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COVID-19

As a global pandemic takes hold, more people are turning to Facebook in search of news about the coronavirus.

But the traffic load on the social media platform is also testing its ability to crack down on a spike in virus-related misinformation. Users are being confronted with phony cures and conspiracy theories around the virus' origin. (Note: Facebook is a financial supporter of NPR.)

The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package marks the largest rescue package in American history. President Trump announced Wednesday that it includes $300 billion in direct payments to individuals to alleviate at least a little of the financial pain caused by the deliberate near-standstill of the U.S. economy.

Updated 9:31 p.m. ET Thursday

The U.S. now has more coronavirus cases than any other country in the world, surpassing China's total and highlighting how rapidly the virus can move through a population.

The U.S. logged more than 83,000 cases as of 8 p.m. ET Thursday, while China reported more than 81,00 infections, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Banks are being ordered to allow people hurt financially in the coronavirus pandemic to skip mortgage payments. Some lenders are doing this for auto loans, credit cards and small business loans with no negative impact on people's credit scores.

If you're asking for this kind of help, NPR wants to hear from you.

We want to know how all of this is playing out. Are banks and other lenders working to help you? If you're a renter, is your landlord being flexible? We want to hear your experiences.

The $2 trillion emergency relief bill moving through Congress is designed to cushion the effects of the steep economic downturn caused by the pandemic — but provides little relief for immigrants.

The legislation, which provides one-time cash payments to low- and middle-income households, excludes immigrants in the country illegally as well as children who are U.S. citizens but have at least one parent who is undocumented.

The $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package marks the largest rescue package in American history. President Trump announced Wednesday that it includes $300 million in direct payments to individuals to alleviate at least a little of the financial pain caused by the deliberate near-standstill of the U.S. economy.

Among the people affected by the downturn on Wall Street are some alleged victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests.

The Diocese of Erie in northwestern Pennsylvania, identified in 2018 by the state attorney general as one of the places where clergy abuse had been especially egregious, has announced that it is suspending the processing of victim claims in response to what it calls the "economic turmoil" brought about by the coronavirus.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee looks at a graph of the latest coronavirus cases for his state and sees reason for hope. The line is still rising, but not as steeply as before.

"It is a glimmer of hope," he says. "It's suggestive that some of the things we are doing together is having some modest improvement."

But for every note of optimism, the governor adds twice as much caution.

With mass closings of theaters and museums, cancellations or postponements of exhibitions, concerts, dance performances and more, the arts industry is in "economic freefall" due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the advocacy group Americans For The Arts.

Post updated 8:15 a.m. March 27, to reflect that the abstract in PubMed has been marked retracted.

When asked why the United States didn't import coronavirus tests when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ran into difficulty developing its own, government officials have frequently questioned the quality of the foreign-made alternatives.

But NPR has learned that the key study they point to was retracted just days after it was published online in early March.

A political twist in Israel may help the embattled prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, stay in power.

After three inconclusive elections, the right wing Netanyahu and his centrist rival Benny Gantz are reportedly close to a deal to rotate as prime minister, with Netanyahu taking the first turn.

Iran is dealing with one of the worst outbreaks of the coronavirus in the world, with a death toll surpassing 2,200 people. But getting help into the country is hindered both by a truculent Iranian leadership and strong U.S. sanctions.

Two U.S. officials tell NPR that the Pentagon is expected to send 1,500 troops to the nation's borders with Canada and Mexico to assist Customs and Border Protection operations as the coronavirus death toll tops 1,100 in the United States.

On weekday evenings, sisters Lesley Laine and Lisa Ingle stage online happy hours from the Southern California home they share. It's something they've been enjoying with local and faraway friends during this period of social distancing and self-isolation. And on a recent evening, I shared a toast with them.

Updated at 6:37 p.m. ET

President Trump told governors his administration is working on publishing guidelines for state and local governments to use to determine whether to increase or relax social distancing rules to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

The announcement came ahead of the White House's regular news conference on its response to the pandemic.

When our bodies are invaded by a virus, our immune systems make particular proteins called antibodies to help fight off infection.

Scientists working to quell the COVID-19 pandemic think it will be possible to figure out which antibodies are most potent in quashing a coronavirus infection, and then make vast quantities of identical copies of these proteins synthetically.

For 6-year-old Sadie Hernandez, the first day of online school started at her round, wooden kitchen table in Jacksonville, Fla. She turned on an iPad and started talking to her first grade teacher, Robin Nelson.

"Are you ready to do this online stuff?" her teacher asks, in a video sent to NPR by Hernandez's mother, Audrey.

"Yeah," Sadie responds.
"It's kind of scary isn't it?"
"Kind of."

"We are at war with a virus that threatens to tear us apart," World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told world leaders Thursday, in a special virtual summit on the COVID-19 pandemic.

The deadly coronavirus, Tedros said, "is the defining health crisis of our time."

UMS
University Musical Society / ums.org

Another impact of the current health pandemic is on our cultural life.  In this edition of "Art and Soul," WEMU’s Lisa Barry talks with Matthew VanBesien, president of the University Musical Society at the University of Michigan, about what they’ve had to do in light of COVID-19 and orders to stay home and social distance from each other.


Roughly 50,000 Instagram viewers got a taste of what a White House briefing from the coronavirus task force would be like if only the doctor, not President Trump, answered questions.

Festifools
Myra Klarman / WonderFool Productions

This would have been the 14th year artists, musicians, and local politicians paraded through the streets of downtown Ann Arbor amidst an array of giant, colorful, paper mache expressions.  But this year, due to social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19, the in-person event scheduled for April 5th will not be taking place.

WEMU's Lisa Barry talks with the founder of FestiFools and FoolMoon, Mark Tucker, about another plan he has come up with to have a "Virtual FestiFools," so people have something to watch on their own.


Amazon has closed a warehouse in Shepherdsville, Ky., until April 1, after several workers there tested positive for the coronavirus — the first prolonged closure of a facility confirmed by the company.

Workers in at least 10 other warehouses across the country have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting shorter temporary closures for sanitation and cleaning.

Washtenaw County Health Department

The Washtenaw County Health Department has issued an order to protect essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis.  WEMU's Jorge Avellan has the story.


First it was commercial cruise ships that became floating petri dishes for the coronavirus.

Now the U.S. Navy's nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has been diverted to the U.S. island territory of Guam, the first American warship to have confirmed cases of COVID-19.

The Navajo Nation reported its first two coronavirus cases on March 17. Just over a week later, there are now 69 cases. The reservation is under stay-at-home orders — but thousands of people must regularly leave their houses for necessities such as water.

A record 3.3 million people filed for initial unemployment benefits last week, with millions more anticipated in coming weeks. All this has put a huge strain on state employment agencies, so experts say persistence is key to getting those benefits.

Normally, eligible workers can apply for such benefits through their state offices online, by phone, or in person. But now, some websites are crashing, call-in lines are busy, and — obviously — offices are closed to the public.

President Trump said in a letter to U.S. governors on Thursday that his administration is working to publish new guidelines for state and local governments to use when making decisions about "maintaining, increasing or relaxing social distancing and other mitigation measures" for the coronavirus epidemic.

Trump said officials are gathering testing data that will suggest guidelines categorizing counties as "high risk, medium risk or low risk" for the virus. The data will drive "the next phase" of the response, he said.

If you don't already have a REAL ID-compliant drivers license or ID, you have an additional year to get one before you probably need it to board a domestic flight.

The Dept. of Homeland Security has pushed back the enforcement deadline from Oct. 1, 2020 to Oct. 1, 2021 in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

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