The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. 

PHOENIX — Making himself Exhibit A for reopening the country, President Trump visited an Arizona face mask factory Tuesday, using the trip to demonstrate his determination to see an easing of stay-at-home orders even as the coronavirus remains a dire threat. Trump did not wear a mask despite guidelines saying they should be worn inside the factory at all times.

Donald Trump

President Trump, without a mask, tours a Honeywell International plant in Phoenix that manufactures personal protective equipment. Evan Vucci/Associated Press

“The people of our country should think of themselves as warriors. We have to open,” Trump declared as he left Washington on a trip that was more about the journey than the destination.

Trump acknowledged the human cost of returning to normalcy.

“I’m not saying anything is perfect, and yes, will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon,” he said.

Trump had said he would don a face mask if the factory was “a mask environment,” but in the end he wore only safety goggles during a tour of the Honeywell facility. Nearly all factory workers and members of the press wore masks, as did some White House staff and Secret Service agents. Senior White House staff and Honeywell executives did not.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all Americans wear cloth masks when they can’t socially distance, such as in supermarkets, especially in places with high transmission rates. In the area where Trump spoke, a large video monitor listed safety guidelines, one of which said, “Please wear your mask at all times.”

Read the full story about the president’s visit to Arizona here.

States with few virus cases get big share of relief aid

Alaska, Hawaii, Montana and Wyoming are not epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic. Yet those four states scored big this spring when Congress pumped out direct federal aid, while the two hardest-hit states, New York and New Jersey, got comparatively little, given their vast numbers of cases and deaths.

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An Associated Press analysis shows that some of the least-populated states, such as Hawaii, with relatively few coronavirus cases, received an out-sized proportion of the $150 billion in federal money aimed at addressing virus-related expenses. Audrey McAvoy/Associated Press

An Associated Press analysis shows that some states with small populations like these took in an out-sized share of the $150 billion in federal money that was designed to address coronavirus-related expenses, when measured by the number of positive tests for the COVID-19 disease.

Their haul ranged from $2 million per positive test in Hawaii to nearly $3.4 million per test in Alaska. In Wyoming, with fewer than 600 positive cases, the $1.25 billion it received equates to 80 percent of its annual general state budget.

By comparison, New York and New Jersey received about $24,000 and $27,000, respectively, for each positive coronavirus test. Other states with high numbers of cases, including Massachusetts, Michigan and Illinois, received less than $100,000 per case.

“If there’s a fire, you don’t spray the whole neighborhood. You spray the house that’s on fire,” said Bill Hammond, director of public health policy at the Empire Center for Public Policy, a nonpartisan government watchdog in New York. He said it doesn’t make sense in this case to follow the normal political procedure of giving every state so much in the face of a public health crisis.

To be sure, the lowest population states often receive higher dollar amounts per capita when Congress doles out federal aid. That’s due in part to political reality: Small states have the same number of U.S. senators as more populous ones, and those senators lobby hard for their states’ interests.

Read the full story on federal aid to states here.

Shutdown of meat processing plants leads to shortages

The effects of the coronavirus pandemic have moved beyond meat processing plants and are now hitting dinner plates.

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Amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19, a worker restocks chicken in the meat product section at a grocery store in Dallas, last month. Some stores have begun limiting meat purchases as processing plants deal with coronavirus infections among workers. LM Otero/Associated Press

Several U.S. production plants have been temporarily closed in the last two weeks since hundreds of workers were sickened by the virus. That has led to meat shortages, with Wendy’s pulling some burgers off its menus and Costco limiting pork sales. Fake meat companies, meanwhile, are making their moves to capture some of those lost sales.

Beyond Meat, which makes burgers and sausage from pea protein, said Tuesday it’s launching new value packs to entice consumers while rival Impossible Foods is expanding sales to more than 1,700 Kroger groceries.

As of Monday, U.S. beef and pork processing capacity was down 40 percent from last year, according to Jayson Lusk, head of the department of agricultural economics at Purdue University.

Some meatpacking plants are coming back online after President Trump issued an executive order last week requiring them to stay open. But until they’re back at full capacity, consumers will likely see some shortages and higher prices for beef and pork, Lusk said. Poultry production has also been impacted, but to a lesser degree.

Just over 1,000 Wendy’s restaurants — or nearly 20 percent — had no beef items available on their online menus Monday night, according to an analysis by Stephens Inc., an investment bank. Stephens analyst James Rutherford said some states, like Ohio, Michigan and New York, seemed to be impacted more than others.

Read the full story about meat shortages here.

Coal snags $31 million in U.S. loans for small businesses

Stimulus loans meant to help small businesses that have been hurt by the coronavirus pandemic are being doled out to coal companies, stoking criticism from environmentalists that the Trump administration is using the aid to help a preferred industry that was already in financial trouble.

The U.S. Small Business Administration has given more than $31 million in loans from the Paycheck Protection Program to publicly-traded coal mining companies, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

“The question is, is this a good use of taxpayer dollars when we have other businesses closing their doors? What is the long term viability of this industry?” said Jayson O’Neill, director of the Western Values Project, a Montana-based conservation group. “I would argue we should focus first on the small businesses that are in the most need.”

Among the recipients are Ramaco Resources, Rhino Resource Partners, Hallador Energy and American Resources.

The stimulus program has drawn criticism for other awards, including loans to Shake Shack, Potbelly and the National Basketball Association’s Los Angeles Lakers while millions of mom-and-pop firms were left stranded when the program ran out of money. The three companies have since returned the money amid an outcry.

The coal company funding came after the industry successfully lobbied the Trump administration to add the sector to its list of essential industries after being left off the original version, arguing that coal was “critical to supporting hospitals, health care providers and others on the front line.”

The industry – which also asked Congress for aid in March, arguing that coal is “absolutely critical” and should be preserved for national security reasons – says there is no reason why coal miners shouldn’t be recipients of stimulus funding.

Read the full story about coal companies here.

Britain is 1st in Europe to confirm 30,000 virus deaths

LONDON — Britain on Tuesday became the first country in Europe to confirm more than 30,000 coronavirus deaths, and infections rose sharply again in Russia, even as other nations made great strides in containing the scourge. China marked its third week with no new reported deaths, while South Korea restarted its baseball season.

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People queue at a post office during the coronavirus lockdown in London on Tuesday. While a few European countries relax the COVID-19 lockdown, Britain remains under lockdown without an exit strategy yet. Frank Augstein/Associated Press

In the U.S., some states took continued steps to lift the lockdown restrictions that have thrown millions out of work, even as the country recorded thousands of new infections and deaths every day.

Underscoring the stakes, New York state reported 1,700 more people died in nursing homes than it had previously counted.

Britain appeared set to surpass Italy as Europe’s hardest-hit nation, even as the rate of deaths and hospitalization declined and the government prepared to take tentative steps out of lockdown.

The British government said about 28,700 people with COVID-19 had died in hospitals, nursing homes and other settings, while Italy reported close to 29,100 fatalities. Both figures are almost certainly underestimates because they include only people who tested positive, and testing was not widespread in Italian and British nursing homes until recently.

Yet official British statistics released Tuesday on people who died with suspected COVID-19 put the country’s toll at more than 30,000 as of April 24, or one-third higher than the government count at the time. A comparable figure for Italy was not available.

In Russia, the number of infections rose sharply again, with Moscow reporting more than 10,000 new cases for three days in a row.

At the same time, many European countries that have relaxed strict lockdowns after new infections tapered off were watching their virus numbers warily.

Read the full story about the coronavirus death toll here.

Coronavirus can cause damaging, even fatal, blood clots from brain to toes

Another threat from the lung virus that causes COVID-19 has emerged that may cause swift, sometimes fatal damage: blood clots.

Doctors around the world are noting a raft of clotting-related disorders — from benign skin lesions on the feet sometimes called “covid toe” to life-threatening strokes and blood-vessel blockages. Ominously, if dangerous clots go untreated, they may manifest days to months after respiratory symptoms have resolved.

The clotting phenomenon is “probably the most important thing that’s emerged over the last perhaps month or two,” said Mitchell Levy, chief of pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine at the Warren Albert School of Medicine at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.

It’s not unusual for infections to raise the risk of clotting. The 1918 1918 flu pandemic pandemic, caused by a novel strain of influenza that killed some 50 million people worldwide, was also linked to downstream damage from clots that could end lives dramatically.

Viruses including HIV, dengue and Ebola are all known to make blood cells prone to clumping. The pro-clotting effect may be even more pronounced in patients with the coronavirus.

“There’s something about this virus that’s exaggerated that to the nth degree,” said Levy, who is also medical director of the medical intensive care unit at Rhode Island Hospital. “We’re seeing clotting in a way in this illness that we have not seen in the past.”

Read the full story here.

Macron criticized for opening schools next week

PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed plans to gradually reopen schools next week amid concerns from mayors, teachers and parents about the timing.

Macron, wearing a mask, visited a primary school in a suburb west of Paris on Tuesday that has remained open for children of health workers.

More than 300 mayors in the capital region, including Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, urged Macron in an open letter to delay the reopening of primary schools scheduled for next week.

They denounced an “untenable and unrealistic timetable” to meet the sanitary and safety conditions required by the state, including class sizes capped to a maximum of 15. The majority of French children attend public schools.

Many parents say they won’t send their children back to school as France is one of the world’s hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus.

France starts lifting confinement measures on May 11, with businesses to resume activity and parents to return to work.

Poll shows Americans widely oppose reopening most businesses

Americans clearly oppose the reopening of restaurants, retail stores and other businesses, even as governors begin to lift restrictions that have kept the economy locked down in an effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic, according to a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll.

The opposition expressed by sizable majorities of Americans reflects other cautions and concerns revealed in the survey, including continuing fears among most people that they could become infected by the coronavirus, as well as a belief that the worst of the medical crisis is not yet over.

About half of states have eased restrictions on businesses, but Americans’ unease about patronizing them represents a major hurdle to restarting the economy. Many Americans have been making trips to grocery stores and 56 percent say they are comfortable doing so. But 67 percent say they would be uncomfortable shopping at a retail clothing store, and 78 percent would be uncomfortable eating at a sit-down restaurant. People in states with looser restrictions report similar levels of discomfort as those in states with stricter rules.

Read the rest of this story here.

Masks become a flashpoint for protests and fights

As Florida lifted some its coronavirus restrictions this weekend, sunny weather beckoned crowds to gather at newly opened parks and beaches, where public officials sanctioned the springtime outings as long as people wore masks and kept their distance.

Over three days, more than 7,300 people showed up at Miami Beach parks without covering their mouths and noses, Miami Beach police said in a statement on Facebook. Hundreds more failed to maintain the mandated six feet of social distancing.

The rule-breakers cost everyone the chance to enjoy the city’s popular beach at South Pointe Park, which the city closed again Monday after park rangers issued thousands of verbal warnings between Friday and Sunday, police said.

Read the rest of this story here.

UN says U.S. prison conditions “deeply worrying”

GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office says conditions in many prisons in the Americas are “deeply worrying” as COVID-19 spreads in many overcrowded facilities that lack hygiene.

Rights office spokesman Rupert Colville says fear of contagion and lack of basic services like access to food and health care have stoked riots and protests in some prisons.

He pointed to outbreaks of deadly violence in detention centers in Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela in recent weeks, along with attempted prison breaks in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and the United States.

Colville says the incidents suggest some states had not taken “appropriate measures to prevent violence in detention facilities,” urging states to investigate the deaths and injuries and any allegations of use of force by authorities during the rioting.

Rebels in Yemen announce first virus death

CAIRO — Yemen’s health minister affiliated with the Houthi rebels has announced the first coronavirus death in the rebel-controlled northern part of the country.

Taha al-Motawakel says a Somali migrant who died Sunday in a hotel in the capital Sanaa tested positive for the virus. He didn’t provide details about other confirmed cases in areas under Houthi control.

The surfacing of the pandemic in Yemen has stoked fears that an outbreak could devastate its already crippled health care system.

Yemen’s civil war erupted in 2014, when the rebels seized Sanaa, and much of the country’s north. The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition intervened to oust the rebels and restore the internationally recognized government. The conflict has killed more than 100,000 people and settled into a bloody stalemate.

The latest coronavirus death brings the total confirmed cases to 22 and three deaths across the country.

Greece on track for restaurants back on June 1

ATHENS, Greece — Greece’s prime minister says it appears “absolutely feasible” for restaurants and cafes to reopen on June 1 if the coronavirus outbreak keeps slowing.

On Monday, Greece reported two deaths and six confirmed infections, bringing the total death toll to 146, with confirmed infections at 2,632.

Greece began easing its lockdown measures on Monday, with the opening of a limited number of retail businesses, such as beauty salons and bookshops, and people allowed to leave their homes.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis held a video conference with several cabinet members Tuesday to discuss how to reopen the restaurant and café sector while maintaining social distancing regulations. One possibility was increasing the outdoor space for tables and chairs.

Greece imposed a lockdown early on in its coronavirus outbreak, a move credited with containing the number of deaths.

Scotland outlines relaxing restrictions, but still waiting

LONDON — Scotland’s leader Nicola Sturgeon has outlined how lockdown restrictions could be relaxed while stressing the move is not imminent.

Sturgeon says Scotland was at a “critical” moment and the lockdown will be extended for another three-week period after the next review on Thursday.

However, she says the first loosening considered by the government would be time spent outdoors. Other discussions relate to easing restrictions on community care services and businesses.

She says it’s too early to reopen schools and they possibly won’t reopen before the summer holidays.

Sturgeon says it’s preferred all four nations of the U.K. — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — should move together on easing the lockdown.

Dutch police arrest some lockdown protestors

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch riot police have arrested some demonstrators who gathered in The Hague to call for an end to the partial coronavirus lockdown.

Authorities in the city allowed the unannounced demonstration by a few hundred people near the city’s central railway station on condition that the protesters maintained social distancing.

However, the mayor withdrew permission when demonstrators refused to follow police instructions and officers, supported by police on horseback, began detaining people. Police didn’t immediately say how many people were arrested.

The Netherlands has been in what Prime Minister Mark Rutte calls an “intelligent lockdown” since mid-March. Schools, bars, restaurants and museums are closed and people are urged to work from home and practice social distancing outside.

The first gradual easing came last week when young children resumed sports training. Elementary schools are due to reopen next week.

India sees huge spike after lifting lockdown

NEW DELHI, India — India has discovered two viral clusters since it partly lifted the nationwide lockdown on Monday, contributing to the largest single-day spike in cases and deaths in 24 hours.

There’s been a total of 3,900 infection cases and 195 deaths in the past 24 hours, taking India’s total to more than 46,000 cases and more than 1,500 dead.

The Health ministry says the spike was due to late reporting of information by several state governments.

A vegetable and fruit market in Chennai, a southern Indian city, has been linked to more than 300 cases. Many of those who had been working in the market, which is among the largest in the country, had returned to their villages due to the lockdown and public health officials are now trying to retrace their footsteps.

In Tripura, a state in India’s north-east, which shares a border with Bangladesh, a total of 27 new cases were reported, of which 13 were linked to the Border Security Force or BSF, the country’s border guarding force.

Experts warn Italy will experience second wave

ROME — Italian experts are warning a second wave of coronavirus infections will most certainly accompany Italy’s gradual reopening from Europe’s first lockdown.

They are calling for intensified efforts to identify possible new victims, monitor their symptoms and trace their contacts

Dr. Silvio Brusaferro, president of the Superior Institute of Health, briefed a Senate committee on Tuesday about the next phase of Italy’s coronavirus pandemic. He joined experts a day after 4.4 million Italians went back to work and restrictions on personal movement were eased for the first time in two months.

Brusaferro says the key to keeping the outbreak under control lies in the early isolation of people with suspected infection, more tests and the quarantine of their close contacts. He says it will require “a huge investment” of resources for training medical personnel to monitor possible new cases. He adds any phone app that can help trace contacts, while useful, doesn’t substitute for the actions of people.

The head of the institute’s infectious disease department, Dr. Giovanni Rezza, told La Repubblica the coming weeks were essentially an “experiment” to see how the infection curve reacts to the easing of the lockdown and production shutdown.

“We are not out of the epidemic. We are still in it. I don’t want people to think there’s no more risk and we go back to normal,” Rezza told La Repubblica.

In Italy’s hard-hit northern Lombardy, tens of thousands of sick overwhelmed the health care system. Scientists say a second wave of infection would particularly hit the south, which didn’t have many infections.

Germany to discuss stimulus with automakers

BERLIN — The German government and the country’s automakers plan to discuss stimulus measures to promote modern technology.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, says the German leader and several ministers held a telephone conference Tuesday with the chief executives of automakers in Germany and the head of the IG Metall industrial union.

Germany is home to automakers such as Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW, and the sector is a crucial employer in Europe’s biggest economy. The companies are restarting production in Europe after the coronavirus pandemic brought it to a near-standstill.

Seibert says participants agreed a working group should discuss economic stimulus measures “that constitute a contribution to modernization in the direction of innovative vehicle technologies.” He says they aim to discuss the results in early June.

British government acknowledges it should have tested more people earlier

LONDON — The British government’s chief scientific adviser has acknowledged that the country should have been testing more people for the new coronavirus early in the country’s outbreak.

Patrick Vallance told Parliament’s health committee that “if we’d managed to ramp up testing capacity quicker it would have been beneficial, and for all sorts of reasons that didn’t happen.”

Critics say Britain’s Conservative government responded too slowly when COVID-19 began to spread, and failed to contain the outbreak by widely testing people with symptoms, then tracing and isolating the contacts of infected people.

Countries that did that, including South Korea and Germany, have recorded lower death rates than those that did not.

The U.K. has recently expanded its testing capacity and is setting up a “test, track and trace” program as it looks to relax a nationwide lockdown.

Britain is one of the world’s hardest-hit countries in the pandemic, and looks likely to overtake Italy for the largest number of COVID-19 deaths in Europe.


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