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Senate passes $484 billion relief bill as U.S. cases top 800,000

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the globe.
Volunteers distribute food at an event by Food Share in Doral, Fla.
Volunteers distribute food at an event by Food Share in Doral, Fla., on April 17, 2020.Carmen Sesin / NBC News

The U.S. Senate passed on Tuesday, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign, a nearly $500 billion coronavirus relief bill.

Meanwhile, Trump on Monday said he is suspending immigration in response to the coronavirus pandemic and the "need to protect jobs." White House officials offered few details after the president's Twitter announcement Monday night.

In the South, some governors have begun loosening restrictions put in place to contain the spread of the virus. Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp granted businesses across the state permission to reopen later this week and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster said that beaches and retail stores can reopen Tuesday.

In Europe, German officials made the difficult decision to cancel the country's world famous Oktoberfest celebration.

As of Tuesday evening, the coronavirus death toll in the U.S. stands at more than 44,000 and there have been more than 802,000 recorded cases of the disease, according to NBC News' count.

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading April 22 coronavirus news.

Photo: Medical worker administers a swab test

Image: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in New York
Lindsey Leinbach takes a swab to test for the coronavirus at a One Medical testing facility built to help with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in the Bronx, New York on April 21, 2020.Lucas Jackson / Reuters

What it's like to be stuck on a college campus

Virus caused U.S. fatalities earlier than previously thought

Officials in Silicon Valley late Tuesday reported two virus-related deaths that predate a Washington state fatality previously believed to be the first victim of COVID-19 in the United States.

The California deaths on Feb. 6 and Feb. 17 were not initially believed to have been related to the coronavirus. 

The first U.S. COVID-19 death was reported Feb. 29 in Wsahington state.

"Today, the Medical Examiner-Coroner received confirmation from the CDC that tissue samples from both cases are positive for SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19)," the County of Santa Clara Medical Examiner-Coroner said in a statement.

The examiner-coroner's office said limited testing criteria set by the federal government meant that the deaths were initially overlooked as possible coronavirus cases. Each victim died at home, it said.

Read the full story here.

Harlem church has lost 11 members to COVID-19

The senior pastor of Harlem's Mount Neboh Baptist Church says that 11 of its members have died from the coronavirus illness COVID-19.

"When my phone rings, I'm always worried: Is it going to be another call with bad news?" Dr. Johnnie Green said Tuesday.

Green said that his congregation believes that faith in God is most authentic when it is tested, and he sees the trials of recent weeks as a test of faith.

"I believe that we're going to come out stronger," Green said. 

New York City and state have been called the current epidemic of the coronavirus epidemic in the United States. There have been more than 19,000 deaths statewide, according to an NBC News count of reports that includes more than 4,000 deaths in New York City which are being called probable COVID-19 cases.

Read the full story here.

China calls for end of blaming and 'finger-pointing'

UNITED NATIONS — China said this is a time for solidarity and cooperation, not “finger-pointing” and “politicization” as its top diplomats in New York officially handed over a donation of medical supplies to hard-hit New York City to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Consul-General Huang Ping recalled at Tuesday’s online ceremony that China’s President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump “called for anti-epidemic cooperation between our two nations and the world” in their last phone call on March 17.

After weeks of elaborate praise of president Xi’s performance in the pandemic, Trump has turned to blaming China and halting U.S. contributions to the World Health Organization, accusing it of parroting misinformation from Beijing.

Huang said the American people helped China “without hesitation” when it was in great difficulty, and its consulate and U.N. mission have donated 25,000 N95 masks, 2,000 protective suits, and 75,000 pairs of medical gloves, which reached New York last weekend.

According to incomplete estimates, Huang said, China has also donated 1,000 ventilators, 6,550,000 masks, 310,000 pairs of surgical gloves, 150,000 goggles and 32,000 protective suits to the United States, much of it to New York.

Inslee doesn't expect restrictions to end soon

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says the state won’t be able to lift many of the stay-at-home restrictions implemented to fight the coronavirus by May 4, when the current directive is set to expire.

But he hopes health modeling in the coming days will allow the resumption of some activities such as elective surgeries and outdoor recreation.

In a televised address Tuesday evening, Inslee also announced a plan to have about 1,500 workers focused solely on contact tracing in place by the second week of May. The effort would involve state employees from the Department of Health, local health jurisdictions, members of the Washington National Guard and volunteer health care providers.

The Seattle area saw the nation’s first large COVID-19 outbreak, and so far Washington state has more than 12,280 confirmed cases and at least 682 deaths.

Call to prayer to be broadcast in Minneapolis neighborhood during Ramadan

MINNEAPOLIS — Muslims in south Minneapolis will be able to maintain safe physical distance during the call to prayer throughout the holy month of Ramadan.

The call to prayer will be broadcast by speaker five times each day to allow neighborhood residents to pray together.

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey facilitated the noise permit after the community requested the service. The Council on American-Islamic Relations paid for the audio equipment for the broadcasts from a mosque.

The broadcasts are expected to reach thousands of residents while allowing them to maintain safe physical distance for prayer during the coronavirus pandemic.

Ramadan starts Thursday and ends May 23.

Czech National Ballet dancers return to work in face masks

Rehearsals resumed in Prague after a month of coronavirus isolation. "It's much harder with the mask, because you can't really breathe in as you need," said one of the dancers.

Trump's immigration ban raises plenty of questions. Here's what we know.

WASHINGTON — In a late-night tweet on Monday, President Donald Trump declared he would “be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States.”

Trump said his order would "pause" issuing green cards — a mandatory stepping-stone to citizenship — for 60 days, and then revisit the policy depending on economic conditions. He told reporters Tuesday it "will not apply to those entering on a temporary basis" and insisted his goal was to protect Americans from international competition for jobs.

The announcement came as a surprise, even to many Trump allies, and the sweeping language in his tweet raised questions about who it would affect. But without the order or any formal guidance from the administration, it's not clear whether the order will ultimately be a far-reaching policy change or simply formalize what is already a de facto pause on immigration during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full story here. 

Coronavirus survivor meets plasma donor who may have saved his life

Doctors at Orlando health aimed to save 52-year-old Kevin Rathel by trying an emergency treatment known as convalescent plasma — injecting a survivor’s antibodies to fight off the virus. Rathel recovered and later met the man who he believes saved his life.

Georgia governor's decision to start reopening state draws mixed reactions from business owners

Image: Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America
A pedestrian wearing a mask over his face is seen walking on the sidewalk of an empty Forsyth Street SW on April 4, 2020 in Atlanta.Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images file

The reaction among Georgia business owners and public officials to Gov. Brian Kemp's decision to reopen some businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic has been decidedly mixed.

Some business owners welcomed the opportunity to reopen their doors, grateful to be able to avoid layoffs, while others question the parameters outlined by the state and whether they're enough to protect customers and staff.

Sabra Dupree, owner of Kids Kuts Salon in Marietta, where she lives, said her business will operate quite differently when it reopens Friday.

Read the full story here. 

Fact check: Trump claims the U.S. is testing 'more people than anybody anywhere'

President Donald Trump, during Tuesday's press briefing, reiterated a claim he's made for weeks about the U.S. and testing for coronavirus.

“And we have tested more people than anybody anywhere in the world by far. By very far,” Trump said at the White House. 

Later, he reiterated the point: “Again, I’ll say it for the fifth time: We have tested more than any country in the world, and some of the countries are very big, ok? More than any country in the world."

We’ve fact checked this statement repeatedly. It's still true that the U.S. has run the highest number of raw tests, but not the most per capita. Italy has run 1.45 million tests in a country with 60 million people. That’s one test for every 41 Italians. The U.S., with an estimated population of 328 million people, has run 4.1 million tests  — one test for every 80 people, approximately.

The U.S. has caught up to some other countries; we'd previously used South Korea as an example of a country testing at a higher rate per capita, but as of April 21, they'd run approximately one test for every 89 citizens. 

Doctor moves into backyard treehouse to protect family from coronavirus

A Texas emergency room doctor is sleeping in his family's backyard treehouse to protect his wife and children from possible coronavirus exposure. KRIS' Ashley Portillo reports.

Trump says Harvard, other large companies will pay back PPP loans

Harvard University, which reportedly netted nearly $9 million in aid through the federal government's Paycheck Protection Program, will have to give that money back, President Donald Trump said Tuesday.

"Harvard's going to pay back the money, they shouldn't be taking it," Trump said. "They have one of the largest endowments anywhere in the country, maybe the world I guess, and they're going to pay back that money."

He added that large companies, which he did not name, would also pay back funds obtained through the government loan program established to help small businesses to pay their employees during the pandemic. The Ivy League university has an endowment worth more than $40 billion.

However, Harvard University spokesperson Jason Newton denied the institution received any small business funds from the program in a statement to NBC News on Tuesday.

He added that the school, however, the school did receive funds as part of the CARES Act Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund in which all money will be used to "provide direct assistance to students facing urgent financial needs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The burger chain Shake Shack, which received $10 million from the PPP, has already said it will return the money. The New York-based burger company is among more than a dozen companies with annual revenues in the hundreds of millions that are reported to have received PPP money.

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said Tuesday at the daily White House coronavirus briefing that he is giving these companies the "benefit of the doubt" and will clarify guidelines for companies hoping to access loans.

The USNS Comfort free to set sail from New York City

Image: The USNS Comfort is seen docked at Pier 90 in Manhattan during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York
The USNS hospital ship Comfort is seen docked at Pier 90 on Manhattan's West Side during the outbreak of the coronavirus in New York on April 3, 2020.Mike Segar / Reuters file

The Navy hospital ship deployed to New York City at the height of the coronavirus pandemic is free to set sail for any other troubled ports, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

The USNS Comfort docked in America's biggest city on March 30 to take on non-coronavirus patients and relieve hospitals overwhelmed by COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus. But now that the city appears to have weathered the apex of the pandemic, the governor said the hospital ship should be re-deployed.

“If anyplace else needs it, send it to them," Cuomo told MSNBC.

At his daily coronavirus briefing, President Donald Trump also said the hospital ship should be leaving soon: “I’ve asked Andrew if we could bring the Comfort back to its base in Virginia so that we could have it for other locations, and he said we would be able to do that."

What can coronavirus antibody tests actually tell us?

Image: University Of Washington Medicine Tests Blood Of Recovered COVID-19 Patients For Antibodies
A clinical test in the Immunology lab at UW Medicine in Seattle, Washington.Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Results from antibody testing studies for the coronavirus are starting to paint a picture of the scope of the disease it causes in parts of the U.S.

But the initial findings won't identify which people are immune to the virus; in other words, a positive result from an antibody test can't be considered a "get out of jail free" card for those who wish to stop social distancing and get back to life as usual, experts say.

Read the full story here. 

Barr calls stay-at-home orders 'disturbingly close to house arrest'

Image: William Barr
Attorney General William Barr in the Brady Briefing Room at the White House on April 1, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images file

WASHINGTON —Attorney General William Barr said Tuesday that the need for strong restrictions to stop the spread of the corornavirus may be passing, and the Justice Department might consider taking legal action against states that go too far.

"There are very, very burdensome impingements on liberty," he told radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, "and we adopted them for the limited purpose of slowing down the spread. We didn't adopt them as the comprehensive way of dealing with this disease. We are now seeing that these are bending the curve, and we have to come up with more targeted approaches."

Read the full story here. 

Cuomo says he had 'productive' White House meeting with Trump on coronavirus

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo met with President Donald Trump at the White House on Tuesday for what he called a "productive" meeting on the need for federal help with coronavirus testing and financial help for hard-hit states.

"I think we had a very good conversation," the New York Democrat told MSNBC's Nicolle Wallace in a phone interview after the meeting, and there was an "acknowledgment that we all need to work together on this. It has to be a real partnership."

Read the full story here. 

Illinois extends student loan relief to non-federal, private bank borrowers

Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced a plan to provide relief for student loan borrowers in Illinois who were left out of the federal relief plan through the CARES Act

The coronavirus relief bill halted federal student loan payments until the end of September, with no interest, but failed to account for students with private loans not controlled by the Department of Education. Pritzker said Tuesday that his plan with 20 private lenders would bring relief to nearly 140,000 more student loan borrowers in the state. 

"We created a multi-state agreement that includes borrowers in Illinois, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, Virginia and Washington State," Pritzker said. "Impacted borrowers can immediately contact their loan provider to get relief with these new options." 

Study shows more deaths, no benefit from malaria drug touted by Trump

Image: Hydroxychloroquine
Hydroxychloroquine, and a related compound called chloroquine, is a medication that's been around for decades. It's used to treat malaria, as well as certain autoimmune diseases including lupus rheumatoid arthritis.John Locher / AP

A malaria drug widely touted by President Donald Trump for treating the new coronavirus showed no benefit in a large analysis of its use in U.S. veterans hospitals. There were more deaths among those given hydroxychloroquine versus standard care, researchers reported.

The nationwide study was not a rigorous experiment. But with 368 patients, it’s the largest look so far of hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin for COVID-19, which has killed more than 171,000 people as of Tuesday.

The study was posted on an online site for researchers and has has not been reviewed by other scientists. Grants from the National Institutes of Health and the University of Virginia paid for the work.

Read the full story here. 

Betsy DeVos announces another $6 billion in federal grants for colleges

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced Tuesday that an additional $6.2 billion in federal grants will be made available to colleges and universities for remote learning programs, staff training and building out IT capacity.

The boost in higher education funding comes after the Education Department announced earlier this month that nearly $6.3 billion would be made available to colleges for students who need help with necessities, including books and housing, during the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest round of money is also coming out of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act that President Donald Trump signed in March.

While the Education Department said it made the initial cash grants available "quickly," and there's been an increase in eligible colleges seeking the money for their neediest students, Politico reported Monday that less than 1 percent of the $6.3 billion was released to schools this month. Education advocates have blamed bureaucracy and confusion over the rules.

Senate passes coronavirus relief bill, which Trump is expected to sign

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus bill by voice vote Tuesday that includes additional money for the small business loan program as well as for hospitals and testing, making way for the legislation to become law as soon as the end of the week.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement that they were "proud" to have secured an interim aid bill that went beyond the initial Republican proposal.

“Democrats flipped this emergency package from an insufficient Republican plan that left behind hospitals and health and frontline workers and did nothing to aid the survival of the most vulnerable small businesses on Main Street," they said.

Read the full story here. 

Texas Lt. Governor on reopening economy: 'There are more important things than living'

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick speaks in McAllen, Texas, on Jan. 10, 2019.Sergio Flores / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick doubled down on the controversial comments he previously made regarding the coronavirus pandemic, telling Fox News on Monday that Americans had to “take some risks” in reopening the economy.

Patrick was heavily criticized last month after he suggested in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson that he and other senior citizens might be willing to die in order to save the U.S. economy. The Texas official stood by his statements in a new interview with Carlson on Monday night, saying that “we are crushing the economy.”

“And what I said when I was with you that night, there are more important things than living," Patrick said.

Read the full story here. 

Senator wants Apple, Google execs to be personally liable for virus privacy

A U.S. senator said Tuesday that tech executives should face personal legal consequences if they don't protect the privacy of people using their smartphones to track the coronavirus. 

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., wrote in a letter to Google and Apple about their virus-tracing plans that their executives should be "personally liable if you stop protecting privacy." He said the companies should not, for example, give advertising companies access once the pandemic is over. 

"Do not hide behind a corporate shield like so many privacy offenders have before. Stake your personal finances on the security of this project," he wrote. 

Apple and Google have said their plans would be voluntary and include a number of privacy measures. Apple and Google declined to comment on Hawley's letter.  

Hundreds gather in North Carolina and Missouri to protest stay-at-home orders

Image: North Carolina stay-at-home protest
Protesters in April 21, 2020, in Raleigh, North Carolina.Robert Willett / The News & Observer via AP

Hundreds of protesters gathered at state capitols in North Carolina and Missouri to protest stay-at-home orders Tuesday, the latest in a wave of demonstrations against statewide restrictions aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus.

The small protests featured demonstrators — many of whom wearing gear promoting President Donald Trump and waving American and "Don't Tread on Me" flags — who mostly opted against wearing masks and ignored social distancing guidelines health experts say are necessary to mitigate the transmission of the highly contagious virus.

Read the full story here. 

U.K. working to increase PPE supply after shortages reported

The U.K. is working to make more Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) domestically while also entering into talks with international factories, Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on Tuesday.

Hancock said the government had more than 8,000 offers of PPE equipment as of Monday and was investigating each one, while working with 159 potential U.K. manufacturers.

“We’re working day and night to expand that supply base,” Hancock said during Britain’s daily coronavirus briefing.

The government has come under fire in recent weeks after shortages of PPE have been reported in some British hospitals.

The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors, warned earlier this month that National Health Service staff had reported “dangerously low levels” of PPE in London and Yorkshire, putting medics and patients increasingly in harm’s way.

Potential coronavirus vaccine in Britain to be trialed on people from Thursday

A potential coronavirus vaccine being developed at the University of Oxford in Britain will be trialed on people starting Thursday, Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock said. 

Hancock said Tuesday two “leading” vaccine developments were taking place in Britain — one at the University of Oxford and another at Imperial College London — as he announced more than $50 million in fresh funding for the trials.

“We have put more money than any other country into the global search for a vaccine,” he said. “Both of these promising projects are making rapid progress and I’ve told the scientists leading them that we will do everything in our power to support.”

Hancock added that at the same time the U.K. will invest in manufacturing capabilities so that if either of these vaccines safely works then they can make it available for the British people “as soon as humanly possible.”

But he warned that “nothing” about the process was certain.

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Nurses hold White House protest over need for protective equipment in coronavirus fight

Their numbers were small, but their message was powerful.

Nearly two dozen nurses from National Nurses United stood in protest outside the White House Tuesday, demanding more Personal Protective Equipment and a codification of protective standards as healthcare workers across the country find themselves underprepared on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis.

“We’re here because our colleagues are dying,” Erica Jones, a nurse at Washington Hospital Center in D.C., told NBC News. Jones stood silently Tuesday as the names of 50 nurses who died from COVID-19 were read aloud in the shadow of the White House.

Read the full story here.

OPINION: The coronavirus will devastate the South because politicians let poverty to do so first

Though President Donald Trump insists on calling it an “invisible enemy,” COVID-19 is ever before us and the data increasingly make clear that the South will soon become ground zero for coronavirus deaths.

COVID-19, then, is a contrast dye, highlighting the South as the native home of poverty in America.

Read the full opinion piece here.

Gov. Cuomo is questioned sharply on coronavirus response — by his daughters

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday he faced sharp questions — from his own adult daughters — on why he had not looked overseas to buy coronavirus test kits.

Cuomo said his family was watching TV news on Monday night when a story aired on Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who with help from his wife, just scored 500 test kits from her native South Korea,

"My daughter turns to me and looks at me and says, 'Wow that was really smart,' " said Cuomo, father of three adult daughters. "One of my other daughters, who's a little more pointed in life ... said, 'Why didn't you think of that, Dad? Why didn't you think of buying test kits from South Korea?'"

The New York governor was hammering home his belief that the federal government should take the lead in securing equipment to contain the pandemic, though he heaped praise on his Maryland counterpart: "God bless Larry Hogan; he really thought outside the box." 

German officials cancel Oktoberfest

Germany's famous Oktoberfest, the world's largest beer festival, has been cancelled, Bavarian officials announced Tuesday.

"It hurts, it's such a pity," Minister President Markus Söder of Bavaria, in southern Germany, said in a news conference. "We have agreed that the risk is simply too high."

The festival, planned to begin in late September and last through early October, usually draws around six million visitors from around the world. But Soder said "as long as there is no vaccine, as long as there is no medicine, special care must be taken," adding that the festival could have been a potential "virus hub."

Nearly 800 COVID-19 deaths in Georgia as governor plans to reopen businesses

Georgia reported nearly 20,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 800 deaths Tuesday — days ahead of Gov. Brian Kemp's planned reopening of many of the state's businesses.

The latest numbers, announced at noon Tuesday, reflect an increase of 482 cases and 24 deaths since the previous update at 7 p.m. Monday. The counties with the most coronavirus cases are Fulton (2,208 cases and 82 deaths), Dekalb (1,534 cases and 29 deaths), and Dougherty (1,446 cases and 103 deaths).

An additional 3,779 remained hospitalized with COVID-19 on Tuesday.

Despite the state's coronavirus death toll continuing to rise, Kemp on Monday announced plans to reopen businesses such as gyms, barber shops, and bowling alleys. Kemp's decision was criticized by many state and local leaders.

“There's nothing about this that makes sense," Stacey Abrams said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” "The mayors of Atlanta, Albany and Savannah have all questioned the wisdom of doing this. And the fact is the governor didn't consult with mayors before making this decision.”

Does Trump have the authority to suspend immigration?

President Donald Trump cited both public health concerns and the economy as reasons for suspending immigration into the U.S. in his tweet Monday night announcing the move.

"In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!" he wrote.

Can the president do that? The answer appears to be yes. Any such sweeping action is bound to produce court challenges, but it's not at all clear that they would succeed.

The president would probably cite the same legal authority that he used to justify his March 11 executive order restricting entry by travelers from countries coping with the pandemic; it's a provision of federal law — the Immigration and Nationality Act — that gives a president very broad power.

Read the full story here.

Defiant pastor in Louisiana arrested after incident with bus, protester

Image: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Baton Rouge
Pastor Tony Spell drives a bus with local residents as they leave at the Life Tabernacle megachurch after attending Easter mass challenging state orders against assembling in large groups to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Baton Rouge Louisiana on April 12, 2020.Carlos Barria / Reuters

A Louisiana pastor who has defied state orders against large gatherings was arrested Tuesday for allegedly backing his church bus dangerously close to a protester.

Pastor Tony Spell of Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central, near Baton Rouge, was charged with aggravated assault in connection to the incident Sunday that was caught on tape, police said.

Central police chief Roger Corcoran said local authorities are trying to enforce the law and insisted that Spell isn't being denied his freedom to practice religion.

"They're trying to make a mockery of this, like he's some kind of victim," Corcoran told NBC News on Monday night. "No one, not one person, is trying to stop him from preaching the word."

Read the full story here.

Photo: Giving thanks to health workers

Image: Fort Myers Police Department
The Fort Myers Police Department makes a heart shape out of police cars to thank health workers at Lee Memorial Hospital, in Fort Myers, Fla., on, April 16, 2020Fort Myers Police Dept. / Reuters

New York state death toll closing in on 15,000

At least another 481 New York state residents died from complications related to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, officials said Tuesday.

The state's coronavirus death toll has now reached 14,828 since the outbreak, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

There were 1,308 new patients hospitalized with COVID-10 on Monday,  down from rates of 2,000 a day late last week. Cuomo called it good news while noting, "Our definition of good has changed here.”

Michelle Obama launches weekly reading series for children

The former first lady announced on Twitter on Friday that she was partnering with PBS Kids and Penguin Random House to host a weekly read-along series, “Mondays with Michelle Obama.”

Obama, who launched the series Monday, will read from some of her favorite children’s books through May 11.

The first, “The Gruffalo,” received tens of thousands of likes on social media.

Read more about the series here.

Schumer says White House, Dems have deal on money for small businesses, hospitals, testing

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday that lawmakers had reached a deal with the White House on a nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus bill that includes additional funds for the small business loan program as well as more money for hospitals and testing.

“There is still a few more I's to dot and T’s to cross, but we have a deal, and I believe we’ll pass it today,” Schumer said on CNN.

The minority leader said he and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had been on the phone “well past midnight” with White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and they “came to an agreement on just about every issue.”

Read the full story here.

NYC plans ticker tape parade to honor health care workers when gathering restrictions ease

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that when people can safely gather again, the city will throw the "biggest and best" ticker tape parade to thank health care workers, first responders and everyone who has helped in the fight against the coronavirus. 

"This parade will mark the beginning of our renaissance and will, most importantly, be a chance to say thank you to so many good and noble people," de Blasio said. 

"I think this will be the greatest of all the parades because this one will speak to the rebirth of New York City" and to the "heroism that is intrinsic to New Yorkers," the mayor said.

The parade will run down the "Canyon of Heroes," on Broadway from the Battery to City Hall, he said. "And that will be a beautiful and joyous day in our city." 

On Monday, de Blasio announced that the city's Celebrate Israel, Puerto Rican Day and LGBTQ pride parades would be canceled due to the pandemic.

Stacey Abrams slams Georgia governor over decision to reopen businesses this week

Georgia Democrat Stacey Abrams on Tuesday denounced GOP Gov. Brian Kemp's decision to allow a number of businesses to reopen this week, one of the first governors to do so amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“There's nothing about this that makes sense," Abrams said in an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” "The mayors of Atlanta, Albany and Savannah have all questioned the wisdom of doing this. And the fact is the governor didn't consult with mayors before making this decision.”

Kemp has come under fire after announcing Monday that a number of businesses in Georgia could reopen as soon as Friday, including barbershops, gyms and other places where there is bound to be close contact among people. Kemp said Georgia theaters, restaurants and social clubs can reopen Monday, while bars, nightclubs and concert venues will remain closed.

Abrams, who lost the gubernatorial election to Kemp in 2018, said that Georgia is the eighth largest state in the U.S. and has the 14th highest infection rate, but among the slowest testing rates.

Read the full story here.

Photos: Dancing in the street in Wales

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Police officers joined in a dance session Tuesday with residents of a suburban street in Prestatyn, north Wales.AP
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AP Photo

Some people are 'quaranteaming' to ride out the outbreak — but is it safe?

Staying alone in your home with no end in sight can feel emotionally debilitating. That's why some people are practicing '"quaranteaming."

Essentially, it means choosing to quarantine with someone you don't live with.

But the practice could pose a risk to yourself and the public. There are "gradations of safety," Dr. Eric Cioe-Pena, an emergency medicine physician at Northwell Health in New York City, told TODAY.

Read the full story on TODAY.

FDA approves first at-home collection kit for COVID-19

The Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday that it has issued its first emergency approval of an at-home collection kit for the coronavirus.

The kit allows people to collect their own sample and then send it to the company to be tested. The kit is produced by North Carolina-based LabCorp.

The collection kit will be first made available to healthcare workers and first responders who have symptoms of COVID-19, LabCorp said in a press release, but they added that they hope to make the tests available to consumers in "the coming weeks."

The FDA approved the use of the nasal swab tests after granting a LabCorp request under emergency measures

Slim pickings for monkey temple residents as COVID-19 hits tourism

Johns Hopkins University offers free online course on COVID-19 pandemic

John Hopkins University is offering a free online course designed to help people "explore the COVID-19 pandemic."

The Baltimore-based University famous for its medical school is offering the course through a series of short modules that "build on each other" and explore the virus that causes COVID-19 as well as its broader implications for society. 

Modules are led by the university's leading experts in virology and infectious diseases. Registration is not required, with the modules being offered through content created after social distancing measures were introduced. 

7 Wisconsin virus cases linked to in-person voting, health official says

Officials have identified seven people who appear to have contracted the coronavirus through activities related to the April 7 election in Wisconsin, Milwaukee’s health commissioner said.

Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik said six of the cases involve Milwaukee voters and one is a Milwaukee poll worker, the Journal Sentinel reported.

Officials hope to have additional information on the cases by the end of the week, including whether any of them were concentrated in any of the city's five polling places or if any resulted in death, Kowalik said Monday.

Wisconsin Department of Health Services Secretary Andrea Palm said Monday there were no signs yet of a surge in cases from the election as some feared. Palm noted, however, that if cases do exist, symptoms may not have appeared yet.

Read the full story here.

Spain's San Fermin bull run is canceled

Spain's San Fermin bull run has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, Pamplona's town hall announced Tuesday. 

The town's deputy mayor Ana Elizalde said in a news conference that although the cancellation was "expected" it still "leaves us all sad."

The bull-running festival has only been canceled four other times; in 1937 and 1938 for the Spanish civil war, in 1978 following clashes between police and Basque nationalists, and in 1997 after the assassination of a Spanish politician by the ETA separatist group. 

Families divided by U.S.-Canada border closure meet across an irrigation ditch

Some families divided by the U.S.-Canada border's closing due to the pandemic have been meeting across an irrigation ditch in Washington state. 

In the border town of Lynden, Washington, Jodi Pears introduced her newborn baby, Willow, to her parents, who live in Canada.

"It's just sad. They were there for the births of our other two daughters," Pears told NBC affiliate KING in Seattle, as she stood about 10 feet from her parents across the ditch. "It's just really hard."

Pears is one of many in the area using the spot in Lynden for such meetings.

People are holding picnics and planting lawn chairs on either side of the border for a chance to see and talk to family on the other side in person.

Austria to open larger stores and restaurants in May

Large shops and service-based businesses like hairdressers will be allowed to reopen in Austria on May 1, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said in an address on Tuesday as he outlined the steps the government will take to ease the country's lockdown.

Schools, restaurants and religious services will also be permitted to reopen in the following weeks, "if the case numbers allow," he said. Austria became one of the first countries in Europe to lay out a plan to ease the lockdown. It began lifting restrictions last week when small shops were allowed to open.

However, Kurz cautioned that citizens should not expect "unrestricted travel throughout Europe in the near future." He added that if he is able to take a vacation this year, he will be staying in Austria.

106-year-old Slovenian woman recovers from coronavirus

A 106-year-old woman in in Slovenia has fully recovered from coronavirus, her grandson told NBC news. Angela Ogulin survived both WWI and WWII and was a "strong" woman, toiling on a farm for much of her life, Bostjan Ogulin said. 

''We got really scared when people from the elderly home informed us that she is infected,'' he said. ''We hope that her case will inspire other people to be positive and that this virus is beatable."

Ogulin's family are planning a large celebration when they are reunited after restrictions are lifted.

UK deaths could be 40 percent higher than daily figures, data suggests

The true extent of the death toll in Britain from COVID-19 was more than 40 percent higher than the daily figures from the government indicated by April 10, according to data on Tuesday that includes deaths in the community.

The Office for National Statistics said it recorded 13,121 deaths by April 10 in England and Wales, which account for the vast majority of Britain's population, compared with 9,288 in the government's daily toll for those who died in hospital. The latest hospital deaths data published on Monday show 16,509 people had died across the United Kingdom.

If the United Kingdom's figures are underestimating the death toll by a similar figure, then the true death toll for the country as a whole could be above 23,000 based on the latest data, making it the second worst hit in Europe after Italy.

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Singapore further tightens restrictions as infections spike

Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong tightened coronavirus restrictions following a spike of over 1,100 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday. The majority of the new cases were detected in migrant worker dormitories through aggressive testing, with most patients presenting mild symptoms and none requiring intensive care, Lee said in a  statement that was broadcast on Tuesday. 

Known as "circuit breaker measures," the tightened restrictions include the further closure of non-essential workplaces and schools. Increased safe distancing measures have been introduced, limiting traffic in stores and public areas. The restrictions were also extended until June 1, from the initial date of May 4th.

“The circuit breaker is working, but now we need to do more,” Lee said.

Italy reports decline in the number of people sick with coronavirus for the first time

For the first time since the coronavirus hit Italy, the country saw a decline in the number of people who are actively with the disease on Monday. 

There were 108,237 people reported sick — down by 20 people from the previous day, health authorities announced. And nearly 80 percent of those people were sick at home. 

It's a small but significant victory as the country looks to roll back some of its lockdown measures which are in place until May 3. Italy has the third-highest caseload in the world, following the United States and Spain, with over 181,000 confirmed coronavirus cases.

Russia's largest internet company offers free and fast at-home tests

Russia’s largest internet company, Yandex, has launched a free at-home coronavirus testing service to anyone who wants to be tested.

The company, which is similar to Google in Russia, has set up a special site that will see medical professionals dispatched to homes at the click of a button.

Paramedics in full protective gear will come over, take mouth and nose swabs, and within three days the results will be available, the company said. 

Italy's PM says some coronavirus restrictions could be lifted on May 4

Italy expects to release later this week its plan to slowly come out of lockdown with some loosened measures coming into effect on May 4, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Tuesday.

"Many citizens are tired and would like a significant relaxation of the measures or even their total abolition," Conte wrote in a Facebook post, adding that restarting the economy can't happen in one day given the risk of the virus rebounding. 

Italy has been one of the worst-hit countries in the world with at least 24,114 deaths and over 181,000 cases reported as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

Munich's Oktoberfest cancelled due to coronavirus concerns

German officials canceled Oktoberfest on Tuesday amid concerns of spreading the coronavirus.

"The risk is simply too high," said the head of Bavaria, Markus Soeder, about the Munich festival in a statement.

The 187th annual event was due to be held from September 19 to October 4. It attracts as many as 6 million visitors donning traditional lederhosen and drinking beer. Organizers said that they expect next year's festival will see "a particularly beautiful and intensive celebration" to make up for it.

Tom Brady busted while working out at closed Tampa park

Tom Brady has been working out — but outside in a Florida park that's off-limits because of the coronavirus epidemic.

The person who spotted the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' new quarterback in the Tampa park wasn't there for an autograph, she was a city worker telling him it was closed, Tampa's mayor said.

Mayor Jane Castor said in a live Facebook video chat Monday that with city parks closed, park staff have been visiting the sites to ensure that people weren't engaging in contact sports or other activities that violate social distancing measures that health experts say are key to slowing the virus' spread.

Read the full story here

West Virginia plan to test all nursing home residents, staff, begins

West Virginia's effort to test all residents and staff of the state's nursing homes for the coronavirus illness COVID-19 began Monday, the governor said.

The effort has been called the first of its kind in the nation. Gov. Jim Justice issued an executive order mandating the testing Friday.  Nursing home residents can be particularly vulnerable to COVID-19. Justice said he believes that testing could be completed within a week.

"We’re going to have real, live data that we hope will help us to isolate and treat people, even those who may not have symptoms yet," he said in a statement.

NBC News reported last week that coronavirus deaths in long-term care facilities across the country had risen to 5,670, according to state health data. The rise was reported to have been driven by huge increases in hard-hit states like New York, where more than 2 percent of nursing home residents have died of the virus.

New Zealand could pull off bold goal of eliminating virus

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — While most countries are working on ways to contain the coronavirus, New Zealand has set itself a much more ambitious goal: eliminating it altogether. And experts believe the country could pull it off. 

Geography has helped. If any place could be described as socially distant it would be New Zealand, surrounded by stormy seas, with Antarctica to the south. With 5 million people spread across an area the size of Britain, even the cities aren’t overly crowded.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has taken bold steps, putting the country under a strict lockdown in late March, when only about 100 people had tested positive for the new virus. 

New Zealand has so far avoided a widespread outbreak, and new cases have dwindled from a peak of about 90 per day in early April to just five on Tuesday, leaving the goal tantalizingly close. Only 13 people have died so far.

“We have the opportunity to do something no other country has achieved: elimination of the virus,” Ardern told reporters last week. “But it will continue to need a team of 5 million behind it.”

Ardern on Monday announced the country would stay in lockdown for another week before slightly easing some work restrictions to help restart the economy. Most of the social restrictions will remain in place.

Photo: Healthcare worker cheers on others in NYC

Image: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in New York
A healthcare worker at the Brooklyn Hospital Center reacts as residents and members of the New York City Fire Department (FDNY) cheer at 7:00pm amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brooklyn, New York on April 20, 2020.Lucas Jackson / Reuters