US Coronavirus Updates: Crowded Funeral Home Ices Bodies in U-Haul Trucks; Fla. to Begin Lifting Restrictions

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With many U.S. states lifting their coronavirus restrictions according to their own timetables and needs, Americans are facing a bewildering multitude of decisions about what they should and should not do to protect themselves and their neighbors.

Scientists, meanwhile, announced Wednesday that an experimental drug has proved effective against the virus that has killed more than 60,000 people in the U.S, reducing the time it takes for patients to recover. It comes as the number of cases across the country surpassed 1 million. The true toll is believed to be much higher because of limited testing, differences in counting the dead and concealment by some governments.

Still, many health experts believe the key to ending the crisis will be a vaccine, and developing one could take a year or more.

How Coronavirus Has Grown in Each State — in 1 Chart

New York has quickly become the epicenter of the American coronavirus outbreak. This chart shows the cumulative number of cases per state by number of days since the 10th case.

Source: Johns Hopkins University
Credit: Amy O’Kruk/NBC

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.:

Overwhelmed NYC Funeral Home Ices Bodies in Trucks

Police were called to a Brooklyn neighborhood Wednesday after a funeral home overwhelmed by the coronavirus resorted to storing dozens of bodies on ice in rented trucks, and a passerby complained about the smell, officials said.

Investigators who responded to a 911 call found that the home had rented four trucks to hold about 50 corpses, according to a law enforcement official. No criminal charges were brought and the official, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation, spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

The Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home was cited for failing to control the odors. The home was able to obtain a larger, refrigerated truck later in the day, the official said.

New York City funeral homes have struggled as at least 18,000 people have died in the city since late March.

The NYPD notified the state Department of Health, which oversees funeral homes, about the situation at the Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Home. It did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Dozens of bodies were found in a truck at a New York City funeral home after neighbors reported a foul smell. Ida Siegal reports.

Florida to Begin Lifting Stay-at-Home Order on Monday

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis unveiled a plan Wednesday to lift the state's stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus crisis that he called "safe, smart, and step-by-step."

The plan will go into effect on Monday in every county except Dade, Palm Beach and Broward counties, where most of the Covid-19 cases in the state have been reported, DeSantis said.

But before DeSantis released any details, he took a swipe at the "doom and gloom" media and critics who faulted him for the state's slow response to the unfolding crisis.

Read the full story here. 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis discusses the first phase of the state's reopening from coronavirus.

'Clear-Cut' Evidence Coronavirus Drug Remdesivir Works, Fauci Says

An experimental drug for the coronavirus has a proven benefit, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"The data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery," Fauci said at the White House on Wednesday. The data he referred to is from a large study of more than 1,000 patients from multiple sites around the world. Patients either received the drug, called remdesivir, or a placebo.

Results from clinical trials are typically published in medical journals after review from outside experts. That hasn't happened yet with this latest study, but Fauci said that the results were so promising, there is "an ethical obligation to immediately let the placebo group know so they can have access" to the drug.

There were indications the drug led to fewer deaths, but that part of the analysis is still under review. Meanwhile, information on two other remdesivir studies released Wednesday provided seemingly conflicting outcomes.

But both studies had flaws, making results difficult to interpret in the absence of more research.

For the latest updates, visit

Dr. Anthony Fauci explains how a new study of the drug Remdesivir, which has been used in a test to treat coronavirus patients, is so important for finding more treatments to help patients.

Federal Social Distancing Guidelines Set to Expire, Won't Be Extended

President Donald Trump says the federal government will not be extending its social distancing guidelines when they expire Thursday at the end of the month.

Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that the coronavirus guidelines will be “fading out” because of work that governors are doing in their states.

Vice President Mike Pence said the guidelines issued 45 days ago have been incorporated into guidance provided to the states on how they can begin the process of gradually reopening their economies.

The guidelines – which were originally supposed to last 15 days and were then extended another 30 - included encouraging Americans to work from home and avoid restaurants and discretionary travel as well as telling older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions to isolate themselves.

3 US Children With Coronavirus Treated for Rare Inflammatory Condition

Three U.S. children with the coronavirus are also being treated for a rare inflammatory condition, similar to one that has sparked concerns among doctors in the UK, Italy and Spain, Reuters reported.

A specialist treating the patients — who range in age from 6 months to 8 years — at Columbia University Medical Center in New York told Reuters all three children had fever and inflammation of the heart and the gut.

"Right now, we're at the very beginning of trying to understand what that represents," Columbia's Dr. Mark Gorelik told Reuters.

Gorelik, a pediatric rheumatologist and immunologist, said he was called in to consult on the cases to evaluate whether the children have Kawasaki disease, a rare blood vessel disorder that in severe cases causes inflammation of the arteries of the heart.

Doctors' associations in Britain, Italy, and Spain have warned members of an increase in the number of children with “a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care.” The cases were reported to have features of toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease.

Britain’s Paediatric Intensive Care Society said there was “growing concern” that either a COVID-19 related syndrome was emerging in children or that a different, unidentified disease might be responsible.

EPA Gives Cleaning Tips for Schools, Workplaces

Federal authorities are giving cleaning and disinfecting tips for schools and workplaces to help deal with the coronavirus.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the cleaning guidelines Wednesday.

The guidelines urge Americans to draw up plans to clean areas with soap and water and disinfectant. Recommendations include ensuring custodians have proper protective gear.

EPA administrator Andrew Wheeler says the cleaning guidelines will “help the country reopen as safely as possible.”

Cleaning workplaces and schools will be part of reopening after weeks and months of lockdown from the outbreak. The shutdown has thrown tens of millions of Americans out of work and sent the U.S. economy plunging.

The Trump administration has vacillated between prodding states to reopen businesses and schools to get the economy going and urging caution to try to limit the spread.

Doing spring cleaning right is more important than ever to keep the home safe and sanitary from the coronavirus.

Virus Testing Chief: 'No Way on Earth’ US Can Test 5 Million a Day

President Donald Trump said he thinks the U.S. will “very soon” be able to test 5 million people for coronavirus a day, a goal the government’s top testing official said is unreachable, CNBC reported.

“There is absolutely no way on Earth, on this planet or any other planet, that we can do 20 million tests a day, or even five million tests a day,” Adm. Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary of health who is in charge of the government’s testing response, told TIME in an interview published late Tuesday. The interview took place Tuesday morning before Trump’s afternoon remarks about testing.

Giroir told TIME that the U.S. will be able to test 8 million people per month by May, amounting to less than 267,000 a day.

Read the full story here.

Gov. Newsom: Data, Not Pressure, Will Guide Decision to Reopen California

California Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged feeling pressure to lift lockdown restrictions following moves from other states, but said he's worried "we can erase all the gains" made to control the outbreak if states reopen too quickly.

"There's no question it puts pressure, I'd be lying if I said otherwise," Newsom said Wednesday in an interview on the TODAY show. "I don't dismiss any of those protests or any of those points of criticism. But one thing I will dismiss is pressure as points of guidance. It will be data and health that guide our decision making."

Newsom laid out a four-stage plan to reopen businesses, schools and entertainment events on Tuesday. Under the current stage, Phase 1, most people are ordered to stay at home except for essential outings. Newsom wants to boost the rate of testing, pass out more protective equipment, beef up health care services and continue monitoring coronavirus illnesses and deaths.

The next step, which Newsom said will come in the next few “weeks, not months,” includes reopening nonessential retail stores, manufacturing, child care and schools — possibly as early as late July or early August "to address learning loss." He added that to restart the state’s economy, “we’ve got to allow parents to go back to work who can’t afford child care.”

Trump Administration Asks Intelligence Agencies to Find Out Whether China, WHO Hid Virus Info

The White House has ordered intelligence agencies to comb through communications intercepts, human source reporting, satellite imagery and other data to establish whether China and the World Health Organization initially hid what they knew about the emerging coronavirus pandemic, current and former U.S. officials familiar with the matter told NBC News.

A specific "tasking" seeking information about the outbreak's early days was sent last week to the National Security Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, which includes the National Center for Medical Intelligence, an official directly familiar with the matter said. The CIA has received similar instructions, according to current and former officials familiar with the matter.

President Donald Trump appeared to refer to the request at his news conference Monday. "We're doing very serious investigations," Trump said. "We are not happy with that whole situation, because we believe it could have been stopped at the source, it could have been stopped quickly, and it wouldn't have spread all over the world."

As part of the tasking, intelligence agencies were asked to determine what the WHO knew about two research labs studying coronaviruses in the Chinese province of Wuhan, where the virus was first observed. NBC News has previously reported that the spy agencies have been investigating the possibility that the virus escaped accidentally from one of the labs, although many experts believe that is unlikely.

Read the full story on

President Donald Trump announced Tuesday he was halting U.S. funding for the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the organization's alleged role in "severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus."

GDP Report Shows a Damaged Economy Sliding Into Recession

The U.S. economy began 2020 riding the crest of a record-long expansion with every expectation that its 11th year of growth would not be its last.

Then the economy screeched to a sudden halt. And now it's in free-fall.

The Commerce Department announced Wednesday the gross domestic product, the broadest gauge of the economy, shrank at an annual rate of 4.5% in the January-March quarter. It's the sharpest quarterly drop in GDP since the Great Recession, which ended in 2009.

Forecasters say the drop will be only a precursor of a far grimmer GDP report to come for the current April-June quarter, when business shutdowns and layoffs have struck with devastating force. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that GDP will plunge in the current quarter by a 40% annual rate. That would be, by a breathtaking margin, the bleakest quarter since such records were first compiled in 1947.

Groups Sow Doubt About COVID Vaccine Before One Even Exists

A coronavirus vaccine is still months or years away, but groups that peddle misinformation about immunizations are already taking aim, potentially eroding confidence in what could be humanity’s best chance to defeat the virus.

In recent weeks, vaccine opponents have made several unsubstantiated claims, including allegations that vaccine trials will be dangerously rushed or that Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, is blocking cures to enrich vaccine makers. They’ve also falsely claimed that Microsoft founder Bill Gates wants to use a vaccine to inject microchips into people — or to cull 15% of the world’s population.

Vaccine opponents in the U.S. have been around for a long time. Their claims range from relatively modest safety concerns about specific vaccines or the risk of side effects to conspiracy theories that border on the bizarre.

The movement is receiving renewed attention, especially as it aligns itself with groups loudly protesting restrictions on daily life aimed at controlling the spread of the virus. Health professionals say vaccine misinformation could have lethal consequences if it leads people to opt for bogus cures instead.

"Only a coronavirus vaccine can truly protect us from future outbreaks," said Dr. Scott Ratzan, a physician and medical misinformation expert at the City University of New York and Columbia University. "But what if the effort succeeds and large numbers of people decide not to vaccinate themselves or their children?"

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country's top expert on infectious diseases, said Thursday he feels good about prospects for a vaccine to prevent COVID-19. "You're going to be hearing over the next months or more about different drugs that are going to go into these different randomized control trials," he said. "And I feel confident, knowing about what this virus is and what we can do with it, that we will have some sort of therapy."
The Associated Press/NBC
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