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During Sunday’s White House briefing, President Trump said federal guidance urging social distancing will stay in place through April 30. He backed off of his hope that the country will be “opened up” by Easter Sunday, saying that deaths due to the coronavirus will likely peak in two weeks. ”Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won," he said.

Meanwhile, confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide passed 700,000 on Sunday, as countries warned the virus could disrupt lives for months, if not years.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Earlier in the day Anthony S. Fauci said the United States could record 100,000 to 200,000 deaths and millions of infections, according to current but rapidly evolving projections. And Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House task force, offered a grim assessment: “No state, no metro area, will be spared.”
  • New York eclipsed 1,000 confirmed deaths related to the novel coronavirus, the state said Sunday. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) commented earlier in the day that he believes his state’s death toll would eventually reach the “thousands.”
  • In New York City, workers spent the weekend constructing an emergency field hospital in Central Park.
  • Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) warned that his state’s health system is at risk of being overwhelmed with patients in a matter of days.
  • Italy reported a slight decline in deaths on Sunday, with 756 dead in the past 24 hours, raising the country’s total to 10,799. War-ravaged Syria reported its first death. There are more than 33,000 covid-related fatalities worldwide.
March 29, 2020 at 11:41 PM EDT

Mich. state representative dies of suspected covid-19 complications at 44

Michigan State Rep. Isaac Robinson, a Democrat representing Detroit, has died of suspected complications from covid-19, officials announced on Sunday night.

Robinson was 44. His mother, former Michigan state representative Rose Mary C. Robinson, told Crain’s Detroit Business that her son had been having trouble breathing for several days but resisted seeking medical treatment. On Sunday morning, his breathing problems worsened and he was transported to a hospital. Within hours of arriving, he had died, she said.

“Rep. Isaac Robinson had a huge heart, a quick wit, and a genuine passion for the people,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) said in a statement Sunday night. “I am very sad to hear of his passing. He was a fierce advocate for Detroiters and people across Southeast Michigan. He dedicated his career to ensuring justice and security for those he served, and the impact he had on his community will continue to be felt for years to come.”

Robinson’s death comes just three days after another state lawmaker representing Detroit, Rep. Tyrone Carter, tested positive for the coronavirus. Carter, also a Democrat, was not hospitalized and said Thursday that he appears to be recovering.

A lawyer who was first elected to the state legislature in 2018, Isaac Robinson also served as a vice chairman in Michigan for Sen. Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign. “Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones,” Sanders (I-Vt.) tweeted.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) was among the elected officials who expressed sorrow over Robinson’s death Sunday night.

“This hits home,” she tweeted. “State Rep. Isaac Robinson was full of life and loved his residents. Our community won’t be the same without him.”

By Antonia Farzan
March 29, 2020 at 11:10 PM EDT

Man deported from U.S. to Guatemala tests positive

MEXICO CITY — A 29-year-old man deported from the United States to Guatemala last week has tested positive for the novel coronavirus — the first known case of an individual deported by U.S. immigration authorities with the virus.

The case highlights concerns about the United States’ ability to continue large-scale deportations without inadvertently contributing to the spread of the pandemic. Detainees and guards in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) facilities have tested positive for the virus.

The man was deported to Guatemala on March 26. On Sunday, Guatemalan authorities confirmed that the man had tested positive. Guatemala’s migration agency said the man, like all other deportees, was in a mandatory quarantine when he came down with symptoms.

“The person did not present symptoms at the time of his arrival. It wasn’t until two days after” that the ministry of health identified his condition, said Alejandra Mena, a spokeswoman with the government’s immigration institute.

“Consultations have already been carried out to identify the additional sanitary measures that we must now implement in the ‘Returnee Center’ to protect our staff and the returnee population,” Mena said.

Guatemalan authorities did not confirm whether the case would lead to a suspension of deportations from the United States.

“There is a dialogue in place between the government of Guatemala and the U.S. agencies involved in the subject,” said Joaquin Samayoa, a spokesman for Guatemala’s Foreign Ministry. “They are addressing this particular case and discussing a solution for the matter.”

Guatemala had 34 confirmed cases of the coronavirus as of Sunday night.

Guatemala’s president initially said he would suspend deportee flights from the United States over concerns about the virus’s spread. But U.S. officials added new health protocols, including screening deportees before they board flights, and Guatemalan authorities allowed the flights to resume.

Deportation flights also arrived in Honduras and El Salvador last week. Those countries, like Guatemala, have largely closed their borders but continue to make exceptions for deportee flights.

There are approximately 37,000 detainees currently in ICE custody. The first two detainees to test positive were in separate New Jersey detention centers.

By Kevin Sieff
March 29, 2020 at 10:58 PM EDT

Outbreak at Tennessee nursing home spreads to dozens of residents and staff

An outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a Tennessee nursing home has worsened, spreading to 59 residents, Gov. Bill Lee’s office announced Sunday night. Thirty-three staff members at the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing have also tested positive and are now isolated at home.

Two patients who were evacuated from the nursing home have since died, the Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin, Tenn., said Sunday night. The hospital, which is located northeast of Nashville, didn’t specify the cause of death or provide any additional details.

“We’re seeing how this virus can invade a community, especially a close one like a nursing home,” Gallatin Mayor Paige Brown told the Tennessean on Friday. “It’s been communicated to us that they had taken all recommended precautions and it still infiltrated in some way.”

By Antonia Farzan
March 29, 2020 at 10:03 PM EDT

Liberty University students tested for coronavirus; one recent graduate tests positive

A recent graduate of Liberty University has tested positive for the coronavirus, at least one student is awaiting test results and at least four others are self-quarantined because of potential exposure, according to school officials and a doctor at the university in Lynchburg, Va.

Thomas W. Eppes Jr., who runs the school’s health-care system, said in an interview Sunday that the students who are quarantining are doing so in residence halls at the university, a private evangelical Christian institution.

Liberty was in the spotlight earlier this month when its president, Jerry Falwell Jr., said it would open as usual when students returned from spring break in March. Falwell suggested on Fox News Channel that the virus was a plot to undermine President Trump.

Eppes said that earlier numbers he had given to the New York Times, which first reported the story, had been inaccurate and revised. The Times had reported that 11 students were potentially affected by the coronavirus.

School officials and Eppes said that as of Sunday, three Liberty affiliates have been tested for the virus. Of those, one test has come back positive — for a former student-athlete who graduated recently and is now living with his family, they said.

Another student got a negative test result, while a third’s test is pending. That third student, who does not live on campus, was “running a fever and had a cough after returning from a county out-of-state with a high number of reported cases,” Liberty officials said in a statement. “He was tested and advised to self-isolate pending the results. He elected to return to his permanent residence after testing instead.”

According to the Times, Falwell said in an interview Sunday that “Liberty will be notifying the community as deemed appropriate and required by law." Any student now returning to campus will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days, the paper quoted him as saying.

By Donna St. George
March 29, 2020 at 9:34 PM EDT

Medical supply delivery from China is first of dozens coming to U.S. from around the world, Pence says

The United States is bringing in medical supplies from multiple countries, including China, amid the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump and Vice President Pence confirmed at Sunday’s White House briefing.

“The aircraft that landed at [John F. Kennedy International Airport] this morning is the first of 51 aircrafts that are going to be coming in from around the world,” Pence said. “And it is all going to support our health-care workers and those on the front lines.”

The first federal airlift to New York came from Shanghai and brought supplies for distribution in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.The first plane carried 80 tons of personal protective equipment (PPE), including 130,000 N95 masks, nearly 1.8 million surgical masks and gowns, and more than 10.3 million gloves and thousands of thermometers, in addition to other items.

"Our main effort today is the acceleration of PPE,” a FEMA spokesperson said in a statement. “We are moving supplies from the global market to medical distributors. This plan has built-in flexibility allowing FEMA to support the hotspots.”

The first federal airlift was funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA has scheduled 19 additional flights from various countries and is adding more daily, per Trump. A FEMA spokesperson said the agency will continue to move supplies from the global market to the United States via an air bridge until it has the “velocity of supplies that can utilize both air and sea transport.”

The movement is a product of a team led by White House senior adviser Jared Kushner that formed “Project Airbridge,” a partnership between large U.S. health-care distributors such as McKesson Corp., Cardinal, Owens & Minor, Medline and Henry Schein Inc., and the federal government, according to Reuters.

By Samantha Pell
March 29, 2020 at 9:05 PM EDT

Trump says coronavirus guidelines will be extended to April 30

At a news conference in the White House Rose Garden on Sunday night, President Trump said the federal coronavirus guidelines urging social distancing will be extended to April 30. The guidelines were originally set to expire this week.

“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won,” Trump said. “That would be the greatest loss of all. … Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30 to slow the spread.”

The announcement comes after Trump said last week that he hoped the country would be “opened up” by Easter Sunday and suggested that the federal government would soon relax its guidelines and move to a county-by-county system of addressing the pandemic.

Asked Sunday whether his previous statement about Easter was a mistake, Trump responded, “No. It was just an aspiration.”

Trump also said Sunday he expects that the peak in the nation’s death rate probably will be reached in two weeks, and that by June 1, the country “will be well on our way to recovery.”

Read more here.

By Felicia Sonmez
March 29, 2020 at 9:00 PM EDT

New York state confirms more than 1,000 deaths

New York eclipsed 1,000 confirmed deaths related to the novel coronavirus, the state said Sunday.

Earlier in the day, as confirmed cases approached 60,000 in the state, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said he thinks “thousands” of people will eventually die of covid-19, the disease the virus causes.

Cuomo offered his perspective — which he stressed was his own opinion and not scientific fact — after Howard A. Zucker, the New York state health commissioner, said the state’s fatality rate is hovering around 1 percent.

“I don’t see how you can read that and not see thousands of deaths,” Cuomo said.

The fatality rate is based on the number of people who test positive for covid-19, Zucker said. He explained that the rate, in reality, could be lower because testing priority is given to those who are health-comprised or exhibiting obvious symptoms.

Seeming determined not to mire Sunday’s update in gloom, Cuomo said the rate at which the number of confirmed cases double has slowed: Cases are now doubling every six days compared with mid-March, when the rate was every two days. The governor noted another small but encouraging sign: The number of people who were infected and admitted to hospitals and then discharged also is climbing daily, meaning people are continuing to recover. The rate of new hospitalizations, however, also has grown.

Given the severity of the outbreak in New York, Cuomo said he would extend through April 15 an executive order mandating that all nonessential workers stay home and that people maintain a six-foot distance in public.

The country is likely to experience a “rolling apex” — meaning the infection rate will peak at staggered times in different places. Cuomo said the same phenomenon is predicted on a state level in New York, with New York City bracing for the “high-water mark” of infections, followed by hot spots such as Westchester County and Long Island and, eventually, Upstate New York.

“If you’re not in a highly affected area now, that doesn’t mean you won’t have to deal” with it, he said.

By Kim Bellware
March 29, 2020 at 8:27 PM EDT

Governors in Delaware, Oklahoma and Texas extend quarantine orders for travelers

Governors in Delaware, Oklahoma and Texas have issued new quarantine orders targeting travelers returning from coronavirus hot spots that include some of the country’s biggest cities.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday required all people who have returned from New Orleans by road to self-quarantine for 14 days. The original order had extended only to those who had flown in from New Orleans. Now, though, Texas residents returning by air from Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Miami and all California airports must stay at home for two weeks or be subject to a $1,000 fine or 180 days in jail.

In Oklahoma, Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) updated a previous executive order that now mandates that travelers from six states, including the New York tri-state area of New Jersey and Connecticut, stay indoors for 14 days upon return. Other states singled out include California, Louisiana and Washington.

Also, per the latest emergency declaration signed by Delaware Gov. John Carney (D), any traveler coming into the state must immediately self-quarantine for two weeks.

By Candace Buckner
March 29, 2020 at 8:16 PM EDT

Trump says he’s feeling ‘very good’ about his coronavirus response, amid projections of 100,000 to 200,000 deaths in U.S.

At a news conference in the Rose Garden on Sunday night, Trump defended his administration’s coronavirus response, saying that the number of expected deaths is far lower than 2.2 million — the toll one model predicted if officials took no action.

Anthony S. Fauci, the ­nation’s top infectious diseases ­expert, said earlier Sunday that the United States could record 100,000 to 200,000 deaths as a result of the pandemic. Trump appeared to accept that estimate in his exchange with reporters hours later, arguing that some experts say that more than 2 million Americans could die.

Neil Ferguson of Imperial College in Britain, one of the world’s leading epidemiologists, co-wrote a paper earlier this month estimating 2.2 million deaths in the United States if leaders did not take action. Adopting some mitigation strategies to slow the pandemic — such as isolating those suspected of being infected and social distancing of the elderly — would only cut the death toll in half, to 1.1 million, although it also would reduce demand for health services by two-thirds, Ferguson found.

“I kept asking and we did models,” Trump said Sunday night. “Now, finally, we got these models in and you hear about the 2.2 million people [who] would have died. I don’t mean we would have had 2.2 million cases. These are 2.2 million people [who] would have died.”

He added: “And so, if we could hold that down, as we’re saying, to 100,000 — it’s a horrible number, maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100 [thousand] and 200,000 — we altogether have done a very good job.”

By Felicia Sonmez and William Wan
March 29, 2020 at 7:20 PM EDT

Louisiana governor sounds the alarm, says his state’s health system will be overwhelmed in days

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) warned Sunday that his state’s health system is at risk of being overwhelmed with patients in a matter of days.

By April 4 or 5, he said on ABC News’s “This Week,” New Orleans will be at capacity on ventilators. Next, he warned, area hospitals will be out of beds.

“We remain on a trajectory, really, to overwhelm our capacity to deliver health care,” he said.

Edwards said the state has ordered 12,000 ventilators from both the national stockpile and private options but has received only 192. He warned that state officials might have to toughen enforcement if necessary.

The governor said he thinks Mardi Gras, on Feb. 25 this year, contributed to the spread of the virus but that officials never considered canceling celebrations.

“If you’ll go back, you will see that the federal government was saying things were well under control,” he said.

On Saturday, authorities say, New Orleans police broke up a gathering of 100 people listening to a band and issued an arrest warrant to the organizer.

“Save your second lines for later this year,” Edwards said later Sunday at a news conference, referencing a parade tradition. “To go and live as if everything is normal really is the height of selfishness right now.”

Hospitals are adding dozens of ICU beds to try to keep up with expected demand amid the coronavirus pandemic, officials said at the news conference. The number of new cases and deaths in Louisiana from the coronavirus grew at a slower rate Sunday than in recent days, but Edwards cautioned residents not to make too much of that because fewer test results also were reported in the previous 24 hours.

The state continues to have the second-highest number of deaths per capita from covid-19 in the nation, Edwards said.

By Tony Romm and David Montgomery
March 29, 2020 at 5:50 PM EDT

Capitol Police says employee tested positive

The U.S. Capitol Police said Sunday that an employee tested positive for the coronavirus and has been self-quarantining since March 18.

“The USCP has contacted employees in order to identify individuals who may have been in close contact with the affected employee,” police spokeswoman Eva Malecki said in an email. “The Department has taken, and will continue to take, all the necessary steps to ensure that any affected work areas or facilities were properly cleaned.”

The announcement comes after several members of Congress have reported testing positive, stoking fears that covid-19 could sweep Capitol Hill.

Malecki said the Capitol Police are working with the Office of Attending Physician, congressional leadership and the Architect of the Capitol and have taken many measures against the pandemic. She did not immediately respond to questions about where the employee worked, how many people may have been exposed and whether any members of Congress have been contacted about the test result.

By Hannah Knowles
March 29, 2020 at 5:34 PM EDT

Emergency field hospital sets up in New York’s Central Park

With New York City becoming the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, workers spent the weekend constructing an emergency field hospital in Central Park.

On Sunday, volunteers and officials from Samaritan’s Purse, a Christian organization that provides medical aid around the globe, continued work on setting up a 68-bed facility in the park’s East Meadow, across the street from Mount Sinai Hospital. The facility will hold eight intensive care units with ventilators and will be staffed by about three to four doctors and several more nurse practitioners, according to Ken Isaacs, the organization’s vice president of programs and government relations.

When the outbreak overwhelmed Italy, Samaritan’s Purse set up a temporary hospital in Cremona, a small town east of Milan. It is the first time the organization has run simultaneous emergency units in such large, developed countries, according to Isaacs.

“The disease is so overwhelming, the medical personnel need help,” he said. “It’s the same reason we went to Italy. It’s where the most help was needed.”

“New York,” Isaacs said, “is sort of burning.”

Other emergency field units also have been set up in New York City during the outbreak. As of Sunday afternoon, New York state had reported more than 59,000 coronavirus cases and 965 deaths. The pandemic and its grave impact will only worsen in the coming weeks and months, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said.

“I don’t see how you look at those numbers and conclude anything less than thousands of people will pass away,” Cuomo said on CNN.

By Candace Buckner
March 29, 2020 at 5:02 PM EDT

Department of Veterans Affairs offers beds to non-veterans to help in crisis

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is helping New York City in the battle against the novel coronavirus by offering 50 beds to non-veteran patients who do not have covid-19, the agency announced Sunday.

The 35 acute-care and 15 intensive-care-unit beds are the result of New York state’s request for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which then asked VA for assistance, according to an agency statement.

VA said it agreed to offer the beds once it decided that the action wouldn’t negatively affect veteran care. It has long had a “fourth mission” beyond serving veterans through care, research and training: functioning as a backup health system in times of crises, by absorbing non-veteran civilian or military patients in the event that hospitals overflow.

Five covid-19-free patients from New York community hospitals are being transferred to VA New York Harbor Healthcare System’s Manhattan and Brooklyn campuses, the agency said. The locations are still seeing veteran patients.

All states can ask the federal government for help through the Department of Health and Human Services Regional Emergency Coordinators, which is part of FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center, the VA statement said.

By Lateshia Beachum
March 29, 2020 at 4:52 PM EDT

People are making scavenger hunts for kids by putting teddy bears and rainbows in windows

Trips to the zoo and romps in the playground are most certainly off limits to the millions of children out of school and primarily stuck at home as a result of the lockdowns. So parents across the United States are asking neighbors to lend a hand by turning their windows into a creative outlet for kids on the hunt for teddy bears and rainbows.

The idea, explained one invitation to a “car safari” in Hyattsville, Md., is to make window-based and social-distancing-approved scavenger hunts for kids as they walk or drive around their neighborhoods. Some communities are even organizing cash prizes for kids who spot the most animals, as well as lists of animals they could find.

The origins of the idea, reported KSAT-TV, a San Antonio-based station, could be the popular childhood book and song, “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.” The rainbows also are intended to provide children a wave of cheer.

It’s a game that’s taken off all over the world, connecting kids from Iceland to Ireland.

By Miriam Berger