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Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves a news conference Monday in Tokyo, after lifting the country's nationwide state of emergency over the coronavirus. Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe leaves a news conference Monday in Tokyo, after lifting the country's nationwide state of emergency over the coronavirus.

Kim Kyung-Hoon/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Japan has completely lifted its nationwide state of emergency.

The country's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, announced Monday that officials have loosened the coronavirus restrictions in the last five of the country's 47 prefectures: Tokyo and its surrounding regions, as well as the northern island of Hokkaido.

"We've set some of the most strict criteria in the world to lift the declaration," Abe told a news conference, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK, "and we concluded that prefectures across the country have met that standard."

Japan implemented its state of emergency in Tokyo and nearby prefectures in mid-April and expanded the order less than two weeks later to include the entire country. Last month's announcements came amid a surge of new coronavirus cases in the country, which at one point topped 1,000 confirmed cases in a day — but those numbers have begun to taper in recent weeks, and government officials have been lifting the weeks-long state of emergency piecemeal.

Now, new cases number in the dozens, at most.

"Recently, new infection cases have fallen below 50 for the entire nation," Abe said, "and what was once nearly 10,000 hospitalized cases — that has now fallen below 2,000."

Abe attributed the positive developments to what he touted as the "Japanese model," which included the nationwide state of emergency declaration and rigorous standards for social distancing. He added that the decision to lift the remaining state of emergency orders does not change the recommendation from government health officials to avoid crowded spaces and close contact with others.

Still, the prime minister's response to the virus has attracted its fair share of criticism. A recent survey published by the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun put Abe's approval rating at just 29% — a record low for the longtime leader, whose second stint in power began in 2012. Much of that dissatisfaction is tied to his government's handling of the pandemic, with the world's third-largest economy recently plunged into recession and critics pointing to what they call a botched testing rollout and an inadequate financial relief package.

The prime minister is also grappling with the controversy eddying around his pick for the Tokyo high public prosecutor's office, Hiromu Kurokawa, who, as a prosecutor, critics viewed as too close to Abe and who ultimately resigned last week after reports that Kurokawa violated coronavirus rules.

On Monday, Abe said that while the weeks-long state of emergency is ending, officials expect residents to carry on largely as they have been even as businesses reopen.

"Our businesses and daily routines will be completely disrupted if we continue with strict curbs on social and economic activity," Abe said, according to NHK. "From now on, it's important to think about how we can conduct business and live our lives while still controlling the risk of infection."

Memorial Day Honor Flights Canceled Because Of Coronavirus Crisis

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The Washington Monument and the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building are visible behind the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., on Memorial Day. Andrew Harnik/AP hide caption

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The Washington Monument and the dome of the U.S. Capitol Building are visible behind the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial in Arlington, Va., on Memorial Day.

Andrew Harnik/AP

Thousands of people who had planned to visit war memorials in Washington, D.C., this holiday weekend were forced to cancel this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. That includes veterans traveling with the nonprofit network Honor Flight, which recently suspended all trips at least until this fall.

"Our veterans that travel with us are still living, so their day is Veterans Day not Memorial Day," says Honor Flight CEO Meredith Rosenbeck. "But they go to honor their friends and comrades, those who have fallen."

Butch Meyer, 73, was scheduled to fly with Honor Flight this spring. He wanted to see his friend David Hollingsworth's name on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall.

"Holly was quite the buddy," says Meyer, who did two combat tours. "I had my vehicle blown out from under me. He was the first one to my aid. I got evac-ed out of there, and within two or three hours he had stepped on a mine and was killed. When you lose somebody close like that it impacts you for the rest of your life."

Meyer says he hopes to go in the fall. For some, that could be too long to wait. At 100 years old, Navy nurse Ruth Gunther is hoping she'll have a chance to make the trip to Washington whenever flights resume. She joined up in 1942 and worked treating troops wounded in the Pacific.

"One thing you miss when you get out of the service is that camaraderie that you had," she says, "Everybody that I knew well and kept up with already passed away."

Telling the World War II veterans that the trip was off, was the worst, says Honor Flight's Rosenbeck.

"We know some of our vets won't make it even to the fall if that's when we can fly again, but we knew also our priority is the safety of our veterans," she said.

For some of the vets, making the trip is part of taking care of their health.

"About 10 years ago, my counselor at the VA hospital said I needed to do something," says Vietnam vet Leland Shiro. "I was having so much difficulty emotionally — flashbacks, my sleeping, all that stuff."

Shiro's counselor advised him to go see the Vietnam memorial wall to help master his trauma. Ten years and a few aborted trips later, he was finally ready to go with Honor Flight. Then the pandemic cancelled his trip. Now 71, Shiro says he needs to make sure he doesn't use this as another excuse to avoid facing his demons.

"What it amounts to is it's just one more opportunity to not go, say, 'It ain't gonna happen, I quit,' " Shiro says. "But you know, I can't do that this time."

For all their disappointment this year, veterans know something about the common good, says Meyer, the Vietnam veteran.

"I don't want to be the person who goes out in the street and infects six other people," he says. "My place is to take care and be safe and to make other people safe. That's something we learned in the Marine Corps. You protect your comrades."

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is seen at a demonstration in favor of his government on Sunday. Andressa Anholete/Getty Images hide caption

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is seen at a demonstration in favor of his government on Sunday.

Andressa Anholete/Getty Images

President Trump is barring the entry of most non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil within the past 14 days, the White House announced on Sunday, citing concerns over Brazil's rapidly worsening coronavirus crisis.

"Today's action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country," White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

The president's proclamation exempts green card holders and some other categories of foreign nationals, primarily family members of U.S. citizens and permanent residents.

The new restrictions take effect beginning Thursday, but according to McEnany, they only apply to travel, not "the flow of commerce between the United States and Brazil."

Brazil has the world's second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus infections, behind only the United States, according to tracking by Johns Hopkins University. As of Sunday, the country had reported more than 347,000 cases of COVID-19 and at least 22,000 deaths.

Despite the country's growing infection rate, President Jair Bolsonaro has downplayed the risks of the pandemic. He has dismissed the virus as "a little flu" and in April joined protesters calling for the lifting of social isolation measures.

The Trump administration has already suspended travel from China, Iran and parts of Europe.

On Sunday, visitors strolled the pier at Coney Island beach. New York state parks reopened for the Memorial Day weekend at 50% capacity, and campgrounds were given the green light to reopen Monday. Kathy Willens/AP hide caption

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Kathy Willens/AP

On Sunday, visitors strolled the pier at Coney Island beach. New York state parks reopened for the Memorial Day weekend at 50% capacity, and campgrounds were given the green light to reopen Monday.

Kathy Willens/AP

New York is "decidedly in the reopening phase," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Sunday, as the state hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic gave sports leagues, campgrounds and veterinarian offices the green light to start up again, with modifications.

Professional sports leagues in the state are now able to begin training camps, Cuomo said during his daily press conference, adding that having teams come back, even without spectators, would mark a "return to normalcy."

"I believe that sports that can come back, without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena, do it," Cuomo said. "Do it. Work out the economics if you can, we want you up."

The Yankees and Mets were reported to be considering resuming spring training in Florida, but the Democratic governor's announcement would offer a path for them to do so at their stadiums in the Bronx and Queens, respectively. The NBA said Saturday it's in talks with Disney to restart its season in late July at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Florida.

While New York has made substantial progress in its fight against the pandemic in the last month — deaths have fallen on average to around 100 a day in the last week — Cuomo said Sunday that number rose slightly over the weekend.

On Saturday, 109 people in New York died from the virus, up from 84 on Friday.

The overall downward trend in New York COVID-19 related deaths stands in stark contrast to numbers from March and April, when the coronavirus pandemic was raging across the state. To date, New York has recorded nearly 360,000 cases and more than 28,000 deaths.

Cuomo's remarks followed his signing of an order Friday permitting state beaches to open for Memorial Day weekend at 50% capacity but with social distancing and other safety precautions in place.

A day ahead of Memorial Day, Cuomo also announced all campgrounds and RV parks would be able to reopen on Monday.

New York veterinarian practices will be allowed to open up on Tuesday, Cuomo said.

The governor also warned the state to not let up on social distancing or mask wearing, recalling the deadly second wave of the 1918 flu pandemic.

"You look back and look at the places that opened in an uncontrolled way, and you see that the virus came back, and came back with a fury," Cuomo said.

In Los Angeles, Relief And Caution As Locals Return To Venice Beach

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A sign displaying beach rules hangs along Venice Beach, where beachgoers returned this weekend following weeks of lockdown due to the coronavirus. Saul Gonzalez/KQED hide caption

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Saul Gonzalez/KQED

Can Americans return to fun in the sand and in the water while keeping themselves safe from the coronavirus? That's a question being put to the test this Memorial Day weekend as many Americans flock to newly reopened beaches, like Los Angeles' famed Venice Beach.

Except for still-closed stores that usually sell souvenirs to tourists and signs reminding people to wear masks, Venice Beach looked much like its normally eclectic self this weekend.

Skateboarders, cyclists and pedestrians passed each other on the boardwalk as the scent of marijuana smoke wafted through the air. There were even some street performers here and there, like juggler Michael Dorfman.

Dorfman is concerned about the pandemic, but not enough to stay away from Venice Beach, where he enjoys performing for locals and tourists.

"Everyone who comes to Venice Beach needs to see a juggler, so I want to be that juggler," said Dorfman. "So when someone asks them, 'Did you see a Venice Beach juggler?' they can say 'Yeah, I did,' and I can be that guy."

Dorfman thinks the reopening of Los Angeles-area beaches is helping people deal with pent-up coronavirus cabin fever.

"I think there's a lot of tension now, in Los Angeles especially," said Dorfman. "And I think getting outside will ease some of that tension."

Along with local hiking trails, L.A. closed its beaches in March to enforce social distancing. Authorities began reopening the beaches two weeks ago, although many beach parking lots remain closed to help limit crowds.

Although sun-bathing and picnicking at Venice and other Southern California beaches are prohibited, people are allowed to surf, jog or walk along the shore, but most people weren't wearing masks that the City of Los Angeles requires for outdoor activities.

Despite some lingering concerns about coronavirus contagion, Corina Avalos and her family were so eager to stroll on the sand, they left their home in Bakersfield, roughly 120 miles away, at four in the morning to get to Venice Beach.

But Avalos said she was ready to leave early if crowds got too large and social distancing was ignored.

"If we start seeing a lot of people we are going to head out," said Avalos. She said she packed plenty of face masks and sanitizer for the trip as an extra precaution.

One person who said he wasn't worried about packed beaches was surfer and Venice local Eric Britton. His thoughts were on surfing conditions, not the coronavirus.

"More likely I'll be in the water, so I'll feel even better if a swell comes and the waves are good," said Britton.

With that, Britton grabbed his surfboard and headed for the water, leaving pandemic worries behind on the shore.

Hong Kong police fired tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons as thousands of protesters rallied against proposed security measures aimed at tightening Beijing's grip on the semi-autonomous territory. Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong police fired tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons as thousands of protesters rallied against proposed security measures aimed at tightening Beijing's grip on the semi-autonomous territory.

Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong police fired tear gas, pepper spray and water cannons as thousands of protesters rallied against proposed security measures aimed at tightening Beijing's grip on the semi-autonomous territory.

Protesters amassed in some of Hong Kong's busiest retail districts Sunday afternoon, just days after China's parliament began working on a new anti-sedition and security laws, which have drawn criticism from pro-democracy activists. The protest was unauthorized and in defiance of social distancing rules.

Protesters march on a road during a pro-democracy rally against a proposed new security law in Hong Kong on Sunday. The proposed legislation is expected to ban treason, subversion and sedition, and follows repeated warnings from Beijing that it will no longer tolerate dissent in Hong Kong, which was shaken by months of massive, sometimes violent anti-government protests last year. Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Protesters march on a road during a pro-democracy rally against a proposed new security law in Hong Kong on Sunday. The proposed legislation is expected to ban treason, subversion and sedition, and follows repeated warnings from Beijing that it will no longer tolerate dissent in Hong Kong, which was shaken by months of massive, sometimes violent anti-government protests last year.

Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images

Not long after demonstrators rallied in the city's Causeway Bay and Wan Chai, riot police began turning tear gas and water cannons on the crowd. Media reports citing video of demonstrators say at one point, some protesters began throwing objects at police. Police accounts say demonstrators started fires and destroyed traffic lights.

" A large number of community facilities were damaged, multiple traffic lights were destroyed, road rail fences removed, and a large number of drainage covers and bricks on the road were crowded," Hong Kong police said in a statement.

At least 180 people were arrested, according to police, for unlawful and illegal assembly and misconduct in public places.

Riot Police use pepper spray on protesters during a protest against Beijing's national security legislation in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, Sunday. Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas in a popular shopping district as hundreds took to the streets Sunday to march against China's proposed tough national security legislation for the city. Kin Cheung/AP hide caption

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Kin Cheung/AP

Riot Police use pepper spray on protesters during a protest against Beijing's national security legislation in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong, Sunday. Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas in a popular shopping district as hundreds took to the streets Sunday to march against China's proposed tough national security legislation for the city.

Kin Cheung/AP

Though smaller demonstrations have broken out in recent weeks, Sunday's was the largest since protests over a now-suspended extradition law roiled the city last year. Those protests culminated in a standoff at a major university and sit-in that led to flight cancellations at the Hong Kong International Airport.

Sunday's rally came just days after Beijing proposed security measures that "could make any secessionist activity seen as critical and subversive illegal, effectively ending Hong Kong's limited autonomy," NPR's Emily Feng reports.

Reuters reports that the rally was initially planned over a bill criminalizing disrespect of China's national anthem.

On Sunday, Trump's National Security Adviser, Robert O'Brien said the proposed security measures could jeopardize Hong Kong's future as a financial hub — due in part to its special trade status with the U.S. — and lead to sanctions.

"It looks like, with this national security law, they're going to basically take over Hong Kong," O'Brien told NBC's Meet the Press. "And if they do, Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo will likely be unable to certify that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy and if that happens there will be sanctions that will be imposed on Hong Kong and China."

Legislation passed last year requires the state department to annually certify that Hong Kong is "upholding the rule of law and protecting rights" and "sufficiently autonomous" for the city to maintain its special status under U.S. law.

Hong Kong's semi-autonomy from China was established in 1997 as part of the city's handover from the United Kingdom.

North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday that it had recorded 1,107 new coronavirus infections, the state's highest one-day spike since the outbreak began. Gerry Broome/AP hide caption

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Gerry Broome/AP

North Carolina's Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday that it had recorded 1,107 new coronavirus infections, the state's highest one-day spike since the outbreak began.

Gerry Broome/AP

North Carolina has reported its highest one-day spike in new COVID-19 cases, a development that comes a day after the state entered its second phase of reopening.

In a statement on Saturday, the state's Department of Health and Human Services reported 1,107 infections — around 250 more cases than the state's last highest daily tally.

"This is a notable and concerning increase," said the department's secretary, Mandy Cohen, in a statement. "As we head into a holiday weekend, please practice the three Ws – wear a face covering, wait six feet apart, and wash your hands frequently. When it comes to our health, we need to work together to protect our families, friends and neighbors."

The spike in new cases underscores the challenge that states across the U.S. are facing as they weigh when to ease restrictions designed to stem the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.

North Carolina had spent two weeks in Phase 1 of its reopening before entering the second phase on Friday. Phase 2 lifted the state's stay-at-home order and allowed certain businesses to restart or expand operations in a limited capacity.

In announcing the easing of restrictions, authorities noted that although "overall key indicators remain stable," there remained "continued increases in daily case counts." A statement accompanying Gov. Roy Cooper's executive order, issued on Wednesday, said reopening would be a more modest endeavor than initially envisioned.

"North Carolina is using the data to guide our decisions about when to lift COVID-19 restrictions, and overall our key indicators remain stable," Cooper, a Democrat, said. "Safer At Home Phase 2 is another careful step forward, and we have to continue taking this virus seriously to prevent a dangerous spike in infections."

The executive order allows businesses such as restaurants, salons and barbershops to be open at 50% capacity with social distancing and cleaning requirements in place. Bars, gyms and movie theaters are to remain closed.

The order also caps gatherings at 25 people for outdoor venues, while indoor events are limited to 10.

The announcement came as many parts of the U.S. have seen a general decline in new infections and as other areas — such as Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C. — are reporting plateaus.

As of Saturday, North Carolina has reported at least 22,725 coronavirus infections.

President Trump is visiting one of his golf course this weekend, his first apparent golf outing since declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic. Alex Brandon/AP hide caption

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Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump is visiting one of his golf course this weekend, his first apparent golf outing since declaring a state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump is visiting one of his golf courses this weekend, his first apparent golf outing since declaring a state of emergency because of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Saturday, the president visited the Trump National Golf Club located just outside Washington, D.C., in Northern Virginia. His last visit to a course was on March 8 to his West Palm Beach club in Florida, days before he declared a national emergency.

While many presidents have notably professed an affinity for golf, the game has taken on a certain significance for Trump and his presidency particularly his time spent at the many private clubs he owns including his West Palm Beach property ⁠— which he has dubbed "White House South" — and his Bedminster, N.J., course.

Since Trump secured the nomination in 2016, his private resorts have also served as a favored location for GOP fundraising efforts and political events, with millions of dollars spent at the president's properties.

He had even planned to hold this year's Group of Seven at his Doral resort in Miami. That announcement drew rebukes from Democrats who accused the president of once again attempting to personally profit from his position.

The meeting was eventually moved to Camp David but will now be a videoconference amid the pandemic.

Before assuming office, Trump had criticized President Barack Obama for his time spent on the course and now some people have estimated that Trump is on pace to becoming one of the more prolific golfers of the modern presidency.

Trump's outing comes as he continues to encourage states to reopen.

On Friday, the president said states needed to allow houses of worship, which he called "very important" and "essential," to reopen for the weekend. He threatened to override governors who didn't heed his call.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, key member of the White House's coronavirus task force and Brad Pitt look-alike — well, kind of — mobilized his newfound celebrity for a pair of surprise graduation messages this week. Fauci addressed both Johns Hopkins University and his own alma mater, the College of the Holy Cross.

"I am profoundly aware that graduating during this time and in this virtual way — unable to celebrate in person this important milestone in your lives with your friends, classmates and teachers — is extremely difficult. I deeply empathize with the situation in which you find yourselves," said the former classics major, in his message to Holy Cross students on Friday.

"However, I encourage you to stay strong and unflinching. The country and the world need your talent, your energy, your resolve and your character."

Just one day earlier, Fauci dropped in for a remote address to Johns Hopkins.

"All of you, directly or indirectly," he told students, "will be doing your part together with the rest of us to come out from under the shadow of this pandemic."

A few months ago, the 79-year-old immunologist may have made for an unlikely celebrity guest at college commencement ceremonies. But Fauci's prominent role at President Trump's frequent coronavirus briefings has turned him into one of the most recognizable doctors in the country — the subject of tribute songs, posters and even his own fan club.

In his comments to new graduates at both schools, he emphasized that the global pandemic presents not only dangers but also opportunities to use the education and "moral mentorship" they had worked so hard to obtain in the classroom.

"Now is the time, if ever there was one," he told Holy Cross, "for us to care selflessly about one another."

People relax in the sun while practicing social distancing last weekend in New York City's Domino Park. On Friday night, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an order loosening some of the state's coronavirus restrictions. Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

People relax in the sun while practicing social distancing last weekend in New York City's Domino Park. On Friday night, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an order loosening some of the state's coronavirus restrictions.

Johannes Eisele/AFP via Getty Images

Updated at 1:56 p.m. ET

Less than two days after New York relaxed certain coronavirus restrictions on religious services and Memorial Day events, allowing gatherings of up to 10 people, the state has extended the measure to cover all gatherings for "any lawful purpose or reason." Gov. Andrew Cuomo amended the move in an executive order Friday.

The modification comes with the caveat that residents adhere to "social distancing protocols and cleaning and disinfection protocols" required by state health officials.

The executive order is just the latest step in the state's long, wary return to life as it was before the state implemented a series of sweeping measures to slow the spread of the virus in March. And it comes in the context of a heated, at times acrimonious, debate over how and when states across the country ought to reopen businesses considered nonessential — and where the line between essential" and "nonessential" should even be drawn.

President Trump on Friday pushed for governors to consider houses of worship "essential places that provide essential services" and allow them to reopen. He even threatened to override state officials if they don't, though it's unclear whether he has that authority.

At the same time, even for states that agree with slightly loosening such restrictions on religious services, as New York did Thursday, doing so is not particularly simple. On Friday, the New York Civil Liberties Union sued Cuomo for continuing to ban protest and other activities protected under the First Amendment.

"The right to protest and exercise free speech is the foundation of all our other liberties, and during a crisis is exactly when we need to be most vigilant about protecting it," Christopher Dunn, the group's legal director and lead attorney on the case, said in a statement issued hours later. He welcomed the governor's order expanding the ability to gather in groups of up to 10 people.

"Health experts, elected officials, and police officers all agree that people can be outside safely while practicing social distancing," Dunn added, "and it's critical that lawmakers create guidelines and direct law enforcement uniformly."

Others, including the chairman of the New York City Council's health committee, Councilman Mark D. Levine, condemned the executive order.

"This shocking order, forced by a lawsuit, changes nothing about the risks associated with group gatherings — especially those held indoors," Levine tweeted Friday night. "We need the public to continue to be smart and use judgment about the risks of this virus, regardless of what the court has forced on us."

Cuomo himself, however, made clear at a briefing Saturday that he did not feel the lawsuit affected their decision-making process when it came to the order.

"I didn't even know about a lawsuit on this one," he told reporters. "Look, on any given day, if we don't have three lawsuits, something is going on."

New York has been the epicenter of the coronavirus in the U.S., with more than 350,000 confirmed cases. That's currently more, in one state alone, than any other country in the world.

After weeks of social distancing restrictions, though, the state has seen a general decline in the number of new cases reported each day, and most of the state's 10 regions — with the exception of New York City and a couple of others — have been cleared to begin the first phase of New York's reopening process.

Some beaches are also open this holiday weekend, with social distancing measures still in place.

People wait to enter a bakery to shop for treats on Wednesday, ahead of Eid al-Fitr in Srinagar, India. Hindustan Times/Hindustan Times via Getty Images hide caption

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Hindustan Times/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

People wait to enter a bakery to shop for treats on Wednesday, ahead of Eid al-Fitr in Srinagar, India.

Hindustan Times/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

With India under a nationwide lockdown and religious gatherings banned, Islamic clerics are urging Muslims to observe this weekend's Eid al-Fitr holiday, marking the end of Ramadan, at home with social distancing.

"We cannot allow any congregations in courtyards and parks, as it will expose people to an increased risk of contracting the virus," Syed Shaban Bukhari, deputy Shahi Imam or prayer leader of New Delhi's famous Jama Masjid said in a video posted on Twitter.

He and other Muslim leaders are urging faithful to forgo the usual Eid festivities, social visits and shopping and donate to charities instead. They suggest conveying wishes to friends and relatives via phone. Mosques are closed.

"Since the entire world is at present battling coronavirus, the happiness of Eid is in not hugging each other and not shaking hands this time over," said Umer Ahmed Ilyasi, chief imam of the All India Imam Organization. "If we want to love them, we have to maintain distance. ... Eid is related to life and happiness and we have to give the same."

Indian Muslims have faced increased harassment and threats by some of the country's Hindus, who blame Muslim missionaries for a coronavirus outbreak in the capital New Delhi in early March.

Authorities in Jammu and Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority territory, eased lockdown restrictions Friday in the Lal Chowk market area of the region's main city, Srinagar. Thousands of Indian troops still line Srinagar's streets, some nine months after India's Hindu nationalist government revoked Kashmir's autonomy last August, putting local politicians under house arrest and cutting off the internet.

Srinagar's old quarter was disrupted earlier this week by a gun battle — the city's first in two years — in which a separatist rebel commander and his aide were killed by Indian paramilitary soldiers, triggering anti-government protests across the city.

Amid the violence, a group of university students in Kashmir collaborated with local artists to sell digital postcards for Eid. With designs being shared on social media, organizers say they've raised about $6,000 to donate to the Srinagar Masjid Committee, which is providing assistance to families whose homes were damaged in Tuesday's fighting.

India's Muslims will begin celebrating Eid the day after clerics confirm the sighting of a new moon, either Saturday or Sunday night.

"There's a depressing atmosphere in Srinagar this Eid, so we all wanted to help in some way," says digital postcard organizer Waqar Qamri, a 22-year-old mechanical engineering student who's also been researching wealth inequality as a side project. "We thought maybe we'd raise just a [a few hundred dollars], but Alhamdulillah, thanks be to God, we raised all that money and we're still going. We'll keep going until we see the moon."

Roman Catholic and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregations in Minnesota plan to resume worship services in defiance of the state's ban on gatherings of more than 10 people. Jim Mone/AP hide caption

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Jim Mone/AP

Roman Catholic and Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod congregations in Minnesota plan to resume worship services in defiance of the state's ban on gatherings of more than 10 people.

Jim Mone/AP

Houses of worship around the country on Friday got a presidential green light to open immediately.

"I call on governors to allow our churches and places of worship to open right now," President Trump said in remarks at the White House. "These are places that hold our society together and keep our people united," he said. "The people are demanding to go to church and synagogue and to their mosque."

More than 90% of houses of worship have been closed in order to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and numerous polls have actually shown that a majority of the American public support the restrictions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention promptly issued new guidance to assist faith institutions in their reopening. The guidance replaced an earlier version that was drafted but never released. The new version was worded to make clear it was "non-binding public health guidance for consideration only."

Some of the recommendations from the earlier version were nonetheless retained in some form, including a suggestion that religious leaders "consider suspending or at least decreasing use of choir/musical ensembles and congregant singing, chanting or reciting during services."

The CDC guidance also advised faith leaders to "take steps to limit the size of gatherings in accordance with the guidance and directives of state and local authorities."

In his White House remarks, however, Trump offered no such deference to the the judgment of state and local governments on an appropriate size for church gatherings.

"The governors need to do the right thing and allow these very important, essential places of faith to open right now, for this weekend. If they don't do it, I will override the governors," he said.

Trump's remarks came as some church leaders around the country were mobilizing to reopen in defiance of restrictions. The leader of Minnesota's Catholics, Archbishop Bernard Hebda, announced this week that churches under his authority would reopen despite an order from Gov. Tim Walz barring gatherings of more than 10 people.

"We will resume holding in-person Masses and services in a limited capacity beginning on Tuesday, May 26, whether or not the governor has amended his executive order," Hebda said in a call with reporters.

In California, more than a thousand pastors were said to be preparing to reopen in defiance of Gov. Gavin Newsom's directive on Monday that any return of congregants to their church pews would be "a few weeks away."

Even before Trump's remarks on Friday, his administration had signaled that it was siding with church leaders in their protest movement.

When Jack Hibbs, senior pastor at Calvary Chapel in Chino Hills, Calif., asked Attorney General William Barr during a "pastor call" with administration officials this week whether the Justice Department would support California churches that were determined to reopen, Barr answered, "absolutely," and suggested that restrictive orders in some cases indicated a hostility to faith itself.

"I think the intransigence on this makes me feel that undergirding some of this is really animus against religion," Barr said.

When Trump joined the call, he doubled down on Barr's comments. "Some of these Democrat governors, they'd be happy if you never opened again," he told the pastors.

How churches will respond to Trump's comments is an open question. Many church leaders have chosen to cooperate with state and local health authorities in planning when and how to reopen.

"I don't understand why politics should drive religion quite like it does in these times," said Peter Marty, senior pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Davenport, Iowa, and publisher of the Christian Century magazine.

"I would argue that the Christian community ought to be about thinking wisely and thoughtfully about holding worship services," Marty said. "Not, what are we constitutionally allowed to do, but what is best? What is wisest? Christian witness is all about generous behavior towards the other, and especially the vulnerable other."

In a separate action, the Justice Department on Friday filed a statement of interest in federal court in support of a legal challenge to Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker's coronavirus stay-at-home orders.

May 23

With Moratorium Lifted, Houston Becomes Largest U.S. City Where Evictions Can Resume

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With Moratorium Lifted, Houston Becomes Largest U.S. City Where Evictions Can Resume

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Downtown Houston, Texas in 2019. Loren Elliott/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Loren Elliott/AFP via Getty Images

Downtown Houston, Texas in 2019.

Loren Elliott/AFP via Getty Images

Evictions are expected to skyrocket in Texas where the state Supreme Court has lifted a moratorium on evictions and unemployment has risen to historic levels amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Some cities are taking additional steps to protect renters and delay evictions, but many Texans remain vulnerable.

Houston, for example, is now the largest city in the nation where evictions can resume. A rental assistance program there ran out of funding in just 90 minutes.

"We anticipate that there will be a tsunami of evictions filed," said Dana Karni, an attorney with Lone Star Legal Aid, which provides free legal representation to low-income Texans. "I have no doubt about it, we are going to see homelessness."

Bridgett Hewitt, 59, is afraid she might lose her apartment in Houston, where she lives alone. She said she'll be three months behind in rent payments in June.

When COVID-19 hit, Hewitt lost her job babysitting her granddaughter and niece. Now she relies on her $800 disability check, which isn't enough to cover her $900 monthly rent. She said her apartment manager has warned her that eviction notices are on the way.

"Nobody needs to be stressed out ... whether they are going to have a place to live today and be homeless tomorrow. I can't think like that right now," she said, sobbing. "I don't want to think like that."

Hewitt submitted an application for the city's rental assistance program. If she doesn't get approved, she expects to be forced out of her home.

"I pray and hope that if I do, that I'll be able to get into a shelter, or my daughters will open their doors to me, that they'll open their home to their mom."

Nationally, there has been a patchwork of protections for renters. Some states, like Wyoming and South Dakota, never had an eviction moratorium. Other statewide eviction moratoriums are set to expire in early June, including in Illinois, Florida and California, though they could be extended.

Some cities, like Los Angeles, also have passed ordinances to further delay evictions after the statewide moratorium expires.

There's still a federal moratorium on evictions through late July, though that only applies to rental properties with federally backed mortgages. Experts estimate only 28% of rental properties nationwide are covered by the moratorium.

Meanwhile, unemployment is through the roof. Since March, 38.6 million people have filed for unemployment, according to the Department of Labor.

Working class families have been hit especially hard — 40% of households with annual incomes of less than $40,000 lost a job in March, said Shamus Roller, executive director of the National Housing Law Project.

"It's staggering to try to get your head around what that means in practice," Roller said.

For now, moratoriums and government assistance — like expanded unemployment benefits — have kept evictions at bay. But as these protections expire, experts say a wave of evictions is on its way.

And with coronavirus spreading, Roller said evictions create a public health risk.

"Displacing people from their housing and sending them out to look for additional housing or sending them into homelessness is a danger for all of us," Roller said.

Houston Public Media's Jen Rice contributed to this story.

Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker was ordered to respond to the suit filed by Republican state Rep. Darren Bailey by Thursday. Instead, he moved the case to federal district court. Justin L. Fowler/AP hide caption

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Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker was ordered to respond to the suit filed by Republican state Rep. Darren Bailey by Thursday. Instead, he moved the case to federal district court.

Justin L. Fowler/AP

The Trump administration is supporting a lawsuit challenging the Illinois governor's stay-at-home order. The legal maneuver marks the first time the U.S. Department of Justice has weighed in on state level COVID-19 policies that are unrelated to religious matters.

The department on Friday filed a statement of interest in the case against Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker, saying the protective coronavirus measures in place exceed the limits of his office.

"In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor of Illinois has, over the past two months, sought to rely on authority under the Illinois Emergency Management Agency Act to impose sweeping limitations on nearly all aspects of life for citizens of Illinois, significantly impairing in some instances their ability to maintain their economic livelihoods," the department said in a statement.

The government is siding with Republican state Rep. Darren Bailey who filed the initial suit in state court earlier this month. He argued that Pritzker's executive order violates a 30-day limit on the governor's emergency powers put in place by the state legislature.

Pritzker was ordered to respond to Bailey's motion for summary judgement by Thursday. But instead, he removed the case to federal district court.

Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division said Pritzker "owes it to the people of Illinois to allow his state's courts to adjudicate the question of whether Illinois law authorizes orders he issued to respond to COVID-19."

Michigan AG Says She 'Will Not Remain Silent' As Trump Risks Public Health

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Dana Nessel announcing her bid for Michigan attorney general in 2017. Detroit Free Press/Tribune News Service via Getty I hide caption

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Dana Nessel announcing her bid for Michigan attorney general in 2017.

Detroit Free Press/Tribune News Service via Getty I

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel on Friday said President Trump had directly threatened the health and safety of her state's residents through his coronavirus response, including his recent refusals wear a mask in public and defense of those protesting stay-at-home orders.

"He has risked the health, safety and welfare of everyone who lives in this state, and I will not remain silent and just twiddle my thumbs as I see him do that," Nessel told NPR's All Things Considered. His choice not to wear a mask, she said, "sends the worst possible message at the worst possible time."

Nessel's remarks are the latest escalation in a feud between the president and Michigan's state leadership amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, who traveled to Michigan Thursday, called Nessel "The Wacky Do Nothing Attorney General of Michigan," in a tweet after she, on CNN, compared the president to a "petulant child" for not wearing a mask during most of his visit this week to a Ford Motor Co. plant.

"I don't know how else to communicate with this man," Nessel told NPR. "He doesn't respond to respectful requests, apparently these ridiculous tweets is the only kind of communication he knows or understands."

Trump has also previously fanned controversies within Michigan between Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and a faction of far-right protestors, many armed, who stormed the state capitol demanding a suspension of the state's stay-at-home order.

Tweeting in support of the protesters, Trump wrote: "The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire. These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal."

This was after the armed demonstrators occupied the statehouse demanding to speak with the governor. Some comments in a private Facebook group organizing the event went so far as to threaten violence against Whitmer and other lawmakers, according to the Detroit Metro Times.

"This is an individual who has encouraged people to break the law in a manner that jeopardizes the health of all our state residents. And then when we have armed gunmen storming the capitol holding swastikas and Confederate flags, he calls them very good people who our governor ought to negotiate with," Nessel said on Friday.

Nessel suggested that at least a degree of Trump's ire against Michigan's leadership stemmed from the fact three of its top leaders — the governor, secretary of state and attorney general — are women.

"I guess if any one of us were doing Secretary [of State Mike] Pompeo's dishes, he might be fine with us. But since we're not and we're actually running the state of Michigan, he seems to have a real issue."

Harvard Researchers Find 'Inequality On Top Of Inequality' In COVID-19 Deaths

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People wait in line to get food distributed by the National Guard in Chelsea, Mass., on April 16. Harvard researchers found areas with more poverty, people of color and crowded housing had higher mortality rates for the coronavirus. Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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People wait in line to get food distributed by the National Guard in Chelsea, Mass., on April 16. Harvard researchers found areas with more poverty, people of color and crowded housing had higher mortality rates for the coronavirus.

Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty Images

Much is still unknown about the coronavirus, including a full picture of perhaps its most important impact: who it has killed.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that "current data suggest a disproportionate burden of illness and death among racial and ethnic minority groups." The death toll is also incomplete, because not everyone who dies of COVID-19 is counted under that cause of death, among other reasons.

Racial, ethnic and socioeconomic data about people who have died of COVID-19 are not all readily available either. So researchers at Harvard instead looked at the cities, towns and ZIP codes of people who have died of all causes. They compared the number of people who have died against what would be expected in a normal year, or "excess deaths."

What they found is "inequality on top of inequality," says Jarvis Chen, a social epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The team of researchers looked specifically at Massachusetts. Areas with "widespread economic segregation and heavy concentrations of poverty, people of color, and crowded housing" had higher mortality rates compared with everywhere else from the beginning of the year through April 15, they found.

"These are communities in which people may be working 'essential jobs,' where they're unable to practice physical distancing," Chen tells NPR's Mary Louise Kelly.

"These are communities where people are living in crowded conditions so that if one person in a household gets infected, it's very difficult for them to isolate and protect the other people in their households," he explains. "These are also communities in which people may not be getting access to testing or to care. And so that increases their risk of dying if they do get infected."

Chen and his colleagues say the findings help governments and support groups target their efforts to stem the virus's spread over the next year.

"We're probably going to see more waves as we go through this next year. And so knowing what we did and what we did wrong the first time around will help us understand better how to direct the resources," Chen says.

"So, for example, creating resources for people in communities to be able to isolate. So housing or temporary housing for people who test positive so that they can protect their families is really important," he says. "Knowing where to direct PPE as it becomes more available so that not just the essential workers in hospitals, but also essential workers in things like public transportation or grocery store workers, those populations can get the PPE that they need. And also directing testing to communities who need it the most. Those things could be really important."

Listen to the full interview at the audio link above.

People shop in preparation for the Eid al-Fitr holiday at a market in Jakarta on Friday. Achmad Ibrahim/AP hide caption

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Achmad Ibrahim/AP

People shop in preparation for the Eid al-Fitr holiday at a market in Jakarta on Friday.

Achmad Ibrahim/AP

In Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim country, this weekend's Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the holy month of Ramadan will involve mass travel, raising concerns about the effect it may have on the country's COVID-19 infection rates.

President Joko Widodo has said he will not yet ease large-scale social restrictions, insisting his government aims to keep citizens safe. But his administration has loosened some constraints by allowing public transportation to resume, including airlines, at 50% of capacity. Images have circulated on social media showing Jakarta's main airport packed with passengers ignoring physical-distancing rules.

In the midst of a coronavirus pandemic that saw nearly 1,000 new cases in a single day this week, the human "hurricane" this year will carry an estimated 20 million people, says Aaron Connelly, a research fellow with the Singapore-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Eid is to Indonesia what Christmas is the U.S., says Elina Ciptadi, a co-founder of Kawal COVID-19, which is monitoring the pandemic's effects in Indonesia. "Large family gatherings," she says. "Religious gatherings. Open houses. People share meals."

And now, she worries, "People go back to their hometowns, bringing the previously 'big cities' disease into small towns and villages across Indonesia."

Indonesia, with a population of 260 million, has confirmed more than 20,000 COVID-19 cases and more than 1,320 deaths, but many suspect the numbers are not a true reflection of the disease's reach.

Some gravediggers have reported working 15 hours a day, seven days a week, to dispose of bodies.

"The ambulances never stop bringing us bodies," one digger told Agence France-Presse.

The heavy workload of gravediggers in Jakarta is highlighting a significant undercounting of deaths related to COVID-19, Connelly tells NPR. He says in March, "There were a lot more burials going on in Jakarta than there had been in any month in 2018 and 2019."

Reuters reported that the March burial figure for Jakarta was the highest since such data began being collected a decade ago, nearly one-third higher than any month in that period. "I'm struggling to find another reason than unreported COVID-19 deaths," City Governor Anies Baswedan told Reuters.

Death statistics from the provinces include the number of "patients under surveillance" or those with COVID-19 symptoms who have not been confirmed as being infected. Connelly says the central government has not included these patients in its tally and counts only deaths where COVID-19 has been confirmed through testing, which is in short supply.

Connelly says the number of deaths related to COVID-19 nationally appears to be over 5,000. On top of the official figure, "As of a week ago, there were at least an additional 3,833 who had died," he says, based on the provinces' statistics.

When asked why suspected COVID-19 cases were not included in the national death total, the Health Ministry's disease control and prevention director general, Achmad Yurianto, told the Jakarta Post, "We have the data, but we are not going to announce it to the public willy-nilly. Regional task forces also have the data. If you want complete data, ask the regions."

Widodo has acknowledged that his administration has not disclosed some data out of concern that it would "cause panic." Connelly says the generals on the president's COVID-19 task force have repeatedly advised him to withhold information because it might hurt the economy.

Widodo "is extraordinarily sensitive to the prospect of any economic damage," Connelly says, and fears that "an economic collapse might lead to the collapse of his presidency."

But Ciptadi argues that the availability of reliable data on suspected deaths is critical "for Indonesians to understand the severity of the outbreak. That this isn't just flu."

'He's Incredibly Confused': Parenting A Child With Autism During The Pandemic

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Feda Almaliti with her son, 15-year-old Muhammed, who has severe autism. "Muhammed is an energetic, loving boy who doesn't understand what's going on right now," she says. Feda Almaliti hide caption

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Feda Almaliti

Feda Almaliti with her son, 15-year-old Muhammed, who has severe autism. "Muhammed is an energetic, loving boy who doesn't understand what's going on right now," she says.

Feda Almaliti

Living with the pandemic has been difficult for everyone: the isolation, the need to wear protective gear like masks and gloves, the adjustment to working or learning from home.

For those living with or caring for someone with severe autism, those challenges can be exponentially more difficult.

"Wearing gloves or masks, you know, things like that? That's just not going to happen here," says Feda Almaliti.

Almaliti is the mother of 15-year-old Muhammed, who has severe autism. She is also vice president of the National Council on Severe Autism.

In an emotional interview with NPR, she describes the toll the current crisis is taking on her family and others like hers.

"Muhammed is an energetic, loving boy who doesn't understand what's going on right now. He doesn't understand why he can't go to school. And school is one of his favorite places to go. He doesn't understand why he can't go take a walk in the mall when that was one his favorite things to do. He doesn't know why he can't go to the park, why he can't go down to the grocery store," Almaliti says. "So he's incredibly confused, in this time when we're all confused, but he really doesn't understand it."

Here are excerpts from the interview.

How does distance learning work for your son, who has limited language and other difficulties?

It does not work for him. And I don't think it works for a lot of kids like him. Our kids need highly structured, one-to-one, specialized teachers and staff to teach them. We can't do that over the Internet.

You wrote an essay and quoted a study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison that found that mothers of children with autism experience stress levels comparable to those of combat soldiers. And that is before you layer a deadly pandemic on top of things.

It's the unknowing. ... We don't know when it's going to end. We don't know what's going on, and to deal with autism at home makes it even harder. The only support that I get to get through it is through fellow autism parents. We have Zoom calls, and we try to find humor in this thing. ... We're just trying to lean on each other to get through. Because I can't do it alone. Nobody can.

What about the rest of your family? How are they coping?

They're doing the best they can every day. ... But I don't know how to accurately convey, it's really hard. ... It's really hard because I almost feel like nobody hears us. Because my son doesn't really talk. He doesn't talk. And I'm supposed to be his voice. And no one's listening to what's going on for our families. You know, no one gets that we are just as vulnerable as coronavirus people. The coronavirus is going to come and go. Autism is here to stay. ...

We desperately need extra help to get through this. And I firmly believe that autism support workers, aides, their teachers and caregivers are as essential as nurses and doctors and should be given the same accommodations. People don't understand that for our families, caregivers are our first responders. Special needs schools are our hospitals. Our teachers are our ventilators. And we can't do this without them.

Listen to the full interview at the audio link above.

A worker wipes down surfaces on a New York City subway car to disinfect seats during the coronavirus outbreak. The CDC is clarifying its guidance on touching surfaces after a change to its website triggered news reports. Andrew Kelly/Reuters hide caption

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Andrew Kelly/Reuters

A worker wipes down surfaces on a New York City subway car to disinfect seats during the coronavirus outbreak. The CDC is clarifying its guidance on touching surfaces after a change to its website triggered news reports.

Andrew Kelly/Reuters

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is clarifying its guidance to prevent the coronavirus from spreading, hoping to clear up confusion over whether a person can contract the disease by touching surfaces that have the virus on them. The agency said "usability improvements," including a headline change on its webpage about preventing viral infection, seemed to trigger news stories saying its guidelines have changed.

"Our transmission language has not changed," CDC spokesman Benjamin Haynes told NPR.

The main source of the coronavirus's spread, the agency said, is through respiratory droplets from an infected person who coughs, sneezes or talks in close proximity to someone else.

"COVID-19 spreads mainly through close contact from person to person," Haynes said. "While it may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes, this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads."

A number of news outlets, including The Washington Post, noted this week that the CDC had reorganized information on its page titled "How COVID-19 Spreads."

Last month, the page listed "Spread from contact with contaminated surfaces and objects" under its own subheading, just below a similar subhead on "Person-to-person spread."

The page now lists surfaces and objects in a new subsection titled "The virus does not spread easily in other ways."

On both the current version of the page and the older one, the CDC says of surface transmission, "This is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads, but we are still learning more about this virus."

The CDC said people should continue to clean and disinfect dirty surfaces that could be harboring the virus.

"Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 to persons from surfaces contaminated with the virus has not been documented," the agency says on its page about disinfecting surfaces. But it adds, "Current evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials."

Maryland Restaurant Floats Social Distancing Dining Plan: Inner Tube Tables

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Fish Tales Bar & Grill, a restaurant in Ocean City, Md., tries out "bumper tables." Designed by an event production company, they're meant to allow diners to practice social distancing. Katie Kirby/Revolution Event Design & Production/AP hide caption

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Katie Kirby/Revolution Event Design & Production/AP

Fish Tales Bar & Grill, a restaurant in Ocean City, Md., tries out "bumper tables." Designed by an event production company, they're meant to allow diners to practice social distancing.

Katie Kirby/Revolution Event Design & Production/AP

A Maryland bar is exploring ways to keep its dine-in customers social distancing. Its solution: "bumper tables."

In anticipation of its reopening, Fish Tales Bar & Grill in Ocean City commissioned tables for one that ensconce patrons in jumbo inner tubes. Diners, seated inside the wheeled tables, can scoot around and bump into each other from 6 feet apart in keeping with social distancing guidelines.

"It's like a big baby walker," Fish Tales co-owner Shawn Harman told NPR's Morning Edition. "There's a large tractor inner tube that surrounds a doughnut-shaped countertop. You're standing essentially in the middle of the doughnut hole."

The idea came from his wife's cousin, Erin Cermak, who owns a company called Revolution Events in Baltimore.

When the pandemic started, event planning stopped, so Cermak had to get creative.

"The idea was basically just trying to get ourselves back to events," she said. "So we kind of drew out 6 [feet] on the ground just to kind of visualize it and then worked from there."

Her company is making inventions such as the tables as well as face shields and Plexiglas dividers.

Harman said he isn't sure how Fish Tales will use the bumper tables. Maryland is still limiting restaurants to takeout and delivery orders, with no plans for reopening (whether diners are wrapped in inner tubes or otherwise) until at least the end of May.

"We primarily see them as kind of a novelty," he said. "It's the kind of out-of-the box thinking that you have to do to survive now."

But Harman said he can wait until it's considered safe to introduce the novel attraction to customers.

"We don't wanna go too fast and go backward," he said. "Any way you look at it, that's foolish and more expensive than taking your time and doing it one time."

At least for now, his staff has been having fun testing the tables out.

President Trump wants governors to let churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship reopen this weekend. Alex Brandon/AP hide caption

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Alex Brandon/AP

President Trump wants governors to let churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship reopen this weekend.

Alex Brandon/AP

Updated at 3 p.m. ET

President Trump said Friday that state governors should allow churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship to reopen immediately.

In brief comments at the White House, Trump said houses of worship are "essential places that provide essential services." Churches have faced restrictions for gatherings and ceremonies as public health officials worked to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Some have chafed at the restrictions.

Trump said governors should allow the houses of worship to reopen "right now for this weekend." The president threatened that if they don't, "I will override the governors," he said, adding, "In America, we need more prayer, not less."

"These are places that hold our society together," he said.

It's not clear what authority Trump has to override states who wish to keep houses of worship closed. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany didn't elaborate on what action Trump would take if governors didn't direct churches and other places of worship to open, calling those situations hypothetical.

"We can all hope that this Sunday, people are allowed to pray to their gods across this country," she said.

Trump said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had released guidance to help churches reopen but did not provide details. White evangelicals have been among Trump's strongest supporters.

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said faith leaders considering reopening should be in touch with their local health departments to advise their congregants properly. She also said people with risk factors or comorbidities in communities with a high number of cases may consider staying away for now.

"I know those houses of worship want to protect them. ... Maybe they can't go this week," she said.

"But there is way to social distance ... in places of worship."

Birx also encouraged people to enjoy the outdoors during the Memorial Day weekend, including going to beaches, golfing or playing tennis, as long as they maintain 6 feet of social distancing.

NPR's Roberta Rampton contributed to this story.

Alabama opened public beaches on May 1. Gov. Kay Ivey is letting casinos, museums, zoos and amusement parks open Friday afternoon. Maranie Staab/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Maranie Staab/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Alabama opened public beaches on May 1. Gov. Kay Ivey is letting casinos, museums, zoos and amusement parks open Friday afternoon.

Maranie Staab/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Alabama is allowing movie theaters, bowling alleys and summer camps to reopen Friday afternoon as Gov. Kay Ivey expands her "Safer at Home" order. The rules, which still require social distancing and sanitation measures, also apply to casinos and bingo halls, along with tourist attractions such as museums, zoos and amusement parks.

The governor is relaxing restrictions on aspects of normal life such as schools and water parks even as Alabama faces a rise in COVID-19 cases — and in some areas, a shortage of hospital beds for coronavirus patients.

"In Alabama, a third of the state's total overall cases have occurred just in the last two weeks," Janae Pierre of NPR member station WBHM reported. Despite the rise, Pierre said, two of Alabama's biggest high schools were holding graduation ceremonies at a baseball stadium this week.

Overall, Alabama's Department of Public Health said, 13,414 of 174,074 coronavirus tests have been positive – a rate of 7.7%. The rate is even lower over the past 14 days when 4,336 tests were positive out of 70,693 – a rate of 6.13%.

But the number of new coronavirus cases in the current week is markedly higher than in the previous one, with more than 1,000 cases in the last three days alone.

Ivey conceded that "our numbers are not as good as we would hope," but she said it's time for Alabama to take another step in reopening its economy while adjusting to the "new normal" of coronavirus precautions. The state must find a balance, she said, between acknowledging the deadly threat of COVID-19 and helping people pursue their livelihoods.

Ivey announced the newly eased rules Thursday, the same day Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed sounded an alarm by saying hospital patients in central Alabama who need to be in intensive care might not be able to find an ICU bed.

"Our health care system has been maxed out," Reed said, adding that patients in his community were being sent to Birmingham. He urged residents not to take "needless risks" and to keep the virus from spreading further.

The amended order will be in effect from 5 p.m. local time Friday through July 3. It increases the number of businesses Alabama allowed to resume operations on May 1, when retail stores received the OK to open at 50% of their occupancy capacity. Restaurants, bars and breweries were also allowed to reopen then, with limited seating and at least 6 feet between tables.

Hundreds of thousands of Alabamians have suffered job losses from the pandemic's effects: Alabama's unemployment rate hit 12.9% in April, the state Department of Labor said.

The jobless rate is even worse in some of its most populous counties, such as Mobile and Montgomery, both at 15.1%, and Tuscaloosa at 16.8%. At least three other counties reported unemployment rates of 20% or more.

"This pandemic has negatively impacted Alabama's economy and in two months' time has managed to undo years of positive progress," Labor Secretary Fitzgerald Washington said as he released the figures Friday. "But the impact to our employers and workers who carry the economy is even greater. So many had life-altering changes that impacted their families almost overnight.

Alabama's leisure and hospitality businesses have been hammered by shutdowns and physical distancing rules due to the coronavirus, losing roughly 80,000 jobs in April.

The April results show 283,787 people lost their jobs that month. Since early March, Alabama has received more than 501,000 jobless claims.

The novel coronavirus, first detected at the end of 2019, has caused a global pandemic.

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