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U.S. death toll nears 100,000 on muted Memorial Day weekend

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Image: People visit California's Huntington Beach on Memorial Day weekend on May 23, 2020.
People visit California's Huntington Beach on Memorial Day weekend on May 23, 2020.Patrick T. Fallon / Reuters

No arcades. No rides. No concerts or special events. Closed playgrounds. Capacity limits on beaches. Just takeout at most bars and restaurants, and drones flying overhead to help authorities monitor it all. Memorial Day weekend is not anything like years past.

As the U.S. death toll creeps towards 100,000, according to an NBC News tally, home care professionals and nurses said the coronavirus pandemic shows how crucial the industry is.

They said it can be 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.

Elsewhere, for the first time since the pandemic began, China reported no new cases on Saturday and millions of Muslims are marking a muted and gloomy holiday of Eid al-Fitr, the end of the fasting month of Ramadan — a usually joyous three-day celebration that has been significantly toned down as coronavirus cases soar.

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 to May 25 coronavirus news.

Republicans sue California over expanded mail-in voting

The Republican National Committee and other GOP groups filed a lawsuit against California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sunday, arguing a move to expand mail-in voting during the pandemic is illegal.

The federal lawsuit also names the California Republican Party and the National Republican Congressional Committee as plaintiffs. In a tweet announcing the suit, national committee chair Ronna McDaniel called Newsom’s executive order “radical” and a “recipe for disaster that would create more opportunities for fraud.”

The May 8 order requires election officials in each of the state’s 58 counties to send mail-in ballots to all registered voters.

“No Californian should be forced to risk their health in order to exercise their right to vote,” Newsom said.

Read the full story.

Brazil's cases surge in densely packed neighborhoods

Japan looking to end Tokyo's state of emergency

TOKYO - Japan is looking to lift a state of emergency for Tokyo and remaining areas still facing restrictions while also considering fresh stimulus worth almost $1 trillion to help companies ride out the coronavirus pandemic, Nikkei reported on Monday.

Social distancing curbs were removed for most of the country on May 14 as new infections fell, but the government had kept Tokyo and four other prefectures under watch.

The government will seek approval from key advisers for the lifting on Monday. If approved, Japan would have no regions under the state of emergency, which was first instated on April 7.

Texas Chick-fil-A holds graduation ceremony for employees

A Chick-fil-A in San Antonio, Texas, held a graduation ceremony last week for its class of 2020 employees. 

In a video posted on the restaurant’s Facebook page, graduates wearing face masks and gloves walk down a red carpet as their names are called. They are then adorned with a class of 2020 stole and presented with a gift basket before taking photos with a masked mascot wearing a graduation cap.

"While this may not be how you guys pictured graduation a few years ago, months ago, or even days ago, we wanted to make sure that you guys were celebrated in a way that we could all be here and celebrate you guys for the accomplishment you have made," a store employee said at the beginning of the ceremony. "We know it took a lot of hard work and determination, so we did not want that to go uncelebrated."

Mexico's president says country could lose 1 million jobs

MEXICO CITY - Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said on Sunday that the coronavirus could cost as many as 1 million jobs in the country as many industries considered not essential remain shut.

The Mexican economy was already in recession before the pandemic struck and different investment banks have forecast contractions as large as 9% for this year with only a gradual recovery next year.

"My prediction is that with coronavirus, a million jobs will be lost," Lopez Obrador said in a televised speech. "But we will create two million new jobs."

Lopez Obrador's government repeatedly said it had the outbreak under control but since posted record numbers for new cases and deaths.

Haiti voodoo leaders prepare temples for patients

PORT-AU-PRINCE — Haiti's voodoo leaders have trained priests of the Afro Caribbean religion to concoct a secret remedy for the novel coronavirus and to prepare the sacred initiation chambers of their temples to receive patients.

In Haiti, where Western healthcare services are scarce and too expensive for many, inhabitants often rely on the herbal remedies and ritual practices of their voodoo “houngan” priest or “mambo” priestess.

While the virus took root slowly in the poorest country in the Americas, in the last two weeks the number of confirmed cases has nearly quintupled to 865 while reports of a mysterious "fever" are spreading. Ever since the first cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed in Haiti in mid-March, Voodoo priests have been serving up teas with ingredients including moringa, eucalyptus, ginger and honey to strengthen the immune system.

More than half of Haiti’s 11 million people are believed to practice voodoo, a religion brought from West Africa centuries ago by enslaved men and women and practiced clandestinely under French colonial rule.

White House announces travel ban with Brazil

The White House announced a travel ban with Brazil on Sunday that will bar anyone from entering the United States who has been in that country for the prior two weeks.

The ban, which will go into effect Thursday night, came as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths there surged. With more than 22,000 deaths and 347,000 cases, Brazil ranks second in the world after the United States, according to an NBC News tally.

The suspension includes several exemptions, including U.S. residents and spouses, siblings and children of U.S. citizens.

Doctors in Brazil have warned that there is so little testing that the rate of infection could be 15 times higher than the official estimate. On Friday, the World Health Organization called the country “a new epicenter” of the virus.

Florida wildlife park introduces Social Distancing Skunk Ape mascot

A Florida wildlife park found a creative way to make sure guests practice social distancing while visiting during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Gatorland Orlando, which reopened to the public on Saturday, introduced a new mascot, “Social Distancing Skunk Ape,” to encourage guests to remain 6 feet away from each other. The mascot has been previously featured in Gatorland’s YouTube show, “Gatorland Vlogs,” as well as their Facebook morning show, “School of Croc,” the park said on its website

In a video posted on the attraction’s YouTube page, the mascot is seen shoving apart guests who don’t practice social distancing and scaring another guest who doesn’t wash his hands after using the bathroom. The park said he will also appear in informational videos throughout the wildlife attraction. 

Second stylist at same Missouri hair salon tests positive, 140 customers exposed

The Great Clips hair salon in Springfield, Mo., on May 22, 2020. A stylist who tested positive for coronavirus worked at the salon for over a week.Nathan Papes / Springfield News-Leader via Reuters

140 clients at a hair salon in Missouri have now potentially been exposed to COVID-19 after a second hairstyle at the location tested positive for the coronavirus.

On Friday, the city of Springfield said 91 people had been exposed to the coronavirus after a stylist worked for eight days while showing symptoms. Among the 91 were 84 clients and seven employees.

Now, 56 more clients have been “potentially directly exposed,” the city said Saturday, explaining that the second stylist at the Great Clips salon tested positive and worked five days while “experiencing very mild symptoms.”

Read the full story here.