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Monday was the first day that the number of U.S. deaths due to the coronavirus grew by more than 500, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. Almost half of the deaths were reported in New York. The previous national high was 446 on Saturday.

With the coronavirus death toll soaring in the United States and health experts warning that “no state, no metro area will be spared” by the outbreak, President Trump steeled the nation for an extended shutdown.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Trump pivoted sharply on his warnings about the economic impact of shuttering businesses during the outbreak, declaring Monday that saving American lives is more important. “Well, it’s so bad for the economy, but the economy is No. 2 on my list,” Trump said. “First, I want to save a lot of lives.”
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) discussed Democrats’ plans for a Phase 4 coronavirus measure, which she said would include a focus on infrastructure, protections for front-line workers and funding for the District of Columbia, among other things.
  • Another 812 people have died in Italy, officials said Monday, bringing the country’s total number of deaths to 11,591.
  • The FDA has approved a Trump administration plan to distribute millions of doses of anti-malarial drugs to U.S. hospitals, saying it is worth the risk of trying unproven treatments to slow the disease in seriously ill patients.
  • The governors of Maryland and Virginia and mayor of D.C. issued stay-at-home orders Monday, just about shutting down the Washington region.
  • Trump said Sunday that federal guidance urging social distancing measures will stay in place through April 30, and noted U.S. deaths will probably peak in two weeks. Earlier, two top U.S. health officials, Anthony S. Fauci and Deborah Birx, told the president that the U.S. could record up to 200,000 deaths.
March 30, 2020 at 11:32 PM EDT
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11 residents die at Mass. veterans’ home

By Teo Armus

Eleven veterans are dead after an outbreak of the novel coronavirus at a state-run residential facility in western Massachusetts, local news media reported Monday evening.

At least five of those who died at the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, which includes a hospital and a 30-bed residential facility, had tested positive for the rapidly spreading virus. An additional five were awaiting test results, and the status of another victim was unknown.

Twenty-five residents are awaiting test results and have been isolated, while staff members who had contact with them have been instructed to quarantine themselves.

Bennett Walsh, superintendent of the Soldiers’ Home, was immediately placed on paid leave. The center is operated by the Massachusetts veterans affairs office.

“It is imperative that the Holyoke Soldiers’ Home provide a safe environment for the veteran residents, and the dedicated staff who serve them,” Dan Tsai, the state’s deputy secretary for health and human services, said in a statement.

March 30, 2020 at 11:14 PM EDT
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State Dept. has brought back 25,000 Americans from abroad, Pompeo says

By Felicia Sonmez

In an interview on Fox News Channel’s “Hannity” on Monday night, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that his department has brought back 25,000 Americans from more than 50 countries so far amid the coronavirus pandemic.

There are “several thousand more” people to get home, he added.

Earlier Monday, a top State Department official told reporters that the department has identified about 9,000 U.S. citizens abroad who have expressed interest in return flights.

Ian G. Brownlee, the principal deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Consular Affairs, cautioned that time is limited for those Americans remaining abroad to decide on whether to take those flights.

“I know I’ve said this several times already, but we do not know how long commercial flights will remain available, nor do we know how long the U.S. government will be able to facilitate additional flights where commercial options no longer exist,” Brownlee said. “It is therefore imperative that U.S. citizens make plans now to avail themselves of these options.”

March 30, 2020 at 10:55 PM EDT
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Defense Dept. tells military bases to stop reporting case totals

By Teo Armus

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper has ordered military bases to stop disclosing coronavirus data, officials announced Monday, a lack of information that local officials fear could harm their communities.

Individual military bases had previously given daily updates on novel coronavirus cases to the media and the public, including figures such as the number of those who had tested positive or been hospitalized.

Starting this week, however, the Pentagon will release only the totals for the department and each branch of the military, press secretary Alyssa Farah said in a statement. She cited “a concern for operational security with regard to readiness.”

“We will continue to do our best to balance transparency in this crisis with operational security,” Farah said.

Base commanders will continue to share information on cases with local health officials, who will continue to report cases on the installations as part of county or city totals.

But Esper’s announcement nonetheless prompted swift backlash from municipal and county officials, including San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg.

“This is a global pandemic, and the public has a right to know,” he told the San Antonio Express-News. “One of the biggest battles that we have is helping people understand the seriousness of the situation.”

Dozens of former passengers on virus-stricken cruise ships have been quarantined at a joint base in the Texas metropolis, a situation that has at times created a deep panic, as when a still-infected woman was released.

March 30, 2020 at 9:55 PM EDT
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CDC considering recommending general public wear face coverings in public

By Joel Achenbach, Lena H. Sun and Laurie McGinley

Should we all be wearing masks? That simple question is under review by officials in the U.S. government and has sparked a grass-roots pro-mask movement. But there’s still no consensus on whether widespread use of facial coverings would make a significant difference, and some infectious disease experts worry that masks could lull people into a false sense of security and make them less disciplined about social distancing.

In recent days, more people have taken to covering their faces, although it remains a scattershot strategy driven by personal choice. The government does not recommend it.

That may change. Officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are considering altering the official guidance to encourage people to take measures to cover their faces amid the coronavirus pandemic, The Washington Post has learned.

CDC guidance on masks remains under development, according to a federal official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it is an ongoing matter of internal discussion and nothing has been finalized. The official said the new guidance would make clear that the general public should not use medical masks — including surgical and N95 masks — that are in desperately short supply and needed by health-care workers.

Instead, the recommendation under consideration calls for using do-it-yourself cloth coverings, according to a second official who shared that thinking on a personal Facebook account. It would be a way to help “flatten the curve,” the official noted.

Such DIY cloth masks would potentially lower the risk that the wearer, if infected, would transmit the virus to other people. Current CDC guidance is that healthy people don’t need masks or face coverings.

At the daily White House briefing Monday, President Trump was asked if everyone should wear nonmedical fabric masks. “That’s certainly something we could discuss,” Trump said, adding, “it could be something like that for a limited period of time.”

In recent days, an assortment of scientists, health experts, pundits and influencers has vigorously advanced their position that everyone venturing into public or crowded places should wear a mask or face shield — even a homemade one — to lower the rate of transmission of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Read more here.

March 30, 2020 at 9:23 PM EDT
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Daily U.S. death toll surpasses 500 for first time

By Steven Goff

Monday was the first day that the number of U.S. deaths due to coronavirus eclipsed 500, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. Almost half of the deaths were reported in New York. The previous national high was 446 on Saturday.

As of 8:30 p.m., 48 states and the District had reported 541 deaths. Washington state and Alaska had yet to submit data.

New York reported 253 on Monday, followed by Michigan with 52 and New Jersey 37. California and Louisiana reported 34 deaths each. Maryland officials reported five deaths and Virginia three. The District said there were none.

Anthony S. Fauci and Deborah Birx, leaders of the White House coronavirus task force, told President Trump the country could record up to 200,000 deaths. Earlier Monday, Trump said modeling shows the death toll will not hit its apex for another two weeks.

“The same modeling also shows that by very vigorously following these [safety] guidelines, we could save more than one million American lives,” Trump said at the daily White House briefing. “The more we dedicate ourselves today, the more quickly we will emerge on the other side of the crisis.”

The first U.S. death, in Washington state, came on Feb. 29.

March 30, 2020 at 9:11 PM EDT
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A Minnesota trooper who pulled over a doctor for speeding gave her his N95 masks instead

By Meryl Kornfield

A doctor pulled over for speeding on a Minnesota interstate highway expected the disciplining state trooper to give her ticket. But instead, when he heard she was on the front lines of the deadly coronavirus pandemic, he handed her a fistful of N95 medical masks, scarce and state-issued for his protection.

“I burst into tears,” Boston cardiologist Sarosh Ashraf Janjua wrote in a Facebook post about the March 21 traffic stop. “This complete stranger, who owed me nothing and is more on the front lines than I am, shared his precious masks with me, without my even asking.”

In an update, Janjua reveals the trooper is Brian J. Schwartz.

“I had been hesitant to identify him because I wasn’t sure if his incredibly kind gesture was within the Minnesota State Patrol ‘rules,’ ” she wrote, “but it turns out they are as button-popping proud of him as they should be!”

Schwartz had noticed what looked like used masks in Janjua’s purse and wanted to give her new ones since he knew there was a limited supply, a patrolman spokesman told the Minnesota Star Tribune.

Shortages of personal protective equipment for health-care workers is a major concern as the epidemic approaches the apex. President Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to mobilize war-scale manufacturing for critical items like masks and the government plans to buy 500 million N95 respirators over the next 18 months.

Health-care workers have reused masks and made masks from scratch. Janjua acknowledged her concerns about shortages.

“Like all health-care workers and emergency responders around the world, I have felt afraid of not having adequate protective equipment,” she said, “and in my darkest moments, have worried about what would happen if I fell sick far from home.”

March 30, 2020 at 9:00 PM EDT
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First U.S. service member dies of coronavirus

By Meryl Kornfield

A New Jersey Army National Guard soldier who tested positive for the novel coronavirus died on Saturday, marking the first death of a service member from covid-19, the Pentagon announced Monday night.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) identified the soldier as Capt. Douglas Linn Hickok, a drilling Guardsman and physician assistant originally from Jackson, N.J. He had been hospitalized since March 21, the Pentagon said.

“This is a stinging loss for our military community, and our condolences go out to his family, friends, civilian co-workers and the entire National Guard community,” Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper wrote in a statement. “The news of this loss strengthens our resolve to work ever more closely with our interagency partners to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

A defense contractor who tested positive for the coronavirus died last week, The Washington Post previously reported.

Twenty-six service members are hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to the Military Times.

March 30, 2020 at 8:32 PM EDT
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Ford, GE estimate it will take until end of April to produce 1,500 ventilators

By Faiz Siddiqui and Reed Albergotti

Ford Motor Co. and General Electric are teaming up to build tens of thousands of ventilators, the manufacturers announced Monday, the latest development in a massive effort to retool existing U.S. manufacturing and supply chain capabilities for the treatment of covid-19 patients.

But Ford said in a news release it expects to produce just 1,500 ventilators by the end of April, after the point when health experts say the surge in U.S. hospitals will be greatest and well below estimates of what will be needed during that surge.

Medical experts have warned of ventilator shortages amid the fight against the novel coronavirus, as hospitals become overwhelmed with patients who require breathing assistance as a result of the illness that has sickened at least 160,000 and killed more than 2,900 in the United States.

On a conference call Monday, Ford and GE said they have a partnership to build a simplified version of an existing ventilator, estimating they can produce 50,000 in 100 days starting April 20. The companies would ramp up production to meet a target of 30,000 ventilators a month after that, they said.

Read more here.

March 30, 2020 at 8:32 PM EDT
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Florida sheriff charges pastor who kept megachurch open, said closings are for ‘pansies’

By Michelle Boorstein

Tampa-area law enforcement officials have arrested a local pastor who defied coronavirus-related bans on large gatherings and instead encouraged crowds as large as 500 people at one service this weekend, a sheriff said Monday.

The Rev. Rodney Howard-Browne, who told his congregants at the River at Tampa Bay Church on March 15 that he would close services only for the Rapture and that closings were for “pansies,” was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister and State Attorney Andrew Warren announced the charges at a news conference Monday, Fox 13 reported.

“There is nothing more important than faith during a time like this. And as a sheriff’s office we’d never impede someone’s ability to lean on their religious beliefs as a means of comfort, but practicing those beliefs has to be done safely,” Chronister said in a video of his Monday news conference posted on Fox. “Last night, I made a decision to seek an arrest warrant for the pastor of a local church who intentionally and repeatedly chose to disregard orders set in place by the president, the governor, the CDC” and local emergency officials.

“His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk and thousands who may interact with them in danger,” Chronister said.

Read more here.

March 30, 2020 at 7:18 PM EDT
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Workers at Amazon, Instacart and Whole Foods protest for better protections

By Nitasha Tiku and Jay Greene

Millions of consumers are turning to Instacart, Amazon and Whole Foods as essential resources during the novel coronavirus pandemic, something that has given workers at those companies unprecedented leverage.

Now they are conducting walkouts, strikes and sickouts to demand hazard pay and safety protections that match what they say is the high risk they take in showing up to work.

On Monday, some workers for grocery delivery app Instacart began a nationwide strike to demand hazard pay of $5 per order and better health protections. Meanwhile, some warehouse employees at an Amazon facility on Staten Island walked out because they said the e-commerce giant isn’t doing enough to protect them.

And on Tuesday, some staff at Amazon-owned Whole Foods around the country plan to call in sick to demand the grocer offer hazard pay of double their current hourly wages, along with other health protections.

Read more here.

March 30, 2020 at 7:11 PM EDT
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Trump says it’s up to states to enact stay-at-home orders

By Meryl Kornfield

Given a chance to criticize the long-lasting stay-at-home order Virginia’s Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday, Trump instead said the 70-day order should be followed.

From flirting with the idea of reopening the country by mid-April a week ago, Trump on Monday had a different message: “People are questioning that, but look, staying at home with respect to what we are talking about doesn’t bother me.”

"People should be staying at home,” he said at a news conference in the White House Rose Garden.

A week before, Trump told reporters the closures posed economic risk.

“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Trump tweeted then.

On Sunday, he extended social distancing federal guidelines through April but said it was “pretty unlikely” he would impose a national stay-at-home order.

He stressed that governors should decide how to deal with their states

“We are letting the governors do, in their states, pretty much whatever they want,” Trump said.

March 30, 2020 at 6:56 PM EDT
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U.S. is expelling border-crossers to Mexico in an average of 96 minutes

By Nick Miroff

Migrants who cross into the United States illegally are being expelled to Mexico in an average of 96 minutes under emergency coronavirus measures now in force across the U.S. southern border, according to three U.S. officials with knowledge of the latest government statistics.

The pandemic has allowed the U.S. Border Patrol to implement the kind of rapid-fire deportation system President Trump has long extolled as his preferred approach to immigration enforcement.

Under the new rules, U.S. agents are processing migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras “in the field” before they are able to set foot inside a U.S. Border Patrol station. The migrants are then whisked back to the border and sent into Mexico.

March 30, 2020 at 6:50 PM EDT
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Federal judge blocks Texas’s emergency abortion ban

By Arelis Hernández

A federal district judge in Texas has blocked a temporary ban on abortions after the governor issued an emergency executive order this month suspending all medically unnecessary surgeries across the state to conserve health-care resources during the pandemic.

Abortion providers filed a lawsuit a few days later arguing the ban was ideologically motivated to restrict the constitutional right to an abortion, which is a time-sensitive and essential procedure for protecting the health and well-being of women.

U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel issued the order late Monday granting providers a temporary restraining order on until April 13, allowing abortions to continue in the state.

“The benefits of a limited potential reduction in the use of some personal protective equipment by abortion providers is outweighed by the harm of eliminating abortion access in the midst of a pandemic,” Yeakel wrote in the order. "That increases the risks of continuing an unwanted pregnancy, as well as the risks of traveling to other states in search of time-sensitive medical care.”

Since Texas became the first state in the nation to use emergency powers to halt all abortions, four other states have followed suit with similar prohibitions, including Alabama, Iowa, Ohio and Oklahoma. A federation of abortion providers have filed lawsuits in each of those states.

The declarations from state leaders triggered mayhem for providers as they rushed to cancel appointments, shift patients to other states and interpret the precise meaning of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s warning to prosecute all violators of the governor’s order.

March 30, 2020 at 6:28 PM EDT
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‘The economy is No. 2 on my list,' Trump says, shifting from previous remarks

By Felicia Sonmez

Trump on Monday sharply pivoted away from his warnings about the economic impact of shutting down the country’s economy during the coronavirus pandemic, declaring that saving American lives is more important.

“Well, it’s so bad for the economy, but the economy is No. 2 on my list,” Trump told reporters in the Rose Garden. “First, I want to save a lot of lives.”

The statement marked a departure from the president’s message to the country last week, when he made the case for relaxing social distancing guidelines and repeatedly told reporters, “We can’t let the cure be worse than the virus.”

Two weeks ago, however, Trump delivered an Oval Office address in which he warned Americans to take the virus seriously.

“Smart action today will prevent the spread of the virus tomorrow,” he said then.