The Latest COVID-19 Updates (March 29)

Staff Writer

2 p.m. -- CENTRAL, La. — Hundreds of people flouted Louisiana's COVID-19 ban on gatherings, coming on buses and in personal vehicles to the first of three services at their church a day after New Orleans police broke up a funeral gathering of about 100 people. An estimated 500 people of all ages filed into the mustard-yellow and beige Life Tabernacle church in Central, a city of nearly 29,000 outside Baton Rouge. More than 3,500 Louisiana residents have been diagnosed with the disease caused by a new coronavirus, and more than 150 of them have died. Across the street from the church in Central, neighbors gathered in a driveway, carefully staying at least 6 feet apart. “Other congregations are using the Internet, Skype, and other safe ways to congregate. Why can’t they? What makes them so special?" said Paul Quinn. He said state police should enforce the ban. In New Orleans, police broke up a “funeral repast” of about 100 people Saturday afternoon, issuing a warrant for a 28-year-old man who refused to shut it down and giving the band leader a summons, a news release said.

Noon -- The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed as of 12 a.m., March 29, that there are 643 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 3,394 in 58 counties. The county-by-county breakdown said that no confirmed cases have appeared in Jefferson County, and the confirmed cases in Clearfield and Indiana counties stayed at two each, the same as Saturday's report. The department also reported four new deaths among positive cases, bringing the statewide total to 38. County-specific information and a statewide map are available here. All people are either in isolation at home or being treated at the hospital. "Our notable increase in cases over the past week indicates we need everyone to take COVID-19 seriously," Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine said. "Pennsylvanians have a very important job right now: stay calm, stay home and stay safe. We have seen case counts continue to increase and the best way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to stay home."

10:45 a.m. -- WASHINGTON (AP) -- U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says a decision whether to reopen the nation back for business as early as Easter will be a health decision not an economic one. Mnunchin acknowledges surging unemployment numbers and declining GDP as 1 in 3 Americans remain under government orders to stay at home to slow the coronavirus that has killed over 2,000 Americans. But he says President Donald Trump’s top objective is the health of the American public. Mnuchin tells “Fox News Sunday” and CBS’ “Face the Nation” that his own top focus is getting stimulus money from the just-passed $2.2 trillion aid package from Congress immediately into the hands of workers and businesses. He said American workers will get direct deposits of money in three weeks, while a federal program aimed at helping half the workforce by encouraging small business to take out loans to hire back their workers for eight weeks will be up and running by Friday. He said the stimulus package should help keep the economy and workers afloat for 10 weeks, and if more time is needed to stem the coronavirus, the administration will assess what else is needed at that time.

The Latest as of 10 a.m.: Fauci warns U.S. could see some 100,000 deaths
By The Associated Press
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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. government's foremost infection disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the U.S. will certainly have "millions of cases" of COVID-19 and more than 100,000 deaths. As the U.S. tops the world in reported infections from the new coronavirus, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases predicts 100,000-200,000 deaths from the outbreak in the U.S. The U.S. is currently reporting more than 124,000 cases and more than 2,100 deaths. Fauci was speaking to CNN's "State of the Union" as the federal government is discussing rolling back guidelines on social distancing in areas that have not been hard-hit by the outbreak. Fauci says he would only support the rollback in lesser-impacted areas if there is enhanced availability of testing in place to monitor those areas. He acknowledged "it's a little iffy there" right now.
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LISBON, Portugal — The Portuguese health minister says a 14-year-old boy with COVID-19 has died. Authorities said the boy had prior health conditions. Minister Marta Temido said the boy tested positive for the coronavirus but health expert still need to investigate if he died of the disease caused by the virus or other health problems. Portugal reported Sunday it has 119 total deaths from the virus and 38,042 infections.
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WASHINGTON -- House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says President Donald Trump shouldn't be rushing to reopen schools and businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic. The top Democrat in Congress says the government should be "taking every precaution" and that there needs to be more testing for the virus in place to determine if areas currently showing fewer infections are truly at lower risk. Speaking to CNN's State of the Union, Pelosi said Trump's "denial" early in the crisis was "deadly." She says: "As the president fiddles, people are dying, and we have to take every precaution." Pelosi says Congress will have to investigate whether Trump heeded advice from scientific experts as part of an after-action report on the pandemic response. She asks: "What did he know and when did he know it?"
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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is backing the U.N. chief's call for a cease-fire in all conflicts raging across the globe to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. He also said his thoughts are with those constrained to live in groups, citing in particular rest homes for the elderly, military barracks and jails. During his traditional Sunday blessing, the pope called for ''the creation of humanitarian aid corridors, the opening of diplomacy and attention to those who are in situations of great vulnerability.'' He cited U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' appeal this past week for a global truce ''to focus together on the true fight of our lives'' against the coronavirus. Francis, as he has throughout most of the coronavirus emergency due to bans on public gatherings, addressed the faithful from his private library in the Apostolic Palace, and not from a window overlooking St. Peter's Square as is tradition.
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BEIJING — Airline flights from the Chinese province at the center of the coronavirus outbreak resumed Sunday in another step toward lifting restrictions that kept tens of millions of people at home. The first flight took off from Yichang, a city in Hubei province, bound for the eastern city of Fuzhou with 64 passengers, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Most access to Wuhan, the city where the first coronavirus cases were reported in December, was suspended on Jan. 23. Restrictions spread to other cities in Hubei, cutting train, air and road links. The government has been gradually relaxing restrictions since the Communist Party declared victory over the outbreak. Subway and bus service in Wuhan resumed Saturday and the city's train station reopen. Airports in Hubei were scheduled to have a total of 98 departing flights on Sunday, Xinhua reported.
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LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson is writing to every household in the U.K. to urge people to stay home and follow the rules amid the coronavirus outbreak. The letter from Johnson — who has tested positive for the virus — warns Britons that "things will get worse before they get better," as he urged people to stay indoors to slow the spread of the virus. The letter, landing on 30 million doorsteps this week, will be accompanied by a leaflet spelling out the advice. Johnson says that the "more we all follow the rules, the fewer lives will be lost and the sooner life can return to normal.'' Johnson has been accused of sowing confusion in his messages about the crisis. The 55-year-old leader has been accused of failing to follow the British government's distancing measures after he, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack and the chief medical officer for England, Chris Whitty, began self-isolating with symptoms.
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