The Latest: US Senator to self-quarantine, staffer positive
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:
— U.S. Senator to self-quarantine after staff member tests positive.
— Vice President Mike Pence self-isolating after aide tests positive.
— U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announces modest easing of lockdown.
— WHO calls report it withheld coronavirus information “false allegations.”
— Italy has fewest new COVID-19 cases since start of lockdown.
WASHINGTON — Sen. Lamar Alexander will not return to Washington this week and will self-quarantine in his home state of Tennessee after a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19.
The Republican senator will be working remotely and will chair the Senate health committee hearing on Tuesday morning by video conference. Witnesses will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, Dr. Brett Giroir and Dr. Stephen Hahn, according to Alexander Chief of Staff David Cleary.
Fauci, Redfield and Hahn have also self-quarantined after exposure to an infected staffer. The witnesses will testify from remote locations as well.
Cleary said the staff member tested positive Sunday and is home recovering, and doing well. Alexander consulted with his physician and decided not to go back to Washington. He will self-quarantine for 14 days “out of an abundance of caution.”
Cleary said almost all of the senator’s Washington staff are working from home, and there is no need for any other staff member to self-quarantine.
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence is self-isolating after an aide tested positive for the coronavirus last week.
An administration official says Pence is voluntarily limiting his exposure. He has repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19 since his exposure but is following the advice of medical officials.
Pence’s move comes after three members of the White House’s coronavirus task force placed themselves in quarantine after coming into contact with the aide, Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller.
Pence was informed of the positive test Friday morning before he left Washington for a day trip to Iowa.
“Vice President Pence will continue to follow the advice of the White House Medical Unit and is not in quarantine,” said Pence spokesperson Devin O’Malley.
“Additionally, Vice President Pence has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow.”
LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a modest easing of the country’s coronavirus lockdown Sunday and outlined his government’s road map for further lifting restrictions in the coming months.
In a televised address to the nation, Johnson said people in Britain who can’t work from home, such as those in construction or manufacturing jobs, “should be actively encouraged to go to work” this week.
He said that starting Wednesday, a restriction limiting outdoor exercise to once a day will be lifted and that people will be able to take “unlimited amounts.”
The prime minister, who spent a week in the hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19, stressed that social distancing guidelines still will have to be observed and said it would be “madness” to allow a second spike in infections.
Johnson also laid out a “conditional plan” for relaxing other lockdown restrictions in the coming months, including the possible return to school from some younger children on June 1. He said he hoped some of the hospitality industry can reopen a month later.
BERLIN — The World Health Organization has dismissed as “false allegations” a media report that it withheld information about the new coronavirus following pressure from China.
The U.N. agency said in a statement late Saturday that a German magazine’s report about a telephone conversation between WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 21 was “unfounded and untrue.”
Weekly Der Spiegel reported that Xi asked Tedros during the call to hold back information about human-to-human transmission of the virus and delay declaring a pandemic. The magazine quoted Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, BND, which declined to comment Sunday.
Der Spiegel also claimed that the BND concluded up to six weeks of time to fight the outbreak had been lost due to China’s information policy.
The U.N. agency said Tedros and Xi “have never spoken by phone” and added that “such inaccurate reports distract and detract from WHO’s and the world’s efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”
It said that China confirmed human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus on Jan. 20.
WHO officials issued a statement two days later saying there was evidence of human-to-human transmission in Wuhan, but more investigation was necessary. The global body declared COVID-19 a pandemic on Feb. 11.
U.S. President Donald Trump has been among the strongest critics of WHO’s handling of the pandemic, accusing it of deference to China and ceasing payments to the agency.
ROME — Italy has registered its lowest total of daily new COVID-19 cases since the start of the nationwide lockdown in early March.
According to Health Ministry data, 802 coronavirus infections were confirmed in the 24-hour period ending Sunday evening.
That’s also the first time daily new cases have dropped below the 1,000-mark since very early in the country’s outbreak. Italy now totals 219,070 known cases.
There were 165 deaths because of the virus since Saturday evening, raising the number of known deaths of infected patients to 30,560.
Authorities say the real total is surely much higher, as deaths at home or nursing care facilities or personal residence aren’t counted if COVID-19 testing isn’t done, although many of those deceased may well have had the illness.
Helping to account for such a lower daily new case total was Lombardy, Italy’s most stricken region. That northern region registered 282 infections in the 24-hour period. In recent days it had registered several hundred fresh cases daily.
NEW YORK — New York nursing homes must start twice-weekly coronavirus testing for all staffers and will no longer be sent COVID-19 patients leaving hospitals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced after facing growing criticism over the handling of nursing facility outbreaks.
Of the nation’s more than 26,000 coronavirus deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, a fifth of them — about 5,300 — are in New York, according to a count by The Associated Press.
That’s the highest number of nursing home deaths in the country, though other states have also struggled to control the virus in nursing facilities.
New York nursing home residents’ relatives, health care watchdogs and lawmakers have said the state didn’t focus enough on the threat and then the devastating reality of COVID-19 in nursing homes.
Critics have faulted the state for taking weeks to release the number of deaths in individual nursing homes — and still not releasing the number of cases — and for not conducting or requiring widespread testing in the facilities.
SEATTLE — All passengers traveling through Seattle-Tacoma International Airport will be required to wear cloth face coverings beginning May 18 to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
The requirement also applies to airport workers, including Port of Seattle employees, and visitors who aren’t flying, according to The Seattle Times.
The move announced by the Port of Seattle on Saturday night exempts people who can’t tolerate facial coverings for medical reasons, as well as very young children.
It’s not yet clear how the Port of Seattle will enforce the requirement, but port spokesman Peter McGraw said the policy will be refined in the coming week.
Several major airlines and some airports also are requiring passengers to wear masks. Philadelphia International Airport and Los Angeles International Airport will require all passengers and visitors to wear masks starting Monday. Denver International Airport started requiring all passengers to wear face coverings this past week.
Some carriers, including Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, require passengers to wear face coverings when they are on the plane.
The Transportation Security Administration now requires workers at screening checkpoints to wear masks. At Sea-Tac, seven TSA employees have tested positive for the coronavirus.
DENVER — Catholics across Colorado are allowed to celebrate Mass in-person again as the coronavirus eases in the state, church officials said.
While the details vary church to church, congregants must wear masks and practice social distancing, Colorado Public Radio reported Sunday.
Schedules also have changed, and some churches are celebrating Mass more frequently and are asking people to sign up ahead of time to attend.
Mary Pettifor of Littleton said she has enjoyed watching services from all over the world online over the past few weeks, but it’s not the same as attending in person.
“This is the real thing. This is our Mass. This is our Lord. Body, blood, soul and divinity,” she said. “And if you compare that to something online, that’s nothing.”
She used a scarf to cover her nose and mouth at the Holy Ghost Church in downtown Denver on Saturday and said she isn’t worried about getting sick.
“What will be will be,” she said. “If you’re a Catholic and if you’re in the state of grace, then you have to be ready to die anyway.”
HELENA, Mont. — Montana state parks and fishing access sites have experienced a major increase in visitation as residents spend time outdoors amid health restrictions related to the coronavirus.
Estimated visitation at state parks climbed by more than 60% compared to this time in previous years, The Independent Record reported Saturday.
Managers estimate there were nearly 152,000 visitors at state parks in March and April this year, compared to about 95,000 in 2019 and 2018.
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock issued a stay-at-home order, which included an exemption for outdoor recreation but also encouraged those going outside to stay close to home.
Parks close to larger urban areas experienced some of the most significant increases.
GALLUP, N.M. — A governor-ordered lockdown designed to combat a surging coronavirus outbreak in this western New Mexico city bordering the Navajo Nation expired Sunday, but the city’s mayor said the problem persists.
“Our numbers are still getting higher and higher on a daily basis,” said Gallup Mayor Louis Bonaguidi, who has called the COVID-19 outbreak a “crisis of the highest order.”
Bonaguidi also told CNN in a brief interview that city officials likely will now ask every Gallup resident to wear a mask when they go outside.
Bonaguidi didn’t immediately return a call Sunday from The Associated Press seeking further comment.
Gallup is in McKinley County, which has just 3.5% of New Mexico’s population but had nearly one-third of the state’s 4,863 coronavirus cases as of Sunday and one-fifth of the 200 known deaths.
The city is one of the largest communities bordering the Navajo Nation, which had 2,973 positive coronavirus cases as of Saturday with 98 reported deaths. The vast reservation is the nation’s largest with 175,000 people and extends into part of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.
CAIRO — Yemeni health authorities have reported 17 new cases of coronavirus, including a fatality in the country’s south.
The Health Ministry says Sunday’s figures have taken the tally in areas under control of the internationally recognized government to at least 51 confirmed cases, including eight deaths.
Most cases were in the southern port city of Aden, that has been witnessing a new chapter of political infighting between government forces and southern separatists who declared self-rule last month, leaving health authorizes in disarray.
Yemen, which is divided between warring parties and embroiled in a civil war for more than five years, has a fragile health system with half of the health facilities not properly functioning.
In the country’s north, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who took control of the capital, Sanaa, since 2014 have announced only one case for a dead Somalian migrant, raising questions about extent of the virus outbreak. The World Health Organization warned of a lack of transparency.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.