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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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.

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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

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
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
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

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.