May 23 coronavirus news

By Jessie Yeung, Brett McKeehan, Rob Picheta, Fernando Alfonso III and Amir Vera, CNN

Updated 8:36 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020
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4:22 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Minister in Brazil suggests government take advantage of pandemic to relax environmental regulations

From CNN’s Flora Charner

Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s environmental minister, suggested the government should take advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to "change all the rules" and "simplify norms" around environmental regulations, a recent cabinet meeting video showed Friday.

"We need to make an effort, while we are in this moment of calm in terms of press coverage, because they are only talking about Covid-19 to change all the rules and simplify norms," Salles said during the April 22 cabinet meeting. "Now is the time to join forces and simplify regulations."

Salles also said during the meeting that the government "would not need Congress" because "they wouldn't get anything approved."

The video of the closed-door cabinet meeting was released by the Supreme Court Friday, as part of an investigation into accusations that President Jair Bolsonaro interfered in police matters.

Salles wrote on his personal Twitter Friday, "I always defended de-bureaucratization and simplifying the norms in all areas, using common sense and within the law. The web of irrational rules impedes investments, the creation of new jobs and the sustainable development of Brazil."

3:50 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Arkansas experiencing a second peak, governor says

From CNN's Melissa Alonso

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says the state is experiencing its second peak of Covid-19 cases. 

We're having a second peak right now and they're really about 30 days apart," Hutchinson said at a briefing Saturday. 

The first peak saw 160 cases in one day followed by a "deep dip," Hutchinson says. On Saturday, there were 163 new cases of Covid-19 in Arkansas in what the governor calls a second peak.

There are "enough hospital beds in Arkansas to accommodate the number of Covid-19 patients that need that hospital care," according to Hutchinson.

"We’re in good shape now with that, and we will be in the future," the governor said.

3:50 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Nevada launches online application program for unemployment assistance

From CNN's Hollie Silverman

Nevada launched a weekly Pandemic Unemployment Assistance online application program on Saturday, according to a tweet from Gov. Steve Sisolak.

The PUA program is designed for Nevadan's who are self-employed, 1099 contract workers and gig workers, a release from the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation said.

About 2,000 claimants filed 9,500 weekly certifications within 45 minutes of the launch, Sisolak said in a tweet.

On Friday, Sisolak tweeted that the unemployment rate had risen to 28.2%, a record high unemployment for Nevada.

4:04 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

There have been 96,479 coronavirus-related deaths in the US

There are at least 1,611,691 cases of coronavirus and at least 96,479 people have died from the disease in the US, according to Johns Hopkins University's tally of cases in the country.

The totals includes cases from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and other US territories, as well as repatriated cases. 

2:59 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Santa Monica mayor says city’s economy has "tanked"

From CNN's Adrienne Vogt

Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown
Santa Monica Mayor Kevin McKeown CNN

The mayor of Santa Monica, California, issued a stark forecast for the city’s economy as it struggles through the coronavirus pandemic.

“Things are financially pretty grim. We want to get the city reopened as quickly as we can, but we need to protect people, not only from each other, but from themselves. Our local economy has tanked. We are a tourism town. People have been coming here for over 100 years. Tourism has ended for the time being,” Mayor Kevin McKeown said in an interview with CNN today. 

McKeown went on to discuss how the city will be "down by $224 billion" over the next two years, which is needed to fund "police and fire, to pick up the trash, to have clean, pure water in the pipes."

"So that's going to mean other services now in this city have to be cut. And that's very hard to do,” he said.

There have been layoffs and voluntary retirement for city staff, McKeown said. 

“We've had recessions before, but never anything that happened this suddenly or this deeply that took that much money out of the city coffers so quickly,” he said. 

The city’s beaches are open for recreational activities, but parking lots are closed and people cannot sunbathe or go in the water. The famous Santa Monica Pier is also closed. Santa Monica is now “the home of the three-piece bathing suit: a bikini and a face mask,” the mayor said. 

McKeown also slammed the federal government for not implementing more relief funding for cities that are suffering economically.

“It's been about 10 weeks since I really had a good night's sleep or had a day off. I'm not saying that for pity. It's just the reality of trying to run a local government in these unprecedented circumstances,” he said. 

Watch more:

4:04 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Covid-19 cases in North Carolina surge to highest single day total for the state

From CNN's Melissa Alonso 

The highest one-day increase of Covid-19 cases was reported in North Carolina Saturday, just one day after phase two of reopening began in the state, health officials say.

There were 1,107 positive Covid-19 cases reported on Saturday, according to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS).   

"Phase two runs through at least Friday, June 26, unless changed or canceled," NCDHHS said in a tweet on Saturday.  

North Carolina's phase two includes expanding restaurant capacity to 50% and reopening camps for children, NCDHHS said in a tweet. Bars and gyms remain closed in the state.  

North Carolina now has a total of 22,725 confirmed cases, according to NCDHHS. 

Read the tweet from NCDHHS:

2:02 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Chief Justice John Roberts discusses coronavirus during commencement address

From CNN’s Ariane De Vogue

Chief Justice John Roberts discussed the coronavirus pandemic in remarks made at his son’s high school graduation Saturday, telling the seniors that the pandemic, “has pierced our illusion of certainty and control.”

The commencement speech for the Westminster School’s graduation was posted online by the school Saturday morning. 

"[T]he pandemic has or will affect practically everyone in the world in one way or another,” Roberts said, while urging the graduating seniors to show compassion, not only for the sick and dying, but others who may suffer for a long time.

Roberts cautioned the seniors that moving forward, they may meet people who, “bear scars you may not see.” He told them to practice humility, and added that the “pandemic should teach us at least that.” 

8:07 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

Brazil's doctors face the grim reality of the coronavirus pandemic

From CNN's Nick Paton Walsh, Jo Shelley, Eduardo Duwe and William Bonnett

This aerial photo shows an alleged coronavirus victim being buried at the Vila Formosa Cemetery on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 22.
This aerial photo shows an alleged coronavirus victim being buried at the Vila Formosa Cemetery on the outskirts of Sao Paulo, Brazil, on May 22. Nelson Almeida/AFP/Getty Images

In Brazil's largest and most badly infected city, coronavirus has yet to peak, yet already the health care system is crumbling. As doctors struggle valiantly to save lives, the country's President Jair Bolsonaro seems more focused on his country's economy.

Brazil this week became the country with the second most infections worldwide after the United States, with more than 330,000 confirmed cases.

But Bolsonaro, who once dismissed Covid-19 as a "little flu," has urged businesses to reopen, despite many governors stressing social isolation measures to slow the spread.

In the huge intensive care unit (ICU) of Emilio Ribas Infectious Disease Institute in São Paulo, anger swirls among doctors when asked about their president's comments.

"Revolting," says one.

"Irrelevant" declares another.

Dr. Jacques Sztajnbok is more restrained.

"It's not a flu. It's the worst thing we have ever faced in our professional lives," Sztajnbok said.

The reasons why are clear inside the overwhelming silence of the intensive care unit. Coronavirus kills behind the veil of a hospital curtain, in a stifling quiet, that is so distant and alien to the global upheaval and noisy political divisions it has inspired. But when it takes a life, it is intimately horrifying.

Read more here.

4:03 p.m. ET, May 23, 2020

New Jersey reports 96 new coronavirus-related deaths

From CNN's Sheena Jones

People line up in their cars at the drive-through Covid-19 testing site at the Bergen Community College main campus, in Paramus, New Jersey, on May 12, 2020.
People line up in their cars at the drive-through Covid-19 testing site at the Bergen Community College main campus, in Paramus, New Jersey, on May 12, 2020. Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

New Jersey has recorded 443 new Covid-19 cases and 96 deaths, Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted Saturday.

Several electronic lab reports have not been processed yet and that could be affecting the state’s total number of new cases, the governor said.

New Jersey has a total of 153,104 cases and 11,081 deaths from the virus, the tweet said.

Read Murphy's tweet: