Supreme Court rejects challenge to limits on church services
WASHINGTON — A divided Supreme Court on Friday rejected an emergency appeal by a California church that challenged state limits on attendance at worship services that have been imposed to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
Over the dissent of the four more conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals in turning away a request from the South Bay United Pentecostal Church in Chula Vista, California, in the San Diego area.
The church argued that limits on how many people can attend their services violate constitutional guarantees of religious freedom and had been seeking an order in time for services on Sunday. The church said it has crowds of 200 to 300 people for its services.
Roberts wrote in brief opinion that the restriction allowing churches to reopen at 25 percent of their capacity, with no more than 100 worshipers at a time, “appear consistent” with the First Amendment.
Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote in dissent that the restriction “discriminates against places of worship and in favor of comparable secular businesses. Such discrimination violates the First Amendment.”
Visitor to Lake of Ozarks, criticized over crowded party, has COVID-19
A Boone County, Missouri, resident who went to a bar that was criticized for having a crowded pool party over Memorial Day weekend has tested positive for COVID-19, health officials said.
The resident, who was not identified, was in the Lake of the Ozarks area on Saturday and Sunday and went to several places, including Backwater Jack’s, the bar that had a pool party where video showed little social distancing.
The Camden County Health Department said in a statement that the person developed illness on Sunday, so they were “likely incubating illness and possibly infectious at the time of the visit.”
A timeline was released “due to the need to inform mass numbers of unknown people,” the health department said. It shows the person went to Backwater Jack’s twice on Saturday, another pool that day, and a Buffalo Wild Wings on Sunday.
Camden County is the county where the bar is located, and Boone County where the person lives is north of Lake of the Ozarks.
Backwater Jack’s has defended the party, saying that not socially distancing is not a crime, that temperature checks were conducted and sanitizer was available, and that it is a seasonal business that has already been badly impacted by the restrictions related to the epidemic.
Merck and Novartis join the hunt for a coronavirus vaccine
Several more drug manufacturers have joined the global effort to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
However, experts remain unconvinced a vaccine proven to be safe and effective will be available this calendar year.
“I think we’ll have to have one more cycle of this virus in the fall, heading into the winter, before we get to a vaccine,” Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration, told CNBC this week.
“I really think a vaccine is probably a 2021 event, in terms of having wide availability of a vaccine for the general population.”
Click here for a roundup of the most notable vaccine news of the week.
The Week in Pictures: Hugging through plastic and crowds return to beaches
See more photos as America passed a tragic milestone in the fight against the coronavirus.
Troll farms from Macedonia, Philippines pushed disinformation
One of the largest publishers of coronavirus disinformation on Facebook has been banned from the platform for using content farms from Macedonia and the Philippines, Facebook said on Friday.
The publisher, Natural News, was one of the most prolific pushers of the viral “Plandemic” conspiracy video, which falsely claimed that the coronavirus is part of an elaborate government plot to control the populace through vaccines, and erroneously claimed that wearing a mask increases the risk of catching the coronavirus.
Facebook said that it had found foreign trolls repeatedly posted content from Natural News, an anti-vaccination news site that frequently posts false coronavirus conspiracy theories about 5G towers and Bill Gates. They also posted content from Natural News’ sister websites, NewsTarget and Brighteon, in an effort to artificially inflate their reach.
Whistleblower says Hungary discharged critically ill patients to clear space for potential coronavirus patients
In April, Hungary’s government cleared out its hospitals in preparation for an intake of COVID-19 patients. The government said they had eight days to clear out 60 percent of their beds. In the end, Hungary only had around 3,800 infections and 600 deaths, leaving hospitals empty and sick patients forced to return home.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Viktor Orban told NBC News that hospitals were issued guidance to ensure that they didn’t send anyone home who could not be cared for there. But a whistleblower says that many of those discharged from the hospital were desperately unwell, and many have now died.
The whistleblower, Athina Nemeth, an ambulance officer in Budapest, says that of 10 patients she cared for, nine died after being sent home. One of her patients was sent home with an open stomach wound, another with a stoma bag. Patients were discharged without medical supplies, to families who did not know how to care for them.
Lilla Szeleczki’s mother is one of the dead. Szeleczki was given less than a day’s notice that her 80-year-old mother was coming home from hospital. She had dementia, chronic pneumonia and a kidney tumor. Szeleczi didn’t receive any medical support, and had to Google how to administer her mother’s injections. She told NBC that she felt abandoned. It was, she said, “like a horror movie.” Her mother died less than a week after returning home.
Hungary’s secretary of state for International Communication and Relations, Zoltan Kovacs, says that the decision to clear beds was based on sound medical and scientific advice. He said that freeing up beds was necessary, and that although it meant patients were discharged, “this problem could not be solved any other way.”
The Hungarian Medical Chamber did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The former director of the National Institute of Medical Rehabilitation has been prevented from responding by a law that prohibits medical staff from speaking to reporters.
Dems ask ICE to expand testing for COVID-19 and stop transferring detainees
Seventeen Democratic senators sent a letter to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf on Friday demanding that ICE halt the transfer of detainees in its custody and expand testing to stem the spread of coronavirus among detainees.
“Testing and outbreak patterns make clear that … inter-facility transfers result in virus outbreak in previously unaffected jails,” the senators wrote. “Yet, ICE has initiated transfers from facilities with high concentrations of COVID-19 positive cases to facilities with no known cases.”
The lawmakers, led by Sen. Martin Heinrich, D.-N.M., are asking ICE to suspend detainee transfers into the ICE system from federal prisons and state and local law enforcement agencies, and to test detainees at “all ICE facilities, including processing centers, privately run facilities, and local jails contracting with ICE.”
According to ICE, there are currently about 26,000 detainees in custody, and there have been at least 1,327 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among detainees in 54 locations across the U.S.
New Jersey governor allows child care centers, non-contact sports, and summer camps to resume in the upcoming weeks
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced on Friday that he will be signing an executive order allowing child care services, non-contact organized sports, and youth day camps to resume over the next several weeks.
As long as they follow public health guidelines, child care centers can reopen on June 15, non-contact sport activities can restart on June 22, and summer programs can begin on July 6, the governor said.
Horse racing is also expected to resume as early as next weekend. Health and safety standards are expected to be released Friday afternoon.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says NYC is set to begin reopening on June 8
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday that the city is on track to begin Phase I reopening on June 8, a week from Monday, as long as it meets the outstanding criteria related to hospital capacity remaining low and bringing contact tracing up to speed.
A number of regions that opened when statewide shutdown orders were lifted — Finger Lakes, Mohawk Valley, Southern Tier, North Country and Central New York — will move onto Phase II, reopening office-based jobs, hair salons and retail services, Cuomo said during his daily briefing.
“We are reopening to a new normal, a safer normal. People will be wearing masks, people will be social distancing,” Cuomo said. “It will just be a new way of interacting.”
Coronavirus started spreading in the U.S. in January, CDC says
The coronavirus began quietly spreading in the U.S. as early as late January, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Friday — before President Trump blocked air travel from China and a full month before community spread was first detected in the country.
More than four months into the pandemic that has killed at least 102,000 Americans, the new data is the first comprehensive federal analysis of when COVID-19 took hold in the U.S.
It was also the first media briefing from the CDC in more than two months.
“As America begins to reopen, looking back at how COVID-19 made its way to the United States will contribute to a better understanding to prepare for the future,” Dr. Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, said Friday during a call with reporters.