The latest on the coronavirus pandemic.

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration’s new strategy for coronavirus testing puts much of the burden on states while promising to provide supplies such as swabs and material to transport specimens.

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Members of the Illinois National Guard work with the public at the state’s COVID-19 testing facility at Rolling Meadows High School on Friday in Rolling Meadows, Ill. Joe Lewnard/Daily Herald via AP

The plan, which was delivered Sunday to members of Congress, drew harsh criticism Monday from Democrats. In a joint letter, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. and Washington Sen. Patty Murray said the administration “still does not have a serious plan for increasing testing to stop the spread of the virus.”

The report comes as the U.S. death toll from the pandemic approaches 100,000. President Trump, who has been eager to revive the economy by loosening coronavirus-related restrictions, vowed Monday, “Together we will vanquish the virus and America will rise from this crisis to new and even greater heights.”

The 81-page document from the Department of Health and Human Services says, “State plans must establish a robust testing program that ensures adequacy of COVID-19 testing, including tests for contact tracing, and surveillance of asymptomatic persons to determine community spread.”

It says the federal government will “ensure that States have the collection supplies that they need through December 2020.” To that end, the administration plans to acquire and distribute 100 million swabs and 100 million tubes of viral transport media.

The HHS document, which The Washington Post first reported, recommends that all states “have an objective of testing a minimum of 2 percent of their population in May and June.”

Read the full story on the federal testing strategy here.

People are wearing hazmat suits on planes, but should they?

Last year, supermodel Naomi Campbell made headlines when she shared a video of herself very thoroughly sanitizing her Qatar Airlines seat. There were disinfecting wipes involved, plastic gloves and a face mask.

And that was before the coronavirus pandemic.

With the world battling a highly contagious global health threat, Campbell has taken her in-flight hygiene habits a step further by wearing a hazmat suit on board.

Campbell is not alone in wearing hazmat suits on planes. The behavior is becoming more common for regular air travelers, as well as airline staff.

Disposable PPE suits can cost less than $20 online, but health experts aren’t advocating wearing them on planes during the pandemic.

“Wearing a hazmat suit on an airplane is unnecessary and could cause undue concern for other travelers,” Scott Pauley, a press officer for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told The Washington Post by email. “CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain.”

Qatar Airways announced May 18 it would require its cabin crew to wear disposable Personal Protective Equipment as well as safety goggles, gloves and a mask. Amer Sweidan/Courtesy of Qatar Airlines

Nonetheless, multiple carriers are requiring flight attendants to wear hazmat suits on planes, including Philippine Airlines, AirAsia and, most recently, Qatar Airways, CNN reported.

On May 18, Qatar Airways announced it would require members of its cabin crew to wear disposable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) suits over their uniforms in addition to other gear including safety goggles, gloves and a mask.

According to Adrian Hyzler, chief medical officer for Healix International, a company specializing in security and international medical and travel-assistance services, neither the European Union Airline Safety Association (EASA) nor the International Air Transport Association (IATA) recommends hazmat suits for airline crew unless they’re dealing with sick passengers.

Hyzler said one concern with wearing hazmat suits is improperly getting out of them. If there’s any trace of the coronavirus on the suit, wearers may come into contact with it as they take off their PPE. The CDC did say recently, “coronavirus primarily spreads from person to person and not easily from a contaminated surface,” The Washington Post reported.

Another issue is they can give the wearer a false sense of security.

“This is something with all PPE that makes the wearer think that they are somehow better protected,” Hyzler said.

Read the full story.

Cities nationwide rethink their streetscapes in a reopening world

Forced distancing required because of the coronavirus prompted several cities quickly to close some public roads so cooped-up residents anxious to get outside for exercise could do so safely.

Following moves to shut, narrow or repurpose streets from Oakland to Tampa, cities including Washington are trying to determine how those emergency closures might have lasting impacts on some of urban America’s most important, and contested, real estate.

Indianapolis restaurants opened on May 22 but were limited to seating guests at outdoor tables. The city closed several streets to traffic to accommodate larger outdoor areas for restaurants to provide for social distancing. Associated Press/Michael Conroy

In Washington, lawmakers are drafting legislation to make it easier for shutdown-battered restaurants to space out their tables by putting them on public roads, parking spaces and sidewalks at least for months, and to give neighborhoods a way to close streets to traffic to make walking and biking safer. A mayoral advisory group made similar recommendations Thursday.

Officials around the country say their moves to change public roadways have been met with broad support, though they acknowledge some early missteps, such as not giving enough emphasis to the specific needs of disadvantaged neighborhoods. Some of the newly closed streets also were underused or met with objections from some businesses.

But cities have taken steps to address those concerns, including reopening some roads and closing others as they seek to get the balance right..

Trump threatens to move Republican convention if N.C. governor won’t allow full attendance

President Donald Trump demanded Monday that North Carolina’s Democratic governor sign off “immediately” on allowing the Republican National Convention to move forward in August with full attendance despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Trump’s tweets Monday about the RNC, planned for Charlotte, come just two days after the North Carolina recorded its largest daily increase in positive cases yet.

On Friday, Gov. Roy Cooper moved the state into a second phase of gradual reopening with some further loosening of restrictions on hair salons, barbers and restaurants. But he said the state must continue to closely watch virus trends and has ordered entertainment venues, gyms and bars to remain closed.

“Unfortunately, Democrat Governor, @RoyCooperNC is still in Shutdown mood & unable to guarantee that by August we will be allowed… full attendance in the Arena,” Trump tweeted Monday.

He added that Republicans “must be immediately given an answer by the Governor as to whether or not the space will be allowed to be fully occupied. If not, we will be reluctantly forced…to find, with all of the jobs and economic development it brings, another Republican National Convention site.”

Cooper’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the tweets.

A week ago, Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel asserted on a call with reporters that the convention slated for Aug. 24-27 would be held at least partly in person and vowed not to hold “a virtual convention.” She said at the time that the RNC has enlisted a medical adviser and that the party was consulting with the Charlotte mayor and the governor.

Several days later, during a visit to the Charlotte area, a top Trump administration health official sounded less certain. Asked about what preparations Charlotte will need to make to safely host the RNC, federal Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said increasing testing capacity will be important. However, he did not refer to a traditional in-person convention as a certainty, but rather noted that “we’re several months away from the possibility of the RNC.”

Before Monday, Cooper and Trump had yet to publicly spar during the pandemic. While Cooper has urged the federal government to help North Carolina get more testing supplies and protective gear, he’s avoided criticizing Trump by name. Trump, meanwhile, has refrained before Monday from calling out Cooper as he has other Democratic governors.

Cooper, who narrowly won election over an incumbent Republican in 2016, faces a challenge in November’s gubernatorial race from Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, who has urged a faster reopening of state businesses.

Spain will life quarantine requirement for international visitors

MADRID — Spain says it will lift a 2-week mandatory confinement for all travelers arriving from overseas starting July 1.

The government said in a brief statement that Cabinet ministers made the decision to lift the mandatory quarantine during a meeting Monday.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez had already announced over the weekend that his nation was ready to welcome some foreign visitors in July.

The government is looking to establish safe corridors between parts of Spain that have the outbreak under control and similar areas in Europe that are an important source of tourists. There has been no talk so far of reopening to travelers from outside the European Union.

Spain is one of the world’s most visited countries, attracting over 80 million international tourists each year. The industry represents 12% of Spain’s GDP and employs 2.6 million people. Its economic importance is even greater on Spain’s Canary and Balearic archipelagos.

West Bank to reopen as virus spread slows dramatically

RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian prime minister says the West Bank will reopen on Tuesday after a dramatic slowdown in the spread of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said shops, restaurants and mosques and churches would reopen on Tuesday, while government offices would reopen on Wednesday following the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr.

The Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous areas of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, imposed a strict lockdown in March.

The Palestinians reported 368 cases of COVID-19 in the West Bank, with two deaths.

Ukraine opens subways, kindergartens

KYIV, Ukraine — The subway in Kyiv and kindergartens all across Ukraine reopened on Monday as the country moved to the second stage of easing lockdown restrictions.

Last week, Ukraine’s government announced shifting to “an adjustable lockdown,” with authorities in different regions deciding which restrictions to lift. The new regime started on Saturday, with public transport, hotels and churches reopening, and will remain in place until June 22.

In Kyiv, the subway returned to its usual schedule, allowing people in if they wear masks and observe social distancing guidelines. Churches across the country resumed public services on condition of enforcing social distancing. Hotels were allowed to reopen with their restaurants remaining closed.

Ukraine was one of the first ex-Soviet nations to impose a strict nationwide lockdown in March, when it had just a handful of coronavirus cases. It has so far reported 21,245 confirmed infections and 623 deaths.

South Korea to send masks to adoptees in 14 countries

SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea says it plans to send 370,000 face masks to tens of thousands of South Korea-born adoptees living in the West to help them weather the coronavirus.

The Foreign Ministry said its diplomatic missions will work with dozens of international adoptee groups to distribute the masks to adoptees in 14 countries, including the United States, Canada, Australia and European nations such as Britain, Germany, France and Italy.

The ministry said it initially planned to send 100,000 masks but decided to expand the supplies because most South Korean adoptees were sent abroad as infants during the 1970s and 1980s and are now old enough to have their own children.

South Korea has been a major source of babies for Western adoptive parents since the end of 1950-53 Korean War. According to official figures, there are around 167,000 South Korean adoptees living abroad, including 110,000 in the United States. But experts say the actual number would be closer to 200,000.

South Korea is also in the process of sending 1 million masks to foreign veterans of the Korean War.

Dutch slaughterhouse outbreak spreads to Germany

BERLIN — A coronavirus outbreak linked to a slaughterhouse in the Netherlands has spread across the border to Germany.

Dutch regional health authorities said Monday that tests showed 147 of the 657 employees at a meat processing plant in Groenlo were positive for COVID-19.

They said 79 of those infected live in Germany, while 68 are resident in the Netherlands.

There have been several clusters of COVID-19 among slaughterhouse workers in Germany in recent weeks, prompting a government pledge to crack down on conditions in the industry. Many workers in German abattoirs are migrants from Eastern Europe employed by subcontractors. They often live in shared housing and are transported to and from the slaughterhouses by shuttle bus, increasing the likelihood of infection.

Montenegro declares it is ‘corona-free’

PODGORICA, Montenegro — Montenegro’s health minister has urged citizens to help keep the small Balkan country “corona-free” in the future after authorities said there are no more cases of infection at the moment.

Minister Kenan Hrapovic on Monday described the current situation in the country as a joint success of the health authorities and the citizen of Montenegro.

The Public Health Institute said Sunday that all of the 140 tests in the past 24 hours were negative and that there are no people currently reported sick with the virus.

Hrapovic says “responsible behavior and joint health care will be out trump card in the days ahead so that we can remain proud bearers of the title of a corona-free country.”

The Balkan country of some 620,000 people imposed strict lockdown measures to curb the outbreak. A total of 324 cases have been recorded and nine people have died.

 


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