BY: WILLIAM MANSELL, ABC NEWS
(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 338,000 people worldwide.
Over 5.2 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.
The United States is the worst-affected country in the world, with more than 1.6 million diagnosed cases and at least 96,007 deaths.
Today’s biggest developments:
US nears 100,000 deaths
Symptomatic hair stylist ‘potentially directly exposed’ 84 clients
Here’s how the news is developing today. All times Eastern. Please refresh this page for updates.
8:40 a.m.: Most legal challenges to stay-at-home orders seeking religious exemptions denied
In at least 22 cases, a judge has denied legal challenges seeking religious exemptions to stay-at-home orders that would allow houses of worship to host gatherings, according to research by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, a religious liberty watchdog group that promotes the separation of church and state.
The group found six examples where judges granted a religious exemption — four of them in Kentucky, one in Kansas and one in North Carolina. Two of these cases permitted drive-in services and four allowed in-person services. There are at least ten such cases that remain undecided.
The data was provided in the wake of President Donald Trump deeming houses of worship “essential.” Trump demanded on Friday governors allow them to reopen “this weekend,” threatening to “override” the governors if they didn’t. He did not explain what legal grounds he had to do so.
Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said the demand was “irresponsible and reckless — and tragically, will lead to more deaths.”
“Decisions about how, when and if houses of worship can offer in-person services must be left to state and local public health officials who are familiar with the unique situations they face,” Laser said in a statement. “President Trump has no power to override the nation’s governors in this area.”
7:18 a.m.: Hertz files for brankruptcy
Car rental company Hertz filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy Friday amid the global economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The company cited the “sudden and dramatic” decline in demand and future bookings as millions across the U.S. stayed at home to help stop slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Hertz said all of its stores, along with its subsidiaries like Dollar, Thrifty, will remain open after the filing. All reservations, promotions, vouchers, etc. are expected to continue as usual, the company said.
“With the severity of the COVID-19 impact on our business, and the uncertainty of when travel and the economy will rebound, we need to take further steps to weather a potentially prolonged recovery,” Hertz President and CEO Paul Stone said in a statement Friday. “Today’s action will protect the value of our business, allow us to continue our operations and serve our customers, and provide the time to put in place a new, stronger financial foundation to move successfully through this pandemic and to better position us for the future.”
While travel is nowhere near normal levels, there is slight momentum towards a rebound as many states begin reopening. TSA screened 318,449 people on Thursday, the highest number of passengers since March 23. Compared to the same day last year, it is still down around 88% when the agency screened 2,673,635 people.
5 a.m.: Missouri hair stylist ‘potentially directly exposed’ 84 clients to COVID-19
A symptomatic hair stylist in Springfield, Missouri, may have exposed 84 clients and seven coworkers to the novel coronavirus over the course of eight days this month.
The hair stylist had recently traveled within the Show-Me and, after returning to Springfield, gave haircuts at a Great Clips from May 12-20, according to the Springfield-Greene County Health Department.
“This scenario is well within our capacity for staff to contact trace and hopefully contain,” Clay Goddard, director of health for Springfield-Greene County, said at a news conference Friday. “But I’m going to be honest with you, we can’t have many more of these. We can’t make this a regular habit or our capability as a community will be strained and we will have to reevaluate what things look like going forward.”
All potentially exposed individuals will be notified and offered testing, Goddard said. Officials are hoping for a minimal spread of COVID-19 from this incident because all parties concerned were wearing masks.
He said as the state and local communities reopen, it’s important for citizens to realize the social responsibility they have to others. Don’t assume your slight cold or allergies are just that; make sure to get tested, Goddard said.
If people don’t do this, it will put a strain on the local health care system and could force officials to rethink their economic reopening plans.
“We are moving out of a phase where we took enormous sacrifice as a community. There are economic hardships as a result of that,” Goddard said Friday. “We’re in a new phase of this disease where we’re going to walk that tight rope between disease control and economic harm. If we are going to work sick and sharing this illness with others, that’s not a good approach.”
Missouri Gov. Mike Parson lifted many of the state’s restrictions and its stay-at-home order on May 4.
The state has more than 11,844 diagnosed cases of COVID-19, with at least 677 deaths.
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