Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Protests Set Off Fears of New Outbreaks – The New York Times

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As protesters flood streets across the country, officials worry that they could be spreading the virus.

Mass protests over police violence against black Americans in at least 75 U.S. cities have spurred concern that the gatherings will seed new outbreaks.

Speaking on CNN, Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, said she was concerned that the protests could increase infections in communities of color, which are already being disproportionately hit by the disease. Death rates among black Americans are double those of whites, and the economic toll of lockdowns has also inflicted disproportionate economic pain.

“I’m extremely concerned we are seeing mass gatherings,” Ms. Bottoms said. “We’re going to see the other side of this in a couple of weeks.”

Larry Hogan, the Republican governor of Maryland, echoed those concerns. Mr. Hogan told CNN the gatherings of “thousands of people jammed in together in close proximity” could lead to a spike in cases.

Dr. Ashish Jha, a professor of global health at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, urged protesters to take safety precautions, including wearing face masks and practicing social distancing.

On the CBS program “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, noted that Minnesota had seen an uptick in cases before the protests. He also predicted that the protests would ignite chains of transmission.

“This country isn’t through this epidemic,” he said. “This is continuing to expand, but at a much slower rate, but it’s still expanding.”

Dr. Theodore Long, who is leading New York City’s contact tracing efforts with its public hospitals agency, urged anyone who had been involved in the demonstrations to get tested for the virus.

The protests, spurred by the killing of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police, are pulsing through a country ragged with anger and anxiety. More than 100,000 Americans who were infected have died, and some 40 million are out of work.

The outbreak has inflicted disproportionate health and economic tolls on black and Latino communities.

“To have corona, and then this — it’s like a gut shot,” said Jimmy Mills, a barber in a working-class area of Minneapolis.

The protests could affect planned reopenings. Mayor Carlos Gimenez of Miami-Dade County said on Sunday that the unrest had prompted him to keep local beaches closed, rather than reopening on Monday as scheduled.

Nations expand reopenings, and global cases pass 6 million.

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This week, as global coronavirus cases pass six million, many nations are entering a pivotal period, giving students, shoppers and travelers more freedom to return to some sense of normalcy after months under lockdown.

Greece, seeking to bolster its crucial tourism sector, announced one of the more aggressive reopening plans. After initially announcing on Friday that it would allow entries from 29 countries whose outbreaks were mostly contained, it shifted to allow flights from all countries.

From June 15 to June 30, the Greek foreign ministry said on Saturday, the flights will go to Greece’s two largest airports, in Athens and Thessaloniki. Passengers from the 29-nation list, including Germany, Australia and South Korea, will be subject to random tests. Those flying in from countries deemed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency to have a high risk of virus transmission will be tested.

As of July 1, all Greek airports will reopen to international flights, with random screening for all passengers. Arrivals by sea will be allowed as of July 1, also subject to random testing.

In Britain, more stores will be allowed to open starting Monday, and small groups from different households can meet outdoors. Primary schools will open in England with new social-distancing rules and spaced seating. The government also gave the green light for professional sports to resume under strict protocols, according to government guidelines published on Saturday.

Other countries are creating “travel bubbles,” allowing visitors from nations with low infection rates.

Norway and Denmark will allow leisure travel between the two countries, excluding Sweden, where coronavirus infections are higher. Norway will also allow entry to business travelers from the other Nordic countries from Monday, the government said.

But in Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Sunday that he would ask Parliament for a sixth and final extension to the state of emergency, allowing his central government to keep control over the lockdown in Madrid, Barcelona and other parts of the country until June 21.

Mr. Sánchez told a news conference that Spain needed to “immediately” recover its tourism sector, but that quarantine rules for outside visitors would be kept in place until July 1. “We cannot throw away all the work that we have done,” he said.

Congregations emerge from quarantine to celebrate the Pentecost and to call for change.

In communities from the Deep South to California, congregations that had been sequestered for months ventured forth at a social distance on Sunday in search of comfort, prayer and political expression.

With their sick and elderly at home and their nation wracked by the pandemic, evangelical congregations across California violated state health rules in the name of unity.

“Outside the confines of these walls we hear the sound of a very broken world,” Samuel Rodriguez, the pastor of New Season Christian Worship Center in Sacramento, said.

At least a dozen evangelical churches in California made a coordinated return to church timed to Pentecost, a holy day particularly tied to fundamentalist worship. Some in that group were also seeking to pressure the state’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, into dropping a 100-person cap on church attendance that the state had enacted to curb the spread of the disease.

Supporters acknowledged the legal and health risks, but said their congregants’ spiritual health would suffer if they delayed their return to public worship.

“It’s been terrible, an unimaginable tide of grief,” said the Rev. W. Franklyn Richardson, the senior pastor at Grace Baptist Church in Mount Vernon, N.Y., said of the moment. Mr. Richardson, who is African-American, noted that during the worst of the pandemic, he was making three to five condolence calls a day.

Still, he said, the church has not, and cannot, abdicate its central role in pushing for positive change. “I think the church has to help make sure it is a wake up call,” he said of the unrest. “The church has had to be a safety net for a society that has ignored the community.”

Nicaragua has resisted imposing lockdown rules. Now the virus appears to be raging through the country.

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Nicaragua is one of the last countries to resist adopting strict measures to curb the spread of the virus. It never closed its schools. It did not shutter businesses. Throughout the pandemic, the government not only allowed mass events — it organized them.

Now there are signs everywhere that the virus is raging across the country, though the government insists it has the situation under control.

Long lines have formed at hospitals, and pharmacies have run out of basic medicines. Families of people who die of respiratory illnesses are being forced to hold “express burials” at all hours of the night, for fear of contagion.

Health organizations are struggling to get accurate case numbers. Testing is limited and controlled by the government. Doctors and activists are bracing for disaster, just two years after antigovernment uprisings against President Daniel Ortega turned violent.

Facing withering criticism, the government released a report last Monday stating that critics were trying to sow chaos, and that the vast majority of people in the country, the second-poorest in the hemisphere, could not afford to lose work under a strict lockdown.

Elena Cano said her 46-year-old son, Camilo Meléndez, the facilities manager at the National Assembly building, died on May 19 from “unusual severe pneumonia,” after trying to get medical care several times.

“The whole world has to understand the truth of the crime that our government is committing,” she said.

Some of the biggest U.S. sports teams have announced plans to return.

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Once more, the pronouncements arrived in a torrent, though this time they were about rebirth rather than cancellation.

The N.B.A. was planning to start up again in late July. The N.H.L. announced a playoff tournament would take place through the summer. Major League Baseball was continuing negotiations with its players for a shortened season. The N.F.L. was moving toward opening training facilities. Soccer leagues for both men and women in North America were working toward finalizing plans for summer tournaments. Top-tier soccer leagues in England, Italy and Spain announced they would resume play in June.

After months filled with pessimism, hesitation, quiet planning and uncertainty about whether major sports would happen again in 2020, nearly every sport was preparing to come back, provided that work agreements with players could be negotiated and that public health authorities raised no objections.

With reopening plans underway in all 50 states and with elected officials and the public anxious for business activity to resume, league officials had a growing sense that there would be minimal opposition if they moved ahead with plans.

Also, people who work closely with the leagues and team owners said, the financial consequences of not returning, potentially billions of dollars in losses across the leagues, made trying to come back vital.

Pope Francis offers his first blessings to a crowd since March.

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Pope Francis appeared in person on Sunday to bless a gathering of the faithful in Saint Peter’s Square for the first time since the coronavirus exploded in Italy and the government imposed a national lockdown in March.

“Today since the square is open we can return,” he said to a scattered audience that applauded as he approached an open window of his private study. “It is a pleasure.”

Francis recited the Regina Coeli prayer and gave his blessing to the crowd.

“You know that from a crisis such as this we will not be the same as before,” he said. “Let’s have the courage to change in order to be better than before.”

The pope began reciting the Angelus prayer from the Library of the Apostolic Palace on March 8 because of the pandemic. “It is a bit strange this Angelus prayer today,” he said then, “with the pope ‘caged’ in the library. But I can see you. I am close to you.”

Earlier Sunday, the pope celebrated a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica in front of a limited number of worshipers. In his homily, he urged people to fight three enemies: narcissism, victimhood and pessimism, saying that they “prevent us from giving ourselves” during the pandemic.

Most tenants have been able to pay their rent, but those in smaller buildings are struggling more.

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Since April, U.S. landlords have looked to the first of the month fearing that tenants would stop paying their rent. For the most part, that has not happened. Despite a 14.7 percent unemployment rate and millions of new jobless claims each week, collections are only slightly below where they were last year, when the economy was booming.

How can this be? Part of the answer is a little negotiation and a lot of government money. The $2 trillion CARES Act, which backstopped household finances with stimulus checks and extended unemployment benefits, has kept many tenants current on their monthly balances. At the same time, many landlords have reduced rents or are partly or completely forgiving overdue payments.

At the same time, many of the numbers showing only a slight dip skew toward higher-end buildings. Other surveys show that buildings with poorer tenants have lower collection rates.

And deferrals and partial payments appear to be increasing: Apartment List, a rental listing service, said 31 percent of respondents failed to make the full May payment on time, up from a quarter the month before. Hoping for a swift recovery, many landlords are telling tenants they can pay later, knowing this often won’t happen.

The rate of those who have been able to continue paying rent is unlikely to remain stable without a swift and robust recovery, which is becoming increasingly unlikely, or without another big injection of government money, which Senate Republicans say will not happen anytime soon.

American households were struggling with rent long before the economy went into free fall, and there are signs — from an increase in partial payments to surveys that show many tenants are putting rent on their credit cards and struggling to pay for essentials like food — that this pressure is building.

The wealthy fear flying, too. But they have private jets as an option.

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Air travel has plummeted in the pandemic, but private jet service has not fallen as hard, in part because of a rise in new paying customers.

For years, jet service providers have ferried executives and wealthy leisure travelers who pay high fees for the privacy and security. Now, with business travel curtailed, those same companies are shifting to meet rising demand from people worried about getting on a commercial flight.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, one of the busiest travel times in the United States in years past, traffic in the private jet industry was 58 percent of the volume from the same time last year, according to Argus, a company that tracks aviation data. But commercial flights fared worse, plunging to 12 percent of the 2019 level.

Five weeks ago, private flights had fallen to 20 to 25 percent of what they were the same time last year, said Doug Gollan, the founder of Privatejetcardcomparisons.com, a research site for consumers. “Now to be back to 60 percent of pre-Covid levels shows the people who have access to private travel are getting back out there,” he said.

NetJets, the largest private jet operator in the world, is seeing a rush in interest from new customers, said Patrick Gallagher, its president.

“May is on track to be the best month of new customer relationships that we’ve seen in the past 10 years,” Mr. Gallagher said.

Companies that carved out a niche with private international flights are also reporting an increase. Thomas Flohr, founder and chairman of VistaJet, which has longer-range jets, said the company’s refueling landings in Anchorage, a major stop for transcontinental flights to Asia, were up 250 percent since the pandemic began.

As a Maryland beach town reopens, few masks are seen.

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Thousands of maskless vacationers flocked to the Maryland town of Ocean City this weekend as the Greater Washington region began to emerge from a coronavirus lockdown.

As Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland has emphasized, the state is at Phase 1 of his “Roadmap to Recovery,” which includes restrictions to keep the virus from spreading. Among them are a requirement that face coverings be worn inside businesses.

But at the Quiet Storm Surf Shop, a clerk folding T-shirts said, “We make them optional.” On the boardwalk outside, a police officer said that the problem was that merchants have to enforce the mask order, but many are reluctant to alienate their first summer customers.

Not all of the tourists were nonchalant about the restrictions. Sitting on a wall dividing the boardwalk from the beach, Kelly and Dan Goddard, who live in a Baltimore suburb, were wearing masks. Their children were sporting tie-dyed cloth ones sewn by relatives.

“There are a lot of unknowns and not a lot of real clear guidance,” Mr. Goddard said. “But I don’t think people realize how serious things are, or they don’t care.”

A drive-in theater keeps Czech drama alive during the lockdown.

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Patrick Kingsley, an international correspondent, and Laetitia Vancon, a photojournalist, are driving more than 3,700 miles to explore the reopening of the European continent after coronavirus lockdowns. Read all their dispatches.

PRAGUE — To attend her first play in more than two months, Marie Reslova, a prominent Czech theater critic, drove into Prague, headed to a large vegetable market, parked next to a convertible sports car and switched off her engine.

Soon, actors from the Czech National Theater strode onto a platform a few yards from Ms. Reslova’s windshield.

The play had begun. And she hadn’t even left her car.

The Czech Republic enforced tighter restrictions than most European countries to combat the coronavirus pandemic. For several weeks, Czechs were barred even from jogging without a mask. Even after the government eased that restriction, masks were still mandatory in most other public contexts.

But the country also loosened the lockdown earlier than most — and that has made it a laboratory for how arts and culture can adapt to a context in which some restrictions on social life have been lifted, while others remain in place.

The drive-in theater at Prague’s vegetable market was an ambitious example. To circumvent restrictions on public gatherings, audience members watched plays, concerts and comedy from behind their steering wheels — in a monthlong program that ended with a variety act by the National Theater last Sunday evening, attended by Ms. Reslova.

Across Europe, drive-ins have become a familiar means of circumventing pandemic restrictions. By default, cars keep their occupants socially distanced, leading even nightclub owners and priests to set up drive-in discos and churches.

Read the full dispatch here.

Merkel declined Trump’s invitation to attend the G7 in person. Then Trump postponed the summit.

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Credit…Pool photo by Henning Schacht

President Trump told reporters on Saturday that he was postponing a Group of 7 meeting scheduled to be held in the United States next month. Earlier Saturday, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany had said she would not attend in person, citing concerns about the coronavirus.

Mr. Trump also said he wanted to invite Russia to rejoin the group.

Making the announcement while returning from the SpaceX launch in Florida, the president said he also planned to invite Australia, India and South Korea to the summit, with an adviser adding that the idea was to bring together traditional allies to discuss China. He said he now wanted to hold the meeting in September.

“I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world. It’s a very outdated group of countries,” Mr. Trump said. But his intention to unilaterally invite Russia — which was indefinitely suspended in March 2014 after the annexation of Crimea — is certain to inflame other member nations.

In March, with the coronavirus spreading around the world, Mr. Trump said that the June summit would take place virtually. But he changed plans this month, saying he might invite the participating leaders to Washington as a demonstration of a return to normalcy.

Australia said on Sunday that it would welcome an official invitation, and a government spokesman told reporters that Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the United States had made contact to discuss the matter.

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Here are a few ways you can help.

Two of Islam’s holiest sites reopen to worshipers.

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Throngs of Muslim worshipers returned to formal services in Israel and Saudi Arabia on Sunday as two of Islam’s holiest sites reopened for the first time since being closed more than two months ago because of the coronavirus.

At the Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, Islam’s third-holiest site, worshipers entering the compound for dawn prayers were greeted by officials who took their temperatures, distributed masks and implored them to follow social distancing guidelines.

“We are depending on your heedfulness,” Omar Kiswani, the mosque’s director, said through a loudspeaker system.

Ibrahim Zaghed, 25, an unemployed resident of Jerusalem, wept as he laid down his prayer mat. “Today is no different than a holiday,” said Mr. Zaghed, who was not wearing a mask. “I feel like a complete person again.”

The compound, which Jews revere as their holiest site and refer to as the Temple Mount, is often at the center of tensions between Israelis and Palestinians.

In Saudi Arabia, the government said that 90,000 mosques across the kingdom had reopened on Sunday, including parts of the Prophet’s Mosque in Medina, considered Islam’s second-holiest site. The most revered site in Islam, the Kaaba in Mecca, remains closed.

Imam Kiswani of the Aqsa Mosque, who estimated that about 3,000 people participated in the prayers on Sunday, said that while most followed social-distancing guidelines, some needed to exercise “greater attentiveness.”

Manal Balala, 50, a housekeeper from Jerusalem who was wearing a mask and gloves, was overjoyed as she socialized with her friends after prayers.

“I feel like my soul has been restored,” she said.

Reporting was contributed by Antonio de Luca, Dave Taft, Umi Syam, Alfonso Flores Bermúdez, Frances Robles, Alexander Villegas, Patricia Mazzei, Niki Kitsantonis, Roni Caryn Rabin, Raphael Minder, Karen Zraick, Conor Dougherty, Mark Landler, Stephen Castle, Ron Lieber, Paul Sullivan, Emma Bubola, Jack Healy, Dionne Searcey, Patrick Kingsley, Sharon Otterman, Elizabeth Williamson, Elian Peltier, Yonette Joseph, Hannah Beech, Maggie Haberman, Mike Ives, Aimee Ortiz, Suhasini Raj, Adam Rasgon, Kai Schultz and Derrick Bryson Taylor.