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Over 76,000 dead as 33 million file for unemployment in U.S.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: US-HEALTH-VIRUS-DEMONSTRATION
Demonstrators holding signs demanding their church to reopen, protest during a rally to re-open California and against Stay-At-Home directives on May 1, 2020 in San Diego, Calif.Sandy Huffaker / AFP - Getty Images

The U.S. economy continues to look bleak after more than 3 million workers filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, according to federal labor data released Thursday.

Although that figure is down slightly from the week before, over 33 million Americans have now filed for initial jobless claims as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, which has routed some industries to Depression-era levels.

Yet even as the economy begins to slowly fire up again state by state, economists expect unemployment levels to continue rising — and to extend across a broader swath of industries.

Meanwhile, the debate over state reopenings goes on — and coronavirus cases show no sign of slowing down. As of Thursday evening, the death toll in the U.S. is over 76,000 and there are more than 1.2 million confirmed cases, according to NBC News' count.

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 now ended. Continue reading May 8 coronavirus news.

936d ago / 8:00 PM UTC

First child death from inflammatory syndrome reported in U.S.

A 5-year-old boy in New York has become the first child in the United States to die from a condition called pediatric multisymptom inflammatory syndrome that is believed to be linked to COVID-19.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a briefing Friday that the state department of health is investigating several related cases in children.

Nationwide, nearly 100 children have been diagnosed with the newly identified syndrome. At least eight states — California, Delaware, Louisiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington — as well as Washington, D.C., have reported cases.

Read the full story 

936d ago / 6:54 AM UTC

Duncan Hunter allowed to report to prison later because of coronavirus

Former U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, convicted of misusing campaign funds, has been granted a delay in when he must surrender to start serving his 11-month sentence.

U.S. District Judge Thomas J. Whelan in an order filed Thursday said that Hunter must surrender to a federal prison on or before Jan. 4. Online federal court records show the previous surrender date was set for May 29.

Prosecutors and Hunter's attorney said that the delay was appropriate "due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the unknown impacts the disease will have in the coming months."

Hunter, 43, pleaded guilty in December to a corruption charge after prosecutors said he and his wife "converted and stole" more than a quarter-million dollars in campaign funds for their own use over several years. 

Read the full story here.

936d ago / 6:38 AM UTC
936d ago / 6:21 AM UTC

Seattle to close 20 miles of streets permanently

Seattle is getting at least 20 linear miles of new open space after Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced Thursday that streets closed to allow people to get some exercise amid stay-at-home orders will be permanently shut down.

"People have more ways to get out safely and get out and walk and bike," she said at a news conference.

The blocks are part of of the city's Stay Healthy Streets program, announced April 17. The closed streets are intended for pedestrians, bicyclists and people engaging in exercise while practicing social distancing. 

Read the full story here.

936d ago / 6:04 AM UTC

U.N. chief calls for end to virus hate speech

UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the coronavirus pandemic keeps unleashing “a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering.”

The U.N. chief said Friday that “anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.”

Guterres said migrants and refugees “have been vilified as a source of the virus — and then denied access to medical treatment.”

“With older persons among the most vulnerable, contemptible memes have emerged suggesting they are also the most expendable,” he said. “And journalists, whistleblowers, health professionals, aid workers and human rights defenders are being targeted simply for doing their jobs.”

Guterres appealed “for an all-out effort to end hate speech globally.”

The secretary-general called on political leaders to show solidarity with all people, on educational institutions to focus on “digital literacy” at a time when “extremists are seeking to prey on captive and potentially despairing audiences.”

936d ago / 5:42 AM UTC

Virginia neighbors howl to ease coronavirus anxiety

936d ago / 5:33 AM UTC

U.S. says illegal crossings down at Mexico border

WASHINGTON — U.S. officials say fewer illegal immigrants are trying to enter the country from Mexico amid new enforcement rules imposed in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Mark Morgan says agents are encountering about half the number of migrants along the southwest border than in the month before President Donald Trump authorized the rapid expulsion of migrants under a March 21 public health order.

Total encounters in April were about 16,700.

The public health order was initially renewed for 30 days and is scheduled to expire this month. But Morgan and Deputy Commissioner Robert Perez suggested Thursday that the public health restrictions may have to stay in place longer even as the U.S. starts to ease quarantine restrictions.

Morgan also said border agents have encountered their first two migrants with confirmed cases of COVID-19. The first was from India and was captured near Calexico, California, on April 23. The second was a man from Mexico captured this week as he tried to enter the U.S. to seek medical attention for his illness.

936d ago / 4:34 AM UTC
936d ago / 4:27 AM UTC

American Samoa remains virus-free, official says

American Samoa is a rare place where officials say coronavirus does not exist.

Iulogologo Joseph Pereira, chairman of American Samoa Coronavirus Task Force, said Thursday, "We still don't have a confirmed case."

The U.S. territory has suspended flights from Hawaii, declared a state of emergency and put a pandemic plan into action.

It initially sent test samples to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for analysis but now has its own machine to do that. "We are steadily conducting tests which so far have all come back negative," Pereira said.

936d ago / 3:46 AM UTC

4th relative charged in death of Michigan guard enforcing mask rule

A fourth member of a family has been charged in connection to the fatal shooting of a Michigan security guard after an argument about a face mask requirement for shoppers.

Brya Shatonia Bishop, 24, the sister of the man accused of firing at the guard at a Flint store is accused of tampering with evidence by wiping her phone, lying to investigators and accessory after the fact to a felony, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said Thursday.

"We think she helped them escape," Leyton said in an interview with Detroit ABC affiliate WXYZ-TV.

Michigan State Police and the U.S. Marshals Service are searching for Bishop's brother, Ramonyea Bishop, 23, and his stepfather, Larry Teague, 44, in connection with Friday's killing at a Family Dollar store.

Read the full story here. 

936d ago / 3:00 AM UTC
936d ago / 2:37 AM UTC

Off-duty officer in Alabama body slams Walmart shopper irate over face mask rule

An off-duty Alabama police officer body-slammed a Walmart customer after she refused to wear a face covering and became irate, authorities said Thursday.

The woman, who was not publicly identified, was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and other alleged crimes, police in Birmingham said.

Sgt. Rod Mauldin said the incident occurred Tuesday at a Walmart in a Birmingham shopping district.

The woman became upset after a store employee asked her to wear a face covering as a coronavirus protection before entering, Mauldin said in a statement. She refused and became “disorderly,” yelling expletives at customers and employees, he said.

The officer used a “takedown measure” to gain control of the woman because of “other threat factors in the store,” Mauldin said.

Read the full story here

936d ago / 12:31 AM UTC

House probe finds U.S. efforts to screen travelers from Italy and South Korea were lax

Airport medical screenings designed to keep coronavirus-stricken travelers from South Korea and Italy out of the United States in early March resulted in only 69 people being turned away, a House investigation found. 

The probe by the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy found the U.S. effectively outsourced the screenings to South Korea and Italy and resulted in "another opportunity the administration missed to limit the impact of coronavirus,” said committee chairman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill.  

The Trump administration issued a Level 4 travel advisory involving the two countries on Feb. 29th, as both were dealing with escalating coronavirus cases. Vice President Mike Pence said President Donald Trump had "directed the State Department to work with our allies in Italy and in South Korea to coordinate a screening, a medical screening, in their countries of any individuals that are coming in to the United States of America."

The House investigation found that between March 3rd and March 13th, just 13 passengers were barred from Italy and 56 were barred from South Korea. It also found that the officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not know how the screenings in Italy were being conducted and had no personnel overseeing the screenings. Passengers from both countries were not screened when they arrived in the U.S., the report found.

Krishnamoorthi said the findings show the government "disregarded valuable opportunities to slow the spread through enhanced entry screenings."

 

937d ago / 11:49 PM UTC

In Illinois, Latinos have highest cases of coronavirus, officials worry about a spike in deaths

Latino communities in Illinois see uptick in COVID-19 confirmed cases
Norwegian Hospital nurses perform one of the first half dozen coronavirus tests on site in Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood on April 28, 2020.Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune via Getty Images file

Latinos are testing positive to coronavirus at higher rates than any other demographic group in Illinois, alarming officials and experts who say that if the number of COVID-19 cases "continues to rise in Latino communities, so too will the rates of deaths."

Of the more than 28,200 Latinos who have been tested for coronavirus, at least 17,240 have been diagnosed with COVID-19. That's about 61 percent of all Latinos who have been tested, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who said the rate is "more than three times our state average."

“The Latino community is being silently decimated by the coronavirus," Rep. Jesús "Chuy" García, D-Ill., told NBC News in a statement. "If we are serious about controlling the spread of COVID, our country cannot have a plan that ignores Latinos and the conditions we are living in during these times."

Read the full story here. 

937d ago / 11:44 PM UTC

NFL moves ahead with plan for next season with new coronavirus restrictions

As the NFL unveils its schedule of games, Commissioner Roger Goodell set ground rules for reopening facilities. Teams must comply with local governments and create “infection response” units, among other guidelines.

937d ago / 11:30 PM UTC

As '#Plandemic' goes viral, those targeted by discredited scientist's crusade warn of 'dangerous' claims

Image: Protestors Rally At Oregon State Capitol Against Stay-At-Home Order
Protesters hold signs on the steps of the state capitol at the ReOpen Oregon Rally on May 2, 2020 in Salem, Ore.Terray Sylvester / Getty Images

A video from a discredited scientist promoting a hodgepodge of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus went viral across every social media platform Thursday. It was initially pushed by anti-vaccination disinformation peddlers, and then picked up steam when it was promoted by minor celebrities.

In a matter of hours, the video became one of the most widespread pieces of coronavirus misinformation, drawing millions of views across major technology platforms. Its success underscores how misleading information about the coronavirus crisis continues to circulate, with some indications that growing fear and frustration are making conspiracy theories more appetizing to a larger audience.

The video, far more polished than other similar videos, comes as authoritative sources of information are finding it hard to compete with people who have years of experience in creating viral internet media.

Read the full story here. 

937d ago / 11:19 PM UTC

Frontier becomes first U.S. airline to announce temperature checks

Image: Frontier Airlines
Frontier Airlines planes sit at gates at Denver International Airport in Denver, Colo., on April 4, 2017.Matt Staver / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Frontier Airlines said Thursday it would begin implementing mandatory temperature checks on passengers prior to boarding, the first U.S.-based airline to announce such a measure. 

The temperature checks, which will begin June 1, are another added layer of protection, Frontier Airlines CEO Barry Biffle said in a press release. Any passenger with a temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit or higher will be denied boarding. 

"This new step during the boarding process, coupled with face coverings and elevated disinfection procedures, will serve to provide Frontier customers an assurance that their well-being is our foremost priority and we are taking every measure to help them travel comfortably and safely," Biffle said. 

Although many U.S. airlines have imposed face mask requirements and social distancing measures, mandatory temperature readings have yet to become an industry standard. Air Canada announced Monday that it would be the first North American carrier to start infrared temperature checks.  

937d ago / 11:10 PM UTC

NYC-based school meal program provider turns to mobile distribution

Red Rabbit, a school meal program provider based in New York City, has turned to mobile distribution to ensure students in underserved communities are still able to receive nutritious meals amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Previously the organization worked directly with charter and public schools in the area to develop healthy meal programs for students.

However, once schools shut down, the organization switched over to mobile distribution where each week members make stops in Harlem, the Bronx, Brooklyn and the Lower East Side to “deliver fresh, made-from-scratch meals.”  

The organization is also hosting Zoom Cooking Classes students and their families can sign up for on Instagram.

937d ago / 10:21 PM UTC

Disney Springs to begin phased reopening on May 20

Disney announced a plan to begin a phased reopening of Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida, on May 20.

In a press release, Matt Simon, vice president of the resort, said "a limited number of shopping and dining experiences that are owned by third-party operating participants will begin to open during this initial phase."

There will be numerous new safety measures put in place in order to reopen including additional cleaning procedures, face cover requirements for both guests and cast members as well as limited-contact guest services. 

There will also be limited hours and parking capacity.

The remainder of Walt Disney World Resorts in Florida will remain closed. On Tuesday it was announced Disney Shanghai will reopen on May 11. 

937d ago / 9:23 PM UTC

China accuses U.S. of pushing false coronavirus claims for Trump's re-election

Chinese officials accused U.S. leaders of pushing false claims and conspiracies about the origin of the coronavirus, calling it a ploy in President Trump's re-election narrative.

937d ago / 7:50 PM UTC

OPINION: To recover from COVID-19, America needs a vaccine. To get it, we can't rely on corporations

Image: A manufacturing associate works in a cell culture room where scientists are working on developing a vaccine
A manufacturing associate works in a cell culture room where scientists are working on developing a vaccine for the Zika virus in Meriden, Conn., on June 20, 2016.Mike Segar / Reuters file

The current consensus by scientists and public health experts is that the only way to end the coronavirus' devastating effects on America's citizens and its economy is to develop, produce at scale and widely distribute an effective vaccine against COVID-19 as quickly as possible.

There are, of course, myriad scientific challenges inherent to that imperative, among them the virus' potential mutability, our lack of knowledge about whether antibodies provide protection against reinfection (and, if so, for how long), and the time it takes to discover an effective vaccine, test it, receive regulatory approval and begin commercial production.

But there is one more problem we've rarely had to consider: By pharmaceutical companies’ own estimates, no company has anywhere near the production capacity needed to meet the demand, once those effective vaccines (or treatments) have been found.

Read the full THINK piece here.

937d ago / 7:40 PM UTC

Amtrak asks all customers to wear masks on trains and in stations

Amtrak is asking customers to wear masks, following the lead of multiple airlines from JetBlue to Spirit, in attempts to protect employees and slow the spread of COVID-19. 

"We strongly recommend customers follow CDC guidelines and wear facial coverings in public, including in our stations and on trains," according to new guidance on its website.

The railroad service, which operates routes across the U.S. and has been struggling to meet a profitability goal this year, said it plans to limit boarding capacity to just 50 percent and for a period of time will no longer accept cash.

The company is also trying to stop crowding on escalators and around trains by placing signs reminding people about social distancing guidance.  It also has enacted more thorough cleaning, according to its website.

The new guidelines go into effect Monday, May 11.

937d ago / 7:23 PM UTC

Lyft to require riders to wears masks

Ride-hailing platform Lyft announced Thursday that riders and drivers will be required to wear a face covering in order to book a ride. The new policy, which will launch on the Lyft app in the next few weeks, requires users to check boxes confirming they are symptom free and wearing a mask.

“If you do not certify that you will comply to those policies, you will not have access to the platform,” said Angie Westbrock, who leads Lyft’s coronavirus task force.

The app will prompt riders and drivers to commit to leaving the front seat of a vehicle empty, open vehicle windows and frequently wash hands. Drivers will also be prompted to clean “high touch” surfaces between rides. Lyft said it has invested $2.5 million in sanitation and mask supplies and ordered “hundreds of thousands of units” of hand sanitizer in an effort to help drivers keep vehicles clean. 

The policy applies to the U.S. and Canada, where Lyft operates, including in areas which may have less-stringent mask policies. Global rideshare giant Uber plans to announce a similar mask requirement in certain countries, including the United States, in the coming days, an Uber spokesperson said.

937d ago / 7:12 PM UTC

Coronavirus could kill up to 190,000 in Africa in first year if not contained, WHO says

Image:
A resident from the Alexandra township gets tested for COVID-19, in Johannesburg on April 29, 2020.Jerome Delay / AP

The coronavirus pandemic could kill 83,000 to 190,000 people in Africa in the first year and infect 29 million to 44 million if it is not contained, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

The projections are contained in a new WHO Africa study based on assumptions that no containment measures will be put in place, which has fortunately not been the case, WHO Africa head Matshidiso Moeti told reporters in a teleconference.

Read the full story here. 

937d ago / 7:01 PM UTC

Why are viruses hard to kill? Virologists explain why these tiny parasites are so tough to treat

Image: COVID-19
The virus that causes COVID-19 seen under an electron microscope.National Institutes of Health / AFP - Getty Images

Viruses are among the biggest threats to humanity, with the current pandemic showing how these pathogens can shut down countries, halt entire industries and cause untold human suffering as they spread through communities.

Viruses have also evolved in such a way that they are difficult to kill. What makes them, including the novel coronavirus, so tricky to cure?

Part of the problem is the nature of viruses themselves, which exist like freeloading zombies — not quite dead, yet certainly not alive.

“Viruses don’t really do anything — they’re effectively inert until they come into contact with a host cell,” said Derek Gatherer, a virologist at Lancaster University in the United Kingdom. “But as soon as that happens, they switch on and come to life.”

Read more here.

937d ago / 6:54 PM UTC

RNC adds public health expert to convention team

WASHINGTON — The Republican National Committee added Dr. Jeffrey W. Runge to its convention team as a "senior advisor for health and safety planning.” The addition comes as the Republican Party has promised an in-person convention in Charlotte, N.C. this summer, but as the RNC has begun to consider alternative plans. 

“We are committed to hosting a safe and successful 2020 Republican National Convention in Charlotte, and Dr. Runge’s background and expertise will be instrumental as we continue to map out our plans that ensure the health safety of all convention participants and the Charlotte community,” said RNC convention president and CEO Marcia Lee Kelly.

Image: Delegates hold signs at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016.
Delegates hold signs at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, on July 21, 2016.Jeff J Mitchell / Getty Images file

Last month, the RNC said was it moving "full steam ahead" in planning their August convention, but some involved in the planning now say the convention may look drastically different than past conventions. Some alternative considerations include only having delegates and alternate delegates attend the convention and to have less parties and gatherings on the sidelines of the convention. 

937d ago / 6:37 PM UTC

Coronavirus found in patients' semen in small Chinese study

The virus that causes COVID-19 can be found in semen, Chinese researchers report in a small study that doesn’t address whether sexual transmission is possible.

Doctors detected the virus in semen from six of 38 men hospitalized with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. Four were still very sick with the disease while two were recovering.

Read more. 

937d ago / 5:36 PM UTC

Illinois church pastor defies state over coronavirus rules

A pastor in rural Illinois who has defied the state order against large gatherings during the coronavirus crisis says Gov. J.B. Pritzker is not going to stop him from preaching this Sunday.

“I will be in the pulpit preaching my heart out on Mother’s Day,” Stephen Cassell told NBC News.

But Cassell declined to specify whether his flock would be in the sanctuary of the Beloved Church in the tiny farm village of Lena like they were last Sunday. He said they got bomb and death threats after the church reopened for the first time since March 31. He said they held online services in the interim.

“I don’t believe there is such a thing as an online church,” Cassell said. “The definition of a church is a gathering. We had to forgo one of the core values of what we are.”

Read the full story here.

937d ago / 5:33 PM UTC

First ICE detainee dies from COVID-19

A 57-year-old man from El Salvador became the first person to die from COVID-19 in Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention.

Carlos Escobar-Mejia died Wednesday after first testing positive for the virus on April 24, ICE said in a statement. He was being held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center near California’s border with Mexico since January, which has the largest COVID-19 outbreak of any ICE detention facility.

Escobar-Mejia was diabetic, his family told the San Diego Tribune, which put him in the high risk category if he contracted the virus.

“This is a terrible tragedy, and it was entirely predictable and preventable,” Andrea Flores, deputy director of immigration policy at the ACLU, said in a news release. “For months, public health experts and corrections officials have warned that detention centers would be petri dishes for the spread of COVID-19 — and a death trap for thousands of people in civil detention.”

Over 700 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 in ICE facilities, according to data on the agency’s website.

937d ago / 5:26 PM UTC

Recruits with COVID-19 history will be rejected by military, says memo

U.S. Marine Recruits Practice New COVID-19 Measures As They Enter Training
U.S. Marine recruits stand in formation as they wait in line for health screenings at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot (MCRD) on April 13, 2020 in San Diego, Calif.Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images file

A Pentagon memo that says a COVID-19 diagnosis “permanently” disqualifies recruits from joining the military is actually “interim guidance” and recruits who have recovered from the disease may still be able to get a waiver that lets them sign up, according a defense official.

The official did not say how long the interim guidance would be in place.

The memo from the U.S. Military Entrance Processing Command says that a “history of COVID-19, confirmed by either a laboratory test or clinician diagnosis, is permanently disqualifying.” The memo was issued Wednesday and was first reported by The Military Times.

Read the full story here.

937d ago / 4:55 PM UTC

Pence delivers protective equipment to a nursing home - without a mask on

Vice President Mike Pence delivered boxes of personal protective equipment outside a nursing home with COVID-19 patients in Virginia on Thursday - without wearing any himself. 

Pence put a box of equipment on the doorstep of the Woodbine Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center in Alexandria and waved inside before wheeling over more boxes and helping unload them. He was not wearing a mask or gloves while handling the packages. Other officials who were with him were also not wearing masks. 

Pence made headlines last week when he toured the Mayo Clinic, a hospital with a strict mask policy, without a face covering. Pence defended the decision afterward, telling reporters that he's confident he doesn't have the coronavirus because he and other White House officials are tested it for it regularly and he felt healthy.

Dr. Vin Gupta told NBC News last week, "The vast majority of individuals that we think are likely transmitters of the disease have no symptoms."  

Pence said during a Fox News town hall on Sunday night that not wearing a mask at the facility was a mistake. Pence's Thursday delivery came as the White House said President Donald Trump's personal valet has tested positive for the virus. A White House spokesman said Pence has tested negative since the revelation. 

    

937d ago / 4:42 PM UTC

White House returned CDC guidelines for reopening economy, requesting revisions

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The White House sent back guidelines it received from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last month on how businesses, schools and other organizations should reopen with a request for revisions, two administration officials said.

The White House coronavirus task force, which is headed by Vice President Mike Pence, viewed the CDC’s advice as overly restrictive and in some cases thought it undercut the White House’s three-phase guidelines for opening up the country, released in mid April, the official said.

The White House's guidelines on reopening and easing social distancing are broad and leave much of the decision-making to governors. Those guidelines say states should see a 14-day decrease in coronavirus cases before reopening but do not set a specific timeline for doing so.

"Issuing overly specific instructions — that CDC leadership never cleared — for how various types of businesses open up would be overly prescriptive and broad for the various circumstances states are experiencing throughout the country," a task force official told NBC News, noting that the White House guidelines advise states to open up in safe and responsible ways based on their own data and response efforts.

Read the full story here.

937d ago / 4:39 PM UTC

New York coronavirus death toll tops 20,000

The official New York state death toll from coronavirus has now topped 20,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday.

The number reached 20,597 because of 231 new deaths and because past fatalities from nursing homes and other adult care facilities have now been confirmed as caused by coronavirus and added to the state total.

The total of new deaths announced each day continues to decline, though the 231 new deaths announced Thursday are just one less than the number reported Wednesday. The governor called the state's gradual decline in new fatalities "slow" and "painful."

The governor also released more results from the state's ongoing antibody testing program, and said indications so far are that health-care workers are less likely to be infected than the general public.

He said that in New York City, 19.9 percent of those tested for coronavirus antibodies have come back positive. but for the healthcare worker population that number was 12.2 percent, with a similar pattern in the city's suburbs.

 

937d ago / 4:34 PM UTC

South Carolina parents celebrate their son's dissertation defense on a billboard

Brandon Truett's parents celebrated his PhD on a billboard
Brandon Truett's parents celebrated his PhD on a billboard.Courtesy of Brandon Truett

Brandon Truett's parents surprised him with a celebratory billboard near his South Carolina hometown, congratulating him for finishing his University of Chicago PhD in English.

"My dad was thinking of ways to celebrate because he knew the graduation was canceled," Truett said. "I always think I'm the extra one, but he really topped me on this one."

Truett said he defended his dissertation, the last assignment before becoming a PhD, on a video conference, which allowed his parents to watch. He said his father, who rented the billboard in South Carolina, would not have been able to attend his defense because of his demanding work schedule.

"My dad has always been supportive, but this is the culminating gesture," said Truett, who added his father is currently reading his 250-page dissertation on visual art and the Spanish Civil War.

937d ago / 4:16 PM UTC

Trump's personal valet tests positive for coronavirus, president ‘not happy’

and

One of President Donald Trump’s personal valets at the White House has tested positive for the coronavirus and the president was “not happy” when he found out on Wednesday, a White House official said.

The valet works in the West Wing and serves Trump his meals, among other duties. Valets do not wear masks, the official said.

Read more here.

937d ago / 4:13 PM UTC

N.Y. to bring products from 2,100 farms to food banks to feed an estimated 20,000 families

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday announced the state has launched a program to buy excess agricultural products in the state and donate them to food banks.

"At a time when people are hungry, it makes no sense for food or milk to go to waste," Cuomo said. "We will bring products from 2,100 upstate farms to 50 food banks, providing 20,000 households with food."

937d ago / 4:07 PM UTC

N.Y. Gov. Cuomo extends moratorium on evictions

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said the state is extending its moratorium on evictions for people facing coronavirus-related hardship for an additional 60 days — until at least Aug. 20. 

The state is in addition banning fees for late or missed payments during the moratorium period, he said.

"We are also allowing renters facing COVID-related hardship to use their security deposit as payment and repay the deposit over time," the governor said.

937d ago / 4:05 PM UTC

Photos: Lonely graduation in Illinois

Image: Illinois High School Holds Socially Distanced Graduation During Coronavirus Pandemic
Scott Olson / Getty Images

Graduates at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School received their diplomas in a nearly-empty auditorium Wednesday. Friends, family and relatives were not allowed to attend because of the state's social distancing mandates.

Image: Illinois High School Holds Socially Distanced Graduation During Coronavirus Pandemic
Scott Olson / Getty Images
937d ago / 3:25 PM UTC

Texas governor changes coronavirus orders to eliminate jail punishment for violators

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott today eliminated jail confinement as a punishment for people who violate his coronavirus executive orders. 

In a statement, Abbott said the change is retroactive to April 2 and supersedes local orders. 

He said the revision should lead to the release of Shelley Luther, who was arrested and sentenced to seven days in jail for opening her salon in violation of coronavirus shutdown orders.

“Throwing Texans in jail who have had their businesses shut down through no fault of their own is nonsensical, and I will not allow it to happen,” Abbott said in the statement. “As some county judges advocate for releasing hardened criminals from jail to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is absurd to have these business owners take their place.” 

937d ago / 3:10 PM UTC

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus files for bankruptcy

The luxury department store chain Neiman Marcus filed for bankruptcy on Thursday, the second major retailer after J.Crew to seek reorganization this week as the industry buckles under widespread store closures.

“Like most businesses today, we are facing unprecedented disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has placed inexorable pressure on our business,” said Geoffroy van Raemdonck, chairman and CEO of Neiman Marcus Group, in a statement.

Leading up to the pandemic, the company reported a loss of $31.2 million in July, compared with a net loss of $19.9 million the previous year.

Market conditions have been brutal for the retail industry over the last several weeks. Like other retailers, Neiman Marcus stores have been closed since mid-March as state governors issued stay-at-home orders to stem infections. The company furloughed almost all of its 14,000 employees on March 30. 

Read the full story here.

937d ago / 3:07 PM UTC

NYC mayor announces task force to combat domestic, gender-based violence during pandemic

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that he's putting together a task force to combat domestic and gender-based violence during the coronavirus pandemic.

The group will include 20 leaders to assist those who may need shelter, legal services and counseling. 

"We need people to stay home for everyone's safety, but we also have to find a way to disrupt this problem because it's unacceptable," the mayor said at his new conference. "It's unacceptable that anyone would be in danger in their own home. We do not allow that in New York City." 

937d ago / 2:57 PM UTC

NYC ramps up antibody testing, plans to test 70K people in next two weeks

New York City is ramping up its antibody testing and plans to test roughly 70,000 people over the next two weeks, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference Thursday. 

The city is "launching an antibody survey to understand COVID-19 spread and provide New Yorkers with more clarity," the mayor's press secretary, Freddi Goldstein, said in a tweet.

There initially will be a testing site in each of the city's five boroughs, with each site providing tests free to 1,000 people a day. The initiative starts next week and is by appointment only. 

Results will take 24 to 48 hours.

Antibody tests are intended to show whether a person's immune system has developed antibodies, which would indicate they were exposed to the coronavirus at some point. There have been questions about the accuracy of some antibody tests. 

937d ago / 2:56 PM UTC

Coronavirus patients in NYC admitted to hospitals, ICU drop

New York City is making progress in its fight against the spread of the coronavirus with declines in the number of patients admitted to hospitals and intensive care units.

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that 79 people were admitted to hospitals for COVID-19, down from 109 people on May 4. The number of patients admitted to intensive care declined to 567 from 599. 

"It's not perfect progress, but it's damn close," the mayor said. 

937d ago / 2:48 PM UTC

Moscow mayor extends lockdown to May 31

Moscow Mayor Sergey Sobyanin extended the Russian capital’s strict lockdown until May 31, according to an order announced Thursday. 

Industrial and construction enterprises can return to work on May 12, but the remainder of the city's social and economic life will remain frozen.

Moscow residents will still need passes to leave their homes for most activities — save for grocery shopping, walking pets and taking out the trash.

And as of May 12, residents will also face a new requirement to wear masks when going to buy groceries or ride public transport.

Sobyanin said a recent spike in new cases was the result of expanded testing, and that hospitalizations remain stable.

937d ago / 2:45 PM UTC
937d ago / 2:08 PM UTC

Photo: Darth Vader and Stormtroopers patrol village in Manila

Image: Manila
Young people in wooden boats dressed as Stormtroopers and Darth Vader patrol a flooded village in suburban Manila to remind residents to stay home.Ted Aljibe / AFP - Getty Images
937d ago / 2:02 PM UTC

Pompeo rebuffs German plea on WHO funding halt

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has rebuffed a plea from Germany to reconsider halting funding for the World Health Organization over its handling of the outbreak, according to a German newspaper.

The German daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung reported Thursday that Pompeo responded to a letter from German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, insisting that the U.S. was “deeply committed to working with the international community to fight the coronavirus pandemic” despite the funding freeze.

Pompeo said that the U.S. has been the largest single contributor to WHO over the years despite what he described as “a string of mismanaged pandemic responses” by the Geneva-based agency, which he accused of “public kowtowing to the Chinese Communist Party regime.”

Germany’s Foreign Ministry confirmed an exchange of letters between Maas and Pompeo but declined to elaborate. The U.S. Embassy in Berlin said it would not comment on diplomatic communications.

937d ago / 1:33 PM UTC

Spain plans national day of mourning for coronavirus victims 'once the streets can be walked freely'

Spain will hold a day of mourning for those who died from coronavirus once people are allowed to move freely again, Minister of Health Salvador Illa said on Thursday.

Illa was speaking during a daily news conference, where he also said that while much was not known about the virus, the government was sure its transmission was linked to the mobility of people. He said “once the streets can be walked freely again," the government will declare a national day of mourning with a tribute to follow.

Most of the country is currently in “Phase 0” of their lockdown lifting, where some small stores are allowed to reopen, and people are allowed to leave their homes to exercise within set times.

937d ago / 1:27 PM UTC

Around 3 million more workers filed for initial jobless claims last week

Around 3 million more workers filed for unemployment benefits for the first time last week, down slightly from 3.8 million the previous week.

More than 33 million Americans have now filed for initial jobless claims since the coronavirus pandemic ripped through the economy, according to data released Thursday by the Department of Labor.

Continuing claims, or the number of people receiving ongoing benefits, is now at more than 22 million, far surpassing the recessionary peak of 6.6 million.

Thursday's jobless-claims number comes before the closely watched monthly employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which will be released Friday morning.

In an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC's "TODAY" show Thursday morning, the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Neel Kashkari, said Friday's official unemployment rate "will probably be something like 16 or 17 percent — but it will understate how bad the damage has been. I think the real number is probably around 23 or 24 percent. It's devastating."

However, he added, "I don't think we're actually headed for another Great Depression," predicting instead a "a long, gradual recovery" whose pace will be dictated by the coronavirus.

937d ago / 1:24 PM UTC

WHO 'deeply troubled' by increased reports of domestic violence in Europe

The World Health Organization is “deeply troubled” by increased reports of domestic violence in Europe, including Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Ireland, Russian, Spain, and the U.K., Dr. Hans Kluge said in a news briefing on Thursday. 

Kluge, the head of the WHO Europe office, said although data was scarce, countries across Europe are reporting up to a 60 percent increase in emergency calls by women subjected to violence by their intimate partners in April this year compared to last. He also noted that online inquiries to violence prevention support hotlines have jumped about five times.

Citing data from the U.N. Population Fund, Kluge said “if lockdowns were to continue for six months, we would expect an extra 31 million cases of gender-based violence globally."

Kluge said governments and local authorities should consider it a moral obligation to ensure services are available to vulnerable communities. Reported numbers are still only a small measure of the actual problem, since people suffering from abuse often decline to report it, he said.