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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Elizabeth Warren's oldest brother dies from coronavirus

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

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

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.