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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

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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Court denies Oklahoma's latest efforts to ban abortions during pandemic

Abortion clinics in Oklahoma can stay open and continue providing care after an appeals court denied the state's latest efforts to ban abortions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals this week denied the state's request seeking to stay a preliminary injunction. The injunction, granted last week, called for abortion access to fully resume in the state as a lawsuit brought by the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Dechert LLP continues.

In March, Gov. Kevin Stitt ordered medical providers to postpone elective procedures and surgeries, including abortions.

Nancy Northup, president & CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement that Governor Stitt has exploited this pandemic to try to ban abortion. "In the wake of this latest ruling, it’s past time for Oklahoma to respect the essential needs of women seeking abortion care," Northup said. "This attempt to ban abortion is an abuse of emergency powers."

'Clear-cut' evidence coronavirus drug remdesivir works, Fauci says

An experimental drug for the coronavirus has a proven benefit, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“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. The data he referred to is from a large study of more than 1,000 patients from multiple sites around the world. Patients either received the drug, called remdesivir, or a placebo.

Read more here.

Gov. Phil Murphy announces New Jersey parks, golf courses will reopen May 2

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that state parks and golf courses will reopen to the public on May 2. The governor also emphasized that people are recommended to wear face masks in public.

Super Bowl champ fighting on front lines of COVID-19 pandemic

Nearly three months after helping the Kansas City Chiefs win their second Super Bowl in franchise history, Laurent Duvernay-Tardif is on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The Chiefs’ right guard, who is the first medical doctor to play in the NFL, wrote in Sports Illustrated that he took a vacation with his girlfriend to celebrate the Super Bowl win. When he returned home to Canada, everything had changed. After a 14-day quarantine, he volunteered to fight the pandemic. 

Duvernay-Tardif said he was assigned to a long-term care facility about an hour from his hometown, Montreal. He is working as a nurse, as he hasn’t completed his residency and does not yet have a license to practice medicine. 

Duvernay-Tardif, whose first day at the facility was on April 24, wrote in Sports Illustrated that he was nervous, but compared it to the "good nerves" he feels before a big game. In an Instagram post, Duvernay-Tardif thanked health care workers for everything they’re doing to fight the pandemic.

“Now more than ever we need to work as a team and help where the help is needed. We all must come together and do what is best for society, even if that means stepping out of our comfort zone and learning new things,” he wrote.

Professor tweaks snorkel mask to work as experimental protective gear for medical staff

Redesigned full-face snorkel mask to combat PPE shortage.Stanford Medicine

A Stanford University professor and his engineering team recently completed a working prototype of a new type of face mask that could provide a reusable barrier for nurses, doctors and other front-line medical staff fighting COVID-19.

The mask — dubbed "Pneumask” — is inspired by snorkeling equipment, and contains just three major parts: an easily-obtainable snorkeling mask, and a custom-built 3D-printed adapter so that the entire apparatus can use existing commercially-available air filter or filtration cartridges.

This research team, lead by Manu Prakash, a bioengineering professor, has already put together a comprehensive document available to the public outlining the precise specifications for the mask and what preliminary tests have already been completed. 

Earlier this month, the agency explicitly said that it does not “intend to object to individuals’ distribution and use of improvised PPE when no alternatives, such as FDA-cleared masks or respirators, are available.” The team says that it has submitted for formal approval to the Food and Drug Administration, but that a full evaluation would take considerably more time.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveils a wall of art, made up of donated masks

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday unveiled a wall of donated masks that he said are an example of the compassion shown by many Americans during this deadly and economically-crushing  pandemic.

Cuomo dramatically took down a black curtain to display the assembled work of art made up of facial coverings donated to New York from throughout the nation.

"This is what this country is about, and this is what Americans are about," said Cuomo, who has been critical of Republican opposition to supporting coronavirus-ravaged states that are struggling to stave off deep spending cuts and balance their budgets.

"A little more of this and a little less of the partisanship and the ugliness, and this county would be better place," he said.


Elective surgeries can begin in New York state - under some conditions

Elective surgeries can begin again in New York state, as long as a region's hospitals have available beds in case of a coronavirus surge, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

At least 30 percent of overall hospital beds and 30 percent of intensive-care beds in a county must be available for elective procedures to be allowed, the governor said, adding that the counties where these criteria would be met are all well outside the New York City metropolitan area.

"We can't go back to where we were, where we overwhelmed the hospital system," said Cuomo. "You have to have a 30-percent buffer." 


Costco to require face coverings for shoppers

Beginning next week, all Costco shoppers will have to wear face coverings in order to enter the store, the wholesale corporation announced Wednesday.

Starting May 4, customers will be required to wear a mask that covers their nose and mouth at all times while inside the store, according to a coronavirus response update from Costco. Children under the age of 2 and people who can't wear masks because of medical conditions are exempt.

"The use of a mask or face covering should not be seen as a substitute for social distancing. Please continue to observe rules regarding appropriate distancing while on Costco premises," the company said.

New York continues slow decline in daily death rate from COVID-19

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday that another 330 people had been added to the state's death toll from coronavirus, for a total of 17,968 since the outbreak began.

The daily death rate in New York is continuing to decline. It was 474 a week ago, on Wednesday, April 22, and 335 on Tuesday. However, the rate at which the daily total is shrinking has started to decelerate, having fallen by 10 deaths from Sunday to Monday, two from Monday to Tuesday, and five from Tuesday to Wednesday.

YouTube, Facebook split on removal of doctors' viral coronavirus videos

YouTube has removed two videos of California doctors whose calls to ease coronavirus lockdowns have become the newest ammunition used by conservative media and fringe activists in their calls to end government measures to slow the spread of the disease.

The doctors, Dan Erickson and Artin Massihi of Bakersfield, California, downplayed the risk of the coronavirus and asserted that stay-at-home measures were unnecessary. They also promoted a conspiracy theory that doctors were falsely attributing unrelated deaths to COVID-19.

Facebook, however, has not removed the doctor's videos, and dozens of others remain on YouTube, some in full, some sliced into segments, racking up hundreds of thousands of views. One video on Facebook has been viewed more than 9 million times.

Read more here.