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

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
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

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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U.S. appeals court upholds California's church closures

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has upheld California Gov. Gavin Newsom's ban on gatherings at houses of worship, denying an emergency motion that sought to resume in-person services while the case is appealed.

South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista had argued the ban violated its freedom of religion, but a federal court in San Diego upheld Newsom's prohibition on May 15.

On Friday a three-judge appeals panel voted 3-2 in favor of the state, saying plaintiffs had little chance of winning their appeal. The majority agreed with the state's argument that "constitutional rights may be reasonably restricted" in extraordinary circumstances.

A long dissent from Judge Daniel Collins, an appointee of President Donald Trump, argued the state's ban "likely violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment." The church's pastor, Arthur E. Hodges III, vowed to reopen May 31.

Biden wins Democratic primary in Hawaii

Former Vice President Joe Biden won Hawaii's Democratic presidential primary Saturday in an election that was all vote-by-mail because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The race pitted Biden against Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who ended his presidential campaign last month.

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Man allegedly kidnaps teen driver to get through checkpoint

A Florida man was in jail Saturday after he allegedly kidnapped a 17-year-old girl and ordered her to get him through a lockdown checkpoint, authorities said.

Alexander Michael Sardinas, 37, was arrested on suspicion of felony false imprisonment, according to inmate records from the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.

The office said Sardinas forced the girl, a resident of the Florida Keys, to drive him and a companion through a checkpoint that leads to the islands after he couldn't get through in a ride-hail vehicle.

The mainland checkpoint regulates traffic to the Keys, which have been off limits to visitors since March 22 in an effort to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

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Georgia man allegedly faked coronavirus diagnosis to employer, faces federal charges

A Georgia man who allegedly faked a coronavirus diagnosis to his employer, leading the business to temporarily shut down, is facing federal charges.

Santwon Antonio Davis, 34, of Morrow, about 15 miles south of Atlanta, is charged with defrauding his employer after he allegedly faked a medical excuse letter. He has since admitted to authorities that he did not have the virus, according to a press release from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Atlanta.

Davis, who was employed by an unidentified Fortune 500 company, told his supervisors in March that he had tested positive for the coronavirus and emailed a letter stating that he had been admitted to the hospital and needed to quarantine for 14 days, an affidavit states.

Out of an abundance of caution, the company shut down for cleaning, and at least four workers had to quarantine.

“The defendant caused unnecessary economic loss to his employer and distress to his coworkers and their families,” said U.S. Attorney Byung J. Pak for the Northern District of Georgia.

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NBA in talks to possibly resume season at Walt Disney World Resort

The NBA is in "exploratory" talks with the Walt Disney Co. to possibly restart its season at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida in late July.

The restart would be at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, which would act as “a single site ... for games, practices and housing," spokesman Mike Bass said.

“Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical protocols and protections are in place,” Bass said in a statement.

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GOP governor in North Dakota gives emotional plea against 'mask shaming'

Republican Gov. Doug Burgum of North Dakota issued an emotional plea for residents of his state to avoid "ideological or political" divides on the choice to wear face masks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“If someone is wearing a mask, they’re not doing it to represent what political party they’re in or what candidates they support,” Burgum said during a press conference on Friday.

The governor's voice began breaking with emotion as he went on to say that people might wear a face mask "because they’ve got a 5-year-old child who’s been going through cancer treatments. They might have vulnerable adults in their life who currently have COVID, and they’re fighting.”

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Universal Orlando to be Florida’s first major theme park to reopen

New Jersey beaches reopen for Memorial Day weekend

New York deaths drop below 100 for 1st time since March as suburbs poised to reopen

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Saturday that New York has seen the lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths since the state became the epicenter of the virus. 

The state had 84 deaths Friday, which Cuomo said "is a hideous number" by any normal standard but marks the first time since March the figure was below 100.

With new hospitalizations also declining, the governor said the state expects to reopen the mid-Hudson region and Long Island.

Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Sullivan and Ulster counties are set to reopen on Tuesday as long as teams of contact tracers in the area complete online training. Cuomo said the region needs 1,991 contact tracers. So far, 1,134 have been trained.

The governor said officials are considering reopening Long Island by Wednesday.

New York City beaches will remain closed during Memorial Day weekend while state beaches are expected to remain open for residents only. 

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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