The Latest: Texas starting coronavirus testing in prisons
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:
— 23 die from new coronavirus at Alabama veterans nursing home.
— Oklahoma revenue off a record 44%.
— Florida’s two largest counties plan partial reopening.
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is starting widespread coronavirus testing in state prisons, where at least 30 people have died and inmates have tested positive at far higher rates than outside one of the nation’s largest prison systems.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice announced Tuesday that tens of thousands of COVID-19 tests are on the way to the state’s prisons. More than 1,700 inmates have tested positive in Texas.
Agency spokesman Jeremy Desel says the tests are designed to be self-administered and a dozen “strike teams” are receiving training this week.
It’s the second announcement of widespread testing in Texas in as many days. On Monday, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered coronavius testing for every nursing home resident and staff member in the state.
HOUSTON — A budget deficit of $169 million that’s been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic will force Houston to briefly furlough around 3,000 workers and empty its rainy-day fund, the city’s mayor said Tuesday.
Due to the economic shutdown instituted to stop the spread of the disease, Houston is expected to lose about $107 million in sales tax revenue this year and the same amount in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins in July, Mayor Sylvester Turner said.
Houston, which has more than 237,000 energy workers, is also being hit hard by the dramatic drop in oil prices due to plummeting demand from virus-related lockdowns worldwide.
Furloughs will be for a maximum of 10 days within the upcoming fiscal year, Turner said.
The rainy-day fund typically has about $20 million for emergency spending with hurricane season beginning in June.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — More than 1,300 people in Washington state have been trained and are ready to work with local health departments to do contact tracing once a case of the coronavirus has been confirmed in a county.
At a news conference Tuesday, Gov. Jay Inslee said that of those already trained, 351 are from the National Guard, 390 are from the Department of Licensing, and 630 are state or local health professionals. He said that number could be expanded even more in the coming weeks.
Inslee said that while the social distancing efforts that have been in place since March have been frustrating, they have been “significantly effective.”
More than 17,330 people in the state have tested positive for the virus and at least 962 have died.
ALEXANDER CITY, Ala. — Nearly two dozen people have died at an Alabama veterans nursing home from the new coronavirus.
The Alabama Department of Veterans Affairs said Tuesday that 23 deaths from the disease occurred at the Bill Nichols State Veterans Home in Alexander City. The state-owned facility has a capacity of 150 residents, and 91 have tested positive for the virus.
The agency says a worker at the home wasn’t allowed to enter after testing positive for COVID-19 on March 30, and that the first resident tested positive nine days later.
The home has since been decontaminated and residents who test positive are being isolated.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas has ordered a large theater to abandon plans to hold a concert in defiance of the state’s coronavirus restrictions on public gatherings.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday that the state Health Department was sending a cease-and-desist letter to the venue TempleLive to postpone or cancel the concert Friday night by country rock singer Travis McCready.
The event is expected to draw more than 200 people and would be held three days before Arkansas allows large indoor entertainment venues to reopen. Such venues are limited to 50 people in the audience unless a different total is approved by the state.
Concert organizers have said they’re reducing capacity at the venue from 1,100 people to 229 and implementing other safety rules, including requiring audience members to wear masks and have their temperature checked at the door.
CINCINNATI — Ohio elections officials say 318 voters in Butler County won’t have their ballots counted for the April 28 primary because of a U.S. Postal Service delivery delay.
Although the ballots were postmarked by the April 27 deadline, they didn’t get to the county elections board until this week, days after the May 8 deadline to be counted.
Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose has written to Postal Service headquarters calling for an investigation and steps to make sure the issue doesn’t happen in the fall.
Ohio’s March 17 primary was extended after in-person voting that day was canceled for public health reasons amid the coronavirus spread. The vast majority of votes cast were by mail.
OKLAHOMA CITY — Collections to Oklahoma’s main government operating fund missed projections by 44% last month, the worst in modern history, state finance officials said Tuesday.
Office of Management and Enterprise Services Director Steve Harpe said missing this month’s estimate is not a surprise but called the magnitude “notable.” Harpe said postponing the income tax deadline from April to July, plummeting energy prices, and the coronavirus-related shutdown of businesses across the state amounted to a “threefold economic gut punch.”
April is historically the month with the largest revenue collections. Harpe said general revenue collections haven’t missed the estimate by more than 40% in recent history.
Individual and corporate income taxes, sales taxes and gross production taxes on oil and natural gas were all well below projections. The one bright spot was motor vehicle tax collections, which exceeded the estimate last month by more than 23%.
LONDON — The British government says another 627 people who tested positive for the coronavirus have died, increasing the U.K.’s total to 32,692, second only to the United States worldwide.
The big increase Tuesday in the daily death toll was expected because of a weekend reporting lag. The figure represented a spike from the 210 deaths reported Monday and ended a three-day streak of declining totals.
Since mid-April, Britain’s seven-day rolling average of deaths has fallen, but since last Wednesday citizens have been able to exercise as often as they want while still observing social distancing guidelines.
DENVER — Colorado’s tourism- and energy-dependent economy has been crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, presenting lawmakers with a projected $3.3 billion in cuts they must make to craft a balanced state budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1, legislative economists said Tuesday.
The $3.3 billion figure represents 10% of the state’s total budget and nearly a quarter of its general fund, which is devoted to crucial government services. Colorado’s economy could contract by 6% this year, Kate Watkins, chief economist of the Legislative Council staff, told the Joint Budget Committee.
The bipartisan committee is charged with writing a balanced budget each fiscal year. It has been examining spending cuts while the 2020 legislative session has been suspended since March because of the coronavirus.
Lawmakers are tentatively scheduled to return on May 26.
WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s Health Ministry has reported 595 new cases of coronavirus infection, the highest daily increase since testing began in March.
Ministry officials said Tuesday the spike was due to the intensive testing taking place among thousands of coal miners and their families in the southern coal mining region of Silesia that has become a hotbed of infections. The ministry said 288 cases were reported there Tuesday and 15,000 tests are now planned.
Authorities said the lifting of anti-coronavirus restrictions may be at a slower pace in Silesia, depending on the number of diagnosed infections and recommendations by health officials.
The nation of 38 million has reported almost 17,000 cases and almost 840 deaths.
ATHENS — Greek officials say two migrants in a special quarantine facility for new arrivals on the eastern island of Lesbos have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Authorities said Tuesday the two had arrived on the Aegean Sea island last week, when a boat with 51 people on board from Afghanistan and African countries crossed over from Turkey. All 51 were placed in two-week quarantine in the northern part of the island and far from the main, congested migrant camp of Moria where nearly 18,000 people live. A total 70 people are in quarantine, including 19 who arrived Sunday.
Officials say the two who tested positive did not display symptoms of COVID-19. Other migrants in the facility and people who come in contact with them are being tested.
No coronavirus infections have been registered so far in Greece’s island migrant camps, where almost 40,000 people live in cramped, often squalid conditions where it would be difficult to check the spread of the virus. A few cases in mainland camps have been quickly contained.
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s two largest counties appear to be heading toward a partial reopening of their economies next week from the new coronavirus shutdown under a plan that would impose severe restrictions that mirror the rest of the state.
Miami-Dade and Broward counties are finishing a plan that would allow retailers, restaurants and personal care businesses like barber shops and salons to reopen on Monday, about two months after they closed. The two counties account for almost half of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases.
While details aren’t finalized, current plans call for restaurants and retail stores reopening under the state’s rules that limit them to to 25% capacity indoors. Restaurants with outdoor seating would have to keep tables 6 feet apart. The rest of the state began reopening last week.
The plan also calls for Broward and Miami-Dade beaches to remain closed, but several Broward commissioners said they would like them to also reopen Monday.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Fear of contracting the coronavirus doesn’t meet the criteria to vote by mail due to illness in Tennessee, state officials said Tuesday.
Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins told The Associated Press in a statement that the fear of getting ill does not fall under the definition of ill. Still, state officials recommended preparing as though all 1.4 million registered voters who are at least 60 will cast ballots by mail in the August primary election.
The guidance comes after the release of Tennessee’s COVID-19 election contingency plan, which doesn’t contemplate a shift to allow all voters to cast ballots by mail due to fears of contracting or unknowingly spreading COVID-19 at the polls.
About a third of states require an excuse to vote absentee, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
ALAMEDA, Calif. — Tesla CEO Elon Musk has emerged as a champion of defying stay-home orders intended to stop the coronavirus from spreading, picking up support as well as critics on social media.
Among supporters was President Donald Trump, who on Tuesday tweeted that Tesla’s San Francisco Bay Area factory should be allowed to open despite health department orders to stay closed except for basic operations. Trump wrote that the plant can be reopened safely.
Tesla’s factory reopened Monday with Musk daring authorities to arrest him. The company submitted a plan to protect worker safety, which the Alameda County Public Health Department is reviewing.
The plant in Fremont, a city of more than 230,000 people south of San Francisco, had been closed since March 23. It employs about 10,000 workers.
BEIJING — Local media report that authorities are preparing to conduct coronavirus tests on all 11 million residents of the central Chinese city of Wuhan following a slight increase in cases.
The tests in the metropolitan area that was the outbreak center of the global pandemic are to be carried out over a 10-day period. The goal is to identify those who may be carrying the virus after six additional cases were recently recorded.
Wuhan ended a 76-day lockdown earlier this month, but authorities have warned consistently about a potential second wave of infections.
BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Concern is growing in Colombia as cases of the new coronavirus continue to rise in the Amazon, one of the country’s most vulnerable regions.
Health workers have now diagnosed 718 cases of COVID-19 in one of six Amazonian departments. That’s up from just 105 cases at the start of May. Local officials warn they have no ICU beds and are unprepared for a large outbreak.
Lawmakers say Amazonas department now has a higher rate of contagion per 1 million residents than any other part of the country. One of the focal points of the outbreak is a jail where 89 of 181 inmates have contracted the virus.
A major concern is the area’s close proximity to Brazil, which has emerged as an epicenter for the virus in Latin America.
BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top diplomat is warning member countries not to slash defense spending as their economies buckle under pressure from the coronavirus because the disease is likely to spark security challenges in coming years.
After chairing a video conference of defense ministers on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it was clear the pandemic is very likely to deteriorate the security environment in the years ahead. Borrell said as the crisis also hits the economy, it’s important to secure the necessary funding for security and defense.
Talks between the 27 EU member countries over their next long-term budget have been blocked for more than a year, well before the coronavirus hit Europe. Cuts to defense funds in that spending package were already being considered and, given the impact of the disease, seem even more likely now.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two rural counties in Tennessee are reporting some of the highest per capita coronavirus infection rates in the United States.
Trousdale County has the highest per capita coronavirus infection rate and Bledsoe County has the fifth highest, according to an Associated Press analysis. In both counties, the high infection rates are attributable to their local prisons.
Trousdale, a county of just over 9,500 people, has reported 1,363 cases of the virus, nearly all of those at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center run by private prison contractor CoreCivic.
Bledsoe County has reported 604 cases, including 586 at the state-run Bledsoe County Correctional Complex. Nearly all the inmates there completed 14 days of isolation without becoming ill, state corrections officials have said.
Two Trousdale prisoners and one Bledsoe prisoner have died after testing positive, although prison officials say they are asking the medical examiner to determine the exact causes of death.
LONDON — British police are investigating after a railway ticket office worker who was spat at by a man claiming to have the coronavirus died with COVID-19.
The TSSA trade union says Belly Mujinga was working at London’s Victoria station on March 22 when a man spat and coughed at her and a colleague. Both workers fell ill within days, and the 47-year-old Mujinga died in a London hospital on April 5. Mujinga’s husband said his wife had underlying respiratory problems when she was admitted to a hospital three days before she died.
The union says the two two railway workers reported the spitting incident to a supervisor, but police were not initially informed. The British Transport Police said Tuesday that it was now investigating
Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the attack “despicable.”
ACCRA, Ghana — Unions in an industrial city just outside Ghana’s capital have asked the government to conduct mass testing of workers and people in the city and to fumigate workplaces.
The plea comes after government officials said one person who tested positive for the new coronavirus infected at least 533 workers at a fish-processing factory in Tema. The infections at the Pioneer Food Cannery were announced over the weekend.
As of late Monday, the West African nation had tested more than 161,300 people, of which 5,127 tested positive for COVID-19, according to Ghana’s health service.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.