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Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled late Wednesday that restrictions previously imposed on New York places of worship by Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) during the coronavirus pandemic violated the First Amendment.

Why it matters: The decision in a 5-4 vote heralds the first significant action by the new President Trump-appointed conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who cast the deciding vote in favor of the Catholic Church and Orthodox Jewish synagogues.

  • While the groups are no longer subject to the 10- and 25-person occupancy restrictions, the ruling signals a shift in the now-conservative majority court.
  • The court earlier this year declined to lift pandemic restrictions in California and Nevada when the late liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was on the court.

What they're saying: "Not only is there no evidence that the applicants have contributed to the spread of COVID–19 but there are many other less restrictive rules that could be adopted to minimize the risk to those attending religious services," the court's majority said in an unsigned opinion.

For the record: Conservative Chief Justice John Roberts dissented the latest decision, along with the court's three liberal members.

  • "The governor might reinstate the restrictions, but he also might not," Roberts wrote.
  • "And it is a significant matter to override determinations made by public health officials concerning what is necessary for public safety in the midst of a deadly pandemic. If the governor does reinstate the numerical restrictions the applicants can return to this court, and we could act quickly on their renewed applications."

Of note: COVID-19 cases are surging across the U.S., including in New York, where Cuomo announced plans Wednesday to reopen a temporary field hospital on Staten Island next week to help cope with the rise in virus hospitalizations.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

Go deeper

17 hours ago - Health

Amazon offers to help Biden administration with COVID vaccine efforts

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at the White House with Jill Biden in 2016. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Amazon's worldwide consumer CEO Dave Clark has offered to help the Biden administration with its coronavirus vaccination goals by mobilizing efforts to inoculate its employees, according to a letter sent to President Biden on Wednesday.

Why it matters: As demand for the coronavirus vaccine is outstripping supply, Amazon has about 800,000 employees, many of whom are essential workers. The Biden administration wants to vaccinate 100 million Americans in 100 days.

20 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Kamala Harris sworn in as vice president

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

In a historic inauguration, Kamala Harris was sworn in on Wednesday as the vice president of the United States.

Why it matters: Harris is the first woman, Black American and Indian American to serve as vice president in U.S. history. In addition to serving as Biden's No. 2, she will act as a critical tie-breaking vote in the 50-50 Senate.

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
20 mins ago - Economy & Business

First glimpse of the Biden market

Photo: Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images

Investors made clear what companies they think will be winners and which will be losers in President Joe Biden's economy on Wednesday, selling out of gun makers, pot purveyors, private prison operators and payday lenders, and buying up gambling, gaming, beer stocks and Big Tech.

What happened: Private prison operator CoreCivic and private prison REIT Geo fell by 7.8% and 4.1%, respectively, while marijuana ETF MJ dropped 2% and payday lenders World Acceptance and EZCorp each fell by more than 1%.