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Coronavirus updates: Pope Francis leads empty Vigil Mass ahead of Easter

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Pope Francis led Holy Saturday Vigil Mass with no audience as the world geared up for a grim Easter amid the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. on Saturday surpassed 20,000 deaths nationwide from coronavirus, overtaking Italy as the country with the most deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

"Do not be afraid, do not yield to fear: This is the message of hope. It is addressed to us, today. These are the words that God repeats to us this very night," Francis said.

The vigil, which is normally attended by roughly 10,000 people in the packed St. Peter's Basilica, was attended by only about two dozen, including a few altar servers and a smaller-than-usual choir.

In the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth delivered her first-ever Easter message, saying "we need Easter as much as ever."

"We know that coronavirus will not overcome us," Queen Elizabeth said. "As dark as death can be, particularly for those suffering with grief, light and life are greater. May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future." 

In the epicenter of the U.S. crisis, New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said he saw signs the death rate is stabilizing, although he called it a "horrific rate." Cuomo said Saturday that 783 people died in New York on Friday due to COVID-19. On Thursday, 777 people lost their lives to the virus. The day before that, the state reported 799 deaths.

Read latest:

Detailed information from the CDC on coronavirus treatment and prevention.

 

BOP announces 335 inmates have tested positive

The federal Bureau of Prisons announced Saturday that 335 federal inmates and 185 BOP staff have tested positive for coronavirus. That's up from the 318 inmates and 163 staff announced Friday.

So far, 15 inmates and 12 staff have recovered, according to BOP.

By Jordan Freiman
 

Kansas Supreme Court reinstates ban on gatherings of more than 10 people

The Kansas Supreme Court on Saturday ruled in favor of Governor Laura Kelly, reinstating an executive order that bans gatherings of more than 10 people, including in churches, CBS News affiliate WIBW reports.

The decision was made several hours after the Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a lawsuit the governor filed against the Legislative Coordinating Council for blocking Executive Order 20-18, which instituted the ban. The case was argued and decided through videoconferencing technology due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The ruling will be in effect for Easter Sunday.

By Jordan Freiman
 

Zoos are closed. Here's how the National Zoo is keeping the animals happy and healthy

Inside look at how zoos care for animals during coronavirus pandemic

Zoos are closed, but unlike theaters and stadiums, they cannot go dark. Animals need constant care. And like us, they're threatened by coronavirus.  

Like zoos across the nation, the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington is closed, but behind the gate, the keepers and animals are as busy as, well, a beaver
 
A top priority here now is keeping the animals and the people safe from the coronavirus
 
Brandie Smith, the zoo's deputy director, said that when the tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive, they "immediately implemented protocols to keep all of our cats safe. So our tigers, our lions, our bobcats, our cheetahs — all of them."

Read more here.

 

Coronavirus experts use computer models to help hospitals prepare for the worst

Coronavirus experts use computer models to help hospitals prepare for the worst
By Jordan Freiman
 

Food banks across U.S. struggle to keep up with demand

Food banks across U.S. struggle to keep up with demand
 

Groups ask U.S. Supreme Court to block Texas' abortion ban

Texas' near-total abortion ban amid the coronavirus pandemic may soon be in front of the United States Supreme Court.

On Saturday afternoon, the coalition of abortion rights groups challenging the state's suspension of abortion services filed for an emergency stay, requesting that the Supreme Court block a federal appeals court's decision to uphold most of the ban. For nearly three weeks, the vast majority of abortion services have been unavailable in Texas, the first time a state has been without legal abortion access since 1973, when the procedure was legalized by Roe v. Wade.

The groups — Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project — are requesting that the nation's highest court reinstate a temporary restraining order granted on Thursday that allows medication abortion to resume, as well as surgical procedures for patients who would be outside the legal gestational limit by the time the ban is set to expire.

On Friday, a federal appeals court reversed part of that decision, demanding that medication abortions once again be halted.

Read more here.

By Kate Smith
 

"Coronavirus will not overcome us": Queen Elizabeth offers words of hope in first-ever Easter message

Easter weekend is usually filled with large gatherings at church, easter egg hunts and families coming together, but coronavirus has changed the traditional celebrations as people continue to isolate themselves indoors. Now, for the first time in her 68 years as Queen of the United Kingdom, Queen Elizabeth II has released an Easter message, sending words of hope throughout the world. 

"This year, Easter will be different for many of us, but by keeping apart, we keep others safe. But Easter isn't cancelled. Indeed, we need Easter as much as ever," the Queen said in her message. "We know that coronavirus will not overcome us. As dark as death can be, particularly for those suffering with grief, light and life are greater. May the living flame of the Easter hope be a steady guide as we face the future." 

The Royal Family tweeted out Queen Elizabeth's message Saturday, saying, "The Queen speaks of light overcoming darkness, and the hope that Easter symbolises."

Read more here

By Li Cohen
 

Coronavirus cases on USS Theodore Roosevelt spike to 550

The U.S. Navy on Saturday confirmed 103 new cases of the coronavirus onboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt, bringing the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier's positive cases to 550. The ship's outbreak has been in the spotlight since Captain Brett Crozier sent a memo pleading for help before being fired, leading to the acting Secretary of the Navy resigning in response. 

"As of today, 92% of the USS Theodore Roosevelt crewmembers have been tested for COVID-19, with 550 positive and 3,673 negative results,"  the Navy said in a press release Saturday. The Navy said that in response, 3,696 sailors have moved ashore, which includes 518 who were taken off the ship since Friday. 

In new COVID-19 guidance issued on Friday, the Navy said "individuals identified as having confirmed or probable COVID-19 will be placed under isolation and evacuated off the ship as soon as practical if developing more severe symptoms." The Navy added that "the majority of COVID-19 patients will have mild symptoms and can remain on ship and be monitored until meeting return to work criteria."

Read more here.

By Audrey McNamara
 

Burning Man canceled, organizers announce "Virtual Black Rock City"

The organizers of the annual Burning Man festival said they will not be building the Black Rock City in the Nevada desert in August. It's the first time in 34 years the event, scheduled this year for August 30-September 7, has been canceled, according to CBS San Francisco

"Given the painful reality of COVID-19, one of the greatest global challenges of our lifetimes, we believe this is the right thing to do," the organizers wrote in a blog post. "Yes, we are heartbroken. We know you are too. In 2020, we need human connection and immediacy more than ever. But public health and the well being of our participants, staff, and neighbors in Nevada are our highest priorities."

The organizers said they will be organizing a "Virtual Black Rock City." "We're not sure how it's going to come out; it will likely be messy and awkward with mistakes. It will also likely be engaging, connective, and fun," the organizers wrote. 

Tickets can be refunded, but the organizers asked "if you have the means, it is our sincerest hope that you will consider donating all or a portion of your ticket value" to the festival.

There will be layoffs and pay cuts among its current staff, the organizers said. 

By Caroline Linton
 

New Jersey governor announces 251 more deaths

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that 251 more people in the state have died from the coronavirus, bringing the total number of deaths in the state to 2,183.

"For every single one of them, we stand in solidarity and prayer in mourning their loss," Murphy said.

Murphy said there were 3,599 new confirmed cases since yesterday, bringing the number of cases to 58,151.
Murphy said state residents need to work together to defeat this "invisible enemy," and continue to practice social distancing.

"We will win this war. And remember that wars are not won overnight, or by a set date," Murphy said. He cautioned residents against ignoring social distancing guidelines as the curve flattens.

"We're not in the end zone, folks. We cannot spike any footballs," he said.

Murphy also said he was signing an executive order to direct NJ Transit and private carriers to cut the capacity on public transportation to 50%, to require public transit riders to wear a face covering when traveling, and require residents to wear face coverings if walking into a restaurant or bar for takeout orders.

By Grace Segers
 

Governors call on Congress to give states additional $500 billion

Maryland Governor Larry Hogan and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement Saturday that necessary public health strategies have resulted in "catastrophic damage to state economies." Hogan and Cuomo – National Governors Association chair and vice chair – said federal assistance has been insufficient and does not address state-level needs. 

The $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Security (CARES) Act financial relief package "contained zero funding to offset ... drastic state revenue shortfalls" brought on by "aggressive measures that are successfully flattening the curve of the spread of the virus," according to the governors. 

"To stabilize state budgets and to make sure states have the resources to battle the virus and provide the services the American people rely on, Congress must provide immediate fiscal assistance directly to all states," they said.

The NGA is calling on Congress to allocate an additional $500 billion "to meet the states' budgetary shortfalls." Additionally, the governors said the CARES Act needs to be amended so states have greater flexibility in allocating the funds.

By Audrey McNamara
 

New York governor contradicts NYC mayor on closing city's schools

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo contradicted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio's announcement made earlier Saturday that city public schools will be closed through the end of the year. Cuomo said that was "the mayor's opinion," and that the "decision will be coordinated" between New York City and other metropolitan area county leaders.

"It makes no sense for one locality to take an action that's uncoordinated with others," Cuomo said.

He added that de Blasio does not have the authority to close city schools unilaterally. "It is my legal authority in this situation," he said.

By Grace Segers
 

New York Governor Cuomo: Virus deaths are stabilizing at a "horrific rate"

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that 783 people died in New York on Friday due to COVID-19. On Thursday, 777 people died. The day before that, the state reported 799 deaths.

The number of deaths is somewhat stabilizing, he said, but stabilizing at a "horrific rate."

Cuomo reiterated that reopening the state economy was intrinsically tied to public health, and said he would not ease up on coronavirus restrictions until he was certain it would be safe to do so.

"In my opinion, you can't ask the people of this state and this country to choose between lives lost and dollars gained," Cuomo said. "No one is going to make that quid pro quo."

Cuomo said he would gather a team of the "best minds" to study economies around the world that have already reopened, and determine whether there could be a "second wave" of the virus if the restrictions are eased too soon.

"The worst thing that can happen is that we make a misstep and we let emotions get ahead of logic and fact," Cuomo said.  

Read more here. 

By Grace Segers
 

Pandemic forces Vatican to depart from Holy Week traditions

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing the Vatican to depart from Holy Week traditions. The Vatican says Pope Francis will celebrate tonight's Holy Saturday vigil alone, and he will not baptize new Catholics into the faith.
 
Since his inauguration, Pope Francis has been called the People's Pope. But in the age of coronavirus, he's the pope with no people, as the faithful take shelter from a disease that this week Francis called "a plague," Chris Livesay reports. 
 
For the first time since 1750, the pope walked the Stations of the Cross not at the Colosseum, but in St. Peter's Square. He also paid tribute to those who can't stay at home: doctors, volunteers, shop workers and priests.

Watch the full report: 

Pope Francis readies for solitary Easter weekend
 

U.N. chief to religious leaders: "Join forces to work for peace around the world"

The U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, called on religious leaders Saturday "to join forces to work for peace around the world" and focus on the "common battle" to defeat COVID-19.
 
"For Christians, it is the celebration of Easter. Jews are marking Passover. And soon, Muslims will begin the holy month of Ramadan," he said. 
 
The U.N. chief, who has been pressing for a global ceasefire and for funds to help nations hit hard hit by the virus, said this is a time of year when families usually come together with hugs and handshakes, but said, "this is a time like no other."
 
"We are all seeking to navigate a strange, surreal world. A world of silent streets. Shuttered storefronts. Empty places of worship. And a world of worry," he said.
 
Speaking of the vulnerable around the world, in war zones, in refugee camps and slums, Guterres said, "Together, we can and will defeat this virus – with cooperation, solidarity, and faith in our common humanity."

By Pamela Falk
 

New York City public schools will stay closed for rest of school year

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Saturday that all of the city's public schools will stay closed through the end of the school year. The closure was originally supposed to lift after spring break on April 20. 

De Blasio said at a press conference the decision to keep schools closed was difficult, but necessary. "The worst mistake we can make is to take our foot off the gas," he said. 

He said the city's department of education is working hard to deliver remote learning devices to every child who needs one by the end of April. The department is also expanding its parent help line, he said, with increased tech support hours and staffing.  

Schools are still set to reopen in September.

By Audrey McNamara
 

Crime drops around the world

In Chicago, one of America's most violent cities, drug arrests have plummeted 42% in the weeks since the city shut down, compared with the same period last year. Part of that decrease, some criminal lawyers say, is that drug dealers have no choice but to wait out the economic slump.

"The feedback I'm getting is that they aren't able to move, to sell anything anywhere," said Joseph Lopez, a criminal lawyer in Chicago who represents reputed drug dealers.

Overall, Chicago's crime declined 10% after the pandemic struck – a trend playing out globally as cities report stunning crime drops in the weeks since measures were put into place to slow the spread of the virus. Even among regions that have the highest levels of violence outside a war zone, fewer people are being killed and fewer robberies are taking place.

Still, law enforcement officials worry about a surge of unreported domestic violence, and what happens when restrictions lift - or go on too long.

-The Associated Press

 

India is extending nationwide lockdown, state minister says

India is expected to extend its nationwide lockdown that was set to lift on Tuesday, according to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. 

The lockdown went into effect on March 24. Kejriwal tweeted Saturday that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made the "correct decision to extend lockdown." 

"Today, India's position is better than many developed countries because we started lockdown early," he wrote. "If it is stopped now, all gains would be lost. To consolidate, it is (important) to extend it."

There are 7,600 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 249 deaths in India, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. However, the country — home to over a billion people — is believed to have many more cases.

It is unclear when the extended lockdown will end.  

By Audrey McNamara
 

Turkey imposes 48-hour lockdown

The Turkish government announced late Friday night that 31 cities around the country would go into a 48-hour curfew beginning at midnight - effectively banning most people from leaving their homes and allowing only pharmacies, bakeries and essential services like hospitals to stay open, CBS News' Holly Williams reports.

People rushed to supermarkets to stock up, and while it remained orderly in places, there were reports of panicked shoppers ignoring social distancing advice and of fights breaking out.

On Saturday morning the streets were eerily quiet, with security forces deployed to enforce the curfew.

Turkey imposes 48-hour coronavirus lockdown
 

Iran starts lifting restrictions after brief lockdown

Iran started reopening government offices Saturday after a brief nationwide lockdown to help contain the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East, which has killed more than 4,300 people in the country. Authorities had ordered most government agencies and all non-essential businesses to remain closed for a week after the Nowruz holiday ended on April 4.

For weeks, Iran had declined to impose the kind of wide-scale lockdowns adopted by other Middle Eastern countries, even as the number of confirmed cases and fatalities steadily climbed. The virus has also infected and killed a number of senior Iranian officials.

Authorities have defended their response, saying they have to consider the economic impact of any quarantine measures since the country is under severe U.S. sanctions. President Donald Trump imposed heavy sanctions, including on oil exports, after withdrawing the U.S. from Iran's 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.

The U.S. has offered humanitarian aid to help Iran combat the outbreak, but Iran's leaders have rejected it, instead demanding that the sanctions be lifted.

 -The Associated Press

 

Number of confirmed cases in U.S. tops 500,000

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States has topped 500,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 18,600 people have died of the virus in the country.

By Victoria Albert
 

Justice Department investigating veterans home where over two dozen residents died after testing positive

The Department of Justice announced Friday that it is investigating a veterans home in Massachusetts where over two dozen residents died after testing positive for coronavirus. The Civil Rights Division and the U.S. Attorney's Office will conduct a joint review into whether the residents have been deprived of their rights to medical care at the facility.

"It would be difficult to overstate our obligation to the health and well-being of elderly and disabled military veterans and, by extension, to their families. The federal Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act specifically protects the rights of those confined in state facilities like the Holyoke Soldiers' Home," U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling said in a statement.

According to CBS Boston, 32 veteran residents have died as of Thursday, 28 of whom tested positive for the coronavirus. In total, 69 residents have tested positive, as have 68 staff members.

Read more here.

By Clare Hymes
 

NYPD reports two additional coronavirus deaths

The NYPD announced Friday that two more employees have died of coronavirus. School Safety Agent Joseph Donofrio, assigned to the 113th Precinct School Safety Unit in Queens, and Detective Jack Polimeni, assigned to the Warrant Section, both died Friday of complications related to the virus.

The department also reported that nearly 20% of its uniformed members - 7,096 people - called in sick on Friday. More than 2,300 uniformed members and over 450 civilian employees have tested positive for the virus, the department said.

By Victoria Albert
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