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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:

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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

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.