The Rundown for March 31, 2020

CORONAVIRUS UPDATE… More than 163,800 confirmed cases have been reported throughout the U.S. and there have been more than 3,000 deaths, according to figures released last night by Johns Hopkins University. Hospitals in New York City say intensive care units are now overwhelmed but help is on the way in the form of the Navy hospital ship Comfort, which has arrived in New York Harbor. Also yesterday, Virginia, Maryland, Arizona and Tennessee joined 28 other states in issuing stay-at-home orders.

CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE COORDINATOR WORRIED… White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx said during an appearance on NBC’s “Today” show yesterday that she is “very worried about every city in the United States” and believes that without drastic precautions, there could be at least 2 million fatalities. Birx said that “if we do things perfectly” the number of fatalities could be limited to as many as 200,000. “I think everyone understands now that you can go from five to 50 to 500 to 5,000 cases very quickly,” Birx warned.

TRUMP WAS TALKED INTO CONTINUING SOCIAL-DISTANCING GUIDELINES… National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday that he had to plead “strongly” with President Trump to stop him from withdrawing social-distancing guidelines early. During an appearance on CNN’s “New Day,” Fauci said Trump changed his mind after he saw models showing as many as 200,000 people could die. On Sunday, Trump publicly abandoned his hope of reopening the U.S. economy by Easter and confirmed he would keep federal guidelines on social distancing in place through the end of April.

MACY’S FURLOUGHING EMPLOYEES… The “majority” of Macy’s roughly 130,000 employees are being furloughed starting this week in the face of the revenue drop brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. All 775 Macy’s stores closed on March 18 but the retailer continues to sell products online. The company adopted measures that were intended to prevent the layoffs, but they weren’t “enough” to avoid cutting back on the number of employees.

FLORIDA PASTOR ARRESTED FOR VIOLATING STAY-AT-HOME ORDER… The pastor of a Florida megachurch was arrested yesterday for violating a safer-at-home order by holding two Sunday services that drew hundreds of people. Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was charged with unlawful assembly and violation of a public health emergency order in Hernando County. The pastor’s church is located in Tampa.

ABORTION EFFORTS BLOCKED… Federal judges yesterday temporarily blocked efforts in Texas and Alabama to ban abortions during the coronavirus pandemic. A separate ruling found that a new Ohio order is also unconstitutional if it prevents abortions from being carried out. The rulings were delivered as lawsuits were also filed in Iowa and Oklahoma after governors in those states similarly ordered a stop to non-emergency procedures and specifically included abortion among them.

‘JOE EXOTIC’ FILES SUIT… A central figure in the hit Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” has filed a lawsuit over his conviction in a murder-for-hire plot. Former Oklahoma zookeeper Joseph Maldonado-Passage, who went by the name “Joe Exotic,” is currently serving a 22-year prison sentence. His suit seeks nearly $94 million in damages, claiming his conviction was based on false and perjured testimony. Defendants include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the assistant U.S. attorney who prosecuted him and several witnesses.

AUTHOR TOMIE dePAOLA DIES… Popular children’s book author Tomie dePaola died yesterday in a New Hampshire hospital of complications from surgery performed after a fall last week. He was 85. DePaola was best-known as the writer of the Strega Nona picture book series. He wrote or illustrated more than 270 books that sold nearly 25 million copies.

NEW OLYMPIC DATES… Organizers yesterday announced new dates for the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games following the first-ever postponement of the quadrennial sports events. The Summer Games in Tokyo are now scheduled to begin on July 23, 2021, while the Paralympic Games will start a month later. The new dates will allow minimum disruption to the international sports calendar and will allow athletes time to finish the qualification process, according to the International Olympic Committee.

IMPACTED COLLEGE ATHLETES GRANTED EXTRA YEAR… The NCAA Division I Council agreed yesterday to grant an extra year of eligibility to all spring-sport student-athletes whose seasons were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The decision applies to all athletes, not just seniors. The NCAA will leave it up to each school to decide whether to grant seniors in spring sports less or equal financial aid next year, the NCAA said.

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