Coronavirus live updates: US braces for ‘horrific’ weeks as deaths top 5,000; Dr. Fauci gets security

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s preeminent coronavirus expert, required a security detail Thursday as the nation braced for what President Donald Trump predicted would be a “horrific” couple of weeks.

More than 1,000 people died of coronavirus in the United States on Wednesday alone, raising the death toll over 5,000. A week ago the total was less than 1,300. Trump and federal health officials predicted a “very painful” period in the country’s fight against the public health emergency.

Meanwhile, several states joined the stay-at-home movement. In Los Angeles, the mayor has urged residents to wear masks. In New York, a former police commissioner was brought back to serve as the medical supplies czar. 

The U.S. death toll was at 5,137 early Thursday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 48,000 and infected more than 950,000.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci threatened, gets security detail

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s public health face of the coronavirus pandemic, has been the target of online threats and has been issued an armed security detail, multiple media sources were reporting Thursday. Fauci, 79, declined to discuss his security at a recent news conference of the White House coronavirus task force. Details were vague, but the New York Times reported that Fauci was targeted by “conspiracy theorists.”

CNN, citing law enforcement officials, said the Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General sought assistance from the U.S. Marshals Service, which then deputized HHS officers to act as personal security for the doctor.

93% of global population facing travel restrictions

An overwhelming majority of the world’s population lives in a country with travel restrictions as the coronavirus pandemic unfolds. Pew Research shows that 93% of the world’s population – that’s 7.2 billion people – lives somewhere that has a restriction on people arriving from elsewhere who aren’t citizens or residents. And about 3 billion people (39%) reside where countries have shuttered borders completely to noncitizens and nonresidents. 

In the U.S., all foreign nationals from China, Iran and certain European countries are barred from entering the United States. And the border between Canada and the U.S. is closed for nonessential travel. 

– David Oliver

100,000 tests a day, but major issues remain

In the past week, testing has accelerated, and a mix of public and private labs execute more than 100,000 tests per day. Still, experts said, many patients and even healthcare providers are denied tests or must wait several days for results.

“It’s not as if it’s a train running along, as you might’ve heard,” said William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University School of Medicine professor of preventive medicine and an infectious-disease doctor. “Because testing is restricted still in many parts of the country.” Read more here. 

– Ken Alltucker

NFL’s Patriots shuttling 1.2 million masks from China to Boston

The New England Patriots private jet is due back in Boston from China on Thursday, loaded with 1.2 million N95 masks that are crucial personal protective equipment for healthcare workers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker secured 1.7 million masks through manufacturers but had no way to transport them to the U.S. Jonathan Kraft, the Patriots chief operating officer, is also a chairman of the board at Massachusetts General Hospital. An idea was born.

“In today’s world, those of us who are fortunate to make a difference have a significant responsibility to do so,” said Patriots owner Robert Kraft.

– Chris Bumbaca

USS Theodore Roosevelt offloading most of crew

The first group of USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors who tested negative for COVID-19 will be shuttled to a hotel off-base to be quarantined within hours, Rear Adm. John Menoni, commander of Joint Region Marianas, said Thursday. About 1,000 sailors from the ship are already on Naval Base Guam, and up to 2,000 more should be moved to hotels by Friday, Pentagon officials said. Some crew members will remain on the aircraft carrier to oversee weapons and its nuclear components, officials said.

Scores of crew members have tested positive. On Monday, Navy Capt. Brett Crozier sent an urgent letter to the U.S. Navy, asking officials to evacuate and isolate the crew as cases of coronavirus infection increased on the vessel.

– Jasmine Stole Weiss, Pacific Daily News

US stocks point higher Thursday, day after big losses

U.S. stock futures showed gains Thursday after Wednesday’s bloodletting that saw the markets tumble more than 4%. Asian stocks showed modest gains.

Benchmarks in Tokyo and Hong Kong opened lower but were trading higher by midday, and losses in early trading were smaller than Wall Street’s Wednesday showing. Shanghai opened down but gained 0.3% at mid-morning while Seoul advanced 1.9%. The U.S. warning added to anxiety among investors who are trying to figure out how long and deep this history-making global economic downturn might be.

National Guard helping in every state

More than 17,250 National Guard troops have been deployed in all 50 states and territories to help battle the coronavirus crisis. Assignments vary from disinfecting nursing homes in Georgia to removing the bodies of victims in New York City to helping police in Rhode Island pull over motorists with New York tags entering the state.

National Guard Bureau spokesperson April Cunningham said troops can be used for everything from traffic control to crowd control but there is no plan to use them to impose quarantine, enforce shelter in place operation, “or any kind of large-scale lock-down capacity.”

– Doug Stanglin

Los Angeles mayor to residents: Start wearing face masks 

The mayor of Los Angeles told everyone in the nation’s second-largest city to start wearing masks to combat the coronavirus, but California’s governor isn’t ready to take that idea statewide. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday he’s focused instead on keeping people inside. He also announced the state may need 66,000 additional hospital beds, 16,000 more than previously forecast, to handle the crush of illnesses expected during the second part of May.

At an afternoon news conference, Mayor Eric Garcetti said he had been awaiting advice from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on mask-wearing but with the COVID-19 rate surging had decided to wait no longer.

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NYC names former top cop as COVID-19 supply chain czar

Former NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill was named COVID-19 senior adviser to Mayor Bill de Blasio, tapped to oversee the supply and distribution of personal protective and medical equipment within New York City hospitals.

O’Neill will “create, operationalize and manage a supply inspection regime” to ensure the rapid turnaround of new supplies and verify each hospital is pushing needed equipment to frontline health care workers, de Blasio said in a statement.

O’Neill served 36 years in the department, including more than three years as commissioner from 2016-2019.

California engineer runs train off track in attempted attack of Navy ship

A California man faces federal charges after officials allege he ran a train “at full speed off the end of rail tracks” near the U.S. Naval Ship Mercy, the 1,000-bed floating hospital that arrived in the Port of Los Angeles last week amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Eduardo Moreno, 44, of San Pedro was charged Wednesday with one count of train wrecking after the Tuesday incident, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement. Moreno told police he believed the Mercy had “an alternate purpose related to COVID-19 or a government takeover,” according to the DOJ. Moreno told law enforcement officers he “intentionally derailed and crashed the train near the Mercy.” The train Moreno was conducting crashed through several barriers and came to a rest nearly 250 yards away from the Mercy, according to the DOJ statement. Nobody was injured.

– Jordan Culver

Trump considers restricting domestic air travel

President Donald Trump said his administration is looking at ordering airlines to cut back on domestic flights in an effort to quell the spread of the coronavirus between cities already under siege by the pandemic.

“You have them going, in some cases, from hot spot to hot spot,” Trump said about commercial planes. But Trump added that he’s aware of the hardship additional restrictions would impose on air carriers. “Once you do that, you are clamping down on an industry that is desperately needed,” Trump said.

Airlines have drastically reduced flight schedules in the face of plummeting passenger volume between cities. Trump has also imposed a ban on foreign nationals visiting the U.S. from China and most of Europe. He also has imposed restrictions on non-essential travel from Mexico and Canada.

– Chris Woodyard

Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, Nevada joins states with stay-at-home orders

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would be issuing an order for residents to stay at home for the next 30 days and only leave for essential services. DeSantis said the order will go into effect Friday at 12:01 a.m.

DeSantis had previously resisted issuing a stay-at-home order but said Wednesday he decided to issue the mandate when President Donald Trump extended the national social distancing guidelines for an additional 30 days.

Georgia, Mississippi and Nevada followed suit Wednesday, leaving less than 15 states without such orders.

Coronavirus in America: How all 50 states are responding to this public health emergency.

– Jim Little, Pensacola News Journal

Companies trim 401(k) contributions

More corporations are looking to temporarily halt 401(k) contributions, trying to cut costs as the coronavirus crisis hits their revenue and profits, labor attorneys said. It’s another way companies are trying to contain mounting losses, along with millions of layoffs and employee furloughs. For workers, those moves put a big dent in family budgets and retirement plans, which are already battered by the stock market’s plunge.

Joy Napier-Joyce, head of the employee benefits practice at the law firm Jackson Lewis, said calls about canceling 401(k) matching ramped up over the past two weeks. 

“In anticipation of an economic downturn, employers are looking at the ability to suspend those contributions for this year, or the near future, to help with expenses,” Napier-Joyce said. 

– Dalvin Brown

Contributing: The Associated Press

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