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Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Ponders Brazil Travel Ban As Death Toll Nears Grim Milestone

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ImagePassengers during peak commuting hours in São Paulo, Brazil, this month.
Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

The U.S. is barring travel from Brazil.

The Trump administration is banning travel into the United States from Brazil, where the Covid-19 pandemic has been spiking, using the same authority it used earlier to halt certain travel from China and Europe.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that President Trump was adding Brazil to the list of countries where travel has already been banned, including Europe, the United Kingdom and China.

“As of May 23, 2020, Brazil had 310,087 confirmed cases of Covid-19, which is the third highest number of confirmed cases in the world,” Ms. McEnany said in a statement. “Today’s action will help ensure foreign nationals who have been in Brazil do not become a source of additional infections in our country.”

She added that the new travel restrictions did not apply to the flow of commerce between the two countries.

The decision was detailed in a proclamation Sunday evening, but had been foreshadowed earlier in the day by Robert O’Brien, the president’s national security adviser.

“Because of the situation in Brazil, we are going to take every step necessary to protect the American people,” Mr. O’Brien said on the CBS program “Face the Nation.”

When other countries began taking drastic measures to curb the spread of the virus in February and March, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, played down the risks and encouraged public gatherings. In early March, he visited Mr. Trump at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s Florida club, with three aides who later tested positive for coronavirus, setting off alarm throughout the White House.

Mr. Bolsonaro’s office declined to comment, but his foreign relations adviser said that the ban had been expected and that it was little more than a formality. “Ignore the hysteria of the press,” the adviser, Filipe Martins, said in a Twitter post.

Although as a practical matter air travel has already collapsed during the pandemic, the flight ban imposed by an ally is still a public relations setback for Mr. Bolsonaro, who has seen his ratings slide as the outbreak in Brazil has spun out of control.

Mr. Bolsonaro has repeatedly tried to reap political capital from his ideological affinity with the American president. And he has emulated his American counterpart in policy and in style, promoting the use of an unproven drug against the coronavirus and attacking the news media.

The ban also complicates the outlook for Brazilian airlines, which, like many around the world, are suffering from the collapse in demand.

Officials in Greece have suggested an “air bridge” with other nations that have minor outbreaks. International flights to Athens are to resume June 15, and to the country’s other airports on July 1. But tourists will be admitted only if their home countries meet certain “epidemiological criteria,” officials said.

Trump tweets and golfs as U.S. coronavirus deaths approach 100,000.

Credit…Tom Brenner/Reuters

As President Trump’s motorcade pulled into his golf club in Virginia on an overcast Sunday, a small group of protesters waited outside the entrance. One held up a sign.

“I care do U?” it read. “100,000 dead.”

Mr. Trump and his advisers have said that he does, but he has made scant effort to demonstrate it this Memorial Day weekend. He finally ordered flags lowered to half-staff at the White House only after being badgered to do so by his critics and otherwise took no public notice as the American death toll from the coronavirus pandemic approached a staggering 100,000.

While the country neared six digits of death, the president who repeatedly criticized his predecessor for golfing during a crisis spent the weekend on the links for the first time since March. When he was not zipping around on a cart, he was on social media embracing fringe conspiracy theories, amplifying messages from a racist and sexist Twitter account and lobbing playground insults at perceived enemies, including his own former attorney general.

This was a death toll that Mr. Trump once predicted would never be reached. In late February, he said there were only 15 coronavirus cases in the United States, understating even then the actual number, and declared that “the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero.” In the annals of the American presidency, it would be hard to recall a more catastrophically wrong prediction.

Republicans sue Gov. Gavin Newsom over vote-by-mail in California.

Credit…Mark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

California became the latest flash point in the political conflict over mail-in voting on Sunday, with the Republican National Committee suing the Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, over his executive order calling for ballots to be sent to all registered voters for the November election.

The 27-page lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Eastern District of California, contends that the nation’s most populous state is ill-equipped to rapidly shift to a vote-by-mail system and characterizes Mr. Newsom’s May 8 order as hasty.

The National Republican Congressional Committee and California’s Republican Party were also listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which is the latest legal challenge by the G.O.P. of mail-in voting in several states.

“His radical plan is a recipe for disaster that would create more opportunities for fraud & destroy the confidence Californians deserve to have in their elections,” Ms. McDaniel wrote.

Mr. Newsom’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The governor’s executive order requires each county’s elections officials to send vote-by-mail ballots to all registered voters for the Nov. 3 election. There are about 20.7 million registered voters in California, according to election registration data.

“No Californian should be forced to risk their health in order to exercise their right to vote,” Mr. Newsom said in a statement on May 8 when he signed the executive order.

The head of Wuhan’s virus lab denies that it was the source of the novel coronavirus.

Credit…Hector Retamal/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Trump administration’s unsubstantiated claims that the coronavirus pandemic was set off from a Wuhan government laboratory are “pure fabrication,” the head of the lab was quoted as saying in Chinese state media on Sunday.

Wang Yanyi, who leads the Wuhan Institute of Virology, said that the institute first received a sample of the virus at the end of December. By that point, the virus had been circulating in Wuhan, a major travel hub, for weeks.

“We didn’t have any knowledge about the virus before that, nor have we ever met, researched or kept the virus,” Dr. Wang said.

Scientists are still studying how the outbreak first happened. Most of them believe that the virus was passed from bats to humans via an intermediary species, one that was probably sold at a wet market in Wuhan late last year.

On Sunday, Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, appeared on “Face the Nation” and “Meet the Press,” accusing Chinese officials of carrying out a cover-up of the Covid-19 outbreak that effectively “unleashed” the virus on the world.

Houses of worship around the world face tough choices in reopening.

Credit…Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

Congregations across the U.S. were still using Facebook or YouTube to hold services on Sunday, or were taking part from their cars in the church parking lot.

But pastors have been sharing plans for returning to in-person services in the weeks ahead while deciding how to do so safely.

“Some governors have deemed the liquor stores and abortion clinics as essential but have left out churches and other houses of worship,” Mr. Trump said. “It’s not right. So I am correcting this injustice and calling houses of worship essential.”

Minnesota announced on Saturday that it would allow houses of worship to open at 25 percent capacity, if they follow public health guidelines. Some Catholic and Lutheran leaders had said they would resume in-person worship next week in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz’s previous order limiting gatherings.

Houses of worship can already open legally in more than half the states, but many had decided to remain closed while working out their next steps.

The idea of reopening is an especially difficult issue for African-American churches, as the coronavirus has been infecting and killing black people at disproportionally high rates.

Leaders of the Church of God in Christ, a historically black denomination with about six million members worldwide, are urging pastors not to begin reopening until at least July.

“The moral safe choice is to wait,” Bishop Charles E. Blake Sr., the church’s presiding bishop, said. “We don’t think now is the time, and neither do the scientists and doctors we consult with.”

In Germany, which for weeks now has allowed religious services, 40 churchgoers became infected with the coronavirus during a service at a Baptist church in Frankfurt, the health authorities said.

Six parishioners were hospitalized, according to Wladimir Pritzkau, a leader of the parish.

“We followed all the rules,” Mr. Pritzkau told the German news agency DPA.

France took tentative steps on Sunday to reopen churches, mosques and synagogues. Officials were nudged by a legal challenge to a blanket ban on public worship that was not set to be lifted until the end of May.

There was a sense of both joy and anxiety in the Catholic church of St.-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, where the Rev. Antoine De Folleville is the parish priest, as worshipers returned for the first time in two months.

In Jerusalem, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher reopened after a two-month lockdown. On the West Bank, thousands of Palestinians crowded into streets early Sunday in defiance of coronavirus restrictions, including many who demanded that the Palestinian authorities reopen mosques for Eid al-Fitr, the festival for the conclusion of the fasting month of Ramadan.

“The people want holiday prayers,” demonstrators chanted in front of the Palestinian Authority’s headquarters in the southern West Bank city of Hebron.

Boris Johnson says he won’t fire top aide who defied lockdown orders.

Credit…Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Despite calls for him to oust a top adviser who disobeyed Britain’s stay-at-home order, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is standing by that official, Dominic Cummings, who had fallen ill with the coronavirus.

During a news briefing on Sunday, the prime minister staunchly defended Mr. Cummings for driving in April to visit his parents in Durham, in the north of England. But Mr. Johnson deflected questions about whether he had known of Mr. Cummings’s travels and muddied the details of the lockdown rules.

Mr. Cummings has said there was no other way to get care for his young child after he and his wife began showing symptoms of the virus.

“He followed the instincts of every father and every parent, and I do not mark him down for that,” Mr. Johnson said on Sunday. “I believe that in every respect, he has acted responsibly, and legally, and with integrity.”

Mr. Johnson’s decision to stand by his adviser underlines his deep reliance on Mr. Cummings, who was the architect of his election victory last year and the driving force behind his ambitious post-Brexit agenda. But it is unlikely to defuse the uproar over Mr. Cummings’s actions, which critics say send a signal that Britain’s leaders can ignore the rules they impose on others.

The opposition Labour Party called for an inquiry into Mr. Cummings’s conduct and accused Mr. Johnson of double standards.

“It is an insult to sacrifices made by the British people that Boris Johnson has chosen to take no action against Dominic Cummings,” the Labour leader, Keir Starmer, said in a statement. “The public will be forgiven for thinking there is one rule for the prime minister’s closest adviser and another for the British people.”

The vaccine developed first may not be the best, an expert warns.

Credit…Ben Stansall/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Though there are promising signs that coronavirus vaccines will be successfully developed, an expert cautioned on Sunday that the first vaccines that become available may not prove to be the most effective.

Dr. Peter Hotez, the dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, said on the NBC program “Meet the Press” that some early vaccines may be only partly protective.

“They may reduce hospitalization and death, which is still very important,” he said, but in the end, the first to be released “may not be the ones we wind up with.”

“History tells us they get replaced with new and improved vaccines, so this is a gradual process,” Dr. Hotez said, stressing that the next year or so would probably not result in the introduction of “a magic bullet” against the virus.

Dr. Barouch cautioned that while it “is theoretically possible” to develop a vaccine in 12 to 18 months, “many, many things would have to go perfectly the first time” for that to happen.

New York sports teams can resume training, Cuomo says.

Credit…John Minchillo/Associated Press

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo gave the go-ahead on Sunday for teams to reopen their training facilities in New York, saying that the absence of professional sports had left a significant void this spring during a stay-at-home order.

“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena,” Mr. Cuomo said during his daily coronavirus briefing. “Do it. Work out the economics if you can. We want you up.”

In the National Basketball Association, the Brooklyn Nets will reopen their training center for voluntary workouts on Tuesday, ESPN reported on Sunday.

Major League Baseball, the N.B.A. and National Hockey League are all in discussions with the players’ unions about the timetable, safety protocols and logistics of playing games.

Training is the first hurdle in that complicated process, and several states still have not cleared teams to practice. The Yankees would normally train at their complex in Tampa, Fla.

The N.B.A. and N.H.L. suspended their seasons during the second week of March because of the outbreak, while baseball had been scheduled to start its season on March 26.

A significant point of contention for the players and owners has been over how much the athletes would be paid in a shortened seasons without the revenue from ticket sales and stadium concessions.

And then there is the issue of the health and safety of the players and team employees, which has put the onus on each of the sports leagues to develop testing and contact tracing protocols should an athlete become infected.

“We want people to be able to watch sports to the extent people are still staying home,” Mr. Cuomo said. “It gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy so we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible and we will work with them to make sure that can happen.”

Florida braces for a hurricane season complicated by fears of contagion.

Credit…Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Consider this scenario: It’s deep into the summer and a powerful hurricane looms off the Florida coast, threatening enormous destruction and widespread blackouts. In normal times, that would prompt evacuation orders for millions of coastal residents.

But in the middle of a pandemic, the most consequential disaster decisions become complicated by fears of contagion.

This is the planning challenge that emergency managers across the Southeast face ahead of June 1, the start of a hurricane season that meteorologists expect to be quite active.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has forecast as many as six storms rated Category 3 or higher. A named system, Tropical Storm Arthur, formed in May.

If a big storm comes this summer, people in harm’s way may hear advice from the authorities that is somewhat contradictory and perhaps confusing: Stay at home and remain socially distant from others to avoid contracting the coronavirus. But leave home — even if that means coming into closer contact with other people — to be safe during a dangerous hurricane.

“We’re going to need to get people out, because that is the emergent threat,” said Jared Moskowitz, the director of Florida’s division of emergency management. “We will undoubtedly have to balance the risks.”

Around the world, documenting the pandemic in journals and drawings.

Credit…Ruth Manning

As the coronavirus continues to spread and confine people largely to their homes, many are filling pages with their experiences of living through a pandemic. Their diaries are told in words and pictures: pantry inventories, window views, questions about the future, concerns about the present.

Taken together, the pages tell the story of an anxious, claustrophobic world on pause.

“You can say anything you want, no matter what, and nobody can judge you,” said Ady, an 8-year-old in the Bay Area of California who has been keeping a diary. “No one says, ‘scaredy-cat.’”

When historians begin assembling the story of life during coronavirus, these first-person accounts will be one place to start.

The pandemic commercial salutes you.

Credit…Cari Vander Yacht

Many crises beget their own corporate public service announcements — remember the Budweiser Clydesdale tribute to 9/11? — but rarely have they occurred with such speed and ubiquity as in the coronavirus pandemic.

Dozens of online and television ads have aimed to position brands within the pandemic experience, deploying inspirational pop music and gravelly voice-over artists to assure viewers in “these unprecedented times” (Buick), that “in times as uncertain as these” (Chick fil A), “we’re all living a new normal” (State Farm), but “even now, some things never change” (Target) because “our spirit is what unites us” (Dodge).

They typically begin with drone footage of empty streets, a shot of a child staring plaintively out of a window and then — cue some upbeat music — a medical worker peeling off a mask or a guy jamming on a home piano.

One Coca-Cola commercial elevates the subtext into words. “For all the scare mongering, there is also care mongering,” it says. “For every virus, there is a vaccine … in positivity.”

Reporting was contributed by Reed Abelson, Peter Baker, Dan Barry, Keith Bradsher, Stephen Castle, Melina Delkic, Elizabeth Dias, Max Fisher, Abby Goodnough, Rebecca Halleck, Michael Hardy, Amanda Hess, Jason Horowitz, Mike Ives, Yonette Joseph, Sheila Kaplan, Annie Karni, Mark Landler, Michael Levenson, Cao Li, Iliana Magra, Mujib Mashal, Tiffany May, Patricia Mazzei, Constant Méheut, Sarah Mervosh, Raphael Minder, Amelia Nierenberg, Sharon Otterman, Elizabeth Paton, Roni Caryn Rabin, Austin Ramzy, Adam Rasgon, Rick Rojas, Luis Ferré Sadurní, Andrea Salcedo, Edgar Sandoval, Charlie Savage, Christopher F. Schuetze, Nelson D. Schwartz, Knvul Sheikh, Marc Stein, Matt Stevens, Sheryl Gay Stolberg, Derrick Bryson Taylor, Jim Tankersley, Neil Vigdor, James Wagner, Vivian Wang, Alex Williams, Elaine Yu and Karen Zraick.



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