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Florida issues stay-at-home order as cases grow

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America
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

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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Loss of smell, taste strong predictors for COVID-19, U.K. researchers find

The loss of smell and taste has been reported by as many as 59 percent of coronavirus patients in the United Kingdom, signaling it could be a strong predictor of the disease, according to research by King's College London. 

The findings shared with NBC News on Wednesday are based on data submitted between March 24 and 29 to a tracking app launched by the university to better understand COVID-19. Loss of smell and taste has been increasingly reported by patients worldwide, but are not yet considered key symptoms by the World Health Organization pending more evidence.

Other indicators of the virus include tiredness and fatigue that was reported by 53 percent of people, a persistent cough among nearly 29 percent of respondents, shortness of breath among 28 percent of respondents and fever among 10.5 percent of respondents.

Strong social distancing on display at Japan's Defense Ministry

Image: New employees of Japan's Defense Ministry sit on chairs spaced apart for social distancing as they watch a video message of Defense Minister Taro Kono during a ceremony in Tokyo on Wednesday.
New employees of Japan's Defense Ministry sit on chairs spaced apart for social distancing as they watch a video message of Defense Minister Taro Kono during a ceremony in Tokyo on Wednesday.Jiji Press / AFP - Getty Images

Saudi Arabia urges Muslim pilgrims to put off making plans for Hajj

Image: Muslim worshipers in March circled the sacred Kaaba in Mecca's Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site.
Muslim worshipers in March circled the sacred Kaaba in Mecca's Grand Mosque, Islam's holiest site.AFP - Getty Images

Saudi Arabia has told Muslim pilgrims around the world to hold off on making arrangements to attend the annual Hajj pilgrimage, set to take place in July, while the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread.

"Saudi Arabia cares for the health of all Muslims coming to the Kingdom therefore we have asked Islamic countries not to issue Hajj contracts yet until the situation becomes clear," the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah tweeted on Tuesday.

The annual pilgrimage to Mecca last year attracted about 2.5 million people from countries around the world.

Wuhan shoppers find new ways of buying food as COVID-19 restrictions ease

China releases data on coronavirus patients with no symptoms

China reported 130 new coronavirus cases who aren't showing symptoms but risk spreading the disease, as part of new data being released as of Wednesday on asymptomatic patients.

There are a total of 1,367 asymptomatic patients under clinical observation, which despite the new cases, is down by 174 people from the previous day, according to health officials. There were also 36 new confirmed cases of people infected with COVID-19, 35 of which had traveled abroad. 

The new data comes as China begins to lift lockdown measures at the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, where residents fear a resurgence of the disease.

Sweden defies lockdown trend, bets on citizens acting responsibly

Image: Stockholm residents out in the city on Saturday.
Stockholm residents out in the city on Saturday.Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP - Getty Images

Sweden has bucked with the government leaving it up to individuals to act responsibly and decide whether to stay home or not. Restrictions that are in place are far more liberal compared with those of the nation's neighbors.

Public gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited but there are no restrictions on private meetings, meaning parties and corporate events can still go ahead. Libraries and swimming pools remain open.

The authorities have instead advised the public to practice social distancing and to work from home, where possible, and urged those over the age of 70 to self-isolate as a precaution. In other words, the country has staked its bets on people acting responsibly.

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Coronavirus greatest test since creation of U.N., says Guterres

Image: U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in February at the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council's main annual session in Geneva.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in February at the opening of the U.N. Human Rights Council's main annual session in Geneva.Fabrice Coffrini / AFP - Getty Images file

The head of the United Nations António Guterres warned on Tuesday that the coronavirus pandemic is the "greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations.”

The U.N. Secretary-General called for "global solidarity," underscoring that developed countries must help less developed ones bear the social and economic impacts of COVID-19 or “face the nightmare of the disease spreading like wildfire in the global South." 

“Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world”, he said, launching a report on Tuesday. The U.N. was "fully mobilized" to support countries with issues from unemployment, debt alleviation to health systems, he added.

Russia sends plane loaded with medical supplies to the U.S.

A Russian military transport plane departed Moscow this morning for the U.S., loaded with medical supplies to assist in the fight against coronavirus.

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered the supplies in a phone call with President Donald Trump on Monday, the U.S. president said at a press conference later that day. On Wednesday Russia loaded up a large An-124 cargo plane — the Russian military’s largest — and dispatched it to the U.S.

The move is seen by some as a propaganda stunt amid reports of mask shortages in stores across Russia as new case numbers continue to grow and cities go into lockdown. As of Tuesday, Russian health officials had reported 2,337 cases and 17 deaths.

Italy's epidemic approaching 'plateau,' health official says

Italy's coronavirus outbreak is approaching a plateau, proving lockdown measures to stop the spread of the virus are working, the head of the country's National Institute of Health said on Tuesday.

“The plateau is the stage in which the contagion remains stable for a certain period," Silvio Brusaferro said in a press conference on Tuesday. "Today the contagion index is at 1. It means that every person infects another one. We have to wait for this index to go under 1 and to approach the zero level."

Brusaferro warned it doesn't mean that the nation, which has seen more than 12,000 deaths from the virus, can lower its guard, adding that it's "difficult to imagine a cancelation of the restrictive measures in the short term”.

CNN's Chris Cuomo completes show from basement after testing positive

A bleary-eyed Chris Cuomo, saying he wanted to be a cautionary tale for his audience, anchored his CNN show from his basement Tuesday after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Via remote link, he interviewed Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, an emergency room nurse and CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who expressed worry about one of Cuomo’s symptoms.

“Brace yourself,” Cuomo told viewers, “not for a hoax. But for the next few weeks of scary and painful realities. This is a fight. It’s going to get worse. We’re going to suffer.”

Cuomo looked pale, his eyes watery and red-rimmed. He took a few deep breaths to compose himself. He repeated himself. Even Gupta said he didn’t look good, and said he’d call later to talk about a tightness Cuomo was feeling in his chest.

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In Turkmenistan, people who talk about coronavirus face arrest

MOSCOW — An international media freedom watchdog says the autocratic ex-Soviet nation of Turkmenistan has banned the media from using the word “coronavirus.”

Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday the word also has been removed from health information brochures distributed in schools, hospitals and workplaces. The gas-rich Central Asian nation that neighbors Iran so far has reported no cases of the new coronavirus. Iran has reported more than 44,000 cases.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said people wearing face masks or talking about the coronavirus are liable to be arrested by plainclothes police. Ranked last in the group’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Turkmenistan is one of the world’s most closed countries.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has ruled the country since 2006 through an all-encompassing personality cult that styles him as Turkmenistan’s “arkadaq,” or protector.

Biden suggests there may not be physical Democratic convention

There may not be a physical Democratic national convention this year because of the coronavirus pandemic, former vice president and current Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden suggested Tuesday.

"It's hard to envision that," Biden told MSNBC's Brian Williams when asked whether he could see prominent Democrats from around the county gathering in an arena for the convention, which is scheduled for July.

Conventions, primaries and elections have been held during times of national crisis in the past, said Biden, who said officials should listen to the scientists when making decisions. 

"The fact is, it may have to be different," Biden said. "My guess is, there's going to be a great deal more absentee balloting, we used to call it, but paper ballots." He also said that the situation could change by then.

Biden has had a surge of primary victories, but his rival Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., is still in the race.  Sanders earlier this week told "Late Night" host Seth Myers that "there is a path" to the nomination, though "admittedly a narrow path."