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House passes $484B relief package, Trump wonders about 'injection' of disinfectant

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
COVID-19 Testing Begins in Historic Black Neighborhoods in Altamonte Springs, US
Health workers test people in cars for COVID-19 at a mobile testing site at the Apostolic Church of Christ in Altamonte Springs, Fla. on April 21, 2020.Paul Hennessy / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading April 24 for coronavirus news.

The House passed another coronavirus relief package Thursday, setting aside nearly $500 billion in loans and grants for businesses, hospitals and testing. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who argued that the legislation needed to fund states and cities, was the only Democratic member to vote against the legislation.

Ruth’s Chris Steak House, which secured $20 million in loans under a $2 trillion package signed into law last month, joined a growing list of businesses Thursday that have said they would return the money. An online petition demanding the move had recorded more than 250,000 signatures.

Speaking to reporters at the White House, President Donald Trump wondered if an “injection” of disinfectant might keep the virus from “doing a number on the lungs.” Experts called this "irresponsible" and "dangerous."

The likely death toll from the disease rose to more than 15,000 in New York City, where public health officials said they had confirmed 10,290 deaths. Another 5,121 fatalities were identified as “probable” COVID-19 cases.

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.

Photo: Viewing of Korean War veteran who died of the coronavirus disease

Image: Viewing of Korean War veteran who died of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Denver
Michael Neel, funeral director of of All Veterans Funeral and Cremation, wearing full PPE, looks at the U.S. flag on the casket of George Trefren, a 90 year old Korean War veteran who died of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in a nursing home, in Denver, Colorado on April 23, 2020.Rick Wilking / Reuters

U.S. military declares public health emergency at African base

The Associated Press

JOHANNESBURG — The U.S. military has declared a public health emergency at its only permanent base in Africa as coronavirus cases in host country Djibouti climb near 1,000.

A statement calls the declaration a precautionary measure and says it affects all personnel, including contractors, at Camp Lemonnier and Chabelley Airfield.

The emergency means any facility can be repurposed for the virus response and health workers can be supplemented with volunteers. More than 4,000 U.S. personnel are based in the Horn of Africa nation.

NFL Draft to return to Las Vegas in 2022

The National Football League will hold he 2022 draft in Las Vegas, after this year's public events scheduled for that city were scrubbed due to the coronavirus epidemic.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who made announcements in Thursday's draft from his basement, said in a statement that he believes the 2022 draft in Vegas will be "an even bigger and better event than we could have ever imagined this year."

The site of the 2021 draft has already been chosen, Cleveland.

California suspends plastic bag law

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has temporarily suspended parts of a state law that bans single-use carryout bags at places like grocery stores, citing the coronavirus epidemic.

The law says that retailers can give out thicker, reusable plastic bags or recycled paper bags with a 10-cent fee. Proponents said the law would reduce plastic pollution.

But Newsom wrote in the executive order signed Thursday that handling reusable bags from customers' homes could place workers at greater risk of contracting the coronavirus.

The order suspends parts of the law for 60 days and allows retailers to give out reusable bags for free or to give out single-use bags. It doesn't affect cities that have their own plastic-bag bans in effect before 2015.

Some grocery stores have already required that people who bring reusable bags fill them themselves, and some have banned reusable bags, according to the California Grocers Association's website about the virus and stores' responses.

Maine in March delayed implementation of that state's plastic-bag ban until January of 2021 in a package of measures designed to respond to the coronavirus epidemic. New Hampshire's governor in a March 21 order required grocers to provide single-use paper or plastic bags, citing the potential risk of transmission from reusable bags brought from home.

'Parks and Recreation' returns for fundraiser special

Five years after leaving television, the characters of NBC's "Parks and Recreation" are getting the band back together for a one-time isolation event, "A Parks and Recreation Special," the network announced Thursday.

The April 30th show will feature original castmembers Amy Poehler, Rashida Jones, Aziz Ansari, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Chris Pratt, Adam Scott, Rob Lowe, Jim O’Heir, Retta and unnamed guest stars.

The event to raise funds for Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund was "all shot from our homes," Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope said in a promotional video.

'It's irresponsible and it's dangerous': Fact checking Trump's disinfectant 'injections' idea

President Donald Trump on Thursday suggested exploring disinfectants as a possible treatment for COVID-19 infections — an extremely dangerous proposition that could kill people, medical experts warn.

“And then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning?" Trump said during his daily press briefing at the White House. 

Disinfectants like bleach are poisonous and dangerous when mishandled, doctors say.

“This notion of injecting or ingesting any type of cleansing product into the body is irresponsible and it’s dangerous," said Dr. Vin Gupta, a pulmonologist, global health policy expert and an NBC News and MSNBC contributor. "It’s a common method that people utilize when they want to kill themselves." 

Read the facts here.

Rolling Stones release a song that ‘resonates’ during coronavirus fight

The Associated Press

 The Rolling Stones have unveiled a new song the band thinks is perfect for these coronavirus times.

The legendary band released the four-minute slow-burning bluesy and harmonica-driven “Living in a Ghost Town ” on Thursday.

“I’m a ghost/Living in a ghost town/You can look for me/But I can’t be found,” sings frontman Mick Jagger, who wrote it with guitarist Keith Richards.

Jagger explained that the song was one they were working on long before the global lockdown and the band decided to revisit it in isolation, thinking it “would resonate through the times that we’re living in right now.” Richards added: “Mick and I decided this one really needed to go to work right now.”

The lyrics do certainly sound timely: “I’m going nowhere/Shut up all alone/So much time to lose/Just staring at my phone.”

Trump suggests 'injection' of disinfectant to beat coronavirus and 'clean' the lungs

Dartunorro Clark


President Donald Trump suggested the possibility of an “injection” of disinfectant into a person infected with coronavirus as a coronavirus deterrent at the White House daily briefing on Thursday.

Trump made the remark after Bill Bryan, a Department of Homeland Security official who leads the department's Science and Technology division gave a presentation on research his team has conducted that shows the virus does not live as long in warmer and more humid temperatures. Bryan said, “the virus dies quickest in sunlight.”

"I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute, one minute. And is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning," the president said during the briefing, speaking to his health officials. "As you see it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that."

Later asked to clarify, Bryan said this is not the kind of work he does in his lab, before Trump jumped in and added, “maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t work.”

Read the full story here.

House gives final passage to $484 billion coronavirus relief bill

WASHINGTON — The House passed a nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus bill on Thursday 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 by the end of the week.

The bill includes more than $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program created by the CARES Act, which was passed late last month. The program, which quickly ran out of money because of heavy demand, provides forgivable loans to small businesses that keep their employees on the payroll.

About $60 billion of the additional PPP funding would be set aside for businesses that do not have established banking relationships, such as rural and minority-owned companies. Expanding access to the aid was a priority for Democrats who worried that some businesses were being shut out of the fund.

Read the full story here. 

Coronavirus infections jump among L.A. County's 60,000 homeless

On Thursday authorities said they had counted more than 100 cases of COVID-19 among Los Angeles County's estimated homeless population of 60,000, with one of the biggest outbreaks hitting dozens of people staying at L.A.'s largest and oldest homeless shelter, the Union Rescue Mission on Skid Row.

Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said cases had risen dramatically this week and there were at least eight ongoing investigations at shelters around the county. 

Efforts to test the county's homeless people have been limited because of testing restrictions and challenges, and more than half of homeless patients who have been tested and tested positive were asymptomatic.

California has now given the green light to test asymptomatic patients, and local health officials hope they can more quickly test the homeless population and isolate and quarantine infected individuals.

New York City coronavirus death toll crosses 15,000 with probable cases

Image: Funeral Home In The Queens Borough Of New York Deals With Influx Of Funerals During Coronavirus Pandemic
Omar Rodriguez organizes bodies in the Gerard Neufeld funeral home in Queens, N.Y., on April 22, 2020.Spencer Platt / Getty Images

More than 15,000 New York City residents have likely died from complications brought on by coronavirus, in another grim milestone announced by health officials on  Thursday. 

There have been 10,290 confirmed deaths connected to the coronavirus pandemic in the five boroughs and at least another 5,121 fatalities have been labeled as probable COVID-19 cases, the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene reported as of 1:30 p.m. ET. 

Bill Gates: Vaccine is 'most likely solution' to pandemic

BIll Gates, Microsoft co-founder turned philanthropist, talks about fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Bronx rapper Fred the Godson dies of coronavirus at 35


Image: Fred The Godson.
Fred The Godson.Johnny Nunez / WireImage

Frederick Thomas, best known as his rap alias Fred the Godson, has died from coronavirus-related complications. He was 35.

The Bronx rapper revealed his diagnosis on April 6 via social media, sharing a picture of himself on a ventilator in the hospital.

Read the full story here. 

Nearly 5,000 U.S. long-term care facilities have coronavirus cases, nearly 11,000 deaths

There are 4,820 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities with coronavirus cases in the U.S. and 10,982 residents have died, according to data from state agencies collected by NBC News.

The number of deaths is an undercount since some high-population states with known COVID-19 outbreaks, like California, Michigan and Ohio, are still not reporting total fatalities. 

The federal government is still not collecting or reporting this data. The latest from a CDC spokesperson to NBC News in an email yesterday was that the agency would be in a position to share data on nursing home outbreaks and deaths “potentially within the next week.”

A spokesperson for the long-term care industry told NBC News the industry is ready to provide information on the number of facilities with cases and the number of deaths to the federal government.

Facing furor, Ruth's Chris high-end steak chain returns $20 million small business loan

Image: Ruth's Chris Restaurant
A Ruth's Chris restaurant in Washington, on April 20, 2020.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Ruth's Chris Steak House will return the $20 million coronavirus small business loan it procured from the government's $350 billion Paycheck Protection Program, the company announced Thursday.

The PPP was designed to throw a financial lifeline to the millions of small businesses who have seen revenues plunge due to social distancing lockdowns — but the hastily conceived program left thousands of applicants high and dry, after funds were snapped up in less than two weeks.

Read the full story here. 

'Saturday Night Live' to do new stay-at-home episode this week

Abortion resumes in Texas following executive order

Texas will allow patients to get an abortion again after Gov. Greg Abbott’s new executive order eased restrictions on some surgical procedures, including abortion. 

The order allows a health care facility to operate if it can set aside 25 percent of its capacity for COVID-19 patients and will not need to request PPE from governmental sources for the duration of the pandemic.

The Center for Reproductive Rights and Planned Parenthood both confirmed on Thursday that abortion providers in Texas had resumed services. 

In March, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the Center for Reproductive Rights and the Lawyering Project sued Texas after the state pushed to ban abortions because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Long-term care facilities want expanded testing

Following the deaths of more than 5,500 residents of long-term care facilities due to the coronavirus epidemic, the American Health Care Association and National Center for Assisted Living are calling upon states to expand testing.

President and CEO of AHCA and NCAL released a statement on Thursday urging federal, state and local health agencies to provide testing kits to the facilities as well as additional personal protective equipment.

“It is time to rally around nursing home and assisted living residents the same way we have around hospital patients and workers. The profession will continue to work with local, state and federal health officials to ensure all possible actions are taken to protect our nation’s most vulnerable and our heroes on the front lines. It is time to make America’s long term care residents a priority.”

The comments came in response to Dr. Deborah Birx’s call upon states to prioritize testing for long term care facilities.


CDC: Language barriers helped turn Smithfield Foods meat plant into COVID-19 hotspot

Forty different languages are spoken at the South Dakota pork processing plant that has become a coronavirus hot spot, but workers who showed symptoms were sent home with informational packets that were written only in English, federal investigators revealed Thursday.

That failure to communicate may be part of the reason why some 783 workers at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls have tested positive and two have died from COVID-19, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a 15-page memo.

Read the full story here.

ESPN's Todd McShay reveals he has coronavirus, will miss NFL Draft

Todd McShay of ESPN
Todd McShay of ESPN.Mark Brown / Getty Images

ESPN football analyst Todd McShay is suffering from coronavirus and will be sidelined from his network's NFL Draft coverage, the TV personality revealed on Thursday.

"I also want to assure you I'll be back, thanks to the tireless work of healthcare workers and first responders," McShay, 43, wrote on Twitter. "You are truly our nation's heroes." 

Pro football's annual draft of top college players is taking on extra significance this year with virtually all the world's sports shut down by the coronavirus pandemic. The Cincinnati Bengals will be on the clock at about 8 p.m. ET.

Trump’s coronavirus drug push came after he talked with billionaire supporter, source says

Geoff Bennett

Geoff Bennett and Dareh Gregorian

WASHINGTON — A top Health and Human Services official who said he was transferred from his post for pushing back on “efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections” felt pressured to rush access to chloroquine treatments for coronavirus after President Donald Trump had a conversation about it with a mega-rich donor, a source close to the doctor told NBC News.

Dr. Rick Bright said he was instructed to implement a national program aimed at expanding access to the drug without proper controls in place and despite the lack of peer-reviewed clinical data on the drug's effectiveness following a conversation Trump had with Oracle Chairman Larry Ellison, the source said.

Bright was deputy assistant secretary of Health and Human Services for preparedness and response and director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, until earlier this week when he said he was "involuntarily transferred to a more limited and less impactful position at the National Institutes of Health" for having pushed back against pressure for widespread use of the drug.

Read the full story here.

Vote-by-mail advocates worry time is running out to prepare

Some of the most ardent supporters of voting by mail have a warning: Time is running out to prepare for the November election.

Officials who want to offer far more voters the option of mailing in their ballots are running out of time to make that option a reality, experts warned Wednesday during a livestreamed hearing hosted by the Election Assistance Commission, the federal agency tasked with giving states guidance on how to effectively conduct their elections.

Scanning machines, ballots and even envelopes can become roadblocks if states do act soon enough.

Read the full story here.

NFL coaches, GMs prepare for tonight's draft — from their homes

New York Times to stop printing Sunday travel section

Claire Atkinson

The New York Times is replacing its Sunday travel and sport print sections with new coverage of life during the pandemic, called “At Home,” according to a company memo.

Travel will temporarily cease production, while sports news will shift into the first section of the newspaper. 

Travel editor Amy Virshup will oversee "At Home," which will cover what to watch, listen to, read, cook, make and play, according to the memo. It will also include virtual travel guides and beauty tips and “what’s happening in the night skies.”

The memo says that the travel section will return when the pandemic eases. 

Tom Hanks sends letter, typewriter to Australian boy bullied over his name: Corona


Image: Tom Hanks on Nov. 22, 2019.
Tom Hanks on Nov. 22, 2019.Nathan Congleton / NBC

Tom Hanks has sent a letter and a Corona-brand typewriter to an Australian boy who wrote to him about being bullied over his name, Corona, Australian television networks reported on Thursday.

Corona De Vries, an 8-year-old from the Gold Coast in Queensland state wrote to the Hollywood star after he and his wife, Rita, had spent more than two weeks in quarantine after testing positive for COVID-19 in the Australian beach resort.

Read the full story here.

Empty highways lure California drivers to speed, with citations up 87 percent

A mostly empty highway through downtown Los Angeles just before noon on April 7, 2020.Robyn Beck / AFP - Getty Images file

Too many car-loving Californians, with wide open highways beckoning and possible boredom at home, are taking to roads at dangerous, triple-digit speeds, authorities said Wednesday.

The California Highway Patrol has issued 87 percent more citations for driving at least 100 mph since the state's coronavirus shutdown began,  officials said.

“Fewer cars on the road doesn’t give drivers the green light to travel over the speed limit,” the state's Office of Traffic Safety Director Barbara Rooney said in a statement.

Read the full story here.

LGBTQ activists join forces to reimagine Pride amid coronavirus pandemic

Facing a wave of cancellations amid the global pandemic, LGBTQ activists are scrambling to reimagine gay pride events, some of which are among the biggest in-person gatherings in the world

The latest major city to announce a cancellation was New York, the birthplace of the original pride march and the site of last year’s blockbuster Stonewall 50 pride celebration, which drew 5 million people to the city’s streets to celebrate the half-century anniversary of the historic 1969 Stonewall uprising.

Read the full story here.

First pollution, now coronavirus: Black parish in Louisiana deals with 'a double whammy' of death

Trymaine Lee

St. James Parish is a nearly majority black parish of about 21,000 people. It sits halfway between New Orleans and Baton Rouge — along an 85-mile stretch that is home to more than 200 chemical plants and refineries. Even before the coronavirus arrived, there was so much sickness and death in that corridor of southeastern Louisiana that it's been given the nickname Cancer Alley. And more recently, Death Alley.

Read the full story here.

Georgia reports 772 new coronavirus cases as businesses prepare to reopen

Dan Good

Georgia reported 772 additional COVID-19 cases and 36 deaths at noon Thursday, hours before Gov. Brian Kemp's heavily criticized plan to reopen state businesses takes effect.

The state has recorded 872 coronavirus deaths and 21,512 cases.

President Donald Trump on Wednesday said he "strongly disagrees" with Kemp's executive order to allow businesses like gyms, bowling alleys, barbers, cosmetologists and nail care artists to reopen with restricted operations on Friday.

Kemp later tweeted that he appreciated Trump's "bold leadership and insight during these difficult times," but he declined to back down. "Our next measured step is driven by data and guided by state public health officials. We will continue with this approach to protect the lives - and livelihoods - of all Georgians," Kemp wrote.

N.Y. Gov. Cuomo says state nursing homes will be investigated

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that nursing homes in New York would be investigated to ensure that they were following the guidelines that had been put in place during the outbreak.

Cuomo said nursing homes are required to: 

  • Have their staffs undergo regular temperature checks and wear personal protective equipment.
  • Quarantine residents infected with the virus.
  • Have separate staff for residents who test positive for COVID-19.
  • Notify residents and family members within 24 hours if any resident tests positive for or dies because of the coronavirus.
  • Transfer residents to another facility if they cannot provide adequate care for them.
  • Readmit those infected only if the facilities can provide adequate care as dictated by the CDC and the state department of health.

Cuomo said Attorney General Letitia James would be helping to ensure these rules are being met.

Gov. Cuomo releases preliminary estimates from antibody study

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday released preliminary estimates from an antibody study.

The state collected approximately 3,000 antibody samples from 40 locations in 19 counties. Preliminary estimates show a 13.9 percent infection rate, or an estimated 2.7 million people statewide, Cuomo said.

The results were broken down by region, race and age. No one younger than the age of 18 was tested. 

"This basically quantifies what we have been seeing anecdotally," Cuomo said. 

House expected to pass latest coronavirus bill, send to Trump

The House is expected to pass a nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus bill Thursday that includes more money for the small business loan program, as well as funds for hospitals and testing. President Donald Trump is expected to sign it by the end of the week.

The bill includes more than $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which quickly ran out of money after it was created by the CARES Act passed late last month. It also provides $60 billion in loans and grants for the Small Business Administration’s disaster relief fund, $75 billion for hospitals and $25 billion for coronavirus testing.

The interim bill does not include additional funding for state and local governments that Democrats wanted and say will be a priority for the next round of legislation, as well as money for election reform, hazard pay for frontline workers and additional funding for the U.S. Postal Service. But Republicans are already raising issues with those priorities.

Read the full story here.

Photos: Pony at your window

Welsh mountain pony "Annie's Wizz"
Bryony Blant and her daughter Alice, who celebrated her second birthday Thursday, admire Welsh mountain pony "Annie's Wizz" outside their home in Twickenham, London.Justin Tallis / AFP - Getty Images
Welsh pony
Park Lane Stables is hoping to spread cheer during the lockdown in an initiative called "Tiny Pony at Your Window."Justin Tallis / AFP - Getty Images

Bill Gates: 'We can’t count' on 'miraculous treatment'

Bill Gates outlined how he understands the coronavirus pandemic and explained what he thinks the world must do to recover from the outbreak in an essay released on Thursday.

Comparing coronavirus to a world war and calling the current moment "Pandemic I," the Microsoft co-founder spoke to the need to raise huge amounts of money to combat the virus. "I think of this as the billions we need to spend so we can save trillions," Gates wrote.

Discussing plans for contact tracing, testing and vaccination, Gates surmised for the world to get back to normal by 2021 and attend big events there would need to be a "miraculous treatment." 

"We need a treatment that is 95 percent effective in order for people to feel safe in big public gatherings," he wrote. "Although it is’s not likely, so we can’t count on it."

Gates said that ultimately leaders at every level will "need to make trade-offs based on the risks and benefits of opening various parts of the economy."

Michigan gov. plans to extend parts of stay-at-home order while likely easing others

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Thursday that her state’s restrictive stay-at-home order is effectively slowing the rate of coronavirus infections and that she plans to issue an executive order that will extend restrictions while likely permitting some forms of activity.

“It's working. We have flattened our curve, which means we have saved lives,” Whitmer said about her state’s stay-at-home order in an interview on MSNBC’s “Live with Stephanie Ruhle.”

But Michigan is “not out of the woods yet,” she added. The reopening of Michigan’s economy will happen in waves in which officials will measure whether it’s safe to take the next step, she said.

Read more on the story here.

Cornell suspends ACT/SAT admissions testing for next year

Cornell University has become the first Ivy League school to announce it is dropping requirements for fall 2021 applicants to have taken the SAT or ACT, a decision made in the wake of college testing cancellations amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The university said on its website that students who want to enroll at Cornell beginning next August can submit applications without SAT or ACT results. The exemption will be in effect for both early decision and regular decision applicants.

Officials, however, said the exemption is not permanent. The university anticipates "many students who will have had reasonable and uninterrupted opportunities to take the ACT and/or SAT during 2020 administrations will continue to submit results." Cornell added that it will work with applicants "to arrive at a reasonable and well-informed understanding of each applicant's circumstances."

Elizabeth Warren's oldest brother dies from coronavirus

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said Thursday that her oldest brother died from coronavirus earlier this week.

“My oldest brother, Don Reed, died from coronavirus on Tuesday evening. He joined the Air Force at 19 and spent his career in the military, including five and a half years off and on in combat in Vietnam. He was charming and funny, a natural leader,” the former presidential candidate said, linking to a story from The Boston Globe about her brother’s death.

The Globe identified Warren's brother as Donald Reed Herring and said he died Tuesday at the age of 86 in Norman, Oklahoma, about three weeks after he tested positive for COVID-19. He was the oldest of Warren’s three brothers. The other two, John Herring and David Herring, are still alive, the report said. 

Read the full story here.

'This is a good day,' NYC mayor says of decline in hospitalizations and ICU patients

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shared a bit of good news Thursday, saying the number of people with the coronavirus admitted to hospitals and the total number in intensive care have both declined. 

The mayor said the latest daily report shows 227 new hospital admissions. That is down from 252 on April 20. 

The total number of patients currently in intensive-care units has also dropped to 796. De Blasio said that on April 20 more than 800 people were in ICUs.

"This is a good day," he said, adding, "We just have to keep doing what we're doing." 

The newest numbers also show 2,519 new confirmed coronavirus cases in the city, the mayor said.

Photo: Stretching in the ICU

Image: The spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues in Barcelona
Staff members perform yoga stretches and breathing exercises Thursday in the ICU at a hospital in Barcelona. Spain is among the world's worst-hit countries by the new coronavirus, with a death toll of nearly 22,000 and more than 204,000 infections.Nacho Doce / Reuters

Contact tracing proposal by Sen. Warren, Rep. Levin would create 'containment corps'

Citing a lack of a coordinated effort from the White House when it comes to contact tracing, two Congressional Democrats whose states have among the highest cases of the coronavirus in the nation are proposing a "coronavirus containment corps," making up a tracing workforce to assist state and local health departments.

The proposal, shared with NBC News by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Rep. Andy Levin, D-Mich., would be implemented through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and include the CDC's director submitting a strategy to Congress on hiring, training and deploying people who can help health authorities do contact tracing and with the U.S. Department of Labor providing funding to state and local workforce agencies, which would in turn assist unemployed individuals find jobs as contact tracers and other related roles.

Read more about the proposal here.

Colleges, universities still waiting for promised emergency aid for students

Josh Lederman

Colleges and universities across the U.S. are still waiting for most of the $6.3 billion set aside by Congress to help students struggling to pay for food, housing and child care during the coronavirus pandemic.

And a decision by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos this week to prohibit “Dreamers” and most other foreign nationals from accessing the funds has heightened concerns about the welfare of some of the most economically vulnerable students, university officials said.

Nearly a month after President Donald Trump signed the economic relief package into law, just 1 in 10 schools that applied for funds for their students have been approved, figures provided by the Education Department show.

As of Wednesday, only $750 million if the $6.4 billion had been awarded, although the department said that number was growing quickly.

Get more details here.

At the extremes of the earth, scientists stymied by coronavirus concerns

Tom Metcalfe

Tom Metcalfe and Linda Givetash
McMurdo Station in Antarctica.
The McMurdo Station in Antarctica on Oct. 13, 2016.DigitalGlobe / via Getty Images

Winter is coming to Antarctica. The sun rises for only a few hours each day at McMurdo Station, and the last support aircraft are heading home, leaving the base to a small "winter-over" crew. It's some of the most extreme work a scientist can do.

And this year there's a new concern — keeping the Antarctic free from the coronavirus.

Read the full story here.

China says total active cases are now below 1,000

Eric Baculinao

Isobel van Hagen

Eric Baculinao and Isobel van Hagen

The total number of active coronavirus cases in China has been reported to be under 1,000, China’s National Health Commission said on Thursday.

While the country has had a total of 82,798 confirmed cases, 77,207 of those patients were discharged after they made recoveries. Also on Thursday, China reported no new deaths from the virus.

China, where the global outbreak originated, has started to tentatively loosen restrictions on residents, as the number of reported infections in the country continue to fall.

Gap says it can't pay its April rent, may close some stores for good

Claire Atkinson

With hundreds of locations shuttered due to the coronavirus, Gap is the latest Main Street staple to stop paying rent.

“Under common law we are not obligated to pay rent for stores that have been closed because of government and public health authority orders,” the company said Thursday.

The retailer said it had suspended April rent payments of around $115 million month in North America. Gap warned that it may terminate some leases and close some stores, though it would negotiate its current leases to defer or abate rent during the time that stores are closed, according to an SEC filing.

It joins companies such as The Cheesecake Factory, Staples, Dave & Buster's, and AMC Theatres, in not paying April rent during the shutdown. 

Photo: Inside Oxford's vaccine trials


Oxford Covid -19 vaccine team
A member of Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine team.Sean Elias / Oxford University

A team at Britain's Oxford University began clinical trials of a potential COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday called "ChAdOx1 nCoV-19." 

As many as 100 potential COVID-19 candidate vaccines are now under development by biotech and research teams around the world, and at least five of these are in preliminary testing in people in what are known as Phase 1 clinical trials.

The Oxford scientists said last week that large-scale production capacity was being put in place to make millions of doses of the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 shot, even before trials show whether it is effective.

Almost half of Europe’s virus deaths in care homes, says WHO

Isobel van Hagen

The number of people dying from coronavirus in Europe’s care homes is an “unimaginable human tragedy,” as new estimates from the the World Health Organization suggest they make up nearly half of all deaths from the disease in the region. Earlier this week, the continent surpassed 100,000 coronavirus deaths.

There is a “deeply concerning picture” emerging regarding those in long-term care facilities, the WHO's director for Europe told a press conference on Thursday.

“This pandemic has shone a spotlight on the overlooked and undervalued corners of our society. Across the European Region, long-term care has often been notoriously neglected. But it should not be this way,” said Dr. Hans Kluge, as he urged future investment in setting up person-centered long-term care facilities throughout Europe.

Jobless claims reach 26 million since coronavirus hit, wiping out all gains since 2008 recession

David Gura

Another 4.4 million Americans filed for initial jobless claims last week, revealing that at least 26 million people have requested unemployment benefits since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

In just one month, all job gains since the Great Recession have disappeared, according to new data released Thursday by the Department of Labor. The economy had created around 22 million jobs since 2010, during a historic decade of economic expansion that came to an abrupt end in February.

Over the last three weeks, initial jobless claims have declined, but they are still jaw-dropping totals. Many economists worry that, as the crisis continues, there could be a second wave of layoffs as businesses realize they cannot survive any longer.

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Chinese citizen journalist resurfaces after going missing in Wuhan


A Chinese citizen journalist who posted videos in February about the coronavirus situation in the city of Wuhan — where the outbreak originated — resurfaced on Wednesday after going missing for almost two months. Li Zehua, 25, was one of three citizen journalists who went missing in Wuhan. In a YouTube video posted Wednesday, he said he had been forcibly quarantined.

A video he published on Feb. 20 showed temporary porters being hired to transport corpses of people who apparently died of the coronavirus. It was viewed 850,000 times on YouTube, which is blocked in China. Days later, he posted live video footage of the police coming to his home. He was then not heard from until his new video was posted on Wednesday.

The other two citizen journalists, Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin, who according to media reports also posted footage of overwhelmed hospitals and corpses piled in a minibus, have not yet resurfaced publicly. U.S. Congressman Jim Banks called in March 31 on the U.S. State Department to urge China to investigate the disappearance of the three. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying dismissed Banks' call at the time, saying it was "totally based on trumped up messages and information."

Restrictions bring long lines of traffic in Indonesia

Image: Drivers wait in lines for a check in Bandung, Indonesia on Thursday where during large-scale restrictions are in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
Drivers wait in lines for a check Thursday in Bandung where large-scale restrictions are in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus.Antara Foto / Reuters

Peter Jeary

UN warns pandemic is becoming a 'human rights crisis'

Isobel van Hagen

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Thursday the coronavirus is “far more” than a public health emergency, explaining it is also an economic and social crisis that is “fast becoming a human rights crisis.”

The U.N. chief said in a video message that there is discrimination in the delivery of public services to tackle COVID-19 and there are “structural inequalities that impede access to them.” However, the chief didn't mention any countries by name. 

Guterres released a U.N. report on Thursday where he warned of “rising ethno-nationalism, populism, authoritarianism and a push back against human rights in some countries,” saying  “the crisis can provide a pretext to adopt repressive measures for purposes unrelated to the pandemic.” The report called for governments to be transparent, responsive and accountable while “protecting human rights and the rule of law” in the time of the outbreak.

Peter Jeary

New coronavirus cases halved in Israeli ultra-Orthodox city after military lockdown


Kelly Cobiella

Paul Goldman

Linda Givetash, Kelly Cobiella and Paul Goldman

The rate of new infections has been halved at a coronavirus hot spot in Israel after a military lockdown brought life in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community to a standstill.

Not all residents of Bnei Brak heeded the government's instructions to stay home, resulting in the rapid spread of the virus earlier this month, and leading health experts to fear as many as a third of the population of about 200,000 could be infected.

Israeli forces descended on Bnei Brak on April 3, blocking roads and forcing residents to stay indoors. Israel's Health Ministry reported at the time that the city had 1,061 confirmed cases — a handful less than the 1,132 recorded in Jerusalem, a city that is more than four times its size.

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China to donate an additional $30 million to WHO

Dawn Liu

China will donate $30 million to the World Health Organization, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Thursday, in support of coronavirus prevention and health systems in developing countries. The contribution will be on top of $20 million donated by China in March, it said.

“Since the outbreak of the new coronavirus, WHO, under the leadership of Director General Ghebreyesus, has actively fulfilled its responsibilities and upholds an objective, fair and scientific standpoint," said spokesperson Geng Shuang in a daily briefing. "It has played an important role in assisting countries to cope with the epidemic and promote international cooperation in the fight against epidemics."

China's donation to the WHO reflects the support and trust of the Chinese government and people in the WHO, Shuang said. Last week, President Donald Trump halted funding to the organization. The U.S. is the largest contributor to the WHO and sent more than $57.8 million earlier this year.

Peter Jeary

City with China's largest current outbreak tightens lockdown

Eric Baculinao

A city of 10 million in northeastern China made further restrictions on movement on Wednesday according to government officials, as it tried to contain what is now China’s largest outbreak. 

Harbin, the provincial capital of Heilongjiang, has 52 reported coronavirus cases. It has banned entry to residential zones by non-locals and will lockdown residential blocks housing COVID-19 patients for 14 days, state media reported. Those entering and exiting communities must “always wear a mask, check their body temperature and scan their individual health code,” the Provincial Civil Affairs Department said in a press release. 

Heilongjiang has been in the forefront of China's latest efforts to identify infected citizens arriving from Russia — with which it shares a border — to curb the spread of the virus, according to Reuters. Infections in China — where the virus originated — have generally slowed in recent weeks. The country reported no new confirmed deaths on Thursday.

German chancellor says pandemic 'still at the beginning'

Andy Eckardt

Isobel van Hagen

Andy Eckardt and Isobel van Hagen

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday urged Germans to show persistence and discipline to get through the pandemic that is "still at the beginning."

"We are on thin ice, the thinnest ice even," Merkel told the Bundestag lower house of Parliament, saying that Germans must still be vigilant despite a recent decline in the number of cases. Germany should not “gamble away” what it has achieved, she said, referencing attempt of local states to loosen lockdown restrictions.

She also called the WHO "an indispensable partner," distancing her government from President Donald Trump's pause in U.S. funding to the global body. Germany — which has more than 150,000 infections — has the fifth highest COVID-19 caseload behind the U.S., Spain, Italy and France, but has kept fatalities down due to early and extensive testing.

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Italian cruise ship in Japan confirms 48 coronavirus cases

Arata Yamamoto

Image: The cruise ship Costa Atlantica docked at a port in Nagasaki on Wednesday.
The cruise ship Costa Atlantica docked at a port in Nagasaki on Wednesday.Jiji Press / AFP - Getty Images

An Italian cruise ship docked in Nagasaki City, Japan has confirmed at least 48 cases of coronavirus, the Nagasaki Prefecture government said on Thursday. There are currently 623 crew members, and no passengers, onboard the Costa Atlantica.

The staff onboard have mild symptoms and remain quarantined on board in single rooms, except for those on essential duties, including cooking and delivering food for their colleagues, officials said. One crew member was transferred to the hospital after his condition worsened and is now on a ventilator, according to a local government official. 

The cruise ship has been docked in Nagasaki City, Japan for repairs since late January. The Costa Atlantica infections come after the cases on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Yokohama two months ago, where more than 700 passengers and crew were found to be infected.

NBC News

California town tests every resident for COVID-19

Virus shutdowns will likely make NFL draft most bet on ever

The Associated Press

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — For those who haven’t mastered the odds of Belarussian soccer or Russian table tennis, this week’s NFL draft gives U.S. gamblers their first opportunity in weeks to bet on an event about which they actually know something.

With major sports shut down for more than a month because of the coronavirus outbreak, American sportsbooks say they expect football’s annual draft to be the most bet on ever.

Desperate to offer a familiar event, online sportsbooks say they are seeing a much greater volume of bets on the draft this year.

Several sportsbooks estimated the gambling industry as a whole could see $5 million wagered on the draft in the U.S. this year; FOX Bet estimated the market at $20 million, up from a typical draft of about $1 million.

Vegas workers push back after call to reopen casinos, hotels

After Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman called Wednesday for the swift reopening of hotels and casinos, many who earn livelihoods in such establishments said they were afraid to return unless strict safety measures were introduced for themselves and guests.

Although Goodman said the businesses should reopen, she did not provide any guidelines on how they should handle social distancing and other safety measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"I want us open in the city of Las Vegas so our people can go back to work," Goodman said in a CNN interview. She was asked how that could be accomplished while prioritizing employees' safety by implementing social distancing.

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