Coronavirus live updates: US deaths decline again; Trump take swipe at Fauci; sailor dies on USS Theodore Roosevelt

A sailor on the USS Theodore Roosevelt died Monday, but the daily U.S. death toll from the coronavirus dipped for the second straight day, providing hope that the worst of the pandemic could soon be in the nation’s rearview mirror.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who leads a state that has seen almost half of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths, declared “the worst is over” – if residents continue to follow rigid behavior guidelines.

In Washington, the White House dismissed as “ridiculous” any conjecture that President Donald Trump was firing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the medical face of the White House battle against the pandemic. Trump remains determined to “reopen” the U.S. for business as soon as possible. He’ll name a task force Tuesday charged with figuring out when and how to do it.

Ogbonnaya Omenka, a public health specialist at Butler University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, told USA TODAY a “stepwise approach” to opening up the country would likely be needed. 

“Determining when to reopen is a dicey task,” Omenka said. “The decision could backfire if it turns out to be too soon.”

Monday marked one month since Trump declared a national emergency. There were fewer than 2,000 confirmed cases nationwide then.

Sunday’s U.S. death toll was 1,557, according to Johns Hopkins University data. That was down from 1,877 on Saturday and more than 2,000 on Friday. Worldwide, there were more than 100,000 deaths and 1.88 million coronavirus cases as of Monday afternoon.

Our live blog is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news, and get updates in your inbox with The Daily BriefingMore headlines:

US death toll declines for second day in a row

Daily U.S. deaths exceeded 2,000 for the first time on Friday but slipped lower Saturday and were down again Sunday. Experts were hoping the country had reached the peak and would continue descending down the curve. 

“A decrease in mortality rates for two consecutive days is welcome news definitely, but one that should be received with a lot of cautious optimism,” said Ogbonnaya Omenka, a public health specialist at Butler University’s College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. But he warned that confirmed cases and hospitalizations were crucial gauges in determining the direction of the outbreak.

“Hospitalizations could still overwhelm the health care system,” he said. “So, while a decline in deaths is an important measure, an even more important benchmark is a wane in new transmissions.”

Trump retweets post calling for Fauci firing

The White House issued a statement Monday saying President Donald Trump has no intention of firing Dr. Anthony Fauci after Fauci acknowledged that lives could have been saved if the president had shut down the country sooner than mid-March. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, pressed on the timeline Sunday, conceded on CNN that there was pushback against a shutdown.

Trump supporter DeAnna Lorraine, who is challenging House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her seat out of San Francisco, tweeted that, early on, it was Fauci who downplayed the coronavirus. Her tweet, retweeted by Trump Sunday night, concluded with “Time to #FireFauci…” 

“This media chatter is ridiculous – President Trump is not firing Dr. Fauci,” spokesman Hogan Gidley said in the statement. “Dr. Fauci has been and remains a trusted adviser to President Trump.”

– David Jackson

Gov. Andrew Cuomo: ‘The worst is over’

After New York state reported 671 new deaths Monday, bringing the state’s overall total to more than 10,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo offered optimism with one caveat. “The worst is over,” Cuomo said Monday during his daily briefing, “if we continue to be smart going forward.”

Cuomo did indicate that the statement was his personal belief and added that the flattening of new deaths curve could end with “two or three days of reckless behavior.” To avoid that, Cuomo asked residents to follow stay-at-home restrictions and to continue to take precautions.This comes one day after Cuomo signed an executive order that directed employers to provide essential workers with cloth or surgical masks, free of charge, when employees were interacting with the public.

The 671 new deaths are the lowest New York has reported in several days. Cuomo said it was “basically flat at a horrific level of pain and grief and sorrow.”

– Lorenzo Reyes

Sailor from USS Theodore Roosevelt dies

A USS Theodore Roosevelt sailor who was admitted to the Intensive Care Unit of the U.S. Naval Hospital Guam last week died Monday of COVID-related complications, the Navy said. The sailor, whose name was not immediately released, tested positive March 30, was removed from the ship and placed in an isolation house. He was found unresponsive Thursday, CPR was administered, and he was rushed to the hospital where he died, the Navy said. 

The USS Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Guam on March 27 for a scheduled port visit. Since then, the crisis on the ship has rocked the Navy. Almost 600 members of the 4,800-member crew have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Navy fired the aircraft carrier’s captain after he pleaded with the Navy for help in a letter obtained by the media. Days later the Navy secretary was ousted.

– Tom Vanden Brook

Stocks open lower after historic gains

U.S. stocks faded almost 1% in early trading Monday following Wall Street’s biggest week in almost half a century. Standard & Poor’s 500 index climbed 12% in four days last week – markets were closed on Good Friday – and jumped more than 20% in the past three weeks. The optimism was driven projections suggesting the pandemic will soon ease in the U.S., along with trillions of government dollars being poured into the economy to keep it afloat during the almost-nationwide lockdown.

Abe faces more criticism in Japan; relapses in S. Korea

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has been steadily criticized for his response to the coronavirus, is facing more fallout for sharing a video on his verified Twitter account that many on social media are calling tone-deaf.

The video shows Abe sitting on a couch with a disinterested look, petting a dog, sipping from a mug, reading and then sitting on a chair and punching the keys of a remote control. On the other side of the split frame, a musician strums a guitar and sings.

“You cannot see your friends or organize drinking parties, but your actions are surely saving many lives,” Abe wrote in the message. “Everyone please cooperate.”

On Tuesday, Abe declared a month-long state of emergency – originally focused on Tokyo, Osaka and five other prefectures, but later expanded to the entire country – asking residents to stay at home. It is voluntary, however, and many residents are still being forced to commute and make themselves susceptible to exposure, since some companies have been slow to transition to remote work.

Cases in the country have spiked in recent days, with 7,370 confirmed reports and 123 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard as of Monday afternoon.

In South Korea, a troubling trend may be emerging. Over the last week, the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that at least 116 recovered patients have tested positive again, more than doubling the previous week’s relapse total of 51.

“While we are putting more weight on reactivation as the possible cause, we are conducting a comprehensive study on this,” said Jeong Eun-kyeong, director of the KCDC.

– Lorenzo Reyes; the Associated Press

George Stephanopoulos ‘feeling great’ despite testing positive

“Good Morning America” anchor George Stephanopoulos said Monday that he has tested positive for the coronavirus but has no symptoms. His wife, actress and author Ali Wentworth, confirmed she tested positive for COVID-19 almost two weeks ago. The couple have two children, and Wentworth self-isolated in a room in the family’s New York home. Wentworth was ill but did not require hospitalization.

“I’ve never had a fever, never had chills, never had a headache, never had a cough, never had shortness of breath,” Stephanopoulos said. “I’m feeling great.”

– Amy Haneline

Overwhelmed: Pandemic plays out the way experts expected

The coronavirus pandemic is playing out as emergency officials across the nation expected when they drafted response plans over the past decade. Many foresaw a spreading disease overwhelming hospitals and physicians forced to choose which patients would get life-sustaining care and which would die because of a shortage of medical equipment. The actual result: A mad scramble for ventilators and for masks, gloves and other personal protection equipment. 

A lack of readiness cannot be blamed on ignorance, said Dr. Ashish Jha, faculty director of Harvard’s Global Health Institute.

“We have known forever that we were going to get hit by a pandemic like this,” he said. “This was the scenario everybody talked about.”

– Dennis Wagner

Fear and loathing: 1 month later, a changed view of COVID-19

Americans’ attitudes changed dramatically between USA TODAY/Ipsos polls taken March 10-11 and April 9-10. The changes were not surprising after a month in which almost all Americans have been ordered to stay at home and the nation’s death toll has reached a global record. The number who say the virus poses a high threat to them personally and to the USA  doubled.

“At first, I thought, OK, we’re going to have to do this; everyone stay at home for a few weeks, for a month, and we’ll be back to normal,” says Brent Charnigo, 39, of Cleveland, who was among those surveyed. “Now it’s clear that’s not going to be the case. It’s going to be long-lasting.” How long? He pauses. “Years.”

– Susan Page

Great-grandma, 97, beats COVID-19

A 97-year-old woman was discharged from a Brazilian hospital Sunday after becoming one of the world’s oldest patients to survive COVID-19. Gina Dal Colleto was hospitalized April 1 after displaying symptoms including a cough and mental confusion, according to a statement from Rede D’Or São Luiz, which controls the Vila Nova Star hospital. Dal Colleto was put on oxygen and spent time in the intensive care unit. She was wheeled out of the hospital to applause.

Dal Colleto lives alone in the coastal city of Santos, according to the hospital. She has six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren and “enjoys walking, shopping and cooking,” the hospital said in a statement. Brazil has experienced the highest number of coronavirus cases in South America – 22,318 confirmed cases and 1,241 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

– N’dea Yancey-Bragg

More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY

More coronavirus headlines from USA TODAY

Contributing: The Associated Press

Continue reading at USA Today