With new measures in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Senators returned to Washington on Monday. Soda machines were taped off, tables were spread out and basketball-size circles painted on the ground reminded visitors how far apart six feet is. Lawmakers were scheduled to take their first vote Monday night.
At the U.S. Supreme Court, justices conducted their first-ever oral argument by conference call. The audio was streamed live — also a first — on news sites and is available on CSPAN.
A report by the Department of Homeland Security's intelligence service details China's efforts to cover up the depth of its coronavirus outbreak while stockpiling medical supplies. The details come one day after one day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China must be held accountable for spreading the deadly virus.
More than 68,000 people have been sickened with the disease across the United States, according to an NBC News tally. New York state tops the list, with more than 25,117 deaths. More than 1 million Americans have contracted the virus.
- 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.
Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.
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Frontier asks passengers to disclose their health, pay extra for an empty middle seat
Frontier Airlines is telling passengers that if they want the middle seat blocked they can pay for it.
Customers will be able to select a “more room” option, beginning at $39, to ensure that the middle seat is reserved without a passenger, the airline announced Monday. Some airlines such as Delta and EasyJet have already started to block off the middle seat, where possible, to allow for social distancing.
Starting May 8, face coverings are also mandatory at the gate and boarding areas as well as on the plane, the airline said.
“While we believe the best measure to keep everyone healthy is to require face coverings, for those who want an empty seat next to them for extra peace of mind or simply additional comfort, we are now offering “More Room,” Frontier chief executive Barry Biffle said in a statement.
In addition, Frontier is mandating that passengers fill in a health acknowledgement form certifying neither they nor family members have suffered from COVID-19 symptoms in the prior 14 days to the flight. The airline will not allow anyone who has a fever to travel.
Mnuchin suggests Americans explore U.S. instead of traveling internationally as economy reopens
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested Monday that people should consider using their time amid the coronavirus crisis to explore the U.S. instead of traveling internationally.
“Our priority is opening up the domestic economy,” he said in an interview on Fox Business Network. “Obviously for business people who do need to travel, there will be travel on a limited basis, but this is a great time for people to explore America.”
Mnuchin added that a lot of people “haven’t seen many parts of America” and he wishes he can “get back on the road soon.”
Asked if international travel could be opened up this year, Mnuchin said, "It’s too hard to tell at this point” adding, “I hope that it is."
In an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, the Trump administration has imposed strict travel restrictions on certain regions including China and Europe but they only apply to people who are not U.S. citizens.
Coronavirus apps won’t be able to record users’ location, Apple and Google say
Apple and Google are tightening the rules for smartphone apps that could notify people about exposure to the coronavirus after concern that the apps would violate privacy.
Public health agencies, academics and governors' offices are racing to deploy the apps in the U.S. as one step toward relaxing stay-at-home orders.
The apps would use Bluetooth technology to privately record when phones are near each other, and to send anonymous notifications to people who have spent time with infected individuals. A handful of states have already rolled out test versions.
But the two tech companies said Monday they want to be sure the apps use only anonymous Bluetooth proximity data, not location data from cellular networks that could be more invasive.
Did the coronavirus really escape from a Chinese lab?
There has been a barrage of contradictory claims in recent days about how American officials believe coronavirus emerged from the Chinese city of Wuhan, what evidence they have, and when President Donald Trump was first briefed about it.
White House dismisses report projecting sharp increase in daily COVID deaths
The White House on Monday dismissed a document reportedly prepared by the Trump administration that projects that deaths from the coronavirus could reach 3,000 a day on June 1.
“This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting. This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.
The document was obtained by The New York Times, which said that the administration’s forecast could reach 200,000 new COVID-19 cases a day by the end of the month compared to about 25,000 cases a day now. The projections were based on government modeling compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Deere said in his statement that Trump’s "phased guidelines to open up America again are a scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with" and that the health of Americans remains the president’s top priority.
Photo: Churches open in Munich
Worshippers attend an evening Mass at Munich's Frauenkirche on Monday, the first day churches and other houses of worship were allowed to hold services again in Bavaria. Nationwide state and local governments are easing lockdown measures in a careful attempt to bring normalcy back to public life in Germany.
Kroger to offer free COVID-19 testing to workers
Grocery giant Kroger will begin offering COVID-19 testing to workers, according to a release issued this morning.
The company will also provide testing to associates based on symptoms and medical need. It already hosts public drive-thru testing sites in 12 states.
“At Kroger, the safety and health of our associates and customers remains our top priority during this unprecedented time,” said Tim Massa, Kroger’s senior vice president and chief people officer, in a statement released to NBC News. “Our associates have worked tirelessly to provide communities continued access to fresh, affordable food. We are dedicated to providing support and gratitude to our associates across the country.”
Kroger will be distributing tests to workers across its family of brands, including Ralphs, Food 4 Less, and Dillon’s, among others.
Members of UFCW Local 770 in the Los Angeles area have been protesting at Ralphs and Food 4 Less locations for over a week. Members have been calling for testing, more cleaning, and response protocol following a COVID-19 positive test in stores.
“That UFCW members successfully compelled Kroger to provide testing is a significant victory for the public’s health,”said John Grant, president of UFCW Local 770, in a release. “Grocery corporations like Kroger have been doubling and tripling their profits while other businesses are shuttering, yet they have been slow to implement safety measures and share profits with essential workers on the frontline.”
Fact check: Trump falsely claims U.S. is testing more than every other country 'combined'
President Donald Trump boasted again about coronavirus testing, tweeting Monday that the U.S. has "performed 6.5 million tests, which is more than every country in the world, combined!”
This is not true.
America has performed the most tests — as a large country with an ongoing pandemic — of any country, but the U.S. has not tested more people than the rest of the world combined.
According to one global data compilation, the U.S. has tested more people than Trump says — 6.8 million tests. But according to the same tracker, Russia has performed 4.1 million tests, Italy has done 2.1 million tests and Canada has conduced another 862,000. That’s more than 7 million tests in just three countries. More than 200 other countries are also fighting this pandemic, as well.
Top FEMA official announces he's departing the office in July
William Roy, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Response Operations Division, is departing his position at the end of July, a senior administration official told NBC News.
Roy, a retired Army major general, has served as director of the division since July 2017. As part of that role, Roy oversees multiple departments, including the FEMA Operations Center and the National Response Coordination Center.
Roy has been deeply involved in the coronavirus response effort and is a member of the interagency leadership group that works with the White House and its task forces.
FEMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment from NBC News.
Pro baseball from Korea headed to American TV
ESPN announced Monday it struck a deal with South Korean baseball officials, and plans to televise six games per week to sports-starved American viewers.
The pact, made with the Korean Baseball Organization's (KBO) international rights holder Eclat Media Group, calls one game to air each day, Tuesday through Sunday, on an ESPN channel and its digital platform.
The first game, to be played in an empty stadium, will feature the Samsung Lions and NC Dinos. First pitch is set for 2 p.m. in Korea and 1 a.m. ET on Tuesday.
Virtually all sports around the world have been put on hold, due to the coronavirus pandemic. South Korea and Taiwan have been widely praised for their aggressive fight against the pandemic — and now both have professional baseball up and running.
New data suggests Americans bought roughly 4.2 million firearms in April, according to gun control group
Confronted by the coronavirus outbreak, Americans bought an estimated 4.2 million firearms in March and April, a gun control group said Monday.
The Everytown for Gun Safety group came to that conclusion after crunching the newest numbers from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and discovering that 25 percent more background checks were done in April 2020 than in April 2019.
And more guns means more danger for Americans sheltering at home during the coronavirus crisis, according to Shannon Watts of the Moms Demand Action gun control group.
“The risks are particularly high for the millions of kid in homes with unsecured guns, women sheltering in places with abusers, and anybody struggling psychologically during this crisis,” Watts said.
New Jersey schools to remain closed through the rest of the academic year, gov announces
FDA tightens rules on antibody tests after false claims, accuracy problems
WASHINGTON — U.S. regulators Monday pulled back a decision that allowed scores of coronavirus blood tests to hit the market without first providing proof that they worked.
The Food and Drug Administration said it took the action because some sellers have made false claims about the tests and their accuracy.
7 million face coverings will be handed out for free in NYC
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Monday that the city will hand out 7.5 million face masks for free.
The mayor said the initiative started over the weekend to a "great response" as people spilled out of their apartments and into public spaces while temperatures soared into the 70s.
He said "people were really grateful the get them," and the city would now start distributing masks at parks, food distribution centers, public housing developments, affordable housing facilities and anywhere police and the parks department are enforcing social distancing. Five million three-ply non-medical masks and 2.5 million cloth face coverings will be handed out.
"When you put on that face covering, you are reducing the spread of this disease, and taking one small step toward normalcy," de Blasio said.
Amazon VP quits over firing of coronavirus whistleblowers
A vice president and engineer at Amazon said he quit on May 1 "in dismay" at the company's firing of "whistleblowers who were making noise about warehouse employees frightened of Covid-19."
Tim Bray, who announced his resignation on his personal blog, worked at Amazon for five-and-half years said the move to fire employees sounding the alarm on working conditions was "chickens---."
"At the end of the day, the big problem isn’t the specifics of Covid-19 response," Bray wrote. "It’s that Amazon treats the humans in the warehouses as fungible units of pick-and-pack potential."
Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
'If they can do it, so can we'
While trains are empty, rail companies entertain on Twitter
As millions of commuters continue to stay home, Britain's rail companies are using their Twitter accounts to entertain the public with bedtime stories and cute animal photos.
Instead of the usual updates on train delays and timetable changes, London North Eastern Railway's customer service reps are posting videos of themselves reading Thomas the Train out loud to sleepy train enthusiasts, and video updates on a mother goose who has chosen to lay her eggs in the flower bed of an almost-empty railway station in York, Yorkshire.
Not wanting to miss out on the fun, ScotRail has been providing behind-the-scenes videos like a virtual trip through a train wash, as well as content guaranteed to please all ages: cute animal photos. "Please enjoy this picture of a very fluffy alpaca," wrote one customer service rep yesterday. "That's it. That's the Tweet."
Experts define inflammatory disorder likely linked to COVID-19 in kids
A group of experts from around the globe announced Monday a case definition for a new inflammatory disorder in children that's likely linked to COVID-19.
The group, with experts specializing in pediatric infectious disease, cardiology and intensive care management, met in a webinar on Saturday to discuss cases of what they're now calling "pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome." The syndrome appears to cause an inflammation of blood vessels, as well as a toxic shock-like response and fever.
"This rare syndrome shares common features with other pediatric inflammatory conditions including: Kawasaki disease, staphylococcal and streptococcal toxic shock syndromes, bacterial sepsis and macrophage activation syndromes," the panel of experts wrote in its case definition.
It's unclear how many children may have this condition. A handful of cases have been reported in the New York area, as well as in the U.K.
One German state plans to reopen restaurants to limited capacity
Lower Saxony, a state in northwest Germany, announced Monday that it will allow restaurants and cafes to reopen in a week, on May 11, but only at 50 percent capacity and for people who make reservations.
Vacation rentals and campgrounds will open, too, with reduced availability, but bars and clubs will remain closed.
The state's plan was released despite an agreement between local leaders and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that they would discuss reopening restaurants and bars later. A government spokesperson would not comment on the state’s plan.
How will colleges recover from coronavirus? Campuses that survived disasters offer clues
Before the coronavirus shut down college campuses, some had already suffered natural disasters that decreased enrollment, slowed students’ progress and deprived faculty and staff of income.
Officials at these colleges said they can offer lessons in how institutions can respond not just to wildfires and hurricanes, but also to a pandemic. Strategies include offering additional financial and emotional support to struggling students.
When it comes to crises that can bring a campus to a halt, said Marvin Pratt, director of environmental health and safety at California State University, Chico, which was closed for two weeks by the 2018 Camp fire, “All of us have learned that no one is immune.”
Jersey City makes beautiful discovery during City Hall renovation
Bureaucrats in Jersey City made an exciting discovery while taking advantage of coronavirus downtime to make improvements to the city.
Mayor Steven Fulop tweeted on Sunday that builders renovating City Hall had uncovered and restored a stunning early 20th century tiled floor that had spent nearly six decades hidden under grey speckled linoleum.
"We thought we’d find garbage," Fulop said, "but instead we found the original from 100 yrs ago."
'60 Minutes' correspondent Lesley Stahl details recovery from coronavirus
The veteran journalist who has been with "60 Minutes" for nearly three decades opened by sharing a tenet of journalism: "Don't become part of the story."
"But instead of covering the pandemic, I was one of the more-than-one million Americans who did become part of it," she revealed.
Stahl concluded by thanking that "valiant army in scrubs and masks."
"They were fulfilling a mission, answering the call. Thanks to them, like so many other patients, I am well now," she said.
Five European countries have yet to reach COVID-19 peak, E.U. says
The head of the European Union agency for disease control said on Monday that five European countries have yet to reach the peak of their coronavirus outbreaks.
Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, told EU lawmakers that in Britain, Poland, Romania and Sweden the agency had seen "no substantial changes in the last 14 days," and Bulgaria was still recording an increase in cases. The statement contradicted the U.K. government's line, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying on Thursday that Britain was past the peak and "on the downward slope."
For all other European countries there was a drop in cases, she said. "As of Saturday, it appears that the initial wave of transmission (in Europe) has passed its peak," Ammon told lawmakers in a videoconference.
J. Crew files for bankruptcy as retailer succumbs to COVID-19 fallout
J. Crew Group Inc filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday with a plan to hand over control to lenders, adding to a list of brick-and-mortar retailers pushed to the brink by widespread store closures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The New York-based chain, known for preppy clothing at times worn by former first lady Michelle Obama, filed for bankruptcy in a Virginia federal court with an agreement to eliminate its roughly $1.65 billion of debt in exchange for ceding ownership to creditors. It is the first big retailer to file during the pandemic.
Anchorage Capital Group, Blackstone Group Inc's GSO Capital Partners and Davidson Kempner Capital Management hold significant portions of J. Crew's senior debt and are in line to take control of the company.
Brown bear seen in Spanish mountains for first time in 150 years
A brown bear was filmed in the mountains of northwestern Spain for what's believed to be the first time in 150 years, according to the production company Zeitun Films.
The film-makers spotted the bear using automatic camera traps in the Montes do Invernadeiro Natural Park in Galicia region. It is thought to be a male between 3 and 5 years old.
There have been many reports of wildlife sightings during coronavirus-related lockdowns. Park agents said they believe the bear likely spent the winter in the area. It follows years of conservation work there, the film-makers said.
Paris doctor says patient had virus at the end of December
A new French study has found that COVID-19 was already spreading in France in late December 2019, a month before the official first cases were declared in the country.
Dr. Yves Cohen, the head of an intensive care department at a hospital in Paris, told French television BFMTV on Sunday that the virus was present at their hospital in the north of Paris on Dec. 27. Dr. Cohen and his team re-examined medical records of intensive care patients admitted for influenza-like illness who tested negative for flu and other coronaviruses between Dec. 2, 2019 and Jan. 16, 2020.
Out of the 58 patients included in their analysis, one 42-year-old man admitted on Dec. 27 tested positive for COVID-19. The man, a native of Algeria, lived in France for many years and worked as a fishmonger. His last trip was in Algeria during August 2019, the study found. The study notes that it has several limitations due to the retrospective nature of the analyses and the non-exhaustive medical records of their patients, but the study was carried out by two teams with two different techniques to “avoid any false positive results.”
The group of doctors concluded that the “new case changes our understanding of the epidemic and modeling studies should adjust to this new data.”
37 London transit workers die from coronavirus
Thirty seven London transit workers have died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, the city's transit authority confirmed Monday.
Thirty of the workers who have died were bus drivers, and four worked for the Tube or rail, Transport for London said. In recent weeks, TFL banned passengers from boarding buses via the front door to better protect drivers from proximity to passengers.
South Carolina woman charged on two counts after licking incident at grocery store
A woman suspected of picking up goods in a grocery store after licking her hands and touching her face has been arrested in Sumter, South Carolina.
Police located and arrested 38-year-old Shenir Gibson Holliday in a parking lot on Saturday after officers reviewed surveillance camera footage showing her licking her hands and touching her face before handling products in a supermarket. They were also able to link her to a previous incident at another store in the town.
Holliday is in custody and waiting to be tested for COVID-19. She is charged with aggravated breach of peace and food tampering, Sumter Police said in a statement on Facebook.
Millions return to work as Italy eases eight-week coronavirus lockdown
Italy is turning “a new page” as it gradually eases out of Europe’s longest coronavirus lockdown, the country’s prime minister said, as some 4 million Italian workers went back to work Monday.
“The risks of having more infections are numerous, but we will be able to avoid them with responsibility,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italians in a video address on his Facebook page. “As never before, the future of the country is in your hands.”
Relatives will also be allowed to meet up while parks, some industries and construction sites open for the first time in eight weeks.
Roche wins U.S. nod for COVID-19 antibody test, aims to boost output
Roche has won emergency approval from the Food and Drug Administration for an antibody test to determine whether people have ever been infected with the coronavirus, the Swiss drugmaker said.
Thomas Schinecker, Roche's head of diagnostics, said the company aims to more than double production of tests from about 50 million a month to significantly more than 100 million a month by the end of the year.
Governments, businesses and individuals are seeking such blood tests to learn who may have had the disease, who may have some immunity and to potentially craft strategies to help end national lockdowns.
Japan extends coronavirus state of emergency to May 31
Japan extended its state of emergency until May 31, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced on Monday.
“Currently there are still significant number of new infections and the decrease in the number of cases is still not at adequate levels,” the prime minister said at a coronavirus task force meeting. “The view of experts is that we need to continue the current measures that are in place.”
Prime Minister Abe said the infection rates and impact on the healthcare system will be reassessed on May 14. He said if it seems possible he would lift the state of emergency in some areas before the end date. Japan has recorded 510 deaths from the virus and more than 15,000 infections.
NRA cutting staff and salaries
The National Rifle Association has laid off dozens of employees, canceled its national convention and scuttled fundraising, membership and shooting events that normally would be key to rallying its base in an election year.
The coronavirus pandemic has upended the gun-rights organization during what should be heady times for the group, in the middle of presidential election and with gun owners riled up over what they see as an effort by authorities to trample on their Second Amendment rights.
The NRA, which boasts about 5 million members, in recent weeks laid off or furloughed dozens of employees, imposed a four-day workweek for some employees and cut salaries across the board, including for CEO Wayne LaPierre. The financial issues, combined with the cancellation of fundraisers and the national convention, which would have surely drawn a visit from President Donald Trump, have complicated its ability to influence the 2020 election.
Brazil's Bolsonaro headlines anti-democratic rally amid alarm over handling of virus
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attacked Congress and the courts in a speech to hundreds of supporters on Sunday as the number of coronavirus cases blew past 100,000 in his country, underlining the former army captain's increasing isolation as he downplays the impacts of the pandemic.
Right-wing Bolsonaro has drawn widespread criticism from across the political spectrum for dismissing the threat of the virus in Brazil, which has registered 101,147 confirmed cases and 7,025 deaths, according to the most recent data from the Health Ministry.
On Sunday, dozens of public figures signed an open letter to the Brazilian government calling on officials to protect the nation's indigenous people, who often live in remote locations with limited access to healthcare.