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:
– Las Vegas Strip hotel-casino makes plans to reopen in mid-May.
– Tyson plant in Washington state temporarily closing for worker testing.
– WHO reports five-fold increase in cyberattacks, including fake charity fund.
WALLULA, Washington – A Tyson beef plant in eastern Washington state is temporarily shutting down to test workers for the coronavirus.
Tyson says health officials in surrounding counties will test the plantâ€™s more than 1,400 employees. The plant is located in Wallula, near the city of Pasco.
As the number of COVID-19-infected workers at the plant climbed to over 100 this week, family and friends of employees joined together to urge the plant to shut down. Tyson says workers will be paid during the closure.
BATON ROUGE, La. – Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says it was â€œgrossly irresponsibleâ€ for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to suggest states hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak should be allowed to seek bankruptcy protections rather than be given federal aid.
The Democratic governor says he favors Senate legislation co-sponsored by Louisianaâ€™s Bill Cassidy, a Republican, that would let states share in part of a $500 billion aid package.
â€œIâ€™m heartened to say that publicly the president has agreed that in the next phase of coronavirus relief coming out of Congress, states should be included,” Edwards said. “Iâ€™m hopeful that the presidentâ€™s view wins out and that Senator McConnell has a change of heart on this.â€
LAS VEGAS – A major hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip is making plans to reopen in three weeks if the governor lifts his closure order because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Treasure Island says it will accept reservations for arrivals starting May 15. It has nearly 3,000 rooms.
The hotelâ€™s announcement on its website comes as a record wave of Nevada residents filed new claims for jobless benefits for a fifth straight week, bringing to more than 343,000 the total since casinos and other businesses were closed in mid-March.
Gov. Steve Sisolak says Nevada will take a gradual approach to easing business closures and stay-at-home rules, but he didnâ€™t give any date for how soon that might occur.
JOHANNESBURG – The U.S. military has declared a public health emergency at its only permanent base in Africa as coronavirus cases in host country Djibouti climb near 1,000.
A statement calls the declaration a precautionary measure and says it affects all personnel, including contractors, at Camp Lemonnier and Chabelley Airfield.
The emergency means any facility can be repurposed for the virus response and health workers can be supplemented with volunteers. More than 4,000 U.S. personnel are based in the Horn of Africa nation.
SAO PAULO – Brazilâ€™s health ministry has confirmed 407 deaths due to the new coronavirus outbreak in the last 24 hours, a daily high for the country. The total of deaths related to COVID-19 in the South American nation is now at 3,313.
Almost 50,000 people have been confirmed as infected with the virus in Brazil, but medical analysts and politicians consider those figures largely underestimated.
More than half of the deaths are in the wealthy and populous state of Sao Paulo, the epicenter of the pandemic. Sao Paulo Mayor Bruno Covas says â€œthe worst is still to come.â€
Health care systems in the cities of Manaus, Recife and Fortaleza are near collapse.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro favors taking a less restrictive approach to dealing with the coronavirus and hopes states will lift social isolation measures in the next few days. But governors and mayors are largely ignoring the advice of the far-right leader.
GENEVA – The World Health Organization is reporting a five-fold increase in cyberattacks against it compared to a year earlier. It cites a rise in scams aiming to draw donations into a fake fund that is wrongly billed as a way to help the COVID-19 response.
The U.N. health agency also cited a â€œdramatic increaseâ€ in cyberattacks against its staff, saying 450 active WHO e-mail accounts and passwords were leaked online this week.
WHO says the leaked credentials did not jeopardize its computer systems because the data was not recent, though the incident did affect an older system.
The agency says itâ€™s working to establish stronger internal systems and improve security, and urged the public to be on the lookout against fraudulent e-mails.
PRAGUE – The Czech Republicâ€™s government is canceling some of the key restrictive measures it had imposed to contain coronavirus pandemic.
Health Minister Adam Vojtech says the ban on nationwide travel is cancelled, starting Friday. Currently, Czechs were only allowed to go to work, do essential shopping, and visit doctors and relatives. The number of people who can gather in public is being raised from two to 10.
Vojtech says the moves have been possible because the number of infected has declined for three straight days even though the number of tests is on the rise.
Starting Friday, Czechs will again be able to travel abroad, but those returning home will have to be quarantined or receive a negative test on the coronavirus that is not older than four days.
The Czech Republic has over 7,100 people who tested positive for the virus, including 210 who died of COVID-19.
SALEM, Ore. – Oregon Gov. Kate Brown says hospitals, dentistsâ€™ offices and other health-care providers can resume non-urgent procedures on May 1.
She says the state is expecting â€œextremely large shipmentsâ€ of protective masks and gowns,
However, health officials warn that Oregon still lacks adequate testing capability to isolate and quash pockets of outbreaks of the coronavirus. Brown says about 8,000 tests are now being conducted weekly and that number will need to more than double.
Brownâ€™s March 19 executive order cancelling all non-urgent, elective procedures – or postponing them to June 15 and beyond – applied to all facilities that used personal protective equipment, or PPE. It was aimed at reserving masks and other PPE for those on the front lines in diagnosing and treating COVID-19 patients.
But starting May 1, those facilities can resume such treatments so long as they minimize the risk of coronavirus transmission to patients and healthcare workers.
JACKSON, Miss. – A Mississippi city facing freedom-of-religion lawsuits and pressure from the U.S. attorney general has revised its policy that banned drive-up church services during the coronavirus pandemic, now saying the services are OK with windows rolled up.
The Greenville City Councilâ€™s new policy erases any distinction between drive-up church services and other types of drive-up interactions, including picking up food at restaurants. It says, for example, that customers may roll windows down to get food but must roll them up while sitting in the car to eat.
The Justice Department took the rare step last week of backing a church that sued over the cityâ€™s restrictions on worship.
Conflicts have arisen in several places over religious practices as officials set limits on peopleâ€™s movements because of COVID-19.
A federal judge in California denied a request by three churches to have in-person services during the pandemic. A Louisiana pastor has continued to hold in-person services in defiance of public health orders. A Kentucky church that held in-person services on Easter filed a federal lawsuit challenging restrictions on gatherings in that state.
Ryan Tucker is an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, one of the groups representing the Baptist church that sued Greenville over the original policy. He says the group commends Greenville â€œfor dropping its unconstitutional ban.â€
MINNEAPOLIS – Gov. Tim Walz has ordered Minnesota schools to stay closed through the rest of the academic year amid the COVID-19 crisis.
Walz is a former teacher who calls it â€œa heartbreaking decision.â€ The Democratic governor says he feels sorry for all the students who will miss out on graduations, tournaments and end of year celebrations. But Walz says the health and safety of Minnesotans is his top priority, so distance learning will continue through the end of this school year.
The governor closed public and charter schools just over a month ago, affecting nearly 900,000 students.
Minnesotaâ€™s death toll from COVID-19 hit 200 on Thursday. The state health department says 21 new deaths were reported, the highest one-day death toll from the pandemic. The department also reported 221 new confirmed cases, another one-day high, raising Minnesotaâ€™s total to 2,942.
RALEIGH, N.C. – North Carolinaâ€™s governor is extending the stateâ€™s stay-at-home order by about a week while also creating a phased plan to gradually reopen businesses.
Gov. Roy Cooper says his stay-at-home order that also restricts non-essential businesses goes until May 8. It was previously set to run through April 29.
The Democrat is resisting pressure to move faster even as some other southern states have already taken steps to allow businesses to resume.
Cooper says the phased plan for reopening would depend on increased testing and contact tracing, along with a downward trend in COVID-19 cases. He says the state is flattening the curve but that itâ€™s not time to lift restrictions yet.
UNITED NATIONS – The United Nationsâ€™ Mideast envoy is warning that Israeli moves to annex parts of the West Bank and accelerate settlement expansion, combined with the coronavirus pandemicâ€™s devastating impact, can â€œigniteâ€ the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and â€œdestroy any hope of peace.â€
Nickolay Mladenov told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday that annexation would also â€œconstitute a serious violation of international law, deal a devastating blow to the two-state solution, close the door to a renewal of negotiations, and threaten efforts to advance regional peace.â€
He urged Israelis and Palestinians to support U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterresâ€™ call for a global cease-fire to all conflicts to tackle the pandemic.
Earlier this week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his main rival Benny Gantz signed a coalition agreement that includes a clause to advance plans to annex parts of the West Bank, including Israeli settlements, starting on July 1.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, told the council that â€œwhatever technical coordination has been achieved between the two sides in recent weeks to combat COVID-19 has been undercut by incessant violations,â€ most flagrantly Israeiâ€™s annexation push which he claimed is being done in full coordination with the United States.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says annexation is â€œan Israeli decision.â€
Mansour also warned that the U.S. plan for Mideast peace and Israelâ€™s decision to proceed with annexation â€œwill destroy the two-state solution and entrench Israelâ€™s military control over the Palestinian people and land.â€
He said the Palestinians are urging the international community to enforce concrete measures â€œto hold Israel accountable for its perverse impunityâ€ and salvage prospects for peace.
BERLIN – German Chancellor Angela Merkel saysâ€œsubstantial investments will be necessaryâ€ for Europe to tackle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, but she refused to comment on whether she would support a trillion euro-package suggested by some European Union members.
As leader of Europeâ€™s biggest economy and the blocâ€™s biggest net contributor, Merkel says she told fellow EU leaders Thursday that all numbers being floated should be supported arguments.
Asked about international cooperation beyond Europe, particularly the United States which has stopped its funding for the World Heath Organization, Merkel says other leaders recognize the need to work together on developing drugs and vaccines for the new coronavirus.
But she says â€œthe assessment of the WHOâ€™s abilities differsâ€ and that the U.S. has expressed â€œstrong criticismâ€ of the U.N. health agency. Merkel says she agrees that â€œwhere there are weaknesses they need to be analyzedâ€ but expressed her support for WHOâ€™s work.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – A Sri Lankan official says 30 navy sailors involved in a recent search for persons who had contact with a COVID-19 patient are infected with the coronavirus.
Army Commander Shavendra Silva says the camp where the sailors have been living is isolated. Silva says the infected sailors had been involved in locating a group of narcotic addicts who had contacts with a COVID-19 patient and were evading quarantine. They were found by the navy and sent to a quarantine center where many of them tested positive for the virus.
Sri Lanka reported 38 coronavirus positive cases Thursday after results of 29 sailors were returned. It is the highest number recorded in a single day. The country now has a total 368 confirmed cases, with seven deaths and 107 recovered.
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