What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

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By The Associated Press undefined

The U.S. House on Friday approved a $2.2 trillion rescue package, rushing it to President Donald Trump, who then signed it. The measure tosses a life preserver to an economy and health care system left flailing by the coronavirus pandemic.

America’s coronavirus infections have surged to the most in the world, and reached 100,000 cases Friday. While New York remained the worst hit in the U.S., troubling new outbreaks were bubbling in cities including Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans, which was rushing to build a makeshift hospital in its convention center.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first leader of a major country to test positive and Italy has shut down its industry. Masses of unemployed Indian laborers got food handouts and South Africa began a three-week lockdown.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Friday on the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day and APNews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak for stories explaining some of its complexities.


— New Orleans’ sprawling convention center along the Mississippi River is being converted into a massive hospital as officials prepare for thousands more patients than they are set up for. The preparations are conjuring images of another disaster, Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when the convention center became a squalid shelter of last resort.

— President Donald Trump has issued an order that seeks to force General Motors to produce ventilators for coronavirus patients under the Defense Production Act. The president says negotiations with General Motors have been productive, “but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course.” Trump had previously been reluctant to use the act to force businesses to contribute to the coronavirus fight.

— Spiritual leaders the world over are facing a conundrum as the death toll from the coronavirus mounts, leaving the faithful in the U.S., Italy and elsewhere struggling to amend ancient burial practices to follow government recommendations. Some funerals are not being held at all, or limited to gatherings of 10 or fewer people.

— Some leaders are hailing a potential breakthrough: Simple pin-prick blood tests or nasal swabs that can determine within minutes if someone has, or previously had, the virus. But scientists have challenged their accuracy.

— Los Angeles recorded its first case of coronavirus five weeks before New York City, yet New York is now the U.S. epicenter of the disease. Public health officials are keeping a wary eye and warning that LA could end up being as hard-hit as New York in coming weeks, in part because a planned increase in testing may uncover a dramatic surge in cases.

— The Vatican says Pope Francis will celebrate Holy Week ceremonies in the confines of Vatican City, including a Good Friday Way of the Cross service on the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica instead of at Rome’s Colosseum as is customary.



For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Here are the symptoms of the virus compared with the common flu.

One of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus is washing your hands with soap and water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first washing with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails before rinsing off.

You should wash your phone, too. Here’s how.

Misinformation overload: How to separate fact from fiction and rumor from deliberate efforts to mislead.

TRACKING THE VIRUS: Drill down and zoom in at the individual county level, and you can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you’re worried about live.


INSIDE THE OUTBREAK PODCAST: The Senate approved a massive $2.2 trillion rescue package to help revive the American economy. In the latest episode of “Ground Game: Inside the Outbreak,” AP Washington Bureau Chief Julie Pace and host Ralph Russo discuss what this all means.



TAKEOUT REIMAGINED: Across the United States, restaurateurs are transforming operations to try to stay afloat. Some are even giving away a roll of coveted toilet paper with takeout orders. The National Restaurant Association warns the outbreak could cost 5 million to 7 million jobs and hundreds of billions in losses and is pushing for a special federal relief package for restaurants.

MERCI: Health workers fighting to save lives in France have received a huge show of gratitude — from the Eiffel Tower. “Merci,” the French word for “thank you,” and “stay at home” in English were emblazoned in lights on Paris’ world-famous landmark Friday night, as France’s coronavirus death toll continued to climb.


Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak