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The U.S. death toll spiked sharply and sick workers were putting a strain on the nation’s meat supply, but the national payday prompted by the coronavirus pandemic arrived Wednesday for more than 80 million Americans.

Payments of up to $1,200 per person were being transferred into bank accounts as the federal government injects vast sums of money into the economy left battered by stay-at-home orders.

The cash influx comes a day after the U.S. saw the highest number of deaths during the coronavirus crisis, more than 2,200, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The previous highest daily death toll was 2,108, on Friday, but the daily total had declined steadily the last three days. It was not immediately clear what impact new counting methods adopted by New York City – where health authorities began including people who “probably had COVID-19” but died without being tested – had on Tuesday’s total.

The U.S. death toll was over 26,000 Wednesday morning, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard, but did not appear to included New York City’s new total. The U.S. has more than 600,000 confirmed cases. Worldwide, the number of cases surpassed 2 million with over 128,000 deaths.

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily Briefing. More headlines:

When are you getting your stimulus money? Here’s how to find out.

Trump halts funding to WHO.Experts say we need it now more than ever. 

• Instead of ‘task force,’ Trump taps US companies to advise on reopening the economy

Governors vs. Trump: While President Trump commands the spotlight at coronavirus briefings, America’s governors often take a different tact.

What to know about COVID-19: Here is USA TODAY’s one-stop guide.

Cuomo: Healthcare system has not been overwhelmed by outbreak

The healthcare system in coronavirus-battered New York state has stabilized and “phased reopening” of normal life will depend on large scale testing for the coronavirus, New York Gov. Mayor Cuomo said Wednesday. In his daily briefing, Cuomo said the spread of the virus has been controlled and the latest hospitalization numbers and daily death toll – 752 – could signal plateauing that could lead to a downward trend.

The timeline for reopening the state’s economy will depend on federal assistance for massive testing for the virus. While calling that “inarguable,” he added: “it’s just very very hard to do” because of the size and scope of the effort.

“It’s going to be a phased reopening,” Cuomo said. “The single best tool to doing this gauging is large scale testing – test, trace and isolate.”

– Doug Stanglin

Stimulus payments could be boon to debt collectors

Stimulus checks landing in millions of Americans’ bank accounts could be lucrative for debt collectors thanks to a loophole in the $2 trillion stimulus package. Legal advocates say the money isn’t explicitly off-limits to debt collectors or creditors. That means debt collectors can garnish bank accounts to seize the stimulus payments, according to Lauren Saunders, associate director of the National Consumer Law Center. State attorneys general in 25 states and Hawaii’s Office of Consumer Protection have asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to ensure that debt collectors and creditors can’t touch the money.

“We are hearing a lot of stories for people whose bank accounts are frozen” because of garnishment, Saunders says.

– Aimee Picchi

President Trump’s name will appear on checks

Stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per person began hitting American bank accounts Wednesday, and the IRS has launched an online portal that allows people to input their direct deposit information. For those who require a check, it could be in the mail next week – and will include Trump’s signature, according to multiple media reports citing Treasury Department and IRS officials. Trump had said earlier this month he did not plan on signing them. 

The Treasury Department said a “large majority of eligible Americans will receive Economic Impact Payments within the next two weeks.” The goal is to provide as much money as possible electronically rather than mailing checks, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said. The deposit is labeled “IRS Treas 310” on bank statements.

China waited a week before warning of pandemic, report says

Chinese officials determined they likely were facing a pandemic a week before going public, allowing the epicenter city of Wuhan to host a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people and millions to travel for Lunar New Year celebrations. President Xi Jinping warned the public on Jan. 20 – after more than 3,000 people had been infected during almost a week of silence, according to internal documents obtained by The Associated Press.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly chastised Chinese officials for withholding and delaying information on the outbreak there that could have saved lives around the globe. Trump has also blasted the World Health Organization, and on Tuesday cut off U.S. funding, saying the group had failed to report accurate information from China during the early stages of the pandemic.

Sick meatpacking workers threaten food supply

Soaring numbers of meatpacking plant workers sickened by COVID-19 have sparked fears for the employees’ health and for the continuity of the nation’s meat supply. In Iowa, Tyson Foods closed one of the nation’s major pork processing plants after 186 employees have tested positive for the illness. The plant is one of several meatpacking facilities across the nation where business has been suspended after being hit hard by the highly contagious coronavirus.

“We are taking on water fast,” National Pork Producers Council President Howard “A.V.” Roth said, adding that thousands of hog farms could close this year without government intervention. “Immediate action is imperative, or a lot of hog farms will go under.”

– Tommy Birch and Tyler Jett, Des Moines Register

Congressman: Time to put on ‘big girl pants’ and go back to work 

Sending Americans back to work at the risk of falling ill from the coronavirus is the “lesser of these two evils” compared with the tanking economy, says Rep. Trey Hollingsworth, R-Indiana. Speaking in an interview Tuesday on radio-station WIBC, Hollingsworth acknowledged the warnings against ending stay-at-home orders too soon.

“It is policymakers’ decision to put on our big boy and big girl pants and say it is the lesser of these two evils,” he said. “That is our responsibility and to abdicate that is to insult the Americans that voted us into office.”

President Donald Trump had suggested May 1 as a possible date for beginning the process of restarting the economy. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said that timeline might be “overly optimistic.”

– Savannah Behrmann

Fauci envisions sports returning – minus spectators

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a key official in the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, said sports returning without fans is within the realm of possibility. League and organizations would have to obtain massive amounts of tests and closely monitor their players, he said on Snapchat’s “Good Luck America.” Fauci said he could envision a college football season this fall where “nobody comes to the stadiums. Put (athletes) in big hotels, wherever you want to play.” He said they should be tested every week.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. said that living in Washington, D.C., “we have the world champion Washington Nationals. I want to see them play again.” 

– Chris Bumbaca

Bill Gates hits Trump on World Health Organization funding freeze

President Donald Trump’s announcement of a halt on funding for the World Health Organization drew criticism Wednesday from one of the world’s biggest philanthropists, Bill Gates. Trump accused WHO of “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus crisis in the early days of the outbreak in China. But Gates said cutting off WHO funding during the global crisis “is as dangerous as it sounds.”

“Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them,” Gates said on Twitter. “The world needs @WHO now more than ever.” Samantha Power, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Barack Obama, accused Trump of a “transparent and deadly attempt to divert attention from his own gross mishandling” of the outbreak.

CLOSE

President Donald Trump says he has directed a halt to U.S. payments to the World Health Organization pending a review of its warnings about the coronavirus and China. (April 14)

AP Domestic

New York city adds 3,778 ‘probable’ COVID-19 deaths

New York officials added more than 3,000 deaths to the city total going back a month, acknowledging that statistics based only on laboratory-confirmed tests were failing to account for many people dying at home before they reached a hospital, were tested or even sought treatment. The new count raised the city death total to more than 10,000.

“Behind every death is a friend, a family member, a loved one. We are focused on ensuring that every New Yorker who died because of COVID-19 gets counted,” Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said. The new method will help “determine the scale and scope of the epidemic and guide us in our decisions,” he said.

More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY

• The US is first country to start unprecedented virtual drug tests on Olympic athletes.Just how does it work?

Where to buy household essentials:Toilet paper, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies

Poor, essential and on the bus:Coronavirus puts public transportation riders at risk.

Some US emergency officials feared a ‘crisis of care’ dilemma amid a health pandemic. They were right.

Coronavirus could change where students go to college.If they go at all.

Who are you? Take our personality quiz to find your quarantine character.

Stocks decline after IMF predicts worst year since Great Depression

The roller coaster ride that is the U.S. stock market took another dive Wednesday, falling more than 2% and retreating from handsome gains one day earlier. Asian stocks edged lower Wednesday after the International Monetary Fund said the global economy will suffer its worst year since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The IMF’s latest forecast said global economic output will shrink by 3% this year. That was a marked reverse from the Fund’s previous forecast in January of 3.3% growth before the virus prompted governments to shut down factories, travel and other industries.

“The IMF forecast a deep economic winter,” said Hayaki Narita of Mizuho Bank in a report. However, Narita said, investors pessimism is tempered by IMF’s outlook for a “spring-back in growth” to 5.8% next year, Narita said.

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Last SlideNext SlideSchools reopen in Denmark, Australia

Some schools have reopened in Denmark and Australia, and stores are back in business in Austria. But may shoppers, parents and politicians concerned about health risks are wary about a return to normal so soon. Denmark, which has had more than 300 COVID-19 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, let preschoolers and students up to fifth grade returned to classrooms in about half of the country’s cities and towns. Older students, including those at college, still must study online from home.

“I’m very impressed. The children are very happy to see their buddies again,” Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen told TV2 as she attended the first school day in Valby, a Copenhagen suburb.

In Austria, which has had almost 400 deaths, there was cautious optimism. “I am incredibly relieved, both for my colleagues and for myself because it was a very, very long time for us, and above all an uncertain time,” Vienna florist Barbara Kugler told Reuters.

– Doug Stanglin

More coronavirus headlines from USA TODAY

Fact check:Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer did not ban sale of American flags.

Mapping coronavirus: Tracking the outbreak, state by state.

Travel industry: Winners and losers of federal bailout.

There’s nothing normal about learning from home:How coronavirus school closures could lead to ‘historic academic regression.’

The loneliest road trip: Here’s what I saw when I drove across the country during coronavirus.

We’re shopping for groceries from home: Here are a few tips and tricks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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