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

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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:

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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. 

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. 

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.

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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."

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.

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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."

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.

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.”

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.