Coronavirus updates: Italy records lowest number of deaths in 3 weeks

More than 1.82 million people worldwide – including nearly 543,000 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 brace for 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 Sunday, April 12, continue below:

Italy records lowest number of deaths in 3 weeks

Updated 11:17 p.m. EDT April 12: Italy saw its lowest number of recorded deaths from the coronavirus in three weeks: 431 in the past day.

It was also the ninth day in a row intensive care units saw a decrease in patients, the Associated Press reported.

It is the country’s fifth week on a national lockdown as social distancing efforts have been put in place to slow the spread of the virus. The country has also increased its testing capacity in recent days, leading to more positive cases.

There are 156,363 confirmed cases and 19,899 deaths from the coronavirus in Italy, according to Johns Hopkins’ tracking information.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

One of nation’s largest producers of pork products closes plant

Updated 10:39 p.m. EDT April 12: Smithfield, one of the country’s largest producers of pork products, has closed its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, plant after nearly 300 employees have become infected with the coronavirus.

The facility’s sick employees represent nearly half of the state’s 793 confirmed cases, The Associated Press reported.

The facility employs 3,700 people and accounts for nearly 5% of the nation’s pork production, CNN reported.

Company officials had been trying to keep it open in an effort to feed the nation. It closed for three days last week in an effort to clean and sanitize the facility and install barriers for social distancing.

“The closure of this facility, combined with a growing list of other protein plants that have shuttered across our industry, is pushing our country perilously close to the edge in terms of our meat supply,” Smithfield president and CEO Kenneth Sullivan said in a statement. “It is impossible to keep our grocery stores stocked if our plants are not running. These facility closures will also have severe, perhaps disastrous, repercussions for many in the supply chain, first and foremost our nation’s livestock farmers.”

Sick employees have forced meat processing plants in Iowa and Pennsylvania to close, CNN reported.

Chinese face mask producer working to fill $50 million in orders

Updated 10:01 p.m. EDT April 12: A Chinese manufacturer of face masks is working to fill $50 million in orders for European countries and the United States.

"Now the major demand of masks comes from European countries and the U.S. where the epidemic is severe ... their demand now has increased to 10 times than before because of the epidemic,” Wuhan Zonsen company officials said.

The company plans to increase production to 700,000 masks a day. The orders will keep the factory operating at full capacity until June.

Ventilators, masks and other medical supplies being exported will be subject to increased inspections after complaints about quality.

Company officials said there are not any quality issues with its products.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

More than 3,300 people in nursing homes have died from virus

Updated 9:31 p.m. EDT April 12: More than 3,300 people in nursing homes across the country have died from the coronavirus, The Associated Press reported.

Recently, there have been outbreaks at nursing homes in Richmond, Virginia, killing 42; a facility in Indiana, where 24; people died and a veterans’ home in Massachusetts, where 37 people died.

So far, 43 people have died at a Washington state nursing home. At least 24 people have died at an Oregon long-term care facility.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

New York real estate developer, Trump friend Stanley Chera dead from coronavirus

Updated 6:43 p.m. EDT April 12: Prominent New York real estate investor Stanley Chera, a longtime friend of President Donald Trump, died Saturday from complications related to the coronavirus, CNN reported. He was 78.

Chera was hospitalized March 24, the New York Post reported. Chera’s wife, Frieda Chera, also contracted the virus, but she recovered, The Real Deal reported.

Stanley Chera turned his family’s retail department store operations into a real estate empire. He started buying the buildings that the retail stores were in, eventually developing a vast real estate portfolio.

“I was paying $2,000 a month rent, and I was doing business up to the sky,” Chera told The New York Times in 2010. “I said, ‘What am I doing?’ The building next door came up for sale, so I purchased it and started accumulating properties in the city.”

Chera has supported Trump for president, donating more than $400,000 to his campaign from 2016 to 2019, CNN reported. In November 2019, he introduced Trump at the New York City Veteran’s Day Parade.

“(Chera’s) one of the biggest builders and real estate people in the world,” Trump said at a 2019 rally, CNN reported. “And he’s a great guy, and he’s been with me from the beginning.”

There are 188,694 confirmed cases and 9,385 deaths from the coronavirus in New York, The New York Times reported.

Andrea Bocelli performs solo concert from Milan cathedral

Updated 3:17 p.m. EDT April 12: Singer Andrea Bocelli gave an Easter concert from Milan’s empty Duomo di Milano cathedral, delivering a powerful rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

Bocelli, 61, sang while the concert was live-streamed on his YouTube channel, He was accompanied only by cathedral organist Emanuele Vianelli, Entertainment Tonight reported.

Bocelli also sang songs like “Ave Maria” and “Sancta Maria."

NJ governor reports more than 61,000 cases

Updated 2:18 p.m. EDT April 12: At a news conference Sunday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said 3,733 cases in the last 24 hours has pushed the statewide total to 61,850.

“We’ve lost another 168 fellow New Jerseyans to COVID-19 related complications, bringing our statewide total to 2,350,” Murphy wrote in a tweet.


Death toll tops 21,000, with more than 532K total cases

Updated 1:56 p.m. EDT April 12: According to Johns Hopkins University, the total amount of coronavirus cases in the United States now stands at 542,023. The university tally also includes 21,418 confirmed deaths.

The totals include figures from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.

Wyoming is the only state that does not have a confirmed death from COVID-19, CNN reported.

Barack Obama wishes ‘blessed and joyful’ Easter

Updated 12:46 p.m. EDT April 12: Former President Barack Obama passed along an Easter message of hope, wishing the public a “joyful” holiday in a Twitter post.

“Although our celebrations may look different this year, our unwavering faith remains the same. For me, Easter is a time of hope -- a reminder of rebirth and renewal -- and a belief in a better day to come,” Obama wrote on Twitter.

Cuomo: 758 people in NY have died in last 24 hours

Updated 11:52 a.m. EDT April 12: Whlie hospitalizations for the coronavirus have declined across the state, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 758 people have died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.

The death toll was “terrible” news, Cuomo said at a Sunday news conference.

Cuomo said 9,385 people in New York have died from the coronavirus.

On a more optimistic note, Cuomo said the number of COVID-19-related hospitalizations across the state have dropped to 53. Nevertheless, Cuomo remained cautious.

“An apex isn’t just an apex, it 's a plateau,” Cuomo said.

Death toll in UK climbs past 10,000

Updated 11:25 a.m. EDT April 12: The death toll in the United Kingdom climbed past 10,000 after 657 people have died since Saturday’s update, according to updated figures from the Department of Health and Social Care. The updates also noted that 84,279 people have tested positive for the coronavirus.

NYC mayor wants testing available within the week

Updated 10:31 a.m. EDT April 12: At a news conference Sunday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he wants community testing for coronavirus available by the end of next week. The mayor said he will be asking for 110,000 individualized tests from the federal government.

De Blasio also said that beginning Monday, all city workers who come in contact with the public will be required to wear face coverings.

Fauci has ‘cautious optimism’ over decreased numbers

Updated 10:01 a.m. EDT April 12: Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said he has “cautious optimism” the United States may be seeing a decrease in the rate of hospital admissions and patients in intensive care, resulting in the curve of cases decreasing.

“If you look at the pattern of the curves in other countries, once you turn that corner, hopefully you’ll see a very sharp decline. And then you start thinking about how we can keep it that way and prevent it from resurging,” Fauci said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” program.

Fauci said there needs to be a “gradual re-entry” or a “rolling re-entry” to relax guidelines set by the nation’s governors.

“You’re trying to balance two things: you wanna make sure you don’t do something prematurely and precipitously, at the same time you pay attention to the need to get back to normal,” Fauci said.

UK’s Boris Johnson released from hospital

Updated 8:45 a.m. EDT April 12: Boris Johnson, prime minister of the United Kingdom, was discharged from the hospital after a bout with COVID-19, a Downing Street spokesman said.

“The PM has been discharged from hospital to continue his recovery, at Chequers,” the spokesman said. “On the advice of his medical team, the PM will not be immediately returning to work. He wishes to thank everybody at St. Thomas’ for the brilliant care he has received

“All of his thoughts are with those affected by this illness.”

Pope Francis’ address focuses on ‘the contagion of hope’

Updated 7:20 a.m. EDT April 12: Typically, tens of thousands of people pack St. Peter’s Square outside during the Mass and the pope’s “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”) message. According to The Associated Press, the public instead tuned in online or via television amid the coronavirus pandemic.

>> READ MORE: WATCH: Pope Francis leads Easter Sunday Mass without public amid coronavirus pandemic

In his message at the Vatican, Pope Francis focused on what he called “the contagion of hope” amid “a world already faced with epochal challenges and now oppressed by a pandemic severely testing our whole human family,” Vatican News reported. The resurrection of Jesus Christ, he said, marks “the victory of love over the root of evil.”

>> Watch the address here

The pope went on to offer comfort to those suffering because of the outbreak.

“For many, this is an Easter of solitude, lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties,” he said.

In addition, Pope Francis thanked health care workers and urged politicians around the world “to work actively for the common good,” according to Vatican News. He also urged people not to be indifferent, self-centered, divided or forgetful.

“Indifference, self-centeredness, division and forgetfulness are not words we want to hear at this time," he said, adding that the terms “prevail when fear and death overwhelm us.”


12 test positive at veterans home in Washington state

Updated 6:01 a.m. EDT April 12: Twelve residents at the Spokane Veterans Home in Washington state have tested positive for the coronavirus, the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs said Saturday.

According to Seattle’s KIRO-TV, officials said those who have tested positive were housed in one area of the facility, and employees are working to prevent the spread to other areas.

“We are learning from the experiences of other long-term care facilities and working to defeat this enemy that has come through our door,” said Lourdes E. Alvarado-Ramos, director of the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs. “Our team is working around the clock to care for our residents and prevent further spread of the virus.”

Officials said the residents’ families had been notified of the cases.

According to officials, the leadership team at the facility has consulted with a multi-care team that was provided by the Washington State Department of Health, and it has reviewed and approved a screening process for employees. Officials said DOH regulations and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention protocols are being followed.

Officials said all residents are being monitored for symptoms related to the virus.

Additional cleaning is also being performed to help prevent the spread at the facility and workers are wearing personal protective equipment as care is provided for the residents, officials said.


Pope Francis leads Easter Sunday Mass without public amid pandemic

Updated 5:18 a.m. EDT April 12: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis is taking a different approach to his annual Easter Sunday Mass, which is being held inside St. Peter’s Basilica at the Vatican with few guests.

Typically, tens of thousands of people pack St. Peter’s Square outside during the Mass and the pope’s “Urbi et Orbi” (“to the city and the world”) message. According to The Associated Press, the public instead is tuning in online.

>> Click here to watch

As of Sunday morning, Italy had reported more than 152,000 coronavirus cases, the third-highest total globally, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 19,000 people in Italy have died from the virus.

>> Coronavirus: Can the government make you stay home if you are sick?


Seniors get free groceries after anonymous $5K donation at Massachusetts store

Updated 3:18 a.m. EDT April 12: It was an act of kindness by one anonymous Provincetown, Massachusetts, resident that sent a wave of gratitude throughout the seaside community on Saturday.

According to a Cape Cod manager for Stop and Shop, someone bought $5,000 worth of gift cards in order to pay for customers groceries between 6 to 7:30 a.m. According to the grocery store, that is when staff holds special hours for seniors and for those who are considered immunocompromised.

“It was a pleasant surprise, especially with Easter tomorrow,” said town resident Christian Charette, who was surprised to see his husband walk in with groceries, free of charge. “We are so grateful to this person for their gifts.”

Boston’s WFXT spoke to the store’s general manager, who said she received an outpouring of appreciation. She passed along one thank-you note from a customer that said in part, “Tears of Joy and Gratitude to all!! We will do something today for someone in an effort for us to ‘pay it forward.’"

According to a spokesperson for Stop and Shop, the anonymous person expressed interest in donating to customers on Thursday, and then on Friday purchased the large sum of gift cards.

Maria Fruci, manager and spokesperson of the chain’s external communications and community relations, said the following in a statement to WFXT:

“The generous shopper wanted to make a meaningful contribution. The shopper was very thankful to our Provincetown team for being on the front lines and keeping our communities fed. We are grateful to have such caring customers and associates. Their commitment inspires us every day!”

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Florida offers free child care for first responders, health care workers

Updated 2:21 a.m. EDT April 12: The state of Florida will now offer free child care to families of first responders and health care workers as the state continues to feel the effects of COVID-19, ActionNewsJax is reporting.

Work doesn’t stop for health care workers, caregivers, firefighters and police officers, even during a pandemic. But while they work to keep the community safe and healthy, who is watching their kids?

“The majority of the school day cares, they’re closed in Jacksonville,” said Dr. Cynthia Smith, CEO of Minds of the Future Academy on Jacksonville’s north side.

To help deal with that issue, the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning, along with local early learning coalitions throughout the state, is now offering these families free child care.

“I did not close because probably 25% of my student population, their parents are first responders or health care workers. It wouldn’t be benefiting to them if I close because they wouldn’t have anywhere to send their child or children,” said Smith.

Eligible families can apply online. Their children have to be under the age of 13.

“My suggestion to parents that are health care workers and first responders is that even if you do not utilize child care services every day, I would still get the form completed because it gives you an option for 90 days to have free child care services,” Smith explained. That’s 90 days that first responders have one less worry and expense – a priceless gift in this stressful time.

Parents can apply using the child care application and authorization form provided by their employer. They can then apply through the family portal at the Office of Early Learning website. Other states have also made similar moves as a way of providing support to those first responders and health care workers.

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US reports 20.6K deaths, nearly 530K total cases

Updated 1 a.m. EDT April 12: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States neared 530,000 early Sunday 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 529,951 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 20,608 deaths. U.S. cases now more than triple the 163,027 reported in Spain and the 152,271 confirmed in Italy.

Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 8,650 have occurred in New York, 2,183 in New Jersey, 1,384 in Michigan, 806 in Louisiana and 686 in Massachusetts.

In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 181,825 confirmed cases, followed by New Jersey with 58,151, Michigan with 23,605 and Massachusetts with 22,860.

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

California: 22,416, resulting in 634 deaths

Pennsylvania: 21,942, resulting in 530 deaths

Louisiana: 20,014, resulting in 806 deaths

Meanwhile, Illinois and Florida each has confirmed at least 18,000 novel coronavirus infections; Texas and Georgia each has confirmed at least 12,000 cases; Connecticut and Washington state each has confirmed at least 10,000 cases; Maryland and Indiana each has confirmed at least 7,000 cases; Colorado and Ohio each has confirmed at least 6,000 cases; and Tennessee and Virginia each has confirmed at least 5,000 cases.

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