By: JON HAWORTH, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — The novel coronavirus pandemic has now killed more than 311,000 people worldwide.
More than 4.6 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.
The United States is the worst-affected country, with more than 1.4 million diagnosed cases and at least 88,754 deaths.
Today’s biggest developments:
– US death toll surpasses 88,000
– Texas reports single highest daily rate increase of infections
– Judge rejects Martin Shkreli’s plea for early release
Here’s how the news developed on Saturday. All times Eastern.
7:39 a.m.: Eric Trump implies Democrats and Biden using coronavirus as conspiracy to hurt POTUS by “taking away” MAGA rallies
In an interview on Fox News Saturday night, Eric Trump baselessly accused Democrats and Joe Biden’s campaign of trying to use the coronavirus to hurt his father President Trump politically by “taking away” his campaign rallies.
Speaking on “Justice with Judge Jeanine,” Eric Trump tossed a number of confusing and wild accusations about Democrats, Biden, and the coronavirus pandemic—appearing to claim that lockdowns around the country were part of a Democratic/Biden manufactured conspiracy to stop the president’s campaign rallies and hurt his political prospects, despite the virus death toll now approaching 90,000 in the United States.
The president’s son accused Democrats of wanting to “milk [the coronavirus] for everything they can” and seemed to imply that Dems and the media were blowing the pandemic out of proportion to hurt the president, saying that after Election Day the “coronavirus will magically all of a sudden go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.”
Asked how the virus has impacted President Trump politically, Eric Trump blamed Democrats for rallies being put on hold, which he called “Donald Trump’s greatest tool”:
“Biden can’t go on stage without making some horrible blunder. I mean even from his basement he’s making awful gaffes every single day, so, his campaign is thrilled that he’s not going out there. And they think they’re taking away Donald Trump’s greatest tool, which is being able to go into an arena and fill it with 50,000 people every single time. So they will and you watch they’ll milk it every single day between now and November 3, and, guess what, after November 3rd, coronavirus will magically all of a sudden go away and disappear and everybody will be able to reopen.”
“They’re trying to deprive him of his, his greatest asset, which is the fact that the American people love him. The fact that he’s relatable. The fact that he can go out there and draw massive crowds. Joe Biden can’t get 10 people in a room, my father’s getting 50,000 in a room and they want to do everything they can to stop it. So make no mistake, to a lot of them… a lot of them this is a very cognizant strategy that they’re trying to employ. It’s no different than again the nonsense that they’re trying to throw in the Hope Act. It’s no different than the mail-in voting that they want to do all these places. It is no different than wanting illegal immigrants to vote in our country. It is a cognizant strategy. And it’s sad and again it’s not going to be allowed to happen we’re going to win November.”
Eric Trump claimed using the coronavirus is a “cognizant strategy” by Democrats and/or Joe Biden and implies they played some role in “taking away Donald Trump’s greatest tool”— which is a confusing and baseless accusation given not only was the decision to stop MAGA rallies made by the president’s own campaign it came as many experts said large gatherings like MAGA rallies shouldn’t return until as recent as next year.
Also, he’s echoing comments President Trump made early on as the virus first spread when he called it Democrats’ “hoax” given their response to the virus. But, months later, Eric Trump is now implying the response to the virus is some Democratic conspiracy while the death toll is rising to 90,000 and experts like Dr. Fauci are warning that reopening the country too soon could lead to “needless suffering and death.”
4:48 a.m.: Texas reports single highest daily rate increase of infections
The latest number of coronavirus cases in Texas jumped by 1,801 in a single day, the highest daily rate since the state started tracking data. The number of cases reported now stands at 46,999, according to the latest figures released by Johns Hopkins University.
There are currently 19,093 active cases statewide with 1,791 patients hospitalized — which is an increase of 75 from yesterday.
A total of 678,471 people have been tested out of a statewide population of around 29 million people.
The state of Texas has also reported 1,305 fatalities — an increase of 33 but down from the two day high of 58 and 56 the previous two days.
12:35 a.m.: Federal judge blocks North Carolina governor’s restrictions on religious services
A federal judge issued an order on Saturday that allows North Carolina religious leaders to reopen their doors to their congregations in spite of the governor’s warning that they risk spreading coronavirus.
Gov. Roy Cooper said he wouldn’t appeal the ruling blocking his restrictions on indoor religious services.
A hearing is scheduled May 29 on whether the order will become permanent.
The order prevents Cooper from taking enforcement actions against religious worshipers but also states they should observe recommendations for social distancing and reduce transmission of the virus when possible.
Governor Cooper’s spokesperson issued the following statement in response to the order.
“We don’t want indoor meetings to become hotspots for the virus and our health experts continue to warn that large groups sitting inside for long periods of time are much more likely to cause the spread of COVID-19. While our office disagrees with the decision, we will not appeal, but instead urge houses of worship and their leaders to voluntarily follow public health guidance to keep their members safe.”
7:45 p.m.: ‘Pharma Bro’ denied release from prison
Martin Shkreli, the former pharmaceutical executive imprisoned for fraud and most infamous for hiking the price of a lifesaving drug, was rejected for release due to COVID-19.
Shkreli, 37, had argued for release in part because of his work in bio pharmaceuticals, which he said could benefit the public. If allowed to research coronavirus, Shkreli said he could bring a cure to market.
The judge flatly rejected the claim.
“The court does not find that releasing Mr. Shkreli will protect the public, even though Mr. Shkreli seeks to leverage his experience with pharmaceuticals to help develop a cure for COVID-19 that he would purportedly provide at no cost,” U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of New York Kiyo A. Matsumoto wrote.
ABC News’ Will Steakin, Alexandra Faul and Ahmad Hemingway contributed to this report.
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