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US Coronavirus Updates: Trump, 3M Dispute Over Masks Ends ‘Happily’; Airline Passengers Can Use Cloth Face Coverings

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Americans braced for what the nation's top doctor warned Sunday would be "the hardest and saddest week" of their lives. "This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment," U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said in an interview on "Fox News Sunday."

The stark warning comes as hospitals, already overwhelmed with coronavirus cases, are facing supply shortages and burned-out staff.

Meanwhile, a review of federal purchasing contracts by The Associated Press shows the Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment. Federal agencies waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers. By that time, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile. 

By Monday night, the number of people infected in the U.S. exceeded 367,000 and the death toll at nearly 11,000, with New York state alone accounting for more than 5,000 dead. Most of the dead are in New York City, where hospitals are swamped with patients.

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis in the U.S.:


Trump Says Dispute With 3M Over Masks 'Ends Very Happily'

President Donald Trump is touting the end of a dispute with 3M to supply millions of masks to medical professionals on the front lines of the fight against the coronavirus.

Trump said that the “3M saga ends very happily. We’re very proud to be dealing now with 3M."

The president said that the company agreed to deliver an additional “55.5 million high-quality facemasks each month.”

Trump had invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act to prevent 3M from exporting masks abroad.

It had sparked some fears that other nations would down on the shipment of medical supplies to the US.


Airline Passengers Can Wear Cloth Face Coverings During Screening: TSA

The Transportation Security Administration on Monday said airline passengers can wear cloth face coverings during the security screening at airports.

Passengers, however, must be prepared to adjust their masks so TSA officers can confirm their identity.


Wisconsin Gov. Orders Delay of Tuesday's Primary Election to June

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Monday issued an executive order to delay the state's presidential primary for two months because of the coronavirus pandemic, a move that will almost certainly prompt a court challenge and inject new uncertainty about whether the election will move forward.

Evers, a Democrat, had previously opposed moving Tuesday's election. But he's pushing to delay it until June 9 amid criticism about how in-person voting can proceed safely at a time when public health officials are discouraging groups of people from gathering to avoid spread of the virus. Some poll sites have already closed because nervous volunteers are unwilling to staff them.

Evers had been unable to strike a deal with Republicans to reschedule the election. His order comes after the GOP-controlled Legislature refused his request to cancel in-person voting on Tuesday.


'Now Is Not the Time to Be Lax': NY Extends Stay-at-Home Rules Amid Glimmer of Hope

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo extended stay-at-home restrictions through the month and increased fines on violators to up to $1,000, citing fresh evidence Monday that the outbreak-fighting rules could be helping the state avoid a worst-case catastrophe.

New York state has tallied 4,758 deaths from COVID-19, with 599 reported in the last 24 hours. It remains the most impacted state with more than 130,000 laboratory-confirmed cases and close to 17,000 people hospitalized.

But the number of new people entering hospitals daily has dropped, as have the number of critically ill patients requiring ventilators. Recent data suggests the state could be at or near the peak of the outbreak, state officials said.

"If we are plateauing, we are plateauing at a very high level," Cuomo said Monday. "Now is not the time to be lax. Now is not the time to be playing Frisbee in the park. I want to be, frankly, more aggressive on the enforcement because all the anecdotal evidence is that people are violating it at a higher rate than before."

Cuomo also said Monday he will ask President Donald Trump to allow the U.S. Navy’s 1,000-bed hospital ship Comfort to be used to treat patients with the coronavirus to relieve pressure from New York City’s strained hospital system.

The U.S.N.S. Comfort was designated to treat non-coronavirus patients. But as of Saturday, the ship only had 27 patients, with more than 970 empty beds.

"As it turned out, there's not a lot of non-COVID people in the hospital system," Cuomo said a news conference Monday, attributing that to the decrease in car accidents and crime because of the city-wide lockdown on businesses and social distancing efforts by residents.

Dr. Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator for the White House, told reporters on Monday that she hoped to see Americans follow the CDC guidelines “out of respect for every single healthcare worker that’s on the frontline.”

Dimon and Yellen Warn of Economic Downturn, 'Bad Recession' Ahead

Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen said the economy is in the throes of an “absolutely shocking” downturn that is not reflected yet in the current data.

“If we had a timely unemployment statistic, the unemployment rate probably would be up to 12 or 13% at this point and moving higher,” Yellen told CNBC’s Sara Eisen during a “Squawk on the Street” interview.

Meanwhile, JPMorgan Chase chief Jamie Dimon warned Monday that the coronavirus crisis would likely bring about a “bad recession” and elements of financial strain similar to the 2008 downturn, CNBC reports.

The chairman and CEO of the biggest U.S. bank said in his annual letter to shareholders that while JPMorgan entered the crisis from a position of strength and that lenders have prepared for this, the pandemic is playing out in ways that are “dramatically different” from the industry’s Federal Reserve stress tests.

“We don’t know exactly what the future will hold — but at a minimum, we assume that it will include a bad recession combined with some kind of financial stress similar to the global financial crisis of 2008,” Dimon said. “Our bank cannot be immune to the effects of this kind of stress.”


Trump's Trade Adviser Promotes Use of Unproven COVID-19 Treatment

The debate over using an anti-malaria drug not yet officially approved for fighting COVID-19 has erupted at the White House. Senior Trump administration adviser Peter Navarro is speaking out emphatically for using the drug, even though scientists say more testing is needed before it’s proven safe and effective against the new coronavirus.

Navarro, a trade adviser on the White House virus task force, acknowledged to CNN on Monday that he had a heated exchange about the drug during Saturday's virus task force meeting. He explained

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, says current studies aren't conclusive. Navarro responded with two words: “Second opinion.”

"Doctors disagree about things all the time. My qualifications in terms of looking at the science is that I'm a social scientist," Navarro told the "New Day" anchor John Berman. "I have a Ph.D. And I understand how to read statistical studies, whether it's in medicine, the law, economics or whatever."

Hydroxychloroquine is officially approved for treating malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, but not COVID-19. Small, preliminary studies have suggested it might help prevent the new coronavirus from entering cells and possibly help patients clear the virus sooner.

President Donald Trump defended his statements in support of using malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus at a press conference on Sunday, despite experts on the White House task force denying there is any scientific evidence to suggest it would be an effective remedy for the virus.

Pentagon: Active Duty Infections Topped 1,000

The Pentagon says the number of COVID-19 cases in the active duty force topped 1,000 over the weekend.

There are a total of 1,132 confirmed cases as of Monday morning. The total was 978 on Friday.

There also have been 303 cases among members of the National Guard.

Among the military services, the Navy has the most cases, with 431. That includes more than 150 among the crew of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt.


'Testing Czar' Adm. Giroir: This Will Be 'Peak Week' for Deaths, Hospitalizations

Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, warned Americans that this week will be the "peak week" for hospitalizations and deaths from the novel coronavirus outbreak for some states and cities, noting this reflects infections that occurred two to three weeks ago.

In an interview Monday on the TODAY show, Girgoir told co-host Savannah Gutherie that he believes we are "turning a corner" in New York, New Jersey and other hard-hit regions because of all the physical distancing and other constraints placed on social gatherings.

"But that doesn't mean we're over this week," he said. "There are other parts of the country that will peak a little bit later, like New Orleans. So, we'll see rolling peaks across the country as the next few weeks unfold."

Asked why the U.S. is testing people at a slower rate than other countries, Girgoir conceded that “testing is tight” at the moment, but said there should be enough tests “to handle the load we’re going to see this week.”

“We are not going to have tens of millions of tests this week, but we will have a million-plus tests, plus all the thousands of hospitals who do their own tests,” Adm. Giroir said. “That should be sufficient to take care of the load we’re going to see this week.”


3 in 4 US Hospitals Now Facing Cases of COVID-19

Three out of four U.S. hospitals surveyed are already treating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19, according to a federal report that finds hospitals expect to be overwhelmed as cases rocket toward their projected peak.

A report due out Monday from a federal watchdog agency warns that different, widely reported problems are feeding off each other in a vicious cycle. Such problems include insufficient tests, slow results, scarcity of protective gear, the shortage of breathing machines for seriously ill patients and burned-out staffs anxious for their own safety.

The inspector general's report is based on a telephone survey of 323 hospitals around the country, from March 23-27. With hundreds of new coronavirus cases daily, the situation is becoming more dire for many the nation's 6,000 hospitals. Others can still scramble to prepare. A copy of the report was provided to The Associated Press.

"It’s likely that every hospital in America is going to have to deal with this," Maxwell said.

Of the 323 hospitals in the survey, 117 reported they were treating one or more patients with confirmed COVID-19, while 130 said they were treating one or more patients suspected to have the disease. Suspected infections are treated similarly, because of the uncertainties around testing. Only 32 hospitals said they were not treating any patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. Another 44 hospitals did not provide that information.


American Airlines Cuts Flights to and From NYC-Area Airports

American Airlines is joining others in drastically cutting more flights in and out of New York City area airports, the company said Sunday.

In a statement, the Texas-based airline said that the "rapidly evaporating" demand for flights in the area due to the coronavirus has forced the temporarily suspension of flights at JFK, LaGuardia and Newark Airports (EWR) starting Tuesday, April 7.

The new schedule will run through May 6, the company said.

American Airlines workers at the three big NYC-area airports will only operate from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and they will operate with capacity restrictions in place to maintain social distancing onboard each aircraft, according to the airline.

The changes come just one day after United Airlines CEO sent a message to employees announcing the temporary suspension of nearly 90% of all flights in and out of Newark and LaGuardia.

Dr. Anthony Fauci discusses how the attention of scientists turns to containment once mitigation is complete.

Read the full story on NBCNewYork.com


Governors Plead for Food Stamp Flexibility

Yvonne Knight, who has respiratory problems that make her especially vulnerable in the coronavirus pandemic, can't buy groceries online with her food stamps, even though each trip to the store is now a risky endeavor.

Going out to buy food terrifies the 38-year-old woman with cerebral palsy, but she is one of millions of people who receive food aid through the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that can't be used in flexible ways. "Every time I go out, I put myself at risk — and other people," said Knight, who lives in Erie, Pennsylvania. 

Buying groceries online — which many Americans are doing to reduce how often they leave their homes — is only open to SNAP recipients in six U.S. states, and Pennsylvania is not one of them.

Now, state governments and food security activists across the country are imploring the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make the program more flexible and easier to access at a time when so many people are losing their jobs and turning to the government for support.

As coronavirus spreads across the globe, many in the United States are wondering how they can get tested. Here is the process.

Hundreds of Patients Hurry to Join Drug Studies

Coronavirus patients around the world have been rushing to join remdesivir studies that opened in hospitals in the last few weeks.

Interest has been so great that the U.S. National Institutes of Health is expanding its study, which has nearly reached its initial goal of 440 patients. The drug’s maker, California-based Gilead Sciences, is quickly ramping up its own studies, too.

"I would enroll my family in a heartbeat" if the need arose, said Dr. Libby Hohmann, who placed nearly 30 patients in the NIH one at Mass General. To have no approved medicines for COVID-19 now is "kind of terrifying," she said.

President Donald Trump defended his statements in support of using malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for coronavirus at a press conference on Sunday, despite experts on the White House task force denying there is any scientific evidence to suggest it would be an effective remedy for the virus.

Remdesivir is given through an IV. It’s designed to interfere with an enzyme that reproduces viral genetic material.

The NIH study is the most rigorous test. It compares remdesivir to placebo infusions, and neither patients nor doctors know who is getting what until the end of the study. Besides the U.S., it's open in Japan, Korea and Singapore.

The Associated Press/NBC
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