The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S and the world. 

The Defense Department’s response to the coronavirus outbreak has expanded to include the expected deployment of tens of thousands of National Guardsmen, and a growing effort to stamp out conspiracy theories that the United States will adopt martial law.

Senior U.S. officials have addressed the issue in briefings, a Pentagon official rebutted speculative online posts, and a new government website is titled “Coronavirus Rumor Control.”

More than 8,000 National Guardsmen were on duty as of Monday to respond to the spread of the virus, with tasks ranging from delivering needed supplies to disinfecting public areas.

The chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Joseph Lengyel, said in a phone call with reporters on Sunday night that he had “seen things on Facebook and the like” that depicted military equipment moving on trains and suggested the Guard was going to launch “some quarantine operation.”

“There is just no truth to this rumor that people are considering, that governors are planning, that anybody is conspiring to use National Guard … to do some sort of a military action to enforce, you know, shelter in place and quarantine,” Lengyel said. “I don’t know how to say that any more clearly than that.”

Read the full story.

Harvey Weinstein tests positive for coronavirus in prison

NEW YORK — Harvey Weinstein tested positive for the coronavirus at a state prison in New York while serving a 23-year sentence for rape and sexual assault, the head of the state correctional officers union said Monday.

The 68-year-old former film producer, who was hospitalized with heart issues in recent weeks, was diagnosed and quarantined just days after being transferred to the state’s maximum security Wende Correctional Facility near Buffalo.

Weinstein was previously locked up at New York City’s notorious Rikers Island jail complex, which has had a spate of coronavirus cases. Read the story here.

U.S. one-day pandemic fatalities hit triple digits for first time

U.S. states on Monday reported more than 100 deaths from the novel coronavirus, pushing the country’s total death toll past 500 and marking the first time single-day fatalities have risen into the triple-digits since the pandemic reached U.S. soil.

The virus has now claimed lives in at least 34 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and has infected more than 41,000 people nationwide, according to tracking by The Washington Post.

Britain orders shops closed, bans public gatherings of more than 2 people 

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the public Monday night to “stay at home” for all but a few exceptions and ordered shops that don’t sell essential goods to shut down as he ramped up restrictions imposed by the U.K. government in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

In an address to the nation from 10 Downing Street, Johnson said it was critical to prevent the virus from spreading between households and that police would be authorized to break up gatherings of more than two people in public during what he termed a “national emergency.”

“I must give the British people a very simple instruction,” the prime minister said. “You must stay at home.”

Under the measures, the most draconian restrictions the British state has ever imposed in peacetime, people will only be allowed to leave home for a few “very limited purposes” to relieve the pressure on the National Health Service, Johnson said.

These include shopping for basic necessities “as infrequently as possible,” one form of exercise a day done alone or with household members, medical reasons or travelling to work that cannot be done from home or that is “absolutely necessary.”

“That’s all – these are the only reasons you should leave your home,” he said. “To ensure compliance with the government’s instruction to stay at home, we will immediately close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises, including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship.”

Johnson said the police will have the power to enforce the new requirements, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.

Social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, will also be stopped. Funerals are exempt. Parks will also remain open for exercise, but any gatherings will be broken up.

Johnson has come under mounting pressure to introduce tougher measures in response to the virus pandemic after many people were seen out in public over the weekend not properly observing the government’s social distancing recommendations.

Read more about actions taken by the British government here.

Scam artists preying on Medicare recipients with virus lies

WASHINGTON — Scam artists are preying on older people’s fears by peddling fake tests for the coronavirus to Medicare recipients, a federal law enforcement agency warned on Monday.

The Health and Human Services inspector general’s office said it’s seeing marketing schemes rapidly pivot to offering tests for COVID-19 and “Senior Care Packages” with hand sanitizer or even tout a vaccine, which doesn’t exist. Some marketers falsely claim that President Donald Trump has ordered that seniors get tested.

It’s all a trick to get personal information that can be used to bill federal and state health programs, said Christian Schrank, assistant inspector general for investigations.

“It’s a straight-up ruse to get your Medicare number or your Social Security number under the guise of having a test kit or a sanitary kit sent to you,” Schrank said. Often the caller will hang up as soon as that number is provided.

Low-income Medicaid recipients also are being targeted.

The sales pitches are coming via telemarketing calls, robocalls, social media posts, emails and door-to-door visits, Schrank explained.

Read the full story here.

Stocks slump again as coronavirus bill stalls

NEW YORK — Stocks are ending another bumpy day broadly lower on Wall Street as investors wait to see if Democrats and Republicans can settle their differences on an economic rescue package. Major indexes ended down about 3 percent on Monday, having been down as much as 5 percent.

Earlier, markets got a bump following the latest announcement of support from the Federal Reserve. The Fed said it would buy as much government debt as needed to help markets operate smoothly and lend money to businesses and local governments, but the gains quickly vanished.

With Monday’s losses, the stock market has lost roughly a third of its value since its record last month, as more businesses shut down in hopes of slowing the spread of the coronavirus. Economists increasingly say a recession seems inevitable, and no one can say for sure how deep it will be or how long it will last.

Read the full story here.

Tokyo Olympics seem sure to happen – but in 2021, not 2020 

TOKYO — The Tokyo Olympics are probably going to happen, but almost surely in 2021 rather than in four months as planned.

That became clear after the IOC on Sunday announced it was considering a postponement and would make a final decision within four weeks. Major Olympic nations like Canada and Australia have added pressure by saying they will not send teams if the games are staged this year.

International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach sent a letter to athletes explaining the decision, while also acknowledging the extended timeline might not be popular.

“I know that this unprecedented situation leaves many of your questions open,” he wrote. “I also know that this rational approach may not be in line with the emotions many of you have to go through.”

The IOC’s move seemed inevitable for weeks with pressure mounting from all quarters — athletes, sponsors, broadcasters, more than 200 national Olympic committees and international sports federations.

Shortly after Bach’s statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee said it would not send athletes to the Olympics unless the games are postponed by a year. Australia issued a statement saying it was advising its athletes to prepare for an Olympics in 2021.

Read more about the Tokyo Olympics here.

Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home

NEW YORK — The hunt for masks, ventilators and other medical supplies consumed the U.S. and Europe, as more than 1.5 billion people – one-fifth of the world’s population – were urged or ordered to stay home Monday to try to blunt the spread of the coronavirus.

At the start of what could prove a pivotal week in the U.S. and Europe, the head of the World Health Organization called on countries to take strong, coordinated action to stem the accelerating outbreak.

“We are not helpless bystanders,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, noting that it took 67 days to reach 100,000 cases worldwide but just four days to go from 200,000 to 300,000. “We can change the trajectory of this pandemic.”

The scramble to marshal both public health and political resources intensified in New York, where a statewide lockdown took effect amid worries the city of 8.4 million is becoming one of the world’s biggest hotspots. Nearly 10,000 people have tested positive in the city, and almost 100 have died.

The governor announced plans to convert a huge New York City convention center into a hospital with 1,000 beds. Meanwhile, the mayor warned that the city’s hospitals are just 10 days away from shortages in basic supplies needed to protect health care workers and patients alike.

“If we don’t get the equipment, we’re literally going to lose lives,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN.
In Italy, the hardest-hit country of all, declines in both new cases and deaths for a second consecutive day provided a faint glimmer of hope, though it is too soon to say whether the crisis is leveling off.

Officials said Monday that the virus had claimed just over 600 more lives, down from 793 two days earlier. The outbreak as killed more than 6,000 Italians, the highest death toll of any country, and pushed the health system to the breaking point there and in Spain.

The risk to doctors, nurses and others on the front lines has become plain: Italy has seen at least 18 doctors with coronavirus die. Spain reported that more than 3,900 health care workers have become infected, accounting for roughly 12% of the country’s total cases.

Read more about what’s happening globally here.

Trump reluctant to extend 15-day shutdown

President Trump expressed qualms Monday about extending the current 15-day shutdown recommended by the federal government, even as his officials warned that the coronavirus crisis is deepening and Congress and the White House struggle to complete a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package.

“I didn’t expect to be starting off my week with such a dire message for America,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said on “CBS This Morning.” “Things are going to get worse before they get better. We really need everyone to understand this.”

Yet only hours earlier, Trump suggested that the remedies may be more harmful than the outbreak in a tweet contradicting the advice of medical experts across the country.

In all capital letters, he tweeted: “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. At the end of the 15-day period, we will make a decision as to which way we want to go.”

On Sunday, Vice President Mike Pence said the country should expect new federal guidance “which will make it possible for people that have been exposed to return to work more quickly with — by wearing a mask for a certain period of time.”

A week ago, the White House came out with a “15 Days to Stop the Spread” plan that encouraged Americans to work from home and avoid bars, restaurants and discretionary travel, as well as groups of more than 10 people. It also told older Americans and those with serious underlying health conditions that they should stay home and away from other people.

Since then, states that have become hot spots for the virus have implemented even more radical measures, which the White House has applauded. Officials have made clear that they don’t believe the threat will be over at the end of 15 days, but will reassess what steps are needed at the end of the period.

Trump has also balked at using his authority under the recently invoked Defense Protection Act to compel the private sector to manufacture needed medical supplies like masks and ventilators, even as he encourages them to spur production. “We are a country not based on nationalizing our business,” said Trump, who has repeatedly railed against socialism overseas and among Democrats.

Read the full story here.

Symptom of coronavirus could include loss of smell

Rudy Gobert, the Utah Jazz player whose positive test for the novel coronavirus triggered a shutdown by the NBA and had a cascading effect across sports leagues, reported Sunday that he has lost the senses of smell and taste.

“Just to give you guys an update, loss of smell and taste is definitely one of the symptoms, haven’t been able to smell anything for the last four days,” Gobert tweeted. “Anyone experiencing the same thing?”

According to the American Academy of Otolaryngology, that isn’t unusual. In a post on its website Sunday, it cited growing anecdotal evidence indicating that lost or reduced sense of smell and loss of taste are symptoms associated with covid-19. The organization alerted ear, nose and throat physicians that both have been seen in patients who tested positive but showed no other symptoms. In the absence of allergies, sinusitis or rhinitis, the loss of smell or taste should “warrant serious consideration for self-isolation and testing,” it advised.

“We really want to raise awareness that this is a sign of infection and that anyone who develops loss of sense of smell should self-isolate,” Claire Hopkins, president of the British Rhinological Society, wrote in an email to The New York Times. “It could contribute to slowing transmission and save lives.”

Gobert tested positive for coronavirus March 11, leading to the postponement of Utah’s game in Oklahoma and the costly suspension of the NBA season hours later. Other leagues followed shortly thereafter and the Jazz announced that a second player, later revealed to be Donovan Mitchell, had tested positive.

Gobert has admitted to being “careless” after mockingly touching reporters’ mics and recording devices during a news conference March 9, before his positive test. He has since apologized and pledged $500,000 to efforts aimed at offering relief to workers affected by the NBA shutdown.

Read more about the symptom here.

Fed announces unlimited bond purchases in unprecedented move 

The Federal Reserve announced Monday an unlimited expansion of bond purchasing programs to backstop the credit markets, as millions of American households and businesses are getting crushed by the economic shutdown due to the spreading coronavirus.

The Fed said it would purchase Treasurys and mortgage-backed securities “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning,” an indication the central bank is willing to do a lot more than the $700 billion in new purchases announced last week. This is an extraordinary move that effectively puts no limits on assets the Fed is willing to buy, an effort to goes even further than the 2008-09 financial crisis playbook.

In a series of sweeping moves, the Fed has taken bold action to ensure companies, cities and households have access to credit. On Monday, the Fed said it also expects to announce “the establishment of a ‘Main Street Business Lending Program’ to support lending to eligible small businesses” in the near future, another unprecedented step.

“The Federal Reserve is committed to using its full range of tools to support households, businesses, and the U.S. economy overall in this challenging time,” Fed leaders wrote in a statement.

These move come as Congress has stalled on a major $1.8 trillion relief package for the nation and markets around the world plunged again. St. Louis Fed President James Bullard predicted Sunday that unemployment could hit 30% in the second quarter, a higher level than during the Great Depression.

“It has become clear that our economy will face severe disruption,” the Fed said. “Aggressive efforts must be taken across the public and private sectors to limit the losses to jobs and incomes and to promote a swift recovery once the disruptions abate.”

The Fed also said Monday that it will support the commercial lending market by purchasing commercial mortgage-backed securities in addition to mortgage-backed securities made up of home loans.

Canada says no athletes to Tokyo this year 

The Canadian Olympic Committee says it won’t send athletes to the Tokyo Games unless they’re postponed for a year, becoming the first country to threaten such a move in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee sent out a statement Sunday evening saying it was willing to help the IOC search for alternatives, but that it was not safe for athletes, “their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training for these Games.”

“In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”

Canada brought 314 athletes who combined to win 22 medals at the Rio Games in 2016.

Some of its most notable performers included swimmer Penny Oleksiak and sprinter Andre De Grasse.

Canada joins a number of countries — including Norway, Brazil and Slovenia — that have pressed the IOC on a possible postponement. But none had flat-out said they wouldn’t go if the games start when they’re scheduled on July 24.

The IOC on Sunday said it would take up to four weeks to consider alternatives, which include postponement. It has taken the possibility of canceling the games off the table.

Rhode Island factory ramps up production of face masks

A Rhode Island factory is ramping up production of specialized face masks in response to the federal fight against the new coronavirus.

Honeywell announced Sunday it plans to hire 500 people at its Smithfield plant to produce millions of N95 disposable respirators to help support the need for critical safety equipment.

The face masks will be delivered to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and are a critical piece of personal protective equipment for health care, safety and emergency response workers.

“We are honored to support the U.S. government’s efforts to protect Americans with personal protective equipment made right here in the United States,” said Darius Adamczyk, North Carolina-based Honeywell’s chairman and chief executive officer.

The Smithfield factory produces eye protection products, including safety glasses, safety goggles and protective face shields.

Rhode Island had 83 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, as of Sunday.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. The vast majority of people recover.

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