On Memorial Day, death tolls nears 100,000.

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

The U.S. is on the verge of registering 100,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus as the nation continues to reopen and respond to the pandemic on this mournful Memorial Day.

Throughout the weekend, Americans have been out and about after being cloistered at home for more than two months. But with the reemergence comes new fears that the virus could spread further, creating more headaches for state and government officials as they subsequently look to bring back the American economy.

On the Sunday talk shows, conversation centered around the precautions Americans should take throughout the weekend, including wearing masks and maintaining social distancing despite crowded beaches, boardwalks, parks and other highly concentrated localities.  

“You can go out. You can be outside. You can play golf. You can play tennis with marked balls. You can go to the beaches if you stay six feet apart. But remember that that is your space, and that’s a space that you need to protect and ensure that you’re social distanced for others,” Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, told ABC’s “This Week.”  

“We really want to be clear all the time that social distancing is absolutely critical. And if you can’t social distance and you’re outside, you must wear a mask,” Birx added (The Hill). 

The Hill: Birx: “I’m very concerned when people go out and don’t maintain social distancing” 

The Associated Press: Memorial Day weekend draws crowds and triggers warnings. 

As The Hill’s Peter Sullivan writes, the national reopening is entering a risky new phase as some states open up despite case numbers continuing to rise. However, public health experts are acknowledging that stay-at-home orders cannot last forever and are instead urging a slow and measured approach to reopening as the country moves forward.  

Making matters tough is the fact that it is difficult to compare states, as there is wide variation across the country and some use different metrics than others. There are some warning signs in states such as Alabama, Arkansas and North Carolina, where cases are continuing to rise. By contrast, large, sparsely populated states such as Vermont and Montana have fared relatively well. Even some more populated states such as Washington and Oregon have done better.

On Sunday, the president took another step to stem the spread of the virus by banning the entry of all non-U.S. citizens from Brazil. As of Sunday, Brazil has the second most reported COVID-19 cases (347,398), trailing only the U.S. According to the White House, the new decision does not restrict the flow of commerce between the two countries (Bloomberg News). 

Flashback: Just over a month ago, Vice President Pence predicted that the virus would be “largely” behind us by Memorial Day.

 Niall Stanage: The Memo: Trump agenda rolls on amid pandemic. 

The Associated Press: White House goal on testing nursing homes unmet.

Peter Baker, The New York Times: Trump tweets and golfs, but makes no mention of virus’s toll.

 Elsewhere, the Senate is out of town this week for its annual Memorial Day recess. However, chatter surrounding the next coronavirus relief package has not let up as Senate Republicans expect to pass a bill in the coming weeks. Despite that expectation, mystery surrounds what could be in any bill, as there remain deep divisions within the GOP caucus on a number of key policy provisions, with some continuing to question whether now is the time to move on to another bill.  

“I don’t think there’s a consensus yet on a path forward,” said Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican. 

Lawmakers have approved roughly $2.8 trillion in COVID-19 relief spending, but the only item that has received a significant amount of support within the caucus for inclusion in the next bill is liability protection for companies (The Hill).  

One item up for consideration, according to The Wall Street Journal, is cash incentives to push Americans back to work, rather than having them seek enhanced unemployment benefits that are in place through July. Unemployed individuals are currently able to collect $600 per week, with Republicans vowing that those benefits will not be extended in the next package despite their broad support from Democrats. 

“This will not be in the next bill,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said last week in a call with House Republicans, according to the report.

Meanwhile, the White House on Sunday warned that the economic downturn could last through the November election. White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett told CNN’s “State of the Union” that the unemployment rate could remain in the double digits come November. He also expects the May unemployment figure to eclipse 20 percent.  

You’re going to be starting at a number in the 20s and working your way down,” Hassett said. “And so, of course, you could still not be back to full employment by September or October” (The Hill). 

The Associated Press: President Trump’s pitch to voters: Trust me, economy will soar in 2021. 

Paul Kane: Quiet at the Capitol is a reminder summer traditions are on hold amid pandemic. 

The Hill: New Jersey governor warns of educator, health-care worker layoffs without federal aid.

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