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The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has hit 1,000, according to tracking by The Washington Post, a toll that is increasing at an alarming rate. The United States also surpassed China in confirmed, reported cases Thursday as the pandemic continues to slow in the place where it began. Worldwide, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 500,000.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The $2 trillion emergency relief bill passed by the Senate will be voted on Friday by the House, said Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who predicted the measure would receive “strong bipartisan support,” but not unanimous consent. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who opposes the bill, said Thursday that he is considering a procedural move that could delay passage of the bill to Saturday or Sunday.
  • Deborah Birx, the White House response coordinator, sought to calm frightened Americans Thursday by downplaying the worst-case statistics, while doctors at the hardest hit hospitals warn there are not enough supplies, beds or physicians to handle the surge in patients.
  • The USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, will leave Norfolk, Va., for New York City on Saturday — at least three weeks ahead of schedule. The New York City area is the current U.S. epicenter, but the number of confirmed cases is beginning to spike elsewhere, including Louisiana, Michigan and Texas.
  • New York is moving at unprecedented speed and scale to distribute tens of thousands of doses of antimalarial drugs to seriously ill patients, spurred by political leaders, including President Trump, to try a treatment that is not yet proved to be effective.
  • The Labor Department’s weekly tally of 3.3 million jobless claims shattered the old U.S. record of 695,000, set in 1982. Of the “widespread carnage,” an economist at the University of Illinois at Chicago warned: “It’s going to get worse.”
  • During a meeting of the Group of 20 nations, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres reminded the leaders of the exponential spread of the virus, saying the first 100,000 cases were confirmed in the first three months of the outbreak. “The next 100,000 happened in just 12 days,” he said. “The third took four days. The fourth, just one-and-a-half.”
3:14 a.m.
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Asian markets rise cautiously, U.S. futures dip

Asian stocks came off their highs and U.S. futures dipped Friday, as investors eyed an enormous fiscal stimulus package approved by the Senate, while shaking off a dismal unemployment report.

Japan’s Nikkei 225 index was up more than 1 percent Friday morning, with more modest gains posted by the benchmark indexes in South Korea, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Stocks in Australia fell, with the ASX down more than 2 percent.

U.S. stock futures all traded lower, signaling declines for all three major indexes at the Friday open. Futures for the Dow Jones industrial average fell 350 points.

After the Senate voted overnight to pass a historic $2 trillion aid package, American equities saw their first three-day rally since mid-February. The Dow Jones skyrocketed more than 1,300 points, or 6.4 percent, capping off its second-best three-day run in history.

2:34 a.m.
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Trump says some governors asking for equipment they don’t need

Trump told Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Thursday night that his conversation with governors earlier in the day was a “love fest” — save for the leaders of Washington and Michigan — and that he’s helping the states, though he believes they’re asking for resources they won’t need.

“I think that a lot of things are being said that are more — I don’t think that certain things will materialize and you know a lot of equipment is being asked for that I don’t think they’ll need,” Trump said.

Trump said he gets along well with all the governors except Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (whose name he did not seem to know, instead calling her “the young, a woman governor, you know who I’m talking about, from Michigan”). Both Democrats have publicly called on Trump to get more resources to the states.

“We’re really helping the governors,” Trump said. “We had a call today with almost every governor, just about, I’d say, all 50. And it was like a love fest o they were so happy with the job we’re doing.”

But, Trump said later, “some of these governors you know they take, take, take and then they complain, they take and you do a great job, you build them a hospital, you do better and they’re always complaining, so I don’t like that.”

Later, on Twitter, Whitmer challenged Trump to “prove” that he stands with Michigan.

“I’ve asked repeatedly and respectfully for help. We need it,” she wrote. “No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits.”

1:33 a.m.
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VA facilities have screening, staffing and supply concerns, internal report finds

Although it’s estimated as many as 1 million veterans may become infected by the novel coronavirus, Veterans Affairs facilities are unevenly prepared to handle the pandemic, the inspector general for Veterans Affairs wrote in a report published Thursday.

Screening for coronavirus was generally adequate at 71 percent of the medical centers, but among 54 VA nursing homes, called community living centers, only nine were prepared to allow inspectors to come in. In a survey of VA’s medical centers, 33 reported inadequate supplies like personal protective equipment while 21 said what they had was adequate.

Durham VA Medical Center in North Carolina and John D. Dingle VA Medical Center in Detroit have already reported shortages of mechanical ventilators.

Almost half of the facilities surveyed said there was a rise in staff absenteeism, mostly due to child-care issues, school closures, staff reallocations, and older employees’ safety concerns.

In addition, while VA had administered over 3,378 tests for the virus as of Tuesday, none of the facilities visited had the capability to process specimens on-site. Instead, they outsourced to county and state health departments and commercial laboratories.

Relying on civilian neighbors isn’t out of the question for those running VA facilities, with 43 percent of facility leaders surveyed reporting they plan to share ICU beds, personal protective equipment supplies, or both, with community providers.

VA responded to the IG by saying these are “unprecedented times requiring tightly coordinated development and deployment of new and unique processes across the nation.”

1:12 a.m.
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Cuban-born U.S. citizens are having trouble leaving Cuba due to travel restrictions

Two days after Cuba implemented new travel restrictions to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, Cuban-born U.S. citizens are having trouble leaving the country, according to tweets from the U.S. Embassy in Cuba. The tweets, issued Thursday evening, raised technicalities that could keep this group grounded in Cuba for the time being.

Last Friday, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel announced travel restrictions that would allow Cubans to return home and foreign-born travelers to leave. They went into effect Tuesday, and have since left Cuban-born U.S. citizens in limbo.

“The Cuban government requires Cuban dual nationals to enter and depart Cuba using Cuban passports,” the U.S. Embassy in Cuba tweeted Thursday. “Cuban-born U.S. citizens will be treated as Cuban citizens and may be subject to restrictions and obligations.”

The Embassy also noted that it had heard of delays for “dual Cuban nationals” at José Martí International Airport. This comes as embassies around the world are trying to quickly evacuate U.S. citizens, knowing that travel restrictions could soon get stricter.

12:39 a.m.
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Clap for our carers: The world gives a standing ovation to medical heroes

People all around the world are gathering on their balconies to applaud the health-care workers on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus. (The Washington Post)

LONDON — Millions of people came out in Britain on Thursday evening to cheer the staff of the country’s beloved National Health Service, whose intensive-care units and arrivals and emergency wings are bracing for an explosion in cases, as already exhausted nurses, some wearing garbage bags, are begging for more and better protective equipment.

“We owe them so much,” said James O’Neill, 58, who was clapping from the back garden of his council estate in London’s Battersea neighborhood. He is one of the 1.5 million at-risk Britons who aren’t supposed to leave their homes for three months. “It must be scary working for a hospital right now. It’s scary just walking around,” he said.

Part balm, part defiance, part celebration — we’re still here! — the practice has migrated, alongside the virus and enforced quarantine, from the Chinese epicenter of Wuhan to the medieval villages of Lombardy, from Milan to Madrid, onto Paris, and now London.

“The applause at 8 p.m. serve as an oasis for those of us who have been indoors for 13 days and counting,” said Emanuel Diaz, who lives in the center of Madrid’s historic area. “I can honestly say that I look forward to them every single day.”

Read more here.

12:16 a.m.
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Birx seeks to ease panic over mortality rates and hospital shortages

Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, sought to calm frightened Americans by playing down some worst-case-scenario statistics about how many could ultimately be infected, as well as stories from some hospitals about ventilator shortages or that they’re considering blanket do-not-resuscitate orders.

“There’s not enough data now of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground to really make these predictions much more sound,” Birx said. “So when people start talking about 20 percent of a population getting infected, it’s very scary. But we don’t have data that matches that.”

She went on to condemn media reports from hospitals about whether they’ll have to decide not to resuscitate patients.

“There is no situation in the United States right now that warrants that kind of discussion,” she said. ”You can be thinking about it in a hospital, certainly many hospitals talk about this on a daily basis. But to say that to the American people, to make the implication that when they need a hospital bed, it’s not going to be there or when they need that ventilator, it’s not going to be there, we don’t have an evidence of that right now.”

Birx’s comments contradict comments from governors who have sounded alarms about dangerous shortages and anecdotal accounts from health-care providers at hospitals in New York City, who warn there’s not enough supplies for a surge of coronavirus patients.

Birx’s remarks received mixed reviews on social media, with some – mostly conservatives – heralding her attempts to allay fears and others suggesting she was painting too rosy a picture when there is still so much unknown.

11:44 p.m.
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Sick crew members evacuated from cruise ships anchored off Miami

The Favolosa and Magica cruise ships evacuated 13 crew with members with symptoms consistent with pneumonia and bronchitis to Miami hospitals on March 26. (The Washington Post)

After sailing in circles around the Caribbean, denied entry at ports, two Costa Cruises ships -- the Favolosa and Magica -- anchored near the port of Miami on Thursday to evacuate ill crew members on board.

Three miles from the shore, the ships sent 13 ill crew members via small boats, according to Roger Frizzell, a spokesperson for Costa Cruises’ parent company Carnival Cruise Line. Six were from the Magica and seven from the Favolosa, he said.

The U.S. Coast Guard facilitated the medical evacuations of the patients who had respiratory symptoms consistent with pneumonia and bronchitis, the Port’s Unified Command wrote in a release.

They were taken to local hospitals for treatment and testing, Frizzell said. Frizzell said it was unclear if the asymptomatic crew members, nearly 1,000 on each ship, will be tested but added that the ships will work “with local, state and federal authorities to make this determination.”

There are no plans in place for the vessels to move from where they remain anchored.

11:39 p.m.
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Trump trails Fauci by 26 percent in public approval of coronavirus response

Anthony Fauci, the infectious diseases expert who has become a public face of the White House’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, is getting rave reviews from 77 percent of Americans for the job he’s done. But President Trump, Vice President Pence and the federal government overall get lower marks on their handling of the crisis, according to a Fox News poll released this evening.

Moreover, Fauci gets rare bipartisan approval, with 74 percent of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans rating his performance positively.

Evaluation of Trump’s performance predictably breaks down along partisan lines. A simple majority of Americans — 51 percent — approve of the president’s work. But among Democrats, just 24 percent do compared with 86 percent of Republicans.

11:19 p.m.
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Health worker union says it found 39 million masks

Health-care union workers in California believe they tracked down a stockpile of 39 million N95 masks, the union said Thursday, as health-care workers struggle to protect themselves from coronavirus infections.

Front-line health-care workers have raised concerns about a lack of masks, said Dave Regan, president of the Service Employees International Union’s medical worker arm in California.

“So we just dove into the deep end of the pool and started making calls,” Regan told The Washington Post.

Union workers found a company in Pennsylvania that supplies the masks, Regan said. The masks filter 95 percent of airborne particles.

The supplier ships worldwide, Regan said, and countries hit early and hard by coronavirus infections over-ordered by millions. Some orders were canceled or returned, Regan said, leaving a surplus.

Regan declined to identify the company, citing concern it would be overloaded with pleas for support, and it was unclear why the seller did not simply unload the stockpile in recent weeks, when supply chains nationwide have been strained.

The supplier will sell masks directly to Kaiser Permanente, the state of California and others, Regan said.

But the Greater New York Hospital Association, one of the buyers listed by SEIU, said they were not currently moving forward with the purchase after the unnamed company declined a request to visit the facility.

“That’s a red flag,” a spokesman for the association said. But despite SEIU listing the association as a buyer, that was not the case as of Thursday evening, the spokesman said, who added the association “ultimately did not consider it to be a credible opportunity.”

Sutter Health, a not-for-profit health system, said SEIU helped them secure 2 million masks. “We will be working to distribute these masks across our system to where they are needed most,” a spokesperson said.

California’s Riverside County, another buyer listed by SEIU, said: “We’re in the early stages of discussions with SEIU regarding a potential supplier.”

Regan acknowledges logistical challenges in an unprecedented time.

He believes the masks are available for sale from a reputable business, which he said was vetted, and hopes the logistical headaches will resolve in coming days.

“This is the wild West,” he said. “There are a lot of good actors and a lot of shady actors.”

This story has been updated.

11:07 p.m.
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Hospitals on soccer fields, in state park cabins and converted convention centers

Louisiana is renting cabins and trailers in state parks to isolate the ill. The county that includes Seattle is erecting a 200-bed facility on a soccer field. And New York is setting up a medical surge center inside the six-block-long Jacob K. Javits Convention Center on the west side of Manhattan — better known for hosting auto shows and Comic-Con.

As the United States enters a new stage of the pandemic wave, hospital systems are being reconfigured in radical ways to handle the growing number of sick, and over the next few weeks, hospitals appear likely to look and operate very differently than today. With the need for social distancing even among the sick, securing and configuring physical spaces large enough to handle the load has become one of the biggest challenges facing state officials and hospital administrators.

“What we’ve done is shift from all daily operations to preparing for mass numbers of people with covid-19," said Omar Lateef, chief executive of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

The ongoing transformation of the American hospital system mirrors what was done in other countries that faced the pandemic first.

In the Chinese megalopolis of Wuhan, patients were sorted by severity of disease into different hospitals. In Italy’s Lombardy region, the hospital system was essentially cleaved into two: One for coronavirus patients with 55 hospitals, and the remaining few hospitals reserved for those experiencing more ordinary emergencies such as strokes, accidents or childbirth.

Read more here.

10:39 p.m.
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Canada 'strongly opposed’ to U.S. proposal to send troops to northern border

TORONTO — The Trump administration is contemplating putting troops near its northern border with Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday — a move that could seriously strain relations between longtime allies said to share the world’s longest nonmilitarized border.

Trudeau said his government had “discussions” with the United States about the plan, which was first reported by Global News. The report said troops would be temporarily stationed within 18 miles of the Canadian border and flag people crossing at unofficial points of entry to border agents.

“Canada and the United States have the longest unmilitarized border in the world,” Trudeau said, “and it is very much in both of our interests for it to remain that way.”

“Canada is strongly opposed to this U.S. proposal,” Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said, “and we have made that opposition very, very clear to our American counterparts, and we will continue to do so.”

Canadian officials declined to provide details on the U.S. proposal, which they first learned of a “few” days ago. Freeland said it would be “completely inappropriate” for her to comment on the internal discussions of the U.S. government.

Asked about the proposal at Thursday’s coronavirus briefing, President Trump said he would “find out about that.”

“I guess it’s equal justice to a certain extent,” he said. “In Canada, we do have troops along the border. We have a lot of things coming in from Canada. We have some illegal trade that we don’t like … And we don’t like steel coming through our border that’s been dumped in Canada so they could avoid the tariff.”

But earlier in the day, Freeland said the proposal was “not a trade issue." She stressed that a decision has not yet been made on the deployment.

Last week, the United States and Canada mutually agreed to shut down their border to all nonessential traffic for 30 days. They also reached a temporary reciprocal agreement under which they will send back migrants who attempt to cross at unofficial points of entry to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

10:39 p.m.
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U.S. passes China in confirmed coronavirus cases

The United States surpassed China in confirmed coronavirus cases Thursday as the pandemic continues to slow in the place where it began.

As of Thursday evening, the United States was at 82,404 cases — the most of any country in the world — while China was at 81,782. Last week, in a major milestone, China announced that for the first time since the outbreak began, it had no new daily cases of domestic coronavirus infections.

As Chinese leaders tout their strict measures to contain the virus as effective, the pandemic has continued to worsen elsewhere in the world. Earlier this month health officials declared Europe the crisis’s new epicenter, and coronavirus-related deaths in the United States topped 1,000 on Thursday.

Asked at Thursday’s White House briefing about the country surpassing China in confirmed cases, President Trump called the rising count “a tribute to our testing” and claimed that China’s true total is unclear.

“You don’t know what the numbers are in China,” he said, adding that he is speaking with Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday night.

10:32 p.m.
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Navy hospital ship to leave for New York City this weekend, weeks earlier than anticipated, Trump says

President Trump announced Thursday that the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, will leave for New York on Saturday — at least three weeks ahead of schedule — and he will see it off.

Trump had previously said the ship would take longer to arrive in New York City because it was undergoing maintenance, but at a White House news briefing, Trump touted the ingenuity of the Navy for finishing their repairs early and said he will bid it bon voyage in Virginia. There will be 1,200 medical personnel and critical supplies onboard the vessel.

“I think I’m going to go out and I’ll kiss it goodbye,” he said, adding about the ship: “There’s something very beautiful about it."

The White House confirmed that Trump would travel to Norfolk on Saturday to visit the ship.

Comfort will dock at Pier 90 in Manhattan to either provide for hospital surge capacity unrelated to the virus or be used to clear space in hospitals, Trump said.

USNS Mercy, another 1,000-bed hospital ship, was dispatched to the Port of Los Angeles this week. The Pentagon previously sent an Army field hospital to New York City, which should have about 248 beds, and the Army Corps of Engineers is assisting FEMA in converting facilities there into makeshift hospitals.

10:26 p.m.
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As they rush to save lives, health-care workers are updating their wills and funeral plans

The first time Andrea Austin, 35, considered her own mortality, she was flying into Iraq aboard a C-130 military plane. Though the emergency medicine physician had set up a living will and power of attorney before her seven-month deployment with a shock-trauma team, entering a war zone crystallized the dangers of her job.

Now, more than three years later, Austin is again weighing worst-case scenarios as she continues treating patients at Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center while the coronavirus crisis expands at an alarming rate.

She wrote down which of her fellow doctors she’d entrust with end-of-life care. She made clear her preference for cremation. And she compiled her funeral playlist, starting with Israel Kamakawiwoʻole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Then she stored the details on Google Drive and shared the files with her husband and brother.

“My fear of dying is worse now than it was when I was in Iraq,” she said.

Physicians are increasingly coming to grips with the fact that they could die in the pandemic, too. They’re routinely exposed to harsher viral loads as the number of patients flooding emergency rooms and urgent care centers mounts by the hour. On Thursday, U.S. deaths from coronavirus topped 1,000, and confirmed cases surpassed 75,000.

That means health-care workers, many in their 20s or 30s, are making arrangements to ease the burden on their loved ones. Every day, doctors accept the risks of treating people in need. But rarely has their entire profession been thrust into such a sweeping, indiscriminate crisis.

Read more here.