The global death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 30,000, according to John Hopkins University, as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention issued a travel advisory for New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, where the coronavirus outbreak has hit the U.S. hardest.
Elsewhere, U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote residents urging them to stay home during the country's weeks-long lockdown. Johnson, who recently tested positive for coronavirus, said "things will get worse before they get better." The U.K. has surpassed 1,000 known deaths.
- Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments.
- MAPS: Where cases have been confirmed in the U.S. and worldwide.
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Two large health insurers waive coronavirus treatment costs
Health insurers Cigna and Humana are now waiving patient cost-sharing on all treatment for coronavirus, including hospitalizations and ambulance transfers, for their insured members and employer plans.
“Our customers with COVID-19 should focus on fighting this virus and preventing its spread,” said David Cordani, Cigna president and CEO, in a statement, adding “while our customers focus on regaining their health, we have their backs.”
The insurers said the waiver applies to all medical costs related to the treatment of coronavirus, including FDA-approved medications and vaccines when they become available. They will apply to their privately insured individual and groups plans, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid members.
Photo: New beginnings in Hong Kong
Trump extends social distancing guidelines to April 30
Trump said last week he wanted to see much of the country return to normal by Easter, April 12, despite warnings from top health experts that easing the guidelines too soon could cause widespread deaths and economic damage.
Trump said Friday he would be consulting with his administration's top medical experts on whether to extend or change the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on slowing the spread of the virus.
But on Sunday, Trump said Easter was “just an aspiration” and he expects “great things to be happening” by June 1.
Singer-songwriter John Prine in critical condition
Singer-songwriter John Prine is in critical condition after apparently contracting coronavirus, his family said Sunday.
In a statement, Prine’s family said the legendary country and folk singer was hospitalized Thursday night after suddenly developing COVID-19 symptoms. Prine, 73, was intubated on Saturday.
“This is hard news for us to share,” his family said. “But so many of you have loved and supported John over the years, we wanted to let you know and give you the chance to send on more of that love and support now. And know that we love you, and John loves you.”
The one-time postal worker wrote songs like “Angel from Montgomery” and “Hello in There.” Doctors removed a cancerous lump from Prine’s throat in 1998. He also underwent treatment for lung cancer but continued to write, record and perform.
Dr. Anthony Fauci reaching out on YouTube
Epidemiologist Dr. Anthony Fauci is a regular feature of President Donald Trump’s daily news conferences on the government’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
But Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and an advisor to every president since Ronald Reagan, is reaching out to a new audience — the social media generation.
After appearing on Instagram with NBA player Steph Curry this week and being interviewed last week by Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook, Fauci has been on a virtual tour of four popular YouTube channels.
"If Fauci is determined to get out best possible information, YouTube lends itself to being the best platform," said David Craig, a communications professor at the University of Southern California, and co-author of the book "Social Media Entertainment."
Churches use drive-in theaters to host services
Churches are repurposing drive-in movie theaters and renting outdoor screens as the COVID-19 outbreak prompts stay-at-home orders across the country.
In the small Alabama town of Gu-Win, Blue Moon Drive-In is hosting Faith Fellowship Church from nearby Winfield. Birdsong Drive-In, in Camden, Tennessee, will do the same for a local church on Easter Sunday.
And in a Houston suburb, Kingsland Baptist Church is turning its sprawling campus into an outdoor theater with large rented screens and radio transmitters so people can attend services from inside their cars.
“They are looking for somebody to tell them it’s OK, and nobody can really say that yet,” said Todd Pendergrass, the church’s executive pastor. “But we can express that the person we trust in Christ is unchanging.”
Every segment of U.S. child welfare system affected
NEW YORK — Child welfare agencies across the U.S., often beleaguered in the best of times, are scrambling to confront new challenges that the coronavirus is posing for caseworkers, kids and parents.
For caseworkers, the potential toll is physical and emotional. Child welfare workers in several states, including Michigan, Massachusetts, New York and Washington, have tested positive for COVID-19.
Many agencies, seeking to limit the virus’s spread, have cut back on in-person inspections at homes of children considered at risk of abuse and neglect. Parents of children already in foster care are missing out on weekly visits. Slowdowns at family courts are burdening some of those parents with agonizing delays in getting back their children.
“There are real sad consequences for folks who've been making progress toward reunifying,” said Boston social worker Adriana Zwick, who represents unionized caseworkers with Massachusetts’ Department of Children and Families.
Photo: The scene in California
Country music star Joe Diffie dies of coronavirus at 61
Joe Diffie, an icon to many country fans for his string of No. 1 hits in the 1990s, has died from complications related to the coronavirus, a spokesperson revealed Sunday afternoon. He was 61.
“Grammy-winning country music legend Joe Diffie passed away today, Sunday, March 29, from complications of coronavirus (COVID-19),” the statement read simply. “His family respects their privacy at this time.”
On Friday, Diffie become the first country star to go public with a coronavirus diagnosis. “I am under the care of medical professionals and currently receiving treatment,” a statement attributed to him read.
Emergency field hospital being built in Central Park to deal with coronavirus in New York City
New York City's famed Central Park will be home to a field hospital that will provide care for patients who are battling COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus.
Tents are being put up in the park's East Meadow to serve as emergency care by Mount Sinai Health System, various governmental agencies and humanitarian aid organization Samaritan’s Purse, Mount Sinai confirmed Sunday.
The field hospital is set to open Tuesday.
Over 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers in limbo after evacuating back to U.S.
March 16 was supposed to be a normal Monday for the more than 7,000 Peace Corps volunteers stationed across more than 60 countries. But that morning, one email changed everything: For the first time in its nearly 60-year history, the Peace Corps was suspending all operations and evacuating volunteers as the coronavirus pandemic spread around the globe.
Eight days later, by March 24, all Peace Corps volunteers had left their posts. The original plan had been to stagger departures over several days, but due to the ever-changing situation at borders around the world, volunteers ultimately had 48 to 72 hours from receiving the email before they were on flights home.
Now, the returning volunteers find themselves in limbo, back in an America that they don’t recognize.
Inmate dies after contracting coronavirus at Louisiana federal prison
A 47-year-old inmate died Saturday after contracting the coronavirus at a Louisiana federal prison where at least five prisoners have tested positive for the virus, officials said.
The death of Patrick Jones marks the first COVID-19 related death of an inmate in the federal prison system, a Bureau of Prisons spokesperson said.
Jones was locked up on drug charges at a minimum-security prison in Oakdale facing a surge in Covid-19 cases, according to the Bureau of Prisons and union leaders.
Drone video shows streets of Milan deserted during lockdown
Drone footage from Milan shows the effect Italy's coronavirus lockdown is having. Streets normally bustling with tourists in the country's financial capital lie empty. The lockdown has now been extended as the country's death toll rises, but even as most people stay at home, others have been caught flouting the rules.
Maine residents try to force quarantine of out-of-towners by cutting down tree, police say
A group of Maine residents apparently tried to forcibly quarantine their neighbors by cutting down a tree and blocking a roadway after fearing they might have coronavirus.
A man who lived on Cripple Creek Road left his Vinalhaven residence to check on disrupted cable service when he came across a downed tree in the road, according to a Facebook post Saturday from the Knox County Sheriff's Office. He told police that when he exited his car to inspect the tree, a group of people, some with guns, gathered around him and told him he needed to be quarantined.
Pope does not have coronavirus, calls for global ceasefire during pandemic
The Vatican said on Saturday that tests carried out in the building where Pope Francis lives after one resident tested positive for the virus showed that the pontiff and his closest aides do not have the disease.
Tests were done on 170 people in the Vatican and six showed positive, including one of the several dozen permanent residents of the Santa Marta guesthouse on the Vatican grounds, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement.
Speaking at his weekly blessing on Sunday, Pope Francis backed a call by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a global ceasefire so the world can focus on fighting the coronavirus pandemic. Francis appealed to everyone to “stop every form of bellicose hostility and to favor the creation of corridors for humanitarian help."
Pelosi bashes Trump on coronavirus: 'As the president fiddles, people are dying'
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday criticized President Donald Trump's response to the coronavirus pandemic by saying that "as the president fiddles, people are dying."
Pelosi made the remark when asked on CNN's "State of the Union" whether Trump should relax some of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines on social distancing in parts of the country that have yet to suffer a major outbreak.
New York governor extends stay-at-home order for two more weeks
During a press conference Sunday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced New York's "Pause" executive order has been extended two more weeks, meaning non-essential workers will have to remain at home through April 15th.
Moscow orders residents to shelter-in-place
Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin ordered city residents to stay at home Sunday, only leaving their homes for essential needs and maintaining a social distance while doing so.
Under the order, which goes into effect Monday, people would only be permitted to leave home for needs such as medical services, traveling to work if they cannot work from home, grocery shopping, walking pets close to home and taking out the garbage.
“In the coming days, after the technical and organizational measures have been carried out, it will be possible to leave your apartment with a special pass issued in a manner established by the Moscow city government," Sobyanin said Sunday.
Billie Eilish, Mariah Carey and more live stream from their homes for benefit concert
Pop stars like Billie Eilish, Camila Cabello and Mariah Carey will live stream performances from their homes on Sunday as part of a coronavirus benefit concert held by iHeart Radio and FOX.
The hour-long "FOX presents The iHeartRadio Living Room Concert for America" will be a free live stream hosted by Elton John and joined by a number of famous singers, who will all stream from their respective homes.
Italy’s churches filling up with coffins
China claims domestic spread basically blocked, but warns of imported cases
China’s National Health Commission spokesperson Mi Feng said in a briefing that on March 28 the number of confirmed cases had dropped to less than 3,000, and the spread of the local coronavirus cases had been basically blocked.
A total of 693 overseas imported confirmed cases from 42 countries have been reported, of which seven countries have a larger number of cases than China, accounted for 83.4% of the total. Officials warned these imported cases are still likely to cause a new round of spread within China.
Officials previously claimed on March 23 to have mostly halted domestic cases. The National Health Commission reiterated this on March 29 as China's existing confirmed cases dropped to a new low, but warned the country should stay on high alert.
Coronavirus could kill over 100,000 Americans, White House expert warns
Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that he anticipates the coronavirus could kill between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans while infecting "millions."
Speaking with CNN's "State of the Union," the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said however he does not want to be "held" to that prediction because the COVID-19 outbreak is "such a moving target."
'Like sitting ducks': Amid coronavirus, families, attorney sound alarm over ICE detainees
Americans with family members in immigration detention facilities, as well as their lawyers, are sounding the alarm and urging the release of non-violent detainees with underlying health conditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On March 24, Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in a person held in an immigrant detention center.
“This is what public health experts have assured us would happen: People in detention centers are sitting ducks for the spread of this virus. The same experts have also predicted that once outbreaks in detention centers begin, they will spread rapidly,” Andrea Flores, deputy director of policy at the ACLU said in a statement.
VA opens its hospital beds to non-veterans to assist New York City
The Department of Veterans Affairs said Sunday that it would be opening up 50 beds in two of its hospitals to help New York City in its efforts to combat the coronavirus.
Non-veteran patients who need treatment for ailments other than COVID-19, the disease associated with the virus, will be eligible for 35 acute care and 15 intensive care unit hospital beds. The transfer of five non-COVID patients from community hospitals to VA campuses in Manhattan and Brooklyn is already underway, the department said.
“VA is proud to assist the City of New York while continuing its primary mission of caring for our Nation’s Veterans,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said in the Sunday press release.
Governors warn shortages will put their states in 'dire straits' as early as this week
WASHINGTON — Two governors of states seeing a surge in coronavirus cases sounded the alarm Sunday about the lack of resources to respond to the crisis and warned that shortages of ventilators and protective equipment could overwhelm hospitals as soon as this week.
Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that some hospitals in her state are “already at capacity,” and that even despite receiving new shipments of protective equipment as recently as Saturday, her state is “going to be in dire straits again in a matter of days.”
Photo: Shopping in Madrid
Owner of the New York Knicks and Rangers tests positive
Madison Square Garden Company Executive Chairman and CEO Jim Dolan has tested positive for coronavirus.
Dolan is the owner both the New York Knicks and New York Rangers sports teams. He also operates the famed Manhattan arena, Madison Square Garden.
The 64-year-old has been in self-isolation and is experiencing little to no symptoms, according to a tweet from the Knicks Saturday night.
Social distancing halved rate of spread in Australia, PM says as lockdown measures increase
The rate of spread of the novel coronavirus in Australia has halved in recent days, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Sunday as he announced an additional 1.1 billion Australian dollars (about $680 million) to expand telemedicine care and other health services.
The daily increase in cases in recent days was at about 13 percent-15 percent, down from 25 percent-30 percent seen a week ago, showing social distancing measures were working, Morrison said. He acknowledged, however, that these were still strong rates of increase.
As such, Morrison said that public gatherings should not exceed two people, and stressed Australians should go out only when necessary. There are nearly 4,000 confirmed cases in Australia on Sunday and 16 deaths, health officials said.
Also on Sunday, neighboring New Zealand saw its first death related to the virus, with cases rising to 514 confirmed infections.
Spain reports record daily death toll as lockdown is extended
Spain has reached a daily record for virus deaths with 838 fatalities in the last 24 hours, according to the country's Ministry of Health. This brings the total number to 6,528, the world’s second-highest country behind Italy.
Sunday’s number is slightly up from Saturday when 832 people were reported to have died from the virus. The number of confirmed infections rose by more than 6,500 from Saturday to 78,797 cases on Sunday, the Ministry of Health said.
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said in a press conference on Saturday that all non-essential workers in Spain are ordered to stay home for two additional weeks of lockdown from Monday until April 9. He added that workers will receive their usual salaries but would have to make up lost hours at a later date.
Sánchez also said the Spanish Ministry of Health has bought healthcare supplies from China, including 659 million face masks. He called the outbreak, “the worst crisis in Europe since World War II.”
Reporter's notebook: The virus renders Rome silent
ROME — “Chiuso.” Italy is closed.
Usually a trip to Rome is a dream assignment. But not when your flight lands and you learn that the prime minister has just declared all of Italy a “Zona Rosa,” or a red zone.
The minute we touched down last week, camera operator Angela Neil and I received alerts on our phones announcing that the rules that had been in place for northern Italy were now the law of the entire land: Only leave your house for essential business; restaurants must close at 6 p.m.; all public gatherings are canceled.
The first sign that things were going to be different on this trip came when we passed through a completely empty customs hall after having our body temperatures checked by security staff wearing masks and gloves.
India's prime minister apologizes as lockdown criticism mounts
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the nation’s poor for forgiveness on Sunday, as the economic and human toll from his 21-day nationwide lockdown deepens and criticism mounts about a lack of adequate planning ahead of the decision.
Modi on Tuesday announced a three week-lockdown to curb the spread of the virus that has particularly stung millions of India’s poor, leaving many hungry and forcing tens of thousands of jobless migrant laborers to walk hundreds of kilometers from cities back to their native villages.
“I would firstly like to seek forgiveness from all my countrymen,” Modi said in a nationwide radio address.
While he acknowledged the poor “would definitely be thinking what kind of prime minister is this, who has put us into so much trouble,” he urged people to understand there was no other option.
Modi — whose government on Thursday announced a $22.6 billion economic stimulus plan to provide direct cash transfers and food handouts to India’s poor — however, did not offer any clarity on future plans.
Scottish city-dwellers fleeing to remote areas are told to go home
In the Outer Hebrides, a remote island chain off the west coast of Scotland, there has yet to be a confirmed case of the coronavirus. But local leaders are worried.
An image shared by lawmaker Angus MacNeil paints a bleak picture of preparedness there: a primitive row of camp beds, each with a thin red blanket and blue pillow, sitting empty in a village hall. No ventilators, no testing kits.
MacNeil’s message, and that of officials across Scotland’s typically tourist-friendly Highlands and Islands region, is clear: Do not come.
But people have not been listening. Last weekend saw a spike in arrivals at northern Scotland’s world-renowned sites of natural beauty. Mountain trails were bustling, campsites full, and mobile-home parks at capacity.
U.K.'s Boris Johnson warns 'things will get worse before they get better'
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has written to every household in Britain urging people to stay indoors and save lives during the outbreak.
Sent out to around 30 million households in the country in the coming days — the letter implores citizens follow the new set of rules and affirms that the government will work to mitigate the coming financial impact, saying it will “do whatever it takes to help you...put food on the table.”
News of the letter being sent to U.K. households comes as the country surpassed 1,000 confirmed deaths. On Saturday, the national medical director of the NHS said that the U.K. will have done well "if it comes through the coronavirus crisis with fewer than 20,000 deaths."
"We know things will get worse before they get better," Johnson's letter said. The prime minister himself has recently tested positive for the virus. On Sunday, senior minister Michael Gove told the BBC that Britons should be prepared for a significant period in lockdown.
Train services reopened in Wuhan, China
The Chinese city where coronavirus originated has reopened subways and long-distance train service in another step toward ending restrictions that confined millions of people to their homes.
Subway passengers were still required to wear masks and be checked for fever after service resumed Saturday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It said signs posted in subway cars tell passengers to sit with empty seats between them.
While most access to Wuhan — a city of 11 million people — was suspended Jan. 23, restrictions have gradually been relaxed. The last controls that block residents of Wuhan from leaving Hubei are due to be lifted April 8.
As of Sunday, China reported five new deaths and 45 new confirmed virus cases. While all the deaths were in Hubei province, all but one of the new cases were people who were infected abroad, according to the National Health Commission.
Global deaths surpass 30,000, John Hopkins University reports
The disease has now infected over 660,000 people around the world, according to statistics compiled by the university.
The United States has more confirmed cases than anywhere in the world with more than 124,000 cases confirmed as of Sunday. Italy has the second most with 92,472 and China follows with 82,061 cases.
Number of positive tests doubling every three to four days, French PM says
The number of positive coronavirus tests are doubling every three to four days in France, the country's Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in televised address on Saturday.
“We are in the midst of a combat that is going to last long," Edouard Philippe said, adding that the nation which has recorded 37,575 confirmed cases and 2,314 deaths needed to adapt quickly.
Philippe said Friday he had decided to extend the country’s coronavirus lockdown by two weeks until April 15.
Meanwhile, health minister Olivier Veran said that every respirator in France has been requisitioned for use and one billion masks has been ordered from abroad.
Tokyo records biggest single day spike in coronavirus cases: Report
Tokyo recorded 68 new coronavirus cases in 24 hours, Japan's national broadcaster NHK reported Sunday. It was the largest single-day spike in the Japanese capital.
Three cases were in people who returned from the U.S. and Europe, city officials said. Another 23 cases are of unknown origin, NHK reported.
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Saturday promised an unprecedented package of steps to cushion the world’s third-biggest economy from the pandemic, saying the country was close to a national emergency as infections surged.
Nearly 1,700 coronavirus cases have been registered in Japan so far, with a death toll of 52, excluding those from a cruise ship quarantined last month.
Washington state warns COVID-19 patients to self-isolate or risk detention
The public health officer for King County in Washington warned residents with COVID-19 symptoms or pending tests that they could be detained if they don't self-isolate or check into a hospital.
"To protect the public, if an individual with active COVID-19 is not voluntarily remaining isolated, or if an individual who has COVID-19 symptoms (fever, cough, and/or difficulty breathing) with a test pending is not remaining self-quarantined, they may be subject to enforcement actions, which could include legal actions for involuntary detention," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County, in a statement.
Residents are allowed to leave isolation only after three days have passed since recovery and at least seven days after first experiencing symptoms, according to the directive. King County has been one of the hardest-hit areas in the U.S.
More than 10,000 dead in Italy
Italy's coronavirus death toll topped 10,000 on Saturday, despite a national lockdown that has been in place for three weeks. The news follows a grim 919 deaths related to COVID-19 on Friday, the most in a single day of any country.
Italian officials are considering whether to extend that lockdown into mid-April. In an effort to prevent people from leaving their homes, fines have increased from about $200 to more than $3,000.