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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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.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin tests positive for the virus

Russia's Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin informed President Vladimir Putin that he had tested positive for coronavirus during a video conference on Thursday evening, according to a Kremlin transcript of their conversation.   

"It has just became known that the tests I took for coronavirus have given a positive result," Mishutin said, adding that he "must observe self-isolation as the doctors order."  

He said that planned to stay in contact with his colleagues by phone and videocall. 

Putin then wished Mishustin a speedy recovery. 

Photos: Navy hospital ship departs New York

The USNS Comfort heads past lower Manhattan and the World Trade Center as it returns to its home port of Norfolk, Va., on Thursday.Mike Segar / Reuters

A Navy hospital ship left New York City on Thursday, a month after it was sent to relieve stress on hospitals at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

After arriving to great fanfare, the USNS Comfort treated just 182 people as a surge in cases in the hard-hit city fell short of the worst-case projections. The last dozen patients on the ship were discharged or transferred to other hospitals over the weekend.

Police officers salute as the Comfort departs Pier 90 in Manhattan. Lucas Jackson / Reuters

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.”

Read more here. 

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.

Read more here.

Photo: Forbidden City open again

A bride-to-be wears her dress and a protective mask as she waits to change after taking pictures ahead of her wedding near Beijing's Forbidden City on Thursday. Beijing lowered its risk level after more than three months Thursday in advance of May holidays, allowing most domestic travelers arriving in the city to do so without having to do 14 days of quarantine. The Forbidden City will open to a limited number of visitors as of Thursday morning.Kevin Frayer / Getty Images