Catholic nuns and worshippers attend Mass ahead of Easter at Beijing's government-sanctioned South Cathedral. Photo: Greg Baker/AFP via Getty Images.

"The American family [Charlotte, N.C.] of a prominent Chinese Christian pastor is asking for leniency after he was sentenced to prison for missionary work as the atheist ruling Communist Party exerts greater control of believers," AP's Yanan Wang reports from Beijing.

Why it matters: "Analysts say the government increasingly views Christianity’s rise in China as a threat to its rule, and may be using prominent figures such as Cao as an example to intimidate nascent movements."

  • For years, the Rev. John Sanqiang Cao "would cross the river on a narrow bamboo raft from a tree-shrouded bank in southern China into neighboring Myanmar, carrying ... notebooks, pencils and Bibles."
  • On March 5, 2017, "Cao and a teacher were on a raft returning ... when they saw Chinese security agents waiting for them on the shore."
  • The 58-year-old Christian leader "quickly threw his cellphone into the water, protecting the identities of more than 50 Chinese teachers he had recruited."
  • "But Cao himself could not escape. He was sentenced last month to seven years in prison for 'organizing others to illegally cross the border' — a crime more commonly applied to human traffickers."
  • "His American sons ... have not been allowed contact with him."

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Coronavirus cases flat or growing in 48 states

Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments; Map: Andrew Witherspoon, Sara Wise, Naema Ahmed, Danielle Alberti/Axios

The number of coronavirus cases increased in the vast majority of states over the last week, and decreased in only two states plus the District of Columbia.

Why it matters: This is a grim reminder that no part of the United States is safe from the virus. If states fail to contain their outbreaks, they could soon face exponential spread and overwhelmed health systems.

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Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 10,695,608 — Total deaths: 516,225 — Total recoveries — 5,481,526Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3 a.m. ET: 2,686,582 — Total deaths: 128,062 — Total recoveries: 729,994 — Total tested: 32,827,359Map.
  3. Federal government: Trump says he still thinks coronavirus will "just disappear" at some point, supports another round of direct payments to Americans.
  4. Public health: U.S. sets new daily coronavirus record — Thanks to coronavirus, your home is now your gymFormer FDA chief says 500,000 Americans may be contracting coronavirus a day.
  5. States: Georgia and Arizona report record new coronavirus cases — California shuts down bars and indoor dining for most residents.
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U.S. daily coronavirus cases top 50,000 for first time

A medical technologist processes test samples for the coronavirus at a lab in Tampa, Florida, on June 25. Photo: Octavio Jones/Getty Images

The number of people to test positive for the novel coronavirus in the United States surpassed 50,000 for the first time ever on Wednesday, Johns Hopkins data shows.

Driving the news: The pandemic is accelerating across the U.S., with the Sun Belt being hit particularly hard. Daily coronavirus case records were reported on Wednesday in Texas (8,076), Arizona (4,878), Georgia (2,946), North Carolina (1,843) and Tennessee (1,806).