March 26 coronavirus news

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5:54 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

US overtakes Italy in total coronavirus cases

The United States now has more coronavirus cases reported than Italy.

The US now has at least 80,837 coronavirus cases, according to CNN reporting. Italy has reported at least 80,589 coronavirus cases.

China still leads the global number of reported coronavirus cases with 81,782 cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

5:57 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Trump says Navy hospital ship expected to deploy to New York City on Saturday

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

President Trump has announced that the USNS Comfort will deploy to New York City on Saturday, which is three weeks ahead of schedule.

Trump made the announcement Thursday afternoon during a coronavirus press briefing.

“The USNS Comfort — which is incredible actually when you see it inside — will be underway to New York City on Saturday,” Trump said.

“So it’s going to be leaving on Saturday rather than 3 weeks from now,” Trump said. “They did the maintenance quickly.”

“I told the governor 20 minutes ago, Gov. Cuomo, that the ship will be arriving at New York Harbor on Monday,” Trump added.

Trump said he would travel to Norfolk to “kiss it goodbye.”

The ship is currently in Virginia, the President said.

5:58 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Pentagon awards $15 million contract to retrofit Javits Center into a hospital

Staff/AFP/Getty Images
Staff/AFP/Getty Images

The Pentagon announced Thursday that it has awarded a $15 million contract to the operators of the Javits Center to convert the facility into a hospital by April 9 to help alleviate the burden the coronavirus is placing on civilian hospital infrastructure. 

This is separate than the field hospitals being set up this weekend in New York.

“New York Convention Center Operating Corp., New York, New York, was awarded a $15,250,000 firm-fixed-price contract to retrofit the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center into an alternate care facility,” the Pentagon contract announcement said.

The announcement said that the work is expected to be completed by April 9.

The US Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the contract which is being funded via “ Fiscal 2020 defense emergency response funds.”

Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said this earlier this week that he anticipates the field hospitals being used to temporarily alleviate the strain on civilian hospitals in order to allow the US Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit hotels, convention centers and college dormitories into makeshift hospitals.

“How I foresee our hospitals being used is during the early stages of the pandemic, the virus hitting a city where they're still trying to ramp up capability, bed space, we can come in for a short period of time, for a few weeks to provide that capacity until they get either gyms converted, hotels converted, college dorms converted, all those things that the Corps of Engineers is working on right now," Esper said.

 

5:39 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

New York City will increase its number of ventilators by 2,500, mayor says

 

Mark Lennihan/AP
Mark Lennihan/AP

New York City will have 2,500 more ventilators than they had 10 days ago, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday during a news conference.

This is a combination of ventilators from Federal Emergency Management Agency and other efforts, he said.

Other resources and developments: De Blasio hopes to triple the hospital bed count by May.

Right now there are about 34,000 hospital beds compared to the 20,000 the city had before, de Blasio said.

The mayor said the federal government must come through with supplies if it is going to get through May. As of Wednesday night, 200 inmates have been released, de Blasio said.

Additionally, last night New York City went below 5,000 inmates across all facilities, he said.

5:37 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

MLB commissioner says "public health situation" will guide when games start again

Al Bello/Getty Images
Al Bello/Getty Images

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said Thursday that the organization will reach a decision about when to resume its delayed season only after it's "comfortable that the public health situation supports that decision."

"We're going to resume playing when it's safe for our fans, our players and the public for us to resume playing," Manfred told CNN. "We're fortunate — we have a great panel of infectious disease experts that we rely on to help sort through the various pronouncements from different governmental agencies and politicians."

Some context: MLB announced earlier this month that it was pushing back the opening of the 2020 season indefinitely following guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that no gatherings with 50 people or more should take place for the next eight weeks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

March 26 was meant to be the official start of the MLB season.

The announcement added to a growing list of local, state and national events that were delayed or canceled in order to help curb the spread of the virus. The organization had initially said the season would be delayed at least two weeks.

5:23 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Idaho has its first deaths from coronavirus

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said in a statement three people have died from coronavirus, marking the first deaths the state has had due to the virus.

Idaho is now the 42nd state to have confirmed deaths due to coronavirus.

The agency said two of the victims are from Blaine County, with the third from Canyon County. All of them were older than 60, and at least one had underlying health issue.

“This is very sad news, and we send our condolences to the families and friends of each of these individuals,” Elke Shaw-Tulloch, the administrator for the Division of Public Health, said in a statement. “This underscores the importance of (Idaho Gov. Brad Little)’s order to stay home — we all have to do our part to slow the spread of COVID-19 and save lives.”

5:15 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Alabama schools will be closed remainder of academic year

Alabama schools will be closed the remainder of the school year, Gov. Kay Ivey said in a news conference Thursday.

The state was initially supposed to have schools back in session on April 6 but Ivey said she has amended that order to give the state's board of education the right to provide online learning for the remainder of the school year.

5:15 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Coronavirus death toll in New York City rises to 281

Anthony Behar/Sipa USA via AP
Anthony Behar/Sipa USA via AP

At least 281 people have died from coronavirus across New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said during a news conference Thursday.

About 21,873 people have been confirmed to have Covid-19 in the city, he said.

See how New York hospital is coping with surge of Covid-19 patients:

5:07 p.m. ET, March 26, 2020

Pelosi opposes any attempt by lawmakers to force vote on stimulus bill in-person

Susan Walsh/AP
Susan Walsh/AP

On an afternoon call with her Democratic Caucus, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi opposed any attempt by a lawmaker to force House members to return to Washington for the vote on the $2 trillion stimulus bill, saying such a move would be "inexcusable" and amount to "selfishness," according to two sources on the call.

Pelosi, along with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and a number of other rank-and-file were blunt about their preference for the vote to occur by voice Friday, rather than an in-person roll-call vote. 

Several members expressed concerns about traveling amid the coronavirus pandemic, noting they have health issues or live with someone with health concerns. Others noted their challenges in traveling back to Washington, DC.

At least 10 members expressed their concerns on the call, noting that the bill will pass regardless so it makes little sense to potentially endanger members' health or their families' health, one of the sources said.

Any House member can request a recorded vote Friday during consideration of the stimulus bill, which would mean the House would have to hold a vote by Monday with members returning to the Capitol to cast the vote. If no one requests a recorded vote, the bill can quickly be approved by voice vote Friday, with few members present.

At least two lawmakers, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Thomas Massie, have not ruled out requesting a recorded vote because of their concerns with the bill.