The Latest: Venezuela sees its largest 1-day virus increase
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:
__ Venezuela sees its largest one-day virus increase
— Atlanta zoo opens outdoor exhibits.
— Louisiana governor releases proposal to close budget gap.
— 8 more sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt test positive again.
— Washington state death total reaches 1,000.
CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela is reporting its biggest one-day increase in confirmed coronavirus cases since the pandemic hit the South American nation.
Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said Saturday that the 45 new cases bring Venezuela’s total to 504 illnesses, with 10 resulting in death. Officials have reported a relatively low number of cases since the first were discovered in mid-March.
While Venezuela has reported relatively few cases so far, health experts say its hospitals are especially vulnerable to being overwhelmed. Venezuela is in a deep political and economic crisis that has left its health care system in a shamble.
President Nicolás Maduro ordered a nationwide lockdown shortly after the first cases, and he recently extended it until mid-June, hoping to contain the virus’ spread.
Officials say that 35 of Saturday’s cases involved people returning to Venezuela, including several on a flight from Peru.
BEIJING — China on Sunday reported five new cases of coronavirus, as the commercial hub of Shanghai announced the restart of classes for kindergarteners, first-, second- and third-graders from June 2.
Also, airlines say they have seen a revival of flights.
Of the new cases, two were imported and three were domestic infections in the northeastern province of Jilin that has seen a small spike in cases of unknown origin.
In Shanghai, students retain the option of continuing to follow classes online rather than facing virus testing and social distancing measures to be imposed at schools. As in Beijing and other cities, Shanghai has already re-started classes for middle and high school students preparing for exams.
No new deaths have been reported for the past month, but Jilin added one fatality retroactively, bringing China’s total to 4,634 out of 82,947 cases reported since the outbreak was first detected in the central city of Wuhan late last year. Just 86 people remain hospitalized for treatment of COVID-19 while another 519 people are in supervised isolation for showing signs of the virus or having tested positive without displaying symptoms.
China now has the capacity to perform 1.5 million nucleic acid tests per day, National Health Commission Guo Yanhong told reporters Saturday. The commission is placing a new emphasis on bio-safety, management of laboratories and training of personnel, Guo said.
Meanwhile, the number of domestic flights has returned to 60 percent of pre-outbreak levels, exceeding 10,000 per day for the first time since Feb. 1, the country’s civil aviation regulator reported. The number of flight hit 10,262 on Friday, up from a low of 3,931 flights on Feb. 13, the Civil Aviation Administration of China said. No passenger numbers were given.
With the summer holidays approaching, numerous tourist sites have re-opened, including Beijing’s storied Forbidden City palace complex and Shanghai’s Disneyland resort, although with strict social distancing measures still in place.
ATLANTA — Outdoor exhibits along a one-way flow for visitors at Zoo Atlanta opened Saturday for the first time since mid-March, but indoor habitats, rides, playgrounds and other attractions remain closed because of COVID-19.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports the zoo is limiting the number of visitors by requiring them to make reservations with specific times to enter the park.
Zoo employees had to answer a health survey and have their temperatures taken before returning to work.
Zoo Atlanta deputy director Hayley Murphy says disinfectant is used on the grounds every 60 to 90 minutes and every hour in restrooms.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ proposal to close a $1 billion budget gap caused by the coronavirus pandemic would avoid deep cuts to health care and education programs by relying on hundreds of millions in federal relief aid and a portion of the state’s “rainy day” fund.
Under the plan offered by Edwards, Louisiana would use nearly $1.2 billion in federal assistance approved by Congress to respond to the pandemic and about $90 million from the rainy day fund to fill most of the gaps in the state’s $30 billion-plus budget.
The recommendations would require only modest reductions in the financial year that begins July 1. The free college tuition program, K-12 schools and the social services department would be spared cuts entirely, though college campuses and health programs would take hits.
The Edwards administration submitted its reworked budget proposal to legislative leaders Friday night.
WASHINGTON — Eight more sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive a second time for the new coronavirus, raising to 13 the number who appear to have become infected again while serving aboard the sidelined aircraft carrier.
All the sailors had previously tested positive and had gone through at least two weeks of isolation. Before they were allowed to go back to the ship, all had to test negative twice in a row, with the tests separated by at least a day or two.
On Saturday, a Navy official confirmed eight additional sailors had tested positive again. A day earlier the Navy had said in a statement that five had tested positive a second time. The Navy official was not authorized to speak publicly and requested anonymity.
SANTA FE, N.M. — The loosening of some restrictions imposed on nonessential businesses by New Mexico’s governor to slow the coronavirus outbreak’s spread took effect Saturday, along with a new edict that people wear masks in public under most circumstances.
State officials reported six additional deaths from the outbreak and 185 additional COVID-19 cases.
The loosening of restrictions applied to most of the state but not in the northwest region, where much of the outbreak is centered. Retailers and many services, along with houses of worship, can reopen at limited capacity.
Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham ordered that face masks be worn in public, except with exceptions that include eating, drinking and exercising.
SEATTLE — The number of deaths in Washington state because of the new coronavirus has reached 1,000.
The Washington State Department of Health on Saturday added eight more deaths and listed the total number of confirmed cases at 18,288.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was in the state on Jan. 20 when a man tested positive. He had been traveling in Wuhan, China, where the outbreak appears to have originated and had returned to the Seattle area five days earlier.
The Seattle area also saw the nation’s first deadly coronavirus cluster at a nursing home. The Life Care Center of Kirkland was linked to more than 40 deaths.
GREENVILLE, N.C. — A federal judge on Saturday blocked the enforcement of restrictions that North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper ordered affecting indoor religious services during the coronavirus pandemic.
The order from Judge James C. Dever III came days after two Baptist churches, a minister and a Christian revival group filed a federal lawsuit seeking to immediately block enforcement of rules within the Democratic governor’s executive orders regarding religious services. Dever agreed with the plaintiffs, who argued that the limits violate their right to worship freely and treat churches differently from retailers and other secular activities.
Cooper’s latest order still largely prevented most faith organizations from holding indoor services attended by more than 10 people. His office had said the newest order stating permitted services may “take place outdoors unless impossible” carries only a narrow exception, such as when religious activities dictate they occur indoors with more people.
Cooper’s spokesman, Ford Porter, said the governor’s office disagrees with the decision but will not appeal.
SAN FRANCISCO — More parks and hiking trails welcomed visitors again in California, and one city declared itself a “sanctuary” from the state’s stay-at-home order as diverse regions carved their own path toward reopening.
Officials in Atwater, a city of 30,000 in central California, unanimously agreed not to enforce a nearly 2-month-old order intended to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. That means local authorities won’t interfere with any business or church that decides to reopen ahead of state restrictions.
The declaration was a symbolic gesture of defiance against Gov. Gavin Newson’s order, and the city’s mayor cautioned that businesses were taking their own risks by reopening.
California is moving through the second phase of relaxing its restrictions. Businesses deemed lower risk have been gradually allowed to reopen, with retailers offering curbside pickup.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The results of more than 35,000 COVID-19 tests ordered by a Florida-based health care system and performed by a third-party lab are unreliable, the company said Saturday.
According to AdventHealth, a faith-based health care system, the situation has created “unacceptable delays.” AdventHealth didn’t name the third-party lab but said it had terminated its contract with the lab.
The tests were a mixture of positive and negative results, and some had been at the lab for a while. About 25,000 of the unreliable tests were in the central Florida area.
AdventHealth president and CEO Terry Shaw said the company will notify patients who are impacted.
AdventHealth has 49 hospitals in nine states. Company spokeswoman Melanie Lawhorn said two of those states are joint venture systems and were not affected by the unreliable testing.
CAIRO — Sudan’s Health Ministry has reported the country’s highest one-day tally of coronavirus infections, with 325 new COVID-19 patients and six deaths.
Saturday’s figures have taken the country’s tally to 2,289 confirmed cases, including 97 fatalities, the ministry said. A total of 222 were discharged after recovering.
Most of the country’s COVID-19 patients were in the capital, Khartoum where authorities imposed round-the-clock curfew in April to stem the spread of the virus.
Sudan’s health care system has been weakened by decades of war and sanctions. The country is still reeling from last year’s uprising that toppled longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health ministry says 41 more people have died from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the death toll to 4,096.
The death rate is the lowest registered since the end of March.
Minister Fahrettin Koca also tweeted Saturday that 1,610 new infections were confirmed, which brings the total number of confirmed cases 148,067.
Fifteen provinces, including Istanbul, are on a four-day lockdown. The country has instituted partial lockdowns to combat the novel coronavirus. People under 20 and above 65 have been stuck at home for weeks, though they are now allowed to leave for a few hours on allotted days.
Other easing measures have gone into effect, including the opening of malls, barbershops and hair salons.
The number of provinces under lockdown on weekends and national holidays has dropped from 31 to 15.
ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte acknowledged on Saturday that the reopening of the Italian economy brings a risk of new outbreaks of the coronavirus but said ‘’we must accept it.’’
Conte told reporters during a press conference that the nationwide lockdown that began in early March had brought ‘’the expected results,’’ putting the country in a position to expand economic activity in the second phase of reopening.
Stores, bars, cafes, restaurants, hairdressers and museums are among the business and cultural activities that can resume starting Monday. Gyms and swimming pools can reopen a week after. Travel between regions and into Italy from abroad will be permitted starting June 3.
Conte said the country must accept the risks and open before the availability of a vaccine. But an extensive monitoring system is in place and the government would intervene to close areas if there are new outbreaks.
ALBANY, N.Y. — Several dozen protesters gathered in front of the New York state Capitol on Saturday holding American flags and signs demanding that businesses reopen.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo began to allow large swaths of northern and central New York to begin reopening on Friday, permitting certain businesses such as construction to open their doors under safety guidelines. But residents in downstate areas hard-hit by cases of COVID-19 remain under tight restrictions as their communities try to lower infection rates and amass enough testing and tracing to reopen in coming weeks.
New York’s ban on all non-essential gatherings remains in effect.
NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans began taking its first steps Saturday toward loosening two months of restrictions on businesses, restaurants and houses of worship.
The city is restricting buildings to 25% of capacity and requiring restaurants, nail salons and other businesses to only take customers by reservation. Malls and retail stores can reopen, but casinos, video poker, live entertainment and bars are still closed.
Officials are still urging people to stay home as much as possible and requiring people to wear masks in public unless exercising.
The coronavirus struck New Orleans so quickly in March there were worries the pandemic would overwhelm the state health system. Hospitalizations have been going down for nearly a month, but officials warned a spike in cases or deaths could lead to putting restrictions back in place.
CINCINNATI — Just days after announcing it would end hazard “hero” pay to front-line workers, Kroger says it will give them extra “thank you” bonuses.
That’s according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. The move comes after an outcry from the grocery store’s union, which said workers are still risking their lives by coming to work.
The bonus is $400 for full-time workers and $200 for part-time workers, to be paid in two installments, Kroger announced. Hazard pay was a $2-per-hour supplement.
The Cincinnati-based grocer estimates the new bonus will provide $130 million to its workers.
United Food and Commercial Workers International estimates that nationwide at least 65 grocery workers have died at Kroger and other retailers after contracting the coronavirus.
RIO DE JANEIRO — A small plane carrying a doctor sick with COVID-19 crashed in the Brazilian state of Ceara on Friday night, killing all four people on the aircraft, according to online news site G1, citing the state’s firefighters.
The sick doctor was being transferred to an intensive care unit in his home state of Piaui. Two medical staffers treating him, as well as the pilot, were also on the plane.
The Ceara Fire Department and Sao Bernardo municipality, where the plane crashed, did not immediately respond to requests for information.
MILAN — Italy recorded the lowest number of deaths in a 24-hour period since early in its coronavirus lockdown at just 153.
That brings the total in the epidemic to 31,763, the civil protection agency reported on Saturday. The last time the death count was that low was March 9, the day after the nationwide lockdown was announced.
The number of confirmed new infections rose by 875 for a total of 224,760, while the number of currently infected dropped to just over 70,000.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.