Around 2.98 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment claims last week, more than economist expectations of 2.7 million, and the eighth straight week of numbers in the millions. More than 36.5 million unemployment claims have been filed since the COVID-19 pandemic struck two months ago.
Meanwhile, a Health and Human Services whistle blower, Dr. Rick Bright, warned Congress on Thursday that "2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history" without clear action against the coronavirus.
- MAPS: Confirmed cases in the U.S. and worldwide, confirmed deaths in the U.S. and globally.
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Arkansas venue postpones concert 'against our will'
A Fort Smith, Arkansas, concert venue grudgingly said it would delay a country music show that it had scheduled for Friday, days before coronavirus restrictions in the state would allow it.
TempleLive will instead seek to have the Travis McCready show moved to Monday, when some indoor events can begin to be held. The move came after the governor said a cease-and-desist letter would be issued and after a venue official said the state alcohol commission "ripped our permits and licenses off the wall."
"It doesn't feel like America to me," Mike Brown of TempleLive said at a news conference. He said the venue will apply to move the show to Monday "against our will."
Gov. Asa Hutchinson noted that the show was scheduled for three days before indoor events would be permitted. "You can’t just arbitrarily determine when the restrictions are lifted," he said.
The Arkansas Department of Health directive requires a plan to be approved for indoor events with 50 people or more.
The event had been announced in late April. Brown said that churches had been allowed to open and they wanted to be treated the same as other places now permitted. "At the end of the day we fought the law and the laws won," he said.
China passes 1-month mark for no new virus deaths
BEIJING — China has gone a month without announcing any new deaths from the coronavirus.
The National Health Commission reported four new cases of the virus Friday, all local cross-infections in the northeastern province of Jilin where a cluster of uncertain origin has been detected in recent days. The last time the commission reported a death was on April 14.
Just 91 people remain in treatment for COVID-19 and 623 others are under isolation and monitoring for being suspected cases or for having tested positive without showing symptoms, including 11 newly detected.
In total, China has reported 4,633 deaths among 82,933 cases since the virus was first detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan.
China has maintained social distancing and bans on foreigners entering the country, but has increasingly opened up the world’s second-largest economy to allow both large factories and small businesses to resume production and dealings with customers. The government plans to hold the ceremonial parliament’s annual session later this month, but with highly limited access for journalists and others.
Minnesota's Mall of America to begin reopening June 1
The massive Mall of America in Minnesota announced Thursday that it will begin reopening June 1 after being closed because the coronavirus epidemic.
Not all stores in the mall, which is in Bloomington south of Minneapolis, will reopen on that date, the mall said in a statement. Dining and attractions will remain closed pending further guidance from state officials.
Gov. Tim Walz this week announced that his stay-at-home order expires Monday and that he would replace it with an order allowing retail as long as stores enforce social distancing and stay at 50 percent capacity or less.
The June 1 date will allow companies to rehire staff and prepare cleaning and other safety measures, the mall said. The mall covers 5.6 million square feet. Under normal circumstances, the mall says that it has around 40 million visitors each year.
Minnesota has seen more than 13,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, with at least 663 deaths, according to the state health department.
Convalescent plasma is safe to treat COVID-19, study finds
The most comprehensive national study to date has found that convalescent plasma appears to be safe to use on COVID-19 patients, a promising development in the race to find a treatment for the deadly virus. But the study didn't determine whether the treatment works.
A team of more than 5,000 doctors from over 2,000 hospitals and laboratories have been testing the experimental therapy, which involves transfusing the antibody-rich blood serum of recovered COVID-19 patients into people who are battling the illness.
Of the 5,000 seriously ill patients who received blood plasma transfusions for the study, fewer than 1 percent experienced serious adverse events. The mortality rate seven days after treatment was 14.9 percent, but the researchers noted the infusion patients were already gravely ill and the rate "does not appear excessive."
Canada zoo to return pandas to China
Two giant pandas in Canada will be heading back to China because their main meal, fresh bamboo, was getting too difficult to find, officials at Calgary Zoo said.
The bamboo for Er Shun and Da Mao was flown directly from China and then, when the pandemic reduced flights, on transfers from Toronto, the zoo said Tuesday. But even those flights have been reduced, making the adult bears' favored food supply shaky.
"We believe the best and safest place for Er Shun and Da Mao to be during these challenging and unprecedented times is where bamboo is abundant and easy to access," Calgary Zoo President and CEO Clément Lanthier said in a statement.
Disney shutters 'Frozen' on Broadway for good
Disney Theatrical Productions said Thursday it was shutting down its Broadway production of "Frozen" for good.
It had produced 851 performances since 2018 before it was shut down as a result of New York's ban on large gatherings March 12.
"We are heartbroken to announce that Frozen will not reopen once Broadway returns," Disney said on Twitter.
Broadway's Actors’ Equity Association said in a statement that "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" and "Hangmen," in previews as the ban on large gatherings was enacted, have also closed permanently.
"Public officials at all levels must think much more boldly about supporting the arts or our entire economy will be slower to recover," the group's executive directly, Mary McColl, said in the statement.
Mississippi casinos given OK to reopen May 21
The Mississippi Gaming Commission said Thursday that casinos in the state can start reopening May 21 — more than two months after the commission closed them because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The reopening is allowed just before the Memorial Day weekend, which usually marks the beginning of the summer tourist season.
Gaming Commission executive director Allen Godfrey confirmed the reopening date to WLOX-TV and the Sun Herald. He said the commission will release an order Friday with safety guidelines, which are expected to include requirements for social distancing between customers and frequent cleaning of slot machines and other equipment.
The commission closed Mississippi’s state-regulated casinos March 16. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has closed other types of businesses to try to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus, and he has allowed many to reopen. He said Thursday that the commission makes the “final and official” decision about reopening casinos.
Former MLB player and manager Art Howe in ICU
Former Major League Baseball player and manager Art Howe is in intensive care fighting coronavirus, he told a Houston television station Thursday.
Howe told NBC affiliate KPRC he tested positive for coronavirus this month and has lost his sense of taste.
“That’s the thing. My tastebuds still aren’t there," he said. "I know I should eat but nothing at all makes you want to eat.”
The 73-year-old Howe played for the Houston Astros, Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals and was an MLB manager for 14 seasons. He's best known for a seven-season run leading the Oakland A's during the club's "Moneyball" era between 1996-2002.
Americans are moving again — see how driving, walking and transit are returning to normal
Americans are moving again. Or, at least, they're looking for directions again.
After two months of social distancing and staying home to curb the spread of the coronavirus, data from Apple suggests that people in several cities, most of them where reopening plans are in place, are starting to venture outside their homes again.
Apple began publishing data in April showing the change in searches for directions in Apple Maps in about 70 U.S. cities. And while the data showed clear drop-offs in requests for transit, walking and driving directions in March, search volume has moved back to pre-coronavirus levels in seven cities.
Abbott COVID-19 test — used by White House — could be inaccurate, FDA warns
The Food and Drug Administration issued an alert Thursday warning that a common COVID-19 diagnostic test could be giving inaccurate results.
President Donald Trump recently touted Abbott Labs' ID NOW point-of-care test, which is used by hospitals across the country, as the test used to screen him and those around him.