BOSTON — Unemployment claims nationwide hit record levels, according to new data published Thursday, as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered wide swaths of public life and left millions out of work.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a $2 trillion aid bill late Wednesday night — the largest stimulus package in American history — after party leaders and the White House reached a deal. Eyes now turn to watch how quickly the House can take up a wide-ranging bill that includes direct payments to Americans, business relief, stronger unemployment benefits and an injection of health care spending.

In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker plans his daily COVID-19 briefing for 2 p.m. On Wednesday, Baker ordered schools and child care centers to remain closed through at least May 4, a further extension indicating the state has not yet reached the peak of the outbreak.

Both the state House and Senate will return to session Thursday, where the Senate will act on a bill not popular in the House that empowers advanced practice nurses to practice without supervision during the emergency to address the potential for doctor shortages. The House, meanwhile, is still working through Baker's proposal to allow restaurants to sell beer and wine to go as part of their takeout-only offerings during the outbreak.

The Senate is holding a "joint tele-caucus," bringing together members of both parties remotely for private conversations starting at 10 a.m.

Rep. Mike Day announced Wednesday that he had tested positive for COVID-19 on Monday, making him the first state lawmaker confirmed to have the illness.

Congressman Seth Moulton announced that he and his wife would self-quarantine until they recovered from symptoms that mirrored the coronavirus, although he said they could not get tested. Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, meanwhile, is awaiting results for her own COVID-19 test after experiencing flu-like symptoms.

Driven in part by rapid increases in testing capacity, the number of confirmed cases in Massachusetts grew dramatically again from 1,159 on Tuesday to 1,838 on Wednesday, more than double what it was just two days ago. The state now has 15 deaths attributable to the illness, which is affecting all age groups despite warnings from public health officials that it poses higher risks to older adults. - Chris Lisinski

Kennedy: Time To Shelter In Place Nationwide: As President Donald Trump talks about possibly reopening the country by Easter, U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy on Thursday called for nationwide shelter-in-place order, adding his name to a growing list of leaders who believe such a step would be the best way to control the spread of the coronavirus. "We are out of time. Because of this Administration's abject failure to get ahead of this crisis months ago, because of their continued inability to deliver the tests, equipment, money, information, clarity and leadership the country needs, and because our health care system is buckling under unimaginable pressure, we are past the point of half-measures or patchwork response efforts," Kennedy said in a statement. The Newton Democrat said a sheltering-in-place policy must be paired with increased travel restrictions, more testing and and better tracking of the spread of COVID-19. Kennedy said exceptions should be made for essential workers and services like food and medical care. "The science is clear: this is how we get through this crisis. It's scary and difficult, but it is possible. If we are willing to make this collective sacrifice, we will weather this collective storm. We will get to the other side. And there is great hope and comfort in that," Kennedy said. In Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker has resisted the idea of confining people to their homes, instead closing all non-essential businesses and advising the public to limit their travel and observe social distancing guidelines. -- Matt Murphy 9:09 AM

Baker Plans 2 O'Clock Update at State House: Gov. Charlie Baker, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders plan to provide a 2 p.m. update on the coronavirus emergency Thursday in Gardner Auditorium at the State House. The governor's press office announced his plans at around 9 a.m. - Michael P. Norton, 9:02 AM

Thermo Fisher Gets EU Approval: Thermo Fisher Scientific, the Waltham lab that was one of the first private labs to begin COVID-19 testing in Massachusetts, has received its certification for testing in the European Union, the company announced Thursday. Called a CE mark, the European certification means Thermo Fisher's coronavirus diagnostic test has now been approved in the United States, Europe, Canada, Singapore, India, Australia and New Zealand. "We are committed to fighting this disease and we will continue to work with regulatory authorities and customers around the world to expand the availability of diagnostic testing and stem the spread of the coronavirus," Thermo Fisher President and CEO Marc Casper said. The company's test is designed to provide patient results within four hours of a sample being received by a lab. -- Matt Murphy 8:50 AM

New Unemployment Claims Skyrocket: In the week ending March 21, U.S. workers filed nearly 3.3 million unemployment claims, an increase of 3 million from the previous week's revised level, the U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday morning. "This marks the highest level of seasonally adjusted initial claims in the history of the seasonally adjusted series. The previous high was 695,000 in October of 1982," the department said. The federal agency's report lists just under 7,500 initial claims filed in Massachusetts for the week ending March 14, with initial claims then surging by more than 140,000 in the week ending March 21. - Michael P. Norton 8:43 AM

Pressley Awaiting Test Results: U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley has been tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results, a spokesperson said Wednesday night. The spokesperson, Lina Francis, said Pressley "sought professional medical treatment out of an abundance of caution" after experiencing flu-like symptoms. Earlier Wednesday, Rep. Seth Moulton announced that he and his wife were in self-quarantine after experiencing symptoms consistent with the coronavirus-caused respiratory illness, but did not qualify for testing. - Katie Lannan 9:07 PM

Senate Holding "Joint Tele-caucus": The Legislature 16 days into the state's COVID-19 emergency has so far taken limited action, agreeing to waive a one-week waiting period for jobless benefits and voting to enable cities and towns to postpone springtime municipal elections. Lawmakers have also not outlined operational changes to facilitate transparency, debate and public input in an era of social distancing. Requests for stronger responses to the pandemic, including proposals from Gov. Charlie Baker, are stacking up. On Thursday, the full Senate - both Republicans and Democrats - has been invited to what Senate President Karen Spilka's office is describing as a "joint tele-caucus." Senate Democrats and Republicans have long met in their own private caucuses, but joint caucuses are rare. The tele-caucus begins at 10 a.m., an hour before both branches are scheduled to hold their second sessions of the week. Spilka and House Speaker Robert DeLeo on Sunday issued a rare joint statement to indicate they are in talks on a COVID-19-related housing bill. Officials in both offices did not respond Wednesday to a request for an update on that measure. - Michael P. Norton 7:45 PM


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