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Coronavirus 2020 Outbreak: Latest Updates

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This article was updated on April 4, 2020, at 6:05 p.m. ET.

The United States now leads the world in cases of COVID-19. We'll provide the latest updates on coronavirus cases, government response, impacts to our daily life, and more.

What is the latest news?

Trump: Toughest COVID-19 Weeks Upon Us

April 4, 6:05 p.m. 

The next 2 weeks will be the toughest yet in terms of deaths due to COVID-19, President Donald Trump said during a White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing on Saturday.

“There will be a lot of death, unfortunately,” he said. “We want as few lives lost as possible.”

Federal and state officials will focus on the hardest-hit areas, such as New York and New Jersey, he said. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and Department of Health and Human Services are requesting daily use numbers to know where ventilators and masks should go. About 1,000 military medical personnel will be sent to New York.

“New York is the hottest of all hot spots, with New Jersey next door,” Trump said. “Where you have people on top of people, it's always tough.”

Spain and Italy are moving through the pandemic and beginning to see drops in new cases and hospitalizations, Deborah Birx, MD, a member of the task force, said during the briefing. Day-by-day case totals, however, show both countries fluctuating between increases and drops.

The U.S. is about 12 days behind those countries, with states such as Washington and California beginning to show results, she said.

“In smaller states, we're trying to learn from them how to do surveillance and being able to look at testing in a more comprehensive way to do surveillance and mitigation simultaneously,” Birx said.

Officials are watching potential hot spots in Detroit, Chicago, New Orleans, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and the District of Columbia, particularly metropolitan areas and the surrounding counties, Birx said.

“The next 2 weeks are extraordinarily important,” she said. “This is the moment to do everything you can on the [social distancing] guidelines.”

On March 28, the FDA issued an Emergency Use Authorization to allow hydroxychloroquine sulfate to be used in clinical trials and for physician use, which will happen on a case-by-case basis, Stephen Hahn, MD, commissioner of Food and Drugs, said during the briefing.

“The assessment needs to be done between the patient and the doctor,” he added.

The authorization will allow the drug to be in the supply chain for those who need hydroxychloroquine sulfate for chronic disease prescriptions such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, Hahn said.

On April 3, a formal convalescent plasma program began, which allows patients who contracted and recovered from COVID-19 to transfer immunity to sick patients, Hahn said. The American Red Cross is leading the effort to scale up a program to have plasma with the immunity proteins on hand. More details about this program will be released soon.

“This needs to be studied,” Hahn said. “We don't want to provide false hope, but there's definitely hope.”

In the meantime, social and physical distancing guidelines will make the biggest difference in preventing new cases, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during the briefing. People shouldn't be surprised as death counts continue to increase throughout next week, he said, which will come from positive COVID-19 patients already in hospitals. At the same time, Fauci encouraged ongoing mitigation guidelines such as staying home, teleworking, avoiding crowds, and staying 6 feet apart from others to keep new cases down.

“That's our most important tool. The vaccines and drugs will come later,” he said. “As sobering and as difficult as this is, what we are doing is making a difference, so we need to continue to do that.”

Fauci confirmed to reporters that the risk of virus resurgence is “real” and that surveillance and contact tracing efforts need to be in place by the time social distancing efforts are pulled back.

“You have to have the capability, in a pristine and precise way, to have containment when you do see it [resurgence],” he said. “We need the ability to test, identify, isolate, and do contact tracing.”

U.S. Cases Top 300,000 as Deaths Continue to Climb

April 4, 4:34 p.m. 

More than 300,000 Americans have been infected with the new coronavirus and more than 8,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking cases around the world. 

New York remains the hotbed of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, as more than 3,500 have died in the Empire State. Areas around Detroit, Seattle, and New Orleans have also seen tremendous growth in cases and deaths. 

Scott Gottlieb, MD, the former head of the CDC, said Saturday that unless there are major breakthroughs soon in treatments and vaccines, the impact on the U.S. will not go away anytime soon. 

"Absent major technological breakthrough before fall (effective drugs) American life won't normalize, economic activity won't snap back," he tweeted. "Which makes it frustrating why policy makers seem oddly unfocused about getting the kinds of therapeutics that should be obtainable.

"If we can't get a very effective medicine cabinet by Summer, and sharply reduce the threat from #COVID19, then the alternative will be to start considering what Fall looks like when we can only operate at a 75% economy -- and take more steps now to mitigate ensuing hardships."

Meanwhile in Europe, where more than 15,000 have died in Italy and 11,000 in Spain, countries have abandoned the European Union tenet of open borders in an attempt to slow the spread. Most country borders are closed across the continent.  

Arkansas Governor: Why I Haven't Issued Stay-at-Home Order

April 4, 12:05 p.m. 

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the first governor to issue a stay-at-home order to curb the spread of coronavirus, posed a pointed question to governors who haven't followed suit. “What are you waiting for?” he said on CNN.

The governor of one such state, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, explained his reasons why on Friday in his weekly radio address to the state.

“At this time, we have not issued a stay-at-home order primarily because most people are making responsible choices. ... Our targeted actions are working. In Arkansas, even without the stay-at-home order, the rate of growth in the number of cases has flattened. That's not true in some states that began sheltering-in-place early on."

Hutchinson said states with stay-at-home orders still have many exceptions.

“If I initiated a stay-at-home order similar to California's, more than 700,000 Arkansans would still get up and go to work the next morning. Thousands of others would visit hardware stores, Kroger, Walgreens, and Walmart. …

“We can't be pressured into taking measures simply because all the other states are doing it. When we need to do more, we will. And let me assure you, we will continue to listen our public health experts.”

Arkansas is, however, one of 36 states and Washington, DC, to be approved as a federal disaster area, which frees up federal money and resources to help fight the virus's spread.

As of Saturday, statewide orders haven't been issued in nine states -- Arkansas, Iowa, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming, according to the New York Times. In the last four states listed, some local governments have issued stay-home orders.

On Friday, Alabama and Missouri became the latest states to issue stay-at-home orders. The governors of Florida and Georgia, who'd earlier resisted the idea, also issued orders this week.

Ninety-three percent of the U.S. population is under orders to remain home, plus thousands more in the states with partial restrictions.

CDC: Use Face Coverings in Public

April 3, 6:53 p.m.

As more studies show that people without symptoms of COVID-19 are spreading the virus, the CDC is advising that people use cloth masks or face coverings in public.

The anticipated announcement, which reverses what the agency has previously said about using masks, is a voluntary public health measure, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, said during Friday's White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing.

Adams acknowledged that the “guidance on masks has been confusing to the American people.”

The CDC, World Health Organization, Surgeon General's office and most public health organizations originally recommended against the general public wearing masks. Based on the evidence at the time, Adams said, it wasn't considered  necessary for healthy people to wear masks. Public health officials also wanted to ensure there were enough masks for health care professionals caring for infected patients.

But scientists now know that a portion of people  with the coronavirus may lack symptoms – possibly 25% or higher. And others who are pre-symptomatic can transmit the virus before they show signs of COVID-19.

“In light of this new evidence, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings,” Adams said, including in grocery stores and pharmacies. “The CDC is always looking at the data and evolving the recommendations, and new ones will come as the evidence dictates.”

The guideline discourages people from using medical-grade or surgical-grade masks, such as N95 masks, and instead, leave those for medical professionals. People can purchase basic cloth or fabric masks online or make them at home.

If people choose to wear a face covering, they should wash their hands first, Adams said. They should not touch their faces while wearing a mask, and carefully remove the mask after use and wash their hands.

“This is all about you protecting me and me protecting you,” Adams said.

The new precaution doesn't replace CDC guidance on social distancing, including staying at home as much as possible. That includes staying six feet away from others, not shaking hands, and washing hands with soap and water for 20 seconds throughout the day.

President Donald Trump said during the briefing that he would not wear a mask.

“You can do it. You don't have to,” he said. “I'm choosing not to do it.”

In other news from the White House briefing:

  • Social distancing measures seem to be working in California and Washington, said Vice President Mike Pence. Those states “aren't out of the woods yet,” he added, but mitigation efforts seem to be helping. The administration is now looking at the next potential hotspots, such as New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, Boston, Washington D.C, Pennsylvania and Colorado.
  • Hospitals will be reimbursed for the cost of delivering care to uninsured COVID-19 patients, Trump said. Funds will come from the $100 billion designated for health care providers in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
  • People  who were employed and lost their jobs due to COVID-19 can join a special enrollment period for health insurance on HealthCare.gov.

FDA Eases Blood Donor Rules During COVID-19 Outbreak

April 3, 3:14 p.m. 

The FDA announced new rules on who can give blood, a change it hopes will ease a nationwide blood shortage that began with the coronavirus outbreak.

The biggest changes are to FDA guidelines that were set up years ago to curb the spread of HIV.

The new rules say it's OK for a man who has sex with men to donate blood as long as the sex didn't happen in the last 3 months. Earlier rules called for men to avoid same-sex activity for 1 year before they could give blood.

The new guidelines affect some women who have male sex partners. The FDA says women should wait 3 months before giving blood if they're in a sexual relationship with a man who has sex with other men. The earlier restriction was 1 year.

The FDA also made it easier for people with tattoos and body piercings to give blood. In the past you had to wait a year to donate blood if you had a new tattoo or piercing. Now you only have to wait 3 months.

The FDA says the new guidelines won't affect the safety of the nation's blood supply.

There's been a dramatic drop in donations to blood banks since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis. It's mostly due to cancellation of blood drives and a decline in walk-in donors at blood collection centers.

The American Red Cross says it's taking extra steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 at its donation centers. When you show up to give blood, a Red Cross worker will take your temperature before you enter the building. The beds that donors use are spread out to allow for social distancing. And Red Cross staffers are regularly wiping down all surfaces that a donor touches.

Cruise Ship With Coronavirus Patients Docks in Florida

April 3, 10:20 a.m. 

Holland America cruise ships the Zaandam and the Rotterdam were allowed to dock in Fort Lauderdale, FL, on Thursday, after being rejected by other ports because some passengers and crew have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

But not all 2,300 people aboard will be allowed to get off the two ships right away, say the cruise line and the mayor of Fort Lauderdale.

Four people died at sea on the Zaandam after it departed Argentina on March 7, with two of those deaths attributed to the coronavirus, USA Today reported, citing Holland America. The newspaper says said nine people on the ship had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Guests will be screened in Fort Lauderdale before being allowed off the ship, the cruise line said.

“Guests who still have symptoms will remain on board and disembark at a later date to be finalized after they have fully recovered and meet the CDC guidelines for being fit to travel,” Holland America said in a statement. “No crew from either ship will disembark in Fort Lauderdale.”

Healthy passengers will transfer directly from the ships onto buses and go to airports for flights home, with the majority taking charter flights, Holland America said. Florida residents can go home in private cars, the cruise line said.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis posted a statement on Twitter saying the cruise line agreed to take efforts to keep the virus from spreading locally. The “vast majority” of passengers are not showing symptoms, he said.

“A small number of critically ill passengers will go to local hospitals,” he said. “Others who are mildly ill or have symptoms will be quarantined at sea on the ships until they recover.”

The cruise line said 107 guests and 143 crew members had shown flu-like symptoms since March 22, with all but 17 of those cases being on the Zaandam. The ships met last month, and all healthy passengers on the Zaandam transferred to the Rotterdam.

The cruise line said no passengers have left the ships since March 14 and passengers have self-isolated in their cabins since March 22.

About a dozen cruise ships are stranded at sea as ports deny them entry because of fears of the coronavirus pandemic.

The problem is so acute that the U.S. Coast Guard issued a directive March 29 saying all foreign-flagged cruise ships at sea with more than 50 people on board should prepare to care for sick people themselves or to seek help from nations where the vessels are registered.

Coast Guard Rear Admiral E.C. Jones signed the bulletin. His district includes Florida and Puerto Rico.

Trump Tests Negative Again for COVID-19

April 2, 7:37 p.m.

President Donald Trump said he's tested negative a second time for COVID-19. Trump said he took the test Thursday morning and the result came back within 15 minutes. He took the first test in mid-March.

He said the government will impose new restrictions on nursing homes, which have been hot spots for coronavirus outbreaks. The facilities will be required to separate “healthy and sick” patients and make sure the same staff members serve the same patients daily, he said. Nursing homes are already prohibited from allowing unnecessary visitors.

How many people have been diagnosed with the virus, and how many have died?

According to Johns Hopkins University, there are more than 1.14 million cases and more than 60,000 deaths worldwide. More than 223,000 people have also recovered. 

How many cases of COVID-19 are in the United States?

There are more than 274,000 cases in the U.S. of COVID-19 and more than 7,000 deaths, according to data complied by Johns Hopkins University and The COVID Tracking Project. See a map of cases and deaths by state here


What travel restrictions are there?

The State Department has urged all U.S. citizens to avoid any international travel due to the global impact of the new coronavirus.

If you are currently overseas, the department wants you to come home, “unless [you] are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” according to a statement.

“Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice,” the agency says.

In addition, the State Department says it will not issue any new passports except for people with a “qualified life-or-death emergency and who need a passport for immediate international travel within 72 hours.” The U.S. is banning all foreign travel to the United States from most of Europe for 30 days beginning midnight Friday, March 13.  American citizens are not included in the ban. 

The U.S. has also temporarily suspended nonessential travel to Mexico and Canada.

Kathleen Doheny, Ralph Ellis, Jonathan Mintz and Carolyn Crist contributed to this report.


WebMD Health News Reviewed by Neha Pathak, MD on January 24, 2020



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