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Wisconsin voters head to polls as U.S. reports 1,200 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours

Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on the "TODAY" show that voters should wear face masks when casting their ballots.
Image: A man leaves the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building after not being able to cast his ballot at the already closed drop-off site in Milwaukee, Wisconsin
A man leaves after not being able to cast his ballot at a closed drop-off site in Milwaukee on Monday.Kamil Krzaczynski / AFP - Getty Images

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Wisconsin voters will head to the polls today, despite the coronavirus pandemic, as Britons fear for the health of their leader Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

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

U.S. reports 1,200 deaths in one day as China lifts lockdown

The White House has tried to offer some hope that measures to ameliorate the spread of the coronavirus were working during what is expected to be one of the deadliest weeks of the pandemic in the United States.

The virus killed 1,264 over 24 hours in the U.S. as of early Tuesday, according to NBC New's tracker. A total of 10,906 people have been recorded killed in the U.S. by COVID-19.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious diseases expert, said on Monday he was "cautiously optimistic" that the worst projections could be avoided "if we keep our foot on the accelerator" — referring to social distancing policies in force throughout much of the country.

Nevertheless, President Donald Trump cautioned that over the next week-and-a-half there would be a "big surge" in cases and deaths.

Here are some of the latest developments:

  • Wisconsin's controversial election will take place on Tuesday despite the coronavirus crisis, thanks to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that sided with Republicans on Monday.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in intensive care for COVID-19 after battling symptoms for more than 10 days.
  • China recorded no new deaths for the first time since it started reporting coronavirus figures in January.
  • New York's coronavirus deaths stayed "effectively flat" over the past two days, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday. But he advised that "now is not the time to be lax" and that added that if the state is plateauing, "we're plateauing at a very high level."
  • Your children can rest assured the Easter Bunny is an "essential worker" and is not restricted by the COVID-19 lockdown, at least according to New Zealand's prime minister.
  • Check out our live blog for the latest updates.
  • See maps of where the virus has spread in the U.S.and worldwide.
  • Watch: "NBC News Special Report: Coronavirus Pandemic" tonight at 10 p.m.ET. Submit questions Facebook and Instagram and NBC's team of experts, doctors and correspondents will answer them live on air.

Trump's use of medical stockpile veers from past administrations, leaving states in the lurch

President Trump is telling state governors battling the coronavirus to get ventilators and protective gear on their own, but officials who helped build the national stockpile say the trove of medical material was designed for this moment, writes NBC News' White House reporter Shannon Pettypiece.

Triggering confusion and competition among state governments, Trump has insisted that the more than $7 billion stockpile of medical supplies is not there simply to be deployed to states, but also for the federal government to use, adding states should have had their own reserves.

Presidential son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner summed it up when he said last week that it is "supposed to be our stockpile, it’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use."

The Strategic National Stockpile was amassed for 22 years, and those involved in both the Bush and Obama administrations say its sole purpose is to be deployed to states in a moment like this.

"The idea the stockpile is ours and the governors have got to have their own stockpile, they are changing the narrative," said Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré, who served as the Joint Taskforce commander during Hurricane Katrina. "That is bulls---, and Jared Kushner doesn’t know what he is talking about."

Acting Navy secretary apologizes for scathing rebuke of ousted captain

What a difference a couple of hours can make.

On Monday, Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly excoriated the captain of an aircraft carrier who sounded the alarm over the spread of the coronavirus on his ship and stood by his words when they were questioned. Then hours later he completely reversed course and apologized for "any confusion" his blunt language caused.

Speaking in Guam to the crew members of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, Modly said Capt. Brett Crozier was guilty of a "betrayal of trust" and that he was either "too naive or too stupid to be a commanding officer."

After Modly's remarks was reported by several news outlets, he released a statement saying he stood by his words that they were "from the heart."

But then several hours later, Modly took a complete U-turn, saying: "I apologize for any confusion this choice of words may have caused."

The change of heart seemed to come after Trump addressed the controversy at a news conference and said he planned to intervene.

Outages and delays mar new small business loan program

The electronic system the Small Business Administration is using to set up new coronavirus loans was down much of Monday, according to senior banking executives, making it impossible for many new loans to be guaranteed.

Billions of dollars in loans sought by small businesses trying to pay employees and keep their doors open were on pause as the SBA, supported by the Treasury, grappled with the demand on its system.

There are an estimated 30 million small businesses in America and many are expected to apply for the program.

But so far, many say they have been stuck in limbo by the loan programs that promised quick cash but have become mired in technical and regulatory snafus.

"Most Americans think this is all rolling out and checks are flowing based on what the White House is saying," one small business owner said, adding: "But we're hanging on by a thread."

Church vs. state duel butts heads with public safety concerns

The Florida pastor who made headlines by defying a local stay-at-home order and holding a church service that potentially exposed hundreds of people to the coronavirus could do the same thing again on Easter.

So far, Rodney Howard-Browne has given no indication that he will reopen The River at Tampa Bay Church this Sunday. It was closed on Palm Sunday.

But the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said that if Howard-Browne decides to do so, it can't stop him.

That's because the stay-at-home executive order Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued last week doesn't bar churches from holding services.

The ongoing church-versus-state duel in Florida is being replayed in other parts of the country as the rapidly spreading virus has pitted public safety concerns against freedom of religion just as three major religions have big holy days coming up: Easter for most Christians, Passover for Jews and Ramadan for Muslims.

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  • Pompeo has a message for Afghan leaders:Make a deal with the Taliban or risk full U.S. troop pullout.
  • Cardinal George Pell is out of prison after Australia's High Court overturned his abuse convictions.
  • The body of Maeve Kennedy Townsend McKean was found five days after her canoe accident, but her son is still missing.

THINK about it

Joseph Pollino, a physician assistant, writes about what it's like for first responders like him to get told coronavirus is a "hoax."

Quote of the day

"The question here is whether tens of thousands of Wisconsin citizens can vote safely in the midst of a pandemic.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the dissenters in the Wisconsin election case.

Unsung heroes of the pandemic

What does it mean to be an "essential worker" during the coronavirus pandemic in America?

For many, it means fighting through their own personal fears to fill a critical role.

To Ben Hertle, a UPS delivery driver in Maple Grove, Minnesota, his job has taken on a lot more meaning.

"I feel that I'm bringing something that's more than just a box. It's bringing healing and hope," he said from his delivery truck. "I'm carrying medical supplies, I'm carrying very important critical medicine to people, and that's the difference for me."

Thanks for reading the Morning Rundown.

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Be safe and stay healthy, Petra Cahill