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, South Carolina reopen beaches as states begin to loosen restrictions

States eager to resume business as usual began to loosen restrictions this weekend despite some reporting an increase in coronavirus infections.

Residents in Florida, North Carolina and Santa Cruz, California, returned to beaches while South Carolina and three Northeastern states reopened marinas.

Florida residents returned to the beaches Friday after Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light to reopen parts of the coast, on the same day the state reported its highest number of new coronavirus cases.

In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster reopened boat ramps Friday and intends to reopen beaches next week, according to local news outlets. On Saturday, the state announced 165 new COVID-19 cases and three new deaths, bringing South Carolina's total to 4,246 infections and 119 deaths, according to public health officials.

Read the full story here.

Los Angeles County records highest daily death toll

Los Angeles County health officials said Saturday they recorded the largest daily tally of coronavirus deaths, 81.

"This is the highest number of daily reported deaths in LA County to date, and the total number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 almost doubled this past week," the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said in a statement.

"Today marks a very sad milestone for our County," Barbara Ferrer, director of public health, said in a statement.

The county said it had 642 new cases of coronavirus Saturday, bringing the total to 12,021. There have been 576 deaths to date, health officials said. 

Coronavirus turns China into a 2020 election issue as Trump and Biden clash

WASHINGTON — When President Donald Trump's super PAC released a TV ad campaign this week painting Joe Biden as soft on China, the apparent Democratic nominee's campaign and outside allies immediately mobilized a full-court press to counter the attack.

Trump's America First Action PAC announced a $10 million TV and digital ad buy Thursday in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, three states that put Trump in the White House by narrow margins in the Electoral College. The group's "Beijing Biden" ads herald Trump's travel restrictions from China while declaring that "for 40 years, Joe Biden has been wrong about China," spliced with ominous music, footage of Biden with President Xi Jinping and ending with insignia of the red and yellow Chinese flag on the Democrat's face.

The Biden campaign rebutted it in videos from the former vice president and foreign policy adviser Tony Blinken, which hit Trump for eliminating U.S. pandemic preparedness resources and for praising China's "efforts and transparency" in its virus response.

The back-and-forth shows the extent to which the deadly virus, which experts say originated in the city of Wuhan, has turned China into a powerful election-year issue, with both major party candidates scrambling to get on the right side. It isn’t just about outsourcing labor this time. It’s about an economic calamity and life-or-death consequences for voters looking to hold China accountable for allegedly concealing information about and failing to contain the virus.

Read the full story here.

United Kingdom records nearly 900 deaths in one day

The U.K.'s National Health Service Saturday announced that 888 people have died from COVID-19-related issues since Friday.

The number came even as Stephen Powis, NHS England's medical director, said that the number of virus-related hospitalizations was starting to level off or even go down in places like London and the Midlands.

"It is now becoming clear that we are beginning to see reductions in the number of people with COVID-19 in hospitals," he said.

A total of 15,464 coronavirus patients have died in U.K hospitals, health officials said Saturday. British Housing Minister Robert Jenrick said 114,217 people in the United Kingdom have tested positive so far.

Protesters in Texas, other states demand end to lockdowns day after Trump's 'LIBERATE' tweets

Protesters gathered at the Texas State Capital building on April 18, 2020 in Austin, Texas.Sergio Flores / Getty Images

Protesters demanding an end to shutdown orders gathered in streets and outside several states' capitol buildings on Saturday, a day after President Donald Trump posted a series of tweets calling for demonstrators to "LIBERATE" certain states.

Some of the demonstrators brandished signs with phrases like, "This is tyranny, not quarantine" and "Open now!"

In Texas, the main protest outside the statehouse in Austin was supported by Alex Jones, the personality behind InfoWars, a website widely criticized for pushing conspiracy theories. Some of those gathered chanted, "Let us work, let us work."

Read the full story 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."