The Latest: FEMA says federal employee has COVID-19
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:
— New York City records more deaths from virus than 9/11.
—British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in intensive care.
—France reaches 10,000 coronavirus deaths.
—U.N. estimates loss of 195 millon full-time jobs in 2nd quarter.
WASHINGTON — The Federal Emergency Management Agency says a federal employee working at its headquarters has tested positive for COVID-19.
FEMA says it has done contracted tracing to determine if the unidentified employee had any contact with any of the principals on the White House coronavirus task force in recent days. The employee tested positive Monday.
The agency says the employee and any others who were in contact with that person did not come within six feet of members of the task force. Members of the task force include Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Deborah Birx.
The agency also says the areas visited by task force members were disinfected before any of their visits to FEMA headquarters.
HOUSTON — U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it may release people from detention considered to be especially vulnerable to the coronavirus.
ICE says it has instructed local field offices to review the cases of people considered at greater risk of infection. That may include people 60 years old and older, pregnant women, or others with higher risk factors like underlying medical conditions.
The agency has faced pressure for weeks to reduce its detainee population from advocates and medical experts who warn the coronavirus is particularly dangerous in jails. ICE holds about 36,000 people in civil detention for immigration violations, though it says about half are convicted criminals or have pending charges.
So far, ICE says it has released more than 160 people and identified 600 detainees as “vulnerable.” It’s unclear how many of those people were released under court order.
ATLANTA — Georgia Rep. Doug Collins announced that Amneal Pharmaceuticals, Inc. had donated 200,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine sulfate to Georgia’s Department of Public Health for potential use in treating hospitalized coronavirus patients.
Collins, a Republican and strong backer of President Donald Trump, said the medication “could potentially save thousands of lives across our state.”
The drug is not officially approved for fighting the new coronavirus and scientists say more testing is needed before it’s proven safe against COVID-19. The Trump administration has promoted it nonetheless. Collins is running for U.S. Senate and will face off in November against Sen. Kelly Loeffler, a fellow Republican.
MOSCOW — The US Embassy in Russia says a plane carrying Americans home has taken off from Moscow.
U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross tweets that “the Aeroflot’s commercial flight to NYC has left Moscow filled with US citizens who purchased tickets to return home.”
On its way back, the Aeroflot plane is expected to carry Russians who had been waiting for days for a chance to fly back home.
On Friday, an Aeroflot flight to New York was canceled while the plane already was on the taxiway as Russia abruptly halted all international commercial flights. The Russian government cited the need to make preparations for isolating Russians who return to prevent the spread of contagion. It allowed flights repatriating Russians to resume starting Monday.
GUATEMALA CITY — Guatemala announced that a third deportee has tested positive for COVID-19 after being flown home by the United States.
It came a day after authorities announced they would suspend deportation flights from the U.S. over concerns about spreading the coronavirus.
The Health Ministry said that its latest positive case was a 37-year-old man who was deported March 26 from Mesa, Arizona, and had been in quarantine since his return.
Two other deportees, ages 29 and 31, from the same flight had already tested positive. The plane had carried 41 Guatemalans, including 10 children.
Upon arrival the migrants were isolated for a day in an Air Force installation. One person who arrived sick and tested positive for COVID-19 was quarantined, but the rest had been released and asked to quarantine in their homes without supervision.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry on Monday announced the suspension of deportation flights from the U.S. during Holy Week. It said Guatemala also asked the U.S. government that when the flights resume, each plane only carry 25 passengers, not the usual 100, and for certification that no one is showing any coronavirus symptoms.
PARIS — France’s national health director announced that France has reached the grim milestone of 10,000 coronavirus deaths.
Jerome Salomon addressed reporters in the daily COVID-19 briefing to emphasize that “we are in the epidemic’s ascendant stage... we have not yet reached the peak.”
He recorded a total death toll of 10,328 since the start of the epidemic — with 7,091 hospital deaths and 3,237 fatalities in old people’s homes.
There were 597 fatalities in hospitals since Monday.
Over 30,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19 nationwide, with 7,131 in intensive care.
He did offer one moment for hope, acknowledging that the virus rate “is slowing a little.”
UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has suspended the rotation and deployment of U.N. peacekeepers and international police until June 30 to mitigate the risk of transmitting COVID-19.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric made the announcement, saying the U.N.’s 13 far-flung peacekeeping missions “are working full time to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19” and to ensure that incoming uniformed personnel don’t have the coronavirus.
He said “a few, limited exceptions may be considered ... but only in extenuating circumstances on the basis of strict conditions to prevent the spread of the virus.”
A U.N. peacekeeping spokesman said the secretary-general’s order applies to all U.N. uniformed personnel worldwide — about 85,000 police and military.
OSLO, Norway — Norway says it plans to open kindergartens from April 20 in the first stage of a gradual lifting of the country’s lockdown.
The government says pupils in the first four years of school would return to school a week later on April 27 and higher grades “before summer.”
Prime Minister Erna Solberg tells reporters “it has now been 26 days since we changed the way we live our lives” in reference to the lockdown and “we can see that (government’s) anti-infection measures are working ”
Norway, which has so far recorded 89 deaths and 5,903 confirmed COVID-19 infections, joins Austria and Denmark as the first European nations to emerge from a lockdown.
THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has appealed to his nation to keep sticking to social distancing rules to slow the spread of the coronavirus. He also is warning it will take a long time for the country to return to normal.
Rutte says “it is much to soon to speculate” about a possible exit strategy from what the premier calls the “intelligent lockdown” in the Netherlands, where bars, restaurants, museums, schools and universities are closed until at least April 28.
Ahead of the Easter weekend, when the Netherlands usually draws large numbers of tourists from neighboring Germany and Belgium, Rutte is urging people — in Dutch, German and French — to stay home.
The country’s public health institute reported that the virus outbreak death toll had risen by 234 to 2,101. So far, nearly 20,000 people in the Netherlands have tested positive to the virus.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s health minister reported 76 deaths from the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the death toll in the country to 725.
Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the nation’s scientific advisory council, Fahrettin Koca also reported 3,892 new infections on Tuesday, increasing the total number of positive cases to 34,109.
Koca said 1,474 COVID-19 patients are currently in intensive care, including 987 who are intubated.
Meanwhile, Koca also announced that his ministry is developing a smart phone app that will monitor people who have tested positive for the virus at their homes and ensure that they remain in isolation.
NEW YORK — The National Funeral Directors Association says relief could be on the way for exhausted funeral directors in New York City — if Gov. Andrew Cuomo will let them.
The NFDA tweeted it has hundreds of funeral directors lined up to travel to New York and “ensure the dead are buried with dignity.” The one thing holding them back: Funeral directors licenses are state-specific, so undertakers and embalmers can’t work across state lines.
The association says it has made its request to Cuomo’s office and is awaiting a reply.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — India has gifted 10 tons of essential life saving medicines to the neighboring Sri Lanka to help the battle against the coronavirus. The consignment was brought to Sri Lanka by an Air India special charter flight.
Sri Lankan government made the request for the medicines. The Indian ocean island nation has taken strict measures to contain the spreading of the disease, including a countrywide curfew since March 20.
So far, six people have died from the virus while there are 185 confirmed cases.
ROME — Italy’s number of new coronavirus cases has continued to drop.
Civil Protection authorities said Tuesday there were 3,039 new cases in a 24-hour period. Italy hasn’t seen such a low daily number since the early weeks of the outbreak.
Said Giovanni Rezza, director of the infectious disease division of the national health institute: “Finally it seems we are beginning to see a lessening of new cases” after a plateau phase. He expressed satisfaction that even Italy’s most stricken region, Lombardy, is also witnessing the same trend.
Italy has 135,586 cases confirmed cases. After some 600 additional deaths were registered on Tuesday, Italy has counted 16,523 deaths in the COVID-19 outbreak.
CHICAGO — The president of the American Medical Association is urging U.S. leaders to base COVID-19 decision-making on science and facts, not politics and ideology.
In a live-streamed speech addressed to the nation, Dr. Patrice Harris warned against prematurely easing physical distancing measures, prescribing medications without scientific proof that they work, and retaliation against experts who communicate science-based facts.
Harris didn’t single out any leaders at the federal, state or local level by name. But she urged the news media to be vigilant in communicating factual information from credible sources and in challenging “those who choose to trade in misinformation.”
“Despite solid evidence behind the public health measures now in place, misinformation about COVID-19 is spreading rapidly, even intentionally, due to fear, or to various political agendas,” Harris said.
ATHENS, Greece — A high court in Greece has rejected complaints seeking to overturn a ban on religious services over the Easter holidays.
Judges from the Council of State say the recently announced measure to outlaw public attendance of religious services as part of a campaign of circulation restrictions was in the public interest. Several religious organizations, not connected to Greece’s Orthodox Church, had backed the court challenge against the church ban, arguing it was unconstitutional.
Greece’s new coronavirus death toll rose to 81 Tuesday, with authorities arguing the restrictions have so far been effective. But Nikos Hardalias, a deputy minister for civil protection, said that effort could be undermined if Greeks abandoned caution at Easter, celebrated on April 19 together with other Orthodox Christian countries.
MOSCOW — Russian experts say they can speed up tests of a new coronavirus vaccine.
Rinat Maksyutov, head of the state Vektor lab, reported to President Vladimir Putin the trials involving volunteers could begin in May instead of June as earlier planned.
Maksyutov says more than 300 people already have volunteered to take part in clinical tests. Putin noted that the outbreak hasn’t yet reached its peak in Russia, noting that “the situation is difficult but not hopeless.” Russia reported 1,154 new cases on Tuesday, bringing the country’s total caseload to 7,497, with 58 deaths.
Putin asked experts whether it would be possible to lift some of the restrictions earlier to ease the pain for the economy. They said next week would show if the lockdown has helped.
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced an additional $225 million in foreign assistance to help countries around the world combat the coronavirus pandemic, bringing the total to nearly half a billion dollars.
The new assistance won’t include personal protective equipment due to the high domestic demand for such supplies in the U.S. But Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says it is intended to help foreign nations boost their response to the COVID-19 virus.
He says the money would be for diagnosis, prevention and control, and bolstering national health systems. It could also prepare laboratories to deal with testing and train medical workers.
Last month, the U.S. announced $274 million in virus prevention and treatment assistance to 64 countries.
NEW YORK — More people have died from the coronavirus in New York City than perished in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center.
At least 3,202 people have been killed in the city by the virus, according to a new count released by city health officials Tuesday.
The deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil killed 2,753 people in the city and 2,977 overall, when hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, on Sept. 11, 2001.
The coronavirus has made New York ground zero again in a national tragedy and the center of a crisis that is reshaping Americans’ lives and liberties.
New York City recorded its first coronavirus death on March 13, less than two weeks after confirming its first infection.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s health minister says 66 people at a single hospital in Durban have tested positive for the coronavirus in the past few days, including 48 staffers.
Zweli Mkhize says authorities are looking into closing parts of St. Augustine’s Hospital. The minister says less than 100 people across the country are currently hospitalized with the virus.
He also seeks to reassure anxious health workers after a union went to court over the shortage of protective gear. Mkhize says South Africa’s supply should last up to eight weeks.
South Africa has Africa’s most confirmed cases with more than 1,700.
GENEVA — The U.N.’s labor organization estimates the equivalent of 195 million full-time jobs could be lost in the second quarter alone from the COVID-19 outbreak, with businesses and plants shuttered worldwide.
The projection from the International Labor Organization is based on an emerging impact of the virus, and it amounts to a big increase from its March 18 prediction for an extra 25 million jobs losses for all of 2020.
ILO Director-General Guy Ryder says, “These figures speak powerfully for themselves: That the world of work is suffering an absolutely extraordinary fall.”
The agency says full or partial lockdown measures now affect nearly 2.7 billion workers or about 81 percent of the global workforce.
Some 1.25 billion are in hard-hit sectors such as hotel and food services, manufacturing and retail.
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remains in stable condition in an intensive care unit and has not been put on a ventilator.
Johnson spokesman James Slack says “the prime minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits. He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and is breathing without any other assistance.”
He said Johnson was not receiving mechanical ventilation and does not have pneumonia.
Johnson was admitted to St. Thomas’ Hospital late Sunday with a fever and cough that persisted 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He was moved to the intensive care unit Monday evening after his condition worsened.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak