The Latest: Florida orders isolation of Louisiana travelers

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’s president seeks to shore up morale.

— US regulators say hospitals can repurpose equipment to serve as ventilators.

— WHO’s emergencies chief says pandemic has no clear end date.

___

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered Friday that anyone arriving in the state from Louisiana must self-quarantine like those arriving from New York already must because of the coronavirus pandemic.

DeSantis said he is expanding his quarantine order to include Louisiana after officials in the lightly hit Panhandle worried that people will flee New Orleans as the number of positive tests there climb. DeSantis said the Florida Highway Patrol and sheriff’s offices will set up checkpoints to screen cars arriving from Louisiana.

The order will require anyone who arrives from Louisiana to isolate themselves for two weeks under the threat of a misdemeanor conviction and a 60-day jail sentence. He already issued this week identical restrictions on travelers arriving from New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

___

WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s lawmakers were debating and voting remotely Friday on a government rescue package for the economy hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic.

The first-time-ever remote attendance is designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus and protect the health of the 460 lawmakers who do not have to all gather in parliament.

Later Friday the legislators were to vote on the “anti-crisis shield” worth at least 212 billion zlotys ($51 billion; 46 billion euros) of financial and administrative assistance to large and small businesses, to the chronically strapped health care system and to the employees.

Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki stressed that the rescue package was balanced between the need to prevent bankruptcies and the need to keep the world’s trust in Poland’s financial decisions. Poland, a country of 38 million, has confirmed 1,340 cases of coronavirus infections. Sixteen people have died.

___

PARIS — “Merci.”

The French word for “thank you” was emblazoned in lights on the Eiffel Tower on Friday in recognition of health workers fighting to save lives, as France’s coronavirus death toll continued to climb.

The tower also switched on its sparkling lights. The show of solidarity from 8 p.m. on Friday coincided with the moment when citizens in lockdown have been cheering and applauding from their windows and balconies in support of doctors and nurses.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the light show will take place every evening on the 324-meter-tall (1,063-foot-tall) tower.

French hospitals have recorded nearly 2,000 deaths, a figure that doesn’t include COVID-19 cases elsewhere. Health workers are straining to keep pace with the ever-increasing number of infections, with nearly 3,800 people in intensive care, in serious condition.

___

ROME — Italy’s president says the country is living through “a sad page in our history,” with its oldest generation paying a very high price in loss of life during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With coffins piling up in the country with the highest number of deaths in the world of persons infected with the coronavirus, President Sergio Mattarella sought to shore up morale Friday night.

He hailed the thousands of doctors who have volunteered to work in the most hardest-hit areas of the outbreak in Italy’s north. He encouraged Italians to keep obeying a national decree that has kept them at home for 2 1/2 weeks so far, save to go essential jobs or do other vital tasks like shop for food.

He praised the tireless giving of self by medical staff, those assuring the nation’s food supply, factories which have converted production lines to producing masks in dire need by doctors and nurses, and others doing their part.

But Mattarella took to task leaders of some European Union countries who have balked at giving countries like Italy and Spain, reeling under the economic impact of the outbreak, the concrete solidarity promptly required.

___

WASHINGTON — The State Department says it has coordinated the return of more than 15,000 Americans stranded overseas in more than 40 countries since January because of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The department said that as of midday Friday, it had arranged the repatriation of 15,441 U.S. citizens through various means, including military, commercial and civilian chartered aircraft. The countries with largest number of evacuees so far are Guatemala, Honduras, Peru and Morocco.

The department also said in a statement on Friday that 93 of its employees had tested positive for the virus, including 68 overseas and 25 in the U.S. Another 110 employees are awaiting the results of tests and 1,760 are self-isolating for precautionary reasons.

The department employs more than 75,000 people in the United States and 220 diplomatic missions abroad.

___

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says hospitals can repurpose medical equipment, including devices used to treat sleep apnea, to serve as ventilators amid concerns about the national supply of the life-sustaining breathing machines.

Under the emergency step, hospitals can use anesthesia machines, CPAP devices and their components in the place of ventilators to treat patients fighting COVID-19. The agency made the regulatory changes in a series of steps this week but FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn announced them Friday “to ease burdens on the health care system during this pandemic.”

U.S. regulators have waived dozens of regulations in recent weeks to try and boost levels of critical medical supplies needed to address the coronavirus pandemic, including tests, masks, gloves and hand sanitizers.

___

GENEVA — The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief says widespread testing for coronavirus is crucial and countries should not be faulted for turning up higher numbers.

Dr. Michael Ryan appealed for a shift toward measures that allow us “to live with this virus” until a vaccine emerges.

Ryan’s comments Friday suggested a change in mindset and increased resignation at the U.N. health agency that the new coronavirus outbreak that first emerged in China late last year and now has infected over a half-million is here to stay for a while.

“At this point, no one can predict how long this epidemic is going to last,” he said at a regular WHO news conference. “We are entering and moving to an uncertain future … many countries around the world are just beginning the cycle of this epidemic.”

Ryan said the world needs to move from measures aimed to “take the heat” out of the pandemic, in favor of “much more precise targets — directed targets — that will allow us, at the very least, to live with this virus until we can develop a vaccine to get rid of it.”

___

GENEVA — With many countries initiating lockdowns, school and business closures, and other drastic measures to cut down on the spread of the new coronavirus, World Health Organization officials suggested Friday that individual liberties should be sacrificed for the greater good.

Speaking at a Geneva news conference, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus acknowledged that measures like limits on travel or leaving the house influence “individual human rights.”

“But this is a choice that we should make: Meaning, in order to have collective security, to be better society and to fight the virus, we give our freedom, you know, for a while.”

WHO’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, added that “individuals are prepared to offer a little piece of individual sovereignty in order to support the community itself.

“This sense of the one to help the many. But that must be a temporary gift,” Ryan said. “That is a gift of the individual to society, not a demand upon the individual.”

___

BRUSSELS — Belgium’s government has extended lockdown measures for two weeks, up to April 19, as it tries to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus across the country.

The measures, which were initially set to last until April 5, include the obligation for Belgian residents to stay at home, except to go to work when working from home is not possible, and to avoid contact outside of their family as much as possible.

Nonessential shops will remain closed, with access to supermarkets limited to one person per 10 square meters for a maximum of 30 minutes.

Speaking Friday after a meeting of the national security council, Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes said the lockdown could be extended for a further two weeks if necessary.

According to the latest figures released Friday, 7,284 cases of COVID-19 have been registered in Belgium, including 289 people who died.

___

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Holland America cruise line says four elderly passengers have died aboard one of its ships after Chile refused it permission to dock as dozens of passengers are showing symptoms of possibly being infected with the new coronavirus.

Holland America confirmed Friday in a Facebook post that the four died aboard the Zaandam as it awaits permission to pass through the Panama Canal. It did not specify that the four died of coronavirus, but says more than 130 passengers and crew have exhibited possible symptoms. Passengers are being tested and at least two cases have been confirmed. The ship has four doctors and four nurses to treat 1,243 passengers and 586 crew members.

The ship is trying to get to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after being denied permission to dock at its original destination of Chile a week ago. The ship originally left Argentina on March 7. Broward County is debating whether to let the ship dock at its Port Everglades when it is scheduled to arrive early next week.

The Seattle-based cruise line is transferring some passengers to its sister ship, the Rotterdam, which brought the Zaandam supplies. The cruise line is owned by Miami-based Carnival Corp.

___

WASHINGTON — Lawyers for young immigrants say the Supreme Court should not end a program that shields their clients from deportation and allows them to work in the United States during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a court filing Friday, the lawyers told the justices that 27,000 people protected by the DACA program work in health care.

“Termination of DACA during this national emergency would be catastrophic,” the lawyers wrote.

The justices have been weighing President Donald Trump’s effort to end the program since arguments in mid-November. Roughly 660,000 immigrants who were brought to the United States as children are protected by the program that began during the Obama administration.

___

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe has announced a three-week “total lockdown” to start Monday as the economically shattered country tries to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

All citizens must stay at home except for those seeking food or essential services.

The southern African nation’s vast number of street vendors are barred from going out. Neighboring South Africa started a similar lockdown Friday.

___

MEXICO CITY — Mexico President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said Friday he will maintain his busy travel schedule dedicating infrastructure projects around the country in spite of growing restrictions prompted by the coronavirus epidemic, including a shutdown of most federal government operations.

López Obrador was scheduled to take commercial flights Friday to the western state of Nayarit and later to the northern border state of Baja California before finishing the weekend in Sinaloa.

However, the president said he doesn’t want people gathering in airports to see him like they usually do to shake hands and request selfies.

“Whoever comes to see me in the airport is there because my adversaries sent them,” López Obrador said. “So that the media outlets that don’t love us can send the story, ‘There’s the president, giving a bad example.’”

He was criticized last weekend on a similar swing in the southern state of Oaxaca for stopping to eat in a local restaurant and for urging Mexicans to continue to eat out in spite of the virus. He said Friday he would continue to evaluate the situation, but for now planned to continue travelling.

___

ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities reported 74 new cases of the new coronavirus on Friday and two new deaths.

This brings the country’s total to 966 cases and 28 deaths — 23 men and 5 women, 89% of whom had an underlying disease or were aged over 70.

Health authorities have carried out a total 13,477 tests for the virus.

___

BERLIN — The European Space Agency published new images Friday showing the impact that lockdown measures related to the coronavirus are having on air pollution across Europe.

The Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute used data collected by ESA’s Sentinel 5P satellite to examine levels of nitrogen dioxide, which is released from the burning of fossil fuels.

Combustion engines are a major source of NO2, which can cause airway inflammation and and respiratory problems at high concentrations.

The maps show a sharp drop of NO2 levels in northern Italy, Madrid, Paris and the densely populated regions of western Germany and Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg compared to the same month a year ago.

___

NEW YORK — The United States continues to lead the world in coronavirus infections even after a spike of new cases reported in Italy.

According to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has more than 92,000 cases of the virus. Italy reported a total of more than 86,000 infections on Friday.

Italy has recorded the most deaths of any country, with 9,134. More than 1,200 people have died in the U.S.

Worldwide, more than 560,000 people have contracted the virus and more than 127,000 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins.

Categories: National & International News