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Over 80 million Americans under virtual lockdown as restrictions tighten

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Image: Surfside
A beach entrance is cordoned off in Surfside, Fla., on March 21, 2020.Wilfredo Lee / AP

The number of Americans under virtual lockdown grew Saturday to over 80 million, with New Jersey joining the list of states issuing a stay-at-home order or other sweeping mandates to fight the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We must flatten the curve and ensure residents are practicing social distancing," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said, adding, “Even with this order in effect … life in New Jersey does not have to come to a complete standstill.”

New Jersey's stay-at-home order applies to nearly all of its 9 million residents. It comes after Illinois issued a similar mandate Friday for its 13 million residents and following California's stay-at-home order for its population of 40 million.

In New York, with a population of over 19 million, the governor has ordered that all nonessential businesses keep their workers home. Pennsylvania's governor has also ordered that all businesses that are not "life-sustaining" close.

New York also announced Saturday that the number of coronavirus cases there now tops 10,000.

Worldwide, there are now more than 275,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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California fire department creates virus unit

A Silicon Valley fire department said Saturday it was deploying a new unit that would be assigned to only coronavirus-related calls for help.

The Menlo Park Fire District in Northern California called its two-person Pandemic Emergency Response Unit "perhaps the first of its kind in the Nation." 

The department, which serves the cities of Menlo Park, Atherton, and East Palo Alto, said in a statement the unit would "minimize exposures to the rest of the workforce and community."

San Mateo County, which includes Menlo Park, has recorded 110 coronavirus cases and one death. Menlo Park fire officials said they've seen as many as seven virus calls in one day.

Members of the unit are trained in emergency medical services and will wear protective equipment that would be decontaminated after each call, it said.

More than a dozen NYC inmates test positive for COVID-19

At least 19 inmates and 12 New York City Department of Corrections employees have tested positive for COVID-19, the department announced Saturday. 

But an independent watchdog called The Board of Correction said 21 inmates at Rikers Island have tested positive for the virus, NBC New York reported.

A federal inmate at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn also tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first confirmed case in the federal jail system, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. The inmate complained of chest pains three days after arriving at the prison and was taken to an outside hospital where he was tested for COVID-19. After the test came back positive, the inmate was returned to prison and placed in isolation.

The latest figures come a day after Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city is "now the epicenter of this crisis" in the United States.

DJ D-Nice rocks a virtual party

It's not easy to attract celebrities to a party when much of the country is under orders to stay at home, but hip-hop DJ D-Nice appears to have attracted plenty of big names this week with his virtual performances from home.

The spinner has been performing afternoon isolation sessions, "Homeschool," webcast on his Instagram page. On Saturday he thanked a long list of boldface names for "support," including "JLo, Drake, Naomi Campbell, Black Thought, Diddy" and dozens more. "Wow!," her said.

The publication Essence said in a headline, "DJ D-Nice Is Breaking The Internet & Lifting Spirits Worldwide."

As a member of Boogie Down Productions, the DJ, born Derrick Jones, was a creator during the golden age of hip-hop. He later DJ'd at President Barack Obama's second-term inauguration, and his website features of a photo of a performance with former Vice President Joe Biden sharing the stage.

Pence tests negative, spokeswoman says

Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence have tested negative for coronavirus, the vice president's press secretary announced Saturday evening.

Pence said he and his wife would be tested Saturday afternoon after a member of Pence's staff tested positive for the virus Friday night. He said that he did not have direct contact with the staffer, whom he described as "doing well."

The vice president's press secretary, Katie Miller, said on Twitter, "Pleased to report that the COVID-19 test results came back negative for both Vice President @Mike_Pence and Second Lady @KarenPence."

Last week, President Donald Trump's White House doctor said he had tested negative.

Bon Jovi's David Bryan says he has virus

Bon Jovi keyboardist David Bryan said Saturday that he's tested positive for coronavirus.

"I just got my results back today and tested positive for corona virus," the rock musician, 58, said on Instagram. "I’ve been sick for a week and feeling better each day."

Bryan, who said in 2017 playing live is "the greatest feeling in the world," told fans that he's been "quarantined for a week" and will stay away from others for at least another week.

"I'll get tested again to make sure I'm free of this nasty virus," the New Jersey resident said.

Death toll in Washington state reaches 94

Health officials in the state of Washington said Saturday the coronavirus death toll had reached 94.

It was three weeks ago that the first virus-related death in the United States was announced by Washington health officials.

Attention on the state's outbreak has focused a long-term care facility in suburban Seattle, where 33 residents, not all of them confirmed COVID-19 cases, have died since Feb. 19, a spokesman for the facility said Friday.

The state has recorded 1,793 total cases, with a majority, 934, in King County, home of Seattle, according to state health figures. The health department said 27,121 people have been tested, with 7 percent positive. 

Episcopal priest who was 1st coronavirus case in Washington, D.C., has a message

A prominent Episcopal priest who was the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Washington, D.C., has a message.

Rev. Timothy Cole of Christ Church Georgetown, who was diagnosed in early March, spoke from his hospital bed to NBC News correspondent Julia Ainsley, who is also one of his parishioners, for MSNBC on Saturday.

He said to hold hope now is reasonable.

"I look back across my life at all the things that I have been through, and He’s still got me to the beginning of this day," Cole said. "So, it is not unreasonable for me to be hopeful that He will get me to the next day.”

“We will get through as we got through many, many other things and be strong again," said the pastor.

COVID-19 'hit me like a ton of bricks': Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart in first interview since diagnosis

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., became one of two congressmen to test positive for COVID-19, which has sickened more than 19,000 Americans and 250,000 people around the globe.

He revealed his diagnosis on Wednesday.

In his first interview since testing positive for COVD-19, Diaz-Balart told his brother, NBC anchor Jose Diaz-Balart, that he his finally feeling better after nearly a week but confessed the initial symptoms hit him "like a ton of bricks."

Read the full story here.

The city that never sleeps behaves

Image: A message about protecting yourself from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen on an electronic billboard in a nearly empty Times Square
A message about protecting yourself from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is seen on an electronic billboard in a nearly empty Times Square in New York on March 20, 2020.Mike Segar / Reuters

The city that never sleeps seems to be abiding by officials' orders in regard to bar and restaurant service, at least judging by New York Police Department figures.

The NYPD said Saturday that checks on 6,900 bars and restaurants Friday night resulted in no citations. "NO summonses or arrests, and NO enforcement action needed," it said on Twitter.

The department said 4,900 of the locations were closed. 

On Friday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled his orders for all nonessential employees of businesses to stay home and for bars and restaurants to remain open only for delivery and takeout.

That same day, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who said the city is the American "epicenter" of the virus, called on "100 percent" of residents to stay home unless they are exempted.

Trump sends letter to Kim Jong Un claiming to be impressed by North Korea's coronavirus response

North Korea on Saturday said that President Donald Trump sent Kim Jong Un a letter in which Trump said he was impressed by the North Korean leader's ability to defend his people from the coronavirus outbreak. 

North Korea has insisted that they have had no cases of COVID-19, but many experts say that Kim’s claim that the outbreak has not touched his country is almost certainly false.  

The letter also says Trump "expressed his intent to render cooperation in the anti-epidemic work."

“President Trump sent a letter to Chairman Kim of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, consistent with his efforts to engage global leaders during the ongoing pandemic. The President looks forward to continued communications with Chairman Kim," a senior administration official confirmed to NBC News. 

Apple to donate millions of masks to health care workers

Most cases in New York City are of people under 50

Most people who have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City are younger than 50, according to figures released by the city Saturday.

This does not reflect the ages of those who have died, only people confirmed to be infected with the virus.

Overall, 57 percent of those who have tested positive in the city are 49 or younger. People 18 to 49 years old make up the majority, 54 percent, the city said. The next largest group are those age 50 to 64, who account for 23 percent of positive test results so far.

The accounting reflects data known to the city through 5:30 p.m. Friday. 

On Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "We are now the epicenter of this crisis" in the United States.

Coronavirus briefly halts flights to all NYC-area and Philadelphia airports

Image: JFK International Airport
An air traveler prepares to board a Delta flight to San Francisco at JFK International Airport, in New York, on March 17, 2020.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters file

Flights to all New York City-area and Philadelphia airports were briefly halted Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The agency temporarily grounded flights after it said Saturday that an air traffic controller trainee tested positive for the coronavirus. The trainee worked out of the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma, on Long Island.

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Over 2K retired medical workers volunteer to help, NYC mayor says

Retired medical providers in New York are offering their help to combat the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

"Over 2,000 retired medical personnel have answered the call to come back out of retirement to protect people," the mayor said Friday.

The number of coronavirus cases in New York state increased by more than 3,000 and now tops 10,000. New York City alone has 6,211 cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

White House won't say when healthcare workers can expect to have additional supplies

The White House did not provide a concrete timeline Saturday about when healthcare professionals can expect to have much-needed supplies, such as masks and ventilators.

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters at a press briefing that “companies would be producing millions of masks within a matter of weeks” and said that President Donald Trump “expanded liability protections to industrial masks so that they could now be used in hospitals.”

Trump, Pence and other members of the coronavirus task force were asked by reporters when healthcare workers could expect to have the supplies. No one was able to provide a timeline. 

Trump instead criticized reporters and insisted that, despite having been in office for over three years now, any slow response or lack of preparedness was because of a broken system he inherited.