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Coronavirus researcher fatally shot, Trump defends not wearing mask

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: Mitch factory worker
Mitch oversees the Clorox Bleach production line.NBC News

President Donald Trump said “there’ll be more death” related to the coronavirus pandemic but claimed it's time to reopen the country as a growing number of states move to slowly relax their stay-at-home mandates.

“I think we're doing very well on the vaccines but, with or without a vaccine, it's going to pass, and we're going to be back to normal,” Trump told ABC News in an interview while visiting a mask-making factory in Arizona.

Trump also defended his choice not to wear a mask at the factory during a Wednesday press conference, where he said he was told he didn't have to use one. The president also claimed he wore a mask for "some period of time" during the visit.

At least 64 children in New York state have been hospitalized with an illness apparently linked to the coronavirus. The symptoms are consistent with other inflammatory illnesses, such as Kawasaki disease and toxic shock syndrome.

As scientists around the world race to develop a potential solution, researchers at Pfizer Inc. and New York University are working on a never-before-tried coronavirus vaccine that the pharmaceutical company says could be available by September.

A medical researcher from the University of Pittsburgh was found shot to death over the weekend after what police believe to be a "lengthy dispute regarding an intimate partner." The university said Dr. Bing Liu "was on the verge of making very significant findings toward understanding the cellular mechanisms that underlie" the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, the death toll in the U.S. rose to more than 72,000, according to NBC News' count, and there are more than 1.2 million confirmed cases of the virus.

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

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

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Frontier Airlines will drop open-seat fee that drew attacks

Frontier Airlines is dropping plans to charge passengers extra to sit next to an empty middle seat after congressional Democrats accused the airline of trying to profit from fear over the new coronavirus.

“We recognize the concerns raised that we are profiting from safety and this was never our intent,” Frontier CEO Barry Biffle said late Wednesday in a letter to three lawmakers. “We simply wanted to provide our customers with an option for more space.”

Biffle said the airline will rescind the extra fee, which Frontier called More Room, and block the seats from being sold.

Earlier in the day, Democrats had railed against Frontier's plan to charge passengers at least $39 per flight to guarantee they would sit next to an empty middle seat. The offer was to begin with flights Friday and run through Aug. 31.

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Thai elephants, out of work due to coronavirus, trudge home

BANGKOK — The millions of unemployed in Thailand because of the coronavirus include elephants dependent on tourists to feed their voracious appetites. With scant numbers of foreign visitors, commercial elephant camps and sanctuaries lack funds for their upkeep and have sent more than 100 of the animals trudging as far as 100 miles back to their homes.

The Save Elephant Foundation in the northern province of Chiang Mai has been promoting the elephants’ return to the greener pastures of home. The foundation supports fundraising appeals to feed animals still housed at tourist parks, but also believes it is good for them to return to their natural habitat where they can be more self-sufficient.

The situation is critical. London-based World Animal Protection says as many as 2,000 tame elephants are at risk of starvation because their owners are unable to feed them.

Since last month, more than 100 of the animals have marched from all over Chiang Mai to their homeland of Mae Chaem, which is dotted with villages where members of the Karen ethnic minority live and traditionally keep elephants.

Relief payments sent to the dead should be returned, IRS says

The federal government said Wednesday people should return coronavirus relief payments that were sent to the deceased.

The IRS issued the formal guidance on its website Wednesday, and the Treasury Department also tweeted about what it called the inadvertent payments.

Congress authorized payments of $1,200 to individuals as part of a massive relief package due to the economic devastation caused by the coronavirus epidemic. Many were based on past tax returns, and people have reported that relatives who have since died got that money.

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Texas AG calls for release of salon owner jailed for operating during shutdown

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the jail sentence of a Dallas salon owner who defied coronavirus shutdown orders "excessive" on Wednesday.

In a statement, Paxton said it was a "shameful abuse of discretion" when Dallas County Judge Eric Moye sentenced Salon À la Mode owner Shelley Luther to seven days in jail when she was trying "to put food on her family's table."

"He should release Ms. Luther immediately," he said.

Read the full story here. 

$5,000 offered in search for father, son in deadly mask dispute with guard

Days after a father and son were charged in the killing of a Michigan security guard in a dispute over a requirement to wear a mask in a store, law enforcement offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to their arrest.

Larry Teague, 44, and son Ramonyea Bishop, 23, are being sought in connection with the Friday killing of security guard Calvin Munerlyn, 43, in Flint.

The Genesee County prosecutor said this week that an argument began at the Family Dollar store after Munerlyn told Teague's wife and her daughter that the younger woman needed to wear a mask in the store.

The U.S. Marshals Service said Wednesday that there is a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest each of the two outstanding suspects.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is requiring state residents entering enclosed public spaces to wear masks, as part of measures to slow the spread of the deadly disease COVID-19.

Stormtrooper trying to get customers' attention taken down by officers

A restaurant employee in a “Star Wars” costume was detained in Canada on Sunday after 911 callers reported seeing someone in a Stormtrooper costume with a gun, police said.

The employee, who was carrying a plastic blaster, had been trying to drum up business for the struggling restaurant, which opened two months before Canadian authorities shuttered eat-in dining because of the coronavirus, the woman’s boss, Brad Whalen, told NBC News.

The promotion occurred on “May the 4th Be With You Day,” the unofficial holiday dedicated to the film franchise. The restaurant, Coco Vanilla Galactic Cantina, is “Star Wars” themed and serves pizza and donair in the city of Lethbridge, Alberta.

A video showed multiple officers, some with their guns drawn, shouting at the employee to get on the ground. The worker, who Whalen did not want to identify, could be seen face down in Coco Vanilla’s parking lot. She could be heard sobbing while officers handcuffed her.

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First immigrant detainee dies of virus

SAN DIEGO - A man held at a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention center near the U.S.-Mexico border died Wednesday of coronavirus-related illness, a health official said. 

His was the first coronavirus death among detainees in federal immigration detention.

"We can confirm that we had a report this morning of a 57-year-old male detainee who had formerly been at the Otay Mesa Detention Facility and had been hospitalized since late April did die early this morning from complications of COVID," said Eric McDonald, a medical director at San Diego County's public health department.

With 132 COVID-19 cases, the contractor-run detention center has the most patients by far of the 41 ICE facilities where the virus has been reported.

Read the full story here.