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U.S. and global news on COVID-19

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Watch right here! Get live updates from the NBC News streaming network News Now.Angela Weiss / AFP - Getty Images

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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NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell says he tested positive for COVID-19

Jeff Shell, the CEO of NBCUniversal, said on Thursday that he has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Shell made the announcement in an email to employees in which he stressed that people will have to work from home "for some time" in order to limit the spread of the virus. 

Shell was named chief executive of NBCUniversal in January.

"The other reason to work from home is that in the event you contract the virus, it will limit the number of your colleagues you inadvertently expose," Shell wrote. "As some of you now know, I myself am in this category. I recently have been feeling under the weather and just learned that I have tested positive for Covid-19. Although the virus has been tough to cope with, I have managed to work remotely in LA and am improving every day."

NBCUniversal is the parent company of NBC News.

Store throws out $35K worth of food that woman coughed on in 'twisted prank'

Image: A Pennsylvania grocery story disposed of about $35,000 worth of food after a customer purposefully coughed on it.
A Pennsylvania grocery story disposed of about $35,000 worth of food after a customer purposefully coughed on it.Gerrity's Supermarkets via Facebook

A woman played a "twisted prank" at a Pennsylvania grocery store Wednesday by purposely coughing on about $35,000 worth of food, which had to be thrown out, the supermarket said.

The co-owner of the Gerrity's supermarket in Hanover Township said authorities were working to get the woman tested for coronavirus. 

The Hanover Township Police Department said it is investigating the incident and that charges would be filed against the suspect, who underwent a mental health evaluation.

Russia to ground international flights

All international flights to Russia will be halted starting Friday following a sharp jump in virus cases in the country this week, Russian government officials announced Thursday. 

A statement on the government’s website said an exception would be made for repatriation flights bringing Russian citizens home, as well as for flights that have received special government permission.

President Vladimir Putin said in a televised meeting Thursday that Russia could defeat coronavirus in less than three months if it imposed tough measures quickly, according to Reuters.

Authorities in the country’s capital of Moscow said they would close all shops apart from essential services starting this weekend as Russia reported its biggest one day rise in cases yet — still a figure much lower than in many other European countries — bringing its official tally to 840 cases.

Many Americans face coronavirus with no water to wash their hands

Valaria Griffin
Valaria Griffin.Courtesy Valaria Griffin

Valaria Griffin has had no running water in her Detroit home since last fall, when it was shut off because of unpaid bills and a broken plumbing valve that she couldn't afford to fix.

Now, as officials urge people to wash their hands to fight the coronavirus, Griffin, 55, is one of many Americans who can't easily do that. She worries her life could be in danger. 

"I'm so stressed out. It's just despair," said Griffin, who relies on donated bottled water. "I'm not able to keep my sanitation level up enough for this virus. I'm not able to keep clean."

Read the full story here. 

Photo: Workers accept confinement to keep making masks

Image: Consomed factory
Workers flash peace signs inside a factory where they manufacture medical masks in Kairouan, Tunisia in a photo released on Thursday. One hundred and fifty workers at Consomed, the factory which has become the country's main supplier of protective medical apparel and equipment, have agreed to stay confined at the facility, to keep producing masks.Consomed / AFP - Getty Images

First coronavirus death of a homeless person in New York City

A New York City man in his 60s who was experiencing homelessness died at a hospital from the coronavirus, a spokesperson for the city's Department of Homeless Services said. His death is believed to be the first COVID-19 fatality among the city's homeless.

The person, who has not been identified, was hospitalized days prior to his death after testing positive for the virus. 

As of Tuesday, there were 39 confirmed coronavirus cases among New York City's sheltered homeless population, including the man who died, the Homeless Services spokesperson said. Eleven of those individuals are hospitalized, and nine are in the agency's isolation units.

Others who are homeless and have tested positive are either self-isolating on their own or have made other arrangements, including staying with family members. 

Vietnam quarantines tens of thousands amid vigorous crackdown on virus

Vietnam has sent tens of thousands of returning citizens to quarantine camps as waves of people return home to escape the pandemic spreading in Europe and the United States.

By Thursday, those quarantined numbered 44,955, including nearly half in military-run centers, down about 15 percent from Monday’s figure, official data showed.

Passengers returning to the country who have symptoms are taken to hospital, and the rest are sent to quarantine camps where they will share a room with 10 to 20 others from the same flight, an official told Reuters.

Even though Vietnam is one of Southeast Asia’s poorer nations, its efforts and high numbers of testing against the virus — more than 30,000 people so far — have been praised, and ensured its tally of infections is lower than those of many neighbors. So far, the recorded death toll in Vietnam is zero.

China warns against resurgence of infection at home

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang warned residents of the country on Thursday about "asymptomatic cases" and the chance for the resurgence of the infection at home.

Urging strict mitigation and containment measures that limits cross-border land and water travel, the Chinese government plans to have public health teams that will comb through communities to ascertain the sources of each new confirmed, suspected or asymptomatic cases. 

The government is also stressing to medical teams and communities the importance of releasing factual information in a timely and transparent manner, stating that there would be no room for cover-ups or under-reporting. 

As the disease has spread globally and China's own numbers have fallen, the government said it is also keeping an eye on international airports and taking strict containment measures on inbound travelers. 

New Zealand starts first day of month-long lockdown

New Zealand started a one-month mandatory lockdown on Thursday to slow the spread of the coronavirus — with warnings from authorities to stay at home or face large fines and even jail.

The country's Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference that most things were going according to plan: “The streets are essentially empty... that’s a remarkable feat and I want to thank New Zealanders for that."

Ardern also posted a picture of her “home office” on Instagram on Thursday, praising nurses, doctors, ambulance officers, pharmacists, receptionists, midwives, cleaners, supermarket workers and others. “I know it can be a thankless job sometimes, so from all of us - thank you," she wrote.

Stock market attempts a rally amid record-shattering unemployment figures

Wall Street attempted a rally Thursday morning, despite record-breaking unemployment claims that revealed the extent to which the economy has ground to halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up by around 330 points at the opening bell. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also ticked up a notch, trading higher by around 1.4 percent.

The stock slide came after data from the Department of Labor showed a staggering 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment last week, the first official snapshot of the economic damage wrought by the virus.

Domain marketplace stops sale of coronavirus-related website listings

One of the largest independent domain marketplaces announced Thursday it would remove coronavirus-related domain names and no longer allow sellers to list them for sale.

“We’re seeing astronomical high prices being asked for these domains and find that unethical and unacceptable,” the company, DAN.com, said in a series of tweets Thursday morning. 

The number of coronavirus-related domains have grown astronomically to more than 68,000 this year, according to DomainTools, a cyber intelligence company that tracks such registrations. Many of those carry spam, phishing attempts or malware, DomainTools’ vice president of product Jackie Abrams wrote in a blog post this week. 

DAN encouraged their clients that own coronavirus domains to donate them to charities, government agencies or non-profits.

Japan calls virus a 'national crisis' after surge in Tokyo

Japan banned entry from Europe on Thursday and warned of a high risk that the outbreak would become rampant after a surge in Tokyo.

In a step towards a possible state of emergency, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe described the outbreak as a "national crisis" in a task force meeting Thursday. Authorities are particularly worried that a jump in cases in Tokyo means Japan — which has so far escaped a mass spread that has hit Europe and North America — could now be on course for a big new wave. 

On Thursday, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike warned of the risk of an explosive rise in infections in the capital and asked residents to avoid non-essential outings through April 12. Japan’s Health Ministry reported 98 new cases Thursday, with more than a total of 1,200 reported infections as of Thursday. This comes just days after the Tokyo 2020 Olympic were postponed.

More than 3 million Americans filed for unemployment last week

A record-breaking 3.28 million Americans filed for unemployment claims last week, as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered businesses nationwide and ground the economy to a halt.

The massive spike in new jobless claims comes as nationwide lockdowns to halt the spread of the coronavirus pandemic have kept Americans from their workplaces, grinding businesses to a halt and forcing many companies to shutter or to lay off staff.

These numbers are just "the tip of the iceberg," said Diane Swonk, chief economist at Grant Thornton, noting that these figures do not even include data from this week.

Read the full story here. 

Coronavirus checks, direct deposits are coming. Here's everything you need to know.

As the coronavirus crisis ravages the U.S. economy, millions of Americans are urgently awaiting financial help from Congress in the form of direct cash payments.

Congressional leaders and President Donald Trump announced a bipartisan deal late Wednesday on a massive $2 trillion emergency economic package that includes direct cash payments to people across the country to help them through the crisis. The Senate passed the bill 96 to 0, and the House is expected to follow suit on Friday.

But who’s eligible to get a check, and for how much? How will it be sent, and will there be multiple payments?

Read the answers here.

Coronavirus burger makes the menu of Hanoi restaurant

Image: Restaurant owner Hoang Tung shows off a coronavirus-themed burger on Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam.
Restaurant owner Hoang Tung shows off a coronavirus-themed burger on Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam. "We have this joke that if you are scared of something, you should eat it," he told Reuters, at the Pizza Home takeaway shop. The shop has sold around 50 burgers a day.Manan Vatsyayana / AFP - Getty Images

G-20 leaders to meet remotely to tackle coronavirus challenges

Leaders from the Group of 20 major economies will take part in a video call on Thursday to address the coronavirus pandemic and its economic impact, as global infections neared half a million with more than 21,000 dead.

G-20 finance ministers and central bankers agreed this week to develop an "action plan" to respond to the outbreak — which the International Monetary Fund expects will trigger a global recession — but they otherwise offered few details.

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Ghebreyesus will also address the leaders to seek support for ramping up funding and production of personal protection equipment for health workers amid a worldwide shortage.

This year's G-20 chair, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, called for the extraordinary virtual summit. He tweeted overnight that its goal was "to unite efforts towards a global response."

Spanish artists collaborate as lockdown is extended

Spanish musicians wear pajamas, sit in the bathtub, entertain their kids and dance with their pets in a light-hearted video for “Quédate En Tu Casa,” or "Stay in Your House," posted Wednesday. The new song was created by 17 Spanish artists all in their respective homes.

The song was created as the anthem for the #yomequedoencasafestival (I’m Staying Home Festival) — a series of performances via Instagram Live that has run for the last two weekends, and will continue this coming weekend.

Spain's coronavirus death toll topped China's on Wednesday, and is now second only to Italy. 

On Thursday, the Spanish Parliament overwhelmingly approved a proposal to extend the country’s lockdown until April 11.

'We may well be in a recession,' Fed Chair Powell says

The coronavirus pandemic is putting unprecedented strain on the U.S. economy, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell acknowledged Thursday.

However, "there can be a good rebound on the other side of this," Powell said Thursday morning in an exclusive interview with Savannah Guthrie on the "TODAY" show.

"There's nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy, quite the contrary," he said, while noting that, 'we may well be in a recession."

Read the full story here.

Pompeo's use of term 'Wuhan virus' shows 'evil intention,' China says

China accused Secretary of State Mike Pompeo of having an "extreme evil intention" after he used the term "Wuhan virus" in relation to the coronavirus pandemic. 

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Thursday that the continued use of the phrase was "slandering China's efforts to combat the disease" and was an attempt to jeopardize international collaboration to fight the virus.

"This American politician insists on defaming China against the international consensus," he said in a press briefing. "This is an attempt with extreme evil intention to divert domestic attention and putting the blame on others."

President Donald Trump has repeatedly accused Beijing of concealing early knowledge of the virus but has since tweeted that he would no longer call it the "Chinese virus."

More than half a million rush to volunteer for Britain's health service

Britain’s Health Minister Matt Hancock said on Thursday that 560,000 people had volunteered to help the strained National Health Service — more than double the number he had hoped to recruit.

Hancock had on Tuesday issued a call for 250,000 volunteers to sign up to help the National Health Service and vulnerable people hit by the crisis.

The U.K. is in its first week of a three-week lockdown.

Global coronavirus death toll tops 21,000

The global death toll passed 21,000 as a result of the pandemic on Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The institution's online count showed there have been at least 474,000 confirmed cases around the world, with more than 115,000 people recovering.

While China still has the most confirmed cases — more than 81,000 — it's reported local transmissions have slowed rapidly.  Italy is the second most affected country, with the United States close behind, according to the university's data.

The numbers from the World Health Organisation are slightly behind the university's count, with 18,589 deaths as of Wednesday evening.

London's quiet streets give workers a chance to repaint iconic Abbey Road crossing

Image: A maintenance team takes advantage of the coronavirus lockdown to re-paint London's iconic Abbey Road crossing.
A maintenance team takes advantage of the quiet streets during the coronavirus lockdown to repaint London's iconic Abbey Road crossing made famous by The Beatles.Leon Neal / Getty Images

America's working poor face a pandemic without any aid

Dr. Stephen Luking
Dr. Stephen Luking and a member of his staff prepare an outdoor clinic for an expected surge of coronavirus patients in Reidsville, N.C.Courtesy of Dr. Luking

Every six months Penny Wingard’s doctor in Charlotte, North Carolina, checks her white blood cell count even though she can’t afford the tests. After a brutal round of chemotherapy for stage 2 breast cancer in 2014 left her with chemical burns, Wingard has a compromised immune system and no health insurance.

When she lost that coverage, more medical issues followed: She had a brain aneurysm and then the chemo caused Wingard, 56, to go temporarily blind before she underwent cornea surgery. Her medical debt through all this has ballooned to more than $25,000 — an amount she has no hope of ever paying off as a part-time Lyft driver.

Wingard is just one of nearly 30 million people in the United States living without insurance, and the stress of being hospitalized because of the pandemic is immense.

Read the full story here.

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

Image: Ambulances stand by to pick up coronavirus patients from a high-speed train in Strasbourg, France on Thursday.
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.