Evening world update: U.S. restrictions extended 30 days; NY deaths near 1,000

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.

These files, assembled from the Associate Press, were posted by Black Press Media at 5 p.m., Sunday, March 29.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

  • Trump extends stay-at-home guidelines for another 30 days.
  • New York state nearing 1,000 coronavirus deaths.
  • Britain on emergency footing for first time since WWII.

Some U.S. megachurches defy social distancing

Congregants of megachurches in Louisiana, Ohio and Florida attended services in defiance of social distancing orders on Sunday morning, even as politicians and doctors took to weekly news shows to warn of coronavirus’s spread in the U.S.

In Louisiana, which has seen a spike in cases and has a shelter-in-place order, the Life Tabernacle Church in the town of Central held services at 10 a.m. More than 550 parishioners attended, about half as many as the week before, pastor Tony Spell told a local news reporter.

His state’s governor raised alarms Sunday that hospitals in nearby New Orleans could run out of capacity for breathing machines within a week as the state’s coronavirus death toll has climbed to the fourth-highest in the country. “We’re on a trajectory right now where we’ll not be able to deliver the care that people need when they need it,” Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” Edwards, who has limited public gatherings to 50 or under, last week urged “all faith leaders to heed this directive”

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci warned that the U.S. could see 100,000 to 200,000 deaths from the virus, a stark counterpoint to discussions about whether to restart parts of the U.S. economy that have been on shutdown.

Pastor Spell told local news outlet NBC15 earlier this month that he didn’t believe his congregation was in danger of infection. “It’s not a concern,” he said. “The virus, we believe, is politically motivated. We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.” The church did not respond to request for comment.

Only Hawaii and Wyoming have no reported COVID-19 deaths

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia has reported the state’s first death linked to the new coronavirus pandemic.

The fatality involved an 88-year-old woman from Marion County, the Department of Health and Human Resources said in a news release. The statement said no further details would be released.

“We extend our sincere condolences to this family,” DHHR Secretary Bill J. Crouch said in the statement.

West Virginia was the last U.S. state to report a confirmed case on March 17.

Hawaii and Wyoming are the only remaining states with no reported coronavirus deaths.

New Orleans convention centre transformed to 1,000 bed hospital

NEW ORLEANS — Orders closing many Louisiana businesses and keeping people home to slow the spread of COVID-19 “may well” have to be extended past April 13, Gov. John Bel Edwards says.

Edwards and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell spoke to reporters at a briefing that was livestreamed from outside the city’s convention centre, which is being transformed into a 1,000-bed hospital.

That hospital, for recovering patients who no longer need ventilators or intensive care, will open by April 5, as will a nearby 250-bed centre for some people awaiting test results, Edwards said.

U.S. bickers over how relief cash should be distributed

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says Congress should re-convene if some Americans don’t get their coronavirus stimulus money because of antiquated state computer systems that aren’t equipped to quickly handle the volume of federal money being sent to workers.

He says he wanted the money to be distributed by the federal government, but his opponents wanted it distributed through existing state unemployment systems.

Trump told reporters at Sunday’s White House briefing on the virus that if Americans don’t get their money quickly, he’s going to call for Congress to reconvene or find other ways to distribute the money.

He says the federal government is equipped to quickly distribute money from the mammoth, $2.2 trillion stimulus package to shore up the U.S. economy.

Trump: Physical distancing extended for another 30 days

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is extending federal guidelines recommending people stay home and away from one another for another 30 days as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country.

Trump made the announcement during a Rose Garden briefing. The guidelines, originally tagged as “15 days to slow the spread” had been set to expire Monday.

Trump had said last week he hoped to have the country “re-opened” by Easter. But public health experts sounded the alarm, saying a rollback would speed transmission, making the situation worse.

The federal guidelines recommend that older people and those with preexisting conditions stay home and away from other people, and also recommend that all Americans avoid social gatherings, work from home and steer clear of bars and restaurants.

Two U.S. health insurers waive payment for COVID-19 treatment

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says two health insurers are waiving patient payments for coronavirus treatment.

Both Cigna and Humana won’t require many of their customers to make copayments or other forms of cost sharing for COVID-19 care. Health care providers would be reimbursed at the insurers’ in-network rates or Medicare rates.

Cigna said the waived payments would begin Monday and continue through May 31.

The moves could save those patients thousands of dollars, depending on their coverage and how much health care they’ve used so far this year, for treatment for the coronavirus. They come after Aetna last week announced payment waivers for patients for hospital stays tied to the coronavirus.

Many insurers have previously waived patient costs for testing or doctor visits and telemedicine to encourage people with coronavirus symptoms to get help.

Texas tightens borders even more

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is putting new restrictions on travellers from Louisiana as the neighbouring state continues to be one of the nation’s hot spots for coronavirus.

Gov. Greg Abbott says drivers from Louisiana crossing state lines must self-isolate in Texas for two weeks. It comes two days after Abbott imposed similar restrictions on airline passengers arriving from New Orleans.

More than 3,500 Louisiana residents have been diagnosed with the disease caused by a new coronavirus, and more than 150 of them have died, according to state figures.

Delaware orders visitors to self-quarantine

WILMINGTON, Del. — Delaware’s governor has issued an order telling out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for two weeks.

The order by Gov. John Carney takes effect Monday morning and requires anyone entering the state from elsewhere to self-quarantine for 14 days. It does not apply to people who are only passing through the state.

“Now’s not the time to visit Delaware. We’re facing a serious situation here that is getting worse,” Carney said in a statement.

Those who disobey the order, which has some exceptions for health care workers and other essential tasks, could face criminal charges.

Statewide, health officials say there are more than 200 coronavirus cases and 31 hospitalizations as of Sunday morning.

Second police station closes in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico has closed a second police station in less than a week after another officer tested positive for COVID-19.

The government says more than 30 officers at the Aguas Buenas station in the island’s eastern region were sent home under a two-week quarantine.

The closure comes after authorities shuttered a police station in the popular tourist town of Rincon late Wednesday after officials said the wife of a policeman died from the coronavirus. The U.S. territory has reported five deaths and more than 120 confirmed cases.

Australia builds firewall around to fend off foreign corporate predators

CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has announced tough new foreign investment rules to prevent corporate predators from taking over companies amid plunging share prices during the new coronavirus crisis.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the new regulations on Monday after Australian newspapers reported Chinese companies had snapped up Australian medical supplies in recent weeks for shipment to China.

Frydenberg told Nine Network television that the new regulations were not aimed at any particular country, but were designed to “stop predators who are acting against the national interest.”

“We want to have the scrutiny and the visibility over all foreign investment proposals regardless of their monetary value,” Frydenberg said.

Australia’s Foreign Investment Review Board will scrutiny all foreign investments to ensure they are in Australia’s interests.

Trump accuses some health centres of hoarding medical supplies

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says his administration has identified cases of “hoarding” of medical supplies and equipment by hospitals and medical professionals.

As his administration looks to meet urgent shortfalls in personal protective equipment and ventilators needed for the coronavirus response, Trump is calling on them to release it to harder-hit areas.

Says Trump: “We have some health care workers, some hospitals frankly, individual hospitals and hospital chains we have them hoarding equipment, including ventilators.”

Trump is not naming names but says in some cases they’re in areas where they don’t expect the virus to have a major impact.

He says: “These are areas that in some cases that probably will not need them and in some cases even if they do, they have too many.”

Trump adds: “So they have to release ventilators if they have them, they have to release certain medical supplies and equipment.”

Illinois to double number of daily coronavirus tests

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the state will soon more than double the number of daily COVID-19 tests it can administer as the number of cases surged.

Public health officials reported 1,105 new cases Sunday, including 18 deaths. Overall, Illinois has more than 4,500 cases with 65 deaths.

Pritzker said Illinois will increase its daily testing capacity from about 4,000 to 10,000 within 10 days. He said more workers are being added at labs, along with new technology.

He added that he spoke with Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories, which has made a portable rapid test, to ask that the state gets first dibs. The medical device maker says its cartridge-based test, approved Friday, delivers results within minutes.

The first-term Democrat, who has been critical of the federal government’s response to the pandemic, said he had no choice. Cases are expected to peak next month.

“I’m not going to wait on promises from the federal government that will not be fulfilled,” he said.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.

Public health officials said they are still investigating the death of an infant who had COVID-19.

Brazilian president defies health officials, posts videos of gatherings

RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to defy calls from health officials looking to prevent gatherings that might spread the new coronavirus, posting videos of himself gathering small crowds in several neighbourhoods in the capital of Brasilia.

Since the beginning of the outbreak, Bolsonaro has downplayed the risks of COVID-19, calling it a “little flu” that largely threatens the elderly and most vulnerable. He has urged them to self-isolate, but otherwise has stressed the need to keep Brazil’s economy running. He has clashed with several state governors who have introduced quarantine measures, such as in Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.

“The virus is here, we’re going to have to confront it. Confront it like a man, not a boy!” Bolsonaro told supporters outside his official residence on Sunday. “We’re all going to die one day.”

As of Sunday, the Brazilian Health Ministry had reported 3,904 confirmed cases and 114 deaths linked to COVID-19.

Solidarity in Lebanon

BEIRUT — Thousands of people around Lebanon stood and clapped on their balconies in a show of support to members of the country’s medical sector who are leading the battle against the coronavirus.

At the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, a police force saluted doctors and nurses as well as the patients who are undergoing treatment. The hospital now is the main centre in Lebanon to deal with coronavirus patients.

Lebanon’s Health Ministry reported 26 new coronavirus cases, raising the total to 438. The ministry added in a statement carried by the state news agency that two more persons, both in their 70s, were killed by COVID-19, raising the total deaths in the tiny Arab country to 10.

New York death toll approaches 1,000

NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state’s coronavirus death toll is nearing 1,000. It accounts for more than 40% of coronavirus deaths in the U.S.

The number of disease-related deaths in the state, the vast majority in New York City, jumped from 728 to 965 in the last 24 hours. Figures released Sunday morning showed 678 coronavirus deaths in the city, which continues to be the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S.

The number of patients being discharged at New York state’s hospitals after they’ve been treated for the coronavirus has increased daily to a high of 845 on Saturday, Cuomo said. In all, more than 3,500 people have been discharged.

As of Sunday, more than 8,500 people remain hospitalized across the state because of the disease, including more than 2,000 in intensive care. In New York City, about 20% of coronavirus cases have led to hospitalizations.

Those totals are continuing to spike, but Cuomo said they’re not multiplying nearly as quickly as they were last week. From March 16-19, the number of hospitalizations in the state doubled every two days. Now it’s taking about six days for the number to double.

Full-on social isolation ordered for Moscow

MOSCOW — The mayor of Moscow has ordered a full regime of self-isolation for the Russian capital’s residents.

Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said that as of Monday all Muscovites must remain in their homes except in cases of emergency, to shop at the nearest store or pharmacy or if their presence is required at their workplace.

UK: Surgeon dies from coronavirus

LONDON — A surgeon has become the first front-line National Health Service worker to die after contracting COVID-19.

The University Hospitals of Derby and Burton say Amged El-Hawrani, 55, died at the Glenfield Hospital in Leicester on Saturday.

El-Hawrani worked as an ear, nose and throat surgeon at the Queen’s Hospital Burton.

A statement made on behalf of El-Hawrani’s family said he viewed his role “as a doctor as one of life’s most noble pursuits.”

Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, says El-Hawrani’s death “is not just an individual human tragedy but a stark reminder to the whole country that we all must take this crisis seriously.”

Britan on emergency footing, the first since Second World War

LONDON — Britain has placed all parts of the country on an emergency footing — the first time such a thing has been done since World War II.

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told reporters at a daily briefing that the move means strategic co-ordinationcentres will be established across the country.

He says “this is an unprecedented step in peace time — we haven’t done anything like this since the Second World War.”

Senior members of the emergency services and the military will be part of these groups.

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