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Stay-at-home protests held across the country

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
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

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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This live coverage has now ended. Continue reading May 2 coronavirus news.

107-year-old Missouri man celebrates beating COVID-19

Associated Press

CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — A resident of a suburban St. Louis nursing home is believed to be one of the oldest people in the world to survive the coronavirus.

Rudi Heider had two reasons to celebrate on Thursday — he turned 107 and he beat COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Relatives couldn’t come into his room at Friendship Village in Chesterfield, Missouri, but gathered outside his window while Heider enjoyed a slice of his favorite dessert, lemon meringue pie.

Heider said he looks forward to being able to be with family and friends again.

Heider’s granddaughter, Janet Heider of Seattle, called her grandfather “amazing.”

“I had to tell him that he’s lived through the Spanish Flu, two World Wars, a stroke at 100 years old, and a fractured vertebra at 104 years old that he would not to lose to COVID-19, and he ended up beating it,” she said.

Colorado temporarily suspends evictions

Anita Hassan

Colorado has joined more than 30 other states in temporarily suspending evictions, preventing renters from being removed from their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Gov. Jared Polis issued an executive order on Thursday night that banned evictions and foreclosures through May unless a case poses a public safety risk.

Read the full story here

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


Carol E. LeeCarol E. Lee is the Washington managing editor.

Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner

Kristen Welker, Carol E. Lee and Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner

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

Alex Moe and Dareh Gregorian

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.

Click here for the full story. 

NBA postpones draft lottery and combine

Ahiza García-Hodges

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.

Read the full story.

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

Rich Gardella

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.

Read the full story

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.

Prison sentence for 'Hot Pockets' heiress delayed amid coronavirus

Hot Pockets heiress Michelle Janavs, ensnared in the sweeping college-admissions scandal, had her prison sentence — set to begin next week — delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Janavs, sentenced five months behind bars for paying a fixer to get her daughters into the University of Southern California, had been ordered to surrender on Thursday but now may remain free until at least June 30, according to U.S. District Judge Nathaniel Gorton.

But the judge ruled against Janavs' bid to have her entire sentence served under house arrest.

"The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented and continually evolving cause of concern and the Court is cognizant of the particular transmission risk in penitentiary facilities," Gorton wrote in a ruling handed down Thursday.

Read the full story here.

Fauci, Birx to headline virtual COVID-19 conference at AIDS 2020

U.S. White House COVID-19 task force members Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx will be keynote speakers at a one-day virtual COVID-19 conference to be held in July, the International AIDS Society announced.

AIDS 2020, the 23rd annual International AIDS Conference, was scheduled to be held in San Francisco from July 6-10, but the conference was moved online due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

A one-day COVID-19 conference added to the end of AIDS 2020 will shine a “spotlight on the latest science, policy and practice of the pandemic,” according to Thursday's press release.

“Many of the global experts gathering for AIDS 2020: Virtual are also leading voices in SARS-CoV-2 virology, immunology, vaccines, clinical care and therapeutic guidelines, and trials,” wrote Anton Pozniak, the president of the IAS. “The virtual conference will provide a unique opportunity to help shape the evolving global response to COVID-19.”

The COVID-19 conference is accepting abstract submissions through May 25. Members of the public can register online for free to watch the conference.

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'

Port Of Los Angeles Police Patrol Waters Surrounding Port
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

Dan Good

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."

A Southern mayor had careful plans to reopen the city. His governor had other ideas.

Andy Berke, the mayor of Chattanooga, Tennessee, became one of the earliest leaders in the South to enact measures to prevent the spread of the virus, quickly closing gyms, bars, restaurants and other nonessential businesses. By March 16, Chattanooga was effectively shut down. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, ordered the same measures a week later statewide, and on April 2, he ordered residents to stay home.

But this week, Lee announced that the "vast majority" of businesses in the state were allowed to reopen — regardless of whether city officials like Berke or individual business owners felt it was safe to do so. The mayor said he can't promise it's safe if he doesn't know how many cases there are in his community, and he can't do that without help from the federal government to expand the city's testing capacity.

The development puts Chattanooga at the center of growing partisan tension between Democratic city leaders in the South who want to pursue a slower approach until testing has increased and Republican governors who want the economy reopened as quickly as possible.

Read the full story here.

Cuomo: New York state domestic violence incidents rose in March and April

Domestic violence incidents in New York state rose 15 percent in March and nearly 30 percent in April, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday at his daily coronavirus briefing.

New York state entered into its version of "shelter in place" due to the COVID-19 crisis when Cuomo signed an executive order placing "New York state on PAUSE" on March 20. It was unclear if the increase in calls in March he cited were from after the start of the order or for the entire month. The state remained "on PAUSE" throughout all of April, when incidents increased dramatically.

As states began to issue orders to stay home in March, domestic violence experts were sounding the alarm that isolation at home raises concerns for domestic violence survivors, and warning police would see an increase in related calls.

The Week in Pictures: Lonely roads and the push to reopen

The Week in Pictures

See more of the most compelling photos from the last week as people all over the world grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. 

New York state will keep schools, colleges closed for rest of academic year

All schools and colleges in New York state will remain closed for the remainder of the academic year, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a news conference on Friday.

He said the decision was made to keep the state's 4.2 million students in K-12 schools and colleges and their teachers safe during the coronavirus pandemic.

Distance learning will continue, the governor said, adding that schools and colleges should plan now on what measures they may need to take to reopen campuses in the fall.

Read the full story here. 

With campus life in question, high school seniors are wondering if they should still go away to college

Gwen Aviles

Diego Castillo, a high school senior based in McAllen, Texas, spent months picturing a new life in Boston — he daydreamed of the friends he would meet, the places he would visit and the experiences he would have at his dream school, Boston University.

Yet when Castillo was notified that he had been accepted to BU last month, he didn’t rush to submit his enrollment deposit or procure a school ID and email.

“I had wanted to go to Boston University for a while. I wanted to get out of the state and explore,” Castillo told NBC News. “I was dead-set on it, but then the coronavirus happened and it made me reevaluate.”

Read more here.

Colorado paramedic who died of coronavirus after traveling to help NYC to be honored

A Colorado paramedic who has died of coronavirus after traveling to New York City to help during the  pandemic will be given a "special memorial," New York City Bill de Blasio said Friday. 

"We have lost someone who came to our aid, to our defense," de Blasio said of Paul Cary, 66. De Blasio added that the loss was "very, very painful," and said Cary's actions were heroic. 

"We’re going to find a way to create a special memorial for Paul right here in New York City," the mayor said. 

"I want you to remember, if you really want to honor these heroes, then it's up to you to stick to the rules we’re following now," de Blasio said, addressing New Yorkers about social-distancing rules.

"Lives you save could include our first responders and our health care heroes," he said. "I want to make it personal for you."

Photo: Cleaning a Rome rooftop

Andrew Medichini / AP

A worker disinfects the roof terrace of the Atlantic Hotel in Rome on Wednesday. After seven weeks in lockdown, Italians are regaining some freedoms. Starting on May 4, public parks and gardens will re-open and people will be able to visit relatives who live in the same region.

See more compelling photos as some lockdowns begin to ease in The Week in Pictures.

First 7 miles of NYC streets will be opened to pedestrians, blocked to cars Monday

The first seven miles of streets in New York City that will be closed to cars to create room for people to get outside while also social distancing will be blocked off Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

More than 2.5 miles of street closures will be surrounding city parks, and 4.5 miles of closures will be within the parks. The majority of the street closures are outside of Manhattan, and are in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. 

De Blasio said earlier this week that between 40 and 100 miles of city streets will be blocked off to cars for pedestrian use.  

WHO official says agency not invited to take part in China's virus investigation

China has not invited the World Health Organization to take part in an investigation into the origins of the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to the global health authority's representative in the country.

Dr. Gauden Galea told Sky News on Friday: "We know that some national investigation is happening but at this stage, we have not been invited to join."

"The origins of virus are very important, the animal-human interface is extremely important and needs to be studied," he added. "The priority is we need to know as much as possible to prevent the reoccurrence."

Read the rest here.

South Africa eases lockdown of battered economy


South Africa took its first shaky steps on Friday towards rolling back one of the world's strictest lockdowns, seeking a balance between containing the disease and providing much-needed relief for the economy.

While South Africa has recorded relatively low numbers of 5,647 coronavirus cases and 103 deaths so far out of a population of 58 million, the economic hardship has been severe in a country that was in recession even before the pandemic. The National Treasury forecasts the economy will contract 5.8 percent this year. 

The five-week shutdown Africa's most advanced economy has threatened to send already rampant unemployment soaring and reopening the economy is proving harder than closing it down.

New regulations were finalized only on Wednesday and led to some confusion. Under the first phase of easing, only some sectors may restart operations, and with limited staff. Restaurants, for example, can now resume business but only for food deliveries. Many businesses are weighing whether to reopen at all.

India extends lockdown by two weeks


India said it would extend its nationwide lockdown for another two weeks on Friday after it was originally set to end May 4, but would allow "considerable relaxations" in lower-risk districts marked as green and orange zones, according to government officials.

India's biggest and most economically-important cities — including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Ahmedabad — will all be classed as red zones, infection hotspots, and kept under strict lockdown. To qualify as a green zone, eligible for quicker lifting of restrictions, an area would have had to report no new infections for three weeks.

India has reported more than 35,000 cases and 1,147 confirmed deaths from the virus. The official toll is far lower than in the U.S. and many European countries, although the true extent of infection may be higher in a country where millions of people do not have access to sufficient healthcare.

The world's biggest lockdown — imposed by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 25 — has pummeled India's economy, depriving millions of day laborers of income and stranding rural migrants in cities where they can no longer afford rent or food. The government also issued an order on Friday to provide special trains for stranded migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists and students to return home.

Peter Jeary

Using plastic markers, Greek workers defy ban to mark Labor Day


Image: Members of the Greek Labour Union (PAME), wearing protective masks and respecting the social distances against the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19,  protest in front of the Greek Parliament during the Labour Day demonstration in Athens
Greek workers wearing protective masks and respecting social distancing measures protest in front of the Greek Parliament in Athens on Friday.Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images

Greek workers and students wearing masks and gloves lined up outside parliament to commemorate May Day, defying a government ban on movement imposed to fight the coronavirus.

Using colorful plastic markers placed on the ground to help them observe distance rules, hundreds of protesters joined a rally organized by the Communist-affiliated group PAME. The protesters waved flags, chanted slogans and held banners reading "No sacrifice for the bosses."

Movement restrictions in Greece — imposed in March as part of a nationwide lockdown — will be gradually eased starting on Monday like many other countries in Europe. The conservative government has promised to work to protect jobs in a country that has only just emerged from a decade-long debt crisis that wiped out a quarter of its economic output. The country has reported 2,591 cases and 140 deaths as of Friday.

Russia records record rise in new coronavirus cases for third day in a row

Matthew Bodner

Isobel van Hagen

Matthew Bodner and Isobel van Hagen

Russia recorded a record number of new coronavirus cases for the third day in a row on Friday, as 7,933 people tested positive, bringing the total to almost 115,000. Russian authorities urged people to resist the temptation to flout lockdown measures, as May 1 marks the beginning of 11 days of celebration across the country.

The figures mean Russia now ranks eighth worldwide for the number of confirmed cases, though it has so far recorded far fewer deaths than many of the most hard-hit countries. It has a death toll of 1,169 as of Friday.

This comes a day after Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said he tested positive for virus. Last week, President Vladimir Putin warned the peak of the outbreak in Russia has yet to come.

Remdesivir maker 'moving very quickly' with FDA on possible coronavirus use, CEO says

The company that makes remdesivir, an experimental drug for treatment of the coronavirus, is moving very quickly with the FDA on possible emergency authorization to get the drug to patients, the CEO said.

"I expect that they're going to act very quickly," Gilead Sciences CEO Daniel O'Day said of the FDA, "and we’re prepared as a company to make sure we get this medicine to as many patients as possible, as soon as possible after that approval."

Gilead is also working to expand its capacity for producing remdesivir, O'Day said. The company thinks it could make millions of treatment courses available by the end of the year.

O'Day noted that remdesivir currently is for "severe" coronavirus patients who are hospitalized, but he said the company's scientists are exploring if the medication could work to treat patients who are in earlier stages of the illness.

Read the full story here.

Peter Jeary

Three-year-old girl shows off sheep in online agricultural show

With livestock shows around Britain canceled due to COVID-19, farmers are finding innovative ways to still present their prized livestock. A video of 3-year-old Barley Brook Sellar presenting Ethel, her prized Border Leicester sheep, has been watched more than a million times on Twitter.  

Filmed at the family's farm in Norfolk, England, the video shows Barley introducing Ethel, walking her in a short circle and commanding her to stand. It was shared on Twitter by one of the judges for the Young Handlers Under 8 Years Old category. 

"What kind of sheep is this?" Barley's mother, Caitlin Jenkins, can be heard asking. "A white one," replies Barley. The Greatest Online Agricultural Show, which is donating money raised to British farming charities, opens Saturday. 

Target, Walmart workers and others plan 'sickout' protests over coronavirus safety

A Target worker in Virginia wearing his own mask, gloves and safety glasses said he felt helpless recently when customers swarmed him as he organized a clearance area. Another Target worker, a cashier in North Carolina, said he welcomed the installation of plexiglass partitions at the registers over a week ago, but said they should have come sooner. A Whole Foods worker in Portland said she and some of her colleagues are feeling "scared, angry and devastated" after a fellow employee died from the coronavirus last week.

To convey their concerns, they plan to call out of work Friday as part of a nationwide employee "sickout" involving Target and Whole Foods, as well as AmazonInstacartFedEx and Walmart.

The grassroots effort — the latest example of a wave of worker activism during the coronavirus crisis — is asking customers to boycott those companies' local stores and services Friday to coincide with International Workers' Day, also known as May Day, which in a normal year is marked by massive labor rights demonstrations in major cities.

Read the full story here.

Some minority groups in UK have higher death rate than white Britons, study finds

Isobel van Hagen

Per-capita hospital deaths are the highest among the black Caribbean population in England and Wales, who are dying at triple the rate of white Britons, a new study found on Friday. Other minority groups — including Pakistanis and black Africans — have seen similar numbers.

The impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are not uniform across ethnic groups, and show clear disparities in their mortality rates, the Institute for Fiscal Studies said in the report. Merely aggregating all minorities together when examining data misses important differences, it said. As of Friday, more than 26,000 people across Britain have died from coronavirus.

The British research institute suggested that occupational exposure partially explains disproportionate deaths for some groups. More than two in 10 black African women of working age, for example, are employed in health and social care roles. Indian men are 150 percent more likely to work in health or social care roles than their white British counterparts. While the Indian ethnic group makes up 3 percent of the working-age population of England and Wales, they account for 14 percent of doctors.

Peter Jeary

Tokyo aquarium asks public to FaceTime shy eels under lockdown

Mai Nishiyama

Linda Givetash and Mai Nishiyama
Image: Spotted garden eels, similar to those held at a Tokyo aquarium, burrow in sand at signs of perceived threats.
Spotted garden eels, similar to those held at a Tokyo aquarium, burrow in sand at signs of perceived threats.Reinhard Dirscherl/ullstein bild / Getty Images file

A Japanese aquarium is calling on members of the public to play a virtual game of peek-a-boo with its community of about 300 eels to help prevent the creatures from getting shy under lockdown.

Spotted garden eels at the Sumida Aquarium in Tokyo are accustomed to streams of people looking into their tanks, but officials said in a statement Friday that appears to be changing since the facility closed its doors due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 1.

This variety of eels are typically very cautious of their surroundings in the wild and bury themselves in the sand of the ocean floor at the sign of any threat. Aquarium officials are concerned the captive eels are reverting back to this behavior.

Read the full story here.

Rock band Queen releases 'You Are The Champions' in nod to health workers

Isobel van Hagen

The rock band Queen and singer Adam Lambert released a new version of the iconic song “We Are The Champions” on Thursday evening, re-naming the song “You Are The Champions” in a tribute to healthcare workers around the world.

The song was recorded on mobile phones and all funds and proceeds "will go to supporting frontline workers through the World Health Organization's efforts in the global fight against COVID-19," the band's official page said. The effort has raised more than $4.5 million as of Friday.

The Week in Pictures: Lockdowns ease and a Blue Angels flyover

Peter Jeary

Image: Inmates wearing face masks are lined up during a security sweep at the Izalco prison in San Salvador, El Salvador.
Inmates wearing face masks are lined up during a security sweep at the Izalco prison in San Salvador, El Salvador, on April 25. Authorities crammed the prisoners tightly together in prison yards while searching their cells. President Nayib Bukele ordered the crackdown after more than 20 people were murdered in the country a day earlier and intelligence suggested the orders came from imprisoned gang leaders.El Salvador Presidency Press Office / AP

As states around the U.S. and some countries in Europe take steps toward reopening, look through our Week in Pictures. 

Ferrari set to restart as 4.5 million people head back to work in Italy on Monday

Lidia Sirna

The Italian luxury carmaker Ferrari said on Thursday it would restart operations in Northern Italy on Monday, when the country is set to begin lifting lockdown measures. The sites will resume operations “gradually” and return to full production on May 8, the company said in a statement. 

This comes as 4.5 million people across Italy are expected to return to work on Monday, according to the Italian workplace insurance agency INAIL. Commuting may have a strong impact on the epidemic’s curve, as 15 percent of workers use public transport, the agency said. 

Italy — one of the hardest-hit countries by the pandemic — has the highest reported deaths and the second most reported cases in Europe. The country has more than 200,000 confirmed cases as of Friday, although due to a  decrease in the rate of infections, social restrictions are slowly loosening.

Peter Jeary

Their loved ones died fighting coronavirus in Britain. They are left with grief, and questions

Saphora Smith, Adela Suliman and Jamie Roberton

On March 29, Thomas  Harvey, a health care assistant at Goodmayes Hospital in London, died at home after having suffered from coronavirus-related symptoms for 18 days. 

Harvey’s family said they called the emergency services three times over the course of his worsening illness, but he was never taken to a hospital or officially tested despite being told by paramedics that he likely had the disease. 

Behind the news last month that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was released from a London hospital where he was treated for coronavirus — and where, he says, his time in intensive care saved his life — are the stories of those who didn’t make it.

Read the full story here.

NBC News

Beijing's Forbidden City and parks reopen to public

Associated Press

Image: Visitors wearing face masks walk through the Forbidden City in Beijing, China on Friday as the city starts to reopen.
Visitors wearing face masks walk through the Forbidden City in Beijing, China on Friday, the first day it reopened after shutting to stop the spread of coronavirus.Mark Schiefelbein / AP

Beijing’s parks and museums, including the ancient Forbidden City, reopened to the public Friday after being closed for months during the pandemic.

The Forbidden City — the past home to China’s emperors — is allowing just 5,000 visitors daily, down from 80,000. And parks are allowing people to visit at 30 percent of the usual capacity. Beijing on Thursday downgraded its level of emergency response to the virus from first to second tier, but temperature checks and social distancing remain in force. The change comes at the start of the five-day May 1 holiday.

China reported 82,874 total coronavirus cases as of Friday, 77,642 of which have recovered. It also reported no new deaths on Friday for the fourth day in a row, for a total death toll of 4,633.

Broncos' star linebacker Von Miller says he's negative for COVID-19

Denver Broncos' star linebacker Von Miller tweeted Thursday that he is now "negative" for COVID-19,  after testing positive in mid-April. 

At the time of his diagnosis, Miller said that if he can get the illness anyone can, and that "I want people to really take it seriously," according to the team. The Broncos said at the time Miller's positive test was disclosed that he was under the care of team doctors and was doing well in self-isolation. 

Miller remains the only Broncos player to have been diagnosed with the illness, the team said Thursday.

California allows marriage licenses via videoconference amid pandemic

For better, for worse and hopefully the internet isn't out: Californians will now be able to obtain marriage licenses via videoconference, the governor announced Thursday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom's order also allows — at the discretion of the county clerk — for couples to be married this way, as long as at least one witness can join the videoconference. Previously both parties had to apply for licenses in person. The changes last for 60 days, according to Newsom's office.

The move comes amid social distancing and other restrictions designed to limit the gathering of people amid the coronavirus pandemic which has killed more than 60,000 people in the U.S. so far. 

California is not the first to announce such a move. New York's governor earlier this month signed an executive order also allowing residents to obtain a marriage license remotely and allowing clerks to perform ceremonies via videoconference, something that had been impermissible under the law.

On Wednesday, New York City announced "Project Cupid," designed to transition the marriage licensing process fully online.

Demonstrators against reopening economy to hit the streets

As demonstrators who want to get back to work planned a show of force in multiple U.S. cities Friday for International Workers Day, counterprotesters said they would hold their own rallies. 

The lunchtime counterprotests, in support of keeping non-essential businesses closed to prevent the spread of coronavirus, are being held by the organization Refuse Fascism.

"We are nonviolent," said Chantelle Hershberger, an organizer of the Los Angeles rally. "We’re not there to literally go toe-to-toe."

Demonstrators in Los Angeles will wear masks and practice social distancing, she said.

Read the whole story here.

Huntington Beach, Calif., to ask court to overturn beach closure

The city council in Huntington Beach, California, voted Thursday to authorize the city attorney to take legal action against the state for closing down beaches in Orange County.

After the vote City Attorney Michael E. Gates said by email, "We are filing in State Court tonight hoping for relief for temporary injunction."

Gov. Gavin Newsom earlier in the day said a widely expected statewide beach closure wasn't happening, but one that focused on Orange County would go into effect Friday. This came after images captured throngs of people on the sand in Huntington Beach and nearby Newport Beach on a warm weekend.

The city council held an emergency meeting Thursday. Many residents who wrote to the council on the topic favored keeping the beaches open and suggested the traditionally Republican city was being punished for being of a different political persuasion than the Democratic governor.