Coronavirus: Vegas mayor reiterates call for opening amid protest drive

More than 2.7 million people worldwide – including over 883,000 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 Friday, April 24, continue below:

Vegas mayor reiterates call for opening amid protest drive

Update 11 p.m. EDT April 24: Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman doubled down on her call for casino closures and business restrictions to be lifted as more than 500 vehicles joined a protest drive Friday afternoon down the Las Vegas Strip calling for an end to coronavirus-related closures.

The protesters gathered at a shopping mall parking lot, where many wore American-flag clothing or hats supporting President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. Many waved American flags, Trump campaign flags and displayed homemade signs calling for businesses to reopen, falsely claiming that the coronavirus is a hoax or criticizing the governor. Some participants wore masks and kept their distance from others, but many more did not.

The gathering was organized by conservative radio host Wayne Allyn Root, who gave a brief speech before the ride where he declared “America is exceptional” and should not shut down like European countries in response to COVID-19.

“We don’t put up the white flag,” he said.

Hours before the ride, Washoe County Health District Officer Kevin Dick told reporters he’s concerned about people spreading the virus by gathering at protests without masks or practicing social distancing. Dick said he respects and values the First Amendment right of freedom of speech, “but I also value their lives.”

The call to reopen the state echoed comments Goodman made in TV interviews this week, which drew condemnation from many Nevada officials. The mayor, a political independent, offered to make more than 2 million residents of her city and surrounding suburbs a “control group” to “measure” the effect of the virus that as of Friday has killed 203 people in the state and more than 50,000 in the U.S.

The mayor complained that strict rules against groups and gatherings are killing the region’s tourist-dependent economy.

Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat, acknowledged the economic effect of his mid-March order to close casinos and “non-essential” businesses, but he declared that saving lives is more important.

On Friday, Goodman posted a Twitter statement citing hope that warm desert weather will deter the virus that causes the COVID-19 respiratory illness.

“Our hot summer coupled with our unique economy compel us to be at the forefront of America’s ‘reopening,’ ” she said.

Navajo Nation reports 6 deaths, 180 new COVID-19 cases

Update 9:30 p.m. EDT April 24: Navajo Nation health officials on Friday reported six new deaths and 180 new cases of COVID-19.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the big increase in cases is partially due to increased testing.

The Navajo Department of Health says there are 1,540 known coronavirus infections across the reservation, and 58 people have died. Those don’t include cases from towns that border the vast reservation that spans parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

Tribal authorities are again enforcing a weekend curfew in effect from 8 p.m. on Friday until 5 a.m. Monday, and Nez says more stringent patrols are planned. People caught violating the curfew face up to 30 days in jail and fines up to $1,000.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is building temporary hospital beds in Gallup and Shiprock, New Mexico as well as Chinle, Arizona to care for COVID-19 patients.

North Carolina public schools closed for rest of school year

Update 9 p.m. EDT April 24: North Carolina’s public school buildings, already shuttered for the past month due to COVID-19, won’t reopen this school year, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Friday.

The decision was largely expected. Cooper originally closed all K-12 public schools in mid-March for two weeks, then extended his executive order through May 15.

Cooper on Thursday extended a statewide stay-at-home order for another two weeks, saying case and hospitalization trends did not support loosening restrictions. And his plan by which businesses could reopen and mass gathering limits eased if epidemiological and supply goals are met likely could not be fully achieved until mid-June at the earliest.

“We don’t make this decision lightly, but it’s important to protect the health and safety of our students and our school staff,” Cooper said at a media briefing. The governor emphasized that remote learning would continue through the end of the semester.

Navy admiral advises reinstatement of fired carrier captain

Update 7:30 p.m. EDT April 24: The top Navy officer has recommended the reinstatement of the aircraft carrier captain fired for sending a fraught email to commanders pleading for faster action to protect his crew from a coronavirus outbreak, officials familiar with the investigation said Friday.

Adm. Mike Gilday recommended that Navy Capt. Brett Crozier be returned to his ship, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the results of an investigation that have not yet been made public.

If approved, his recommendation would end a drama that has rocked the Navy leadership, sent thousands of USS Theodore Roosevelt crew members ashore in Guam for quarantine and impacted the fleet across the Pacific, a region critical to America’s national security interests.

Gilday met with Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday and with Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday morning to lay out his recommendations. An official said Esper has asked for a delay in any public announcement while he considers the recommendation.

Crozier was fired April 2 by Modly after sending an email to several naval officers warning about the growing virus outbreak and asking for permission to isolate the bulk of his crew members on shore. It was an extraordinary move that would take the carrier out of duty in an effort to save lives.

Louisiana virus death rate higher than expected

Update 6 p.m. EDT April 24: Amid positive trends in Louisiana’s coronavirus outbreak, officials are grappling with a death rate from the virus that appears higher than other states while outpacing Louisiana officials’ own modeling.

The Louisiana Department of Health offered reporters a first detailed look at the state’s modeling of deaths from the COVID-19 disease caused by the coronavirus. While Louisiana’s falling hospitalization rate is tracking the projected results for Gov. John Bel Edwards’ stay-at-home order, the death rate is higher than expected.

More than 1,600 Louisiana residents have died from COVID-19, about 6% of all positive tests for the coronavirus announced so far in the state. But that testing data doesn’t reflect those who never develop symptoms and never get tested for the virus.

The health department estimates that 2% of Louisianans who contract COVID-19 are dying from it, based on modeling of the number of residents presumed to have been infected, said Jeanie Donovan, policy director for the agency.

The department is trying to determine why the death rate is double what was expected and varies considerably among regions of the state, she said.

New York retailer charged with hoarding sanitizer

Update 4:40 p.m. EDT April 24: Federal prosecutors charged a New York retailer Friday with hoarding tons of disposable masks, surgical gowns and hand sanitizer in a Long Island warehouse and selling the items at huge markups.

Amardeep “Bobby” Singh, 45, was charged with violating the Defense Production Act of 1950 in what authorities described as the first such prosecution during the coronavirus pandemic.

Singh is expected to surrender to authorities next week in the case around what is known as personal protective equipment, which has become a hot commodity during the outbreak.

Singh’s attorney, Bradley Gerstman, called the charges “mostly fiction” and said the complaint misstated his client’s costs.

“If selling PPE goods is improper or criminal, then a lot of people need to go to jail,” Gerstman said in a telephone interview. “The Defense Production Act is wildly vague, and I don’t think this would pass muster on any appellate level. I think this statute would be struck down as null and void.”

The charges come more than a month after President Donald Trump issued an executive order making it illegal to hoard scarce medical supplies or sell personal protective equipment at inflated prices.

Extreme sports competition the X Games cancelled due to coronavirus

Update 3:50 p.m. EDT April 24: Organizers announced Friday that the annual action sports event the X Games has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Arkansas aims to allow for Elective dental procedures next month

Update 3:40 p.m. EDT April 24: Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas on Friday announced that officials are working to allow for elective dental procedures to resume in the state beginning May 18, WHBQ-TV reported.

Officials plan to release guidelines for businesses before they begin reopening, according to the news station.

In a directive, Hutchinson said officials expect to resume outpatient surgeries in the state for people who have not had any known contact with COVID-19 patients for at least 14 days before their procedures.

Trump says he won’t let USPS fail after calling Postal Service ‘a joke’

Update 3:25 p.m. EDT April 24: President Donald Trump said Friday that he “will never let our Post Office fail” after calling the agency “a joke” and threatening not to sign legislation to fund it if they refuse to raise their prices.

In a tweet posted Friday, Trump said the U.S. Postal Service “has been mismanaged for years, especially since the advent of the internet and modern-day technology.”

“The people that work there are great, and we’re going to help them happy healthy, and well!" the president said.

Earlier Friday, Trump told reporters gathered in the Oval Office for a bill signing that the Postal Service is a “joke.”

“The post office, if they raise the price of a package by approximately four times, it would be a whole new ballgame,” Trump said.

“But they don’t want to raise because they don’t want to insult Amazon and they don’t want to insult other companies, perhaps, that they like. The post office should raise the price of the packages to the companies, not to the people, to the companies.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Friday that Treasury officials were working with USPS on the terms for if postal officials decide they need more money and need to ask for a loan.

“We are going to post certain criteria for (a) postal reform program as part of the loan,” Mnuchin said. He said the Postal Service board is already conducting a search for a new postmaster general to run the agency and undertaking reforms of operations.

Delaware schools to remain closed through school year

Update 3:05 p.m. EDT April 24: Gov. John Carney of Delaware on Friday announced that the state’s schools will remain closed through the end of the year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Carney said students will continue to undergo remote learning in the meantime.

As of Friday, health officials in Delaware had reported 3,442 coronavirus cases in the state. Officials said 100 have died of coronavirus-related causes since the virus was first detected in Delaware.

Coronavirus cases top 30,000 in Florida

Update 3 p.m. EDT April 24: Health officials in Florida said Friday that more than 30,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state, according to WFTV.

Data released by health officials showed 30,174 coronavirus cases have been identified in the state as of Friday. WFTV reported 1,012 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded in the state.

Number of COVID-19 patients declines again in Italy

Update 2:45 p.m. EDT April 23: The number of active coronavirus infections reported in Italy fell again Friday from 106,848 to 106,527, according to numbers released by health officials.

Over the last week, Italian officials have noted a slow decline in active COVID-19 cases. The number reported Friday was the lowest reported in the country since March 19, according to The Guardian.

Health officials said that as of Friday, 25,969 have died in the country of novel coronavirus infections.

Since the beginning of the viral outbreak, officials have identified 192,994 COVID-19 cases in Italy. The country has the third-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world behind Spain, which has more than 219,000 cases, and the United States, which has more than 883,000 cases, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

NC schools to remain closed through end of academic year

Update 2:20 p.m. EDT April 24: Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina announced Friday that K-12 schools in the state will remain closed for the rest of the school year as the COVID-19 pandemic continues, WSOC-TV reported.

The governor decided to cancel the rest of the school year after extending the state’s stay-at-home order until May 8 and unveiling a 3-phase plan to reopen North Carolina at a news conference on Thursday.

>> Read more on WSOCTV.com

Tennessee governor outlines plan to reopen businesses beginning next week

Update 2:15 p.m. EDT April 24: Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee released his plan Friday for reopening businesses in the state that have been shut down due to the threat of the coronavirus pandemic, WHBQ-TV reported.

Lee said restaurants will be able to reopen Monday at no more than half-capacity. Additionally, retailers will be allowed to reopen Wednesday, also at no more than half-capacity, according to WHBQ-TV.

State officials recommend that employees returning to work wear cloth face coverings and that business owners follow federal guidelines for hygiene and workplace sanitation standards related to the pandemic.

>> Read more on Fox13Memphis.com

1,599 new coronavirus infections reported in Pennsylvania

Updated 1:45 p.m. EDT April 24: Health officials in Pennsylvania reported 1,599 new coronavirus infections Friday, raising the number of COVID-19 cases in the state to 38,652, WPXI reported.

Officials with the state Department of Health said that as of Friday, 1,492 people have died of COVID-19 statewide.

Trump claims he was sarcastic when he suggested injecting disinfectant could treat COVID-19

Update 1:25 p.m. EDT April 24: President Donald Trump claimed Friday that he was being sarcastic when he suggested that injecting disinfectants might be a possible treatment for COVID-19 patients.

“I was asking the question sarcastically to reporters like you just to see what would happen,” the president said after signing a $484 billion coronavirus relief package into law. “I was asking a sarcastic -- and a very sarcastic -- question to reporters in the room.”

Trump said Thursday at a coronavirus task force meeting that researchers were looking at the effects of disinfectants on the virus and wondered aloud if they could be injected into people.

“Is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” Trump said. "Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds -- it sounds interesting to me.”

Louisiana reports 401 new coronavirus infections

Update 1:10 p.m. EDT April 24: Officials in Louisiana reported 401 new coronavirus infections Friday, raising the state’s total number of infections to 26,140.

The number is slightly lower than the 481 new infections reported Thursday.

Officials said that statewide, 1,601 people have died of COVID-19 as of Friday.

Trump signs $484 billion coronavirus relief bill

Update 12:55 p.m. EDT April 24: President Donald Trump signed a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid package into law Friday, the latest in a series of federal efforts aimed at bolstering the economy as the threat of COVID-19 has forced business closures nationwide.

The $484 billion bill, which passed in the House and the Senate this week, will add $321 billion more to a federal initiative meant to help small businesses continue to pay workers despite the shutdowns. On Friday, Trump heralded the bill as helping small businesses “keep millions of workers on the payroll."

The legislation contains $100 billion demanded by Democrats for hospitals and a nationwide testing program, along with $60 billion for small banks and an alternative network of community development banks that focus on development in urban neighborhoods and rural areas ignored by many lenders. There’s also $60 billion for small-business loans and grants delivered through the Small Business Administration’s existing disaster aid program.

Michigan governor extends stay-at-home order

Update 12:30 p.m. EDT April 24: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan on Friday announced that she’s extended her previously issued stay-at-home order until May 15 to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Whitmer originally issued the order limiting gatherings, travel and other nonessential activities March 23. In the executive order issued Friday, Whitmer also ordered that people wear face coverings, if possible, while inside enclosed public spaces beginning Sunday.

New York reports 422 new fatal coronavirus cases

Update 12 p.m. EDT April 24: Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said the number of new coronavirus-related deaths continued its slow descent Friday.

The governor said 422 more COVID-19 patients have died, down from the 438 new deaths reported one day earlier. The reports raise the state’s novel coronavirus death toll to 16,162.

“Again, this is at an unimaginable level, and it’s dropping somewhat, but still devastating news," Cuomo said.

Nearly 20,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the UK

Update 11:40 a.m. EDT April 24: Officials in the United Kingdom reported 768 new fatal COVID-19 cases on Friday, raising the country’s coronavirus death toll to 19,506.

Authorities with the British Department of Health and Social Care also announced a total of 143,464 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus infections in the U.K. The number is 5,386 higher than the number of cases reported nationwide Thursday.

Company will use robots to detect COVID-19 levels in sewers

Update 11 a.m. EDT April 24: Researchers with an MIT startup plan to install robots underneath manhole covers to detect levels of COVID-19 in sewers and provide a clearer picture about the scope of the United States’ coronavirus outbreak, WFXT reported.

>> Read more on Boston25News.com

Biobot Analytics, based in Sommerville, Massachusetts, is testing wastewater from 150 water treatment plants in 30 states, according to WFXT.

“The virus is shed in stool and therefore finds its way into the wastewater infrastructure where we can analyze it,” Mariana Matus, CEO and co-founder of Biobot Analytics, told WFXT. “We’re seeing a higher level of infection than what the clinical numbers estimate.”

167 new coronavirus cases reported in DC

Update 10:30 a.m. EDT April 24: Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington D.C. said Friday that 167 new coronavirus infections have been reported in the area, slightly up from the 155 new infections reported one day earlier.

The new reports bring the total number of COVID-19 cases in Washington D.C. to 3,528.

Bowser said 14 more people between the ages of 66 and 103 also died of COVID-19. As of Friday, 153 Washington D.C. residents have died of coronavirus, officials said.

White House: Reporters took president’s comments on possible virus treatment out of context

Update 10:10 a.m. EDT April 24: White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany slammed reporters Friday, accusing them of “irresponsibly (taking) President Trump out of context and (running) with negative headlines."

“President Trump has repeated said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing,” McEnany said.

The statement came after President Donald Trump said Thursday at a coronavirus task force meeting that researchers were looking at the effects of disinfectants on the virus and wondered aloud if they could be injected into people.

Researchers are testing the effect of disinfectants on virus-laden saliva and respiratory fluids in the laboratory, said William Bryan, of the Department of Homeland Security. They kill the virus very quickly, he said.

“And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?” Trump said. "Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it would be interesting to check that. So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with. But it sounds -- it sounds interesting to me.”

Stocks open higher on Wall Street at the end of a bumpy week

Update 9:55 a.m. EDT April 24: Stocks opened higher Friday on Wall Street, but not enough to erase the market’s losses for the week. The S&P 500 rose 0.6% in early trading.

Investors were encouraged to see the latest coronavirus relief package pass the House. The bill, which President Donald Trump is expected to sign later Friday, provides $484 billion to employers and hospitals. The pandemic has already claimed almost 50,000 American lives and 1 in 6 U.S. jobs.

The price of oil rose again after cratering earlier this week, but it’s still not nearly high enough to bring relief to the battered U.S. energy sector.

Personal care businesses allowed to reopen in Oklahoma

Update 9:25 a.m. EDT April 24: Officials in Oklahoma will begin the first phase to reopen the state economy Friday with personal care businesses such as hair salons, barbershops, spas and pet groomers allowed to open for appointments, according to KOKI-TV.

Businesses that choose to reopen will have to follow strict sanitation protocols aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus, KOKI-TV reported.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said that although the state is allowing businesses to reopen, it will ultimately be up to city mayors to decide when to take that step.

>> Read more on Fox23.com

Washington State Supreme Court denies bid to release inmates from prisons due to COVID-19 concerns

Update 9:15 a.m. EDT April 24: The State Supreme Court denied a lawsuit Thursday that called for the release of many of Washington state’s prison inmates due to the threat posed by the novel coronavirus.

In a 5-4 decision, the justices said prisoners who had sued failed to show that the Washington State Department of Corrections wasn’t properly addressing the risk of COVID-19.

Columbia Legal Services had asked for the release of inmates over age 50, those with underlying health issues -- including pregnancy or mental illness -- or inmates who are scheduled for release within the next 18 months, regardless of the crimes they committed.

Some businesses allowed to reopen in Georgia

Update 9 a.m. EDT April 24: The first phase of businesses reopening in Georgia begins Friday with salons, spas and gyms among the nonessential businesses that will be allowed to reopen, WSB-TV reported.

Gov. Brian Kemp said earlier this week that some businesses will be allowed to reopen for “minimum basic operations” provided they can implement strict social distancing guidelines, according to WSB-TV.

>> Read more on WSBTV.com

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he strongly disagreed with Kemp’s decision.

“(Businesses) can wait a little bit longer, because safety has to pre-dominate,” the president said at a coronavirus task force briefing. “I told the governor very simply that I disagree with his decision, but he has to do what he thinks is right.”

Kemp said the decision to begin reopening businesses “is driven by data and guided by state public health officials.”

“Just like the thousands of businesses currently operating throughout Georgia, I am confident that business owners who decide to reopen will adhere to Minimum Basic Operations, which prioritize the health and well-being of employees and customers,” he said.

EPA: Do not ingest disinfectant products

Update 8:40 a.m. EDT April 24: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a statement Thursday reminding people to use disinfectant products only on surfaces.

“Never apply the product to yourself or others,” agency officials said in the statement. “Do not ingest disinfectant products.”

Officials issued the statement after President Donald Trump suggested that injecting disinfectant might be useful for treating COVID-19.

Global death toll hits 191,231 as total cases march toward 3M

Update 7:56 a.m. EDT April 24: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus reached 191,231 early Friday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

In the four months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 2,721,354 people worldwide. Meanwhile, Turkey became the seventh nation to surpass 100,000 confirmed cases, and roughly one in every four deaths reported worldwide have occurred in the United States.

The 10 nations with the highest number of infections recorded to date are as follows:

• The United States has reported 869,172 cases, resulting in 49,963 deaths.

Spain has confirmed 219,764 cases, resulting in 22,157 deaths.

Italy has reported 189,973 infections, resulting in 25,549 deaths.

France has confirmed 159,467 infections, resulting in 21,889 deaths.

Germany has reported 153,215 cases, resulting in 5,575 deaths.

• The United Kingdom has reported 139,246 cases, resulting in 18,791 deaths.

Turkey has recorded 101,790 cases, resulting in 2,491 deaths

Iran has recorded 87,026 cases, resulting in 5,481 deaths.

China has recorded 83,884 cases, resulting in 4,636 deaths.

Russia has confirmed 68,622 cases, resulting in 615 deaths.

Maker of Lysol, Dettol urges people not to administer disinfectant into the body to fight coronavirus

Update 7:34 a.m. EDT April 24: On Friday, the maker of Lysol and Dettol said that due to “recent speculation” and “social media activity” it wanted to urge people not to ingest disinfectant.

“We must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route),” the Reckitt Benckiser Group said in an email to The Washington Post, adding, “With all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information.”

The missive was issued in response to comments made Thursday by U.S. President Donald Trump when he mused on the possibility of injecting disinfectant to fight the deadly virus.

“I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute,” Trump said during his daily coronavirus briefing. “And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside, or almost a cleaning? Because you see it gets inside the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”

WHO: Cyberattacks have increased five-fold against the agency in past year

Update 7:21 a.m. EDT April 24: The World Health Organization said Friday it has experienced a “dramatic increase” in cyberattack activity since the novel coronavirus began, and incidents have increased five-fold year over year.

In its statement, the global health agency confirmed approximately “450 active WHO email addresses and passwords were leaked online” this week, but noted that because the data was outdated the “leaked credentials” did not endanger the WHO systems.

Meanwhile, WHO officials have taken the opportunity to migrate an outdated extranet system “to a more secure authentication system.”

“Ensuring the security of health information for Member States and the privacy of users interacting with us a priority for WHO at all times," said Bernardo Mariano, WHO’s Chief Information Officer, in the news release, adding, “We are grateful for the alerts we receive from Member States and the private sector.”

Fauci applauds NFL ‘virtual draft’ for promoting responsible social distancing

Update 6:54 a.m. EDT April 24: The NFL’s first “virtual” draft appeared to conclude its first round with ease and even offered viewers a very special guest: Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, filmed a brief video address that aired during Thursday night’s pre-draft festivities.

According to ESPN, Fauci called the selection show an event that resonates worldwide and expressed his personal hope the “sports world can experience normalcy soon enough.”

“I want to commend those involved in these decisions to show that we can have something as important as that in a way that safeguards the life, the safety and the health of the American public by doing the kind of physical separations, doing things virtually, avoiding that kind of contact that puts you at risk,” Fauci said in the video.

Hawaii paying for visitors to leave amid coronavirus concerns

Update 3:41 a.m. EDT April 24: Hawaii’s state tourism agency is now paying visitors to leave.

According to CNN, the Hawaii Tourism Authority has set aside $25,000 to assist tourists in returning to their respective homes if they refuse to abide by the state’s 14-day quarantine measures.

Visitor Aloha Society, a nonprofit organization which will pay for the ticket if a visitor cannot afford the expense, is helping arrange travel for outbound tourists. To date, the effort has returned 19 people to their originating airports, with a few violators prosecuted for misdemeanors and forced to pay fines, CNN reported.

State, local health departments get $631M to jump-start coronavirus testing, contact tracing

Update 3:30 a.m. EDT April 24: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Thursday that it is disbursing $631 million to state and local health departments to bolster novel coronavirus testing and contact tracing capabilities.

According to The Washington Post, however, the figure being distributed is a fraction of what numerous health officials have argued is required to restart their economies safely.

“It’s so hard to get people and leaders to think about public health. That’s how we have found ourselves in the situation we are now in, with so little capacity,” Michael Fraser, chief executive of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials – which represents state health departments – told the Post.

South Korea reports zero new coronavirus deaths for first time in 40 days

Update 3:17 a.m. EDT April 24: For the first time in 40 days, South Korea reported no novel coronavirus deaths on Thursday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed early Friday.

In addition, the nation also recorded its fourth consecutive day of new cases in the single digits only, suggesting progress has been made in controlling the virus’ spread.

South Korea has recorded a total of 10,708 cases to date, resulting in 240 deaths, according to a tally maintained by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

Amtrak projects 2020 losses of about $700M amid coronavirus crisis

Update 3:12 a.m. EDT April 24: Amtrak officials confirmed Thursday the passenger railroad giant is expecting a $700 million shortfall for fiscal 2020 after the novel coronavirus depleted ridership by 95 percent.

According to The Washington Post, the company is examining how long it could realistically take to recoup even portions of the 2020 losses.

“A clear and first view of what that’s going to look like, we don’t have right now,” William J. Flynn, Amtrak’s new chief executive officer, told the Post.

Excessive crowds force reopened beaches to close in Australia

Update 2:48 a.m. EDT April 24: Re-opening beaches in Sydney, Australia, proved to be a short-lived experiment.

Following a three-week shutdown, the city’s Coogee and Maroubra beaches were re-opened to the public on Monday for exercise only, with officials warning that “sitting or sun-baking on the sand will not be permitted,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported.

By 1 p.m. today, however, lifeguards shut it all down after large crowds began gathering in the water and on the beaches.

US coronavirus deaths hit 49,954, total cases near 870K

Published 12:48 a.m. EDT April 24: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States neared 870,000 early Friday morning 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 869,170 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 49,954 deaths. Of those cases, more than 263,000 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 139,246 cases, Germany with 153,129, France with 159,460, Italy with 189,973 and Spain with 213,024.

Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 20,973 – or roughly 42% of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 5,426 in New Jersey, 2,977 in Michigan, 2,360 in Massachusetts, 1,724 in Pennsylvania and 1,688 in Illinois.

In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the epicenter of the nation’s outbreak with at least 263,460 confirmed cases, followed by New Jersey with 100,025, Massachusetts with 46,023, California with 39,561, Pennsylvania with 38,379, Illinois with 36,937 and Michigan with 35,296.

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

Florida: 29,648, resulting in 987 deaths

Louisiana: 25,739, resulting in 1,599 deaths

Connecticut: 23,100, resulting in 1,639 deaths

Texas: 22,650, resulting in 604 deaths

Georgia: 21,883, resulting in 881 deaths

Meanwhile, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Washington state, Colorado and Virginia each has confirmed at least 10,000 cases; Tennessee, North Carolina, Missouri, Rhode Island, Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi and Wisconsin each has confirmed at least 5,000 cases, followed closely by South Carolina with 4,917 and Nevada with 4,208; Iowa, Utah, Kentucky, the District of Columbia, Delaware and Oklahoma each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Minnesota, Kansas Arkansas, New Mexico, Nebraska and Oregon each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.