Nearly 3 million more Americans file jobless claims

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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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This live coverage has ended. Continue reading May 15 coronavirus news.

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.

A prank on a NYC subway circulates via TikTok.MTA

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.”

Read the full story here. 

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.

Read the full story here. 

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."

Read the full story here.

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

The Swanson Center for Youth at Monroe, Louisiana.Google Maps

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.

Read the full story here. 

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."

Read the full story here.

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.