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More states lift restrictions, as small businesses struggle to secure relief

Nine states have begun lifting pandemic restrictions in a bid to revive struggling economies. Many small businesses have tried to secure financial relief from the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program -- but the initiative’s second round has been plagued with technical problems. Meanwhile, some officials worry that without expanded testing, reopening is unsafe. Amna Nawaz reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Parts of the country are moving ahead tonight with plans to get up and running. Others are waiting and watching the pandemic's progress.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. crosses another sobering marker, over one million infections and nearly 58,000 deaths.

    Amna Nawaz begins with this report.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Signs along Florida's beaches now warn people to stay away, but those could soon change. The Sunshine State is just one of a growing number of states laying plans to reopen businesses and ease restrictions.

    Nine states across the country have already begun lifting lockdown measures, with even more set to expire soon, all in a push to resuscitate stagnant economies.

    Florida Governor Ron DeSantis met with President Trump at the White House today.

  • Governor Ron DeSantis:

    I don't think it's going to happen overnight. I think we are going to have to be measured and thoughtful, but I think that, as people see that different things can happen safely, I think the confidence factor will go up.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Later in the afternoon, the president delivered remarks on the federal Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, aimed at boosting small businesses with low-interest loans.

  • President Donald Trump:

    We're processing loans at pace never achieved before. So far, we have processed an amazing 450,000 loans totaling over $50 billion.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    The program's first round of funding of $349 billion quickly ran out within two weeks. And the second round, a $310 billion effort launched this week, has been plagued with technical problems, leaving small business owners like Joe Field, who owns a California comic book store, without critical funds he's been trying to get for weeks.

  • Joe Field:

    Funding is going to help pay for some of the expenses that we have incurred through this, and — but it's not going to get anywhere close to paying for all the losses.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    After reports revealed that dozens of large publicly traded companies were granted funds, some have stepped forward to return the money, including big-name brands like Shake Shack, Ruth's Chris Steak House, and the Los Angeles Lakers, who received more than $4.5 million in loans.

  • Some state and local officials are saying, funding aside, comprehensive testing access is the best insurance policy for successful recovery. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio:

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio:

    The original sin here is the question of the federal government's role in testing, because we had a chance in this city to contain this, had we been able to see it. We couldn't see it without testing.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Testing for the novel coronavirus remains low, even as the official list of symptoms expands.

    The CDC first listed COVID symptoms as high fever, shortness of breath, and cough. The agency has now added possible symptoms, including chills, muscle pain, headaches, sore throat, and loss of taste or smell. The CDC has also recommended wearing masks in public where social distancing is difficult, a guideline Vice President Pence ignored while touring the Mayo Clinic today.

    That led to a tweet from the clinic, clarifying it had — quote — "informed the vice president of the masking policy prior to his arrival," a tweet they later deleted.

    The vice president later addressed the issue.

  • Vice President Mike Pence:

    As vice president of the United States, I'm tested for the coronavirus on a regular basis. And since I don't have the coronavirus, I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to be here and be able to speak to these researchers, these incredible health care personnel.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Meanwhile, European leaders eager to reignite their economies began laying plans.

    France today announced a process to begin easing restrictions by first reopening shops, starting May 11. In Portugal, the prime minister signaled that their lockdown would end soon.

    But, for many workers around the world, reopened economies give little relief. In Bangladesh today, garment workers, a pillar of the country's economy, were back in crowded factories, making products for global brands like Gap, Zara, and H&M.

    Employee Masum Billah says he doesn't feel safe.

  • Masum Billah (through translator):

    Why are we working, and don't have any protection, while working alongside hundreds of other workers? Can't we get some security? Does our life have no value?

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Caught in the middle of a push to save economies and a pandemic that continues to claim lives.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

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