Tuesday, April 28, 2020

6:11 pm ET: Trump to Sign Order Keeping Meat Processing Plants Open

President Donald Trump will take executive action Tuesday to order meat processing plants to stay open amid concerns over growing coronavirus cases and the impact on the nation’s food supply. The order will use the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to keep production plants open and prevent a shortage of chicken, pork, and other meat on American supermarket shelves. The United Food and Commercial Workers International Union represents 1.3 million food and retail workers. It said Tuesday that 20 U.S. food-processing and meatpacking union workers in the U.S. have died of the virus. Read more... 

5:22 pm ET: Smoothie King CEO Considers Subscription Service After 'Wake Up Call'

A lot has been written about the impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on the U.S. meat industry and sitdown restaurants, but what about the other sectors of the food and beverage industry?

Wan Kim, CEO of Smoothie King, told Cheddar Tuesday that the pandemic pushed him and his team to build a bigger digital presence for its customers. Read more...

— McKenzie Marshall

4:49 pm ET: A Day of Waffling Leaves Major Stock Indexes Slightly Lower

Stocks are ending lower on Wall Street after an early gain evaporated. The losses were led by companies that have been investor favorites including Microsoft, Apple and Amazon. The S&P 500 fell 0.5% Tuesday and the Nasdaq, which is dominated by tech companies, fell 1.4%. Small-company stocks, which took a beating in the sell-off that swept markets the last several weeks, ended higher. Read more...

— The Associated Press

4:11 pm ET: Around the World in 90 Seconds

The 2020 (now 2021) Tokyo Olympics could be canceled entirely if COVID-19 isn't under control and concerns about high medical oxygen prices in Kenya. Here are your coronavirus headlines from around the world.

— Megan Pratz

3:10 pm ET: Gas Stations Lean Into 'Mini-Mart' Roots to Survive

Gas station owners have seen volatility before. After all, their main product is a global commodity with deep ties to the larger economy and geopolitical squabbling abroad.

But the coronavirus pandemic has put unique pressures on the industry. As demand for gas has plummeted due to stay-at-home orders, oil prices have hit historic lows. Usually, lower gas prices will lead to more people driving, but during the outbreak that's not happening.

"Our business has dropped about 35 percent," said Bill Douglass, who owns 30 gas station convenience stores throughout Texas. "That 35 percent is the gasoline/diesel portion of the business. That's the driving public. The inside of the stores have not fallen that much." Read more...

— Alex Vuocolo

2:42 pm ET: Losers Turn to Winners on Wall Street, Leaving Indexes Mixed

Stocks are mixed on Wall Street Tuesday, as former losers turn into winners and earlier stalwarts run out of momentum.

On the winning side were shopping-mall owners, travel companies, and other businesses that got hammered after widespread stay-at-home orders locked their customers away. Some U.S. states and nations around the world are taking their first steps toward lifting restrictions implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Stocks that have held up the best through this year’s sell-off, meanwhile, were down the most sharply on Tuesday. They included health care companies, big tech titans, and winners of the stay-at-home economy such as Netflix and Amazon. Read more...

— The Associated Press

2:29 pm ET: Inequality Forcing 'Life or Death' Decisions, Says RWJF CEO

The coronavirus pandemic in the United States continues to spread and attack the population, but it is not affecting all communities equally. 

"Your income and the color of your skin are in a large way predicting how you're doing here," according to Dr. Richard Besser, president and CEO of the non-profit healthcare organization, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Read more...

— Mike Nam

2:02 pm ET: Bottleneck Continues as Businesses Seek Gov't Relief Loans

Banks trying to submit applications for thousands of small businesses seeking coronavirus relief loans have hit a bottleneck for a second day at the Small Business Administration.

Banking industry groups said Tuesday the SBA’s loan processing system is still unable to handle the volume of loan applications from business owners trying to get aid under the Paycheck Protection Program, part of the government’s $2 trillion coronavirus aid package. The SBA has said the slowdown is due to its attempts to limit the number of loans any bank can submit at one time. But some banks say they’re not able to get any applications into the system.

“Today is just another slow, frustrating slog for getting PPP loans through,” said Paul Merski, a vice president at the Independent Community Bankers of America. Read more...

— The Associated Press

11:24 am ET: Early Gain on Wall Street Fades Away by Late Morning

Stocks gave up an early gain and turned lower on Wall Street in late morning trading Tuesday. Markets had gotten off to a strong start as nations and some U.S. states move toward reopening their economies from lockdowns made to restrict the spread of the coronavirus.

Technology and health care stocks led the way lower.

European stocks rose following a mixed performance in Asia. The price of U.S. oil remained wild and swung through more extremes as storage tanks come closer to hitting their limits. Read more...

— The Associated Press

10:20 am ET: Utah Lt. Gov.: We Put All of Our Focus on Testing

As states begin to plan their reopenings after coronavirus lock-downs, some like Utah believe private-public partnerships with tech companies may be just the key they're looking for to ramp up testing.

The Beehive State has doubled its daily coronavirus testing capacity with a new testing website launched through a partnership with cloud-based software company Domo. Utah's Lieutenant Governor Spencer Cox and Domo CEO Josh James joined Cheddar to discuss their partnership.

"We recognized very early on that our way through this was going to be through a robust testing and tracing capacities, so we put all of our focus on that issue," said Lieutenant Governor Cox.

With the tech collaboration, Utah is now in the top five testing abilities per capita in the nation, and bottom five in mortality rate. Domo worked with the Utah government to increase access to testing equipment through their own supply chains and set up a website to streamline the process: Test Utah. There's also an app that tracks the testing data. Read more...

— Courtney McGee

9:55 am ET: Southwest Airlines Posts Earnings Loss

Southwest Airlines posted its first quarterly loss in nearly a decade and said Tuesday that the downturn in air travel that began in late February shows no signs of letting up.

The airline said trip cancellations have pulled back from a peak in March but remain at levels that Southwest has never seen, as customers scrap plans to travel during the coronavirus pandemic.

Southwest doesn’t fly to Asia, where the virus originated, and so it felt the effects of the pandemic later than rivals Delta, United and American. However, with U.S. air travel now down about 95% from a year ago, all the carriers are flying through the same storm.

Southwest expects revenue to drop by 90% to 95% in April and May compared with a year ago, with only 5% to 10% of seats on its planes filled.

“This is an unprecedented time for our nation and the airline industry,” Chairman and CEO Gary Kelly said in a written statement. “The U.S. economy has been at a standstill, and the current outlook for second quarter 2020 indicates no material improvement in air travel trends.”

Kelly told employees a few days ago that passenger traffic was “virtually zero,” that the airline was burning through cash at an alarming rate, and that Southwest was prepared to become a "drastically smaller airliner” if air travel doesn’t improve by July. That was a stunning statement, coming from the leader of an airline that says it has never laid off employees in 49 years of flying. Read more...

— The Associated Press

8:08 am ET: Need2Know: Promising Vaccine, Lakers Under Fire & UFO Video

Get your news over easy every morning by listening to the Need 2 Know podcast (StitcheriTunes) and signing up for our morning newsletter.

COVID-19: LATEST DEVELOPMENTS: With coronavirus deaths at a plateau in a number of states, even as the national toll hit 55,000, more governors are gradually lifting lockdown restrictions. Texas made the biggest move yet, announcing that businesses like restaurants, theaters and malls could begin to reopen with limited capacity by the end of the week. California will step up enforcement of social-distancing guidelines after residents packed beaches amid a heatwave, while New York canceled its Democratic presidential primary altogether, though New Yorkers will still be able to vote in state and local elections. A top ER doctor in Manhattan committed suicide, her family said, after spending days on the frontlines of the city’s outbreak. AP

TESTING PLAN: President Trump announced at an on-again-off-again-on-again task force briefing that the federal government would increase its assistance to states for testing. The administration’s “blueprint” would allow for states to test 2 percent of their populations per month, but it would leave the onus on the states. Many experts believe the White House needs to nationalize the production of testing kits, which it will not do. The U.S. has tested more people than any other country, but still less than 2 percent of the total population. WASH POST

RACE FOR A VACCINE: Of the 70 or so companies and research teams working to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, the efforts at Oxford University continue to show some of the most promising results. Last month, government scientists in the U.S. inoculated six monkeys with doses of the Oxford vaccine currently in development, exposed the monkeys to heavy doses of the virus, and then monitored them for 28 days. Now that it’s been four weeks, they say none of the monkeys show signs of being sick. (There is no guarantee that a vaccine that works in monkeys would prove as effective in humans). The Oxford group says if the vaccine continues to show results — and if they are given emergency regulatory approval — they could have doses available by September. NY TIMES

BIDEN SEX ASSAULT ALLEGATION: Two more people have gone on the record to say that they remember the woman who has accused Joe Biden of sexual assault telling them about an alleged assault by her boss in the mid-90’s. Tara Reade has said in several interviews that Biden pushed her against a wall and assaulted her in 1993 when Biden was a senator and Reade was his aide. There are now three people, including Reade’s brother, on the record and another anonymous source who has corroborated parts of Reade’s claims based on their memories. The Biden campaign has said the accusation “absolutely did not happen.” None of nearly two dozen people who worked with Biden in that timeframe corroborated the accusation to the New York Times. INSIDER

MEAT SHORTAGE IMMINENT?:There is growing concern that fresh beef, pork and chicken may become scarce at grocery stores in certain parts of the country as soon as this week, as the pandemic has severely impacted the pipeline that gets meat from the slaughterhouse to the butcher counter. Tyson Foods took out full-page ads in three major newspapers on Sunday warning that “the food supply chain is breaking.” The largest meat processors — Tyson, Smithfield, Cargill and JBS — have closed facilities over coronavirus outbreaks. To make matters worse, farmers are stuck with an overflow of livestock that can’t be sent to slaughter, forcing them to cull their herds. NBC NEWS

THE 'WORM' RETURNS: A month from now, a SpaceX rocket carrying two NASA astronauts to the ISS will take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida — the first time American astronauts will be launched into space from American soil since the shuttle program ended in 2011. NASA is marking the occasion by bringing back its famed “worm” logo. If you grew up in the 80’s, this is the logo you probably associate most with the space agency, even though its official insignia is the blue “meatball” that adorned the Apollo missions. The “worm” — N-A-S-A spelled out in a minimalist red font — will be slapped on the side of the SpaceX rocket and NASA says it may stick around for more missions to come. CNN

LAKERS RETURN THE MONEY: The Los Angeles Lakers have returned $4.6 million in government loans the team received as part of the small-business loan program established to help...small businesses shuttered during the lockdowns. The Lakers applied for and were granted the money in the first round of the disbursements, as many mom-and-pop businesses were struggling to get their applications approved before the pot ran dry. According to Forbes, the Lakers franchise is worth $4.4 billion. ESPN

MAY THE 4TH BE WITH YOU: Disney says it will release Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker onto Disney+ two months ahead of schedule, on the unofficial Star Wars “holiday” of May 4. The pandemic has hit Disney hardest of any of the major studios, given its exposure to theme parks, cruises and reliance on the box office from huge tentpole films. Instead, the company has been putting extra support behind its new streaming platform, which just crossed 50 million global subscribers, years ahead of estimates. DEADLINE

OBAMA DOC: Netflix is dropping a top-secret documentary about Michelle Obama on May 6. Becoming, which shares the name of her book, picks up where that memoir left off and follows the former first lady on her 2018 book tour. The doc originated under the Obamas’ Higher Ground Productions, which has an exclusive deal with Netflix. THR

LEFTOVERS: WE WANT TO BELIEVE: The Pentagon has formally released three videos that have circulated around the internet for years, showing Navy pilots interacting with “unidentified aerial phenomena.” One video is from an incident over the Pacific in 2004 in which two fighter pilots on a training mission witnessed an oblong object hovering over the water and then rapidly flying away as it was approached. The other two videos are from 2015 and show unknown objects moving extremely fast through the air. The Pentagon says it’s making them public to clear up “misconceptions” about whether they are real or whether there’s more to them. SEE THE VIDEOS

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