National coronavirus updates: Worldwide cases near 2 million as states announce reopening pacts

The latest:There are more than 582,000 coronavirus cases currently in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.The U.S. death toll has surpassed 23,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins.Globally, the number of cases near 2 million with more than 119,000 deaths.All 50 states are under a federal disaster declaration for the first time in U.S. history.President Trump asserted that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines.Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said Sunday on CBS that if the social distancing measures and closures were relaxed May 1, the country would see a rebound of coronavirus cases.States form regional coalitions, work together to reopen economiesCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a pact with Oregon and Washington state, saying they’ll be working together to reopen their economies while continuing to control the coronavirus outbreak. California will have its own plan, which is slated to be presented Tuesday, but the three states agreed to key principles: safeguarding residents’ health, basing decisions on science and not politics and working collaboratively, Newsom said during his daily briefing. “We will be driven by facts. We will be driven by evidence. We will be driven by science. We will be driven by our public health advisers, and we will be driven by the collaborative spirit that defines the best of us at this incredibly important moment,” Newsom said.Multiple states in the northeast are making a similar effort. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are working together to reopen their economies.”Now it is time to start opening the valve slowly and carefully while watching the infection rate meter so we don’t trigger a second wave of new infections,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “This is not a light switch that we can just flick on and everything goes back to normal – we have to come up with a smart, consistent strategy to restart the systems we shut down and get people back to work.” Pentagon awards $415 million contract to reuse N95 masksThe Pentagon announced a major contract for 60 decontamination units that will allow millions of N95 masks to be reused as the critical masks continue to be sought after by medical professionals amid the coronavirus pandemic.The $415 million contract will allow for the acquisition of “60 Battelle Memorial Institute Critical Care Decontamination Systems (CCDS), that can decontaminate up to 80,000 used N95 respirators per system per day, enabling mask reuse up to 20 times,” according to a statement from the Pentagon.The Defense Department said six units have already been delivered to multiple US cities including two to New York, and one each to Columbus, Ohio, Boston, Chicago and Tacoma, “providing the ability to sterilize 3.4 million masks a week, reducing the need for new masks by the same number.”“All 60 systems will be available by early May for prioritization and distribution by FEMA and HHS. Once all are delivered, these 60 units will allow 4.8 million masks to be sterilized per day, almost 34 million per week,” the statement added. The location of where the remaining units will be delivered has yet to be determined.Trump has no intention of firing Fauci, White House says President Donald Trump has no intention of firing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Monday. The statement came after Trump fueled speculation about Fauci’s future on Sunday, retweeting a post that called for the expert to be fired after he said in a CNN interview more could have been done to prevent the spread of coronavirus.”Masks are not an alternative to lockdown,” WHO official saysDr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, says as the world considers getting back to normal, it’s important to remember “masks are not an alternative to lockdown.” “Everything we do in public health or in health and policy affects something else,” Ryan said. “So the pressures on people to go back to work are going to be very strong and very appropriate, but we don’t want people having to make difficult choices — and in some ways think that putting a mask on — is the same as staying home and reporting the fact that you’re sick to authorities.”“There’s huge pressure on people to go back to work, to go back to school, to participate in daily life. I don’t want to be the person at home with a fever, and with a job to go to, where I can make a calculation that instead of picking up the phone and phoning my health provider or phoning the public health authorities and asking for a test and a diagnosis, that I think that putting a mask on is an adequate response to that situation. And that is something we really have to be careful about,” Ryan added.Trump asserts he is final arbiter on coronavirus decision-makingPresident Trump asserted Monday that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines as he grows anxious to reopen the coronavirus-stricken country as soon as possible.Governors and local leaders, who have instituted mandatory restrictions that have the force of law, have expressed concern that Trump’s plan to restore normalcy will cost lives and extend the duration of the outbreak. Trump has pushed to reopen the economy, which has plummeted as businesses have shuttered, leaving millions of people out of work and struggling to obtain basic commodities.Taking to Twitter on Monday, Trump said some are “saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect…it is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.”He added, “With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!”Fauci: Earlier mitigation efforts could have saved more livesWith 1,475 more deaths reported on Sunday in the U.S., a top health official said more lives could have been saved if mitigation efforts had started sooner. All 50 states are under a federal disaster declaration for the first time in U.S. history.There are now more than 29,000 members of the National Guard on duty across the country to deal with the response to the pandemic, according to a tweet from the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Guardsmen have been called to serve a variety of roles in different states, from staffing emergency operations centers to restocking grocery shelves. The latest numbers come as Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that some lives would have been saved if coronavirus mitigation efforts had been instituted earlier.Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN that he and other federal health officials were recommending mitigation efforts like social distancing as early as mid-February.”Obviously you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” Fauci said. “If we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.”During a press briefing on Monday, Fauci said he was responding to a hypothetical question.”The first and only time that Dr. Birx and I went in and formally made a recommendation to the president to actually have a ‘shutdown’ in the sense of not really shut down, but to have strong mitigation, we discussed it,” Fauci said. “Obviously there would be concerns by some, and in fact, that might have some negative consequence. Nonetheless, the president listened to the recommendation and went to the mitigation.”Related video: An exclusive interview with Dr. FauciWeather adds to social distancing stressAs millions of Americans worried about stay-at-home orders and social distancing on Sunday, about 95 million people in nearly 20 states experienced severe weather over the weekend.A majority of the storms were across the South and East Coast, according to the National Weather Service, with tornado watches issued across areas of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. At least eight deaths were reported.Emergency officials said Sunday people sheltering from tornadoes and protecting themselves from severe weather take priority over the social distancing guidelines Americans are adhering to during the coronavirus pandemic.The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency emphasized in a tweet that people should continue social distancing practices if they go to a public shelter.”Have a safe place to go. If you go to a public shelter, please wear a mask, bandana, or scarf around your nose and mouth. Practice social distancing,” the agency’s tweet read.FDA outlines new plan to clean N95 respiratorsFor the third time in the span of two weeks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized yet another decontamination system for N95 respirators.Shortages of N95 masks and other medical supplies have plagued hospitals across the nation as they continue to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.The FDA’s announcement Sunday outlined a plan to decontaminate the respirators through a company called Advanced Sterilization Products, which could allow for the decontamination of approximately 4 million N95 respirators per day.”This authorization will help provide access to millions of respirators so our health care workers on the front lines can be better protected and provide the best care to patients with COVID-19,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn said in a news release.The company would use a system called the STERRAD Sterilization System that uses “vaporized hydrogen peroxide gas plasma sterilization,” according to the agency.More than 6,300 hospitals in the U.S. already have the system installed, according to the FDA, and each system can reprocess approximately 480 respirators per day.The system is limited to “a maximum of 2 decontamination cycles per respirator,” according to the FDA letter authorizing its use. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

The latest:

  • There are more than 582,000 coronavirus cases currently in the United States, according to the Johns Hopkins University tally.
  • The U.S. death toll has surpassed 23,000 people, according to Johns Hopkins.
  • Globally, the number of cases near 2 million with more than 119,000 deaths.
  • All 50 states are under a federal disaster declaration for the first time in U.S. history.
  • President Trump asserted that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines.
  • Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, said Sunday on CBS that if the social distancing measures and closures were relaxed May 1, the country would see a rebound of coronavirus cases.

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States form regional coalitions, work together to reopen economies

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced a pact with Oregon and Washington state, saying they’ll be working together to reopen their economies while continuing to control the coronavirus outbreak.

California will have its own plan, which is slated to be presented Tuesday, but the three states agreed to key principles: safeguarding residents’ health, basing decisions on science and not politics and working collaboratively, Newsom said during his daily briefing.

“We will be driven by facts. We will be driven by evidence. We will be driven by science. We will be driven by our public health advisers, and we will be driven by the collaborative spirit that defines the best of us at this incredibly important moment,” Newsom said.

Multiple states in the northeast are making a similar effort. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island and Massachusetts are working together to reopen their economies.

“Now it is time to start opening the valve slowly and carefully while watching the infection rate meter so we don’t trigger a second wave of new infections,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. “This is not a light switch that we can just flick on and everything goes back to normal – we have to come up with a smart, consistent strategy to restart the systems we shut down and get people back to work.”

Pentagon awards $415 million contract to reuse N95 masks

The Pentagon announced a major contract for 60 decontamination units that will allow millions of N95 masks to be reused as the critical masks continue to be sought after by medical professionals amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The $415 million contract will allow for the acquisition of “60 Battelle Memorial Institute Critical Care Decontamination Systems (CCDS), that can decontaminate up to 80,000 used N95 respirators per system per day, enabling mask reuse up to 20 times,” according to a statement from the Pentagon.

The Defense Department said six units have already been delivered to multiple US cities including two to New York, and one each to Columbus, Ohio, Boston, Chicago and Tacoma, “providing the ability to sterilize 3.4 million masks a week, reducing the need for new masks by the same number.”

“All 60 systems will be available by early May for prioritization and distribution by FEMA and HHS. Once all are delivered, these 60 units will allow 4.8 million masks to be sterilized per day, almost 34 million per week,” the statement added.

The location of where the remaining units will be delivered has yet to be determined.

Trump has no intention of firing Fauci, White House says

President Donald Trump has no intention of firing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, White House deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley said Monday.

The statement came after Trump fueled speculation about Fauci’s future on Sunday, retweeting a post that called for the expert to be fired after he said in a CNN interview more could have been done to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Masks are not an alternative to lockdown,” WHO official says

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, says as the world considers getting back to normal, it’s important to remember “masks are not an alternative to lockdown.”

“Everything we do in public health or in health and policy affects something else,” Ryan said. “So the pressures on people to go back to work are going to be very strong and very appropriate, but we don’t want people having to make difficult choices — and in some ways think that putting a mask on — is the same as staying home and reporting the fact that you’re sick to authorities.”

“There’s huge pressure on people to go back to work, to go back to school, to participate in daily life. I don’t want to be the person at home with a fever, and with a job to go to, where I can make a calculation that instead of picking up the phone and phoning my health provider or phoning the public health authorities and asking for a test and a diagnosis, that I think that putting a mask on is an adequate response to that situation. And that is something we really have to be careful about,” Ryan added.

Trump asserts he is final arbiter on coronavirus decision-making

President Trump asserted Monday that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines as he grows anxious to reopen the coronavirus-stricken country as soon as possible.

Governors and local leaders, who have instituted mandatory restrictions that have the force of law, have expressed concern that Trump’s plan to restore normalcy will cost lives and extend the duration of the outbreak.

Trump has pushed to reopen the economy, which has plummeted as businesses have shuttered, leaving millions of people out of work and struggling to obtain basic commodities.

Taking to Twitter on Monday, Trump said some are “saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect…it is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.”

He added, “With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!”

Fauci: Earlier mitigation efforts could have saved more lives

With 1,475 more deaths reported on Sunday in the U.S., a top health official said more lives could have been saved if mitigation efforts had started sooner.

All 50 states are under a federal disaster declaration for the first time in U.S. history.

There are now more than 29,000 members of the National Guard on duty across the country to deal with the response to the pandemic, according to a tweet from the chief of the National Guard Bureau. Guardsmen have been called to serve a variety of roles in different states, from staffing emergency operations centers to restocking grocery shelves.

The latest numbers come as Dr. Anthony Fauci said Sunday that some lives would have been saved if coronavirus mitigation efforts had been instituted earlier.

Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNN that he and other federal health officials were recommending mitigation efforts like social distancing as early as mid-February.

“Obviously you could logically say that if you had a process that was ongoing and you started mitigation earlier, you could have saved lives,” Fauci said. “If we had right from the very beginning shut everything down, it may have been a little bit different. But there was a lot of pushback about shutting things down back then.”

During a press briefing on Monday, Fauci said he was responding to a hypothetical question.

“The first and only time that Dr. Birx and I went in and formally made a recommendation to the president to actually have a ‘shutdown’ in the sense of not really shut down, but to have strong mitigation, we discussed it,” Fauci said. “Obviously there would be concerns by some, and in fact, that might have some negative consequence. Nonetheless, the president listened to the recommendation and went to the mitigation.”

Related video: An exclusive interview with Dr. Fauci

Weather adds to social distancing stress

As millions of Americans worried about stay-at-home orders and social distancing on Sunday, about 95 million people in nearly 20 states experienced severe weather over the weekend.

A majority of the storms were across the South and East Coast, according to the National Weather Service, with tornado watches issued across areas of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. At least eight deaths were reported.

Emergency officials said Sunday people sheltering from tornadoes and protecting themselves from severe weather take priority over the social distancing guidelines Americans are adhering to during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mississippi Emergency Management Agency emphasized in a tweet that people should continue social distancing practices if they go to a public shelter.

“Have a safe place to go. If you go to a public shelter, please wear a mask, bandana, or scarf around your nose and mouth. Practice social distancing,” the agency’s tweet read.

FDA outlines new plan to clean N95 respirators

For the third time in the span of two weeks, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized yet another decontamination system for N95 respirators.

Shortages of N95 masks and other medical supplies have plagued hospitals across the nation as they continue to fight the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The FDA’s announcement Sunday outlined a plan to decontaminate the respirators through a company called Advanced Sterilization Products, which could allow for the decontamination of approximately 4 million N95 respirators per day.

“This authorization will help provide access to millions of respirators so our health care workers on the front lines can be better protected and provide the best care to patients with COVID-19,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen M. Hahn said in a news release.

The company would use a system called the STERRAD Sterilization System that uses “vaporized hydrogen peroxide gas plasma sterilization,” according to the agency.

More than 6,300 hospitals in the U.S. already have the system installed, according to the FDA, and each system can reprocess approximately 480 respirators per day.

The system is limited to “a maximum of 2 decontamination cycles per respirator,” according to the FDA letter authorizing its use.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.