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Coronavirus updates from April 1, 2020

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More than 215,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University late Wednesday night. More than 5,000 people have died from the disease across the country.

Earlier Wednesday, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order, joining 36 other states and the District of Columbia in directing residents to remain at home in a push to fight the pandemic.

Emergency room doctors tell CBS News the pandemic scares them more than anything they've ever dealt with. The White House has confirmed that its own modelling shows between 100,000 and 240,000 people are likely to die from COVID-19 before the crisis is over, even if people heed social distancing guidelines.

Detailed information from the CDC on coronavirus treatment and prevention.

 

North Korea insists it's coronavirus-free

North Korea remains totally free of the coronavirus, a senior health official in Pyongyang insisted Thursday, despite mounting skepticism overseas as confirmed global cases near one million.

The already isolated, nuclear-armed North quickly shut its borders in January after COVID-19 was first detected in neighboring China, and imposed strict containment measures.

Pak Myong Su, director of the anti-epidemic department of the North's Central Emergency Anti-epidemic Headquarters, insisted the efforts had been completely successful. "Not one single person has been infected with the novel coronavirus in our country so far," Pak told AFP.

Nearly every other country has reported coronavirus cases. Experts have said the North is particularly vulnerable to the disease because of its weak medical system, and defectors have accused Pyongyang of covering up an outbreak.

-- Agence France-Presse

 

Ellis Marsalis Jr., famed jazz family's patriarch, has died at 85 of COVID-19 complications, son says

One of the sons of New Orleans jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr. says the patriarch of the New Orleans clan that includes famed musician sons Wynton and Branford has died after battling pneumonia brought on by COVID-19. The jazz patriarch was 85.

Ellis Marsalis III said Wednesday his father had been hospitalized while battling the new coronavirus. 

The elder Marsalis opted to stay in New Orleans most of his career, gaining attention when his sons became famous and brought him the spotlight.

Four of his six sons are musicians: Wynton, the trumpeter, is America's most prominent jazz spokesman as artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.

-- The Associated Press

 

New York City paramedic documents "battlefield triage"

Health care workers are on the frontline of the pandemic. At Jackson South Medical Center, near Miami, staffers started their shift Wednesday with a group prayer, asking for guidance and protection.

In New York City, more than a thousand paramedics and firefighters have tested positive for the coronavirus. FDNY paramedic Megan Pfeiffer shared a video diary of what she calls "battlefield triage" on the frontlines in Queens.

"There's a lot of hospitals that are running low on oxygen tanks and only have the big ones. They are sharing ventilators. We have never seen anything like this before," Pfeiffer says.

Watch more in the video below.

NYC paramedic documents coronavirus battle 01:44
 

3D-printing facility in California stepping in to help with face shields in fight against coronavirus

Two weeks ago, Michael Elliott, chief operating officer for the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center Foundation (SCVMC) — the non-profit fundraising arm of the Santa Clara County public health care system — posted a tweet asking for "thousands" of face shields to help health care workers across the country.

On Monday, volunteers from Maker Nexus, a Bay Area non-profit organization that provides members with access to tools like laser cutters and 3D-printers to produce objects for practical and artistic purposes, delivered the first set of 500 reusable face shields to SCVMC. 

The face shields — which are made from thick plastic sheets, a band of elastic and some foam — can be washed and reused.

Read more here. 

By Musadiq Bidar
 

Adam Schlesinger, Fountains of Wayne co-founder, dies at age 52

Adam Schlesinger, the New Jersey native who co-founded music groups Fountains of Wayne and Ivy, and was known for his work on the TV show "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," has died from coronavirus-related complications, according to The Associated Press. The Emmy and Grammy award-winning musician was 52.

Schlesinger had been sedated on a ventilator at hospital in upstate New York for several days after contracting coronavirus, according to the AP.

Schlesinger, a father of two, has been a career musician since the '90s. He formed rock band Fountains of Wayne with college friend Chris Collingwood in 1995 - and with Schlesinger on bass and backup vocals, the band had a hit just one year later with "Radiation Vibe."

Some of the late musician's most popular work are the songs he wrote alongside Rachel Bloom for the CW musical comedy series "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend." Schlesinger's compositions for the show earned him a nomination for six Emmys, and one win.

Bloom posted a tribute to Schlesinger Wednesday night. "I have so much to say about Adam Schlesinger that I am at a complete loss for words," she wrote on Instagram. "He is irreplaceable." 

Read more here. 

By Li Cohen
 

Social Security recipients will automatically get stimulus checks, Treasury says in reversal

The Treasury Department said late Wednesday that Americans on Social Security will not be required to file a "simple tax return" to receive a stimulus check from the U.S. government. The announcement reversed an earlier statement from the Internal Revenue Service that participants in the federal retirement program would need to file such a return to get the funds. 

The IRS directive would have impacted about 15 million people, including millions of seniors on Social Security, who aren't required to file tax returns, according to Chuck Marr, senior director of federal tax policy for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Seniors who rely on Social Security for their sole source of income don't have to file tax returns. 

Treasury's reversal comes after lawmakers including Senators Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, both Democrats, expressed alarm over the guidance, saying in a letter on Wednesday to the IRS and Treasury that it will "place a significant burden on retired seniors and individuals who experience disabilities."

Read more here. 

By Aimee Picchi
 

Number of confirmed cases among BOP inmates nearly doubled overnight

The Bureau of Prisons announced Wednesday that 57 total inmates have tested positive for the coronavirus — nearly double Tuesday's total of 28. The BOP also said that 37 staff members have tested positive, up 7 from the day before.

Louisiana's FCI Oakdale still has the most confirmed cases, with 15, followed by Connecticut's FCI Danbury with 13 confirmed cases.

By Clare Hymes
 

White House struggles to say how Americans can obtain health insurance

President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence struggled to provide answers during Wednesday's Coronavirus Task Force briefing on how Americans who are uninsured can become insured during the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Trump administration rolled back penalties under Obamacare for anyone who is uninsured, and the Trump administration has declined to open exchanges under a special enrollment period for Americans amid the crisis. Americans who are recently unemployed can apply for insurance under the Affordable Care Act, but the status quo will likely leave many in a gap without insurance. 

Pence dodged multiple questions on the topic from Fox News' John Roberts, so much so that the president complimented Pence on speaking for "five minutes" without touching Roberts' question. 

When Roberts asked how people can find insurance before any mitigation efforts are put in place, before they get sick, Pence struggled to answer. Pence pointed out that the administration has extended waivers to states to expand coverage for coronavirus testing and treatment, and extended waivers for Medicare, and said Medicaid can serve lower-income populations. 

Roberts pointed out that's only for people who already have insurance.

"One of the things that has animated and characterized the president's approach is the way he has engaged American business to do their part and step up," Pence responded. 

Read more here. 

 

Dr. Anthony Fauci on the fight against coronavirus

As the coronavirus continues to spread in the U.S., experts predict the number of deaths will continue to rapidly increase in the next two weeks. On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top infectious disease doctor and a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, predicted the final death toll could be anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000.

Dr. Fauci joined "CBS Evening News" host Norah O'Donnell to discuss the ongoing effort to contain the pandemic. He said that by following social distancing guidelines, Americans may be able to bring the final death toll down.

"The more we push to really very, very strictly adhere to the guidelines of physical separation, I believe we can modify that," Dr. Fauci said. "But we can't just throw our hands up and say 'that's inevitably going to happen.'"

Read the interview here.

Dr. Fauci gives update on coronavirus pandemi... 02:49


 

Grocery store workers playing vital role during pandemic

Medical professionals are justifiably being recognized for their work on the front lines of this outbreak, but another group of workers also deserve gratitude. Grocery stories like this H-E-B grocery in Houston, have become lifelines for communities.

The full shelves are a testament to stockers and clerks, who find themselves on the front lines of an unprecedented emergency.

Aaron Pagliuso knows his job, out among the public, puts him at risk. "I'm not a doctor, I'm not a policeman but I do work in a grocery store and I try to do my part to help the public," he said.

Watch more of the story below.

Grocery store workers' role in serving the pu... 01:37
By Janet Shamlian
 

Wisconsin court hears arguments on moving April 7 primary

A federal court in Wisconsin heard arguments Wednesday about whether the state's April 7 primary should be delayed because of the coronavirus or take place as scheduled on Tuesday. Wisconsin faces substantial challenges in conducting its primary because of a major shortage of poll workers and a record number of absentee ballot requests.

During closing arguments in Wednesday's hearing, U.S. District Judge William Conley indicated that it's not his place to change the election date. He criticized Wisconsin's governor and legislature for not taking action, especially after other states have moved primary elections due to the coronavirus pandemic and cases continue to climb in Wisconsin.

"The situation is that this is a public health crisis that the state legislature and the governor have refused to accept as severe enough to stop this statewide election," Conley said. "I don't see a basis on which I stop this albeit very risky decision by the state of Wisconsin."

Read more here.

 

Should the public wear face masks? Experts are weighing new guidance

As public health officials learn more about the novel coronavirus and how it spreads, some are taking another look at whether healthy people should consider wearing face masks when they go out in public. Since the outbreak began, the World Health Organization and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended that masks be reserved for medical workers, sick people and their caregivers — not worn by the general public. But differences of opinion are starting to emerge.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN Tuesday that the issue is currently being discussed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

"The idea of getting a much more broad, community-wide use of masks, outside of the health care setting, is under very active discussion at the task force. The CDC group is looking at that very carefully," Fauci said. He cautioned, however, that asking people to wear masks in their everyday life will be contingent on having an adequate supply of masks.

Read more here.

By Audrey McNamara
 

NYPD says over 1,200 officers have tested positive

The NYPD on Wednesday said 1,218 uniformed officers and 150 civilian members have tested positive for coronavirus. In a statement, the department said 6,172 uniformed members called in sick, which accounts for 17% of the department's uniformed workforce.

US-HEALTH-VIRUS
An NYPD officer patrols Times Square as rain falls on March 28, 2020, in New York City.  Getty
By Justin Carissimo
 

Democrats call for investigation into coronavirus response

The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee unveiled legislation to create a commission studying the government's response to the coronavirus pandemic, modeled after the commission that investigated the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. More Americans have now died from COVID-19 than were killed in the 9/11 attacks.

Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat from Mississippi and the author of the 2007 legislation to implement the recommendations by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission, said in a statement that the country is at a similar "inflection point."

"Americans today will again demand a full accounting of how prepared we were and how we responded to this global public health emergency. Americans will need answers on how our government can work better to prevent a similar crisis from happening again," Thompson said. "This legislation we are introducing is the first step towards getting this done for the American people."

The commission would be independent, bipartisan and chartered by Congress. It would have 25 members selected by 12 relevant congressional committees in both the House and Senate. Each chairman and ranking member would appoint someone, and one position would be filled by the chairman and vice-chairman of the Joint Economic Committee.

Read more here.

By Justin Carissimo
 

Mississippi announces shelter-in-place order

Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves on Wednesday announced a shelter-in-place order for the state. Reeves joins more than 30 other state leaders who have announced similar orders.

"Every day, for the last several weeks, I have asked our health experts whether it is time for the ultimate action of a 'shelter in place' order statewide," Reeves said Wednesday, according to a press release. "Yesterday, for the first time, we got the answer we had been anticipating. They told me we are now at the point in Mississippi's cycle where such drastic restrictions are required." 

Reeves added that the shelter-in-place order will go into effect at 5 p.m. local time on Friday night, and will last until Monday, April 20. 

"Our goal is to prevent our health care system from being overwhelmed," Reeves said. 'I pray that all of our orders and preparations will be enough." 

By Victoria Albert
 

Nurses announce protests at 15 hospitals over "a lack of preparedness"

Nurses are planning protests at 15 hospitals in six states this week against what they say is "a lack of preparedness" by HCA Healthcare, a major hospital chain in the United States. National Nurses United, one of the largest nurse's unions in the country, is leading the protests and demanding that HCA provide nurses with the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need during the coronavirus pandemic.

"When we are infected, no one is safe," Kim Smith, a registered nurse in Texas who works in an intensive care unit now dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients, said in a news release announcing the protests. "When we are infected, we become a real danger of infecting everyone else around us, patients, hospital staff, and a risk to our own families."

Jean Ross, a registered nurse and co-president of National Nurses United (NNU), said nurses at various HCA hospitals have reported that they have had to work without proper protective equipment. 

"Nurses say they are not informed when they (are) exposed to an infected patient," she said in the news release. "They are told to unsafely reuse masks and at one hospital they are even being told not to wear masks because it 'scared the patients.'"

The union said nurses are planning to protest Wednesday and Thursday at HCA hospitals in California, Florida, Missouri, Texas, Nevada and North Carolina. The demonstrations come after nurses protested last week in New York, Georgia, Illinois and several California cities, also over a lack of PPE. 

Read more here.

By Audrey McNamara
 

Stocks tank after grim forecast of U.S. coronavirus deaths

Stocks sank Wednesday as more signs piled up of the economic and physical pain being caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

The Dow lost more nearly 1,000 points, or 4.4%, to close at 20,943. The S&P 500 stock index and the tech-heavy Nasdaq also closed more than 4% lower. Long-term Treasury yields sank as investors moved into safer investments.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned Americans to brace for "one of the roughest two or three weeks we've ever had in our country." The White House is projecting that 100,000 to 240,000 people in the U.S. could die from COVID-19.

Read more here.

 

Party leaders say the Democratic National Convention should not go on as planned

Democratic Party leaders across the country are calling on party bosses to curtail, postpone or dramatically rethink the party's national convention scheduled for July in Milwaukee, concerned that holding a mass gathering just as levels of infection are expected to ebb could expose thousands to the coronavirus once again.

Calls from the party faithful to rethink the Democratic National Convention come as the party's presumed presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, for the first time publicly expressed doubt that the gathering could proceed as it has in the past.

"It's hard to envision that," Biden said Tuesday in an MSNBC interview. "We ought to be able — we were able to do it in the middle of the Civil War all the way through to World War II — have Democratic and Republican conventions and primaries and elections and still have public safety. And we're able to do both. But the fact is it may have to be different."

Read more here.

 

Uncertainty plagues rest of the Supreme Court's term amid coronavirus crisis

The Supreme Court's docket this year has been marked by a slew of high-profile disputes, with rulings anticipated in blockbuster cases involving gun rights, abortion and immigration by the end of June. But set against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic roiling the nation, the rest of the court's term has been thrust into uncertainty, including how it intends to handle the rest of its cases not yet argued.

For the first time since the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak, the Supreme Court postponed 11 oral arguments scheduled to be heard during its March sitting, but has remained mum on whether it intends to move forward with the nine arguments set to be heard in April.

Among the arguments pushed back last month were three cases involving subpoenas for President Trump's financial records and a high-profile copyright dispute between Google and Oracle. In April, cases on the docket include a closely watched legal battle over "faithless electors" and the Electoral College.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Many of New York City's coronavirus patients are young people

Once again, young people are being reminded that in the face of coronavirus, they are not invincible. New data from NYC Health shows that people aged 18 to 44 account for over 40% of the city's confirmed coronavirus cases. While this age group makes up a smaller share of hospitalizations and deaths, the figure is a reminder that no one is immune to the virus — and that getting it could be devastating.

In New York City to date, people between 18 and 44 are getting COVID-19 at a rate of 514.8 cases per 100,000 people.

The next three age groups had higher rates of coronavirus cases:

  • 714.43 cases per 100,000 people ages 45 to 64
  • 717.33 cases per 100,000 people ages 65 to 75
  • 706.8 cases per 100,000 people over 75
  • Children age 17 and under accounted for relatively few cases - just 43.84 per 100,000.

Read more here.

By Caitlin O'Kane
 

Fight against coronavirus in Africa is an "existential war for the continent"

The head of the main public health body for the African Union, Africa CDC, has told CBS News that the coronavirus epidemic is an "existential war for the continent."

"What's keeping me up at night is two things," Dr. John Nkengasong told CBS News' Debora Patta: "That Africa will be hit in a significant way, just as we see is happening in Europe, and we don't have the capacity to respond."

There have been 5,954 reported cases of the COVID-19 disease across Africa thus far, according to CBS News partner network BBC News, and 204 people are confirmed to have died of it. But there are concerns among experts that the virus could spread rapidly among people living in deprived, cramped conditions like refugee camps and prisons, and that many countries don't have the health infrastructure to cope.

Read more here.

By Haley Ott
 

More than 200,000 cases in U.S.

There are more than 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases across the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University. This is more than any other country in the world.

By Justin Carissimo
 

Coronavirus inspires fitness buying binge that tops New Year's

Many Americans skipping their usual trips to the gym during the coronavirus outbreak face the challenge of staying fit at home. That's led to a spike in online orders for products like kettlebells, treadmills and stationary bikes.

Ecommerce sales of fitness equipment jumped 55% in a five-day period ending March 15 compared to sales earlier in the month, according to data from Adobe Analytics. The surge far exceeds even the increased demand that typically comes amid New Year's resolutions or before swimsuit season in the summer, Vivek Pandya, lead analyst with Adobe's digital insights team, told CBS MoneyWatch.

Last year, online sales of fitness equipment rose 70% from February to March. This year, by comparison, sales increased 535% during the same period, according to Adobe.

Read more here.

By Kate Gibson
 

Florida governor issues statewide stay-at-home order

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order Wednesday as federal and local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had implemented in response to the coronavirus pandemic. DeSantis told reporters he is issuing the order after consulting with President Donald Trump and White House advisers, who have said that Americans need to stay home throughout April.

The Republican made the move hours after the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, said on NBC's "Today" show that he would tell DeSantis that the federal guidelines for social distancing should be viewed as "a national stay-at-home order." 

The order will be in effect starting Thursday night, at midnight.

On Tuesday, Florida's Democratic congressional delegation blasted DeSantis for failing to impose a statewide lockdown, saying the virus does not respect county lines.

DeSantis had been defending his county-by-county approach, saying it wouldn't be fair to lock down the small, mostly rural counties with no or few confirmed infections. He issued a stay-at-home order Monday for Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties and the Florida Keys, last week ordered anyone arriving from the New York area and Louisiana into quarantine, and issued some statewide measures such as closing bars and gyms and limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery.

-The Associated Press

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo "frightened" for his brother

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he is frightened for his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who has tested positive for the coronavirus.

"I'm frightened for my brother. I'm worried about my brother, as everyone is worried about everyone in their family and everybody they love," Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday at a briefing on the state's response to the virus outbreak.

He said his brother is going to be OK, adding, "I believe that."

"He has a fever. He has chills. Symptoms of basically a very bad flu."

But he said it shows that anyone can get COVID-19. "Relatively young people. Strong people. People who take a lot of vitamin pills. People who go to the gym a lot. Anyone can get this disease. There is no super hero who is immune from this disease."

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

New York City playgrounds to close

Playground in New York City are going to close to help fight the spread of COVID-19, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday. The closures come after the governor repeatedly warned New Yorkers to follow social distancing guidelines in public spaces.

"Open spaces" will remain available to city residents.

"No density. No basketball games. No close contact. No violation of social distancing. Period," he said. "That's the rule." 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

83,712 positive cases in New York state, Cuomo says

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday that 83,712 people in his state have tested positive for COVID-19, putting the state above China in the number of reported cases. 

Cuomo said 1,941 people have died in New York. 

"We're still on our way up the mountain," he said.

He said nobody knows for sure when this is going to end. "Nobody knows what's going to happen." 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Florida cases approach 7,000

There were 6,694 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Florida residents as of late Wednesday morning, according to officials. Another 261 cases were confirmed in non-Florida residents. 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Cruise ships must stay at sea with sick onboard, Coast Guard says

The U.S. Coast Guard has directed all cruise ships to prepare to treat any sick passengers and crew on board while being sequestered "indefinitely" offshore during the coronavirus pandemic. The new rules require daily updates on each ship's coronavirus caseload for vessels in U.S. waters, and come with a stiff warning: Any foreign-flagged vessels "that loiter beyond U.S. territorial seas" should try first to medically evacuate the very sick to those countries instead.

The rules, which apply to any vessel carrying more than 50 people, were issued in a March 29 safety bulletin signed by Coast Guard Rear Admiral E.C. Jones.

Dozens of cruise ships are either lined up at Port Miami and Port Everglades or waiting offshore due to the coronavirus pandemic. Most have only crew aboard, but Carnival Corp. notified the SEC Tuesday that it has more than 6,000 passengers still at sea, on three ships that will soon arrive in Fort Civitavecchia, Italy, and Southampton, England, as well as Fort Lauderdale.

Officials have been negotiating over whether Carnival's Holland America cruise ships, the Zaandam and Rotterdam, would be allowed to dock at Port Everglades this week. But the company's Coral Princess is coming, too, with what that ship's medical center called a higher than normal number of people with flu-like symptoms.

Two of four deaths on the Zaandam were blamed on COVID-19 and nine people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the company said. At least 190 more reported symptoms. More than 300 Americans are on Zaandam and Rotterdam.

-The Associated Press 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

More than 30,000 dead in Europe

The number of deaths in Europe now tops 30,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. Over 12,000 people have died in Italy, more than 9,000 people in Spain, and 3,532 people in France. At least 2,356 people have died in the United Kingdom. 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Wimbledon canceled for 1st time since WWII

Wimbledon has been canceled for the first time since World War II. Wimbledon was scheduled to be played on the club's grass courts on the outskirts of London from June 29 to July 12. Instead, the next edition of the tournament will be June 28 to July 11, 2021.

The tournament was first held in 1877 and has been contested every year since, with the exception of two stretches: from 1915-18 because of World War I, and from 1940-45 because of World War II.

It now joins the growing list of sports events scrapped completely in 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak, including the Tokyo Olympics.

-The Associated Press 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Italy extends lockdown into April, warning "positive signals" don't mean an "all clear" yet

Italy's coronavirus lockdown will be extended until April 13, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said Wednesday. The country has been locked down since March 10. Italian authorities have credited the strict stay-at-home measures with lowering the coronavirus infection rate, which they say is plateauing, but has not yet reached its peak. 

Italy was the first Western country to introduce the restrictions, which bar people from leaving their homes except for all but essential reasons. Only supermarkets and pharmacies remain open in town and cities, and all non-essential industry has been shut down.

Speaking to the Italian Senate, Speranza warned: "We must not confuse the first positive signals with an 'all clear' signal. The battle is still a very long one, and to make a mistake on timings or lift measures prematurely risks nullifying all our efforts up until now."

Coffins are seen inside a church in Serina near Bergamo, one of Italy's cities worst-hit by coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Coffins are seen inside a church in Serina near Bergamo, one of Italy's cities worst-hit by coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Italy March 22, 2020. FLAVIO LO SCALZO/REUTERS

He said Italy had managed to more than double the number of beds available in intensive care units in less than a month, and quadruple those in pulmonology units. More than 12,000 additional health care workers were hired to face the COVID-19 emergency.

-Anna Matranga

 

France uses high-speed trains and planes to move COVID-19 patients to available hospital beds

Trains and planes are being pressed into action to help France transfer COVID-19 patients from the worst-hit areas of the country to places with available hospital beds. Thirty-six patients from the Paris region were transferred by train to the western region of Brittany on Wednesday alone.

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Paris
A medical staff looks through the window of a TGV high speed train before its departure to evacuate patients infected with the COVID-19 from Paris region hospitals to Brittany, as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues, in Paris, France April 1, 2020. Thomas Samson/Pool/Reuters

They were moved on two high-speed TGV trains that have effectively been transformed into rail ambulances, with passenger seats removed to allow for all the necessary medical equipment and personnel.

Six more patients were transferred from the east of France — the worst-hit region — to Toulouse in the southwest, by military plane earlier today.

Many of those being evacuated are on life-support — the first time ever that such high-risk transfers have been carried out in France. Officials say only patients in stable condition are being moved, and there is no added risk involved in the cross-country transfers.

The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Paris
Medical staff embark a patient infected with the COVID-19 onboard a TGV high speed train at the Gare d'Austerlitz train station, to evacuate some of the coronavirus disease patients from Paris region hospitals to Brittany, in Paris, France April 1, 2020. Thomas Samson/POOL/REUTERS

Dozens of patients have also been transferred to neighboring Germany. Austria, which doesn't share a border with France, has offered to take more.

By Tucker Reals
 

FBI halts training classes at premier facility in Virginia on advice from chief medic

The FBI confirmed to CBS News on Wednesday that it had closed most of the FBI Academy, its premier training facility in Virginia.

"In consultation with our Chief Medical Officer and executive leadership, training classes at the FBI Academy have been suspended temporarily," the agency said in a statement. "We will continually evaluate the suspension and remain prepared to resume training when safe and appropriate as recommended by our chief medical officer."

By Tucker Reals
 

K-Pop star's COVID-19 April Fool's prank draws condemnation, call for punishment

South Korean K-Pop star Jae-joong Kim has drawn national condemnation and thousands of calls for him to be punished over a coronavirus-themed April Fool's Day prank.

Kim, also known told his Instagram followers that he had tested positive for COVID-19, adding: "It was careless of me to disregard all the warnings I got from the government and those around me. I'm sorry to those who have been infected by me, I've [realized] how much the whole society could be affected with my personal behavior."

Hours later Jae-joong, also known as Hero Jaejoong, posted again to say it was just an April Fool's joke - meant, he said, to alert people to the spread of COVID-19.

It didn't go down well. Within a few hours a petition calling on South Korea's government to punish him so he wouldn't make any further poorly-thought-out jokes had garnered more than 9,000 signatures.

The original post was taken down and replaced by a new one in which Kim apologizes and says he was merely trying to "alert" people not heeding government advice.

-Jen Kwon

 

"The only thing that scares me": Chicago ER doctors paint grim picture of virus crisis

"I deal with gunshots every day and trauma and crazy stuff and this is the only thing that scares me," said emergency room doctor, Dr.  Scott Samlan. He and his colleagues at Mount Sinai Hospital on Chicago's west side have been on the front lines battling the coronavirus pandemic with the limited supplies they have, even being forced to make their own masks to make up for the supply shortage. 

"This is the most scared I've ever been being an ER doctor, and it's not just because of me. It's because I have a wife and a 2-year-old and a 1-year-old at home and I don't want to expose them," he told CBS News' David Begnaud. "People say it's our job. It's not our job, it's our duty."

He stressed how important it was for people to stay home during the crisis to slow the spread of the disease, which he said was currently 60 to 70% of his daily work.

Click here to read the full report from CBS News' David Begnaud.

By Tucker Reals
 

South Africa security forces fire rubber bullets at people defying coronavirus stay-at-home orders

South Africa has some of the toughest coronavirus lockdown regulations in the world but enforcing them is not easy. The country has more than 1,300 reported cases, the most of any country in Africa, and authorities are worried the virus could spread in poorer areas.

Security forces are firing rubber bullets at those defying orders to stay at home in an attempt to clear the streets, parks and anywhere people are gathered illegally.

The lockdown has also laid bare the enduring fault lines in South Africa of poverty and race in places like the township of Alexandra in Johannesburg, one of the nation's poorest communities, CBS News foreign correspondent Debora Patta reports.  

South Africa's aggressive pandemic measures 02:23
By Tucker Reals
 

Europe's COVID-19 death toll tops 30,000, with Italy and Spain suffering the worst

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 30,000 lives in Europe alone, a global tally showed Wednesday, in what the head of the United Nations has described as humanity's worst crisis since World War II.

Italy and Spain bore the brunt of the crisis, accounting for three in every four deaths on the continent, as the grim tally hit another milestone even though half of the planet's population is already under some form of lockdown in a battle to halt contagion.

Spain reported a record 864 deaths in 24 hours, pushing the country's number of fatalities past 9,000. More than 100,000 people have tested positive for the disease in Spain. The death toll there is dwarfed only by Italy's, where the virus has killed nearly 12,500 people.

-CBS/AFP

By Tucker Reals
 

"Star Wars" actor Andrew Jack dies of coronavirus at age 76

Andrew Jack has died in Britain as a result of the coronavirus"Star Wars" actor Andrew Jack has died in Britain as a result of the coronavirus, his agent said on Wednesday. He was 76.

The actor, who also worked as a dialect coach for actors such as Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth, died in a hospital in Surrey on Tuesday, Jack's agent Jill McCullough said in a statement.

"Andrew lived on one of the oldest working houseboats on the Thames, he was fiercely independent but madly in love with his wife, also a dialect coach," McCullough said.

Jack appeared in "Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi" as General Ematt, as well as "Solo: A Star Wars Story" and "Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens."

-CBS/AP

 

Tough, early measures appear to be paying off in Jordan

Jordan has been under total lockdown since March 14. After just a few COVID-19 cases began to appear around the country, the government took extraordinary measures, including implementing strict emergency laws. The Jordan Armed Forces and police were deployed to patrol the kingdom's streets, enforcing a stringent curfew.

Every day at 6 p.m. sirens echo around the country announcing the curfew, which remains in place until 10 a.m. the next morning. During the day people are only allowed to walk around their own neighborhoods to shop at local stores — provided they keep the recommended distance between themselves and others. The use of vehicles is strictly prohibited, except for those authorized to conduct business deemed vital for the emergency services and supply chains. All public meetings, including prayers, church services, and funerals are banned.

First-time violators of the new rules face a fine of about $140, which doubles for a second offense and can lead to a prison sentence after that. 

Jordanians quarantined at hotels near the Dead Sea get evacuated
A Jordanian soldier greets people with flowers as they leave a Dead Sea resort where they have been quarantined for 14 days, amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), south of the Jordanian capital Amman, March 30, 2020.  Khalil Mazraawi/Pool/REUTERS

Jordan has just 274 confirmed coronavirus cases and five deaths. That's low compared to its neighbors: According to Johns Hopkins University, Israel has more than 5,500 cases, Saudi Arabia has 1,563 and Iraq almost 700. 

-Amjad Tadros

 

U.K. police arrest and fine 1st person for violating coronavirus travel restrictions

The British Transport Police have arrested someone for violating travel restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the new coronavirus for the first time. The force confirmed in a statement Wednesday that a woman wasa fined £800 (about $1,000) "after pleading guilty to railway offences and breaching the new Coronavirus restrictions, following the first arrest of its kind on the railway network."

The police said the fine included about £150 for ticket fraud and to cover administrative costs.

Police were called to Newcastle's train station after officers "received a report from rail staff of a woman loitering between platforms" on March 28. When they approached the woman "and engaged with her in an attempt to understand her reasons for essential travel," she allegedly "refused to speak to officers."

Britain has been under nationwide lockdown for a week and a half, forbidding all non-essential travel, but police have largely declined to use their powers to arrest and fine violators, opting instead to issue warnings and urge people to go home.   

"Enforcement of any sort under the new regulations really is a last resort, especially arrest," Assistant Chief Constable Sean O'Callaghan said in the police statement.

By Tucker Reals
 

Putin joins the stay-at-home workforce after close contact with COVID-19-positive doctor

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin will work remotely as much as possible after close contact with a doctor last week who has since tested positive for the new coronavirus. 

Putin was to hold his scheduled government meetings by video conference from his residence outside Moscow on Wednesday, his spokesman told reporters. Last week the president visited Moscow's main hospital treating COVID-19 patients, where shook hands and toured the facility with its chief physician Dr. Denis Protsenko. 

putin-wfh-coronavirus.jpg
President Vladimir Putin of Russia holds a video conference with other Russian officials from his official residence outside of Moscow, April 1, 2020, in an image provided by the Kremlin. Russian government handout

Protsenko's diagnosis was confirmed Tuesday, but he was said to be in good condition.

Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that the president was also feeling well, and that he, along with everyone else who had accompanied him on the hospital visit, was being tested daily for the new virus.

Russia reported 440 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, bringing the total number in the country to 2,777.

-Alexandra Odynova

 

Russian military plane carrying coronavirus supplies heads for U.S.

A Russian military plane carrying medical equipment has departed for the United States, the defense ministry in Moscow said Wednesday, as the Kremlin flexes its soft power amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The Antonov-124, "with medical masks and medical equipment on board", left for the U.S. overnight, a statement said, without providing further details. Video released by the ministry showed the cargo plane loaded with boxes preparing to take off from a military airbase near Moscow early Wednesday morning.

Contacted by AFP, the defense ministry refused to provide any further information on the delivery, which came after Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with U.S. counterpart Donald Trump on Monday.
 
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Tuesday that Putin expected the U.S. to return the gesture if Russia faces a similar crisis and U.S. producers have increased their capacity to produce medical supplies.

Trump said earlier this week that "Russia sent us a very, very large planeload of things, medical equipment, which was very nice."

-CBS/AFP

 

China reports 1,300 asymptomatic virus cases amid public concern

China on Wednesday said it has more than 1,300 asymptomatic coronavirus cases, the first time it has released such data following public concern over people who have tested positive but are not showing symptoms.

Health officials also reported the first imported case from abroad in Wuhan — the epicentre where the virus first emerged late last year — heightening fears of infections being brought into China from other countries. Of 36 new cases reported Wednesday, 35 were imported from abroad.

CHINA-HEALTH-VIRUS
A woman wearing a hazmat suit uses her mobile phone along a street in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province on April 1, 2020. NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty

The National Health Commission (NHC) said 1,367 asymptomatic patients were under medical observation, with 130 new cases added in the last day. 

The NHC announced Tuesday that it would respond "to public concerns" by starting to publish daily data on asymptomatic cases, which it said were infectious.

-AFP

 

Louisiana church packed again despite charges against pastor amid virus crisis

Buses and cars filled a Louisiana church parking lot for another service Tuesday evening as worshippers flocked to hear a Louisiana pastor who is facing misdemeanor charges for holding services despite a ban on gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A few protesters turned out, too, including a man shouting through a bullhorn against those gathering at the Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central, where pastor Tony Spell has been holding services. Another demonstrator held up a sign reading: "God don't like stupid."

CBS Baton Rouge affiliate WAFB-TV reported the service was jammed with hundreds of parishioners. The station said there were also dozens of cars on hand to see if anyone stopped Spell from holding the service.

-CBS/AP

APTOPIX Virus Outbreak Louisiana
Congregants arrive for an evening service at the Life Tabernacle Church in Central, Louisiana on March 31, 2020. Gerald Herbert / AP
 

U.K. developing coronavirus-tracking app to ease lockdown restrictions

The U.K. is reportedly mulling the introduction of a contact-tracking app that'll alert people if they've been near someone with the coronavirus and should therefore self-isolate.

report by Sky News on Tuesday described how NHSX, the innovation arm of the U.K.'s National Health Service, has teamed with U.S. company Pivotal to develop the app, which could be released when the British government eases the current lockdown restrictions. According to Sky, people will have to opt in to use the app, though the NHS hopes at least 50% of the population will choose to do so.

"NHSX is looking at whether app-based solutions might be helpful in tracking and managing coronavirus, and we have assembled expertise from inside and outside the organization to do this as rapidly as possible," said an NHSX spokesman.

Click here to read the full story by CNET's Katie Collins.

 

Austin, Texas investigating COVID-19 cluster among group who visited Mexico for spring break

Health officials in Austin, Texas say dozens of young adults from a group that chartered a plane for a spring break trip to Mexico have tested positive for the COVID-19 disease. A statement released by the City of Austin on Tuesday said the Public Health Department was investigating the "cluster of positive COVID-19 cases," and that some members of the group had been quarantined.

"About a week and a half ago, approximately 70 people in their 20's departed in a chartered plane for a spring break trip. Some of the group returned on separate commercial flights. Currently, 28 young adults on this trip have tested positive for COVID-19 and dozens more are under public health investigation. Four of the confirmed cases did not present any symptoms," the statement said.

Every member of the group has been contacted by authorities and the 28 confirmed cases were self-isolating, according to the statement. 

"Others are under quarantine while being monitored and tested," the statement said, adding that while there was no U.S. travel advisory against visiting Mexico when the trip occurred, it was vital for everyone to follow CDC guidance to avoid all non-essential travel.

By Tucker Reals
 

Florida officials trying to figure out how to disembark hundreds from virus-stricken cruise

Passengers from an ill-fated South American cruise are eager to disembark once they reach Florida, but Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state's health care resources are already stretched too thin to take on the ships' coronavirus caseload. The U.S. Coast Guard said Tuesday the decision would be punted to Washington if authorities can't agree.

With the Zaandam and Rotterdam ships set to arrive later this week and at least two people on board needing emergency attention, a "unified command" of state, local and federal officials will be asked to approve a detailed docking plan requiring the cruise line, Holland America, to handle all medical issues without impacting South Florida's already-stressed hospitals.

Two of the four deaths on board the Zaandam have been blamed on COVID-19 and nine people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the company said. 

PANAMA-HEALTH-VIRUS-CRUISE
Passangers of Holland America's cruise ship Zaandam are seen as the ship navigates through the Panama Canal in Panama City, on March 29, 2020. LUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty

Holland America said the Rotterdam took on nearly 1,400 people who appear to be healthy from its sister ship, leaving 450 guests and 602 crew members on the Zaandam, including more than 190 who said they are sick. More than 300 U.S. citizens are on both ships combined. 

- Associated Press

 

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
 

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."

The White House said, meanwhile, that even with social distancing measures 100,000 to 240,000 people are predicted to die of coronavirus in the U.S. 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."

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
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