As Europe’s coronavirus death toll neared 100,000 on Sunday, protesters took to the streets of several U.S. state capitol buildings this weekend, to demand an end to shutdown orders.
In Texas some of the demonstrators brandished signs with phrases like, “This is tyranny, not quarantine” and “Open now!” While others, in Maryland, marched or drove their cars carrying placards against the encroachment of personal liberties.
Meanwhile, other U.S. states began preparing to ease restrictions related to the outbreak. Residents in Florida returned to the beach Saturday and three northeastern states reopened boatyards and marinas for personal use only.
More than 38,000 deaths have been recorded in the U.S. as of Sunday, according to an NBC News tally.
In Los Angeles county officials announced 81 new deaths from the virus on Saturday, its highest daily death toll since the outbreak began. California has 30,762 confirmed cases, according to the NBC News count, although the number of deaths continued to slow in the country’s epicenter New York.
A number of state governors have sought to temper regional expectations about lifting lockdowns and have warned about moving too fast in the face of unresolved issues, like a lack of mass testing.
There was some light relief in the form of a star-studded “One World: Together at Home” benefit concert Saturday night. Millions tuned in to watch living room performances from the Rolling Stones and Taylor Swift among others. The show raised $127.9 million in pledged support for healthcare workers, said organizers.
However, the death toll continued to rise in Europe and will likely surpass 100,000 on Sunday, according to John Hopkins University.
In Britain, fast becoming the European epicenter of the pandemic, deaths surpassed 15,000 on Saturday, as healthcare workers raised concerns about shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gowns and face shields.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson continues to recuperate from COVID-19 after he left hospital a week ago, while Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is leading in his place.
However, in Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said his government would begin easing lockdown measures and allow children under 12 to go outdoors for short periods of time. The country’s lockdown will remain in place until at least May 9, as he warned “the goals we’ve achieved so far are fragile.”
Israel also began to ease lockdown restrictions as the cabinet approved an exit strategy to start on Sunday. As a result, some industries such as stores will reopen but with physical partitions and limits to the number of customers allowed in.
There was another glimmer of hope in South Korea, where just eight new COVID-19 cases were recorded on Sunday, 61 days since the first coronavirus case was confirmed.
The newly elected South Korean government, however, has taken a cautious approach to easing social distancing measures, extending the country’s lockdown to May 5, with concerns still from asymptotic virus carriers and imported cases from overseas.
“It is best to continue with social distancing for the sake of safety,” said Prime Minister Chung Sye-Kyun in a media briefing on Sunday. “It is not easy when people are being worn out,” he said, promising to ease restrictions in more sectors soon.
Elsewhere, China continued a four-day streak with no new deaths, according to an NBC News tally, as the country attempts to reinvigorate its economy. China suffered its worst economic contraction since at least the 1970s in the first quarter of this year as it fought the coronavirus.
Stella Kim, Hernan Muñoz Ratto, Paul Goldman, Phil McCausland and Dawn Liu contributed.