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Wisconsin court strikes down stay-home order, meatpacking plant safety and arctic lockdown

'This virus may never go away,' the World Health Organization said.
Image: Spanish Meadows Nursing Center in Brownsville, Texas
Spanish Meadows Nursing Center in Brownsville, Texas, on Tuesday. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday ordered widespread testing in Texas nursing homes.Miguel Roberts / AP

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Wisconsin's top court struck down the governor's stay-at-home order, President Donald Trump criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci's testimony to Congress, and you think your coronavirus lockdown is extreme? Try being stranded at the Arctic Circle.

Here's what we're watching this Thursday morning.

Wisconsin Supreme Court strikes down state's stay-at-home order

The Wisconsin Supreme Court struck down the state's stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic as "unlawful, invalid, and unenforceable" after finding that the state's health secretary exceeded her authority. The order had been set to run until May 26.

Residents flocked to bars that reopened as soon as the order was lifted.

It's the latest showdown between state officials urging caution in the face of the public health emergency and those who see the restrictions as an infringement on their rights.

President Donald Trump took aim Wednesday at comments Dr. Anthony Fauci made during a congressional hearing about the risks of reopening the country too soon.

"I was surprised by his answer, actually, because, you know, to me it's not an acceptable answer, especially when it comes to schools," Trump said during a White House meeting with governors.

Trump has repeatedly contradicted Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, by painting a rosy picture of the country's response to the pandemic while he pushes for the economy to reopen.

Meantime, a Health and Human Services whistleblower, Dr. Rick Bright, is set to warn Congress on Thursday that "2020 will be the darkest winter in modern history" without clear action against the coronavirus, according to prepared remarks obtained by NBC News.

The death toll in the U.S. is nearly 85,000, according to NBC News' count. The global death toll is closing in on 300,000, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

Here are some other developments:

Inside a small town’s meatpacking plant, workers fear safety measures 'too little, too late'

Workers and residents in a small Minnesota town who protested outside a meatpacking plant this week are demanding that it be temporarily closed for cleaning and sanitizing to protect the 1,100 people who work there.

They also demand coronavirus testing for workers — a request that came after the plant said the 83 cases it reported on May 8 had ballooned to 194 cases by May 11.

The plant in Cold Spring, owned by Pilgrim's Pride, is able to maintain its operations because of the Defense Production Act, which President Donald Trump invoked at the end of April.

But now, St. Cloud, a neighboring small town northwest of Minneapolis, is experiencing a massive spike in COVID-19 cases, according to documents obtained by NBC News, probably because of the meatpacking plant itself.

"We want to work, but we have families. We are just human beings who want a better life," said one quarantined employee.

Pablo Tapia holds a sign to protest unsafe working conditions at the main entrance of the Pilgrim's Pride plant in Cold Spring, Minn., on Monday.Jeff Wheeler / Star Tribune via Getty Images

Trump wants nursing homes to test all staff and residents. That may not be possible.

The Trump administration is calling for nursing homes to test all residents and staff over the next two weeks as it prepares to "reopen" the country.

But advocates and industry executives say that in many states, universal testing isn't feasible and that the federal government isn't providing the money or means to do it.

"There is no clarity on how this help is coming," said Katie Smith Sloan, CEO of LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit nursing home providers.

In China, 30 years of growth has ground to a halt

For more than a generation, China — boasting the biggest manufacturing sector and the largest workforce in the world — has made economic growth seem easy.

Over the last four decades, its economy has grown by an average of 10 percent per year, according to the World Bank. But now that growth has screeched to a halt.

Crucially, China's strong economy has for years underpinned the political stability of the single-party state.

But a prolonged downturn could fray trust between the ruling Communist Party and the country's 1.3 billion people.

"It makes people lose faith in the system," said one China expert.

An employee wearing a mask works at a plant during a media tour organized by the Chinese government in Beijing on Wednesday.Wang Zhao / AFP - Getty Images

Polar bears, snowstorms and isolation: Women endure Arctic Circle lockdown

With only reindeer and polar bears for neighbors, two women Arctic explorers are enduring the world’s most extreme lockdown conditions with no clear end in sight.

Sunniva Sorby, 59, and Hilde Fålulm Strøm, 52, co-founders of the Hearts in the Ice polar education campaign, set off in August for a Norwegian island located between the mainland and the North Pole to collect environmental data and raise awareness about climate change.

But their return this month was canceled amid coronavirus travel restrictions.

"There have been tears," Strøm told NBC News during a video call from her post in the Arctic Circle. "You are scared and you feel small in this big environment."

The 215-square foot cabin the women are living in at the Arctic Circle has no running water or electricity.Hearts in the Arctic

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THINK about it

Michigan coronavirus protesters shout "liberty!" — as right-wing rhetoric weaponizes freedom, columnist Marcie Bianco writes in an opinion piece.


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One fun thing

That's one way to jump for joy.

The mayor of one New Zealand city celebrated its reopening to tourists after the easing of COVID-19 restrictions with a bungee jump.

With a "be right back" shout and a leap, he sent a signal that tourism in his picturesque part of the world is back.

New Zealand dropped most of its lockdown restrictions as of Thursday.

The reopening reflects the success New Zealand has experienced in its bold goal of eliminating the virus. More than 1,400 of the nearly 1,500 people who contracted the virus that causes COVID-19 have recovered, while 21 have died.

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Be safe and stay healthy, Petra Cahill