The Latest: Trump says he’ll act to increase swab production
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 to use Defense Production Act to increase swab manufacturing.
— European CDC finds more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases.
— Coronavirus deaths down in NY, but officials urge vigilance.
— France’s prime minister: French will need to “learn to live with the virus” after country lifts lockdown.
— Italy registers lowest number of coronavirus deaths in a month.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he will use the Defense Production Act to increase manufacturing of swabs used to test for the coronavirus.
Many governors have for weeks urged the White House to further evoke federal powers to increase private industry’s production of medical supplies as health officials work to slow the spread of the virus. Trump has generally been reluctant to do so.
But the president said during a briefing Sunday evening that he would use the measure to increase production of swabs and that he would soon announce that production reaching 10 million per month.
To emphasize the point, Trump waved a swab in front of reporters. Trump also said Vice President Mike Pence would hold a call with governors on Monday to discuss testing and send a list of lab facilities in their states.
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has announced new guidelines requiring nursing homes nationwide to report to patients, their families and the federal government when they have cases of coronavirus.
Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said during a Sunday evening White House press briefing that the new rules will mandate that nursing homes report cases to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She said the moves are aimed at increasing transparency about the spread of the virus at facilities where populations can be especially vulnerable to its effects.
There have been 7,121 deaths at long-term care facilities nationwide, according to an Associated Press tally.
Verma also discussed plans to allow elective surgeries to resume after being placed on hold during the pandemic.
That move is coming as part of larger Trump administration guidelines to reopen the economy and Verma said lifting restrictions would be gradual — not like flipping on a light switch, but “more like a sunrise.”
BERLIN — The European Center for Disease Control says the continent now has more than 1 million confirmed cases and almost 100,000 deaths from the new coronavirus.
According to a tally posted on the ECDC website Sunday, Spain had the most cases in the region with 191,726, followed by Italy, Germany, Britain and France.
It listed Italy as having the most deaths in Europe, with 23,227, followed by Spain, France, Britain and Belgium.
According to the tally, Europe accounts for almost half the global case load and more than half the total deaths.
NEW YORK — The coronavirus death toll in New York dropped again, a sign that Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday means the state is “on the other side of the plateau” and that ongoing social distancing practices are working to stem the spread of the virus.
Cuomo said 507 people died on Saturday, down 33 from the previous day. Hospitalizations and other medical indicators are trending downward.
But Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio maintained their warnings that people in New York City and the rest of the state need to stay vigilant.
De Blasio blasted President Donald Trump, saying Sunday that the president is betraying his fellow New Yorkers by failing to push for billions of dollars in additional federal aid needed to help the city deal with the coronavirus economic crisis.
De Blasio referenced an infamous tabloid headline — “FORD TO CITY: DROP DEAD” — from 1975 when then-President Gerald Ford denied assistance to spare New York from bankruptcy.
“Are you going to save New York City,” the mayor said, “or are you saying to New York City ‘drop dead?’”
France’s prime minister warned Sunday that his compatriots will need to “learn to live with the virus” after the country lifts its lockdown.
People will probably be required to wear masks in public transport, and those who can work from home should continue doing so, even after France starts easing confinement rules May 11, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.
And he suggested that no one should be planning faraway summer vacations.
The virus has hit France especially hard, killing nearly 20,000 people as of Sunday and overwhelming its renowned health system.
While the virus appears to have peaked in France earlier this month and is now receding “slowly but surely,” Philippe warned: “Our life after May 11 will not be the same as before. … And probably not for a long time.”
He warned that the economic crisis, France’s worst since World War II, “will be brutal.”
Philippe said France is “far from herd immunity,” citing estimations that about 2 million to 6 million French people have been infected with the virus, or about 3% to 9% of the population. He did not elaborate on the projections.
BERLIN — The head of the World Health Organization has warned countries that are moving to ease their pandemic lockdowns to be prepared to respond rapidly to any resurgence.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual meeting of health ministers from the G-20 group of major developed and emerging economies Sunday that he was “encouraged” by the fact that several are “starting to plan how to ease social restrictions.”
But he said “it is critical that these measures are a phased process.”
Tedros told ministers that “lifting so-called lockdown restrictions is not the end of the epidemic in any country; it’s just the beginning of the next phase.”
He said that “it’s vital in this next phase that countries educate, engage and empower their people to prevent and respond rapidly to any resurgence; to ensure they have the capacity to detect, test, isolate and care for every case, and trace every contact; and to ensure their health systems have the capacity to absorb any increase in cases.”
Tedros also expressed concern about the growing pace of the pandemic in poor countries that lack the resources to cope with a major outbreak.
In an apparent retort to leaders such as U.S. President Donald Trump, who slammed the organization’s response to the pandemic, Tedros insisted that “since the beginning, WHO has sounded the alarm bell loud and clear.”
He also urged ministers “to continue to fight the pandemic with determination, guided by science and evidence.”
LOS ANGELES — California has for the first time released details about nursing homes facing coronavirus outbreaks, with three facilities in Los Angeles among the hardest-hit, as the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths across the state continue to rise on Sunday.
The Department of Public Health published a list of nearly 260 skilled nursing facilities with more than 3,000 total positive cases among patients and staff.
The information released Friday is a “point in time snapshot” representing 86% of California’s 1,224 nursing homes that had reported data within the previous 24 hours, the department said on its website.
Skilled nursing facilities are a particular concern because of the age and health conditions of residents, and their close living arrangements. Outbreaks have been reported in facilities in much of the state, and dozens of residents have died.
EL PASO, Texas — As Texas took its first steps toward reopening — starting with state parks — caveats in the plan popped up in the massive state’s far western corner, where the spread of coronavirus is showing no signs of slowing.
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department opened online reservations for day passes, tours and camping and a message that parks that can reopen Monday will, per Gov. Greg Abbott’s orders.
But in El Paso, at least, Mayor Dee Margo said two popular sites — Franklin Mountains and Hueco Tanks state parks — will remain closed.
El Paso’s exceptions hint that future openings of government services and businesses will be complicated, fraught with stipulations based on local conditions in Texas and beyond.
At least 18,923 people have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, an increase from about 18,200 cases the day before. The number of people who have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, is now at least 477.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota health officials said the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the state has jumped by 93.
According to the state Department of Health, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 1,635, compared with 1,542 the day before.
Of the new cases, Minnehaha County accounts for 86. Minnehaha County is the location of a large outbreak at a Sioux Falls pork processing plant.
The Argus Leader reports the number of Smithfield employees who have tested positive for the coronavirus increased by 18 to 725 on Sunday. The Department of Health said 143 non-employees who had close contact with Smithfield workers tested positive as of Sunday.
No new deaths from the coronavirus were reported in South Dakota, but the state has recorded seven deaths from COVID-19.
MILAN — Italy on Sunday registered the lowest number of deaths of people with coronavirus in a month, with the death toll rising by 433 in the past 24 hours.
That brings the national total to 23,660, still the second-highest in the world after the United States. The number of positives rose by just over 3,000 to 178,972 — the lowest increase in more than a month.
Because of the lack of comprehensive testing, health authorities estimate that the number of cases and deaths have been significantly under-estimated.
Italy was the first western country to be hit by the coronavirus, in late February. While the epidemic curve continues to plateau, authorities have begun discussions on how to ease a nationwide lockdown, which has been extended through May 3.
Pressure on Italian hospitals continues to ease, but by just 26 beds on Sunday, with 25,033 people hospitalized and 2,635 in intensive care.
PARIS — Paris has shut down part of its water system after discovering trace amounts of the virus in water used for cleaning streets and watering public gardens.
City Hall said in a statement Sunday that Paris drinking water remains safe.
A municipal water management laboratory discovered “tiny traces” of the virus at 4 of 27 sampling points in the city’s network for non-drinking water, the statement said. That network is distinct from the city’s potable water system.
After the discovery, the city suspended use of the non-drinking water network for public places and is using the potable water system instead.
The non-drinking water is pumped in from the Seine River and an adjacent canal, and is used for street cleaning, watering parks and in some city fountains. All Paris parks, gardens and fountains are closed to the public as part of France’s anti-virus lockdown.
It is unclear if water is a potential vector for transmission, but the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other experts say there’s no evidence so far that COVID-19 sickens people through their digestive systems.
WASHINGTON — Washington DC health officials announced Sunday morning that 127 positive new COVID-19 infections had been identified, bringing the total up to 2,793, with five new deaths for a total of 96.
Mayor Muriel Bowser declared a state of emergency on March 11 and issued a stay-home order on March 30 for Washington’s approximately 700,000 residents.
This week she extended the state of emergency through late May and announced that public school buildings would remain closed through the end of the school year.
On Sunday, Bowser announced plans to turn Washington DC’s convention center into a 1,500-bed field hospital.
LONDON — A British doctor held a lone protest outside Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s office Sunday to highlight the lack of personal protective equipment for the country’s medical workers battling the coronavirus outbreak.
Meenal Viz is a junior clinical fellow with the U.K. National Health Service. He wore hospital scrubs and a facemask as he held a hand-drawn sign outside Downing Street that said, “Protect Healthcare Workers.”
She said she was demonstrating for vulnerable members of staff. The British government has been under fire for weeks over the distribution of PPE. At least 50 NHS workers have died after contracting the virus, including a pregnant nurse whose baby was delivered by emergency Caesarean operation.
“We are still in a position where we’re on our knees begging for PPE and if we had enough we wouldn’t have grannies stitching up our masks and we wouldn’t have pensioners raising money for the NHS,” said Viz, who is herself pregnant.
“The government should have been prepared a long time ago and that’s why we are in this position now.”
British officials are scrambling to source equipment and said a consignment of 84 tons, including 400,000 gowns, is on its way from Turkey.
PARIS — France will make an exception to its strict virus confinement measures to allow families to visit relatives in nursing homes starting Monday.
More than 7,000 people believed to have the virus have died in French nursing homes, without family at their sides because of virus protection measures.
France banned all nursing home visits early in the pandemic, and many residents have been confined to their rooms for weeks, because the virus has been especially dangerous for the elderly. Several other European countries hard-hit by the virus have imposed similar bans.
Health Minister Olivier Veran acknowledged the danger of isolation for care home residents, and announced Sunday that visits will be allowed starting Monday “under extremely limited conditions.”
No more than two family members will be allowed, and they will not be able to touch their elderly loved ones, he said.
LONDON — Britain reported 596 more coronavirus-related hospital deaths on Sunday to raise the total to 16,060.
The health department’s latest daily number is down 292 from the previous day’s 888 deaths. Britain posted a record daily death toll of 980 just over a week ago.
Sunday’s count is the lowest since April 6 when 439 deaths were reported.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota has reported 143 new confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 13 additional deaths.
The new cases bring the total confirmed in Minnesota to 2,356 since testing began in early March, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. Health officials said Sunday a total of 134 people have died in Minnesota from the virus.
In southwestern Minnesota, 60 people have tested positive in Nobles County where many workers have been sickened at a meatpacking plant. That is up 24 from Saturday. It is unclear how many of the new cases in the county are tied to the outbreak at the JBS pork plant in Worthington.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia will test all employees in the country’s nursing homes for the new coronavirus because of the growing number of infected people in those facilities.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic says 40,000 people will be given rapid tests to determine which of the homes have been hit by the virus.
Full tests that give more precise results will follow.
Of the 12 people who have died of COVID-19 in Slovakia, seven were clients in a nursing home in the town of Pezinok located just northeast of the capital of Bratislava.
Government figures released Sunday show Slovakia has 1,161 people infected with the new coronavirus.
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s president extended the country’s lockdown until May 3, warning of an upsurge in coronavirus infections.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa said mines and the manufacturing sector will be allowed to reopen to help the country’s stalled economy.
The southern Africa country has been on lockdown for three weeks and it was to end at midnight.
Zimbabwe has so far recorded 25 cases of COVID-19 and three deaths. But like most Africa countries, it is bracing for a dramatic increase in cases as WHO and other researchers predict a steep rise in cases in a continent plagued by weak health systems and shortages of water necessary to prevent spread of the virus.
As of Sunday, 52 of Africa’s 54 countries had recorded cases of COVID-19, with 21,000 cases and 1,055 deaths.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health minister has said a total of 2,017 people have died of the novel coronavirus, with 127 new deaths in the past 24 hours.
Fahrettin Koca, in figures tweeted Sunday, said 3,977 new infections were confirmed in the past day, bringing the total number to 86,306.
The minister also said 11,976 people have recovered so far in Turkey, including 1,523 in the past 24 hours.
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