White House considers scaling back daily briefings after disinfectant comments

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: Georgia
Jessica King sits under a dryer at Three-13 Salon, Spa and Boutique, during the phased reopening of businesses and restaurants from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in the state, in Marietta, Ga., on April 24, 2020.Bita Honarvar / Reuters

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The White House is considering scaling back President Donald Trump's daily briefings on the coronavirus pandemic as his aides and allies increasingly worry that his lengthy appearances may backfire politically.

Those concerns reached an inflection point when the president suggested on Thursday evening that people might be able to inject household cleaning items or disinfectants to deter the coronavirus, sparking immediate and universal backlash from the medical community.

The evaluation of Trump's briefings comes as the worldwide death toll for the coronavirus surpassed 200,000 on Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Over 20,000 of those fatalities have been in the United Kingdom, the country's health minister said Saturday, making it the fifth nation to reach that grim milestone.In China, where the pandemic began, the government reported no new deaths for a 10th straight day.Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

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49 residents at Massachusetts nursing home have died from the coronavirus

A Massachusetts nursing home where 30 residents had died from the coronavirus said that there have been more than a dozen additional deaths.

Belmont Manor administrator Stewart Karger wrote in a letter released Friday that 49 residents have died and 116 tested positive for COVID-19. Some tests have not yet come back. 

"The loss this represents is nothing short of devastating. Our collective hearts are broken for the families of these residents, each of whom was the center of someone’s world. Rest assured that our staff did their very best to provide them both care and comfort," the letter read. 

Many of the residents are asymptomatic and Karger said they have seen "encouraging signs of recovery" among those who are showing symptoms. He said the facility is working hard to get residents healthy again. 

More than 70 staff members, many of whom are asymptomatic, have also tested positive. The ones who did not have symptoms have passed a 10-day period since testing and have returned to work, the facility said. "We remain extraordinarily appreciative of the efforts of our staff. Their professionalism, compassion and commitment has been inspiring to me personally in this challenging time," Karger wrote.

Global death toll passes 200,000

COVID-19 has killed more than 200,000 people worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The global death toll on Saturday reached 200,698. Fifteen days earlier, on April 10, the number of fatalities was 100,000.

More than 2.8 million cases of coronavirus infection have been confirmed worldwide, including 924,000 in the United States.

New York expanding testing to health care workers, first responders, other essential employees

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that the state is expanding its testing criteria for the coronavirus to include health care workers, first responders and other essential, frontline employees "who are risking their health to get us through this crisis."

The governor said in his daily press briefing that the state is doing about 20,000 coronavirus tests daily and expects to double that capacity with help from the federal government.

Toward that end, he said he will be signing an executive order to allow more than 5,000 independent pharmacies in the state to collect samples that could be sent to laboratories for testing. 

The state is also expanding antibody testing and will start with health care workers.

News of the testing criteria expansion comes as the state saw a slight uptick in reported deaths to 437 on Friday, compared to 422 the day before. At the same time, the number of new hospitalizations in New York continues to decline.

"Our efforts are working, but we must keep it up if we want the curve to decline faster," Cuomo said.

Detroit health care worker dies after being denied coronavirus test 4 times, daughter says

Deborah Gatewood had two years to go before she could retire from a Detroit hospital.

But Gatewood, a phlebotomist for three decades, will never celebrate that milestone. She died April 17 from symptoms related to the coronavirus.

Her daughter said that prior to her mother's death she was denied a coronavirus test four times by her employer, Beaumont Hospital, Farmington Hills.

"They said she wasn't severe enough and that they weren't going to test her," said Kaila Corrothers, Gatewood's only child. "They told her to just go home and rest."

Read the full story here.

Why so many people are experiencing weird pandemic dreams

People around the world may be physically separated in pandemic lockdowns, but they are joined in at least one way — many are experiencing vivid and bizarre coronavirus dreams.

Nighttime visions of bugs, natural disasters and difficulties breathing are just a few of the recurring themes, traded in countless Zoom get-togethers, WhatsApp conversations and on social media, as "quarandreams" spread as quickly as the pandemic itself.

Florida-based dream analyst Lauri Loewenberg, who uses psychology to interpret people’s dreams, says lockdown stress, job and relationship worries and the sudden loss of familiar comforts have triggered a wave of surreal overnight encounters. Since the beginning of the lockdowns, she has found her Facebook inbox full of requests for appointments from people wanting to talk through their experiences.

Read the full story here.

Britain's death toll surpasses 20,000

The death toll from the coronavirus in hospitals across the U.K. has risen to 20,319 — an increase of 813 in 24 hours — the health ministry said on Saturday. The country has nearly 150,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Saturday.

Britain has the fifth-highest virus death toll in the world, after the U.S., Italy, Spain and France.  Back in mid-March the government's chief scientific adviser said that keeping the death toll below 20,000 would be a "good outcome," according to Reuters. 

As the death toll rises, the U.K. government has faced criticism over its response to the pandemic while it struggles to raise its testing capacity.

Pope singles out funeral home workers for prayer

Pope Francis has singled out funeral home workers for people’s prayers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, during his early morning Mass on Saturday.

In Italy and some other countries, the deaths of people with virus infections have meant funeral parlor workers must deal with the grief of families who aren’t allowed to hold public funerals as part of government-ordered measures to try to contain the pandemic.

“What they do is so heavy and sad. They really feel the pain of this pandemic so close," he said. 

Amid quarantine, thousands are escaping to tropical islands — via 'Animal Crossing'

Characters celebrate the opening of Resident Services in "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" on the Nintendo Switch.NBC News

For Amy Okuda, not being able to spend time with her mother, who lives just five miles down the road, has been one of the most difficult parts of being in quarantine.

Disenchanted with FaceTime and Zoom, Okuda and her mother found another way to connect — by making trips to tropical islands to fish, catch bugs and pick fruit together.

“I know a lot of people are doing Zoom dates, but most of my hangout sessions are via ‘Animal Crossing,’” Okuda, 31, of Los Angeles, said.

She is one of thousands of people who have picked up Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” since it was released on the company's Switch console in March, right as the coronavirus quarantine was going into full effect for most of the nation.

Read the full story here.

Hundreds protest against lockdown at Polish-German border

Cross-border workers stage protest at Polish-German border demanding to be exempt from the mandatory quarantine during the coronavirus outbreak on Friday.Krzysztof Hadrian / Agencja Gazeta via Reuters

Hundreds of people who live in Poland and work in Germany protested on Friday evening in the southwestern Polish border town of Zgorzelec against a mandatory coronavirus quarantine for those who cross the border.

Poland was one of the first European Union states to close borders due to the outbreak. It also imposed a mandatory two-week lockdown for those who enter its territory — a major jolt for those who live their lives in between two E.U. states. The protest was staged on a foot bridge connecting Zgorzelec and the German town of Gorlitz, which functioned as one town before the borders were closed.

Around 300 people gathered at the Polish side and some 100 at the German, some wearing face masks. The two groups were separated by a provisional metal fence that has been erected in the middle of the bridge to prevent people from crossing the border.

Air France and KLM received billions in state bailouts

The French and Dutch governments announced at least 9 billion euros ($9.7 billion) in bailout money Friday to rescue Air France and KLM, which are fighting for survival as most of their planes are grounded by virus lockdowns around the world.

The partner airlines had been negotiating for weeks with their respective governments, as carriers worldwide are collapsing or seeking government bailouts. The past several weeks of travel restrictions have upended the entire industry, and Air France and KLM said earlier this month that they expect their joint traffic to be down more than 90 percent in the coming months.

With no clear end to the crisis in sight, Air France will get 3 billion euros in direct loans from the French state and a 4-billion-euro bank loan guaranteed by the state, the airline said in a statement.

"We have to save our national airline," French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said on TF1 television Friday. He said the government, the airline's largest single shareholder, is not currently considering nationalizing Air France.