The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. 

Dr. Anthony Fauci thinks there is no way the NFL season could begin soon amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, the league has about four months to go before kickoff, at which point the federal government’s top infectious-disease expert thinks it is at least “feasible” that fans could see professional football get underway as planned.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says if it’s possible to have an NFL season, the league should expect to test players on both the night before and the morning of games. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Those fans would most likely be watching from afar come September, though, and not sitting in the stands, Fauci noted in comments published Monday by NBCSports.com. There is a chance NFL stadiums might have a third or even half of their seats occupied, but attendees would still need to engage in appropriate social distancing.

None of that will be possible, though, unless testing for the coronavirus increases and helps to sharply bring down the rate of infection, said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984. Widespread preventive protocols will be all the more important, he said, in the event the pandemic re-intensifies in the autumn and/or winter.

“Even if the virus goes down dramatically in June and July and August, as the virus starts returning in the fall it would be, in my mind, shame on us if we don’t have in place all of the mechanisms to prevent it from blowing up again,” Fauci said. “In other words, enough testing to test everybody that needs to be tested. Enough testing so that when someone gets infected, you could immediately do contact tracing and isolation to prevent the infection from going to a couple of infections to hundreds of infections. That’s how you control an outbreak.”

“If you fast-forward, and it is now September. The season starts. I say you can’t have a season – it’s impossible,” he added. “There’s too much infection out there. It doesn’t matter what you do. But I would hope that by the time you get to September it’s not going to be the way it is right now.”

Read the full story about Dr. Anthony Fauci’s view on the NFL season here.

Trump claims U.S. outpaces world in virus testing, but numbers tell different story

WASHINGTON — Amid criticism that the United States has not done enough to test its population for coronavirus infections as cases have soared, President Trump claimed Monday that his administration is besting the world in testing and that it will help states expand such efforts, which are a key element of lifting the safety restrictions that have shut down much of the economy since March.

Donald Trump

President Trump during a press briefing in the Rose Garden on Monday. The president claimed that the U.S. has led the world in testing, but countries like Canada, Iceland, Germany and Italy have much higher per-capita rates. Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The administration said it will distribute $11 billion to states to facilitate testing – from money already approved by Congress for coronavirus relief – as Trump claimed, “We have met the moment and we have prevailed.” He said the United States should pass 10 million completed tests this week, “nearly double the number of any other country.”

Officials outlined the plan in front of huge banners that proclaimed “America leads the world in testing.” Trump said that with the federal help, each state would be able to test more people per capita in May than South Korea has tested in four months. South Korea is often held up as a model for how to deploy tests and use the results to slow the spread of the deadly virus.

But the White House event Monday afternoon amounted to an acknowledgment that there is not yet enough testing capacity across the United States, even as more than 40 states are in some stage of lifting restrictions on travel, work and school. The president’s claims about U.S. testing benchmarks do not account for what health experts have criticized as the slow pace of testing capability in the United States this spring, a delay that some attribute to the rapid spread of the virus, the mounting death toll and uncertainty about the way forward.

Administration officials said that states were asked to detail their needs and capacities and that the $11 billion in aid would be distributed to meet those needs. A map displayed in the Rose Garden suggested that two hard-hit states – New York and New Jersey – would each get the highest level of spending, or $500 million. Other states with significant levels of infection, including Michigan, Florida, Illinois and California, are slated to get between $300 million and $500 million each.

Read the full story about virus testing in the U.S. here.

U.N. says there are 7 or 8 top candidates for COVID-19 vaccine

UNITED NATIONS — The World Health Organization chief said Monday there are around seven or eight “top” candidates for a vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus and work on them is being accelerated.

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Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, said Monday there are around seven or eight “top” candidates for a vaccine to combat the novel coronavirus and work on them is being accelerated. Salvatore Di Nolfi/Keystone via Associated Press

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a U.N. Economic and Social Council video briefing the original thinking two months ago was that it may take 12 to 18 months for a vaccine. But he said an accelerated effort is under way, helped by $8 billion pledged a week ago by leaders from 40 countries, organizations and banks for research, treatment and testing. The United States did not participate in that fundraising pledge, which was hosted by the European Union.

Tedros said the $8 billion will not be enough, and additional funds will be needed to speed up the development of a vaccine, but more importantly to produce enough “to make sure that this vaccine reaches everyone — (and) there’s no one be left behind.”

“We have good candidates now,” Tedros said. “The top ones are around seven, eight. But we have more than a hundred candidates.”

“We are focusing on the few candidates we have which can bring probably better results and accelerating those candidates with better potential,” he said.

Tedros did not identify the top candidates.

Since January, he said, “WHO has been working with thousands of researchers all over the world to accelerate and track vaccine development from developing animal models to clinical trial designs and everything in between.”

Tedros said there is also a consortium of more than 400 scientists involved in vaccine development and diagnostics.

The WHO chief stressed that COVID-19 is “very contagious and it’s a killer,” with over 4 million cases now reported to WHO and almost 275,000 lives lost.

Most White House officials will now be asked to wear masks

Most White House officials will be asked to wear masks or face coverings in public spaces on complex grounds, a move to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading further inside the presidential compound, according to three administration officials with knowledge of a directive to be issued Monday.

White House adviser Jared Kushner, left, and Adm. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, wearing masks, listen as President Trump speaks about the coronavirus during a press briefing in the Rose Garden of the White House, on Monday in Washington. Alex Brandon/Associated Press

The request does not apply to offices, however, and President Trump is still unlikely to wear a mask or face covering, aides say. Vice President Pence was spotted on the grounds of the White House on Monday without a mask, and it is unclear if aides will wear masks in the Oval Office.

Previously, most senior officials had not worn masks or face coverings in the West Wing, according to administration officials and visitors to the complex, even as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended mask usage for others in public spaces.

But concern has grown internally after two White House employees tested positive for the virus last week, including Pence’s press secretary.

White House recommends testing in nursing homes

WASHINGTON — The White House is recommending that all nursing home residents and staff be tested for the new coronavirus in the next two weeks.

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Emergency medical technicians transport a patient from a nursing home to an emergency room bed at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Yonkers, N.Y., on April 20. The White House is now recommending testing at nursing homes. John Minchillo/Associated Press

Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, told governors on a video conference call Monday that it’s the federal government’s strong recommendation that such testing be done.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force coordinator, told governors to focus over the next two weeks on testing all 1 million nursing home residents. She says the White House will help states that need it.

Nursing homes and the elderly have been shown to be especially susceptible to the virus.

The Associated Press obtained a recording of the meeting.

Read the full story about nursing homes here.

Parts of upstate New York may reopen by this weekend, governor says

NEW YORK — Several regions of upstate New York that have shown progress in taming the coronavirus outbreak are ready to gradually restart economic activity by the end of the week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

Cuomo shut down the entire state March 22 as the New York City area emerged as a global pandemic hot spot, but the outbreak has been less severe in the state’s smaller cities and rural areas. He said three upstate regions have met all criteria for opening some business activity after May 15: the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and the Finger Lakes. Other upstate regions are making and could follow soon after.

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New York Gov. Cuomo provides a coronavirus update during a press conference in the Red Room at the State Capitol in Albany. Mike Groll/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo via AP

The reopening regions still need to work out logistics, such as creating regional “control rooms” to monitor the effects of the reopening.

“This is the next big step in this historic journey,” the Democratic governor said at his daily briefing.

New York’s first tentative steps toward reopening follow other states that have already relaxed restrictions.

Cuomo last week said regions of the state could phase in re-opening if they met seven conditions. COVID-19-related deaths and hospitalizations needed to be trending down and there must be enough hospital beds to meet a surge. Counties have to beef up testing and contact tracing. And businesses will need to take steps to protect workers.

The economic re-opening will happen in four phases. The first businesses that can open will include construction, manufacturing and retail with curb-side pickup.

Additionally, landscaping and gardening businesses and drive-in theaters can open statewide, the governor said.

In a nod to social activities, Cuomo said the state also is relaxing restrictions on low-risk outdoor activities such as tennis.

Veterans groups, government brace for surge in mental health needs

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — When Kristofer Goldsmith was discharged from the Army in 2007 he was in crisis.

He had been trained as a forward observer — the person who spots a target and gives coordinates to artillery — but when he got to Iraq, the then 19-year-old instead found himself photographing dead bodies for intelligence gathering. A suicide attempt before his second deployment triggered a less than honorable discharge and a long fight to gain honorable status after being diagnosed with PTSD.

Margo Jarvis

Margo Jarvis takes part in video teleconference at Cohen Veteran’s Network’s on Wednesday, April 22, in Fayetteville, N.C. AP Photo/Sarah Blake Morgan

Goldsmith credits the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs medical staff with saving his life.

The VA and its partner mental health providers have kept thousands of veterans in treatment during the coronavirus pandemic through telehealth appointments. But as job losses and increased social isolation take an extended toll, some veterans’ advocates worry the already understaffed VA medical facilities can’t keep up and that telehealth isn’t enough.

“After years of self-imposed isolation … I was really in need of person-to-person contact,” said Goldsmith, now the assistant director of policy at Vietnam Veterans of America. “Flash forward almost 13 years now since I got out, and telehealth is right for me.”

The VA on Friday kicked off a “Now is the Time” campaign aimed at alerting veterans and their families to the mental health resources that are available to them.

But veterans advocates still are waiting for a report by a White House task force established by President Donald Trump last year that was charged with developing a national roadmap to boost mental health care and stem persistently high suicide numbers among veterans, who have been hard hit in the pandemic.

Release of the task force report had been scheduled in March but was abruptly shelved due to the outbreak.

“We are not happy about this decision because we understand that there are partnerships and financial resources tied to this plan that we’d like to see implemented immediately,” said Chanin Nuntavong, executive director of The American Legion’s Washington office.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie told veterans groups in a call last week that the draft report was being finalized but declined to give a release date.

Read the full story here.

Patriots owner Robert Kraft selling Super Bowl ring to raise money for coronavirus relief

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft is auctioning off his Super Bowl LI ring — the one that celebrates his team’s comeback from a 28-3 deficit against the Atlanta Falcons and features 283 diamonds — to benefit the All In Challenge, which has raised nearly $40 million to feed people affected by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

“What could I do that would be special? I’ve been thinking about it for weeks,” Kraft said. “I finally thought about our experience in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons. We were down 28-3 [in the third quarter] and had 99.6 percent [odds] to lose. And we came back, and we won.

“And I thought about what is going on at this time and wanted to give something of extreme value in support of our health care workers. So I thought it would be good to give this ring, our fifth Super Bowl win, because it showed how we came back.”

As of Monday morning, the bidding had zoomed past $283,000 and sat at $330,000. Someone with ample funds needs to place a $2.83 million bid on this, stat.

Whoever ponies up for Kraft’s ring will get a personal meeting with the Patriots owner, with the team plane bringing the winning bidder to Gillette Stadium if the person is not withing driving distance.

Kraft has been at the forefront of charitable giving with regards to the coronavirus. Last month, he helped to secure and arrange for more than 1.7 million N95 masks to be delivered to hospitals in Massachusetts and New York, with the team plane flown to China to acquire them. On Saturday, a Patriots truck delivered the equivalent of 84,000 meals — packages of food that were assembled at Gillette Stadium — to a Massachusetts town that has been hit hard by the pandemic.

Wall Street opens lower as questions remain over recovery

Stocks are opening lower on Wall Street as hard questions remain over how and when states will reopen following widespread shutdowns put in place to slow the coronavirus pandemic. The S&P 500 index fell 0.8% in the first few minutes of trading Monday. Marriott fell after the hotel operator reported much lower profit as demand for hotel stays plunged. Even as several countries in Europe made more tentative moves to ease restrictions, they faced a delicate balance of trying to restart their battered economies without causing a second wave of coronavirus infections. U.S. crude oil prices rose and bond yields edged lower.

Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said that the reopening effective Monday is conditional on observing social distancing and other precautions.

Ukraine’s underfunded health care system has been quickly overwhelmed by COVID-19, even though it has reported a relatively low number of cases — about 15,000 infections and more than 400 deaths as of Monday.

Aware of the desperate situation in the health care system, authorities ordered a strict coronavirus lockdown on March 12, complete with police patrols and tight restrictions on using public transportation.

The government has faced a strong pressure to ease the quarantine that has badly bruised the nation’s economy. Doctors fear that relaxing the restrictions could trigger a new wave of contagion.

China says rise in cases a growing concern

BEIJING — The spokesman for China’s National Health Commission says a rise in newly confirmed cases is a growing concern.

“In the past 14 days, there were seven provinces reporting new confirmed local cases,” Mi Feng told reporters at a briefing on Monday.

“The number of cases from local mass infections continues to grow. We must find out the origins of the infections and the routes of transmission. Also we must work hard on tracking management, isolated treatment and medical observation,” Mi said.

China on Monday announced 17 new cases, the second consecutive day of double-digit increases after more than a week when daily new cases were in the single-digits.

Top Swedish official says they should have acted faster

STOCKHOLM — A top Swedish official is saying lessons should be learned from tackling the coronavirus pandemic and Sweden could maybe have acted “a little faster.”

In a radio interview, Dan Eliasson, head of Sweden’s Civil Contingencies Agency told Swedish radio Monday that “when major crises occur, you will always look at it afterward. So comes the question, did we react fast enough?”

His comments come after Health Minister Lena Hallengren last month told Swedish television that “we failed to protect our elderly. That’s really serious and a failure for society as a whole. We have to learn from this.”

Swedish media in recent weeks have reported cases where retirement homes have seen a large death toll with staff continuing to work despite a lack of protective gear or despite exhibiting symptoms and potentially infecting residents. Some retirement homes also have been seen shortage of staff because employees either have refused to work and have been encouraged to stay home even with mild symptoms.

The Scandinavian country has taken a relatively soft approach that has caught international attention. Large gatherings were banned but restaurants and schools for younger children have stayed open. The government has urged social distancing, and Swedes have largely complied.

The country has reported more than 3,175 fatalities and 90% of those who had died as of April 28 were above the age of 70, according to official figures. Half were nursing home residents, and another quarter were receiving care at home.

South Korea delays opening schools

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has pushed back its reopening of schools by a week as health authorities scramble to isolate virus carriers and trace their contacts after finding dozens of coronavirus infections linked to club goers.

Before discovering the new transmissions, the country relaxed social distancing guidelines amid what had been a slowing caseload and scheduled the reopening of schools, starting with high-school seniors on Wednesday.

But Vice Education Minister Park Baeg-beom said in a briefing on Monday that the school openings for high-school seniors were pushed back to next Wednesday.

Local education authorities, including Cho Hee-yeon, superintendent of Seoul’s education office, earlier called for the government to postpone the reopening of schools, raising concerns that children could be exposed to larger infection risks.

The country’s elementary, middle- and high-schools have been providing remote learning since April.

Britain confused by government lockdown message

LONDON — British businesses, trade unions and employees are expressing confusion after the government changed its lockdown message from “stay at home” to go to work if you can.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has extended most of the imposed March 23 lockdown to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, while sketching out how the lockdown will be eased in stages if the number of infections continues to fall.

But while most employees were previously told to stay away from workplaces, Johnson said Sunday that those who can’t do their jobs from home “should be actively encouraged to go to work.” He also said workplaces should observe social distancing and people should avoid public transport if possible, raising many questions about how practical the advice was.

Johnson’s government says more details will come in a 50-page document being published Monday.

But critics accused the government of sowing confusion. Labour Party leader Keir Starmer said “the prime minister appears to be effectively telling millions of people to go back to work without a clear plan for safety or clear guidance as to how to get there without using public transport.”

The leaders of Scotland and Wales also criticized the announcement, and rejected Johnson’s decision to replace the “stay at home” slogan with one urging people to “stay alert.” They said they would not change the “stay at home” message in their territories.

Gyms in Germany’s largest state reopen today

BERLIN — Gyms in Germany’s most populous state are reopening Monday, after authorities relaxed rules intended to curb the spread of the new coronavirus.

Some fitness clubs in North Rhine-Westphalia opened shortly after midnight to let gym-starved customers build up a sweat again.

Authorities agreed last week to further loosen restrictions on movement, but with a fallback clause designed to clamp down on any new clusters.

In recent days, five areas have broken the threshold of 50 new infections per 100,000 inhabitants in a week. Among them is Coesfeld, in North Rhine-Westphalia, where dozens of workers at a slaughterhouse tested positive for COVID-19. Officials have delayed the planned reopening of restaurants in the county by a week.

Authorities in Rosenheim said the threshold has also been narrowly passed in the southern town, after a number of cases were found in a refugee shelter. It wasn’t immediately clear whether officials would reimpose restrictions across the town or limit measures to the affected asylum center.

France navigates legal aspect of lifting lockdown

PARIS — As France has started lifting its lockdown on Monday, the law enforcing measures to fight the spreading of the virus are not ready yet.

The government acknowledged a last-minute legal delay as the Constitutional Council needs to give its green light on the plans.

In a statement overnight, French President Emmanuel Macron appealed instead to the “sense of responsibility” of the French to respect the measures.

The law extending the state of health emergency until July 10 has been approved by parliament on Saturday.

It limits travels across France to 100 kilometers (60 miles) from home unless compelling professional or family reason.

It also requires workers to have an attestation from their employer to get in public transports during rush hours and allow medical staff to systematically trace people who have been in contact with COVID-19 patients.

The government said it should enter into force by the end of the day on Monday.

A government decree has been published on Monday to make wearing mask mandatory in all public transports, with any violation punished by a 135-euro ($146) fine.


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