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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Trump visits one of his private golf courses as he pushed for reopening

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump kicked off his Memorial Day weekend by visiting his club in Virginia, marking the president's first time back at one of his private golf courses in 75 days, the longest stretch of his administration without spending time at one.

He was seen leaving the White House on Saturday morning wearing a white hat, white shirt and no mask as his motorcade made its way to the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia.

Trump last visited his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida the weekend of March 6 where he hosted several Brazilian officials, one of whom tested positive for the coronavirus shortly after the trip. 

The president spent most of the rest of March locked down at the White House participating in near-daily press briefings with the White House coronavirus task force highlighting the administration's response to the pandemic. The briefings were abandoned in late April after Trump was criticized for suggesting people might be able to prevent the coronavirus by injecting or ingesting toxic household cleaning products.

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India reports over 6,000 new cases for second straight day

Migrant workers queue outside a railway station to return to their hometowns after the government eased a nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the coronavirus in Mumbai, India last week.Punit Paranjpe / AFP - Getty Images

New cases of the coronavirus in India topped 6,000 for a second consecutive day, marking another record jump for the South Asian country in a 24-hour period.

India reported 6,654 new cases on Saturday, bringing the nationwide total to 125,102, including 3,720 deaths. The rate of infection in the country of 1.3 billion has risen as a two-month lockdown has eased.

States with relatively few cases have seen spikes in recent days as residents, including migrant workers traveling on special trains, have returned home.

Authorities in the northeastern border state of Assam introduced criminal charges on Saturday for quarantine violators after more than 100 people in state quarantine facilities tested positive for COVID-19.

Spain announces reopening to tourists as thousands in far-right party protest lockdown

Amid anti-lockdown protests by a far-right party, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said the country will reopen to international tourists in July.

"We will guarantee tourists will not take any risks and will not bring us any risks," the prime minister said at a news conference Saturday.

Foreign visitors contribute around an eighth of Spain’s economic output and government curbs taken to contain one of Europe's severest coronavirus outbreaks have shuttered everything from hotels, bars and restaurants to beaches and leisure parks just as the tourism season gets under way. 

Several thousand followers of Spain’s far-right Vox party gathered on Saturday in Madrid and other cities to protest the government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Vox called for protesters to come in their cars and motorbikes to skirt the current prohibition on social gatherings in effect under the nation’s two-month long state of emergency.

“Let your desire be heard for the resignation of the government,” Vox leader Santiago Abascal said from an open-top bus leading the cars inching down a Madrid boulevard. Vox called the protest the “Caravan for Spain and Liberty.”

Most cars were decked with Spanish flags, and there were also small groups of people who participated on foot, with some not respecting the two-meter social distancing rules. Over 28,000 Spaniards have been confirmed to have died from COVID-19. The lockdown successfully reduced the daily contagion rate of over 20 percent at the height of the crisis to under 1 percent for the past week.

Quarantine TV: Drama on forbidden love casts spotlight on life in North Korea

Son Ye Jin and Hyun Bin star in 'Crash Landing On You.'Lim Hyo Seon / Netflix

The series features all the ingredients a viewer could wish for. A beautiful heiress. A swooning soldier. Danger. Forbidden love. All set in one of the most repressive places on earth — North Korea.

The series — "Crash Landing on You," on Netflix — has drawn a global audience of millions, many no doubt searching for entertainment as they while away their time in coronavirus-related lockdowns.

The premise is this: The gorgeous heiress has accidentally paraglided into North Korea, where she is aided by none other than the swooning soldier — with whom, of course, she eventually falls in love.

Read the full story here.

Photo: A night at the movies

Moviegoers watch a film from their cars at a drive-in theater in Les Herbiers, western France, on Friday.Loic Venance / AFP - Getty Images

Japanese nightclubs get COVID instructions

The Japanese association representing workers at nightclubs and hostess bars is instructing people to wear masks and to disinfect doorknobs and tables every 30 minutes. 

The guidelines, issued by the Nihon Mizushobai Kyokai on Saturday, said karaoke microphones must be cleaned after each use, and workers should wash their hands and gargle every 30 minutes. A customer and worker can sit together, but one empty seat must be kept in between another customer. Visitors from abroad, who didn’t undergo a 14-day quarantine, will be refused at the door. 

Staff should not touch their hair or face, and must report health problems to authorities, according to the checklist. More than a million women are estimated to work at cabarets in Japan, and their income has plunged amid the outbreak as major companies instructed employees to work from home. 

The government’s stay-home request has been lifted in much of Japan but remains in Tokyo. Japan has more than 16,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 777 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Virus concerns show increased need, demand for home care, experts say

For people recovering from COVID-19, home care can be both essential and elaborate, involving a health care professional who provides additional oxygen, monitors vital signs, administers medication and helps with daily tasks such as eating, bathing and getting in and out of bed.

Home care professionals and nurses said the coronavirus pandemic shows how crucial the industry is. It provides life-saving services to people who are vulnerable while keeping them safe in their own homes.

“It’s been quite a dramatic challenge for all of us and certainly the public health challenge of our lifetime,” said Dr. Steven Landers, president and CEO of the Visiting Nurse Association Health Group, which serves New Jersey and Ohio.

Read more here.

South Korea reports 23 new cases, as authorities shut down nightclubs

South Korea reported 23 new cases of the coronavirus on Saturday, mostly from the densely-populated Seoul metropolitan area where authorities have shut down thousands of nightclubs, bars and karaoke rooms in an attempt to stem transmissions.

Figures on Saturday brought national totals to 11,165 cases and 266 deaths according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Thirteen of the new cases came from Gyeonggi province surrounding capital Seoul, which on Saturday issued an administrative order to ban gatherings at an additional 2,629 bars and karaoke rooms, bringing its number of shut-down entertainment venues to more than 8,000.

After the government used aggressive tracing and testing to stabilize its outbreak, more than 200 of the recent infections have been linked to club-goers in Seoul, who went out in early May as the country began easing on distancing.

Meanwhile, most high schools in South Korea remain open under strict COVID-19 disinfectant measures observed by school administrations.

Taliban leverages virus crisis to burnish its image as violence in Afghanistan surges

Afghan children sit on a grave on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan on Wednesday. Rahmat Gul / AP

Decades of war, political chaos, desperate poverty, and now coronavirus.

A perfect storm has gathered over one of the world’s most benighted nations, Afghanistan, where ordinary citizens are facing a fresh form of misery.

Taliban militants have announced they will keep fighting since they say there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in areas under the group’s control, a senior militant in the province of Ghazni has told NBC News.

Despite an uptick in violence, Taliban sources in Ghazni and four other provinces, Helmand, Paktika, Khost and Nangarhar, have told NBC News that there is now what they characterized as an unwritten understanding in place with the Afghan government and international groups like the World Health Organization to work together during the pandemic, particularly when it comes to testing.

Read the whole story here.