The Latest: FAA briefly suspends flights to NYC, Philly
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 297,000 people and killed more than 12,750. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 91,500 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
—FAA briefly halts flights to NYC-area airports.
—Italy’s coronavirus deaths, cases continue to rise.
—U.S. approves first rapid coronavirus test.
WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted a brief suspension of flights to New York City-area airports because of coronavirus-related staffing issues at a regional air-traffic control center.
In an alert posted online Saturday, the agency advised air traffic controllers to “stop all departures” to Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and other airports in the region.
The directive also affected Philadelphia International Airport.
The halt was lifted after about 30 minutes. Initially air traffic controllers were warned it could last several hours.
Lockdowns have begun in Africa in the latest rushed measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.
Rwanda’s prime minister announced that all unnecessary movements outside the home are banned as of midnight except for essential services such as health care and shopping.
The East African nation has 17 cases. It has told all public and private employees to work from home. Shops and markets not selling food, fuel or health or cleaning items are closed. All bars are closed and restaurants can only provide takeaway. The measures will last for two weeks.
Tunisia earlier imposed a lockdown.
MOSCOW — The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italian PM Giuseppe Conte that Russia will provide aid to help Italy cope with the new coronavirus.
Putin said Russia will provide protection means, aerosol disinfection trucks, medical and other equipment and will send teams of experts to the worst affected regions of Italy.
The supplies will be provided by the Russian Defense Ministry and carried by its transport planes.
ISTANBUL — Turkey has banned people above 65 and those with chronic health problems from leaving their homes as part of Ankara’s efforts to combat the novel coronavirus.
The interior ministry said in an order Saturday that the high-risk groups would be under curfew and would not be allowed to leave their residences starting at midnight.
Many Turkish citizens, among them the elderly, have ignored public announcements to remain indoors, flocking to parks and public spaces. The ministry said the continued presence of senior citizens and the chronically ill in the public “risks themselves and public health.”
The ministry said social support groups would ensure their basic needs are met.
At least 670 people have tested positive for COVID-19 and nine people have died in Turkey.
TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted he has ordered residents to stay home and nonessential retail businesses to close by 9 p.m. Saturday.
He also said all gatherings are canceled. He ordered all residents to stay at home with some exceptions, such as obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work, or engaging in outdoor activities. He says gatherings such as weddings, in-person services and parties are banned.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the government will extend the curfew already in place as part of efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
Vucic said the curfew will extend by additional three hours and will last from 5 p.m. local time until 5 a.m.
Vucic said harsh measures are necessary “so we would survive.” He said a 24-hour curfew will be imposed if people continue to defy orders to stay indoors. Serbia has reported one death from the new coronavirus and 171 confirmed cases.
DETROIT — Henry Ford Health System reported 120 positive COVID-19 cases by 9 a.m. Saturday at four of its hospitals. Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit had 70 of those cases.
Hospital staff are creating homemade facemasks and eye protection equipment for health care workers.
But supplies of respirator and other types of masks are dwindling. So is hand sanitizer, hospital isolation gowns, gloves, thermometers with disposal sheets, and nasal swabs used to collect samples from patients.
“On a national and global basis, the key supplies are in very short supply,” said Jim O’Connor, vice president of Supply Chain Management for Henry Ford Health System. “We’re all struggling to obtain supplies at the level we would like. We are currently providing our supplies as required.”
The health system has about 400 ventilators at its facilities. Another 74 are on order, but it could take about eight weeks for them to arrive.
“To say we’re not concerned would be not true,” Dr. Betty Chu told reporters during a conference call.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico is reporting its first COVID-19 death.
The Health Department says the victim is an elderly Italian woman who was aboard the Costa Luminosa cruise ship that stopped in the U.S. territory earlier this month.
Officials say 21 people have tested positive and another 71 are awaiting test results. Among those infected are people without a history of travel. Police also have cited more than 120 people for violating a curfew imposed earlier this week to help curb coronavirus cases.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma’s largest health system, Integris Health, is turning to the public and asking for donations of masks, hand sanitizers, disposable gloves known as nitrile gloves, touchless thermometers, impermeable gowns, eye protection and bleach and disinfectant wipes.
“It’s just the perfect storm of a worldwide pandemic, health care systems around the country and around the world are needing the same things at the same time,” Integris spokeswoman Brooke Cayot says.
Donations are being collected Saturday and Monday afternoons in a parking lot of Integris Baptist hospital in northwest Oklahoma City.
The virus was slower in coming to Oklahoma, Cayot said, but there are now 53 confirmed cases, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Saturday, and one death.
ROME — Italy’s grim tally of coronavirus cases and deaths has continued to soar, with officials announcing new day-to-day highs: 793 dead and 6,557 cases.
The country, the heart of western Europe’s rampaging outbreak, now counts 53,578 known cases. More than 60 percent of the latest deaths occurred in the northern region of Lombardy, whose hospitals have been reeling under a staggering case load that has left intensive care beds hard to find and respirators in dire supply. The new increases come nearly two weeks into a national lock-down in a desperate bid to contain the spread of the virus.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first rapid coronavirus test, which produces results in about 45 minutes.
An FDA spokeswoman confirmed the approval after an announcement from Cepheid, a Silicon Valley molecular diagnostics company.
It can take at least a few days to get results from current coronavirus tests, which typically are sent in batches to reference labs, said Dr. David Persing, the company’s chief medical and technology officer.
“What’s really needed is a test that can rapidly determine status of infection on site when patients are being seen,” he said on a company video.
Cepheid said it will begin shipping its tests next week.
CLEVELAND — Officials are taking steps to reduce jail populations in Ohio’s most populous counties as they work to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Those efforts in the past week have been most notable at the Cuyahoga County jail in Cleveland, where the population fell from nearly 2,000 inmates last week to just under 1,300 on Friday. Officers are being told to issue citations for nonviolent crimes.
In Hamilton County, which includes Cincinnati, the jail population recently fell to just over 1,000 inmates from around 1,600 inmates on Monday. In Franklin County, which includes Columbus, officials said Saturday the jail population has been reduced to about 1,600 inmates, down from 1,900 on Monday.
Ohio in recent weeks has gained attention for its proactive steps to stem the spread of the virus.
NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York is scouring the globe for desperately needed medical supplies and scouting field hospital locations in New York City and its suburbs as confirmed coronavirus cases soar above 10,000 statewide.
Cuomo says the goal is to quickly boost the state’s hospital capacity from around 50,000 beds to 75,000. The state has already hospitalized 1,600 people. The governor says the state will see if Manhattan’s Javits Center could house 1,000 beds.
The state also will immediately conduct trials of an experimental treatment. Cuomo says the Food and Drug Administration is sending 10,000 doses.
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Department of Health has confirmed the state’s first death due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
Officials say a Ramsey County resident in their 80s died on Thursday.
Minnesota Commissioner of Health Jan Malcolm says the death underscores the importance of protecting the most vulnerable residents in the state, especially those over 65 and those with underlying health conditions.
WASHINGTON — A Transportation Security Administration officer at the airport on St. Thomas in U.S. Virgin Islands has tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The TSA says the officer who works at the Cyril E. King International Airport is quarantined at home.
TSA reports that a total of 19 officers at eight U.S. airports have now tested positive since Feb. 21.
The other airports are in New York City; Newark, New Jersey; Atlanta; Cleveland; Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Florida; and San Jose, California.
TSA also reports the lowest number of airport travelers in the history of an organization that has been around since November 2001. On Friday, the agency counted just under 600,000 outbound passengers. That’s down from 2.5 million at the same point in 2019.
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government is working with airlines and foreign governments to bring Canadians home but says they will not be able to bring back everyone.
Trudeau says the government is offering to lend up to $5,000 Canadian (US$3,480) in assistance for flights or for unexpected costs for extended time outside of the country. Canada chartered a plane for Morocco this weekend and expects to have planes for Peru and Spain soon.
Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne says many countries have closed their borders or airports and it will be impossible to return for some. Champagne says Canadian snowbirds living in the U.S. should come home now and the border will remain open for them. Canada and the U.S. have closed the border for all nonessential travel but returning citizens can get through.
WASHINGTON — Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf says more than 220,000 Americans have been screened at airports when returning to the United States from countries impacted by the coronavirus. However, Wolf’s comments on the show “Fox and Friends” called into question the rigor of the screening process.
Americans returning from virus-affected regions have been routed to one of 13 major airports. Many have posted on social media of long waits and crowded conditions with hundreds of people crammed together for hours in packed lines. Some also noted that medical personnel didn’t check to see if they had a fever before letting them into the country.
Wolf acknowledged medical personnel in some cases are simply looking at individuals to weed out those who seem obviously ill.
LONDON — The British government says panic-buying of groceries because of the coronavirus pandemic is leaving front-line medics unable to get the food supplies they need.
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minister George Eustice says “buying more than you need may mean that others are left without.”
With Britons told to stay mostly at home and restaurants closed to slow the spread of the virus, some supermarkets are having runs on daily of staples including rice, pasta, fruit and vegetables.
Eustice urged restraint, saying “there is more than enough food to go around.” The government has loosened the limit on deliver drivers’ hours and lifted nighttime delivery curfews so stores can restock more quickly.
TAMPA, Fla. — A Navy sailor assigned to United States Central Command headquarters in Florida has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
CENTCOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban made the announcement. Urban says the sailor returned to the U.S. from overseas travel on March 15 and went into precautionary quarantine at his home. He didn’t stop at CENTCOM or at Macdill Air Force base, where the command is located in Tampa.
The sailor started developing symptoms on Wednesday, called ahead to Macdill health officials, and was met outside the base by doctors. Officials say his test returned positive on Friday.
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