The Latest: Newsom: State may near “meaningful changes”

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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:

– California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state may be just weeks away from “meaningful changes” to its stay-at-home order.

– CDC will release new priorities for coronavirus tests, including testing asymptomatic individuals in high-risk settings.

– Texas Gov. Abbott outlines slow reopening.

– Nevada, Colorado governors will join three West Coast states on issues for reopening society.

– WHO’s emergencies chief: U.S. “well-positioned” to handle continuing pandemic.

– Italy has registered lowest day-to-day number of new cases since March 10.

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom says the state may be just weeks away from “meaningful changes” to its stay-at-home order that took effect March 19.

But he warned Monday that progress will be jeopardized if people crowd beaches as they did in some places over the warm spring weekend. It’s one of his most optimistic timelines yet for easing coronavirus-related restrictions, though he didn’t give a firm date.

It comes as local governments seek their own changes, with some rural counties seeking to ease restrictions and those in the San Francisco Bay Area extending them through the end of May.

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WASHINGTON – The CDC will release new priorities for coronavirus testing Monday, including testing asymptomatic individuals in high-risk settings.

And the White House is set to unveil what it describes as a comprehensive overview of its efforts to make testing for COVID-19 more widely available.

The White House is aiming for states to have enough tests and needed supplies to test at least 2.6% of their populations per month – a figure needed to catch asymptomatic spread.

The administration is also releasing a “testing blueprint” for states, outlining how they should prioritize testing as they devising their reopening plans.

It includes a focus on surveillance testing, as well as “rapid response” programs to isolate those who test positive and identify those they came in contact with.

The administration aims to have the market “flooded” with tests for the fall, when COVID-19 is expected to recur alongside the seasonal flu.

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AUSTIN, Texas – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott outlined Monday a slow reopening of one of the world’s largest economies amid the coronavirus pandemic, allowing restaurants, retailers, movie theaters and malls to start letting customers trickle into their establishments starting Friday.

The Republican’s plan allows those establishments to let in customers up to 25% of capacity as long as they follow social distancing guidelines.

Those in counties that have reported fewer than five cases of the coronavirus will be able to serve customers at a 50% threshold unless officials see a spike in new cases.

Abbott also said he will let his monthlong stay-at-home order expire on Thursday. Bars, barbershops, hair salons and gyms remain closed.

Abbott began easing some of the restrictions last week, starting with reopening state parks, allowing “retail-to-go” and letting doctors to perform nonessential surgeries.

Abbott has been under some pressure for a quicker re-opening but chose a cautious route intended to avoid a spike in new cases.

His plan will likely be met with caution in the state’s largest cities, where officials have enforced more aggressive restrictions and expressed concern that Texas ranks near the bottom per capita in testing.

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The governors of Nevada and Colorado say they will join three West Coast states in coordinating on issues for reopening society amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis and Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said Monday that they are now part of the Western States Pact, which was announced April 13 by the governors of California, Oregon and Washington.

The group of states don’t have specific plans on how to scale back stay-at-home orders or reopen businesses.

Instead, they said they would coordinate those decisions while first considering the health of residents.

Northeastern states made a similar announcement April 13, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Polis and Sisolak emphasized the sharing of data and best practices among the Western states for modifying stay-at-home and other protective measures to combat the pandemic.

Sisolak called the partnership vital for Nevada’s recovery because of the millions of people from the West who vacation and travel to his state.

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BOSTON – The coronavirus kept a tight grip on hard-hit Massachusetts, which added 1,000 new deaths in just five days as the pandemic peaks in the state.

Reported deaths hit 3,003, and there are indications the true death toll could be much higher.

Officials are hopeful things could be turning a corner, but newspapers print page after page of death notices.

“The state is “still in the surge and very much in the fight against COVID-19,” Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said.

Massachusetts ranks third in confirmed U.S. cases, behind New York and New Jersey.

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OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has announced that activities such as fishing, hunting and golfing can resume on May 5, at which time people can also return to state parks and other state lands for day trips.

However, Inslee said Monday that if the state sees an uptick in infections of the coronavirus or if people don’t continue to abide by social distancing protocols, the activities could once again be restricted.

Public gatherings and events, team sports and camping are all still prohibited under the current stay-at-home order that has been in place since March 23.

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SYDNEY – Sydney’s Bondi Beach has been re-opened to swimmers and surfers despite the local area having Australia’s highest concentration of COVID-19 cases.

The beach was opened from 7 a.m. on Tuesday until 5 p.m. with officials keeping tallies of the number of beach goers coming and going through gates to ensure social distancing. People were not permitted to linger on the sand.

Hundreds braved cool autumn weather to return to the water soon after the gates opened.

Police closed the beach five weeks ago because of thousands of people congregating there in defiance of social distancing regulations. Weeks later, a virus testing tent was established behind the beach because of the high rate of infections, particularly among backpackers who often live locally in crowded conditions.

The Waverley municipality in wealthy eastern Sydney, which includes Bondi, says it continues to have the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Australia.

Waverly Mayor Paula Masselos says the waters of Bondi, plus Bronte and Tamarama beaches to the south were re-opened “for the sole purpose of exercising.”

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LONDON – The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says the U.S. is “well-positioned” to handle the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and said states may have different strategies because they’re at different points in their respective outbreaks.

In a news briefing on Monday, Dr. Michael Ryan said that although the U.N. health agency issues epidemic control recommendations to all its member countries, it’s up to countries to decide whether or not to follow such guidance.

“I believe the federal government and the system of governors are working together to move America and its people through this very difficult situation with public health and other scientific leaders,” Ryan said in Geneva, adding that the American plan for exiting lockdowns appears to be based on several parameters, including a downward trajectory in cases and sufficient health care capacity.

He added that the U.S. had a “superb” public health infrastructure able to manage the transition once restrictive measures are loosened.

WHO’s director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said all countries should have heeded the agency’s warning when it declared COVID-19 to be a global emergency on Jan. 30, when there were only 82 cases of the disease beyond China.

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QUEBEC CITY – Quebec’s premier says elementary schools and daycares outside the greater Montreal area will reopen on May 11 despite the fact his province has the worst outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Canada.

Premier Francois Legault says schools and daycares in greater Montreal region will reopen the next week, on May 19. Legault says school attendance will not be mandatory. He says he’s reopening the schools for social and educational reasons.

Legault says high schools, junior colleges and universities will remain closed until September. He is urging those institutions to do as much online teaching as possible.

Quebec has more than half of Canada’s cases with at least 24,107 confirmed cases.

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LONDON – The British government’s chief medical adviser has warned that there could be a link between an apparent increase in the number of children in the U.K. exhibiting severe inflammatory conditions and coronavirus.

Professor Chris Whitty said at the government’s daily briefing that it is “entirely plausible” that there is a link in some cases but stressed that this is a “very rare situation.”

Worries over the virus’ impact on children increased Monday following reports that the National Health Service has identified over the past three weeks an apparent increase in the number of children with inflammatory issues requiring intensive care treatment.

Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for NHS England, said experts have been asked to look into this “as a matter of urgency” and that it is “really too early to say whether there is a link.”

The NHS’s advice states that children can get coronavirus but that “they seem to get it less often than adults and it’s usually less serious.”

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LONDON – British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the National Health Service will start to restore services put on pause to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

Hancock said at the government’s daily briefing that as “the number of hospitalizations from coronavirus begins to fall,” the NHS will on Tuesday start to get back to normal. “starting with the most urgent, like cancer care and mental health support.”

Alongside the fall in the number of people being hospitalized with the coronavirus, there has been a steady fall in the number of people dying in U.K. hospitals from COVID-19 when measured on a seven-day rolling average.

Hancock said another 360 people died in U.K. hospitals taking the total to 21,092. That is the lowest daily increase since late March.

The government’s chief medical adviser, Professor Chris Whitty, said that number is likely to rise in the coming days as Monday’s increase may have been artificially depressed by weekend reporting limitations.

Hancock also announced a 60,000-pound ($74,000) life assurance plan for families of front-line staff who die with coronavirus. He said 82 NHS workers and 16 social care staff had died so far.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice unveiled an aggressive plan to reopen the state’s economy while loosening coronavirus testing benchmarks without explanation.

The Republican is moving to lift restrictions if the state’s positive test rate stays below 3% for three days, a reversal of a previous goal to have cases decline over two weeks.

Coronavirus czar Clay Marsh, echoing guidelines from the White House, previously said he wanted cases to decline for 14 consecutive days before virus rules are eased.

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ROME – Fiat Chrysler has reopened one of its truck plants after installing dozens of temperature monitoring cameras, 130 hand sanitizer dispensers and other safety measures to prevent coronavirus infection.

The Sevel plant in Atessa, a joint venture with French carmaker PSA Group, was closed March 17, about 10 days before the government idled all non-essential production.

Fiat negotiated a reopening with unions and health experts and says most of the 6,000 employees at Sevel returned to work Monday.

Pietro Gorlier, FCA’s regional chief operating officer, said: “Obviously this will not be a restart like turning on a switch,” but rather a gradual reopening as plants implement standards of hygiene and social distancing.

All employees were given kits that will be replaced daily with surgical masks, gloves and goggles. There’s an extra set of masks for those who use public transport to get to and from work, FCA said.

Premier Giuseppe Conte on Sunday outlined how other industry can begin reopening next week, once they implement necessary virus-prevention measures. Some plants were allowed to reopen starting Monday.

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ROME – Italy has registered its lowest day-to-day number of new cases of COVID-19 since practically the first day the nation was put under lockdown to contain what would become one of the world’s worst outbreaks.

According to data from the Italian health ministry, 1,739 cases new cases were confirmed in the 24-hour period ending Monday evening. The previous time the nation saw such a low daily number occurred on March 10, when 77 new cases were registered. Italy now has 199,414 known cases. It registered 333 deaths since Sunday evening, raising to 26,977 the number of known deaths in the country, which has Europe’s highest death toll in the pandemic.

Some of Italy’s lockdown rules will be partially eased on May 4, but many restrictions on retail shops, museums and other businesses will last two or more weeks beyond that date.

Scientists advising the government are concerned the contagion rate will start soaring again when Italians start moving around more with newly regained freedoms. Premier Giuseppe Conte has decided that re-opening society will come gradually, since there is no vaccine against COVID-19.

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ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan says his government is working on a detailed plan to normalize life by easing restrictions, adding that “there is light at the end of the tunnel for Turkey.”

Erdogan said however, that weekend lockdowns would most likely continue until after next month’s Eid holiday which marks the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan. In a televised address following a weekly Cabinet meeting, Erdogan said this week’s curfew would start on Friday – May 1 Labor Day – which is a public holiday in Turkey.

The vice president will evaluate recommendations from the country’s COVID-19 advisory council to decide “which steps will be taken in which fields and on which date,” Erdogan said.

His announcement on the gradual easing of restrictions comes amid a decline in the number of daily deaths and infections.

On Monday, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced 95 deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest since April 11. The total death toll now stands at 2,900, with 112,261 confirmed infections.

The government has refrained from imposing a total lockdown, fearing its negative impact on the already fragile economy. It has opted for piecemeal measures instead, including weekend curfews and banning people above the age of 65 and below the age of 20 from leaving their homes.

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BRUSSELS – The European Union’s top economy official says new figures show that growth in the 19 nations using the euro single currency will shrink markedly this year and more than during the previous financial crisis.

Economy Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni told EU lawmakers Monday that “that a deep recession is unavoidable in Europe this year” due to the impact of the coronavirus.

Gentiloni says the “very sharp contraction” will be “worse than the one during the global financial crisis.” with the euro area shrinking by numbers similar to those predicted by the IMF of about 7.5%.

The European Commission is due to publish its spring economic forecast on May 7. Gentiloni did not provide exact figures.

He says that “everywhere the crisis will increase unemployment and social and economic divides between those who have secure jobs and good housing conditions and those who are less protected.”

EU institutions and member countries have already freed up around 3.4 trillion euros ($3.7 trillion) to help resuscitate virus-hit economies, but Gentiloni says “an unprecedented set of actions” is still necessary.

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

A man walks by a giant murales of S. Gennaro, patron of the city, in Naples, Monday, April 27, 2020. Region Campania allowed cafes and pizzerias to reopen for delivery Monday, as Italy it is starting to ease its lockdown after a long precautionary closure due to the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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