Armed anti-lockdown protesters in Michigan, beaches closed in California

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Seattle
A physician administers a test for COVID-19 at a mobile testing site Wednesday in Seattle. David Ryder / Reuters

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As states around the U.S. consider reopening, the country's death toll topped 61,000, according to an NBC News tally. Globally, there have been more than 232,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Protesters, some armed, demonstrated on Thursday against the Michigan lockdown on the steps of the state capitol building. And in California, Gov. Gavin Newsom shut down beaches in Orange County after seeing what he called "disturbing" images of crowds from over the weekend.

Florida on Wednesday announced that it would slowly reopen. Gov. Ron DeSantis said the plan to lift restrictions "in a very measured, thoughtful and data-driven way," will go into effect Monday in every county except the three where most of the state's COVID-19 cases have been reported.

Meanwhile, South Korea recorded no new domestic COVID-19 cases for the first time in 72 days. The country dealt with the first major outbreak outside China, but brought the crisis under control with a massive testing campaign and intensive contact tracing.

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

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Photo: Burials in Indonesia

Ed Wray / Getty Images

Cemetery workers place a coffin into place in an area of newly dug graves for those suspected of dying from COVID-19 on April 30, 2020 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Indonesia's official statistics report that nearly 800 people have died from COVID-19, but a recent review of data from 16 of the hardest hit provinces suggest that the number of deaths may be well over 2,000.

Long wait times at understaffed labs handling testing have made it difficult for the government and others to accumulate accurate statistics about how many people have the disease and how many of those suspected of dying from the disease actually had it.

Hundreds of protestors, some with guns, demonstrate against Michigan emergency measures

Hundreds of Michigan residents protested outside the state Capitol building in Lansing on Thursday, with some pushing inside while the Legislature was debating an extension of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s state of emergency in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Protesters held signs, waved American flags and even carried firearms while some chanted, “Let us in!” and “This is the people’s house, you cannot lock us out,” and others tried to get onto the House floor but were blocked by state police and sergeants-at-arms, according to WDIV-TV, an NBC affiliate in Detroit.

A state police spokesman told NBC News that it is legal in Michigan to carry firearms as long as it is done with lawful intent and the weapon is visible.

The protest, dubbed the "American Patriot Rally," was organized by Michigan United for Liberty to call for the reopening of businesses.

Read the full story here. 

Photo: "No mask? Fuhgeddaboutit"

Ted Shaffrey / AP

A sign over Interstate 87 in the New York City borough of the Bronx on Wednesday tells motorists to wear masks when venturing outside.

California governor shuts down Orange County beaches after 'disturbing' photos of crowds

Large crowds gather near the Newport Beach Pier in Newport Beach on April 25, 2020.Mindy Schauer / MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday ordered beaches south of Los Angeles closed after "disturbing" pictures emerged of thousands flocking to Orange County's coast — and not social distancing.

"The images we saw on a few of our beaches were disturbing," Newsom said of the crowds on the sands of Newport Beach this past weekend. "Today we want to make some clarifications. We're going to do a hard close (in Orange County)." 

The governor said Southern Californians still have plenty of outdoor options: "Let's be guided by common sense and these public health officials."

Georgia's shelter-in-place order expires tonight

Georgia's shelter-in-place order will expire at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday night for most of the state and not be extended, Gov. Brian Kemp announced. 

The governor said Thursday that though he was lifting the mandatory lockdown measures, he urged residents to voluntarily remain home and said any opened businesses should maintain social distancing guidelines. Kemp signed a new order that required "medically fragile and elderly Georgians" to remain sheltered in place until June 12.

"The health and well-being of Georgians are my top priorities, and my decisions are based on data and advice from health officials," Kemp said Thursday. "I will do what is necessary to protect the lives — and livelihoods — of our people."

Although many states have chosen to loosen restrictions in an effort to reopen the economy, high-ranking health officials have warned that it may be too soon.

Dr. Anthony Fauci told NBC's "Today" on Thursday that states must have the capability of identifying, isolating and contact tracing people who test positive or they risk a rebound in cases. 

Cadets will be tested for coronavirus when they return to West Point for graduation

Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy pushed back Thursday afternoon on the idea that President Donald Trump drove the decision to bring cadets back to West Point for a graduation ceremony in June, saying Army leadership presented the plan to return to Pentagon leadership and the White House over a month ago.

Speaking during a Pentagon briefing, McCarthy and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville explained the cadets have to come back to clean out their dorm rooms and go through medical screening so they can become second lieutenants in the Army. They said they have been planning to bring them back all along and were just working through procedures and timing.

West Point's Superintendent, Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, said the Army has set up a staging base near the academy where all cadets will be screened and tested for COVID-19. Those who pass will move to West Point and be split into five corps, and all corps will live and eat separate from each other for two weeks to ensure no one is sick.

A defense official said a cadet who is exposed to COVID-19 or tests positive will not be required to return and can come back later this summer. 

Fact check: Trump says the U.S. ready to contain COVID-19 with contact tracing. Experts disagree.

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus at the White House on April 20, 2020.Alex Brandon / AP

President Donald Trump and members of his administration, who are eager to have parts of the economy restarted, have insisted that a robust contact tracing program to contain future outbreaks of the coronavirus is in place.

“We’ve gotten good at tracing,” Trump claimed during a press briefing on April 23.

Contact tracing, the time consuming process of tracking down the associates of people who test positive for viral contagions, is seen as key to a safe reopening.

But a number of public health experts have said Trump paints an overly rosy picture, pointing to issues like funding and the challenge of executing tracing programs on a mass scale to explain why the U.S. is still likely unprepared to aggressively contain the next wave of COVID-19.

“We don’t have the scale that we need — we don’t have even close to the scale we need,” Crystal Watson, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told NBC News.

Read the full story here.

About face: Pence wears mask during visit to Indiana plant following criticism

Vice President Mike Pence tours the General Motors/Ventec ventilator production facility with Chris Kiple of Ventec in Kokomo, Ind., on April 30, 2020.Michael Conroy / AP

Days after he was criticized for not wearing a mask during a tour of a hospital's coronavirus testing facility, Vice President Mike Pence sported a face covering on Thursday while touring a General Motors plant making ventilators in Indiana.

Like the prestigious Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the G.M. plant in Kokomo has protocols in place requiring workers to wear "medical grade protective masks."

Pence, who's the head of the White House coronavirus task force, thanked workers at the plant for their "critical help" in fighting the virus. He said the re-purposed plant has already made over 600 ventilators. "I just wanted to thank you," the former Indiana governor said. "It's an honor to be among the heroes in the Hoosier State."

He later took off the mask during a round table discussion at the plant, where participants, including Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, appeared to be sitting several feet apart. None of the attendees at the panel, including administration officials and GM executives, wore a mask.

Read the full story here.

Texas zoo launches drive-thru experience

A Texas zoo is giving families an opportunity to see animals while also practicing social distancing. 

Beginning May 1st, visitors to the San Antonio Zoo will be able to enjoy the sights and sounds, all from the comfort and safety of their vehicles. The drive-thru zoo experience is expected to last between 30 minutes and an hour and includes an audio tour, which is posted on the zoo’s website.

"This is a very unique and safe way for families to see the zoo while we are closed from the comfort of their own car," said Tim Morrow, President & CEO San Antonio Zoo, according to NBC affiliate WOAI

The zoo has been closed since March 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Proceeds from the drive-thru experience will help the zoo to continue to care for the animals until it is safe to reopen, according to Murrow.

Georgia voters request record 1 million absentee ballots amid pandemic

Georgia voters are requesting a record numbers of absentee ballots for the state's June 9 primary election amid the coronavirus pandemic.

More than a million of the state's residents have requested a mailed ballot so far, an enormous leap from the little more than 37,000 absentee ballots cast in the primary in 2016, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced Thursday.

Despite President Donald Trump's public criticism of voting by mail, Raffensperger is one of a number of Republican state election chiefs who haves embraced that process to conduct votes without violating the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's social-distancing guidelines, at least for the primary election.

Unlike most state officials, however, Raffensperger has also created an Absentee Ballot Fraud Task Force, although studies that found voter fraud is rare.


Gov. Murphy thanks Trump for coronavirus relief during New Jersey's 'darkest hour'

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy spoke with NBC News' Andrea Mitchell on what he called a "good discussion" with President Donald Trump on the coronavirus pandemic and detailed part of  the plan for his state's reopening.