Coronavirus live updates: With deaths near 3,200, Donald Trump says US had ‘no other choice’ but to extend social distancing

American deaths surged past 3,100 early Tuesday, hours after President Donald Trump defended his decision to extend social distancing measures and drastic actions across the country spoke to the stark reality facing the U.S. amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In Illinois, the largest conference center in America is being turned into a hospital. In New York, a floating Navy hospital featuring 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms arrived in the harbor to help ease the overflow of patients crowding Manhattan hospitals. And in Las Vegas, homeless residents are being forced to sleep in painted squares on the asphalt of a soccer stadium parking lot in an effort to maintain safe physical distances from each other.

Amid it all, Trump said Monday evening that “we have no other choice” when it comes to extending social distancing through at least the end of April.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who has become the go-to coronavirus expert, said Monday on CNN that after showing Trump data that proved the death rate wasn’t decreasing, Trump agreed to extend social distancing guidelines.

"It would not have been a good idea to pull back at a time when you really needed to be pressing your foot on the pedal as opposed to on the brakes," said Fauci, who previously estimated that between 100,000 and 200,000 Americans could die of the virus.

The United States had more than 164,000 confirmed cases early Tuesday, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, nearly 787,000people have been infected with the virus and more than 37,800 have died.

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North America's largest conference center remade into temporary hospital

Officials in Illinois announced plans Monday to convert Chicago’s McCormick Place Convention Center into an Alternate Care Facility with a capacity for up to 3,000 COVID-19 patients.

The build-out will take place in phases over the next several weeks, officials said. Governor J.B. Pritzker has activated 30 airmen from the Illinois National Guard to assist with the general labor associated with the project, according to the governor’s office. Construction will be supported by $15 million in federal funding from FEMA to support the Army Corps’ construction plan, the office said.

Illinois is seeing a surge of coronavirus cases, with a total of 5,057 cases, including 73 deaths, as of Monday, according to the Illinois Department of Health. “The cases that I report do not capture all of the cases in Illinois of COVID-19,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike said in a press conference Monday. “We know that we’re not testing everyone.”

– Grace Hauck

Is 6 feet enough for social distancing? Why one MIT researcher says it's not

The novel coronavirus has prompted social distancing measures around the world. One researcher believes what's being done isn't enough.

Lydia Bourouiba, an associate professor at MIT, has researched the dynamics of exhalations (coughs and sneezes, for instance) for years at The Fluid Dynamics of Disease Transmission Laboratory and found exhalations cause gaseous clouds that can travel up to 27 feet.

Her research could have implications for the global COVID-19 pandemic, though measures called for by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization call for six and three feet of space, respectively.

“There’s an urgency in revising the guidelines currently being given by the WHO and the CDC on the needs for protective equipment, particularly for the frontline health care workers,” Bourouiba told USA TODAY.

– Jordan Culver

Homeless in Las Vegas sleeping in painted squares in stadium parking lot

Homeless people on the streets of Las Vegas are sleeping in squares painted on the asphalt of a soccer stadium parking lot – many of them without padding.

The Southern Nevada Health District announced last week that a homeless man tested positive for COVID-19, forcing Catholic Charities to shutter its shelter and leaving 500 people without a place to sleep overnight.

City of Las Vegas officials soon after opened an emergency homeless shelter on the upper parking lot of the Cashman Center, where boxes have been outlined on the asphalt in white paint to create space between the temporary residents.

The temporary shelter operates from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. through April 3. It’s intended for homeless individuals who can walk to the site from the Homeless Courtyard Catholic Charities had to close.

– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal

First U.S. service member, a National Guardsman, dies of coronavirus

A New Jersey National Guardsman is the first U.S. service member to die of COVID-19, the Pentagon announced Monday night. The Guardsman died Saturday and had been hospitalized since March 21.

Earlier Monday, the Pentagon had announced that the number of COVID-19 cases among troops, their families and civilian employees had surpassed 1,000. There were 1,043 cases compared with 613 on Friday, a 70% increase. There are 569 troops with the virus, 26 of whom are hospitalized.

The disease has forced the Pentagon to shutter recruiting facilities, scrap major training exercises, halt travel and enforce social distancing on its posts. Units that are needed for rapid deployment to hot spots around the globe are being sequestered to keep them from becoming infected.

– Tom Vanden Brook

Whole Foods, Amazon workers plan strike for Tuesday

After a month of frenzied shopping, stay-at-home measures and the escalation of the coronavirus crisis, the pressure cooker of the workplace appears ready to boil over.

Workers at an Amazon warehouse on Staten Island, New York, walked out during lunch Monday, over concerns about safety at the job site. "How many cases we got? Ten!" went a call-and-response chant outside the fulfillment center that afternoon, in reference to workers who had tested positive there with COVID-19.

Amazon faces another potential workplace disruption Tuesday as some employees have planned a "sick out" over demands for better conditions including double pay because of the hazards of working during the pandemic.

"COVID-19 is a very real threat to the safety of our workforce and our customers. We cannot wait for politicians, institutions, or our own management to step in to protect us," read a petition being spread on social media about the Whole Foods #GlobalSickOut #March31st.

– Mike Snider

Asian stocks rise Tuesday after Wall Street rallies; S&P up 3.4%

Asian shares surged Tuesday after a rally in U.S. stocks, mostly spurred by health care companies' announcements of developments that could aid in the coronavirus outbreak.

The overnight rally on Wall Street tacked more gains onto a recent upswing for the market, which is coming off the best week for the S&P 500 in 11 years, albeit after falling into bear market territory. Optimism is budding that the worst of the selling may be approaching, but markets around the world are still wary as leaders work to nurse their economies through the pandemic. The S&P 500 remains 22.4% below its record set last month, and oil tumbled to an 18-year low.

The S&P 500 rose 3.4% Monday for its fourth gain in the last five days.

"Despite some respite for markets overnight, uncertainty remains as the spread of the COVID-19 virus continues,” said Zhu Huani at Mizuho Bank, warning against too much optimism.

Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds arrives in New York City harbor

The USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms, arrived in New York harbor Monday and could be ready for patients as soon as Tuesday. The ship will be used for non-coronavirus patients to help alleviate the strain on local area hospitals.

“The number of beds we had in the beginning of March has to triple by May,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday. “It’s a daunting task, but we got a big, big boost."

According to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard, New York City has reported more than 36,000 confirmed cases – almost a quarter of the nation's cases – and 790 deaths. One reason for the spike in confirmed cases is aggressive testing. Still, the CDC, citing “extensive community transmission,” has insisted that residents in New Jersey, Connecticut and New York refrain from non-essential travel for 14 days.

Donald Trump claims over 1 million Americans have been tested

President Donald Trump touted a new coronavirus test that produces results in minutes as opposed to days and announced Monday that more than 1 million Americans have been tested for the disease.

“The numbers have been incredible on testing,” Trump said. “In the days ahead we’re going to go even faster on testing.”

Trump has previously discussed a new test from Chicago-based Abbott that can produce results in minutes. The president said over the weekend that the Food and Drug Administration was able to approve the test in four weeks instead of the normal months-long approval process.

A box containing the test was placed next to Trump in the Rose Garden on Monday, complete with its own presidential seal.

“This is the first one on the line,” Trump said of the new test, calling it “highly accurate.”

The Trump administration has been under fire for weeks for not rolling tests out quickly enough to assess the scope of the virus. FDA Administrator Stephen Hahn said the tests would be available starting Tuesday.

– John Fritze and Courtney Subramanian

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis doesn't want cruise ships to dock in state

Holland America's MS Zaandam and MS Rotterdam cruise ships are headed toward Florida but may not find a warm welcome in Fort Lauderdale from Gov. Ron DeSantis. The cruise line said the Panama Canal Authority had granted permission for the ships to transit the canal.

Four elderly passengers on the Zaandam died, though their causes of death have not been disclosed. Another 73 guests and 116 crew members have reported flu-like symptoms. Symptoms of the flu and coronavirus are similar. DeSantis said it would be “a mistake” to bring the cruise ship passengers into South Florida for treatment because the state already has a high number of new coronavirus infections and that number is growing. He said the area’s hospital beds need to be saved for residents and not “foreign nationals.”

– David Oliver and Morgan Hines

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More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY

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