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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Army Corps chief says N.Y.'s Javits Center is safe as it prepares for COVID-19 patients

Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite, the commander of the Army Corps of Engineers, said Friday that his team of engineers will have to go into Manhattan's Javits Center to make changes now that COVID-19 patients are expected to go there for treatment.

The convention center had been converted into a 2,500-bed emergency facility to handle non-COVID-19 patients to provide relief to existing hospitals in New York City. On Thursday, however, at the request of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, President Donald Trump approved the use of the facility for coronavirus patients as well. 

“There's probably got to be some modifications made,” Semonite said on NBC’s “TODAY” show. “I've asked my engineers to go in and re-look the pressure settings in the building. Javits is actually sectionable, there's a bunch of great big areas that we can actually change the pressure in some.”

Semonite said, “I don't see a safety problem right now in Javits.”

The lieutenant general also explained how the Army Corps of Engineers has been able to develop a standard design, authorized by the federal government, to build emergency hospitals. Those designs can then be shared with states and local areas to convert hotels and college dorms into emergency facilities.

'Hello in there': John Prine still 'very ill' in ICU

John Prine performs at John Anson Ford Amphitheatre on Oct. 1, 2019 in Hollywood, Calif.Rich Fury / Getty Images file

Singer-songwriter John Prine remains 'very ill' in intensive care with pneumonia in both lungs, his wife said in an update on the influential musician's condition.

"This is John’s 8th day in ICU," Fiona Whelan Prine wrote on Twitter on Thursday night. "He is receiving excellent medical care and being treated with kindness and compassion by the entire team looking after him day and night. I cannot be with him which makes this nightmare all the more distressing."

The family of the songwriter of "Angel from Montgomery" and "Sam Stone" revealed Sunday that he had been hospitalized since March 26 with COVID-19.

Fiona Prine said Thursday that he was put on a ventilator Saturday and has pneumonia in both lungs. "He is very ill and yet I remain hopeful that he can continue to fight this devastating virus and come home where we can care for him."

Britain's Prince Charles opens London's new coronavirus hospital

Britain's Prince Charles, who recently recovered from COVID-19, opened London's newest hospital on Friday, created in just nine days, to help the capital cope with the coronavirus outbreak. 

"It's a spectacular and almost unbelievable feat of work," said the prince, who joined by video link from his home in Scotland. "An example, if ever one was needed, of how the impossible can be made possible." 

The NHS Nightingale Hospital will provide 500 beds equipped with ventilators and oxygen at an east London conference center, with the potential to increase to 4,000 beds. Similar field hospitals will open in other U.K. cities including Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol, according to NHS England.

Switzerland's Matterhorn mountain illuminated with message of hope

Switzerland's iconic Matterhorn mountain in the alpine resort of Zermatt has been illuminated by Swiss light artist Gerry Hofstetter to send a message of hope and solidarity during the global coronavirus outbreak.Valentin Flauraud / AP

See more photos of how people around the world are coping with the coronavirus outbreak in our Week in Pictures slideshow.

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.