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

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

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

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