This is our daily update of breaking COVID-19 news for Sunday, March 15th, 2020. Previous daily updates can be found here. Our guide to 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.

Five People With Coronavirus Have Died In New York City

6:00 p.m. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced there have been five total deaths in New York City linked to COVID-19, as the number of confirmed cases across the five boroughs surged to 329.

"We grieve with these families," de Blasio said during a press briefing on Sunday evening, in which he announced that the city's public schools will be closed through at least April 20th.

The five victims include an 82-year-old woman from Brooklyn with emphysema, a 79-year-old woman with pre-existing heart failure and lung conditions, a 78-year-old man with pre-existing conditions, a 56-year-old man with diabetes, and a 53-year-old woman who had diabetes and heart disease. A sixth person, a 64-year-old with heart problems, died in Rockland County.

On Friday, there were zero recorded fatalities linked to the virus across the state.

City officials have consistently emphasized the highest risk individuals are older adults with pre-existing conditions. "We have to isolate them from anyone who might be sick, even if it's their loved ones," de Blasio said Sunday evening.

The mayor also announced that elective surgeries will be canceled at all hospitals in the coming days. New York-Presbyterian Hospital and New York City’s Health and Hospitals Corporation had already planned to do the same.

"Amending guidance for vast majority of people, for people who get sick with those symptoms, those seasonal flu symptoms, stay home, do not go to work, do not send your child to any program," de Blasio said. Those with flu-like symptoms should wait three or four days before seeing a doctor to "see the direction of the disease," he added.

Despite growing calls to shut down New York City's bars and night clubs, the mayor said the existing policy, which forces venues to reduce occupancy by 50 percent, would remain in effect for now.

"We've never been through something like this," the mayor said. "Everyone is confused, everyone is in pain."

Governor Cuomo Gives NYC 24-Hour Deadline To Close Schools

4:15 p.m. Governor Andrew Cuomo called on New York City to close schools within 24 hours — noting that plans for childcare and food that Mayor Bill de Blasio has cited as an impediment could be "easily addressed."

The demand came during a conference call in which the leaders of Westchester, Suffolk, and Nassau Counties announced they would all shutter schools for a two-week period.

"I do believe New York City schools should be closed, but we need to take care of childcare issue and the food issue that Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester have just addressed," the governor said. "I believe it can be easily addressed."

"I call on the parties and leadership to come up with a plan on childcare and food and do it within 24 hours," he added.

The mayor has thus far resisted calls to close the school system — the country's largest, with 1.1 million students. "The kids, not only do they need an education, they need a place with meals," he said on Sunday. "They need adult supervision."

Cuomo's comments came after the city's largest union representing healthcare workers, 1199 SEIU, joined a growing group of parents and the powerful United Federation of Teachers in demanding a school closure.

"I have been in discussion with other allies on the possibility of providing this much needed childcare through school resource centers, and I am confident that a plan will be reached to ensure that these children receive the care they need while their parents work," 1199 President George Gresham said in a statement. "I also encourage the state and city to look into allocating additional funding for childcare for the children of healthcare workers and other essential employees."

Gresham's statement marked a shift from his statement on Friday, which emphasized a childcare plan would be necessary to prevent a "dire strain" on the city's healthcare systems.

Governor Cuomo Warns Of Wave Of Infections, Calls For Retrofitting SUNY Dorms Into Hospital Beds

1:45 p.m.: Governor Andrew Cuomo warned of a wave of COVID-19 infections in New York State as a third person with the virus dies and positive cases rise to 729.

“We are looking at a new war that no one has seen before,” Cuomo said during a press briefing on Sunday. “We have never fought a virus like this with this potential consequence.”

There are 729 positive coronavirus cases in New York State, up by 69 overnight, the governor announced. In New York City, there are 329 cases.

A 79-year-old woman who had multiple underlying health issues died at a New York City hospital on Sunday; she was the third death in the state.

New York remains the state with the highest number of cases, ahead of Washington. About 19 percent of patients (137 out of 729) are hospitalized in New York, the governor said. Sixty-five patients are in intensive care units, and 46 are intubated.

“Do everything you can to reduce the wave. We are. It’s still a wave. It’s going to be a wave. And it is going to be a wave that, at any of these projections, will overwhelm the healthcare system,” Cuomo said.

He reiterated his calls on the Trump administration to use the Army Corps of Engineers and military resources to retrofit buildings into temporary hospitals to build out hospital bed capacity, as well as localize COVID-19 testing and creating federal consistency on closures. (The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Cuomo’s demands.)

Cuomo said federal resources were necessary and offered up SUNY dormitories as spaces to turn into medical centers.

“It makes all the sense in the world, and by the way, we have no option,” Cuomo said.

New York currently has 600 ICU beds available and 3,000 ventilators. Cuomo estimated the state would need thousands more of both as infections rise.

“There’s no couple of weeks here,” he said.

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More Elected NYC Officials Call For Shutting Down Non-Essential Services

1 p.m.: City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and City Comptroller Scott Stringer both released statements calling for the closure of non-essential servicesm like bars and restaurants, in New York City.

“We are in a state of emergency and we must move quickly to mitigate the impact of coronavirus/COVID-19 on our city," Johnson said. "All non-essential services should be closed, including bars and restaurants. We should keep essentials like grocery stores, bodegas, pharmacies, and banks open. And restaurants that can make deliveries should be able to stay open to provide delivery service for New Yorkers."

He added, "We need to make sure impacted businesses like restaurants are able to survive and employees are taken care of until we're back to normal. Businesses have costs that need to be covered no matter what—rent, utilities, loan payments, insurance, and taxes. We need to help them stay afloat. The City needs to do what it can immediately, including suspending payment of fees, penalties, and taxes."

Stringer echoed those comments:

"We need flexible working arrangements for all workers,​ innovative food distribution plans, support for families with older relatives, child care for essential service workers, access to counseling, and resources for households without internet access," Stringer added.

Johnson and Stringer both also want schools to close; Johnson said, "We must come up with a plan for all students, including those who rely on school for food and medical support.  Perhaps most importantly, we need to support our healthcare workers, including by providing childcare so they can continue to work during this state of emergency."

New Coronavirus Screenings Pack Customs Lines At JFK Airport

12:40 p.m.: Travelers were stuck in customs lines for hours at JFK Airport as newly-implemented coronavirus screenings drew traffic flow to a halt. Customers returning from several countries in Europe underwent additional screening procedures at 13 different airports under new Trump administration guidelines in an effort to mitigate the coronavirus outbreak.

Willow Johnson flew into JFK Airport from London Saturday afternoon and waited for nearly three hours at customs, where she had her temperature taken. She was instructed to self-quarantine for two weeks since she had been to four of the 26 European countries included under new federal travel restrictions.

“It was like a line you’d be in at an amusement park,” Johnson, a college student returning from a European spring break trip, told Gothamist.

“It was a busy airport scene,” she said. “There was no one coughing or anything—we were all just kind of standing there. We were definitely closer than six feet apart from everyone.”

Under new travel restrictions President Donald Trump announced last week, American citizens, legal permanent residents, and their families who had traveled in China, Iran and 26 European countries were required to undergo an “enhanced entry screening.” The screenings took effect at midnight on Saturday across 13 airports—including JFK and Newark Liberty International Airport—where Americans were required to fly through from the affected countries.

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf wrote in a tweet: “We will be increasing capacity but the health and safety of the American public is first and foremost.” He noted screenings take about 60 seconds.

Acting Commissioner of Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan said in a tweet “medical personnel are working diligently to address the longer than usual delays.”

“Our goal is and remains to process passengers as safely and efficiently as possible,” Morgan said.

At an Upper West Side Starbucks, that is usually very busy.

Mayor Says Closing Schools Would Be An "Imperfect" Situation

9:57 a.m.: Mayor Bill de Blasio maintained that closing schools would be an "imperfect" situation during the coronavirus outbreak and emphasized the difficulties that he has previously raised, as he faces rising pressure to close public schools.

"I know there are millions of parents that rely on our public schools," de Blasio said during a Sunday morning appearance on WBLS Open Line. "The kids, not only do they need an education, they need a place with meals. They need adult supervision."

"I want to caution how imperfect that situation would be," de Blasio said. He added that how the city handles the COVID-19 outbreak, such as closing schools, is changing everyday and even every hour.

De Blasio has highlighted the difficulties of shuttering public schools previously—particularly for parents who rely on the schooling system so they can go to work, such as healthcare or transit workers. He anticipated teenagers would likely not stay home if schools were canceled and older relatives would be at risk even with schools closed.

"The notion that, in any way, we would be in perfect isolation is just not real," he said.

Several politicians, including City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, as well as the powerful teachers union, United Federation of Teachers, have demanded the mayor close public schools. UFT President Michael Mulgrew also asks the mayor maintain services for vulnerable children, provide access to tests and care, and set up a childcare plan for first responders and healthcare workers.

"The mayor is recklessly putting the health of our students, their families and school staff in jeopardy by refusing to close public schools," Mulgrew wrote in an email to parents and guardians. "New York City museums have closed, Broadway has gone dark and major sports leagues have canceled or postponed their seasons, yet Mayor de Blasio refuses to close public schools."

A faction of UFT teachers plan to stay home on Monday. Organizers say that some 400 people joined a Saturday call to organize what they describe as a "sickout."

Brooklyn Community Board 6 has also written to de Blasio and Chancellor Richard Carranza to close public schools. The board noted "there must be a system of provisions that include breakfast and lunch being readily available for students, maintaining the social services and daycare that schools provide for those that need them."

"This should not cut into any employees' accrued paid sick or leave time," the board added.

At 2 p.m., Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, City Councilmember Mark Treyger, and education advocates will hold a press conference in front of the Department of Education offices on Chambers Street to call for "immediate changes" in the public school system. Treyger has suggested switching to a "summer school model" to ensure families who rely on the schooling system can access meals and other services.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has been in talks with the healthcare workers union 1199 SEIU to provide members with childcare services if schools were to close.

Governor Cuomo Calls On Trump To Use The Army Corps To Add More Hospital Beds

In an opinion piece in the New York Times Sunday morning, Governor Andrew Cuomo demanded President Donald Trump use the Army Corps of Engineers to increase the number of hospital beds in the country.

"Every country affected by this crisis has handled it on a national basis," Cuomo wrote. "The United States has not."

"State and local governments alone simply do not have the capacity or resources to do what is necessary, and we don't want a patchwork quilt of policies," he said.

He called on Trump to use the Army Corps of Engineers to retrofit military bases and college dorms, for instance, to be transformed into medical centers for additional hospital bed capacity.

"States cannot build more hospitals, acquire ventilators or modify facilities quickly enough," Cuomo wrote.

He also called on Trump to implement consistent federal schools and businesses closures, rather than a piecemeal approach by city or state, and cut through the red tape of regulations from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow for additional coronavirus testing.

He said the administration's approval of New York State's local labs to perform testing was a "good first step," but "insufficient" nationally. In a press conference Friday, Cuomo said the federal government had given New York State authorization to run testing at 28 local labs. By Wednesday, the state plans to run 5,000 tests a day.

With reporting by Jen Chung and Jake Dobkin