Coronavirus Live Updates The latest news and updates related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The novel coronavirus, first detected at the end of 2019, has caused a global pandemic.

Coronavirus Live Updates

Latest news and updates on the pandemic

The nationwide move to close churches, synagogues and mosques as part of the broader effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus is meeting some new resistance.

In a new "safer-at-home" order banning many activities, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Wednesday said "attending religious services" as among the "essential" activities that would be permitted. The order came two days after the arrest of a Tampa pastor, Rodney Howard-Browne, who held worship services in defiance of a local ban on large gatherings. That ban is now effectively overruled.

Governors in several other states have also designated houses of worship as providing essential services and thus exempt from shutdown orders. Those provisions have come in the wake of criticism, largely from conservatives, that any order to close churches constitutes a violation of the principle of religious freedom.

Liberty Counsel, a legal advocacy group that represents evangelical Christian interests, agreed to represent Howard-Browne and harshly criticized the move to force churches to close.

"Why is it the church can't meet when it has a constitutional right to do so and has undertaken extraordinary efforts to protect people, but commercial businesses can meet with no constitutional protections and many do nothing to protect anyone?" the organization said in a press release.

A coalition of Catholic leaders on Wednesday similarly issued an open letter calling on authorities to recognize religious services as essential and pleading for the allowance of "some form of a public mass," especially at Easter.

Many churches and other houses of worship have been forced to close in response to government bans on public gatherings of more than ten people. It is not yet clear whether the broadening move to include religious institutions as essential will allow churches, synagogues, and mosques to reopen.

In several states that do not explicitly mandate church closures, religious leaders are strongly recommended to suspend services.

An executive order issued Tuesday by Texas Governor Greg Abbott explicitly designated religious worship as essential and thus exempt from a mandate that "every person" in the state "minimize social gatherings" and "in-person contact," and it overruled the local bans on large gatherings that had forced the closure of many Texas churches.

Legal guidance issued in connection with Abbott's executive order, however, advised that houses of worship "must, whenever possible," conduct their activities remotely.

Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne performs at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in 2007. Jason Merritt/TERM/FilmMagic for Superfly Presents hide caption

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Jason Merritt/TERM/FilmMagic for Superfly Presents

Adam Schlesinger of Fountains of Wayne performs at the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in 2007.

Jason Merritt/TERM/FilmMagic for Superfly Presents

Adam Schlesinger, one of the most prolific and decorated songwriters of his generation, died Wednesday from complications caused by COVID-19. He was 52.

His death was confirmed to NPR by his lawyer, Josh Grier.

With former songwriting partner Chris Collingwood, Schlesinger enjoyed his greatest commercial success as a musician with Fountains of Wayne, which released five studio albums between 1996 and 2011. In 2003, "Stacy's Mom" was a hit for the band; that song later helped Fountains of Wayne land a pair of Grammy nominations. But Schlesinger also kept busy outside Fountains of Wayne, even during its commercial peak: He played in Ivy (whose six albums came out more or less concurrently with Fountains' output), Tinted Windows (a short-lived power-pop project with Taylor Hanson of Hanson, Bun E. Carlos of Cheap Trick and James Iha of The Smashing Pumpkins) and the synth-pop group Fever High. He also produced albums for many other artists.

Schlesinger's career extended well beyond his work in bands. He had a hand in many of the songs that populated the critically beloved TV series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and he won three Emmys — one for Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and two, both with David Javerbaum, for co-writing songs performed in Tony Awards telecasts. With Javerbaum, Schlesinger was nominated for two Tonys (both for 2008's Cry-Baby) and won a Grammy for A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!.

A versatile songwriter with a gift for straddling genres and musical eras, Schlesinger wrote frequently for film, with credits ranging from three songs in the romantic comedy Music and Lyrics to the Oscar-nominated title track to Tom Hanks' 1996 film That Thing You Do!.

Tributes began appearing on Twitter as news of Schlesinger's death circulated. Javerbaum described Schlesinger as "a brilliant songwriter, musician, collaborator and friend," adding, "You enriched millions of lives with your boundless creativity, none more than mine."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer says he told President Trump on Wednesday that the United States should grant hazard pay — additional pay for hazardous duty — to frontline federal employees responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking to NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, the New York Democrat also said there will be another coronavirus relief package, and that legislation should require hazard pay for all frontline workers like nurses, doctors and first responders.

"These nurses, these doctors, health care workers, they're risking their lives," he said. "I'm sure when they walk to work or take the subway to work, they're wondering, will I catch this virus? But they're like the firefighters and police officers and construction workers were heroes of 9/11; these are our heroes today. And they should get hazard pay."

Schumer is currently practicing social distancing from his home in Brooklyn. He said he's been spending most of the time working the phone, except for a couple hours a day when he's responsible for childcare for his young grandson.

The Senate minority leader also said he's been pushing Trump to appoint a distribution czar, ideally a general with logistics experience, to manage the deployment of medical supplies like ventilators and masks to states.

A week after the Senate passed a historic $2 trillion rescue package — the third bill responding to the pandemic — he said Congress "will do" a fourth coronavirus relief package, though his vision for what that bill will prioritize seems to differ some from Trump's suggestion Tuesday of a massive infrastructure bill.

"We have to look at election reform," Schumer said. "How are people going to vote? ... And we may have to look at how Congress is going to vote. I think we have to do things with paid leave, paid sick leave, paid family leave."

Schumer said infrastructure investment is a key tool for stimulating the economy, but it might come further down the road.

"I think that the first job is to beat this health care crisis and deal with people who have their immediate problems," he said. "I would not at all be adverse to an infrastructure package. ... It's a longer range view of getting the economy back, but job No. 1 is get those materials to our hospitals and health care workers, get those unemployment checks out."

If you're stocking up on fever reducers and cough medicine as the coronavirus spreads around the country, you may want to hang on to those receipts.

Buried in the CARES Act — the enormous, $2.2 trillion coronavirus legislation passed last week — is a provision that allows people to use the money they put away in a tax-advantaged health savings accounts towards over-the-counter drugs, medical supplies, and menstrual products.

Part of this is reinstating rules in place before the Affordable Care Act, says Jennifer Berman, a lawyer and CEO of MZQ Consulting.

"At the end of the year, you'd go and stock up on Band-Aids and Tylenol — that ability got repealed by the [Affordable Care Act]," she says. "The CARES Act actually reinstates that provision." Now, people can once again use flexible spending account and health savings account dollars for those things.

The new rules are in Sec. 3702 of the CARES Act. That provision strikes a sentence that allowed for money in these accounts to be used "for medicine or a drug only if such medicine or drug is a prescribed drug." It then adds something new — allowing expenses for "menstrual care products" like tampons, pads, and menstrual cups.

Berman says women-rights advocates fought hard "for a lot of years to be able to add that to the list of reimbursable expenses — so now it officially has been added."

Scott Melville, CEO and president of the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, the trade group that represents the makers of over-the-counter drugs, wrote to NPR in a statement that the provision "is welcome news to the nearly 60 million Americans who enroll in these accounts to responsibly manage their healthcare expenses."

Coronavirus Overwhelms Georgia Hospital: Patients Flood In As Staff Weathers Exposure

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It makes sense that some of America's biggest cities — crowded port regions closely tied to the wider world — are among those hit hardest by the coronavirus.

But smaller, landlocked areas are certainly no exception. In Albany, Ga., a small inland city of 73,000, the biggest hospital is overwhelmed. The Phoebe Putney Health System has registered 685 confirmed cases and 33 deaths related to the coronavirus.

"By no means do we feel like are we seeing it slowing," Scott Steiner, the president and chief executive officer of the Phoebe Putney Health System, said in an interview with NPR's Morning Edition on Wednesday. "I can't say we've bent the curve yet."

Steiner says the hospital has managed to expand its capacity to accommodate what's become a daily influx of coronavirus patients. But what's needed most, he says, are the medical professionals working on the front lines of the crisis.

Here's more of what Steiner had to say:

On the surge of Covid-19 patients at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital

We do have a bed for every patient ...We've opened our fourth Covid-only ICU, which is not normally an ICU ...We have five other medical floors that are all Covid-only patients ... But we've also had to transfer out a number of patients to other hospitals.

On how the hospital staff is holding up

I've been saying we got 4,500 members of the Phoebe family and I've been calling them warriors because they are just that.

They go in, they run to the screams, they run into the fire, and they are doing exceptionally well. Are they tired, are they weary? Would they all like to go back to whatever normal was before? Absolutely. But every patient is being cared for with incredible compassion.

On how staff are staying safe

We have been working since day one to ensure that we have enough personal protective equipment — PPE — and whether it be N95, other masks, gowns, face shields. We have never run out, though we've been down to less than a day of certain material.

... Some employees have been exposed and have come back sick. We have tested them, of course. We send them home. But we've had a number of, more than two dozen, that have come back because we're in our fourth week of this and so we've had some that are sick, have gone home, have recovered and now are back to work. That just shows you how dedicated and how strong they are.

On reporting that the spread of the coronavirus outbreak in Albany could have started at a particular funeral.

I would say we've seen some things that could confirm that. Funerals are a perfect opportunity [for spreading the virus] — a lot of crying, a lot of wiping noses, a lot of shaking of hands, of hugging, of kissing, touching microphones being used to celebrate the person that has passed. So, to me, and to what we've looked at it, it seems to be a perfect storm.

You can listen to the full interview on Morning Edition here. You can also listen to other medical professionals talk about their challenges working on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, including:

NPR's HJ Mai produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Emma Bowman adapted it for the Web.

Swab Manufacturer Works To Meet 'Overwhelming' Demand

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To test for the coronavirus, you need a swab.

But only two companies in the world manufacture the specialized instrument used to collect a sample from noses.

The limited supply has led to a shortage in the U.S. and a scramble by those two manufacturers to produce more.

One of those companies, Puritan Medical Products, based in Guilford, Maine has ramped up its production to more than 1 million swabs per week, according to Timothy Templet, the company's vice president of sales.

Templet spoke with NPR's All Things Considered on Wednesday about the pressures on the company to meet the "overwhelming" demand.

"There's a lot of pressure, but I think what's happening now is there's so many new rapid test manufacturers who have been approved."

Here's more from the conversation:

On why these specialized swabs are needed for testing

The swab handle is very flexible, which it allows the handle to reach the nasal pharyngeal cavity to collect the specimen. The standard wood cotton or Q-Tip does not have the ability to bend through the nasal passage to go to the area that the sample is collected in.

On the demand for swabs

It's overwhelming, to be frank. We are running now six days a week, two shifts, 10 hours a day. We are producing over a million of that particular swab a week to service what is needed here in the United States. And a lot of it now is being directed through government channels to get to the drive-through collection sites that have been set up throughout the United States.

On the challenges that come with making these specialized swabs

There's a lot of science to it and we have patents for flex swabs. And the material itself is special. The swab itself has got to meet certain standards and there's a lot of work that goes in before you put a swab on the market for use.

On the company's efforts to meet the unprecedented spike in demand

We are hiring as many people as we can because, where we are in rural Maine, it's difficult to find people. But today, with many people losing their jobs, it's been easy to get temporary employees.

NPR's Noah Caldwell, Jonaki Mehta and Justine Kenin produced and edited this interview for broadcast. Emma Bowman adapted it for the Web.

After working for weeks to prepare for the coronavirus pandemic, Dr. Mustafa Ahmed is now fighting his own case of COVID-19.

"For me it was just like being hit by a train," he says.

Ahmed is an interventional cardiologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, a major medical hub for the state. Now, Alabama's largest city is under a shelter-in-place order, as city leaders here have taken a more aggressive approach than the state officials have in order to curtail the spread of the disease.

Ahmed's symptoms came on fast — intense headache, fever, muscle aches, and fatigue.

"It's a scary thing when you get this because you're seeing colleagues and health care workers around the world really struck down with this," Ahmed says.

He's 38 and had been in good health. Now he's in single room isolation at home, using technology to connect remotely with family around the world, and his colleagues at UAB.

Because of a lack of widespread testing, he says there's no way to pinpoint how he became infected.

"Is it from just walking around?" he asks. "Is it on the way into work? Is it people you passed the week before that don't want to social distance?"

Universal questions, Ahmed says, that could only be answered with universal testing, something that's not possible right now.

"This is a weekly moving target," he says.

He says testing at UAB has expanded from weeks ago when tests were scarce and results took days to process. Now results are back in hours, and there's promise of a more rapid test.

"Where we are right now, this minute is a long, long — what's the best way to say this? — is a hell of a lot better than where we were this time last week," Ahmed says.

Regardless of the testing capacity, there's no question that there's community spread happening in Birmingham right now. UAB and other local hospitals started getting their first wave of severe cases last week.

"We're just starting and it's going to get much, much worse, says Ahmed.

The prospect has city leaders trying to get the word out.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin has been holding tele-town halls to relay a sense of urgency to various communities including neighborhood and church leaders, students, and Spanish speakers.

Woodfin says when 12 days of voluntary social distancing didn't work, the city adopted a shelter-in-place ordinance.

"To lock this city down," Woodfin says. "To stop [nonessential] movement because we needed to take every measure to prevent community spread."

The action is at odds with state policy.

"I do not think our economy needs a full shelter-in-place order," Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said at a press briefing.

"My word of caution to those who want to take a more direct action is this – government can choke businesses," she said.

Mayor Woodfin disputes that it's an either/or proposition.

"If government doesn't take action, it can also cost people their lives," he says.

Dr. Ahmed at UAB agrees, and says nowhere in the world are health officials saying they did too much.

"No one," he says. "Every single place seems to have wished that they did more and acted earlier."

Police officers walk across an empty Red Square in Moscow on Tuesday, as the Russian capital goes into lockdown to stem the spread of the new coronavirus. Pavel Golovkin/AP hide caption

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Pavel Golovkin/AP

Police officers walk across an empty Red Square in Moscow on Tuesday, as the Russian capital goes into lockdown to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Pavel Golovkin/AP

City authorities in Moscow are rolling out new digital "social monitoring" tools targeting the public, after what officials say were constant violations of the city's quarantine imposed this week to fight the spread of the new coronavirus.

Under restrictions in place since Monday, most of the city's 12 million residents must remain indoors, barring a few exceptions — like trips to the supermarket or pharmacy, taking out the trash or briefly walking the dog.

But starting Thursday, Muscovites will have their movements tracked through a mandatory app required on their smartphones. Don't have one? The city says it will lend out devices.

"The main goal is, together with the patient, encourage that he does not go outside," said Eduard Lysenko, the head of the city's Department for Information and Technology, in an interview with Echo of Moscow radio.

In addition, Moscow residents will be obligated to register for a government-issued QR code — a small square matrix bar code containing personal data. What information the codes will hold isn't yet clear. But Russians must present it on their smartphones or carry a printout of their QR profiles to present to police, when requested. (City officials say they're also preparing to educate the public — and elder Russians, in particular — on what a QR code actually is.)

The new tools will merge with existing street cameras and face recognition software to quickly identify residents who stray from their homes and/or quarantines, say authorities.

Adding incentive to follow the rules, President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed a law introducing criminal penalties — including fines and up to seven years in prison — for skipping quarantine and infecting others. The Russian leader also signed legislation granting the government additional powers to declare an immediate national state of emergency, without the parliament's approval.

Yet members of Russia's opposition — no strangers to state surveillance or prisons — are expressing particular unease about a growing digital arsenal the government says will help it fight COVID-19. A state task force on Wednesday reported more than 2,700 cases of infection and 24 deaths from the disease, with the majority of cases in Moscow.

"One thing is clear," wrote Leonid Volkov, a chief strategist of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, on his Telegram channel. "The coronavirus will eventually leave but this digital concentration camp will remain."

4 HRS AGO

Second Federal Inmate Dies From COVID-19

WWNO - New Orleans Public Radio

Updated 3:57 p.m. ET

A second person held at the federal prison in Oakdale, La., has died of COVID-19.

Nicholas Rodriquez, 43, became ill on March 25 and had a high temperature and a rapid heartbeat, according to Federal Bureau of Prisons officials. He was transported to a local hospital that day, and tested positive for COVID-19. Rodriquez was placed on a ventilator on March 27, after his condition deteriorated. He died on April 1.

BOP officials said Rodriquez had long-term, pre-existing medical conditions which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lists as risk factors for developing more severe COVID-19 disease. Rodriguez was serving a 188-month sentence on drug charges, and had been at the Oakdale facility for about a year.

Rodriquez is the second death of an inmate from COVID-19 across all federal prisons, and the second death at Federal Correctional Institution Oakdale, which is seeing rampant spread of the virus.

Ronald Morris, a maintenance foreman at the prison and president of the prison's union local, said nine inmates tested positive for the coronavirus, and there have been 32 more with symptoms and 64 who've been exposed. Of those, 15 inmates were in local hospitals. Meanwhile, eight staff have tested positive, 16 more have symptoms and one was in an intensive care unit at a hospital.

The Bureau of Prisons told The Lens that it has stopped testing for the virus at the facility because the outbreak is so widespread. Instead, anyone with symptoms is assumed to have COVID-19.

A spokesperson for the bureau told the news outlet that the move is intended "to conserve valuable testing resources," and added that the bureau had no plans to release nationwide testing figures. The last update was Monday, and reported 28 inmates and 24 staff had tested positive across U.S. federal prisons.

On Wednesday, the Bureau of Prisons began a 14-day quarantine for inmates systemwide to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Englewood Beach in Charlotte County, Fla., was crowded on March 20. Public gatherings like these will be prohibited in Florida beginning Thursday. NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images hide caption

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NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Englewood Beach in Charlotte County, Fla., was crowded on March 20. Public gatherings like these will be prohibited in Florida beginning Thursday.

NurPhoto/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Florida has now joined the list of states that are ordering residents to remain in their homes for all but essential activities to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made the announcement at an afternoon briefing. It was just a few hours after he spoke to President Trump. DeSantis said he's issuing an executive order that will direct "all Floridians to limit movements and personal interactions outside the home to only those necessary to obtain or provide essential services or essential activities."

With this order, Florida is joining more than 30 other states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico in ordering a lockdown. In total, the orders affect more than 85% of the U.S. population. DeSantis said the order will go into effect in Florida on Thursday at midnight.

Until now, Florida remained the holdout among states hit hard by the coronavirus in not ordering residents to stay at home. A number of cities and counties in the state previously issued stay-at-home orders for residents, including Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, which have over 60% of the state's COVID-19 cases. DeSantis had defended his stance, saying that Florida is a large state where more than a dozen counties still have few, if any, cases.

DeSantis said he reevaluated his position after Trump ordered a 30-day extension of the White House's social distancing guidelines. At a briefing at the state Capitol, DeSantis said, "This is another 30-day period. At this point, even though there are a lot of places in Florida with very low infection rates, it makes sense to make this move now."

West Virginia is the latest state to delay its primary because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Jim Justice announced that the May 12 primary is being pushed back to June 9.

"I want this to be the biggest turnout of all time," Justice said while announcing the change via web stream. "Because all of us should treasure the opportunity and the privilege to vote, and I want us to have that opportunity, and by moving this it will give us a lot better chance to do so."

Justice said the goal is to allow in-person voting, and suggested he's particularly concerned about voting access for seniors during the pandemic.

"For our seniors that have had the opportunity to be able to come and to vote...I'm very, very hopeful by extending this, they'll have the opportunity to do just that," Justice said.

West Virginia joins more than a dozen states including New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio who've pushed back their primaries in response to the virus. In Ohio, Democrats sued unsuccessfully to block the delay.

Meanwhile, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, is calling on Wisconsin to delay its primary, which is scheduled for April 7.

Jill Mickelson helps a drive up voter outside the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building Monday March 30, 2020, in Milwaukee. The city is now allowing drive up early voting for the state's April 7 election. The state is facing renewed calls to postpone the election amid the coronavirus outbreak. Morry Gash/AP hide caption

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Morry Gash/AP

Jill Mickelson helps a drive up voter outside the Frank P. Zeidler Municipal Building Monday March 30, 2020, in Milwaukee. The city is now allowing drive up early voting for the state's April 7 election. The state is facing renewed calls to postpone the election amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Morry Gash/AP

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders said Wednesday that Wisconsin should postpone next week's scheduled primary election amid the coronavirus outbreak, even as the state's governor said he was turning to the National Guard to help staff polling places on April 7.

"People should not be forced to put their lives on the line to vote, which is why 15 states are now following the advice of public health experts and delaying their elections," said Sanders in a statement. "We urge Wisconsin to join them. The state should delay Tuesday's vote, extend early voting and work to move entirely to vote-by-mail. While we wait for a decision, we urge our supporters to vote-by-mail."

The state is going forward with the election, which includes the presidential primary, because numerous state and local offices are on the ballot that have terms that expire in April.

A federal judge is hearing arguments Wednesday in a lawsuit from a broad coalition of Democratic and voting rights groups arguing the election should postponed.

Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, defended the state's decision on Wednesday in an interview on NPR and WBUR's Here & Now.

"I have spent literally days encouraging people to vote absentee and we have had significant successes. This is the largest absentee ballot we've had for a primary in the history of Wisconsin," said Evers.

More than a million absentee ballots have been requested — a record — but the state also plans to offer limited in-person voting, even as the state election commission warned Tuesday it is short nearly 7,000 poll workers because volunteers are concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus while serving.

The state plans to call in the National Guard to staff polling sites, according to a brief filed Tuesday in federal court on behalf of Evers.

"Governor Evers has agreed to use members of the Wisconsin Army National Guard to assist as poll workers, but it is anticipated that the assistance of the National Guard will not satisfy all of the current staffing needs," wrote Assistant Attorney General Hannah Jurss.

It is not clear if a state has ever used the National Guard before to run an election, although in recent years some states have turned to the National Guard for cybersecurity help to secure elections.

A man wearing a face mask crosses the Charles Bridge in Prague on Tuesday. The Czech Republic is one of a handful of places throughout Europe now mandating that residents wear face masks when they leave their homes. Michal Cizek/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Michal Cizek/AFP via Getty Images

A man wearing a face mask crosses the Charles Bridge in Prague on Tuesday. The Czech Republic is one of a handful of places throughout Europe now mandating that residents wear face masks when they leave their homes.

Michal Cizek/AFP via Getty Images

For weeks, when healthy Americans asked whether they should be wearing face masks in public to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, health authorities in the U.S. have answered with a definitive no. Now, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reviewing its policy, those recommendations may soon change — but in Central Europe, a handful of countries have already made that decision.

Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have recently made it compulsory to wear some form of covering over their mouths and noses when entering certain public spaces. In this respect, they have more closely followed the lead of health authorities in Asian countries — such as China and South Korea, where masks have been strongly encouraged and even widely distributed — than their own neighbors in Europe so far.

"I am fully aware that masks are alien to our culture," Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said Monday, in explaining that supermarkets were expected to start handing out masks to shoppers on Wednesday. "This will require a big adjustment."

Many health authorities have argued that, given a widespread shortage of personal protective equipment, and given that there's no evidence that masks protect their wearer from infection, masks should be reserved only for medical professionals.

But a sea change has been noticeable recently in some official recommendations, as it becomes clear that people infected with the virus may spread it even if they are not showing symptoms. Thus, some form of facial covering — even if the person is presumed healthy and the mask is improvised — may still be helpful, at least in preventing unknowing sufferers from spreading the virus to others.

Those conclusions, however, are not universally embraced. And many of Austria's neighbors have resisted making this "adjustment" on a nationwide scale.

Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic, while wearing a face mask, takes the oath during the inaugural session of the new Parliament in Bratislava last month. Michal Svítok/AP hide caption

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Michal Svítok/AP

Slovakian Prime Minister Igor Matovic, while wearing a face mask, takes the oath during the inaugural session of the new Parliament in Bratislava last month.

Michal Svítok/AP

Jena, a city in eastern Germany, announced this week that within several days it will be compulsory to wear a mask in supermarkets and on public transit — but the German government as a whole has issued no such recommendation. Speaking anecdotally, NPR's Rob Schmitz, who is based in Berlin, reports he was the only shopper he saw on a recent visit to the supermarket wearing a mask.

"Everyone stared at me," he observed, referring to a trip Saturday, "and some of them even gave me angry looks."

As of Wednesday afternoon, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control continued to discourage the use of face masks, noting that "it is possible that the use of face masks may even increase the risk of infection due to a false sense of security and increased contact between hands, mouth and eyes while wearing them."

That has not stopped Slovakia, along with several of its neighbors, from proceeding with its own push for residents to wear them. In fact, when President Zuzana Čaputová swore in the country's new governing coalition last month, each new member of the country's highest echelon of power — including new Prime Minister Igor Matovic — pledged their oath of office through a mask.

And the Czech Prime Minister, Andrej Babiš, would like to see the U.S. follow their example. On Sunday, he encouraged President Trump to wear a simple cloth mask and "try tackling virus the Czech way."

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, seen in 2009 in Afghanistan, noted that the government "really haven't asked the American people to sacrifice for a war since World War II." Paula Bronstein/Getty Images hide caption

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Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, seen in 2009 in Afghanistan, noted that the government "really haven't asked the American people to sacrifice for a war since World War II."

Paula Bronstein/Getty Images

Retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal has some advice for President Trump on how to lead the nation through the coronavirus pandemic: instill confidence, tell the truth, be unified and fight it like a war.

Speaking to NPR's Morning Edition on Wednesday, the former head of Joint Special Operations Command said that watching the spread of the coronavirus reminded him of the early days of fighting al-Qaida in Iraq, when the terrorist organization emerged as an enemy that was similarly hard to predict and detect.

Here are excerpts from that conversation:

How do you lead through unpredictability when there's a vacuum of information?

The leader has to first and foremost be absolutely straightforward with all the people they're leading — has to tell them the truth, even though the truth can change from day to day. We've got to have a level of candor that convinces people that what they're getting from the leader is the best information available at the time.

The second thing the leader has to do is give confidence. If you think of Winston Churchill in 1940, Britain was thought to be about to lose the war, and what he didn't say was, he didn't say, "We're winning." He didn't say, "We're about to win." He said, "We'll never surrender." He built their confidence for the long haul. I think that's what leaders have to give at every level.

As a leader, how do you use anxiety or fear to motivate without causing people to become desperate?

You have to balance it. You've got to tell them that there's a serious problem, that they need to fear the enemy, they need to respect the enemy, but at the same time, you have to build their confidence that says if you do this right we can win this. A lot of people have used the analogy of a war, but we really haven't asked the American people to sacrifice for a war since World War II.

What needs to be happening that's not?

We should not be fighting COVID-19 as 50 separate fights, 50 separate states and territories and certainly not at individual municipal levels. This needs to be a collaborative national-level fight.

When the president talks to the nation about COVID-19, I wish he'd stand up in front of a map and he'd show what things are and he'd say, "America, this is an American problem. It's also a global problem. We're going to fight it as an American fight" — not as leaving any city or state off on their own to do as well as they can.

Hear the full interview with Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal on Morning Edition here.

LA Johnson/NPR
No more tests to enter
LA Johnson/NPR

Updated at 2:26 p.m. ET.

In mid-March, as schools across the country began to close, aspiring college students got big news: Spring ACT and SAT tests were being called off amid concerns about the spreading coronavirus. Now, a growing list of colleges have announced they're going test-optional for the class of 2021, meaning the SAT or ACT will not be required for admission. Those schools join a pool of about 1,000 U.S. colleges that have already dropped the standardized tests from admissions requirements, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, an advocacy group that has long been critical of standardized testing.

Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland was one of the earliest schools to use the coronavirus as a catalyst for change. Rick Bischoff, who oversees enrollment there, told NPR last week that the school had been discussing going test-optional, in part because of how it has been shown to improve equity. Bischoff said Case Western Reserve was planning to make a final decision in a year or so, but the disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak moved that decision up: "Understanding how much turmoil this is injecting into the process, it's just so clearly, in our view, the right thing to do."

More than a dozen colleges have dropped testing requirements because of the pandemic, according to reporting from Inside Higher Ed. On Wednesday, the University of California temporarily suspended testing requirements. Other schools, like Tufts University outside Boston and Davidson College, a small private school in North Carolina, are trying out a test-optional policy for the next three years. "The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented obstacles and disruptions for everyone, including young people pursuing their academic and life aspirations," Chris Gruber, who oversees admission and financial aid at Davidson, wrote in a statement.

It's unclear if these new admissions practices will stick, but some schools — including the University of Oregon and Oregon State University — have already committed to making their new test-optional policies permanent.

Wimbledon, the oldest tennis tournament in the world, will not be played this summer because of the coronavirus. Alex Davidson/Getty Images hide caption

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Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Wimbledon, the oldest tennis tournament in the world, will not be played this summer because of the coronavirus.

Alex Davidson/Getty Images

Officials at Wimbledon, the prestigious tennis tournament that is part of the sport's annual Grand Slam events, have announced it will not be held this summer. It's the latest sporting event to be sidelined because of the continuing spread of the coronavirus.

The All England Club announced Wednesday that the London-based tournament will now run the 134th Championships from June 28 to July 11, 2021.

"It is with great regret that the Main Board of the All England Club (AELTC) and the Committee of Management of The Championships have today decided that The Championships 2020 will be canceled due to public health concerns linked to the coronavirus epidemic," officials said in a statement.

The club said canceling the tournament, which dates back to 1877, was the "best decision" in terms of public health and providing certainty for those involved in The Championships.

"While in some ways this has been a challenging decision, we strongly believe it is not only in the best interests of society at this time, but also provides certainty to our colleagues in international tennis given the impact on the grass court events in the UK and in Europe and the broader tennis calendar," Richard Lewis, the chief executive of the All England Club, said in the statement.

Wimbledon said previous tournaments have been canceled only by world wars. This will be the first time the tournament has been interrupted since World War II.

Seven-time singles Wimbledon champion Serena Williams tweeted, "I'm Shooked" after learning the tournament was canceled this year. Fellow tennis star Coco Gauff expressed a similar reaction tweeting: "i'm gonna miss playing in @Wimbledon this year. Stay safe everyone, love you guys."

Retired tennis great Martina Navratilova, who won Wimbledon nine times between 1978 and 1990, tweeted, "This is gutting.... and no, this is not an April Fools joke... Hope we can all be there in 2021!!!!

It's yet another major sports cancellation or postponement because of the pandemic. The NBA, NFL, MLB, NHL and the Olympics have canceled or postponed games or other league business because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Wimbledon also said those who purchased tickets for this year's two-week tournament, which was scheduled to start June 29, will be refunded. They will be offered the opportunity to purchase tickets "for the same day and court" for The Championships in 2021.

How do you keep yourself occupied during these long days inside the house? One British family had an idea: a lockdown-themed parody of the song "One Day More" from the musical Les Misérables.

The family from Kent worked on the lyrics together, based on their own frustrations: friends unseen, soccer matches canceled, beloved grandparents who can't figure out Skype.

They practiced a couple times at the dinner table, and then on Sunday afternoon, they got their video camera rolling, as they told the BBC in an interview Tuesday.

The resulting video is a delight. The kids belt out the song and really commit — after a bit of squabbling that probably looks familiar to many right now.

"We worked a lot on the harmonies, which was probably the main problem," one of the sons, Thomas Marsh, told the broadcaster. "But in terms of actual takes we just had the video camera rolling. Which is why we got the argument in it and it only took two takes."

What was the Marsh parents' secret to getting their children to perform? They bribed them with pizza.

The Marshes posted the video on Facebook, where it has drawn more than 7 million views since Sunday.

The father, Ben Marsh, told the BBC that they've received loads of nice messages since then, including many from health care workers.

"It's just absolutely lovely to see that positivity and people saying this has brought a smile at a moment when it's difficult to smile," he said. "We didn't expect any of this to happen, but we're just really, really chuffed."

The main gate of U.S. Army Camp Carroll in South Korea. Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

The main gate of U.S. Army Camp Carroll in South Korea.

Jung Yeon-Je/AFP via Getty Images

Wednesday marked the first day of a furlough of roughly half the 9,000-strong Korean workforce staffing U.S. military bases in South Korea. The layoffs without pay — the first in the history of the seven-decade U.S.-South Korea alliance — were forced by an impasse between the two countries on paying for the cost of stationing some 28,500 American troops in South Korea.

"This is an unfortunate day for us ... it's unthinkable ... it's heartbreaking," USFK Commander Gen. Robert B. Abrams said in a statement. "The partial furlough of [Korean national] employees is not what we envisioned or hoped what would happen."

U.S. Forces Korea sent formal notices to the affected employees on March 25. The furloughs complicate matters for USFK as it grapples with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. USFK has more than a dozen cases of infection, including troops, dependents and contractors.

A statement from the USFK Korean Employees Union deplored the furloughs as a betrayal of the spirit of the alliance, and noted that they come just days after President Trump urgently requested COVID-19 test kits from South Korean President Moon Jae-in. The first batch of those kits reportedly was awaiting air shipment to the U.S. on Tuesday.

South Korea's government is reportedly mulling ways to support the furloughed employees, including loans to make up for their loss of income. Korean employees such as doctors, firefighters and law enforcement personnel will not be furloughed.

Abrams has warned the furlough will affect USFK's military readiness. The coronavirus outbreak has already forced the cancellation or scaling back of joint military exercises, and the Korean military has infections among its own ranks to treat.

North Korea, meanwhile, continues to test new rockets and missiles, even as it claims to have no COVID-19 cases at all.

The U.S.-South Korea impasse that forced the furloughs emerged when the Trump administration demanded significantly higher payments from Seoul to cover the cost of U.S. troops in South Korea.

South Korean negotiator Jeong Eun-bo said in a statement on Tuesday that Seoul and Washington had "considerably bridged the gap between the two sides" and that an agreement could be made soon.

The U.S. has reportedly backed away from a demand for a roughly 500% increase in Seoul's contribution to defense costs. For 2019, the U.S. demanded a 50% increase, but then settled for 8.2%.

Critics in South Korea say the Trump administration is turning military alliances into for-profit enterprises — a grave mistake, they say, as the U.S. is already saving taxpayers money by basing troops overseas, not to mention the political and strategic payoffs of deploying troops in or near global hot spots, including the Korean Peninsula.

Workers leave an FCA Chrysler truck plant in Detroit on March 18 after the automaker shut down all of its North America factories as a precaution against the coronavirus. Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

Workers leave an FCA Chrysler truck plant in Detroit on March 18 after the automaker shut down all of its North America factories as a precaution against the coronavirus.

Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images

Factories in the U.S. are hunkering down like the rest of us.

Manufacturing activity slowed in March, according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Management.

Production and factory employment fell sharply, as the coronavirus pandemic and other problems weighed on the factory sector. New orders hit their lowest level in 11 years.

Factories were among the first to feel the effects of the deadly virus months ago, as supply lines from China were disrupted. Export markets also suffered. And now that the virus is spreading rapidly in the U.S., domestic manufacturing operations are also feeling the squeeze.

Some large auto plants have shut down altogether, in an effort to protect workers. Other factories continue to operate, but "social distancing" can pose challenges in a factory environment. One machine shop operator reported a 30% drop in productivity.

"The coronavirus pandemic and shocks in global energy markets have impacted all manufacturing sectors," said Timothy Fiore, chairman of the ISM's Manufacturing Business Survey Committee.

With tens of millions of Americans under orders to stay home, demand for big-ticket items has suffered. Factories that supply the hospitality industry are also hurting. And the steep drop in oil prices is cutting demand for manufactured pumps and pipelines used by energy producers.

Despite the downturn, some factories are seeing a boost in business.

"We are experiencing a record number of orders due to COVID-19," one manager in the food and beverage industry reported. Americans continue to stock up on groceries during the pandemic. Factories that produce toilet paper are also staying busy.

A woman walks at a closed restaurant in an empty terminal at the airport in Munich. Businesses across Germany have closed or cut back hours because of the new coronavirus. Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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A woman walks at a closed restaurant in an empty terminal at the airport in Munich. Businesses across Germany have closed or cut back hours because of the new coronavirus.

Christof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

In Germany, nearly half a million companies have applied for government funds to support employees with reduced work hours, as the country with the largest economy in Europe pushes to contain the new coronavirus.

Heavy restrictions on public life, an export slump because of nations' lockdowns and broken supply chains throughout industry have meant millions of Germany's workers are eligible for public financial aid.

Known as Kurzarbeit, the government's compensation program allows firms to reduce employees' hours while the state provides much of the lost income, a cushion meant to help them avoid layoffs.

Some 470,000 companies have filed for the program so far. Bloomberg News reported that the applications suggest 9 million workers — about a fifth of Germany's workforce — could be affected by the work hour cuts.

The benefits could also be possible for around 1.3 million municipal employees this year, according to Germany's Association of Local Employers.

Germany has registered more than 73,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 800 deaths. It is a lower rate than some of the other hard-hit European countries, but the virus is dealing an economic blow.

Twenty times more companies have filed for the Kurzarbeit to help deal with coronavirus reductions than the number that used the federal subsidy during the global financial crisis a decade ago.

Federal Employment Minister Hubertus Heil says unemployment will increase in Germany for the first time in many years, but that the compensation system should soften the blow.

Cruise ships are docked at PortMiami on Tuesday. The U.S. Coast Guard has been working with cruise companies to bring people off of ships stricken with the coronavirus — but a new bulletin also says foreign-flagged ships should not rely on U.S. help. Wilfredo Lee/AP hide caption

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Wilfredo Lee/AP

Cruise ships are docked at PortMiami on Tuesday. The U.S. Coast Guard has been working with cruise companies to bring people off of ships stricken with the coronavirus — but a new bulletin also says foreign-flagged ships should not rely on U.S. help.

Wilfredo Lee/AP

The U.S. Coast Guard is telling foreign-flagged cruise ships to be prepared to care for people with COVID-19 for an "indefinite period of time" at sea or to seek help from countries other than the U.S., citing a health care system that is being overwhelmed. The instructions are in a new safety bulletin that took effect this week along the southern Atlantic coast, including Florida – which is reporting more than 6,700 coronavirus cases, as of Tuesday evening.

If a cruise ship must send someone ashore for medical care, its owner will be responsible for essentially every step of the trip, from arranging an evacuation to hiring a private ambulance and ensuring the person has a spot in a hospital. But the Coast Guard bulletin, signed by Rear Adm. E.C. Jones of the 7th District based in Miami, also says it could be difficult to find any facility in South Florida that can take new COVID-19 patients.

"Medical facilities in the Port of Miami, for example, are no longer accepting MEDEVAC patients due to limited hospital capacity and it is expected that neighboring counties will follow suit," wrote Jones, whose Coast Guard district includes Florida, Puerto Rico, Georgia and South Carolina.

The new medical requirements apply to any vessel carrying more than 50 people. It also singles out cruise ships that are registered in the Bahamas – referring to many of the ships owned by large cruise lines such as Carnival, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian.

Foreign-flagged ships are the norm in the cruise industry. By registering ships in the Bahamas, Panama and other countries, cruise companies can avoid U.S. taxes as well as employment and environmental laws. But now, the Coast Guard is telling those companies that their ships should seek medical care in the countries where they are registered, rather than rely on the U.S.

"Foreign flagged vessels that loiter beyond U.S. territorial seas, particularly those registered to The Bahamas, that require a MEDEVAC to a shoreside facility should seek flag state support prior to seeking support from the limited facilities in the U.S.," Jones wrote.

The cruise ship industry is currently under a 30-day suspension of all trips from the U.S. that took effect on March 14. But dozens of ships remain at sea.

The Coast Guard memo was first reported by the Miami Herald, which gives this accounting of the current situation off the Florida shore:

"Seventeen ships are lined up at Port Miami and Port Everglades, with more than a dozen others hovering miles offshore. Most have only crew aboard, but several still carrying passengers are steaming toward South Florida ports. In SEC filings Tuesday, Carnival said it has more than 6,000 passengers still at sea. New sailings were halted by all major lines on March 13."

News of the Coast Guard bulletin emerged as a Carnival-owned Holland America seeks a port for the Zaandam, a cruise ship on which four people have died and nearly 200 people were sickened by suspected COVID-19. The company wants the ship to dock in Fort Lauderdale; several countries have denied permission for the ship to dock and disembark passengers.

Joe Biden takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention in 2012. He said it's "hard to envision" a similar scene this year. Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Joe Biden takes the stage at the Democratic National Convention in 2012. He said it's "hard to envision" a similar scene this year.

Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Former Vice President Joe Biden says he finds it "hard to envision" an in-person Democratic National Convention taking place in July as planned.

"The fact is, it may have to be different," the leading Democratic presidential candidate said in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday night.

The Democratic National Convention is scheduled to take place from July 13-16 in Milwaukee. The Republican National Convention is planned for Aug. 24-27 in Charlotte, N.C., and neither party has announced alternative plans.

In a statement provided to NPR on Wednesday, Democratic National Convention Committee CEO Joe Solmonese said that as planning goes on for the convention, "we will balance protecting the health and well-being of convention attendees and our host city with our responsibility to deliver this historic and critical occasion."

The former vice president also predicted a rise in absentee voting and the use of other alternatives to traditional in-person voting come November, something already seen in states planning primaries this spring.

This comes as more than a dozen presidential primary elections have been delayed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden also said the date of the November presidential election should not be changed, regardless of how Americans end up voting.

"There would be no rationale for eliminating or delaying the election; it may be virtual," he added.

Biden went on to advocate for all states working toward providing a "secure, remote voting possibility."

"This is about making sure that we're able to conduct our democracy while we're dealing with a pandemic," Biden said. "We can do both."

The former vice president has not yet surpassed the threshold of 1,991 delegates needed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination, but he has established a solid lead that his rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, has acknowledged would be very difficult to overcome.

According to NPR's delegate tracker, Biden has 1,217 total pledged delegates. Sanders would need more than 64% of the remaining delegates to obtain the nomination.

The novel coronavirus, first detected at the end of 2019, has caused a global pandemic.

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