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Jobless rate soars as more states ease restrictions

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: People queue for handouts of excess potatoes in Auburn
Amy Darnell rests after loading a truck for deliveries to food banks and other locations, as people queue for handouts of excess potatoes in Auburn, Wash., on May 7, 2020.David Ryder / Reuters

In just over a month, the coronavirus has wiped out all job gains since the Great Recession and brought the country's decade-long record economic growth streak to an abrupt halt.

According to the monthly employment report released Friday by the Department of Labor, the U.S. economy lost an unprecedented 20.5 million jobs in April and the unemployment rate soared to 14.7 percent, after months at a half-century low.

The White House is considering measures aimed at providing relief, including another delay in the deadline to file federal taxes, that can be adopted without legislation from Congress, two people familiar with the discussions told NBC News.

More states are loosening restrictions, including California, where some retail, manufacturing, and logistics businesses will be allowed to reopen. Michigan will allow manufacturing firms to reopen their doors as of Monday.

The U.S. death toll stood at more than 76,700 early Friday, with more than 1.2 million cases of coronavirus, 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 9 coronavirus news.

1304d ago / 6:40 AM UTC

A drive-by quinceañera? Latino families get creative, maintain a tradition

Kristie Rodriguez and her daughter Xochitl spent a lot of time planning the teen's quinceañera celebration to mark her 15th birthday.

“Every little Hispanic girl dreams about her quinceañera and her wedding. Those are your two big days in your life,” Rodriguez, 45, from San Antonio, Texas, told NBC News.

Then coronavirus hit—and stay-at-home orders left Rodriguez having to reimagine the venerated Latino tradition in a very different way.

It took some creativity and work, but Rodriguez and her husband Jimmy surprised Xochitl with a low-key but unforgettable version of her big day, surprising her with a a ‘drive-by’ quinceañera on April 21st. Xochitl was able to share with her closest family and friends—at a safe social distance.

Across the country, families have found ways to celebrate.

Read the full story here

1304d ago / 6:17 AM UTC

Photo: Healthcare workers place a nasal swab from a patient into a tube for testing

Image: Healthcare Workers testing, Coronavirus
Healthcare workers place a nasal swab from a patient into a tube for testing at the Brightpoint Health and UJA of NY Federation free pop-up coronavirus (COVID-19) testing site in Brooklyn, New York on May 8, 2020.Angela Weiss / AFP - Getty Images
1304d ago / 5:27 AM UTC

Court halts ban on mass gatherings at Kentucky churches

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A federal court halted the Kentucky governor’s temporary ban on mass gatherings from applying to in-person religious services, clearing the way for Sunday church services.

U.S. District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove on Friday issued a temporary restraining order enjoining Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration from enforcing the ban on mass gatherings at “any in-person religious service which adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines.”

The ruling from the Eastern District of Kentucky sided with the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Nicholasville, but applies to all places of worship around the commonwealth. Two other federal judges, including U.S. District Judge David Hale, had previously ruled the ban was constitutional. But also on Friday, Hale, of Kentucky’s western district, granted Maryville Baptist Church an injunction allowing in-person services at that specific church to proceed, provided the church abide by public health requirements.

Exceptions to the Democratic governor’s shutdown order include trips to the grocery store, bank, pharmacy and hardware store. Beshear had previously announced that places of worship in Kentucky will be able to once again hold in-person services starting May 20, as part of a broader plan to gradually reopen the state’s economy. 

1304d ago / 4:36 AM UTC

Sen. Ted Cruz gets hair cut at Dallas salon whose owner was jailed

Sen. Ted Cruz, the conservative Republican of Texas, got his hair cut Friday at the Dallas salon owned by a woman jailed for violating orders aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

Barbershops and hair salons were allowed to reopen Friday in Texas, although with six feet between work stations.

Cruz flew from Houston to get a cut at Salon à la Mode. Owner Shelley Luther was sentenced Tuesday to seven days in jail for staying open despite public health orders but was freed Thursday after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott eliminated jail for violating an order related to the coronavirus.

Luther's situation has been championed by some on the political right. Cruz, leaving the salon wearing a mask, said of his haircut "I think it's terrific," video from NBC Dallas-Fort Worth showed.

"I'm proud to stand with Shelley Luther and I'll tell you, what happened to her was wrong," Cruz said. "It was ridiculous to see somebody sentenced to seven days in jail for cutting hair. That's not right, that's not justice, that's not Texas."

Luther, also wearing a mask, said a visit by Cruz was "something that I would have never dreamed of" and "overwhelming in a great way."

1304d ago / 4:03 AM UTC
1304d ago / 3:55 AM UTC

Top White House officials buried CDC report

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The decision to shelve detailed advice from the nation’s top disease control experts for reopening communities during the coronavirus pandemic came from the highest levels of the White House, according to internal government emails obtained by The Associated Press.

The files also show that after the AP reported Thursday that the guidance document had been buried, the Trump administration ordered key parts of it to be fast-tracked for approval.

The trove of emails show the nation’s top public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spending weeks working on guidance to help the country deal with a public health emergency, only to see their work quashed by political appointees with little explanation.

The trove of emails show the nation’s top public health experts at the CDC spending weeks working on guidance only to see their work quashed by political appointees with little explanation.

NBC News has not viewed the emails and the White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Read the full story here

1304d ago / 3:26 AM UTC
1304d ago / 3:17 AM UTC

Newsom says community spread started at nail salon

After dropping a provocative remark that community spread of coronavirus in California started at a nail salon, Gov. Gavin Newsom declined Friday to provide additional details about where the salon was located and how health officials traced the case.

“This whole thing started in the state of California, the first community spread, in a nail salon. I just want to remind everybody of that and that I’m very worried about that,” Newsom said Thursday during his daily COVID-19 briefing in Sacramento.

He said he could not release more information because of health and privacy concerns. He added that his office would provide additional details when possible.

Newsom's initial comment triggered immediate backlash from the beauty industry, which called his statement "surprising and disappointing."

Read the full story here.

1304d ago / 3:04 AM UTC

Washington state saw coronavirus infection rate creep back up in April

Washington state allowed more businesses to resume Friday, but data from modelers showed the infection rate began to creep back up in April, the governor said.

Gov. Jay Islee said at a news conference Friday that data shows the infection rate in the state was around three — meaning one person infected three others — in March before dropping to one or below one depending on the region.

But as of April 19, that number had gone up from a low to at or just above one. "We just cannot allow that line to go significantly above one or we will simply again see an exponential growth," Inslee said.

He said the success the state has seen is because of the sacrifices Washingtonians have made in obeying social distancing and other rules to prevent the spread of the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.

Inslee said the data and possible continuation of the trend shows that "we have to continue a step-by-step, measured approach." Inslee has relaxed some rules from his stay-at-home order and on Friday curbside retail and landscaping was allowed to open or resume

As of Friday, there have been more than 16,300 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the state and 905 deaths, according to the state health department. Inslee also said Friday that "there's a real good reason to believe" that public schools could reopen this fall, but he that "it's dependent in part on what we do here in May." 

1304d ago / 2:39 AM UTC

FDA director in self-quarantine


U.S. Food and Drug Administration Director Stephen Hahn has started two weeks of self-quarantine after coming into contact with a person who has coronavirus, aides told NBC News Friday.

He immediately tested negative for the virus but was isolating himself for two weeks as a precaution, they said.

Hahn announced his self-quarantine in a memo to staff members Friday, the sources said. Politico first reported the director's isolation.

Earlier Friday Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary, Katie Miller, confirmed she has tested positive for COVID-19. She's the second administration staffer to contract the virus this week.

1304d ago / 2:23 AM UTC

Inside Microsoft's high-tech plan to speed up vaccine efforts

1304d ago / 2:21 AM UTC

Suspects in death of Family Dollar guard are captured

Two suspects in the fatal shooting of a Flint, Michigan, security guard after an argument about a face mask requirement for shoppers have been captured, the local prosecutor announced Friday.

Ramonyea Bishop, 23, and his stepfather, Larry Teague, 44, have been charged with accused of first-degree murder, and police have been searching for them since last week.

Bishop is the son of a woman who got into an argument with the victim, Calvin James Munerlyn, 43, on May 1, Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton said.

Officials say Sharmel Teague returned to Family Dollar store 20 minutes later with her husband and son, who is accused of firing at the guard. Under state stay-at-home orders designed to slow the spread of coronavirus, Michigan residents are required to wear masks .

Read the full story here

1304d ago / 2:13 AM UTC

Virus claims Roy Horn of Siegfried & Roy

Roy Horn, half of the famed magic and entertainment duo Siegfried & Roy, has died of complications related to coronavirus, partner Siegfried Fischbacher said Friday. He was 75.

Last month, Horn tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, a spokesperson for the duo said. He was being treated at a Las Vegas hospital.

"Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend," Fischbacher said. "From the moment we met, I knew Roy and I, together, would change the world. There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried."

Read the full story here.

1304d ago / 1:14 AM UTC

Baseball fans allowed back into stadiums in Taiwan

A baseball game between Uni-President Lions and Fubon Guardians with 1,000 fans allowed in to Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on Friday.Chiang Ying-ying / AP

Baseball stadiums opened to a handful of fans in Taiwan on Friday night as the self-governing island celebrated another milestone in its widely acclaimed fight against coronavirus.

Turnstiles in Taichung, where the Chinatrust Brothers play, and New Taipei City, home of the Fubon Guardians, were used for the first time in 2020 after Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control said this week that 1,000 fans could attend Chinese Professional Baseball League games.

Fans wore masks and were spread sparsely throughout stands as they watched the host Brothers and Guardians fend off late rallies by the visitors.  

With North America's Major League Baseball and Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball both shuttered by the pandemic, the CPBL and Korea Baseball Organization are their sport's only two prominent pro leagues in action. The KBO opened in empty stadiums earlier this week. 

Fans cheer at Xinzhuang Baseball Stadium in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on May 8, 2020.Chiang Ying-ying / AP


1304d ago / 12:49 AM UTC

Miss America pageant called off

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Add the Miss America pageant to the list of events canceled this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Miss America Organization announced Friday that a competition will not be held this year. The pageant will resume next year, which will be its 100th anniversary.

The most recent Miss America, Camille Schrier of Virginia, was crowned in December at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

A location for the 2020 pageant had not yet been announced. Its longtime home had been Atlantic City, aside from a brief detour to Las Vegas.

1304d ago / 12:31 AM UTC

Hawaii says it has no new cases for first time in two months

HONOLULU — Hawaii is reporting no new cases of the coronavirus for the first time in nearly two months.

The state Department of Health said the number of positive cases remained at 629. The last time there was no new case was on March 13. At that point, Hawaii had a total of just two cases.

Hawaii has been under a statewide stay-at-home order since the last week of March to slow the spread of the virus. Gov. David Ige has begun relaxing some restrictions.

Hawaii also requires those arriving in the state and traveling between the islands to observe 14 days of quarantine.

1304d ago / 11:16 PM UTC
1304d ago / 11:14 PM UTC

Say goodbye to ketchup bottles: FDA issues guidelines for reopening eateries

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Friday issued guidelines for food establishments permitted by their state and local governments to reopen.

Among the recommendations: Workers should continue wearing face coverings, businesses should implement "no touch" payments, which can include Apple Pay and Google Pay on cellphones, and owners should restrict restaurant and bar capacities to ensure 6-foot distances.

And, as part of a checklist for operators, the FDA suggests "high touch" surfaces and items such as seat covers, table cloths, throw rugs and reusable condiment containers like ketchup bottles and salt and pepper shakers be "removed from use."

The guidelines "are designed to help businesses that prepare food to serve or sell to the public directly, such as restaurants, bakeries, bars and carry-outs, protect employee and public health as they reopen for business," the FDA said in a statement.

1304d ago / 11:07 PM UTC

Colombian company creates bed that can double as coffin

Image: Cardboard coffin
Rodolfo Gomez and his employees demonstrate a cardboard box they say can serve as both a hospital bed and a coffin. Fernando Vergara / AP

BOGOTA, Colombia — A Colombian advertising company is pitching a novel if morbid solution to shortages of hospital beds and coffins during the coronavirus pandemic: combine them.

ABC Displays has created a cardboard bed with metal railings that designers say can double as a casket if a patient dies.

Read the full story.

1304d ago / 10:53 PM UTC
1304d ago / 10:50 PM UTC

Sheriff sues China over virus-related losses

The sheriff of a Louisiana parish filed a federal lawsuit Friday against China, claiming it essentially unleashed coronavirus.

Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff Daniel Edwards is the brother of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, who said Friday that state Attorney General Jeff Landry was considering the state's own lawsuit against China. The sheriff's filing in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Louisiana seeks damages of $700,000.

The claim, filed "on behalf of all Sheriffs in the United States of America," alleges China's actions have translated to "lack of foreclosures and sales, lack of court fees, and decreased tax revenue."

After Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a similar lawsuit against the Chinese government last month, a China Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman said, "These so-called lawsuits are purely malicious abuses."

1304d ago / 10:33 PM UTC

Woman heartbroken by Smithfield Foods' response to grandfather's death from coronavirus

A Nebraska woman said she's heartbroken by the response she got from Smithfield Foods after reaching out to share that her grandfather had died from coronavirus and that her aunt and uncle, employees at a plant for the world's largest pork processor, also became ill.

"My grandpa was a very sweet old man," Vy Mai, 22, told NBC News. "He cared about his family, his family was basically all that he had. He really cared about his grandkids, his siblings, his children. He was overall a very selfless person."

Tam Mai, 80, lived with relatives who work at the Smithfield Foods facility in Crete, Nebraska, and recently tested positive for the coronavirus, his granddaughter said. She said he rarely left the house but had underlying health conditions, including heart disease.

Read the full story. 

1304d ago / 10:06 PM UTC

Brazil's doctors urge more stringent measures

Brazil's doctors are calling for stricter measures as the daily coronavirus death toll shows little sign of easing — while the nation’s turbulent politics threaten to undermine efforts to combat the spread of the outbreak.

Case numbers have been doubling approximately every five days, and according to a recent study by Imperial College London, Brazil has the highest transmission rate of any major country.

“Last week, we reached the lowest peak of quarantine compliance, and this week more serious cases started to appear,” said Amanda Ferreira Santa Barbara, 26, a doctor at Sao Paulo’s Unifesp training hospital.

Read the full story.

1304d ago / 10:00 PM UTC

No masks and little social distancing at White House meeting

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WASHINGTON — Two White House aides may have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past two days, but President Donald Trump continued to hold public events Friday with limited social distancing and without requiring participants to wear face masks.

Two dozen House Republicans gathered with Trump and other administration officials in the State Dining Room at the White House Friday afternoon to discuss the country's economic recovery from the pandemic. None of the attendees wore a mask.

“I do want to advise our media friends before they write stories about how we didn’t wear masks and we didn’t possibly socially distance adequately, that you saw to it that we had tests, and that nobody in here had the coronavirus unless it's somebody in the media,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, during the meeting.

Read the full story.

1304d ago / 9:54 PM UTC

Apple to reopen some stores next week

Apple will reopen a handful of its stores across the country starting next week, the company said Friday.

The first Apple Store to reopen since the country went into lockdown to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will be on Monday in Boise, Idaho. Later in the week Apple will reopen some stores in South Carolina, Alabama and Alaska.

Shopping won’t be as it was before the pandemic, a spokesperson for Apple said. The company will require all shoppers to wear masks and maintain six feet of distance between all shoppers and employees. All customers will also be subject to temperature checks, the company said. If someone attempts to enter who is running a higher-than normal-temperature, they will be asked to leave.

Read the full story.

1304d ago / 9:41 PM UTC

Hyatt, American Airlines to give staff at Elmhurst hospital free vacations

Hyatt Hotels and American Airlines are joining forces to to give more than 4,000 employees at hard-hit Elmhurst hospital in New York City complimentary vacations when they are able to take time off, the companies announced Friday

The three-night vacations will include roundtrip flights to destinations in the United States and Caribbean, as well as hotel accommodations, according to a news release. Members of both companies' loyalty programs can donate their miles or points to help support the cause 

“We are extremely grateful to Hyatt and American Airlines for this generous gift to our healthcare workers, who have been at the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Israel Rocha, CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals/Elmhurst, in a news release.

“Our doctors, nurses, and other staff on the front lines of this unprecedented healthcare crisis really appreciate the outpouring of support from two of America’s major companies," she continued, "and we look forward to taking advantage of these well-earned vacations in the near future.”

Elmhurst is one of the hardest-hit hospitals in New York, the center of the nation's coronavirus outbreak. 

1304d ago / 9:26 PM UTC

Sen. Duckworth wants stimulus checks for parents of babies born this year

Almost all Americans who qualified for a stimulus check received theirs in the last month, but one key group currently doesn’t meet the criteria for the much-needed relief: new parents.

Since the program, as part of the CARES Act, is based on earnings for the previous year, parents of children born on or after January 1, 2020 have to wait one year to receive $500 per child, money that other eligible parents are already benefitting from. 

Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., — along with a bipartisan group of senators, including Tim Scott, R-S.C., Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., and Mike Braun, I-Ind. — has an idea on how to fix it. 

The Newborn CARES Act would waive the existing rules and require the Internal Revenue Service to develop a system to provide payments to families with newborns once a Social Security Number is assigned to the child. The senators hope to have their bill included as part of the next CARES package, and would need Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to get on board.

“It’s just common sense, it doesn’t cost any more money which is a big selling point,” Duckworth told NBC News. “Families with newborn babies that are experiencing economic hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic can’t wait until next year to send in their rent checks or pay for diapers and a new car seat."

1304d ago / 9:26 PM UTC

Cast of "Community" to reunite for relief efforts

Image: Cast of "Community" television show
Cast of "Community" television show.Sony Pictures Television

The cast of cult comedy “Community” is reuniting for a virtual table read to benefit COVID-19 relief efforts, according to Variety.

The May 18th show will feature castmembers Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Danny Pudi, Yvette Nicole Brown, Alison Brie, Jim Rash, Ken Jeong and Donald Glover, whose return marks the first time the actor, comedian, and artist has joined a “Community” event since his much-discussed departure from the show in 2014.

The table read will center on the season five episode "Cooperative Polygraphy," which featured characters gathering for the funeral of Pierce Hawthorne (previously played by Chevy Chase).

Creator Dan Harmon will also join the table read and fan Q&A, which will be livestreamed at 5 p.m. ET on the “Community” YouTube channel. Fans are encouraged to submit questions on social media using #AskCommunity and tag @CommunityTV.

The ensemble joins a growing list of TV and movie reunions spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. The event will raise funds for World Central Kitchen and Frontline Foods, which work to get meals to frontline responders in vulnerable communities across the country.


1304d ago / 9:18 PM UTC

The Week in Pictures

The Week in Pictures

Stay-at-home orders flouted, a nursing home drone and a glimpse at what dining may look like in the near future. See more of the most compelling photos from the last week

1304d ago / 8:55 PM UTC

California governor: All registered voters will receive mail-in ballots

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, citing risks brought by the coronavirus pandemic, on Friday ordered election officials to mail all registered voters in the state a ballot that can be filled out at home.

Each county clerk is required to mail ballots before November's election because no "Californian should be forced to risk their health in order to exercise their right to vote," Newsom said.

"I think that's huge, there's no safer, physically distancing, healthier  way to exercise your right to vote than from the safety and convenience or your own home," California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said.

President Donald Trump has said he's opposed to voting by mail, though he admitted to casting his ballot by mail in Florida's recent presidential primary. 

1304d ago / 8:43 PM UTC

Birx to help lead remdesivir distribution effort as hospitals struggle to access drug

Dr. Deborah Birx has been tapped to help manage the distribution of remdesivir to hospitals nationwide, the White House said Friday, amid growing frustration among physicians who say they have been unable to access the drug for their sickest COVID-19 patients.

Birx — a key member of the White House's coronavirus task force — is the person "who's constantly reviewing the numbers, constantly reviewing the data," White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a briefing Friday. "She really has the best grasp as to how that should be distributed, so she will be one of the chief consultants."

Read more. 

1304d ago / 8:03 PM UTC

Pence's press secretary tests positive for coronavirus

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One of Vice President Mike Pence's closest aides, press secretary Katie Miller, confirmed to NBC News that she has tested positive for the coronavirus — making her the second administration staffer known to have become infected this week.

Miller, the wife of top Trump adviser Stephen Miller, said she tested positive on Friday after testing negative on Thursday. She said she's asymptomatic.

President Donald Trump told reporters on Friday that Miller had tested negative recently.

"She's a wonderful young woman, Katie," Trump said during a meeting with Republican lawmakers at the White House. "She tested very good for a long period of time, and then all of a sudden today she tested positive. She hasn't come into contact with me, spent some time with the vice president. So she tested positive out of the blue."

Read the full story here.

1304d ago / 7:36 PM UTC

Rural Maine retail stores, restaurants can soon reopen with restrictions

Maine Gov. Janet Mills said Friday that retail stores and restaurants could begin reopening with restrictions over the next two weeks in certain rural counties where community transmission of coronavirus was not present. 

“With low case counts, no evidence of community transmission, and, now, expanded testing capacity, we believe it is appropriate to gradually lift some limitations on certain businesses in our rural counties with health and safety precautions to protect public health,” Mills said in a statement.

The counties subject to the reopenings were: Aroostook, Piscataquis, Washington, Hancock, Somerset, Franklin, Oxford, Kennebec, Waldo, Knox, Lincoln, and Sagadahoc.

Starting on May 11, retail stores in those counties can reopen with restrictions; restaurants in those counties can open with safety precautions beginning on May 18.

1304d ago / 7:30 PM UTC

Oregon strip club pivots to preparing food, and its dancers deliver


The Lucky Devil Lounge, a strip club in Portland, Oregon, has transformed itself into Lucky Devil Eats to stay afloat during the global pandemic.

Its dancers deliver food made in the strip club's kitchen, and those who order takeout from Food 2 Go-Go get to enjoy an in-car experience that includes performances, music and lights under canopies.

After closing in March under stay-at-home orders, owner Shon Boulden decided on March 17, St. Patrick's Day, to pivot to food delivery and takeout to keep his cooks and dancers working.

Read the full story.

1304d ago / 7:28 PM UTC

New drug trial looks at remdesivir combined with anti-inflammatory

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease has begun a trial looking at the effects of remdesivir combined with a second drug, called baricitinib, on treating COVID-19. 

The study builds upon a previous NIAID trial, which found that remdesivir reduced patients' hospital stays from 15 days to 11 days, on average.

“We now have solid data showing that remdesivir diminishes to a modest degree the time to recovery for people hospitalized with COVID-19,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of NIAID, said in a statement released Friday.  The new trial "will examine if adding an anti-inflammatory agent to the remdesivir regimen can provide additional benefit for patients, including improving mortality outcomes.”

Baricitinib (brand name: Olumiant) is an anti-inflammatory drug made by Ely Lilly that's approved to treat rheumatoid arthritis. The trial will enroll more than 1,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients, who will receive either remdesivir alone or remdesivir plus baricinitib. 

1304d ago / 7:20 PM UTC

Senators urge federal contractor accused of flouting CDC rules to meet with worried workers

Six U.S. senators on Friday urged a federal contractor accused of failing to follow social distancing guidelines at a Mississippi call center to meet with workers worried about their safety.

Their letter came after a whistleblower claimed in an NBC News report that Maximus, which hired her to provide callers with coronavirus information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was not following CDC guidelines and exposed dozens of workers to the virus.

Read more here.

1304d ago / 6:36 PM UTC

NYPD says 81% of social distancing citations went to blacks, Latinos

The New York Police Department said it has issued 374 summonses tied to social distancing enforcement from March 16 through May 5, with 89 percent issued to men and 81 percent to people identified as black or Latino.

The department had about 1 million contacts with the public regarding social distancing in that period, including visits to pharmacies, supermarkets, bars, restaurants, parks and other institutions and establishments, it said.

A total of 193 summonses, or 51.6 percent, were issued to blacks; 111, or 29.7, percent to Latinos, with the majority of enforcement occurring in the in the Brooklyn patrol borough, the department said.

Of all summonses, 66 percent went to people between the ages of 20 and 39, with 46 percent going to people ages 20 to 29.

1304d ago / 6:35 PM UTC

Afternoon roundup of coronavirus coverage

The morgue worker, the body bags and the daffodils [The New York Times]

Prioritize play when schools reopen, say mental health experts [The Guardian]

Op-ed: The freefall economy will scar these Americans worst [The Daily Beast]

1304d ago / 6:24 PM UTC

Live animal markets should not be closed despite virus, WHO says

The World Health Organization said Friday that although a market in the Chinese city of Wuhan selling live animals likely played a significant role in the emergence of the new coronavirus, it does not recommend that such markets be shut down globally.

In a press briefing, WHO food safety and animal diseases expert Peter Ben Embarek said live animal markets are critical to providing food and livelihoods for millions of people globally and that authorities should focus on improving them rather than outlawing them — even though they can sometimes spark epidemics in humans.

He said reducing the risk of disease transmission from animals to humans in these often overcrowded markets could be addressed in many cases by improving hygiene and food safety standards, including separating live animals from humans.

He added that it was still unclear whether the market in Wuhan linked to the first several dozens of coronavirus cases in China was the actual source of the virus or merely played a role in spreading the disease further.

1304d ago / 6:01 PM UTC

'Can I carry the empty ones?': Pence caught joking about delivery of boxes on hot mic

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Vice President Mike Pence's delivery of personal protective equipment to a nursing home in Virginia came complete with a joke offer to carry empty boxes, video of the delivery shows.

An out-of-context video snippet of the moment went viral on Friday thanks to comedian Jimmy Kimmel.

Complete video of the moment shows that after delivering several packages of equipment to the Woodbine Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Alexandria on Thursday, Pence offered to take more boxes from the back of the delivery van. The van's driver then tells him, "Those boxes are empty, sir."

"Can I carry the empty ones? Just for the cameras?" Pence asks the driver, who laughs and says, "They're a lot easier." A smiling Pence then closes the van doors and goes to talk to reporters. Pence's quip blew up on social media after Kimmel played a snippet of it on his ABC late-night show "Jimmy Kimmel Live!"

Read the full story here.

1304d ago / 5:51 PM UTC

Fact check: Trump claims national stockpile 'was bare.' It wasn't.

"The cupboard was bare when we took it over," Trump said on Friday, referring again to the Strategic National Stockpile. "We had nothing."

We've fact checked this claim before — it's false.

1304d ago / 5:32 PM UTC

More than 130 million stimulus checks have been sent out, Treasury says

The Department of the Treasury and the IRS have distributed over 130 million Economic Impact Payments in the past five weeks, according to a release.

The stimulus payments grant up to $1,200 for individuals, $2,400 for married couples, and a $500 credit for each child under the age of 16. The distributed checks add up to over $218 billion paid out since the program began in mid-April. 

“This Administration has delivered Economic Impact Payments to Americans in record time,” said Secretary Steven Mnuchin. “More payments are on their way as we continue to deliver this much-needed relief to the American people.”

The Treasury also reports that more than 150 million payments will be distributed in total. 

Distribution began the week of April 13, going first to Americans who had set up direct deposit. NBC News reporting from last month found that there have been concerns that paper checks may be delayed for several months. 

Americans who have still not received a payment can check their status at the IRS website

1304d ago / 5:13 PM UTC

Coronavirus vaccine: This week's updates from Moderna, Pfizer and more

Cambridge Biotech Moderna Leads in Race For Coronavirus Vaccine
A scientist works in the lab at Moderna in Cambridge, Mass. on Feb. 28, 2020.David L. Ryan / Boston Globe via Getty Images

Work on a potential coronavirus vaccine is proceeding at breakneck pace around the world, with more than 100 projects in motion, yet even the best predictions put an effective vaccine at least nine months away.

And experts are cautioning that even promising early results don’t guarantee that vaccines will be widely available anytime soon, because clinical trials are done in phases and require observing participants over time to assess how they respond to the doses.

Here's a roundup of the most notable vaccine news of the week.

1304d ago / 5:11 PM UTC

Photo: Social distancing at Lebanese mosque

Worshippers perform Friday prayers during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan at the Mohammed Al-Amin Mosque in Beirut.Anwar Amro / AFP - Getty Images
1304d ago / 5:10 PM UTC

New York state has 73 cases of children with rare COVID-19 complication

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that the state has 73 cases of children developing symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease, a rare but potentially dangerous complication thought to be linked to the coronavirus. 

That is up from 64 cases that the state reported this week from an initial survey. NBC News found at least 85 such cases in children around the U.S.

"This is every parent's nightmare, that your child may actually be affected by this virus, but it's something that we have to consider seriously now," Cuomo said at a news conference on Friday.

The governor also delivered a bit of good news with his report that the total number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the state is down to 8,196. 

On Thursday, the state saw 216 deaths from the disease, which is a reduction from the 231 deaths on May 6. 

"The good news is we are finally ahead of this virus," Cuomo said. "We have shown that we can control the beast, if you look at the numbers going down." 

1304d ago / 5:07 PM UTC

N.J. nursing home where 17 bodies were stuffed into tiny morgue hit with $220K fine

The New Jersey nursing home where 17 bodies were found stuffed into a tiny morgue last month was hit with a hefty fine after federal inspectors found that residents there were put at risk of "serious injury, harm impairment or death."

The Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation II facility in Sussex County must pay $220,235 — more than $14,000 for each day that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) found the "facility was not in substantial compliance with federal requirements" between April 6 and April 20. The home also faces other fines, and the monetary penalties will accrue "until substantial compliance is achieved or termination occurs," according to a statement released Thursday by Rep. Josh Gottheimer, D-N.J.

The nursing home currently has 133 residents and 54 staff members who have tested positive for coronavirus, according to the congressman. In total, 94 residents and one staff member have died.

The report detailed specific instances of disturbing neglect and violations at the home, the statement said.

In one instance, a resident had fallen on the floor by the bed, and got a head abrasion. The resident was pronounced dead the next day. A physician's report read: “Found dead this am ... not performed Physical-COVID-19 test was done? ... High fever for the last few days — that was not brought to my attention. Flu like illness, likely COVID-19.”

1304d ago / 5:01 PM UTC

French doctors find man who may be Europe's 'patient zero'

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Health investigators around the world are racing back in time.

While it was thought COVID-19 only began to spread beyond China and across Europe in January and February, French doctors this week said they have established the coronavirus was already present in Paris by late December — a month before the country’s first official recorded case and two and a half months before a nationwide lockdown.

The patient, Amirouche Hammar, 43, from the suburbs of Paris, has been dubbed France’s potential “patient zero” by researchers and was possibly even the first case in Europe.

The French team is among researchers across the world now poring over old medical reports hunting for clues from the very start of the COVID-19 outbreak, hoping to paint a wider, more accurate picture of how the virus spread so quickly.

Read more here.

1304d ago / 4:49 PM UTC

FDA clears way for first mail-in COVID-19 spit test

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the first test that uses saliva, rather than an uncomfortable nasal swab, to diagnose COVID-19.

On Friday, the FDA gave Rutgers Clinical Genomics Laboratory in New Jersey an emergency use authorization for its test with an option for at-home sample collection, which would allow patients to spit into a provided tube and send it back to the lab in a sealed envelope for testing. 

"Authorizing additional diagnostic tests with the option of at-home sample collection will continue to increase patient access to testing for COVID-19," Dr. Stephen Hahn, FDA commissioner, said in a press release. 

"This provides an additional option for the easy, safe and convenient collection of samples required for testing without traveling to a doctor's office, hospital or testing site," he said.

1304d ago / 4:35 PM UTC

Amtrak's Acela line resuming service on June 1

The Acela line, Amtrak's upscale service between Boston and Washington, D.C., will be back on track in three weeks, the rail service announced on Friday.

Beginning June 1, there will be three weekday Acela round trips, and the frequency of Northeast Regional round trips will be increased from eight to 10, Amtrak said.

Acela service has been shuttered for two months due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Amtrak also announced that all riders, starting immediately, are required to wear facial coverings on board trains and in stations.

1304d ago / 4:30 PM UTC

70 percent of U.S. Olympic sports applied for government funds

At least 70 percent of U.S. Olympic sports organizations have applied for government funds during the coronavirus pandemic, a stark financial reality that underscores the frailties within the world's most dominant Olympic sports system.

The Associated Press surveyed 44 of the country's national governing bodies (NGBs) -- the organizations charged with operating programs from the grassroots through the Olympic levels in sports that run the gamut from badminton to basketball.

 All but four of the 36 NGBs that responded said they had applied for assistance from the Paycheck Protection Program. Not all the organizations revealed how much they received, but those who did have been approved for a cumulative total of about $12 million.

1304d ago / 4:24 PM UTC

Cuba has 12 new COVID-19 cases, its lowest total in weeks

Cuba announced 12 new cases of COVID-19 Friday, the country's lowest total in weeks.

Of the new cases, 75 percent were asymptomatic. One person, a 77-year-old, also died, officials said.

Cuba has seen 1,741 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 74 deaths. The country, known for its focus on prevention, has been at the forefront of the global fight against COVID-19 and sent doctors to countries such as South Africa and Italy.

1304d ago / 4:16 PM UTC

What's it like graduating into a recession? We want to hear old and new stories

As the coronavirus pandemic decimates the economy, students set to leave college this month had their post-graduate plans upended. Widespread hiring freezes and business closings mean finding work is a lot harder than it was three months ago. While the circumstances are different, students who graduated in 2008 and 2009 during the Great Recession faced similar challenges.

NBC News wants to hear from people who graduated in the 2008 recession and from students set to graduate this spring.

Rear View Of Person Wearing Graduation Gown
Wan Edzadatul Akmal Wan Mohamad / Getty Images/EyeEm
1304d ago / 4:10 PM UTC

Pence staff member tests positive for coronavirus


An aide to Vice President Mike Pence tested positive for the coronavirus, the second administration staffer known to become infected with the virus, an administration official said Friday.

Pence's flight to Des Moines was delayed by roughly an hour Friday morning, although the staffer who tested positive was not expected to travel with the vice president. Some members of the vice president's staff were seen disembarking from Air Force Two.

Read more here.

1304d ago / 4:10 PM UTC

U.S. post office loss doubles as it warns COVID-19 will hit its finances

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Postal Service on Friday said it lost $4.5 billion in the quarter ending in March, more than double its loss over the same period last year, and warned COVID-19 could severely hurt its finances over the next 18 months.

The agency said its revenues rose $348 million to $17.8 billion, but noted that rising workers compensation costs in the quarter increased its expenses.

1304d ago / 4:05 PM UTC

Nancy Pelosi responds to April jobs report, calls for increased COVID-19 relief and testing

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for additional coronavirus relief efforts following Friday's April jobs numbers showing the national unemployment rate at 14.7 percent.

“Our nation is in the midst of an historic health and economic crisis, and even this record-shattering April jobs report understates the suffering in our nation today," the California Democrat said in a statement.

Pelosi called for an additional Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to supplement the one signed into law by President Donald Trump in late March.

“The answer to opening up our economy is science, science, science. Our CARES 2 package must commit critical resources to the testing, tracing and treatment we need in order to have a science-based path to safely reopen our country," Pelosi said.

Friday's job numbers from the Department of Labor show 20.5 million jobs lost during the month. The unemployment rate is the worst the country has recorded since the Great Depression.

1304d ago / 3:51 PM UTC
1304d ago / 3:23 PM UTC

NYC man accused of selling stolen COVID-19 tests, failing to send results

A New York City man is accused of selling stolen COVID-19 tests online, falsely claiming he was connected to a lab — and when his victims sent swabs to the "lab" for testing, they never received any results.

Henry Sylvain Gindt II, 34, of Queens, was charged with committing mail fraud and wire fraud, and conspiring to commit mail fraud and wire fraud.

Gindt obtained the stolen test kits from a lab employee, then advertised the testing services on his website for YouHealth Inc., advertising the stolen testing services for $135 to $200, according to a news release from U.S. Attorney Scott W. Brady.

"Once the testing kit services (including the nasal swabs used for collection and packaging to send to the lab) were ordered, Gindt would have them overnighted to consumers with a request to then complete a medical questionnaire to screen for COVID-19 symptoms," authorities said in the release. "Gindt II sent the test kits to consumers via FedEx overnight using the FedEx account in the name of an entity identified in the complaint as 'Lab' and an individual identified as 'T. A.'  Gindt II directed consumers to swab themselves and send their test kits to 'Lab' for testing.  The consumers never received any test results."

The case began after a resident from western Pennsylvania tipped off authorities about an email from Gindt advertising his testing services scheme. His websites for and were shut down in mid-April.

1304d ago / 3:12 PM UTC

Number of people in some NYC parks will be limited

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Friday that capacity would be limited at certain parks that got busy last weekend.

The number of people allowed into Hudson River Park's Piers 45 and 46 on Manhattan's West Side and Domino Park in Brooklyn will be limited, and people will be asked to leave after a certain amount of time to make space for social distancing.

"Why are we doing this? Because it saves lives and that’s what we’re going to tell people from the beginning," he said.

The mayor said if the initiative works it will be applied to more places. 

The Brooklyn district attorney’s office released data late Thursday that showed of the 40 people arrested for social distancing violations in the borough since mid-March, 35 were black and four were Hispanic. All of the cases were dropped, but de Blasio tweeted that "the disparity in the numbers does NOT reflect our values."

"Our police officers are being asked to do something they've never trained for," de Blasio said Friday. 

1304d ago / 2:40 PM UTC

Pakistan set to ease lockdown as coronavirus cases pass 26,000

Pakistan’s confirmed cases of coronavirus passed 26,000 on Friday, with the country’s lockdown expected to be lifted on Saturday. The country has seen a rapid increase in the number of cases over the past month, with approximately 1,000 new cases reported per day in the last week.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said the lockdown would be reintroduced if coronavirus cases increased in the future, and distancing procedures needed to be followed by reopened businesses.

It has been reported that many health workers in Pakistan have complained of lack of proper protective equipment when they are working with those who have contracted the virus.

1304d ago / 2:09 PM UTC

E.U. gives millions of masks to healthcare workers across Europe

The European Commission — the executive branch of the European Union — will start dispatching 10 million masks to health care workers across the 27-country bloc and in the U.K.

The Commission says a first batch of 1.5 million masks will be shipped to 17 member states and Britain over the next few days. The stock, purchased through an E.U. fund set up to tackle the COVID-19 crisis, will be distributed in weekly installments over the next six weeks.

“This is E.U. solidarity in action to help respond to the needs of European health systems and 3 billion euros has been mobilized from the E.U. budget to directly support national efforts,” Stella Kyriakides, commissioner for health and food safety, said on Friday.

1304d ago / 2:00 PM UTC

Melinda Gates on 'TODAY' says 'I'm surprised we've wasted so much time'

1304d ago / 1:52 PM UTC

Portugal PM laments international fight for medical equipment during outbreak

Portugal’s prime minister says his country has learned a tough lesson over the past two months of the pandemic: that you can’t depend on foreign suppliers for essential medical equipment.

“We can’t be relying on a market that’s uncontrolled and brutal, with an almost physical brawl going on to buy one ventilator here, another there,” Prime Minister Antonio Costa said Friday.

He announced plans to step up national production so that Portugal can become self-sufficient in the production of masks, personal protective equipment and ventilators. He said that if Portugal is going to move on from the current lockdown and “learn to live together with the virus,” it’s crucial that there are enough breathing machines available in case things go wrong.

Costa spoke during a visit to Portugal’s Engineering and Development Center, where a crowdfunding scheme has enabled it to produce an expected 400 breathing machines this month. The country has reported more than 25,000 cases as of Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University data. 

1304d ago / 1:39 PM UTC

Trump says he will get tested for coronavirus antibodies

President Donald Trump said Friday that he had not yet been tested for coronavirus antibodies but would be taking the test in the future.

“I will do that," Trump said in an interview with "Fox & Friends" about taking the antibody test. "Who knows, some people had it and they didn't even know they had it."

Antibody tests provide information about whether a person's immune system has developed antibodies needed to fight off a particular infection. A positive test means a person has antibodies, and therefore had the virus at some point; a negative test means a person does not have antibodies and has not yet contracted the virus. 

Trump is believed to have been in close contact with multiple people who have tested positive for the coronavirus. The White House said Thursday that Trump’s personal valet, who works in the West Wing serving the president his meals, among other duties, had tested positive for the coronavirus. In March, a Brazilian official Trump met with at Mar-a-Lago also tested positive for the virus.

Read the full story here.

1304d ago / 1:17 PM UTC

FDA moves to expand testing capacity with at-home collection kits

The Food and Drug Administration has released guidelines for manufacturers to develop kits for consumers to collect samples at home to be sent off to labs for COVID-19 testing. Currently, one kit, made by LabCorp, is authorized for at-home collection. 

On Wednesday, the FDA wrote on its website that it is supportive of at-home self-collection, provided there is data  "data and science to support consumer safety and test accuracy."

Such kits would provide swabs, tubes and other tools necessary to ship specimens to a lab for analysis.

The move is meant to greatly expand the number of people able to be tested for the coronavirus. 

1304d ago / 12:56 PM UTC

Lufthansa airline to fly to 106 destinations starting from June


Lufthansa airline will significantly expand its flights starting in June with trips to Mallorca, Crete and other destinations, according to a news release on Friday. The June flight schedule will include 106 destinations, although customers will continue to be asked to wear a mask during the entire journey.

The German airline is negotiating a 9 billion euro, or $9.71 billion, rescue after hundreds of its airlines were grounded due to the coronavirus.

Over the past few weeks, Germany has slowly reopened, with museums and hairdressers under strict conditions, churches opening their doors for worshippers, and more car factories resuming work. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has warned, however, that reopening too swiftly risks triggering a second wave of infections. The country has 167,300 confirmed cases as of Friday, with 141,700 reported as recovered. 

1304d ago / 12:55 PM UTC

U.S. economy lost 20.5 million jobs in April, unemployment rate spikes to 14.7 percent

The U.S. economy lost an unprecedented 20.5 million jobs in April, and the unemployment rate soared to 14.7 percent, up from 4.4 percent in March after months at a half-century low, according to the monthly employment report, released Friday by the Department of Labor.

In just over a month, the coronavirus has wiped out all job gains since the Great Recession and brought the country's decade-long record economic growth streak to an abrupt halt.

April's staggering jobless total is more than 10 times that of the previous unemployment record of 1.96 million, set in September 1945, when American soldiers returned home after World War II.

Read the full story here.

1304d ago / 12:13 PM UTC

Austria won’t play 'blame game' on virus responsibility, chancellor says


Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz says there’s no sense in engaging in a “blame game” about who was responsible for the spread of the virus on Friday, when asked in a news conference whether the Austrian government will apologize to other countries for what happened in ski resorts such as Ischgl, where tourists were infected and carried the virus as far away as Iceland and Norway.

“I would never demand an apology from the Italians for Italian guests bringing the virus to Austrian ski resorts, because they certainly didn’t do it deliberately,” he said, adding that "it doesn’t make sense to play an international blame game about who is responsible for this pandemic.” 

Also on Friday, Kurz said restaurants in the country would reopen on May 15 as he urged Austrians to buy and consume regional products as a way to ensure an economic comeback for the country. Kurz also hinted that he hoped to open borders with Germany, tweeting that "their development is similar to ours and that's why I am very optimistic that we can find a solution here."

1304d ago / 11:54 AM UTC

1304d ago / 11:38 AM UTC

The government still doesn't know how many nursing homes have coronavirus outbreaks

WASHINGTON — On April 19, Medicare Administrator Seema Verma took the podium at the White House's daily coronavirus briefing to announce that the Trump administration would begin tracking outbreaks and deaths at long-term care facilities nationwide — and publish the numbers for everyone to see.

The effort would begin within days, federal officials promised.

More than two weeks and 13,000 long-term care deaths later, the federal government still has not tallied the number of nursing homes that have had outbreaks nationwide or the number of residents who have died. And the data is still weeks away from being made public, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, or CMS, the federal agency that oversees nursing homes.

Read the full story here.

1304d ago / 11:36 AM UTC

As France prepares to lift lockdown, restrictions in 'red zone' Paris remain


France will gradually start to ease the country's strict, nearly two-month lockdown on Monday, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe confirmed in a televised address. While the country will not return to "normal life," he said the government’s approach will balance restarting economic and social life in France against the risk of virus resurgence.

Paris, as well as several other regions that saw particularly high levels of infections, will remain remain a "red zone" where many restrictions will remain, including keeping parks, restaurants and secondary schools closed. In other parts of France, cafes and restaurants may open from early June if the infection rate remains low.

"The country is cut in two, with the virus circulating more quickly in some regions, notably in the Paris region," Philippe said Thursday evening. "In the Paris region, the infection rate is falling slowly, but it remains very high, higher than we expected. That is why in these territories we will need to be extra vigilant."

1304d ago / 11:30 AM UTC

On VE Day, U.K.’s Boris Johnson says pandemic 'requires same spirit of national endeavor' as World War II

On the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe Day, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the struggle against the coronavirus “demands the same spirit of national endeavor” as World War II.

The anniversary comes as the U.K. government faces criticism from health workers over a lack of sufficient protective gear, as well as complaints surrounding low levels of virus testing. The U.K. has reported more than 200,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as of Friday, and new data suggests the country has the highest death toll in Europe, with more than 30,000 dead.

1304d ago / 11:08 AM UTC

China to join the WHO global initiative to develop COVID-19 vaccines

China firmly supports and will participate in the World Health Organization global initiative to develop COVID-19 vaccines, its National Health Commission said Friday. 

China is “willing to work with the international community to maintain global health security and fight the epidemic,” Mi Feng, a government spokesperson said. Last month, the United States said it would not participate in the initiative.

This comes in the wake of a continued back-and-forth between the U.S. and China about China’s knowledge of the source of the epidemic. When asked at a news conference about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s comments that China did not initially respond quickly enough to the virus, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said Friday: “I think since he repeats lies so constantly, we should also constantly use facts to help the international community understand the truth.”

1304d ago / 10:09 AM UTC

1304d ago / 9:57 AM UTC

China attempts to shape coronavirus narrative online

As the blame game about the coronavirus pandemic continues to heat up between the United States and China, senior Chinese officials have taken to English language social media platforms to both fend off and make accusations about its spread.

Although Twitter is blocked in his homeland, Hu Zhaoming spokesman of the International Department of the ruling Communist Party, joined it last month. He has since become a vocal member of the microblogging site, posting a series of pointed tweets about President Donald Trump and the response to the virus in Europe and other countries.

China's ambassadors from France to South Africa have also utilized official embassy accounts to respond to criticism that their homeland had been too slow in its initial response to the virus, which originated in the city of Wuhan late last year. So far, the virus has killed more than 269,000 people globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Read the full story here.

1304d ago / 9:54 AM UTC

Kim Jong Un congratulates China's Xi on 'victory' in coronavirus fight

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un sent a message of congratulations to China's Xi Jinping on “seizing a chance of victory in the war against the unprecedented epidemic,” the North Korean state news agency KCNA reported Friday.

China on Thursday announced the entire country was downgraded from high risk to low risk of viral infection. The country, where the virus originated, has reported no new deaths from coronavirus in more than three weeks.

Kim Jong Un appeared last week at a fertilizer plant opening after being out of the public eye for a few weeks, leading to speculation about his health.

1305d ago / 9:15 AM UTC

New coronavirus cases in South Korea linked to nightclub goers

South Korean health authorities are investigating a small but growing coronavirus outbreak centered in a handful of Seoul nightclubs, seeking to keep infections in check as the country moves to less restrictive social distancing measures.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday at least 15 people have confirmed cases of the virus, the first time in days that cases numbered above 10. South Korea has reported only a handful of cases in recent days, the majority of them in people arriving from overseas.

"We think it is necessary to strengthen management for such facilities and we urge you to refrain from visiting such facilities as much as possible," said KCDC director Jeong Eun-kyeong, referring to crowding and ventilation issues.

1305d ago / 9:02 AM UTC

1305d ago / 6:38 AM UTC
1305d 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.

1305d 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.”

1305d ago / 5:42 AM UTC

Virginia neighbors howl to ease coronavirus anxiety