U.S. passes 1 million cases

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More than 1 million people in the United States have been infected by the coronavirus as of Tuesday, a mark that comes as some states begin to ease lockdowns.

The U.S. has recorded more than 56,000 deaths due to COVID-19, according to NBC News' tally. Worldwide, over 3 million people have been sickened and more than 212,000 have died.

Some parts of the U.S. have shown indications of a leveling off of new cases and deaths. That has, in turn, sparked greater calls — particularly from supporters of the Trump administration — to push for governors to begin reopening stores and public spaces.

But health professionals warn that coronavirus cases could easily spike again if proper social distancing is not maintained.

President Donald Trump said Monday that the effort to expand testing is being done with the private sector to "help local governments get this horrible plague over with and over with fast."

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

This live coverage has ended. Continue reading April 29 coronavirus news.

Which companies are returning their PPP loan? Here's the list.

A woman walks past a Nathan's hot dog cart on Wall Street in New York on April 12, 2019.Drew Angerer / Getty Images file

Facing public backlash, government warnings, and private misgivings, more than a dozen publicly traded companies and big businesses have so far announced they have returned, or intend to return, small-business coronavirus relief loans issued by the Small Business Administration.

Under the Paycheck Protection Program launched midnight April 3, businesses can apply for loans with their banks to help them shore up payroll and fund essential expenses, such as rent and utilities. If the businesses follow certain rules, such as using the bulk of the funds to keep employees hired and paid, the loan turns into a forgivable grant.

Read the full story here. 

More than 17,000 now dead in New York City, but daily deaths remain lower

New York City reached another grim milestone in the pandemic — while also showing signs of the coronavirus' slowing spread, health officials said Tuesday.

There have been at least 11,820 confirmed deaths connected to COVID-19 and another 5,395 probable fatalities tied to outbreak by 2 p.m. ET, crossing a threshold of more than 17,000 total victims, according to a rolling tally by the city's health department.

The city first started reporting "probable" deaths on April 14, and the total of confirmed and probable COVID-19 deaths had been spiking by more than 400 per 24 hours. But the last two reporting days showed daily coronavirus deaths remain lower, at 279 from Monday to Tuesday and 263 from Sunday to Monday.

Streaming-only films will be eligible for next Oscars

Oscar Statues at the Dolby Theatre on March 4, 2018 in Hollywood, Calif.Matt Sayles / A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images file

For the first time in history, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will allow movies that debuted on streaming services to be eligible for an Oscar.

The historic — but temporary — change, announced Tuesday, recognizes that filmmakers have been unable to screen movies in theaters, since most locations have been shuttered since mid-March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Previously, movies had to have been screened in a theater in Los Angeles County for seven consecutive days to qualify. That had enabled Netflix to enter movies such as Martin Scorsese’s “The Irishman.”

The Academy also said this would be the last year it would accept DVDs, CDs or print materials including invitations for its judging process, in order to enforce sustainability practices.

"The historically tragic COVID-19 pandemic necessitates this temporary exception to our awards eligibility rules," said Academy President David Rubin and CEO Dawn Hudson in a joint statement.

The Oscars will be held on February 28, 2021 on ABC.

Few diners return in Georgia, Tennessee, according to OpenTable data

Restaurants in Georgia and most of Tennessee can legally reopen for dine-in service this week, but that doesn’t mean the restaurants will — or that customers will immediately return.

On Monday, the number of seated diners at restaurants in Georgia was still down 98 percent from a year earlier, according to OpenTable, a dining app that publishes daily data for restaurants in its network. The numbers include both diners with reservations and walk-ins. 

Many restaurants in the state are choosing to offer only to-go orders for now, despite Gov. Brian Kemp’s decision to allow dine-in service during the coronavirus pandemic. 

In Tennessee, where restaurants could reopen Monday in 89 of the state’s 95 counties, the tally of seated diners was down 97 percent from a year earlier, OpenTable said.

California Gov. Newsom unveils road to reopening economy

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday unveiled a four-phase plan to reopening the state's struggling economy that could begin within weeks — not months — as many residents and businesses feared.

Newsom did not give specific dates for when the stages might kick in and warned that resuming old habits too soon could be dangerous. He asked residents to remain both patient and vigilant as the state's COVID-19 cases continue to increase.

“Politics will not drive our decision-making. Protests won’t drive our decision making. Political pressure will not drive our decision making,” he said.

Newsom said the first businesses to open under the roadmap would include manufacturing, retail stores where curbside pick up is possible and public spaces including some parks. Schools offering summer classes and childcare facilities could be included in this phase, he said. 

The next phase would involve movie theaters and other entertainment venues where maintaining physical distance is possible, personal care services such as hair and nail salons and gyms and churches and other houses of worship. 

The final stage would involve opening the highest-risk businesses like live concert and sports venue and convention centers. 

White House Coronavirus Task Force directs FEMA to ship PPE to more than 15,000 nursing homes

The White House Coronavirus Task Force is directing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate shipments of a week's supply of personal protective equipment to more than 15,000 nursing homes throughout the country, according to an internal FEMA email obtained by NBC News.

The shipments are expected to begin the first week of May on a rolling basis, and will be completed by mid-June, according to the email, which announced the plan to FEMA's state directors. They will include gloves, gowns, eye protection and surgical masks. Due to the number of nursing homes in the country, it is unlikely facilities will know in advance when their shipment arrives.

It's unclear if FEMA is coordinating this effort with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that has oversight over nursing homes. Neither FEMA nor CMS responded to a request for comment from NBC News.

Only nursing homes certified by CMS will receive the shipments, a decision made "based on input from the American Health Care Association" — the for-profit nursing home industry's trade organization — the email said.

North Carolina anti-lockdown activist stuck inside with coronavirus

Protesters with ReOpen N.C. are blocked by police outside of the governor's mansion in Raleigh on April 28, 2020.Gerry Broome / AP

A North Carolina woman active in a movement demanding that businesses in her state be allowed to reopen was reportedly in quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus.

Audrey Whitlock, a moderator on the Facebook page "Reopen NC," missed the group's first two rallies in Raleigh, fellow organizer Ashley Smith told NBC affiliate WRAL.

Whitlock tested positive three weeks ago, according to Smith.

Read the full story here. 

Trump to order meat processing plants to stay open amid coronavirus pandemic

President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., in the Oval Office on April 28, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is expected to use the Defense Production Act on Tuesday to compel meat processing plants to stay open amid the coronavirus pandemic and will provide liability protections, according to three sources familiar with the plan.

“The reason for this EO is there were discussions among certain processing companies (Tysons, for example) to keep only 20% of facilities open. The vast majority of processing plans could have shut down, reducing processing capacity in the country by as much as 80%,” an administration official explained to NBC News.

Read the full story here. 

NYC creates pet hotline to help owners affected by coronavirus

New York City launched the COVID-19 Pet Hotline on Tuesday, designed to provide support for pet owners who may need help due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The hotline is managed by the mayor's office for animal welfare and the city's emergency management department, according to a press release. New York City has partnered with nonprofits to provide residents with necessities to care for their furry friends, including subsidized emergency veterinary care and supply distribution services. 

Christine Kim, with the mayor's office of animal welfare, thanked New York City's animal task force for their work to create the resource. 

“During this time of uncertainty and fear, we understand people need the comfort of their companion animals more than ever,” Kim said. “In order to keep people and their animals together, we have ensured that animals are included in the safety net we have created for all New Yorkers."

Pence flouts Mayo Clinic policy by touring facility without a mask

Vice President Mike Pence tours Mayo Clinic facilities supporting the coronavirus disease research and treatment in Rochester, Minn., on April 28, 2020.Nicholas Pfosi / Reuters

Vice President Mike Pence went on a tour of the Mayo Clinic's coronavirus testing labs Tuesday — and ignored the prestigious Minnesota hospital's rules that all occupants wear a mask.

"Mayo Clinic had informed @VP of the masking policy prior to his arrival today," the clinic tweeted while Pence was still inside meeting with doctors and patients. The tweet was later deleted.

The clinic referred press questions to the vice president’s office, which had no immediate comment.

Read the full story here. 

France set to loosen lockdown restrictions from May 11

Residents applaud in support of healthcare workers in Paris on April 14, 2020.Martin Bureau / AFP - Getty Images

France’s parliament voted in favor Tuesday of the government’s plan to loosen the country’s lockdown restrictions next month. 

French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said that as of May 11 all stores and shops will be able to open excluding cafes and restaurants. Some students within elementary schools will be able to return as of May 11, with older students and high schools slated to return later. 

However, businesses have been encouraged to continue remote working for at least three more weeks. 

Philippe also warned that if by May 7 the number of daily coronavirus cases recorded surpassed 3,000, then the loosening of restrictions in France would be postponed.