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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Government extends no-sail order for cruise ships

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Thursday extended indefinitely the government's March 14 no-sail order for cruise ships, noting that 100 such vessels with an estimated 80,000 crew members aboard were offshore.

The prohibition was extended to "address the health and safety of crew at sea as well as communities surrounding U.S. cruise ship points of entry," CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a statement.

The order is effective until it's rescinded, the coronavirus national emergency is over or within 100 days, the CDC said.

The centers said at least 20 cruise ships in U.S. ports and waters have crew members on board who have the virus.

Liberty University pushing for charges against journalists

Liberty University has pushed for criminal trespassing charges against two journalists who pursued stories about why the evangelical college in Virginia has remained partially open during the coronavirus outbreak.

The college, in Lynchburg, Virginia, is led by Jerry Falwell Jr., a supporter of President Donald Trump who has suggested coverage of the epidemic was overblown. Falwell said the university is conducting classes online and obeying social distancing directives.

After stories were written saying Liberty’s decision caused concerns in the community, the university pursued charges against Alec MacGillis, a reporter for ProPublica, and Julia Rendleman, a photographer who illustrated a March 29 story in The New York Times.

Read the full story here. 

California sees first daily decrease in ICU hospitalizations

California saw its first daily decrease in intensive care hospitalizations during the coronavirus outbreak, a key indicator of how many health care workers and medical supplies the state needs, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday.

The rate of all virus hospitalizations has slowed this week. Those in the ICU need the highest level of care, and so it was particularly encouraging that the number of patients in those rooms actually dropped 1.9 percent on Wednesday to 1,132.

The virus can cause severe breathing problems, and ventilators are a key tool in keeping the sickest patients alive.

Newsom has been building the state’s stockpile and earlier this week was confident enough of the supply to send 500 to other states.

California hospitals have more than 11,000 ventilators, and two-thirds aren’t being used, he said.

FDA warns Alex Jones to stop promoting false coronavirus claims and cures

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration sent a warning letter to internet and radio personality Alex Jones on Thursday, urging him to stop promoting false claims about coronavirus preventatives and cures on his InfoWars website. 

The federal agency said products misleadingly advertised as safe and effective treatments, or as guards against the coronavirus, include silver-based gargles and toothpaste. Jones has 48 hours to respond and the FDA is threatening legal action for failure to comply.

Jones, a media mogul and notorious conspiracy theorist, has amassed a fortune through supplements and survivalist products sold on the InfoWars site. Jones is currently being sued in multiple states by parents of children killed in the Newtown, Connecticut, mass shooting for using his website and show to promote the false conspiracy theory that the attack was a hoax. 

In March, New York Attorney General Letita James sent Jones a letter demanding he cease and desist selling supplements and creams under false coronavirus claims. 

The FDA has not yet approved any vaccines or treatments for COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus.

HHS reverses course on funding for local coronavirus testing sites

The Department of Health and Human Services late Thursday reversed its decision to end federal support on Friday for community-based coronavirus testing sites around the country.

Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that states will now be able to choose whether they want to transition to managing the testing programs themselves or continue with federal assistance.

"In this instance, we wanted to at least give them the option to take control of that. But, we will continue to resource them with personnel, supplies, and any other support they need going forward,” he said at the daily White House coronavirus briefing. 

The availability of widespread testing remains scarce in the U.S., and public health officials have called it a failure of the administration's coronavirus response.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told NBC News in a statement Thursday that the federal government “will continue working closely with states, and their respective FEMA regions, to determine whether sites want to continue as they are now, with direct federal supervision and manpower, or transition to full state control.”

Trump says Russia, Saudi Arabia 'close' to deal to salvage oil sector amid pandemic

President Trump said Thursday he spoke by phone with Russia’s President Putin and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman about the oil industry, in an attempt to salvage jobs amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Trump told reporters at the daily White House coronavirus briefing the phone call was a "very productive hour and a half." 

 

The coronavirus outbreak has caused oil prices to plummet because fewer people are driving, planes flying, ships sailing and factories producing goods. Usually, oil-producing countries agree to reduce the supply to increase prices, but Saudi Arabia, who has pushed for even deeper cuts to production, and OPEC — the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries — failed to reach an agreement with Russia, who rejected more cuts, on a way to deal with lower prices. 

Trump said with oil prices being pushed down, it threatens U.S. jobs and is working with OPEC and the two countries to get a compromise. 

"We had a very good talk; we'll see what happens," Trump said. "I would say we're getting close to a deal."

Nearly 17 million filed for unemployment over last 3 weeks due to coronavirus

The U.S. went from a 50-year unemployment low to some 17 million Americans seeking jobless benefits. That number is likely much higher, as some have been unable to file because of unprecedented demand.

Harvey Weinstein out of medical isolation in prison after testing positive

Convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein was moved out of medical isolation in prison, a spokesperson confirmed on Thursday, just over two weeks after he tested positive for coronavirus

The former movie mogul has been "deemed alright," according to his publicist Juda Engelamyer. Weinstein tested positive at the maximum security Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo, New York, Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association told NBC News in March.

Several staffers at the facility who had contact with Weinstein had also been placed in quarantine. 

Weinstein is currently serving 23 years in prison after he was found guilty of third-degree rape and first degree criminal sexual act last month. 

 

Federal judge says Texas must allow certain abortions

A federal judge on Thursday issued an order saying the state must allow medication abortions, which involve only pills, and abortions for women who have only a few weeks of pregnancy left before hitting the 22-month mark, at which point abortion is generally illegal in the state.

Planned Parenthood is hoping this new on limit on enforcement of Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order banning elective surgery, will conform with a federal appeals court ruling earlier this week that struck down the judge's first order that allowed abortion to continue.

“The inability to obtain abortion care in Texas as a result of the Executive Order is causing individuals with unwanted pregnancies who have the ability to travel to go to other states to obtain abortions. The record shows that these individuals are traveling by both car and airplane to places as far away as Colorado and Georgia,” said Federal District Court Judge Lee Yeakel. 

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, overturning the judge’s first order, said even though women have a constitutional right to abortion services, states can limit rights during public emergencies like the virus pandemic. But the appeals court left the door open to a revised order that would permit some abortions.

FBI warns of 'money mule' schemes exploiting pandemic

Participants use laptop computers as they take part in the Seccon 2016 final competition in Tokyo on Jan. 28, 2017.Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images file

The FBI is out with a new warning that criminals may try to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic through a a tempting scheme.

It starts off as a harmless enough request. You receive an email, maybe through an online job site or a dating website. Provide your bank account information and allow money transfers to flow through your account. You move the money for someone and they pay you a little cash for your trouble or lure you with the potential of a romantic relationship.

Read the full story here.