Coronavirus updates: Wisconsin beef processing plant closes after 200 workers infected with virus

More than 2.9 million people worldwide -- including more than 954,000 people in the United States -- have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals manage unprecedented patient surges.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here.

>> Coronavirus: Know the facts directly from the CDC

Live updates for Sunday, April 26, continue below:

Wisconsin beef processing plant closes after 200 workers infected with virus

Update 11:06 p.m. EDT April 26: A Wisconsin beef production plant is briefly closing after nearly 200 employees tested positive for the coronavirus, company officials said Sunday.

The company had been operating at a reduced capacity before deciding to close, WBAY reported.

There are about 1,200 workers at the JBS USA plant in Green Bay, CNN reported.

This is the fourth facility JBS, the world’s leading meat processing company, has had to shutter, Bloomberg reported.

BS also temporarily closed facilities in Souderton, Pennsylvania, and Greeley, Colorado, WBAY reported. Those plants have since reopened.

A pork processing plant in Worthington, Minnesota remains closed, reducing U.S. pork production by 10%, Bloomberg reported.

Residents flock to beaches as Southern California hit with heat wave amid pandemic

Update 9:56 p.m. EDT April 26: An estimated 40,000 people packed Newport Beach on Friday and similar-sized crowds were seen along the beach throughout the weekend despite a statewide stay-at-home order amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Hundreds of people also crowded nearby Huntington Beach, NBC News reported. Beaches in Los Angeles and San Diego counties remain closed. However, beaches in Ventura and Orange counties were open, although some restrictions were in place, CNN reported.

Authorities did not report any issues with the crowds.

“People are being very cooperative and observing the social distancing rules,” Brian O’Rourke, a lifeguard on Newport Beach, told CNN.

There are 43,400 confirmed cases and 1,700 deaths from the coronavirus in California, according to The New York Times.

Italy to ease lockdown restrictions, allow funerals

Update 9:26 p.m. EDT April 26: Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the country will ease lockdown restrictions and begin to allow funeral services again.

The new measures start May 4, CNN reported.

“Now, the phase of coexistence with the virus begins for everyone, and we must be aware that the contagion curve could rise again in some areas of the country. The risk is there, and we must face it methodically and with rigor,” Conte said.

Some travel restrictions will be lifted, access to parks will be increased and funerals with up to 15 attendees will be allowed, CNN reported.

Other changes to restrictions come May 18, when museums and libraries are scheduled to reopen. Sports teams can also meet to train.

The timeline for reopening other businesses, including barbershops and beauty salons, is June 1. Schools will still remain closed during this time.

Even with the restrictions lifted, people should adhere to social distancing measures, Conte said.

“If we do not respect social distancing, the curve will go up and will go out of control, our deaths will increase, and we will suffer irreversible damage to our economy,” Conte said. “If you love Italy, carry on distancing.”

There are 197,675 confirmed cases and 26,644 deaths from the coronavirus in Italy, according to Johns Hopkins’ tracking information.

New Jersey governor to announce plan to reopen state Monday

Update 8:56 p.m. EDT April 26: New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy will announce a plan to reopen the state Monday.

“The road back will be driven by data, science and common sense,” he said on social media.

Murphy has not indicated if the state would reopen as a whole or on a regional basis. He said Sunday morning on “Meet the Press” that the state is still a “number of weeks away” from starting to reopen, reported.

I think best -- the best understanding of the data right now is that we are still a number of weeks away,” he said. “We’re not out of the woods yet. The mandate to stay at home and stay away from each other is still very much in effect until we can break the back of this curve."

There are 109,038 confirmed cases and 5,938 deaths from the coronavirus in New Jersey, according to The New York Times.

NYPD rate of infections continues to decrease; death toll rises

Update 7:40 p.m. EDT April 26: The number of members of the New York Police Department sick from the coronavirus continues to decrease, officials said Sunday.

There are 3,166 members of the NYPD on sick report, which is about 8.8% of the department’s uniformed workforce, down from 19.8% April 9, officials said.

There are still 953 uniformed officers and 317 civilian employees out sick with the coronavirus, officials said.

Thirty-seven members of the NYPD have died from the coronavirus. The department announced the deaths of Principal Administrative Associate Josephine Hill, a 33-year veteran of the department, and Associate Traffic Enforcement Agent Mohammad Ahsan, who served 15 years, on Sunday, the Staten Island Advance reported.

"As we continue to navigate this crisis together as one NYPD family, we send our prayers and deepest sympathies to all of Josephine’s and Mohammad’s loved ones, and we vow to never forget any of our fallen colleagues,” the NYPD wrote in a statement.

New York hospital studying effects of heartburn drug as treatment

Update 6:55 p.m. EDT April 26: A New York hospital group is studying the use of high doses of an over-the-counter heartburn drug as a treatment for patients with the coronavirus.

The Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research at Northwell Health, which runs 23 hospitals in the New York City area, has tested famotidine on 187 patients since April 7, CNN reported.

Famotidine is the active ingredient in Pepcid. Patients are given intravenous doses that are about nine times stronger than typical heartburn medication. The hospital hopes to enroll 1,200 patients for the clinical trial, CNN reported.

Researchers started testing famotidine after reading that patients in China using the treatment did better than those not taking it.

"There are a lot of anecdotes passing around that give us some hope,” Dr. Kevin Tracey, president of the hospital group, told CNN. “I’m really looking forward to the results of this trial.”

Boston mayor announces antibody testing for 1,000 residents

Update 3:31 p.m. EDT April 26: Approximately 1,000 Boston residents will be invited to participate in a study to evaluate community exposure to COVID-19 through antibody testing, Mayor Marty Walsh said Sunday. Walsh made the announcement with Peter Slavin, President of Massachusetts General Hospital and the Boston Public Health Commission, WFXT reported.

Residents living in East Boston, Roslindale and within the boundaries of zip codes 02121 and 02125 in Dorchester will be the focus of the samples, Walsh said in a news release.

“The more we can expand our testing, the more we can learn how to use our medical resources more efficiently, and how we need to focus our current efforts to contain the virus," Walsh said.

COVID-19 cases in US soar past 954,000

Update 2:35 p.m. EDT April 26: The number of coronavirus cases in the United States zoomed past 950,000 early Sunday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University’s count.

The number of cases in the United States continues to creep toward 1 million, with at least 954,182 as 2 p.m. EDT Sunday. The death total in the U.S. rose to at least 54,573 Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Birx: Social distancing will continue through the summer

Update 1:54 p.m. EDT April 26: Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, said Sunday that social distancing will continue through the summer, The Washington Post reported.

“Social distancing will be with us through the summer to really ensure that we protect one another,” Birx said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press.”

Birx also said the nation needed a "breakthrough” in testing for antigens -- molecules or molecular structures that trigger an immune response -- to get on the path for normalcy.

Cuomo unveils phased reopening in New York

Update 12:39 p.m. EDT April 26: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo unveiled plans for a phased reopening at his daily news conference and said the strategy must be based on a “regional analysis.”

“Look at the regional analysis. Make a determination. And then monitor whatever you do,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo identified the phases in two steps. First, construction and manufacturing activities. Second, a business-by-business analysis, using a formula that determines which businesses are essential and which are risky.

Cuomo said the second phase is “going to be up to businesses.”

“Businesses, you develop a plan on how you want to reopen given everything we know,” Cuomo said.

South Carolina gets 1.5 million surgical masks from China

Update 12:25 p.m. EDT April 26: China, with the help of a business owner, has given the state of South Carolina 1.5 million surgical masks, state leaders said at a news conference Sunday.

The masks arrived in Greenville in a partnership with Boeing on the company’s Dreamlifter, CNN reported.

State leaders thanked Neil Ferrier, who owns Discommon, for helping the state obtain the masks. They will be given to health care workers at Prisma Healthcare as well as the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, according to CNN.

Netherlands probes mink farms after animals test positive

Update 12:08 p.m. EDT April 26: Authorities in The Netherlands launched an investigation into two mink farms after the animal exhibited respiratory symptoms and tested positive for the coronavirus, The Washington Post reported.

In a statement, the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality said a review of how the outbreaks began on the farms in the southern Netherlands is ongoing. However, officials believe the minks caught the virus from humans working at the farm, the Post reported.

“There are currently no indications that farm animals or pets play a role in the spread of COVID-19,” the ministry said.

NYC must 'get back to work, mayor says

Update 10:43 a.m. EDT April 26: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference that an immediate goal for recovery was to get people “back to work.”

“This recovery has to have that New York spirit that everyone matters,” de Blasio said. “Recovery means making something better.”

The mayor said his office is creating a Fair Recovery Task to reach that goal. De Blasio said he wants the task force to present a preliminary plan for recovery by June 1.


Pelosi says another federal relief bill is on the way

Update 9:34 a.m. EDT April 26: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Sunday morning another federal emergency relief bill, which will include money for state and local governments, will be proposed. Pelosi, speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” program, said the bill will be proposed despite the objections by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“We will have state and local and we will have it in a very significant way,” Pelosi said. “State and local governments have done their job magnificently. They should be impatient. Their impatience will help us get an even bigger number."

World death toll passes 203K; US nears 54K fatalities

Update 9:18 a.m. EDT April 26: The death toll from the coronavirus has topped 203,000 worldwide and has infected more than 2.9 million people, according to Johns Hopkins University’s count.

The number of cases in the United States continues to creep toward 1 million, with at least 939,249 as of Sunday morning. The death total in the U.S. rose to at least 53,934 Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

China: Wuhan has no more hospitalized COVID-19 patients

Update 9:07 a.m. EDT April 26: Wuhan, the original epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in China, now has no COVID-19 patients in its hospitals, The New York Times reported, citing a government official.

Wuhan was the first city to experience total lockdown because of the coronavirus. The metropolitan area, which has more than 11 million people reported 46,452 total infections and 3,869 deaths in figures published Sunday, the Times reported.

4 test positive for COVID-19 at meat processing plant in Washington state

Update 7:33 a.m. EDT April 26: Four people at a Kelso, Washington, meat processing plant tested positive for the coronavirus, and now there are concerns the number of COVID-19 cases could grow.

According to Seattle’s KIRO-TV, Cowlitz County health officials said those four were employed at the Foster Farms facility.

On April 22, 77 employees at the plant were tested as part of a phased testing procedure, which resulted in the four confirmed cases, county health officials said. Those employees who tested positive weren’t allowed to return to the plant.

On Monday, health officials plan to test another 115 workers.

Co-workers and family members of those who tested positive will be in quarantine and monitored for the next 14 days.

Brad Pitt plays Dr. Anthony Fauci in ‘SNL’ cold open

Update 6:25 a.m. EDT April 26: Just weeks after Dr. Anthony Fauci quipped that Brad Pitt should play him on “Saturday Night Live,” it looks like the infectious disease expert’s dream has come true.

In this week’s episode of the comedy show – the second produced remotely amid the coronavirus pandemic – Pitt’s Fauci jokingly thanked “the older women in America” for their “supportive, inspiring and sometimes graphic emails” before addressing recent controversial comments by President Donald Trump.

>> Watch the sketch here

“The president has taken some liberties with our guidelines, so tonight, I would like to explain what the president was trying to say,” Pitt, playing Fauci, said. “And remember, let’s all try to keep an open mind.”

In response to a clip of Trump saying a coronavirus vaccine would be available “relatively soon,” Pitt’s Fauci conceded, “Relatively soon is an interesting phrase. Relative to the entire history of the Earth? Sure, the vaccine is going to come real fast.”

Pitt-as-Fauci then tackled Trump’s recent comments that COVID-19 will eventually disappear “like a miracle."

”A miracle would be great," the actor said while in character. “Who doesn’t love miracles? But miracles shouldn’t be Plan A.”

Pitt’s version of the doctor also questioned Trump’s description of coronavirus tests as “beautiful."

”I don’t know if I would describe the test as beautiful unless your idea of beauty is having a cotton swab tickle your brain," Pitt’s Fauci said.

After addressing several other comments and rumors that the real Fauci might be fired from the White House’s coronavirus task force, Pitt broke character to share some words of thanks.

“To the real Dr. Fauci, thank you for your calm and your clarity in this unnerving time, and thank you to the medical workers, first responders and their families for being on the front line,” Pitt said.

Read more here.

Washington, D.C., man recounts recovery story after 13 days on ventilator

Update 5:23 a.m. EDT April 26: Rob Driscoll knows he is lucky to be alive.

“I got a new lease on life, and not many people get that," he told Boston’s WFXT.

Driscoll, who is 31 years old, is originally from Plymouth, Massachsetts, but now lives in Washington, D.C.

He was recently rolled out of ICU at Med Start Medical Center in D.C. to a corridor lined with people applauding his recovery from COVID-19 that almost killed him.

His mother, Marilee Driscoll, who lives in Plymouth, said, “We just thought it was a regular cold or flu. And then the fever got out of control, and he ended up pretty quickly in the ICU.”

While in the hospital, Driscoll started gasping for air. Luckily, a nurse was in his room.

“So right after I went into the hospital, I had respiratory failure," Driscoll said. "Basically, my lungs stopped working.”

He was immediately intubated and spent the next 13 days on a ventilator. Marilee rushed to D.C. not knowing what to expect and unable to even visit her son.

“You’re just hoping against hope that you’re not rushing down for a funeral,” Marilee said. "Honestly, we didn’t know if he was going to live or die.”

Driscoll lived. And at 31 years of age, he was healthy and had no underlying conditions. Doctors said they don’t know why the virus attacked him badly.

Doctors told him that the scariest thing about this virus is that there is so much we don’t know about it.

His mom, of course, is overjoyed that her son recovered – so happy, in fact, that she wrote about it on her blog called “Things to Do in Plymouth, MA.

She said these days, we all need some good news “so that people can see that it is possible to recover.”

North Carolina NAACP, faith leaders call for state to address disparities

Update 4 a.m. EDT April 26: The North Carolina NAACP and faith leaders are putting forth a new plan that could help African American communities recover from the coronavirus, which is affecting them disproportionately.

The statistics are troubling, to say the least. African Americans make up 39% of North Carolina’s cases and 36 percent of deaths, but they only account for 21% of the population.

The NAACP is calling on the state to create a special civil rights COVID-19 recovery office to specifically address financial, health and justice issues as the African American community continues to be disproportionately affected by the virus.

“My stomach has been tied up in knots with how we are dancing around this,” said the Rev. T Anthony Spearman, president of the North Carolina NAACP.

To address the economic hardships, the plan details the need to offer funding for minority-owned businesses.

Leaders want the state to immediately suspend mortgage and rent payments.

They’re calling on the governor and state leaders to raise the minimum wage -- and, specifically, the wage of essential workers -- by June.

“Blacks are more likely to be in occupations where there is a greater exposure to coronavirus,” said Dr. William Darity, of Duke University.

Leaders are calling for paid sick time and paid medical leave for front-line workers.

The recovery plan urges the state to expand Medicaid, to get people access to treatment and to address the pre-existing conditions that make the virus more deadly for African Americans in the first place.

Faith leaders warn these disparities do not just impact one community.

“Socially and economically, the pandemics will find their ways to hot spots that are already facing inequalities. What the rest of the society needs to know is that it will not stay in those communities; unless we close those inequalities, the rest of us are risk,” said the Rev. William Barber, of Repairers of the Breach.

Charlotte’s WSOC-TV was scheduled to speak with a North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services leader Friday to talk about what the state is doing to address the disparities. At the last minute, he had to reschedule the interview for next week.

But earlier this week, Dr. Mandy Cohen said the state is focused on opening up testing sites in areas where there is limited access to health care.

Waffle House CEO explains decision to reopen, how restaurant will keep people safe

Update 3:13 a.m. EDT April 26: Come Monday morning, restaurants in Georgia will begin to reopen – but with a whole lot of new rules in place.

Atlanta’s WSB-TV spoke to Waffle House CEO Walt Ehmer about what the beloved breakfast chain will be doing differently Monday.

Ehmer said the restaurant got a jump start weeks ago.

“I think I mentioned this six weeks ago, we started setting our restaurants up for social distancing,” Ehmer said. “At the time, we knew that was going to be the natural progression coming out of this.”

Ehmer said they set up enhanced sanitizing practices and put in some rigorous screening protocols to make sure people weren’t coming in sick.

When doors open Monday, employees will be wearing masks.

“Are you prepared to have empty booths? Are you prepared to tell people you have to wait outside? Are you prepared for all of that?” WSB-TV asked.

“We are. We hate to disappoint anybody, but the good news is the customers understand right now,” Ehmer said.

Waffle House, which originated in Georgia, now has 400 stores across the state and thousands of employees. Ehmer said part of the decision to reopen came from wanting to take care of Waffle House workers.

“I think it might make the difference between having a job and not having a job, and I know the unemployment system has been enhanced to help take care of the most vulnerable people, but people want to have jobs, and they want to have something to do and take care of their families,” Ehmer said. “I think it’s going to give them some hope.”

Ehmer said he is not going to force employees to come to work but be there for people who are able to work and who are eager to get back.

"We want to be there for the people who are able to work, and we found that a bunch of our folks are very much wanting to get back to work," Ehmer said.

The CEO said restaurants are prepared to further restrict seating and work with a skeleton crew.

“What is it you’re hoping to accomplish? What message do you guys want to send to other businesses out there who do want to re-open?” WSB-TV asked.

“What I would like to accomplish is or what would come from this is we would stop fighting with one another. And we all have the same purpose. There are two crises out there right now. One is a health crisis that we’ve been talking about so much over the last several weeks and an equal crises that is brewing, which is this economic crisis,” Ehmer said.

“I don’t think we can solve one crisis without addressing the other crisis,” Ehmer said. “I think America is finally coming to that realization that they’re both serious things that have incredibly human consequences.”

>> Coronavirus: Can the government make you stay home if you are sick?

University of Washington enrolling patients for COVID-19 treatment trial

Update 2:37 a.m. EDT April 26: Researchers with the University of Washington School of Medicine are now enrolling outpatients with COVID-19 for a randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of two drug regimens – hydroxychloroquine and hydroxychloroquine with azithromycin.

Dr. Christine Johnston is a researcher who will be studying the trial.

“I think it’s absolutely critical,” she told Seattle’s KIRO-TV. “It’s the only way we can really understand whether the medications work.”

Hydroxychloroquine has received considerable hype as a potential treatment for COVID-19 and has been confused with chloroquine, a drug stopped in a treatment trial in Brazil.

There is conflicting evidence on whether it works, which is why the research team at the University of Washington School of Medicine is conducting a rigorous trial to offer answers.

Another observational study conducted by the Veterans’ Health Administration raised concerns about the safety and efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in hospitalized patients with COVID-19. These patients were not treated in a randomized trial, raising concerns that sicker patients may have received the medication, and making the findings difficult to interpret.

“When patients go into the hospital, they’re already much sicker and have had infections for much longer. It may be much harder to treat with a medicine targeting a virus at that time,” Johnston said.

Friday, the FDA released a statement that chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine should be used in supervised settings, like clinical trials, where the potential risks can be better studied and mitigated.

“This has been very atypical in my experience, but it is urgent and that’s why we’re seeing this,” Johnston explained. “Very few of these have actually been conducted in randomized clinical trials. What we’re seeing is some observational data that we wouldn’t take that as the definitive answer.”

In the UW School of Medicine trial, patients will have heart rhythm monitoring to ensure safety. The trial also will exclude people with underlying cardiac, kidney or liver disease.

The UW School of Medicine trial will enroll 630 patients at sites across the country, including the University of Washington. Additional sites are planned in Boston, New Orleans, New York, Syracuse and Chicago.

Researchers are seeking outpatients who were recently diagnosed with COVID-19 but are not sick enough to be in the hospital.

Results of the trial are expected by July. The findings will determine whether a treatment looks promising enough for larger clinical trials and whether the drugs are safe. The trial is adaptable so if another medicine comes along that looks promising, the trial can test that, as well.

>> Coronavirus symptoms: What you need to know

Janelle Monae, organizations passing out 5,000 free meals in Atlanta

Update 1:56 a.m. EDT April 26: Thousands of metro Atlanta families will get a free meal Sunday thanks to an artist who wanted to do something special for people during these tough times.

WSB-TV′s Tyisha Fernandes talked to the organizers of the event, which is a team effort between Gate Gourmet, Project Isaiah, Wondaland Arts Society, Councilman Andre Dickens and movie star and artist Janelle Monae.

Monae, who calls Atlanta home, said she really wanted to ease people’s pressure to feed their families at a time like this. Monae has starred in several movies, including Georgia-filmed “Hidden Figures” and “Harriet.”

But right now, Monae is doing something a little different for her Atlanta community.

"It's been such a giving place and a place that i just instantly wanted to give back to," Monae said.

Monae teamed up with Gate Gourmet and Dickens to give away nearly 5,000 free meals to families struggling through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gate Gourmet will make all the meals Sunday morning, and workers will hand them out from noon to 3 p.m.

Organizers will follow social distancing guidelines and ask that people show up with masks and gloves on.

"You can only pull up through drive-thru and walk-up – so you won’t even have to get out of your car," Monae said. "We’ll make sure that the food gets into your trunk and you get it in the safest way possible."

Monae said that in addition to feeding families, the initiative will also save workers' jobs.

"The beautiful thing about all of this is that we get an opportunity to not only show up for our community, but we get the opportunity to save 500 workers' jobs through Project Isaiah and Gate Gourmet. They will all stay employed."

Organizers said Saturday afternoon that the Sunday event has reached capacity, but they are working to organize additional food relief efforts in the future.

For more information, click here.

>> Coronavirus checklist: 100-plus disinfectants that may kill coronavirus on surfaces

US deaths pass 53K; total cases top 939K

Published 12:54 a.m. EDT April 26: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States passed 939,000 early Sunday across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 939,053 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 53,789 deaths. Of those cases, more than 282,143 have been reported in New York, meaning the state has, itself, confirmed more cases than any other nation outside the United States, including the United Kingdom with 149,569 cases, Germany with 156,513, France with 161,644, Italy with 195,351 and Spain with 223,759.

Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 22,009 – or roughly 41% of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 5,914 in New Jersey, 3,155 in Michigan, 2,730 in Massachusetts, 1,875 in Illinois and 1,810 in Pennsylvania.

In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak with at least 282,143 confirmed cases, followed by New Jersey with 105,498, Massachusetts with 53,348, California with 42,612, Illinois with 41,777, Pennsylvania with 41,605 and Michigan with 37,074.

Five other states have now confirmed at least 20,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including:

Florida: 30,839, resulting in 1,055 deaths

Louisiana: 26,512, resulting in 1,707 deaths

Connecticut: 24,583, resulting in 1,865 deaths

Texas: 24,153, resulting in 638 deaths

Georgia: 23,222, resulting in 907 deaths

Meanwhile, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Washington state, Colorado and Virginia each has confirmed at least 12,000 cases; Tennessee and North Carolina each has confirmed at least 8,000 cases; Rhode Island, Missouri, Arizona and Alabama each has confirmed at least 6,000 cases; Mississippi, Wisconsin, South Carolina and Iowa each has confirmed at least 5,000 cases; Nevada has confirmed at least 4,000 cases; Utah, Kentucky, the District of Columbia, Delaware, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Kansas each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Arkansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oregon and South Dakota each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases.

Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown.