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Coronavirus updates from March 31, 2020

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Coronavirus takes deadly toll in the U.S.

This live blog has finished. Click here for the latest coronavirus updates.  

New models released by the White House on Tuesday show that 100,000 to 240,000 people could die in the U.S. from coronavirus, even with most Americans staying home.

"We don't accept that number. We're going to do everything we can to get that number even below that," Dr. Anthony Fauci said at the White House's daily coronavirus briefing.

As of late Tuesday night, there were some 3,900 deaths and more than 189,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

Detailed information from the CDC on coronavirus treatment and prevention.

Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America
Medical workers wearing personal protective gear watch as Medical workers remove a body from a refrigerated truck outside of the Brooklyn Hospital on March 31, 2020 in New York City.  Getty Images
 

Federal prisons will confine inmates to cells for 14 days

The Bureau of Prisons on Tuesday announced it will begin confining federal inmates to their cells for 14 days in an attempt to prevent further exposure to coronavirus. The order is part of what the bureau is calling "Phase 5" of its plan to combat the spread of COVID-19.

There will be some exceptions to the quasi-lockdown. The bureau is permitting smaller groups for things like phone calls, laundry and showering. Educational programs and mental health treatment will continue, "to the extent practicable." 

Read more here.

By Clare Hymes
 

California plans to free up to 3,500 inmates

Within days, California is planning to release as many as 3,500 inmates who are due to be paroled in the next two months as the state tries to free up space in cramped prisons in anticipation of a coronavirus outbreak, state officials said Tuesday.

The move comes a week after Governor Gavin Newsom halted intakes from jails, a move projected to lower the prison's population by about 3,000 inmates in the next 30 days.

The combination is edging closer to the drop of at least 10,000 inmates that advocates say is a baseline for creating enough space, particularly in crowded dormitories, so that prisoners have a chance to maintain a safe social distance like the rest of the state's population.

The 3,500 estimate includes inmates who are within 60 days of their earliest possible release date and are not currently serving a sentence for a violent or sex crime. California narrowly defines violent crimes, but corrections officials are also ruling out the release of anyone serving time for domestic violence.

Inmates who are otherwise eligible will also be screened for medical and mental health problems and to make sure they can properly be placed in the community, said corrections department spokeswoman Dana Simas.

"These are not guaranteed releases," she said, since some of the 3,500 won't meet all the criteria.

Releases could begin next week after the inmates are screened by parole officials.

—The Associated Press

 

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on the U.S. military's fight against coronavirus

The U.S. military is part of the fight against the coronavirus and at the same time, is fighting an outbreak aboard one of its deployed aircraft carriers. More than 70 sailors aboard the ship, which is currently docked in Guam, have tested positive for coronavirus. The captain has sent an urgent letter to the U.S. Navy asking for assistance.

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper spoke with "CBS Evening News" host Norah O'Donnell to discuss the situation aboard the USS Roosevelt and the U.S. military's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Defense Secretary Mark Esper on coronavirus' impact on U.S. military

Read more here.

 

Health officials clarify guidelines on wearing face masks in public

Health officials clarify guidelines on wearing face masks
 

U.S. Army Field Band still plays during deadly pandemic

Concert halls have gone dark all over the world, but the coronavirus could not silence the U.S. Army Field Band. Watch David Martin's report from "CBS Evening News" below.

U.S. Army Field Band still plays during pandemic
 

Bureau of Prisons orders a 14-day lockdown

The Bureau of Prisons announced Tuesday that effective April 1, inmates in all federal-run facilities will be "secured in their assigned cells/quarters" to help fight the spread of coronavirus. The BOP said the decision was the result of health concerns, not disruptive inmate behavior.

The BOP added that "to the extent practicable," inmates will still be able to access mental health treatment and education, and that there will still be limited group gathering to facilitate activities including showers, laundry, and telephone access.

The bureau said it will revisit the decision in two weeks.

By Victoria Albert
 

Trump: "This is gonna be a very very painful two weeks"

President Trump on Tuesday said the next two weeks will be "very tough" for the country and said the fight against the pandemic is "a matter of life and death."

"This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is gonna be a very bad two or maybe even three weeks," Mr. Trump said. "This is going to be three weeks like we haven't seen before."

On Monday, the president extended social distancing guidelines to April 30. 

By Justin Carissimo
 

White House predicts 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in U.S., even if social distancing is maintained

The White House said Tuesday that even with social distancing measures, 100,000 to 240,000 people are predicted to die of coronavirus in the U.S. But officials stressed that stringent adherence to social distancing measures could bring those numbers down. 

"We don't accept that number. We're going to do everything we can to get that number even below that," Dr. Anthony Fauci said at the White House's daily coronavirus briefing. 

When asked if Americans should prepare for casualties in that range, Dr. Fauci said; "the answer is yes." 

"As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it," he added.

By Victoria Albert
 

Stocks suffer their worst quarter since 2008

Wall Street suffered its worst quarterly performance since the financial crisis. Investors are fearful of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic as it wreaks havoc on U.S. businesses, causing sales to plummet and big and small companies alike to lay off millions of workers.

The S&P 500-stock index lost 19.7% of its value in the first three months of this year, compared with its plunge of 22.6% in the fourth quarter of 2008, which marked the start of the Great Recession, according to Howard Silverblatt, senior index analyst for S&P Dow Jones Indices.

The Dow's plunge during the first quarter - a fall of more than 6,900 points, or a decline of 24% - is the worst since the fourth quarter of 1987, when the market suffered the "Black Monday" crash and the blue-chip index of 30 large-company stocks declined 25% in that quarter, Silverblatt added.

Read more here.

By Aimee Picchi
 

Illinois extends stay-at-home order through April

Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced Tuesday that the state's stay-at-home order has been extended until at least April 30. The order has been in effect since March 21 and was originally intended to end on April 7. 

"Folks, I know that this journey is an extraordinarily difficult one; personally, financially, emotionally," Pritzker said at his daily press briefing, CBS Chicago reported. "If we can end these orders earlier, I'll be the first one to tell you when we can start to make strides towards normalcy again, but that time is not today, and it's not April 7."

The order also applies to all Illinois K-12 schools, as well as Chicago's lakefront — both of which will remain closed through the end of the month.  According to Pritzker, the state has yet to see its "peak" of coronavirus cases. "The truth is we don't know when we're going to peak," he said. 

By Audrey McNamara
 

13-year-old who tested positive dies in London

A 13-year-old boy who tested positive for COVID-19 died in London, according to a statement from King's College Hospital cited by Reuters.

"Sadly, a 13-year old boy who tested positive for COVID-19 has passed away, and our thoughts and condolences are with the family at this time," the hospital said.

 

NYC mayor orders human rights commissioner to investigate Amazon

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Tuesday that he has ordered the city's human rights commission to investigate the firing of an Amazon worker who organized a warehouse walkout on Monday. 

Warehouse assistant manager Chris Smalls was fired less than two hours after organizing a walkout from the company's Staten Island facility he told CBS MoneyWatch. Workers walked out in protest of the company's alleged lack of precautions against the coronavirus. 

Amazon has reported one case of COVID-19 at the facility, but workers claim at least 10 of their colleagues have tested positive. 

"We heard from the Staten Island Amazon fulfillment center a specific charge that a worker who raised health and safety concerns, who raised social distancing concerns, was fired," de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday. "The allegation is because he spoke up for the safety of his fellow workers he was fired. I have ordered the city's commission on human rights to investigate Amazon immediately to determine if that's true."

The mayor said if the allegations are true, Amazon would be in violation of New York CIty's human rights law, and the city "would act on it immediately."

By Audrey McNamara
 

MLB will pay minor league players through May

Major League Baseball announced Tuesday that it will continue to support Minor League players through May 31 or until the start of the season, which is delayed over the coronavirus pandemic.

The league said all players are still able to receive medical benefits and their weekly allowances.

"MLB is taking this additional step to continue assistance for Minor League players and their families during the unexpected postponement to the start of the season," MLB said in a statement. 

Read more at CBS Sports.

 

900 inmates released from New York City jails

There have been 900 inmates released from New York City jails in response to the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a news conference Tuesday. The inmates released included those with preexisting medical conditions who may be vulnerable to the virus, de Blasio said.

"There will be more [releases] ahead and we will give you an update as soon as we know of any additional numbers," de Blasio said.

By Justin Carissimo
 

"Millions will die," UN chief says, if the need is not addressed

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres launched a fund Tuesday for countries in need due to the coronavirus and its economic impact, telling world powers that "millions will die" if the need is not addressed.
  
"If the developing world does not have the resources both to suppress the transmission and to address the socio-economic consequences of the virus," the U.N. chief said, "then we have the risk of the virus … spreading like wildfire in the global south with consequences, inevitably tragic for the global south itself."
 
"Millions of people will die," in developing nations, he said.
 
Guterres launched a 26-page report entitled, "Shared responsibility, global solidarity: Responding to the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19" along with a dedicated "COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund" to support efforts in low- and middle-income countries.
 
"This is the moment of solidarity, not only because of generosity but because of the enlightened self-interest of everybody," the U.N. chief warned. He called for "a large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive multilateral response" amounting to at least 10% of global GDP and "debt alleviation," including immediate waivers on interest payments for 2020.
  
"We can't ignore the fact that this is a truly global problem – one that requires truly global solutions," said Elizabeth Cousens, U.N. Foundation president and CEO, told CBS News.

By Pamela Falk
 

750,000 volunteers answer call to help U.K. health service manage coronavirus crisis

A call for help from the British government has led to 750,000 people to volunteer to assist the country's National Health Service (NHS) as it responds to the coronavirus outbreak. 

The nationwide volunteer program, slated to go live this week, is meant to help the NHS care for the 1.5 million people with preexisting conditions who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Organizers expected only 250,000 volunteers to sign up; they've been so overwhelmed by the response that they've had to pause applications.

"As history shows, it is often in times of crisis that we pull together and become our best selves,"  said Catherine Johnstone, chief executive of the Royal Voluntary Service, said in a statement. Royal Voluntary Service is running the program.

Read more here

By Haley Ott
 

Texas abortion ban can go back into effect, Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rules

Texas will again be allowed to implement its temporary ban on abortion, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday afternoon. Per the order, any abortion "not medically necessary to preserve the life or health" of the patient must be halted until further review by the court. Those in violation face "penalties of up to $1,000 or 180 days of jail time." 

The ban, which is part of the state's suspension of all "non-essential" medical procedures, was briefly lifted on Monday evening when a lower court ruled the suspension of abortion services was in violation of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide. 

Read more here.

By Kate Smith
 

USS Theodore Roosevelt captain calls for immediate removal of sailors

The captain of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt sent an urgent memo to the Navy on Monday asking for help in addressing the spread of the coronavirus among his ship's crew. Captain Brett Crozier wrote that "[d]ecisive action is required now" to comply with CDC guidelines and "prevent tragic outcomes."

Crozier suggested most of the 4,000 crew members should be removed from the ship and put into 14-day individual quarantines. Ten percent would stay onboard to sanitize the carrier and run the reactor, which he called a "necessary risk." In peacetime, he argued it was the right thing to do.

"We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die," he wrote. "If we do not act now, we are failing to take care of our most trusted asset - our Sailors."

The carrier is currently docked in Guam, and at least 33 crew members have been diagnosed with COVID-19. "The spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating," he wrote.

Read more here

 

As Macy's, Kohl's and Gap furlough thousands, more stores will "absolutely" follow, expert says

Retail giants Macy's, Kohl's and Gap have furloughed thousands of workers as the coronavirus crisis deepens, and more stores will "absolutely" follow, according to CBS News business analyst Jill Schlesinger. The move is just the latest sign of an economy in free fall, with precautions put in place to slow the pandemic forcing business closures and layoffs across the country.

"The job situation is going to be getting worse and worse, at least for the next few months," Schlesinger said during an appearance on "CBS This Morning" Tuesday. 

Read more here

By Elizabeth Elkind
 

Chris Cuomo tests positive for coronavirus

Chris Cuomo, the CNN anchor and brother of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, announced Tuesday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus. 

"I just found out that I am positive for coronavirus. I have been exposed to people in recent days who have subsequently tested positive and I had fever, chills and shortness of breath. I just hope I didn't give it to the kids and Cristina. That would make me feel worse than this illness!" he wrote on Twitter, referring to his wife, Cristina Greeven Cuomo. 

Chris Cuomo said he is quarantined in his basement. "I will do my shows from here. We will all beat this by being smart and tough and united!" 

Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a Tuesday press conference his brother is "going to be fine." "He is young, in good shape, strong - not as strong as he thinks, but he will be fine," the governor said. 

He also said, "There's a lesson in this."

According to Andrew Cuomo, his elderly mother, Matilda Cuomo, was at his brother's house two weeks ago. "I said 'that is a mistake,'" the governor said, adding that the incident is when he came up with the idea for "Matilda's Law," part of his executive order to help protect seniors, immune-compromised people and those with underlying illness. 

"Love is sometimes ... needs to be a little smarter than just reactive," Cuomo said. 

He urged people to remember who is vulnerable and protect them.

By Audrey McNamara
 

1,550 people dead in New York

The coronavirus death toll in New York state is now 1,550, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. He said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the state is 75,795, and that more than 10,900 people are currently hospitalized.

He said the virus is more powerful and more dangerous than we expected.

"We're still going up the mountain," he said. "The main battle is on the top of the mountain."

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Prayer notes removed from Western Wall for Jerusalem shrine to be disinfected

Thousands of notes have been removed from the iconic Western Wall shrine in Jerusalem, a site visited and touched by faithful from around the world, so the ancient stones can be cleaned and disinfected to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease. 

Workers in gloves used disposable wooden tools to pull months-worth of small prayer notes from between the stones. According to the Western Wall Heritage Foundation, the notes will be buried along with other religious documents on the Mount of Olives, the hillside overlooking Jerusalem from which Christians believe Jesus Christ ascended to heaven.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, of the Western Wall and holy sites, oversaw the removal of the notes personally and prayed for the recovery of all those who have fallen ill with the new COVID-19 disease.

western-wall-coronavirus.jpg
Workers remove prayer notes from the Western Wall in Jerusalem so that the shrine can be deep cleaned to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, March 31, 2020. Handout/The Western Wall Heritage Foundation

"We collect prayers from around the world at the remnant of our destroyed Temple, prayers to the Creator of the Universe that He should send us a complete healing and good health and redeem us from this difficult virus that has attacked the world," Rabinowitz said.

-Michal Ben-Gal and Tucker Reals

 

Fauci says there are "glimmers" social distancing measures are having "dampening effect"

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading expert on infectious diseases and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that social distancing measures instituted nationwide appear to be having an effect on the number of new coronavirus cases.

"If you look now, we're starting to see glimmers that that is actually having some dampening effect," Fauci said. 

Still, he cautioned that the number of confirmed cases continues to rise and places like New York City, the U.S. epicenter of the outbreak, remain in a "difficult situation." Fauci said the country is still waiting for a "turnaround" and continuing with mitigation efforts, with the goal of seeing the number of new cases flatten.

President Trump has extended social distancing guidelines until April 30 and more than 25 states have issued stay-at-home orders for residents.

Fauci told CNN the White House coronavirus task force is also considering the widespread use of masks once frontline workers have the personal protective equipment they need and said the topic will be discussed at its meeting Tuesday.

"Once we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks," he said. "We're not there yet, but I think we're coming to some determination."

By Melissa Quinn
 

Chief doctor at Moscow hospital positive for COVID-19 week after giving Putin a personal tour

The chief physician at the main hospital treating coronavirus patients in Moscow has tested positive for COVID-19 about week after meeting and speaking with President Vladimir Putin. Denis Protsenko gave Putin and several other senior officials a tour of the Kommunarka hospital last Tuesday. 

Putin wore a yellow hazmat suit for part of the tour, but the 67-year-old Russian leader was also seen talking to Protsenko without any protective gear at times.

Putin's spokesman assured reporters on Tuesday that "everything is fine," noting that the president is tested regularly for the coronavirus.

Russian President Putin visits a hospital for patients infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the outskirts of Moscow
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Denis Protsenko, chief physician of a hospital for patients infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as they walk at the hospital on the outskirts of Moscow, March 24, 2020.  Sputnik/Alexey Druzhinin/Kremlin via REUTERS

Protsenko wrote in a Facebook post that he, too, was feeling well. He said he was continuing his work but remaining isolated in his office. It wasn't immediately clear whether Putin would self-isolate after the possible exposure to the disease.

-Alexandra Odynova

 

Fear mounts as South African police use force on virus lockdown violators

South Africa is struggling to adapt to some of the toughest coronavirus lockdown restrictions in the world, and its poor communities are being hit especially hard. South Africa has more cases than any other African nation, at just over 1,300. Many of the country's poor live hand to mouth, and often in crowded conditions, making social distancing extremely difficult.

In Johannesburg's inner city housing area of Hillbrow, some residents defied instructions to stay inside on Tuesday. CBS News witnessed security forces acting with force, firing rubber bullets to disperse small gatherings.

The sale of alcohol has been banned as authorities feel it could lead to violence and injuries, requiring vital space in ICU units. CBS News saw authorities scaling a locked gate to raid a house where they suspected alcohol was being sold.

In the crowded township of Alexandra – home to nearly 750,000 people – lockdown transgressors have been forced to do push-ups, or frog-marched back to their homes.  

A member of the South African National Defence Forces gestures to a homeless men during their patrols on the first day of a nationwide lockdown in Johannesburg
A member of the South African National Defense Forces gestures to a homeless man during a patrol on the first day of a nationwide, 21-day lockdown to try to contain the coronavirus disease, in Johannesburg, March 27, 2020. SIPHIWE SIBEKO/REUTERS

There's concern that police use of force could get out of hand, and South Africa's President Cyril Ramaphosa has stressed the task of the security forces is to support, reassure, and comfort South Africans while ensuring peace and order.

"They know they must act within the law at all times and that they must not cause harm to any of our people," Ramaphosa said, adding that around 10,000 field workers will start visiting people's homes in the coming days to screen symptoms of COVID-19. 

By Debora Patta
 

"Walking Dead" actor's test wasn't processed, but he got billed $9,000

The potential cost of tests and treatments for the coronavirus could cause some people to delay seeking medical care. "Walking Dead" actor Daniel Newman doesn't know if he had the virus, but he still ended up with a bill for more than $9,000.

Newman said he got sick in early March. "I started to get a fever, just started to feel kind of chills, and I was just like, 'Oh crap, you know, whatever they had, I think I got it,'" he told CBS News Consumer Investigative Correspondent Anna Werner.

Worried he might need to warn others if he were infected, he called around to find out where to get a test and said he wound up speaking to health professionals at a Georgia hospital's ER. They told him to come in for a test, but after doctors gave him the coronavirus test, they told him they weren't allowed to process it.

Read more here.

 

After week of encouraging slowed growth, Spain sees slight rebound in infections and deaths

Spain recorded on Tuesday 849 new coronavirus deaths, the highest number since the pandemic hit the southern European country, according to its health ministry. With both new infections and deaths up around 11% each, to a total of 94,417 confirmed cases and 8,189 fatalities, Spain is seeing a slight rebound in the outbreak.

That's despite an overall timid slowdown in its spread for the past week, allowing authorities to focus on avoiding the collapse of the health system. At least one third of Spain's 17 regions were already at their limit of capacity in terms of intensive care unit usage, while new beds are being added in hotels, exhibition and sports centers across the country.

At least 14% of those infected are much needed medical personnel. Many of them lack proper protective gear.

-Associated Press

 

Immigration lawyers sue feds over risks of in-person coronavirus hearings

A group representing immigration attorneys sued the federal government Monday to stop in-person immigration hearings and to obtain better protection for the duration of the coronavirus crisis.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) said the government has refused to guarantee the safety of their members as well as due process for immigrants.

In a statement, the lawyers and other pro-immigrant groups said they want to "suspend in-person immigration hearings for detained individuals and provide robust remote access alternatives for detained individuals who wish to proceed with their hearings for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic."

They also want guaranteed "secure and reliable remote communication between noncitizens in detention and their legal representatives," as well as personal protective gear "for detained noncitizens and legal representatives who need to meet in person" with their clients in government-run facilities.

-AFP

 

"9/11-type calls for eight days": NYC paramedics overwhelmed by virus cases

A video taken outside NYU Langone Hospital in lower Manhattan shows nine ambulances backed up in front of the emergency room, all filled with sick patients. With coronavirus cases in New York City soaring, the city's first responders are facing a massive increase in casualties. There are more than 260 reported COVID-19 cases in New York City's fire department, including ambulance mechanic James Villecco, who died from his infection on Sunday. 

"I've never seen anything like this before in my career, or my lifetime, to be honest," said Lilian Bonsignore, chief EMS operator for the city's fire department. 

"I've never seen 7,000 calls in EMS," Vice President of the FDNY EMS Officers' Union Anthony Almojera told CBS News' David Begnaud. "To give you some perspective, that's more than 9/11. So basically we've had 9/11-type calls for eight days now."  

NYC paramedics stretched thin on front lines of coronavirus outbreak
 

Egypt's Great Pyramid glows red to urge everyone to "stay home," and to thank health workers

One of the world's most iconic landmarks, the Great Pyramid of Giza, was illuminated Monday night in red with a message of thanks to the health workers battling the coronavirus pandemic, and a plea for people to help slow the disease's spread.

Photos posted to Twitter by the Egyptian Ministry of Antiquities showed the ancient pyramid glowing, with a message written in English and Arabic, urging people to "stay home," and then thanking "those keeping us safe."

By Tucker Reals
 

Russian lawmakers approve laws to punish quarantine breakers as virus cases spike

Russia reported 500 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, the highest one-day increase to date in the country of 144 million people. The jump brought the total number of confirmed cases to 2,337, though many cases are believed to remain undetected. Russian authorities have confirmed 17 deaths related to the virus.

The majority of cases are in Moscow, where authorities imposed a partial lockdown starting Monday. Many other regions have already followed the capital's lead, including the country's second-largest city of St. Petersburg.  

The State Duma, the Russian parliament's lower house, rushed to approve a bill Tuesday that would introduce severe punishment for anyone who violates coronavirus quarantine measures, including a possible jail term of up to seven years if a perpetrator is convicted of causing someone's death. 

Another piece of pending legislation headed for expected approval imposes severe punishment for spreading false information about the coronavirus.

-Alexandra Odynova

 

Philippines sees dramatic spike in COVID-19 cases, with 17 front-line doctors among the dead

Coronavirus cases in the Philippines have skyrocketed to 2,084 after the biggest single-day jump of 538.The Department of Health said the number reflected the country's capacity to test more, after more than 100,000 test kits arrived and more laboratories were cleared to do the tests.

The death toll also rose by 10, making the Philippines' total of 88 casualties one of the highest death-to-case ratios in the world. The medical community is alarmed, meanwhile, at the rate front-line doctors are dying of the COVID-19 disease. The number stands at 17 as of Tuesday.

In a taped televised address late Monday evening, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledged their sacrifices.

"They died helping other people. They are lucky to have died serving the country."

Many hospitals in and around the capital Manila were caught off guard and did not have enough supply of personal protective gear for their healthcare workers when the outbreak began in early March.  

-Barnaby Lo

 

12-year-old girl in Belgium becomes Europe's youngest known COVID-19 victim

A 12-year-old girl confirmed infected with COVID-19 has died in Belgium, health officials said Tuesday. Fatality at such a young age "is a very rare occurrence," said government spokesman Dr Emmanuel Andre, adding that her death "shook us".

The girl had had a fever for three days before her death and tested positive for COVID-19, said another spokesman, Steven Van Gucht. No other details were given about her case, including whether she had any underlying health problems.

It was the first death of a child with coronavirus in Belgium and the youngest known fatality in Europe to date from the disease. Last week, France reported the death of a 16-year-old girl from coronavirus in the greater Paris region.

Although serious COVID-19 infections are uncommon among the young, some exceptional cases have been taken to hospital intensive-care wards, as U.S. health authorities have pointed out.

-CBS/AFP

 

Airbnb promises help for hosts as tourism dries up

Airbnb has promised to devote $250 million to helping its host home owners survive the wave of cancellations prompted by the coronavirus epidemic. 

In an open letter published online Monday, the company said it would use the money to help compensate hosts for guest bookings cancelled "due to a COVID-19 related circumstance" for stays between March 14 and May 31. 

"We will pay you 25% of what you would normally receive through your cancellation policy. This applies retroactively to all COVID-19 related cancellations during this period. This cost will be covered entirely by Airbnb," the company said.

The San Francisco-based online rental marketing company boasts about 150 million users worldwide.

By Tucker Reals
 

Sharp LCD TV factory in Japan now churning out thousands of face masks

Japanese electronics maker Sharp Corp., which converted its liquid crystal display factory into one churning out medical masks, sent its first shipment Tuesday.

The plant in central Japan is set to make 150,000 masks a day, with production being ramped up later to 500,000 masks a day. The shipment was in response to a Japanese government order, and details were not immediately available on how the masks would get distributed.

The masks will be sold to consumers online later, according to the company, owned by Hon Hai Precision Industry Co., also known as Foxconn. Masks are in short supply at stores in some parts of Japan because of a surge in demand.

-Associated Press

 

EPA warns Americans to stop flushing wipes as virus reaction threatens sewers

The Environmental Protection Agency has a message for Americans — watch what you flush.

"Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is encouraging all Americans to only flush toilet paper," the agency says in a statement.

Americans are using far more disinfecting wipes in the coronavirus outbreak, the EPA noted, but disposing of them improperly threatens plumbing, sewer and septic systems.  

The manager of Hero Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling, Chris Stevens told CBS Minnesota on Monday that his teams were overwhelmed with business as working parents and school age children, all suddenly stuck at home all day, flush "things down the toilet that they shouldn't be."

The EPA says it's critical that the nation have "fully operational wastewater services" to contain the virus and protect against other health risks.

-CBS/AP

 

Massachusetts veteran's home boss on leave after 11 residents die amid COVID outbreak

The superintendent of a home for retired service members in Massachusetts has been placed on leave after the deaths of 11 veteran residents. Five of the vets who died at the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, west of Boston, tested positive for COVID-19. Test results on five others were still pending. The cause of one death was unknown.

Eleven other residents at the home and five staff members have also tested positive for the coronavirus. Test results were pending for 25 more veteran residents.

"It is imperative that the Holyoke Soldiers' Home provide a safe environment for the veteran residents, and the dedicated staff who serve them," said Massachusetts Health and Human Services Deputy Secretary Dan Tsai.

Superintendent Bennett Walsh was placed on administrative leave on Monday. Val Liptak, CEO of Western Massachusetts Hospital, will assume responsibility.

-Reporting by CBS Boston.

 

Hundreds of stranded Americans leave Nepal on repatriation flight

Hundreds of stranded Americans left Nepal on a repatriation flight Tuesday, days after a complete lockdown was imposed in the Himalayan nation to help fight the coronavirus.

A Qatar Airways flight arranged by the U.S. government flew out 302 Americans from Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport to Washington, D.C. The elderly, families with children and people with a medical condition were given priority on the flight.

The U.S. Embassy in Nepal estimates that 3,000 to 4,000 Americans are still in the country, but says that not all of them are seeking to leave. Plans for future flights to evacuate more of the Americans were unclear.

Passengers on board Tuesday's flight said they paid $1,250 for the seat home.

Virus Outbreak Nepal
Stranded American citizens arrive to board a Qatar Airways flight at the Tribhuvan International Airport in Kathmandu, Nepal, March 31, 2020. Niranjan Shrestha/AP
 

Empire State Building lights flash red to honor first responders

One of New York City's most iconic landmarks is putting on a light show to pay tribute to medical workers treating coronavirus patients. The lights at the top of the Empire State Building flashed red and white as they revolved around its famous needle Monday night, to resemble the lights that accompany a siren. 

And the upper floors had pulsing red lights, similar to a heartbeat, in what's being dubbed "the heartbeat of America."

The light show will go on until the end of the month and includes a 9 p.m. synchronized performance set to Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind."

By April Siese
 

In reversal, L.A. sheriff letting gun dealers stay open during pandemic

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who was sued by gun-rights groups after trying to shut down firearms dealers during the coronavirus pandemic, said Monday he's abandoning the effort. The sheriff said he's heeding an advisory issued by the federal Department of Homeland Security Saturday that listed gun and ammunition dealers as "essential critical infrastructure workers."

Villanueva called the non-binding memo "persuasive" and announced that his department won't order or recommend closing businesses that sell or repair firearms or sell ammunition in the nation's most populous county.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that each of the state's 58 counties can decide for themselves whether to list firearms dealers as nonessential businesses that should be subject to closure while the state seeks to limit the spread of COVID-19.

- Associated Press

 

NCAA to give spring athletes extra year of eligibility

The NCAA on Monday voted to allow Division I spring-sport athletes who had their seasons shortened by the coronavirus pandemic to have an additional year of eligibility. The extra year of eligibility will be granted to all spring-sport athletes, regardless of their current class.

The decision does not guarantee current seniors will still receive financial aid if they return for the extra year, according to The Associated Press.

Winter sports, such as basketball, were not included in the decision. Although the winter season was cut short — basketball conference tournaments and the NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments were notably suspended or canceled — the NCAA Division I Council excluded those sports because athletes had completed most or all of the regular seasons.

- Associated Press 

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