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COVID-19 testing sites forced to suspend operations as U.S. protests continue

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: A protester wears a surgical mask with \"Black Lives Matter\" written on the front while protesters gather outside the Seattle Office of Emergency Management to protest against police brutality and the death in police custody of George Floyd
A protester wears a surgical mask with "Black Lives Matter" written on it at a rally in Seattle on Tuesday over the death of George Floyd./Lindsey Wasson / Reuters

As the U.S. remains in the grip of protests over the death of George Floyd, some COVID-19 testing sites have been forced to suspend operations because of violence and unrest in recent days.

The temporary closures — from California to Florida — are sure to hamper efforts to control the spread of the coronavirus, particularly as social distancing has given way to mass gatherings of potentially contagious people who don't know they're infected.

As protests sweep nation, research finds social distancing most effective at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.

There are now more than 1.8 million coronavirus infections in the U.S. and more than 106,000 deaths, according to NBC News' tally. Worldwide, nearly 6.4 million people have been sickened by the virus, with more than 380,000 deaths.

Here's what you need 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.

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Senate passes bill to fix PPP loan program, sends to Trump for signature

The GOP-controlled Senate unanimously passed a bill Wednesday that seeks to fix the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides direct relief to small businesses amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., asked for a unanimous consent vote Wednesday evening and received no objection hours after Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., objected to its passage because he wanted assurances of changes to be made at a later time to the program. 

It now awaits President Donald Trump's signature.

The bill, called the Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act, eases restrictions on the popular program and comes after the program was scrutinized for providing aid to unintended recipients, such as large publicly-traded companies and many businesses around the country complained they either could not tap into loans or did not receive adequate funds to keep their business afloat and employees on the payroll.

Click here for the full story. 

George Floyd had coronavirus, autopsy says

George Floyd, who died during an arrest in Minneapolis on May 25, had coronavirus.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s full autopsy report released Wednesday said Floyd first tested positive for the virus April 3, nearly two months prior to his death. A prior release of the county autopsy attributed Floyd's cause of death as a "cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression."

It also listed other "significant" conditions, including hypertensive heart disease, fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use. 

Hydroxychloroquine fails to prevent COVID-19, large study finds

FILE PHOTO: Researchers set up new labs to help fight coronavirus at the University of Minnesota
Researchers at the Microbiology Research Facility at the University of Minnesota work with coronavirus samples as a trial begins to see whether malaria treatment hydroxychloroquine can prevent or reduce the severity of COVID-19 on March 19, 2020.Craig Lassig / Reuters file

Hydroxychloroquine was no better than a placebo at preventing symptoms of COVID-19 among people exposed to the virus, according to research from the University of Minnesota Medical School.

The findings, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, are the first from a major clinical trial looking at whether the medication might be useful as a prophylactic.

The study included 821 people who had been in close contact with a confirmed COVID-19 patient, putting them at an elevated risk of developing the illness themselves.

Read the full story here. 

Two players test positive for coronavirus, forcing Japanese preseason game to be called off

Two Yomuiri Giants players tested positive for coronavirus, forcing the famed Japanese baseball team to cancel a preseason game on Wednesday, officials said.

After notifying shortstop Hayato Sakamoto and catcher Takumi Oshiro of the results, the 22-time Japanese champions announced their exhibition match against the Seibu Lions was called off.

Nippon Professional Baseball - widely considered the sport's second greatest pro baseball league, behind only North America's Major League Baseball - is slated to begin its coronavirus-delayed season on June 19 inside empty stadiums. 

MLB and its players union are still in talks about a possible restart. Professional baseball is now being played in empty stadiums in Korea and limited crowds in Taiwan.

CES annual technology trade show will go ahead in January

The country’s largest annual technology trade show, CES, is still on track to be held in Las Vegas in January, organizers said in a post on the event's website. 

“We all face new considerations around attending conferences, conducting business and traveling to meetings,” said the Consumer Technology Association, the group behind the event. “Just as your companies are innovating to overcome the challenges this pandemic presents, we are adapting to the evolving situation.”

The hands-on event typically draws around 175,000 people and features innovative products and devices for attendees to try out.

The group said it will expand its selection of livestreamed CES content and roll out new cleaning and social distancing practices. It will expand aisles in many exhibit areas and add more space between seats in conference programs.

For 2021, attendees will be encouraged to wear masks and avoid shaking hands. 

The event will have cashless purchase systems to limit touch points and provide enhanced on-site access to health services and medical aid.

Georgia sets up test sites for demonstrators to get screened for coronavirus

After more than a week of widespread protests in Georgia, the state's public health department announced plans to set up test sites for demonstrators to screen for cases of the COVID-19, officials said Tuesday. 

Dr. Kathleen Toomey, commissioner of the public health department, said her agency is also working with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms’ office and other state agencies to test first-responders and National Guard members who may have been exposed.

“We want to ensure that the pandemic doesn’t spread because of this,” Toomey said.

Gov. Brian Kemp encouraged all enforcement present at the demonstrations to also get tested immediately. Toomey, who was the only speaker who wore a mask at the press conference, said pop-up COVID-19 testing sites could be deployed as soon as next week.

WHO: Fewest number of new cases in Europe since March

The spread of COVID-19 is still escalating globally, with more than 100,000 cases reported for each of the past five days, the Director-General of the World Health Organization said at a news briefing Wednesday. However, new cases in Europe, which in mid-March was the epicenter of the pandemic, continue to decline.

"Yesterday saw the fewest cases reported in Europe since the 22nd of March," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

In the Americas, particularly Central and South America, the spread of the disease to accelerate. "For several weeks, the number of cases reported each day in the Americas has been more than the rest of the world put together," Tedros said.

In the United States, there are more than 1.8 million confirmed cases of coronavirus, with some major cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles experiencing a high number of new infections. 

Trump administration bans Chinese carriers from flying into the U.S.

The Department of Transportation plans to ban Chinese carriers from flying passengers to the U.S, after Beijing declined to increase the number of flights it allows to the United States. The news was first reported by Reuters

“This action responds to the failure of the Government of the People’s Republic of China to permit U.S. carriers to exercise their bilateral rights to conduct passenger air service to China," the DOT said in a statement on Wednesday.

While Delta and United are operating cargo flights to China, both airlines are still waiting for approval for daily passenger flights. Four Chinese carriers currently operate scheduled passenger flights between the U.S. and China. 

“We support and appreciate the U.S. government’s actions to enforce our rights and ensure fairness,” a Delta spokeswoman told NBC News.

The action comes just days after Trump warned China that businesses with close connections to Beijing would come under greater scrutiny in the United States. The two countries are in the midst of a trade war and a disagreement over China’s decision to exert greater control over Hong Kong.

NYC curfew to stay in place until Monday

New York City's curfew will continue through this week and upcoming weekend, until some coronavirus-shuttered businesses reopen on Monday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

The 8 p.m.-to-5 a.m. shutdown is still necessary, according to City Hall, as thousands of protesters take to the streets to decry the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis

A host of New York businesses, such as non-essential retail and wholesale, partially come back Monday after months of coronavirus-forced shutdown.

Mayor de Blasio told reporters on Wednesday that businesses should have enough time to prepare their facilities during daytime hours, leading up to 5 a.m. Monday.

"I’m sorry that it’ll be an additional challenge for those who might be having to do some repairs right now because of those bad couple of nights, but I know they can get it done," he said.

University of Southern California to resume in-person classes in August

In a letter posted on the University of Southern California's website Tuesday, USC president Carol L. Folt said administrators are "planning for an in-person fall semester for students beginning on August 17, 2020, a week earlier than originally scheduled."

"All classes, including final exams, will end by Thanksgiving. By ending the semester before Thanksgiving, we are aiming to minimize the spread of the virus, particularly as the flu season commences. To support this schedule, we will not have a fall break in 2020," Folt said in the letter.

Folt added that the plans "remain contingent on several factors, including the continued spread of COVID-19, and the health orders from state and local authorities."

Iowa's health department logs three additional deaths

The Iowa Health Department announced three additional coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to 564 fatalities. The department did not record any additional cases, though, so the statewide count stands at 20,015.

D-Day commemorations reimagined due to coronavirus crisis

Image: People walk among vintage World War II vehicles parked on the beach during events to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Arromanches, Normandy, France
People walk among vintage World War II vehicles parked on the beach during events to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Arromanches, Normandy, France, last year. Thibault Camus / AP file

Commemorations to mark the 76th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, France are to take a different form this year due to the coronavirus pandemic

For the first time since the Second World War, veterans and members of the public will not be able to attend June 6 ceremonies at the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-Sur-Mer, France. Instead, a private wreath laying ceremony will take place with about 20 U.S. and French representatives present. 

However, the U.S. military has launched "Operation Pictures and Patches" in an attempt to continue the tradition — which began on D-Day — of soldiers handing out patches from their units to local children as souvenirs.

Although servicemen and women can not be present this year, 300 soldiers will send pictures of themselves along with patches from their units to four cities in Normandy to be distributed to local school children. 

Germany to lift travel ban for E.U., Schengen countries, U.K. starting June 15

Germany will lift a travel ban for European Union member states, other Schengen countries and the U.K. starting June 15. 

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas announced Wednesday that bans will be replaced by travel advice for individual countries.

Travel warnings could be put in place if infections in certain countries rise, or if there are entry restrictions or quarantine measures for arriving travellers.

Maas warned that the coronavirus pandemic is not over and travelers should continue to be cautious, so that the reintroduction of cross-border travel would not turn into a second pandemic wave.

More than 182,000 cases have been reported in Germany so far, with 8,551 deaths.


Spain seeks to open up to some foreign tourism from late June

Image: Hospital patient Isidre Correa is taken to the seaside by intensive heath care staff outside the Hospital del Mar on June 3, 2020 in Barcelona, Spain.
Hospital patient Isidre Correa is taken to the seaside by intensive heath care staff outside the Hospital del Mar on Wednesday in Barcelona, Spain.David Ramos / Getty Images

Spain is working on plans to gradually open its borders to tourists from countries deemed more secure in the fight against the coronavirus, possibly starting from June 22, the tourism ministry said on Wednesday.

After losing more than 27,000 people and months of economic activity to the epidemic, Spain had previously designated July 1 as the date to reopen to foreign tourism, which accounts for 12 percent of its output.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's government is due to lift a state of emergency on June 21, meaning that Spaniards will be able to start to move more freely again as the epidemic recedes.

A tourism ministry spokesman said it was likely the same would start to apply to some foreigners on Monday, June 22 or possibly as early as Sunday, June 21.

Opera returns to Vienna with hotel 'window concert'

Guests of Zeitgeist Hotel in Vienna, Austria listen from their rooms to singers Monika Medek and Dagmar Dekanovsky and the Camerata Carnutum orchestra, during a "window concert."Joe Klamar / AFP - Getty Images

COVID-19 patients among 100,000 evacuated as cyclone slams Mumbai

Image: Dark clouds hang over the city ahead of cyclone Nisarga making landfall in Mumbai, India
Dark clouds hang over the city ahead of cyclone Nisarga making landfall in Mumbai, India on Tuesday.Rajanish Kakade / AP

100,000 people — including COVID-19 patients — have been evacuated from low-lying areas as a powerful cyclone hit the west-coast Indian states of Maharashtra and Gujarat. 

In Maharashtra's largest city Mumbai, home to some 18 million people, 200 coronavirus patients had to be evacuated from a field hospital built beneath a tent as strong winds and torrential rain blew in. 

Bidisha Pillai, chief executive of Save the Children in India expressed fears that damage to clinics and hospitals will complicate the fight against the virus by making it "virtually impossible" to follow social distancing measures.

Maharashtra is home to a third of India's 200,000 recorded infections. 

Read the full story here.

Italy re-opens its airports, allows movement between regions

Image: Andrea Monti from Italy and Katharina Scherf from Germany hug upon her arrival at Fiumicino Airport, as Italy eases movement between regions, while the country unwinds its rigid lockdown due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rome,
Andrea Monti from Italy and Katharina Scherf from Germany hug upon her arrival at Fiumicino Airport in Rome on Wednesday, as Italy eases travel restrictions. Yara Nardi / Reuters

After more than two months of strict lockdown and more than 33,500 coronavirus deaths, Italians are once again free to travel from one region to another as of Wednesday.

The country's airports have also re-opened their doors, with passengers subjected to temperature checks. 

In a move that's expected to, at least partially, help save this year's tourism season, all passengers travelling within Europe's 26-nation Schengen zone will not be required to quarantine themselves upon arrival. 

"It's an important message, of reassurance, that we are giving as Italy to the whole world," Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said in a Facebook post Wednesday. "The total opening of the country enables us to show foreign states a united and compact Italy, inside which it is possible to move freely."

Fears of outbreak as first Rohingya refugee dies from coronavirus in Bangladesh

An elderly Rohingya man has become the first person to die from COVID-19 in the refugee camps in southern Bangladesh, the U.N. Refugee Agency confirmed on Twitter Tuesday.

The death has raised fears of a serious outbreak in refugee camps that house over a million Rohingya, a mostly Muslim ethnic minority group that were forced to flee a brutal military crackdown in neighbouring Myanmar. 

"We are all working round the clock to ensure that testing is available to those refugees," said Louise Donovan, the refugee agency spokesperson. 

The camps are overcrowded, with shared water sources and communal toilets and washing facilities.

At least 29 Rohingya have tested positive for the virus so far since the first case was detected in the camps on May 14. Bangladesh has so far reported 52,445 coronavirus cases and 709 deaths.

Second city in China to test all city residents for coronavirus

Another city in China will test all of its residents for the coronavirus after Wuhan, the original center of the pandemic, finished mass testing of its population

Municipal government in Mudanjiang, a city in Heilongjiang province in northeast China, said it will carry out nucleic acid testing of all of the city's 2.5 million residents. 

China spent 900 million yuan ($127 million) and tested almost 10 million people in Wuhan, finding no new cases and 300 asymptomatic carriers of the virus, officials said on Tuesday. Authorities launched the vast testing campaign on May 14, and reached 9.9 million out of 11 million people, after a cluster of new cases raised fears of a second wave of infections.

More than 4,600 people have died from the virus in mainland China, according to the country's health officials, with more than 83,000 confirmed cases.

British Vogue devotes July cover to essential workers

The British edition of fashion magazine Vogue has, for the first time, devoted its July cover to the nation's essential workers. 

The story features three key workers from London who have kept working in key roles throughout the pandemic. They are Narguis Horsford, a train driver on London's rail network, Rachel Millar, a midwife, and Anisa Omar, a grocery store worker. 

"The July 2020 cover story celebrates the millions of people in the U.K. who, at the height of the pandemic, and in the face of danger, put on their uniforms and went to work," the magazine said. 

"As our nation perseveres against COVID-19, we find ourselves leaning not on the powers that be, but on ordinary people and their extraordinary strength and kindness," it added. 

Russia begins re-opening churches as lockdown eases

Image: A woman wearing a face mask comes out of Christ-the-Savior cathedral, the main Russian Orthodox church in central Moscow
A woman wearing a face mask comes out of Christ-the-Savior cathedral, the main Russian Orthodox church in central Moscow, on Tuesday as Moscow authorities started re-opening churches, mosques and synagogues.Alexander Nemenov / AFP - Getty Images

White House coronavirus task force fades further as fear of second wave emerges

At the height of the coronavirus pandemic, the White House task force that President Donald Trump assembled to manage the health crisis met every day. But in recent weeks, as the virus continues to spread and health experts warn of a potential surge in cases across the country this summer, the group has met formally just three times.

And in a new sign that the task force's work may be nearing an end, its members have begun drafting a final after-action report highlighting the president's response that’s expected to be completed in the coming weeks, according to two senior administration officials.

At the same time, the White House’s effort to reshape the task force to more closely align with Trump’s optimism about possible vaccines and treatments for the virus has been rocky. Just days after the White House announced Dr. Peter Marks as a new member the task force, Marks quietly left because of concerns that his participation could present a conflict of interest with his current job at the Food and Drug Administration, according to a person familiar with the move.

Read the full story here. 

Trump says he's yanking RNC from North Carolina over potential pandemic restrictions

President Donald Trump said Tuesday said that he will be seeking another state to host the Republican National Convention because the North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper had refused to guarantee that coronavirus restrictions wouldn’t affect the party’s nominating convention.

“Governor Cooper is still in Shelter-in-Place Mode, and not allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised,” he wrote in a string of tweets. “We are now forced to seek another state to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.”

Earlier today, Cooper said he would not provide the president and his party with a "guarantee" that the party could hold a full-scale convention in Charlotte this summer, citing public health concerns.

Read the full story here. 

Fauci asked about mass gatherings, protests

Dr. Anthony Fauci — arguably the most well-known and well-respected U.S. public health figure in the COVID-19 pandemic — spoke out Tuesday afternoon about large public gatherings across the country, stopping short of specifically addressing protesters taking a stand against the death of George Floyd.

"Pictures, photos and TV clips of people very much congregated, no masks together, very closely congregated on a boardwalk, on a beach, in a pool, has been and continues to be a concern to me," Fauci said.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, made the comment during an interview with Dr. Howard Bauchner, the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The interview was posted on the journal's YouTube account.  

Bauchner touched on the the death of Floyd and mass protests across the country in the interview, but Fauci did not specifically speak about those demonstrations, which have occurred in hundreds of cities.

Fauci added that it won't be known for several more weeks whether the impact of large public gatherings of people will fuel the spread of COVID-19

Senate confirms Trump pick for pandemic recovery watchdog

The Senate voted 51-40 on Tuesday to confirm President Trump's pick to be the special inspector general for pandemic recovery.

The nomination of Brian Miller, who'd been working for Trump in the White House Counsel's office, was opposed by most Senate Democrats, who questioned whether he was independent enough to oversee the $500 billion economic relief fund. 

Sen. Doug Jones, D-Al., was the only Democrat to join all Republicans in confirming Miller, a former inspector general for the General Services Administration. 

After Miller's nomination, Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said Trump put "a fox in charge of the henhouse." 

Concerns mount about two studies on drugs for coronavirus

Concerns are mounting about studies in two influential medical journals on drugs used in people with coronavirus, including one that led multiple countries to stop testing a malaria pill.

The New England Journal of Medicine issued an "expression of concern" Tuesday on a study it published May 1 that suggested widely used blood pressure medicines were not raising the risk of death for people with COVID-19.

Read the full story here