Key updates for Saturday, April 4:
- President Trump warns on Saturday of “toughest” weeks ahead.
- France death toll passes 7,500.
- Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the country won't retaliate for the U.S. mask export ban, will speak to Trump in days.
- The U.S. Embassy in Russia is trying to repatriate Americans.
- Spain moved ahead of Italy as the country with the second-most infections behind the United States.
- The first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the Falkland Islands, a remote British territory in the South Atlantic.
- Britain may ease some nationwide lockdown measures by the end of May.
- Couple in India name their newborn twins Corona and Covid.
- China held a three-minute nationwide moment of reflection to honor those who have died in the coronavirus outbreak.
- South Korea has extended government guidelines urging people to social distance to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The number of U.S. deaths from COVID-19 was at 8,175 shortly before 5:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, after it was at more than 7,100 around 8 a.m. Eastern Time, according to numbers from Johns Hopkins University. More than a quarter of those are in New York.
The worldwide total of confirmed COVID-19 cases is just over 1.1 million with more than 64,000 deaths and 245,000 recoveries.
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.
Leaders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sat 6 feet apart inside an empty room as the faith carried out its signature conference Saturday by adhering to social distancing guidelines that offered a stark reminder of how the global coronavirus pandemic is affecting religious practices.
Their livestreamed speeches didn't dwell heavily on the pandemic as they instead stuck to plans made last year to make the conference a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of events that led to the creation of the church by founder Joseph Smith. Speakers spoke at length about the tenets he established, including why men have priesthood powers but not women.
Church President Russell M. Nelson also unveiled a new church logo that continued his push to rebrand how the faith is known and recognized around the world. The new symbol features a drawing of Thorvaldsen’s marble Christus statue under an arch and on top of the church name with the words “Jesus Christ” larger than the rest.
Trudeau says Canada won't retaliate for US mask export ban
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government won’t bring retaliatory or punitive measures after the Trump administration announced it would prevent the export of N95 protective masks. President Trump says the U.S. needs the masks for the coronavirus pandemic and he doesn't want other people getting them.
Trudeau said Saturday that he will speak to Trump in the coming days and plans to tell the president that both countries are interlinked in ways that will hurt the countries if supply chains are cut.
China reports 30 new coronavirus cases
Chinese health authorities reported 30 new coronavirus cases Sunday, including 25 people who had arrived from overseas. The other five cases were in southern China’s Guangdong province, which borders Hong Kong.
China has clamped down on international arrivals, banning most foreigners from entering and limiting foreign airlines to one flight per week. Having largely stopped the spread of the disease, the fear is that infected people coming from abroad could spark new outbreaks.
The National Health Commission said that three more people had died, bringing the country’s death toll to 3,329 as of the end of Saturday. The deaths were in Wuhan, where the pandemic began and by far the hardest-hit city in China. The number of confirmed cases stood at 81,669.
Trump approves Arizona's major disaster request
President Donald Trump approved Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey’s request for a major disaster declaration.
Trump’s approval of the disaster declaration opens the door for the state to receive additional federal assistance, Ducey said in a statement that expressed thanks to the president.
“This continued collaboration will be crucial as we utilize all tools to combat this virus,” Ducey said.
The federal declaration would provide help under numerous programs, including unemployment assistance, legal services, hazard mitigation, nutritional aid and crisis counseling, Ducey’s request said.
Trump again touts drug treatment
President Donald Trump is again touting a drug used to treat certain other diseases and says he may take it himself in hope that it will help fend off the new coronavirus.
Trump says “there’s a rumor out there” that hydroxychloroquine is effective, declaring “I may take it.” He has often pointed to hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure and urged people to take it, despite more sober assessments of its effectiveness by medical professionals.
The drug has long been used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. Very small preliminary studies suggested it might help prevent coronavirus from entering cells and possibly help patients clear the virus sooner. But the drug has major potential side effects, especially for the heart, and large studies are underway to see if it is safe and effective for treating COVID-19.
President warns US facing 'toughest' weeks ahead
President Donald Trump is warning that the U.S. is facing the “toughest” weeks ahead as the rise in coronavirus cases accelerates. “There will be a lot of death,” he says.
But after the somber start to his daily briefing on Saturday, he has come back again and again to his desire to get the country open for business. He said, “We have to open our country again. We don’t want to be doing this for months and months and months. This country wasn’t meant for this.”
Trump, who met earlier Saturday with the heads of major sports leagues, said he wants to get the fans back in arenas as soon as possible. He also talked about wanting people to be able to go to restaurants again.
Guatemala bans beach time, most travel during Holy Week
Guatemala has prohibited most internal travel, and banned spending time at the beach during Holy Week, a traditional spring holiday. President Alejandro Giammattei said in a national broadcast Saturday that travel would only be allowed for work reasons. Sales of alcohol to the public would be banned.
All recreational travel would be prohibited, and freight transport would be limited to essential goods later in Holy Week. The measures will be in effect from April 5 to 12.
New Orleans convention center to open as converted health facility
State medical officials are preparing for Monday’s opening of the Morial Convention Center, which is being converted into a medical support facility to help local hospitals care for patients infected with the new coronavirus.
The plan is for the most critical patients to remain in hospitals and give those with less severe symptoms but in need of medical care a place to go.
Joe Kanter, assistant state health officer with the Louisiana Department of Health and among those on the tour of the convention center, told media the next three weeks are “incredibly critical.”
Part of the facility’s purpose is to also keep COVID-positive patients away from the general population.
Trump reassures Little Leaguers they'll be playing soon
President Donald Trump is reassuring Little League baseball players that they should be playing the game again soon.
“To all of our youth who are missing the start of their @LittleLeague seasons, hang in there! We will get you back out on the fields, and know that you will be playing baseball soon,” he tweeted Saturday. “We will get through this together, and bats will be swinging before you know it. In the meantime, take care of mom and dad, and know that this will not be forever!”
Little League president and CEO Stephen Keener reassured that the players would be back soon. The Little League, like the major leagues, has suspended activities until mid-May, when the situation will be assessed, according to the Little League website.
The Little League website said officials “will continue to consult with appropriate medical advisors, government health officials and our volunteer leaders around the world, and we are committed to doing the best we can for the safety and well-being of our players, families, volunteers, and fans.”
France death toll passes 7,500
France’s health director said that 7,560 people have died of coronavirus-related issues in France since the start of the epidemic in the country, including at least 2,028 in nursing homes.
Jerome Salomon spoke Saturday evening during a daily press briefing. According to these figures, France has experienced 441 more deaths in hospitals in the last 24 hours. The information for nursing homes remains incomplete, because not all of them have reported the number of people contaminated or dead because of COVID-19. He also said that 28,143 people were currently hospitalized -- of which 6838 are in intensive care, accounting for a rise of 176 people in 24 hours in intensive care. Among the critical patients 35% are under 60 years old.
“The number of people being cured is also increasing very quickly,” Salomon said.
Trump meets with US pro sports leaders to discuss virus
The White House says President Donald Trump spoke with commissioners of the country’s sports leagues on Saturday and told them he recognizes “the good work being done by many teams and players” to care for their communities and fan bases dealing with the new coronavirus.
The virus has decimated the sports world with the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League suspending their seasons indefinitely and Major League Baseball and the WNBA postponing the start of their season. The NCAA basketball tournament was also cancelled, as were college spring sports such as baseball and softball, lacrosse and track and field.
The White House says the commissioners thanked Trump for his “national leadership and for his interest in the sports industry.” He called on them to continue efforts to support their fellow Americans during the current challenge.
A wide range of sports league officials participated in the call, including Roger Goodell, commissioner of the National Football League, and Adam Silver, commissioner of the NBA.
Fiancee of British PM Boris Johnson, says she's 'on the mend' after symptoms
Carrie Symonds, fiancee of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, says she is “on the mend” after a week suffering from symptoms of COVID-19.
Symonds, 32, tweeted: “I’ve spent the past week in bed with the main symptoms of Coronavirus,” though she had not been tested. Symonds, who is pregnant, is not currently staying with Johnson at the prime minister’s Downing St. residence.
She said in a tweet that “being pregnant with Covid-19 is obviously worrying” but she was reassured by the latest medical guidance.
The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says babies are unlikely to be exposed to COVID-19 during pregnancy and there is also no data at the moment suggesting an increased risk of miscarriage for pregnant women.
Johnson tested positive for the virus on March 26 and remains quarantined in Downing St. He said Friday he is feeling better but still has a fever.
The U.S. Embassy in Russia is trying to arrange a charter flight to repatriate Americans
There is a warning though, that this could be the last flight for some time.
A planned Aeroflot flight to New York was cancelled while on the taxiway on Friday. Russia has banned all international airline flights, including those bring Russians back to their homeland in an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross advised Americans that if the charter flight happens “this will likely be the final charter opportunity to depart Russia.”
As of Saturday, Russia has reported 4,731 coronavirus infections and 44 deaths.
Italy worries residents aren't staying home
The government is demanding Italians stay home and not take the leveling off of new coronavirus infections as a sign the emergency is over.
The demand follows evidence that more and more Italians are relaxing restrictions.
Lombardy regional officials took to national television Saturday after photos were published in leading daily Corriere della Sera showing huge crowds of people out shopping in Naples and Rome.
Lombardy vice-governor Fabrizio Sala claimed cell phone date showed 38% percent of the region’s people were out and about. That's the highest figure since March 20.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza is the national commissioner for the emergency Domenico Arcuri and told RAI state television that the sacrifices Italians have made since the nationwide lockdown went into effect March 10 risked being reversed if they don’t adhere to the lockdown.
Spain reports 809 more deaths, 7,026 new cases
Spain has reported 809 more deaths over the last 24 hours, for a new tally of 11,744 fatalities from the pandemic.
Spain’s Health Ministry says Saturday that its total number of infections has reached 124,736. That is an increase of 7,026 infections from Friday, which is slightly down from the previous 24-hour period as the rate of the outbreak decreases in the country.
The daily increase puts Spain ahead of Italy as the country with the second-most infections behind the United States. Italy will update its figures later on Saturday.
First case confirmed in the Falkland Islands
The first case of COVID-19 has been confirmed in the Falkland Islands, a remote British territory in the South Atlantic.
The islands’ government says the patient was admitted to a hospital on Tuesday from the Mount Pleasant Complex, a Royal Air Force base. The patient, who has not named, is in stable condition and is not on a ventilator.
The Falklands’ chief medical officer Dr. Rebecca Edwards, said authorities were working with the British military on tracing people who may have come into contact with the patient.
The U.K., which maintains a permanent military presence on the islands, has sent in extra army medics to help with the fight against the new coronavirus.
The islands have a population of about 3,000 and lie off the coast of South America. Britain and Argentina fought a 1982 war over the islands, known to the Argentines as the Malvinas.
Britain may ease lockdown measures by end of May
A scientist advising the British government on the coronavirus pandemic says it might be possible to loosen some lockdown measures by the end of May.
The U.K. has been under lockdown since March 23, with schools, bars, many shops and gathering places shut and people told to go out only for essentials or exercise.
Imperial College London epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, who sits on the government’s scientific advisory committee, says “we want to move to a situation where at least by the end of May that we’re able to substitute some less intensive measures, more based on technology and testing, for the complete lockdown we have now.”
He told the BBC that if the number of cases began to fall soon, then “we will be able to move to a regime which will not be normal life, let me emphasize that, but will be somewhat more relaxed in terms of social distancing and the economy, but relying more on testing.”
Medics at Egypt's main cancer center test positive for virus
Egyptian officials say at least 17 medics in the country’s main cancer hospital have been quarantined after testing positive for the coronavirus, raising fears the pandemic could prey on health facilities in the Arab world’s most populous country. Egypt has reported around 1,000 confirmed cases and 66 fatalities from the global pandemic.
Authorities have closed schools and mosques, banned public gatherings and imposed a nighttime curfew to prevent the virus from spreading. Egypt has a population of more than 100 million, a fifth of whom live in the densely-populated capital, Cairo.
Newborn twins named Corona and Covid
A couple in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh have named their newborn twins Corona and Covid.
The twins — a boy and a girl — were born during the ongoing 21-day long nationwide lockdown that began on March 24.
“The delivery happened after facing several difficulties and therefore, my husband and I wanted to make the day memorable,” Preeti Verma, the 27-old mother of the twins, told news agency Press Trust of India.
The couple said the names would remind them about the hardships they faced during the lockdown and ahead of the successful delivery in a government hospital last week.
UN to decide in a month whether to delay meeting
The president of the United Nations General Assembly says the 193-member world body will make a decision “in the coming month” on whether to delay the annual gathering of world leaders in New York in late September because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Tijjani Muhammad-Bande said in an interview with The Associated Press that “this is not something that has so far been an issue of serious consultation,” and for now the calendar of events remains. It calls for the General Debate — the official name of the high-level meeting — to open on Sept. 22, with a kick-off event for world leaders the previous day to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.
But the former Nigerian ambassador said “in the coming month we’ll take a decision through the normal means,” which “of course” means consulting all U.N. member states.
China honors virus victims with 3 minutes of reflection
With air raid sirens wailing and flags at half-mast, China held a three-minute nationwide moment of reflection to honor those who have died in the coronavirus outbreak.
Commemorations took place at 10 a.m. Saturday in all major cities, but were particularly poignant in Wuhan, the industrial center where the virus was first detected in December.
Wuhan was placed under complete lockdown on Jan. 23 and has been lauded as a “heroic city” by the nation’s communist leadership. On Saturday, China reported one new case in Wuhan and 18 among people arriving from abroad, along with four new deaths, all in Wuhan.
China now has recorded a total of 81,639 cases and 3,326 deaths, although those figures are generally considered to be understated.
South Korea extends guidelines to slow spread
South Korea has extended government guidelines urging people to social distance to slow the spread of the coronavirus for two weeks as infections continue to grow in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area.
During a meeting on anti-virus measures on Saturday, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun expressed concern over rising infections linked to recent arrivals amid broadening outbreaks in Europe and the United States.
The country has also struggled to stem infections in hospitals, nursing homes, mental wards and other live-in facilities.
“We very well know that continuing social distancing comes with massive costs and sacrifice,” Chung said, referring to the economic shock. “But if we loosen things right now, the effort we so far invested could pop and disappear like a bubble.”
FDA fully approves KN95 masks for emergency use
The FDA posted an FAQ answering whether respirators approved under standards used in other countries, such as KN95s, can be used in the US during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The short answer is yes.
In response to continued respirator shortages, the FDA also issued a new Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for non-NIOSH-approved respirators made in China, which makes KN95 respirators eligible for authorization if certain criteria are met, including evidence demonstrating that the respirator is authentic.
Lastly, the FDA revised an immediately in effect guidance to help expand the availability of general use face masks for the general public and respirators (including N95 and KN95) for health care professionals during this pandemic.