NYC, LA advise residents to cover faces outdoors amid coronavirus pandemic

jarun011/iStock(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has killed at least 5,949 people in the United States and more than 53,000 worldwide.

Worldwide, more than 1 million people have been diagnosed with the new respiratory virus, which causes an illness known officially as COVID-19. Over 210,000 of those diagnosed have recovered, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

With more than 245,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, the U.S. has by far the highest national tally in the world.

Here’s how the story developed Thursday. All times Eastern:

9:13 p.m.: LA asks residents to cover faces

Joining New York City, which made the announcement hours earlier, Los Angeles County citizens have been asked to cover their faces in public as well.

Mayor Eric Garcetti and Dr. Barbara Ferrer, the director of the L.A. County Health Department, asked residents to use cloth masks, bandanas or a scarf, but not use commercial masks.

Face coverings, she said, should be worn by the general public, not to protect themselves, but to protect others by keeping their respiratory droplets to themselves. Commercial face masks are in short supply and should be reserved for those on the front lines for their own protection, she said.

There were 534 new cases in Los Angeles County in the last day — a 15% increase — for a total of 4,045.

Garcetti also announced 11 new deaths for a total of 78.

8:25 p.m.: Washington extends stay-at-home another month

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee took the powerful step of extending the state’s stay-at-home order for more than a month — to May 4.

“We hope May 4 will be the end … but no one can guarantee that,” he said.

Inslee said through Wednesday there have been 262 deaths in the state and 6,585 cases.

He did say, however, that he believed the state has begun to “flatten the curve.”

6:11 p.m.: eBay to launch new program to support struggling small businesses

Auction site eBay announced it will be pledging up to $100 million to assist small businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.

The site will launch the “Up and Running” accelerator program that’s aimed at helping businesses that don’t have a strong online presence.

The company will give a retailer a free basic online store for three months, and waive fees. New users will also receive free marketing tools, discounted shipping supplies and webinars through the program.

5:28 p.m.: Javits Center temporary hospital opens

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the temporary hospital at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan will now treat COVID-19 patients.

When the U.S. Army built the 2,500-bed emergency facility, initially it was used for non-coronavirus cases, however Cuomo said the rapid rise in positive cases forced a change of plans.

“I asked President Trump this morning to consider the request and the urgency of the matter, and the president has just informed me that he granted New York’s request,” the governor said in a statement.

5:26 p.m.: Trump tests negative again

President Donald Trump again tested negative after taking a second COVID-19 test Thursday morning, White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said.

Trump’s first negative test was in March.

5:12 p.m.: New York City advises residents wear face coverings

New York City’s Health Department and Mayor Bill de Blasio issued new guidance to residents urging them to wear face coverings outside.

The coverings can be as simple as a scarf or a bandana, but they must cover the mouth and nose, according to city Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

De Blasio said the new guidelines, which are made to complement social distancing rules, were issued because of new data on the coronavirus.

“I want to emphasize this … the reason for this guidance is studies show some asymptomatic people may be transmitting the disease,” he said at his daily briefing.

De Blasio said New Yorkers who aren’t health workers or first responders should not use a surgical mask.

“Leave those alone, leave those to the people who need it to save lives,” the mayor said.

Barbot advised that face coverings should be cleaned with soap and water and dried daily. The health department put further details about the face covering advisory on its website.

Later in the evening, the city released new data on the number of cases. As of Thursday evening, there were 49,707 confirmed cases, and 1,562 COVID-19 related deaths.

About 1,400 people have died in New York City, with tens of thousands more testing positive.

3:20 p.m.: Cruise ships with sick passengers allowed to dock in Florida

A pair of cruise ships carrying dozens of people with flu-like symptoms, including at least nine who have tested positive for COVID-19, will be allowed to dock at Port Everglades in Florida, says Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis.

Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said it would be a mistake to bring the passengers from the MS Zaandam and MS Rotterdam ashore because the state’s hospitals need to be saved for residents and not “foreign nationals.”

The decision to let the ships dock was made by the Coast Guard, Homeland Security, health officials and Broward County officials, said Trantalis.

He said Holland America, which operates the ships, has “agreed to a strict set of protocols … intended to protect our community by ensuring there is no contact with local residents.”

“The vast majority of passengers are not ill and have no symptoms, they will be placed on private chartered buses, taken directly to the airport” for chartered flights, the mayor said

“A small number of critically ill passengers will go to local hospitals,” he said, while some who are mildly sick or have symptoms will quarantine on the ships.

The illnesses began aboard the MS Zaandam, which set out from Buenos Aires for a South America cruise on March 7, with 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board. The voyage was supposed to end in San Antonio, Chile, on March 21 but the vessel has remained at sea since the Chilean government refused it permission to dock and disembark.

The ships later passed through the Panama Canal and the government of Panama also denied approval to disembark guests.

At least four people on board the ship have died and several have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Holland America.

Last week, the cruise line announced plans to move “healthy” people from the MS Zaandam to another one of its ships, the MS Rotterdam. Holland America Line president Orlando Ashford said he wanted to dispel the myth of a healthy ship versus a sick one, explaining that the intention was for the two cruises to work in tandem so that they can reduce the workload on each vessel, “create maximum flexibility” and move passengers that have been stuck self-isolating in inside cabins for a week to cabins that have access to light and fresh air.

There are now 442 guests and 603 crew aboard the MS Zaandam, and 808 guests and 583 crew on the MS Rotterdam, including a total of 311 U.S. citizens. Since March 22, at least 97 guests — 83 on Zaandam and 14 on Rotterdam — and 136 crew — all on Zaandam — have presented with influenza-like symptoms, according to Holland America Line.

“We have seen a significant decline in the presentation of new cases on Zaandam, with only one new case reporting in the past 24 hours,” the cruise line said Wednesday.

2:50 p.m.: Louisiana cases jump 42% in 1 day

Coronavirus cases in Louisiana jumped 42% in one day. On Wednesday, there were 6,424 cases statewide and now the state is reporting 9,150 cases.

There are 1,639 patients in hospitals, including 507 individuals on ventilators, said state officials.

The death toll in Louisiana has climbed to 310.

Gov. John Bel Edwards tweeted Thursday, “We are doing everything we can to source ventilators and increase our medical capacity & we need everyone else to do everything they can to slow the spread and stay at home. This is going to get worse before it gets better, but how much worse depends on all of us.”

2:30 p.m.: 6 charged for coughing, spitting on cops and claiming to have coronavirus

Six people have been charged in New Jersey for allegedly spitting or coughing on police officers while claiming to have the coronavirus, Gov. Phil Murphy said Thursday.

“We are taking a zero-tolerance policy against anyone who acts so stupidly and puts others in danger or makes them fear for their health,” the governor tweeted. “If you engage in such behavior, you’re going to face – at the least – fines of up to $10,000 and up to 18 months in jail.”

In New Jersey, over 25,000 people have been diagnosed with the coronavirus and 537 of them have died.

12:36 p.m.: FDA loosens restrictions for gay men to donate blood

The FDA is loosening restrictions that have blocked men who have sex with men from donating blood within 12 months of their last sexual encounter, citing concerns dating back to the 1980’s about the transmission for HIV or AIDS through the blood supply.

The new restrictions will be to defer men from donating if they have had sex with another man within the last 3 months.

The FDA’s change follows urging from gay rights activists and Democratic senators who cited the recent blood shortages caused by the novel coronavirus pandemic as a catalyst for change.

12:04 p.m.: Democratic National Convention postponed to Aug. 17

The Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, initially set for July 13, has been pushed back to Aug. 17 due to the coronavirus pandemic,  according to senior convention and party officials.

“Ultimately, the health and safety of our convention attendees and the people of Milwaukee is our top priority,” said DNC Chair Tom Perez. “And we will continue to be in contact with local, state, and federal health officials as we monitor this fluid situation.”

11:45 a.m.: More than 50,000 cases in NYC

New York City — the U.S. city hit hardest by the pandemic — has over 51,000 people who have tested positive for COVID-19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

New York state has 92,000 diagnosed cases. Of those, 13,000 are hospitalized, including 3,396 patients in intensive care units, Cuomo said.

Over 7,000 people have been discharged from hospitals in the state.

New York state now has lost 2,373 lives, Cuomo said.

The apex in New York will depend on social distancing, Cuomo said. Depending on the model, the apex could be anywhere from 7 to 30 days away, he said.

10:50 a.m.: 100-year-old charged for attending large funeral

A 100-year-old is among 15 people charged for attending a funeral in Lakewood, New Jersey, in violation of the governor’s executive order banning large gatherings.

About 60 to 70 people had gathered for the Wednesday funeral, and when officers tried to disperse the crowd, some “became unruly and argumentative,” according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and the Lakewood Township Police.

The 15 people — including the 100-year-old — were charged with Violating Any Rule or Regulation Adopted by the Governor During a State of Emergency.

10:50 a.m.: 100-year-old charged for attending large funeral

A 100-year-old is among 15 people charged for attending a funeral in Lakewood, New Jersey, in violation of the governor’s executive order banning large gatherings.

About 60 to 70 people had gathered for the Wednesday funeral, and when officers tried to disperse the crowd, some “became unruly and argumentative,” according to the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and the Lakewood Township Police.

The 15 people — including the 100-year-old — were charged with Violating Any Rule or Regulation Adopted by the Governor During a State of Emergency.

10:25 a.m.: FEMA asks Defense Department for 100,000 body bags

FEMA has requested that the Defense Department make 100,000 body bags available to help state health agencies with mortuary affairs, a Pentagon spokesman confirmed to ABC News.

The request comes as the White House revealed this week that as many as 200,000 Americans could die from the coronavirus.

Bloomberg, which was first to report on FEMA’s request, said the Department of Defense will initially draw from its stockpile of 50,000 bags before having to purchase more.

9:44 a.m.: Vatican reports 7th positive case

One new positive case of COVID-19 has been reported in Vatican City, the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni said in a statement Thursday that a Holy See employee has tested positive for the coronavirus. The employee has been in isolation since mid-March, after his wife contracted the virus from an Italian hospital where she works, according to Bruni.

This brings the total number of positive cases in the Vatican to seven. The city-state is surrounded by Rome.

“On this occasion it is useful to clarify that, like all institutions, the various entities and departments of the Holy See and of the Vatican City State continue only in essential, mandatory and indifferent activities,” Bruni said, “clearly adopting to the maximum extent possible the appropriate measures that have already been communicated, which include remote work and shift criteria, in order to safeguard staff health.”

9:07 a.m.: Florida reaches conditional approval on Carnival’s entry plan for two cruise ships

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Florida Department of Health have reached a conditional agreement with Carnival Corp., the world’s largest cruise line, on an entry plan for two ships carrying dozens of people with flu-like symptoms.

The commissioner of Florida’s Broward County, Michael Udine, said via Twitter Thursday morning that Carnival’s plan is still subject to approval from Broward County, where the ships would dock. Until then, the pair of vessels will remain outside U.S. waters.

It’s unclear how many passengers would be allowed to disembark.

Both cruise ships — the MS Zaandam and the MS Rotterdam — are operated by Holland America Line, a subsidiary of Carnival.

Since March 22, a total of 97 guests and 136 crew on board have presented influenza-like symptoms, while at least nine people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Four people on board have died, according to Holland America Line.

8:59 a.m.: Record 6.6 million Americans file for unemployment

A record-smashing 6,648,000 people filed for unemployment in the United States in the week ending March 28 amid the coronavirus crisis, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday.

Thousands of businesses across the country have been forced to close due to government-mandated stay-at-home orders.

8:28 a.m.: Spain sees new record in coronavirus-related fatalities

Spain has again reported the highest single-day death toll from the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began.

The Spanish Ministry of Health on Thursday recorded 950 new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide total to 10,003 — a nearly 10.5% jump. It’s the largest one-day, in-country increase of fatalities so far, surpassing the record set by Spain last week.

The Spanish health ministry also recorded 8,100 newly diagnosed cases of COVID-19, bringing the nationwide tally to 110,238 — a nearly 8% increase.

Spain has one of the highest nationwide death tolls from COVID-19 in the world, second only to Italy. Spain also has the third-highest national tally of diagnosed cases, behind Italy and the United States.

7:53 a.m.: New England Patriots plane carrying N95 masks from China to arrive in Boston

A private jet owned by the New England Patriots professional football team carrying much-needed medical supplies from China will land in Boston on Thursday, according to Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker.

Patriots CEO Robert Kraft coordinated with officials to send the National Football League team’s plane to pick up personal protective equipment that Massachusetts had bought from China. The U.S. state has purchased over a million N95 masks, and the ones arriving Thursday at Boston’s Logan International Airport represent a partial shipment, according to the governor.

“As I said before, ordering vital equipment like this is only one part of the challenge and I am incredibly grateful that the Krafts worked this issue relentlessly alongside our Command Center staff to get these critical supplies to Massachusetts,” Baker said in a statement Thursday. “The Krafts, our partners Ambassador Huang Ping, Dr. Jason Li, Gene Hartigan and our COVID-19 Command Center personnel teamed up to get this job done and we eagerly await the plane landing at Logan Airport soon. Our administration will keep pursuing the PPE necessary to support our brave front-line workers who are working tirelessly to save lives during this pandemic.”

7:25 a.m.: FEMA cargo plane with medical supplies from China lands in Ohio

A planeload of medical supplies from China has landed in the United States.

The cargo plane touched down early Thursday at Rickenbacker International Airport near Columbus, Ohio.

“The shipment includes supplies from Shanghai, connecting the global market with local medical distributors,” airport officials told ABC News.

The relief shipment, coordinated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, contains masks, gowns, ventilators and other supplies, all of which will go to medical distributors “in areas of greatest need,” officials said.

6:46 a.m.: Over 95% of those who died in Europe were over 60, WHO says

The head of the World Health Organization’s regional office in Europe said Thursday data shows that more than 95% of people who have died from the novel coronavirus on the continent were over the age of 60.

More than half of them were older than 80, Dr. Hans Kluge said.

Still, he warned that age is not the only risk factor. About 10% to 15% of people under 50 who are diagnosed with COVID-19 have moderate or severe symptoms, according to the WHO, the global health arm of the United Nations.

“The very notion that COVID-19 only affects older people is factually wrong,” Kluge said during an online press conference Thursday in Copenhagen. “Young people are not invincible.”

More than four in five of those who have died in Europe had at least one other chronic underlying conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or hypertension.

“On a positive note,” Kluge added, “there are reports of people over the age of 100 who were admitted to hospital for COVID-19 and have now since made a complete recovery.”

5:39 a.m. Cruise ships with sick passengers to arrive off Florida coast

A pair of cruise ships carrying dozens of people with flu-like symptoms, including at least nine who have tested positive for COVID-19, were expected to arrive off the coast of Florida early Thursday.

It’s still unclear whether passengers will be allowed to disembark.

The illnesses began aboard the MS Zaandam, which set out from Buenos Aires for a South America cruise on March 7, with 1,243 guests and 586 crew on board. The voyage was supposed to end in San Antonio, Chile, on March 21 but the vessel has remained at sea since the Chilean government refused it permission to dock and disembark. At least four people on board the ship have died and several have tested positive for COVID-19, according to Holland America Line, which operates the cruise.

Last week, the cruise line announced plans to move “healthy” people from the MS Zaandam to another one of its ships, the MS Rotterdam. Holland America Line President Orlando Ashford said in a video message that he wanted to dispel the myth of a healthy ship versus a sick one, explaining that the intention is for the two cruises to work in tandem so that they can reduce the workload on each vessel, “create maximum flexibility” and move passengers that have been stuck self-isolating in inside cabins for a week to cabins that have access to light and fresh air.

There are now 442 guests and 603 crew aboard the MS Zaandam, and 808 guests and 583 crew on the MS Rotterdam, including a total of 311 U.S. citizens. Since March 22, at least 97 guests — 83 on Zaandam and 14 on Rotterdam — and 136 crew — all on Zaandam — have presented with influenza-like symptoms, according to Holland America Line.

“We have seen a significant decline in the presentation of new cases on Zaandam, with only one new case reporting in the past 24 hours,” the cruise line said in a statement on Wednesday afternoon.

Both ships are heading to Port Everglades in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after passing through the Panama Canal. The government of Panama also denied approval to disembark guests.

Holland America Line said it hopes to disembark the nearly 1,200 guests on the two ships who are “well” and fit to travel per guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Guests fit for travel will be transferred straight from the vessels to flights for onward travel home, the majority on charter flights.

“Out of an abundance of caution, these guests will be transported in coaches that will be sanitized, with limited person-to-person contact and while wearing masks,” the cruise line said in its statement Wednesday. “These provisions well exceed what the CDC have advised is necessary for their travel. Guests have not left the ship since March 14 and have self-isolated in their staterooms since March 22.”

The approximately 45 guests who still have “mild illness” and are unfit to travel at this time will continue to isolate on board until recovered, according to Holland America Line. For the estimated less than 10 people who need immediate critical care shoreside, the cruise line has secured approval from a local health hospital in Florida’s Broward County that has agreed to accept the patients for treatment.

“This small number is the only group that will require any support from medical resources in Broward County,” the cruise line said, “and is necessary to prevent further harm to their health.”

Last week, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said it would be a mistake to bring the passengers ashore because the state’s hospitals need to be saved for residents and not “foreign nationals.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, Holland America Line was still awaiting confirmation from Florida authorities to disembark the guests in Fort Lauderdale. Both ships will remain outside U.S. waters while awaiting clearance to enter.

“Holland America Line calls for compassion and reason in the review and approval of our disembarkation plan by Florida officials,” the cruise line said, “and we are grateful for those that have supported our efforts.”

4:11 a.m.: Dr. Fauci forced to ramp up personal security due to threats

The U.S. government has ramped up security for Dr. Anthony Fauci, as the nation’s top medical expert on the coronavirus pandemic faces threats to his personal safety.

Upon recommendation of the U.S. Marshals Service, the U.S. Department of Justice in recent days approved a special deputization request from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for more than half a dozen special agents to provide protective services to Fauci, a Justice Department official told ABC News.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is a member of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force and has become the face of the nation’s response to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The Washington Post first reported the threats to Fauci and the increased security.

When asked during Wednesday’s White House press briefing whether he or the task force coordinator had received any threats or if they had been given a security detail, Fauci said he was not able to answer and referred the reporter’s question to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Trump quickly chimed in, saying, “He doesn’t need security, everybody loves him.”

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