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Live coronavirus updates: 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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House members race back to Washington amid fears the $2 trillion coronavirus bill could be delayed

WASHINGTON — Democratic and Republican leaders are scrambling members of Congress back to Washington late Thursday night because they suddenly believe the $2 trillion economic relief packagemight not pass by the voice vote planned for Friday and could be delayed if at least 216 members don’t show up to vote on the floor.

Members are now racing to get back to D.C. by Friday morning — in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic — because leaders fear at least one member, likely Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., will demand a recorded vote.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., wrote on Twitter Thursday evening: “The CARES Act is historic legislation, which is why I'm driving back to DC to help get this thing over the finish line.” The drive from his Kalamazoo-area district is nearly 10 hours back to Washington.

Ultimately, passage isn’t in jeopardy — but it could be delayed for as long as it takes for 216 members to arrive in Washington. The House gavels in at 9 a.m. on Friday and is expected to have two hours of debate.

Click here for the full story

4 Massachusetts medical schools to allow early graduation for fourth-year students

Four Massachusetts medical schools will allow their fourth-year classes to graduate a month early to aid hospitals with an anticipated jump in coronavirus cases. 

Deans from Boston University, Harvard, Tufts and the University of Massachusetts accepted the state’s recommendation that students who would graduate in mid-May will now graduate in mid-April and be free to work in hospitals one month earlier than expected. 

“We may need every physician we can get based on what has happened in Wuhan and Italy, and what is happening in New York,” said Karen Antman, dean of Boston University’s School of Medicine.

The announcement came after NYU’s Grossman School of Medicine said Wednesday that it would let its fourth-year students graduate early to work and volunteer in hospitals.

Sewing group making fabric face masks for facilities, people in need

Jessy Broughton Gillespie started the Sew You Care project last week for seamstresses to collaborate on sewing fabric face masks to donate to facilities and people in need nationwide.Jessy Broughton Gillespie

People across the United States are pitching in to help sew fabric face masks to donate to hospitals, first responders and other people in need as the country grapples with a shortage of personal protective equipment, or PPE. 

"Everybody just felt the same," said Jessy Broughton Gillespie, who started the group Sew You Care. "These are our people, this is our community. We should protect them."

Gillespie launched the group on Facebook last week, and it now has more than 3,000 members working to sew masks and ship them to facilities and people who have reached out asking for donations. To be safe, she said, the group is asking members to wash their fabric and use sterile equipment. They also tell recipients that the masks are handmade and should be washed before use. Gillespie said they've made up to 8,000 masks this week and won't stop until they're no longer needed. 

"We have to remember that the American spirit is amazing," she said. "In unprecedented times, we really do have unprecedented answers, and this is one of those."

Homemade face masks are not considered PPE, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but might be used by health care personnel as a last resort. CDC guidance says homemade masks "should ideally be used in combination with a face shield that covers the entire front (that extends to the chin or below) and sides of the face." 

Idaho reports first 3 deaths linked to COVID-19

Idaho health authorities on Thursday announced the state's first deaths related to the coronavirus illness COVID-19, a day after the governor issued a stay-at-home order.

The deceased were three men, all over age 60, the state health department said. Two were from Blaine County, and the third was from Canyon County. The Canyon County man had underlying health issues but it was not clear if the other two had any, the health department said in a statement.

There have been 189 cases in the state, according to the department. On Wednesday, Gov. Brad Little announced a stay-at-home order for Idaho in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

3 more escapees from South Dakota jail in custody

A total of 155 inmates are under observation at a South Dakota jail where another prisoner tested positive for the coronavirus, and state officials announced three more inmates who escaped this week are back in custody.

The two inmates still missing from the minimum-security unit of the Pierre Community Work Center were identified as Philomene Boneshirt, 25, and Sylvia Red Leaf, 25, the state Department of Corrections said.

The inmate who tested positive for COVID-19 remains in isolation, and no other inmates in the state system have tested positive, the department said.

But the 155 are under observation because they had potential exposure to that inmate, the department said. Nine inmates escaped from the facility on Monday, but six have been returned to custody.

NYU dean sends 'tone deaf' dancing video to students

A video sent by a New York University dean in an email upset multiple students, some of whom called it “tone deaf.” Dean Allyson Green of Tisch School of the Arts at NYU inserted a video of herself dancing to R.E.M. in an email she sent to all Tisch students with campus updates regarding coronavirus. The email included the information that students would not be receiving tuition refunds.

Green argues in her email that refunding tuition would be challenging for the university because remote learning is costing millions of dollars. She also argues the university has to pay for facilities.

“But we are still paying for these whether or not they are empty for the rest of the semester. We are also continuing to support payments to our valued colleagues, and we just won’t let them down,” the email said.

Neither Green nor the university immediately responded to a request for comment.

Students took issue with the juxtaposition of the carefree video and the bad news on tuition.

“There’s a feeling amongst the students, Tisch specifically, that we are being cheated out of something, so everyone thought it was really ridiculous and tone deaf,” said Tisch senior Michael Price. “She’s not answering any of our questions and it’s just her dancing to ‘Losing my Religion.’”

John Miller, NYPD counterterrorism expert, hospitalized

John Miller, the NYPD's deputy commissioner for counterterrorism and intelligence, is in a hospital with the coronavirus, four law enforcement officials said.

Miller had had not been feeling well for a couple of days and went to the hospital, the officials said.

Two other law enforcement sources said Miller had a low fever and went to the hospital as a precaution, and that he is alert and in good spirits and has been taking calls from family and friends throughout the day.

New York City had more than 23,000 coronavirus cases as of Thursday night. There have been 365 deaths in the city related to the illness, according to the health department. The police department said Wednesday that 100 sworn members and 29 civilians have tested positive for the coronavirus illness COVID-19.

Also on Thursday, the department reported its first death from the disease, Custodial Assistant Dennis Dickson.

Six degrees of coronavirus? In NYC area, cases get personal

A man wearing a mask checks his phone in Times Square in New York on March 22, 2020.Kena Betancur / AFP - Getty Images

After returning from a European vacation three weeks ago, Vidal Chávez, a real estate broker in Manhattan, spoke to a friend who had fallen ill. His fever had spiked to 103 degrees.

It was the first conversation with someone he knew locally who may have contracted the coronavirus — but it wouldn't be the last.

Chávez, in his 40s, now knows more than a dozen people who have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, or are sick with related symptoms but can't access a test or are awaiting results. Two people, including a fraternity brother at the University of California, Berkeley, have died, he said.

Read the full story here. 

White House expert explains the timeline and risks of creating a vaccine

Dr. Fauci describes the complicated timeline of creating a vaccine for a disease like COVID-19, including the different stages of development and the risks that have to be taken into consideration before releasing to the public.

Mark Blum, actor on 'Law & Order' and 'Succession,' dies from coronavirus

Veteran character actor Mark Blum — a union activist best known for movies "Desperately Seeking Susan" and "Crocodile Dundee," as well as television work in "Law & Order," "Us" and "Succession" — died of complications from COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus, his friends said Thursday.

He was 69.

"This is really tragic and my heart goes out to him, his family and his loved ones," Madonna, his "Desperately Seeking Susan" co-star, said on social media. "I remember him as funny warm, loving and professional when we made Desperately Seeking Susan in 1985!!"

Read the full story here.