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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.

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.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

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

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

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.