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

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.

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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.

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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