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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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. 

GOP governor says wearing masks is public health issue

WASHINGTON — Ohio Republican Gov. Mike DeWine on Sunday dismissed the politicization of wearing masks in public to help contain the spread of the coronavirus, imploring Americans during the Memorial Day Weekend to understand “we are truly all in this together.”

With many states like Ohio beginning to relax stay-at-home restrictions, DeWine underscored the importance of following studies that show masks are beneficial to limiting the spread of the virus in an exclusive interview with “Meet the Press.”

“This is not about politics. This is not about whether you are liberal or conservative, left or right, Republican or Democrat,” DeWine said.

Read the full story here. 

Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid-al-Fitr amid coronavirus restrictions

A man wearing a protective face mask prays in a space to enforce social distancing ahead of the Eid Al-Fitr prayer at the Grand Mosque in Durres, Albania, on May 24, 2020.Gent Shkullaku / AFP - Getty Images

JERUSALEM— Muslims around the world on Sunday began celebrating Eid al-Fitr, a normally festive holiday marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, with millions under strict stay-at-home orders and many fearing renewed coronavirus outbreaks.

The three-day holiday is usually a time of travel, family get-togethers and lavish daytime feasts after weeks of dawn-to-dusk fasting. But this year many of the world's 1.8 billion Muslims will have to pray at home and make due with video calls.

Some countries, including Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, have imposed round-the-clock holiday curfews. But even where many restrictions have been lifted, celebrations will be subdued because of fears of the pandemic and its economic fallout.

“This outbreak is not just dampening spirits of Eid, but also has made the tradition entirely different,” said Andieka Rabbani, a university student in Jakarta. This year, like many Indonesians, he will only see family and friends through video calls.

Read the full article here.

Professional sports teams allowed to begin spring training in New York

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that professional sports teams can begin training in the state as coronavirus restrictions begin to loosen. 

Cuomo told reporters Sunday that the economy can slowly reopen as cases decline — so long as smart policies are put in place, such as reduced capacity and requiring face masks. Sports teams will be allowed to conduct training together starting Sunday and veterinarian clinics can resume normal operations beginning Tuesday. 

COVID-19 is costing drug cartels millions of dollars

Part of a $1 million seizure in the Los Angeles area.DEA

The coronavirus pandemic has crippled cities and crushed businesses from coast to coast.

It’s also costing drug traffickers millions, multiple law enforcement officials told NBC News, because their methods of moving money have been compromised.

Since the start of the crisis, federal drug agents in major U.S. hubs have seized substantially more illicit cash than usual amid statewide lockdowns that have disrupted the way cartels do business, the officials said.

“Their activities are a lot more apparent than they were three months ago,” said Bill Bodner, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Los Angeles field office.

Read the full story here.

As the pandemic strains supplies, Native Americans fight food insecurity

Henry Wilson Sr. waters the family's crops outside of their home in Monument Valley, Utah, on the Navajo Nation.Cynthia Wilson

Long before a global pandemic swept across her cloistered corner of the Navajo Nation, Cynthia Wilson knew the pains many families took to secure and store food.

The multigenerational home she shares with her parents and eight others in Monument Valley, Utah, runs on solar panels and a generator. With no running water, her father hauls it in almost daily. They live about 8 miles from the closest and only grocery store in their high desert community, where shoppers have felt the strain of limited supplies through the rationing of foods like meat.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic "people were dependent on the grocery store," Wilson said. "Now, they're in shock or worried about how they're going to keep their pantries filled when they can't go to the stores like they used to. It's a wake-up call that we need to go back to growing our own foods and tending to our own livestock."

Read the full story here.

Dutch? Belgian? How lockdown works in a town with one of the world's most complex borders

A street in Baarle Nassau which is unique as it has many cross border points with Baarle-Hertog in Belgium.Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images

How do you enforce social distancing rules in a town divided between two countries with different rules, with one of the most complex international borders in the world?

As the residents of Baarle-Hertog-Nassau have discovered, with great difficulty.

People living on some streets have been ordered to stay home, while their neighbors have been free to go out.

Baarle-Hertog-Nassau sits between Belgium and the Netherlands and is renowned for its intricate border. The town is geographically in the Netherlands, but there are 22 Belgian enclaves completely surrounded by Dutch territory.

Read more here.

Russia reports its highest daily death toll

Russia reported 153 coronavirus deaths in the past 24 hours on Sunday, its highest daily toll yet, raising total casualties to 3,541, health officials in the country said. 

A total of  8,599 new cases were also reported — fewer than on the previous day of 9434 — bringing the nationwide total infections to 344,481.

Although the COVID-19 outbreak was slow to spread in Russia, the country has in recent weeks seen growth rates explode.

As of Sunday, it has the third-largest reported outbreak globally after the U.S. and Brazil respectively, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

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.