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.

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Orange County beaches to stay closed

Orange County beaches will remain closed after a California Superior Court judge rejected a request Friday to block Gov. Gavin Newsom's directive that beaches there must remain off-limits during the coronavirus pandemic.

Judge Nathan R. Scott set a hearing for May 11 to consider Huntington Beach's request for an injunction. Dana Point, a neighboring coastal city, joined in the suit, and nearby Newport Beach has also signaled support.

"A plan to reopen beaches has been developed and will be submitted to the State over the weekend," Dana Point officials said in a statement. "The city is hopeful the plan will satisfy the State, making further court action unnecessary."

Read the full story here.

Health officials eyeing at least one of 14 potential coronavirus vaccines to fast-track

WASHINGTON — There are 14 potential coronavirus vaccines under development as part of President Donald Trump's administration's program to fast-track one for use as early as January, senior administration officials tell NBC News.

That number was whittled down several weeks ago from 93 vaccines in development that were studied as part of the program, known as “Operation Warp Speed,” officials said.

Over the next two weeks, the 14 remaining vaccines will undergo additional testing and officials expect that anywhere from six to eight of them will make it to a subsequent round of clinical trials. Ultimately, the officials said, the goal is to have three or four vaccines make it through final testing and cleared for use early next year.

The bigger concern, officials said, is how to quickly make the vaccine for more than 300 million Americans once they find one that works.

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Police and federal agents are cracking down on price gouging

California Gov. Newsom says state could be days away from easing stay-at-home order

Amid mounting pressure to reopen California's economy and beaches, Gov. Gavin Newsom said on Friday the state could be "many days not weeks away" from "augmenting" the stay-at-home order. 

“I feel some confidence over the course of the next week we’re going to be able to make some announcements that will give people some more confidence in the ability for California to get back on its economic feet,” Newsom said.

The announcement was made as hundreds of people in Orange County flooded the streets of Huntington Beach, many carrying political signs and calling for the governor to be recalled. 

Earlier this week, the Democratic governor announced a four-phased plan to reopen the economy. 

White House blocking Fauci from testifying before Congress about coronavirus response

The White House has blocked Dr. Anthony Fauci from testifying about the response to the coronavirus crisis before the House Appropriations Committee, a spokesman for the committee told NBC News on Friday.

He’d been asked to appear on May 6, but a White House  spokesman said the hearing date is not an “appropriate” time for Fauci to go before the House and that it would be “counter-productive.”

Fauci, the head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been a key adviser in the Trump administration’s fight against the coronavirus and until recently, a fixture at the White House coronavirus briefings.

He has sat for numerous media interviews on the virus, including on sports podcasts.

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NBA postpones draft lottery and combine

The NBA will postpone its draft lottery and combine because of the coronavirus pandemic, the league said Friday. No new dates were set for the events.

The league said it would continues to assess the situation and consult with health experts and government officials.

Both events were scheduled to take place in Chicago with the draft lottery on May 19 and the draft combine running from May 21-24.

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VA to participate in clinical trials for blood plasma therapy, remdesivir and sarilumab

The VA said Friday that it will take part in clinical trials for COVID-19 treatments, including a Mayo Clinic study on whether the antibodies in blood plasma from recovered patients can help treat sick patients, and trials of the drugs remdesivir and sarilumab.

According to the VA, more than 60 of its medical centers and clinics are ready to perform transfusions of blood plasma to COVID-19 patients.

The VA also announced that its medical centers in Denver, New Orleans and Palo Alto, California have joined a clinical trial led by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases assessing whether drugs like remdesivir are effective against COVID-19. In Atlanta, the VA is working with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals to assess whether sarilumab, a drug normally taken to treat rheumatoid arthritis, may be an effective treatment.  

Veteran patients interested in participating can contact VA medical centers in these cities.

NYC's 911 call volume decreases dramatically after record spike due to COVID-19

Several weeks ago, during the throes of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, FDNY medical 911 call volume spiked to record levels at over 6,500 calls per day from a normal volume of 4,000, and now those numbers have fallen dramatically, the FDNY says.

The past week's medical calls to 911 represent the lowest call volume in years. There were 3,032 on Thursday and around 3,300 earlier in the week.

Prior to COVID-19 hitting New York City, the average volume was about 4,000-4,100 calls per day.

A senior FDNY official believes the decrease stems from people heeding the advice to only call 911 if there is a true emergency, and also fewer people out and about traveling around the city.

Cardiac calls received by 911 jumped from an average of 69 per day to over 350 during the heart of the crisis. Those numbers have also decreased to 95 cardiac calls Thursday with 60 deaths resulting.

FDA grants emergency use for remdesivir for very sick patients

The Food and Drug Administration is allowing hospitalized patients to be treated with remdesivir, the drug that has shown promise in early clinical trials to help people with severe COVID-19. 

The emergency use authorization was announced Friday during an Oval Office meeting between President Donald Trump, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn, and the CEO of Gilead Sciences, the company that developed remdesivir.

An emergency use authorization is not the same as FDA approval and it doesn't mean the drug should be used for all hospitalized COVID-19 patients.

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Democrats demand stimulus money for Americans who are married to immigrants

Americans are eligible for up to $1,200 in coronavirus stimulus money — unless they're married and filing taxes jointly with an immigrant who doesn’t have a Social Security number. Democratic leaders are demanding to change that.

About 2 million undocumented people are married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder. They — along with some lawfully present immigrants — don’t have Social Security numbers and use an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (or ITIN) to file taxes.

The CARES Act, which authorized the payments for couples earning up to $198,000, requires a Social Security number for eligibility. The IRS has said both people on the tax return must have Social Security numbers in order for either to get any money, including the $500 per child that is helping cash-strapped families pay for rent and other expenses in the pandemic.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called it “a monumental injustice” that must be fixed.

Read the full story here.