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The White House coronavirus task force on Tuesday presented a grim picture of where the U.S. could be heading over the next couple of months, even with interventions like physical distancing. The task force projects 100,000 to 240,000 deaths from the virus, with mitigation.

The death toll in the U.S. grew by more than 800 on Tuesday, surpassing 3,700. Confirmed cases worldwide is more than 800,000.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Deborah Birx and Anthony S. Fauci, the leaders of the White House task force, emphasized that although the projection of 100,000 to 240,000 deaths were likely, they were hopeful that they could prevent such a high number by adhering to strict mitigation protocols.
  • Memos between the White House and the CDC show federal officials are debating whether to recommend that face coverings be routinely worn in public because of increasing evidence that people who are asymptomatic can spread the virus.
  • Louisiana reported by far its largest number of new confirmed cases in a 24-hour period Tuesday afternoon, with infections and deaths each jumping about 30 percent. Total known infections in the state hit 5,237 and deaths were up to 239 on Tuesday afternoon.
  • Three senior Senate Democrats asked Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to honor the terms of the coronavirus law enacted last week, expressing alarm that President Trump took a step to curb the program’s oversight and pressing to “without delay” nominate a new inspector general to oversee and probe the funding.
  • A new report by the CDC shows people of any age with underlying medical conditions are at increased risk if they contract the virus, including people with heart and lung disease, diabetes and even current or former smokers.
April 1, 2020 at 12:02 AM EDT
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Heightened New York City death toll overwhelms morgues, funeral homes

By Teo Armus

New York began constructing temporary morgues over the weekend to store bodies, part of the city’s preexisting “surge plan” on handling the dead during pandemics.

A new level of mobilization efforts under that plan was triggered last week, when the city’s daily death toll topped 200 and resulted in far too many bodies for cramped morgues inside hospitals.

Aja Worthy-Davis, a spokesperson for the city’s chief medical examiner, told TIME that at least four “body collection points” had been set up as of Monday at public and private hospitals: two in Brooklyn, one in Queens, and one in Manhattan.

One of the Brooklyn facilities, by the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center, consists of a refrigerated trailer set up along the curb, with a wooden ramp to allow hospital staff up to the 53-foot long structure and a wall of panels to shield the temporary morgue from the public, the newsmagazine reported.

“We want to be respectful and kind both to the people who have left this earth and those who live across the street,” Ramon Rodriguez, the hospital’s president and CEO, told TIME. His facility’s morgue can only house nine bodies at once.

The increased death toll has also overwhelmed some funeral homes: In Brooklyn, one Orthodox Jewish facility put out a call for additional volunteers as it said it was “overstacked with bodies," the Forward reported.

As in similar facilities around the country, the coronavirus may force the funeral home to alter or halt the traditional practice of guarding and purifying a dead body until further notice.

March 31, 2020 at 11:56 PM EDT
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Some national parks remain open and crowded as workers catch covid-19

By Juliet Eilperin, Darryl Fears and Dino Grandoni

At least seven National Park Service employees have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, yet the Trump administration continues to operate the park system that attracts thousands of Americans each day.

In response to questions from The Washington Post, the agency said Tuesday that as of Monday, seven Park Service employees have tested positive for covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. That figure, which had not been previously reported, doesn’t include workers in the park who are not federal employees.

“The NPS is working with our contractors and concessionaires to track reported cases of their employees as well,” Stephanie Roulett, a spokeswoman, wrote in an email.

March 31, 2020 at 10:40 PM EDT
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The world’s indigenous peoples, with tragic history of disease, implore outsiders to keep coronavirus away

By Amanda Coletta and Heloísa Traiano

TORONTO From the Canadian Arctic to the Brazilian Amazon to the Australian coast, indigenous groups are racing to protect themselves from a familiar foe that has historically threatened their very existence: the rapid spread of foreign infectious disease.

Fifteenth-century Europeans introduced smallpox and other diseases to the New World, decimating upward of 80 percent of the indigenous population. The 1918 flu pandemic wiped out entire villages.

Now, as the novel coronavirus advances, indigenous groups are locking down and imploring outsiders to stay away.

The pandemic is exacerbating deep-seated health and socioeconomic inequities throughout the world. Analysts say that makes indigenous peoples particularly vulnerable.

In many communities, key services such as water and housing are chronically underfunded. Many are remote, leaving residents no choice but to travel long distances to access anything beyond basic health-care services.

And indigenous peoples may suffer from higher rates of chronic illnesses, underlying conditions that can put them at greater risk of severe complications from covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“You combine all these factors together and what you see is a perfect storm of risks,” said Jeff Reading, a health sciences professor at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. “If the virus gets into a community ... it will spread like wildfire.”

Read more here.

March 31, 2020 at 10:02 PM EDT
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Cuomo’s office defends coronavirus response against criticism from Trump that New York started ‘late’

By Derek Hawkins and Jesse Dougherty

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office on Tuesday defended its response to the coronavirus outbreak against criticisms by President Trump that infections were soaring in the state because officials waited too long to take action.

“This is not the time to debate, but the states were not slow to respond — the federal government was absent,” Cuomo spokeswoman Dani Lever said in a statement.

In a White House news conference earlier in the day, Trump repeatedly accused New York of being slow to contain the virus and suggested that Washington state and California had recorded fewer cases because they acted earlier. He leveled similar criticisms at New Jersey and Louisiana.

“For whatever reason, New York got off to a very late start. And you see what happens when you get off to a late start. New Jersey got off, too,” Trump said. “And I think both governors are doing an excellent job, but they got off to a very late start.”

The coronavirus first appeared on the West Coast toward the end of January. New York didn’t record its first cases until late February. New Jersey had its first case in early March.

Cuomo (D) and Trump have had a tumultuous relationship since New York became the center of the outbreak in the United States.

The two leaders have traded jabs some days and avoided confrontation on others. Trump called Cuomo a strong opponent for Joe Biden in the race to be the Democratic nominee for president, before Cuomo, speaking Monday, knocked aside any possibility of running. That was soon after Trump suggested he may put a quarantine order on a few Northeastern states, including New York, and Cuomo responded by saying: “I don’t even know what that means.”

As New York’s outbreak began to soar last month, Cuomo pressed the Trump administration to dramatically expand testing, which was plagued by delays and a lack of coordination among federal agencies, especially in the crucial early weeks after the virus emerged on U.S. soil. Cuomo eventually secured permission to contract with more than two dozen private laboratories, vastly increasing the number of tests the state could perform daily.

At least 1,550 people in New York have died of the coronavirus, the most deaths that any state has confirmed as virus-related, and nearly 76,000 people have been infected.

March 31, 2020 at 9:45 PM EDT
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Wyoming is the only state without a reported coronavirus fatality

By Meryl Kornfield

Hawaii reported its first death from the novel coronavirus on Tuesday, leaving Wyoming as the only state in the United States that hasn’t announced a fatality from the virus.

The Hawaii victim was a resident of the island of Oahu, Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell announced during a news conference. The patient was an older adult who had preexisting conditions, Bruce S. Anderson, the state’s director of health, said at a later briefing.

Hawaii reported 20 new cases, driving the state’s total to 224 people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. Wyoming has 120 cases.

“I would like to express my deepest heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of the victim,” Gov. David Ige (D) said at the briefing.

March 31, 2020 at 9:16 PM EDT
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Harris County, Tex., could release 1,000 inmates from jail in coming days

By Brittney Martin

HOUSTON — Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo announced Tuesday that around 1,000 inmates accused of committing nonviolent crimes will likely be released from its jail in the next several days to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the facility, which she called “a ticking time bomb."

The inmate population is around 8,000, and 3,000 staff members and contractors come into the facility regularly, Hidalgo said. One inmate has tested positive, two dozen have shown symptoms, and more than 1,100 are under observational quarantine.

Only nonviolent offenders without violent criminal histories will be released, Hidalgo said, in accordance with an executive order signed Sunday by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

But the top two law enforcement officials in the Houston area are at odds over the inmates' release, taking to Twitter to state their positions.

Shortly after Hidalgo’s announcement, Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo noted that while many local businesses have been closed the past two weeks, the county has seen a nearly 19 percent increase in burglaries.

“Let’s hope people who burglarize vehicles, residences, and buildings aren’t released in large numbers,” Acevedo tweeted — though the judge specified that individuals on home burglary charges will remain behind bars.

On Monday, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez argued in favor of releasing nonviolent offenders for the sake of his deputies, corrections officers and staff, as well as for the inmates' safety.

“I’m also fighting for those in my custody and care that don’t have a voice, the forgotten,” Gonzalez tweeted. “Call them by any name, but they’re still innocent until proven guilty … I’m trying to prevent death from occurring in our jail.”

March 31, 2020 at 8:47 PM EDT
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White House task force paints a grim picture of the U.S. death toll in the coming weeks

By Colby Itkowitz and William Wan

The White House coronavirus task force described grimly its projection for the death toll if Americans don’t heed physical distancing guidance for at least 30 more days.

President Trump spoke soberly at the beginning of Tuesday’s briefing, calling the public health crisis “a great national trial, unlike any we have ever faced before,” and said the decisions everyday Americans make are “a matter of life and death.”

“This is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks,” Trump said. “When you look and see at night the kind of death that’s been caused by this invisible enemy, it’s incredible.”

Deborah Birx and Anthony S. Fauci, the leaders of the task force, explained that their projection models showed that 1.5 million to 2 million Americans would die if the public employed no mitigation efforts. With continued physical distancing, they show 100,000 to 240,000 deaths — still a staggering figure.

“There’s no magic bullet. There’s no magic vaccine or therapy. It’s just behaviors,” Birx said. “Each of our behaviors translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic. Over the next 30 days.”

Fauci urged people not to be discouraged when they see the fatality rates rising over the next several days. Asked whether the 100,000-death projection is to be expected, Fauci said the hope is that the number will be much lower, but people need to be prepared for the worst.

“We don’t accept that number, that that’s what it’s going to be. We’re going to be doing everything we can to get it even significantly below that. So, you know, I don’t want it to be a mixed message,” he said. “This is the thing that we need to anticipate. But that doesn’t mean that that’s what we’re going to accept. We want to do much, much better than that.”

The White House did not disclose the underlying data and assumptions in the model that generated the chart presented at the briefing, except to say the chart was based on what they were seeing in the hardest-hit locations such as New York and New Jersey. One key question, for example, is what time period the White House’s 100,000-to-240,000-death projection covers. If it covers only the coming few months until summer, as at least one academic model has done, the true death toll will probably be larger.

March 31, 2020 at 8:40 PM EDT
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Zaandam cruise ship still has no guaranteed port as Trump, Florida officials discuss plans

By Hannah Sampson and Josh Dawsey

On Tuesday, authorities in Broward County, Fla., where a cruise ship with four dead and two in dire need of medical attention hopes to dock this week, said a plan presented by owner Carnival Corp. does not yet address all their concerns. But county commissioners said they hoped to take action on an updated plan soon, and several said they wanted to allow the ship to offload its passengers at Port Everglades so they could be sent home.

A representative for the U.S. Coast Guard said Holland America Line’s Zaandam and an accompanying ship, Rotterdam, would not be allowed to enter U.S. waters without submitting “a complete plan for self-support of the medical issues occurring on board the vessels.” A Carnival executive said at the meeting that nine people on Zaandam had tested positive for covid-19.

Coast Guard Capt. Jo-Ann Burdian said a group of local, state and federal agencies needed to reach unanimous consent for the ships to dock.

“If not, I think that’s a question for a broader audience at the national government level,” she said.

President Trump said Tuesday evening that he will be speaking soon with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) about how to handle the Zaandam.

"There are people that are sick on the ship,” Trump said, adding: “I’m going to do what’s right. Not just for us, but for humanity.”

DeSantis has said that he does not want passengers from the ship to disembark in Florida. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but during a news conference earlier Tuesday, he said he had asked the Trump administration to get supplies to the ship.

“Just to drop people off at the place where we’re having the highest number of cases right now just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” he said.

March 31, 2020 at 8:25 PM EDT
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NYC death toll passes 1,000

By Derek Hawkins

New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus pandemic passed 1,000 on Tuesday, according to the city’s health department, as officials warned that it could be nearly another week before the outbreak peaked.

At least 1,096 people have died from covid-19 in New York City, and more than 8,500 remain hospitalized, according to the health department.

Statewide, New York reported a record 332 deaths in a single day, taking the state’s total to 1,550, according to a Washington Post database, signaling that fatalities could continue to increase sharply.

The rapidly expanding outbreak is threatening to overwhelm New York City hospitals, which are already facing dangerous shortfalls in ventilators, protective equipment and intensive-care beds.

Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) on Tuesday pleaded with President Trump to send thousands more ventilators to treat people with severe cases of covid-19 and called on oral surgeons, plastic surgeons and veterinarians to offer up their devices as well.

He stressed that the window to shore up resources was closing fast.

“We have a quarter of all coronavirus cases in America,” de Blasio said. “This coming Sunday, April 5, is a demarcation line. This is when we must be prepared for what we expect is a huge increase.”

March 31, 2020 at 8:23 PM EDT
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Federal Bureau of Prisons limits inmates to their cells for 14 days

By Matt Zapotosky

The Bureau of Prisons is restricting all federal inmates to their cells, with limited exceptions, for the next two weeks to try to reduce the spread of the coronavirus behind bars, authorities announced Tuesday.

In a news release, the bureau said the move was meant to “decrease the spread of the virus” and was not in response to “disruptive inmate behavior.” The bureau said it would still allow group movement to facilitate meals, laundry, showers and phone usage.

As of late Tuesday, the bureau had reported 28 inmates and 24 staffers with the coronavirus. One inmate had died.

The Bureau of Prisons, a component of the Justice Department, has 146,000 inmates in 122 federal facilities and another 21,000 inmates in private facilities.

Officials have taken an escalating series of steps in recent weeks to try to combat covid-19, though Tuesday’s move represents a significant escalation. Previously, officials barred almost all visits, stopped transfers between facilities and quarantined new inmates for 14 days.

Attorney General William P. Barr also directed the bureau to increase the use of home confinement for those who had already served a substantial portion of their sentence, were deemed to pose no threat and might suffer from preexisting conditions that would make them particularly vulnerable.

March 31, 2020 at 8:15 PM EDT
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Lousiana’s confirmed cases and deaths spike dramatically

By David Montgomery and Richard A. Webster

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana reported by far its largest number of new coronavirus cases in a 24-hour period Tuesday afternoon, with reported infections and deaths each jumping about 30 percent, as state leaders renewed calls for residents to comply with social distancing rules, and crackdowns on violators continued.

The "very sobering numbers" brought the state's total number of cases to 5,237, and 239 covid-19 patients have died, Gov. John Bel Edwards (D) said at a news conference. That is an increase of 1,212 cases and 54 deaths over what the state reported Monday. The city of New Orleans had 1,834 total cases and 101 deaths.

The new data pushed up the estimated date when the New Orleans region could run out of ventilators to April 4, and advanced the date when hospital beds in the region may be filled to April 7, the governor said.

March 31, 2020 at 8:13 PM EDT
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Florida governor says White House has not recommended stay-at-home order but that recommendation would ‘carry a lot of weight’

By Jesse Dougherty and Colby Itkowitz

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he is in regular communication with the White House’s coronavirus task force and that, to this point, it has not recommended a stay-at-home order for the state.

“Basically, I’ve said: ‘Are you guys recommending this?’ ” DeSantis (R) explained at a news conference Tuesday. “The task force has not recommended that to me. If they do, obviously that would be something that would carry a lot of weight with me.”

President Trump was asked during a White House briefing about DeSantis’s comments. He dodged the question by saying that the governor “knows exactly what he’s doing” and punted to Vice President Pence.

Pence followed up that the federal government’s posture has been to offer guidance on social distancing, but to ultimately leave it up to the states to enact their own policies. Trump interjected that if a governor was doing something obviously wrong, the federal government would step in, but that in DeSantis’s case “he’s been doing a great job in every respect.”

Florida reported 6,741 confirmed covid-19 cases Tuesday, a jump of 1,037 from the day before. DeSantis noted in his news conference that about 60 percent of the state’s cases are in the southeast region. He said there is “not really any more you can do in those counties,” pointing to the state’s efforts to provide additional testing, close nonessential businesses and dissuade people from leaving their homes.

The governor had described a scene of defiance Monday, when he flew out of Miami and saw a bunch of people on the beach. Florida has closed its beaches to limit the spread of the virus, but DeSantis feels that some elements of crisis management are out of his hands.

“No matter what you do, you’re going to have a class of folks who do whatever the hell they want to,” he said.

March 31, 2020 at 8:06 PM EDT
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CDC to White House: Sweeping use of face coverings may reduce virus spread

By Lena H. Sun and Laurie McGinley

Federal officials debating whether to recommend that face coverings be routinely worn in public are responding to increasing evidence that infected people without symptoms can spread the coronavirus, according to internal memos provided to the White House by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Simple cloth masks that cover the mouth and nose can prevent virus transmission from such individuals when they are out buying groceries or seeking medical care, according to the memos obtained by The Washington Post.

But the documents note that widespread public use of masks is not culturally accepted in the United States the way it is in many Asian countries, where face coverings helped reduce the spread of the virus.

The memos were drafted in recent days by the CDC and sent to officials at the Department of Health and Human Services and the White House coronavirus task force for consideration of masks as an additional measure to slow the pandemic.

If adopted by the coronavirus task force, the recommendations would represent a major change in official CDC guidance that healthy people don’t need masks or face coverings. The memos make clear the coverings under discussion are not medical masks, such as N95 respirators or surgical face masks, which are needed by front-line health-care workers and are in extremely short supply.

At a White House briefing Tuesday, President Trump was asked about people using face coverings. “My feeling is there is no harm in using a scarf or something,” he said, adding that medical masks should be reserved for hospitals. “I would say do it. You wouldn’t have to do it forever.”

Read more here.

March 31, 2020 at 7:24 PM EDT
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U.S. tops 800 daily deaths, passes China in reported fatalities

By Meryl Kornfield and Derek Hawkins

On Tuesday, the number of reported coronavirus deaths in the United States for the first time topped 800 in a day, according to data compiled by The Washington Post.

The total U.S. death count exceeds 3,700, which is more than the numbers reported by China. The previous highest U.S. daily toll was more than 500.

Most deaths Tuesday were in New York, where 332 people were reported dead. Michigan reported 75 deaths, New Jersey reported 69 and Louisiana reported 54. Nationwide, there were more than 24,000 new confirmed cases reported Tuesday.

The new total did not include deaths from Washington, where officials are working to fix a glitch in the health department’s system for tracking the outbreak. The state, one of the country’s early epicenters, has been unable to provide updates on its figures since Saturday.

Anthony S. Fauci and Deborah Birx, members of the White House coronavirus task force, said the country’s death toll could top 200,000 in the course of the pandemic. Officials, including President Trump and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), have warned that it could be weeks before deaths peak in the United States.

“Everybody wants to know one thing: When is it over? Nobody knows,” Cuomo said at a news conference on Tuesday. “It is not going to be soon. Calibrate your expectations.”

The U.S. death count reached another grim milestone Tuesday: It is more than the number of people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which killed about 3,000 people.

Other countries also set new highs for death counts Tuesday, including Spain, which reported 849 deaths in the previous 24 hours, and France, which recorded nearly 500 deaths in that time.