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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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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

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

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

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

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.