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.
- 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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OPINION: To recover from COVID-19, America needs a vaccine. To get it, we can't rely on corporations
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.
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.
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.
Coronavirus could kill up to 190,000 in Africa in first year if not contained, WHO says
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.
Why are viruses hard to kill? Virologists explain why these tiny parasites are so tough to treat
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
Recruits with COVID-19 history will be rejected by military, says memo
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.
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.