Americans warned that as many as 240,000 may die

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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

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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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Georgia communities gather outside hospitals to pray for health care workers

Hospital staff stand on the roof of Cartersville Medical Center to join a prayer service held by local residents in the hospital parking lot in Cartersville, Georgia.Kimberly Jefferson

Georgia residents are showing support for health care workers at prayer services outside local hospitals. Large crowds have been gathering in parking lots to pray, sing and wave encouraging signs without ever leaving their cars in adherence to the state's social distancing guidelines.

Across the state this weekend, the faithful gathered in such cities as Fayetteville, LaGrange, and Newnan. Hundreds attended an event in Cartersville, and videos showing hospital staff walking onto the roof to join the worship service have been viewed millions of times.

The organizers told the hospital about the service beforehand but didn’t expect the staff’s rooftop appearance. “We just thought they might come out the bottom or to the window,” organizer Camden McGill said. “Them on the roof was just kind of an amazing random surprise. That was just God.”

Georgia has more than 4,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 100 confirmed deaths, according to the state's Department of Public Health.

Americans buying more booze during pandemic

One way Americans are coping with the new coronavirus? Booze.

U.S. sales of alcoholic beverages rose 55 percent in the week ending March 21, according to market research firm Nielsen.

Spirits like tequila, gin and pre-mixed cocktails led the way, with sales jumping 75 percent compared to the same period last year. Wine sales were up 66 percent, while beer sales rose 42 percent.

Online sales far outpaced in-store sales. Nielsen said online alcohol sales were up 243 percent.

Danelle Kosmal, a Nielsen vice president, suspects growth rates peaked that week as people loaded up their pantries before state stay-at-home orders went into effect. Kosmal said data for the week ending March 28 will be a better indicator of ongoing demand.

Trump approves Montana, Ohio disaster declarations

President Donald Trump on Tuesday approved disaster declarations for Montana and Ohio related to the coronavirus pandemic, the White House said.

The president has approved disaster declarations for many states as they deal with the outbreak, including for Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Kansas, Alabama, Georgia, Oregon and the District of Columbia.

The declarations allow for federal assistance.

There have been five deaths in Montana associated with the coronavirus illness COVID-19 and more than 190 cases. In Ohio, there have been 2,199 confirmed cases and 55 deaths, according to the state health department.

What we know about the coronavirus model the White House unveiled

On Monday, the White House coronavirus response coordinator warned that the U.S. could see up to 200,000 deaths from the ongoing outbreak "if we do things almost perfectly."

On Tuesday, the coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, showed how her team came up with that grim projection.

In a task force briefing, the White House offered the first look at the statistical models being used to anticipate how the virus could spread across the U.S., and what drove President Donald Trump to extend his administration's nationwide social-distancing measures until April 30.

Read the full story here.

Maine residents ordered to stay home

Maine Gov. Janet Mills on Tuesday issued a "stay healthy at home mandate" that requires people to stay at their residence except for essential work or needs like groceries and health care.

The order is aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus illness COVID-19, which has been linked to five deaths in the state as of Tuesday evening. Other states and local governments have announced similar orders.

Essential businesses that remain open must enforce social distancing and in-person instruction at schools has been stopped until at least May 1.

"We are in the midst of one of the greatest public health crises this world has seen in more than a century," Mills said, and she implored people to stay home. There have been 303 confirmed cases in Maine, with 68 people having recovered, according to the state health department, but the agency notes that is likely an undercount of the true number of cases.

Hawaii reports first death linked to COVID-19

Hawaii has recorded its first death linked to COVID-19, the coronavirus illness that has sickened more than 200 people across the state, officials said.

State health department director Bruce Anderson said that the person who died was an older adult from Oahu who had been hospitalized for multiple medical issues and that the exact cause of death was not clear.

Of the 224 coronavirus cases in Hawaii, 58 have recovered, Honolulu city and county Mayor Kirk Caldwell said.

Hawaii Gov. David Ige on March 23 issued a statewide stay-at-home order that took effect March 25. 

The governor has also expanded a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine for travelers to include those traveling between islands in the state, which takes effect Wednesday, NBC affiliate KHNL of Honolulu reported