The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. 

WASHINGTON — On a day when COVID-19 cases soared, health care supplies were scarce and an anguished doctor warned he was being sent to war without bullets, a cargo plane landed at the Los Angeles International Airport, supposedly loaded with the ammo doctors and nurses were begging for: some of the first N95 medical masks to reach the U.S. in almost six weeks.

Virus_Outbreak_Counterfeit_Masks_10540

An opened box of protective masks sits on a pallet at Direct Relief’s distribution center in Santa Barbara, Calif. An Associated Press investigation has found millions of masks, gloves, gowns and other supplies being used in hospitals across the country are counterfeits. Jonathan Ingalls/FRONTLINE/PBS/GRC via AP

Already, health care workers who lacked the crucial protection had caught COVID-19 after treating patients infected with the highly contagious new coronavirus. That very day, an ER doctor who earlier texted a friend that he felt unsafe in an N95 mask died of the infection. It was the first such death reported in the U.S., according to the American College of Emergency Physicians.

But the shipment arriving that night in late March wasn’t going to solve the problem. An Associated Press investigation has found those masks were counterfeits – as are millions of medical masks, gloves, gowns and other supplies being used in hospitals across the country, putting lives at risk.

Before the pandemic, federal trade law enforcement agencies focused on busting knockoffs such as luxury goods and computer software, mostly from China. As America fell sick, the mission shifted to medical supplies. To date, Operation Stolen Promise, led by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, has netted 11 arrests and 519 seizures. And yet counterfeit goods continue to pour in – not just masks, but also mislabeled medicines and fake COVID-19 tests and cures, according to the agency.

Read the full story about the investigation into counterfeit medical supplies here.

First Oregon employer cited for violating COVID-19 safety rules

PORTLAND, Ore. — Oregon workplace safety regulators have cited an Oregon food processor for unsafe practices after nearly three dozen of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

Kate Brown

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered businesses in that state to ensure distancing between workers. A food processor now faces a fine for having employees standing as close as 2 feet apart, rather than 6 feet, as ordered by Brown. Gillian Flaccus/Associated Press

The $2,000 penalty against National Frozen Foods in Albany appears to be the first since Gov. Kate Brown ordered businesses to ensure distancing between workers, the Democrat-Herald reported. The food manufacturer had employees standing as close as 2 feet apart, rather than 6 feet, as ordered by Brown.

National Frozen Foods has 30 days to appeal the citation.

The citation from Oregon OSHA stems from an inspection starting April 20 in response to complaints about the facility.

National Frozen Foods employs more than 300 people at its Albany plant, which opened in 1982. The plant puts out millions of pounds of frozen produce including beans, corn and squash, each year.

Additionally, several workers at Pacific Seafood’s plant in Warrenton, Oregon, have tested positive for the coronavirus, the second seafood processor on the northern Oregon coast with an outbreak, the Astorian reported. A spokesman for Clatsop County described six cases involving workers at Pacific Seafood and one case involving one of the worker’s contacts.

In a statement Saturday, Pacific Seafood said it suspended operations at the Warrenton plant after a worker tested positive. John King, the general manager of the seafood processor, said the facility has since been professionally cleaned. He said the company will test workers for the virus before reopening.

Over two dozen workers have tested positive at Bornstein Seafoods in Astoria, Oregon.

More than 3,350 people in Oregon have tested positive for the coronavirus and at least 130 people have died. The Oregon Health Authority reported no new deaths on Tuesday.

House rescue package includes $25 million for Postal Service

WASHINGTON — A new coronavirus aid package released by House Democrats includes $25 billion for the cash-strapped U.S. Postal Service, which is expected to run out of money by the end of September without additional support from Congress because it’s losing so much revenue during the pandemic.

Virus_Outbreak_Pennsylvania_71569

A United States Postal worker makes a delivery in Philadelphia. Polls show that Americans overwhelmingly support federal government funding to help the Postal Service survive the pandemic. Matt Rourke/Associated Press

The bill released Tuesday also would repeal several restrictions on a $10 billion line of credit for the Postal Service authorized in a previous economic rescue law.

The House is expected to vote on the package as soon as Friday, but Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said there is no “urgency” for the Republican-controlled Senate to act.

President Trump has publicly threatened to block the $10 billion loan unless the Postal Service significantly raises rates for packages delivered for Amazon and other big shippers. Trump has complained for years that the Postal Service was being exploited by Amazon and other shippers, but Democrats say his real target is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who owns The Washington Post. Trump has feuded with what he’s termed the “Amazon Washington Post” and other news organizations that have reported unfavorable developments during his campaign and presidency.

Lawmakers from both parties have defended the Postal Service, saying it is even more important during the COVID-19 crisis as millions of people receive relief checks through the mail, as well as prescription medicine, food and other crucial items.

Read the full story about the Postal Service here.

As Trump urges reopening, thousands getting sick on the job

NEW YORK — Even as President Trump urges getting people back to work and reopening the economy, an Associated Press analysis shows thousands of people are getting sick from COVID-19 on the job.

Recent figures show a surge of infections in meatpacking and poultry-processing plants. There’s been a spike of new cases among construction workers in Austin, Texas, where that sector recently returned to work. Even the White House has proven vulnerable, with positive coronavirus tests for one of Trump’s valets and for Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary.

The developments underscore the high stakes for communities nationwide as they gradually loosen restrictions on business.

“The people who are getting sick right now are generally people who are working,” Dr. Mark Escott, a regional health official, told Austin’s city council. “That risk is going to increase the more people are working.”

Austin’s concerns will likely be mirrored in communities nationwide as the reopening of stores and factories creates new opportunities for the virus to spread.

To be sure, there are plenty of new infections outside the workplace — in nursing homes, and among retired and unemployed people, particularly in densely populated places such as New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and urban parts of New Jersey and Massachusetts.

Yet of the 15 U.S. counties with the highest per-capita infection rates between April 28 and May 5, all are homes to meatpacking and poultry-processing plants or state prisons, according to data compiled by the AP.

The county with the highest per-capita rate was Tennessee’s Trousdale County, where nearly 1,300 inmates and 50 staffers recently tested positive at the privately run Trousdale Turner Correctional Center.

Read the full story here.

Can the coronavirus survive on paper currency?

Experts say the risk of getting the novel coronavirus from cash is low compared with person-to-person spread, which is the main way people get infected. Mark Lennihan/Associated Press

Yes, but experts say the risk of getting the virus from cash is low compared with person-to-person spread, which is the main way people get infected.

Still, many businesses worldwide have banned cash transactions and governments are taking extra precautions.

When it’s an option, use touch-free payment methods, such as purchasing goods over the phone or online, says the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you must use cash or a debit card, the agency recommends using hand sanitizer immediately after paying.

A study in March found the virus can live on cardboard for up to 24 hours, but it did not test how long it survives on paper money. And using a plastic credit or debt card instead doesn’t eliminate risk either. The study found the virus can live on plastic for up to three days, though the work doesn’t prove that anyone has been infected by touching contaminated surfaces.

Elon Musk reopens Tesla factory in defiance of county orders

FREMONT, Calif. – Tesla’s Elon Musk is in a showdown with California officials over the reopening of a major factory, one of the most prominent examples of a powerful business defying health orders that require all but essential activities to cease.

Musk continued to ramp up production at the company’s Fremont facilities Tuesday, where the company produces its Model 3 and Model Y electric vehicles. Workers’ cars here filled up the company’s parking lot, with no signs of any enforcement actions by Alameda County officials, who have previously forbid the reopening as nonessential.

Elon Mush

In this March 9, 2020, file photo, Tesla and SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk speaks at the SATELLITE Conference and Exhibition in Washington. AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File

Meanwhile, Musk on Monday dared officials to arrest him. “Tesla is restarting production today against Alameda County rules,” Musk wrote on Twitter. “I will be on the line with everyone else. If anyone is arrested, I ask that it only be me.”

Musk drew public support from the president on Tuesday. “California should let Tesla & @elonmusk open the plant, NOW,” President Donald Trump tweeted. “It can be done Fast & Safely!”

Tesla on Saturday filed suit against Alameda County, where its Fremont, California factory is located, seeking an injunction against orders to stay closed. The suit alleged violations of the due process and equal protection clauses of the 14th Amendment.

Neetu Balram, a spokeswoman for Alameda County, said in a statement that the county hoped to work with Tesla to avoid any further escalation of the issue.

“We are addressing this matter using the same phased approach we use for other businesses which have violated the Order in the past, and we hope that Tesla will likewise comply without further enforcement measures,” she said, adding that the county learned Monday the company was conducting business beyond minimum basic operations.

She said Tesla was expected to submit a plan late Monday detailing how it would reopen. “We look forward to reviewing Tesla’s plan and coming to agreement on protocol and a timeline to reopen safely,” she added.

Read the full story here.

Putin’s spokesman hospitalized with coronavirus

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman says he is hospitalized with the coronavirus.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told the Interfax news agency on Tuesday, “Yes, I’ve gotten sick. I’m being treated.”

Peskov, 52, has been Putin’s spokesman since 2008, but started working him with in the early 2000s.

Read the rest of this story here.

Fauci to warn nation against premature reopening

WASHINGTON — The government’s leading infectious disease expert says he intends to warn the nation Tuesday that “needless suffering and death” will result from a rushed reopening of the economy.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will appear before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension committee at a hearing assessing reopening plans.

In an email to the New York Times, Fauci said his major message will concern the danger of trying to open the country.

“If we skip over the checkpoints in the guidelines to ‘Open America Again,’ then we risk the danger of multiple outbreaks throughout the country,” Fauci wrote. “This will not only result in needless suffering and death, but would actually set us back on our quest to return to normal.”

This puts Fauci at odds with President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly urged governors to lift business closings and stay-at-home orders.

Read the rest of this story here.

U.S. donates 1,000 ventilators to South Africa

JOHANNESBURG — The U.S. government has donated 1,000 ventilators to South Africa to help the country respond to COVID-19.

South Africa has the most confirmed cases of the disease in Africa with more than 10,600, including 206 deaths.

The new ventilators are valued at $14 million, and with accessories, service plans and shipping, the total donation is worth $20 million, said the U.S. embassy in a statement issued Tuesday.

The ventilators, produced in the United States, will help South Africa’s hospitals treat patients in intensive care units, and the U.S. Agency for International Development will work with the South African government to distribute the equipment across the country.

U.S. ambassador to South Africa Lana Marks was at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo airport on Monday to receive the shipment.

“These ventilators are another example of the American spirit of generosity as we battle this virus at home in the United States and together abroad with our partner countries,” said Marks, in the statement.

The donation of ventilators brings the total U.S. government financial support to South Africa’s COVID-19 response to more than $41 million, according to the statement. In addition, the U.S. is supporting up to 5,400 community healthcare workers to assist with the South African government’s community COVID-19 screening campaign and provide HIV treatment support, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Poland waiting for results from mining region

WARSAW, Poland — Poland’s health authorities say the decision on the pace of lifting restrictions in the southern mining region of Silesia will depend on the results of thousands of coronavirus tests being done there among miners and their families.

Densely-populated Silesia, a region around the city of Katowice, had emerged as a hotbed of infections, especially in the mines. Some 15,000 miners are being tested there this week.

So far, some 600 infections have been reported, but in most cases the symptoms were only mild, Deputy Health Minister Janusz Cieszynski said Tuesday.

He said that depending on the final results and on recommendations from sanitary authorities a individual approach can be applied to regions with high rate of infections, including Silesia. Individual approach could mean that many of the anti-COVID-19 measures of social distancing and isolation could remain in force there, while they are being gradually lifted in other areas.

Two other regions with high infection rate are Masovia, around Warsaw, and the eastern region around the city of Poznan.

Silesia accounts for some 3,800 reported cases of infection, out of over 16,500 reported cases in Poland. Almost 830 people in the nation of 38 million have died.

Belgian airline laying off 25 percent of workers

BRUSSELS — Hard-hit by the coronavirus crisis, Belgium’s Brussels Airlines unveiled Tuesday a cost-cutting plan that will result in the reduction of 25% of its workforce.

The Lufthansa subsidiary, which employs 4,000 people, has suspended its flights as a result of the pandemic, which has put air travel at a halt. The carrier, which also suffered from the bankruptcy of travel operator Thomas Cook last year, plans to reduce its fleet from 54 to 38 aircraft as part of the restructuring.

Brussels Airlines says it is losing one million euro ($1.08 million) a day because of revenue losses, aircraft leasing and maintenance costs. The company has asked the government for €290 million ($314 million) in aid.

“While the turnaround plan is indispensable to overcome the crisis, the ongoing discussions with both the Belgian government and Lufthansa remain essential,” Brussels Airlines said. “The Belgian home carrier hopes for a positive outcome of the talks with the Belgian authorities on the financial support that is needed to overcome the consequences of this unprecedented crisis, while it seeks for assistance of Lufthansa for the restructuring costs.”

Brussels Airlines said it is confident it will “grow again in a profitable way” when air travel returns to normal.

Spain reports 176 new virus deaths

MADRID — Spain is reporting 176 new confirmed deaths for coronavirus during the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total death toll to 26,920.

New infections confirmed by laboratory tests are up on Tuesday by 426. The total contagion, including antibody tests, stands at 269,520.

The figures were slightly up from a day before, but records usually see an increase on Tuesday as unreported data over the weekend shows up in official statistics.

Nearly 140,000 people have recovered after contracting the virus, Spain’s Health Ministry says.

Roughly half of Spaniards are starting to enjoy a loser version of the country’s stringent lockdown adopted in mid-March.

On Tuesday, the government published a new set of rules requiring all incoming visitors from overseas to quarantine for two weeks if they arrive after May 15.

Refugees protest at Greece-Turkey border

ATHENS, Greece — Police in northern Greece say migrants at a holding site near the country’s border with Turkey have staged violent protests following weeks of delays in processing their asylum claims due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Authorities said the protests also involved unaccompanied minors at the closed facility which currently houses some 250 asylum seekers. No injuries were reported.

The asylum service’s operations have been scaled back due to the pandemic restriction measures that have affected many public services.

Greek authorities are struggling to cope with a spike in migrant crossings from Turkey, at the land border and islands, that occurred before the lockdown.

Greece and Turkey were also involved in a standoff at the border for more than two weeks in late February and early March — after Turkey’s government announced it would no longer prevent migrants trying to reach the European Union. Greece used police and its armed forces with assistance from the EU border protection agency Frontex to stop thousands of migrants trying to force their way over the border.

Ryanair plans to bring back flights in July

LONDON — Budget airline Ryanair will begin operating nearly 1,000 daily flights starting in July — assuming government restrictions on flights within Europe are lifted after the shutdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The carrier says it will restore 90% of its pre-COVID-19 route network. The airline has been operating with a skeleton schedule since mid-March, with some 30 flights daily between Ireland, the UK and Europe.

On the plane, lining up for toilets will be forbidden, though access to bathrooms can be made on request. Crew members will wear masks and offer limited services.

The airline also announced that passengers flying in July and August will be required at check-in to state how long their planned visit will be and what address they will use during their visit. The information will be given to governments in the event they want to monitor the passenger for isolation requirements.

Danish official says second wave there unlikely

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — A top medical official in Denmark said Tuesday that “it is very unlikely that another wave of corona will occur” in the Scandinavian country.

“But we may see changes in the reproduction rate,” said Kaare Moelbak of Statens Serum Institut, a government agency that maps the spread of the coronavirus in Denmark.

Currently the Danish so-called reproduction rate, which measures the average number of people a person with the virus infects, is at 0.7, down from a previous 0.9. It has been below 1.0 in the past weeks.

Moelbak said Denmark now had built up a test capacity and can now isolate infected people.

He spoke at a news conference with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen who announced that Denmark will create an agency to ensure the supply of protective equipment and testing facilities to “strengthen the preparedness” in the future.

“We don’t want to stand in a situation where we lack tests and protective equipment,” Frederiksen said.

Denmark started a lockdown March 11 and has in the past weeks slowly reopened society.

French children return to school today

PARIS — French children start going back to school on Tuesday as the country is gradually lifting confinement measures, following two months of lockdown.

Authorities say 86% of preschools and primary schools are reopening this week.

Most schools across the country start accommodating children on Tuesday. In Paris, schools will reopen Thursday.

Classes are capped at 10 students at preschools and 15 elsewhere. Students are required to keep physical distance from each other and wash their hands several times a day. Teachers must wear a mask.

School attendance is not compulsory. The government has allowed parents to keep children at home amid fears prompted by the COVID-19, as France is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world.

Junior high schools in regions with fewer virus cases are expected to reopen next week. A target date hasn’t been scheduled yet for high schools.

As of Tuesday, French authorities reported nearly 140,000 people infected with the virus and more than 26,000 deaths.

Kosovo’s prime minister returns to office

PRISTINA, Kosovo — Kosovo’s acting prime minister has returned to his office after the person suspected of being exposed to the virus tested negative, his spokesman said Tuesday.

Acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti “has returned to the regular working regime” and he has not been tested of the virus because “the suspected person he had contacted resulted negative,” said Perparim Kryeziu, a government spokesperson.

A day earlier Kurti said he was quarantining himself at home following contacts with a possible virus-infected official.

Kosovo has eased some of its lockdown measures, but it is still with closed borders and many businesses remain shut.

As of Tuesday, Kosovo has had 28 confirmed virus deaths and about 900 confirmed cases.

Indonesian death toll tops 1,000

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak breached 1,000-mark on Tuesday, making it the country with the most COVID-19 deaths and the highest fatality rate in Southeast Asia.

The COVID-19 task force spokesman Achmad Yurianto confirmed 16 new deaths in the last 24 hours, taking the country’s death toll to 1,007.

The number of coronavirus fatalities become under scrutiny in recent days as media reports and medical experts said the national death toll was likely more than double the official figure of 1,007.

Indonesia has one of the lowest testing rates in the world and some epidemiologists say that has made it harder to get an accurate picture of the infections in the world’s fourth most populous country.

 


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: