IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

U.S. death toll nears 100,000

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
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

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.

1282d ago / 7:00 AM UTC

Amtrak asks Congress for an additional nearly $1.5B

Amtrak sent a letter to Congress seeking an additional $1.475 billion in supplemental funding in the next fiscal year, citing the coronavirus pandemic and associated economic effects. The money sought is in addition to its annual $2 billion grant request made earlier this year.

"Amtrak, like all other modes, has seen a dramatic decline in demand for service since the pandemic, and is expecting ridership to only return to approximately 50% in FY 2021," Amtrak said in a statement.

The letter from Amtrak President and CEO William J. Flynn says it is seeking the money through either a supplemental appropriations bill dealing with the COVID-19 crisis or through an annual appropriations bill.

The letter says that in 2019 Amtrak and its state partners carried more than 32 million passengers and had been on pace for what it called another record-breaking year, but the pandemic changed that.

"Today, many of our routes are struggling to reach ten percent of the ridership levels we had only months ago," Flynn said in the letter.

Amtrak said it is working to shave $500 million from its operating costs, which includes reducing some service and restructuring its workforce. 

1282d ago / 5:58 AM UTC

Nevada will allow bars, more to reopen

Nevadans could return to bars as soon as Friday, the governor said Tuesday in announcing the state's move into the next phase of reopening its economy.

Casinos, gaming operations, brothels, adult entertainment businesses and nightclubs will still be closed. Gov. Steve Sisolak said in prepared remarks that reopening of gambling is eyed for July 4, although there will be restrictions.

"Our collective actions have helped bring us to where we are today," Sisolak said.

Restaurants and bars will generally be limited to 50 percent occupancy or less with strict social distancing. Patrons won't be able to walk up to bars and order, but can be served while seated at bar tops if spaced apart. Places like pools, art galleries, museums, gyms and movie theaters also have occupancy limits.

Houses of worship can have in-person services of up to 50 people. But the governor "strongly" urged residents to use virtual services.

Sisolak had planned to announce the changes at a press conference, but he is quarantined after possibly being exposed to COVID-19. He said he has no symptoms and will be tested Wednesday.

1282d ago / 5:17 AM UTC

Frustrated college students waiting on emergency grants

1282d ago / 4:57 AM UTC

Chile says it's nearly out of ICU space

SANTIAGO, Chile — Chilean authorities say intensive care units in the country’s hospitals are nearly at capacity amid a flood of coronavirus patients, and some doctors report they are having to make wrenching choices over which patients should get available beds.

Health officials said Tuesday that 95 percent of the country’s 2,400 ICU beds are occupied, even after a doubling of capacity from the levels in March. They announced plans to add 400 more critical care beds in the coming days.

The nation of 18 million people has the third most coronavirus cases in the region, after Brazil and Peru. An average of 4,000 new infections are being reported daily. About 15 percent of the cases require hospitalization.

1282d ago / 3:30 AM UTC

Sweden steadfast in strategy as toll continues climbing

STOCKHOLM — Sweden’s government defended its response to the COVID-19 global pandemic Tuesday despite the Scandinavian country now reporting one of the highest mortality rates in the world with 4,125 fatalities, or about 40 deaths per 100,000 people.

“Transmission is slowing down, the treatment of COVID-19 patients in intensive care is decreasing significantly, and the rising death toll curve has been flattened,” Foreign Minister Ann Linde told foreign correspondents at a briefing in Stockholm. “There is no full lockdown of Sweden, but many parts of the Swedish society have shut down.”

More than 76,000 people have been made redundant since the outbreak of the disease and unemployment, which now stands at 7.9 percent, is expected to climb higher.

Sweden took a relatively soft approach to fighting the coronavirus, one that attracted international attention. Large gatherings were banned, but restaurants and schools for younger children have stayed open. The government has urged social distancing, and Swedes have largely complied.

1282d ago / 2:54 AM UTC

'Someone wasn't responsible': Missouri man exposed at salon speaks out

1282d ago / 2:38 AM UTC

Miami, Miami Beach reopen restaurants

Starting Wednesday, the city of Miami will allow dine-in eating to resume at restaurants, but with restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

"Restaurants are a big part of our local economy, directly employing thousands of Miamians, and we are ready to begin carefully reopening them to dine-in customers,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said in a statement.

Restaurant capacity will be capped at 50 percent of maximum approved occupancy. Masks will be required unless customers are seated at a table, and no parties larger than four allowed, except household parties, which are capped at six. Restaurant bars remain closed for now.

The city of Miami Beach also announced Tuesday that restaurants could reopen Wednesday. 

1282d ago / 2:24 AM UTC

Justice Department drops insider trading investigations of three senators

, and

The Justice Department has closed insider trading investigations into three senators who sold off stocks following early briefings on the coronavirus, aides told NBC News.

A spokesman for Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., confirmed that she had been informed that the Justice Department had dropped an inquiry into her trades and called the allegations "politically motivated."

"Today's clear exoneration by the Department of Justice affirms what Senator Loeffler has said all along — she did nothing wrong. This was a politically-motivated attack shamelessly promoted by the fake news media and her political opponents. Senator Loeffler will continue to focus her full attention on delivering results for Georgians," said the spokesman, Stephen Lawson.

Read the full story here

1282d ago / 1:36 AM UTC

Los Angeles allows all retail businesses, houses of worship to reopen

After weeks of public health restrictions over the coronavirus epidemic, all retail business in Los Angeles will be allowed to welcome customers back inside, and houses of worship can resume in-person services, the mayor announced Tuesday.

Mayor Eric Garcetti said some restrictions will remain for retail and churches, like limiting the number of people inside.

"We're not moving beyond COVID-19, but we're learning to live with it," Garcetti said.

Places like barbershops and hair salons remain closed, and in-restaurant dining is not yet allowed. 

The news that retail businesses and houses of worship could reopen or resume in-person services comes a day after the state announced they could resume under certain restrictions if county health officials approved. The restrictions on places like churches include having less than 25 percent capacity or 100 people inside, whichever is less.

1282d ago / 12:59 AM UTC
1282d ago / 12:00 AM UTC

Nevada governor cancels press briefing after possible coronavirus exposure

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak canceled Tuesday's press briefing after learning of a possible exposure to COVID-19, Sisolak wrote in a series of tweets.

The Democratic governor said he visited a workplace last week where an employee, who was not in the building at the time of his visit, has since tested positive for COVID-19. Sisolak's office learned of the test result on Tuesday. 

Sisolak said that he will take a coronavirus test on Wednesday and share the results publicly. He said he currently does not have any symptoms. 

1282d ago / 11:33 PM UTC

Biden calls Trump 'an absolute fool' for mocking him wearing a mask

Joe Biden called President Donald Trump "an absolute fool" for criticizing the former vice president for wearing a face mask during a Memorial Day remembrance. 

"He's a fool, an absolute fool to talk that way. Every leading doc in the world is saying you should wear a mask when you're in a crowd," Biden said in a CNN appearance on Tuesday, adding that Trump is trying to act "macho."

Biden also changed his profile picture on Twitter to one of him wearing the same mask he donned during the services. 

Trump, who did not wear a mask during Memorial Day services, retweeted Fox News commentator Brit Hume's Monday night tweet criticizing Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, for wearing one. Monday’s appearance was Biden’s first public one since mid-March. He appeared wearing a black mask covering most of his face and a pair of aviator sunglasses with his wife, Jill Biden, who also wore a mask.

Trump denied mocking Biden at a Tuesday news conference. 

"Biden can wear a mask," Trump added, saying it was "unusual" since Biden does not wear one indoors. However, the administration's guidelines recommend wearing a mask outdoors.  

1282d ago / 11:21 PM UTC

Coronavirus 'injures' placenta in infected pregnant women, study finds

New research out of Northwestern University could be a first step to answering the many questions that persist about how contracting the coronavirus during pregnancy affect mother and baby.

The small study followed 16 women who tested positive for COVID-19 and gave birth between late March and early May at Northwestern's Memorial Hospital in Chicago. Looking at the placenta, it found that these mothers "were significantly more likely" to develop abnormal or injured blood vessels, according to the research published in the American Journal of Clinical Pathology.

While all of the full-term babies in the study tested negative for the coronavirus and were doing well when they left the hospital, study author and obstetrician Dr. Emily Miller said in a statement, “Not to paint a scary picture, but these findings worry me. I don’t want to draw sweeping conclusions from a small study, but this preliminary glimpse into how COVID-19 might cause changes in the placenta carries some pretty significant implications for the health of a pregnancy."

Read the full story here.

1282d ago / 11:18 PM UTC
1283d ago / 10:53 PM UTC

Republicans plan to sue to block remote voting in the House

Republicans plan to file a lawsuit Tuesday to block the House of Representatives from using newly passed procedures for voting remotely amid the pandemic, two House GOP aides confirm to NBC News.

The New York Times, citing three officials familiar with the case, reported that the lawsuit will be brought by Republican leaders and name House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., among others, as defendants. According to The Times, the lawsuit will argue that the measure allowing members to cast floor votes by proxy, a historic change approved earlier this month over GOP objections, is unconstitutional.

In a statement, Pelosi called the impending filing a "sad stunt" by Republicans. The House is expected to first use proxy voting Wednesday.

1283d ago / 10:33 PM UTC

California gives OK for hair salons, barber shops to reopen in parts of the state

California gave the green light on Tuesday for hair salons and barber shops to reopen in parts of the state that are seeing fewer coronavirus hospitalizations and deaths, Gov. Gavin Newsom said during his daily press briefing. 

Los Angeles, California's largest and most populous county, is not on the list of approved regions. 

Employees and customers visiting eligible hair salons and barbershops must wear face masks at all times. Workers should be screened daily for symptoms and given a temperature check each day if possible, according to state guidelines. Nail services, facials, eyebrow styling and other services that require close contact are not permitted. 

The new guidelines mark an upcoming launch into Phase 3 of Newsom's four-phase reopening plan for the state. The complete timeline for that part of the plan hasn't been made clear.

1283d ago / 10:31 PM UTC
1283d ago / 10:20 PM UTC

COVID-19 cases among health care workers top 62,000, CDC reports

More than 62,000 doctors, nurses and other health care providers on the front lines of the U.S.'s COVID-19 crisis have been infected, and at least 291 have died, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday.

The last time the CDC reported on infections among health care personnel was about six weeks ago, on April 17. At that time, just 9,282 cases of COVID-19 had been documented in the profession.

The true numbers of affected health care workers may be much higher than the 62,344 tallied in the new report. The CDC based its analysis on 1.3 million people; however, less than a quarter divulged whether they worked in the health care industry.

Read the full story here.

1283d ago / 9:59 PM UTC

High school graduate takes commencement photo shoot with toilet paper

A high school graduate celebrated her commencement with a photo shoot that included toilet paper and a face mask.

Image: High school grad
Recent high school graduate Waleska Rivera, 18, of West York, Pennsylvania poses with toilet paper after returning home from her high school graduation on May 19, 2020.Mildred Tavarez

Waleska Rivera, 18, of West York, Pa., graduated from West York High School on May 19 and returned home following the ceremony where her mother took the photos.

NBC News spoke to Rivera, who said she chose to take her photos with toilet paper as a humorous way to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

"My class graduation is one of many life’s events impacted by COVID19 (pandemic). It has impacted all things big and small. I know that one day we’ll look back in history and remember these days. For those generations that will come after us, an illustration of things impacted can serve as a reminder of gratitude, resilience and coping. Laughter and humor are essential to coping with life and the challenges it brings us," she said.

1283d ago / 9:26 PM UTC

Michigan Gov. Whitmer calls husband's boat launch request a 'failed attempt at humor' amid backlash


Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Tuesday attempted to quell growing criticism after her husband dropped her name while trying to get his boat in the water for the Memorial Day Weekend.

“My husband made a failed attempt at humor last week when checking in with the small business that helps with our boat and dock up north,” Whitmer said. “Knowing it wouldn't make a difference, he jokingly asked if being married to me might move them up in the queue.”

She added, “He thought it might get a laugh. It didn’t. And to be honest, I wasn’t laughing either when it was relayed to me because I knew how it would be perceived. He regrets it. I wish it wouldn’t have happened, and that’s really all we have to say about it.”

The controversy started after Tad Dowker, the owner of a Northern Michigan dock company, reportedly posted to Facebook that Whitmer’s husband, Marc Mallory, tried to use his status as first husband to get his boat launched ahead of Memorial Day weekend — even as Whitmer was cautioning state residents to resist flocking to popular vacation areas.

Read the full story.

1283d ago / 8:54 PM UTC

Questions about COVID-19 test accuracy raised across the testing spectrum

For Sarah Bowen, it all started with a sore throatNot the kind of searing pain she’d feel with strep, she said, but a throat irritation that just didn’t feel right.

“By the end of the day, it just got a little worse and I didn’t feel great. I felt like I might be coming down with something. And the next day, things got worse,” Bowen, 31, of Portland, Oregon, said.

Read more. 

1283d ago / 8:35 PM UTC

Miami Dolphins set to open drive-in movie theater at Hard Rock Stadium

The Miami Dolphins are set to open outdoor theaters at Hard Rock Stadium where fans can watch past games, ceremonies, and films.

Hard Rock Stadium announced online that drive-in events held inside the stadium will be able to accommodate up to 230 cars. 

There will also be an open-air theater that "can host small groups for an intimate viewing experience on the complex’s south plaza."

The exact date for the opening has not been announced but fans can sign up to be notified when tickets will become available.

1283d ago / 7:23 PM UTC

Virginia making face masks mandatory 'inside at a public place,' Gov. says

Virginians will soon be required to wear face coverings "inside at a public place," Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday. 

The new rule goes into effect on Friday and includes a "store, a barbershop, a restaurant, on public transportation, at a government building or anywhere where people can congregate in groups."

The only exception will be for people with a health condition that prevents them from wearing a mask, children under the age of 10, or if a person is eating or exercising. 

Northam also addressed photos that showed him not wearing a mask while visiting Virginia Beach over the weekend. The governor said he was there to speak to the mayor, thank first responders and answer media questions. 

He said he was caught off guard when people asked to take photos with him. "In the future, when I'm out in the public, I will be better prepared," Northam said. "We're all forming new habits and routines and we're all adjusting to this new normal.”

1283d ago / 7:18 PM UTC
1283d ago / 7:06 PM UTC

In blow to DOJ, Supreme Court won't block order to move prisoners in Ohio over coronavirus concerns


The U.S. Supreme Court declined Tuesday to block, for now, a federal judge's order requiring the government to consider moving more than 800 inmates from an Ohio prison who are at risk of catching COVID-19.

Over the dissents of Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, and Neil Gorsuch, the court said it would not issue a stay of an April 22 order requiring the federal Bureau of Prisons to begin the process of releasing vulnerable inmates from the low-security Elkton Federal Correctional Institution near Canton. It holds roughly 2400 inmates, and nine have died from the coronavirus pandemic.

But the Supreme Court's brief order said that the Justice Department opposed only the April order, and not a new one issued by the judge in May. So the justices left the door open for the government to come back and seek another stay. In the meantime, the judge's order remains in effect.

Read the full story here.

1283d ago / 6:23 PM UTC

Pentagon watchdog ousted from coronavirus response resigns

The principal deputy in the Defense Department’s office of inspector general, Glenn Fine, resigned Tuesday, more than a month after he was sidelined as the top watchdog overseeing coronavirus relief funds.

Fine had served as the principal deputy and acting inspector general for more than four years in the office. He also previously worked as the inspector general of the Department of Justice.

Trump in April removed Fine from his role after Fine was named to lead the committee that was tasked with overseeing the implementation of the $2 trillion coronavirus relief package. The president said that Sean O'Donnell, the current EPA inspector general, would step in and handle both roles simultaneously.

"The role of Inspectors General is a strength of our system of government," he said. "After many years in the DoJ and DoD OIGs, I believe the time has come for me to step down and allow others to perform this vital role. I wish the men and women of the DoD OIG and the Inspector General Community continued success in these important responsibilities."

Fine’s resignation comes after other inspectors general within the Trump administration have been recently fired from their watchdog roles.

1283d ago / 5:45 PM UTC

States are trying to lure the Republican National Convention away from North Carolina

After President Donald Trump on Monday threatened to move the Republican National Convention from Charlotte, North Carolina because of potential coronavirus health restrictions, other states are offering themselves as alternatives.

"With world-class facilities, restaurants, hotels, and workforce, Georgia would be honored to safely host the Republican National Convention. We hope you will consider the Peach State, @realdonaldtrump !" Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted on Tuesday.

The Florida Republican Party was quicker on the draw, tweeting a statement Monday from state party chair Joe Gruters offering Trump's new home state as an alternative to North Carolina.

Read the full story here.

1283d ago / 5:36 PM UTC

German Muslims gather in mall parking lot to celebrate Eid safely

German Muslims gathered in a mall parking lot to celebrate Eid while social distancing on Sunday. Videos and photos posted on social media showed dozens of men and women wearing masks and praying together at an IKEA parking lot near Frankfurt. 

Men and women wearing masks were seen entering the parking lot, a Facebook video showed, and praying together while keeping at a distance. Colorful prayer rugs could be spotted from the distance.

1283d ago / 4:47 PM UTC

Photo: Drive-in theater at a New York diner

Patrons watch The Greatest Showman at the Bel Aire diner parking lot Monday night in Queens, N.Y.

The Bel Aire diner in Astoria has created a drive-in movie theater in the parking lot behind the restaurant with room for 45 socially distanced cars. Patrons pay $32 a vehicle and can order diner food to their car.
Patrons watch The Greatest Showman at the Bel Aire diner parking lot Monday night in Queens, N.Y. The Bel Aire diner in Astoria has created a drive-in movie theater in the parking lot behind the restaurant with room for 45 socially distanced cars. Patrons pay $32 a vehicle and can order diner food to their car. Timothy Fadek
1283d ago / 4:44 PM UTC

Feds charge used car salesman and "the Mask Man" in COVID-19 schemes

New York federal prosecutors have charged two men, a used car salesman and a pharmacist who dubbed himself “the Mask Man,” in separate schemes to inflate the prices of personal protective equipment used to guard against COVID-19.

The pharmacist, Richard Schirripa, 66, is accused of selling $200,000 worth of N-95 respirator masks at a 50% markup. “I feel like a drug dealer standing out here,” Schirripa told an undercover officer as he sold masks from his car, according to federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

The licensed pharmacist from Fort Salonga had already been on law enforcement’s radar after he allegedly made false statements to the DEA about destroying and selling opioids from the recent closure of his pharmacy in January and February.

Read the full story here.

1283d ago / 4:39 PM UTC

Pence's press secretary Katie Miller returns to work after recovering from coronavirus

Vice President Mike Pence's press secretary Katie Miller returned to work Tuesday after three negative coronavirus tests, Miller announced on Twitter.

Miller was the second White House staff member known to have tested positive for the coronavirus earlier this month. 

"Thank you to all my amazing doctors and everyone who reached out with support," Miller said. "I couldn't have done it without my amazing husband who took great care of his pregnant wife."

1283d ago / 4:07 PM UTC

New Jersey authorizes professional sports teams to resume practice and competition

Professional sports teams in New Jersey are allowed to practice and play in games or matches, Gov. Phil Murphy announced Tuesday.

Teams will only be allowed to use athletic facilities where team personnel are on location, according to an executive order that Murphy signed last Friday.

“While leagues make their own decisions about operations, I am confident that teams are equipped to practice and eventually play in a responsible manner, protecting the health and safety of players, coaches, and team personnel,” Murphy said.

1283d ago / 3:53 PM UTC

Coronavirus cases and deaths in New York state continue to drop, Gov. says

New York continues to move in a good direction, the state's governor said at his daily news briefing on Tuesday. 

Hospitalizations in the state are down as well as the number of new coronavirus cases, which is about 200. On Monday, 73 people died from COVID-19. The day before that number was 96. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the number of deaths is still tragic "but relative to where we've been, we're on the other side of the curve." 

"It's the lowest number that we've had so we thank all the healthcare staff once again," he said. The governor said his focus is now on continuing to reopen but doing it smartly. 

1283d ago / 3:51 PM UTC

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy to allow graduation ceremonies

The class of 2020 will have the chance to celebrate graduating, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said Tuesday. 

"Beginning July 6th, schools WILL have the opportunity to hold outdoor graduation ceremonies that comply with social distancing – ensuring the health and safety of all in attendance," the governor said in a tweet

The Department of Education and the Secretary of Higher Education will release guidance on Wednesday. For graduating classes that are too large to accommodate the governor's rule that no more than 25 people can gather outdoor, schools may have to hold multiple ceremonies. 

"We want them to celebrate and to be celebrated by their family, friends and educators who helped get them there," Murphy said. 

1283d ago / 3:48 PM UTC

Memorial Day weekend draws large crowds across the country

As states around the country ease up on coronavirus lockdowns, Memorial Day weekend festivities seemed to attract large crowds with many people flocking to beaches, bars and other public spaces while forgoing social distancing and face mask rules.

Crowds were spotted at Lake of the Ozarks in Missouri, beaches in Maryland, New Jersey and Florida, as well as a packed pool party in Houston. 

Read the full story here.

1283d ago / 3:37 PM UTC
1283d ago / 3:17 PM UTC

N.Y.C. Mayor confident city will bounce back because of "strength the resilience of New Yorkers"

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Tuesday that while some people might choose to flee the city after it was so hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, he is still "very confident about the future of this city."

"People of this city are strong and resilient," de Blasio said remembering residents' responses to the financial crisis, 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy. New York "has come back every single time, and stronger —literally stronger each time." 

He said the "strength the resilience of New Yorkers" gives him hope that both New Yorkers and visitors would return. "New Yorkers have mounted a heroic, heroic effort here. A lot of people admire that and feel very, very strongly that this place is special."

1283d ago / 3:14 PM UTC

Ohio school bus drivers honor class of 2020

An Ohio school district’s bus drivers found a creative way to honor the class of 2020, even though the school year ended early due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Bus drivers with the Loveland City School District said they have known many of the graduating seniors since kindergarten and had formed special memories with the students. In a video posted on the district’s website and Facebook page, bus drivers can be seen waving as the camera pans out to reveal the school buses arranged to write 2020. 

“This is a huge accomplishment and anyway we can show them some love, we will do it,” bus driver Jennifer Bloom Bowman wrote in a statement posted on the district’s website. “So here's to the Class of 2020. Your bus drivers are proud of all of you.”

1283d ago / 3:13 PM UTC

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. 

1283d ago / 2:41 PM UTC

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.

1283d ago / 2:01 PM UTC

1283d ago / 1:50 PM UTC

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."

1283d ago / 12:21 PM UTC

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." 

1283d ago / 12:20 PM UTC

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.
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.

1283d ago / 11:59 AM UTC

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.”

1283d ago / 11:12 AM UTC

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.

1283d ago / 10:40 AM UTC

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

Image: The head of the Greek Orthodox Church in Bethlehem reopens the Church of the Nativity as Palestinians ease coronavirus restrictions on Tuesday.
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.

1283d ago / 10:23 AM UTC

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.

1283d ago / 9:51 AM UTC

1283d ago / 9:37 AM UTC

Australia won't open its borders 'anytime soon,' says PM

Australia’s Prime Minister said on Tuesday that he will not open the country’s borders “anytime soon,” but would continue to discuss the possibility of establishing a safe travel zone with neighboring New Zealand.

Australians may well be able to travel to New Zealand before they are allowed to fly interstate if state leaders choose to keep their borders closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, he added.

Queensland and Western Australia have closed their borders to slow the coronavirus spread, while all other states, except for Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, have imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine period.

1283d ago / 9:18 AM UTC

Saudi Arabia to amend coronavirus curfew, allow domestic travel


Image: Saudis shop at the Panorama Mall in the capital Riyadh on Friday ahead of the Eid al-Fitr festiva, that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.
Saudis shop at the Panorama Mall in the capital Riyadh on Friday ahead of the Eid al-Fitr festiva, that marks the end of the fasting month of Ramadan.Fayez Nureldine / AFP - Getty Images

Saudi Arabia will amend its curfew times and lift a ban on domestic travel, with the exception of the holy city of Mecca starting Thursday, its state news agency reported in a statement on Tuesday.

From May 31, holding prayers in mosques across the kingdom, except in Mecca, will be allowed, and both government and private sector employees we will be able to return to work, the statement added. Social gatherings will be limited to 50 people.

The government is hoping to lift curfew times entirely in all cities, excluding Mecca, on June 21, but has not ruled out a return to strict lockdown measures if infection numbers spike.

1283d ago / 2:18 AM UTC

Saluting veterans and coronavirus frontline workers on Memorial Day

On Memorial Day we honor the fallen heroes who fought for our freedoms. This Memorial Day we also salute the men and women in uniform and the first responders working together on the frontlines to fight COVID-19.

1283d ago / 1:11 AM UTC

Hair salon in North Carolina refuses service to Tyson employees

A hair salon in North Carolina is denying service to employees at a Tyson plant in the area due to the coronavirus outbreak at the facility earlier this month. 

SmartCuts salon posted a sign on the location of their Wilkesboro location that read, “Due to the number of Tyson employees who have tested positive for Covid19, and given the close contact experiences during our services, we are unable to serve Tyson employees. We sincerely apologize for this decision, and we ask for your understanding.” 

The image, which has been widely circulated on social media, has received criticism from employees at the facility who are upset that they are being denied service due to the fact that they were “at work trying to put food on your tables.”

The salon released a statement that said they would begin serving Tyson employees two weeks after their initial opening on May 22nd and added, “With Tyson’s 2,200 employees in a relatively small market, we certainly did not take this decision lightly. We are doing our best to keep our employees and all people who come to our salon safe, and we hope the Tyson employees can understand this position. In order to show our appreciation for these customers, we are offering discounted services after this time period has passed.”

SmartCuts has multiple locations across North Carolina and Tennessee. 

1283d ago / 12:34 AM UTC

Inside Brazil field hospital battling coronavirus

Located next to Brazil’s largest stadium, more than 50 people have died at the field hospital in two weeks.

1283d ago / 11:27 PM UTC

University in Oklahoma adds 'back-up faculty' to prepare for in-person fall classes

An Oklahoma university with roughly 4,000 students annually has proposed a "back-up faculty of record" as a way to support professors in case any become absent due to reasons relating to the coronavirus pandemic.

"Before the semester begins, a designated faculty member will be included in the learning management system for each course should an instructor be unavailable to teach for any reason related to COVID-19," according to the University of Tulsa in a statement obtained by NBC News.

There is still the option for students and instructors who prefer virtual learning over in-person classes.

"The plan also covers education delivery to accommodate students and instructors who cannot or do not feel comfortable attending in-person classes," according to the statement.

Oklahoma has already begun to reopen in three phases. The state has a total of 6,090 coronavirus cases and the city of Tulsa has 926 cases. Overall, the state has had 313 deaths from the virus.

1284d ago / 10:16 PM UTC

California releases guidance on church reopenings amid virus

California's state health department on Monday announced that counties can reopen places of worship for religious services, with restrictions that include limiting gatherings to 100 people or less.

California has been under pressure by the Justice Department over its restrictions on in-person worship services due to the coronavirus epidemic. President Donald Trump also said Friday that churches should be reopened

The guidelines restrict in-person worship services to 25 percent of a building's capacity, or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower, and "upon approval by the county department of public health."

Still, the state health department is encouraging churches and other houses of worship to continue to hold remote services for those groups vulnerable to the coronavirus illness COVID-19, saying that even with social distancing, services can carry a higher risk of widespread transmission.

"In particular, activities such as singing and group recitation negate the risk-reduction achieved through six feet of physical distancing," the guidance says. Newsom has said as the state relaxes statewide rules, counties would be able to go at a slower pace.