Some local, state and federal agencies have turned to drastic measures to try to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

As more U.S. states enact strict stay-at-home orders to slow the community spread of COVID-19, Italy’s daily death toll continues to climb: Almost 800 more people have died from the virus, officials said Saturday, marking a new daily high.

The news comes as Vice President Mike Pence his wife Karen Pence were tested Saturday for coronavirus after a staffer for Pence tested positive for COVID-19. Saturday evening, Pence’s spokeswoman tweeted the results of both tests were negative.

The White House’s coronavirus task force’s Saturday briefing included several other updates:

  • Coronavirus testing is expanding rapidly across the country and 195,000 Americans who are symptomatic have been tested, Pence said.
  • Americans should continue to avoid gathering in public. “Stay at home and save lives,” President Donald Trump said.
  • Americans who do not have symptoms should not get tested. Dr. Anthony Fauci said limiting who gets tested will free up in-demand protective equipment.

There are at least 307 deaths and more than 25,400 confirmed cases in the U.S. Worldwide, the death toll surpassed 13,000, with at least 4,825 deaths in Italy, the country that has witnessed the most deaths. The world surpassed 305,000 total cases as of Saturday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

Trump says his own hotels are among those hurting amid pandemic

President Donald Trump says his own hotels are among those hurting due to the coronavirus crisis.

At a press briefing on Saturday, Trump was asked about the pandemic’s impact on his many businesses, particularly Trump-branded hotels worldwide. While not involved in their day-to-day operation, Trump said he’s aware business is down substantially.

While the Trump International hotel Las Vegas is closed, along with numerous other well-known Strip properties, other Trump hotels were still taking reservations Saturday evening, including locations in Chicago, Miami and Washington.

If local or state officials advise the remaining properties to close, Trump said they will. That decision, he said, would be made by sons Eric and Donald Jr., whom he put in control of the Trump Organization shortly before he assumed office in January 2017.

Another Disney resort temporarily closes

Disney is temporarily shuttering its Hawaiian resort amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Aulani, part of the massive Ko Olina development in Oahu, will close at 5 p.m. local time Tuesday, according to an advisory posted on the resort’s website. The shutdown will last at least through the end of March.

Aulani has 351 hotel rooms, plus 481 Disney vacation Club timeshare villas. The resort opened in August 2011 and was expanded in 2013. Amenities include a Disney spa, fitness center, pools, waterslides and a kids’ clubhouse.

In the U.S., Disneyland and Universal Studios Hollywood temporarily shut down March 14. Disney World followed the next day, along with Disney-owned hotels, shopping and dining destinations in both Anaheim, California, and Orlando.

Gas hits lowest average price since December 2016

Gas prices across the U.S. continue to drop as the coronavirus pandemic continues to restrict transportation and travel.

As of Saturday, the national average price for gas is $2.15, which is 44 cents cheaper than the average a year ago, according to AAA. The last time average gas prices were this low was December 2016.

Gas prices plummeted in recent weeks because of oil price feuds between Saudi Arabia and Russia, and looming recession fears sparked by the coronavirus pandemic.  Saudi Arabia slashed crude oil prices and increased production, sending U.S. oil down 63 percent since March 9.

Nineteen states now have gas price averages that are less than $2, AAA says.

Child welfare a major concern during closures

Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable U.S. children could face a heightened risk of abuse and neglect as coronavirus-related school closures keep them at home and away from the nation’s biggest group of hotline tipsters – educators.

Teachers, administrators, school counselors and other educational professionals report one in every five child-mistreatment claims in the nation, according to the U.S. Department of health and Human Services. Other major sources include law enforcement and social workers.

Those reports could plummet, experts predict, as children’s social circles contract to just family members, which collectively represent just 12 percent of hotline calls.

United Airlines reinstates some international flights

A day after Friday’s announcement that it would reduce international flights by 95% for April due to the government’s coronavirus-induced travel advisories, United Airlines said it is reinstating a handful of international flights to Asia, Australia, Latin America, the Middle East and Europe “in an effort to get customers where they need to be” and “help displaced customers who still need to get home.”

The reinstated routes will be in effect through the end of the month and include outbound flights between Newark and Amsterdam, Munich, Brussels and Sao Paulo; Washington Dulles to London; San Francisco to Frankfurt; and San Francisco to Seoul.

American Airlines’ first cargo-only flight in 35+ years carries medical gear

American Airlines is finding a purpose for some of its idle planes, flying its first cargo-only flight since 1984, when the airline retired its Boeing 747 freighters.

In a press release issued Thursday, the airline announced that it would be using currently grounded widebody passenger aircrafts to move cargo between the United States and Europe.

The first cargo flight departed from Dallas Fort Worth International airport on Friday and was scheduled to land Saturday in Frankfurt, Germany.

The airline will fly four cargo flights this weekend, carrying medical supplies, mail for members of the U.S. military, packages and telecommunications equipment. American also transported much-needed COVID-19 testing kits from Raleigh-Durham International airport to Chicago O’Hare airport this week on one of its domestic narrowbody planes.

Italy coronavirus cases, deaths spike

Italy reported 793 coronavirus-related deaths and 6,557 new cases Saturday, the highest daily count yet in the nation’s health crisis.

The latest figures raised Italy’s death toll from the virus to 4,825.

Emergency Commissioner and Civil Protection Chief Angelo Borrelli said 42,681 people were currently infected with the coronavirus in Italy.

It was the second day in a row that Italy registered a record number of deaths and new cases. Italy surpassed China this week in the number of coronavirus-related deaths.

New Jersey becomes latest state to enact strict measures

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced Saturday that he would be ordering residents to stay at home, effective at 9 p.m. He also canceled gatherings of any number, including parties, weddings and religious ceremonies.

“We need you to just stay at home,” Murphy said. “We have to change our behaviors.”

Illinois plans to require residents to stay home as much as possible, aside from meeting their basic needs, starting Saturday evening.

New York plans to ban all nonessential travel beginning Sunday evening, following California’s lead, which began Friday. Connecticut and Oregon were preparing to do the same.

Fauci: efforts at containing coronavirus are working

Dr. Anthony Fauci said efforts to contain the spread of the virus are working, but Americans need to continue to follow the 15-day guidelines for containing the disease.

“I think we’re getting to the solution that everybody in the country is looking for,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“We know we are clearly having an effect,” Fauci said.  “We will get through it, I promise you.”

Fauci encouraged Americans who do not have symptoms to not get tested. Doing so, he warned, would make it harder for health care workers to prioritize the highest risk Americans. It would also use up highly needed personal protective equipment.

“When you go in and get tested you are consuming personal protective equipment masks and gowns,” Fauci said. “Those are high priority for the health care workers who were taking care of people who have coronavirus disease.”

Fauci also repeated the call for health care providers to “Please, put off, cancel, elective medical and surgical procedures.”

New York securing 6,000 ventilators; still needs 18,000 more

New York officials have identified about 2 million medical-grade masks and 6,000 ventilators to combat the patient surge. The state previously expected to need 24,000 additional ventilators; it still trying to find another 18,000 of the devices.

The lifesaving ventilators are being purchased as part of a push to scour the globe for the breathing systems to avoid expected shortages in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo. said.

New York’s scramble to buy more medical supplies came as authorities moved to lock down communities statewide, banning all nonessential travel.

Sanitizing masks: Can they be reused?

Trump drew criticism on social media for questioning why masks couldn’t be sanitized, rather than being thrown away.

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“Some don’t lead themselves to doing that,” Trump acknowledged, “but many do.”

Trump said that “we have very good liquids” for sanitizing masks and he indicated that is something public health officials are starting to do.

Most masks are usually authorized for one-time use, but the Centers for disease Control and Prevention issued guidance this week indicating masks could be reused as a last resort. The University of Nebraska medical Center began an experimental procedure to decontaminate its masks with ultraviolet light and reuse them, according to a report in the New York Times.

“The president thinks we’re being wasteful if a potentially contaminated mask is being discarded,” tweeted Jonathan Reiner, a professor of medicine at George Washington University. “Let’s offer the White House some used masks.”

health care workers among those who should get priority testing, officials say

Coronavirus testing is “ramping up” but the priority must still go to the those already in intensive care, symptomatic health care works, and symptomatic workers in long-term care facilities, members of the coronavirus task force said Saturday.

“Not every single person in the United States needs to get tested,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

He expressed particular concern that any testing, unnecessary or not, required the tester to use up scarce protective gear.

He said the testing process otherwise is getting to where the country wants it to be.

Admiral Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health under the Trump administration, said testing has been completed on 195,000 Americans through the initial testing outlets: the Centers for disease Control and Prevention, state and local laboratories, and members of the American Clinical lab Association. The latest figures, he said, do not include tens of thousands of tests by local hospitals and other health clinics.

FAA lifts ground stop at NYC-area airports

The Federal Aviation Administration issued a temporary ground stop for all flights leaving from New York City-area airports after an FAA air traffic controller tested positive for COVID-19, lifting the stop a short while later.

In an alert posted online Saturday, the agency advised air traffic controllers to “stop all departures” to Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and other airports in the region. The directive also affects Philadelphia International airport.

The employee who tested positive, at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma, has not been at the facility since Tuesday. The FAA has contacted local health authorities and is developing a plan to sanitize the affected areas.

Some cruise ships are still roaming the seas

While many major cruise operators are idling their fleets in response to the coronavirus pandemic, some ships are still at sea or trying to find a port as they deal with fears that passengers or crew may have become infected with COVID-19.

On Saturday, the Costa Luminosa cruise ship, which had at least three confirmed cases of coronavirus aboard, continued its disembarkation process in Savona, Italy. The ship has been allowed to dock despite the country being in a state of lockdown, issued on March 9.

The Italian cruise line said that 198 guests (113 Italian and 85 Swiss passengers) had disembarked, out of 716 total. The process will resume Sunday.

Friday, 721 people had left the ship during a stop in Marseilles, France, including French, German, Austrian, American and Canadian passengers.

The same day, a jet carrying 359 people, including American and Canadian passengers, landed at Atlanta’s international airport, federal officials said. Three people on the flight have tested positive for COVID-19 but had no symptoms, while 13 others are sick but haven’t been tested, the U.S. Department of health and Human Services said Friday.

Senators to reconvene on stimulus package that includes $1,200 checks

Republican and Democratic senators were reconvening Saturday, extending marathon negotiations from Friday on a stimulus package that did not produce a deal. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had set midnight Friday as the deadline for an agreement.

McConnell’s plan, which was released in full on Thursday, would, among other provisions, send direct payments of $1,200 to individuals and provide assistance to businesses affected by the coronavirus.

The Republican from Kentucky aims to pass the bill by Monday.

Stocks post worst week since financial crisis

U.S. stocks dropped Friday, capping their worst week since the height of the financial crisis as investors remained jittery about the direction of the economy despite hopes for government and central bank action to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 913.21 points to close at 19,173.98, falling back below 20,000 after wild price swings over the past week. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 4.3% to end at 2,304.92. The Nasdaq Composite lost 3.8% to close at 6,879.52.

For the week, the Dow dropped more than 17%, its worst one-week percentage drop since October 2008.

Officials look to malaria drug, experimental antivirals as COVID-19 therapies

President Donald Trump said this week that the malaria drug chloroquine and the experimental antiviral drug remdesivir are being tested as possible COVID-19 therapies and could slow the epidemic.

“It could have a very positive effect, or a positive effect, maybe not very, but maybe positive,” Trump said.  “It’s very, very exciting.”

There is no current treatment for the virus beyond supportive care that generally includes IV liquids, oxygen, fever reducers and pain killers.

Chloroquine as been in use since 1944 to fight malaria and has antiviral effects. Researchers believe it may interfere with the ability of the new virus to fuse to cell walls and infect them.

Remdesivir is an antiviral drug used to treat the Ebola virus and is known to be effective against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), both coronaviruses with similarities to SARS-CoV-2. It is an experimental drug developed a decade ago by Gilead Sciences, a California-based biotech firm.

Pennsylvania eases nurse licensing rules to fill the ranks

Pennsylvania is suspending some administrative rules for nurses, like temporarily extending license expiration dates, to ensure that nurses are available to provide care during the outbreak. Pennsylvania’s Department of State said Saturday that it is also waiving associated license fees.

“We are taking this action to ensure that Pennsylvania has plenty of nurses available to treat patients and that these nurses do not have to worry about renewing their licenses while responding to COVID-19,” Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar said in a statement.

She said the moves would also allow more than 14,000 nurse practitioners to be more flexible in meeting public-health needs.

The changes also will allow nursing school graduates who meet certain requirements to immediately apply for a graduate permit so they can assist in the COVID-19 response. The permit authorizes graduate nurses to practice under supervision of a registered nurse until they can take the examinations.

US-Mexico border will close for nonessential travel

The U.S.-Mexico border will be closed to nonessential travel to further help stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, Trump announced Friday.

“As we did with Canada, we’re also working with Mexico to implement new rules at our ports of entry to suspend nonessential travel,” Trump said. “These new rules and procedures will not impede lawful trade and commerce.” Trump said that Mexico is also suspending air travel from Europe.

The expected announcement follows the closure of the border between the U.S. and Canada to nonessential travel, which was announced Wednesday. Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters the closure would happen at midnight Friday.

Tax Day deadline moved back

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced the April 15 tax deadline has been extended due to the coronavirus.

The IRS will postpone the April 15 tax deadline by 90 days for millions of individuals who owe $1 million or less and corporations that owe $10 million or less, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said.

To be sure, Americans still have to meet the April 15 deadline if they are expecting a refund or are requesting a six-month extension, but they can defer payment for up to 90 days beyond that.

“We encourage those Americans who can file their taxes to continue to file their taxes on April 15 because for many Americans, you will get tax refunds and we don’t want you to lose out on those tax refunds,” Mnuchin said. “We want you to make sure you get them.”

“All you have to do is file your taxes,” Mnuchin said. “You’ll automatically not get charged interest and penalties.”

How many cases of coronavirus in US?

The United States had more than 20,000 cases of coronavirus as of Saturday and over 270 deaths.


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