The Latest: Colorado stay-at-home order to end next week
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:
— Colorado governor: Stay-at-home order to end next week.
— West Virginia governor is latest to push for easing restrictions.
— Trump criticizes governors who’ve pushed for expanded testing.
— Businesses to begin reopening in Tennessee, but not in big cities.
DENVER — Colorado’s governor says the statewide stay-at-home order will expire next week.
Democratic Gov. Jared Polis also said he allow a gradual reopening of nonessential businesses and permit surgical procedures and other activity suspended by the coronavirus fight as long as strict social distancing and other individual protective measures continue.
Polis credited widespread compliance with statewide social distancing and shelter-in-place orders for an apparent leveling off of COVID-19 hospitalizations, allowing the most severe restrictions imposed last month to expire on April 27.
The governor urged residents who can work at home to keep doing so, to stay at home as much as possible, avoid large gatherings and wear masks and other protective gear.
Details on specific measures will be released this week, the governor said at a news briefing. State and local authorities are empowered to reimpose restrictions in response to health crises, he said.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice pushed to ease coronavirus restrictions on hospitals even as state officials sent mixed messages about West Virginia’s testing capacity.
The Republican governor said he will allow hospitals to begin performing elective procedures if the facilities meet an unspecified set of criteria, saying it would be the first step to restarting the economy.
Clay Marsh, a West Virginia University health official tapped as the state’s coronavirus czar, and Bill Crouch, secretary of the state health department, said new facilities are beginning to test and that the state has partnered with LabCorp, a major lab testing company.
Marsh, who on Friday said the state could do up to 3,000 tests a week, offered dramatically different figures Monday, some in contradiction with numbers he had said minutes prior. First, he said the state could do between 4,000 to 6,500 tests in a day. Moments later, he said, “so currently we do about 2,500 tests a day, 17,000 a week, our potential in-state is 4,566 a day and 31,900 a week, and that’s not with LabCorp.”
There have only been 22,357 tests done so far statewide since the outbreak began, according to health officials. The death toll has jumped from 16 people on Friday to 26 people on Monday. At least 908 people have tested positive for the virus.
SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon governor’s office on Monday unveiled a three-phase plan to reopen the state, including in phase one allowing non-emergency medical procedures in hospitals and for restaurants, sports venues, theaters and churches to open, with strict physical distancing and sanitation protocols.
An outline of the plan was delivered to lawmakers Monday, and a copy was forwarded to The Associated Press.
It said there first needs to be downward trajectories, during a 14-day period, of influenza-like illnesses, COVID-19-like cases, of documented cases or of positive tests as a percent of total tests, as well as “robust testing and contact tracing.”
Schools and bars would remain closed under phase one. Visits to hospital and senior living facilities would be prohibited.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has criticized governors who’ve said they don’t have enough tests for the new coronavirus to ease restrictions on economic activity.
Many of the nation’s governors have expressed concerns about returning to a more normal course of business without greatly expanding testing.
Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland announced Monday that he had secured 500,000 tests from South Korea after more than 20 days of negotiations. He said states had been forced to fend for themselves and compete against each other for tests.
But Trump said at his daily briefing on Monday that Hogan did not understand “too much about what was going on.” Trump also says Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois “did not understand his capacity.”
Trump says the administration provided governors on Monday with a list of labs where they could find additional testing capacity. The president says “we’re in very good shape on testing.”
Trump also says ”it is a complex subject,” and noted that the states should lead.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced Monday that businesses across the majority of the state will begin reopening as early as next week.
The Republican governor says his mandatory safer-at-home order will expire on April 30, which will pave the way for 89 out of the state’s 95 counties to begin opening businesses.
Lee’s announcement does not apply to the state’s largest cities, including Nashville and Memphis. Those areas have their own public health districts and are not overseen by Tennessee’s Department of Health.
“While I am not extending the safer at home order past the end of April, we are working directly with our major metropolitan areas to ensure they are in a position to reopen as soon and safely as possible,” Lee said.
Some businesses will be allowed to reopen as early as April 27, but it’s unclear exactly which ones will be granted such clearance. Lee told reporters that such details would be finalized by his economy recovery team later this week.
WASHINGTON — Social Security recipients who don’t usually file income taxes and care for dependent children have just a couple of days left to provide information so they can get an additional $500 per child from the recently passed coronavirus bill.
Social Security officials on Monday urged beneficiaries who have children under age 17 to go to the IRS website for non-filers and enter their details by Wednesday.
The official advice applies to people who get retirement, survivors or disability benefits, who have dependent children, and who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes. The $500 payment per eligible child is on top of the automatic $1,200 individual payment the legislation provides.
People who miss the April 22 deadline will still get the $1,200 individual payment.
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration says the Department of Defense is finalizing negotiations under the Defense Production Act with a company to increase nasal swab production.
Several governors have said they need more swabs to ramp up testing for the novel coronavirus. They say greater testing is necessary to return to a more normal course of business.
Peter Navarro, who oversees efforts to incorporate the Defense Production Act in combating the spread of the virus, says the contract is being negotiated with Puritan Medical Products of Guilford, Maine.
He did not get into specifics about the amount, but he says the contract would allow Puritan to increase machine tooling and staffing with the “broader goal of increasing nasal swab production from 3 million a month to more than 20 million within 30 days of the contract award.”
AUSTIN, Texas — The lifting of coroanvirus restrictions in Texas is underway, starting with state parks reopening.
Hikers arrived early Monday at one of Texas’ most popular outdoor spots, a giant granite dome called Enchanted Rock, for the first time since Republican Gov. Greg Abbott shuttered state parks earlier this month to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Signs instructed visitors to wear masks and stay at least 6 feet away from other hikers.
The parks are the first phase of what Abbott says will be a gradual reopening of Texas. Doctors this week will also be allowed to resume nonessential surgeries, and retail stores will be allowed to sell items curbside.
Abbott says more relaxed restrictions are coming next week. Texas has more than 19,000 cases of coronavirus and nearly 500 deaths.
LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska will take a first step toward relaxing its statewide coronavirus restrictions on May 4 by allowing hospitals to resume elective surgeries if they meet certain conditions, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday.
The Republican governor said he will lift the state’s ban on elective surgeries for hospitals that have at least 30% of their beds, intensive-care unit space and ventilators available. Hospitals must also have at least two weeks worth of personal protective equipment in stock for employees before can resume surgeries. The order also applies to veterinary and dental services, Ricketts said.
ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has rolled out aggressive plans to reopen the state’s economy, saying many businesses shuttered to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus may reopen their doors as early as Friday.
The Republican governor announced that gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors are among the businesses allowed to reopen Friday — as long as owners follow strict social distancing and hygiene requirements. By Monday, movie theaters may resume selling tickets and restaurants limited to takeout orders can go back to limited dine-in service.
“In the same way that we carefully closed businesses and urged operations to end to mitigate the virus’s spread, today we’re announcing plans to incrementally and safely reopen sectors of our economy,” Kemp said.
In addition to calls from President Donald Trump, Kemp has heard scattered public calls in Georgia to lift restrictions.
At least 733 deaths statewide have been linked to the virus, the Georgia Department of Public Health said. Infections have been confirmed in nearly 19,000 people.
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Sierra Leone President President Julius Maada Bio will be working from home for the next two weeks after a member of his security staff tested positive for coronavirus, a government spokesman confirmed late Monday.
The president did not directly address his plans in a speech broadcast on state television but told Sierra Leoneans that the process of identifying the man’s primary and secondary contacts already had begun.
“Let me assure the public that members of my family and staff are healthy and have shown no symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” he said in the televised speech. “As president I will continue to provide leadership for the fight against COVID-19.”
Howard Thomas, a spokesman with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, later confirmed that the president would be working from home.
Sierra Leone, which lost nearly 4,000 people during the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, was among the last countries in Africa to report a coronavirus case. While the country is among the poorest in the world, it gained substantial experience tracing and isolating contacts during the Ebola outbreak.
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday compared the fight against the cornonavirus to the sacrifice needed during World War II, criticizing protesters who flocked to the Michigan Capitol last week to denounce her weekslong restrictions against work and gatherings.
“President Trump called this a war and it is exactly that. So let’s act like it,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said.
“In World War II, there weren’t people lining up at the Capitol to protest the fact that they had to drop everything they were doing and build planes or tanks or ration food,” the governor said.
It was the second time that the governor publicly went after the thousands of protesters who drove and honked past the Capitol last Wednesday. About 150 stood on the Capitol grounds with signs that portrayed Whitmer as a dictator who was depriving them of a living with her stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns.
Meanwhile, the state health department reported a daily rise in new coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths, but both were smaller than the new numbers disclosed Sunday. Cases increased by 576 to 32,000, while deaths rose by 77 to 2,468.
They included a 5-year-old Detroit girl, Skylar Herbert, the youngest person to die in Michigan.
WEST POINT, Ga. — Automaker Kia plans to reopen its manufacturing plant in west Georgia next week after a nearly monthlong shutdown that the company attributed to supply chain shortages and concerns of spreading the coronavirus.
All 2,800 workers at Kia’s plant in West Point will return to work when production resumes, said Rick Douglas, spokesman for Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia. Douglas did not give a specific reopening date. The Kia plant, the only auto manufacturer in Georgia, is located about 110 miles southwest of Atlanta. It has been shut down since March 30.
Even before auto production resumes at the Georgia plant, about 40 workers Monday began making face shields at the facility to help offset a shortage of protective gear for medical workers and first responders.
The company said employees making face shields are having their temperatures scanned and are being provided with face masks and gloves. Their work stations are being staggered to enforce social distancing.
Douglas said similar safeguards will be used when the rest of Kia’s Georgia employees return to work next week.
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