Restaurant owner Paolo Polli stages a protest in Milan, Italy, Saturday May, 9, 2020. Hundreds of Milan bar and restaurant owners each placed an empty chair from their working places in front of the Arch of Peace in a protest demanding fiscal and other measures to help them survive the lockdown. Restaurants and bars can only open for sit-down clients from June 1. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

The Latest: White House recommends testing in nursing homes

May 11, 2020 - 1:19 pm
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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.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— White House recommends coronavirus testing of more than 1 million nursing home residents and staff in next 2 weeks.

— Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will follow “modified quarantine” plan.

— Cape Town becomes South Africa's virus hotspot.

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

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.

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ROME — For a fifth straight day on Monday, Italy’s daily number of new COVID-19 infections has declined.

According to Italian Health Ministry data, there were 744 confirmed new cases registered since Sunday evening.

That number is lower than daily caseloads when contagion containment measures went into effect nationwide in early March.

The country where Europe’s outbreak began now has 219,814 cases, a tally that experts say is surely significantly lower than actual infections, since many with mild or moderate coronavirus symptoms didn’t get hospitalized or tested.

In recent days, the number of daily new deaths also has been significantly lower than in early weeks, with 179 registered on Monday.

Still, the known death toll is one of the world’s highest —30,739. Health officials say it will be later this week at earliest before they can assess if a limited easing of lockdown restrictions on citizens’ movements, including the opening of public parks last week, has triggered any uptick in infections.

Italy is moving cautiously and gradually in reopening economic sectors and in removing travel limits.

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she will follow a “modified quarantine” plan after meeting with Vice President Mike Pence at a time when one of his aides tested positive for coronavirus.

Reynolds said that Pence’s aide was at the White House when she visited last Wednesday to brief Pence and President Donald Trump on Iowa’s response to the pandemic.

Reynolds met again with Pence on Friday when he visited Iowa to meet with religious leaders and food executives. Although Pence had just learned of his aide’s infection, he didn’t wear a mask during his visit and neither did the governor or other Iowa politicians.

Reynolds said that she had no contact with Pence’s aide when in Washington but that “out of an abundance of caution” she will take steps to isolate herself. Reynolds said that she tested negative Monday for coronavirus and is feeling healthy.

Reynolds said that her temperature will be taken before she enters the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, where she’s been working. She said that many of her aides will work from home. She said she’ll have only “minimal interactions” with others and will wear a mask and practice social distancing when she does.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf blasted local elected officials who plan to reopen in defiance of his shutdown orders, threatening Monday to yank coronavirus aid and declaring they are “choosing to desert in the face of the enemy.”

The normally mild-mannered Democrat fired back after several counties declared themselves in open rebellion against his restrictions on businesses and movement, saying local officials who pronounce themselves open for business will pay a steep price.

“To those politicians who decide to cave into this coronavirus, they need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act,” said Wolf, threatening to withhold state and federal funding to counties “that put us all at risk by operating illegally.”

Wolf also warned businesses that choose to “follow the whims of local politicians and ignore the law” by reopening in defiance of the shutdown that they risk businesses licenses, certificates of occupancy and other required governmental approvals to operate.

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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.

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 progress and could follow soon after.

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

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CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office says a senior staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, but the governor has tested negative.

The first-term Democrat’s office released a statement Monday saying all employees, including Pritzker, will work from home “for an appropriate isolation period.” The statement didn't specify how long that would last.

The office says the staff member was asymptomatic, but tested positive last week and was in close proximity to the governor. Pritzker and all other staff have tested negative.

Roughly 20 administration officials have been working from a downtown Chicago office building where Pritkzer was holding daily news conferences during the pandemic.

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BERLIN — The German government is making available 750 million euros ($810 million) to speed up the production and development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus.

Science minister Anja Karliczek said Monday that about 500 million euros will go into scientific studies and vaccine trials, while 250 million euros will go into expanding production capacities in Germany.

Numerous universities and companies worldwide, including in Germany, are rushing to develop a vaccine for the pandemic-causing virus.

Germany has recorded more than 170,000 cases and at least 7,484 deaths since the start of the outbreak.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Hair and nail salons along with barbershops began reopening in much of Florida on Monday.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed such businesses to reopen with tight regulations except in hard-hit Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the state’s two most-populous. That comes almost six weeks after they were ordered closed statewide.

DeSantis himself has expressed eagerness to get a haircut, saying last week he hasn’t had one since February.

The state has ordered that barbers, cosmetologists and manicurists wear masks when seeing customers, that they require appointments so that few people will be waiting inside and that they spend 15 minutes between each customer sanitizing the work station.

Customers were already waiting when J. Henry opened his barbershop early Monday in downtown Orlando. Folding chairs lined the outside front window for waiting customers so they wouldn’t be inside and there was a sign-in notebook on a stand next to the door to fulfill the appointment requirement.

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ATHENS — A national teachers’ union in Greece says a government decision to livestream school classes could violate children’s privacy rights and should be revised.

Classes for the final year of high school reopened Monday, with lower grades to follow next week. The livestreaming allows teachers to rotate student attendance and keep classrooms at 50% capacity or below.

Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman, said the online class coverage would remain in effect, noting that the Greek independent Data Protection Authority “had been consulted and provided written consent.”

Greece’s COVID-19 death toll remained at 151 Monday with no new fatalities being reported since Saturday. Ten new cases brought the confirmed total to 2,726, the Health Ministry said.

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CHICAGO — U.S. children critically ill with COVID-19 have better outcomes than has been seen in adults, a study published Monday found.

Of 48 children treated in several U.S. intensive care units, more than one-third were put on ventilators but only two died.

By contrast, death rates of 50% and higher have been reported in adults critically ill with COVID-19, particularly among those on ventilators.

The results in JAMA Pediatrics echo reports from China. COVID-19 is generally a much milder disease in children although they can spread it to others without showing symptoms.

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JOHANNESBURG — Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape province have become South Africa’s coronavirus hotspot, accounting for more than half of the nation’s confirmed cases.

South Africa has confirmed more than 10,600 cases of COVID-19 and the Western Cape province has 5,621 cases, according to figures released Monday. Of the country’s 206 deaths caused by COVID-19, 116 have occurred in the province.

Cape Town, with its poor, densely populated townships, is the center of the cases in the province.

South Africa has the continent's highest number of confirmed cases and has eased its restrictions to allow an estimated 1.6 million people to return to work in selected mines, factories and businesses.

However, the concentration of cases in Cape Town may see the city return to a stricter lockdown.

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WASHINGTON — Two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff missed a meeting with President Donald Trump over the weekend because of coronavirus concerns.

The Pentagon says Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, is self-quarantining after having contact with a COVID-positive family member, although Gilday tested negative. He is working from home this week.

Also, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Joseph Lengyel, tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday but later tested negative. The Pentagon says he is scheduled to be retested Monday.

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared an end to a nationwide partial economic shutdown but noted that some restrictions will remain.

Putin, speaking in a televised address to the nation Monday, said that it will be up to regional governors in the far-flung Russian Federation to determine what industrial plants could reopen starting Tuesday. He emphasized that it’s essential to preserve jobs and keep the economy running provided that workers strictly observe sanitary norms.

Putin ordered the economic shutdown in late March, although key industrial plants and some other sectors have been allowed to continue operating. Most Russians have been ordered to stay home, except for visits to nearby stores, pharmacies and visits to doctors.

Moscow will allow all of its industrial plants and construction sites to resume work starting Tuesday, and Putin said other regions may follow the example. Non-food stores, hairdressers, car dealers and most other enterprises in the services sector remain shut.

Putin emphasized that the restrictions must be lifted gradually to avoid triggering a new wave of contagion.

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MONTREAL — Quebec is reopening elementary schools and day cares outside the Montreal area on Monday despite the province accounting for more than half of Canada’s coronavirus cases.

Students will be subject to physical distancing and frequent hand washing while school officials follow public health guidelines for cleaning and disinfection. Attendance is not mandatory and two school boards have said most of their students will be staying home for now.

The French-speaking province is also allowing most retail stores outside Montreal to open Monday. Quebec has more than 37,000 of Canada’s more than 68,000 cases of COVID-19.

Ontario, meanwhile, allowed nonessential retail stores to open for curbside pickup starting Monday. Schools throughout Canada’s most populous province remain closed.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

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