The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. 

WASHINGTON — Setting aside their differences for at least an afternoon, President Trump and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo agreed in an Oval Office meeting to work to double coronavirus testing in the hard-hit state over the next few weeks.

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Vice President Mike Pence, right, and President Trump watch a video of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaking during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House on Sunday. Associated Press/Patrick Semansky

“We will work together to help them secure additional tests,” Trump said after Tuesday’s meeting. “And we hope that this model will work with the other states as well.”

Flicking at the hot-and-cold relationship between the two politicians, Cuomo said of their meeting: “It ends the whole back-and-forth and the finger-pointing in a very fair and smart way.”

The meeting marked a sharp shift in rhetoric from just days earlier, when Trump had called on Cuomo to work harder to secure testing material for his state and the Democratic governor had pushed back that the president should turn off his television and get back to work.

Cuomo, who described the meeting as “effective and functional,” said he told Trump a rapid increase in testing was a crucial “benchmark” that his state and others need before they can safely reopen their economies and help communities return to a semblance of normalcy.

Trump and Cuomo have parried through the media throughout the pandemic, a routine that has included insults, sharply contrasting views on the role of the federal government and some moments of mutual admiration.

Read the full story about the agreement here.

Trump to suspend immigration, citing coronavirus crisis and jobs shortage

WASHINGTON — President Trump said Tuesday that he will halt immigration to the United States for 60 days, a freeze that will block green card recipients from moving to the country but allow temporary workers to arrive. The president provided a rationale for the unprecedented decision that was primarily economic, arguing that he wants Americans to have access to work as millions of people have lost their jobs amid the coronavirus crisis.

“I will be issuing a temporary suspension of immigration into the United States,” Trump said during a White House briefing Tuesday. “By pausing, we’ll help put unemployed Americans first in line for jobs. It would be wrong to be replacing them with new immigrant labor flown in from abroad.”

Senior White House officials and attorneys met Tuesday to sort out the logistics and legal implications of Trump’s late-night Twitter proclamation that he would freeze immigration to the United States, a move that came with little indication of who the U.S. government would bar from entry amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump decreed late Monday that he wanted to protect the country from the threat of foreigners bringing the virus to U.S. shores and to stem the economic crash the pandemic has triggered – and he retweeted the same post Tuesday in a measure of his enthusiasm for the plan. Yet senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies could not respond to basic questions about the scope of the order.

Other aides said privately that the president had once more announced a sweeping policy that was not yet ready for implementation, and his administration was trying to piece together an executive order for him to sign that would catch up to his whim.

Read the full story on the immigration suspension here.

Seven Wisconsin voters may have contracted coronavirus at polls

Wisconsin health officials have identified seven people who may have contracted coronavirus after voting in the state’s elections earlier this month.

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Doug Milks disinfects voting booths after they were used on April 7, as voters, despite a stay-at-home order over the coronavirus threat, cast ballots in the state’s presidential primary election in the gym at East High School in Madison, Wis. Steve Apps/Wisconsin State Journal via Associated Press

The state Department of Health Services added “election activity” to its list of COVID-19 virus investigation questions in its disease registry. The database “attempts to capture anyone that may have voted in person or worked at a polling place” on April 7, according to Jeanette Kowalik, Milwaukee’s commissioner of health.

Officials said they expect the number of those infected to rise after reviewing cases that began after April 7 once the incubation period of two weeks ends on Wednesday. The state has only 30 percent of data about new cases from Election Day on.

“While we continue to monitor cases of COVID-19 linked to election activity, we know that gatherings such as this are detrimental to the efforts to slow the spread of this pandemic,” said Ben Watson, the Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management medical director.

Wisconsin held an in-person election over the opposition of Gov. Tony Evers, who tried to both postpone the vote and switch to vote-by-mail. But those efforts were stymied by Republicans in the state legislature and rulings from the conservative majorities on the state and U.S. Supreme Courts.

Evers declared a state of emergency in Wisconsin on March 12 as coronavirus hit the state. A day ahead of the vote, Wisconsin had 2,440 cases of COVID-19 and 84 deaths. As of Tuesday, 230 people have died and nearly 4,500 have tested positive.

Read the full story about Wisconsin here.

Florida tourism industry plans to ease into reopening

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s tourism and hospitality industry should reopen from the coronavirus pandemic slowly, focusing first on getting residents to take in-state vacations before branching out to national and international travelers, a business subcommittee charged with making recommendations was told Tuesday.

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Signs and red flags are seen at an entrance to Jacksonville Beach in Jacksonville, Fla., in March. Mayor Lenny Curry said Duval County beaches reopened Friday with restricted hours, and they can be used only for walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming and surfing. Will Dickey/The Florida Times-Union via Associated Press

The state’s No. 1 industry has crashed since mid-March when the state’s theme parks and other attractions began closing, with hotels seeing a drop in revenue of $1.6 billion over the last six weeks compared to last year, said Dana Young, head of Visit Florida, the state’s tourism bureau. Domestic air travel to the state is down 65 percent and international air travel is down 80% compared to last year, she said on the committee’s conference call.

She and others said bringing those numbers back will require showing people it is safe to travel and visit restaurants and other crowded facilities by adopting practices aimed at preventing the virus’s spread, including stringent cleaning and employee safeguards. She said those steps must be done methodically and only when medical professionals say it is safe to proceed.

“Florida eased into the stay-at-home order and now our job is to look at how to appropriately ease out,” she said. She said her organization’s first advertising campaign would be aimed at Florida residents, exhorting them to visit the state’s attractions when they begin venturing back into the world.

“Our marketing will aim to invoke a sense of Florida pride,” she said.

The subcommittee is reporting to an executive committee composed of some of the state’s most powerful political and business leaders, which Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Monday. He asked it to prepare recommendations by Friday for reopening the state. The executive committee is meeting daily by phone.

DeSantis told the hospitality subcommittee that while their businesses might be deemed non-essential and were closed or heavily restricted, they are essential to the state’s long-term economic health and they must be reopened as soon as possible.

UK’s Parliament returns to work with a message: Stay away

LONDON — Britain’s Parliament went back to work Tuesday, and the political authorities had a message for lawmakers: Stay away.

U.K. legislators and most parliamentary staff were sent home in late March as part of a nationwide lockdown to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. With more than 17,000 virus-deaths in Britain and criticism growing of the government’s response to the pandemic, legislators are returning — at least virtually — to grapple with the crisis.

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London Ambulance staff, police officers and firefighters take part in the weekly “clap for our carers” as they stand on Westminster Bridge backdropped by a scaffolded Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in London, during the lockdown to try and stop the spread of coronavirus, last week. Matt Dunham/Associated Press

House of Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle presided over an almost-empty chamber, with space made for a maximum of 50 of the 650 members of Parliament. Red “no sitting” signs affixed to the green Commons benches and black-and-yellow hazard tape on the floor ensured lawmakers remained 2 meters (6.5 feet) apart.

A few dozen legislators sat, well-spaced, in the Commons, and agreed on arrangements for lawmakers to ask questions from home using videoconferencing program Zoom, beamed onto screens erected around the wood-paneled hamber.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the Conservative lawmaker who serves as leader of the House of Commons, accepted that “the new digital Parliament will not be perfect.”

“Members may launch forth into fine perorations only to be muted or snatched away altogether by an unreliable internet connection,” he said. “Yet we must not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”

Hoyle, the chamber’s speaker, acknowledged “there are bound to be bumps along the way” as the tradition-steeped 700-year-old institution takes a leap into the unknown. But he urged lawmakers not to travel to Parliament.

“I do not want members and House staff putting themselves at risk,” he said.

The virtual Parliament will have its first big test Wednesday during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will stand in for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is still recovering from a bout of COVID-19.

Oil prices slide again, one day after U.S. crude drops below $0

A collapse in the price of oil continued to disrupt world markets as investors on Tuesday braced for another deep dive in U.S. stocks.

Global benchmark Brent crude fell nearly 17%, one day after the U.S. benchmark fell below zero for the first time in history. Brent crude was trading at $21.35 a barrel Tuesday after briefly falling below $20 for the first time in nearly two decades. The collapse was weighing on global stock markets, with Wall Street signaling big losses at Tuesday’s open.

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An oil rig stands against the setting sun in Midland, Texas on Friday. Odessa American/Eli Hartman

Dow Jones industrial average plunged 500 points, about 2%, at the open. The broader Standard & Poor’s 500 dropped about 1.7% and tech-heavy Nasdaq fell roughly 1%. European markets were off significantly and Asian indexes in decline as uncertainty gripped investors, who are hungry for any sign of relief from the coronavirus pandemic’s economic stranglehold.

“The collapse in oil drives home the stark drop in economic activity around the world due to this virus,” said John Kilduff of Again Capital. “That puts a fine point on what we are staring down here.”

Analysts said nearly 40 million Saudi Arabian barrels are on their way to U.S. shores, adding to the tens of millions already in storage here. That delivery “is probably going to be the final dagger in the heart of the U.S. shale oil industry,” Kilduff said.

Read the full story here.

WHO to Belarus: Cancel events, set restrictions

MINSK, Belarus — The World Health Organization is urging the government of Belarus to cancel public events and implement measures to ensure physical and social distancing amid the growing coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement released Tuesday, a team of WHO experts who had assessed the country’s response to the pandemic said the country “needs to introduce community-wide steps to increase physical distancing,” postpone “large gatherings, including sports, religious and cultural events,” introduce options “for teleworking, and distance learning for schools, universities and other educational institutions” and suspend nonessential business.”

Belarus has registered 6,264 coronavirus cases and 51 deaths and remains one of the few countries affected by the pandemic that hasn’t gone into lockdown or imposed restrictions on public life in order to halt the spread of the virus. Factories, stores and restaurants conduct business as usual in Belarus, stands at sports events are filled with spectators and masks are a rare sight in the capital of Minsk.

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has ruled the ex-Soviet nation with an iron fist for more than two decades, has repeatedly dismissed concerns about the pandemic as “coronapsychosis.” On Monday, he allowed the country’s schools to reopen after an extended spring break. On Sunday, he attended an Easter church service with his 15-year-old son.

The government has also refused to evacuate its stranded citizens from abroad unless they pay the air fare and cover state costs of organizing flights. Several thousands of Belarusians are currently stuck abroad, unable to return home amid worldwide closure of border and flight halts.

Indians arrest missionaries who contributed to hotspot

NEW DELHI, India — Indian authorities say they have arrested 29 people, including 16 foreign nationals who participated in an Islamic missionary meeting last month in New Delhi that resulted in a large cluster of coronavirus cases in the country.

The foreigners include nationals from Indonesia and Thailand.

A local university professor who had arranged the shelter for Indonesians in a mosque in the Indian city of Allahabad was also arrested, police officer Brijesh Kumar Shrivastava said Tuesday.

He said the arrested have been booked on charges of violating the Foreigners Act and colluding with one another on providing shelter to foreign nationals and shielding information about them from the police.

One of the Indonesians had earlier tested positive for COVID-19 and the arrested have been kept in isolation, police said.

In India, the global Muslim missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat came under fire when the government blamed it for a surge in the number of coronavirus cases.

India has 18,601 confirmed cases of the virus, and authorities have linked more than 4,200 cases to the missionary meeting.

De Blasio urges governors to listen to scientists

NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says that if governors of states such as Georgia start to ease coronavirus restrictions, they had better have the facts on their side or they could enable a resurgence of the virus beyond their states’ borders.

“If some of these reopenings are done the wrong way, it’s going to affect all of us,” de Blasio said Tuesday on CNN’s “New Day.” He said that if any state or city “jumps the gun” on reopening businesses “that could lead to the disease reasserting in a lot of other places.”

The Democratic mayor announced Monday that all public events will be canceled in New York City through June. The ban was announced the same day that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he would allow some businesses including gyms, hair salons and bowling alleys to reopen later this week.

Bosnian police moving refugees off the streets

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Police in Bosnia have begun moving hundreds of migrants and refugees off the streets of the northwestern city of Bihac and transferring them into a nearby emergency tent camp speedily set up amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The tent camp Lipa, where migrants and refugees were being bused Tuesday, can accommodate up to 1,000 people, according to the International Organization for Migration, which manages all such facilities in Bosnia.

The tent camp was “equipped with all necessary infrastructure to provide the beneficiaries with … accommodation, food, hygiene, sanitation and medical care,” IOM said in a statement.

The organization previously reported serious overcrowding in six migrant centers it has been running in the country since 2018, when previous migration routes to Western Europe from the Balkans closed off and the migration shifted toward Bosnia.

The six camps were housing 6,200 people, or nearly 20% more than they were before the coronavirus outbreak in Bosnia in mid-March.

Despite strict social distancing measures imposed by the authorities, some 1,500 migrants and refugees were estimated last week to be sleeping in squalid and insanitary conditions in Bihac and several other cities in the northwestern Krajina region bordering the European Union member Croatia.

As of Tuesday, Bosnia’s coronavirus caseload reached 1,342, with 51 deaths.

Schumer says deal is reached on funding

WASHINGTON — Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer says agreement has been reached on “every major issue” of a nearly $500 billion coronavirus aid package for small businesses, as well as additional help for hospitals and COVID-19 virus testing.

Schumer says overnight talks among Democratic and Republican leaders, along with top Trump administration officials, produced a breakthrough agreement on the package.

“We have a deal and I think we’ll pass it today,” Schumer said Tuesday morning on CNN. He cautioned that staff are still “dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s.”

A Tuesday afternoon Senate session could provide an opportunity to quickly pass the legislation if it comes together quickly, though the Democratic-controlled House is planning on calling lawmakers to Washington for a vote later in the week.

Most of the funding, more than $300 billion, would go to boost a small-business payroll loan program that ran out of money last week. Additional help would be given to hospitals, and billions more would be spent to boost testing for the virus, a key step in building the confidence required to reopen state economies.

The emerging draft measure has grown into the second largest of the four coronavirus response bills so far.

You can read the rest of this story here.

Tivoli Gardens to re-open on May 11

COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Copenhagen’s famed Tivoli Gardens, the amusement park that inspired Walt Disney to create his theme parks, says it is reopening for its summer season on May 11 after its April 16 opening was postponed.

Created in 1843 by Georg Carstensen, the park was built on the city ramparts and last year saw 4.58 million visitors, a 6% drop compared with the previous year.

The park said its popular Friday Rock concerts with open-air gigs showcasing local and international performers, drawing thousands every week, cannot be held “in the usual form until September.”

The park that shut down on Feb. 24 after its winter season was often visited by Danish fairy tale writer Hans Christian Andersen. It is known for its scenery with exotic architecture, historic buildings and rides with thousands of colored lights at night that create a magical atmosphere.

Group says hunger could double this year

JOHANNESBURG — The U.N. World Food Program says the number of people with acute hunger could almost double this year amid the coronavirus pandemic.

A new report says 265 million people could face food insecurity by the end of this year, a jump of 130 million. WFP senior economist Arif Husain says in a statement that virus-related lockowns and the global economic recession have already “decimated” the savings of millions in low- and middle-income nations.

The WFP says the 10 countries with the worst food crises last year were Yemen, Congo, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syria, Sudan, Nigeria and Haiti.

Greek experts confirm outbreak at refugee shelter

ATHENS, Greece — The heads of Greece’s pandemic response effort are visiting a refugee shelter in the south of the country after authorities confirmed a high number of COVID-19 infections at the site.

The shelter at Kranidi hosts 470 asylum-seekers and was placed in isolation Monday after a pregnant resident tested positive for the new coronavirus during a hospital visit.

The government did not immediately confirm reports by state-run media that some 150 asylum seekers had since tested positive.

“It is a worrying development,” government spokesman Stelios Petsas said Tuesday. “There has been a high number of cases given the (crowded) conditions that exist at the facility.”

The outbreak at the shelter occurred after the government launched an effort to relocate some 2,380 asylum-seekers considered the most vulnerable to the virus from crowded camps on the Greek islands to smaller facilities on the mainland.

No cases of COVID-19 have so far been confirmed by Greek authorities at the island camps, which currently host some 40,000 migrants and refugees.

Italy now has more respirators than patients in ICU

ROME — Italy’s extraordinary commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency says that for the first time during the pandemic the nation has more respirators than patients with coronavirus infections in intensive care beds.

“This gives us the strength to go forward,” Domenico Arcuri told reporters on Tuesday. There are currently some 2,500 patients receiving intensive care for coronavirus infections.

Arcuri spoke of the “anguish, with which, each night, we had to decide where to send these instruments, which, in the end, save lives” when there weren’t enough respirators for those all needing them.

“I’ll keep that with me for all my life, and I wouldn’t wish anyone else to experience” the dilemma of choosing which hospital received them, he said.

For several days running now in Italy, the number of patients in intensive care wards have been diminishing. Italy has Europe’s highest number of deaths — more than 24,000 — in the outbreak, which in the early weeks overwhelmed hospitals, especially in the north where most known cases were registered.

Running of the bulls in Pamplona called off

MADRID — Spain’s famous running of the bulls in Pamplona is the latest major European event to be called off due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Pamplona city hall announced Tuesday that the nine-day San Fermin festival held in July won’t take place this year.

It said in a statement that though the decision was expected, “it still brings sadness.”

Pamplona mayor Enrique Maya is infected with the virus.

The San Fermin fiesta was made famous internationally by Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises.”

 


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