CORONAVIRUS:

 What You Need To Know

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    Many people have complained about the trouble they have had filing for unemployment benefits on the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity website. Some say the site kept crashing on them, or if they tried to use the phones, they would spend hours on it to no avail. In response to this, DEO director Ken Lawson has issued an apology during a virtual town hall meeting this week and has said they will now use paper applications to help work through the backlog. However, one thing they stress on the website is that if you do choose to use the paper application process, it could take even longer to process than the online application.  You can access the paper application in three different languages, along with the mailing address here.
  • During a meeting with Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings Friday afternoon, he said there are nearly 600 cases of COVID-19 in the county alone.  Dr. Raul Pino says that over 6,000 tests have been conducted for the virus and that he projects that the number of positive cases could reach 1,000 by next Friday. As a way of keeping track of 'hot spots' where the cases are spreading, they have released a 'heat map', which shows the total number of positive cases, as well as those persons who are being monitored or under investigation as a potential case.  You can see the map and the affected zip codes here. Meanwhile in Seminole County, there are nearly 200 confirmed cases and only one death related to the virus. The Seminole County Emergency Operations Center is operating at Level 1 and has also released a hot spot map, but it is not clear if this is based on zip codes or municipalities. There are also no definitive numbers released on the map yet.   
  • The University of Central Florida east Orlando campus will open Orange County’s second drive-thru testing site for COVID-19. From UCF: A drive-through site where members of the community with an appointment can be tested for COVID-19 will open at UCF on Monday, April 6.  The site is a partnership between UCF and Aventus Biolabs, a private genetics testing lab owned and operated by Aventus Health, a healthcare company with headquarters in Orlando. Individuals must have an appointment in order to receive a test, which will be administered in UCF’s Garage A, located at 12491 University Boulevard, weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (appointments may end before 5 p.m. if the daily appointments are filled earlier). Those who do not have an appointment will be turned away. To secure an appointment and have a test ordered for them, individuals must contact Aventus by calling 855-282-4860. Providers will screen patients for symptoms and issue an order form if they qualify for testing. UCF students can obtain an ordered test from Student Health Services telehealth by calling 407-823-2701. UCF faculty and staff members can obtain their ordered test from their primary care provider by contacting UCF Health at 407-266-3627. After the patient has been screened by a provider, Aventus’ client services team will reach out to complete all necessary paperwork and schedule an appointment for testing. Upon arrival during a scheduled time, individuals will drive through and receive the testing with a swab designated specifically for them. The average test takes about 10 minutes or less from the start of the appointment. The efficiency of this process will allow for individuals to receive their test results in about 24 to 48 hours. However, it is critical that appointments are made ahead of time, as this process does not allow for unscheduled testing.  Aventus has capacity to test about 250 people per day. The individuals who qualify for testing at UCF may not meet all of the criteria required by the Florida Department of Health in order to be tested at a county testing site, but still have been prescreened for symptoms and advised by healthcare providers to be tested. To learn more about COVID-19 and how testing is performed, visit Aventus’ site at https://www.aventushealth.com. UCF is regularly sharing information about COVID-19’s impact to university operations here: https://www.ucf.edu/safety/coronavirus/.
  • The break-in was in the middle of the night. Jenny Hackney, owner of Gratitude Coffee in College Park, told News 96.5 WDBO how her cafe was burglarized and trashed last month.  “The first night of the curfew, they came in the back door. I had a tray of pastries in my left hand, [and] as I unlocked the door, I saw just a mess everywhere,” said Hackney. Hackney says they caught the man on a camera from another business a couple of doors down. It was a man who had been in her shop a week before.  “He was in my shop, he was acting a little erratic and I had never seen him before. I gave him a free cup of coffee and he went to sit down and I stopped him and I said no one can stay it’s only takeout. He thought I was being critical of his appearance. I wasn’t. It was because of the virus,” said Hackney. Her most significant loss from the burglary was something of sentimental value. “But the saddest thing was he took my first-generation iPad. It’s got pictures of my son’s wedding and pictures of my beloved dogs that died. And all kinds of stuff that means something.”  When Hackney posted an update on Instagram saying her shop would be closed for the day, the community quickly came to her rescue. She received text messages, phone calls and nearly twenty people came out to help clean up!  “Somebody came from The Glass Knife—I’d never met them before—he was the Director of Operations, and he gave me five big bags of coffee and four gallons of milk because they saw my post online and they wanted to support me,” said Hackney. Rob Chase, the owner of Digress Wine, let her borrow his dehumidifier.  “I just happened to be driving by and I noticed her outside, which was odd. I checked in and the poor place was just trashed. She’s been a huge component of my success here, with caffeination. We have a great little community down here. Before we knew it, there were probably a dozen people out here helping,” said Chase.  “Everybody just wrapped me up with love and support—it was nice,” Hackney said with a smile.
  • The Walt Disney Company has announced it will furlough “employees whose jobs aren’t necessary at this time” beginning April 19, a spokesperson said Thursday. It is the world’s largest single-site employer, with more than 75,000 people working for them in Central Florida. It is the second major theme park in Central Florida to announce mass furloughs, following SeaWorld last week. Walt Disney World has been paying most of its employees for weeks since the parks shut down March 16, and the hotels March 20. Disney employees have received full pay and benefits until April 19, for a total of five additional weeks of compensation. Furloughed employees will remain Disney employees during the furlough, and will receive full health care benefits. Those enrolled in Disney Aspire will have continued access to the education program. “I thought I was safe from it all and then today I’m just sitting there and then this pops up and then instantly like, ‘What am I going to do?’” said Caroline Suddeth, a Disney employee who is set to be furloughed. In an internal letter WFTV obtained from a cast member, the company said it is instituting a temporary, short-term furlough for executive, salaried and non-union hourly cast members. Suddeth falls in that category. “I instantly was like, 'OK, well, how am I supposed to pay my rent because I just signed a lease on a new apartment,” she said. Employees with available paid time off can elect to use some of it at the start of the furlough period, the spokesperson said. Once furloughed, they are eligible to receive an extra $600 per week in federal compensation through the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill, as well as state unemployment insurance. Disney said in the internal letter that “the furlough allows us to preserve the jobs of cast members who are and will continue to be an important part of the Disney family, and provide an easier return to work when our communities recover from the impact of COVID-19.” Suddeth said she plans to file for unemployment immediately. “I guess I am just playing the waiting game at this point, just hoping they are going to call us back in a month or so and let us know that we have to go back to work,” she said. “It’s all just waiting now.” Disney is set to have a meeting with unions today. Additionally, starting Sunday, April 5, 2020 Disney will stop automatic payments for annual passholders on the monthly payment plan.  This will continue while the parks are closed.  Payments will continue once the parks re-open but Disney will not extend the expiration dates. Disney says guests can instead choose to extend the expiration date on the pass by the number of days the park remains closed. Passholders will be able to select their preferred option on the passport account or by calling 407-939-7277.
  • After weeks at sea and being turned away from other countries, two cruise ships were given the OK to dock in Fort Lauderdale Thursday afternoon. The Zaandam and Rotterdom both docked Thursday afternoon. Among the passengers on the Zaandam were Jim Wing and his wife Mount Dora, who were traveling for her birthday. “It was supposed to be a birthday celebration of my stepmother Colleen, and it’s turned into a nightmare,” said Nate Wing, Jim Wing’s son, from his home in Windermere. Passengers who aren’t sick were given the OK to be escorted off but not allowed to have contact with other people. Those who do have symptoms are not allowed to leave, including Jim Wing of Mount Dora. His family’s cruise ship was turned away in Chile, and was nearly kept from passing through the Panama Canal. Four people aboard have died from COVID-19, and passengers have been quarantined. Jim and Colleen live in Mount Dora. The cruise ship is looking to dock Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, but there is uncertainty if the ship will even be allowed to come in. On Tuesday, Gov. Ron. DeSantis expressed concern about stress on local health care resources, saying, “I think these are mostly foreign nationals that would use resources we need for Floridians.” On Wednesday, DeSantis said, “Clearly we’re going to be willing to accept any Floridians on board. My understanding is most passengers are foreign nationals.” President Donald Trump weighed in as well, saying we must show humanity. “There are people who are sick on the ships,” Trump said. The 77-year-old has a heart condition and has been sick with flu like symptoms for about a week and is believed to have COVID-19. “It’s really tough. My father’s been really sick, and they happen to be in an inside stateroom, too,” Nate said. Nate has started a petition that he said will hopefully lead the governor or Broward County officials to make the call to allow the ship in so he can see his parents get home, and so his father can get the medical attention he needs. “These are real people, real lives, not just them, but everyone on that boat,' Nate said. The ship, owned by the world’s biggest cruise operator, Carnival, was turned away from Brazil and other South American ports nearly two weeks ago. The company said it had 6,000 passengers stuck at sea. And yet another cruise ship is still at sea waiting for permission to dock in Fort Lauderdale. Princess cruise line’s Coral Princess was turned away from Brazil and other South American ports nearly two weeks ago, 12 people on board are have tested positive for COVID-19. The company said it had 6,000 passengers stuck at sea, all are self-isolating in their rooms.
  • The lights in the windows of Disney’s Contemporary Resort form the shape of a heart and a Mickey is shaped on the Bay Lake Tower. The photos captured by Thomas Radzak were shared on his twitter page. This photo of a heart standing tall over downtown Orlando was captured by News 96.5 WDBO’s own Joe Kelley.  The show of love and solidarity is lighting up the night skies across the nation as Americans creatively reach out to each other in this new world of social-distancing. On social media #aworldofhearts is trending with pictures of hearts in all sizes and colors posted in the windows of houses, hospitals, apartments and nursing homes.  A public Facebook group called Heart Hunters has nearly 700,000 members who are “trying to spread a little love and compassion.”  Both were inspired by a post suggesting people put hearts in windows for kids to see while out walking and also give them a craft to work on at home.  People are being encouraged to post their messages online so everyone, even those who cannot go outside, can see them.  Be prepared to smile and possibly shed a tear if you take an hour or so to scroll through some of the heartfelt inspiration, which doesn’t always come in the form of a heart - but from the heart. Take a look at this post from Rocio N John Teliha who thought her 11-year-old son was just practicing on his trumpet, then noticed he played The Star Spangled Banner at 6:30 p.m. each day.  App users click here to see the video.  When she finally asked him why, she said his answer “melted my heart.” He told her he played to show hope and let everyone know we will be okay.
  • Right now, it’s more important than ever to limit your exposure inside public places like grocery stores. But we still need essential items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies! The last thing you want to do is trek to Walmart—only to find the shelves empty. Check out InStok.org. You type in the search bar the item you’re looking for and your zipcode (to find the store nearest you.) There is a disclaimer saying, 'If an item is not on the shelf, it is possibly at the back or someone must've bought the item since inventory was last updated. This is just a tool to guide you in the right direction instead of randomly trying different stores. If you really need an item, call and speak to a store associate in advance. Please do not buy more than you need.'  ABC News reports InStok was created by two teenage University of Austin students in March to help consumers find products nearby.  You can compare prices from various stores, as well as get text alerts for when products are back in stock. 
  • Governor Ron DeSantis announced he will issue a 30-day stay-at-home order for Florida, set to begin early Friday morning. The order will “limit movements and personal interactions outside the home,” DeSantis said. READ THE ENTIRE EXECUTIVE ORDER HERE. Only essential services will be allowed to operate.  The governor outlines them as follows: Attending religious services conducted in churches, synagogues and houses of worship Participating in recreational activities (consistent with social distancing guidelines) such as walking, biking, hiking, fishing, hunting, running, or swimming Taking care of pets Caring for or otherwise assisting a loved one or friend. Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce detailed by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security  -- WHICH YOU CAN FIND HERE. ^That’s a long list that includes 16 different industries deemed “essential critical.” DeSantis said some businesses can be added to the list if they are deemed essential. The order will begin at midnight on Thursday (Friday morning)and will last for the next 30 days. DeSantis said construction on Sand Lake Road will be accelerated.
  • For Jim and Colleen Wing, a two-week cruise aboard the Holland America Zaandam was supposed to be a special trip. “It was supposed to be a birthday celebration of my stepmother Colleen, and it’s turned into a nightmare,” said Nate Wing, Jim Wing’s son, from his home in Windermere. Jim Wing is 77 years old, has a heart condition and has been sick from what he believes to be COVID-19. “It’s really tough. My father’s been really sick, and they happen to be in an inside stateroom, too,” Nate said. His family’s cruise ship was turned away in Chile, and was nearly kept from passing through the Panama Canal. Four people aboard have died and all passengers have been quarantined. Holland America said a second ship,  Rotterdam,  took on nearly 1,400 people who appear to be healthy from its sister ship, leaving 450 guests and 602 crew members on the Zaandam. More than 190 say they are sick and two are said to be in need of emergency assistance, there are about 300 U.S. citizens are on both ships combined. Jim and Colleen live in Mount Dora. The cruise ship is looking to dock Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, but there is uncertainty if the ship will even be allowed to come in. On Tuesday, Gov. Ron. DeSantis expressed concern about stress on local health care resources, saying, “I think these are mostly foreign nationals that would use resources we need for Floridians.” Nate has started a petition that he said will hopefully lead the governor or Broward County officials to make the call to allow the ship in so he can see his parents get home, and so his father can get the medical attention he needs. “These are real people, real lives, not just them, but everyone on that boat,' Nate said. William Burke, chief maritime officer for Carnival, which owns Holland America, told Broward County Commissioners “we are coming to the place of last resort,” and that his staff had worked through the night on a docking plan. The meeting ended Tuesday without a decision as the cruise line continues to work out the details to dock the ship taking all the precautions advised by the CDC and other agencies. Carnival said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Tuesday that it has about 6,000 passengers on ships that are still at sea, and the company expects to have them disembarked by the end of April.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • More than 1.15 million people worldwide -- including more than 290,000 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 Saturday, April 4, continue below:  1,224 people die in US, most in single day Update 9:49 p.m. EDT April 4: Health officials reported 1,224 deaths in the U.S. Saturday, the most in a single day since the coronavirus pandemic began. The previous day with the most deaths was Friday with 1,094, CNN reported. There are more than 305,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 8,300 deaths in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins virus tracking site. Wyoming is the only state that has not yet reported a death. Nearly 10,000 NYPD, FDNY first responders out sick Update 8:11 p.m. EDT April 4: Amid increased calls because of the coronavirus, about 1 in 4 Fire Department of New York emergency responding personnel called out sick Friday, the department said. More than 3,000 emergency medical technicians, paramedics and firefighters called out, WNBC reported. The FDNY responded to more than 6,500 calls Monday, a spike of more than 500 calls from the day before, WNBC reported. Officials said they normally get about 4,000 calls a day.More than 400 members of the FDNY have tested positive for the coronavirus. Other first responders are feeling the effects of the virus too. One in 6 members of the New York Police Department are out sick or in quarantine, according to The New York Times. On Thursday, 6,498 members of the force called in sick reporting flu-like symptoms.There are more than 113,000 confirmed cases of the virus in New York state and more than 3,500 deaths. Queen Elizabeth to address coronavirus in rare television appearance  Update 7:15 p.m. EDT April 4: Queen Elizabeth II is expected to address the coronavirus pandemic in a rare television appearance Sunday. She recorded the speech Friday, CNN reported. It will be broadcast at 8 p.m. local time. “I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time. A time of disruption in the life of our country: a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many, and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all,” the Queen is expected to say Sunday, CNN reported. It is the fourth time the Queen has made a special address, NBC News reported. The last time was in 2002 following the death of the Queen Mother. She also spoke on television in 1997 ahead of Princess Diana’s funeral and in 1991 regarding the first Gulf War. There are more than 42,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and more than 4,300 deaths in the United Kingdom, according to Johns Hopkins virus tracking information. US cases top 300,000 as death toll passes 8,000 Update 4:56 p.m. EDT April 4: More than 300,000 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in the U.S. as deaths surpassed 8,000 on Saturday afternoon, The New York Times reported. Health officials believe the number of infected is much higher. President Donald Trump said at the Saturday coronavirus task force news conference that “there will be a lot of death” in the coming week, CNN reported. There are more than 113,000 coronavirus cases and 3,500 deaths in New York state. Worldwide, more than 1.1 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus and 59,000 people have died. CDC to begin testing for antibodies Update 3:08 p.m. EDT April 4: Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said they have begun testing to learn whether people have been previously infected with the coronavirus, The New York Times reported. The serology tests detect antibodies that the immune system makes in response to the virus, the newspaper reported. Joe Bresee, deputy incident manager of the agency’s COVID-19 response, said testing will focus on people in areas with a high concentration of cases; people in a representative sample of other areas and special groups of people who are likely to have had a higher risk of being exposed to the virus, the Times reported. The CDC also announced it expanded its online information about the coronavirus, adding a weekly report that will include figures on outpatient and emergency department visits, hospitalizations, deaths and data on testing, according to the Times. Astros pitcher Justin Verlander donating paychecks Update 2:11 p.m. EDT April 4: Houston Astros pitcher Justin Verlander posted a video, including his wife, Kate Upton, on his Instagram page and said he will donate his major league baseball paychecks to different organizations. “Everyone around the world is affected by this virus, and we hope to contribute to the families and jobs affected, the healthcare workers and first responders on the front lines and the many others in need of basic necessities, medical supplies and support at home.” Verlander said in the video. New York death toll tops 3,500 Update 1:44 p.m. EDT April 4:  The death toll in       New York state jumped to 3,565 on Saturday, an increase of 630 from Friday,       The New York Times reported. Confirmed cases in New York now stand at 113,704, according to       The Washington Post . There are now 290,606 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States and more than 7,700 fatalities.      “By the numbers, we’re not yet at the apex. We’re getting closer,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference. “I want to get to the other side of the apex, and let’s just slide down that mountain.” Shoe designer Sergio Rossi dies from COVID-19 complications Update 1:31 p.m. EDT April 4:  Legendary women’s shoe designer Sergio Rossi died of complications from coronavirus in northern       Italy , hospital officials confirmed. He was 84. An official at the Maurizio Bufalini Hospital in Cesena, confirmed Rossi’s death to       CNN but did not provide any other information, including when the designer died.      “Today everyone at Sergio Rossi joins me in remembering our dear Sergio, the inspiring founder of our dream,” Riccardo Sciutto. Sergio Rossi CEO, told       Vogue . “Sergio Rossi was a master. His vision and approach will remain our guide in the growth of the brand and the business. He loved women and was able to capture a woman’s femininity in a unique way, creating the perfect extension of a woman’s leg through his shoes. '      Cuomo says China donating 1,000 ventilators to New York Update 11:29 a.m. EDT April 4:  Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference Saturday that New York will receive 1,140 ventilators from China and Oregon. Cuomo said 1,000 ventilators from China were expected to arrive sometime Saturday at John F. Kennedy International Airport.      “This is a big deal and it’s going to make a significant difference for us. Also, the state of Oregon contacted us and is going to send 140 ventilators,” Cuomo said at the news conference. “Which is I can tell you just astonishing and unexpected. And I want to thank Gov. (Kate) Brown, I want to thank all of the people in the state of Oregon for their thoughtfulness.” Cuomo says China donating 1,000 ventilators to New York Coral Princess ship docks in Miami with 2 dead, captain says Update 10:56 a.m. EDT April 4:  Two people aboard the Coral Princess cruise ship, which reported 12 positive cases of the coronavirus Thursday, docked in Miami early Saturday and reported that two people died overnight, the       Miami Herald  reported. The ship’s captain announced the deaths,       The Washington Post  reported.      The captain did not say whether the two passengers who died were among the confirmed COVID-19 cases but said they were being treated in the ship’s medical center when they passed away, the       Post reported, citing a recording of the captain’s announcement.      The announcement was confirmed by Shannon Kilbane, a passenger from California, the       Herald reported..“I know how difficult this news is to bear, but given the current situation, we remain committed to transparent and consistent communication with you,” the captain said in the announcement, according to the       Post.  “This information will need to be shared with shoreside authorities and will become public, so I wanted you to hear it from me first.”           Global death toll tops 60,000 Update 9:52 a.m. EDT April 4:  The worldwide death toll for the coronavirus moved past 60,000 Saturday morning and has infected more than 1.13 million people according to       Johns Hopkins University . The United States has more than 270,400 cases and more than 7,100 deaths.                                                                                Texas records 100th death Update 9:46 a.m. EDT April 4:  The death toll in Texas from the coronavirus has reached 100 people, the       Houston Chronicle reported. The state has more than 6,050 confirmed COVDI-19 cases, the newspaper reported. As of Friday, Houston had 506 cases and eight deaths, while unincorporated Harris County had 519 cases and five deaths, according to the       Chronicle. 600 French soldiers test positive Update 9:29 a.m. EDT April 4:  Approximately 600 members of the French military have tested positive for the coronavirus,       The Washington Post reported Saturday.      In an       interview , France’s Defense Minister Florence Parly told the Le Dauphiné libéré newspaper that the ministry was monitoring the situation “very closely.” Parly said the ability of the army to carry out missions was “not impacted,' the       Post reported.      AutoNation furloughs 7,000 employees, cuts executives’ pay Update 9:02 a.m. EDT April 4:  AutoNation announced in filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it is furloughing 7,000 employees, cutting the pay of its top executives and imposing a hiring freeze as the auto dealer giant is feeling the economic pinch caused by the coronavirus. The report, filed Thursday, noted that AutoNation cut advertising spending by nearly 50% for the second quarter of 2020. The company also reduced discretionary spending and postponed more than $50 million in capital spending during the second quarter, scoring to the filing.      'The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted, and is expected to continue to  adversely impact, AutoNation’s operations,” the company said in the filing. France becomes 5th nation to surpass China’s total coronavirus count  Update 7:43 a.m. EDT April 4 : The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus hit 59,884 early Saturday, and the latest surge in cases in France pushed the European nation’s total past that of China, where the illness was first detected in December.       In the four months since the virus was first identified in       Wuhan, China , it has infected at least 1,131,713 people worldwide,       according to a tally maintained by Johns Hopkins University . Five countries – the       United States, Spain, Italy, Germany and       France – have now confirmed total infection counts well above China’s 82,526 cases.       • The       United States has reported 278,458 cases, resulting in 7,159 deaths.       •       Spain has confirmed 124,736 cases, resulting in 11,744 deaths.       •       Italy has reported 119,827 infections, resulting in 14,681 deaths.       •       Germany has reported 91,159 cases, resulting in 1,275 deaths.       •       France has confirmed 83,029 infections, resulting in 6,520 deaths.       •       China has recorded 82,543 cases, resulting in 3,330 deaths.       •       Iran has recorded 55,743 cases, resulting in 3,452 deaths.       • The       United Kingdom has reported 38,697 cases, resulting in 3,611 deaths.       •       Turkey has recorded 20,921 cases, resulting in 425 deaths.       •       Switzerland has confirmed 19,702 cases, resulting in 60 deaths.      New York’s first responders union chief calls coronavirus efforts ‘battlefield triage’ Update 5:17 a.m. EDT April 4 : An emergency personnel official minced no words when describing the scale and gravity of the toll the novel coronavirus crisis is taking on the city’s first responders and medical personnel.      'We’re in wartime mode,” Michael Greco, vice president of the New York City Fire Department Bureau of Emergency Medical Services union, told       CNN .      'If we don’t get a return of circulation, after 20 minutes we are terminating the CPR, and we are not transporting,” Greco       told the network .      To date, the state of New York has confirmed 103,060 infections – resulting in 2,935 deaths – or nearly one-third of the total 278,458 U.S. cases.       According to a Johns Hopkins University tally , 1,867 of the state’s deaths have occurred within New York City.      Prior to the novel coronavirus pandemic, Greco said he and his fellow paramedics typically witnessed one or two cardiac arrests per week. One New York crew handled seven cardiac arrests on Thursday, alone, Greco told       CNN .      “As an EMT (emergency medical technician) or a paramedic, doctors too, and nurses, we all swore oaths to do everything we can to save a life and now we’re making decisions that we were never trained for to handle mentally,” he       told the network .      US Attorney General Barr orders release of vulnerable federal inmates to limit coronavirus spread Update 2:33 a.m. EDT April 4 : U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr ordered the release late Friday night of vulnerable inmates to home confinement in a bid to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus in federal prisons.      In a memorandum,      obtained by The Washington Post , requested the Federal Bureau of Prisons move elderly inmates and those with preexisting health conditions from Danbury, Connecticut; Oakdale, Louisiana; and Elkton, Ohio.     According to the      Post , prison officials have attributed five deaths at Oakdale and two at Elkton to the coronavirus. Meanwhile, Danbury has confirmed nine COVID-19 infections but no deaths.     “I believe strongly we should do everything we can to protect the inmates in our care, but we must do so in a careful and individualized way that remains faithful to our duty to protect the public and the law enforcement officers who protect us all,”      Barr wrote .     White House attorney tapped to oversee coronavirus business loans Update 2:10 a.m. EDT April 4 : President Donald Trump nominated a White House attorney late Friday night to oversee distribution of emergency business loans aimed at minimizing the impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.     According to      The Wall Street Journal , Trump nominated Brian D. Miller as special inspector general for pandemic recovery, giving him oversight of a $500 billion emergency relief fund.     Read more      here .     SCOTUS cancels April arguments amid coronavirus threat Update 1:55 a.m. EDT April 4 : The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday officially canceled its scheduled oral arguments for April, citing health risks associated with the novel coronavirus pandemic.     According to      The Washington Post , about 20 cases are already stalled following the postponement of March arguments, and the justices offered little clarity regarding a timeline for finishing the current term.     “The court will consider rescheduling some cases from the March and April sessions before the end of the term, if circumstances permit in light of public health and safety guidance at that time,” Public Information Officer Kathleen Arberg said in a news release. US coronavirus deaths hit 7,157, total cases near 278K Posted 12:55 a.m. EDT April 4 : The number of novel coronavirus cases in the      United States approached 278,000 early Saturday 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 277,965 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 7,157 deaths. U.S. cases now more than double the 119,827 reported in      Italy and the 119,199 confirmed in      Spain .     Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 2,935 – or roughly 40 percent of the nationwide total – have occurred in      New York , 646 in      New Jersey and 479 in      Michigan .      In terms of diagnosed cases,      New York remains the hardest hit with at least 103,060 confirmed cases – more than three times the next-closest state – followed by      New Jersey with 29,895 and      Michigan with 12,744.     Six other states have now confirmed at least 8,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: •      California : 12,399, including 270 deaths     •      Massachusetts : 10,402, including 192 deaths     •      Louisiana : 10,297, including 370 deaths     •      Florida : 10,268, including 170 deaths     •      Illinois : 8,904, including 210 deaths     •      Pennsylvania : 8,570, including 102 deaths     Meanwhile,      Washington state,      Texas and      Georgia each has confirmed at least 6,000 novel coronavirus infections;      Connecticut, Colorado, Indiana, Ohio and      Tennessee each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and      Maryland, North Carolina, Missouri, Virginia and      Wisconsin each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases.     Click      here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown .    
  • To help reduce the density of homeless people staying in shelters and slow the spread of the coronavirus, King County announced Thursday that it will move nearly 400 people to hotels. The county negotiated with three hotels that will serve as temporary shelters for those who are experiencing homelessness. One hundred people will move to a hotel in Bellevue, 90 people will be moved to a hotel in SeaTac and 200 people will move to a hotel in Renton. The hotels will not be isolation or quarantine facilities, officials said. The people moving to the hotels are presumed to be well. Officials with the county said this will allow those locations to stay open 24/7. Shelter operators will be on-site to provide oversight. The transition from the shelters is expected to happen early next week. County officials said they are finalizing agreements with the hotels, which will not be open to other guests during the coronavirus emergency.
  • Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, many life celebrations, like birthday parties and weddings, have had to be postponed or even canceled. But for Marty Jacobs, whose grandfather, Junior Jacobs, turned 90, there wasn’t a chance that he was going to let the milestone birthday pass without some kind of celebration, even if it meant celebrating from afar. Junior Jacobs lives in a long-term assisted living facility, which is currently not allowing any family members inside the rooms at this time due to the coronavirus outbreak. From Jacobs’ smile, you can tell his day was made. Luckily, he has a personal balcony, so his caretakers were able to bring him outside. His family members waved, sang “Happy Birthday” and waved a big 90th birthday banner from the green lawn outside the building. Although these can be bittersweet moments not getting to be with loved ones during these celebrations, it shows the power of human connection is still very present.
  • A nurse in Washington state is sharing her heartbreaking story after helping facilitate a goodbye on FaceTime between a daughter and her mother, who was in the hospital dying of the coronavirus. Michelle Bennett first shared her story with KIRO-TV last week. Her 75-year-old mother, Carolann Gann, was living at Issaquah Nursing and Rehabilitation Center when other patients got the coronavirus. She tested positive and was soon at a hospital. Registered nurse Tatyana Huber said she and two other nurses donned their protective gear and worked to make Gann as comfortable as possible as they set up a FaceTime call with Bennett to say goodbye. Despite health care workers’ greatest efforts, Gann’s condition deteriorated. But because of the contagious nature of the disease, family members were not allowed in her room. “We felt honored,” Huber said. “We felt so honored we could do that and facilitate that for her.” Gann herself was a nurse for 38 years. The Bennetts were thankful these nurses could be there when they could not. “The nurses were so good at rubbing her head and holding her hand,” Bennett said. “Michelle had shared some things that she’d like for us to do for her mom if she could be there,” Huber said, “and they were things like holding her hand and just rubbing her head, reminding her that she was loved and that it was OK. And we did those things for her in (Bennett’s) absence.” Bennett, a former Sammamish police chief and now a major with the King County Sheriff’s Office, said nurses like Huber are truly heroic, finding ways for families to still connect with their loved ones. “I was able to say goodbye and tell her I love her,” Bennett said. “I look at the nurse, and she has all her stuff on, and she’s crying.” Huber said she wants families dealing with the same heart-wrenching distance to know they are doing all they can to help. “Please know that we're doing everything to make sure that your family member does not feel scared and alone when it's their time,” she said. “Please know that we're there for them, and just share with us what we can do to make them feel safe and comfortable.” Huber told KIRO-TV that during Gann’s goodbye with her daughter, one of the nurses in the room actually had to step outside. “She was quite tearful, as well, and she felt so overwhelmed,” she said. “So just being able to cover each other every once in a while, allow each other to take some additional breaks and just take some time to breathe and reconnect with yourself before we’re able to go back and care for our patients.” Huber also has a simple message for the community right now: Stay home. “We don’t want you and your family to be in a situation where you can’t be there to say goodbye,” she said. “Just please, continue the good work with social distancing and staying home. It won’t be forever.”
  • A large, revolutionary decontamination system being installed at Camp Murray, which will be able to clean and sterilize up to 80,000 protective N95 respirator masks every day, is being called an exciting breakthrough that could help solve the shortage of masks for health care professionals fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The process, called the Critical Care Decontamination System, uses four retrofitted shipping containers joined together, and so far, it’s the only one of it’sits kind anywhere on the West Coast. The system- which was quickly invented and refined by the Ohio-based science and technology company Battelle- uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide and alcohol to clean and sanitize used masks that would have otherwise been tossed in biohazard bags after a single use. It received a rush “emergency” approval from the Food and Drug Administration after it was proven to be effective in sanitizing a single mask up to 20 times after use in contaminated conditions. There are only four of them in the country now, and they’re expected to help or even end the shortage of masks for health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. “The decontamination procedure is about 3 1/2 hours, followed by several hours of aeration to get to a level where staff can reenter that space,” said Will Richter, principal scientist at Battelle. Cassie Sauer, who runs the Washington State Hospital Association, said the system could make a major impact on the vast shortage of personal protective equipment for first responders and health care workers. 'We are really excited about this decontamination unit coming to Washington,' Sauer said. 'We're really grateful that we're one of the first sites selected to have this unit.' The system is expected to run around the clock and put more than half a million masks safely back in use in hospitals, clinics and fire departments every week. 'So when a delivery truck shows up to drop off their next shipment, they'll drop off, reload with the PPE that's been decontaminated the previous day,' said Richter. “The shortage of PPE is serious. It’s really significant, and N95 masks are the best protection for workers against COVID spread,” said Sauer. “So the chance that we can reuse the masks we have now and know we’re doing it safely is just tremendous.” The Battelle Critical Care Decontamination System is expected to be fully functional at Camp Murray by April 7.

Washington Insider

  • With the threat of the Coronavirus spurring calls from Democrats for broader use of mail-in voting in the 2020 General Election, President Donald Trump on Friday sternly denounced the idea, even though he just cast a ballot in recent weeks using a mail-in ballot system in Florida. 'It shouldn't be mail-in voting, it should be you go to a booth,' President Trump said at his regular Coronavirus briefing. 'You don't send it in the mail where people pick up all sorts of bad things could happen,' Mr. Trump added, alleging that mail-in elections could create fraud. 'I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting,' the President said, though his special commission on voter fraud made no such findings. But while the President and some Republicans in Congress have objected to the effort to expand mail-in voting for this year because of the virus outbreak, not all GOP elected officials oppose the idea of expanded mail-in voting opportunities. With the Coronavirus causing troubles right now, the Secretary of State in Georgia - a Republican - is sending absentee ballot request forms to every single registered voter in the state for the May 19 primary election. 'They will simply have to fill out and return the application to vote by mail in the upcoming elections with no in-person risk of exposure to COVID-19,' Georgia Secretary of State John Raffesnperger's office said. In Nevada, state officials decided to go one step further than Georgia. 'All active registered voters in Nevada will be mailed an absentee ballot for the primary election,' Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske announced. 'No action or steps, such as submitting an absentee ballot request application, will be required by individual voters in order to receive a ballot in the mail.' While the President said voters should use a voting booth, Mr. Trump voted absentee - by mail - in the Florida Primary just last month. Federal elections official estimate almost 24 percent of the votes cast in the 2016 election were cast using absentee-by-mail balloting, an option used by the President's home state of Florida and over 30 other states. Some states - most notably Washington, Oregon, California and Colorado - have shifted to mail-in voting.