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Coronavirus live updates: US may investigate WHO's handling of pandemic, official says

jarun011/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A global pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed at least 12,936 people in the United States.

The U.S. is among the worst affected countries, with over 401,000 people diagnosed with 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.

Worldwide, more than 1.4 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and over 83,500 of them have died since the virus emerged in China in December. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations' outbreaks.

Italy has, by far, the world's highest death toll -- over 17,100.

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

12:15 p.m.: U.K. prime minister remains in intensive care but condition is improving

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care at a London hospital with the coronavirus, but his condition is improving, said Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer.

Johnson, 55, is sitting up in bed and speaking with doctors, Sunak said Wednesday evening local time.

A spokesperson for the prime minister's office said earlier Wednesday that he was "clinically stable," was "responding to treatment" and was "in good spirits."

Johnson has been hospitalized since Sunday evening due to "persistent symptoms" of the novel coronavirus. He was transferred to the intensive care unit on Monday after his condition "worsened," according to a statement from his official residence and office, 10 Downing Street.

The prime minister has been receiving "standard" oxygen treatment in the ICU and has been breathing without any other assistance.

Besides the prime minister, Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, has also tested positive for the virus.

Wednesday marked the biggest rise so far in the United Kingdom's coronavirus death toll, with 938 fatalities in 24 hours.

The total number of deaths in the U.K. has now reached 7,097.

11:50 a.m.: Mayor tells police to crack down on stay-at-home violators, his wife gets busted

In Alton, Illinois, amid increased reports of large gatherings, Mayor Brant Walker said on Friday he ordered the local police to "more strictly enforce" the statewide stay-at-home order by using citations.

"My wife is an adult capable of making her own decisions, and in this instance she exhibited a stunning lack of judgement. She now faces the same consequences for her ill-advised decision as the other individuals who chose to violate the "Stay At Home" order during this incident," the mayor said in a statement on Monday.

"I instructed the Police Chief to treat her as he would any citizen violating the 'Stay At Home' order and to ensure that she received no special treatment," the mayor said. "I am embarrassed by this incident and apologize to the citizens of Alton."

11:20 a.m.: Broadway shows now canceled through June 7

Broadway will remain dark in New York City with show closures now extending through June 7.

Broadway performances were initially shut down from March 12 to April 12.

11:05 a.m.: Nursing home evacuated due to coronavirus outbreak, staff not coming to work

Eighty-four patients from a Riverside County, California, nursing home will be evacuated to other health care locations Wednesday after employees didn't come to work for two days amid a coronavirus outbreak there.

"For example, one certified nursing assistant of the 13 scheduled showed up to work at the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, which prompted Riverside University Health System and Kaiser Permanente to send a total of 33 licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses to care for the residents at the facility," according to the Riverside University Health System. "Staffing demands, however, require the patients be moved today."

There are 34 known cases of the coronavirus among residents and five cases among employee at the Magnolia Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, according to the Riverside University Health System.

The number of COVID-19 cases in Riverside County has reached 1,016. At least 28 people in the county have died.

10:20 a.m.: NYC's largest percentage of deaths is among Hispanics

In hard-hit New York City, preliminary data shows the largest percentage of coronavirus deaths is among Hispanics, which New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called "blatant inequality."

Hispanics make up 34% of coronavirus deaths though they make up 29% of the city's population.

Further, African Americans make up 28% of coronavirus deaths, though they make up 22% of the city's population, the preliminary data shows.

"Folks who have struggled before .. are being hit particularly hard," de Blasio said.

Meanwhile, whites make up 27% of deaths and 32% of the population, and Asians make up 7% of deaths and 14% of the population.

The breakdown, with 63% reporting, was provided by New York City's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The mayor said to confront disparities, the city is enacting initiatives including: grassroots outreach such as calling households and robocalls; PSAs focusing on zip codes with the highest positive cases; and PSAs published in 14 different languages.

De Blasio also said Wednesday there is an urgent need for surgical gowns. He said New York City has asked the federal government for over 9 million.

In better news, the mayor said the city received on Tuesday over 3 million surgical masks, more than 1 million N95 masks and 2 million surgical gloves.

And de Blasio said, "for the first time in awhile ... we will get through this week" in terms of ventilators.

The city has 5,500 ventilators available in hospitals, including 500 received from the state on Tuesday, he said. There are also 135 ventilators in an emergency reserve.

9:07 a.m.: UK prime minister remains 'clinically stable' in ICU

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson "remains clinically stable and is responding to treatment," a spokesperson for his office said Wednesday.

"He continues to be cared for in intensive care at St Thomas’ Hospital," the spokesperson said in a statement. "He is in good spirits."

Johnson, 55, has been hospitalized at St Thomas' Hospital in London since Sunday evening due to "persistent symptoms" of the novel coronavirus. He was transferred to the intensive care unit on Monday after his condition "worsened," according to a statement from his official residence and office, 10 Downing Street.

The prime minister has been receiving "standard" oxygen treatment in the ICU and has been breathing without any other assistance.

"He has not required mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support," Downing Street said.

8:20 a.m.: Spain announces plan to gradually ease lockdown measures

Spain reported Wednesday another uptick in infections and fatalities from the novel coronavirus.

The Spanish Ministry of Health recorded 757 new deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the nationwide total to 14,555 -- a nearly 5.5% jump. There were also 6,180 new diagnosed cases, bringing the national tally to 146,690 -- a 4.4% increase.

But that hasn't stopped the Spanish government from announcing plans to gradually lift the lockdown measures across the country. Spain's finance minister and government spokesperson, Maria Jesus Montero, said at a press conference Tuesday night that "citizens will be able to get back to their normal life" starting April 26.

On March 14, Spain formally declared a state of emergency and issued stay-at-home orders to combat the country's virus outbreak.
 
A group of experts are drawing up clear guidance for the ease of restrictions, which will be made readily accessible to the public and communicated by government officials.

7:18 a.m.: US may investigate WHO's handling of pandemic, official says

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, indicated Wednesday that the United States would investigate the World Health Organization's handling of the pandemic before deciding whether to withhold its funding to the United Nations' health agency.

"We've done that before with previous outbreaks and previous issues that have occurred at WHO," Birx told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Good Morning America.

During a press briefing Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump blamed the WHO for getting "every aspect" of the novel coronavirus pandemic wrong and threatened to freeze American funding.

The Geneva-based international body started sounding the alarm over the outbreak in China in mid-January and then designated it a global health emergency on Jan. 30. On March 11, the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic after the virus had spread to every continent except Antartica.

"In the history of the United States and the World Health Organization, we have had times when we've done really in-depth analysis of what has happened. When the president said he was holding funds, he didn't say he was restricting and keeping funds permanently away, but instead said, let's investigate what happened," Birx said. "I think that the president wants to complete an investigation of what happened during this current outbreak."

"Believe me, they already have their continuation funds from last year," she added. "So this is a year-by-year commitment to the WHO, this is our required commitment. There's also voluntary commitments that we've made to the WHO through history, including over the last couple of years for HIV, malaria, TB, so a whole series of diseases."

The United States is, by far, the single largest financial contributor to the WHO.

Birx said the White House coronavirus task force is currently concerned about the metro areas of Baltimore, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. potentially becoming the next hotspots of the country's outbreak.

"All of our previous areas seem to be steady at least," she added. " And then certainly we're looking very carefully at California and Washington [state] to really understand how they've been able as a community of Americans to mitigate so well."

Birx said they hope to roll out an antibody test "within the next 10 or 14 days" that can detect how many Americans have already had the virus but were asymptomatic.

"This makes a very big difference in really understanding who can go back to work and how they can go back to work," she said. "So all of those pieces need to come together over the next couple of weeks."

3 a.m.: China lifts lockdown in city where pandemic began

Chinese authorities have lifted a months-long lockdown on Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus pandemic began.

The very first cases of the novel coronavirus were detected in Wuhan back in December. The city of 11 million people went on lockdown on Jan. 23 in an effort to control the spread of the virus, the first in the world to do so.

The bulk of the Chinese mainland's nearly 82,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 3,300 deaths have been reported in Wuhan, the capital of central Hubei province. However, the strict travel restrictions in the city have been gradually eased in recent weeks as the number of new infections continuously declined.

The final restrictions on outbound travel were lifted Wednesday. Thousands of people streamed out of the city via car, train and plane.

China's National Health Commission on Wednesday reported no new cases in Wuhan nor the greater Hubei province, though questions have been raised over the accuracy of China's figures.
 
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Florida man charged with felony after intentionally coughing on store employee

Volusia County Department of Corrections(DEBARY, Fla.) -- A DeBary, Florida, man's intentional cough on a store employee after commenting on the business' efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus was deemed a deadly weapon, police said.

Christopher Canfora allegedly went into a Harbor Freight Tools location early Tuesday morning, approached the register and laughed at the tape markers on the floor placed 6 feet apart.

"This is getting out of hand, this is why everywhere I go I cough behind everyone with a mask on," Canfora allegedly said the 21-year-old cashier before intentionally coughing on her and the register, according to the police report.

After Canfora, 49, paid for his three items he allegedly told the cashier that he was going to do the same thing at a nearby grocery store.

Social distancing, wearing masks and gloves are some of the guidelines health experts have recommended for people to take to prevent the spread or contracting the coronavirus. The infectious virus has infected over 14,300 people in Florida as of Wednesday morning, according to the state's health department.

When deputies with the Volusia County Sheriff's Office arrived at Canfora’s home, he denied coughing on anyone and said he did not have any symptoms associated with the coronavirus, formally known as COVID-19, according to the police report.

Canfora said he didn’t expect anyone to understand his sense of humor and he couldn’t remember exactly what he said at Harbor Freight Tools store, police said.

Police charged Canfora with third-degree aggravated assault with intent to commit a felony charge.

"Canfora's threat created in the mind of the cashier a well-founded fear that the violence was about to take place, and assault was made either with a deadly weapon or with a fully formed conscious intent to commit a felony," according to the police report.

Canfora posted a $5,000 bond, according to online jail records. Attorney information was not made available.

If convicted, Canfora faces up to five years in prison, probation or a fine of up to $5,000.

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Damaging winds, hail and tornadoes forecast from Midwest to the South

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Severe thunderstorms Tuesday brought damaging winds and huge hail for large parts of the U.S., from Wisconsin to Maryland.

In western Pennsylvania, winds gusts reached 75 mph, which caused a roof to come off a church. No known injuries were reported.

Up to baseball size hail also fell in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa.

A new storm system Wednesday will bring more severe thunderstorms to the Midwest and the South, from St. Louis to Nashville, Tennessee and Atlanta.

The biggest threat with these severe thunderstorms will be damaging winds and massive hail. Tornadoes cannot be ruled out with this storm.

Meanwhile along the West Coast, more than 7 inches of rain fell in the last three days in Los Angeles County. This caused localized flash flooding throughout southern California.

This storm also dropped significant snow; up to 14 inches fell in the San Bernardino Mountains outside of Los Angeles.

Record rainfall fell Tuesday in San Diego, where localized flooding of streets and roads was reported.

A flash flood watch continues for southern California through the day Wednesday and into the night.

There is also a winter storm warning for the mountains in southern California for the next 36 to 48 hours.

An additional 1 to 2 inches of rain is expected in southern California over the next 24 hours. In the Mountains, locally, 1 to 2 feet of additional snow is possible.

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What it's like being undocumented during the novel coronavirus

Courtesy Cleyvi(NEW YORK) -- Just like everyone else, Cleyvi, 24, has had to tell her children that life during the age of the novel coronavirus pandemic just isn’t the same.

“Every kid wants to go out to the park, to McDonald’s,” she told ABC News. “And I just told him we can’t right now.”

Cleyvi, whose last name ABC News is withholding because she fears reprisal from the authorities, lives with her husband and three young sons -- ages 5, 3 and 1 -- in Los Angeles. She said her eldest child understands the basics of the novel coronavirus: that it can give people fevers and affect the way people breathe.

“He knows he has to wash his hands every time he touches something, every time he wants to eat, after eating,” Cleyvi said. But for her, “the biggest stress” is figuring out how to pay the bills: rent, electricity, cable, food, diapers, formula and potentially medical expenses.

While the coronavirus has smothered the U.S. economy and families across the nation are learning to deal with isolation, a loss of income, and in some cases grief, the virus has hit Cleyvi's family harder than most. She and her husband are both undocumented, even as their three children are U.S. citizens.

Despite experiencing the same economic downturn, undocumented immigrants -- and even immigrants with tax identification cards -- will not be receiving the same federal help as many Americans, such as the economic impact payment, which is up to $1,200 for an individual or $2,400 for a married couple, plus $500 for each child. Undocumented immigrants also do not qualify for unemployment, which has been expanded and extended due to the crisis.

Roughly 10.5 million unauthorized immigrants live in the United States, and before the coronavirus financial crisis they made up roughly 4.6% of the labor force, according Pew Research Center.

“What causes the most difficulty for them is that they’re also experiencing loss of income, but without the subsidized support that is being offered,” said Michelle Rhone-Collins, CEO of LIFT, an organization that helps lift families out of poverty using both financial and holistic approaches. “Their voices aren’t even part of the conversation.”

While Cleyvi's family has been doing their best to save and come up with contingency plans, they’re worried. She told ABC News she wonders about what will happen if one of them gets sick and must self-isolate. Will they have enough to pay the bills, and enough left over to buy diapers and formula? And what about the possibility of authorities coming and knocking on their door?

“This is traumatic,” said Rhone-Collins. “It is traumatic for a group that already is experiencing – and already has experienced – heightened trauma.”

The impact of the COVID-19 financial crisis

The outbreak of COVID-19 caused a significant decline in the U.S. economy -- with thousands of "non-essential" businesses closing around the country in a matter of days to facilitate stay-at-home orders and other social distancing measures. According to an analysis done by the federal reserve bank of St. Louis, as many as 47 million workers could be laid off -- potentially making the unemployment rate a staggering 32.1%. But this does not include the number or rate of undocumented immigrants who have also been laid off.

Cleyvi's husband works in plumbing, but since the coronavirus crisis began, most of his clients have cancelled home visits and appointments and his family’s source of income is running dry. Cleyvi spends her days raising her three children, and her nights taking online classes getting her high school diploma through the Los Angeles Public Library program.

“The jobs that our members were working primarily in are hospitality and in education and healthcare, and also within the restaurant and hotel industries,” said Rhone-Collins. “So yeah, they’re not working.”

According to Department of Labor data, the service industry -- including accommodation and food services -- was among the hardest-hit by the impact of the coronavirus. Manufacturing, retail and construction have also been heavily affected as well.

LIFT provides help to nearly 1,000 low-income families across the United States in cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York -- roughly 30% of which are undocumented, according to Rhode-Collins. Cleyvi's family is one of them.

When the crisis was beginning to pick up, already 70% percent of LIFT members had lost their jobs. Now, nearly 90% of LIFT families have reported a significant loss of income. LIFT has been able to provide $500 to each of its families and is hoping to provide more relief soon.

But $500, without any additional government relief, is not enough for a family of five. Cleyvi said to cover the cost of living -- including paying rent, the electricity bill, and food -- her family would need at least $1,000. Because her children are citizens, she has been approved for food stamps, but she's concerned this may not cover all her family's needs.

“I don’t know that people are really aware that there are a lot of people that are left out that are also contributors to our economy,” Rhone-Collins said. “And the strength of our economy is only as good as those who are at the edges of it.”

The CARES ACT, the $2.2 trillion bill signed into law in March, will be providing Americans with unprecedented relief during this crisis. Many will receive a $1,200 deposit or check, and small businesses can apply for loans -- which essentially become grants -- if no employees are laid off. But this does not apply to the millions of undocumented immigrants who live in the United States, even if they’ve lived here for most of their lives.

Cleyvi has been living in the United States for almost 20 years -- she was brought to the U.S. from Mexico when she was 5. She said she even tried applying for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) when she was younger, but her family couldn’t afford the application process because she grew up in a single-parent, single-earner household.

“It’s unearthing the inequality that was already there,” Rhone-Collins said of the coronavirus, saying most of LIFT's members were already living paycheck to paycheck before the crisis began. “I think that the people who are going to feel the impact of the economic downturn the most are the ones who have already been in the hole. And the reason that they are in the hole is because of a lot of systemic barriers built into the way that our policies operate that don’t help them in productive ways.”

The extra toll of being undocumented

For Cleyvi's family, a simple task for many -- like picking up groceries or finding diapers -- can be exhausting. Cleyvi, unable to find certain supplies at local markets, tried recently to go to Costco. But Costco requires a valid government-issued identification card.

“This is our only option – to come to regular markets,” said Cleyvi. “We can’t really go to big places like those. So that’s hard to be running around to different markets to see if we find certain things.”

But Cleyvi says they have the essentials to try and keep everyone safe.

But some children are not so lucky.

As of April 2, five unaccompanied undocumented children in federal custody in two facilities in New York were declared either presumptive positive or are confirmed to have the coronavirus, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

HHS has temporarily stopped putting unaccompanied minors into facilities in New York, California and Washington, which are coronavirus hot spots. There are over 3,000 unaccompanied undocumented children in the care of custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

When ABC News reached out for comment, HHS responded saying "the situation remains extremely fluid and can change rapidly."

There are at least eight detention center facilities across the United States, four of which are government operated, that have reported cases of COVID-19, according to Freedom for Immigrants.

But despite the severe loss for many, Rhone-Collins believes this is a moment to be “less exclusionary” and include the “people who need it the most.”

“We do not have to continue to plan in a way that increases the racial wealth gap,” she said. “This is an opportunity for us to close it by doing what’s right and that's by holding the people who are most vulnerable at the center, not at the edges and fringes.”

“I think that with COVID, the hope and the opportunity is to actually learn around how a response can be quick,” she later continued. “It can be empathetic. It can be simple. It can make sense.”

Cleyvi has noticed in her "Mommy and Me" classes that other mothers are facing similar issues. Rather than hoarding their own supplies, her community has come together to share resources -- whether that be formula for their babies, vegetables, diapers, or cleaning supplies.

“I know we aren’t the only family struggling right now,” she said.

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Father arrested for playing with daughter in park, citing coronavirus restrictions

Courtesy Kirby Wallin(BRIGHTON, Colo.) -- In an incident caught on video, a former Colorado State Patrol trooper said he was handcuffed in front of his 6-year old daughter on a near-empty softball field Sunday by Brighton police officers enforcing social distancing rules.

The department apologized Tuesday afternoon, calling the incident an "overreach by our police officers."

Matt Mooney, 33, told ABC News he walked with his wife and daughter from their home to a nearby park Sunday to play softball.

"We're just having a good time, not near anybody else. The next closest person is at least 15 feet away from me and my daughter at this point," Mooney told ABC News.

Police arrived soon after, Mooney said, telling him and others in the area to leave because the park was closed.

Mooney said he told officers that he was familiar with the posted rules and believed he and his family were in compliance and practicing proper social distancing. He said he refused to provide his identification when officers asked for it because he had not broken any law.

"Well, they didn't like that idea. They then proceeded to make a threat against me saying, 'If you don't give us your identification, if you don't identify yourself, we're going to put you in handcuffs in front of your 6-year-old daughter,'" he said.

Mooney said officers handcuffed him and placed him in a patrol car for about 10 to 15 minutes while they phoned a supervisor for guidance. The incident was captured on cellphone footage by former Brighton City Councilman Kirby Wallin.

"Yeah, it's Sunday and the Brighton police are apparently arresting a dad for throwing a ball to his daughter," Wallin is heard saying on the video.

In a statement, the Brighton Police Department said it was "deeply sorry" for the incident and is conducting an internal investigation.

"While the investigation sorts through the different versions of what took place by witnesses who were at the park, it is evident there was an overreach by our police officers," the statement said. "It is imperative that we improve communication with our front line first responders so they are up to date on the latest rules in place regarding COVID-19 for addressing public safety."

Mooney, who said he's hired an attorney and is considering legal action against the city, declined to comment on the apology.

The former state patrol trooper, who now runs a construction company, said officers eventually let him go without issuing a citation.

Mooney said his 6-year-old daughter was scared to see her father placed in handcuffs, but said she learned a valuable lesson.

"She's learned that our constitutional rights are something worth standing up for," Mooney said. "She got to witness a violation of civil rights. She got to witness an unlawful order by the police."

In addition, Mooney said none of the officers were wearing protective gear, although he saw a face mask hanging from an officer's belt.

"They could very simply be asymptomatic, not even know they're sick, and now I've been exposed. My daughter's been exposed; my wife's been exposed," said Mooney.

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Volunteer EMT corps: 'Nothing compares' to what they're seeing in NJ town

ABC News(TEANECK, N.J.) -- In Teaneck, New Jersey, volunteer EMTs are constantly answering potential and confirmed COVID-19 calls, sometimes wearing mechanics overalls to protect themselves from being exposed.

"We have never seen anything like this before ever in our history," said Jacob Finkelstein, captain of Teaneck Volunteer Ambulatory Corps. "We've been around for a long time since 1939. I've heard from members who've been here through other, similar, situations through AIDS, through SARS. Nothing compares to what we are seeing now in Teaneck."

ABC News spent a few hours with the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulatory Corps as its members responded to calls in the community.

On Monday, EMTs responded to an elderly woman with a suspected case of COVID-19 who died before they arrived; a man in his 70s with a high fever and cough whose family said he'd tested positive for the virus but had been sent home; and two more older men who were taken to the hospital with fevers.

In March, Mohammed Hameeduddin, the mayor of Teaneck, called the town "ground zero" for the infections in the state.

At that time, he told ABC News that he had asked the town's more than 41,000 residents to self-quarantine and only leave their homes for food and medicine. Schools, municipal buildings, parks and other places people could congregate were also closed.

From suiting up in full personal protective equipment, commonly known as PPE, to decontaminating their ambulances after a call, members of the Teaneck Volunteer Ambulatory Corps said they treated every emergency 911 call as a potential COVID-19 case.

The team said the city had seen at least 500 confirmed cases of coronavirus and at least 20 deaths.

They also said they were receiving double the amount of calls these days -- an average of 25 a day -- with less than half of their staff on duty.

Eric Orgen, a member of the corps since 1994, said normally the volunteer group had about 120 active members. The team is currently down to about 40 to 50.

Orgen said some members, who ranged in age from 15 to 75, were considered high risk or had family members who were high risk. These members helped in other ways, including holding a drive last week to collect food and equipment.

Orgen said that some of the volunteer EMTs had even tested positive for coronavirus after being exposed while responding to calls.

The EMTs wear full PPE when they respond to calls. Finkelstein, however, said some PPE items like gowns were not available. Members even turned to wearing mechanics overalls to protect themselves.

"We've had to come up with some creative solutions to fill in for those missing items," said Finkelstein, who noted that other volunteer EMT squads had been forced to stop answering calls due to the pandemic.

Orgen had worked with the group since 1994 and recently came out of retirement to help. He said his wife was a pharmacist and both worried about bringing the virus home to their children.

"I'm here for the residents," he said. "I'm here for the team at TeaVac. We're a family. Everyone here's 100% dedicated to just helping out the town, helping out the residents and doing some good for the world."

In the last two weeks, the corps said it has responded to at least 150 COVID-19 calls.

On Tuesday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced that he would extend the state’s public health emergency by 30 days as New Jersey reported its deadliest day so far from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to more than 1,232.
 
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Amid the coronavirus, one Jewish community is finding ways to keep the faith

Becky Perlow / ABC News(BALTIMORE) -- At its very core, Judaism is community and community service.

So when the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic threated the very foundation of the Baltimore Jewish community, religious leaders across the county rushed to find ways to stay connected.

“This is an incredible moment of reinvention, a challenge like we have never seen and realities like we've never seen before. But our religion always teaches us that no matter what the circumstances: adapt, reinvent and then do something spectacular,” said Rabbi Shmuel Silber, leader of the Suburban Orthodox Congregation Toras Chaim in Pikesville, Maryland.

“So our synagogue has kind of adopted [a saying of] physically apart but spiritually connected,” he continued.

“And we've used that as the mantra for everything. For praying together, learning together, helping our elderly and helping those who are isolated with acts of kindness,” Silber said, adding that Baltimore hosts multiple organizations, like Ahavas Yisrael, that are dedicated to “acts of kindness.”

Sometimes, an act of kindness can be found in the simplest of places -- a shopping cart, even.

Since the pandemic exploded in America, several Baltimore synagogues have banded together and launched an initiative to protect those grocery shoppers who would be at risk due to older age or pre-existing conditions.

The initiative, run by 38-year-old Dovi Ziffer, gathers a dozen volunteers at one of the kosher supermarkets in town and sends them running around the stocked aisles with a shopping list in one hand and a shopping cart in the other.

Between the bins of fresh fruit and the Passover food aisle, Dovi reiterates the rules to the volunteers and hands out the grocery lists. A few people ask questions, followed by a wave of screeching wheels as everyone heads in different directions. The volunteers weave through the aisles, pulling down cereal boxes, reaching for cartons of milk or sorting through the bushels of apples to find the best one.

“I try to pick as if I’m picking for my own family,” said volunteer Zevi Daniel as he reached for a shiny Honey Crisp apple.

“Or as if my wife is scrutinizing this,” he added with a laugh.

With his team spread out through the store, Ziffer stops to survey the land. He’s quick to note the precautions they are taking to keep both themselves and their community safe.

“We are trying to come here late in the evening when we know there's not going to be a big crowd,” said Ziffer, speaking behind a blue hospital mask in the baking aisle at Pikesville’s Market Maven.

“We're wearing gloves, wearing masks,” he added, continuing, “and there's a clear vetting process that gives clear criteria for ensuring that our people are not immunocompromised, that they don't have seasonal allergies, that they are not living in a home with somebody who’s 60 years old or that they are not traveling out of the state within the past 14 days.”

Ziffer’s team isn’t the only act of kindness in town, though.

After discovering that one of the local restaurants was struggling to make ends meet, community member Ari Gross sat down with some friends and colleagues to discuss how they as a community could help out their beloved deli, the Knish Shop. They decided to kill two birds with one stone -- buy dozens of sandwiches from the deli, but then take those sandwiches and deliver them, free of charge, to the hardworking medical team at Sinai Hospital in Baltimore.

“Really within minutes, though, we had such an overwhelming response of people who wanted to be a part of it,” said Gross, who believes it’s ingrained in people to give back.

The owner of the Knish Shop, Mosie Treuhaft, said Gross’ idea couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Catering was a business we always thought was recession-proof, but we were wrong. COVID changed us,” said Treuhaft, standing behind the deli counter making a tuna wrap.

“Our main business was Bar Mitzvahs, weddings and business lunches… and all that is now [coming to] a screeching halt,” he added.

According to Gross, it costs about $1,000 a day to feed the emergency room’s morning and night shifts.

“It’s just incredible. The community’s been unbelievable,” added Treuhaft, thanking Gross not just for helping his business but also for taking care of those fighting the disease on the front line.

But it’s not only the community helping the hospital -- it’s also the medical staff helping the community.

Jamie Rubin, a nurse at Sinai Hospital, is part of a team that has been working with religious and community leaders to spread awareness about the novel coronavirus, and how individuals can protect themselves.

“Anything from enhanced cleaning protocols to better access to hand-hygiene supplies, facilitating curbside delivery of goods and services like grocery stores, and even advice on how to limit the number of people that are allowed entry into public spaces, like the busy grocery stores, which are typically packed in these weeks leading up to Passover,” Rubin said.

Another member of the advice team includes Dr. Jonathan Ringo, a senior vice president and COO at Sinai Hospital.

“Sinai Hospital was established over 150 years ago by members of the Jewish community in Baltimore… [so] the relationship between the Jewish community and Sinai has remained strong throughout its history,” said Ringo, who added that members of his medical staff have also given advice on social distancing, the importance of closing synagogues and even educational services.

One of those educational services includes a newly launched website, JCOVID.com. The online platform, Silber said, is helping to spread information about what the local Jewish community is doing to battle the deadly coronavirus, as well as ways people can volunteer.

“Everything we do, even our religious institutions, must adhere to the protocol that Governor Hogan is giving us,” said Silber.

“In many respects, we've actually gone beyond the requirements. For example, technically speaking, we could hold prayer services of less than 10 people. We as a community have chosen not to, though, because we recognize that the best chance we have to flatten the curve is to be able to stop everything,” he added.

So how does a community that can no longer pray together stay together?

“We had a choice when we closed down our synagogue,” said Silber. “We’re coming up now on three weeks – we could just shut down operations, or we could figure out how to reinvent our community.”

For 13-year-old Betzalel Tusk, it meant making some last-minute changes to his coming-of-age ceremony.

“My original Bar Mitzvah was supposed to be at the Knish Shop, which has a party room. And there were going to be like 60 people there with a DJ and a photographer, and all my friends would be there. And it was going to be a lot of fun,” said Tusk, sitting on a couch in his family’s home in Pikesville, Maryland.

Having studied and trained for over a year, Tusk was understandably disappointed when they had to change venues.

“But I got over it and I thought that maybe there would be something else happening,” he said.

That “something else?” A virtual Bar Mitzvah on Zoom, a video conferencing platform.

Tusk said it was strange, reading his portion from the Torah in a room filled only with his immediate family members.

“But there were over, like, 150 people there [too],” said Tusk.

“So many people were watching in, like people that I didn't even know,” he added. “And it just made me feel amazing. And I'm just grateful to everyone who watched that.”

His gratefulness didn’t go unnoticed. Right as Rabbi Silber began his speech to those watching the Bar Mitzvah on Zoom, Tusk gently interrupted him.

“The Bar Mitzvah boy said [to me], ‘Rabbi Silber, can I just say one thing? I just want to thank everyone for coming to my bar mitzvah. So many of you don't even know me. But yet you're here to celebrate with me,’” said Silber, recalling Tusk on his Bar Mitzvah day.

“I learned more from a 13-year-old boy in that moment, than I have learned from all of my teachers throughout my life,” said Silber. “About the need for positive disposition, the need for optimism, the need for hope, and the need to make the best of your circumstances even if it's not what you expected.”
 
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


NY coronavirus death toll has largest single-day jump; musician John Prine dies

Samara Heisz/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A global pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed at least 12,893 people in the United States.

The U.S. has more cases than any other country, with over 398,000 people diagnosed with 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.

Worldwide, more than 1.42 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and at least 82,074 of them have died since the virus emerged in China in December. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations' outbreaks.

Italy has the world's highest death toll -- over 17,100.

Here's how the news developed on Tuesday. All times Eastern:

10:01 p.m.: John Prine dies of coronavirus

Longtime singer-songwriter John Prine has died of coronavirus, his representative told ABC News.

"Widely lauded as one of the most influential songwriters of his generation, John’s impact will continue to inspire musicians for years to come," the Recording Academy said in a statement. "We send our deepest condolences to his loved ones."

The 73-year-old had recently been checked into Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, suffering from COVID-19, his family said in late March.

Prine was nominated for 11 Grammy Awards in his career and took home two trophies and he was just announced as a 2020 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award recipient. He won awards for best contemporary folk album for The Missing Years in 1992 and another for Fair & Square in 2006.

He earned praise from a litany of legendary singers, including Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash, both of whom cited him as one of their favorite artists.

9:52 p.m.: San Diego moves to curb spread of virus among homeless

San Diego officials announced an ambitious plan to curb the spread of COVID-19 among its substantial homeless population.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer said the city is directing millions of dollars to a shelter-at-home operation that will turn the San Diego Convention Center into a temporary home for hundreds of people currently living in the streets.

San Diego has the fourth-highest homeless population in the country, behind New York City, Los Angeles and Seattle, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

9:03 p.m.: LA to mandate face coverings for essential employees

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the city is implementing a policy effective Friday requiring workers in grocery stores, drug stores, restaurants, hotels, taxi and ride-share companies and construction sites to wear nonmedical face coverings while at work. In addition, customers entering their businesses must also wear face coverings or they could be refused service.

There were 550 new confirmed cases in Los Angeles County in the past 24 hours -- a 9% increase from the day before -- bringing the total to 6,936 confirmed cases.

The death toll rose to 169 overall with 22 reported in the last day, an increase of 15% from the prior day.

Garcetti also appointed a chief logistical officer who will be in charge of procuring PPE for medical staff and first responders.

8:41 p.m.: Utah converting brushfire trucks into ambulances

Concerns over the rising number of coronavirus cases have led first responders in Utah to seek an usual solution.

Members of Utah's Unified Fire Authority have begun converting specialized trucks used for fighting brushfires into ambulances for responding to COVID-19 calls.

"What we have done is prepare them for medical response calls, which is something we have never used them for before," said UFA’s Matthew McFarland.

The retrofitted vehicles are being stocked with ambulance equipment and supplies -- but they won't be used for transporting patients.

"It is not going to compromise your transport," McFarland said. "If they show up and immediately determine that someone needs transport ... we are going to have a transport rig there by the time their assessment is done."

7:27 p.m.: Florida sees spike in cases, deaths
Florida saw a jump in confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths over the last 24 hours, according to the state's health department.

About 1,118 people were diagnosed in the past day, with the total number of COVID-19 patients rising to 14,747, the health department said. There were 42 coronavirus-related fatalities in the last 24 hours, which represented a 16.5% jump in deaths, according to the health department data.

A total of 296 Florida residents have died from the disease, the health department said.

6:20 p.m.: Trump, Fauci acknowledge larger share of cases in minority communities

President Donald Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, acknowledged that data shows minorities have higher rates of coronavirus infections.

Fauci said higher rates of pre-existing conditions, such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and asthma within black and minority communities were a factor, as well as their higher use of public transportation.

"We are very concerned about that. It is very sad. There is nothing we can do about it right now except to give them the best possible care to avoid complications," Fauci said.

Trump said the White House would release data on coronavirus cases by race shortly.

6:15 p.m.: NYPD announces 14th death

Nearly a fifth of New York Police Department members called out sick as the force lost another member to the coronavirus, police officials said.

The NYPD had 7,060 uniformed members, about 19% of the force, call in sick on Tuesday. The department said 2,006 uniformed members and 338 civilian members have tested positive for COVID-19.

Ava Walker, a communications technician and 20-year veteran of the force, died March 31. Walker is the 14th NYPD member lost to the virus.

6:00 p.m.: 110,000 ventilators to be shipped out by end of June: President
President Donald Trump said the federal government will be sending 110,000 ventilators to states over the next few months.

"We have 8,675 ventilators right now in stock ready to move," he said during this daily press briefing. "In addition to the 8,675 ventilators, we have 2,200 arriving on April 13. We have 5,500 arriving on May 4."

The remaining ventilators will be shipped out throughout May and June, according to the president.

Trump added that 1.87 million coronavirus tests have been conducted so far in the country.


4:20 p.m.: Early signs curve starting to flatten in Louisiana, governor says

In Louisiana, hard-hit by the pandemic, the death toll reached 582 Tuesday -- but there are early signs that the curves is starting to flatten, Gov. John Bel Edwards said.

The number of people on ventilators decreased from 552 on Monday to 519 on Tuesday, which the governor said he thinks "reflects improvements on the way we are dispensing medical care."

Over 16,000 people in the state have now been diagnosed with coronavirus. Louisiana is now first in the nation per capita for testing, the governor said.

Edwards said all parishes have received personal protective equipment and that Apple has sent Louisiana 400,000 masks.

The New Orleans area is not expected to run out of ventilators or hospital beds in the next two weeks, he said.

2:55 p.m.: France's COVID-19 death toll tops 10,000

With 1,417 new fatalities, France's COVID-19 death toll has now reached 10,328, Health Ministry Director Jerome Salomon said.

The daily death toll is appearing to spike because authorities are now recording fatalities that had occurred outside hospitals and previously were unknown. Out of the newly reported 1,417 deaths, 607 occurred in hospitals in the last day, while the other fatalities were previously unreported deaths outside hospitals.

Meanwhile, Paris is now banning residents from jogging and other outdoor exercise between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. in an effort to improve social distancing.

Jogging will still be permitted at night.

France's total number of diagnosed cases is now over 78,000.

1:20 p.m.: NJ state, county parks close as cases top 44,000

In New Jersey, 1,232 people have died from the coronavirus, a number Gov. Phil Murphy called "almost unfathomable."

The state has a total of 44,416 confirmed cases, Murphy said Tuesday.

While there are signs the curve may be flattening, Murphy stressed, "We cannot be happy with only reaching a plateau. We need to keep strong ... to see that curve begin to fall and ultimately get to zero."
Coronavirus death toll in US likely worse than numbers say

Murphy said he's closing all state and county parks in an effort to enforce social distancing.

"Don't think that I take this action lightly," he said. "We must not just flatten this curve, we must crush this curve." 

12:32 p.m.: UK death toll climbs over 6,000; prime minister in 'good spirits'

United Kingdom's coronavirus death toll climbed to 6,159 as of Monday night, marking a massive daily leap.

As of Sunday night, the death toll was at 5,373, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Over 55,000 people in the U.K. have tested positive for coronavirus, including Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, as well as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson, 55, has been in an intensive care unit at a London hospital since Monday.

He was "stable" and in "good spirits" Tuesday morning, according to a statement from his official residence and office, 10 Downing Street.

The statement noted that Johnson is receiving "standard" oxygen treatment while in the ICU and is breathing without any other assistance.

"He has not required mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support," Downing Street said.

The prime minister has been hospitalized since Sunday evening due to "persistent symptoms" of the coronavirus. He was transferred to the ICU Monday after his conditioned "worsened," according to Downing Street.

11:25 a.m.: New York death toll sees largest single-day jump

New York -- the state hit hardest by the pandemic -- saw its largest single-day death toll jump from Monday to Tuesday.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo says 731 people lost their lives in the state in the last 24 hours, bringing New York's total number of coronavirus fatalities to 5,489.

Over 138,000 people in the state have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

However, the three-day hospitalization rate in New York is moving down, a sign the state is reaching a plateau.

"It still depends on what we do," Cuomo warned Tuesday. "This is not an act of God ... it's an act of what society actually does."

Cuomo compared the coronavirus pandemic to the 1918 flu pandemic which he said peaked in New York for six months, killing about 30,000 people in the state.

"They didn't react the way we did and they didn't know what we know today," he said.

10:15 a.m.: Nation’s largest Gothic cathedral to be converted to hospital

The nation’s largest Gothic cathedral, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, is being converted this Holy Week into a temporary field hospital.

The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is in New York City -- the U.S. city hit hardest by the pandemic.

Beds and medical supplies are in the process of being moved into the Cathedral in an effort to lessen the pressure on New York City’s overburdened health care system.

The Right Reverend Clifton Daniel III, dean of the Cathedral, said, "The Cathedral of St. John the Divine is stepping up now, as we always have, to help support our diverse and beloved community and the community of doctors, nurses, and volunteers risking their health and well-being in the service of the people of New York City in our hour of need."

9:47 a.m.: TSA screenings reach 'lowest since the days after Sept. 11'

U.S. plane travel has plunged to "the lowest since the days after Sept. 11," a Transportation Security Administration spokesperson told ABC News.

TSA screenings reached another record low Monday with only 108,310 travelers passing through checkpoints nationwide.

On the same weekday last year, TSA screened 2,384,091 passengers.

8:23 a.m.: UK prime minister is 'stable' in ICU

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was "stable" and in "good spirits" on Tuesday morning after spending a night in the intensive care unit of a London hospital, according to a statement from his official residence and office, 10 Downing Street.

The statement noted that Johnson is receiving "standard" oxygen treatment while in the ICU and is breathing without any other assistance.

"He has not required mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support," Downing Street said. "The prime minister has not had a pneumonia diagnosis."

Johnson, 55, has been hospitalized at St. Thomas' Hospital in central London since Sunday evening due to "persistent symptoms" of novel coronavirus infection. He was transferred to the ICU on Monday afternoon after his conditioned "worsened," according to Downing Street.

7:30 a.m.: 'There is a light at the end of this tunnel,' US Surgeon General says

While still maintaining that this will be a difficult week for Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Tuesday that he feels "a lot more optimistic" as he reassured citizens "there is a light at the end of this tunnel."
 
"I absolutely believe this is going to be an incredibly sad and an incredibly hard week for our country, but we've had tough times in this country before and we always come out stronger," Adams told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview on Good Morning America.

"The good news is that when you look at Italy, when you look at Spain, when you look at Washington and California, and even New York and New Jersey, they have truly started to flatten their curves," he added. "They've seen cases level off and start to come down, and that's what I want people to understand -- that it's going to be a hard and tough week, but the American people have the power to change the trajectory of this epidemic if we come together like we have after past tragedies in this country."

Adams said the latest data shows U.S. states like Washington and California have successfully flattened the curves of their outbreaks "because they were aggressively mitigating from the start."

"The most important thing for the American people now is to really focus on these 30-days-to-slow-the-spread guidelines because we have proof that they work," he said. "But we need you all to cooperate, we need you to continue doing your part -- and most people actually are. Over 90% of the country is actually doing the right thing right now."

As of Tuesday morning, eight U.S. states have still not issued or announced stay-at-home orders. Adams said the federal government doesn't really have "a good mechanism" to enforce stay-at-home orders as much as state authorities do.

"We're working with governors, talking with them every single day, working with states to give them the information they need to make the right choices," he said. "And that's really what this comes down to, it's got to happen at the community level."

Whenever the country does start to reopen, Adams said it'll still be a "different normal" than what Americans are used to. There will be a greater sense of normalcy once testing becomes more widely available, a vaccine and therapeutics are approved, and there's a strong public health infrastructure in place, he said.

"But I want the American people to know that there is a light at the end of this tunnel," Adams added, "and we feel confident that if we keep doing the right thing for the rest of this month, that we can start to slowly reopen in some places."

7:09 a.m.: France has not yet peaked, health minister warns

The number of patients hospitalized in intensive care for the novel coronavirus in France has been steadily decreasing for the past five days. But French Health Minister Olivier Veran warned Tuesday that the country has not yet reached the peak of its outbreak.

"We are still in a worsening phase of the pandemic," Véran told French broadcaster BFM TV, adding that the nationwide lockdown would last as long as necessary.

Almost 99,000 people across France have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and nearly 9,000 of them have died, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Close to 30,000 patients infected with the novel coronavirus are currently hospitalized, according to the French health ministry.

6:25 a.m.: Positive cases top 10,000 in Africa

At least 10,075 people across Africa have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to figures released Tuesday by the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So far, 487 people diagnosed with COVID-19 have died.

The Northern Africa region has, by far, the largest cluster of cases on the continent, with 4,485 confirmed infections. However, with 1,686 positive cases, South Africa now has the highest national total, surpassing that of both Algeria and Egypt, according to the Africa CDC.

5:05 a.m.: Japan declares state of emergency for seven prefectures

Japan on Tuesday declared a month-long state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced the order in a brief televised statement, saying the country's outbreak was threatening to gravely impact people's lives and the economy.

The declaration, effective through May 6, empowers governors of the prefectures of Tokyo, Kanagawa, Saitama, Chiba, Osaka, Hyogo and Fukuoka to take more preventative measures, such as requesting citizens to stay home, calling for businesses to close as well as shuttering schools and other public facilities. Supermarkets and other essential businesses are allowed to remain open.

However, the declaration is not expected to lead to drastic urban lockdowns like the ones seen in Europe as Japan's post-World War II constitution limits the central government's powers.

At least 3,906 people in Japan have been diagnosed with COVID-19 and 92 of them have died, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University. The Japanese government has admitted that infection routes cannot be traced in an increasing number of cases.

3:30 a.m.: China reports no new deaths for first time since January

China on Tuesday reported zero new deaths from the novel coronavirus over the past 24 hours.

China's National Health Commission recorded 32 new cases of confirmed infections across the mainland, all of which were imported from abroad, as well as 30 new asymptomatic cases. However, it's the first time the country has reported no new deaths since the commission began publishing daily figures in late January.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong has seen its number of confirmed infections more than double in recent weeks. The Chinese special administrative region on Tuesday reported 1,331 new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the National Health Commission.

The very first cases of COVID-19 were detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December before the disease spread around the globe.

Since then, a total of 81,740 people on the Chinese mainland have been diagnosed with the disease and 3,331 of them have died, according to the National Health Commission.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Wisconsin couple killed execution-style by daughter's boyfriend, prosecutors say

Dane County Sheriff's Office(MADISON, Wisc.) -- A judge in Madison, Wisconsin, has set $1 million bail for two teenagers charged with the execution-style murders of a respected doctor and an education coach.

During the early morning hours of March 31, two joggers came upon the bodies of Dr. Beth Potter and her husband, Robin Carre, lying off the roadway in the University of Wisconsin Arboretum and covered in blood, police said. A witness told the University of Wisconsin-Madison Police Department that they had heard a series of gunshots after 11 p.m. the night before.

Carre, 57, was pronounced dead at the scene as Potter, 52, was taken to a nearby hospital where she later died. Both were shot in the head and were left for dead in their house clothes with no shoes, according to the criminal complaint.

Investigators conducted several interviews that led them to arrest and charge Khari Sanford, the boyfriend of the couple's adopted daughter, and Sanford's friend Ali'Jah Larrue with two counts of first-degree murder. Sanford and Larrue made their court appearance on Tuesday via video conference, where a plea was not entered for the felony charges.

The day before the couple was murdered, Potter confided in a friend that they had moved her adopted daughter, Miriam Potter Carre, and Sanford into an Airbnb because they weren't abiding by the rules of COVID-19 social distancing, according to the criminal complaint.

Potter, a doctor at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, had a greater risk of infection because of medications she was taking, and she was concerned about the teenagers going in and out of the house, the complaint said.

"You don’t care about me," Potter Carre allegedly told her mother as they were being moved out.

Police say when they questioned Potter Carre about the night of March 30, she told them that she had stayed at the rental property with Sanford and that she had fallen asleep after watching a movie. But traffic cameras captured her parents' van driving by the crime scene, and a forensic search of Potter Carre's cell phone showed that she was not with Sanford at that time, according to the criminal complaint.

Potter Carre allegedly told police that she loved her boyfriend and was extremely loyal to him. Dane County Prosecutors did not respond to a request for comment on whether Potter Carre was implicated in her parents' death.

When police caught up with Larrue, he told them that he was friends and classmates with Sanford and Potter Carre.

Larrue allegedly told police that before schools were closed due to the pandemic, he had overheard Sanford and Potter Carre talking in ceramics class about getting money from her parents, who "were rich," according to the criminal complaint.

Sanford allegedly identified Larrue as an accomplice who, in turn, gave police permission to analyze his phone activity, according to the criminal complaint.

Sanford's attorneys, Diana Maria Van Rybroek and Crystal Vera, declined to comment on the case Tuesday evening. Requests for comment from Larrue's attorney were not returned. Sanford and Larrue's next court date is April 16.

The families of Potter and Carre are anticipating establishing a memorial fund to provide resources for community activities that were important to the couple, according to the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health website.

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'There’s a lot of concern here': West Virginia braces for spread of coronavirus

Derek Brumby/iStock(NEW YORK) -- West Virginia is the last state in the country to record a positive case of COVID-19, and the state's percentage of positive tests is among the lowest in the nation.

Residents, however, are still concerned about the virus.

“We have that elderly population," Chris Lawrence, morning host of 580 WCHS radio in Charleston, told ABC’s Cheri Preston on ABC Audio’s “Perspective” podcast.

"We're not the healthiest state in the country, obviously, a lot of people here smoke, a lot of people here suffer from black lung," Lawrence said. "Elderly folks that worked in the coal mines are now retired and they already have a lot of respiratory issues. And that is exactly the kind of folks that are most at risk with this COVID-19 virus. And there is a real fear that if it were to get out of control here in West Virginia that we could lose a lot of our population.”

As of Sunday there were fewer than 350 cases in the state, and reported deaths related to COVID-19 were till in single digits.

Although rural hospitals can face challenges in combating the virus, Lawrence said medical equipment and hospital beds have not been an issue so far in the mostly-rural state.

But "that’s not saying it won’t be in the future,” he said.

Right now, West Virginia is hoping its residents just practice good hygiene and social distancing.

"I think the biggest concern here has just been keeping people away from one another,” he said.

Lawrence joked that there is no better place to socially distance than West Virginia, with its mountainous terrain and plethora of hiking trails. But he said that's made the state attractive to people from beyond its borders.

“Governor [Jim] Justice made that clear this week [when] he closed down all of the state park campgrounds and all private campgrounds, because we were finding that a lot of folks from some of the larger metropolitan areas were coming into West Virginia to ride this out until this is over," Lawrence said.

"Nobody is really invited to come in and enjoy it," said Lawrence, "but for those of us who are some of the chosen few that get to live here ... getting out, doing it, taking a hike, walking on our mountains, is one of the most enjoyable ways ever to socially isolate from everyone else.”

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1,300 NYC first responders back at work after recovering from coronavirus or its symptoms

motortion/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As more than 1,300 New York City first responders return to work after recovering from the novel coronavirus or calling out sick with symptoms of the virus, they're responding to a rapid increase in 911 calls for cardiac arrest, the FDNY said on Tuesday.

The city's firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMT) are responding to "a record numbers of calls, and they continue to meet this unprecedented challenge head on,” said Fire Commissioner Dan Nigro. "I am incredibly proud of the men and women of this department who are demonstrating every single day throughout this pandemic why they are known as the best and the bravest."

Nearly 500 members of the FDNY have tested positive for COVID-19 since the outbreak was detected in New York State on March 1.

As of Monday, more than 138,000 New Yorkers have tested positive for the virus, according to the state's Department of Health. More than half of the positive COVID-19 patients in New York State are located within the five boroughs, deemed the epicenter of the health crisis.

The city's density has contributed to the spread of the virus, according to health experts. With 27,000 people per square mile, the city is the densest metropolitan area in the U.S.

The FDNY has experienced a 50% increase in daily calls as well as a huge increase in cardiac-related calls, the department said.

A year ago -- during the same time frame of March 20 to April 5 -- the FDNY responded to an average of 54 to 74 cardiac arrest calls per day, with 22 to 32 deaths.

Now on average it’s 300 cardiac calls a day, with well over 200 deaths.

While it's not always clear if those who die from cardiac arrest have the coronavirus, the CDC has issued updated guidance for certifying deaths due to COVID-19 -- protocols similar to those in place for pneumonia and influenza.

According to the new directives, if a patient has died from pneumonia, for example, but also tested positive for COVID-19, someone is required to specify whether COVID-19 played a role in the death and whether it was actually the underlying, primary cause.

The U.S. has more confirmed COVID-19 cases than any other country, with almost 380,000 people diagnosed with the virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

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Judge rejects R. Kelly's request to be released from jail over coronavirus fears

ABC News(CHICAGO) -- A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a request from R. Kelly to be temporarily released from a Chicago jail over fears that the R&B singer risks contracting coronavirus while locked up.

U.S District Court Judge Ann Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York denied the 53-year-old Kelly's motion for bail, ruling the Grammy-winning entertainer failed to establish that he is in a high-risk category to contract the virus, which has killed at least 118 people in Chicago and infected more than 5,000.

"While I am sympathetic to the defendant’s understandable anxiety about COVID-19, he has not established compelling reasons warranting his release," Donnelly wrote in her ruling.

In an effort to blunt the spread of coronavirus in federal prisons, U.S. Attorney General William Barr issued a March 26 directive to Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Michael Carvajal to reduce the number of inmates in the prison system by transferring non-violent, at-risk inmates to home confinement based on a thorough case-by-case analysis.

Donnelly noted that there are no confirmed cases of coronavirus at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago, where Kelly is being held pending trial.

Kelly is being held without bail at the facility on a 13-count indictment, including charges of child pornography, the sexual exploitation of children, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and coercion or enticement of a female. The singer is also facing federal charges in New York, including one count of racketeering and four counts of violating the Mann Act, which prohibits sexual trafficking across state lines.

Kelly has pleaded not guilty to charges filed against him both in New York and in Chicago.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention categorize people 65 or older or with underlying health conditions as those most vulnerable to catch the virus.

"The defendant is 53 years old, twelve years younger than the cohort of “older adults” defined by the CDC as at high risk for severe illness from COVID-19," Donnelly's ruling reads.

"Although the defendant has had surgery during his incarceration, he does not explain how his surgical history places him at a higher risk of severe illness. Moreover, officials in Chicago have advised the government that doctors have completed all treatment for the defendant’s recent operation."

The type of surgery Kelly recently underwent was redacted from the court records.

Federal prosecutors filed a motion recommending Donnelly deny Kelly's request, cautioning that "if released, there is a risk that the defendant will flee and that the defendant will obstruct, attempt to obstruct, threaten, intimidate or attempt to threaten or intimidate one or more prospective witnesses."

While Kelly made the same request for temporary release to a federal judge in Chicago, that pending decision appears moot because Kelly would need approval from both courts before he could be granted bail.

In October, Donnelly ordered Kelly, whose full name is Robert Kelly, to be held without bail after the judge agreed with prosecutors that freeing him would create a risk of him fleeing or tampering with witnesses. She set a May 18 trial date for the New York case.

"The defendant here has not demonstrated an analogous change in circumstances that would alter the Court’s conclusion that he is a flight risk and that he poses danger to the community, particularly to prospective witnesses," Donnelly concluded in her ruling Tuesday.

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Disaster in motion: Where flights from coronavirus-ravaged countries landed in US

iStock/onlyyouqj(WASHINGTON) -- An ABC News joint investigation with its owned television stations sheds new light on the likely flow of the coronavirus from global hotspots into the U.S. and provides a glimpse the toll the virus has taken on some of the first Americans to interact with international travelers: airport workers.

From December through March, as the outbreak ravaged China, more than 3,200 flights left the Asian nation on direct routes to at least 20 cities across the U.S., according to an ABC News analysis of more than 20 million flight records obtained from the tracking service Flightradar-24.

While it is unclear the precise number of passengers into the U.S. who were infected with the coronavirus, medical experts told ABC News such a huge pool of people virtually assures that a number had the highly contagious disease.

“In the case of coronavirus, you have the interface of a virus that spreads this quickly,” Dr. John Brownstein, an epidemiologist at Boston’s Children’s Hospital and ABC News contributor said.

Brownstein said that such massive travel meant that the flow of the virus into the U.S. and other countries probably came quickly after it began spreading quickly in China. “So our view is that even as early as January, we were seeing introductions of cases happening globally and specifically in the U.S.," he said.

According to travel data previously obtained by ABC News, those flights translate to more than 761,000 Chinese nationals entering the U.S. and Americans returning home from the People’s Republic during that critical period.

The analysis of every individual flight record shows that more than 1,000 flights went to Los Angeles and nearly 500 each landed in San Francisco and New York – all three among the eventual hot spots of the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. More than 100 flights from China arrived in each of six other American cities: Chicago, Seattle, Detroit, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and Newark, N.J.

The flow of these passengers into these key cities, offer a window on how the virus may have quickly spread across the U.S.

Among the flights were 50 direct from Wuhan, the Chinese metropolis where the outbreak is believed to have started. Twenty-seven of those flights went to San Francisco and 23 to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. The last flights from Wuhan came in early February, when the Trump Administration imposed restrictions on flights from China to the U.S.

But this new passenger and travel data obtained by ABC News revealed by the time the president took his action – which administration officials say saved lives – some of the damage had already been done.

The first coronavirus case in the U.S. was reported in Washington state in late January, before cases followed days later in Arizona and California. In each of those cases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said the infected individuals had been in Wuhan recently.

But the spread of the virus person-to-person domestically since has made tracing the origin of particular outbreaks in many American cities more difficult.

"The United States banned travel to China 12 days after the world heard there was an outbreak of severe pneumonia in Wuhan. ... The problem was, it was too late," said Dr. Todd Ellerin, chief of Infectious Disease at South Shore Health and an ABC News consultant. "Even though there had only been 12 confirmed cases in the U.S. on the day President Trump announces the travel ban, the reality was there were many more unconfirmed cases."

The flights from China weren’t the only ones coming from airports in international hotspots for the COVID-19 outbreak. ABC News also analyzed thousands more flights during the period from Italy and Spain, which had the highest numbers of cases outside the U.S. by the end of March.

From December through March 30, 353,000 foreign nationals and Americans entered the U.S. from Italy. Another 456,547 came from Spain.

“Clearly, some portion of those were infected either with mild symptoms or asymptomatic. We were seeding this epidemic in many places, but flying blind because we weren't doing the adequate testing that was needed,” Brownstein said.

More than 1,400 direct flights from Italy landed in U.S. cities from December to March, including more than 500 in February and March as that country was becoming an international focal point for the worldwide pandemic. Another 2,255 flights from Spain landed in U.S. cities.

The federal government shut down most flights from Europe in mid-March, but by then hundreds of flights from Italy had gone into New York and Miami. Nearly 100 of the Italy-to-Miami flights happened over six weeks in February and early March before the U.S. imposed restrictions. March’s flights from Italy also went to large airports in Philadelphia, Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, Newark, Los Angeles and Columbus, Ohio.

Also in March, more than 400 flights left Spain for 12 American cities. Close to half of those flights landed at two New York City region airports: JFK and Newark Liberty. More than 100 went to Miami. Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles each took in at least two dozen direct flights from Spain in March.

The flights directly from China, Italy and Spain reached at least 15 states. Additionally, during the same period, the cities that took in at least 100 flights from China, Italy and Spain were the starting point for flights to every state in the country -- potentially exasperating the domestic spread.

And there is evidence that the travel flow may have had direct impact on the country’s airport personnel.

More than 320 Transportation Security Administration and Customs and Border Protection personnel have tested positive for coronavirus, according to data obtained by ABC News. The number of affected airport security workers corresponds with hotspots, though it's unclear if the workers contracted the virus from their duties or from other person-to-person contact.

Of the Customs and Border protection personnel that tested positive, 52, were from New York ports of entry, 20 were from Miami and Ft. Lauderdale airports and facilities, 10 from Los Angeles work sites and 10 from New Jersey.

The analysis of international flights excluded more than 1,000 routes by cargo haulers and hundreds of additional flights into Alaska, where it could not be determined with certainty whether the flights – mostly from China - carried cargo, passengers or both.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


102-year-old woman reflects on living through 1918 flu pandemic and novel coronavirus

WZZM(DETROIT, Michigan) -- The coronavirus pandemic may be forcing millions to adjust to stay-at-home orders, but for Orel Borgesca, this isn’t the first global health crisis she’s had to endure.

The soon to be 103-year-old was just a few months old when the deadly "Spanish Flu" outbreak engulfed the globe in 1918, infecting a third of world’s population and killing at least 50 million people. While she’s doesn’t remember the pandemic personally, Borgesca says she will never forget the vivid tales from relatives.

"My mother’s brother and his wife had no children and in the epidemic they let husbands stay with them like my dad ... unfortunately my aunt caught the flu, and she died from it," Borgeson said.

Now more than a century later, Borgenson carries those memories with her and is taking precautions to protect herself during the coronavirus health crisis. She’s self-quarantining at her Michigan home with daughter Bonnie to stay safe.

"I’ve been doing a lot of knitting, reading and playing Scrabble with my daughter," Borgeson said. “I have strong faith, and I still believe God is in charge, and this is all going to come out alright.”

Borgeson said that other family members come by to visit through her living room window.

The centenarian turns 103 next Tuesday, so a few neighbors got together to visit Borgeson from a safe distance and celebrate with “Happy Birthday” signs and decorations for her yard.

Borgenson said that her birthday wish is "for this [pandemic] to be over."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


1st federal inmate dies in prison hit hard by coronavirus after heartbreaking plea to judge

iStock/asiandelight(OAKDALE, La.) -- Having served nearly half of a 30-year federal term for a non-violent drug conviction, Patrick Jones poured his heart out in a letter to a judge, pleading that his sentence be reduced and to free him to be father to who he described as his straying 16-year-old son. Locked up in a federal prison in Louisiana, he wrote of his wish for a second chance to prove to the boy and society that he was more than just inmate No. 83582-180.

"It is just a number to be forgotten in time," the 49-year-old Jones wrote Oct. 15 in a letter from the Federal Correctional Institution in Oakdale, Louisiana. "But Mr. Patrick Estell Jones is a very good person. Caring, hardworking, free and clean of drugs and a lot smarter now, with a balanced outlook on life."

Now, Jones will never get the chance to prove his mettle.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class-action lawsuit against Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) Director Michael Carvajal and Oakdale prison Warden Rodney Myers accusing them and Attorney General William Barr of not moving fast enough to save the lives of Jones and four other inmates from what may be the worst coronavirus outbreak in the federal penitentiary system, according to BOP's data.

The lawsuit, filed in the Western District of Louisiana, requests the expedited release of at-risk prisoners at Oakdale, warning that "given the exponential spread of COVID-19, there is no time to spare."

"Imagine if someone sick with COVID-19 came into your home and sealed the doors and windows behind them," the federal lawsuit reads. "That is what the Oakdale federal detention centers have just done to the over 1,800 human beings currently detained there, where a COVID-19 outbreak is rampant, social distancing is impossible and no one detained can leave.”

Up to 30 inmates and staff at Oakdale have tested positive for coronavirus, officials said.

While BOP officials declined to comment on the ACLU lawsuit, they released a statement saying they increased the number of prisoners released to home confinement in March by 40% and that prison case managers are “urgently reviewing all inmates to determine which ones meet the criteria established by the attorney general."
'We have to move with dispatch'

Barr issued a directive to Carvajal on March 26, just two days before Jones died, to reduce the number of inmates in the prison by transferring non-violent, at-risk inmates to home confinement based on a thorough case-by-case analysis.

The ACLU lawsuit, filed on behalf of prisoners with underlying conditions at Oakdale, notes that all the deaths came in the days after Barr's directive was issued.

By Friday, as the pandemic penetrated prison walls across the country, Barr issued another memo to Carvajal, expressing urgency in getting prisoners out of harm's way.

"We are experiencing significant levels of infection at several of our facilities," Barr wrote. "We have to move with dispatch in using home confinement, where appropriate, to move vulnerable inmates out of these institutions."

On Monday, Barr advised in a memorandum to the country's 94 U.S. attorneys that they should consider "the medical risks associated with individuals being remanded into federal custody during the COVID-19 pandemic."

"Even with the extensive precautions we are currently taking, each time a new person is added to a jail, it presents at least some risk to the personnel who operate that facility and to the people incarcerated therein," Barr's memorandum reads.

Somil Trivedi, senior staff attorney at the ACLU’s Criminal Law Reform Project, said that while the Department of Justice appears to have recognized the urgent humanitarian and public health crisis in prisons, she is "deeply concerned that relief is coming too slowly."

"We must act now to avoid the worst-case scenario here," Trivedi said in a statement.

Jones fit the criterion of an at-risk inmate at Oakdale eligible to be released to home confinement. A Bureau of Prisons' statement said Jones had "long-term, preexisting medical conditions which the CDC lists as risk factors for developing more severe COVID-19 disease."

On March 28, Jones became the nation's first federal inmate to die from coronavirus, his demise coming about a month after his latest request for early release was rejected.
Request denied

Jones was arrested on Jan. 31, 2007, when police raided his apartment in Temple, Texas, and seized 19 grams of crack cocaine and 21 grams of powder cocaine. A jury found him guilty of possession with intent to distribute at least 5 grams of crack, but because Jones' apartment was within 1,000 feet of a junior college, Jones was hit with an enhanced sentence of 30 years.

In November, Jones sought a reduced sentence under the First Step Act, bipartisan legislation signed into law by President Donald Trump in 2018 to reduce the federal prison population by cutting the sentences of inmates convicted of non-violent crimes and giving them a second chance to be productive members of society.

 Despite a judge agreeing that Jones was technically eligible for a reduced sentenced under the First Step Act, federal prosecutors recommended his request be rejected, according to court documents.

"The Court specifically took into account the nature and circumstances of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history and characteristics, and the need to protect the public from further crimes of the defendant," U.S. District Court Judge Alan Albright wrote in his Feb. 26 ruling. "Jones is a career offender with multiple prior offenses and a history of recidivating each time he is placed on parole."

'He tried for 12 years to get anyone to pay attention'

In his letter, Jones asked for the opportunity to be a "productive member of society" and to finally be a good father to his now 16-year-old son, adding that he feared his boy was straying into the same trouble path that landed him in prison.

"I have not seen him since he was 3 years old," Jones wrote. "When I have had a chance to talk to him over the phone, it's effective and he's okay for a while, but mistreatment and bad influences take him off his intended course of life ...

"I feel that my conviction and sentence was also a punishment that my child had to endure also and there are no words for how remorseful I am," he added. "Years of 'I am sorry' don't seem to justify the absence of a father or the chance of having purpose in life by raising my child."

He went on to tell the judge that he had nearly completed the requirements to receive his high school equivalency diploma, or GED, and that he had learned to be a baker, a cook and other skills "that I can be contributing to society and my community."

In his petition to the court, Jones' lawyers also pointed out that Jones’ conduct in prison "has been almost wholly favorable," that he exhibited a "solid work history" and had paid off the $1,000 fine imposed as part of his sentencing.

"It's sad," Alison Looman, an attorney who represented Jones pro bono in a 2016 failed petition for clemency, told ABC News of Jones' death. "I know that when we filed our clemency petition we thought that if he were charged today his sentence would have been at least 10 years less."

Looman said she received a letter from Jones on Feb. 27.

"I wrote him back on March 13. I actually asked him to take care of himself," Looman said. "I tried to make sure he was doing OK. I knew that coronavirus was going to be a thing at the prison. He wrote me back and said he was fine."

She wrote Jones again on March 20, a day after he had been taken to a hospital complaining of a persistent cough, according to a federal Bureau of Prisons' statement.

Jones' health rapidly deteriorated and he was placed on a ventilator before he died, according to the BOP statement.

Looman said she can't help but speculate that the denial of Jones' petition for a reduced sentence broke his spirit.

"I have wondered if that factored in," Looman said. "He tried for 12 years to get anyone to pay attention to what seemed like a relatively unjust sentence and a week before he got very ill he had just learned that once again he wasn’t successful. I just wonder if it was frustrating to hear yet again that he had been turned down."

Jones ended his letter to the judge by sharing his desire to find his son -- whom he said had recently fathered a child of his own -- and "put him on the a track where a child his age needs to be."

"I ask that I be judged wisely of sound heart and soul by the honorable heart, mind and soul of the wise one whom God has blessed and given his will to judge," he wrote. "Thank you very much for your time and concern."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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