U.S. deaths top 16,000, Boris Johnson out of intensive care

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: A woman puts cloth face masks on a string to dry before distributing it for free around the neighbourhood, amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia
A woman puts cloth face masks on a string to dry before distributing it for free around the neighbourhood, amid the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tangerang, on the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia, April 9, 2020.Willy Kurniawan / Reuters

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The coronavirus death toll in the U.S. now stands at 16,527 and total cases neared half a million at 460,967, according to an NBC News tally as of Thursday night.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York state has reached 159,937 — outpacing any country except the United States as a whole.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that New York was bringing in additional funeral directors "to deal with the number of people who have passed."

Lockdowns appear set to remain in place in many European countries amid rising death tolls, as governments from Britain to France decide whether to extend restrictions aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved out the intensive care unit at a St. Thomas' Hospital as he continues to recover from COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus.

"Saturday Night Live" announced Thursday that it would be back on air this weekend, using remotely produced content. The sketch show tweeted a photo of its stars, including Kenan Thompson and Kate McKinnon, together on a video conference.

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2nd coronavirus vaccine trial begins in the U.S., with a pinch and a zap

U.S. researchers have opened another safety test of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine, this one using a skin-deep shot instead of the usual deeper jab.

The pinch should feel like a simple skin test, a researcher told the volunteer lying on an exam table in Kansas City, Missouri, on Wednesday.

Read more. 

U.S.-Russian crew blasts off for International Space Station following tight quarantine

A U.S.-Russian space crew blasted off Thursday to the International Space Station following a tight quarantine amid the virus outbreak.

NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy and Russian Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner lifted off as scheduled Thursday afternoon local time from the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

Russian space officials have taken extra precautions to protect the crew during training and pre-flight preparations as the coronavirus outbreak has swept the world. Speaking to journalists Wednesday in a video link from Baikonur, Cassidy said the crew had been in “a very strict quarantine” for the past month and is in good health.

“We all feel fantastic,” he said.

Why some doctors are moving away from ventilators for virus patients

As health officials around the world push to get more ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, some doctors are moving away from using the breathing machines when they can.

The reason: Some hospitals have reported unusually high death rates for coronavirus patients on ventilators, and some doctors worry that the machines could be harming certain patients.

The evolving treatments highlight the fact that doctors are still learning the best way to manage a virus that emerged only months ago. They are relying on anecdotal, real-time data amid a crush of patients and shortages of basic supplies.

Read the full story here.

Britain's PM Boris Johnson 'continues to improve' in hospital with coronavirus

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent his fourth night in a London hospital with coronavirus “continues to improve” and "is in good spirits," a No. 10 spokesperson said on Thursday. 

Johnson, 55, was taken into St Thomas’ Hospital last Sunday night with "persistent" COVID-19 symptoms after previously testing positive for coronavirus. He entered the intensive care unit Monday evening. 

He remains in St Thomas’ Hospital in central London, a jolting reminder that the coronavirus does not discriminate in whom it infects and sickens.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves number 10 Downing Street in central London on March 18, 2020, on his way to the House of Commons to attend Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs).Tolga Akmen / AFP - Getty Images file

Fauci outlines return to normal once outbreak weakens

Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that he thinks the U.S. may be experiencing the “beginning” of the flattening of the curve with the coronavirus outbreak, but added that the virus will determine when life returns to normal.

In an interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show, co-host Savannah Guthrie asked Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, whether people will be able to be out and about again by summer.

“I hope that’s the case, Savannah,” Fauci said, but he added that the virus “determines the timetable." President Donald Trump has been itching to reopen the economy, saying Wednesday that it should happen "sooner rather than later."

Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the U.S. may soon start to see a “turnaround and that curve not only flatten, but coming down.” He made clear, however, that when the U.S. attempts to return to normal, the virus won’t suddenly disappear.

Read the full story here.

Mass Ramadan events in Iran may stop over virus

Iran’s supreme leader suggested Thursday that mass gatherings may be barred through the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan amid the pandemic. This comes as Amnesty International said it believed at least 35 Iranian prisoners were killed by security forces amid rioting over the virus.

Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comment in a televised address as Iran prepares to restart its economic activity while suffering one of the world’s worst outbreaks. He is also the highest-ranking official in the Muslim world to acknowledge the holy month of prayer and reflection will be disrupted by the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes.

Ramadan — when Muslims fast from dawn until sunset — is set to begin in late April and last through most of May. Iranian mosques, however, have been closed and Friday prayers canceled across the country for fear of the virus spreading among those attending. Iran is reporting more than 60,000 cases as of Thursday, the highest in the Middle East by far. 

Global Update: Poverty shockwaves, police raid a cruise ship in Australia and Gaza runs out of test kits

Another 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week

Another 6.6 million American workers filed first-time unemployment claims for the week ending April 4, bringing the cumulative total to an astonishing 16 million over the past three weeks.

For the week ending March 21, 3.3 million people filed new unemployment claims, easily shattering the previous record set in 1982 of 695,000. Last week, that astounding figure doubled, as 6.6 million people filed claims for the week ending March 28 — a figure that was revised upward to 6.9 million in the new release.

“So far, jobless claims look to me like the only limitation on the number of applications has been the states’ ability to process those claims,” said Darrell Cronk, chief investment officer of Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment Management.

The cumulative toll of the last three weeks comes as last week’s Labor Department release showed that the economy shed 701,000 jobs in March — a figure far more negative than anticipated, although economists said it only captured a fraction of the carnage in the labor market that largely took place in the second half of the month.

Indonesia reports biggest daily jump in coronavirus deaths

Indonesia reported its biggest daily jump in coronavirus deaths on Thursday, bringing the total confirmed number to 280 in the world’s fourth most populous country, the highest death toll in Asia outside China, where the virus first emerged.

Indonesian health ministry official Achmad Yurianto said the country had registered 337 new infections, also a new daily high, taking the total to 3,293.

Indonesia has brought in “large-scale social restrictions,” but President Joko Widodo has resisted bringing in the type of tough lockdowns imposed by neighbors. Widodo has moved to allow areas like Jakarta, where there has been a spike in cases, more powers to tackle the crisis.

Trump to unveil second task force focused on economy

President Donald Trump is planning to unveil a second task force focused on the administration’s response to the economy, a senior administration official confirmed to NBC News. 

The task force will include a mix of private sector and top administration officials, including White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Trump economic adviser Larry Kudlow.

Meadows is expected to lead the economy-focused task force, although no final decision has been made, a source with direct knowledge of the task force said. Unlike the current task force, this second group is not expected to meet every  day.

The news was first reported by The Washington Post.