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Global cases surpass 1 million, 6.6 million unemployment claims filed

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: Mask
A pedestrian wears a face mask as he walks past a mural of a fish while strolling on the boardwalk at Coney Island, in Brooklyn, New York on April 2, 2020.Kathy Willens / AP

The White House is expected to recommend that Americans wear a face covering when they go out.

On Thursday, the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. topped 5,000 on Thursday, according to NBC News' tally, and nearly 240,000 cases have been confirmed across the country. Globally, more than 1,000,000 people have tested positive and more than 50,000 have died from COVID-19, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In the United States, government relief payments will begin the week of April 13 — although people who don’t have direct deposit on file with the Internal Revenue Service may have to wait months for checks to arrive, according to a memo obtained by NBC News.

The economic fallout from the pandemic accelerated with a record 6.6 million jobless claims filed last week.

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Anyone in close proximity to Trump, Pence will be tested for COVID-19

Geoff Bennett

The White House said Friday that anyone expected to come in "close proximity" to President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence will now receive a test for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

"As the Physician to the President and White House Operations continue to protect the health and safety of the President and Vice President, starting today anyone who is expected to be in close proximity to either of them will be administered a COVID-19 test to evaluate for pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers status to limit inadvertent transmission," Judd Deere, White House deputy press secretary, said in a statement. 

Etsy asks sellers to make masks

Etsy, an online marketplace famous for its homemade goods, is asking its sellers to make masks.

"This is a moment for the Etsy seller community to come together, meet this unprecedented need, and help those around them," the company said in an email to its sellers. "If you have the skill and materials, you can help — start making masks today."

The company also noted that "skyrocketing demand" was on track to exhaust its current inventory of masks.

Some areas of the U.S. have asked that people who go out in public wear masks, and the White House is expected to make a recommendation that people in areas of high transmission wear masks.

COVID-19 cases, deaths overwhelm Ecuador

USNS Comfort has 19 New York patients aboard

U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort, the 1,000-bed vessel sent to New York City to help alleviate pressure on hospitals, had 19 patients Thursday night, a Navy spokesperson said.

The ship was one of two dispatched — the other is the USNS Mercy in Los Angeles — and Pentagon officials have said they were to take patients so that hospitals could deal with those suffering from COVID-19.

In New York City alone, more than 49,700 cases had been confirmed and 1,562 deaths reported as of 5 p.m. Thursday, according to the city's health department. The state overall has more than 92,300 cases and more than 2,300 deaths, according to an NBC News count.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday said that coronavirus cases have overwhelmed hospitals but that that the ship was never supposed to be for COVID-19 patients. 

Because of the huge demand, Cuomo said he asked President Donald Trump to allow a U.S. Army-run facility at the Javits Center with 2,500 beds to instead be used for COVID-19 patients, and Trump agreed. 

The commander of the USNS Comfort, Capt. Patrick Amersbach, said Thursday that personnel is following Defense Department orders to accept only non-COVID-19 patients, but if that changes they would adjust. 

NYC first responders reeling from 'unprecedented' call volume

New York City first responders are handling "tremendously high" call volumes, working multiple double shifts with back-to-back cases and suspected coronavirus patients going into cardiac arrest as the disease continues to sweep the city.

"Everybody's overworked. ...  People who are working five doubles, five 16-hour tours," in one week, said a New York City Fire Department emergency medical technician who works in the Bronx.

"You get your two days off, but those days you're just sleeping the whole day because your body's recuperating from so much work," the EMT, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Thursday.

Read the full story here

Trump on release of prisoners: 'We don’t like it'

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is considering intervening to stop the release of some prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Correctional facilities in states such as California, Michigan and Pennsylvania have begun releasing certain inmates as the prisons face a shortage of medical supplies.

Trump said Thursday that “we don’t like it.”

The president added that “we’re looking to see if I have the right to stop it in some cases.”

He did not elaborate what measures, or under what legal authority, he would take to stop or reverse the releases.

16 dead in outbreak at Virginia nursing facility

The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia long-term care facility with one of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreaks announced Thursday that its death toll had reached 16 as new testing confirmed roughly two-thirds of its residents have COVID-19.

The Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in suburban Richmond tested all its residents earlier this week after the virus began sweeping through the facility in mid-March, a time when limited supplies and strict policies on who could be tested meant such a response was not possible.

Ninety-two in-house or hospitalized residents have tested positive, the facility said in a statement, up from 41 positive tests earlier in the week. Only 35 tested negative, and 15 tests were still pending, meaning approximately two-thirds of the facility had become infected with the virus.

White House expected to recommend masks

Geoff Bennett

Kristen Welker and Geoff Bennett

The White House is expected to urge Americans who live in areas of high coronavirus transmission to wear cloth face coverings, a senior administration official told NBC News on Thursday night.

Vice President Mike Pence addressed the potential for a mask advisory, based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance, at Thursday's daily news briefing on the pandemic. He said the White House would weigh in on such guidance "in the days ahead."

White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx cautioned that any recommendation on masks must be "additive" and not a substitute for existing social distancing guidelines. 

Read the full story here. 

Patriots plane ferries critical masks from China to U.S.

The Associated Press

BOSTON — The New England Patriots private team plane returned to Boston from China on Thursday carrying most of an order of 1 million masks critical to health care providers fighting to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Standing in front of the plane on the tarmac at Logan International Airport, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker thanked Patriots owner Robert Kraft, officials in China who partnered with the state, and medical workers who need the masks.

“This shipment comes at a critical time as we prepare for an anticipated surge in the coming weeks ahead,” Baker said. “What we were able to accomplish with this particular mission will go a long way forward in this fight.”

Baker secured the N95 masks from Chinese manufacturers but had no way of getting them to the U.S. Baker said Thursday an earlier order for 3 million masks had been confiscated at the Port of New York and this time he wanted a direct humanitarian delivery to the state.

White House setting up COVID-19 hotline for lawmakers


Alex Moe

Haley Talbot

Alex Moe, Haley Talbot and Julie Tsirkin

The White House is setting up a hotline for lawmakers to help with communication about the coronavirus epidemic, sources familiar with the move say.

The hotline was an initiative by new White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the former representative from North Carolina who officially entered his new role this week, a source familiar with the matter told NBC News.

Politico reported on the hotline earlier Thursday.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., mentioned the hotline on a Democratic caucus call Thursday, a person on the call said.

In an email sent to Chiefs of Staff for House Democrats, which has been viewed by NBC News, Meadows wrote that the hotline should be “used only for emergencies” and should “be distributed to Members and Senators only.”

More in California adopting mask policies

California cities are increasingly turning to masks to help stop the spread of coronavirus. On Thursday evening, Los Angeles Police Department Chief Michel Moore tweeted that residents should expect to see officers "wearing either surgical masks or non-medical face coverings while in public."

The announcement came a day after L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti urged residents to use cloth face coverings outdoors, but to avoid medical-grade gear, such as N95 masks, because health workers need them. Bay Area health officials issued a similar recommendation Thursday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom has said the state will not yet mandate masks, but San Diego County health officials on Thursday did -- for workers who have contact with the public, including those at grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations

President Donald Trump on Thursday said to expect a recommendation on masks soon. "A recommendation is coming out, we will see what that recommendation is," he said. White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said masks can supplement social distancing guidelines, but fears they could give Americans "a false sense of security."

With U.S. border work on track, rural towns fear virus spread

The Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — Major construction projects moving forward along the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico are raising fears the coronavirus could race through temporary work camps and spread to rural communities unable to handle an outbreak.

Despite a clampdown on people’s movements in much of the country, groups of workers travel every day from camps in New Mexico to build President Donald Trump’s border wall.

Along the northern border, a Canadian company says it will start work this month on the disputed Keystone XL oil pipeline, another Trump-supported project that could bring thousands of workers to rural communities in Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska.

Residents, tribal leaders and state officials have warned that the influx of outsiders could make problems worse in rural areas with little or no medical infrastructure capable of dealing with a surge of infections. The border wall and pipeline are exempt from stay-at-home restrictions intended to reduce the virus’s spread.

Florida rapper in jail on murder charges tests positive

A Florida rapper charged with murdering two friends has tested positive for COVID-19 while awaiting trial in Broward County Jail.

Jamell Demons, who goest by YNW Melly, will seek restricted release “in hopes of better care,” according to Demons’ Instagram. The Broward County Sheriff’s Office said earlier that two inmates at the facility had tested positive, NBC Miami reported. Authorities did not identify them.

Demons, 20, was charged last year with first-degree murder in the killings of Christopher Thomas Jr., 19, and Anthony Williams, 21. He pleaded not guilty.

Experts have warned that the virus could wreak havoc on America's jails and prisons, where inmates are in close quarters, ventilation can be poor and basic germ-fighting tools can be rare.

Photo: California's deserted beaches

Empty beaches in Manhattan Beach on Thursday after Los Angeles issued a stay-at-home order and closed beaches and state parks.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Louisiana extends stay-at-home through April 30

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced the state will be extending the stay-at-home order through April 30, staying in line with federal government guidance.

Roy Moore to advise Louisiana pastor arrested for violating coronavirus orders

Image: Roy Moore gives the Pledge of Allegiance before announcing his plans to run for U.S. Senate in Montgomery, Alabama, on June 20, 2019.
Roy Moore gives the Pledge of Allegiance before announcing his plans to run for U.S. Senate in Montgomery, Alabama, on June 20, 2019.Jessica McGowan / Getty Images

Conservative lightning rod Roy Moore, the former chief justice of Alabama's high court, took to the pulpit on Thursday to back a Louisiana church defying state orders against mass gatherings.

Moore appeared at Life Tabernacle Church to lend his support and advice to pastor Tony Spell, who faces misdemeanor charges for his continued flouting of state bans on large gatherings, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

"There is no more clear violation of the First Amendment than this prohibition to assemble in a church," said Moore.

Read the full story here. 

New York City burials delayed due to surging coronavirus deaths

Image: Funeral director, body, Brooklyn
A funeral director and a Wycoff Heights Medical Center, employee transport a body in New York on April 1, 2020.Mary Altaffer / AP

The surge in coronavirus-related deaths in New York City is overwhelming funeral homes, leading to delays in burials lasting upwards of one week.

Numerous calls to funeral home and cemetery directors painted a growing crisis in the “aftercare industry.”  Two directors said some hospitals have limited hours for pick up of the deceased, slowing the funeral homes' ability to retrieve the dead. In other cases, hospitals are delayed in filing the needed paperwork to authorize a body’s release for burial, the directors said.

Read the full story here.

Private jet industry touts new coronavirus tax break

The private jet industry got a big tax break in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act signed by President Trump on March 27. Now it's using the tax break as a marketing pitch.

“Great news!” said a marketing email sent Thursday from Paramount Business Jets based in Leesburg Virginia. “The new CARES Act, recently signed by the President, waives all Federal Excise Tax (7.5% FET) on all domestic trips, as well as the segment fees associated with those flights.”

The company boasts a “portfolio” of 4,000 “luxurious” jets, and its email adds that not only is private jet travel now cheaper, it’s also “a much safer way of flying.”

Fact check: Biden claims Trump is holding up stimulus checks

President Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
President Donald Trump and Joe Biden.Reuters; AFP - Getty Images

On a livestream today, Joe Biden suggested that coronavirus checks were being held up by the president.

“No American should have to wait a single minute so Donald Trump can put his signature on a physical check,” the front-runner for the Democratic nomination said on Thursday. “It isn’t about him, it’s about families that need the cash now.”

Biden is possibly referring to a recent Wall Street Journal report from late last week. The paper reported that according to an administration official, the president had told people he wanted his signature to appear on the direct payment checks. Though that would be unusual, there's no evidence that’s actually holding up payments.

Trump administration officials have said the money will go out via direct deposit and physical check within weeks, but logistical and technological issues are expected to delay many of the payments. "if we have your information, you’ll get it within two weeks," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told reporters Thursday during the White House briefing. 

Disney announces employee furloughs

Dylan Byers

A statue of Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse stands in front of
Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom on Feb. 11, 2004 in Lake Buena Vista, Fla.Matt Stroshane / Bloomberg via Getty Images File

The Walt Disney Company will start to furlough employees this month in order to curb the severe economic toll of the coronavirus outbreak, the company announced in a statement on Thursday.

Disney said the furlough process would begin on April 19 and that "all impacted workers will remain Disney employees through the duration of the furlough period," with full access to healthcare benefits.

The company did not say how many employees would be affected by the furloughs, but the move is expected to impact all theme park and cruise employees given that those businesses have been suspended entirely.

Disney is only the latest American company that has been forced to take severe cost-cutting measures in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Retailers like Macy's and Gap have furloughed employees, as has the newspaper giant Gannett Media.

The coronavirus crisis has turned NYC into a warzone for first-responders: EMS chief

Image: Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America
Ambulance workers clean a gurney at Mount Sinai Hospital amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 1, 2020 in New York.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

The head of New York City’s Emergency Medical Services department described the five boroughs as a war zone amid the coronavirus pandemic.

"Our EMTs and our paramedics, all our first responders in fact including all our healthcare providers, are really on the front lines of this thing and they are doing a tremendous job, but they’re fighting,” EMS chief Lillian Bonsignore told NBC News. “This is a war. We consider this a war, and they're our soldiers and unfortunately they're not immune to this virus and many of them are getting sick."

Bonsignore said the coronavirus outbreak triggered an unprecedented volume of 911 calls.

“I'll tell you I've been in this profession for about 30 years, so three decades, and I've never seen anything like this in my whole career or in my life for that matter,” she said.

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine released early from jail amid coronavirus health concerns

Rapper Tekashi69 appears at his arraignment in Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on July 11, 2018.Jefferson Siegel / NY Daily News via Getty Images file

Rapper Tekashi 6ix9ine was released into house arrest on Thursday, over fears that his chronic asthma make him vulnerable to coronavirus, the musician's lawyer said.

"He's out and he's very happy to be released," defense attorney Lance Lazzaro told NBC News.

The rapper, whose real name is Daniel Hernandez, had been housed at a private facility under contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons. He was serving time after pleading guilty to multiple counts of racketeering, firearms offenses and drug trafficking.

Read the full story here. 

Banks warn of 'utter chaos' in new small business lending program

Stephanie Ruhle

Image: Susan Upton, 53, works on her computer at her family restaurant Mambos, which is being forced to close after 32 years, due to the global outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Glendale
A woman works on her computer at her family restaurant which is being forced to close due to the global outbreak of coronavirus in Glendale, Calif., on March 18, 2020.Lucy Nicholson / Reuters

Millions of small businesses are anxiously awaiting their slices of a $350 billion relief program that forms part of the government's $2 trillion economic support package.

However, with just hours to go before the launch, major banks are still awaiting guidance from the Treasury Department on how to lend the money — and some haven't even decided whether they will participate.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday the program is ready to go, adding, "It is a very large priority, we want to get this money quickly into your hands."

Read the full story here.

Fact check: Trump falsely claims U.S. is testing more people per capita than other countries

During Thursday's coronavirus task force briefing, Trump claimed that the U.S. is testing “more than any other country in the world both in terms of the raw number, and also on a per capita basis, the most.”

We've fact-checked Trump's previous testing claims — and while it is technically true that the U.S. has run more tests for the disease caused by the virus than any other country, Trump is wrong on the issue of testing per capita.

The U.S. is not testing the same share of its population as other countries, a key measure that indicates the U.S. lags behind other nations. As of Thursday, April 2, the U.S has done more than 1.3 million COVID-19 tests. That's about one in every 250 Americans. South Korea, as of the same date, has tested about one in every 118 people. 

Read the full story here. 

Navy relieves captain who raised alarm about outbreak on aircraft carrier

Image: The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt is pictured as it enters the port in Da Nang, Vietnam
Aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt enters port in Da Nang, Vietnam on March 5, 2020.Nguyen Huy Kham / Reuters file

The Navy announced it has relieved the captain who sounded the alarm about an outbreak of COVID-19 aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

Capt. Brett Crozier, who commands the Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier with a crew of nearly 5,000, was relieved of his command on Thursday, but he will keep his rank and remain in the Navy.

Crozier raised the alarm earlier this week that sailors on the ship need to be quarantined to stop the spread of the virus. His plea for assistance quickly made headlines.

Read the full story here.

White House doctor: Trump again tests negative for COVID-19

Winston Wilde

Trump had again been tested for COVID-19, "utilizing new, rapid point-of-care test capability," according to a memo from his physician, and has tested negative.

The memo was released to reporters at the White House at the start of a coronavirus task force news briefing. 

NBC News / via The White House

3 more federal inmates die after testing positive

Image: A four-man cell at the Englewood Federal Correctional Institution in Littleton, Colorado
A four-man cell at the Englewood Federal Correctional Institution in Littleton, Colorado. Federal Bureau of Prisons / via AP file

At least three more federal prison inmates have died after testing positive for coronavirus, authorities said Thursday.

David Townsend, 66, went into respiratory failure at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Oakdale in Louisians on Saturday before dying at local hospital on Thursday, according to the Bureau of Prisons.

Another inmate from that same prison, 57-year-old James Wilson, passed away on Wednesday, authorities said.

Meanwhile at a hospital near the Federal Satellite Low Institution (FSL) Elkton, in Lisbon, Ohio, Woodrow Taylor, 53, died on Thursday, officials said

All three men had long-term, pre-existing medical conditions, the bureau said. 


New York City mayor advises residents to cover faces when in public

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio advised residents to wear some form of protective covering over their face when they go outside.

"It does not have to be a professional surgical mask," de Blasio said. "In fact we do not want you to use the kind of masks that our first responders need, that our healthcare workers need, don't use those. Leave those alone."

As healthcare workers and other first responders struggle to get personal protective equipment, many Americans have begun creating their own handmade masks

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that wearing a mask is unnecessary for healthy individuals, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said federal health officials are actively discussing changing that guidance. 

"It doesn’t need to be a classical mask. But something that would have someone prevent them from infecting others," Fauci said to NBC News' Savannah Guthrie on Tuesday night. "This is actively being looked at."

Global coronavirus cases surpass 1 million

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has surpassed 1 million, with more than 51,000 deaths, according to the tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

As of Thursday afternoon, 1,002,159 cases and 51,485 deaths due to coronavirus were reported globally.

There were more than 236,000 cases and at least 5,648 deaths in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally.

Tennessee issues stay-at-home order

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced a stay-at-home order Thursday after traffic patterns showed residents were beginning to travel more despite advice from public health officials. 

Lee said that while "good faith efforts" were made to follow social distancing guidelines, an uptick in traffic beginning Monday indicated many were beginning to disregard the coronavirus precautions . 

“The month of April stands to be an extremely tough time for our state as we face the potential for a surge in COVID-19 cases,” said Lee. “Every Tennessean must take this seriously, remain at home and ensure we save lives.”

The measure follows that of several other states in requiring residents to stay in their homes unless they must engage in an essential activity, such as grocery shopping or utilizing healthcare services.

Biden slams McConnell, calls on Congress to pass fourth coronavirus stimulus package

Joe Biden on Thursday called on Congress to immediately begin working on the fourth phase of stimulus legislation for Americans struggling under the financial stress caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

"We need another plan before this is over," Biden said on a virtual press briefing. "We can’t wait … More people are going to need the help."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calf., has also called for a fourth package, while Senate Majority Leader, R-Ky., has indicated he doesn’t support such an action at the moment — a position Biden hammered him on.

“The majority leader of the Senate was wrong and slow the first time around. And he’s wrong and slow this time around,” Biden said.

A new app asks people to submit crucial data — how they feel each day

Chiara Sottile

Chiara Sottile and Jason Abbruzzese

A new app launched Thursday by a group of academics, researchers and volunteer engineers from Pinterest asks Americans to hand over crucial data to create a clearer picture of the spread of the coronavirus.

The app, called "How We Feel," asks people to take 30 seconds each day to submit how they're feeling — healthy or not — along with their age and ZIP code. No other information is requested. The app is available for download in the iOS and Google Play stores.

Technologists are working on a variety of ways to collect data via smartphones, though passive measures have alarmed privacy advocates

"Each health check-in may feel like a small act, but together they’ll make a huge difference for researchers like myself who are trying to understand this outbreak and develop intervention measures to control it,” said Xihong Lin, a professor of biostatistics at Harvard University. “The data gives us a bird's eye view of COVID-19 that helps us predict regions on the brink of an outbreak."

Detroit, still clawing back from financial crisis, reels as coronavirus claims lives

Chelsea Stahl / NBC News; AFP - Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has taken a painful toll on Detroit, where the city’s history of financial struggle and recovery makes the crisis feel more personal — and its consequences more severe.

Detroit had recorded 97 deaths as of Thursday, including a state representative, a police homicide chief and a legendary high school basketball coach. 

“It seems like one after another after another, and it’s just hitting close to home,” said Luther Keith, a former columnist and editor for the Detroit News who is now the executive director of ARISE Detroit!, a coalition of 400 churches, block clubs and community groups. “It seems like everybody knows somebody who died.”

Read the full story here. 

CORRECTION (April 2, 2020, 6:09 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this post stated that a funeral director, O’Neil D. Swanson, died of the coronavirus. His cause of death has not been reported. 

Trump uses Defense Production Act to streamline ventilator supply chain for manufacturers

Dartunorro Clark

President Donald Trump said he was invoking the Defense Production Act on Thursday to streamline the supply chain for manufacturers can speed up production as the number of coronavirus cases in the nation rises. 

Trump's memo directs Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf to help remove supply chain "obstacles" for domestic manufacturers. Those companies include General Electric, Hill-Rom, Medtronic, ResMed, Royal Philips and Vyaire Medical.

This order is unlike the one Trump issued to General Motors last week in which he required the company to make ventilators after negotiations fell apart. Rather, this directive facilitates the supply of materials to these companies. Trump has said within the next 100 days, the administration will oversee the production of 100,000 additional ventilators. 

Instacart to distribute safety kits to shoppers

Instacart plans to distribute a free safety kit containing a face mask, hand sanitizer and a thermometer to some of its workers in an effort to protect them from the coronavirus, the company announced Thursday.

The grocery delivery app will offer the kits for free starting next week to its 200,000 “full-service shoppers” — gig workers who pick all of the products from the store and then drive them to the customer. They will be able to order the kits online, and thousands of units will be made available each day, the company said. 

Instacart’s 12,000 “in-store shoppers" — workers who only select products from the store but don’t drive to the customer — will only be offered masks, which can be collected from some of the stores. 

The move comes after some Instacart shoppers had pushed for a strike over work conditions during the pandemic.

Photo: The scene in Spain

Image: Coffins carrying the bodies of people who died of coronavirus are stored waiting to be buried or incinerated in an underground parking lot at the Collserola funeral home in Barcelona, Spain on Thursday.
Coffins of coronavirus victims are stored in an underground parking lot at the Collserola funeral home in Barcelona on Thursday.Felipe Dana / AP

Many Americans may have to wait months for coronavirus relief checks

Kasie Hunt

Alex Moe

Kasie Hunt and Alex Moe

The first Americans to get relief payments from the government under the coronavirus legislation won’t see the money until at least the week of April 13, according to new estimates from the Trump administration provided to House Democrats and outlined in a memo circulated by the House Ways and Means Committee this week.

According to the memo, many people who don’t have direct deposit information on file with the IRS might have to wait months to get the money by paper checks.

The office will prioritize checks for the lowest-income Americans first.

Read more here.

15 people charged in New Jersey after funeral where dozens gathered

Fifteen people were charged Wednesday after a funeral in New Jersey where as many as 70 people gathered and refused to disperse, authorities said. A 100-year-old was among those charged.

Police in Lakewood Township, near the Jersey Shore, were called to a residence at approximately 6:30 p.m. on a report of a large gathering, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer and police Chief Gregory Meyer said in a joint statement.

Officers found 60 to 70 people gathered for a funeral, in violation of Gov. Phil Murphy's stay-at-home order banning social gatherings.

As officers tried to disperse the crowd, people became unruly and argumentative, requiring additional officers to respond, authorities said.

Read the full story here

Economic crisis jolts unemployment offices into the coronavirus front lines

Almost 10 million Americans are now part of the single largest mass-unemployment event ever recorded in the U.S. 

Representatives for state unemployment offices across the country say the shock of mass layoffs has hit their workers almost as hard as the people calling after losing their jobs — and they describe the wrenching emotional toll the work is taking on call center staff, many of whom are still required to come into the office.

“The difference between the job loss of the 2008 recession and where we are now is we had more time to prepare then,” said Cher Haavind, the deputy executive director of the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment. “From a staff perspective, we just haven’t had time to really readjust in terms of both resources and support to staff, which includes this new role of our employees acting as mental health counselors."

Read the full story here.

British man runs backyard marathon

Associated Press

James Campbell runs a charity marathon to raise funds for the NHS in his garden on Wednesday.
James Campbell runs a charity marathon to raise funds for the NHS in his garden on Wednesday.Jacob King / PA via AP

Being stuck at home didn't stop a British man from running an outdoor marathon.

James Campbell, a former professional javelin thrower, spent his 32nd birthday on Wednesday doing 20-foot shuttles from one end of his small backyard to the other after promising to run a marathon if one of his Twitter messages received 10,000 retweets.

By the time Campbell completed the marathon in just over five hours, he had raised more than 18,000 pounds ($22,000) for Britain’s National Health Service to help battle the coronavirus pandemic.

The effort — labeled the #6metregardenmarathon — was live-streamed, with former England soccer great Geoff Hurst among the viewers. Neighbors poked their heads over the backyard fence to give Campbell encouragement.

Campbell calculated he would have to traverse his yard at least 7,000 times to reach 26.2 miles.
Campbell calculated he would have to traverse his yard at least 7,000 times to reach 26.2 miles.Jacob King / PA via AP

'Top Gun' and 'A Quiet Place Part II' get new release dates

The Associated Press

Hollywood's summer movie season is all but finished. “Top Gun Maverick” became the latest would-be blockbuster to be rescheduled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Paramount Pictures on Thursday announced that sequel to the 1986 original will now open Dec. 23 instead of June 24. Paramount also said Thursday that “A Quiet Place Part II,” which had been scheduled to hit theaters in March, will now be released Sept. 4.

“The Spongebob Movie: Sponge on the Run” will aim for July 31 instead of May 22. And the sci-fi war film “The Tomorrow War,” with Chris Pratt, is now unscheduled instead of releasing on Christmas.

Coronavirus deaths top 5,000 in the U.S.

Medical personnel remove a body from the Wyckoff Heights Medical Center to refrigerated containers parked outside, April 2, 2020 in Brooklyn, N.Y.Mary Altaffer / AP

More than 5,000 people in the United States have died from the coronavirus. 

As of Thursday afternoon, the total number of fatalities is 5,557, with New York state having the highest number of confirmed deaths with at least 2,370. New Jersey is the second highest with 537 deaths. The total number of confirmed cases across the U.S. is now at 232,837.

Globally, more than 50,000 people have died from COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

FDA reduces restrictions on gay blood donors amid 'urgent need'

Amid what it’s calling an “urgent need for blood,” the Food and Drug Administration revised its blood donor guidelines on Thursday, significantly easing the restrictions on men who have sex with men.

The new guidelines reduce the donation deferral period for sexually active gay and bisexual men from 12 months to three, meaning these otherwise healthy men will now have to abstain from same-sex sexual activity for 90 days before they are eligible to donate blood.

Read the full story here.

Feds distribute thousands of surgical masks, gloves seized by FBI

The federal government said Thursday that it is distributing tens of thousands of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment to medical personnel in New York and New Jersey after seizing the materials earlier this week.

The Justice Department said FBI agents discovered the stash during an operation by its Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force. Among the items were 192,000 N-95 masks, 130,000 surgical masks, 598,000 medical grade gloves, as well as surgical gowns, hand sanitizer and spray disinfectant.

Read the full story here.

Unemployed Americans face prospect of losing health benefits

Many Americans laid off in recent weeks face a particularly difficult challenge in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak — losing their employer-provided health insurance.

About 3.5 million workers will lose their coverage because of layoffs, according to an estimate from the Economic Policy Institute, a nonprofit think tank.

Almost 10 million Americans have filed for initial unemployment claims in just the past two weeks, according to recent data released by the Department of Labor. 

"Because the United States is unique among rich countries in tying health insurance benefits to employment — roughly half of all U.S. workers receive health insurance through their own employer’s provided coverage — many of the newly unemployed will suddenly face prohibitively costly insurance options," wrote Ben Zipperer and Josh Bivens of the institute.

Hong Kong to shutter bars on Friday

Image: Hong Kong Imposes Social Distancing As The Coronavirus Continue To Spread
A customer sits at a bar on March 29, 2020 in Hong Kong, China.Anthony Kwan / Getty Images

Hong Kong's bars will shut down in the wake of renewed cases of COVID-19 traced to lounges in the former British colony, authorities ordered on Thursday.

The two-week-long shutdown starts at 6 p.m. on Friday, covering any establishment that is "exclusively or mainly used for the sale or supply of intoxicating liquors," according to a government statement. There have been 62 recently confirmed COVID-19 cases traced back to saloons, officials said.

Lawmakers ask that evacuated Peace Corps volunteers be allowed to aid response

A mostly Democratic group of Congress members led by Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., is asking the Peace Corps, AmeriCorps, and FEMA to provide recently evacuated Peace Corps volunteers the opportunity to complete their service through domestic coronavirus response efforts.

Current and former presidential candidates Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., are among the supporters, which include more than 20 senators and 18 Democratic members of the House. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine is currently the only Republican signatory. 

In the letter, the lawmakers wrote that while they supported the recall of the volunteers,  they "believe that terminating their service contracts and health insurance coverage — at a time when our country’s public health and economic crises are rapidly worsening — not only endangers the livelihood of volunteers, but also squanders their unique skillset. We therefore urge you to provide them opportunities to enlist in domestic efforts to combat COVID-19.”

The letter says the volunteers' expertise is now “desperately needed on the home front” and urges they be fast tracked into relevant FEMA and AmeriCorps roles or become part of a COVID-19 response corps, if one is formed. The lawmakers requested a mid-April briefing on any steps toward those ends. In a second letter, lawmakers asked the administration clarify that unemployment benefits in the recently passed stimulus package covers Peace Corps, AmeriCorps and other national service participants.

Western states report 600 deaths to date

As of Monday, 13 states in the western U.S. had reported a combined 23,705 coronavirus cases and 602 deaths.

More than half of the cases and almost 70 percent of the deaths occurred in the hotspots of Washington state and California.

Wyoming has not reported any deaths, while Hawaii has reported just one, Alaska has reported three and Montana has reported five. The other states included in the totals are Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado.

Democratic Party delays July convention until August over coronavirus concerns

The Democratic National Committee is postponing its summer convention in Milwaukee over concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

The four-day convention, set to take place in Milwaukee beginning July 13, will take place the week of August 17.

"In our current climate of uncertainty, we believe the smartest approach is to take additional time to monitor how this situation unfolds so we can best position our party for a safe and successful convention," Joe Solmonese, CEO of the Democratic National Convention Committee, said in a statement. "During this critical time, when the scope and scale of the pandemic and its impact remain unknown, we will continue to monitor the situation and follow the advice of health care professionals and emergency responders."

Read more here.

New York has 85,000 volunteers to fight pandemic as deaths in state pass 2,000

Maia Davis

Tom Winter and Maia Davis

New York has 85,000 volunteers who will be sent to hospitals to help fight the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday at a press conference.

"New Yorkers will return the favor," the governor promised in announcing the volunteer army days after he publicly pleaded for people from around the country to help his state.

Cuomo also announced new figures showing the scale of the state's challenge in fighting the spread of the deadly virus.

  • The death toll has passed 2,000 to 2,373, with the total number of cases now 92,381.
  • The state will run out of ventilators in six days given projected, continued demand.
  • New York City has 51,809 cases, up by 4,370.

In a break from the typical press conference format, the governor's brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, who has tested positive for coronavirus, joined remotely.

"I’m so proud of him for showing New York what this vicious virus looks like and for demystifying it," Andrew Cuomo said on Twitter of his younger brother.

Photo: Messages for NHS in Britain

Image: A child at Westlands Primary School paints a poster in support of the NHS in Newcastle-under-Lyme, England, on April 2, 2020.
A child at Westlands Primary School paints a poster in support of the National Health Service in Newcastle-under-Lyme, England, on Thursday.Carl Recine / Reuters

Georgia's GOP governor admits he just learned asymptomatic people can spread coronavirus

Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of Georgia, admitted on Wednesday that he had only just learned that asymptomatic individuals can still spread coronavirus — even though health experts had warned about the possibility as early as January.

Kemp, in a press conference on Wednesday said the fact that he’d just learned that information contributed to him issuing a statewide shelter-in-place order in Georgia.

Kemp, said that he had, in just the last 24 hours, learned “that this virus is now transmitting before people see signs.”

“This is a game-changer for us,” he added.

Read more here.

NYC emergency medical services to stop taking unresponsive cardiac patients to hospitals

Cardiac arrest patients are no longer to be transported to hospitals if they do not have a pulse, according to a new order issued by the governing body of New York City's emergency medical services, Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York.

Typically, if someone has had cardiac arrest - such as a heart attack or severe trauma - EMS units will try and take that person to the hospital, even if there's no blood flow, while working to bring their pulse back en route.

Emergency officials told NBC News that the reasoning behind the order is it will prevent extra patients going to hospitals if those patients really have no hope of being saved. It will also decrease the amount of time emergency medical technicians are out on a call where there is no hope for saving someone. The body will be taken care of with respect, officials said.

EMTs will not initiate resuscitation for patients with obvious signs of death or a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. For patients EMTs do attempt to resuscitate, if after 20 minutes of CPR, the defibrillator or the heart monitor shows a "no shock indicated" or a non-shockable rhythm and there is no blood circulation, CPR is to be terminated.

Putin extends stay-at-home guidance until the end of April

Matthew Bodner

In an address to the nation Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that a current nationwide work from home guidance has been extended until the end of April, warning that the worst of the coronavirus epidemic has yet to come.

Putin announced the guidance last Wednesday, describing it as a week-long non-working holiday in which he urged Russians to stay at home. Later, lower-level officials clarified it was a work-from-home order.

The week at home, which saw most everything save for grocery stores and pharmacies closed nationwide, bought Russia valuable time, Putin said, “but we still need to be aware that the threat — the peak of this epidemic — is not yet over.”

“That is why I have taken the decision to extend the non-working period until the end of the month, April 30,” Putin said. “This will be paid leave.”

Putin, however, left the specifics up to regional leadership, claiming that Russia is too large for a blanket policy. He also pointed out that some regions have larger outbreaks, requiring harsher measures.

Texas city says it may fine, jail residents who do not cover their face

A new emergency law in Laredo, Texas, that went into effect Tuesday morning imposes a criminal penalty on residents who do not shelter in place or wear a face covering of some kind as a way to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

Police will be enforcing this new law with a fine up to $1,000 or jail time of up to 180 days, according to an announcement from city officials.

Laredo has said there are some exceptions to when face coverings are no longer required, such as “engaging in a permissible outside physical activity" and riding in a personal vehicle, among other instances.

Michigan closes its school buildings for the rest of the academic year

Maia Davis

Michigan's governor has ordered schools closed for the remainder of the school year, with remote lessons to continue.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the order Thursday "for the sake of our students, their families, and the more than 100,000 teachers and staff in our state," she said in a statement.

All of the state's K-12 schools will be closed, unless restrictions are lifted, although school employees will be able to use the buildings for giving remote instruction while practicing social distancing.

“My number one priority right now is protecting Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19," Whitmer said in the statement. “As a parent, I understand the challenge closing schools creates for parents and guardians across the state, which is why we are setting guidelines for schools to continue remote learning and ensuring parents have resources to continue their children’s education from the safety of their homes."

Health care workers running short of drugs for COVID-19 patients turn to Twitter

Emmanuelle Saliba

Health care workers who say they are running low on the drugs they need to keep coronavirus patients sedated while they are on ventilators are sharing their stories on Twitter.

Using the hashtag #WeNeedMeds, doctors and nurses say they are running out of fentanyl, versed, propofol and paralytic drugs, which are used to sedate COVID-19 patients so they can be intubated to help them breathe. A combination or cocktail of the drugs is often used to induce a deep sleep and manage pain.

Thailand issues nationwide curfew to contain outbreak

Nat Sumon

Image: A woman eats her lunch at home in front of a litter of cats in Bangkok
A woman eats her lunch at home in front of a litter of cats in Bangkok on Wednesday, as the government recommended that people stay home to reduce the spread of the coronavirus.Mladen Anotonov / AFP - Getty Images

Thailand will introduce a six-hour curfew in a bid to control the virus outbreak until further notice, authorities said Thursday. The authorities warned that anyone who breached the order faced a two-year jail term and up to a $1,200 fine.

The curfew bans everyone in the country leaving their homes from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m. local time starting on Friday, although essential staff, such as medical workers, are exempt. Nearly half of Thailand’s 1,875 reported cases are in the country's busy capital of Bangkok, according to Reuters. Fifteen people had died in the country as of Thursday.

Photo: Raising awareness about social distancing in India

Image: India
A police officer wears a coronavirus-themed outfit as he walks through a market in Chennai on Thursday.Arun Sankar / AFP - Getty Images

Schumer calls on Trump to appoint 'military man' to oversee coronavirus supply distribution

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is calling on President Donald Trump to appoint a czar with a military background to oversee the dissemination of critically needed materials to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

“We need him to put in charge a czar of the whole production and distribution of these materials under the DPA,” Schumer said, referring to the Defense Production Act, in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

Schumer said the person should be a “military man” because the military knows how to collect and distribute materials quickly. He said he would be sending a letter to Trump to formally ask him to take that step.

Read the full story here.

FedEx drivers say they're not getting coronavirus protections other delivery workers receive


Samantha Springer

Cameron Oakes

Adiel Kaplan, Samantha Springer and Cameron Oakes

The drivers who handle much of FedEx’s delivery business say they are not getting the coronavirus protections and additional sick leave other U.S. delivery workers have been given, even as they risk exposure working long hours delivering high volumes of packages to millions of Americans stuck at home.

While many major U.S. companies, including UPS, Amazon and the U.S. Postal Service, have changed sick leave policies for essential employees like delivery workers in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, drivers for FedEx’s Ground division say the company has not provided cleaning and sanitizing supplies or offered additional health benefits like sick leave, even though other FedEx employees have received some.

Read the full story here.

Greece quarantines camp after migrants test positive


Migrants make their way in the Ritsona migrant camp after authorities found 20 coronavirus cases and placed the camp under quarantine, following the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ritsona
Migrants in the Ritsona camp after authorities found 20 coronavirus cases and placed the camp under quarantine on Thursday.Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters

Greece has quarantined a migrant camp after 20 asylum seekers tested positive for coronavirus, the migration ministry said on Thursday — its first such facility to be hit since the outbreak of the disease.

Tests were conducted after a 19-year-old female migrant living in the camp in central Greece was found infected after giving birth at an Athens hospital last week. She was the first recorded case among thousands of asylum seekers living in overcrowded camps across Greece.

None of the confirmed cases showed any symptoms, the ministry said, adding that it was continuing its tests.

The country — often seen as the gateway to Europe for people fleeing conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and beyond — has reported 1,415 cases so far, and 50 deaths.

Pentagon plans to provide 100K body bags to FEMA

Mosheh Gains

The Department of Defense plans to provide 100,000 body bags to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as the coronavirus death toll climbs, the Pentagon said Thursday in a statement.

"The Department of Defense and the Defense Logistics Agency have a longstanding arrangement with FEMA to procure key commodities from DLA's industrial partners during crisis response operations," the Pentagon said.

"DLA is currently responding to FEMA's prudent planning efforts for 100,000 pouches to address mortuary contingencies on behalf of state health agencies," the Pentagon added.

China county sets new lockdown guidelines to avoid second wave outbreak

Alex Shi


Alex Shi and Reuters

Officials in a central county in China announced strict new guidelines Thursday after several coronavirus cases were reported in the area and virtually all outbound movement was banned on Wednesday.

Due to the potential threat of a second wave outbreak in China, all villages in the Jia county will have only one exit and people trying to leave will have to show entry and exit permits, get their temperature checked and wear masks, according to the new measures.

Strict home quarantine measures will be also put in place. When necessary, “paper seals could be put on doors” for those that need to be monitored, they said. Community workers will also make sure families under quarantine have enough daily supplies delivered to their doorstep.

China, where the outbreak first emerged in December, has been reporting dwindling new infections recently. Of its more than 82,000 confirmed cases, it has reported more than 70,000 patients had recovered as of Thursday.

Fauci on threats to his safety: 'I've chosen this life'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that he remains focused on his work fighting the coronavirus pandemic despite reports of threats to his personal safety.

In an interview on NBC's "TODAY" show, host Savannah Guthrie asked the nation's top infectious disease expert whether he feels personally threatened or whether he and his family feel safe, a reference to reports that he has received a protection from the federal government.

“I've chosen this life. I mean I know what it is," Fauci said. "There are things about it that are sometimes disturbing. But you just focus on the job you have to do, and just put all that stuff aside and try as best as possible not to pay attention to it."

Read the full story here.

WHO says 95 percent of Europe's dead are over 60 years of age, but young not immune

Isobel van Hagen

Associated Press

Isobel van Hagen and Associated Press

More than 95 precent of those who have died of coronavirus in Europe have been over 60, but young people should not be complacent, the head of the World Health Organization's Europe office said in an online press conference on Thursday.

Dr. Hans Kluge — noting the most affected countries in Europe are Italy, Spain and France — said age is not the only risk factor for getting a severe case of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

“The very notion that COVID-19 only affects older people is factually wrong,” he said. "Young people are not invincible.”

“All of us, at all ages, need to act in solitary to prevent the further community spread of the virus,” he said.

A record 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week

A record 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, the latest brutal reminder of the toll the coronavirus pandemic is taking on the U.S. economy.

Thursday's figure eclipses the record-shattering 3.28 million jobless claims for the week ending March 21, which was the first real marker of the impact from the coronavirus on the workforce.

Read the full story here.

Global update on Spain's grim death toll, a quarantined migrant camp, Duterte's warning, and more

High speed trains continue to relocate patients in France to ease hospital pressure

Isobel van Hagen

Matthew Mulligan and Isobel van Hagen

The Paris Seine Civil Protection, a French first aid organization, posted pictures on Wednesday of the inside of high speed trains in Paris where victims of coronavirus being placed by medical volunteers in order to be transported elsewhere.

France has already been shuttling patients from last week by TGV speed trains from places in the country where the outbreak has overwhelmed hospitals, to other less saturated areas and regions in the country.

France is battling to free up space in life-support units, which has now become critical in the country’s capital. In Paris, the number of beds in intensive care units is practically at the same level as the number of patients, according to Reuters.

France has more than 50,000 confirmed cases as of Thursday and is in the midst of a two-month long state of emergency.

Foster kids who can't visit parents are struggling under isolation

A typical morning for Arnie Eby begins at 6 a.m. He and his wife, Donna, fix breakfast for their four adopted kids and three foster children, then check their backpacks and pack lunch boxes. Once his wife heads to work as the health manager of a local Head Start program, he sees the children onto five different school buses and then sits down for a cup of coffee.

Since the threat of COVID-19 closed schools in Maryland nearly three weeks ago, life in Eby's home has changed dramatically. Local nonprofits that provide mental health services and programs for children with disabilities — which Eby and his wife rely on to support their seven children, who range in age from 5 to 18 and have differing levels of special needs and histories of trauma — closed shortly after.

Child welfare advocates say that America's foster care system, which relies on in-person contact and human connection, is struggling under the weight of this unprecedented period of isolation, which is risking the well-being of children, foster parents and biological parents.

Read the full story here.

Peter Jeary

Italy will receive first coronavirus aid, E.U. says

Image: Rome
Municipal police officers stand guard by a deserted Trevi Fountain in Rome on Wednesday. Filippo Monteforte / AFP - Getty Images

Italy will be the first country to receive financial help from the European Union, the head of European Commission announced on Thursday. 

In a letter published in Italian daily La Repubblica, Ursula von der Leyen said the European Union would allocate up to 100 billion euros ($110 billion) to the countries most affected by the pandemic, starting with Italy, to make up for the reduction in wages and to preserve jobs amid the economic havoc wreaked by coronavirus restrictions. 

Italy has been hit the hardest by the global coronavirus pandemic, and on Wednesday recorded more than 13,000 deaths. Some Italians have voiced criticism of the E.U. for not doing more to help in the country's fight against coronavirus.

Massachusetts gets 1 million N95 masks from China — with help from the New England Patriots

States short on medical supplies are turning to any means necessary for sourcing and transportation. In Massachusetts, that means help from the New England Patriots.

Gov. Charlie Baker tweeted on Thursday that 1 million N95 masks had arrived from China on board one of the two team planes owned by the Patriots. Baker thanked the family of Patriots owner Robert Kraft and included a slogan used by Patriots head coach Bill Belichick: "No days off."

Out of the hospital, Rep. Ben McAdams says COVID-19 'hit me really, really hard'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, said Thursday that he's feeling much better now that he's out of the hospital where he stayed for more than a week with COVID-19. 

"I found myself in the hospital for eight days, and I just had trouble breathing couldn't keep my oxygen levels up, and it hit me really really hard and so it's good to be back on my feet right now. I'm virus free," McAdams said in an interview on the "TODAY" show.

He said that he knew it was time to call the doctor and go to the hospital because he said he couldn't get out of bed and walk across the room without being out of breath. 

"I just never could breathe on my own without that supplemental oxygen or keep my levels up," he said. 

The 45-year-old, who said he has no underlying conditions, implored people to take the disease seriously because he said, "You don't know how it's going to get you, how it's going to affect you."

Vacation towns have a message for seasonal residents: Stay away

Image: Seasonal homes in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.
Seasonal homes in Oak Bluffs on Martha's Vineyard.Kayana Szymczak / for NBC News

Martha's Vineyard, an island retreat off Massachusetts for the Northeast's elite, is a health care desert.

The Vineyard has one hospital with 25 beds and seven ventilators. Local officials estimate the current population at 25,000, meaning the island has about 1 bed per 1,000 residents, far fewer than the state average of 2.4 per 1,000.

Because the Vineyard is isolated from the mainland, its limited medical infrastructure could quickly crumble if a coronavirus outbreak were to sweep across the island. The vacation community is one of many across the country flooded by seasonal residents hoping to escape urban centers amid the pandemic.

Read the full story here. 

Coronavirus cases in Iran top 50,000

Amin Khodadadi

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Iran passed 50,000 on Thursday, after 2,875 cases were reported in the past 24 hours.

There were also 124 new deaths recorded in the worst-hit country in the Middle East, bringing the total death toll to 3,160.

This comes after Iran's judiciary spokesman said last Sunday that nearly 100,000 prisoners will be temporarily released to ease the pressure on the healthcare system.

U.S. purchased medical supplies from Russia, State Department says

Image: Russian military transport plane carrying medical equipment masks and supplies lands at JFK Airport during outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York
A Russian military transport plane carrying medical equipment, masks and supplies lands at JFK International Airport on Wednesday. Stefan Jeremiah / Reuters

The U.S. State Department said that it purchased the medical supplies that Russia sent to the U.S. on Wednesday, including ventilators and personal protection equipment. The Kremlin had branded the supplies as humanitarian aid to help the U.S. fight the coronavirus pandemic. 

A plane carrying the supplies landed in New York on Wednesday prompting criticism from political observers who decried the move as a propaganda ploy by Russia’s President Vladimir Putin.

“Trump gratefully accepted this humanitarian aid,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was cited as saying by the Interfax news agency on Tuesday, the day after Trump and the Russian president held a phone call to discuss the coronavirus crisis. 

Biden says he thinks convention will have to be postponed until August

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Joe Biden said Wednesday that he thinks the Democratic National Convention, which is scheduled for mid-July, will have to be postponed until at least August. 

"I doubt whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July, early July. I think it's going to have to move into August," the presidential contender said in a virtual interview with NBC's "The Tonight Show" with Jimmy Fallon.

Biden, however, suggested that even with a delay into August, the situation could still change. "We just have to be prepared for the alternative, and the alternative we don't know what it's going to be unless we have a better sense of whether this curve moving down or up," he said.

The former vice president made the comment in response to a question about how the coronavirus outbreak will affect the elections and whether it would lead to people sending in mail-in ballots. Biden first suggested the convention might have to be moved in an interview Tuesday night on MSNBC when he said "it's hard to envision" it going on as planned. 

The Republican National Convention is also scheduled for August.

Spain's death toll tops 10,000 after record daily rise

Hernan Muñoz Ratto

Spain's coronavirus death toll climbed past 10,000, the country's Health Ministry said on Thursday, making it the second country in the world to reach the grim milestone. Only Italy has more deaths at 13,155. 

Spanish health officials said they registered 950 new deaths on Wednesday, the highest daily increase so far. 

A total of 110,238 total cases have been reported, up by 8,102.

Peter Jeary

Man jailed for COVID-19-related assault on police officer in London

A man who coughed on a police officer and claimed to have the coronavirus has been sent to jail for six months, London’s Metropolitan Police said Thursday. It is believed to be the first such sentence in the U.K.'s capital. 

The man, 55, is alleged to have attempted to cough up phlegm and spit in the officer’s face, telling the officer he had the virus.

The department’s chief superintendent said he hoped the sentence would convey a strong message that assaults of that nature will not be tolerated as the nation is tries to stem the spread of the virus. 

Rows of freshly dug graves mark cemetery in São Paulo, Brazil

Image: Cemetery workers in protective clothing complete a burial at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Wednesday.
Cemetery workers in protective clothing complete a burial at the Vila Formosa cemetery, Latin America's largest, in Sao Paulo, Brazil on Wednesday. There has been a 30 percent increase in the number of burials since the coronavirus started to spread, according to the cemetery's administration.Andre Penner / AP

Adam Schlesinger, Fountains of Wayne musician, dies of virus at 52


Image: Bass player Adam Schlesinger at SXSW in March 2009 in Austin, Texas.
Musician Adam Schlesinger in March 2009 in Austin, Texas.Jay West / WireImage file

Adam Schlesinger, a musician and songwriter highly regarded for his work as a member of Fountains of Wayne and an Emmy-winning songwriter for TV’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” has died as a result of coronavirus complications on Wednesday. He was 52.

Schlesinger had previously been reported Tuesday morning as “very sick and heavily sedated” by his attorney of 25 years, Josh Grier. Schlesinger has been in an upstate New York hospital for more than a week at that time, Grier said.

Schlesinger has been nominated for Oscars, Tonys, Grammys and Emmys and won the latter two awards. At the 2018 Emmys, he was up for two trophies for his “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” work and picked up one, winning in the outstanding original music and lyrics category for the song “Antidepressants Are So Not A Big Deal” (shared with the show’s star, Rachel Bloom, and Jack Dolgen).

Read the full story here.

Peter Jeary

Israeli PM in isolation after health minister tests positive

Paul Goldman

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is self-isolating for a week after the country’s health minister and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus. 

Netanyahu’s office said Thursday the prime minister was put in isolation on the advice of his personal physician and following instructions from the Health Ministry. The ministry has earlier confirmed that Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and his wife tested positive for the coronavirus, and are feeling well.

In a television address on Wednesday, Netanyahu said Israel was still in the midst of “a health tsunami” as it tries to control the coronavirus epidemic and asked all Israelis to wear face masks in public areas.

'Shoot them dead': Philippine leader warns lockdown violators


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has warned violators of lockdown measures they could be shot for causing trouble on Wednesday. He also said abuse of medical workers was a serious crime that would not be tolerated.

"My orders to the police and military... if there is trouble and there's an occasion that they fight back and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead," Duterte said in a televised address. "Is that understood? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I will bury you."

The Philippines has recorded 96 coronavirus deaths and 2,311 confirmed cases with infections now being reported in the hundreds every day.

Peter Jeary

NBC News

Examining the etiquette of social distancing from shopping to traveling

Jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis, 85, dies while fighting coronavirus

Jazz patriarch Ellis Marsalis died in New Orleans after contracting coronavirus, his son told the Associated Press on Wednesday.

The 85-year-old developed pneumonia and ultimately succumbed to that pulmonary infection, which was triggered by the virus, Ellis Marsalis III said. 

Marsalis was a jazz pianist and educator whose sons include trumpeter Wynton, saxophonist Branford, trombonist Delfeayo and drummer Jason.

In 2006, after Hurricane Katrina tore through his hometown, Marsalis joined the effort to build Musicians' Village, a community of 72 homes in the Upper Ninth Ward neighborhood. The nonprofit Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, a performance and education space, is now a centerpiece of the community.

Read the full story here.

Number of infected UT spring breakers grows to 44

The number of students at the University of Texas at Austin who went on a spring break trip to Mexico and later tested positive for the coronavirus illness COVID-19 is now 44, a university spokesperson said.

About 70 young adults traveled together on a chartered plane to Cabo San Lucas a week and a half ago, the Austin Public Health Department said.

On Tuesday, the city of Austin and the university said 28 students had tested positive but dozens more from the group that traveled were under public health investigation. The 28 were self-isolating and others were under quarantine and being tested, officials said then.

Some of the travelers returned to the U.S. on commercial flights, the health department said. Four of the initial 28 who tested positive did not present any symptoms, the city said. The coronavirus can be dangerous to anyone, but a major concern for health officials is that the young and healthy will spread it to others.

UT Austin officials tweeted Wednesday that they are concerned about the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases in the student body and told students to take the pandemic seriously and follow social distancing and other guidelines. UT Austin has moved classes online amid the pandemic.

Leaders in Hawaii ask Trump to halt inbound travel

Todd Miyazawa

A trio of Hawaiian mayors asked President Donald Trump on Wednesday to halt nonessential out-of-state travel to the islands.

In a letter to the president, Kirk Caldwell of Honolulu, Derek Kawakami of Kauai and Mike Victorino of Maui argued the move would slow the spread of coronavirus, which has caused one death in a state with 258 cases. Caldwell said a majority of those cases were "travel-related."

"Now is not the time for leisurely travel," Kawakami said.

On Tuesday, Gov. David Ige ordered those traveling between islands to self-quarantine for 14 days.