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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.

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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