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U.S. deaths near 15,000 as Wuhan lifts lockdown

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Rows of patient beds are shown at a military field hospital on April 5, 2020, at the CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle.Ted S. Warren / AP

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading April 9 live Coronavirus news.

The U.S. suffered its deadliest day of the coronavirus pandemic yet, with nearly 2,000 deaths between Tuesday and Wednesday. The death toll now stands at 14,721, according to NBC News' tally Wednesday night.

The Chinese city of Wuhan, the original epicenter of the outbreak, ended its 11-week lockdown early Wednesday. The city celebrated with a colourful light show. Residents will be tracked by smartphone apps to prove they are healthy and haven't mixed with anyone infected with coronavirus.

In London, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent his second night "stable" in an intensive care unit. The country has been jolted by his illness.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

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Rio samba schools set Carnival costume aside, start sewing scrubs

RIO DE JANEIRO — Rio de Janeiro’s samba schools usually spend the year furiously sewing costumes for the city’s blowout Carnival celebration. Now, nimble fingers are working to protect lives instead, making medical outfits for hospital workers who face a surge of coronavirus patients.

Dr. Wille Baracho on Tuesday carried rolls of fabric into the Unidos de Padre Miguel samba school’s workshop in the Vila Vintem favela. Inside, seamstresses perched on plastic chairs busily transformed beige and pale yellow fabric into medical wear.

The initiative started with Baracho and one of his colleagues at a nearby hospital emergency room where they have seen a shortage of materials. Both happen to sit on Padre Miguel’s board and saw a chance to redirect labor. The city joined in, donating thousands of yards of fabric, and the seamstresses set to work Friday.

Grocery employees say they fear for their lives at work

Federal stockpile of protective equipment nearly gone, HHS says

WASHINGTON — The Strategic National Stockpile is nearly out of the N95 respirators, surgical masks, face, shields, gowns and other medical supplies desperately needed to protect front-line medical workers treating coronavirus patients.

The Department of Health and Human Services said Wednesday that the federal stockpile was in the process of deploying all remaining personal protective equipment in its inventory.

The HHS statement confirms federal documents released Wednesday by the House Oversight and Reform Committee showing that about 90 percent of the personal protective equipment in the stockpile has been distributed to state and local governments.

HHS spokeswoman Katie McKeogh said the remaining 10 percent will be kept in reserve to support federal response efforts.

Pompeo, Netanyahu discuss efforts to contain virus

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, Wednesday by phone about efforts to contain the global coronavirus outbreak, State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.

The two also talked about Iran and "the unwavering U.S. commitment to Israel’s security," she said in a statement.

Israel had 9,404 COVID-19 cases and 71 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the World Health Organization. Netanyahu has threatened to deploy roadblocks in ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities reluctant to practice social distancing.

On Friday, police surrounded the ultra-Orthodox city of Bnei Brak, which has seen a relatively high rate of spread.

Philadelphia emerging as potential hot spot

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence says Philadelphia is emerging as a potential hot spot for the coronavirus and urged its residents to heed social distancing guidelines.

Pence says he spoke to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, and he says Pittsburgh is also being monitored for a possible rise in cases.

Nevada man charged with stealing masks from VA center

A Reno, Nevada, man is accused of stealing around 200 surgical masks from a Veterans Affairs medical center last month, prosecutors said.

Peter Lucas, 35, of Reno, stole at least four boxes of masks — each containing 50 masks — from the Ioannis A. Lougaris VA Medical Center between March 19 and March 23, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Nevada said in a statement.

He is charged with one count of theft of health care property, which carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Read the full story here

New CDC guidance for essential workers during coronavirus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidelines for essential workers, such as those in the health care and food supply industries. The guidance is focused on when those workers can return to work after having been exposed to the new coronavirus.

— Do take your temperature before work.

— Do wear a face mask at all times.

— Do practice social distancing as work duties permit.

— Don't stay at work if you become sick

— Don't share headsets or objects used near face.

— Don't congregate in the break room or other crowded places.

Photos: Riding along with paramedics

Image: Tri-State EMS Workers Confront Growing Number Of Coronavirus Cases
EMT Carlos Cabrera treats a gravely-ill patient with COVID-19 symptoms at his home in Yonkers, N.Y., on Monday. The man, 92, was barely breathing when they arrived, and family members gave permission to intubate him at home before being transported to St. John's Riverside Hospital. John Moore / Getty Images
Image: Tri-State EMS Workers Confront Growing Number Of Coronavirus Cases
EMT Randy Lilly puts a surgical mask on an African American patient showing COVID-19 symptoms in his apartment in Stamford, Conn., on Saturday. Severe cases of COVID-19 are disproportionately affecting African American communities, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.John Moore / Getty Images
Image: Tri-State EMS Workers Confront Growing Number Of Coronavirus Cases
Lilly carries a 10-month-old boy with fever after arriving by ambulance to Stamford Hospital on Saturday. Fever is a common symptom of COVID-19, although cases with young children are relatively rare. Stamford has more than 1,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.John Moore / Getty Images

Biden calls for feds to cover COBRA payments amid pandemic

Speaking at a virtual town hall on Wednesday, apparent Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said the federal government needs to step up its game to people who've been forced out of work because of the coronavirus crisis.

"We're going to have to do more," Biden said, saying future spending bills should include expanded unemployment payments and subsidies for Obamacare to make sure people can afford their health care. "The same goes for COBRA," Biden said. "The government should pick up the full cost of COBRA premiums right now."

 

He also repeated his calls for "a rent freeze and a moratorium on evictions during this pandemic" as well as up to $10,000 in student debt relief. 

"The money and the plans that are in the CARES act won't be enough," he said. "America's long-term recovery is going to require far more investment, but it needs to be smart and effective."  

Birx praises 'American people's strength' as social distancing measures appear to be working

Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the nation's top doctors, praised Americans on Wednesday for sticking to the social distancing measures as new models show a lower coronavirus death projection in the U.S. in the coming months.

"We are still in awe of the American people's strength in this in following through," Birx said during the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing, noting that the widespread behavioral change has resulted in a far lower death forecast that models initially suggested.

Birx said she hopes this will change how people think about respiratory diseases. She said Americans can continue to honor those who have died, those who are at high risk, such as seniors, and health care workers by continuing to stay indoors and follow the guidelines. 

She noted that the numbers of coronavirus cases are “stabilizing,” but “there is still a significant amount of disease there and everyone needs to continue to follow the guidelines.”

Pompeo: We are still working to get thousands of Americans home amid pandemic

Secretary of State Pompeo said the State Department is still working to get thousands of Americans back to the U.S. after getting stuck abroad when the COVID-19 outbreak happened.

Over 4,200 dead from coronavirus in New York City

Image: Coronavirus death NYC
A medical worker transports a body from a refrigerated container at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, in Brooklyn, NY on April 8, 2020.Mary Altaffer / AP

Coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 4,200 in New York City, health officials said on Wednesday, as the city suffered yet another dramatic spike in the death toll.

As of 5 p.m. ET, the city's health department pegged the total number of coronavirus deaths at 4,260 — that's up from 3,544 just 24 hours earlier.

This surge of 716 followed the Monday-to-Tuesday jump of 806 additional fatalities, from 2,738 to 3,544.

Kansas lawmakers overturn order limiting religious gatherings, governor calls it 'shockingly irresponsible'

Lawmakers in Kansas overturned an executive order by Gov. Laura Kelley that restricted religious gatherings to 10 people, despite the state's spike in coronavirus cases. 

The state's Legislative Coordinating Council voted 5-2 on Wednesday to undo the order .The vote cam just hours after Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican, said the order likely violate the state constitution and discouraged law enforcement from enforcing restrictions.

Kelley, a Democrat, called the decision "shockingly irresponsible" in a briefing on Wednesday, where she reported a nearly 40 percent increase in deaths in the state. Three of the 12 clusters found in Kansas have come from church gatherings, according to public health officials.  

"There are real-life consequences to the partisan games Republican leaders played today and I simply cannot stand for it," Kelley said. "Kansans are dying every day at the hands of this pandemic and there is no room or excuse for these petty political distractions." 

The governor said she was directing her administration's legal team to try to resolve the issue. As of Wednesday evening, there are 1,046 cases with 38 deaths due to coronavirus in Kansas.

Emergency hospital at Seattle Seahawks stadium shut down, to be sent to state with more need

Image:
Rows of patient beds are shown at a military field hospital on April 5, 2020, at the CenturyLink Field Event Center in Seattle.Ted S. Warren / AP

A emergency field hospital being hastily built at the home of the Seattle Seahawks will be shut down before it even opened, and materials sent to other places in need, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said Wednesday.

The announcement came just two days after the Department of Defense said the temporary medical facility at the CenturyLink Field Event Center would be open this week, intended to take non-coronavirus patients and relieve the burden of hospitals being overwhelmed with COVID-19 victims.

"To be clear, this doesn’t mean we’re out of the woods. We can’t let up in our fight against COVID-19," Inslee said in a statement.

Florida deputy sheriff is state's first police coronavirus fatality

Deputy Shannon Bennett
Deputy Shannon Bennett.Broward Sheriff's Office

Sheriff’s Deputy Shannon Bennett of Broward County, Florida, died April 3 from COVID-19, the first coronavirus-related death of a law enforcement officer in a state that has only recently begun to grapple with the global pandemic.

Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony confirmed Bennett’s death and said he had apparently contracted the coronavirus in the line of duty. Bennett, 39, left work early on March 23 due to illness and tested positive for coronavirus shortly after being admitted to the hospital.

“Deputy Shannon Bennett was a 12 year veteran of the Broward Sheriff’s Office; an out and proud gay law enforcement deputy; a school resource officer who protected and mentored the young students at Deerfield Beach Elementary; a man in love to be wedded later this year,” the department tweeted on Sunday. “Rest In Peace.”

Read the full story here. 

London’s iconic landmarks remain empty during stay-at-home order

Central London’s iconic landmarks remain very quiet as the government’s “stay-at-home" policy to combat coronavirus is in place. Londoners are allowed outdoors for exercise, to visit a doctor, pharmacy or food shopping. Police in London have the power to enforce the rules.

Planned Parenthood asks federal judge to let abortions continue in Texas

Planned Parenthood and a group of clinics asked a federal judge Wednesday to let some abortions resume in Texas, the only state where they've been mostly stopped during the pandemic.

As many state officials have done, Texas Gov. Greg Abbot ordered a halt to non-essential medical procedures in late March in order to conserve hospital facilities and personal protective equipment. Attorney General Ken Paxton then said it applied to "any type of abortions," including medical abortions that do not involve surgery.

A federal judge in Texas declared the order too broad and lifted the ban. But the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans put it back in place and ruled Tuesday that the governor acted appropriately. In public health emergencies, the appeals court said, a state can restrict constitutional rights including, "one's right to peaceably assemble, to publicly worship, to travel, and even to leave one's home. The right to abortion is no exception."

In its latest filing, Planned Parenthood asked the judge to permit medication abortions, which do not consume protective equipment, and surgical abortions for women who are nearing 22 weeks of pregnancy, after which most abortions in Texas are illegal. Under the current ban, clinics "have been forced to turn away hundreds of patients in need of abortion care," the court filing said.

Advocates of abortion rights have largely prevailed in courtroom battles over similar restrictions in other states. A partial ban is in effect in Alabama, but bans were invalidated or modified in Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and Oklahoma.

Trump tells religious leaders: 'We're going to beat this plague'

Faith leaders pray over President Donald Trump during an "Evangelicals for Trump" campaign event in Miami on Jan. 3, 2020.
Faith leaders pray over President Donald Trump during an "Evangelicals for Trump" campaign event in Miami on Jan. 3, 2020.Joe Raedle / Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump told religious leaders on Wednesday that "we have a tremendous year coming up" and that the United States would beat coronavirus "soon," while seeming to implore people of faith to support him in his re-election.

"We have a tremendous year coming up. We're going to beat this plague. We're going to beat this virus and we're going to beat it soon," Trump told the leaders on an off-the-record conference call. "We're going to get our country back."

Read the full story here. 

Prosecutors charge Florida man with 'biological weapons hoax' over coronavirus threats

Federal prosecutors on Wednesday filed what are apparently the first charges of perpetrating a biological weapons hoax to arise out of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prosecutors in Tampa charged James Jamal Curry, 31, of St. Petersburg, Florida, with coughing and spitting on police officers who were responding to domestic violence calls.

Court documents say when he was arrested March 27, Curry said he was infected with the virus and coughed on the arm of one of the officers.

Read the full story here. 

Stock Market rallies after Sanders drops out of race

NBC News’ David Gura details the surge in the markets after 2020 candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders officially drops out of the race, leaving Wall Street-friendly former Vice President Biden as the apparent nominee.

What's next from Congress in coronavirus stimulus legislation?

With three coronavirus bills now signed into law, Congress is beginning to discuss their next legislative steps, including an interim bill and a second CARES Act to follow the historic $2 trillion aid package passed last month.

The interim bill, which could be considered as soon as Thursday, would address the new Paycheck Protection Program, the forgivable small-business loan program created by the first CARES Act.

That legislation provided $350 billion for the program, but less than a week after it launched, some lawmakers expressed concern that it would quickly run out of money after reports of banks and the Small Business Administration being overwhelmed by demand.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said in a statement that after the interim legislation, they would press for passage of another major stimulus and relief package that would expand on the $2 trillion aid bill passed late last month.

Read the full story here.

California governor says 68 more patients died in past day

California’s Gov. Gavin Newsom said that as of Wednesday the state has had a total number of 16,957 individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19, with 1,154 in intensive care units, and 2,714 hospitalized.

He said that 68 individuals died from COVID-19 over the last 24 hours in the state, adding to a total death toll of 442 in the state of California.

Florida governor wears one glove during his presser

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appears to have only worn one glove during a press briefing on Wednesday afternoon.  

Last week, DeSantis issued a stay-at-home executive order in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus for the entire state after weeks of resistance. The order does not bar churches from holding services.

African Americans 'disproportionately affected' by coronavirus, CDC report finds

Severe cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, are disproportionately affecting African American communities, according to a report published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The analysis includes data from 1,482 coronavirus patients hospitalized in 14 states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Utah.

Read more.

Video shows inmate pleading for help inside Ohio federal prison

A video recorded inside an Ohio federal prison where at least three inmates have died from COVID-19 has gone viral on social media, garnering hundreds of thousands of views after being posted to YouTube on April 5. 

The video, which was recorded inside the Elkton Federal Prison, was taken by an unidentified inmate inside the facility. He can be heard pleading for help, his face covered in a mask. 

“They literally leaving us in here to die,” he says. “I don’t know what to do.”

In an effort to contain the outbreak inside the prison, Governor Mike DeWine announced on April 6 that the Ohio National Guard was being deployed to the Elkton facility to provide medical assistance. 

In a statement to NBC News on Wednesday, a spokesperson for the Federal Bureau of Prisons said that the video is currently under investigation. 

“We can confirm that after identifying the inmates in the video from FCI Elkton, none of them were symptomatic of COVID-19.” 

Elkton Federal Prison officials did not immediately respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

Jails are releasing inmates amid coronavirus. N.Y. just took a step to lock more people up.

Last week, as law enforcement officials around the country were cutting jail populations to blunt the spread of the coronavirus, New York lawmakers did something that could lead to more people getting locked up.

The state Legislature changed course on a 2019 law that restricted the use of cash bail, tucking new caveats into a last-minute budget bill signed Friday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The revisions are a reminder that changes to the criminal justice system remain works in progress, and still face resistance — even during a global health crisis that has drawn public attention to the conditions behind bars in the nation.

Read the full story here. 

John Prine's wife issues statement: 'Take this virus seriously'

John Prine's wife Fiona Whelan Prine issued a statement Wednesday following the death of the singer-songwriter, who Bruce Springsteen called "one of the best we had," from complications related to coronavirus. He was 73.

"We have no words to describe the grief our family is experiencing at this time," she wrote. 

"I sat with John —  who was deeply sedated — in the hours before he passed," she continued, "and will be forever grateful for that opportunity.

"My dearest wish is that people of all ages take this virus seriously and follow guidelines set by the CDC," she concluded. "We send our condolences and love to the thousands of other American families who are grieving the loss of loved ones at this time — and to so many other families across the world.

"Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the outpouring of love we have received from family, friends and fans all over the world. John will be so missed but he will continue to comfort us with his words and music and the gifts of kindness, humor and love he left for all of us to share."

Tyler Perry buys groceries for shoppers in Atlanta and Louisiana

Kroger shoppers in the Atlanta-area were in for a surprise at the checkout lane Wednesday when they discovered their groceries had been paid for already. 

Filmmaker Tyler Perry paid for the groceries at 44 of the stores locations in the area, a Kroger representative confirmed to NBC affiliate WXIA. Perry did the same for 29 Winn Dixie locations in Louisiana, according to NBC affiliate WWL in New Orleans. 

"We would like to join our customers in thanking Mr. Perry for his kindness and generosity during this unprecedented pandemic," Felix B. Turner, a Kroger corporate affairs manager, said to WXIA. 

Tennessee bar owner charged for keeping business open despite stay-at-home order

New Jersey postpones primaries to July 7

New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy said on Wednesday that he was delaying the state's primary elections to July 7 from June 2 due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Murphy said that he would also consider making the July contests vote-by-mail only if the pandemic does not improve and that having "extra time" to prepare "will make that task easier."

U.K. reports record number of deaths

Britain reported a record number of deaths in hospitals on Wednesday, with a rise of 938 in one day taking the toll to at least 7,097, according to the country's Department of Health. 

Although significantly bigger than the previous highest toll of 786, the U.K.'s Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser Prof. Dame Angela McLean insisted new cases are not "accelerating out of control."

News of the deaths came as the U.K.'s Chancellor Rishi Sunak revealed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's condition was "improving" and he is now "sitting up in bed" after spending two nights in intensive care with coronavirus.

He added that Johnson had been "engaging positively" with the medical team treating him in St Thomas's Hospital in London.  

Cuomo says all New Yorkers can vote absentee in June primary

New York Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday announced that all voters in his state will be able to cast absentee ballots in the June 23 Democratic primary election.

"New Yorkers shouldn't have to choose between their health and their civic duty," Cuomo said in a tweet. Melissa DeRosa, the governor's chief of staff, said during his daily coronavirus press briefing in Albany that a determination would be made closer to election day whether polling locations would be open on June 23.

Last month, Cuomo moved the date of the state's primary election from April 28 to June 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. New York will not hold a Republican presidential primary this year.

N.Y. sees deadliest day as Cuomo says 'we're flattening the curve'

New York state suffered its highest single day of deaths with 779 lives lost from the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday, a grim milestone that comes as the state appears to be slowing down the virus' spread.

Cuomo warned that the number of deaths will only increase the longer coronavirus patients remain hospitalized. On Tuesday, he said New York had recorded 731 deaths, a jump from 599 from Monday.

"The bad news isn't just bad, the bad news is terrible," he said during his daily news conference in the state capital of Albany, adding that he will direct all flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of the 6,268 people in New York who have died from the virus.

However, there was some good news as Cuomo said total hospitalizations are down, and hospitals are releasing more patients than new ones are being admitted.

"We're flattening the curve because we're rigorous about social distancing," he said.

The hospital system should "stabilize" over the next couple weeks and the outflow to the field hospitals minimized, he added, as long as people continue to follow social distancing guidelines.

Detroit providing 20,000 masks to bus riders after driver dies

The Detroit Department of Transportation is providing 20,000 surgical masks free to riders as part of the city's fight to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The masks will be available via a box near the back door, where riders now enter and exit the bus.

The move follows the recent death of bus driver Jason Hargrove from the coronavirus, two weeks after he posted a Facebook Live video criticizing a passenger for coughing and not covering up their mouth.

Read the full story here

Zoom bolsters security efforts with advisory board

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan announced Wednesday that his rapidly-growing videoconferencing company is creating a new advisory board to help address the security issues that have made it the target of lawsuits and political pressure.

Alex Stamos, a former chief security officer at Facebook and current NBC News contributor, has joined the company as an outside consultant. The move comes one day after Yuan told NBC News that he had to “double down on privacy, double down on security."

Many non-Zoom users have recently become aware of the distasteful practice of “Zoombombing,” or crashing an unintentionally public Zoom call for the purposes of harassing people.

'No miraculous recovery': Some ICU doctors say hydroxychloroquine isn't helping sickest patients

The federal government's guidance on emergency usage of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19 patients may have actually set the medication up for failure.

That's because the guidance limits the drug's usage to those sick enough to be hospitalized. Many doctors suspect, however, that if the drug does turn out to be beneficial, it may work better early on in the course of the illness.

Read more.

Lights to stay dimmed on Broadway for at least 2 more months

Broadway will remain shut down at least until June 7 because of the coronavirus crisis, the head of the theaters' trade association said Wednesday.

“Our top priority continues to be the health and well being of Broadway theatergoers and the thousands of people who work in the theater industry every day, including actors, musicians, stagehands, ushers, and many other dedicated professionals,” said Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League.

St. Martin said the decision was made in accordance with federal CDC guidelines and “the continued direction” of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Fewer than 100,000 people checked by TSA at airports on Tuesday, a record low

Fewer than 100,000 people were checked by the TSA on Tuesday at the nation's airports, a new record low for U.S. passengers, an agency spokesperson says.

In total, 97,130 people went through TSA checkpoints at U.S. airports, a fraction of the 2.09 million who went through the checkpoints on the same date in 2019.

 

Number of apartment renters who could pay this month's rent dipped 12 percent, tracker shows

The share of apartment households that paid April rent dipped 12 percent from March, a leading apartment industry trade group found in its first review of the pandemic's effect on rent payments.

According to a tracker created by the National Multifamily Housing Council, 69 percent of apartment households paid rent through April 5. That's a 12 percent decrease from the 81 percent of such households that paid by March 5, and a 13 percent decrease from the 82 percent that paid this time last year.

Doug Bibby, president of NMHC, said in a statement that despite the challenges COVID-19 poses for many renters, "it is important to note that a large number of residents met their obligations despite unparalleled circumstances, and we will see that figure increase over the coming weeks."

The NMHC tracker reflects data from 13.4 million units across the U.S. The data comes as federal, state and local governments have scrambled to enact policies to keep renters who've been hit by the outbreak's economic hardships from being evicted while treading carefully around measures that could adversely affect landlords and the real estate market at large.

Photo: Travelers fill station as restrictions lifted in Wuhan

Travellers at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan
Passengers inside Hankou Railway Station after restrictions to leave Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and the epicenter of China's coronavirus outbreak, were lifted on Wednesday. China sealed off the city of 11 million people on Jan. 23, a drastic step that came to symbolize its aggressive management of the virus.Reuters

Turkmenistan, claiming no confirmed cases, holds large-scale public workouts

In Turkmenistan, a repressive former Soviet state that claims to have zero cases of coronavirus, residents gathered on April 7 to celebrate World Health Day.

In the nation’s capital, Ashgabat, state television showed hundreds of people wearing identical tracksuits conducting coordinated exercise in close quarters. Even medical personnel took part in the celebrations, which at one point were led by President Gerbanguly Berdimuhamedow, according to Turkmen state media. 

Berdimuhamedow early in the coronavirus crisis claimed that his own writings on local flora contained a cure for the virus in the form of a local herb. There have been reports suggesting that talk of the virus has been banned in Turkmenistan, a nation that borders Iran — which has suffered from one of the world’s worst coronavirus outbreaks.

A picture from the world health day celebration held in Turkmenistan.
A picture from the world health day celebration held in Turkmenistan.Turkmen Migration Service website

Coronavirus disproportionately killing people of color in NYC, mayor says

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday released data on the racial breakdown of coronavirus fatalities in the city, saying the numbers showed "blatant inequalities" and that the city "won’t accept it."

The Hispanic community has been hit the hardest with 34 percent of the deaths, while Hispanics make up 29 percent of the city's population; 28 percent of the deaths have been black people, while 22 percent of the city is black; 27 percent of the deaths have been white people, while 32 percent of the city is white; Asian deaths are at 7 percent of the total, while 14 percent of New York city's population is Asian. 

"The truth is, in so many ways, the pain and death tracks with other profound health care disparities that we have seen for years and decades in this city," de Blasio said. "Folks who struggled before are really being hit particularly hard by the coronavirus." 

He added that the disparities are "so often associated with poverty" and the numbers are "painful to talk about, but we have to be honest about it." 

De Blasio said the city is combatting the disturbing trend by making sure public hospitals have what they need, deploying a multi-million dollar, multi-lingual public awareness campaign focuses on communities of color, grassroots outreach, and a system in which residents can quickly get in touch with a physician from their homes. 

To equip the public hospitals, and private ones too, de Blasio said the city needs 1,450 military medical personnel and a staggering 9.2 million surgical gowns from the federal government. About 300 military personnel have arrived and been dispatched to hospitals.

Trump's personal fortune plunges by $1B due to coronavirus shutdowns

President Donald Trump's personal fortune has fallen by around $1 billion after social distancing lockdowns forced the closure of several of his properties, including golf courses, hotels, and other real estate holdings.

Trump's net worth slumped from an estimated $3.1 billion to $2.1 billion in the month of March, according to data compiled by Forbes as part of its annual billionaires list.

Around 1,500 Trump Organization employees have been laid off or furloughed, The Washington Post reported last week.

Trump continues to push for a reopening of at least sections of the economy as soon as possible, telling Fox News on Tuesday, “We’re also looking at the concept where you open up everything."

Los Angeles to require face masks at grocery stores

41 MTA workers have died from coronavirus, chairman says

Among the more than 5,000 people who have died from the coronavirus in New York state are 41 MTA workers, according to chairman and CEO Patrick J. Foye.

"We mourn the loss of every one of our 41 colleagues," he said on the radio station WCBS 880.

About 1,500 employees, including Foye himself, have tested positive for the virus. 

"I happen to be one of those, but the real loss is the grieving that we're doing at the MTA and the families of the 41 MTA colleagues who have been killed by the virus," he said.

Since March 1, the MTA has distributed 300,000 N95 respiratory masks and an additional 160,000 surgical masks to employees, Foye told radio host Steve Scott. More than two million gloves have also been provided to workers. 

"We're going to continue to do that, we've got enough supplies to do that on a daily and weekly basis as long as the pandemic continues, and I think that has been an important thing and protecting the health of our colleagues at the MTA," Foye said. 

Russia's Putin understands 'fatigue' of self-isolation

President Vladimir Putin urged Russians to keep up with self-isolation on Wednesday, saying that he understood the usual rhythm of daily life had been "disrupted" but that the strain of coping with the coronavirus outbreak would pass.

"I understand that we all have already accumulated fatigue...For most people, being constantly within four walls is, as they say, dreary and nauseating. But there is no choice now," he said on state television, ahead of a teleconference with regional leaders.

Some 68 people have died so far in Russia, according to an NBC News tally. Putin also called for more financial measures to support businesses during the crisis. 

U.S. and U.K. warn about coronavirus-based hacking efforts

The U.S. and U.K. governments have issued a joint warning that hackers are trying to exploit the coronavirus pandemic.

“The techniques used by attackers prey on people’s appetite for information and curiosity towards the outbreak, with phishing emails and SMS messages using the virus as a lure to trick people into revealing credentials or downloading malicious software,” Homeland Security warned in an emailed statement.

Hackers from the Chinese, Iranian and Russian governments began using coronavirus-themed emails to break into their targets from the onset of the pandemic, analysts have said. But this is the first major, formal warning from the U.S. and U.K. governments that their residents are regularly targeted with coronavirus-themed phishing attempts, both by foreign governments and criminal hackers.

Common subject lines for phishing emails include “2020 Coronavirus Updates” and “2019-nCov: New confirmed cases in your City.” The US compiled a list of more than 2,500 coronavirus-themed URLs that are potentially dangerous, with names like covid19statistics.com and iamacoronavirussurvivorof2020.info.

CDC weighs loosening guidelines for some exposed to virus

WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is considering changing its guidelines for self-isolation to make it easier for those who have been exposed to someone with the coronavirus to return to work if they are asymptomatic.

The public health agency, in conjunction with the White House coronavirus task force, is considering an announcement as soon as Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said.

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NBC's Willem Marx gives a global update on the coronavirus pandemic

U.K. PM Boris Johnson 'responding to treatment'

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is "responding to treatment" and he remains in a stable condition in the intensive care unit where he is being treated for coronavirus, a spokesperson said Wednesday. 

Johnson continued to be in "good spirits" after spending his third night in St Thomas's Hospital in London, the spokesperson said, adding that the prime minister was not working on the advice of his doctors and receiving just the "standard oxygen treatment."

Aside from that they said, Johnson was "breathing without any other assistance."  

Tested positive for coronavirus? Health workers may share your address with police

Image: A police officer walks toward a closed portion of South Beach, Fla., on March 19, 2020.
A police officer walks toward a closed portion of South Beach, Fla., on March 19. Eva Marie Uzcategui / AFP - Getty Images file

In a growing number of cities and states, local governments are collecting the addresses of people who test positive for the coronavirus and sharing the lists with police and first responders.

Law enforcement officials say this information sharing — which is underway in Massachusetts, Alabama and Florida, and in select areas of North Carolina — will help keep officers and EMTs safe as they respond to calls at the homes of people who have been infected. 

But some public health experts and privacy advocates have raised concerns about police departments maintaining a list of addresses of confirmed coronavirus cases. They say that it could make people reluctant to seek medical care or get tested for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, because of a fear of profiling by law enforcement.

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White House coronavirus coordinator sees 'early signs of hope,' but warns of second wave if Americans start going out

WASHINGTON — Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Wednesday that there are encouraging signs that parts of the U.S. may be flattening their curves but she warned that people shouldn’t start going out and socially interacting.

In an interview with Savannah Guthrie on the “TODAY” show, Birx said that California and Washington state began social distancing very early and said their curves are “persistently flat and that’s very encouraging.”

Birx acknowledged a rising death toll, however, but said that those numbers reflect the people who were infected by COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, two to three weeks ago, before some of the strict guidelines were implemented.

'Stop gathering ... go home.' New Jersey city will use drones to enforce social distancing

A New Jersey city hard hit by the coronavirus will use drones to enforce the governor's stay-at-home order.

Elizabeth, a city of about 128,000 across the Hudson River from New York City, had 1,403 cases of coronavirus and 32 deaths as of Monday, according to Mayor Chris Bollwage.

"Drones will be around the City with an automated message from the Mayor telling you to STOP gathering, disperse and go home," the city's police department said, following the mayor's announcement of the policy. 

The city received five drones with speaker capabilities on loan from a drone company.

"Summonses HAVE AND WILL CONTINUE to be issued to those found in violation" of social distancing orders, police said, and residents caught by the drones could face fines up to $1,000.

France sees highest one-day death toll: 1,417

France on Tuesday reported its highest one-day death toll since the coronavirus outbreak began, with 1,417 people reporting dying from COVID-19, according to an NBC News tally.

It brings the country's overall death toll to 10,328, with more than 7,000 people still in intensive care. 

"We have not yet reached the peak. We are in the ascending phase," said France's health director Jerome Salomon, adding that lifting lockdown measures at this stage "makes no sense."

Italian businesses call for lockdown exit strategy

As Italy entered its fifth week of lockdown, businesses and academics have called on the government to come up with an exit strategy, warning that continued restrictions would inflict further social and economic damage to the country.  

The National Institute of Statistics described the severity of the crisis for households and businesses as “unprecedented," saying it was even worse than the 2008 financial crisis. 

The agency said consumer spending will plunge just shy of 10 percent if the lockdown persists until June, adding that it had stopped 34 percent of Italy's total economic production.

Japanese state of emergency has some success but trains still packed

Japan's state of emergency imposed in parts of the country this week is having mixed results, with previously busy areas becoming deserted while some commuter trains are packed Wednesday morning.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the measure for Tokyo, Osaka and other areas on Tuesday as the nationwide number of coronavirus cases rose to more than 4,257 with 81 confirmed deaths on Wednesday, according to an NBC News tally.

Japanese broadcasters aired drone shots of some of Tokyo's most popular areas that were now deserted. While the number of commuters has dropped sharply in the capital, areas like Shinagawa Station were packed with travelers at 8 a.m. local time.

"Many have started to cooperate which I am very grateful," Abe said Wednesday. "With this kind of cooperation, I believe we will be able to lift this state of emergency in about a month from now."

Deaths in Spain rise for a second day in a row

A further 757 people have died in Spain in the last 24-hours, health officials in the country said Wednesday - the second day in a row that the number of deaths rose.   

There had been some optimism after the number of daily deaths dropped for four days in a row after the country recorded a record 950 on Apr. 1. But the number has been rising again since Tuesday. 

In total, 14,555 people have now died from coronavirus in Spain and the country has so far confirmed a cumulative of 146,690 coronavirus cases. 

Ethiopia declares state of emergency

Ethiopia, Africa's second most populous country, has declared a state of emergency due to the nation's coronavirus outbreak. 

In an announcement posted on Twitter, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali declared that the government had taken the step due to the gravity of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Image: People wait in a line for a bus to go back to their homes before the night curfew starts in downtown Nairobi, Kenya
People wait in a line for a bus to go back to their homes before the night curfew starts in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, on April 6, 2020.Yasuyoshi Chiba / AFP - Getty Images

EU's top scientist quits over frustration with bloc's coronavirus response

The president of the European Union's main scientific body has resigned over frustration with the bloc's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a statement first made to the London-based Financial Times, European Research Council (ERC) president Mauro Ferrari said that though he "arrived at the ERC a fervent supporter of the EU...the Covid-19 crisis completely changed" his views. He cited concerns of bureaucratic infighting and resistance.

“The commission regrets the resignation of Professor Ferrari at this early stage in his mandate as ERC President,” an ERC spokesman said. Italian-American Ferrari was only appointed to the four-year position in January. 

Czech coronavirus cases grow but country steadily eases lockdown

Despite the number of new coronavirus cases in the Czech Republic rising to over 5,000, an overall slowing growth rate has given the government confidence to start easing some lockdown measures that have hit the economy.

The country was among the first in Europe to declare a state of emergency in March, which has now been extended to April 30. Like others in central Europe, the Czech Republic has seen far fewer cases than western neighbours, along with fewer deaths.

The government has agreed this week to relax some measures, such as reopening shops selling hobby goods and building materials and easing open-air sports, including running and cycling.

Polish priest takes 'drive-through' confessions

As Easter approaches on Friday, a priest in Poland has found a creative way to continue taking confessions during the coronavirus crisis.

Wearing a protective mask, Father Mateusz Kielarski sits on a chair in a church parking lot in Warsaw and listens to the faithful, granting them absolution as they lean out of their car windows. 

Confessions are particularly important for Roman Catholics in the run up to Easter. “From the safety of their car, they can take care of their soul while protecting their bodies from germs in this special time,” he told Reuters.

Coronavirus to wipe out equivalent of 195 million jobs, U.N. says

The economic fallout from the coronavirus is expected to wipe out the equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs around the world, according to the labor body of the United Nations.

Warning of "devastating losses," the International Labour Organization said Tuesday that COVID-19 was expected to cause a reduction of 6.7 percent in global working hours.

Sectors most at risk are accommodation and food services, manufacturing and retail. "This far exceeds the effects of the 2008-9 financial crisis," it said in a statement.

CDC removes unusual guidance to doctors about drug favored by Trump

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has removed from its website highly unusual guidance informing doctors on how to prescribe hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine, drugs recommended by President Donald Trump to treat the coronavirus.

It had previously noted anecdotal evidence that the drugs were effective in combatting COVID-19. 

The original guidance was crafted by the CDC after Trump personally pressed federal regulatory and health officials to make the malaria drugs more widely available to treat the novel coronavirus, though the drugs in question had been untested for COVID-19.

The site now states “There are no drugs or other therapeutics approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to prevent or treat COVID-19.”

The updated, and shortened, guidance adds that “Hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are under investigation in clinical trials” for use on coronavirus patients.

On Tuesday, the president said he had watched "one of the shows" that featured a woman, ostensibly a coronavirus patient, who took hydroxychloroquine after days of illness and, "four hours later, she awoke and she said, 'I feel better.'"

The truth about the toilet paper shortage

'Pharma Bro' says he should be freed from prison to help research coronavirus

Convicted former drug company CEO Martin Shkreli, known as “Pharma Bro,” wants to get out of prison so he can help research a treatment for the coronavirus, his lawyer said Tuesday.

Defense attorney Ben Brafman said that he will file court papers asking federal authorities to release Shkreli for three months so he can do laboratory work “under strict supervision.”

His client — best known before his arrest for drug price-gouging and his snarky online persona — is housed at a low-security prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania.

"I have always said that if focused and left in a lab, Martin could help cure cancer," Brafman said in a statement. "Maybe he can help the scientific community better understand this terrible virus."

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Woman, 86, and three of her sons die in Louisiana, where blacks account for 70 percent of deaths

An 86-year-old Louisiana woman and three of her sons who all tested positive for the coronavirus have died, relatives and the coroner's office say.

The mother, Antoinette Franklin, and her sons were African American, and their deaths come with the announcement that black people account for 70.5 percent of fatalities from the coronavirus in Louisiana, although they make up only about a third of the population.

Louisiana is a hot spot for the pandemic, with 16,284 coronavirus cases and 582 deaths.

Antoinette Franklin, a lifelong New Orleans resident, died March 23. Her sons, Herman Franklin Jr., 71, Anthony Franklin Sr., 58 and Timothy Franklin, 61, died between March 20 and 30, according to their obituaries.

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