CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… Pope Francis called for the world to come together in the face of the coronavirus pandemic during an Eastern morning service in a nearly empty St. Peter’s Basilica. The service was live-streamed to millions of viewers throughout the world. The number of coronavirus cases nationwide has topped a half-million and the death toll is at least 21,300, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. The number of fatalities pushed the U.S. above every other country in the world. People in recent days have been dying at the rate of roughly 2,000 deaths a day, officials said.
FAUCI DISCUSSES PANDEMIC… National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci expressed hope yesterday that a rollback on coronavirus restrictions could begin in some places as early as next month. During an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Fauci acknowledged that a quicker response to the outbreak could have saved lives. Fauci also said he had confidence in state governors to decide when to begin lifting restrictions.
MAJOR PORK PRODUCER CLOSES… One of the country’s largest pork processing facilities has announced that it is closing until further notice amid the coronavirus pandemic and warned that its closure puts the country’s meat supply at risk. Smithfield, based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, accounts for 4 to 5 percent of the country’s pork production and employs about 3,700 people. During a press conference on Saturday, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem said that Smithfield employees accounted for more than half of the active coronavirus cases in the state, with about 240 of its employees sick. Meat processors in Iowa and Pennsylvania have also shut down because of sick workers.
OPEC REACHES OIL-PRODUCTION DEAL… Leaders of oil-producing countries agreed to a deal yesterday that will slash oil production by 9.7 million barrels a day starting May 1. OPEC has been seeking to cut production in order to stabilize oil prices, which have fallen to 18-year lows in recent weeks. Saudi Arabia and Russia have engaged in a price war that has flooded the oil market.
ALABAMA CAN’T BAN ABORTION, JUDGE RULES… A federal judge ruled yesterday that Alabama cannot ban abortions as part of the state’s response to coronavirus. The preliminary injunction issued by U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson allows abortion providers to decide whether a procedure can wait. Abortion rights advocates are also fighting efforts in Texas, Ohio and other states to prohibit abortion services during the coronavirus pandemic.
STORMS BATTER SOUTH… Strong storms pounded the South yesterday and left thousands of residents without power. The National Weather Service reported that tornadoes touched down in northwest and north-central Louisiana, damaging buildings and toppling trees. The storm spanned southeast Arkansas, across wide swaths of Mississippi and Alabama and into western Georgia.
DISNEY CELEBRATION LIVE-STREAM CANCELED… Today’s free stream of the previously recorded “Celebrating 25 Magical Years of Disney on Broadway” has been canceled due to a union dispute. The program was a fundraising effort to support Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS’ COVID-19 Emergency Assistance Fund. “Celebrating 25 Magical Years of Disney on Broadway” was taped on November 4.
THE WEEKND REMAINS ATOP ALBUM CHART… The Weeknd’s “After Hours” sold 90,000 copies to remain atop the Billboard 200 album chart for a third week. Rod Wave’s “Pray 4 Love” finished in second place after selling 72,000 units. Lil Uzi Vert’s “Eternal Atake” remained in third place on sales of 69,000 copies. Lil Baby’s “My Turn” jumped into fourth place with 48,000 units sold. Sam Hunt’s “Southside” sold 46,000 copies to cap the top five.
NBA DISCUSSES RETURN… ESPN reported yesterday that NBA executives and trainers have been discussing a 25-day plan for the season to resume. The plan reportedly includes an 11-day series of workouts and a 14-day training camp. Commissioner Adam Silver has said that the league won’t even be able to make any decisions until next at the earliest and it is not known whether the 2019-20 season will be completed.