The Latest: Trump says states ‘in good shape’ on testing

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 criticizes governors who’ve pushed for expanded testing.

— Businesses to begin reopening in Tennessee, but not in big cities.

— Georgia governor says gyms, hair salons, other businesses can soon reopen.

— Maryland governor secures 500,000 tests from South Korea.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has criticized governors who’ve said they don’t have enough tests for the new coronavirus to ease restrictions on economic activity.

Many of the nation’s governors have expressed concerns about returning to a more normal course of business without greatly expanding testing.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan of Maryland announced Monday that he had secured 500,000 tests from South Korea after more than 20 days of negotiations. He said states had been forced to fend for themselves and compete against each other for tests.

But Trump said at his daily briefing on Monday that Hogan did not understand “too much about what was going on.” Trump also says Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker of Illinois “did not understand his capacity.”

Trump says the administration provided governors on Monday with a list of labs where they could find additional testing capacity. The president says “we’re in very good shape on testing.”

Trump also says ”it is a complex subject,” and noted that the states should lead.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced Monday that businesses across the majority of the state will begin reopening as early as next week.

The Republican governor says his mandatory safer-at-home order will expire on April 30, which will pave the way for 89 out of the state’s 95 counties to begin opening businesses.

Lee’s announcement does not apply to the state’s largest cities, including Nashville and Memphis. Those areas have their own public health districts and are not overseen by Tennessee’s Department of Health.

“While I am not extending the safer at home order past the end of April, we are working directly with our major metropolitan areas to ensure they are in a position to reopen as soon and safely as possible,” Lee said.

Some businesses will be allowed to reopen as early as April 27, but it’s unclear exactly which ones will be granted such clearance. Lee told reporters that such details would be finalized by his economy recovery team later this week.

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WASHINGTON — Social Security recipients who don’t usually file income taxes and care for dependent children have just a couple of days left to provide information so they can get an additional $500 per child from the recently passed coronavirus bill.

Social Security officials on Monday urged beneficiaries who have children under age 17 to go to the IRS website for non-filers and enter their details by Wednesday.

The official advice applies to people who get retirement, survivors or disability benefits, who have dependent children, and who did not file 2018 or 2019 taxes. The $500 payment per eligible child is on top of the automatic $1,200 individual payment the legislation provides.

People who miss the April 22 deadline will still get the $1,200 individual payment.

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration says the Department of Defense is finalizing negotiations under the Defense Production Act with a company to increase nasal swab production.

Several governors have said they need more swabs to ramp up testing for the novel coronavirus. They say greater testing is necessary to return to a more normal course of business.

Peter Navarro, who oversees efforts to incorporate the Defense Production Act in combating the spread of the virus, says the contract is being negotiated with Puritan Medical Products of Guilford, Maine.

He did not get into specifics about the amount, but he says the contract would allow Puritan to increase machine tooling and staffing with the “broader goal of increasing nasal swab production from 3 million a month to more than 20 million within 30 days of the contract award.”

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AUSTIN, Texas — The lifting of coroanvirus restrictions in Texas is underway, starting with state parks reopening.

Hikers arrived early Monday at one of Texas’ most popular outdoor spots, a giant granite dome called Enchanted Rock, for the first time since Republican Gov. Greg Abbott shuttered state parks earlier this month to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Signs instructed visitors to wear masks and stay at least 6 feet away from other hikers.

The parks are the first phase of what Abbott says will be a gradual reopening of Texas. Doctors this week will also be allowed to resume nonessential surgeries, and retail stores will be allowed to sell items curbside.

Abbott says more relaxed restrictions are coming next week. Texas has more than 19,000 cases of coronavirus and nearly 500 deaths.

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LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska will take a first step toward relaxing its statewide coronavirus restrictions on May 4 by allowing hospitals to resume elective surgeries if they meet certain conditions, Gov. Pete Ricketts announced Monday.

The Republican governor said he will lift the state’s ban on elective surgeries for hospitals that have at least 30% of their beds, intensive-care unit space and ventilators available. Hospitals must also have at least two weeks worth of personal protective equipment in stock for employees before can resume surgeries. The order also applies to veterinary and dental services, Ricketts said.

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ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has rolled out aggressive plans to reopen the state’s economy, saying many businesses shuttered to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus may reopen their doors as early as Friday.

The Republican governor announced that gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors are among the businesses allowed to reopen Friday — as long as owners follow strict social distancing and hygiene requirements. By Monday, movie theaters may resume selling tickets and restaurants limited to takeout orders can go back to limited dine-in service.

“In the same way that we carefully closed businesses and urged operations to end to mitigate the virus’s spread, today we’re announcing plans to incrementally and safely reopen sectors of our economy,” Kemp said.

In addition to calls from President Donald Trump, Kemp has heard scattered public calls in Georgia to lift restrictions.

At least 733 deaths statewide have been linked to the virus, the Georgia Department of Public Health said. Infections have been confirmed in nearly 19,000 people.

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FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Sierra Leone President President Julius Maada Bio will be working from home for the next two weeks after a member of his security staff tested positive for coronavirus, a government spokesman confirmed late Monday.

The president did not directly address his plans in a speech broadcast on state television but told Sierra Leoneans that the process of identifying the man’s primary and secondary contacts already had begun.

“Let me assure the public that members of my family and staff are healthy and have shown no symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” he said in the televised speech. “As president I will continue to provide leadership for the fight against COVID-19.”

Howard Thomas, a spokesman with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, later confirmed that the president would be working from home.

Sierra Leone, which lost nearly 4,000 people during the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, was among the last countries in Africa to report a coronavirus case. While the country is among the poorest in the world, it gained substantial experience tracing and isolating contacts during the Ebola outbreak.

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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday compared the fight against the cornonavirus to the sacrifice needed during World War II, criticizing protesters who flocked to the Michigan Capitol last week to denounce her weekslong restrictions against work and gatherings.

“President Trump called this a war and it is exactly that. So let’s act like it,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said.

“In World War II, there weren’t people lining up at the Capitol to protest the fact that they had to drop everything they were doing and build planes or tanks or ration food,” the governor said.

It was the second time that the governor publicly went after the thousands of protesters who drove and honked past the Capitol last Wednesday. About 150 stood on the Capitol grounds with signs that portrayed Whitmer as a dictator who was depriving them of a living with her stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns.

Meanwhile, the state health department reported a daily rise in new coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths, but both were smaller than the new numbers disclosed Sunday. Cases increased by 576 to 32,000, while deaths rose by 77 to 2,468.

They included a 5-year-old Detroit girl, Skylar Herbert, the youngest person to die in Michigan.

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WEST POINT, Ga. — Automaker Kia plans to reopen its manufacturing plant in west Georgia next week after a nearly monthlong shutdown that the company attributed to supply chain shortages and concerns of spreading the coronavirus.

All 2,800 workers at Kia’s plant in West Point will return to work when production resumes, said Rick Douglas, spokesman for Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia. Douglas did not give a specific reopening date. The Kia plant, the only auto manufacturer in Georgia, is located about 110 miles southwest of Atlanta. It has been shut down since March 30.

Even before auto production resumes at the Georgia plant, about 40 workers Monday began making face shields at the facility to help offset a shortage of protective gear for medical workers and first responders.

The company said employees making face shields are having their temperatures scanned and are being provided with face masks and gloves. Their work stations are being staggered to enforce social distancing.

Douglas said similar safeguards will be used when the rest of Kia’s Georgia employees return to work next week.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland will be able to test 500,000 more people for COVID-19 thanks to a shipment of tests from South Korea.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that his wife Yumi Hogan, who is Korean-American, negotiated the shipment with Korean officials.

The Republican governor said Maryland has been doing everything in its power to increase testing capacity.

“Unfortunately, we have also had to compete with every state in America in our attempts to procure tests from every domestic producer in the U.S. and from sources around the globe,” Hogan said.

Hogan said his wife started talking to Korean officials in late March, setting in motion 22 days of vetting and negotiations.

The governor said adequate testing is one of the four building blocks on the road map to recovery and reopening businesses closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The (Trump) administration made it clear over and over again. They want the states to take the lead, and we have to go out and do it ourselves, and so that’s exactly what we did,” Hogan said.

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THESSALONIKI, Greece — Authorities in Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, say riot police were called in to disperse a group of soccer supporters who defied restrictions to celebrate the birthday of a local club.

Police said at least 10 people were fined and several were detained late Monday after dozens of supporters refused to disperse outside PAOK soccer club’s Toumba Stadium as the club marked 94 years since its foundation.

Riot police used flash grenades to break up the crowd. No injuries were reported.

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BOSTON — Massachusetts has become a hotspot of coronavirus infections, drawing the concern of federal officials and promises of aid from hard-hit New York.

The state’s death toll is expected to surpass 2,000 this week, doubling in less than a week. Officials are scrambling to boost hospital capacity and trace new infections to curb the spread of the disease.

Vice President Mike Pence has said the White House is closely watching the Boston area. The coordinator of the federal coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, said officials are “very much focused” on Massachusetts. There were 146 new deaths reported in Massachusetts on Sunday, bringing the state’s death toll to more than 1,700.

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PARIS — France has reported more than 20,000 deaths attributed to the new coronavirus since the pandemic began, surpassing the deadly heat wave that hit the country in 2003.

The head of the national health agency, Jerome Salomon, said France passed a “very painful, symbolic mark” by registering 12,513 deaths in hospitals and 7,752 in nursing homes as of Monday.

The country has not been counting people who die with the virus at home.

Salomon said the virus has killed more people than have died from the flu in any single winter in the country and more than the 2003 heat wave that left 19,000 people dead.

He said that the epidemic in France has reached a high “plateau” that’s trending slowly downward.

There were 5,683 patients in intensive care across the country, a number that dropped for the 12th straight day.

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