This is a roundup of the latest on the coronavirus pandemic from around the U.S. and the world.

The coronavirus appears to be in retreat in regions that moved decisively to contain it after being hit hard, including New York and New Jersey. But the virus is persisting – and, in some places, spreading aggressively – in parts of the South, Midwest and far West, including in states that were among the last to impose shutdowns and the first to lift them.

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Demonstrators march toward Seattle City Hall on Wednesday in a protest over the death of George Floyd. Associated Press/Elaine Thompson

Now, public health officials across the nation are warily eyeing caseloads and hospitalizations to see if there is a spike in infections resulting from mass protests against racism and police violence.

The protests, sparked by the Memorial Day killing of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis and other recent instances of violence against African Americans, have been outdoors. The virus is most easily transmitted in closed spaces with poor ventilation. Even so, the massing of protesters for hours on end in chaotic circumstances, along with police use of chemical agents, could lead to a spike in cases in coming days and weeks.

“One person can infect hundreds. If you were at a protest, go get a test, please,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a briefing Thursday. “The protesters have a civic duty here also.”

The notion of civic duty has, in part, contributed to a rapid shift in public response to the coronavirus epidemic. Public health experts and local authorities in many places once urged so much caution that shutdowns ensued, streets emptied and grieving families were forced to limit or cancel funerals.

Now, local officials throughout the country are lifting restrictions, hoping to restore economic activity, and some are signaling support for the protests. In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, joined a civil rights march Thursday while wearing a facial covering. More than 1,200 medical professionals have signed an open letter, drafted by doctors and researchers at the University of Washington and posted online, stating that the importance of protests outweighs the risks of massive gatherings.

Read the full story about concerns of a spike here.

Suspect in pandemic relief fraud has disappeared

A businessman who was charged last month with fraudulently seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars in forgivable loans designed for businesses struggling because of the coronavirus pandemic has apparently cut off his GPS-monitoring device and disappeared, federal authorities say.

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Shown is a portion of a Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program Borrower Application Form. A businessman who was charged last month with fraudulently seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars through the program has disappeared. Wayne Partlow/Associated Press

Federal authorities have issued an arrest warrant for David A. Staveley, who also goes by Kurt Sanborn, and he is considered a fugitive, Jim Martin, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Rhode Island said Friday.

The arrest warrant was issued May 27, he said. No additional information was released.

Staveley, of Andover, Massachusetts, and another man are accused of claiming they needed to pay employees at businesses affected by the virus crisis, when in reality their businesses were not operating before the pandemic began and had no employees on the payroll.

They were the first people in the U.S. to be charged with making phony applications for loans under the Paycheck Protection Program, officials said.

Staveley had been released to home confinement and was staying at a residence in Dracut, Massachusetts, according to federal records.

Mark Josephs, Staveley’s lead attorney, confirmed that his client is missing, but declined to comment further.

Staveley sought nearly $440,000 in loans claiming that he needed to pay dozens of employees at three restaurants he owned, federal prosecutors said. However, two of the restaurants weren’t open before the pandemic began, and he didn’t have any connection to the third, authorities said.

He is charged with conspiracy to make false statement to influence the Small Business Administration, conspiracy to commit bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Peru is running out of oxygen for COVID-19 patients

BOGOTA, Colombia — Television. Sewing machine. Motorcycle.

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A man moves an empty oxygen cylinder in Callao, Peru, on Wednesday. Long-neglected hospitals in Peru and other parts of Latin America are reporting shortages of oxygen as they confront the COVID-19 pandemic. Martin Mejia/Associated Press

These are the things Edda Marchan’s children sold to keep their mother breathing.

In the far stretch of northern Peru where the family lives, medicinal oxygen to treat the coronavirus has become a scarce commodity.

Eventually, they could not find any.

“It’s the greatest desperation in the world,” said her daughter, 39-year-old Fiorella Sorroza. “We are praying to God not to abandon us.”

In the South American nation wracked by COVID-19, one of the world’s most abundant elements is now in short supply. Exasperated relatives are racing to fill overpriced tanks. Long neglected hospitals are running empty. And President Martín Vizcarra has issued an emergency decree ordering industrial plants to ramp up production or purchase oxygen from other countries.

“Peru, with the Amazon, has the lungs of the planet,” said Iván Hidalgo, academic director of the Institute of Government and Public Management in Peru’s capital of Lima. “And we’re dying because of lack of oxygen.”

Regional health directors say the shortage has already cost lives and is so severe that even by turning industrial plants that typically produce oxygen for mining into medicinal production, Peru will fall short of what it needs. Defense Minister Walter Martos said Thursday the country needs 173 tons of oxygen per day. The dean of the Medical College of Peru estimates the nation is producing about 20% of that.

The problem is a consequence of decades of underinvestment in hospitals, corruption and poor management, several medical leaders said. The hospital in Tumbes, near the border with Ecuador, where Marchan’s family resides, has a plant that has been inoperative for years because someone stole an electronic card needed to operate it. Officials are hoping to get it back up Saturday.

In the meantime, Tumbes health workers have imported oxygen from Ecuador and trucked in tanks from the nearest Peruvian plant, five hours away. The biggest public hospital usually utilizes 30 tanks a week but now needs about 200.

Many also blame Peru’s governments for failing to prepare earlier.

“This exposes failings throughout the country,” said Dr. Harold Burgos, regional health director for Tumbes. “It was coming and no one took it seriously.”

Other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are facing – or soon likely to encounter – oxygen shortages. In Colombia’s Amazon, doctors have had to airlift patients to Bogota because the only oxygen plant in the region is barely functioning. Haiti is heavily reliant on one oxygen plant for a population of over 11 million.

Worried about ‘super spreaders,’ officials urge protesters to get tested for virus

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday that he wants every New Yorker to get a free test for the novel coronavirus causing COVID-19 — a recommendation he stressed for the tens of thousands of protesters marching shoulder to shoulder, or mask to mask, throughout the city this past week.

De Blasio’s comments echoed those of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), who on Thursday said that all protest attendees could, and should, get a free COVID-19 test regardless of symptoms. De Blasio announced on Wednesday that he was also making the coronavirus test free for all of New York City. He added Friday that there will be two new mobile COVID-19 clinics offering testing in the neighborhoods of Soundview and Kew Gardens starting next week.

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Demonstrators march on the Brooklyn Bridge after a memorial service for George Floyd on Thursday in New York. Associated Press/Ted Shaffrey

Both de Blasio and Cuomo have additionally warned that the demonstrations could become “super spreaders” of the virus in hard-hit New York. They have urged all attendees to act as if they have been exposed to the virus.

Earlier this week de Blasio told protesters that they should stay home to avoid catching or transmitting the coronavirus, and thereby contributing to another surge. Some, however, criticized his comments as trying to use the global pandemic to restrict anti-racism and anti-police free speech.

De Blasio is focused on gradually reopening New York City starting Monday. The city is the last part of New York state that has yet to officially pass the bar and begin a phased reopening.

Other governors and mayors across the country have similarly urged attendees at protests against racism and police brutality to seek out coronavirus testing. Illinois announced Thursday that it will begin to offer free testing, regardless of symptoms.

“If you were out protesting last night, you probably need to go get a covid test this week,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms  said earlier this week.

EU wants borders free of virus restrictions by end of June

BRUSSELS  — Europe could have its free travel zone up and running again by the end of this month, but travelers from further afield will not be allowed in before July, a European Union commissioner said Friday after talks among the bloc’s interior ministers.

Panicked by Italy’s coronavirus outbreak in February, countries in the 26-nation Schengen travel zone — where people and goods move freely without border checks — imposed border restrictions without consulting their neighbors to try to keep the disease out. The moves caused massive border traffic jams and blocked medical equipment.

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A car from Germany drives from Austria to Italy at the Brenner Pass boarder crossing on Wednesday. Italy opened its borders to the citizens of the EU and Switzerland this week. Karl-Josef Hildenbrand/dpa via Associated Press

Free movement is a jewel in Europe’s crown that helps its businesses flourish and many European officials feared that the very future of the Schengen area was under threat from coronavirus travel restrictions. These added to border pressures already caused by the arrival in Europe of well over 1 million migrants in 2015.

“I personally believe that we will return to a full functioning of the Schengen area and freedom of movement of citizens no later than the end of the month of June,” European Union Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said Friday after the video-conference meeting.

All but essential travel into Europe from the outside is restricted until June 15, but many ministers suggested Friday that they want this deadline extended until early July.

The meeting came as the Czech Republic was easing restrictions with some of its neighbors; Austria, Germany and Hungary. Also Friday, Switzerland said it plans to lift restrictions on travel from EU nations and Britain on June 15. Switzerland is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen travel zone.

Johansson said Europe’s Centre for Disease Prevention and Control believes that confinement, social distancing and other health measures are working. More than 175,000 people have died in Europe’s coronavirus outbreak, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, mostly in Britain, Italy, France and Spain.

Unemployment rate drops to 13%, as the economy began to lose jobs at a slower pace

The federal unemployment rate declined to 13.3 percent in May, down from 14.7 percent in April, the Department of Labor said Friday, a sign that economy is improving quicker than economists had projected.

2.5 million people gained jobs in May, as states and counties began to reopen around the country.

There are hopes that these figures show the country is moving away from the nadir of the crisis — the rocky bottom below which the United States will sink no further. Yet, with some 30 million workers collecting unemployment benefits, the labor market has been upended.

Economists agree that getting back to normal will take longer and be more challenging than recessions of the past.

Read the full story.

Navy carrier sidelined by virus is back operating in Pacific

WASHINGTON  — Ten long weeks after a massive coronavirus outbreak sidelined one of the Navy’s signature warships, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt has returned to sea and is conducting military operations in the Pacific region.

Lining the flight deck in their dress white uniforms, sailors wearing white face masks stood a virus-safe 10 feet (3 meters) apart in a final, formal thank you as the ship sailed out of port in Guam on Thursday and headed into the Philippine Sea.

“We manned the rail, which we don’t normally do. There was a lot of symbolism in that,” Navy Capt. Carlos Sardiello told The Associated Press in an interview from the ship Thursday. “They’re excited. They’re fired up to be back at sea doing the mission.”

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The aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt leaves Guam’s Apra Harbor in Guam on Wednesday. The carrier has returned to sea and is conducting military operations in the Pacific region, 10 weeks after a massive coronavirus outbreak sidelined Navy warship. ( via AP)) Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Kaylianna Genier/U.S. Navy

The Roosevelt pulled into Guam on March 27, with a rapidly escalating number of sailors testing positive for the virus. Over time, more than 1,000 were infected with COVID-19, setting off a lengthy and systematic process to move about 4,000 sailors ashore for quarantine and treatment, while about 800 remained aboard to protect and run the high-tech systems, including the nuclear reactors that run the vessel.

Slowly, sailors were methodically brought back on board, while the others who had remained went ashore for their mandated two-week quarantine. And in late March, the ship with only about 3,000 crew aboard went out to sea for roughly two weeks of training, including the recertification of the flight deck and fighter squadron, such as takeoffs and landings on the carrier.

Earlier this week, the Roosevelt wrapped up training and returned to Guam to pick up nearly 1,000 sailors who had been left there to either complete their quarantine or to manage and work with those still on the island. As the ship sailed into the port, it was flying a flag with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship,” a famous Navy battle cry from the War of 1812.

New Mexico Supreme Court suspends debt collection

SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court is temporarily suspending consumer debt collection such as garnishing wages and seizing assets in response to the coronavirus pandemic and its related economic downturn.

The court on Friday ordered the temporary suspension in a new effort to alleviate economic hardship amid a surge in unemployment and uncertainties.

The decision comes as a virus outbreak continues to race through privately run prison facilities for state and federal inmates in Otero County. There have been 583 positive tests among inmates there.

French police ban protest citing coronavirus concerns

PARIS — Paris police have banned a third protest that had been planned for Saturday to condemn alleged police abuses in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Police cited a risk of spreading COVID-19 and fears of public unrest. The police decree noted that social distancing regulations ban gatherings of more than 10 people.

Online posts called for people to gather Saturday afternoon in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

Paris police had previously also banned two other planned gatherings Saturday outside the US Embassy.

India sees another huge spike in infections

NEW DELHI — India surpassed Italy as the sixth worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic after another biggest single-day spike in confirmed infections.

The Health Ministry reported 9,887 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total to 236,657.

Most of the new cases are in rural areas following the return of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who left cities and towns after the lockdown in late March.

The lockdown is now largely being enforced in high-risk areas while authorities have partially restored train services and domestic flights and allowed shops and manufacturing to reopen. Shopping malls and religious places are due to open on Monday with restrictions to avoid large gatherings.

China orders even more stringent pangolin protections

BEIJING — China is ordering its highest level of protection for the armadillo-like pangolin as part of its crackdown on the wildlife trade following the global coronavirus pandemic.

While the virus is believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, most scientists say it was most likely transmitted from bats to humans via an intermediary animal such as the pangolin.

The order Friday from the National Forestry and Grassland Administration does not explicitly mention the virus outbreak as a reason for the measure, but the timing appears to indicate that was a consideration.

Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy by some Chinese and its scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine.

Other animals protected at China’s top level include giant pandas, Tibetan antelopes and red-crowned cranes.

China lowers emergency response status

BEIJING — China’s capital is lowering its emergency response level to the second-lowest starting Saturday for the coronavirus pandemic.

That will lift most restrictions on people traveling from Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei, where the virus first appeared late last year. They will no longer face 14-day mandatory quarantines and other forms of monitoring, and those currently in such situations will be allowed to return to their normal lives.

Beijing residential compounds will not be required to conduct temperature checks and masks no longer must be worn for outdoor activities. Kindergartens will reopen and other grades still suspended will restart classes.

Beijing has reported no new cases of local transmission in at least 50 days and as many as 90 days in some districts.

Pakistan reports 97 more coronavirus deaths

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan reported 97 more coronavirus deaths on Saturday, the highest 24-hour increase to its fatalities, as authorities urged volunteers to motivate people to adhere to social distancing regulations to contain the spread of the virus.

According to Usman Dar, who heads the “Corona Relief Tiger Force,” about 1 million volunteers have signed up recently in response to the government’s call to help the country’s most vulnerable people during the coronavirus outbreak.

He told reporters that 165,348 volunteers are currently assisting authorities to contain the spread of the virus.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has said the volunteers will also be used to deliver food and medicine to needy and poor people if needed.

Pakistan also reported 4,734 new virus cases, raising its overall infections to 93,983.

With the latest 97 virus-related deaths, Pakistan’s overall fatalities have jumped to 1,935.

British Airways mulling suit vs quarantine rule

LONDON — British Airways is considering legal action against the U.K. government’s plans to force anyone arriving into the country to quarantine themselves for 14 days in order to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of International Airlines Group, which runs the British flag carrier, told Sky News he is reviewing the situation with lawyers.

He said the “irrational” quarantine rules would “torpedo” the airline’s chances of flying in July.

Earlier this week, the government changed tack and said it would impose a blanket quarantine on anyone travelling to the U.K. from June 8.

Airlines, as well as much of the U.K.’s tourism sector, are clearly worried that the new rules will derail plans to get their businesses up and running as lockdown restrictions are eased.

The government has said it will review the policy every three weeks and is looking into ″international travel corridors″ between countries that are considered to be safe and which could avoid the need for quarantines.

Pakistani forces raid shops and markets over distancing violations

ISLAMABAD – Pakistani authorities backed by security forces shut down more than 3,000 shops and markets across the country in a series of raids for violating social distancing regulations, after COVID-19 cases surpassed those in neighboring China.

The virus has spread at a fast pace since Prime Minister Imran Khan eased a lockdown in May.

Pakistan on Friday reported 68 more coronavirus-related deaths, raising its overall fatalities to 1,838. As many as 4,896 more people tested positive in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day infections, bringing the overall to 89,249.

Medical workers are bracing for a surge of COVID-19 patients and some hospitals are turning back those with mild infection, asking them to quarantine themselves at home.

Critics blame Khan for easing restrictions prematurely. The government says the virus spread because people did not adhere to social distancing regulations.

South Africa experiencing spike in cases

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa has seen its largest daily jump in new coronavirus cases.

The 3,267 new cases bring the country’s total to 40,792. More than 27,000 of those are in the Western Cape province centered on the city of Cape Town.

South Africa has the most virus cases in Africa, where the total number is now above 163,000.

The continent still represents less than 3% of the global total of cases but South Africa and Egypt are hot spots, and Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, is another growing concern with more than 11,000 cases and relatively little testing for the virus.

Shortages of testing and medical equipment remain a challenge across the 54-nation continent, where just 1,700 tests are being carried out per 1 million people.

Coronavirus cases continue to surge in India

NEW DELHI: India on Friday registered more than 9,800 new cases of the coronavirus in another biggest single-day spike.

The Health Ministry said the total number of confirmed cases touched 226,770 with 6,348 deaths, 273 of them in the past 24 hours. The overall rate of recovery is around 48%.

There has been a surge in infections in rural areas following the return of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who left cities after the lockdown in late March.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also announced India’s contribution of $15 million to the international vaccine alliance during his address to the virtual Global Vaccine Summit hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.

Modi said the COVID19 pandemic has exposed the limitations of global cooperation and that for the first time in recent history, the world faces a clear common enemy.

UN warns of dire humanitarian situation in parts of Africa

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations chief says the coronavirus pandemic has compounded “the dire humanitarian and security situations” in Mali and Africa’s Sahel region.

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says in a report to the Security Council obtained Thursday by The Associated Press that the deteriorating security situation “remains of grave concern with terrorist groups allied with al-Qaida and Islamic State competing for control over areas of influence.”

He says terrorist attacks on civilians, Malian and international forces are continuing in northern and central Mali, posing the most significant security threat in the north. He adds that clashes between al-Qaida and Islamic State have also been reported.

Guterres says that “the impact of COVID-19 is exacerbating the humanitarian crises” in Mali, where 3.5 million people are suffering from “food insecurity” and 757,000 are “severely food insecure.”

South Korea reports new cases as infections in Asia trend up

SEOUL, South Korea __ South Korea has reported 39 new cases of the coronavirus over a 24-hour period, a continuation of an upward trend in new infections in the Asian country.

The additional figures released Friday by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took the country’s total to 11,668 cases, with 273 deaths.

The agency says 34 of the additional cases were reported in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, where about half of South Korea’s 51 million people live.

South Korea has seen a rise in the number of new cases after easing much of its rigid social distancing rules in early May. But the caseload hasn’t exploded, unlike when the country reported hundreds of new cases every day in late February and early March.

China reports 5 new cases

BEIJING — China is reporting five new confirmed coronavirus cases, all of them brought by Chinese citizens from outside the country.

No new deaths were reported Friday, continuing a trend stretching back weeks.

Chinese officials say just 66 people remain in treatment and 299 more are under isolation and being monitoring as suspected cases.

China has reported 4,634 deaths among 83,027 cases since the virus was first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.

China has drawn criticism of its initial handling of the outbreak and allegations it withheld crucial information, but it has repeatedly defended its record. On Thursday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Beijing is committed to the “development of global public health.”

 


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