The Latest: Member of Pence’s staff tests positive for virus
The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 271,000 people and killed more than 11,000. 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 87,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Member of VP Mike Pence’s staff tests positive for coronavirus
— Washington state reports 8 new coronavirus deaths
— Association of Public Health Laboratories recommends only very sick be tested
WASHINGTON — The White House says a member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff has tested positive for coronavirus.
Pence’s spokeswoman Katie Miller said Friday that the staff member, who is not being identified, did not have “close contact” to either the vice president or President Donald Trump.
Miller said contact tracing, or contacting everyone the individual has been in contact with, is being conducted in accordance with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Miller says Pence’s office was notified Friday evening of the positive test result.
HAVANA — Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel says the country is temporarily barring tourists in order to prevent the introduction of more cases of coronavirus.
Díaz-Canel and Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz said in an announcement on state television that only residents of the island would be allowed to enter for the next 30 days starting Tuesday.
As of Friday, Cuba had announced 16 cases of COVID-19 and one death, all in people who had traveled overseas or been in direct contact with a traveler. Díaz-Canel and Marrero said exceptions would be made for people involved in commercial importation, like crews of merchant ships, and for tourism industry workers who need to help tourists leave the country.
Marrero said there were about 60,000 tourists in Cuba as of Friday evening.
The Cuban economy is heavily dependent on tourism, which had already slowed dramatically due to U.S. sanctions tightened by the Trump administration.
SEATTLE — Washington state health officials reported eight new coronavirus deaths on Friday, bringing the total to 83.
Seven of those deaths were in King County, the epicenter of the outbreak in the state.
More than 1,500 people have tested positive across Washington.
BERLIN — A German baker’s tearful appeal for customers not to abandon their local stores during the coronavirus outbreak has been met with a wave of sympathy.
In a video posted on social media Friday, Gerhard Bosselmann said his bakery chain that employs more than 200 people at 20 stores in and around Hannover could collapse within weeks.
Many small and medium-sized companies in Germany have expressed concerns about their future as customers stay at home, relying on deliveries or dashing to supermarkets for bulk buys.
“We need a certain minimum revenue or our company will die within six to eight weeks,” Bosselmann said in the video, which drew more than 2 million views by late Friday.
“You, our customers, can help us by standing by us in bad times, the way we do too,” he added, choking back tears.
Germany had confirmed almost 20,000 coronavirus cases as of Friday, including 67 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
MEMPHIS — Elvis Presley’s Graceland is temporarily closing in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The Memphis,Tennessee-based tourist attraction said Friday that tours of Presley’s former home-turned-museum have been called off. Graceland said on its website that it will be temporarily closed from Saturday through April 3.
The tourist attraction is centered on the life and career of the late singer and actor. Presley died in Memphis on Aug. 16, 1977. He was 42.
About 500,000 people, including international travelers, visit Graceland each year. In addition to the museum, Graceland features restaurants, exhibition halls and a concert venue. —-
WASHINGTON — Testing supply shortages are the latest stumble in a botched effort to track the spread of coronavirus that has left the U.S. weeks behind many other developed countries.
Dwindling supplies include both chemical components and basic swabs needed to collect patient samples.
There are “acute, serious shortages across the board” for supplies needed to do the tests, said Eric Blank, of the Association of Public Health Laboratories, which represents state and local health labs.
Late Friday, Blank’s group and two other public health organizations recommended that testing be scaled back due to “real, immediate, wide-scale shortages.” The groups said only patients with COVID-19 symptoms who are elderly, have high-risk medical conditions or are medical staff should be tested.
“Testing for individuals who are not in these three groups is not recommended until sufficient testing supplies and capacity become more widely available,” said the joint statement, issued with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials and the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.
WASHINGTON — Officials in the nation’s capital are extending at least through April restrictions that include school closures, closed movie theaters and gyms and restaurants and bars serving only takeout.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser made the announcement Friday as health officials confirmed the first coronavirus death in Washington, D.C.
Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, the director of the district’s health department, said the 59-year-old man had a “complicated medical history” and was admitted to a hospital last week. She said the man tested positive for COVID-19 on March 18. Officials believe he potentially had contact with someone who had the virus.
The district’s restrictions to stop the spread of the virus will remain in effect until April 25.
That means all restaurants and bars will continue to able to offer to offer carry-out to customers or to food delivery services. All dining or drinking in the establishments is prohibited.
Officials said DC public schools would remain closed and distance learning would take place until schools are scheduled to reopen on April 27.
Bowser also loosened some restrictions for residents to apply for unemployment benefits and announced a $25 million recovery fund for local businesses.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — There are no immediate plans in Washington state to enact more stringent social distancing requirements to fight the spread of coronavirus like those imposed by California, New York and other states, Gov. Jay Inslee’s chief of staff said Friday.
“We don’t feel it’s necessary to take that next step today,” David Postman told reporters.
Washington has reported at least 74 deaths from COVID-19, the most in the United States, and more than 1,300 confirmed cases.
The state has already closed schools through the late April, banned events and ordered bars to close and restaurants to serve only take out or delivery options.
MEMPHIS, Tennessee — Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter said Friday that there are 30 confirmed cases, up from 10 the day before, in the area that includes Memphis.
Shelby County Schools Superintendent Joris Ray said food preparations and community-wide food distribution have been suspended indefinitely in response to the rising number of cases, as well as a central nutrition services employee testing positive for the virus.
Ray said the district has begun working to identify people the employee had been in contact with. In the interim, he asked for the help from the community, including food pantries, to feed children while schools are closed.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s central bank has cut its benchmark interest rate from 7% to 6.5%, and reduced by about $2 billion (50 billion pesos) the amount of deposits that banks are required to keep at the Bank of Mexico.
Both moves are aimed at loosening up credit in the face of the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Mexico banks are currently required to keep reserve deposits of 320 billion pesos.
NEW YORK — New York City health officials have directed medical providers to stop giving patients tests for COVID-19 except for those sick enough to require hospitalization. Widespread testing is exhausting supplies of protective equipment.
In an advisory issued Friday, the health department said outpatient testing should stop unless results would impact treatment for the patient.
“Persons with COVID-like illness not requiring hospitalization should be instructed to stay home. It is safer for the patients and health care workers,” the advisory said.
It said demand for unnecessary testing is contributing to a national shortage of masks, gowns, collection swabs and other supplies, all of which need to be discarded by health care workers after each test.
It also directed health care providers not test asymptomatic people, including health care workers or first responders.
The order came amid a huge surge in testing in New York.
After a slow start, testing sites have proliferated and many officials have said that widespread testing is a key to fighting the spread of the disease.
As of Friday morning, more than 32,000 people had been tested in the state, almost a third of them in the last day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
More than 7,000 New Yorkers have tested positive. More than 1,200 have been hospitalized.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas health officials say there are now nearly 100 cases of coronavirus in the state, including at least 13 residents and staff of a Little Rock nursing home.
The state said the number of coronavirus cases had risen overnight from 62 to 96. The new cases include 13 residents and staff of the Briarwood Nursing Home and Rehab.
The Health Department said there are also cases at a nursing home in Pine Bluff and another in Centerton.
Arkansas has imposed sweeping restrictions because of the outbreak and closed its schools until April 17.
ANKARA, Turkey __Turkey says five more people have died from the coronavirus outbreak, raising the number of deaths in the country to nine.
The number of infections meanwhile, jumped to 670 on Friday, with 311 more cases detected in the past 24 hours, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca announced on Twitter. The surge comes as Turkey increased the number of tests to screen for COVID-19.
Koca said the five who lost their lives on Friday were elderly with “weak resistance” to the virus.
MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s elderly have long supplemented their meager pensions by working as baggers at grocery stores. But their income took a hit Friday when Walmart de Mexico, by far the nation’s largest retailer, sent them home.
The chain said that because they were at greater risk from coronavirus, any bagger over 65 would no longer be allowed to work at their stores. It said that while the baggers are considered volunteers, not employees — they make their money from tips — the chain would provide them with an unspecified “economic assistance.”
Mexico’s Social Security Institute also announced that high-risk employees — those over 65, or with underlying health conditions — would be allowed to work from home where possible.
NEW YORK — The United Nations says consequences of the coronavirus could be devastating for the 100 million people living in war zones and other emergency settings.
It noted many people are living in cramped conditions with little or no access to proper sanitation and basic health services.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said humanitarian officials are concerned people who depend on U.N. assistance are able to keep getting life-saving help while trying to avoid “the catastrophic impact that the COVID-19 outbreak could have on them.”
He said relief agencies are also concerned “about the limited surveillance systems in countries with large numbers of vulnerable groups, while the additional burden of COVID-19 could mean that other current outbreaks such as cholera, measles and yellow fever receive less attention.”
Dujarric said overcrowded camps for internally displaced persons in some of the world’s humanitarian hot spots are also high-risk areas for COVID-19.
He said U.N. humanitarian officials will be launching an appeal for funds early next week to deal with the coronavirus threat. The U.N. has already released $15 million from its emergency fund to deal with the coronavirus in vulnerable areas, and U.N.-managed funds in Afghanistan, Sudan and Jordan have also been released to scale up preparedness.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Gov. Jay Inslee asked President Donald Trump to declare Washington a state in major disaster. Such a declaration would enable additional federal assistance to residents affected by COVID-19.
Those benefits include expanded unemployment assistance and basic food benefits.
“The state urgently requires additional supplemental federal emergency assistance in order to save lives, protect public health and safety, and limit further spread of the disease,” Inslee wrote.
TOPEKA, Kan. — The top administrator at Kansas’ health department said it could run out of coronavirus testing kits over the weekend — forcing the state to rely on private labs and potentially delaying results.
Dr. Lee Norman said that testing wouldn’t stop altogether because the agency would hold back a few of its tests for infected people who have been hospitalized.
Norman also said four private lab companies already are doing some testing, but they typically take longer to report their results than the state’s one-day turnaround.
Norman said the state has enough testing kits for about 300 patients, and it’s doing testing for between 150 and 300 a day. He said his agency has been providing free testing for local agencies and hospitals, and private lab tests will come with a cost of roughly $200.
Kansas has had more than 40 cases of COVID-19, including one death, with 10 new confirmed cases reported Friday alone.
JERUSALEM — Israel has reported its first death from the coronavirus.
Jerusalem’s Shaarei Tzedek Hospital said the 88-year-old man died late Friday, a week after he was hospitalized. The hospital said the man had a history of health problems.
Israel has reported more than 700 cases of COVID-19.
BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro said he may receive a third coronavirus test even though he says he’s twice tested negative for the virus.
Local paper O Globo reported 22 members of the committee that traveled with Bolsonaro to the U.S. earlier this month have tested positive for COVID-19.
“Maybe I will do a third test, maybe, because I’m someone who has contact with a lot of people,” Bolsonaro said in Brasilia.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey is enlisting private hospitals to ease the burden on state hospitals and their staff in the fight against coronavirus.
The Health Ministry designated all state, private or foundation hospitals with ICU units and at least two specialists in infectious diseases, microbiology, internal medicine and pulmonology as “pandemia hospitals” to treat COVID-19 patients.
The virus has so far claimed four lives in Turkey, while the number of confirmed cases reached 359.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma will close the legislature to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
“Senators and our staff remain in constant contact with the governor and other executive branch officials in health care and education, our federal delegation and various leaders from key private sector industries as we work to address this serious health care crisis,” Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat said in a statement.
House staff will work from home, and representatives will return to their districts for “constituent work and identifying priorities that need to be addressed in this unusual year,” said John Estus, spokesman for House Speaker Charles McCall.
Five additional coronavirus cases were confirmed Friday in Oklahoma, the state Department of Health reported, rising from 44 to 49.
The number of deaths due to the virus remained at one, the department said.
BERLIN — Authorities in southern Germany say nine residents of a nursing home in the Bavarian city of Wuerzburg have died from coronavirus.
News agency dpa reported that officials at the facility said Friday all of the dead were over 80 and had previous illnesses. Of the 160 residents, five are sick with COVID-19 and are being treated at hospitals in the city. Another 10 are being cared for in isolation in their rooms after testing positive.
In addition, 23 carers are quarantined at home after testing positive. It wasn’t clear what the source of the infections was. The home banned visitors last week.
Germany had 19,711 confirmed coronavirus infections as of Friday, including 53 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Seminole Tribe of Florida is closing its six casinos statewide Friday night. The casinos generate billions annually and employ 14,000 people.
As a sovereign tribal nation, the Seminoles did not have to follow the governor’s orders to limit gatherings or close outright, but the tribe said in a statement it no longer felt operating the casinos was safe.
At the tribe’s Hard Rock Casino near Fort Lauderdale on Friday afternoon, vacationers, gamblers and bored locals enjoyed the last few hours of play, but the noisy clangs from the machines were muted. Nearly half the machines were disabled to force players, some wearing gloves, to use machines feet apart.
Dr. Brian Cheung, a 34-year-old Miami anesthesiologist, had planned a trip to Nashville this week, but when it got canceled he came to stay at the Hard Rock’s hotel and gamble in the casino. The hotel will remain open for now.
“Hopefully the pool is still open,” Cheung said, walking down an empty hallway of shuttered restaurants.
CHICAGO — Southwest says it has not canceled all flights out of Midway International Airport and instead has only scaled back traffic out of its Chicago hub.
The limitations come after federal authorities closed the airport’s control tower after technicians tested positive for the coronavirus. Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King said the Dallas-based airline canceled about 170 of its roughly 250 daily flights in and out of Midway due to the airspace restrictions that followed the control tower’s closure.
“We’ve had to pull that back by canceling around 170 flights. We’re averaging four to six flights per hour,” she said. “There are only so many flights they’re letting in and out of Chicago.”
King said it’s not clear how long the airline will keep its reduced flight level in and out of Midway, and that decision is tied to how long the airspace restrictions continue.
Earlier reports were that Southwest Airlines had canceled all flights in and out of Midway, which King denied.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill.: Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to add Illinois to the list of states ordering residents to remain in their homes except for essential needs to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Two government officials with knowledge of the directive told The Associated Press that Pritzker’s order will still allow the state’s 12.6 million residents to seek essentials including groceries and medicine. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly ahead of the governor’s announcement expected Friday.
The Chicago Tribune was the first news outlet to confirm the state shutdown that will come into force Saturday.
PARIS — Tooting horns or playing ragtime, French people in lockdown added a musical touch to their nightly round of applause for medical professionals fighting the new virus.
For the fourth straight night, Parisians opened apartment windows at exactly 8 p.m. and applauded and cheered.
And to mark the first Friday night when all restaurants across France were closed, people played music or raised toasts from their balconies this time, too.
Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” rang out from one neighborhood, church bells from another. A pianist played “The Entertainer,” while others enthusiastically blew horns.
The evening applause is among gestures by people around Europe showing solidarity even when people can’t gather together.
MOSCOW — The mayor of Kharkiv says Ukraine’s second-largest city is suffering a transport collapse because of restrictions imposed by national authorities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Authorities this week ordered the subway systems in Kharkiv, Kyiv and Dnipro closed and limited the number of people who can ride on other mass-transit vehicles to 10.
Kharkiv Mayor Hennadiy Kernes said in an open letter to the Ukrainian government released Friday that the restrictions have provoked widespread disorder in the city of 1.5 million, including people storming buses and beating drivers.
Some drivers are refusing to work, he said and appealed to the government to allow limited use of the subway system.
ROME — All parks, public gardens and playgrounds will be closed in Italy starting Saturday for at least five days.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed an ordinance Friday that also aims to crack down on citizens who have ignored rules stipulating that exercise outside of one’s home must not be done in groups and that people must stay at least one-meter (yard) apart.
The new measures says people who do outdoor exercise must now do it only near one’s home while practicing social-distancing. Rome had already banned exercise in parks and Turin’s mayor urged the government to do so nationwide.
LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Michigan doctors and dentists to postpone all nonessential medical procedures Friday.
Whitmer said procedures should be scratched by Saturday afternoon unless necessary to “preserve the health and safety of a patient.”
“By postponing all nonessential medical and dental procedures, we expect to reduce the strain on the health care system and protect people,” the governor said.
Whitmer also said the state has been flooded with claims for unemployment aid from residents suddenly out of work.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch King Willem-Alexander made an emotional televised speech to his 17 million subjects.
The king made a rare speech to the nation aimed at praising and promoting unity and soothing fears. He praised health care workers battling the virus and other professions — from cleaners to teachers to police officers — while expressing concern for business owners facing possible financial ruin.
Willem-Alexander, his wife Queen Maxima, and their three daughters have been practicing social distancing this week in their palace in The Hague because they recently took a skiing holiday in an Austrian village where a number of people later tested positive.
The king’s speech came hours after the country’s public health institute reported that 30 people had died in the previous 24 hours, bringing the country’s death toll in the outbreak to 106. There have been 2,994 positive tests.
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has its first two confirmed coronavirus cases.
The Air Force confirmed Friday an active duty airman who works at the Defense Health Agency in Falls Church, Virginia and had been inside the Pentagon on Monday has tested positive.
The individual has received medical treatment and has self-quarantined at home.
Also, an Air Force defense contractor who works in the Pentagon has tested positive for the virus and has been self-quarantined since March 7, the Air Force said.
SALEM, Oregon — Gov. Kate Brown wants a statewide eviction moratorium, to suspend enforcement on expired automobile tabs and driver licenses and has asked the federal government for a one-year extension for compliance the REAL ID act.
Brown said she is not ready to enact more stringent social distancing requirements like those imposed by California and New York this week. Brown has already ordered a six-week statewide school closure, a ban on gatherings of more than 25 people and shutdowns of bar and restaurant operations other than takeout and delivery for at least four weeks.
CHICAGO — Southwest Airlines has canceled all of its fights in and out of Midway International Airport after federal authorities closed the airport’s control tower because technicians tested positive for the coronavirus.
The airline’s move resulted in more than 173 canceled flights on Friday.
The Federal Aviation Administration closed Midway’s control tower on Tuesday after the federal agency said “several” technicians tested positive for coronavirus.
The FAA said in a statement that the airport remained open and operations would continue at a reduced rate until controllers and technicians have a safe working environment.
JACKSON, Miss. —- Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced postponing the upcoming Republican primary runoff in the state’s 2nd Congressional District to June 23rd.
Mississippi joins a number of other states that have postponed elections amid the global pandemic.
The Republican runoff originally scheduled for March 31 is between Thomas L. Carey and Brian Flowers, who are running low-budget campaigns.
The winner will advance to the November general election to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Officials at Denali National Park and Preserve have suspended issuing climbing permits for the tallest mountain in North America.
No permits have been issued to climb either Denali or Mount Foraker, another Alaska Range peak, this year. The climbing season in the Alaska national park about 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Anchorage usually begins in late April and ends in mid-July.
No permits have yet been issued for this year’s climbing season, and refunds will be issued to those who have started the registration process.
“Considering the anticipated longevity of the international coronavirus response, social distancing protocols, and travel restrictions, park managers have determined the most appropriate course of action is to suspend all 2020 permitting,” Denali officials said in a statement.
ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands — The British Virgin Islands won’t bill for water for the next month.
Officials also have closed schools and limited air and sea travel to certain passengers seeking to enter the British Caribbean territory.
The BVI is one of only a handful of islands in the Caribbean with no confirmed cases.
WASHINGTON — Officials in the nation’s capital have announced the first death of a patient from the COVID-19 illness.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the death of the 59-year-old man on Friday.
She said he was admitted to the hospital last week after showing coronavirus symptoms, including a fever and cough, and tested positive. The mayor said the man also had “other underlying medical conditions” but provided no additional details.
DC health officials said there were 71 confirmed cases as of Thursday night.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization has sent a message to young people about the new coronavirus: “You’re not invincible.”
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says health officials are continuing to learn about the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. He said older people are hardest hit but “younger people are not spared.”
He said data from many countries shows people aged 50 and under make up a “significant proportion” of patients who need hospitalization.
“Today I have a message for young people: You’re not invincible,” Tedros said. “This virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you. Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference.”
He also advised people to be mindful of mental health at a time of rising anxiety about the outbreak, offering some suggestions.
“Listen to music. Read a book or play a game, and try not to read or watch too much news if it makes you anxious,” Tedros said.
LONDON — The British government has unveiled a massive economic support package to protect workers through the coronavirus pandemic.
Treasury chief Rishi Sunak called the economic intervention an “unprecedented” response by a British government and that it is one of the most comprehensive in the world. It will involve for the first time in the history of the British state the government helping to pay the wages of those in the private sector.
Also announced: Support measures for those who have lost their jobs and for those who are self-employed. A series of taxes, including those on sales, have been deferred while a business interruption loan scheme, worth 330 billion pounds, will be interest free for 12 months.
BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic announced the first recorded death from the coronavirus.
The death was announced as a 59-year-old man from the northern town of Kikinda.
Brnabic said Serbia has 135 cases of the virus, including eight people in serious condition.
Brnabic said all public transport in Serbia will be halted and restaurants, cafes and shopping malls will close this weekend. Serbia previously had imposed a curfew and banned all citizens over 65 years old from leaving their homes.
WASHINGTON — More than 3,300 Air and Army National Guard professionals in 28 states were actively supporting the COVID-19 response Friday.
The numbers change rapidly as states identify needs and communicate them to their National Guard.
Already, 27 states and Puerto Rico have National Guard personnel activated.
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