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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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.