U.S. death toll nears 100,000

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Image: A man wears a protective mask as he walks on Wall Street during the coronavirus outbreak in New York
A man wears a protective mask as he walks on Wall Street during the coronavirus outbreak in New York on March 13, 2020.Lucas Jackson / Reuters file

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The number of U.S. coronavirus deaths approached 100,000, with more than 99,600 deaths recorded as of early Wednesday, according to NBC News' count. The U.S. leads the world in both deaths and confirmed cases, with 1.69 million infections.

The National Hockey League on Tuesday announced a plan to resume its suspended season by moving directly into playoffs, but details, including which "hub cities" would host the contests, remained up in the air.

Former vice president and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden called President Donald Trump "an absolute fool to talk that way" after Trump criticized Biden for wearing a mask during a Memorial Day remembrance.

"Every leading doc in the world is saying we should wear a mask when you're in a crowd," Biden said in a CNN interview.

Trump, who did not wear a mask during Memorial Day services, retweeted Fox News commentator Brit Hume's Monday night tweet criticizing Biden. Trump denied mocking Biden at a Tuesday news conference.

Here's what to know about the coronavirus, plus a timeline of the most critical moments:

Download the NBC News app for latest updates on the coronavirus outbreak.

This live coverage has ended. Continue to May 27 coronavirus news.

DOJ warns Nevada's church restrictions could violate Constitution

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Justice on Monday sent a stern letter to Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak warning that the department had civil rights concerns over the state's ban on gatherings of ten or more people for religious worship services. 

In the letter, U.S. Attorney for the District of Nevada Nicholas Trutanich and Assistant Attorney General Eric S. Dreiband wrote that "churches and other faith-based organizations are currently subject to restrictions that other businesses and groups are not," such as restaurants and hair and nail salons, which are allowed to open with limited capacity. 

"We are concerned, however, that the flat prohibition against ten or more persons gathering for in-person worship services — regardless of whether they maintain social distancing guidelines — impermissibly treats religious and nonreligious organizations unequally. These directives may violate the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, unless the government can prove a compelling interest and pursued the least restrictive means possible," the letter continued, urging the state to amend their emergency directives. 

On Friday, President Donald Trump announced that places of worship were considered "essential" businesses and threatened to "override" any governors who refused to allow them to open, although it is unlikely the president has the legal authority to do so. 

NYSE floor reopens with Cuomo ringing in trading day

The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange reopened for the first time in two months with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ringing the iconic bell, but the controlled chaos was more subdued Tuesday under new pandemic rules.

The floor, known worldwide for an anarchic atmosphere with traders shouting orders over one another, has been closed since mid-March due to the coronavirus outbreak. The NYSE says fewer traders will be on the floor at a given time for now in order to support six-feet social distancing requirements. They also must wear masks.

Anyone entering the Exchange at 11 Wall Street is also being asked to avoid public transportation, and they will have their temperature taken before entry, said Stacey Cunningham, president of the NYSE.

Designated market makers, which oversee the trading of the NYSE's 2,200 listed companies, will continue to do so remotely and electronically as they have been since March 23.

Famed archeological site reopens in Italy

Italy’s famed archaeological site Pompeii has reopened to the public for the first time since the beginning of the country’s lockdown.

Mask-wearing visitors were asked to adhere to social distancing guidelines while queuing. They were also offered hand sanitizer and had their temperatures checked upon arrival.

American couple Colleen and Marvin Hewson were among those to visit the site on Tuesday, nearly three months after they landed in Italy for their 30th wedding anniversary.

“We didn't want to be one of the millions of people herding into the airports in America so we just decided to stay," Colleen Hewson said. "We've seen a lot of it on YouTube and read about it and we were so, so scared that we were not going to be able to experience it but here we are."

New Rochelle, N.Y., once a COVID-19 hot spot, will start to reopen

New Rochelle, New York, the state’s original coronavirus hot spot, is opening back up on Tuesday, two and a half months after being placed into a “containment zone” before the rest of the state went into lockdown.

City managers said the city had begun phase one of its reopening on Tuesday morning, which allows construction and manufacturing to operate, as well as retailers to do curbside pickup. 

A substantial portion of the manufacturing in the city had been making PPE, but the city does expect some construction to restart.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on March 10 he was implementing a "containment area" around a one-mile radius in New Rochelle, which at the time he called "the most significant cluster in the country." 

New York's famed stock exchange prepares to reopen — with masks and a waiver

Medical workers arrive before the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange on May 26, 2020.Johannes Eisele / AFP - Getty Images

After an unprecedented shutdown, the New York Stock Exchange’s famous trading floor will partially reopen on Tuesday. It has been closed since March 23.

“It definitely took a little while to adjust to it,” said Jonathan Corpina, a trader who has been working remotely. This week, he will return to 11 Wall Street with five of his colleagues — fewer than usual.

New rules limit how many traders can be in the building. In addition, nobody is supposed to take public transportation to work. At entrances, medical personnel will take everyone’s temperature, and there will be questionnaires. Inside the building, Corpina and his colleagues will be required to wear masks, and physical distancing will be mandatory.

Traders who go into the building will have to sign a waiver. While the Exchange is not making it public, The Wall Street Journal reported that it is an acknowledgement that returning to the floor could result in them “contracting COVID-19, respiratory failure, death, and transmitting COVID-19 to family or household members and others who may also suffer these effects.”

Read the full story here.

Wuhan lab director praises staff, disputes 'rumors' over virus origin

The director of the Wuhan National Biosecurity Laboratory hailed his staff’s commitment to the global fight against the coronavirus despite mounting pressure amid ongoing scrutiny from the United States over coronavirus' origin.

"All working staff at the institute were involved in the storm of rumors, bearing huge pressure. Meanwhile, we asked our staff members to endure the pressure, adjust their mindsets and fully devote themselves to the race against the virus," said lab director Yuan Zhiming, in an interview with China Global Television Network.

Zhiming also said the lab had always operated “in compliance with regulations and laws” and that safety standards were in line with those in the U.S. and Europe. He stressed that there had never been “accidents of pathogen leaks or human infections.”

Rare snow leopards seen prowling near Kazakh city during lockdown

Several snow leopards, including a mother and her cub, have been spotted near the Kazakh city of Almaty wandering through a usually popular hiking destination that is now mostly off limits due to the coronavirus lockdown.

There are only around 150 snow leopards left in Kazakhstan, out of a global population of less than 10,000 across Central and South Asia. Classified as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the big cats are rarely seen in the wild, let alone within city limits.

However, in the past few weeks at least three animals — a lone male and a female with a cub — were caught on film by a motion sensor-equipped camera trap installed near the Big Almaty Lake by an NGO set up to protect the species. Zoologist Alexey Grachyov, who works with the Snow Leopard Foundation, said that in the mountains near Almaty there are only around 20 of the animals left, making the sighting extremely rare.

Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity reopens to limited number of visitors

The head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Bethlehem reopens the Church of the Nativity as Palestinians ease coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday.Mussa Qawasma / Reuters

Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, reopened to worshipers and tourists on Tuesday as Palestinian authorities eased coronavirus restrictions in the West Bank.

Amid lingering pandemic concerns, the church is capping access to 50 people at a time and requires that they be free of fever and wear protective masks. It had been shuttered since March 5, in a blow to Bethlehem's tourism industry.

There have been 423 recorded coronavirus cases and two deaths in the West Bank. On Monday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said mosques, churches and businesses would reopen on Tuesday in an easing of anti-pandemic curbs, given the slow pace of infections, coinciding with the last day of the Eid El-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.

Russia reports another day of record fatalities

Russian authorities reported a record 174 COVID-19 fatalities on Tuesday as cases continued to climb at a flat rate nationwide. There were more than 360,000 reported infections in the country.  

Russia remains in a precarious point in its outbreak as new cases nationwide have hovered around 9,000 a day for 10 days. However, the country also set a new record for reported recoveries, with over 12,000 reported in the past 24 hours. This is nearly double the reported number of recoveries on Monday.

The epicenter of the outbreak continues to shift out of Moscow, which had accounted for half of daily new cases for much of the outbreak, and into the rest of the country — which now makes up around two thirds of daily confirmed cases. Despite this trend, Moscow remains under the strictest lockdown nation-wide, while regions in Russia’s far east and elsewhere bean lifting closures on hair salons and other businesses on Tuesday.