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U.S. surpasses 100,000 cases as Trump signs $2 trillion stimulus package

Here are the latest updates from around the world.

President Donald Trump on Friday signed the $2 trillion economic stimulus bill that the House passed earlier in the day, while the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. surpassed 100,000.

The legislation signed by Trump and also unanimously passed by the Senate on Wednesday provides relief for workers and businesses devastated by the outbreak.

The United States now has more reported coronavirus cases than any other country, including China, as the number climbed past 100,000, according to NBC News' count.

In the U.K., Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted he tested positive for the coronavirus.

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Alaska restricts in-state travel as state's first death reported

Alaska on Friday issued a mandate barring in-state travel between communities except to support critical infrastructure or personal needs.

The announcement came as Gov. Mike Dunleavy reported the state's first death linked to COVID-19. It involved a 63-year-old woman with underlying medical conditions receiving treatment at an Anchorage hospital who tested positive Wednesday. There had been a previous death of an Alaska resident, but that person died at a Washington state health care facility, health authorities have said.

The travel restriction takes effect at 8 a.m. Saturday. The governor also told residents to stay at home as much as possible and to stay six feet away from others and ordered "non-essential" businesses to close.

Experts fear child abuse will increase with coronavirus isolation

School closures and self-isolation have led to a drop in the number of child abuse cases reported to several state hotlines, worrying experts who say rules intended to halt the spread of coronavirus may be making conditions worse for victims of child abuse trapped at home with their parents.

Hotlines in Colorado, Texas and Illinois and California have received fewer reports of child abuse since stay-at-home orders have been put into place, say experts who attribute the decline to children no longer attending school or day care, where teachers and child care workers are mandated to report suspected abuse.

Read the full story here

Nebraska reports first two deaths linked to COVID-19

Nebraska health officials on Friday reported what are thought to be the first two deaths in the state associated with the coronavirus illness COVID-19.

The Douglas County Health Department said in a statement that a man in his 50s "who also suffered from serious underlying health conditions" and had contact with a known case out of state died.

The Central District Health Department also said Friday that it had a COVID-19-related death involving a woman in her 60s who had been hospitalized in Hall County. The department said that she had underlying health issues.

Nebraska has had 89 people test positive for COVID-19 as of Friday evening, according to the state health department, and a little more than half of those are in Douglas County, which is in the eastern part of the state and is where Omaha is located.

New Orleans turning convention center into makeshift hospital

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans rushed to build a makeshift hospital in its convention center Friday as troubling new outbreaks bubbled in the United States.

“We are not through this. We’re not even halfway through this,” said Joseph Kanter of the Louisiana Department of Health, which has recorded more than 2,700 cases, more than five times what it had a week ago. 

New Orleans’ sprawling Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, along the Mississippi River, was being converted into a massive hospital as officials prepared for thousands more patients than they could accommodate. The preparations immediately conjured images of another disaster, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the convention center became a squalid shelter of last resort in a city that has braved a string of storm hits, not to mention great fires and a yellow fever epidemic in centuries past.

Americans today must come together like the Greatest Generation before us

33,000 Americans abroad struggling to get home

The State Department has helped more than 15,000 U.S. citizens get home from abroad since the coronavirus outbreak - but about 33,000 Americans are still struggling to return, officials said Friday.

About 15,440 U.S. citizens from more than 40 countries have been repatriated, and the State Department's call center has fielded more than 11,000 inquiries since March 21, according to Ian Brownlee, who heads the department's repatriation task force.

Still, more than 33,000 Americans are abroad and trying to get home, Brownlee said.

Read full story here

L.A. partners with UPS to deliver, pick up COVID-19 tests

Los Angeles is teaming up with UPS to become the first city in the U.S. to offer delivery of coronavirus test kits, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Friday. 

UPS will pay for, deliver and pick up thousands of tests a day starting next week, Garcetti said. 

"I want to thank you UPS, for standing up and delivering," he said during a news conference.

Garcetti also confirmed the city's first case of COVID-19 in a person experiencing homelessness. Advocates in Los Angeles, which has the nation's highest number of people living on the streets, warned earlier this week that some 1,200 homeless people could die from coronavirus, NBC LA reported.

San Francisco to use convention center for homeless

San Francisco Mayor London Breed on Friday announced plans to open a portion of the city's convention center so homeless people in crowded shelters and transitional housing centers could have temporary living space with proper social distancing.

"At a time when we’re encouraging everyone who can to stay home and stay six feet apart when they do go out, it’s important that our shelters and navigation centers also have the space to follow the public health requirements," Breed said in a statement.

Homeless people will be placed in Moscone Center West, which is expected to open be available next week, she said.

San Francisco has also leased more than 300 hotel rooms to house coronavirus patients or those believed to have the virus, the city said in a statement. The idea is that the patients could be isolated without taking up rooms at crowded hospitals.

Grocery delivery workers plan to strike for better protection

'You don’t know who doesn’t have it': Biden would recommend national lockdown

Joe Biden said Friday night that if he were the president leading a response to the coronavirus pandemic, he would recommend a national lockdown for at least two weeks to help contain the outbreak.

Biden, asked during a CNN virtual town hall whether he would institute such a plan, said he would.

“For the time being, I would, yes. Here is the point … You don’t know who doesn’t have it. You don’t know who doesn’t have the virus,” Biden said. "Two weeks, in what is going to be a long fight to deal with this, is a small price to pay."

“Why would we not err on the side of making sure we are not going to have a repeat,” Biden said.

Panama Canal denies passage to Holland America ship

Authorities Friday said a roughly 1,800-passenger cruise ship with coronavirus patients aboard could not use the Panama Canal.

Four older guests died on the Holland America Zaandam, where two people have tested positive for the virus and 53 guests and 85 staff members are sick, the British–American-owned cruise line company said Friday.

The Panama Canal said in a statement that on orders of Panama's Ministry of Health, it could not allow transit of any vessel carrying people with the virus. Officials said the canal's boarding officers, line handlers and pilots routinely board vessels that use the waterway and thus could be exposed.

The ship departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was scheduled to end in Chile on March 21 before illness intervened. It is currently off the Panamanian coast, where the sick were expected to remain in isolation and healthy passengers were to be taken off and put on a sister ship.

Utah issues stay-at-home order

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert issued a statewide stay-at-home order Friday in effect for at least two weeks. 

Residents should leave home only to perform essential duties such as visiting the grocery store or a doctor's office. He encouraged people to work from home.

In a series of tweets, Herbert urged people to exercise outside but cautioned against congregating at trailheads or parks. He also instructed employers not to require sick notes for employees who call out from work as a result of coronavirus.

Arkansas truck driver battles worry and stress on the road

For truck drivers loading supplies across America, like Douglas Mcconnaughhay in Arksansas, it’s become harder to find a meal with restaurants closed and more worrisome to protect against the coronavirus as it continues to spread.

His wife shared what he's been going through lately in a now-viral Facebook post made before he headed back out on the road March 22. 


“She was going to take me to my truck. She came in there and took the picture. I didn’t know it until after the fact. I was just back there by myself,” he told NBC News.

Mcconnaughhay drives 70 hours a week Monday through Friday in a Peterbilt truck. He's among more than 3.5 million truck drivers in the United States, according to the most recent census data

“There was a lot of stuff that was going through my mind. My main issue is I can’t bring the virus back home to my wife because of her health issues. I just want to be able to be safe and make sure that my home stays healthy and safe,” Mcconnaughhay said.

Santa Anita cancels live racing

Santa Anita Park, one of the nation's most iconic race tracks, announced Friday that it's suspending live racing because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The picturesque horse racing track in Arcadia, California, just northeast of  Los Angeles, typically runs thoroughbreds three days a week and had the $100,000 Santa Ana Stakes on tap for Saturday. 

Horse racing is one of the last sports operating, albeit with no fans in the stands, as America deals with the pandemic. 

An overwhelming majority of tracks have closed, though the Florida Derby, a stepping stone to the rescheduled Kentucky Derby, is still set to run on Saturday at Gulfstream Park

Domestic violence rises across Europe amid lockdowns

As people are cooped up at home around the world in attempts to slow the spread of coronavirus, officials in Europe are sounding the alarm about an increase in domestic violence.

Germany's foreign minister, Heiko Maas, said Friday domestic violence is on the rise there, and France's Ministry of Interior announced the nation's pharmacies have agreed to serve as safe havens for victims of abuse during the national COVID-19 lockdown.

Spanish media reported a similar program in a few regions, where victims can go to pharmacies, discreetly request a "mascarilla 19," or face mask 19, and receive help.

In a statement Friday, the Duchess of Cornwall, wife of COVID-19 patient Prince Charles, urged victims to call the U.K.'s National Domestic Abuse Helpline for help. "I want you to know that you are not alone," she said.

Stay-at-home restrictions mean cleaner air for Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES — Southern California, infamous for its clogged freeways and smoggy skies, is experiencing some excellent air quality because of spring rains and business closures triggered by the coronavirus pandemic, experts are saying.

The freeways are not only nearly empty, but the lack of cars is contributing to the clear skies, said Philip Fine with the South Coast Air Quality District.

Shipping is down in the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles, meaning fewer trucks and cargo vessels are running. There are also fewer planes flying and more construction projects on hold.

Emissions from that kind of heavy machinery accounts for nearly 80% of all greenhouse gas emissions in L.A. County, Fine told the Southern California News Group.

Photo: Coffins arrive from Bergamo

Image: Italy
Coffins arriving from Bergamo, the epicenter of Italy's outbreak, are unloaded from a military truck at Cinisello Balsamo cemetery, near Milan on Friday.Claudio Furlan / LaPresse via AP

Plaintiffs, including NRA, sue to block gun store closures

Plaintiffs, including the National Rifle Association, sought in Los Angeles federal court Friday to block the local sheriff from shutting down gun stores.

The civil suit names as defendants L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who on March 19 ordered most business to close. The sheriff announced he would shutter gun stores, then paused over legal concerns, and finally announced Thursday that he would move forward with closing down firearms retailers.

Gun stores were not named by the state as "essential" businesses that would be exempt from Newsom's closures, but the governor said he would leave it up to sheriffs across the state to decide. 

The lawsuit, citing the Second Amendment right to bear arms, argues the government may not engage in "deprivation of constitutional liberties during a time of crisis."

Read the full story.

Teen whose death may be linked to coronavirus was denied care for not having health insurance, mayor says

A teenager in Lancaster, California, who may have died from the coronavirus last week, was turned away from an urgent care because he did not have health insurance, the city's mayor said.

In a video posted to YouTube on Wednesday, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris said the 17-year-old had been sick for a few days and had no previous health conditions.

"The Friday before he died, he was healthy. He was socializing with his friends," Parris said. "By Wednesday, he was dead." Parris said the teen went to an urgent care March 18.

"He did not have insurance, so they did not treat him," Parris said, adding the boy was sent to a hospital.

Read the full story here

Trump invokes Defense Production Act to force GM to make ventilators

President Donald Trump invoked the sparsely used Defense Production Act on Friday to order the Department of Health and Human Services to compel General Motors to manufacturer ventilators after he sharply criticized the company for slow-walking production.

"Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course," Trump said in a statement. "GM was wasting time. Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives."


Trump, in a tweet on Friday, excoriated General Motors and its CEO, Mary Barra, for not moving quickly enough to produce needed ventilators amid the coronavirus pandemic and wanting “top dollar” for the contract.

Trump himself has been criticized for not quickly invoking his authority to use the act as the nation's hospitals and health care facilities are in dire need of critical medical supplies for workers. He announced he would use the act this month, but did not invoke it until Friday.

Click here for the full story. 

North Carolina residents ordered to stay home

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Friday ordered the state's 10 million-plus residents to stay at home, starting next week, unless they're performing or seeking essential services.

Exempt workers and services include takeout restaurants, grocery stores, medical providers, hotels and transportation employees, according to the governor, whose order takes effect Monday.

Places of  worship are allowed to remain open but are still subject to a "mass gathering ban" and cannot "have more than 10 people assembled," according to Cooper.

U.S. cases surpass 100,000

More than 100,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in the U.S., the most in the world, according to NBC News data.

The hardest hit states are New York, New Jersey and California.

There have been more than 1,500 deaths. 

Gun groups sue over sheriff's order to close gun stores in LA County

Gun groups have gone to court, seeking to stop an order to close gun stores issued by the sheriff of Los Angeles County. Gun stores were deemed non-essential businesses, requiring them to close under the LA County stay-at-home order, according to the sheriff's order on March 26.

The suit, brought by Adam Brady, Daemion Garr and several 2nd Amendment advocates including the National Rifle Association, was filed in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday, seeking an injunction against LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, Governor Gavin Newsom and other government officials in connection with the order, saying it violates the "fundamental rights of law-abiding Californians."

It cited a slew of federal and state regulations on gun stores protecting the rights of gun owners, arguing such a closure is particularly ill advised in a crisis. The 30-page filing argued it was illegal to "use a public health crisis as political cover to impose bans and restrictions on rights they do not like."

The sheriff' later clarified the order, stating that while gun stores must close to the general public, licensed firearm retailers are permitted to sell ammunition to security guard companies.

An Empire State tribute to first responders

The Empire State Building is putting on a light show, backed by the vocals of Alicia Keys, to honor first responders who are working tirelessly through the coronavirus pandemic.

At 9 p.m. EST on Friday, lights will pour on to the iconic building to the vocals of Keys' inspirational hit,  "Empire State of Mind."

The show, set to repeat Saturday and again next Monday through Thursday, will be carried on the Empire State Building's Facebook page.

Photo: Indian workers pack buses to return home after lockdown

Migrant daily wage laborers in India
Migrant daily wage laborers crowd a bus as they travel to their respective hometowns following a lockdown amid concern over spread of coronavirus in New Delhi, India, on Friday. The measures that went into effect Wednesday, the largest of their kind in the world, risk heaping further hardship on the quarter of the population who live below the poverty line and the 1.8 million who are homeless.Manish Swarup / AP

St. Patrick's Day party linked to six positive tests in Kentucky

A half-dozen positive coronavirus cases sprouted from a single St. Patrick's Day party in Kentucky that went on even after a big local parade had been canceled, health officials said Friday.

Those cases were traced to a St. Patrick's Day party on March 17, three days after the Lexington St. Patrick’s Parade and Festival had been canceled in an attempt to limit the pandemic's spread.

Organizers of that party had only intended to have nine guests but more showed up.

Read the full story here.

Four people die, two test positive on Holland America cruise ship

Four older guests died on a Holland America cruise ship where two people have tested positive for the coronavirus and more than 100 are experiencing flu-like symptoms, the company said Friday. 

The British–American-owned cruise line company said that out of its more than 1,800 passengers and crew on the Zaandam ship, 53 guests and 85 staff members are sick, the company said in a post

The ship was sailing on a South America cruise that departed Buenos Aires, Argentina, on March 7 and was originally scheduled to end in Chile on March 21. It is currently off the coast of Panama, where healthy passengers will be taken off and put on a sister ship. Those who are sick will remain in isolation. 

"While the onward plan for both ships is still being finalized, we continue to work with the Panamanian authorities on approval to transit the Panama Canal for sailing to Fort Lauderdale, Florida," the company said.

Los Angeles County shuts down beaches and hiking trails

Los Angeles County closed off its beaches and hiking trails on Friday, in another move to keep Southern Californians at home during the fight against coronavirus. 

"It is crucial that we limit access to non-essential places where crowds have been gathering," said Barbara Ferrer. director of the Public Health Department. "I ask that that you help us by not going to our beaches and not going  on our hiking trails, at least for the next few weeks." 

Volleyball nets have been taken down, and nearby parking lots, bike paths and bathrooms closed. The shutdown took effect immediately and is set until at least April 19.

"We cannot afford to see a repeat of last week's crowded beaches," said Gary Jones, director of the Department of Beaches and Harbors Gary Jones. "The risk of spreading COVID-19 is too great. Please stay home."

The Week in Pictures: The world in the grip of a spreading virus

The Week in Pictures

With at least a third of the globe under lockdown, the coronavirus has continued its march across nations. See more of the most stunning images from the last week here. 

Record number of 911 calls in New York City

New Yorkers are flooding the city's 911 system with a record number of calls for help, officials said Friday.

The FDNY received more 911 calls Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday than in any other three-day period in system history, officials said.

FDNY spokesman Frank Dwyer begged New Yorkers to think twice before dialing:  “We need the public’s help – please do not call unless a true emergency.”

Nurse brought to tears as Seattle claps for health care workers

A Seattle nurse was brought to tears Thursday night by the sound of her community clapping and cheering for the city's health care workers. Ashlyn Juul, a nurse at Swedish Hospital in Washington state, works night shifts most of the time, but happened to work a day shift the first night the city of Seattle did this, her girlfriend, Mara Curley, told NBC News. 

"She is not normally an emotional person, but this has been a hard few weeks as her unit does have COVID positive patients with critically low protective equipment," Curley said. "These were undoubtedly happy tears to be recognized and appreciated."

Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture asked the city's residents to take part in applauding and celebrating from their homes for the people working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Pope Francis delivers blessing to empty St. Peter's Square

Pope Francis presides over a moment of prayer on the sagrato of St. Peter's Basilica on March 27, 2020.Yara Nardi / Pool via AFP via Getty Images

Pope Francis delivered a special "Urbi et Orbi" blessing to an empty St. Peter's Square on Friday, praying for an end to the coronavirus pandemic. 

"Urbi et Orbi," which means "to the city and to the world," is a prayer that can be led only by the pope and is reserved for solemn occasions, such as Easter, Christmas or the installation of a new pope. 

"You ask us not to be afraid, but our faith is weak, and we are fearful. But Lord, do not leave us to the mercy of the storm," Francis said during the prayer. "Tell us again, 'Do not be afraid.' And we together with Peter will cast all our anxieties to you, because we know that you care for us."

St. Peter's Square has been empty for weeks because of Italy's national lockdown. More than 80,000 coronavirus cases and more than 9,000 deaths have been recorded in Italy as of Friday, making it the third most affected country. 

Disability rights groups slam state ventilator-rationing plans

A ventilator at a hospital in Germany.
A ventilator at a hospital in Germany.Axel Heimken / Pool via AFP

Disability rights groups have filed federal civil rights complaints alleging that ventilator-rationing plans or proposals in Alabama and Washington state would discriminate against the disabled and put them at imminent risk amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A complaint filed Tuesday with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office for Civil Rights takes aim at a part of Alabama's Emergency Operations Plan focused on managing access to ventilators during an event that the governor deems a public health crisis.

Read the full story here

Google to offer $800 million in ad credits and aid to small businesses

Google announced Friday it will offer $800 million in credits and financial aid to small businesses, academics, governments and the World Health Organization.

The tech giant said in a blog post it would provide $340 million in Google Ad credits to small businesses with active accounts over the past year. The credits can be used for advertising goods and services until the end of 2020.

“We hope it will alleviate some of the cost of staying in touch with their customers,” said Sundar Pichai, the chief executive of Google and its parent company, Alphabet.

Advertising grants worth $250 million will also aid the World Health Organization and more than 100 government agencies in providing information about how to slow the spread of the virus.

The latest stats from NYC

New York City now has more than 25,000 coronavirus cases and has had 366 deaths, according to the latest data from the city's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

The Friday numbers show that 50 percent of deaths have been people 75 years of age and older and another 25 percent were people between 65 and 74 years old. Ninety-seven percent of deaths have been cases where the person had an underlying illness, defined as "diabetes, lung disease, cancer, immunodeficiency, heart disease, hypertension, asthma, kidney disease, and GI/Liver Disease."

Of the city's 25,573 coronavirus cases, nearly half were age 18 to 44.Only two percent were under 18 years old.

Of the five boroughs, Queens continues to have the most cases (32 percent), followed by Brooklyn (26 percent), then Manhattan (18 percent).

House gives final passage to $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus bill

The House on Friday passed the $2 trillion coronavirus economic stimulus bill, and President Donald Trump is expected to sign it quickly.

The legislation, which was passed unanimously by the Senate on Wednesday, provides relief for workers and businesses that have been devastated by the outbreak.

Trump has applauded the final product — the largest economic relief package in modern U.S. history — and said this week that he would sign the legislation, which the Senate passed 96-0 late Wednesday.

The House vote Friday came after Democratic and Republican leaders summoned House members to Washington late Thursday because they feared the package wouldn't be able to pass by voice vote, causing lawmakers to scramble back to the capital from their districts.

Read the full story here.

Infected pregnant women may pass coronavirus onto babies, small study suggests

A staff member attends to a baby with coronavirus at the Wuhan Children's Hospital in China on March 6, 2020.
A staff member attends to a baby with coronavirus at the Wuhan Children's Hospital in China on March 6. China Daily CDIC / Reuters file

Pregnant women who have the coronavirus can possibly pass the infection onto their babies, though it's unclear whether this transmission occurs in the womb.

Although more research is needed, a small study, published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics on Thursday, found that of 33 women in China who were confirmed to have the coronavirus while pregnant, three gave birth to newborns who were then diagnosed with the virus. All three infants recovered, adding to a growing pile of evidence that most children experience milder cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, than adults.

Read the full story here. 

OPINION: As coronavirus deaths mount, Trump's handling of intelligence warnings looks worse and worse

Those of us who served in the intelligence community knew this day was coming. The day when President Donald Trump's near total disregard for intelligence professionals would eventually affect every American, writes Frank Figliuzzi, former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence and NBC News/MSNBC analyst. 

The missed warnings pointed to a pandemic that has so far resulted in over 82,000 infected Americans and over 1,100 dead here at home. While Trump claims the coronavirus was a "surprise," we've now learned that as early as January, intelligence professionals were sounding the alarm.

Read the full THINK article here. 

Trump lashes out at GM, Ford over ventilators

President Donald Trump lashed out at Ford and General Motors in a Friday morning tweet, blaming them for not gearing up production of medical supplies quickly enough.

GM sold the Lordstown plant last November.

GM and Ford both announced earlier this month that they are working with medical suppliers to help ramp up production of medical gear. 

GM responded to Trump's tweet by pointing out in a statement it is “taking aggressive steps” to speed up production of ventilators by Washington-based Ventec Life Systems, while also converting a GM plant in Kokomo, Indiana, to have it ready to start shipping additional ventilators “as soon as next month.”

Ford this week announced it will work with 3M and GE Healthcare for production of medical supplies, hoping to have several hundred thousand ventilators ready by June. It has already delivered a first batch of masks.

Apple launches its own COVID-19 screening app

Apple has released its own app to push authoritative information on COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The app includes a screening tool that asks users a series of questions to help people know what they should do to help themselves or loved ones if they are feeling ill.

"The COVID-19 app, built in partnership with the CDC, has up-to-date information from trusted sources and a screening tool to find out what you should do next," Apple said on its website.

Coronavirus in juvenile detention is a ‘nightmare scenario,’ doctors and advocates say

Illustration of children in masks at a juvenile detention center looking out from cell door windows.
Anuj Shrestha / for NBC News

The coronavirus pandemic has spurred a flurry of activity to release children from juvenile detention centers. Doctors, youth advocates and former probation and detention officials say it's the only way to prevent an outbreak.

At the New Orleans juvenile detention center, children have expressed fears of getting sick, said Christy Sampson-Kelly, an administrator for the center's school. 

"They're worried about being left behind," she said. "They're an afterthought. I think in the efforts to slow down the virus and be responsible, we just said, 'Kids, stay home,' but no one thought about our kids."

Read the full story here. 

Dyson designs new ventilator to help COVID-19 patients

Image: A graphic representation of CoVent ventilator designed by Dyson
A graphic representation of the new CoVent ventilator designed by Dyson.Dyson / via Reuters


Several companies around the world are trying to make ventilators, but it takes time.

At Dyson, the British company best known for making vacuums, a team of engineers has been working on a design for the last 10 days since receiving a request for help from Britain Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Billionaire inventor James Dyson told his staff the device would draw on technology used in the company's air purifier ranges and is powered by a digital motor. Britain wants to increase the availability of ventilators from 8,000 to 30,000.

'Praying for Laura': Tweet about 30-year-old victim strikes chord, goes viral

A man's tweet requesting prayers for a 30-year-old coronavirus victim went viral Friday, inspiring thousands of tweets with the phrase "Praying for Laura."

The man, author Jonathan Merritt, said his friend, whom he identified only as "Laura from NYC," was diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Merritt said Laura is on a ventilator in intensive care "fighting for her life."

"She is only 30," he wrote in his tweet Thursday night. "Please pray for her."

His post had upward of 10,000 retweets as of Friday morning and more than 70,000 likes.

Read the full story here.

Bishops tell faithful they don't have to give up meat on Lenten Fridays

Some Roman Catholic bishops around the country are relieving the faithful of the need to give up meat on Fridays as they are already deprived of some foods and other pleasures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Catholics are instructed not to eat meat on Ash Wednesday, when Lent begins, and all Fridays.

Some bishops are telling parishioners that they've given up enough as the pandemic denies them of gatherings, outside entertainment and everyday conveniences. Others loosened the guidance because many foods are hard to come by on picked-over grocery shelves and going out to shop for specific foods could jeopardize people's health.

Read the full story here.

Death toll hits more than 500 in New York, Cuomo says

New York's coronavirus death toll has topped more than 500 — about half of all deaths linked to COVID-19 in the U.S., Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday.

"This is a different beast than we're used to dealing with," Cuomo said, speaking from the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan, which has been turned into a field hospital.

The deaths in New York climbed to 519, a nearly 35 percent increase from Thursday. Cuomo said he expects the number to grow as people who have been on ventilators for a long period succumb to the virus. He also said:

  • The number of positive cases is at 44,635, up 20 percent from Thursday. The total in New York City is 25,398, up 22 percent.
  • There are 6,481 hospitalized in the state, up from 1,042 a week ago. But Cuomo said hospitalizations are doubling every four days instead of every 2.5 days, showing a possible slow down is occurring.
  • New York public schools will remain closed for an additional two more weeks until at least April 15, after Cuomo initially gave an April 1 deadline to reassess the situation.
  • Aside from temporary field hospitals in Manhattan, Westchester County and Long Island, he's planning for similar field hospitals in New York City's other four boroughs.

Instacart workers plan a national 'emergency' walkout

Instacart workers announced Friday that they will hold a national "emergency" walkout on Monday, accusing the company of failing to take proper safety precautions and not honoring its promise to pay workers for 14 days if they are diagnosed with the coronavirus or subjected to quarantine.  

The announcement, which was posted to Medium, said workers will not return to work until their demands for safety precautions, hazard pay and an "extension and expansion of pay" for workers affected by coronavirus are met. 

"This is an extraordinary time in history, and as Shoppers, those of us who are able — and have the means to protect ourselves — do want to help those in our community by delivering groceries and supplies," the post read. "But with Instacart neglecting the basic wellbeing of its 150,000+ drivers, we believe there is no choice but to not only walk off, but to raise awareness to the company’s practices." 

Instacart did not immediately respond to NBC News' request for comment.

Morning roundup of coronavirus coverage

The four possible timelines for life returning to normal [The Atlantic]

A Twitch streamer is exposing coronavirus scams live [Wired]

Need tips on social distancing? This guy's been doing it for almost 50 years. [KUNC in Northern Colorado]

South Africa struggles to adapt to lockdown

Suspects are lined up against a wall as a member of the South African Police Service wearing gloves arrests them because they defied the lockdown order during an operation in the Johannesburg CBD on Friday.Michele Spatari / AFP - Getty Images

South Africans struggled to adapt to new confinement rules Friday, with many city streets no less crowded than normal as a strict lockdown regime took effect. This came as the country recorded its first two deaths from the virus Thursday, with the number of confirmed cases above 1,000, according to Reuters.

The 21-day lockdown — which is among Africa's strictest — came into force at midnight. It restricts people to their homes for most activities including exercise, only permitting excursions for buying food or for health emergencies.

While streets in the more affluent parts of Johannesburg appeared quiet, large crowds continued to gather in other poor townships, where cramped conditions hinder social distancing among people reliant on an ailing public health system.

Many are also too poor to weather the associated economic fallout: “I don’t have money, now I am thinking what should I do? Because of this, I will be stuck in the house with my babies and everyone and my wife,” street vendor Godfrey Thula told Reuters in downtown Johannesburg.

Photos: Matterhorn lights up with messages of solidarity

Image: Matterhorn
The iconic Matterhorn mountain is illuminated by Swiss light artist Gerry Hofstetter aiming to send messages of hope, support and solidarity to the ones sufferings from the global coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic in the alpine resort of Zermatt, Switzerland, on Thursday. Local officials in the nearby town of Zermatt authorized Hofstetter to splash the Alpine peak each night with words and images of encouragement and inspiration.Valentin Flauraud / Keystone via AP

Dow plunges by 900 points as questions rise over passage of $2 trillion relief package

 Stocks tanked on Friday as the fate of the $2 trillion economic relief package suddenly came into question overnight.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by around 900 points at the opening bell, with the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq down by around 3 percent each.

Members of Congress were scrambling to get back to Washington, D.C., late on Thursday due to fears the bill might not pass by the voice vote planned for Friday after being advised the measure could require an in-person vote instead.

Optimism that the vote would pass had carried stocks into a three-day rally, despite Thursday's staggering unemployment numbers that surpassed 3.2 million.

All three major averages are now down more than 20 percent from recent highs, as investors flee the markets in favor of cash safety such as money market funds.

Italy will not 'loosen the containment measures' after cases slow down

While new cases of COVID-19 in Italy showed some signs of slowing last week, "let us not delude ourselves that we can loosen the containment measures," Silvio Brusaferro, president of the Italian Institute of Health, said — referring to strict lockdown measures imposed across the country — in an online conference Friday. 

"There are areas of the country where the virus circulation is strong — in Lombardy, part of Piedmont and Veneto,” he added.

Italy remains Europe's worst hit country with over 80,000 cases across the country. More than 8,000 people have died as of Friday.

In Iran, false belief that a poison fights the coronavirus kills hundreds

Standing over the still body of an intubated 5-year-old boy wearing nothing but a plastic diaper, an Iranian health care worker in a hazmat suit and mask begged the public for just one thing: Stop drinking industrial alcohol over fears about the coronavirus outbreak.

The boy, now blind after his parents gave him toxic methanol in the mistaken belief it protects against the virus, is just one of hundreds of victims of poisoning inside the pandemic now gripping Iran.

As the country battles the worst outbreak in the region, Iranian media reports nearly 300 people have been killed and more than 1,000 sickened so far by ingesting methanol across the country. It comes as fake remedies spread across social media in Iran, where people remain deeply suspicious of the government after it downplayed the crisis for days before it overwhelmed the country.

Photo: Police enforce stay-at-home order in Uganda

Image: A police officer chases street vendors in Kampala, Uganda,
A police officer chases street vendors in Kampala, Uganda on Thursday, after Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni directed the public to stay home for 32 days.AFP - Getty Images

Pompeo announces $274 million in emergency humanitarian funding

Secretary Mike Pompeo announced Thursday evening that the U.S. has made nearly $274 million in emergency health and humanitarian funding available to assist in fighting the global coronavirus outbreak.

“Today’s $274 million will provide resources to 64 of the world’s most at-risk countries to better combat the pandemic and enable the UN High Commissioner on Refugees to assist some of the world’s most vulnerable populations,” the statement said.

These new pledges include nearly $100 million in emergency health assistance, Pompeo announced, saying that “the American people continue to lead in responding to this pandemic.”

There are now more than 500,000 recorded cases of coronavirus around the world.

Trump says NY doesn't need 30,000 ventilators as Cuomo claimed

President Donald Trump on Thursday night questioned New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's claim that his state needs 30,000 ventilators to treat patients hospitalized with the coronavirus.

"I don't believe you need 40,000 or 30,000 ventilators,” Trump said in a phone interview on Fox News with Sean Hannity’s show. “You know, you go into major hospitals sometimes and they'll have two ventilators. Now all of a sudden they're saying, 'Can we order 30,000 ventilators?'"

Earlier this week, Cuomo said that New York needed 30,000 ventilators to help keep patients who've suffered from severe cases of COVID-19 alive. 

During the interview, Trump also criticized Michigan's Democratic governor, Gretchen Whitmer, saying that he's having a problem with her. 

"I've asked repeatedly and respectfully for help," Whitmer responded on Twitter. "We need it. No more political attacks, just PPEs, ventilators, N95 masks, test kits. You said you stand with Michigan — prove it."

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tests positive for coronavirus

Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for coronavirus, he announced in a tweet Friday morning.

“Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus,” he wrote, adding that he was “now self isolating.”

He said that he would continue lead his government’s response to the epidemic via video-conference.

The U.K.'s Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock also tested positive on Friday.

Read the full story here.

Global coronavirus cases top 500,000 as U.S. passes China

The United States is leading the world in the number of coronavirus cases as of Friday with 85,707 people sick, according to tracking by NBC News — a toll that surpasses the caseload in China where the pandemic ignited in December.

The number of deaths has also risen to 1,268, with New York being the worst hit, accounting for 433 of those killed by COVID-19.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases worldwide has soared to 533,416 with the death toll reaching 24,082 as of 4:15 am ET, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

Read the full story here.

France's Macron says he and Trump are preparing coronavirus initiative

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted late Thursday that he had a "very good discussion" with President Donald Trump, and that they "are preparing with other countries a new strong initiative in the coming days."

The tweet didn't give further details on the initiative. 

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned residents Friday that "we are settling in a crisis that will hold." He added that the epidemic will soon hit Paris and the surrounding region. 

France's initial 15-day lockdown period is set to end Saturday. Philippe said he would hold a press conference Saturday to announce the country's strategy and plans going forward. The president of the French Hospital Federation warned that some Paris hospitals would soon reach capacity, and called for the transfer of patients to less affected regions.

At least 44 health workers in Italy have died from coronavirus

At least 44 health workers in Italy have died of the coronavirus as of Friday and the number is rising rapidly, according to the Italian Federation of Doctors.

The huge number of infections — now over 80,000 across the country — has overwhelmed hospitals particularly in the region of Lombardy. More than 8,000 people have died in Italy.

Health workers across the country have taken selfies of their faces, bruised from constantly wearing the personal protective equipment they need to protect themselves.

Britons coughing at emergency workers could face jail

Anyone claiming to have coronavirus who deliberately coughs at emergency workers faces being jailed for two years, Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions Max Hill said on Thursday.

Hill said he was “appalled” there had been reports in recent days of people deliberately coughing in the faces of police, other emergency workers and shop staff by people claiming to have COVID-19 infections. Those responsible could face charges of common assault he said.

On Friday, the London Metropolitan Police Service called on retired officers — as well as those nearing retirement — to consider returning to or staying on the force, as the city tries to cope with the virus outbreak.

The British government announced a three-week lockdown on Monday, as the virus infected more than 11,000 people in the country as of Friday.

Britain claps for health care workers in mass applause

People across the U.K. gathered on their doorsteps and balconies on Thursday night to show their appreciation to the country’s health workers.

From apartment blocks to 10 Downing Street, well-wishers paid tribute to all the staff in the National Health Service. Even the royal family got in on the action, with staff at Windsor Castle coming out to applaud and Prince William's children, George, Charlotte and Louis clapping on a video shared on social media.

Along with the applause, buildings across the country were lit up with blue lights in tribute to those working within the NHS and emergency services. One paramedic team was driving their ambulance down a residential street at the time of the applause, and flashed their lights in appreciation, while in Yeovil Hospital ICU doctors took time to applaud their colleagues.

The British government announced a three-week lockdown on Monday intended to slow the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 11,000 people and killed 578.

Mexican zoo names new baby tiger 'Covid'

Image: A private Mexican zoo in Cordoba named a Bengal tiger cub Covid after the illness caused by the coronavirus.
A private Mexican zoo in Cordoba named its latest addition, a Bengal tiger cub, Covid after the illness caused by the coronavirus.Sofia Dorantes / Reuters

The birth of a baby tiger called "Covid" has brought a glimmer of hope to a private zoo in eastern Mexico, even as normal life slows down to contain the deadly coronavirus that inspired his name.

Named by the family that owns the zoo, Bengal tiger Covid was born on March 14 in the city of Cordoba in a small zoo that specializes in rescuing animals from circuses and exotic private collections.

"He's going to have a big impact because the situation right now is difficult for everyone, even for us," Kitzia Rodriguez, daughter of the zoo owner and a vet there, told Reuters. "But I think the birth, in spite of the situation, will help us and gives us hope to carry on, so we can have visitors. Covid was a gift."

In Tokyo, face masks are a must-wear for commuters

Image: Commuters in Japan wear face masks on Thursday.
Commuters wear face masks as they make their way to work on Thursday in Tokyo, Japan. The city's Governor Yuriko Koike requested that residents stay inside this weekend after 41 cases of new coronavirus were confirmed. She warned that Tokyo, one of the largest and most densely populated cities on earth, could face a lockdown if there is a surge in new cases.Tomohiro Ohsumi / Getty Images

Trump speaks to China's Xi about coronavirus

President Donald Trump tweeted early Friday that he had a "very good conversation" with China's President Xi Jinping, and that the two leaders discussed the coronavirus pandemic and are working closely together.

State-run Xinhua reported that the two leaders had spoken. 

Trump has repeatedly called the coronavirus the "Chinese virus," even though the World Health Organization in 2015 said that diseases should not be named based on geographic locations. The outbreak began in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Trump this week seemed to back off from the term. Trump was asked about the change in language Thursday and said that the virus did come from China but "I think it was time" and that "I don't have to say it, if they feel so strongly about it."

Montana governor latest to tell residents to stay home to slow spread of virus

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock issued a stay-at-home directive Thursday, which his office says requires residents to remain in their homes as much as possible and for nonessential businesses to temporarily close in order to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Montana has 90 cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19, many of them in Gallatin and Yellowstone counties, which is where Bozeman and Billings are located, respectively. The order goes into effect Saturday.

Bullock also announced Thursday that the state has seen its first death related to the illness.

Like other orders around the country, essential businesses like grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open and residents are allowed to leave to go shopping, take walks or other outdoor exercise or to walk dogs, and to care for loved ones, among other activities.

Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy to arrive in Los Angeles Friday

The Navy hospital ship USNS Mercy is expected to arrive in Los Angeles on Friday to support medical systems amid the coronavirus epidemic.

President Donald Trump on March 18 said two hospital ships — the other is the USNS Comfort, which departs Virginia for New York City on Saturday — would be deployed to help in the outbreak.

The Mercy set sail from San Diego this week. The Defense Department says the ship can hold up to 1,000 hospital beds, which will reduce the burden on regular hospitals that have to handle COVID-19 patients.

COVID-19 is the illness caused by the coronavirus. In Los Angeles County, the number of cases grew to 1,216 Thursday, including 21 people who have died, the health department said. There had been 559 new cases confirmed in the past 48 hours, and the department said the large increase was in part due to greater testing capacity that is allowing officials to identify cases.