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Democrats push $3 trillion relief package, Trump calls it 'DOA'

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: West Java
A health agency official rests by the entrance to a public toilet as other colleagues conduct testing for the COVID-19 coronavirus at a bus station in Bandung, West Java, on May 13, 2020.Timur Matahari / AFP - Getty Images

President Donald Trump said he disagreed with Dr. Anthony Fauci's Senate testimony from Tuesday. Trump said Fauci's remarks about the dangers or reopening too soon were "not an acceptable answer."

House Democrats are pushing a new $3 trillion stimulus package, which would include another round of $1,200 checks for Americans and extending federal unemployment benefits. Trump called the legislative bill "DOA. Dead on arrival."

Meanwhile, the California State University system said that it plans to offer most of its courses for the fall virtually. And in the U.K., coronavirus restrictions eased on Wednesday morning, allowing people to spend time outdoors and play sports with members of their household.

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

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'Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta' personality accused of coronavirus relief fraud

A Georgia man who has appeared in the reality TV series "Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta" is accused of securing a loan designed to help businesses keep employees during the coronavirus crisis and spending the money on himself.

Maurice Fayne, also known as "Arkansas Mo" allegedly received more than $2 million from a loan through the federal Paycheck Protection Program and used more than $1.5 million to buy jewelry, lease a Rolls Royce and to pay child support, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

He is facing federal bank fraud charges.

Read the full story here. 

New Zealand barber snips away at midnight as nation reopens

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The raggedy hairstyles and scruffy beards have been there for all to see on video calls, so barber Conrad Fitz-Gerald decided to reopen his shop at midnight Wednesday — the moment New Zealand dropped most of its lockdown restrictions as the nation prepared itself for a new normal.

Malls, retail stores and restaurants are all reopening Thursday in the South Pacific nation of 5 million, and many people are returning to their workplaces. But most gatherings will be limited to 10 people and social distancing guidelines will remain in place.

The reopening reflects the success New Zealand has experienced in its bold goal of eliminating the virus. The country reported no new cases of the virus for a third straight day on Thursday. More than 1,400 of the nearly 1,500 people who contracted the virus that causes COVID-19 have recovered, while 21 have died.

Fitz-Gerald said he’d had about 50 inquiries for midnight haircuts, but limited the initial customers to a dozen, starting with his 18-year-old son. He planned to then go home and return at 6 a.m. for another round of cuts.

“People are saying their hair is out-of-control, they can’t handle it anymore,” he said. 

Nearly 2,000 medical students graduate early to join fight

Whistleblower to warn of 'darkest winter' if virus rebounds

WASHINGTON — America faces the “darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders act decisively to prevent a rebound of the coronavirus, says a government whistleblower who alleges he was ousted from his job after warning the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic.

Immunologist Dr. Rick Bright makes his sobering prediction in testimony prepared for his appearance Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Aspects of his complaint about early administration handling of the crisis are expected to be backed up by testimony from an executive of a company that manufactures, respirator masks.

A federal watchdog agency has found “reasonable grounds” that Bright was removed from his post as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after sounding the alarm at the Department of Health and Human Services. Bright alleged he became a target of criticism when he urged early efforts to invest in vaccine development and stock up on supplies.

“Our window of opportunity is closing,” Bright says in his prepared testimony posted on the House committee website. “If we fail to develop a national coordinated response, based in science, I fear the pandemic will get far worse and be prolonged, causing unprecedented illness and fatalities.”

U.N. expects pandemic to shrink world economy by 3.2% this year

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations is forecasting that the coronavirus pandemic will shrink the world economy by 3.2% this year, the sharpest contraction since the Great Depression in the 1930s.

The U.N.’s mid-year report released Wednesday said COVID-19 is expected to slash global economic output by nearly $8.5 trillion over the next two years, wiping out nearly all gains of the past four years.

In January, the U.N. forecast a modest growth of 2.5 percent in 2020.

The United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects report said the pandemic is also “exacerbating poverty and inequality,” with an estimated 34.3 million people likely to fall below the extreme poverty line in 2020 — 56 percent of them in Africa.

It said an additional 130 million people may join the ranks of people living in extreme poverty by 2030, dealing a “huge blow” to global efforts to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger by the end of the decade.

Rare child illness linked to coronavirus detected in states not considered hot spots

Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down state's 'stay-at-home' order

The Wisconsin Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down the state's stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic as "unlawful, invalid and unenforceable" after finding the state's health commissioner exceeded her authority.

In a 4-3 ruling, the court called State Department of Health head Andrea Palm's directive, known as Emergency Order 28, a "vast seizure of power."

The order directed all individuals present within the state of Wisconsin to stay at home or at their place of residence, subject only to exceptions allowed by Palm, the ruling says. The order, which was set to run until May 26, also put in place travel restrictions and business restrictions, along with threats of jail time or fines for those who don't comply.

Read the full story here

Minnesota letting stay-at-home order expire Monday

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said he will let his stay-at-home order expire as scheduled Monday, though he’ll leave key restrictions in place to keep up the state’s fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Don’t get me wrong — we believe that the safest place we can be is at home,” Walz said in a televised address Wednesday. “But we know we can’t continue like this forever.”

Walz made the announcement after health officials released updated modeling — couched in caveats — that showed the potential effects of various scenarios he could have chosen. The Democratic governor has been under increasing political pressure to loosen up the restrictions, and some business owners have threatened defiance if they remain in place.

Walz said his new order brings back some of the social interactions “that are so important in life.”

While the stay-at-home order will expire, the changes he announced amount to only a gradual relaxation of the state’s restrictions. Bars, restaurants and other places where people gather in large numbers won’t be allowed to reopen for business as usual just yet. But gatherings of 10 people or fewer, such as family celebrations, will be allowed. Retailers that had been shuttered as nonessential will be allowed to reopen with restrictions on how many people can be allowed inside.

Mother-daughter duo pivots printing company to custom face mask production

Image: FaceItMask
GRIT boxing master trainer Anthony Crouchelli with his custom-made "FaceItMasks" mask.Anthony Crouchelli

After Susan Kaden’s work at a New York City printing company came to a pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic, she and daughter Samantha decided to pivot and began making custom face masks focused on brand identity.

The two created “FaceItMasks” that allows companies, brands and consumers to order custom masks or choose from pre-designed ones that feature school logos, fashion brands and tie dye motifs.

“It’s an expression of fashion. It’s necessary and it’s a part of our momentary world where it’s required,” Susan Kaden told NBC News.

They enlisted the help of social media influencers to help spread the word, Samantha Kaden said.  

A portion of the proceeds from their masks will go toward “Citymeals on Wheels,” a nonprofit that serves meals to the elderly in New York City.   

The two plan to expand the business and create branded products that businesses will need for reopening such as signage and floor markers for social distancing or plexiglass protective shields for front desks and registers.

'DOA': That's what Trump says about House Democrats' coronavirus relief package

Image:
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House no May 13, 2020.Evan Vucci / AP

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump shot down the massive new Democratic coronavirus relief package ahead of a planned House vote on Friday.

"DOA. Dead on arrival. Of course, Nancy Pelosi knows that," he told reporters at the White House on Wednesday when asked about the bill's prospects.

About one-third of the $3 trillion legislation is relief for state, local and tribal governments, which many Republicans are resisting. The measure also includes assistance to essential workers, an extension of unemployment insurance beyond July, another round of $1,200 direct cash, and various other measures that are unlikely to gain bipartisan support but serve as an opening bid for Democrats.

Read the full story here.

Coronavirus could make work-from-home the future of the office

As many industries grapple with how to redesign office space to minimize health risks, this historic economic crisis is also forcing companies to cut costs with real estate on the chopping block.

An instant coronavirus test missed nearly half of potential positives, NYU study finds

A recent study from New York University's Langone Health found that a rapid coronavirus test missed more than 48 percent of positive cases. 

The study, which has not been peer reviewed, concluded that the Abbot ID NOW COVID-19 tests missed a third of the samples detected positive when using nasopharyngeal swabs in viral transport medium and more than 48 percent when using dry nasal swabs.

Abbott Labs said in a statement Wednesday its test was studied "in a manner that it’s not intended to be used."

"It’s unclear how the samples were tested," the statement said. "The outcomes in this paper are inconsistent with any experience that we’ve had with this instrument." Abbott added that out of 1.8 million tests distributed, the false negative rate was about .02 percent

NYU said in a statement Wednesday that the study's authors acknowledge their limitations, including a small sample size and testing of the nasal swabs in the laboratory rather that at the point of care.

The Food and Drug Administration said it was aware of the NYU report and are reviewing the information from the study.

Trump criticizes Fauci's Senate testimony: 'Not an acceptable answer'

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Wednesday criticized comments Dr. Anthony Fauci made during a Tuesday congressional hearing about the risks of reopening the country too soon as "not an acceptable answer."

"I was surprised by his answer actually because, you know, to me it's not an acceptable answer especially when it comes to schools," Trump said during a meeting with North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis in the Cabinet Room of the White House Wednesday afternoon.

"He wants to play all sides of the equation," Trump said of Fauci, before emphasizing his confidence that the economy would quickly rebound from the pandemic.

Read the full story here. 

One in four popular YouTube coronavirus videos contain misinformation, study finds

One in four of the most popular English-language YouTube videos about the coronavirus contains misinformation, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal BMJ Global Health.

For the study, researchers from the University of Ottawa analyzed 69 of the most widely-viewed English language videos from a single day in March and found 19 contained non-factual information, garnering more than 62 million views. Misinformation, according to the researchers, included any video that contained false information on the transmission, symptoms, prevention strategies, treatments and epidemiology of the coronavirus.

Internet news sources were most likely to misinform, though entertainment, network and internet news outlets were all sources of misinformation, according to the study. None of the most popular professional and government videos contained misinformation. 

The new study implies that because of YouTube’s size and continued growth, misinformation about the coronavirus has reached more people than in past public health crises, including H1N1 and Ebola.

Police officer on leave after urging cops not to enforce stay-at-home order

A Washington police officer is on administrative leave after posting a video on social media urging cops not to enforce the state’s stay-at-home order.

Officer Greg Anderson with the Port of Seattle Police Department posted the video on his Instagram account on May 6. The video, in which Anderson is wearing his uniform in what appeared to be his police car, has garnered more than 800,000 views.

“I’m seeing people arrested or cited for going to church, for traveling on the roadways, for going surfing, opening their businesses,” Anderson said in the video. “I want to remind you that regardless of where you stand on the coronavirus, we don’t have the authority to do those things to people just because a mayor or a governor tells you otherwise.”

In a statement posted on the Port of Seattle Police Department’s website, Police Chief Rod Covey said Anderson was on leave for violating the department’s policy on the use of social media.

Read the full story here.

Fact check: Trump says COVID-19 has 'very little impact on young people'

Defending his desire to reopen schools, President Donald Trump said Wednesday that coronavirus has "had very little impact on young people."

This needs context. It’s true that statistically children appear to handle COVID-19 better than adults and the elderly, but some have also developed a dangerous and deadly inflammatory condition. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Tuesday that children do statistically appear to handle the virus better, but urged a careful approach given the many unknowns surrounding the disease.  

“We don't know everything about this virus and we really better be very careful particularly when it comes to children, because the more and more we learn, we're seeing things about what this virus can do that we didn't see from the studies in China or in Europe,” Fauci said. “Right now children presenting with COVID-19 who have a very strange inflammatory syndrome, very similar to Kawasaki’s syndrome. I think we better be careful, if we are not cavalier, in thinking that children are completely immune."

Maryland to end stay-at-home order on Friday

Stay-at-home orders in Maryland will be lifted on Friday, allowing some businesses to partially reopen for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic emerged, Gov. Larry Hogan announced.

Starting at 5 p.m. on Friday, retail stores, manufacturing operations, barber shops and hair salons may take customers at 50 percent capacity, the governor said on Wednesday.

Hogan said decreasing numbers of hospitalizations and deaths allow his state to take a first step toward reopening. But the governor promised he wouldn't hesitate to issue new lockdown orders if coronavirus cases suddenly spike: "We remain ready to quickly and decisively respond to any changes  to the facts on the ground." 

 

Protesters clash at city councilman’s home over Fresno reopening

Video shows Fresno, California, City Council President Miguel Arias scuffle with members of a group gathered outside his home to protest coronavirus restrictions being enforced in the city. KSEE's Kirsten Mitchell reports.

Wall Street slides after Fed Chairman says economic outlook includes 'great uncertainty'

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down by just over 515 points on Wednesday, after Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned of a longer recession if Congress did not step in with additional fiscal stimulus.

The S&P 500 ended the day lower by 1.7 percent and the Nasdaq — which earlier this week had turned positive for the year, breaching the 9,000 mark — tumbled by 1.5 percent.

“There is a growing sense that the economy may recover more slowly than we would like,” Powell said Wednesday morning during a scheduled video conference with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Overall, concern is mounting that despite the gradual reopening of the economy and return to work, the proverbial "V-shaped" recovery may not materialize — and the country may instead suffer a prolonged recession.

The U.S. economy lost an unprecedented 20.5 million jobs in April, and the unemployment rate soared to 14.7 percent, up from 4.4 percent in March after months at a half-century low, according to the monthly employment report, released Friday by the Department of Labor.

Investors also weighed concerns that the recently inked — and hard-fought — trade deal with China may flounder amid heightened tensions between the world's two largest economies. Rhetoric has ratcheted up in the past week, with the White House's top trade adviser, Peter Navarro, saying Beijing should be held accountable for spreading the coronavirus.

Harvard Medical School goes remote for incoming students this fall

Harvard Medical School’s fall semester will begin remotely for incoming medical, dental and graduate students, the college announced Wednesday.

External education programs directed by the medical school will also start remotely this fall, while the school said it hopes to continue in-person research and clinical experiences for returning students. The college said it hopes to have students back on campus by January.

“Given the uniqueness of our education programs, which run for 12 months and emphasize hands-on learning, we hope to be able to hold in-person research and clinical experiences for our returning medical and graduate students and will continue to closely follow institutional guidelines and public health developments,” the school said in a statement. 

“We will work with our affiliated hospitals to employ heightened protocols aimed at ensuring the safety of students, patients, staff and faculty.”

Uber to use facial recognition tech to determine if drivers are wearing masks

Riders and drivers on the Uber platform will have to verify they are abiding by new COVID-19 safety guidelines, including wearing a mask or face cover and regularly washing or sanitizing their hands, the company said Wednesday.

Uber drivers will have to take a selfie with their mask on and submit it within the app for verification before they can begin a ride. Riders and drivers both must also confirm they do not have COVID-19 or related symptoms, and drivers are required to verify they are sanitizing their vehicle daily. Users are also encouraged not to sit in the front seat of a vehicle and to open windows when weather permits. 

Uber said the company has committed $50 million to provide masks, disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer for free to drivers, and already sourced 20 million masks that drivers can pick-up or request be mailed to them. 

The Uber app already uses face-scanning technology to verify a driver’s ID before starting a ride, so this new mask verification is built off that framework. Uber is also considering building out that tech to include riders in the future.

 

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'Calls to violence': Michigan Gov. Whitmer says armed protests could lengthen stay-at-home order

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said Wednesday that armed protests at the state's Capitol over her stay-at-home order have "been really political rallies where people come with Confederate flags and Nazi symbolism and calling for violence," adding that if they continue, it could lengthen the state's social-distancing restrictions.

"I do think that the fact of the matter is these protests, in a perverse way, make it likelier that we're going to have to stay in a stay-at-home posture," Whitmer told ABC's "The View."

"This is not appropriate in a global pandemic, but it's certainly not an exercise of democratic principles where we have free speech," Whitmer said. "This is calls to violence, this is racist and misogynistic. And I ask that everyone who has a platform uses it to call on people to observe the best practices promulgated by the CDC and to stop encouraging this behavior, because it only makes it that much more precarious for us to try to reengage our economy, which is what everyone says they want us to be able to do."

Asked about protesters' threats against her, Whitmer said, "I would be not truthful if I said it did not bother me."

Read the full story here.

NYC antibody tests show frontline workers have lower exposure, Cuomo says

New York City area antibody test results show that crucial frontline workers, such as first responders and health care employees, have lower rates of exposure to the coronavirus than the general population, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

The tests show that transit workers in metro New York City have an exposure rate of about 14.2 percent, city fire department employees including emergency medical technicians 17.1 percent, health care workers 12.2 percent, and New York Police Department workers 10.5 percent. Those numbers are all lower than the 19.9-percent exposure rate of the city's general population, according to the antibody test results cited by the governor. 

Cuomo said he was particularly surprised about the results for health care workers, telling reporters at a news conference, "You know what that means? PPE works. Masks work. Gloves work. Hand sanitizing works."

There are questions among medical experts about the accuracy of some antibody tests.

Feds warn of Chinese attempts to hack health-care, drug firms doing COVID-19 research

The U.S. government issued a stark and unusual warning Wednesday asserting that China's efforts to hack health care and pharmaceutical companies pose a "significant threat" to the nation's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

In a joint statement, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security's cybersecurity agency disclosed that the FBI is investigating "the targeting and compromise of U.S. organizations conducting COVID-19-related research" by the Chinese military and other Chinese hackers.

"These actors have been observed attempting to identify and illicitly obtain valuable intellectual property (IP) and public health data related to vaccines, treatments, and testing from networks and personnel affiliated with COVID-19-related research," the statement said. "The potential theft of this information jeopardizes the delivery of secure, effective, and efficient treatment options."

Click here to read the full story.

Johns Hopkins launches free online contract tracing course

Officials have said that contact tracing is an important tool to limit the spread of COVID-19 and now you can learn how to do it for free. 

On Monday, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, in partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies, launched a free course aimed at training an army of contact tracers to slow the spread of COVID-19, the school announced in a news release

The course, which is completely online and takes approximately six hours to complete, will teach participants about the science behind the virus and how contact tracing is done. It is a requirement for the thousands of contact tracers being hired by New York. 

"This innovative online training course is a key component of our program that will provide tracers with the tools to effectively trace COVID-19 cases at the scale we need to fight this pandemic," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo explained

A recent report from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security at the Bloomberg School estimated that the United States will need at least 100,000 contact tracers to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Photo: Grim burial in Russia

Image:
A person who presumably died of COVID-19 is buried at a graveyard on the outskirts of Saint Petersburg. Anton Vaganov / Reuters

Congress, not the Federal Reserve, may need to take the next step, says Fed Chairman Powell

Congress, not the Federal Reserve, may need to inject more financial help to guide the country through the pandemic that has already caused “a level of pain that is hard to capture in words,” Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday.

Powell praised lawmakers for taking quick action, but acknowledged the need for more stimulus.

“There is a growing sense that the economy may recover more slowly than we would like,” Powell said Wednesday morning during a scheduled video conference with the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

While the Fed has slashed rates to near zero and implemented a series of crisis relief measures that support lending and liquidity, Powell said the central bank's "timely and appropriately large" economic response "may not be the final chapter." 

Powell said the scope and speed of the economic downturn is "significantly worse than any recession since World War II,” but he still rejected calls for negative rates.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump and some policy experts encouraged the Fed to consider negative interest rates to boost the economy.

“I know there are fans of the policy, but for now it’s not something that we’re considering,” Powell said. “We think we have a good toolkit and that’s the one that we will be using.”

Restaurants are open again in Texas — with some big changes. Is it safe to eat out?

Image:
Waiter Jason Vernon takes the order of some of the first guests to arrive at the reopening of Coltivare in Houston. "My whole goal was to make them feel comfortable," Vernon said. "I didn't want them to feel out of place."Brandon Thibodeaux / for NBC News

At one Houston restaurant that reopened recently following the coronavirus lockdown, the salt and pepper shakers were replaced with complimentary bottles of hand sanitizer.

That's just one change that the owners of Coltivare made as they sought to reassure their regular customers that it was safe to return.

“If we’re going to do this,” Ryan Pera, Coltivare’s chef and co-owner, recalled telling his team, “then we’re going to do it right.”

But not every business is taking the same precautions, and public health officials warn that there are risks associated with eating out, especially in parts of the country where the rate of new coronavirus cases is still growing.

Read the full story here. 

Schumer pushes for Senate to support release of CDC report, GOP blocks it

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., offered a unanimous consent request Wednesday for the Senate to adopt a resolution calling for the release of the reopening guidelines prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

"America needs and must have the candid guidance of our best scientists, unfiltered unedited uncensored by President Trump or his political minions. The CDC report on reopening the country is an important piece of that guidance. The Senate should unanimously support the uncensored release of that document," he said on the Senate floor. 

The White House sent back the guidelines last month with a request for revisions. The coronavirus task force viewed the CDC’s advice as overly restrictive, an official told NBC News last week.

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., however, objected to the request and blocked the resolution from being adopted because he said that Schumer was trying to get CDC bureaucrats to "shutter the economy."

This couple is delivering backpacks with pandemic supplies to N.Y.C.'s homeless

Backpacks for the Street - Covid-19
Jeffrey Newman, 52, left, president and CEO and Jayson Conner, 43, right, Vice President of Backpacks for the Street on April 19, 2020 in New York.Stephen Yang / Redux

A simple backpack has become a symbol of hope to the tens of thousands of homeless men and women throughout New York City, the epicenter of the nation's coronavirus pandemic.

A volunteer movement called Backpacks for the Street is crisscrossing the city’s boroughs in a rented U-Haul, delivering backpacks filled with masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and other essentials to New York's homeless. Since the COVID-19 crisis began ravaging the metropolis, where the virus has killed over 15,000 people since March, 1,200 backpacks have been handed out, according to Jeffrey Newman, who started the group with his fiancé, Jayson Conner, in 2018.

“For the people out on the street, the biggest thing when you talk to people out there is that they feel invisible, and they feel like nobody sees them as a human being," Newman, 52, told NBC News. "The thing about a backpack is that it gives people hope, it says, ‘Hey, we see you, and you matter.’”

Read more here.

Brazil records its deadliest day for COVID-19 with 881 deaths

Brazil recorded its deadliest day for COVID-19 with 881 confirmed deaths — as the total death toll has passed 12,000.

The country has documented more than 178,000 cases of the coronavirus.

The actual number of cases and deaths in the country are likely far higher than the official counts, since Brazil is only testing people with symptoms who've gone to the hospital.

Angela Merkel urges Germans to stay vigilant

German Chancellor Angela Merkel told Parliament on Wednesday that it would be "depressing" if, "just because we want too much too quick," Germany had to reverse the easing of its coronavirus lockdown measures. 

Speaking to the Bundestag, she urged Germans to stay "vigilant," adding that the country was still living "in the pandemic and with the virus."

Germany is believed to have fared better than other European countries in its handling of the pandemic, largely credited to early, widespread testing. The country began easing lockdown measures late April, ahead of many other nations.

Image: German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel.Maja Hitij / Getty Images

Saudi Arabia imposes Eid holiday curfew as Dubai eases restrictions

Saudi Arabia will enforce a countrywide 24-hour curfew during the five-day Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday later this month, to help stem the spread of the coronavirus, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.

The curfew will apply for the festival that follows the ongoing fasting month of Ramadan. The kingdom has so far recorded 264 deaths — the highest number in the six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Nearby Dubai, the United Arab Emirates' business and tourism hub, began easing measures on Wednesday. It re-opened public parks and will allow hotel guests to access private beaches, state media said. Mosques, cinemas and nightclubs remain closed.

Paul Manafort released from prison to home confinement amid coronavirus concerns

Paul Manafort, the imprisoned former campaign chairman for President Donald Trump, was released to home confinement for the remainder of his sentence Wednesday amid concerns he could contract coronavirus in federal prison, his attorney Todd Blanche confirmed to NBC News.

Manafort's release follows a request from his attorneys to the Federal Bureau of Prisons that he be allowed to leave the prison due to underlying health concerns and the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 71-year-old veteran GOP operative had been staying at Federal Correctional Institution Loretto, Pennsylvania, since he was sentenced in March of last year to seven-and-a-half years in prison.

Manafort was hospitalized in December while in prison, and his lawyer had previously said he suffered from severe gout.

Read the full story here.

Virologist Joseph Fair hospitalized with coronavirus

Prominent U.S. virologist Joseph Fair has fallen sick with the coronavirus, he said Wednesday on Twitter .

The scientist, also a contributor for NBC News, has been hospitalized and said he was "not out of the woods yet," as he urged Americans to continue social distancing.

"I used max precautions, but still managed to contract it. Back as soon as I’m able, friends. #StaySafe," he tweeted.

India provides $266 billion boost to pandemic-hit economy

Image: Migrant workers and families head back to their hometowns on Wednesday on a special train to Uttar Pradesh after the government eased a nationwide lockdown.
Migrant workers and families head back to their hometowns on Wednesday on a special train to Uttar Pradesh after the government eased a nationwide lockdown.Narinder Nanu / AFP - Getty Images

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that he would provide $266 billion to support India's economy, battered by a weeks-long lockdown to fight the coronavirus.

In an address to the nation, Modi said the financial package was equivalent to 10 percent of India's gross domestic product, and was aimed at helping the multitudes of people out of work as well as businesses reeling under the prolonged shutdown. He also said strict stay-at-home orders would be extended beyond May 17 with a new set of rules due soon.

India has more than 70,000 coronavirus cases among its 1.3 billion population and that number is set to surpass China, where the outbreak began, within a week.

For lifeguards during the pandemic, the life they save could be their own

A swimmer cries out for help. The lifeguard races to the rescue. And before they reach the water, the coronavirus risk calculation begins.

Every lifeguard reckons with the knowledge that to save a life they could lose their own, that the person they are trying to rescue can potentially pull them down, as well.

But in the age of the coronavirus there is an extra level of danger, lifeguards say, because staying six feet away from a person who is drowning is not an option.

Read the full story here.

Germany mulls opening its borders to its neighbors

Germany hopes to relax borders and travel restrictions with neighboring Austria, Switzerland and France, Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said.

Seehofer told reporters at a press briefing that Germany's border restrictions would remain in place until June 15, and after that "our goal is to open these borders." Easing the restrictions would be conditional on coronavirus infection rates staying low. Some crossings between the state of Bavaria and neighboring Austria have already opened for commuters, school children and goods. 

By June 15, the government will also re-evaluate worldwide travel restrictions, he added. Currently, travelers from non-E.U. countries like the U.S. and Russia, remain subject to a 14-day quarantine rule. Travel from Italy and Spain will also still be restricted beyond June, he said, as these "are still highly affected countries."

Actor Matt Damon describes his coronavirus lockdown in quiet Irish seaside town

The coronavirus lockdown has made life strange for many in Ireland, but the residents of a Dublin seaside suburb are getting used to a particularly surreal sight: Hollywood actor Matt Damon.

Damon, his wife Luciana Barroso, and their youngest three children arrived in Ireland in March, before lockdown restrictions took effect, so he could continue shooting on the now suspended Ridley Scott film "The Last Duel."

Since then Damon — who starred in "Contagion," about a fictional deadly pandemic — has been isolating in the village of Dalkey. After multiple sightings by locals, and attempts to track him down, Damon broke his silence in an interview Wednesday with Dublin radio station Spin 1038.

Read the full story here.

Mexico and Brazil experience their deadliest days

Mexico and Brazil both experienced their deadliest days as South America becomes a new global hot-spot for the coronavirus.

Mexico's health ministry confirmed 1,997 new cases on Tuesday, along with 353 additional deaths — the deadliest day since the pandemic began. The country now has 3,926 deaths in total, according to an official tally. Meanwhile, the country's health committee announced plans to put some sectors, such as mining and construction, back to work. It will also begin easing some social and economic restrictions from June 1. 

Brazil, where the outbreak is accelerating, recorded 881 confirmed deaths from the virus on Tuesday. The number of cases in the country passed those in Germany, while President Jair Bolsonaro has played down the risks of the virus.

Jared Kushner says he hasn't been involved in talks about changing Election Day

Jared Kushner, a top adviser to President Donald Trump and his son-in-law, told NBC News on Tuesday night that he hasn't been involved in any discussions about changing Election Day this November. 

"I have not been involved in, nor am I aware of any discussions about trying to change the date of the Presidential election," he said in a statement to NBC News. 

Only Congress can change Election Day. 

This comes after Kushner raised eyebrows in an interview with Time magazine that published earlier Tuesday. Kushner was asked if there's a chance the election could be postponed past Nov. 3 because of the coronavirus and he said that it isn't his decision. 

"I'm not sure I can commit one way or the other, but right now that’s the plan," he said.

Sumo wrestler becomes youngest to die from coronavirus in Japan

A 28-year-old sumo wrestler has become the youngest person to die from coronavirus in Japan, the Ministry of Health said on Wednesday. Kiyotaka Suetake, known as "Shobushi," died from viral pneumonia caused by the coronavirus, the Japan Sumo Association said.  

The head of the sumo stable where Shobushi lived was also taken ill and hospitalized by the coronavirus in late April but had been discharged. According to the Sumo Association’s website, 24 sumo wrestlers belong to the Takadagawa stable where Shobushi lived, but it's unclear how many others may be infected. 

Sumo wrestling is a major national sport in Japan, where large opponents wrestle each other out of a ring or to the ground.

Israeli police arrest hundreds for coronavirus breach on festival

Israeli police arrested some 300 people at a Jewish bonfire festival where they were celebrating an ancient sage, after worshipers rioted over coronavirus restrictions that denied them access to his tomb. Hundreds of people had attempted to enter the area that was closed to the public due to health and security measures, police said.

The tomb of 2nd-century mystic Shimon Bar Yochai in northern Israel is a focus of the annual Lag b'Omer festival which took place on Tuesday. It usually draws thousands of worshipers for all-night prayers, dancing and singing around bonfires.

Though many leading rabbis have backed Israel's curbs on public assembly as a precaution against contagion, some ultra-Orthodox Jews have been frustrated at the disruption of religious rites.

Tennis, golf and sunbathing now OK as England eases some lockdown restrictions

Thousands of people across England got back to work Wednesday morning as the government partially eased coronavirus lockdown rules.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson outlined the relaxing of some measures to Parliament on Monday, with people now able to exercise outdoors with no time limit, as well as play golf or tennis, sunbathe and see one non-household member and visit garden centers. 

Those who must work and cannot do so from home, including cleaners and construction workers, were also given the green light to return to work. The vast majority of the country remains indoors, however, with the government urging people to stay vigilant against the virus that has so far killed more than 32,000 people, according to official statistics. 

Image: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson records a televised message to the nationNo 10 Downing Street / Getty Images

Alameda County says Tesla plan submitted amid spat over closure

Alameda County's health department said Tuesday that they received a plan from Tesla about coronavirus safety measures after its CEO Elon Musk said he was reopening a plant in defiance of local orders.

"If Tesla’s Prevention and Control Plan includes these updates, and the public health indicators remain stable or improve, we have agreed that Tesla can begin to augment their Minimum Business Operations this week in preparation for possible reopening as soon as next week," the health department said in a statement.

The message appears to signal a possible deal after Musk earlier this week said he would reopen his primary car assembly plant in Fremont in defiance of public health orders. The county said it would work with Fremont police to verify that physical distancing and other measures are being adhered to.

Musk has criticized stay-at-home orders imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus illness COVID-19. In a May 1 tweet he wrote "Now give people back their FREEDOM."

Trump admin unveils plan to ramp up syringe production for future vaccine

Seeking to ramp up the nation’s capacity to administer a possible COVID-19 vaccine, the Trump administration has signed a $138 million deal with the makers of an innovative syringe designed to be used in developing countries.

The goal of the public-private initiative, called Project Jumpstart, is to facilitate the production of 100 million prefilled syringes by the end of 2020 and more than 500 million in 2021 in the event a vaccine becomes available, officials announced Tuesday.

The Health and Human Services Department and the Defense Department are partnering with ApiJect Systems America, which manufactures inexpensive prefilled syringes made of plastic.

Read the full story here

California council member cited after scuffle with protesters at his home

A California city councilman was cited with misdemeanor battery after a physical altercation with protesters who confronted him at his home Tuesday over coronavirus restrictions.

Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias told NBC affiliate KSEE that he felt threatened that the activists had shown up while his kids were home. He said that after asking them to leave, he swiped at their equipment and shoved one man during the confrontation on a stairway.

In a video obtained by KSEE, Arias can be seen swatting at two men, including a local conservative activist, Ben Bergquam.

“What do you say to the businesses you’re destroying?” an activist can be heard saying at one point.

Read the full story here

USA Gymnastics postpones events until 2021 over coronavirus

USA Gymnastics is postponing all "premier events" until 2021 because of the coronavirus epidemic.

The GK U.S. Classic, which had been scheduled for May 23, will now be May 22, 2021, and the U.S. Gymnastics Championships which were to start on June 4 will be rescheduled for June 3, 2021, the organization said Tuesday.

"In light of recent guidance from health experts, and after receiving feedback from our athletes and coaches, we believe it is in the best interest of our community to wait until 2021 to hold premier events,” said Li Li Leung, USA Gymnastics' president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games which had been scheduled for this summer have previously been postponed until next summer.