Texas’ Abbott continues swift reopening

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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.

— Texas’ Abbott continues swift reopening.

— Trump says he has taken unproven malaria drug.

— California governor relaxes some criteria for reopening; says most of the state may be able to reopen more quickly.

— Biden criticizes Trump’s response to outbreak.

— Restaurants, bars and other retail businesses can open in much of northern Michigan starting Friday.

AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is allowing most facets of daily life to reopen under what Republican Gov. Greg Abbott calls the second phase of one of the nation’s swiftest reboots.

Abbott’s sweeping new orders Monday lifts most full lockdown orders in Texas. Bars, child daycare centres and zoos are the latest businesses that can start reopening. Summer camps and youth sports will also be allowed by June.

Abbott says social distancing measures must still be in place, including limits on customers and no fans at sporting events. Theme parks remained closed.

Abbott says he’s seen “no evidence” that raise concerns about a possible new wave of cases that might force Texas to impose tougher restrictions again.

Democrats have criticized the governor for going too fast. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says he probably would’ve chosen a different pace and that his “only hope and prayer” is there’s not another spike in cases.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday that he is taking a malaria drug to lessen symptoms should he get the new coronavirus, even though the drug is unproven for fighting COVID-19.

Trump told reporters he has been taking the drug, hydroxychloroquine, and a zinc supplement daily “for about a week and a half now.” Trump spent weeks pushing the drug as a potential cure for COVID-19 against the cautionary advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals. The drug has the potential to cause significant side effects in some patients and has not been shown to combat the new coronavirus.

Trump said his doctor did not recommend the drug to him, but he requested it from the White House physician.

Trump repeatedly has pushed the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin, but no large, rigorous studies have found them safe or effective for preventing or treating COVID-19. They can cause heart rhythm problems and other side effects. The Food and Drug Administration has warned against the drug combo and said hydroxychloroquine should only be used for coronavirus in formal studies.

Two large observational studies, each involving around 1,400 patients in New York, recently found no benefit from hydroxychloroquine. Two new ones published Thursday in the medical journal BMJ reached the same conclusion.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom relaxed county reopening criteria on Monday, a move he said will allow most of the state’s 58 counties to begin allowing dining in restaurants and other services.

“Bottom line is: People can go at their own pace, and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions,” Newsom said.

The new criteria he outlined applies to counties that want to reopen faster than the state. While retail may open for curbside pickup statewide, restrictions on dining in at restaurants and other services are still in place statewide. Counties can move faster if they win state approval.

Twenty-four counties in mostly rural Northern California already won approval under the old guidance.

The new criteria eliminates requirements that a county have zero deaths and no more than than one case per 10,000 residents over a two-week period. Instead, counties must have no more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents or no higher than an 8% positive rate among people testing for the coronavirus. They also must have no higher than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over a 7-day period or fewer than 20 hospitalizations total over 14 days. The latter will ensure small counties don’t get penalized for just one or two extra hospitalizations.

Newsom also said counties will soon be able to allow shopping in stores and hair salons to reopen. He also suggested professional sports could begin in June without spectators. He said the reopening of churches could begin within weeks.

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WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is slamming the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, proclaiming that President Donald Trump, “had months, months to take action” and failed to do so before the U.S. death toll began rising.

Biden addressed the AAPI Victory Fund’s “Progressive Summit” virtually on Monday, speaking from his home in Delaware, as Canadian geese honked loudly and persistently in the background. The group aims to empower Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

The former vice-president said of the virus, “The scale of the loss is staggering and it’s infuriating.”

“But more than that, it’s heartbreaking to think how much fear, how much loss, how much agony could have been avoided if the president hadn’t wasted so much time and taken responsibility,” Biden said. “We got denials, delays, distraction — many of which were openly xenophobic.”

Biden added, that the country, “Got bald-faced lies about testing capacity that, ‘Anyone who wants a test can get a test.’”

“It wasn’t remotely true two months ago,” he said “and it still isn’t.”

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CAIRO — The governor of Egypt’s Daqahlia province, northeast of the capital, has contracted the coronavirus, among the highest-ranking officials in the Arab world’s most populous nation to be infected.

In an interview with the local Sada el-Balad channel, Dr. Ayman Mokhtar says he’s in stable condition but suffers debilitating fatigue and a cough.

The Nile Delta governorate has been a virus hot spot in Egypt, targeted with tight movement restrictions in recent weeks.

Egypt has reported 12,764 cases and 645 deaths because of the virus, a relatively modest toll compared with some other countries in the region. But the count is rapidly accelerating, raising fears that a bigger outbreak is yet to come.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — As Walt Disney World prepares to allow some third-party shops and restaurants to open at its entertainment complex later this week, it’s posting a warning.

While enhanced safety measures are being taken at Disney Springs, “an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the company said Monday on a website for the entertainment complex.

“COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and guests with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable,” the warning said. “By visiting Disney Springs you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”

The opening of some shops and restaurants at Disney Springs on Wednesday marks the latest baby steps Orlando’s theme park resorts are taking toward reopening since mid-March when the spread of the new coronavirus forced them to shut their gates.

Last week, Universal Orlando allowed the opening of about a half-dozen restaurants and eateries, as well as two retail shops and some merchandise carts at its Citywalk entertainment complex.

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RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is relaxing restrictions on beach goers in Virginia Beach ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

Northam said Monday he is allowing the beaches to open under modified conditions including sunbathing and surfing starting Friday.

Northam said there will still be a ban on group sports, alcohol use, electronic speakers, and tents. And beach parking will be capped at 50% capacity.

He joins several other East Coast governors who are moving to open beaches in some form ahead of the holiday weekend.

Last week, most of Virginia began Northam’s first phase of a gradual reopening plan, which kept in place beach closures except for exercise and fishing.

Those rules were not strictly enforced and warm weather last weekend drew large crowds to the Virginia Beach oceanfront, the state’s most popular beach.

The governor sternly warned that he could close the beaches again if his new rules aren’t followed.

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SALEM, Ore. — A county judge has declared Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s coronavirus restrictions “null and void” because she didn’t have her emergency orders approved by the Legislature following 28 days.

Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff made the ruling Monday in a lawsuit brought by churches who had sued saying the social-distancing directives were unconstitutional.

The suit had also argued that emergency powers only last for a month and after that Brown would have needed legislative approval. The judge agreed.

Brown said she would immediately appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court to try to keep the emergency orders in effect.

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LANSING, Mich. — Restaurants, bars and other retail businesses can open in much of northern Michigan starting Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced in relaxing her stay-at-home restrictions — a key step for the tourism-dependent region before the Memorial Day weekend and summer season.

Bars and restaurants, which have only been able to do pickup and delivery, will have to limit capacity to 50% under Monday’s announcement.

Groups will be required to stay 6 feet apart, and servers will have to wear face coverings. Office business also will be able resume if work cannot be done remotely.

The governor’s latest order keeps closed other places of public accommodation such as movie theatres, gyms and hair salons in all 83 counties, at least through May 28.

Whitmer called the partial reopening of northern Michigan a “big step,” but urged people to not “go rushing out.” She recommended that residents considering visiting the Upper Peninsula or a 17-county region of the northern Lower Peninsula — which have 7.5% of the state’s 10 million people — to “think long and hard.”

“The whole state is watching to make sure we get this right,” said Whitmer, a Democrat who has been criticized by Republican lawmakers for not earlier restarting sectors by region. “If we get this right, we will be able to take the next step.”

Whitmer also issued an order requiring that businesses resuming in-person work develop a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and make it available to employees and customers by June 1.

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JUBA, South Sudan — South Sudan Vice-President Riek Machar says he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The former leader of the armed opposition in South Sudan’s five-year civil war rejoined the government months ago under the latest peace deal.

Machar is the deputy of the country’s COVID-19 task force and says all of its members were tested after one was found to have the virus.

He says his wife, the defence minister, also has tested positive but says “many” of those who tested positive are in good health.

Machar’s spokesman James Gatdet says that includes Machar and his wife, and he adds that the infections will not hinder the implementation of the peace deal.

South Sudan’s government says the country now has 347 confirmed virus cases.

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ROME — Italy has registered its lowest daily increases in both deaths and new cases of COVID-19 since before the national lockdown began in early March.

According to data from the Health Ministry, 99 deaths of persons with coronavirus infections were registered in a 24-hour period ending Monday evening.

That same period saw 451 confirmed new cases.

On Monday, Italians enjoyed a first day of regained freedoms, including being able to sit down at a cafe or restaurant, shop in all retail stores or attend church services such as Mass.

But until next month they still can’t travel outside their regions except for work or other strict necessities, as lockdown rules are gradually lifted.

Italy now officially has 32,007 deaths, although many in nursing homes who died during the lockdown period weren’t tested for coronavirus as the tests were mainly given to hospitalized patients.

Overall, there are 225,886 confirmed cases of COVID-in Italy, where Europe’s outbreak began.

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ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president has announced a new four-day curfew during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr to be applied across the country to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped the restrictions would no longer be needed after the next round of lockdowns between May 23 and 26.

Previous weekend and national curfews were applied to 31 provinces, but this round will restrict people to their homes in all 81 provinces.

The country has opted to impose short weekend and holiday curfews, instead of full lockdowns, fearing possible negative effects on the already troubled economy.

Turkey’s health ministry announced 31 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest since the end of March, bringing the death toll to 4,171. The data also showed 1,158 new infections with the total now at 150,593.

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RABAT, Morocco — Morocco’s prime minister announced on Monday an extension of the nationwide lockdown until June 10.

Prime Minister Saad Eddine Othmani told parliament that the North African kingdom had recorded a rise of hotspots at factories but also within families during weddings or funerals, gatherings that breached lockdown rules.

The decision means that the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in less than a week, usually marked by large family gatherings, must be a far smaller closed-door affair this year.

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GENEVA — The U.S. Health and Human Services secretary has demanded “change” at the World Health Organization, accusing it of failing to obtain the information the world needed as the coronavirus outbreak emerged.

Alex Azar said the United States supports an independent review of “every aspect of WHO’s response to the pandemic,” keeping up a U.S. onslaught against the U.N. health agency over its alleged failure to press China to be more transparent about the origins of the outbreak.

Without mentioning China by name, Azar said: “In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world.”

Azar, speaking by video conference to the WHO’s annual assembly, also joined recent statements from the U.S. State Department blasting the U.N. health agency for not allowing Taiwan, whose government is a rival of China’s, to attend the event as an observer state.

“The health of 23 million Taiwanese people should never be sacrificed to send a political message,” Azar said.

He said the United States had allocated $9 billion to benefit the global coronavirus response.

Azar spoke just hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the assembly by videoconference, saying China would spend $2 billion to help respond to the COVID-19 crisis and economic fallout from it.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

The Associated Press


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