Coronavirus live updates: USNS Comfort arrives in NYC; Anthony Fauci defends extension of social distancing rules

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on healthcare workers across the U.S. to help New York’s rash of coronavirus cases  and the nation’s premiere public health expert vigorously defended President Donald Trump’s decision to extend social distancing measures as a battle to contain the coronavirus gained steam Monday.

“Help New York,” Cuomo said. “We are the ones who are hit now.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CNN that coronavirus infections and deaths in New York and elsewhere have not begun decreasing “within the time frame that was originally estimated.” Fauci said he showed Trump the data and the president quickly agreed with the recommendation to extend the guidelines through the end of April.

“It would not have been a good idea to pull back at a time when you really needed to be pressing your foot on the pedal as opposed to on the brakes,” Fauci said.

The U.S. death total surpassed 2,800 people; there were more than 153,000 confirmed cases Monday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Just last week, Trump said he wanted the country – most notably, the economy – “raring to go” by Easter. That was before Fauci said Sunday that 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die because of the virus.

The global death count was more than 36,800 Monday, and there were more than 766,000 confirmed cases.

Cuomo calls for out-of-state help 

Cuomo called on nurses and doctors from across the country, if the situation in their home states isn’t urgent, to travel to New York to mitigate the outbreak.

“In this battle, the troops are our healthcare professionals,” Cuomo said. “We need relief. We need relief for nurses working 12-hour shifts. We need relief for doctors. Help us now and we will return the favor.”

Cuomo also faced questions about the state’s stockpile of personal protective equipment like face masks after President Donald Trump rhetorically asked on Sunday if masks were “going out the back door.” 

Cuomo said that while he’s not “unwilling to tangle” with Trump on other issues, he would rather keep the focus on the coronavirus and asked that Trump “just tell the truth” about the federal response.

“I am not engaging the President in politics,” Cuomo said. “My only goal is to engage the President in partnership.”

Hospital ship with 1,000 beds arrives in NYC harbor

The USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms, arrived in New York harbor Monday and could be ready for patients as soon as Tuesday. The ship will be used for non-coronavirus patients to help alleviate the strain on local area hospitals.

“The number of beds we had in the beginning of March has to triple by May,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. “It’s a daunting task, but we got a big, big boost.” 

According to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard, New York City has reported more than 36,000 confirmed cases – almost a quarter of the nation’s cases – and 790 deaths. One reason for the spike in confirmed cases is aggressive testing. Still, the CDC, citing “extensive community transmission,” has insisted that residents in New Jersey, Connecticut and New York refrain from non-essential travel for 14 days.

– Lorenzo Reyes 

Trump says he extended guidelines to April 30 on advice of health experts

Trump said Monday that he extended guidelines for social distancing  to April 30 because the outbreak is not expected to peak before Easter, less than two weeks away.

“We don’t want to do it too soon,” Trump said in a phone interview on the Fox & Friends morning show. 

Trump issued social distancing guidelines earlier this month for a 15-day period that would have ended Tuesday. Over the weekend, however, health officials advised him that the number of cases is still rising and it is too early to ease calls for social distancing and people staying at home. He announced the extension Sunday.

“We have to get this thing gone,” Trump said. 

– David Jackson

Fauci: Millions of Americans will be infected; 100,000 could die

Millions of Americans will likely be infected by the coronavirus before the crisis is over and more than 100,000 could die despite aggressive efforts to curb the outbreak, Fauci told CNN on Monday. He noted that, two years ago, the flu killed more than 60,000 Americans and “this is clearly worse” than the flu.

Fauci said he recommended that Trump extend the guidelines because New York and other cities were continuing to see an increase in confirmed case and in deaths, and other cities are likely to follow.

“You want to start seeing some flattening out and turning around of the curve,” Fauci told CNN. “It wasn’t doing that.”

Fauci said Trump was not a hard sell: “He looked at the data and he got it right away. … He just shook his head and said ‘I guess we gotta do it.'”

Florida governor balks at allowing cruise ships to dock

Holland America’s MS Zaandam and MS Rotterdam cruise ships are headed toward Florida but may not find a warm welcome in Fort Lauderdale from Gov. Ron DeSantis. The cruise line said the Panama Canal Authority had granted permission for the ships to transit the canal. 

Four elderly passengers on the Zaandam died, though their causes of death have not been disclosed. Another 73 guests and 116 crew members have reported flu-like symptoms. Symptoms of the flu and coronavirus are similar. DeSantis said it would be “a mistake” to bring the cruise ship passengers into South Florida for treatment because the state already has a high number of new coronavirus infections and that number is growing. He said the area’s hospital beds need to be saved for residents and not “foreign nationals.”

– David Oliver and Morgan Hines

Amazon workers at NYC warehouse plan walkout

Amazon employees at a New York City warehouse were planning a walkout for Monday, demanding better pay and protections against COVID-19. Employees at Staten Island fulfillment center will strike until the building is sanitized in the wake of several workers testing positive for the coronavirus, says Chris Smalls, a manager assistant who is coordinating the walkout.    

“We’re not returning to work until they close the building down,” says Smalls, adding that roughly 5,000 employees work at the building during the course of a week. “They know at lunch time, when they clock out, do not return.”

– Charisse Jones 

Prince Charles no longer in self-isolation

Prince Charles was out of self-isolation after testing positive for the coronavirus, his royal residence, Clarence House, confirmed.

The heir to the British throne, 71, was under self-isolation for seven days and is now operating under the current standard government and medical restrictions that apply nationwide in accordance with the U.K.’s National Health Service. In the U.S., the CDC recommends 14 days of self-isolation.

– Anika Reed 

Stocks rally as volatility rules markets

Stocks showed modest gains Monday despite the deepening coronavirus pandemic. Futures for the Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 200 points ahead of what could be another volatile week on Wall Street. The Dow tumbled more than 900 points on Friday. Standard & Poor’s 500 futures lost 1.5%.

The stock market has shed more than 20% since touching records just over a month ago. Despite Friday’s losses, the Dow still notched its biggest weekly gain since 1938, helped by promises from Congress and the Federal Reserve to provide aid for the economy and markets. 

“Volatility will likely persist,” says Rusty Vanneman, chief investment officer at Orion Advisor Solutions. “It’s a race against the clock right now.”

– Jessica Menton

Nursing homes report scores of positive test

Seventy-four residents of a Tennessee nursing home and 66 at a Maryland facility have tested positive for the coronavirus, authorities say. In Nashville, two of the residents have died. In Mount Airy, Md., one resident has died.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said multiple state agencies and Pleasant View Nursing Home workers are taking “urgent steps to protect additional residents and staff” who may have been exposed. Carroll County Health Officer Ed Singer said the victim was a man in his 90s with underlying health conditions. 

In Tennessee, 33 Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing staff members also tested positive for the coronavirus and are isolating at home, Gov. Bob Lee’s office said.

Outbreaks in nursing homes raise critical concerns because the elderly and those with underlying health issues are considered most at risk from the virus. One of the most lethal outbreaks took place in Kirkland, Wash., where more than 30 deaths have been linked to the Life Care Center.

– Holly Meyer, The Tennessean

Delayed Summer Olympics to kick off in July 2021

Less than a week after announcing that the Summer Games in Japan would be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, organizers have decided on a new start date of July 23, 2021, according to an International Olympic Committee spokesman. The closing ceremony will be held on Aug. 8.  The Tokyo Olympics had previously been set to start almost exactly one year earlier, running from July 24 through Aug. 9.

– Tom Schad

Israel’s Netanyahu, staff temporarily isolate

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his staff will temporarily isolate themselves pending an epidemiological study that is expected to reveal that he was not exposed to the coronavirus, his office said. Netanyahu’s office denied reports that a decision had been made to quarantine him for a week after his parliamentary adviser, Rivka Paluch, was diagnosed with the virus. Israel has more than 4,300 confirmed cases and 16 deaths.