This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Wednesday, April 29th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here, and up-to-date statistics are here.

Read our guide to understanding New York on PAUSE, NY's stay-at-home order; a look at preparing for the spread of coronavirus is here, and if you have lingering questions about the virus, here is our regularly updated coronavirus FAQ. Here are some local and state hotlines for more information: NYC: 311; NY State Hotline: 888-364-3065; NJ State Hotline: 800-222-1222.

3:30 p.m. The FDA plans to approve emergency use of the experimental drug remdesivir on coronavirus patients, the NY Times reports.

In a press conference this afternoon, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters that they have seen positive signs during early trials of the drug. “What it has proven is that a drug can block this virus," he said. "This drug happens to be blocking an enzyme that the virus uses.”

While Fauci cautioned that the drug still needs to be properly peer-reviewed, he said initial trials showed that it could help speed up the recovery of some patients infected with the virus by about a third. “Although a 31 percent improvement doesn’t seem like a knockout 100 percent, it is a very important proof of concept because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus,” Fauci said. “This is very optimistic.”

The Times noted that remdesivir was first developed to fight Ebola, but has never been approved as a treatment for any disease.

Gilead Sciences, a California drug company that has been studying the effects of remdesivir on patients with COVID-19, said in a statement Wednesday that they are “aware of positive data emerging" from the research by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, but it has "not yet licensed or approved anywhere globally and has not yet been demonstrated to be safe or effective for the treatment of COVID-19."

1:30 p.m. Governor Andrew Cuomo says he will require the MTA to disinfect the subways nightly, one day after claiming that homeless people seeking shelter in the transit system were creating "disgusting" and "disrespectful" conditions for essential workers.

"Starting tomorrow, I want a full plan how do we disinfect every train, every night, period," Cuomo said during his daily briefing on Wednesday, citing a Daily News story showing photos and videos of train cars filled with homeless people. "Any essential worker who shows up and gets on a train should know that the train was disinfected the night before."

The MTA was previously disinfecting all subway cars and buses every 72 hours as part of their effort to slow the spread of COVID-19. Excess cleaning expenses are already estimated to cost the cash-strapped transit agency up to half a billion dollars this year.

In a statement, MTA spokesperson Ken Lovett said the agency was developing a plan to "further enhance and increase the frequency of our cleaning. We will deliver that plan to the governor as he requested.”

The governor also announced Wednesday that transit workers will begin receiving antibody tests starting this week. Preliminary tests have shown that roughly 17 percent of FDNY workers and 10 percent of NYPD officers have been infected with the novel coronavirus.

Statewide, new intubations continued to decrease, while both hospitalizations and deaths have remained largely flat in recent days. On Tuesday, there were 330 COVID-19 deaths recorded in New York, down from 335 and 337 in the past two days, Cuomo said.

There have now been 18,015 deaths recorded across the state, though that figure does not include probable COVID-19 fatalities.

Rockaway Beach

De Blasio Says Beach Season Could Be Partly Salvaged But It Will Be A "High Bar"

At his Tuesday morning news briefing, Mayor Bill de Blasio offered a glimmer of hope for New Yorkers looking to salvage parts of their summer traditions amid the COVID-19 pandemic, saying “we may get to an opportunity” to see the city’s nine public beaches reopen. De Blasio, who appeared to be moderating his original position that there were "no plans" to reopen city beaches for the summer season, cautioned there are some big ifs ahead.

“If we get to a point where we could start to open up, how would we do it? And how would we do it smartly? I think it’s fair to say I could see a scenario where we would do social distancing and limits on the number of people,” said de Blasio. “But I also want to urge people to recognize that won’t be easy. That’s a lot to enforce. Comes with real problems and potentials and dangers. So that one will be a high bar from my point of view. We have to be really certain we are turning a corner on the disease, and really certain we can do it the right way, and that we can enforce it properly.”

De Blasio said one major challenge to reopening beaches is the question of how people get to the beach, which in most cases involves using the subway, potentially causing dangerously crowded situations on trains. He stressed that envisioning reopening beaches “won’t happen overnight" and probably not in time for Memorial Day. Regarding the city’s pools, de Blasio said another “big question mark” is finding the funds to have them open.

With antibody testing beginning to expand, de Blasio also announced greater access to antibody testing for all 150,000 frontline workers, healthcare workers, and first responders, adding the test will be available to them at local precincts, hospitals, and fire stations. De Blasio cautioned the test is not a guarantee that healthcare or frontline workers won’t contract the disease again or an excuse to avoid wearing their personal protective equipment gear, but may give them some confidence that they’ve survived the disease.

In keeping with his “wartime” rhetoric, de Blasio also announced that frontline workers and healthcare workers traumatized by their experience during the pandemic—who he equated to combat soldiers—will receive special mental evaluations by military trauma specialists dispatched by the U.S. Department of Defense. Those specialists will train 1,000 New York City Health + Hospital staffers, FDNY/EMS personnel, and those under the Greater New York Hospital Association in combat stress management.

“All of this work is already underway,” said First Lady Chirlane McCray, joining de Blasio in the announcement. “We’re ramping up to be fully operational in May, with the program fully in place in June.”

It will be 26 years since de Blasio and McCray have been married, offering de Blasio a segue into another announcement that marriage licenses can now be filled out online instead of having them filed in person at the City Clerk’s offices across the city. “Project Cupid,” as it’s called, will allow for those processes to transfer online beginning next week.

PSE&G utility worker watches the Navy's Blue Angels and the Air Force's Thunderbirds conduct "a collaborative salute" to honor those battling the COVID-19 pandemic with a flyover of New York and New Jersey on in Jersey City, N.J

More Than 1 Million COVID-19 Cases In The U.S.

As cities and states contemplate reopening strategies, the United States marked a grim milestone on Tuesday: More than 1 million COVID-19 cases have been confirmed, according to Johns Hopkins University.

At the latest count, there are 1,012,583 cases in the U.S., and 58,355 deaths. For context, 58,220 Americans died during the Vietnam War over the course of two decades.

The estimate for anticipated deaths related to the virus, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which the White House has been using, has been revised upward to 72,860 by early August, within a range of 57,453 to 122,637. The estimate last week had been 67,641 deaths; a month ago, the IHME suggested there could be 90,000 fatalities.

The estimate for deaths related to the virus, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which the White House has been using, has been revised upward to 72,860 by early August, within a range of 57,453 to 122,637. The estimate last week had been 67,641 deaths; a month ago, the IHME suggested there could be 90,000 fatalities.

On Tuesday, CNN reporter Jim Acosta asked President Donald Trump about his February assertion that cases would go down to zero. "How did we get from your prediction of zero to 1 million?" Acosta asked. According to Business Insider, the president, responded, "Well, it will go down to zero ultimately... [The country] is doing more testing than any other country in the world."

Some 5.6 million coronavirus tests have been conducted nationwide in the past couple months, more than any other country. But according to some data analysts, the number represents a far smaller percentage per capita than in Italy, which has tested over 30 people out of 1,000, compared to approximately 17 out of 1,000 tested in the U.S.

Trump also tried to push back on criticism that he and the government could have been better prepared, "Experts — very good experts, very good people too — said this would never affect the United States, it wouldn't affect Europe, it wouldn't affect anything outside of China. So we were listening to experts, and we will always listen to experts, but the experts got it wrong. A lot of people got it wrong, and a lot of people had no idea it would be this serious."

On Monday, the Washington Post reported that Trump had been warned by intelligence analysts over a dozen times about coronavirus in January and February, even as he publicly dismissed the potential severity of the virus.

Trump's remarks came hours after New York Governor Andrew Cuomo complained that no one raised any alarms about the forthcoming crisis, "Everybody knows this is a virus in China... Where was the whole international health community? Where was the whole national host of experts?"

Cuomo added, "Governors don't do global pandemics. It’s not a state responsibility. In this system, who was supposed to blow the bugle and didn’t?"

Multiple U.S. health experts had warned about the potentially devastating impact of COVID-19 in February, including Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, who told reporters on February 25th that "It's not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses. We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad."

Reports of the new coronavirus appeared in western media beginning in early January and Reuters reported on the illness on December 31, 2019. On March 19th, Cuomo said, "The fear and panic is, if anything, worse than the virus.”

Also on Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, gave an interview to the Economic Club in Washington D.C., where he worried about COVID-19 in later seasons, saying the U.S. "could be in for a bad fall" if there isn't a vaccine or treatment available.

“It is not going to disappear from the planet. Which means as we get into next season, in my mind, it's inevitable that we will have a return of the virus," he said. “Hopefully by the time we get to this coming winter, we will know whether or not we have a safe and effective vaccine."