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Army helps make temporary hospital at New York's Javits Center one of the largest in the country

JMRPhotography/iStock(NEW YORK) -- With the Army's help, the temporary field hospital at New York City's Javits Convention Center will now hold 2,910 beds, making it one of the largest hospitals in America. Established in record time, the temporary hospital is an example of the surge of federal and military resources into New York to help with the novel coronavirus pandemic, including the Army Corps of Engineers, two Army field hospitals, and the Navy’s hospital ship the USNS Comfort.

Over the last week the Army Corps of Engineers has been busy transforming the convention center’s expansive exposition halls into an overflow medical facility that beginning Monday will treat patients who are not infected with the novel coronavirus. The treatment of non-COVID-19 patients is designed to make it easier for medical facilities in New York to focus treatment on patients infected with the virus.

Originally slated to house 1,000 beds composed of four Federal Emergency Management Agency field hospitals, the Army Corps of Engineers took advantage of the convention center's design and the arrival of two Army field hospitals from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, and Fort Hood, Texas, to expand the number of beds at the temporary hospital.

"We basically took that four [multiplied] by 250 is 1,000. We thought we could expand it by stretching the ratio," Gen. Todd Semonite, the head of the Army Corps of Engineers, told reporters Friday. "So today we're going to plan on having 2,910 rooms up by Monday morning in the Javits Center."

That number of beds will make the Javits Center hospital larger than the 2,600 bed capacity of New York- Presbyterian Hospital, the city's largest hospital.

"The Javits Center is an amazing facility," said Semonite. "Every 10 feet there's a great big steel door in the floor, you open it up in there is all the electrical; there's cold water, there's hot water and there's a place for sewers, so you can actually do things like sinks, right in the middle of a convention center to be able to make that happen."

The hospital will be staffed by 350 medical personnel from FEMA and the two Army hospitals.

Non-COVID-19 patients will be transported from hospitals in the New York City area to the convention center, just as they will be at the 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship the USNS Comfort when it is operational in New York Harbor on Tuesday.

Earlier this week, three of the Army’s six field hospitals were ordered to assist in the treatment of non-COVID-19 patients with one of them headed to Washington state and the other two to New York City.

Six hundred soldiers from those the 531st Hospital Center from Fort Campbell and the 9th Hospital Center from Fort Hood flew to the New York on Thursday, ahead of the arrival of their medical equipment that was being transported in 108 tractor trailer trucks

"This is obviously the absolute top priority of the nation right now, and knowing that our very well-trained and capable [531st] Hospital Center is going to be part of this makes us really proud," Maj. Gen. Brian Winski, the commander the 101st Airborne Division, told ABC News in an interview.

"They're well trained, they're prepared and readiness is our watchword; they're prepared to deploy in a moment's notice, which is exactly what they did and they are going to make a huge impact," he added.

While the medical personnel from the 531st Hospital Center will not be treating non-COVID-19 patients, they will still follow guidelines to ensure they do not become exposed to the virus during their deployment.

Prior to their departure, Winski told his soldiers that the length of their deployment to New York will likely be "a matter of months, not weeks" and that his command will do their best to ensure that they and their commands are kept informed of when they will come home.

Their prolonged stay will also have an impact at Fort Campbell’s Blanchfield Army Community Hospital where most of the personnel from the 531st are normally assigned.

"It is requiring us to reorganize," Winski said, acknowledging soldiers' deployment will lead to staff adjustments at Blanchfield to ensure that facility can treat COVID-19 cases at Fort Campbell.

"We're going to adjust how we're organized up there to ensure that we are configured as best as we can possibly be for larger numbers of COVID-19 patients that require hospitalization."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Coronavirus live updates: US cases top 100,000; Italy’s death toll climbs over 9,000

Samara Heisz/iStock(NEW YORK) -- A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed over 26,900 people around the world.

Globally there are more than 586,000 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

The United States has over 100,000 cases of COVID-19, the highest of any country.

There have been at least 1,544 deaths in the U.S. More than 1,000 people have died in the past week alone.

At least 862 people in the U.S. have recovered.

Here are the latest developments. All times are in Eastern.

7:59 p.m.: Pence says over 685,000 tests done

Vice President Mike Pence said more than 685,000 tests for coronavirus have been done in the U.S. as of Friday morning.

"As a great credit to our partnership with commercial laboratories across the country, this morning it was reported that more than 685,000 tests have already been performed, and we are particularly grateful to the American Hospital Association whose members are now reporting in to the CDC and FEMA in real time, giving our experts more visibility on those that have contracted the disease around the country," Pence said.

The number is an increase of 133,000 from Thursday, and includes private testing.

6 p.m.: US cases top 100,000

The number of diagnosed coronavirus cases in the U.S. has now topped 100,000, according to Johns Hopkins.

There are now 100,717 cases, most in the world by over 14,000, and 1,544 deaths.

Meanwhile, the number of cases worldwide is creeping closer to 600,000, now standing at 590,594.

4:48 p.m.: 2 more congressmen test positive


Two more congressmen, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Pa., and Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., have tested positive for coronavirus.

Neither was there for today’s stimulus package vote.

There are now four members who have announced they’ve received positive tests, including Ben McAdams, D-Utah, and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla.

4:45 p.m.: 25-year-old with no underlying conditions dies


A 25-year-old pharmacy technician with no underlying health issues has died from COVID-19, said Dr. Cameron Kaiser, the Riverside County, California, public health officer.

The 25-year-old had been self-quarantining. The victim's body was found Wednesday in a home in La Quinta, officials said.

"This is a deeply saddening reminder that COVID-19 kills the young and healthy too," Kaiser said in a statement. "Stay safe. Keep travel and errands to essentials, and observe social distance no matter how young or well you are. Our condolences and thoughts are with everyone this pandemic has touched."

4:20 p.m.: Trump uses Defense Production Act for 1st time, compelling GM to make ventilators


President Donald Trump for the first time on Friday used the authorities granted by the Defense Production Act to compel General Motors to produce ventilators.

"Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course," Trump said in a written statement. "GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives."

Trump said in the memo that the Secretary of Health and Human Services “shall use any and all authority available under the Act to require General Motors Company to accept, perform, and prioritize contracts or orders for the number of ventilators that the secretary determines to be appropriate.”

A GM spokesperson said, "Ventec, GM and our supply base have been working around the clock for over a week to meet this urgent need. Our commitment to build Ventec’s high-quality critical care ventilator, VOCSN, has never wavered. The partnership between Ventec and GM combines global expertise in manufacturing quality and a joint commitment to safety to give medical professionals and patients access to life-saving technology as rapidly as possible."

Trump signed the COVID-19 relief package in the Oval Office Friday afternoon.

The historic measure was passed by the House of Representatives earlier Friday.

The $2 trillion package, which the Senate approved on Wednesday, is the largest emergency aid package in U.S. history.

3:50 p.m.: Disney World, Disneyland closed until further notice


Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort will stay closed until further notice.

The company said it's been paying its cast members since the parks closed and will now extend paying hourly parks and resorts cast members through April 18.

(Disney is the parent company of ABC News.)

3:32 p.m.: New Jersey offering exclusive testing to health care workers, first responders


New Jersey will offer exclusive COVID-19 testing to health care workers and first responders this weekend, Gov. Phil Murphy said Friday.

Beginning Saturday, the Bergen County College and PNC Bank Arts Center drive-through sites will be reserved for health workers and first responders only. On Monday, the two sites will reopen again to anyone in need of a test.

The state has at least 8,825 confirmed cases. The virus has killed 108 people in New Jersey, including 27 people in the last 24 hours.

Although the state is working hard to expand testing to more people, officials can only commit to testing those who are symptomatic, Murphy said.

3:15 p.m.: LA County beaches to close


Los Angeles County beaches are all closing to the public immediately because the crowds there last weekend "were unacceptable," said LA County Supervisor Janice Hahn.

"We cannot risk another sunny weekend with crowds at the beach spreading this virus," Hahn said.

The county is also closing public trails and beach bike paths.

LA County has at least 1,465 diagnosed cases and five deaths.

2:18 p.m.: Italy’s death toll climbs over 9,000

Italy -- by far the hardest-hit nation for coronavirus fatalities -- recorded over 900 deaths in one day, a daily record, said Domenico Arcuri, the national commissioner for the emergency.

Italy's death toll is now over 9,000, according to the Johns Hopkins data.

Despite the grim numbers, officials with the Italian Higher Health Institute said Friday that the nationwide lockdown continues to show a reduction in the rate of new cases each day.

Overall there was a 7.3% growth in the spread of the virus from Thursday nationwide. This is the fifth day in a row of single-digit percentage growth in the overall number of new cases, according to Italy's Civil Protection Agency.

The total number of cases in Italy is now over 86,000, according to the civil protection agency.

12:29 p.m.: Pennsylvania becomes 13th state to delay primary

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf signed legislation Friday to move the state's presidential primary from April 28 to June 2.

Pennsylvania marks the 13th state to delay its nominating contest over coronavirus concerns. Pennsylvania joins Alaska, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wyoming, as well as Puerto Rico.

12:06 p.m.: 519 deaths in New York

Diagnosed coronavirus cases have jumped to 44,685 in New York state, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

Of those diagnosed, 6,481 are hospitalized, including 1,583 people in the ICU, Cuomo said.

New York has by far the most cases of any state in the nation. In second is New Jersey with 6,800, according to Cuomo.

At least 519 have died in the state. Cuomo warned, "That is going to continue to go up."

"The reason why the number is going up is because some people came into the hospital 20 days, 25 days ago and had been on a ventilator for that long a period of time," Cuomo said. "When somebody is on that ventilator for a prolonged period of time, the outcome is usually not good."

As the pandemic escalates, New York state schools will remain closed until April 15, and Cuomo said he will re-assess from that point. New York City schools are closed until at least April 20.

Hospitals in the state have 53,000 beds but need 140,000 beds, the governor said. Hospitals have to increase capacity by 50%, Cuomo said, adding that he hopes hospitals can increase capacity by 100%.

The state is also looking to build temporary emergency hospitals and is scouting sites, he said.

11:28 a.m.: Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy arrives in Los Angeles

The Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy arrived in the port of Los Angeles Friday morning where it'll help ease the burden on the city's hospitals.

With 1,128 active duty medical personnel on board, the USNS Mercy will treat non-COVID-19 patients.

Another Navy hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, will depart Virginia on Saturday to head to New York City's harbor.

11:09 a.m.: Mark Zuckerberg commits $25 million to accelerate coronavirus treatments

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he and his wife are giving $25 million to accelerate the development of coronavirus treatments.

"We're partnering with the Gates Foundation and others to quickly evaluate the most promising existing drugs to see which ones might be effective at preventing and treating the coronavirus," Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post Friday morning. "Since these drugs have already gone through clinical safety trials, if they're effective, it will be much faster to make them available than it will be to develop and test a new vaccine -- hopefully months rather than a year or more."

10:12 a.m.: Man arrested for making threats toward Dems, Speaker Pelosi


A 27-year-old Texas man has been arrested for allegedly making death threats against Democrats, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, related to their work on Congress' coronavirus stimulus bill, according to the FBI.

Gavin Perry was charged with making threats over Facebook in which he allegedly described Pelosi as part of a "satanic cult" and said that "Dems of the establishment will be removed at any cost necessary and yes that means by death."

In a separate post that featured a photo of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Perry allegedly wrote, "If youre a dem or apart of the establishment in the democrats side I view you as a criminal and a terrorist and I advise everyone to Go SOS [shoot on sight] and use live rounds... Shoot to kill. This is a revolution.”

Perry appeared in court Thursday but has not entered a plea.

9:52 a.m.: 911 calls reach record high in NYC

In New York City -- the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic -- the fire department handled more than 6,000 911 calls on Thursday, the busiest day ever in terms of individual medical incidents.

That number is nearly double the normal amount of 911 calls for the department.

The record-high call volume is largely being driven by calls from people who are scared or concerned they have coronavirus, officials said.

The FDNY is imploring people not to call 911 if they feel sick. Instead, they should ring a doctor and call for an ambulance only in a true emergency.

There are 2,000 New York City firefighters and paramedics out sick, or about 17% of the department, officials said.

At least 170 members of the FDNY have tested positive for COVID-19.

9:18 a.m.: UK Prime Minister, UK Health Secretary test positive for COVID-19

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday morning that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus," Johnson said in a tweet. "I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus. Together we will beat this."

U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Friday said he too has tested positive for COVID-19 and is self-isolating.

Hancock said his symptoms are "very mild" and he would continue to work from home.

8:20 a.m.: NYC mayor projects half of city will be infected

In New York City -- the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic -- Mayor Bill de Blasio projects "over half the people in this city will ultimately be infected."

"For over 80% [there] will be very little impact," de Blasio told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. "But 20% of the people infected, it's going to be tough, and for some of them, it will be fatal."

New York City has over 23,112 diagnosed cases -- more than a quarter of the confirmed cases in the country.

At least 365 people have died in New York City, twice as many deaths as any state.

The mayor said the city has enough hospital supplies to get through this week and next week but "that's all I can guarantee, and after that unfortunately, we think this crisis is going to grow through April into May. "

"We need help now. When the president says the state of New York doesn't need 30,000 ventilators, with all due respect to him, he's not looking at the facts of this astronomical growth of this crisis," de Blasio said. "A ventilator means someone lives or dies ... if they don't get a ventilator, a lot of people won't make it."

The city needs 15,000 ventilators, he warned.

"We have some, and I'm thankful for that, but it has to keep coming," de Blasio said. "The president has to make that contract happen with the companies that can create ventilators not just for New York City and New York state, but for the whole country. This is going to get worse before it gets better ... all parts of this country are going to need them."

De Blasio called the president's goal to reopen the country for Easter "a false hope."

"It would be better for the president to be blunt with people that we've got a really tough battle ahead," the mayor said. "Throw in the military who are not yet being fully engaged, and they're ready, but the president has to give the order. Build those ventilators, get the supplies all over this country. People are going to need it in April and in May."

7:29 a.m.: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for COVID-19

United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Friday morning that he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

"Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus," Johnson tweeted. "I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus. Together we will beat this."

Johnson was tested on the advice of England's chief medical officer, according to a Downing Street spokesperson.

"We will get through it," Johnson said in a video message Friday.

5:19 a.m.: Michigan health system develops contingency plan to deny ventilators and ICU treatment

A Michigan health system has come up with a contingency plan for doctors to make life-or-death decisions when treating patients in the coronavirus pandemic.

A draft letter from Henry Ford Health Systems outlining the plan to families was widely shared on Twitter late Thursday night. The plan, typed on what appeared to be hospital letterhead, said that coronavirus patients with the best chance of surviving will be "our first priority," while those who are "extremely sick and very unlikely to survive" will receive "pain control and comfort measures" rather than ventilators and intensive care treatment.

"Treating these patients would take away resources for patients who might survive," the letter stated. "This decision will be based on medical condition and likelihood of getting better."

Responding to a flurry tweets about the letter, Henry Ford Health Systems confirmed its accuracy but clarified that the policy has not yet been implemented.

“With a pandemic, we must be prepared for worst case,” the company tweeted. “With collective wisdom from our industry, we crafted a policy to provide guidance for making difficult patient care decisions. We hope never to have to apply them. We will always utilize every resource to care for our patients.”

4:37 a.m.: South Africa cases top 1,000 as country begins three-week lockdown

The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in South Africa has topped 1,000, the country's health minister said Friday.

Africa's most industrialized economy has the highest national total of known cases on the continent.

South Africa also recorded its first two deaths from COVID-19, both of which occurred in the Western Cape province.

"This morning, we South Africans wake up with sad news that we now have our first deaths resulting from COVID-19,” South African Health Minister Zweli Mkhizethe said in a statement Friday.

Friday marked the start of a three-week nationwide lockdown in South Africa, aimed at curbing the rising number of cases.

3:30 a.m.: Trump and Xi discuss coronavirus crisis

U.S. President Donald Trump said he spoke to Chinese President Xi Jinping about the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump posted about the telephone conversation on Twitter early Thursday morning, saying they discussed the situation "in great detail."

"Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China," Trump tweeted. "Discussed in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet. China has been through much [and] has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!"

Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China. Discussed in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet. China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 27, 2020

 Xi told Trump that "China and the United States should unite to fight the epidemic" and that he hoped "the United States will take substantive actions to improve Sino-U.S. relations," according to Chinese state television network CCTV.

The Chinese president also emphasized that the relationship between their two countries is "at a critical juncture" and that "cooperation is the only right choice," according to CCTV.

Trump has clashed with China over the global fight against the novel coronavirus, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019. The U.S. president reportedly angered Beijing officials this month when he repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as "the Chinese virus."

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


As people social distance, everyone wants to know 'how to make banana bread'

strevell/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The only thing people seem to be talking about besides coronavirus is baking.

As Americans stay home to "flatten the curve" and practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the most tweeted about activities for those at home has been cooking and baking. The hashtag #QuarantineBread emerged, according to Twitter, where twice as many people as usual tweeted about cooking and baking this week.

The baking trend carried over onto Google where a trending search of the week was "How to make banana bread."

Look no further.

Taste of Home shared their recipe for the "best ever" banana bread, sent in from their reader Gert Kaiser of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

"Whenever I pass a display of bananas in the grocery store, I can almost smell the wonderful aroma of my best banana bread recipe," she wrote. "It really is that good!"

Get the recipe for this highly rated banana bread below.

Best-ever banana bread

Total time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Prep time: 15 minutes

Bake time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Yield: one loaf (16 slices)


Ingredients:
1 and 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 medium ripe bananas, mashed (1 cup)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions:

In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl, combine the eggs, bananas, oil, buttermilk and vanilla; add to flour mixture, stirring just until combined. Fold in nuts.

Pour into a greased or parchment-lined 9-inch by 5-inch loaf pan.

If desired, sprinkle with additional walnuts.

Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour and 20 minutes to 1 hour and 30 minute or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool on wire rack.

One slice: 255 calories, 12g fat (1g saturated fat), 27mg cholesterol, 166mg sodium, 34g carbohydrate (21g sugars, 1g fiber), 4g protein


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Read Gov. Cuomo's moving speech about defeating the novel coronavirus

iStock(NEW YORK) -- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's daily press briefings have become a source of comfort, calm and inspiration as the novel coronavirus pandemic intensifies.

New York has become the epicenter of the pandemic. With over 44,000 diagnosed cases, New York has by far the most cases of any state in the nation.

At least 519 have died in the state, and Cuomo warned, "That is going to continue to go up."

The battle against the virus will "be weeks and weeks and weeks," the governor said Friday, adding, "I'm proud to fight this fight with you."

Here's a partial transcript of the governor's Friday remarks:


I want to make two points to you and I want to make two promises to you. This is a different beast that we're dealing with. This is an invisible beast. It is an insidious beast. This is not going to be a short deployment. This is not going to be that you go out there for a few days. We work hard and we go home. This is going to be weeks and weeks and weeks. This is going to be a long day and it's going to be a hard day, and it's going to be an ugly day, and it's going to be a sad day.

This is a rescue mission that you're on - the mission is to save lives. That's what you're doing. The rescue mission is to save lives and as hard as we work, we're not going to be able to save everyone. And what's even more cruel is this enemy doesn't attack the strongest of us. It attacks the weakest of us. It attacks our most vulnerable which makes it even worse in many ways. Because these are the people that every instinct tells us we're supposed to protect.

These are our parents and our grandparents. These are our aunts, our uncles. These are a relative who was sick and every instinct says protect them. Help them, because they need us. And those are the exact people that this enemy attacks. Every time I've called out the National Guard I have said the same thing to you: I promise you I will not ask you to do anything that I will not do myself. And the same is true here. We're going to do this and we're going to do this together.

My second point is, you are living a moment in history. This is going to be one of those moment they're going to write and they're going to talk about for generations. This is a moment that is going to change this nation. This is a moment that forges character, forges people, changes people -- make them stronger, make them weaker -- but this is a moment that will change character.

Ten years from now, you'll be talking about today to your children or your grandchildren and you will shed a tear because you will remember the lives lost. You'll remember the faces and you'll remember the names and you'll remember how hard we worked and that we still lost loved ones. And you'll shed a tear and you should because it will be sad.

But, you will also be proud. You'll be proud of what you did. You'll be proud that you showed up. You showed up when other people played it safe. You had the courage to show up. You had the skill and the professionalism to make a difference and save lives. That's what you will have done.

At the end of the day, nobody can ask anything more from you. That is your duty, to do what you can when you can. You will have shown skill and courage and talent. You'll be there with your mind, you'll be there with your heart and you'll serve with honor. That will give you pride and you should be proud. I know that I am proud of you.

And every time the National Guard has been called out, they have made every New Yorker proud. I am proud to be with you yet again. I'm proud to fight this fight with you. And I bring you thanks from all New Yorkers who are just so appreciative of the sacrifice that you are making, the skill that you're bringing, the talent that you're bringing. You give many New Yorkers confidence.

So I say, my friends, that we go out there today and we kick coronavirus' a--, that's what I say. And we're going to save lives and New York is going to thank you. God bless each and every one of you.


Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Open by Easter? Relaxing COVID-19 restrictions too soon could backfire

iStock(NEW YORK) -- Even before President Donald Trump said he hoped to reopen the U.S. by Easter, millions were wondering: Is social distancing really worth it? And either way, when can it end?

According to two studies published this week, the answer to one of those questions became quite a bit clearer: Yes, social distancing is worth it.

The studies showed that in China the spread of COVID-19 slowed significantly with fewer person-to-person interactions. And perhaps more important, using mathematical models, the authors showed that relaxing restrictions prematurely would have led another spike in infections, further burdening an already stressed health care system.

In January, the Chinese government took extreme measures trying to contain the novel coronavirus, including rapidly isolating suspected cases, confirmed cases and close contact, in addition to strictly limiting individuals' mobility. Other countries similarly have deployed these measures in hopes of "flattening the curve," aka slowing the spread of the virus.

In both papers, researchers mathematically modeled human travel and human contact patterns in China using assumptions from prior studies on the early stages of the pandemic, which initially was reported in Wuhan.

The first study, published in Science, showed that timely travel restrictions drastically reduced disease spread. In an interesting extension of the study, the researchers studied the most important factors later in the evolution of the pandemic, after travel restrictions were enacted, and found the daily number of new cases was less related to human mobility and more related to factors including aggressively implemented public health policies.

The researchers emphasized that swift local measures -- closing schools, increasing testing, tracing new cases -- to combat the outbreak are crucially important, particularly as the time between infection and symptom development is usually around five days.

A second study, published in The Lancet Public Health, used mathematical models to further support the idea that physical distancing and travel restrictions helped Wuhan get its epidemic under control.

Measures that seemed drastic at the time, according to the data, have in fact proved quite effective in China. After closing schools and businesses, Wuhan saw COVID-19 cases decrease, and the region's peak in cases likely was delayed. In short, these measures flattened the curve.

But the researchers didn't just study Wuhan. They used data collected there to predict what might happen elsewhere if physical distancing measures are relaxed prematurely.

According to their model, timing matters immensely. Had Chinese officials had relaxed restrictions at the beginning of March, the Chinese population could have experienced a second wave of infections as early as August. If they waited until April to begin lifting restrictions, that could delay a second wave by two months. (Both options included relaxing restrictions gradually over a four-week period.)

So what does this mean for other countries? That there's still a long way to go, but mitigation measures work, and easing up on them too early could lead to a dramatic surge in COVID-19 cases -- especially in the U.S., which hasn't yet flattened the curve.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New website calculates whether you have enough toilet paper to last through quarantine

iStock/sergeyryzhov(NEW YORK) -- The coronavirus pandemic has touched seemingly every aspect of our lives - from our health, to our work, to where we go, and what we buy. It’s even effecting our trips to the bathroom.

Georgia-Pacific, the maker of toilet paper brands Angel Soft and Quilted Northern, had to increase production by 20% to meet increased demand. At a grocery store in Australia, a fight broke out over a package of toilet paper. Even New York Governor Andrew Cuomo thinks the problem is getting out of hand.

"There's no reason to buy a hundred rolls of toilet paper. There really isn't," the governor said at a press briefing on the coronavirus earlier this month.

For most of us, a hundred rolls is far too much toilet paper. But if you are running low on that essential bathroom supply, exactly how much should you plan to buy?

HowMuchToiletPaper.com is a new website aiming to answer that question, says co-founder Ben Sassoon. Sassoon, a student software developer, alongside artist Sam Harris, created the website after joking about how much toilet paper they used.

"When we started this out, it was just kind of a bit of humor between us two," says Sassoon. "We were kind of discussing, just in a jokey manner, how much toilet paper we use each day."

That joke became the basis for HowMuchToiletPaper.com.

"We thought, tell you what - maybe it would be interesting to see how much other people are using, and kind of compare it."

The website presents vistors with a series of sliders that can be used to answer questions like how many rolls of toilet paper you have, and how many trips to the bathroom you take on a daily basis.

The website then crunches the numbers to see if your toilet paper stash will be enough to last the full length of the specified quarantine. For example, if a person has 12 rolls of toilet paper in their home, and averages two trips to the bathroom per day, HowMuchToiletPaper.com calculates that person will last 192 days, or 914% of a three week quarantine.

Then users can open a tab labeled "Advanced Options," where they can detail their experience on the toilet "with absolute scientific precision," says Sassoon. Questions in this section range from how many people are in the household, to how many wipes you average per trip to the bathroom.

Although the tool started as a joke, it has produced some interesting findings. For example, the average visitor to the site reports they have five times more toilet paper than they need.

"It's really been eye-opening," says Sassoon.

The website has reportedly seen more than five million visitors since it launched less than two weeks ago. Sassoon says he hopes people take a lesson from their time on the site.

"Even though we started it kind of in a bit of a jokey sense, it has become an educational tool, because people are looking at it and learning that they've got way more than they need."

Hear this story and more on this week's Perspective podcast.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Motorman dead, dozens injured in suspicious Harlem subway fire

Starflamedia/iStock(NEW YORK) --  An MTA motorman is dead and at least a dozen other people are injured in a suspicious fire on a Harlem subway car that spewed heavy smoke through stations and tunnels and further delayed service already curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The fire broke out inside a northbound No. 2 train as it entered the 110th Street station, near Central Park, just after 3:15 a.m.

“We are devastated by this. This is a hard moment for New York City Transit,” said Sarah Feinberg, the interim president of the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

As the No. 2 train reached 110th Street, an employee on the train reported heavy smoke and fire in the second car. The motorman was found on the tracks and later pronounced dead.

There are several other fires at 86th, 96th and 116th Streets that police said may be connected.

“The most important thing I need is witnesses to come forward,” said NYPD Deputy Chief Brian McGee.

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More than 9,000 retired Army medical personnel respond to call for assistance with coronavirus pandemic

Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James C. McConville speaks at the Pentagon about the latest COVID-19 developments in the Army, March 26, 2020, in Washington. (Lisa Ferdinando/Office of the Secretary of Defense)(WASHINGTON) -- More than 9,000 retired soldiers have responded to the U.S. Army's call for retired medical personnel to assist with the response to the novel coronavirus pandemic, as hundreds of active duty soldiers deploy to support Army field hospitals in New York and Seattle.

Earlier this week, the Army sent a notification to more than 800,000 retired soldiers to gauge their willingness in returning to service in a volunteer capacity. In a Pentagon briefing on Thursday, Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville called the initial response "very, very positive."

Army Surgeon General Scott Dingle told reporters that these volunteers will "fill those holes" in military medical treatment facilities across the nation where some staff are now deployed to field hospitals, leaving vacancies in their traditional assignments.

"What we'll do is even though we get many volunteers, we then will walk through the process of certification, making sure that all certifications and credentials are straight," Dingle said. "Then once we do that, we will plug them into all of our medical treatment facilities as required in support of the mission."

The 531st Hospital Center out of Fort Campbell, Kentucky and the 9th Hospital Center out of Fort Hood, Texas -- roughly 650 personnel in total -- will arrive in New Jersey on Friday. They will be located at the Javits Center in New York City, which is being converted into a temporary hospital for non-coronavirus patients in order to take the pressure off city hospitals -- which are better equipped to treat infectious disease. The Javits Center is expected to be operational on Monday, McConville said.

The 627th Hospital Center from Fort Carson, Colorado will deploy to Seattle, where an advance team is coordinating with state and local authorities to determine where a temporary hospital could be established there. McConville said possible locations include CenturyLink Field -- home of the Seattle Seahawks -- and a state fairground.

Three more active duty hospital units are on standby to possibly also deploy, Army officials said.

"This extraordinary challenge requires equally extraordinary solutions, and our retired Army healthcare professionals have shown that they are capable of providing the highest level of care while operating under constantly changing conditions," the Army said in a statement on Thursday. "This information request will no way interfere with any care they may be providing to their communities, is for future planning purposes only, and is completely voluntary."

But it's not just the Army that will lose medical personnel due to its response to the pandemic. More than a thousand Navy medical personnel have left their assignments for deployments aboard two Navy hospital ships that will dock in Los Angeles and New York City to take in non-coronavirus patients.

To assist with the shortfall in healthcare personnel, the federal government is making available more than 200 military medical students and graduate nursing students from the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences. The group, who are all active duty uniformed officers in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Public Health Service, will have completed all of their requirements and graduate early to backfill their colleagues who are responding to the coronavirus.

"Our curriculum has a specific focus on threats like emerging infectious diseases and disasters that our military and Public Health Service forces are likely to encounter in the course of their careers," said university president Dr. Richard Thomas. "This instruction is based on real-life lessons learned, is woven throughout the curriculum and incorporated into our medical field exercises."

He added, "Our students are uniquely prepared to meet and address the readiness needs of the Department of Defense and our Nation the moment they step out of our doors. This is exactly what they were educated and trained to do."

The Army is specifically interested in recruiting retired critical care officers, anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists, critical care nurses, nurse practitioners, nurses, respiratory specialists, and medics, according to the statement.

Interested retired career medical personnel should contact usarmy.knox.hrc.mbx.g3-retiree-recall@mail.mil or call 502-613-4911.

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FBI warns of potential surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans amid coronavirus

krblokhin/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Federal law enforcement is warning of an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans as the coronavirus crisis continues to grow, according to a new FBI analysis obtained by ABC News.

"The FBI assesses hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease … endangering Asian American communities," according to the intelligence report, which was compiled by the FBI’s Houston office and distributed to local law enforcement agencies across the country. "The FBI makes this assessment based on the assumption that a portion of the US public will associate COVID-19 with China and Asian American populations."

The contagion that has left much of the nation in near-lockdown and caused thousands of deaths globally began late last year in the region of Wuhan in eastern China. Since then, many Americans, including President Donald Trump and other political leaders and media commentators, have adopted the practice of calling the ailment the "China virus" or some other variant that makes reference to China or Wuhan, rather than "coronavirus" or "COVID-19," the terms used by federal health officials and in the FBI analysis. The rhetoric, critics say, has fueled ill will and has led some people to act out against Asian Americans.

Trump has defended his language, explaining that it’s simply a way of reminding people from where the virus emanated. He has also denied the term is racist or that the term maligns people of Asian heritage.

"It did come from China," Trump said at a White House briefing Tuesday. "It is a very accurate term."

Two days later the president said, "We have to protect our Asian Americans," echoing a tweet from earlier in the week in which he said the coronavirus was "NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form." At a White House briefing Thursday the president could not point to any specific measures he was taking to protect the Asian American community.

The FBI report made no reference to Trump or any other official.

The analysis noted there has already been a surge in reports of hate crimes and lists a series of incidents from Los Angeles to New York to Texas.

The document detailed a March 14 incident in Midland, Texas, in which "three Asian American family members, including a 2-year-old and 6-year-old, were stabbed … The suspect indicated that he stabbed the family because he thought the family was Chinese, and infecting people with the coronavirus."

FBI spokesperson Lauren Hagee said she could not comment on the document but stressed, "we do want to assure the public the FBI remains committed to ensuring national security and pursuing violations of federal law."

Statistics show that the Asian population in the U.S. grew by 72% between 2000 and 2015, making it the fastest-growing ethnic group in the country, according to the Pew Research Center.

Gregg Orton, national director of the National Council of Asian Pacific Americans, told ABC News the intelligence document "is an indication of how serious the problem is. We need to stop dismissing this. It’s easy to dismiss racism when it doesn’t impact you."

Orton said he and his colleagues expect a continue uptick in incidents and he stressed how the matter is not minor.

"This is people’s safety and it’s affecting their lives," he said.

"Maybe it is China’s fault or the [Chinese] government’s fault," Orton said of the spread of the virus throughout and then out of China. "There will be a time and place for that conversation. But right now we’re in the thick of this and we have to be mindful of the language we’re using."

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Severe weather expected to hit the Midwest with damaging winds, tornado threat

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- A major storm system will move out of the Rockies into the Plains and the Midwest Friday and into Saturday with a threat for strong tornadoes, huge hail and damaging winds.

This storm already brought up to 35 inches of snow just north of Salt Lake City.

Near Rapid City, South Dakota, 2 to 4 inches of snow made roads icy, creating dangerous road conditions, several spin outs and accidents along I-90 Thursday.

Also, golf ball size hail was reported overnight from Kansas to Illinois.

The next round of severe weather is expected to continue Friday from Kansas to Illinois with a big threat for large hail and tornadoes.

By Saturday, the center of the storm moves into the Midwest with an even higher threat for severe weather, including strong tornadoes.

A life-threatening weather situation is possible in Illinois this weekend.

Meanwhile, Thursday brought more record heat to the South. More than three dozen record highs were tied or broken from Kentucky all the way down to southern Texas and east to Florida.

Here some of the heat records from Thursday:

  • McAllen, Texas - 100 degrees
  • Miami - 89 degrees
  • Oklahoma City - 92 degrees
  • Tulsa, Oklahoma - 94 degrees
  • Midland, Texas - 94 degrees
  • Pensacola, Florida - 84 degrees
  • Mobile, Alabama - 86 degrees
  • Evansville, Indiana - 81 degrees
  • Galveston, Texas - 81 degrees
  • Tupelo, Mississippi - 89 degrees
  • Amarillo, Texas - 88 degrees
  • Paducah, Kentucky - 83 degrees

And even more record heat is expected Friday across the South. Some cities in southern Texas will once again approach 100 degrees.

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ICE detainees in facilities with coronavirus cases ordered released by judge

MivPiv/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Immigrations and Customs Enforcement detainees must be immediately released from county jails where cases of novel coronavirus have been confirmed, a federal judge in New York ordered Thursday night.

The 10 detainees asked for their release "because of the public health crisis posed by COVID-19," their petition said.

The men and women had been detained by federal immigration authorities and had removal proceedings pending in immigration court. They were being held at three jails in New Jersey where either detainees or staff had tested positive for coronavirus.

"Each Petitioner suffers from chronic medical conditions, and faces an imminent risk of death or serious injury in immigration detention if exposed to COVID-19," the decision said.

The jails where the detainees were being housed has each reported confirmed cases: two detainees and one correctional officer in the Hudson County Jail; one detainee at the Bergen County Jail; and a superior officer at the Essex County Jail.

"The nature of detention facilities makes exposure and spread of the virus particularly harmful," Judge Analisa Torres wrote.

"Moreover, medical doctors, including two medical experts for the Department of Homeland Security, have warned of a 'tinderbox scenario' as COVID-19 spreads to immigration detention centers and the resulting 'imminent risk to the health and safety of immigrant detainees' and the public," she added.

The decision also cited the "failure" of jail operators to say with certainty the detention facilities were in a position to allow inmates to remain 6 feet apart, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

New York has been particularly hard-hit by the virus. There have been at least 39,125 cases in the state and at least 454 deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

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As nursing homes take a heavy toll early, companies try to erect barriers to coronavirus

Cecilie_Arcurs/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As officials at the nation's nursing homes began to realize their facilities and elderly populations were deeply vulnerable targets for the spread of novel coronavirus, the medical director at one of the largest chains realized he needed a new playbook to take on an outbreak this dangerous.

"We were determined to do our best to contain it," said Dr. Mark Gloth, chief medical officer for HCR ManorCare. "I said, 'Why can't we MacGyver it and put something together that will actually provide an additional level of support for our patients and employees?'"

The resulting plan, now implemented in 15 of the chain's 168 nursing homes and planned for 25 by next week, involves walling off a section of each home with heavy-grade plastic to serve as make-shift isolation units. Staff has quickly set apart residents who have a temperature, cough, or other symptoms of the virus. ManorCare officials did confirm they have positive cases of coronavirus in their system, but declined to provide details.

The isolation pods are just one new approach in a patchwork of improvised efforts some nursing homes are instituting to protect one of the most vulnerable populations to the outbreak, as equipment shortages threaten to make finding solutions even more imperative.

"We're doing a lot of things, and we're being very creative in trying to meet regulations to keep the residents safe and also ensure that we prevent COVID-19 in our organization," said Keith Myers, president and CEO of MorseLife, one of the largest senior care facilities in Florida, with more than 800 residents. "It's very challenging."

Already, seniors in institutional settings have proven to be tragically susceptible to the highly contagious illness. When the outbreak struck a nursing facility in Kirkland, Washington, in late February, it spread to 129 people, killing 35. Loss of life has followed at nursing homes in Georgia, Illinois and Florida.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis lashed out publicly at one facility in his state last week, after coronavirus infected 10 residents, killing three of them. DeSantis accused the Atria Willow Wood home of failing to screen staff, cooks and construction workers prior to letting them enter.

"It clearly fell below the standard of care, and whether it went into criminal ... I think that that's a possibility," DeSantis said during a press conference.

The company that runs the home, Atria Senior Living, called DeSantis's remarks "an inaccurate description of many steps we have taken to protect the health and safety of our residents. Beginning March 4, we have been actively screening all visitors and prohibiting anyone from working in the community if he or she is unable to pass our screening, well before any state guidance on this was provided."

This week, the entire population of a New Jersey nursing home had to be transferred to another facility when coronavirus swept through, infecting residents and caretakers and leaving the original location short-staffed, New Jersey Department of Health officials said Wednesday.

To date, 147 nursing homes across 27 states have reported at least one resident with COVID-19, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For many companies that run the nearly 16,000 nursing homes in the U.S., though, this has been a time to rally around each other in search of solutions, Gloth said.

"We're all in it together," Gloth said. "Everybody's intentions are really solid here."

The first step many nursing homes took, he said, was to shut down access to outsiders, including family members -- a painful decision because it further isolated residents, but one he credited for slowing the assault of the virus.

Officials at MorseLife, a large not-for-profit senior care facility in West Palm Beach, took that step three weeks ago, shutting down the sprawling campus to visitors and volunteers, and canceling activities from the outside.

Carmen Shell, who oversees the skilled nursing home and long-term care center as the senior vice president of the MorseLife Health Center, says MorseLife now takes the temperature of all staff when they initially enter the building and twice throughout their shift. Additionally, they take a complete set of vital signs for all of the long-term care residents daily and document observations on any respiratory symptoms every shift. For short-term residents, their vitals are taken every shift. New patients are monitored every hour for the first three days.

So far, MorseLife says it is not aware of a confirmed case of coronavirus in its facilities.

When Florida officials announced they were further tightening restrictions statewide, assisted care facilities like MorseLife had to get creative. They didn't have enough protective gear on hand to comply with new rules requiring that all staff needed facial masks, so they are buying ultraviolet lights to disinfect the supply they had on hand and have started to use what Shell called "alternate face masks."

She said some employees are using scarves, while others "are actually making, sewing cloth masks that can be reused until our inventory gets up because of the number of residents that we care for and the number of staff members, we have a very high burn rate. And right now we don't have sufficient masks to give everyone else."

These are measures that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention called "a last resort," and says that the ability of scarves or bandannas to protect healthcare providers is "unknown."

Gloth said ManorCare has audited the supplies across the country and right now has enough masks and gowns. But as numbers of positive coronavirus tests have crept up in certain markets, he said he knows the supplies could start to thin.

"We've been very careful looking at our resources," he said. "We have a finite number of tools… [But] I never ever ever want to say no to a request for resources. I'm worried about that."

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Coronavirus pandemic compounds dire situation for poor Americans

Bill Hutchinson/ABC News(NEW YORK) -- By 8 a.m. on Wednesday, the line outside St. Paul and St. Andrew United Methodist Church in New York City stretched around the block.

But this wasn't any ordinary morning.

Fixed-income residents like 66-year-old Patricia Sylvester faced an agonizing choice -- weighing the risk of catching the coronavirus or going hungry in the pandemic that has seized America's largest city.

Sylvester, a mother of two and a grandmother of three, conceded to being nervous waiting on line for the church's food pantry and made a valiant attempt at social distancing.

"I’m a senior citizen and I’ve been coming here since before the crisis. I knew a lot of things were closed down, but once I got the call Monday from the church, I was like, 'Wow, let me go.' I hate to take the chance of getting sick, but I need some food in the house," Sylvester told ABC News.

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths continue to surge in New York City and across the nation, experts say members of poor communities in hard-hit urban areas are among the most vulnerable due to poverty, unemployment, homelessness, lack of medical insurance and underlying physical conditions that disproportionately affect them.

“I think there’s a lot of fear, partly because there’s not a lot of options," said Rev. K Karpen, the pastor of St. Paul and St. Andrew Church, which houses the West Side Against Hunger food pantry that feeds about 10,000 needy families a year.

Karpen's church also operates a shelter for homeless women and his anxiety has risen with news this week that 39 homeless people in New York City have tested positive for coronavirus, 17 since Sunday in 12 different shelters in the city. One homeless man in his 60s died last week, according to the city's Department of Social Services.

"Think about the people who don’t have homes, they can’t stay in place, they can’t shelter in place," Karpen told ABC News. "There is no place. It’s not an option."

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began to manifest itself in the United States this month, unemployment has skyrocketed. On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Labor released data showing a record number of people -- 3.28 million -- filed for unemployment claims in the week ending March 21. That's an increase of three million from the previous week.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has already privately warned a group of Republican senators that the jobless rate could hit 20% if drastic measures aren't taken immediately, ABC News has confirmed.

The Trump administration has proposed a $2 trillion economic stimulus package, which was approved by the Senate Wednesday night and when combined with other programs proposed by Congress could end up totaling $6 trillion to prop up the derailed economy.

"What happens whenever you have epidemics and pandemics is they expose the already existing inequities in our society, the things we didn’t address before the epidemic," Rev. William Barber II, co-chair of the nonprofit Poor People's Campaign, which advocates for economic justice, told ABC News. "What we are seeing around the country is that we're operating and telling people to do things from the position of wealth. We say, 'Go home and buy groceries.' Well, if people weren’t making a living wage how are they going to do that? Most of them don’t have $300 in the bank, if that."

An audit by the Poor People’s Campaign in partnership with the Institute for Policy Studies shows that even before the coronavirus crisis, there were 140 million poor to low-wealth Americans who could not afford a $400 economic emergency. A 2018 U.S. Census Bureau report showed that 38.1 million Americans were living in poverty -- about $16,900 in annual income or less for a two-person household.

In November, the Census Bureau reported that more than 28.5 million Americans were uninsured, or about 8.5% of the population.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development reported in January that roughly 568,000 people were homeless in America, more than half in the nation's 50 largest cities.

Barber, whose nonprofit grassroots group helped Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. organize the 1968 Poor People's March on Washington, estimates that 62 million working Americans fail to earn a living wage.

"A lot of them didn’t have health care, a lot of them didn’t have extra savings because years ago when we could have raised the living wage, when we could have passed health care for everybody, you claimed you didn’t have the money," Barber said. "Now suddenly, in the midst of an epidemic, we can find $6 trillion."

Lili Farhang, co-director of Human Impact Partners in Oakland, California, a group that researches and advocates for policy and systems changes to advance health equity, says she's worried that the effects of the public health pandemic will continue to exacerbate economic and health problems for poor communities long after it subsides.

"A lot of the things that we were worried about happening are actually happening: School districts are shutting down, shelter-in-place orders are being promoted and enforced. So that basically means that all the concerns we had about people losing income from being laid off, not having access to health care are happening," Farhang told ABC News. "And because we’ve had no progress really ... on a vaccine, on treatment, that basically means that we’re totally dependent on mass social distancing, or physical social distancing, the physical isolation recommendations that health officials are promoting."

Farhang said it remains unclear when many of the economic stimulus packages will sunset.

"I just think there is this huge question about what the longer term implications are going to be if they don’t provide long-term coverage," Farhang said.

She said she's also worried about low-income employees deemed essential such as food delivery workers, home-care providers, day-care providers, grocery store and pharmacy workers, and truck drivers delivering freight to restock stores.

"I think there’s a sector of our workforce that is putting themselves out there because they see the economic consequences being too significant," Farhang said. “Now we understand why people need paid sick days or family medical leave."

Barber said that prior to the pandemic, the Poor People's Campaign was organizing a march on Washington scheduled for June 20 to raise awareness about the issues facing low-income Americans. Since the pandemic, Barber said the need for such a march is stronger than ever and that has inspired the group to plan a virtual march.

"Now that the virus has hit we can’t gather physically because they shut down large gatherings," Barber told ABC News. "So now we’re going to have the largest most historic gathering of poor and low-wealth people and moral leaders via social media."

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Black women finally getting their due for their work to secure women's right to vote

Marilyn Nieves/iStock(NEW YORK) -- "What if black women, it turned out, really always have been at the forefront of the struggles over American women’s voting rights, and what if we as a nation are just catching up to that?"

That is the question posed by Martha S. Jones, one of the many historians now rewriting the history books on the role black women played in the women's suffrage movement.

"Historians of African American women, like me, on the one hand have known many parts of this story for a very long time," Jones, a history professor at Johns Hopkins University, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "Like with a lot of subjects, how we get that from our classrooms and our professional journals and our books and into the popular mind is always a challenge."

The effort to highlight the work of black suffragists is in the spotlight as the U.S. marks the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote this year, during a presidential election year in which women voters will play a critical role.

Historians like Jones say black women played a crucial role in getting women the right to vote and run for office; they just didn't do it alongside white women like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, who for decades have been idolized as the movement's leaders.

"Black women are present and they are doing public work and they are deeply engaged in questions around women’s rights," Jones told Good Morning America. "They simply just are not doing that work in the organizations that call themselves suffrage associations."

"[The associations] were not an easy or welcoming or comforting or hospitable place for African American women," said Jones, who delves into the divisions in a new book out this fall, Vanguard: How Black Women Broke Barriers, Won the Vote, and Insisted on Equality for All.

Black women were speaking out about women's rights at the same time the women's suffrage movement was unfolding in the mid-1800s, but because of their race they were not equally heard. Black women also did not get white women's support as they fought for other equality measures, like the 14th and 15th amendments, which granted former slaves citizenship rights and gave black men voting rights.

"We know that even during major marches at the height of getting the 19th Amendment passed, black women were segregated," said Nancy G. Abudu, deputy legal director of voting rights at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). "And white women weren’t there, really, to promote anti-lynching and other campaigns important to black women."

Stanton and Anthony left black women's efforts out of their influential "History of Woman's Suffrage," which became the historical account of the movement. As a result, black women were later left out of history books too.

"To include the ways black women were working, you have to be more creative and look beyond the white suffrage groups," said Kimberly Hamlin, author of Free Thinker: Sex, Suffrage, and the Extraordinary Life of Helen Hamilton Gardener and associate professor of history at Miami University. "Look at the black women’s club movement and the temperance movement, where you see black women all along are working not just for women’s right to vote but for the civil rights of African Americans."

Black women's clubs like the National Association of Colored Women were hotbeds of political activism, historians say. Some of those clubs are just now unearthing the incredible details of the roles their own members played in gaining women the right to vote.

"It’s an untold story," said Beverly Carter, a retired attorney and the historian for Dubois Circle, a Baltimore-based black women's club founded in 1906. "And it's a totally fascinating story."

In spending the past five years going through every note and document in the club's history, Carter discovered the club had nearly one dozen active suffragists who held suffrage meetings in their homes, spoke publicly and joined marches.

"What has surprised me is how much involvement that just this one club had," said Carter. "I'm trying to bring to light the monumental tasks that these women did, especially with the odds against them."

And once the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, the work of black women, for the benefit of all women, was not done. They had to continue their fight for full voting rights all the way to 1965, with the passage of the Voting Rights Act that prohibited racial discrimination in voting.

The hard work done by black women suffragists left a mark that is still being felt in politics today. In the 2018 election, 55% of eligible black women voters cast ballots, six percentage points above the national turnout, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Their work also continues today in the effort to ensure every person has an equal right to vote. It can be seen in the work of women like Stacey Abrams, who last year launched Fair Fight, a multimillion-dollar initiative aimed at increasing voter protection efforts, after losing the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018.

"You can’t explain Stacey Abrams by the story of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton," said Jones. "[Abrams] doesn’t come out of nowhere and she herself says this, that she comes out of a tradition of African American women’s activism and politics."

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USDA relaxes requirements for parents to pick up schools meals

JHVEPhoto/iStock(NEW YORK) -- After a push from states and advocates, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has waived a requirement that children have to be physically present with their parents to pick up meals at closed schools around the country.

But in at least one state, schools were still turning away parents who showed up on Thursday to pick up meals without their children.

The USDA waiver says that schools can provide meals to parents or guardians to bring home to their children but that states must have a process to verify that meals are distributed only to eligible children and that families aren’t picking up duplicate meals for any student.

The Texas Department of Agriculture announced the waiver was approved and it was reported in local news outlets but school officials said they told districts separately they could not give out meals until the department creates guidance for accountability for those handouts.

Irma Munoz, chief operating officer at IDEA Public Schools, a network of charter schools in Texas and Louisiana, said that because of the confusion their schools in Texas have been turning away parents who showed up without their children.

"Right now it’s stuck in this bureaucratic limbo and we’re the ones having to respond to parents," Munoz told ABC News.

The Texas Department of Agriculture said they expect to make progress on issuing guidance to clarify the requirements on Thursday night but they still encourage schools to hand out meals until it's finalized, just that there’s no guarantee they would be reimbursed for those meals.

"We are not saying they should not provide the meals. We want children to be fed that need to be fed. That is the first and foremost priority," spokesman Mark Loeffler said in an emailed statement. "We have said this is not the time for arguing or holding back meals. Provide the meals. The plan will be in place as soon as possible."

A spokeswoman for the Food and Nutrition Service confirmed that the waiver goes into effect immediately and applies to all states that elect to use it.

IDEA Public Schools have served more than 170,000 meals in less than a week to students and children in the surrounding community, Munoz said, but they still don’t know if they’ll be reimbursed. Eighty-five percent of the 53,000 students they serve qualify for free and reduced lunch and rely on school for at least two of their meals per day.

She said they decided to move forward with providing meals without confirmation of how regulations would be applied but that "it would be an incredibly big financial hit" if they’re not reimbursed for all the food they’re providing.

Hundreds of school districts around the country are closed for weeks, months or indefinitely, forcing them to adapt quickly to provide meals for students whose main source of healthy food was from their school cafeteria. School officials have also transitioned their summer meal programs into options to deliver meals by bus or offer curbside pickup but still have to figure out how to comply with state and federal regulations in an unprecedented situation.

Virginia Del. Danica Roem, who represents western Prince William County and the city of Manassas Park, took it upon herself to bring groceries to constituents who were unable to pick up food from schools because of the rule.

Roem paid for the groceries with her own money, she said, but considers it a small price compared to the hurdles facing some families in her district.

"They have immunocompromised children who shouldn't, you know, [be scared]," she told ABC News. "They shouldn't be having panic attacks, they shouldn't be worrying about whether they're going to eat, or whether their health is going to be at stake ... from going outside."

Back in Texas, Munoz said that in addition to the confusion over the requirement a child be present, her schools are trying to get clarity on how many meals they can provide.

"We typically provide three meals at school breakfast, lunch and supper -- which is the last meal that our kids get before they leave school," Munoz said. "And right now we are unclear about our ability to provide supper, but more specifically, our ability to provide supper bundled with breakfast and lunch."

While it may not seem "so big of a deal," she said it is more of a hassle for parents to have to pick up breakfast and lunch in the morning, and then have to come back in the afternoon "to pick up supper."

USDA guidance on providing meals through summer food service programs -- what schools are using during the COVID-19 emergency -- said they will reimburse schools for two meals, or a meal and a snack, for every day that the school is closed.

States will also allow schools to give parent’s permission to get up to a week of meals at once; but USDA will still only reimburse the school for two meals at a time, according to officials.

"Those types of flexibilities in these times, given school closures, given that there's just scarcity of food among nonprofit organizations that do traditional, you know, feeding for at-risk populations," Munoz said. "It's just an added burden that we don't need and our families don't need."

The Agriculture Department said it’s "working to be as flexible as possible" to get food out during the national emergency and has waived some requirements to make it easier to provide meals outside a traditional school setting, such as rules that students must eat the meals on site, and allowing schools to deliver more than one meal at once and outside normal meal times.

States and anti-hunger advocates are pushing USDA to lift additional requirements, including a rule that 50% of students must be eligible for free and reduced lunch for schools in some states to provide meals to any children in the community.

Food banks are also seeing sharp increases in demand for food assistance as millions more people are out of work and looking for the best way to help while keeping up with demand and protecting their own staff.

Andrew Cheyne, director of government affairs with the California Association of Food Banks, said they worked with the state to allow changes to limit contact between staff and community members, like allowing staff to sign people in and providing pre-packaged food, as well as allowing food banks to distribute at schools so families can receive more aid.

"A simple action like that is actually key to achieving our social distance," he said.

Congress has also provided emergency funding for food assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program -- more commonly known as food stamps -- and The Emergency Food Assistance Program.

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