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States struggle with contact tracing, Pence isn't taking hydroxychloroquine

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
COVID-19 Testing Begins in Historic Black Neighborhoods in Altamonte Springs, US
Health workers test people in cars for COVID-19 at a mobile testing site at the Apostolic Church of Christ in Altamonte Springs, Fla. on April 21, 2020.Paul Hennessy / Barcroft Media via Getty Images file

States across the country are reopening their economies, but they’re struggling with what public health officials have called a key component aimed at preventing the spread of coronavirus — contact tracing.

President Donald Trump might be taking hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic against COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean his vice president is.

"My physician hasn’t recommended that, but I wouldn’t hesitate to take the counsel of my doctor," Mike Pence told Fox News on Tuesday.

Walter Barton, 64, was put to death in Missouri on Tuesday. His was the first execution in the United States since the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a global pandemic.

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

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Alaska business restrictions end Friday

Alaska's governor announced Tuesday that all businesses and other activities will be allowed to fully reopen Friday, although some local governments might not do so right away.

Bars, gyms and other businesses have already been cleared to reopen although with reduced capacities. The new order will lift those capacity limits.

"It'll all be open, just like it was prior to the virus," Gov. Mike Dunleavy said, noting that Alaskans are still being asked to keep 6 feet apart, wear masks, wash hands and surfaces, and stay home and get tested if feeling sick.

Dunleavy said Tuesday that over the last 24 hours, no new cases and no new deaths were reported and that more than 36,300 tests have been done. 

Alaska has seen 399 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths, according to the state health department

Waffle House shooter was told to wear a mask, Colorado police say

A man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder after opening fire on a Waffle House employee who told him he needed to wear a mask, authorities in Colorado said.

He was arrested Monday. The attack happened early Friday at a restaurant in the Denver suburb of Aurora, police said in a statement. Officers responding to a report of a fight and possible shooting found the employee with a gunshot wound, the Aurora Police Department said.

"The victim was transported to the hospital and is recovering from his injury," police said.

Read the full story here

U.S. births fall, and virus could drive them down more

U.S. births continued to fall last year, leading to the fewest number of newborns in 35 years.

The decline is the latest sign of a prolonged national “baby bust” that’s been going on for more than a decade. And some experts believe the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy will suppress the numbers further.

“This unpredictable environment, and anxiety about the future, is going to make women think twice about having children,” said Dr. Denise Jamieson, chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Emory University.

Read the full story here

Texas voters afraid of coronavirus can cast mail-in ballots, federal judge rules

Texas voters afraid of contracting the coronavirus can cast their ballots by mail in upcoming elections, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

In a 74-page decision, U.S. District Judge Fred Biery wrote that the coronavirus pandemic had left the world “without immunity and fearfully disabled.”

The decision came after the Texas Democratic Party and individual voters filed a suit last month arguing that the state’s denial of mail-in ballots during a pandemic was a violation of their constitutional rights.

Read the full story here.

Justice Department warns California about restrictions on churches

The Justice Department on Tuesday sent a letter to California Gov. Gavin Newsom expressing concerns about how soon churches will be allowed to resume in-person services and raising Constitutional issues.

The letter takes issue with state plans to allow the resumption of in-person religious services, which is scheduled to start after manufacturing and officework are allowed to resume.

It also cites a past statement from U.S. Attorney Bill Barr that says, "government may not impose special restrictions on religious activity that do not also apply to similar nonreligious activity."

Tuesday's letter also says that the state's stay-at-home order "does not appear to treat religious activities and comparable nonreligious activities the same."

Read the full story here

Small business owner on deciding to close permanently: 'It makes us angry'

Louisiana DMV closes same day it reopened over fear of spread

NEW ORLEANS — Coronavirus fears closed a Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles location near New Orleans the same morning that it reopened after a two-month pandemic closure.

The office in Harvey was notified that someone in the building might have been in contact with somebody who had COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Deputy Commissioner Keith Neal said Tuesday.

Neal said he did not know whether the notification was from a state Department of Health contact tracer. The health department reported Tuesday that more than 35,000 people have been diagnosed with the disease, 1,004 of them are hospitalized and 2,458 have died. About 26,200 are presumed recovered.

He said the office — one of 11 that reopened statewide Monday after being closed since March 20 — will be sanitized before reopening.

U.S., Canada, Mexico extend border restrictions

TORONTO — The U.S., Canada and Mexico have extended their agreements to keep their shared borders closed to non-essential travel to June 21 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the border is a source of vulnerability, so the agreement will be extended by another 30 days. The Canada restrictions were announced on March 18 and were extended in April.

Trudeau said Canada’s provincial leaders clearly wanted to continue the measures.

“This will keep people in both of our countries safe.” Trudeau said.

U.S. President Donald Trump also confirmed the extension, but looked forward to its eventual end, saying, “everything we want to get back to normal.”

Mexico’s Foreign Affairs ministry said via Twitter that after reviewing the spread of COVID-19 in Mexico and the United States the governments had decided to leave the restrictions implemented March 21 unchanged.

Inside Mexico's fight against coronavirus

Kroger employees won't have to return extra money

Kroger said Tuesday that it will not require grocery employees who were overpaid to return the extra money.

“We’ve instructed our payroll department to directly inform the small number of associates affected by the overpayments of Emergency Leave of Absence pay that we will not seek repayment,” the grocer said in a statement to NBC News.

It was not immediately clear what Kroger was referring to by “Emergency Leave of Absence pay.”

Kroger on March 29 issued what it called hazard “hero” pay, an extra $2 an hour, for its employees in retail stores and warehouses as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. The corporation announced it would end the hazard pay in mid-May. On May 15, the grocer announced it would give a bonus of $400 for full-time and $200 for part-time associates after Kroger’s union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, spoke out against the end of hazard pay.

An undated letter shared Monday on social media appeared to be a request from Kroger asking an employee to return hazard pay amounting to about $462.

NBC was unable to verify the authenticity of the notice, but in its statement Tuesday, Kroger said that it would not ask associates to repay any overpayments.