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

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.

'What do we have to lose?': Trump continues to promote untested drug treatments for coronavirus

President Donald Trump insisted Saturday that there was cause for optimism about drug therapies for coronavirus, despite caution from his top government scientists that the treatments’ effectiveness was not proven.

“Look, I feel, as the expression goes: what do we have to lose?,” Trump said, making the case for offering different drugs, which he also tweeted  about earlier in the day, that have been used in other countries to combat the coronavirus but have not been proven to work in any controlled studies.

"I feel very confident. I've seen things that surprise me frankly,” Trump said, speaking at a press briefing at the White House.

Trump’s director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, reminded the public during the same briefing that there is not evidence to claim that the drugs work.

“Many of the things that you hear out here are what I had called anecdotal reports. They may be true, but they are anecdotal,” Fauci said. “The president is talking about hope for people.” 

Italy's death toll continues to soar, with 793 in one day

A nurse at the Cremona hospital pushes an emergency trolley, on March 11, 2020m in Lombardy,I taly.Paolo Miranda / AFP - Getty Images

Italy's death toll from coronavirus continues to soar, with 793 fatalities in the last 24 hours.

Deaths from COVID-19 in the country now stand at 4,825.

The total number of cases in the state also shot up by 6,557 since Friday to a total of 53,578 coronavirus cases, officials said Saturday.

Angelo Borrelli, chief of civil protection, said 6,072 people have recovered after contracting the disease.

Vice President Mike Pence says he will get tested for the coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence said he and his wife, Karen Pence, would get tested for the coronavirus Saturday afternoon after a member of Pence's staff tested positive for the virus Friday night.

“I am pleased to report he's doing well,” Pence said of the staffer. “He had mild cold-like symptoms for about a day and a half. He has not been to the White House since Monday. Neither the President nor I had direct contact with that staff person."

Pence said that both him and his wife felt fine and were not displaying any symptoms.

But given his “unique position” as vice president and as head of the White House’s coronavirus task force, Pence said he would go ahead and get tested.

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New Jersey issues stay-at-home order for nearly all 9 million residents

Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey has issued a stay-at-home order for nearly all of the state's 9 million residents.

New Jersey now joins the list of other states ordering such sweeping restrictions in the bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

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NYC: Only test those that are hospitalized as protective equipment 'extremely limited'

New York City's hospitals are sounding the alarm about a critical lack of Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, and are limiting tests of COVID-19 to those that are hospitalized in the "epicenter" of the coronavirus outbreak and to stop testing outpatients, documents obtained by NBC News show.

NBC News has reviewed a letter from NYU Medical Langone Hospital which says that the capacity to test for COVID-19 at labs in the region remains "critically limited."The letter says that as of Friday NYU has told staff that the testing of COVID-19 was to be restricted to hospitalized patients only. In part, the letter says, because supplies of test swabs and other necessary testing components remains low.

NYU's directives come on the heals of a sweeping memorandum from the New York City Department of Health. The directive says, "there is a national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), collection swabs, and viral transport media supplies and it is critical that laboratory testing be prioritized for hospitalized patients."

The memo says that applies to testing first responders who aren't hospitalized either and says, "outpatient testing must not be encouraged, promoted or advertised."

Coronavirus cases in Switzerland jump 25 percent in a day

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland has jumped from 2,650 to 6,113 in the last 72 hours, NBC News numbers show.

Swiss officials said the number of coronavirus went up 25 percent in just 24 hours, with hospitals in Ticino, which borders hard-hit Italy, under pressure, Reuters reported.

The number of deaths in Switzerland is at least 56.

Coronavirus economic relief package could total $2 trillion, Kudlow says

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said that the new economic emergency package to combat the coronavirus pandemic could total more than $2 trillion.

“The package is coming in at about 10 percent of GDP,” Kudlow said to reporters as he arrived at the Capitol Saturday morning to continue negotiating a deal with a bipartisan group of senators, adding that it would likely come out to be more than $2 trillion.

“We’re just trying to cover the right bases,” he said, declining to provide any further details on what agreements Senate Republicans and Democrats were nearing.

Lawmakers spent all Friday meeting in the Capitol to hammer out a deal, but failed to reach Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ambitious midnight deadline to come to an agreement. They reconvened Saturday morning to finish negotiations.

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