CDC recommends masks, U.S. deaths rise by more than 1,000 in one day

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
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A person wearing protective masks due to coronavirus concerns walks in Philadelphia, on April 2, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday recommended that people wear "cloth face coverings," in places where it is hard to maintain social distancing — like grocery stores. Officials say surgical masks or respirators should be reserved for health care workers.

President Donald Trump announced the recommendations but said he is choosing not to wear one.

The U.S. recorded more than 1,000 deaths between Thursday and Friday, according to NBC News' tally. As of Friday night, more than 7,000 U.S. deaths have been linked to the disease. Globally, the death toll is more than 59,100, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. economy lost 701,000 jobs in March, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The unemployment rate soared to 4.4 percent from 3.5 percent.

Support on Capitol Hill among both Republicans and Democrats for an independent 9/11-style commission to investigate the country’s response to the outbreak appeared to be growing.

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Britain has 'huge amount of work to do' to up testing, health secretary says

Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock — who has just himself returned from self-isolation after contracting coronavirus — admitted that the government still has "a huge amount of work to do" to meet its target of 100,000 coronavirus tests a day in England, he said in an interview with the BBC.

Hancock said on Thursday he plans to carry out 100,000 Covid-19 tests-per-day in England by the end of April, after critics slammed low numbers of testing. He called on both universities and private organizations to "bring their testing capabilities to bear on this," in an interview with Sky News on Friday. There are currently about 10,000 tests carried out each day.

Britain has recorded almost 3,000 deaths from the virus as of Friday, with more than 34,000 cases confirmed. 

Houston hasn't reported a surge of coronavirus cases. But its hospitals tell a different story.

Two weeks ago, Houston Methodist Hospital opened a special unit to treat critically ill coronavirus patients. The city had reported only a handful of confirmed cases at that point, but the hospital’s 24-bed coronavirus ICU filled up in only about a week, far faster than doctors anticipated.

Alexandra Carnahan, 26, one of the nurses assigned to the unit, was surprised by the number of patients who were in their 30s or 40s, with no prior health problems. Now they were intubated and in critical condition, suffering from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

So far, Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city, has not recorded a swell of confirmed coronavirus cases similar to those straining health care systems in New York and Detroit, giving some residents hope that stay-at-home orders issued by local officials came early enough to stop the virus from spreading too widely here. But interviews with Houston ICU doctors and nurses — as well as the daily rise in the number of critically ill patients now showing up in their hospitals — paint a more sobering picture of what’s happening in southeast Texas.

Read the full story here.

Trump's Navy chief 'shot the messenger,' Biden says

Joe Biden slammed the decision by the Navy Thursday to relieve the captain on the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he alerted military leaders that there was a COVID-19 outbreak on the ship. 

“Donald Trump's Acting Navy Secretary shot the messenger — a commanding officer who was faithful to both his national security mission and his duty to care for his sailors, and who rightly focused attention on a broader concern about how to maintain military readiness during this pandemic,” Biden, the leading 2020 Democratic presidential contender, said in a statement. 

The commanding officer, Capt. Brett Crozier, sent a letter to Navy leadership last week in which he shared his concerns about what was unfolding on his ship. The letter, however, was leaked to the media and then Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said Thursday that Crozier was relieved from his role aboard the ship.

Biden said, “The Navy sent a chilling message to the rest of the fleet about speaking truth to power. The poor judgment here belongs to the Trump Administration, not a courageous officer trying to protect his sailors.”

German leader Angela Merkel resumes work in office after quarantine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel giving a statement on March 22.Michel Kappeler / Reuters file

German Chancellor Angela Merkel resumed work in her office on Friday after completing a self-imposed home quarantine, a government spokesman said.

She had been working from home after receiving a vaccination on March 20 from a doctor who was later found to have coronavirus. She has tested negative for the coronavirus multiple times.

Germany has more than 80,000 confirmed cases as of Friday, although they have reported fewer deaths —around 1,000 — than countries with similar cases numbers.

European countries develop new ways to tackle domestic violence during lockdowns

Fears that those affected by domestic violence may be unable to seek help because they are locked in with their abusers during the coronavirus pandemic have prompted governments in several European countries to come up with new ways to help them.

The French government has encouraged victims to discreetly seek help at pharmacies, while the Italian government has launched a new app that will enable them to ask for help without making a phone call.

France, which has been on lockdown since March 17, has already seen a spike in domestic violence. Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said last week there was a 32 percent increase in police interventions nationally, and a 36 percent increase in Paris, the capital city.

Read the full story here.

American in Wuhan warns U.S. over lockdowns

An American who spent more than two months locked down in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus epidemic first emerged, is urging people back home to prepare for a lengthy interruption to their lives.

“Don't go into this thinking it's going to be over in a few weeks,” Benjamin Wilson told NBC News from his apartment in Wuhan where he and his family spent eight weeks in confinement.

After initially experiencing problems getting evacuated back to the U.S., Wilson, 38, chose to stay in the city where he has lived for more than 16 years, with his Chinese wife, Li Qin, and seven-year-old daughter Jasmin as it went into lockdown in late January.

Read the full story here.

Oprah Winfrey to donate $10 million to coronavirus relief in U.S.

Entertainment icon Oprah Winfrey has pledged to donate $10 million to coronavirus relief efforts in the U.S., she announced on Thursday.

Winfrey did not specify where the bulk of her donation would go but confirmed on her social media accounts that $1 million would be donated to America's Food Fund, to help feed local communities and combat food insecurity during the crisis. 

"I know there are many of us looking for ways to help," she wrote on Instagram. "I am donating $10 million overall to help Americans during this pandemic in cities across the country and in areas where I grew up." 

Crowded in refugee camps, Rohingya in Bangladesh vulnerable to virus

Rohingya refugees stand at the Kutupalong refugee camp in Bangladesh on Wednesday.Suzauddin Rubel / AP

Aid workers are bracing for a possible outbreak of the coronavirus in one of the world's largest refugee camps in Bangladesh, with officials warning that containing the disease among more than 1 million tightly packed Rohingya will be a daunting task.

With about 103,600 people per square mile living in plastic shacks side by side — which is more than 40 times the average density of Bangladesh — the refugees are dangerously exposed to the virus. Each shack is barely 100 square feet and many are overcrowded with up to 12 people.

There have been no reported cases of infection in the camps yet, but officials remain concerned. Rohingya people fled Myanmar after a military-led crackdown in 2017, and were forced into squalid camps across the border in Bangladesh — a country that is currently under a lockdown until April 11.

Singapore tightens restrictions and closes workplaces, schools

Singapore will close schools and most workplaces for a month starting on Monday, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced on Friday, as part of stricter measures to stop the virus outbreak.

Essential services and key economic sectors will remain open on the island nation.

Singapore’s coronavirus infections — both imported and domestic — have risen sharply in recent weeks and topped 1,000 this week, according to the Singapore Ministry of Health. It reported its fifth death on Friday.