal allowance”.

A person’s total income is taken into account when working out tax bills and it can include:

  • State pension
  • Additional state pension
  • Private pensions (workplace or personal)
  • Earnings from employment or self-employment
  • Taxable benefits
  • Income from investments, property or savings

Some people may be unsure of where they stand with their state pension but the government provides certain tools for helping with this.

The government website includes calculators and interactive tools which can help people identify their state pension age, track down private pensions and receive a payment forecast.

Source: Read Full Article

‘Coronavirus has taken us back 30, 40 years!’

‘It will be like this: If you use the window seat in the first row, next will be the aisle in the second row, to maintain social distancing.’
‘So, two-thirds of the aircraft is not going to be used.’

Aviation worldwide has been devastated by the novel coronavirus.

With no flights in the air for four weeks and no sign of resumption of any activity, India’s aviation industry could post a loss of $3 billion in the June quarter, says aviation consultancy firm CAPA.

Even after the resumption of flights, things may not go back to what it was before the coronavirus struck.

According to reports, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation is formulating a new set of standard operating procedure for airlines post-lockdown that will make it mandatory to maintain social distancing onboard flights.

So expect at least two seats in a row to be kept vacant, no onboard meals, restricted boarding etc.

With airlines forced to keep at least one-third of their seats vacant, the cost of tickets may shoot up, thus putting flying out of reach for a large section of an already nervous populace.

“Fear is going to inhibit people from travelling, definitely for more than a year for international travel,” aviation expert and former Boeing 737 instructor pilot Mohan Ranganathan, below, tells ,strong>Rediff.com‘s Shobha Warrier.

The first casualty of the coronavirus pandemic in Europe was low cost airlines. In India, we do not know how bad the situation is. How long do you think it will take for the Indian aviation industry to rise from this massive slump?

It will take not less than two years. In fact, it will be very bad for the next two years.

All small airlines will take a big hit. You will see many small airlines fold up.

Unless they have financial backing, they will not survive. Those who survive will have to be with deep pockets.

If you take the Indian context, Air India, of course, will not fold up as the government will back it up.

Vistara will survive as it has the backing of Tata and Singapore Airlines.

And, Indigo, if they are careful and downsize, will survive

I doubt whether the others are going to survive.

Do you think people will stop flying for some time because of fear?

Fear is going to inhibit people from travelling, definitely for more than a year for international travel.

You can forget about any family travel globally because of quarantine and all these tests.

People will not travel for tourism, they may travel to the place where they have their family.

So, forget about tourism for the next couple of years.

Maybe in Europe, people may travel. But because of the fear of flying, people will prefer to drive.

When they drive, they know they are not being exposed. People will travel only where there are good roads and good travel facilities on the ground.

As far as international air travel is concerned, it is not going to happen much.

The best yardstick is what Singapore Airlines has done by grounding so many aircraft. Changi airport has closed one terminal because they expect a severe downturn.

Air New Zealand has laid off all the 777 crew. It means they do not expect any long-distance flights for some time.

So, job losses connected with this sector is going to be huge.

Very big! Job losses will not only be among the airlines, but there will be job losses in connected industries also.

If there are no tourists, it is going to affect not just the airline industry, but other industries also.

The hotel industry is going to take a big hit. Many of them cater to airlines and that is going to be stopped.

You have a lot of ground staff contractors. They would have invested taking loans expecting an expansion, and they are going to lose on that.

All of them have been fallen prey to the utopian numbers given every year, but nobody has planned for a rainy day.

So, you are going to have job losses and business losses, not just in the airline industry but anything connected with the airline industry. They are all going to be badly affected.

How much are the airline companies going to lose when aircraft remain idle?

The losses are huge because very few airlines own the aircraft. Most of them sell it and lease it back. So, those who make money are the promoters.

And the airline companies have to pay the lease amount in dollars.

What you earn is in local currency. Unless you have international travel, you are not going to earn in dollars. In the last one month-and-a-half, the rupee has gone down by Rs 7 or so against the dollar.

So, when you have zero income, your cost is increasing day by day.

It was reported a month ago that the only airline that has a cash reserve is Indigo with Rs 30,000 crores. Ten days ago, the reports say Indigo now has a cash reserve of Rs 9,000 crores.

The other airlines were all in negative figures.

I don’t think any bank is going to give easy loans to the airlines because there is no prospect of recovering your loan.

The very fact that they are selling tickets even during the lockdown saying they will give you a voucher shows they need cash. They are cash starved.

The government has asked the airlines to refund the money to all those who had booked earlier. How are they going to do it?

The government can say. If they don’t, what can the government do? They cannot take any action because there is no legal backing to it.

It is just a government order; it is not a law. So, you can’t take the airlines to court.

If they don’t have the money, how can you expect them to refund?

Even if the airlines have flash sales, you will see that very few numbers will book in future.

Even if they say you buy a Rs 1,000 ticket and the ticket is valid for one year, the trust value of aviation is gone.

Only rich people can afford airline travel hereafter, not the middle class or the lower middle class. They are not going to travel again.

Could it be because of the fear connected to the coronavirus?

It is not that. People will be weary now with all the additional security.

Earlier, you may have a fever and normally you would have travelled. But now, at the point of boarding, they may say we will quarantine you. When you are quarantined, your whole programme gets affected.

The best example I can give you is Viswanathan Anand is stuck in Germany while his wife and kid are here (in Chennai). Even he will think twice before travelling out.

In future, people will really worry about travelling. I expect it will take at least a year for the fear to die down.

After 9/11, air traffic dropped tremendously.

After SARS, air traffic dropped tremendously. But it recovered because it was not a worldwide phenomenon. It did not affect all the countries and we didn’t have a lockdown like this.

Now, when you have a lockdown like this, you have airlines all over the world on the ground.

And this is going to take a long time for a recovery.

It is said that because of the need to have social distancing, fewer people will be allowed inside a flight. Does that not mean the prices will go up?

Yes, 60% of the seats cannot be used because of this.

It will be like this” If you use the window seat in the first row, the next will be the aisle in the second row, to maintain social distancing.

So, two-thirds of the aircraft is not going to be used. Only 30% of the aircraft will be used.

In such a situation, no airline can survive.

You don’t even break even unless the fares are exorbitant. Then only the super-rich and the freeloaders can travel.

When they started low-cost air carriers, they said they wanted to take away the bus and train passengers.

With so many restrictions, with early check-in, with less luggage being allowed, people are just going to stop travelling by flights.

In fact, people will be a little scared of travelling by train too.

I foresee more and more people driving and taking taxis.

How can the aviation sector tide over this difficult period? Just wait?

Yes, they have to wait. You have to start very slowly, from scratch.

First, you have to downsize now that travel is going to be highly restricted. Even if they remove the restrictions, it is going to take time to get the trust and confidence of passengers.

So, you must build up dynamically, starting slowly and in a small way.

How huge will be the losses for the airline industry globally?

IATA says it is going to be around $200 billion!

Job losses in India will be around 30% to 40% for selected categories like pilots and engineers. For the other people, it might be around 60% to 70%.

So, you expect at least a couple of years for flights to be in the sky?

Even after two years, I expect only 50% of the current numbers. There will not be a boom time for another 5 years.

Because the world economy is in shambles, the tourism industry is going to be in shambles. So, without tourists and without business travel, airlines cannot pick up that fast.

Do you feel the coronavirus has made people and countries rethink athe future and rebuild everything from scratch?

Yes. The virus has taken us back by 30, 40 years!

Source: Read Full Article

Trump, Mnuchin $483B coronavirus aid deal to pass House Thursday

Trump, Mnuchin think new PPP will pass the House on Wednesday

President Trump and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin discuss the details of the new Paycheck Protection Program funding deal.

Get all the latest news on coronavirus and more delivered daily to your inbox. Sign up here.

Continue Reading Below

A $483 billion coronavirus aid package flew through the Senate on Tuesday after Congress and the White House reached a deal to replenish a small business payroll fund and provided new money for hospitals and testing.

Passage was swift and unanimous, despite opposition from conservative Republicans. President Donald Trump tweeted his support, pledging to sign it into law.

It now goes to the House, with votes set for Thursday.

TRUMP TO CLAW BACK HARVARD'S CORONAVIRUS AID AFTER $40B UNIVERSITY TAPPED RELIEF FUND

After nearly two weeks of negotiations and deadlock, Congress and the White House reached an agreement Tuesday on the nearly $500 billion package — the fourth as Washington strains to respond to the health and economic crisis.

“The Senate is continuing to stand by the American people,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to an almost empty chamber.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the bill was made “better and broader” after Democrats forced the inclusion of money for hospitals and testing.

A copy of the measure was provided to The Associated Press by a GOP aide.

Most of the funding, $331 billion, would go to boost a small business payroll loan program that ran out of money last week. An additional $75 billion would be given to hospitals, and $25 billion would be spent to boost testing for the virus, a key step in building the confidence required to reopen state economies.

Missing from the package, however, was extra funding for state and local governments staring down budget holes and desperate to avert furloughs and layoffs of workers needed to keep cities running.

Trump said he was open to including in a subsequent virus aid package fiscal relief for state and local government — which Democrats wanted for the current bill — along with infrastructure projects.

Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky. and Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah (Photos via Getty)

Not all Republicans are backing Trump on the deal.

Two conservative Republicans, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., voiced opposition during Tuesday's session but did not halt passage.

Lee said it was “unacceptable” that the full Senate was not present and voting in the pro forma session as Congress shuttered during the virus outbreak.

Paul said no amount of federal funding will be able to salvage a shuttered economy. “Deaths from infectious disease will continue, but we cannot continue to indefinitely quarantine,” said Paul, who tested positive for the virus last month but has since recovered.

TREASURY LOOKS TO AVOID COROANVIRUS PPP MISTAKES IN ROUND 2 OF LENDING

The House is being called to Washington for a Thursday vote, said Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader.

Hoyer, D-Md., said the House will also vote on a proposal to allow proxy voting on future business during the pandemic, a first for Congress, which has required in-person business essentially since its founding.

“The House must show the American people that we continue to work hard on their behalf,” Hoyer wrote to colleagues.

But the landmark rules change met with objections from conservative Republicans.

“I don’t support it at all,” said Rep. Clay Higgins, R-La., one of a handful of Republicans who showed up for Tuesday's pro forma session to protest proxy votes. “Congress should be in session.”

Signaling concerns, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., wrote Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., seeking more information on plans to reopen the House.

The emerging virus aid package — originally designed by Republicans as a $250 billion stopgap to replenish the payroll subsidies for smaller businesses — has grown into the second largest of the four coronavirus response bills so far.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., speaks with reporters alongside Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer of N.Y. after the Senate approved a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid bill, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP

Democratic demands have caused the measure to balloon, though Republicans support additions for hospitals and testing.

The now $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program includes $60 billion or so set aside for — and divided equally among — smaller banks and community lenders that seek to focus on underbanked neighborhoods and rural areas. Democrats have highlighted the number of smaller and minority-owned shops missing out on the aid.

Another $60 billion would be available for a small-business loans and grants program delivered through an existing small business disaster aid program, $10 billion of which would come in the form of direct grants.

The bill provides $25 billion for increased testing efforts, including at least $11 billion to state and tribal governments to detect and track new infections. The rest will help fund federal research into new coronavirus testing options.

Currently, the U.S. has tested roughly 4 million people for the virus, or just over 1% of its population, according to the COVID Tracking Project website.

While the White House says the U.S. has enough testing to begin easing social distancing measures, most experts say capacity needs to increase at least threefold, if not more.

GET FOX BUSINESS ON THE GO BY CLICKING HERE

Despite yet another big package from Congress, all sides say more aid is likely needed.

President Donald Trump listens as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday, April 21, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin outlined infrastructure and broadband spending for the next bill. And there's pressure to help cities with populations of less than 500,000 that were shut out of the massive $2 trillion relief bill that passed last month.

Schumer said Monday that he had talked to Federal Reserve Board Chairman Jerome Powell and that Powell said the Fed is working to open up the Main Street Lending program to nonprofits and municipal governments.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ON FOX BUSINESS

The government’s Paycheck Protection Program has been swamped by companies applying for loans and reached its appropriations limit last Thursday after approving nearly 1.7 million loans. That left thousands of small businesses in limbo as they sought help.

Controversies have enveloped the program, with many businesses complaining that banks have favored customers with whom they already do business. Some businesses that haven't been harmed much by the pandemic have also received loans, along with a number of publicly traded corporations.

Associated Press writers Matthew Perrone, Mary Clare Jalonick and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

Source: Read Full Article

A Herd Immunity Strategy Could Actually Work in Youthful India

Controversial given the high risk of deaths, a coronavirus strategy discarded by the U.K. is being touted as the solution for poor but young countries like India.

The herd immunity strategy, which would allow a majority of the population to gain resistance to the virus by becoming infected and then recovering, could result in less economic devastation and human suffering than restrictive lockdowns designed to stop the virus’s spread, a number of experts have begun to argue in the nation of 1.3 billion people.

“No country can afford a prolonged period of lockdowns, and least of all a country like India,” said Jayaprakash Muliyil, a prominent Indian epidemiologist. “You may be able to reach a point of herd immunity without infection really catching up with the elderly. And when the herd immunity reaches a sufficient number the outbreak will stop, and the elderly are also safe.”

A team of researchers at Princeton University and the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, a public health advocacy group based in New Delhi and Washington, has identified India as a place where this strategy could be successful because its disproportionately young population would face less risk of hospitalization and death.

25,240 in U.S.Most new cases today

-20% Change in MSCI World Index of global stocks since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23

-1.​16 Change in U.S. treasury bond yield since Wuhan lockdown, Jan. 23 -0.​5% Global GDP Tracker (annualized), March


They said allowing the virus to be unleashed in a controlled way for the next seven months would give 60% of the country’s people immunity by November, and thus halt the disease.

Mortality could be limited as the virus spreads compared to European nations like Italy given that 93.5% of the Indian population is younger than 65, they said, though no death toll projections were released.

The radical proposal underscores the challenges that poorer developing countries -- including nations like Indonesia and some in sub-Saharan Africa -- face in curbing the epidemic using the lockdown measures that have been adopted by advanced economies.

The impossibility of social distancing in crowded living conditions like in many cities and villages in India, the lack of testing kits to detect infections and the human suffering that occurs in lockdowns suggests a different path may be needed in these places.

To do this, the Princeton and CDDEP team recommends lifting India’s strict lockdown -- which has been extended to May 3 -- and letting most of the population younger than 60 return to normal life, though social distancing still would be encouraged, masks would be required and large gatherings would be banned. The reopening would be accompanied by an effort to test as many people as possible and isolate confirmed and suspected cases.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given no indication it plans to adopt such a strategy.

Yet the government has laid out criteria that effectively rations coronavirus tests, limiting them to the very sick or most at risk. Critics who suspect the disease has spread much more widely than the official numbers suggest say the government’s restrictive criteria amounts to allowing the disease to spread.

Pessimistic Indian Doctors Brace for Tsunami of Virus Cases

“In some sense, you are saying, we will let them get infected and recover, and take care only of those who are sick,” said T. Sundararaman, the New Delhi-based global coordinator of the People’s Health Movement, a public health group. “That’s the policy, that’s what it amounts to.”

The government has maintained its testing criteria gives an accurate tally of India’s number of cases, and says the disease is not spreading untracked in the community. Nevertheless, as India has ramped up testing, it is finding more cases each day, bringing the nationwide tally to 18,658, with 592 deaths, as of April 20.

But if questions remain as to the extent and severity of India’s outbreak, the costs of the government’s lockdown are clear. Local governments have had to set up camps to house 1.25 million migrants who left cities when they lost work, while food camps feed 7.5 million daily wage earners also rendered destitute by the lockdown. There are already signs these stopgap measures are starting to fray.

$4 a Day Are Trapped Between Hunger and Virus" target="_blank">India Workers Paid $4 a Day Are Trapped Between Hunger and Virus

“We’re dealing with a trade-off against starvation, hunger, all this other stuff,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, the director of the CDDEP and a Princeton researcher. By allowing the coronavirus to spread in a controlled way, “undoubtedly there will be deaths, but it will be much smaller this way, and it opens us up for business by November,” he said.

But the strategy has already proved controversial internationally. The U.K. adopted and then abandoned it early in the pandemic after projections showed its health care system would be overwhelmed by the resulting hospitalizations. That brief dalliance is still being blamed for the British government’s slow response in testing for the virus.

Risky Strategy

Even in a country like India with a young population, the concept has inherent risks. Allowing people to become infected will inevitably bring many more patients to hospitals. The researchers say India will have to urgently expand critical care and isolation-bed capacity to ensure that multiple waves of patients don’t become casualties before herd immunity is reached.

Another risk is that India’s worst-in the-world air pollution and high rates of hypertension and diabetes have compromised young people’s health, meaning that mortality from the virus could be higher than expected. People may let their guards down and fail to follow social distancing guidelines.

“I would worry that it would relax concerns of younger individuals, who still remain at substantial risk themselves,” Jason Andrews, an assistant professor of medicine at Stanford University, said in an email. “The messaging in particular may lead younger people to perceive themselves as at lower risk than they are, and to fail to understand their potential role in transmission.”

And given the novel coronavirus only made its debut in humans some time late last year, there’s still a lot that’s unknown. Immunity from the virus may be a more complex process than expected. One group of researchers estimated as much as 82% of the population would have to be infected before herd immunity is reached.

“My view is there are a number of questions about whether it can work,” said Marc Lipsitch, a professor of epidemiology at Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “The main questions being how much immunity do we need in the population, and how much immunity does each person get as a result of infection.”

Then there’s also the question of whether it’s possible to wall off the higher-risk portion of the population in densely packed India, where multiple generations commonly live under one roof.

Ultimately, the researchers lobbying for the strategy argue that cultivating herd immunity may be the best of various bad options.

“I think eventually all countries will follow this Indian model,” Laxminarayan said. “Because otherwise we are going to be in lockdown on and off all the way through until June of next year.”

Source: Read Full Article

Social distancing music video 'AloneTogether'

San Francisco (CNN Business)Snapchat’s resurgence continues, with global lockdowns due to the coronavirus outbreak leading to a spike in usage.

The photo and video sharing app saw a 20% spike in daily active users in the first quarter of 2020 compared to the same period last year, for a total of 229 million users, parent company Snap said Tuesday while announcing its first quarter earnings.
Snap’s (SNAP) stock surged around 20% in after-hours trading.

    The company said the coronavirus outbreak has led to increased interaction between Snapchat users in recent weeks.
    “Communication with friends increased by over 30% in the last week of March compared to the last week of January, with more than a 50% increase in some of the geographies that were most impacted,” it said.

    The company also reported a 44% increase in revenue for the quarter, to $462 million, beating analyst expectations.
    Snap’s promising performance comes as the global pandemic causes widespread uncertainty, particularly for the advertising that social networks like Snapchat depend on.
    “While many advertising budgets declined due to COVID-19, we experienced high revenue growth rates in the first two months of the quarter which offset our lower growth in March,” CEO Evan Spiegel said during an earnings call Tuesday.
    The company is shifting investments and resources to advertisers that are targeting users sheltered in their homes, Spiegel added, “including communication, commerce, entertainment, fitness, and learning” that are increasingly going digital.
    Snap has often struggled since its 2017 IPO to compete with rivals like Facebook and Instagram, both of which brazenly copied its most popular features. And new but fast-growing rival TikTok has added to the intense competition.

      Snap declined to share revenue or profit guidance for next quarter because of uncertainty around the coronavirus, but said it is expecting its daily active users to rise to approximately 239 million for the quarter.
      “The many difficult transitions and changes we made as a business over the past few years have positioned us well for the challenges ahead,” Spiegel said.
      Source: Read Full Article

      US states weigh easing stay-at-home restrictions

      (CNN)At least four states may be able to loosen social distancing measures next month, an influential model tracking the coronavirus pandemic says.

      The model’s new projections show that Vermont, West Virginia, Montana and Hawaii could open as early as May 4.
      While most states could open mid-to-late May, some states including Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Utah, Arkansas and Oklahoma may need to wait until late June or early July.

        Coronavirus death toll up to 47 veterans at embattled Holyoke Soldiers' Home
        Dr. Christopher Murray, the model’s maker and director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said some of those states should not relax social distancing because the outbreak is still “unfolding.”
        “You gotta wait until the level of cases in the community is at a manageable level,” he said.

        Murray said the challenge will be figuring out how to reopen the US economy and allowing people to get back to work without sacrificing mitigation.
        “Each state is different,” Murray said. “Each state has a different public health system, and different capabilities. This is not a ‘one decision fits all’ situation.”
        The model is now estimating a total of 60,308 deaths in the US by August 4. That’s about 8,500 fewer deaths than predicted on Monday.
        As of Friday, the pandemic has killed more than 36,800 people in the US and infected more than 700,200, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
        The university’s daily death tallies have surged recently, after some states began to report probable Covid-19 deaths. These are deaths where patients had symptoms of the disease but no lab test confirming it. It’s not always clear when those deaths happened, so it is difficult to compare JHU’s death count day by day.
        As some states extended their stay-at-home orders earlier this week, Jacksonville, Florida, beaches and parks reopened on Friday.
        Beaches will be open from 6 to 11 a.m. and from 5 to 8 p.m. daily with some restrictions, according to the city’s website. Activities such as sunbathing or any type of group activity will not be allowed at beaches during the restricted hours and items like towels, blankets, chairs, coolers and grills will not be permitted on the beach.
        Jacksonville beaches reopen in Florida as states begin easing stay-at-home restrictions
        Texas and Vermont have announced plans to reopen some sectors in the coming weeks.
        Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a statewide task force of medical and economic experts to oversee the reopening of the state, with early May as a target date. Schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year.
        “We have demonstrated that we can corral the coronavirus,” Abbott said, pointing to a statistic that Texas has the “second-most recoveries from Covid-19 of all states in America.”
        There are more than 17,300 coronavirus cases reported so far in the state of 29 million people, and 428 coronavirus-related fatalities. An estimated 4,190 patients have recovered from the virus.

        Some states ‘can’t wait for feds any longer’

        Vice President Mike Pence said there are enough Covid-19 tests to reopen states under the White House guidelines as governors have been asking for federal help for testing.
        “Our best scientists and health experts assess that states today have enough tests to implement the criteria of phase one if they choose to do so,” Pence said Friday during a White House coronavirus briefing.
        Coronavirus cases top 2.1 million worldwide
        Pence said that the administration is going to continue to scale testing as needed, calling on states to manage testing.
        While the American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents commercial labs such as LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, has said capacity is not an issue, others said critical shortages are hampering testing.
        Laboratories are “working day and night to expand testing capacity but are severely hampered by shortages of needed reagents, swabs for testing, PPE, and specialized equipment designed by companies to be used with their own machines,” the Association of American Medical Colleges said in a a Monday letter to the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
        Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said he’s taking it upon himself to make sure his state has everything they need to make it happen.
        “I can’t wait for the feds any longer,” Lamont said.
        Earlier, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said states generally don’t have enough money to pay for testing and his state doesn’t have a “system” to deal with the kind of volume needed.

        Medical workers in the Brooklyn borough of New York City are still struggling with an influx of  coronavirus cases.
        New York has by far the most coronavirus cases in the US. Unlike hospitalizations and ICU admissions, the number of deaths — 630 Thursday, against 606 the day before — “refuses to come down dramatically,” the governor said.
        The White House gave all 50 governors a suggested three-phase approach to easing social distancing. President Donald Trump, in a retreat from his earlier claims that it was his call, told governors that when and how to reopen is up to them.
        Trump tweeted that Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia should “liberate.” Those states have Democratic governors. During Friday’s White House coronavirus briefing, Trump addressed his tweets, saying the governors who are implementing federal guidelines for stay-at-home orders to deal with the coronavirus are being “too tough.”
        When asked whether those states should lift their orders, Trump said “No, but I think elements of what they’ve done are too much. It’s just too much.”
        Michigan had a large protest earlier this week over its stay-at-home order.
        Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Trump’s tweets encouraged “illegal and dangerous acts” and are putting people at risk of contracting Covid-19.
        “His unhinged rantings and calls for people to ‘liberate’ states could also lead to violence,” Inslee said in a statement. “We’ve seen it before.”

        How the federal guidelines would work

        The federal three-phase guidelines to reopen the economy rely on “gating” criteria that states would have to pass before starting each phase.
        The criteria include a “downward trajectory” of Covid-19 cases in a 14-day period, and a return to pre-crisis conditions in hospitals, according to a document outlining the plan.
        In the first phase, schools currently closed should remain so, and employees who are able to telework should keep working from home. Large venues, including some restaurants and gyms, could operate under strict social-distancing protocols, but bars should remain shuttered.
        Trump, spelling out reopening plans, tells governors they 'call the shots'
        Phases 2 and 3 would gradually decrease the recommended restrictions. Vulnerable populations would remain sheltered in place until phase 3.
        The phased approach encourages all individuals to “strongly consider” using face coverings in public. And the document encourages employers to use social distancing, temperature checks, testing and sanitation practices in their workplaces.
        The guidelines are “sound,” Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said during a Vital Strategies webinar.
        He and many other experts and officials, including governors, are stressing that more detailed plans about diagnostic testing, antibody testing and contact tracing are needed before the economy can reopen safely.
        America's 'new normal' will be anything but ordinary
        “We need to find a way to have testing (that is) widely, easily accessible, it is agnostic to your insurance status, and it is … aggressive … where there are potentially no cases,” Dr. John Lynch, board member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said in a separate webinar.
        The CDC plans to build “surveillance sites” in some of its clinics and indigenous population clinics, to “identify and understand how much asymptomatic infection is there,” CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told NBC’s “Today” show.
        Several CDC’s teams will be traveling to eight states to expand testing, bolster contact tracing efforts and contain the virus, a federal health official told CNN. They will go to New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, North Dakota, Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.

        States are warily looking into easing restrictions

        Some states already have said they’re banding together in regional groups to decide when to reopen. That includes states on the West Coast; seven states in the Northeast; and a group encompassing Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana and Kentucky.
        Some governors are warning about the dangers of easing restrictions too soon after Trump unveiled his reopening guidelines and said a shutdown is not a sustainable, long-term solution.
        “We must get this right because the stakes are very high. If we don’t do it right, the consequences are horrendous,” Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said Thursday. “It’s going to be gradual. It’s going to be rolling it out one thing after another.”
        Vermont will start to ease restrictions Monday — but very slowly and with lots of caveats.
        Certain workers — construction, home appraisers, property management and municipal clerks — can restart jobs Monday. But only two workers would be allowed per location, and they’d need to wear cloth masks and maintain 6 feet of space, Gov. Phil Scott said.
        On May 1, farmers markets will be able to operate with strict social-distancing guidelines in place, Scott said.
        South Dakota governor says stay-at-home order would not have prevented Smithfield coronavirus outbreak
        The number of new cases is dropping in some states, but health officials have also identified new outbreaks. In New Hampshire, for example, clusters were identified at three long-term care facilities.
        Nationally, the backbone of the $2 trillion stimulus designed to keep workers employed shuttered after only two weeks, with tens of thousands of businesses not able to get money before it went dry. Talks to refill it have stalled, so far.
        In total, 22 million people have filed first-time unemployment claims since mid-March as the pandemic forced businesses to close.

          Florida’s unemployment system has been so overwhelmed, hundreds of people have been added to the state’s call centers to process claims. Staffing is up to 2,000, from 30 a month ago, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
          Where all 50 states stand on reopening
          Source: Read Full Article

          Passenger gets entire plane to herself

          New York (CNN Business)The US airline industry is in a crisis unlike any it has ever seen. On Wednesday investors will start finding out just how bad it has been, and what to expect going forward.

          Delta Air Lines is set to be the first airline to report first-quarter results Wednesday morning, in what promises to be a miserable quarter for the industry. The coronavirus pandemic caused demand for air travel to fall to “essentially zero” according to United Airlines.
          Analysts surveyed by Refinitiv expect airline earnings to drop more than 200% for the first quarter. Airlines are forecast to report billions of dollars in losses, compared to a combined $1.8 billion first-quarter profit a year ago. That decline dwarfs forecasts of a 13% to 14% drop in earnings for the S&P 500 as a whole.

            United has already warned investors that its first-quarter net loss will come to $2.1 billion, while its operating loss will be $1 billion. Analysts surveyed by FactSet project operating losses of at least $2 billion for the entire industry, which would be the first industry-wide quarterly loss in eight years. Every airline is expected to report a loss.
            It’s a stunning reversal for an industry that had been enjoying the greatest period of profitability in its history.

            Consolidation in the industry, combined with a strong economy, had boosted travel — producing packed airplanes and strong profits. None of the four major airlines that control 80% of the US market — American (AAL), Delta (DAL), United (UAL) and Southwest (LUV) — has reported even a single quarter of losses in more than five years.

            Worst crisis in history

            Airlines are no stranger to business troubles. Three of the current major carriers — American, Delta and United — formed out of bankruptcies and mergers earlier in this century. But the current drop in air travel is far worse than anything the industry has experienced before, including the period after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack or the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
            But as bad as the situation for airlines was in the first quarter, it was nowhere near the bottom.
            Airlines continued strong in January other than some flights to and from China. Domestic flights continued as normal for February and early March. Then the bottom fell out of the air travel business.
            The number of people being screened by the TSA at US airports is down 95% so far in April compared with last year, after a 51% drop in March. Airlines are already slashing their schedules in May by as much as 90% and are warning that the depressed level of travel will continue into 2021, at least.

            Help is on the way

            Congress approved $25 billion in grants and low interest loans for the industry on the condition that airlines not implement any involuntary layoffs, furloughs or paycuts for their 750,000 employees through the end of September. The first checks from that pool, totaling $2.9 billion, went out Monday. Another $25 billion in federal loans will also become available to airlines.
            United says demand for travel is 'essentially zero' and signals layoffs
            But, given the depths of the problems, and the long road ahead for the airlines to recover, staff cuts and smaller airlines offering passengers less choice could come as soon as this fall.
            Investors are looking for information on airlines’ long-term plans along with the bad first-quarter news, as well as any guidance on the second quarter and beyond.

              The industry has a “forthcoming October day of reckoning,” wrote JPMorgan Chase airline analyst Jamie Baker in a recent note.
              “We expect robust discussion on how much smaller fleets need to emerge post crisis,” Baker added. “This of course will inevitably lead to questions on how aggressive managements will be in downsizing labor on October 1 when the government handcuffs are unlocked. Unfortunately, we simply don’t see any way for most US airlines to avoid massive layoffs.”
              Source: Read Full Article

              Netflix Unveils ‘Tiger King’ & ‘Money Heist’ Blockbuster Viewership With Earnings Report; ‘Spenser Confidential’ Flick Delivers Big Too

              As the streaming wars kick it up to the next level with Peacock and soon HBO Max on the battlefield, a surging Netflix made it very apparent who is still king, in no small part thanks to the success of Tiger King and the return of Money Heist.

              In an investor letter released today for the Reed Hastings-run streamer’s Q1 earnings report in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and widespread stay-at-home orders, the sordid saga of the now imprisoned Joe Exotic, big cats, betrayal and more was watched by 64 million households around the planet over its first month of release. To give a global context, that blockbuster number for Tiger King is slightly exceed by the Season 4 launch of the suspenseful La Casa de Papel AKA Money Heist, which dropped on April 3. The latest eight-episode of the Álex Pina created Spanish language worldwide hit has had 65 million households, according to the investor letter Netflix put out after the closing bell today.

              Detailing a big new subscriber boost of nearly 16 million to a global total of 183 million, Netflix certainly finds itself in strong form in an economic environment that has seen giants like Disney bleeding money and cutting workers. Still, after a few weeks of record-breaking jumps, Netflix’s stock was a pretty staid $433.83 when the market turned off the lights on Tuesday.

              The news today of the big number for Tiger King follows a recent report by Nielsen that the March 20 launched seven episode series tantalizingly directed by Rebecca Chaikin and Eric Goode initially had 34.3 million unique viewers in its first 10 days of release. Regardless of your take on the merits of Tiger King, the tale of private zoo intrigue also coincided with COVID-19 crisis seeing much of the world go into lockdown and small screen viewership soar globally.

              Source: Read Full Article

              Alphabet Earnings: What to Look For

              Key Takeaways

              • Analysts Expect Adjusted EPS of $14.30 vs. $11.90 in Q1 2019.
              • Paid clicks are expected to grow but at a slower rate.
              • Revenue growth many slow sharply in coming year amid COVID-19 pandemic.

              Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL), parent of search giant Google, is one of a select group of large companies that may benefit from a global recession sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to exploding Internet traffic as millions of people worldwide shelter at home, Google's traffic is soaring in key areas.  Investors will focus intently on the opportunities – and risks – facing Alphabet when it reports earnings on April 28, 2020 for Q1 2020. Analysts expect strong growth in both adjusted earnings per share (EPS) and paid clicks, even as revenue decelerates.

              Investors will look closely at the performance of two key metrics: paid clicks, which measures online traffic; and cost per click, which measures how much money the company gets per click. Paid clicks have been rising, but costs per click have been falling.

              This mixed performance may be why Alphabet has mostly performed on par with the rest of the market over the past year. The company's shares have posted a total return of 0.6% over the past 12 months compared to the S&P 500's total return of -2.9%.

              Alphabet's shares continued their upward momentum following the company's Q4 2019 earnings report, the first report issued by the company under new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sundar Pichai. The company posted adjusted EPS growth of 42.1% compared to the same quarter a year ago, a definite improvement from the 22.5% decline reported in Q3. Revenue continued to grow, rising 20.0% in Q3 and 17.3% in Q4 year over year (YOY).

              But the company's shares began to crash along with the rest of the market in the latter half of February on mounting fears over the spread of COVID-19. The stock has rebounded somewhat, but it's still well below its all-time high, and the company's market value is still below the coveted $1-trillion mark it reached earlier this year. The rebound could falter if upcoming earnings results fail to meet expectations.

              Analysts are forecasting Alphabet will post adjusted EPS growth of 20.2% and revenue growth of 13.0% for Q1 2020. That would be the slowest-reported revenue growth in at least three years.

              Alphabet Key Metrics
                Estimate for Q1 2020 (FY) Actual for Q1 2019 (FY) Actual for Q1 2018 (FY)
              Adjusted Earnings Per Share ($) 14.30 11.90 16.04
              Revenue ($B) 41.1 36.3 31.1
              YOY Growth in Paid Clicks (%) 25.6 39.0 59.0

              Source: Visible Alpha

              Aside from earnings and revenue, investors will be focusing on growth in paid clicks, as well as a related metric, cost-per-click. Paid clicks represent clicks on advertisements by users of the Google search engine and other platforms owned by Alphabet, including Gmail, Google Maps, and Google Play. The metric also includes views of advertisements on YouTube. Cost-per-click represents the average amount Alphabet charges advertisers for each paid click by users, and is calculated by dividing click-driven revenue by the total number of paid clicks.

              Analysts are expecting Alphabet to deliver Q1 growth in paid-clicks of 25.6%, which would be a significant notch faster than the 18.4% and 18.0% growth rates reported in Q4 and Q3 of 2019, respectively. The higher forecast for Q1 may have something to do with the recent surge in Internet traffic. However, that rate of growth is still more than 13 percentage points below the rate reported in Q1 2019 and is considerably lower than any growth rate reported during either 2018 or 2017.

              Analysts are expecting a much gloomier result for cost-per-click, forecasting a decline of 7.9% compared to the same quarter a year ago. That means less revenue is expected to be generated per click. While cost-per-click has declined in every quarter going back to at least Q4 2016, the rate of decline slowed sharply, falling only 2.0% in Q3 and Q4 of 2019. The much steeper decline in Q1 may be a sign that advertisers have begun to pull back their ad spending. Alphabet will need to continue to boost Internet traffic in order to offset any declines in ad-spending budgets.

              Article Sources

              1. New York Times. "The Virus Changed the Way We Internet," Accessed Apr. 21, 2020.

              2. Bloomberg. "Internet Traffic is Surging But The Pipes Aren’t Bursting Yet," Accessed Apr. 20, 2020.

              3. Alphabet Inc. "Alphabet Announces Date of First Quarter 2020 Financial Results Conference Call," Accessed Apr. 20, 2020.

              4. Visible Alpha

              5. Yahoo! Finance. "Alphabet Inc. (GOOGL) Chart," Accessed Apr. 20, 2020.

              6. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "Alphabet Inc's Form 10-Q for the quarterly period ended September 30, 2019," Page 34. Accessed Jan. 23, 2020.

              Source: Read Full Article