U.S. and global news on COVID-19

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The Senate overwhelmingly passed a massive stimulus package late Wednesday night aimed at softening the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic for American workers and businesses. The bill includes billions of dollars in credit for struggling industries, a boost to unemployment insurance and direct cash payments to Americans.

The fate of the bill now rests with the House, which will not vote until Friday, according to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

The U.S. reached a grim milestone as the number of deaths linked to the coronavirus passed 1,000 in the country, according to a count of reports of cases and deaths by NBC News. Globally, the death toll topped 20,000, with nearly half a million reported cases.

Meanwhile at the U.N., the Trump administration is pushing the Security Council to call attention to the Chinese origins of the coronavirus, four diplomats posted to the United Nations told NBC News, triggering a stalemate as the global body seeks to cobble together a response to the pandemic.

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Iran bans intercity travel amid fears of second wave of virus

Iran banned intercity a day after a government spokesman warned that the country might face a second coronavirus outbreak.

Officials have complained that many Iranians ignored appeals to stay at home and cancel travel plans for the Persian New Year holidays that began on March 20.

"Those who have traveled for the Iranian New Year holidays should immediately return to their cities without making any stop in the cities on their way back home," said Hossein Zolfaghari, a member of Iran's national headquarters for fighting the coronavirus.

Iran is the worst hit country in the Middle East and the outbreak there has killed 2,234 people. There were 29,406 reported cases as of Thursday.

France uses high speed trains to relocate coronavirus victims

Ambulances stand by to pick up patients aboard a high-speed train in Strasbourg, France on Thursday after they were evacuated from saturated hospitals elsewhere in the region. Frederick Florin / AFP - Getty Images

U.S. deaths linked to COVID-19 passes 1,000

The United States has reached a grim milestone as the number of deaths linked to the coronavirus illness COVID-19 passed 1,000 in the country, according to a count of reports of cases and deaths by NBC News.

The number of reported deaths associated with the disease in the U.S. was at least 1,001 as of Thursday morning, according to that count, and there have been more than 68,100 reported cases.

Johns Hopkins University, which is also tracking cases, puts the number of deaths higher, and listed 1,050 deaths in the U.S. as of around 2:30 a.m.

Man killed in Missouri wanted to bomb hospital amid epidemic, FBI says

A man suspected of plotting to blow up a Missouri hospital and was killed in a shootout with FBI agents was apparently frustrated with local government action to stop the spread of coronavirus, FBI officials said Wednesday.

Timothy Wilson, 36, died Tuesday in Belton, Missouri, a suburb of Kansas City, after members of the FBI’s joint terrorism task force attempted to arrest him. The FBI says Wilson was the subject of a “months-long domestic terrorism investigation."

Wilson was armed, and the shooting occurred when the FBI tried to arrest him when he arrived to pick up what he thought was a car bomb, officials said. There was no actual bomb and authorities say no members of the public were ever in danger during the investigation.

FBI officials say Wilson was a potentially violent extremist known to express racial and religious hatred and antigovernment sentiment. He allegedly had been angered by stay-at-home orders designed to curb the spread of coronavirus, officials said.

Read the full story here.

California man charged in scheme about bogus COVID-19 'cure'

A California man was arrested Wednesday in what federal authorities say was a scheme to try to dupe investors using a phony cure for the coronavirus illness COVID-19.

Keith Lawrence Middlebrook, 53, was arrested by the FBI and charged with one count of attempted wire fraud, the U.S. Attorney's office in Los Angeles said in a statement.

He allegedly claimed to have personally developed a “patent-pending cure” and a treatment that prevents coronavirus infection, even though there is no specific treatment or vaccine, federal prosecutors said.

Middlebrook was arrested during a meeting in which he delivered pills to an undercover agent posing as an investor, the U.S. attorney's office said. He is being held in federal custody and an initial court appearance is expected Thursday.

As part of the pitch, Middlebrook allegedly claimed to one potential investor that NBA great Magic Johnson was a member of the board of directors for the purported company, which does not exist, but "Mr. Johnson confirmed to investigators that he knew nothing about Middlebrook’s company," according to prosecutors and court documents. 

Senate passes $2 trillion spending bill

WASHINGTON — The Senate overwhelmingly passed a massive stimulus package late Wednesday night meant to soften the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic for American workers and businesses.

The bill includes billions of dollars in credit for struggling industries, a significant boost to unemployment insurance and direct cash payments to Americans. The fate of the bill now rests with the House, which House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said would not vote until Friday.

The final vote was 96-0.

Read the full story.

Mormon church closes all temples

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Wednesday that all remaining open temples will temporarily close due to continued concerns about the coronavirus illness COVID-19.

The church, commonly known as the Mormon church, earlier this month suspended public gatherings worldwide.

The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said Wednesday all temple activity church-wide would be suspended at the end of the day.

The First Presidency said the move was made after careful consideration and out of a desire to be good global citizens. Health officials stressed the need to decrease gatherings to slow the spread of the virus.

"This is a temporary adjustment, and we look forward to the day when the temples will reopen," church leaders said.