As the U.S. approaches 100,000 coronavirus deaths, Alaska is set to reopen fully on Friday, with Gov. Mike Dunleavy pushing for a return to life "prior to the virus."
Meanwhile, on Thursday, President Donald Trump told reporters he would not shut down the country if there's a second wave of infections: “We are going to put out the fires. We’re not going to close the country,” Trump said. “We can put out the fires. Whether it is an ember or a flame, we are going to put it out. But we are not closing our country.”
The U.S. accounts for over a fifth of the 5.1 million global coronavirus cases with more than 1.57 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. More than 333,000 people have died globally; the U.S. death toll is nearing 95,000.
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Here are some highlights to know Friday:Caesars Palace and the Flamingo will be the first hotels to reopen on the Las Vegas Strip, though the exact date is not yet known.President Donald Trump will order U.S. flags to be lowered over federal buildings to honor those who have died from the coronavirus.The Smithsonian museums are collecting artifacts to document the pandemic.
As states reopen, we’re answering your questions: Is it safe to go to the gym? Many gyms are putting protocols in place that may reduce the risk of transmission.
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Caesars Palace, Flamingo will be first hotels to reopen on Las Vegas Strip
Caesars Entertainment, operator of nine properties in Las Vegas, has not unveiled when it will reopen because it's up to state and local officials controlling shutdown orders. But the company on Thursday granted a peek of what tourists can expect from the resort giant when Las Vegas reopens.
Rather than opening all properties at the same time, the chain will first welcome guests to Caesars Palace and the Flamingo Las Vegas. “Reopening Las Vegas in a phased approach will be a significant milestone for Caesars Entertainment as the country continues to emerge from this necessary closure period,” said Tony Rodio, CEO of Caesars Entertainment in a statement.
Both Caesars Palace and the Flamingo will offer hotel rooms, dining options and access to pools – as well as slot machines and table games. An added perk has also come out of the pandemic: All self-parking at Caesars properties along the Strip will be free.
– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal
'You've been so strong': Melania Trump sends support to students
First lady Melania Trump is sending support to the nation's students. While taking part in CNN's weekly global town hall on the coronavirus Thursday, the first lady applauded scholars for "keeping up your studies" and "learning in new ways" amid the pandemic.
"Over the past two months, I know you have had to make many changes in your life," Melania Trump said in a pre-recorded video. "Many of you had to attend classes in your home and haven’t been able to see your friends."
The onset of COVID-19 abruptly ended the in-person school year for many students across the nation in March as stay-at-home orders and online schooling became the new normal over safety concerns.
– Cydney Henderson
Donald Trump to order US flags lowered to honor coronavirus victims
President Donald Trump said Thursday he will order U.S. flags to be lowered over federal buildings to honor those who have died from the coronavirus.
The order, which Trump said would continue into the Memorial Day weekend, comes as the nation approaches 100,000 deaths from the virus. Flags traditionally fly at half staff on Memorial Day to honor the nation's fallen members of the military.
Trump's decision came hours after congressional Democrats sent a letter requesting that the flags be lowered when the coronavirus death toll hits 100,000.
– John Fritze and Nicholas Wu
Reopening America: Alaska returns to life 'prior to the virus' on Friday
What's changing on Friday? Alaska will resume life as it was "prior to the virus," with a full reopening of the economy without restrictions; Iowa will reopen movie theaters, museums and zoos; and Kentucky will allow restaurants to operate at 33% capacity indoors with unlimited outdoor seating. Find out the latest news in your state.
Florida to host 70-team youth baseball tourney over Memorial Day weekend
The Brevard County Commission in Florida says it's time to play ball again at the USSSA Space Coast Complex in Viera — starting this weekend with a 70-team youth baseball tournament.
This weekend's event could draw 1,500 people, including players, coaches and family members. There will be a number of safeguards in place to help prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus, like social distancing, cleaning shared equipment and changing out game balls more frequently.
– Dave Berman, Florida Today
Is summer vacation canceled? Depends whom you ask
As the annual summer travel season kicks off Friday, travelers and the businesses that cater to them face unprecedented uncertainty, chaos and concern.
Major attractions and vacation destinations remain closed, stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions are still pervasive, and some would-be travelers are anxious about the virus and crowds or put off by new safety measures, including mandatory face masks on planes. Add in steep job losses and the question becomes: Is summer vacation canceled this year?
The outlook is so murky AAA ditched its annual Memorial Day travel forecast this year for the first time in 20 years. All officials of the automobile club and travel agency could offer was that holiday weekend travel volume will be weak.
– Dawn Gilbertson
Smithsonian museums collect artifacts from coronavirus pandemic
Smithsonian museums are closed during the coronavirus pandemic, but curators across the institution are hard at work collecting artifacts to best preserve this moment in time. And they need your help.
The National Museum of American History established a task force to spearhead the effort to assess and document scientific and medical events during this period and their effects on business, work, politics and culture.
Curators will preserve objects, photographs and documents that will live permanently in the museum's collection. The museum can't accept materials while the building is closed, so curators request that potential donors secure items to be considered for acquisition.
– David Oliver
Donald Trump did not wear mask in front of photographers in Michigan
Ford executives encouraged President Donald Trump to don a face mask during his visit to one of its factories Thursday, but he said he chose not to wear it near photographers because he "didn’t want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it."
Trump, who was seen holding a navy blue mask with the presidential seal but not wearing it, said he put it on earlier in the tour. Ford officials accompanying the president were seen wearing face masks, according to reporters traveling with the president.
The president has come under scrutiny in the past for largely ignoring recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommends Americans wear masks in public during the coronavirus pandemic. Trump, who notes the CDC advice is not mandatory, has described the decision as a "personal choice."
– John Fritze and Courtney Subramanian
CDC director 'can't guarantee' another round of lockdowns in winter
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Robert Redfield told the Financial Times that he "can't guarantee" whether or not a second round of stay-at-home orders is coming for the United States in the winter as the new coronavirus may see a second wave that coincides with cold weather and a flu season.
"I can't guarantee; that's kind of getting into the opinion mode, we have to be data driven. What I can say is that we are committed to using the time that we have now to get this nation as overprepared as possible," Redfield told the newspaper in an interview.
Redfield said the spread of the virus in the southern hemisphere gives him concern about a second wave at the end of 2020 in the northern hemisphere.
Redfield also addressed U.S. preparedness in fighting the virus. The CDC and Trump administration have faced criticism for not having adequate testing capacity in the pandemic's early days.
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY:The life-saving lesson suicidal people can teach a world in pandemic.13 tips for hosting a great graduation party while social distancing.Leaving your coronavirus isolation? Think about these 3 things first.
Contributing: The Associated Press