Trump deems places of worship 'essential'

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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 July 4, Independence Day could take on new meaning for L.A. residents

The nation's most populous county is aiming for a July 4 reopening as public health and policy experts say the coronavirus pandemic has stabilized enough to begin economic recovery.

Los Angeles County officials set the deadline this week to reopen restaurants, malls and retail stores by Independence Day as stay-at-home orders continue to take a toll on nearly every industry, from retail to TV and film production.

"We have the epidemic under control with these lockdown orders, and we can start thinking about relaxing those orders," said Neeraj Sood, a professor and vice dean for research at the University of Southern California's Price School of Public Policy. "I think the county is ready to open on July 4th."

Businesses must submit detailed proposals to the county by June 30 outlining the safety measures they plan to introduce to protect workers and customers, including social distancing rules and employee access to personal protective equipment.

Read the full story here.

Justice Department joins push against Illinois coronavirus restrictions

The Justice Department is adding its support to a lawsuit challenging the pandemic-related stay at home restrictions in Illinois.

On Friday, DOJ lawyers filed a statement of interest backing a lawsuit filed by Illinois state Rep. Darren Bailey, a Republican who charges Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker's emergency orders to help the state cope with the pandemic have exceed his authority.

“However well-intentioned they may be, the executive orders appear to reach far beyond the scope of the 30-day emergency authority granted to the governor under Illinois law,” Steven D. Weinhoeft, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, said in a statement. “Even during times of crisis, executive actions undertaken in the name of public safety must be lawful."

The filing also urges that Bailey's suit, which was moved from state court to federal court earlier this week, be moved back to state court.

Click here for the full story.

Mom meets new baby after more than 2 months fighting COVID-19

DOJ warns L.A. against long-term lockdown

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and Los Angeles County Health Director Barbara Ferrer have been warned that long-term lockdowns because of the coronavirus "may be both arbitrary and unlawful."

A letter sent Friday from Assistant Attorney General of Civil Rights Eric Drieband references several "heavy-handed" statements the Southern California officials have made about stay-at-home requirements that may remain in place until vaccines are developed.

The DOJ said in its letter that it recognizes the duty to protect residents but cautioned that "governmental authority, however, is not limitless, and must be exercised reasonably."

The Justice Department said it will not dictate how cities and counties determine to what degree activity and personal interaction should be allowed to protect citizens, but that it is the department's role to protect the constitutional rights of citizens.

 "There is no pandemic exception to the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights," the DOJ wrote. 

Remdesivir clinical trial results published in New England Journal of Medicine

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases published long-awaited results of its first study of remdesivir, an antiviral medication that Dr. Anthony Fauci previously said has a "clear-cut, significant, positive effect" on patients with COVID-19. 

On Friday, NIAID published the preliminary analysis of the drug in the New England Journal of Medicine. The analysis included data on 1,059 hospitalized patients. About half received remdesivir, and half received a placebo. 

Patients who received remdesivir were in the hospital for about 11 days, on average, compared with 15 days for those who received the placebo. 

Earlier this month, the Food and Drug Administration issued an emergency use authorization for remdesivir. The move was intended to increase physicians' access to the drug. It's not a cure, but it's the only treatment so far shown in clinical trials to have a moderate impact on the illness.

Jersey Shore and many other U.S. beaches reopen for a Memorial Day like no other

When the Jersey Shore reopens for Memorial Day weekend with the coronavirus still stalking the state and the rest of the land, not everything will be as “all right” as it used to be.

"SOCIAL DISTANCE TODAY -- START SPREADING THE NEWS” is the message Jersey Shore-bound masses will see on flashing billboards as they ford freeways that are expected to be packed. And once they reach their desired destinations, there will be more reminders that life on the shore is still a long way from normal.

No arcades. No rides. No concerts or special events. Closed playgrounds. Capacity limits on beaches. Long lines to use the few public bathrooms that will be open. Just takeout at most bars and restaurants. And drones flying overhead to help authorities monitor it all.

Police and other security will be out on the sand making sure people keep six-feet apart, and lifeguards will blow the whistle on anyone who does not follow the new rules.

Read the full story here.

Patrick Ewing in hospital after testing positive

Hall of Fame basketball player and Georgetown University coach Patrick Ewing announced Friday night that he was hospitalized after testing positive for coronavirus.

Ewing, 57, just completed his third season as head basketball coach at his alma mater. No other members of that team or staff have tested positive, Georgetown said.

Trump admin limits nursing home data collection effort

The Trump administration is not requiring nursing homes to provide data on COVID-19 deaths and cases that occurred prior to May 6, according to a public government document, limiting the accuracy of the federal data collection effort to measure the impact of the pandemic on older Americans.

The government encourages nursing homes to provide the data from before May 6, but does not mandate it. The limitations of the data collection effort were first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

"I think that is outrageous," said Charlene Harrington, nursing professor emerita from the University of California San Francisco, who said the administration was aiding the nursing home industry by "helping them cover up the death rates."

Read the full story here.

New Jersey predicts $10 billion revenue shortfall

New Jersey’s Office of the State Treasurer is calling the state’s financial condition for fiscal year 2020 and 2021 "sobering."

“We are watching revenues fall off the cliff with no assurance of additional federal aid in sight,” state Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio said in a call with reporters Friday.

The state is facing a revenue shortfall of $9.9 billion through 2021, assuming there is no resurgence of coronavirus. If there is another spike in infections later this year, New Jersey could experience a shortfall of $1.065 billion.

Muoio predicted the state’s GDP will not return to pre-COVID levels until mid-2022 at the earliest. She also emphasized the need for federal assistance and emergency borrowing, with the treasurer saying the situation will be “much worse” without the government's help.

California launches contact-tracing program

California is launching a new contact-tracing and public awareness program in its ongoing fight against coronavirus, which has infected more than 88,000 people across the state.

Through the program, called California Connected, public health workers will work with people who test positive for COVID-19 and with their close contacts to help ensure confidential coronavirus testing and medical care if necessary. It will be led by the state's public health department in collaboration with local health officials and universities of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

All information shared through the program is confidential. Contact tracers will not ask for financial information, social security numbers or immigration status, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom's office.

Campus Pride, PFLAG to host virtual Lavender Graduation

With the coronavirus pandemic canceling graduation ceremonies, LGBTQ college seniors will have the opportunity to participate in a virtual Lavender Graduation on Saturday, the 25th anniversary of an in-person event that began in 1995 at the University of Michigan.

At the first Lavender Graduation, “LGBTQ+ students were largely unseen — and unsafe — on college campuses," said Shane Windmeyer, executive director of Campus Pride, in an email. "There has been tremendous progress since, but COVID-19 has made many LGBTQ+ students again invisible and unsafe.”

Read the full story here.