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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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Biden says Trump should order flags be flown at half-staff

Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday said President Donald Trump should order that flags be flown at half-staff to honor the American lives lost to coronavirus as well as the first responders and medical workers helping the country fend off the disease.

"We've lost more people to this virus in the last several months than we lost in the entire Vietnam War," said Biden.

He made the remarks during a virtual fundraiser attended by 200 Florida donors. 

This month, New York, New Jersey and Michigan have ordered flags flown at half-staff.

"The president has talked about himself and how he's affected, rather than about how it's affected America," Biden said. "I don't see much empathy or concern."

During a news conference Monday, the president addressed the pandemic's human toll. "We continue to mourn with thousands of families across the country whose loved ones have been stolen from us by the invisible enemy," he said of the human toll of the coronavirus at a Rose Garden news conference. "We grieve by their side."

Oregon woman's giant cinnamon rolls raise more than $29,000 for food bank

Whitney Rutz is not a baker by trade, but she decided to make a giant cinnamon roll with her 7-year-old daughter to help raise her family's spirits amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

"I lost it, I cried and screamed and just had a really good session of 'I'm down in the dumps,'" Rutz told NBC News. And then she got to baking.

Rutz's social media followers were amazed by photos of the cinnamon roll, 12 inches in diameter and about 5 pounds. That's when she decided to auction a giant cinnamon roll, thinking she'd raise money for the Oregon Food Bank.

"If you're in dire straits and you're trying to figure out how to pay your rent and your utility bills, at least you have the food bank and can leverage that service, which is just so, so, so great," she said. 

The pastry sold for $300. 

That was in March. Since then, Rutz has baked more than 50 giant cinnamon rolls and raised more than $29,000 for the Oregon Food Bank. But only four of those rolls have gone to individuals.

Many who participated in the auctions didn't want the sweets for themselves and asked Rutz to donate them to health care facilities. The Oregon Food Bank recently began working with Rutz to facilitate an online fundraiser, so for every $500 raised, she's baking one cinnamon roll to donate to health care facilities. 

"It's been wonderful," Rutz said. "I cry out of happiness a lot. I have felt like this really allowed me to focus on something positive under these really terrible circumstances." 

More than 50 who worked, voted in Wisconsin election have COVID-19

MADISON, Wis. — More than 50 people who voted in person or worked the polls during Wisconsin’s presidential primary this month have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the latest count by state health officials tracking the impact of holding the election in the middle of a pandemic.

It remains unclear how many — if any — of those people contracted the virus at the polls and health officials are still collecting testing and tracing information. But officials say they don’t expect the number of known cases potentially tied to the election to grow substantially.

The “vast majority” of cases tied to the election have “already likely come to the surface,” said Andrea Palm, the state Department of Health Services secretary on Wednesday.

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers, concerned about a spike in virus cases, tried to change the April 7 election so that it would be conducted entirely by mail, but he was blocked by the Republican-led Legislature and conservative Wisconsin Supreme Court.

Brooklyn funeral home used U-Hauls to store bodies after running out of space

A New York City funeral home used moving trucks loaded with ice to store dozens of dead bodies after running out of space, police officials said Wednesday.

New York City’s health department issued two citations to the owner of the Brooklyn facility, Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services, but he was not criminally charged, two senior New York Police Department officials told NBC News.

Read the full story here

Trump, Musk boosted online interest in antimalarial drugs, study finds

Online interest in purchasing drugs touted by President Donald Trump and billionaire Elon Musk spiked in late March after both weighed in, a new analysis published by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine found.

Musk tweeted March 16 that antimalarial drug chloroquine was "maybe worth considering," and Trump said March 19 that chloroquine and related drug hydroxychloroquine showed "very, very encouraging early results," though Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, disagreed.

University researchers based at Oxford, Harvard, UC San Diego and Johns Hopkins measured a 1,389 percent surge in online searches about purchasing hydroxychloroquine after Trump first touted the drug. "This could be evidence that thousands of Americans were interested in purchasing these drugs," study co-author Mark Dredze of Johns Hopkins University said in a statement.

In April, a drumbeat of headlines dashed high hopes for the drugs and for a combination also touted by Trump, one including antibiotic azithromycin. In fact the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said the drugs should not be tried outside a hospital setting.

On March 22 an Arizona man died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate, a parasite treatment for fish, believing it would protect him from coronavirus. His wife said the couple believed the substance was the drug endorsed by the president.

California's food supply could stave off meat shortage

SAN DIEGO - California isn't immune to pork, beef and chicken supply issues, but it does have its own food ecosystem that includes an abundance of fish and the availability of regional beef and chicken, experts say.

This could keep the state's appetite for protein satiated in the weeks to come as some analysts predict a coast-to-coast meat shortage. On Tuesday President Donald Trump ordered processing plants to stay open as a matter of national security.

But California, with its own fishing fleet, chicken processors and a dairy industry that serves the nation is somewhat sheltered. 

Read the whole story here.

Los Angeles to offer free coronavirus tests to all residents

Los Angeles will begin offering free coronavirus tests to all residents no matter if they have symptoms or not, Mayor Eric Garcetti said Wednesday. 

Garcetti said that all residents of Los Angeles County can get the tests. The website to schedule tests says it is open to any county resident regardless of symptoms. Those with symptoms will be given priority.

The mayor said he believes Los Angeles is the first major city to offer tests to all residents. He said they now have enough testing capacity to handle the increased tests.

Testing rules had previously been relaxed to allow grocery store workers, first responders and other essential workers with exposure to the virus to get tests regardless of whether they have symptoms. Health officials say that even those without symptoms can spread the virus.

ER doctor who died by suicide was in 'untenable' situation, sister says

The sister of an emergency room doctor who died by suicide while helping fight the coronavirus pandemic said that before her death, Dr. Lorna Breen had been in an "untenable" situation.

Speaking to "TODAY's" Savannah Guthrie, Jennifer Feist said her sister was overcome by a grim combination of events. She contracted the virus, which Feist believed "altered her brain." Eventually, Breen returned to work.

Read the full story.

States to allow elective surgeries at hospitals again

The coronavirus pandemic forced hospitals to cancel elective surgeries, causing major anxiety for patients and a loss in income for the health care industry. In March alone, some 43,000 health care workers lost their jobs.