China is no longer the global leader in cases of the virus that originated on its soil. The United States, with about one-fourth the number of people of the world's most populous country, overtook China and Italy in confirmed coronavirus cases on Thursday.
That dubious distinction took place as jobless claims smashed a record and U.S. deaths neared 1,300 as the coronavirus tightened its grip on America. Still, the prospect of a stimulus package soon becoming reality helped propel a third consecutive stock market rally.
Despite the continued increase in cases of COVID-19, President Donald Trump repeated his recent message that the country needs to get back to work.
“The mortality rate is way, way down,” Trump said. “The people that actually die, that percentage is much lower than I expected.”
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 Friday. Swift passage was expected — after an initial hangup, the package flew through the Senate on Wednesday night by a vote of 96-0. Trump has expressed a willingness to sign the measure.
Confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. had surpassed 85,000 by early Friday, leading to 1,296 deaths. The global death toll was more than 24,000, with confirmed cases over 532,000, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
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US becomes world leader in COVID-19 cases, surpassing China and Italy
The U.S. surged past China and Italy to become the planet's most infected nation Thursday, a stark milestone in the coronavirus era — and a reminder of its deadly, culture-changing effects on American life.
Part of the reason for the nation's top ranking is cause and effect: The U.S. has drastically ramped up its testing protocols to identify infected people and those who may be carriers of the virus. As testing has increased, so has the number of confirmed cases.
But the new numbers also reflect a slow roll-out of the measures to combat the virus, especially an initial lack of testing capabilities that left officials unable to identify how quickly the disease was spreading and where to focus resources.
– Mike James
American Airlines flight attendant, 65, dies of coronavirus
Paul Frishkorn, a Philadelphia-based American Airlines flight attendant and union representative, has died from coronavirus, the flight attendants union confirmed Thursday.
"It is with deep sadness we report that one of our own … has passed away from Covid-19," Lori Bassani, president of the Association of Professional Flight Attendants, which represents 27,000 flight attendants at American Airlines, said in a statement.
Frishkorn, 65, was described as a tireless advocate for the flight attendant corps who was spending time in the Philadelphia crew room "answering questions and assisting our members through this difficult time" before he fell ill, according to the statement.
Speaking by phone to USA TODAY, Bassani said that Frishkorn's death has increased the already deep concern for flight attendants working amid the highly contagious virus.
"When this hits one of your own, it sheds a whole new light on the coronavirus," said Bassani. "This does spread more fear among our ranks. This is a killer virus, unlike any we have experienced."
– Bryan Alexander
Death rate in New Orleans soars; city could become next epicenter
The number of known coronavirus cases in Louisiana jumped to 2,305 on Thursday, an increase of 510 cases from Wednesday, and a total of 83 deaths, according to the Louisiana Department of Health. Nearly half of Louisiana's cases -- 997 -- came from New Orleans.
Throngs of revelers may have brought the coronavirus to New Orleans during Mardi Gras celebrations.
But the city’s poverty rate, lack of healthcare and affordable housing, coupled with high rates of residents with preexisting medical conditions, may be driving its explosive growth and could make it the next U.S. epicenter of the outbreak.
The city reported Thursday that a 17-year-old teen died after contracting the virus, bringing the city's coronavirus death tally to 46 — more than half of the state's total death count.
New Orleans Homeland Security Director Collin Arnold said hospital capacity in the New Orleans region is dwindling and the city will need additional hospital beds within weeks.
– Rick Jervis, Maria Clark and Lorenzo Reyes
3 migrant children in US custody test positive for coronavirus in New York
Three unaccompanied minor children in U.S. custody in New York have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said Thursday.
The children, whose ages and nationalities weren't released, are in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The office is responsible for housing migrant minors.
The agency said it is doing an evaluation of the children and will not release them from New York care provider facilities. It has stopped placements of unaccompanied minor children in the states of California, New York, and Washington, which have been the hardest hit by the coronavirus. With more than 30,000 cases in New York, the state has become the epicenter of the coronavirus epidemic in the United States.
– Monsy Alvarado, NorthJersey.com
Stimulus package checks up to $1,200 for most Americans expected soon
The House is expected to vote Friday on the stimulus package and passage would send the legislation to President Donald Trump for his signature. Once signed, it is expected money will be distributed in the next three weeks.
Highlights of the bill include direct payments of up to $1,200 for most individuals and $2,400 for most married couples filing jointly, with an extra $500 for each child.
Here's how you can calculate the amount of stimulus money your household can expect.
Unemployment insurance benefits would be expanded, increasing the maximum benefit by $600 a week for up to four months. Benefits would be available to workers who are part-time, self-employed or part of the gig economy. People who are still unemployed after state benefits end could get an additional 13 weeks of help. Food assistance programs would get a boost, and homeowners with federally backed mortgages would be protected from foreclosures for as long as 180 days. Students with federal loans could suspend payments until October.
– Maureen Groppe and Ledyard King
US stocks surge for third day in a row despite 'horrible' unemployment news
U.S. stocks notched their first three-day rally in six weeks on hopes that Congress will quickly approve a coronavirus rescue package for the economy while the outbreak in China is showing signs that it has been largely contained.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 1,351.62 points, or 6.4%, to close at 22,552.17. The blue-chip average has advanced more than 20% over the past three days, its biggest three-day gain since 1931. The Standard & Poor’s 500 added 6.2% to finish at 2,630.07.
The gains came despite the daunting number of claims following a wave of layoffs from the coronavirus pandemic.
"Record unemployment data is horrible news, but we knew it was going to be terrible," said Joe Conroy, founder of Maryland-based Harford Retirement Planners. "Most people agree that we’re in a recession. What's helped prop up the market are signs that China is starting to contain the virus."
– Jessica Menton
Record 3.3 million Americans apply for unemployment benefits amid coronavirus
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, 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 scale back service – and lay off staff.
– Paul Davidson
Dr. Anthony Fauci goes live on Instagram with NBA star Steph Curry
In what is arguably the most important play of his 11-year pro basketball career, Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors hosted Dr. Anthony Fauci on a Thursday Instagram Live video.
Nearly 50,000 viewers tuned in — including former President Barack Obama, pop star Justin Bieber, rapper Common and former teammates Andre Iguodala and Leandro Barbosa. More will likely watch the archived version. Either way, they will have witnessed something that does not usually match what they see on social media.
For nearly 28 minutes, Curry asked Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, questions about COVID-19, testing and social distancing. Fauci gave precise answers to all of them.
Fauci explained the difference between the flu and the coronavirus, which he considered "much more serious." Although young people are not as vulnerable to COVID-19, Fauci argued they should still follow social distancing rules because of the rare chance they could become ill and the likely chance they could pass the virus to someone older. Fauci predicted that large events, including the NBA season, will not take place until "the country as a whole is turning that corner."
Fauci has been a popular TV guest this week, and is scheduled to appear on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah late Thursday night. Earlier Thursday, he spoke to CNN's Anderson Cooper during the network's coronavirus town hall, explaining that Trump's desire to open the country by Easter was an "aspiration projection." Fauci added that Trump is listening to medical experts, including Fauci, and understands they have to evaluate the virus's impact "in real time."
– Mark Medina
Death toll rises in New York
One hundred people in New York state died Wednesday from the coronavirus, the state's single deadliest day since the virus at the center of a global pandemic first hit, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The surge of deaths pushed New York's total count to 385 since the beginning of March, when the state found its first confirmed case of COVID-19.
New York remains the epicenter of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak with 37,258 confirmed cases – almost half of the national total as of Thursday afternoon. Cuomo said the outbreak's peak in the state is still at least two weeks away, and the state was battling to make room in hospitals and obtain ventilators.
"I don’t want to sugarcoat the situation," Cuomo said. "The situation is not easy. But easy times don’t forge character. It’s the tough times that forge character.”
– Joseph Spector
Is Florida the next New York?
Florida has come under fire after its beaches remained jammed with spring breakers last week, and Gov. Ron DeSantis has ignored calls to issue a statewide shelter-in-place order.
That may contribute to the state becoming the next hot spot for COVID-19, a chilling possibility considering the elderly are the most likely to die from the disease and Florida is home to nearly four million people 65 and over, the second-highest number in the U.S. behind California.
Hospitals and doctors around the state say they still don't have nearly enough testing kits and can't get the ones they have analyzed fast enough, echoing complaints from state health officials across the country. Health officials have completed 27,000 tests so far in Florida, while New York is doing more than 18,000 tests a day.
– Alan Gomez
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot: 40,000 coronavirus hospitalizations expected
Mayor Lori Lightfoot implored Chicago residents to “stay home, save lives” in an address to the city, warning there could be tens of thousands of hospitalizations in the coming weeks.
"We could be expecting upwards of 40,000 hospitalizations in the coming weeks,'' Lightfoot said. "Not 40,000 cases, but 40,000 people who require acute care in a hospital setting. That number will break our healthcare system.”
Crowds of hundreds of people have been seen congregating along the city’s lakefront in recent days, which a fiery Lightfoot called a “blatant violation” of Illinois’s stay-at-home order. She warned future violators would be arrested and Thursday closed the city’s lakefront trail, 606 trail and Riverwalk, along with adjacent parks and beaches.
President Donald Trump on Thursday approved a major disaster declaration for Illinois, freeing federal funding.
– Grace Hauck
Tesla to make ventilators; hockey helmet firm to make face masks
Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the company's solar-panel factory in Buffalo, New York, 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. Cuomo said the state, which has about 12,000 ventilators, may need as many as 40,000 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 make products like masks and shields for medical professionals.
– Joseph Spector and Chris Bumbaca
2-month-old Tennessean tests positive for COVID-19, has mild symptoms
A 2-month-old who has tested positive for COVID-19 in Nashville could be the youngest pandemic patient in the nation, officials say. City health officials said metro Nashville had 36 new cases in 24 hours. Alex Jahangir, the city's coronavirus task force chair, said the infant has mild symptoms and is home "doing well."
Children appear to be at lower risk for the harshest effects of COVID-19 than adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but they are not immune to the disease.
– Yihyun Jeong
More coronavirus news, tips and information from USA TODAY:
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- The sports betting industry could be forever changed by the disruption of the coronavirus in Las Vegas.
- 'It scares me to death':Coronavirus cases could soar in these US counties with high populations of senior citizens.
- A visual guide:The $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package.
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Contributing: The Associated Press