National coronavirus updates: Millions of Americans celebrate Easter in unusual ways due to virus


APRIL 12, 2020

The latest:

  • There are more than 530,000 coronavirus cases in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
  • The U.S. death toll has surpassed 20,000 people, according to Hopkins.
  • Globally, the number of cases has surpassed 1.8 million with more than 110,000 deaths, Hopkins reports.
  • Antibody tests that would verify whether a person recently had the coronavirus could be available within a week, Dr. Anthony Fauci says.
  • Dr. Deborah Birx said for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic hit, she is seeing a leveling of the curve in the United States.
  • The main U.S. model is now showing fewer projected deaths, down to about 60,000 people by August.
  • The U.S. is set to reach its highest daily number of deaths on or around Sunday, according to models by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle.
  • The Pentagon executed its first project under the authorities granted by the Defense Production Act in order to produce more than 39 million N95 masks amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Easter Sunday is dawning across America like none before it.

States are trying new approaches to religious gatherings as the coronavirus compels social distancing to fight its spread. Many congregations are celebrating online, but others have vowed to continue to gather, despite efforts to get them to stop.

All 50 states are under a federal disaster declaration for the first time in U.S. history.

On Saturday night, the Justice Department said it will take action this week against regulations on religious institutions, as states and local governments try to curtail gatherings.

Various courts are already hearing cases about the regulations, but the department said it may file lawsuits alongside churches.

Updates from states reducing religious gatherings

• In Kentucky, authorities said they will record license plates of those who show up to any gatherings and hand that information over to the local health department. That will require those people to stay quarantined for 14 days, Gov. Andy Beshear said.

• In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said the state amended a public health order banning mass gatherings to include houses of worship.

• The mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, tried to stop a church from holding a drive-in Easter service, even though drive-in liquor stores are still permitted under the state’s stay-at-home policy. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Saturday that overturned the effort.

Efforts to contain virus continue across states

President Donald Trump approved a disaster declaration Saturday for Wyoming, the final state to get one. It makes federal funds available to supplement state and local efforts to deal with the pandemic.

A state declaration of disaster also focuses the entire state government on the emergency and heightens awareness. Declarations also allow governors to sidestep certain laws and regulations.

Most emergency responses in the U.S. come from the bottom up. They typically filter from local authorities to state governments to the federal government.

In addition to the states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Washington, D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico have also been declared disasters.

States are feeling the impact of the pandemic in many ways.

• Illinois announced its second highest day of deaths Saturday, with 1,293 new reported cases and 81 additional deaths.

• In South Florida, families lined up for up to five hours before food distribution even began outside Magic City Casino, according to CNN affiliate WPLG.

• And in New Jersey, the state with the second highest number of coronavirus cases, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka is asking all businesses — even those deemed essential — to shut down for “Be Still Mondays.” The goal is to further limit the spread of the virus as the death toll rises in the state and, according to Baraka, “We can get everything else back. What we can’t get back is people’s lives.”

Pushes to reopen and the risks

Trump said Saturday night that he hopes to make a decision “fairly soon” on when to reopen the country currently shutdown by the coronavirus pandemic. He said he will set up a council to examine the issue and will base his decision on “facts” and “instinct.”

Two weeks ago, Trump said he wanted to open the country by Easter, but Friday he said he wouldn’t do anything until he knew the country was healthy again.

Internally, officials are pushing to reopen the country by next month, with specific discussions underway about May 1, a person familiar with the talks told CNN.

But government projections obtained by the New York Times show that if stay at home orders were lifted after a month, there would be a bump in demand for ventilators and the U.S. death toll could see a dramatic increase to 200,000, the Times reported.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington projects that if the country keeps social distancing measures until the end of May, about 61,500 Americans will lose their lives to the virus by August.

“If we were to stop at the national level May 1, we’re seeing (in models) a return to almost where we are now sometime in July, so a rebound,” IHME Director Dr. Chris Murray told CNN. “There’s a very substantial risk of rebound if we don’t wait to the point where most transmission is near zero in each state.”

Courtesy/Source: NBC News