5:08 pm ET: White House Points to Hopeful Signs as Deaths Keep Rising

At the end of a week officials had warned would be this generation's Pearl Harbor, White House officials pointed to hopeful signs Friday that the spread of the coronavirus could be slowing, even as President Donald Trump insisted he would not move to reopen the country until it is safe.
At the same time, Trump said he would be announcing the launch of what he dubbed the "Opening Our Country" task force next Tuesday to work toward that goal.
"I want to get it open as soon as possible," he said at a Good Friday briefing while adding: "The facts are going to determine what I do." Read more...

4:59 pm ET: The Easter Bunny Deemed an 'Essential' Worker

As we enter one of the holiest weekends of the year for Christians, this time amid a pandemic, we're expecting Easter celebrations to look a lot different. Despite stay-at-home orders being enforced throughout the county and around the globe, many are trying to find ways to enjoy the holiday. 
Montana Governor Steve Bullock officially declared the Easter Bunny and other fantasy figures as "essential" workers, allowing them to perform their duties throughout the state of emergency, but still requiring them to follow social distancing guidelines.
“I recognize this is a difficult time for families across Montana and believe it’s especially important we remember to find ways to bring joy into our homes. That’s why I have deemed the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy, and other magical creatures as essential,” Bullock said in a tweet. 
The Montana governor isn’t the only one making exceptions. 
Belgium’s top virologist (jokingly) granted a lockdown pass to the “essential” furry workers who traditionally bring kids their Easter eggs. 
Some Belgian chocolatiers have long been preparing for the holiday and its traditional Easter baskets. With chocolate bunnies essential in many Easter baskets, some candy makers have decided to embrace the current reality and are selling chocolate bunnies — with protective face masks.
— McKenzie Marshall
In this photo taken on Wednesday, April 8, 2020, chocolate rabbits with face masks are lined up at the Cocoatree chocolate shop in Lonzee, Belgium. As all non-essential shops in Belgium have been closed due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many chocolatiers have had to resort to online sales, home delivery or pick up on site. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)
One of Belgium's top chocolate producers Dominique Persoone, wearing a face mask to protect against coronavirus, displays one of his chocolate Easter eggs at his Chocolate Line warehouse in Bruges, Belgium, Friday, April 10, 2020. As all non-essential shops in Belgium have been closed due to the outbreak of COVID-19, many chocolatiers have had to resort to online sales, home delivery or pick up on site. (AP Photo/Virginia Mayo)

3:26 pm ET: New IRS Stimulus Website Still Excludes the Unbanked

The Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service have launched a website for Americans who didn’t file their taxes for 2018 or 2019 to submit their bank account information so they can receive their coronavirus stimulus check. 
The website, created in partnership with TurboTax parent Intuit, requests full names and social security numbers of the individual as well as spouses and dependents, mailing addresses and bank account and routing numbers.
The IRS is also developing a separate online portal for those who filed their taxes but didn’t provide bank account information, which it plans to launch later in April. It will also allow users to track the status of their payment. Read more...
— Tanaya Macheel

3:00 pm ET: The Rise of the Virtual Church

With Passover underway and Easter coming up this weekend, religious ceremonies are looking a little different this year.
A number of faith organizations are holding services virtually, as health and government officials have banned large gatherings in order to stop the spread of coronavirus. Cheddar anchor Derricke Dennis said Friday that many of these institutions never thought they would lose the ability to congregate, which has forced them to quickly adapt.
While not a new concept, the rise of the virtual church, synagogue or mosque presents a viable alternative.
“Churches would sell recordings of their sermons on cassette tapes," Dennis said. "What’s different today is the need to keep people from congregating because of the coronavirus health risk."
For those institutions without the technology to pull it off, the coronavirus pandemic is an unprecedented interruption.
“Millions of religious institutions around the world are grappling with this decision," Dennis said. "Some synagogues have suspended services all together. Simply put, many don’t have the technology."
— McKenzie Marshall

2:28 pm ET: Food Banks Are Hurting as Volunteers, Surplus Dwindle

As many Americans practice social distancing and stockpile groceries for sheltering in place, food banks are suffering from a dearth of both food and volunteers — while demand for food assistance surges amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Ten million Americans applied for unemployment benefits in the second half of March, and another 6.6 million filed last week. Those numbers don’t even account for unreported cases or explain the impact this has on the families supported by many of those workers. 
Food banks don’t typically serve individuals directly, but instead, feed them through food pantries and meal programs. But now, cars are lining up at drive-thru food distribution centers set up by various food banks.
Normally, the best way to help a food bank is financially, rather than by donating food. That’s because food banks typically have arrangements with wholesalers that let them buy goods at a discount or with grocers that are allowed to donate food they can’t sell (like food close to its expiration date or boxes of granola bars that are missing one). But life in America is not normal right now. Consumers are stocking up, even hoarding, food for when they’re locked down at home, causing grocers to reduce their donations and putting a strain on the food banks.
That means today, food donations are just as needed as financial donations. Food Bank for the Heartland in Omaha, Neb., for example, said it's spent $675,000 in the past month compared to its average monthly spend of $73,000.
The surge in demand comes despite an increase in donations from farmers that would normally go to now-shuttered restaurants, school cafeterias and theme parks as well as other service industry businesses that have had to close like hotels, cruise ships and airlines.
— Tanaya Macheel

2:11 pm ET: Flight Attendants Raid Catering Carts, Emergency Kits for PPE

American Airlines has not been providing its flight crews promised masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and other personal protective equipment that health experts say are crucial for guarding against coronavirus, airline workers have told Cheddar.
Flight attendants have had to bring their own equipment, they say. And though American Airlines had said that it would provide at least gloves and hand sanitizer, necessary provisions have not arrived, causing flight crews to empty dining and drink carts of gloves and even raid airplanes' emergency equipment. Read more...
— Alan Neuhauser

2:00 pm ET: New Zealand is Crushing the Curve

It’s been almost two weeks since New Zealand issued one of the strictest nationwide lockdowns of any democratically run country in the world, and the decision is paying dividends. 
“The count of New Zealanders who have recovered from COVID-19 now exceeds the count of new daily infections and the country’s official death toll, which is one. New Zealand isn't flattening their curve, they are crushing it,” said Cheddar Senior Editor Carlo Versano.
The island nation has a population of just five million and is among the most remote countries on the planet, which has served as an advantage in flattening the curve. 
"There's 5 million New Zealanders, compared to 325 million Americans, but it's also a story of taking hard, decisive action early in the game,” Versano said. “[Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern] and her government decided that they didn't want to contain the virus, they wanted to eliminate it. So they shut the country down almost completely. No one in, no one out.”
— McKenzie Marshall

1:22 pm ET: Cuomo Says 'Millions' of Tests Needed to Reopen NY Economy

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday said the coronavirus pandemic has hit a "plateau," as the curve of hospitalizations in the state begins to flatten.
The governor urged caution, however, in assuming the virus was on the downslope. He noted that often pandemics come in waves, and said that the U.S. should look to other countries around the world to learn from their experiences in restarting their economies.
Cuomo also stressed that putting New Yorkers back to work hinges on the level of testing that is available across the state. Read more...
— Alex Vuocolo

1:05 pm ET: Arkansas Governor Defends Holding Off on Stay-at-Home Order

Arkansas is one of four states in the U.S. that has not passed any stay-at-home orders to combat coronavirus, and Governor Asa Hutchinson plans to keep it that way unless cases spike. 
"That option is always on the table," Hutchinson told Cheddar. "If it does spike, if we stop beating the curve, then we will certainly move to more stringent measures."
In the meantime, Hutchinson has opted to shut down schools and select businesses and enforce social distancing guidelines. These measures stop short of the kind of comprehensive shutdowns that other states have employed to stop the spread of COVID-19. The governor has even forbidden cities and municipalities from imposing lockdown orders. Read more...
— Alex Vuocolo

12:43 pm ET: Convalescent Plasma May Be Key Treatment

As the world adjusts to a new reality set by the pandemic, scientists are racing for a COVID-19 cure or treatment as the virus continues to spread. However, those who have recovered from the illness might be a key to saving lives.
COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the novel coronavirus, has no treatment and no vaccine, but antibodies from recovered patients could help current others who are fighting the deadly virus. This type of treatment was first used in the 1890s to treat diphtheria, a bacterial infection that impacts the throat and nose.
The blood component that carries the antibodies, known as plasma, can be gathered as "convalescent plasma" and given to newly infected coronavirus patients. Read more...
— Samantha Errico

10:26 am ET: Former Obama National Security Advisor Calls for Global Response 

Gayle Smith, a former National Security Council member in the Obama Administration, is spreading the message that the U.S. must look beyond its borders to stop coronavirus.
"We can't defeat this virus and protect Americans if the virus is thriving in other parts of the world," Smith told Cheddar. "So it is in our interest. I would argue, obviously, it's also the right thing to do." Read more...
— Alex Vuocolo

8:55 am ET: Brooklyn Navy Yard: Historic WWII Workhorse Emerges as Coronavirus Production Center

When the coronavirus pandemic shut down nonessential businesses in New York, Duggal Visual Services found itself in a difficult situation. The company — which focuses on the fabrication of projects including digital displays, exhibitions and other large-scale items for clients — was forced to furlough many of its employees when work was halted. 
Then in March, the city’s Economic Development Corporation called on local businesses to make protective equipment and other supplies needed to fight against the coronavirus pandemic. Duggal, alongside another Brooklyn Navy Yard fabrication company called Bednark, found a way to turn their production into essential work to help frontline medical workers. 
Duggal and Bednark staff, as well as other workers from around the city, have set up shop inside Duggal Greenhouse, an event space better known for holding galas, weddings, and even Democratic presidential candidate debates. Today, it is a manufacturing center for plastic face shields that medical workers use throughout New York.
This isn’t the first time the 225-acre Brooklyn Navy Yard and its workers have been called upon to help in a crisis. Read more...
— Michelle Castillo
Workers producing necessary supplies at Duggal Greenhouse. (Photo credit: MIchelle Castillo)
Kings County Distillery switched from the production of liquor to the production of hand sanitizer. (Photo courtesy: Kings County Distillery)
Fashion brand Lafayette 148 co-founder and CEO Deidre Quinn donates supplies to The Brooklyn Hospital Center. (Photo courtesy: Lafayette 148)

8:10 am ET: Need2Know: NY Signs of Hope, UFC Private Island & Teen Pilot Gives Back

Get your news over easy every morning by listening to the Need 2 Know podcast (StitcheriTunes) and signing up for our morning newsletter
U.S. UPDATE: New York State now has more reported coronavirus cases than any country in the world (aside from the United States). The state’s death toll now stands at over 7,000. A new study points to travelers from Europe — not China — as the way the New York outbreak began to spread, undetected, in February. Still, the number of hospitalizations in the state is falling, suggesting that social distancing is working. Across the country there are nearly half a million reported cases and more than 16,000 deaths. Sixteen states have ordered schools to close through the end of the school year and three more are recommending closures. Against the advice of many health experts, President Trump is now pushing for the U.S. economy to reopen by May. WASH POST
GLOBAL IMPACT: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is out of intensive care and said to be on the mend. Johnson remains hospitalized, but those close to him say he expects to recover. A ceasefire is underway in Yemen as the country recorded its first confirmed case today. In Italy, at least 100 doctors on the frontlines of the virus have died; now, lockdown orders are likely to be extended into May. CNN
JOBLESS CLAIMS UPDATE: The weekly jobless claims report shows 6.6 million people filed for unemployment benefits last week. That mirrors the previous weekly jobless claims report and brings the total to more than 16 million Americans applying for benefits over the last three weeks. At least 10 percent of the workforce has been lost in less than a month. CNBC
DEMS BLOCK SMALL BUSINESS BILL: Treasury Secretary Mnuchin promised small businesses an additional $250 billion in emergency lending funds would be made available, however, the bill is currently being held up in the Senate. Democrats are calling for some of the funds to be specifically allotted to minority depository institutions, certified development corporations, and microlenders. Now, they are working with Mnuchin to come up with a new deal. THE HILL
FED PLAN BOOSTS WALL STREET: The Federal Reserve announced a plan to inject an additional $2.3 trillion into businesses and governments. Businesses with up to 10,000 employees will be able to apply for loans to stay afloat and avoid mass layoffs. At least $600 billion would be designated for companies too large to qualify for small business loans. WSJ
LOCUSTS THREATEN MILLIONS IN AFRICA: Billions of large locusts are threatening the stability of a wide range of countries in Eastern Africa as they search for vegetation to feed on. It’s the second-largest wave of locusts to strike in over 70 years. As the massive insects wipe out crops, villages will likely go hungry. AP
TIKTOK PLEDGES MILLIONS: Social media giant TikTok has committed to donating $375 million to coronavirus relief efforts through various relief funds and initiatives. A portion of the funds will go to healthcare workers fighting the virus on the frontlines. Communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic will also see a boost from donated funds.  THE VERGE
UFC BUYS PRIVATE ISLAND: UFC president Dana White is committed to continuing action in the Octagon and has purchased a private island to host fights. UFC 249 was set to kick off on April 18th from the island off of California but hit a roadblock after Sen. Dianne Feinstein pointed out the state’s stay-at-home order. While the island is located on tribal land and is not subject to state law, White reconsidered after speaking with Feinstein, and the event is off — for now. ESPN
LEFTOVERS: TEEN PILOT GIVES BACK: A teen pilot-in-training is using his flying lessons to make deliveries to hospitals in need amid the outbreak. TJ Kim doesn’t even have a driver’s license yet but has decided to use Operation Supplies Over Skies to bring much needed personal protective equipment to rural hospitals who would otherwise struggle without his aid. After graduating high school in two years, Kim plans to join the Naval Academy to become a pilot. US NEWS