Coronavirus live updates: Cloth masks in public recommended; US retailers limit store access; FEMA sends medical supplies
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. early Saturday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. The nation’s death toll stood at 7,159. Worldwide, the death toll was just above 60,000, with 1.1 million people infected.
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CDC recommends wearing cloth face masks in public
The Trump administration is advising people to start wearing face masks in public to stop the spread of the coronavirus, a reversal on previous guidance that urged people not to wear masks.
President Donald Trump said at a White House news conference Friday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are strictly voluntary. “You can do it – you don’t have to do it. It’s only a recommendation.”
Surgeon General Jerome Adams detailed the new recommendations Friday, acknowledging the evolving guidance has been “confusing to the American people.”
Adams stressed the new recommendation 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.
Crime rates plunge as pandemic keeps residents indoors
Crime rates plunged in cities and counties across the U.S. over the second half of March as the coronavirus pandemic drove millions of residents to stay inside their homes.
Police logged dramatically fewer calls for service, crime incidents and arrests in the last two weeks of March than each of the previous six weeks, a USA TODAY analysis of crime data published by 53 law enforcement agencies in two dozen states found.
Massive drops in traffic and person stops — as much as 92% in some jurisdictions — helped drive sharp declines in drug offenses and DUIs. Thefts and residential burglaries decreased with fewer stores open and homes unoccupied, and some agencies logged fewer assaults and robberies. Bookings into each of nearly two dozen county jails monitored by the news organization fell by at least a quarter since February.
But cases of domestic violence have spiked in Maryland’s Montgomery County, where police saw a 21% increase in such calls over the last two weeks, an average of 39 per day.
“It’s something we unfortunately expected knowing that people are going to be quarantined in their homes,” said Police Chief Marcus Jones.
– Kenny Jacoby, Mike Stucka and Kristine Phillips
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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
Some soon-to-be moms weigh home births over crowded hospitals
As many hospitals are transformed into overwhelmed coronavirus battle stations, more expectant mothers are deciding it’s safer to give birth at home.
“Hospitals may soon, like in Italy, run out of beds, and they are running out of supplies,” said Erika McBee, a nurse in Rockville, Maryland, due in the summer with her first baby. “They are likely to soon be crawling with disease, which is not the best place to bring your newborn with no immune system into the world.”
About 1% of births in the United States occur at home, according to the National Institutes of Health and Science. It’s too early to say whether COVID-19 will change that statistic in any significant way, but anecdotal evidence shows more women exploring it now.
In its updated COVID-19 guidance, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists maintains that hospitals and accredited birth centers are safe places for delivery and “continues to recommend following existing evidence-based guidance regarding home birth.”
ACOG notes planned home birth is associated with fewer maternal interventions than planned hospital birth but also is associated with a more than twofold increased risk infant death immediately after birth and a threefold increased risk of neonatal seizures or serious neurologic dysfunction. Read more here.
– Mary Nahorniak
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
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
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.
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
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.
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