Coronavirus updates: Some recovered COVID-19 patients re-tested positive: WHO

Halfpoint /iStock(NEW YORK) — While many countries around the world and cities in the U.S. are pointing toward positive signs that social distancing might be finally flattening the curve, the novel coronavirus death toll continues to be staggering.

In the U.S., more than 500,000 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. At least 18,693 people in the U.S. have died.

Across the globe, at least 102,800 people have died from the coronavirus.

Worldwide, more than 1.69 million people have been diagnosed since the virus emerged in China in December. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.

Today’s biggest developments:

  • US cases now over half a million
  • Michael Avenatti granted release from prison due to COVID-19
  • Global death toll tops 100,000

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern. Please refresh this page for updates. 

10:44 a.m.: US providing assistance to Italy

The State Department announced that President Donald Trump has authorized an assistance package to help Italy, one of the hardest-hit countries amid the pandemic, as they continue to fight the virus.

The package includes support for international organizations and NGOs, many of which provide essential relief to Italian communities, according to a statement from the State Department. The U.S. will also encourage donations from the country’s private sector, while American military personnel who live in Italy will help provide telemedicine services, facilitate the transport and assembly of field hospitals, treat non-COVID-19 patients and support the transport of supplies, fuel and food.

The State Department said that Italy “has been at the forefront of the fight against COVID-19.”

“This critical assistance will not only help the Italian people, but will also bolster global trade and supply chains. We are all in this together, and only through transparency, cooperation, and mutual support will we be able to defeat COVID-19,” the statement read.

10:23 a.m.: Governors ask Congress for $500 billion for relief funds

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the leaders of the National Governors Association, have asked Congress for $500 billion for the states as they continue to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The funds would help states bridge their revenue shortfalls and allow them to continue providing services amid the crisis. Hogan, a Republican, and Cuomo, a Democrat, asked the money be added to the next relief package since the CARES Act did not provide money for state governments.

It’s not clear when Congress will advance another tranche of relief funds.

Democratic leaders have said they would continue negotiating with Treasure Sec. Steven Mnuchin on a broad, follow-up emergency relief package.

However, GOP leaders issued a statement Saturday morning saying that the Paycheck Protection Program needs to be replenished before anything else can happen.

9:50 a.m.: NYC public schools to remain closed for rest of year

The New York City public schools will remain closed for the rest of year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced in a press conference.

He called it a public health decision.

“It’s not an easy decision. It’s not a decision that is satisfying for all of us who have devoted so much time to make sure our kids got the very best education, but it is the right decision,” de Blasio said.

The mayor said he would work with schools to ensure tele schooling continued.

He outlined his five-point plan to better serve the families of students, including handing out an additional 240,000 tech devices to students who need one by the end of April, expanding the parent help line and staffing, launching new online activities, graduating members of the senior class, and preparing so that schools will be ready to reopen in September.

De Blasio also spoke on how the city would better protect the homeless population. The mayor said that around 6,000 homeless people are expected to be housed in hotels by April 20, with a priority for those with COVID-19 symptoms or are COVID-19 positive, seniors, and those in shelters where maintaining social distance is difficult.

7:46 am.: Some COVID-19 patients testing positive again: WHO

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Saturday that it was looking into reports of some COVID-19 patients testing positive again after initially testing negative for the disease while being considered for discharge from hospitals.

South Korean officials on Friday reported 91 patients thought cleared of the new coronavirus had tested positive again.

“These are very sensitive tests, so you can vacillate sometimes between negative and positive,” said ABC medical contributor and infectious diseases physician Dr. Todd Ellerin when asked about the report.

“What’s more important is to make sure these patients don’t have symptoms. If you don’t have symptoms but have a positive test, it may be that you have dead virus that’s still being picked up, but you can’t transmit,” said Ellerin.

6:15 a.m.: 70 Georgia nursing home resident test positive

A nursing home in Georgia announced Friday that 70 of its residents have tested positive for COVID-19. Three of those residents have been hospitalized.

“We are doing everything we can to protect our residents and staff. This includes providing appropriate PPE, taking heightened precautions and adhering to protocols outlined by the Center for Disease Control,” Windermere Health and Rehabilitation Center’s parent company, SavaSeniorCare Administrative Services, said in a statement Friday.

The senior living center said it has isolated the positive patients, is screening employees before every shift and has cut off visitation to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

“We know that this is an unsettling and scary time for our residents and their family members,” the nursing home said. “We are in the process of contacting the family members of every single resident in our Center to keep them informed of their loved one’s condition as it evolves.”

Nursing homes and other facilities that care for the elderly have been particularly hit hard by the coronavirus. The Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, was the scene of one of the first and most-deadly coronavirus outbreaks last month, with 81 residents infected and 34 deaths.

Since Feb. 29, at least 400 nursing facilities in more than 25 states have seen at least one resident contract COVID-19, according to the CDC.

4:47 a.m.: Michael Avenatti granted temporary release from prison due to COVID-19

Celebrity attorney Michael Avenatti, who represented adult film star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuit against President Donald Trump, was granted temporary release from jail by a California federal judge late Friday due to COVID-19.

Once released from the Metropolitan Correctional Center in New York City, Avenatti will be quarantined for 14 days at a Federal Bureau of Prisons facility to make sure he’s not infected with the coronavirus. After completing the mandatory quarantine, he will be allowed to travel to Los Angeles to stay at the home of a friend for 90 days.

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He will not be allowed to leave the house except for emergencies and must wear a monitoring bracelet. The judge also said Avenatti can’t use the internet, can’t open any new bank or credit accounts and can’t engage in any transaction exceeding $500.

Avenatti’s $1 million bail was posted by Hubert Bromma, who has authored a book called “How to Invest in Offshore Real Estate and Pay Little or No Taxes.”

A jury convicted Avenatti in February for trying to extort Nike. He was found guilty on wire fraud, extortion and transmitting a threat in interstate communications charges.

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