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:
– Voting rights activists suing North Carolina over absentee ballot requirements.
– Trump visits his private golf club in Virginia on Memorial Day weekend.
– Iraq sees spike in coronavirus cases as the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end.
– New York state records 24-hour death total under 100.
RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolina has failed to change its election laws to ensure that voters can safely cast ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic, voting rights advocates claim in a federal lawsuit.
The nonprofit Democracy North Carolina and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina sued Friday on behalf of several elderly or disabled residents whose medical conditions make them more vulnerable to coronavirus.
The lawsuit alleges that several aspects of North Carolinaâ€™s absentee vote-by-mail requirements are unconstitutional because voters will have to risk exposure to COVID-19 to successfully vote.
For example, mail-in absentee voters are required to complete the ballot in the presence of two witnesses or a notary. State law also requires voters to submit their registration applications at least 25 days before the election or else register in-person at an early voting site, the suit notes.
The lawsuit says that will result in millions of state residents either losing their right to vote or being forced to compromise their health in order to cast a ballot. The state Board of Elections and other state officials are named as defendants.
STURGIS, S.D. – The mayor of Sturgis says city officials canâ€™t stop people from coming to the annual motorcycle gathering in the Black Hills of South Dakota, regardless of the new coronavirus.
The 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is scheduled for Aug. 7-16. The City Council has said it would make an official decision in mid-June on whether to go forward with hosting the event, the Rapid City Journal reported.
Mayor Mark Carstensen said in a Facebook video that â€œtourism is comingâ€ to the Black Hills and Sturgis. A manager with The Hotel Sturgis said all 22 rooms have been booked for the week of the rally and there is a waiting list.
DOVER, Del. – The University of Delaware says it is laying off more than 1,100 part-time employees, mostly students, in a move to cut costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The News Journal reports that students account for 805 of the 1,146 part-time employees who were notified of their layoffs on Thursday.
An email to employees said the layoffs, which take effect on June 1, do not affect adjunct faculty, graduate students, work-study students or employees whose wages are paid through external funding.
But many adjunct professors will not have a teaching position in the fall due to a hiring freeze.
In April, the university announced that it faced a $65 million budget shortfall due to pandemicâ€™s financial toll, including revenue lost from prorated housing and canceled athletic events.
The university hopes to reopen campus in phases starting June 1 with certain research facilities.
BAGHDAD – Iraqâ€™s Health Ministry is reporting the steepest single-day spike in confirmed coronavirus cases since the government began recording cases in late February.
The ministry reported 308 new cases Saturday, one day ahead of celebrations to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Curfew hours had been relaxed during the month of fasting, which contributed to higher daily rates of infection.
According to ministry figures, more than 4,200 people have tested positive for the virus in Iraq. At least 152 people have died.
Roads have been clogged with traffic and supermarkets and shops have been packed with people preparing for the celebrations, likely contributing to the increase in infections.
ALBANY, N.Y. – New York state reported its lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths in weeks in what Gov. Andrew Cuomo described Saturday as a critical benchmark.
The daily death tally was 84 after a peak of 799 on April 8.
Reducing the stateâ€™s daily death count to fewer than 100 seemed almost impossible several weeks ago, the Democratic governor said. That figure has remained stubbornly high even amid other signs of encouragement.
â€œIn my head, I was always looking to get under 100,â€ Cuomo said. â€œFor me, itâ€™s a sign that weâ€™re making real progress.â€
The number of hospitalized patients in the state that has been the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. continued to fall, dropping to over 4,600.
Cuomo also announced that the region along the Hudson River north of New York City and south of Albany is set to begin reopening Tuesday, and that Long Island could follow suit Wednesday.
ATHENS – Two fatalities from COVID-19 were reported in Greece during the most recent 24-hour period, bringing the death toll to 171, health authorities announced Saturday.
Another three new infections have been recorded since Friday afternoon, raising the nation’s total to 2,876. The number of patients on ventilators stands at 20, while 99 have left intensive care.
Greek authorities say they have performed 152,998 tests for the disease.
ROME – Italy on Saturday registered 669 new cases of COVID-19, two-thirds of them in the northern region of Lombardy, which has been the hardest-hit since the outbreak began.
Figures from the most recent 24-hour period since Friday evening saw 119 deaths registered. Officially, Italy has 32,735 deaths from COVID-19.
According to Health Ministry data, the latest cases raised the nationâ€™s overall tally of confirmed coronavirus cases to 229,327. All of Italyâ€™s regions, with the exception of Lombardy, registered no more than a few dozen new cases each on Saturday, and many regions had numbers of new infections in the single digits.
Eager to revive tourism, the government has said people will be allowed to resume travel between regions starting June 3, but travel restrictions could remain if thereâ€™s an uptick of infections.
Italy eased many stay-at-home restrictions on May 18, including allowing public Masses to be held and restaurants and cafes to serve sit-down customers.
ISTANBUL – Turkeyâ€™s health minister announced 32 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the countryâ€™s death toll to 4,308.
Fahrettin Koca also tweeted Saturday 1,186 confirmed infections in the previous 24 hours, the highest number of the week. The total number of infections has reached 155,686. The testing number also was the highest, with more than 40,000 performed.
Turkeyâ€™s transport minister said some intercity trains will resume limited operations on Thursday as the country readies to restart domestic tourism. Passengers will be required to obtain a travel certification code from a government phone application. Those above 65 and under 20 will also need to get an additional travel permit as a full curfew imposed on those age groups continues, except for a few hours each week.
Turkeyâ€™s minister of youth and sports announced all quarantine measures for Turkish citizens coming from abroad had been completed. Some 77,441 people were placed in mandatory quarantines in dormitories since March to curb the diseaseâ€™s spread.
LOS ANGELES – While most of California took another step to partly reopen in time for Memorial Day weekend, Los Angeles County didnâ€™t join the party.
The nationâ€™s most populous county is not looking to reopen more widely until July 4th. The number of coronavirus cases havenâ€™t lowered to meet the new state standards for allowing additional businesses and recreational activities.
The large nursing home population has accounted for many cases and deaths, along with dense neighborhoods of people more at risk of exposure.
Los Angeles County, with a quarter of the stateâ€™s nearly 40 million residents, accounts for about half of its COVID-19 cases and half of the stateâ€™s more than 3,600 deaths.
ORLANDO, Fla. – People living in rural communities and on tribal lands have been among the toughest to count in the census, even before the pandemic.
The U.S. Census Bureau suspended work this spring, pushing those efforts even further behind. That concerns advocates in rural America and Indian Country.
Alaska, West Virginia, New Mexico and other states with large rural populations are lagging the rest of the nation in answering the once-a-decade questionnaire.
Those states have the largest concentration of households that rely on getting the forms from visiting census workers. Ultimately, it could cost them congressional seats and federal funding for highways, schools and health care.
PARIS – French authorities have apologized for using a row of pineapples to illustrate social distancing measures in a public service notice for the Caribbean island of Martinique.
Critics denounced the notice, shared on government social media accounts, as racist and trivializing the health crisis. Martinique, a former French slave colony, reopened its beaches this week.
The regional administration withdrew the posters and issued a statement saying, â€œwe apologize if it hurt some of you. The only goal was to show the importance of distancing in the face of the epidemic.â€
The French government sent a warship and military cargo planes to its Caribbean territories to help fight the epidemic. But activists in Martinique argue authorities didnâ€™t do enough to protect islanders, and filed a lawsuit accusing the government of putting residentsâ€™ lives at risk by not shutting off the islands earlier to cruise ships and other tourists.
STERLING, Va. – President Donald Trump is visiting one of his private golf clubs for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump opened Memorial Day weekend with a trip Saturday to Trump National Golf Club in northern Virginia.
Itâ€™s his first time at one of his private golf properties since an early March trip to his golf club in West Palm Beach, Florida. That was several days before Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus outbreak.
The outing came a day after Trump said places of worship are â€œessentialâ€ and told governors to allow them to reopen. He has been pushing for states to fully reopen months after closing businesses and outdoor venues to help slow the spread of the virus.
The U.S. leads the world with a reported 1.6 million coronavirus cases and more than 96,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil has prohibited most foreigners from entering the country for another 30 days.
The country is home to the third highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections in the world after the United States and Russia.
Commercial traffic is not affected by the measure and Brazilians and local residents will be allowed to enter. The decision was published in the official Gazette on Friday night, citing â€œhealth reasons.â€
Brazil has reported more than 330,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 21,000 deaths. Experts consider those numbers under counts because of the widespread lack of testing.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka says curfew restrictions countrywide will be limited to night time only starting on Tuesday.
Curfew restrictions in capital Colombo and Gampaha districts where most of the COVID-19 patients have been reported in the county will be eased for the first time since March.
Curfew will be in force throughout the country only between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. starting next Tuesday, according to a statement from the presidentâ€™s office.
It also announced a lifting of travel restrictions between districts for the first time since March other than in Colombo and Gampaha districts.
Sri Lanka has reported 1,085 COVID-19 cases and nine deaths.
PARIS – Franceâ€™s health minister wants to limit use of a popular malaria drug as a coronavirus treatment after a new study found it ineffective and warned of increased health risks.
Olivier Veran tweeted Saturday that he asked Franceâ€™s public health council to draft new rules for prescribing hydroxychloroquine and other treatments within 48 hours.
He specifically cited a study of 100,000 patients worldwide, published Friday in the Lancet, saying hydroxychloroquine and related drug chloroquine were ineffective against the virus and were tied to a greater risk of death and heart rhythm problems.
Prominent French virologist Dr. Didier Raoult drew international attention â€“ including from U.S. President Donald Trump â€“ for his research early in the pandemic suggesting hydroxychloroquine reduced virus symptoms. Raoultâ€™s office didnâ€™t comment on the ministerâ€™s move.
France included the drug in a trial of multiple treatments and allowed its use for hospitalized patients.
ALBANY, N.Y. – Gov. Andrew Cuomo gave New Yorkers a reprieve from cabin fever by easing the stateâ€™s ban on gatherings in time for the Memorial Day weekend.
The governor signed an order Friday allowing people to assemble in groups of 10 or fewer if they maintain social distance or wear masks when they canâ€™t.
New York City beaches are also open this weekend, but no swimming is allowed, and masks must be worn. Mayor Bill de Blasio has said the swimming ban is to curb the spread of the coronavirus by keeping people off public transportation.
BERLIN – A German health official says more than 40 people have tested positive for the coronavirus after a church service in Frankfurt.
Rene Gottschalk, the head of the cityâ€™s health office, told news agency dpa most arenâ€™t too ill and only one is in a hospital.
The deputy head of the Evangelical Christian Baptist congregation, which held the service, says it took place on May 10. He says the community had complied with hygiene rules set by authorities for the resumption of religious services.
Authorities say at least 16 infected are from nearby Hanau. They decided as a precaution to call off Muslim prayers planned for a stadium in Hanau on Sunday.
MADRID – Prime Minister Pedro SÃ¡nchez says Spain will reopen its borders to foreign tourists in July.
SÃ¡nchez also announced plans to declare 10 days of national mourning for the thousands of Spaniards who have died from the pandemic.
Spainâ€™s tourism sector has been grounded since the government declared a state of emergency to fight the pandemic in March, halting international travel and shuttering hotels.
Spain receives more than 80 million visitors each year. The tourism industry represents 12% of Spainâ€™s GDP and employs 2.6 million people. Its economic importance is even greater on Spainâ€™s Canary and Balearic Islands.
Thereâ€™s been more than 28,000 confirmed deaths in Spain from the virus, the fourth highest total behind the United States, Britain and Italy.
LONDON – Beachside communities along Englandâ€™s coast are urging people to stay away on the first holiday weekend since the easing of some coronavirus restrictions.
England on May 13 allowed people to drive any distance for exercise or recreation, though they must remain 2 meters (6 1/2 feet) apart from others. Rules remain tighter in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Thousands of people have flocked to English beaches during sunny spring weather since the rules were changed, to the concern of police and local authorities.
Authorities in the south coast town of Brighton issued a statement saying, â€œWish you were here — but not just yet,â€ stressing that hotels restaurants, bars and non-essential shops remain closed. Another major resort, Bournemouth, urged people to avoid the beach if it got busy.
More than 36,000 people with COVID-19 have died in the U.K., the second-highest confirmed total after the United States.
MOSCOW – Russia has reported 9,434 new cases of coronavirus infection in the past day.
The figures come after several days of daily increases below 9,000, but the count is lower than the more than 10,000 daily cases recorded earlier in the month.
Total cases in Russia now stand at 335,882 with 3,388 deaths, according to the national coronavirus task force and tally by Johns Hopkins. There were 139 deaths recorded over the past day. On Friday, Russia reported 150 deaths, its highest one-day toll.
Russiaâ€™s comparatively low mortality rate has raised eyebrows in the West, with some suggesting the countryâ€™s government may be underreporting virus-related deaths and manipulating the statistics.
Russian officials deny the allegations and attribute the low numbers to the effectiveness of the measures taken to curb the spread of the outbreak.
The United States leads the world with a reported 1.6 million cases and more than 96,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins.
ROME – Inmates at several Italian prisons will soon be making masks for themselves, penitentiary personnel and others.
Domenico Arcuri, Italyâ€™s commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency, says it is part of a wider effort to ensure that everyone has access to masks. Despite pledges weeks ago by Arcuri that people in Italy can buy low-priced surgical masks at pharmacies throughout the countries, many pharmacists say they havenâ€™t received them.
Arcuri says the masks, which cost a fixed price of 50-euro cents apiece, were being supplied to 20,000 smoke-shops throughout Italy. Tobacconistsâ€™ shops in Italy are a common fixture, which also sell bus tickets and other items.
Arcuri says masks will be available by June 17 to teachers and other school staff. The government expects schools will open in September.
DAMASCUS, Syria – The Syrian government has announced the largest single day jump of recorded cases in the country, where so far testing has been limited.
The health ministry said Saturday that 11 people tested positive upon their return from Kuwait, and that they were among Syrians repatriated from the Gulf country.
It brings the total recorded infections in Syria to 70 and four deaths. The war-torn nation has limited testing capabilities and a heavily damaged health system.
Two regions in the countryâ€™s north with a population of nearly 8 million people are outside of government control, so testing there has also been even more limited.
Health authorities have reported no infections in the rebel-held northwest.
In the northeast, the Kurdish-led government began carrying out its own testing and has so far recorded three infections and one death.
NEW DELHI – New cases of the coronavirus in India topped 6,000 for a second consecutive day, marking another record jump for the South Asian country in a 24-hour period.
India reported 6,654 new cases on Saturday, bringing the nationwide total to 125,102, including 3,720 deaths.
The rate of infection in the country of 1.3 billion has risen as a two-month lockdown has eased.
States with relatively few cases have seen spikes in recent days as residents, including migrant workers traveling on special trains, have returned home.
Authorities in the northeastern border state of Assam introduced criminal charges on Saturday for quarantine violators after more than 100 people in state quarantine facilities tested positive for COVID-19.
VATICAN CITY – The Vatican Museums will open up again on June 1 with all visitors wearing face masks and having their temperature checked before entry.
The Vatican said Saturday that medical staff will be present and that, since reservations will now be required, advance ticketing fees of 4 euros ($4.50) are being waived.
On the Museums itinerary is the Sistine Chapel, with its ceiling frescoed by Michelangelo, while on Fridays and Saturdays thirsty visitors can reserve an aperitif at sunset in a Vatican courtyard.
Ticket sales and souvenir revenues are a major source of income for the Holy See. For now, the Museums are suspending the free-entry initiative on the last Sunday of each month.
Open bus tours of the manicured Vatican Gardens will be offered, and on weekends the public can tour the summer residence of popes in Castel Gandolfo, a hill town near Rome.
There have been 12 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in tiny Vatican City State or among its employees.
BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending her countryâ€™s coronavirus restrictions and calling on her compatriots to keep respecting social distancing rules.
Germany started loosening its lockdown restrictions on April 20 and since then has at least partly reopened many sectors. At the same time, the country has seen frequent protests against lockdown measures.
Merkel said in her weekly video message Saturday that the measures were necessary, and that officials must continue to justify why some restrictions canâ€™t be lifted while ensuring that they are proportionate.
Merkel said that Germany has “succeeded so far in achieving the aim of preventing our health system being overwhelmed.â€
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