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.
- Reopening America: See what states across the U.S. are starting to reopen.
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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.
USNS Mercy to leave Los Angeles, but some personnel will remain
The Navy hospital ship the USNS Mercy will leave Los Angeles on Friday, officials said, although some medical personnel will remain in the area to help amid the coronavirus epidemic, the military said.
The Mercy was one of two Navy hospital ships dispatched to help in the pandemic, which has been linked to more than 86,100 deaths in the country as of Thursday according to an NBC News count. The other ship, the USNS Comfort, was sent to New York City and left there late last month.
The Mercy's mission was not to treat patients suffering from COVID-19, but to handle other patients in order to ease the burden on hospital systems.
Around 60 medical staff from the Mercy will remain in the Los Angeles area to provide care at nursing facilities. The Mercy's home port is in San Diego.
Los Angeles County health officials on Thursday reported 925 newly identified cases of COVID-19 and an additional 51 deaths from the disease. There have been more than 35,300 cases and 1,700 deaths in the county, according to the health department.
TikTok cereal stunt on NYC subway amid pandemic is 'despicable,' transit authority says
A man dumping a large tub of cereal on a subway car for a TikTok stunt was called out by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for putting unnecessary strain on essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The TikTok account “fckjoshy” posted a video on Tuesday to the account in which the man drops a large storage tub of milk and cereal on the floor of a subway train, presumably as a prank. The video gained 3.2 million views on the app before someone posted the clip to Twitter, where it received another 5 million views.
The MTA condemned the unidentified man’s stunt for the strain it put on essential workers amid the pandemic on Wednesday.
“A new low: Pulling a prank on essential workers in the middle of a global pandemic,” the MTA said on its official Twitter account. “And making essential workers clean up your mess. Despicable.”
CDC issues alert to doctors on rare COVID-19 'mystery illness' in kids
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a health alert to physicians Thursday on what has emerged as a rare but potentially deadly condition linked to COVID-19 in children.
The illness, which the CDC calls "multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children," or MIS-C, has been reported in at least 19 states and Washington, D.C. It was previously referred to as pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome.
At least 110 cases have been reported in New York, and three young people — ages 5, 7 and 18 — have died. New Jersey has at least 17 cases, and California has six. Other states, such as Connecticut, Georgia, Kentucky, Ohio and Washington, have reported small numbers of cases.
Areas with no social distancing see 35 times the amount of coronavirus spread, study finds
Researchers found that social distancing policies can reduce the daily growth of new coronavirus cases by as much as 9 percent, according to a study published Thursday in the journal Health Affairs.
The study, which looked at confirmed cases in the United States between March 1 and April 27, found that the longer the social distancing policy was in effect, the slower the growth rate was of COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus. For policies that lasted 16 to 20 days, the rate plunged 9.1 percent.
No social distancing policies could lead to 35 times more cases, the study found.
The policies the researchers studied include bans on large events, shelter-in-place orders and the closure of gyms, bars, restaurants and other businesses.
The researchers, from the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and Georgia State University, found that by April 7, 95 percent of the U.S. had mandated social distancing measures. Most states have begun allowing businesses to reopen, those plans vary widely from state to state.
New York Stock Exchange will reopen on May 26, with temperature checks and masks for traders
The New York Stock Exchange will reopen on May 26, NYSE President Stacey Cunningham announced Thursday, allowing a "subset" of brokers — who will wear face masks — back onto the famed trading floor.
Even the biggest symbol of American capitalism proved in March it was not immune to the disease, switching to all-electronic trading as of March 23 after an employee and a trader tested positive, despite the introduction of social distancing protocols, restricted access, and temperature checks at entry points.
"Our reopening will bring a “new normal” for the NYSE, hopefully helping chart a path that other businesses in densely populated areas might follow," Cunningham said, announcing the news in an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal.
No traders or employees will be required to come in, Cunningham said, "but the stream of calls and emails I’ve received suggests it will be hard to keep them away."
Berkeley, California, proposes using streets for outdoor dining
City leaders in Berkeley, California, are exploring the idea of using city streets, medians, parking areas, sidewalks and other public spaces for socially distanced dining.
The idea from Mayor Jesse Arreguín and Vice Mayor Sophie Hahn is scheduled to be considered by the City Council June 2. "This proposal will enable us to reopen an important part of our economy while minimizing the risk of new infections," Arreguín said in a statement.
It would direct the city manager to identify open spaces for dining and consider allowing eateries and business improvement districts to "apply for temporary use of streets," according to the recommendation the council will consider.
Berkeley is home to chef Alice Waters' celebrated restaurant Chez Panisse, which closed March 16 "in the interested of the well-being of our community," according to a statement. The restaurant did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for its reaction to the city's proposal.
Trump admin says long-awaited ethnicity-based coronavirus data expected "in coming weeks"
A Trump administration official tells NBC News it expects to release its long-promised race and ethnicity-based coronavirus data “in coming weeks.”
Last month, Seema Verma — administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — told reporters the data would be available in “early May.” That was after President Donald Trump promised it would be publicly available in early April.
Public health experts say they desperately need the national data to pinpoint and address the disproportionately higher rates of coronavirus infection and death among communities of color.
As Dr. Stephen Thomas, director of the Maryland Center for Health Equity at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, told NBC News: “If you don’t break down the results by ethnicity, you’re flying color blind. We need to take the color blinds off, and we need to do so in a way that doesn’t stigmatize the very communities we’re talking about.”
Louisiana parents sue to get children out of juvenile detention as coronavirus spreads
I.B. told his mom he didn’t feel well during a phone call April 5.
The 17-year-old incarcerated at the Swanson Center for Youth in Monroe, Louisiana, had a nurse take his temperature during the call; it was over 100 degrees.
The next day, his mother called the Swanson Center several times to find out how her son was doing, but his case worker said she didn’t know and would call back in a week, according to a sworn declaration from I.B.’s mother, filed Thursday as part of a class-action lawsuit seeking the release of incarcerated children in Louisiana amid the spreading coronavirus pandemic.
Influencers dealing with increased online harassment during coronavirus lockdowns
Influencers have always been privy to online harassment, but many say that they've been receiving more hateful, violent messages than usual over the past few months while people stay home to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
"The harassment has gotten worse, 100%, since lockdowns began," Erim Kaur, a lifestyle and beauty influencer, told NBC News. "People call me ugly, fat, fake. They say all sorts of horrible things about me and my family and threaten us and you feel powerlessness against it, because they keep making new accounts."
Kaur said she and three other U.K.-based influencers made a specific group chat to provide support to one another against the influx of insults and harassment they'd started receiving when stay-at-home orders were first established. She also hired a lawyer to help her track threats last month.
Experts aren't surprised that the shutdowns have fueled online harassment and that reports of domestic violence have surged. "My fear is that as we move more of our lives online, the devices that increase our connectivity will also create an increased opportunity for stalkers," said Andrew King-Ries, a law professor at the University of Montana and chair of the American Bar Association's Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. "And when a stalker or harasser can reach you online, they take away your safe space and your ability to get out, which is a horrifying aspect."
Democratic governors say their states are underprepared for a second wave of coronavirus
In a virtual roundtable discussion with apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden, three prominent Democratic governors all acknowledged that they are underprepared for a potential second wave of COVID-19 cases later this year.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said that until there’s a vaccine, the best thing states have is testing — but indicated that her state would face a shortage of critical testing supplies.
"We have the capabilities to continue ramping up testing. We’re able to execute the tests, we’ve got the tracing capabilities to follow up where we’ve got positives. But what we don’t have are some of the critical simple supplies. Swabs, which is really not a hard thing to manufacture,” Whitmer said.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, for his part, said his state still had a lot of work to do to restock hospital bed capacity, PPE and ventilators. “Are we prepared for a rebound in the fall or winter, I would say we are trying to get there,” he said.” We’re not there yet, though. Without question we’re not there yet.”
And Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said he’d have a stronger stockpile of critical equipment in place if a second wave “comes about,” but that he’d want control of the supply chain for it in the hands of governors — not the Trump administration. "I don’t want to be sitting around waiting for the national stockpile to decide they can send it to me,” Lamont said. “I want to make sure next time around we control our own destiny.”
CDC releases some of its reopening guidelines
U.S. health officials on Thursday released some of their long-delayed guidance that schools, businesses and other organizations can use as states reopen from coronavirus shutdowns.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted six one-page “decision tool” documents that use traffic signs and other graphics to tell organizations what they should consider before reopening.
The tools are for schools, workplaces, camps, childcare centers, mass transit systems, and bars and restaurants. The CDC originally also authored a document for churches and other religious facilities, but that wasn't posted Thursday. The agency declined to say why.
The CDC drafted the guidance more than a month ago and it was initially shelved by the Trump administration, The Associated Press reported last week.
The agency also had prepared even more extensive guidance — about 57 pages of it — that has not been posted.
FBI seizing Sen. Burr's phone sign investigation moving into 'intense phase'
NBC News' Pete Williams breaks down Sen. Richard Burr's decision to step down as chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee after the FBI opened an investigation into possible insider trading stemming from a briefing on the coronavirus.
Broadway stars are giving personal performances to benefit out-of-work artists
Following the announcement that Broadway would remain dark through the summer, the organization “Sing for Hope,” which focuses on uplifting individuals using the performing arts throughout New York City and the world, launched a new initiative called “SingforHopeGrams.”
Individuals can order personal telegrams to send to their loved ones that are sung by Broadway stars, classical artists, Grammy winners such as former "Aladdin" cast member Telly Leung, "Ain’t Too Proud" star Jelani Remy, and Heather Makalani Manley from "Emojiland."
All of the proceeds from the telegrams go towards programs that bring comfort to vulnerable members of the community as well as the working artists who are unable to work due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The organization said they created the initiative in order to “help lift the spirits and bring joy to those isolated while also benefitting artists from Broadway, opera, and more who are reeling financially due to the pandemic.”
The telegrams can also be tailored to special occasions such as birthdays, anniversaries, or graduation ceremonies.
'Fewer graves if we reopen in waves': At-risk North Carolina man flies banner over anti-lockdown protest
An immunocompromised North Carolina man hired a plane to deliver a message to people who are protesting the state’s stay-at-home order.
The message, “FEWER GRAVES IF WE REOPEN IN WAVES,” was towed by a plane over a ReOpenNC protest in Raleigh on Tuesday. Todd Stiefel, the man behind the viral stunt, told NBC affiliate WRAL that he wanted to deliver the message to protesters in person, but couldn’t because of his weakened immune system.
“They don’t care about other people’s health. If they did, they would be wearing masks and social distancing,” Stiefel told WRAL.
North Carolina is currently in its first phase of reopening amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"We do need to start opening the economy. We do need to do that, but we need to balance it by listening to the science, taking it slowly and not spreading this disease everywhere,” Stiefel said.
110 children in New York with inflammatory syndrome
The New York State Department of Health is now looking into 110 cases of a rare inflammatory syndrome believed to be linked to COVID-19 in children.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the new cases during a media briefing Thursday. "Parents should be informed," Cuomo said, adding that three young people, ages 5, 7 and 18, have died in that state.
The condition was identified just within the past few weeks, and has been tentatively called "pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome." The illness mirrors many of the symptoms of toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease, including severe inflammation of the coronary arteries.
NBC News has learned of suspected cases in at least 17 other states, as well as several European countries.
Tesla gets clearance to move ahead in reopening
Tesla was officially given the go-ahead on Wednesday to "ramp up minimum basic operations in order to prepare for operations next week," according to a release from the Alameda County Public Health Department.
The county received on Monday Tesla's plan for reopening. The following day it responded with additional safety recommendations that needed to be included for Tesla to move forward with reopening, which it has done.
Wednesday's announcement comes after Tesla CEO Elon Musk moved to reopen his Fremont, California assembly plant on Monday in defiance of a county health order aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19. The original plan discussed with the county was to open around May 18 if health conditions didn't worsen in the area.
Musk's decision to reopen early alarmed some workers, who said they didn't plan to return to work until the order was officially lifted by the county.
American missionary pilot dies in plane crash while bringing COVID-19 tests to Indonesian village
An American missionary pilot died in a plane crash while trying to deliver COVID-19 rapid test kits to a remote Indonesian village, officials said.
Joyce Lin, 40, departed the Sentani, Papua, Indonesia airport Tuesday morning in a Kodiak aircraft heading for the village of Mamit in the Papua highlands when the plane crashed into Lake Sentani.
Lin was a missionary with the Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF), serving as a pilot and field IT support specialist, the organization said in a news release. The MIT graduate had been stationed in Indonesia for two years.
“The Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) family is deeply saddened by the loss of their colleague and friend, Joyce Lin,” the organization wrote. “Joyce was a light reflecting Jesus, and she will be deeply missed.”
Gov. Cuomo says central New York can partially reopen May 15
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that central New York state has now met all seven metrics to begin reopening on Friday.
On Monday the governor announced that three upstate regions are ready to begin reopening on Friday. He said the state would allow certain low-risk businesses and activities to resume operating, including landscaping, outdoor recreation activities such as tennis and drive-in movie theaters.
The governor said that the Finger Lakes, the Southern Tier and Mohawk Valley have met the criteria to reopen.
Photos: Murals salute front-line workers around the world
Artists are using graffiti to vent their fears and frustrations and show their support for medical workers on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak. See more murals from around the globe.
Head of WTO steps down, saying 'everything is stuck; there’s nothing happening.'
The director-general of the World Trade Organization is stepping down one year earlier than planned, according to a statement from the global trade body.
"We are doing nothing now — no negotiations, everything is stuck. There’s nothing happening in terms of regular work," Brazilian Roberto Azevedo, who has headed the Geneva-based agency since 2013, told Bloomberg News.
While his decision is partly based on global trade grind to a halt, he also indicated that his decision was fueled by the stand-off between the U.S. and China, and the fact that the U.S. has blocked appointments to its governing Appellate Body, which can no longer perform its duties without enough members.
“If I stay here, will the virus go away? The virus will not go away. If I stay here will the U.S. and China all of a sudden shake hands and say, 'OK, let bygones be bygones?' No, that is not going to happen. Nothing is going to change if I stay here,” Azevedo said.
“The WTO may not be perfect, but it is indispensable all the same. It is what keeps us from a world where the law of the jungle prevails, at least as far as trade is concerned,” he said in a statement released by the WTO.
Azevedo will step down on August 31.
NJ gov says Jersey Shore will be open by Memorial Day
The Jersey Shore will be open by Memorial Day, but “with social-distancing guidelines in place," the state's governor said Thursday.
“The Shore is central to our Jersey identity,” Gov. Phil Murphy said in a tweet. “And we want to ensure that families can safely enjoy it this summer.”
But it won’t be business as usual.
“We can’t flip a switch and open everything at once,” Murphy said earlier. “Taking incremental steps, you get to analyze what the impact is.”
Still, the plan is to allow people back on the beach.
“So, God willing, we’ll be in a good place by the time Memorial Day weekend comes around,” Murphy said.
How sewer science could ease testing pressure and track COVID-19
The science of sewage surveillance could be deployed in countries across the world to help monitor the spread of national epidemics of COVID-19 while reducing the need for mass testing, scientists say.
Experts in the field - known as wastewater epidemiology - say that as countries begin to ease pandemic lockdown restrictions, searching sewage for signs of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus could help them monitor and respond to flare-ups.
Small early studies conducted by scientific teams in The Netherlands, France, Australia and elsewhere have found signs that the COVID-19-causing virus can be detected in sewage.
“Most people know that you emit lots of this virus through respiratory particles in droplets from the lungs, but what’s less well known is that you actually emit more small virus particles in faeces,” said Davey Jones, a professor of environmental science at Britain’s Bangor University.
Photo: Argentine Congress holds virtual session
7-year-old surprised with American Girl doll after donating savings to hospital
A 7-year-old New York girl was surprised with the American Girl doll of her dreams after donating the contents of her piggy bank to buy snacks for health care workers.
Desiree Mohammodi, who loves astronomy, had been saving her money to purchase Luciana Vega, the American Girl Doll of the Year for 2018 who is an astronaut. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she realized her $52.65 would be better spent feeding hospital employees at Northwell Health.
The Laurel Hollow, Long Island resident wrote a letter to Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling, complete with drawings and a photo of herself holding her piggy bank, explaining that she wanted to help healthcare workers who were caring for patients during the pandemic. “My mom also tells me, ‘God hears kids prayers extra carefully,’” she wrote in her letter. “Tonight I pray the world is free from all diseases. Stay healthy Mr. Dowling. Remember to wash your hands.”
To reward her for her kindness and generosity, in a press conference on Thursday, Dowling surprised Desiree with the American Girl doll and a telescope. When asked why she had donated her savings to healthcare workers, she had a simple answer.
“Because I wanted to bring a smile to all of their faces,” she said.
Amazon rivals thrive during the pandemic as shipping delays level the playing field
Over the nine months Andy Hunter courted investors for his online bookselling business, Bookshop.org, he was repeatedly told it was doomed to be crushed by Amazon.
Three months since its launch with less than $1 million in funding, Hunter said the business has already far exceeded levels he’d hoped to achieve by Christmas. By early May, Bookshop has been selling more than 10,000 books a day to 175,000 customers before spending a dollar on advertising, according to Hunter.
“My goal was to capture 1 percent of Amazon’s book market and we’re there now; we’re over 1 percent of their sales,” he said in a phone interview in late April. “I thought it was going to take three years to get there and instead it took 11 weeks.”
While the pandemic threatens to cripple small businesses like book stores and restaurants that tend to rely on foot traffic, it’s also creating opportunities for some online businesses to expand. Bookshop’s early success shows that Amazon may not be the only e-commerce business to come out of the pandemic stronger than before. As the retail giant has been forced to loosen its speedy delivery times in the face of unprecedented demand and inventory shortages, smaller e-commerce services have also seen a boom as consumers scramble to find goods online.
CDC expected to release detailed reopening guidance today
The CDC is expected to release on Thursday the detailed guidance for states about how and when to reopen public places like schools, stores and restaurants, parts of which were shelved by the White House over concerns it was too restrictive, two administration officials told NBC News.
A source familiar with the guidance said the CDC, the White House Office of Management and Budget and members of the White House coronavirus task force worked over the last week to provide the revisions that were determined “as necessary” weeks ago.
McConnell slams Dems' relief bill as 'an unserious product from an unserious House majority'
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on Thursday slammed the House Democrats’ proposal for the next coronavirus relief package.
“The House gave themselves no assignments for two months except developing this proposal," McConnell said on the Senate floor. "Yet it still reads like the speaker of the House pasted together random ideas from her most liberal members and slapped the word “coronavirus” on top of it — an unserious product from an unserious House majority that has spent months dealing itself out of this crisis.”
McConnell, for his part, has agreed with Trump administration officials that Congress needs to pause work on providing more relief aid to Americans because lawmakers have already approved massive assistance measures already.
The House is expected to vote on the Houses Democrats’ proposal on Friday.
Oxford vaccine candidate shows promise in small study in monkeys
An experimental coronavirus vaccine from Oxford University appears to be effective at preventing COVID-19, according to findings from a small study in six monkeys.
Oxford scientists posted the preliminary findings on the vaccine on the preprint server bioRxiv early Thursday.
Delta Air Lines to retire its entire fleet of Boeing 777 jets as international travel tumbles
Delta Air Lines is retiring its entire fleet of Boeing 777 jets as part of cost-cutting measures as the air travel industry battles for survival amid its worst crisis since the events of September 11.
“With international travel expected to return slowly, we’ve made the difficult decision to permanently retire our Boeing 777 fleet — 18 aircraft — by the end of the year,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian told staff Thursday morning.
The company will instead rely on “fuel-efficient and cost-effective” A330s and A350-900 planes, made by Boeing's European rival, Airbus.
“Our principal financial goal for 2020 is to reduce our cash burn to zero the end of the year, which will mean for the next to three years, a smaller network, fleet and operation in response to substantially reduced customer demand,” Bastian said.
Delta just reported its first quarterly loss in five years, and received $5.4 billion in support from the Treasury Department to keep the airline afloat. The company said last month it expected second quarter revenue to fall by 90 percent.
Virologist hospitalized with coronavirus believes he got it through his eyes
Virologist Dr. Joseph Fair, an NBC News contributor who has been hospitalized with coronavirus despite being in good health and taking precautions against getting sick, said Thursday that he believes he contracted the virus through his eyes on a crowded flight.
The 42-year-old virologist and epidemiologist, who has responded to multiple outbreaks around the world, got sick about three days after a flight to his home in New Orleans.
"I had a mask on, I had gloves on, I did my normal wipes routine ... but obviously, you can still get it through your eyes," Fair said on the "TODAY" show from his hospital bed. "And of course I wasn’t wearing goggles on the flight."
"That’s one of the three known routes of getting this infection that we just don’t pay a lot of attention to; we tend to pay attention to the nose and mouth because that is the most common route," he said. "But you know, droplets landing on your eyes are just as infectious."
NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio says video of mother being arrested was 'deeply troubling'
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said it was "deeply troubling" to see a video of a mother with her child being arrested for allegedly not properly covering her face.
Officers with the New York City Police Department said they stopped Kaleemah Rozier, 22, in a subway station and attempted to enforce the face-covering rule, according to NBC New York. The mother and her child had on face masks but were not covering their nose and mouth, the outlet reported.
A video of the arrest surfaced on social media this week and showed officers escorting the mother out of the station as she screamed and told police not to touch her. At one point, Rozier is seen slapping away an officer's hand. Police then took her to the ground and placed her in handcuffs, according to NBC New York.
De Blasio said at a news briefing on Thursday that no matter what else was going on the situation should not have escalated to a mother with her child being arrested.
"It's not what we want to see in our city," he said. The mayor, however, told the public they need to respect the police and "not ignore the instructions of police officers."
"But what we saw there did not reflect our values; it did not reflect our value of de-escalation and we have to do better," de Blasio said.
The arrest this week comes after newly released statistics on the police department's social-distancing enforcement show that black people account for the majority of arrests in Brooklyn.
NYC now has 100 children with rare syndrome linked to COVID-19
New York City now has 100 cases of children with a rare inflammatory syndrome thought to be linked to the coronavirus, including one child who has died, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
That is up from 52 cases of the illness, called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, that the mayor reported for the city on Tuesday.
De Blasio also cited other figures that were more positive.
Hospital admissions for people with COVID-19 are down to 59 from 78 as of May 11, the mayor said. The number of coronavirus patients in intensive care units is also down to 517 from 561, while the percentage of tests showing positive cases of the virus dipped to 11 percent from 13 percent.
He credited social distancing guidelines and people's wearing face coverings while out in public for the improved numbers. "Today is a very good day," de Blasio said.
New York City plans to expand testing for residents to those who have had close contact with a coronavirus patient and to people who work in settings such as nursing homes and shelters. T
Photos: Boarded-up storefronts are magnets for graffiti in New York City
Patient dances out of hospital after recovering from COVID-19
A heartwarming video shows healthcare workers cheering for a patient who danced out of the hospital after spending nearly 30 days there fighting COVID-19.
Tom Berisha, 49, was first admitted to New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital in the Inwood neighborhood of Manhattan for COVID-19 treatment in early April. After some 27 days in the hospital fighting the virus, he was finally well enough to be discharged.
In the video posted on social media by New York-Presbyterian Hospital, healthcare workers line the hospital’s hallway clapping and cheering as Berisha is wheeled out in a wheelchair. Berisha, visibly emotional as he is reunited with his family, then stands up and dances. Hospital employees roar in excitement.
“To finally see him standing up, reuniting with his family, and going home to get better was overwhelming,” Cynthia Quezada, a clinical nurse manager, said in a statement released by New York-Presbyterian Hospital. “We really appreciate the success stories through this pandemic. It is a light at the end of the tunnel for the patient and for the staff.”
Vietnam determined to save British pilot in order to avoid its first COVID-19 death
Vietnam has mounted an all-out effort to save the life of its most critically ill coronavirus patient, a British pilot who works for Vietnam Airlines. Through aggressive testing and a mass, centralized quarantine program, the Southeast Asian country has kept its tally of total cases to just 288 as of Thursday, and has reported no deaths.
Little expense has been spared to try to save the life of the 43-year-old man, identified only as "Patient 91", who caught the virus at a bar in Ho Chi Minh City in mid-March, state media reported. More than 4,000 people connected to the cluster were tested, with 18 of them found to be infected.
While most have recovered, the British pilot is on life support and his condition has deteriorated significantly. On Tuesday, the health ministry held a meeting with experts from top hospitals and decided that the only way to save the man's life was with a lung transplant.
His case has garnered national interest in Vietnam, where the government has won broad support for its campaign to contain the outbreak. On Thursday, state media said 10 people — including a 70-year-old military veteran — had volunteered themselves as lung donors, but had been turned down by state doctors.
First coronavirus case detected in Rohingya refugee camp
The first confirmed coronavirus case has been detected in a Bangladesh camp, home to more than one million Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar, officials said on Thursday.
An ethnic Rohingya refugee and another person had tested positive for COVID-19, a senior Bangladeshi official and a U.N. spokeswoman said. The camps are more densely populated than most crowded cities on earth.
Aid workers have warned of a potential humanitarian disaster if there is a significant outbreak in the refugee camps outside Cox's Bazar. As many as 60,000 to 90,000 people are jammed into each square kilometer, with families of up to a dozen sharing small shelters.
The Obamas, Oprah Winfrey collaborate on Chicago library initiative
The Obamas and Oprah Winfrey are among the Chicagoans joining "Live from the Library," an initiative aimed at bringing daily storytime to children everywhere.
"I remember my first trip to the library and how important I felt," Michelle Obama said during a live reading on Wednesday. "My library card was a key that unlocked a world of knowledge and experiences."
Chicago Public Library launched the initiative after its branches were forced to close for the first time in more than 150 years amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The reading program occurs every weekday at 10:00 a.m. CT and will be livestreamed on CPL's Facebook and Instagram pages. The Chicago Public Library is also partnering with the Obama Foundation to bring another CPL branch to the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park.
The coronavirus has destroyed the job market in every state
Weekly percent change in new unemployment claims compared with the same period one year earlier. Georgia, Kentucky, Hawaii and Connecticut have seen the largest percentage of cuts, with around 1-in-3 workers in each of those states losing their jobs.
More than 2.9 million Americans filed for first-time unemployment claims last week, the continuation of a downward trend as more workers return to their jobs after coronavirus-induced lockdowns are lifted across the country.
Normally, that would be an astonishing figure, sending the total number of Americans laid off their jobs over eight weeks past 36.5 million. But there has been a steady decline in the number of weekly claims since mid-March, when first-time filings peaked at 6.9 million in just one week.
States may finally be getting through the backlogs of filers that initially overwhelmed their antiquated systems, while the onslaught of first-time applications may also be tapering off after two months of closure due to coronavirus.
Continuing claims, a metric that captures the total number of people receiving ongoing benefits, is now at around 22.8 million. That number represents one week of lag time behind initial claims.
Restaurant uses toy pandas to ensure social distancing for diners
Two-minute silence held for Spanish health workers who died with COVID-19
A two-minute silence was observed outside hospitals and medical clinics across Spain on Wednesday, as tributes were paid to the 49 medical workers who unions said had died from COVID-19. Doctors, nurses and other health care workers held up signs with black ribbons, remembering their fallen colleagues before breaking out into a round of applause.
In a statement, the Forum of the Spanish Medical Profession and the State Confederation of Medical Unions encouraged social media users to join in the tribute online, sending images, videos or messages of remembrance for doctors who had helped fight the pandemic. In Madrid, the Committee on Health of the Congress of Deputies began its session by observing the two-minute silence.
The tribute came on the same day the Spanish Ministry of Health announced 506 new cases of the disease had been registered in the country, and an additional 217 deaths, bringing Spain's total number of cases and deaths to 229,540 and 27,321 respectively. A nationwide antibody study published by the ministry on Wednesday found about 5 percent of the country's population had contracted the virus.
From France to China, nations worry about low rates of coronavirus infection
In a worrying sign that coronavirus may not be done sweeping through nations that are beginning to emerge from lockdown, recent studies in Spain and France indicate that only a small fraction of these countries' populations had been infected with the virus.
Meanwhile in China, where the outbreak began late last year, health officials said they would intensify the detection and investigation of COVID-19 to prevent any rebound of cases.
In France, where 16,642 people have died from coronavirus so far, according to an NBC News tally, a study led by the Pasteur Institute found only 4.4 percent of the population — or 2.8 million people — had been infected by virus. This rose to between 9 and 10 percent in hard-hit regions such as Paris, according to the study released Wednesday.
'Pub-on-wheels' pulls pints on people's doorsteps in London
Britain's pubs may be shut, but one east London brewer has found a new way to keep the beer flowing — by packing his kegs into a van and pulling pints on people's doorsteps.
Driving a white van with the slogan "tactical beer response unit" on the side, Peter Brown, the director of Forest Road Brewing Co., spends his day fulfilling delivery orders. But rather than delivering boxes of cans or bottles, Brown fills pint glasses for his customers out of taps on the side of the van.
"It doesn't fit as much beer as our bar would do on a normal Friday or Saturday, but what we do get is the pure joy on the customers' faces when they see a cold glass of beer for the first time in six weeks," he said. "The look on their faces is just irreplaceable." While Britain's pubs and bars have been closed for nearly two months, under the restrictions of lockdown, food and drink suppliers can still offer delivery services.
U.N. warns of global mental health crisis from coronavirus
The United Nations warned of a looming global mental health crisis as the world struggles to cope with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The virus not only attacks physical health but has increased "psychological suffering" for many, Secretary-General António Guterres said in a video message Thursday. From the death of loved ones to job losses and prolonged isolation, he warned that depression and anxiety could rise.
Guterres urged governments to expand mental health policies and funding to support a recovery from the pandemic.
Pandas in Canada zoo to return to China after shortage of their favorite bamboo
The Calgary Zoo in Canada is sending two giant pandas back to China years ahead of schedule after difficulties importing the bamboo they eat due to coronavirus-related disruptions.
The pandas, Er Shun and Da Mao, who arrived in Canada in 2014, will return to China where bamboo is abundant. Giant pandas consume 88 pounds of bamboo a day and it makes up 99 percent of their diet, the zoo said. Before the pandemic, bamboo was flown directly from China to Calgary. Now shipments are now often delayed, resulting in poor quality bamboo that the pandas refuse to eat.
The early return of the pandas has raised concerns among Chinese netizens using the hashtag "Pandas in Canada will return," who fear pandas in other foreign countries would also face short supply of their favorite food, according to local news reports.
Japan lifts state of emergency in most areas, but not in Tokyo
Japan lifted its state of emergency around much of the country on Thursday with the exception of certain areas, including the country’s capital Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe confirmed in a news conference.
The new decision was made with cooperation from experts, Abe said, after taking into account the declining rate of infections, and improved availability of medical services and monitoring capabilities. The world's third-largest economy declared a nationwide state of emergency a month ago. The country recorded 57 new cases on Thursday, bringing its total to 16,079.
Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo said that while Abe will lift the state of emergency in 39 of Japan's 47 prefectures, “Tokyo is far away from it. Nothing has changed much here yet.” The number of infections in the city is still not yet stable, she said in a news conference.
Arctic explorers stranded amid coronavirus lockdowns
With only reindeer and polar bears for neighbors, two women Arctic explorers are enduring the world’s most extreme lockdown conditions with no clear end in sight as the coronavirus pandemic leaves them stranded.
Sunniva Sorby, 59, and Hilde Fålulm Strøm, 52, co-founders of the Hearts in the Ice polar education campaign, set off in August to the Svalbard archipelago, located between Norway’s mainland and the North Pole, to collect environmental data and raise awareness about climate change. They were due to return this month but the vessel designated to pick them up was canceled amid global travel restrictions.
“There have been tears,” Strøm told NBC News during a video call from her post in the Arctic Circle. “You are scared and you feel small in this big environment.”
South Korea to increase contact tracing after infection spike
South Korea is aggressively working to increase its contact tracing efforts, health authorities said after a recent spike in new coronavirus infections. The country reported 29 new cases on Thursday after weeks of seeing nearly no new domestic cases.
The spike comes as the number of infections linked to the capital’s nightclub district increased after lockdown measures eased. Officials scrambled on Monday, searching for thousands of people who may have been in the clubs.
South Korea has been lauded for its quick and effective action on its epidemic, significantly reducing the rate of new infections in recent weeks, but the resurgence of cases has raised worries about a second wave.
'This virus may never go away,' WHO says
The coronavirus outbreak may become endemic, the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday, saying “there’s a long, long way to go before there will be any bells un-rung in this response.”
“This virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away,” Mike Ryan, a WHO emergencies expert, said in an online briefing. "I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be."
However, he said the world had some control over how it coped with the disease, although this would take a "massive effort" even if a vaccine was found — a prospect he described as a "massive moonshot". Governments around the world are working to reopen their economies while still containing the virus, which has infected more than 4.3 million people globally, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Another assault over mask rule, this time in Indiana
Police in Mishawaka, Indiana, are looking for a man who beat a 7-Eleven employee after being refused service for not wearing a mask.
Police said in a statement that the aggravated assault happened around 9 a.m. Wednesday when a customer with a cup of coffee was refused service because he wasn't wearing a mask, NBC affiliate WNDU of South Bend reported.
The suspect threw the coffee on the worker and left. He returned, was asked to leave and then punched the worker and knocked her to the ground. He punched and kicked her, police said.
It was one of at least two incidents across the country this week in which people were accused of assaulting others over mask rules.
The Los Angeles Police Department on Monday announced the arrest of two men in a fight that started when one suddenly punched a store employee as the pair was being escorted out for not wearing masks. One worker suffered a broken arm in the incident, which occurred May 1 in Van Nuys, police said.
Health authorities say that masks can help prevent the spread of the coronavirus illness COVID-19, and they are recommended by the CDC in confined areas like stores, in part because people may have the virus and not know it but they can still spread it to others.
New Zealand barber snips away at midnight as nation reopens
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The raggedy hairstyles and scruffy beards have been there for all to see on video calls, so barber Conrad Fitz-Gerald decided to reopen his shop at midnight Wednesday — the moment New Zealand dropped most of its lockdown restrictions as the nation prepared itself for a new normal.
Malls, retail stores and restaurants are all reopening Thursday in the South Pacific nation of 5 million, and many people are returning to their workplaces. But most gatherings will be limited to 10 people and social distancing guidelines will remain in place.
The reopening reflects the success New Zealand has experienced in its bold goal of eliminating the virus. The country reported no new cases of the virus for a third straight day on Thursday. More than 1,400 of the nearly 1,500 people who contracted the virus that causes COVID-19 have recovered, while 21 have died.
Fitz-Gerald said he’d had about 50 inquiries for midnight haircuts, but limited the initial customers to a dozen, starting with his 18-year-old son. He planned to then go home and return at 6 a.m. for another round of cuts.
“People are saying their hair is out-of-control, they can’t handle it anymore,” he said.