April 6, 2020

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shared a special message with the children of her country on Monday, explaining to them why the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy might not be able to stop by their houses during the coronavirus pandemic.

New Zealand has been on a national lockdown since March 25, with only essential workers able to leave their homes. On Monday, Ardern said the Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny are both considered essential, adding, "as you can imagine, at this time they're going to be potentially quite busy at home with their family as well and their own bunnies. I say to the children of New Zealand, if the Easter Bunny doesn't make it to your household, we have to understand that it's a bit difficult at the moment for the bunny to perhaps get everywhere."

Ardern also suggested that kids and their parents get creative and draw eggs to put up in their windows, so people walking by can go on an egg hunt. Catherine Garcia

2:35 a.m.

Brazil now has the world's second-largest outbreak of COVID-19, with 375,000 confirmed cases, putting it a distant No. 2 to the U.S. and its 1.66 million cases. "President Jair Bolsonaro is deflecting all responsibility for the coronavirus crisis, casting blame on mayors, governors, an outgoing health minister, and the media," The Associated Press reports. With one notable exception, he "has avoided acknowledging the potential effects of his actions, particularly in undermining local leaders' stay-at-home recommendations."

The exception was in mid-April. "Reopening commerce is a risk I run because, if it (the virus) gets worse, then it lands in my lap," Bolsonaro said while introducing his third health minister of the pandemic, a general with no previous health experience. Less than two weeks later, as Brazil's death toll shot up, AP notes, Bolsonaro told reporters: "You're not going to put on my lap this count that isn't mine." Brazil now has nearly 23,500 COVID-19 deaths, though that number is almost certainly a significant undercount, thanks to insufficient testing and skepticism that the coronavirus is a real threat, especially among Bolsonaro supporters, as AP records in this video.

Brazil is "completely incapable of dealing with and responding to this crisis as this crisis should be responded to — with complete leadership, clear messages, political stability, and unity," says Miguel Lago, executive director of Brazil's Institute for Health Policy Studies. "That's not the case here. Basically, what we're seeing is a complete lack of seriousness and competence." For all his public attacks on local coronavirus mitigation measures, however, Bolsonaro often — though not always — wears a face mask in public.

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President Trump, who barred most travel from Brazil to the U.S. on Sunday, won't let photographers capture him wearing a mask, in the rare instances he puts one on. On Monday, in fact, Trump retweeted a post by Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume mocking how former Vice President Joe Biden looked wearing a mask Monday. Peter Weber

2:03 a.m.

With the help of a few colleagues and a lot of chalk, Kim Gaddie was able to honor the University of Oklahoma's Class of 2020.

Together, the crew wrote the names of every graduating senior in the spot where they would have lined up for commencement. With more than 4,000 graduates, the names fill the sidewalk. "It was just a small gesture that we felt like we could do for them to say, 'Hey, we're thinking about you. We care about you. We know this is important,'" Gaddie, an associate senior fellow at the university's Headington College, told The Associated Press.

Students who live nearby have offered to snap photos of the names for their classmates who had to return home out of state. One of those graduates, Dana Antinozzi of Texas, was so moved by what Gaddie and her colleagues did that she sent a thank you email. "I can only imagine what back-breaking work that must have been," she wrote. "It is clear that faculty members like you are doing all you can to make this milestone memorable and special for us." Catherine Garcia

1:11 a.m.

Protesters hung Gov. Andy Beshear (D) in effigy at the state capitol on Sunday, an act that one lawmaker called "sickening."

Local media reports that about 100 people attended a gun rights rally at the capitol that also turned into a protest against coronavirus restrictions enacted by Beshear. Video posted online shows a man stringing up a doll with a picture of Beshear's face on it and a noose around the neck, with others then posing for photos in front of the effigy as "God Bless the U.S.A." plays in the background.

This was "sickening," Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R) said. "We have to learn to disagree without threats of violence." Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he is a "strong defender of the First Amendment," and believes Americans have "the right to peacefully protest," but the "action toward Gov. Beshear is unacceptable. There is no place for hate in Kentucky."

In a statement, the Kentucky House Democratic leadership said the act "reeks of hate and intimidation" and is "beyond reprehensible." Beshear has not made any public comments on the incident. Catherine Garcia

12:45 a.m.

President Trump said in a series of tweets Monday morning that unless North Carolina can immediately "guarantee" that the Republican Party can hold its convention in Charlotte in late August with "full attendance" in a "fully occupied" Spectrum Center arena, the GOP "will be reluctantly forced to find" another Republican National Convention site. Where would the party find another large venue willing to host thousands of people during a pandemic, as well housing for the delegates, catering, sound, and other ancillary services?

If you guessed the Trump property where the president already pushed to host this summer's G-7 summit, Trump denied it. "I have zero interest in moving the Republican National Convention to Doral in Miami," he tweeted. "Ballroom is not nearly big enough." Incidentally, The New York Times does not appear to have reported any such rumor about Trump and Doral.

Times reporters Maggie Haberman and Annie Karni did report last week that as Republicans look "at possible contingency plans, including limiting the number of people who descend on Charlotte to only delegates," Trump has "shown a new openness to participating in a scaled-down event" and "has mused aloud to several aides about why the convention can't simply be held in a hotel ballroom in Florida, given all of the health concerns and the fact that Florida is further along in reopening portions of the state."

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D)'s three Memorial Day tweets included two remembering U.S. service members who gave their life for their country and a brief statement responding to Trump.

GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel and other Republicans involved in planning the convention "have said that they have hired a medical expert and that they are consulting with the governor of North Carolina and the mayor of Charlotte," the Times reported last week. "Local politicians in North Carolina, including Republicans, have expressed skepticism that the convention will be able to go forward as planned." Peter Weber

May 25, 2020

Deployed to missions in Iraq, Sicily, Jerusalem, and New York with his military dog Iskra, Army Sgt. Jake Ferkin was able to "see the world with his best friend."

Now, they will be able to spend Iskra's retirement together, too.

Iskra, a 10-year-old Czech Shepherd, was paired with Ferkin in 2016. She spent three months being trained to conduct patrols and sniff out explosives, and the pair served together for two years. They were separated in 2018, but now that Iskra is retired, she can live with Ferkin full-time. Mission K9 Rescue picked Iskra up in Ft. Myer, Virginia, and dropped her off on Saturday at her new home with Ferkin in Boerne, Texas.

"I am so excited and thankful to be reconnected with Iskra," Ferkin said. "I cannot wait for her to be able to enjoy her retirement and have her take her place on Fort Couch." Catherine Garcia

May 25, 2020

Once local officials in California give the all clear to resume religious services in their counties, houses of worship must follow strict guidelines, including limiting attendance to 25 percent of a building's capacity.

The guidelines for reopening churches in the state were released Monday by the California Department of Public Health and Cal/OSHA. The capacity must stay at 25 percent during the first 21 days, and then the California Department of Public Health will review and provide further directions, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Other requirements include all worshipers having their temperatures checked and everyone having to wear face masks and use hand sanitizer. Congregants will be advised not to hug, shake hands, sing, or hold potlucks, and pulpits, altars, donation boxes, and pews will be disinfected frequently.

The state made it clear that churches, mosques, synagogues, and other houses of worship should not rush to resume in-person activity, instead recommending they "continue to facilitate remote services and other related activities for those who are vulnerable to COVID-19, including older adults and those with co-morbidities."

Since California enacted its stay-at-home order in March to slow the spread of coronavirus, religious institutions have been livestreaming their services. Some churches have been defiant, including the Assembly of God in Redwood Valley, which held services on May 10; nine cases of coronavirus have been linked to this service, which included singing, the Times reports. Catherine Garcia

May 25, 2020

Dominic Cummings, a senior adviser to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is rebuffing calls for his resignation and refusing to apologize for traveling with his family in March and April amid the country's mandatory coronavirus lockdown.

During a press conference on Monday, Cummings admitted that he drove 264 miles from London to his parents' house in Durham in March. He was accompanied by his wife and son, and at the time, both he and his wife suspected they had coronavirus. Cummings said they drove to Durham in case they became sick and needed his niece to watch their son, and claimed he stayed in a separate building with his family and only communicated with his parents by yelling at them from far away. "I don't regret what I did," he said.

Cummings also revealed that after a 14-day self-quarantine, his family drove 30 miles away to Barnard Castle, saying he needed to "check his eyesight was good enough for the longer drive back to London," The Guardian reports. Cummings and his family returned to London on April 14, and he claimed people who saw him in Durham on April 19 were mistaken.

At least 20 members of the Conservative Party have said Cummings should resign, the Labour Party has called for an investigation, and scientists have said Cummings' actions likely undermined public health advice. Cummings directed the Vote Leave campaign during Brexit, which helped usher Johnson into power, and the prime minister is supporting him. On Sunday, Johnson said Cummings "followed the instincts of every father and every parent" and as such, would not be dismissed. Johnson was hospitalized with coronavirus in April, spending time in the intensive care unit. Catherine Garcia

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