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.
- Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments.
- MAPS: Where cases have been confirmed in the U.S. and worldwide.
- Stay-at-home orders across the country: What each state is doing — or not doing — amid widespread coronavirus lockdowns.
Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.
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Patriots plane ferries critical masks from China to U.S.
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
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
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
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
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.
New York City burials delayed due to surging coronavirus deaths
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.