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US Virus Updates: Empire State Building Flashes ‘Siren’ Lights; 11 Vets Die at Mass. Home

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Bracing the nation for a death toll that could exceed 100,000 people, President Donald Trump on Sunday extended restrictive social distancing guidelines through April, bowing to public-health experts who presented him with even more dire projections for the expanding coronavirus pandemic.

It was a stark shift in tone by the president, who only days ago mused about the country reopening in a few weeks. From the Rose Garden, he said his Easter revival hopes had only been "aspirational."

And he's right. The U.S. now has more than 164,274 confirmed cases, well surpassing Italy's 101,739 cases and China's 82,240 infections. Deaths in the U.S. topped 3,000 as of Monday night.

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


NYC's Empire State Building Flashes Spinning 'Siren' Red Light

One of New York City's most iconic buildings, the Empire State Building, lit up Monday night to honor the city's health care workers. The building tweeted that it would display "a white and red siren in the mast for heroic emergency workers on the front line of the fight."

Videos of the "siren" lights going off on a foggy night in the city appeared on Twitter.

According to TODAY.com, the building also lit up to the tune of "Empire State of Mind," by Alicia Keys as it played on a local radio station, Z100 New York.


11 Veterans Die Amid Virus Outbreak at Mass. Soldiers' Home

Eleven veterans, all residents of Massachusetts' Holyoke Soldiers' Home, are dead after five tested positive for the coronavirus, according to NBC affiliate WWLP. Five of the other veterans who died were awaiting test results for the virus. In addition, five staff members at the facility tested positive.

Massachusetts Health and Human Services Secretary Dan Tsai said in a press release Monday that Bennett Walsh, superintendent of Holyoke Soldiers' Home, had been placed on paid administrative leave effective immediately.

According to Mass.gov, the Soldiers' Home is described as a "247-bed long term nursing care facility with 24-hour licensed nursing staff."

At the Soldiers' Home in Holyoke, 11 residents have died after a coronavirus outbreak.

Virginia Under 'Stay-at-Home' Order Until June 10

Virginia is now under a "stay-at-home" order until June 10, Gov. Ralph Northam announced Monday.

Northam said he issued the order because people are not following guidelines they remain in their residences. He noted large crowds of people gathering at beaches and other places over the weekend, NBC4 Washington reports.

All people in Virginia must stay at home unless they are getting food, medical attention or help from law enforcement, among other essentials.

Those who fail to comply could face a Class 1 misdemeanor punishable by up to $2,500 and a year in prison.


US Service Member Dies of Coronavirus

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper says a New Jersey Army National Guardsman is the first U.S. service member to pass away because of the new coronavirus.

The guardsman died on Saturday, according to the Pentagon. The person had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been hospitalized since March 21.

“This is a stinging loss for our military community,” Esper says in a release, “and our condolences go out to his family, friends, civilian co-workers and the entire National Guard community. The news of this loss strengthens our resolve to work ever more closely with our interagency partners to stop the spread of COVID-19.”

At a White House coronavirus task force briefing, Dr. Stephen Hahn, commissioner of food and drugs at the FDA, showed a new point-of-care coronavirus test that can give results in about 5 minutes.

Some Instacart, Amazon Workers Strike as Jobs Get Riskier

Some Instacart and Amazon warehouse workers walked off the job Monday demanding greater safeguards against the coronavirus, even as both companies are speed-hiring hundreds of thousands of new workers to handle a surge in delivery orders.

The one-day strikes had little impact on consumers, but the unrest called attention to mounting discontent among low-wage workers who are on the front lines of the pandemic, serving the needs of those who can keep safe working from home. Whole Worker, a workers group for Whole Foods employees, is calling for a nationwide “sick out” on Wednesday.

Many workers in high demand are part-time or contracted employees, lacking in benefits such as paid sick time off or health care. In addition to demands for more protection against coronavirus, workers are citing longstanding grievances over practices that keep wages low and part-time workers from getting more hours.

Online grocery-delivery service Instacart and Amazon say they are working to equip their workers with sanitation gear and have taken steps to increase pay and extend paid sick time. Instacart said Sunday that it would make hand sanitizer available to its workers upon request and outlined changes to its tip system, but strikers said it was too little too late.

An Amazon employee at the company's Seattle headquarters has tested positive for coronavirus.

EPA Asking Americans to Watch What They Flush

The Environmental Protection Agency has a message for Americans — watch what you flush.

“Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is encouraging all Americans to only flush toilet paper," the agency says in a statement.

Americans are using far more disinfecting wipes in the coronavirus outbreak, the EPA noted, but disposing of them improperly threatens plumbing, sewer and septic systems.

EPA news statements on aspects of the pandemic shutting down economies and societies around the globe have been limited and include addressing the effectiveness of disinfectants.

The EPA says it’s critical that the nation have “fully operational wastewater services” to contain the virus and protect against other health risks.

When a reporter asked President Donald Trump what he would say to Americans who are upset with him "over the way you downplayed this crisis over the last couple of months," Trump responded by attacking the reporter and defending his response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cuomo Pleads for Help as NY's Death Toll Climbs

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called on health care workers in areas of the country not impacted by the coronavirus to travel to New York to help doctors and nurses treating patients in the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S. He said when N.Y. reaches the other side of the curve, it will send its workers to those states.

“Please come help us in New York now. We need relief,” Cuomo pleaded as the number of dead in New York State climbed past 1,200, with most of those victims dying in New York City.

Speaking at a daily briefing, Cuomo said the outbreak in New York isn’t "an anomaly" and serves as a preview of what other communities across the U.S. could soon face.

“Anyone who says this situation is a New York City-only situation is in a state of denial. You see this virus move across the state, you see this virus move across the nation. There is no American who is immune to this virus," Cuomo said.

Asked what message he had for health care workers on the front line, Cuomo said, "We're all in awe of you, we're all inspired by you, we all secretly wonder if we could do what you are doing."


Gov. Logan Issues 'Stay-at-Home' Directive for Maryland

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued a “stay-at-home” directive Monday as the number of coronavirus cases topped more than 1,400.

Hogan said the region around the nation's capital, which includes Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia, has reached "a critical turning point in the fight to stop the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. The stay-at-home order will be effective at 8 p.m. Monday.

“No Maryland resident should be leaving their home unless it is for an essential job or for an essential reason, such as obtaining food or medicine, seeking urgent medical attention or for other necessary purposes,” Hogan said at a news conference on the Maryland State House lawn.

Hogan also said he will continue pressing the federal government to designate the region around the nation's capital as a priority location for a federally supported virus testing site.

The American Heart Association provided some tips to stay healthy while social distancing at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Johnson & Johnson: Human Testing of Coronavirus Vaccine to Begin in Sept.

Johnson & Johnson announced Monday it had identified a "lead candidate" for a potential COVID-19 vaccine with human testing expected to begin as early as September, CNBC reported.

The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company partnered with the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, to expedite research into the new vaccine. The new vaccine could be available for emergency use authorization in early 2021.

Johnson & Johnson said it is also increasing its manufacturing capacity in order to produce and distribute the potential vaccine quickly.

"We have a candidate that has a high degree of probability of being successful against the COVID-19 virus. We've got the production capabilities to be able to ramp up production of this in a relatively short period of time so it can become available," Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky said Monday on the "TODAY" show.


Macy's to Furlough Most of Its Remaining Employees

Macy’s said most of its 130,000 employees will be furloughed beginning this week as it looks to stay afloat amid plummeting sales during the coronavirus pandemic, CNBC reported.

The retailer did not say how many employees will be affected by the furloughs.

In a statement, Macy's said cuts are necessary because it’s lost most of its sales, even as it remains open online. It listed several steps the company has already taken to shore up its finances, including freezing hiring and canceling some orders, among others.

“While these actions have helped, it is not enough,” the company said in a statement. “Across Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Bluemercury brands, we will be moving to the absolute minimum workforce needed to maintain basic operations.”


Tokyo Olympics Rescheduled for July 23, 2021

The Tokyo Olympics will open next year in July, the same slot scheduled for this year's games.

Tokyo organizers say the opening ceremony will take place July 23, 2021. That is almost exactly one year after the games were due to start this year. The IOC and Japanese organizers last week postponed the Olympics because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The rescheduled Olympics will start July 23, with the closing ceremony on Aug. 8. The Paralympics were rescheduled to Aug. 24-Sept. 5.

The Olympic games in Tokyo will run from July 23 until August 8th 2021, according to Tokyo Organizing Committee’s Chairman Yoshiro Mori

Dr. Birx Predicts Up to 200K Deaths If We Do Things 'Almost Perfectly'

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said Monday the projections by Dr. Anthony Fauci that U.S. deaths could range from 1.6 million to 2.2 million deaths is a worst case scenario if the country did "nothing" to contain the outbreak, but predicts that "if we do thing together well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities.

"We are very worried about every city in the U.S. and the potential for this virus to get out of control, and believe Americans, with the right information, will stay home," Birx said in an interview on the "TODAY" show.

Birx noted some major cities "were late on getting people to follow the 15-day guidelines" because not everyone in America "is responding in a uniform way to protect one another."

"Cities that don't social distance, that don't stay at home, that believe that you can have social interactions, that believe you can have gatherings at home of 20 or 10 people even, that's going to spread the virus, even if everyone looks well," Birx said.

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says that if the United States does everything perfectly, we could still expect to see 100,000-200,000 deaths from coronavirus.

Hospital Ship Arrives in NYC Monday, Bringing Much Needed Help

The USNS Comfort is set to arrive in New York City on Monday to help treat hospitalized patients who do not have the coronavirus, WNBC reports. The ship's 1,000 beds and 12 operation rooms are ready to bolster the city's overwhelmed health care system. In addition to the extra room, the ship has laboratory facilities and oxygen-producing plants.

The Comfort arrives as New York City officials warn that the city's hospitals are nearing capacity. The city has nearly 800 deaths while the state of New York has almost 60,000 cases of the virus, according to Johns Hopkins.

The USNS Mercy arrived in Los Angeles on Friday morning to help hospitals strained under the influx of coronavirus patients.

Michigan Rep. Isaac Robinson Dies, Mother Suspects COVID-19

First-term Michigan State Rep. Isaac Robinson died Sunday, according to this mother, who said she suspects her son's death could be related to the coronavirus. He was 44.

Former Rep. Rose Mary C. Robinson said her son died hours after being transported to the hospital for breathing problems and the family suspected he suffered from COVID-19, but he had not been tested for the virus that causes the disease. A cause of death was not immediately released.

Isaac Robinson, a Democrat from Detroit who did not attend the last House session this past week, was transported by ambulance early Sunday morning to the Detroit Medical Center hospital, said his mother, who also was a former Democratic representative from Detroit.

Robinson was a lawyer who was elected in 2018 to represent the 4th District in the Michigan House of Representatives, succeeding his mother in office.

Map: Watch the Coronavirus Cases Spread Across the World


Major US Cities Scramble to Add More Health Care Facilities

Two of the nation's largest and hardest hit cities are now using alternative hospitals to help with the influx of patients in recent days.

In New York City, an emergency field hospital is being erected in Central Park, WNBC reports. The 68-bed facility, which is specifically designed as a respiratory care unit, is expected to open Tuesday. Elsewhere, the Javits Center is being converted into a health care facility -- with the 1,000-bed project developed by the state and the four 250-bed FEMA-run and staffed areas -- and will be fully operational by Monday. Also on Monday, the USNS Comfort is set to arrive with 1,000 additional medical beds.

In Los Angeles, the city's convention center is being set up to serve as a federal field hospital, KNBC reports. California's National Guard helped prepare the center Sunday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said. Like New York City, Los Angeles also has a navy medical ship on hand to assist. The Mercy, which contains beds and arrived Friday, has received its first three patients. It will not be taking coronavirus patients, Garcetti said.

New York State has nearly 60,000 cases and New York City has reported 776 deaths as of Monday morning. California has more than 6,300 cases, with Los Angeles reporting 37 deaths.

The Associated Press/NBC
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