The Latest: US starts releasing some detained migrants

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:

—Trudeau warns U.S. not to block 3M from sending respirators to Canada.

—Family unable to attend 13-year-old British boy’s funeral.

—Chancellor Angela Merkel urging Germans to stay home over Easter.

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HOUSTON — Immigration lawyers say the U.S. government has unexpectedly started to release detained migrants in Louisiana amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Several lawyers say they have been notified that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would start releasing their clients, some of whom had been previously denied parole. Nathalia Dickson, a lawyer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, says she knows of 16 people who are being released from one jail.

ICE spokesman Bryan Cox says the threat of the coronavirus is one factor in an ongoing custody review process, but denied there had been a “policy change.”

The agency has faced pressure to reduce its population of roughly 36,000 detainees, about half of whom are accused of civil violations rather than a criminal offense. Experts have warned that the coronavirus outbreak could particularly harm jails where social distancing and other practices to control the spread are difficult.

ICE says six detainees have been confirmed to have COVID-19, none in Louisiana.

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SEATTLE — State mental health officials plan to release as many as 60 patients from Washington’s largest psychiatric hospital in order to reduce some of the stress that the new coronavirus has placed on staff at the 850-bed facility.

Sixteen workers and six patients at Western State Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19 and one patient died.

Moving some of the civil-commitment patients to group homes or supported-living facilities will help relieve some of the strain on the system, said Sean Murphy, Behavioral Health assistant secretary.

Western State already faced staffing shortages before COVID-19, he said, and after the outbreak, they released some of the high-risk staff for their protection, which made the situation more difficult.

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PARIS — France’s coronavirus death count has jumped to more than 6,500, up by more than 1,000, since the pandemic began spreading around France.

Authorities have started including victims in homes for the aged. The chief of the country’s national health agency, Jerome Salomon, says reports from 3,000 establishments for the aged — still far from the total — show 1,416 residents died in the facilities from COVID-19.

The rising figures were announced as 160,000 police officers were deployed to ensure France’s strict confinement measures are respected at what normally would be the start of spring vacation.

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CHICAGO — The American Medical Association is urging all U.S. governors to impose stay-at-home orders to fight the spread of COVID-19.

“It is vital that states keep residents at home to avoid overwhelming our health care systems and depleting the equipment, resources and manpower needed to care for the influx of critically ill patients,”’ the AMA said in a letter to the governors signed by the group’s CEO, Dr. James Madara.

The AMA also wants governors to enact emergency orders to close non-essential businesses, limit non-essential activities and prohibit gatherings.

Physical distancing is the only effective mechanism to stop the spread of the virus, the group said.

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MOSCOW — Russia’s air transportation agency says it is banning flights that were to bring Russians back to the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, aiming to curtail infections at home.

The statement reported by Russian news agencies late Friday comes after the last-minute callback of an Aeroflot flight to New York from Moscow that was to repatriate Americans and the cancellation of a flight from New York to Moscow.

The statement says the move is “to maximize the protection of the health of Russian citizens and to limit the new wave of imported cases of coronavirus infection.”

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — Orthodox Christian faithful took to their balconies in Cyprus’ coastal city of Limassol to chant a centuries-old Orthodox hymn in honor of health workers battling against the coronavirus.

With many holding candles, the faithful tuned in to radio and TV broadcasts of services held Friday evening at empty churches to chant along to the hymn and appeal for divine help in overcoming the virus.

Dedicated to Jesus Christ’s mother as “the champion leader,” the hymn is part of month-long Salutations to the Virgin Mary services.

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VATICAN CITY — Italians sitting down for dinner and turning on the evening news were greeted by Pope Francis.

RAI state TV broadcast a recorded message from the pope, who said: “Let us pray to the Lord for all those who are tried in Italy and in the world” by the COVID-19 pandemic. Said Francis: “This evening I have the possibility to enter your homes” and asked viewers’ permission to chat with them a little.

Francis said he was thinking of the lively children forced with the rest of their families to stay home during government-ordered lockdowns aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus infections. He said “in his heart” he is holding those with family members sick with COVID-19 or who had died.

Francis will celebrate solemn Holy Week ceremonies without the public, starting with Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says the state has received about one-third of what it requested from the National Strategic Stockpile and has been told not to expect any more any time soon.

Cooper underscored the difficult situation that state and local governments face in trying to resupply themselves by placing equipment orders.

“Right now, governments at all levels, hospitals, law enforcement and others are competing against each other for a scarce amount of personal protective equipment,” he said. “That means our buyers are placing orders nonstop. But most of them aren’t getting filled. There simply isn’t enough on the market to go around.”

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WASHINGTON — The White House is stepping up precautions to protect the president and vice president from contracting the new coronavirus.

Starting Friday, anyone who is expected to be in “close proximity” to either President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence will be given a quick COVID-19 test “to evaluate for pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers status to limit inadvertent transmission.”

That’s according to White House spokesman Judd Deere.

All visitors to the White House complex already have their temperatures taken when entering the building and if they will be in close proximity to either Trump or Pence.

Trump took the new COVID-19 test on Thursday and the White House doctor said results were back in 15 minutes. He tested negative.

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A first look at recent U.S. death certificate data confirms that most of the initial American coronavirus deaths were people age 65 and older. But it also notes that about 1 in 5 were middle-aged.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted the data online Friday. It reflects 1,150 U.S. coronavirus deaths that occurred through the last week of March. That tally is several hundreds deaths lower than other totals reported for the same period, because it relies on death certificate information which can come in weeks after other kinds of reports.

The new data says 56% of deaths were people 75 and older, and another 23% were people in their late 60s and early 70s. But another 17% were ages 45 to 64, and 3% were 35 to 44. The statistics were smaller for younger adults. One child died.

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ROME — Lombardy’s hospitals are beginning to lighten up a little, says the health commissioner of the northern Italian region which has been the epicenter of Italy’s devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

Commissioner Giulio Gallera notes on Friday that the number of arrivals at Lombardy’s emergency rooms and hospital admissions were decreasing. He attributes the encouraging numbers to citizens heeding the strict rules of a national stay-at-home decree and even tighter regional rules. He is urging no let-up in the following of the rules.

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HAVANA — Cuban officials say a shipment of coronavirus aid from Asia’s richest man, Jack Ma, has been blocked by the six-decade U.S. embargo on the island.

Carlos M. Pereira, Cuba’s ambassador to China, says on his blog that Ma’s foundation tried to send Cuba 100,000 facemasks and 10 COVID-19 diagnostic kits last month, along with other aid including ventilators and gloves.

Cuba was one of 24 countries in the region meant to receive the donations announced on March 21 by the Jack Ma Foundation, which is sending similar aid to countries around the world, including the United States.

Cuban officials say the cargo carrier of Colombia-based Avianca Airlines declined to carry the aid to Cuba because its major shareholder is a U.S.-based company subject to the trade embargo on Cuba. The embargo has exceptions for food and medical aid, but companies are often afraid to carry out related financing or transportation due to the risk of fines or prosecution under the embargo.

Human-rights groups have been calling for the U.S. to lift sanctions on Venezuela, Cuba and Iran during the coronavirus epidemic in order to permit the flow of more aid. The Trump administration has argued that only the countries’ government would benefit from the sanctions relief.

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MEXICO CITY — The coronavirus pandemic is even closing the taps on Corona beer — along with most other brews across Mexico.

Major breweries announced they are suspending operations in line with government orders for non-essential businesses to keep their workers at home.

Grupo Modelo, the maker of Corona and other popular brands, said it will suspend its operations at plants around the country by Sunday. The company pointed out in a statement that thousands of farmers depend on it buying their grain. It said had a plan that would allow it to continue production with 75% of its workforce at home if the government decides to allow it to continue operating.

Dutch brewer Heineken also announced Friday that it was suspending production at its plants and would stop distribution by Sunday in Mexico.

Some Mexican states have also imposed dry laws that restrict the sale of alcohol during the health crisis.

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BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging Germans to stay home over Easter and says it would be “absolutely irresponsible” for her to set a date now for the loosening of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Germany has largely shut down public life and banned gatherings of more than two people in public. Those restrictions will apply until at least April 19 and are to be reviewed after Easter.

Merkel, speaking in her first video message after emerging from two weeks of quarantine at home, says this will be a “very different” Easter and impressed on her compatriots that “even short trips inside Germany, to the seaside or the mountains or relatives, can’t happen over Easter this year.”

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it would be a mistake for the United States to block 3M from sending respirators to Canada.

3M said Friday the Trump administration has requested 3M cease exporting respirators that they currently manufacture in the U.S. to Canada and Latin America. The company says there are significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to health care workers in Canada and Latin America, where 3M is a critical supplier of respirators.

Trudeau noted the U.S. also receives essential medical supplies and personnel from Canada and says they are making that point to the Trump administration. He says that message is getting through.

The prime minister says he is confident that the close and deep relationship between Canada and the U.S. will hold strong and that will not have to see interruptions in supply chains in either direction.

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LONDON — A 13-year-old British boy who died from the new coronavirus has been buried at a ceremony his family was not able to attend.

Ismail Mohamed Abdulwahab died Monday at London’s King’s College Hospital. He is the youngest known victim of the pandemic in Britain.

He was interred Friday in a Muslim burial ground in Chislehurst, south London. Mourners wearing face masks stood apart from one another to observe social distancing rules as the boy’s coffin was lowered into the ground by four people wearing in protective body suits and face masks.

None of Ismail’s immediate family could attend because they are in isolation after two of his six siblings developed symptoms of the virus.

Family friend Mark Stephenson said Ismail’s younger brother and older sister have developed mild symptoms including a fever and loss of taste.

He said Ismail’s family was “devastated” at not being able to attend the funeral but had been “very moved by the warmth and very positive messages of support from people” after his death.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Categories: National & International News