The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. 

President Trump said he’ll sign an executive order temporarily suspending immigration to the United States as the country tries to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Trump made the announcement by tweet late Monday night and did not offer specifics, such as the time frame or the scope of who would be affected. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

He tweeted that he made the decision “in light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens.”

It’s the latest measure taken by Trump and his administration to restrict the U.S. border amid the pandemic. Trump has imposed broad travel restrictions on China, Europe, Canada and Mexico to curb the virus’s spread, and the State Department last month temporarily suspended routine visa services at embassies and consulates.

The president has often said the pandemic has strengthened his desire to further restrict access to the U.S., and even to manufacture certain products on home soil.

Read the full story about the president’s immigration plan here.

Reports suggest many have had coronavirus with no symptoms

A flood of new research suggests that far more people have had the coronavirus without any symptoms, fueling hope that it will turn out to be much less lethal than originally feared.

While that’s clearly good news, it also means it’s impossible to know who around you may be contagious. That complicates decisions about returning to work, school and normal life.

In the last week, reports of silent infections have come from a homeless shelter in Boston, a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, pregnant women at a New York hospital, several European countries and California.

The head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 25 percent of infected people might not have symptoms. The vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. John Hyten, thinks it may be as high as 60 percent to 70 percent among military personnel.

None of these numbers can be fully trusted because they’re based on flawed and inadequate testing, said Dr. Michael Mina of Harvard’s School of Public Health.

Collectively, though, they suggest “we have just been off the mark by huge, huge numbers” for estimating total infections, he said.

Read the full story on asymptomatic cases here.

Oil futures plunge below zero as demand collapses

NEW YORK — Oil futures plunged below zero on Monday, the latest never-before-seen number to come out of the economic coma caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Stocks and Treasury yields also dropped on Wall Street, with the S&P 500 down 1.8 percent, but the market’s most dramatic action by far was in oil, where the cost to have a barrel of U.S. crude delivered in May plummeted to negative $37.63. It was at roughly $60 at the start of the year.

Traders are still paying $20.43 for a barrel of U.S. oil to be delivered in June, which analysts consider to be closer to the “true” price of oil. Crude to be delivered next month, meanwhile, is running up against a stark problem: traders are running out of places to keep it, with storage tanks close to full amid a collapse in demand as factories, automobiles and airplanes sit idled around the world.

Tanks at a key energy hub in Oklahoma could hit their limits within three weeks, according to Chris Midgley, head of analytics at S&P Global Platts. Because of that, traders are willing to pay others to take that oil for delivery in May off their hands, so long as they also take the burden of figuring out where to keep it.

“Almost by definition, crude oil has never fallen more than 100 percent, which is what happened today,” said Dave Ernsberger, global head of pricing and market insight at S&P Global Platts.

“I don’t think any of us can really believe what we saw today,” he said. “This kind of rewrites the economics of oil trading.”

Also exacerbating the volatility is that few traders are buying and selling U.S. oil to be delivered in May. They won’t even have the opportunity to do so after Tuesday, when trading contracts for it expire and the earliest delivery they’ll be able to buy is for June.

Brent crude, the international standard, fell nearly 9 percent to $25.57 per barrel.

The plunge in oil sent energy stocks in the S&P 500 to a 3.7 percent loss, the latest in a dismal 2020 that has caused their prices to nearly halve.

Read today’s complete Wall Street story here.

Some manufacturers reopening in midst of political tug of war

SEATTLE — Boeing and at least one other U.S. heavy-equipment manufacturer resumed production Monday amid pressure from President Trump to reopen the economy and resistance from governors who warn there is not enough testing yet to keep the coronavirus from rebounding.

Boeing said it is putting about 27,000 people back to work this week building passenger jets at its Seattle-area plants, with virus-slowing precautions in place, including face masks and staggered shifts. Doosan Bobcat, a farm equipment maker and North Dakota’s largest manufacturer, announced the return of about 2,200 workers at three factories around the state.

Elsewhere around the world, step-by-step reopenings were underway in Europe, where the crisis has begun to ebb in places such as Italy, Spain and Germany. Parts of the continent are perhaps weeks ahead of the U.S. on the infection curve of the virus, which has killed around 170,000 people worldwide, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

The reopenings in the U.S. are a drop in the bucket compared with the more than 22 million Americans thrown out of work by the crisis.

In a dispute that has turned nakedly political, the president has been agitating to restart the economy, singling out Democratic-led states and egging on protesters who feel governors are moving too slowly.

While some states – mostly Republican-led ones – have relaxed restrictions, many governors say they lack the testing supplies they need and warn they could get hit by a second wave of infections, given how people with no symptoms can still spread the disease.

Read the full story about business reopenings here.

Feds to track, share information on nursing home outbreaks

NEW YORK — Calling nursing homes ground zero of the coronavirus crisis, federal officials said Monday they plan to start tracking and publicly sharing information on infections and deaths in such facilities to help spot trends and early signs the virus is spreading in communities.

The move comes as critics, industry officials and local leaders have called for more aggressive actions by the federal government to track infections in homes and contain outbreaks by helping them get greater access to testing and masks, especially given the vulnerability of elderly residents.

“It’s our intention to make that information public,” Seema Verma, head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said during a call with reporters, adding that details were still being worked out on when or how the information would be distributed.

Because the federal government has not been releasing a count of its own, The Associated Press has been keeping its own tally from media reports and state health departments, finding at least 8,426 deaths linked to coronavirus outbreaks in nursing homes and long-term care facilities nationwide.

But the true toll of the mostly frail and elderly people who live in such facilities is likely much higher, experts say, because many homes have not reported their deaths and state counts may not include those who died without ever being tested.

For the federal tracking of infections, Verma said homes could start reporting by the end of this week and that questionnaires from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will collect information on deaths as well as confirmed and suspected cases, including among workers. She also said nursing homes will also be required to tell patients and family members within 12 hours of a confirmed infection.

Read the full story here.

Minnesota pork plant shuts down after virus outbreak among workers

MINNEAPOLIS  — JBS USA said it is temporarily shutting down its big pork processing plant in southwestern Minnesota because of an outbreak of COVID-19 among workers, the latest closure of a major U.S. food processing plant due to the pandemic.

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In this Saturday, April 18, 2020, photo, medical workers administer drive-up COVID-19 tests outside the Sanford Worthington Clinic in Worthington, Minn. The state has sent a team to ensure safe conditions in the southwestern Minnesota city, where multiple people have tested positive at a meatpacking plant. Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune via AP

Meat processing workers are particularly susceptible to the virus because they typically stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the line and congregate in crowded locker rooms and cafeterias.

“We don’t make this decision lightly,” Bob Krebs, president of JBS USA Pork, said in a statement. “We recognize JBS Worthington is critical to local hog producers, the U.S. food supply and the many businesses that support the facility.”

The Worthington plant employs more than 2,000 people and normally slaughters 20,000 hogs per day. JBS said the plant would wind down operations over the next two days with a reduced staff. The company, which just granted $4-per-hour raises for its U.S. meatpackers, will continue to pay workers during the indefinite closure and is urging them to follow Minnesota’s stay-at-home order until they return to work.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported over the weekend that 26 JBS workers and five relatives of workers have tested positive for the coronavirus.

JBS USA operates more than 60 facilities across the United States. The Worthington plant is the company’s third to shut down, joining a beef plant in Souderton, Pennsylvania, that closed for two weeks and reopened Monday, and a beef plant that remains closed in Greeley, Colorado.

Other companies have shut plants across the country because of outbreaks, including the Smithfield pork plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Read the full story here.

Sports revenue on the line as fans say they feel unsafe without vaccine

With the distinct possibility of pro sports resuming in empty venues, a recent poll suggests a majority of U.S. fans wouldn’t feel safe attending games anyway without a COVID-19 vaccine.

According to the Seton Hall Sports Poll, 72 percent of Americans said they would not feel safe attending games without a vaccine, though the number dropped to 61 percent among people who identified themselves as sports fans. Nearly half the respondents in the poll, which had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6 percentage points, said they either didn’t follow sports closely or didn’t follow sports at all.

So even if fans are allowed back in stadiums or arenas, many may not come. And the financial losses in such a scenario will be significant without the revenue that comes from tickets, concessions and merchandise, among other things – even if money is flowing from lucrative media rights deals.

If the NBA and NHL have to cancel the rest of their seasons and Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer play only half their regular schedules, the losses in fan-related revenue could reach $3 billion, according to Patrick Rishe, director of the sports business program at Washington University in St. Louis.

“Those losses that I mentioned, both in ticket revenue and game day-related spending at the venues on food, beverage, parking, merchandise, you name it, that’s money that’s gone,” Rishe said. “Even if money on tickets is credited to next season, it’s still an opportunity lost. So it’s pretty sizable.”

College football is facing its own set of questions, including whether students will be allowed back on campuses and when. The sport is critical to nearly all athletic department budgets and officials are bracing for significant dips in revenue even if games are played.

Read more about the poll here.

WHO’s chief warns the worst of the virus is still ahead

GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization has warned that “the worst is yet ahead of us” in the coronavirus outbreak, raising new alarm bells about the pandemic just as many countries are beginning to ease restrictive measures.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus didn’t specify exactly why he believes that the outbreak that has infected nearly 2.5 million people and killed over 166,000, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University, could get worse. Some people, though, have pointed to the likely future spread of the illness through Africa, where health systems are far less developed.

Tedros alluded to the so-called Spanish flu in 1918 as a reference for the coronavirus outbreak.

“It has a very dangerous combination and this is happening … like the 1918 flu that killed up to 100 million people,” he told reporters in Geneva.

“But now we have technology, we can prevent that disaster, we can prevent that kind of crisis.”

“Trust us. The worst is yet ahead of us,” he said. “Let’s prevent this tragedy. It’s a virus that many people still don’t understand.”

White House to hold call with governors on testing supplies

WASHINGTON — After insisting it was up to governors to ramp up coronavirus testing in their states, the Trump administration is finally acknowledging their pleas for help.

Vice President Mike Pence will lead a teleconference with the nation’s governors Monday morning from FEMA headquarters in response to calls for a national testing strategy to help secure in-demand supplies like testing swabs and chemical reagents — a day after Trump announced that he would be using the Defense Production Act to compel one company to manufacture swabs.

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Vice President Mike Pence speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Sunday, April 19. AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

Pence will “review what more they can do and do together to develop locally tailored testing strategies,” Trump said at a White House news conference Sunday. “We want to help them out.”

Officials and health experts say the country needs to dramatically scale its testing infrastructure if it is going to safely roll back restrictions and reopen businesses without risking a major spike in infections that would negate weeks of social distancing and economic strife.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” Monday morning that the nation is currently running about 1.5 to 2 million tests per week. But, “we really need to get up to, at least, you know, maybe two times that, three times that.”

Administration officials have insisted that the U.S. currently has enough testing capacity to safely implement “Phase One” of a plan they released last week to begin a slow return to normalcy. And they have argued that states could be running twice as many tests as they are now if only they were using all the equipment they already have access to.

Read the full story here.

U.K.’s Johnson resists calls to ease up lockdown on fears of a second wave

Boris Johnson is resisting pressure to ease the U.K.’s coronavirus lockdown too soon, fearing a second wave of the pandemic could hit the country, a person familiar with the matter said.

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Mounted police officers patrol along a deserted Regent Street in London, as the country is in lockdown to help curb the spread of the coronavirus, Wednesday, April 15. AP Photo/Frank Augstein

The prime minister, who is yet to return to work after being struck by the virus himself, spoke with colleagues including his deputy, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, late on Friday to express caution, according to the person, who asked not to be identified because the conversations were private.

The government is facing calls to lift restrictions on movement that have brought the U.K. economy to a near halt and triggered a surge in furloughs and welfare applications. On April 16 Raab extended the lockdown for three weeks amid signs the outbreak is near or at its peak, but there is now an open debate in government about how and when to ease.

“The big concern is a second peak,” Johnson’s spokesman James Slack said on a call with reporters on Monday. “If you move too quickly, the virus could begin to spread exponentially again.”

Slack said Johnson is focusing on his recovery at Chequers, his country residence, and while he is receiving daily updates, he is not doing government work.

The government is also under increasing pressure to explain elements of its response, including delays in getting vital equipment and on testing health workers and others for the virus. On Sunday, the government issued a furious defense of Johnson’s handling of the crisis.

Read the full story here.

Fauci says reopening too quickly will backfire

WASHINGTON — The top infectious-disease expert in the United States has a message for protesters who are ignoring their governors’ stay-at-home orders and calling for him to be fired over his guidelines.

Dr. Anthony Fauci says the message is “this is something that is hurting from the standpoint of economics, from the standpoint of things that have nothing to do with the virus.”

He added on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that “unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not gonna happen. So what you do if you jump the gun and go into a situation where you have a big spike, you’re gonna set yourself back.”

Fauci says as painful as it is to follow guidelines of gradually phasing into a reopening “it’s gonna backfire. That’s the problem.”

Putin: Russia has slowed outbreak, but peak is still ahead

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin says Russia has slowed the outbreak of the coronavirus but warns the nation has yet to see the peak of infections.

Putin conferred with top medical officials in a Monday call and said the government would only move to ease a partial economic shutdown if medical experts rule it safe.

The Russian leader has ordered most businesses except essential industries shut through April 30, and most Russian regions have ordered rigid quarantine measures.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin says the tight lockdown and broader screening in the capital have helped prevent an explosive influx of patients in grave condition and reduced the load on the healthcare system.

Moscow has accounted for nearly two thirds of the nation’s total of 47,121 cases, including 405 deaths.

Germany has treated 200 patients from other EU nations

BERLIN — Germany says it has now treated more than 200 COVID-19 patients from other European Union countries at its hospitals and will pay for their treatment.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert didn’t specify the costs after a meeting Monday of top German officials. He says paying for the care was a matter of “European solidarity.”

Unlike those of some other European countries, Germany’s health system hasn’t been overwhelmed by the coronavirus pandemic. It has been taking in patients from elsewhere for weeks.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Christofer Burger says that Germany has taken in 229 patients from elsewhere in the EU so far. Of those, 130 are from France, 44 from Italy and 55 from the Netherlands.

Bangladesh death toll passes 100

DHAKA, Bangladesh — The total death toll from coronavirus in Bangladesh has passed 100 people and the total infections are at 2,948 .

Nasima Sultana is an additional director general of the Directorate General of Health Services. She says 492 people have tested positive over last 24 hours. That is the highest in a single day after the first case of infection was confirmed on March 8.

She says 10 people died in the last 24 hours to raise the total death toll to 101.

Since the first case, only 85 people recovered and returned home. A total of 26,604 samples have been tested for COVID-19 infections until Monday in the densely populated South Asian country of 160 million people.

Experts say community transmission has taken place because of lax enforcement of social distancing guidelines. A nationwide lockdown has been in place in the country until Apr. 25.

Group of Bosnians on hunger strike to protest quarantine

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina – Several dozen people in Bosnia are on a hunger strike to protest being quarantined in a hotel on suspicion they might be carrying the new coronavirus.

The group of some 80 Bosnians work abroad and when they returned to the country they were placed under a 28-day quarantine in a hotel in the central town of Zenica. They began refusing food Monday to pressure authorities into allowing them to self-isolate in their homes.

The hunger strikers also say they will no longer allow health care professionals who visit the hotel daily to take their temperature.

“Here, we all mix in hallways and if one of us is infected, we will all get infected,”

Mirsad Susic told The Associated Press by phone that the group congregates in hallways and is a greater risk for catching or passing on the new coronavirus than they would be if they were allowed to self-isolate at home.

Prince Philip makes rare public statement

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II’s husband has made a rare public statement praising those tackling the new coronavirus pandemic and keeping essential services running.

Prince Philip, who turns 99 in June, said he wanted to recognize the “vital and urgent” work of medical and science professionals.

He also gave thanks to key workers including people working in food production, garbage collection, and postal and delivery services.

The royal, who retired from public duties in 2017, signed off simply with “Philip.”

Philip has been staying with the queen at Windsor Castle with reduced staff for their safety.

Dutch privacy group can’t tell if apps are safe

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Dutch privacy watchdog says it can’t evaluate if seven smartphone coronavirus apps the government tested over the weekend sufficiently protect users’ personal data.

The Dutch Data Protection Agency said Monday that terms given to developers were so unclear that it is not possible to work out if apps under consideration will work while safeguarding users’ data.

The announcement is a setback for the government, which wants to use a contact-tracking app to safeguard the public when coronavirus restrictions are gradually eased.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte is set to announce Tuesday evening whether restrictions he calls an “intelligent lockdown” will be partially lifted.

Chairman of the authority, Aleid Wolfsen, says that while he understands the wish to return to normality “we must avoid using a solution if it’s unclear whether it really works, with the risk that it will cause other problems.”

Spain in damage control after police official’s gaffe

MADRID — Spanish authorities have gone into damage control mode after a high ranking police official said in an apparent gaffe that one of the goals of fighting misinformation was to rein in on negative coverage of the government’s handling of the coronavirus crisis.

During a daily press conference on Sunday, the chief of the Civil Guard police force Gen. José Manuel Santiago said that in addition to avoid the “social stress” created by false information related to the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement was also fighting to “minimize that climate contrarian to the government’s management of the crisis.”

The Civil Guard later issued a statement saying that battling disinformation was being conducted respecting the freedom to criticism. Late on Sunday, Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska also told La Sexta television that the general’s remarks were “erroneous.”

Grande-Marlaska also accused the conservative leading opposition PP party and the far-right Vox of being “disloyal” to the government. The two parties, together with the center-right Citizens party, want the interior minister to answer questions in parliament regarding the government’s handling of the state of emergency, now on its sixth week.

On Monday, without referring to his previous statement, Gen. Santiago said that during four decades of career he had prioritized the well being of people and had not been at any time moved by ideology.

Hospital organizations take British government to task over PPE

LONDON — Hospital organizations are slamming Britain’s government for its failure to give medical staff appropriate clothing and equipment to deal with the COVID-19 outbreak.

With so many promises dashed, Chris Hopson of the NHS Providers told the BBC there is “relatively low confidence” that a shipment of 400,000 surgical gowns due to arrive last weekend from Turkey will arrive Monday.

The NHS Confederation, which represents organizations across healthcare, described the failed delivery at a time of critically low stocks as making “a difficult situation worse.”

The confederation’s CEO Niall Dickson, says it “would have been better had the government not made the announcement in the first place.”

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden says he’s hopeful “that later today that flight will take off and we will get those gowns.’’

British medical personnel have been arguing for weeks that the ongoing debacle in getting the right equipment to the right people is forcing doctors to put their own lives in danger to treat the sick and hurting medical care across the board.

Spain tops 200,000 infections

MADRID — Spain has surpassed the 200,000 mark of coronavirus infections while recording the lowest number of new deaths in four weeks.

Health ministry data shows Monday that 399 more people have succumbed to the COVID-19 disease created by the virus in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s total death toll to 20,852. Spain had counted more than 400 daily deaths since March 22.

The outbreak’s spread has continued at a slower pace than in previous weeks, with 4,266 new infections that is bringing the pandemic’s total tally to 200,210.

The Spanish government is starting to relax its confinement measures, trying to re-activate the economy after a two-week freeze and allowing children under 12-years-old to venture out to the streets for brief periods from next week.

The government had been under pressure from regional governments, parents and some educators to ease the lockdown for children. The government says they will be allowed to get out for brief periods on a daily basis starting on April 27 but that all the details need to be ironed out with experts this week.

 


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