Florida issues stay-at-home order as cases grow

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A person stands in line to be tested for the coronavirus at Elmhurst Hospital in New York on April 1, 2020.Stephanie Keith / Getty Images

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After weeks of resistance, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order Wednesday to stem the spread of coronavirus, reversing a previous position that left closures up to local officials.

The state has reported nearly 7,000 confirmed cases and 86 deaths.

In Connecticut, a 6-week-old baby who died at a Hartford hospital is thought to be one of the youngest deaths linked to coronavirus. Gov. Ned Lamont said the newborn was brought to the facility last week and couldn’t be revived.

And in Guam, 93 sailors aboard the USS Teddy Roosevelt have tested positive for COVID-19. Nearly a quarter of the more than 4,000 crew members on the ship have been tested, and nearly half of those results have been reported. The vast majority are negative.

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'South Dakota is not New York City': Governor defends lack of shutdown measures

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem on Wednesday defended not implementing tougher shutdown precautions in her state, saying "South Dakota is not New York City."

Noem said the rural nature of the state - which has 129 cases of coronavirus and two deaths as of Wednesday - means residents don't have to follow a "herd mentality."

"Don't get focused on national news. Focus on what you see in your communities," the first-term Republican said, adding the social distancing practices already in place mean “we have been able to bend the curve a great deal” and “we’ve been able to slow down the spread significantly.”

Noem has encouraged, but not ordered, residents to follow the CDC's coronavirus guidelines and cautioned the state likely won't hit its peak infection rate until August. "We are slowing it down," she said. 

Joe Exotic from Netflix's 'Tiger King' is in coronavirus quarantine, his husband says

Joseph Maldonado answers a question during an interview at the zoo he runs in Wynnewood, Okla. on Aug. 28, 2013.Sue Ogrocki / AP file

Joseph Maldonado-Passage — better known as Joe Exotic, the subject of Netflix’s wildly popular “Tiger King” docu-series — is in self-isolation on a coronavirus quarantine, his husband said in an interview Wednesday.

Speaking to Andy Cohen on SiriusXM, Dillon Passage said Maldonado-Passage, who is serving 22 years in prison in a murder-for-hire scheme, was placed in isolation because inmates at a jail where he’d been held tested positive for the virus.

Read the full story here. 

Mississippi and Georgia issue shelter-in-place orders

The governors of both Mississippi and Georgia announced new shelter-in-place orders for their states as the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. nears 4,000. 

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said Wednesday that he plans to sign an order requiring residents to shelter-in-place from Friday through April 13 and another closing public grade schools for the rest of the academic year. Kemp is expected to sign both orders Thursday, according to NBC affiliate WXIA.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves issued a similar order that will go into effect beginning Friday evening. Reeves said Wednesday that he understands many fear what this will mean for their livelihoods, but the short term goal is to reduce the impact on the healthcare system and prevent the virus' spread.

"We are here for you and working hard to help," Reeves said. "Mississippi will not allow you to fall without a hand to help you back up.”

Netanyahu tells Israelis to limit Passover celebrations, wear masks in public

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the Health Ministry on March 1.Amir Cohen / Reuters file

All Israelis should wear face masks while in public as a precaution against the coronavirus, and upcoming Jewish, Muslim and Christian holidays should be marked only with immediate family, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Wednesday.

In televised remarks, Netanyahu also announced curbs on movement around an ultra-Orthodox Jewish town that has experienced a disproportionately large outbreak.

"We ask you, citizens of Israel, all of you, to wear masks in the public sphere,” Netanyahu said.

Netanyahu said the government would give Israeli families 500 shekels per child, up to a maximum of four children. The elderly would also receive 500 shekels, Netanyahu said, terming all the payments a "Passover gift."

Those stipends would cost the state a total of 1.5 billion shekels, public broadcaster Kan estimated.

Netanyahu also said Israel's majority Jews must mark Passover "with the nuclear family only," adding that including elderly relatives in celebrations "would be to endanger them".

Warren calls on UberEats, Instacart and others to reclassify workers as employees

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on Wednesday called on the CEOs of major online food delivery services to reclassify its workers as employees rather than independent contractors to expand access to benefits amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Warren sent letters DoorDash, Grubhub, Uber Eats and Instacart stating that by "continuing to misclassify these workers as independent contractors, the food delivery companies exclude their workers from critical labor rights and protections." 

"Delivery workers are experiencing serious health and economic vulnerabilities as a result of their jobs, and your company is failing to provide appropriate and necessary protections," Warren wrote. "I urge you to reclassify your delivery workers as employees, rather than independent contractors, and ensure they are provided a full suite of employee protections and benefits." 

Warren said each company should guarantee at least 14 days of paid leave time, provide protective equipment at no cost to all delivery workers, pay delivery workers a guaranteed minimum wage including additional hazard pay for working during the outbreak and share driver wage data with states so workers can access unemployment benefits. 

Dow closes with decline of 950 points as coronavirus continues to shake markets

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down by around 950 points on Wednesday, as markets continued to reel from President Donald Trump's stark warning that the U.S. could be facing "hell."

All three major averages saw sell-offs on the first trading day of the second quarter, with the S&P and Nasdaq lower by around 4.4 percent. Wednesday’s performance comes on the heels of one of the worst quarters in stock market history.

Attention now turns to Thursday's jobless claims, which last week showed a staggering 3.28 million Americans had filed for unemployment.

Read the full story here. 

13 deaths at Massachusetts veterans home under investigation

The Holyoke Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, Mass., in 2018.Patrick Johnson / The Republican via AP file

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker announced Wednesday he hired an attorney to investigate the deaths of 13 residents at a veterans home hit by coronavirus.

"The investigation will focus both on the events inside the facility that led to the tragic deaths of veterans in the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home, and on management and organizational oversight of the COVID-19 response in the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home," Baker said in a statement. 

Six of the residents who died at the facility tested positive for the coronavirus, according to state health officials.

Test results for five other residents who have died at the soldiers' home in Holyoke, about 90 miles west of Boston, are pending, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said Tuesday. Morse said every employee and resident of the facility will be tested for the virus.

The superintendent of the facility has been placed on administrative leave, Morse said. 

U.S. Navy: 93 sailors positive for COVID-19 on aircraft carrier; 2,700 will disembark ship

Ninety-three sailors have tested positive for COVID-19 on the USS Teddy Roosevelt, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, senior Navy officials announced Wednesday. Eighty-six of the 93 sailors have symptoms.

The ship’s leadership is testing all of the more than 4,000 sailors on board. So far they have tested 24 percent of the crew (over 1,200 people) and received just under half the results, the vast majority of them negative. No sailors have required hospitalization.

More than 1,000 sailors have departed the ship and are in isolation in Guam. The Navy expects to have 2,700 off the ship in the next few days likely by Friday, most going to hotels in Guam. Officials said they need to keep some sailors on the aircraft carrier to maintain it, especially the nuclear reactor and the weapons systems.

The USS Teddy Roosevelt remains the only navy ship at sea with a coronavirus outbreak.

N.J. may need refrigerated trucks due to rising death toll

The governor of New Jersey said Wednesday they may need refrigerated trucks to store bodies after 91 people died in the last 24 hours from the coronavirus, the biggest one-day jump since the crisis began.

“The fact that we’re having this conversation folks, this is real,” Gov. Phil Murphy said.

As of Wednesday, the death toll in the Garden State was 355 with a total of 22,255 cases reported. Murphy said they were worried about running out of morgue space if this death toll continues to rise at this rate.

FEMA announced on Tuesday is was sending refrigerated truck to neighboring New York State.

Nursing homes overwhelmed by coronavirus

Nursing homes are struggling with a lack of personal protective equipment as they care for vulnerable residents.Chelsea Stahl / NBC News; AP; Reuters

At five nursing homes in the New York area run by ArchCare, staff are running out of protective gear, stretching single-use masks for days and wearing rain ponchos and beautician gowns. 

More than 200 of ArchCare’s 1,700 nursing home residents are infected with the coronavirus, and more than 20 have died, said  Scott LaRue, president and CEO of the company. At least 10 staff members are also infected, with one in the hospital on a ventilator.

The risks are so serious that LaRue is advising family members to pull residents out if feasible. “If you have the ability to take your loved one home, and that’s possible, I would encourage you to do so,” he said. “There will be better isolation and better limited contact in a home than there would be in a nursing home.”

Read the full story here. 

Central Park tent hospital admits first COVID-19 patient

field hospital built in Central Park for people with coronavirus admitted its first COVID-19 patient on Wednesday as the death tolls in New York City continue to climb.

The 14-tent, 68-bed hospital in Central Park, near Mount Sinai Hospital, is staffed by 60 to 70 medical professionals from Samaritan's Purse, a nondenominational evangelical Christian humanitarian organization. It will include a makeshift intensive care unit with 10 beds, each with its own ventilator, and is one of at least three temporary medical facilities planned for New York City landmarks amid the pandemic.

Samaritan's Purse was praised for building an overflow hospital for Mount Sinai’s overcrowded Manhattan facilities in just a few days, but has drawn concerns because it is run by an antigay evangelist, Franklin Graham, son of the Rev. Billy Graham.

In New York City, 47,439 people have tested positive for COVID-19 as of Wednesday, and the state has reported 1,941 deaths.

A temporary hospital in Central Park's East Meadow on March 31, 2020 in New York.Noam Galai / Getty Images