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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Social Security recipients won't have to file tax return to get stimulus check

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration backtracked Wednesday evening on new rules for getting stimulus checks, saying Social Security recipients won't have to file a tax return to receive a payment.

The move is a response to pressure from elderly Americans and senators to rescind guidance issued Monday that said seniors needed to file a return to get the checks of up to $1,200, even if they weren't ordinarily required to file taxes.

"We want to ensure that our senior citizens, individuals with disabilities, and low-income Americans receive Economic Impact Payments quickly and without undue burden," said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. 

Read the full story here.

Feds charge man with intentionally derailing train near USNS Mercy

LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors charged a locomotive engineer who worked at the Port of Los Angeles with intentionally derailing a train at full speed near the Navy hospital ship Mercy because of suspicions over its activities surrounding COVID-19, according to a federal criminal complaint.

Eduardo Moreno, 44, of San Pedro, California, was charged with one count under a little-known train-wrecking statute that carries a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in the incident Tuesday, according to the 10-page criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.

Moreno, who was held overnight, was turned over to FBI agents Wednesday morning.

Read the full story. 

Domestic violence calls up 21 percent, Seattle police say

Over the last month, the Seattle Police Department has seen a 21 percent increase in reported domestic violence cases, the department said Wednesday, while also urging people who need help and resources to seek them. 

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced a "stay home, stay healthy" order on March 23 that requires residents to stay home as much as possible to slow the spread of the illness caused by the new coronavirus. 

Isolation from such orders can be devastating for domestic abuse survivors forced to shelter somewhere unsafe, experts have warned. 

"Life as we know it, has come to a halt, but #DomesticViolence has not," Harris County, Texas, Sheriff Ed Gonzalez tweeted Tuesday. He warned that there is no excuse for violence, which could escalate because of increased stress.

The NYPD has also warned that survivors of domestic violence may be experiencing increased isolation and danger while at home during the pandemic and assured people that the department is there to help. 

Trump admin orders suspension of personal protective gear shipments abroad

President Donald Trump at Wednesday's briefing denied that the U.S. Agency for International Development was ordered to suspend shipments of protective equipment, or PPE, abroad, saying it was “not true.”  But a USAID email obtained by NBC News makes clear that the administration has ordered a freeze on all shipments of personal protective gear overseas and that agency staff were told not to make public references to those shipments or post about them on social media.

The March 23 email titled, "Worldwide Pause on PPE Shipments and Outreach," from a senior USAID official sent out to communications officers and other staff members at the agency states: “There is a worldwide pause on PPE shipments. As such, we have been directed to hold on all communications (events, press releases, and social media) about PPE and USAID. Therefore, please do not post any further PPE photos on social media (either people in PPE or of our PPE shipments) given that many U.S. hospitals lack PPE.”

The hold on shipments comes amid desperate appeals from hospitals and state and local officials for protective equipment and accounts of shortages as the number of infections from the coronavirus continues to rise across the country.

The suspension described in last week's email still stands, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Tekashi 6ix9ine should be considered for early release because of coronavirus, judge says

The judge who sentenced the rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine to prison said Wednesday he would have ordered home confinement instead if he had known about the coronavirus in December.

U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer commented in a written order even as he rejected a lawyer's request that the 23-year-old performer, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, be confined at home for the remaining four months of his two-year prison term.  He cited Tekashi 6ix9ine's heightened vulnerability to the virus because he has asthma.

He said he didn't have legal authority to change the sentence, which prosecutors pointed out when they opposed the request.

Tekashi 6ix9ine's testimony against members of the Nine Trey Gangsta Bloods gang earned him leniency from charges that could have subjected him to a mandatory minimum 37 years in prison for crimes that included orchestrating a shooting in which an innocent bystander was wounded.

Read the full story here. 

George Washington University converts dorms to housing for healthcare workers fighting coronavirus

The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., is packing up student belongings this week to free up dorm buildings, which will be used as temporary housing units for medical professionals treating COVID-19 patients.

According to an email sent to students on Friday, students are not allowed to pack up their own belongings.  Dorms will re-open by May to GW Medical Faculty Associates and GW Hospital staff who are unable to return home to their families during the pandemic. 

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced new temporary federal rules on Monday that allow hospitals to transfer patients and staff to outside facilities, such as dormitories or hotels, while still receiving hospital payments under Medicare.

George Washington University students have also received housing reimbursement credit in their student accounts, with the alternative option of a direct refund.

White House reporters block conservative network from coronavirus press briefings

The White House Correspondents' Association said Tuesday it's removing a news organization, reportedly a conservative outlet friendly to President Donald Trump, from rotation in the daily coronavirus press conferences in the White House briefing room.

The association cooperatively organizes coverage and last month began limiting reporters as a result of social distancing guidelines. The association made its announcement on Twitter, saying its board voted to remove a news outlet — which it did not name — from the room after its reporter twice violated rotation protocol.

The Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that Chanel Rion, a correspondent for San Diego-based One America News Network, was the reporter asked to leave. She said she was a guest of White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, according to the publication.

Rion was known for asking questions framed in a way that defended the administration and attacked critics of Trump. In March she asked the president, criticized for calling #coronavirus the "Chinese virus," if he thought using the term "Chinese food" is "racist because it is food that originated from China?"

Ohio health care company donating 2.2 million medical gowns to national stockpile

With demand for protective equipment in huge demand because of the coronavirus pandemic, Cardinal Health is donating 2.2 million medical gowns to the U.S. national stockpile, Sen. Rob Portman announced Wednesday.

The gowns are now being sent to coronavirus hots pots around the country, Portman's office said.

The gowns were recalled by the company in January because they were supposed to be surgical grade, but were made in a non-compliant plant in China. “Approximately 2.2 million gowns remain in our inventory from the voluntary recall, which was announced because the sterility of the gowns could not be assured for use in a surgical setting," Cardinal Health said in a statement.

Portman, R-Ohio, worked with the Trump administration to get waivers allowing the gowns to be used as non-surgical isolation apparel to help protect health care workers on the frontline.  

These devices can monitor coronavirus symptoms at home — but do you need one?

For many people who develop symptoms of the coronavirus, it's better to stay home than seek health care in person. But when you have a disease with so many unknowns, not having a nurse or doctor to monitor your condition can be nerve-wracking.

"Watch What Happens Live" host Andy Cohen told TODAY anchors Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb the self-isolation and illness are enough to drive you "crazy." Cohen, 51, who has asthma, tested positive for COVID-19 almost two weeks ago.

Because of his underlying condition, he said his experience was "a little scary" before talking about a device his doctor recommended to help him track the severity of his symptoms. It's called a pulse oximeter.

Read the full story here.

More than 1,600 veterans test positive for coronavirus at VA, 53 deaths

Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie speaks in the Briefing Room of the White House in Washington on Nov. 8, 2019.Andrew Harnik / AP file

As of Wednesday evening, the Department of Veterans Affairs has administered nearly 17,000 coronavirus tests, with 1,602 positive results.

The VA health system has recorded 53 deaths, an increase of 12 over Tuesday.

The VA location with the highest number of veteran deaths to date is New Orleans, with 13. The location with the second-highest number is New York City, with 12.