The Latest COVID-19 Updates (April 2)

Staff Writer

9 p.m. -- UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly has unanimously approved a resolution recognizing “the unprecedented effects” of the coronavirus pandemic and calling for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat” COVID-19. The 193-member world body did not approve a rival resolution sponsored by Russia calling for U.N. solidarity in the face of the challenges posed by COVID-19 and urging countries not to apply unilateral sanctions without U.N. Security Council approval in order to tackle the virus. Under new voting rules instituted because the General Assembly isn’t holding meetings, if a single country objects a resolution is defeated. Diplomats said the European Union, United Kingdom, United States and Ukraine objected to the Russian draft, and the General Assembly was extending the deadline for objections until 6 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. It wasn’t clear if Russia would make changes to try to win approval. General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande sent a letter to all U.N. member nations Thursday night informing them that there were no objections to the resolution entitled “Global Solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease” sponsored by Ghana, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. He said the resolution was approved and is in effect. The resolution also recognizes COVID-19’s “severe disruption to societies and economies, as well as to global travel and commerce, and the devastating impact on the livelihood of people,” and that “the poorest and most vulnerable are the hardest hit.”

6:30 p.m. -- WASHINGtON — The White House says it is prepared to launch a $350 billion lending program on Friday that is intended to help struggling small businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus catastrophe. Small Business Administration administrator Jovita Carranza said the paycheck protection program will help small companies keep employees on payroll and remain afloat. Lenders have raised concerns that they won’t be able to handle the crush of applications as businesses scurry for a cash infusion and help keeping employees on the payroll. The Labor Department announced that unemployment claims soared to 6.6 million last week, more than double the previous week. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration decided to raise interest rate to 1% instead of 50 basis points to make the program more attractive to community lenders.

3 p.m. Nursing homes across the country have been in lockdown for weeks under federal orders to protect their frail, elderly residents from coronavirus, but a wave of deadly outbreaks nearly every day since suggests that the measures including a ban on visits and daily health screenings of staffers either came too late or were not rigorous enough.
Recent outbreaks in Tennessee, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland have pushed the death toll at the nation's nursing homes to at least 450 and highlight the biggest gap: Screenings of doctors, nurses, aides and other workers do not involve actual testing but the taking of temperatures or asking health questions that still allow infected, asymptomatic people to slip through.
“It’s still been like Swiss cheese with people coming in and out of there, and thus you’ve got these explosions in senior facilities,” said John BaRoss of Long Valley, New Jersey, who recently pulled his 85-year-old mother out of an assisted-living center out of fear of infection.
After an outbreak of 100 infections and four deaths at the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing outside Nashville, Tennessee — where the National Guard was called in to help evacuate the facility — Sumner County Mayor Anthony Holt blamed staff members who came to work despite showing symptoms for COVID-19 and “exposed a lot of patients.”
"Things got out of hand," Holt told the Associated Press. "Once employees became symptomatic, they should have asked them to go home immediately and called the health department. I don't think that occurred."
After an outbreak near Dayton, Ohio, killed six people and infected nearly 50 at a pair of nursing homes less than 10 miles apart, health officials began scrutinizing medical specialists such as phlebotomists and respiratory therapists who work in multiple facilities a day. One such health worker who visited both homes tested positive for COVID-19.
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan said an outbreak that spread like “wildfire” at a Mount Airy nursing home, killing five and infecting 77, apparently began with an asymptomatic health worker who made it past a temperature check screening and “infected the population.”
Some relatives of those at the Sundale nursing home in Morgantown, West Virginia, where 29 residents and staff have tested positive, say more should have been done to keep coronavirus out before the federal restrictions took hold in mid-March.
“The day before the shutdown, we just walked in wherever. There was no sign-in. There was nothing,’ said Courtney Templeton about her last visit to her 69-year-old mother.
Templeton also faults the home for not testing residents fast enough and not keeping healthy ones separate from those just back from a nearby hospital showing COVID-19 symptoms, including her mother’s roommate.
“She came back coughing and had a fever,” Templeton said of a visit two weeks ago, after which she began begging the home to protect her mother. “Can't you keep the incoming patients separate? Can't you keep them quarantined for 14 days?"
Last week, Templeton got word both the roommate and her mom had the disease.
Though the federal government has not been releasing a count of its own, an AP tally from media reports and state health departments indicate at least 450 deaths and nearly 2,300 infections have been linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide.
And for the nation’s more than 15,000 such facilities and the 1 million people who live in them, experts say the situation could get worse before it gets better.
They say the crisis has only deepened a chronic staffing shortage at nursing homes because more workers are self-quarantining or staying home with their children. There is still not widespread testing of staff or patients, and shortages of masks and other protective gear persist.
“It’s an emergency situation, and it’s just been totally neglected in all the national policy," said Charlene Harrington, a professor emerita at the University of California San Francisco and former state health official. “They’re not focusing on the fact that these are the most vulnerable of people in the whole country.”
And even more ominously, overcrowding in hospitals has some states seeking to force nursing homes to take patients who are recovering from COVID-19, raising fears they could spread it to residents inside.

2:30 p.m. NEW YORK (AP) — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo warned Thursday that the state's supply of breathing machines could be exhausted in six days if the number of people made critically ill by the coronavirus outbreak continues at its current rate. The number of New Yorkers killed by the virus soared again, to 2,373. A majority of the fatalities have been in New York City, but an increasing number of deaths are happening in the suburbs and elsewhere in the state.

1:30 p.m. The Democratic National Committee is delaying its presidential nominating convention until the week of Aug. 17 after prospective nominee Joe Biden said he didn't think it would be possible to hold it in mid-July because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Convention CEO Joe Solmonese confirmed the decision in a statement Thursday.
“In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention,” Solmonese said.

12:30 p.m. HARRISBURG — Jefferson County remains without confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s daily update on Thursday. However, it has now been discovered in most of the surrounding counties. Forest County logged its first on Thursday. There are four in Clearfield County, six in Indiana County, seven in Armstrong County and four in Clarion County. Elk is the only bordering county with no confirmed cases.
There are now 7,016 known cases statewide. All 67 Pennsylvania counties remain under a stay-at-home order.

11:30 a.m. WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says it is distributing about 192,000 N-95 masks to frontline medical workers in New York and New Jersey that were found during an investigation by the new coronavirus hoarding and price gouging task force
Officials say the masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment were found by the FBI on March 30. The Justice Department says it notified the Department of Health and Human Services, which compelled the supplies be turned over as part of the Defense Production Act.
Agents also found nearly 600,000 medical-grade gloves, 130,000 surgical masks, some N100 masks and disinfectant spray and towels.
Authorities said the owner would be paid “fair market value” for the supplies. The equipment is being sent to officials with the New York city and state health departments and the New Jersey Department of Health.
WASHINGTON (AP) — More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — doubling a record high set just one week earlier — a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak.
Combined with last week's report that 3.3 million people sought unemployment aid two weeks ago, the U.S. economy has now suffered nearly 10 million layoffs in just the past few weeks — far exceeding the figure for any corresponding period on record.
The stunning report Thursday from the Labor Department showed that job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and abroad that have almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses have shut down across the world.

10:30 a.m. Prospective Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden said he thinks his party's nominating convention will have to be pushed back from July into August because of the coronavirus threat. “It’s going to depend on what kind of action is taken between now and the middle of the summer to change this curve,” Biden said in a Wednesday interview with ABC late-night comedian Jimmy Kimmel.
“I doubt whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in early July, mid-July. I think it’s going to have move into August. … You just have to be prepared for the alternative, and the alternative — we don’t know what it’s going to be.” Those comments are the furthest Biden has gone in predicting a delay for the convention, which would mark the start of the general election campaign. The coronavirus pandemic is forcing Democrats and Republicans to take a close look at whether they'll be able to move forward as planned with their summer conventions. Democrats are scheduled to convene July 13-16 in Milwaukee. Republicans plan to gather Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
In an interview earlier this week with MSNBC, Biden said it’s “hard to envision” a normal convention on that schedule. But the former vice president also noted on “The 11th Hour with Brian Williams” that Democrats “have more time” to figure things out as party officials consider contingencies that could range from an outright delay to making parts of the proceedings virtual so that not as many people attend.
NEW YORK (AP) — The economic damage from the coronavirus crisis piled up as an unprecedented 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits in a single week, and the competition for masks and other protective gear intensified amid growing evidence that people who are infected but have no symptoms can spread the virus.
The staggering new unemployment claims, announced Thursday, double those of last week's previous record high and bring to 10 million the number of people who have lost their jobs in the U.S. in just two weeks because of the outbreak.
They almost certainly signal the onset of a severe global recession.
With large portions of America under lockdown to try to contain the scourge, job losses for the world's biggest economy could reach as high as 20 million and the unemployment rate could spike to as high as 15 percent by the end of the month, many economists have said.
Meanwhile, there were sobering preparations for a rise in U.S. deaths. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has asked the Pentagon for 100,000 body bags because of the possibility funeral homes will be overwhelmed, the military said.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still showing symptoms almost a week after he announced he had the new coronavirus.
Johnson’s spokesman says the prime minister “continues to have mild symptoms.”
Johnson said Friday he had tested positive for COVID-19 after developing a fever and a cough. He said he was following U.K. health officials’ advice to self-isolate for seven days.
That period is almost up.
Spokesman James Slack did not confirm whether Johnson would end his quarantine. Slack said the prime minister is following "the best medical and scientific advice” about when to end his quarantine.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has recorded its seventh coronavirus case and extended its partial lockdown of activities until May 4.
The Vatican says a Vatican employee tested positive after having been on home quarantine since mid-March because his wife, who works in a hospital, was infected.
The Vatican previously had six cases, including a high-ranking official who lived in the same residence as Pope Francis. The Vatican has said the pope and his closest advisers haven’t been infected.
Francis also Thursday issued a decree extending the suspension of activities of the Vatican City State’s criminal tribunal until May 4.
The Holy See says it has reduced its activities to only work essential for the functioning of the headquarters of the universal Catholic Church.
Francis' Holy Week and Easter services, which begin Sunday with Palm Sunday, are being conducted without the faithful present.

9 a.m. WASHINGTON — The top U.S. infectious disease official says medical experts are no closer to figuring out why some seemingly healthy people infected by the new coronavirus develop only mild or no symptoms but others become very sick.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says on NBC's “Today” show he's been “puzzled from the beginning” of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He says it's “very strange” how the virus can be “completely devastating" and lead to “viral pneumonia and respiratory failure” in one person and be “absolutely nothing” in another person.
Fauci says he's been working in infectious diseases for almost 50 years but doesn't “fully understand exactly what the mechanism of that is."
He says finding the answer is going to require natural history studies, which follow people over time while collecting their health information.
PARIS — France is pushing for stronger solidarity between European Union member states to provide an economic stimulus to restart the economy following the virus crisis.
French Finance minister Bruno Le Maire in English warned Thursday “economic recovery in Europe and throughout the world will be long, drawn out, difficult and costly. There will be no miracle solution.”
He called for a solidarity effort between Europeans, especially Italy and Spain, which are the most hardly hit by the pandemic on the continent.
France will propose the European Union to set up an “exceptional and temporary joint fund” dedicated to helping all member states’ economic recovery in the coming years.
GENEVA — The World Health Organization says it has received donations and pledges to cover its initial appeal for $675 million in support for the first three months of its response to the new coronavirus outbreak.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says $677 million in donations and pledges had been received by Tuesday. The appeal was launched in February.
Some $300 million is for WHO operations and the rest is for the U.N. health agency’s partners or in bilateral support.
Tedros says more support will be needed and a second “Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan” is being finalized.
MOSCOW — The Russian Foreign Ministry says the United States paid for half of the medical supplies Russia sent as "humanitarian aid" this week amid the growing coronavirus pandemic.
The other half of the cost was sponsored by Russia's state investment fund.
A military aircraft loaded with medical equipment and masks took off from Moscow early Wednesday morning following a phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump. The two leaders discussed cooperation in the fight against the new coronavirus.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the shipment "humanitarian aid" and says Trump accepted it "with gratitude."
The U.S. Department of State issued a statement Thursday saying it purchased the supplies from Russia. Russia's Foreign Ministry clarified the U.S. only paid for half of the supplies.
Reports of Russia selling medical supplies to the U.S. elicited outrage among Kremlin critics as the number of coronavirus cases in Russia continues to grow. Hospitals across the country complained about shortages of protective gear and equipment needed to treat the coronavirus patients.
WASHINGTON -- Dr. Anthony Fauci says those on cruise ships who are not sick need to disembark "as quickly as possible" to prevent further spread of the virus.
The top U.S. infectious disease official says those on the ships who are sick with the new coronavirus obviously need medical attention.
Fauci told "CBS This Morning" on Thursday that some of those passengers on cruise are Americans and the others need to be safely returned to their home countries.
Dozens of cruise ships are either lined up at Port Miami and Port Everglades or waiting offshore due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Federal, state and local officials have been negotiating over whether Carnival’s Holland America cruise ships, the Zaandam and Rotterdam, would be allowed to dock at Port Everglades this week.
But the company’s Coral Princess is coming, too, with what that ship’s medical center called a higher-than-normal number of people with flu-like symptoms.
NEW YORK — New data shows the new coronavirus is hitting every part of New York City but especially hard in neighborhoods that tend to be poorer and are more likely to have several people living under one roof.
Data released by city health officials show that residents in the immigrant-rich Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona sections of Queens have tested positive for the virus in far greater numbers and at higher rates per capita than in wealthy in mostly white parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
People living in one Queens zip code just south of LaGuardia Airport were roughly four times as likely to have tested positive as people in the gentrified section of Brooklyn that Mayor Bill de Blasio calls home.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico is reporting its first underage cases of COVID-19.
The Health Department says a 4-year-old girl and a 17-year-old teen are among the more than 300 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The government has reported 12 deaths as health officials warn the peak of cases is not expected until early May.