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Global COVID-19 cases reach 5 million

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
A server brings out sweetener to patron Francesca Macartney Beale at Douro restaurant on May 20, 2020 in Greenwich, Conn.John Moore / Getty Images

Global cases of COVID-19 topped 5 million early Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

By Thursday night that number had passed 5.1 million, according to the university.

More than 332,900 people have died worldwide, according to that count. In the United States, more than 1.5 million cases have been reported and more than 95,000 deaths, according to NBC News' count.

President Donald Trump visited a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday, and while he did wear a mask at one point, when he appeared before the media he did not. " I didn’t want to press to get the pleasure of seeing it,” Trump told reporters. The president also said he wasn't wearing one because he was making a speech.

Trump also tweeted that he will be ordering flags on federal buildings and monuments nationwide to fly at half-staff over the Memorial Day weekend to honor those who have died of COVID-19.

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

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

This live coverage has ended. Continue to May 22 coronavirus updates.

Mississippi governor outraged after church fighting virus rules burned to ground

775d ago / 6:45 AM UTC

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he's "heartbroken and furious" after a fire this week at a church that has challenged coronavirus restrictions. The fire is being investigated as arson.

The fire Wednesday in Holly Springs destroyed the First Pentecostal Church, and investigators found graffiti in the church parking lot that reads, “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits," NBC affiliate WMC of Memphis reported.

The church was "burned to the ground" and had been trying to open services, Reeves tweeted Thursday.

First Pentecostal filed a lawsuit last month against the city over its public health order on in-person worship services, the station reported.

"This is not who we are," the governor said at a daily news conference on the coronavirus epidemic and the state's response.

Read the full story here.

Minorities, older workers hit hard by layoffs, pay cuts

775d ago / 6:06 AM UTC

Pentagon starts planning for military's post-COVID-19 future

775d ago / 4:32 AM UTC

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon's Joint Staff has launched a planning group focused on the U.S. military's long-term plans for operating during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, taking into account the likelihood that the defense budget may be cut and that troops may come home, according to three defense officials.

The group is examining how the military is postured around the world, whether it needs to focus more personnel or assets domestically, and where it needs to invest personnel and money to operate during and after COVID-19.

The group will look at possible vulnerabilities the U.S. may face during the pandemic and where adversaries could try to take advantage of the U.S. focus on COVID-19. At the same time, the group will determine what strategic advantages the U.S. can leverage as adversaries are also focused on the outbreak.

Read the full story here

Missouri governor not only allows graduation, but keynotes

775d ago / 4:05 AM UTC

O’FALLON, Mo. — In a year when many states are prohibiting in-person graduation ceremonies due to the coronavirus, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is not only allowing them, but also spoke at one.

The Republican governor had a special connection to the indoor ceremony Thursday night at Sparta High School in southwestern Missouri: His granddaughter was among the 42 seniors receiving diplomas.

Missouri reopened after the pandemic-forced shutdown on May 4, and Parson was among the few governors to give the go-ahead for large-scale gatherings, including graduation ceremonies.

Social distancing requirements remain in place, though, and most of Missouri’s 555 public school districts and public charter schools are choosing other options such as drive-thru graduations or virtual ceremonies. Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokeswoman Mallory McGowin said some districts are postponing graduation until the summer in hopes of having in-person ceremonies then.

Sparta is in Christian County, where 20 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state health department. 

Each graduating senior was allowed to invite up to 10 people, meaning the approximately 2,000-seat gym was, at most, at around 25 percent capacity. Families sat together, but were spaced throughout the gym from others. The school board chairman handed diplomas to students as they came forward. Masks or other face protection were not required.

Small businesses struggle as many big retailers see revenue surge, online sales grow

775d ago / 3:35 AM UTC

Trump to lower flags over Memorial Day weekend to honor coronavirus victims

775d ago / 3:07 AM UTC

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Thursday that he will be ordering flags on federal buildings and monuments nationwide to fly at half-staff over the Memorial Day weekend to honor those who have died from the novel coronavirus.

Trump also said the flags will be lowered at half-staff on Memorial Day to honor veterans.

"I will be lowering the flags on all Federal Buildings and National Monuments to half-staff over the next three days in memory of the Americans we have lost to the CoronaVirus," he said in a tweet. "On Monday, the flags will be at half-staff in honor of the men and women in our Military who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice for our Nation."

Read the full story here

COVID-19 deaths in Los Angeles County pass 2,000

775d ago / 2:29 AM UTC

The number of deaths linked to the coronavirus illness COVID-19 has passed 2,000 in Los Angeles County. 

"This is a very sad milestone for us," said Barbara Ferrer, the county public health director.

Health authorities announced 46 new deaths Thursday, bringing the confirmed total to 2,016. The health department said that 92 percent of those who died had underlying health conditions.

The county health department also announced 1,204 new confirmed coronavirus cases, bringing the total in the county to 42,037.

In all of California, there have been at least 86,197 confirmed cases and 3,542 deaths, according to the state health department.

Missouri principal sent off to retirement with surprise drive-by parade

775d ago / 2:00 AM UTC
Image: Principal retirement party
Central Elementary Principal Stacey King receiving a surprise social distancing parade for her retirement on Tuesday, May 19.Francis Howell School District

Missouri principal Stacey King didn't get the usual send-off to mark her retirement, but retiring during a pandemic isn't exactly typical. 

The staff at Central Elementary school helped celebrate King's career Tuesday with a drive-by parade in Saint Charles, Missouri. After nearly 15 years in the role, her last official day will be June 30, but Tuesday was the final day of classes. 

“It’s not how we typically do send-offs. They were very creative,” King, 51, told NBC News.

"The administrators were here working, social distancing in our offices, but staff was working remotely, and so they were able to drive up and surprise me with the parade while still keeping distances,” she said.

Like many, the global pandemic has brought its share of challenges for King, but she said she has focused on the silver linings like learning new technology to work remotely.

"Wrapping up my career and knowing that I had no idea when I walked out of the building on March 12 that, that was going to be the last time I saw my kids, and so, it is hard,” King said.

“Knowing I won’t be here when they come back in the fall to put my eyes on them and to know that they are okay, I know that they will be in great hands, but that’s just hard,” she said.

775d ago / 1:12 AM UTC

Eighth Amazon warehouse worker dies

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775d ago / 12:30 AM UTC

Another Amazon warehouse worker has died from COVID-19, bringing the total known deaths to eight employees, the company said Thursday.

The female employee worked in packing at the fulfillment center outside Cleveland in North Randall, Ohio, known as CLE2, Amazon said. She had been with the company since November 2018.

Read the full story.

Financial help en route for struggling New York City transit system, Trump says

775d ago / 12:09 AM UTC

More federal financial help is on the way for New York City's transit system, which has been reeling from losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.  

President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Thursday night that about $300 million was heading to New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority, part of the $3.9 billion that's been allocated for New York under coronavirus stimulus legislation passed by Congress.

The MTA runs the state's trains, subways and buses. With the payment, the agency will have received over $2 billion in federal funding to date, Trump said. 

"This is critical to keeping essential personnel moving and aiding metro NYC in recovery," the president tweeted. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters last week that the agency "desperately needs funding because the ridership is way down" and credited Trump for expediting the payments to his former home state. The "president cut red tape," Cuomo said. 

Early release of Cohen and Manafort shows how unfair prison system is, experts say

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775d ago / 11:48 PM UTC
Image: An ornate gate topped with barbed wire leading to a silhouetted mansion.
Brian Stauffer / for NBC News

Michael Cohen is just the latest well-connected federal prisoner to be sent home early because of the coronavirus, even though he has served only a third of his sentence — well shy of the 50 percent threshold federal officials often cite in denying requests for early release.

By contrast, prisoners like Eddie Brown, an Oklahoma man who has served a bigger portion of his sentence than Cohen and also cites health problems, remain behind bars, raising questions about the Bureau of Prisons' opaque process and its fairness.

New data show that Cohen, along with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, released last week, are among the relatively few federal prisoners to win early release in the seven weeks since Attorney General William Barr cited the pandemic in ordering more federal prisoners to be let out.

During that time, the number of people in home confinement increased by only 2,578, about 1.5 percent of the nearly 171,000 people in federal prisons and halfway houses when Barr issued his memo.

Read the full story here

Nursing home executive to Pence: Enough photo ops

775d ago / 11:29 PM UTC

The head of an association representing more than 5,000 non-profit senior living facilities sent a letter to Vice President Mike Pence Thursday asking that he stop doing what she characterized as “photo op” deliveries of personal protective gear to nursing homes.

“While it may not be your intention, these photo-ops send a false impression that nursing homes and other aging services providers are getting what they need. That is nowhere close to the truth,” wrote Katie Smith Sloan, CEO of LeadingAge.

Pence delivered PPE to a nursing home in Orlando yesterday in front of reporters and also to a facility in Northern Virginia on May 7. In late April, the White House announced FEMA would deliver one week’s worth of PPE to every nursing home in the U.S.; after criticism FEMA increased the size of the shipments to a 14-day supply.

NBC News previously reported that one of the first shipments went to a facility in Saratoga Springs, New York with no coronavirus cases.

Trump spotted wearing mask during Ford tour, but refuses to wear it in front of press cameras

775d ago / 10:04 PM UTC

President Donald Trump has a face covering with the presidential seal on it, but refused to wear it on the public part of his tour of a Ford plant in Michigan on Thursday despite factory policy.

Trump was photographed wearing a mask at the plant, and a source familiar with the matter confirmed the authenticity of that photo. The president was given a mask by Ford.

Image: Donald Trump wears mask
President Donald Trump wears a mask during his tour of the Ford Rawsonville Components Plant that is manufacturing ventilators, masks and other medical supplies in Ypsilanti, Michigan on May 21, 2020.

“I wore one in the back area but I didn’t want to press to get the pleasure of seeing it,” Trump told reporters during an appearance at a Ford plant in Ypsilanti that's making ventilators to combat the coronavirus.

He then displayed the black face covering, which has the presidential seal in the corner. "I think I look better in the mask," Trump said, before offering a different explanation for why he wasn't wearing it. "I'm making a speech so I won't have it on now," he said.

Click here for the full story. 

As country reopens, a question remains: Can coronavirus spread on surfaces?

775d ago / 9:26 PM UTC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed the wording on its website earlier this month to emphasize that the coronavirus is not easily spread through contact with contaminated surfaces.

The change, made May 11 with no public announcement, was to a headline on the agency's page about how the virus spreads, and specifically, whether a person can get sick from touching a surface with the virus on it.

Read more. 

USDA to provide $1 billion in loans to rural businesses and farmers

775d ago / 8:32 PM UTC
Image: USDA Boosts Effort To Support Virus-Hit Meat
Dairy cows stand in a pen at a cattle farm in West Canaan, Ohio on, April 30, 2020.Dane Rhys / Bloomberg via Getty Images

Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced Friday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture would provide up to $1 billion in guaranteed loans to rural businesses and farmers in an effort to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic. 

"USDA is committed to being a strong partner to rural businesses and agricultural producers and being a strong supporter of all aspects of the rural economy,” Perdue said. “Ensuring more rural agricultural producers are able to gain access to much-needed capital in these unprecedented times is a cornerstone of that commitment.”

The policy change opens up eligibility to some agriculture producers who were not able to receive loans from the USDA Farm Service Agency program, but the loans can only be used as working capital "to prevent, prepare for or respond to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic." 

They can only be used by rural businesses, which includes farmers, that were operating as of Feb. 15. 

Security firm says North Dakota's contact-tracing app is sending user data to third parties

775d ago / 8:19 PM UTC

A new report from cybersecurity firm Jumbo Privacy claims that Care19, a contact-tracing app created to track the spread of coronavirus in North Dakota, is sending user data to third-party services, including location service Foursquare.

FAQs about the app published on North Dakota’s official site say that "information is 100% anonymous,” and that “the application does not have any information that is tied to an individual person.”

Jumbo disagrees.

"They share the IDFA with Foursquare, which means it’s not anonymous,” said Jumbo Privacy CEO Pierre Valade. "It’s a unique ID tied to your phone.” 

North Dakota is one of a few states, including South Dakota and Utah, that have built their own contact-tracing apps.

Foursquare said in a statement that while it receives Care19 data, it does not use it in any way and promptly discards it. ProudCrowd did not immediately return a request for comment.

White House to issue guidance on church reopenings after dispute with CDC caused delay

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775d ago / 8:08 PM UTC

President Donald Trump said Thursday that his administration will release guidelines for reopening places of worship by Friday after they were delayed by a disagreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention over what the recommendations should entail.

Trump said he told the CDC on Thursday to put out the guidelines, which have been revised by White House officials in recent days to make them less stringent than the ones the agency initially recommended.

“The CDC is going to put something out very soon,” Trump said during an event in Michigan. “We’re going to get our churches open.”

“They’re so important to the psyche of our country,” the president said.

According to a senior administration official, the guidelines for places of worship that have been cleared by the White House Counsel’s Office include recommendations such as wearing gloves while distributing Holy Communion, social distancing and holding virtual services as a last resort.

Read the full story.

775d ago / 7:16 PM UTC

Pelosi: Voting in the United States 'is under assault'

775d ago / 7:12 PM UTC

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday said voting in the United States is "under assault both from a systematic national, nationwide campaign of voter suppression and from the coronavirus" and must be protected with vote-by-mail provisions.

"People should not have to choose between voting and preserving their good health and that of their families," Pelosi, D-Calif., said during her weekly briefing with reporters in Washington, D.C.. She called on the Senate to pass the House Democrats' latest stimulus package, dubbed the "HEROES Act." The $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill includes over $3 billion in funding in election protections.

Pelosi called the sum "a small price to pay for our democracy and the good health of people going to the polls."

The California Democrat's comments come one day after President Donald Trump threatened to withhold federal funding from Michigan and Nevada over their pursuit of mass mail-in voting, calling their moves illegal.

Read the full story.

COVID-19's severe toll on blood vessels in lungs much worse than flu

775d ago / 7:10 PM UTC

A post-mortem analysis of individuals who died from COVID-19 or influenza reveals key differences in how the coronavirus damages the lungs.

The paper, published Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, found severe blood vessel damage and widespread blood clotting throughout the lungs of those with COVID-19. The lungs of people who died from flu didn't show that kind of damage.

The authors also observed more new blood vessel growth in the lungs of COVID-19 patients than influenza patients. This blood vessel growth, the authors hypothesize, is the body's response to the blood vessel damage and blockage — essentially growing new blood vessels to compensate. 

The study included seven autopsied lungs from COVID-19 victims, seven autopsied lungs from H1N1 flu victims, and 10 uninfected autopsied lungs. 

High school administration personally delivers caps and gowns to graduating seniors

775d ago / 6:59 PM UTC

Administrators at a high school in Maine drove over 500 miles to personally deliver caps and gowns to more than 200 seniors.

It took Principal Ted Moccia, along with vice principals Laurie Catanese and John Springer, some 21 hours over three days to drive to each seniors' home and socially distantly deliver the cap and gown.

Principal Moccia told the Sun Journal, “we tried to get every family,” and added, "we did miss a few because they were not at home. But now I’m doing a class-wide email with instructions for everyone on how to prepare for the drive-in ceremony and to make sure the seven that we missed get their graduation gear.”

Graduation is set to take place on June 21 at a drive-in, where each student will be allowed to bring one vehicle filled with their families to the ceremony, according to the school

Senate Democrats unveil proposal to create coronavirus jobs program

775d ago / 6:44 PM UTC

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, and several other Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal Thursday to create a jobs program that would train up to 1.5 million people to fight coronavirus outbreaks. 

“With nearly 40 million people unemployed, we need solutions that meet the scale of the problem,” Schatz said in a statement. “Our bill will put people back to work and provide the workforce we need to stop the spread of the coronavirus and help us safely reopen.”

The Jobs to Fight COVID-19 Act would provide $100 billion in grants to state and local governments that would allow them to hire and train unemployed workers to help in contact tracing, cleaning, surveillance and efforts to mitigate the spread of the virus. The bill would also require the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a national plan for testing and contact tracing. 

The bill is co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Kamala Harris of California, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. 

Scientists urge caution as Americans head outside for Memorial Day

775d ago / 6:03 PM UTC
Image: Mission Dolores Park In San Francisco Encourages Social Distancing With Marked Circles
Visitors sit in social distancing circles at Dolores Park on May 20, 2020 in San Francisco.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

With Memorial Day approaching, beaches are reopening. Cities are letting restaurants seat people outside and closing streets to encourage foot traffic. Many parks are also letting people back in.

Stay-at-home orders have been eased in many cities across the United States this week just as temperatures are warming up for the holiday weekend. And many of the changes have a distinct feature: they allow for outdoor activities.

These developments come as growing scientific consensus around the spread of the coronavirus has given the OK for people to be outdoors but with some very important caveats.

Still, they’re balanced by concern that people will view the changes as a license to ignore other recommendations such as social distancing and wearing masks.

Read more here.

775d ago / 5:08 PM UTC

Pennsylvania COVID-19 deaths climb to 4,869 with more than 65,000 cases

775d ago / 4:43 PM UTC

The Pennsylvania Department of Public Health announced that the state has logged some 4,869 coronavirus deaths as of Thursday afternoon.

The state recorded an additional 980 positive cases of COVID-19 as of Thursday morning, bringing its total to 65,392.

All 67 counties in Pennsylvania have confirmed cases of COVID-19, the department said. In total, 303,514 patients have tested negative.

N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says too early to say if schools will open in fall

775d ago / 4:29 PM UTC

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday said it is too early to say if schools will reopen in the fall but that schools and colleges should come up with various alternatives.

The governor said the state will issue guidelines in June for schools and colleges to prepare for next semester.

There are 2.6 million students enrolled in K-12 schools and more than 550,000 in public colleges, according to state education data.

"To reduce the risk of spread, summer school this year will be conducted through distance learning," the governor said. "Meal programs and child care services for essential employees will continue."

Photo: Social distancing at a French beach

775d ago / 4:10 PM UTC
Image:
A woman sunbathes at a beach with roped-off zones for social distancing in La Grande Motte on Thursday as France eases lockdown measures.Clement Mahoudeau / AFP - Getty Images

McConnell: Unemployment Insurance expansion 'will not' be in the next relief bill

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775d ago / 3:49 PM UTC

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told House Republicans on Wednesday that he opposes extending the temporary unemployment insurance benefit of an additional $600 per week in the next coronavirus relief package.

“This will not be in the next bill,” McConnell said, according to a readout of the call given to NBC News.

McConnell spent much of the call talking about the need for liability protections for employers in the next package, saying that trial lawyers are “vultures” who are lining up to launch lawsuits.

“If we do another bill, it won’t look anything like the House Democrats’ bill,” McConnell told House Republicans, according to the readout.

The majority leader added that Republicans will have a lot to discuss next month, providing a window into his timeline of when Senate Republicans will engage in discussions. He  said Senate Republicans are unified with the House GOP and the White House, and he thanked the House members for voting against the $3 trillion Democratic relief bill last week. 

775d ago / 3:22 PM UTC

TSA releases tighter guidelines for passing through security

775d ago / 3:19 PM UTC

Summer travel will look different once people start flying again, according to new details from the Transportation Security Administration that aim to reduce the amount of person-to-person contact.

The federal agency said Thursday in a statement that travelers will now have to place their print or mobile boarding passes on scanners themselves in order to avoid a touch point.

Passengers will also be required to put any food items in a clear plastic bag in order to "lessen the likelihood that a TSA officer will need to open the carry-on bag."

Security checkpoints will also include "visual reminders of appropriate spacing," and staggered lanes, in order to allow for social distancing.

The TSA said it is also encouraging, but not mandating, the use of face masks during the check-in procedure, though agents will be wearing masks and changing gloves between pat-downs.

'Ridiculous,' 'scary,' 'distraction': Whitmer berates Trump's threats to cut off Mich. funding

775d ago / 3:08 PM UTC

Michigan Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Thursday slammed President Donald Trump’s threats to withhold federal funding to her state as “ridiculous,” a “distraction” and “scary.”

In an interview with “CBS This Morning,” Whitmer was asked to react to the president’s vows to withhold funding for the state in response to its pursuit of mass mail-in voting. She did not spare words.

“You can only imagine how I feel about that,” the governor said, adding, "To have this kind of distraction is just ridiculous to be honest. The threatening to take money away from a state that is hurting as bad as we are right now is just scary, and, I think, something that is unacceptable.”

Trump on Thursday will visit a factory near Detroit that has been repurposed to manufacture ventilators — a trip that Whitmer pleaded not include any “petty political stuff.” 

Read the full story here.

Americans rank South Korea, Germany above U.S. for coronavirus response

775d ago / 2:53 PM UTC

Americans believe South Korea and Germany stand apart from other countries — including the United States — in their responses to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new Pew Research Center report.

Participants in the survey gave higher ratings to South Korea and Germany (66 percent good or excellent), mixed ratings for the United Kingdom (49 percent), United States (47 percent) and World Health Organization (46 percent), and lower ratings for Italy (34 percent) and China (33 percent).

In terms of the U.S. response, 84 percent of participants think the U.S. can learn from other countries about ways to slow the spread of COVID-19. Opinions about the United States' handling of the outbreak split largely along party lines, with 81 percent of liberals saying the U.S. has done a fair or poor job, and only 22 percent of conservatives.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center was conducted between April 29 and May 5 and involved 10,957 U.S. adults.

Feds charge Chinese national in $20 million PPP fraud scheme

775d ago / 2:49 PM UTC

Federal prosecutors charged a Chinese national Thursday with trying to fraudulently obtain $20 million in Paycheck Protection Program and other government-guaranteed loans intended for small businesses dealing with COVID-19.

Muge Ma, a 36-year-old known as "Hummer Mars" residing in Manhattan, allegedly presented applications to five banks saying he had two companies with hundreds of employees who needed help, according to the criminal complaint.

Ma represented himself and one of his companies as a test-kit manufacturer for COVID-19 and a medical supplier, neither of which were true, prosecutors said. The bulk of the loans which were approved before the fraud was found were frozen by investigators before Ma could receive them - approximately $800,000.

Ma faces bank fraud, wire fraud and multiple false statement charges.

775d ago / 2:47 PM UTC

As the Middle East prepares for Eid holiday, virus cases spike

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775d ago / 2:39 PM UTC

A huge spike in coronavirus cases in the Middle East where many have been observing the Islamic month of Ramadan, has led countries to extend and reinforce lockdown measures, to prevent its spread during this weekend's Eid holiday.

The largest number of cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, has been in Saudi Arabia, which normally sees millions of Muslims descend on the holy cities of Mecca and Medina during Ramadan.

This year, the kingdom took the decision to close off the religious sites, with stark images of empty mosques and sacred sites circulating online.

Read more here.

Image: A girl, wearing a face mask due to the coronavirus pandemic in Dubai.
A girl, wearing a face mask due to the coronavirus pandemic in Dubai. Karim Sahib / AFP - Getty Images

NYC mayor says new hospitalizations down, positive cases increase slightly

775d ago / 2:34 PM UTC

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said new hospitalizations for the coronavirus are down in the city, although the percentage of people testing positive for the virus ticked up slightly.

At a news briefing on Thursday, the mayor said new hospital admissions of COVID-19 patients is down from 63 as of May 18 to 60, and the number of patients in intensive care units dropped from 483 to 477. 

However, among people tested for the virus, the number with positive results increased slightly to 9 percent from 8 percent. 

"It's a pretty good day," de Blasio said, adding, "I want us to get to great days."

Wuhan bans trade and consumption of wild animals, citing health concerns

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775d ago / 2:19 PM UTC

The Chinese city of Wuhan, where the coronavirus pandemic was first detected, implemented a five-year ban Wednesday on the trade of illegal wildlife and the consumption of wild animals. 

While the precise source of COVID-19 remains a mystery, scientists have suggested that like many other coronaviruses, it was transmitted to humans from animals, sparking concern for the risks of live-animal markets. Genetic analysis of the virus by a group of Chinese scientists in February suggested it likely originated from pangolins — scaly, long-snouted anteaters that are poached for traditional medicinal purposes in both Asia and Africa

The ban — prohibiting the breeding, sale and consumption of wild animals including endangered species —  is intended to protect people's health and safety, according to a statement issued by the Wuhan government Wednesday. It will also be paired with public education around wildlife and improved supervision over wildlife protection and management. 

776d ago / 12:52 PM UTC

Another 2.4 million Americans filed for initial unemployment last week, bringing total to almost 40 million

776d ago / 12:35 PM UTC

Another 2.44 million Americans filed for initial unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total number of people who lost their job so far during the coronavirus pandemic to almost 40 million.

The weekly figures, released Thursday by the Department of Labor, come amid a slew of bankruptcies and as more companies announce layoffs.

While the month of May still represents a staggering total of job losses, the number of unemployment benefit claims has been in gradual decline after hitting a peak of 6.8 million for the week ending March 28.

America continues to face the worst labor market since the Great Depression, with the official unemployment figure already at over 20 million, representing a total loss of all jobs gained since the Great Recession. The current unemployment rate of 14.7 percent is the worst since the height of the Great Depression, when it hit 24.9 percent.

“I think the jobs numbers will be worse before they get better,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin warned on Tuesday, during a joint appearance before the Senate banking committee with Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

Powell, who has estimated that unemployment could reach 25 percent, has said the economy can only fully recover once there is a vaccine.

AstraZeneca receives $1 billion in U.S. funding for virus vaccine

776d ago / 12:02 PM UTC

A British-Swedish pharmaceutical company has received more than $1 billion in funding from the U.S. Health Department’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to develop a coronavirus vaccine in collaboration with the University of Oxford.

AstraZeneca has agreed to initially supply at least 400 million doses of the vaccine, according to a news release from the company on Thursday. In response to President Donald Trump’s call to develop 300 million doses of vaccine by January 2021 under Operation Warp Speed, the collaboration is working to deliver a vaccine called AZD1222 for as early as October 2020.

The agreement between AstraZeneca and BARDA will accelerate the development and manufacturing of the company’s vaccine to begin Phase 3 clinical studies this summer with approximately 30,000 volunteers in the United States, according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Argentina to fly in rabbis to certify kosher meat

776d ago / 11:43 AM UTC

BUENOS AIRES — Argentina, which has enforced one of the world's toughest travel bans against the coronavirus, plans to help charter a private flight to bring in rabbis from Israel to certify meat at the country's packing plants for kosher markets around the world.

The trip is key to Argentina being able to maintain beef exports to key buyer Israel, which has become increasingly important with exports stalled to the European Union and sharply down to major buyer China.

Argentina is the world's fifth-largest beef exporter and Israel is the No. 3 buyer of its famed cuts, snapping up over $100 million each year, said Mario Ravettino, head of Argentina's ABC meat export consortium.

The rabbis normally make the trip twice a year and stay for a few months, as many as 15 rabbis in plants at a time. They ensure the cattle are slaughtered and the meat processed in accordance with Jewish law.

Grand Canyon announces 'limited recreation access' for Memorial Day weekend

776d ago / 11:25 AM UTC
Image: Recent Baylor University graduates at the Grand Canyon on Friday.
Recent Baylor University graduates at the Grand Canyon on Friday.Matt York / AP

The Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim will be open to the public starting Friday to May 25 for “limited entry and recreational access,” following guidance from the White House, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and state and local public health authorities. The South Rim section partially re-opened last weekend, then closed again from May 20-21 for public health concerns. 

The U.S. National Park Service said it is closely monitoring the pandemic and using a phased approach to increase access on a park-by-park basis, according to a news release. The South entrance will be open again Friday from 4-10 a.m. for visitors to enter the park, but will close at 10 a.m. Park-goers on the Memorial Day weekend will be able to hike, cycle and visit museums.

This comes after the CDC quietly released detailed plan for reopening America on Wednesday, and nearly every state in the country has already reopened parts of their economies — including access to beaches, restaurants and hair salons.

U.S. scientist warns coronavirus vaccine not guaranteed

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776d ago / 11:12 AM UTC

A top U.S. scientist behind groundbreaking research in cancer and HIV/AIDS warned that a vaccine for the coronavirus may never be found, as the number of global COVID-19 infections surged past 5 million on Thursday.

William Haseltine, who has also worked on human genome projects, said that while a COVID-19 vaccine could be developed, “I wouldn’t count on it.” Instead, he told Reuters, countries beginning to reverse lockdown measures need to lean on careful tracing of infections and strict isolation measures to control the spread.

Such an approach has proved successful in some countries that have minimized the spread, but worldwide, the numbers continue to climb. More than 328,000 people have died due to the virus while 5,001,494 have been infected, according to Johns Hopkins University as of Thursday morning.

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IOC chief says he agrees that 'summer 2021 is the last option' for Games

776d ago / 10:35 AM UTC
Image: The Olympic rings at the waterfront at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo in March.
The Olympic rings at the waterfront at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo in March.Issei Kato / Reuters file

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said that he agrees the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympics would have to be cancelled if the Games cannot take place next summer.

The IOC, jointly with the Japanese government, had postponed the Olympics to next July due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said last month that the Games could not take place next year unless the coronavirus pandemic is contained.

"[Abe] made it very clear from the beginning that summer 2021 is the last option an quite frankly I have some understanding for this because you cannot forever employ 3,000 to 5,000 people in an organizing committee," Bach told British broadcaster BBC on Wednesday. Staging the Tokyo Olympics behind closed doors was "not what we want," he said, but added that he needed more time to consider whether that was feasible.

776d ago / 10:32 AM UTC

Brazil expands use of unproven drug as virus toll rises

776d ago / 10:20 AM UTC

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro unveiled rules on Wednesday expanding the prescription of chloroquine — the predecessor of an anti-malaria drug promoted by President Donald Trump — for coronavirus patients despite a lack of clinical proof that it is effective.

Chloroquine was already being used in Brazil for COVID-19 patients who are hospitalized in serious condition, and under the new regulations, it can be given to people with lighter symptoms such as abdominal pain, cough or fever, according to Brazil's Health Ministry.

“There is still no scientific evidence, but it is being monitored and used in Brazil and worldwide,” Bolsonaro, who has likened the virus to a “little flu” and feuded with local governments over their stay-at-home measures, said via his official Facebook page. More than 291,000 cases have been confirmed in Brazil — the third most in the world after the U.S. and Russia — and the announcement came a day after the country's single-day death toll from the virus hit a new high of more than 1,100.

776d ago / 10:01 AM UTC

Italian coffee drinkers unhappy about a post-lockdown hike in prices

776d ago / 9:39 AM UTC
Image: Residents have a drink at a cafe terrace on Wednesday in Codogno, one of the villages at the epicenter of the country's outbreak.
Residents have a drink at a cafe terrace on Wednesday in Codogno, Italy one of the villages at the epicenter of the country's outbreak.Miguel Medina / AFP - Getty Images

Some businesses in Italy are increasing coffee prices more than 50 percent and consumers are not happy, according to consumer rights’ association Codacons, which said it received dozens of complaints since the shops began reopening in Italy on Monday. The association has also received complaints about spikes in hairdresser prices.

As shops and restaurants open after ten weeks in lockdown, coffee drinkers have reported cafes charging 2 euros (about $2.20) for an espresso in Milan — about 54 percent more than the city's pre-lockdown espresso-price of 1.30 euros. In the capital city of Rome — where a coffee used to cost 1.10 euros on average — coffee-drinkers were unhappy about now paying 1.50 euros.

"We hope these are isolated situations, and that the exhibitors do not decide en masse to adjust the price lists to make up for the lower earnings and sanitation costs of the premises,” the association’s president, Carlo Rienzi, said in a statement on Monday.

World COVID-19 cases pass 5 million

776d ago / 6:57 AM UTC

The number of COVID-19 cases around the world has passed 5 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking cases. There have been more than 328,000 deaths globally, according to the university.

The cases passed 5 million after World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday that more than 100,000 cases had been reported to the organization over the previous 24 hours.

Tedros said at a news conference in Geneva that the 106,000 cases reported to the WHO was "the most in a single day since the outbreak began."

In the United States, there have been more than 1.5 million cases of COVID-19 with more than 93,700 deaths, according to an NBC News count.

Guidance on church reopenings held up in dispute between CDC, White House

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776d ago / 6:18 AM UTC

Guidance on reopening houses of worship has been put on hold after a disagreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House, a senior administration official confirmed.

The news was first reported by The Washington Post, which stated that the White House was resistant to putting limits on religious institutions.

"The CDC sometimes views things in an overly bureaucratic way. What we are trying to do is encourage a more federalist approach where each state is able to make decisions based on their own circumstances and individually tailored needs," the senior administration official told NBC News.

The CDC this week released recommendations for reopening restaurants, mass transit, schools and child care programs across the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.

There has been an ongoing struggle between the CDC and the White House over guidelines for reopening, with the White House expressing concerns that the CDC’s guidelines are too restrictive.

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776d ago / 5:59 AM UTC

Lawmakers urge Trump administration to collect data on LGBTQ patients

776d ago / 5:38 AM UTC

Over 100 members of Congress are calling on the Trump administration to collect information on the sexual orientations and gender identities of COVID-19 patients.

A letter addressed Wednesday to the Department of Health and Human Services said a failure to track demographic data about LGBTQ identities will "make it difficult for health care providers and policymakers to clearly identify and address the prevention and treatment needs" of the community during the pandemic. A lack of data on how COVID-19 affects LGBTQ people "will exacerbate the challenges that these populations are already experiencing during the COVID-19 public health emergency," it said.

"Like other marginalized groups, the LGBTQ community faces multiple health inequities," it read. "With scarce demographic information available about the LGBTQ population, it is difficult to provide quality care and solutions."

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