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

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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:

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Colleges, universities still waiting for promised emergency aid for students

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Read the full story here.

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

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

UN warns pandemic is becoming a 'human rights crisis'

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.