The Latest: White House asks governors for help in testing

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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:

– White House asking governors for help in getting lab machines up and running to process tests.

– UN suspends troop deployment in its 13 global peacekeeping missions until June 30.

– UK’s daily death toll expected to rise this week.

– Italy’s day-to-day increase in COVID-19 cases is one of the lowest in weeks, bolstering generally downward trend.

– Health or wealth? Nations pressured to loosen virus rules.

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WASHINGTON – The White House is asking governors for help in getting high-tech lab machines up and running to process coronavirus tests.

In a conference call with governors Monday, Vice President Mike Pence asked governors for “whatever you can do” to help get testing machines found in hospitals, research laboratories and other places running at full capacity. The Associated Press obtained audio of the call.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said on the call that she’s working with labs around the country to make sure the machines are running at full capacity.

The machines “have a need for a lot of technical support” and require trained operators to run them, Birx said.

“In the last three weeks, we could have run 3 million tests. We’ve run 200,000,” she said.

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UNITED NATIONS – United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has suspended the deployment and rotation of U.N. peacekeeping troops and international police in its 13 global peacekeeping missions until June 30 to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The U.N. has about 85,000 soldiers and police serving in missions in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and Europe.

U.N. peacekeeping chief Jean-Pierre Lacroix made the announcement Monday saying: “We don’t want to be part of the problem.”

He stressed: “We want to be on the safe side. We want … to not in any way contribute to the spread of the virus.”

Lacroix said the secretary-general’s guidance provides for exceptions, and any new deployments will be quarantined before and after arrival for 14 days.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Operational Support Atul Khare said there have been 12 cases of COVID-19 in U.N. peacekeeping missions, but only three among uniformed personnel and all were treated in the countries where they serve.

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LONDON – The British government’s chief scientific adviser has warned that the U.K.’s daily death toll from coronavirus will likely rise this week before plateauing for potentially two to three weeks, and then subsequently declining.

Patrick Vallance said at the government’s daily press briefing that the U.K. is tracking behind Italy, the European country with the highest death toll from COVID-19, and “following the same sort of path.”

He said he thinks “we are going to see a further increase” this week before a plateau as the effects of social distancing come through.

Earlier, government figures showed that another 717 people who tested positive for the coronavirus had died in the hospital, taking the total in the U.K. up to 11,329.

Though that was the third straight daily decline in the daily death toll, Vallance’s comments suggest that the numbers may have been artificially depressed over the four-day Easter holiday weekend.

With Italy seemingly the other side of the peak, there are growing expectations that the U.K. will end up being the European country with the most coronavirus-related deaths.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who is deputizing for Prime Minister Boris Johnson as he convalesces following his week-long stay in a hospital with coronavirus, said the government does ”not expect to make any changes” to the lockdown measures in place when it assesses the situation this week.

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ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey has registered 4,093 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, pushing the total to 61,049.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on his Twitter account on Monday that Turkey’s COVID-19 death toll rose to 1,296, with 98 additional fatalities.

A total of 1,786 people are in intensive care, including 1,063 intubated patients, Koca said. At least 3,957 people have recovered.

Koca noted that the number of cases recorded Monday was fewer than in previous days despite an increase in the number of tests conducted.

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MEXICO CITY – Health workers briefly blocked a street in Mexico City on Monday to demand more protective gear as their hospital receives more patients suffering from COVID-19.

Dozens of nurses, doctors and other personnel from the October 1 Hospital carried handwritten signs and shouted for assistance. The hospital is part of Mexico’s public health system for government workers.

One nurse, who had worked at the hospital for more than 20 years, but requested anonymity to avoid repercussions, said she received only one flimsy mask per day even though she works on a floor with dozens of patients with the new coronavirus.

At least one nurse has already died at the hospital and a doctor is in intensive care, she said. Calls to the hospital and the agency that runs it were not immediately answered.

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ROME – Italy’s day-to-day increase in new COVID-19 cases is one of the lowest in weeks, bolstering a generally downward trend.

Authorities announced on Monday that there were 3,153 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours – approximately a 1.9 percent increase.

That brings Italy’s overall toll of known cases to nearly 160,000. The day-to-day death toll, 566, however, was up, from the 431 new deaths registered on Sunday.

Cases being registered on Monday reflect contagion from some time past, stressed Giovanni Rezza, head of the infectious disease department at Italy’s national health institute.

The number of new cases are “diminishing, slowly diminishing,” Rezza told reporters.

On Tuesday, Italy, which, with more than 20,000 fatalities, has Europe’s highest death toll, starts a sixth week of national lockdown.

Some slight easing of restrictions are about to take effect in some sectors, such as permission to allow stores selling necessities for newborns or stationery items to reopen.

The lockdown will last at least through May 3, under the latest government decree.

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LONDON – Scientists at the World Health Organization say they still do not have enough information to know if people are immune to subsequent COVID-19 infections once they have recovered from the disease.

At a briefing on Monday, WHO emergencies chief Dr. Mike Ryan said that they assume people who have survived the new coronavirus and have a detectable level of antibodies should have some level of protection, but that “we just don’t know what that period of time is.”

He said scientists can make estimates based on immunity from other coronaviruses, but that even that data is quite limited.

Maria Van Kerkhove, WHO’s technical lead on COVID-19 said the information WHO has on antibody response and immunity is “mixed” and that they need much more information on recovered patients.

She said that there are more than 3,000 patients globally who have so far recovered from the disease and that numerous studies are currently under way to try to answer the immunity question.

“Right now, we don’t have a full picture of what immunity looks like,” she said. “And until we do, we can’t give a complete answer.”

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GENEVA – The head of the World Health Organization says he believes U.S. President Donald Trump is “supportive” of the U.N. health agency.

Just days after Trump launched repeated criticism of the agency and threatened funding cuts amid the COVID-19 outbreak, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says he hopes U.S. funding will continue – and said WHO’s relationship with the U.S. is “very good.”

Tedros did not elaborate, and did not respond to a question at a Monday news briefing in Geneva about the possible impact of a U.S. funding cut.

WHO officials used the briefing to reiterate the agency’s insistence that countries should not be too quick to ease control measures aimed to fight the outbreak.

Tedros said evidence shows the disease linked to the novel coronavirus outbreak is 10 times deadlier than the 2009 flu pandemic, and “the way down is much slower than the way up.”

WHO plans Tuesday to issue “updated strategic advice” for countries that are considering lifting control measures, including six criteria to consider before doing so.

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ATHENS, Greece – Greek authorities have recorded 31 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing the country’s total so far to 2,145. One new death was also recorded between Sunday and Monday evening, with the total now at 99.

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FRANKFURT, Germany – The German National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina issued an assessment Monday saying that better data was needed on the extent of the infection and the immune status of the population to assist decision makers.

It said that once infections have stabilized at a low level and if health precautions are strictly observed, schools in the lower grades should begin reopening “as soon as possible.”

It said the closure of schools was contributing to social inequality and that students in elementary grades were less able to benefit from remote learning.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has said the academy’s assessment was “very important” in deciding how to proceed. The report said a gradual reopening of public life could move gradually from schools to retail and restaurants, with private and business travel to follow under conditions such as requiring masks on public transport.

Merkel has expressed caution about any reopening. She is to hold a video conference with state governors Wednesday to discuss the country’s restrictions including a ban on public gatherings of more than two people not from the same household that was imposed March 22.

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MADRID – Spanish authorities have let some workers begin returning to their jobs, but Health Minister Salvador Illa says the government will move carefully on allowing others to end their self-isolation amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Illa said officials will proceed with “the utmost caution and prudence … and always based on scientific evidence” in easing restrictions.

“We’re in no position to be setting dates” about when isolation might end, he told a Madrid news conference Monday. “We can’t get ahead of ourselves.”

The Spanish government, looking to get the economy moving again, has allowed workers to return to some factory and construction jobs. But retail stores and services must remain closed and office workers have to keep working from home.

He said Spain, a country of 47 million people where the death toll officially attributed to the coronavirus is 17,489, is carrying out some 20,000 tests a day and plans to increase that number.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said a program to distribute 10 million face masks began Monday.

“We’re still at an early stage” in fighting the coronavirus, Grande-Marlaska said. “Once it is defeated, we will have to rebuild our country, socially and economically.”

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CAIRO – Sudanese transitional authorities on Monday said it would impose around the clock curfew in the capital, Khartoum, to fight the coronavirus pandemic, as the country reported 10 more confirmed cases and two fatalities.

Information Minister Faisal Saleh told a news conference in Khartoum that the curfew would go into effect for three weeks starting Saturday.

Sudan, which health care system has suffered from years of civil wars and sanctions, has a total of 29 cases including four deaths.

Health Minister Akram al-Tom said all reported cases were in Khartoum, but one in the Nile River province, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of the capital. He appealed to Sudanese to comply to the protective measures taken by the government to stem the virus outbreak.

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WASHINGTON – Washington health officials announced Monday morning that 80 positive new COVID-19 infections had been identified, bringing the total up to 1,955, with two new deaths for a total of 52.

Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency on March 11 and issued a stay-home order on March 30 for Washington’s approximately 700,000 residents.

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WASHINGTON – The U.S. Navy says an aircraft carrier crew member who was hospitalized in intensive care on the island of Guam last week has died of what officials called COVID-19-related complications.

The sailor was among nearly 600 crew members of the USS Theodore Roosevelt to have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

In announcing the death on Monday, the Navy said the sailor had been found “unresponsive” during an April 9 medical check while in isolation on Guam. The Navy said fellow sailors and an onsite medical team at the house in which the sailor was staying administered CPR.

The Navy says the sailor was then moved to an intensive care unit at a local hospital. It did not identify the sailor.

The Roosevelt aircraft carrier pulled into port at Guam on March 27, shortly after the first coronavirus cases on board were detected.

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LONDON – The mother of a nurse who cared for British Prime Minister Boris Johnson while he was in intensive care with COVID-19 says her daughter found the experience “surreal.”

Jenny McGee, from Invercargill on New Zealand’s South Island, and her Portuguese colleague, Luis Pitarma, were singled out by Johnson after his discharge from St. Thomas’ Hospital in London on Sunday for the care they gave him.

Caroline McGee told broadcaster TVNZ that her daughter was “very professional” and waited until Johnson was out of the ICU to let her parents know she’d had the prime minister as a patient.

She says her daughter told them “she had just had a most surreal time in her life, something she will never forget, and that she had been taking care of Boris.”

Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa also “personally conveyed” his thanks to Luis Pitarma, who is from the city of Aveiro, for his care and supervision of Johnson.

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VATICAN CITY – Pope Francis says he prays for all the countries struggling with COVID-19 cases, the United States and European nations among them.

He has also expressed his closeness and affection to these nations, “several with great numbers of the infected and the deceased.

“Italy, the United States, Spain, France, the list is long,’’ said Francis before giving a blessing to mark what is celebrated in many places Monday as “Little Easter.”

He also hailed the contribution of women working in hospitals, on police forces or in stores during the pandemic while juggling care of children, elders or disabled relatives at home. He noted during weeks of stay-at-home orders, women are at risk of suffering domestic violence.

At an early morning Mass in the Vatican hotel where he lodges, Francis prayed for “rulers, scientists, politicians, who have begun to study the way out, the post-pandemic, this ‘after’ that has already begun.” He urged them to “find the right path, always in favor of the people.”

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

A construction worker operates a crane by remote control at a building site in Madrid, Spain, Monday, April 13, 2020. Heavy industry and construction workers are returning to work from Monday after a two-week hiatus in economic activity due to the coronavirus restrictions but the government is keeping most Spaniards under confinement for the fifth week in a row.The new COVID-19 coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Paul White)
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