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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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U.S. coronavirus cases surpass China

The United States now has more cases of the coronavirus than any other nation, including China.

As of Thursday, there were at least 82,474 cases in the U.S., according to NBC News data. Cases have been reported in every state. More than 1,100 people have died in the U.S.; there have been more than 3,000 deaths in China and more than 8,000 deaths in Italy. 

China has the second highest number of cases, at 81,961, according to the World Health Organization

New York, Washington and California remain the hardest-hit states. 

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

Operations At The Bureau Of Engraving And Printing As The $1 Bill Is Printed
Dollar note sheets sit in a stack in Washington, D.C. on April 14, 2015.Andrew Harrer / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

WASHINGTON — 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 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.

Read the full story here. 

Asian Americans report over 650 racist acts over last week, new data says

Image: San Francisco
People walk along Chinatown's Grant Avenue on Feb. 26, 2020 in San Francisco, Calif.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images file

Seattle resident Kari was at her local grocery store in mid-March when another shopper told her own child she couldn't be in the same line as the Korean American. She would get them sick, the shopper said. A week later at the same store, a cashier refused to check her out, saying she was going on break.

The encounter is one of hundreds of racist and xenophobic incidents that have been reported over the past week, new data reveals. The online reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate shared exclusively with NBC Asian America that since its inception March 18, it has received more than 650 direct reports of discrimination against primarily Asian Americans.

"We live in a scary world, but it's unbelievable that this is happening," said Kari.

Read the full story here. 

U.S. passes Italy in total coronavirus cases

Plant that makes MLB jerseys to produce 1 million medical masks and gowns

Image: Fanatics mask and gown
A person models a face mask and gown that the company is now producing.Fanatics

Major League Baseball is going to bat for hospital workers.

MLB and Fanatics, a company that manufactures official league jerseys, is shifting a manufacturing plant in Easton, Pennsylvania, to now make at least 1 million gowns and masks for health care workers and emergency personnel tackling the coronavirus outbreak.

The gear will go to workers in Pennsylvania, and then New York and New Jersey, which are seeing some of the largest numbers of cases in the nation.

The plan is to continue producing the gowns and masks as long as the need exists, Fanatics Executive Chairman Michael Rubin said. MLB's regular season has been delayed.

'There's only going to be more': NYC nurse dies after contracting coronavirus

An assistant nurse manager at a New York City hospital, who told his family he believed he had contracted the coronavirus after being exposed at work, died Tuesday evening, his sister told NBC News.

The death of James Kious Kelly, 48, was confirmed by Mount Sinai Hospital. It comes amid an escalating crisis in New York where hospitals are faced with surging numbers of coronavirus patients and shortages of crucial medical equipment and protective gear for staffers.

Read the full story here.

This state rejected Medicaid expansion. Its uninsured residents now stare down a pandemic.

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.

Now her medical debt has ballooned to more than $25,000 — an amount she has no hope of paying off as a part-time Lyft driver. With required doctor visits and medicine, her bills are still growing and the debt collectors’ calls haven’t stopped. The drugs she needs also make her more susceptible to the common cold, the flu and now the coronavirus.

“You didn’t ask for any of this, and you didn't ask to get sick,” Wingard said, as her voice broke and she began to cry. “You know, it's not something that you went out there and said, ‘Oh, OK,’ you know. You didn't ask for any of it. And it is a burden. It really is a burden.”

Click here to read the full story, and for even more on this story, subscribe to "Into America," a new podcast from NBC News and MSNBC

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

Image: An opera singer performs "O sole mio" for his neighbors in Paris on Thursday.
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

Image: 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.
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." 

We apologize, this video has expired.

How to get a stimulus check — and how best to spend it

The $2 trillion coronavirus aid package provides up to $1,200 per person up to certain income thresholds, with an extra $500 per child in order to offer relief for families affected by the coronavirus pandemic and to support the economy. 

From buying the essentials to starting a savings account, personal finance experts weigh in on how you can best spend that money.

The checks will start being distributed within three weeks of the signing of the aid bill, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Thursday.

Here's how to make sure you receive your check as quickly as possible.

Italian mayor prepares pre-recorded drone audio messages to warn citizens

The mayor of a city in southern Italy is going to use drones to keep an eye on all the villages in his province. Cateno De Luca, the 48-year-old mayor of Messina, Italy, announced on his Facebook page.

 “My voice will say ‘where the f--- are you going’?” De Luca said in a video full of expletives.

It’s not the first time that the mayor gained attention with his colorful remarks. Another video showing Italian public officials yelling at people to stay at home garnered over 5 million views on Twitter. 

Italy has been under national quarantine since March 9, with a total of 8,165 certified deaths. Over 80,000 people tested positive since the start of the pandemic.

Photo: Awaiting cremation in Lombardy

Image: Lombardy
Thirty-five coffins of the deceased are stored in a warehouse in Ponte San Pietro, near Bergamo, in Lombardy, Italy's hardest-hit region, on Thursday before being transported to another region for cremation. Lombardy reported a steep rise in fatalities Thursday compared with the day before and remains in a critical situation, with a total of 4,861 deaths and 34,889 cases.Piero Cruciatti / AFP - Getty Images

Saints quarterback Drew Brees donates $5 million to Louisiana relief efforts

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees on Thursday committed $5 million to Louisiana charities focused on feeding children, senior citizens and "families in need."

"The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time," according to a statement by the Super Bowl winning quarterback. "Let’s all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together." 

The city of New Orleans and state of Louisiana have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Indy 500 postponed because of coronavirus

The Indianapolis 500, the world's oldest automobile race, has been postponed because of coronavirus.

The race, which was originally scheduled to occur on May 24, has been rescheduled to Aug. 23. 

The Indianapolis 500 began in 1911 and this year marks the first time it won't run on Memorial Day weekend since 1946. The race was canceled six times in the past because of the two world wars.

Nearly 3 dozen who attended Arkansas church event test positive for coronavirus

Nearly three dozen people who attended a recent children's event at an Arkansas church have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to church officials.

Donald Shipp, a deacon at First Assembly of God church in Greers Ferry, about 75 miles north of Little Rock, told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that 34 people who attended the event in early March at the Cleburne County church had tested positive for the coronavirus, and that an unknown number of others were awaiting test results.

Danyelle McNeill, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Health, said a number of coronavirus cases have been associated with a church in Cleburne County, which she did not identify.

"We are still investigating newly reported cases and can’t definitively say they are all connected to one church," McNeill told NBC News on Thursday. "This is a cluster within a larger outbreak in that area of the state."

Read the full story here.

During Stephen Curry's Q&A with Dr. Fauci, a special guest follows along

NBA star Stephen Curry has been hosting a question-and-answer on Instagram live with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

As tens of thousands on social media follow along, some noticed former President Barack Obama was among them.

'League' of cybersecurity professionals band together to help hospitals

A growing group of cybersecurity professionals is volunteering their expertise to help hospitals fight off hackers while doctors and nurses fight the coronavirus.

Calling themselves the CTI League — Countering Threat Intelligence, and a nod to the superhero team the Justice League — the group has swelled from a handful of professionals to 450 members worldwide in less than two weeks.

“If some hospital gets attacked by some ransomware and wouldn’t be able to pay, people will die because they wouldn't be able to get the medical services needed," said the group's founder, Ohad Zaidenberg.

Coordinating over Slack, the CTI League identifies what types of vulnerabilities active hackers are using, then searches for hospitals and other medical facilities that might be vulnerable to them so that they can fix them first. "The first thing we want to do is neutralize attacks before they happen. The second is to help any medical organization after they are attacked," Zaidenberg said.

'Most photographed' Wall Street trader Peter Tuchman has coronavirus

Image: Peter Tuchman at the New York Stock Exchange on March 9, 2020.
Peter Tuchman at the New York Stock Exchange on March 9, 2020.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

New York Stock Exchange trader Peter Tuchman revealed in an Instagram post on Thursday that he has the coronavirus. 

Tuchman of Quattro Securities, who has worked as a trader for 35 years, is known as the "most photographed" in his field.

In his Instagram post, he shares photos of a Corona beer and the prayer hands emoji. He writes that he is battling the virus "pretty hard" and has never felt so sick in his life.

Image: Trader Peter Tuchman works the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in 2012.
Trader Peter Tuchman works the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in 2012.Richard Drew / AP file

"Great team of doctors no breathing problems that’s a good thing all the other problems that’s a bad thing will get to the other side of this I’ll be in touch... soon ... send prayers," Tuchman writes.

At least two other floor traders tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday despite strict measures taken to prevent those infected from entering the exchange while it remained open last week, according to a memo seen by Reuters

Connecticut asks for federal disaster declaration

Connecticut on Thursday joined a growing list of states that have asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a disaster declaration to cope with the "severity and magnitude" of the coronavirus outbreak.

The state has seen at least 875 cases of the virus and 19 deaths, although officials said they believe there are "many more cases" that have not yet been confirmed. Gov. Ned Lamont said federal assistance could help residents gain additional resources, including for childcare and crisis counseling.

President Donald Trump in recent days has also declared disasters in New York, California, Washington, Louisiana, Iowa, Florida and Texas.

Pelosi says she doesn't think 'we've seen the end of direct payments,' calls for fourth aid bill

As House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., expressed confidence Thursday that her chamber will pass the third coronavirus relief bill on Friday, she’s already focused on writing a fourth phase of aid and suggested that in a future measure, Congress might consider providing more direct payments to Americans.

“I don't think we've seen the end of direct payments,” Pelosi said at her weekly press conference Thursday on Capitol Hill.

Pelosi said Americans are eager to receive the direct payments provided by the third relief bill, which the Senate passed late Wednesday and the House will consider on Friday. She pointed out that the version Democrats crafted for the third legislative aid bill would have provided “bigger direct payments.”

Read the full story here.

Cuomo slams politicians for not providing financial support to state, local governments

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday slammed politicians in Washington, D.C., for not providing financial support to state and local governments in its $2 trillion aid package. 

"I believe what they did failed to address our governmental need," Cuomo said, adding that he spoke to New York's congressional delegation. "I find it irresponsible. I find it reckless."

"When this is over," he added, "I promise I’m going to give them a piece of my mind."

The public health update

  • Cuomo said as of Thursday 37,258 people tested positive, with 5,327 hospitalized, 1,290 people in ICU, and 1,517 patients discharged.
  • There have been 385 deaths in New York, Cuomo said Thursday — up from 285 the day before.
  • More than 8,600 mental health professionals across the country have made themselves available to New Yorkers.
  • 18,650 tests were conducted on Wednesday.
  • Cuomo highlighted an ongoing push to increase Increasing hospital capacity to 140,000 beds from 53,000. He said he has mandated hospitals increase capacity by 50 percent and try to increase by 100 percent.

New Jersey, the 2nd worst-hit state, declared major disaster

New Jersey on Thursday was declared a major disaster by President Donald Trump as the number of coronavirus cases in the state soared to over 4,400. 

Gov. Phil Murphy said the designation would give the state access to more federal support “to help our residents through this emergency.” 

New Jersey reported 4,402 coronavirus cases as of Thursday, the second highest number after New York, which has 32,741 cases. 

Actors whose shows were canceled to get stimulus help

Actors who had been cast in shows that were canceled due to coronavirus will get unemployment help from Congress' massive spending package.

Normally, a person must have already been working to be eligible for unemployment insurance if they’re laid off. That requirement threatened to leave out thousands of stage and film performers who earn a living gig-to-gig and had booked a job that hadn’t started yet.

The Actors Equity Association, the union that represents professional stage actors and stage managers, lobbied for a provision to help performers in that situation. A provision was added saying that anyone who “was scheduled to comment employment and does not have a job or is unable to reach the job as a direct result of a COVID-19 outbreak” will be eligible for the unemployment insurance assistance in the stimulus bill.

All Broadway shows in New York have been canceled at least through mid-April.

Is there a deadline extension for getting a REAL ID?

The deadline for Americans to comply with the federal REAL ID program has been extended to Oct. 1, 2021.

"The federal, state and local response to the spread of the Coronavirus here in the United States necessitates a delay in this deadline," Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said in a statement. "Our state and local partners are working tirelessly with the Administration to flatten the curve and, therefore, we want to remove any impediments to response and recovery efforts."

The REAL ID Act was passed after the 9/11 attacks and sought to make all state-issued identification cards more secure with uniform national standards.

Trump on Monday announced the deadline would be pushed back but did not say until when.

Richard Engel: Italian ICU chief says hospitals must be on ‘war footing’ or collapse

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.