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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Mississippi governor holds off on relaxing rules after new cases, deaths

Mississippi's governor said Friday that he was prepared to announce more re-openings of businesses but changed his mind because the state reported its highest single-day increases in coronavirus cases and deaths.

"This thing is not over. We are not out of the woods yet," Gov. Tate Reeves warned at a news conference, adding that the state must stay flexible.

The state health department on Friday reported 397 new cases of COVID-19 and an additional 20 deaths, bringing the total number of deaths since March 11 to 281. 

Of the 20 newly reported deaths, 11 happened between March 29 and April 16 and are being classified as coronavirus deaths based on death certificates, according to the health department.

Reeves last Friday signed an order to begin partially reopening Mississippi's economy. He said he wants to re-open the economy further in a safe way, but the increase was enough to make him hold off for now and to consider any possible next steps at least through the weekend. He stressed that the threat from the virus is serious.

1,000 NYPD officers will be on social-distancing patrol for warm weekend

The New York Police Department says it will deploy 1,000 officers across the city as spring temperatures warm this weekend to "ensure that members of the public engage in social distancing." 

The department says it is sending out these officers to educate "so we can all help stop the spread of the coronavirus and keep all New Yorkers safe and healthy."

Police say they the public should expect to see social distancing officers on patrol by foot, on bikes and in patrol cars to make sure social distancing procedures are followed.

Business owners cautiously welcome easing of restrictions

As a majority of U.S. states began to relax social distancing and stay-at-home rules, business owners cautiously welcomed the opportunity to reopen.

"We’re following the guidelines, and we hope the government is guiding us in the right direction," said Charlie Yin, who's preparing to open three of his four restaurants in Nebraska on Monday. "I definitely think this is saving jobs."

Among states relaxing restrictions Friday were Iowa, Utah, Wyoming and Maine. In Texas, malls, stores, restaurants and movie theaters were allowed to open Friday at 25 percent of their previously permitted capacity. Medical and dental offices could also take patients with non-essential needs.

Effie Stees, owner of the Why Not Envy Me Boutique, which sells jewelry and chocolate in Spring, Texas, said, "It's a new normal. But people are grateful they have a place to go."

Read the full story here.

Growing mental health toll for millions of unemployed Americans

Washington governor extends stays-at-home order through May

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday said he will issue an extension of his "stay home, stay healthy" order through May 31, but he also outlined how the state may allow some businesses to reopen.

"We have not won this fight against this virus," Inslee said. "Monday's order will continue a ban on public gatherings. Many businesses will have to remain closed."

Reopening businesses and other events will be reopened in four phases. Protocols allowing those operations could be ready by mid-May, Inslee said. The governor did not give an exact timeline but said there will be at least three weeks between phases. Some counties less hard-hit could be allowed to move faster.

Inslee's extension comes as some other states have started re-opening their economies and easing restrictions designed to slow the spread of the coronavirus illness COVID-19. 

Washington state had one of the first coronavirus outbreaks in the United States, and more than 800 people have died there, according to state department of health numbers. As of Friday night, there have been more than 1.1 million cases in the U.S. with more than 64,000 deaths, according to an NBC News count of reports.

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.

Click here for the full story

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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