Trump extends social distancing guidelines as governors warn of shortages

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: A stamp seller shows off special postcards with anti-coronavirus images in Hanoi, Vietnam March 31, 2020.
A stamp seller shows off special postcards with anti-coronavirus images in Hanoi, Vietnam March 31, 2020.Kham / Reuters

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President Donald Trump announced Sunday that he's extending his administration's guidelines on social distancing during the COVID-19 outbreak until April 30. The move marks a significant change for the president, who said last week that he wanted to see much of the country return to normal by Easter, April 12, despite warnings from top health experts that easing guidelines could cause widespread death and economic damage.

Meanwhile, in an interview with "TODAY" on Monday morning, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said she's "very worried" about every city in the U.S., saying 100,000 to 200,000 American deaths would be the outcome of a response that works "almost perfectly," according to projections.

Birx's stark message comes after a weekend where the governors of Michigan and Louisiana warned of a lack of resources to respond to the crisis and said that shortages of ventilators and protective equipment could overwhelm hospitals as soon as this week.

The global death toll is now nearly 35,000, and there are more than 140,000 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Massachusetts veterinary school loans out ventilators to support Boston hospital

Dr. Alastair Cribb, a veterinarian and dean of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, told NBC News that its facilities loaned out four ventilators and donated personal protective equipment to support hospital staff at Tufts Medical Center in Boston.

“We have other ventilators that we could use short term with our patients,” Dr. Cribb said, referring to animal patients. He said that other U.S. veterinary hospitals have also donated ventilators.

Cribb added that his veterinary center is no longer allowing people with their pets into its clinics for safety precautions. 

“We speak to them on the phone, get the animal in,” Dr. Cribb said. “It’s very important that veterinary medicine is still available for people that need to care for their animals while keeping everyone as safe as possible.”

Cuomo says New York curve continues to grow as deaths top 1,200

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the state’s curve continues to go up, as it now has 66,497 cases, including 1,218 deaths — up from 965 deaths the previous day.

“Those numbers are daunting,” Cuomo said at a news conference. “It’s continuing to move across the state of New York. Anyone who says this situation is a New York City only situation is in a state of denial.”

The governor said that among the over 66,000 people with the virus, 9,517 are hospitalized and 2,352 of those are ICU patients, adding that 4,204 patients have been discharged. 

“What you see us going through here, you will see happening across this whole country,” Cuomo warned.

The governor called on health care professionals across the country whose communities are not currently in crisis to come to New York and lend a hand. “Come help us please and we will return the favor,” he said.

Cuomo spoke of the need for more medical supplies, and the difficulty of getting supplies while competing against other states, private hospitals, and the federal government.

Pentagon directs military bases to stop releasing coronavirus figures

The Pentagon has directed military bases to no longer provide specific numbers of COVID-19 cases to the press and public, citing operational security concerns and the need to ensure America’s adversaries don’t see any vulnerabilities.

Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said the Defense Department will continue to provide total numbers of coronavirus cases at the service level but will not release figures specific to each base. 

“If a commander believes that COVID-19 could affect the readiness of our strategic deterrent or strategic response forces, we understandably protect that information from public release and falling into the hands of our adversaries - as we expect they would do the same,” Hoffman said in a statement.

As of 5 a.m. Monday, there were 569 uniformed military members who have tested positive for the virus but no deaths, according to the Pentagon. An additional 220 Defense Department, 190 dependents, and 64 contractors have tested positive. One contractor and one dependent have died from the virus.

First minor in NYC dies

New York City reported its first death of a minor on Monday, as the city's death toll rose to 790. Like the majority of those who have died from COVID-19, the minor had an underlying health condition.

Of the 790 people who have died from COVID-19 in the city, all but 13 had underlying conditions. The city department of health's definition of "underlying conditions" includes diabetes, lung disease, cancer, immunodeficiency, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, kidney disease, and GI/liver disease.

Coronavirus unemployment rate could hit 32 percent, Fed estimates

Unemployment could hit 47 million, or 32 percent, according to a recent analysis from the Federal Reserve. That rate would be higher than levels seen during the Great Depression, where unemployment peaked at 24.9 percent.

“These are very large numbers by historical standards, but this is a rather unique shock that is unlike any other experienced by the U.S. economy in the last 100 years,” St. Louis Fed economist Miguel Faria-e-Castro wrote in a research paper.

That figure does not estimate the impact of recently passed government stimulus, which will extend unemployment benefits and subsidize companies for not cutting staff and extending unemployment benefits.

A record 3.28 million Americans filed initial jobless claims for the week ended March 21. Economists expect another 2.65 million to join them this week.

Travel nurse heading to New York scrambles to find housing

Before New York City became one of the epicenters of COVID-19, travel nurse Jessica Fink signed a contract with Stony Brook Hospital to take care of patients in the neurology ICU. But when thousands of cases started popping up in New York, it became clear there was an outbreak.

“My recruiter called and said I could cancel my contract if I wanted to and stay home,” the 32-year-old nurse said. But Fink, a 14-year nursing veteran, couldn’t back away. “I found out the unit I am going to is going to be dedicated to exclusively treating COVID patients,” she said.

She’s driving to New York City from Pennsylvania on Tuesday, and she’s scrambling to figure out her housing situation. Before the outbreak, Fink preemptively rented a room from an older woman. But given the infection rate of the virus, Fink is trying to find isolated housing to prevent community spread. 

“Thinking that I could be a vector of harm is very distressing for me. I am a nurse, I want to do no harm,” she said. She has called various hotels that are opening up rooms to healthcare workers during the pandemic, but she says she has been directed to auto response emails that say hotels are working with organizations. 

“I am worried that being an individual person, I won’t get access because I am not with FEMA.” she said.

Macy's to furlough most of its 130,000 employees

Macy's will be putting the majority of its 130,000 workers on furlough, the company said Monday. 

"Across Macy’s, Bloomingdales, and Bluemercury brands, we will be moving to the absolute minimum workforce needed to maintain basic operations," the company said in a statement. "This means the majority of our colleagues will go on furlough beginning this week."

Most of the furloughs will be in Macy's stores, which have been shut down since March 18, with some furloughs in Macy's online businesses, distribution centers and call centers.

The company said furloughed employees will continue to receive health benefits through at least May.