The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
– Fauci says White House could recommend broader use of masks.
– Italy hits â€œplateauâ€ in its infection rate.
– U.S. State Department official dies from virus.
– Top Moscow doctor tests positive, shook Putin’s hand.
WASHINGTON – Dr. Anthony Fauci said the White House coronavirus task force is looking into the idea of recommending broader, community-wide use of masks to deter the spread of the new coronavirus.
Fauci said the task force first wants to make sure that such a move wouldnâ€™t take away from the supply of masks available to health care workers.
â€œBut once we get in a situation where we have enough masks, I believe there will be some very serious consideration about more broadening this recommendation of using masks,â€ Fauci said in a CNN interview Tuesday. â€œWe’re not there yet, but I think we’re close to coming to some determination.â€
He said wearing a mask may prevent an infected person from spreading the virus.
Fauci is the director National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a leader of the U.S. response to the pandemic.
President Donald Trump said Monday he could see broader use of masks on a temporary basis.
â€œI mean, you know, we want our country back. We’re not going to be wearing masks forever, but it could be for a short period of time,â€ Trump said.
The World Health Organization on Monday reiterated its advice that the general population doesn’t need to wear masks unless they’re sick. Since the epidemic began in China, the WHO has said masks are for the sick and people caring for them.
NEW YORK – The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed past 3,500 Tuesday, eclipsing China’s official count.
New York’s mammoth convention center started taking patients to ease the burden on the city’s overwhelmed health system and the tennis center where the U.S. Open is held was being turned into a hospital.
Worldwide, more than 800,000 people have been infected and over 39,000 people have died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Italy and Spain accounted for half the deaths, while the U.S. had around 3,550 by midday, eclipsing China’s official toll of about 3,300.
New York was the nation’s deadliest hot spot, with about 1,550 deaths statewide, the majority of them in New York City.
ATHENS, Greece – Greece reported a jump in confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with 102 new cases bringing the total to 1,314 in the country. Forty-nine people have died so far of the virus, the health ministryâ€™s infectious diseases expert Sotirios Tsiodras said.
The new confirmed positive cases include 20 crew members of a passenger ship docked in the countryâ€™s main port of Piraeus, and a woman living in a refugee camp near Athens who tested positive after giving birth in a hospital in the capital.
The International Organization for Migration said its staff continued to work in the Ritsona refugee camp with the use of safety equipment, and had distributed soap and cleansers to the campâ€™s residents. It said common areas in the camp were being disinfected once a week.
Greece has been on lockdown for just over a week, with people allowed to leave their homes only for certain limited reasons.
BELGRADE, Serbia – Serbia has reported its â€œworst dayâ€ so far in the outbreak of the new coronavirus with seven deaths and 115 new cases in a day.
The Balkan countryâ€™s crisis team said Tuesday that there are now 900 confirmed infections while 23 people have died.
Head of the Clinic for Infectious Diseases Goran Stevanovic warned at a daily briefing that unless people start to fully respect the lockdown measures and recommended social distancing, â€œwe will be looking at the Italian and Spanish scenario.â€
The doctors then walked out of the live press conference without taking questions in order to stress their message.
Serbiaâ€™s authorities have complained that the citizens have not taken the issue seriously enough and continue to go out of their homes and socialize. Thousands went out in nice weather last weekend.
Serbia has imposed an evening curfew and banned all citizens over 65 years from leaving their homes. President Aleksandar Vucic has announced that a 24-hour curfew could be introduced if the situation worsens.
ROME – The head of Italyâ€™s national institutes of health says the country has hit the â€œplateauâ€ in its coronavirus infection rate, three weeks into a national lockdown, and should start to see a decline in new cases.
Dr. Silvio Brusaferro stressed Tuesday that it would be folly to relax Italyâ€™s productivity shutdown and stay-at-home restrictions now, even though the rate of new virus infections is slowing.
But he said, â€œThe curve suggests we are at the plateau. We have to confirm it, because arriving at the plateau doesnâ€™t mean we have conquered the peak and weâ€™re done. It means now we should start to see the decline if we continue to place maximum attention on what we do every day.â€
The daily numbers released by Italyâ€™s civil protection agency confirmed the trend, showing another 4,053 infections – in line with a leveling off in recent days – to bring Italyâ€™s total confirmed cases to 105,792. Another 837 people died, bringing Italyâ€™s toll to 12,428, the highest in the world.
Brusaferro confirmed that Italyâ€™s R0, the average number of people who will get infected from one contagious person, is nearing one, down from estimates as high as two or three. Officials are aiming to get the R0 under one to rein in the epidemic.
In the absence of a virus vaccine that would bring that rate closer to zero, Brusaferro said governments around the world will have to come up with a mixture of measures to keep the infection curve down while gradually allowing some activity to restart.
WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says a State Department official has died from the coronavirus, the first American fatality among the U.S. diplomatic corps from the pandemic.
Pompeo didn’t give details about the official who passed away or where the person contracted the disease. He says about four to five dozen State Department employees had tested positive for the virus, including locally employed staffers at a handful of the 220 U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.
On Monday, State Department health officials said at least two locally employed staff members had died from the virus.
Those officials say they were tracking 105 confirmed cases among the agencyâ€™s global workforce of about 75,000. Of those, 75 are overseas and 30 are at State Department offices in the United States in nine cities.
ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had a phone call with President Donald Trump and the two leaders agreed to take steps to share information on best practices, data and experiences in their fight against the coronavirus epidemic.
They also agreed the fight against the epidemic “can only succeed through global solidarity and cooperation,” according to a statement released by Erdogan’s office.
TOKYO – Tokyo reported 78 confirmed cases of the coronavirus on Tuesday, a record single-day increase that concerns Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike.
That exceeded 68 on Sunday and brings the total to 522. She is asking residents to stay at home as much as possible, specifically urging them to avoid hostess bars, clubs and karaoke bars as hotspots. Koike has also suggested a possibility of a lockdown of Tokyo if infections wonâ€™t slow.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abeâ€™s government enacted a special law enabling him to declare a state of emergency. That would allow local leaders to instruct a range of measures, including closures of schools and business operations.
Koike discussed Tokyoâ€™s latest situation with Abe and says a â€œjudgement by the government is now needed.â€
ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey’s ruling party has submitted a package of draft amendments to Parliament that would free an estimated 90,000 prisoners and ease overcrowding in prisons.
Ruling party legislator Cahit Ozkan says prisoners convicted of drug-related charges, sexual abuse, murder, domestic abuse and terrorism would be exempt from the reform package designed to reduce the 280,000 prison population.
That would mean that dozens of journalists and human rights defenders would be excluded because many of them have been imprisoned on terror-related charges.
Amnesty International and other human rights groups had called on Turkey to ensure that the proposed legislation releases journalists, activists, opposition politicians and others imprisoned for expressing dissenting opinions under the country’s vague anti-terrorism laws.
ROME – Italyâ€™s industrial lobby says the coronavirus crisis could provoke a depression with a dramatic spike in unemployment and collapse of social structures unless officials in Italy and Europe take decisive action.
Italy has idled all non-essential industry in a bid to keep more people at home and stop the spread of the virus, which has infected more than 100,000 people in Italy and killed more than 10,000.
Confindustria says measures to contain virus have impacted consumption and production, with no clear indication when measures would ease.
It forecast a drop in second-quarter GDP of 10%, assuming that production begins to resume in April, rising from 40% currently to 60% by the end of the month with a return to normal by the end of June.
MOSCOW – The chief doctor of Moscowâ€™s top hospital for coronavirus patients says heâ€™s tested positive, a statement that comes a week after his encounter with President Vladimir Putin.
Putin visited the Kommunarka hospital a week ago and met with its chief doctor Denis Protsenko. The doctor says heâ€™s feeling OK and self-isolated in his office.
There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin on whether Putin had undergone a coronavirus test following Protsenkoâ€™s announcement.
The president wore a business suit and shook hands with Protsenko before the meeting, drawing a buzz on social networks over his neglect of safety precautions.
Later that day, Putin put on a yellow protective suit and mask to visit the rooms with patients.
On Tuesday, Russia had 500 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the biggest spike since the start of the outbreak. The country has 2,337 cases so far.
PARIS – French President Emmanuel Macron visited a regional mask factory and reassured the quarantine-hit nation that France was urgently manufacturing masks.
Macron called for â€œsovereignty and solidarityâ€ in a televised address as he touted advances in production of safety equipment. Critics of the government have said France has been too slow in providing masks for its 67 million inhabitants.
Macron says “the aim is to increase national production from 3.3 million masks per week to 10 million,” suggesting this figure will reached in late April.
He says the government will inject 4 billion euros into the National Public Health organization to place â€œorders for masks, respirators and medicines.”
BERLIN – Germanyâ€™s labor minister says he expects people on a government-backed short-time work program to exceed the 1.4 million it reached during the financial crisis in 2009.
The government has recently made it easier for companies to put workers on the program, which was credited with limiting job losses during the financial crisis and speeding the rebound.
The federal labor agency picks up the expense of keeping workers who are working some or none of their usual hours on the payroll. Employees will receive at least 60-67% of their net salary.
Labor Minister Hubertus Heil says as of Saturday, 470,000 companies had registered for short-time work.
MOSCOW – Russian parliament approved harsher punishments for violating quarantine regulations and spreading “fake news.”
Evading quarantine will be punishable by heavy fines, and if it leads to two or more people dying, by up to seven years in prison.
Heavy fines are outlined for those who spread misinformation about the outbreak. If it results in a death, then the perpetrator faces up to five years in prison.
Russia has so far reported 2,337 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus. It reported 500 new cases on Tuesday, the biggest spike since the start of the epidemic.
Many regions and cities are ordering lockdowns and sweeping self-isolation protocols.
MILAN – Italy constructed a 200-bed intensive care field hospital at the Milan fairgrounds to help relieve the pressure on northern Italyâ€™s overwhelmed health care system.
The hospital, an outpost of Milanâ€™s Polyclinic hospital, was constructed in 10 days by 500 workers with the help of 21 million euros (23 million U.S.) in donations, nearly half of which came from Lombardy native and former Premier Silvio Berlusconi.
Officials says it’s a specialized wing, with a pharmacy, radiology wards and other specialized pavilions. They say it could be replicated in central and southern Italy.
Late Monday, Lombardy accounted for 1,330 of Italyâ€™s 3,981 ICU patients.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s President Joko Widodo has ordered a large-scale social restriction to ensure people obey the implementation of physical distancing.
He’s instructed the National Police to take legal measures to enforce the restriction and urged local leaders to follow the current regulation and not issue their own policy.
Indonesia’s death toll from COVID-19 has risen to 136 and1,528 cases. Itâ€™s prompted local leaders to impose partial lockdown in their regions.
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone – Sierra Leone has announced its first coronavirus case.
The West African nation already announced a year-long state of emergency over the pandemic. Sierra Leone was one of the three nations hit hard from 2014-16 by the Ebola outbreak, which killed more than 11,000 people.
Forty eight of Africa’s 54 countries now have the coronavirus.
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