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.

Anthony S. Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases official, will be taking precautions including working from home after White House coronavirus task force members were exposed, a spokeswoman for Fauci acknowledged Saturday night.

Two Trump administration aides were diagnosed with the novel coronavirus this past week: Vice President Pence’s spokeswoman Katie Miller and a military valet to the president. Their positive tests have underscored the challenge of maintaining a safe work environment for President Trump, Pence and their staffs, even as they have access to the kind of rapid testing that many officials around the country are still clamoring for.

Two of Fauci’s colleagues on the coronavirus task force, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, said they are self-quarantining or teleworking for two weeks after exposure to a coronavirus case at the White House.

At first on Saturday afternoon, the spokeswoman said Fauci — one of the administration’s most recognizable figures in the pandemic response — “is considered to be at relatively low risk based on the degree of his exposure. Nevertheless, he is taking appropriate precautions to mitigate risk to any of his personal contacts while still allowing him to carry out his responsibilities in this public health crisis.”

Then, hours later, the spokeswoman said Saturday night that the precautions include “a mix of teleworking and wearing a mask during in-person meetings.”

Read the full story here.

Trails, golf courses reopen in hard-hit LA

LOS ANGELES — Hiking to the Hollywood sign and hitting the links is being allowed Saturday as the California county hardest hit by the coronavirus cautiously reopened some sites to recreation-starved stay-at-homers.

Los Angeles County permitted the reopening of trails and golf courses, but with social distancing restrictions. For those interested in retail therapy, there was even better news as Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday allowed tens of thousands of stores to reopen, including florist shops, just in time for Mother’s Day.

The city of Los Angeles announced it also was reopening some public spaces, including sprawling Griffith Park, which includes popular paths to the Hollywood sign.

But mounted police and park rangers would be keeping hikers to small, distant groups wearing face coverings. Mayor Eric Garcetti urged “good judgment” and said the city would rely on education and encouragement rather than heavy-handed enforcement.

It was “not our vision to make this like a junior high school dance with people standing too close to each other,” he said.

County beaches could reopen next week with restrictions designed to keep people from thronging the shore and possibly spreading COVID-19.

New Mexico officials say governor’s health orders violate civil rights

RIO RANCHO, N.M. — New Mexico Republicans and sheriffs are asking U.S. Attorney General William Barr to look into Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s health orders aimed at stopping the spread of COVID-19.

State Republican Party Chairman Steve Pearce and New Mexico Sheriffs’ Association President Tony Mace each sent letters to Barr last week seeking a review into the health orders that have shuttered some businesses since late March. They say the orders, which have closed several small businesses, violate residents’ civil rights.

“We want to express our fears and frustrations regarding New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham’s public health order, a policy many in our state believe to be a blatant violation of peoples’ civil rights, liberties and their right to conduct free commerce,” Pearce wrote. “The situation in New Mexico is one that is unjust and inequitable.”

Mace, the Cibola County sheriff and a frequent critic of fellow Democrat Lujan Grisham, said the health order was unfairly hurting residents.

“The governor has been discriminatory in her policies, keeping big box corporate giants open — draining New Mexico dollars out of state — while shutting down mom and pop locally owned establishments,” Mase wrote. “This is not only preferential treatment for the big box stores but a violation of the civil rights of our small business owners whose livelihoods are now in free fall.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, Pearce said he wanted Barr to look at New Mexico to see if the U.S. Constitution “is being respected” during the health order.

A spokeswoman for Lujan Grisham declined to comment.

Great Smoky Mountains draw scores as park reopens

GATLINBURG, Tenn. — The reopening of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was a little too tempting a draw Saturday as scores of nature lovers from dozens of states crowded trails and trekked into blocked-off areas, a spokeswoman said.

Even with some of the most popular trails closed, parking lots were packed and lines of cars snaked down tree-lined streets, in one case for about a mile leading up to a waterfall path, according to park spokeswoman Dana Soehn. Many people did not wear masks.

“It seemed like people were not respecting our suggestion that they avoid crowded areas,” said Soehn, adding that she counted license plates from 24 states in one visitor center parking lot.

Visitors also walked past heavy barricades on one of the park’s most trafficked trails, Laurel Falls, which was closed off to heed federal social distancing guidelines, she said.

On the Tennessee-North Carolina border, the Great Smoky Mountains is the county’s most visited national park. It was closed March 24 after officials said it was becoming too congested during the coronavirus pandemic.

Obama criticizes Trump on handling of coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Former President Barack Obama harshly criticized President Donald Trump’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic as an “absolute chaotic disaster” during a conversation with ex-members of his administration, according to a recording obtained by Yahoo News.

Obama’s comments Friday came during a call with 3,000 people who served in his administration. He said combating the virus would have been bad even for the best of governments, but it’s been “an absolute chaotic disaster” when the mindset of “what’s in it for me” infiltrates government.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said that President Trump’s response “has been unprecedented and saved American lives.”

The United States has suffered nearly 80,000 deaths from COVID-19, the most of any nation.

Hawaii environmentalists fighting PPE pollution

LIHUE, Hawaii — Environmental groups in Hawaii have joined a campaign to bring attention to discarded personal protective equipment that’s adding to plastic pollution on shorelines worldwide amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Surfrider Foundation Kauai chapter scientist Carl Berg said the campaign is aimed at reducing the environmental and public health impacts of improperly discarded PPE.

PPE can be mistaken as food by birds, turtles and marine mammals and can put animals at risk, the foundation said in a statement. It added that the used items could also be carrying pathogens and contributing to the spread of COVID-19.

Federal and state governments have advised people to wear masks in public to protect themselves and others against the coronavirus, but masks, gloves and other equipment are not always properly disposed of. Millions of pounds of plastic pollution wash ashore on Hawaii beaches each year.

Major airlines support temperature checking passengers

WASHINGTON — A trade group representing major airlines says its members support having the government do temperature checks of passengers as long as necessary during the coronavirus crisis.

Airlines for America said Saturday that the checks will add a layer of protection for passengers as well as airline and airport employees. Airline workers who come in contact with the public also would be checked.

The association said passenger screening is the responsibility of the Transportation Security Administration. “Having temperature checks performed by the TSA will ensure that procedures are standardized, providing consistency across airports so that travelers can plan appropriately.”

Last week, the group announced that airlines would require customer-facing employees and passengers to wear cloth face masks from check-in through the end of the trip.

FDA commissioner in self-quarantine for 2 weeks

WASHINGTON — FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, is in self-quarantine for the next two weeks after coming in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Stephanie Caccomo, a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, says Hahn tested negative for the virus after he learned of the contact. He wrote a note to staff on Friday to alert them to the contact.

Hahn was scheduled to testify before a Senate panel on Tuesday, along with infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Robert Redfield.

The administration is not confirming the person Hahn had contact with that tested positive for the virus. But the news follows the confirmation that two people who work in the White House complex are known to have tested positive for the virus this week.

FDA approves antigen tests for fast results

WASHINGTON — U.S. regulators have approved a new type of coronavirus test that administration officials have promoted as a key to opening the country.

The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday announced emergency authorization for antigen tests developed by Quidel Corp. of San Diego. The test can rapidly detect fragments of virus proteins in samples collected from swabs swiped inside the nasal cavity, the FDA said in a statement.

The antigen test is the third type of test to be authorized by the FDA. Antigen tests can diagnose active infections by detecting the earliest toxic traces of the virus rather than the genetic code of the virus itself.

Currently, the only way to diagnose active COVID-19 is to test a patient’s nasal swab for the genetic material of the virus. While considered highly accurate, the tests can take hours and require expensive, specialized equipment mainly found at commercial labs, hospitals or universities.

Read the story here.

Drug remdesivir being shipped to six more states

WASHINGTON — The federal government is sending supplies of the first drug that appears to help speed the recovery of some COVID-19 patients to six states, where it will be distributed by health departments.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday that it is delivering 140 cases of the drug remdesivir to Illinois, 110 cases to New Jersey, 40 cases to Michigan, 30 cases each to Connecticut and Maryland and 10 cases to Iowa. Each case contains 40 vials of the drug, the department said in a statement.

“State and local health departments have the greatest insights into community-level needs in the COVID-19 response,” the statement said.

Earlier this week the government sent 565 cases to New York, 117 to Massachusetts, 94 to New Jersey, 38 to Indiana, 33 to Virginia, 30 to Rhode Island, and seven to Tennessee.

The company that makes the antiviral drug, California-based Gilead Sciences, has said it is donating its entire current stockpile to help in the U.S. pandemic response.

Remdesivir was cleared for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration last week.

The department says the doses have to go to more critical patients including those on ventilators or in need of supplemental oxygen.

Fire at Moscow hospital kills one

MOSCOW — A fire at a Moscow hospital treating people infected by the new coronavirus killed one patient and forced the evacuation of about 200 others.

News reports said the fire at the facility in the northern part of the city has been extinguished. No cause was immediately determined for the fire, which affected a ward of the hospital that had been repurposed for treating victims of the new coronavirus.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin confirmed reports that a patient had died and said those evacuated would be transferred to other hospitals. It was not clear how many of the evacuees were suffering from COVID-19.

U.K. looks to encourage cycling, walking

LONDON — The British government is making $3.1 billion (2 billion pounds) available to boost cycling and walking once lockdown restrictions are eased.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said at the government’s daily briefing that the package to put cycling and walking at “the heart of our transport policy” will be necessary, even after public transport networks get back to normal during the coronavirus pandemic. He said that because of the ongoing social distancing guidelines, trains and buses will operate at only 10% of capacity.

Shapps also said another 346 people who tested positive for COVID-19 have died in the U.K. in all settings, including hospitals and care homes. That increases the death toll in the U.K. to 31,587, the highest in Europe.

German union criticizes slaughterhouse system

BERLIN — A Germany union that represents workers in the food industry says recent coronavirus outbreaks in slaughterhouses were the result of “a sick system.”

Freddy Adjan, a senior NGG union official, says the meat industry has for years been relying on “dubious subcontractors” that exploit workers. “The employers aren’t just outsourcing the work, but handily also all responsibility to the subcontractors.”

The union wants comprehensive checks and rules for the industry, including for workers’ accommodation.

Adjan didn’t name specific companies. But a major meat producer in western Germany has come under fire after 180 workers in the town of Coesfeld tested positive for the virus. There’s also been a large outbreak at a slaughterhouse in northern Germany.

Adjan says “this crisis makes clear how overdue it is to press the stop button and end the ruinous price battle over meat.”

Greece announces one new death

ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities announced one death from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 151.

There were 19 confirmed new infections to total 2,710. There are 28 people on ventilators and 86 people have exited intensive care.

Authorities are concerned about people flocking to beaches during the first weekend of relaxed quarantine measures. Young people also are congregating in public squares despite the ban on large groups and have occasionally clashed with police.

Spain’s PM warns citizens to obey social distancing rules

MADRID — Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says loosening the nearly two-month lockdown will be for naught if people don’t obey social distancing rules.

He reminded Spaniards on Saturday, two days before 51% of the nation of 47 million will be allowed to sit at outdoor cafes, “the virus has not disappeared.”

On Monday, many regions not as hard hit by the virus will permit gatherings of up to 10 people and reopen churches, theaters, outdoor markets and other establishments with limits on occupancy.

Madrid and Barcelona will stay under stricter confinement. Two-meter social distancing rules remain in effect.

“The struggle goes on and will last until we find a vaccine,” Sanchez said. “Meanwhile, we have to live with the virus, that is why we must reinforce our health care system and strengthen its capabilities.”

Sánchez and Spain’s army have warned of possible surges in the coming months.

Spain’s health ministry reported 179 new confirmed deaths on Saturday, increasing the death toll to 26,478. A month ago, Spain was averaging 900 daily deaths.

Vatican City set to ease 2-month lockdown

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican Museums are gearing up to resume visits to the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Gardens and papal estate outside Rome after a two-month coronavirus lockdown.

New protocols will require reservations in advance, protective masks and likely afternoon and evening visiting to stagger crowds.

The Vatican hasn’t announced a reopening date for the museums. The head of the Vatican City State that oversees the museums, Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, suggested Saturday it might not be ready to coincide with the May 18 reopening of Italian museums.

But he says the Vatican was finishing the installation of scanners to check temperatures of museum visitors and preparing protocols for tours of the Vatican Gardens and the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo on Lake Albano.

The Vatican Museums usually receive 7 million visitors a year and are the main source of income funding the Holy See bureaucracy. Vergez says the museums have a “solid” economic foundation.

The Vatican, a city state in the center of Rome, imposed a lockdown in tandem with the rest of Italy, which was the first European country hit hard by COVID-19. This week, Italy began a cautious and gradual reopening.

Around 70 flee quarantine center in India

PATNA, India — About 70 people fled from a quarantine center in the Indian state of Bihar’s Nawada district, alleging poor facilities and lack of food.

They are among the tens of thousands of migrant workers who left India’s cities when a nationwide virus lockdown was imposed March 25, walking toward their home villages fearing starvation if they remained.

Local TV broadcast images of the migrants running from the center with their belongings on Saturday. As many as 150 migrants are quarantined at Aadarsh Inter School at Sirdala block in Nawada district, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) from the state capital of Patna.

District magistrate Yashpal Meena says 50 of the migrants fled after one of the occupants tested positive for COVID-19. He says at least 15 were found and brought back to the center.

India’s pace of infection has spread in recent days since Prime Minister Narendra Modi partly lifted the lockdown to ease the economic hardships on migrant workers. The government is running special trains to give immigrants rides back home after 14 days in quarantine.

India has reported just under 60,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and 1,981 deaths.

Huge crowds gather in Belarus

MINSK, Belarus — Tens of thousands of people have turned out in the capital of Belarus despite sharply rising coronavirus infections to watch a military parade celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

Belarus has not imposed wide-ranging restrictions to halt the virus’ spread. Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has dismissed concerns about it as a “psychosis.”

At Saturday’s parade of some 3,000 soldiers, Lukashenko says Belarus’ ordeal in the war “is incomparable with any difficulties of the present day.”

Some aged war veterans in the stands at the parade wore masks, but in general there were few masks seen among the throng of spectators. Belarus, a country of about 9 million, has recorded more than 21,000 cases of coronavirus infection.

Seoul shuts down nightlife after cases linked to clubs

SEOUL, South Korea — Seoul has shut down more than 2,100 nightclubs, hostess bars, and discos after dozens of infections were linked to clubgoers who went out last weekend as the country relaxed social distancing guidelines.

The measures imposed by Mayor Park Won-soon on Saturday came after the national government urged entertainment venues around the nation to close or otherwise enforce anti-virus measures, including distancing, temperature checks, keeping customer lists and requiring employees to wear masks.

Park says the entry bans on the facilities will be maintained until the city concludes the infections risks as meaningfully lowered.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier said 18 fresh cases were reported in the 24 hours to midnight Friday, all but one of them linked to a 29-year-old man who visited three clubs in Seoul’s Itaewon district last Saturday before testing positive on Tuesday.

But Park says 16 more cases were confirmed in Seoul alone in the following hours since. He said this brought the total number of infections linked to clubgoers to 40 — 27 in Seoul, 12 in neighboring Incheon and Gyeonggi province towns, and one in the southern port city of Busan.

The KCDC, which complies data from local governments, couldn’t immediately confirm Park’s numbers.

Federal court halts Kentucky governor’s ban on gatherings

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A federal court has halted the Kentucky governor’s temporary ban on mass gatherings from applying to in-person religious services.

The temporary restraining order issued Friday prevents Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s administration from enforcing the ban on mass gatherings at “any in-person religious service which adheres to applicable social distancing and hygiene guidelines.”

The ruling sided with the Tabernacle Baptist Church, but applies statewide. Two other federal judges had previously ruled the ban was constitutional. But also on Friday, one of those judges in a separate order granted Maryville Baptist Church an injunction allowing in-person services at that specific church.

Beshear had previously announced that places of worship could hold in-person services starting May 20, as part of a broader plan to gradually reopen the state’s economy. Earlier Friday, he outlined reopening requirements, including limiting attendance at in-person services to 33% of building occupancy capacity.

Beshear’s office had not issued a statement on the injunctions as late Friday

Louisiana hiring 250 contact tracers

NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana’s governor says the state will have 250 workers in place by the end of next week to contact people infected with the new coronavirus and track down people they have been in close contact with.

Such “contact tracing” is a key factor in whether the state will be able to start easing restrictions and closures of businesses.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is under increasing pressure from Republican officials to restart Louisiana’s economy. Increased testing is also a factor, and Edwards said the state plans to complete a total of 200,000 tests for the month of May.

Edwards said the state has signed contracts with two companies that will establish the contact tracing system. That will bolster the 70 contact tracers currently working. The state expects to eventually hire as many as 700 contract tracers if needed.

Edwards’ current emergency order, banning gatherings of more than 10 people and closing many nonessential businesses, expires May 15. He plans to announce Monday whether the restrictions will be extended.

 


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