Stay-at-home protests held across the country

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Image: Protest To Reopen California Businesses, Beaches, And Parks Held In Huntington Beach
Protestors gather in a demonstration in Huntington Beach, California on May 1, 2020.Apu Gomes / Getty Images

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Protests against stay-at-home orders were held across the country Friday amid mounting frustration over the economic impact from the coronavirus pandemic.

Rallies were scheduled in at least 10 states. Outside the Capitol building in Albany, New York, protesters chanted "USA! USA!" as they flew American and "Don't Tread on Me" flags. Counterprotesters scheduled their own rallies in support of keeping non-essential businesses closed.

Some states started to slowly reopen Friday, including Texas, where retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters and malls were allowed to open for business. In Louisiana, restaurants (except those in hard-hit New Orleans) are allowed to add outdoor tables.

The calls to reopen business come as meat processing plants struggle with widespread outbreaks that have slowed or halted production. At a Tyson Foods pork-processing plant in Indiana, nearly 900 employees, 40 percent of the workforce, tested positive for the coronavirus.

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

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Coronavirus outbreak could last up to two years, new study finds

The coronavirus outbreak could last for up to two years based on the trajectories of recent flu pandemics, according to a new study released by the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy.

The report also warned that over the next 24 months, states, territories and tribal health authorities should prepare for periodic resurgences of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, including a large second wave of infections this fall.

The study found that the current outbreak is behaving similar to past influenza pandemics, including those that occurred in 1918, 1957, 1968 and 2009. The researchers also cautioned that since only 5 percent to 15 percent of the U.S. population has been infected so far — significantly less than would be needed for so-called herd immunity — government officials should develop plans to cope with subsequent peaks in the disease.

"The goal is to help planners envision some of the situations that might present themselves later this year or next year so that they can take key steps now, while there's still time,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, said in a statement.

Field hospital at Javits Center to close after last patients leave

The field hospital at New York City's Jacob K. Javits convention center is closing after the last coronavirus patients left. 

Dr. Chris Tanski, the chief medical officer at the Javits Center, told the Associated Press that the remaining eight patients left Friday afternoon.

A FEMA spokesperson told NBC News that "planning is ongoing for the drawdown of federal resources that are no longer needed due to the flattening of the curve." 

Nearly 1,100 patients were treated at the convention center to help alleviate strain on the city's hospitals. “We were able to offload some of the volume from the hospitals,” said Tanski, a doctor at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse who was part of a federal disaster response task force helping New York treat COVID-19 patients.

First coronavirus patient admitted to Mount Sinai hospital goes home

The first coronavirus patient admitted to Mount Sinai hospital in New York City was released following a 54-day stay, nearly half of which Rodrigo Saval spent intubated. 

Mount Sinai West celebrated the milestone with a huge sendoff. In a video posted on the hospital's Facebook page, doctors and nurses lined the hallway and cheered as Saval was wheeled toward the exit. He threw his hands in the air in triumph. 

Saval, a marathon runner from Chile, was admitted on March 7, according to NBC New York. Staff said there were times when his situation looked bleak. 

"I think we needed this win and it's such a blessing to see," a hospital employee told the outlet. "He's our personal mascot almost." 

Saval is the 500th coronavirus patient to be released from Mount Sinai West. He said he plans to stay in New York a little longer for rehab and then will return to Chile to see his family. 

Afternoon roundup of coronavirus coverage

Coronavirus R: Is this the crucial number? [BBC News]

Cruise ships set sail knowing the deadly risk to passengers and crew [The Wall Street Journal]

'A really miraculous story': 94-year-old Beatrice man defies virus odds [Beatrice Daily Sun]

Nearly 900 employees at a Tyson pork plant in Indiana test positive for coronavirus

A Tyson Fresh Meats plant employee leaves the plant in Logansport, Ind., on April 23, 2020.Darron Cummings / AP file

Nearly 900 employees, 40 percent of the workforce, at a Tyson Foods pork-processing plant in Indiana have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The plant in Logansport halted operations April 25, one of several Tyson plants across the country that have voluntarily closed in an effort to help contain the spread of the virus.

The Cass County Health Department's administrator, Serenity Alter, said 890 employees at the plant have tested positive so far, and that a couple of hundred of others still need to be screened.

Read the full story here.

Romney unveils plan to give frontline workers hazard pay

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, introduced a plan Friday to give hazard pay to workers on the front lines of the coronavirus fight. 

The 2012 presidential nominee’s “Patriot Pay” plan would provide temporary bonus pay of up to $12 an hour from May through July. A quarter of that pay would be given by employers and and three-quarters by the federal government and funded through a refundable payroll tax credit, the announcement said. 

“Health care professionals, grocery store workers, food processors, and many others — the unsung patriots on the frontline of this pandemic — every day risk their safety for the health and well-being of our country, and they deserve our unwavering support,” Romney said.

Romney, who was the only Republican senator to vote to convict Trump during the president's impeachment trial earlier this year, was also the only Republican not invited earlier this month to serve on the president’s task force to reopen the U.S. economy. Senate Democrats also unveiled a plan this month to support frontline workers, giving them up to $13 an hour in extra pay.

Family of asthmatic inmate held at virus-ravaged prison fears 'death sentence'

Watch towers of Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island, a low security facility housing male inmates, stand at the entrance of the Port of Los Angeles on April 16, 2013 in San Pedro, Calif.Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images file

More than a week has passed since Lyndsay Harrington has heard from her brother, who is locked up at a federal prison in California that houses inmates with health problems.

“We’re just so scared,” Harrington said.

She has good reason to worry.

Some 600 inmates at FCI Terminal Island, roughly 57 percent of the total inmate population, have tested positive for the coronavirus, officials said. Five inmates have died after contracting COVID-19, including three in the last 48 hours, and at least 10 staff members have been infected.

Harrington said her brother is particularly vulnerable because he suffers from asthma and a thyroid condition.

“We don’t want this to turn into a death sentence for him,” she said of her brother, who is also bipolar.

Read more here.

University of Chicago students hold tuition strike due to pandemic

A group of students at The University of Chicago are holding a tuition strike as they demand that the elite private university cut tuition costs by 50 percent and waive fees for the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, according to organizers.

UChicago for Fair Tuition launched a petition in April calling on the university to help students and families facing financial hardship due to economic fallout from the spread of the virus.

"As the coronavirus pandemic continues, it will create an increasingly disparate impact on low-income students, students with disabilities, students of color, queer students, students with children, and more," the petition reads.

Read the full story here

An aquarium in Japan wants people to video call their eels

Keepers at Japan's Sumida Aquarium, closed because of the coronavirus outbreak, are appealing to patrons to go online and call — their eels. 

The creatures have forgotten what it's like to see human faces so when keepers come to check their health, the frightened fish dive into the sand, according to the marine center in Tokyo.

So between Sunday and Tuesday, keeps hope their "face show festival," with patrons video dialing into tablets set around the tank, can remind them that humans are friendly.

Parts of Everglades National Park in Florida set to reopen

Everglades National Park in Florida will begin reopening some recreational areas starting Monday, the National Park Service announced.

Access will return for the park's Flamingo Marina and boat launch ramps, as well as the marina store, restrooms and gas pumps, and the external restrooms at its visitor center. Entry fees are also being waived.

Numerous other areas of the wetlands preserve remain closed. Decisions to reopen are made "on a park-by-park basis," and follow guidance from federal, state and local authorities, NPS officials said.

"I am pleased that we can be part of our community’s efforts to take incremental steps towards reopening,” Superintendent Pedro Ramos said in a statement. “Our action to restore access to the park's main road and Flamingo provides additional opportunities for people to spread out a little more while practicing social distancing."

The park's increased access will happen the same day as some Florida businesses are set to reopen in a phased plan outlined earlier this week by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

NASA develops new high-pressure ventilator

NASA engineers have developed a new high-pressure ventilator that could be used to treat coronavirus patients and help ease demand on the country’s limited supply of the machines. 

Researchers at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, designed the device that they named VITAL (short for Ventilator Intervention Technology Accessible Locally), and the agency announced Friday that the design was approved for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

A free license for the device is being offered in a bid to jumpstart the manufacturing process, according to Fred Farina, head of innovation and corporate partnerships at Caltech, which manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for NASA.

"Now that we have a design, we're working to pass the baton to the medical community, and ultimately patients, as quickly as possible," Farina said in a statement. "To that end, we are offering the designs for licensing on a royalty-free basis during the time of the pandemic."