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

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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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Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair questions Trump's virus strategy

Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair questioned U.S. President Donald Trump’s approach to the coronavirus crisis and warned of “terrifying” economic consequences if global lockdown measures continue as they are.

“The countries that locked down fast and that are building, testing, tracing and tracking capability fast, that then enables you to be more bold on the economy,” he told NBC News on Friday.

Trump's government has been accused of bungling the response to the pandemic by first downplaying the threat and not moving quickly or efficiently enough to deal with the growing crisis.

“I think the problem that you have in most Western countries today is that people are now very well-informed about the risks of the disease,” Blair said from his home in the United Kingdom where, like much of the rest of his country, he’s spent the last eight weeks with his family under lockdown.

Read more here.

Vatican Museums to reopen from June 1

The Vatican Museums will reopen on June 1, the Vatican said, ending a closure caused by the a three-month lockdown that has drained the Holy See's finances. The Museums received some 7 million visitors last year and are the Holy See's most reliable source of income, previously generating an estimated $100 million yearly.

Visitors leave the Vatican Museums, at the Vatican on July 2015, using the spiral stairs designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932. GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP - Getty Images

A statement said the Museums — which house some of the world's greatest Renaissance masterpieces as well as ancient Roman and Egyptian artifacts — can be visited from the beginning of June, though only by making online reservations in order to control the number of visitors.

Staff will wear masks and gloves and health workers will be on hand, according to the statement. Visitors will have their temperatures checked and will have to wear masks and use hand sanitizer. 

Italian museums began reopening last week as part of a staged easing of lockdown measures in the country where nearly 33,000 people have died from the virus.

Senior adviser to U.K. PM facing calls to quit after trip during lockdown

A senior adviser to Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson is facing calls for his resignation after reports that he drove 250 miles to his parents house while his wife showed virus symptoms, breaching lockdown regulations.   

Dominic Cummings travelled 250 miles from London to northern England in March after the government stipulated that people should remain at their primary residence, leaving only for essential local errands and exercise, and to not visit relatives. Anyone with symptoms was advised told to completely self-isolate.

A number of politicians from rival parties to Johnson's Conservative Party have since called for him to stand down, as have some members of his own party.  

Thailand reports no new cases for fourth time this month

A waiter in a face shield watches as customers eat in between plastic partitions, set up to contain any spread of COVID-19 at the Penguin Eat Shabu hotpot restaurant in Bangkok, Thailand earlier this month.Lillian Suwanrumpha / AFP - Getty Images

Thailand reported no new coronavirus cases and no new deaths on Sunday, maintaining the total to 3,040 confirmed cases and 56 fatalities since the outbreak began in January.

Sunday was the fourth day in this month that there were no new daily cases, said Panprapa Yongtrakul, a spokeswoman for the government’s coronavirus task force. There are 2,921 patients who have recovered and returned home since the outbreak started, she said.

On Saturday, Thailand began testing a vaccine against the coronavirus on monkeys after positive trials in mice, an official said. Thailand's minister of higher education, science, and research and innovation, Suvit Maesincee, said researchers had moved testing of the vaccine to monkeys and hoped to have a "clearer outcome" of its effectiveness by September.

China reports three new cases after first day with none since outbreak began

China confirmed three new COVID-19 cases on Sunday, just 24-hours after no new cases were reported in the country for the first time since the outbreak began in the central city of Wuhan late last year.

Of the new cases, two were imported while one was a local transmission, China's National Health Commission said. 

The country has seen a sharp drop in locally transmitted cases since March, as major restrictions on movement helped it to take control of the epidemic in parts of the vast country.

The number of confirmed cases in the mainland stands at 82,974 and the death toll remained unchanged at 4,634 on Sunday. 

Australian PM stresses the need to create jobs as state of Victoria starts to reopen

A surfer walks towards the ocean through a designated walkway at Bondi beach in Sydney last month. Beaches were reopened in April with COVID-19 social distancing rules still in place.Mark Kolbe / Getty Images

Australia's prime minister stressed the need to create jobs as a way to minimize government welfare spending, while the country's second-most populous state Victoria set out measures to resume tourism to regions ravaged by bushfires and virus-linked curbs.

"Whether it's how we access markets, how we deliver assistance, whether it's to bushfire affected communities... the thing that gets Australia back to where we want to be is making jobs," Scott Morrison told reporters on Sunday. Morrison said it was important to get agriculture and tourism back up to create more jobs and drive the economy.

These are his first comments since the Treasury Department flagged last week that Australia had vastly over-estimated the initial costs of its coronavirus wage subsidy scheme.

Australia on Friday halved the number of people expected to be covered by its subsidy scheme due to reporting errors and after swiftly controlling the outbreak, a revision that will save the government around 60 billion Australian dollars ($39 billion). Australia has so far reported more than 7,000 cases, according to the country's Department of Health. 

Two more arrested in Hawaii for allegedly violating quarantine

Two men were arrested by authorities in Hawaii after they allegedly violated self-quarantine rules for visitors and returning residents, Gov. David Ige's office said Saturday.

Artyon Zhiryada, 20, of Happy Valley, Oregon, and Dan Vlasenko, 19, of Vancouver, Washington, were arrested Friday as they exited a condominium in Honolulu, the office said. They arrived May 16, it said.

The pair represents the fourth and fifth high-profile arrests of visitors who allegedly failed to isolate for 14 days as a pandemic precaution ordered by Ige. It was at least the third time a suspect was accused because authorities said they found imagery of their public activity on social media.

Zhiryada also faced an allegation of cruelty to animals after he posted a video showing him shooting a "feral" chicken with a speargun in a parking lot, the governor's office said.

Over 100 workers at L.A. meat processing plant test positive

More than 100 workers at a Los Angeles-area meat plant that makes the famous Dodger hot dogs have tested positive for the coronavirus.

At least 116 people at the Smithfield Foods-owned Farmer John processing plant have been infected, according to the Los Angeles County public health department. Local media reports put the estimate closer to 140 people, NBC Los Angeles reported. 

Smithfield, which bought Farmer John in 2017, could not be reached for comment. The company previously closed multiple plants throughout the country because of coronavirus outbreaks among employees.

According to Smithfield's website, “every employee involved in handling, preparing and processing food wears personal protective equipment covering their heads, faces (including masks and face shields), hands and bodies. Additionally, employees undergo temperature checks and are screened for COVID-19 symptoms.”

New York Times' front page memorializes the dead

The New York Times plans to dedicate its entire Sunday front page to hundreds of names of Americans killed by the coronavirus.

On Saturday, it tweeted an image of the page, which is topped with the headline, "U.S. DEATHS NEAR 100,000, AN INCALCULABLE LOSS."

An introduction to the list explains,"The 1,000 people here reflect just 1 percent of the toll." Victims get brief descriptions: "Florencio Almazo Morán, 65, New York City, one-man army."

Marc Lacey, the Times' national editor, said in a story explaining the presentation, "I wanted something that people would look back on in 100 years to understand the toll of what we’re living through."

In April, NBC News documented "60 Lives 60 Days: Stories of victims we've lost from COVID-19 two months since the first U.S. death."