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iStock(NEW YORK) -- The amount of novel coronavirus cases around the world and in the U.S. continues to skyrocket. By Saturday morning, the number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases around the world surpassed 649,000.

It was just Thursday that the globe reached 500,000 cases, which was double the number of coronavirus cases from the week before.

The U.S. surpassed 115,000 diagnosed coronavirus cases Saturday, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. There are at least 1,891 deaths in the country.

At least 137,000 people have recovered from the virus during this pandemic.

Today's biggest developments:
-Global cases top 600,000
-US cases cross 100,000
-Italy deaths reach 10,000
-Trump considering enforceable quarantine in NY
-Rhode Island targets New York

Here's how the news is developing today. All times Eastern.

3:00 p.m.: Global death toll surpasses 30,000

The global death toll has reached at least 30,249, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Italy has the highest number of reported deaths, at more than 10,000, followed by Spain at more than 5,800.

2:14 p.m.: Trump strikes more assertive tone on GM manufacturing ventilators


President Donald Trump said he had compelled General Motors to manufacture ventilators, after saying the day before that "maybe we won't even need the full activation," referring to using the Defense Protection Act.

"This week, I invoked the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to carry out federal contracts for ventilators and I think they're going to do a great job. I have to say that," Trump said in his speech at Norfolk Naval Base.

The president also said that FEMA has "shipped or delivered" 11.6 million N-95 respirators, 26 million surgical masks and 5.2 million face shields.

2:08 p.m.: New cases in Italy continue to slow, but deaths top 10,000


The number of confirmed cases in Italy continue to slow, with 5,933 new cases reported Saturday -- a 6.8% increase in total new cases, down from Friday's 7.3%.

It was the lowest percentage increase to date in the country. The total number of cases in Italy is now at least 92,472, health officials said.

In the province of Bergamo, the hardest-hit province, there was a nearly 50% drop in new reported cases, from Friday's 602 to Saturday's 289.

However, the number of new deaths in the last 24 hours hit 889, bringing the total death toll to 10,023.

1:44 p.m.: UN to donate 250,000 masks to NYC

The United Nations will donate 250,000 protective face masks to New York City, an area now considered the epicenter of the pandemic.

UN Secretary General António Guterres said the masks would go to medical professionals in the city who have been "working courageously, selflessly, and tirelessly in response to the spread of COVID-19 across the boroughs in the hope that they play some small role in saving lives."

The UN and US Mission personnel are working with Mayor Bill de Blasio's office to quickly get the masks to medical facilities in New York City.

1:26 p.m.: Pope, others in Vatican tested for coronavirus

The Vatican press office confirmed Saturday that the Pope has been tested and neither he nor his closest aides have resulted positive.

12:46 p.m.: Trump considering enforceable quarantine in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut


President Donald Trump said he may announce an enforceable quarantine in the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut areas.

Trump noted that he "doesn't want to do it, but may have to."

“There's a possibility that sometime today we'll do a quarantine, short-term two weeks, on New York, probably New Jersey, certain parts of Connecticut,” Trump told reporters on the South Lawn.

The president said that he would restrict travel from those areas because "they're having problems down in Florida, a lot of New Yorkers going down, we don't want that." He later said such a quarantine would not apply to truckers from outside of New York who are making deliveries or traveling through the state.

"It won't affect trade in anyway," Trump said.

Trump said he may do so while New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo was holding a separate conference. Cuomo said he had not spoken to the president about such a measure and did not know what it would entail.

12:30 p.m.: More than 7,600 new cases reported in New York

There are now 52,318 confirmed cases in New York, after 7,681 new cases were reported in the last 24 hours, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference.

The deaths in the state were up to 728 from 519.

Cuomo did say there was a bit of good news: new hospitalizations and new ICU admissions went down in the last 24-hour period. He cautioned that one day does not prove a trend and the situation certainly could go the other way.

There were 372 people admitted in to an ICU Friday and 172 admitted Saturday. For new hospitalizations, the number Friday was 1,154 and 847 for Saturday.

“The overall line is still up,” Cuomo said. “This is good news on a one day number.”

The governor also announced he was postponing the presidential primary in the state from April 28 to June 23, the date of the states down ballot primary elections.

12:16 p.m.: Trump approves disaster declaration for Massachusetts, Michigan


President Donald Trump declared a major disaster in Massachusetts and Michigan, ordering federal assistance to the states.

Federal funding will now be available for crisis counseling for those affected in both states.

12:09 p.m.: 1st uniformed NYPD death


A New York Police Department detective has become the department’s first uniformed officer to die after contracting coronavirus, police sources told ABC News.

Detective Cedric Dixon, is the NYPD’s first uniformed officer to die of coronavirus and the third member of the department, after a janitor and an administrative aid.

“We are hurting, we are crying and we continue to fight,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said Saturday afternoon.

Dixon was 48. According to police sources he had underlying conditions.

11:46 a.m.: SeaWorld to remain closed

The SeaWorld theme parks will remain temporarily closed, according to a statement from the company. The park had originally planned to open at the end of March.

Animal care experts will still be onsite to care for the animals. "During this time, our animal care experts will continue to look after the health and welfare needs of the animals in our care," a statement from SeaWord read.

"We look forward to welcoming our valued guests back to our parks soon," the statement continued.

10:01 a.m.: Nearly 200 US cities lack emergency equipment: Report


Nearly 200 cities in the United States do not have an adequate supply of tests kits or face masks for medical personnel and first responders, including police, fire, and EMTs, according to a report from the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

About 88% of cities of the cities surveyed, or 186 cities, don't have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) other than face masks to protect the front-line workers, according to the report.

The staggering statistics "illustrates the scope and severity of the need for COVID-19 emergency equipment in this nation’s cities," according to a letter from the conference's executive director, Tom Cochran.

One-hundred and thirty-one states have reported receiving no emergency equipment from their states, while 84% of those who are receiving help say it is not adequate for their needs.

The report estimates that across the cities surveyed there is a need for 28.5 million face masks, 24.4 million PPE items, 7.9 million test kits, and 139,000 ventilators.

There were 213 cities in 40 states that participated in the survey.

"It is abundantly clear that the shortage of essential items such as face masks, test kits, personal protective equipment, ventilators and other items needed by health and safety personnel has reached crisis proportions in cities across the country," Cochran said in his letter.

9:53 a.m.: More than 8,000 new cases, 832 new deaths in Spain


Spain reported 8,189 new cases of novel coronavirus in the last 24 hours, putting the total number of cases at 72,248, according to the Health Ministry.

There have now been 5,690 deaths after 832 new deaths occurred. More than 4,500 still remain in intensive care.

8:55 a.m.: German Aerospace Center to make masks


The German Aerospace Center will make medical equipment using its 3D printers, according to a statement from the agency.

The printers were tested and can successfully produce protective masks and valves for respirators, the statement read.

The German Aerospace Center had been asked by the European Commission to help in producing much needed medical equipment as the world scrambles to combat the pandemic.

The most powerful printer can produce up to 10 protective masks or 15 valves for ventilators per day, according to the agency. However, it's possible to increase the quantity through networking with other institutes and facilities.

6:00 a.m.: Lockdown leads to drop in pollution in Europe


Air pollution has dropped significantly across Europe as lockdowns have been adopted and residents are told to stay home, according to the European Space Agency.

Satellite images from the Copernicus Sentinel-5P show the drop in nitrogen dioxide concentrations, which coincides with the quarantine measures, according to the agency.

The most significant drops were in Milan, Paris and Madrid.

Scientists from the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI) have been using data from the satellite to monitor both weather and pollution over Europe. The images show the nitrogen dioxide concentrations from March 14 to March 25, comparing it to the averages from last year.

"By combining data for a specific period of time, 10 days in this case, the meteorological variability partly averages out and we begin to see the impact of changes due to human activity," Henk Eskes, from KNMI, said in a statement.

Other countries are also being monitored, including the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Scientists have said that right now there is a larger variability because of changing weather conditions, making it more difficult to observe any changes.

4:43 a.m.: Rhode Island targeting New York travelers


A day after announcing all vehicles with New York license plates will be pulled over by state police and travelers informed they must quarantine if they are staying in the state, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo announced that the National Guard would go door-to-door to make sure New Yorkers are following orders.

"We have a pinpointed a risk that we need to address, and that risk is New York City," Raimondo said Friday during her daily coronavirus media briefing. She said the 14-day quarantine for New York travelers is a law and will be enforced, "it's not a suggestion."

Members of the National Guard will be stationed at bus and train stops, as well as airports to collect personal information form travelers when they arrive. State police officers are doing the same for vehicles they pull over. With that information, Raimondo said authorities would go hotels, vacation homes and any type of residence to keep track of New York travelers.

All these measures, she said, are designed to let the state have time to get ready for the spread of COVID-19. If Rhode Island were to have an outbreak right now, she said the state and its healthcare system would be overwhelmed.

"We are not ready for a surge of cases," Raimondo said.

New York City currently has at least 26,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, with 450 deaths. There are more than 44,000 cases in New York State. As of Friday, only 28 of the 203 diagnosed coronavirus cases in Rhode Island have required hospitalization. The state has no reported COVID-19 deaths.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



iStock(NEW YORK) -- The House of Representatives on Friday passed the largest aid measure in American history, a $2 trillion stimulus package that President Donald Trump signed into law. Direct payments will be made to Americans to help offset financial hardships incurred during the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus outbreak has quickly evolved from a health crisis to a financial one, shuttering businesses, upending entire industries and whipsawing financial markets, erasing trillions of dollars in the process.

Kristalina Georgieva, managing director of the International Monetary Fund, said at a briefing Friday that the organization, which represents more than 189 countries, is projecting a recession for 2020.

Measures taken in the U.S. hopefully can offset part of that. Here are some of the highlights of the U.S. stimulus package.

ABC Fresno, California, affiliate ABC30 created a calculator to help show how much each individual will receive. According to the calculator, an individual whose most recent tax filing was "married filing jointly," claimed two children under 17 as dependents and has a most recent adjusted gross annual income of $85,000 could expect to receive $3,400.

The calculator can be accessed here.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



iStock(HORSESHOE LAKE, Ark.) -- Almost 23 years after an Arkansas mother was murdered by a 16-year-old, the convicted killer allegedly killed her daughter, police said.

Deputies from the Crittenden County Sheriff's Office responded to a call on Wednesday at the historical Snowden House in Horseshoe Lake where they saw a possible suspect fleeing the property.

Police located "a possible suspect who jumped from an upstairs window and ran to a vehicle that he drove across the yard and got stuck in the yard at the Snowden house, the suspect then jumped from the car and ran and jumped into the lake," according to a post from the sheriff office's Facebook page. "He was observed going under the water and never came back up."

Authorities found the body of 63-year-old Martha McKay inside the house and the alleged killer's body was recovered from the water. Both bodies were sent to the state's medical examiner's office to determine the cause and manner of death.

Police identified the alleged killer as 39-year-old Travis Lewis who was on parole since 2018 for the September 1996 murder of McKay's mother and another relative.

Lewis, who was 16 at the time and tried as an adult for the murders, allegedly killed McKay inside the same crime scene from 23 years ago, police said.

The investigation is still ongoing.

Request for further comment from the sheriff's office was not available on Saturday.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



iStock(NEW YORK) -- The governor of Rhode Island is taking extreme measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in her state by sending law enforcement officers door-to-door to quarantine New York residents.

The effort is to stop the spread of the coronavirus to Rhode Island residents by people who were in the epicenter of the viral disease. The number of confirmed cases in the Ocean State reached over 200 as of Friday which pales in comparison to the over 26,000 in New York City.

"This is an emergency," said Gov. Gina Raimondo on Friday where she specified the 14-day quarantine to people traveling from New York to Rhode Island. "That’s a law. That’s an order. It comes with penalties. It’s not a suggestion."

The 14-day quarantine is part of guidelines by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Raimondo made the announcement at a press conference saying that the National Guard will seek out people who are believed to have traveled from the Big Apple to shore rental homes. The troops are expected to enforce the 14-day quarantine by collecting contact information from people entering the state from all modes of transportation.

The state police are going to monitor the highways by the Newport Bridge and will pull over cars with New York plates, said Raimondo. The officers will ask for the occupants of the vehicle for their contact information and order them into quarantine if they intend to stay.

"What is constitutional in one scenario is different than in another. This is pinpointed, this is targeted, this is a state of emergency, this is limited in time, and it’s going to be enforced in a respectful way," said Raimondo. "And it’s a public health necessity."

Violators are subject to a fine at first and prison time on subsequent offenses.

Raimondo is not the only governor calling for targeted state residents to abide by the quarantine order.

The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, signed an executive order to mandate travelers from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut to self-quarantine for 14-days once they arrive. He has since extended the order to include Louisiana as their number of coronavirus patients are rapidly increasing.

Fines and criminal charges are also a threat for violators of DeSantis' order.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A major storm is quickly intensifying Saturday morning in the central U.S. and will bring a significant severe weather outbreak to parts of the Midwest Saturday afternoon and evening – including the threat for dangerous, significant, long-track tornadoes.

Radar Saturday morning is showing the organizing storm with a rain shield that stretches from the Great Plains through the Great Lakes and the Mid-Atlantic. Some of the thunderstorms Saturday morning, especially in northern Illinois, are capable of producing 1 to 2 inches of rainfall. There is a flash flood watch issued for parts of Indiana and Ohio, where 1-2 inches of rain is likely in the next 36 hours.

Storms on Friday evening produced greater than baseball-sized hail in parts of Oklahoma and Missouri.

On the colder side of the system, winter weather advisories, and blizzard warnings have been issued for the upper Midwest and the Plains, where locally up to 6 inches of snow is possible this week.

There is a moderate risk area for severe weather in northern Illinois and the extreme eastern edge of Iowa. In Peoria, Illinois, there is a moderate risk for long-track, strong tornadoes.

There is potential that an upgrade to a high-risk alert will be coming later Saturday from the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center.

In the enhanced risk and slight risk areas, tornadoes, damaging winds and large hail will be possible. Regardless of the risk area, some strong tornadoes are possible Saturday. Some of the cities in the enhanced and slight risk areas include Nashville, Little Rock, Arkansas, St. Louis, Chicago and Indianapolis.

Storms will approach the Midwest and Mississippi River valley by mid to late Saturday afternoon. The increased concern will occur later in the evening as we head towards dusk and first couple hours of night, when the low-level jet will strengthen along the cold front. This low-level jet will greatly enhance the shear with the thunderstorms, and allow the storms to rotate. Therefore, there is a possibility of significant severe weather during the night hours Saturday night.

The storm will be sliding eastward on Sunday and some of the severe weather will try to move into parts of Ohio Valley and Western Appalachians. However, the intensity of the storms is expected to decrease with only general thunderstorms expected for now, with a couple of stronger storms possible.

Additionally, some snow will be possible in parts of the upper Midwest, including Duluth, Minnesota and Minneapolis.

By Monday, the storm will have cleared much of the country, with little weather impact remaining.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



iStock(NEW YORK) -- Staying at home has become synonymous with healthy habits in the age of coronavirus, but what's everyone doing to stay entertained indoors?

From insanely intricate puzzles keeping people focused for days to baking loaves of fresh bread, here's a snapshot of what some people are doing to pass the time inside and at a socially responsible distance.

Puzzles

Whether you're an avid puzzler who can master a 1,000 piece puzzle or a novice who needs to start small, people have shared their masterpieces all over social media as we continue to socially distance.

Even celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres have shared a glimpse at their own attempt at a 4,000 piece puzzle that she joked would keep her busy for "at least an hour."

Late-night host Conan O'Brien also hopped on the puzzle train and said the activity is a great way to entertain yourself while staying safe.

He shared a video on Facebook to talk about the booming trend and jokingly advised dropping pieces in boiling water to ensure each one was properly clean.

The largest jigsaw puzzle store in the U.S., the Puzzle Warehouse, said on its Facebook page before they had to close their local storefront in St. Louis that things had gotten "a little crazy over here" with the influx of attention.

The family-run shop sells 1,000 puzzles on an average day, according to the Washington Post, but in one week since coronavirus, it sold as many as 10,000 per day and can still fulfill orders online.

Baking

There has been a new food movement on social media this month that would make Oprah proud. It's all about bread.

Compared with the first half of the month, this week twice as many people tweeted about cooking/baking, with around 500K tweets per day, Twitter told ABC News.

Social media has been filled with the sights (and we wish the smells) of fresh-baked bread.

As people sift through their pantry staples, flour and active yeast have become the stars of self-isolation for people looking to try their hand at kneading and baking.

Others have deemed this to be the perfect time to start from scratch. Using just flour and water, people are learning how to foster their very first sourdough starters. After a few days of feeding and ripening, passing a float test and eventually with the right temperature, tools and recipe, they use it to bake a lovely fresh homemade loaf.

Tara Jensen, a professional baker known for her sourdough knowledge, has even shared the journey from start to finish with all the burbling scientific details to better help novice bakers get their starter, well, started.

Video games

From Call of Duty to computer game classics, Americans are jumping at the opportunity to fire up their favorite game consoles.

Can't go outside with friends? That's not a problem for literally anyone who has instead turned to creating their own alternate life simulations on The Sims.

And for any parents who want to make sure their kids aren't spending all day playing video games, the American Academy of Pediatrics advised using this time to let kids practice self-control with their consoles.

"Make a plan about how much time kids can play video games online with friends, and where their devices will charge at night," the AAP said. "Challenge children to practice 'tech self-control' and turn off the TV, tablet, or video game themselves - rather than parents reminding them."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



JMRPhotography/iStock(NEW YORK) -- With the Army's help, the temporary field hospital at New York City's Javits Convention Center will now hold 2,910 beds, making it one of the largest hospitals in America. Established in record time, the temporary hospital is an example of the surge of federal and military resources into New York to help with the novel coronavirus pandemic, including the Army Corps of Engineers, two Army field hospitals, and the Navy’s hospital ship the USNS Comfort.

Over the last week the Army Corps of Engineers has been busy transforming the convention center’s expansive exposition halls into an overflow medical facility that beginning Monday will treat patients who are not infected with the novel coronavirus. The treatment of non-COVID-19 patients is designed to make it easier for medical facilities in New York to focus treatment on patients infected with the virus.

Originally slated to house 1,000 beds composed of four Federal Emergency Management Agency field hospitals, the Army Corps of Engineers took advantage of the convention center's design and the arrival of two Army field hospitals from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and Fort Hood, Texas, to expand the number of beds at the temporary hospital.

"We basically took that four [multiplied] by 250 is 1,000. We thought we could expand it by stretching the ratio," Gen. Todd Semonite, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, told reporters Friday. "So today we're going to plan on having 2,910 rooms up by Monday morning in the Javits Center."

That number of beds will make the Javits Center hospital larger than the 2,600 bed capacity of New York- Presbyterian Hospital, the city's largest hospital.

"The Javits Center is an amazing facility," said Semonite. "Every 10 feet there's a great big steel door in the floor, you open it up in there is all the electrical; there's cold water, there's hot water and there's a place for sewers, so you can actually do things like sinks, right in the middle of a convention center to be able to make that happen."

The hospital will be staffed by 350 medical personnel from FEMA and the two Army hospitals.

Non-COVID-19 patients will be transported from hospitals in the New York City area to the convention center, just as they will be at the 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship the USNS Comfort when it is operational in New York Harbor on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, three of the Army’s six field hospitals were ordered to assist in the treatment of non-COVID-19 patients with one of them headed to Washington state and the other two to New York City.

Six hundred soldiers from those the 531st Hospital Center from Fort Campbell and the 9th Hospital Center from Fort Hood flew to the New York on Thursday, ahead of the arrival of their medical equipment that was being transported in 108 tractor trailer trucks

"This is obviously the absolute top priority of the nation right now, and knowing that our very well-trained and capable [531st] Hospital Center is going to be part of this makes us really proud," Maj. Gen. Brian Winski, the commander the 101st Airborne Division, told ABC News in an interview.

"They're well trained, they're prepared and readiness is our watchword; they're prepared to deploy in a moment's notice, which is exactly what they did and they are going to make a huge impact," he added.

While the medical personnel from the 531st Hospital Center will not be treating non-COVID-19 patients, they will still follow guidelines to ensure they do not become exposed to the virus during their deployment.

Prior to their departure, Winski told his soldiers that the length of their deployment to New York will likely be "a matter of months, not weeks" and that his command will do their best to ensure that they and their commands are kept informed of when they will come home.

Their prolonged stay will also have an impact at Fort Campbell’s Blanchfield Army Community Hospital where most of the personnel from the 531st are normally assigned.

"It is requiring us to reorganize," Winski said, acknowledging soldiers' deployment will lead to staff adjustments at Blanchfield to ensure that facility can treat COVID-19 cases at Fort Campbell.

"We're going to adjust how we're organized up there to ensure that we are configured as best as we can possibly be for larger numbers of COVID-19 patients that require hospitalization."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Samara Heisz/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed over 26,900 people around the world.

Globally there are more than 586,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

The United States has over 100,000 cases of COVID-19, the highest of any country.

There have been at least 1,544 deaths in the U.S. More than 1,000 people have died in the past week alone.

At least 862 people in the U.S. have recovered.

Here are the latest developments. All times are in Eastern.

7:59 p.m.: Pence says over 685,000 tests done

Vice President Mike Pence said more than 685,000 tests for coronavirus have been done in the U.S. as of Friday morning.

"As a great credit to our partnership with commercial laboratories across the country, this morning it was reported that more than 685,000 tests have already been performed, and we are particularly grateful to the American Hospital Association whose members are now reporting in to the CDC and FEMA in real time, giving our experts more visibility on those that have contracted the disease around the country," Pence said.

The number is an increase of 133,000 from Thursday, and includes private testing.

6 p.m.: US cases top 100,000

The number of diagnosed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has now topped 100,000, according to Johns Hopkins.

There are now 100,717 cases, most in the world by over 14,000, and 1,544 deaths.

Meanwhile, the number of cases worldwide is creeping closer to 600,000, now standing at 590,594.

4:48 p.m.: 2 more congressmen test positive


Two more congressmen, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., have tested positive for coronavirus.

Neither was there for today’s stimulus package vote.

There are now four members who have announced they’ve received positive tests, including Ben McAdams, D-Utah, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

4:45 p.m.: 25-year-old with no underlying conditions dies


A 25-year-old pharmacy technician with no underlying health issues has died from COVID-19, said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the Riverside County, California, public health officer.

The 25-year-old had been self-quarantining. The victim's body was found Wednesday in a home in La Quinta, officials said.

"This is a deeply saddening reminder that COVID-19 kills the young and healthy too," Kaiser said in a statement. "Stay safe. Keep travel and errands to essentials, and observe social distance no matter how young or well you are. Our condolences and thoughts are with everyone this pandemic has touched."

4:20 p.m.: Trump uses Defense Production Act for 1st time, compelling GM to make ventilators


President Donald Trump for the first time on Friday used the authorities granted by the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to produce ventilators.

"Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course," Trump said in a written statement. "GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives."

Trump said in the memo that the Secretary of Health and Human Services “shall use any and all authority available under the Act to require General Motors Company to accept, perform, and prioritize contracts or orders for the number of ventilators that the secretary determines to be appropriate.”

A GM spokesperson said, "Ventec, GM and our supply base have been working around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need. Our commitment to build Ventec’s high-quality critical care ventilator, VOCSN, has never wavered. The partnership between Ventec and GM combines global expertise in manufacturing quality and a joint commitment to safety to give medical professionals and patients access to life-saving technology as rapidly as possible."

Trump signed the COVID-19 relief package in the Oval Office Friday afternoon.

The historic measure was passed by the House of Representatives earlier Friday.

The $2 trillion package, which the Senate approved on Wednesday, is the largest emergency aid package in U.S. history.

3:50 p.m.: Disney World, Disneyland closed until further notice


Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort will stay closed until further notice.

The company said it's been paying its cast members since the parks closed and will now extend paying hourly parks and resorts cast members through April 18.

(Disney is the parent company of ABC News.)

3:32 p.m.: New Jersey offering exclusive testing to health care workers, first responders


New Jersey will offer exclusive COVID-19 testing to health care workers and first responders this weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday.

Beginning Saturday, the Bergen County College and PNC Bank Arts Center drive-through sites will be reserved for health workers and first responders only. On Monday, the two sites will reopen again to anyone in need of a test.

The state has at least 8,825 confirmed cases. The virus has killed 108 people in New Jersey, including 27 people in the last 24 hours.

Although the state is working hard to expand testing to more people, officials can only commit to testing those who are symptomatic, Murphy said.

3:15 p.m.: LA County beaches to close


Los Angeles County beaches are all closing to the public immediately because the crowds there last weekend "were unacceptable," said LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn.

"We cannot risk another sunny weekend with crowds at the beach spreading this virus," Hahn said.

The county is also closing public trails and beach bike paths.

LA County has at least 1,465 diagnosed cases and five deaths.

2:18 p.m.: Italy’s death toll climbs over 9,000

Italy -- by far the hardest-hit nation for coronavirus fatalities -- recorded over 900 deaths in one day, a daily record, said Domenico Arcuri, the national commissioner for the emergency.

Italy's death toll is now over 9,000, according to the Johns Hopkins data.

Despite the grim numbers, officials with the Italian Higher Health Institute said Friday that the nationwide lockdown continues to show a reduction in the rate of new cases each day.

Overall there was a 7.3% growth in the spread of the virus from Thursday nationwide. This is the fifth day in a row of single-digit percentage growth in the overall number of new cases, according to Italy's Civil Protection Agency.

The total number of cases in Italy is now over 86,000, according to the civil protection agency.

12:29 p.m.: Pennsylvania becomes 13th state to delay primary

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Friday to move the state's presidential primary from April 28 to June 2.

Pennsylvania marks the 13th state to delay its nominating contest over coronavirus concerns. Pennsylvania joins Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wyoming, as well as Puerto Rico.

12:06 p.m.: 519 deaths in New York

Diagnosed coronavirus cases have jumped to 44,685 in New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

Of those diagnosed, 6,481 are hospitalized, including 1,583 people in the ICU, Cuomo said.

New York has by far the most cases of any state in the nation. In second is New Jersey with 6,800, according to Cuomo.

At least 519 have died in the state. Cuomo warned, "That is going to continue to go up."

"The reason why the number is going up is because some people came into the hospital 20 days, 25 days ago and had been on a ventilator for that long a period of time," Cuomo said. "When somebody is on that ventilator for a prolonged period of time, the outcome is usually not good."

As the pandemic escalates, New York state schools will remain closed until April 15, and Cuomo said he will re-assess from that point. New York City schools are closed until at least April 20.

Hospitals in the state have 53,000 beds but need 140,000 beds, the governor said. Hospitals have to increase capacity by 50%, Cuomo said, adding that he hopes hospitals can increase capacity by 100%.

The state is also looking to build temporary emergency hospitals and is scouting sites, he said.

11:28 a.m.: Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy arrives in Los Angeles

The Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy arrived in the port of Los Angeles Friday morning where it'll help ease the burden on the city's hospitals.

With 1,128 active duty medical personnel on board, the USNS Mercy will treat non-COVID-19 patients.

Another Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, will depart Virginia on Saturday to head to New York City's harbor.

11:09 a.m.: Mark Zuckerberg commits $25 million to accelerate coronavirus treatments

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he and his wife are giving $25 million to accelerate the development of coronavirus treatments.

"We're partnering with the Gates Foundation and others to quickly evaluate the most promising existing drugs to see which ones might be effective at preventing and treating the coronavirus," Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post Friday morning. "Since these drugs have already gone through clinical safety trials, if they're effective, it will be much faster to make them available than it will be to develop and test a new vaccine -- hopefully months rather than a year or more."

10:12 a.m.: Man arrested for making threats toward Dems, Speaker Pelosi


A 27-year-old Texas man has been arrested for allegedly making death threats against Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, related to their work on Congress' coronavirus stimulus bill, according to the FBI.

Gavin Perry was charged with making threats over Facebook in which he allegedly described Pelosi as part of a "satanic cult" and said that "Dems of the establishment will be removed at any cost necessary and yes that means by death."

In a separate post that featured a photo of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Perry allegedly wrote, "If youre a dem or apart of the establishment in the democrats side I view you as a criminal and a terrorist and I advise everyone to Go SOS [shoot on sight] and use live rounds... Shoot to kill. This is a revolution.”

Perry appeared in court Thursday but has not entered a plea.

9:52 a.m.: 911 calls reach record high in NYC

In New York City -- the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic -- the fire department handled more than 6,000 911 calls on Thursday, the busiest day ever in terms of individual medical incidents.

That number is nearly double the normal amount of 911 calls for the department.

The record-high call volume is largely being driven by calls from people who are scared or concerned they have coronavirus, officials said.

The FDNY is imploring people not to call 911 if they feel sick. Instead, they should ring a doctor and call for an ambulance only in a true emergency.

There are 2,000 New York City firefighters and paramedics out sick, or about 17% of the department, officials said.

At least 170 members of the FDNY have tested positive for COVID-19.

9:18 a.m.: UK Prime Minister, UK Health Secretary test positive for COVID-19

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday morning that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus," Johnson said in a tweet. "I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus. Together we will beat this."

U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Friday said he too has tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating.

Hancock said his symptoms are "very mild" and he would continue to work from home.

8:20 a.m.: NYC mayor projects half of city will be infected

In New York City -- the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic -- Mayor Bill de Blasio projects "over half the people in this city will ultimately be infected."

"For over 80% [there] will be very little impact," de Blasio told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. "But 20% of the people infected, it's going to be tough, and for some of them, it will be fatal."

New York City has over 23,112 diagnosed cases -- more than a quarter of the confirmed cases in the country.

At least 365 people have died in New York City, twice as many deaths as any state.

The mayor said the city has enough hospital supplies to get through this week and next week but "that's all I can guarantee, and after that unfortunately, we think this crisis is going to grow through April into May. "

"We need help now. When the president says the state of New York doesn't need 30,000 ventilators, with all due respect to him, he's not looking at the facts of this astronomical growth of this crisis," de Blasio said. "A ventilator means someone lives or dies ... if they don't get a ventilator, a lot of people won't make it."

The city needs 15,000 ventilators, he warned.

"We have some, and I'm thankful for that, but it has to keep coming," de Blasio said. "The president has to make that contract happen with the companies that can create ventilators not just for New York City and New York state, but for the whole country. This is going to get worse before it gets better ... all parts of this country are going to need them."

De Blasio called the president's goal to reopen the country for Easter "a false hope."

"It would be better for the president to be blunt with people that we've got a really tough battle ahead," the mayor said. "Throw in the military who are not yet being fully engaged, and they're ready, but the president has to give the order. Build those ventilators, get the supplies all over this country. People are going to need it in April and in May."

7:29 a.m.: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for COVID-19

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday morning that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus," Johnson tweeted. "I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus. Together we will beat this."

Johnson was tested on the advice of England's chief medical officer, according to a Downing Street spokesperson.

"We will get through it," Johnson said in a video message Friday.

5:19 a.m.: Michigan health system develops contingency plan to deny ventilators and ICU treatment

A Michigan health system has come up with a contingency plan for doctors to make life-or-death decisions when treating patients in the coronavirus pandemic.

A draft letter from Henry Ford Health Systems outlining the plan to families was widely shared on Twitter late Thursday night. The plan, typed on what appeared to be hospital letterhead, said that coronavirus patients with the best chance of surviving will be "our first priority," while those who are "extremely sick and very unlikely to survive" will receive "pain control and comfort measures" rather than ventilators and intensive care treatment.

"Treating these patients would take away resources for patients who might survive," the letter stated. "This decision will be based on medical condition and likelihood of getting better."

Responding to a flurry tweets about the letter, Henry Ford Health Systems confirmed its accuracy but clarified that the policy has not yet been implemented.

“With a pandemic, we must be prepared for worst case,” the company tweeted. “With collective wisdom from our industry, we crafted a policy to provide guidance for making difficult patient care decisions. We hope never to have to apply them. We will always utilize every resource to care for our patients.”

4:37 a.m.: South Africa cases top 1,000 as country begins three-week lockdown

The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in South Africa has topped 1,000, the country's health minister said Friday.

Africa's most industrialized economy has the highest national total of known cases on the continent.

South Africa also recorded its first two deaths from COVID-19, both of which occurred in the Western Cape province.

"This morning, we South Africans wake up with sad news that we now have our first deaths resulting from COVID-19,” South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhizethe said in a statement Friday.

Friday marked the start of a three-week nationwide lockdown in South Africa, aimed at curbing the rising number of cases.

3:30 a.m.: Trump and Xi discuss coronavirus crisis

U.S. President Donald Trump said he spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump posted about the telephone conversation on Twitter early Thursday morning, saying they discussed the situation "in great detail."

"Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China," Trump tweeted. "Discussed in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet. China has been through much [and] has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!"

Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China. Discussed in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet. China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020

 Xi told Trump that "China and the United States should unite to fight the epidemic" and that he hoped "the United States will take substantive actions to improve Sino-U.S. relations," according to Chinese state television network CCTV.

The Chinese president also emphasized that the relationship between their two countries is "at a critical juncture" and that "cooperation is the only right choice," according to CCTV.

Trump has clashed with China over the global fight against the novel coronavirus, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. The U.S. president reportedly angered Beijing officials this month when he repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as "the Chinese virus."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



strevell/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The only thing people seem to be talking about besides coronavirus is baking.

As Americans stay home to "flatten the curve" and practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most tweeted about activities for those at home has been cooking and baking. The hashtag #QuarantineBread emerged, according to Twitter, where twice as many people as usual tweeted about cooking and baking this week.

The baking trend carried over onto Google where a trending search of the week was "How to make banana bread."

Look no further.

Taste of Home shared their recipe for the "best ever" banana bread, sent in from their reader Gert Kaiser of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

"Whenever I pass a display of bananas in the grocery store, I can almost smell the wonderful aroma of my best banana bread recipe," she wrote. "It really is that good!"

Get the recipe for this highly rated banana bread below.

Best-ever banana bread

Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Prep time: 15 minutes

Bake time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Yield: one loaf (16 slices)


Ingredients:
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, bananas, oil, buttermilk and vanilla; add to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Fold in nuts.

Pour into a greased or parchment-lined 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan.

If desired, sprinkle with additional walnuts.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minute or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack.

One slice: 255 calories, 12g fat (1g saturated fat), 27mg cholesterol, 166mg sodium, 34g carbohydrate (21g sugars, 1g fiber), 4g protein


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



iStock(NEW YORK) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's daily press briefings have become a source of comfort, calm and inspiration as the novel coronavirus pandemic intensifies.

New York has become the epicenter of the pandemic. With over 44,000 diagnosed cases, New York has by far the most cases of any state in the nation.

At least 519 have died in the state, and Cuomo warned, "That is going to continue to go up."

The battle against the virus will "be weeks and weeks and weeks," the governor said Friday, adding, "I'm proud to fight this fight with you."

Here's a partial transcript of the governor's Friday remarks:


I want to make two points to you and I want to make two promises to you. This is a different beast that we're dealing with. This is an invisible beast. It is an insidious beast. This is not going to be a short deployment. This is not going to be that you go out there for a few days. We work hard and we go home. This is going to be weeks and weeks and weeks. This is going to be a long day and it's going to be a hard day, and it's going to be an ugly day, and it's going to be a sad day.

This is a rescue mission that you're on - the mission is to save lives. That's what you're doing. The rescue mission is to save lives and as hard as we work, we're not going to be able to save everyone. And what's even more cruel is this enemy doesn't attack the strongest of us. It attacks the weakest of us. It attacks our most vulnerable which makes it even worse in many ways. Because these are the people that every instinct tells us we're supposed to protect.

These are our parents and our grandparents. These are our aunts, our uncles. These are a relative who was sick and every instinct says protect them. Help them, because they need us. And those are the exact people that this enemy attacks. Every time I've called out the National Guard I have said the same thing to you: I promise you I will not ask you to do anything that I will not do myself. And the same is true here. We're going to do this and we're going to do this together.

My second point is, you are living a moment in history. This is going to be one of those moment they're going to write and they're going to talk about for generations. This is a moment that is going to change this nation. This is a moment that forges character, forges people, changes people -- make them stronger, make them weaker -- but this is a moment that will change character.

Ten years from now, you'll be talking about today to your children or your grandchildren and you will shed a tear because you will remember the lives lost. You'll remember the faces and you'll remember the names and you'll remember how hard we worked and that we still lost loved ones. And you'll shed a tear and you should because it will be sad.

But, you will also be proud. You'll be proud of what you did. You'll be proud that you showed up. You showed up when other people played it safe. You had the courage to show up. You had the skill and the professionalism to make a difference and save lives. That's what you will have done.

At the end of the day, nobody can ask anything more from you. That is your duty, to do what you can when you can. You will have shown skill and courage and talent. You'll be there with your mind, you'll be there with your heart and you'll serve with honor. That will give you pride and you should be proud. I know that I am proud of you.

And every time the National Guard has been called out, they have made every New Yorker proud. I am proud to be with you yet again. I'm proud to fight this fight with you. And I bring you thanks from all New Yorkers who are just so appreciative of the sacrifice that you are making, the skill that you're bringing, the talent that you're bringing. You give many New Yorkers confidence.

So I say, my friends, that we go out there today and we kick coronavirus' a--, that's what I say. And we're going to save lives and New York is going to thank you. God bless each and every one of you.


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



iStock(NEW YORK) -- Even before President Donald Trump said he hoped to reopen the U.S. by Easter, millions were wondering: Is social distancing really worth it? And either way, when can it end?

According to two studies published this week, the answer to one of those questions became quite a bit clearer: Yes, social distancing is worth it.

The studies showed that in China the spread of COVID-19 slowed significantly with fewer person-to-person interactions. And perhaps more important, using mathematical models, the authors showed that relaxing restrictions prematurely would have led another spike in infections, further burdening an already stressed health care system.

In January, the Chinese government took extreme measures trying to contain the novel coronavirus, including rapidly isolating suspected cases, confirmed cases and close contact, in addition to strictly limiting individuals' mobility. Other countries similarly have deployed these measures in hopes of "flattening the curve," aka slowing the spread of the virus.

In both papers, researchers mathematically modeled human travel and human contact patterns in China using assumptions from prior studies on the early stages of the pandemic, which initially was reported in Wuhan.

The first study, published in Science, showed that timely travel restrictions drastically reduced disease spread. In an interesting extension of the study, the researchers studied the most important factors later in the evolution of the pandemic, after travel restrictions were enacted, and found the daily number of new cases was less related to human mobility and more related to factors including aggressively implemented public health policies.

The researchers emphasized that swift local measures -- closing schools, increasing testing, tracing new cases -- to combat the outbreak are crucially important, particularly as the time between infection and symptom development is usually around five days.

A second study, published in The Lancet Public Health, used mathematical models to further support the idea that physical distancing and travel restrictions helped Wuhan get its epidemic under control.

Measures that seemed drastic at the time, according to the data, have in fact proved quite effective in China. After closing schools and businesses, Wuhan saw COVID-19 cases decrease, and the region's peak in cases likely was delayed. In short, these measures flattened the curve.

But the researchers didn't just study Wuhan. They used data collected there to predict what might happen elsewhere if physical distancing measures are relaxed prematurely.

According to their model, timing matters immensely. Had Chinese officials had relaxed restrictions at the beginning of March, the Chinese population could have experienced a second wave of infections as early as August. If they waited until April to begin lifting restrictions, that could delay a second wave by two months. (Both options included relaxing restrictions gradually over a four-week period.)

So what does this mean for other countries? That there's still a long way to go, but mitigation measures work, and easing up on them too early could lead to a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases -- especially in the U.S., which hasn't yet flattened the curve.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



iStock/sergeyryzhov(NEW YORK) -- The coronavirus pandemic has touched seemingly every aspect of our lives - from our health, to our work, to where we go, and what we buy. It’s even effecting our trips to the bathroom.

Georgia-Pacific, the maker of toilet paper brands Angel Soft and Quilted Northern, had to increase production by 20% to meet increased demand. At a grocery store in Australia, a fight broke out over a package of toilet paper. Even New York Governor Andrew Cuomo thinks the problem is getting out of hand.

"There's no reason to buy a hundred rolls of toilet paper. There really isn't," the governor said at a press briefing on the coronavirus earlier this month.

For most of us, a hundred rolls is far too much toilet paper. But if you are running low on that essential bathroom supply, exactly how much should you plan to buy?

HowMuchToiletPaper.com is a new website aiming to answer that question, says co-founder Ben Sassoon. Sassoon, a student software developer, alongside artist Sam Harris, created the website after joking about how much toilet paper they used.

"When we started this out, it was just kind of a bit of humor between us two," says Sassoon. "We were kind of discussing, just in a jokey manner, how much toilet paper we use each day."

That joke became the basis for HowMuchToiletPaper.com.

"We thought, tell you what - maybe it would be interesting to see how much other people are using, and kind of compare it."

The website presents vistors with a series of sliders that can be used to answer questions like how many rolls of toilet paper you have, and how many trips to the bathroom you take on a daily basis.

The website then crunches the numbers to see if your toilet paper stash will be enough to last the full length of the specified quarantine. For example, if a person has 12 rolls of toilet paper in their home, and averages two trips to the bathroom per day, HowMuchToiletPaper.com calculates that person will last 192 days, or 914% of a three week quarantine.

Then users can open a tab labeled "Advanced Options," where they can detail their experience on the toilet "with absolute scientific precision," says Sassoon. Questions in this section range from how many people are in the household, to how many wipes you average per trip to the bathroom.

Although the tool started as a joke, it has produced some interesting findings. For example, the average visitor to the site reports they have five times more toilet paper than they need.

"It's really been eye-opening," says Sassoon.

The website has reportedly seen more than five million visitors since it launched less than two weeks ago. Sassoon says he hopes people take a lesson from their time on the site.

"Even though we started it kind of in a bit of a jokey sense, it has become an educational tool, because people are looking at it and learning that they've got way more than they need."

Hear this story and more on this week's Perspective podcast.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Starflamedia/iStock(NEW YORK) --  An MTA motorman is dead and at least a dozen other people are injured in a suspicious fire on a Harlem subway car that spewed heavy smoke through stations and tunnels and further delayed service already curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The fire broke out inside a northbound No. 2 train as it entered the 110th Street station, near Central Park, just after 3:15 a.m.

“We are devastated by this. This is a hard moment for New York City Transit,” said Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

As the No. 2 train reached 110th Street, an employee on the train reported heavy smoke and fire in the second car. The motorman was found on the tracks and later pronounced dead.

There are several other fires at 86th, 96th and 116th Streets that police said may be connected.

“The most important thing I need is witnesses to come forward,” said NYPD Deputy Chief Brian McGee.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville speaks at the Pentagon about the latest COVID-19 developments in the Army, March 26, 2020, in Washington. (Lisa Ferdinando/Office of the Secretary of Defense)(WASHINGTON) -- More than 9,000 retired soldiers have responded to the U.S. Army's call for retired medical personnel to assist with the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, as hundreds of active duty soldiers deploy to support Army field hospitals in New York and Seattle.

Earlier this week, the Army sent a notification to more than 800,000 retired soldiers to gauge their willingness in returning to service in a volunteer capacity. In a Pentagon briefing on Thursday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville called the initial response "very, very positive."

Army Surgeon General Scott Dingle told reporters that these volunteers will "fill those holes" in military medical treatment facilities across the nation where some staff are now deployed to field hospitals, leaving vacancies in their traditional assignments.

"What we'll do is even though we get many volunteers, we then will walk through the process of certification, making sure that all certifications and credentials are straight," Dingle said. "Then once we do that, we will plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission."

The 531st Hospital Center out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky and the 9th Hospital Center out of Fort Hood, Texas -- roughly 650 personnel in total -- will arrive in New Jersey on Friday. They will be located at the Javits Center in New York City, which is being converted into a temporary hospital for non-coronavirus patients in order to take the pressure off city hospitals -- which are better equipped to treat infectious disease. The Javits Center is expected to be operational on Monday, McConville said.

The 627th Hospital Center from Fort Carson, Colorado will deploy to Seattle, where an advance team is coordinating with state and local authorities to determine where a temporary hospital could be established there. McConville said possible locations include CenturyLink Field -- home of the Seattle Seahawks -- and a state fairground.

Three more active duty hospital units are on standby to possibly also deploy, Army officials said.

"This extraordinary challenge requires equally extraordinary solutions, and our retired Army healthcare professionals have shown that they are capable of providing the highest level of care while operating under constantly changing conditions," the Army said in a statement on Thursday. "This information request will no way interfere with any care they may be providing to their communities, is for future planning purposes only, and is completely voluntary."

But it's not just the Army that will lose medical personnel due to its response to the pandemic. More than a thousand Navy medical personnel have left their assignments for deployments aboard two Navy hospital ships that will dock in Los Angeles and New York City to take in non-coronavirus patients.

To assist with the shortfall in healthcare personnel, the federal government is making available more than 200 military medical students and graduate nursing students from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. The group, who are all active duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Public Health Service, will have completed all of their requirements and graduate early to backfill their colleagues who are responding to the coronavirus.

"Our curriculum has a specific focus on threats like emerging infectious diseases and disasters that our military and Public Health Service forces are likely to encounter in the course of their careers," said university president Dr. Richard Thomas. "This instruction is based on real-life lessons learned, is woven throughout the curriculum and incorporated into our medical field exercises."

He added, "Our students are uniquely prepared to meet and address the readiness needs of the Department of Defense and our Nation the moment they step out of our doors. This is exactly what they were educated and trained to do."

The Army is specifically interested in recruiting retired critical care officers, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, critical care nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses, respiratory specialists, and medics, according to the statement.

Interested retired career medical personnel should contact usarmy.knox.hrc.mbx.g3-retiree-recall@mail.mil or call 502-613-4911.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



krblokhin/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Federal law enforcement is warning of an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans as the coronavirus crisis continues to grow, according to a new FBI analysis obtained by ABC News.

"The FBI assesses hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease … endangering Asian American communities," according to the intelligence report, which was compiled by the FBI’s Houston office and distributed to local law enforcement agencies across the country. "The FBI makes this assessment based on the assumption that a portion of the US public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations."

The contagion that has left much of the nation in near-lockdown and caused thousands of deaths globally began late last year in the region of Wuhan in eastern China. Since then, many Americans, including President Donald Trump and other political leaders and media commentators, have adopted the practice of calling the ailment the "China virus" or some other variant that makes reference to China or Wuhan, rather than "coronavirus" or "COVID-19," the terms used by federal health officials and in the FBI analysis. The rhetoric, critics say, has fueled ill will and has led some people to act out against Asian Americans.

Trump has defended his language, explaining that it’s simply a way of reminding people from where the virus emanated. He has also denied the term is racist or that the term maligns people of Asian heritage.

"It did come from China," Trump said at a White House briefing Tuesday. "It is a very accurate term."

Two days later the president said, "We have to protect our Asian Americans," echoing a tweet from earlier in the week in which he said the coronavirus was "NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form." At a White House briefing Thursday the president could not point to any specific measures he was taking to protect the Asian American community.

The FBI report made no reference to Trump or any other official.

The analysis noted there has already been a surge in reports of hate crimes and lists a series of incidents from Los Angeles to New York to Texas.

The document detailed a March 14 incident in Midland, Texas, in which "three Asian American family members, including a 2-year-old and 6-year-old, were stabbed … The suspect indicated that he stabbed the family because he thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with the coronavirus."

FBI spokesperson Lauren Hagee said she could not comment on the document but stressed, "we do want to assure the public the FBI remains committed to ensuring national security and pursuing violations of federal law."

Statistics show that the Asian population in the U.S. grew by 72% between 2000 and 2015, making it the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country, according to the Pew Research Center.

Gregg Orton, national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, told ABC News the intelligence document "is an indication of how serious the problem is. We need to stop dismissing this. It’s easy to dismiss racism when it doesn’t impact you."

Orton said he and his colleagues expect a continue uptick in incidents and he stressed how the matter is not minor.

"This is people’s safety and it’s affecting their lives," he said.

"Maybe it is China’s fault or the [Chinese] government’s fault," Orton said of the spread of the virus throughout and then out of China. "There will be a time and place for that conversation. But right now we’re in the thick of this and we have to be mindful of the language we’re using."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.



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