US confirms more than half a million coronavirus cases

(CNN) – More than 22,000 people in the US have died from Covid-19 — with 1,475 deaths reported on Sunday — as a top health official said more lives could have been saved if mitigation efforts had started earlier.

At least 557,300 cases of the virus have been reported in the US, with New York alone reporting 190,288, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tallY.

All 50 states are under a federal disaster declaration for the first time in US 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.

“Globally, at least 1,850,220 cases of the Covid-19 and more than 114,000 deaths have now been reported, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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 and will see more of it Monday.

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 US 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 US 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.

New York state and local government square off on school closures

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo were at odds over the weekend about the status of school closures.

De Blasio announced Saturday that public schools in the city would remain closed for the rest of the academic year. A few hours later, Cuomo said no decision had been made yet.Speaking about his relationship with de Blasio, Cuomo said Sunday he understood the mayor’s stance and that it’s “not an unreasonable position.

He added that unlike de Blasio, he has to worry about other counties and neighboring states when making decisions and said coordination with Connecticut and New Jersey would be optimal.

“We won’t open schools one minute sooner than they should be open, but we won’t open schools one minute later than they should be open either,” Cuomo said. “Whatever plan we come up with will be driven by data and science.

“Cuomo explained it is important to open business at the same time as schools because schools act in part as childcare so parents can go to work. He added opening both at the same time is also critical for restarting the economy.

“If you say the schools are closed through June, you are effectively saying businesses are closed through June because you can’t — restart the economy fully without restarting schools,” Cuomo said.De Blasio also mandated that beginning Monday, all city workers who come in contact with the public while on duty are to wear face coverings.

Easter Sunday celebrated via social distancing

Many churches marked Easter Sunday in a way that honored social distancing efforts, like streaming services online or holding worship at drive-in theaters, congregants huddled in their cars.

But some gathered anyway, putting public health restrictions on a collision course with religious institutions.

Idaho rancher Ammon Bundy, who once led an armed occupation of federal land in Oregon, was one of those who organized an Easter Sunday church service in violation of a statewide order on mass gatherings.

A livestream of the service showed dozens of people in folding chairs sitting together in Bundy’s industrial warehouse in the small city of Emmett, about 30 miles northwest of Boise, where a handmade sign reading “Defy Martial Law” was placed in front of the speaker’s podium.After the group watched a pre-recorded praise video, Bundy briefly addressed the group, saying, “When you believe in Christ … you will never infringe upon your neighbor’s rights.

“There were no signs on the livestream of anyone attempting to challenge or interrupt the service. Wayne Hoffman with the conservative Idaho Freedom Foundation — a group that has called the ban on gatherings unconstitutional — also was invited to speak.

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