The Latest: Italy looking at new spending because of virus
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:
—Britain reports nearly 20,000 deaths from virus.
—EPA reminds people to only use disinfectant on surfaces.
—France won’t reopen its restaurants, bars and cafes before June.
ROME — The Italian government is asking Parliament to authorize staggering sums of new spending, drastically driving up the national public debt, after the COVID-19 outbreak made the country one of the most stricken by the pandemic.
Premier Giuseppe Conte’s Cabinet has decided on a revised budget for this year, one that calls for 55 billion euros ($60 billion) in debt, 24.85 billion ($27.5 billion) next year, and similarly high debt for several more years. The budget must be approved by parliament.
The government says it must beef up the national health system, whose intensive care units were sorely tested by huge numbers of coronavirus patients, as well as provide additional funds for law enforcement and civil protection agencies to deal with the emergency. More funds will also be earmarked for private and public economic sectors and to provide safety measures for workers heading back to work after national lockdown, now in its seventh week.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s Department of Corrections says it will test all the nearly 9,000 inmates being held across the U.S. territory to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Officials say 6,000 employees, including prison guards who work at the island’s 32 correctional facilities, also will be tested.
Corrections Secretary Eduardo Rivera says officials have been testing new inmates since April 8.
The announcement comes after a handful of inmates in recent days tested positive even though they were asymptomatic.
Puerto Rico has reported at least 77 deaths and more than 1,270 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
DENVER — Health officials have ordered the immediate closure of a Walmart in suburban Denver after three people connected to the store died after being infected with the coronavirus and at least six employees tested positive.
The Tri-County Health Department announced late Thursday that a 69-year-old man who worked for a private security company at the store died along with a 72-year-old store employee and her 63-year-old husband, who did not work at the store.
The health department said the store didn’t adhere to social distancing requirements under Colorado’s stay-at-home order that allows some businesses deemed essential, like the Walmart, to remain open.
The dates of the deaths were not disclosed.
Besides the six other confirmed cases, three employees suspected of having COVID-19 are awaiting test results.
Walmart said in a statement that the store’s temporary closure would allow it to be cleaned and sanitized.
PARIS — France plans to keep thousands of newly built intensive care units ready for a second wave of virus cases, even though the first wave is now receding.
Health authorities say France doubled its number of intensive care beds to more than 10,000 as the virus raced across the country.
“We need to keep the beds in case of a return of the epidemic,” national health agency director Jerome Salomon says. “We need to maintain a vigilant posture.”
Now fewer than 5,000 people are in intensive care with the virus, but people with other severe illnesses also need the beds.
France has reported more virus deaths than any country but the U.S., Italy and Spain. Salomon has announced more than 22,000 virus deaths so far in French hospitals and nursing homes.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says his comments suggesting people can ingest or inject disinfectant to fight COVID-19 was an attempt at sarcasm.
Trump noted Thursday that researchers were looking at the effects of disinfectants on the virus and wondered aloud if they could be injected into people, saying the virus “does a tremendous number on the lungs, so it would be interesting to check that.”
But speaking to reporters in the Oval Office Friday, Trump insisted his comments were misconstrued. “I was asking the question sarcastically to reporters like you, just to see what would happen,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments on disinfectants at Thursday’s briefing came after William Bryan, who leads the Science and Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, spoke about how researchers are testing the effect of disinfectants on virus-laden saliva and respiratory fluids on surfaces.
Apple and Google have outlined new privacy protections for smartphone apps that could help public health agencies send alerts to people if they spent more than 5 minutes near someone who later tested positive for COVID-19.
The tech giants announced earlier in April that they are jointly working to introduce a new app-building interface in May for billions of Apple and Android phones around the world.
The partnership will enable public health agencies to build phone apps that use Bluetooth short-range wireless beacons to automatically detect the proximity of nearby phones without revealing anyone’s identity or location.
The companies have so far resisted a push from some governments that want them to loosen privacy restrictions to make it easier for health agencies to track the whereabouts of COVID-19 patients and their contacts.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon says the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship that has been in New York harbor for several weeks to help fight the coronavirus, will return to its home port of Norfolk, Virginia.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman did not say when the ship would depart New York. Once it is back in Norfolk, it will restock and prepare to deploy again if requested. Hoffman says it will be up to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to decide whether the Comfort should undertake a coronavirus support mission elsewhere.
DENVER — Denver Mayor Michael Hancock has extended the city’s stay-at-home order and non-essential business closures through May 8 just as fellow Democrat and Colorado Gov. Jared Polis prepares to relax some statewide restrictions next week.
Hancock insists the extra time is needed to ramp up coronavirus testing and contact tracing and ultimately “box in” the virus — ensuring “it is our punk and that we are not its punk anymore.”
Polis cited the economic and psychological toll the statewide stay-at-home order has taken in announcing this week that some limits will be relaxed on Monday and that non-essential businesses can reopen, with distancing measures, on May 1.
Polis has said local governments will have flexibility to adopt their own measures to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Salons, spas and barbershops opened up across Oklahoma despite concerns from medical professionals and a steady increase in the number of COVID-19 deaths and reported cases.
Gov. Kevin Stitt authorized such personal-care businesses to open earlier this week, citing an overall decline in the number of people being hospitalized for the illness. Those businesses are directed to keep social distance, wear masks and frequently sanitize equipment.
Some of the state’s largest cities, including Norman, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, are opting to keep their bans in place until at least the end of the month.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has signed a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid package into law, the latest federal government effort to stimulate a reeling economy and overwhelmed hospitals.
The legislation is the fourth coronavirus relief bill passed by Congress. All told, Congress has delivered at least $2.4 trillion for business relief, testing and treatment, and direct payments to individuals and the unemployed, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The latest bill includes more than $300 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program, which gives small firms loans that could be forgiven if they use them on wages, benefits, rent and utilities and $60 billion for Small Business Administration disaster assistance loans and grants. It also includes $75 billion in grants for hospitals, and $25 billion to improve coronavirus testing.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Gov. Bill Lee has released more details on how restaurants and retail stores across most of Tennessee should reopen next week to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, while acknowledging the state will not enforce such measures to ensure implementation.
The Republican governor argued that businesses and consumers will be in charge of seeing that the state’s new recommendations, dubbed the “Tennessee pledge,” are practiced.
Tennessee dropped the new guidelines the same day as some businesses began slowly reopening in Georgia. Yet several public health experts have warned that reopening a state too soon could result in a new surge in coronavirus infections.
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York has reported its lowest number of daily COVID-19 deaths in weeks.
The state recorded 422 deaths as of the day before. That’s the fewest since March 31, when it recorded 391 deaths. More than 16,000 people have died in the state from the outbreak.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the figures are still at “an unimaginable level, and it’s dropping somewhat,” but says it is still “devastating news.”
The total number of people hospitalized statewide continues to drop slowly, hitting about 14,000. But Cuomo says the number of new patients coming into hospitals is basically flat.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health ministry has announced 109 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 2,600.
According to data posted by minister Fahrettin Koca, 3,246 people recovered in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of recoveries to 21,737. The number of confirmed infections is now 104,912, with 3,122 new cases identified.
The country ranks seventh in the world in the number of confirmed infections, surpassing Iran and China, according to Johns Hopkins University. Experts say the true toll of the pandemic around the world is much higher than the Johns Hopkins tally, due in part to limited testing and difficulties in counting the dead in the midst of a crisis.
ROME — The day-to-day increase in Italy’s number of hospital discharges or otherwise declared recovered from COVID-19 infections was just below the number of new confirmed cases.
The Italian health ministry said there were 3,021 new cases in the 24-hour period since Thursday evening. By comparison, 2,922 persons were considered cured, including those who had been hospitalized or isolated at home.
The nation’s north has largely borne the brunt of the outbreak of the illness. In comparison, for example, the south-central Lazio region, which includes Rome, the Italian capital, for a sixth straight day registered less than 100 new cases. But northern Lombardy, where the first known cases of COVID-19 in Italy surfaced in late February and rapidly multiplied, still is registering high numbers, with nearly 1,100 new cases reported.
With 420 deaths registered in Friday’s day-to-day increases, Italy now counts nearly 26,000 deaths of people with confirmed coronavirus cases.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Gov. Andy Beshear has signed an order allowing Kentucky residents to vote by mail in the upcoming primary election, which had already been pushed back to June because of the coronavirus.
State elections officials also are working on a plan for limited in-person voting and possible drive-thru voting for the June 23 primary, the governor’s office said. The Democratic governor’s order allowing mail-in voting came a day after Republican Secretary of State Michael Adams offered his recommendations on how to proceed with the primary in midst of a public health crisis.
Kentucky will start a partial lifting of restrictions on medical services next week, but health care workers and patients will have to follow safeguards as the fight against the coronavirus continues. Starting Monday, non-urgent and emergent health care services will resume.
WASHINGTON — A spokesman for Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the Pentagon chief will meet Friday with the Navy’s top admiral for a briefing on a report that is expected to determine the fate of Capt. Brett Crozier.
Crozier was relieved of command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he pleaded for more urgent help with a coronavirus outbreak among his crew. Jonathan Hoffman, the chief Pentagon spokesman, says Esper is keeping an open mind about Crozier. The Navy has said it would not rule out reinstating Crozier.
Just days after the acting Navy secretary, Thomas Modly, fired Crozier, Modly resigned amid strong criticism of his handling of the matter. More than 800 members of the Roosevelt crew have tested positive for coronavirus and one died.
LONDON — The British government says 684 more people with the coronavirus have died in U.K. hospitals, increasing the total reported to 19,506.
That’s higher than 616 deaths in the previous 24-hour period. There has been increasing scrutiny of the U.K. figures for understating the actual number of coronavirus-related deaths because they don’t include deaths in care homes or elsewhere in the community.
The U.K.’s death toll is the fourth highest in Europe, behind Italy, Spain and France, all of whom have reported more than 20,000 deaths.
The government also says the number of daily tests increased by around 5,000 to 28,532.
On Friday, an online link to an expanded testing program for essential workers stopped accepting applications after a few hours because of “significant demand.”
PARIS — France won’t reopen its restaurants, bars and cafes before June. Authorities also announced reinforced financial support for the sector amid the virus crisis.
Finance minister Bruno Le Maire says the government is deferring tax payments and extending short-term unemployment to businesses that won’t be allowed to reopen next month. He says small companies of less than 20 employees can apply for emergency aid of up to 10,000 euros ($10,786).
Most French businesses are set to reopen on May 11. However, the schedule for restaurants, bars and cafes won’t be decided before the end of May, Le Maire said.
France, one of the most popular tourist destinations with more than 80 million foreign visitors each year, is planning an investment fund to help relaunch that sector.
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