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President Trump says he will postpone until September the annual Group of Seven meeting of world leaders. The president had wanted to hold the gathering in-person by the end of June at the White House. But earlier Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel declined his invitation, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

“As of today, considering the overall pandemic situation, she cannot agree to her personal participation, to a journey to Washington,” a spokesman for Merkel said in a statement to The Washington Post. Trump said he plans to invite Russia, South Korea, Australia and India to the September meeting.

Here are some significant developments:

  • Government officials and health experts around the world criticized Trump’s decision to terminate the United States’ relationship with the World Health Organization. European Union leaders urged him to reconsider the move, saying international cooperation was essential to succeed in controlling the coronavirus pandemic.
  • New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) signed into law on Saturday a bill increasing benefits to the families of medical staff, police officers, transit workers, and other public employees who have died while on the job from covid-19.
  • Coronavirus deaths in the United States probably surpassed 100,000 three weeks before the official death toll reached that milestone, according to an analysis by The Washington Post and researchers from the Yale School of Public Health.
  • The Supreme Court late Friday rejected a California church’s challenge of the state’s new pandemic-related rules on worship services, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s liberals in the 5-to-4 vote.
  • Health officials are investigating the potential spread of the coronavirus in central Missouri after a person who attended crowded pool parties at the Lake of the Ozarks over Memorial Day weekend tested positive for the virus.
  • A Michigan barber who became a symbol of the anti-shutdown movement when he defied the governor’s coronavirus restrictions must close his shop until health officials say it’s safe to reopen, a judge ordered.

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May 30, 2020 at 10:11 PM EDT

All coronavirus testing centers in Los Angeles closed Saturday amid ‘safety worries’

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said all coronavirus testing centers citywide were closed Saturday because of safety concerns during the third day of protests after the death of a black man in police custody.

All of the testing sites closed as of 3 p.m. on Saturday “because of the safety worries across the city,” the mayor said during his news conference. He also urged protesters to go home, saying the conditions in the city had become unsafe. Hundreds of protesters were marching to decry the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

With the unrest, Garcetti announced that Los Angeles imposed a curfew from 8 p.m. Saturday to 5:30 a.m. Sunday. He originally stated the curfew would be in place for the area bordered by the 110 Freeway to the west, Alameda Street to the east, the 10 Freeway to the south and the 101 Freeway to the north. Later in the evening, the mayor told NBCLA that the curfew had been expanded to the entire city of Los Angeles.

During the earlier news conference, when Garcetti was directly asked by a reporter why he chose to close covid-19 testing centers citywide, even though the curfew wasn’t going to be enforced citywide, Garcetti said the measure was necessary to clean up damage and restore order.

“My advice to everybody is, please, if you love the city, go home and come back when you can peacefully protest,” Garcetti said.

By Samantha Pell
May 30, 2020 at 8:47 PM EDT

South Korea closes schools again amid coronavirus spike, days after reopening

South Korea has closed hundreds of schools that had reopened days earlier — and postponed the opening of many others — after a spike in cases of the novel coronavirus.

The country had started to stage the opening of schools in the past week, instituting social distancing and prevention measures in an attempt to prevent the spread of the virus.

But according to the Korea Times, hundreds of schools were closed again because of high infection rates in their communities. It cited the Ministry of Education as saying that 838 schools of the 20,902 nationwide that were supposed to reopen on Wednesday did not, including in Seoul, and hundreds closed on Thursday in Seoul, Bucheon and other cities.

Read more here.

By Valerie Strauss
May 30, 2020 at 7:42 PM EDT

New York officials urge protesters to wear face coverings

After hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of New York City, as part of a mass of rallies and violent clashes that have swept the nation following the death in police custody of George Floyd, elected officials urged protesters to wear face masks and practice social distancing.

Though Floyd’s death and the subsequent arrest of a now-fired police officer who was videotaped kneeling on Floyd’s neck as Floyd pleaded for help has dominated the week’s headlines, transmission of the novel coronavirus remains a present risk. The virus has resulted in the deaths of more than 100,000 people in the United States.

During a Saturday briefing, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said he acknowledged the pain that sparked the protests. However, he said he would rather see that expression away from crowds.

“Understanding all the pain and the agony,” de Blasio said, “I would wish that people would choose this as a time to express all of that agony, that need for change, that anger, that frustration in a different way than in-person protest because we’re still in a pandemic.”

If protesters continue, de Blasio said they should focus on social distancing and wear face coverings.

“You cannot see overt racism, you cannot see overt racist murder and not feel something profoundly deep, so I understand that,” de Blasio said, “but the last thing we would want to see is members of our community harmed because the virus spread in one of these settings.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) expressed outrage at his news briefing about individuals not wearing masks and called the act “disrespectful."

“You have a right to demonstrate, you have a right to protest,” Cuomo said. “You don’t have a right to infect other people. You don’t have a right to act in a way that’s going to jeopardize public health.

“Demonstrate with a mask on. What’s the difference? I still do not get it.”

By Candace Buckner
May 30, 2020 at 7:02 PM EDT

Researchers warn covid-19 could cause debilitating long-term illness in some patients

In the fall of 2009, one of us, Beth, was hit by an illness she suspects was the H1N1 flu, which was circulating then. In 2012, the other, Brian, developed a sudden fever, which his doctors said was also likely of viral origin.

Neither of us recovered, and we’re both disabled to this day.

The long-term illnesses that can follow viral infections can be devastating — and are devastatingly common. In 2015, the nation’s top medical advisory body, the Institute of Medicine, estimated that between 800,000 and 2.5 million U.S. residents live with the illness or illnesses awkwardly named myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). An estimated three-quarters of these cases were triggered by viral or bacterial infections.

Now, as the novel coronavirus pandemic is burning through the world and causing many deaths, researchers are raising alarms that the virus and covid-19, the disease it causes, will also leave in its wake a potentially large population with post-viral problems that could be lifelong and, in some cases, disabling.

Read more here.

By Brian Vastag and Beth Mazur
May 30, 2020 at 6:11 PM EDT

U.S. prices for food, particularly meat, expected to remain high during pandemic

Grocery shoppers and restaurant owners alike have seen higher prices for food during the novel coronavirus pandemic, a trend that could continue as outbreaks affect the health of workers.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in April consumers had to pay more for retail food prices, especially for meat and eggs. The food price index for meat, poultry and fish increased by 4.3 percent while the cereal and bakery index rose 2.9 percent, the highest monthly increase reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The prices soared in some cases because of infections at meat processing plants that affected the supply.

This week, Tyson Foods recorded spikes of positive tests among employees at its various meat processing plants. After a mass testing, nearly 900 workers in Tyson Foods plants were found to have been infected by the virus, which forced the shutdown of a pork processing plant in Iowa. That and other closures have disrupted the supply chain and forced farmers to euthanize pigs.

“There are biological constraints to this and that’s why I would anticipate prices to stay high at least for some period of time,” agriculture economist Trey Malone told the Associated Press “If you’re going to euthanize thousands of animals and it takes six months to raise a new one, obviously there’s going to be some type of delay or buffer in the supply chain.”

By Candace Buckner
May 30, 2020 at 5:39 PM EDT

Brazil’s official death toll surpasses Spain’s as pandemic deepens in Latin America

In recent weeks, the daily death tolls in hard-hit European countries have significantly declined. But concurrent with that development has been a sharp, and deadly, rise in coronavirus cases across Latin America. The World Health Organization has declared the continent the pandemic’s latest epicenter.

In one grim milestone, Brazil’s official death toll surpassed that of Spain, Brazil’s health ministry reported Friday. With at least 27,878 deaths related to covid-19, Brazil just on Friday registered 1,124 more deaths from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has nonetheless continued to downplay the virus’s severity.

In March, many Latin American countries — watching the then-epidemic unfold in Asia and Europe — were quick to put in place lockdowns before their own infection and death rates significantly rose. But these shutdowns were particularly punitive for impoverished communities and informal economies. And despite the early efforts, numbers are now rising.

As The Washington Post reported earlier this month, young people have been dying at higher rates in many South American countries, as well as India, compared to other wealthier countries. “Young people are dying at a higher rate because they are coming into contact with the virus many times more, because of their working and living conditions,” Ligia Bahia, a public health professor at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, told The Post. “Doormen are still working. Housekeepers are still working. … Their viral load, their exposure, is greater.”

Now, some Latin American countries are loosening restrictions while trying to maintain a hold on their outbreaks and fragile economies and health-care systems.

On Saturday, Colombia issued some easing of restrictions, but said that the capital, Bogota, as well as two other hard-hit cities, would remain under quarantine. The new rules allow children and those over age 70 to be outside for 30 minutes three times a day; 6- to 17-year-olds will be permitted out for an hour three times a week; and adults under 70 two hours a day, according to Reuters.

By Miriam Berger
May 30, 2020 at 4:38 PM EDT

Romania’s prime minister breaks his own lockdown rules, pays fine

Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban broke his own coronavirus lockdown rules and had to pay a fine Saturday totaling about $690 after not wearing a face mask and smoking indoors, according to Reuters.

A photograph published in Romanian media showed Orban sitting at a table with other cabinet members in his office while the prime minister smoked a cigarette. No one in the room was shown wearing masks. In a statement, Orban did not the deny the photos, instead acknowledging that the members came to his office on May 25 after a long work day.

“The prime minister knows rules must be obeyed by all citizens, regardless of their position. If the law is broken then sanctions must be enforced,” state news agency Agerpres quoted the statement as saying.

Orban isn’t the first top official around the world getting caught breaching lockdown rules. Last Friday, Dominic Cummings, top adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, came under fire after British media revealed that in late March, when Britain was under lockdown, he drove 260 miles from London to Durham with his ill wife and their young son.

Earlier this month, epidemiologist Neil Ferguson, a key adviser to the British government on its coronavirus response, resigned after the Telegraph reported he broke lockdown protocol when a woman the newspaper described as his lover visited him at home.

By Samantha Pell
May 30, 2020 at 4:28 PM EDT

British public told not to ‘tear the pants out’ of loosened lockdown restrictions

LONDON — Britain is at a “dangerous moment” of the pandemic, a senior health official said Saturday, just two days before England starts to grant new freedoms.

“I believe this is also a very dangerous moment. We have to get this right,” Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said at the government’s daily news briefing.

His remarks come on a day when several of the government’s own scientific advisers broke rank to warn that England could be lifting restrictions too soon. On Monday, elementary schools will partially reopen and groups of up to six will be able to meet in the open.

Van-Tam — no stranger to a colorful turn of phrase — also urged the public not to “tear the pants out” of the new, looser restrictions.

The senior medical official was also asked about the controversy swirling around Dominic Cummings, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s chief strategist. Cummings is accused of breaking Britain’s quarantine rules with a 260-mile road trip to Durham during the peak of the lockdown. Over 1 million people have signed a petition calling for him to be fired. But Johnson has backed him, saying he acted legally and responsibly.

When a question about Cummings was put to him, Van-Tam said, “Thank you for the question and I’m quite happy to answer it.” Other medical officials have refused to comment on the saga.

His response was blunt. “In my opinion the rules are clear and they have always been clear,” he said. “In my opinion, they are for the benefit of all and in my opinion they apply to all.”

By Karla Adam
May 30, 2020 at 4:20 PM EDT

Coronavirus cases spike near Montana’s Crow Indian Reservation

A southern Montana county that includes a large tract of the Crow Indian Reservation saw a spike in coronavirus cases this week, according to county officials, renewing concerns about the pandemic’s disproportionate impact on tribal nations.

Big Horn County reported 14 new infections Friday, nearly doubling the number of cases in the sparsely populated county to 26. The number is small relative to hard-hit areas of the country but stands out in Montana, where the infection rate is among the country’s lowest and the wide-open landscape makes social distancing easy.

The uptick does not appear to be the result of expanded testing capacity. Nine people tested positive through contact tracing of patients who were already infected, and none of the new cases came from surveillance testing of asymptomatic people conducted in the area this week, a spokeswoman for the county told local media.

While it was not immediately clear whether any of the infections emerged on the Crow Indian Reservation itself, the sudden jump could be a warning sign for the tribe at a time when the virus is devastating other Native American communities, including the Navajo Nation.

Many of the Crow reservation’s roughly 8,000 residents live in Big Horn County, and the town of Hardin, Mont., which sits on the northern edge of the reservation, receives a steady stream of interstate travelers, all of them potential vectors for the virus.

“This is a huge concern of the chairman’s,” tribe spokesman Cordell Stewart told The Washington Post in a brief phone interview Saturday. He said the tribe has set up a coronavirus incident response team and is conducting its own surveillance testing on the reservation and in Hardin.

Indian Health Service and county health officials are also tracing closer contacts of the new confirmed cases, the Billings Gazette reported.

By Derek Hawkins
May 30, 2020 at 3:30 PM EDT

Cuomo signs into law bill increasing death benefits to families of frontline workers

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) signed into law on Saturday a bill increasing benefits to the families of medical staff, police officers, transit workers and other public employees who have died while on the job from covid-19.

“You gave your lives for us, we will be there for your families going forward,” Cuomo said at the signing.

The bill, which the New York state legislature passed earlier this week, raises the level of death benefits already provided to public employees’ families.

In early May, the head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority said that 98 MTA workers had officially died of covid-19. The state’s police officers, nurses, doctors and other medical staff have also been hard hit.

On Saturday Cuomo reported just 67 deaths in New York related to the novel coronavirus in the last 24-hours. That is a dramatic drop from the peak in April, when over 700 were dying daily from covid-19.

The governor plans to move New York City to phase one of opening by June 8. Counties in the rest of the state have already begun loosening restrictions as part of Cuomo’s phased reopening in keeping with declining coronavirus counts.

By Miriam Berger
May 30, 2020 at 2:27 PM EDT

On the Black Sea, Georgia rebrands as a holiday haven from the pandemic

MOSCOW — Put aside the ancient vineyards, the ski resorts and Black Sea beaches. The country of Georgia has a new tourism pitch: a place to take a break from the pandemic.

Georgia’s response to the novel coronavirus is a relative success story: 746 confirmed cases, 576 of whom have recovered, and 12 deaths. Now it wants to parlay that into a holiday draw.

Georgia is far from alone in trying to reinvent itself for tourism in the wake of covid-19. But the South Caucasus nation, tucked between Turkey and Russia, offers a look into some of the emerging strategies, such as promoting low infection rates and being selective about who gets in.

Read more here.

By Isabelle Khurshudyan
May 30, 2020 at 1:42 PM EDT

Rwanda is testing out robots to help treat virus patients

Five round robots are being deployed at medical facilities in Rwanda, taking temperatures and keeping an artificial eye on patients, in an effort to minimize contact between medical workers and those infected with the coronavirus.

The wide-eyed robots are being tested out at two sites, one inside and one outside the capital, Kigali. They were designed by a Belgium company and donated by the United Nations Development Program, Reuters reported.

“It doesn’t remove the tasks the doctors are supposed to do, it’s just complementing their efforts,” Francine Umutesi, a biomedical engineer at the Health Ministry, told Reuters.

The east African country has only had around 350 confirmed coronavirus cases. It’s experimented with other ways to keep that count low, such as using drones to deliver blood and to issue warnings to people to stay home and socially distanced.

Other countries have also been experimenting with a renewed sense of purpose for robots in pandemic settings. Singapore deployed dog-like robots in public parks to scold those detected violating social distancing rules. Newly reopened restaurants, bars and cafes from South Korea to Spain to the Netherlands have been testing out robots as servers to bypass the human-to-human contact of taking orders and delivering food or retrieving dishes.

And scientists at the University of Maryland have been exploring the use of robots in testing for the coronavirus.

By Miriam Berger
May 30, 2020 at 1:37 PM EDT

Trump hammers China over Hong Kong, China responds with: What about Minneapolis?

Chinese officials appeared to shrug off President Trump’s latest slaps against Beijing and struck back with their own rhetorical punch Saturday: highlighting the growing street clashes triggered by the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

Trump on Friday ordered the United States to begin the process of revoking Hong Kong’s special status under U.S. law in response to Beijing’s plans to exert greater controls over the territory.

Trump also vowed to bar an unspecified number of Chinese nationals from entering the United States for graduate study. And he unleashed another round of accusations about China “ripping off” the United States, unlawfully claiming territory and unleashing the “Wuhan virus.”

As expansive as those accusations were, Trump’s actions could have been much worse. The president did not outline a time frame or other specifics about the actions he wanted taken. Nor did he announce financial sanctions or threaten to back out of the first-phase trade deal the two countries signed in January.

Chinese officials and their propagandists had a convenient counterpoint for the root of the latest battle: China’s move to impose a national security law on Hong Kong, effectively bringing about an end to the “one country, two systems” framework that was supposed to continue until 2047.

They seized on the protests in Minneapolis and other U.S. cities to portray the United States as a hotbed of hypocrisy.

“Hong Kong’s rioters and police should carefully watch how the ‘democratic U.S.’ deals with the chaos in Minnesota,” wrote Hu Xijin, the nationalist editor of the Global Times, a state-affiliated newspaper that often reflects the foreign policy views of the Chinese Communist Party. He called out the United States for its “double standards.”

CCTV, the state broadcaster, ran a commentary saying that the use of force by police in the United States “shows the deep social contradictions” in the United States

Read more here.

By Anna Fifield
May 30, 2020 at 12:33 PM EDT

Remdesivir approved for use in Taiwan as global demand rises

Taiwan is the latest government to approve the use of remdesivir to treat seriously ill covid-19 patients, the island’s Central Epidemic Command Center announced Saturday.

While there is no treatment or approved drug for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, Japan and Britain have cleared remdesivir for use with covid-19 patients. European Union countries have also been doing so under compassionate use rules while awaiting complete approval by a broader European commission, Reuters reported.

In the United States, regulators authorized emergency use of the drug this month for people hospitalized with serious cases of covid-19, though it has not yet been approved for a broader application.

Taiwan’s Food and Drug Administration cited “the fact that the efficacy and safety of remdesivir has been supported by preliminary evidence” in making its decision, according to Reuters.

California-based Gilead Sciences produces remdesivir and the company has been rushing to increase production as global demand for the anti-viral drug has risen. Gilead Sciences said it plans to donate 1.5 million doses, which can treat at least 140,000 patients globally. About 40 percent of that stock will go to U.S. hospitals.

Preliminary studies have shown remdesivir can cut the length of hospital stays for seriously ill patients. But the Trump administration’s initial distribution of the drug to hospitals was problematic, The Washington Post reported.

By Miriam Berger
May 30, 2020 at 12:29 PM EDT

Merkel declines Trump’s G-7 invitation, citing coronavirus travel concerns

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has declined President Trump’s invitation to attend an in-person meeting of the Group of Seven next month in Washington, citing concerns about the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump plans to hold the world-leader gathering at the White House in late June as a sign of recovery from the pandemic that has killed more than 100,000 Americans and more than 365,000 people worldwide.

Merkel objected to holding the meeting in person, which requires travel that a government spokesman suggested is unnecessary. The United States has more cases than any of the other members of the G-7: Germany, France, Japan, Italy, Canada and the United Kingdom.

“The federal chancellor thanks President Trump for his invitation to the G-7 summit at the end of June in Washington. As of today, considering the overall pandemic situation, she cannot agree to her personal participation, to a journey to Washington,” the spokesman said in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “She will of course continue to monitor the development of the pandemic.”

By Anne Gearan
May 30, 2020 at 12:07 PM EDT

Geochemist Meyer Rubin, who predicted Mount St. Helens eruption, dies of covid-19 at 96

The first time Kathleen Brennan met Meyer Rubin, her future father-in-law, he had a plan for how they would spend the day.

“I’m taking you to all the museums in Washington, D.C.,” Rubin told her. “Just run through them to look. See which one you really like. We’ll go back to that one and really look at it.”

To Rubin, a polymathic geochemist whose interests and expertise ranged from Pleistocene geology to volcanology, this suggestion did not seem unusual. It was an apt metaphor for everything he was, and for everything that was lost, when he died May 2 in a Manassas, Va., nursing home after being stricken with covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. He was 96.

Read more here.

By Michael Rosenwald
May 30, 2020 at 12:04 PM EDT

Drama builds over travel ‘bubbles’ in Europe

Italy won’t be treated “like a leper colony,” Italy’s foreign minister said Saturday, a day after Greece released a list of 29 countries to which it will reopen its borders. It notably excluded Italy, the United Kingdom, France and Spain.

It is the latest drama to emerge over Europe’s “travel bubbles” forming between countries looking to kick-start their economies while keeping coronavirus outbreaks at bay.

Economically embattled Greece is highly dependent on tourism and eager to open to tourists this summer. Having relatively successfully contained its initial wave of the virus, the country, often seen as among the European Union’s weakest links, is now in control of a very hot list: which country’s tourists will be allowed in for a holiday starting June 15. Travelers from countries with low coronavirus counts are this summer’s most alluring.

The exclusion of the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Spain reflected ongoing fears over the spread of coronavirus in those four countries, which have been Europe’s hardest hit.

Still, Italy’s foreign minister, Luigi Di Maio, wrote in a Facebook post that other countries should not shut out Italians, too. Italy and Spain are also among the continent’s top tourist destinations.

“We do not accept blacklists,” Di Maio wrote, adding that he would press Italy’s case internationally, Reuters reported. “If anyone thinks they can treat us like a leper colony, then they should know that we will not stand for it.”

On Friday, Denmark and Norway announced that they would move ahead with a travel corridor between the two Nordic countries — a move that angered neighboring Sweden, which had hoped to be included despite its still relatively high coronavirus counts. It has not imposed the pandemic restrictions as the other Scandinavian countries.

By Miriam Berger
May 30, 2020 at 11:48 AM EDT

Minn. governor urges protesters to mask up, saying nation is still ‘in the middle of a pandemic’

During a news briefing where he announced the full mobilization of the Minnesota National Guard to control violent unrest, Gov. Tim Walz (D) called on demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd to take health precautions while they gathered in the streets, saying “we are still in the middle of a pandemic."

Walz said the state had “hospitals on the verge of being overrun” as they deal with the novel coronavirus. Even if the pandemic seemed “like a lifetime ago” after the chaos of this week, he said, demonstrators should wear masks and try to practice social distancing.

Photos and video footage of the protests and unrest showed many demonstrators wearing masks.

Walz said those who wore masks earlier in the week did so to prevent the spread of the virus, but added that he believed those who took to the streets the streets Friday night wore masks to “cause confusion” and conceal their identities.

By Katie Mettler
May 30, 2020 at 11:43 AM EDT

India announces further relaxations of world’s largest lockdown as cases surge

NEW DELHI — India will allow places of worship, shopping malls and hotels to open next month for the first time since March even as coronavirus cases rise.

The loosening of the restrictions is an acknowledgment of the human and economic toll exacted by the lockdown in this nation of more than 1.3 billion people.

In late March, India imposed one of the world’s most stringent lockdowns. Passenger flights, train service and long-distance buses were shut down together with all nonessential businesses.

More than 100 million people lost their jobs. Tens of millions became reliant on food aid. Workers began leaving large cities in a historic exodus, setting out on dangerous — and sometimes fatal — journeys.

While experts say the lockdown helped slow the spread of the virus, it did not turn the tide of infections. On Saturday, India announced its biggest 24-hour jump in cases, with nearly 8,000 new infections. The country has recorded more than 170,000 cases in total.

The official mortality rate for covid-19 patients in India remains low compared to the United States, but pressure on the country’s weak health-care system is rising, particularly in Mumbai, the hardest-hit city.

The new policy announced Saturday said that restrictions will still apply in “containment zones,” or neighborhoods with clustered infections. But starting June 8, states can reopen places of worship and restaurants. Face coverings are compulsory in public places.

The government will decide in July whether students will return to school. International flights, subways, movie theaters, gyms and large gatherings are still suspended or closed.

By Joanna Slater
May 30, 2020 at 11:33 AM EDT

12 migrants in Mexican shelter along U.S. border test positive for virus

Another 12 migrants tested positive for coronavirus at a government-run shelter along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to the Mexican Labor Ministry.

The Leona Vicario center in Ciudad Juárez houses 337 people. Those who tested positive have been isolated, and 14 others at the shelter considered high-risk have been transferred to a different facility, Reuters reported, citing the Labor Ministry.

The shelter, among the largest along the border, has been under isolation for more than two months. The latest coronavirus patients are from Brazil, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

Ciudad Juárez lies adjacent to El Paso, Tex. Under the Trump administration’s “remain in Mexico” policy announced in December 2018, asylum seekers to the United States must return to Mexico to await the outcome of their cases. The U.S. immigration court in El Paso, which hears many of these cases, has a near 90 percent denial rate, according to a study by the Hope Border Institute. Under a coronavirus-related directive, since March the United States has expelled some 20,000 migrants, mainly to Mexico, the Trump administration reported earlier this month.

Immigration advocates have criticized the Trump administration for not adequately protecting migrants and asylum seekers from the virus while detained by immigration authorities. This has further boiled into tensions between the United States and Guatemala, who says that 119 cases, or 5 percent of the country’s estimated 2,500 infections, have been among migrants deported by the United States.

“We’ve had serious problems with deported people,” Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said earlier this month. “We haven’t been treated by the United States in a way that I’d say is kind, in relation to the deportees.”

U.S. immigration authorities said they screen deportees for the virus before returning them.

As the virus spreads in Mexico, American retirees and dual citizens living in Mexico have flooded U.S. hospitals along the border, The Post reported.

By Miriam Berger
May 30, 2020 at 11:04 AM EDT

Britain launches research center to probe virus’s outsize impact on minorities

LONDON ⁠ — Britain’s National Health Service announced it was launching a research center to investigate the impact of race and ethnicity on public health amid growing concerns that covid-19 is disproportionately affecting the United Kingdom’s ethnic minorities.

The Race and Health Observatory will investigate why so many of those who have succumbed to the virus are from ethnic minorities and offer policy recommendations “to improve health outcomes for NHS patients, communities and staff,” the NHS Confederation said in a statement.

Like the United States, Britain’s minority groups have been hit hard by the virus. Britain’s official statistics body found that black people were four times as likely to die from covid-19 as white people in England and Wales. People of Bangladeshi and Pakistani origin were more than three times as vulnerable as whites.

The virus has also disproportionately felled heath-care workers from ethnic minority groups: An astonishing 93 percent of the doctors who have died from covid-19 have been from an ethnic minority.

“I can’t get my head around that,” Michael Marmot, a public health expert, told a parliamentary committee earlier this month.

Experts say that a number of factors could be at play, from underlying health conditions to socio-economic class to lower levels of vitamin D.

Victor Adebowale, chair of the NHS Confederation, told the BBC on Saturday, “There’s a lot of speculation as to what the reasons might be, but I think the point of the observatory is to get the facts and put them in one place.”

By Karla Adam
May 30, 2020 at 10:35 AM EDT

As sports return, at-risk athletes may face ‘heavy decision’ on whether to play

Young and in peak physical condition, athletes are in the demographic least likely to face severe effects even if infected by the novel coronavirus.

But also among them are cancer survivors, diabetics, sufferers of autoimmune diseases and other immunocompromised players who may be at greater risk of catching the virus or more susceptible to the worst of covid-19, the disease the virus causes.

There may be only a handful of players who face potentially elevated health risks in each sport. But the leagues must handle them as a crucial component of return-to-play plans, because the stakes for them could be literally life and death.

Read more here.

By Adam Kilgore
May 30, 2020 at 10:15 AM EDT

Pandemic’s overall death toll likely surpassed 100,000 weeks ago

The number of people reported to have died of the novel coronavirus in the United States surpassed 100,000 this week, a grim marker of lives lost directly to the disease, but an analysis of overall deaths during the pandemic shows the nation probably reached a similar terrible milestone three weeks ago.

Between March 1 and May 9, the nation recorded an estimated 101,600 excess deaths, or deaths beyond the number that would normally be expected for that time of year, according to an analysis conducted for The Washington Post by a research team led by the Yale School of Public Health.

That figure reflects about 26,000 more fatalities than were attributed to covid-19 on death certificates during that period, according to federal data.

By Andrew Ba Tran, Leslie Shapiro and Emma Brown
May 30, 2020 at 10:14 AM EDT

Betsy DeVos doubles down on ‘school choice’ agenda during the pandemic

Betsy DeVos is in the home stretch of what could be her last year as education secretary, and she is letting nothing get in the way of her longtime “school choice” agenda. Not the coronavirus pandemic, and not Republican criticism.

While education leaders grapple with the unprecedented consequences of the coronavirus crisis on their districts, she has doubled down on her decision that states must use federal economic stimulus money in a way that will benefit private schools — and that, the Republican chairman of the Senate Education Committee said, was not the intent of Congress.

By Valerie Strauss
May 30, 2020 at 9:45 AM EDT

Health officials retrace steps of Lake of the Ozarks partygoer who tested positive for coronavirus

Health officials are investigating the potential spread of the coronavirus in central Missouri after a person who attended some of the crowded pool parties at the Lake of the Ozarks over Memorial Day weekend tested positive for the virus.

The Camden County Health Department said in a statement Friday it was working with health officials in the area to inform “mass numbers of unknown people” about the person’s diagnosis.

Videos and photos from the Lake of the Ozarks over Memorial Day weekend elicited a barrage of criticism from those angered by vacationers who openly disregarded social distancing guidelines. These images showed partygoers packing yacht clubs, outdoor bars and resort pools in the Missouri tourist hot spot.

Camden County officials said the person who was infected was a resident of Boone County, Mo., who tested positive on Sunday, one day after arriving at the lake area.

The person “was likely incubating illness and possibly infectious at the time of the visit,” the health department said.

Officials released the person’s timeline over the weekend and stressed that anyone who visited the varying locations should monitor for symptoms.

The release specifically mentioned the individual was at Backwater Jack’s, the host of the “Zero Ducks Given” party, for an extended period of time on Saturday. The waterfront establishment hosted the pool party that featured DJs and live bands. A Facebook page described the event as a summer kickoff party and showed nearly 400 people had attended. On both Saturday and Sunday, the person was also at Shady Gators and Lazy Gators Pool. On Sunday, they were also at Buffalo Wild Wings.

Many businesses around the Lake of the Ozarks closed in the spring when the pandemic hit. But as the state moved to reopen, they allowed guests to rebook reservations.

By Derek Hawkins and Samantha Pell
May 30, 2020 at 9:37 AM EDT

England is lifting restrictions too soon, say government advisers

LONDON ⁠ — Three scientific advisers on Saturday warned that England is lifting its lockdown too soon.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that, as of Monday, some restrictions will be lifted in England, including the partial reopening of elementary schools. Groups of up to six people will also be allowed to meet outside. The government is keen to restart the economy, and officials insist that they are being led by the science.

But British researchers are echoing concerns from their American counterparts, questioning the decision to ease the restrictions at this particular point in the pandemic. In Britain, the scientists speaking out say that the number of daily infections is still too high, the track and trace system the government launched is not yet fully operational, and the “R” rate ⁠ — or the virus’s reproduction rate ⁠ — is not yet low enough.

More than 38,000 people have died in Britain after testing positive for coronavirus, the highest official death toll in Europe.

Jeremy Farrar, the director of the Wellcome Trust and member of Britain’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), tweeted, “Covid-19 spreading too fast to lift lockdown in England.”

John Edmunds, an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and another adviser, agreed. He told Sky News that England alone is reporting around 8,000 new infections a day, a number he called “quite high.”

Peter Horby, a third adviser who is also at the University of Oxford, told the BBC on Saturday: “Returning to a situation where we’ve lost control again is far worse than a week or two of social measures.”

Correction: An earlier version of this post included an incorrect figure for the British death toll from covid-19. This has now been updated.

By Karla Adam
May 30, 2020 at 9:13 AM EDT

U.S. should reconsider decision to end relationship with WHO, European leaders say

European Union leaders on Saturday urged President Trump to reconsider his decision to end the United States’ relationship with the World Health Organization, saying international cooperation was essential to succeed in controlling the coronavirus pandemic.

“The WHO needs to continue being able to lead the international response to pandemics, current and future,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Vice President Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“In the face of this global threat, now is the time for enhanced cooperation and common solutions,” they said. “Actions that weaken international results must be avoided. In this context, we urge the U.S. to reconsider its announced decision.”

Trump accused the WHO of effectively being controlled by Beijing and misleading the world about the coronavirus. He said the $400 million the United States sends to the organization would instead be given to other health groups.

Earlier this week, the commission unveiled a 750 billion euro ($833 billion) stimulus package to help the continent recover from economic devastation wrought by the coronavirus pandemic. The package requires approval from the full 27-nation bloc.

By Derek Hawkins
May 30, 2020 at 9:08 AM EDT

Trump to headline in-person fundraisers in June, his first since coronavirus outbreak

President Trump is scheduled to appear next month at two in-person fundraising events for his reelection effort, resuming his fundraising activities after coronavirus restrictions have halted the campaign’s events since March.

Trump plans to headline a gathering at a private home in Dallas on June 11 and an outdoor event at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., on June 13, party officials said.

Both events will be geared toward wealthy donors, charging $580,600 per couple for the Dallas event and $250,000 per person for the New Jersey event. The money will go to Trump Victory, a committee that raises money for the Trump campaign, the Republican Party and 22 state parties.

By Michelle Lee
May 30, 2020 at 8:47 AM EDT

Judge orders Michigan barber at center of anti-shutdown movement to close shop

A Michigan barber who became a symbol of the anti-shutdown movement when he defied the governor’s coronavirus restrictions must close his shop until health officials say it’s safe to reopen, a judge has ordered.

Shiawassee County Circuit Court Judge Matthew Stewart ordered Karl Manke’s business “locked and closed” until the state health department rescinds a May 8 decision calling the shop an imminent threat to public health, as MLive reported.

The judge had previously allowed Manke to keep operating when health officials sought an injunction forcing him to shut down. But a Michigan appeals court on Thursday told the judge to reverse the decision, ruling that Manke did not show that it was safe to keep operating.

Manke’s attorney, David Kallman, said the barber was appealing the decision to the state Supreme Court.

“This is a serious virus, nobody disputes that,” Kallman told the Daily Beast on Friday. “But it doesn’t mean you just run roughshod all over the Constitution."

Manke made national headlines when he opposed orders from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) to temporarily close nonessential businesses as part of the state’s sweeping coronavirus containment measures. Likening the restrictions to a “police state,” he helped galvanize protesters in the state, some of whom stormed the state capitol in mid-May with assault-style rifles strapped to their backs.

The coronavirus has killed more than 5,400 in Michigan, giving the state one of the country’s highest death tolls. Whitmer said earlier this month that her stay-at-home order may have prevented thousands of additional fatalities.

Daily deaths and new infections in Michigan have tapered off over the past several weeks as the state moves forward with reopening plans, according to tracking by The Washington Post.

By Derek Hawkins
May 30, 2020 at 7:29 AM EDT

Trump’s severing ties with World Health Organization draws international criticism

LONDON ⁠ — Government officials and scientists from around the world on Saturday criticized President Trump for severing ties with the World Health Organization during the global pandemic.

Jens Spahn, Germany’s health minister, tweeted that Trump’s decision to terminate the United States’ relationship with the organization was “a disappointing backlash for International Health.”

Spahn added that the WHO “needs reform” if it is to make “any difference for the future.” The “EU must take a leading role and engage more financially” in the WHO, he said, adding that this would be priority when Germany takes over the E.U. presidency in July.

South Africa’s Health Minister Zweli Mkhize called the move “unfortunate.”

“Certainly, when faced with a serious pandemic, you want all nations in the world to be particularly focused ... on one common enemy,” he said, according to the Associated Press.

A number of scientists from the international community also stepped forward to voice their support for the organization.

Peter Doherty, a Nobel laureate and founder of the Doherty Institute, which has played a prominent role in Australia’s response to the crisis, tweeted that the WHO is “central to the global fight against COVID-19.” He added that the “leadership has seemed over-cautious in some of its statements,” but said that “much of the real, essential work of the WHO” goes on at lower, professional levels.

Gail Carson, director of network development at the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium, warned that a pandemic was “not the time” to make health political.

Richard Horton, the editor of the Lancet medical journal based in the United Kingdom, wrote: “We give our 100% support to the World Health Organisation at this time of crisis.”

“The US government has gone rogue at a time of humanitarian emergency,” he wrote.

By Karla Adam
May 30, 2020 at 6:30 AM EDT

Wisconsin election officials agree to send voters ballot applications

The Wisconsin Elections Commission voted unanimously Wednesday night to move forward with a plan to send ballot-request applications to most voters for the general election, which would clear one hurdle for those preferring to vote by mail rather than in person during the coronavirus crisis.

The six election officials, evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, still must agree on the wording of the letter that will accompany the applications, but they concurred that the 2.7 million voters in the state who have not already requested a ballot should be automatically sent the form necessary to request one. Upon filling it out and sending it back, the voter would then receive a ballot to vote in the November election.

The decision marks a victory for voting rights advocates who argue that under the extraordinary circumstances of a global pandemic, steps should be taken to make it easier for Americans to vote.

By Colby Itkowitz
May 30, 2020 at 6:28 AM EDT

Supreme Court, in rare late-night ruling, says California may enforce certain restrictions on religious gatherings

The Supreme Court late Friday rejected a California church’s challenge of the state’s new pandemic-related rules on worship services, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s liberals in the 5-to-4 vote.

Roberts wrote that state officials such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) had leeway to impose restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and had not singled out places of worship for unfair treatment.

“The notion that it is ‘indisputably clear’ that the government’s limitations are unconstitutional seems quite improbable,” Roberts wrote. He was referring to the standard that challengers must meet to enjoin enforcement of the state order.

By Robert Barnes