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.

Sen. Lamar Alexander will not return to Washington this week and will self-quarantine in his home state of Tennessee after a member of his staff tested positive for COVID-19.

The Republican senator will be working remotely and will chair the Senate health committee hearing on Tuesday morning by video conference. Witnesses will include Dr. Anthony Fauci, Dr. Robert Redfield, Dr. Brett Giroir and Dr. Stephen Hahn, according to Alexander Chief of Staff David Cleary.

Fauci, Redfield and Hahn have also self-quarantined after exposure to an infected staffer. The witnesses will testify from remote locations as well.

Cleary said the staff member tested positive Sunday and is home recovering, and doing well. Alexander consulted with his physician and decided not to go back to Washington. He will self-quarantine for 14 days “out of an abundance of caution.”

Cleary said almost all of the senator’s Washington staff are working from home, and there is no need for any other staff member to self-quarantine.

Trump advisers cite need to stop ‘permanent’ economic toll

WASHINGTON — Some of President Trump’s top economic advisers emphasized on Sunday the importance of states getting more businesses and offices open even as the pandemic makes its way to the White House complex, forcing three members of the administration’s coronavirus task force into self-quarantine.

The president and governors who will decide when to reopen their states are facing competing pressures. More economic activity and travel will likely lead to more people contracting COVID-19. But tight restrictions on which businesses can operate are causing millions of people to join the ranks of the unemployed. Decisions about how fast to reopen come with a general election less than six months away, and Trump and other incumbents facing the prospects of seeking another term in the midst of a public health and economic crisis.

“If we do this carefully, working with the governors, I don’t think there’s a considerable risk,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Matter of fact, I think there’s a considerable risk of not reopening. You’re talking about what would be permanent economic damage to the American public.”

Another 3.2 million U.S. workers applied for jobless benefits last week, bringing the total over the last seven weeks to 33.5 million as states restrict activities to slow the spread of the virus. Mnuchin said the jobless numbers “are probably going to get worse before they get better,” but he expected the economic numbers to improve in the second half of 2020 and that next year would be a “great year.”

Pence self-isolating after exposure to aide with virus

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence was self-isolating Sunday after an aide tested positive for the coronavirus last week, joining three of the nation’s top scientists in taking protective steps after possible exposure.

An administration official said Pence was voluntarily keeping his distance from other people in line with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. He has repeatedly tested negative for COVID-19 since his exposure but was following the advice of medical officials.

“Vice President Pence will continue to follow the advice of the White House Medical Unit and is not in quarantine,” spokesman Devin O’Malley said Sunday. “Additionally, Vice President Pence has tested negative every single day and plans to be at the White House tomorrow.”

Harassment mars Massachusetts ice cream shop’s reopening

CAPE COD, Mass. — Friday was supposed to be a step toward normal for Polar Cave Ice Cream Parlour.

Instead, it turned into one of Mark Lawrence’s worst days in nearly two decades serving award-winning desserts on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

People disregarded a rule to order an hour before pickup and demanded their ice cream anyway, he wrote on his business’s Facebook page. Customers took out their anger at delays on overwhelmed employees, including a teenage girl who quit, he said. The harassment came as employees around the country face verbal abuse and even violence while trying to navigate a new era of socially distant operations and public health precautions.

Lawrence said he would have to close back down. Now he’s doing limited orders and pondering the best way forward, according to his posts and local news interviews.

Lawrence had opened quietly Friday ahead of the Mother’s Day weekend, he told Boston 25 News. But a surge in orders quickly crushed the lean staff he had behind the counter.

Shutdown of tribal casinos deals blow to Indian Country

SPOKANE, Wash. — When the Kalispel Tribe of Indians closed its casino as the coronavirus took hold in Washington state, it essentially shut down its economy.

That difficult choice has played out nationwide as some 500 Native American casinos have voluntarily closed during the pandemic, often taking away tribes’ main source of income in an effort to protect people’s health in communities with limited medical resources.

The U.S. government authorized $8 billion for tribes in a coronavirus relief package in March, when most casinos closed, but it’s been slow to distribute the money, deepening the woes on reservations.

Its Northern Quest Casino near Spokane closed for nearly two months, costing the tribe millions of dollars. But with restrictions starting to loosen nationwide, the casino reopened Tuesday with limits on the number of customers, frequent cleaning, and fewer slot machines and chairs at table games to ensure social distancing.

While other Native American-owned casinos have reopened or plan to in coming weeks, most are still closed. That’s also forced layoffs and furloughs among the more than 1 million people working for tribes, many of them in casinos.

On Sunday, Foxwoods released a statement saying the company was temporarily laying off a majority of its workforce without benefits beginning May 31.

While the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation says it’s losing millions of dollars a week, protecting workers is paramount. DelMonte said the tribe is listening to state officials as it decides when to reopen.

Schumer calls on VA to explain use of unproven drug on vets

WASHINGTON — The Senate’s top Democrat on Sunday called on the Department of Veterans Affairs to explain why it allowed the use of an unproven drug on veterans for the coronavirus, saying patients may have been put at unnecessary risk.

Sen. Charles Schumer of New York said the VA needs to provide Congress more information about a recent bulk order for $208,000 worth of hydroxychloroquine. President Trump has heavily promoted the malaria drug, without evidence, as a treatment for COVID-19.

Schumer’s request comes after a whistleblower complaint filed this past week by former Health and Human Services official Rick Bright alleged that the Trump administration, eager for a quick fix to the onslaught of the coronavirus, wanted to “flood” hot spots in New York and New Jersey with the drug. Major veterans organizations have urged VA to explain under what circumstances VA doctors initiate discussion of hydroxychloroquine with veterans as a treatment option.

“There are concerns that they are using this drug when the medical evidence says it doesn’t help and could hurt,” Schumer said in an interview with The Associated Press.

He said given the fact the malaria drug, despite being untested, had been repeatedly pushed publicly by Trump, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie must address whether anyone at the department was pressured by the White House or the administration to use hydroxychloroquine for COVID-19.

U.K.’s Johnson announces modest easing of lockdown

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a modest easing of the country’s coronavirus lockdown Sunday and outlined his government’s road map for further lifting restrictions in the coming months.

In a televised address to the nation, Johnson said people in Britain who can’t work from home, such as those in construction or manufacturing jobs, “should be actively encouraged to go to work” this week.

He said that starting Wednesday, a restriction limiting outdoor exercise to once a day will be lifted and that people will be able to take “unlimited amounts.”

The prime minister, who spent a week in the hospital receiving treatment for COVID-19, stressed that social distancing guidelines still will have to be observed and said it would be “madness” to allow a second spike in infections.

Johnson also laid out a “conditional plan” for relaxing other lockdown restrictions in the coming months, including the possible return to school from some younger children on June 1. He said he hoped some of the hospitality industry can reopen a month later.

Fauci will testify via videoconference

WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee says that Dr. Anthony Fauci will now testify in a hearing Tuesday by video conference.

The announcement on Sunday comes after Fauci and two other members of the White House coronavirus task force came in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. They are undergoing self-quarantine as a precaution.

Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and has become nationally known for his simple and direct explanations to the public about the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes.

A Senate panel was to hear from Fauci and three other members of the coronavirus task force in a hearing focused on how to safely get people back to work and school.

Alexander is the panel’s chairman. He says that “after consulting with Dr. Fauci, and in an abundance of caution for our witnesses, senators, and the staff, all four administration witnesses will appear by video conference due to these unusual circumstances.”

WHO disputes media report about withholding information

BERLIN — The World Health Organization has dismissed as “false allegations” a media report that it withheld information about the new coronavirus following pressure from China.

The U.N. agency said in a statement late Saturday that a German magazine’s report about a telephone conversation between WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 21 was “unfounded and untrue.”

Weekly Der Spiegel reported that Xi asked Tedros during the call to hold back information about human-to-human transmission of the virus and delay declaring a pandemic. The magazine quoted Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, BND, which declined to comment Sunday.

Der Spiegel also claimed that the BND concluded up to six weeks of time to fight the outbreak had been lost due to China’s information policy.

The U.N. agency said Tedros and Xi “have never spoken by phone” and added that “such inaccurate reports distract and detract from WHO’s and the world’s efforts to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”

It said that China confirmed human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus on Jan. 20.

WHO officials issued a statement two days later saying there was evidence of human-to-human transmission in Wuhan, but more investigation was necessary. The global body declared COVID-19 a pandemic on Feb. 11.

U.S. President Trump has been among the strongest critics of WHO’s handling of the pandemic, accusing it of deference to China and ceasing payments to the agency.

Italy reports lowest new cases since lockdown

ROME — Italy has registered its lowest total of daily new COVID-19 cases since the start of the nationwide lockdown in early March.

According to Health Ministry data, 802 coronavirus infections were confirmed in the 24-hour period ending Sunday evening.

That’s also the first time daily new cases have dropped below the 1,000-mark since very early in the country’s outbreak. Italy now totals 219,070 known cases.

There were 165 deaths because of the virus since Saturday evening, raising the number of known deaths of infected patients to 30,560.

Authorities say the real total is surely much higher, as deaths at home or nursing care facilities or personal residence aren’t counted if COVID-19 testing isn’t done, although many of those deceased may well have had the illness.

Helping to account for such a lower daily new case total was Lombardy, Italy’s most stricken region. That northern region registered 282 infections in the 24-hour period. In recent days it had registered several hundred fresh cases daily.

New York nursing homes must test all staffers twice a week

NEW YORK — New York nursing homes must start twice-weekly coronavirus testing for all staffers and will no longer be sent COVID-19 patients leaving hospitals, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced after facing growing criticism over the handling of nursing facility outbreaks.

Of the nation’s more than 26,000 coronavirus deaths in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, a fifth of them — about 5,300 — are in New York, according to a count by The Associated Press.

That’s the highest number of nursing home deaths in the country, though other states have also struggled to control the virus in nursing facilities.

New York nursing home residents’ relatives, health care watchdogs and lawmakers have said the state didn’t focus enough on the threat and then the devastating reality of COVID-19 in nursing homes.

Critics have faulted the state for taking weeks to release the number of deaths in individual nursing homes — and still not releasing the number of cases — and for not conducting or requiring widespread testing in the facilities.

Greece reports no new deaths

ATHENS, Greece — There were no deaths from COVID-19 and only six new cases over the past 24 hours, Greek authorities announced Sunday.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country is now 2,716. The death toll is 151 and 30 people are on ventilators.

On Monday, most retail shops will open and high school seniors will return to school to prepare for the country-wide university entrance exams, which will take place sometime in July.

A government deputy minister said about 25 percent of all businesses forced to close in mid-March will re-open tomorrow, with about 155,000 people reporting back to work. Many of the shops will have late opening hours and all will have to enforce crowd distancing measures.

Shopping malls, restaurants and bars remain closed.

Syria resumes public transportation

DAMASCUS, Syria — Syria has resumed public transport within provinces for the first time in nearly two months as the country eases the lockdown because of coronavirus.

Syrian state media said thousands of public and private buses resumed work on Sunday with precautionary measures taken including repeatedly spraying the buses with disinfectants and keeping a safe distance between passengers.

Buses were only working within provinces as travels between regions is still restricted.

Also Sunday, masses were held in churches around Syria for the first time since mid-March and worshippers were sprayed with disinfectants before they entered churches and kept a safe distance.

Syria has registered 47 cases of coronavirus and three deaths so far.

Egyptian doctor calls for full lockdown

CAIRO — The head of Egypt’s Doctors’ Union has called for a full lockdown across the country to help fight the new coronavirus pandemic. It comes amid a spike in infections in the Arab World’s most populous country.

Dr. Hussein Khairy told local media Sunday that he sent a letter to Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly last week urging for the proposed lockdown to last for two weeks or until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

He argued that the lockdown would deal a “swift and massive blow” to the virus and “flatten” the curve of infections.

Egypt has halted international air travel and shuttered schools, universities, mosques, churches and archaeological sites, including the famed Giza pyramids. A curfew is in place from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The partial lockdown is to continue until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The country of 100 million people has experienced a surge in infections in the past couple of days, with the daily reported new cases around 500.

205 German slaughterhouse workers have tested positive

BERLIN — The number of workers who tested positive for COVID-19 at a slaughterhouse in western Germany has risen to 205.

Authorities in Coesfeld county near the Dutch border say they have so far received results for half of the 950 staff at the slaughterhouse. Most of the workers are migrants from Eastern Europe and living in shared accommodation.

The outbreak in Coesfeld, at a sister plant in a neighboring county and a separate slaughterhouse in norther Germany, have contributed to a spike in new cases in Germany.

The country’s public health agency said 1,251 new infections had been recorded over the past 24 hours. It said the so-called reproduction rate that reflects the number of people each person with COVID-19 infects has risen to 1.1 from 0.65 on Wednesday.

Spain prepares to open some restaurants outdoors

MADRID — Roughly half of Spain’s 47 million inhabitants will be able to enjoy their first drink or meal at an outdoor terrace on Monday, but residents of Madrid and Barcelona have to wait.

The two major cities have been hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak. Spain’s government is allowing other areas to further loosen restrictions that have been in place for nearly two months.

Bar and restaurant owners in cities like Seville and Bilbao will be able to open 50% of their outdoor seating for customers, while residents there will be allowed meet in groups of up to 10 people, and go to church, theaters and museums in limited numbers. Small shops will be able to open without the requirement for an appointment.

Officials are under pressure to revive a flagging economy amid rocketing unemployment.

Spain’s health minister reported 143 new confirmed fatalities from the virus on Sunday, the lowest daily increase since March 19. The total death toll for Spain is 26,621 since the start of the outbreak. More than 136,000 have recovered.

Korean mayor orders nightclubs closed

SEOUL, South Korea — The mayor of a city near Seoul has ordered the temporary closing of clubs, discos and other nightlife establishments amid concerns of a second wave of coronavirus cases in the country.

Mayor Park Namchoon of Incheon city to the west of Seoul says the closing of nightlife facilities will last for two weeks and that anyone violating the order can be punished by up to two years in prison or a 20 million won ($16,380) fine.

Seoul and its surrounding Gyeonggi province have already taken similar steps after new cases associated to nightclubs in Seoul’s Itaewon entertainment district were detected in recent days.

South Korea reported 34 new virus cases on Sunday, the first day that its daily tally was over 30 in about a month. Officials said that 24 out the 34 cases were linked to Itaewon nightclubs.

Turkey begins easing lockdown

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s senior citizens have been allowed to leave their homes for the first time in seven weeks under relaxed coronavirus restrictions.

Those aged 65 and over, deemed most at risk from the virus, had been subjected to a curfew since March 21, but they were permitted outside Sunday for four hours as part of a rolling program of reduced controls. Under-20s will be allowed outside for a similar period later in the week.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca tweeted his thanks to the elderly for their “great support” in fighting the outbreak by staying at home, and he reminded them to wear masks outside.

The government announced a “normalization plan” as the number of new cases dropped last week, but warned of tougher measures if infections go up again.

Entry and exit restrictions have been lifted for seven provinces where the outbreak is under control. They remain in place for 24 other provinces, including Istanbul and Ankara.

Shopping malls, barbers, hairdressers and beauty salons can open under strict conditions on Monday, while domestic and some international flights will resume at the end of May.

Turkey has recorded 137,115 cases of the virus and 3,739 deaths attributed to COVID-19, according to a tally by John Hopkins University. The true number is likely much higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with displaying symptoms.

Pope calls for EU cooperation

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is calling on leaders of European Union countries to work together to deal with the social and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.

The pope noted in his Sunday blessing that 75 years have passed since Europe began the challenging process of reconciliation after World War II. He said the process spurred both European integration and “the long period of stability and peace which we benefit from today.”

He prayed that the same spirit that inspired European integration efforts “not fail to inspire all those who have responsibility in the European Union” to deal with the coronavirus emergency in a “spirit of harmony and collaboration.”

Throughout his papacy, the pope has urged European countries to resist nationalism and instead pull together on issues like migration.

During the pandemic, hard-hit countries like Italy and Spain have that insisted EU leaders demonstrate solidarity.

 

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