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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