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Coronavirus updates from March 25, 2020

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The global death toll from the new coronavirus surpassed 21,000 on Wednesday and the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections worldwide climbed to almost 471,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. In the U.S., more than 68,500 people have tested positive and over 1,000 have died of the disease.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said more than 30,000 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in his state alone, adding, "We're still on the way up the mountain."

Meanwhile, the Senate late Wednesday night passed a sweeping $2 trillion financial relief package to help American workers, businesses and the severely strained health care system survive the still-spreading outbreak. The unprecedented package would provide direct payments to most Americans, expand jobless benefits, guarantee loans to small businesses, and assist state and local governments.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for detailed information on coronavirus treatment and prevention.

 

Senate passes $2 trillion relief package

The Senate late Wednesday night approved a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. The vote was 96 - 0. 

The bill now goes to the House. 

 

More than 1,000 people have died of coronavirus in the U.S.

The U.S. death toll from coronavirus topped 1,000 Wednesday evening, according to data from Johns Hopkins. There are more than 68,500 confirmed cases in the country. 

By Victoria Albert
 

Marine becomes first person stationed at the Pentagon to test positive

A U.S. Marine stationed at the Pentagon tested positive for coronavirus on Tuesday, the Department of Defense said in a Wednesday statement. The patient, who is now in isolation, last visited the Pentagon on March 13. 

"The Marine followed U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines and DoD directives by isolating himself when an immediate family member began to show symptoms," the Pentagon said in a statement. "Once he became ill, he contacted his assigned medical facility."   

The statement added that the marine's workspace has been cleaned by a Pentagon response team, and that a contact investigation is ongoing. 

By Victoria Albert
 

Ayanna Pressley tested for coronavirus after experiencing "flu-like symptoms"

Representative Ayanna Pressley was tested for coronavirus "after experiencing flu-like symptoms," her spokesperson said in a statement, noting the lawmaker sought medical attention "out of an abundance of caution." She is awaiting test results. 

By Victoria Albert
 

Atlanta hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus patients

At Atlanta's Grady Hospital, all 100 beds in the intensive care unit were full. Then COVID-19 hit. Patients are now quarantined wherever the hospital finds space.

"The stress is not just capacity," Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Jansen told CBS News. "It's not just stress of supplies, but on the individuals taking care of the patients. Because so much is not known."

At all of Atlanta's four major hospitals, every ICU bed is taken.

At one rural hospital in Georgia, 12 COVID-19 patients have died. The hospital is overwhelmed.

"They've asked for help, but we can't give it," Jansen said.

Read more here.

ICU beds filled to capacity in Atlanta 01:27
By Mark Strassmann
 

Mnuchin says Senate stimulus package will keep economy running for 3 months

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin says he anticipates the Senate stimulus package will keep the economy afloat for about three months, as the nation deals with the catastrophic economic fallout from the novel coronavirus. Senate leaders of both parties have agreed on a sweeping $2 trillion financial relief package to help American workers, businesses and the strained health care system survive the virus outbreak, although some senators are threatening to delay the bill.

Mnuchin told reporters at the Coronavirus Task Force briefing Wednesday that small business retention loans would cover roughly 50% of private payroll, making loans that would supply eight weeks of salaries, as long as they keep workers employed, and overhead. The loans would be forgiven at the end of the eight-week period if the businesses keep their employees.

President Trump said he will sign the bill "immediately" after it reaches his desk. But it's not yet completely clear when those payments to Americans will reach their wallets.

Read more here.

 

197 NYPD officers test positive for coronavirus

The New York Police Department on Wednesday said a total of 197 uniformed officers have tested positive for coronavirus. In addition, 39 civilian members have also tested positive. According to NYPD, 3,237 employees, nearly 9% of the entire uniformed workforce, are currently home sick.

By Jordan Freiman
 

Another ICE staffer tests positive

A member of ICE's administrative staff at the detention center in Aurora, Colorado, has tested positive for the coronavirus, an agency official told CBS News.

The role of the staffer, who had stopped working last week, did not involve "contact" with detainees, the official said.

This is the fourth staff member at an ICE detention facility to test positive for the virus, not all of them are direct ICE employees.

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez
 

Southern states face spike in coronavirus cases

The coronavirus is spreading rapidly in the South, and hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. Louisiana, Florida and Georgia are facing alarming spikes, with more than 4,700 cases and 125 deaths in those states alone.

There are more cases in the New Orleans area than there are in Los Angeles County - and Los Angeles County is 25 times larger. In just over two weeks, the number of cases in Louisiana has skyrocketed to almost 1,800.

Former state health director Rebekah Gee said masks and other protective equipment are running out, and that the state needs supplies immediately.

"I'm concerned about the fact that we're now worried about protective equipment already and we haven't hit the surge of patients," Gee told CBS News. 

Read more here.

By Justin Carissimo
 

Mississippi governor calls for abortion ban during outbreak

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves on Wednesday called for abortion to be halted in the state amid the coronavirus pandemic, joining several other traditionally anti-abortion rights states in restricting the procedure. Mississippi is already one of the most hostile states toward abortion access, home to only one clinic that offers the procedure.

In a press conference Tuesday, Reeves told reporters that the state's directive to postpone all "elective" and "non-essential" medical procedures applies to abortion services, and he vowed to levy "whatever action we need to protect not only the lives of unborn children but also the lives of anyone who may contract this particular virus."

However, it did not immediately appear as if the state's top health official, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, was on board. At the press conference, Dobbs said he would "review the situation a bit more" and did not specify whether abortion services would indeed be discontinued. 

The Mississippi State Department of Health did not immediately return a call on Wednesday requesting clarification on whether or not abortion would be halted. Mississippi is one of five states with just one abortion provider. The state also was one of a handful to pass a so-called "fetal heartbeat ban" last year, an abortion restriction that prohibits the procedure just five or six weeks into a person's pregnancy.

Read more here.

By Kate Smith
 

Senators threaten to delay coronavirus stimulus bill in dispute over benefits

After an early morning breakthrough in talks, the Senate hoped to vote Wednesday on a $2 trillion stimulus bill responding to the coronavirus pandemic — but a standoff emerged late in the day that threatened to delay its speedy passage.

The legislation is the most expensive stimulus package in U.S. history. Congressional aides were finalizing the text of the bill throughout the day as lawmakers circulated summaries of its provisions, including an expansion of unemployment benefits, direct payments of $1,200 to most individuals, and hundreds of billions of dollars for companies, hospitals and state and local governments. 

The expansion of unemployment benefits became a point of contention that could potentially derail efforts to quickly bring the measure to the Senate floor for final passage. 

The bill increases the maximum unemployment insurance payment by $600 per week and extends the period for which workers are eligible to four months. Four Republican senators — Senators Tim Scott, Rick Scott, Ben Sasse and Lindsey Graham — raised concerns about what they called a "drafting error" in the bill, arguing that the expansion could incentivize workers to lose their jobs if the totality of state and federal unemployment benefits exceeds their current income.

The GOP senators proposed capping total unemployment insurance at 100% of income, and said they were preparing an amendment to that effect. That prompted Senator Bernie Sanders to threaten to place a "hold" on the bill unless the senators dropped their objections.

Read more here. 

By Grace Segers
 

What the Senate stimulus means for airlines

As record numbers of Americans opt out of flying amid coronavirus fears, the nation's airlines are poised to receive much of the relief they've been seeking in the bill the Senate is voting on soon. The Senate bill also offers aid for Amtrak, which has also seen a precipitous decline in passengers.

The vote comes as the Transportation Security Administration screened the lowest number of passengers on record Tuesday — barely 279,000 people. On the same day last year, the TSA screened 2.2 million people. 

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has called the current crisis even worse for the airline industry than September 11, 2001, and President Trump has vowed to help the nation's airlines recover, anticipating a  return to normal levels of travel.

"We're going to back the airlines, 100%," Mr. Trump said earlier this month.

Read more here. 

 

Apple donating 10 million masks

Apple CEO Tim Cook announced Wednesday that the company will donate 10 million masks in the United States, and millions more in Europe. 

"Apple has sourced, procured, and is donating 10 million masks to the medical community in the United States," Cook said in a video posted to Twitter. "These people deserve a debt of gratitude for all of the work they're doing on the front lines." 

"It's in these toughest times that we show our greatest strengths," Cook added, "And I know that we'll rise to the occasion." 

By Justin Carissimo
 

Idaho issues a statewide 21-day stay-at-home order

Idaho Governor Brad Little on Wednesday announced a statewide 21-day stay-at-home order. At least 18 other states have issued similar orders to slow down the spread of the virus.

"We are all in this together," Little said, according to CBS affiliate KBOI. "We will get through this together."

Residents across the state will need to self-isolate in their homes but can leave for essentials like food, fuel and medications. "I don't think if you're out for a walk and you're five and a half foot (apart) you'll be arrested," Little said.

By Justin Carissimo
 

Tony Awards postponed as Broadway remains dark

The 74th annual Tony Awards have been postponed. The award show honoring Broadway, which airs on CBS, was set for June 7 at Radio City Music Hall in New York City.

"The health and safety of the Broadway community, artists and fans is of the utmost importance to us," a statement from the producers of The Tony Awards said. "We are looking forward to celebrating Broadway and our industry when it is safe to do so."

Broadway theaters went dark at 5 p.m. on March 12 after Governor Andrew Cuomo restricted gatherings of more than 500 people. A few shows have already announced they won't be returning after the shutdown ends, including "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," starring Laurie Metcalf, which ended its run after just nine preview performances.

The producers of several upcoming musicals said they would move toward a fall opening, with details to be announced once Broadway reopens. 

— Leigh Scheps

 

New York City hotel providing free lodging to health care workers

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that the Four Seasons Hotel on 57th street in Manhattan will provide free lodging to doctors, nurses, and medical personnel combating the coronavirus epidemic. The move could provide relief to medical personnel who fear they might bring the virus back home to their families.

"Thank you @FourSeasons," Cuomo wrote on Twitter. "The first of many hotels we hope will make their rooms available."

By Victoria Albert
 

Justice Department says intentionally spreading virus could violate anti-terrorism laws

The Justice Department gave federal law enforcement officers across the country the green light to use U.S. anti-terrorism laws to investigate and prosecute people who attempt or threaten to intentionally infect others with the coronavirus.

In a memo to the nation's 93 U.S. attorneys and the heads of federal law enforcement agencies on Tuesday, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen detailed the tools available to crack down on the intentional spreading of the virus, as well as a slew of other crimes related to the pandemic.

"[Y]ou may encounter criminal activity ranging from malicious hoaxes, to threats targeting specific individuals or the general public, to the purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19," Rosen wrote, referring to the disease caused by the virus. "Because coronavirus appears to meet the statutory definition of a 'biological agent' under [federal law], such acts potentially could implicate the Nation's terrorism-related statutes."

Read more here.

By Clare Hymes
 

More than 20,000 people have died

The global death toll from the new coronavirus surpassed 20,000 on Wednesday. According to Johns Hopkins University, at least 20,800 people have died from the virus.

The number of confirmed COVID-19 infections worldwide has climbed to more than 458,000.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Trump grants Major Disaster Declaration for Texas, governor says

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said President Trump granted a Major Disaster Declaration for Texas on Wednesday. "This will expand the resources available to Texas & speed our ability to robustly respond to #coronavirus," he tweeted. 

Abbott sent a letter to the president on Monday requesting the declaration based on the continued impact of COVID-19, CBS DFW reported. The request was based in part on Abbott's conclusion the outbreak is of such severity and magnitude that supplementary federal assistance is necessary to save lives, to protect property, public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a larger disaster.

"COVID-19-related expenses and obligations are already exceeding $50 million and that will only rise as our efforts continue. Additional federal funding is essential for us to maintain our aggressive course of action to protect our state," Abbott said.

 

Canada imposes mandatory self-isolation for those returning

Canada announced Wednesday it is imposing mandatory self-isolation for those returning to Canada under the Quarantine Act. Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said it will begin at midnight Wednesday and the requirement will be for 14 days.

"It will be a legal obligation for people entering Canada from outside Canada," Freeland said. "Essential workers are excluded."

Freeland said penalties will be announced later Wednesday.

— The Associated Press

 

New Jersey governor says state now has 4,402 confirmed cases

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Wednesday the state now has 4,402 confirmed COVID-19 cases and that 62 New Jerseyans have died from the virus.

"These numbers are sobering, but they are not surprising," he tweeted. "We knew early on the trajectory these reports would take — especially as we ramped up our testing regime - and they are doing just that."

He announced that Essex County will open a drive-through testing facility for residents of the county and said he signed an executive order "requiring child care centers to close by April 1st UNLESS they are solely serving children of essential workers."

He said the state is working to increase hospital bed capacity in the coming weeks.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Lockdown in France could be extended to 6 weeks

France is on its ninth day of a two-week lockdown that could now be extended to six weeks in total. 

Experts have advised President Emmanuel Macron that two weeks is not enough to measure whether the lockdown is effective in stopping the virus. That's because it can take two to three weeks for an infected person to become critically ill, they said. 

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe had already suggested the lockdown might be extended, and on Wednesday the government spokeswoman, Sibeth Ndiaye, said an announcement would be made "in coming days." She also announced a range of new measures to help the economy, badly hit by the pandemic. That could include scrapping France's 35-hour working week and raising it to 60 hours.

The Paris airport authority announced it will temporarily close the capital's second airport, Orly, until at least the end of the month.

The death toll in France from COVID-19 now stands at 1,100 and more than 22,000 people in the country have been infected. The president of France's hospitals federation has warned that the real toll is likely much higher, as the official death toll does not include people who died at home or in retirement homes.

By Elaine Cobbe
 

65 people have died in Louisiana

Louisiana's health department said 65 people have died from COVID-19 in the state and 1,795 cases have been reported.

That state's Governor John Bel Edwards issued a stay at home order earlier this week for residents. 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Cuomo says "surge health care force" includes 40,000 people

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that officials have been working on putting together a surge health care force amid expectations that 140,000 hospital beds and 40,000 ICU beds will be needed in the state.

"Go back to the retirees. Go back to nurses and doctors who may not be in the hospital direct medical care occupation and ask them to sign up for possible reserve duty," he said.

"God bless them: 40,000 people have signed up as a surge health care force," he said.

He said that number is a "big, big deal. Because you can create beds. You can find the equipment. You have to have the staff."

The 40,000 sign-ups include over 2,200 physicians, more than 16,000 registered nurses and more than 2,600 nurse practitioners.

As of Wednesday there were more than 30,000 COVID-19 cases in the state, and 12% are currently hospitalized.  

Cuomo said the trajectory for cases is still going up: "We have not turned the trajectory nor have we hit the apex."

"We're still on the way up the mountain."

Cuomo on surge of health care workers 02:59
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

States plan for makeshift hospitals as coronavirus "bullet train" threatens to overwhelm health care systems

States are urgently searching for more space to house coronavirus patients as many hospitals across the country already expect to be overwhelmed. New York state alone expects to need roughly 87,000 more hospital beds than it currently has when the virus peaks.

"I will turn this state upside down to get the number of beds we need, but we need the staff for those beds," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. He called the virus a "bullet train" racing across the country. New York, currently the epicenter of the U.S.' coronavirus cases, is still two to three weeks away from the worst of its outbreak. 

On Monday, Cuomo toured the Jacob Javits Convention Center, where the Army Corps of Engineers is setting up an urban field hospital. The convention center has previously been used for events like New York Comic Con and the New York International Auto Show.

 

New York governor announces plan to close some streets to cars, open them to pedestrians

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that his state now has more than 30,000 COVID-19 cases. He announced further measures to combat the spread of the disease, including a trial to close some New York City streets to cars and open them to pedestrians. 

Cuomo said his administration and local authorities were "doing everything we can" to slow the number of cases coming into the hospitals and increase hospital capacity. 

He said one issue in New York City has been, "a higher level of density [of people] than we wanted, especially in the New York City parks, especially with young people."

"People want to walk. They want to go out and get some air. You want a less dense area. So pilot closing streets to cars, opening streets to pedestrians," he said. 

Cuomo also announced that officials would enact "mandatory playground social density... No close-contact sports in a playground. No basketball for example. You cannot do it. We're asking people to do that on a voluntary basis. If there is non-compliance with that we will then make it mandatory and we will actually close the playgrounds."

NYC to close some streets amid outbreak 03:27
By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

War-torn Syria confirms 5th case of COVID-19

Syria has confirmed its fifth case of COVID-19 and is preparing to impose a national lockdown amid mounting concerns that the disease could spread quickly in the country where the healthcare system has been devastated by almost a decade of civil war.   

The Ministry of Health said Wednesday that four more patients had tested positive for the disease. At least three of them have been quarantined for 14 days in a health center outside the capital of Damascus. Those three patients returned to the country last week from abroad.

Syrian authorities have closed border crossings with Lebanon and Jordan, and Damascus International Airport was closed to commercial traffic after a final flight arrived from Moscow. State-run newspapers have issued their last print editions and will only be available online until the virus is brought under control. A daily curfew for all residents begins Wednesday, forcing everyone to stay home between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Syria has close ties with Iran, which is a key ally of the government, and Shiite Muslim pilgrims have always traveled extensively between the two countries. Syria's health ministry reported the first case of coronavirus late Sunday - a 20-year-old woman who also arrived from another, unspecified country.

-George Baghdadi

 

TSA airport screenings down 88% this month, showing unprecedented drop in travel demand

The airline sector is in free-fall as a record-setting number of people chose not to travel amid the coronavirus crisis. The Transportation Security Administration screened just 279,018 people on Tuesday, the lowest number in the agency's history. That was down 52,413 from Monday, a nearly 16% drop in 24 hours. 

The figures from Tuesday represent a drop of more than 88% or 2,074,150 people, since March 1. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the TSA had expected to see a daily increase in screenings of about four percent this year.  

A drop of more than 2 million people in 23 days is unprecedented, and it explains why airlines can't cancel flights fast enough and are flying nearly empty planes right now. United Airlines says it's reducing capacity by around 60%, which includes a roughly 90% reduction in international flights.

American Airlines canceled around 43% of its flights on Tuesday, due largely to lack of demand, and expected that trend to continue.

"Due to decreased customer demand, we have made several changes to our schedule in this rapidly changing environment," an American Airlines spokesman said. "Customers who are impacted by these cancellations will be contacted directly."

By Kris Van Cleave
 

3,200 New York City police have been sidelined amid coronavirus outbreak

New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said Wednesday that 3,200 members of the force's uniformed division were out of work sick — about 200 of them confirmed to have the new coronavirus, and that the figure was rising. New York is grappling with one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the country. 

In an interview on CNN, Shea said the number of non-uniform employees out of work was also growing, and that the entire force was stepping up efforts to contain the virus. He said the department was well-resourced, and that both New York City's police and residents would get through this crisis.

There are 36,000 officers in the NYPD and 55,000 employees total.

Shea said he and others, including prosecutors and advocacy groups, had all weighed in on Mayor Bill de Blasio's decision to release some non-violent prisoners from New York's prisons. He said it was an extremely difficult decision made during a difficult time, and one which he supported.

— Pat Milton and Tucker Reals  

By Tucker Reals
 

Stock on edge after the Dow's biggest rally since 1933

Stocks were mixed on Wednesday as investors weighed whether the $2 trillion stimulus package may offset some of the economic pain of the coronavirus pandemic. The package would provide direct payments to most Americans, expand jobless benefits, provide $367 billion to small businesses, and assist state and local governments.

The Dow was little changed at 20,704 in early trading. The broad-based S&P 500 slipped less than 1%, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq declined 1.2%.

The mixed reaction comes after the Dow on Tuesday surged 2,113 points, or 11.4%, marking the biggest ever point gain in the index and the largest percentage gain since 1933. Investors were hopeful that the $2 trillion package may offset some of the economic damage inflicted on the U.S. economy by the pandemic.

By Tucker Reals
 

UN agencies launch "Global Humanitarian Response Plan" for virus pandemic

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Wednesday launched a COVID-19 "Global Humanitarian Response Plan." The plan, obtained by CBS News, calls for a $2 billion fund to aid countries in most need. 

"COVID-19 is menacing the whole of humanity — and so the whole of humanity must fight back," said Guterres, who was joined by the UN's Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Mark Lowcock, World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore.

"Individual country responses are not going to be enough. Wealthy countries with strong health systems are buckling under the pressure," noted Guterres. "Now, the virus is arriving in countries already in the midst of humanitarian crises caused by conflicts, natural disasters and climate change."  

Lowcock warned that diverting aid from existing programs that deal with malnutrition and other diseases could create "a perfect breeding ground" for extremism in countries already torn by conflict.

Calling on all member states to contribute to the new plan, Guterres said that, "properly funded," the U.N. effort would "save many lives and arm humanitarian agencies and NGOs with laboratory supplies for testing, and with medical equipment to treat the sick while protecting health care workers." 

In response to a question from CBS News, Guterres said the U.N.'s request for $2 billion was a "drop in the ocean" compared to the $2 trillion domestic relief package being hashed out in the U.S. 

— Pamela Falk and Tucker Reals

 

Russia's growing COVID-19 outbreak postpones vote that could let Putin keep presidency

As Russia confirmed 163 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, bringing the national total to 658, President Vladimir Putin announced that a nationwide vote on major constitutional reforms that could allow him to seek reelection would be postponed.

Russians had been scheduled to vote on the hastily introduced package of constitutional amendments in April, but with concern over the spread of the new COVID-19 disease mounting, Putin said the national vote on the measures would be postponed, and it wasn't clear when it might be rescheduled. 

One of the amendments would change the limit on presidential terms in Russia, potentially giving Putin legal grounds to hold onto the office until 2036.

Putin gave a televised statement announcing a set of new measures to be taken by the government to try and curb the disease, including "a non-working week" starting Monday.

He called on Russians to follow experts' recommendations and take the situation seriously. "The safest thing today is to stay home," he said.

— Alexandra Odynova

 

Supply shortage forces doctors and nurses to wear Halloween masks, ski goggles

As the number of coronavirus cases climbs in the United States, health care workers are still facing shortages of personal protective equipment. One doctor said she's seen medical staff wearing plastic page protectors and "Halloween costumes" to cover their faces because of the shortages.

"This is our pride and joy of taking care of anyone, anywhere, anytime, but the situation has become really desperate to the point where most of us have maybe, at best, 72 hours worth of equipment left in our hospitals," Dr. Gillian Schmitz, the vice president of the American College of Emergency Physicians told CBSN's Reena Ninan. "Some have already run out completely, and we're being forced to sort of improvise and make up equipment."

Doctor reveals shocking lack of medical gear 01:44

"I've seen people using the plastic protector sheets for their kids' homework to put in as a face mask. I've seen people even wearing ski goggles, Halloween costumes that were masks to try and cover up parts of their face," she said.

 

NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns urges all to heed virus warnings as mom put into induced coma

NBA star Karl-Anthony Towns is pleading with fans to take measures aimed at slowing the spread of the new COVID-19 disease seriously after his mother was placed in a medically induced coma with coronavirus symptoms. The Minnesota Timberwolves center posted an emotional video on his Instagram page early Wednesday. 

Towns said that his parents both went to hospital after feeling ill for a few days. His father was discharged to quarantine, but he said his mother's health "kept getting worse," with both her cough and fever not improving. He said the family was still waiting on test results, but believes she has the coronavirus. 

"This disease needs not to be taken lightly," he said. "Please protect your families, your loved ones, your friends, yourself. Practice social distancing. Please, don't be in places with a lot of people." 

By Christopher Brito
 

What's in the Senate's $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package?

The legislative text of the historic coronavirus relief package headed for Senate approval today has yet to be released, but Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a summary of its provisions to colleagues early Wednesday.

Click here to see what's in the $2 trillion package, the largest in U.S. history.

By Tucker Reals
 

COVID-19 patients on recovering from the disease that "hits you like a hammer"

Coronavirus patients have described debilitating symptoms, including not being able to catch their breath. But many have now recovered, and they're sharing what it felt like to be able to breathe normally again

Clay Bentley is now quarantined in his bedroom after spending 12 days in a Georgia hospital. During his fight against COVID-19, he said there were times when he couldn't move or catch his breath. At one point, doctors told him there wasn't much more they could do.

"They say, you know, we put these antibiotics through your system, and they said, 'You're in worse shape today than you were when you came into the hospital,'" he told CBS News correspondent David Begnaud. "It's like 10 times stronger than the flu. When it hits, it hits you like a hammer."

Recovering coronavirus patients speak out 03:30

Just as doctors were considering putting him on a ventilator, there were signs of improvement. He said faith was key to his recovery.

 

Spain now has world's 2nd highest coronavirus death toll

Spain has now the world's second highest tally of coronavirus deaths after a 738 spike was recorded Wednesday, the highest so far in one day. With 3,434, Spain surpassed China's death toll of 3,285 and has more than half of Italy's 6,820.

Infections also rose on Wednesday by 20% from a day earlier to 47,610, Spain's Ministry of Health announced. More than 5,000 people have recovered, the ministry said. 

Spain Extends Coronavirus Lockdown As Death Toll Rises
Members of the Military Emergency Unit (UME) take vans of deceased people for cold storage at the Palacio de Hielo ice rink on March 24, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. Getty

The outbreak has hit Spain and put a tragic strain on its health care system, especially in the central region around Madrid, with one third of the positive cases and roughly half of the casualties. 

— The Associated Press

 

Zimbabwe's public hospital doctors go on strike citing lack of COVID-19 protection

Zimbabwe's public hospital doctors are going on strike over what they call a lack of adequate protective gear as the coronavirus begins to spread in a country whose health system has almost collapsed.

The Zimbabwe Hospital Doctors Association president, Tawanda Zvakada, says doctors are at "high risk" of contracting the virus: "Right now we are exposed and no one seems to care."

He says doctors have an inadequate stocks of gloves, masks and gowns. 

ZIMBABWE-HEALTH-VIRUS
A staff member at the Parirenyatwa Hospital screens and gives hand sanitizer and hand wash to visitors entering the hospital as the country tries to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus in Harare on March 23, 2020. Getty

The southern African nation has reported three cases of COVID-19 and recorded its first death this week.

— The Associated Press

 

"It's really hard to understand how bad this is": Harrowing stories from NYC emergency rooms

A "cacophony of coughing" in packed emergency rooms. Beds squeezed in wherever there is space. Overworked, sleep-deprived doctors and nurses rationed to one face mask a day and wracked by worry about a dwindling number of available ventilators.

Such is the reality inside New York City's hospitals, which have become the war-zone-like epicenter of the nation's coronavirus crisis.

Faced with an infection rate that is five times that of the rest of the country, health workers are putting themselves at risk to fight a tide of sickness that's getting worse by the day amid a shortage of needed supplies and promises of help from the federal government that have yet to fully materialize.

CBS/AP

 

Fear of coronavirus stalks camps for Syrians displaced by war

In a camp in northwestern Syria, Abdallah Yassin listens to a doctor explain how to avoid coronavirus infection, desperately hoping it will never reach his tent of 14 people.

"If the epidemic spreads in the camps, it will be a disaster," the 57-year-old grandfather says.

Three million people live in Syria's last major rebel bastion of Idlib, many of them families who fled homes elsewhere in Syria and are now reduced to living in camps without basic amenities.

Almost one million more have been thrown onto the roads since December, after the government launched a deadly offensive that has battered the region's already dilapidated healthcare system.

The government on Sunday announced Syria's first officially confirmed coronavirus case, sparking fears of the implications for the war-torn country, where many still live outside the control of the government.

— AFP

 

Man licked deodorants at Walmart for coronavirus prank video, authorities say

A Missouri man authorities say licked several sticks of deodorant at a Walmart store for a video seemingly mocking the coronavirus pandemic is being charged with making a terroristic threat, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The newspaper says court documents identified him Tuesday as 26-year-old Cody Lee Pfister, of Warrenton.

In the video, a man looks into the camera and asks, "Who's scared of coronavirus?" before licking a row of deodorant sticks on a shelf.

 

France drafts trainees to help hospitals as official warns many deaths not being counted

Thousands of extra health workers are needed in the Paris region to care for those suffering with the new COVID-19 disease, the head of the French capital's hospitals board said Wednesday.

"Our medical teams are holding up," Martin Hirsch told French radio, adding that he was concerned for their health, too, as doctors, nurses, and other hospital staff continue to work long hours without time off. Many are also living away from their families so they can be nearer to hospitals.

There are now more than 1,000 coronavirus patients on life support in hospitals in the Paris region.  

Around the country, medical students are being called in as backup at emergency call centers to answer queries from the public about symptoms. Some hospitals are deploying student nurses to the wards to relieve pressure on professional staff.

France's official death toll from the new coronavirus stood at 1,100 Wednesday, but the president of France's hospitals federation, Frederic Valletoux, says the real toll is likely much higher. The official figures only include patients who have died in hospitals, not those who have died at home or in retirement homes.

By Elaine Cobbe
 

Britain's Prince Charles has tested positive for the coronavirus

Britain's Prince Charles has tested positive for the new coronavirus and is showing mild symptoms.

Charles, the son of Queen Elizabeth II and next in line to inherit the crown, was last in direct contact with his mother on March 12, according to Buckingham Palace, which said the monarch "remains in good health."

The palace said Elizabeth was "following all the appropriate advice with regard to her welfare."

Charles' official residence, Clarence House, said in a statement Wednesday that he "otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual."  His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, has tested negative for the virus.

Prince Charles diagnosed with coronavirus 01:50

"In accordance with Government and medical advice, the Prince and the Duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland," Clarence House said, adding: "It is not possible to ascertain from whom the Prince caught the virus owing to the high number of engagements he carried out in his public role during recent weeks."

Queen Elizabeth herself abandoned Buckingham Palace in central London and moved to Windsor Castle, her residence west of the capital city, about six days ago as the coronavirus spread in the U.K.

By Tucker Reals
 

Atlanta's hospitals have already run out of ICU beds, mayor says

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says Intensive Care Unit beds in her city are "at capacity."

She's issued a strict stay-at-home order for the city's residents.

Bottoms told CBS Atlanta affiliate WGCL-TV an emergency room doctor reported to her Tuesday that "while there are still beds available in our hospitals, our ICU units across the city are at capacity."

"When we overrun our hospitals," she added, "people will still come in with heart attacks, people will still have car accidents. So these things that happen every day on top of COVID-19 will make our health care system collapse in the same way that you're seeing it happen in New York and you're seeing it happen across the globe. It's the reason we're asking people to just please stay home."

By Brian Dakss
 

Los Angeles County deems gun stores "essential," allowing them to stay open

Gun stores in Los Angeles County have been deemed essential businesses and will therefore be permitted to continue doing business under state orders ordering most stores shut to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

The decision by the county counsel came Tuesday night, after L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva initially said gun stores were not essential and thus needed to close. The sheriff later said he would be deploying more deputies to patrol the county because gun stores, strip clubs, and other venues were not complying with social distancing guidelines to fight COVID-19.

Emphasizing that only essential businesses are permitted to remain open under state and local orders restricting public gatherings, Villanueva told reporters at a Tuesday news conference that some businesses not related to providing food, prescriptions, or health care were violating state and local orders.

Tuesday night, the sheriff's department suspended its effort to close gun stores due to their new status as "essential," but deputies were still to be on the lookout for other businesses violating the shutdown order, and they would be enforcing social distancing at businesses allowed to remain open.

-CBS/CBS Los Angeles

 

Men accused of coughing on people, then claiming they have coronavirus

Authorities in New Jersey and Pennsylvania say people in both states have been charged with coughing on others in stores and saying they were infected with the coronavirus. 

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said Tuesday that a man is accused of coughing on a Wegmans food store employee on Sunday in Manalapan, New Jersey, and telling the woman he has the coronavirus. Prosecutors say the woman was concerned that Falcone was standing too close to her and an open display of prepared food, so she asked him to step back as she covered the food. Instead, prosecutors allege, he stepped forward, leaned toward her and "purposely coughed," then laughed and said he was infected with the coronavirus.

In Pennsylvania, North Middletown Township police allege that a man deliberately coughed in the face of a recovering pneumonia patient last week and repeatedly claimed he was infected with the coronavirus. 

CBS/AP

 

Brazilian leader says virus "will pass shortly," accuses media of exaggerating risk

President Jair Bolsonaro has stuck with his contention that concern about the new coronavirus is overblown, and accused Brazilian media of trying to stoke nationwide hysteria. Bolsonaro said in a nationally televised address Tuesday that the media had seized on the death toll in Italy, which he said was suffering so severely because of its elderly population and colder climate.

"The virus arrived, we are confronting it, and it will pass shortly. Our lives have to continue, jobs should be maintained," the president said.

Bolsonaro added that certain Brazilian states should abandon their "scorched earth" policy of prohibiting public transport, closing business and schools, and calling for mass confinement at home for their residents.

He did say people should be "extremely worried" about transmitting the virus to others, particularly to parents and grandparents.

BRAZIL-ARMY-BOLSONARO
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Getty

Bolsonaro has drawn criticism, initially for referring to the virus as a "fantasy" and then, as authorities including his own health ministry instructed people to avoid gatherings, for going to a March 15 rally where he shook supporters' hands. On March 20, he called COVID-19 "a little flu."

— CBS/AP

 

Famed Appalachian Trail has become "the opposite of social distancing"

The organization that manages one of the most famous hiking trails in the United States has issued an unprecedented and desperate plea: "Please stay away from the Appalachian Trail."

In a statement posted on the website of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, President & CEO Sandra Marra said the trail, which runs virtually the entire length of the Eastern seaboard, had quickly become a danger to its users amid the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S.

"Many have escaped to nature seeking isolation and unpopulated spaces. On the A.T., however, what they've found are trailhead parking lots exceeding their maximum capacities, shelters full of overnight hikers, day hikers using picnic tables and privies, and group trips continuing as planned," Marra said, noting that many poplar spots "have seen day use reach record-breaking levels."

"Hiking the A.T. has become, in other words, the opposite of social distancing," she said, adding that while it was logistically impossible to bar access to the 2,100-mile wilderness trail, "we can and do, however, urge everyone to please stay away from the Appalachian Trail until further notice." 

By Tucker Reals
 

1st case of coronavirus confirmed in divided, at-risk Libya

Libya has become the latest at-risk Mideast nation to report its first coronavirus infection. Officials say a 73-year-old man who crossed into Libya from neighboring Tunisia on March 5 became the large North African country's first recorded case. 

The Libyan patient had recently traveled to Saudi Arabia, according to the National Center for Disease Control, and was receiving medical treatment for his fever and cough in isolation at a Tripoli hospital.

The confirmation of Libya's first case, three weeks after the patient's arrival in the country, poses a test for its fragile medical system.

Attempts at a nationwide disease protection program have been undermined by the country's division between two rival governments, in the east and west of the country, and a patchwork of armed groups supporting either administration. 

The announcement by Libya's U.N.-backed government leaves war-torn Yemen as the only country in the Mideast without a reported case of the COVID-19 illness.  

CBS/AP

 

Pakistan to halt all domestic flights as virus starts to spread within the country

Pakistan on Wednesday halted all domestic passenger flights to stop the spread of the new coronavirus after reporting nearly 1,000 cases in the country.

The domestic flight ban will begin on Thursday, civil aviation spokesman Abdul Sattar Khokhar said. Islamabad previously cut train service and international flights.

Initially, most of those infected were Pakistani pilgrims returning from neighboring hard-hit Iran, which has seen the Mideast's worst outbreak of the virus. Now, however, the virus is being reported in people who had no travel history, officials say. 

Associated Press

 

Los Angeles health officials say patient under 18 may not have died of coronavirus

Hours after announcing that a person under the age of 18 had died of coronavirus in California, Los Angeles health officials said "further evaluation" would be required before the fatality is linked to coronavirus. 

"The juvenile fatality that the Los Angeles County Department Public Health reported earlier today will require further evaluation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement. "Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality. Patient privacy prevents our offering further details at this time." 

By Victoria Albert
 

Ice rink used as makeshift morgue as coronavirus death toll surges in Spain

Palacio de Hielo used as morgue in Spain — coronavirus
General view of Palacio de Hielo, whose ice rink is being used as a morgue due to local funeral homes being over capacity due to COVID-19, as seen March 24, 2020, in Madrid, Spain. Getty

Spain is on the brink of reporting nearly 40,000 cases of coronavirus, and the country's death toll tops 2,800, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins. Now, the country is using an Olympic-sized ice rink as a temporary morgue, according to the Reuters news agency, as the capital's funeral home is facing shortages of medical gear and is having trouble keeping up with the pandemic.

Spain ranks behind only China, Italy and the U.S. in people infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. Nearly 14% of the people infected there are health care workers, according to Reuters. The rising death toll prompted a nursing union there to say hospitals in Madrid are on "the verge of collapse."

To help fight the virus, an ice rink within Madrid's Palacio de Hielo mall has been turned into a temporary morgue, officials told BBC News. Hearses have been delivering bodies to the site, BBC News added.

 

Pregnant women face new concerns amid coronavirus pandemic

Pregnant women concerned over coronavirus 01:44

Two major hospital chains in New York City are blocking spouses and partners from maternity rooms to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Millions of expectant mothers have concerns about the virus, including CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste, who is nearly nine months pregnant.

At 27 weeks pregnant, Raquel Iacurto tested positive for COVID-19. "I was in shock," she said. "I broke down and my husband was my rock and calmed me down."

Data on the impact of coronavirus in pregnant women, fetuses and newborns is limited but hopeful. "What we know, at this point, is that pregnant women do not seem to get any sicker once they get COVID-19 than the general population," Dr. Laura Riley said.

Riley said the flu is still more dangerous for pregnant women. Doctors say coronavirus does not appear to pass from mother to baby through the placenta or breast milk, but that it's too early to tell if there are concerns for women in early pregnancy, like miscarriage or birth defects.

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