As states around the U.S. consider reopening, the country's death toll topped 61,000, according to an NBC News tally. Globally, there have been more than 232,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Protesters, some armed, demonstrated on Thursday against the Michigan lockdown on the steps of the state capitol building. And in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down beaches in Orange County after seeing what he called "disturbing" images of crowds from over the weekend.
Florida on Wednesday announced that it would slowly reopen. Gov. Ron DeSantis said the plan to lift restrictions "in a very measured, thoughtful and data-driven way," will go into effect Monday in every county except the three where most of the state's COVID-19 cases have been reported.
Meanwhile, South Korea recorded no new domestic COVID-19 cases for the first time in 72 days. The country dealt with the first major outbreak outside China, but brought the crisis under control with a massive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing.
- MAPS: Confirmed cases in the U.S. and worldwide, confirmed deaths in the U.S. and globally.
- Reopening America: See what states across the U.S. are starting to reopen.
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California allows marriage licenses via videoconference amid pandemic
For better, for worse and hopefully the internet isn't out: Californians will now be able to obtain marriage licenses via videoconference, the governor announced Thursday.
Gov. Gavin Newsom's order also allows — at the discretion of the county clerk — for couples to be married this way, as long as at least one witness can join the videoconference. Previously both parties had to apply for licenses in person. The changes last for 60 days, according to Newsom's office.
The move comes amid social distancing and other restrictions designed to limit the gathering of people amid the coronavirus pandemic which has killed more than 60,000 people in the U.S. so far.
California is not the first to announce such a move. New York's governor earlier this month signed an executive order also allowing residents to obtain a marriage license remotely and allowing clerks to perform ceremonies via videoconference, something that had been impermissible under the law.
On Wednesday, New York City announced "Project Cupid," designed to transition the marriage licensing process fully online.
Demonstrators against reopening economy to hit the streets
As demonstrators who want to get back to work planned a show of force in multiple U.S. cities Friday for International Workers Day, counterprotesters said they would hold their own rallies.
The lunchtime counterprotests, in support of keeping non-essential businesses closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, are being held by the organization Refuse Fascism.
"We are nonviolent," said Chantelle Hershberger, an organizer of the Los Angeles rally. "We’re not there to literally go toe-to-toe."
Demonstrators in Los Angeles will wear masks and practice social distancing, she said.
Hawaii florists allowed to open on May 1, Lei Day
Florists in Hawaii will be allowed to open on Friday as the state marks its annual Lei Day, Gov. David Ige said this, despite statewide stay-at-home restrictions.
Ige announced on Monday that florists would be allowed to be open starting May 1 as long as the stores can do so in a way that's safe for employees and customers, like observing social distancing rules.
The governor said it was not an "exemption" for florists, but they are businesses that can safely be operated amid the pandemic. Mother's Day is May 10.
"We expect that it will be a better Mother's Day because of this decision," Ige said Monday. Ige late last week extended the stay-at-home order until May 31.
Public Lei Day celebrations are canceled, and Honolulu's department of parks and recreation encouraged people to make leis from items around the house and hang them outside in a show of support to first responders, medical workers and essential workers.
The governor said Thursday that the state is beginning to look at a phased approach to reopening businesses and activities. "We do believe that the number of cases has gotten to the point that we believe we're in good position," he said.
Huntington Beach, Calif., to ask court to overturn beach closure
The city council in Huntington Beach, California, voted Thursday to authorize the city attorney to take legal action against the state for closing down beaches in Orange County.
After the vote City Attorney Michael E. Gates said by email, "We are filing in State Court tonight hoping for relief for temporary injunction."
Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier in the day said a widely expected statewide beach closure wasn't happening, but one that focused on Orange County would go into effect Friday. This came after images captured throngs of people on the sand in Huntington Beach and nearby Newport Beach on a warm weekend.
The city council held an emergency meeting Thursday. Many residents who wrote to the council on the topic favored keeping the beaches open and suggested the traditionally Republican city was being punished for being of a different political persuasion than the Democratic governor.
Republican lawmakers reject Michigan's virus order; Whitmer unfazed
LANSING, Mich. — The Republican-led Michigan Legislature refused Thursday to extend the state's coronavirus emergency declaration and voted to authorize a lawsuit challenging Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's authority and actions to combat the pandemic.
The governor, unfazed, responded with new orders stating under one law that an emergency still exists, while under another law declaring new 28-day states of emergency and disaster. The latter measure will ensure health care workers continue to have special legal protections, she said.
Whitmer accused GOP lawmakers of “putting their heads in the sand and putting more lives and livelihoods at risk. I’m not going to let that happen.”
The Legislature's moves came as hundreds of conservative activists, including some who were openly carrying rifles, returned to the Capitol to denounce her stay-at-home order.
Several major airlines to begin asking employees, customers to wear face coverings
Several major airlines will soon ask some employees and passengers to voluntarily wear face coverings, an industry group said Thursday.
Airlines for America, which represents Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue and other airlines, said the companies are working to implement the policy as quickly as possible. The group did not provide a specific date.
Customer-facing employees and passengers will be asked to wear cloth face covering during check-in, boarding, in-flight and while leaving the aircraft, the group said.
The group added that airlines are also using intensive cleaning measures to sanitize their planes.
Farmworkers sue Washington state seeking coronavirus protections
A court in Skagit County, Washington, will consider Friday whether the state should impose enforceable emergency safety rules to protect farmworkers from the coronavirus.
The case, which pits the labor advocacy group Familias Unidas por la Justicia and the United Farm Workers of America against the state's labor and health departments, is among the first agricultural labor lawsuits filed in the country since the COVID-19 outbreak began.
The labor groups are seeking adequate social distancing in farm labor housing and transportation and to ensure that protective gear is available at work sites, among other concerns.
Government orders 100,000 body bags
WASHINGTON — The federal government placed orders for well over 100,000 new body bags to hold victims of COVID-19 in April, according to internal administration documents obtained by NBC News, as well as public records. The biggest set was earmarked for purchase the day after President Donald Trump projected that the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus might not exceed 50,000 or 60,000 people.
That batch is a still-pending $5.1 million purchase order placed by the Homeland Security Department April 21 with the Montebello, Calif.-based company E.M. Oil Transport, Inc. The “human remains pouches” have not been shipped to the Federal Emergency Management Agency or paid for yet, according to the company’s marketing manager, Mike Pryor.
Body bag contracts bid by the Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs departments are just one illustration of how Trump’s sunny confidence about the nation’s readiness to re-open is in conflict with officials in his own administration who are quietly preparing for a far worse outcome.
Industry exec: White House plan to send a week's worth of masks, gloves to nursing homes is not enough
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Thursday that nursing homes, which have been ravaged by coronavirus, had been "a little bit of a weak spot" in the U.S. response to the disease, and announced FEMA would ship a seven-day supply of gowns and masks to the nation's 15,000 long-term care facilities.
But nursing home residents have accounted for a quarter of the nation's 60,000 reported COVID-19 deaths, and for some industry leaders and advocates for residents, a week's supply of personal protective equipment is not an answer.
"This is the first sign in months that our calls for PPE prioritization for providers of aging services are being heard -- but this action is far too little, far too late," said Katie Smith Sloan, president and CEO LeadingAge, an association of 6,000 nonprofit providers of aging services, including 2,000 nursing homes.
Major drug company partners with Oxford to produce vaccine even before approval
AstraZeneca says it is pushing ahead to produce millions of doses of a trial coronavirus vaccine, developed by Oxford University, even before the research is complete.
Thousands of cruise ship crew members remain out at sea amid clash over CDC's rules
Thousands of cruise ship crew members remain stuck at sea amid the coronavirus pandemic as their companies clash with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over rules to bring them home.
Carnival Cruise Line said it has more than 10,000 healthy crew members on board their ships and is planning to have them home to their respective countries over the next week. Roughly 10,000 crew have already been repatriated, the company said in a press release.
"The safety and well-being of our team members continues to be a top priority," said Christine Duffy, president of Carnival Cruise Line. "Given the pause in our operations, we are committed to getting our crew members safely home to their families. We sincerely thank them for their hard work, patience and understanding during this process."
Trump says he has seen evidence that virus originated in Wuhan lab
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump suggested Thursday he has seen evidence that the coronavirus was created in a Wuhan lab, just hours after the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement that the virus was "not manmade or genetically modified."
"Yes I have," Trump said when asked by a reporter if he had seen anything that gave him a high degree of confidence that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the origin of the virus.
"We have people looking at it very, very strongly," Trump said. "Scientific people, intelligence people, and others."
When asked what evidence he had, Trump responded "I can’t tell you that. I’m not allowed to tell you that."
The U.S. Intelligence Community is continuing to examine "whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” according to the DNI statement.
Coronavirus could make the iconic department store a relic of the past
The department store, once a proud symbol of American excess and upward mobility, threatens to descend into obscurity as a result of the coronavirus, with Neiman Marcus, JCPenney, and Lord & Taylor all reportedly exploring bankruptcy.
Neiman Marcus, which also operates two Bergdorf Goodman stores in New York City and 22 Last Call discount locations, had been in distress well before the coronavirus halted nonessential shopping. The company has seen sales and revenue tumble as competition increases from online startups and brick-and-mortar stores launched by their own brands.
The company missed a key $5.7 million interest payment this month to pay down its$4.7 billion in debt. It reported a net loss of $31.2 million in July, compared with a net loss of $19.9 million the year before.
British Airways to cut one-quarter of its pilots
British Airways plans to drastically reduce the number of pilots by 1,130 out of a total number of 4,346, according to a report from Sky News.
The layoffs will include captains and co-pilots, and come as part of a sweeping rethink of the business model for the airline, which says it is not receiving government bailout money, unlike some European airlines.
British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz outlined cuts to services in a press release earlier in the week, saying, “We do not know when countries will reopen their borders or when the lockdowns will lift, and so we have to reimagine and reshape our airline and create a new future for our people, our customers and the destinations we serve."
The company also said it may pull out from Heathrow Airport.
The airline’s owner, International Airlines Group, had already said the airline would make up to 12,000 staff redundant as a result of the impact of the coronavirus.
British Airways did not immediately respond for comment.
'What is it about their immune system?' Rare complication seen in some kids with COVID-19.
Last Friday, high school junior Jameela Barber called her teacher in Dallas County, Texas, to apologize for neglecting to turn in her school work.
Her school's principal, Eleanor Webb, said Barber told her teacher she hadn't been feeling well.
"She said, 'As soon as I feel better, because I'm feeling really, really sick, I'm going to turn in my missed assignments,'" Webb told NBC affiliate station KXAS. The next day, Webb said, Barber died of complications from COVID-19. She was 17.
Brazil's surge in coronavirus cases, and its open borders, alarms neighboring countries
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina—Brazil’s virtually uncontrolled surge of COVID-19 cases is spawning fear that construction workers, truck drivers and tourists from Latin America’s biggest nation will spread the disease to neighboring countries that are doing a better job of controlling the coronavirus.
Brazil, a continent-sized country that shares borders with nearly every other nation in South America, has reported more than 70,000 cases and more than 5,000 deaths, according to government figures and a tally by Johns Hopkins University — far more than any of its neighbors. The true number of deaths and infections is believed to be much higher because of limited testing.
The country’s borders remain open, there are virtually no quarantines or curfews and President Jair Bolsonaro continues to scoff at the seriousness of the disease.
Photo: Burials in Indonesia
Cemetery workers place a coffin into place in an area of newly dug graves for those suspected of dying from COVID-19 on April 30, 2020 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Indonesia's official statistics report that nearly 800 people have died from COVID-19, but a recent review of data from 16 of the hardest hit provinces suggest that the number of deaths may be well over 2,000.
Long wait times at understaffed labs handling testing have made it difficult for the government and others to accumulate accurate statistics about how many people have the disease and how many of those suspected of dying from the disease actually had it.
Hundreds of protestors, some with guns, demonstrate against Michigan emergency measures
Hundreds of Michigan residents protested outside the state Capitol building in Lansing on Thursday, with some pushing inside while the Legislature was debating an extension of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Protesters held signs, waved American flags and even carried firearms while some chanted, “Let us in!” and “This is the people’s house, you cannot lock us out,” and others tried to get onto the House floor but were blocked by state police and sergeants-at-arms, according to WDIV-TV, an NBC affiliate in Detroit.
A state police spokesman told NBC News that it is legal in Michigan to carry firearms as long as it is done with lawful intent and the weapon is visible.
The protest, dubbed the "American Patriot Rally," was organized by Michigan United for Liberty to call for the reopening of businesses.
Photo: "No mask? Fuhgeddaboutit"
A sign over Interstate 87 in the New York City borough of the Bronx on Wednesday tells motorists to wear masks when venturing outside.
California governor shuts down Orange County beaches after 'disturbing' photos of crowds
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered beaches south of Los Angeles closed after "disturbing" pictures emerged of thousands flocking to Orange County's coast — and not social distancing.
"The images we saw on a few of our beaches were disturbing," Newsom said of the crowds on the sands of Newport Beach this past weekend. "Today we want to make some clarifications. We're going to do a hard close (in Orange County)."
The governor said Southern Californians still have plenty of outdoor options: "Let's be guided by common sense and these public health officials."
Georgia's shelter-in-place order expires tonight
Georgia's shelter-in-place order will expire at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday night for most of the state and not be extended, Gov. Brian Kemp announced.
The governor said Thursday that though he was lifting the mandatory lockdown measures, he urged residents to voluntarily remain home and said any opened businesses should maintain social distancing guidelines. Kemp signed a new order that required "medically fragile and elderly Georgians" to remain sheltered in place until June 12.
"The health and well-being of Georgians are my top priorities, and my decisions are based on data and advice from health officials," Kemp said Thursday. "I will do what is necessary to protect the lives — and livelihoods — of our people."
Although many states have chosen to loosen restrictions in an effort to reopen the economy, high-ranking health officials have warned that it may be too soon.
Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC's "Today" on Thursday that states must have the capability of identifying, isolating and contact tracing people who test positive or they risk a rebound in cases.
Cadets will be tested for coronavirus when they return to West Point for graduation
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy pushed back Thursday afternoon on the idea that President Donald Trump drove the decision to bring cadets back to West Point for a graduation ceremony in June, saying Army leadership presented the plan to return to Pentagon leadership and the White House over a month ago.
Speaking during a Pentagon briefing, McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville explained the cadets have to come back to clean out their dorm rooms and go through medical screening so they can become second lieutenants in the Army. They said they have been planning to bring them back all along and were just working through procedures and timing.
West Point's Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, said the Army has set up a staging base near the academy where all cadets will be screened and tested for COVID-19. Those who pass will move to West Point and be split into five corps, and all corps will live and eat separate from each other for two weeks to ensure no one is sick.
A defense official said a cadet who is exposed to COVID-19 or tests positive will not be required to return and can come back later this summer.
Fact check: Trump says the U.S. ready to contain COVID-19 with contact tracing. Experts disagree.
President Donald Trump and members of his administration, who are eager to have parts of the economy restarted, have insisted that a robust contact tracing program to contain future outbreaks of the coronavirus is in place.
“We’ve gotten good at tracing,” Trump claimed during a press briefing on April 23.
Contact tracing, the time consuming process of tracking down the associates of people who test positive for viral contagions, is seen as key to a safe reopening.
But a number of public health experts have said Trump paints an overly rosy picture, pointing to issues like funding and the challenge of executing tracing programs on a mass scale to explain why the U.S. is still likely unprepared to aggressively contain the next wave of COVID-19.
“We don’t have the scale that we need — we don’t have even close to the scale we need,” Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NBC News.
About face: Pence wears mask during visit to Indiana plant following criticism
Days after he was criticized for not wearing a mask during a tour of a hospital's coronavirus testing facility, Vice President Mike Pence sported a face covering on Thursday while touring a General Motors plant making ventilators in Indiana.
Like the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the G.M. plant in Kokomo has protocols in place requiring workers to wear "medical grade protective masks."
Pence, who's the head of the White House coronavirus task force, thanked workers at the plant for their "critical help" in fighting the virus. He said the re-purposed plant has already made over 600 ventilators. "I just wanted to thank you," the former Indiana governor said. "It's an honor to be among the heroes in the Hoosier State."
He later took off the mask during a round table discussion at the plant, where participants, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, appeared to be sitting several feet apart. None of the attendees at the panel, including administration officials and GM executives, wore a mask.
Texas zoo launches drive-thru experience
A Texas zoo is giving families an opportunity to see animals while also practicing social distancing.
Beginning May 1st, visitors to the San Antonio Zoo will be able to enjoy the sights and sounds, all from the comfort and safety of their vehicles. The drive-thru zoo experience is expected to last between 30 minutes and an hour and includes an audio tour, which is posted on the zoo’s website.
"This is a very unique and safe way for families to see the zoo while we are closed from the comfort of their own car," said Tim Morrow, President & CEO San Antonio Zoo, according to NBC affiliate WOAI.
The zoo has been closed since March 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Proceeds from the drive-thru experience will help the zoo to continue to care for the animals until it is safe to reopen, according to Murrow.
Georgia voters request record 1 million absentee ballots amid pandemic
Georgia voters are requesting a record numbers of absentee ballots for the state's June 9 primary election amid the coronavirus pandemic.
More than a million of the state's residents have requested a mailed ballot so far, an enormous leap from the little more than 37,000 absentee ballots cast in the primary in 2016, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Thursday.
Despite President Donald Trump's public criticism of voting by mail, Raffensperger is one of a number of Republican state election chiefs who haves embraced that process to conduct votes without violating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's social-distancing guidelines, at least for the primary election.
Gov. Murphy thanks Trump for coronavirus relief during New Jersey's 'darkest hour'
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy spoke with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell on what he called a "good discussion" with President Donald Trump on the coronavirus pandemic and detailed part of the plan for his state's reopening.
Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin tests positive for the virus
Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin informed President Vladimir Putin that he had tested positive for coronavirus during a video conference on Thursday evening, according to a Kremlin transcript of their conversation.
"It has just became known that the tests I took for coronavirus have given a positive result," Mishutin said, adding that he "must observe self-isolation as the doctors order."
He said that planned to stay in contact with his colleagues by phone and videocall.
Putin then wished Mishustin a speedy recovery.
Photos: Navy hospital ship departs New York
A Navy hospital ship left New York City on Thursday, a month after it was sent to relieve stress on hospitals at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
After arriving to great fanfare, the USNS Comfort treated just 182 people as a surge in cases in the hard-hit city fell short of the worst-case projections. The last dozen patients on the ship were discharged or transferred to other hospitals over the weekend.
WHO investigating link between virus and syndrome that affects young kids
The World Health Organization is “urgently” investigating a potential link between the coronavirus and Kawasaki syndrome, an illness of unknown cause that primarily affects children under 5.
“We are aware of this newly described syndrome from a number of countries in Europe and potentially a small number of cases in North America,” Dr. Adam Finn, chair of the WHO's European Technical Advisory Group, told a news briefing Thursday.
“We are urgently conducting a surveillance study in the United Kingdom to establish what is going on,” he added.
Also known as Kawasaki disease, on its website the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes Kawasaki syndrome as “acute febrile illness of unknown cause" that "primarily affects children younger than five years of age.”
Boris Johnson leads first briefing since COVID-19 recovery
Leading his first coronavirus press briefing at No. 10 Downing Street since he recovered from COVID-19, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday paid tribute to the U.K.'s National Health Service.
Johnson, whose fianceé, Carrie Symonds, gave birth to their son on Wednesday, said, "I want to thank everybody who has been doing such a good job in my absence, and I want to thank the NHS for so much — including getting me back here and, I might add, a very much happier hospital visit yesterday."
He added that an additional 674 patients had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the U.K. as of 5 p.m. local time (12 p.m. ET) on Wednesday, bringing the country's death toll to 26,771.
Utah pledges free masks for every resident
As Utah begins to reopen its economy, the state is promising a face mask to anyone who needs one, free of charge.
Gov. Gary Hebert this week announced the new initiative, called “A Mask for Every Utahn.”
“We want to do everything we can as we work together as a state to combat COVID-19,” Gov. Hebert said in a statement. “Wearing a mask when we are out in public may not be convenient, but it can help slow the spread of the virus. Let’s all do our part in stopping the spread and helping to protect those around us.”
The project, funded through the federal CARES Act, will produce two million masks for the state’s residents in partnership with the Utah Manufacturers Association and Cotopaxi, an outdoor apparel company. The masks will all be made in Utah and the order will help employ more than 200 residents, according to the news release.
Residents are able to request a mask through an online form on the state’s coronavirus website.
New York City subways to shut down overnight, Cuomo says
New York City's subway system will close down in the overnight hours as the state combats the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.
The overnight shutdowns for the largely 24 hours a day, seven days a week system will begin on May 6, with trains being stopped for cleaning between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. every night, Cuomo said at his coronavirus briefing.
The move follows multiple published reports about a growing homeless population and poor sanitary conditions that had been growing for weeks. Subway ridership has plummeted since New York's stay-at-home order went into place last month.
“You now have more homeless people on fewer trains and you have fewer people to conduct outreach for the homeless people,” Cuomo said.
Buses, vans, and for-hire vehicles will be used to transport essential workers during the hours the subways are shuttered, the governor said.
Photo: Forbidden City open again
Churches, museums and playgrounds to reopen as Germany eases lockdown measures
Church and religious services will be allowed to take place in Germany and playgrounds, galleries, museums, and zoos will be allowed to reopen, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday, she announced that lockdown measures in the country would be eased. However, concerts and major sporting events will remain closed.
"We need to further slow the spread of the virus," Merkel said, adding that the country needed to bring down further the number of daily new infections and social distancing rules must be observed in public places to avoid a spike in infections.
Merkel said there were “difficult decisions” on how to proceed but insisted: “We have a great responsibility so that there is no relapse in a more difficult phase."
Biden calls on Trump to lower White House flag to honor coronavirus victims
Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee, called on President Donald Trump to lower the White House flag to half-staff to honor the thousands of victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
“By the end of this month, we will have lost more people to the coronavirus, dead, than we lost in the entire Vietnam War, Americans lost in the entire Vietnam War,” Biden said in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday.
“I think the president should lower the flag on the White House to half-mast to recognize their loss, and all they leave behind,” he said. "Folks, I think if he does not do that, when I’m president, I promise you that’s what I’ll do.”
Pelosi says House plans to come back the week of May 11
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that Democrats are planning to bring the House back into session the week of May 11.
When asked at her weekly press conference when the House will come back to vote on the next major coronavirus relief package, Pelosi said lawmakers are at the “mercy of the virus in terms of when they have the Capitol physician and the sergeant-at-arms say that we can come together and our large number.”
A few minutes later, she said, “We're not coming back this week. Our plan is to come back the following week.”
The speaker said that lawmakers are focused on working and voting on the next relief package as soon as possible, and the timing could change. Earlier this week, Democratic leaders said that the House would reconvene next week, but they were later advised by the Capitol physician not to return because of the coronavirus threat.
Holocaust survivor, 94, discharged from rehab center after recovering from COVID-19
The red carpet was rolled out for a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor who recently recovered from COVID-19.
Jack Holzberg, from Forest Hills, a neighborhood in New York City's Queens borough, was discharged from CareOne at Hanover, a rehab center in New Jersey, on Tuesday after he spent weeks fighting the deadly virus.
“He’s just one of the toughest people that I know,” Holzberg’s grandson-in-law Jeff Wasserman told NBC New York.
The great grandfather of five has been a fighter his whole life. As a teenager, Holzberg survived multiple concentration camps in Austria and Poland, according to testimony he gave to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute in 1996.
In a post on Facebook, Holzberg’s granddaughter Erica Wasserman expressed her gratitude for her grandfather’s health care team. “As a Holocaust survivor, he personifies strength and positivity. We are beyond grateful to everyone who cared for him and we can’t wait for the day when we can all celebrate together,” Wasserman wrote.
New York will hire up to 17,000 people to trace contacts of people with coronavirus
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday detailed plans to develop a massive program for tracing the contacts of people in the state who test positive for coronavirus.
Cuomo said the effort will require hiring between 6,400 and 17,000 contact tracers, depending on the spread of the virus.
Bloomberg, whose philanthropic organization is helping to lead the program's launch, joined Cuomo via video during the governor's daily coronavirus briefing.
"When social distancing is relaxed, contract tracing is our best hope for isolating the virus when it appears and keeping it isolated," Bloomberg said.
He said Johns Hopkins University has developed a training class for contact tracers that can be taken remotely.
Vaccine by January is 'doable,' Fauci says
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the "TODAY" show on Thursday that the government is determining whether a vaccine is effective before beginning to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses.
"We want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it's safe and it's effective," Fauci said. "I think that is doable if things fall in the right place."
In January, Fauci estimated that a vaccine against the coronavirus could be developed in a year to 18 months.
NYC Mayor says funeral home storing bodies in U-Haul was 'absolutely unacceptable'
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said it is "absolutely unacceptable" that a funeral home in Brooklyn stored bodies in moving trucks after running out of space.
Andrew T. Cleckley Funeral Services was issued two citations this week after police found 50 bodies had been stored in four trucks, including rentals from U-Haul. The owner, who was not criminally charged, told officials that he had an overflow of bodies and was trying to do his best.
"This horrible situation that occurred with the funeral home in Brooklyn, absolutely unacceptable," the mayor said at his news conference on Thursday. "They have an obligation to the people they serve to treat them with dignity. I have no idea in the world how any funeral home can let this happen."
Funeral homes are regulated by the state and not the city, but de Blasio said the owner should have reached out for help if the were having issues with storage. "It's unconscionable to me," he said.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said he would be convening a bereavement committee on Monday to address the incident and demand the city do better, NBC New York reported. De Blasio said he supports Adams' plan.
U.S. Intelligence Community examining whether outbreak came from animals or laboratory accident
The United States Intelligence Community agrees with the scientific consensus that COVID-19 was "not manmade or genetically modified," according to a statement by the office of the Director of National Intelligence published Thursday morning.
The U.S. Intelligence Community is comprised of 17 federal government intelligence-gathering agencies and offices. Together, they have been providing national policymakers and responders with information about the virus by "surging resources and producing critical intelligence on issues vital to U.S. national security."
The community is continuing to examine "whether the outbreak began through contact with infected animals or if it was the result of an accident at a laboratory in Wuhan,” according to the DNI statement.
Not taking public transit during the pandemic? France offers 50 euro to fix up your bike
In an effort to encourage socially distant forms of transportation in the COVID-19 era, the French Ministry of Ecological and Inclusive Transition announced Thursday that it would be putting forward a 20 million euro ($21.7 million) plan to improve bicycle infrastructure, but notably would also include a one-time 50 euro ($54) subsidy that cyclists can use toward bike repair.
In a news release, Minister Elisabeth Borne said that 60 percent of trips in France during the pre-pandemic era are under 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). “The weeks to come represent an opportunity for many French people, whether they are already cyclists or not, to choose their bike to get to work or to get around nearby,” she said.
The Ministry is calling it a “bike repair boost” that will cover many minor bike repairs, including a new chain installation, new brakes, tires, derailleur and more. It can be used only among the network of 3,000 bike mechanics who are members of a French bike advocacy group known as FUB. The French government agency also intends to use the funds to improve bike parking and bike lanes, and to set up bike training classes nationwide.
Germany warns of second or third virus wave in the fall
Germany is still at the “beginning of a marathon” when it comes to the outbreak, according to Lothar Wieler, the president of Germany’s public health institute. He stressed that some experts expect a second or even a third wave of coronavirus infections in the country — particularly in the fall.
Wieler said Thursday that recent developments are “pleasant” given that daily new cases in Germany this week stand at around 1,000 (compared to around 2,000 daily cases last week), but he asked citizens to continue to adhere to all social distancing measures.
The comments come a week after German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that the campaign against the outbreakwas in its early stages and warned that Germany was still on "thin ice." Germany has fared better than most European nations in terms of its death toll, but it has the fifth-highest caseload in Europe with almost 160,000 confirmed as of Thursday.
Surge of masks and gowns coming to New York City, de Blasio says
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Thursday that a factory in Vietnam is producing a mass supply of surgical gowns.
One million gowns are on the way to the city with 900,000 more being loaded onto a plane, he said. The city has purchased an additional 3 million gowns that are in production.
"We are now confident that we will have enough surgical gowns to get us through the middle of May," he said.
De Blasio also said Thursday that 100,000 face masks will be distributed this week free-of-charge in parks. He said they will focus on communities that have been hard-hit by the virus and parks where there is heavy traffic.
Hundreds of thousands of masks have been donated to the city, de Blasio said. American Eagle donated 175,000 surgical masks and the NBA contributed 35,000 masks, including N95 respirators. The Consulate General of Egypt donated 200,000 masks and 5,000 protective gowns and suits.
De Blasio said he was "very appreciative" of all of the donations.
Photo: Masked monks pray in South Korea
Iraqi government will fine citizens for not wearing masks
Iraq tightened restriction measures to contain the spread of the virus by expanding its curfew on Wednesday evening, warning it may re-impose a full curfew as many citizens have failed to abide by the measures, according to government officials.
Iraq’s Higher Committee for Health and National Safety will also impose a fine of 10,000 Iraqi dinars (around $8) on those who refrain from wearing masks or ignore social distancing measures.
The committee also ordered the health authorities to assess the extent of compliance with the measures by the citizens and report on that within seven days. Iraq has reported more than 2,000 virus cases and 92 deaths as of Thursday.
Cleaner air in Europe leads to 11,000 fewer deaths, study shows
An improvement in air quality from coronavirus lockdowns over the past month avoided 11,000 deaths from pollution across Europe, a study showed Thursday.
The measures to combat the virus have led to an approximately 40 percent reduction in average level of nitrogen dioxide pollution and a 10 percent reduction in average level of particle matter pollution across Europe over the past 30 days, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air said in a briefing. These pollution reductions have led to the substantial depletion in deaths caused by asthma, strokes and other pre-existing conditions.
The decrease in air pollution resulted from unprecedented reductions in coal and oil burning in Europe, the study said. This has also helped to generally alleviate pressure on the health care system during this crisis, it said, noting the analysis highlighted “the tremendous benefits for public health” that could be achieved by “rapidly reducing fossil fuels in a sustained and sustainable way."
NYC man stole over $12,000 in stimulus checks from mailboxes, prosecutors say
A New York City man was arrested on Tuesday for allegedly stealing nine coronavirus stimulus checks worth more than $12,000 from mailboxes, federal prosecutors say.
Feng Chen, 31, was spotted by police early Tuesday morning looking inside mailboxes in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, according to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Chen was seen searching a medical-collection bin and looking at mail left at a door, according to the complaint and court statements. After leaving a different building with what appeared to be mail, Chen saw the police officers and “tossed the mail on the sidewalk,” prosecutors say.
Jobless claims top 30 million as coronavirus continues to devastate economy
Around 3.8 million more workers filed for first-time employment benefits last week, bringing the national jobless total to a staggering 30 million — or around 18 percent of the workforce.
Nationwide lockdowns led to the abrupt shutdown of the economy in mid-March, leaving millions of people scrambling to file for unemployment insurance. The sheer volume of applicants has overwhelmed the system, with many states reporting website outages and hourslong delays on telephone helplines.
That has led to inaccurate accounting of the jobless, as many people report waits of six weeks or more to even file their claim. States are working to correct this, by adding thousands more workers to process applications.
Data to be released May 8 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics is likely to elucidate the full number of unemployed in America.
Swedish town uses chicken manure to deter gatherings
A town in southern Sweden has turned to chicken manure in order to try to prevent the spread of coronavirus during an annual festive event on Thursday.
The manure bought from a local farm will serve dual purpose: “It will both fertilize the lawn of the park for the summer, at the same time, it will stink,” Lund's Mayor Phillip Sandberg said. The town council on Thursday morning used one ton of the fertilizer in the university town's central park that often hosts “Sweden’s largest picnic” of about 30,000 people on April 30 each year.
Walpurgis Night is typically celebrated with picnics, parties and bonfires across the country, and regularly attracts thousands of students. As it’s an informal event without any formal organizing part, it cannot be cancelled based on the current national recommendations banning official gatherings over 50 people.
Drug dealers using food delivery services to traffic substances, police say
Criminals have been using food delivery services to transport and distribute drugs in several countries worldwide amid coronavirus lockdowns, Interpol warned on Thursday.
The France-based police agency said it received reports from Ireland, Malaysia, Spain and the United Kingdom about delivery drivers transporting illicit substances including cocaine, marijuana, ketamine and ecstasy.
In one incident, Irish Gardai officers recovered nearly 18 pounds of cocaine and two handguns hidden in pizza boxes. In another, a Malaysian food delivery rider contacted police after being tasked to deliver a single order of Indian flatbread that suspiciously weighed 24 pounds. Interpol has issued the notice to its 194 member countries to increase cooperation between police agencies and better tackle the drug trade during the global health crisis.
Fauci warns states against reopening too soon
WASHINGTON — Dr. Anthony Fauci said Thursday that states that are reopening their economies or states that are considering taking that action soon “can’t just leap over things” and get into a situation where the coronavirus makes a rebound in that region.
In an interview on the “TODAY” show, Savannah Guthrie asked Fauci whether the states that are beginning to reopen have the capability to conduct the contact tracing needed if an outbreak starts again. Fauci said that he can’t go state by state but urged states that don’t have the capability to “go very slowly.”
“You can't just leap over things and get into a situation where you're really tempting a rebound. That's the thing I get concerned about,” he said. “I hope they don't do that.”
Serbians protests against strict lockdown measures with pans and horns
A cacophony of tin pans, drums, whistles, and horns has reverberated through much of Serbia on Wednesday as stuck-at-home citizens vented their anger at the government and its strict containment measures to curb the coronavirus.
For the fourth night in a row on Wednesday evening, people across Serbia responded to the call by the Don’t Let Belgrade Drown Initiative to protest by making noise against what they called dictatorship in the country, local news reported. The noise starts at 8:05 p.m. after the applause for medical staff. Later in the evening on Wednesday, supporters of the ruling Serbian party organized a counter-noise protest, lighting torches and cheering President Aleksandar Vucic.
Serbia, which has reported 8,497 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 173 deaths from the virus, introduced stringent measures last month, including a state of emergency, closure of borders, daily curfew from 4 p.m. local time, and total lockdowns all weekend, including all four days of the Easter holiday. While the government has started to lift restrictions as the rate of infections slows, it said that a lockdown during the Labor Day holiday on May 1 — a important celebration in Serbia — should remain in place.
Britain likely to miss virus testing target, minister admits
Britain will more than likely miss its target of carrying out 100,000 virus tests a day by the end of April, Justice Minister Robert Buckland said on Thursday. Around 52,000 tests were carried out on Wednesday, according health officials.
"Even if it isn't met, we are well on our way to ramping this up," Buckland told a BBC morning show on Thursday. "Even if we don't meet the target today, the effort that's been put in to increase these numbers is remarkable," he said.
The original target was set by the U.K.'s health minister earlier this month. The government has faced growing criticism over low levels of virus testing, as well as complaints from health workers over a lack of sufficient protective gear.
British doctors warn some Chinese ventilators could kill if used in hospitals
Senior British doctors have warned that 250 ventilators the United Kingdom bought from China risk causing "significant patient harm, including death," if they are used in hospitals, according to a letter seen by NBC News.
The doctors said the machines had a problematic oxygen supply, could not be cleaned properly, had an unfamiliar design and a confusing instruction manual, and were built for use in ambulances, not hospitals.
The British case is not an isolated one, and it comes as a stark example of a procurement problem that has plagued many countries as the coronavirus has spread throughout the world.
Nearly half of global workers at risk of losing their livelihoods, data shows
Nearly half of the world's workforce is at immediate risk of losing their livelihood because of coronavirus, the International Labour Organization warned on Wednesday.
The continued sharp decline in working hours, as well as lockdown measures due to the outbreak means that 1.6 billion informal economy workers around the world “stand in immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed,” according to the organization's analysis.
“For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future. As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent," the U.N. agency’s director general, Guy Ryder, told a briefing on Wednesday.
Shell slashes dividend for the first time since World War II
Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell on Thursday cut its dividend to shareholders for the first time since World War II, following a dramatic slide in oil prices amid the coronavirus crisis.
The board at Shell said it had decided to reduce the oil major’s first-quarter dividend to $0.16 per share, down from $0.47 at the end of 2019. That’s a reduction of 66 percent.
“Shareholder returns are a fundamental part of Shell’s financial framework,” Chad Holliday, chair of the board of Royal Dutch Shell, said in a statement.
Vending machines in France dish out face masks, gloves and hand gel
South Korea records no new domestic cases for first time since February
South Korea reported no new domestic virus cases on Thursday for the first time since February, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. The country reported four new infections that were all imported, taking the national tally to 10,765. The death toll rose by one to 247 on Thursday, while 9,059 have been discharged.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in thanked the public on the news of zero reported domestic cases saying in a message, “This is the strength of South Korea and the power of the people.”
The health authorities also concluded no local transmission occurred from a parliamentary election earlier this month, according to Reuters, where authorities took safety measures like requiring voters to wear masks and plastic gloves when casting ballots.
Russia sees record rise in recorded coronavirus infections
Russia passed several coronavirus milestones on Thursday, reporting a record 7,099 new confirmed infections, bringing the total number of cases to more than 100,000.
According to data published by Russia’s Coronavirus Crisis Response Center, Russia also saw 101 deaths in the past day, bringing the total fatalities to 1,073.
About 50 percent of Russia’s cases are in Moscow, but the share of new confirmed cases has shifted outside the city and into regions less prepared to manage an outbreak. President Vladimir Putin this week extended stay-at-home restrictions through May 11, claiming Russia has not yet reached its peak — and will not get there until at least mid-May.
Flight bookings in China surge for May 1 holiday
Flight bookings in China have spiked ahead of its upcoming five-day May 1 celebrations, with passenger numbers expected to increase by around 43 percent, the Chinese Ministry of Transport said on Thursday.
An analysis of airline passenger ticket reservations led to estimates that nearly 3 million people could fly. Though the uptick in travel is a sign that the country is starting to pick up after the coronavirus lockdown, the numbers represent a decrease of about 66 percent over the same period in 2019.
The Chinese capital had until Wednesday lived under some of the strictest coronavirus restrictions in the country, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving. That requirement was scrapped from Thursday for travelers from low-risk areas of China.
Masks thrown onto California freeway cause mini-traffic jam
UNION CITY, Calif. — In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a San Francisco Bay Area freeway suffered a mini-traffic jam Wednesday when someone tossed hundreds of face masks onto the road and some motorists stopped to grab them, the California Highway Patrol reported.
Around 1:30 p.m., CHP officers received a report that a white truck had stopped on Interstate 880 in Union City and someone tossed out boxes of medical masks, the CHP reported.
Hundreds of the prized masks spread across southbound lanes, authorities said. As many as 1,000 masks may have been dumped, KPIX-TV reported.
Several motorists “stopped and stepped out of their vehicles to pick up the masks,” the CHP’s Hayward bureau said in a Facebook post.
It took about an hour before a road sweeper picked up all the masks, authorities said.
There were no reported injuries and no arrests or citations were immediately made.
Newsom expected to close all California beaches
The California Police Chiefs Association told members in an email Wednesday that Gov. Gavin Newsom planned to announce Thursday that beaches statewide would be closed starting Friday.
The closure is also expected to include state parks.
The move appears to be designed to prevent the kind of crowding seen over the weekend, when warm weather prompted thousands to flock to the Orange County coastline.
On Monday Newsom, expressed his displeasure with the Southern California crowds, saying, "This virus doesn’t take the weekends off. This virus doesn’t go home because it’s a beautiful sunny day around our coasts."
Should students get a tuition refund as classes move online?
LeBron James to honor Class of 2020 with all-star event
LeBron James is putting together an all-star event to honor and celebrate the high school class of 2020, which has had its graduation season upended by the coronavirus pandemic.
The LeBron James Family Foundation, XQ Institute and The Entertainment Industry Foundation on Wednesday announced that the one-hour special, “Graduate Together: America Honors the High School Class of 2020,” will air simultaneously on NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox on May 16 at 8 p.m. EDT. The event will pay tribute to high schoolers graduating this year and will include appearances by James, Pharrell Williams, Malala Yousafzai, the Jonas Brothers, Bad Bunny, Yara Shahidi, Ben Platt, Lena Waithe and H.E.R.
“I wanted to help create a show that looked and felt very different from traditional specials. Something that spoke to kids in a different way. These kids worked so hard to graduate and what is happening to them is truly unfair,” James said in a statement.
“Graduate Together” was curated by high school students, educators and the American Federation of Teachers. It will feature commencement speeches, performances and more. It will also air on TikTok, Facebook, YouTube, Complex Networks, PeopleTV and other digital platforms.
Elon Musk compares stay-at-home orders to imprisonment in rant to Tesla investors
Elon Musk used Wednesday's Tesla earnings call to rant about stay-at-home orders that have been adopted by many states across the country to limit the spread of coronavirus.
"'Shelter in place.' Frankly, I would call it forcibly imprisoning of people in their homes against all of their constitutional rights, in my opinion," said Musk, who is the CEO of Tesla. "It's breaking people's freedoms in ways that are horrible and wrong and not why they came to America or built this country. What the f---. Excuse me. Outrage. Outrage.”
His comments follow a tweet on Tuesday in which he said "FREE AMERICA NOW," seemingly in response to the lockdown. The tweet was soon followed by a trending hashtag urging people to #boycottTesla. Musk also previously said panicking about the pandemic "is dumb."
Musk's Fremont-based car factory has been limited to maintaining only “minimum basic operations" since March as part of shutdown orders that have closed non-essential businesses. Initially, Tesla told employees at the factory that it would stay open, but government officials stepped in and determined the factory was not an essential business. On the call, Musk said the closure poses a "serious risk" to the company. Despite its factories being shut down, Tesla reported a surprise first-quarter profit on Wednesday.