Coronavirus updates: US has highest national death toll, surpassing Italy

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 19,701 people in the U.S. have died, the highest out of any country.

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

Worldwide, more than 1.7 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. 

2:40 p.m.: Numerous cases, 8 deaths at Colorado nursing home

The majority of residents at a nursing home in Aurora, Colorado, have tested positive for COVID-19 and eight people have died, according to the state’s Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE).

Five of the eight deaths at Juniper Village were confirmed as COVID-19 related, according to a statement from the department. The coroner is considering the remaining three deaths as probable cases of COVID-19.

Out of the 46 residents, 33 tested positive, along with 16 of the 25 staff members, according to the statement.

“We know that the populations in these facilities are among the most vulnerable and are at highest risk of severe illness from this virus,” Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist at the Colorado Dept. of Public Health and Environment, said in a statement. “The department is doing everything we can to be as transparent as possible regarding reported outbreaks to keep people safe while protecting patient privacy.”

Testing began at the facility after state officials learned that several staff had tested positive. The testing was done through a private lab.

An investigation at Juniper Village began on March 27 after epidemiologists from Tri-County Health Department notified CDPHE that their local investigations of positive COVID-19 cases included several health care workers from the facility. Since then, infection preventionists and epidemiologists from both departments have conducted virtual consultations with Juniper Village, including assessing the facility’s current practices.

A team from CDPHE’s Health Facilities Division conducted an on-site visit on April 2 after receiving a formal complaint about the home’s infection prevention practices.

The investigation remains ongoing and could take several months.

2:09 p.m.: 12,561 cases, 254 deaths in Texas

There are at least 12,561 cases reported in Texas, with Houston reporting the most in the state at 3,261 cases, according to the state’s Department of Health. The total number of people tested so far is 120,533.

At least 254 people have died, while at least 1,617 people have recovered.

Governor Greg Abbott announced Friday that he would issue an executive order this week, outlining his plan to reopen businesses.

1:29 p.m.: US surpasses Italy for most confirmed deaths

The United States has surpassed Italy for the highest national death toll.

At least 19,701 people have died in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins University tally. Earlier today, Italy reported a total of 19,468 deaths nationwide. 

12:57 p.m.: UK death toll at 9,875

The latest daily death toll reported in the UK is 917, bringing the total to 9,875, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

There are at least 78,991 people who have tested positive out of the 269,598 people who have been tested, according to the department.

12:30 p.m.: Stimulus payments to arrive via direct deposit for some

Some Americans will see their first stimulus check payments via direct deposit, ABC News has confirmed with a senior official at the Department of Treasury.

The first payments to Americans who received their 2018, 2019 tax returns via direct deposit will be going out no later than April 15th, according to the official.

Non-filers are being directed to go to IRS.gov to enter their information so they can get their economic impact payments faster by direct deposit. There is not yet a commitment from the Treasury at this time regarding people who are waiting on paper checks, which is expected to take longer to disburse.

The Treasury will also launch a new app next week called “Get My Payment” to expedite the delivery of funds for filers who did not receive their refund electronically.

12:17 p.m.: US nears Italy for most confirmed deaths

The United States is nearing Italy to become the country with the most confirmed deaths.

There are at least 18,860 deaths in the U.S. and at least 19,468 in Italy, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University and Italy’s Civil Protection Agency.

12:02 p.m.: Death toll in New York reaches 8,627, Cuomo pushes back on mayor’s school closure

There were 783 deaths in New York in the last 24 hours, putting the total number of people who have died at 8,627, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference.

Cuomo continued to say that New York is flattening the curve, though he said the numbers were still stark.

“The [death toll] is somewhat stabilizing, but it is stabilizing at a horrific rate,” he said. “These are just incredible numbers, depicting incredible loss and pain.”

He also spoke about reopening the state, saying the decision was both a public health and economic decision.

The governor said he will put together a team to look at what happened in Wuhan, China, which was at one point the epicenter, when the city reopened.

Cuomo also pushed back on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announcement earlier this morning that the city’s public schools would close for the remainder of the year. Cuomo called it the mayor’s “opinion” rather than a definitive decision. He said any decision would be made not only for New York City, but the state as a whole.

10:51 a.m.: PPP estimated to run out of money April 17

More than 600,000 forgivable loans have been approved for the Paycheck Protection Program, amounting to a total of $168 billion of the $350 billion program, according to White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

Kudlow appeared on Fox Business’ “Lou Dobbs Tonight” Friday evening and provided the update. The program is part of the $2 trillion economic relief package.

Even with that money, Kudlow said the administration estimates that earmarks for small businesses will be exhausted by April 17. He said that’s the reason he’s asking Congress for an additional $250 billion.

Democrats in Congress blocked the measure this week because they said they want more money for hospitals, states and cities.

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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