Trump deems places of worship 'essential'

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: President Donald Trump holds a protective face mask with a presidential seal on it that he said he had been wearing earlier in his tour at the Ford Rawsonville Components Plant
President Donald Trump holds a protective face mask with a presidential seal on it that he said he had been wearing during his tour of a Ford plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan, on Thursday.Leah Millis / Reuters

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Ongoing stay-at-home orders prompted President Donald Trump on Friday to deem houses of worship essential. He threatened to override governors who have ordered churches, synagogues and mosques not to reopen in the coming days.

With the coronavirus threat looming, the long Memorial Day weekend won't look anything like years past.

Meanwhile, the nation's most populous county is getting ready to reopen by the next big summer holiday - July 4.

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

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This live coverage has now ended. Continue reading May 23 coronavirus news.

Tanzania says virus defeated through prayer, but fears grow

Truck drivers are seen near their parked vehicles as they await test results, amid the spread of the coronavirus outbreak at the Namanga border crossing point between Kenya and Tanzania earlier this month.Thomas Mukoya / Reuters

On just one day this month, 50 Tanzanian truck drivers tested positive for the coronavirus after crossing into neighboring Kenya. Back home, their president insists that Tanzania has defeated the disease through prayer.

All the while, Tanzanian President John Magufuli has led a crackdown on anyone who dares raise concerns about the virus’ spread in his East African country or the government’s response to it. Critics have been arrested, and opposition politicians and rights activists say their phones are being tapped.

The country's number of confirmed virus cases hasn't changed for three weeks, and the international community is openly worrying that Tanzania's government is hiding the true scale of the pandemic. Just over 500 cases have been reported in a country of nearly 60 million people.

While many African countries have been praised for their response to the coronavirus, Tanzania is the most dramatic exception, run by a president who questions — or fires — his own health experts and has refused to limit people's movements, saying the economy is the priority.

Biological diversity key to preventing pandemics, U.N. says

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown how human health is intimately connected to the natural world, the United Nations said on its International Day of Biological Diversity on Friday.

"Our solutions are in nature," said U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres in a video statement. Preserving and sustainably managing biodiversity is not only necessary for mitigating climate disruption and guaranteeing water and food security, but is also crucial in preventing pandemics, he said. 

Biological diversity — meaning a wide variety of plants, animals and microorganisms — “are the pillars upon which we build civilizations,” the U.N. said in a statement. It has been proven that biodiversity loss could expand zoonoses — diseases transmitted from animals to humans — while, on the other hand, “if we keep biodiversity intact, it offers excellent tools to fight against pandemics like those caused by coronaviruses,” the U.N. said.

DJs play to a socially distant crowd at German club

Party goers longing to escape to the dance floor in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic got an insight into socially distant raving on Thursday night, when DJs at a German venue played to a socially distant, face mask-wearing audience that was limited to 100 people. 

The organizers of the TakaTuka event, held at the CoconutBeach club in Münster, said that to make up for the loss of revenue  caused by limited attendees, they would have had to increase the cover charge of the event 20 fold, but realized that this would have excluded many music fans. Instead, they sold packages to the event for €70 ($76.26), which included vouchers for drinks and hot food from the venue's grill.

Attendees were told to bring their own masks to the event, and that a vendor would be selling masks branded with club logos and imagery on site. DJ Steve Stix shared images of the socially distant event on his Instagram story, with clubbers limited to moving inside individual circles spaced out on the dance floor. The loosening of restrictions in Germany has seen some parts of life resume, but many precautions have been kept in place.

Moscow to expand antibody testing program to all residents next week

Moscow will offer free antibody testing to anyone who wants it as early as next week, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on state television. Currently, the city is offering free antibody testing to randomly selected residents. The program launched a week ago and is designed to help inform decisions on lifting lockdown restrictions, according to the mayor.

Russia on Friday surpassed 325,000 confirmed cases, and though the daily case growth is down from last week, the rate appears to have settled around 9,000 confirmed cases per day. Meanwhile, a record 150 fatalities were reported Friday.

Sobyanin also said Thursday that Moscow will resume government services and will allow car sharing starting on May 25. It will also ease entry and exit from the city. However, he said passes will still be required for movement around Moscow, suggesting the lockdown may continue past May 31, when it is currently scheduled to be lifted.

European aviation agency recommends face masks and physical distancing

As countries across Europe begin to ease travel restrictions, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency updated their recommendations for airports and airlines following the severe disruption of the industry from the coronavirus. 

New guidelines recommend that access to airport terminals should be limited to only passengers, crew members and staff, and that physical distancing should be in place.

The wearing of face masks was recommended for all passengers “from the moment they enter the terminal building at the departure airport until they exit the terminal building at the destination airport,” according to the guidelines. Airport and airline operators should also provide personal protective equipment to staff members, it said.

Brazil records another new record in daily death toll

A nurse holds the arm of a patient infected with COVID-19 at the Gilberto Novaes Municipal Field Hospital on Thursday in Manaus, Brazil.Andre Coelho / Getty Images

Brazil suffered a record of 1,188 daily coronavirus deaths on Thursday and is fast approaching Russia to become the world's No. 2 COVID-19 hot spot behind the United States.

Brazil also passed 20,000 deaths on Thursday and has 310,087 confirmed cases, up over 18,500 in a single day, according to Health Ministry data. The true numbers are likely higher but Brazil has not carried out widespread testing, the ministry said.

President Jair Bolsonaro is under growing pressure for his handling of the outbreak, which looks set to destroy the Brazilian economy and threatens his re-election hopes. He strongly opposes social distancing measures and has repeatedly pushed for greater usage of chloroquine as a remedy for the virus, despite health experts' warnings about risks.

Female boxers in Gaza train on the beach after gym closure

A Palestinian girl is instructed by coach Osama Ayob on Thursday during a boxing training session on the sidewalk of a beach as sports clubs are closed due to coronavirus fears in Gaza City.Suhaib Salem / Reuters

A team of young female boxers — some as young as four — trained on the beach in Gaza this week after their club was closed due to COVID-19. Gaza has reported 55 coronavirus cases, all of them in quarantine centers, and no deaths.

The sight of over a dozen girls boxing on the beach while wearing face masks caught the eye of passersby in the Mediterranean coastal enclave, where the sport is mostly popular with men. The girls' coach, Osama Ayob, said the public training sessions could help get more girls involved in the sport. Women make up half of the strip's two million people.

"Some families walking by us liked the idea and they asked if they could send their girls so I can train them," said Ayob, 34. One of the boxers, 15-year-old Malah Mesleh, said she would rather train in public than miss out on sessions — or, worse yet, risk contagion by practicing in the team's gym.

Mississippi governor outraged after church fighting virus rules burned to ground

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said he's "heartbroken and furious" after a fire this week at a church that has challenged coronavirus restrictions. The fire is being investigated as arson.

The fire Wednesday in Holly Springs destroyed the First Pentecostal Church, and investigators found graffiti in the church parking lot that reads, “Bet you stay home now you hypokrits," NBC affiliate WMC of Memphis reported.

The church was "burned to the ground" and had been trying to open services, Reeves tweeted Thursday.

First Pentecostal filed a lawsuit last month against the city over its public health order on in-person worship services, the station reported.

"This is not who we are," the governor said at a daily news conference on the coronavirus epidemic and the state's response.

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Minorities, older workers hit hard by layoffs, pay cuts