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Significant storm system begins to impact California with heavy rain, flash flooding

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iStock(LOS ANGELES) — An intensifying and complex storm system is bringing some bands of heavy rain and some mountain snow to parts of northern and central California this morning. This is only the beginning of significant mountain snow, heavy and flash flooding and gusty winds through much of California through Monday.

Winter Storm Warnings have been issued for a large chunk of California this morning. Some winter Storm Watches have been issued outside of Los Angeles and San Diego while Wind Alerts have been issued for parts of the region as well.

The most intense impacts from this storm system will occur Sunday and last well into Monday. On Sunday, the first wave of precipitation will push further inland and heavy rain and gusty winds will stretch down most of the California coast line, eventually reaching southern California Sunday evening.

The heaviest round of snow will arrive in the Sierras later Sunday. The heavy snow could cause very dangerous conditions on the roadways through the mountains.

Any essential travel could become extremely dangerous with white out conditions and road closures likely with winds gusts of up to 90 mph in the highest elevations of the Sierras.

As the rain reaches Los Angeles and San Diego, especially by Monday morning, locally heavy downpours and some thunderstorms will be possible where rainfall rates could reach 0.75 inches per hour.

This could cause some flash flooding in urban areas with mud and debris flows and boulder slides. Winds at times could gust 45 to 60 mph which could down trees and power lines.

While part of this system will quickly move into the mountains, a lingering low pressure system will remain in the Southern California area and continue to spring up scattered rain and snow showers into the middle of the week.

Through the middle of the week, locally 1 to 4 feet of snow is possible in the Sierras. Snowfall will also be possible in the mountains outside of Las Vegas with locally over 1 foot of snow possible there.

It is important to note that ABC7 Bay Area Meteorologist Drew Tuma reported just a few days ago that the snowpack in California for the winter season was just 53% of average meaning additional snow is welcome news.

In parts of Southern California, rainfall totals could reach 4 inches, particularly in the higher elevations. Meanwhile, valleys and coastal areas could see over 2 inches of rain.

A disturbance will develop in the Midwest by Tuesday and bring some heavy rain and severe weather to parts of the region. Initial thoughts are that severe weather will be likely from Illinois to Ohio and northern Kentucky. Damaging Wind Gusts and large hail look to be the main concern for now.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Coronavirus live updates: US has largest number of deaths in 24-hour span

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iStock(NEW YORK) — The death toll amid the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to skyrocket as more than 9,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19 as of Sunday afternoon, a day after the U.S. recorded its largest number of deaths in a 24-hour span.

There are now more than 324,000 diagnosed cases in the U.S. and more than 1.2 million around the world. The actual number is believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.

Over 67,000 have died across the globe and more than 252,000 people have recovered, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Today’s biggest developments:

-US death toll crosses 9,000 as cases exceed 300,000
-NYC hospitals may reach total capacity by this week: FEMA report
-Spain records lowest daily death toll in 8 days
-Italy reports decrease in ICU patients for 1st time

Here’s the latest on the developing situation. All times Eastern.

1:32 p.m.: NJ to receive refrigerated trailers as temporary morgues: Report

New Jersey has ordered 20 refrigerator trailers that will act as temporary morgues, according to a report issued by the state, which was reviewed by ABC News.

The order is “to support a strategy to address the surge in bodies resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” according to the report.

The trailers will provide space for 1,600 bodies, the report said and five trailers will be delivered on Friday, the report said.

12:54 p.m.: NYC hospitals may reach total capacity by this week: FEMA report

A FEMA report reviewed by ABC News says New York City’s hospitals are expected to be at or near total capacity during the coming week.

As of Saturday afternoon, 30 of the hospitals in the city were at or near ICU bed capacity, according to the report. Officials caution the number has fluctuated from hour-to-hour as patients are admitted, discharged and transferred to other hospitals.

The temporary hospitals at Javits and USNS Comfort will have substantial beds available, the report said.

12:31 p.m.: UK death toll near 5,000

Health officials in the United Kingdom said 621 people died of coronavirus-related complications over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of deaths to 4,934.

Matt Hancock, the health minister, said the country’s National Health Service currently has 9,000 ventilators and its target is double that amount. He urged residents to obey social distancing precautions.

“Stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives,” he said

11:54 a.m.: Italian COVID-19 cases near 129,000

Italian health ministers released updated data on the country’s coronavirus cases, and while there are 128,948 confirmed contractions, they said the numbers show hopeful signs.

The new cases since yesterday were 4,316, which represented a 3.5% growth, the lowest percentage since the pandemic hit Italy. There were 525 new deaths reported in the country, bringing the overall death count to 15,887, according to health officials.

The daily death toll continues to decline each day, health officials said.

11:54 a.m.: Louisiana may run out of ventilators by Thursday: Governor

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned that his state could run out of working ventilators by Thursday and ICU beds by next weekend.

Edwards told CNN’s Jake Tapper that his recent projections are better than last week’s model that showed the ventilators would be used up by Tuesday, because the rate of COVID-19 contractions was declining as more people practice social distancing.

“We hope we can continue a downward trend on the rate of transmission of new cases. That buys us a little more time,” he said.

Edwards reiterated that if more people stay at home, the date for the ventilator shortage would continue to be pushed back, however he said the situation in the state is still serious.

11:30 a.m.: Cuomo says New York state could be ‘near apex’

While the number of deaths in the state of New York rose to 4,100 on Sunday morning, up 594 from the previous day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the numbers suggest the state could be “near the apex” of the crisis.

The majority of the deaths have occurred in New York City, where the number of COVID-19 fatalities surpassed 2,600.

He said the number of daily deaths statewide was down from 630 on Friday.

Cuomo said the total number of hospitalizations in the past 24 hours was also down to 574 from a high just five days ago of 1,412. He said the downward trend was “partially a function of more people being discharged.” He said 75% of the people who have gone into the hospital system have recovered and have been discharged.

“We’re looking at this seriously now because by the data we could be very near the apex or the apex could be a plateau and we could be beyond that plateau right now,” Cuomo said at a news conference Sunday morning. “We won’t know until we see the next few days, does it go up or does go down, that’s what the statisticians will tell you today.”

But he said the state’s health care system is at “overcapacity across the board” and hospital’s risk running out of much-needed supplies in “two, three or four days.”

“That is putting a tremendous amount of stress on the health care system,” Cuomo said. “You’re asking a system to do more than it has ever done before, more than it was designed to do, with less.”

10:45 a.m.: Spain records lowest daily death toll in 8 days

While the death toll in Spain from the coronavirus rose by 674 in a 24-hour span to 12,418 on Sunday, health officials said it was the lowest daily count of virus-linked fatalities the country has seen in eight days.

Spain is second only to Italy in the number of COVID-19 deaths, but the lower number of people who have perished in a single day could suggest the country has reached it apex point. On Thursday, Spanish authorities reported 950 deaths, the highest number of deaths in a single day.

10 a.m.: Pope leads Palm Sunday service in near-empty St. Peter’s Basilica

With a choir practicing social distancing and his aides, a few nuns and prelates spaced out in cavernous St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis led Palm Sunday service, telling young people specifically to “feel called yourselves to put your lives on the line.”

“The tragedy we are experiencing summons us to take seriously the things that are serious, and not to be caught up in those that matter less; to rediscover that life is of no use if not used to serve others.  For life is measured by love,” the pontiff said in his homily to kick off the holy week of Easter.

Normally, Francis would have addressed his Palm Sunday remarks to the masses clutching olive branches and palm fronds gathered in St. Peter’s Square. But due to Italy’s stringent social distancing rules to blunt the virus that has ravaged the country, a more subdued service was held inside the basilica.

The pope specifically aimed his homily at young people.

“Dear friends, look at the real heroes who come to light in these days: they are not famous, rich and successful people; rather, they are those who are giving themselves in order to serve others,” Francis said. “Feel called yourselves to put your lives on the line. Do not be afraid to devote your life to God and to others; it pays!”

9 a.m.: First responders get fast-lane service at some grocery stores

In an effort to support those on the front lines in the battle against the pandemic, some grocery stores in New York are creating “express lanes” for first responders.

PSK Market, Foodtown and Pathmark stores have already established the special first-responder lanes and announced they will hand out $100,000 in gift cards to people who work in hospitals.

“After a 12-hour shift, we should get them through the aisles, and let them get what they need,” said Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president who is a former police officer, told ABC station WABC in New York City.

Adams said he hopes the first-responder supermarket “express lanes” will catch on across the state and nation.

“All first responders should simply be brought to the front of the line,” says Adams.

8:30 a.m.: Joe Biden offers again to speak with President Trump

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nominee, said on Sunday that President Donald Trump has yet to take him up on his offer to have a phone conversation about the federal government’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Well, it hasn’t happened. I’m happy to talk to him and I’d just tell him what we found is important to do … and that is to move swiftly and … we have to move more rapidly,” Biden told ABC News’ chief anchor George Stephanopoulos Sunday morning on “This Week.”

Biden currently leads Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders by more than 300 delegates in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination — a lead that is expected to grow as Wisconsin voters cast their ballots in the primary on Tuesday.

Tune into ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live at 4 p.m. ET every weekday for special coverage of the novel coronavirus with the full ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.

4:38 a.m.: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweets thanks to the British public for staying home

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, tweeted his thanks to the British public for staying home and saving lives.

Johnson himself is still in isolation after testing positive for the novel coronavirus on March 26. Yesterday it was announced that his pregnant fiancee, 32-year-old Carrie Symonds, has been self-isolating after suffering from symptoms of coronavirus and has been in bed for the past week.

2:01 a.m.: City in New Jersey now requiring all employees of essential businesses to wear face covers

Ravinder Bhalla, the mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey, announced in a statement that all employees of essential businesses still operating in the city are now required to wear face covers or masks while working.

The directive, issued by the Hoboken Office of Emergency Management, came on the same day that New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced that New Jersey had suffered its worst day since the coronavirus outbreak began. The death toll in the Garden State has so far reached 846 with 34,124 positive cases reported.

“Today, the Hoboken Office of Emergency Management issued a directive requiring that all employees of essential businesses, including but not limited to supermarkets, pharmacies and all restaurants and food establishments, wear a face cover and gloves while at work and serving customers,” read the statement from Mayor Bhalla. “Face covers can include a bandana or scarf, or similar material. Face masks are also permitted, however, N95 masks and other PPE are urged to be left for medical professionals and first responders.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

No COVID-19 tests available for prisoners at center of New York outbreak, court documents show

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Leonsbox/iStock(NEW YORK) — A federal detention center at the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in New York City has no in-house ability to test sick or high-risk inmates for COVID-19, according to a letter from the jail’s top official in court documents reviewed by ABC News.

“MCC New York does not have COVID-19 tests,” M. Licon-Vitale, the recently installed warden of the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan, wrote in a letter to a federal judge this week.

The warden’s letter came in response to an order from U.S. District Court Judge Paul Engelmayer to test an MCC inmate in his 20s who claimed to be experiencing novel coronavirus symptoms and believed he might have contracted it.

“He was placed into quarantine yesterday after he developed symptoms of COVID-19, including a cough and body aches,” wrote Florian Miedel, a defense attorney appointed to represent Bryant Brown, who’s awaiting trial on murder charges. “We are concerned about MCC’s ability to care for Mr. Brown, given its track record over the years with other clients under less trying circumstances.”

Miedel sought the court-ordered test this week to ensure Brown was receiving appropriate care and asked the court to order the facility to provide frequent updates on his condition.

Licon-Vitale wrote in response that the facility’s doctor and an infectious disease specialist from the Bureau of Prisons had determined Brown’s symptoms did not meet the criteria for testing based on guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which have prioritized testing for health care workers and for patients exhibiting high fever and acute respiratory symptoms.

Transporting Brown to a hospital “would be ill-advised and expose him to others who are symptomatic for a test that an Infectious Disease Specialist advised is not needed,” Licon-Vitale wrote.

At MCC, a source familiar with the facility’s operations told ABC News that staffers face severe shortages of proper personal protective equipment, or PPE.

The BOP did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the situation at MCC.

“COVID-19 and the lack of readiness by the Federal Bureau of Prisons has made an already very dangerous working environment into hell for our staff — both physically and mentally,” Tyrone Covington, the correctional officers’ local union representative, told ABC News. “It is a daily war to keep the inmate population in line as they demand visits with their families and fear for their health and their families’ health.”

As the COVID-19 pandemic has spread throughout the United States, health officials, attorneys and prison workers at both the state and federal level have been sounding alarms for weeks about the dangers a COVID-19 spread present to inmates and staff.

At a coronavirus task force briefing earlier this week, President Donald Trump said he “doesn’t like” the idea of states releasing nonviolent offenders.

“We are looking to see if I have the right to stop it in some cases,” the president said.

At Federal Correctional Institution Oakdale in Louisiana, four inmates have died from COVID-19, and nationally at least 50 staff and 91 inmates have tested positive, according to the Bureau of Prisons, which confirmed to ABC News that FCI Oakdale inmates showing symptoms wouldn’t be tested because tests are too scarce.

“As is typical practice in facilities with sustained transmission of COVID-19, local health authorities have recommended against testing additional cases who present with COVID-19 symptoms in the Oakdale facility, but to presume they are COVID-19 positive. This action is in order to conserve valuable testing resources,” the facility said in a statement.

In a Friday night memo to the director of the Bureau of Prisons, Attorney General William Barr called for the “appropriate transfers to home confinement of all appropriate inmates held at FCI Oakdale, LA , FCI Danbury, CT, FCI Elkton, OH and other similarly situated BOP facilities where COVID-19 is materially affecting operations.”

Barr said that like any precautions, some “have not been perfectly successful at all institutions.”

The attorney general said that the transfer of inmates would occur on a “case-by-case” basis following a 14-day quarantine at a BOP facility. The AG said that he authorizes home confinement even if electronic monitoring isn’t available.

MCC in New York, which has about 700 inmates, has reported at least nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 among inmates and staff, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons.

The facility has been mired in controversy for months following the apparent suicide of convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. In late February, there was a two-week lockdown after authorities found a loaded gun in an inmate’s cell. Licon-Vitale took over the top spot at MCC in January, after the previous warden was removed after Epstein’s death.

Another federal judge in Manhattan, Katherine Polk Failla, received a similar response from the MCC after Miedel sought a test for another client, Clifford Taylor, a 69-year-old inmate seeking a temporary release to home confinement for the duration of the pandemic.

In a brief note entered in court records on Thursday, Failla wrote that she’d spoken to the in-house lawyer at MCC and was told “MCC has no on-site COVID-19 testing capabilities” and there were “many practical impediments at this time to removing Mr. Taylor from the MCC and transporting him to a facility where he could be tested.”

Faced with those facts, Failla declined to order Taylor tested.

“They’re telling us that they don’t do COVID-19 testing in the MCC,” Miedel said. “So the only way that people can be tested is if they are taken out of the facility to a hospital and tested there.”

Miedel told ABC News his client has underlying medical conditions, including a history of hypertension and kidney disease, and presently had been quarantined in a dorm-like setting on the 11th floor of MCC, along with other high-risk inmates. Taylor is asymptomatic, Miedel said, but he asked for the test because the person Taylor intends to stay with, if granted temporary release, sought assurances Taylor had tested negative.

“The judge preliminarily agreed to release him temporarily. We were working out the logistics of that release. And then the person that he was going to live with basically said, ‘Look, I don’t want him to come live with me unless I know it’s clear,’ which makes sense,” Miedel said. “I am seriously concerned that the longer Mr. Taylor remains in the unit, the greater the chance that he will contract the virus.”

At MCC, one of the first confirmed cases of COVID-19 was an inmate who, as part of a gun investigation, was transferred to FCI Otisville in upstate New York and then transferred back to MCC, sources familiar with the situation told ABC News.

The process of moving inmates around is still going on, according to Congressman Fred Keller, R-Pa.

“Our stance is, stop it immediately. It’s certainty in their power. It’s their institutions,” Keller, who has two BOP facilities in his district, told ABC News in an interview.

Keller said he’s talked to the Bureau and left “no stone unturned” in trying to halt inmate movement.

The Bureau said it was still moving inmates because of ongoing court proceedings. Other U.S. courts have taken precautions to limit inmate movement, such as a switch to virtual hearings in the Southern District of New York.

At another federal jail in New York, the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn, four inmates with underlying health issues filed a civil lawsuit last week against the warden, alleging the facility is so ill-equipped to contain the virus that continuing to detain high-risk prisoners violates their constitutional rights.

An unnamed MDC prisoner was quoted by his attorney in court records that “things are very bad here.”

“There are approximately 90 people in a small area, and we are freaking out and are not doing well mentally,” the inmate continued in the court filing. “[W]e cannot get any information or anyone to listen to us. … Please help me before I die.”

There are approximately 1,700 inmates at MDC, and, according to the lawsuit, 537 of them are classified by BOP as vulnerable to COVID-19 using CDC guidelines, based on their age and existing health conditions.

Attorneys for the four prisoners have asked a federal judge to release them immediately because the typical processes for seeking compassionate release from BOP have been mired in delays.

The threat to the inmates’ lives “is ongoing, not simply imminent,” the lawsuit states. “Every hour that [they] are held in the MDC, they are at a significantly elevated risk of contracting coronavirus, and because of their age and/or medical conditions, their risk of dying from coronavirus is significant.”

Government attorneys representing the institution’s warden, Derek Edge, argued that protocols put in place by the Bureau of Prisons this week make it unnecessary for the court to intervene.

“There is no allegation that Petitioners themselves are in need of urgent medical care. Nor is there any basis to believe that, even if they were in need of medical care, they would be unable to receive such treatment while still incarcerated,” wrote Jason Cho, an assistant U.S. attorney, who also noted that his office and the BOP are working with federal public defenders on the cases of 11 inmates who believe they’re eligible to be released to home confinement.

The latest phrase of BOP’s COVID-19 plan, implemented this week, restricts inmates to their assigned cells, with limited exceptions, for the next two weeks to decrease the spread of the virus. The bureau also said it’s working with U.S. Marshals to significantly decrease incoming movement at facilities.

“BOP and MDC have taken strong measures to reduce the risk of COVID-19 for inmates and have reduced inmate populations, increased sanitation and screening, limited visitors, increased testing and improved isolation protocols,” Cho wrote.

The MDC has tested just seven of the 1,700 inmates at the facility, according to court filings, with three of those testing positive.

U.S. District Court Judge Rachel Kovner, who’s overseeing the MDC case, ordered the parties in the case to try to reach a negotiated settlement to the litigation by the end of the day Friday.

But according to court filings late Friday evening, the attempts at mediating the dispute have been unsuccessful thus far.

MDC officials informed attorneys for the four inmates that their request to BOP for compassionate release had been rejected, according to court documents. In a letter to one inmate’s lawyer, which was attached to the court filings, Warden Edge wrote that the inmate failed to meet the criteria for release because there had not been “any significant changes to his medical conditions to reflect a terminal or debilitated medical condition.”

That decision was immediately blasted by the lawyers for the inmates, who renewed their request for the judge to order the inmates’ immediate release in order to protect them from the virus.

“A process that requires vulnerable people to remain in hazardous conditions and wait until they contract a potentially lethal disease before they are eligible for release from that threat is no credible alternative,” wrote Katherine Rosenfeld, an attorney for the inmates.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Coronavirus live updates: Coast Guard oversees disembarkation of 250,000 cruise ship passengers

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Maksim Tkachenko(NEW YORK) — The death toll amid the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to skyrocket as more than 7,000 people in the United States have died from COVID-19.

There are at least 278,458 diagnosed cases in the U.S. and more than 1.1 million around the world. The actual number is believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.

Over 58,900 have died across the globe and more than 226,000 people have recovered, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

The number of cases and deaths in the U.S. is expected to continue to grow rapidly with many states and cities saying the peak is still weeks, if not months away.

Today’s biggest developments:

  • 3,656 dead in New York state
  • US death toll crosses 7,000
  • Walmart issues customer guidelines
  • Italy reports decrease in ICU patients for 1st time
  •  

    Here’s how the story is developing. All times Eastern. Please refresh this page for updates.

    12:14 p.m.: ICU patients decrease for 1st time in Italy

    The number of patients requiring intensive care has decreased for the first time in Italy since COVID-19 appeared, according to the Civil Protection Agency.

    There are 3,994 patients in ICU, 74 fewer than on Friday, the agency reported.

    Fatalities also decreased, continuing a days-long trend. In the last 24 hours, 681 new deaths were reported, bringing the total to 15,362.

    The number of total cases in the country, however, did increase by 4,805 to 124,632. That sum includes those actively infected, deaths and recovered inviduals.

    There are 88,275 active cases.

    11:48 a.m.: At least 1 dead on Coral Princess ship

    The Coral Princess cruise ship will dock in Miami after 12 passengers tested positive and at least one person died, state officials confirmed.

    Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Giménez determined it was necessary to bring in the ship “to save lives,” according to his press secretary.

    At least one American from South Carolina has died on the ship, his press secretary said. Three other passengers, all Americans in critical condition, will get off the ship first and be taken to Larkin Hospital. At least 12 passengers have flu-like symptoms.

    Anyone with respiratory symptoms or are still recovering from being ill previously will remain on board until medically cleared by the ship’s doctors, according to a statement from Princess Cruises.

    Those who are not sick and need to fly home will most likely disembark beginning on Sunday, according to the statement. It’s expected to take a few days to get those who are not sick off the ship.

    They will be transferred directly from the ship to Miami International Airport, according to Princess Cruises.

    There are 1,898 people onboard, including 1,020 guests and 878 crew members.

    11:25 a.m.: Trump tweets about supporting small businesses

    President Donald Trump wrote on Twitter that he would immediately ask Congress for more money for small businesses if the allocated money runs out.

    I will immediately ask Congress for more money to support small businesses under the #PPPloan if the allocated money runs out. So far, way ahead of schedule. @BankofAmerica & community banks are rocking! @SBAgov @USTreasury

    11:17 a.m.: 3,565 deaths in New York as China, Oregon donate ventilators

    Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that China would be donating 1,000 ventilators and Oregon was donating 140 to New York.

    Cuomo thanked the Chinese government and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown. He called Brown’s donation both kind and smart.

    “They see the fire spreading — stop the fire where it is before it gets to my home,” Cuomo said.

    At least 3,565 have died in New York and more than 113,000 have tested positive, with the positive cases jumping by about 10,000 in the last 24 hours. More than 15,000 people have been hospitalized.

    The apex in the state is expected in the next seven days, according to the governor.

    “We are not yet ready for the apex,” he said, adding that he wants the situation to be over but the more time it takes to reach the apex, the more time there is to prepare.

    8:38 a.m.: Coast Guard oversees disembarkation of 250,000 from cruise ships to reduce risks under COVID-19

    The U.S. Coast Guard helped facilitate the processing of more than 120 vessels in the last three weeks to remove 250,000 passengers from cruise ships due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a press release from the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters.

    Coast guards oversaw the safe landing, screening, quarantine and repatriation of these passengers, after many international ports had denied entry to cruise ships.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “No Sail” Order on March 14 to all cruise ships that had not already voluntarily suspended operations.

    5:48 a.m.: Trump to nominate White Houes Lawyer to coronavirus stimular watchdog position

     President Donald Trump will nominate a White House lawyer to serve as a key watchdog overseeing elements of the $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package, the White House announced Friday.

    Trump plans to nominate Brian Miller, a special assistant to the president and senior associate counsel in the Office of White House Counsel, to serve as the special inspector general for the pandemic recovery. If Miller is confirmed by the Senate, he will be tasked with rooting out fraud and abuse in the Treasury Department’s $500 billion relief program for distressed businesses.

    While Miller has previously served in a similar role, as inspector general for the General Services Administration, Democrats will likely criticize his nomination.

    Inspectors General are typically independent and apolitical appointees; Miller played a role in rebuffing investigations into the withheld military aid to Ukraine that led to Trump’s impeachment.

    4:21 a.m.: Walmart issues strict customer guidelines

    Walmart announced that starting Saturday it would limit the number of patrons in its stores to help slow the spread of the novel coronavirus after too many of its customers ignored social distancing guidelines.

    “While many of our customers have been following the advice of the medical community regarding social distancing and safety, we have been concerned to still see some behaviors in our stores that put undue risk on our people,” Dacona Smith, Walmart’s executive vice president and COO, said in a statement Friday.

    Stores will now allow no more than five customers for every 1,000 square feet at a given time, which is roughly 20 percent of a store’s capacity, the company said. Once capacity is reached, “customers will be admitted inside on a ‘1-out-1-in’ basis.”

    Tune into ABC at 1 p.m. ET and ABC News Live at 4 p.m. ET every weekday for special coverage of the novel coronavirus with the full ABC News team, including the latest news, context and analysis.

    The move was just one of a number of customer guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Walmart also announced that in most of its stores that aisles will all be one-way with markers on the ground, directing customer traffic.

    The company said there would be only one entrance and a separate exit for each store.

    Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

    Pair of storms to hit West Coast with heavy rain, snow and strong winds

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    ABC News(NEW YORK) — A powerful Nor’easter remains lurking well offshore of the northeast coastline. It backed westward on Friday, somewhat closer to the shoreline and as a result, gusty winds, large waves, some heavy rain and coastal flooding affected parts of New England.

    The Nor’easter brought some heavier bands of rain to eastern Massachusetts, with over 1 inch of rain reported in parts of the Boston metro area. A wind gust of 59 mph was reported east of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

    As the storm slips southward and then finally will head out to sea Saturday morning, some coastal flooding will remain possible from Virginia to Massachusetts, including the harbors around New York, Boston and Atlantic City, New Jersey. The coast flood threat will subside later Saturday, when the storm gets further away from the coastline.

    Attention immediately turns to a pair of storms coming into the west, with major impacts likely through the next few days – especially in California.

    Already, winter storm warnings and winter storm watches are being issued for parts of California. Outer rain bands of the first storm appear to be reaching the northern California coastline Saturday morning.

    This first storm is expected to come ashore Saturday and bring heavy rain to the northern two-thirds of the state, and then bring some mountain snow to the Sierra and northern California mountains. This storm quickly will jet off eastward and begin to struggle to stay organized.

    The second storm looks a little more potent and comes ashore on Sunday with widespread heavy rain for much of California, and another shot of mountain snow. Wind gusts in the mountains could range from 45 mph to as high as 90 mph at the highest peaks.

    By late Sunday and Monday, heavy rain will slide into southern California, including Los Angeles and San Diego. The result of both of these storms is locally up to 4 feet of mountain snow in the Sierra range. Any essential travel that is occurring in this area will be very difficult and very dangerous.

    Locally 2 to 4 inches of rain is expected in the low elevations of California – especially from Santa Barbara to San Diego. There is a possibility of some localized flash flooding and mud and rock slides. One to 2 feet of snow will be possible in the southern California mountains.

    This weekend’s forecasted precipitation continues a recent trend for the region. In the last 30 days, the border area where Nevada, Arizona and California meet has seen well above average, rainfall – in some cases three to four times their average.

    In the last six months, some cities in Southern California have seen a recovery in their water deficit that occurred from a lack of rain in the wet season.

    Finally, a pretty strong cold front is moving through the central U.S. Saturday.

    There are some regions of the country that could see a 20 to 30-degree temperature drop within just a few hundred miles. This entire system was responsible for some spring snow in parts of the northern Plains, with some locations in northern Minnesota reporting well over a foot of snow.

    This same cold front is expected to interact with a disturbance in southern Texas, which should bring some heavy rain to the area. Localized flash flooding will be possible in parts of the region as a result.

    Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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