The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus marched to another record-setting pace early Saturday, with nearly 1,200 deaths in 24 hours as federal emergency workers tried to answer desperate pleas for respirators from dozens of states.
Many traditions of American life are changing daily, with the nation’s most iconic retailers – including Walmart, Target, Costco and Home Depot – invoking new rules about how many people can be allowed inside stores. Some won’t allow kids. Others require face masks.
States are increasingly calling out the National Guard to assist state police in enforcing shelter-at-home orders. In Pennsylvania, a motorist taking a scenic car ride was stopped by police and given a $200 ticket for violating stay-at-home orders in that state.
“Stay at Home means stay at home,” Pennsylvania state police spokesman Ryan Tarkowski said.
There were more than 278,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. by 6 a.m. ET Saturday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. The nation’s death toll stood at 7,159. Worldwide, the death toll was nearly 59,000, with 1.1 million people infected.
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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.
COVID-19 is bringing a quantum shift to the way America shops
As the nation continues to grapple with the growing coronavirus crisis, retailers including Walmart, Target and Costco are limiting how many shoppers can enter stores to encourage social distancing.
Some retailers are taking limits even further. Wisconsin-based Menards will no longer allow children under 16 to be in any of its stores due to the COVID-pandemic, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, part of the USA TODAY Network, reported Friday.
Menards spokesman Jeff Abbott told KVRR Local News, a North Dakota station, that the home improvement chain plans to start taking shoppers’ and employees’ temperatures across the company’s 300-plus stores.
And in Miami Beach starting April 7, all customers and employees will need to wear masks inside grocery stores, restaurants and pharmacies, an emergency measure approved by the South Florida city Friday.
– Kelly Tyko
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.
– Courtney Subramanian
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
Wisconsin’s GOP lawmakers reject bid to delay election over virus
Republicans lawmakers who control the Wisconsin legislature rejected Gov. Tony Evers’ last-minute plea Friday to stop people from voting together on Tuesday to prevent thousands from being exposed to the coronavirus.
The GOP leaders instead criticized Evers for also calling for the election to move to May 19 — a reversal from pushing to keep the election date in place — and not asking them to take action before Friday.
“There’s no question that an election is just as important as getting take-out food,” said Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos.
But Fitzgerald and Vos had no answer to how local election officials are supposed to keep people safe as a massive shortage of poll workers has resulted in the closure or reduction of polling locations, forcing more people to vote at a single site.
Milwaukee election officials said Friday they only had enough poll workers to open five voting locations for Tuesday’s election, which could draw as many as 50,000 voters — putting thousands at risk of infection.
Evers called a special legislative session for 4 p.m. Saturday to extend the election date to May 19 and convert the contest entirely to a mail-in election.
– Molly Beck, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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.
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
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How many cases of coronavirus in US?
The United States had more than 278,000 cases of coronavirus as of Saturday and more than 7,100 deaths.