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U.S tops global coronavirus deaths as Trump weighs 'toughest' decision of his presidency

Nearly 22,000 lives have been lost in the United States due to COVID-19, more than any other country worldwide.
Image: Pope Francis reads his Easter message during mass at St. Peter's Basilica on April 12, 2020.
Pope Francis celebrates Easter mass in an empty St. Peter's Basilica on Sunday.Vatican Media / via Reuters

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Christians around the globe celebrated Easter in novel ways in the age of coronavirus, the U.S. takes the lead on the death toll, and President Donald Trump is eager to restart the U.S. economy.

Here's what we're watching this Monday morning.

U.S. has the highest number of coronavirus deaths in the world

The U.S. has surpassed Italy as the country with the highest number of coronavirus deaths with nearly 22,000 recorded as of early Monday and over half a million confirmed cases, according to NBC News figures.

The global pandemic has killed more than 114,000 people worldwide and the number of confirmed cases neared 1.9 million as of Monday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University.

On Sunday, Christians around the world celebrated Easter new ways, including through online streaming, on rooftops and with drive-in services and Pope Francis even celebrated mass in an empty St. Peter's Basilica.

Here are some of the major developments from over the weekend:

Trump is eager to restart economy by May as he weighs the 'toughest' decision of his presidency

With his hoped-for Easter timeline having come and gone, President Trump now appears more determined than he has ever been to open up the economy with a "big bang" early next month, according to multiple people familiar with the decision-making process.

As the U.S. leads the world in COVID-19 cases and deaths, aides are cautioning the president about too quickly lifting national social distancing guidelines, now set to expire April 30. An internal debate continues about how best to reopen certain sections of the country at the end of the month, these people said.

"I think we are all expecting or planning for May 1," said a senior administration official, cautioning that major new outbreaks in cities could change the thinking and that no final determination has been made.

From Clinton to Trump, 20 years of boom and mostly bust in prepping for pandemics

In April 1998, President Bill Clinton read a Richard Preston novel, “The Cobra Event,” about a biological attack on the U.S. using a lethal virus that spreads like the common cold.

“It scared the bejesus out of him,” recalls Kenneth Bernard, a now retired U.S. Public Health Service official.

Clinton set the wheels of government in motion, and the result was the-first ever federal government effort to marshal resources in preparation for a pandemic.

But the interest in germs as a national security concern didn’t last.

Instead, it kicked off a boom and bust cycle of pandemic preparedness that persisted into the Trump administration.

Los Angeles County launches large-scale COVID-19 antibody testing

Officials and labs are scrambling to increase access to a blood test that looks for coronavirus antibodies, which could show who had the virus and is therefore less likely to get it again.

Los Angeles County, which with 10 million residents has a bigger population than 40 states, is a prime location to launch a large-scale study to learn more about antibodies, according to public health and policy experts.

The first large-scale testson 900 people were conducted Friday and Saturday at six drive-thru locations and will continue every two weeks for the foreseeable future, researchers said.

The findings could help shape strategies to get the U.S. economy going again, said researchers at the University of Southern California's Price School of Public Policy, which is conducting the study with the Los Angeles County Public Health Department.

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THINK about it

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One message of hope

You may have to pull out the handkerchief for this one.

In one moving Easter tribute, Italian music icon Andrea Bocelli gave a solo performance from Milan's empty Duomo cathedral.

Bocelli's stirring message of hope to his fellow Italians and the rest of the world struck a chord: It had been viewed over 24 million times on YouTube as of Monday morning.

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

If you celebrate Easter, I hope you got a chance to enjoy the day yesterday with family and friends —even if from afar.

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Be safe and stay healthy, Petra Cahill