Guidance on church reopenings held up in dispute between CDC, White House
Guidance on reopening houses of worship has been put on hold after a disagreement between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House, a senior administration official confirmed.
The news was first reported by The Washington Post, which stated that the White House was resistant to putting limits on religious institutions.
"The CDC sometimes views things in an overly bureaucratic way. What we are trying to do is encourage a more federalist approach where each state is able to make decisions based on their own circumstances and individually tailored needs," the senior administration official told NBC News.
The CDC this week released recommendations for reopening restaurants, mass transit, schools and child care programs across the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.
There has been an ongoing struggle between the CDC and the White House over guidelines for reopening, with the White House expressing concerns that the CDC’s guidelines are too restrictive.
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he's "heartbroken and furious" after a fire this week at a church that has challenged coronavirus restrictions. The fire is being investigated as arson.
The fire Wednesday in Holly Springs destroyed the First Pentecostal Church, and investigators found graffiti in the church parking lot that reads, “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits," NBC affiliate WMC of Memphis reported.
The church was "burned to the ground" and had been trying to open services, Reeves tweeted Thursday.
First Pentecostal filed a lawsuit last month against the city over its public health order on in-person worship services, the station reported.
"This is not who we are," the governor said at a daily news conference on the coronavirus epidemic and the state's response.
Pentagon starts planning for military's post-COVID-19 future
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon's Joint Staff has launched a planning group focused on the U.S. military's long-term plans for operating during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, taking into account the likelihood that the defense budget may be cut and that troops may come home, according to three defense officials.
The group is examining how the military is postured around the world, whether it needs to focus more personnel or assets domestically, and where it needs to invest personnel and money to operate during and after COVID-19.
The group will look at possible vulnerabilities the U.S. may face during the pandemic and where adversaries could try to take advantage of the U.S. focus on COVID-19. At the same time, the group will determine what strategic advantages the U.S. can leverage as adversaries are also focused on the outbreak.
Missouri governor not only allows graduation, but keynotes
O’FALLON, Mo. — In a year when many states are prohibiting in-person graduation ceremonies due to the coronavirus, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson is not only allowing them, but also spoke at one.
The Republican governor had a special connection to the indoor ceremony Thursday night at Sparta High School in southwestern Missouri: His granddaughter was among the 42 seniors receiving diplomas.
Missouri reopened after the pandemic-forced shutdown on May 4, and Parson was among the few governors to give the go-ahead for large-scale gatherings, including graduation ceremonies.
Social distancing requirements remain in place, though, and most of Missouri’s 555 public school districts and public charter schools are choosing other options such as drive-thru graduations or virtual ceremonies. Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokeswoman Mallory McGowin said some districts are postponing graduation until the summer in hopes of having in-person ceremonies then.
Sparta is in Christian County, where 20 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the state health department.
Each graduating senior was allowed to invite up to 10 people, meaning the approximately 2,000-seat gym was, at most, at around 25 percent capacity. Families sat together, but were spaced throughout the gym from others. The school board chairman handed diplomas to students as they came forward. Masks or other face protection were not required.
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Trump to lower flags over Memorial Day weekend to honor coronavirus victims
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said in a tweet on Thursday that he will be ordering flags on federal buildings and monuments nationwide to fly at half-staff over the Memorial Day weekend to honor those who have died from the novel coronavirus.
Trump also said the flags will be lowered at half-staff on Memorial Day to honor veterans.
"I will be lowering the flags on all Federal Buildings and National Monuments to half-staff over the next three days in memory of the Americans we have lost to the CoronaVirus," he said in a tweet. "On Monday, the flags will be at half-staff in honor of the men and women in our Military who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice for our Nation."
Missouri principal sent off to retirement with surprise drive-by parade
Missouri principal Stacey King didn't get the usual send-off to mark her retirement, but retiring during a pandemic isn't exactly typical.
The staff at Central Elementary school helped celebrate King's career Tuesday with a drive-by parade in Saint Charles, Missouri. After nearly 15 years in the role, her last official day will be June 30, but Tuesday was the final day of classes.
Central Elementary teachers surprised principal Stacey King with a car parade to celebrate her retirement. As staff passed by with cheers and colorful signs, King was full of smiles and tears. Congrats to Stacey on her retirement, and thanks for all you have done for FHSD! pic.twitter.com/BrmA6Hfh1q
“It’s not how we typically do send-offs. They were very creative,” King, 51, told NBC News.
"The administrators were here working, social distancing in our offices, but staff was working remotely, and so they were able to drive up and surprise me with the parade while still keeping distances,” she said.
Like many, the global pandemic has brought its share of challenges for King, but she said she has focused on the silver linings like learning new technology to work remotely.
"Wrapping up my career and knowing that I had no idea when I walked out of the building on March 12 that, that was going to be the last time I saw my kids, and so, it is hard,” King said.
“Knowing I won’t be here when they come back in the fall to put my eyes on them and to know that they are okay, I know that they will be in great hands, but that’s just hard,” she said.
Financial help en route for struggling New York City transit system, Trump says
More federal financial help is on the way for New York City's transit system, which has been reeling from losses caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
President Donald Trump announced on Twitter Thursday night that about $300 million was heading to New York's Metropolitan Transit Authority, part of the $3.9 billion that's been allocated for New York under coronavirus stimulus legislation passed by Congress.
Another $298M heading to @MTA, adding up to over $2B in federal funding from @USDOT so far, part of the $3.9B total from the CARES Act. This is critical to keeping essential personnel moving and aiding metro NYC in recovery. We are here for the people of New York!
The MTA runs the state's trains, subways and buses. With the payment, the agency will have received over $2 billion in federal funding to date, Trump said.
"This is critical to keeping essential personnel moving and aiding metro NYC in recovery," the president tweeted.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters last week that the agency "desperately needs funding because the ridership is way down" and credited Trump for expediting the payments to his former home state. The "president cut red tape," Cuomo said.