Boris Johnson in intensive care, U.S. death toll tops 10,000

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: UNLV Medicine Nearing Point Of Running Out Of Coronavirus Testing Kits
From left, certified medical assistants Lakietha Flourney, Yatziri Perez and Evelyn Laolagi conduct tests for COVID-19 at a drive-up testing station in the parking lot of UNLV Medicine in Las Vegas, Nevada on April 6, 2020.Ethan Miller / Getty Images

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The number of deaths in the U.S. topped 10,700 by Monday night, according to NBC News' tally.

The rising toll comes as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said Sunday that the U.S. is "struggling" to get the coronavirus outbreak under control. The number of confirmed cases in the U.S. has passed 337,000. Globally, the number of deaths has topped 70,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson was taken into an intensive care unit for coronavirus, his office announced Monday. He had tested positive in March and was hospitalized Sunday for exhibiting symptoms for more than 10 days.

Meanwhile, an internal government watchdog report released Monday said that hospitals across the country face dire shortages of vital medical equipment — including testing kits and thermometers.

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Claim that bodies would end up in NYC parks gets swift pushback from officials

Mark D. Levine, the chair of the New York City Council health committee, received swift pushback on Monday when he said that city parks would likely "soon" be used as temporary burial sites for the dead when cemeteries got overwhelmed with bodies. 

Levine wrote on Twitter that trenches in parks "will be dug for 10 caskets in a line."

"It will be done in a dignified, orderly — and temporary — manner. But it will be tough for NYers to take," he further detailed. "The goal is to avoid scenes like those in Italy, where the military was forced to collect bodies from churches and even off the streets."

The Office of the Chief Medical Examiner quickly clarified that sending bodies to parks is a scenario in a prepared disaster plan, but not currently being considered as the city grapples with a massive wave of coronavirus cases. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo answered a question about the supposed plan by telling reporters during his Monday news conference that he had heard nothing about it, though he said he had "heard a lot of wild rumors."

Spokespeople for Mayor Bill de Blasio's office said the city was nowhere near the point where burials in parks would occur. De Blasio said earlier in the day that the place that would be relied on for mass burials would be Hart Island in the Bronx.

The city has the ability to accommodate 19,000 dead people at Hart Island. That capacity would have to be exceeded before parks would be considered for caskets. 

This plan was finalized in 2008 and is part of the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner's plan for pandemic influenza outbreaks. Currently, New York City's daily death rate is far below the “maximum scenario” the plan was designed to handle. 

The plan assumes no federal assistance when it comes to handling the dead, predicting that a pandemic "is likely to affect the entire country and limited federal assets may be allocated to other areas.” 

Levine later clarified that using parks for burials "is a contingency NYC is preparing for BUT if the death rate drops enough it will not be necessary." 

NYC mayor says surgical gowns urgently needed, thanks feds for masks

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has his temperature taken before he tours local companies that have teamed up to make thousands of protective hospital gowns at their Brooklyn Navy Yard facilities on April 6, 2020.Bryan R. Smith / AFP via Getty Images

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday the city "urgently" needed to find more surgical gowns. 

New York City hospitals and nursing homes used 1.8 million gowns last week, and are expected to use 2.5 million this week as coronavirus cases continue to rise.

Crye Precision, a combat apparel company, and Lafayette 148, a fashion company, will create about 9,200 reusable surgical gowns at the Brooklyn Navy Yard this week, de Blasio said following a tour of the facility, where the two firms are hard at work.

He said he was coordinating with the federal government to get more. He thanked President Donald Trump for sending 600,000 N95 masks for New York City's independent hospitals. He said 200,000 masks arrived for public hospitals on Friday.

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RNC chairwoman says nationwide voting by mail would undermine democracy

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said Monday that the push by some Democrats for a nationwide vote-by-mail option amid the pandemic would undermine American democracy. 

McDaniel wrote in an op-ed published by Fox News that the GOP “will always defend free and fair elections” and that the party will “continue to fight and win against attempts by Democrats to use the pandemic as an excuse to circumvent election integrity.”

A number of Democrats including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Democratic presidential frontrunner Joe Biden have suggested in recent days that voting by mail may need to be expanded for the 2020 elections amid the coronavirus outbreak. Congressional Democrats have been calling for increasing funding to states that would allow for such a scenario.

McDaniel argued that voting by mail would lead to an increase in fraud and weaken confidence in elections.

In a coronavirus contingency plan released in late March by the Brennan Center, one of the recommendations is extending mail-in ballots to all voters. According to MIT’s election data and science lab, there are very few documented instances of fraud related to voting by mail, though it says that some scholars argue voting by mail could lead to more fraud than in-person voting. 

U.K. Prime Minister tweets he is in 'good spirits' after hospitalization

Global Update: Early signs of a slowing death rate in Europe’s worst-hit countries

Austria plans to start easing coronavirus restrictions

A man walks a dog in Vienna on Monday. Lisi Niesner / Reuters

The Austrian government is planning to slowly re-open shops, hotels and restaurants as the country hopes to start returning to normal life amid the coronavirus pandemic.

At a press conference on Monday, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said the re-opening is being "cautiously planned" for after Easter, but the dates could still be moved depending on the spread of the virus. The country went into lockdown three weeks ago. 

Kurz said smaller shops will be allowed to resume their business after Easter, followed by larger shops, shopping malls and hairdressers, which are expected to re-open by May 1. At the end of this month, the government will decide if restaurants and hotels can reopen in mid-May, he added. 

At the same time, officials have extended a requirement to wear face masks in supermarkets to include public transport and shops that re-open. More than 12,000 coronavirus cases have been recorded in Austria, with 204 deaths. 

Signs of hope in Italy as daily death toll falls again

The number of daily coronavirus deaths in Italy fell to the lowest level in more than a week, as the head of the country's National Health Institute, Silvio Brusaferro, said that the number of deaths and infections "has reached a plateau and begun to descend.”

“It is a result that we have to achieve day after day. If this is confirmed, we need to start thinking about the second phase and keep down the spread of this disease,” said Brusaferro. The country recorded 525 deaths on Sunday, bringing its total toll to 15,887.

Italy's Health Minister Roberto Speranza issued a plan for "phase two" of coronavirus response, which would soften lockdown restrictions but still keep social distancing measures in place. Despite the positive news, Speranza warned it is too early to know when the country will exit lockdown, telling the Italian daily La Repubblica "there are difficult months ahead."

Trump health official on coronavirus: 'We may be seeing the worst upon us right now'

A top Trump administration health official, Adm. Brett P. Giroir, said Monday that several parts of the country including New York, New Jersey and Detroit are expected to hit their peaks this week in terms of the number of coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths. 

In an interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show, Giroir said "we may be seeing the worst upon us right now,” but added that that experts believe some areas are “turning a corner because of all of the physical distancing that we’re doing.” 

Giroir, the assistant secretary for health, said that other cities like New Orleans will hit their peaks in a few weeks. “We'll see some rolling peaks across the country as the next few weeks unfold,” he said, but warned that if people let their “foot off the gas,” then the situation could worsen.

Spain sees daily death toll drop for fourth day

A plane from China arrives at Madrid airport Sunday with medical supplies on board to fight coronavirus in Spain. Getty Images

The number of new coronavirus deaths in Spain declined for the fourth day in a row on Monday, giving hope to the country’s health officials that the epidemic could be slowing down. 

A total of 637 new deaths were reported as of Sunday, the lowest number recorded since April 1, when Spain recorded 950 deaths, the highest one-day toll for any country since the start of the epidemic. 

"We are observing that the pandemic's growth rate is slowing down in almost every region," Maria Jose Sierra, deputy head of Spain’s Health Emergency Committee, told reporters at a virtual news conference Monday.

Health minister Salvador Illa said Monday the country, and the rest of the world, are facing "the worst health emergency in the past one hundred years."

The total number of coronavirus cases has reached more than 135,000 as of Sunday, the highest in Europe and second only to the U.S.