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.
- MAPS: Confirmed cases in the U.S. and worldwide, confirmed deaths in the U.S. and globally.
- Reopening America: See what states across the U.S. are starting to reopen.
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WHO investigating link between virus and syndrome that affects young kids
The World Health Organization is “urgently” investigating a potential link between the coronavirus and Kawasaki syndrome, an illness of unknown cause that primarily affects children under 5.
“We are aware of this newly described syndrome from a number of countries in Europe and potentially a small number of cases in North America,” Dr. Adam Finn, chair of the WHO's European Technical Advisory Group, told a news briefing Thursday.
“We are urgently conducting a surveillance study in the United Kingdom to establish what is going on,” he added.
Also known as Kawasaki disease, on its website the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention describes Kawasaki syndrome as “acute febrile illness of unknown cause" that "primarily affects children younger than five years of age.”
Boris Johnson leads first briefing since COVID-19 recovery
Leading his first coronavirus press briefing at No. 10 Downing Street since he recovered from COVID-19, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday paid tribute to the U.K.'s National Health Service.
Johnson, whose fianceé, Carrie Symonds, gave birth to their son on Wednesday, said, "I want to thank everybody who has been doing such a good job in my absence, and I want to thank the NHS for so much — including getting me back here and, I might add, a very much happier hospital visit yesterday."
He added that an additional 674 patients had died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for coronavirus in the U.K. as of 5 p.m. local time (12 p.m. ET) on Wednesday, bringing the country's death toll to 26,771.
Utah pledges free masks for every resident
As Utah begins to reopen its economy, the state is promising a face mask to anyone who needs one, free of charge.
Gov. Gary Hebert this week announced the new initiative, called “A Mask for Every Utahn.”
“We want to do everything we can as we work together as a state to combat COVID-19,” Gov. Hebert said in a statement. “Wearing a mask when we are out in public may not be convenient, but it can help slow the spread of the virus. Let’s all do our part in stopping the spread and helping to protect those around us.”
The project, funded through the federal CARES Act, will produce two million masks for the state’s residents in partnership with the Utah Manufacturers Association and Cotopaxi, an outdoor apparel company. The masks will all be made in Utah and the order will help employ more than 200 residents, according to the news release.
Residents are able to request a mask through an online form on the state’s coronavirus website.
New York City subways to shut down overnight, Cuomo says
New York City's subway system will close down in the overnight hours as the state combats the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday.
The overnight shutdowns for the largely 24 hours a day, seven days a week system will begin on May 6, with trains being stopped for cleaning between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m. every night, Cuomo said at his coronavirus briefing.
The move follows multiple published reports about a growing homeless population and poor sanitary conditions that had been growing for weeks. Subway ridership has plummeted since New York's stay-at-home order went into place last month.
“You now have more homeless people on fewer trains and you have fewer people to conduct outreach for the homeless people,” Cuomo said.
Buses, vans, and for-hire vehicles will be used to transport essential workers during the hours the subways are shuttered, the governor said.
Photo: Forbidden City open again
Churches, museums and playgrounds to reopen as Germany eases lockdown measures
Church and religious services will be allowed to take place in Germany and playgrounds, galleries, museums, and zoos will be allowed to reopen, Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday, she announced that lockdown measures in the country would be eased. However, concerts and major sporting events will remain closed.
"We need to further slow the spread of the virus," Merkel said, adding that the country needed to bring down further the number of daily new infections and social distancing rules must be observed in public places to avoid a spike in infections.
Merkel said there were “difficult decisions” on how to proceed but insisted: “We have a great responsibility so that there is no relapse in a more difficult phase."
Biden calls on Trump to lower White House flag to honor coronavirus victims
Joe Biden, the apparent Democratic presidential nominee, called on President Donald Trump to lower the White House flag to half-staff to honor the thousands of victims of the coronavirus pandemic.
“By the end of this month, we will have lost more people to the coronavirus, dead, than we lost in the entire Vietnam War, Americans lost in the entire Vietnam War,” Biden said in a video posted to Twitter on Thursday.
“I think the president should lower the flag on the White House to half-mast to recognize their loss, and all they leave behind,” he said. "Folks, I think if he does not do that, when I’m president, I promise you that’s what I’ll do.”
Pelosi says House plans to come back the week of May 11
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that Democrats are planning to bring the House back into session the week of May 11.
When asked at her weekly press conference when the House will come back to vote on the next major coronavirus relief package, Pelosi said lawmakers are at the “mercy of the virus in terms of when they have the Capitol physician and the sergeant-at-arms say that we can come together and our large number.”
A few minutes later, she said, “We're not coming back this week. Our plan is to come back the following week.”
The speaker said that lawmakers are focused on working and voting on the next relief package as soon as possible, and the timing could change. Earlier this week, Democratic leaders said that the House would reconvene next week, but they were later advised by the Capitol physician not to return because of the coronavirus threat.
Holocaust survivor, 94, discharged from rehab center after recovering from COVID-19
The red carpet was rolled out for a 94-year-old Holocaust survivor who recently recovered from COVID-19.
Jack Holzberg, from Forest Hills, a neighborhood in New York City's Queens borough, was discharged from CareOne at Hanover, a rehab center in New Jersey, on Tuesday after he spent weeks fighting the deadly virus.
“He’s just one of the toughest people that I know,” Holzberg’s grandson-in-law Jeff Wasserman told NBC New York.
The great grandfather of five has been a fighter his whole life. As a teenager, Holzberg survived multiple concentration camps in Austria and Poland, according to testimony he gave to the USC Shoah Foundation Institute in 1996.
In a post on Facebook, Holzberg’s granddaughter Erica Wasserman expressed her gratitude for her grandfather’s health care team. “As a Holocaust survivor, he personifies strength and positivity. We are beyond grateful to everyone who cared for him and we can’t wait for the day when we can all celebrate together,” Wasserman wrote.
New York will hire up to 17,000 people to trace contacts of people with coronavirus
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday detailed plans to develop a massive program for tracing the contacts of people in the state who test positive for coronavirus.
Cuomo said the effort will require hiring between 6,400 and 17,000 contact tracers, depending on the spread of the virus.
Bloomberg, whose philanthropic organization is helping to lead the program's launch, joined Cuomo via video during the governor's daily coronavirus briefing.
"When social distancing is relaxed, contract tracing is our best hope for isolating the virus when it appears and keeping it isolated," Bloomberg said.
He said Johns Hopkins University has developed a training class for contact tracers that can be taken remotely.
Vaccine by January is 'doable,' Fauci says
Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the "TODAY" show on Thursday that the government is determining whether a vaccine is effective before beginning to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses.
"We want to go quickly, but we want to make sure it's safe and it's effective," Fauci said. "I think that is doable if things fall in the right place."
In January, Fauci estimated that a vaccine against the coronavirus could be developed in a year to 18 months.