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House passes' $3T 'HEROES' aid for stimulus checks, rent assistance

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image:
Truckers protest low rates and lack of broker transparency along Constitution Avenue in Washington on May 15, 2020.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images

The global coronavirus death toll passed 300,000, with more than 4.4 million confirmed cases around the world, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. remains the world's worst-hit country, with more than 86,600 deaths.

Friday evening the House passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package that would include another round of stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per person. President Donald Trump has suggested he won't support the bill.

Critics Friday said U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is presenting families detained at the border with the choice of allowing children to be released without them or staying together and facing possible virus exposure in detention.

Additionally, the CDC issued a health alert to physicians on a rare but potentially deadly condition linked to COVID-19 in children that has now been reported in at least 19 states and Washington, D.C.

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.

This live coverage has now ended. Continue reading May 16 coronavirus news.

Tourists enter reopened Grand Canyon despite virus concerns

GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. — Tourists appeared ready to roam Grand Canyon National Park again after it partially reopened Friday, despite objections from Navajo officials and others that it could hurt efforts to control the coronavirus.

By 7:30 a.m., more than two dozen people were enjoying viewpoints along the South Rim.

The Grand Canyon had been closed since April 1, one of the last big national parks to shut down completely to visitors. At the time, health officials in Coconino County said keeping the park open put employees, residents and tourists at risk.

Park officials said the South Rim entrance will only open from 6-10 a.m. through Monday. Commercial services within the park remain closed. Those include hiking trails, visitors centers, hotels and restaurants — the places people tend to congregate. There are no overnight accommodations available. Some restrooms along with portable ones were available.

Meanwhile, the residential area where more than 2,000 people live year-round was cordoned off with cones and barrels to keep visitors away from the housing areas. About 20 miles (32 kilometers) of roadway were accessible to tourists that allow them to walk along the rim of the canyon and stand at a number of viewpoints.

Pelosi 'thrilled' over passage of $3 trillion aid package

It’s a work from home Congress as House approves proxy vote

WASHINGTON  — It all started with the grandchildren.

As House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer saw it, if he could Face Time with the grandkids, why not have Congress legislate by video chat and avoid the health risks of convening at the Capitol during the coronavirus pandemic?

And so the silver-haired, 80-year-old congressman from Maryland helped steer the House into one of the more substantial rules changes of its 230-year history.

“This is no revolutionary, radical change,” Hoyer said. “This is exactly what the Founders wanted to happen.”

The House approved the new rules Friday, during what could likely be the chamber’s last fully in-person votes for the foreseeable future.

From now on, lawmakers will be allowed to cast House floor votes by proxy — without being “present” as the Constitution requires. The next step will allow them to skip the middle-man and simply vote remotely once leaders approve the technology.

Washington governor backs off requirement for restaurant logs

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Friday sought to clarify a rule that would require restaurants to keep daily logs of all customers once they reopen, saying it's now voluntary.

"We are asking visitors to voluntarily provide contact information in case of COVID-19 exposure," Inslee said in a statement, adding that the information would be shared with health officials if a visitor is exposed to the virus. If unused, the log would be destroyed in 30 days. 

"This will not be required of anyone," Inslee said.

On Monday, Inslee issued guidance that said restaurants allowed to reopen with  table service were required to "create a daily log of all customers" in case contact tracing was needed later.

The data collection requirement caused an uproar, and several restaurant owners were skeptical of the rule, The Seattle Times reported.

Businesses are still required to keep a log of those who voluntarily give their information.

Alaska lawmaker compares virus screening to Holocaust

JUNEAU, Alaska — An Alaska lawmaker on Friday defended asking whether stickers that individuals may be asked to wear as part of a Capitol coronavirus screening process will be “available as a yellow Star of David.”

Republican Rep. Ben Carpenter of Nikiski said he was serious in making the comment in an email chain with other legislators. He was responding to proposed protocols aimed at guarding against the virus as lawmakers prepare to reconvene Monday. The protocols suggest stickers be worn to confirm someone at the Capitol had been screened.

“The point is, tying it to the Star of David shows, who amongst the human population has lost their liberties more than the Jewish people?” he said in an interview. “And if there were more people standing up for the loss of liberties prior to World War II, maybe we wouldn't have had the Holocaust."

Rep. Grier Hopkins, a Fairbanks Democrat, responded to Carpenter's email by calling the remark “disgusting. Keep your Holocaust jokes to yourself.”

Charges dropped against Florida pastor who defied stay-at-home order

A Florida pastor who was arrested in late March after holding a church service in defiance of stay-at-home orders won't be prosecuted, the state's attorney said Friday.

Rodney Howard-Browne of The River at Tampa Bay Church was arrested March 30 on charges that he violated local orders against mass gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. He held two services the day before.

The prosecutor, Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren, said in a statement Friday that Howard-Browne won't be prosecuted, although he said that the arrest was appropriate.

"Pastor Howard-Browne's arrest accomplished the safer-at-home order’s goal, which is compliance with the law," Warren said.

The pastor was charged with two misdemeanors. Liberty Counsel, a law firm that has been defending Howard-Browne, called the arrest politically motivated. "Neither the pastor nor The River at Tampa Bay Church did anything wrong," Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mat Staver said in a statement.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had left matters up to local officials but on April 1 issued a statewide stay-at-home order that did call churches an essential activity, and that order trumped conflicting local rules.

House passes Democrats’ $3 trillion coronavirus ‘HEROES’ aid package

WASHINGTON — The House on Friday narrowly passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief package crafted by Democrats that would include another round of stimulus payments of up to $1,200 per person.

President Donald Trump this week declared the Democrats' proposal "DOA."

Similar to the first major coronavirus aid package signed into law in late March, the 1,815-page HEROES Act would provide up to $1,200 in payments (or $2,400 for married couples), with an extra $1,200 per dependent up to a maximum of three. The income thresholds are the same as in the earlier CARES Act, with money for people making up to $99,000 and couples up to $198,000. The amount would start to reduce from $1,200 above thresholds of $75,000 and $150,000, respectively.

The bill passed by a vote of 208-199 and now heads to the Senate.

Read the full story here

What's up with the skyrocketing grocery prices — and when will it all stop?

Consumers frantically rushing through the grocery stores like a coronavirus version of the hit TV game show “Supermarket Sweep” now have another challenge to deal with: skyrocketing prices.

April grocery prices shot up to the highest levels since February 1974, with meat, poultry, fish and eggs increasing the most, according to the latest Consumer Price Index released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Eggs were up 16 percent. Pork roasts, steaks and ribs, up 10 percent. Fresh whole chicken, up 7 percent.

It’s enough to make shoppers want to tear up their receipts. But there is some relief: Fresh cakes and cupcakes were down over 2 percent, prepared salads down over 3.5 percent, and ham was down 1.7 percent.

The price fluctuations come after coronavirus sent panicked shoppers now eating all their meals at home to stock up all at once and at the same time scrambled the supply chain’s ability to stock shelves.

Read the full story here.

Navajo Nation residents to be under strictest lockdown yet

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. -- Residents of the Navajo Nation will be under the strictest weekend lockdown yet. Grocery stores, gas stations and other businesses will be closed starting Friday night. Essential workers also are being told to stay home until Monday around dawn.

A frustrated Navajo Nation president made the announcement after a spike in deaths that he attributed to shifting traffic patterns in New Mexico. As of Thursday, the tribe reported 127 deaths and 3,632 positive cases since it first began tracking the figures. Tribal officials say more than 500 people have recovered.

The Navajo Nation has been hit harder by the coronavirus than any other Native American reservation.

J.C. Penney files for bankruptcy

J.C. Penney, weighed down by debt and battered by the coronavirus, has filed for bankruptcy.

Sales at J.C Penney have fallen annually since 2016. Its roughly 860-store footprint is less than a quarter of its store base in 2001. The company’s nearly $11 billion in sales the last fiscal year are almost a third of its sales the same year.

The Texas-based retailer, which was founded more than a century ago, employed roughly 90,000 full- and part-time employees as of February.

It joins fellow department store chains Neiman Marcus and Stage Stores as victims of the pandemic, which has forced their doors shut and exacerbated problems that existed before the virus started spreading.

Read the full story here

U.S. pilot jailed in Singapore for breaking quarantine order

SINGAPORE — An American cargo pilot who admitted to “poor judgment” in breaking a quarantine order to buy medical supplies became the first foreigner imprisoned in Singapore for breaching its restrictions meant to curb the coronavirus, his lawyer said Friday.

FedEx pilot Brian Dugan Yeargan, 44, of Alaska, was sentenced to four weeks Wednesday after he pleaded guilty to leaving his hotel room for three hours to buy masks and a thermometer, defense lawyer Ronnie Tan said.

Singapore has one of the largest outbreaks in Asia, with 26,000 cases. More than 90% of those infected are foreign workers living in crowded dormitories, while the government recently began easing restrictions for the local population.

The tiny city-state has strict penalties for those who breach quarantine rules, don’t wear masks in public or fail to adhere to social distancing measures. Quarantine violators face up to six months in jail, a fine of up to 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,000) or both.

NFL's first phase reopening set to begin

NFL facilities can begin reopening Tuesday in cities and states that will allow it, league commissioner Roger Goodell said in a letter Friday to team executives.

"This first phase of reopening is an important step in demonstrating our ability to operate safety and effectively, even in the current environment," the letter states.

The reopening would generally prohibit coaches and players from being at the facilities, and on-site retail and ticket sales aren't yet allowed, Goodell said. Workers must undergo infection control training, and team facilities can only operate at 50 percent capacity, with a maximum of 75 people, the commissioner said.

The season was scheduled to begin Sept. 10, but that date was unclear as a result of the pandemic. On Tuesday Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said major pro sports franchises could revive games in his state beginning Saturday.

CDC's Redfield tweets models showing over 100,000 deaths by June 1

Mother gives birth outside hospital, father uses face mask to tie umbilical cord

Sarah Rose and David Patrick knew they would be required to wear masks at the hospital during the delivery of their son, but they never imagined that they would use one to bind his umbilical cord.

They also never pictured being out in the cold when they welcomed their son. Yet that was their reality over Mother's Day weekend.

Read the full story.

Aid for undocumented immigrants in California starts Monday

Starting Monday, undocumented immigrants living in California who are ineligible for federal financial aid amid the coronavirus pandemic can apply to a new program.

Eligible immigrant families will be able to get up to $1,000 per household under Gov. Gavin Newsom’s coronavirus emergency assistance plan, which was announced last month.

Newsom announced a $125 million public-private Disaster Relief Fund for California workers who do not have permanent legal status and are excluded from receiving government assistance such as unemployment benefits and federal stimulus checks during the coronavirus pandemic.

Read the full story.

The Week in Pictures: Fake diners and a haircut in the park

The Week in Pictures

See more photos as countries around the world try to determine how to safely reopen. 

Researchers in France identify virus-like symptoms from fall

PARIS — In a potential breakthrough, doctors are finding evidence that the coronavirus may have been in France much earlier than anyone thought.

A team of researchers in the city of Colmar in northeastern France announced last week that it had identified two X-rays, from Nov. 16 and Nov. 18, showing symptoms consistent with the virus.

It could be evidence the virus was spreading in Europe two months before previously known and even before it had been officially identified in China.

The news comes a week after a separate team of scientists in Paris established that a patient had the coronavirus Dec. 27, so far the earliest known case in Europe.

Read the whole story.

Judge denies R. Kelly's request for release

A federal judge Friday denied singer R. Kelly's request to be released from jail because of concerns about contracting the coronavirus. He is being held at Chicago's Metropolitan Correctional Center while he awaits trial on charges connected to alleged child sexual abuse.

Judge Ann M. Donnelly of the Eastern District of New York said the pop star's prediabetic condition was common, shared by about one in three Americans, and did not qualify him as especially susceptible to contracting coronavirus behind bars.

It's the third time Kelly has been denied release based on unfounded claims he's likely to to suffer greater harm if he catches the virus. The singer's defense claimed he is "likely diabetic," but Donnelly disagreed, suggesting Kelly, 53, is relatively young and well cared for.

Kelly, who is being held without bond, faces charges in Chicago and New York that include sexual exploitation of children, possession of child pornography and racketeering. He has said he is innocent; last year he pleaded not guilty in Chicago.

Sailors on sidelined USS Theodore Roosevelt get virus for second time

WASHINGTON — Five sailors on the U.S. aircraft carrier sidelined in Guam due to a COVID-19 outbreak have tested positive for the virus for the second time and have been taken off the ship, according to the Navy.

The resurgence of the virus in the five sailors on the USS Theodore Roosevelt underscores the befuddling behavior of the highly contagious virus and raises questions about how troops that test positive can be reintegrated into the military, particularly on ships.

All five sailors had previously tested positive and had gone through at least two weeks of isolation. As part of the process, they all had to test negative twice in a row, with the tests separated by at least a day or two before they were allowed to go back to the ship.

The Roosevelt has been at port in Guam since late March after the outbreak of the virus was discovered. More than 4,000 of the 4,800 crew members have gone ashore since then for quarantine or isolation. Earlier this month hundreds of sailors began returning to the ship, in coordinated waves, to get ready to set sail again.

Click here for the full story. 

NYPD to no longer enforce wearing masks absent 'serious danger'

New York City police will no longer enforce mask-wearing by the public unless there is "serious danger," Mayor Bill De Blasio announced at a Friday news conference.

The decision comes after criticism of the NYPD this week over a video showing officers handcuffing and pinning down a 22-year old mother who was not wearing a mask properly.

The police department has also come under scrutiny over its enforcement of social-distancing policies resulting in a disproportionate number of summonses of people of color.

Read the full report here.

Photo: Lonely Manhattan street

A cyclist rides on 42nd street in New York City on May 15, 2020.
A cyclist rides on 42nd street in New York City on May 15, 2020.Johannes Eisele / AFP - Getty Images

Fort Lauderdale will allow restaurants, shops to reopen

Officials in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, will allow restaurants, retail stores and other businesses to reopen beginning Monday.

Dean Trantalis, the mayor of the popular beach destination, said Friday that the decision was made in light of COVID-19 cases appearing to "drastically decline" in the community. He said in a memo that while positive coronavirus tests accounted for 13.4 percent of all results in the week that ended April 11, the number fell to 3.6 percent in the week that ended May 9.

Gov. Ron DeSantis and Broward County officials have permitted the reopening, Trantalis added. But there will still be restrictions, he said, including that restaurants and retail stores can't be at more than half their normal capacities and must still follow certain social distancing guidelines. Other places that can reopen are hair and nail salons, museums and drive-in theaters. Gyms and community rooms in condo complexes can also open to members.

Trump names ex-pharma executive, Army general to lead coronavirus vaccine effort

President Donald Trump on Friday announced a team of two men to lead his administration’s effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine, dubbed “Operation Warp Speed.”

The team consists of Moncef Slaoui, the former head of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline's vaccines division, and Gen. Gustave Perna, a four-star U.S. Army general, Trump said during a press conference in the White House Rose Garden.

Slaoui will serve as the chief scientist for the White House initiative and Perna will serve as its chief operating officer, said Trump, whose suggestions that a coronavirus vaccine could come within months have been repeatedly refuted by prominent health experts and veteran vaccine developers.

Trump repeated his timeline objective Friday, saying he wanted a vaccine ready "by the end of the year if we can." He also indicated that he would urge state governments to reopen their economies regardless of whether the timeline was met.

Read the full story here.

Connecticut to distribute 50,000 infrared thermometers

Connecticut will distribute 50,000 infrared thermometers for small businesses, nonprofits and places of worship to aid in COVID-19 monitoring efforts, Gov. Ned Lamont announced Friday.

The thermometers will be delivered to municipalities, which in turn will contact organizations that fill out an online form with instructions on picking up the thermometer.

The state partnered with the Connecticut Business and Industry Association and its affiliate CONNSTEP to distribute the thermometers. Businesses with between 2 and 100 employees are eligible to receive a thermometer.

Beaches in New York, New Jersey, neighboring states to reopen for Memorial Day weekend

New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware will open beaches the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday, a day after New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced his plan to open the Jersey Shore. 

Cuomo said group sports such as volleyball will be prohibited, and picnic areas, playgrounds, arcades and concession stands will remain closed to help prevent a resurgence of coronavirus infections. Beaches will only open to 50 percent capacity, according to the governor. 

Social distancing will be enforced, and visitors who cannot keep a distance of at least six feet from another person will have to wear a mask, Cuomo said. The reopening does not include pools.

Coronavirus vaccine: This week's updates from Oxford and the NIH

The race to develop a COVID-19 vaccine is on, as scientists work as quickly as they can to find a way to prevent the disease that has sickened more 4.4 million people and killed more than 300,000 worldwide.

On Friday, Dr. Francis Collins, the head of the National Institutes of Health, said the agency is planning to begin large-scale testing of several of the most promising vaccine candidates this summer. Despite such efforts, and despite statements from President Donald Trump this week, a vaccine most likely won't be ready by the end of the year.

Read more. 

Here are all the major retail companies who have filed for bankruptcy since the coronavirus pandemic hit

From iconic department stores to entertainment giants, the coronavirus has seemingly spared no one in its devastation of the U.S. economy.

With bankruptcy currently hovering over household staple JCPenney, factors such as falling consumer demand, reduced entertainment spending, and stay-at-home orders mandating certain businesses stay closed continue to take their toll. 

Even with the slow reopening of the economy as lockdowns beginning to lift, social distancing measures may continue for months. That will impact store capacity for retail and restaurants. For some businesses, these temporary changes could indicate bigger problems.

While bankruptcy doesn’t inherently mean that a company will go out of business — it's more a financial restructuring — it does spell news of changes to come.

Click here for the full list of companies who have filed for bankruptcy so far since the start of coronavirus.

Fact check: Trump needs 'miracle' to be right about rosy vaccine timeline, experts say

President Donald Trump has suggested multiple times that a coronavirus vaccine could come within months, an accelerated timeline prominent health experts and veteran vaccine developers say is unlikely absent a miracle.

“Vaccine work is looking VERY promising, before end of year,” Trump tweeted on Thursday.

But experts said the development, testing, and production of vaccine for the public is still at least 12 to 18 months off, and that anything less would be a medical miracle.

“I think it’s possible you could see a vaccine in people’s arms next year — by the middle or end of next year. But this is unprecedented, so it’s hard to predict,” said Dr. Paul Offit, a professor at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and the director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Read the full fact check here.

Senators to introduce nonprofit aid bill

A group of Democratic senators are introducing a bill Friday that aims to help nonprofits meet the needs of their communities by providing federal grants to pay the salaries of their workers.

The measure, dubbed the "Work Now Act," would help the groups that provide a public service to scale up their activities and hire more workers if needed, even as charitable contributions and revenues decrease because of the pandemic.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., one of the co-authors, said the bill will help nonprofits that are struggling financially as demands for their services soar, as well as employ some of the 36 million people who've lost their jobs because of the pandemic.

"Nonprofits are on the front lines of this crisis helping millions of Americans in need," Klobuchar said in a statement to NBC News. "From food banks, to shelters, to counseling centers, charitable organizations are doing incredible work to help families put food on their table, provide housing assistance, and serve people with disabilities.”

Habitat for Humanity CEO Jonathan Reckford said his organization has had to “make deep cuts” that included layoffs, while Brian Gallagher, the president and CEO of United Way, said his group's budget and resources have become “incredibly strained.”

A medical journal called on voters to replace Trump

The medical journal The Lancet on Friday published a sharply worded editorial condemning the Trump administration's coronavirus efforts and calling on voters to choose a new president.

"Americans must put a president in the White House come January, 2021, who will understand that public health should not be guided by partisan politics," The Lancet wrote.

The publication, which seldom wades into political issues, blamed the administration for undermining the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's "capacity to combat infectious diseases ... leaving an intelligence vacuum when COVID-19 began to emerge." The Lancet also cited crucial missteps by the CDC, but it warned in the editorial that punishing the CDC isn't the answer.

"The Administration is obsessed with magic bullets—vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear. But only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency," The Lancet wrote, calling the national response to the pandemic "inconsistent and incoherent."

NYC cases of children with inflammatory syndrome rises to 110

New York City now has 110 cases of children with a rare inflammatory syndrome thought to be linked to the coronavirus, a 10 percent rise in one day, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.

The newly-identified condition, tentatively called pediatric multisystem inflammatory syndrome, has symptoms mirroring toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease, including severe inflammation of the coronary arteries. The CDC is calling the illness "MIS-C."

The city reported 100 cases on Thursday.

De Blasio said Friday that all five boroughs have cases, but the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens have the most.

He said African American children account for at least 24 percent of the known cases, while in 38 percent of the cases the race is unknown.

Heat wave preparations for pandemic: NYC buying 74,000 air conditioners for seniors

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio announced on Friday that the city is preparing for a possible heat wave during the pandemic this summer, including by providing air conditioners to all low-income seniors so that they can stay safe and cool at home.

The city will buy 74,000 air conditioners for this vulnerable population, including 22,000 for public housing residents, de Blasio said at a news conference Friday. The initiative will cost an estimated $55 million dollars, $20 million of which the city will be getting from the state, the mayor said.

The preparations also include work to open cooling centers for the public that abide by social distancing rules, he said.

Pandemic teleworking is straining families, E.U. study says

The COVID-19 pandemic is placing unprecedented strain on families and working life, an E.U. study showed on Friday, with more than a fifth of people who now work at home in households with younger children struggling to concentrate on their jobs.

The study by the E.U. agency Eurofound, found that over a third of people working in the European Union had started working remotely or teleworking as a result of the pandemic.

"The toll this pandemic has taken on family life cannot be ignored," said Mary McCaughey of Eurofound. "Parents are facing unprecedented challenges." 

Wuhan to test all 11 million residents as China tries to avoid second wave

All 11 million residents of Wuhan will be tested for the coronavirus, officials in the Chinese city where the outbreak began last year said on Friday, as the country marked one month without any reported deaths from the disease.

Beijing also responded to the latest volley from President Donald Trump, who said he didn't want to speak to President Xi Jinping at the moment, and added that he could cut ties with the world's second-largest economy if he wanted to.

China called for "maintaining the stable development of Sino-U.S. relations" Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told press on Friday. 

Read the full story here.

Image: A medical worker takes a swab sample from a staff member from the AOC computer monitor factory to be tested for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province
A medical worker takes a swab sample in Wuhan, China. AFP - Getty Images

April retail sales fell by 16.4 percent, the lowest level on record

April retail sales sank by 16.4 percent to their lowest level on record, as stores and restaurants felt the full weight of a month of coronavirus closures.

The monthly sales data, which measures spending at places such as gas stations, restaurants, bars, and stores, was released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of the Census.

The number was worse than economists had been anticipating, with most having forecast a 12 percent drop.

By comparison, March sales were down by 8.3 percent, which was at that time the worst decline since records began in 1992.

Consumer spending drives around three-quarters of the U.S. economy, but social distancing measures have restricted business operations, limited driving, and forced the closure of most retail stores and food service locations.

Amal Clooney: Coronavirus exacerbates 'existing human rights crisis'

Catholic churches gradually reopen in Pittsburgh

Catholic churches in the Diocese of Pittsburgh will gradually reopen on Friday in most areas, with private prayers, baptisms and confession allowed, the diocese announced.

Worshipers will be required to follow social distancing rules and wear masks. Daily masses are scheduled to resume on June 1, with a goal of restarting weekend masses over the weekend of June 6 and 7. 

“It fills my heart with so much joy to think of the doors of our Churches opening once again,” said Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik. "I’ve heard from so many who have missed praying in their parishes, I’ve missed it too."

Moscow announces massive antibody testing program

Moscow health officials launched an ambitious antibody screening program Friday to evaluate the population’s immunity levels as coronavirus cases continue to grow across Russia, with more than 260,00 cases reported nationwide.

In a blog post explaining how the effort will work, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that every several days 70,000 residents will be selected and invited into one of 30 state clinics across the city to be given an enzyme test for Immunoglobulin M antibodies. Sobyanin said the effort was necessary to provide an informed answer to the question of when Moscow can begin lifting a strict lockdown that has been in place for the past six weeks, and is currently not scheduled to end before May 31.

Sobyanin’s decision would seem to be a subtle rebuke to President Vladimir Putin, who earlier this week lifted a federal stay at home order and declared Russia was now ready to begin a gradual easing of restrictions — despite growing case numbers that surpassed a quarter of a million by mid-week, propelling Russia’s outbreak to be the second largest in the world.

Germany begins to loosen quarantine requirement for some travelers

German states have begun to loosen requirements on travelers entering the country in the coming days, with North-Rhine Westphalia now allowing travelers from other E.U. states, as well as the U.K., Iceland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Norway, to forego a 14-day quarantine following arrival.

Other Germans states are expected to lift the quarantine restrictions in the next few days. However, restrictions around who is allowed to enter the country still remain in place. That means only those with a valid reason to enter the country, such as family ties or medical personnel, will be allowed in. 

The goal is to restore free travel by June 15, however, a resurgence of the pandemic in these nations could lead to a reinstatement of the stricter measures, officials have said.

Trump says he lost five people to the coronavirus

President Donald Trump said Thursday that he has personally lost five people who contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

"It's a very tough disease. I lost five people that I know. A couple of very good friends, too, out of it," he said in an interview with The Washington Examiner.

Trump added that he's never lost anyone because of the flu. The president did not identify any of the five people and did not elaborate further on who they were. 

Last month, Trump's personal friend and New York real estate mogul Stanley Chera died on from complications of coronavirus.

Masks become fashion accessory in the Ivory Coast

Image: Arthur Bella N'guessan, an Ivorian designer, looks on as he wears a protective face mask with colors matching his clothes, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Angre area of Abidjan, Ivory Coast
Arthur Bella N'guessan, a fashion designer, wears a protective face mask matching his clothes in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. Fashion lovers in some of Africa's biggest cities are combining style and safety by donning colourful masks.Luc Gnago / Reuters

Italy to test 150,000 people to better understand coronavirus epidemic

Italy will begin testing 150,000 people next week across 2,000 areas in an attempt to better understand the extent of its COVID-19 epidemic. The testing, which is due to begin Monday and conclude on May 31, will cover a representative sample of the population and be carried out by 550 Red Cross volunteers.  

"This testing program will involve a significant sample of citizens and will allow us to understand the extent of the national spread of the virus," Agostino Miozzo, head of the government's scientific committee told Parliament on Thursday.

Italy was one of Europe's hardest hit countries by the coronavirus with more than 31,600 deaths. It has now slowly started lifting its strict lockdown.

Apple supplier Foxconn sees quarterly profit hit two-decade low

The world's largest contract electronics manufacturer, Foxconn, saw its first-quarter profit plunge to its lowest in two decades, all but wiped out, after the coronavirus pandemic forced the Taiwanese firm to suspend manufacturing operations in China and knocked demand from customers including Apple Inc.

Net profit for January-March slumped 90 percent from a year earlier — the lowest level since the first quarter of 2000. But Foxconn said the worst of the virus outbreak for the company was over and its main factories in China have resumed normal operation. New growth was to be found in the work-from-home lifestyles being adopted around the world even if the outlook for smartphone and other consumer electronics demand remained bleak, it said.

Its consumer electronics division, much of which is smartphones, is forecast to post a 15 percent yearly decline in sales as the virus is set to have "an enormous" impact on demand. In the first quarter, the division accounted for 42% of revenue.

Just 24 new cases of coronavirus a day in London, new research shows

London could now have as few as 24 new coronavirus infections a day, according to analysis from a team of Cambridge University researchers. Working with Public Health England, the researchers analysed current data up to May 10 to plot the progress of the virus.

Their model shows that the British capital — England's worst impacted region — is estimated to have had 1.8 million infections since the outbreak began. However, the "R rate" in that area is now the lowest in the country at just 0.4, meaning that 10 infected people will only pass on the virus to four others. In contrast, there are still over 4,000 new cases a day in the Northeast and Yorkshire region of the country where the R is twice as high at 0.8.

England made its first tentative steps toward easing its seven week lockdown Wednesday, with people who can't work from home urged to return to work. Residents were also given permission to go outside as often as they would like, and to meet one other person from a separate household in a public outdoor space. 

Lockdown protesters shout 'be like Sweden' — but Swedes say they are missing the point

Known for its socialized health care, progressive tax system and liberal social policies, Sweden rarely finds cheerleaders among conservative commentators and activists in the United States. But on homemade placards at anti-lockdown protests in the last month, an unusual slogan has been spotted: “Be more like Sweden.”

Prominent Republican Party figures and GOP-supporting commentators have praised Sweden for its light-touch approach to the coronavirus pandemic— it is almost unique among nations in not ordering citizens to stay indoors, while cafes and restaurants have stayed open.

According to the Swedes, however, American admirers of their approach are confusing their own beliefs with what is a prudent and carefully planned public health policy.

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Africa faces nearly a quarter of a billion cases, WHO model predicts

Approximately 22 percent of Africa's one billion population — or around 220 million people — will be infected in the first year of the coronavirus epidemic, new research predicts. 

A model by the World Health Organization’s regional office for Africa published in the British Medical Journal showed that while there would be a comparatively low rate of transmission across the continent due to a generally younger population, a rise in hospitalizations and other care needs would significantly overwhelm healthcare services. Also, many cases may pass undetected in primary care facilities, “due to weak diagnostic capacity and non-specific symptoms,” the research showed.

The model predicted that the first year of transmissions could result in about 150,000 deaths on the continent. The researchers urged that “effective containment measures should be promoted in all countries” to best manage the outbreak. Africa has reported 75,000 cases and more than 2,500 deaths as of Friday, according to the Africa Center for Disease Control.

Arkansas venue postpones concert 'against our will'

A Fort Smith, Arkansas, concert venue grudgingly said it would delay a country music show that it had scheduled for Friday, days before coronavirus restrictions in the state would allow it.

TempleLive will instead seek to have the Travis McCready show moved to Monday, when some indoor events can begin to be held. The move came after the governor said a cease-and-desist letter would be issued and after a venue official said the state alcohol commission "ripped our permits and licenses off the wall."

"It doesn't feel like America to me," Mike Brown of TempleLive said at a news conference. He said the venue will apply to move the show to Monday "against our will."

Gov. Asa Hutchinson noted that the show was scheduled for three days before indoor events would be permitted. "You can’t just arbitrarily determine when the restrictions are lifted," he said. 

The Arkansas Department of Health directive requires a plan to be approved for indoor events with 50 people or more. 

The event had been announced in late April. Brown said that churches had been allowed to open and they wanted to be treated the same as other places now permitted. "At the end of the day we fought the law and the laws won," he said.

China passes 1-month mark for no new virus deaths

BEIJING — China has gone a month without announcing any new deaths from the coronavirus.

The National Health Commission reported four new cases of the virus Friday, all local cross-infections in the northeastern province of Jilin where a cluster of uncertain origin has been detected in recent days. The last time the commission reported a death was on April 14.

Just 91 people remain in treatment for COVID-19 and 623 others are under isolation and monitoring for being suspected cases or for having tested positive without showing symptoms, including 11 newly detected.

In total, China has reported 4,633 deaths among 82,933 cases since the virus was first detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan.

China has maintained social distancing and bans on foreigners entering the country, but has increasingly opened up the world’s second-largest economy to allow both large factories and small businesses to resume production and dealings with customers. The government plans to hold the ceremonial parliament’s annual session later this month, but with highly limited access for journalists and others.

Minnesota's Mall of America to begin reopening June 1

The massive Mall of America in Minnesota announced Thursday that it will begin reopening June 1 after being closed because the coronavirus epidemic.

Not all stores in the mall, which is in Bloomington south of Minneapolis, will reopen on that date, the mall said in a statement. Dining and attractions will remain closed pending further guidance from state officials.

Gov. Tim Walz this week announced that his stay-at-home order expires Monday and that he would replace it with an order allowing retail as long as stores enforce social distancing and stay at 50 percent capacity or less. 

The June 1 date will allow companies to rehire staff and prepare cleaning and other safety measures, the mall said. The mall covers 5.6 million square feet. Under normal circumstances, the mall says that it has around 40 million visitors each year.

Minnesota has seen more than 13,400 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, with at least 663 deaths, according to the state health department.

Convalescent plasma is safe to treat COVID-19, study finds

The most comprehensive national study to date has found that convalescent plasma appears to be safe to use on COVID-19 patients, a promising development in the race to find a treatment for the deadly virus. But the study didn't determine whether the treatment works.

A team of more than 5,000 doctors from over 2,000 hospitals and laboratories have been testing the experimental therapy, which involves transfusing the antibody-rich blood serum of recovered COVID-19 patients into people who are battling the illness.

Of the 5,000 seriously ill patients who received blood plasma transfusions for the study, fewer than 1 percent experienced serious adverse events. The mortality rate seven days after treatment was 14.9 percent, but the researchers noted the infusion patients were already gravely ill and the rate "does not appear excessive."

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