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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U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson to stay in self-isolation

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson will continue self-isolating until further notice due to a continued fever, he said in a video update tweeted on Friday.

He said that although he has completed seven days in isolation after testing positive for coronavirus, “alas, I still have one of the symptoms,” he said.


Despite this, Johnson said that he and the rest of the government had still been working throughout the past week. Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on Thursday a plan to carry out 100,000 COVID-19 tests-per-day in England by the end of April. Health care experts and other politicians have slammed low numbers of testing.

He also mentioned that while there may be nice weather this weekend in the U.K., he urged people not to “hang out and start to break the regulations.” Britain is in the second week of a three-week lockdown.

Schumer, Wyden call for Labor Dept. to speed extra unemployment cash

In a call with reporters on Friday, Sens. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said the Department of Labor needed to do more to speed the delivery of the additional $600 that Congress added to augment individual states’ monthly maximum unemployment benefits, particularly after it became clear that the $1,200 stimulus checks could be delayed for some recipients by weeks.

Schumer said that the new unemployment numbers are “jaw-dropping” and that his constituents in New York are worried about being able to pay their housing costs and buy food. The additional $600 in federal benefits should ensure that the majority of laid-off U.S. workers receive benefits equivalent to their normal wages at least through July, he said. 

Wyden said, “We keep hearing reports of people who just don't see how they are going to be able to keep walking this economic tightrope,” adding that he was at his desk in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in order to press the Dept. of Labor today. “If we don't hear from the Labor Department by noon, I’m going to be calling them and we’re just gonna call, and call, and call, until we get this program up and running,” he said. 

The senator said it was possible there would be additional congressional stimulus measures because of “relentless” job loss numbers.

Sen. Gardner calls for investigation into ventilator stockpile

WASHINGTON — Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., announced Friday that he is calling for an investigation into reports that thousands of ventilators in the national stockpile are not operational, contributing to the low supply around the country as states scramble for supplies amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“Troubling reports indicate that potential contracting delays and maintenance failures are contributing to a low supply of operational ventilators during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) global pandemic at a time when our country desperately needs them,” Gardner said in a statement.  

Gardner called the reports “unacceptable” and said there needed to be an "immediate investigation" into whether there was a gap between contracts that led to a lapse in maintaining the ventilators, how long ventilators went without proper maintenance and whether there are regulatory changes that need to be made to prevent this from happening in the future.

Gardner, who is up for re-election this year, self-quarantined earlier this month after coming into contact with a constituent who later tested positive for the coronavirus.

How contagious is the coronavirus?

In just three months, more than 1 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported around the world, including close to a quarter-million in the U.S. alone. The virus has killed more than 50,000 people and defied many countries' efforts to stop its spread.

The grim statistics raise a question: Just how contagious is the coronavirus?

Read more.

Senators pushing bill to aid evacuated Peace Corps volunteers

A trio of senators are set to unveil legislation Friday aimed at ensuring that more than 7,000 recently evacuated Peace Corps volunteers get coronavirus-related unemployment benefits.

The bipartisan legislation would qualify the volunteers for the unemployment assistance provided in the coronavirus aid package that Congress passed last week and allow them to apply for additional health insurance coverage under the Peace Corps. It would also instruct the Peace Corps to connect volunteers with AmeriCorps and FEMA to help address the coronavirus crisis domestically, an issue that a group of lawmakers proposed in a recent letter to the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and FEMA. 

Sens. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., are backing the measure. “The burden the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on these public servants should not be overlooked during this economically challenging time," Collins said.

Murphy said the legislation was needed given the difficulties the evacuated volunteers are facing now that their service has been cut short. "The Peace Corps has always been about a belief that the American people are the best ambassadors to liaison with the rest of the world about our country’s values,” he added.

Mexico's Grupo Modelo to stop brewing Corona beer

Mexico’s Grupo Modelo said on Thursday it will temporarily stop brewing Corona beer and other brands exported to 180 countries after its business activities were declared non-essential under a government order aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus.

The Mexican government this week declared a health emergency and ordered the suspension of non-essential activities as the number of virus cases in the country surpassed 1,500.

The brewer said in a statement that the suspension will go into place from Sunday and that it was already in the process of scaling down production to a level at which it could resume once the suspension is lifted.

U.S. economy lost a total of 701,000 jobs in March

The U.S. economy lost a total of 701,000 jobs in March, bringing a record 10-year streak of employment gains to a screeching halt as the coronavirus pandemic continues to hammer the workforce and shatter economic growth.

The closely watched monthly jobs data, released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, also shows the unemployment rate soared to 4.4 percent from 3.5 percent, after months at a half-century low.

March's data represents the tip of the iceberg, however, since the survey was conducted in the first half of the month, prior to the pandemic's grip on the economy. 

Read the full story here.

Death toll in Spain nears 11,000

Spain’s death toll neared 11,000 on Friday, and more than half of the deaths occurred in the past seven days. Spain now has more infections than any other country in Europe with almost 118,000 cases and is second only to the United States in total cases.

Spanish Health Ministry data showed that 7,472 of those infections had been in the past 24 hours. The ministry reported 932 deaths on Friday, 18 less than its daily record of 950 the day before.

Nearby Italy, which has now been surpassed by Spain in number of cases, has about 115,000 reported cases as of Friday morning. The hard-hit country has started to see infections leveling off after weeks of nationwide shutdown.

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."