Retailer JC Penney filed for bankruptcy on Friday, making it the latest business to hit bottom amid the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
US retail sales tumbled by a record 16.4% from March to April as business shutdowns caused by the coronavirus kept shoppers away, threatened the viability of stores across the country and further weighed down a sinking economy.
The Covid-19 fallout represented a final blow to the company, which had been struggling for some time. Many brick-and-mortar retailers are struggling, according to a report from the Associated Press.
In the past two weeks, J Crew, Neiman Marcus and Stage Stores have filed for bankruptcy protection. JC Penney with its 850 stores and almost 90,000 workers followed them on Friday into bankruptcy. UBS estimates that roughly 100,000 stores could shutter over the next five years.
“The whole economic model is unraveling,” Neil Saunders, the managing director of GlobalData Retail told the Associated Press. “This is going to be very painful. For some, it’s going to be fatal.”
House passed temporary changes on Friday that will allow members to vote remotely for the first time in its 231-year history.
Now legislators will be able to cast roll-call votes in the House and participate in committee hearings remotely.
The final vote on the change was 217-189. It comes as Congress attempts to adjust its responsibilities to the global coronavirus pandemic.
Weeks ago researchers at University of Iowa warned the governor, Kim Reynolds, that reopening the state would increase the spread of coronavirus, documents released Friday showed, as the state proceeded to lift closures this week.
Researchers, including some of the state’s top epidemiologists and infectious disease experts, found that even if businesses remained closed, hundreds of residents would likely die through the end of May. They said reopening restaurants and churches would exacerbate the problem, documents released Friday show.
“Evidence shows that Covid-19 will continue to spread in Iowa, likely at an increasing rate,” the team led by Dr Joseph Cavanaugh, the head of the university’s biostatistics department, concluded in a 4 May paper.
Reynolds has downplayed such models as she continues her push to reopen the economy, despite surging numbers of deaths this week. Restaurants, gyms, barber shops and salons reopened Friday in 22 counties, including the state’s largest metropolitan areas, where they had been closed for two months.
She on Friday she is relying on real-time data from hospitals and testing to manage the state’s pandemic response and warned that not reopening the state would have a “social cost”, including high unemployment, rising domestic abuse and food insecurity.
The Iowa Department of Public Health had asked experts at the UI College of Public Health for technical assistance forecasting the pandemic’s severity in Iowa.
In a paper dated 4 May, the researchers found that the virus was still likely spreading in Iowa communities. They said that school and business closures and ban on gatherings of more than 10 people had strongly mitigated the amount of infection but nonetheless were not “sufficient to prevent uncontained spread” by themselves.
“The State of Iowa is sufficiently interconnected that we expect continued growth of Covid-19, even in the absence of any measures to relax social distancing or to reopen previously closed businesses and religious institutions,” they wrote. “Importantly, even though much of the recent spread in Iowa has been attributed to clusters (eg, workplaces, long-term care facilities), continued increase in community spread is expected.”
The researchers said the state’s observed deaths, which jumped by 18 to 336 on Friday, closely tracked their projections from an earlier paper. That research forecast a median outcome of 747 deaths by 28 May.
The number of deaths in the US from coronavirus are projected to exceed 100,000 by 1 June, according to the CDC director, Robert Redfield.
The agency came to this conclusion through tracking 12 different forecasting models, which all forecast at least 100,000 deaths.
Trump previously said the number would be lower than 100,000 deaths, a claim these models counter. Deborah Birx of the White House coronavirus task force has repeatedly asserted the number of deaths by 1 June will be between 100,000 and 240,000 – if mitigation strategies continue.
National Football League teams can begin to reopen their facilities starting 19 May, a memo from the commissioner Roger Gooddell obtained by the Washington Post stated.
NFL teams must be in compliance with local and state laws as well as league protocols, the memo said. There had been speculation the NFL season, which generally starts in early September, would be postponed or cancelled.
According to the memo, “coaches and players not permitted to be in teams’ facilities, at this point, even if they reopen beginning May 19”. It is unclear when fans would be allowed back in stadiums to view games.
Trump took the trucker protest today as a sign of support, saying as the sounds of horns honking wafted into the Rose Garden today, “Those are friendly truckers. They’re on our side. It’s almost a celebration in a way.”
CNN’s Daniel Dale responds:
Unveiling the flag for his new space force in the Oval Office on Friday, Donald Trump said the US was developing a “super duper missile” to outpace military rivals including Russia and China, writes the Guardian’s Martin Pengelly:
“We have no choice, we have to do it with the adversaries we have out there. We have, I call it the super duper missile and I heard the other night [it’s] 17 times faster than what they have right now,” the president said, sitting at the Resolute desk.
“That’s right,” said the defense secretary, Mark Esper, standing to Trump’s right.
“You take the fastest missile we have right now,” Trump said. “You heard Russia has five times and China’s working on five or six times, we have one 17 times and it’s just got the go-ahead.”
Hello, readers! Kari Paul here in sunny Oakland, California, to bring you the news over the next few hours. Stay tuned for updates.
Late afternoon summary
Thanks for tuning in for the day’s US politics and coronavirus news so far. The Guardian’s Kari Paul is taking the over the blog from the west coast now, to cover developments over the next few hours. The White House just wrapped another rose garden event and Donald Trump is headed to Camp David.
Here are the main events so far today:
- Truckers on their 15th day of protest about insufficient working conditions disrupted Donald Trump’s afternoon press conference by blasting air horns throughout the Rose Garden ceremony.
- Despite an FDA alert warning the coronavirus testing kit used in the White House may be providing false positives, Donald Trump said it is a “great test”.
- Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth has entered the veep race after being backed by a veteran’s group. Duckworth, a veteran, is the first senator to give birth while in office.
- Never Trump Republicans are holding a rival gathering during the Republican National Convention this year, reports the Washington Post.
Terrorism charge over threat to governor
A man accused of making credible death threats against Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer and state attorney general Dana Nessel has been charged on a terrorism count, the Wayne County prosecutor’s office said this afternoon.
Robert Tesh made the threats via a social media message to an acquaintance on April 14 and authorities concluded the message amounted to “credible threats to kill,” prosecutor Kym Worthy said Friday in a news release, the AP reports.
Worthy didn’t provide any detail about the threats or how they were determined to be credible. Further details will be presented during court proceedings, she said.
Detroit police officers arrested the 32-year-old man the same day at his home. He was arraigned April 22 on a threat of terrorism charge. If convicted, Tesh could face up to 20 years in prison.
“Emotions are heightened on all sides now,” she told the Associated Press. “These threats … they are not funny. They are not jokes. There is nothing humorous about it. Even if you don’t carry it out, we’re going to charge you criminally.”
The threats from Tesh were not specific to Whitmer’s stay-at-home order issued in March in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19 in the state, according to Maria Miller, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office.
Whitmer has been the target of protests and rallies over her executive order which shut down most businesses in the state. The order is effective at least until May 28.
“The alleged facts in this case lay out a very disturbing scenario,” Worthy said. “We understand that these times can be stressful and upsetting for many people. But we will not and cannot tolerate threats like these against any public officials who are carrying out their duties as efficiently as they can.
Protests in Lansing yesterday were led by Michigan United for Liberty, a conservative activist group that has sued Whitmer and organized or participated in several rallies since early April.
During a rally last month, some armed protesters entered the Capitol building.
Tesh was released from jail on April 29 after posting a $50,000 bond. He has been placed on a GPS tether. Comment has been sought from his attorney.
The Guardian’s Mario Koran writes in about Twitter and Square CEO Jack Dorsey announced that he will donate $10 million for computers and internet access to help close the digital divide in Oakland:
Dorsey dropped the news after Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf tweeted a video of one of the estimated 25,000 students who lack access to the internet. “Every student deserves the ability to learn from home”, wrote Schaaf. The mayor also spotlighted a $12.5M plan “to close the digital divide for good.”
@jack quickly answered the call.
Roughly two months into the switch from brick-and-mortar schools to online education, millions of families with school-aged children still remain offline.
The need persists even in the shadow of Silicon Valley. As schools shut down, and educators hustled to equip students with devices, the need for internet access was often unmet. Back orders mounted, compounding wait times for unconnected students.
The same families without internet often face food scarcity or unstable living conditions — both of which have been exacerbated with businesses closed and parents out of work.
Dorsey’s donation, by itself, won’t be enough to close the digital divide in Oakland. But will certainly help. Schaaf called Dorsey’s announcement a “game changer”.
Long-haul trucking industry website, The Trucker, has a deeply reported look at the truckers’ protest movement, which has been active for 15 days.
The protest was thrust into the global spotlight on Friday, when trucker’s air horns provided a disruptive soundtrack to Donald Trump’s afternoon press conference. Trump said the horns were a show of support – “They love their president,” he said – but he was wrong.
Truckers began a protest in Washington DC at the beginning of the month. They have not received targeted support in any stimulus package and have said they don’t have adequate access to protective equipment and healthcare. They have also voiced serious concerns about the rates they are getting through brokers who connect them with people needing to ship goods.
On Wednesday, White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, met with the protestors for nearly 15 minutes. The Trucker said this gave some people enough hope to return to work, though many also decided to return to work simply because they can’t afford to take more unpaid leave.
The Trucker’s report from Wednesday detailed the meeting with Meadows and Michael Landis, founder and CEO of the United States Transportation Alliance, who acted as a spokesman for the group:
Meadows offered his personal email and promised that if Landis puts together a list of priorities and sends it to him, Meadows will act. The wary Landis, who has personally heard years of promises of action from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and others in Washington, responded, “We’d like to hear that from the president.”
Meadows was unfazed by the comment and accompanying jeers, responding, “Let me just tell you, having the (president’s) chief of staff come out with my security detail and everything else is something that really doesn’t normally happen. So, I promise you I’m speaking on behalf of the president of the United States.”