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National Politics

  • U.S. defense leaders are backing the Navy's decision to fire the ship captain who sought help for his cornonavirus-stricken aircraft carrier, even as videos showed sailors cheering him as he walked off the vessel. Videos went viral on social media Friday, showing hundreds of sailors gathered on the ship chanting and applauding Navy Capt. Brett Crozier as he walked down the ramp, turned, saluted, waved and got into a waiting car. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly abruptly fired Crozier on Thursday, saying the commander created a panic by widely distributing a memo detailing the escalating virus outbreak on his ship and pleading his leadership for help. Modly said Crozier “demonstrated extremely poor judgment” in the middle of a crisis. The ship is docked in Guam, and so far 137 of the nearly 5,000 sailors on board have tested positive for the virus. The Navy has said as many as 3,000 will be taken off the ship and quarantined by Friday evening to stem the spread of the virus. Crew members are needed to remain on the shop to maintain critical systems and protecting the carrier. On Friday, Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman, said Defense Secretary Mark Esper supported Modly's decision to fire Crozier from his command job. He said Modly told Esper he had lost confidence in the captain. And Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told FoxNews that he trusted Modly's judgement. He said it was a difficult decision, and that Modly is accountable to the American people for it. Crozier, in his memo, warned of a growing outbreak of the coronavirus on the ship and asked for permission to isolate the bulk of his crew members on shore, an extraordinary move to take a carrier out of duty in an effort to save lives. And he said that if commanders didn't act quickly, they would be 'failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset, our sailors.” Videos posted online showed sailors chanting Crozier's name and applauding him as he left the ship. A number of lawmakers have questioned the firing as too hasty a decision. Hoffman said that 41 percent of the sailors on the ship have been tested, and results are still coming in. He said no sailors are hospitalized.

Local Politics

  • A federal judge has granted a request by a medical sterilizer in Cobb to resume full operations immediately by issuing a temporary restraining order against the county, which had sought to limit its activities.  The order expires after 14 days. Cobb Spokesman Ross Cavitt said the county had no immediate comment.  The company, Sterigenics, welcomed the decision in a statement. “This ruling enables Sterigenics to serve the urgent needs of health care workers and patients, without product limitation, as we begin the proceeding to establish our right to continue the safe operation of our longstanding facility in the interests of public health,” the company said. Sterigenics became the focus of local protests after a July report by WebMD and Georgia Health News highlighted possible increased cancer risk for surrounding neighborhoods due to the facility’s use of ethylene oxide, a carcinogenic gas.  The plant has been closed since summer, at first to install new pollution controls and later pending the issuance of new permits by the county. Last week, County Chairman Mike Boyce, under pressure from the federal government, signed an emergency order allowing the plant to reopen on a limited, temporary basis in order to sterilize personal protective equipment to address the COVID-19 pandemic.  The company sued shortly thereafter to remove any restrictions on its operations, arguing that Cobb lacked the authority to compel it to seek a new occupancy permit to comply with fire safety regulations.  The restraining order comes a day after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Office of Inspector General issued a report criticizing the EPA’s failure to inform communities living near “high-priority ethylene oxide-emitting facilities,” including Sterigenics in Cobb and Becton Dickinson in Covington, of potential health risks and actions being taken to address those risks. The report points out that EPA officials only met with residents in Georgia after the public learned of their cancer risks through news media, almost a year after the release of the federal National Air Toxics Assessment highlighting those risks.  The EPA has argued that public outreach should be left to states, the report says.  “We agree that the Agency should continue its ongoing efforts to conduct additional, more refined investigations of risks for communities near the 25 high-priority facilities and the census block facilities,” the IG’s report reads. “However, these efforts should not preclude the Agency and the respective states from promptly informing the communities near the high-priority facilities about the [National Air Toxics Assessment] results and the actions that the EPA and the states are taking to address public health concerns associated with ethylene oxide emissions.” The inspector general concluded that the office’s recommendation is “unresolved,” and officials are requesting a meeting within 30 days with the EPA’s associate deputy administrator. EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler responded in a statement, saying “The tone and substance of this report indicates a disconnect in the US EPA IG’s office.”  “Most surprising is that in our final meeting with the IG’s office on this matter they provided no indication that there would be any unresolved issues,” he said. “As a result, we are formally requesting the EPA IG rescind the report so it can be appropriately updated.” This is a developing story...Please return to AJC.com for updates.

Latest from Jamie Dupree

Georgia Politics

  • Georgia’s 10.6 million residents are under a new statewide shelter-in-place order to try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Here’s what you should know:  Q: When did it start and how long does it last? A: The order went into effect at 6 p.m. Friday, April 3, and continues through April 13. The governor could extend it beyond that date if he renews a state public health emergency declaration that’s set to expire in mid-April. Q: Can I still leave the house? A: Yes. It allows Georgians to leave the home to buy groceries, purchase medical equipment, go outside to exercise, respond to emergencies, head to doctor’s appointments, or travel for work at businesses or nonprofits that comply with other restrictions.  You also do not need a letter to prove you need to keep working, Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration said. There are other exceptions in the rules, which you can find here. Q: What is closed?  A: The order mandates the closure of gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys, theaters, live performance venues, amusement parks, hair designers, beauty shops, cosmetology schools, barbershops and massage therapists. Earlier, the governor shut down bars and nightclubs. Q: What about restaurants? A: Dine-in service at restaurants and social clubs is no longer permitted, except for eateries at hospitals, nursing homes and long-term care facilities. Takeout, curbside pickup and delivery are still allowed. >>MORE: A map of coronavirus cases in Georgia >>MORE: Real-time stats and the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak Q: What stays open? A: The policy allows two different types of businesses and nonprofits to stay open: “minimum basic operations” and “critical infrastructure.” It sets out a list of criteria that both types of businesses must meet to remain open, though the latter category has fewer requirements. Q: What’s the difference between the two? A: The “critical” firms include banks, hardware stores, utilities, key manufacturers, suppliers of essential goods, legal firms, news outlets, health providers, and nonprofits that specialize in food delivery and health services.  All others that want to stay open must conduct “minimum necessary activities.” >>More: Read the order here. Q: What are some of the requirements to stay open?  A: Employers must screen workers for symptoms of coronavirus, such as a fever over 100.4 degrees, a cough or shortness of breath. They must hold virtual meetings and implement teleworking and staggered shifts when possible. They must ban group gatherings and enforce social distancing. The companies that aren’t considered “critical” must also meet a few additional guidelines, including increasing space between employees and customers, providing  more disinfectant and sanitation services and setting up alternate points of sale outside. Q: Can I still go outside to exercise? A: Yes. There are no limits on exercise, so long as social distancing is employed. You can still visit state parks and play sports outside, including golf, though gatherings of more than 10 people are banned unless there’s at least six feet between each person. Q: Do my local government’s restrictions still apply? A: The new statewide rules override the patchwork of restrictions that local governments adopted over the past few weeks. That means more stringent or lenient rules adopted by some cities and counties are no longer in place. Q: Can I still go to church or my house of worship?  A: The order permits residents to visit places of worship, so long as social-distancing guidelines and other restrictions are followed, though Kemp has publicly wrestled over whether to impose stiffer limits on congregations. Q: What about childcare?  A: Babysitters and nannies are still permissible, according to Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for Kemp’s office.  Q: Does this order limit the sale of guns or ammunition?  A: No. The mandate specifies that the sale, distribution or transportation of firearms and ammunition is not affected.  Q: What happens if people or businesses don’t comply?  A: Those who violate the terms of the order could face misdemeanor charges.  Q: Who will enforce the rules? A: At a press conference Wednesday, Kemp said the Georgia State Patrol and state law enforcement officers will take “appropriate action to ensure full compliance — no exceptions.”  The governor on Friday deputized sheriff’s deputies to enforce closures of businesses that violate the rules, though he hasn’t yet granted the same powers to local police officers. 

News

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidance late Friday concerning the wearing of cloth face masks while out in public. The CDC, according to President Donald Trump, said that people, when going to public locations, should now wear “non-medical, cloth face coverings.” The action is voluntary, Trump said in his afternoon press briefing. Since the beginning of the battle against COVID-19, the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had said that people didn’t need to wear masks unless they were sick and coughing, The New York Times reported prior to Trump’s announcement. Thursday evening, Trump had said his administration would have regulations when it came to the general population and the wearing of masks. Some opportunities for wearing masks while in public would be when going to pharmacies and grocery stores, the Times reported. Many people may now be looking for ways to make their own personal protective equipment or to make PPE for those working the front lines. There are many designs to make, from no-sew options to ones that need some needle and thread. No Sew Supplies: A bandanna or piece of finished cloth Hair elastics Sewn versions Supplies: Paper, to make a pattern Cotton fabric Fusible interfacing Elastic Pins Sewing machine The New York Times has an alternate pattern. Click here for step by step instructions. Kaiser Permanente has also shared a design approved by the health system for donation to hospitals, The Washington Post reported.
  • A Brooklyn landlord waived this month’s rent for hundreds of his tenants. Mario Salerno posted signs on the 18 buildings he owns throughout the borough letting tenants know they do not have to pay April’s rent, The New York Times reported. “My concern is everyone’s health,” Salerno told the Times. “I told them just to look out for your neighbor and make sure that everyone has food on their table.” Salerno had not calculated how much he would be losing from not collecting rent on the 80 apartments, but it’s likely hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Times reported. “I’m really not concerned about the rent right now, I’m concerned about people’s health,” Salerno told Greenpointers.com. “Not only are we up against an epidemic, these poor people have no jobs and they’re worried about getting sick. I didn’t think it was much on a person like me, who God was good to, to help them all out.” It has helped ease the stress for some tenants who are out of work because of the coronavirus. Tenant Paul Gentile has lived four years in one of Salerno’s buildings. He works as an attorney but lost his job when the courthouses closed March 18. “You don’t see that, especially in a landlord-tenant relationship in New York City,” Gentile told the Times. “He’s amazing.”
  • A Michigan sugar company purchased $131,000 worth of gift cards from restaurants in communities where it operates. The Michigan Sugar Co. gave each of its 1,300 employees a $100 gift card from more than 50 restaurants, MLive reported. “We hope this helps ease the pain of this pandemic for those businesses just a little bit,” Michigan Sugar Co. Board Chairman Adam Herford told MLive. The company has also donated personal protection equipment including masks, gloves and safety glasses to Michigan-area health care facilities.
  • A Detroit bus driver who complained about a coughing passenger in a video posted on social media, has died from the coronavirus. Jason Hargrove got sick four days after posting the video on March 21 where he went on a profanity-laced tirade about a woman who coughed repeatedly while on the bus. The bus drivers’ unions said Hargrove, 50, died Wednesday. The coronavirus can spread through the air, health officials have said. “Public workers doing our job, trying to make (an) honest living, take care of our families,” Hargrove said in the video. “For you to get on the bus ... and cough several times without covering up your mouth and you know (we’re) in the middle of a pandemic — that lets me know that some folks don’t care.” The city stopped collecting fares March 17. The buses were to be more thoroughly cleaned and passengers were required to enter and exit from the rear door only. Mayor Mike Duggan expressed condolences and urged others to watch Hargroves’ video. “He was infected before we closed the front doors (on buses),” Duggan said. “Some of his language is graphic, but I don’t know how you can watch it and not tear up. He knew his life was being put in jeopardy ... by someone who didn’t take this seriously and now he’s gone.”
  • A Pennsylvania man who lost a lung to cancer about a decade ago has survived another health battle -- this time, with the coronavirus. It started as what he assumed was just a cold, but when Richard Botti, 61, started to feel lung pain in early March, he thought his cancer had returned. It turned out to be COVID-19 instead. Because of his previous bout with cancer, he was at higher risk. His family told WPXI they got very concerned when his conditioned started to worsen. “It slowly got worse and he wasn’t getting out of bed,” said Vanessa Venezie, his daughter. “You immediately think the worst because of everything you’re seeing and reading.” He soon tested positive for the coronavirus and had to be hospitalized. However, he pulled through, spending 11 days at Heritage Valley Hospital hooked up to oxygen. Botti’s daughter wanted to share not all coronavirus outcomes are grim. “We’re just really happy and we want people to know there is hope for them,” Venezie said. “Stay focused on the positive. Do things that make you feel good. We can all get trapped in the negative.” Botti was taken back home by medics in an ambulance equipped to handle COVID-19 cases. He has to self-isolate in his room away from his family for two weeks.
  • More than one million people worldwide -- including more than 245,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here. Live updates for Friday, April 3, continue below:  CDC advises public to wear masks as death toll tops 7,000 Update 6 p.m. EDT April 3: President Donald Trump says his administration is encouraging many Americans to wear face masks in public, though he stresses that the recommendation is optional and is conceding that he will not be complying with it. The new guidelines, announced Friday, encourage people to use more rudimentary covering like T-shirts, bandannas and non-medical masks. And President Donald Trump himself suggested scarves could be an good alternative to masks. While these new recommendations were being announced Friday evening, the U.S. death toll increased to 7,077 according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University. Hobby Lobby closes all store locations Update 5:15 p.m. EDT April 3: Hobby Lobby is closing all its stores nationwide and furloughing employees without pay. The arts and crafts store released a statement Friday saying it’s closing its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic. Hobby Lobby also said in the statement that it will be furloughing a large portion of corporate and distribution employees. Hobby Lobby statement: 'As the country continues efforts to manage and mitigate the devastating health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus, Hobby Lobby will, after careful consideration, close the remainder of its stores, and furlough nearly all store employees and a large portion of corporate and distribution employees, effective Friday, April 3rd, at 8:00 p.m. The stores will remain closed until further notice. “In order to allow our furloughed employees to take full advantage of the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation and Recovery Rebates provided to eligible employees by the federal government, we are ending emergency leave pay and suspending use of Company provided paid time off benefits (PPTO and Vacation) in accordance with the requirements outlined in the CARES Act (subject to State law requirements). However, we will maintain medical, dental, life, and long-term disability benefits for employees while furloughed through at least May 1, 2020, and will pay the cost of employee premiums for these benefits on behalf of employees while furloughed without pay. We encourage furloughed employees to file their claims with their State’s unemployment commissions as soon as possible. Upon return, employees will retain their original dates of hire and any accrued PPTO and Vacation. Our sincere gratitude goes out to our dedicated employees at this difficult time, and we look forward to the day when we can welcome them back, once we are able to reopen.” “We know our customers relied on us to provide essential products, including materials to make personal protective equipment, such as face masks, educational supplies for the countless parents who are now educating their children from home, and the thousands of small arts and crafts businesses who rely on us for supplies to make their products. Over the past several weeks, we implemented several best practices to provide a safer shopping environment, including the installation of physical barriers between customers and cashiers, enhanced cleaning, and the enforcement of social distancing measures. We are prepared to reopen our stores in a responsible way when the current situation improves, and look forward to welcoming our valued customers back to our stores. Until then, we pray for those affected by the virus, protection for the health care professionals caring for the sick, economic security for all impacted businesses and employees, and wisdom for our leaders.” Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announces stay at home order starting Saturday Update 5:15 p.m. EDT April 3: Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey issued a shelter-in-place order that will go into effect 5 p.m. Saturday. Republican governors in Florida, Mississippi and Georgia on Wednesday also reversed course and issued stay-home directives after previously resisting such a statewide order. Nationwide death toll approaches 7,000 Update 4:45 p.m. EDT April 3: According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there have been at least 6,889 deaths from the 266,671 cases in the U.S. New York state alone accounts for more than 2,900 dead, an increase of over 560 in just one day. Most of the dead are in New York City, where hospitals are getting swamped with patients. About 15,000 people were hospitalized statewide, most of them in the city. White House to test anyone expected to be near Trump, Pence for COVID-19 Update 3:45 p.m. EDT April 3: The White House is stepping up precautions to protect the president and vice president from contracting the new coronavirus. Starting Friday, anyone who is expected to be in “close proximity” to either President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence will be given a quick COVID-19 test “to evaluate for pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers status to limit inadvertent transmission,' according to White House spokesman Judd Deere. All visitors to the White House complex already have their temperatures taken when entering the building and if they will be in close proximity to either Trump or Pence. Trump took the new COVID-19 test on Thursday and the White House doctor said results were back in 15 minutes. He tested negative. California reports 10,701 confirmed COVID-19 cases statewide Update 3:35 p.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said Friday that 10,701 coronavirus infections have been confirmed in the state. Newsom said 2,188 of those infections were serious enough to require hospitalization. He added that 901 COVID-19 patients were in intensive care units Friday. “This disease can impact anyone,” he said. “Stay home. Take this seriously.” Supreme Court postpones oral arguments Update 3:30 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials with the Supreme Court on Friday announced the postponement of oral arguments planned for the Court’s April session due to the coronavirus outbreak. Court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg said officials with consider rescheduling cases from the March and April sessions for later in the Court’s term, if possible. “The Court will consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the courtroom before the end of the term,” she said. Arberg added that justices will continue to review cases argued so far this term and post opinions on the Supreme Court’s website. 3,067 COVID-19 cases reported in Tennessee Update 3:10 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Tennessee reported 3,067 total coronavirus cases across the state Friday, WHBQ-TV reported. Officials with the Tennessee Department of Health said 293 of those cases were serious enough to require hospitalization. Thirty-seven people have died of COVID-19 in the state while 248 people have recovered, according to WHBQ-TV. Ohio considering releasing some inmates due to coronavirus Update 3:05 p.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio said Friday that authorities are looking into the possibility of releasing 23 women who are pregnant or have had a child in prison, WHIO-TV reported. Officials said there were also 15 people over the age of 60 who are within 60 days of their planned prison release dates who might also be released. Authorities said all the inmates being considered for early release are non-violent, non-sexual offenders, according to WHIO-TV. Officials with the Ohio Department of Health have reported 3,312 coronavirus cases in the state. The virus has claimed at least 91 lives in Ohio. 1 in 5 Americans killed by COVID-19 middle-aged Update 2:50 p.m. EDT April 3: A first look at recent U.S. death certificate data confirmed that most of the initial American coronavirus deaths were people age 65 and older. But it also notes that about 1 in 5 were middle-aged. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the data online Friday. It reflects 1,150 U.S. coronavirus deaths that occurred through the last week of March. That tally is several hundred deaths lower than other totals reported for the same period, because it relies on death certificate information which can come in weeks after other kinds of reports. The new data said 56% of deaths were people 75 and older, and another 23% were people in their late 60s and early 70s. But another 17% were ages 45 to 64, and 3% were 35 to 44. The statistics were smaller for younger adults. One child died. Pennsylvania governor urges residents to wear cloth masks in public Update 2:40 p.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Tom Wolf of Pennsylvania and state Secretary of Health Rachel Levine urged people Friday to begin wearing masks in public in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19, WPXI reported. Officials stressed that N95 respirator and surgical masks were not necessary. Instead, they suggested people wear cloth masks, a bandanna or something similar to cover people’s noses and mouths, according to WPXI. “Wearing a mask will help us cut down the possibility that we might be infecting an innocent bystander, like the grocery store cashier, the pharmacist, or someone stocking shelves,” Wolf said. “These people are keeping us alive by getting us the supplies we need. We owe it to them to do everything we can to keep them safe. Right now, that means wearing a mask.” Mississippi officials report 181 new coronavirus cases Update 2:25 p.m. EDT April 3: Health officials in Mississippi reported 181 new coronavirus infections Friday, bringing the state’s total number of cases to 1,358, WHBQ-TV reported. Officials also reported three new deaths, according to WHBQ-TV. Statewide, 1,358 people have died of COVID-19, officials said. 2 more federal inmates die of COVID-19, officials say Update 2:15 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials with the Federal Bureau of Prisons on Friday announced two more inmates have died of COVID-19. Authorities said Wallace Holley Jr., a 56-year-old inmate at the Federal Correction Institution Oakdale I in Oakdale, Louisiana, died Thursday. Officials said Holley, who had long-term,pre-existing medical conditions, tested positive for COVID-19 prior to his death. Margarito Garcia-Fragoso, a 65-year-old inmate at Federal Satellite Low Institution Elkton in Lisbon, Ohio, also died Thursday after he tested positive for COVID-19. He also had long-term, pre-existing medical conditions, officials said. COVID-19 cases top 10,000 in Louisiana Update 1:55 p.m. EDT April 3: Health officials in Louisiana reported 1,157 new coronavirus infections Friday, raising the state’s total number of cases to 10,297. Officials with the Louisiana Department of Health also noted the death toll attributed to the coronavirus doubled from the 185 reported Thursday to 370. IMF official: Recession caused by coronavirus ‘a crisis like no other’ Update 1:50 p.m. EDT April 3: The head of the International Monetary Fund says the recession sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is “way worse” than the 2008 global recession. IMF managing director Kristalina Georgieva described the situation as “a crisis like no other.” “Never in the history of the IMF have we witnessed the world economy coming to a standstill,” she said. “We are now in recession, it is way worse than the global financial crisis and it is a crisis that requires all of us to come together.' Georgieva said 90 countries have already approached the institution for emergency financing. She called on countries to prioritize health expenditures and to make sure doctors, nurses and other health workers are paid. She added that the world’s most fragile countries must be protected, noting that “$90 billion have flown out” and damaged emerging economies. 4,372 new coronavirus cases reported in New Jersey Update 1:40 p.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey said Friday that 4,372 new COVID-19 cases have been reported, bringing the statewide total to 29,895. In addition, Murphy said 113 new fatal coronavirus cases were identified. In all, 646 people have died of COVID-19 in the state. Murphy identified one of the victims as James Brown, the principal of Grover Middle School in Caldwell. He was 48 years old. CNN anchor Brooke Baldwin tests positive for COVID-19 Update 1:15 p.m. EDT April 3: CNN reporter Brooke Baldwin announced Friday on Instagram that she’s been diagnosed with COVID-19. “I am OKAY,” she wrote Friday. “It came on suddenly yesterday afternoon. Chills, aches, fever. I’ve been social distancing. Doing ALL the things we’re being told to do. Still -- it got me.” She said she has no underlying health conditions and that overall, she feels “like one of the lucky ones.” “I look forward to being back on (television) and seeing you real soon,' she wrote. She also thanked health care workers for their efforts on the front line of the coronavirus battle. Baldwin is at least the second CNN anchor to test positive for coronavirus. Earlier, reporter Chris Cuomo said he was self-isolating after being diagnosed with the viral infection. Special small business loans available beginning Friday Update 1:10 p.m. EDT April 3: Beginning Friday, small businesses struggling to stay afloat as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread across the United States can apply for the nearly $350 billion in loans set up through the CARES Act passed by Congress last month. Four programs are now in place to help small businesses to stay in business until the public health crisis triggered by COVID-19 abates. The programs came from the CARES Act which was signed into law by President Donald Trump on March 27. 109 new coronavirus cases reported in Oklahoma Update 12:45 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Oklahoma said 109 new coronavirus infections were reported Friday, raising the total number of cases in the state to 988, according to KOKI-TV. Four new coronavirus-related deaths were also reported in the state, bringing Oklahoma’s COVID-19 death toll to 38. The four new fatal cases involved patients who were all over 65 years old. Pennsylvania officials report 1,404 new coronavirus cases Update 12:40 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Pennsylvania reported 1,404 new coronavirus infections Friday, bringing the state’s total to 8,420, WPXI reported. In addition, officials with the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported 12 more deaths. Statewide 102 people have died of COVID-19, according to WPXI. 104 new coronavirus infections reported in DC Update 12:20 p.m. EDT April 3: Officials in Washington D.C. said 104 new coronavirus infections have been reported, bringing the total in the district to 757. Mayor Muriel Bowser said three new fatal cases were also reported Friday. In all, 15 people have died due to COVID-19 in Washington D.C. Delta Air Lines giving passengers 2 years to rebook flights Update 12:15 p.m. EDT April 3: Delta Air Lines announced Friday that the company is extending its window to redeem travel credits from one to two years amid the coronavirus outbreak. The change will allow for travel credits to be used through May 2022. “Just as our business is changing, we know that events in our customers’ lives are being changed and canceled, too,” airline officials said Friday in a statement. “Whether customers have been affected by recent schedule adjustments or want additional reassurance about upcoming travel, we’re now extending the ability to plan, re-book and travel with us for up to two years – giving Delta customers some extra breathing room.” Temporary military hospitals to begin taking COVID-19 patients, Pentagon says Update 11:55 a.m. EDT April 3: The Pentagon said it will begin accepting COVID-19 positive patients at Pentagon-supported medical facilities in Dallas and New Orleans that previously had been designated as non-COVID hospitals. COVID-19 positive patients in convalescent care and those deemed non-urgent cases will be accepted at the Morial federal medical station in New Orleans and at the Kay Bailey Hutchison federal medical center in Dallas. These patients must first be screened at a local hospital. President Donald Trump on Thursday announced that he had approved New York’s request that COVID-19 patients be accepted for care at the Pentagon-supported Javits center, which previously had taken on non-COVID patients. The Pentagon also said Friday that screening for care of non-COVID-19 patients on the hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York harbor is being modified in an effort to reduce a backlog at some New York hospitals. Instead of requiring patients to be tested for COVID-19 at the hospital from which they are being transferred, each patient transferred to the Comfort will be screened by temperature and given a short questionnaire pier-side. The Pentagon also announced that the number of COVID-19 positive cases in the active-duty military had risen to 978 as of Friday morning. That is up 85 from a day earlier. New York reports 562 new fatal COVID-19 cases Update 11:30 a.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said the state saw its “highest single increase in the number of deaths since we started” on Friday. Officials reported 562 new deaths attributed to COVID-19, bringing the state’s death toll to 2,373. 102,863 coronavirus infections reported in New York Update 11:20 a.m. EDT April 3: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said Friday that 10,481 new coronavirus infections have been reported, bringing the state’s total number of COVID-19 cases to 102,863. New York has been the state hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. UK prime minister to continue self-isolating Update 11 a.m. EDT April 3: Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom said Friday that he will continue to self-isolate past the recommended seven-day period as he deals with a “minor symptom” lingering since his COVID-19 diagnosis. Johnson said he continues to have a fever. “In accordance with government advice, I must continue my self-isolation until that symptom itself goes,' he said. “But we’re clearly working the whole time on our program to defeat the virus.” Mayor tells New York City residents to wear face coverings in public Update 10:50 a.m. EDT April 3: Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City said Friday that residents should wear face coverings while around people who are not part of their families or households to stymie the spread of the new coronavirus. He said in a video posted Friday to Twitter that he’s been asked several times recently whether masks are appropriate for people in the general public. “The masks -- the surgical masks, those N95 masks -- we want to keep those for the health care workers, for the first responders,” he said. “We’re now advising all New Yorkers, when you go outside and you’re close to other people -- not your own family and people under your same roof, but when you’re close to other people -- have a bandanna, a scarf, some kind of face covering you can use when you happen to be in close proximity to people.” He emphasized that the mask does not protect against coronavirus and urged people to continue keeping at least 6 feet of space between each other. “(This) will help make sure that if, God forbid you’ve contracted the disease, even if you’re not yet symptomatic, that you won’t inadvertently spread it to someone else,” he said. “It’s a precaution to protect others.” Cruise ship en route to Florida confirms 12 COVID-19 cases Update 10:20 a.m. EDT April 3: Health officials have confirmed a dozen coronavirus infections on a Princess Cruise Lines ship headed toward Fort Lauderdale, Florida, company officials said Thursday. Princess Cruise Lines said that on Tuesday, crew members on the Coral Princess sent 13 COVID-19 test samples to health officials in Barbados. Of those, samples from seven guests and five crew members tested positive for the viral infection. The Coral Princess had set sail March 5 from Chile, one week before Princess Cruises announced a 60-day pause of operations. It was scheduled to travel to Argentina, where passengers were set to disembark March 19. Stocks open lower after US government reports 700,000 job losses Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 3: Stocks wavered in early trading on Wall Street after the U.S. government reported that more than 700,000 jobs were lost last month. Businesses have shut down across the country and the world as people stay home in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus outbreak. The S&P 500 was up 0.4% in the first few minutes of trading. European markets were down Friday after losses in most of Asia. The price of oil continued to rise on hopes for a global deal to limit overproduction, which helped boost energy stocks. The price of benchmark U.S. crude rose 7%. Grupo Modelo to halt production of Corona beer Update 9:45 a.m. EDT April 3: Grupo Modelo, the Mexican company that brews Corona beer, said Friday in a statement that it will halt production of the drink and others it brews to comply with Mexico’s closure of non-essential businesses. U.S. economy lost 701,000 jobs in March Update 9:15 a.m. EDT April 3: A new report from the Labor Department on Friday showed the economic storm associated with the coronavirus battering the U.S. economy in March, causing the loss of 701,000 jobs, and pushing the jobless rate up by almost one percent -- the largest monthly increase in over 45 years. The unemployment rate was at 4.4 percent in March, not far under the 4.7 percent rate when President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the highest jobless rate of his presidency. 'Employment in leisure and hospitality fell by 459,000, mainly in food services and drinking places,' the Labor Department reported. “Notable declines also occurred in health care and social assistance, professional and business services, retail trade, and construction,” the report added. UK officials report 684 new fatal coronavirus cases  Update 9:05 a.m. EDT April 3: Officials in the United Kingdom recorded 684 new fatal COVID-19 cases on Friday, raising the country’s coronavirus death toll to 3,605. The number is slightly higher than the 569 deaths reported Thursday. Authorities with the British Department of Health and Social Care also announced 4,450 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases. In all, officials said 33,718 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus infections in the U.K. Germany becomes 4th nation to surpass China’s total coronavirus count Update 7:53 a.m. EDT April 3: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus hit 54,137 early Friday, and Spain’s total number of infections surpassed that of Italy, according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University. In the four months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 1,030,628 people worldwide. Four countries – the United States, Spain, Italy and Germany – have now confirmed total infection counts well above China’s 82,509 tally. • The United States has reported 245,573 cases, resulting in 6,058 deaths. • Spain has reported 117,710 infections, resulting in 10,935 deaths. • Italy has confirmed 115,242 cases, resulting in 13,915 deaths. • Germany has reported 85,063 cases, resulting in 1,111 deaths. • China has recorded 82,509 cases, resulting in 3,326 deaths. • France has confirmed 59,929 infections, resulting in 5,398 deaths. • Iran has recorded 53,183 cases, resulting in 3,160 deaths. • The United Kingdom has reported 34,192 cases, resulting in 2,926 deaths. • Switzerland has confirmed 19,145 cases, resulting in 573 deaths. • Turkey has recorded 18,135 cases, resulting in 356 deaths. UK field hospital NHS Nightingale opens less than 2 weeks after project began Update 7:41 a.m. EDT April 3: Less than two weeks after crews began repurposing London’s ExCel conference center to accommodate overflow novel coronavirus patients, the NHS Nightingale field hospital stands ready to serve. Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, called the timely transformation a “spectacular and almost unbelievable feat.” “(It’s) an example – if ever one was needed – of how the impossible could be made possible,” he said Friday via a video-link from Scotland, where he has been self-isolating after being diagnosed with the virus in March. “In this dark time, this place will be a shining light,” Prince Charles said, adding, “It is symbolic of the selfless care and devoted service taking place in innumerable settings, with countless individuals throughout the United Kingdom.” To date, the United Kingdom has reported 34,192 cases, resulting in 2,926 deaths. Coronavirus cases continue mounting in Brazil, Japan Update 6:56 a.m. EDT April 3: With more than 1 million novel coronavirus cases now recorded worldwide, new – and some old – hotspots are emerging as the pandemic continues its global spread. • Brazil confirmed Thursday its third consecutive day logging at least 1,000 new cases. The South American country now reports a total of 7,910 infections, which have resulted in at least 299 deaths. • Japan confirmed early Friday that 235 additional novel coronavirus cases have brought the East Asian country’s total to 3,329, resulting in at least 63 deaths. • Tokyo reported its largest single-day increase in new cases on Friday with 97. Japan’s capital city has now confirmed a total of 684 cases. Portion of famed Paris market repurposed as makeshift morgue Update 6:33 a.m. EDT April 3: A portion of the Rungis food market on the outskirts of Paris has been converted into a temporary morgue to handle the swelling number of novel coronavirus fatalities reported in the region. According to The Washington Post, the Paris Police Prefecture is converting one isolated building in the world’s largest meat and vegetable market into a makeshift morgue, capable of accommodating between 800 and 1,000 coffins. “This location will permit the coffins of the deceased to be kept in the most dignified and acceptable conditions from a health point of view, pending their burial or cremation in France or abroad,” the prefecture said in a statement, circulated widely among French media. According to a tally maintained by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, France has recorded at least 59,929 COVID-19 infections since the global pandemic began, resulting in 5,398 fatalities. Libya confirms 1st coronavirus-related death Update 4:35 a.m. EDT April 3: Libya’s National Center for Disease Control confirmed the country’s first novel coronavirus-related fatality in a statement released Thursday. The patient, who was not diagnosed until after hear death, was an 85-year-old woman. According to a tally maintained by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, the North African nation has reported a total of 11 infections to date. Lenders question Friday rollout of $349B small business coronavirus relief program Update 4:23 a.m. EDT April 3: The $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program is slated to launch today, but banks tapped to disperse the emergency federal small business loans told The Washington Post they are skeptical the plan is rollout-ready. “Having just received guidance outlining how to implement a $349 billion program literally hours before it starts, we would ask for everyone to be patient as banks move heaven and earth to get a system in place and running to help America’s small businesses and the millions of men and women who work at them,” Richard Hunt, president and chief executive officer of the Consumer Bankers Association, said in a statement. The Paycheck Protection Program, considered a key element of the $2.2 trillion economic relief package approved by Congress one week ago, is intended to deliver a “sharply streamlined, same-day approval process unheard of in the history of federally backed small business lending,” the Post reported. Several participating lenders indicated in interviews with the Post as late as Thursday, however, that they are still awaiting finalized program guidelines from the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the U.S. Small Business Administration before processing any applications despite today’s launch date. Amid coronavirus crisis Disney to furlough employees ‘whose jobs aren't necessary at this time’ Update 3:28 a.m. EDT April 3: Walt Disney Co. has officially notified employees that those “whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time” will be furloughed beginning April 19. The global entertainment empire shuttered all 12 of its theme parks on March 12 and has been paying its employees salaries in the interim. Per the latest announcement, those payments will cease on April 18. The company said in its statement it has been “forced to make the difficult decision to take the next step and furlough employees” because there is “no clear indication of when we can restart our businesses.” All furloughed workers will remain employed by Disney and retain their benefits. Mexico’s Grupo Modelo halts production of Corona beer Update 2:54 a.m. EDT April 3: Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo announced late Thursday it will temporarily halt production of Corona beer as the novel coronavirus pandemic pits essential products against those deemed nonessential. In a news release, Grupo Modelo said the move is in response to the Mexican government’s Tuesday directive that suspends temporarily most industries not deemed “essential” services such as health care and agriculture. In turn, the company plans to cease producing its brews on Sunday with no clear timeline outlined for a return to production. Supplies seized from suspected Brooklyn hoarder donated to medical staffs fighting coronavirus Update 2:32 a.m. EDT April 3: Some New York and New Jersey medical personnel are slightly better stocked after a Brooklyn man’s arrest led authorities to a stockpile of hoarded medical supplies, CNN reported. Prosecutors contend in court documents that Baruch Feldheim, 43, sold N95 masks to doctors and nurses at substantially inflated prices. In turn, the roughly 192,000 in-demand respirator masks and assorted other supplies are being redistributed to medical personnel across New York and New Jersey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Sony launches $100 million global coronavirus relief fund Update 2 a.m. EDT April 3: Sony is preparing to launch $100 million fund to provide global relief to those affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic. “Sony extends its condolences to the families of those who have passed away as a result of the coronavirus crisis and extends its sympathies to all those who have been impacted,” Kenichiro Yoshida, Sony’s president and chief executive officer, said in a prepared statement, adding, “In order to overcome the unprecedented challenges that as a society we now face around the world, we will do all we can as a global company to support the individuals on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus the children who are our future, and those who have been impacted in the creative community.' US coronavirus deaths hit 6,053, total cases top 245K Update 12:30 a.m. EDT April 3: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 245,000 early Friday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 245,540 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 6,053 deaths. U.S. cases now more than double the 115,242 reported in Italy and the 112,065 confirmed in Spain. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 2,374 – or roughly 40 percent of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 537 in New Jersey and 417 in Michigan.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 92,720 confirmed cases – or more than three times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 25,590 and California with 11,042. Seven other states have now confirmed at least 6,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • Michigan: 10,791, including 417 deaths • Louisiana: 9,159, including 310 deaths • Florida: 9,008, including 144 deaths • Massachusetts: 8,966, including 154 deaths • Illinois: 7,695, including 163 deaths • Pennsylvania: 7,268, including 90 deaths • Washington: 6,588, including 271 deaths Meanwhile, Georgia and Texas each has confirmed at least 5,000 novel coronavirus infections; Connecticut, Colorado and Indiana each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Ohio, Tennessee and Maryland each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown. The Associated Press contributed to this report.