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.
- MAPS: Confirmed cases in the U.S. and worldwide, confirmed deaths in the U.S. and globally.
- Stay-at-home orders across the country: What each state is doing — or not — amid widespread coronavirus lockdowns.
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Live coverage has ended. Continue reading April 19 coronavirus news here.
Navy reports 669 cases from USS Roosevelt
With a vast majority of USS Roosevelt crew members tested, the U.S. Navy reported Saturday that it has now has 669 coronavirus cases among the nearly 5,000 people who worked aboard the aircraft carrier.
The number of infected patients represents an increase of 84 compared to 585 on Monday. Ninety-four percent of those assigned to the ship have been tested so far, the Navy said in a statement Saturday.
Eight sailors are being treated for COVID-19 symptoms at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam, where the vessel is docked; one was in intensive care, the Navy said. One sailor, Aviation Ordnanceman Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker Jr., 41, of Fort Smith, Arkansas, died Monday from virus-related illness, the Navy said.
The ship's outbreak following a March 5 port of call in Da Nang, Vietnam, sparked controversy when pleas for help from its captain, Brett Crozier, were leaked to a newspaper. Crozier was removed from the ship's command by acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who subsequently resigned amid a backlash to his criticism of the captain.
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.
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.
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 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."
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
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
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.
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
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.
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."
New York Gov. Cuomo says COVID-19 hospitalizations are down 'but it's not over yet'
While the rate of coronavirus hospitalizations has declined in New York, the numbers are still high, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a press conference Saturday.
Around 2,000 new coronavirus hospitalizations are still taking place in the state daily, suggesting "it's not over yet," according to Cuomo.
At least 540 New Yorkers died of coronavirus Friday, the lowest daily death rate the state has seen this week. The rate of infection has also gone down in part thanks to "what we have all done to flatten the curve," Cuomo said. With social distancing, the rate of infection has dropped to 0.9, meaning one person with COVID-19 infects about one other person.
Cuomo said that ramping up testing is crucial for reopening the state without increasing the rate of infection. Increasing New York's capacity to do more tests would also help "find people with the virus and trace their contacts," he said.
The governor called on the federal government "to oversee the supply chain" in order to help laboratories get what they need to increase testing. He also urged the federal government to improve their efforts to coordinate response efforts with states.
Photo: India locks down entire population
Cuomo: pandemic is 'no time for politics'
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that the ongoing coronavirus outbreak was "no time for politics" and called for national unity.
“I have no political agenda," Cuomo said at his daily briefing in Albany. "It's no time for politics.”
Cuomo has gone back and forth with President Donald Trump, publicly disagreeing with the White House's response to the pandemic and at times drawing the ire of Trump.
Cuomo insisted that he had no interest in partisan politics during this time, saying "I work so hard to distance myself from it."
“If you have partisan division splitting this nation now, it's going to make it worse,” he said.
How to watch Lady Gaga's 'One World: Together at Home' concert
"One World: Together at Home," a concert event produced by Global Citizen and touted as one of the largest (virtual) gatherings of major artists and influencers since Live Aid in 1985, is being held in support of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, including front-line health care workers, and the World Health Organization.
The event — curated by Lady Gaga and hosted by Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel and Stephen Colbert — will air Saturday, April 18, 2020, starting at 8 p.m. ET on all NBC networks, ABC, ViacomCBS Networks, The CW and iHeartMedia channels.
A digital stream of “One World: Together At Home” will begin at 2 p.m. ET and can be streamed on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Facebook, Amazon Prime Video, TIDAL, Yahoo, Apple platforms and Twitch.
Pentagon extending travel restrictions for military personnel through June 30
The Department of Defense announced Saturday that it would extend travel restrictions for all military personnel through June 30th due to the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The travel restrictions were initially in place through May 11th. The new date will go into effect on Monday, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Matthew P. Donovan told reporters on a phone call Saturday morning.
The Pentagon also said that Defense Secretary Mark Esper will formally review the travel restriction policy every 15 days.
United States tops 700,000 cases
More than 700,000 people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus.
The country crossed that threshold Saturday as Virginia reported 562 additional cases and 27 deaths, and Ohio reported 249 probable cases. Puerto Rico also announced 50 new cases and two deaths.
The U.S. leads all countries in reported deaths, 36,734, and cases, 700,664, as of 10:55 a.m. ET Saturday, according to NBC News' tracking.
Britain passes 15,000 coronavirus deaths
Britain’s coronavirus death toll rose by 888 to 15,464 on Saturday, the U.K.’s health ministry said.
Of the more than 350,000 people in the country who've been tested for COVID-19, 114,217 tested positive.
Britain recently extended its nationwide lockdown measures for at least three more weeks due to concerns that relaxing the rules could cause a "second peak" which could "substantially" increase the number of deaths, Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Thursday.
Even after 'flattening the curve,' Americans face a long road back to pre-coronavirus normalcy
After flattening the curve, Americans should expect a number of curveballs.
Once the immediate crush of COVID-19 cases subsides, epidemiologists say a "post-peak" purgatory lies ahead until a vaccine can be discovered and disseminated that would allow a return to normalcy.
“When this lockdown ends, it’s not going to be like one day you’re in your house and the next day you’re taking the metro to the ballgame,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, the director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
"It’s not going to happen like that. It’s going to be gradual."
Iran's coronavirus death toll surpasses 5,000 as some businesses reopen
The coronavirus death toll in Iran surpassed 5,000, according to the country's health ministry.
The worst-hit country in the Middle East, Iran on Saturday reported 80,868 total cases of COVID-19, up from 1,374 the day before.
Iran allowed some businesses in the capital of Tehran and nearby towns to re-open Saturday, however, after weeks of lockdown, according to the Associated Press.
Miami police chief tests positive for coronavirus
Miami's police chief, Jorge Colina, tested positive for coronavirus, he announced in a message to his department.
"My symptoms are mild, my spirits are high and I have every reason to believe that I will have a full recovery," Colina wrote.
He said he is remaining in isolation until tests show that he's "no longer at risk for spreading the virus to coworkers."
Deputy Chief Ronald Papier is serving as acting chief in Colina's absence.
Death toll in Spain surpasses 20,000
The death toll in Spain surpassed 20,000 on Saturday, and the total number of infections in the country nearly reached 200,000, according to Spanish health authorities.
Spain’s health authorities reported 565 deaths in the last 24 hours, which is a decrease from the day before which reported 585. Only the United States and Italy have higher death tolls than Spain.
While more than 74,000 people in the hard-hit country have recovered, strict confinement rules are expected to be extended beyond the planned date of April 26.
Unexpected impact of stay-at-home orders: Cleaner air and wild animals reclaiming habitats
At least 20 Afghan presidential palace staff test positive for virus
At least 20 officials working at Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's palace have tested positive for coronavirus, prompting the 70-year-old leader to limit most of his contact with staff to digital communication, government sources said on Saturday. The president himself has not officially been tested for the virus.
"A contaminated document was sent to an office inside the palace from another government department and that's how the employees were infected," a senior official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"Some of the employees were still working in their offices when the results came out, and we had to quarantine them and their families, but the numbers could be higher," the official added.
Afghanistan has reported more than 900 cases as of Saturday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Pope Francis prays for health care workers assisting disabled patients
Pope Francis said on Saturday to a small audience at his Vatican morning mass that he was praying for health care workers helping disabled COVID-19 patients.
He said that he had received a letter from a nun detailing the difficult situation facing nurses and doctors treating disabled people.
"We pray for those who are always at the service of people with with different abilities, who don't have the abilities we have," he said.
Italy's healthcare system has been hit particularly hard by the outbreak, but the country, along with others in Europe are now consider lifting lockdown measures.
Kurdish-led region in northeast Syria reports first case
The Kurdish-led administration in Syria's northeast reported the area's first case of coronavirus on Friday. It said samples had been tested in Damascus earlier this month.
The regional administration said in a statement that a 53-year-old man had died on Apr. 2 and that a sample sent to Syria's capital Damascus had tested positive for COVID-19. Health authorities in the northeast — a region ruled autonomously from Damascus — had not until now been made aware of the results, which emerged on the same day as the patient's death, it added.
A World Health Organization regional spokesperson said that active surveillance was being carried out in northeast Syria to probe for other potential cases. The Kurdish-led administration said in a statement it was "dangerous" that their health authorities had not been informed directly when the case was first confirmed.
Relief organizations have expressed concern about the pandemic reaching northeast Syria, where health infrastructure has been shattered by war and medical supplies are limited.
Nigerian president's chief of staff dies as Africa’s death toll surpasses 1,000
Kyari — who was in his 70s and had underlying health problems including diabetes — was the top official aide to 77-year-old Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and was considered one of the most powerful men in the country.
As of Saturday, Africa now has more than 1,000 deaths from COVID-19, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. A total of 52 of the continent’s 54 countries have reported the virus, with the overall number of cases nearing 20,000.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom warned on Friday, however, that because of a shortage of testing on the continent “it’s likely the real numbers are higher than reported.”
U.S. 'concerned' by threat of cyber attack against Czech Republic healthcare
The United States is concerned by the threat of a cyber attack against the Czech Republic’s healthcare sector, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday, adding that anybody engaged in such activity should “expect consequences.”
Two hospitals in the Czech Republic reported attempted attacks on their computer systems on Friday, a day after the country’s cybersecurity watchdog said it expected a wave of cyberattacks on the country’s critical infrastructure.
“We call upon the actor in question to refrain from carrying out disruptive malicious cyber activity against the Czech Republic’s healthcare system or similar infrastructure elsewhere,” Pompeo said in a statement, without naming anyone.
A Czech official speaking on condition of anonymity said it was not clear who was responsible for the activity the watchdog had identified but it was thought to be the work of a “serious and advanced adversary.”
South Korea maintains downward trend in virus cases
South Korea has reported 18 new cases of the virus on Saturday — its lowest daily jump since Feb. 20 — continuing a considerable downward trend since the beginning of the month.
Figures released by South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday brought national totals to 10,653 cases and 232 virus-related deaths. Korean officials are now beginning to discuss more sustainable forms of social distancing that allows for some communal and economic activity, according to the Associated Press.
It comes after a nationwide election was held in the country earlier this week, which saw President Moon Jae-in's ruling party win in a landslide victory propelled by successes in the country's efforts to contain the virus.
South Korea has largely managed to bring its epidemic under control due to an extensive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing, earning praise from the World Health Organization and other nations.
U.K. scientists to make 1 million potential vaccines before tests to prove it works
A million doses of a potential COVID-19 vaccine being developed by British scientists are already being manufactured and will be available by September, even before trials prove whether the shot is effective, the team said Friday.
The Oxford University team’s experimental product — called “ChAdOx1 nCoV-19” — is a type known as a recombinant viral vector vaccine and is one of at least 70 potential virus vaccines under development by biotech and research teams around the world.
The scientists said in an online briefing they were recruiting volunteers for early stage human trials of their shot, and large-scale production capacity was being put in place “at risk.” This means the shots will be produced in large numbers at risk of being useless if trials show they do not work.
“The aim is to have at least a million doses by around about September, when we also hope to have efficacy trial results,” Adrian Hill, a professor and director of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University, told reporters. He said three of the manufacturing partners were in Britain, two in Europe, one in India and one in China.
Tennessee can’t prevent abortions during coronavirus, judge rules
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge Friday night ruled that Tennessee has to continue allowing abortions amid a temporary ban on nonessential medical procedures that’s aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman said the defendants didn’t show that any appreciable amount of personal protective equipment, or PPE, would be saved if the ban is applied to abortions.
In a hearing by phone Friday, attorneys representing several state abortion clinics argued that Tennessee women will face immediate harm if the ban on abortions is not lifted.
Alex Rieger, arguing for the Tennessee attorney general’s office, said abortions are not being singled out but treated like any other procedure that is not necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury. Gov. Bill Lee issued an emergency order on April 8 banning those procedures for three weeks.
The goal of the ban is to preserve the limited supply of PPE for doctors fighting COVID-19 and to help prevent the community spread of the disease by limiting patient-provider interactions, Rieger said.
Several other states are grappling with similar issues. Judges in the past week have ruled to allow abortions to continue in Arkansas, Oklahoma, Ohio and Texas.
Gyms are eager to reopen, but are they safe?
Gyms are used to seeing attendance drops a few months into the start of a new year when resolutions fade. But nothing could have prepared them for the drop they experienced because of the coronavirus pandemic.
While some gyms continued to collect membership fees, most quickly lost all revenue. Some eventually pivoted to digital and started offering live-streamed workouts. But most were offered for free or directed donations to their instructors.
In President Donald Trump's guidelines announced this week for reopening the country, gyms were included in the first phase, "if they adhere to strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols."
Florida begins to reopen beaches
Some Florida residents returned to the beaches Friday after Gov. Ron DeSantis gave the green light to reopen parts of the coast despite the continuing coronavirus outbreak.
Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham, Neptune Beach Mayor Elaine Brown and Atlantic Beach Mayor Ellen Glasser said their beaches would reopen exclusively for exercise, not tanning or congregating in large groups.
“Just to be clear, this is an opportunity for people to come out to the beach to exercise a couple of times a day. It’s not a sunbathing opportunity,” Latham said in a statement.