Angela Merkel quarantined, Rand Paul tests positive, Ohio on lockdown

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Image: The nearly empty 42nd Street in New York on March 22, 2020.
The nearly empty 42nd Street in New York on March 22, 2020.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

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The number of global coronavirus cases surged past 300,000 on Sunday, with more than 13,000 deaths worldwide, according to John Hopkins University, which reported that China, Italy and the U.S. had the most people diagnosed with the respiratory illness.

The news came as the number of Americans under virtual lockdown grew to over 80 million on Saturday, and Ohio issued new shelter-in-place orders.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is herself in quarantine after a doctor who treated her tested positive for coronavirus, her press office announced Sunday.

And Sen. Rand Paul became the first known U.S. Senator to test positive for coronavirus.

“He is feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events,“ the senator’s Twitter account said on Sunday.

Elsewhere, China ended a three-day streak of reporting no new coronavirus cases after 46 people tested positive positive for COVID-19. On the same day, China's National Health Commission also reported six new deaths. Five of the deaths occurred in Wuhan in Hubei province, where the outbreak originated late last year.

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Trump activating National Guard in California, New York, Washington state

President Donald Trump on Sunday announced he would activate the federal National Guard to assist Washington, California and New York, three of the states hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic.

He added that those three states have either been approved or will soon be approved for major disaster declarations to allow the federal government to more seamlessly provide supplies.

Trump said there are large quantities of masks, respirators, gowns, face shields and other items currently en route to those states, due to arrive within days. He added that he has ordered the government to set up large federal medical stations in each of the states.

The Sunday evening announcement came as governors clamored for more assistance from the federal government in combating COVID-19, which is expanding its reach across both the U.S. and the world. Much of the United States is now under some level of economic shutdown.

Read the full story.

U.S. axed CDC expert job in China months before outbreak

WASHINGTON - Several months before the coronavirus pandemic began, the Trump administration eliminated a key American public health position in Beijing intended to help detect disease outbreaks in China, Reuters has learned.

The American disease expert, a medical epidemiologist embedded in China’s disease control agency, left her post in July, according to four sources with knowledge of the issue. The first cases of the new coronavirus may have emerged as early as November, and as cases exploded, the Trump administration in February chastised China for censoring information about the outbreak and keeping U.S. experts from entering the country to help.

“It was heartbreaking to watch,” said Bao-Ping Zhu, a Chinese American who served in that role, which was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, between 2007 and 2011. “If someone had been there, public health officials and governments across the world could have moved much faster.”

Read the full Reuters report here.

Supercomputers rallied to combat coronavirus

The country’s most powerful supercomputers will soon be available to researchers to run sophisticated calculations in epidemiology, bioinformatics and molecular modeling in an effort to accelerate  the development of coronavirus treatments and vaccines. 

IBM along with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and the U.S. Department of Energy are offering the computers under the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium. The consortium includes a slate of 16 supercomputers housed at labs across the country including Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Science Foundation, NASA, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

The Consortium partners will evaluate proposals from researchers around the world and select projects that are likely to have the most immediate impact.

New York couple get married as friend officiates through apartment window

Matt Wilson, left, officiates Reilly Jenning's and Amanda Wheeler's wedding from his fourth floor apartment window in New York.stephsine via Instagram

Despite bans on gatherings and social distancing becoming the norm during the coronavirus pandemic, a New York City couple still found a way to celebrate their love with a surprise wedding.

Reilly Jennings, 28 and Amanda Wheeler, 38, got married on Friday as their friend, Matt Wilson, officiated from his fourth floor apartment window in the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights.

The couple had originally planned to get married in October, but fearing their venue would be closed and travel restrictions becoming more severe, they decided to move up their nuptials. Jennings also told NBC News that the couple was worried about the financial cost of a wedding as the gym where Wheeler works had to close due to the pandemic.

Read the full story here. 

Sens. Mitt Romney, Mike Lee self-quarantine after Sen. Rand Paul tests positive

Two U.S. Senators said Sunday that they are in self-quarantine after Sen. Rand Paul tested positive for COVID-19.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Sen. Mike Lee of Colorado, both Republicans, said in separate statements that they are undertaking the measures because of their exposure to the Kentucky lawmaker.

After consulting with a congressional doctor, Lee said he would not take a test for the disease. Romney, who said he sat next to Paul for extended periods, said he will be tested. Neither are showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Another lawmaker, Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said Paul had acted irresponsibly after going to the Senate gym while waiting to find out if he'd contracted the disease. “You cannot be near other people while waiting for coronavirus test results,” Sinema tweeted. “It endangers others & likely increases the spread of the virus.”

White House declares 'major disaster' in Washington state

Medics transport a patient to an ambulance from the Life Care Center of Kirkland, a long-term care facility linked to several confirmed coronavirus cases, in Kirkland, Wash., on March 7, 2020.David Ryder / Reuters file

President Donald Trump on Sunday approved a major disaster declaration in Washington State in response to the coronavirus outbreak, the White House said.

In a statement, the White House said the approval frees up extra federal funding for the hard-hit state, where nearly 1,800 cases of the disease have been confirmed and 94 people have died.

The funding will be available for virus-related crisis counseling, the White House said.

The statement added that funding is also available for emergency protective measures like direct federal assistance.

White House correspondents' dinner cancelled due to coronavirus fears

Photo: A Mother's Day visit in England

Olive Trotman, left, is visited by her son Mark, his wife Denise, and his sister Kelly, for Mother's Day in Napton, England, on Sunday. Olive suffers from a pulmonary disease, and is taking precaution by speaking to her family through a window to limit the potential spread of coronavirus.Jacob King / PA via AP

Group of Olympic athletes want Tokyo Games postponed, IOC to decide within 4 weeks

A group of Olympic athletes on Sunday called for the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee to postpone the 2020 games until the coronavirus pandemic is under control.

The Olympics are scheduled to take place in Tokyo in July and August.

The group, Global Athlete, said in a statement that they've heard from "hundreds of athletes" who want to postpone the Olympics. Public health measures shutting down training facilities and restricting travel have prevented athletes from adequately preparing for the Tokyo Games, the statement says, and proceeding with the Olympics as scheduled would jeopardize the health of the athletes by exposing them to coronavirus.

The demand came on the same day that the International Olympic Committee announced that it would step up “scenario planning” for the games. The committee said this would better allow it to decide whether or not to proceed with the games as planned, adding that they expect to make a decision within four weeks.

Louisiana issues stay-at-home order

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced that the state would be under a stay-at-home order beginning Monday at 5 p.m. 

The announcement comes just after Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine issued a similar order. 

Nearly 16,000 cases of coronavirus in state of New York

While announcing that coronavirus cases in the state of New York are almost at 16,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Sunday that New York City has to implement more serious measures to keep people from congregating in large groups, especially in parks and other outdoor spaces.

Cuomo also said that Manhattan’s Javits Convention Center was a possible temporary hospital site as projections estimate the state will need more than double its available hospital beds.

“These temporary hospitals are helpful, but they don’t bring supplies and they don’t bring staff, and that compounds our problem of not having enough medical supplies,” Cuomo said. "And frankly, compounds our problem of not having enough medical staff, because we are trying to increase capacity in our existing hospitals.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday that he fears the worst has yet to come as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York City inch closer to 10,000. “The truth is, and New Yorkers and all Americans deserve the blunt truth, it is only getting worse. And in fact, April and May are going to be a lot worse,” the mayor told NBC’s “Meet the Press.”