Some states ease restrictions as protestors call for reopening economy

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This weekend marked the beginning of several states easing restrictions related to the outbreak, which continues to take an unprecedented number of lives.

Residents in Florida and other states returned to the beach Saturday despite an increase in COVID-19 deaths and infections. Meanwhile, three Northeastern states reopened boatyards and marinas for personal use only.

The loosening of stay-at-home orders come amid a growing chorus to reopen economies throughout the U.S. But advisers are warning President Donald Trump that his push to restart business as usual comes with political risks.

Saturday also brought the star-studded "One World: Together at Home" benefit concert to support health care workers in the fight against COVID-19.

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

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Live coverage has ended. Continue reading April 19 coronavirus news here.

Florida schools to remain closed through summer

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday that the state's public school buildings will remain closed through summer and that students will continue remote learning for this academic year.

The state education commissioner previously recommended that school buildings stay closed through May 1.

DeSantis said reopening schools in late spring could be ineffective because some students might not have shown up. 

The governor also said he's forming a task force to make recommendations on how to reopen the state's economy.

In other news, DeSantis said 1,627 residents and staff members at long-term health facilities in Florida have tested positive for the coronavirus. Reversing his previous position, the governor said the state would begin naming those facilities.

Broadway actor Nick Cordero to have leg amputated after COVID-19 complications

Nick Cordero attends the 2017 Drama Desk Nominees Reception at Marriott Marquis Times Square on May 10, 2017 in New York City.Noam Galai / WireImage file

Broadway actor Nick Cordero will have his right leg amputated as a result of coronavirus-related complications, his wife Amanda Kloots said on her Instagram Saturday.

The 41-year-old actor known for his roles in "Waitress" and "Rock of Ages" has spent 18 days in intensive care battling the virus. According to Kloots, doctors initially put her husband on blood thinners in an attempt to ease some clotting in Cordero’s leg. But the treatment was causing him to have internal bleeding and blood pressure issues.

“We took him off the blood thinners, but that again was going to cause the clotting in the right leg,” Kloots said. “So the right leg will be amputated today.”

Cordero started to receive intensive care after "having a hard time breathing.” He was initially diagnosed with pneumonia and tested negative for COVID-19 twice before a third test showed he was positive.

Queen Elizabeth II turns 94 on Tuesday, but birthday gun salute is canceled

A traditional gun salute to honor the birthday of Queen's Elizabeth II birthday will not take place this year due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown orders in the United Kingdom. 

The queen will turn 94 on Tuesday, and traditionally her birthday is marked by a 41-gun salute in Green Park adjacent to Buckingham Palace and later by a 62-gun salute at the Tower of London. 

Another celebration for her birthday is held in June of each year with Trooping the Colour, but officials previously announced that it had been canceled because of the virus. 

 

Walmart to require all employees to wear masks

Walmart and Sam's Club employees will be required to wear masks or face coverings at work.

The new policy, which takes effect Monday, follows other initiatives such as temperature checks and distancing guidance. Face coverings were earlier considered optional for employees.

"You can provide your own as long as it meets certain guidelines, or we will provide you with one as you pass your associate health screen and temperature check," company officials wrote in a statement posted online late Friday.

Walmart was sued earlier this month by the family of a worker at a Chicago-area store who died of coronavirus.

'National disaster' if Congress doesn't provide funding to states, N.J. gov. warns

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Saturday warned of a "national disaster" if Congress fails to provide funding to states to help make up for dramatic falls in revenue amid the coronavirus outbreak and the costs that states have shouldered in fighting the pandemic. 

A bipartisan group of governors has called on the federal government to provide states aid.

Murphy said he had a "concerning" conversation with Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., about a lack of "momentum right now in Congress to put a significant amount or any amount of money into direct state aid."

The governor warned that without federal funding, "We will have layoffs that will be historic" at the state, county and local levels of government.

"I don't know how many, but it is big, big numbers," he said. “We need both direct financial assistance to states from a bill passed by Congress and signed by the president, and we will need bonding flexibility in either case." 

Florida man encases arms in concrete in protest of prison conditions during pandemic

Protester Jordan Mazurek, 28, who cemented his hands in two 55-gallon plastic drums filled with concrete in the driveway of the Governor's Mansion, sits on the pavement while his vitals are checked by first responders, on April 17, 2020, in Tallahasssee, Fla.Alicia Devine / Tallahassee Democrat via AP

A Florida man encased his arms in barrels full of concrete outside the governor's mansion in Tallahassee on Friday in protest of the state's continuing to hold prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Tallahassee police arrested Jordan Mazurek, 28, around 10:30 a.m. after they cut him out of two 55-gallon drums of concrete that were connected by PVC pip.

Mazurek wore a surgical mask and sat between the two black drums painted in white letters — one said "stop the massacre," while the other read "free prisoners now" — in protest of the living conditions of those who remain imprisoned amid the pandemic.

Read the full story here.

New Jersey coronavirus cases top 81,000

More than 81,000 people in New Jersey have tested positive for COVID-19, Gov. Phil Murphy said at his daily news conference Saturday. 

Murphy said in the last 24 hours more than 3,000 residents have tested positive for the virus, bringing the total to 81,420. The number of deaths in the state is 4,070. 

"We will do everything in our power to stop the spread of this disease and lose fewer and fewer residents to it," Murphy said. 

The governor said that over the past week the number of people in intensive and critical care has started to stabilize and he credited social distancing. He also said more people are being discharged from the hospital than entering. 

Laboratory in Wuhan denies claims that the coronavirus originated there

Residents wearing masks pass by government propaganda posters featuring Tiananmen Gate in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province on April 16, 2020.Ng Han Guan / AP

A laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan has broken its silence to deny accusations that the novel coronavirus originated there.

Yuan Zhiming, vice director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology, told Chinese state broadcaster CGTN, that this was a "conspiracy theory" designed to "confuse" people. He also denied the virus was manmade.

It is the first time anyone from the institute has spoken publicly.

Read the full story here.

Twenty-five nurses and physicians from the Cleveland Clinic welcomed at NY hospital

N.J. woman who organized protest charged with violating stay-at-home orders

A New Jersey woman who organized a protest of Gov. Phil Murphy's stay-at-home order was charged with violating that same order. 

The protest took place on Friday outside the Statehouse and at other locations in Trenton, the state's Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said in his daily briefing, calling it a "prohibited event." 

The woman who organized the protest, Kim Pagan, was charged by New Jersey State Police with violating the governor's emergency orders, which prohibits all gatherings.  

'No excuse now' on marriage with ceremonies by video, NY gov. says

New York officials said Saturday they will allow people to get marriage licenses remotely as the coronavirus pandemic continues and marriage bureaus are closed to the public.

Clerks will also have the authority to perform wedding ceremonies over video. 

"Video marriage ceremonies, there's no excuse now when the question comes up for marriage," said Gov. Andrew Cuomo. "You can do it by Zoom."