The Latest: Moscow tells some victims to treat virus at home

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The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 400,000 people and killed over 18,000. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 103,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

– Trump stops calling coronavirus the ‘Chinese virus.”

– Court orders U.S. to release woman held in immigration detention because of virus outbreak.

– Las Vegas businesses sue Chinese government for lost income due to virus.

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MOSCOW – Authorities in Moscow have changed course and are now saying coronavirus patients with relatively light symptoms should receive treatment at home.

Previously, Russian health care officials had hospitalized all those who tested positive for the coronavirus along with those suspected of having it.

Russia has reported 495 cases and no deaths, but Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says the number of tests was insufficient and the situation could be far more serious. The government said 163,000 coronavirus tests have been done so far.

The new directive from Moscow’s health care department is intended to ease the pressure on hospitals that will have to deal with the gravely ill. It said that patients over 65 and those who are pregnant or have chronic illnesses should always be hospitalized.

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WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency says it’s reviewing a request from the oil and gas industry to ease enforcement on hazardous air and water pollution during the coronavirus pandemic.

The proposal is drawing objections from public health and environmental advocates. A former Obama-era EPA enforcement official, Cynthia Giles, says the request amounts to seeking a nationwide pass for the industry on almost all environmental rules.

The American Petroleum Institute made the request in a letter to President Donald Trump last week, and to the EPA on Monday. The oil and gas trade group is citing potential staffing issues during the outbreak, saying worker shortages could make compliance with a range of regulations difficult, such as monitoring, reporting and immediately fixing hazardous air emissions.

Bethany Aronhalt, a spokeswoman for the American Petroleum Institute, compares the request to businesses asking for flexibility on tax deadlines during the outbreak. Aronhalt says, “In no way would this jeopardize safety, health or the environment.”

Giles says EPA policy explicitly prohibits the agency from promising waiving of enforcement of environmental and public health laws. She called the trade group’s request “alarming” and “wildly overbroad.”

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COLUMBIA, S.C. – The world-renowned Spoleto Festival USA in South Carolina is canceling its 2020 event because of the coronavirus.

The festival featuring opera, dance, theater and music was to open in Charleston on May 22. But with technical staff and artists scheduled to begin arriving by late April, organizers say they are following advice from health experts against large gatherings.

The festival says it had artists coming from 10 countries and typically sells tickets in nearly every U.S. state.

It is the first time Spoleto has been canceled in its 43-year history.

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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump isn’t calling the new coronavirus the “Chinese virus” anymore.

Trump had insisted on pointing out the virus’ Chinese origin in appearances over the past few weeks. Asians have said the term is offensive and has put them at risk.

Trump didn’t use the term during an hour-long appearance Tuesday on Fox News. Nor did he repeat it during a nearly 2-hour White House briefing a day earlier.

The president in the past has defended using the term, but on Tuesday he cited his good relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping and the loss China has suffered because of the virus.

Trump says everyone knows the coronavirus came out of China and says he decided not to make “any more of a big deal out of it.”

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SAN FRANCISCO – A federal court has ordered the U.S. to immediately release a woman held in immigration detention because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals says in a brief order that Lucero Xochihua Jaimes should be released because public health authorities predict the crisis “will especially impact immigration detention centers.”

The San Francisco-based court took the action on its own without a request from the woman’s lawyer. The court has been considering the woman’s bid to remain in the U.S. based in part on threats from a drug trafficking organization there. She has lived in the U.S. for nearly 20 years and has six children who are American citizens.

The woman’s lawyer says the government told him that it did not oppose the woman’s immediate release.

She is one of about 37,000 people in U.S. immigration detention. Advocates have been urging the U.S. to release people because of the threat posed by the virus. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says one detainee in New Jersey has tested positive for the virus.

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LAS VEGAS – Five Las Vegas businesses have filed a federal lawsuit through an attorney seeking class-action status for 32 million small businesses to collect what he says could be trillions of dollars in damages from the Chinese government for lost income and profits due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Attorney Robert Eglet alleges China was reckless, negligent and covered up information about the respiratory illness instead of sharing information that might have prevented its spread.

Chinese Embassy officials in the U.S. didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Before the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas, a China foreign ministry spokesman said people should stop making “wrongful remarks that stigmatize China.”

Eglet said that instead of sharing information with the world about a new virus for which there was no vaccine or cure, the government of China intimidated doctors, scientists, journalists and lawyers while allowing worldwide spread of COVID-19.

Eglet says the lawsuit could take many years to resolve.

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. State Department says it ha brought home over 9,000 Americans stranded in 28 countries after the global coronavirus all but closed down many national borders and severely curtailed international flights.

That’s up from a total of over 5,000 from 17 countries a day earlier.

It wasn’t immediately clear how the number jumped by roughly 4,000 in a 24-hour period. Several evacuation flights carrying hundreds of Americans home, many of them back from Latin America, have departed since Monday. Some 13,500 Americans have sought assistance from the State Department in returning home.

Spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus says the State Department “has never before undertaken an evacuation operation of such geographic breadth, scale, and complexity.” She said U.S. embassies and consulates around the world are continuing to try to arrange flights for Americans.

The department has come under criticism from some stranded Americans and lawmakers for not doing enough to help.

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WASHINGTON – A 31-year-old from Mexico has become the first person in immigration detention in the U.S. to test positive for COVID-19.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says the unidentified migrant was being held at Bergen County Jail in Hackensack, New Jersey, when he tested positive. The agency says the migrant is quarantined and is receiving care at an undisclosed location.

The agency says it is suspending the intake of new migrants at the jail.

ICE previously said a member of the medical staff at the Elizabeth Detention Center in New Jersey tested positive for the virus.

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CINCINNATI – A Florida spring breaker has apologized for saying he wouldn’t let warnings about the coronavirus stop him from partying and “if I get corona, I get corona.”

The video that went viral was held up as an example of young people ignoring warnings about the pandemic. Brady Sluder, a 22-year-old from suburban Cincinnati, says in an Instagram post that he didn’t realize the impact of his words.

Sluder says, “Don’t be arrogant and think you’re invincible like myself.”

He was visiting Florida’s beaches last week when he made his comments to a TV news crew.

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ROME – With Italy on an uphill course to contain the world’s second-largest outbreak of the coronavirus, Premier Giuseppe Conte has announced much stiffer fines for violators of the national lock-down restrictions.

At a Cabinet meeting Tuesday, the government set fines for violators from 400 to 3,000 euros ($440-$3,300). Initially, fines topped out at 206 euros ($227).

Italy is in its third week of lock down, under a government decree that expires on April 3. Earlier, an Italian health official, Franco Locatelli, said a decision on extending the order would be made based on how Italy’s outbreak of COVID-19 is developing. Italy’s outbreak hasn’t peaked, and thousands of new cases are being reported daily.

Gas station workers, fearing they are at risk for contagion, have announced strikes later this week. Conte says the government will try to alleviate their concerns by allowing for staggered opening hours at stations.

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MADRID – Spain’s Interior Minister says police have made 922 arrests for defying a government order for people to stay at home amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Fernando Grande-Marlaska says police officers also took down the details of more than 102,000 others over the past 10 days for possible future prosecution.

He says three infected people have left the hospital without being officially released. Police later detained them and returned them. Grande-Marlaska says measures were taken to prevent them leaving again, but he didn’t elaborate.

Spain announced a record daily rise of 6,584 new coronavirus infections, bringing the overall total to 39,673. The number of deaths also jumped by a record number of 514 to 2,696.

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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump says he’s getting along well with the nation’s governors amid the coronavirus outbreak, but reserved some sharp criticism for New York’s Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo earlier Tuesday panned Trump for tweeting about sending 400 ventilators, or breathing machines, to New York City when the governor says thousands are needed statewide. New York has become the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic.

Trump brandished a copy of a column written by former New York Lt. Gov. Betsy McCaughey, published last week by the New York Post, that says Cuomo had passed up a chance to buy thousands of ventilators in 2015.

Trump said during a virtual town hall aired by Fox News, “All they had to do was order them two years ago, but they decided not to do it. They can’t blame us for that.”

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WASHINGTON – Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly says three sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive for coronavirus. The aircraft carrier at sea in Asia last made a port call 15 days ago in Vietnam.

The chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, says there currently is no plan to pull the carrier from its mission. He says the three sailors are being removed from the ship and admitted to a Defense Department hospital.

Navy officials say those who came in contact with the trio are in isolation aboard the ship, as best they can do that while at sea. But the officials couldn’t say say how many are in isolation.

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WASHINGTON – U.S. officials are trying to lessen the load on health care workers who collect specimens from coronavirus patients.

The Food and Drug Administration says health care workers can let people who have symptoms swab their own noses at testing sites. That means health care workers won’t need to switch masks as often.

Deborah Birx, coordinator of the U.S. coronavirus response, says it’s still important for people to refrain from seeking a test unless it will change the way they will be treated. She has urged people that if they “don’t need a test do not come in to be tested.”

People will still need to go to a testing site, though. The FDA says at-home swabs aren’t recommended, to ensure the samples are properly handled.

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UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations to adopt a “wartime” plan including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars.” The plan would be for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Guterres says in a letter to the Group of 20 leaders that they account for 85% of the world’s gross domestic product and have “a direct interest and critical role to play in helping developing countries cope with the crisis.”

The U.N. chief says, “Anything short of this commitment would lead to a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions affecting us all.”

The secretary-general also urged “a clear repudiation of protectionism.”

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PARIS – France’s Scientific Council has recommended that France’s home confinement, which began one week ago, should last at least six weeks in total.

The recommendation was voiced to French President Emmanuel Macron during a special expert meeting on Tuesday.

Macron has not yet made any official announcements on any extension of the confinement, which was initially for two weeks and open to being lengthened.

It comes as France’s Health Minister Olivier Veran says the country would “multiply” testing on patients suspected to have the virus.

France is the European country with the third-highest virus-related deaths, after Italy and Spain.

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DUBLIN – Ireland’s premier Leo Varadkar says the government’s economic support package will be bolstered, with unemployment and sickness benefits increased substantially.

Like other countries in Europe, Varadkar says an emergency wage subsidy scheme will be created that will see the government pay up to 70% of an employee’s salary up to a cap of 410 euros ($450) a week.

Latest figures show six people diagnosed with COVID-19 have died in Ireland.

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ROME – Three weeks into national lockdown, Italy’s daily bulletin about its COVID-19 outbreak added thousands more cases, pushing the nation’s overall total to more than 69,000.

Civil Protection authorities say there were 743 more deaths of infected persons in a 24-hour period, adding to Italy’s overall death toll that is the world’s highest. After two straight days of day-to-day increases in new cases that had seen lower numbers, authorities on Tuesday said there were 5,249 new cases.

A day earlier, new cases in a 24-hour period had totaled some 460 fewer. For two days running, the percentage of day-to-day increase in case load stands at 8%. Health authorities have cautioned that it’s too soon to say if Italy is about to see a peak in the outbreak. The country now has at least 6,820 deaths.

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LONDON – British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the government is looking to build a volunteer army of a quarter of a million people to help deliver food and medicines to those quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hancock says the government is looking for people in good health to help the National Health Service support those who have been ask to “shield themselves.”

Though Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced sweeping curbs on people’s movements, the most vulnerable, including those with long-term health conditions, have effectively been told they must stay in place for at least 12 weeks.

Hancock says nearly 12,000 retired medical personnel have answered the call to help out.

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NEW DELHI – India will begin the world’s largest lock down.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced it in a TV address Tuesday night, warning that anyone going outside risked inviting the coronavirus inside their homes. He pledged $2 billion to bolster the country’s beleaguered health care system.

“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” said Modi, adding that if the country failed to manage the next 21 days, it could be set back by 21 years.

India’s stay-at-home order puts nearly one-fifth of the world’s population under lock down.

Indian health officials have reported 469 active cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths. Officials have repeatedly insisted there is no evidence yet of communal spread but have conducted relatively few tests for the disease.

A passenger removes her goggles and face mask used to fend off coronavirus at the request of a TSA agent as she goes through a security checkpoint, Tuesday, March 24, 2020, at JFK airport in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)
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