News from NPR

Beijing's parks are an oasis in an otherwise dense and sprawling city. They provide a rare public space for people to ribbon dance, play checkers and practice tai chi. But in January and February, they were deserted. More than 80,000 people across China were sickened with the virus and strict quarantine measures locked down villages and cities, including Beijing.

The United States remains the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, with confirmed cases now at more than 300,000 and deaths climbing toward 9,000.

In Europe, another global hot spot, Spain has surpassed Italy for the leading number of cases, with Germany and France not too far behind. Worldwide, there are over 1.2 million cases and nearly 66,000 deaths.

April McGhee and her teenage daughter started feeling sick last month. They had coughs, sore throats and fevers. Her daughter's condition became so bad that they went to the emergency room.

"She had it worse than I did," McGhee said. "Her cough lasted longer. It was really a concern. ... It was like a dry, nonproductive, hacking cough."

McGhee, who lives in Sacramento, wanted both of them to get tested for the coronavirus. But the hospital told her they weren't sick enough to qualify for testing under California's rules. So, they went home and into isolation.

The Walker family never thought having an age range of 3 to 96 under the same roof would be risky.

That was before the coronavirus pandemic.

Wilma Walker's now nonagenarian mom moved into her daughter and son-in-law's home in Florissant, Mo., about 15 years ago. Their party of three turned into a household of six when the Walkers' now 30-year-old daughter, Andre'a Walker-Nimrod, moved back in with her young son and a daughter on the way.

As the coronavirus pandemic intensifies across the country, many churches, synagogues, temples and mosques are temporarily shutting their doors to all public services.

Although there are exemptions for some religious services, congregations are still expected to follow state stay-at-home orders and limitations on gatherings.

Wu Fei and Abigail Washburn, who released a self-titled debut album as a duo on Friday, have lived almost parallel lives. Both women were born in 1977, and both grew up to be accomplished and virtuosic folk musicians, albeit in completely different folk traditions. Wu is a composer and a world-renowned virtuoso on the guzheng, a 2500-year-old string instrument which is a staple of Chinese folk music. Meanwhile, Washburn is a banjo player who has won a Grammy Award for her reinterpretations of traditional Appalachian music.

Kandace Springs' third record is a source of familiarity in uncertain times. Titled The Women Who Raised me, it's full of beloved and recognizable songs associated with jazz artists who inspired and influenced Springs as an artist: Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Lauryn Hill and Norah Jones, among many others. But the album is not only a tribute to some of those legends, it's also a showcase of Springs' talent for reinterpreting and seamlessly blending genres.

The coronavirus pandemic has all but shuttered global tourism. As quarantines and social distancing continue in countries around the world for the foreseeable future, airlines are warning of bankruptcy, hotels are closed, cruise ships are docked and tour buses are idle.

Greece is among some countries that have begun offering interactive websites to keep their tourism brands afloat — "until we can all be together in person again," Dimitris Fragakis, secretary-general of the Greek National Tourism Organization, said in a statement on Thursday.

The children's voices on the phone line were hesitant, but they were looking for answers.

"Why did we switch to remote learning?"

"When are we going to go back to school?"

"They're opening up an emergency hospital here, will that bring more coronavirus cases to my area?"

The fast-growing number of cases of COVID-19 around the country is also bringing a surge in the number of deaths. In New York City alone, the death toll is in the thousands and rising steeply every day.

There, and in places like Detroit, Seattle and New Orleans, funeral directors are struggling to meet the increased demand. Joseph Lucchese, who owns and directs a funeral home in the Bronx, says it's unlike anything he's ever seen and it's dispelled any doubts he once had about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic.

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