University of Colorado may let medical students graduate early to join coronavirus fight

Leaders at the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine are considering allowing medical students near the end of their schooling to graduate early and volunteer to help in the fight against COVID-19.

For now, the school on CU’s Anschutz Medical Campus is reviewing the possibility, officials confirmed Monday, as talks of early medical school graduation happen across the country amid nationwide concern about the stress on the U.S. health care system and its workers as they battle the global coronavirus pandemic.

Last week, New York University became the first medical school to allow students in their final year the option to graduate early and join the fight against the highly contagious respiratory disease, according to The Washington Post.

Dr. Marc Moss, head of pulmonology at UCHealth Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus, spoke at a news conference with Gov. Jared Polis on Monday, saying the ICU at CU’s hospital is seeing almost double the average number of patients “and we’re only at the beginning of this crisis.”

 

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Denver’s stay-at-home order will be extended to slow coronavirus

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock told The Denver Post on Tuesday that he will extend his stay-at-home order to combat the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed seven people in the city.

“April 30 looks like it’s going to become the new target,” he said.

The official announcement will likely come Monday. Hancock said he’s speaking frequently with Gov. Jared Polis and either the governor will issue a statewide extension or the mayor will issue the order for Denver alone.

“He knows we’re ready to roll,” Hancock said of Polis.

Hancock first ordered residents to stay home from March 24 until April 10, closing nonessential businesses and public places in Denver and cementing social distancing recommendations with the possibility of legal enforcement.

Polis, initially resistant to doing the same for all of Colorado, followed suit two days later with a statewide order that’s effective through April 11. Hancock adopted the language of Polis’ statewide order Friday to eliminate confusion between the two stay-at-home directives.

The governor has said a statewide extension appears increasingly likely but he needs more data before making the decision.

President Donald Trump — once hopeful the country would reopen by Easter on April 12 — recently extended social distancing recommendations through April 30.

The stay-at-home order currently in place is effective at slowing the transmission of the virus, but it’s not effective enough, Hancock said. Some have been slow to embrace the changes, particularly young people and a few businesses.

Already police have made more than 3,000 contacts with residents, issued more than 600 warnings and written five citations for violating the orders, Hancock said. The overall goal is voluntary compliance with the law rather than legal enforcement.

Under the city extension, the details of the order will remain the same: Restaurants can still offer carryout and delivery. Denver International Airport will continue to operate, and group activities are prohibited in city parks. Liquor stores, marijuana dispensaries and firearm retailers are allowed to remain open, as well.

Since his initial order, Hancock has taken to Twitter to check in on residents, offer a few activity suggestions for those staying at home and review acceptable reasons to leave home.

City officials also closed certain roads and parking lots across Denver’s parks to further discourage social gatherings.

Reports of the virus’ spread slowing in national hot spots such as Seattle indicate that social distancing measures such as stay-at-home orders are effective. Polis said Monday it’s too soon to see the results of Colorado’s stay-at-home order, but the closure of restaurants and bars has helped.

Closing major swaths of the economy has steep costs, however. The unemployment rate in Colorado is expected to double in the next three weeks, and many who have lost their jobs or seen their hours cut back are worried about their ability to pay their rent or mortgage.

The restrictions also are cause for concern for domestic abuse victims forced to remain with their abusers.

Also, Denver is struggling to find enough individual spaces for those experiencing homelessless even as two positive cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the virus, hit that population last week.

As April 30 nears, Hancock said, he and city public health experts will keep a close eye on Denver’s rate of positive tests, among other metrics, to determine whether the order should be extended further.

Once it’s time for the order to end, he said, he will look for ways to phase in social interactions safely rather than lifting the stay-at-home requirements all at once.

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Coronavirus hits Denver’s homeless population as 2 test positive

At least two people experiencing homelessness in Denver have tested positive for the new coronavirus, advocates say, marking a new and particularly trying chapter in the city’s efforts to quell community spread.

The two positive results came from the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless’ Stout Street Health Center, said Cathy Alderman, a coalition spokesperson. About 50 people have been tested so far and about 20 of those results are still pending.

It’s unclear how many other tests Denver Health and other organizations have conducted for those experiencing homelessness. Representatives from Denver Health did not return messages Friday seeking comment.

Early last week a quarter of the city’s available individual rooms were occupied with those who might have caught the virus. The number of available rooms has multiplied since, but so has the need. Now half of Denver’s available rooms are occupied.

The city also has opened a supplemental shelter more conducive to social distancing for those who show possible symptoms of coronavirus.

“We have worked with the patients to get them into safe locations to isolate and recover,” Alderman said.

One person who tested positive for the coronavirus has stayed at the Denver Rescue Mission, according to spokesperson Alexxa Gagner, but it’s not clear whether that person was one of the two positive cases tested at the Stout Street center.

A mother and child staying at a Catholic Charities of Denver shelter exhibited symptoms and were separated from the group setting and quarantined, said spokesperson Nisa LaPoint. So far that pair has not tested positive for the virus.

People experiencing homelessness are at particular risk for spreading the virus because often they live in close quarters with extremely limited sanitation facilities available, said Terese Howard, spokesperson for Denver Homeless Out Loud.

Shelters aren’t outfitted for the six-foot social distancing measures recommended by national and global health experts, and Howard said many feel unsafe there.

“A lot of people have come up asking for tents and other survival gear,” Howard said. “They feel safer in those tent encampments than those staying in the shelters.”

City officials are working to find individual rooms for those who test positive or need to be quarantined while awaiting test results.

Currently 119 individual rooms are available, Heather Burke, spokesperson for Denver’s Joint Information Center, said in an email.

“We’re working currently with hotel and motel operators to scale up the number of respite rooms that are needed to serve our community for individuals experiencing homelessness — we are in conversation for potentially hundreds of rooms,” Burke said.

Sixty of the available rooms are currently occupied, said Derek Woodbury, spokesperson for Denver’s Department of Housing Stability.

“These are persons who need to self-quarantine because they are highly vulnerable, are awaiting test results for COVID-19, or who have tested positive for the virus,” Woodbury said in an email.

But the 10 dozen rooms the city has found are only a fraction of what could be needed. Denver Chief Housing Officer Britta Fisher has put the the potential need at 3,900 rooms,, while Howard said it could be 10,000.

Even as efforts to secure rooms continue, some living on the brink of homelessness are being evicted from their short-term rental rooms — a move in the wrong direction, Alderman has said.

People living on the streets suffer from underlying health problems at a much higher rate than the housed, adding to the homeless population’s vulnerability to the virus, which causes the respiratory illness COVID-19.

Not only could the disease spread quickly among that population, but it could easily jump to Denver’s housed population as well, Howard and others said.

To help curb spread within shelters, Denver officials have opened a supplemental, around-the-clock shelter better suited for social distancing, Burke said. That supplemental shelter is open to guests referred there for exhibiting symptoms of the virus, she said.

Fifteen people are currently in that shelter, Burke said.

Howard called on city officials to stop clearing out homeless encampments and instead provide portable bathrooms and hand-washing facilities. In addition, they must find and put to use vacant hotel, motel, apartment and dormitory rooms, she said. Recreational vehicles, tent cities and tiny homes are also possibilities, she said.

“Our whole society is put at risk because our government, our people, our businesses, our hotels, our whole society refuses to actually care about the lives of people without housing,” Howard said.

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France's Carrefour teams up with Uber Eats for lockdown deliveries

PARIS (Reuters) – French supermarket retailer Carrefour (CARR.PA) and Uber Eats announced a new delivery service on Wednesday, aimed at helping Parisians buy essential goods and food during the nationwide lockdown triggered by the coronavirus crisis.

The service, which will start on April 6, will allow users to choose a Carrefour convenience store on the Uber Eats app or website, or dial by phone from 11am to 11pm to order the products of their choice, including everyday grocery shopping as well as hygiene and cleaning products.

Customers will also be able to get deliveries at home within 30 minutes on average by a delivery person using the Uber Eats application and complying with health and safety guidelines laid out by the French government.

The service will start with around fifteen Carrefour stores in Paris and the Paris region and will then be rolled out nationwide. Uber Eats will remove the delivery fees on all Carrefour orders during the month of April.

The Carrefour/Uber Eats service is the latest alliance formed by food companies and takeaway firms to help people get essential foods during the lockdowns imposed in many cities around the world to tackle the coronavirus crisis.

In March, Britain’s Deliveroo announced two services to help people who are self-isolating because of the coronavirus – the first supplying essentials, such as tinned goods, pasta and household items, and the second, a tie-up with Marks & Spencer’s (MKS.L) stores on BP (BP.L) forecourts.

Last year, Carrefour also teamed up with Spanish start-up Glovo to provide a fast home delivery service as the French supermarket group faces growing competition from the likes of Amazon (AMZN.O) as well as domestic rivals.

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UK banks scrap dividends on coronavirus fears, pressure on bonuses

LONDON/HONG KONG (Reuters) – Britain’s top banks said on Tuesday they would suspend dividend payments after pressure from the regulator, saving their capital as a buffer against expected losses from the economic fallout from the coronavirus.

Barclays (BARC.L), HSBC (HSBA.L), Lloyds Banking Group (LLOY.L), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS.L), Standard Chartered (STAN.L) and the British arm of Spain’s Santander (SAN.MC) all halted payouts.

The lenders had been due to pay out over 8 billion pounds ($9.93 billion) between them in 2019 dividends, with HSBC the biggest payer at $4.2 billion.

The move came in response to a request from the Prudential Regulatory Authority (PRA), which also asked banks and insurers not to pay senior staff bonuses this year.

Hong Kong shares of HSBC (0005.HK) fell as much as 9.9% to their lowest since March 2009, while StanChart dropped 7.4% in the morning trade on Wednesday. The broader Hong Kong market index .HSI was down 0.4%.

The British lenders said they would not pay interim dividends for 2020 and scrapped planned 2019 payouts, but held off announcing changes to their executive pay policies.

The PRA said banks entered the epidemic, which has put Britain into lockdown, with strong capital positions, enough to withstand a severe UK and global recession.

“The bank has a strong capital base, but we think it is right and prudent, for the many businesses and people that we support, to take these steps now,” Barclays Chairman Nigel Higgins said.

Banks pay out dividends as a means of rewarding shareholders and disposing of excess profits, but they have the option to retain the earnings instead to preserve their capital levels.

FOLLOWING ECB’S LEAD

The statements from British lenders come after the European Central Bank (ECB) last week asked euro zone lenders to skip dividend payments and share buybacks until October at the earliest, and use their profits to support the economy.

Several of Europe’s largest lenders, including UniCredit (CRDI.MI), and Societe Generale (SOGN.PA), have already announced they will hold off paying 2019 dividends for now.

However, there are some hold outs. Swiss banking giants UBS (UBSG.S) and Credit Suisse (CSGN.S) have both said they plan to press ahead with 2019 dividends despite their home regulator urging caution over payouts.

The move to scrap 2019 shareholder distributions is expected to free up capital that banks can instead lend to businesses and consumers rocked by the coronavirus pandemic.

But some analysts believe cancelling dividends could actually harm the supply of credit to the real economy.

“We note that euro area bank market capitalization fell on 30 March by the same as the 30 billion euros ‘saved’ by its dividend ban on Friday 27 March,” analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch said in a note to clients, referring to the ECB’s move.

The European Union’s banking watchdog said earlier on Tuesday that banks should be “conservative” in how they award bonuses to preserve capital and keep lending during the coronavirus pandemic.

However it stopped short of calling on banks to stop bonuses altogether.

Italy’s UniCredit and Spain’s BBVA have both said this week that their top management will waive their 2020 bonuses.

Standard Chartered signaled in a memo on Monday that the bank would likely cut its 2020 executive payouts.

PRA Chief Executive Sam Woods also wrote to heads of insurers, saying they should pay “close attention” to the need to protect policyholders and maintain safety and soundness when considering bonuses or dividends.

HSBC signaled a gloomy first-quarter earnings season for British banks, warning in its statement that it would see bad loans rising and revenues falling as the economic impact of the pandemic hits.

The coronavirus has infected more than 850,000 people globally, and killed over 42,000, a Reuters tally shows. For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread of the virus: open tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.

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Asian shares hold on to gains but virus keeps markets on edge

TOKYO/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Asian stocks clung to gains on Wednesday, helped by a bounce in Australian shares, but risks for equities remain large as the coronavirus pandemic rattles the underpinnings of the global economy.

E-Mini futures for the S&P 500 traded 1.39% lower in Asian trade, highlighting the cautious mood.

MSCI’s broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan rose 0.23%. Australian shares jumped by 2.87%, reversing a 2% decline on Tuesday, as a slowdown in new coronavirus cases and rising iron ore prices lifted the market.

Shares in China, where the coronavirus first emerged late last year, rose 0.18%, supported by hopes the world’s second-largest economy has started to recover.

China’s factory activity improved in March after plunging a month earlier, a private survey showed on Wednesday, just scraping into positive territory and beating analysts’ expectations.

Shares in South Korea, also hit hard by the virus, rose 0.19%, but Japanese shares fell 1.05% as a rapid increase in coronavirus infections in Tokyo fueled speculation the government will place the capital on lockdown.

Wall Street tumbled on Tuesday, with the Dow registering its biggest quarterly fall since 1987 and the S&P 500 its steepest quarterly drop since a decade ago on growing evidence of the massive downturn the pandemic will incur.

U.S. economic activity is likely to be “very bad” and the unemployment rate could rise above 10% because of efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Cleveland Federal Reserve Bank President Loretta Mester told CNBC.

“Investors still want to buy equities, but the coronavirus is making everyone more cautious,” said Kiyoshi Ishigane, chief fund manager at Mitsubishi UFJ Kokusai Asset Management Co in Tokyo.

“There are still a lot of risks out there, but if you can identify individual shares with good dividend yields and strong financials, then you can buy at a pretty good price.”

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe was little changed. The index fell nearly 22% for the quarter.

The number of coronavirus infections globally headed toward 800,000. Deutsche Bank analysts noted, however, that for two consecutive days the global growth in new cases was below 10%, having exceeded that rate for most of the past two weeks.

Health officials were much more cautious. A World Health Organization official warned that even in the Asia-Pacific region, the epidemic was “far from over.”

The dollar bounced in Asia, rising 0.28% to 107.86 yen and gaining 0.36% to $1.2375 per British pound as investors adjusted positions before the release of U.S. manufacturing data.

The dollar fell broadly on Tuesday after the U.S. Federal Reserve said it will allow foreign central banks to exchange their holdings of U.S. Treasury securities for overnight dollar loans to ease a dollar funding crunch.

The yield on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury note eased slightly to 0.6554%.

U.S. crude held steady at $20.49 a barrel, but Brent crude fell 2.09% to $25.80 per barrel as the United States, Russia, and Saudi Arabia jostle over a massive oversupply of oil.

Crude oil benchmarks ended a volatile quarter with their biggest losses in history, with both U.S. and Brent futures hammered throughout March due to the pandemic and the eruption of a Saudi-Russia price war.

Global fuel demand has been cut sharply by travel restrictions due to the coronavirus. Forecasters at major merchants and banks see demand slumping by 20% to 30% in April, and for weak consumption to linger for months.

(Graphic: MSCI All Country Wolrd Index Market Cap link: here)

(Graphic: Global currencies vs. dollar link: here)

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Singapore private home prices drop 1.2% in Q1 amid coronavirus outbreak

SINGAPORE – Singapore’s property market may have caught its first chill from the coronavirus with quarterly private home prices declining for the first time in a year.

According to flash data from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) on Wednesday (April 1), prices of private residential properties dropped 1.2 per cent in the first three months of the year from the previous quarter.

Private home prices rose 2.7 per cent last year in a modest recovery from the July 2018 cooling measures, with prices rising 0.5 per cent in the final quarter of 2019.

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Macy's to drop from S&P 500 to small-cap index

(Reuters) – Macy’s Inc (M.N) will be removed from the benchmark S&P 500 stock index .SPX, the S&P Dow Jones Indices said on Tuesday, as coronavirus-induced store closures compound the retail sector’s struggles with a shift to online shopping.

The company’s shares have plunged more than 70% so far this year, leaving Macy’s with a market value of $1.52 billion as of Tuesday’s close, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

“Macy’s has a market capitalization more representative of the small-cap market space,” S&P said, adding that the company would become part of the S&P small-cap 600 index, effective April 6.

The pandemic has forced U.S. brick-and-mortar retailers, including Macy’s Inc (M.N) and Gap Inc (GPS.N), to shut stores, furlough employees, withdraw forecasts and suspend dividends.

Macy’s will be replaced in the S&P 500 by air conditioning company Carrier Global Corp CARR_w.N.

Carrier was spun out last month by United Technologies in a bid to shed assets to complete its merger with Raytheon Co (RTN.N).

That deal is expected to close on April 3.

Raytheon will be replaced in the S&P 500 by United Technologies’ elevator unit Otis Worldwide Corp OTIS_w.N, according to a statement from the S&P Dow Jones Indices.

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2 taken to hospital after bus smashes into London Drugs in Sherwood Park

A bus driver and a London Drugs employee were taken to hospital Tuesday morning, after a bus careened into the Sherwood Park store.

RCMP said it happened at 6:40 a.m., when a Strathcona County transit bus and a pickup truck collided at the intersection at Fir Street and Sherwood Drive.

The bus slid into London Drugs and the driver suffered minor injuries. An employee of the store was nearby when the bus hit, RCMP said.

“An employee in the store was actually directly behind the wall where the bus careened into and was hurt as well, with minor injuries,” said Cpl. Ben Ruddick with Strathcona County RCMP.

The employee was trapped following the collision and had to be extracted by Strathcona County Emergency Services.

Both the employee and bus driver were taken to hospital. There was only one passenger on the transit bus at the time who was not injured.

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash.

RCMP said they are also looking into whether there was a red light at the intersection for one of the drivers.

The driver of the pickup truck was not injured.

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Pandemic response unit being built at Joseph Brant Hospital ahead of expected COVID-19 ‘surge’

Construction has begun on a temporary pandemic response unit at Burlington’s Joseph Brant Hospital.

The 93-bed unit, which is being built on hospital grounds and connected to the South Tower, is in response to an anticipated surge of COVID-19 patients in the coming weeks.

“Based on the best information we have available, on the modelling and forecasting as to when the surge would be at its peak, the information we have would be between seven and 14-plus days,” said Eric Vandewall, president and CEO of Joseph Brant.

“We decided a few weeks ago, based on this information, that we needed to have this additional capacity to respond to the surge as best as we could.”

Dr. Ian Preyra, the hospital’s chief of staff, said patients who test positive for COVID-19 will be monitored by a team of doctors who have volunteered from across Burlington.

“It will allow the hospital to cohort these patients together to have standardized care, and also free up necessary critical care capacity within the hospital building so that we can expand our ability to provide critical care to the sickest patients,” said Preyra.

He added that keeping COVID-19 patients in a separate unit will also reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

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“From an infection prevention and control point of view, the pandemic response unit allows us to safely cohort patients — all of whom are COVID positive — in a confined area that we can control entrance and exit to.”

Preyra said all staff and physicians who work in the unit will be required to wear personal protective equipment (PPE), adding that they expect to have “sufficient supplies of PPE for all of our staff members and physicians to work safely”.

He also said they’re taking “active measures” to conserve their existing supply of PPE and stretch its use if there are more patients than expected.

However, Vandewall stressed that their first priority is the safety of their physicians, staff and patients and that PPE will not be “overused”.

Although the peak number of cases is expected in the coming weeks, Preyra said the effects of taking care of those patients may extend over several months. He also said the extra capacity will allow the hospital to more easily transition to normal operations once the pandemic has died down.

The facility is expected to be up and running by April 10.

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