The Latest: Trump says he has taken unproven malaria drug

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:

— Trump says he has taken unproven malaria drug.

— California governor relaxes some criteria for reopening; says most of the state may be able to reopen more quickly.

— Biden criticizes Trump’s response to outbreak.

— Restaurants, bars and other retail businesses can open in much of northern Michigan starting Friday.

— Italy has its lowest daily increases in deaths and new cases since before the national lockdown began.

— Spain records its lowest daily death toll in 2 months.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that he is taking a malaria drug to lessen symptoms should he get the new coronavirus, even though the drug is unproven for fighting COVID-19.

Trump told reporters he has been taking the drug, hydroxychloroquine, and a zinc supplement daily “for about a week and a half now.” Trump spent weeks pushing the drug as a potential cure for COVID-19 against the cautionary advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals. The drug has the potential to cause significant side effects in some patients and has not been shown to combat the new coronavirus.

Trump said his doctor did not recommend the drug to him, but he requested it from the White House physician.

Trump repeatedly has pushed the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin, but no large, rigorous studies have found them safe or effective for preventing or treating COVID-19. They can cause heart rhythm problems and other side effects. The Food and Drug Administration has warned against the drug combo and said hydroxychloroquine should only be used for coronavirus in formal studies.

Two large observational studies, each involving around 1,400 patients in New York, recently found no benefit from hydroxychloroquine. Two new ones published Thursday in the medical journal BMJ reached the same conclusion.

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom relaxed county reopening criteria on Monday, a move he said will allow most of the state’s 58 counties to begin allowing dining in restaurants and other services.

“Bottom line is: People can go at their own pace, and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions,” Newsom said.

The new criteria he outlined applies to counties that want to reopen faster than the state. While retail may open for curbside pickup statewide, restrictions on dining in at restaurants and other services are still in place statewide. Counties can move faster if they win state approval.

Twenty-four counties in mostly rural Northern California already won approval under the old guidance.

The new criteria eliminates requirements that a county have zero deaths and no more than than one case per 10,000 residents over a two-week period. Instead, counties must have no more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents or no higher than an 8% positive rate among people testing for the coronavirus. They also must have no higher than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over a 7-day period or fewer than 20 hospitalizations total over 14 days. The latter will ensure small counties don’t get penalized for just one or two extra hospitalizations.

Newsom also said counties will soon be able to allow shopping in stores and hair salons to reopen. He also suggested professional sports could begin in June without spectators. He said the reopening of churches could begin within weeks.

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WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is slamming the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, proclaiming that President Donald Trump, “had months, months to take action” and failed to do so before the U.S. death toll began rising.

Biden addressed the AAPI Victory Fund’s “Progressive Summit” virtually on Monday, speaking from his home in Delaware, as Canadian geese honked loudly and persistently in the background. The group aims to empower Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

The former vice president said of the virus, “The scale of the loss is staggering and it’s infuriating.”

“But more than that, it’s heartbreaking to think how much fear, how much loss, how much agony could have been avoided if the president hadn’t wasted so much time and taken responsibility,” Biden said. “We got denials, delays, distraction — many of which were openly xenophobic.”

Biden added, that the country, “Got bald-faced lies about testing capacity that, ‘Anyone who wants a test can get a test.’”

“It wasn’t remotely true two months ago,” he said “and it still isn’t.”

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LANSING, Mich. — Restaurants, bars and other retail businesses can open in much of northern Michigan starting Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced in relaxing her stay-at-home restrictions — a key step for the tourism-dependent region before the Memorial Day weekend and summer season.

Bars and restaurants, which have only been able to do pickup and delivery, will have to limit capacity to 50% under Monday’s announcement.

Groups will be required to stay 6 feet apart, and servers will have to wear face coverings. Office business also will be able resume if work cannot be done remotely.

The governor’s latest order keeps closed other places of public accommodation such as movie theaters, gyms and hair salons in all 83 counties, at least through May 28.

Whitmer called the partial reopening of northern Michigan a “big step,” but urged people to not “go rushing out.” She recommended that residents considering visiting the Upper Peninsula or a 17-county region of the northern Lower Peninsula — which have 7.5% of the state’s 10 million people — to “think long and hard.”

“The whole state is watching to make sure we get this right,” said Whitmer, a Democrat who has been criticized by Republican lawmakers for not earlier restarting sectors by region. “If we get this right, we will be able to take the next step.”

Whitmer also issued an order requiring that businesses resuming in-person work develop a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and make it available to employees and customers by June 1.

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JUBA, South Sudan — South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar says he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The former leader of the armed opposition in South Sudan’s five-year civil war rejoined the government months ago under the latest peace deal.

Machar is the deputy of the country’s COVID-19 task force and says all of its members were tested after one was found to have the virus.

He says his wife, the defense minister, also has tested positive but says “many” of those who tested positive are in good health.

Machar’s spokesman James Gatdet says that includes Machar and his wife, and he adds that the infections will not hinder the implementation of the peace deal.

South Sudan’s government says the country now has 347 confirmed virus cases.

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ROME — Italy has registered its lowest daily increases in both deaths and new cases of COVID-19 since before the national lockdown began in early March.

According to data from the Health Ministry, 99 deaths of persons with coronavirus infections were registered in a 24-hour period ending Monday evening.

That same period saw 451 confirmed new cases.

On Monday, Italians enjoyed a first day of regained freedoms, including being able to sit down at a cafe or restaurant, shop in all retail stores or attend church services such as Mass.

But until next month they still can’t travel outside their regions except for work or other strict necessities, as lockdown rules are gradually lifted.

Italy now officially has 32,007 deaths, although many in nursing homes who died during the lockdown period weren’t tested for coronavirus as the tests were mainly given to hospitalized patients.

Overall, there are 225,886 confirmed cases of COVID-in Italy, where Europe’s outbreak began.

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ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president has announced a new four-day curfew during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr to be applied across the country to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped the restrictions would no longer be needed after the next round of lockdowns between May 23 and 26.

Previous weekend and national curfews were applied to 31 provinces, but this round will restrict people to their homes in all 81 provinces.

The country has opted to impose short weekend and holiday curfews, instead of full lockdowns, fearing possible negative effects on the already troubled economy.

Turkey’s health ministry announced 31 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest since the end of March, bringing the death toll to 4,171. The data also showed 1,158 new infections with the total now at 150,593.

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RABAT, Morocco — Morocco’s prime minister announced on Monday an extension of the nationwide lockdown until June 10.

Prime Minister Saad Eddine Othmani told parliament that the North African kingdom had recorded a rise of hotspots at factories but also within families during weddings or funerals, gatherings that breached lockdown rules.

The decision means that the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in less than a week, usually marked by large family gatherings, must be a far smaller closed-door affair this year.

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GENEVA — The U.S. Health and Human Services secretary has demanded “change” at the World Health Organization, accusing it of failing to obtain the information the world needed as the coronavirus outbreak emerged.

Alex Azar said the United States supports an independent review of “every aspect of WHO’s response to the pandemic,” keeping up a U.S. onslaught against the U.N. health agency over its alleged failure to press China to be more transparent about the origins of the outbreak.

Without mentioning China by name, Azar said: “In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world.”

Azar, speaking by video conference to the WHO’s annual assembly, also joined recent statements from the U.S. State Department blasting the U.N. health agency for not allowing Taiwan, whose government is a rival of China’s, to attend the event as an observer state.

“The health of 23 million Taiwanese people should never be sacrificed to send a political message,” Azar said.

He said the United States had allocated $9 billion to benefit the global coronavirus response.

Azar spoke just hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the assembly by videoconference, saying China would spend $2 billion to help respond to the COVID-19 crisis and economic fallout from it.

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MADRID — Spain has reported 59 new fatalities from the new coronavirus, the lowest daily death toll in two months. That brings the total number of deaths in the country to 27,709.

The number of confirmed infections rose on Monday to 231,606, or 285 new ones from the previous day.

Fernando Simón, the top health official in charge of Spain’s response to COVID-19, called the latest figures “very good news.”

“The goal is no longer knowing the total number of cases but to detect as early as possible the new cases wherever they appear,” Simón said.

He added that the time span between infections and diagnosis has shortened and that more people are being cured because treatment has improved.

Commerce across the country was reopening on Monday as Spanish regions gradually edge toward what authorities have branded as the “new normality.” The hard-hit regions in or around Barcelona and Madrid are progressing slower than the rest of Spain.

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TIRANA, Albania — Albania’s Muslim community has decided to reopen mosques and resume religious activity, with major restrictions.

A statement Monday said Muslims may resume using mosques for prayers while staying there no longer than 10 minutes, not in groups, wearing gloves and maintaining social distancing. The statement says mosques should be disinfected regularly. Children under age 12 and people 65 and older are still being told to avoid mosques.

Muslims have been performing rituals at home during the fasting month of Ramadan, which ends Saturday.

Mosques and churches have been shut down in Albania since mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic. The country has reported 31 deaths from COVID-19 and 948 confirmed cases.

Also on Monday, some 30,000 high school seniors returned to classrooms in Albania.

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LONDON — First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says Scotland could begin easing its lockdown measures by the end of the month.

Scotland has clashed with the government in London over the lifting of restrictions, with Sturgeon taking a stricter approach on topics including when to reopen schools.

Sturgeon said Monday that if progress is made in reducing the spread of the coronavirus, Scots may be allowed to meet people in other households, and some sporting events may be permitted. She added a “route map” to paths out of lockdown will be published Thursday.

She said: “Within two weeks, my hope is that we will be taking some concrete steps on the journey back to normality.”

A total of 2,105 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for COVID-19, up by two from 2,103 on Sunday.

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BERLIN — Germany’s foreign minister says European countries will work over the next two weeks on criteria that would help make international vacations on the continent possible this summer.

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas consulted Monday with counterparts from 10 countries that are popular with German tourists, most in southern Europe.

Maas stressed the need for a coordinated safety-first approach rather than a bilateral “European competition for tourists.”

He said the ministers likely will meet again in two weeks, and officials will work on details before then — addressing issues such as whether vacationers who become infected with the coronavirus while away should be quarantined at their destinations or transported home.

Maas said “it will be necessary to tell people clearly … that there will be restrictions everywhere, on the beaches, in restaurants, in city centers.”

At present, many European borders are at least partly closed and some countries require all or most people arriving to go into quarantine for two weeks.

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