President Donald Trump took aim at the World Health Organization on Tuesday, announcing a halt on funding to the group he said was “severely mismanaging and covering up” the coronavirus crisis.

Trump began the day’s White House task force news conference by attacking the WHO for the job it has done in recent months, claiming that it had “failed” and “must be held accountable.”

“We have deep concerns about whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible,” Trump said. “The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain, vet and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.

“The WHO’s attack on travel restrictions put political correctness above life-saving measures,” Trump said.

Trump’s remarks came as U.S. coronavirus deaths and confirmed cases edged lower for the third consecutive day.

The pandemic has claimed more than 25,000 lives across the nation, and there are almost 600,000 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data. Worldwide, the death toll was over 125,000 with almost 2 million cases. Almost half a million have recovered worldwide according to the data, although not all health departments provide numbers of patients who have recovered.

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

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

• California is days away from its projected coronavirus peak. Here’s how the state prepared to ‘bend the curve.’ 

Thousands of health care workers sickened by COVID-19

More than 9,000 health care workers across the U.S. contracted COVID-19 as of last week and at least 27 died, according to a report released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC conceded the report’s findings underestimate the number of cases among health care workers because of uneven reporting across the country. While in some states only 3% of COVID-19 patients were health care personnel, the number was closer to 11% in those with more complete reporting.  

The report comes a day after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General reported hospitals were facing equipment shortages for N95 respirator masks, surgical masks, face shields, gowns and gloves. 

– Adrianna Rodriguez and Ken Alltucker

California governor watching six indicators before lifting order

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Tuesday six key indicators he and his team are watching to determine how and when to lift the statewide social distancing orders that have been in place since March 19.

While he didn’t give a specific date, he indicated that officials will reevaluate their timeline in the next two weeks. The number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in California has started to slow, signaling the state is successfully flattening the curve.

“We move from surge into suppression,” Newsom said, adding that officials see a light at the end of the tunnel. But, he cautioned, this is “perhaps the most difficult and challenging phase of all,” and emphasized that “this phase is one where science, where public health, not politics must be the guide.”

The indicators: monitor and protect communities through testing, contact tracing, isolating, and supporting those who are positive or exposed; preventing infection in people who are at risk for more severe COVID-19; prepping hospitals and health systems to handle surges; developing therapeutics to meet the demand; ensuring businesses, schools, and child care facilities will support physical distancing; determining when to reinstitute certain measures, such as the stay-at-home orders, if necessary.

– Gabrielle Canon, The Desert News

Dr. Anthony Fauci: May 1 economic restart ‘a bit optimistic’

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the medical face of the White House coronavirus task force, on Tuesday called a May 1 target date for reopening the nation’s economy “a bit optimistic” because of the lack of critical testing and tracing procedures.

“We have to have something in place that is efficient and that we can rely on, and we’re not there yet,” Fauci said in an interview with The Associated Press.

President Donald Trump was appointing a task force Tuesday to develop plans for reawakening the nation’s dormant economy. He has expressed hope to get some areas rolling by May 1 and said he could announce recommendations as soon as this week. 

Fauci said easing social-distancing rules should take place on a “rolling” basis, reflecting the ways COVID-19 struck different parts of the country at different times. Testing will be vital because easing social distancing and other guidelines will cause new hot spots to emerge, he said.

“I’ll guarantee you, once you start pulling back (restrictions), there will be infections,” Fauci said. “It’s how you deal with the infections that’s going (to) count.”

Connecticut governor gives ‘shoutout’ to Pence task force

Vice President Mike Pence’s coronavirus task force deserves a “shoutout” for its good work despite “verbal hand grenades” being tossed at some governors by President Donald Trump, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Tuesday. Lamont, a Democrat, said he and governors of five other states – New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Rhode Island –   will make decision together on how best to roll back stay-at-home orders in their region. The president maintains that opening up the economy is his call.

Lamont, in a CNN interview, said coronavirus cases remain on the rise in his state. He said he was at least a month away from loosening any restrictions.

“The governors … were early in taking care of social distancing, and we’re going to take care of getting our economy open again, but in a thoughtful and safe way,” Lamont said.

On the West Coast, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said he is preparing to share his plan to transition back to normalcy with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee as part of a “shared vision.”

New saliva test could revolutionize COVID-19 testing

A new coronavirus saliva test developed at Rutgers University that could dramatically accelerate the rate of collections and limit exposure to health care workers could be rolled out as soon as Wednesday. The test, which can be self-administered, will allow for broader population screening than the current nose and throat swabs used at testing facilities, Rutgers officials said. The saliva test also lessens the need for valuable personal protective equipment during the testing process.

“All of this combined will have a tremendous impact on testing,” said Andrew Brooks, a Rutgers professor who was involved in developing the test.

– Melanie Anzidei, NorthJersey.com

Politics endangers stimulus plan for small businesses

Billions of dollars in additional relief for small businesses has been left in the crossfire as congressional leaders fight over what should be included in a fresh package of coronavirus aid. At the center of the fight is $250 billion to replenish quickly evaporating funds for the Paycheck Protection Program, a fund for small businesses. That would be added to the nearly $350 billion Congress approved last month as part of the $2.2 trillion pandemic response known as the CARES Act.

The PPP provides business owners with 500 or fewer workers low-interest loans to stay afloat. Those loans will be forgiven by the government if at least 75% of the money goes to keeping employees on the payroll. Democrats, however, insist that more money for hospitals and state and local governments must be included in the legislation. 

– Christal Hayes

Virus kills bishop who refused to cancel service

Bishop Gerald Glenn, who led services March 22 at his Virginia church despite calls for social distancing, has died of complications from COVID-19, a church elder announced. Glenn told his congregation at the New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield that “God is larger than this dreaded virus – you can quote me on that.” The next day, Gov. Ralph Northam ordered nonessential businesses closed and banned all gatherings of more than 10 people. On March 30, Northam issued a statewide stay-at-home order.

Glenn’s daughter, Mar-Gerie Crawley, posted a video on social media April 4 announcing that Glenn and his wife, Marcietia, had tested positive for the coronavirus.

– N’dea Yancey-Bragg

Pro wrestling draws ‘essential’ status in Florida

Florida has declared professional sports league employees and their media partners “essential services” so professional wrestling’s WWE can operate despite a statewide “shelter-in-place” order that will expire on April 30 at the earliest. 

“With some conversation with the governor’s office regarding the governor’s order, they were deemed an essential business,” Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings said  Monday. WWE has been airing matches – including a two-night, Wrestlemania 36 event that featured former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski – from its training center in Orlando without fans in the stands.  “We believe it is now more important than ever to provide people with a diversion from these hard times,” WWE said in a statement. 

– Chris Bumbaca

Some will get stimulus checks Wednesday, others face long wait

Many Americans will begin to receive stimulus payments of up to $1,200 in their bank accounts on Wednesday, according to the Treasury Department, and the IRS has launched a portal on its website that allows Americans to input their direct deposit information to speed up getting the cash. Those who require a paper check in the mail face a longer wait, and some new parents and others may have to wait until next year to get part of their payouts.

“The intent (of the law) is to get the money out as fast as you can, but when you do that, you can’t possibly anticipate every possible situation,” said Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute’s Tax Policy Center. “So there are going to people who fall through the cracks and are going to have to wait until next year to get their money.”

– Michael Collins

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Contributing: The Associated Press

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