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U.S. death toll passes 50,000 as some states begin lifting restrictions

The United States now has more than 50,000 deaths from COVID-19 -- roughly a quarter of all pandemic deaths worldwide. Yet parts of the country have begun to lift restrictions and reopen businesses, including Georgia, whose governor faced criticism from President Trump for his decision. Meanwhile, nations across the globe are facing shortages of critical medical supplies. John Yang reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Parts of the country have begun to lift pandemic restrictions tonight.

    At the same time, the number of deaths in the United States has now reached a stunning 50,000.

    John Yang has our report on the developments of this day.

  • John Yang:

    In Georgia today, businesses opened their doors for the first time in more than a month. Governor Brian Kemp lifted restrictions on such nonessential operations as bowling alleys and hair salons.

    While many small business owners ravaged by the pandemic's economic hit welcomed the move, others are still on edge.

  • Lester Crowell:

    Nervous, anxiety, all that too, but, you know, we all want to come back to work.

  • John Yang:

    With infections and deaths still rising, Georgia has not yet met the White House benchmarks for beginning to reopen. Despite that, the Associated Press reported today, President Trump had originally told Kemp he supported the move.

    Later, though, Mr. Trump told reporters he was unhappy with the decision. And on Twitter today, he said businesses should take a little slower path to reopen.

    In an interview with radio station WTAM in Cleveland today, Vice President Mike Pence was optimistic about how much longer the virus would grip the nation.

  • Vice President Mike Pence:

    I think, honestly, if you look at the trends today, that I think, by Memorial Day weekend, we will largely have this coronavirus epidemic behind us.

  • John Yang:

    Georgia is one of only a handful of states poised to relax stay-at-home orders.

    In Madison, Wisconsin, dozens of protesters demanded that their governor do the same. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, who is facing similar pressure, said today she would begin easing restrictions.

  • Governor Gretchen Whitmer:

    The new executive order will now allow some workers to perform lower-risk activities to go back on the job. We will consider this the preliminary stage of economic re-engagement.

  • John Yang:

    But she extended her stay-at-home order, set to expire at the end of the month, through May 15.

    Meanwhile, the makers of Lysol and other disinfectants warned people against improper use of their products. It comes after President Trump seemed to suggest that researchers look into using disinfectants and ultraviolet light inside the bodies of those infected with the virus.

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.:

    By injecting disinfectants…

  • John Yang:

    Today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the president was rejecting science.

  • Speaker Nancy Pelosi:

    Clearly and sadly, and — this president is not listening to medical experts. And I don't know which ones he is listening to, if any.

    As I said to my colleagues last — a few days ago last week, I said, America must ignore the lies and start to listen to scientists and others, respected professionals.

  • John Yang:

    And after signing the latest economic rescue package into law, the president said he didn't mean it.

  • President Donald Trump:

    But I was asking a sarcastic — and a very sarcastic question to the reporters in the room about disinfectants on the inside.

    But it does kill it. And it would kill it on the hands, and that would make things much better. That was done in the form of a sarcastic question to reporters.

  • John Yang:

    Overseas, as the virus continues to spread, medical workers struggle to secure scarce equipment. That includes countries in Africa, which this week saw infections surge by more than 40 percent.

    Meanwhile, Muslims across the world began Ramadan under strict lockdowns. That leaves many to observe the holy month from home, resigned to put off the evening prayers and get-togethers that normally mark the period of fasting, reflection and community.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm John Yang.

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