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Coronavirus updates from April 8, 2020

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More than 14,700 people have died from the new coronavirus in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 432,000 people across the country have been sickened by COVID-19.

The grim milestone comes as New York recorded its highest daily death toll: 779. Governor Andrew Cuomo said that while social distancing is working, and the number of patients who are hospitalized is down, "It's not a time to get complacent."

Globally, nearly 1.5 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, and more than 88,000 have died.

Detailed information from the CDC on coronavirus treatment and prevention.


National stockpile almost out of PPE

The Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients. The Department of Health and Human Services told The Associated Press Wednesday that federal officials were in the process of deploying all remaining personal protective equipment — referred to as PPE for short — in the stockpile.

The HHS statement confirms federal documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showing that about 90% of the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments. HHS spokeswoman Katie McKeogh said the remaining 10% will be kept in reserve to support federal response efforts.

House Oversight Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the Trump administration is leaving states to scour the open market for scarce supplies, often competing with each other and federal agencies in a chaotic bidding war that drives up prices. 



Dubai allows alcohol home delivery as virus shuts down bars

Dubai's two major alcohol distributors have partnered to offer home delivery of beer, spirits and wine as the new coronavirus now threatens a crucial source of tax and general revenue for the rulers of this Islamic city-state.

The decision marks yet another loosening of social mores in the skyscraper-studded desert metropolis.

The service also comes as alcohol sales by volume have declined over recent years amid an economic downturn in Dubai and the wider United Arab Emirates.

The few remaining tourists in Dubai can use their passports to buy the alcohol. Residents, however, need an alcohol license, a plastic red card issued by Dubai police that requires annual renewal.

-- The Associated Press


Central Japan prefecture to declare state of emergency

The governor of Japan's Aichi prefecture will declare a state of emergency beginning Friday, Reuters reported. Aichi has the fifth most infections in Japan and includes the city of Nagoya along with the headquarters of the Toyota Motor Corporation.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in Tokyo and several other prefectures, but Aichi was not included, according to Reuters.


253 federal inmates have tested positive

The Bureau of Prisons announced Wednesday that 253 federal inmates and 85 staff members have tested positive for coronavirus. Nineteen inmates and 7 staff members have recovered, the BOP added. 

Louisiana's FCI Oakdale leads the nation with 47 cases among staff and inmates, according to the BOP. Connecticut's FCI Danbury has 46, and North Carolina's FCI Butner has 42.

Read more about FCI Oakdale here. 


Lawmakers overturn religious worship size limits in Kansas

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly's executive order restricting the size of religious gatherings amid the coronavirus outbreak was overturned Wednesday after the state's top prosecutor said it likely violates the state constitution.
With Easter just days away, the Legislative Coordinating Council voted 5-2 to undo the order that limited in-person religious services and funerals to 10 people. The now-overturned order had rescinded an earlier order that barred most gatherings with more than 10 people, with exceptions for religious gatherings and funerals, raising questions about whether large gatherings were now legally permitted. Kelly said legal staff is reviewing the matter.
"This has created confusion," Kelly, a Democrat, said at a news conference. "This has created chaos."
The council's vote came after Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, said that while the order was "sound public-health advice that Kansans should follow," he was discouraging law enforcement agencies and prosecutors statewide from attempting to enforce the requirements. Violations of the order could have been prosecuted as a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $2,500 and 12 months in jail.

—The Associated Press


A third of U.S. renters didn't pay the rent on time this month

The recession caused by the coronavirus has in a mere few weeks put millions of Americans out of work and under severe financial strain.

Exhibit A: As of April 5, some 31% of the U.S. households that rent hadn't paid it for the month, the National Multifamily Housing Council said in a report Wednesday that tracks how the pandemic is affecting the housing market.

"The COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in significant health and financial challenges for apartment residents and multifamily owners, operators and employees in communities across the country," NMHC President Doug Bibby said in a statement.

Although 69% of renting households were able to pay the April rent, that was down from 81% the prior month, according to the group, whose data covers 40 million renters. Louisiana and New York saw the biggest increase of unpaid April rent.

Read more here. 

By Khristopher J. Brooks

Here's what needs to happen for America to return to "normal"

When will life return to "normal"? It's what parents with kids stuck at home, people out of work, and Americans across the country want to know. What will it mean to live in a post-coronavirus world?

Though President Trump is raring to open the country back up soon, experts warn a few critical things need to be in place for life to return to some version of what it was before the country essentially shut down in March. Even then, life might not be quite the same; many people may alter their behavior and reconsider going to large gatherings that were previously commonplace.

A "roadmap" report released by the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, authored by former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, other former FDA officials and experts at Johns Hopkins University, identified three phases: slowing the spread, reopening the economy state-by-state, and establishing immunity to lift physical distancing.

Only in that third phase will life return to the closest thing to normal, the report concludes. Gottlieb has served as somewhat of an outside adviser to the federal government during the coronavirus crisis, providing briefings and making the rounds on television.

The U.S. will only be able to move to a state-by-state reopening of the economy when there is a "sustained reduction in cases for at least 14 days;" hospitals have the capacity to treat all patients without being overwhelmed; everyone showing symptoms can be tested; and the state can actively monitor confirmed cases and contacts. At this point, most states appear to still be weeks away from being able to do this, and the nation is still ramping up testing.

Read more here. 

By Kathryn Watson

Floridians face hurdles in applying for unemployment benefits

On Thursday, the government will release the weekly number of newly jobless Americans. And if being laid off isn't enough, many of those people are facing hurdles to even apply for unemployment benefits. 

More than half a million Floridians applied for unemployment in March. Critics warned the state's unemployment system was inadequate even before the pandemic. Florida governor Ron DeSantis says staff has been added and fixes made — but he blames an unprecedented demand for the backlog. 

Watch Manuel Bojorquez's report below. 

Floridians face hurdles in applying for unemployment benefits 01:58
By Manuel Bojorquez

"I'm not God": Health care workers struggle in New York as cases rise

Officials are predicting that deaths in the U.S. will peak this weekend. But in many parts of the country, the hope shown in the data is mixed with pain. On the front lines of the crisis, the fight to save patients continues — at great cost. 

"To tell them that we can no longer provide the critical care that your family member really needs… I'm not God, I'm far from God — I'm just very limited, limited in resources," said one New York cardiologist. 

Watch Mola Lenghi's report below. 

Deaths from coronavirus spike to new level in New York 04:04
By Mola Lenghi

1.5 million coronavirus cases worldwide

There are now more than 1.5 million confirmed cases across the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 87,900 people have died from the virus. 

By Justin Bey

Women urged to delay fertility treatments worry they may miss their chance to have a child

New guidelines are urging some women undergoing fertility treatments to wait due to concerns about the possible risks of exposure to coronavirus. Many hopeful moms are now worried the delay could cost them their chance to have a child. 

Adrianna Keizer-D'Anna and her husband have long hoped for a sibling for their daughter. But after six miscarriages and eight years of fertility treatments, she now has to wait to transfer her final two embryos — a procedure that had been planned for this week. 

"I'm numb at this point," Keizer-D'Anna told CBS News. "It's the norm with IVF that there's ups and downs, but you never get used to the phone call that says you can't move further, you can't move on."

At age 44, she says time is everything. "I'm very nervous because what if this takes another year?" she said.

Read more here.

By Nikki Battiste

More than 19% of NYPD's uniformed workforce out sick

More than 19% of the NYPD's uniformed workforce — 7,130 people — called in sick on Wednesday, the department said in a statement. Over 2,100 uniformed members and more than 370 civilian employees have tested positive for the virus. 

The department also announced the death of City Custodial Assistant Deidre Edwards, who died Monday from complications associated with coronavirus. Edwards had worked for the NYPD for nearly 15 years. 

An NYPD car is parked outside of the Brooklyn Hospital on April 1, 2020, in New York City. Angela Weiss / AFP/Getty
By Victoria Albert

State Department has brought back 50,000 Americans since January 29

The U.S. State Department has brought back more than 50,000 Americans abroad since January 29, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.

"From more than 90 countries, more than 490 flights back to the United States from all across the world, this worldwide scale of our repatriation efforts is without parallel in our lifetime," Pompeo said. 

By Justin Bey

Coronavirus cases surge in nursing homes across the country

Across the country, we're seeing an alarming rise in coronavirus cases in nursing homes. More than half of the nursing homes in New Jersey have at least one case. Three patients have died at a nursing home in Missouri.

At a home near Richmond, Virginia, 33 have died. This is the system at a breaking point. More than 80 nursing home residents have been evacuated in ambulances from a facility in Riverside, California, after 39 cases of coronavirus, and after nurses — presumably fearing for their own safety — refused to show up.

"I think their fear might have led them to make a decision that might not have been the right decision for the patient," Riverside County Public Health spokesperson Jose Arballo told CBS News.

It's a dilemma facing Wendy Ezzes whose 90-year-old mother is in a Southern California nursing home. "I'm nervous for her getting ill, and I'm nervous about how am I supposed to help her?" Ezzes said. "What is the best thing for me to do?"

Read more here.

By Jonathan Vigliotti

23% of Americans believe false theory COVID-19 was created in a lab. Here's what the experts say.

A new poll from the Pew Research Center found that 23% of surveyed Americans believe COVID-19 was intentionally developed in a lab, while another 6% said it was "most likely made accidentally." Only 43% of those polled said they believe the virus came from nature; the remaining 25% said they weren't sure. 

But in a recent paper in Nature Medicine, researchers said the novel coronavirus could not have been artificially made. Kristian Andersen, one of the paper's contributors, explained in another publication that "the SARS-CoV-2 virus has components that differ from those of previously known viruses, so they had to come from an unknown virus or viruses in nature."

"Top scientists banded together to analyze the COVID-19 virus and definitively state that the virus adaptation was a natural event, and not man-made," CBS News contributor Dr. David Agus said in an interview. "This is the seventh known coronavirus to infect humans, and nature figured out a way from this one to cause the havoc we are seeing today." Brandi Kellam


U.S. death toll tops 14,000

More than 14,200 have died from coronavirus in the United States as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University. There are now over 419,900 confirmed cases across the country. 

By Justin Bey

286 crew members on USS Roosevelt have tested positive

The U.S. Navy announced Wednesday that 286 crew members on the USS Roosevelt have tested positive for coronavirus. The Navy added that 93% of the crew has been tested, and 2,588 people have tested negative. There have been no hospitalizations of crew members. 

The Navy added that 2,329 sailors have been moved ashore and that as testing continues, the ship will keep enough people on board to "sustain essential services" and keep the ship clean. 

The Roosevelt was thrust into the national spotlight last week when its former captain wrote a memo to more than 20 people expressing concern about how quickly the virus was spreading through the ship. The captain was then ousted by the Acting Navy Secretary, who then submitted his own resignation days later. 

American Aircraft Carrier Anchors Off The Coast Of Hampshire
The USS Theodore Roosevelt anchors off the coast on March 23, 2015, in Gosport, England.  Dan Kitwood / Getty
By Victoria Albert

UN secretary-general on Trump's threat to hold funds: "Now is not that time"

In response to President Trump's Tuesday comment that he would look into putting a hold on funds to the WHO, the spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told reporters Wednesday that Guterres wanted Mr. Trump to know that the WHO "must be supported, as it is absolutely critical to the world's efforts to win the war against COVID-19."

Guterres said the COVID-19 pandemic is "one of the most dangerous challenges this world has faced in our lifetime, above all a human crisis with severe health socio-economic consequences," according to spokesman Stephane Dujarric. 

He added that once the pandemic is over, it will be worthwhile to look at "lessons learned."
"Now is not that time," he said. "The World Health Organization, with thousands of its staff, is on the front lines… with guidance, training, equipment and concrete life-saving services as they fight the virus," he said.

By Pamela Falk

Dr. Birx reacts to Trump slamming WHO, explains delay in calling virus "global pandemic"

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said the timeliness of data reported from China to the World Health Organization "did delay the ability" to declare the coronavirus a global pandemic. Birx also thanked workers on the front lines of the pandemic and expressed hope that large-scale mitigation efforts are working to flatten the virus curve.

President Trump criticized the World Health Organization in a Tuesday task force briefing. He blamed the agency for not providing better warnings ahead of the pandemic, thereby allowing it to spread as quickly as it did. 

"The WHO can only react to the data it's given, and when you go back and look at the timeline, it wasn't until, I think, almost the middle of January that China reported that there was human-to-human transmission," Birx said. 

Read more here.


New Jersey's primary is postponed until July 7

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Wednesday that the state's presidential primary will be moved from June 2 to July 7. 

"Our democracy cannot be a casualty of COVID-19. We want to ensure that every voter can vote without endangering their health or their safety," he said.

He said the state's COVID-19 death toll is now 1,504, and over 47,000 people have tested positive for the virus.

"We're not on any plateau," Murphy said, CBS New York reported. "We need to be to continue to be absolutely vigilant, and if anything tighten as opposed to loosen. And I don't say that with any amount of joy. It brings me no joy to say that."

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

New York reports deadliest day yet, for a second day in a row

New York Governor Andrew Coomo on Wednesday reported an additional 779 deaths, the highest single-day death toll for a second day in a row. "The bad news isn't just bad. The bad news is actually terrible," he said as he announced the fatalities.

The total death toll in the state has now passed 6,200. 

Cuomo said, however, that the curve in the state is flattening and the number of patients who are hospitalized is down for another day. 

But he cautioned: "It's not a time to get complacent." He urged people to stay home, remain disciplined and continue social distancing measures.  

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

Doctors worry they'll be forced into life-or-death decisions

Life-and-death decisions may be forced upon doctors in states that are battling a high number of coronavirus cases, due to a critical lack of hospital beds and ventilators. While some health care systems have foreseen this and set priority guidelines for allocating their precious resources, others may leave it up to the attending physician — leaving patients at the mercy of both.  

Doctors around the country are grappling with the ethical and moral crisis the pandemic has put them in. Dr. Joseph Smith, medical ICU director at Eskenazi Health in Indiana, said that "as a physician, it's nauseating." 

"Just the mere idea that we would… take a step back and say that one person is more likely to survive than the other, so we should provide the intensive care to the person that's more likely to survive… that is a very difficult thing," he said. 

Read more here.


Coronavirus cripples federal prison in Louisiana

A federal prison in Louisiana has come into focus after five inmates housed at the facility died after contracting the coronavirus. Attorney General William Barr has urged the Bureau of Prisons to allow vulnerable inmates who qualify at FCI Oakdale I and other federal prisons to serve the rest of their sentences from home.

Oakdale, a low-security facility located about 200 miles west of New Orleans, typically houses 971 male inmates. The prison has reported 42 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among staff and inmates. 

Read more here. 

By Clare Hymes

Broadway closes its doors through June 7

Broadway will keep its doors closed through June 7, extending initial closures that went into effect about four weeks ago

"Our top priority continues to be the health and well-being of Broadway theatregoers and the thousands of people who work in the theatre industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals," Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League, said Wednesday in a news release. 

"Broadway will always be at the very heart of the Big Apple, and we join with artists, theatre professionals, and fans in looking forward to the time when we can once again experience live theatre together."

The Broadway League said the decision was made in accordance with CDC guidelines and under New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's direction.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin

India likely to extend lockdown with number of coronavirus cases now over 5,000

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Wednesday hinted that the three-week nationwide lockdown currently set to end on April 14 will be extended, as the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the country rose sharply. 

Almost 150 people have died with the new disease in India, 35 of them in the last 24 hours alone, and the number of cases rose by 773 to 5,194. It was the biggest single-day jump in both the cases and deaths since India's outbreak began. 

In a video conference with chief ministers of states, Modi said lifting the lockdown "is not possible." 

"The priority of the government is to save each and every life. The situation in the country is akin to a social emergency. It has necessitated tough decisions and we must continue to remain vigilant," he was quoted as saying by Indian media. 

Outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Ahmedabad
A doctor wearing a protective gear prepares to take a swab from a girl to test for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a residential area in Ahmedabad, India, April 8, 2020. AMIT DAVE/REUTERS

As the government considers extending the lockdown meant to keep India's 1.3 billion people in their homes, several states and cities, including capital Delhi and Mumbai, made face masks mandatory for people when they do go out for permitted essentials.

-Arshad R. Zargar


Puerto Rico wants flight ban from U.S. hot spots

Puerto Rico's governor is asking federal officials to ban all flights from U.S. cities with a high number of coronavirus cases to help prevent the spread in the U.S. territory.

The petition by Gov. Wanda Vázquez to the Federal Aviation Administration comes as officials accuse some visitors of taking medicine to lower their fevers to avoid being placed in quarantine. National Guard members screen people at the island's main international airport.

The National Guard has said at least two passengers from New York who lowered their fever with medication are now hospitalized in the island with COVID-19.

-The Associated Press


NYC mayor says virus has hit black and Hispanic New Yorkers hard

New York City's death toll from the coronavirus has been disproportionately high in black and Hispanic communities, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

Preliminary data indicates that black people account for 28% of the city's COVID-19 death toll, even though they are just 22% of the city's population, while Hispanic people are 34% of the city's virus death toll and 29% of its population.

De Blasio said of the racial disparities: "It's sick. It's troubling. It's wrong. And we are going to fight back with everything we've got."

Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city's health commissioner, noted that the communities that have been hit the hardest by the virus "have had higher rates of underlying chronic illness" than other New Yorkers.

De Blasio said the city would embark on a multimillion-dollar public service campaign to reach non-English speaking communities with information about the virus.

-The Associated Press


End of Wuhan lockdown could trigger a "resurgence in infections" in China, doctor warns

Residents were allowed to leave the central Chinese city of Wuhan on Wednesday for the first time in nearly three months. A 76-day lockdown has been lifted, allowing people to travel in and out of the city where the global coronavirus pandemic is believed to have originated. 

At the stroke of midnight, the city celebrated "liberation" from its lockdown and honored frontline workers with a light show, CBS News correspondent Ramy Inocencio reports. Drivers sped off as highways re-opened. High-speed trains left just after dawn, and more than 10,000 people left the city by plane. 

"Everyone's like out and about and everyone was just so, so happy. ... I felt joy in the air," said 21-year-old Megan Monroe, who has been in Wuhan since the lockdown started.  

But a riot broke out Wednesday when the lockdown on the wider Hubei Province was lifted, over fears that people now leaving could reinfect others. Some epidemiologists have warned that widespread travel out of Wuhan could mark the start of China's second wave of the COVID-19 disease. Click here to read more.

Wuhan residents celebrate, travel after coronavirus lockdown ends 01:47

Miss England leaves charity work in India to return to work as a U.K. doctor amid virus crisis

The current Miss England, Bhasha Mukherjee, says she's returned to the U.K. to work as a doctor as the country's National Health Service battles a major COVID-19 outbreak. Mukherjee told British broadcaster Sky News that she was doing humanitarian work in India when the outbreak in Britain began.

"I felt that my services, given the training that I've had — I'm a trained doctor — my services would be much more useful in a hospital," she told Sky. "Towards the end of the trip… I did not feel like wearing my crown."

Mukherjee is currently in self-isolation before returning to work in the U.K., Sky reported. She has also started a petition calling for NHS staff to pay reduced rent during the coronavirus crisis, as many are renting rooms outside their homes to avoid potentially infecting their own families.

"I'm not belittling the work, the charity work that I was doing, but in a way, you know, this is what I've been trained to do," Mukherjee said. "So I wanted to come back and do that."

By Haley Ott

Burton Snowboards boss slams "failure of federal leadership" as company donates masks to doctors

Burton Snowboards says it's donating 500,000 KN95 respirator masks to "frontline" healthcare workers across the Northeast. The company said in a press release that it "quickly mobilized its supply chain to rapidly source and produce the specialized masks in China."

The first 48,000 masks will be given to hospitals in Vermont, where Burton is headquartered, and New Hampshire. Another 452,000 masks are expected to arrive in the next two weeks. Half of all the masks will be sent to hospitals in Boston and New York City, "where the need is the greatest," it said.

"It is a national disgrace that the medical supply chain in this country has not been federalized and that states are competing for desperately needed supplies," Donna Carpenter, chair of the board at Burton, said in the press release. "This fundamental failure of federal leadership in our greatest hour of need will inevitably cause more pain, suffering and loss of precious life." 

The company is also producing medical face shields for healthcare workers and has donated over 1,300 snow goggles to medical professionals. Anyone who wants to donate used Burton goggles can do so at its headquarters in Burlington, Vermont, where they will "go through a quarantine process before being distributed."  

By Audrey McNamara

French aircraft carrier called back to port with possible COVID-19 outbreak aboard

France's defense ministry has announced that the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle is heading back to port amid a possible coronavirus outbreak aboard. The ministry said in a statement Wednesday that around 40 troops were presenting symptoms associated with the COVID-19 disease. They have been placed under strict medical observation.

A medical team equipped with tests was to board the ship Wednesday in order to confirm the potential cases and prevent the virus from further spreading, the ministry said.

The aircraft carrier, which was on a mission in the Atlantic Ocean, is returning immediately to its base in the port of Toulon, on the Mediterranean coast, where it was initially expected to dock on April 23. Its crew is composed of about 1,900 troops.

The announcement comes after a coronavirus outbreak hit U.S. aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, now at port in Guam. As of Tuesday, the U.S. Navy said at least 230 crew had been tested positive. The firing last week of the Roosevelt's captain created a controversy in the U.S


Sailors cheer for ousted aircraft carrier captain 01:19

Pope prays for "those who profit off the needs of others" amid pandemic to find spiritual healing

Pope Francis is denouncing the mafia and all those who are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to make money. Francis opened his morning Mass on Wednesday by praying that "all those who profit off the needs of others, and sell them" experience spiritual conversion.

Francis' homily was dedicated to the biblical story of Judas betraying Jesus — a narrative Christians commemorate this week in the run-up to liturgical services marking Christ's Last Supper, crucifixion and resurrection on Easter.

In his remarks, Francis said everyone has a "little Judas inside of us" who makes a choice between loyalty to others or self-interest. He said: "Each one of us has the capacity to betray, to sell others, to choose our own interests." 

Pope Francis holds weekly general audience virtually due to coronavirus outbreak
Pope Francis speaks during his general audience as it is streamed via video over the internet from a library as part of measures to contain the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the Vatican, April 8, 2020. Vatican Media/Handout/REUTERS

Speaking of mobsters and money lenders, he said: "May the Lord touch their hearts and convert them."

Italian officials have warned that organized crime groups are maneuvering to profit off the social and economic disruptions caused by Italy's virus-induced nationwide shutdown. 

Associated Press


Plastic bag bans are being reversed amid coronavirus panic

The spread of the new coronavirus is threatening to resurrect environmentally destructive single-use plastic bags, with a raft of states and cities putting previously approved bans on hold, and some even reversing course.

Massachusetts, where 130 cities and towns had banned single-use plastic bags, last week reversed its position and instead banned reusable tote bags. San Francisco, which was one of the first U.S. cities to ban plastic bags, in 2007, this week banned reusable bags, mugs and other items. Colorado, Illinois, Maryland and New Hampshire have either stopped enforcing their plastic-bag bans or banned reusables outright.

The plastic industry has been eager to capitalize on the public's newfound focus on cleanliness. In March, the Plastic Industry Association wrote to U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar urging him to "make a public statement on the health and safety benefits seen in single-use plastics," according to a letter obtained by Politico.

The problem: There's no science to conclude that plastic is less likely to transmit the coronavirus than other surfaces. Read the full story here.

By Irina Ivanova

British PM Boris Johnson still in ICU, but said to be stable and responding to COVID-19 treatment

Boris Johnson's spokesman says the British prime minister is stable and responding to treatment for the coronavirus in the intensive care unit of a London hospital.

James Slack says Johnson continues to receive "standard oxygen treatment" and is breathing without any other assistance.

Johnson has spent two nights in the ICU of St. Thomas' Hospital since being admitted Sunday. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 and still had a cough and fever 10 days later.

His spokesman declined to provide further details of Johnson's treatment, saying Wednesday's update "was given to us by St. Thomas' Hospital and it contains all of the information which the PM's medical team considers to be clinically relevant."

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is standing in for Johnson while he is hospitalized. 

- Associated Press

Boris Johnson in intensive care as coronavirus symptoms worsen 05:25

Iran calls on U.S. to allow IMF to give it $5 billion emergency loan for COVID-19 response

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urged the International Monetary Fund on Wednesday to give the sanctions-hit country a $5 billion emergency loan to combat its novel coronavirus outbreak.

The Islamic republic is battling one of the world's deadliest outbreaks, which it says has killed close to 4,000 people and infected more than 64,500, though there has been speculation both in Iran and abroad that the real number of deaths and infections is much higher.

Iran has said it needs what would be its first IMF loan in over half a century to continue fighting the virus, but the United States, which effectively holds a veto at the IMF, is reportedly set to block the loan, arguing Iran will use the funds for military purposes.

"I urge all international organizations to fulfil their duties," Rouhani said during a cabinet meeting. "We are a member of the IMF... if there's going to be any discrimination between Iran and others in giving loans, neither we nor world opinion will tolerate it."



With France locked down, Good Friday service to be broadcast live from inside fire-ravaged Notre-Dame

A handful of people will celebrate a Good Friday service inside Paris' famed Notre-Dame cathedral almost a year after the church was ravaged by a fire. 

The service will include the veneration of the crown of thorns believed to have been worn by Jesus Christ on the cross, according to the president of the Friends of Notre-Dame, Michel Picaud. The crown used to be kept in the cathedral, but has been stored in the Louvre museum since the fire on April 15 last year.

The Archbishop of Paris, Monsignor Michel Aupetit, will lead the service, along with the Rector of Paris. 

A woman wearing a protective face mask crosses an empty street in front of the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris on April 2, 2020, amid a strict lockdown in France to slow the spread of the COVID-19 disease.  PHILIPPE LOPEZ/AFP/Getty

The archbishop said the service would be broadcast on television and radio so the faithful could follow as France remains under a nationwide lockdown amid a coronavirus outbreak that keeps getting worse in spite of the broad measures. 

There will be no other Easter services in the cathedral, and restoration work on the ancient building has stopped because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Elaine Cobbe

Iran's coronavirus death toll nears 4,000

Iran on Wednesday reported 121 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing its overall number of fatalities to 3,993.

In the past 24 hours, 1,997 new cases of COVID-19 infection were detected in Iran, state news agency IRNA quoted health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour as saying.

That put the number of confirmed cases at 64,586, he added.

Iran, which announced its first COVID-19 cases on February 19, is by far the worst hit by the pandemic in the Middle East, according to official tolls.

But there has been speculation abroad that the real number of deaths and infections in the country could be higher. 



WHO officials defend COVID-19 response after Trump accusations of "China-centric" bias

World Health Organization officials defended the agency's COVID-19 response Wednesday after President Trump accused it of "probably" misleading the public. Mr. Trump said the WHO had acted in a "very China-centric" manner as it reacted to the pandemic that originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

"They criticized my China travel ban and they were wrong about that," the president said, threatening to slash U.S. funding for the WHO. "They're wrong about a lot of things. They seem to be very China-centric. We have to look into that."

On Wednesday, WHO Regional Director for Europe Dr Hans Kluge said the world was, "still in the acute phase of a pandemic, so now is not the time to cut back on funding."

Dr Bruce Aylward, a senior adviser to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, defended the U.N. agency's cooperation with China as, "absolutely critical in the early part of this outbreak to have full access to everything possible."

"This is what we did with every other hard hit country like Spain and had nothing to do with China specifically," Aylward said, adding that the initial decision to suggest keeping borders open was taken in light of Chinese efforts to aggressively track and quarantine suspected virus cases.

Trump attacks WHO over coronavirus' global spread 01:42
By Tucker Reals

Twitter boss Jack Dorsey pledges $1 billion for virus relief efforts

Twitter co-founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey said Tuesday he was committing $1 billion of his personal fortune to coronavirus relief through his philanthropic fund.

Dorsey said in a series of tweets that he would transfer his equity in his digital payments group Square to his limited liability corporation Start Small, contributing around 28 percent of his overall wealth.

"Why now? The needs are increasingly urgent, and I want to see the impact in my lifetime," Dorsey said. "I hope this inspires others to do something similar. Life is too short, so let's do everything we can today to help people now."



CDC set to loosen back-to-work guidelines for some who self-isolate, Pence says

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is about to change its guidelines for self-isolation to make it easier for those who have been exposed to someone with the new coronavirus to return to work if they are asymptomatic, Vice President Pence said Tuesday.

The public health agency, in conjunction with the White House coronavirus task force, will announce the changes Wednesday, Pence said at Tuesday's task force press briefing.

Under the new guidance, people who are exposed to someone infected would be allowed back on the job if they are asymptomatic, test their temperature twice a day and wear a face mask, a person familiar with the proposal under consideration told The Associated Press. The person described the proposal on the condition of anonymity because the draft had not been finalized.



1st day of Japan's state of emergency sees trains still packed for morning rush

The first full day under Japan's state of emergency has underwhelmed. While some popular retail and tourist spots were unusually quiet, it looked like business as usual on Tokyo's infamously congested public transit. 

The lax heeding of requests for people to stay at home generated a fusillade of disappointment, frustration and anger online. 

"Even with the emergency declaration, this is Shinagawa train station at rush hour. It's this morning, ok? Screwed up or what?" said one tweet. 

"Eight am, on the train to Osaka," said another, posting an image of people standing shoulder to shoulder on a train, some without face masks. 

A salesman interviewed outside Omiya station north of Tokyo confessed he didn't want to be there. "I'm extremely afraid," he told the TBS network. "Salaried workers like us have to ride the train every day. What will become of us?"

The government's official "3c" mantra — avoid close spaces, close conversation, and crowds — has become a wry joke. "Nothing has changed on the 3c Odakyu train line," one commuter posted. 

The turnout is undermining faith in Japan's bid to slow the pandemic without a full-fledged lockdown. 

By Lucy Craft

Texas nursing home doctor testing drug touted by Trump on 27 COVID-19 patients

When a coronavirus outbreak hit a Texas nursing home, Dr. Robin Armstrong reached for an unproven treatment: the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine.

First, he needed to find a supply. But at a moment when President Donald Trump is heavily promoting the drug, Armstrong is no regular physician. He is a Republican National Committee member and GOP activist in Houston, and after calling Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, the Texas chairman of Mr. Trump's presidential campaign in 2016, Armstrong soon had enough doses to begin treating 27 infected residents of The Resort at Texas City.

Armstrong, the medical director at the facility, said Tuesday it is too soon to tell whether the treatment will work. But his sweeping use of the drug at one nursing home along the smoggy Texas coastline illustrates how Mr. Trump's championing of the medication is having an impact on doctors across the U.S., even as scientists warn that more testing is needed before it's proven safe and effective against COVID-19.

Virus Outbreak Texas
This photo shows a bottle of hydroxychloroquine on a table outside the entrance to The Resort at Texas City nursing home, where Dr. Robin Armstrong, right, the home's medical director, is using it to treat residents, April 7, 2020, in Texas City, Texas. David J. Phillip/AP

"I probably would not have been able to get the medication had he not been talking about it so much," Armstrong told The Associated Press.

Republican Bryan Hughes, a Texas state senator, said he is helping organize a pipeline of hydroxychloroquine donations to other states through their GOP leaders. Hughes said he has spent recent weeks helping Louisiana, Mississippi, Arkansas and Georgia receive or expect shipments from Amneal Pharmaceuticals, a maker of the drug based in New Jersey. Last month, the company announced it had donated 1 million tablets to Texas. 

Associated Press


UN suspends peacekeeping deployments

The United Nations on Tuesday suspended new peacekeeping deployments due to the continuing coronavirus pandemic. The rotation and deployment of U.N. peacekeepers and international police will be suspended until June 30.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric made the announcement, saying the 13 peacekeeping missions of the U.N. "are working full-time to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19" and to ensure that incoming uniformed personnel don't have COVID-19.

Dujarric explained to CBS News, "There is no movement of troops, coming in or out," but added that, "A few, limited exceptions may be considered."

"Our priorities are to ensure the COVID-19-free status of incoming uniformed personnel, and mitigate the risk that UN peacekeepers could be a contagion vector and simultaneously maintain our operational capabilities," Dujarric said. 

Both the pandemic outbreak and expenses related to coronavirus appear to be at issue.

By Pamela Falk

John Prine, American folk singer and songwriter, has died at age 73

John Prine, the singer-songwriter who explored the heartbreaks, indignities and absurdities of everyday life in "Angel from Montgomery," "Sam Stone," "Hello in There" and scores of other works, died Tuesday at the age of 73, according to The Associated Press.

His family announced his death was due to complications from the new coronavirus. He died at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, where he had been hospitalized last month.

Winner of a lifetime achievement Grammy earlier this year, Prine sang his conversational lyrics in a voice roughened by a difficult life, particularly after throat cancer left him with a disfigured jaw.

He joked that he fumbled so often on the guitar that people thought he was inventing a new style. But his open-heartedness, eye for detail and sharp and surreal humor brought him the highest admiration from critics, from such peers as Bob Dylan and Kris Kristofferson, and from younger stars such as Jason Isbell and Kacey Musgraves, who even named a song after him. 

- Associated Press


Poor and minority communities hit hard by COVID-19 in the South

The coronavirus has been exploding across the South. In a dozen Southern states, there have been nearly 65,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 1,700 deaths.

Governor John Bel Edwards reported 70 new deaths Tuesday and said they're still bracing for the worst.

There's an alarming disparity in the state: more than 70% of the coronavirus deaths are African Americans, who comprise only 32% of the population.

"It's very sad to say I'm not shocked this is happening if you have a disease that's going to kill more people with hypertension, diabetes, heart disease and you have a health disparity like this, it's not shocking," said Dr. Amy Lessen of Dillard University. Louisiana has one of the nation's highest rates of people with preexisting conditions.

Read more here.

Coronavirus explodes across poor and vulnerable populations in the South 02:20
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