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Senate passes coronavirus aid package as U.S. deaths top 1,000

“We may well be in a recession,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in an exclusive interview on the "TODAY" show Thursday.
Image: The final vote of 96-0 shows passage of the $2.2 trillion economic rescue package in response to coronavirus pandemic, passed by the Senate at the U.S. Capitol
The final vote of 96-0 shows passage of the $2 trillion economic rescue package in response to coronavirus pandemic, passed by the Senate at the U.S. Capitol, Wednesday.Senate Television / AP

Good morning, NBC News readers.

The Senate voted unanimously to pass a massive $2 trillion economic aid package as the U.S. reached a grim milestone with the number of coronavirus deaths topping 1,000.

Here's what we're watching this Thursday morning.

Senate approves $2 trillion stimulus package

The Senate overwhelmingly passed a massive stimulus package late Wednesday 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 Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said would not vote until Friday.

The legislation — the largest economic aid measure enacted in modern U.S. history — can't come soon enough.

The number of deaths linked to coronavirus in the U.S. passed 1,000 on Thursday, according to a count by NBC News.

New York continues to be the state hardest hit by the virus with at least 334 deaths linked to COVID-19 as of Thursday morning.

"We still have the trajectory going up. We have not turned the trajectory, nor have we hit the apex," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news briefing Wednesday.

And the pandemic is continuing to put an unprecedented strain on the U.S. economy, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Thursday in an exclusive interview with Savannah Guthrie on the "TODAY" show.

“We may well be in a recession,” Powell said, in the rare live interview. “But I would point to the difference between this and a normal recession. There is not anything fundamentally wrong with our economy."

Get all the latest updates in our live blog.

Uninsured essential workers face a deadly pandemic without aid

There are nearly 30 million people in the U.S. living without insurance, and the stress of being hospitalized because of the pandemic is immense.

To add insult to injury, many members of the working poor without insurance also make up the workforce now deemed "essential" in this crisis: cashiers, stock clerks, agricultural workers, delivery drivers, elderly caregivers, child care workers, health care workers and gas station clerks.

Now doctors and clinics who treat these patients are sounding the alarm that the nation’s working poor may be forced to make a difficult calculus if they test positive for the disease that is sweeping across the United States.

"This outbreak is going to bring to light and highlight really strongly the types of disparities and the gaps in our health care system that leave people vulnerable," said one expert.

'Our worst-case scenario': Top hospital forced to raid its emergency stockpile ahead of coronavirus peak

Earlier this month, the top officials at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston were modeling scenarios for a possible coronavirus pandemic.

The emergency response team was meeting daily. The staff were receiving accelerated training on how to safely put on and remove protective equipment. The hospital even had a backup plan — an "Indiana Jones-style" secret warehouse stocked with medical supplies — meant to buffer supply chain gaps at the peak of an outbreak.

Now, three weeks later, the peak has not yet arrived, and the hospital is already being pushed to the brink.

"Almost everything in this outbreak has come faster than we were expecting," Dr. Paul Biddinger, Mass General's chief of emergency preparedness, told NBC News on Monday.

"We have best-case and worst-case scenarios," Biddinger said. "I would say this is following our worst-case scenario in terms of how fast this is evolving. ... And that's not good."

As Florida coronavirus cases surge, spring breakers express regret

Students who once brushed off the threat of the coronavirus as they partied on the beaches of Florida are now expressing their guilt as the United States hurtles toward becoming the new hot spot of the global coronavirus pandemic.

Florida took sharp criticism for its refusal to close beaches as other states were shutting down nonessential businesses, causing many to ask: Do spring breakers deserve blame for their blasé attitudes, or is the state's government at fault for not communicating the severity of the crisis?

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THINK about it

Trump and Tehran are playing coronavirus chicken. People will die as a result, Hadi Ghaemi, founder and executive director of the Center for Human Rights in Iran, writes in an opinion piece.


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One kind thing

The coronavirus pandemic is forcing older Americans to cut themselves off from family, friends and social activities. And for many, the isolation is taking its toll.

In our house, we've been trying to make daily video calls to my octogenarian parents and father-in-law. My five-year-old daughter singing a medley of Beatles hits to my 81-year-old mother the other day seemed to cheer her quite a bit.

One group of kids from Long Island, New York, have organized their effort to bring some joy to local seniors who are stuck inside because of the coronavirus.

Through a program they created called "Made You Smile," the children are sending handmade pictures and videos of themselves singing to their older neighbors.

Every little bit counts.

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Be safe and stay healthy, Petra Cahill