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:
– Italy decrees app to trace persons exposed to COVID-19 will remain anonymous
– Washington governor says more progress needed before relaxing social distancing
– Germany experts say vaccine, herd immunity vital.
– US to let federal social distancing guidelines expire.
– Britain’s death toll jumps over 26,000 with nursing home deaths.
– As lockdowns ease, health officials urge virus vigilance.
ROME – The Italian government has decreed that the data provided through an app to facilitate tracing of persons who come in close contact with someone positive for COVID-19 will be completely anonymous and that all data will be destroyed by yearâ€™s end.
Premier Giuseppe Conteâ€™s Cabinet, at a meeting that ended early Thursday, approved a law, in the form of the decree, that guarantees that those who decide not to use the app wonâ€™t suffer limits on their movement or other rights.
Health authorities are encouraging Italians to use the app as a key tool to prevent the rate of contagion to rise again in Italy. The app, which uses Bluetooth, wonâ€™t geo-localize users, and data will only be mined for purposes of containing the virus or for epidemiological study, the government said Thursday.
The Cabinet also stipulated that any bid to release to house arrest prison inmates convicted of terrorism or Mafia crimes due to COVID-19 concerns must seek the opinion of prosecutors, or in the case of top organized crime bosses must run the request by Italyâ€™s national anti-Mafia prosecutor. Prosecutors have expressed concern mobsters can exploit the pandemic to get out of prison.
BEIJING – China on Thursday reported no new deaths from coronavirus and four new cases, all brought from outside the country.
The National Health Commission said 619 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 and just over 1,000 were being monitored for possibly having the illness or for testing positive for the virus but showing no symptoms. China has reported a total of 4,633 deaths from the virus among 82,862 cases.
OLYMPIA, Wash. – Washington Gov. Jay Inslee says the state has to see more progress in several areas, including the daily number of new coronavirus cases and deaths, before social distancing restrictions can safely be lifted.
He says the stateâ€™s stay-at-home order that was enacted March 23 would remain in place beyond May 4 and said he would have more details Friday on a phased-in approach to open the stateâ€™s economy.
Washington state in January had the countryâ€™s first confirmed coronavirus case, the first deadly cluster in a Seattle-area nursing home and was among the first places to institute sweeping directives designed to slow the spread of COVID-19.
LOS ANGELES — A coalition of marijuana companies, churches and advocacy groups is asking California Gov. Gavin Newsom for a temporary cut in the stateâ€™s hefty pot taxes.
The group that includes the California State Conference of the NAACP, Los Angeles Metropolitan Churches and the industry group Southern California Coalition warned in a letter to the governor that the coronavirus crisis and a crashing economy will take an especially heavy toll on businesses run by minorities who were disproportionately targeted during the decades-long drug war.
â€œIf action is not taken now many of our business colleagues and friends may be pushed into the gray, or worse, back into the illicit market,â€ said the letter, dated April 23.
â€œAt a time where unemployment is at a record high, the legal industry is seeing its customers flock to lower priced cannabis products in the illegal market regardless of quality or safety,â€ the group said.
â€œAs COVID-19 continues to disproportionately impact communities of color, our social equity businesses and our customers will be impacted even more,â€ the group warned.
California kicked off broad legal sales in 2018. But the stateâ€™s legal marijuana industry has long blamed tax rates that can approach 50% in some areas for driving business into the illicit market. According to some estimates, consumers are spending roughly $3 in the stateâ€™s underground pot economy for every $1 in the legal one.
PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has extended his stay-at-home order through May 15, but he is partially ending his order closing non-essential businesses.
The Republican governor says the spread of the coronavirus appears to have slowed in the state, but thereâ€™s no clear sign deaths and new cases are trending down.
Heâ€™s allowing some retail businesses to open next Monday, with more openings by the end of next week. Heâ€™s expecting restaurants to be allowed to partially reopen in about two weeks, but hasnâ€™t yet made that official.
The governor praised the public and business community for adhering to his stay-home and closure orders, saying they saved lives.
CHEYENNE, Wyo. – Gov. Mark Gordon says Wyoming will ease some of its coronavirus restrictions on Friday, with barbershops, gyms, nail salons and child care centers among the businesses that will be allowed limited re-openings.
The changes replace health orders that are set to expire Thursday. They are the first steps in the Republican governorâ€™s plan to restart the state economy.
Gordon also says Wyoming residents would be allowed to camp at state parks starting May 15.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — Residents on the Navajo Nation will be under another lockdown this weekend as the tribe seeks to keep the coronavirus from spreading even further into communities.
The lockdown is the fourth the tribe has implemented. It comes around the first of the month when tribal members often travel to towns bordering the reservation to shop for food and other supplies.
Tribal officials say they are working with businesses on the reservation to create safeguards for Navajo elders, such as extending shopping hours exclusively for them and others who are at high risk for contracting the coronavirus.
Anyone who doesnâ€™t need to leave their homes for food, medicine or in the case of an emergency is being told to stay home.
As of Tuesday, the tribeâ€™s health officials reported 1,873 positive cases of COVID-19 and 60 deaths. The 27,000 square-mile (70,000 square-kilometer) reservation stretches into Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
LOS ANGELES – More than half the inmates at a federal prison in Los Angeles have tested positive for the coronavirus and two of them have died, officials said.
As of Wednesday, 570 of the 1,055 inmates at Federal Correctional Institution, Terminal Island had the virus, as did 10 staff members, according to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons. Two inmates have died of complications related to COVID-19, the agency said.
Many of the inmates are asymptomatic, said Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer. Prison officials began testing inmates for the virus on April 23 at the facility in Los Angeles Harbor, she said.
To the north in Santa Barbara County, 36 inmates and 10 staff have tested positive at Federal Correctional Institution, Lompoc, according to the prisons bureau. At nearby U.S. Penitentiary, Lompoc, 83 inmates and 15 staff have the virus and one inmate has died, the agency said.
â€œThe Bureau of Prisons and the Department of Justice must act immediately to reduce the incarcerated population and to protect those in BOP custody – as well as correctional officers and staff – from this deadly virus,â€ U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris said in a statement.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump says he is planning to travel to Arizona next week and is looking forward to resuming campaign rallies after spending more than a month mostly cooped up at the White House because of the coronavirus.
Trump says he is looking forward to his Arizona trip next week and also hopes to visit Ohio soon despite the fact that much of the nation remains on some sort of lockdown as the virus continues to spread.
He says: â€œWeâ€™re going to start to move around and hopefully in the not-too-distant future, weâ€™ll have some massive rallies and people will be sitting next to each other.â€
Trump wouldnâ€™t say exactly when he expects to be able to resume his rallies, but said it will depend, in part, on the state.
UNITED NATIONS – The United Nations humanitarian chief says 44 cases of COVID-19 and four deaths have been announced in Syria.
Mark Lowcock tells the U.N. Security Council that a health care system decimated by nine years of war canâ€™t be expected â€œto cope with a crisis that is challenging even the wealthiest nations.â€
Lowcock says 43 confirmed cases and three deaths have been announced by Syrian authorities in Damascus and its surroundings, and a first case and death has been confirmed in Syriaâ€™s northeast.
He says â€œtesting capacity remains very limited,â€ efforts are being made to set up isolation areas in camps, and measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 are already hurting the most vulnerable.
MOSCOW – Russian officials say more than 1,000 coronavirus cases have been found among workers building a liquefied natural gas facility in the far northern Murmansk region.
The Interfax news agency cited regional officials as saying 80 cases were found Wednesday at the Belokamenka work site, bringing the total there to 1002 – more than 1% of all the cases reported in Russia.
The infections were found in a camp housing about 4,500 construction workers working for a project contractor.
There also are concerns about a similar outbreak among workers at a gas field under construction in the far-northeast Sakha region. The regional governor, Aisen Nikolayev, said this week that all the workers had been tested and the number of infections was significant, although he did not give figures.
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis says Floridaâ€™s restaurants and retail stores will be allowed to reopen Monday at 25% capacity, if the local government allows it.
The governor specifically excluded hard-hit, heavily populated Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, saying their businesses will begin phase one when it is safer.
The governor also will allow hospitals and surgical centers to restart nonessential, elective procedures – but only if they have sufficient medical supplies and agree to help nursing homes and assisted living facilities prevent and respond to coronavirus outbreaks. Parks, golf courses and other outdoor recreation areas already began reopening in some counties Wednesday.
DeSantis, a Republican, is being more cautious than the neighboring state of Georgia, as well as the task force DeSantis formed last week to study how to get people back to work.
UNITED NATIONS – Climate activist Greta Thunberg is launching a campaign with a Danish foundation to help finance the U.N. childrensâ€™ agencyâ€™s emergency program to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
Thunberg said in a statement that â€œlike the climate crisis, the coronavirus pandemic is a child-rights crisisâ€ that will affect youngsters now and in the long-term, especially the most vulnerable.
She urged people everywhere â€œto step up and join me in support of UNICEFâ€™s vital work to save childrenâ€™s lives, to protect health and continue education.â€
The campaign is being launched with $100,000 from the Greta Thunberg Foundation and $100,000 from Denmarkâ€™s Human Act Foundation.
GENEVA – A top World Health Organization official says the U.N. health agency is looking into whether grandparents can safely hug their grandchildren without risk of contracting the coronavirus.
The comments from Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead of WHOâ€™s emergencies program, come after a top Swiss health official this week suggested that grandparents could hold young grandchildren – under age 10 – close without risk of contracting COVID-19 disease.
Most statistics show the elderly and people with pre-existing health conditions have been the overwhelming majority of victims who have died from the pandemic.
At a WHO news conference, Van Kerkhove acknowledged that many grandparents â€œare dying to hug their children, grandchildrenâ€ and said the issue was one of the â€œliving reviewsâ€ conducted by WHO.
DETROIT – The city of Detroit has passed 1,000 deaths due to complications from the COVID-19 virus.
Chief Public Health Officer Denise Fair says 1,008 people in Detroit have died. The city has 8,954 confirmed coronavirus cases.
Of the last 16 deaths, 14 of the victims were over age 70, while eight of those were over age 80 according to Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan.
HELSINKI – Finland says it will gradually reopen schools from May 14 following closures that started last month to stem the spread of new coronavirus.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin says elementary, mid-level and junior high schools will be opened â€œin a controlled mannerâ€ in accordance with health officialsâ€™ recommendations and guidance.
Among other things, that will include keeping classrooms separate from each other possibly in different shifts.
Public schools in Finland have been closed since March 18. Education Minister Li Andersson stresses the government cannot continue the closure â€œbecause itâ€™s not sustainable epidemiologically.”
Finland, a nation of 5.5 million, has recorded 206 COVID-19 deaths and 4,906 confirmed cases.
NICOSIA, Cyprus – Cyprusâ€™ president has unveiled a road map for gradually lifting a strict, stay-at-home order that has successfully contained the spread of COVID-19.
But Nicos Anastasiades says the â€œdanger hasnâ€™t passedâ€ since the virus wonâ€™t completely go away any time soon. He warns that â€œdeviations from or acts of ill disciplineâ€ to authoritiesâ€™ guidelines would lead to a return to lockdown conditions â€œthat nobody wishes.â€
Restrictions on movement will start to be rolled back on May 4, with excursions outside the home increased from once per day to three. A night-time curfew will remain in place until restrictions are completely lifted on May 21, when restaurants, hair and beauty salons will also re-open.
Anastasiades made no mention when airports will become fully operational in the tourism-reliant country. A ban on all flights remains in effect until May 17.
Cyprus, with a population of around 880,000, has recorded 843 confirmed coronavirus cases and 15 deaths.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump says the federal government will not be extending its social distancing guidelines when they expire Thursday at the end of the month.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that the coronavirus guidelines will be â€œfading outâ€ because of work that governors are doing in their states.
Vice President Mike Pence said the guidelines issued 45 days ago have been incorporated into guidance provided to the states on how they can begin the process of gradually reopening their economies.
The guidelines â€“ which were originally supposed to last 15 days and were then extended another 30 – included encouraging Americans to work from home and avoid restaurants and discretionary travel as well as telling older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions to isolate themselves.
LONDON – Britainâ€™s official death toll from the coronavirus has jumped to more than 26,000, after deaths in nursing homes were added to the daily total for the first time.
The government says 3,811 more people died after testing positive for the coronavirus than had been previously reported.
The death toll now stands at 26,097, up from the 21,678 announced Tuesday.
Until now, hospital deaths have been reported daily, while deaths in nursing homes and other settings were reported separately on a weekly basis.
The new total is the second-highest official toll in Europe after Italy, although countries do not use exactly the same measures.
It is still likely is an underestimate because testing has not been routinely carried out in nursing homes until recently.
BERLIN – Four leading scientific research organizations in Germany say some measures imposed to curb the rate of coronavirus infections will need to remain in place until a vaccine is found or herd immunity is achieved.
They say in a joint statement that their mathematical models independently show the reproduction rate of the outbreak has been below 1 in Germany since the end of March. This means every person confirmed with COVID-19 infected fewer than one other person over the past month.
The Fraunhofer Society, the Helmholtz Association, the Leibniz Association and the Max Planck Society say the drop in new cases in Germany was thanks to restrictions and behavior changes. But they warned â€œthe situation is not stable, even a small increase in the reproduction rate would lead us back into a phase of exponential growth.â€
They say striving for herd immunity, where so many people acquire immunity that the virus is effectively stopped from spreading through the population, would require â€œseveral yearsâ€ and some restrictions would need to be maintained. Experts say a vaccine likely wonâ€™t be available until next year.
The institutions urged a focus on three areas: continued hygiene measures; expanded testing and tracing capacity; and adjusted contact restrictions.
ROME – Italyâ€™s head of the coronavirus pandemic strategy says the country is prepared for a second wave of infections â€œeven bigger than the firstâ€ if its gradual reopening leads to a surge in new cases.
Domenico Arcuri told the lower Chamber of Deputies that Italyâ€™s 20 regions now have twice as many ventilators than currently needed and the 5,200 intensive care beds Italy had before the pandemic had nearly doubled to 9,000.
Italy, the European epicenter of the pandemic with more than 27,000 dead, entered the crisis with a fraction of the ICU capacity compared to other developed nations.
Arcuri told lawmakers that beds in sub-intensive care had increased six-fold, the same increase in Italyâ€™s bed capacity in infectious disease and pneumology wards.
Italyâ€™s planned reopening begins May 4.
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