The Latest: California city planner ousted after virus rant
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:
— Pelosi, McConnell decline COVID-19 tests.
— French lawmakers to consider 14-day quarantine for returning travelers.
— Death toll from new coronavirus tops 28,000 in Britain.
ANTIOCH, Calif. — A Northern California city official has been ousted after he suggested on social media that sick, old and homeless people should be left to meet their “natural course in nature” during the coronavirus pandemic.
City council members in Antioch, a city of about 110,000 people 35 miles east of Oakland, voted unanimously Friday night to remove Ken Turnage II from his post as chairman of the city’s planning commission.
NBC Bay Area reports there was a swift uproar after Turnage characterized people with weak immune systems as a drain on society.
He wrote on Facebook: “the World has been introduced to a new phrase Herd Immunity which is a good one. In my opinion we need to adapt a Herd Mentality. A herd gathers it ranks, it allows the sick, the old, the injured to meet its natural course in nature.”
As for homeless people, he added that the virus would “fix what is a significant burden on our society and resources that can be used.”
Turnage later deleted the post but refused to resign or back down from his comments. During the two-hour council meeting held on Zoom, Turnage said his personal opinion had no bearing on his duties as a planning commissioner and that removing him would violate his freedom of speech.
But city officials countered that his posting caused a loss in confidence and created a disruption to the city.
SPOKANE, Wash. — The highest rate of coronavirus cases on the U.S. West Coast is in Washington’s Yakima County, an agricultural giant that has more than double the state average of cases.
Health experts point to a large number of essential workers, a large number of cases in long-term care facilities, and a large agricultural workforce living and working in close quarters as the causes.
“We just haven’t been as much down as the rest of the state because our workforce is going to work,″ said Lilian Bravo, a spokeswoman for the Yakima Health District. “Physically going to work every day is going to put you at a higher risk than others.”
As of Friday, Yakima County had 1,203 positive cases, a rate of 455 cases per 100,000 residents. Second was Franklin County at 326 cases per 100,000. The statewide average was 185 cases per 100,000 residents.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal appeals court on Saturday declined to block the Kentucky governor’s temporary ban on mass gatherings from applying to in-person religious services.
The three-judge panel did clear the way for Maryville Baptist Church to hold drive-in worship services while adhering to public health requirements. That’s an alternative that Democrat Gov. Andy Beshear has strongly encouraged throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
But the panel stopped short of applying its order to in-person worship services.
The ruling came soon after the church asked the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency order stopping Beshear’s mass gathering ban from being enforced against religious services.
CAIRO — Yemeni health authorities say there are three new coronavirus cases in the southern city of Aden and the western city of Taiz, bringing the total number of cases to 10 with two deaths.
Saturday’s announcement comes as the U.N. health agency has warned of the invisible outbreak of the virus, saying that it’s “actively circulating throughout the country.” The agency says testing and resources to detect the virus are “grossly insufficient.”
A cluster of cases was found in Aden, where residents said several hospitals shut their doors as medical staffers feared contracting the virus because of a lack of personal protective equipment. The port city is in the midst of political infighting between the internationally recognized government and southern separatists who declared self-rule last week, leaving health authorities in disarray.
Yemen has been embroiled in civil war for more than five years and has a fragile health system, with half of the health facilities not properly functioning.
WASHINGTON — The top Republican and Democrat in Congress say they are respectfully declining an offer of quick COVID-19 tests offered by President Donald Trump’s administration.
Limited testing for lawmakers has become an issue in decisions about when they should return to Washington.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar had tweeted Friday that three rapid-testing machines and 1,000 tests were being sent for the Senate to use next week.
Trump also tweeted that “tremendous” testing capacity is available for senators returning on Monday, and for the House.
But Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate leader Mitch McConnell said Saturday in a statement that they want the equipment to go to front-line facilities instead.
Pelosi decided against having her members join the Senate in returning next week because the Washington area remains a virus hot spot.
PARIS — French Health Minister Olivier Veran said people traveling into France, including French citizens returning home, will be placed in a 14-day quarantine as part of new extended proposals to limit the spread of the new coronavirus.
Entering France is currently very restricted to essential travel, and a travel certificate is required for everyone entering the country. The proposals are being sent to Parliament next week.
Veran said that “the compulsory quarantine will concern anyone entering the national territory, an overseas territory or Corsica.”
It’s not clear if the quarantine would apply only to travelers from beyond the Schengen border and Britain. The Schengen Area includes 26 countries and encompasses most of the European Union nations.
ATLANTA — People across metro Atlanta went on roofs and patios, to parks and even cemeteries, or stopped on the side of a usually busy interstate to watch a military flyover Saturday afternoon.
The Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels flew to honor first responders and medical teams. They passed over downtown and midtown, where major hospitals are located, and were loudly cheered.
People outside at historic Oakland Cemetery generally adhered to social distancing guidelines but few wore masks. Some carried lawn chairs and beverages while others pushed strollers, while many tried to capture the moment with phones or cameras.
Georgia has already allowed businesses like hair and nail salons, restaurants and gyms to open with social distancing restrictions.
LONDON — Britain’s Department of Health says a total of 28,131 people have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community after testing positive for the new coronavirus in the United Kingdom, an increase of 621 from the previous tally.
The figures include deaths as of 5 p.m. on Friday.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday told the nation that Britain had passed its peak in the COVID-19 outbreak and said he has plans to reveal a “road map’’ outlining how lockdown steps might be eased in the coming week.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health minister has announced 78 new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll from COVID-19 to 3,336.
The minister tweeted Saturday that an additional 1,983 had been infected, increasing the total to 124,375. “For the first time since March 30, the daily case number has fallen below 2,000,” he tweeted.
The new number leaves Turkey ranked seventh in the world for highest infection rate from the novel coronavirus. Russia’s confirmed infections of 124,054 had briefly surpassed Turkey’s.
The minister also tweeted that 58,259 people have recovered from COVID-19, including 4,451 since Friday.
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan’s agriculture department says the state’s animal agriculture industries are making adjustments due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Gary McDowell, director of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said Saturday in a release that the changes will strengthen the supply chain and make workers safer but could “lead to some near-term speedbumps.” He was responding to concerns of food shortages due to national shutdowns of beef and pork producers.
Mary Kelpinski, chief executive officer of the Michigan Pork Producers Association, says there’s plenty of meat in cold storage around the state but advised shoppers to resist panic buying of meat products in the weeks ahead.
ROME — The number of beds treating COVID-19 patients continued to decline as Italy prepared to ease its strict lockdown measures on Monday.
The Civil Protection Agency said that there were 212 fewer people hospitalized with the virus and 39 fewer in intensive care in the past 24 hours, numbers that have been consistently easing in recent weeks. That has given authorities confidence to be able to cope with any new spike in cases as more businesses reopen and individuals are allowed more freedom to move around their towns and cities of residence.
At the same time, the number of dead nudged up the most in 11 days — by 474 — and the number of people who have recovered from the virus was the lowest in more than two weeks. Italy has registered the most deaths after the United States, at 28,710.
PARIS — France hopes to extend the health emergency put in place to fight the coronavirus crisis until July 24.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran made the announcement on Saturday, arguing that the extension of the measures that began March 24 is required to prevent a new flare-up of infections.
The proposal, which will be put to the French Parliament next week and is expected to pass, is centered on the notion that a “premature” relaxing the state of emergency “could see a risk of the outbreak” increasing.
France is among countries most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, having recorded some 24,594 deaths and 167,346 confirmed cases so far.
The new proposals include a data system for those that have contracted the virus, that will function for up to a year.
ISTANBUL — The Turkish trade ministry lifted export restrictions and a requirement to obtain advance permission for private companies to export medical equipment needed in treating COVID-19.
The decision, published in the Official Gazette, rescinded restrictions on exporting ventilators, intubation tubes and ICU monitors, among other equipment.
The trade ministry lifted restrictions on the export of ethanol, cologne, disinfectants and hydrogen peroxide.
Turkey also announced a military plane delivered medical supplies, including locally produced ventilators, to Somalia. Ankara has so far shipped needed supplies to at least 55 countries, including to the United States.
Turkey, a country of 83 million, has more than 122,000 cases and more than 3,200 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities have announced three deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.
That raises the total to 143 — 106 men 37 women. The average age of the victims is 74.
There have been eight more confirmed infections for a total of 2,620 cases.
BARCELONA, Spain — Spaniards filled the streets to exercise for the first time after seven weeks of confinement to fight the coronavirus.
People ran, walked or rode bicycles under a sunny sky in Barcelona, where many flocked to the maritime promenade to get close to the still off-limits beach. Others jogged around parks and along sidewalks across the nation.
“Some people think it may be too early, as I do, but it is also important to do exercise for health reasons,” says 36-year-old Cristina Palomeque in Barcelona.
Spain has 24,824 confirmed deaths from the COVID-19 virus and 215,216 infections. The lockdown has helped reduce daily increases of infections.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A Malaysian minister has defended the mass arrest of immigrants without valid documents in viral hotspots.
Senior Minister Ismail Sabri says 586 immigrants were detained during an operation Friday in several buildings under strict lockdown in Kuala Lumpur.
He says they all tested negative for the virus and have been sent to detention camps for breaching immigration laws. Rights groups have slammed the government for breaking its promise to not act against migrants who come out for virus screening. They say the inhumane move during a pandemic could hamper efforts to curb the virus.
Ismail brushed off the criticism Saturday, saying authorities were acting within the law. He says Malaysia has taken care of the immigrants’ welfare during the lockdown, but they must face the law as they have no valid documents. The country has more than two million immigrants living illegally in the country.
Malaysia, which has 6,176 virus cases and 103 deaths, will let most businesses reopen Monday before a partial lockdown ends May 12.
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