Health Headlines

SeventyFour/iStock(CHICAGO) -- Public health officials in Illinois on Saturday announced the death of an infant in Chicago who tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Dr. Ngozi Ezike, the director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said a full investigation was underway to determine the cause of death of the infant, adding, "There has never before been a death associated with COVID-19 in an infant."

No other details were released about the baby's health condition, but the news, along with several other reports of infants testing positive for COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, has given the parents of newborns and infants another worry -- that their baby could contract the virus, which has to date resulted in more than 3,000 deaths in the U.S.

Experts have long said the older population remains at a higher risk for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Data from China, where the virus was first detected, indicates that the oldest of those affected were more likely to be hospitalized during the recent outbreak, and the oldest of the old were less likely to survive the severe respiratory illness that results from the infection.

The number of diagnosed COVID-19 cases around the world has now surpassed 664,000, meaning more people, including infants, have and will get the virus, experts say.

"This is a virus that’s never been in the human population before so literally everyone in the world is susceptible to it except for those who have already had it," Dr. David Kimberlin, professor and co-director of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, told Good Morning America. "When the numbers get that large, in terms of people affected, then you will see those very rare and unusual situations."

The fact that more infants have not so far tested positive for COVID-19 shows that young people are not as affected by the virus as older people, according to Kimberlin.

"If it was going to be a common phenomenon, I think we would have already seen it," he said of infants and children testing positive. "Not to say it can’t happen, but it does not appear to be a likelihood."

It is too early on in the pandemic to know why coronavirus appears to affect older people more severely than it does the young, according to Kimberlin.

"Children normally would be in many situations predisposed to having more severe disease, especially very young children, and yet with this particular outbreak and this particular virus, right now it doesn’t appear that they are," he said.

Both Kimberlin and Dr. Rachel Thornton, an associate professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said parents should also remember that common late winter and spring viruses are going around, as well as some flu activity.

"Not every fever, not every cough is going to be this new COVID-19 virus," said Kimberlin. "That said, the coronavirus is circulating widely and so it has to be on our radar and part of what we’re thinking. Pediatricians across the country are on heightened awareness with this."

How infants are diagnosed, treated


One of the top points for parents of infants to remember amid the coronavirus pandemic is that in most cases infants should continue to go to their regularly scheduled pediatrician appointments, especially to receive their vaccinations, according to Thornton.

"A big part of our job is helping keep babies healthy, making sure that newborns are growing and developing properly and getting their routine vaccinations to prevent infections from other illnesses that can be severe in children," she said. "It's really important to still make sure that we’re doing the preventive care that keeps babies safe from other types of infections."

If a baby is showing symptoms, especially a fever, Thornton and Kimberlin say parents should call their pediatrician first.

"Call the pediatrician’s office and the doctor or their staff will be able to sort through what symptoms the baby is having, whether they need to be seen in the office or whether they need to go to the emergency room," said Kimberlin. "They will use the symptoms' information with what they know is already circulating in the community."

The pediatrician will also help determine whether your baby's symptoms are severe enough to be tested for COVID-19, which would include a nasal swab, according to Thornton.

In mild cases, treatment for COVID-19 in babies would focus on lowering the fever, explained Kimberlin. Other treatments would be needed only in severe cases that involve hospitalization.

Symptoms to watch for in babies


The most important thing to watch for in a baby is a fever, which would be a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, according to Thornton.

"Call [your pediatrician] if you notice your baby has a fever, regardless of whether they have other symptoms," she said.

Other symptoms to watch and note to your pediatrician include how well your baby is feeding, how alert they are and their hydration level (Are they making tears when they cry? Are their diapers wet?), according to Thornton.

Also, pay attention to your baby's breathing.

"We get concerned when babies are working hard to breathe, like if their neck is bobbing up and down or they seem to be putting extra effort into breathing," said Thornton. "And any change in the color around their mouth, severe coughing episodes, those would potentially signal to us something a little more severe that would warrant medical attention."

How to keep your baby protected from COVID-19


Parents should follow CDC guidelines to socially distance, stay home, sanitize surfaces and wash hands, according to both Thornton and Kimberlin.

"The things that parents can do to protect their children are the same things they can do to protect themselves and their parents and so forth," said Kimberlin. "Social distancing, washing hands, wiping down surfaces, those kinds of things are going to be what protect not only infants but also the people who are even more at risk, the grandparents and parents who have other chronic conditions."

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also offers these tips for parents on its HealthyChildren.org website.

1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use hand sanitizer. Look for one that is 60% or higher alcohol-based.

2. Reduce close contact with others by practicing social distancing. This means staying home as much as possible and avoiding public places where close contact with others is likely.

3. Keep your kids away from others who are sick or keep them home if they are ill.


4. Teach kids to cough and sneeze into a tissue (make sure to throw it away after each use!) or to cough and sneeze into their arm or elbow, not their hands.

5. Clean and disinfect your home as usual using regular household cleaning sprays or wipes.


6. Wash stuffed animals or other plush toys, following manufacturers' instructions in the warmest water possible and dry them completely.


7. Avoid touching your face; teach your children to do the same.


8. Avoid travel to highly infected areas.


9. Follow local and state guidance on travel restrictions.


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Michael Kouridakis describes COVID-19 patient's wife who asked to FaceTime him after he died. - (ABC News)(NEW YORK) -- Health care professionals fighting coronavirus on the frontlines continue to push through unimaginable experiences, as hospital beds fill up and empty out before families have a chance to say goodbye, leaving nurses to take on the role of caretaker and mourner.

Michael Kouridakis, who has been an ICU nurse for 25 years, told Nightline co-anchor Juju Chang about a heart-wrenching FaceTime conversation with a patient's wife just moments after he died.

"I used to joke you could only get PTSD if you have feelings. Even the most hardened practitioner -- everybody cries at work. It's just part of it now," Kouridakis said.

"I had a 35-year-old patient die on me the other day with nothing significant in his medical history. This is a horrible, horrible disease," he said. "People die alone now, and that’s unusual."

The unidentified, previously healthy man, was Kouridakis' first patient at the start of his shift and "had coded a couple of times during the day."

The patient's wife Rosa called asking to FaceTime her husband and Kouridakis told her "absolutely."

"I straightened up the room and made sure he looked nice for the call. And the monitor started alarming. I looked up and his heart rate was dropping, his blood pressure was dropping and within just a minute or two he was almost gone," he said.

"I just stopped what I was doing and I went with him and I talked to him. I said that his wife was thinking about him and I'd just spoken to her, you know, and that his family loved him and missed him," Kouridakis recalled, holding back tears. "I just tried to say the things that I thought I might want to hear if it was me."

He continued, "I just called her and let her know that he passed away. And she still wanted to FaceTime with him."

"Then she handed the phone around and gave it to their son, a 10 or 12-year-old boy. That was hard," Kouridakis added. "He just said, 'Papi, Papi, please don't leave me alone in this world.' You know, that was it."

"[I] hung up the phone and then did what I do, got him ready and then I got two more patients from the ER. The beds don't stay empty for very long with this," he said.

Kouridakis compared the emotional battle wounds of the ICU during this pandemic to fighting a war.

"I guess walking into combat, at least you know where the firing is coming from and you can shoot back. We walk into this without any weapons," he explained.

While Kouridakis said the hospital he works at in New Jersey has a "pretty good" supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), he recognized that resources like the N95 masks dwindling around the country are vital in the fight to protect against COVID-19.

"The truth is, once your doctors and nurses die, you don’t stand a chance. If we die, you die," he said. "And that is the truth."

Kouridakis said, "there's this added component now where we have to be not only the health care professional, we have to be the mourner as well. There's no one to do it."

"It's a lot to ask," he continued. "We do it because we always do what needs to be done. Everybody does."

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AntonioGuillem/iStock(NEW YORK) -- With more Americans not going to the office in an attempt to slow the spread of novel coronavirus in the United States, working from home has become a regular routine.

As a result, many people have increased the amount of time spent staring at their screens -- including additional videoconferencing.

ABC News spoke with one of the country's leading ophthalmologists to better understand how this could potentially impact our long-term eye health and what we can do to ensure our vision does not suffer daily as a result.

Dr. Rob J. Weinstock, director of cataract and refractive surgery at the Eye Institute of West Florida and member of the Vision Health Advisory Board, an international group of leading eye doctors focused on the impacts of technology on consumer eye-care, shared his tips, signs of eye strain and the impacts of blue light.

"All this increased time in front of phones, laptops, monitors and TVs is leading to increased exposure to harmful high-energy blue light waves," Dr. Weinstock said. "It's well known that over exposure to blue light suppresses melatonin release by the brain which disrupts normal sleep patterns. Poor sleep in all age groups is known to be a factor in diseases such as diabetes, heart disease as well psychological conditions such as depression and attention deficit disorder (ADD.)"

How do we know if our eyes are strained?

Weinstock said "tired, burning, itching, blurry, or dry eyes after prolonged screen time" are all symptoms that could indicate a person has "overdone it."

"These feelings can be accompanied by headaches, sore neck and back and other symptoms such as sensitivity to light and difficulty concentrating -- these are all signs of eye strain," he continued.

If you have already sensed eye strain, Weinstock warned, "you have already been exposed to too much blue light."

"We are just beginning to understand all the long-term impacts of over-exposure to high energy blue light," he added. "It’s really a cascading of events which has a direct impact on productivity."

What best practices can people implement for prolonged screen time?

"For the majority of Americans who are exposed to an average 7,8, 9, or even more hours per day looking at different types of displays, you definitely want to be proactive about protecting your eyes from harmful blue light," Weinstock said.

The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends that people take a 20-second break for every 20 minutes of screen time.

"I know it’s not easy to just set the phone down or turn the TV off -- as many of us are working from home that’s just not feasible -- which is why I recommend investing in solutions can help filter out harmful blue light as opposed to solutions that encourage you to cut down on screen time," he explained.

Limiting screen time, switching to products that limit blue light at the source, after-market products that filter blue light, or just turning down the brightness of displays can all help people who use screens for prolonged periods, according to Weinstock.

"I recommend solutions that block the most harmful portions blue light, without affecting the overall color and appearance," he said.

Light in general causes a type of damage to the retina called phototoxicity and decreases the eye’s response to light. The retina receives light and converts it into neural signals it send to the brain for visual recognition. The most harmful aspect of visible light is the blue wavelength.

Things like protective protective covers for phones and tablets can block some harmful portions of blue light, he added.

Do blue light blocking glasses help?

Weinstock said that blue light-blocking glasses have been around for a while, but "it’s hard to know what you are getting, as there are no universal established standards for low blue light in eyewear."

"It’s coming, but for now I certainly recommend consulting an eyecare specialist before making a purchase," he said.

Top tips to prevent and reduce digital eye strain

The American Academy of Ophthalmologists suggests the following tips to help reduce eye strain related to computer and digital device use.

1. Blink! Humans normally blink about 15 times in one minute. However, studies show that we only blink about five to seven times in a minute while using computers and other digital screen devices. Blinking is the eye’s way of getting the moisture it needs on its surface.

Make a conscious effort to blink as often as possible. This keeps the surface of your eyes from drying out. You might even want to put a sticky note on your computer screen reminding you to blink often.

2. Lube ‘em up.
Use artificial tears to refresh your eyes when they feel dry. If you are often in a dry, warm room, consider using a humidifier to add moisture to the air.

3. Follow the “20-20-20” Rule. Take regular breaks using the “20-20-20” rule: every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.

4. Use computer eyeglasses.
If you work on a computer for many hours at a time, you might find that using computer eyeglasses reduces eye strain. These prescription glasses allow you to focus your eyes specifically at computer screen distance (intermediate distance, which is about 20-26 inches away from your face). Some of these glasses have multi-focal lenses to help you quickly shift your focus between close, intermediate and far distances. Be aware that computer glasses for reducing eye strain are not the same as “blue light blocking” glasses.

5. Adjust brightness and contrast.
If your screen glows brighter than your surroundings, your eyes have to work harder to see. Adjust your screen brightness to match the level of light around you. Also, try increasing the contrast on your screen to reduce eye strain.

6. Reduce the glare. The screens on today’s digital devices often have a lot of glare. Try using a matte screen filter to cut glare. Check with your computer store or cellphone store to see what they can provide.

7. Adjust your position at the computer. When using a computer, you should be sitting about 25 inches (right about at arm's length) from the screen. Also, position the screen so your eye gazes slightly downward, not straight ahead or up.

Time limits for adolescents

Weinstock said that adolescents are the most susceptible population to eye strain, particularly young children, who he said "are still developing and thus highly susceptible to high energy blue light."

The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that parents of children ages 2 to 5 years should limit screen use to 1 hour per day. Young kids also tend to hold screens closer to their eyes which greatly exacerbates the problem. Also, adults with pre-existing conditions such as dry eye should be careful about how much blue light they are exposed to. With many school-age children moving to online education, it will be impossible to limit screen time for kids.

According to a study by the AAO, evidence showed that "at least part of the worldwide increase in nearsightedness has to do with near work activities," meaning an activity that puts a person in close proximity to a device be it a screen or a book.

While that evidence cited both screens and traditional books, it also showed that spending time outdoors could help slow the progression of nearsightedness.

"It remains unclear whether the rise in nearsightedness is due to focusing on phones all the time, or to light interacting with our circadian rhythms to influence eye growth, or none of the above," the AAO stated.

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franckreporter/iStock(NEW YORK) -- As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps across the globe, Americans are being urged to stay home and practice social distancing to help "flatten the curve" or slow the spread of the outbreak.

In a growing number of states across the country, that means all non-essential businesses are closed, all non-essential gatherings canceled, and millions of citizens are limiting their interactions with one another -- essentially a full stop on daily life as we know it.

And while all of this is for the greater good, the isolation can take a toll. Feelings of loneliness can have a negative impact on mental and physical health, and can exacerbate anxiety and depression, according to the American Psychological Association.

“When we have to be physically separate, it's so easy not to feel nurtured,” said psychologist and meditation teacher Tara Brach.

Keeping up with social connections is crucial right now to fend off feelings of loneliness and anxiety, which can be heightened amid the global pandemic.

“When we use the words ‘social distancing,’ we’re giving the false impression that we’re telling people not to socialize,” said Patricia Jennings, a professor of education at the University of Virginia, whose work focuses on mindfulness in the classroom. “We really need to socialize. We’re very very social animals.”

Both professionals recognize the health crisis as a period of anxiety, fear and uncertainty, one that might be particularly difficult for those who live alone or who experience feelings of loneliness. Jennings and Brach shared six mindfulness tips with ABC News' Good Morning America for coping with isolation while practicing social distancing.

Tips to stay connected

1. Find new ways to connect with people.
Jennings emphasizes the importance of maintaining contact with others, particularly for those who live on their own. Call family members, Facetime friends and connect with online communities.

2. Try to connect with at least three people a day.
This can be as simple as a text to check-in or a phone call, but Brach encourages setting a target of speaking with three people a day, or keeping up your normal level of conversation and activity.

3. Invite friends to try an activity together. If you’re hunkered down at home, get creative "so that it feels like you’re interacting with people in a novel way," Jennings said. Explore video conferencing platforms like Google Hangouts or Zoom and invite a group to do an activity together. Play a group game, host a virtual dinner party or a virtual book club.

Tips to combat anxiety

1. Take the extra time to take care of yourself in ways that you might not usually get the chance to. Jennings suggests taking advantage of the extra time you may find to practice self-care like catching an extra hour of sleep. Try thinking of uplifting affirmations, or imagine someone else saying them to you.

2. Focus on your breathing. Practice a simple low-maintenance meditation technique. Exercise mindfulness, with no materials or equipment necessary by concentrating on your breathing. Jennings says to start by taking a few slow deep breaths, while focusing on the sensation as the air goes into your nostrils, and down your lungs. “Those deep belly breaths with mindful awareness, can be incredibly powerful,” Jennings said. Brach reiterates the benefits of relaxing the body and quieting the mind while steadying breathing.

3. Practice "body scanning." Lie down and direct your thinking away from your anxieties and focus your attention on different parts of the body one by one, Jennings instructs. "If you’re ruminating a lot, you’re feeling particularly anxious, bringing the awareness into the body can really help people calm down,” Jennings said. For beginners, many meditation apps feature body scanning, and guide users through the steps.

4. Spend time in nature. If you can safely take a solitary walk while practicing social distancing, Brach recommends bringing yourself into nature. “We start feeling our belonging to the natural world and that really lifts up spirits,” she said.

5. Cultivate feelings of gratitude.
Savor the little moments in your daily life that you enjoy and make you grateful amidst the stress. Appreciating positive feelings can be beneficial to the nervous system, Jennings said. “In the midst of all this, you have a moment with your child, a moment with your partner, where you’re having fun, where there’s something light,” she said.

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ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Dr. Luz Ares, a primary care physician who shares a private practice with her husband, Dr. Carlos Gonzalez, said he thought his allergies were acting up when he first began feeling symptoms of the novel coronavirus.

It’s been 10 days since Gonzalez was admitted into the hospital for COVID-19 on the eve of their 38th wedding anniversary and his 66th birthday, Ares said. But with her husband in stable condition, Ares said she still has a "commitment" to caring for her patients in Elmhurst, New York, the so-called "ground zero" of COVID-19 in New York City.

"Not everybody that wants to be a doctor becomes a doctor," Ares, who has lived in Elmhurst for 38 years since moving with her husband from Puerto Rico, told ABC News' Nightline co-anchor Juju Chang. "It’s a calling. … And I think personally, it gives you a lot of satisfaction when you’re able to serve and help people. And it’s a commitment. We make a commitment to the community."

"In Puerto Rico," she continued, "we have a saying that once you sign up to be a soldier you'll have to march. So you've signed for it, you have to do it."

Ares said her husband first started feeling symptoms of COVID-19 after seeing a patient in their practice who they thought might have had strep throat. At first, Ares said Gonzalez brushed off the symptoms as his allergies.

"Doctors, we like denial," she said.

Gonzalez eventually developed a cough and an itchy throat, for which they gave him antibiotics for strep throat. As his symptoms worsened, he got chills and lost energy, Ares said.

"I told him, 'Lift up your head.' He was, like, defeated," Ares said. "He’s not like that. My husband is a very strong man."

Ares, who said she tested negative for the virus, said she decided to close the practice on March 23 because she didn’t have the personal protective equipment (PPE) she needs to keep herself and her staff safe from patients who might have COVID-19. She said primary care providers are "ill-equipped" to handle patients with the virus.

As a result, although Ares hopes to open up again at the beginning of May, she said it’ll only happen if they can stock up on the proper PPE.

"I’m not putting my office at risk -- my staff and my patients," she said.

With a primarily senior clientele, she said that she’s been receiving more than 100 calls a day and that about 40% of those calling in have reported symptoms consistent with COVID-19.

Ares said she spent 12 years working at Elmhurst Hospital, where more than a dozen patients died within a 24-hour period last week. She said it’s "like a war zone" there, with all the "wounded people," and that "they’re overwhelmed. There are more patients than doctors."

Calling COVID-19 the "invisible enemy," Ares explained the duty of primary care providers in the fight against the virus.

"If we take care of the patients that are not too ill, then … doctors will have more time to take care of the sickest ones," Ares said.

By caring for so many of her own patients during this time, Ares is able to keep her mind off her husband.

"I think it’s better to worry about others than to worry about him," she said.

"I’m trying to keep busy. ... I think, emotionally, I’m trying to be strong," she continued. "Sometimes, it’s like, I say I have to be strong. There’s no other choice."

Ares said she has faith that, eventually, "we’re going to be fine."

Until then, she’s been trying to get the message out about how serious the virus is, from telling patients to keep a safe distance from others to writing about the disease in everyday terms for a neighborhood newspaper.

"I tell them about the virus and, in a humble way, I explain to them how dangerous it is," she said. "I think the message is going out and we’re helping."

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zoranm/iStock(BOSTON) -- It was "sheer emotion" that prompted Stephanie Weinwurm, an intensive care unit nurse from Westborough, Massachusetts, who works at Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston, to write a heartfelt Facebook post begging people to stay home.

"I had just gotten off three 12-hour shifts in a row," she told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I came home deflated and scared for the first time in my 20 plus years of nursing. Scared for the patients, scared that I might bring this home to our son, scared for my peers and the general public at large. For the first time in my career, I felt myself shaken."

And then, as she scrolled through social media and saw some of the "flippant attitudes toward this crisis," the words just came out.

She wrote in part, "I know many of you are affected in countless ways; missed opportunities for sports, cancelled weddings, postponements of special events, school, financial and household burdens, inconveniences...and..and. And, while they may pale in comparison to death; they matter. And I’m sorry."

"I have been offended by many of the posts and flippant attitudes in regards to this crisis who seemingly became Epidemiology and Infectious disease experts overnight," Weinwurm continued. "I have concurrently been inspired by so many acts of good will and selflessness by those who 'get it.'"

"This isn’t about me. This isn’t about you. This is about ALL of us! You sitting “this one out” and being compliant could mean the difference of life for someone else," she added.

Weinwurm told GMA she was "panicked" to think how a casual attitude towards the effects of the novel coronavirus might worsen the situation.

"I spoke freely about what we were experiencing behind closed doors at the ICU level of care. These are obviously the sickest of the sick ... and without seeing it, it's hard to imagine," she said. "It bothered me to see someone liken this to a hoax or the flu when these people were fighting for their lives."

The responses to her post, she said, were supportive, kind and thankful. But that's not quite what those on the front lines need right now.

"I think I speak accurately when I share back that, nurses, as a collective group, don't need thank yous," Weinwurm said. "While appreciated, the best 'thank you' you can give us is to stay home, flatten the curve and educate yourself via the experts in this field. To help the greater good starts at home. You want to effect change, start at home."

And of course, the proper tools to do their jobs safely.

"Without them, we can't fix anything. We need to stay well and be confident that we can deliver the best care," she said. "The world is a much better place when we make the unselfish choice to help others. Even when it's inconvenient and unpopular. "

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ABC News(NEW ORLEANS) -- New Orleans has become a hot spot for the novel coronavirus in the U.S. just one month after its Mardi Gras celebrations drew over a million people to the streets to celebrate.

“We understood, once COVID arrived, why it came when it did,” Dr. Susan Gunn, who works in pulmonology and critical care at Ochsner Hospital, told ABC News. “Now, college kids are back from spring break, which may cause another spike.”

New Orleans had at least 1,480 cases of COVID-19 and 86 deaths by Monday afternoon, and the numbers are climbing by the minute.

A city built on nightlife, food and music is now shuttered. Gunn says it’s for the best.

“The streets of New Orleans are empty. We're doing a good job with social distancing,” she said.

Gunn added that she’s more concerned for people who’ve tested positive for the virus and must live at home with others.

“If those COVID-positive patients are quarantining themselves at home and are truly self-isolating in a room, coming into contact with no one, we may have a chance to flatten or lessen the curve," she said. "But if these positive patients are still surrounded by family, then the numbers will continue to rise."

Though she acknowledged her city has seen a spike in cases, Gunn offered an encouraging message about the local health care system’s ability to manage the stress.

“We can absolutely treat everyone who needs to be treated,” Gunn said.

She said they are taking percautions to make sure the space needed to treat COVID-19 patients continues to be available.

“We obviously have concerns that we will reach capacity. We started converting our convention center to a COVID hospital," she said. "I was also recently told to start discharging patients who do not need to be in the ICU so we can continue to give treatment to those in need."

For now, Gunn said they have enough supplies to handle incoming patients and that they're able to get more as they need them.

"We don't have an abundance, but we have enough," she said.

In addition to shipments of gowns and N95 masks that arrive daily, Gunn said they're using 3D printers to prototype professional-grade face shields and UV light to sterilize equipment. They're also redirecting personal protective equipment for other uses to be used on the front lines against the novel coronavirus.

“We're consolidating labs. We knew we were doing too many labs and too many X-rays on a daily basis. This will change the management of care going forward,” she said. “The perception is that supplies are low, but they're not gone. We have more coming every day.”

Gunn also praised innovations like telemedicine to monitor ICU beds, saying they're a major asset to fighting the novel coronavirus in New Orleans.

“I do think that we are a hotspot, but we're not the next biggest one. We simply do not have as large of a population as places like New York and Washington,” she said. “We're a relatively small city, but we are very busy. We're working to create beds every day for our patients.”

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iStock/Eugeneonline(WASHINGTON) -- A new novel coronavirustest may make diagnosing COVID-19 as easy as the flu. The new point-of-care test, having just received an emergency-use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), will be able to deliver results in as little as five minutes, according to the manufacturer.

This test from medical device company Abbott, which begins shipping April 1, may soon be available at your local urgent care clinic.

"This is going to be the fastest molecular point-of-care test to date," said John Frels, Ph.D., Abbott’s vice president of research and development, in an interview with ABC News. "It generates a positive result in 5 minutes and negative results in 13 minutes."

President Donald Trump called the test “a whole new ballgame” and in a recent tweet, Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner, echoed these sentiments calling it "a game changer."

The test will run on the company’s existing ID NOW platform, a lightweight, portable machine around the size of a small toaster, which according to Abbott, is already the most widely available molecular point-of-care testing platform in the United States today and is used for illnesses like flu and strep. As a highly mobile platform, it can be used in a variety of healthcare settings, particularly physician offices and urgent care-type settings.

According to Frels, “what it's really going to be able to do is fill the void, which is rapid results where they’re needed for patients who need them the most.” Until this point, testing has been a fraught process in the U.S. -- with tests at first very difficult to come by and then results taking days. Testing has dramatically expanded since then, but results still take time.

The ID NOW machine can test samples one at a time. A health care provider would use a swab to take a sample from a sick patient's nose or throat and then mix the swab into a chemical solution that breaks open the virus and releases its genetic material. The sample is then placed into the ID NOW instrument, which uses a special “isothermal technology" to replicate and amplify, if present in the sample, the small section of the virus’ genetic sequences in order to quickly detect whether a person is positive or negative for COVID-19, according to Frels.

Frels said that such a test will allow frontline health care workers to see a patient, quickly diagnose them and make immediate decisions regarding treatment and care, helping prevent further transmission of the virus to other people. "Diagnostics in general, stepping back from this, play into about 70% of therapeutic directional decisions. It’s difficult to know where to go unless you have a test result in front of you,” Frels said.

According to Adm. Brett Giror, the assistant secretary for health at the Department of Health and Human Services, there are about “18,000 of these little toaster-sized machines” across doctor’s offices and hospitals across the country. The company does not expect all 18,000 machines to run the test. Abbott will initially supply 50,000 tests a day, with the goal to ramp up test supply to over a million a month. According to the company, the cost of the test is expected to be comparable to the ID NOW flu test and will be covered by most insurance plans.

"This will fill a great need that is not being well served at this point,” said Frels.

With the ID NOW machines already widely available across the country, the infrastructure is already in place to allow for a smooth integration of the rapid COVID-19 test into the health care sphere, which may help speed up and broaden testing and more effectively curb the pandemic. Abbott is working with the White House to deploy the first batches of tests to urgent care clinics, doctors’ offices, and emergency rooms in areas that are hardest hit.

Frels says that this test will "complement the other side of the equation,” referring to high volume, high throughput style COVID-19 diagnostic instruments, such as Abbott’s m2000 Real Time system, which received emergency use approval from the FDA last week. That system, which uses a standard molecular detection technology called PCR to detect COVID-19's genetic sequence in a sample, may take a number of hours to produce results, but can process more samples simultaneously (about 470 tests a day), making it suitable for large hospital settings with multiple patients who require testing.

Although the test has the potential to address the country’s testing shortage, healthcare workers still need personal protective equipment to protect themselves when administering these tests. This equipment, like masks, eye protection, and gowns, are still in short supply.

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ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- The coronavirus outbreak raced through four nursing homes over the weekend, infecting hundreds of residents at senior living facilities and killing at least five people.

At a press conference Monday, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan called the outbreak in one senior home north of Baltimore “deeply concerning,” as the virus leaves a mounting toll at facilities around the country. At the 104-bed facility in Mt. Airy, Maryland, 66 residents tested positive, 11 have been hospitalized, and one elderly man died from the illness.

“As we have been warning for weeks, older Marylanders and those with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable and at a significantly higher risk of contracting this disease,” Hogan said in a statement. “Multiple state agencies are on the scene and working closely with the local health department and the facility as they take urgent steps to protect additional residents and staff who may have been exposed.”

Advocates for nursing home safety and the companies that run large national chains have been warning of the potential for the highly-contagious virus to wreak havoc on senior living communities – where vulnerable residents live in close quarters and containment options are limited. Most facilities instituted visitation bans weeks ago, and some designated isolation areas in hopes of halting a rapid spread.

But this weekend showed just how dangerous and lethal COVID-19 could be inside a nursing home. At Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation outside of Nashville, Tennessee, 115 residents tested positive for the illness and two died, according to local officials.

At the Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Richmond, Virginia, 18 additional residents tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the facility's total to 37 residents and six healthcare workers. Two residents died on Friday.

And at the Sundale Nursing Home in Morgantown, West Virginia, several residents began experiencing fevers on Sunday, March 22. By the following day, the national guard was mobilized to help test for the cause. They found 21 residents and eight employees tested positive for COVID-19, out of the 98 people who live there.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice told reporters the outbreak there “is the horror story that we absolutely didn’t want to have happen, at least from a nursing-home standpoint, because that’s a place, you know, that our elderly are at for sure.”

Nursing homes have been a source of deep concern from the first signs the virus had reached the U.S., when a senior center in Washington State saw a spree of infections, that have since lead to 35 deaths.

National figures have been more difficult to track. As of last week, at least 147 nursing homes across 27 states had at least one resident with COVID-19, according to the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services. But the agency, which regulates nursing homes, has not responded to requests from ABC News for updated figures.

Because nursing homes are being overrun quickly, they are also putting stress on first responders – who have in several instances been called upon to move large numbers of ailing residents. Last week, officials in New Jersey evacuated the St. Joseph's Senior Home in the town of Woodbridge, after all 94 patients there were presumed positive for the infection.

On Saturday, Tennessee officials took the same drastic step at the Gallatin Center. The National Guard was called to move all of the residents there to a nearby hospital, and Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee ordered the facility temporarily closed for cleaning and disinfecting and sent staff members into quarantine.

Those working at nursing homes said the cases have been frightening to residents and wrenching to relatives who have not been permitted inside to visit their loved ones. Donna Tennant, the Marketing Director at Sundale in West Virginia said they are trying their best to protect those residents still on site – the ones who did not require hospitalization.

"We’re just trying to keep things isolated so we don’t continue to spread it," Tennant said.

Residents are remaining connected to their family members through cell phones and video chats, Tennant said, and hospice workers who are currently unable to enter the facility to work with residents have hoisted up a sign just outside that reads "Love and Hope" in bright pink letters.

"You pull up and you see that sign and think 'You know, thank you, there is good in the world,’" Tennant said.

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jackscoldsweat/iStock(NEW YORK) -- Southwest Airlines snapped a photo of 29 health care professionals making their way to New York City to aid overwhelmed medical staff during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The picture shows nurses and doctors holding their hands up in the shape of a heart as the flight prepares for takeoff from Atlanta. Several broke out their masks and gloves for the journey.

"These brave souls soldier on in the midst of tremendous risk and exposure, constantly putting the needs of others above their own," the company wrote. "Their selfless sacrifice is a beacon of light during such a dark time in our world, and no amount of gratitude and praise would ever be enough."

The photo, originally shared on the airlines Instagram page on Sunday night, has now garnered thousands of likes and comments across social media, with many users praising the health care workers' sacrifice and bravery.

Happy Doctors Day! Thank you to all the docs, nurses and @SouthwestAir , my fave for this tremendous effort! #Brave https://t.co/3ohbHY3pY1

— Amy Fenton Parker (@Amy_Parker456) March 30, 2020

If you need proof that there’s still good in the world, 76,000 healthcare workers to date have answered @NYGovCuomo’s call for volunteers. Here’s a plane full of doctors & nurses headed to NY on @SouthwestAir via Atlanta ♥️🙏😍 #heroes #godspeed pic.twitter.com/7zDByK6IiO

— Jeηi Chua (@JeniChua) March 30, 2020

Doctors and nurses on a Southwest Airlines flight headed to NY to help. This is why America is great! pic.twitter.com/UqgLZkqEco

— Beau (@beau3161) March 29, 2020

Southwest Airlines spokesmen Derek Hubbard explained the photo was taken by an Atlanta ramp agent who wanted to capture the group of medical professionals on the regularly scheduled flight.

He added the flight crew "thanked them for their service" and "wished them well on their journey ahead."

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NataliaSokko/iStock(LONDON) -- The Mercedes-AMG Formula One team is breaking records again.

It took fewer than 100 hours for engineers at Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains and University College London Hospital (UCLH) to produce a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP), a type of breathing aid that can assist COVID-19 patients, from the teams' initial meeting on March 18.

Engineers analyzed and disassembled an off-patent device and deployed computer simulations to enhance the device's design for state-of-the-art mass production.

Now, 100 breathing aids will be delivered to UCLH for clinical trials with the goal of a rapid rollout in the coming weeks.

Hundreds of thousands of patients infected with novel coronavirus have flooded hospitals around the world, many of them unable to breathe.

CPAPs deliver air and oxygen into the mouth and nose at a continuous rate, increasing the amount of oxygen into the lungs. They have been used extensively in hospitals in Italy and China and have been shown to help patients avoid the need for invasive mechanical ventilation.

"These devices will help to save lives by ensuring that ventilators, a limited resource, are used only for the most severely ill," UCLH critical care consultant Mervyn Singer said in a statement. "We hope they will make a real difference to hospitals across the U.K. by reducing demand on intensive care staff and beds, as well as helping patients recover without the need for more invasive ventilation."

Andy Cowell, managing director of Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains, added, "The Formula One community has shown an impressive response to the call for support, coming together in the 'Project Pitlane' collective to support the national need at this time across a number of different projects. We have been proud to put our resources at the service of UCL to deliver the CPAP project to the highest standards and in the fastest possible timeframe."

Seven Formula One teams have united for "Project Pitlane," an industry-wide effort in the U.K. to manufacture and deliver respiratory devices to COVID-19 patients. According to Formula One, the project will "pool the resources and capabilities of its member teams to greatest effect, focusing on the core skills of the F1 industry: rapid design, prototype manufacture, test and skilled assembly."

McLaren Racing said Sunday it was manufacturing components for ventilators at its machine shop as part of the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium, a collaboration of industrial, technology and engineering businesses from across the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors to produce medical ventilators for the U.K.

McLaren Group, together with all UK based F1 teams and other automotive companies, will produce medical ventilators with a consortium of significant UK industrial, technology and engineering businesses from across the aerospace, automotive and medical sectors.

— McLaren Group (@McLarenGroup) March 30, 2020

💪🏼 Project Pitlane.
Seven @F1 teams committed to the VentilatorChallengeUK Consortium to try and save lives producing respiratory devices and equipment for hospitals to fight against COVID-19. Really proud of @McLarenF1
Vamos!#Carlossainz pic.twitter.com/0ouweUNrkI

— Carlos Sainz (@Carlossainz55) March 30, 2020

The coronavirus pandemic has put an indefinite hold on the 2020 F1 season. The next two races -- the Dutch Grand Prix and the Spanish Grand Prix -- are scheduled for May and F1 officials have signaled both could be postponed.

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wellesenterprises/iStock(NEW YORK) -- 3M, the maker of tens of millions of respirator masks to be purchased by the U.S. government for health care workers battling the novel coronavirus, was accused several years ago of knowingly selling defective earplugs to the military in a federal lawsuit settled with the U.S. Justice Department.

The St. Paul, Minnesota-headquartered company denies any wrongdoing and maintains the earplugs were not defective. To settle the case, first brought by a competitor and joined by the Defense Logistic Agency, the company agreed to pay the federal government $9 million in 2018 but did not admit any liability.

Aearo Technologies, the group that originally designed the earplugs, was acquired by 3M in 2008 for $1.2 billion. Aearo was already delivering earplugs to the military and the complaint alleged that 3M continued to knowingly make false claims about their product’s features.

“3M has great respect for the brave men and women who protect us around the world, and their safety is our priority,” the company said in a statement to ABC News. “We have a long history of partnering with the U.S. military, and we continue to make products to help protect our troops and support their missions.”

Fanna Haile-Selassie, a spokesperson for 3M, said the company continues to sell an updated version to the U.S. military today.

Haile-Selassie said the company worked closely with the military on the earplug design. But the lawsuit alleged the company failed to disclose a flawed design and testing method.

The complaint accuses the company of violating the False Claims Act by making and presenting false statements and conspiring to defraud the government.

Since the settlement, more than 7,400 personal injury lawsuits have been brought against 3M relating to the earplugs, according to federal court data compiled by researchers at Syracuse University. Some cases were consolidated last year, and they continue to be brought by veterans across the country.

“We deny this product was defectively designed and caused injuries, and we will vigorously defend ourselves against such allegations,” Haile-Selassie in a statement to ABC News.

With footholds in various industries, 3M makes a massive range of products under a number of brands, such as the original “Post-it” sticky notes. The company also manufactures more than 1,100 different types of medical supplies including bandages, stethoscopes and protective coveralls.

3M is now the recipient of about $5 million in contracts with the Department of Health and Human Services to produce N95 respirators, the masks in short supply in New York City and elsewhere across the country as the respiratory virus known as COVID-19 threatens to overwhelm hospitals and nursing homes.

Last week, 3M announced it would dedicate resources toward making nearly two billion respirators over the next 12 months.

At a press conference at the White House last week, Vice President Mike Pence said a stimulus bill signed into law last week would enable companies, including 3M, to ramp up production and sales to hospitals by limiting liability.

Under the new law, companies are shielded from personal injury lawsuits involving the masks. That includes claims of physical or mental injury, illness or disability as a result of problems with the design, development or manufacturing of the respirators. However, companies are not immune from claims of intentional or criminal misconduct.

President Donald Trump said this week that HHS is delivering millions of respirators and surgical masks in an effort to patch up shortages across the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that most people not use masks outside of the workplace or enclosed environments, with some exceptions including those who are sick, or those who care for someone who is ill or immunocompromised. Wearing a mask unnecessarily could allow the virus to spread when the mask is adjusted or removed improperly.

The CDC continues to emphasize the importance of social distancing, handwashing and avoiding public areas whenever possible. The nation’s hospitals and other health care facilities are urgently scrambling to obtain protective gear for their workers.

"It's particularly masks and the protective gear that we need desperately -- both to protect ourselves from patients but also patients from others," Dr. David Bell, a physician at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, told ABC News.

It’s not just hospital workers desperate for masks. Jared Rosenberg, Paramedic Supervisor with the Greenberg, New York, Police Department, told reporters this week that his department has resorted to collecting masks from the public.

"So far, over 195 [N95] masks and over 1,000 surgical masks have been donated by the local residents,” Rosenberg said. “We're grateful for it, but this is no way to prepare for an uptick in cases. We need these masks and we need them now, and we need the federal government to pay for these masks because we can't afford them at this rate.”

HHS has predicted in congressional testimony that demand could go as high as one billion masks in the next 6 months.

This month alone, HHS has signed industry contracts worth some $500 million in the hopes of procuring 600 million N95 masks in the next 18 months. That includes a $4.8 million contract with 3M for the respirators.

The office of Congresswoman Betty McCollum (D-MN), who represents the district where 3M is based, said they have “every confidence” in the company, despite the prior allegations.

“We are very proud of 3M and their remarkable response thus far to ensure they’re meeting the safety needs of health care workers all across America,” a McCollum spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News.

HHS referred requests for comment to FEMA, which has taken the lead role in coordinating the government response. FEMA did not immediately respond to questions.

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Bilanol/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The orders were straightforward and immediate: pick up the supplies, ride through the streets of New York City and make the deliveries.

There would be no detours, no diversions. The clock was ticking.

On March 21, Ryan Snelson and three other motorcycle riders geared up, divided up the supplies and took off from Montauk, New York, to meet their receivers in Tribeca and Queens. The supplies strapped to their bikes would help protect the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals battling the deadly novel coronavirus pandemic. New York City hospitals were running out of personal protective equipment (PPE) as the number of sick grew each day. The masks, gloves and gowns Snelson and his crew were in possession of could save patients' -- and doctors' -- lives.

Snelson, a longtime biker, took action against the virus the only way he knew how: by calling on his fellow bikers to join him in the cause.

"We're just regular people who have bikes and have regular jobs in the city," he told ABC News. "The motorcycle community is very active in New York."

Snelson was intrigued after learning about Masks for Docs, a grassroots campaign that was started two weeks ago by Chad Loder, a computer security researcher and entrepreneur in the Los Angeles area. Masks for Docs, which is in the process of being recognized as a 501 (c) charity organization, connects people who have PPE with hospitals and health clinics around the country. Donors and receivers fill out an online questionnaire and Masks for Docs then shares the info with its local volunteer chapters to verify the applicants and distribute the supplies quickly to the requisite facilities.

"We're getting photos from doctors and nurses who are wearing trash bags and bandanas [for protection]," Loder told ABC News. "We've had hospitals say they cannot accept donations but doctors are privately reaching out to us. We have to move faster than the virus."

Individuals can donate surgical, construction and N95 masks, hand sanitizers, hazmat suits, disposable scrubs, face shields and gowns on the Masks for Docs site. Loder said local chapters are given guidance on acceptable donations as well as safety precautions when picking up and dropping off the PPE.

More than 60 riders have joined the New York "moto squad," according to Snelson, and supplies have been delivered to all five New York City boroughs as well as northern New Jersey.

"It all happened so fast," Snelson noted. "We're figuring it out as we go ... and we can start and stop based on our schedules."

Meredith Balkus, who joined Snelson on the group's first mission, recalled how eerie and still the city's streets were that Saturday night, a "surreal" experience for the riders involved, she said.

"When this opportunity came up I was so excited," she told ABC News. "We all understand the gravity of the situation and it's really rewarding to help doctors who are on the front lines. It's really dire in New York and there's a lot of hunger out there to help."

At least 776 New Yorkers have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, and more than half of New York state's cases, or 33,768, are in the city. Nearly 8,500 state residents are currently hospitalized. In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned Sunday in an interview on CNN that hospitals have only one week's worth of medical supplies.

Snelson said his team is cognizant of the infection risks and closely adheres to the safety guidelines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We are so smart every step of the way," added Balkus. "We're wearing a full face helmet and a mask underneath. We always stay six feet apart from each other."

Moto squad's riders will do whatever it takes to stop the outbreak and slow down the rate of transmission, Snelson said.

"The motorcycle community will help -- always," he said.

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Noemi Orofino(NEW YORK) -- A 28-year-old who said she and her boyfriend tested positive for the novel coronavirus is speaking out in hopes to remind the public that young, healthy adults are still at risk.

Noemi Orofino and her boyfriend Julian, 31, are now in recovery after fighting the COVID-19 virus, the new respiratory illness in which hundreds of thousands have been diagnosed globally, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

Orofino, who works in fashion, began documenting her journey on Instagram after revealing she was positive.

"I started getting so many questions about the virus," Orofino told ABC News' Good Morning America. "I have so many friends in America and the U.K. They didn't think it affected young people like me. They thought it was an elderly disease."

"When I was going through it, I was emotional and lonely," she added. "I want to spread the severity of this issue."

Orofino was born in Italy and raised in the U.S. She and Julian, who requested GMA holds his surname for privacy reasons, currently reside in the United Kingdom, where there's at least 17,325 confirmed cases.

Orofino and Julian began feeling symptoms including weakness, muscles aches and shortness of breath on March 1 and 2, Orofino said.

"I kind of knew I had it right away. I've never felt so sick," she added. "When Julian started to feel sick too, we got tested."

"I was very far away from my family and I didn't know so much about the U.K. health system," she added. "I knew the illness impacted your lungs ... I was very worried for our lives at the time."

Orofino suspects she contracted the COVID-19 virus from two friends visiting from Italy, who later showed symptoms as well.

She said she and Julian went to a local hospital for treatment. They were examined, sent home to recover and told to take a fever reducer.

"I think because we are younger and they were confident that we were OK," Orofino said. "I don't think they were ready for what was coming, a COVID-19 room or floor, or [proper] equipment."

Dr. Eric Johnson, an anesthesiologist at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, who treats people with COVID-19 but has not treated Orofino or Julian, said institutions around the country are likely developing new protocols as there's an influx of patients.

"As a medical community we're behind the curve on adequately testing patients and preparing for a surge of patients like we've never seen before," Johnson told GMA. "It's a very non-discriminatory virus. There's been several patients in their 20s, 30s and 40s. When in the early stages of this we were concerned with older patients, whereas younger patients are ending up in the ICU on ventilators [also]."

"We cannot emphasize enough how important this quarantine and social isolation is, even though it can generate those feelings of loneliness," Johnson added. "It's the best tool in our arsenal now -- maintaining quarantine, avoiding large crowds, washing hands -- all of those CDC guidelines."

The World Health Organization (WHO) says people of all ages can be infected by COVID-19. Older people, and people with preexisting medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease) appear to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill with the virus.

WHO advises people of all ages to take steps to protect themselves such as good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene.

While older adults have been hit hardest by the virus, Italy reported that a quarter of its cases so far were among people ages 19 to 50. In Spain, a third are under age 44.

Among U.S. patients with known age, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 29% were 20 to 44.

Julian said he didn't think he and Orofino would be at risk, given their ages.

"Everyone reacts differently to the virus so even if you're young and healthy and in good shape, you may be unlucky and it may have a life-changing or even life-ending consequence," Julian told GMA. "Everyone should really take this seriously."

While Julian said he has fully recovered from the virus, Orofino is enduring her fourth week. She said she feels better each day, and is experiencing fewer symptoms since being diagnosed earlier this month.

While documenting her health progress on Instagram, she urges others to stay home and lends an ear to those feeling stress during the pandemic.

"Every day I found a new symptom, I wished I had someone to talk to for emotional support as well as informative [support]," she said. "I received so many messages from people saying, 'I started self-isolating after reading this.'"

"Everyone is caught up with not catching it, but I think cause a lot of psychological damage, trauma -- even to those who aren't affected by the virus," Orofino added.

The CDC says the outbreak of COVID-19 may cause fear and anxiety in some people.

Dr. Alexander Sanchez, a psychiatrist working in New York City, agreed -- telling ABC News, "I expect an increase in anxiety and depressive symptoms to come when the experience of social distancing and isolation becomes more routine. We are trying to adjust to a new way of maintaining social connections virtually. There will be some psychic pain while we adjust."

The National Alliance of Mental Illness (NAMI) offers resources on how to seek mental help during these uncertain times.

For mental health crisis, call NAMI's HelpLine at 800-950-NAMI (6264) Monday through Friday, between 10:00 am and 6:00 pm EST for mental health resources.

Virtual support communities like Emotions Anonymous offer in person and online weekly meetings available in more than 30 countries with 600 active groups worldwide. The EA is nonprofessional and can be a complement to therapy, NAMI says.

If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts in response to the outbreak, call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for free and confidential emotional support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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iStock(NEW YORK ) -- Despite repeated warnings from health experts about the risk of social interaction over novel coronavirus, governors in at least three states have exempted houses of worship from statewide bans on mass gatherings, and this weekend will offer a first test to see if any congregations forge ahead despite the warnings.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, has banned gatherings of 50 or more and signed a statewide stay-at-home order on Monday. But both mandates explicitly exempt houses of worship from the misdemeanor penalty for violators.

"That’s an area we don’t have the ability to directly enforce or control," Whitmer said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday."

She said she felt pressure from Republicans in the state legislature to include the exemption and said her hands were tied by the separation of church and state.

Democratic Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly tightened restrictions on mass gatherings in her state to no more than 10 people. But much like with Michigan, she exempted houses of worship as long as congregants engage in appropriate social distancing. Ohio officials carved out exemptions for religious gatherings, including weddings and funerals, from its stay-at-home order, on top of a broad exemption for any gathering "for the purpose of the expression of First Amendment protected speech."

Not everyone believes that imposing constraints on religious gatherings would run afoul of constitutional protections.

Rachel Laser, the president and CEO of the nonprofit advocacy group Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, said the governors are misinterpreting restrictions on impeding religious expression. She says the Constitution actually requires religious and secular institutions be treated the same.

"The Constitution not only permits it, but demands it," she said in a statement. "Such restrictions do not violate religious freedom; they ensure religious freedom is not misused in ways that risk people’s lives."

Laser’s organization has tracked mass gathering bans by state, and cites numerous instances in which COVID-19 has spread through congregations, sometimes resulting in deaths.

"We recognize that many people find solace in attending religious services, especially during uncertain times such as these, and thus share in the deep sorrow that the already challenging coronavirus situation also means temporarily halting in-person religious services," Laser said.

This handout illustration image taken with a scanning electron microscope shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow) also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19isolated emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab.

She applauded the houses of worship that are taking creative approaches to maintaining their fellowship in this time of social distancing, including streaming services online.

"We may be physically apart, but we will get through this public health crisis together -- even if it’s together in new ways," Laser said.

In Michigan, Whitmer has been urging houses of worship not to host services, despite the exemption. But last weekend some churches in the state were still holding services. Greater Grace Temple in Detroit welcomed about 200 worshipers last Sunday – four times more than the state’s mass gatherings ban allows, but far fewer than the 4,000-seat sanctuary can hold.

"Unless you were a couple or a parent and children, everyone was sitting about four to five seats separated from each other," Bishop Charles H. Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple told ABC News in a phone interview.

On Tuesday, following the governor’s stay-at-home order, Greater Grace Temple suspended worship services for at least three weeks.

"We want to certainly cooperate and do our best to adhere to what she's asking us to do," Ellis said. "We certainly don't want to be above the system."

Even in states with strict bans on mass gatherings of any kind, some faith groups are continuing to worship together.

In New York, which is now the epicenter of the outbreak in the United States, local news reports indicate many ultra-Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn have anguished over the ban, with many refusing to comply. Last week, The New York Times reported that the fire department had to be called to break up hundreds of revelers celebrating at a Hasidic wedding in Brooklyn.

In Louisiana, the pastor at the Life Tabernacle Church outside of Baton Rouge, vowed to continue worship services for a congregation of more than 1,000 members, according to news reports. The Rev. Tony Spell told CNN, "If they close every door in this city, then I will close my doors. But you can't say the retailers are essential but the church is not. That is a persecution of the faith."

About a dozen states still have not banned mass gatherings at all.

One of those states is Arkansas, where a parish in the small town of Greers Ferry is mourning the loss of a 91-year-old door greeter after 34 members of the 80-person congregation became infected with COVID-19 at a church gathering.

President Donald Trump has told the American people he is holding on to the hope that normal life will resume by Easter, so there can be "packed churches all over our country."

Back in Michigan, one church has found a new way to safely worship. All God’s People Church in Roseville is hosting what Rev. W.J. Rideout III calls "drive-in" service in the parking lot where parishioners stay in their cars.

"I’m the only one outside preaching and ministering God’s words to people for safety measures," he said, adding, "Ecclesiastes says, you know, 'There's a time to embrace and there's a time to refrain from the embracing.' So this is that moment."

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WJTN News Headlines for Mar. 31, 2020

An elderly Chautauqua County man who contracted the COVID-19 Virus has now died from complications due to the virus.  County Executive P-J Wendel says the Department of Health and Human Services ...

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