What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

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A person walks along the Las Vegas Strip devoid of the usual crowds after casinos have been ordered to shut down due to the coronavirus Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in Las Vegas. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Italy's death toll from the coronavirus overtook China's, underscoring just how much the outbreak has pivoted toward Europe as well as the United States. The Middle East and Africa also are seeing a worrying number of new cases.

The grim news from Italy followed the announcement from Chinese authorities that there were no new cases to report from the former epicenter of the virus, which had once seen thousands of cases a day, and its surrounding province.

Here are some of AP's top stories Thursday on the world's coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day:


— Italy, with a population of 60 million, on Thursday recorded at least 3,405 deaths, or roughly 150 more than in China, a country with a population over 20 times larger. Italy reached the bleak milestone the same day that Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged three months ago, recorded no new infections, a sign the communist country’s draconian lockdowns were a powerful method to stop the virus’s spread.

— Not surprisingly, the number of Americans filing new claims for unemployment benefits soared by 70,000, to the highest level in more than two years. Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics, forecasts that jobless benefit applications could easily exceed 1 million within the next few weeks.

— Around the United States, authorities are receiving a surge of reports about stores trying to cash in on the coronavirus crisis with outrageous prices, phony cures and other scams amid long lines, some empty shelves and patience wearing thin. An Associated Press survey of state attorneys general or consumer protection agencies across the country found the number exceeded 5,000, with hundreds more coming in every day.

Inequality in testing has become a contentious issue, with accusations the rich and famous are jumping the line. Celebrities, politicians and professional athletes faced a backlash this week as several revealed that they had been tested for the coronavirus, even when they didn’t have a fever or other symptoms.

— Stocks capped a wobbly day on Wall Street with solid gains, reflecting cautious optimism among investors that emergency action by the U.S. government and central banks will cushion the global economy from a looming recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The swings in the market were markedly less volatile than recent days, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining almost 200 points, or 0.9%. Markets have swung wildly as investors weigh the increasing likelihood of a recession against emergency efforts by global authorities to support the economy.

— Americans are increasingly worried they or a loved one will be infected by the coronavirus, with two-thirds now saying they're at least somewhat concerned — up from less than half who said so a month ago. That's according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research that finds about 3 in 10 Americans say they're not worried at all.

— Emergency policies to curtail the spread of the virus have sent shock waves through the economy. It's been especially difficult for small businesses, which are less resilient because restrictions on movement have reduced foot traffic. An AP photo gallery presents one New York business's struggle.



For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. 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 finger nails before rinsing off.

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



9,000: The number of Muslim pilgrims quarantined in Indonesia on Thursday. They were attending a four-day gathering at a boarding school that wasn’t approved by authorities and drew fears it could spread the virus widely in the world’s fourth most populous nation. It was organized by a Muslim missionary movement, Jamaat Tabligh, which held a similar event in Malaysia three weeks ago that has been linked to nearly two-thirds of that country’s 900 infections as well as dozens of cases in other nations.



SINGING HEALTH WORKERS' PRAISES: People in many hard-hit European cities are taking at least a minute each night to come together in gratitude — while still in isolation. They stand at open windows or on balconies in Rome, Madrid, Paris, Athens and Amsterdam, singing, cheering and applauding the doctors, nurses and other health care workers putting themselves at risk on the front lines of the pandemic.

GO AHEAD AND BINGE: Americans hunkering down at home are occupying their time with Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and other streaming services. Up to a 20 percent increase is likely in the amount of time subscribers spend watching, and millions of new customers will hop aboard, one analyst predicts.

TRADITIONAL FRENCH SOAP ENJOYS REVIVAL: Amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus across Europe, the hallmark Marseille tradition of soap-making is enjoying a renaissance, as the French rediscover an essential local product. Savonnerie de la Licorne, a family business going back more than a century, has seen shop sales increase 30% and delivery orders quadruple since Italy declared a state of emergency.


The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


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