States across the nation made steps forward this weekend in relaxing social distancing restrictions, particularly ones that were keeping people from exercising outdoors.
Access to beaches, parks, golf courses, boat ramps and more is on the rise across the country, even as leaders warn that restrictions could come back in force if coronavirus cases spike. These hints of normalcy come alongside grim reminders of the seriousness of the health crisis: the iconic Kentucky Derby has been rescheduled for the first time since World War II, possible therapies for the virus are still experimental, and the death toll continues to climb.
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Here are the most important developments of the day:The shipping industry is the latest business sector to face high-profile scrutiny for worker safety concerns: Multiple FedEx workers' symptoms have turned fatal. The company says it has made several safety improvements at hub where at least five fatalities have occurred, according to family members.As the U.S. surpassed a milestone of one million known cases of COVID-19 this week, virus rates vary dramatically from one neighborhood to another, based in part on race and income, a USA TODAY analysis of ZIP code data shows.
In other news: You may have heard about something called a "Murder Hornet" being spotted in the U.S. It's real. You should not panic.
A question you might have: Are researchers working on ultraviolet light 'treatment' for COVID-19? Here's our fact-check on the topic.
Officials warn against beach crowding amid scattered protests
California authorities pleaded for beachgoers to follow social distancing rules over the weekend after Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday temporarily shuttered Orange County’s coastline, a move he said was prompted by overcrowded beaches last weekend.
At least in some places, officials were pleased with results. In San Diego, where people can exercise on the beach but not linger, Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer praised residents for heeding safety restrictions that public health officials have credited at slowing the spread of the coronavirus.
But even as Newsom and others seek a cautious, phased reopening of the state, protesters don’t want to wait. In Huntington Beach, police estimated 2,500 to 3,000 people gathered for May Day on a beachside street. They waved American flags and held signs. Most of them wore no masks and didn’t practice social distancing.
In Sacramento, as police lined steps outside the Capitol, protesters waved signs that said “Defend Freedom” and broke into “U-S-A” chants.
A similar situation played out in various states on the East Coast on Saturday.
State and county parks were allowed to reopen in New Jersey, and park-goer Lisa Hoffman was among those enjoying the reprieve: "I felt like I was let out of prison today," Hoffman said. "If they have to do this slowly, I'm okay with that. But we need to move forward."
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said he was pleased with initial reports of social distancing from a beachfront park, state parks and some golf courses that also reopened.
– Joel Shannon, Mike Davis
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Experimental treatment: More than 30 gravely ill patients now recovered
More than 30 gravely ill patients who took part in an experimental treatment for COVID-19 at Houston Methodist Research Institute have recovered from the illness and have left the hospital, the physician overseeing the therapy said Friday.
"All of these people were very, very sick," Dr. James A. Musser, chairman of the department of pathology and genomic medicine at Houston Methodist Hospital, said in a phone interview. "Many of them were on ventilators. That was the common theme."
It cannot be said with certainty the treatment in which plasma donated by people who had fully recovered from the illness caused by the contagious and sometimes deadly coronavirus is injected into those still sick was responsible for recoveries, Musser said. But it appears to be a hopeful sign, he added.
Experts are still seeking to determine the types of patients who appeared to have benefited from the therapy and the types who did not.
— John C Moritz
More COVID-19 information:
Workers face 'uphill battle' proving firms liable if they catch COVID-19 as economy reopens. Read more.
State reopenings: Ohio takes small steps; Colorado OKs hair salons
Ohio's loosening of stay-at-home orders Friday represents Gov. Mike DeWine's cautious approach, starting with an easing of rules for hospitals, dentists and veterinarians, followed Monday with the opening of construction and manufacturing. Retail and customer service shops will remain shuttered until May 12.
Meanwhile, to usher in the first of May, more than a dozen states – like Louisiana and Colorado – have allowed restaurants, stores or some other business to reopen, but under tight restrictions to keep people apart. Find the latest on your state here.