Pandemic adds to global mistrust in governments

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from around the world.
Image: Gamblers celebrate a win while playing roulette during the reopening of The D hotel-casino, closed by the state since March 18, 2020 as part of steps to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in downtown Las Vegas
Gamblers play roulette at the reopened D Casino and Hotel in Las Vegas on Thursday.Steve Marcus / Reuters

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People across the world's leading economies are becoming increasingly frustrated with how their governments are handling the coronavirus pandemic, a new survey shows.

The British polling firm Kantar found that 48 percent of the more than 7,000 people it surveyed across the G7 nations approved of how their government had responded, down from 50 percent in April and 54 percent in March.

There have been confirmed 1.83 million coronavirus cases in the U.S. and more than 106,000 deaths.

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

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New York governor to protesters: Get tested

In New York, which once had the highest coronavirus infection rate in the U.S., the total number of hospitalizations are down and the state is seeing a continued decline in deaths, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a briefing Thursday. At the same time, protests against the murder of George Floyd have continued in New York’s largest cities, worrying officials about a resurgence in infections. An estimated 30,000 people have marched across the state, with 20,000 protesters in New York City.

“With the protesters, they could actually compound the situation,” Cuomo said. The state plans to open testing facilities for all protesters to avoid a super-spreader event, he said. 

 “As fast as the numbers come down is as fast as the numbers can go up,” Cuomo warned. 

USDA issues $545 million in COVID-19 assistance for food producers

The United States Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency (FSA) has issued its first payments to farmers through the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), the agency announced Thursday.

The agency began taking applications on May 26 and has already made payments to more than 35,000 producers, totaling more than $545 million, the USDA said in a news release. The states that have received the most CFAP payments include Illinois, Kansas, Wisconsin, Nebraska and South Dakota. 

“The coronavirus has hurt America’s farmers, ranchers, and producers, and these payments directed by President Trump will help this critical industry weather the current pandemic so they can continue to plant and harvest a safe, nutritious, and affordable crop for the American people,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said.

The FSA is accepting applications for up to $16 billion in aid to farmers who have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic through Aug. 28.

The Lancet retracts large study on hydroxychloroquine

The medical journal The Lancet on Thursday retracted a large study on the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19 because of potential flaws in the research data. The study, published two weeks ago, found no benefit to the drug — and suggested its use may even increase the risk of death.

Thursday's retraction doesn't mean that the drug is helpful — or harmful — with respect to the coronavirus. Rather, the study authors were unable to confirm that the data set was accurate.

Read more. 

NBA owners approve tentative July 31 restart to season with just 22 teams playing

The NBA approved a plan to restart the season with abbreviated competition of just 22 teams — tentatively set to begin July 31 with all games played near Orlando, Florida.

The NBA Board of Governors voted to approve the plan on Thursday, according to a statement from the NBA, with the plan contingent on sealing an agreement with The Walt Disney Company to use Walt Disney World Resort.

The plan calls for the top 22 teams of the 30 teams to play eight games to finish off their regular season.

“The Board’s approval of the restart format is a necessary step toward resuming the NBA season,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement on Thursday. “While the COVID-19 pandemic presents formidable challenges, we are hopeful of finishing the season in a safe and responsible manner based on strict protocols now being finalized with public health officials and medical experts."

Read the full story here.

Gap Inc. faces lawsuit for skipping out on millions of dollars in rent during coronavirus crisis

Mall owner Simon Property Group is suing Gap Inc. for allegedly failing to pay more than $65.9 million in rent and other charges, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

San Francisco-based Gap, whose brands include Old Navy and Banana Republic, said in an April filing that it would not pay rent on stores closed because of the pandemic.

But in the lawsuit, Simon Property Group accuses the company of being in contractual default for failing to pay rent for April, May and June. 

“The amounts due will continue to accrue each month, with interest,” according to the lawsuit.

Gap Inc. told NBC News that it has made progress with many landlords as it reopens stores across the country.

In its quarterly earnings report, released Thursday, the company reported a 100 percent increase in e-commerce sales during the month of May. 

Still, only about 1,600 of its stores have reopened, which is about 55 percent of its total fleet. The company also reported while “many peaceful protests have taken place across the country in some cities, our stores have been taken advantage of.” It reported 20 stores sustained extensive damage.

Dr. Leana Wen: 5 safety measures to keep in mind if you're protesting during COVID-19

Americans are taking to the streets to protest the police killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and more. And while any time people gather in groups, there’s an increased risk of getting or spreading COVID-19, there are ways to reduce your risk and stay safer, said Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency physician and former health commissioner for Baltimore.

Dr. Wen, who has been a leading voice in public health and a frequent commentator about coronavirus, recently spoke to Know Your Value founder and “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski, about safety measures protesters should keep in mind as they make their voices heard.

Read the full story here.

'Helpy Hour' launched in Belgium, as restaurants and bars prepare to reopen

Belgian beer lovers are being encouraged to support their favorite locals by buying one drink for the price of two, as bars and restaurants prepare to reopen next week after more than two months of lockdown.

The initiative has been dubbed ‘Helpy Hour’ and was designed to help the country’s struggling hospitality industry recover economically following the forced closure of businesses due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

"I don't think the Belgians will be happy to see their beloved cafes disappear," President of the Federation of Belgian cafes Diane Delen said. "It's a temporary measure that will help avoid an avalanche of bankruptcies.”

When restaurants and bars reopen on Monday, tables will be spaced at least 1.5 meters (about 5 feet) apart, with a maximum of 10 people allowed per table and waiters will have to wear face masks. Ordering and drinking at the bar will not be possible.

CDC's Dr. Nancy Messonnier involved with 'Operation Warp Speed'

One of the first voices of public health in the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is leading the agency's team involved with "Operation Warp Speed" to find a coronavirus vaccine.

CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told a Congressional subcommittee about Messonnier's role during a hearing Thursday about the federal COVID-19 response.

Messonnier regularly provided updates early in the pandemic, but has not been heard from publicly since early March, when she warned Americans their lives would be disrupted because of the looming viral spread. 

"Dr. Messonnier remains one of our outstanding leaders," Redfield told the subcommittee panel. "She has not been sidelined."

Outdoor seating at NYC restaurants could be back in July

Outdoor seating at New York City restaurants could be back in July,  2 1/2 months months after the coronavirus pandemic brought most businesses to a halt, officials said Thursday.

Phase 2 of the city's reopening is on track for early July, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, with the most notable change being restaurants serving patrons al fresco.

In coming weeks, de Blaio said City Hall will announce plans that'll offer more street space to restaurateurs so they can welcome back customers for outdoor dining: "This is going to be another important step -- but again health and safety first."

Restaurants now can serve food for pickup. 

COVID-19 cases appear to rise in some Southern U.S. states

Alabama's health department reported 915 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday as several U.S. states across the South appear to be grappling with upticks in infections.

Alabama, South Carolina and Virginia saw new cases climb 35 percent or more in the week that ended May 31 compared with the previous week, according to a Reuters analysis published Monday.

“If people don’t follow current recommendations for social distancing and avoiding crowds of any kind, we can anticipate seeing increased numbers,” the South Carolina health department said in a statement to Reuters.

Florida announced 1,419 new cases Thursday, bringing the statewide total to more than 60,000.

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $1.6B to vaccine organization

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced Thursday it would contribute $1.6 billion to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, an organization that helps provide vaccines to developing countries.

The five-year commitment was announced at the Global Vaccine Summit 2020, hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“Not many people outside the global health sector have heard about Gavi, but over the past twenty years, it has transformed the way the world invests in and protects the health of its children,” Melinda Gates said in a statement. “If the current pandemic has reminded us of anything, it’s the importance of vaccinating against deadly diseases. The pledges that leaders are making today will help Gavi save even more lives.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation previously announced it would contribute $100 million to research for a COVID-19 vaccine.