U.S. and global news on COVID-19

Here are the latest updates from around the world.

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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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This live coverage has ended. Continue reading March 27 Coronavirus news.

VA more than doubles number of tests administered in a day

The Department of Veterans Affairs more than doubled the number of tests it administered in a day, according to the agency’s latest numbers. It has now administered over 7,425 tests, compared to the 3,378 tests reported Wednesday. Of those tests, the VA has had 484 positive results and six deaths around the country.

The VA sought to reassure the more than 9 million veterans that it’s health care system of more than 1,200 facilities, including 170 VA Medical Centers, has the capacity to respond to them during the coronavirus crisis in a video message from Dr. Richard Stone, the head of the VA’s Veterans Health Administration and a former U.S. Army combat physician.

“There will always be capacity in our system for you as a veteran to be seen,” he said. “In times of great pressure on the healthcare systems, with increasing numbers of coronavirus patients, it could be that your civilian provider is not available. I want you to know that we are.”

Amy Klobuchar's husband released from hospital after battling coronavirus

Sen. Amy Klobuchar announced Thursday that her coronavirus-stricken husband has been released from the hospital.

"He took a good turn, was just released and is now recovering at home. Thanks to those who cared for him and for all front line health care workers,” the Minnesota senator said in a statement. She also offered “Thanks to all who sent kind words and prayers."

Klobuchar revealed Monday her husband, John Bessler, was in the hospital. Klobuchar said he'd had a persistent temperature and a “bad, bad” cough and then began coughing up blood. He checked into a hospital in Virginia and had “pneumonia and is on oxygen but not a ventilator,” she said then.

Klobuchar did not get tested - the former Democratic presidential candidate said she and her husband had been in “different places for the last two weeks” and was “outside the 14-day period for getting sick.”

California now has over 3,000 confirmed COIVD-19 cases

California has 3,006 confirmed novel coronavirus cases and 65 deaths, according to the state department of health. The statewide numbers are based on information received by local health jurisdictions as of 2 p.m. PDT on Wednesday.

The case count includes 42 health care workers and roughly half of the cases are among 18- to 49-year-olds. The 3,006 positive cases are out of more than 20,000 test results that have been received back from labs. 57,400 additional tests are pending.

12,000 Airbnb hosts open up homes for coronavirus responders

Airbnb announced a global initiative that will allow hosts to open up their homes to healthcare workers, first responders and others on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

By Thursday afternoon, the same day the company announced the initiative, 12,000 hosts had agreed to offer their homes, CEO Brian Chesky tweeted. 

The company said the goal is to give 100,000 responders around the world a safe and clean place to stay and Airbnb will waive all fees for stays arranged through the initiative. 

The initiative builds on two pilot programs already in place in Italy and France which offers free accommodations to doctors, nurses and other responders helping in the fight against the coronavirus. Airbnb hosts who participate have to abide by "new cleanliness protocols based on recommendations from medical experts," Airbnb said. 

USS Theodore Roosevelt diverted to Guam; 5,000 aboard to be tested

The Navy says an outbreak of coronavirus aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt in the Pacific has forced it to divert to Guam, where all 5,000 aboard will undergo testing.

The aircraft carrier remains "operationally capable," according to the acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas Modly. "Sailors flown off the ship are doing fine, none required hospitalization — mild aches and pains, sore throats," Modly said Thursday at a Pentagon news briefing, adding they were "in quarantine now on Guam."

Other officials said the number of infected sailors has risen sharply — from initial reports of three to "dozens" as of Thursday. The carrier is the first U.S. Navy ship to have a reported an outbreak while at sea. About 800 test kits are aboard and more were being delivered, Modly said.

Why New Orleans is quickly becoming a coronavirus epicenter in the U.S.

New Orleans is on track to become a coronavirus epicenter.

The state's rich cultural history that prizes large social gatherings, coupled with its higher than average rates of obesity and chronic disease, put its population at particular risk.

Read more. 

Dow closes with gain of 1,300 points as American jobless skyrockets

Wall Street rallied for the third straight day Thursday, with investors showing renewed confidence in the economy despite record-breaking unemployment claims as business activity grinds to a halt nationwide.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day with a gain of just over 1,300 points, or almost 6.5 percent. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq closed higher, up by around 6 percent each.

Traders remain optimistic that Congress will pass the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package that will give a boost to businesses ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic and provide support to unemployed Americans.

Read the full story here.



Photo: An opera in Paris

An opera singer performs "O sole mio" for his neighbors in Paris on Thursday.Philippe Lopez / AFP - Getty Images

Trump tells governors he is setting new coronavirus social distancing guidelines

President Donald Trump told America's governors in a letter on Thursday that his administration will soon set new social distancing guidelines as the coronavirus pandemic worsens.

Trump said in the letter that new coronavirus testing capabilities would allow his administration to identify "high-risk, medium risk and low-risk" counties. And these new guidelines will assist governors and other officials to decide on "maintaining, increasing or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures they have put in place."

The president said by doing "robust surveillance testing," officials will be able to "monitor the spread of the virus throughout the country."

Public health experts have said easing restrictions too soon could overburden hospitals and lead to more deaths and economic damage related to the virus.

Read more here.

Kylie Jenner donates $1 million to buy hospital masks and medical gear

The nearly empty intersection of Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles on March 25, 2020. California Governor Gavin Newsom issued a stay at home order for residences to slow the spread of coronavirus.Mario Tama / Getty Images

Kylie Jenner is donating $1 million to help with the shortage of hospital masks, face shields and other protective gear.

The reality star's doctor, Thaïs Aliabadi, said in an Instagram post on Wednesday that the donation will help buy "hundreds of thousands" of supplies for first responders during the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Too many masks at hospitals are disappearing before making their way onto the faces of our front line heroes," she wrote. "I have never felt more blessed to be a doctor, as helping our brave ER and ICU workers feels just as gratifying as helping my own patients. From the bottom of our hearts, THANK YOU @kyliejenner."  

Aliabadi, who delivered Jenner's daughter, Stormi, said the donation will most likely "help save many precious lives."