Nearly 3 million more Americans file jobless claims

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.

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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.

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

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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.

Read the full story here.

Photo: Argentine Congress holds virtual session

Legislators appear on screens during the first virtual session of the Argentine Congress in Buenos Aires on Thursday. Juan Mabromata / AFP - Getty Images

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.

Read the full story here.

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.

Read more.

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.