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Coronavirus live updates: Trump extends distancing guidelines, braces US for death toll

Meanwhile, Spain and Italy are pleading for European help amid the pandemic creating the continent’s worst crisis since World War II.

WASHINGTON — Key updates:

  • New York state has passed a grim milestone: more than 1,000 people killed by the new virus, more than two-thirds of the deaths were in New York City.
  • Norway will perform random tests.
  • Pope Francis is backing the UN chief's call for a cease-fire in all conflicts.
  • UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is urging Brits follow the rules while the country's on emergency footing.
  • Spain and Italy are pleading for European help as they fight still-surging coronavirus infections amid the continent’s worst crisis since World War II. 
  • Trump says his administration has identified cases of ‘hoarding’ supplies.

U.S. authorities urged millions in the hard-hit New York City region to stay home. From Milan to Madrid to Michigan, medics are making tough choices about which patients to save with limited breathing machines. 

The confirmed global death rate surpassed 30,000 people and new virus epicenters are emerging, including in rural counties in the U.S. with few intensive care units. Spain and Italy alone account for more than half of the world's death toll and are still seeing over 800 deaths a day each.   

The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

New York surpasses 1,000 deaths

New York state surpassed a grim milestone Sunday as its death toll from the coronavirus outbreak climbed above 1,000, less than a month after the first case was detected in the state.

New York City reported in the evening that its toll had risen to 776. The total number of statewide deaths isn't expected to be released until Monday, but with at least 250 additional deaths recorded outside the city as of Sunday morning, the state's total fatalities was at least 1,026.

The virus has torn through New York with frightening speed. The first known infection in the state was discovered on March 1. A second case was confirmed two days later. The first fatality in the state was March 10.

Two days later, the state banned all gatherings of more than 500 people, darkening Broadway theaters and sports arenas. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio closed New York City's schools March 15. More severe restrictions came March 20, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all nonessential workers to stay home, barred gatherings of any size and instructed anyone out in public to stay at least 6 feet from other people. At the time, only 35 New Yorkers had been killed by the virus.

West Virginia reports state’s first virus death

West Virginia has reported the state’s first death linked to the new coronavirus pandemic. The fatality involved an 88-year-old woman from Marion County, the Department of Health and Human Resources said in a news release. The statement said no further details would be released.

“We extend our sincere condolences to this family,” DHHR Secretary Bill J. Crouch said in the statement.

West Virginia was the last U.S. state to report a confirmed case on March 17. Hawaii and Wyoming are the only remaining states with no reported coronavirus deaths.

Trump: Congress should re-convene if some Americans don't get stimulus money

President Donald Trump says Congress should re-convene if some Americans don't get their coronavirus stimulus money because of antiquated state computer systems that aren't equipped to quickly handle the volume of federal money being sent to workers.

He says he wanted the money to be distributed by the federal government, but his opponents wanted it distributed through existing state unemployment systems.

Trump told reporters at Sunday's White House briefing on the virus that if Americans don't get their money quickly, he's going to call for Congress to reconvene or find other ways to distribute the money.

He says the federal government is equipped to quickly distribute money from the mammoth, $2.2 trillion stimulus package to shore up the U.S. economy.

Cigna, Humana waiving patient copayments, Trump says

President Donald Trump says two health insurers are waiving patient payments for coronavirus treatment. Both Cigna and Humana won’t require many of their customers to make copayments or other forms of cost sharing for COVID-19 care. Health care providers would be reimbursed at the insurers’ in-network rates or Medicare rates.

Cigna said the waived payments would begin Monday and continue through May 31.

The moves could save those patients thousands of dollars, depending on their coverage and how much health care they’ve used so far this year, for treatment for the coronavirus. They come after Aetna last week announced payment waivers for patients for hospital stays tied to the coronavirus.

Many insurers have previously waived patient costs for testing or doctor visits and telemedicine to encourage people with coronavirus symptoms to get help.

Trump extends federal stay-at-home guidelines

President Donald Trump is extending the voluntary national shutdown for a month as sickness and death from the coronavirus pandemic rise in the U.S. The initial 15 days of social distancing urged by the federal government is expiring and Trump had expressed interest in relaxing the guidelines at least in parts of the country less afflicted by the pandemic. But instead he decided to extend them. 

Many states and local governments have stiffer controls in place on mobility and gatherings. The federal guidelines recommend against against large group gatherings, promote social distancing, and urge older people and anyone with existing health problems to stay home. 

US seeking more information on COVID-19 testing

Vice President Mike Pence has sent a letter to hospital administrators around the U.S. asking them to directly report their coronavirus testing data to the Department of Health and Human Services as well as their state officials. He says the data is needed at the federal level to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address the virus.

The letter says that at the president's direction, all hospitals should report their data on COVID-19 testing done outside certain commercial laboratories. Those commercial laboratories are LabCorp, BioReference Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics, Mayo Clinic Laboratories and the ARUP Laboratories. The letter asks the hospitals to report the data every day at 5 p.m.

Puerto Rico closes 2nd police station in less than week after another officer tests positive

Puerto Rico has closed a second police station in less than a week after another officer tested positive for COVID-19.

The government says more than 30 officers at the Aguas Buenas station in the island's eastern region were sent home under a two-week quarantine.

The closure comes after authorities shuttered a police station in the popular tourist town of Rincon late Wednesday after officials said the wife of a policeman died from the coronavirus. The U.S. territory has reported five deaths and more than 120 confirmed cases.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the U.S. could have millions of cases

The U.S. government's foremost infection disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the U.S. could certainly have “millions of cases” of COVID-19 and more than 100,000 deaths.

As the U.S. tops the world in reported infections from the new coronavirus, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases explained a model that had 100,000-200,000 deaths from the outbreak in the U.S.

The U.S. was reporting more than 124,000 cases and more than 2,100 deaths.

Fauci was speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union." He said he would only support a rollback of guidelines in lesser-impacted areas if there is enhanced availability of testing in place to monitor those places. He acknowledged “it’s a little iffy there” right now.

"I've never seen a model of the diseases that I've dealt with in which the worst-case scenario actually came out. They always overshoot," Fauci told CNN's Jake Tapper.

Norwegian health authorities say they are set to start performing random coronavirus tests

This follows the experiment Iceland has done.

Citing officials at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Norwegian public broadcaster NRK said Sunday such random testing among all citizens will provide answers to two key questions: how many of those who appear to be infected actually have the coronavirus and how wide the spread of the virus is.

NRK said Iceland, with its 12,000 random tests among its population of 340,000, has the largest number of tests per capita in the world. Norway, a nation of 5.4 million, has so far reported 4,054 coronavirus cases with 25 deaths.

Pope Francis is backing the U.N. chief's call for a cease-fire in all conflicts raging across the globe to help slow the spread of the coronavirus

 

The Pope also said his thoughts are with those constrained to live in groups, citing in particular rest homes for the elderly, military barracks and jails.

During his traditional Sunday blessing, the pope called for ''the creation of humanitarian aid corridors, the opening of diplomacy and attention to those who are in situations of great vulnerability.''

He cited U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' appeal this past week for a global truce ''to focus together on the true fight of our lives'' against the coronavirus. 

Francis, as he has throughout most of the coronavirus emergency due to bans on public gatherings, addressed the faithful from his private library in the Apostolic Palace, and not from a window overlooking St. Peter's Square as is tradition.

Flights from the Chinese province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak resumed Sunday

It was another step toward lifting restrictions that kept tens of millions of people at home.

The first flight took off from Yichang, a city in Hubei province, bound for the eastern city of Fuzhou with 64 passengers, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

Most access to Wuhan, the city where the first coronavirus cases were reported in December, was suspended on Jan. 23. Restrictions spread to other cities in Hubei, cutting train, air and road links.

The government has been gradually relaxing restrictions since the Communist Party declared victory over the outbreak. Subway and bus service in Wuhan resumed Saturday and the city's train station reopen.

Airports in Hubei were scheduled to have a total of 98 departing flights on Sunday, Xinhua reported.

CBS employee dies after testing positive for COVID-19

CBS News veteran Maria Mercader succumbed to complications from coronavirus disease in a New York hospital. Mercader had been fighting cancer and related illnesses for over 20 years, CBS News reported

CBS News President Susan Zirinsky wrote, "we will miss her indomitable spirit."

In a statement, CBS Executive Vice President of Strategic Professional Development Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews said, "The Maria we are privileged to call family and friend knew better than most the power of relationships, loyalty, faith, kindness, perseverance and a smile, even when a smile defied the darkness of the moment." 

Gun Owners of America thank President Trump for designating firearms industry as essential 

In a statement Sunday, the Gun Owners of America organization said the the U.S. Cybersecurity andn Infrastructure Security Agency updated its guidance to categorize the firearms industry in America to be part of the Essential Critical Infrastructure. 

The Gun Owners of America and Gun Owners of California organizations say they both sent letters to the Trump administration urging this change to take place. 

Spain says it has hit a new daily record for coronavirus deaths with 838 fatalities in the last 24 hours for a total of 6,528

Spain has the world's second-highest death count behind Italy.

Sunday's number is slightly up from Saturday, when 832 people were reported to have died from the virus.

The number of infections rose by more than 6,500 from Saturday to Sunday for a new total of 78,797. The rate of that increase in infections, however, continues to decrease.

Spain has been in lockdown for two weeks under a national state of emergency. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez's Cabinet will approve on Sunday a new decree to tighten those controls and impede workers from commuting to work in all industries unrelated to health care and food production and distribution for two weeks.

Health officials in Berlin are calling on the chronically ill to continue seeking treatment

Officials in Germany are asking people with symptoms of strokes or heart attacks not to avoid seeking necessary medical treatment during the coronavirus crisis. 

Berlin's state health ministry and hospitals' and doctors' associations said Sunday that local hospitals that treat stroke victims are seeing a significant decline in stroke patients. They said in a statement that they suspect many patients who suffer mild strokes or heart attacks are staying at home for fear of being infected with the virus. 

They said that not seeking treatment may be more dangerous than the "relatively small probability" of being infected with the coronavirus when visiting a doctor's practice or emergency unit. 

Germany has reported a large number of infections with the coronavirus but a relatively low death rate. Berlin itself had 2,337 confirmed cases, including nine deaths, as of Saturday.

A French politician who for decades was in the limelight as a mainstay of the conservative right is the first politician in France to have died

Patrick Devedjian died after being tested positive for the coronavirus.

Devedjian passed away early Sunday at the age of 75 after being hospitalized earlier in the week, the regional council of the Hauts-de-Seine region, which he presided over, announced.

Numerous other French politicians have tested positive, but Devedjian was the first known to die. For decades, he served as a lawmaker and was a minister under former presidents Nicolas Sarkozy and Jacques Chirac.

As of Saturday, 2,314 people had died of COVID-19 in France, the fifth highest death rate in the world.

Slovakia's government has unveiled a massive package to help the economy struggling amid the pandemic of the coronavirus

Prime Minister Igor Matovic said on Sunday that as part of the "First Aid" measures, the state will be paying 80% of wages of employees from the companies and businesses that had to be closed because of the government's response to the outbreak.

The state will contribute up to 540 euros ($593) a month for wages of employees or self-employed people based on the drop in revenues of their firms.

The moves are meant to help businesses retain their employees.

The government will also provide 500 million euros ($549 million) a month as loan guarantees.

Those who had to stay at home because they are quarantined or have to take care of their children because the schools are closed will receive 55% of their gross salaries.

The government said this aid package, the biggest in the country's history, will help about 1 million people in the country of 5.5 million.

Slovakia has only 292 cases of the virus, mainly due to a low numbers of tests.

Australia has announced that public gatherings will be limited to two people, down from 10

The country has enacted a six-month moratorium on evictions for those who cannot pay their rent as part of its latest measures in the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the new measures on Sunday night after earlier in the day flagging a 1.1 billion Australian dollar ($680 million) welfare package boosting mental health care, domestic violence support, public health care services for those self-isolating at home, and emergency food relief.

Morrison said the reduction in the maximum size of public gatherings had come after the latest advice from medical experts to slow the spread of the virus. It does not apply to families.

Morrison said Australia's states and territories would implement the six-month ban on evictions of people from residential and commercial properties as a "result of financial distress if they are unable to meet their commitments".

Australia had 3,966 confirmed cases of the virus as of Sunday afternoon, including 16 deaths.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is writing to every household in the U.K. to urge people to stay home and follow the rules amid the coronavirus outbreak

The letter from Johnson — who has tested positive for the virus — warns Britons that "things will get worse before they get better," as he urged people to stay indoors to slow the spread of the virus.

The letter, landing on 30 million doorsteps this week, will be accompanied by a leaflet spelling out the advice.

Johnson says that the "more we all follow the rules, the fewer lives will be lost and the sooner life can return to normal.''

Johnson has been accused of sowing confusion in his messages about the crisis.

The 55-year-old leader has been accused of failing to follow the British government's distancing measures after he, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and the chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, began self-isolating with symptoms.

Rescue flights have flown 114 foreign trekkers and Nepali guides out of the Mount Everest area to Nepal's capital, Kathmandu

Nepal Tourism Board official Sudan Subedi said 11 flights on small planes on Sunday ferried back the tourists and guides who had been stranded in the mountain village of Lukla for days.

Malaysian tourist Yeoh Wan Xin said she and four friends were trekking to the Everest base camp when they cut short their trip and headed to Lukla airport hoping to get a flight. They waited at the village for five days before they were able to get on the rescue flights.

Similar rescue flights had brought in 178 tourists and guides on Saturday.

Subedi said Sunday's flights were the last of the flights out of the Everest region. The airstrip at Lukla village is the only airport in the area.

Countries are scrambling to evacuate their citizens stranded amid the coronavirus crisis while vacationing on Indonesia's resort island of Bali

This came after airlines canceled thousands of flights and more countries enforce travel restrictions.

The total number of stranded tourists in Bali is not known, but more than 169,000 travelers came to Bali this month alone, according to government data. 

The data showed that some 2,500 travelers had extended their visas to avoid penalties for overstaying them before Indonesia's government granted all tourists automatic extensions last week.

Bali Airport Authority head Elfi Amir said Sunday that the evacuations have been taking place since Thursday through chartered flights from the tourists' home nations.

He said China, Germany, France, Thailand, Poland, Britain, Brazil, Lithuania and Russia were among the countries that were evacuating or planning to evacuate their nationals from Bali, where two people have died from the coronavirus, including a British woman, out of 10 positive tests.

Indonesia has confirmed a total of 1,285 cases, including 114 deaths.

James Dolan, the executive chairman of Madison Square Garden Company and owner of the New York Knicks, has tested positive for the coronavirus

The Knicks announced Dolan's diagnosis Saturday night. It is not clear when he was tested or when he received the diagnosis.

The 64-year-old Dolan is the first U.S. major pro sports owner known to have tested positive for the virus.

"The Madison Square Garden Company Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Dolan has tested positive for coronavirus," the team's statement said. "He has been in self-isolation and is experiencing little to no symptoms. He continues to oversee business operations."

New York has been the hotspot for the pandemic in the U.S.

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Federal health authorities in Pakistan report the number of people testing positive for COVID-19 is increasing

This has raised the country's total number of confirmed patients to 1,495. They also report another death of a man in the country's commercial hub, Karachi, increasing the death toll to 12.

A breakout shows the largest Punjab province has 557 patients, and southern Sindh province has 469. Southwestern Baluchistan, which borders Iran and Afghanistan, has 133, and Khyber Pakhtukhwa, which borders Afghanistan, has 188. The Gilgit Baltistan region has 107 patients, while the federal capital, Islamabad, has 39. Pakistan controlled Kashmir has two confirmed cases.

The count shows there is increase of 87 cases, with seven of the patients stated to be in critical condition.

New Zealand has reported its first death from the new coronavirus.

Health authorities said Sunday the victim was a woman in her 70s, They said she was admitted to a West Coast hospital last week with what they initially thought was influenza, and hospital staff did not wear full protective equipment. 

As a result, 21 staffers have been put in self-isolation for two weeks.

The country has reported 514 cases of COVID-19. Last Wednesday, New Zealanders began a strict four-week lockdown.

US Vice President Mike Pence has tweeted that the CDC is urging residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut "to refrain from non-essential travel for the next 14 days."

The advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention came after President Donald Trump backed away from calling for a quarantine for coronavirus hotspots. Instead, Trump directed Saturday night that a "strong Travel Advisory" be issued to stem the spread of the outbreak.

The notion of a quarantine had been advocated by governors, including Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who sought to halt travelers from the heavily affected areas to their states. But it drew swift criticism from the leaders of the states in question, who warned it would spark panic in a populace already suffering under the virus. 

Trump announced he reached the decision after consulting with the White House task force leading the federal response and the governors of the three states. He said he had directed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention "to issue a strong Travel Advisory, to be administered by the Governors, in consultation with the Federal Government."

He added: "A quarantine will not be necessary."

Wuhan, which is at the center of China's virus outbreak, has reopened subways and long-distance train service

It's another step toward ending restrictions that confined millions of people to their homes.

Subway passengers in Wuhan in the central province of Hubei were 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.

Most access to Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, was suspended Jan. 23. Bus and subway service within the city was suspended.

Restrictions have gradually been relaxed. The last controls that block residents of Wuhan from leaving Hubei are due to be lifted April 8.

Also Saturday, more than 12,000 passengers arrived by high-speed train as the Wuhan train station reopened, Xinhua said.

Meanwhile, the first cargo train to Europe since the start of the outbreak left for Germany on Saturday carrying auto parts, electronic productions, optical communication fiber and medical supplies, Xinhua reported.

Credit: AP
President Donald Trump speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House, Sunday, March 29, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)