Georgia to reopen businesses Friday as U.S. deaths top 40,000

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the globe.
Image: Atlanta Motor Speedway Hosts Food Distribution Event For Those In Need
Volunteers load food into vehicles during a mobile market day at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia on April 17, 2020.Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

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The coronavirus death toll in the U.S. passed 40,000 late Sunday, according to NBC News' tally, and there are nearly 760,000 confirmed cases as of Monday evening.

While some governors pushed back on the Trump administration's claims that states are conducting a "sufficient" level of coronavirus testing, other governors were eager to reopen businesses in their states regardless of testing levels.

Gov. Brian Kemp announced plans to resume many businesses in Georgia this Friday, April 24, and Gov. Bill Lee said a "vast majority" of businesses in Tennessee would reopen by the end of next week.

Meanwhile, the federal agency that oversees nursing homes announced new transparency measures requiring the disclosure of coronavirus cases to patients' families and public health officials.

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

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading April 21 coronavirus news.

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Some Southern governors begin lifting restrictions

Some governors in the South have begun loosening restrictions put in place to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday granted businesses across the state permission to reopen later this week, an announcement echoed by a handful of other Republican governors who are beginning to lift stay-at-home orders.

Kemp's decision, which will apply to barber shops, gyms and other businesses that include close contact, comes days after President Donald Trump issued guidelines for the reopening of state economies

Some health experts have expressed concern that it's too early to be backing off lockdown measures.

Read the full story here

Pence: 'We have enough testing capacity for every state' to enter first reopening phase

Vice President Pence described a call he had with governors in which he described each state's lab capacity and equipment in that state and locations where coronavirus diagnostic tests can be performed.

Brooklyn nursing home ravaged by 55 deaths, most in New York during pandemic

EMTs wheel a man out of the Cobble Hill Health Center nursing home in Brooklyn on April 17, 2020.Lucas Jackson / Reuters

"Right here, we are doing it alone," Cobble Hill Health Center CEO Donny Tuchman shouted Monday to cheering neighbors outside the nursing home in Brooklyn, New York. "These people right here," he said, pointing to the line of the health care staff members in full protective gear who'd walked out of the facility to accept the applause.

It had been yet another challenging day at Cobble Hill. A report by the New York State Health Department listed 55 deaths presumably caused by the coronavirus at the facility since the outbreak began, the highest toll at any senior care center in New York.

Read the full story here.

Inside the meat processing plant linked to nearly 900 coronavirus cases

Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls, South Dakota is now a coronavirus hot spot. NBC News' Blayne Alexander hears about the conditions inside the plant, now closed indefinitely, from a longtime employee.

Coronavirus can lead to kidney damage. Why?

A patient undergoes dialysis treatment in Guayaquil, Ecuador on April 18, 2020.Santiago Arcos / Reuters

A significant number of the sickest coronavirus patients have kidney problems, complicating their treatment and hurting their chances of survival.

Exactly how the virus affects the kidneys — which play a vital role in cleaning the body's blood supply — is still unclear, but experts have theories.

One is that the coronavirus directly attacks the kidneys. A study published in the journal Cell in March showed that the coronavirus infiltrates the body by binding to a type of receptor on cells called ACE2. These special receptors are found not only in cells in the heart and lungs, but also in kidneys.

Read the full story here. 

Family surprises couple with photos of guests pinned to pews during wedding

Clare Seghers Keefer and Mel Keefer, both nurses on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic, were planning to host a large wedding on Friday in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. But due to the state’s stay-at-home order, the couple could only have eight guests inside the church for the ceremony.

So in a video posted on social media, as the bride is walked down the aisle by her father, photos of guests who weren’t able to be there can be seen pinned to the pews. 

The bride’s sister, Mary Seghers Shaffo, who helped organize the surprise, said in an email to NBC News she hoped the photos of their guests made the couple’s wedding day a little more special.

As the couple left the church to the parking lot, they were once again surprised — this time by socially distanced family and friends, waiting in cars, honking their horns and cheering for the newlyweds. They watched on as the couple shared their first dance, cut a cake and popped some champagne.

Trump suggests he schooled states on testing. Governors say the issue is complex.

President Donald Trump said Monday that governors “didn’t understand” the variety of the labs their states could use until the White House provided a list.

“Some of the governors, like as an example the governor from Maryland, he didn’t understand the list. He didn’t really understand too much about what was going on, so now I think he’ll be able to do that,” Trump said. “It’s pretty simple.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, said on CNN Monday he appreciated the information but wasn't confused about state capabilities. Hogan said over the weekend that governors were trying to use private labs, but were stymied by shortages of swabs and reagents needed for testing. 

Trump also boasted that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, had agreed with him that states should lead on testing. But Cuomo also pointed to the supply chain as an issue where states need the federal government to get involved. 

“On the testing, I can’t solve for the national manufacturers not being able to produce the volume to sell to my state labs,” Cuomo said, referring to equipment and materials needed coronavirus testing and noting that the supply chain was international. “I’d like the federal government to help on supply chain issues.”

'This is a great time to buy oil,' Trump says as prices plunge into negative territory

After a tumultuous day that saw oil futures falling into negative territory, President Donald Trump suggested the U.S. could either purchase roughly 75 million barrels of oil to add to the country’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve, or rent that spare capacity to oil companies squeezed for storage space due to the glut in the market.

“This is a great time to buy oil. We'd get it for the right price," Trump said at a coronavirus task force news briefing on Monday night. "Nobody's ever heard of negative oil before."

Lawmakers have discussed providing support to the struggling energy sector, but a plan for the Department of Energy to spend $3 billion purchasing oil for the SPR was suspended when the money was not included in the stimulus package passed earlier this month.

The price for West Texas Intermediate crude contracted for May delivery plunged Monday to negative $37.63 a barrel for contracts expiring Tuesday.

Read the full story here.

South Carolina reopens many businesses effective immediately

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said Monday he was reopening many non-essential businesses effective immediately and beaches on Tuesday. 

The governor announced his decision after other state leaders spoke of tentative plans to reopen the economy in the coming weeks. McMaster's plan included the immediate reopening of retail locations such as department stores, clothing shops and book sellers. 

Beaches will be open beginning at noon on Tuesday.

"I've restored public beach access, allowing locals to use their discretion. I've also allowed some retailers that were previously closed to open, but they must follow strict social distancing measures," McMaster said Monday.

As of Monday afternoon, there were 4,439 confirmed cases and 124 deaths due to coronavirus in South Carolina.

Virtually all abortions again blocked in Texas

A federal appeals court has again blocked virtually all abortions in Texas.

This time around, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has said medication abortions cannot be allowed under an order by Texas Gov. Greg Abbot that prohibits non-essential medical procedures. 

Abortion is now allowed in the state only for women whose pregnancies will pass the state's limit for legal abortion by April 22.

Two-thirds of restaurant employees out of work, industry survey says

A survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association says that nearly two-thirds of the industry's workforce is now unemployed. 

The survey, which was released as part of the association's request for federal funding, estimates that more than 8 million restaurant workers have lost their jobs or been furloughed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The National Restaurant Association estimates that the industry faces more than $240 billion in losses nationwide by the end of 2020.

"Its survey reported that more than 60 percent of restaurant owners say that existing federal relief programs—including the CARES Act—will not enable them to keep their employees on payroll during the downturn," the association said in a release Monday. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics only has data as recent as last month, but did show a nearly 2.6 percent increase in food service unemployment rates from March 2019 to March 2020. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment in the month of April.