The Latest: Protesters rally at California state Capitol


The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Protesters gather outside California’s state Capitol to rally against stay-at-home orders.

— North Carolina farmers euthanizing 1.5 million chickens.

— Iraq sees spike in coronavirus cases as the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end.

— New York state records 24-hour death total under 100.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Hundreds of protesters rallied outside California’s state Capitol on Saturday to protest stay-at-home orders even as residents entered the Memorial Day weekend with newly expanded options for leisure.

California Highway Patrol officers closed the Capitol lawn to demonstrators, so speakers addressed the crowd from the back of a flatbed truck as an airplane flew above towing a banner with a picture of Gov. Gavin Newsom and the words “End his tyranny!”

Protesters waved dozens of flags and signs, many in support of President Donald Trump. Few people wore masks and there was little room for social distancing.

The protest came as restrictions eased across much of the state. Some 45 of 58 counties have received permission to reopen most stores and many public spaces by meeting state standards for controlling the novel coronavirus.

Authorities continue to warn people to practice social distancing and other anti-virus measures, noting that the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths continues to rise.

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HAGATNA, Guam — The Department of Agriculture in Guam has invited hunters to participate in a pig-hunting derby to provide food for families in need during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pacific Daily News reported that the department announced that the two-day derby is scheduled to begin next Saturday. The department released a statement saying the derby is intended to feed families, foster familial hunter development and reduce the feral pig population.

Event organizers are working with mayors to distribute pigs whole and unprocessed to residents within their villages and provide safe handling guidelines.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Coronavirus outbreaks at meat processing plants are forcing North Carolina farmers to euthanize 1.5 million chickens, according to a state official.

Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Joe Reardon told The News & Observer that this is the first time during the pandemic that farmers in the state have had to euthanize their animals. Roughly a third of the 1.5 million chickens already had been killed, Reardon said.

Chicken and hog farmers in other states also have been euthanizing millions of animals during the COVID-19 pandemic. North Carolina hog farmers have not taken steps to euthanize their animals, Reardon said.

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FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. — Eighteen soldiers assigned to the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division have returned to Fort Campbell after spending more than a month in New Jersey helping with COVID-19 response operations.

Fort Campbell officials say the soldiers deployed April 14 to help provide logistical support for the response to the new coronavirus outbreak throughout the Northeast. The troops helped receive, process and move supplies, equipment and personnel in critical areas affected by the virus outbreak.

The soldiers will undergo a precautionary quarantine under medical supervision. An official welcome-home event is being planned, officials said.

The Fort Campbell Army post is located along the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

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MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is scrapping his 10-person limit on group gatherings and allowing churches to open at 25% occupancy if certain safety guidelines are met.

Walz’s decision comes after the state reported a record number of COVID-19 cases. He says the issue has been “a challenging one” because large gatherings raise the risk of spreading the virus.

Walz says he understands the toll the pandemic has taken on the spiritual health of residents. His new executive order applies only to religious gatherings and not receptions.

While the leader of the Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis welcomed the change, the governor said parishes should not open if they don’t feel they can meet safety measures.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda said in a letter to parishioners that limiting gatherings to 10 people had “burdened the Church’s ability to fully meet the sacramental needs of our faithful.”

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A woman who raised questions about Florida’s COVID-19 data after being ousted as the data’s curator had been reprimanded several times for violating Health Department policy, including for posting political commentary about the information, state records show.

Rebekah Jones’ comments over the past week and a half in emails to researchers, interviews with a handful of media outlets, and blog posts have sought to sow doubt about the credibility of the data now that she is no longer in that role.

State health officials strenuously deny any issue with the information’s accuracy as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis seeks to make a data-driven case for a step-by-step reopening of the state’s battered economy following safer-at-home orders.

Jones has not alleged any tampering with data on deaths, hospital symptom surveillance, hospitalizations for COVID-19, numbers of new confirmed cases, or overall testing rates. She has, however, suggested Health Department managers wanted her to manipulate information to paint a rosier picture and that she pushed back.

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A hairstylist served 84 clients over eight days while experiencing symptoms of coronavirus, Missouri health officials say.

Clay Goddard, director of the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said in a news briefing that the stylist worked between May 12-20. All clients wore masks and will be tested, as will the stylist’s coworkers, the Springfield News-Leader reports.

The announcement Friday came just days after city officials announced plans to relax even more distancing requirements, and about a week after the health department started seeing an influx of new travel-related infections.

Goddard said health officials still had enough capacity to pinpoint the origin of infections and potential spread, although that could change.

The state health department reported 218 new confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, bringing the total to 11,558 since the pandemic began. That was the largest one-day total since 319 cases were reported May 1. Ten new deaths brought that total to 671.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina has failed to change its election laws to ensure that voters can safely cast ballots during the COVID-19 pandemic, voting rights advocates claim in a federal lawsuit.

The nonprofit Democracy North Carolina and the League of Women Voters of North Carolina sued Friday on behalf of several elderly or disabled residents whose medical conditions make them more vulnerable to coronavirus.

The lawsuit alleges that several aspects of North Carolina’s absentee vote-by-mail requirements are unconstitutional because voters will have to risk exposure to COVID-19 to successfully vote.

For example, mail-in absentee voters are required to complete the ballot in the presence of two witnesses or a notary. State law also requires voters to submit their registration applications at least 25 days before the election or else register in-person at an early voting site, the suit notes.

The lawsuit says that will result in millions of state residents either losing their right to vote or being forced to compromise their health in order to cast a ballot. The state Board of Elections and other state officials are named as defendants.

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STURGIS, S.D. — The mayor of Sturgis says city officials can’t stop people from coming to the annual motorcycle gathering in the Black Hills of South Dakota, regardless of the new coronavirus.

The 80th Sturgis Motorcycle Rally is scheduled for Aug. 7-16. The City Council has said it would make an official decision in mid-June on whether to go forward with hosting the event, the Rapid City Journal reported.

Mayor Mark Carstensen said in a Facebook video that “tourism is coming” to the Black Hills and Sturgis. A manager with The Hotel Sturgis said all 22 rooms have been booked for the week of the rally and there is a waiting list.

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DOVER, Del. — The University of Delaware says it is laying off more than 1,100 part-time employees, mostly students, in a move to cut costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The News Journal reports that students account for 805 of the 1,146 part-time employees who were notified of their layoffs on Thursday.

An email to employees said the layoffs, which take effect on June 1, do not affect adjunct faculty, graduate students, work-study students or employees whose wages are paid through external funding.

But many adjunct professors will not have a teaching position in the fall due to a hiring freeze.

In April, the university announced that it faced a $65 million budget shortfall due to pandemic’s financial toll, including revenue lost from prorated housing and canceled athletic events.

The university hopes to reopen campus in phases starting June 1 with certain research facilities.

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BAGHDAD — Iraq’s Health Ministry is reporting the steepest single-day spike in confirmed coronavirus cases since the government began recording cases in late February.

The ministry reported 308 new cases Saturday, one day ahead of celebrations to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Curfew hours had been relaxed during the month of fasting, which contributed to higher daily rates of infection.

According to ministry figures, more than 4,200 people have tested positive for the virus in Iraq. At least 152 people have died.

Roads have been clogged with traffic and supermarkets and shops have been packed with people preparing for the celebrations, likely contributing to the increase in infections.

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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state reported its lowest number of daily coronavirus deaths in weeks in what Gov. Andrew Cuomo described Saturday as a critical benchmark.

The daily death tally was 84 after a peak of 799 on April 8.

Reducing the state’s daily death count to fewer than 100 seemed almost impossible several weeks ago, the Democratic governor said. That figure has remained stubbornly high even amid other signs of encouragement.

“In my head, I was always looking to get under 100,” Cuomo said. “For me, it’s a sign that we’re making real progress.”

The number of hospitalized patients in the state that has been the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S. continued to fall, dropping to over 4,600.

Cuomo also announced that the region along the Hudson River north of New York City and south of Albany is set to begin reopening Tuesday, and that Long Island could follow suit Wednesday.

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ATHENS — Two fatalities from COVID-19 were reported in Greece during the most recent 24-hour period, bringing the death toll to 171, health authorities announced Saturday.

Another three new infections have been recorded since Friday afternoon, raising the nation’s total to 2,876. The number of patients on ventilators stands at 20, while 99 have left intensive care.

Greek authorities say they have performed 152,998 tests for the disease.

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ROME — Italy on Saturday registered 669 new cases of COVID-19, two-thirds of them in the northern region of Lombardy, which has been the hardest-hit since the outbreak began.

Figures from the most recent 24-hour period since Friday evening saw 119 deaths registered. Officially, Italy has 32,735 deaths from COVID-19.

According to Health Ministry data, the latest cases raised the nation’s overall tally of confirmed coronavirus cases to 229,327. All of Italy’s regions, with the exception of Lombardy, registered no more than a few dozen new cases each on Saturday, and many regions had numbers of new infections in the single digits.

Eager to revive tourism, the government has said people will be allowed to resume travel between regions starting June 3, but travel restrictions could remain if there’s an uptick of infections.

Italy eased many stay-at-home restrictions on May 18, including allowing public Masses to be held and restaurants and cafes to serve sit-down customers.

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ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health minister announced 32 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the country’s death toll to 4,308.

Fahrettin Koca also tweeted Saturday 1,186 confirmed infections in the previous 24 hours, the highest number of the week. The total number of infections has reached 155,686. The testing number also was the highest, with more than 40,000 performed.

Turkey’s transport minister said some intercity trains will resume limited operations on Thursday as the country readies to restart domestic tourism. Passengers will be required to obtain a travel certification code from a government phone application. Those above 65 and under 20 will also need to get an additional travel permit as a full curfew imposed on those age groups continues, except for a few hours each week.

Turkey’s minister of youth and sports announced all quarantine measures for Turkish citizens coming from abroad had been completed. Some 77,441 people were placed in mandatory quarantines in dormitories since March to curb the disease’s spread.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak



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