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mrtom-uk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The global novel coronavirus pandemic death toll is nearing 100,000 as more than 95,000 have now died from the disease.

In New York state, over 160,000 people have been 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. New York has more COVID-19 cases than any other state in the U.S. and every country in the world.

In the U.S., over 465,000 people have been diagnosed.

Worldwide, more than 1.6 million people have been diagnosed 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.

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

5:35 a.m.: IMF anticipates worst economic fallout since the Great Depression

In a preview of its World Economic Outlook event next week, the International Monetary Fund says the world should be prepared for the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression due to the novel coronavirus.

"Today we are confronted with a crisis like no other. COVID-19 has disrupted our social and economic order at lightning speed and on a scale that we have not seen in living memory," Kristalina Georgieva, IMF managing director, said in a statement Thursday.

Three months ago, the IMF said it expected at least 160 countries would see positive per capita income growth in 2020. As of Thursday, the organization now predicts over 170 countries will experience negative per capita income growth this year.

"The bleak outlook applies to advanced and developing economies alike. This crisis knows no boundaries. Everybody hurts," Georgieva said. "In fact, we anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression."

In the U.S., more than 16 million people have filed for unemployment insurance in just three weeks, according to data released Thursday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

The 2020 World Economic Outlook event is scheduled for Tuesday, April 14.

4:25 a.m.: FDA, FTC send warning to Infowars

The Food and Drug Administration, along with the Federal Trade Commission has sent a notice to Alex Jones' Infowars website to stop selling products it claims can help "mitigate, prevent, treat, diagnose, or cure COVID-19."

Officials not only warned against selling alleged treatments for coronavirus, but it also asked consumers not to use the products since none are approved by the FDA to treat COVID-19.

Among the items the FDA said the conspiracy theory website was selling include, “Superblue Silver Immune Gargle,” “SuperSilver Whitening Toothpaste,” “SuperSilver Wound Dressing Gel” and “Superblue Fluoride Free Toothpaste.” The products were sold on the website and promoted on Infowars videos, the FTC letter said.

The FDA has sent 26 warning letters to companies and organizations claiming to have COVID-19 treatments since March 6. Of those, 14 have been labeled as corrected.

While there are trials running across the world, there is no known treatments or vaccines to cure or prevent COVID-19.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


narvikk/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A global pandemic of the novel coronavirus has claimed the lives of at least 16,672 people in the United States and at least 95,699 people worldwide.

In New York state, over 160,000 people have been 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.

The number of cases in New York alone is now higher than in any single country.

In the U.S., over 465,000 people have been diagnosed.

Worldwide, more than 1.6 million people have been diagnosed 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.

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

9:05 p.m.: Trump says he'll help out dairy farmers

President Donald Trump said tonight he had discussed helping out dairy farmers with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue.

"I have directed @SecretarySonny to expedite help to our farmers, especially to the smaller farmers who are hurting right now," the president tweeted. "I expect Secretary Purdue to use all of the funds and authorities at his disposal to make sure that our food supply is stable, strong, and safe."

Shutdowns in the food service industry due to coronavirus has caused a surpluses of many items produced on farms. Milk price futures have dropped from $18 per hundredweight (cwt) in January to nearly $13 per cwt in March and beef prices have gone down 25%, according to the National Farmers Union.

8:58 p.m.: CDC extends 'No Sail' order for cruise ships

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the extension of the "No Sail" order currently in place for all cruise ships.

The order ceases the operations of cruise ships in waters in which the United States has jurisdiction, according to the CDC.

It also sets stringent guidelines for the handling of COVID-19 on the approximately 100 cruise ships remaining at sea off the East Coast, West Coast and Gulf Coast of the U.S.

At least 10 of those ships have reported crew or passengers that have tested positive or experienced respiratory symptoms or influenza-like illness in recent weeks, the CDC said, and the CDC is aware of 20 cruise ships in port or anchored in the U.S. with crew members who have known or suspected cases of COVID-19.

"We are working with the cruise line industry to address the health and safety of crew at sea as well as communities surrounding U.S. cruise ship points of entry," said CDC Director Robert Redfield. "The measures we are taking today to stop the spread of COVID-19 are necessary to protect Americans, and we will continue to provide critical public health guidance to the industry to limit the impacts of COVID-19 on its workforce throughout the remainder of this pandemic."

8:12 p.m.: 2 more NYPD employees die

There have now been 2,204 uniformed members and 408 civilian members of the New York Police Department who have tested positive for the coronavirus.

More than 500 officers who had tested positive have now returned to duty, Police Commissioner Shea said Thursday.

The NYPD announced two additional deaths.

Traffic enforcement agent Richard Austin, who had worked with the NYPD for 35 years, and Police Officer Eric Murray, assigned to the 25th Precinct, both died from complications related to the coronavirus. Murray had been with the department for over 14 years.

6:54 p.m.: Trump doesn't push for nationwide coronavirus testing

President Donald Trump said the country doesn't need nationwide testing for COVID-19 before reopening it. Although he called the move a "nice thing," he said it would be too impractical with the country's population.

"We’re talking about 325 million people, and that’s not going to happen, as you can imagine,” he said. "It’s not necessary, but it would be a good thing to have.”

Trump, who spent a shorter time than usual in the daily task force briefing, reported that the U.S. has now completed 2 million tests.

"There are certain sections of the country that are in phenomenal shape already," Trump asserted. "What we're going to be doing in the very near future is going to certain areas of our country and doing massive testing."

5:27 p.m.: Georgia woman arrested for selling phony anti-coronavirus products: Feds

Rong Sun, aka Vicky Sun, 34, of Fayetteville, Georgia has been charged with selling an illegal pesticide as a coronavirus protective product, according to the Justice Department.

Sun sold "Virus Shut Out" and "Stop the Virus" on eBay claiming it provided an "extra layer" of protection from the virus, the criminal complaint said. In reality, the products were an unregistered pesticide known as "Toamit Virus Shut Out," which were allegedly smuggled from Japan, according to the complaint.

In one picture from the criminal complaint, it shows a packet of "Virus Shut Out" sitting next to a sleeping baby with the caption, "Mothers no longer have to worry about children's exposure to various bacteria."

4:40 p.m.: More than 1,200 dead in NY nursing homes

The coronavirus has spread through nursing homes in New York, infecting more than 4,100 residents and killing more than 1,200, new figures show.

There are positive COVID-19 cases in more than half of the state’s 613 licensed nursing homes, which collectively are home to about 100,000 people.

There have been 1,231 deaths among nursing home residents, which is more than 1% of the total nursing home population in New York, according to state health department data.

The state has declined to identify which nursing homes have confirmed cases. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday there were no plans to put all positive cases into select nursing homes.

Meanwhile, 39 patients have died from the coronavirus at the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, a home in Richmond, Virginia, the center said Thursday.

Six of the deaths were in the last 24 hours.

Eighty-four residents have tested positive for COVID-19 and are being treated at a hospital or at the Canterbury center, the center said.

All staff members were tested; 25 tested positive and some results are outstanding, the center said.

4:15 p.m.: Michigan creates task force to look at racial disparity of COVID-19

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says she's creating a task force to examine the racial disparity of COVID-19 cases in the state.

Although African Americans make up 14% of Michigan's population, they account for 40% of the coronavirus deaths.

"This virus is holding up a mirror to society and reminding us of deep inequity in our country," Whitmer said.

Michigan is not alone.

Coronavirus is disproportionately killing the black community in many states across the U.S., including Maryland.

About 30% of Maryland’s population is African American and about 60% of the population is white, The Baltimore Sun reported, citing census data.

African Americans make up at least 2,064 of those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state, and at least 55 of the deaths.

Whites make up at least 1,540 of those who have tested positive in Maryland, and at least 39 of the fatalities.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted Thursday that this data "shows troubling disparities and points to a persistent public health challenge that we must address."

Louisiana also recently released data showing that while African Americans make up roughly 32% of the population, they account for 70% of the deaths in the state.

2:30 p.m.: UK prime minister out of intensive care

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is in a London hospital battling the coronavirus, was moved out of the intensive care unit Thursday evening local time, a spokesman for his office said.

Johnson, 55, "is in extremely good spirits," and is now back in "the ward, where he will receive close monitoring during the early phase of his recovery," a spokesman said.

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.

Besides the prime minister, Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, was also diagnosed with the coronavirus, and has since ended his self-isolation.

2 p.m.: 702 deaths in Louisiana, ventilator usage drops

In Louisiana, the death toll has climbed to 702 as the number of confirmed cases reaches 18,283.

Only one of Louisiana's 64 parishes does not have a confirmed case.

Last week, nearly 18% of those diagnosed were in hospitals in the state, and now just 11.6% of those with coronavirus are in hospitals.

While nearly a quarter of those in hospitals are on ventilators, according to, ventilator usage has fallen for five-straight days.

The rate of new deaths has also gone down each day this week. On Monday, there was a 38.3% increase in the amount of new deaths but on Thursday it was 7.6%.

12:50 p.m.: Data shows racial disparities among Maryland cases

Coronavirus is disproportionately killing the black community in the U.S., and new data shows Maryland is no exception.

About 30% of Maryland’s population is African American and about 60% of the population is white, The Baltimore Sun reported, citing Census data.

African Americans make up at least 2,064 of those who have tested positive in the state, and at least 55 of the deaths.

Whites make up at least 1,540 of those who have tested positive in Maryland, and at least 39 of the fatalities.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan tweeted Thursday that this data "shows troubling disparities and points to a persistent public health challenge that we must address."

Louisiana recently released data showing that while African Americans make up roughly 32% of the population, they account for 70% of the deaths in the state. In Michigan, African Americans have died at more than eight times the rate of white people despite making up only 14% of the state’s population.

11:50 a.m.: Death toll reaches daily record of 799 in NY state

In New York, the state hit hardest by the pandemic, the hospitalization rate is down and the change in ICU admissions is the lowest since March 19, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

Statewide,18,000 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus, far below the worst-case projections, he added.

"We are flattening the curve by what we're doing," Cuomo said, adding, "you can't relax."

Despite the improvements, 799 lives were lost in New York state on Wednesday -- a daily record during the pandemic, Cuomo said.

To put the striking death toll into context, Cuomo said New York state has lost 7,067 lives to the coronavirus, while the state lost 2,753 lives at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

New York City, the most hard-hit part of the state, is among the areas seeing some improvement, which Mayor Bill de Blasio says shows sheltering in place and social distancing are working.

"If we continue to make progress," the mayor said, for the dense city of 8.6 million residents, the month of May "might be easier than what I originally feared it would be."

"Let's double down" on social distancing and sheltering in place, he added, stressing that New Yorkers "have to earn our way out of this horrible situation."

11 a.m.: Pennsylvania schools closed for rest of year

Pennsylvania schools will stay closed for the rest of the academic year, Gov. Tom Wolf announced Thursday.

Learning will continue online and families can still pick up meals at designated sites.

10:40 a.m.: Georgia's primary postponed until June 9

Georgia's primary will now be postponed until June 9, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said on Thursday.

This is the second time the state's presidential primary has been pushed back (it was originally scheduled for March 24).

"I certainly realize that every difficulty will not be completely solved by the time in-person voting begins for the June 9 election, but elections must happen even in less than ideal circumstances," Raffensperger said in a press release. "Just like our brave healthcare workers and first responders, our county election officials and poll workers are undertaking work critical to our democracy, and they will continue to do this critical work with all the challenges that the current crisis has brought forth."

10:15 a.m.: In NYC, May 'might be easier than what I originally feared'

New York City, hit hard by the pandemic, is now seeing some improvement, which Mayor Bill de Blasio says shows sheltering in place and social distancing are working.

"If we continue to make progress," the mayor said, for the dense city of 8.6 million residents, the month of May "might be easier than what I originally feared it would be."

"Let's double down" on social distancing and sheltering in place, he added, stressing that New Yorkers "have to earn our way out of this horrible situation."

9:43 a.m.: New York cases primarily from Europe, not Asia

Though the first positive coronavirus case in New York was on March 1, the virus probably circulated in and around the city at least two weeks earlier -- and most cases were transmitted from Europe, not China, where the virus originated, according to new research from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

The research shows the pandemic in New York City and surrounding area was predominately set off through untracked transmission between the U.S. and Europe, with limited evidence supporting direct introductions from China or other locations in Asia.

7:19 a.m.: New York may be reaching its peak in outbreak, Dr. Fauci says

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top medical expert on the coronavirus pandemic, said Thursday he thinks the U.S. death toll will end up being far less than the original projection and that New York may be reaching its peak in the outbreak.

A revised model by the University of Washington, often cited by the White House, now predicts that 60,000 people will die from the novel coronavirus in the United States by Aug. 4. The White House coronavirus task force previously projected 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, even if the current social distancing guidelines are maintained.

"Even though it's good news and encouraging, we got to make sure, as I always say, we keep our foot on the accelerator when it comes to mitigation," Fauci told ABC News Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos in an interview Thursday on Good Morning America.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said there's "some indication" that parts of the country are beginning to see a bend in the upward curve of the virus outbreak, particularly New York, the U.S. epicenter, which in recent days has seen a drop in the number of patients being hospitalized and needing intensive care.

"You never want to, you know, claim victory prematurely," he said. "But when you see those kinds of trends, you hope that we'll see that curve go down and then can start to think about gradually getting back to some sort of steps towards normality."

New York recorded its largest daily death toll from COVID-19 on Wednesday, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state's outbreak appeared to be stabilizing based on the recent decline in hospitalizations.

When asked whether he thinks New York has hit its peak, Fauci said "it's tough to tell" but "we may very well be there.

Fauci warned that people shouldn't assume warm weather will drive the virus away, and he urged everyone to continue practicing social distancing and regularly washing hands, even when things return to normal.

"There's precedent with other infections like influenza and some of the common more benign coronaviruses that when the weather gets warmer, that the virus goes down, its ability to replicate, to spread, it doesn't like warm, moist weather as much as it likes cold, dry weather," he said. "But having said that, one should not assume that we are going to be rescued by a change in the weather. You must assume that the virus will continue to do its thing."

7:01 a.m.: Washington inmates cause disturbance after learning six tested positive for COVID-19

More than 100 inmates caused a disturbance at a men's prison in Washington state on Wednesday night, after six prisoners tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The demonstration erupted in the recreation yard at Monroe Correctional Complex. The inmates set off fire extinguishers within two housing units within the prison's minimum security unit, according to a press release from the Washington state Department of Corrections.

All measures to bring the individuals into compliance were initially ignored, officials said, including verbal directives, pepper spray and sting balls, which release light, noise and rubber pellets.

An emergency response team was deployed and gave verbal directives, which were obeyed by over half the inmates. Sting balls were then discharged into the area and the other inmates stopped the destruction of two housing units and came into compliance, officials said.

There were no injuries to staff or the incarcerated men, officials said.

"It is believed at this time that the incident was caused by recent positive test results of COVID- 19 among six men within the Minimum Security Unit," the Washington Department of Corrections said in a statement. "Those six men were transferred from the Minimum Security Unit on Sunday to the facility’s isolation unit. The facility health care team is providing clinical monitoring and supportive care for the individuals in the isolation unit."

6:02 a.m.: Pandemic drives sub-Saharan Africa toward first recession in 25 years

The global pandemic of the novel coronavirus is driving sub-Saharan Africa toward its first recession in 25 years, according to a World Bank report published Thursday.

Economic growth in the region is forecast to fall sharply from 2.4% in 2019 to as much as -5.1% in 2020, according to the report. An analysis shows that the pandemic will cost sub-Saharan Africa "between $37 billion and $79 billion in output losses for 2020 due to a combination of effects," the World Bank said.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is testing the limits of societies and economies across the world, and African countries are likely to be hit particularly hard," Hafez Ghanem, World Bank's vice president for Africa, said in a statement Thursday.

The World Bank also warned that the pandemic could spark a food security crisis in Africa due to a potentially substantial decline in agricultural production and food imports.

A number of African nations have reacted "quickly and decisively" to curb the spread of the virus, the World Bank said. However, the report notes several factors that could hinder the containment and mitigation measures, in particular the region's fragile health systems, poor access to safe water and sanitation facilities, and the large and densely populated urban informal settlements.

5:32 a.m.: 'We have reached the peak,' Spain's prime minister says

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Thursday that the government would soon start relaxing the national lockdown measures that were put in place to control the spread of the novel coronavirus.

"We have reached the peak and now the de-escalation begins," Sanchez told Spanish Parliament, noting that the process would be "gradual."

"The climb has been difficult, as the descent will also be," he said.

Spain is among the worst affected countries in the global pandemic, with more than 148,000 people diagnosed with COVID-19. At least 14,792 people have died from the disease there, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

3:58 a.m.: USNS Mercy crew member tests positive for COVID-19

A crew member aboard the USNS Mercy hospital ship moored in Los Angeles has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

U.S. Navy Lt. Andrew Bertucci told ABC News the crew member "is currently isolated aboard the ship, and will soon transfer to an off-ship isolation facility where they will self-monitor for severe symptoms."

"This will not affect the ability for Mercy to receive patients," Bertucci said in a statement late Wednesday. "The ship is following protocols and taking every precaution to ensure the health and safety of all crew members and patients on board."

After docking in the Port of Los Angeles last month, the USNS Mercy began treating non-coronavirus patients from area hospitals to help free up resources for COVID-19 patients.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


LordRunar/iStock(SACRAMENTO) -- On Monday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the state’s plan to send 500 ventilators to the national stockpile in order to assist New York and other states that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus -- a move that caused confusion in some counties where officials have been requesting ventilators themselves.

In Riverside County, one of the worst-hit counties in California, public health officials are predicting the country will reach its ventilator capacity by April 26.

As of Wednesday, Riverside County still had 305 of its 512 ventilators available, but based on projections the county is “expecting a surge of patients” in the coming weeks, public information officer Brooke Federico told ABC News.

“It did catch us off guard,” Kevin Jeffries, Riverside County's first district supervisor, said -- especially when “you see 500 ventilators have been shipped out and our request through the state and feds have not been filled and our attempt to purchase them on the market has not been successful.”

With 178 COVID-19 cases and 32 deaths, the county put in a request to the state for 500 ventilators on March 29, but it was denied. They then requested an additional 1,000 ventilators on April 1 and purchased 1.1 million N95 masks that have not yet arrived.

“We understand the state is running a very large operation in which they need to triage their requests and priorities,” Federico said, but “an explanation from the state of why the request was denied was not included.”

Beyond asking for state and federal assistance, Riverside County is also putting in a $12 million bid for 330 ventilators, but officials are concerned that FEMA might take possession of the units in an effort to centralize medical resources.

On Wednesday, Santa Clara County issued a new order requiring businesses and individuals to report large inventories of ventilators and personal protective equipment. The one-time disclosure, due by April 15, is being requested to help the county prepare for a potential surge. As of Thursday, the county had 1,442 COVID-19 cases and 47 deaths.

“While we have requested State and Federal resources, it is important to know the volume of PPE or ventilators that already exist in our local community,” Dr. Jennifer Tong, Hospital Surge Capacity Branch Chief of the County of Santa Clara Emergency Operations Center, explained in a statement.

Newsome addressed the criticisms in a press conference Thursday, pointing out that the state is currently using only 31.89% of the hospital systems' existing ventilator capacity, excluding the ventilators procured by the state.

He also said the ventilator stockpiles are pre-positioned strategically throughout the state so they can be deployed to those in need within hours.

County Supervisor Jeffries said he did receive an email from the governor Thursday morning reassuring him that the state will provide his county with the necessary equipment when the time comes.

“I do understand the compassionate act of the governor to help those in need right now versus those who will need it in a week or two weeks,” Jeffries said, but he also stressed that the potential rise in demand for medical equipment in the county is worrisome.

“We really need somebody to commit to us in the next couple of weeks with the ventilators we need,” he said. “We do not want to be another New York.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


iStock/onlyouqj(NEWARK, N.J.) -- A total of 329 Transportation Security Administration employees have tested positive for COVID-19 and two have died according to an internal briefing led by TSA Administrator David Pekoske, and viewed by ABC News.

The reported number increased by 162 in the past week, while 13 of those employees have recovered, Pekoske said.

Francis "Frank" Boccabella III, 39, who worked for the agency as an explosive detection canine handler at Newark Liberty Airport, was the first TSA employee to die.

"Frank was dedicated to protecting the traveling public with his canine partner, Bullet, a 6-year-old German Short-haired Pointer and his previous canine partner, Zmay," the TSA said in a statement. "Frank and his canine partners screened hundreds of thousands of passengers, keeping them and the transportation network safe."

Alberto Camacho, a branch manager in the Acquisition Program Management office, died last week, according to the TSA.

"For over 20 years Alberto dedicated his career to both transportation and aviation security, and his contributions to TSA and our mission will not be forgotten," the agency said in a statement.

"We mourn their loss but we celebrate what they have been able to contribute over the course of their time in TSA," Pekoske said in the briefing.

The agency has begun to allow its workers to wear N95 masks, goggles and surgical masks. Pekoske said the TSA has purchased at least 60,000 sets of eye protection for its employees.

Amid the coronavirus pandemic, the number of passengers screened by the agency has reached record lows.

The agency screened 94,931 passengers at U.S. airports Wednesday compared to 2,229,276 on the same day last year.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Courtesy Jennifer Knox(WASHINGTON) -- As the coronavirus pandemic continues to shut down businesses across the country, Jennifer Knox is doing whatever it takes to keep her staff's heads above water.

April usually marks the beginning of the busy season at her Tybee Island, Georgia, restaurant, The Sand Bar. But thanks to COVID-19, there's not a costumer in sight. The bar closed its doors March 23 to comply with statewide orders limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery only.

"Awful timing for everybody, but we're all in this together," Knox said.

As she began to close up shop, Knox realized there was some good she could do for her staff. Over the last 14 years, it became a tradition for costumers to write special notes on dollar bills and staple them to the walls and ceilings of the bar.

"I looked around and thought, 'We had to get this money in the hands of people who need it,'" Knox said.

A team of five volunteers joined Knox and her mother and spent 3 1/2 painstaking days taking down the money that surrounded them -- careful to keep each weathered bill intact. Knox posted about the change in decorations on Facebook and a few costumers came by to exchange their message dollars with a fresh bill.

Once cleaned and counted at the bank, the group had a haul totaling $3,714. Several people also donated to the cause, which allowed Knox to divide up a $4,104 grand total to her six staff members, which came out to over $600 each. It's a payday that came as a godsend for many.

"One of our musicians can pay his rent now because of the money and he was bawling," Knox said.

But the generosity didn't end there. Bartender Katie Mothersbaugh decided to give her cut to a co-worker who needed it more, delivering the news over FaceTime as tears of gratitude flowed from both of them.

"We were all crying because of how much it meant to her, it was amazing," Knox said.

Restaurant employees are particularly vulnerable nationwide. The latest job claims report from the Department of Labor found 6.6 million Americans filed unemployment benefits for last week, bringing the total number of unemployed claims to 16 million in just three weeks. Since government relief packages from these claims haven't materialized yet, employees like those at The Sand Bar are forced to rely on the goodwill of people in their community to help them get by.

"Everyone on our island works in the service industry in one way or another so there is a lot of need right now," Knox said. "I'm glad we're able to help in our own small way."

And in that spirit of helping, Knox explained she's continuing to take donations for service industry employees on Tybee Island, setting up a Venmo account that's already raised over $1,000.

As for the bar, Knox revealed she had a cleaning team come in to freshen up the place after all the money was gone, including adding a fresh coat of paint. She's unsure if the bills will still have a place on the walls moving forward, but hopes to have a new way for costumers to leave their mark.

"I don't know if people will recognize the bar now," Knox laughed. "But we're trying to come up with neat ways to continue some kind of tradition here for customers."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Passover seders are a communal ritual, with family, friends, neighbors, pretty much everyone except Elijah coming together under one roof to commemorate the story of Exodus.

As with almost everything in our world, that's been completely upended this year as the COVID-19 pandemic has put a global kibosh on gatherings.

But with some ingenuity—and clutch technology—Jews from New Jersey to Jerusalem are breaking matzot anyway with virtual seders.

The virtual seders are just one of many examples of religions across the world quickly acclimating to worship in the age of coronavirus, a genre that includes livestreamed services (with some hiccups), drive-by confessionals, blessings to empty squares, and church services to rooms empty save for photos.

In the case of Wednesday night's seders, togetherness was simulated in large part thanks to what renowned international relations figure Richard Haass called "the Book of Zoom."
Zoom and similar teleconferencing services have rapidly become social-distancing mainstays as people everywhere scramble to work, teach, learn and socialize remotely.

Accoutrements of the COVID era—from hand sanitizer bottles to the puzzles many are using to keep from going bananas—were visible in numerous photos posted on social media and elsewhere.

And while the rambunctiousness is an annual seder feature for many families, there are some benefits to staying in your own home:

one benefit of a virtual seder, i’m definitely going to find the afikomen this year.
💙 happy healthy #Passover

— Monica Lewinsky (@MonicaLewinsky) April 8, 2020

Suddenly getting Virtual Seder FOMO? Don't worry—Henry Winkler has you covered this weekend:

Come join us at our virtual Seder
5pm pacific time / 8pm eastern.
YOU ARE ALL welcome at our table

— Henry Winkler (@hwinkler4real) April 8, 2020

Last night was only night one of Passover, meaning many more will be dialing in to seders tonight. We'll see if they can top this:

My cousin won the virtual Seder by creating a burner Elijah account and making us let him in the zoom halfway through.

— Sarah Marian Seltzer (@sarahmseltzer) April 9, 2020

"My family was super confused," Sarah Seltzer told ABC News of her relative's Elijah trick. "My cousin got everyone good." Chag sameach.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Jamal Hinton(WASHINGTON) -- The husband of a woman who became famous in 2016 for a Thanksgiving-related texting mixup has died from complications related to COVID-19.

Lonnie Dench, whose wife, Wanda, sent a text presumably to her grandson but actually to Jamal Hinton four years ago, died over the weekend, according to Hinton, who spent the last four Thanksgivings with the family.

"Wanda told me all the love and support he was receiving put a huge smile on his face so I thank every single one of you guys for that!" he wrote on Twitter.

Hinton, 20, previously had tweeted that both Lonnie and Wanda had tested positive for the novel coronavirus. As of Thursday, Wanda was no longer sick, Hinton said.

At least 15,774 people in the United States have died after contracting the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

When Wanda sent that first text in 2016, thinking it was to her grandson, Hinton responded by asking her to send a photo of herself so he could confirm it was his own grandmother.

When the photo of Dench came through, Hinton wrote back, "[You're] not my grandma" with a laughing emoji.

He then sent a selfie of his own and asked if he could still come over for Thanksgiving.

"Of course you can," Dench replied. "That's what grandmas do ... feed everyone."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Jamie Edens and Ryan Ward arrived in New York City last week after a whirlwind road trip from their home in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The two intensive care-unit nurses were on their way to help fight the novel coronavirus.

New York state has been hit the hardest by the virus, with more cases than any other state and more deaths than the 9/11 terror attacks. With so much need, particularly in New York City, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has temporarily suspended licensing requirements as part of a plea for doctors and nurses from out of state to come and help.

Medical professionals like Edens and Ward have heeded his call, responding to an online post from a staffing agency seeking crisis-traveling nurses.

"I feel like it's our responsibility to step up and do what we've been trained to do, and what we've known and felt like was our calling to do," Edens said.

The couple are part of a growing wave of hundreds of nurses who will be expected to work 12-hour shifts for 21 days straight. They were hired by a staffing agency, one of many that incentivize the kind of work they're doing by paying so-called "crisis rates," which range from about $4,000 to over $10,000 a week -- higher than normal rates.

Ward said that while the financial incentive is "obviously a big part of what got us here," the trip to New York City had also sparked a "spiritual shift" for them.

"This isn't going to end in New York," Edens added. "This is going to be in our backyard at home, and I would hope that some nurses would take a step away from their families for a second and come help us."

The couple were assigned to work overnight shifts in the ICU, albeit at different hospitals in New York City -- Ward at one in Manhattan and Edens at one in Brooklyn. In video diaries, in which they spoke about the scenes inside the hospitals over their first few days, Ward and Edens both described the staff as overworked.

"It is bad," Ward said. "They are absolutely overloaded. Patients are incredibly sick. Everyone's [on a ventilator]. Everybody's COVID. It's all the things you would absolutely expect. The nurses, they're overworked. They're having a hard time and they've been doing this for weeks."

Luke Adams, a critical care nurse from Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, committed to a 13-week assignment in a Staten Island hospital. He's living in a hotel now, but to save money he said that when he first arrived he was sleeping on a baby mattress in the back of his rental car.

"You can't build a nurse, you can't build a doctor so you have to get them here," Adams said.

The workload has increased dramatically compared to what Adams is used to, he said, noting that normally there would usually be two patients for every one nurse. Now, he has 16 patients to care for.

"Having 16 of those critically-ill patients on ventilators and being responsible for all the medications that they're on ... it's not just me," he added. "There are other nurses that are there."

He called those nurses whose home base is in New York City, "heroes."

"To the people I work with. To the people in the city. You guys are the real heroes to me because you didn't have a choice," he said. "And you just keep showing up, doing your job, and I know it's hard. I could feel that on the first day."

There are moments where all the hard work pays off, though. Adams said that some of the people who've been on ventilators for two weeks or more -- an "eternity," he said -- are now coming off.

"The success stories are starting to happen. I cannot begin to describe how much that makes a difference, because for two straight weeks, it felt like we were losing," he said.

Adams said he wants his 10-month-old daughter and 8-year-old son to know of that responsibility and why their father answered the call.

"Every emergency calls on a different service," he said. "The skills that I've honed over the last 11 years were suddenly in need. … If you have the ability, you have the responsibility and that's what I want my kids to know."

To his son, Adams said he wanted him to know that "this will pass, and I will be home, so there's no need to worry."

"I know this was difficult," he continued. "But the three months that are gone would have paled in comparison to how I would have felt if I didn't come and help."

With nearly 150,000 cases of COVID-19 in the state -- over three times that of New Jersey, which has the second most cases -- many health care workers within New York are also stepping out of their specialties to help with the crisis.

Dr. William Levine, head of orthopedic surgery at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and one of the top orthopedic surgeons in the city, previously operated on shoulders and elbows. Now, he and one of his residents, Dr. Lynn Ann Forrester, are working 12-hour shifts in the emergency room, treating COVID-19 patients.

"I was doing stuff that I haven't done in 25 years," Levine said. "We have all these ICU beds that never existed and all these patients that are filling those beds who are ventilated, they're sick and they need care that our emergency room teams and our regular ICU teams cannot cover by themselves — just can't do it."

Levine said the situation has caused him to break down in tears more "in the last couple of weeks than in the last couple of years," but then "the weight of this whole experience catches up with you."

Levine won't stop working on COVID-19 patients until they get word that the number of cases has already plateaued and begun dropping, he said. With 2,400 coronavirus patients in the New York-Presbyterian system and about 650 of them on ventilators, he said they've "still got a lot of work to do and a lot of help to get us past this point."

New York-Presbyterian's President and CEO Dr. Steven Corwin said that 2,000 doctors, 1,000 nurses and 500 general employees within his hospital system have volunteered to be redeployed to the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The level of commitment has just been extraordinary," Corwin said. "The outpouring of selflessness is really extraordinary, and it's a real spirit, it's the American spirit, it's the New York spirit, it's a can-do attitude."

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Courtesy Demetria McTizic(BOLIVAR, Tenn.) -- The mayor of a small Tennessee town and his wife are bringing together their community amid the coronavirus pandemic by hosting virtual game nights each night live on Facebook.

Julian McTizic, 32, is the mayor of Bolivar, Tennessee -- a town with a population of just over 5,000 people. He has been married to his wife, Demetria, for over a decade and the couple has four children.

"It’s typical small-town America," McTizic said about the town of Bolivar. "We know everybody and know everybody’s family and friends."

When people began staying at home in Bolivar, Demetria McTizic had an idea that she and her husband should do a game night on Facebook live with a few friends. She expected the game night to be fun silly thing with about ten people, but it grew into a way to bring the community together while supporting local business.

"We never expected it to be what it is now," she said.

The couple began to get more and more viewers on their virtual game night livestreams from residents of the town. With such high demand, the couple started their own Facebook page, "Virtual Game Night with Julian and Demetria," where they host their game night every night at 8 p.m.

And what’s the fun of game night without any prizes? Demetria McTizic says residents of Bolivar are given the opportunity to "sponsor" the game nights via PayPal by contributing $20 or more. If they don’t wish to give that much -- they are encouraged donate what they can.

With the money, Demetria McTizic purchases gift cards from local businesses that are struggling through this time. They also offer a cash prize at the end of the evening, which the McTizics encourage winners to spend locally.

While the games are fun, the McTizics also saw this as an opportunity to keep the town informed during this difficult time. Each night before the games are played, Julian McTizic gives a debrief to the town on any new updates regarding the coronavirus.

The couple refers to all the viewers of game night as their "coronavirus cousins" because "they’re all family."

"It’s been overwhelming," Demetria McTizic said. "People say that it’s a bright spot in the darkness for them and they look forward to game night every night at 8 p.m. It means everything."

McTizic says while game night has helped the community, the positive feedback from their friends and neighbors has helped them through this difficult time as well.

"We love people so much," she said. "For us to be able to help in a small way with all the craziness means everything to us."

Julian McTizic says while this is a difficult time, things like this will help everyone get through it together.

"This is the first time we’ve been through COVID-19 but this is not the first time we’ve been through a crisis," he said. "We’ve been through struggles and made it through and we’ll make it through this one together."

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AlxeyPnferov/iStock(SUFFOLK COUNTY, N.Y.) -- As New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo offers cautious optimism about a possible slowing of novel coronavirus cases in the state, a leader in Suffolk County says there's no such hope there right now.

"The numbers are moving quickly,” County Executive Steve Bellone told ABC News. “You talk about flattening in other places but that’s not happening here. We are in the thick of this right now.”

The Long Island county had at least 17,008 confirmed COVID-19 cases and at least 323 related deaths as of Thursday, according to the New York state health department. It was one month ago the county confirmed its first case.

In the last 72 hours, among the fatalities were two nurses who tested positive for coronavirus. They died in different Suffolk County hospitals. One was a 63-year-old at Huntington Hospital and the other was an ICU nurse in Brookhaven.

Bellone described the situation as “heartbreaking, intense, unprecedented.”

“It’s tragic, but it drives home the point that these health care workers are doing extraordinary things in an intense environment that is the medical equivalent of a war zone," Bellone said.

He estimates the county is a week or two behind New York City, where the hospital system was hammered but has since seemingly stabilized. New York has the most reported cases of any state in the U.S.

Cuomo said Monday there was a "possible flattening of the curve" after the total number of hospitalizations, intensive care unit admissions and daily intubations fell.

Of the 62 counties in the state, Suffolk County is the fifth most impacted by the virus.

Personal protective equipment can last through the week, Bellone said, but he is still hunting for more.

“The burn rate on all of this is incredible,” he said. “Early on here you had hospital workers recycling PPE that in the past would have been thrown out after one use.”

Deaths are also coming awfully fast and morgue space is scarce.

The county considered using ice rinks as temporary morgues before additional refrigerated trucks were brought in and an unused building on a county farm was converted into storage for bodies.

“We can see the death toll and it is horrific, but what we can’t see is the emotional toll that this is taking on families and health care workers that may prove to be just as devastating,” Bellone said.

Other Long Islanders haven't been spared. In Nassau County, the third most impacted in the state, there are more than 18,500 confirmed cases, according to the state's health department.

Sen. Kevin Thomas, who represents part of Nassau, told ABC News personal protective equipment for medical workers there was similarly lacking.

"We shouldn't be begging or competing or asking for charity when it comes to the situation right now," Thomas said.

He estimated that hospitals were going through about 8,000 masks a day and needed more.

Thomas said there was no time to play politics right now given the dire situation.

Dorothy Goosby, a councilwoman for the Town of Hempstead who is seen as a civil rights icon on Long Island, said it's been "a devastating time."

"So many friends, members of my church, neighbors have just passed away," she told ABC News.

Goosby herself tested positive for coronavirus in early March and spent several days at Winthrop Hospital. She said the nurses "worked around the clock."

She felt fortunate to "have the right treatment at the right time," adding that when she was finally released, the hospital she entered looked very different.

"I just closed my eyes in shock and prayed. I have never seen so many people waiting for help, it's just mind boggling," Goosby said. "People feel like they're not getting help but I saw first hand those doctors and nurses are working as hard as they can."

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Raymond Boyd/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, the country's largest gothic cathedral, will not be turned into a temporary field hospital amid the novel coronavirus crisis after an "impasse" developed between the progressive church and a controversial organization that was offering to help with the construction.

A cathedral spokeswoman told ABC News the staff had "a really hard time" dealing with past comments from the organization about LGBTQ people and decided not to move forward.

Samaritan's Purse, the organization run by Rev. Franklin Graham, who has been accused of spreading anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, also confirmed the news in a statement.

"After further discussions and assessment, we will not be moving forward with an expansion at this location," according to the statement, which did not mention any tension. However, a spokeswoman later told ABC News, "from our perspective, there are no tensions with the cathedral."

The original plan as of Wednesday was to bring in tents and 50 hospital beds in the 600-foot-long nave and in the crypt. The site would have been staffed by doctors and medical personnel from nearby Mount Sinai Morningside.

Right Rev. Clifton Daniel III, dean of the cathedral, had previously addressed his concern with Samaritan's Purse positions, but said the collaboration would continue.

“I don’t agree with their position on Muslims and gays and a number of other things, but I am willing to work together with them to save lives,” he told The New York Times, which first reported the original news about the temporary hospital. “I feel like it is sort of like the steward on the Titanic as it is sinking — now is not the time to count the silverware, you have to get people into lifeboats.”

It was not immediately clear what happened between then and now for the project to be halted.

The organization's Statement of Faith includes speech that says "human sexuality is to be expressed only within the context of marriage ... we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one genetic male and one genetic female."

Graham has also made comments of his own, including in April 2019 about former Democratic presidential nominee Pete Buttigieg.

"God’s Word defines homosexuality as sin, something to be repentant of, not something to be flaunted, praised, or politicized," Graham said in a Facebook post about Buttigieg.

The cathedral spokeswoman said the church is now left with three possibilities: the space could still become a field hospital through another agency; the space could become a morgue or another useful facility; or the numbers could show that the space is not needed.

More than 1.5 million people have been infected with COVID-19, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Confirmed cases in the United States have surged to at least 432,438, the most of any country.

New York has recorded the most confirmed cases of any U.S. state, while New York City has seen the highest number of fatalities.

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digitalskillet/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As the coronavirus continues to rip through the nation leaving behind thousands of victims in its path, black communities have been infected and their residents killed at a disproportionate rate across the country, according to several states' analysis of data.

“After this virus is done infecting… it will expose a lot of weaknesses in the health care system. The world will not be the same,” said Dr. Tyson Bell, a pulmonology and intensive care physician at the University of Virginia and medical director of the intensive care unit.

On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided some limited data, as political pressure to do so increased.

But while the portion of data released by the CDC did reveal racial disparities on a national scale, there were caveats. The data was pulled from a small sample size during a limited time frame -- 14 states during the month of March -- and race and ethnicity data was only available from 580 patients hospitalized for coronavirus, out of a total of 1,482 patients in the report.

According to the CDC, even though the racial breakdown from the population in the report was 59% white, 14% Latino and 18% black, 45% of hospitalized coronavirus patients were white and 8% were Latino, while 33% were black, "suggesting that black populations might be disproportionately affected by COVID-19."

Still, it's the largest amount of national data to have been provided so far -- and it sheds new light on racial disparities seen in cities and states across the country that have collected such data.

Some states started had previously begun releasing numbers broken down by race on their own and the rates shocked the nation.

States reporting numbers by race for COVID-19 include Michigan, Virginia, Illinois, Minnesota, North Carolina, Arkansas and Louisiana. Some statistics raised alarms among health care professionals and community and government leaders that COVID-19 is affecting black communities disproportionately.

Louisiana released data showing that while African-Americans only make up roughly 32% of the population they account for 70% of the deaths in the state.

“This is unprecedented. This has been a one of the hardest things I've ever had to do because you've got to get people to understand just how serious and devastating this thing is," said New Orleans City Councilman Jay Banks, who is also chairman of the historic Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure club -- a New Orleans-based Mardi Gras parade krewe -- which has lost six members to COVID-19.

Louisiana isn’t the only state facing these harsh realities. Chicago, Milwaukee and Minnesota are finding themselves battling a disease that is taking the lives of the most vulnerable in their communities.

In Michigan, African-Americans have died at more than eight times the rate of white people despite making up only 14% of the state’s population.

In Illinois, 58% of Cook County deaths from COVID-19 were black though the population is 23% black, and 72% of Chicago deaths were black patients though the city is 32% black.

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said “those numbers take your breath away”, and “[the statistics were] among the most shocking things I think I’ve seen as mayor”.

When the first reports of the COVID-19 outbreak surfaced from China, public health leaders feared if COVID-19 came to the U.S. it would devastate communities of color.

“We had initial concerns when we first saw the outbreak coming, particularly the early reports out of China, and we recognized this may be a problem for communities of color,” Dr. Georges E. Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association and emergency medicine physician said. “You had early evidence from Asia that showed that older folks, older than 60 or 65, with chronic disease would do worse when they got the infection. So when you put that together with the understanding that in this country you already have a [black] population disproportionately affected by disparities in things like diabetes, heart disease and asthma, we understood that if those populations got infected they would be more at risk.”

Historically, black populations have been affected differently by the rapid spread of infectious diseases.

Benjamin drew parallels to how he witnessed the AIDS and opioid epidemics affect black communities as a frontline physician in the '80s.

“I was around in the early days of the AIDS epidemic and watched that one ravage communities… and even how the opioid epidemic ravaged communities of color,” he said. He noted that outbreaks devastating communities of color have been a repeated theme throughout history.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, immunologist and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, raised similar concerns saying in a press briefing at the White House Tuesday that the disproportionate amount of deaths in the black community remind him of his work during the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

“The greater proportion of my professional career has been defined by HIV/AIDS… African Americans dying at greater rates from COVID-19 could be a similar moment,” Fauci said.

Leaders in medicine, public health and legal fields have decried the lack of wide reporting of race statistics as a fundamental injustice and an issue that has contributed to issues in understanding the full scope and depth of the disease's impact on minorities.
“States are reporting data along lines of geography, gender and age-- there is no defensible reason for excluding racial demographic data. Our ability to fully understand and confront this pandemic requires and demands that we obtain racial data,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, an organization focused on addressing issues of inequity.

Benjamin said he received early reports from health officials around the country that people of color were dying at a higher rate, but not being able to find data.

“I got calls early on from some state health commissioners that they were seeing a disproportionate number of deaths in people of color,” Benjamin said. “When I initially went looking for the race information early on I couldn’t find it. At that point they were anecdotes and not evidence, but enough of them raise alarms.”

Unfortunately, without data to show where and how the disparities were happening, alarms could not be raised quickly enough.
Systemic barriers

While the country comes to terms with how to attack the coronavirus crisis head on, another widely known and unaddressed crisis is complicating the response: systematic racism within the health care system.

Fauci on Tuesday at a White House briefing said that these health disparities have long been prevalent in the African American community and that this pandemic is “shining a bright light on how unacceptable that is.”

A range of studies conducted by such organizations as the American Journal of Public Health and The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality over the past few decades have shown black people are less likely to have insurance and access to affordable medical testing.

Black Americans are also more likely to have underlying conditions such as hypertension, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma and if a patient with those underlying conditions gets a severe illness they tend to fare worse.

“It’s not that they’re getting infected more often,” Fauci said. “It’s that when they do get infected, their underlying medical conditions ... wind them up in the ICU and ultimately give them a higher death rate.”

Additionally, implicit bias within the health care system has long played a factor in the wellness of black Americans.

“Systemic racism and bias in the healthcare system have resulted in chronically poor health outcomes for Black Americans,” Kristen Clarke wrote in a letter Monday to the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Studies looking at manifestations of racial bias within the health care system have found black patients are sometimes treated differently than whites, leading to things such as undertreatment of pain and racial differences in what treatment is offered for a heart attack.

“People are very leery of systems that don't benefit them,” Banks said while discussing how the rate of African American deaths is partly representative of a system that is highly entrenched with inequality. “People are very leery of systems that have been disparaging towards them their whole life and all of a sudden you're going to tell me you're gonna run in and save me when you haven't been trying to do that before."

He added, “It is not a talking point to bash some political party. The fact of it is that it's real. There's a definite disparity in medical care in this country, and people of color and poor people have less access to medical care, period.”

Where should the US go from here? Experts issue a government call to action

Health equity advocates and community leaders called out the federal government, as well as state and local health departments for their role in the coronavirus' disproportionately high impact in black communities.

“We need to know [race statistics] in order to allocate health healthcare resources more equitably. We call on HHS to mandate the collection or racial demographic data so that we can actually see the impact on our most vulnerable communities," said Dr. Uche Blackstock, founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity, and emergency medicine physician.

Dariely Rodriguez, director of the Economic Justice Project at the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, echoed the called for increased data disaggregated by race.

“We will continue to call on the federal government and state and local departments to increase transparency and to shed light on how communities of color are being impacted during this pandemic,” Rodriguez said. “There's absolutely no reason why we shouldn't be collecting data on race because we know that it's correlated with worse outcomes in certain communities, especially vulnerable communities. I think what's important to remember here is that our leaders get their power from the public, and they are accountable to us, and accountability ultimately requires transparency.”

Banks said that Louisiana Gov.John Bel Edwards is teaming up with local leaders across the state for target messaging to the black community.

The message: “This will kill you and kill people you care about. Period. You need to stay home, you have to."

A message to physicians and patients

Frontline physicians and public health leaders and health offered their perspective on what both physicians and patients can do when faced with the mounting COVID-19 disparities in communities of color.

“Interfacing with the health care system can be daunting for black patients given how they have been treated historically and in current-day. I would encourage patients to be as fully informed as possible about COVID19 symptoms and try to bring a family member or friend to advocate for them in healthcare settings. Additionally, physicians must be mindful that while they make think they are providing unbiased care, the data tells us otherwise. Implicit bias has been implicated as a factor in the racialized health disparities,” Blackstock said.

Benjamin offered that physicians considering the role of unconscious bias may be able to help change the trajectory.

“I myself have to always do a little introspection and think about my own unconscious biases, and raise my index of suspicion. I think [more physicians doing this] would help the inequities a lot,” Benjamin said.

He also suggested that if possible, black patients bring someone with them when seeking medical care to help be an advocate.

Bell said it's important for physicians to speak out if they identify systemic barriers, work to remove them, and don’t take no for an answer. He used the example of restrictive testing in his state early on that may have contributed to the COVID-19 outcome disparities.

“Early when Virginia was rolling out testing, we had a restrictive set of rules as to who could be tested or not,” Bell said. “We [at the University of Virginia] set up our own in house testing so that we didn’t have to depend on rules we didn't think were appropriate or broad enough to really get a good sense [of who needs testing] and protect our community. We didn't take no for an answer… and when barriers came up, we broke them.”

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- As severe weather moves across the country, there were almost 400 damaging storm reports from Iowa all the way to the Carolinas.

There were six tornadoes reported with these storms, three in Arkansas.

In Arkansas, 31 houses were damaged Wednesday evening due to the storms, with 29 in the city of Harrisburg and two in Poinsett County, according to Sheriff Kevin Molder. At least two people were injured, the sheriff said.

Damaging winds up to 71 mph flipped semi-trucks in Illinois Wednesday and in Indiana, damage was reported as wind gusts reached 77 mph. The highest wind gust was 84 mph in Virginia.

These storms also brought golf ball to tennis ball-sized hail from Iowa to Alabama, shredding leaves of the trees and damaging cars.

The same cold front that brought Wednesday's severe weather will move into the Northeast and into the Deep South Thursday with damaging winds in the forecast.

In the Northeast, storms will erupt late Thursday morning into the afternoon with damaging winds as the primary threat. Large hail and even an isolated tornado can't be ruled out with these storms.

On the southern end of this cold front, severe weather will be possible in Texas, from Houston to San Antonio and down to Corpus Christi, where damaging winds and large hail will be the biggest threat. An isolated tornado cannot be ruled out there as well.

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photosvit/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Even as the last passengers disembarked the Coral Princess, the latest cruise ship in the U.S. with reported cases of COVID-19, the U.S. Coast Guard said over 100 cruise ships and 90,000 crew members are still stuck at sea in or near U.S. ports and waters.

Last week, two cruise ship crew members had to be medically evacuated from Royal Caribbean's Oasis of the Seas and one from the Celebrity Infinity, who later passed away “due to undetermined medical reasons.” The Coast Guard confirmed that all three crew members had "COVID-19 like symptoms."

Passengers disembarked both Royal Caribbean ships in early March, but crew members remain on both boats that are currently off the coast of Florida.

In U.S. territorial waters around Florida alone there are more than 35 cruise ships with 35,000 crew members on board, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

"The entire DHS team is working together to ensure no seafarer will be left untreated during this emergency to the best of our collective ability," Rear Adm. Eric Jones, commander of the 7th District headquartered in Miami, said. However, "cruise lines need to take additional measures" to be "reasonably self-sufficient" through better medical care and protocols.

Over the weekend, Princess Cruises said new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines have caused passenger disembarkation delays from the Coral Princess.

The CDC now recommends cruise line guests should not travel on commercial flights and that they should not share transportation with people that weren't on the cruise.

On Wednesday, Princess Cruises confirmed to ABC News that the cruise line is working on a crew repatriation plan for the global fleet. Cruise lines are also dealing with international travel restrictions that vary by country.

"Until it is finalized and ready to action, all crew fleetwide will remain onboard in the care of Princess," Princess Cruises said.

According to the CDC, over the last two months, COVID-19 outbreaks on three cruise ships have caused more than 800 confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States among passengers and crew, including 10 deaths.

From Feb. 7 to 23, the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases outside mainland China were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, according to the CDC, which was placed under quarantine for more than two weeks in Yokohama, Japan.

A report released by the CDC later found that traces of the coronavirus remained inside cabins of the Diamond Princess for up to 17 days after the cruise ship was vacated.

"COVID-19 on cruise ships poses a risk for rapid spread of disease, causing outbreaks in a vulnerable population, and aggressive efforts are required to contain spread," the CDC said.

The CDC recommends that everyone should defer all cruise travel worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 13, the Cruise Lines International Association, which has over 50 members, announced ocean-going cruise lines would temporarily suspend operations from U.S. ports of call for 30 days as U.S. officials address the coronavirus outbreak. Many major cruise lines have since extended that temporary suspension timeline.

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cmannphoto/iStock(HOLYOKE, Mass.) -- At least two employees at a veterans' home in Massachusetts, where an outbreak of the novel coronavirus has left multiple residents dead, are continuing to work despite testing positive themselves out of fear for their job and at the recommendation of management, two other staff members told ABC News.

The organizer of a union representing the employees confirmed to ABC News that two employees who tested positive were still working inside the facility.

The two recovering employees and union representative said it was just another way in which the Soldier's Home, a health care facility for veterans located in Holyoke, just north of Springfield, Massachusetts, has failed to protect both its residents and staff.

"They already failed us from the beginning, not being protected," Carmen Rivera, a certified nursing assistant from the home who tested positive for coronavirus and has been out of work sick since March 19, told ABC News. Rivera said she was hospitalized for a week at one point, but has since been on the mend and is in touch with her colleagues who are still working.

Joe Ramirez, also a certified nursing assistant who tested positive and has been out sick, said the two employees who are still working despite their test results are not the type "to stand up because they're afraid of losing their job. They're afraid of retaliation."

Ramirez said that they are asymptomatic, but they're still scared.

"They're not sure if they're passing it on to somebody or not," he said.

Cory Bombredi, the Local 888 union organizer for the home, said the written policy in place was "if you're COVID-19 positive and asymptomatic, you still have to show."

As of Monday, at least 25 veteran residents at the home had died, according to the state's Office of Health and Human Services. Of those deaths, 18 tested positive for the virus, while three have pending test results, three tested negative and one was unknown, according to the agency.

Emails to the office were not returned Wednesday for updated information or comment about the two staff members. Debra Foley, the communications director for the home, also did not respond to ABC News for comment.

The superintendent, Bennett Walsh, was placed on paid administrative leave on March 30. Employees have accused him of lying about procedures in place to state officials, while Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse said he did not alert state officials of the first eight deaths.

"I was shocked on the phone call when the superintendent let me know that there had been eight deaths between Wednesday [March 25] and Sunday [March 29] without any public notification, without any notification to my office and also just no notification to the state government that oversees the facility in the first place," Morse said in a Facebook Live speech last week.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has called for an independent investigation into the home.

Walsh did not return multiple requests for comment via phone, email and text. He did release a statement to MassLive defending his actions, saying he provided regular updates to state officials about the number of residents and staff who were tested and their results after a resident tested positive on March 21.

He also said that all family members were contacted and told that a resident tested positive.

"Our focus then and always was on the veterans and their families," Walsh said in his statement.

However, Rivera and Ramirez said they were not surprised at his behavior and did not believe he had their best interests at heart. Rivera said one example of that is her current paycheck. Her normal net pay is around $1,200, according to pay stubs she shared with ABC News. Yet her paycheck for the week where she was in the hospital amounted to only $518. She had not heard back from human resources despite multiple calls to them as to why her paycheck was lowered.

When the first veteran who was showing symptoms of coronavirus got tested, both employees said they were not given any protective gear to wear and the masks that were onsite were not handed out.

Bombredi said he was shocked to learn this and even more shocked to hear that leadership was saying otherwise.

"They were telling everybody, 'We're following CDC guidelines, everybody's wearing safety equipment.' ... Every one of my workers said they're not doing this. They're lying," he said.

Rivera said when she brought a mask from home to wear, a manager took issue with her wearing it.

"They were saying we didn't need a mask and it was for people that didn't get the flu shot and it was nothing going on and the gentleman that was coughing, they didn't know what was going on," she said. "I had said, 'Isn't that more reason we should be wearing the mask?'"

Both employees also said that when the veteran was awaiting test results, he was not separated from the other veterans in his room.

"He still had roommates in that room. He was exposing those veterans," Ramirez said.

The veteran's test eventually came back positive, according to Rivera and Ramirez. Ramirez said he had learned from other staffers that it was a positive test on the evening of March 20. He said he didn't receive an email from management about the positive test until March 22.

The man's roommates were then moved to other units, however, staff said this proved to be ineffective because those roommates had already been exposed at that point.

"They got moved into other bedrooms where other healthy veterans were. These veterans may be infected and now they're infecting others," Ramirez said.

Ramirez and Bombredi also said that when the veterans were moved around, many were put into rooms only meant to hold four. However with the added residents, some rooms held six, according to Ramirez and Bombredi. Other veterans were moved to the dining room, they said.

Bombredi said staff worried about eventually separating them.

"Unfortunately, part of the worst news is that they never had to separate the unit," he said. "So many died that the rooms are now at the correct amount again."

Bombredi said that the home has been understaffed for years. For him, it was not a matter of if, but when, a dire situation would arise and the safety of residents and staff would be thrown into question.

"I keep hearing from everybody how quickly this developed. For us and our members, this happened in slow motion," he said. "This was always going to happen, and unfortunately it happened with a deadly virus."

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