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:
– Mexico reports 2,409 new coronavirus cases, largest 1-day rise.
– Colombia steps up measures to halt infections near Brazil border.
– South Korea announces 27 additional cases.
– China hits 1-month mark since last reported virus death.
– Teenage climate activist makes plea for worldwide help for Amazon city.
MEXICO CITY – Mexico reported its largest one-day rise in coronavirus cases, with 2,409.
Assistant Health Secretary Hugo LÃ³pez-Gatell said Thursday the country is at â€œthe most difficultâ€ moment in the pandemic. It was the first time in Mexico that the number of new cases exceeded 2,000 in one day.
In percentage terms, the 6% increase was not the biggest one-day jump.
Officials also reported 257 more deaths from COVID-19, for a total of 4,477 since the pandemic began. There have been higher one-day death tolls this week.
LÃ³pez-Gatell said there are â€œtendencies of declineâ€ in some parts of the country. But there also are signs that hospital capacity is nearing its limit in Mexico City, the countryâ€™s hardest-hit area.
The increase in cases comes four days before Mondayâ€™s scheduled partial reopening of key industries such as mining, construction and automobile assembly.
BOGOTA – Authorities in Colombia are stepping up measures aimed at halting coronavirus infections near the border with Brazil as hospitals grow overwhelmed and cases rise in a vulnerable part of the Amazon home to many indigenous groups.
President IvÃ¡n Duque announced Thursday that all residents in the Amazonas department are being ordered to stay inside except to buy food or seek medical attention. The military has also dispatched troops to strengthen border security.
â€œOnce more, we find ourselves in a situation that could turn critical,â€ Duque said.
Colombia has taken some of the regionâ€™s strictest measures against the virus, implementing an early nationwide lockdown that remains in effect in much of the country. That stands in stark contrast to Brazil, where President Jair Bolsonaro has criticized attempts by governors and mayors to close non-essential businesses.
The river port city of Leticia and the giant Amazonas department have seen a spike in cases recently, swelling from 105 at the start of the month to 924. Doctors report the regionâ€™s poorly equipped hospitals are crowded, and local officials say they might need to construct a new cemetery to handle the number of bodies.
Thus far, 30 people in the department have died.
SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea has reported 27 new coronavirus cases, including 22 in the Seoul metropolitan area, where health authorities have been scrambling to test and isolate potential virus carriers after discovering dozens of infections linked to club goers.
Figures released by South Koreaâ€™s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday brought national totals to 11,018 cases and 260 virus-related deaths.
Around 1,100 infections have been linked to international arrivals, but such cases have declined since April when the country stepped up border controls, including enforcing 14-day quarantines on all passengers arriving from abroad.
The transmissions linked to night spots shocked a country that had been relaxing social distancing guidelines and forced authorities to push back the reopening of schools, which is now scheduled to start with high school seniors on May 20.
During a virus briefing, Health Minister Park Neung-hoo expressed hope that the country could keep the outbreak under control, pointing out that the number of active cases was now below 1,000.
BEIJING – China has gone a month without announcing any new deaths from the coronavirus.
The National Health Commission reported four new cases of the virus Friday, all local cross-infections in the northeastern province of Jilin where a cluster of uncertain origin has been detected in recent days. The last time the commission reported a death was on April 14.
Just 91 people remain in treatment for COVID-19 and 623 others are under isolation and monitoring for being suspected cases or for having tested positive without showing symptoms, including 11 newly detected.
In total, China has reported 4,633 deaths among 82,933 cases since the virus was first detected late last year in the central city of Wuhan.
China has maintained social distancing and bans on foreigners entering the country, but has increasingly opened up the worldâ€™s second-largest economy to allow both large factories and small businesses to resume production and dealings with customers. The government plans to hold the ceremonial parliamentâ€™s annual session later this month, but with highly limited access for journalists and others.
UNITED NATIONS – The United Kingdom is urging Myanmarâ€™s military to extend its recently announced cease-fire to include the escalating conflict in northern Rakhine and Chin states where civilians are taking a heavy toll at the time of a global COVID-19 crisis.
The UK Mission to the United Nations made the appeal after a closed meeting of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday which it called because of growing concern about fighting in the two states between government forces and the Arakan Army, a well-armed guerrilla force representing the Buddhist Rakhine minority.
A mission statement said the coronavirus pandemic is putting vulnerable people â€œat risk of a humanitarian emergency,â€ especially refugees, the displaced and the Rohingya Muslim minority which faces additional restrictions.
The council did not issue a statement after the meeting but four European Union countries – Estonia, Belgium, France and Germany – also expressed concern about the military escalation in Rakhine and Chin states and called for â€œan immediate, comprehensive and nationwide cease-fire.â€
The EU members emphasized â€œthe importance of an inclusive response to the COVID-19 pandemic that protects all communities and takes into account the vulnerability of refugees and internally displaced persons.â€
In late April, the U.N. human rights investigator on Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, called for a new investigation into allegations and crimes against humanity during the recent fighting in Rakhine and Chin. She accused Myanmarâ€™s military of â€œinflicting immense sufferingâ€ on ethnic minorities in the two states.
RIO DE JANEIRO – Teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg appeared in an online video asking for countries around the world to help Manaus, Brazilâ€™s biggest city in the vast Amazon rain forest whose health system has been overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic.
â€œThe Amazon rainforest needs your help,â€ Thunberg pleaded in a video shared Thursday by the cityâ€™s mayor. The Swedish activist was responding to a call for help sent to her by the mayor earlier this month. In the video, she and several other young people draw attention to the collapse of the cityâ€™s health care system and ask for countries that have passed the peak of their pandemic to help Manaus.
According to official data, 809 people have died so far in Manaus and 9,410 have contracted the virus. Throughout Brazil, 844 deaths were reported over the past 24 hours, data from the Health Ministry showed.
TACOMA, Wash. – Members of the Washington National Guard helped hand out about 200,000 pounds of potatoes Thursday that had been donated by farmers who were unable to sell to their regular restaurant customers due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Cars lined up near the Tacoma Dome to receive bags of potatoes as part of a mission to get 1 million pounds of potatoes into the hands of people in need.
The giveaway was organized by the Washington State Potato Commission.
The potatoes were meant to be sold to restaurants and other food service establishments, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
â€œWith so many restaurants closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, our potato farmers have storages full of these potatoes that were scheduled to be turned into french fries, tater tots, hash browns and many other frozen potato products,â€ the farmers said in a statement.
DENVER – Denver Mayor Michael Hancock says thousands of city employees, including himself, will be furloughed for eight days this year to help close what is expected to be a $226 million budget gap caused by the coronavirus.
Denver has seen steep declines in sales, lodging and other taxes since the pandemic hit Colorado two months ago, and the state is still under a safer-at-home order that has placed restrictions on businesses. City leaders say the drop in tax revenue is affecting the fund that pays for police and fire services, as well as street maintenance.
Several American cities, large and small, have already furloughed employees to save money in the face of dire economic forecasts.
GULFPORT, Miss. – The Mississippi Gaming Commission said Thursday that casinos in the state can start reopening in a week, more than two months after the commission closed them because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The reopening comes just before the Memorial Day weekend, which normally marks the beginning of the summer tourist season.
Gaming Commission executive director Allen Godfrey said the commission will release an order Friday with safety guidelines. Those are expected to include requirements for social distancing between customers and frequent cleanings of slot machines and other equipment.
The commission closed Mississippiâ€™s state-regulated casinos March 16. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves has closed other types of businesses to try to slow the spread of the highly contagious virus, and he has allowed many to reopen.
WASHINGTON, Va. – A renowned Virginia restaurant will feature mannequins to add a touch of whimsy and help with social distancing when customers return to its grand dining room later this month.
Mannequins dressed in fine 1940s-style attire were already theatrically staged Thursday at The Inn at Little Washington, tucked in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains about 90 minutes from Washington, D.C.
Chef and proprietor Patrick Oâ€™Connell said in a statement that the mannequins are a way to allow plenty of space between real guests and elicit a few smiles and provide some fun photo ops.
Although business restrictions are set to begin easing in some parts of Virginia on Friday, restaurants can only serve dine-in customers in an outdoor space. The three-Michelin-star restaurant has opted to wait until May 29 to resume dining service indoors.
SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the state is woefully short of professionals devoted to contact tracing aimed at alerting people who are exposed unknowingly to the new coronavirus.
The state has about 100 workers devoted to tracing exposure to the disease through interviews with people who have tested positive. It needs at least 670 professionals.
The state last month embarked on a contact-tracing pilot program but little has been said publicly about the effort. The congressional delegation says New Mexico is in line for more than $77 million in federal funding for testing and contact tracing.
New Mexico has more than 5,500 cases, with 11 new deaths reported Thursday.
RICHMOND, Va. – Virginiaâ€™s capital city and a rural county on the Eastern Shore are opting out of beginning to reopen Friday, saying it is still too soon to ease restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Ralph Northam granted requests to the city of Richmond and Accomack County on Thursday afternoon to delay a gradual reopening of some nonessential businesses just hours ahead of when those areas were set to start reopening. The governor is easing some restrictions in most of the state Friday. He previously granted a two-week delay to several localities in northern Virginia.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said at a news conference that the most recently available data show an increase in the number of coronavirus tests coming back positive in the past two weeks. He also said the virus is having a disproportionate impact on people of color and noted that Richmond has a higher percentage of minorities than the rest of the state.
DENVER – Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Thursday that city employees, including himself, will be furloughed for eight days this year to chip away at an expected $226 million budget gap caused by the new coronavirus.
The move will save about $16 million and doesnâ€™t apply to uniformed employees like police.
Hancock called on lawmakers to include cities in the next federal aid package. â€œThe reality is this: If cities canâ€™t recover, there will be no national recovery,â€ he said.
LANSING, Mich. – Hundreds of people angry or frustrated over Michiganâ€™s coronavirus stay-at-home order protested again outside the state Capitol, braving heavy rain to call for a loosening of restrictions and for business owners to reopen in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Thursdayâ€™s demonstration numbered about 200 and was smaller than previous rallies. The Senate canceled session so the Capitol could be closed weeks after some armed protesters entered the building during a rally.
The latest protest was led by Michigan United for Liberty, a conservative activist group that has sued the governor and organized or participated in several rallies since early April.
PHOENIX – Arizona health officials report an additional 30 deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, raising the statewide fatality total to 624 as of Thursday.
The Department of Health Services said there were 498 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases, for a statewide total of 12,674. Of the deaths, 497 involved people age 65 or older. The actual number of people infected is likely much higher because many with mild symptoms donâ€™t seek testing and many who did were turned away for months because of a testing supply shortage.
Gov. Doug Ducey said earlier in the week he will allow his stay-at-home order to expire Friday as he continues easing restrictions imposed to slow the outbreak.
BERLIN – Germanyâ€™s president is urging citizens to have more faith in science than conspiracy theories if they want to avoid getting the new coronavirus.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed concern Thursday at the declining acceptance for measures intended to slow the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, and the growing protests in Germany against pandemic restrictions.
Germany has seen numerous and, at times, violent demonstrations against government-imposed restrictions in recent days. Officials have warned that the protests are attracting far right and anti-government extremists, as well as people who claim the pandemic is part of a secretive global conspiracy.
More than 7,700 people have died of COVID-19 in Germany, which has recorded over 170,000 cases.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The president of the Navajo Nation says additional deaths and COVID-19 cases reported on the tribeâ€™s sprawling reservation indicate itâ€™s still not safe for residents to go out in public.
The tribal health department late Wednesday reported 147 more confirmed COVID-19 cases with 16 additional deaths from the coronavirus outbreak. The increases put the number of cases at 3,392 with a total of 119 deaths.
Tribal President Jonathan Nez said residents should still should stay home and only go out in public when necessary.
The reservation includes large areas of Arizona and New Mexico and a small part of Utah.
LONDON – Londonâ€™s mayor is warning that the British government must quickly come up with a rescue package to stop the capitalâ€™s mass transit systems from running out of money amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sadiq Khan said Transport for London may be forced to cut services because the government hasnâ€™t given it the funding it desperately needs. He called for a bailout to be finalized by the end of Thursday.
The network has lost most of its income during the coronavirus lockdown and thousands of staff have been furloughed.
Downing Street said negotiations were in an â€œadvanced stageâ€ and its priority was reaching a funding deal with the transport network.
The government also said Thursday that another 428 people died in the U.K. after testing positive for the coronavirus across all settings, including hospitals and care homes. That increases the total to 33,624, second globally to the United States.
BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says his administration will ease rules for use of an anti-malaria drug to treat people infected with the coronavirus.
The governmentâ€™s health ministry previously allowed the use of chloroquine only for coronavirus patients hospitalized in serious condition. Bolsonaro said Thursday said he was permitting expanded use of the treatment despite a warning earlier this week by the health minister about the drugâ€™s side effects.
Brazilian scientists last month stopped part of a chloroquine study after heart rhythm problems were detected in 25% of the people given the higher of two doses being tested.
Johns Hopkins University reports that there have been more than 13,000 COVID-19 deaths in Brazil, Latin Americaâ€™s hardest-hit country.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump says he’s intent on building the nationâ€™s stockpile of ventilators, masks and other equipment to meet future health threats.
Trump says his administration has awarded contracts for nearly 200,000 ventilators and 800,000 N95 respirators and facemasks. He says his goal is to produce â€œeverything America needs for ourselves and then export to the world, including medicines.â€
Trumpâ€™s comments came at a medical equipment distributor in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he was thanking workers in a key battleground state. The comments came on the same day that a federal whistleblower testified before a House panel about his repeated efforts to jump-start U.S. production of respirator masks that he says went nowhere.
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