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Coronavirus live updates: Unemployment claims smash record; US deaths top 1,000; $2 trillion stimulus near – USA TODAY

Jobless claims smashed a record, U.S deaths surged past 1,000 and those $1,200 stimulus checks were inching closer to America’s mailboxes Thursday as coronavirus tightened its grip on America.

The Labor Department, in announcing the unemployment claims numbers for last week, said what Americans already knew – that layoffs hit the hospitality and food service industries particularly hard. Other industries that struggled included health care and social assistance, arts, entertainment and recreation, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing industries, Labor said.

Congress was trying to supply a ray of hope. The House is scheduled to take up a Senate-passed, $2 trillion emergency aid proposal on Friday. Swift passage was expected – the package flew through the Senate on Wednesday night by a vote of 96-0. President Donald Trump has expressed a willingness to sign the measure. 

The stimulus comes as confirmed coronavirus cases in America closed in on 70,000, and more confirmations are expected as the U.S. ramps up testing. The global death toll was more than 21,000; total confirmed cases are approaching 500,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

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Record 3.3 million people apply for unemployment benefits

The number of Americans filing initial applications for unemployment benefits jumped nearly twelvefold to a record 3.3 million last week, the Labor Department said Thursday, offering the most vivid evidence yet of the coronavirus’s widespread damage to the economy. The total was well above the 1.5 million claims economists had forecast, according to the median estimate of those surveyed by Bloomberg.

The pandemic has set off the most abrupt near-shutdown of the economy in history. Many restaurants, shops, movie theaters, sports arenas and other gathering spots were compelled to close their doors or scaled back service – and lay off staff.

– Paul Davidson

Tesla to make respirators; hockey helmet firm to make facemasks

Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company’s solar-panel factory in Buffalo hopes to begin ventilator production “as soon as humanly possible.” Musk tweeted that ‘we will do anything in our power to help the citizens of New York.” New York actually invested $750 million to help build the plant. Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state, which owns a few thousand ventilators, needs 30,000 in the next few weeks as the coronavirus outbreak races toward its peak in the state.

And Bauer, a hockey equipment manufacturing company, said it has shifted its focus to materials such as masks and shields for medical professionals as the world fights the coronavirus pandemic. 

– Joseph Spector and Chris Bumbaca

Stocks rise for third straight day

U.S. stocks opened sharply higher Thursday, even as data revealed a record 3.3 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week. The Dow Jones industrial average rose more than 300 points, a day after the blue-chip average notched back-to-back gains for the first time since February in anticipation of fiscal stimulus from Congress. The Dow rose a stunning 11% on Tuesday and closed with solid gains again Wednesday despite.

The markets, which have seen historic declines in recent weeks, has perked up due to the $2 trillion stimulus package that won Senate approval late Wednesday. The House is expected to approve the deal overwhelmingly and President Donald Trump is expected to sign in.

– Jessica Menton

Senate passes historic $2 trillion stimulus package amid coronavirus

The Senate approved its largest emergency aid package in modern history that will offer $2 trillion to help Americans, hospitals and businesses weather the effects of the coronavirus. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., announced that the House will vote on the bill Friday.

“We expect the bill to pass by voice vote,” he said.

Among the provisions offered in the measure are one-time $1,200 checks to individuals, $367 billion in loans and grants to small businesses, over $130 billion for hospitals and community health centers and financial help to airlines and other industries hit hard by the virus. Additionally, unemployment insurance benefits will be expanded, increasing the maximum benefit by $600 a week for up to four months. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said checks could go out about three weeks after final passage, although that could be delayed.

– Christal Hayes, Maureen Groppe and Ledyard King

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13 die in 24 hours at one NYC hospital

At least 13 patients died in the span of 24 hours at one hospital in New York City, the currently the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. Elmhurst Hospital, part of the city’s public hospital system, said the 13 deaths were consistent with the number of intensive care unit patients the hospital was treating at the time.

The deaths occurred from Tuesday to Wednesday at the Queens hospital. The city has confirmed over 20,011 cases, leading to 280 deaths. “Elmhurst is at the center of this crisis,” hospital spokesperson Christopher Miller said. “It’s the No. 1 priority of our public hospital system right now.”

– Ryan W. Miller

WHO: World ‘squandered first window of opportunity’ to curb outbreak

World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus scolded world leaders for wasting precious time in the fight against the virus. He called it “public enemy No. 1” and asked countries to follow a series of protocols, including expanding training and deployment health care workers.

“The time to act was actually more than a month ago or two months ago,” he said. ”We squandered the first window of opportunity …  this is a second opportunity, which we should not squander and do everything to suppress and control this virus.”

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Prince Charles self-isolating with ‘mild symptoms’

Britain’s Prince Charles, heir to the throne, has tested positive for the coronavirus, his official royal residence said in a statement. The statement said Prince Charles, 71, has “been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health.” His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, does not have the virus, a test showed.

“In accordance with government and medical advice, the prince and the duchess are now self-isolating at home in Scotland,” the statement said.

It was not immediately clear whether Charles’ mother, Queen Elizabeth II, or her husband Prince Philip have been tested. The queen has canceled a number of diary events “as a sensible precaution” amid the outbreak, but as late as last week she was still holding “audiences” with members of the public. Britain’s monarch is 93.

– Kim Hjelmgaard

Waffle House closes more than 400 locations during coronavirus crisis

Waffle House, known for weathering many a natural disaster, said it’s closing 418 of its restaurants. The chain posted a map on social media showing the closed restaurants, while another 1,574 across the southeastern U.S. remained open.

The posts also featured the hashtag “#WaffleHouseIndexRed. The initial Facebook post drew almost 1,000 comments, most of them reflecting alarm, such as “Oh geez, now we can worry” and “It’s getting real sir.” The chain has its own “Waffle House Index” used during natural disasters to assess damage. If a store is closed, it’s likely in an area with significant damage.

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‘Twisted’ coronavirus prank destroys groceries

A woman who police say went through a Pennsylvania grocery store coughing on food will face criminal charges, the Hanover Township Police Department said. A co-owner of Gerrity’s Supermarket said he had to throw away products worth more than $35,000 because of what he called a “twisted prank” Wednesday.

On the small chain’s Facebook page, co-owner Joe Fasula said a the woman “came into the store and proceeded to purposely cough on our fresh produce, and a small section of our bakery, meat case and grocery.” Fasula said efforts were being made to have the woman tested for coronavirus. Police said the woman was undergoing a mental health evaluation.

– Jordan Culver

Student loan borrowers catch a break

Many student loan borrowers far behind on their payments will see the federal government easing collection efforts as part of its response to the financial uncertainty as the coronavirus spreads.

The federal government will no longer withhold portions of borrowers’ tax returns and Social Security payments, the Education Department said. And borrowers whose paychecks were garnished will be entitled to their full wage. Private collectors working for the government have also been told to stop collection calls and letters.

– Chris Quintana

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Contributing: The Associated Press

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