Coronavirus death toll passes 50,000 worldwide; U.S. unemployment claims explode

The global number of confirmed deaths from the coronavirus surpassed 50,000 and cases edged toward 1 million, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University, as the outbreak continued to hit the United States and Europe especially hard.

Elsewhere, officials battled to maintain earlier successes in the fight against the novel coronavirus, weighing the desire to resume normal business operations against the risk of triggering new cases.

Other developments Thursday:

— A record 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment last week, a stunning sign of an economic collapse triggered by the pandemic.

— The Democratic Party will delay its presidential nominating convention in Milwaukee from July until mid-August to increase chances the party can hold an in-person gathering. The decision to reschedule puts the gathering one week before the Republican convention in Charlotte, which is set to start Aug. 24.

— House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the creation of a select bipartisan committee to oversee the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, and its management of the new $2 trillion economic rescue package. “Where there’s money there’s also frequently mischief,” Pelosi, D-Calif., said.

— About 60% of fatalities reported worldwide have come from four European countries: Italy, Spain, France and Britain. In Spain, where the health system has been overwhelmed, officials reported 950 new coronavirus-related fatalities Thursday; Italy reported 760.

— — In China, a county of 600,000 people in Henan province has been placed on lockdown, illustrating the dangers of declaring victory too soon as authorities grow anxious to restart economic activity without unleashing a new wave of infections.

— The Coral Princess cruise ship, which told all passengers to stay in their rooms Tuesday following a “higher-than-normal number” of people reporting flu-like symptoms, has 12 positive cases of coronavirus on board.

In Washington, President Donald Trump lashed out at state leaders, saying that some have “insatiable appetites” for supplies to respond to the coronavirus outbreak and calling some “complainers.”

“Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers, are being delivered directly to states and hospitals by the Federal Government,” Trump said in tweets. “Some have insatiable appetites & are never satisfied (politics?). Remember, we are a backup for them. The complainers should have been stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit.”

His tweets come as governors express concerns about being prepared to cope with rapidly growing coronavirus cases.

In earlier tweets, Trump charged that New York “got off to a late start” in combating the outbreak, and he lashed out at Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), claiming that Schumer should have “pushed harder” to help his state.

Trump’s attack on Schumer took place shortly after a television appearance in which the senator said he plans to write to the president to call for the appointment of a “czar” to oversee the production and distribution of medical supplies under the Defense Production Act.

Democrats have assailed Trump for not making broader use of the measure, which allows him to direct private companies to manufacture products. Schumer said his preference would be a “military man.”

In his tweets, Trump said such a person is already filling that role, apparently referring to Navy Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, the head of a new federal “supply chain task force.”

“Somebody please explain to Cryin’ Charles E. Schumer that we do have a military man in charge of distributing goods,” Trump tweeted. “New York has gotten far more than any other State, including hospitals & a hospital ship, but no matter what, always complaining. … Unlike other states, New York unfortunately got off to a late start. You should have pushed harder.”

The Italian and Spanish ambassadors to the United States on Thursday reported signs of improvement in the coronavirus situation in their countries, where numbers of confirmed infections, hospitalizations and deaths remain high but are beginning to stabilize.

“These are just the first positive signs, and they have to be taken cautiously,” Italian Ambassador Armando Varricchio said. “But they show that measures taken both nationally and at the local level have started to pay off.”

Both Varricchio and Spanish Ambassador Santiago Cabanas, speaking from their Washington homes, stressed the need for international solidarity and cooperation.

Elsewhere, Ali Larijani, Iran’s parliament speaker and one of the country’s most prominent political figures, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is receiving medical treatment in quarantine, Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency reported Thursday.

Larijani, who has served as parliament speaker since 2008 and hails from a powerful political family, is among dozens of Iranian officials and lawmakers who have been infected during Iran’s outbreak, the most severe in the Middle East and among the worst in the world.

More than 50,000 people have been infected and 3,160 people have died, according to the health ministry. Among the dead are dozens of members of parliament and a senior adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In London, he British government announced its aim to carry out 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of the month, a massive boost from current levels.

The announcement follows days of mounting criticism that the British government hasn’t done enough testing, which currently runs at about 10,000 people a day. Some reports say that Germany is conducting 50,000 tests per day.

“I’m now setting the goal of 100,000 tests per day by the end of this month,” Matt Hancock, Britain’s health secretary, said at the government’s daily news briefing. Hancock spent last week in self-isolation after testing positive for coronavirus.

He said that the goal would include swab tests to see if people have the virus as well as antibody blood tests, which would test to see if someone had previously had it.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is in self-isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, said in a video message Wednesday that testing was “how we will unlock the coronavirus puzzle. This is how we will defeat it in the end.”


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