Coronavirus live updates: COVID-19 now in 19 US states, cases near 100,000 worldwide

Religious leaders in the U.S. and around the world are joining a growing movement to change the way Communion is delivered during the coronavirus scare, with several major churches issuing directives Thursday.

Some of the changes include giving Communion wafers in the hand and not on the tongue, forbidding handshakes, and temporary restrictions on drinking of wine.

Among the places where religious leaders directed new communion policies or guidelines on Thursday: San Francisco; Los Angeles; and Olympia, Washington. And it’s not just in the USA: The Catholic Church of Scotland banned communion wine Thursday and is draining holy water from fonts. A Catholic bishop in Perth, Australia, took similar measures.

Catholic churches are changing parts of Mass as coronavirus spreads

Catholic authorities in Jerusalem, Singapore, and the Philippines have issued similar guidelines or orders that favor giving Communion in the hand but not on the tongue. Mexican Episcopate officials on Thursday banned reception of Communion on the tongue.

“As we learn more about the threat, I have decided that additional measures are necessary,” wrote John Harvey Taylor of the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles. “I hereby inform all our lay and ordained leaders that communion wine may not be offered in our churches, either for sipping or by intinction, until we can be confident that the danger of mass COVID-19 infections has abated.”

Many church leaders also directed that handshakes during services or other signs of hand-holding peace should be omitted.

“During the Exchange of Peace, worshipers should simply bow with respect to each other and not shake hands,” the Diocese of Paterson, New Jersey, directed last week.

Some churches gave explicit instructions for hand-washing during services.

“All priests and extraordinary ministers of holy communion are to wash their hands in soap and water, or are to use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer both immediately before and immediately after the distribution of holy communion,” Bishop Donald Sproxton, of Perth, said in a statement.

In a letter, the San Francisco Episcopal Diocese ordered all lay and ordained leaders to cease offering communion wine “until we learn more about the nature of COVID-19 transmission and are confident the threat of mass infections has passed.”

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Here’s the latest on the outbreak of COVID-19: 

Coronavirus case count nears 100K as four states report first positive tests

The worldwide total of confirmed cases was nearing 100,000 early Friday, a day after Colorado, Maryland, Nevada and New Jersey all reported their first encounters with the virus that has killed 12 Americans and nearly 3,400 globally.

There have been 233 confirmed cases in the U.S., according to a coronavirus dashboard run by Johns Hopkins University.

Common signs of infection include fever, cough and breathing difficulties. If the infection worsens, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.

States with confirmed cases of the coronavirus: 

  • Washington: 75
  • Oregon: 3
  • California: 51
  • Nevada: 1
  • Arizona: 2
  • Colorado: 2
  • Texas: 4
  • Wisconsin: 1
  • Illinois: 5
  • Tennessee: 1
  • Georgia: 2
  • Florida: 4
  • North Carolina: 1
  • Maryland: 3
  • New York: 23
  • New Jersey: 2
  • Rhode Island: 2
  • Massachussetts: 4
  • New Hampshire: 2
  • Diamond Princess: 45

—Steve Kiggins

Nevada’s 2nd coronavirus case forces closure of Reno elementary school

A man in Washoe County has tested positive for coronavirus, forcing the closure of a local elementary school where one of his family members is a student, the county’s health district announced late Thursday.

The Reno-area man is in his 50s and linked the Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess outbreak. He is in stable condition and is self isolating at home, the Washoe County Health District said.

“The upside for us is this one person confirmed is not a community exposure,” Washoe County Commissioner Marsha Berkbigler told the Reno Gazette Journal of the USA TODAY Network. “He was clearly on the cruise ship.”

The first “presumptive” positive case of the virus in Nevada was announced earlier Thursday, a man, also in his 50s, who had recently taken trips to Washington state and Texas.

—Anjeanette Damon and Siobhan McAndrew, Reno Gazette Journal

California orders insurance companies to cover costs for coronavirus testing

California became the third state to order all public and commercial insurance plans to cover the full cost of coronavirus testing and screening, following Washington and New York.

The orders, announced by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Ricardo Lara, the state’s Insurance Commissioner, would “immediately reduce cost-sharing … to zero,” according to the California Department of Insurance and Department of Managed Health Care.

“This action means that Californians who fit the testing requirements can receive the test at no cost,” Newsom said in a statement. “We’re all in this together, and I’m grateful to those health providers who have already stepped up and heeded our call.”

—Steve Kiggins

Coronavirus can be avoided by working from home. Some can’t.

As the COVID-19 virus spreads in the USA and around the world, officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage people to work from home as a way to help cut back contagion.

Not only do most U.S. workers not have that luxury – 29% have the option to work remotely, according to Labor Department data – many have frontline exposure.

Airport workers, bus drivers, homeless shelter volunteers, teachers, medical professionals – the list of jobs that a work-from-home order would not apply to is vast. Interviews with representatives from some of those groups reveal a simmering level of concern for worker safety as COVID-19 cases and deaths increase. This is what it’s like for people who truly cannot work remotely.

– Marco della Cava and Trevor Hughes 

AT&T temporarily closes 6 locations ‘out of an abundance of caution’

AT&T temporarily closed six stores in the San Diego area “out of an abundance of caution” after a retail store worker tested positive for coronavirus, a company spokesman confirmed to a local TV station.

The company closed and cleaned stores on Wednesday in Chula Vista, Escondido, San Marcos, Oceanside, National City and Vista, AT&T spokesman Fletcher Cook told FOX 5 in an email. The stores all reopened on Thursday.

The person who received the “presumptive” positive test had recently traveled outside of the U.S. to a “high-risk” area for coronavirus, the city of Chula Vista told FOX 5.

—Steve Kiggins

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