U.S. and global news on COVID-19

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The Senate overwhelmingly passed a massive stimulus package late Wednesday night aimed at softening the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic for American workers and businesses. The bill includes billions of dollars in credit for struggling industries, a boost to unemployment insurance and direct cash payments to Americans.

The fate of the bill now rests with the House, which will not vote until Friday, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

The U.S. reached a grim milestone as the number of deaths linked to the coronavirus passed 1,000 in the country, according to a count of reports of cases and deaths by NBC News. Globally, the death toll topped 20,000, with nearly half a million reported cases.

Meanwhile at the U.N., the Trump administration is pushing the Security Council to call attention to the Chinese origins of the coronavirus, four diplomats posted to the United Nations told NBC News, triggering a stalemate as the global body seeks to cobble together a response to the pandemic.

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Photo: An opera in Paris

An opera singer performs "O sole mio" for his neighbors in Paris on Thursday.Philippe Lopez / AFP - Getty Images

Trump tells governors he is setting new coronavirus social distancing guidelines

President Donald Trump told America's governors in a letter on Thursday that his administration will soon set new social distancing guidelines as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

Trump said in the letter that new coronavirus testing capabilities would allow his administration to identify "high-risk, medium risk and low-risk" counties. And these new guidelines will assist governors and other officials to decide on "maintaining, increasing or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures they have put in place."

The president said by doing "robust surveillance testing," officials will be able to "monitor the spread of the virus throughout the country."

Public health experts have said easing restrictions too soon could overburden hospitals and lead to more deaths and economic damage related to the virus.

Read more here.

Kylie Jenner donates $1 million to buy hospital masks and medical gear

The nearly empty intersection of Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles on March 25, 2020. California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay at home order for residences to slow the spread of coronavirus.Mario Tama / Getty Images

Kylie Jenner is donating $1 million to help with the shortage of hospital masks, face shields and other protective gear.

The reality star's doctor, Thaïs Aliabadi, said in an Instagram post on Wednesday that the donation will help buy "hundreds of thousands" of supplies for first responders during the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Too many masks at hospitals are disappearing before making their way onto the faces of our front line heroes," she wrote. "I have never felt more blessed to be a doctor, as helping our brave ER and ICU workers feels just as gratifying as helping my own patients. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU @kyliejenner."  

Aliabadi, who delivered Jenner's daughter, Stormi, said the donation will most likely "help save many precious lives." 

How to get a stimulus check — and how best to spend it

The $2 trillion coronavirus aid package provides up to $1,200 per person up to certain income thresholds, with an extra $500 per child in order to offer relief for families affected by the coronavirus pandemic and to support the economy. 

From buying the essentials to starting a savings account, personal finance experts weigh in on how you can best spend that money.

The checks will start being distributed within three weeks of the signing of the aid bill, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday.

Here's how to make sure you receive your check as quickly as possible.

Italian mayor prepares pre-recorded drone audio messages to warn citizens

The mayor of a city in southern Italy is going to use drones to keep an eye on all the villages in his province. Cateno De Luca, the 48-year-old mayor of Messina, Italy, announced on his Facebook page.

 “My voice will say ‘where the f--- are you going’?” De Luca said in a video full of expletives.

It’s not the first time that the mayor gained attention with his colorful remarks. Another video showing Italian public officials yelling at people to stay at home garnered over 5 million views on Twitter. 

Italy has been under national quarantine since March 9, with a total of 8,165 certified deaths. Over 80,000 people tested positive since the start of the pandemic.

Photo: Awaiting cremation in Lombardy

Thirty-five coffins of the deceased are stored in a warehouse in Ponte San Pietro, near Bergamo, in Lombardy, Italy's hardest-hit region, on Thursday before being transported to another region for cremation. Lombardy reported a steep rise in fatalities Thursday compared with the day before and remains in a critical situation, with a total of 4,861 deaths and 34,889 cases.Piero Cruciatti / AFP - Getty Images

Saints quarterback Drew Brees donates $5 million to Louisiana relief efforts

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Thursday committed $5 million to Louisiana charities focused on feeding children, senior citizens and "families in need."

"The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time," according to a statement by the Super Bowl winning quarterback. "Let’s all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together." 

The city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Indy 500 postponed because of coronavirus

The Indianapolis 500, the world's oldest automobile race, has been postponed because of coronavirus.

The race, which was originally scheduled to occur on May 24, has been rescheduled to Aug. 23. 

The Indianapolis 500 began in 1911 and this year marks the first time it won't run on Memorial Day weekend since 1946. The race was canceled six times in the past because of the two world wars.

Nearly 3 dozen who attended Arkansas church event test positive for coronavirus

Nearly three dozen people who attended a recent children's event at an Arkansas church have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to church officials.

Donald Shipp, a deacon at First Assembly of God church in Greers Ferry, about 75 miles north of Little Rock, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that 34 people who attended the event in early March at the Cleburne County church had tested positive for the coronavirus, and that an unknown number of others were awaiting test results.

Danyelle McNeill, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Health, said a number of coronavirus cases have been associated with a church in Cleburne County, which she did not identify.

"We are still investigating newly reported cases and can’t definitively say they are all connected to one church," McNeill told NBC News on Thursday. "This is a cluster within a larger outbreak in that area of the state."

Read the full story here.

During Stephen Curry's Q&A with Dr. Fauci, a special guest follows along

NBA star Stephen Curry has been hosting a question-and-answer on Instagram live with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

As tens of thousands on social media follow along, some noticed former President Barack Obama was among them.