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States react to Trump's plan to reopen U.S. while some hear a call to arms

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Medical workers are seen as they take swab samples from people to be tested for the COVID-19 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China's central Hubei province on April 16, 2020.Hector Retamal / AFP - Getty Images

A number of governors said that while they would take President Donald Trump's new guidelines to reopen state economies under consideration, they were wary of moving too fast in the face of unresolved issues like testing shortages.

But some Americans are calling for a quick return to business as normal and marched on state capitols Friday to make their voices heard. Meanwhile, extremists have interpreted Trump's recent tweets to "LIBERATE" certain states as a call to arms.

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

Live coverage has ended. Continue reading April 18 coronavirus news here.

Even FEMA running low on protective gear

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Even people who work for FEMA can’t get protective gear.

The union that represents 5,000 employees of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is warning Congress about a “desperate lack” of personal protective equipment.

Steven Reaves of the unit of the American Federation of Government Employees that represents the FEMA workers asks members of Congress in a letter to urge the administration to get and distribute adequate supplies.

Reaves tells The Associated Press that 25 of his members have tested positive for COVID-19. The FEMA workforce includes emergency managers, contract officers and safety officials, as well as police and firefighters.

FEMA distributes protective gear to people around the country but Reaves says the people who work for the agency can be vulnerable as well and should be provided with adequate protection.

L.A. deploys street teams to help homeless

Los Angeles is ramping up efforts to protect people experiencing homelessness from the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed some 500 county residents.

At least 33 unsheltered people had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Thursday, according to Barbara Ferrer, director of the L.A. County Department of Public Health. The majority of those cases are people living on the streets, not in shelters.

In an effort to prevent that number from going up, Los Angeles will deploy medical street teams to known encampments and set up trailers throughout the city to get people off the street, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Friday.

Read the full story

Hawaii's governor orders beaches closed

Hawaii Gov. David Ige on Friday ordered the state's iconic beaches closed.

"Many people are continuing to access beaches, waters and trails for social and recreational activities without proper social distancing during the COVID-19 crisis," Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources said in a statement.

However, Hawaii will allow people to cross the sand to engage in water sports, including the state's official sport, surfing, which has its global center on the island of Oahu. 

Hawaii on Friday reported 553 total cases and 9 deaths. The beach closure came as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said local governments could reopen beaches so long as people maintain social distancing and don't gather in groups of 50 or more.

Fauci says testing isn't everything, need to focus on mitigation strategies

WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, said Friday that despite the recent emphasis on the need for more coronavirus testing, it was important to recognize that more testing would not be "everything." 

“The emphasis that we've been hearing is essentially testing is everything and it isn't. It's the kinds of things that we've been doing, the mitigation strategies, that are an important part of that," Fauci said at the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House Friday evening. 

But Fauci, who said that he thought there would be enough tests available to control the virus, said that just because testing is not a silver bullet does not mean it is unimportant. 

“I want to make sure that people understand not to underestimate the importance of testing. Testing is a part — an important part — of a multifaceted way that we are going to control and ultimately end this outbreak.”

Trump was criticized for announcing Thursday a three-phase plan to open up the economy without offering any nationwide testing and contact tracing program. Some public health experts have said that testing for the coronavirus would have to be at least doubled or tripled from its current levels to allow for even a partial reopening of America's economy.

Trump says some state orders are 'too tough', stands by tweet encouraging anti-lockdown groups

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday encouraged an anti-lockdown group that is scheduled to protest in Minnesota against stay-at-home orders to prevent the spread of coronavirus and he appeared to back such efforts in other states, arguing that "elements" of some state regulations were "just too tough."

“I think elements of what they’ve done are just too tough," Trump said at the daily White House press briefing Friday evening when asked about a tweet — "LIBERATE MINNESOTA!" — that he posted earlier in the day.

Trump told reporters that he felt "very comfortable" with his tweet, adding that "these are people expressing their views" and "they seem to be very responsible people to me, you know, they’ve been treated a little bit rough.”

A group that calls itself "Liberate Minnesota" was held a protest Friday afternoon outside Democratic Gov. Tim Walz's residence in St. Paul to protest his announcement that he would extend his stay-at-home order to May 4.

Click here for the full story. 

NBA players to receive 25% less in paychecks

The Associated Press

Commissioner Adam Silver said it remains impossible for the NBA to make any decisions about whether to resume this season and it's unclear when that will change.

But in a clear sign that at least some of the 259 remaining regular-season games that were not played because of the coronavirus pandemic will not be rescheduled, the league announced Friday it will withhold 25 percent of player pay starting with their May 15 checks.

The salary decision was made with the National Basketball Players Association, and the league said it would “provide players with a more gradual salary reduction schedule” if games are officially canceled or the rest of the season is totally lost.

Players will be paid in full May 1. The cutback in salary has been expected for some time in response to the NBA’s shutdown that started March 11, and has no end in sight.

'COVID toes' often appear in patients with no other symptoms

A. Pawlowski

Another unexpected condition related to the virus has captured the attention of researchers.

Dubbed "COVID toes" by the dermatology community, it can look like "purple lesions" on feet or hands, Dr. Esther Freeman, a dermatologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, told TODAY.

The condition usually starts with red or purple discoloration, and the skin may become raised or develop ulcerations, according to Freeman. It can be on hands, too. It often appears in younger patients with no other symptoms. 

It's unclear how common the symptom. Freeman is running an international registry to document COVID-19 patients' range of dermatologic conditions. The registry launched last week in collaboration with the American Academy of Dermatology.

Read the full story here

Seattle cautious about easing business restrictions

Image: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Burien
People practice social distancing after disembarking a water taxi during the coronavirus outbreak in Seattle on April 2, 2020.David Ryder / Reuters file

Seattle was the country's first coronavirus hot spot, and soon it could be one of the first big cities to reopen its economy. When and how that happens will depend largely on the region's ability to get adequate testing and protect its front-line health care workers, Mayor Jenny Durkan said.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint," she said. "We're not even really halfway through, even though we've hit the peak."

Seattle and neighboring communities will weigh various factors, including closely monitoring the rate of new cases, expanding testing and reporting capabilities and ensuring that the health care system is prepared to handle additional infections, Durkan said.

Read the full story here.

More than 12,000 New Yorkers likely dead from COVID-19

Image: A casket is placed into a hearse outside a funeral home in Brooklyn, N.Y.
A casket is placed into a hearse outside a funeral home in Brooklyn, N.Y., on April 16, 2020.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

New York City crossed yet another tragic milestone on Friday as health officials estimated that the COVID-19 death toll had gone past 12,000.

There have been at least 7,890 confirmed coronavirus-related fatalities in the five boroughs as of 2:30 p.m., according to the city's daily tally. In recent days, the city has started to make public its count of "probable" COVID-19 deaths and that grim number reached at least 4,309 by Friday afternoon.

Just 24 hours earlier, the totals had been 7,563 confirmed deaths and 3,914 probable fatalities.


Tech investors say pandemic is like 1906 San Francisco quake

A San Francisco venture capital fund that has invested in Airbnb and Uber warned partners Friday that the coronavirus pandemic has been a sudden shock similar to the 1906 earthquake that leveled much of the city. 

Bond Capital is led by Mary Meeker, who has a large following in Silicon Valley where her annual reports on internet trends are eagerly consumed by entrepreneurs and fellow investors. 

"Earthquakes are like high-speed zippers that rip open the earth," Meeker and the rest of the fund's team wrote in the 29-page letter, which was first reported by Axios. 

The letter says COVID-19 may be a "call to arms" to rethink health care, which "in the U.S. hasn't changed as much as you would think since the Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918."

Some small business owners got $0, while lenders got billions in fees

Small-business owners across America are outraged after the coronavirus relief program intended to extend them a financial lifeline exhausted its $350 billion fund less than two weeks after it started — while lenders took home almost $6 billion in fees.

“We survived the 9/11 economic hardships and the 2008 economic downturn that seemed to go on forever, but I don’t know if we will survive the COVID-19 economic disaster,” said Candace Senato, who has owned a Tempe, Arizona-based freight shipping company for 28 years.

The Small Business Administration opened two programs: The $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program offered businesses with fewer than 500 employees a loan that can turn into a free grant if used to cover payroll and other allowed expenses and employees aren’t laid off. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan provided up to $2 million in financial assistance for any business that has losses as a result of the pandemic.

However, now that the money has already dried up for both programs, business owners' frustrations have only grown.

Read the full story here.

New Jersey to issue temporary licenses for foreign doctors

READINGTON, N.J. — Foreign-licensed physicians living in the United States can now apply for a “temporary emergency license” to practice medicine in New Jersey during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This army can always use more reinforcements,” Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday as he announced the program, which will begin accepting applications immediately.

Murphy called it “fitting” that New Jersey is the first state in the nation with a program of this magnitude. “This is a state where the immigrant experience is writ large in our collective history,” Murphy said. “This is a state where people from all over the world have come to build a new life and to live the American dream.”

Physicians licensed under the program will be able to provide in-person medical care at facilities licensed by the New Jersey Department of Health or at another location designated as an emergency health care center by the state health commissioner.

San Francisco makes face masks mandatory for everyone outside

Image: A pedestrian crosses an empty California Street during rush hour in San Francisco
A pedestrian crosses an empty California Street during rush hour in San Francisco on March 17, 2020.David Paul Morris / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Anyone setting foot on the streets of San Francisco, outside their homes, will be required to wear a face covering, authorities said Friday.

The order by Mayor London Breed and Director of Health Dr. Grant Colfax goes into effect tonight.

"Additionally, transportation workers and other employees who interact with the public must also cover their face while doing essential work," according to the new city mandate.

 Los Angeles, California's largest city, already has a similar policy in place.

Senate Democrats take out frustrations over testing in Pence phone call

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Leigh Ann Caldwell and Kristen Welker

WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats laid bare their frustrations about the lack of widespread testing in the U.S. during a teleconference with Vice President Mike Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force Friday afternoon, multiple sources tell NBC News.

At one point during the call, Maine Sen. Angus King, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, said he has “never been so mad about a phone call in my life,” adding that the administration’s lack of national testing is “a dereliction  of duty,” according to three of the sources. 

This is the second phone call in two days that Democrats peppered the administration officials about testing. A bipartisan congressional task force to reopen the country pressed President Donald Trump about the issue of testing on two phone calls Thursday.

Meanwhile, three senior administration officials tell NBC News that Friday night’s White House briefing will focus primarily on testing. Task force officials are expected to say they are confident there is enough testing available to implement the first phase of the administration’s plan to reopen the country, according to one official.  

The focus on testing comes as the administration is under fire for releasing its plans to open the economy in phases without having a nationwide testing and contact tracing program in place.

At the end of Friday's call, Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., brought up the president’s “Liberate” Virginia, Michigan and Minnesota tweets, according to two sources familiar.

A Democratic aide said that Pence attempted to talk about how the administration is working respectfully with the governors but Kaine said those tweets “are not at all respectful.”

Another source familiar said that Pence’s response was that “the president is an effective communicator” and speaks with the American people in “a transparent and effective way.”

In addition to Pence, Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx, Admiral Brett Giroir and other members of the task force were on the call offered for all Democratic senators. It’s the second call Pence and the task force have  had with Senate Democrats in as many weeks.

Julie Tsirkin, Peter Alexander and Carol E. Lee contributed.

'We cannot put the cart before the horse': Governors react to Trump's reopening plan

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON — After President Donald Trump laid out his road map for reopening state economies, a number of governors sought to temper regional expectations, raising the alarm about moving too fast in the face of unresolved issues like a lack of mass testing.

“They are helpful,” Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont, a Democrat, said on MSNBC Friday of the guidelines, which encourage areas that meet certain criteria to begin easing social distancing restrictions by May 1.

“We didn't want something more heavy-handed telling the governors what they had to do. That wouldn't have worked. Every region is a little bit different.”

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, said in a statement Thursday that while the White House’s suggestions were appreciated, "the plain overriding fact is we cannot put the cart before the horse.”

Read the full story here.

Parent in college admission scam leaving prison early because of coronavirus

The Associated Press

A parent sentenced to six months in prison for participating in the college admissions bribery scheme is getting to go home early because of the coronavirus pandemic, a federal judge has ruled.

Toby Macfarlane, a former real estate executive from Del Mar, California, will be released to home confinement after his lawyers argued the conditions behind bars put him at serious risk of contracting the virus. He will be released after he completes a 14-day quarantine in prison on April 21, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton said this week.

Macfarlane was sentenced in November after admitting to paying $450,000 to get his children into the University of Southern California as fake athletic recruits.

Read the full story here.

The Week in Pictures

The Week in Pictures

It was another challenging week with the number of confirmed coronavirus cases around the world skyrocketing to over 2 million and the U.S. death toll passing 34,000

Through it all, photojournalists around the globe have captured glimpses of humanity as people navigate these tough times. Check out The Week in Pictures

Coronavirus restrictions highlight LGBTQ domestic abuse crisis

Finbarr Toesland

Restrictions on movement introduced to combat the spread of the coronavirus have already greatly affected the day-to-day lives of hundreds of millions of people across the globe. But for victims of domestic abuse, or intimate partner violence, lockdown measures can present serious safety risks.

“During this time of social distancing and for some quarantine, more than ever survivors are isolated,” said Sabrina Santiago, co-executive director of the Network/La Red, a survivor-led social justice organization based in Boston that works to end domestic abuse in LGBTQ communities.

“Being confined with their abuser will lead to escalations of abuse and removes tools of survival such as being able to leave the house to escape or de-escalate abuse,” Santiago added.

While many of the same methods of control used by heterosexual domestic abusers are also used by LGBTQ abusers, those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer face unique forms of manipulation related to their sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, by threatening to “out” the victim of intimate partner violence to their family or employer if they attempt to reveal abuse, the abusive partner can make reporting violence to social services far more difficult.

Read the full story here.

Lady Gaga curating 'One World: Together at Home' fundraiser

Alexander Kacala

Global Citizen is producing a massive concert this weekend event titled "One World: Together at Home" to raise money to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

Curated by Lady Gaga, the concert Saturday will be live-streamed and broadcast in a multitude of ways. It's being touted as the largest (virtual) gathering of major artists and influencers since Live Aid in 1985.

The event will support frontline healthcare workers and the World Health Organization.

Read the full story here.

Unapproved Chinese antibody tests being used in at least 2 states

Officials across the country are racing to provide coronavirus tests to diagnose infections and to identify recovered patients with antibodies that may help others battle COVID-19, the disease it causes.

But some COVID-19 antibody tests, including those being used by public health departments in Denver and Los Angeles and provided to urgent care centers in Maryland and North Carolina, were supplied by Chinese manufacturers that are not approved by China's Center for Medical Device Evaluation, a unit of the National Medical Product Administration, or NMPA, the country's equivalent of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, NBC News has found.

Read the full story.

NYPD to wear black bands as death toll climbs

Officers with the New York City Police Department will wear black bands across their shields to honor the 28 uniformed and civilian members who have died from COVID-19.

“We do not know how long it will last, so we will continue to honor our colleagues in this way for the foreseeable future," NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea wrote in a letter to the department. "We do know we will emerge stronger on the other side together."

More than 2,100 uniformed members and 600 civilian members are out sick after being diagnosed with COVID-19, and 1,450 uniformed members of the NYPD have returned to full-duty service after recovering from the coronavirus, the department said.

In some rural states with no lockdown orders, cases on the rise

Some rural states that have not enacted widespread lockdown orders are seeing an uptick in coronavirus cases. 

From Tuesday to Friday, South Dakota and Nebraska had the largest percentage increase in cases, according to data compiled by NBC News. South Dakota confirmed 323 new cases since Tuesday evening, a 32 percent increase.

Neither state has enacted stay-at-home orders. 

Some states that implemented stay-at-home orders in late March or early April have also reported sharp increases in cases including Virginia, Rhode Island and Texas.

30 residents dead at Massachusetts nursing home

Dan Good

A Massachusetts nursing home is facing heartbreaking loss after at least 30 residents died and nearly all the others have tested positive for COVID-19.

Staff at Belmont Manor are balancing the emotional weight of the deaths with the need to provide care and communicate updates with residents' families, a representative with the nursing home said Friday.

Administrator Stewart Karger confirmed in a letter this week that 30 residents died and 116 tested positive for coronavirus, some of whom were asymptomatic. "Though the residents at Belmont Manor tend to be older, there is no age at which one wants to lose a family member or worry about their health, particularly  at a time when visitation is so limited,” Karger wrote.

More than a quarter of the center's 190 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. The National Guard was deployed to the nursing home to conduct testing.

Lone passenger on U.S. flight gets VIP treatment: 'Welcome aboard, Bob'

A man on a Southwest Airlines flight from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Louis on Thursday night didn't need a seat in first class to receive VIP treatment.

That's because he was the only passenger on the plane.

Bob Pitts documented some of the flight in a series of videos.

"We're going on our little flight from Ft. Lauderdale to St. Louis," Pitts said from his aisle seat. "It's about 8:30 and I'm the only person on the plane."

"It's a very, very, very unique experience," he said.

Read the full story here.

Members of Congress consider rule changes, proxy voting due to coronavirus

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Alex Moe

Leigh Ann Caldwell and Alex Moe

WASHINGTON — Congress is facing pressure to consider alternative arrangements due to the coronavirus pandemic, including proxy voting and remote work — but changes would require a vote and could come with security risks.

Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., chair of the House Rules Committee, recommended Thursday that the House allow proxy voting, in which a lawmaker unable to travel to Washington could empower a colleague to cast the homebound member’s vote. Lawmakers still need to vote to make this change.

While many House members applauded the proposed voting change, some said the House needs to do more to accommodate remote work during the crisis. Nearly two dozen members are urging Congressional leaders to allow remote committee meetings and other daily business to be conducted online.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has softened her tone to alternative ways to vote after coming under pressure from rank-and-file members, but in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he has no appetite to allow remote voting.

More than 40 senators sent a letter, unsigned, to the Senate Rules Committee urging them to approve a measure that would allow senators to electronically sign letters, something that cannot currently be done remotely. An aide to Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the chairman of the Rules Committee, said the committee is working to address the issue.

Trump and Gov. Cuomo clash over coronavirus response after president tells him to stop 'complaining'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

President Donald Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo clashed Friday over whether the federal government has done enough to provide assistance to the state, one of the epicenters of the coronavirus outbreak.

The fireworks began when Cuomo criticized the president during his daily press briefing over the federal aid needed to carry out Trump’s three-phased plan to reopen state economies.

“Don’t give them this massive undertaking that has never been done before and then not give them any resources to do it,” Cuomo said at the briefing. “Don’t ask the states to do this ... it’s up to the governors, up to the governors, up to the governors. Okay. Is there any funding so I can do these things that you want us to do? No. That is passing the buck without passing the bucks.”

Minutes later, Trump responded on Twitter, saying the governor should “spend more time ‘doing’ and less time ‘complaining.’” The president said that the federal government built New York thousands of hospital beds that he said the state didn’t need or use and provided a large number of ventilators that it should have already had.

After a reporter read Trump's tweet to Cuomo, the governor gave a lengthy response in front of the cameras.

Read the full story here.

'On the front line' with no tests: To reopen country, primary care doctors need testing access

Success of the Trump administration's guidance to reopen portions of the country hinges on diagnostic testing: people need to know whether they're healthy enough to get back to work, or sick with COVID-19 and need continued isolation.

It's a necessity Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged during a coronavirus task force briefing Thursday at the White House.

Read more. 

Gun salutes for Queen Elizabeth II's birthday cancelled

Queen Elizabeth II’s 94th birthday will not be marked with traditional gun salutes this year because of the ongoing lockdown in the U.K., a spokesperson for Britain’s Ministry of Defense has confirmed to NBC News.   

The monarch’s birthday on Apr. 21 is usually saluted at noon local time (7 a.m. ET) with 41 guns fired by the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Green Park, which is adjacent to Buckingham Palace in central London. 

An hour later by a 62-gun salute is fired by the Honourable Artillery Company at the Tower of London nearby.

Both have now been cancelled, the spokesperson confirmed. 

San Diego Comic-Con 2020 canceled, returns July 2021

Comic-Con 2020 has been canceled for the first time in its 50-year history, a spokesman said in a statement Friday.

The event is scheduled to return to the San Diego Convention Center in July 2021. This year's badge holders will receive an email in which they can request a refund or transfer their payments to next year's event. onPeak, Comic-Con's official hotel affiliate, will also be cancelling all reservations and refund all deposits.

"Extraordinary times require extraordinary measures and while we are saddened to take this action, we know it is the right decision,” said David Glanzer, a spokesman for the popular event.

Iowa schools will remain closed for rest of academic year

All Iowa schools will remain closed through the end of the academic year, the state's governor announced Friday.

The initial plan was to reopen April 30, with the knowledge that state officials would reassess two weeks out from that date.

"I would like nothing more than to stand before you and say Iowa schools will be open in May," Gov. Kim Reynolds said in a news conference Friday. "I regret to say that Iowa schools will not reopen for this school year."

4 Georgia poultry workers dead from coronavirus, company says

The Associated Press

SAVANNAH, Ga. — Four employees of a major poultry producer's operations in rural southwest Georgia have died after becoming infected with the coronavirus, a company spokesman said Friday.

Tyson Foods spokesman Gary Mickelson said three of the employees worked at the company's chicken processing plant in Camilla, while the fourth person worked in a supporting job outside the plant. He declined to say how many workers there have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus.

Read the full story here.

'Clap for our Carers' in UK prompts backlash over lack of social distancing


Isobel van Hagen

Sasha Urban

Isobel van Hagen, Matthew Mulligan and Sasha Urban

People and police who gathered on Westminster Bridge in central London on Thursday as a part of the national "Clap for our Carers" campaign sparked online criticism for a lack of social distancing during their applause. 

Damir Rafi posted a video of the scene to Twitter, writing, “I'm a doctor working at the hospital that's right there. And yes, I was also somewhat perplexed by the lack of social distancing...” The video shows police cars parked on the roadway and people standing shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk, clapping -- many standing far closer than the two meters (six feet) of separation suggested by the government.

Some Twitter users called the video 'infuriating' whiles others pointed out the irony of clapping for health care workers while also ignoring social distancing recommendations. The U.K. on Thursday extended its lockdown for three more weeks until at least May 7, as concerns grow in Britain that the crisis is far from abating.

How coronavirus could change wedding culture

Gwen Aviles

As the coronavirus pandemic unfolds, the modern wedding industry faces an unprecedented challenge, with brides-to-be, who've already spent thousands on nonrefundable deposits, caught in the crossfire. Yet while many decisions — such as whether the venue will be able to reopen or whether they can secure a marriage license — may ultimately be left out of their hands, many couples are purposefully choosing to downsize their wedding celebrations.

Read the full story here.

Photos: Wild boars patrol Israeli city

Wild boars cross a road in a residential area in Haifa, northern Israel, on April 16, 2020.
Wild boars cross a road in a residential area in Haifa on Thursday. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

Wild boars, some as bulky as Rottweilers and traveling in family packs, have been trotting through Haifa in increasing numbers. Their once-nocturnal visitations now take place throughout the day, as they root through refuse, spook domestic pets and even block roads.

The visitation, since nationwide lockdowns came into effect this month, has revived debate among residents of the hilly port city as to policy regarding the pests.

"We are scared to go out, even to throw out the garbage. I don't which way the boars will come," Meirav Litani, a music instructor, said as a boar loomed in the distance.

Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Haifa
Boars roam next to a residential building in Haifa on Thursday. Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

Von Miller says he was 'shocked' to learn he tested positive

Von Miller, the second NFL player to disclose that he is infected with the coronavirus, said he was shocked when he tested positive.

The superstar Denver Broncos linebacker appeared Friday on the "TODAY" show from his home in Colorado wearing a gray hoodie and eyeglasses.

"It all started with just a simple cough and it got worse," Miller, 31, said.

Read the full story here.

NYC mayor says hotel rooms will be available to help residents isolate, events canceled through May

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reiterated Friday that he has delegated 11,000 hotel rooms for residents who have the coronavirus but don't have the option to isolate themselves at their homes. 

"Some households can do that more easily than others," he said at a news conference. "There are a lot of people in the city who don't have a choice because they're in a very, very tight circumstance in their home or their apartment." 

The mayor said the hotel rooms will be free of charge for those who need them. According to NBC New York, de Blasio will work with community health centers to identify residents who need the rooms. 

New Yorkers can start moving into them on April 22. 

De Blasio also said Friday that he was canceling all nonessential events for May that were previously given permits. Those include parades, rallies, concerts and other large gatherings.

Medical sites, farmer's markets and meal delivery will not be affected. The mayor said he is having discussions regarding events for June.

Puerto Rico mayors work to fight coronavirus with few tests available

Mayors of towns across Puerto Rico are facing uncertainty as they grapple with the fallout of a botched effort from the island's government to purchase at least one million coronavirus testing kits, worth $38 million, at a time when the U.S. territory has the lowest per-capita testing rate compared to any state.

Read the full story here.

Azar announces new effort to streamline COVID-19 research

The National Institutes of Health is launching a public-private partnership aimed at developing a national strategy to coordinate COVID-19 drug and vaccine research. 

Research for coronavirus therapies and vaccines across the country has been scattered and disconnected, in a number of unrelated clinical trials. The new initiative, called "Accelerating COVID-19 Therapeutic Interventions and Vaccines," or ACTIV, aims to coordinate and streamline these efforts. 

“The ACTIV partnership will bring new levels of coordination and speed to public and private work on therapies and vaccines for COVID-19," HHS Sec. Alex Azar said in a statement Friday. "By bringing together 16 pharmaceutical companies and five government agencies here and abroad, the ACTIV partnership will accelerate the amazing work being done every day by scientists and innovators inside and outside of government." 

The government agencies include HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, and abroad, the European Medicines Agency.

An owner of N.J. nursing home where bodies found was once VP of troubled nursing home chain

Image: Ambulance and medical crews outside of Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in New Jersey after police found more than a dozen bodies on April 16, 2020.
Ambulance and medical crews outside of Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in New Jersey after police found more than a dozen bodies on April 16, 2020.Ted Shaffrey / AP

One of the owners of New Jersey's largest nursing home, where at least 15 bodies were discovered crammed into a four-person morgue on Monday, was a top executive at a collapsed chain of troubled nursing homes previously investigated by NBC News.

Federal records show that Louis Schwartz is listed as a 50 percent owner of the Andover Subacute Facility I and II in Sussex County, where the bodies were found. Public records also show that Schwartz was a vice president at Skyline Healthcare, a now-defunct nursing home chain that was plagued by allegations of neglect and mismanagement and the subject of more than a dozen lawsuits.

Read the full article here.

Prince Harry and Meghan deliver food to L.A. residents impacted by outbreak

Isobel van Hagen

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle delivered food to people in Los Angeles impacted by the coronavirus outbreak on Wednesday, a TMZ video shows.

The couple have kept a low profile since relocating from Canada to California last month, after they ended their roles as working British royals. The TMZ video shows the couple wearing caps and face coverings while dropping off meals to L.A. residents affected by the pandemic. The couple visited six people on Easter Sunday as well as 14 more on Wednesday in West Hollywood.

The Sussexes volunteered with Project Angel Food, an L.A.-based non-profit that provides free meals for people too sick to shop and cook for themselves. Markle knew about non-profit from when she previously lived in L.A., the organization told NBC News.

Richard Ayoub, the Executive Director of Project Angel Food, said in a statement: “On Wednesday, [the Duke and Duchess] quietly continued delivering meals to relieve our overworked drivers. It was their way to thank our volunteers, chefs and staff who have been working tirelessly since the COVID-19 crisis began.”

Photo: 30 Rock honors the men and women on the front line

Image: 30 Rock blue lights
30 Rockefeller Center was lit in blue Thursday as landmarks and buildings across New York and the rest of the nation honored health care workers and first responders in the COVID-19 pandemic.Nathan Congleton / TODAY

Coronavirus could cripple voting in November. But it depends where you live.

David Wasserman

America's decentralized system of means states enjoy broad leeway on setting election rules. Whether voters realize it or not, states' procedures vary widely on everything from registration deadlines, ID requirements and types of voting machinery to who is permitted to vote absentee and when mail-in ballots must be postmarked in order to be counted.

But in the coronavirus pandemic, a lack of federal election funding, partisan disunity and legal disputes could produce last-minute logistical confusion and drastic disparities across state lines in voters' ability to safely access a ballot.

Read the full report here.

Sign of the times, cont'd

Seattle eyes reopening economy

Seattle was the country's first coronavirus hot spot, and soon it could be one of the first big cities to reopen its economy. When and how that happens will depend largely on the region's ability to get adequate testing and protect its front-line health care workers, Mayor Jenny Durkan said.

"It's a marathon, not a sprint," she said. "We're not even really halfway through, even though we've hit the peak."

Read the full story here.

Michigan gov. says she hopes to have 'some relaxing' of stay-at-home order by May 1

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Friday that she hopes to be in a position to ease her state’s strict stay-at-home order by May 1, although she warned that it must be a decision based on scientific data to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus.

“I do hope to have some relaxing come May 1, but it's two weeks away and the information and the data and our ability to test is changing so rapidly, it's hard to tell you precisely where we'll be in a week from now, much less two,” Whitmer said in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

The Democratic governor did not elaborate Friday on which part of the order she might be willing to lift. She said they’ve had to be “really aggressive” in their response to the coronavirus outbreak because she said Michigan has the third highest death rate in the country. She has faced fierce backlash from Michigan residents, drawing large protests, after instituting one of the most restrictive stay-at-home orders in the nation. 

Read the full story here.

Norway releases prisoners to prevent spread of coronavirus in prisons

Andy Eckardt

Caroline Radnofsky and Andy Eckardt

Norway has released almost 100 prisoners with ankle monitors in the last month, with plans to send up to 200 more home in the coming weeks, the country's Directorate of Correctional Service announced on Friday. 

Prisoners serving sentences of up to six months or who are in the last six months of a longer prison sentence have been able to remain in their homes with ankle monitors in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 since early March, the department wrote in a statement on its website. 

The country of over 5 million people has reported 6,891 cases since the crisis began, with 136 deaths so far. Kindergartens, after-school clubs and elementary schools are expected to reopen across the country by the end of April. 

CDC chief warns 'it's important not to let up at all' as parts of U.S. seek to reopen

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that as parts of the U.S. seek to reopen amid the coronavirus outbreak, people should still be vigilant by practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing their hands.

“It’s important not to let up at all,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.

Those in areas where there are still significant ongoing transmissions, such as New York, Boston, Baltimore and Washington, should continue following the mitigation strategies recommended by the federal government, Redfield said.

“We need to be very vigilant in that this new opening up — which has that requirement of early case diagnosis and isolation, contact tracing — is really embedded, as you'll see in the phases, with still maintaining that personal vigilance, that personal mitigation, so that we can continue to limit and protect the vulnerable in this nation,” he said.

Read the full story here.

Africa could see 300,000 coronavirus deaths this year

Associated Press

Africa could see 300,000 deaths from the coronavirus this year even under the best-case scenario, according to a new report released Friday that cites modeling from Imperial College London.

Under the worst-case scenario with no interventions against the virus, Africa could see 3.3 million deaths and 1.2 billion infections, the report by the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa said. Even with “intense social distancing,” under the best-case scenario the continent could see more than 122 million infections, the report said.

Any of the scenarios would overwhelm Africa’s largely fragile and underfunded health systems, experts have warned. Under the best-case scenario, $44 billion would be needed for testing, personal protective equipment and treatment, the report said, citing UNECA estimates. The worst-case scenario would cost $446 billion.

The continent as of Friday had more than 18,000 confirmed virus cases, but experts have said Africa is weeks behind Europe in the pandemic and the rate of increase has looked alarmingly similar.

Serbia under full lockdown for Orthodox Easter weekend

Vladimir Banic

Serbia will be under curfew for its longest lockdown to date due to the coronavirus for the upcoming Orthodox Easter weekend, similar to the full lockdown style implemented in Wuhan, China, where the virus originated. 

All residents will be under curfew from 5 P.M. local time on Friday until Tuesday 5 A.M., Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said in a TV interview earlier in the week.

All supermarkets and businesses will be fully closed, although dog-walking will be allowed close to home for no more than 20 minutes. Serbia has confirmed around 5,000 reported cases as of Friday.

Pandemic 'potentially catastrophic' for millions of children, UN says

Isobel van Hagen

While children have largely escaped the most severe symptoms of COVID-19, the social and economic impact “is potentially catastrophic for millions" of them according to a U.N. report released Thursday evening.

“All children, of all ages, and in all countries, are affected,” it said. “However, some children are destined to bear the greatest costs.” Those badly hit will be children most affected by poverty: those living in refugee and displacement camps, conflict zones, institutions and detention centers, the report said.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres also issued a statement, saying the pandemic is putting many of the world’s children “in jeopardy” and urged families and leaders everywhere to “protect our children.”

Guterres said the lives of children “are being totally upended” by COVID-19, pointing out that almost all students out of school, family stress levels are rising as communities face lockdown, and reduced household income is expected to force poor families to cut back on health and food expenditures which will “particularly affect children.”

Coronavirus in a psychiatric hospital: 'It's the worst of all worlds'

It's not unusual to hear patients screaming and crying at Western State Hospital, workers say. But lately, they say it's been worse than normal at the massive psychiatric facility just south of Tacoma, Washington.

Thirty-four patients and staffers have tested positive for COVID-19 at Western State since the outbreak began, and one patient has died. The hospital says conditions have improved, with few new cases in recent days and no new sick patients in two weeks. But some workers — who actually outnumber patients 4 to 1, and who account for most of the coronavirus cases — tell NBC News they fear the real scale of the infection is unknown.

Read the full story here.

Lions nap in the road during South Africa lockdown

Isobel van Hagen

Lions and other wild animals have been taking advantage of the strict lockdown in South Africa, as there are no human visitors visiting the 2 million hectare Kruger National Park.

Photographs taken by ranger Richard Sowry show a pride of lions napping in the sun on the tarmac just outside one of the park’s rest lodges.

In a Twitter post, the park explained that the lions was were not usually resident in areas of the park open to tourists.

The pandemic in pictures: 29 images from around the world

A Yonkers Fire Department EMT arrives to assist EMS medics with a patient with COVID-19 symptoms on Tuesday in Yonkers, N.Y.John Moore / Getty Images

NBC News' picture editors have brought together 29 of the most striking images of the pandemic around the world in the last seven days. See the full gallery here.

German foreign minister: Trump's WHO funding cut like 'throwing a pilot out of the aircraft'

Andy Eckardt

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas condemned President Donald Trump's decision to halt payments to the World Health Organization on Thursday, in a continuation of the wave of global criticism of the move.

Speaking to German public service broadcaster ZDF on Thursday evening, Maas said: “To call the WHO into question or to cut off its financing in such a phase, is as if you would throw the pilot out of a flying aircraft.”

Trump has accused the WHO of "severely mismanaging and covering up" the coronavirus crisis, specifically the initial outbreak in Wuhan, China.

London Mayor calls on U.K. to change advice on face masks

Isobel van Hagen

London Mayor Sadiq Khan reiterated his calls for face masks to be worn “if you really can’t stay at home” on Friday. The U.K. is “an outlier” in not following the recommended health policy, he said.

“The government’s advice should change so that in those circumstances where it is not possible for us to keep our social distance — think of public transport usage, think of when you’re in a shop — we should be using non-medical facial coverings like bandanas, like scarves, like reusable masks,” Khan told BBC Radio on Friday.

The U.K. extended its lockdown for three more weeks on Thursday until at least May 7, as concerns grow Britain that the crisis was far from abating.

Image: A woman wearing a face mask and a plastic bag pulls a cart loaded with bags of recyclables through the streets of Lower Manhattan during the outbreak of the novel coronavirus (which causes COVID-19) on April 16, 2020 in New York City.
A woman wearing a face mask and a plastic bag pulls a cart loaded with bags of recyclables through the streets of Lower Manhattan on Thursday.Johannes Eisele / AFP - Getty Images

Coronavirus testing must double or triple before U.S. can safely reopen, experts say

Testing for the coronavirus would have to be at least doubled or tripled from its current levels to allow for even a partial reopening of America's economy, public health experts say, but it is unclear how soon such an ambitious goal could be reached amid persistent shortages of testing supplies and a lack of coordination from the Trump administration.

Without diagnostic testing on a massive scale, federal and state officials and private companies will lack a clear picture of who has been infected, who can safely return to work, how the virus is spreading and when stay-at-home orders can be eased, public health experts say

Read the full story here

South Korea joins international effort to develop vaccine

Stella Kim

South Korea is working with the International Vaccine Institute to create clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine, Kwon Joon Uk, the deputy director-general of the Korea Centers for Disease Control said in a briefing Thursday evening.

“The first clinical trial in South Korea will comprise of about 40 people and the second clinical trial will involve about 160 people,” he said. The government will also be launching a group on Friday for research and development of COVID-19 vaccine, treatments, test kits and other related materials.

“Currently, the final negotiations between respective medical entities remain but we cautiously speculate that the clinical trials could start from June,” Kwon said.

South Korea has earned praise for largely managing to bring its epidemic under control thanks to an extensive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing. As of Friday, it has reported about 10,000 confirmed cases. 

Outbreak hits China's economy harder than anything since 1970s

Associated Press

China suffered its worst economic contraction since at least the 1970s in the first quarter as it fought the coronavirus, and weak consumer spending and factory activity suggest it faces a longer, harder recovery than initially expected.

The world’s second-largest economy shrank 6.8 percent from a year ago in the three months ending in March after factories, shops and travel were closed to contain the infection, official data showed Friday.

That was stronger than some forecasts that called for a contraction of up to 16 percent but China’s worst performance since before market-style economic reforms started in 1979.

Read the full story here.

Wuhan, where COVID-19 epidemic began, raises death toll by 1,290

The government in the Chinese city of Wuhan added 1,290 people to its COVID-19 death toll, bringing the number of deaths there now to 3,869.

Those deaths initially weren't counted because of overwhelmed medical facilities early in the epidemic and some patients died at home without being treated at hospitals, state media Xinhua reported 

There was also belated and mistaken reporting by medical staff amid the height of the epidemic, according to the news agency. Some medical institutions were not linked to an epidemic information network and failed to report data in time, Xinhua said.

Wuhan is the Chinese city where the coronavirus was first detected and where the outbreak that is now a global pandemic began. The new numbers were released by the city's government. 

China's National Health Commission had most recently reported 3,342 deaths linked to COVID-19 on the mainland, but that was before the revision in deaths in Wuhan.

Philippine president threatens martial law-style lockdown enforcement

The Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president has threatened a martial law-style enforcement of a monthlong lockdown in the main northern region of millions of people as violations soared.

President Rodrigo Duterte said in a late-night televised speech Thursday he would order the military and police to strictly enforce social distancing and curfews if compliance did not improve. Police said they have accosted about 120,000 quarantine violators since last month, including people who engaged in cockfighting and drinking sprees.

“The police and military will enforce social distancing and curfews. They will. It’s like martial law. You choose. I don’t like it,” Duterte said, but added that he may be forced to “if the country gets compromised and you won’t show discipline.”

Duterte, who took office in mid-2016, has been in the crosshairs of human rights groups long before the pandemic started for his bloody anti-drugs crackdown that has left thousands of mostly poor drug suspects dead.

CEOs on Trump's council say they weren't aware of plan to reopen economy

Less than 24 hours after having consulted with some of the leading corporate executives in America, President Donald Trump surprised many of them with his action plan to reopen the economy, which he suggested Thursday could begin in some states as soon as "tomorrow."

The new federal guidelines, which hand over authority to state governors to determine when their states will open up for business, came just a day after the rushed coordination of more than 200 executives and thought leaders across a number of industries to counsel the president on how to open the economy.

Many of those CEOs told NBC News that they were not aware Thursday that Trump would issue guidelines later in the day.

Read the full story here