Italy lets millions back to work, US restrictions easing up

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Indians line up to buy liquor outside one of the liquor shops which reopened Monday after six weeks lockdown on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, Monday, May 4, 2020. India's six-week coronavirus lockdown, which was supposed to end on Monday, has been extended for another two weeks, with a few relaxations. Locking down the country's 1.3 billion people has slowed down the spread of the virus, but has come at the enormous cost of upending lives and millions of lost jobs. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

WELLINGTON – Italy started stirring Monday, with millions allowed back to work as Europe’s longest coronavirus lockdown started easing, while the U.S. took halting steps to lift some restrictions even as tens of thousands of new cases were reported daily.

In Washington, the Senate convened for the first time since March. The Supreme Court heard arguments by telephone and allowed the world to listen in live — for the first time ever.

Dozens in Florida waited before sunrise for the 7 a.m. opening of Clearwater Beach. And a shuttered pork processing plant in South Dakota took its first steps toward reopening after more than 800 employees were infected with the coronavirus.

In Louisiana, state lawmakers were restarting their legislature — but feuded over whether they should return at all.

Political battles have become increasingly embedded in U.S. coronavirus policy. Republican Louisiana legislators irritated by Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards’ decision to extend the state's stay-at-home order through May 15 were eager to return to work.

Democrats saw things differently: “It could be a devastating blow to the strides made and to the safety of our residents, our staff and members if we returned to business as usual prematurely,” Democratic leaders wrote in a letter.

The moves to open U.S. states came even as the country's one-day death toll stood at 1,313 with more than 25,500 confirmed new infections, according to a Sunday count by Johns Hopkins University. The real numbers are likely significantly higher.

Governments around the world have reported 3.5 million infections and more than 253,000 deaths as of Monday, including more than 68,000 dead in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. Deliberately concealed outbreaks, low testing rates and the severe strain the disease has placed on health care systems mean the true scale of the pandemic is undoubtedly much greater.