The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
– North Carolina judge blocks enforcement of governor’s rules regarding indoor religious services.
– Florida health care company reports thousands of unreliable COVID-19 tests.
– Central California city defies governor, not enforcing restrictions.
– Turkey’s death rate lowest since early March.
GREENVILLE, N.C. – A federal judge on Saturday blocked the enforcement of restrictions that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper ordered affecting indoor religious services during the coronavirus pandemic.
The order from Judge James C. Dever III came days after two Baptist churches, a minister and a Christian revival group filed a federal lawsuit seeking to immediately block enforcement of rules within the Democratic governorâ€™s executive orders regarding religious services. Dever agreed with the plaintiffs, who argued that the limits violate their right to worship freely and treat churches differently from retailers and other secular activities.
Cooperâ€™s latest order still largely prevented most faith organizations from holding indoor services attended by more than 10 people. His office had said the newest order stating permitted services may â€œtake place outdoors unless impossibleâ€ carries only a narrow exception, such as when religious activities dictate they occur indoors with more people.
Cooperâ€™s spokesman, Ford Porter, said the governorâ€™s office disagrees with the decision but will not appeal.
SAN FRANCISCO — More parks and hiking trails welcomed visitors again in California, and one city declared itself a â€œsanctuaryâ€ from the stateâ€™s stay-at-home order as diverse regions carved their own path toward reopening.
Officials in Atwater, a city of 30,000 in central California, unanimously agreed not to enforce a nearly 2-month-old order intended to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. That means local authorities wonâ€™t interfere with any business or church that decides to reopen ahead of state restrictions.
The declaration was a symbolic gesture of defiance against Gov. Gavin Newsonâ€™s order, and the cityâ€™s mayor cautioned that businesses were taking their own risks by reopening.
California is moving through the second phase of relaxing its restrictions. Businesses deemed lower risk have been gradually allowed to reopen, with retailers offering curbside pickup.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The results of more than 35,000 COVID-19 tests ordered by a Florida-based health care system and performed by a third-party lab are unreliable, the company said Saturday.
According to AdventHealth, a faith-based health care system, the situation has created â€œunacceptable delays.â€ AdventHealth didnâ€™t name the third-party lab but said it had terminated its contract with the lab.
The tests were a mixture of positive and negative results, and some had been at the lab for a while. About 25,000 of the unreliable tests were in the central Florida area.
AdventHealth president and CEO Terry Shaw said the company will notify patients who are impacted.
AdventHealth has 49 hospitals in nine states. Company spokeswoman Melanie Lawhorn said two of those states are joint venture systems and were not affected by the unreliable testing.
CAIRO – Sudanâ€™s Health Ministry has reported the countryâ€™s highest one-day tally of coronavirus infections, with 325 new COVID-19 patients and six deaths.
Saturdayâ€™s figures have taken the countryâ€™s tally to 2,289 confirmed cases, including 97 fatalities, the ministry said. A total of 222 were discharged after recovering.
Most of the countryâ€™s COVID-19 patients were in the capital, Khartoum where authorities imposed round-the-clock curfew in April to stem the spread of the virus.
Sudanâ€™s health care system has been weakened by decades of war and sanctions. The country is still reeling from last yearâ€™s uprising that toppled longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.
ISTANBUL – Turkeyâ€™s health ministry says 41 more people have died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 4,096.
The death rate is the lowest registered since the end of March.
Minister Fahrettin Koca also tweeted Saturday that 1,610 new infections were confirmed, which brings the total number of confirmed cases 148,067.
Fifteen provinces, including Istanbul, are on a four-day lockdown. The country has instituted partial lockdowns to combat the novel coronavirus. People under 20 and above 65 have been stuck at home for weeks, though they are now allowed to leave for a few hours on allotted days.
Other easing measures have gone into effect, including the opening of malls, barbershops and hair salons.
The number of provinces under lockdown on weekends and national holidays has dropped from 31 to 15.
ROME – Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte acknowledged on Saturday that the reopening of the Italian economy brings a risk of new outbreaks of the coronavirus but said â€˜â€™we must accept it.â€™â€™
Conte told reporters during a press conference that the nationwide lockdown that began in early March had brought â€˜â€™the expected results,â€™â€™ putting the country in a position to expand economic activity in the second phase of reopening.
Stores, bars, cafes, restaurants, hairdressers and museums are among the business and cultural activities that can resume starting Monday. Gyms and swimming pools can reopen a week after. Travel between regions and into Italy from abroad will be permitted starting June 3.
Conte said the country must accept the risks and open before the availability of a vaccine. But an extensive monitoring system is in place and the government would intervene to close areas if there are new outbreaks.
ALBANY, N.Y. – Several dozen protesters gathered in front of the New York state Capitol on Saturday holding American flags and signs demanding that businesses reopen.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo began to allow large swaths of northern and central New York to begin reopening on Friday, permitting certain businesses such as construction to open their doors under safety guidelines. But residents in downstate areas hard-hit by cases of COVID-19 remain under tight restrictions as their communities try to lower infection rates and amass enough testing and tracing to reopen in coming weeks.
New Yorkâ€™s ban on all non-essential gatherings remains in effect.
NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans began taking its first steps Saturday toward loosening two months of restrictions on businesses, restaurants and houses of worship.
The city is restricting buildings to 25% of capacity and requiring restaurants, nail salons and other businesses to only take customers by reservation. Malls and retail stores can reopen, but casinos, video poker, live entertainment and bars are still closed.
Officials are still urging people to stay home as much as possible and requiring people to wear masks in public unless exercising.
The coronavirus struck New Orleans so quickly in March there were worries the pandemic would overwhelm the state health system. Hospitalizations have been going down for nearly a month, but officials warned a spike in cases or deaths could lead to putting restrictions back in place.
CINCINNATI – Just days after announcing it would end hazard â€œheroâ€ pay to front-line workers, Kroger says it will give them extra â€œthank youâ€ bonuses.
Thatâ€™s according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The move comes after an outcry from the grocery storeâ€™s union, which said workers are still risking their lives by coming to work.
The bonus is $400 for full-time workers and $200 for part-time workers, to be paid in two installments, Kroger announced. Hazard pay was a $2-per-hour supplement.
The Cincinnati-based grocer estimates the new bonus will provide $130 million to its workers.
United Food and Commercial Workers International estimates that nationwide at least 65 grocery workers have died at Kroger and other retailers after contracting the coronavirus.
RIO DE JANEIRO – A small plane carrying a doctor sick with COVID-19 crashed in the Brazilian state of Ceara on Friday night, killing all four people on the aircraft, according to online news site G1, citing the stateâ€™s firefighters.
The sick doctor was being transferred to an intensive care unit in his home state of Piaui. Two medical staffers treating him, as well as the pilot, were also on the plane.
The Ceara Fire Department and Sao Bernardo municipality, where the plane crashed, did not immediately respond to requests for information.
MILAN – Italy recorded the lowest number of deaths in a 24-hour period since early in its coronavirus lockdown at just 153.
That brings the total in the epidemic to 31,763, the civil protection agency reported on Saturday. The last time the death count was that low was March 9, the day after the nationwide lockdown was announced.
The number of confirmed new infections rose by 875 for a total of 224,760, while the number of currently infected dropped to just over 70,000.
KATHMANDU, Nepal – Nepal reported its first confirmed coronavirus death.
The Health Ministry says a new mother fell sick and died Thursday at a hospital near Kathmandu. Hospital results showed she tested positive for the virus.
The 29-year-old woman had given birth on May 8 in Kathmandu and returned home. She was brought to a hospital after felling sick. Authorities have sealed the hospital, her village and are contacting people she met in the past few days.
Nepal has 281 confirmed coronavirus cases. A lockdown on March 24 has been extended several times and scheduled to end Sunday.
All flights and ground transport have been halted and people are prohibited from leaving their houses. All schools and most markets are closed.
ATHENS, Greece – Greek authorities have announced two new deaths from COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 162.
There were nine new confirmed cases, with the total at 2,819.
The relaxation of quarantine measures continued Saturday, with 515 organized beaches opened across the country amid a heatwave with temperatures approaching 100 degrees. On Monday, people will be allowed to travel to all destinations in mainland Greece and the island of Crete.
Health authorities have approved opening bars, cafes and restaurants on May 25.
BUDAPEST, Hungary – Hungaryâ€™s government says coronavirus restrictions will gradually lift in Budapest starting next week.
Because of more infections, the capital city trails the rest of the country, where restrictions were eased May 4.
In Budapest, all stores will be allowed to open from Monday, though the use of face masks or scarves will remain mandatory in stores and on public transportation.
Between 9 a.m. and noon, food stores and pharmacies will continue to serve only those over 65. Parks and playgrounds will open, along with the Budapest Zoo and outdoor pools. Restaurants can serve customers only outdoors, on terraces or in gardens.
While universities will be allowed to open Monday, schools across the country remain closed.
Hungary has registered 3,473 coronavirus cases and 448 deaths.
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – Pakistan reopened its two key border crossings with Afghanistan to allow for trade and movement of people between the two countries.
The announcement comes about six weeks after the government closed the borders with neighboring Afghanistan and Iran to help contain the spread of the coronavirus. So far, no decision has been to reopen the border with Iran, which has been hard hit by the virus.
The government says those traveling between Pakistan and Afghanistan must follow social distancing guidelines.
Pakistan reported 31 more deaths from the coronavirus Saturday, raising virus-related deaths to 834.
Pakistan has nearly 39,000 confirmed cases.
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Ohio prison system plans to resume accepting inmates from county jails to begin their prison sentences, a practice suspended during the coronavirus pandemic to reduce overcrowding.
On Monday, the state will take up to 50 inmates a day at the Correctional Reception Center in central Ohio. Authorities will hold inmates a minimum of 35 days before transferring them to facilities around the state based on their security level and other factors.
The agency needs to resume housing inmates as Ohio courts reopen, says JoEllen Smith, spokeswoman for the Department of Rehabilitation and Correction.
â€œReopening the reception process will be done in a gradual controlled manner while we continue to carefully monitor county jail operations,â€ Smith said.
The announcement comes even as positive cases of COVID-19 continue to rise in Ohio prisons along with inmate deaths. More than 4,500 inmates system-wide have tested positive or nearly one in 10. Some 60 inmates have died across seven institutions.
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