U.S. deaths top 60,000, Florida to lift stay-at-home order Monday

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: Healthcare workers react as they watch a flyover in Philadelphia
Healthcare workers react as they watch a flyover by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels and U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds in Philadelphia on April 28., 2020.MARK MAKELA / Reuters

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The number of deaths in the U.S. totaled more than 60,000 as of Wednesday evening, according to NBC News' tally, while the global death toll climbed over 226,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The growing U.S. death toll hasn't prevented some states from relaxing their lockdowns, including Florida, which announced it would begin lifting stay-at-home orders on Monday.

Meanwhile, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Wednesday that an experimental drug for the coronavirus has a proven benefit.

"The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery," Fauci said at the White House on Wednesday.

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

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NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio responds to criticism he singled out the Orthodox Jewish community

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Wednesday responded to criticism he singled out the Orthodox Jewish community on Tuesday after personally overseeing the dispersal of a crowd of hundreds of mourners at a Hasidic funeral in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn.

"I spoke out of real distress that people's lives were in danger before my eyes and I was not going to tolerate it. So I regret if the way I said it in any way gave people a feeling of being treated the wrong way. That was not my intention," de Blasio said at a news briefing. "It was said with love, but it was tough love. It was anger and frustration.

He also dismissed comparisons of the funeral Tuesday night, which he and Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said drew thousands of people, to crowds that gathered earlier Tuesday to watch a flyover by the Navy's Blue Angels and the Air Force's Thunderbirds to honor health care workers.

"What I saw, no, it has not happened other places. Let's be honest," de Blasio said. "This kind of gathering has happened in only a few places. And it cannot continue. It's endangering the lives of people in the community. It cannot happen."

The mayor said he loves and has worked closely with New York's Orthodox Hasidic communities.

De Blasio lashed out at mourners late Tuesday night who had gathered for the funeral of a rabbi who died of the coronavirus.

The mayor faced swift backlash for a series of tweets in which he denounced the gathering.

"My message to the Jewish community, and all communities, is this simple: the time for warnings has passed," he tweeted. "I have instructed the NYPD to proceed immediately to summons or even arrest those who gather in large groups. This is about stopping this disease and saving lives. Period."

Images posted on social media show hundreds of people — some wearing face coverings — tightly packed on the street. 

3 U.S. children with coronavirus treated for rare inflammatory condition

Three U.S. children infected with the coronavirus are being treated for a rare inflammatory syndrome that appears similar to one that has raised concerns by doctors in Britain, Italy and Spain, a specialist treating the patients told Reuters.

All three — who range in age from 6 months to 8 years — have undergone treatment at Columbia University Medical Center in New York, and all had fever and inflammation of the heart and the gut.

Read more here.

Stories of victims we've lost from COVID-19 two months since the first U.S. death

They were politicians and pastors, nurses and students, teachers and firefighters. They came from every level of society, every state, every race, every age.

Often, their loved ones had no idea how they had contracted COVID-19. But the sickness that followed hewed to a grim, familiar trajectory, one that felled grandmothers and granddaughters alike.

In just two months, the number of dead has swelled by tens of thousands, with families grieving in ways that would have seemed unthinkable just weeks ago.

Here are their stories.

Coronavirus drug remdesivir shows promise in large trial

A large study hints at the potential benefit of an experimental COVID-19 drug called remdesivir.

"Patients receiving a 10-day treatment course of remdesivir achieved similar improvement in clinical status compared with those taking a 5-day treatment course," Gilead Sciences, which makes the drug, said in a news release Wednesday.

However, Gilead has not yet released enough information from the trial to show what that "improvement" means for patients. The company said full results would be published "in the coming weeks."

Read more here.

Germany’s Lufthansa makes mouth/nose cover mandatory on flights

Lufthansa planes parked on a closed runway in Frankfurt, Germany, in March. Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

German air carrier Lufthansa has announced that it will recommend that all passengers wear a mouth and nose cover aboard their flights starting May 4.

The company also recommends that passengers wear them throughout their entire journey, as well as before or after their flight at the airport, whenever the required minimum distance cannot be guaranteed without restriction.

Travelers will have to bring their own mouth and nose cover, the airline said, adding that it recommends a reusable fabric mask, but disposable masks or scarves are also possible. 

Millions of women could lose access to contraception due to pandemic, U.N. warns

More than 47 million women could lose access to contraception in the coming months — leading to 7 million unplanned pregnancies — as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations warned on Tuesday. 

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, the number of women unable to access family planning due to over-stretched health systems, shortages of contraceptives and choosing to skip medical appointments due to fear of contracting the virus were among the factors, the U.N. said.

"The pandemic is deepening inequalities, and millions more women and girls now risk losing the ability to plan their families and protect their bodies and their health," said Dr. Natalia Kanem, UNFPA Executive Director. 

Instead of gin, hand sanitizer

A small kiosk that usually sells beer and soft drinks sells Kyro hand sanitizer in Helsinki on April 21. Kyro Distillery Company, known for producing a popular gin, switched their manufacturing to hand sanitizer. Kimmo Brandt / EPA

New polio outbreak in Niger after vaccination suspended during COVID-19 pandemic

Niger has been struck by a new outbreak of polio, following the suspension of immunization activities during the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Health Organization said Wednesday.  

The United Nations health agency reported that two children were infected by the highly infectious, water-borne disease and that one was paralyzed.

The outbreak was sparked by a mutated virus that originated in the vaccine and was not connected to a previous polio epidemic Niger stopped last year, WHO said, in a statement last week.

"The poliovirus will inevitably continue to circulate and may paralyze more children as no high-quality immunization campaigns can be conducted in a timely manner," said Pascal Mkanda, WHO's coordinator of polio eradication in Africa.

Senior Chinese official challenges Trump over coronavirus response, says U.S. wasted weeks

A senior Chinese government official challenged President Donald Trump's handling of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., accusing him of wasting weeks after the threat posed by the virus first became apparent.

In a wide-ranging interview with NBC News conducted in Mandarin on Tuesday, the official, Executive Vice Foreign Minister Le Yucheng, also hit back at the politicization of the virus.

Le, a rising star within the country's political establishment, rejected claims that China had covered up the initial outbreak or that it should be held financially liable for COVID-19. Instead, he termed the virus a "natural disaster" and called for greater cooperation and an end to accusations.

Read the full story.