Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said Friday that the U.S. has not “reached the peak” of the pandemic but that there were “encouraging” signs that the curves were flattening or lowering.
“This is not the time to feel that since we have made such important advances … that we need to be pulling back at all,” Dr. Anthony Fauci added at the Friday press briefing.
Meanwhile, a leading projection of the pandemic had U.S. deaths from the virus at its peak Friday as the global death toll reached 100,000 lives. Research from the University of Washington in Seattle, which has created some of the preeminent modeling of the pandemic, indicated U.S. deaths could reach almost 2,000 on Friday but would fall in the coming days.
Elsewhere, travelers were being cautioned to stay home around the world to mark the traditions of Good Friday and the Easter weekend. Eagerly awaited stimulus checks should soon be hitting Americans’ bank accounts. And New York now has has more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other country in the world.
The U.S. surpassed 475,000 confirmed cases on Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. About 26,000 Americans have recovered.
Global virus-related death toll soars past 100,000
The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus surpassed the 100,000 mark Friday, with Italy, the United States and Spain leading the way. That amounts to a doubling of the number of virus-related fatalities since April 2 when it soared past 50,000, according to the global tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The total number of coronavirus cases is over 1.6 million. Almost 368,000 of them are listed as having totally recovered.
As the death toll reaches 100,000, U.S. fatalities have climbed to almost 18,000.
Italy, which was hard-hit early in the pandemic, has had more than 18,000 deaths and Spain around 16,000. China, where the virus broke out last year, lists more than 3,300 deaths.
– Doug Stanglin
Surgeon General Jerome Adams: ‘Most of the country’ will not be able to by May 1
Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Friday that “most of the country” won’t be able to reopen by May 1, despite comments from some Trump administration officials suggesting the beginning of next month as a time to revisit strict social distancing guidelines.
“Once we get past this 30 days, some places around the country can think about reopening,” Adams said on Fox News, referring to the 30-day period for the Trump administration’s social distancing guidelines.
Asked about Dr. Anthony Fauci’s comments about maintaining social distancing restrictions, Adams said “now is the time to continue to lean into this (social distancing).”
“There are places around the country that have seen consistently low levels, and as we ramp up testing and can feel more confident that these places actually can do surveillance, and can do public health follow-up, some places will be able to think about opening on May 1,” he said. “Most of the country will not, to be honest with you, but some will.”
Adams’ comments come as some top Trump administration officials have said parts of the country could reopen by May. Attorney General William Barr called the restrictions “draconian” in a Wednesday interview on Fox News, saying they need to be reevaluated. Health experts, however, have urged caution.
– Nicholas Wu
Antibody tests crucial to determining who can safely go back to work
As officials discuss when to lift stay-at-home orders, companies are rushing to develop coronavirus antibody tests that could help them make those decisions without risking a second wave of infections.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday on CNN that antibody testing can show who has developed immunity to the coronavirus and can safely go back to work without getting reinfected.
“It’s very important to appreciate and understand how much this virus is penetrating this society,” he said.
On the “Today” show, Fauci said a large number of antibody tests should be available in a matter of days or weeks, according to the companies developing them.
The test can tell if someone was previously infected and recovered, while the molecular test shows whether tat person was infected with the virus at the time the test was taken.
The two tests can determine if a person is immune and can transmit the disease, which is crucial in deciding who can go back to work.
If a person has antibodies in his blood, that means he has immune cells available to fight the virus, which lowers the risk of re-infection. Widespread testing can determine how many people carry the antibodies, which has an impact on whether to life social distancing restrictions.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
House report tracks medical supplies sent to states from federal stockpile
More than half the nearly 8,000 ventilators the federal stockpile sent to states to fight the coronavirus pandemic went to New York, while the rest were split among 14 other states and territories, a report from the federal government shows.
The report was released this week by the U.S. House Oversight Committee amid criticism from its chairwoman that states with the biggest COVID-19 problems didn’t get enough supplies.
The Strategic National Stockpile, which is operated within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, distributed ventilators based on requests from areas with high case counts. New York got 4,400. The remaining 3,520 went to places like New Jersey, Washington, Michigan, Illinois and Florida.
Alaska and Wyoming each got more than 70,000 N95 respirator masks. Neither state had more than 230 cases by Thursday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s more than 300 respirators for each COVID-19 patient.
New York – with upward of 150,000 people testing positive and hospitals desperate for supplies – got just seven N95 masks per coronavirus patient.
– Dinah Voyles Pulver and Erin Mansfield
Small group celebrates Good Friday at Notre Dame as Easter weekend begins
Many people around the world began observing Good Friday from the safety of their homes as politicians and public health officials have warned that the hard-won gains against the pandemic must not be jeopardized by relaxing social distancing over the Easter holiday weekend.
Across Europe, where Easter is one of the busiest travel times, authorities set up roadblocks and otherwise discouraged family gatherings. In France’s Notre Dame Cathedral, though, a small group of worshipers gathered for a service nearly a year after a fire ravaged the iconic Gothic structure.
Pope Francis will celebrate Easter Mass in a nearly empty St. Peter’s Basilica instead of the huge square outside. In England, the Archbishop of Canterbury will deliver his Easter sermon by video.
– N’dea Yancey-Bragg
US phasing out evacuation flights for Americans in Peru
The U.S. Embassy in Peru, which has helped almost 7,000 stranded Americans leave Peru during the coronavirus crisis, says a Saturday plane from Lima to Peru is likely to be the last embassy-facilitated flight out.
In a message on its website, the embassy says it was trying to get Americans stuck in Arequipa, about 600 miles southeast of Lima, onto that flight, which will make a stop in Iquitos, in northern Peru.
The embassy says it does not anticipate more such flights from Peru but is working with private companies to try to get seats on commercial flights if they become available.
The embassy suggested that other options were quickly disappearing. “If you cannot board an upcoming flight, be prepared to remain in Peru until the country’s government ends its nationwide restrictions to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” the embassy says.
It noted that Peruvian President Martin Vizcarra recently said the country’s emergency measures, which included the closing of its borders, will continue through April 26.
– Doug Stanglin
Mask decontamination site coming to Maryland
Maryland is poised to be one of the first states in the nation with a decontamination site that will allow for as many as 80,000 N95 respirator masks to be cleaned and sterilized each day.
Those masks are critical parts of the much-needed personal protective equipment that helps ensure the health and safety of those on the frontline of battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As everyone knows, these masks are in very short supply worldwide,” Gov. Larry Hogan said. “This newly developed technology will allow them to be reused, which will help protect our health care workers and those on the frontlines while we await the new production and additional supply of PPE.”
The governor also announced a $2.5 million investment in a partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine that will allow as many as 20,000 COVID-19 tests to be run each day.
– Rose Velazquez
Stimulus checks: When will we see them?
Americans have received conflicting information on when they will receive stimulus checks due to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. But there’s good news: Checks will be hitting their bank accounts soon.
The first wave of $1,200 stimulus payments is on track to be paid the week of April 13, according to Lisa Greene-Lewis, a certified public accountant at TurboTax. The government is prioritizing the first few waves of payments in the coming weeks toward low-income Americans and Social Security beneficiaries, Greene-Lewis says.
Some Americans were confused following conflicting reports from different corners of the government in recent weeks. The IRS said at the end of March stimulus payments would start being distributed within three weeks.
Then Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on April 2 the first stimulus payments would arrive for some via direct deposit within two weeks. Larry Kudlow, senior economic adviser to President Donald Trump, then said this week that checks could go out this week or next. Others have said they could have come as early as April 9.
The IRS didn’t respond to requests for comment.
– Jessica Menton
NYC island sees more burials of unclaimed bodies amid virus deaths
New York City has shortened the amount of time families have to claim the remains of loved ones before they’re buried in a public cemetery.
Bodies will be stored for just 14 days before they’re buried on Hart Island, which houses the city’s public graveyard for unclaimed bodies and those who don’t have a private burial.
Normally, 25 bodies a week are buried on the island, but with the coronavirus pandemic devastating New York, burial operations have increased to five days a week, with around 24 burials each day, Department of Correction spokesman Jason Kersten told the Associated Press.
When should the US ‘reopen’? Fauci, Trump and Pelosi weigh in
As the curve of new cases appears to flatten, President Donald Trump said Thursday he was hopeful the U.S. could “reopen” soon: “Hopefully we’re going to be opening up – you can call it ‘opening’ – very, very, very, very soon, I hope,” Trump said a Thursday press briefing. “We’re at the top of the hill, pretty sure we’re at the top of the hill,” Trump said at a press briefing Thursday.
Top White House officials also suggested this week that parts of the country and the economy could reopen by May.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, though, suggested that the House of Representatives would not return to Washington, D.C., at the end of April and cautioned Trump against moving too quickly. “I would hope that the scientific community would weigh in and say, ‘You can’t do this, it is only going to make matters worse if you go out too soon,'” Pelosi told Politico.
Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading expert on infectious diseases, indicated it may be too soon even to say when reopening could occur. “The virus kind of decides whether or not it’s going to be appropriate to open,” he told CNN Friday morning.
“It’s not going to be one-size-fits-all,” Fauci said.
– Nicholas Wu and Ryan Miller
Boris Johnson’s dad says his son needs time to ‘rest up’ from the coronavirus
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson must be allowed to “rest up” before getting back to work after he was moved out of intensive care to a regular hospital ward, the British leader’s father said in an interview on Friday.
Johnson’s 79-year-old father, Stanley, said he felt “tremendously grateful” for his son’s improving condition.
“Relief is the right word,” he said in a BBC radio interview. But he warned that his son needed a period of recuperation before returning to work.
“He has to take time. I cannot believe you can walk away from this and get straight back to Downing Street and pick up the reins without a period of readjustment,” he said.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
New York state sees deadliest day but also signs of improvement
New York state alone has more confirmed coronavirus cases than any other country in the world, data from its health department and Johns Hopkins University suggest, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday there are signs of improvement as well.
There were 159,937 known coronavirus cases in New York as of Friday. Spain had 157,053 confirmed cases and Italy had 147,577.
New York also reported a record-breaking number of deaths for a third straight day, at 799. More than 7,000 people have died in the state, accounting for almost half the U.S. death toll.
Still, the number of fatalities seems to have leveled off, the governor said.
He said other hopeful signs included slowdowns in the number of people being hospitalized, admitted to intensive care and placed on ventilators..
Yet he warned the gains could quickly disappear if people stopped following the state orders to stay home.
“Even though it is a grind and it is difficult we have to stay with it,” Cuomo said.
– David Robinson
IMF chief warns of worst global recession since Depression
The head of the International Monetary Fund said Thursday the coronavirus pandemic will push the global economy into the deepest recession since the Great Depression, and the poorest countries will fare the worst. That marks a dramatic turnaround to what was on track to be a year of economic growth.
Three months ago, the IMF projected income growth per capita for 160 countries. Now the organization expects more than 170 nations will see per capita income diminish. Emerging markets and low-income nations across Africa, Latin America and much of Asia are at high risk, IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said.
“With weak health systems to begin with, many face the dreadful challenge of fighting the virus in densely populated cities and poverty-stricken slums, where social distancing is hardly an option,” Georgieva said.
African countries have sounded the alarm about a lack of access to medical equipment that may leave them vulnerable to the virus.
Dozens of American Airlines flight crew members test positive for coronavirus
The unions that represent commercial pilots and flight attendants say dozens of them who work for American Airlines have tested positive for the coronavirus, and they need better protection.
One hundred of the airline’s flight attendants had COVID-19 as of Saturday, the Association of Professional Flight Attendants said. In a statement, Julie Hendrick, AFPA’s new president, said the union has been pushing American since January for protective measures for front-line workers.
On Thursday, Capt. Dennis Tajer, spokesman for the union that represents American Airlines pilots, told USA TODAY that 41 of them have tested positive for the virus.
Because flight crews could be vectors for the virus, Tajer said they should “receive ‘first responder’ status and priority for protective equipment.”
– Rasha Ali and Jayme Deerwester