The Latest: La. pastor holds services in defiance of orders

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.


— New York’s daily death toll drops below 400 for first time in April.

— Pelosi: US governors are right to feel impatient about financial help from Congress.

— Rome registers lowest day-to-day increase in deaths since first week of lockdown.

CENTRAL, La. — A Louisiana pastor is holding services in his church, defying house arrest orders that followed an assault charge related to his decision to hold mass gatherings in defiance of public health orders during the coronavirus pandemic.

A livestream from Life Tabernacle Church on Sunday showed Tony Spell walking among more than 100 congregants, often repeating the phrase, “I’ve just got to get to Jesus. … Come on America, let’s get back to Jesus.” Nearly all parishioners were not wearing face masks, and social distancing was not being practiced.

The police department in Central, a suburb Baton Rouge, says on their Facebook page that Spell turned himself into the department last week on charges of aggravated assault and improper backing.

Trey Bennett has kept up a one-man demonstration in front of the church since Easter Sunday, when he noticed hundreds of parishioners still attending services in defiance of the state’s stay-at-home mandate, which bans gatherings of more than 10 people. Houses of worship across Louisiana have turned to online services instead.

Last Sunday, Spell drove a church bus in reverse in the direction of the sign-holding protester. Spell already faces misdemeanor charges for holding in-person church services despite the ban on gatherings.

Dozens of Spell’s parishioners met him at the East Baton Rouge Parish prison, dressed in their Sunday best, arrived in church buses to show support. In a livestream from the church, images including photos from Spell’s arrest, as well as information for a GoFundMe account to help with his legal costs, played over music being performed at the church.


TOPEKA, Kan. — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says she’s reached a deal that could resolve a lawsuit brought by two churches challenging her order banning religious gatherings of more than 10 people to help slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Under the deal, the two churches and the Democratic governor agreed to the extension of a federal judge’s temporary restraining order that allows those churches to disregard the 10-person limit as long as they complied with social-distancing measures.

The extension essentially allows the two Kansas churches to continue their in-person services while the governor finalizes her plans for new re-opening restrictions that would take effect May 4.

Kansas has traced five coronavirus clusters that resulted in seven deaths to church gatherings.


NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the 367 deaths from the coronavirus that he reported Sunday were “horrific,” but the number was less than half the nearly 800 deaths that occurred in a single day during the pandemic’s peak in New York.

It is the first time this month that the statewide daily death toll has been below 400.

Cuomo also reports that the number of hospitalizations, which still topped 1,000, and the number of individuals put on a ventilator had dropped as well.

The deaths include 349 patients who died in hospitals and 18 individuals who died in nursing homes, the Democratic governor said.

On Saturday, Cuomo said there were 437 deaths on Friday.


WASHINGTON — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the nation’s governors are rightfully feeling impatient about getting financial help from Congress during the coronavirus outbreak and insists the aid will come.

The California Democrat tells CNN’s “State of the Union” that governors “should be impatient. Their impatience will help us get an even bigger number” in the next congressional relief package. Pelosi has already pledged to provide them billions in aid.

With much of the American economy shuttered during the pandemic, state and local governments are reeling from declining sales tax revenues and surging unemployment benefit costs.

Several governors, including Democrat Andrew Cuomo of New York, say federal aid should have been approved in the last relief package. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has since expressed opposition to providing more local help.

But Pelosi says people should judge the latest federal aid package “for what it does. Don’t criticize it for what it doesn’t, because we have a plan for that. And that will happen.”


ROME — Italy has registered its lowest day-to-day increase in deaths of those infected with COVID-19 since the country was in its first week of lockdown in mid-March.

The Health Ministry released new figures, including 260 deaths, for the 24-hour period ending Sunday. That daily grim statistic was last lower on March 14, when 175 deaths were registered.

Premier Giuseppe Conte says on Facebook that later Sunday he will address the nation, eager to learn which restrictions will be eased in Italy’s lockdown, which expires May 3.

Overall, Italy has registered 26,644 deaths of those with known coronavirus infections.

But the toll could be considerably higher, since many persons who died in their homes or in care residences for the elderly in recent weeks didn’t receive COVID-19 tests.

By late March, when the outbreak was raging, most devastatingly in the north, Italy’s day-to-day tally of new deaths had soared to nearly 1,000. Italy now has totaled 197,675 known cases, after 2,324 new cases were registered on Sunday.


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia signed a deal worth more than $264 million with China to provide the kingdom with the ability to conduct 9 million COVID-19 tests.

The deal signed Sunday and announced by Saudi Arabia also provides the kingdom with 500 personnel to conduct the tests in six laboratories that will be established across the country.

Saudi Arabia says the agreement with China’s BGI Group indicates the kingdom is “in a race against time to diagnose cases and to work to isolate them.” The contract also includes conducting comprehensive community testing, genetic mapping of a number of samples in the kingdom, and analysis of immunity mapping from 1 million samples.

Saudi Arabia has also signed agreements with companies in the U.S., South Korea and Switzerland with the aim of testing 40% of people in the country. More than 17,000 confirmed cases of the virus have been reported in Saudi Arabia, including more than 130 deaths.


COLUMBIA, S.C. — Officials in South Carolina expressed appreciation Sunday for the 1.5 million surgical masks sent from China that are needed to stem the new coronavirus outbreak.

But U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham also called for a lessening of U.S. reliance on China.

“We want the masks made in the United States,” Graham said during an availability on the tarmac of the Greenville-Spartanburg Airport. He watched the unloading of the masks from a Boeing aircraft.

“We don’t want to ever have to rely on China or anyone where for our basic health care needs.”

Throughout the new coronavirus outbreak, Graham has repeatedly called for a draw-down of U.S. reliance on China. He tweeted earlier this month he wanted the U.S. response over the outbreak “so overwhelming China will change its behavior.”

The Republican also told Fox News he felt the U.S. “should send China a bill for the pandemic.”

Noting he expected a resurgence of the virus in the fall, Graham said Sunday he wanted the U.S. to be “much better prepared” in terms of needed supplies by the time that happens.

“The medical supply chain is coming back to America,” he said.

U.S. Rep. William Timmons echoed Graham’s comments, saying of the necessity of a mask shipment from China: “This will not happen again.”


WASHINGTON — The chairman of the company that includes the Expedia travel business says the coronavirus outbreak has done catastrophic damage to the U.S. economy and a lack of leadership from Washington is hampering the response.

Expedia Group Chairman Barry Diller says business bankruptcies will be widespread and that President Donald Trump’s prediction that the economy will begin to rebound by summer is unrealistic.

“The damage that’s being done is catastrophic,” Diller said.

He added that he expects Americans will begin to return to work in large numbers by Labor Day in early September. He said the summer would be a “big mess” as companies try different approaches to reopening.

He said the federal government has to step up its response with clear, science-based instructions about whether Americans can resume normal activities and under what restrictions.

“Unfortunately, we have a witch doctor as president and he ain’t gonna tell us,” Diller said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”


COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka government has canceled the leave of three forces and ordered them to report to duty immediately amid a surge of patients infected with the new coronavirus.

The government announced Sunday that a countrywide curfew will be re-imposed Monday “in order to facilitate officers of the security forces who are on leave to report back to their respective camps.”

The government’s order comes as the number of infected navy sailors rose to 95 by Sunday. The total positive cases went up to 485, while seven have died from the virus.

Eleven new patients were reported on Sunday and 10 were navy sailors.

According the orders issued by the defense ministry, the leave and short passes granted to all officers and others ranks of the three forces were cancelled with immediate effect and they were directed to report to their respective camps immediately.

On Friday, 30 navy sailors from a navy camp on the outskirt of capital Colombo tested positive and the number has now gone up to 95 while the camp is now isolated.

The virus is believed to have entered the camp through navy sailors deployed to search a group of narcotics addicts who had contact with a COVID-19 patient and were evading quarantine.

Sri Lanka partially lifted a monthlong curfew last week. The country had been under a 24-hour curfew since March 20. It was lifted during daytime hours in more than two thirds of the country last week. In those areas, curfew remained in effect from 8 p.m. until 5 p.m ad it was scheduled to be relaxed on Monday.

Police strictly enforce curfew and have arrested more than 35,000 of curfew violators.


ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities say there have been four new fatalities from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours to raise the total to 134.

There are 11 new confirmed cases of the disease, which brings the total to 2,517. The number of people on ventilators declined to 46, while 64 patients have exited intensive care.

The total number of tests conducted so far is 64,608.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis is likely to postpone his broadcast to the Greek people announcing a gradual relaxation of quarantine measures. The broadcast had been tentatively scheduled for Monday, but it will likely be postponed by at least one day.


BERLIN — Authorities are testing the 450 residents of an apartment complex in a German town because two families infected with the new coronavirus failed to follow quarantine rules.

Residents of the 117-apartment complex in Grevenbroich in western Germany were being tested Sunday.

Authorities fenced off the grounds over the weekend and security was put in place to ensure residents only leave once test results are completed. The results are expected Tuesday.

News agency dpa reported the local government said the tests were triggered after authorities determined that eight people from two families who had tested positive had continued to see neighbors and been outside the building.

It wasn’t clear whether other residents had been aware the families were supposed to be in quarantine.

The families themselves were taken to another location where officials could ensure that they kept to their quarantine.

The tests are voluntary but authorities can order anyone who refuses to undergo one to remain in quarantine for 14 days.


MINSK, Belarus — Local officials in Belarus, which has not imposed restrictions to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, say infections have been detected at an institution for children with psychological problems.

A statement from the government of the Mogilev region said tests performed on all the institution’s staff and patients turned up some infection cases. It was not revealed how many cases.

The home houses 174 children.

Belarus’president has dismissed concerns about the coronavirus despite a sharp rise in infections. The country reported its largest one-day number Sunday of new cases at 873.

More than 10,000 infections have been recorded in the country of 9.5 million.


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