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Trump signs aid package as U.S. death toll tops 50,000

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) antibody walk-in testing site in Brooklyn, New York City
Healthcare workers wear personal protective equipment (P.P.E.) at a SOMOS Community Care COVID-19 antibody walk-in testing site during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Brooklyn, New York on April 24, 2020.Andrew Kelly / Reuters

President Donald Trump signed a nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus bill into law Friday that includes more money for the small-business loan program, hospitals and testing.

The bill includes more than $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, created by the CARES Act, which was passed late last month and provides forgivable loans to small businesses that keep their employees on the payroll.

Meanwhile, experts ripped Trump's idea of injecting disinfectant as a possible treatment for coronavirus infections. But during the ceremony, Trump walked back his comments from Thursday, saying he was being “sarcastic.”

The new legislation comes as the death toll in the U.S. topped 50,000 on Friday, according to NBC News' tally. The global recorded death toll has passed 190,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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 25 for coronavirus news.

Hospital ship discharges few remaining patients before NY exit

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 docked at Pier 90 on Manhattan's West Side in New York on April 3.Mike Segar / Reuters file

The Navy hospital ship sent to relieve stress on New York City hospitals at the height of the pandemic is discharging or transferring its last 12 patients this weekend as it nears the end of its mission, according to Northwell Health, which provides operational assistance to the vessel.

The USNS Comfort, docked at a Manhattan pier since March 30, will soon leave for its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, where it will restock and be readied for another possible assignment, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said. He did not provide a date for the ship’s departure.

As of Saturday, the 1,000-bed hospital ship had treated just 182 patients.

Originally deployed to care for patients without coronavirus, the Comfort switched gears and started accepting them as the city’s hospitals became overrun with people suffering from the disease.

First lady sending gifts to hospitals in hard-hit states

WASHINGTON — Melania Trump is sending blankets, caps and other gifts to hospitals in 10 states, including some hit hardest by the new coronavirus outbreak, for use by medical staff and children who are patients.

The care packages were shipped Thursday to hospitals in New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Florida, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Delaware, Nevada and the District of Columbia, the White House said.

“The medical community has gone above and beyond to protect the health of the American People,” the first lady said in a statement. The packages are “just a small token of my appreciation for their courage and leadership in this time of need.”

The hospitals were not identified. She met doctors and nurses at some of the hospitals during past visits to promote her youth program, the White House said.

The gifts bear the logo of her “Be Best” youth initiative and include blankets, caps, tote bags, pencils, backpacks, stickers, Dr. Seuss books and games for young patients.

UFC to hold 3 shows without fans in Florida

The UFC is returning to competition on May 9 for three shows without fans in eight days in Jacksonville, Florida.

The mixed martial arts promotion announced its plans Friday to return to action after postponing and canceling several shows due to the coronavirus pandemic.

UFC 249 will be held May 9 at VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville with no fans in attendance. The pay-per-view show will still be headlined by Tony Ferguson’s interim lightweight title bout against Justin Gaethje.

UFC President Dana White also plans to hold shows on May 13 and May 16 at the same arena in northern Florida. Only “essential personnel” will be in the arena, according to White.

Can the U.S. learn any lessons from Denmark as it reopens schools for youngest students?

Showdown looms between Silicon Valley, U.S. states over contact tracing apps

U.S. states promoting apps that could prove essential to ending the coronavirus lockdown may be headed for a showdown with the two Silicon Valley companies that control key software on 99 percent of smartphones over the collection of sensitive GPS location data.

Apple Inc and Alphabet Inc's Google plan to release technology jointly in the coming weeks for digital contact tracing through Bluetooth sensors on phones. Public health authorities have determined that the technology is crucial to apps that will alert people when they have been close to people who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

For contact tracing apps to work, however, millions of people must be willing to use them without fear their locations and other personal data is being tracked and stored.

Google and Apple have sought to build public trust by emphasizing that the changes they are making to Bluetooth to allow the tracing apps to work will not tap phones' GPS sensors, which privacy activists see as too intrusive.

Read the full story here.

Officials order closure of Colorado Walmart after 3 virus deaths

Health officials in suburban Denver said Thursday they closed a Walmart Supercenter in Aurora, Colorado, after three people associated with the location died from COVID-19.

A 72-year-old woman who worked there, her 63-year-old husband and a 69-year-old security contractor have died, the Tri-County Health Department said in a statement. Six other employees have coronavirus, and another three are awaiting test results. 

The department said it received "a series of complaints" from employees and shoppers about improper social distancing and workers not wearing masks at the store.

Walmart said in a statement that it will sanitize the store. It said it had installed plexiglass barriers at checkout counters, and install floor decals promoting social distancing.

"We recognize how hard this is for our associates in Aurora and everyone impacted by this difficult situation," it said. "We want to do everything we can to support them at this time. We will continue to work closely with Tri-County Health Department and take additional steps as needed to re-open the store."

Navy officials recommend reinstatement for ship commander

Top U.S. Navy officials Friday recommended that Capt. Brett Crozier, criticized by President Donald Trump for seeking help after a coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Roosevelt, be reinstated to the ship's command.

According to a U.S. defense official, a source familiar with the matter and a former defense official, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Acting Secretary of the Navy Jim McPherson both laid out a series of options to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper on Friday afternoon, including the recommendation that Crozier be reinstated.

Crozier was relieved of the aircraft carrier's command April 2 by Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who subsequently resigned after he suggested Crozier was "stupid" for sounding the alarm without greater consideration for the security of his communication to brass.

Read the full story here.

Private haven for wealthy received $2M from small business loan program

A housing association representing the richest zip code in America was approved to receive a $2 million emergency coronavirus relief loan from the Small Business Administration.

The Fisher Island Community Association, which manages the members-only private island off the Miami coast that can only be reached by helicopter or boat and once counted Oprah Winfrey as a member, was approved for a Paycheck Protection Program loan intended to help small businesses who had shuttered, laid off workers, or furloughed staff due to the viral outbreak.

Ana Tinsly, a spokesperson for public services union SEIU Florida, said earlier this week that she was not aware of any layoffs, according to The Miami Herald.

The $2 million loan comes as scrutiny mounts over the structure of the government's emergency program, which allowed many companies with strong cash flow to receive millions of dollars in forgivable loans while small businesses desperate for cash were shut out.

Michael Avenatti leaves jail after quarantine

Attorney Michael Avenatti was released from jail Friday to prevent the spread of COVID-19, his lawyer said.

"In this case, the court recognized the grave danger to federal inmates, and took action," Dean Steward said in a statement. "We are grateful for the court's insight and fairness."

Avenatti, known for representing adult performer Stormy Daniels in her legal saga involving President Donald Trump, was convicted in February of trying to extort Nike. He was being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan awaiting sentencing.

A judge said the release was temporary and that Avenatti must report back in 90 days. He was released at 11 a.m. after being quarantined behind bars for two weeks. Avenatti still faces legal troubles in California, where he is alleged to have defrauded clients.

Smithfield Foods sued over working conditions in Missouri, closes Illinois plant

Smithfield Foods Inc., the world's largest pork processor, announced Friday it is indefinitely closing an Illinois plant next week after a "small portion" of its 1,700 employees tested positive for COVID-19.

Employees will be paid during the closure, the company said in a statement.

The Monmouth plant represents approximately 3 percent of U.S. fresh pork supplies, according to Smithfield, and also produces bacon.

The news comes one day after Smithfield was accused in a lawsuit of failing to adequately protect workers at a Missouri plant who have been forced to work "shoulder to shoulder" during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full story here.

Trump skips questions at briefing after disinfectant debacle

A day after he floated the idea of using disinfectants and light to treat COVID-19, President Donald Trump declined to take any questions at his daily coronavirus briefing at the White House.

The briefing — which can sometimes last about two hours — was over in just over 20 minutes, following remarks from Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and FDA head Stephen Hahn. The two top government doctors charged with combating the crisis, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, did not attend.

On Thursday, Trump drew widespread criticism for suggesting light, heat and injecting disinfectants could be used to treat coronavirus patients. Doctors called the idea dangerous and irresponsible, while state and local government agencies and disinfectant manufacturers warned the products should not be ingested or injected.

Trump tried walking back the comments earlier Friday, claiming his suggestions had been "sarcastic."

Read the full story here.

U.S. coronavirus cases surpass 900,000

The number of coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 900,000 Friday, reaching 901,490, according to NBC News' count.

The latest figures also include 51,523 fatalities related to the virus.

New York continues to lead the nation in case numbers, with 271,590. It had 21,264 deaths, including 5,102 fatalities that were not tested but probable. 

New Jersey reported 102,196 cases and  5,617 deaths. Massachusetts Friday added 4,946 cases and 196 deaths to its tally.

Some traveling nurses helping in New York face uncertain future

Barbara Edwards had never been to New York City when she decided to drop everything and leave her two children behind in Florida to help.

"I'm in the job of saving lives,” she said. “That is my job -- and I felt like the lives were in New York City that needed to be saved."

She’s among thousands of medical workers who went to the nation’s coronavirus epicenter weeks ago. From across the country, they signed up for the front lines: Edwards from Lake Butler, Florida; Chris Meyers from Gilbert, Louisiana; Madeleine Chesney from Louisville, Kentucky; and Lashay Rhodes from Newton, Kansas. All four are working at Metropolitan Hospital Center in Manhattan but say they don’t know whether they’ll have jobs when they return home.

Read the full story here.

At one Oklahoma theater, plans to reopen with 'spaced seating'

A theater owner in Tulsa, Oklahoma, plans to reopen his venue in mid- or late May, with precautions, including "spaced seating," concession counters with plexiglass screens, and masks and gloves for employees.

"You would not have to have physical contact with anything in the theater, beside setting your posterior in the seat," said Clark Wiens, proprietor of Circle Cinema. He hasn't decided yet whether to require patrons to wear masks.

The rare reopening plans come at a time when major theater chains plan to stay closed at least until July. Some drive-ins, arguing people will be safe in their cars, are open.

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday that many businesses, including theaters, will be allowed to reopen May 1. After Bynum's announcement, Wiens said he consulted with his staff of about eight people to see if they were comfortable returning to work. "They are all gung-ho," he said. 

California launches free meal delivery service for at-risk seniors

California is launching a first-in-the-nation program that will pay restaurants to deliver free meals every day to people over the age of 65 who are experiencing poverty, have compromised immune systems or have been exposed to coronavirus, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Friday. 

The program, called Restaurants Deliver, will provide three meals a day to a high-risk population and eliminate the need for people to leave their houses. At the same time, the program will inject a much-needed lifeline to small businesses struggling under the state's stay-at-home directive, Newsom said.  

"We want to get a lot of independent restaurants up and running again," he said, adding that an estimated 1.2 million California seniors live alone and are unable to cook their own meals.

The state, local governments and FEMA will split the cost, according to the governor's office.

Thousands flood Wisconsin Capitol to protest stay-at-home orders

Thousands of protestors assembled on the Wisconsin Capitol Friday, expressing loud opposition to the extended stay-at-home order put in place by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The anti-government protest in Madison was organized by a tapestry of online groups, including a group of Wisconsin business owners, as well as several rightwing Facebook groups, like Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantines.

Bob Tarantino, the leader of a group of business owners who helped plan the Madison rally, said his goal was to bring attention to the fact that Wisconsin’s “small businesses are suffering unbelievable financial harm.”

“The kind of harm that they may not recover from,” he told NBC News in an email.

Read the full story here.

Facebook launches video-calling feature that could compete with Zoom

Facebook on Friday announced a new video-calling feature designed to give isolated users another way to keep in touch with friends and family.

The platform's new Messenger Rooms poses an immediate threat to Zoom and Houseparty, two video-calling products that have seen their usage skyrocket over the past month.

The free feature will allow Facebook and Messenger users to create group video calls of up to 50 people. By contrast, Messenger video calls are limited to eight people.

Messenger Rooms’ 50-person limit will not be immediately available, however.

Read the whole story here.

Las Vegas mayor: Desert heat could curb coronavirus

Southern Nevada's extreme summer heart could be key to curbing coronavirus, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said Friday, insisting her city should be at the "forefront of America's 'reopening.'"

Goodman, widely derided this week for saying Las Vegas should be a "control group" for ending stay-at-home orders, held firm on Friday that the tourism hub has to be reopened for business soon.

"Although it has not been clearly determined as to the effect that extreme warmth will have on the virus, it is assumed that it shall deter its ferocity," she said in a statement.  "We certainly are looking forward to having out desert heat provide that required substantiation. Our hot summer coupled with our unique economy  compel us to be at the forefront of America's 'reopening.'"

The mercury regularly tops 100 degrees throughout June, July and August in Las Vegas.

Flour in high demand at grocery stores as baking becomes new obsession

Supermarkets across the U.S. have been packing their own flour to feed the need of Americans suddenly obsessed with baking.

Regular five-pound packages of flour have been in short supply, so some stores - with access to massive 50-pound sacks usually sold to industrial-sized bakeries - have been packaging their own consumer-sized bags for customers, who have been making cookies and cakes to pass the time trapped indoors.

For example, national chain Albertsons has given the OK for stores to portion out flour from their own supply that's normally used for in-house bakery items.

"It's a supply-and-demand issue that we're adapting to," Albertsons spokesman Andrew Whelan said in a statement Friday.

Read the full story here. 

Driver wearing N95 mask passes out, crashes, police say

A driver wearing an N95 mask appeared to have passed out behind the wheel and crashed, police in Lincoln Park, New Jersey, said Friday.

The crash was reported Thursday, according to the Lincoln Park Police Department. The 49-year-old woman was hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries, said Lt. John Clements.

"The crash is believed to have resulted from the driver wearing an N95 mask for several hours and subsequently passing out behind the wheel due to insufficient oxygen intake/excessive carbon dioxide intake," the department said in its initial statement.

Clements said, "She was in the car in excess of three hours wearing the mask."

After "overwhelming response" Friday to the incident, the department said it did not know with "100% certainty" the mask was the main contributing factor. The driver was not being tested for alcohol or drugs, Clements added, because officers at the scene had no reason to believe she was under the influence.

The department said it's not necessary to wear masks in an enclosed vehicle on the road.

Blue Angels, Air Force Thunderbirds to perform flyovers to honor frontline workers

Image: Thunderbird
The Air Force Thunderbirds fly in formation during graduation ceremonies at the 2016 class of the U.S. Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs, Colo. on June 2, 2016.Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP file

Keep your eye on the sky in coming weeks as the Navy Blue Angels and Air Force Thunderbirds are planning a series of flyovers to honor health care and essential workers fighting on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The salute to the nation, called "America Strong," will appear over areas hardest hit by coronavirus, according to a joint statement from the U.S. Navy and Air Force. 

The list of cities and corresponding dates have not been announced yet.

“We’re excited to fly over cities across America as our way of saying thanks to the healthcare workers, first responders, and all the people who selflessly run into the breach working to keep America strong,” said Gen. Dave Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force, and Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of Naval operations. “This is also our way of showing that we are all in this together and that America’s spirit will prevail.” 

Coast Guard releases video of oil tankers lined up off coast

The U.S. Coast Guard late Thursday released video of oil tankers lined up off the Southern California coast, ocean traffic apparently caused by an oversupply of fuel and a lack of demand as residents stay home.

The Coast Guard noted an "increased presence" of oil tankers -- 27 of them recorded Thursday -- headed to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, collectively the busiest container destination in the Western Hemisphere. 

"Coast Guard watchstanders, in partnership with the Marine Exchange of Southern California, are closely monitoring each anchorage to manage the increased number of tank vessels we're seeing off the California coast," Coast Guard Cmdr. Marshall Newberry said in the statement.

Oil prices started the week at less-than-zero pricing but domestic crude rebounded to $16.94 a barrel Friday. Global demand has decreased by about 30 percent as a result of the pandemic. Now oil producers appear to be running out of places to store their crude.

Amazon workers stage 'sick out' rally to push for warehouse changes

Hundreds of Amazon tech and fulfillment center employees called out sick Friday, rallying virtually to protest what they say are unsafe and unethical working conditions for the more than 800,000 people the company employs around the world.

The "sick out" was organized through an all-day livestream broadcast on YouTube and Facebook Live. The event kicked off with speeches from recently fired Amazon workers, followed by two warehouse workers in Poland who said their working conditions have also been unsafe during the pandemic. The writers and activists Bill McKibbon and Naomi Klein joined the event.

Friday’s protest was spearheaded by Amazon Employees for Climate Justice, a group of Amazon tech workers formed in 2018 to pressure their employer to commit to reducing its fossil fuel emissions. For the “sick out,” the group asked tech workers at the company to take a day off to signal their support for warehouse workers.

Read the full story here.

Traveler says flight from Miami was packed with people not wearing masks

A New York woman traveling home from Miami said she was surprised her flight was packed and that a lot of travelers weren't wearing face masks.

Angie Wong, 42, said she boarded an American Airlines flight Wednesday morning at Miami International Airport headed for LaGuardia Airport in New York. She and her children have spent the past few weeks quarantining in Florida with her husband, but Wong had to return home for an urgent matter.

She said that when she checked in at the airport, she was told there would be empty rows on the plane for passengers to space out a bit. But when she got on, she said the first 10 rows had a few empty seats and the rest, including where she was seated, was "packed, packed, packed."

Read the full story here.

Cape Cod Baseball League shuttered for 2020 season

Cape Cod League Championship Series
The Cape Cod League Championship Series in Brewster, Mass., in 2017.Maddie Meyer / Getty Images file

The Cape Cod Baseball League, a famed training ground for future professional players, canceled its 2020 season because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials announced Friday.

The league said it "would be impossible to guarantee the safety of players, coaches, umpires, host families, volunteers and fans during this unprecedented health crisis." 

Every summer, the 10-team Massachusetts league invites the nation's best college players to compete with wood bats, providing scouts a key glimpse at their pro potential. Opening day had been set for June 13.

UC San Francisco sends doctors, nurses to aid Navajo Nation

ucsfnavajo_nb_001.jpg
Waratid Osotsapa, center, a nurse at the University of California San Francisco, and UCSF colleagues board a flight to Navajo Nation on Wednesday to treat COVID-19 patients. They volunteered for the assignment in hospitals in Arizona and New Mexico.Noah Berger / for UCSF

With 1,360 positive cases, the rate of coronavirus infection on the Navajo Nation is worse than in 48 states, behind only New York and New Jersey. But now some help is on the way.

Seven doctors and 14 nurses from the University of California San Francisco healthcare system traveled to hospitals in Chinle, Arizona, and Gallup and Shiprock, New Mexico, where many Navajo patients are being treated. The volunteer health care workers are being dispatched as part of a UCSF initiative called HEAL, committed to helping rural communities in need.

“We have volunteers right now on the Navajo nation that are helping relieve some of the doctors and nurses that have been working around the clock to help the Navajo Nation," said Jonathan Nez, president of the Navajo Nation.

Also, this week the Navajo Nation joined 10 other tribes in a lawsuit against the federal government over $8 billion in coronavirus relief funds that were allocated to Native American tribes. The money has been tied up as the tribes and the government argue over whether Alaska Native corporations should be eligible for the money.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, right, thanks members of the California medical team working at Gallup Indian Medical Center on the Navajo reservation.
Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, right, thanks members of the California medical team working at Gallup Indian Medical Center on the Navajo reservation.Jared T Touchin / Navajo Nation

 

Trump's 'off-the-cuff' comments on disinfectants caught staff by surprise

WASHINGTON — Members of President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force and aides in the West Wing were shocked on Thursday when he promoted the use of light and disinfectant to treat the deadly respiratory illness, according to administration officials.

As Trump went off script to suggest people with the virus could be cured by UV rays or disinfectants “by injection inside,” White House officials began texting one another to ask where he got that idea because they thought, as one adviser put it, “this was going to be bad.”

None of them seemed to know, as Trump did not consult with any task force members or administration officials before making his impromptu statement, which has now been universally rejected by health experts, the officials said.

Instead, it appears Trump conflated and misinterpreted scientific information discussed with him in the Oval Office before Thursday’s daily briefing, according to the officials.

Read more here

More than half of coronavirus payments have gone out

The Treasury Department says more than half of people eligible for a coronavirus relief payment have gotten their stimulus money so far — with 4 in 10 still waiting for their direct deposit or check.

More than 88 million payments, totaling $158 billion, had gone out as of the end of last week, according the most recent data available. The IRS expects to send out more than 150 million payments. 

There’s been widespread confusion about how the payments would be issued. When the IRS released a website for people to check their payment status, there were delays and glitches. Despite that, the distribution process appears to be on schedule. 

Earlier in April, the Treasury Department told Congress that payments would begin in mid-April, starting with people who filed tax returns in the last two years and then Social Security recipients. At the time, the department said paper checks would be mailed out in May, but now Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says that process has already started. 

A state-by-state breakdown released Friday by the IRS shows that progress sending out the payments has been relatively consistent. Residents of California, which has the largest population of any U.S. state, have gotten a total of 9.1 million payments — which is worth nearly $16 billion. New York, which is the state hardest hit by coronavirus, has seen 5.5 million payments totaling about $9.4 billion.

For a refresher on the IRS payment process, click here

Governor pushes Virginia elections back two weeks

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed an executive order on Friday pushing back local elections scheduled for May 5 until May 19. 

The two week period is the longest he is constitutionally allowed to delay an election without action from the state's general assembly. 

Earlier this week, the House of Delegates passed a motion to postpone the election until November, but the state Senate did not, NBC affiliate WSLS reported.

"If you plan to vote in that election, I strongly encourage you to vote absentee by mail," Northam said at a news conference.

 

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'This is our busiest time of year': Georgia businesses reopen despite coronavirus concerns

Mayra Hicks took measured steps to change how she does business in mid-March before she was forced to shut down her shop because of the coronavirus.

So when Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced plans Monday to restart the state's economy, clearing the way for businesses like hers that provide close-contact services to reopen Friday, Hicks, an esthetician, felt ready.

Read more here.

Trump: U.S. Postal Service is 'a joke' and should dramatically raise prices

President Donald Trump on Friday blasted the U.S. Postal Service as "a joke," and vowed to block financial aid for the struggling agency unless it raised prices for packages "four times or five times."

Trump said agency should hit Amazon and other tech companies with much higher prices for packages. "They don't want to raise it because they don't want to insult Amazon," Trump said.

The president essentially confirmed a Washington Post report that he won't sign off on a $10 billion loan for the postal service included in emergency coronavirus legislation unless the agency does what he wants. “If they don’t raise the price, I’m not signing anything,” he told reporters during a bill signing in the Oval Office.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters that Trump is looking to privatize the Postal Service, which she called a "very big danger" for the country, especially in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak "when vote by mail is so important in terms of as a health issue, but also medicines and all the rest of that people are depending — on so many things that they're ordering online coming by mail for them."

A short time later, he tweeted, "I will never let our Post Office fail." 

How to help senior citizens cope with the coronavirus pandemic

The coronavirus can be lethal to anyone who catches it, but seniors are especially at risk if infected.

“Eight out of 10 deaths from COVID-19 have been from those age 65 or older,” says Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, a family physician in Phoenix, Arizona. “The reason why is because our immune system is less effective at fighting infections as we get older. Also, having multiple other chronic diseases can complicate this virus.”

Read more here.

Trump says he was being sarcastic with comments about injecting disinfectants

President Donald Trump said Friday that his remarks on injecting disinfectants to treat COVID-19 were sarcasm, after doctors responded with horror and disinfectant manufacturers urged people not to ingest the poisonous substances.

"I was asking a question sarcastically to reporters just like you, just to see what would happen," Trump said on Friday during a bill signing for the coronavirus aid package. "I was asking a sarcastic and a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectant on the inside. But it does kill it and it would kill it on the hands, and it would make things much better."

But the president's comments the day before — a lengthy musing that disinfectant or powerful light could be used to fight the virus — did not appear to be sarcasm; they were in part directed at a Homeland Security official.

Read the full story here.

Homeless people are at risk from the coronavirus. Police have a solution: Drones.

Drones have been in the hands of local law enforcement agencies for years, using them to help conduct search-and-rescue missions and map crime and vehicle crash scenes. But since states across the country issued shelter-in-place orders in response to the pandemic, police departments have seized on the crisis as a moment to acquire more drones to do remote patrolling.

The technology has come with warnings from anti-surveillance advocates and civil liberties watchdogs who point to the privacy risks of flying robots equipped with cameras surreptitiously filming people from afar.

Read the full story here.

Tennessee's businesses to reopen with new guidelines, but no enforcement

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee on Friday outlined his plans for businesses across the state to reopen starting next week — but he acknowledged that the state will not be enforcing the measures to make sure businesses are following them.

Restaurants will reopen on Monday in 89 of the state's 95 counties. Retailers will follow Wednesday, while businesses like salons and tattoo parlors that require close contact will take a few more weeks to resume operations.

In announcing his "Tennessee Pledge," Lee called on businesses that reopen to follow social distancing guidelines and operate at reduced capacity.

New restaurant guidelines call for the use of disposable menus and sanitizing chairs and table-top items after each table turn. Self-serve buffets, shared condiments, and beverage station re-use are discouraged.

Lee cited the state's "downward trajectory" for COVID-19 symptoms and economic outlook in calling for businesses to reopen. The state has experienced 8,266 COVID-19 cases and 170 deaths.

Trump signs coronavirus aid bill as tensions rise over next one

President Donald Trump signed a nearly $500 billion interim coronavirus bill on Friday that includes additional money for the small-business loan program, as well as more funding for hospitals and testing.

The bill passed the Senate earlier this week by voice vote and was approved by the House on Thursday on a 388-5-1 bipartisan vote.

The bill includes more than $320 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP, 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 will be set aside for businesses that do not have established banking relationships, such as rural and minority-owned companies. 

The bill 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, but does not include the additional funding for states and local governments that Democrats had sought.

Read the full story here.

The Week in Pictures: Lockdown protests and Central Park raccoon

The Week in Pictures

See more of the most compelling photos from the last week as people all over the world grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. 

Pennsylvania's cases of COVID-19, related deaths rise

Pennsylvania continues to have some of the highest totals of the coronavirus in the nation, with the state health department reporting 1,599 new cases on Friday, bringing the statewide total to 38,652.

The number of deaths increased to 1,492, an additional 71 from the day before, health officials said.

Meanwhile, Gov. Tom Wolf on Thursday announced a three-phase plan for the state's economy, with a target date of May 8 for an easing of some orders and restrictions, including allowing certain businesses to reopen. The economic toll on the key swing state has been striking, and some political strategists have suggested that President Donald Trump won't have it easy there in November.

DHS warns health care facilities to guard against possible attacks

In a Friday bulletin to the health-care community, the Department of Homeland Security warned hospitals to be on the alert for potential attacks during the coronavirus outbreak.

“Terrorists and other violent extremists may attempt to exploit the situation or vulnerable individuals may be triggered by stressors to commit disruptive or violent acts targeted at the healthcare community<" said the bulletin. "This is particularly concerning as Healthcare and Public Health Sector continuity-of-operation is paramount to the national response to the pandemic."

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Dr. Birx goes viral for reaction to Trump's 'injection' comments

Dr. Deborah Birx is getting her close-up.

Birx, the Trump administration's coronavirus coordinator, was caught on camera in the White House briefing room looking dejected as President Donald Trump floated the idea of light treatments to combat the coronavirus.

Read more here.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says polls will be open for June primary

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said polls will be open for the June 23 primary, but residents will have the option of voting absentee. 

"There's only two options: Either people go to the polls or people vote by absentee. There's no other way to do it," he said at a news conference on Friday. "We're saying you have both options." 

The governor said all New Yorkers will receive postage-paid applications for an absentee ballot in case they choose not to go to the polls. 

Smithfield Foods sued over working conditions in Missouri during coronavirus

Smithfield Foods Inc., the world's largest pork processor, has been accused in a lawsuit of failing to adequately protect workers at a Missouri plant who have been forced to work "shoulder to shoulder" during the coronavirus pandemic.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Missouri federal court claims Smithfield has created a "public nuisance" by providing inadequate protective equipment to workers at the plant in the town of Milan, refusing to give them time to wash their hands and discouraging workers who are ill from taking sick leave.

Workers have also been disciplined for covering their mouths while coughing or sneezing, because it could cause them to miss pieces of meat coming down the processing line, according to the complaint.

Read the full article here.

Norway's transport minister cuts ceremonial ribbon via video conference

Norway's Minister for Transport Knut Arild Hareide celebrated the completion of a construction project on Wednesday by cutting the ceremonial ribbon via video conference. 

Speaking from his office in Oslo over 200 miles away, Hareide ate a slice of celebratory cake before cutting a ribbon that he had taped to his wall to officially open the country's long-awaited Ryfast sub-sea tunnel system

NYC mayor calls for rent freeze, longer eviction moratorium

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday, a week before many are due to pay rent on the first of the month, that further steps need to be taken to relieve New Yorkers from the financial burden of paying their landlords during and after the coronavirus crisis. 

"We need to make sure that every New Yorker can stay in their home during this crisis," de Blasio said during his daily briefing. "We need to keep a roof over everyone’s head."

The mayor called for a rent freeze and state approval to allow tenants to pay their rents with their security deposits, which he has been advocating for in past weeks. He also said he wants state approval to allow tenants who have to miss rent to repay over the span of a year, and for the eviction moratorium to be extended 60 days beyond the end of the crisis.

On March 20, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a 90-day eviction moratorium for residential and commercial tenants.

U.S. deaths tied to COVID-19 top 50,000, according to NBC News tally

The number of deaths in the United States tied to COVID-19 topped 50,000 early Friday, according to a tally compiled by NBC News.

Meanwhile, the total number of cases in the U.S. neared 90,000.

Trump approved of Georgia Gov. Kemp's plan to reopen early before the president bashed it

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence repeatedly told Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp that they approved of his aggressive plan to allow businesses to reopen, just a day before Trump pulled an about-face and publicly bashed the plan, according to two administration officials.

The green light from Pence and Trump came in separate private conversations with the Republican governor both before Kemp announced his plan to ease coronavirus restrictions and after it was unveiled on Monday, the officials said. Trump’s sudden shift came only after top health advisers reviewed the plan more closely and persuaded the president that Kemp was risking further spread of the virus by moving too quickly.

“I told the governor of Georgia Brian Kemp that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities,” Trump said Wednesday, just a day after telling reporters that he trusted Kemp’s judgment. “He knows what’s he’s doing.”

On Thursday, he was even harder on the governor: “I wasn’t happy with Brian Kemp, I wasn’t at all happy.”

Read the full story here.

White House: Media 'irresponsibly' took Trump's disinfectant comments 'out of context'

The White House claimed Friday morning that the media was mischaracterizing Trump's comments suggesting exploring disinfectants as a possible treatment for coronavirus infections 

"President Trump has repeatedly said that Americans should consult with medical doctors regarding coronavirus treatment, a point that he emphasized again during yesterday’s briefing," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement. "Leave it to the media to irresponsibly take President Trump out of context and run with negative headlines."

Trump's comments at his daily news briefing on Thursday came after a Homeland Security official mentioned the ability of disinfectants like bleach to kill the coronavirus on surfaces.

"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. "Because, you see, it gets on the lungs, and it does a tremendous number on the lungs. So it'd be interesting to check that. So that you're going to have to use medical doctors, but it sounds — it sounds interesting to me."

The manufacturer of Lysol, Trump's own EPA warned against ingesting disinfectants, and medical experts quickly warned that doing so could be fatal.

Photo: Hospital dance in Lebanon

Staff members dance outside a hospital in Byblos as a band plays to thank them for their efforts Thursday.
Staff members dance outside a hospital in Byblos as a band plays Thursday to thank them for treating COVID-19 patients. Patrick Baz / AFP - Getty Images

See more compelling photos in the Week in Pictures as people all over the world grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. 

FDA warns against using hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus outside of hospital

The Food and Drug Administration on Friday cautioned against prescribing hydroxychloroquine to COVID-19 patients outside of hospital settings or clinical trials. The drug, an antimalarial, was repeatedly touted by President Donald Trump as a possible treatment for the coronavirus.

"The FDA is aware of reports of serious heart rhythm problems in patients with COVID-19 treated with hydroxychloroquine or chloroquine, often in combination with azithromycin," the FDA wrote on its website.

"We are also aware of increased use of these medicines through outpatient prescriptions. Therefore, we would like to remind health care professionals and patients of the known risks associated with both hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine," the FDA said.

Read more here.

Facebook ads, conspiracy theorists pushed bleach consumption and UV ray cures

Unfounded and harmful coronavirus treatments — including those that were floated by President Donald Trump — continue to spread online, evading efforts to crack down on misinformation.

Read the full story here.

Prisoners in Germany to produce face masks

The southern German state of Bavaria announced on Friday that it will involve prisoners in the production of face masks in an effort to continue in curbing the coronavirus.  

Officials bought 65 modern high-speed sewing machines on short notice and redesigned existing workplaces in the correctional facilities for mask production, the Bavarian Justice ministry said in a press release. 

The plan for the prisoners — who will sew rubber strands onto mask blanks — will create 1.6 million masks per year, the ministry said. Germany is the fifth-worst-hit country in the world, with more than 150,000 reported cases as of Friday. 

Photo: Social distancing during Friday prayer

Image: Karachi
Muslims maintain a safe distance as they attend Friday prayer in Karachi, Pakistan. Akhtar Soomro / Reuters

The EPA is reminding people to use disinfectant only on surfaces

The Environmental Protection Agency is reminding people to only use disinfectant on surfaces.

The agency issued the update shortly before President Donald Trump suggested Thursday that it might be helpful to inject disinfectant to combat the coronavirus.

The EPA says, “Never apply the product to yourself or others. Do not ingest disinfectant products.”

The warning comes after Trump said at his daily press briefing on Thursday, "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? As you see, it gets in the lungs, it does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that."

Read the full story here.

Bill Gates: Vaccine could come sooner than later, but 'it's going to be awhile before things go back to normal'

We apologize, this video has expired.

Bill Gates, who has been warning for years of a global disease outbreak, said that while many countries have coordinated testing on a national level during the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. has not, and access to tests is "chaotic."

But Gates also said in his interview with Savannah Guthrie that aired on the "TODAY" show Friday that he has recently seen evidence that a hoped-for timeline of 18 to 24 months for a coronavirus vaccine may come to pass. "The best scientists [are] working hard on this," Gates said. "In fact, in the last few weeks I've seen signs that we may get to the optimistic side of that time projection" for a vaccine.

Still, he said, "it's going to be awhile before things go back to normal."

"Many countries decided that at the national level, they would orchestrate the testing" for the virus, he said. "That hasn't happened in the United States. It might not happen. But, you know, the access to tests is just, you know, chaotic."

Read the full story here.

Outbreak in two of the oldest orthodox monasteries in Ukraine

Image: The Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery, where multiple cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) have been confirmed, in Kiev, Ukraine
The Kiev Pechersk Lavra monastery, where multiple cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, in Kiev, Ukraine, on Wednesday.Valentyn Ogirenko / Reuters

Two of the oldest orthodox monasteries in Ukraine have reported virus outbreaks, as the country announced it had surpassed 7,500 cases on Friday. 

Earlier this week, the Pochayiv Lavra monastery — which is a major center for pilgrimage and has about 600 priests and monks living inside — was closed for quarantine. The town of Pochayiv itself has also been locked down due to worshippers praying in the 500-year-old monastery last Sunday on the Orthodox Easter, local police reported.

There are currently 44 confirmed cases in the monastery, the city’s mayor said on local TV. Ukraine’s Ministry of Health, however, suspects the outbreak is much larger but cannot confirm due to a lack of cooperation from the abbot.

Earlier in the month, a 1,000-year-old monastery complex in the country’s capital of Kyiv was also locked down after 150 people were infected. While the Kyiv-Pechersk Lavra monastery had initially criticized the government’s quarantine measures and urged people to continue going to church, it is now holding services behind closed doors.

Cases surge to a record high in the Indian state of Maharashtra

Image: Construction workers take an early morning bath in Mumbai during a nationwide lockdown on Friday.
Construction workers take an early morning bath in Mumbai during a nationwide lockdown on Friday.Punit Paranjpe / AFP - Getty Images

A surge in cases of the coronavirus in the central Indian state of Maharashtra has propelled the country to a record 24-hour high on the eve of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month.

Health authorities said Friday that Maharashtra recorded 778 new cases on Thursday, and 1,680 total cases across the country. This brings the total in India — which has been under lockdown since March 24 — to 22,930 as of Friday. This marked its biggest single-day jump since April 19, a day before India relaxed some lockdown restrictions in a bid to help employ some of the millions of migrant workers who fled cities for their homes villages.

Fearing rampant spread of the disease in the city’s crowded slums, officials in India’s financial capital of Mumbai — the state capital of Maharashtra — are developing a plan to administer doses of the Donald Trump-backed anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic against COVID-19.

Lysol manufacturer warns against internal use after Trump comments

Image: Lysol bottles on a store shelf. The product is distributed by Reckitt Benckiser.
Lysol bottles on a store shelf. The product is distributed by Reckitt Benckiser.Roberto Machado Noa / LightRocket via Getty Images file

The manufacturer for Lysol, a disinfectant spray and cleaning product, issued a statement warning against any internal use after President Donald Trump suggested that people could get an "injection" of "the disinfectant that knocks (coronavirus) out in a minute."

"As a global leader in health and hygiene products, we must be clear that under no circumstance should our disinfectant products be administered into the human body (through injection, ingestion or any other route)," said a spokesperson for Reckitt Benckiser, the United Kingdom-based owner of Lysol, in a statement to NBC News.

"As with all products, our disinfectant and hygiene products should only be used as intended and in line with usage guidelines. Please read the label and safety information," the statement continued, adding that the company believes it has a "responsibility in providing consumers with access to accurate, up-to-date information as advised by leading public health experts."

Read the rest here.

The Week in Pictures: Lockdown protests and a window wedding

See how countries around the world have handled the coronavirus crisis and more in this week's The Week in Pictures slide show.

Image: South African National Defense Forces patrol the Sjwetla informal settlement after pushing back residents into their homes on April 20, 2020.
South African National Defense Forces patrol the Sjwetla informal settlement after pushing back residents into their homes, on the outskirts of the Alexandra township in Johannesburg on April 20, 2020. The residents were protesting the lack of food. Many have lost their income as South Africa is under a strict five-week lockdown in a effort to fight the coronavirus pandemic.Jerome Delay / AP

Moscow to test all medical personnel for immunity

Image: The inside of a new hospital for coronavirus patients on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia on Thursday.
The inside of a new hospital for coronavirus patients on the outskirts of Moscow, Russia on Thursday.Andrei Nikerichev/Moscow News Agency / Reuters

Around 40 percent of Moscow's healthcare system is now dedicated to combating the coronavirus after the city rapidly refit hospitals to serve as COVID-19 wards, Deputy Mayor Anastasia Rakova said on sate television Friday.

“Doctors, nurses […] everyone is truly working to the limit,” Rakova said on Channel One. She told the Interfax news agency later on Friday that all healthcare personnel working in these hospitals and clinics will receive new rapid immunity tests. The tests were launched last week by a major state lab in Siberia.

While medical professionals are receiving priority for new immunity tests, the deputy mayor also said that all patients in Moscow hospitals will be tested for active coronavirus, and that Moscow labs are now processing more than 18,000 tests per day.  

Traffic jams in France after McDonald's reopens some drive-thru locations

Big Mac fans caused traffic jams in France this week after McDonald's reopened dozens of its drive-thru locations in the country. 

Amused locals posted incredulous videos on social media of the long lines of traffic to access their local branches. "All that for some McDonald's," wrote one. 

Josua Haron, 24, went looking for his usual choice of 20 chicken McNuggets after a McDonald's-branded car announced over loudspeaker the reopening his local drive-thru in Moissy-Crayamel, south of Paris. He went home empty-handed, though, after learning how long it would take to get to the front of the line. "Three hours wait, not for me!" he laughed. 

Muslims begin unusual Ramadan amid coronavirus pandemic

A glimmering crescent moon in Thursday's twilight sky, signaled to many of the world's nearly 2 billion Muslims that the holy month of Ramadan had begun. For one month, Muslims from Boston to Baghdad will forgo food, water and sexual relations from dawn to dusk.

The first fasting day of Ramadan will begin for many Muslims on Friday, and some on Saturday due to differences in moon sightings, and is an annual anchor in the Islamic calendar — a time when worshipers increase their prayers and acts of charity. They commune joyfully with family and friends at sunset, when they break the fast at tables laden with spicy dishes and sweet mint tea.

Not this year.

Read the full story.

U.S. base in East Africa declares public health emergency

The head of U.S. forces in the Horn of Africa declared a public health emergency for the U.S. personnel under his authority in the Djibouti Base Cluster. 

“Combating COVID-19 is my top priority,” Maj. Gen. Michael Turello said in a statement on Thursday, adding the emergency would last for 30 days. 

The declaration applies to all U.S. service members, Defense Department civilians and contractors under his authority at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, the primary base of operations for the U.S. Africa Command in the Horn of Africa. The camp houses approximately 4,000 U.S. and allied forces military personnel and civilians, as well as about 1,000 local workers. 

The small East Africa country has reported nearly 1,000 virus cases, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Japan shames 'pachinko' gambling parlors that refuse to shutdown

Image: A man wearing a face mask walks in front of a closed pachinko parlor in Tokyo on Friday.
A man wearing a face mask walks in front of a closed pachinko parlor in Tokyo on Friday.Charly Triballeau / AFP - Getty Images

As stores have closed across Japan during a state of emergency, gambling halls known as pachinko parlors remain open, causing concern that they could undermine the government's fight against the virus.

The halls, where players sit back-to-back at long rows of machines amid the jangle of bouncing steel balls and garish flashing lights, are a fixture on many Japanese streets and are popular with young people, the underemployed and hardcore gamblers, according to Reuters. Japan imposed the state of emergency last week though restrictions are non-compulsory.

On Friday, the governor of Osaka prefecture publicly revealed the names of six pachinko parlors that have not followed requests to shut down in an attempt to stop people from visiting the shops. The governor of the capital city Tokyo also expressed concern on Friday, saying “41 pachinko parlors are still open despite our request to close their business temporarily,” in a press conference. 

Doctors report uptick in surprising coronavirus complication: dangerous blood clots

Three weeks ago, critical care pulmonologist Hugh Cassiere encountered something he hadn't seen in 24 years of practicing medicine.

A 45-year-old man arrived at the hospital where Cassiere works, North Shore University Hospital on Long Island, New York, with fever and severe fatigue — well-known symptoms of the coronavirus — and went on to test positive for it.

But then the man developed a complication not usually associated with respiratory viruses: a blood clot in his leg that was so dangerous that doctors were forced to remove the leg below his knee. The development was totally unexpected, Cassiere said, and he isn't the only doctor who has noticed unusual clotting in patients with COVID-19.

Read the full story.

No new cases for 20 consecutive days in China's Hubei province

The current number of confirmed cases in the Hubei province in China — the original epicenter of the coronavirus — fell below 50 for the first time on Friday. There have been no new confirmed or suspected cases for 20 consecutive days in the province, according to China’s National Health Commission.

Also on Friday, China reported no new COVID-19 deaths for the ninth straight day, and just six new cases of the virus.

China, where the total number of active coronavirus cases is now below 1,000, has started to tentatively loosen restrictions on residents.

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

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.