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

As the coronavirus pandemic put the country into its second month of shutdown, the Trump administration told Congress on Monday that it wants several more months to gather and deliver data for the 2020 Census. The bureau had earlier delayed data collection deadlines by weeks and suspended field operation because of the pandemic.

Under the new plan, the Census Bureau would reactivate field offices in June and extend the window for data collection from mid-August to Oct. 31. It would also extend by four months the deadline for delivering apportionment counts to the president to April 30, 2021, and the deadline for delivering redistricting data to states to July 31, 2021.

The decennial count typically involves bureau employees delivering some forms in person and knocking on the doors of those who do not respond to mailed requests. Employees also typically go into libraries, community centers, churches and other gathering places to help boost the response rate for the survey, activities that have now been halted.

Pushing back the reporting deadlines would require Congress to pass legislation the president must sign. The count is used to determine $1.5 trillion a year in federal funding, along with apportionment and redistricting.

Read the full story on the 2020 census here.

Five-step plan for reopening business is put to the test in China

A picture of how employers and workers around the world will get back to work is starting to emerge.

Businesses have long relied on a five-tier inverted pyramid called the “hierarchy of controls” to reduce workplace risks to employees, ranging from chemical exposure to physical injury. This framework will also be the basis for companies’ plans to get back to work, occupational safety experts say.

Companies in China have already begun following the hierarchy to restart production. But the process has been expensive and slow, as it is likely to be in the United States. That’s because many of the standard tools for workplace safety are ineffective against a risk like the coronavirus.

Distributing face masks and nagging employees to wash their hands count among the more uncertain methods for ensuring employee safety, experts say. But these are largely the methods that Chinese companies have been relying on as they have restarted production – and American businesses may not have many better options.

Governments and companies face a difficult choice in coming weeks: They can either reopen business with layers of stifling and expensive hygiene controls, or return to work with fewer controls and accept the risk of second-wave infections. Either way, there is no silver bullet against further community spread, and the global economy cannot sustain a lockdown until a vaccine is developed – which could take at least another year.

Read the full story about plans to restart business here.

Could old vaccines for other diseases protect against COVID-19?

WASHINGTON — Scientists are dusting off some decades-old vaccines against other germs to see if they could provide a little stopgap protection against COVID-19 until a more precise shot arrives.

It may sound odd: Vaccines are designed to target a specific disease. But vaccines made using live strains of bacteria or viruses seem to boost the immune system’s first line of defense, a more general way to guard against germs. And history books show that sometimes translates into at least some cross-protection against other, completely different bugs.

There’s no evidence yet that the approach would rev up the immune system enough to matter against the new coronavirus. But given that a brand-new vaccine is expected to take 12 to 18 months, some researchers say it’s time to put this approach to a faster test, starting with a tuberculosis vaccine.

“This is still a hypothesis,” said Dr. Mihai Netea of Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands. But if it works, “it could be a very important tool to bridge this dangerous period until we have on the market a proper, specific vaccine.”

The World Health Organization issued a stern warning Monday not to use the TB vaccine against COVD-19, unless and until studies prove it works.

Already nearly 1,500 Dutch health care workers have rolled up their sleeves for one study that Netea’s team is leading. It uses that TB vaccine, named BCG, which is made of a live but weakened bacterial cousin of the TB germ.

In Australia, researchers hope to enroll 4,000 hospital workers to test BCG, too, and 700 already have received either the TB vaccine or a dummy shot. Similar research is being planned in other countries, including the U.S.

Read the full story about vaccines here.

Stocks fall as investors brace for earnings hit from virus

Stocks fell on Wall Street on Monday, erasing some of the market’s big gains from last week, as investors braced for a sobering first look at how the coronavirus pandemic has hurt company earnings.

The S&P 500 fell 1 percent after cutting its early losses by more than half toward the end of the day. The benchmark index surged 12 percent last week, its best gain since 1974.

The pullback followed news over the weekend that OPEC, Russia and other oil producing nations have agreed to cut output in a bid to stem a slide in crude prices following a collapse in demand due to the outbreak.

Financial, industrial and health care stocks took some of the heaviest selling. Amazon and a few other retailers were bright spots. Traders continued to watch for more signs that the coronavirus outbreak may be leveling off and what that could mean for the prospects of reopening the economy.

Cautious optimism that the outbreak has begun to plateau in some of the worst-hit areas and another big infusion of economic support by the Federal Reserve helped spur last week’s big rally. This week, stocks could be in for more volatility as companies report results for the first quarter, though analysts will be focused primarily on what management teams have to say about what the rest of the year looks like.

The S&P lost 28.19 points to 2,761.63. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 328.60 points, or 1.4 percent, to 23,390.77. The index had been down 624 points. The Nasdaq reversed an early slide and rose 38.85 points, or 0.5 percent, to 8,192.42. The Russell 2000 index of smaller company stocks lost 34.68 points, or 2.8 percent, to 1,212.04.

European markets were closed for a holiday, and Asian markets ended mostly lower.

Bond prices fell. The yield on the 10-year Treasury to 0.75 percent from 0.72 percent late Thursday. U.S. markets were closed last Friday for the Good Friday holiday.

Read the full stock story here.

Trump says he’ll decide when to ease restrictions, not governors

WASHINGTON — President Trump asserted Monday that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to relax the nation’s social distancing guidelines as he grows anxious to reopen the coronavirus-stricken country as soon as possible.

Governors and local leaders, who have instituted mandatory restrictions that have the force of law, have expressed concern that Trump’s plan to restore normalcy will cost lives and extend the duration of the outbreak.

Under the Constitution, public health and safety is primarily the domain of state and local officials and it was not clear what, if any, authorities Trump could use to overrule their decisions. Still, Trump has pushed to reopen the economy, which has plummeted as businesses have shuttered, leaving millions of people out of work and struggling to obtain basic commodities.

Taking to Twitter on Monday, Trump said some are “saying that it is the Governors decision to open up the states, not that of the President of the United States & the Federal Government. Let it be fully understood that this is incorrect…it is the decision of the President, and for many good reasons.”

He added, “With that being said, the Administration and I are working closely with the Governors, and this will continue. A decision by me, in conjunction with the Governors and input from others, will be made shortly!”

Trump last month put in place nationwide recommendations for most Americans to remain home and distant from one another in order to slow the spread of the virus. But his guidelines, scheduled to expire at the end of the month, have little force — unlike actions of governors and local leaders that carry fines or other other penalties, and in some jurisdictions extend out into the early summer.

Trump’s claim that he could force governors to reopen their states comes after he spent weeks arguing that he didn’t believe he should pressure states that hadn’t imposed stay-at-home restrictions to do so. He had cited his belief in local control of government.

Read the full story on Trump here.

Virus death toll tops 10,000 in New York

NEW YORK — New York’s death toll from coronavirus topped 10,000, with hospitals still seeing 2,000 new patients a day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

The state tallied 671 new deaths on Sunday. It was the first time in a week the daily toll dipped below 700. Still, the governor noted people are still dying at a “horrific level of pain and grief and sorrow.”

“This virus is very good at what it does. It is a killer,” Cuomo said during a state Capitol news briefing.

Cuomo said almost 2,000 people were newly hospitalized with the virus Sunday, though once discharges and deaths are accounted for, the number of people hospitalized has flattened to just under 19,000.

The governor said the state’s tenuous progress will likely continue as long as people continue to follow stay-at-home restrictions.

“The worst can be over, and it is over unless we do something reckless,” Cuomo said. “And you can turn those numbers on two or three days of reckless behavior.”

Meanwhile, New York City is in danger of running out of swabs for COVID-19 tests and is urging medical providers to continue testing only patients who are gravely ill, the city health department said in a memo to health care providers.

Read the full story here.

Navy reports first coronavirus death from Roosevelt crew

WASHINGTON  — A member of the crew of the coronavirus-infected USS Theodore Roosevelt warship died Monday of complications related to the disease, the Navy said, adding to setbacks for the sidelined aircraft carrier.

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In this April 3, 2020, file photo, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, a Nimitz-class nuclear powered aircraft carrier, is docked along Kilo Wharf of Naval Base Guam.

The sailor, whose name and other identifying information were not publicly released pending notification of relatives, had tested positive for coronavirus on March 30 and was taken off the ship and placed in “isolation housing” along with four other sailors at the U.S. Navy base on Guam. On April 9 he was found unresponsive during a medical check and was moved to a local hospital’s intensive care unit.

The Roosevelt has been in a coronavirus crisis that prompted the Navy’s civilian leader, Thomas Modly, to fire the ship’s captain on April 2. Five days later, after flying to the ship and delivering a speech in which he insulted the skipper, Capt. Brett E. Crozier, and criticized the crew for supporting Crozier, Modly resigned.

As of Sunday, 585 members of the Roosevelt crew had tested positive for coronavirus. Nearly 4,000 crew members had been moved ashore.

An investigation of the Roosevelt’s coronavirus outbreak and related events is ongoing. The carrier has been docked at Guam since March 27.

Read the full story here.

Trump retweets call to fire Fauci after disease expert says quicker response ‘could have saved lives’

President Donald Trump retweeted a call to fire his top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci Sunday evening, amid mounting criticism of the federal response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, listens during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Wednesday, April 8. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The call from a former Republican congressional candidate, using the hashtag “FireFauci,” followed an interview with National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Fauci on CNN’s “State of the Union, in which he said a stronger early response by the administration to the outbreak “could have saved lives,” but also characterized the decision to implement social distancing guidelines as “complicated.”

“Obviously, it would have been nice if we had a better head start, but I don’t think you could say that we are where we are right now because of one factor,” Fauci said on CNN Sunday. “It’s very complicated.”

Fauci also confirmed a New York Times story saying that he and other experts had wanted to begin social and physical distancing measures as early as February.

Trump has often in the past shown his anger with critics within his own administration by retweeting the negative or taunting comments of others rather than saying anything himself. It allows him to cry “fake news” when the media interprets the retweeted material as reflecting his views.

Fauci, known for his candor but also his diplomacy, has implicitly and explicitly taken issue with Trump on several occasions. Trump demonstrated his apparently increasing irritation last week when he stepped in to stop Fauci from answering a question about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine, an unproven drug the president has been touting for treatment of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. Fauci has also been skeptical of Trump’s rush to set a date for lightening up on mitigation efforts to get the economy moving as the 2020 election approaches.

Read the full story here.

Chinese mask producer rushing to meet demands from overseas 

WUHAN, China — One mask producer in China says it is rushing to fill orders from overseas while facing stricter quality inspections from Chinese regulators.

Wuhan Zonsen, which makes masks and disinfection wipes, says $50 million in orders from European countries and the United States will keep them at full production capacity until June.

“Now the major demand of masks comes from European countries and the US where the epidemic is severe … their demand now has increased to 10 times than before because of the epidemic,” said Cynthia Ye, global marketing manager of Zonsen.

Zonsen plans to add another five production lines to increase their daily production from 200,000 to 700,000 masks, Zonsen’s production managers told reporters during a media tour organized by Wuhan government.

Chinese customs have announced that ventilators, masks and other supplies being exported to fight the coronavirus will be subject to quality inspections following complaints that substandard goods were being sold abroad. Regulators in Australia, the Netherlands and other countries have complained that masks, virus test kits and other products were faulty or failed to meet quality standards.

Ye denied there are any quality issues with the masks they had shipped to Netherlands.

Wuhan on Wednesday ended its 76-day lockdown, allowing residents to again travel in and out of the city. Wuhan and China are expected to suffer severe economic costs and tens of millions of job losses from the city closure.

Ye said the government of Xinzhou district, where Zonsen is located, offered aid to meet the company’s demand for workers. Now more than 60 employees are back to work and live together in a designated hotel to avoid infection.

“We have to provide hotel rooms for the workers so we have more cost, which is about five to 10 times of our normal cost. The salary for workers is about three or five times of their normal one,” said Ye.

South Korea reports 25 new cases of coronavirus, and three deaths

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 25 new cases of the coronavirus and three more virus-related deaths, bringing its totals to 10,537 infections and 217 fatalities.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday said at least 929 cases were linked to passengers arriving from abroad, with most of them detected over the past three weeks.

South Korea’s caseload has slowed from early March, when it was reporting around 500 new cases a day, but officials have raised concerns over a broader “quiet spread,” pointing to transmissions at bars and other leisure facilities that supposedly indicate eased attitudes toward social distancing.

South Korean Prime Minster Chung Sye-kyun during a meeting on anti-virus strategies on Monday said officials are discussing new public guidelines that would allow for people to engage in “certain levels of economic and social activity” while also maintaining distance to slow the spread of the virus.

Death toll in France nearly 14,400

PARIS — The overall death toll in France from the coronavirus has risen to nearly 14,400, but for the fourth day in a row, slightly fewer people were admitted into intensive care — 35 fewer — giving health officials a reason to grasp for good news.

Sunday’s statistics issued by the Health Ministry confirm the country is reaching a “very high plateau” and reflect initial signs that nearly four weeks of confinement and the “drastic reduction in contacts” are producing an effect, a statement said.

Strict confinement measures began March 17, were renewed once and are expected to be extended again, with a likely announcement to the nation Monday by President Emmanuel Macron.

Since March 1, hospitals and nursing homes have counted 14,393 deaths.

Of the 31,836 people currently hospitalized for COVID-19, more than 1,600 were admitted in the past 24 hours, the Health Ministry said.

Still, with more than 6,800 patients being treated in intensive care Sunday, that was 35 people fewer than a day earlier, a ray of hope for overworked health workers and authorities looking for small signs of change.

Since the start of the epidemic in France, more than 95,400 people have been infected.

Italy has its lowest number of new deaths in three weeks

ROME — Italy recorded the lowest number of new coronavirus deaths in three weeks, saying 431 people died in the past day to bring its total to 19,899.

It was the lowest day-to-day toll since March 19.

For the ninth day running, intensive care admissions were down and hospitalizations overall were down, relieving pressure on Italy’s over-stressed health care system.

More than 4,000 people tested positive as Italy began its fifth week under nationwide lockdown, continuing a general flattening in its infection curve.

But officials have noted that Italy has also increased its testing capacity in recent days, yielding more positive cases but allowing for more effective quarantine measures for people once they know they are infected.

Italy crossed the 1 million virus test mark on Sunday, doubling the number of tests since the end of March. Overall, 156,363 people have been confirmed as positive, though officials note that the true number of infected could be as much as 10 times that, particularly in hard-hit Lombardy.

Officials have also warned that the true number of dead from the virus pandemic is higher, given the hundreds of elderly who have died in nursing homes but were never tested.

Pork plant closes in South Dakota after 293 employees test positive

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Virginia-based Smithfield Foods announced Sunday that it is closing its pork processing plant in Sioux Falls until further notice after dozens of employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

The announcement came a day after South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken wrote to Smithfield and urged the company to suspend operations for 14 days so that its workers could self-isolate and the plant could be disinfected.

The plant, which employs about 3,700 people in the state’s largest city, has become a hot spot for infections. Health officials said Sunday that 293 of the 730 people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in South Dakota work at the plant.

Read the rest of this story here.

Johnson hails NHS workers for saving his life

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has posted a video on Twitter in which he hails the staff in the National Health Service for saving his life when it could have “gone either way.”

Johnson was dressed in a suit and looked and sounded assured in the video made after his discharge from St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. He said he did not have the words to properly thank the staff at NHS for“saving my life.”

He listed a number of the frontline staff who cared for him over a week at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London but singled out two nurses who stood by his bedside for 48 hours “when things could have gone either way.”

He said Jenny from New Zealand and Luis from Portugal were the reason “in the end my body did start to get enough oxygen.”

Johnson said there are “hundreds of thousands of NHS staff who are acting with the same care and thought and precision as Jenny and Luis.”

Johnson spent a week at St. Thomas’, three days of which were in intensive care. He was given oxygen but was not put on a ventilator.

Read the rest of this story here.


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