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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.
Image: Face mask reflection
A person wearing protective masks due to coronavirus concerns walks in Philadelphia, on April 2, 2020.Matt Rourke / AP

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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Photo: Mt. Sinai medical workers protest equipment shortage

A Mt. Sinai medical worker holds a photo of a colleague who died from the coronavirus in New York City on Friday.Stephanie Keith / Getty Images

Mosques stay open in Pakistan even as virus cases rise

Mosques were allowed to remain open in Pakistan on Friday — the important Muslim sabbath when adherents gather for weekly prayers — even as the pandemic spread and much of the country had shut down.

Some provinces, however, have issued their own lockdown orders to prevent Muslims from gathering for Friday prayers. In southern Sindh province, a complete lockdown is being enforced from noon until 3 p.m. — the time when the faithful gather for prayers. Anyone found on the streets will be arrested, according to the provincial local government minister in a statement. Authorities in Pakistan have struggled lately to persuade conservative religious groups to maintain social distancing.

Still, mosques remain open in the rest Pakistan, even as they have been shut down across much of the Middle East and elsewhere.

Pakistan has reported nearly 2,500 people infected with the virus, the highest in South Asia.

Fauci: 'I don't understand' why all states are not under stay-at-home orders

Dr. Anthony Fauci suggested Thursday night that all Americans should be under a stay-at-home order to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, and that all states should be operating under the same guidelines.

“I don't understand why that's not happening,” Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in an interview on CNN.

There has been no federally mandated order for everyone to follow the same guidelines, and Fauci appeared to stop short of endorsing one by the Trump administration.

Read the full story here.

Trump admin advises nursing homes to set up separate COVID-19 facilities

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is recommending that nursing homes work with state and federal governments to designate separate facilities or units for COVID-19 only patients.

"To avoid transmission within nursing homes, facilities should use separate staffing teams for residents to the best of their ability," the agency wrote in a Friday press release announcing the new recommendations. The administration is also recommending nursing homes ensure all staff use appropriate personal protective equipment when interacting with patients and residents.

"Our members are doing their utmost to provide care for older adults in this unprecedented, challenging situation," said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO of LeadingAge, the association of nonprofit providers of aging services. She cautioned that the new recommendations are not feasible without assistance from the federal and state governments to secure resources. "Our providers do not have sufficient supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other resources to adequately protect staff and to ensure the well-being of residents,” she said.

Engel calls on White House to cut exports of coronavirus PPE

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., on Friday called on the White House to restrict the export of personal protective equipment, citing the shortage of that vital gear amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In a letter to Vice President Mike Pence, who heads the administration’s coronavirus task force, Engel said that the administration should use the Export Control Reform Act and the International Emergency Economic Powers Act to take action.

“There is mounting evidence that the critical shortages of surgical masks and other personal protective equipment are being exacerbated by the unregulated export of such medical supplies from the United States,” Engel wrote. “Despite this alarming development, the White House Task Force on the Coronavirus has taken no steps to order the national regulation of personal protective equipment.”

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.