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Global death toll tops 30,000 as CDC issues travel advisory for 3 states

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: A health public information officer looks at beds at a temporary hospital set up by the California National Guard in Indio on March 29, 2020.
A health public information officer looks at beds at a temporary hospital set up by the California National Guard in Indio on Sunday.Apu Gomes / AFP - Getty Images

The global death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 30,000, according to John Hopkins University, as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, where the coronavirus outbreak has hit the U.S. hardest.

Elsewhere, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote residents urging them to stay home during the country's weeks-long lockdown. Johnson, who recently tested positive for coronavirus, said "things will get worse before they get better." The U.K. has surpassed 1,000 known deaths.

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Songwriter of 'I Love Rock 'n' Roll' dies of COVID-19

Alan Merrill — who wrote the song “I Love Rock 'n' Roll" that became a signature hit for fellow rocker Joan Jett — died Sunday in New York of complications from the coronavirus, his daughter said. He was 69.

Laura Merrill said on her Facebook account that he died in the morning.

“I was given 2 minutes to say my goodbyes before I was rushed out. He seemed peaceful and as I left there was still a glimmer of hope that he wouldn’t be a ticker on the right hand side of the CNN/Fox news screen," she wrote. “I walked 50 blocks home still with hope in my heart. The city that I knew was empty. I felt I was the only person here and perhaps in many ways I was. By the time I got in the doors to my apartment I received the news that he was gone."

Merrill said her father was in good spirits recently. She went to a show of his about two weeks ago and had taken a photograph of him for his new album, Merrill said.

Drugs donated to feds as possible COVID-19 treatment

The federal government said Sunday that it accepted millions of doses of a drug that scientists are studying as a possible treatment for COVID-19.

The Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement that Sandoz, a subsidiary of Novartis, donated 30 million doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate, and Bayer Pharmaceuticals donated 1 million doses of chloroquine phosphate.

The oral prescription drugs are used to treat malaria, but there’s anecdotal evidence they may help patients suffering from COVID-19.

The donations were announced one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned people against using a non-pharmaceutical version of the drugs. Last week, an Arizona man died and his wife became critically ill after they consumed it in a parasite treatment for fish.  

Two large health insurers waive coronavirus treatment costs

Health insurers Cigna and Humana are now waiving patient cost-sharing on all treatment for coronavirus, including hospitalizations and ambulance transfers, for their insured members and employer plans.

“Our customers with COVID-19 should focus on fighting this virus and preventing its spread,” said David Cordani, Cigna president and CEO, in a statement, adding “while our customers focus on regaining their health, we have their backs.”

The insurers said the waiver applies to all medical costs related to the treatment of coronavirus, including FDA-approved medications and vaccines when they become available. They will apply to their privately insured individual and groups plans, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid members.

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Photo: New beginnings in Hong Kong

Newlyweds pose for a photo with family and guests and a wedding ceremony in Hong Kong on Sunday.Anthony Kwan / Getty Images

Trump extends social distancing guidelines to April 30

President Donald Trump on Sunday announced he's extending his administration's guidelines on social distancing amid the COVID-19 outbreak until April 30.

Trump said last week he wanted to see much of the country return to normal by Easter, April 12, despite warnings from top health experts that easing the guidelines too soon could cause widespread deaths and economic damage.

Trump said Friday he would be consulting with his administration's top medical experts on whether to extend or change the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on slowing the spread of the virus.

But on Sunday, Trump said Easter was “just an aspiration” and he expects “great things to be happening” by June 1.

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Singer-songwriter John Prine in critical condition

John Prine at the Americana Honors & Awards show last year.Wade Payne / AP

Singer-songwriter John Prine is in critical condition after apparently contracting coronavirus, his family said Sunday.

In a statement, Prine’s family said the legendary country and folk singer was hospitalized Thursday night after suddenly developing COVID-19 symptoms. Prine, 73, was intubated on Saturday.

“This is hard news for us to share,” his family said. “But so many of you have loved and supported John over the years, we wanted to let you know and give you the chance to send on more of that love and support now. And know that we love you, and John loves you.”

The one-time postal worker wrote songs like “Angel from Montgomery” and “Hello in There.” Doctors removed a cancerous lump from Prine’s throat in 1998. He also underwent treatment for lung cancer but continued to write, record and perform.

Dr. Anthony Fauci reaching out on YouTube

Dr. Anthony Fauci at a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House last week.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

Epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci is a regular feature of President Donald Trump’s daily news conferences on the government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

But Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an advisor to every president since Ronald Reagan, is reaching out to a new audience — the social media generation.

After appearing on Instagram with NBA player Steph Curry this week and being interviewed last week by Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook, Fauci has been on a virtual tour of four popular YouTube channels.

"If Fauci is determined to get out best possible information, YouTube lends itself to being the best platform," said David Craig, a communications professor at the University of Southern California, and co-author of the book "Social Media Entertainment."

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Churches use drive-in theaters to host services

Churches are repurposing drive-in movie theaters and renting outdoor screens as the COVID-19 outbreak prompts stay-at-home orders across the country.

In the small Alabama town of Gu-Win, Blue Moon Drive-In is hosting Faith Fellowship Church from nearby Winfield. Birdsong Drive-In, in Camden, Tennessee, will do the same for a local church on Easter Sunday.

And in a Houston suburb, Kingsland Baptist Church is turning its sprawling campus into an outdoor theater with large rented screens and radio transmitters so people can attend services from inside their cars.

“They are looking for somebody to tell them it’s OK, and nobody can really say that yet,” said Todd Pendergrass, the church’s executive pastor. “But we can express that the person we trust in Christ is unchanging.”

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Every segment of U.S. child welfare system affected

NEW YORK — Child welfare agencies across the U.S., often beleaguered in the best of times, are scrambling to confront new challenges that the coronavirus is posing for caseworkers, kids and parents.

For caseworkers, the potential toll is physical and emotional. Child welfare workers in several states, including Michigan, Massachusetts, New York and Washington, have tested positive for COVID-19.

Many agencies, seeking to limit the virus’s spread, have cut back on in-person inspections at homes of children considered at risk of abuse and neglect. Parents of children already in foster care are missing out on weekly visits. Slowdowns at family courts are burdening some of those parents with agonizing delays in getting back their children.

“There are real sad consequences for folks who've been making progress toward reunifying,” said Boston social worker Adriana Zwick, who represents unionized caseworkers with Massachusetts’ Department of Children and Families.