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House Democrats passed a $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill on Friday. The legislation, which would boost funding for state and local governments as well as the U.S. Postal Service, faces roadblocks in the Senate, and Trump has threatened a veto. Earlier in the evening, the House approved a change its rules during pandemic, allowing remote voting for the first time.

As the confirmed U.S. death toll surpassed 86,000, the scattershot reopening of America continued. Beaches will reopen in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Delaware for the Memorial Day holiday weekend, allowing people to come back under restricted circumstances.

Here are some significant developments:

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May 15, 2020 at 11:53 PM EDT
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As stay-at-home order is extended, D.C. police say enforcing social distancing can be a struggle

By Peter Hermann

One Friday this month, District authorities saw people congregating while waiting for takeout orders at a Mexican restaurant on the Wharf. Two days later, a group of people outside an apartment building in Brightwood Park refused to disperse.

D.C. police officers intervened in both instances — two examples in the ongoing struggle to enforce social distancing restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

At the Wharf, police said they told the restaurant manager he was “in violation of the mayor’s social distancing order” and the Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Administration issued a verbal warning. In Brightwood Park, police gave several people citations.

The city has taken a soft approach to dealing with social distancing scofflaws, aiming to issue citations or make arrests only as a last resort.

Read more here.

May 15, 2020 at 11:39 PM EDT
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Polio was almost eradicated. Then came the coronavirus.

By Emily Rauhala, Danielle Paquette and Susannah George

For decades, the United States has worked with the World Health Organization and others to quash polio, beating back to near extinction a merciless disease that once paralyzed hundreds of thousands of children each year.

That progress is in danger as the pandemic forces health-care providers to suspend door-to-door vaccination campaigns that have slashed the number of infections.

New cases have emerged in Niger and Chad, and fears have mounted about a resurgence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Although the number of new polio infections has been small — 155 confirmed cases since January — even blips are worrisome, public health experts say, because small increases can trigger explosive outbreaks, especially in poor countries without the resources to combat the virus alone.

Read more here.

May 15, 2020 at 11:18 PM EDT
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The pandemic grounded cruise ships indefinitely. But bookings are still rolling in.

By Hannah Sampson

Lori Cooper got to thinking last week about late autumn in Canada, where it’s cold, and in other parts of the world, where it’s not. So the 61-year-old resident of Pickering, near Toronto, booked a Holland America Line cruise to the Caribbean in November.

“I was looking for some warmth,” said Cooper, who tries to cruise a couple of times a year. She also recently booked a transatlantic sailing for April 2021, with stops including the Azores, Ireland and Brussels — with the full understanding that there’s no guarantee when ships will start sailing again, and what the experience will be like.

“Hopefully, we’ll be cruising again,” she said.

Read more here.

May 15, 2020 at 11:03 PM EDT
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California nursing homes are examples of how cruel the pandemic can be

By Scott Wilson

DINUBA, Calif. — The gravesite still has no marker. No grass has grown over the dry ground here, in a flat cemetery surrounded by some of the richest citrus groves in the country, where Hortensia Sosa and her husband, Luis, are buried together.

The grave is too new for that. Just dug. Just filled.

Dying last month of the novel coronavirus, Hortensia’s body was kept for 10 days in quarantine. At first, the family was not allowed to leave their cars during her burial, finally receiving permission to do so but only if they stood well away from the tiny patch of ground where Hortensia’s coffin was lowered slowly on top of Luis’s casket. Hortensia Sosa is among the 1,058 residents of skilled nursing facilities who have died in California as a result of the coronavirus, a quickly escalating toll that accounts for about 40 percent of the state’s overall deaths from the infection.

Read more here.

May 15, 2020 at 10:38 PM EDT
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The coronavirus is upending cash economies. Mobile money could emerge as the winner.

By Miriam Berger

When Lagos went into lockdown last month, banks in Nigeria’s bustling financial hub shut their doors. But many agents who offer financial services informally, crucial commerce for the city’s impoverished communities, continued to work using mobile payment apps on their phones, helping customers transfer money and pay bills.

“We’re a country where people live day-to-day and barely have savings,” said Tayo Oviosu, CEO of Paga, a Nigerian mobile money company.

In the United States and elsewhere, mobile money services like Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPall, along with its subsidiary Venmo, are rising in popularity by offering mobile wallets that allow users to send money digitally. A similar model has taken off in developing countries, particularly in Africa, targeting those with no or limited access to the banking and financial system. Experts and members of the industry say the pandemic is likely to escalate that trend.

Read more here.

May 15, 2020 at 10:19 PM EDT
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NFL will allow teams to reopen facilities beginning next week

By Mark Maske

NFL teams were told in a memo from the league Friday that they can begin reopening their facilities next week.

The memo from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that teams can reopen their facilities beginning Tuesday if they are permitted to do so under state and local guidelines and are in compliance with the health and safety protocols previously outlined by the league. Coaches and most players are not permitted to be in the facilities during this initial phase of reopening.

“This first phase of reopening is an important step in demonstrating our ability to operate [safely] and effectively, even in the current environment,” Goodell wrote in the memo. “After we implement this first phase, and as more states and localities enact policies that allow more club facilities to reopen, I expect that additional staff, likely including coaching staff, will be allowed to return to club facilities in a relatively short time.”

Read more here.

May 15, 2020 at 10:03 PM EDT
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Poultry plants in Eastern Shore of Virginia experience surge in positive cases

By Candace Buckner

As Virginia loosens shutdown measures, positive coronavirus tests continue to pop up inside two prominent poultry plants in Accomack County.

On Friday, the Eastern Shore Health Department reported that approximately 18 percent of workers at the Perdue and Tyson poultry plants had tested positive for the virus. In mass testing conducted last week, 3,100 people at the two plants were examined.

The health department reported that not all of the people who tested positive reside in Virginia, and as of Friday, only 85 of the 510 confirmed cases have been added to the total case count for Accomack and Northampton counties, the department said in a statement.

In April, officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offered assistance to the plants during the outbreak and workers joined labor rights activists and others in a car rally outside the Perdue facility, protesting alleged deficiencies in personal protective equipment for staff.

Around the time of the rally, the plants made up more than 50 percent of the positive coronavirus cases on the Eastern Shore.

As of midnight Thursday, Gov. Ralph Northam (D) relaxed certain restrictions for nonessential businesses. However, he approved requests from Accomack County and the City of Richmond to postpone “Phase 1” reopenings until May 29. More populous regions like the Northern Virginia cities surrounding Washington also remained under stay-at-home orders.

May 15, 2020 at 9:42 PM EDT
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House Democrats pass $3 trillion relief bill despite Trump’s veto threat

By Erica Werner

House Democrats on Friday passed a $3 trillion tax cut and spending bill aimed at addressing the devastating economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak by directing huge sums of money into all corners of the economy.

But the White House and Senate Republicans have decried the measure’s design and said they will cast it aside, leaving uncertain what steps policymakers might take as the economy continues to face severe strains.

The sweeping legislation, dubbed the “Heroes Act, passed 208-199. Fourteen Democrats defected and opposed the bill, reflecting concerns voiced both by moderates and liberals in the House Democratic caucus about the bill’s content and the leadership-driven process that brought it to the floor. The bill won support from just one Republican: Rep. Pete King of New York.

Read more here.

May 15, 2020 at 9:34 PM EDT
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Texas Supreme Court temporarily halts decision allowing voters to cast absentee ballots while citing virus fears

By Elise Viebeck and Hannah Knowles

The Texas Supreme Court has temporarily halted election officials from allowing voters to cast absentee ballots while citing fears of the coronavirus, blocking a state appeal court’s ruling and backing Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

In a filing Wednesday, Paxton argued that officials in five counties overstepped their authority by recommending that voters who are concerned about contracting the coronavirus at polling locations use the state’s “disability” excuse to obtain an absentee ballot.

“Each misapplication of Texas election law damages the integrity of our elections and increases the risk of voter fraud,” Paxton said in a written statement. “It is unfortunate that certain county election officials have refused to perform their duties and have instead unlawfully gone beyond the Legislature’s determination of who is eligible to vote by mail.”

A legal battle is brewing over how Texans will vote during the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats have sued in state and federal court to loosen restrictions on absentee voting for upcoming elections, and they won a favorable ruling last month from a state district judge. Paxton has appealed the decision.

Chad Dunn, general counsel for the Texas Democratic Party, earlier accused Paxton of trying to “upset the election process” after thousands of Texans have already requested mail-in ballots.

“Apparently, none of the counties agree with Ken Paxton’s view that everybody under age 65 has to vote in person during a pandemic and the court shouldn’t either. The Legislature provided for vote-by-mail in these pandemic circumstances,” Dunn said in a written statement.

The state Supreme Court has yet to examine the merits of the case, the Texas Tribune reported.

May 15, 2020 at 9:13 PM EDT
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U.S. military faces more coronavirus fallout: Budget cuts

By Missy Ryan

Pentagon officials have scrambled to adjust everything from basic training to submarine deployments to prevent the coronavirus from taking a lasting toll on the military’s ability to respond to adversaries.

But the crisis could yield a different sort of long-term impact on the military, one outside the Pentagon’s ability to control: a possible reduction in military spending resulting from the country’s emerging economic meltdown.

Pentagon leaders are requesting a defense budget of $705 billion for fiscal 2021, probably once again ensuring that U.S. military spending is far greater than that of any other country.

But current and former officials say a sustained reduction, even if modest, could make it harder for the Pentagon to achieve its long-deferred goals of modernizing military operations and competing more effectively with China at a time when the United States remains tied down in insurgent conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

May 15, 2020 at 8:56 PM EDT
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U.S. deaths could exceed 100,000 by June 1, according to forecasting models

By Candace Buckner

In the latest national forecasting models, tracked by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, the United States is projected to experience a steady rise in coronavirus-related deaths next month.

On Thursday, the CDC published the updated models of 12 individual forecasts. Though the projected rates of death differ, as some make assumptions about degrees of social distancing and other preventive measures, the forecasts all suggest the possibility that the U.S. death toll could exceed 100,000 deaths by June 1.

The state-level models also collaboratively forecast a significant rise in deaths in states that have already been greatly impacted by the outbreak.

On the same day the agency released the forecasts, it also outlined limited checklists addressing best practices for schools, workplaces, day-care facilities, restaurants, mass transit and camps as states continue to reopen.

As of Friday, U.S. infections have eclipsed 1.4 million, and more than 86,000 people have died of covid-19, the disease the virus causes, according to tracking by The Washington Post.

May 15, 2020 at 8:39 PM EDT
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Trump said honking truckers demonstrating at the White House were supporting him. They weren’t.

By Michael Laris and Ian Duncan

Scores of truck drivers and others from the trucking industry continued their series of driving and honking demonstrations Friday in front of the White House, Capitol Hill and the Justice Department, appealing to President Trump and his administration to require more openness on shipping fees taken by brokers.

Truck drivers and their supporters are “protesting price gouging by brokers. We’re fighting for transparency,” said Sergey Karman, a fleet management provider and one of the organizers of the demonstrations, which have stretched through much of the month. “Something needs to be done. This is the last battle for some of these guys out here.”

The trucking industry has been hit hard by demand during the outbreak, as consumers flock to e-commerce while they avoid shopping in public spaces.

White House chief of staff Mark Meadows spoke to some of the demonstrators in recent days, and he said he would look into the concerns they outlined in a letter to the Justice Department, Karman said. “We’re still waiting. We’re supporting the White House” and the president, Karman said, but added “some of these guys have no fuel, no nothing.”

One demonstrator, Janet Sanchez, with the group the Disrespected Trucker, streamed some of the remarks and truckers holding signs including “Regulate Brokers” and “Make Trucking Great Again. No Cheap Freight.”

With horns echoing, Trump said from the White House on Friday: “Those are truckers that are with us all the way. They’re protesting in favor of President Trump.”

“Things are getting twisted. We’re not here to support Trump. We’re here for him to support us,” Sanchez said. “We’re supporting if he supports us.”

A key issue is whether the Trump administration’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is allowing shipping brokers to evade regulations requiring them to share information on how much the brokers earn per load, according to a letter Karman’s attorney submitted to the Justice Department on behalf of his logistics firm, Ezlogz.

Instead of releasing that financial information, “brokers have banded together to conceal from drivers the compensation cut the brokers are taking in brokering the loads. The result on the operators (many of whom barely make enough money to support their families) is wage suppression for the drivers,” according to the letter.

The FMCSA did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday. Earlier in the week, spokesman Kyle Bonini said the agency had not “received any notice that any Agency regulations have been violated.” He said the agency “supports America’s truck drivers” and is pursuing policies to help them, including changing rules on how they have to take required breaks and manage the hours they work.

May 15, 2020 at 8:23 PM EDT
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Oprah addresses 2020 graduates, whose commencements were upended by outbreak, in live stream

By Candace Buckner

During a star-studded virtual graduation ceremony, celebrities honored members of the class of 2020 who have had their traditional rite of passage disrupted by the ongoing pandemic.

On Friday, Facebook and Instagram hosted the multihour #Graduation2020. During the live-streamed event on Facebook, Oprah Winfrey delivered a commencement address.

“My hope is you will harness your education, your creativity and your valor, your voice, your vote,” Winfrey told the graduates, “and use it to create more equity, more justice and more joy in the world.”

Winfrey, the final speaker, took a line from actor Tom Hanks who previously delivered a virtual speech to Wright State University graduates. During his May 2 words, Hanks called the class “the chosen ones,” a thought echoed by Winfrey.

“I know you may not feel like it, but you are indeed the chosen class for such a time as this,” Winfrey said. “Of course, this is not the graduation ceremony you envisioned. You’ve been dreaming about that walk across the stage, your family and friends cheering you on, the caps flung joyously in the air."

With the recorded and edited messages from a slew of famous actors, athletes, musicians, the online commencement was intended to give the Class of 2020 “the graduation you deserve.” Rapper Cardi B offered congratulations and advice on how high school graduates should pick college courses. Miley Cyrus performed her song, “The Climb.” Also, actor Matthew McConaughey told graduates: “You were originals. Enjoy that. There will always be only one graduating class of 2020 who did it the way you’re doing it now.”

May 15, 2020 at 8:08 PM EDT
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Trump promises hundreds of millions of vaccine doses by January, but scientists doubt it

By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Laurie McGinley, Josh Dawsey and Christopher Rowland

President Trump formally unveiled an initiative Friday afternoon aimed at making hundreds of millions of doses of a coronavirus vaccine broadly available by year’s end — a goal that many scientists say is unrealistic and could even backfire by shortchanging safety and undermining faith in vaccines more broadly.

The Rose Garden news conference added to a week of confusing and contradictory remarks about the prospects and timeline for a vaccine, which is seen as the key to returning to normal life. A day earlier, a former top U.S. vaccine official testified before Congress that he was doubtful about the 12-to-18-month time frame frequently touted as a goal. The head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases who testified Tuesday said that 12 to 18 months was possible, but there was no guarantee a vaccine would work at all.

Read more here.