A version of this story appeared in the May 24 edition of CNN’s Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction newsletter. Sign up here to receive the need-to-know headlines every weekday.

CNN  — 

Houses of worship have become the latest coronavirus battleground in the United States.

President Donald Trump declared them “essential” on Friday, calling for them to reopen “right now” and threatening to override governors who resist.

All 50 US states have taken steps to ease lockdown restrictions. But some states still ban large gatherings, including religious services, as the coronavirus death toll approaches 100,000.

Several Covid-19 clusters have been linked to places of worship. When a person who later learned they had the virus attended a California religious service two weeks ago, 180 other people were exposed to coronavirus.

Much like stay-at-home orders and mandatory face masks, the issue has deeply divided Americans. The Interfaith Alliance and the Council on American-Islamic Relations criticized Trump’s calls and advised against holding services. The Southern Baptist Convention, however, said they were “pleased” with the President’s announcement.

Europe has exercised more caution when reopening religious services. French and Italian authorities allowed them to resume this week for the first time in months. But strict rules are in place. Masks and hand sanitizers are mandatory and seats have to be placed at a safe distance from each other.

The message from Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, could not have been any clearer. Wearing a face mask is critical to reducing the spread of coronavirus, especially since many carriers don’t even know they’re contagious, she said yesterday.


Q. Can coronavirus spread through water, like in a swimming pool?

A: It’s best to take the stairs if you can. But if you can’t, emergency room physician Dr. Leana Wen offers several tips.

Wear a mask. It reduces the risk of inhaling the virus, which can linger in the air for 8 minutes, and it helps reduce your chances of infecting others if you are an asymptomatic carrier.

Use a tissue to push the elevator buttons. If you don’t have one, use your elbow, then wash or disinfect that area when you can. Try to keep your distance from anyone else inside the elevator as much as possible.

Send your questions here. Are you a health care worker fighting Covid-19? Message us on WhatsApp about the challenges you’re facing: +1 347-322-0415.


Brazil’s deepening crisis

Coronavirus has yet to peak in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest and worst-infected big city, but the healthcare system is already beginning to break down. As the crisis deepens and the number of deaths continues to rise, President Jair Bolsonaro is urging businesses to reopen. He opposes many governors who are stressing social distancing measures to slow the spread.

Far from hospitals, Brazil’s indigenous people are dying at an alarming rate. The death toll is double that of the rest of Brazil’s population, according to the advocacy group Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

Activists say deforestation in the Amazon, which is accelerating despite coronavirus, is responsible for bringing the virus inside the rainforest.

The lockdown trounces women’s rights

The coronavirus seems to be more deadly for men. But in most other ways, women are bearing the brunt of the pandemic. From a spike in domestic violence and restricted access to family-planning services, to a disproportionate economic impact, lockdown measures are hurting women and their basic rights more than men.

What antibody tests can – and can’t – reveal

Roughly 12% of Moscow residents are believed to have coronavirus antibodies, the Russian capital’s health authorities said yesterday, following the screening of more than 50,000 residents over the past two weeks.

Antibody testing is a way to assess how many people have had coronavirus and determine whether a population can achieve “herd immunity,” when a majority of the public becomes immune to an infectious disease.

But health experts have warned against putting too much hope on antibody testing, because it’s unclear whether people become immune after catching the virus. Earlier this week, Sweden revealed that despite adopting more relaxed measures to control the virus, only 7.3% of people in Stockholm had developed antibodies, well below the 70-90% needed to create herd immunity.

Hong Kong protesters take to the streets despite virus restrictions

Thousands of people flooded Hong Kong streets today, opposing the Chinese government’s move to impose a national security law that threatens the city’s autonomy.

US bans travelers from Brazil


  • After two months of lockdown, domestic flights are resuming in India today. (But don’t expect the airports to look the same as they did before the pandemic.)
  • Experts warn the pandemic is causing an exponential rise in the online exploitation of children.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under fire for refusing to fire his chief adviser yesterday after it was reported he flouted lockdown restrictions multiple times.
  • Cupid is in such hot demand in New York City that he’s run out of arrows, with the City Clerk saying there are no online marriage license appointments available until September.
  • Rare nature events don’t pause just because human life is put on hold. Millions of cicadas are expected to emerge after 17 years underground. And Tasmania’s pencil pine are producing seeds — something that only happens every few years.
  • It’s been just over 80 years since America got its first taste of the buffet. Now, thanks to the novel coronavirus, the salad bar is facing an increasingly uncertain future.
  • Corona with Lyme? Warmer weather means it’s time to be tick aware.
  • Roger Federer thinks the professional tennis circuit won’t return for a while due to the coronavirus pandemic but, when the time does come, the Swiss superstar said he would find it difficult to play without fans.


It’s OK not to be OK.

The traditions of your Memorial Day barbecues may be tried and true, but in the times of a pandemic, they’re bound to look a bit different this year. At least, they should.