The Latest: Stay-at-home orders in Florida, Russia to test vaccine

Published 12:46 pm Wednesday, April 1, 2020

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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.
— DeSantis issues stay-at-home order for Florida.
— Pence says U.S. food supply is strong.
— Pence: U.S. trajectory akin to hard-hit Italy.
— More than 110,000 positive tests in Italy.
— Russia will begin vaccine tests in late June.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order on Wednesday as federal and local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had implemented.
DeSantis told reporters that he is issuing the order after consulting with President Donald Trump and White House advisers, who have said that Americans need to stay home throughout April.
DeSantis’ move came hours after the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, said on NBC’s “Today” show that he would tell DeSantis that the federal guidelines for social distancing should be viewed as “a national stay-at-home order.”
The state’s confirmed cases are approaching 7,000, deaths have reached 86 and almost 900 are hospitalized with a university model cited this week at the White House showing an exponential growth in the coming weeks.
More than 30 other states had already issued such orders, including other large states such as California, New York and Illinois. Those all acted more than a week ago.
GORDONSVILLE, Va. — Vice President Mike Pence says Americans will have enough food and supplies to get through the coronavirus pandemic.
Pence said America’s food supply is “very strong” on Wednesday as he toured a Virginia distribution center for Walmart, the world’s largest retailer.
Shelves at grocery and other stores across the U.S. were picked clean of toilet paper and other essentials at the onset of the pandemic.
Pence toured a chilly warehouse for perishable goods ranging from potatoes to bananas. He had removed his suit jacket and sported a Walmart associate’s badge that said “Mike.”
The vice president told a Walmart truck driver that he and all drivers are considered “critical infrastructure.”
Pence used the intercom to tell all employees they’re on the “front lines” of the pandemic. He thanked them for doing a “great job” and for “keeping food on the table for the American people.”
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence says the White House’s models for the coronavirus outbreak show the country on a trajectory akin to hard-hit Italy.
Speaking to CNN, Pence says, “We think Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point.”
Pence was referencing the prediction models unveiled by the White House on Tuesday that project 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. deaths in the coronavirus pandemic. Those figures assume that the country maintains rigorous social-distancing practices for the duration of the public health crisis.
Italy’s health system was stretched beyond capacity weeks ago leading to soaring death tolls. U.S. governors and local officials have warned their states need urgent federal help to avoid a similar fate.
ROME — Italy added another 4,782 virus infections to bring its official total to 110,574. And Italy’s death toll, already the highest in the world, increased by another 727 victims to 13,155. But the rate of new infections continued its leveling off, and Lombardy officials reported continued easing of the pressure on intensive care units, where the numbers have fluctuated from 1,328 patients on Sunday to 1,342 on Wednesday.
Local officials and statisticians, however, have noted that Lombardy’s ICU numbers might not be rising because ICU are full and because many elderly people aren’t being brought to hospitals and are dying at home or in nursing homes where their deaths might not even be recorded as COVID-19 because they were never tested.
But if the trend of fewer hospital admissions continues and more ICU beds free up, “probably we’ll be able to admit patients who are being treated at home, because we can treat them at home, but just not in optimal safety” said Dr. Guido Marinoni, president of the order of doctors in hard-hit Bergamo.
MOSCOW — The Russian government said Wednesday that tests of a new coronavirus vaccine will begin in June.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova reported to President Vladimir Putin that the trials will involve 60 volunteers.
The vaccine is being developed by the state Vektor lab in Novosibirsk in Siberia. Golikova said that the government has allocated all the necessary resources to speed up its development.
She said that the preliminary research is set to be completed by early May and clinical tests are scheduled to start on June 29.
About three dozen labs across the world have been developing a vaccine against the new coronavirus.
JOHANNESBURG — As the Southern Hemisphere tilts toward winter, South Africa’s health minister is warning that flu season will start next month and hospitals and clinics will be flooded with cases on top of the coronavirus.
Dr. Zweli Mkhize says the unexpectedly slow growth in the country’s virus numbers — now at 1,380 — means that “we may be currently experiencing the calm before the storm.”
The minister spoke as Africa’s most developed nation rolled out new mobile testing units. Cases across Africa are now above 5,800, with 49 of the continent’s 54 countries reporting cases.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice rescheduled West Virginia’s May 12 primary election to June 9 on Wednesday, citing fears about the coronavirus spreading at polling places.
Justice said medical experts told him that having the primary on its originally scheduled date of May 12 would be unsafe for voters and poll workers, since health officials have warned of a surge in the coming weeks.
“There is no question moving this date is the right thing to do,” said Justice, a Republican.
MOSCOW — The Russian ambassador in Washington said that a planeload of medical supplies sent to the U.S. reflects the need to pool global efforts to counter the coronavirus pandemic despite police differences.
The flight follows Monday’s phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in which they discussed cooperation measures to fight the outbreak. Trump hailed Russia’s move as “very nice.”
Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov noted that the two countries pooled efforts to fight the Nazis and pointed at other examples of cooperation in the past. Russia-US ties have sunk to post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis and other issues, but Antonov said the pandemic requires a coordinated response.
LONDON — One of the U.K.’s leading public health officials has voiced concern over another daily increase in the number of people getting infected with the coronavirus.
Dr. Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said at the government’s daily news conference that it is “slightly concerning” that new infections have risen by more than 500 over the past couple of days to 3,009.
The worry is that the plateau seen over previous days may prove short-lived and that further restrictions may be needed to get on top of the outbreak.
Like others, the British government is seeking to lower the rate of new infections by an array of curbs on day-to-day life in order to ultimately reduce the number of deaths linked to COVID-19.
Doyle also urged people to stay at home after noting worrying figures showing an uptick in the number of motor vehicle journeys made. Those made on public transport remain at depressed levels.
RALEIGH, N.C — A North Carolina deputy died while hospitalized in intensive care for treatment of coronavirus, the sheriff said Wednesday.
Montgomery County Sheriff Chris Watkins said in a news release that Deputy Sypraseuth “Bud” Phouangphrachanh died Tuesday night in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Pinehurst. The 43-year-old deputy, who was married with five children, had experienced what he thought were allergy symptoms but later tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted Monday to the hospital.
Phouangphrachanh served as a school resource officer and had been with the sheriff’s office for 14 years in the rural county east of Charlotte. The governor had ordered schools closed on March 16, but the sheriff said in a statement that Phouangphrachanh served multiple roles within the department.
“During his service to Montgomery County, he filled many roles, but his passion was as School Resource Officer where he worked with middle school and high school students,” the sheriff said, adding that he was known for his big smile and sense of humor.
He appears to be the first North Carolina law enforcement officer whose death was attributed to COVID-19.
The news release didn’t say whether the deputy contracted the virus while on duty. The sheriff didn’t immediately respond to an email asking if it’s clear when and how the deputy was exposed to COVID-19.
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Trump administration has dropped the idea of militarizing the Canada-U.S. border amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Trudeau says he had heard “that is not something they’re continuing to pursue.”
The Canadian government had been in discussions with the White House seeking to persuade the U.S. not to do it. Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has said there no public health justification for troops. Very few people cross the border into the U.S. from Canada illegally and Canada has universal health care and widespread testing for the virus. And COVID-19 cases are surging more in the U.S. than in Canada. Canada and the United States have the longest un-militarized border in the world.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said that more than 20,000 Russians are waiting for a chance to come back amid the pandemic.
Speaking in a conference call with Cabinet officials, Putin noted that many of them are coming back because they found it difficult to get proper medical assistance abroad.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said that the number of Russians allowed to return will be limited to 700 a day, including 500 in Moscow, due to a limited capacity to properly screen and isolate those arriving.
Russia has completely shut its borders this week and sharply limited the number of flights taking Russians home, and thousands have been left stranded abroad waiting for a flight home.
Putin emphasized that “the situation in the country is exacerbating” too, noting that nearly 293,000 are in self-isolation over possible infection. Russia has registered 2,777 coronavirus cases and 24 deaths.
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Cyprus authorities are faulting a continued disregard for strict stay-at-home rules for the biggest single-day jump in confirmed coronavirus cases on the island nation. Virologist Leondios Kostrikis said the latest testing results showed 58 confirmed new cases, bringing the total number of cases to 320. Kostrikis said the numbers make it obvious that some people aren’t sticking to the restrictions and warned that the health system would have “great difficulty” in dealing with the pandemic if everyone doesn’t comply.
Cyprus with a population of around 870,000 on Monday stepped up its stay-at-home rules by enacting a nighttime curfew, banning social gatherings at private homes and limiting travel outside homes to once a day.
ALGIERS, Algeria — Algeria plans to administer the anti-malaria medication chloroquine to treat citizens with confirmed cases of the coronavirus as well as those who appear to be infected.
The announcement on Tuesday by Health Minister Abderrahmane Benbouzid follows another a week ago by the Communications Ministry which signaled the go-ahead for the medication.
The ministry statement said the medication, also used to treat other maladies such as the autoimmune disease lupus, is produced locally and in sufficient quantities for use during the current health crisis.
The health minister, speaking on the national radio, said that the Scientific Committee, “noting the opinion of other specialists and experts, decided to start the chloroquine treatment on all those declared positive with COVID-19 as well as those who have signs of contamination.”
He did not say when treatments would start.
Some European countries such as France recently decided to administer a variant of the medication under controlled circumstances and with a doctor’s prescription. Chloroquine or hydroxychloriquine combined with the antibiotic azithromycinare are being held out by some as a hope for combating the choronavirus pandemic. Algeria has 716 cases of the virus and 44 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins site
CUBA, Missouri — An eastern Missouri man has been charged with making a terrorist threat after he allegedly coughed toward customers and wrote COVID on a cooler at a Dollar Tree store.
John Swaller of Cuba was charged Tuesday and was being held on $25,000 bail in the Crawford County jail.
An employee of a the store called police because the 33-year-old man was intentionally coughing toward customers and had breathed on a cooler before writing COVID on the inside of the cooler.
The store was closed and sanitized. Cuba is about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.
Swaller’s father told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch his son does not have COVID-19. Police still used protective gear to transport Swaller to jail.
ATHENS — Greek health authorities have announced another 101 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, including 20 people on board a passenger ship anchored off the country’s main port of Piraeus.
That brings the total number of cases in Greece to 1,415.
Another 20 positive cases from the ship were announced Tuesday. The ferry has just over 380 people on board and had been chartered to take workers of various nationalities from Turkey to Spain for a shipbuilding project.
It set sail in early March but headed back due to the virus outbreak in Europe and was allowed to resupply in Greece. All on board have been tested, and authorities were awaiting all the results.
Greece also reported one new death, bringing the total number of people who have died due to COVID-19 to 50. Ninety people are hospitalized in intensive care on respirators.
The country has carried out 17,350 tests so far.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan extended its nationwide lockdown another two weeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus. The number of confirmed cases rose Wednesday to more than 2,100, with 26 fatalities.
Asad Umar, federal minister for planning and development, said the country will start special flights beginning April 4 to bring home Pakistanis stranded in various countries. However, a ban on both domestic and international flights was extended until April 11.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan also said China was supplying much needed medical equipment to the country.
Khan has opposed ordering a curfew but authorities are enforcing a nationwide lockdown, which has badly affected the country’s ailing economy.
WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia announced 91 new positive infections of the new coronavirus. That brings the total cases of COVID-19 to 586.
There have been two new deaths, bringing the total to nine.
Mayor Muriel Bowser has issued a stay-home order for Washington’s approximately 700,000 residents. Neighboring Maryland and Virginia have done the same.
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel says it is far too early for Germany to consider loosening restrictions on public life. She says officials will review the situation just after Easter.
Merkel held a telephone conference Wednesday with German state governors and said they agreed the closure of non-essential shops and a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public will remain in place until at least April 19.
Merkel says authorities will review the situation the Tuesday after Easter.
Germany had more than 73,000 confirmed coronavirus infections as of Wednesday, including 802 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — The Hungarian government says it no longer try to curb the autonomy of mayors nationwide during the coronavirus pandemic.
The about-face came just hours after the government presented legal amendments which would have tied mayors’ decisions to approval from government-appointed administrators.
The plan had drawn swift condemnation from opposition parties, which said it would unnecessarily slow the decision-making process.
TIRANA, Albania — Albania has extended its lockdown indefinitely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A statement from the Health Ministry says all “restrictive measures aiming at limiting the COVID-19 spread” are extended to an undetermined time.
The restrictive measures cover the closing of schools, kindergartens and other public educative institutions, cafes, restaurants, shops and fast food service and other accommodating structures like hotels.
It also prohibits all gatherings.
Albania has also closed its land, sea and air borders.
Albania has 15 deaths and 259 positive cases. Authorities say that 80 people are hospitalized and 67 people have recovered from the virus.
BERLIN — German authorities won’t introduce rules requiring people to wear face masks in public. The government is hopeful that tracing apps can be a useful tool.
Neighboring Austria has ordered people to wear simple masks when in supermarkets. The eastern German city of Jena wants to make them obligatory in shops and public transport.
But Bavarian governor Markus Soeder said after a telephone conference with Chancellor Angela Merkel that state leaders “agreed not to declare an obligation to wear protective masks now.”
He said there are reservations about whether simple masks would achieve “resounding medical success.”
German authorities are exploring ways of developing tracing apps to alert people to potential infection with COVID-19 that comply with the country’s strict data privacy rules.
WIMBLEDON, England — Wimbledon has been canceled for the first time since World War II because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The All England Club announced after an emergency meeting that the oldest Grand Slam tournament in tennis would not be held in 2020.
Wimbledon was scheduled to be played on the outskirts of London from June 29 to July 12.
It now joins the growing list of sports events scrapped in 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
That includes the Tokyo Olympics, the NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments and the European soccer championship.
The last time Wimbledon was called off was 1945.
WASHINGTON — The Bureau of Prisons says a second inmate has died at a federal prison complex in Louisiana from the new coronavirus.
A Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman confirmed the death at FCC Oakdale to The Associated Press. The agency said it could not provide additional information pending notification of next of kin.
Another inmate died at the same facility last week.
The death comes the same day the Bureau of Prisons is enacting a new policy to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The agency said all inmates at its 122 correctional facilities will be locked in their cells for 14 days in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.
So far, 29 inmates and 30 staff members in the federal prison system have tested positive for COVID-19.
BERLIN — The U.N. weather agency says the coronavirus pandemic is affecting global efforts to monitor climate change and collect meteorological data for forecasting.
The World Meteorological Organization says most monitoring is automated, but some data in developing countries is still collected by hand. That process is now slowed by lockdowns.
It said observations in Bolivia, Uganda and Papua New Guinea have dropped by more than half over the last week compared to the average in January.
The reduction in air travel is also having an impact. Sensors on planes collect information on temperatures and wind speeds, which they transmit to meteorological stations on the ground.
With far fewer planes in the air, weather services have seen a sharp drop in available data.
SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria has confirmed at least 412 cases of the new coronavirus and nine deaths.
Officials say 20 people have recovered from COVID-19.
The government has extended the nationwide state of emergency by a month until May 13 to contain the spread of the outbreak.
The Balkan country of 7 million has already closed schools, restaurants, parks and sports facilities, and banned intercity travel and holiday trips.
The extension must be approved by the 240-member parliament, which must also vote on a government-proposed budget update on Apr. 2.
It is not immediately clear if the meeting will be held because all lawmakers have to undergo a test for the coronavirus after one tested positive for the disease.
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Slovakia is launching a project to test for the new coronavirus in its embattled Roma population that lives separated from the majority in poor settlements across the country.
Prime Minister Igor Matovic says the one-week testing with the help of the military and Roma activists will start on Friday in 33 such settlements.
The poorest of the poor Roma live in settlements that often lack access to running water and sewage systems.
Authorities will at first focus on 1,000 residents who recently returned from abroad or have shown symptoms of the virus.
Matovic said the virus would spread more quickly there than at any other places.
BERLIN — The United Nations’ atomic watchdog agency says it’s sending equipment to more than 40 countries to give them the capability to use a highly accurate, nuclear-derived, coronavirus detection technique.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says 4 million euros ($4.4 million) worth of supplies will help countries use the technique to detect in real time the coronavirus in samples sent to their labs.
The test is known as RT-PRC, or “real time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction.”
The Vienna-based agency says dozens of labs in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean will receive diagnostic machines and kits as well as other supplies to speed up national testing.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi says the assistance is part of the agency’s response to requests for support from around 90 member states. The IAEA is also drawing from extra money provided by member states, including $6 million from the U.S., $3.5 million from Canada and $550,000 from the Netherlands.
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