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Some states ease restrictions as protestors call for reopening economy

Here are the latest updates from around the globe.

This weekend marked the beginning of several states easing restrictions related to the outbreak, which continues to take an unprecedented number of lives.

Residents in Florida and other states returned to the beach Saturday despite an increase in COVID-19 deaths and infections. Meanwhile, three Northeastern states reopened boatyards and marinas for personal use only.

The loosening of stay-at-home orders come amid a growing chorus to reopen economies throughout the U.S. But advisers are warning President Donald Trump that his push to restart business as usual comes with political risks.

Saturday also brought the star-studded "One World: Together at Home" benefit concert to support health care workers in the fight against COVID-19.

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 19 coronavirus news here.

961d ago / 4:55 PM UTC

'No excuse now' on marriage with ceremonies by video, NY gov. says

New York officials said Saturday they will allow people to get marriage licenses remotely as the coronavirus pandemic continues and marriage bureaus are closed to the public.

Clerks will also have the authority to perform wedding ceremonies over video. 

"Video marriage ceremonies, there's no excuse now when the question comes up for marriage," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "You can do it by Zoom."

961d ago / 4:41 PM UTC

New York Gov. Cuomo says COVID-19 hospitalizations are down 'but it's not over yet'

While the rate of coronavirus hospitalizations has declined in New York, the numbers are still high, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a press conference Saturday.

Around 2,000 new coronavirus hospitalizations are still taking place in the state daily, suggesting "it's not over yet," according to Cuomo.

At least 540 New Yorkers died of coronavirus Friday, the lowest daily death rate the state has seen this week. The rate of infection has also gone down in part thanks to "what we have all done to flatten the curve," Cuomo said. With social distancing, the rate of infection has dropped to 0.9, meaning one person with COVID-19 infects about one other person.

Cuomo said that ramping up testing is crucial for reopening the state without increasing the rate of infection. Increasing New York's capacity to do more tests would also help "find people with the virus and trace their contacts," he said.

The governor called on the federal government "to oversee the supply chain" in order to help laboratories get what they need to increase testing. He also urged the federal government to improve their efforts to coordinate response efforts with states.

961d ago / 4:13 PM UTC

Photo: India locks down entire population

Image: Mumbai
Children wait to receive free food distributed in a slum during a lockdown to check the spread of the new coronavirus in Mumbai, India, on Saturday. As governments around the world try to slow the spread of the coronavirus, India has launched one of the most draconian social experiments in history, locking down its entire population, including an estimated 176 million people who struggle to survive on $1.90 a day or less.Rajanish Kakade / AP
961d ago / 4:12 PM UTC

How to watch Lady Gaga's 'One World: Together at Home' concert

ady Gaga's 'One World: Together at Home' concert

"One World: Together at Home," a concert event produced by Global Citizen and touted as one of the largest (virtual) gatherings of major artists and influencers since Live Aid in 1985, is being held in support of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, including front-line health care workers, and the World Health Organization.

The event — curated by Lady Gaga and hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert — will air Saturday, April 18, 2020, starting at 8 p.m. ET on all NBC networks, ABC, ViacomCBS Networks, The CW and iHeartMedia channels.

A digital stream of “One World: Together At Home” will begin at 2 p.m. ET and can be streamed on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon Prime Video, TIDAL, Yahoo, Apple platforms and Twitch.

Read the full story here. 

961d ago / 4:12 PM UTC

Cuomo: pandemic is 'no time for politics'


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that the ongoing coronavirus outbreak was "no time for politics" and called for national unity.

“I have no political agenda," Cuomo said at his daily briefing in Albany. "It's no time for politics.” 

Cuomo has gone back and forth with President Donald Trump, publicly disagreeing with the White House's response to the pandemic and at times drawing the ire of Trump. 

Cuomo insisted that he had no interest in partisan politics during this time, saying "I work so hard to distance myself from it."

“If you have partisan division splitting this nation now, it's going to make it worse,” he said. 

961d ago / 3:42 PM UTC

Pentagon extending travel restrictions for military personnel through June 30

The Department of Defense announced Saturday that it would extend travel restrictions for all military personnel through June 30th due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. 

The travel restrictions were initially in place through May 11th. The new date will go into effect on Monday, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Matthew P. Donovan told reporters on a phone call Saturday morning. 

The Pentagon also said that Defense Secretary Mark Esper will formally review the travel restriction policy every 15 days.

961d ago / 3:17 PM UTC

United States tops 700,000 cases

More than 700,000 people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.

The country crossed that threshold Saturday as Virginia reported 562 additional cases and 27 deaths, and Ohio reported 249 probable cases. Puerto Rico also announced 50 new cases and two deaths.

The U.S. leads all countries in reported deaths, 36,734, and cases, 700,664, as of 10:55 a.m. ET Saturday, according to NBC News' tracking.

961d ago / 2:49 PM UTC

Britain passes 15,000 coronavirus deaths

Britain’s coronavirus death toll rose by 888 to 15,464 on Saturday, the U.K.’s health ministry said.

Of the more than 350,000 people in the country who've been tested for COVID-19, 114,217 tested positive.

Britain recently extended its nationwide lockdown measures for at least three more weeks due to concerns that relaxing the rules could cause a "second peak" which could "substantially" increase the number of deaths, Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday.

961d ago / 2:43 PM UTC

Even after 'flattening the curve,' Americans face a long road back to pre-coronavirus normalcy

After flattening the curve, Americans should expect a number of curveballs.

Once the immediate crush of COVID-19 cases subsides, epidemiologists say a "post-peak" purgatory lies ahead until a vaccine can be discovered and disseminated that would allow a return to normalcy.

“When this lockdown ends, it’s not going to be like one day you’re in your house and the next day you’re taking the metro to the ballgame,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, the director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

"It’s not going to happen like that. It’s going to be gradual."

Read the full story here.

961d ago / 2:42 PM UTC

Iran's coronavirus death toll surpasses 5,000 as some businesses reopen

The coronavirus death toll in Iran surpassed 5,000, according to the country's health ministry.

The worst-hit country in the Middle East, Iran on Saturday reported 80,868 total cases of COVID-19, up from 1,374 the day before. 

Iran allowed some businesses in the capital of Tehran and nearby towns to re-open Saturday, however, after weeks of lockdown, according to the Associated Press.

961d ago / 2:39 PM UTC

Miami police chief tests positive for coronavirus

Miami's police chief, Jorge Colina, tested positive for coronavirus, he announced in a message to his department.

"My symptoms are mild, my spirits are high and I have every reason to believe that I will have a full recovery," Colina wrote.

He said he is remaining in isolation until tests show that he's "no longer at risk for spreading the virus to coworkers."

Deputy Chief Ronald Papier is serving as acting chief in Colina's absence.

961d ago / 2:25 PM UTC

Death toll in Spain surpasses 20,000

The death toll in Spain surpassed 20,000 on Saturday, and the total number of infections in the country nearly reached 200,000, according to Spanish health authorities. 

Spain’s health authorities reported 565 deaths in the last 24 hours, which is a decrease from the day before which reported 585. Only the United States and Italy have higher death tolls than Spain.

While more than 74,000 people in the hard-hit country have recovered, strict confinement rules are expected to be extended beyond the planned date of April 26.

961d ago / 2:19 PM UTC

Unexpected impact of stay-at-home orders: Cleaner air and wild animals reclaiming habitats

961d ago / 1:29 PM UTC

At least 20 Afghan presidential palace staff test positive for virus

At least 20 officials working at Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's palace have tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the 70-year-old leader to limit most of his contact with staff to digital communication, government sources said on Saturday. The president himself has not officially been tested for the virus.

"A contaminated document was sent to an office inside the palace from another government department and that's how the employees were infected," a senior official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"Some of the employees were still working in their offices when the results came out, and we had to quarantine them and their families, but the numbers could be higher," the official added.

Afghanistan has reported more than 900 cases as of Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

961d ago / 12:44 PM UTC

Pope Francis prays for health care workers assisting disabled patients

Pope Francis said on Saturday to a small audience at his Vatican morning mass that he was praying for health care workers helping disabled COVID-19 patients.

He said that he had received a letter from a nun detailing the difficult situation facing nurses and doctors treating disabled people.

"We pray for those who are always at the service of people with with different abilities, who don't have the abilities we have," he said.

Italy's healthcare system has been hit particularly hard by the outbreak, but the country, along with others in Europe are now consider lifting lockdown measures.

961d ago / 12:10 PM UTC
961d ago / 11:29 AM UTC

Kurdish-led region in northeast Syria reports first case

The Kurdish-led administration in Syria's northeast reported the area's first case of coronavirus on Friday. It said samples had been tested in Damascus earlier this month.

The regional administration said in a statement that a 53-year-old man had died on Apr. 2 and that a sample sent to Syria's capital Damascus had tested positive for COVID-19. Health authorities in the northeast — a region ruled autonomously from Damascus — had not until now been made aware of the results, which emerged on the same day as the patient's death, it added. 

A World Health Organization regional spokesperson said that active surveillance was being carried out in northeast Syria to probe for other potential cases. The Kurdish-led administration said in a statement it was "dangerous" that their health authorities had not been informed directly when the case was first confirmed.

Relief organizations have expressed concern about the pandemic reaching northeast Syria, where health infrastructure has been shattered by war and medical supplies are limited. 

961d ago / 10:46 AM UTC

Nigerian president's chief of staff dies as Africa’s death toll surpasses 1,000


The Nigerian president’s chief of staff Abba Kyari died on Friday after contracting the coronavirus, a presidential spokesman said on Twitter.

Kyari — who was in his 70s and had underlying health problems including diabetes — was the top official aide to 77-year-old Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and was considered one of the most powerful men in the country.

As of Saturday, Africa now has more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. A total of 52 of the continent’s 54 countries have reported the virus, with the overall number of cases nearing 20,000.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom warned on Friday, however, that because of a shortage of testing on the continent “it’s likely the real numbers are higher than reported.”

961d ago / 10:09 AM UTC

U.S. 'concerned' by threat of cyber attack against Czech Republic healthcare

The United States is concerned by the threat of a cyber attack against the Czech Republic’s healthcare sector, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday, adding that anybody engaged in such activity should “expect consequences.”

Two hospitals in the Czech Republic reported attempted attacks on their computer systems on Friday, a day after the country’s cybersecurity watchdog said it expected a wave of cyberattacks on the country’s critical infrastructure.

“We call upon the actor in question to refrain from carrying out disruptive malicious cyber activity against the Czech Republic’s healthcare system or similar infrastructure elsewhere,” Pompeo said in a statement, without naming anyone.

A Czech official speaking on condition of anonymity said it was not clear who was responsible for the activity the watchdog had identified but it was thought to be the work of a “serious and advanced adversary.”

961d ago / 9:23 AM UTC

South Korea maintains downward trend in virus cases


South Korea has reported 18 new cases of the virus on Saturday — its lowest daily jump since Feb. 20 — continuing a considerable downward trend since the beginning of the month. 

Figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday brought national totals to 10,653 cases and 232 virus-related deaths. Korean officials are now beginning to discuss more sustainable forms of social distancing that allows for some communal and economic activity, according to the Associated Press.

It comes after a nationwide election was held in the country earlier this week, which saw President Moon Jae-in's ruling party win in a landslide victory propelled by successes in the country's efforts to contain the virus.

South Korea has largely managed to bring its epidemic under control due to an extensive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing, earning praise from the World Health Organization and other nations.

961d ago / 8:47 AM UTC
961d ago / 8:16 AM UTC

U.K. scientists to make 1 million potential vaccines before tests to prove it works

A million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed by British scientists are already being manufactured and will be available by September, even before trials prove whether the shot is effective, the team said Friday.

The Oxford University team’s experimental product — called “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19” — is a type known as a recombinant viral vector vaccine and is one of at least 70 potential virus vaccines under development by biotech and research teams around the world.

The scientists said in an online briefing they were recruiting volunteers for early stage human trials of their shot, and large-scale production capacity was being put in place “at risk.” This means the shots will be produced in large numbers at risk of being useless if trials show they do not work.

“The aim is to have at least a million doses by around about September, when we also hope to have efficacy trial results,” Adrian Hill, a professor and director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University, told reporters. He said three of the manufacturing partners were in Britain, two in Europe, one in India and one in China.

961d ago / 5:46 AM UTC

Tennessee can’t prevent abortions during coronavirus, judge rules

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge Friday night ruled that Tennessee has to continue allowing abortions amid a temporary ban on nonessential medical procedures that’s aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.

U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said the defendants didn’t show that any appreciable amount of personal protective equipment, or PPE, would be saved if the ban is applied to abortions.

In a hearing by phone Friday, attorneys representing several state abortion clinics argued that Tennessee women will face immediate harm if the ban on abortions is not lifted.

Alex Rieger, arguing for the Tennessee attorney general’s office, said abortions are not being singled out but treated like any other procedure that is not necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury. Gov. Bill Lee issued an emergency order on April 8 banning those procedures for three weeks.

The goal of the ban is to preserve the limited supply of PPE for doctors fighting COVID-19 and to help prevent the community spread of the disease by limiting patient-provider interactions, Rieger said. 

Several other states are grappling with similar issues. Judges in the past week have ruled to allow abortions to continue in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ohio and Texas.

961d ago / 5:23 AM UTC

Gyms are eager to reopen, but are they safe?

Gyms are used to seeing attendance drops a few months into the start of a new year when resolutions fade. But nothing could have prepared them for the drop they experienced because of the coronavirus pandemic.

While some gyms continued to collect membership fees, most quickly lost all revenue. Some eventually pivoted to digital and started offering live-streamed workouts. But most were offered for free or directed donations to their instructors.

In President Donald Trump's guidelines announced this week for reopening the country, gyms were included in the first phase, "if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols."

Read the full story here. 

961d ago / 5:13 AM UTC

Florida begins to reopen beaches

Some Florida residents returned to the beaches Friday after Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light to reopen parts of the coast despite the continuing coronavirus outbreak.

Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham, Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown and Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser said their beaches would reopen exclusively for exercise, not tanning or congregating in large groups.

“Just to be clear, this is an opportunity for people to come out to the beach to exercise a couple of times a day. It’s not a sunbathing opportunity,” Latham said in a statement.

Read the full story here

961d ago / 3:29 AM UTC