Previous coronavirus daily briefing updates, May 23-25

Current daily briefings on the coronavirus can be found here. Scroll below to read previous reports from May 23 to May 25, listed in eastern time.

On Monday, President Donald Trump threatened to move the Republican National Convention out of North Carolina if state COVID-19 guidelines prevent a full arena in Charlotte. In a series of tweets, Trump said that North Carolina is in a, "shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed full attendance in the Arena," and that if North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper isn't able to allow the arena to be fully occupied, the Republican National Convention would be moved. Vice President Mike Pence said similar words to Fox News saying that it could potentially move to Texas, Florida, Georgia, or other states that have reopened more than North Carolina, CNN reportedThe Republican National Convention is scheduled for August 24 to 27. North Carolina currently has a crowd limit of 10 people and officials have said they would treat the convention like any other major event.

The World Health Organization (WHO) warns countries with declining COVID-19 cases they could experience an "immediate second peak." WHO emergencies head Mike Ryan said the world is still experiencing its first wave of the virus, but a second wave could be on the horizon if preventative measures are lifted too soon, according to Reuters. While some places are seeing a decline in new cases, Central and South America, South Asia and Africa are all continuing to develop more cases. 

"When we speak about a second wave classically what we often mean is there will be a first wave of the disease by itself, and then it recurs months later. And that may be a reality for many countries in a number of months' time," Ryan said.

In an attempt to salvage the summer travel season, some European countries are implementing 'travel bubbles.'According to NBC News, the idea of 'travel bubbles' or 'travel corridors' is to let travelers from countries with low infection levels be able to travel freely with no 14-day quarantine upon arrival to their destination. Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia have already implemented a 'Baltic travel bubble' which allows travel across these three countries without self isolation. While not every European country is expected to reopen simultaneously, Italy, one of the hardest hit countries in the world, is expected to welcome European tourists again starting June 3. According to the European Commission, tourism makes up 10 percent of the European Union economy.

Austria's president has apologized for breaking the country's 11 p.m. curfew that's in place due to the coronavirus. Alexander Van der Bellen stayed at a restaurant on Saturday night after the curfew time put in place by the Austrian government, according to The Hill. Restaurants in Austria were allowed to reopen on May 15 but have to obey a number of social distancing restrictions and the 11 p.m. closing time. Van der Bellen responded to criticism in a tweet on Sunday, saying, "I went out to eat for the first time since the lockdown with two friends & my wife. We then chatted and unfortunately missed the time. I am truly sorry. It was a mistake." The restaurant where Van der Bellen stayed past curfew could be fined for the curfew breach, according to CNN. The Austrian president said he would "take responsibility" if the owner incurred any losses from a fine.

Scientists from Indiana University recently published a paper that suggests a certain fabric could kill the infectious properties of COVID-19. Using electromagnetic activity, the fabric could kill infectivity in the virus on contact, Forbes reported. "Electroceuticals," or a combination of electrostatic and pharmaceuticals, is a growing field. Another example of electroceuticals is a pacemaker used to treat arrhythmias. The fabric itself is polyester with metal dots made of alternating zinc and silver. The dot placement then generates an electric field when exposed to moisture. The research team found that after exposing respiratory virus cells to the fabric for one minute, they were just as healthy as regular cells, meaning they lost their infectivity. The researchers are now hoping to be granted an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration to begin creating masks out of the fabric.

The World Health Organization has temporarily halted trials of hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment. The decision was announced on Monday, and comes after evidence has shown using the drug can lead to severe health problems when taking it to treat the virus, NBC News reported. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the drug is still safe for those taking it for malaria and autoimmune diseases, which were the original uses for the drug.

WHO officials stated the suspension of the trials is an effort to "err on the side of caution." The organization plans to take at least one week to gather more information on the drug before proceeding with trials. "We want to use hydroxychloroquine if it is safe, if it reduces mortality, reduces the length of hospitalization, without increasing the adverse events. So this is a temporary measure," said WHO's chief scientist, Soumya Swaminathan.

To fuel the tourism-driven economy, Greece reopened restaurants and cafes on Monday. The reopening is part of a plan to gradually lift lockdowns and restrictions in the country, Reuters reported. The country has just emerged from a financial crisis spanning 10 years and is relying on the economic advantages of tourism to continue the recovery process. On Monday, travel to all Greek islands was also reopened. "Greece is open and safe. It's a destination where one can enjoy one's holiday while at the same time securing one's health," Athens Mayor Kostas Bakoyannis said.

All of Pennsylvania is on track to reopen. But that will be sooner, rather than later for different counties. In Gov. Tom Wolf's three-tier plan, all 67 counties in the state will at least be at the yellow phase by June 5, including the hard-hit areas around Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley. As of Monday, 49 counties are at the yellow phase and 17 of those counties will be moved to the green phase on May 29, which will allow all businesses to reopen. "My stay-at-home order did exactly what it was intended to do: It saved lives. Over the past two weeks, we have seen sustained reductions in hospitalizations," Wolf said on Friday.

With sports fans hungry for action, star quarterbacks Tom Brady and Peyton Manning teamed with star golfers Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson to not only give fans a night of competitive entertainment, but to also raise $20 million for coronavirus relief. While the exhibition golf match was delayed and impeded by heavy rain and driving winds from a tropical disturbance, the event raised event raised more than twice its original goal and entertained countless viewers. Other athletes and celebrities, such as golfer Brooks Koepka and basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley, helped raise the donation total and awareness by wagering money on different shots throughout the match.

On Monday, Syria reported 20 new confirmed cases of COVID-19, making it the most cases in a single day so far for the nation. The war-torn country has confirmed 106 cases of the virus and four deaths. According to the country's health ministry, the new cases come from the return of citizens who were abroad. Reuters reported that Syria has begun reopening parts of its economy, but continues to enforce a curfew.

COVID-19 may not be contagious after 11 days, according to a joint study from Singapore's National Centre for Infectious Diseases and the Academy of Medicine, according to Bloomberg. The study, which included results from 73 patients, reports a positive result from a COVID-19 test "does not equate to infectiousness or viable virus." Furthermore, the results claim the virus "could not be isolated or cultured after day 11 of illness." The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the period of infectiousness for the virus is not yet known, but the incubation period can be anywhere from two to 10 days. 

Ceremonies observing Memorial Day are still being held throughout the U.S., including at Arlington National Cemetery, with health precautions forcing changes. This year, the cemetery is only allowing family and friends in groups of 10 or less to gather at gravesites while annual ceremonies, such as the President's wreath-laying, will be live streamed. Near St. Louis, the 932nd Airlift Wing from the Scott Air Force Base will honor healthcare workers with flyovers at six hospitals to recognize the efforts of first responders.

In Washington D.C., conditions are forecast to stay dry throughout the day, with cloudy skies in the morning and a high of 78 degrees F in the afternoon.

A group of veterans with Operation Enduring Warrior greet Brian Willette with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and his wife Gina Willette of South Hadley, Mass., in front of the U.S. Marine Corps War Memorial on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25, 2020, in Arlington, Va. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Tokyo and four other parts of Japan were eased out of a state of emergency on Monday. The emergency order was lifted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as a result of a decline in new cases of COVID-19, according to Reuters. The prime minister, however, warned that the state of emergency could be reinstated if cases rise once again. The lifting of the state of emergency allows for a loosening of social distancing regulations throughout the entire country. The emergency declaration for the rest of Japan was lifted on May 14.

Casinos in Las Vegas are set to reopen next week, albeit with plenty of modifications. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak set June 4 as the tentative date for casinos to open their doors for the first time since mid-March, which was the first time they ever had to close, according to The Associated Press. However, disinfection measures such as dice washing between shooters, period poker chip cleaning, card deck cleaning and a lack of valet service will be enforced.

Here are the latest totals from around the world, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University:

  • Total confirmed cases: 5,424,718
  • Total deaths: 345,296
  • Total recovered: 2,176,490

On Sunday, Muslims began celebration of Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of the Ramadan fast. The holiday usually consists of travel, family gatherings and large feasts spanning three days, according to CBC News, however this year the holiday presents differently as social distancing remains a priority. Some countries have issued curfews during the holiday, such as Turkey, Iraq and Jordan, while some have taken even stricter measures, including Saudi Arabia, which is enforcing a complete lockdown.

"We are frustrated that celebration this year is not the same. But there is no point getting angry. We just have to accept it, life goes on," Rohaizam Zainuddin said, who will be celebrating with his parents but not his sister, who lives farther away.

Ocean City, Maryland, was back in business for Memorial Day weekend, and large crowds were drawn in to celebrate. While groups of 10 or more are prohibited, and masks were recommended but not enforced, videos displayed crowds walking on the boardwalk, most not wearing masks and not following social distancing guidelines. The large crowds from Saturday may be shocking to see after months of lockdowns, but regulars told CBS Baltimore that the boardwalk was not as crowded as a usual Memorial Day weekend. 

"We have officers on horseback, foot patrol and vehicle patrol," Ashley Miller of the Ocean City Police Department said. "If we do see groups of ten or more, we remind them that it is a violation of the governor's order. Depending on the situation, we would determine what kind of action would be taken."

A hairdresser in Missouri exposed up to 91 customers and coworkers to COVID-19 after she contracted it and continued to work for eight days. The unnamed hairstylist, who worked at a Great Clips, was symptomatic while working, according to CNN. The stylist is believed to have been infected while traveling.

"It is the hope of the department that because face coverings were worn throughout this exposure timeline, no additional cases will result," the Springfield-Greene County Health Department said in a statement. Clay Goddard, the director of the department, said the community "can't have many more of these" incidents without causing a strain.

The majority of South Africa's economy is set to reopen. South Africa President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the country will reopen the majority of its economy starting June 1. Most sectors will open under new level three regulations, but with strict observance of social distancing and health safety measures, according to Bloomberg. The national borders will remain closed and flights will continue to be grounded, except for cargo. Schools will begin a phased reopening and all public universities will be expected to begin remote teaching.

The authorities have faced mounting criticism that some lockdown rules are nonsensical, have caused undue harm to the country and have no bearing on the fight against the virus, according to Bloomberg. "We're now preparing for a further easing of the lockdown and a gradual opening of our economy," Ramaphosa said. "If we lift the lockdown too abruptly and too quickly, we risk a rapid and unmanageable surge in infections. We will therefore continue to proceed cautiously, informed by the best available evidence."

As many states begin to see lowering counts of new COVID-19 cases, North Carolina has reported its highest spike of confirmed cases of the virus in a single day in a press conference on Saturday. The report detailed 1,107 new cases, breaking the previous record by about 250 cases, according to NPR.

"This is a notable and concerning increase," the state's Department of Health and Human Services 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." According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear after exposure to the virus.

Beaches start to see crowds as many Americans come out of lockdown to soak up some vitamin D this holiday weekend, however some beaches aren't allowing swimming. Some beaches in New York City will be open this holiday weekend, but there are major restrictions in place to encourage social distancing. Coney Island and other city beaches are not allowing swimming. "It's very discouraging because we've made so much progress in the city," Coney Island resident Brian Ball told WABC. "It's like we are being punished." New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio said the decision on beaches will stay in place even if the city enters phase one of reopening, according to WABC.

A young man wearing a protective face mask rides his bicycle along a fairly crowded Coney Island boardwalk during the current coronavirus outbreak, the afternoon of Sunday, May 24, 2020, in New York. No swimming was allowed and social distancing reminders were abundant on the beach as Memorial Day weekend kicked off the first weekend of summer. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Unemployment will reach "north of 20%" in May, White House economic adviser says. White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told CNN he expects the rate will be even higher in June than in May, but after that "it should start to trend down." Hassett told CNN President Trump is "going through all the options" related to another phase of economic stimulus. "I think that, yes, unemployment will be something that moves back slower. I think it could be better than that. But you're going to be starting at a number in the 20s and working your way down. And so, of course, you could still not be back to full employment by September or October," Hassett said.

NBA in discussion with Disney to restart the season in July. The National Basketball Association said they are talking to the Walt Disney Company about exploring a way to play its remaining games at Disney's Wide World of Sports, owned by Disney's ESPN. The sports complex campus would also be used to house athletes and team staff, which means there would be no travel between multiple states for each team and no use of each team's own facilities for games and fans. "Our priority continues to be the health and safety of all involved, and we are working with public health experts and government officials on a comprehensive set of guidelines to ensure that appropriate medical procedures and protections are in place," said Mike Bass, NBA chief communications officer.

The pandemic has caused gas prices to continue plummeting around the U.S., as the national average is down to $1.87 per gallon going into Memorial Day weekend. According to AAA.com, the last time gas prices were under $2 was in 2003. However, despite the low prices and pleasant weather conditions in areas like the Northeast, the majority of travelers will likely be staying at home.

"Gas prices around Memorial Day have not been this cheap in nearly 20 years. However, as the country continues to practice social distancing, this year's unofficial kick-off to summer is not going to drive the typical millions of Americans to travel," said Jeanette Casselano, AAA spokesperson. "Despite inexpensive gas prices, AAA anticipates this year's holiday will likely set a record low for travel volume."

As the U.S. COVID-19 death count nears 100,000, The New York Times published a front page filled completely with the names of people whose lives have been lost to the deadly virus. "We knew we were approaching this milestone. We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number," Simone Landon, assistant editor of The New York Times graphics desk, said.

The idea to compile obituaries, according to Landon, was to provide of glimpse of who each person was. Nameless dots or figures "doesn't really tell you very much about who these people were, the lives that they lived, what it means for us as a country," she said.

Here are the latest global COVID-19 numbers, provided by researchers at Johns Hopkins University:

  • Confirmed cases: 5,284,830
  • Deaths: 340,653
  • Recoveries: 2,090,985

The U.S. still leads as the country with the most confirmed cases of the virus. Currently, 1.6 million people in the U.S. have tested positive for the virus. Over 13 million people in the U.S. have been tested for the virus so far.

The race to find a COVID-19 vaccine is well underway, and one company could have shots available as early as September. The U.S. has given more than $1 billion to AstraZeneca Plc, funds that will help to accelerate the company's goal of developing a vaccine. AstraZeneca Plc is just one company that is receiving funding from ‘Operation Warp Speed,' an effort by the U.S. to fast-track the development of an effective vaccine to stop the coronavirus. The vaccine from AstraZeneca Plc is still in human trials, but the drugmaker said that it has the capacity to make 1 billion doses, according to Bloomberg.

Zion National Park is open for Memorial Day weekend, but officials are warning visitors to expect large crowds. "With a great many people visiting, please be patient with others and remember to use COVID-19 sanitation practices. Health and safety is everyone's responsibility," said Zion National Park Superintendent Jeff Bradybaugh. Zion, located in southwestern Utah, is the fourth-most visited national park and is often packed daily during the summer months.

Visitors this weekend will not be charged an entrance fee, but should anticipate modified services. The shuttle buses will not be in service, overnight camping inside the park will be prohibited, and some trails will be closed, including the chain section of the popular Angel's Landing. Dry weather is in the forecast for the park through Memorial Day with plenty of sunshine and highs in the 70s F. 

On Friday, 84 people in New York state died of COVID-19, making it the first time the daily death toll has dropped below 100 since March 24. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said 84 is a "hideous number" by normal standards, but with COVID-19 in mind, the number could offer a sign of improvement, Axios reported. "I had a conversation with a healthcare professional recently, I said what number should I be looking for, to get down as the bottom number on the deaths? And the doctor said ... 'if I were you, I would look for 100. You want to be below 100,"' Cuomo said.

Pedestrians use an umbrella to protect themselves from the rain as they walk along Sixth Avenue during the coronavirus pandemic, Saturday, May 23, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

More and more Americans across the U.S. are engaging in protests against stay at home orders and refusing to wear masks in public, arguing the laws and restrictions are an infringement of their rights. In response to the ongoing debate on whether or not masks should be worn in public, actor Dan Levy has taken to Instagram to "propose a re-contextualization of this whole thing."

"Imagine seeing it not as an infringement on your freedom, but rather the simplest, easiest act of kindness that you can do in a day. Not just for yourself, but for other people who might have autoimmune issues. People who, if they were to contract COVID with those issues might have some devastating repercussions," Levy said. Steven Taylor, a clinical psychologist, told CNN people naturally rebel when they are being told what to do, even if what they are being told to do is in their best interest.This could explain why some people feel mask requirements are an infringement on their rights. "People value their freedoms. They may become distressed or indignant or morally outraged when people are trying to encroach on their freedoms," Taylor said.

Fewer people are driving during the COVID-19 pandemic, but roadway-related deaths are on the rise. A report from the National Safety Council (NSC) shows that there was a 14% increase in fatality rates per miles driven in March. Connecticut had the sharpest increase of roadway deaths with a 42% rise during the first part of 2020.

One possible explanation for the spike in deaths is related to speeding due to fewer cars on the roads. "Disturbingly, we have open lanes of traffic and an apparent open season on reckless driving," said Lorraine M. Martin, NSC president and CEO. "Right now, in the midst of a global pandemic and crisis, we should take it as our civic duty to drive safely. If we won't do it for ourselves, we should do it for our first responders, our law enforcement and our healthcare workers, who are rightly focused on coronavirus patients and should not be overwhelmed by preventable car crashes."

The car rental company Hertz, which was founded over a century ago, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy late Friday due to the low demand caused by travel restrictions and lockdowns. The filing allows Hertz to keep operating while it devises a plan to pay creditors and turn around the business, according to Bloomberg.

After the pandemic started to cause a decline in the company's revenue, the car renter sought relief from lenders and a bailout from the U.S. Treasury Department. But while it managed to negotiate a short-term reprieve from creditors, it wasn't able to work out longer-term agreements. "With the severity of the Covid-19 impact on our business, and the uncertainty of when travel and the economy will rebound, we need to take further steps to weather a potentially prolonged recovery," Paul Stone, Hertz's chief executive officer, said in a statement. Hertz isn't the only company to file for bankruptcy - Golds Gym, J.C. Penney, J. Crew, Pier 1 imports as well as other companies have also had to seek relief by filing for bankruptcy amid quarantine.

After months of lockdowns, social distancing and workplace closures, emergency officials are worried COVID-19 may impact the ability for people to effectively prepare with the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. The "disaster fatigue" comes during an emotional toll of individuals sorting through the numbers and the news of the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Atlantic hurricane season approaching, Dan Kottlowski, AccuWeather's top hurricane expert, previously said this year will be above average for tropical storm activity with an estimated 14-20 tropical storms, 11 of which could become hurricanes.

Families living in areas that could be impacted by tropical systems should prepare emergency plans in the event of a hurricane that keeps COVID-19 in mind, Bill Wheeler, Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator in Harris County, Texas, told AccuWeather reporter Bill Wadell.  "Do a hurricane drill at home right now. It'll be a little different than COVID-19. Just do a family drill and talk about the things you want to do," he said. "With hurricane season coming on, we're going to have to lay in some time to be prepared."

Here are the latest totals from around the world, according to researchers from Johns Hopkins University:

  • Total confirmed cases: 5,231,328
  • Total deaths: 338,515
  • Total recovered: 2,070,114