Health authorities changed their position Friday on the widespread use of non-medical masks and federal emergency workers say they are working around-the-clock to meet demand for medical supplies in an increasingly deadly COVID-19 outbreak in New York.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends the general public wear non-medical, cloth masks in public places to help blunt the spread of the virus. The move comes after new research highlights a significant number of people who are not showing symptoms may still have the virus – and are spreading it.
“So it’s voluntary, you don’t have to do it,” President Donald Trump said of the recommendation for wearing masks. “I don’t think I’m going to be doing it.”
Also Friday, a record streak of job growth in the United States ended as the Labor Department said over 700,000 jobs were lost in March, showing the widespread economic impacts of the growing coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. has now surpassed 7,000 deaths, with more than 1,100 on Friday alone. The nation’s daily death toll is predicted to steadily rise until the virus peaks, roughly two weeks from now.
There were more than 275,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. by 8 p.m. ET Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the death toll topped 58,000 with nearly 1.1 million confirmed cases.
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CDC recommends wearing cloth face masks in public
Surgeon General Jerome Adams detailed the new face covering recommendations at Friday’s White House briefing, acknowledging the evolving guidance has been “confusing to the American people.”
Adams stressed the new recommendation from the CDC and coronavirus task force pertained to non-medical, cloth face coverings and do not replace current social distancing guidance. The general public should not begin wearing medical-grade equipment, Adams said, as such measures should be reserved for the medical industry.
Officials have consistently recommended people showing symptoms of the virus should wear protective masks, Adams said. Now authorities are asking all people to wear cloth masks in public places like grocery stores and pharmacies.
The updated guidance is spurred by new science showing a significant number of people can spread the virus when they are not showing symptoms.
“This is about me protecting you and you protecting me. This is about us coming together as communities and if people voluntarily choose to wear a face covering, they’re wearing it to protect their neighbors,” Adams said.
As for the President, Trump said he can’t imagine working in the Oval Office or meeting foreign leaders with a mask on.
“I just don’t want to wear one myself . . . I’m feeling good,” Trump said.
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US lost 701,000 jobs in March, breaking 10-year streak
The U.S. lost 701,000 jobs in March, breaking a remarkable string of uninterrupted payroll gains the past decade.
The unemployment rate rose to 4.4% from a 50-year low of 3.5%, the Labor Department said Friday.
The report reflects employers’ jitters early in the month over the unprecedented economic fallout from the pandemic. But it doesn’t capture the nearly 10 million laid-off and furloughed Americans who filed initial jobless claims the past two weeks as much of the nation’s economy was shut down to help contain the spread of the virus.
That’s because Labor’s survey was conducted the week ending March 14, before most states ordered residents to stay at home and nonessential businesses – such as restaurants, movie theaters and most stores – to close.
– Paul Davidson
New York to send National Guard to seize ventilators
After New York’s most deadly night due to the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday he will call in the National Guard to take unused ventilators and supplies to redistribute them to the places of greatest need.
New York had a shocking 562 deaths overnight – an average of 23 deaths an hour – as the total number of deaths in the state due to COVID-19 hit 2,935, Cuomo announced.
In response, Cuomo said he will sign an executive order that will allow the National Guard to go to hospitals and health-care facilities to take unused ventilators and other medical supplies so they can be used in parts of the state in desperate need of more resources.
“I’m not going to let people die because we didn’t redistribute ventilators,” Cuomo said
– Joseph Spector
TSA worker dies of COVID-19, becoming agency’s first casualty
The Transportation Security Administration has reported its first COVID-19 casualty after an explosive detection canine handler at Newark Liberty International Airport died Thursday.
Francis “Frank” Boccabella III, 39, joined TSA in 2004. “He is the first federal TSA employee who we have lost to COVID-19,” the agency said in a release posted to its website Friday. “The news of this loss strengthens our determination to work ever more closely with our inter-agency partners to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Boccabella, whose last day at work before becoming sick was March 19, was one of five TSA officers from Newark and one of 74 TSA workers across the country to contract COVID-19 in the past 14 days. (Out of that number 56 are screening officers; another 18 have limited interaction with the traveling public.)
Despite the fact that screening officers must come into close contact with passengers to do their jobs, at least one sick officer says he’s been been denied a COVID-19 test three times.
– Jayme Deerwester
FEMA says it has sent millions of respirators and ventilators to states
The Federal Emergency Management Agency said it’s exhausting all resources to meet the demands of states seeking medical supplies to treat the coronavirus, adding that the national stockpile alone can’t fulfill the requests by state governments.
FEMA spokeswoman Janet Montesi said FEMA has delivered or sent states millions of N-95 masks, surgical masks, face shields and hospital gowns from the national stockpile.
As of April 2, the agency has shipped 11.6 million N-95 respirators, 26.3 million surgical masks, 5.2 million face shields and 8,100 ventilators, among other medical supplies.
Montesi also pointed to the agency’s efforts to expedite supplies from the global market, including a flight on March 29, which delivered 80 tons of equipment from Asia to New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. Additional flights landed in Chicago on March 30, Miami on March 31, Los Angeles on April 1 as well as in Chicago and Columbus, Ohio, early Friday.
FEMA has scheduled additional flights and is adding more daily, she added.
Chicago’s temporary coronavirus facility ready with 500 beds
The alternate care facility inside North America’s largest convention center had 500 beds and the corresponding medical staff ready to accept coronavirus patients Friday, completing the first phase of an ongoing build-out.
The 2.6-million-square-foot McCormick Place Convention Center in downtown Chicago is expected to have 3,000 beds for COVID-19 patients with mild symptoms by the end of the month.
“We shouldn’t have to beg the federal government to step up here and assume its responsibility. When we hear from the head of the CDC that the federal stockpile … only has 10,000 ventilators. The question we should ask is what the heck has the Trump administration been doing over the last three and a half years?” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at an on-site press briefing Friday.
The facility currently has 14 nursing stations and support rooms for medical supply storage, pharmacy and housekeeping services. Nearly 140 contracted medical personnel from Illinois and across the nation were prepared to staff the first 500 beds, according to the governor’s office.
“We all fervently hope that we will never have to take care of a patient here … but that’s very unlikely,” said Dr. Nick Turkal, former Advocate Healthcare CEO and the new Executive Director of the McCormick Place alternate care facility.The facility will receive patients from hospital partners but will not accept walk-in patients, Turkal said.
Illinois on Friday announced more than 1,200 new coronavirus cases, bringing the state’s total to nearly 9,000 confirmed cases, with 210 deaths.
– Grace Hauck
Google uses location data to track social distancing success
A new tool from Google uses anonymized location data to calculate which communities are reducing traffic in public places.
The Community Mobility Reports tool estimates the change in visits and length of stay at retail and recreation locations, grocery and pharmacy stores, parks, workplaces and other locations.
The regularly-updated data, shown as a percentage compared to a baseline, is available for at least 130 countries and regions.
“In addition to other resources public health officials might have, we hope these reports will help support decisions about how to manage the COVID-19 pandemic,” reads a Friday Google blog post by executives Jen Fitzpatrick and Karen DeSalvo.
“For example, this information could help officials understand changes in essential trips that can shape recommendations on business hours or inform delivery service offerings.”
The data comes from users who opted in to the Location History setting, the blog post says. The company says it uses privacy tools to assure an individual person’s location remains anonymous.
– Joel Shannon
CNN’s Cuomo lost 13 pounds; Brooke Baldwin also tests positive
Chris Cuomo says he’s lost a significant amount of weight in a short time span while battling COVID-19.
The CNN anchor, 49, who revealed he tested positive for the new coronavirus Tuesday, appeared on CNN’s Global Town Hall broadcast Thursday night from his basement to give an update on his health, which included him sharing he “lost 13 pounds in three days.”
He also said he’s still suffering from a fever, profuse sweating, headaches and pains in his face.
Fellow CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin said she’s experiencing some of the same symptoms when she revealed Friday that she also tested positive for COVID-19. Baldwin said she was “OK.”
– Sara Moniuszko
Fauci says all states should issue stay-at-home orders
Dr. Anthony Fauci said he doesn’t “understand why that’s not happening” when asked why all states haven’t issued stay-at-home or shelter-in-place orders restricting residents’ movements.
Speaking at a CNN town hall on the new coronavirus Thursday, Fauci stopped short of calling for a federally-mandated national lockdown.
“The tension between federally mandated versus states rights to do what they want is something I don’t want to get into. But if you look at what’s going on in this country, I just don’t understand why we’re not doing that. We really should be,” said Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
At least 38 states instituted some form of stay-at-home order as of Thursday and roughly 300 million citizens were under a state or city order to stay put.
Legal experts have said President Donald Trump doesn’t have the authority to impose a national lockdown as the heads of countries such as Italy, Spain, France and Britain have done. And in some cases, the difference between an order and a guidance might be mostly semantics.
USS Theodore Roosevelt captain fired after pleading for help for sick sailors
The Navy fired the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt on Thursday, four days after he pleaded for help as the coronavirus ravaged his crew.
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly announced that Navy Capt. Brett Crozier was relieved for loss of confidence.
“I just know that he exercised extremely poor judgment,” Modly said.
Crozier had sent an urgent letter to the U.S. Navy on Sunday, seeking to evacuate and isolate the crew as cases of coronavirus infection increased on the vessel. “Decisive action” was required to prevent deaths from the coronavirus, Crozier wrote. The ship’s close quarters prevented sailors from following guidelines to keep them safe.
Videos posted on social media showed a huge send-off for Crozier as hundreds of service members were on the hanger deck of the aircraft carrier, chanting “Captain Crozier! Captain Crozier!” and clapping.
Democratic senators have called on the Pentagon Inspector General to investigate the Navy’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and its firing of Crozier.
“How many other Theodore Roosevelts are out there?” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Armed Services Committee.
He speculated that the Navy had “no idea how many potential hot spots it has.”
— Tom Vanden Brook and Nicholas Wu
USNS Comfort has only 20 patients on board outside New York City
Just 20 patients were on board the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship equipped with 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms, New York state and local officials confirmed Friday morning.
The Comfort, with its 1,200-member crew, was expected to take non-coronavirus patients to alleviate the stress on New York City hospitals that have quickly become overcrowded as the number of COVID-19 deaths in the state skyrocketed past 2,000 on Thursday. But so far, the transfers have been slow in developing.
“There’s no question in my mind that’s going to get resolved very quickly and you’re going to see that number grow,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday on CNN.
Another Navy hospital ship, the USNS Mercy, docked in Los Angeles, had just 15 patients, officials told the New York Times.
The Pentagon on Friday announced less-stringent rules for accepting patients aboard the ship. Non-COVID-19 patients will be screened at the pier now instead of local hospitals to allow those facilities to deal with a crush of patients infected with the coronavirus.
New York had 92,000 positive cases of coronavirus Thursday, including 52,000 in the city.
– Joseph Spector and Tom Vanden Brook
US stocks fall after huge jobless report
U.S. stocks posted a third week of losses in the past four, capping a volatile stretch after the government reported a big loss in jobs last month because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 360.91 points to close at 21,052.53. The Standard & Poor’s 500 fell 1.5% to end at 2,488.65, as energy shares gave back gains after crude prices eased. For the week, the Dow fell more than 2.5% while the S&P 500 shed 2%.
Stocks had held steady at first Friday, but headed lower after energy stocks gave up gains as crude prices lost momentum. The fresh bout of volatility signaled that investors were selling riskier assets like stocks heading into the weekend, analysts say.
– Jessica Menton
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The send off for Captain Brett Crozier who was relieved from duty for TRYING TO SAVE THE LIVES OF HIS CREW pic.twitter.com/EEDG1U3rYE
— Danny Ocean (@The_UnSilent_) April 3, 2020
Passengers begin disembarking ill-fated cruise ships in Florida
Hundreds of passengers from two ill-fated cruise ships began disembarking Friday in Florida, the critically ill heading for local hospitals and the healthy passengers heading for the airport.
After being turned back from several South American ports for weeks, the two ships finally docked in Florida on Thursday after reaching an agreement with local authorities. The exodus from the MS Zaandaam and its sister ship the MS Rotterdam was expected to continue throughout the day. Some of the 14 critically ill passengers were wheeled off on stretchers.
Holland America said around 1,200 asymptomatic passengers were being allowed to disembark after passing a health screening and were leaving on a series of charter flights. Another 38 passengers who are Florida residents would receive private transportation home. A total of 107 passengers and 143 crew members had presented flu-like symptoms since March 22, according to a Holland America statement.
The bodies of two elderly passenger whose deaths were blamed on COVID-19 were removed from the Zaandam on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Coral Princess, operated by Carnival Corp., is scheduled to arrive at Port Everglades on Saturday with at least 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among its 1,000 passengers, the cruise line said.
– Doug Stanglin
Kushner draws backlash for ‘our stockpile’ comment at briefing
White House senior adviser Jared Kushner made a rare appearance during Thursday’s coronavirus task force briefing, which drew backlash when he referred to the national stockpile of medical supplies as “our stockpile” and not one belonging to states.
Kushner, the president’s son-in-law who doesn’t often make public appearances, says he has been serving on the coronavirus task force at the direction of Vice President Mike Pence.
When asked about data showing states’ need for equipment, Kushner said, “The notion of the federal stockpile is that it’s supposed to be our stockpile. It’s not supposed to be states’ stockpiles that they then use.”
Critics, including Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., Joe Lockhart, former press secretary for President Bill Clinton and former White House ethics chief Walter Shaub, pounced on Kushner’s comments.
“It is for the American people…as the federal government’s OWN strategic national stockpile website assures us!” Shaub tweeted.
– Nicholas Wu
Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin: Expect $1,200 payment in two weeks
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said many Americans reeling from the financial impacts caused by the coronavirus outbreak can expect to see their one-time stimulus payments of up to $1,200 show up in their bank accounts in about two weeks. For those without direct deposit, Mnuchin promised checks would go out quickly as well.
The announcement followed a memo sent out by House Democrats that warned some Americans could have to wait up to 20 weeks before they receive their checks.
When asked Thursday about the memo, which was sent out by the House Ways and Means Committee, Mnuchin said it wouldn’t take that long.
“Quickly, as a matter of weeks and not months,” Mnuchin said of the money going out.
– Christal Hayes
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Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus updates: CDC says cloth masks for public; US deaths top 7K