coronavirus pandemic

US Coronavirus Updates: Florida, SC Look to Reopen Beaches; Nursing Homes Hit Hard

The number of fatalities continues to climb, with more than 38,000 deaths as of Saturday

President Donald Trump is determined to restart the U.S. economy, which is struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic. He has given governors a road map for recovering from the economic pain, laying out a phased approach to restoring normal activity.

The new guidelines are aimed at easing restrictions in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while holding the line in harder-hit locations. They make clear that the return to normalcy will be a far longer process than Trump initially envisioned.

It comes as the U.S. reached yet another grim milestone in the coronavirus pandemic – over 700,000 people have been infected with COVID-19 nationwide, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University. The number of fatalities continues to climb, with more than 38,000 deaths as of Saturday.

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

Dr. Deborah Birx took a moment at the coronavirus task force press conference on Saturday to thank Americans for their help in mitigating the spread of the virus through social distancing.

SC to Reopen Retail Stores and Beach Access

South Carolina retail stores and public beach access points that had been closed to halt the spread of the coronavirus will be allowed to reopen next week, The Post and Courier reported Saturday.

Gov. Henry McMaster will issue orders Monday to allow for the reopenings to take place on Tuesday, the governor’s chief of staff, Trey Walker, told the newspaper.

The order will apply to numerous nonessential stores, including department stores, flea markets, florists, bookstores and music shops. Grocery stores, pharmacies, home improvement stores and medical facilities have been allowed to stay open during the pandemic.

Occupancy in each store will be limited to five customers per 1,000 square feet of retail space or 20% occupancy, whichever is less, the newspaper said.

Local governments will still be allowed to make their own rules about waterway access.

The governor’s stay-at-home order will remain in place, as will the ban on eating inside restaurants, Walker said.

Navajo Nation Orders Use of Protective Masks

The Navajo Nation is ordering all people on the tribe’s sprawling reservation to wear protective masks when out in public to help fight the spread of the coronavirus.

Tribal officials announced Friday night that the Navajo Department of Health issued an emergency health order for the reservation, which includes parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The Navajo Nation has been hit harder by the coronavirus than any other Native American tribe.

The tribe and the Navajo Area Indian Health Service said the number of positive coronavirus tests reached 1,127 as of Friday with 44 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

California Prepares to House Homeless at Hotels Amid Pandemic

California is on its way to acquiring 15,000 hotel rooms to house the homeless during the pandemic, said Gov. Gavin Newsom on Saturday as he reminded people to stay indoors while outbreaks continue to crop up throughout the state.

Standing in front of a Motel 6 outside the city of San Jose, Newsom said more than 4,000 people have been moved out of shelters and off the streets and into motel rooms. He took the opportunity to scold leaders of unnamed cities for blocking efforts to house the homeless, asking them to “please consider the morality” of their decisions.

His announcement came a day after the state reported another 87 deaths from the coronavirus. Meanwhile, California’s death toll from the virus rose above 1,050 on Saturday, according to a tally by John Hopkins University.

Hundreds Protest COVID-19 Orders in Indiana, Texas

More than 200 people upset over restrictions on Indiana residents because of the coronavirus protested outside the state mansion of Gov. Eric Holcomb, urging him to back off and restart the economy.

Holcomb, a Republican, said a stay-at-home order that expires Monday will be extended to May 1 while he works on a plan to reopen businesses.

In Austin, Texas, a few hundred people rallied at the state Capitol in another protest over stay-at-home orders. The demonstration came a day after Republican Gov. Greg Abbott announced that next week Texas will begin reopening state parks and letting retailers sell items curbside.

Abbott says more restrictions will be lifted before the end of April.

Canada, US Extend Border Restrictions for Another 30 Days

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the U.S. and Canada have agreed to keep the border closed to nonessential travel for another 30 days.

Trudeau says it will keep people on both sides of the border safe amid the pandemic. U.S. President Donald Trump said Wednesday the U.S.-Canada border will be among the first borders to open. Nearly 200,000 people normally cross the border daily.

The U.S. has more confirmed cases and deaths from COVID-19 than any country in the world. The U.S. and Canada agreed last month to limit border crossings to essential travel amid the pandemic. The agreement was due to expire this week.

Pandemic Costing Youth Sports Millions, Creating Uncertainty

Youth sports leagues are bracing for even bigger financial losses with no end in sight for the shutdown of activity because of the new coronavirus outbreak.

Youth sports is a $25 billion U.S. industry and it is indeed on a tightrope in many ways at the moment.

Communities with sprawling, empty fields and arenas are losing millions of dollars with lucrative tournaments canceled or postponed.

Team sports participation dipped after the 2008 recession. So officials wonder what youth sports will look like when kids begin to return to fields and courts. 

Michigan Prisoner Awaiting Release Dies From COVID-19

A Michigan prisoner who declined to be paroled earlier this year after decades behind bars has died from COVID-19 complications.

William Garrison died at a hospital after nearly 44 years in prison. The coronavirus outbreak has infected more than 500 inmates in Michigan prisons and killed 17.

The 60-year-old Garrison was sentenced to life in prison for killing a man during a 1976 robbery when Garrison was 16 years old. He could have been paroled two weeks ago but decided to wait until September, when he would be eligible for a complete release without the rigors of parole supervision, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The parole board approved his application in March.

Anonymous Donors Pay Water and Sewer Bills for Indiana Town

People in a small Indianapolis suburb don’t have to worry about paying a bill in April thanks to anonymous donors.

Fortville’s nearly 4,000 residents had their water and sewer bills paid for by anonymous businesses.

Residents were informed Friday through a Facebook post, generating a string of grateful comments.

“The town has received a gracious donation with the stipulation that it be used to pay for April water/sewer bills. If you have already paid your April bill, you will see a credit on the May billing,” the post read.

Fortville town manager Joe Renner says the total donation was more than $210,000. Renner told The Indianapolis Star it was “pretty great” the town had “such caring people.”

Trump Announces $19B Aid for Farmers

President Donald Trump says his administration is launching a $19 billion program to help farmers struggling from the coronavirus pandemic.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says the program includes $16 billion in direct payments to farmers, ranchers, and producers who experienced “unprecedented losses” during the pandemic.

Perdue says the Department of Agriculture will spend another $3 billion to purchase fresh produce, dairy, and meat products that will be distributed through food bank networks.

President Donald Trump along with Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced a $19B coronavirus assistance plan for farmers and ranchers.

Antibody Research Suggests COVID-19 May Be More Widespread Than Known

Two research groups seeking to get a better sense of the true prevalence of the coronavirus outbreak in Santa Clara County in Northern California, asked 3,300 people to volunteer for antibody testing.

In a study published Friday, the researchers, many of whom hailed from Stanford University, found that 2.5% to 4.2% of those tested were positive for antibodies a number suggesting a far higher past infection rate than the official count, CNBC reports.

“These prevalence estimates represent a range between 48,000 and 81,000 people infected in Santa Clara County by early April, 50 (to) 85-fold more than the number of confirmed cases,” the authors wrote, noting the county's official tally at the time the samples were taken was approximately 1,000.

The research, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, adds to a growing number of work that suggests a huge amount of cases have gone undetected.

Antibody tests look for signs that a patient’s immune system has had a response after being infected with the virus. Such tests are by no means perfect indicators that a person has truly been exposed, and studies show that there are varying levels of quality. Some of the tests are providing false reassurance, while others are offering false answers. As scientists have stressed, having a positive antibody result does not mean the person is immune to the virus.

But such tests can be helpful to researchers looking to get a more accurate sense of how widespread the virus is.

Read the full story here.

'Heartbreaking' Report Shows Virus Ravaging NY Nursing Homes

The despair wrought on nursing homes by the coronavirus was laid bare Friday in a state survey identifying numerous New York facilities where multiple patients have died.

Nineteen of the state’s nursing homes have each had at least 20 deaths linked to the pandemic. One Brooklyn home was listed as having 55 deaths. The list was far from complete. Its release came after days of news media reports about homes so stricken by the virus, bodies had to be stacked inside storage rooms.

“These have been surreal times, and we are suffering, as is everybody else,” said Dr. Roy Goldberg, medical director at Kings Harbor Multicare Center, a 720-bed home which reported 45 fatalities.

“Every death is heartbreaking,” he said.

Deadly clusters of COVID-19 have taken a toll at nursing homes and long-term care facilities across the country.

'LIBERATE': Trump Encourages Protests After Cuomo Tells Him to 'Go to Work'

One day after laying out a roadmap for gradually reviving economic activity, President Donald Trump urged his supporters to “LIBERATE” three states led by Democratic governors Friday, in effect encouraging protests against the stay-at-home restrictions against the coronavirus.

The president took to Twitter with the kind of rhetoric some of his supporters have used to demand the lifting of the orders that have thrown millions of Americans out of work.

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!” “LIBERATE VIRGINIA,” Trump said in a tweet-storm in which also lashed out at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo for complaining about the federal response. Cuomo “should spend more time 'doing' and less time 'complaining,'” he said, adding: ”Less talk and more action!"

Trump appeared to be responding to comments Cuomo made earlier in the day during his daily briefing, in which he implied the federal government was shirking its responsibility to coordinate mass testing with states.

“The federal government cannot wipe its hands of this and say ‘Oh, the states are responsible for testing.’ We cannot do it. We cannot do it without federal help,” he said, adding that Trump should stop watching TV and "go to work."

Cuomo argued New York's efforts to ramp up testing to help restart its outbreak-crippled economy will fall woefully short without federal help.

It appears President Donald Trump watched New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's news conference Friday - and didn't like what he heard.

Marriage Services Resume for Couples in Orange County, Calif.

Marriage licenses and civil ceremonies are now being offered to couples whose appointments were postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak and stay-home orders in Southern California, NBC Los Angeles reports.

Starting Friday, services will be available at the Honda Center in Anaheim.

“I am excited to be able to offer marriage services again during these challenging times,” said Clerk-Recorder Hugh Nguyen. “We looked into ways of providing these services in the safest way possible due to the demand and feel that this is a great solution.”

Mississippi Gov. Extends Statewide Stay-Home Order

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Friday that he is extending his statewide stay-at-home order by one week to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The order has been in place since April 3, and it originally was set to expire Monday morning. The extension expires April 27.

“We need one more week to break the back of our enemy,” Reeves said during a news conference Friday morning. He thanked people for their strength, courage and perseverance.

Reeves said he wants to reopen the economy when it's safe, and that could mean easing restrictions in some parts of the state but not in others after the new stay-at-home order expires. He said he will allow lakes and beaches to open starting Monday, but people will not be allowed to go in large groups. Reeves also said that starting Monday, businesses that have been deemed “nonessential," such as florists and clothing stores, can open for drive-up sales.

CDC Director: Americans Should Maintain 'Personal Vigilance' as States Reopen

The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Friday that as parts of the U.S. seek to reopen amid the coronavirus outbreak, people should still be vigilant by practicing social distancing, wearing face coverings and washing their hands.

“We need to be very vigilant in that this new opening up — which has that requirement of early case diagnosis and isolation, contact tracing — is really embedded, as you'll see in the phases, with still maintaining that personal vigilance, that personal mitigation, so that we can continue to limit and protect the vulnerable in this nation,” CDC Director Robert Redfield said in an interview on TODAY.

In addressing concerns from the public that reopening may take play too soon, Redfield said "it’s important not to let up at all," adding that it’s “a step-by-step, prudent process."

Redfield said the U.S. is ramping up the surveillance system for tracking COVID-19 spread across this country to try to understand where asymptomatic infections are.

Beaches, Parks to Reopen Friday in Jacksonville, Florida

The mayor of Jacksonville, Florida, is taking the first step in restoring normal activity in his community, announcing Thursday that city parks and beaches will reopen Friday after being closed for a month because of the coronavirus, NBC affiliate First Coast News reports.

In a statement, Mayor Lenny Curry said that beaches and parks will be open to “essential activities” that include "walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing" starting at 5 p.m. Friday.

“This can be the beginning of the pathway back to normal life,” Curry's statement said. “Please respect and follow these limitations. Stay within the guidelines for your safety as well as for the safety of your neighbors.”

Beaches will open from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. each morning and from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the evenings. Beaches will remain closed during all other time periods.

The mayor said the decision came after early talks with Gov. Ron DeSantis about re-opening the city. He said data on local confirmed cases and hospitalizations suggest the city is successfully flattening the curve of the outbreak, although he acknowledged it was still too early to know for sure.

The Florida Times Union reports problems with local testing sites in Jacksonville, which are still limiting the number of tests administered and restricting those who are eligible due to lack of available kits.

"The data over the next week-and-a-half will tell the story,” Curry said at a Thursday news conference. “We’ve got to be patient and pay attention to the data over the next week.”

The easing of the stay-at-home order for the county doesn't include lifting restrictions on non-essential businesses, which remain closed.

American Family Golf Championship Canceled

Organizers of the American Family Insurance Championship in Madison couldn't find a suitable date for rescheduling the event and have now canceled it altogether because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The PGA Tour provided alternate summer dates for the June 5-7 championship, but an agreement on a time that was suitable for all parties could not be reached.

"It was not an easy decision by any means,” Madison resident and tournament host Steve Stricker said in a video message. “We know how much this event means to the community, the fans, the volunteers and the sponsors. We all look forward to it, even the golfers, we look forward to it. But given the mandates ... we just felt like it was in the best interest of everybody and the safety of everybody to cancel this year’s event.”

All events associated with the championship were also canceled, including UW Carbone’s Race for Research and concerts featuring Little Big Town and the BoDeans.

The tournament will go on next year, slated for June 11-13.

List of Global Sporting Events Affected by the Coronavirus

Pro-Trump Protesters Push Back on Stay-at-Home Orders

While many Americans are filled with fear, Melissa Ackison says the coronavirus pandemic has filled her with anger. The stay-at-home orders are government overreach, the conservative Ohio state Senate candidate says, and the labeling of some workers as “essential” arbitrary.

"It enrages something inside of you," said Ackison, who was among those who protested Republican Gov. Mike DeWine’s orders at the statehouse in Columbus with her 10-year-old son. She has "no fear whatsoever" of contracting the virus, she said Thursday, dismissing it as hype.

The Ohio protest was among a growing number staged outside governors' mansions and state Capitols across the country. In places like Oklahoma, Texas and Virginia, small-government groups, supporters of President Donald Trump, anti-vaccine advocates, gun rights backers and supporters of right-wing causes have united behind a deep suspicion of efforts to shut down daily life to slow the spread of the coronavirus. As their frustration with life under lockdown grows, they’ve started to openly defy the social distancing rules in an effort to put pressure on governors to ease them.

In Boise, Idaho, conservative groups who are against Gov. Brad Little’s extension of the statewide stay-home order are holding a protest Friday.

Idaho Freedom Foundation, Idaho Second Amendment Alliance and Health Freedom Idaho announced in a social media post: "We will gather on Friday to remind our employees of the state that we will not stay silent while they attempt to destroy the lives of Idahoans and our economy. We do not consent to our state being shut down. We do not consent to forced imprisonment."

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

The Associated Press/NBC
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