Trump says he takes hydroxychloroquine as U.S. death toll tops 90,000

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Image: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Rome
A woman wearing a face shield drinks coffee at a cafe as Italy eases some of its lockdown measures in Rome on May 18, 2020.Yara Nardi / Reuters

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President Donald Trump on Monday said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an unproven treatment for COVID-19 that he has vigorously promoted. The FDA has warned the drug can cause serious heart problems.

The U.S. coronavirus death toll has topped 90,800, according to NBC News' count. More than 1.5 million cases have been confirmed in the country.Globally, more than 318,000 have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The number of deaths in the U.S. is expected to hit 100,000 by June 1, according to Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Monday, China pledged an extra $2 billion to deal with the coronavirus crisis at the World Health Assembly, which was held virtually. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said that the World Health Organization's "failure cost many lives and it must not happen again."

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

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Trump says he's taking hydroxychloroquine to prevent COVID-19

President Donald Trump on Monday said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine, an unproven treatment for COVID-19 that he has vigorously promoted.

“A lot of good things have come out about the hydroxy. A lot of good things have come out. You’d be surprised at how many people are taking it,” Trump said at the White House. “I happen to be taking it, I happen to be taking it… I’m taking it hydroxychloroquine, right now.”

The president said he has been taking the drug for “a couple weeks” and that it was prescribed by the White House doctor. The FDA has warned against its use for COVID-19 outside of a hospital setting due to a risk of serious heart problems.

Read the full story here. 

Oregon governor vows to appeal after court strikes down coronavirus executive orders

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown vowed to appeal a court ruling to the state's Supreme Court on Monday after a judge ruled her executive orders on social distancing guidelines "null and void."

The ruling by Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff claimed Brown's order was invalidated because she failed to have it approved by the state legislature following 28 days, according to NBC affiliate KGW. The suit was initially filed by a group of churches who claimed Brown's stay-at-home order was unconstitutional for infringing on a citizen's right to worship.

Brown stood by her actions in a Twitter thread Monday, and said that the "science behind my executive orders hasn’t changed." 

"It is irresponsible to dismiss the health risks and science behind our measures to stop COVID-19," Brown said. "We would be faced with the prospect of another mass outbreak without the tools that have proven to be effective in protecting our families, neighbors & loved ones from this disease."

Professional sports in California could resume in June, governor says

If coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to decline in California, professional sports may be given the green light to return in the state as soon as June, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday.

Newsom's tentative announcement came while discussing hopes to reopen the state's economy, assuming that California continues its downward trend of cases. The governor said he hopes to allow non-essential retailers to open in-store shopping across the state rather than on a regional basis. 

"In addition to that, sporting events, pro sports in that first week of June without spectators and modifications, and very prescriptive conditions can continue to move forward," Newsom said. 

NASCAR resumed its season on Sunday without spectators at the Darlington Raceway in South Carolina, the league's first race since March. Other countries have also allowed some professional sports to continue without fans in the stands, such as Germany's Bundesliga soccer league and South Korea's Korean Baseball Organization. 

70 cases of COVID-19 at French schools days after re-opening

Children social distance in a classroom at the Saint-Tronc Castelroc primary school in Marseille, France, on May 14, 2020.Daniel Cole / AP

PARIS — Just one week after a third of French schoolchildren went back to school in an easing of the coronavirus lockdown, there’s been a worrying flareup of about 70 COVID-19 cases linked to schools.

Some lower grades in schools were opened last week and a further 150,000 junior high students went back to the classroom Monday as further restrictions were loosened by the government. The move initially spelled relief: the end of homeschooling for hundreds of thousands of exhausted French parents, many of whom were also working from home.

Read the full story here. 

Ousted HHS whistleblower Bright reports to work in new role

Lawyers for Dr. Rick Bright, a former top Health and Human Services official, told NBC News Monday that he has reported to the National Institutes of Health to begin his new assignment.

“Following the required onboarding process, he is prepared to begin working when NIH is ready,” his attorneys said.

Bright has said he was shoved out of a key coronavirus response job for objecting to "efforts to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections." He was transferred to a role within the National Institutes of Health, which is part of HHS. Bright alleges that his reassignment from serving as head of the federal government’s vaccine agency to a lower-profile role at the NIH was an act of retaliation by the Trump administration for raising his concerns. 

He filed a whistleblower complaint earlier this month charging "an abuse of authority or gross mismanagement" at HHS and and unloaded on the Trump administration's coronavirus response in testimony to Congress last week. Bright had been taking sick leave since filing his whistleblower complaint.

Maryland restaurant creates social distancing tables out of inner tubes

A Maryland restaurant is planning to use specially-designed tables to comply with social distancing guidelines once it is able to re-open. 

Fish Tales in Ocean City, Maryland said the tables, made out of inner tubes, were designed by Revolution Event Design and Production, a special events company based in Baltimore. Videos posted on social media show Fish Tales staff members wearing the tables around their waists while rolling down a pier near the restaurant. 

Restaurants in Maryland are currently closed for in-person dining due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Italy announces lowest COVID-19 death toll since March 9

Italy has reached its lowest daily toll of deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the lockdown on March 9. Only 99 fatalities and 451 new cases were reported during the weekend, the Civil Protection said in a statement. Italy's total death toll since February 21, when the outbreak started, now stands at 32,007, official figures show.

The European country reopened some of its business Monday - shops, restaurants and churches - as its 10-week lockdown eases. "We could wait for a vaccine, but we can’t afford it," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Saturday. "We have to accept [the risks], otherwise we will never be able to restart."

Wall Street soars as vaccine news prompts hope of economic recovery

Wall Street soared Monday after U.S.-based drugmaker Moderna said it has seen "positive" results from its first human trial for a vaccine against COVID-19, prompting hope among investors that economic recovery could be on the horizon.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up by around 830 points by midday Monday, with the S&P 500 notching up a gain of by 3 percent and the Nasdaq higher by 2.3 percent.

Tourism and airline stocks also rose, with Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United seeing double-digit gains. MGM Resorts, Carnival Cruise Line and Disney also rallied, on the possibility of a return to travel and entertainment.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has emphasized that full economic recovery “may have to await the arrival of a vaccine.”

Read the full story here. 

He thought the coronavirus was 'a fake crisis.' Then he contracted it.

Brian Hitchens.WPTV

A Florida man who thought the coronavirus was "a fake crisis" has changed his mind after he and his wife contracted COVID-19.

Brian Hitchens, a rideshare driver who lives in Jupiter, downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus in Facebook posts in March and April.

"I'm honoring what our government says to do during this epidemic but I do not fear this virus because I know that my God is bigger than this Virus will ever be," he wrote in a post on April 2. "Jesus is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords."

In mid-April, Hitchens, 46, began documenting his and his wife's health on Facebook.

"Been home sick for over a week. Both my wife and I home sick," he wrote in a post on April 18. "I've got no energy and all I want to do is sleep."

Read the full story here.

Patients petition health groups to revise COVID-19 recovery guidelines

Patients who've endured ongoing COVID-19 symptoms are working to raise awareness of the long-lasting effects of the illness by petitioning public health groups. 

A grassroots effort was published Monday on change.org, targeting the World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.K.'s National Health Service, to "revise the recovery guidelines to reflect a more accurate recovery time to ensure patients are receiving the appropriate care, attention, and respect during their difficult road to recovery."

Some patients, even those who were never sick enough to be hospitalized, have reported fever, fatigue and other symptoms for as many as 10 to 12 weeks.

Some public health groups and physicians have begun to discuss setting up registries of people who have recovered, or who are still recovering from COVID-19, to get a better sense of long-term symptoms. There is no indication yet, though, when such a registry would be established.