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Americans warned that as many as 240,000 may die

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Medical workers wearing personal protective equipment due to COVID-19 concerns stand outside Brooklyn Hospital Center in Brooklyn, New York on March 31, 2020.John Minchillo / AP

As many as 240,000 people in the U.S. could die from COVID-19 — and that’s only with strict social distancing measures in place, one of the government’s top doctors warned Tuesday.

Dr. Deborah Birx, Vice President Mike Pence’s coronavirus response coordinator, said that between 1.5 and 2.2 million could die without the intervention.

Already, the death toll in the United States has surpassed the number of people killed on Sept. 11, 2001. According to NBC News’ tally, the disease has killed 3,768 people and infected more than 185,000.

The numbers continued to rise as Wall Street ended one of its worst quarters in history. The Dow Jones was down by 400 points — a quarterly loss of 22 percent — while the S&P 500 recorded its worst three months since 1938. The Nasdaq, meanwhile, closed down at just under 1 percent.

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Trump says Americans can use scarves as makeshift masks

President Trump on Tuesday said Americans could use scarves as makeshift protective masks as the nation grapples with a shortage of protective gear amid the coronavirus outbreak. 

"You know, you can use a scarf, a lot of people have scarves," Trump told reporters during a news conference at the White House. "My feeling is if people want to do it there is certainly no harm to it. I would say do it rather than going out to get a mask." 

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, including surgical and N95 masks, are in short supply in the U.S., and tensions have arisen between hospital systems and staff in many states over a lack of proper PPE for medical workers.

An increasing number of U.S. residents are choosing to cover their noses and mouths with makeshift masks, including bandannas, scarves or other wraps, when going into public. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines indicate that wearing a mask is unnecessary for healthy individuals, but the agency is now considering changing those recommendations. 

White House expert says up to 240,000 U.S. deaths predicted, even with mitigation

During the White House coronavirus task force briefing, Dr. Deborah Birx broke down the estimated deaths in the U.S. from COVID-19 if the federal social distancing regulations are followed through April 30.

She said 1.5 to 2.2 million Americans could've died without intervention measures, but still says 100,000 to 240,000 could die.

South Carolina closes non-essential businesses

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster issued an order Tuesday to close all non-essential businesses in the state. 

McMaster's order comes after millions of other Americans are under orders from their local authorities to stay at home as part of an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus as the world fights the pandemic. The governor insisted Tuesday that many of the state's residents have followed social distancing guidelines without authorities needing to issue a shelter-in-place order.  

The non-essential business order comes a day after McMaster ordered public beaches closed. He cited "behavior observed" over the weekend that violated social distancing guidelines put forth by public health officials.

Dr. Linda Bell, the state's epidemiologist, said Tuesday that South Carolina is at 54 percent capacity of hospital beds as the state hits 1083 confirmed cases and 22 deaths due to coronavirus. 

New York man hid symptoms to visit wife in maternity unit of hospital

Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, N.Y.Google Maps

A husband who was exposed to the coronavirus hid that he was feeling ill so he could visit his wife in the maternity unit of an upstate New York hospital.

The man told the truth only after his wife also began showing symptoms. UR Medicine said Monday it will begin taking the temperature of visitors to its hospitals' maternity units.

"It was purely an honor system before," spokesman Chip Partner told the Democrat and Chronicle, which first reported the incident. "Now we're adding the temperature check."

Read the full story here. 

NYC medical students start organization to help distribute PPE to local hospitals

A group of medical students in New York City are working to help distribute personal protective equipment (PPE) to area hospitals amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

After confirmed cases of the virus began popping up in the US, medical student Sami Lux started collecting extra respiration masks from the lab where she worked in order to give them to local hospitals; from there the organization “PPE2NYC” was created. 

PPE2NYC works with donors both locally and across the world, to help connect them with NYC-area hospitals who are in need of PPE.

Dr. Fiona Shehaj, a cardiologist at Richmond University Medical Center on Staten Island, was one of the recipients of the PPE. She said, “It’s been amazing that everyone, even our neighbors have been willing to help. We’re very appreciative and very touched that everyone has been able to help so much.”

As coronavirus cases continue to rise, a growing number of Americans are opting to cover their noses and mouths with makeshift masks, including bandannas, scarves or other wraps, when venturing into public.

While the science behind whether masks can prevent a person from catching the coronavirus hasn't changed (a mask does not help a healthy person avoid infection), public guidance may be shifting.

Read more here.

Biden campaign, pro-Biden group release ads hitting Trump over pandemic response

Joe Biden delivers remarks at his primary night election event in Columbia, S.C., on Feb. 29, 2020.Jim Watson / AFP - Getty Images file

A pair of new ads released Wednesday in support of Joe Biden draw contrasts between how the former vice president would handle the coronavirus pandemic with President Trump's response. 

In one, a digital ad released by Biden’s presidential campaign, Biden says the country is heading to “war” against the virus and calls on Americans to do more to protect their fellow “soldiers” on the front line — specifically the doctors, nurses, health care workers, first responders, firefighters and police who are “caring for others more than themselves.”

Another ad, released by the pro-Biden Super PAC “Unite the Country,” argues that Trump has failed the presidential test of leadership, allowing the Coronavirus to “spread unchecked across America.”

The 30-second ad, which does not mention the former vice president, will air nationwide on both broadcast and cable television, according to Unite the Country. It is the first significant move by any Democratic entity to use the pandemic in a significant paid advertising campaign.

Louisiana pastor charged with defying coronavirus order against large gatherings

A Louisiana pastor who continues to flout a ban on large gatherings was issued a summons from police for violating the governor's executive order.

The pastor, Mark Anthony Spell, who goes by Tony Spell, of Life Tabernacle Church, told NBC News in a brief phone interview Tuesday afternoon that police had visited his home and gave him a summons for the six services he has held since March 16 when Gov. John Bel Edwards announced an order against gatherings of more than 50 people.

"Mr. Spell made his intentions to continue to violate the law clear," Central Police Chief Roger Corcoran said. "Instead of showing the strength and resilience of our community during this difficult time, Mr. Spell has chosen to embarrass us for his own self-promotion."

Read the full story here.

25,000 healthcare professionals volunteer to help California combat coronavirus

More than 25,000 retired doctors, medical and nursing students and more signed up within 24 hours for a California effort to boost ranks of healthcare providers during the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.

The state is working frantically to confirm the licenses and qualifications for those who signed up for the California Health Corps program.

"I've never been more damn inspired in my life," Newsom told reporters. "To see that number, just 25,000 yesterday alone, of professionals that are willing to come out of retirement to put their lives back on the line knowing the PPE (personal protective equipment) may not be there when they go back out in the field?" 


Wall Street just ended one of the worst quarters in stock market history

Wall Street just ended one of the worst quarters in stock market history, with all three major averages reflecting the devastating economic impact of the pandemic that has ground global activity almost to a halt.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down by just over 400 points by the closing bell on Tuesday, a quarterly loss of 22 percent for the blue-chip index and its worst Q1 performance ever.

The S&P 500 ended the day lower by around 1.85 percent, its worst first quarter since 1938, while the tech-heavy Nasdaq closed down by just under 1 percent.

Investor sentiment was further dampened Tuesday by newly released consumer confidence data that reflected a nosedive in spending, but economists said the worst was yet to come.

Read the full story here.

Captain of U.S. aircraft carrier begs Navy for help with coronavirus outbreak on ship

The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) in the Philippine Sea on March 18, 2020.Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicholas V. Huynh / U.S. Navy

The commanding officer of the nuclear aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt sent a letter to the Navy on Monday begging for help addressing the coronavirus outbreak aboard his ship, which has nearly 5,000 people on board and was forced to dock in Guam last week.

As first reported in The San Francisco Chronicle, Capt. Brett Crozier said his crew members need to be placed in isolation to prevent further spread of COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus.

In a statement, the Navy said Crozier wanted help with “continuing challenges in isolating the virus."

"The ship’s commanding officer advocated for housing more members of the crew in facilities that allow for better isolation. Navy leadership is moving quickly to take all necessary measures to ensure the health and safety of the crew of USS Theodore Roosevelt, and is pursuing options to address the concerns raised by the commanding officer.”