Memorial Day weekend in lockdown as U.S. death toll nears 97,000

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An aerial view shows painted circles in the grass to encourage people to social distance at Washington Square Park in San Francisco, California, on Friday.Josh Edelson / AFP - Getty Images

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As the number of U.S. deaths nears 97,000 and the coronavirus lockdowns continue, the long Memorial Day weekend won't look anything like years past, but in some parts of the country the pandemic has stabilized enough for some to think about beginning the economic recovery.

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

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.

Meanwhile, ongoing stay-at-home orders also 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.

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

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China reports no new cases for first time since start of the pandemic

China reported no new confirmed infections or deaths in the past 24 hours, marking the first time the country has registered zero new infections of the virus since they began reporting data in January.

China’s National Health Commission said 79 patients still were being treated as of Saturday and a total of 741,696 close contacts are being traced across the country. To date the country has reported a total of 4,634 deaths and 82,971 cases in total. 

The government still remains vigilant working to avoid a second wave, as all 11 million residents of Wuhan — where the outbreak was first detected — will be tested for the virus, officials said last week.

Queensland halts work on 2032 Olympics bid to deal with virus

A man is seen through the Olympic rings in front of the New National Stadium in Tokyo, Japan in March.Jae C. Hong / AP

 

The Australian state of Queensland has postponed work on its bid for the Olympic 2032 Games while they focus on the coronavirus outbreak.

Queensland Premier Annastascia Palaszczuk wrote that it would be "put on hold until further notice,” in The Australian newspaper. 

Senior international Olympic official John Coates said in a statement on Saturday that everyone understood there were pressing issues of public health and community wellbeing for governments to address.

Alaska State Fair canceled for first time since World War II

The Alaska State Fair was cancelled for the first time since World War II on Friday amid concerns surrounding coronavirus spread, organizers said in a statement Friday. Alaska has 404 confirmed virus cases as of Saturday, according to an NBC News tally. 

“We need to make decisions now based on what we know today, not how we hope things will be in August,” said the Alaska State Fair Board of Directors and CEO Jerome Hertel in the statement, citing uncertainty surrounding the pandemic. The fair was originally scheduled from Aug. 27 - Sept. 7.

While the staff is now instead working to offer some socially distant activities like drive-in movies and food trucks, the statement said, “We plan to come back next year with a 2021 Alaska State Fair that is even bigger and better than ever.”

U.S. grants OK for 15 airlines to suspend service to 75 airports

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Transportation Department said late Friday it had granted tentative approval to 15 airlines to temporarily halt service to 75 U.S. airports because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Airlines must maintain minimum service levels in order to receive government assistance, but many have petitioned to stop service to airports with low passenger demand.

Both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines won tentative approval to halt flights to 11 airports, while JetBlue Airways Corp, Alaska Airlines and Frontier Airlines were approved to stop flights to five airports each. The department said all airports would continue to be served by at least one air carrier.

The Transportation Department said objections to the order can be filed until May 28.

U.S. air carriers are collectively burning through more than $10 billion in cash a month as travel demand remains a fraction of prior levels, even though it has rebounded slightly in recent weeks. They have parked more than half of their planes and cut thousands of flights.

Nevada eyes June 4 are reopening date for casinos

LAS VEGAS — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak has set a tentative June 4 date for reopening the state’s shuttered casinos, including the famous glitzy casinos of Las Vegas.

The Democratic governor says Nevada has continued to see decreasing cases of the coronavirus and COVID-19 hospitalizations after some businesses reopened and some restrictions began to be lifted nearly two weeks ago. Sisolak’s office says he plans to hold a press conference Tuesday to offer more details about the next phase of reopening, assuming the decreasing cases of the virus and hospitalizations continue through the Memorial Day weekend.

Nevada’s gambling regulators plan to meet Tuesday and will consider reopening plans submitted from casinos, which need to be approved at least seven days before reopening.

N.Y. allows groups of 10 or fewer to congregate

After months of strict stay-at-home orders and just in time for the Memorial Day weekend, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order Friday allowing groups of 10 people or fewer to congregate.

Social distancing, cleaning and disinfection protocols must be followed as required by the state's Department of Health, according to the order.

Earlier in the day, New York joined the rest of the tristate area in opening its beaches with restrictions. Masks are required, visitors should maintain a 6-foot distance from others and concession stands will remain closed.