What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

A congressional watchdog agency has agreed to investigate the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ oversight of homes for aging veterans following a surge of coronavirus deaths at the state-run facilities.

The Government Accountability Office said in a letter Thursday that it will conduct a review into the VA’s oversight of care at state veterans homes after a request by a group of Democratic U.S. senators.

Veterans homes are owned and operated by the states, but the VA pays for veterans to receive care in them and inspects them each year to ensure they are up to the agency’s standards.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Thursday 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.

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WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

— The world’s largest cruise company said it is laying off hundreds of employees due to the coronavirus pandemic. Carnival Corp. said the majority of affected employees in the U.S. will be in Florida, California and Washington state but it did not reveal the number of job eliminations in other states or countries.

— Whistleblower Dr. Rick Bright warned that the U.S. still lacks a comprehensive battle plan against the coronavirus in critical areas like masks, testing, treatments and vaccines. He told Congress that the “window of opportunity is closing.” He says the country needs a coherent strategy that will get supplies and medicines to where they’re most needed.

— Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said thousands of city employees, including himself, will be furloughed for eight days this year to help close what is expected to be a $226 million budget gap caused by the coronavirus, joining mayors across the country that have made the same move or are thinking about it.

— Dental practices in France are cautiously reopening and accepting appointments after the French government eased restrictions on some businesses, services and public activity. Yet getting back to work in the age of coronavirus requires extra precautions because respiratory droplets are a way the virus spreads among people.

— The government of Panama said 43 migrants have tested positive for the novel coronavirus and 119 others who came in contact with them are in quarantine at a relief station near the border with Colombia. Panama’s national migration office did not specify the nationalities of the infected migrants, but they were detected near a border crossing used by migrants from Africa, Haiti and southern Asia to reach the United States.

— L awyers for the baseball players’ union have asked Major League Baseball to submit a slew of financial documents that detail the industry’s finances, a person familiar with the request told The Associated Press. The type of financial disclosure the union asked for is more common during overall collective bargaining talks, which play out for many months or years, rather than the limited negotiation time available now.

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

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.

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.

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.

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ONE NUMBER:

— 200 BILLION: The pandemic will cost the insurance industry over $200 billion, according to Lloyds of London, who estimated that its own payouts are now on a par with the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks or the combined impact of hurricanes Harvey, Maria and Irma in 2017. Lloyds, which as an insurance market pays out to insurers affected by disasters, says it expects to pay between $3 billion and $4.3 billion to insurance companies to help them cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

IN OTHER NEWS:

— “FAIRY TALE”: Matt Damon described living in Ireland during the country’s coronavirus lockdown as like being in a “fairy tale.” The Hollywood star and his family were in Dublin, where he had been filming Ridley Scott’s “The Last Duel,” before travel restrictions were imposed worldwide.

— TEAM TO BEAT: The coronavirus pandemic has changed almost everything about soccer in Germany except Bayern Munich’s chances of winning. The seven-time defending champions will still be the team to beat when Bundesliga play resumes on Saturday in empty stadiums.

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

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