Please Note

The Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump paid tribute to fallen soldiers on Memorial Day by participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, which has been closed to the public for months during the coronavirus pandemic.

There were no crowds at the cemetery this year, as visitation has been limited to family members visiting a gravesite with a pass and staff, but elsewhere in America over the holiday weekend, inhibitions — and masks — were shed. Crowds flooded newly reopened beaches, and videos emerged from Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks and a pool party in Houston showing revelers ignoring social distancing guidance.

White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx said Sunday that she is “very concerned” about people neglecting to maintain a safe, six-foot distance. Even before the busy Memorial Day weekend, some experts were warning of a second wave of cases of the novel coronavirus across the Midwest and South. A new study estimates the virus, which has infected at least 1.6 million people in the United States, may still be spreading at epidemic rates in 24 states.

Here are some significant developments:

  • President Trump threatened in a tweet Monday to move the Republican National Convention from North Carolina because the state’s Democratic governor “is still in Shutdown mood” as critical decisions loom ahead of the scheduled event in August. Although Trump denied he is advocating for a Florida venue, the state’s Republicans endorsed the move to their state, which is reopening sooner.
  • Concerns are mounting in Europe over a growing number of coronavirus clusters linked to slaughterhouses, posing risks to food supplies and workers at those plants. Outbreaks have also been reported from meat processing plants in the United States and in a number of European nations, including Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany.
  • The pandemic that first struck the United States in major metropolises is increasingly finding its front line in the country’s rural areas: Counties with acres of farmland, cramped meatpacking plants, out-of-the-way prisons and few hospital beds.
  • The Trump administration’s ban on U.S. entry for foreigners who have been in Brazil anytime during the previous 14 days will take effect Wednesday. The South American nation has reported more than 300,000 coronavirus cases and is still struggling to enact social distancing measures.
  • As Spain prepares for the summer travel season, government officials announced Monday that beginning on July 1, the nation will no longer require international tourists to quarantine upon arrival.

Sign up for our coronavirus newsletter | Mapping the spread of the coronavirus: Across the U.S. | Worldwide | How states are reopening | Have you been hospitalized for covid-19? Tell us whether you’ve gotten a bill.

May 25, 2020 at 11:32 PM EDT

Care-Mail delivers pandemic pen pals to juveniles in lockdown

A sketch of flowers in a vase. A line from a poem famously quoted by Nelson Mandela: “I am the captain of my soul.” These are among the small gifts that more than 1,200 volunteers throughout the country have been sending in letters to youths in detention centers since the start of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“I find myself crying as I read them,” said David Domenici, who directs the Care-Mail project at the Center for Educational Excellence in Alternative Settings in Columbia, Md. “There are just all sorts of amazing people out there telling students they love them, that they’re thinking of them and hoping for them.”

While some Americans complain about the hardships of their locked-down lives, the nearly 43,000 youths who were already locked away in juvenile halls, adult prisons and residential programs have become more isolated than ever. For most of them, the pandemic means no family visits. No special programs. No face-to-face meetings with teachers. But every week, compassion arrives in the hundreds of mostly handwritten letters enclosed in the homework packets they’ve been getting since classes were suspended.

Read more here.

By Katherine Ellison
May 25, 2020 at 11:09 PM EDT

Europe’s top basketball league cancels season because of coronavirus

While the NBA continues to plot its return to action amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, Europe’s top basketball league on Monday canceled the remainder of its season.

“Without a doubt, this is the most difficult decision we have had to take in our 20-year history,” EuroLeague President and CEO Jordi Bertomeu said in a statement after the league’s executive board met remotely for the fourth time since the season was suspended March 12. “Due to reasons beyond our control, we have been forced to cut short the most successful and exciting season in European basketball history.”

Bertomeu said the league’s stakeholders “exhausted every possible avenue” in an attempt to return after play was suspended with about a month remaining in the regular season, but they ultimately decided it was unfeasible to do so while also ensuring the health and safety of the league’s athletes, fans and staff. League officials also canceled the final rounds of the 24-team EuroCup tournament.

Read more here.

By Scott Allen
May 25, 2020 at 10:46 PM EDT

North Carolina hair salon refuses to serve Tyson Foods workers

A hair salon in Wilkesboro, N.C., reopened Memorial Day weekend with a sign posted on its door: Tyson Foods employees aren’t welcome.

The Smart Cuts salon attributed its restriction, which was first reported by Winston-Salem NBC affiliate WXII-12, to an outbreak of the coronavirus at a Tyson poultry processing plant in the area. Nearly 600 workers tested positive.

“To our clients who currently work at Tyson — we appreciate and care for you very much and we hope the current Covid 19 outbreak you are dealing with subsides quickly,” the sign on the door of the salon says. “However, given the close contact experienced during our services, we will be unable to serve Tyson employees until approximately June 8.”

But the salon’s rule infuriated some workers, who considered it discriminatory, especially considering the essential work they do. The sign was later changed to offer a $3 discount for the first 30 days workers with identification can go to the salon.

“They’re getting our food, but they won’t service us,” Amy McGinty, a 13-year Tyson employee, told HuffPost.

Bob Hartley, president of Larkin Enterprises, which owns the chain of salons, told WXII-12 he didn’t mean to alienate any Tyson employees.

“It wasn’t to disrespect or dishonor them at all, but when they had 570 out of 2,200 employees test positive, it just raised a red flag and gave us concern,” he said.

By Meryl Kornfield
May 25, 2020 at 10:20 PM EDT

Memorial Day offers contrasts as Trump and Biden salute war dead

Memorial Day offered an array of contrasts as some Americans sheltered in their homes, others flocked to beaches and pools, and the nation’s political leaders honored generations of war dead, with former vice president Joe Biden wearing a mask and President Trump going without.

The disparate approaches played out as the country’s reported death toll in the novel coronavirus pandemic edged closer to 100,000.

Trump took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery and later spoke at Fort McHenry in Baltimore to honor those who have given their lives in wars past and those fighting today on the front lines of the pandemic.

Read more here.

By Ellen Nakashima
May 25, 2020 at 9:28 PM EDT

Brit Hume mocks Biden for wearing a face mask to visit a veterans’ memorial

Fox News commentator Brit Hume ridiculed former vice president Joe Biden on Memorial Day for wearing a mask to visit a veterans’ memorial, inciting criticism from Democrats over mocking public health recommendations set to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Biden, who left his home for the first time in two months to lay a wreath at the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veterans Memorial Park, wore a mask, while in contrast, Trump was maskless at visits to Arlington National Cemetery and Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

“This might help explain why Trump doesn’t like to wear a mask in public. Biden today,” Hume wrote on Twitter, sharing a photo of Biden wearing a black cloth mask and dark aviator sunglasses. Trump retweeted Hume.

Among those who condemned Hume for his tweet, Ronald Klain, an adviser to Biden, responded: “A President takes measures to protect others. That’s what a mask does.”

“That's what a competent President would have done, months ago: on testing, on PPE, on social distancing,” he continued. “And many fewer Americans would be grieving today.”

Hume incorrectly answered that Biden was visiting a cemetery instead of the memorial.

“Biden was visiting a cemetery with his wife,” he wrote back to Klain. “Both have been quarantined for weeks. So what others was protecting, pray tell?”

Biden was seen with a security detail and staff members. A small group of veterans and other onlookers gathered and watched him at a distance.

By Meryl Kornfield
May 25, 2020 at 8:57 PM EDT

The meat industry is trying to get back to normal but coronavirus persists

Tyson Foods, the largest meat processor in the United States, has transformed its facilities across the country since legions of its workers started getting sick from the novel coronavirus. It has set up on-site medical clinics, screened employees for fevers at the beginning of their shifts, required the use of facial coverings, installed plastic dividers between stations and taken a host of other steps to slow the spread.

Despite those efforts, the number of Tyson employees with covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, has exploded from under 1,600 a month ago to more than 7,000 today, according to a Washington Post analysis of news reports and public records.

What has happened at Tyson — and the meat industry overall — shows how difficult getting the nation back to normal is, even in essential fields such as food processing. Meat companies are spending hundreds of millions of dollars — on everything from protective gear to paid leave and ventilation systems — since they were forced to shut dozens of plants that were among the top covid-19 hot spots outside of cities.

Read more here.

By Taylor Telford
May 25, 2020 at 8:34 PM EDT

Georgetown Coach Patrick Ewing recovering from coronavirus at home

Georgetown men’s basketball coach Patrick Ewing is home and recovering after testing positive and being treated at a hospital for the novel coronavirus, according to his son.

“I want to thank all of the doctors and hospital staff for taking care of my father during his stay, as well as everyone who has reached out with thoughts and prayers to us … since his diagnosis,” Patrick Ewing Jr., who finished his college basketball career at Georgetown in 2008, tweeted Monday. “My father is now home and getting better. We’ll continue to watch his symptoms and follow the CDC guidelines. I hope everyone continues to stay safe and protect yourselves and your loved ones.”

Ewing, 57, announced his positive diagnosis on Twitter on Friday night, adding a statement from Georgetown in which the school said no other members of the program had tested positive.

Read more here.

By Scott Allen
May 25, 2020 at 7:54 PM EDT

California issues restrictions for in-person services ahead of churches reopening

When California churches reopen, capacity will be limited, people are recommended to wear masks and staff members’ temperatures will be screened to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus through in-person services, state officials announced Monday.

In new guidelines issued by the California Department of Public Health, county health departments will decide if it’s safe to reopen houses of worship in their jurisdictions based on recommendations sanctioned by the state. State officials have been cautious about reopening churches after reports that congregants who were infected attended services and exposed others. But several lawsuits have been filed to challenge Gov. Gavin Newsom’s restrictions on in-person religious services.

Churches have been closed since Newsom (D) issued a stay-at-home order in March.

The state’s recommendations include limiting attendance to one-fourth of the building’s capacity, or up to 100 attendees, whichever is lower. Churches are also advised to alter or cancel singing and “group recitations,” as they can increase the risk of transmission of the virus. If congregants are singing together, they should wear masks and try to perform outside and six feet apart, California officials said.

Even with reopening on the horizon, the state still recommends people continue to worship at home to further limit the spread of the virus. As of Monday, California had more than 94,000 confirmed cases of the virus and reported 3,795 deaths.

President Trump insisted Friday that churches must be able to reopen and he would “override the governors” who didn’t comply.

By Meryl Kornfield
May 25, 2020 at 7:30 PM EDT

Photos: What Memorial Day weekend looks like in a pandemic

Across the country on Memorial Day weekend, Americans passed the time in different ways. Some mourned the dead in cemeteries and during ceremonies, keeping a solemn distance. Others flocked to newly reopened beaches or crowded waterways and pools, at times in violation of social distancing and mask-wearing protocols, after months of mandated isolation.

By Washington Post Staff
May 25, 2020 at 7:01 PM EDT

Trump threatens to yank GOP convention from North Carolina, denies advocating for a Florida ballroom venue

President Trump on Monday threatened to move the Republican National Convention from North Carolina because the state’s Democratic governor “is still in Shutdown mood” as critical decisions loom ahead of the scheduled event in August.

In tweets, Trump pressured Gov. Roy Cooper (D) to “guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena” in Charlotte.

“In other words, we would be spending millions of dollars building the Arena to a very high standard without even knowing if the Democrat Governor would allow the Republican Party to fully occupy the space,” Trump wrote, referring to occupancy rules in place or contemplated for public gatherings as states lift coronavirus restrictions.

Trump demanded to know whether the venue would be allowed to use its maximum capacity, something few large sports and entertainment stadiums are planning to allow this summer.

“Plans are being made by many thousands of enthusiastic Republicans, and others, to head to beautiful North Carolina in August,” Trump wrote. “They must be immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied. If not, we will be reluctantly forced to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site. This is not something I want to do. Thank you, and I LOVE the people of North Carolina!”

Trump had earlier suggested the convention, scheduled for Aug. 24 to 27, could be moved to Florida. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has begun reopening much of that state. Trump will visit the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday.

After the New York Times reported that he had wondered aloud to several aides why the convention can’t be held in a Florida hotel ballroom, Trump denied the reporting, saying Monday that he wasn’t advocating for a Florida venue.

“I have zero interest in moving the Republican National Convention to Doral in Miami, as falsely reported by the Fake News @nytimes in order to stir up trouble,” he tweeted, referring to Trump National Doral near Miami. “Ballroom is not nearly big enough & would like to stay in N.C., whose gov. doesn’t even know if he can let people in?"

Florida Republicans endorsed such a move, however, telling the Miami Herald, “the Republican Party of Florida would welcome the opportunity to host the Republican National Convention.”

“Florida is committed to ensuring a safe, secure and successful event for President Trump and all attendees,” state party chairman Joe Gruters said in a statement to the Herald.

By Anne Gearan and Meryl Kornfield
May 25, 2020 at 6:47 PM EDT

Syria cancels curfew amid doubts over low reported numbers

BEIRUT — Syria announced late on Monday that it will “completely” cancel its curfew beginning Tuesday, citing concerns for the economy in the war-ravaged country.

Syria’s government has announced 106 total cases of the coronavirus in areas falling under its control. In the northeast, where the U.S.-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces hold control, fewer than 10 cases have been announced, with one fatality. The northwest, which is held by Islamist groups and Turkey-backed rebels, has not yet announced any cases.

Syria’s low number of cases is unreliable due to the low rate of testing across the country. “Testing capacity is not yet sufficiently established for epidemiological evidence across the country,” United Nations under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator Mark Lowcock said in a briefing to the U.N. Security Council last week.

Damascus reported 20 new cases on Monday and 16 on Sunday, state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said, all among citizens that had returned on repatriation flights back to Syria, which closed its airport and borders in March. A decision to suspend repatriation flights that was announced May 13 was extended Monday.

But restrictions were otherwise abruptly loosened, a working group in charge of combating the coronavirus announced. The curfew will be canceled Tuesday, travel between provinces will be permitted, and stores and mall operating hours were extended to last from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. during summer months.

The working group also discussed resuming high school tests and university classes, as well as reopening tourism sites. It still continued to ban large social gatherings such as weddings and funerals, and will continue to keep public spaces, such as parks and pools and theaters, closed. Restaurants and cafes will remain closed as well.

But reopening tourism institutions will be reviewed next week, it said.

By Sarah Dadouch
May 25, 2020 at 5:55 PM EDT

Joe Biden places wreath at veterans memorial in Delaware

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Monday laid a wreath at a veterans park near his Delaware home, the first time in more than two months he has left his neighborhood.

The former vice president, who has opted to campaign remotely from his house in Wilmington amid the coronavirus pandemic, made the unannounced visit to the Veterans Memorial Park in nearby New Castle with his wife, Jill Biden.

The two wore black masks as they took part in a brief wreath-laying ceremony there.

Biden kept his mask on during an exchange with reporters in which he was asked if he had a message for the country on Memorial Day. “Never forget the sacrifices that these men and women made. Never, ever, forget,” Biden said.

Read more here.

By Sean Sullivan
May 25, 2020 at 5:38 PM EDT

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait loosen restrictions, despite rising numbers

BEIRUT — Saudi Arabia and Kuwait both announced Monday night that by the end of the week they will loosen restrictions put in place to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

In an upbeat announcement, Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said that after five months of the crisis “the community has become, thanks to God, more aware of this virus and applying social distancing mechanisms. This is a new experiment for us all.” Rabiah added that measurements put in place at the beginning of the crisis gave the country control over the spread of the virus.

Half an hour later, Kuwait’s Deputy Prime Minister Anas al-Saleh announced Kuwait will not extend its curfew after it expires on May 30 and will move to a partial curfew. Saleh said details of the plan to return life to normal will be announced on Thursday, state-run news agency KUNA reported.

Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, in addition to Gulf neighbors Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Bahrain, have all had large increases in their number of cases since the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting, which began on April 24 and concluded on Sunday. Across the Gulf in Iran, the number of cases fell in late April, before it similarly saw a sharp increase of daily cases. Each country had loosened restrictions to accommodate the month, when practicing Muslims fast from sunrise until sunset.

The United Arab Emirates later also announced it will loosen restrictions beginning Wednesday in Dubai, when business activity will gradually resume and the curfew will be cut to allow movement between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.

Kuwait registered 665 new cases on Monday, bringing the total number of cases to nearly 22,000. It had fewer than 2,700 cases before restrictions were loosened last month.

Saudi Arabia had 2,235 new cases on Monday, as well as nine new deaths, bringing the total number of cases to more than 74,000 and 399 deaths. It had approximately a fifth of the number of cases at the beginning of Ramadan.

Rabiah said the death rate has been low compared with other countries in the world. He did not address the high case number, but he has been addressing it in news conferences, saying the nation has done a huge boost to expand testing. The kingdom has had a rapid rise in deaths in recent weeks and has the 15th-largest number of deaths worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins data.

By Sarah Dadouch
May 25, 2020 at 5:23 PM EDT

WHO temporarily drops hydroxychloroquine from coronavirus trials over safety concerns

The World Health Organization on Monday announced it would temporarily drop the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine from its global study of experimental covid-19 treatments due to safety concerns.

President Trump has widely touted hydroxychloroquine as a preventive treatment for covid-19 despite the lack of evidence that it can protect against the disease caused by the novel coronavirus and warnings from health experts that off-label use can produce serious — even fatal — side effects.

“The Executive Group has implemented a temporary pause of the hydroxychloroquine arm within the Solidarity Trial,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, referring to the multicountry treatment trial during a news briefing Monday.

Ghebreyesus stressed hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine “are accepted as generally safe for use in patients with autoimmune diseases or malaria.”

WHO researchers decided to pause testing after British medical journal the Lancet published a paper linking covid-19 patients taking hydroxychloroquine with a higher risk of heart problems and death.

Trump shocked officials and health experts last week when he claimed to be taking the drug himself. The president said he had recently stopped taking the drug, saying during a Sunday interview that he had “just finished” a two-week course of preventive treatment.

By Kim Bellware
May 25, 2020 at 4:29 PM EDT

Car rental industry ravaged by coronavirus could be a boon for car buyers

Car buyers could soon see a wave of deals on the used auto market as struggling rental companies are expected to sell off large percentages of their fleet amid an unprecedented hit to the travel industry from the coronavirus pandemic.

Debt-laden Hertz started selling off cars in March, but even that wasn’t enough to salvage the 102-year-old car rental company’s finances; Hertz filed for bankruptcy protection Friday. Several days before the bankruptcy announcement, the automotive news site Jalopnik reported that Hertz released a flood of high-end vehicles, like 2019 bumblebee-colored Corvettes, for about $20,000 below their starting list price.

Rental companies have long sold off cars from their existing fleet as they introduced newer models, but auto industry experts now expect rental companies to sell “a significant portion” of their excess fleet, CNN reports.

Hertz and its competitors primarily do business out of airports, but travel shutdowns and other closures have slowed car rentals to a trickle.

“No business is built for zero revenue,” former Hertz CEO Kathryn Marinello said during the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call on May 12. Marinello resigned less than a week later.

The drop in rental car demand has implications for the auto manufacturing industry, too: According to CNN, the rental industry accounts for about 10 percent of all new car sales.

By Kim Bellware
May 25, 2020 at 3:53 PM EDT

Italian politicians share warnings after a weekend of crowded nightlife

ROME — Drawn outdoors by ideal weather, Italians this weekend gathered at beaches, bars and piazzas, drinking and sometimes flouting social distancing rules while soaking in the nation’s celebratory post-lockdown mood.

But on Monday, as images of nightlife played on Italian TV, a chorus of politicians warned the country had gotten reckless and risked backsliding in its fight against the coronavirus.

“This weekend has not been serene,” Giuseppe Sala, the mayor of Milan, said in a message posted on Facebook. “We cannot imagine another one like it.”

The quick return of nightlife from Milan to Naples doubled as a reminder that even countries deeply scarred by the virus might struggle to put a prolonged cap on crowds and carefree socializing. Monday, Milan was among Italian cities or towns that tried to impose fresh restrictions, banning the sale of takeaway alcoholic drinks after 7 p.m. A mayor in southern Puglia said he was shutting down a beach until the end of the month to “stem the invasion of last weekend.”

“The appeal to common sense hasn’t worked,” the mayor of Pulsano, Francesco Lupoli, said.

In what amounted to a public service announcement, the governor of the northern Veneto region, Luca Zaia, shared a video on social media showing images of people shaking hands and having drinks with masks worn like necklaces before cutting to an image of somebody in a hospital bed.

“Covid-19 is fought in hospitals,” the message said at the end, “but above all outside.”

Since the country in late February emerged as the epicenter of the European outbreak, Italians have been largely committed to following the rules, abiding by a tight lockdown that banned people from regularly venturing outdoors. But the country has moved quickly in unwinding its restrictions. Many factories and construction projects restarted May 4. Beaches, restaurants and bars reopened May 18, as did museums.

When Italy began emerging from lockdown, its prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said the months ahead depended on the behavior of Italians.

“We take upon ourselves the risk of an opening, but with all precautions,” he said.

By Chico Harlan
May 25, 2020 at 3:22 PM EDT

Group gives health-care workers a free, safe place to stay during pandemic

Emergency room doctor Jim Sauto works long shifts at the Cleveland Clinic, and as soon as he walks into his home, he immediately showers to decontaminate himself. Then he isolates in a small back bedroom away from his wife and two children until he heads back to the hospital the next morning.

Like all medical workers who treat patients with the coronavirus, Sauto is afraid he might pass the virus to his family, he said.

“Everyone I know [at the hospital] is doing the same thing,” Sauto, 58, said. “I miss hugs from my kids and my wife — that’s the hardest part. But we all know it’s necessary. We can’t take the risk.”

For nearly three weeks, though, Sauto did not have to fret about possibly infecting his family because he was staying in a free apartment provided by the Caregiver Shelter Fund — a nonprofit started by Airriva, a property management company in Columbus, Ohio. The agency fills up empty corporate apartments and condominiums with doctors and nurses working on the front lines of the pandemic, no payment required.

By Cathy Free
May 25, 2020 at 2:46 PM EDT

Democratic congressional leaders call Trump administration’s testing plan ‘disappointing’

Democratic leaders in Congress said the national coronavirus testing strategy put forth by the Trump administration is “disappointing” and offloads wide-scale testing responsibility to states.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, and Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, issued a statement Monday saying the Trump administration still lacks a “serious plan” for scaling up testing and stopping the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 100,000 people across the United States.

“This disappointing report confirms that President Trump’s national testing strategy is to deny the truth that there aren’t enough tests and supplies, reject responsibility and dump the burden onto the states,” the leaders wrote.

The administration released the 81-page report, called the “Covid-19 Strategic Testing Plan,” to congressional committees Sunday to satisfy a demand from Congress that the administration release a national testing strategy by May 24.

In the report, federal health officials pledged to acquire 100 million swabs and 100 million tubes of what’s known as viral transport media — the chemicals used to preserve test specimens — to distribute to states to conduct their own testing; states would be tasked with finding additional testing materials if their needs outstrip what federal health officials supply.

The Trump administration’s plan relies on testing targets that individual states developed in May rather than providing federal benchmarks for each state to meet.

By Kim Bellware
May 25, 2020 at 2:02 PM EDT

Boris Johnson’s top aide says he has ‘no regrets’ after violating Britain’s stay-at-home orders

LONDON — Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s top aide, Dominic Cummings, gave an extraordinary news conference on Monday in which he said he had no regrets and had done nothing wrong when he fled his home in London in late March while experiencing coronavirus symptoms to stay with his parents 260 miles away.

Cummings, a mastermind behind pro-Brexit sloganeering, has come under intense pressure to resign. Critics have also called for Johnson to sack the top aide, who helped write the government’s rules to “stay home” and “save lives” during the outbreak that he later flouted.

In shirt sleeves on Monday, the 48-year-old made a statement and answered press questions in a Downing Street garden. He repeatedly declined to apologize to members of the British public who did follow strict lockdown rules, including many who feel government officials like Cummings say one thing and do another.

Cummings said that as he and his wife were becoming ill, they drove north during the height of the government lockdown. He feared that his London home was unsafe and “subject to threats of violence” from protesters, he said.

Cummings said he was also anxious over who would take care of his 4-year-old son if both he and his wife, a journalist at the conservative magazine the Spectator, became incapacitated. He said his teenage nieces had volunteered to help — if they could get north.

Cummings also addressed other criticisms, including that he drove 30 minutes from his parent’s home in Durham to the scenic Barnard Castle, while he was allegedly self-isolating with the virus. The aide said he did it to test his eyesight the day before returning to London. Cummings said he and his family also pulled over and walked in the woods so his son could use the toilet.

“I don’t regret what I did,” Cummings said.

Opposition politicians, scientists advising the government, and ordinary people in Britain have called on Cummings to leave Johnson’s circle to restore trust in the government. So far, Johnson has refused the demands.

By William Booth
May 25, 2020 at 1:19 PM EDT

Trump, first lady pay Memorial Day tribute at Arlington National Cemetery

President Trump and first lady Melania Trump paid tribute to fallen soldiers on Memorial Day by participating in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery, which has been closed to the public for months during the coronavirus pandemic.

At around 10:30 a.m. on Monday, the president — wearing a dark suite and red tie — entered the grounds at the cemetery, saluting as a military band played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Afterward, Trump walked up to the wreath at the tomb, touching it before returning to stand alongside Vice President Pence and Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper.

Trump saluted again as a trumpeter played “Taps,” which was followed by a moment of silence.

Also in attendance was the vice president’s wife, Karen, and a host of Cabinet officials. The first couple is also scheduled to appear at Fort McHenry in Baltimore later Monday afternoon, where Trump will deliver Memorial Day remarks.

Only family members with valid passes to the cemetery and staff are permitted on the grounds this Memorial Day weekend. Since April, visitors and staff have been required to wear masks at Arlington National Cemetery if they cannot maintain the proper six feet of social distancing. Nobody is allowed onto the grounds without first proving they are carrying a mask.

Trump, the first lady, Pence and Esper did not wear masks. Many members of the military and others also did not wear masks.

By Seung Min Kim and Katie Mettler
May 25, 2020 at 12:17 PM EDT

What to know as gyms reopen

When fitness centers closed nationwide due to the covid-19 outbreak, most suspended dues or allowed members to quit without penalty, though it’s worth noting that some were so reluctant to do so they were slapped with a federal class-action lawsuit.

As states reopen, gyms are ramping up operations, touting their adherence to local and state safety protocols and welcoming members.

But what if you aren’t ready to go back? Can your health club still charge you? Are you entitled to a refund? Do you need to go to court?

By Laura Daily
May 25, 2020 at 11:38 AM EDT

Crowd packs Houston pool party after state eases some restrictions

More than 100 partygoers packed into a swimming pool area at a club in Midtown Houston Saturday and flouted social distancing orders to maintain space or wear masks a day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) eased restrictions on bars and restaurants, according to local media reports.

Complaints poured in over violations of the governor’s order. Fire Chief Samuel Peña said late Sunday the fire department had fielded roughly 300 complaints since Friday.

Already, municipalities like Houston are grappling with how to interpret and enforce the order, especially at multifunction venues. Cle, the club that held the pool party, includes “5 different indoor/outdoor lounge areas, pool with daybeds, VIP cabanas and an elevated party deck,” according to its website.

Abbott’s order allows bars to open at 25 percent capacity and restaurants at 50 percent with specific social distancing and sanitation protocols; there’s no occupancy restriction for outdoor seating.

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) reacted to videos of the party by stating that Houston’s fire marshal will start enforcing the governor’s order Sunday, a reversal from remarks he gave Friday saying he would focus only on education and information.

The union representing Houston’s firefighters criticized Turner’s plan as an “impossible situation.” The Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association in a statement Sunday claimed Turner made his directive without input from public health professionals or the fire chief and said fire inspectors and investigators were given no guidance on how to deal with angry business owners and customers.

Across the United States, the majority of states relaxed restrictions ahead of the Memorial Day weekend — and prompted a new wave of challenges over public gatherings and enforcement, as well as concerns of community spread. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) told reporters Saturday several people contracted the coronavirus after attending a high school pool party.

By Kim Bellware
May 25, 2020 at 10:57 AM EDT

Spain to lift quarantine on international tourists July 1

MADRID — Spain will nix the required quarantine of international tourists starting July 1, government officials announced Monday as one of the world’s most visited holiday destinations gets ready for the summer travel season.

The move comes after Italy and Greece — which vie for Mediterranean tourism — announced they will welcome foreign travelers starting June 1.

Spain is the second most visited country in the world, behind France. In 2019, some 83.7 million international tourists spent over $100.54 billion. Tourism accounts for nearly 13 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product and an estimated 12.7 percent of the country’s jobs.

“I’m sure this sector is going to help us to pull out of the economic and social crisis,” said Spain’s Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism Reyes Maroto. “We’re going to save a bit of the summer, which a few weeks ago looked bleak.”

Spain has moved to relax one of Europe’s strictest nationwide lockdowns, slowly easing measures by region. The daily dose of new infections has slowed to 0.1 percent, with 235,772 confirmed coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with 28,752 deaths.

By Pamela Rolfe
May 25, 2020 at 10:32 AM EDT

Cities nationwide rethink their streetscapes in a reopening world

Forced distancing required because of the coronavirus prompted several cities quickly to close some public roads so cooped-up residents anxious to get outside for exercise could do so safely.

Following moves to shut, narrow or repurpose streets from Oakland to Tampa, cities including Washington are trying to determine how those emergency closures might have lasting impacts on some of urban America’s most important, and contested, real estate.

In Washington, lawmakers are drafting legislation to make it easier for shutdown-battered restaurants to space out their tables by putting them on public roads, parking spaces and sidewalks at least for months, and to give neighborhoods a way to close streets to traffic to make walking and biking safer. A mayoral advisory group made similar recommendations Thursday.

Officials around the country say their moves to change public roadways have been met with broad support, though they acknowledge some early missteps, such as not giving enough emphasis to the specific needs of disadvantaged neighborhoods. Some of the newly closed streets also were underused or met with objections from some businesses.

But cities have taken steps to address those concerns, including reopening some roads and closing others as they seek to get the balance right.

By Michael Laris
May 25, 2020 at 10:00 AM EDT

New cases at European slaughterhouses spark concerns

BERLIN — Concerns are mounting in Europe over a growing number of coronavirus clusters linked to slaughterhouses, posing risks to food supplies and workers at those plants.

On Monday, Dutch officials said about one-fourth of over 650 employees at a meat processing plant in the city of Groenlo had tested positive for the coronavirus, contributing to an increase in case numbers both in the Netherlands as well as in neighboring Germany, where many of the plant’s workers live.

Apart from the United States, coronavirus outbreaks have also been reported from meat processing plants in a number of European nations, including Ireland, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany.

At a plant in the German town of Birkenfeld, clusters were partially attributed to conditions in the workers’ communal living spaces. At another slaughterhouse in the city of Coesfeld, more than 250 staffers or contractors tested positive for the coronavirus, marking such a spike in regional infections officials had to halt the easing of lockdown restrictions.

Industry advocates have argued that the status of meat processing plants as essential infrastructure meant many remained operational throughout lockdowns, increasing the likelihood of outbreaks.

But critics of the meat industry argue a number of other long-known risk factors may have contributed to clusters of the coronavirus. Labor and migrant rights advocates have criticized what they see as a lack of adequate protection in overcrowded work spaces, communal living spaces and buses.

Wages paid by western European meat plants are often so low workers are hired from Eastern Europe, where average salaries tend to be lower. Critics of that practice have argued the coronavirus clusters are symptoms of structural failings of the meat industry, which has become increasingly dominated by a select number of major producers that have pushed smaller, family owned companies out of business.

By Rick Noack
May 25, 2020 at 8:32 AM EDT

Tokyo lifts state of emergency, braces for ‘new lifestyle’ with the virus

TOKYO — Somewhere in this crowded, sprawling city of 37 million people, the coronavirus is still lurking. But life must go on.

On Monday, Japan lifted the state of emergency over the greater Tokyo area, effectively ending the country’s soft lockdown. New infections have slowed to a trickle and hospital beds have been freed up. There is, finally, light at the end of the tunnel. Now, Japan is getting ready for what it’s calling a “new lifestyle,” an idiosyncratic attempt to restart daily life without provoking another jump in infections.

It is a uniquely Japanese approach to containing the virus based on request, consensus, and social pressure rather than government edicts and legal sanctions, but it’s one that has had some success so far despite some initial blunders and botched communication from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Read more here.

By Simon Denyer
May 25, 2020 at 8:31 AM EDT

British prime minister’s top aide Cummings set to make statement, amid mounting pressure to resign

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s senior aide Dominic Cummings is set to make a public statement on Monday afternoon local time, the BBC and other media outlets reported, amid mounting pressure on Cummings to resign.

Johnson had on Sunday publicly backed his senior aide, who has been accused of breaking the government’s own coronavirus rules.

Johnson’s support drew widespread criticism, including from the left-wing Guardian newspaper, which framed his reluctance to push Cummings aside as evidence of the prime ministers’s “contempt for the public.”

Probably more stinging for Downing Street was the headline on the Monday front page of the right-wing Daily Mail tabloid: “What planet are they on?” the paper asked, showing photos of Johnson and Cummings. The Daily Mail has usually been considered supportive of the government.

In late March, Cummings drove 250 miles from London to Durham with his wife while she had symptoms of covid-19 to drop her and his child off at relatives.

Labour Party opposition leader Keir Starmer called for an inquiry, while several Conservative party members of parliament indicated their patience had run out, too. Pressure could mount further in response to a new statement by acting Durham Police, Crime and Victims’ Commissioner, Steve White, who wrote on Monday that officials should “establish the facts concerning any potential breach of the law or regulations.”

The strong reactions underlined growing public frustration in Britain with a government that initially appeared to downplay the coronavirus then struggled to address shortages of personal protective equipment in British hospitals.

After the news of Cummings’s trip emerged, Johnson defended his ally on Sunday, maintaining he acted “legally and with integrity.” Johnson did not respond to reports of another subsequent sighting of Cummings in the area, reported by the Observer and the Sunday Mirror newspapers.

In a quickly deleted post on Sunday evening, the U.K. Civil Service Twitter account briefly appeared to call Johnson’s decision to back Cummings “(a)rrogant and offensive.”

“Can you imagine having to work with these truth twisters?” the rogue tweet read.

By Rick Noack
May 25, 2020 at 8:19 AM EDT

While U.S. struggles to roll out coronavirus contact tracing, Germany has been doing it from the start

BERLIN — There's no sophisticated technology in the northern Berlin office where Filiz Degidiben spends her days tracking down contacts of people infected with the coronavirus.

Her main tools are the phone by her side, a yellow calendar on the wall and a central database, accessible from her desktop computer, that was developed with infectious diseases such as measles in mind.

“When coronavirus came, I wanted to help,” said Degidiben, who used to work assisting people with filling out forms in the social services department.

As Britain and the United States scramble to hire teams of contact tracers, local health authorities across Germany have used contact scouts such as Degidiben since they confirmed their first cases early this year.

Read more here.

By Loveday Morris and Luisa Beck
May 25, 2020 at 7:56 AM EDT

In a veterans’ home hit by the coronavirus, chronic problems aided a disaster

At least 74 residents of the Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke, a state-run facility in western Massachusetts, have died since late March after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, as have several others who exhibited symptoms. Eighty-four employees and 77 additional residents tested positive and survived.

The crisis led the Massachusetts National Guard to intervene, and guard members have done everything from disinfecting to administrating to stabilize conditions at the home.

Residential centers for the aged of all kinds have been hit hard by the virus, but the disaster in Holyoke has highlighted gaps in the patchwork oversight of state-run veterans’ homes.

Read more here.

By Dan Lamothe
May 25, 2020 at 7:22 AM EDT

Covid-19 has destroyed your libido? You’re not alone.

After the first couple of weeks of “sheltering in place,” I mentioned to a friend and her partner that even the idea of kissing my husband was now making me uneasy. The two of them laughed. But I didn’t find it amusing.

The unrelenting attention on contagion by the novel coronavirus has made me hyperaware of anything I touch — and anyone who tries to touch me.

It’s natural for some people to crave the comfort of an embrace to ease anxieties. But it’s also perfectly understandable to feel apprehensive about physical affection right now. A pandemic isn’t sexy.

The physical vigilance required for our safety right now runs counter to intimacy, and it can be difficult to reconcile that. For many people, there are additional issues and circumstances compounding this. Here are some you may be experiencing — and tips for dealing with them.

Read more here.

By Sunny Fitzgerald
May 25, 2020 at 6:57 AM EDT

Iran reopens holy shrines amid new rise in infections

ISTANBUL — Iran on Monday reopened major shrines to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan, allowing worshipers to gather for prayer despite a rise in new coronavirus infections.

Authorities had shuttered the sites — including the Fatima Masoumeh shrine in Qom and the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad — in mid-March to help slow the spread of the virus. Iran has been the epicenter of a wider outbreak across the Middle East, recording more than 135,000 cases and some 7,400 deaths.

But a recent loosening of restrictions over Ramadan has also coincided with an increase in new infections, according to daily reports released by the Health Ministry. Since May 12, Iran has reported an average of 2,000 new infections each day, up from an average of roughly 1,300 in the first half of the month.

Iran has stopped releasing information on the locations of local outbreaks, but media reports suggest an explosion of new cases in the southwestern province of Khuzestan on the border with Iraq.

On Monday, Iranian news outlets aired footage and posted images of crowds flocking to mosques and shrines for congregational prayers. Some worshipers wore masks and gloves while many others appeared to be without any basic protective gear.

In the holy city of Qom, in particular, large, dense crowds were seen praying and chanting in the shrine’s expansive courtyard. Many worshipers wept as religious authorities opened the doors of the shrine.

By Erin Cunningham
May 25, 2020 at 6:44 AM EDT

One-day spike breaks D.C.'s streak of declining numbers

As the total number of coronavirus infections in the Washington region topped 90,000 Sunday and fatalities hit 3,880, a one-day spike in the District’s numbers raised questions about whether it can begin reopening as expected this week.

LaQuandra Nesbitt, director of the D.C. health department, said in a call with reporters that data collected over the weekend shows the number of cases linked to community spread — calculated by the date of symptom onset and excluding cases at confined facilities such as nursing homes — increased from a low of 68 on day 12 to 118 on day 13. This jump broke a 12-day streak of declines and meant the city had to “reset” to day 11, Nesbitt said.

She declined to say whether that means the city is reconsidering lifting restrictions on Friday, deferring questions to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D), who is expected to announce her decision Tuesday.

The city had eyed May 29 as the date to gradually begin reopening following the mayor’s lengthy stay-at-home order. The stay-at-home and business closure orders were scheduled to run through June 8.

Read more here.

By Joe Heim, Rebecca Tan, Laura Vozzella and Julie Zauzmer
May 25, 2020 at 6:07 AM EDT

Summer jobs for teens are scarce, but a little boredom has its benefits

First, there was the Spring of Rebellion, when teens chaffed at their parents’ demands to stay home as the deadly coronavirus pandemic descended. Next came sullen acceptance, followed by weeks filled with virtual non-learning and video games.

Now millions of American high school and college students have arrived at the Summer of Nothing, a landscape of scuttled internships, summer camps and travel plans that might have been résumé gilders — or at least something to do. A summer in which paid jobs are scarcer than a Stanford admission and require something almost as tough to obtain: parental permission.

But as unbelievable as a bored teen may find it, this Summer of Nothing might offer some unexpected benefits — like the blue skies over Beijing when industry ground to a halt.

Read more here.

By Sydney Trent
May 25, 2020 at 5:18 AM EDT

As some American nurses face pay cuts, many around the world get huge raises

When the pandemic reached Ghana, the nurse expected more hours on her feet and stress that trailed her home — a fate she accepted with a sense of duty and dread.

Then President Nana Akufo-Addo unveiled a surprise: All health-care workers in the West African nation would receive a 50 percent raise on top of income tax waivers as they toiled against the coronavirus.

Hazard pay has become a rallying cry and a source of controversy around the world as health-care workers risk their lives on the front lines — often without adequate supplies or protection. Ghana is offering some of the globe’s most generous additional benefits while a number of nations move to expand their support for those laboring in highly infectious environments.

Read more here.

By Danielle Paquette
May 25, 2020 at 4:50 AM EDT

Greece and Spain take steps toward welcoming back tourists

European nations attempted to resurrect their summer tourism seasons on Monday, as Greek islands began welcoming visitors once again and Spain’s tourism minister encouraged travelers to book July vacations.

While countries like Italy are hoping domestic travel can help balance out the shortfall in tourism dollars, others, such as Greece and Portugal, are making a more optimistic bet that they’ll be able to safely welcome international travelers by midsummer.

On Monday, Spain’s tourism minister, Reyes Maroto, told a local radio station the hard-hit nation’s mandatory two-week quarantine for overseas visitors would probably no longer be necessary by July. Foreigners should feel comfortable booking summer vacations, she said.

Monday also marked the beginning of Greece’s attempts to restart tourism. A domestic ban on traveling to islands in the Aegean and Ionian seas has been lifted, and ferries are allowed to begin transporting nonresidents as long as they remain at half capacity.

Greece remains off limits to overseas visitors, but Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced last week that international tourism would resume on June 15. Most flights to the nation will resume July 1, when the two-week quarantine for visitors is no longer in place.

By Antonia Farzan
May 25, 2020 at 4:33 AM EDT

Despite surging infections, India resumes domestic flights after a two-month lockdown

NEW DELHI — India resumed domestic flight operations Monday after a strict two-month lockdown during which all air travel, aside from cargo and repatriation flights, had been suspended.

New flying rules include compulsory web check-in and thermal screening at entry gates. Fliers have been instructed to report two hours ahead of their flights and wear face masks throughout the journey. Baggage has been limited to one handbag and one check-in bag.

A self-declaration form or the government’s coronavirus contact tracing app, Arogya Setu, is needed to prove passengers are safe to travel. People who have tested positive in the past two months or those from containment zones, where a cluster of cases have been reported, are not allowed to travel. Elderly people and pregnant women have been advised not to travel.

Airlines have to ensure the cabin crew is in full protective gear and are not allowed to serve meals or magazines onboard. Passengers have been advised to minimize the use of toilets.

To avoid a price surge, the civil aviation ministry has capped the fares based on flying time. Only certain sectors have been opened up with a gradual increase in flights expected in the coming days.

The move came amid a daily surge in infections that have pushed India into the 10 worst-hit countries list. With over 138,000 cases, it has surpassed Iran, once a virus hotspot. Many states remain apprehensive about the reopening of flights and have instituted a patchwork of rules, which include institutional or home quarantine for up to two weeks. Maharashtra, a large state in western India, which accounts for nearly 36 percent of the cases in the country has permitted only 25 flights to land and the same number to take off, according to ANI news agency.

The first few hours of the resumption were marred by confusion and cancellations, given the restrictions by the state authorities.

By Niha Masih
May 25, 2020 at 3:46 AM EDT

Republicans sue Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom over plan to send mail ballots to all voters

Republicans are suing Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) for his executive order directing election officials to send mail-in ballots to all California voters in November, the latest salvo in an ongoing battle over how to hold an election in the midst of a global pandemic.

The lawsuit was filed Sunday by the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee and California Republican Party, which argue that Newsom’s plan could encourage fraud and lead to ballots being mailed to inactive voters who have died. Newsom’s office has contended the measure is necessary to prevent crowding at polling places.

Ronna McDaniel, the RNC’s chairwoman, tweeted on Sunday that Newsom’s order was a “power grab” and a “recipe for disaster” that would lead to decreased voter confidence.

As states across the country announce plans to ramp up access to mail-in ballots in time for the November presidential election, the GOP has questioned their legal authority to do so. President Trump has claimed without evidence that voting by mail leads to widespread fraud, and last week threatened to “hold up” federal funding to Nevada and Michigan over their plans to promote absentee ballots.

A spokesperson for Newsom’s office told the San Francisco Chronicle that the lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Eastern District of California, was “just another part of Trump’s political smear campaign against voting by mail.”

By Antonia Farzan
May 25, 2020 at 3:26 AM EDT

South African president lifts restrictions amid surge in cases, warns pandemic will ‘get much worse’

Despite a recent surge in coronavirus cases, South Africa will ease restrictions on June 1 and allow most sectors of the economy to reopen, President Cyril Ramaphosa said Sunday.

South Africa has reported more than 22,000 coronavirus cases to date, the most in Africa. Nearly a third were recorded in the past week, Ramaphosa said. He warned that citizens should expect those numbers to “rise even further and even faster,” and that the lifting of restrictions should not be taken as a sign that the threat passed.

“The coronavirus pandemic in South Africa is going to get much worse before it gets better,” he said.

Moving into “level three” on June 1 will mean the end of South Africa’s curfew, as well as the bans on alcohol sales and outdoor exercise. Millions of people will return to work, and schools will gradually begin to reopen.

Most large gatherings will remain banned, and Ramaphosa said parts of the country with a rapid influx in cases could return to strict lockdown measures if their health care systems become overtaxed.

South Africa has been in a state of lockdown since late March, and concerns about the pandemic’s worsening impact on the country’s economy has translated into political pressure to call off the shutdown measures.

By Antonia Farzan
May 25, 2020 at 3:13 AM EDT

South Korea’s night clubbers and bar hoppers will now have to log in with QR-codes to aid in contact tracing

SEOUL — The South Korean government will be introducing QR code-based customer logs at bars and night clubs to facilitate contact tracing following mass infections at those establishments.

Since a coronavirus cluster emerged around nightlife spots at Seoul’s Itaewon district earlier this month, more than 200 cases linked to the cluster have been reported. South Korea’s health authorities designated bars, karaokes and nightclubs as “high-risk venues.”

“We are introducing a QR-code based electronic customer log-in order to procure an accurate database of visitors and promptly operate the infection control network,” South Korean Health Minister Park Neung-hoo said at a briefing on Sunday. “We experienced a lot of difficulties investigating the Itaewon club outbreak because many people entered false information in the visitors’ log.”

Some of Itaewon’s virus hotspots were identified as gay bars, which could have put off customers from providing their personal information in a country where homosexuality is largely a taboo.

In wake of the outbreak at Itaewon, South Korean health authorities tracked down the clubgoers using credit card-statements, mobile phone data and CCTV footage.

Along with mass testing, the aggressive contact tracing regime of South Korea has been credited as a contributor to the country’s early success in virus control. However, the vast amount of personal data collected and disclosed by health authorities also raised concerns about privacy infringement.

Minister Park said the new digital log will be managed under protocols to protect the integrity of the collected data. Personally identifying information will be encrypted on the database which only authorized officials can access and the data will be deleted after a four-week expiry deadline.

The new log system will be implemented next month following a demonstration period, according to the Health Ministry.

By Min Joo Kim
May 25, 2020 at 2:40 AM EDT

University of Michigan president says changes to fall semester likely to stay in place through spring

Any restrictions on in-person classes and dorm life that the University of Michigan enacts for the fall semester will probably stay in place through the spring, the university’s president says.

Mark Schlissel, an immunologist by training, told the Wall Street Journal that the university will decide in the next few weeks whether students can return to campus for classes this fall. Since the advent of flu season could make the winter months even more dangerous, it’s unlikely that things will return to normal in the spring, he said.

“Any decision we make for this coming fall is likely going to be the case for the whole academic year. What’s going to be different in January?” he said.

Schlissel told the paper that there will be no fall football season if the university doesn’t resume on-campus instruction. That isn’t a foregone conclusion, though, because university officials are trying to make the campus as safe as weathering out the pandemic at home. That may mean quarantining some students from coronavirus hot spots when they arrive, and introducing widespread testing and mandatory personal protective equipment.

Universities across the country have announced widely differing plans for the fall semester, with some, like the California State University System, moving to entirely virtual instruction. The president of Alabama’s Auburn University, meanwhile, announced earlier this month that students could expect a normal fall semester, complete with football games, fraternity and sorority events and open classes.

By Antonia Farzan
May 25, 2020 at 2:18 AM EDT

On weekend dedicated to war dead, Trump tweets insults, promotes baseless claims and plays golf

As the death toll in the coronavirus pandemic neared 100,000 Americans this Memorial Day weekend, President Trump derided and insulted perceived enemies and promoted a baseless conspiracy theory, in between rounds of golf.

In a flurry of tweets and retweets Saturday and Sunday, Trump mocked former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s weight, ridiculed the looks of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and called former Democratic presidential rival Hillary Clinton a “skank.”

He revived long-debunked speculation that a television host with whom Trump has feuded may have killed a woman and asserted without evidence that mail-in voting routinely produces ballot stuffing.

He made little mention of the sacrifice Americans honor on Memorial Day or the grim toll of the virus.

Read more here.

By Anne Gearan
May 25, 2020 at 1:52 AM EDT

New Zealand will allow gatherings of up to 100, including funerals and church services

New Zealand is taking another step to lighten coronavirus-related restrictions by allowing gatherings of up to 100 people to resume on Friday.

The relaxed guidelines mean churches will be allowed to hold services, and funerals will no longer be limited to less than 10 attendees, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a Monday news conference. Social distancing guidelines will remain in place, though, meaning there can be no packed dance floors at bars and clubs. Similarly, weddings can take place as long as attendees maintain a six-foot distance.

While parties will be allowed as soon as Friday night, hosts should keep a list of everyone who was invited for potential contract-tracing purposes, Ardern said.

Since moving into “Level 3” and easing some restrictions in late April, New Zealand has continued to report as little as one new case per day, and has seen long stretches when no new cases are recorded at all. That level of success in containing the virus means “we can now make choices others can’t,” Ardern said Monday.

New Zealand has reported just over 1,500 coronavirus cases and 21 deaths to date, and is keeping travel bans in place to prevent visitors from bringing new coronavirus cases to the island nation. Ardern on Monday said her cabinet would decide by June 22 whether to move into “Level 1″ and ease most domestic restrictions.

By Antonia Farzan
May 25, 2020 at 1:38 AM EDT

Some churches tentatively open as Memorial Day crowds descend on tourist hot spots

No holding hands during the Lord’s Prayer. No hymnals or holy water. And no congregating with friends outside after services.

More than two months after much of the United States shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic, some houses of worship are beginning to reopen their doors, albeit with a long list of social distancing guidelines in place.

The reopenings have been cheered by President Trump, who vowed on Friday to “override” any governors who do not allow the immediate resumption of in-person religious services.

Read more here.

By Felicia Sonmez, Meryl Kornfield and Derek Hawkins
May 25, 2020 at 1:19 AM EDT

Trump wants schools open ‘ASAP’ — here are the responses

After a morning of golf, President Trump was up late Sunday night tweeting, this time about the reopening of America’s schools, most of which were closed in March during the covid-19 pandemic.

At 10:41 p.m., Trump tweeted: “Schools in our country should be opened ASAP. Much very good information now available. @SteveHiltonx @FoxNews

Shortly before Trump tweeted, Steve Hilton of Fox News happened to be talking about that very subject, urging schools to reopen “schools now before you do even more needless damage.”

An hour after Trump’s Sunday night schools tweet, it had nearly 11,000 retweets, nearly 37,000 “likes,” and many tweets commenting about the idea of reopening schools, most of them criticizing the idea as well as the wording of Trump’s tweet.

Read more here.

By Valerie Strauss
May 25, 2020 at 1:01 AM EDT

Memorial Day weekend draws large crowds and reminders about social distancing

The combination of warm weather, a long weekend, and lockdown-induced fatigue have lead to large crowds at beaches and pools, prompting officials to warn that now is not the time to let up on social distancing.

Large crowds mobbed the boardwalk in Ocean City, Md., while law enforcement in Volusia County, Fla., said it was “one of the busiest weekends” in recent years. Viral videos showed partygoers in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks drinking and tanning while listening to Lizzo at a crowded pool bar. Thousands headed to Tybee Island, Ga., to kick off the start of summer, and beaches outside Tampa filled up so fast that police began turning people away at 11 a.m.

In Boca Raton, Fla., beachgoers sat practically shoulder-to-shoulder on the sand on Saturday, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reported. Only about 10 percent wore masks.

White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx said on “Fox News Sunday” she was “very concerned” that some people were not maintaining a safe, six-foot distance from others and emphasized it was possible to golf, hike, play tennis, and go to the beach without violating public health guidelines.

“Let’s even in public make sure that we’re doing everything that we need to do to make it safe for others,” she said.

By Antonia Farzan
May 25, 2020 at 12:37 AM EDT

Iditarod champion has been stuck in Alaska since his sled dog race due to virus disruptions

The winner of this year’s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, a storied event in Alaska, is hoping to finally fly home to Norway after coronavirus restrictions and flight cancellations left him stuck for months, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

Thomas Waerner and his 16 dogs prevailed in the race mid-March in the town of Nome, Alaska, as the coronavirus was spreading throughout the United States. Waerner hasn’t been able to return to his family, stranded like so many travelers by the pandemic.

Airlines have had to adjust to precipitous declines in demand, and borders around the world have shut. On Sunday, President Trump announced new impending virus-driven travel restrictions on many foreign nationals who have recently been in Brazil.

Waerner is eager to get back to his wife and five children, having missed his now-10-year-old’s birthday, according to the Daily News. Now, he may get his chance on an old aircraft expected to leave Fairbanks next month for an aviation museum in Norway.

“We are hitchhiking, … We are so lucky,” Waerner told the Alaskan newspaper.

“My wife has been taking care of 35 dogs, the kids, and working as a veterinarian,” he added. And so, when he returns to Norway, “‘yes, dear,’ will be the answer for everything.”

By Hannah Knowles
May 25, 2020 at 12:29 AM EDT

As death toll nears 100,000, covid-19 has made shift in who it touches and where it reaches in America

The novel coronavirus arrived in an Indiana farm town mid-planting season and took root faster than the fields of seed corn, infecting hundreds and killing dozens. It tore though a pork processing plant and spread outward in a desolate stretch of the Oklahoma Panhandle. In Colorado’s sparsely populated eastern plains, the virus erupted in a nursing home and a pair of factories, burning through the crowded quarters of immigrant workers and a vulnerable elderly population.

As the death toll nears 100,000, the disease caused by the virus has made a fundamental shift in whom it touches and where it reaches in America, according to a Washington Post analysis of case data and interviews with public health professionals in several states. The pandemic that first struck in major metropolises is increasingly finding its front line in the country’s rural areas; counties with acres of farmland, cramped meatpacking plants, out-of-the-way prisons and few hospital beds.

By Reis Thebault and Abigail Hauslohner
May 25, 2020 at 12:26 AM EDT

Crowds pack venues in Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks, ignoring social distancing

Vacationers flocked to the Lake of the Ozarks over the holiday weekend, flouting social distancing guidelines as they packed into yacht clubs, outdoor bars and resort pools in the Missouri tourist hot spot.

Images of the revelry rippled across social media, showing people eating, drinking and swimming in close quarters. In one picture shared by the news station KSDK, dozens of people could be seen crammed on an outdoor patio underneath a sign reading, “Please practice social distancing.”

The scenes underscored how some have interpreted the loosening of coronavirus restrictions ahead of the Memorial Day holiday as an invitation to return to a pre-pandemic version of normal. Amid varied and sometimes conflicting orders from state and local officials, people across the country have been left to decide on their own how strictly to follow the rules.

Read more here.

By Derek Hawkins