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Crowds gather to protest restrictions, but health experts issue grim warning

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    There are forecasts tonight that the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic is still ahead, even after the current wave passes.

    The warnings come as deaths in the United States have nearly doubled from a week ago. But, also, at the same time, momentum is building here and abroad to lift restrictions.

    William Brangham begins our coverage.

  • Protester:

    We are ready to reopen Tennessee.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • William Brangham:

    More protests occurred today, as debate heated up across the country over how and when to reopen the economy.

    From Tennessee to Washington state, opponents of shutdowns, some carrying weapons, blasted their governors' stay-at-home orders.

  • Adrienne Hitch:

    We have been affected by the virus in our family. And it's not a joke. But, you know, not letting people have food on their tables isn't a joke either.

  • William Brangham:

    But The Washington Post and others report, some of these demonstrations are in part being orchestrated by pro-gun, far-right groups on social media.

    And recent public opinion polls show a strong majority of Americans, over 80 percent, favor keeping up distancing measures to control the virus. At the same time, even though the protests are often in opposition to his own public health officials, the president has urged them on, tweeting that states need to be — quote — "liberated."

  • President Donald Trump:

    These are great people. They want to get — they call it cabin fever. You have heard the term? They have got cabin fever. They want to get back.

  • William Brangham:

    Amid pressure to reopen, some manufacturers, like Boeing in Washington state, are getting ready to put thousands of people back to work this week.

    And Georgia's governor, Republican Brian Kemp, announced he will let gyms, hair salons and some other businesses reopen this Friday.

    But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, warned today that states could see a new outbreaks if restrictions are lifted too soon.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    If you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you're going to set yourself back.

  • William Brangham:

    That's what leaders in New York emphasized today, even as the state's death toll dipped to its lowest point in more than two weeks.

  • Mayor Bill de Blasio:

    We're going to be smart about how we come back. We're going to be smart about how we turn the corner. We're not going to let our foot off the gas prematurely.

  • William Brangham:

    Local leaders say it's a decision that hinges on the capacity for much more widespread testing, which is still lacking in much of the country.

    But the president on Sunday argued again that, in his words, testing is a local thing, and not the federal government's responsibility. But Maryland's governor, Republican Larry Hogan, rejects that idea.

  • Governor Larry Hogan:

    To try to push this off to say that the governors have plenty of testing and they should just to get to work on testing, somehow we are not doing our job, is just absolutely false.

  • William Brangham:

    And, today, Hogan struck a deal with suppliers in South Korea to secure 500,000 tests.

    Testing in the U.S. has partially been delayed due to a shortage of the nasal swabs used to take samples.

  • President Donald Trump:

    So this is the swab.

  • William Brangham:

    The president said Sunday he would use the Defense Production Act to boost swab production.

    New York officials today rolled out an antibody testing program to see if people who've been infected have now developed antibodies, which might offer some protection against the virus. It's another crucial test.

    But Dr. Fauci cautioned that many of the tests currently being marketed are not reliable.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    A lot of them are not validated, point number one.

    Point number two that's important is that we don't know exactly what antibody titer means. There's an assumption, a reasonable assumption, that, when you have an antibody, that you are protected against reinfection. But that has not been proven for this particular virus.

  • William Brangham:

    In Geneva, the World Health Organization also warned today that the decision to ease restrictions should be weighed with extreme caution.

  • Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus:

    Trust us, the worst is yet ahead of us.

  • William Brangham:

    Meanwhile, some nations around the world are moving to regain a sense of normalcy. In Germany, a nation that did widespread testing, small stores opened their doors to customers today for the first time in nearly a month.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

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