Trump: federal PPE stockpile nearly depleted

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is acknowledging that the federal stockpile is nearly depleted of personal protective equipment used by doctors and nurses to protect themselves from the new coronavirus.

“It is,” Trump told reporters at a press briefing Wednesday, “because we’re sending it directly to hospitals.”

Concerns about the stockpile levels were first reported by the Washington Post on Wednesday.

Trump has said that the stockpile has almost 10,000 ventilators but that the administration has been keeping close hold on them so they can be deployed quickly to states that need them. But he said the administration had agreed to ship out 1,000 ventilators.

He says, “we have to have the flexibility of moving the ventilators to where the virus is going.”

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he is “thinking about” enacting new restrictions on domestic flights as coronavirus cases continue to spike across the country.

Trump told reporters at a White House briefing Wednesday that “we’re certainly looking at it.”

He says, “we’re getting into a position now where we want to do that, we have to do that … and we may have some recommendations.”

Flights continue across the U.S., including between coronavirus hotspots such as New York and Detroit, though the number of passengers had plummeted.

Trump says he’s worried, however, about the impact on already-struggling airlines, saying that, once you do that, “you really are clamping down” on “an industry that is desperately needed.”

Also, Trump says his administration is “looking very seriously” at building two additional Navy hospital ships of the kind that have been deployed to New York and Los Angeles to help ease the burden on local hospitals.

Trump says the idea is to either build two “brand new” hospital ships or convert an existing large ship to serve as a floating hospital. He offered no timeline or estimated cost.

Building two new ships likely would take many months, if not years, suggesting Trump could be aiming to expand this capacity for future health crises.

The USNS Mercy in Los Angeles and the USNS Comfort in New York are each equipped with about 1,000 beds and large medical staffs. Their mission is to handle trauma cases, rather than COVID-19 patients.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations says the global economy could shrink by almost 1 percent this year because of the coronavirus pandemic instead of growing at a projected 2.5 percent.

A new report from the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs on Wednesday warned that world output could contract even further from this year’s 0.9 percent forecast if restrictions on economic activities extend to the third quarter of the year, and if fiscal responses fail to support income and consumer spending.

The report said the negative effects of current economic restrictions in richer developed nations will soon spill over into developing countries which will see lower trade and investment.

The severity of the economic impact — whether a moderate or deep recession — will largely depend on the duration of restrictions on the movement of people and economic activities in major economies, and the size and impact of fiscal responses, it said.

U.N. Undersecretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs Liu Zhenmin said: “Urgent and bold policy measures are needed, not only to contain the pandemic and save lives, but also to protect the most vulnerable in our societies from economic ruin and to sustain economic growth and financial stability.”

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NEW YORK — New York City is enlisting its recently retired police commissioner as a coronavirus supply czar to ensure hospitals on the front lines of the fight have sufficient equipment.

James O’Neill, who left the New York Police Department in November, is taking the role on a voluntary basis and will remain a senior vice president and global security chief at credit card giant Visa Inc.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said O’Neill will develop a system of checks to ensure supplies such as protective masks, gowns and gloves and vital pieces of equipment such as ventilators are where they need to be. New York City accounts for most of the state’s COVID-19 deaths, which doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900.

O’Neill was with the police department for 36 years, the last three as commissioner. In that role, he led a move away from controversial policies, guided its response to terrorist attacks and oversaw continuing drops in crime.

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ATHENS, Greece — The Orthodox Church of Greece says this month’s Easter Week and Easter Sunday services will be held behind closed doors, with only a few priests allowed in and no members of the general public, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

Orthodox Easter is the most popular date on Greece’s religious calendar, with large crowds flocking to Easter Week — which falls this year on April 12-19 — services daily, attending candle-lit mourning processions on Easter Friday and often rowdy celebrations for the Resurrection at midnight on Easter Saturday.

The Church of Greece on Wednesday urged the faithful to pray at home, in an act of “sacrifice.” The government has already warned Greeks that traditional Easter Sunday festivities, that include open-air family feasts with mass roasting of lambs, will not be allowed this year.

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WASHINGTON — U.S. military officials say they are sending another 540 troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to help the Department of Homeland Security bolster efforts to keep COVID-19-infected migrants from crossing the border.

Gen. Terrance O’Shaughnessy, commander of U.S. Northern Command, which is responsible for the defense of the United States, told reporters Wednesday that the extra troops would help “seal off” the flow of coronavirus. Mexico has far fewer reported cases of the virus than does the U.S.

Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, who commands land forces under O’Shaughnessy, says the extra troops will be deployed “very soon.”

The U.S. already has about 2,700 active-duty troops and about 2,500 members of the National Guard on the border.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s newest health secretary has acknowledged a series of mistakes the government has committed as the U.S. territory prepares for a peak in coronavirus cases.

Lorenzo González said Wednesday that the missteps include a lack of contact tracing and improper tracking of those who have tested positive. González is the island’s third health secretary to serve in the span of two weeks.

González also said two hospitals will be investigated and fined for recently refusing to accept a patient presenting symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Puerto Rico has reported 11 deaths and more than 280 confirmed cases.

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A 7-week-old baby who died at a hospital in the Hartford area had the coronavirus, Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said Wednesday. The cause of death is unknown.

The unidentified child was unresponsive when taken to the hospital and later died. The infant tested positive during a postmortem exam for the virus that causes COVID-19, said Josh Geballe, the governor’s chief operating officer.

A spokesman for Lamont said officials did not know whether the infant had underlying medical conditions.

“That baby was less than 7 weeks old. And just a reminder that nobody is safe with this virus,” Lamont said at a news conference after touring a temporary hospital set up at Southern Connecticut State University.

Children have made up a small fraction of coronavirus cases worldwide. A letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Chinese researchers last month month reported the death of a 10-month-old with COVID-19. The infant had a bowel blockage and organ failure and died four weeks after being hospitalized.

Separate research published in the journal Pediatrics traced 2,100 infected children in China and noted one death, a 14-year old. The study found less than 6% of children were seriously ill.

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JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced Wednesday that he is ordering people statewide to stay at home to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The order will take effect at 5 p.m. Friday and last until 8 a.m. April 20. The Republican governor said: “This will not be easy for anyone, but we believe it is the right course of action.”

Reeves was not the only Southern governor to reverse course Wednesday. Two of his Republican counterparts who had repeatedly resisted statewide stay-home orders — Ron DeSantis of Florida and Brian Kemp of Georgia — also issued the mandate.

Reeves said his order is designed to prevent Mississippi’s health care system from becoming overwhelmed, and he called it “the right tool at the right time to save lives.”

Mississippi has surpassed 1,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and has more than 20 deaths, according to numbers released Wednesday.

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LAS VEGAS — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a statewide directive telling Nevadans to stay at home, with an exception for essential trips.

The Democratic governor had already asked Nevada residents two weeks ago to stay home and ordered a closure of casinos and non-essential businesses, but on Wednesday he decided to formalize his request that Nevadans stay home with a written order.

Unlike the orders issued by some other governors, Sisolak’s directive does not include a penalty for those who violate it.

The governor’s order doesn’t apply to the homeless or people making essential trips such as to get groceries, receive health care or receive goods or services from businesses that have been allowed to stay open, such as pharmacies, hardware stores and restaurants that offer take-out only.

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All Pennsylvania residents must stay home as much as possible to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday as he dramatically expanded the footprint of the quarantine to include the entire state.

The Democratic governor added 34 counties to his existing stay-at-home order, meaning that residents of all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties are now asked to stay put unless they have a legitimate reason to go out.

The expanded order will take effect at 8 p.m. Wednesday and last through at least April 30.

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order on Wednesday as federal and local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had implemented.

DeSantis told reporters that he is issuing the order after consulting with President Donald Trump and White House advisers, who have said that Americans need to stay home throughout April.

DeSantis’ move came hours after the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, said on NBC’s “Today” show that he would tell DeSantis that the federal guidelines for social distancing should be viewed as “a national stay-at-home order.”

The state’s confirmed cases are approaching 7,000, deaths have reached 86 and almost 900 are hospitalized with a university model cited this week at the White House showing an exponential growth in the coming weeks.

More than 30 other states had already issued such orders, including other large states such as California, New York and Illinois. Those all acted more than a week ago.

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LONDON — The United Nations’ international climate summit is being postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The British government says the meeting, due to take place in Glasgow in November, will now be held in 2021. The date has yet to be decided.

The government said in a statement that “in light of the ongoing, worldwide effects of COVID-19, holding an ambitious, inclusive COP26 in November 2020 is no longer possible.”

Glasgow’s SEC Arena, which had been due to hold the event, has been named as the site of a temporary hospital for COVID-19 patients.

Britain’s tenure at the helm of the summit, known as the 26th Conference of the Parties or COP26, got off to a rocky start even before the COVID-19 pandemic. In January Prime Minister Boris Johnson fired Claire O’Neill, a former British government minister appointed last year to head up the event and replaced her with Business Secretary Alok Sharma.

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THE VILLAGES, Fla. — Golf will go on in one of the largest retirement communities in the nation, though other activities will be curtailed amid concerns the coronavirus is starting to take hold there.

County officials in central Florida issued a stay-at-home advisory for The Villages on Tuesday that recommends residents remain at their houses except to get groceries, seek medical attention, work, care for another person or exercise outdoors.

Golf was specifically noted as permissible in the order’s exercise category. The Villages has dozens of golf courses.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order Wednesday after weeks of resisting the move.

Sumter County Administrator Bradley Arnold said the statewide order didn’t change anything in regards to golf.

The Villages was the nation’s fastest growing community last year, reaching 132,000 residents, a jump of 41%.

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GORDONSVILLE, Va. — Vice President Mike Pence says Americans will have enough food and supplies to get through the coronavirus pandemic.

Pence said America’s food supply is “very strong” on Wednesday as he toured a Virginia distribution center for Walmart, the world’s largest retailer.

Shelves at grocery and other stores across the U.S. were picked clean of toilet paper and other essentials at the onset of the pandemic.

Pence toured a chilly warehouse for perishable goods ranging from potatoes to bananas. He had removed his suit jacket and sported a Walmart associate’s badge that said “Mike.”

The vice president told a Walmart truck driver that he and all drivers are considered “critical infrastructure.”

Pence used the intercom to tell all employees they’re on the “front lines” of the pandemic. He thanked them for doing a “great job” and for “keeping food on the table for the American people.”

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WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence says the White House’s models for the coronavirus outbreak show the country on a trajectory akin to hard-hit Italy.

Speaking to CNN, Pence says, “We think Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point.”

Pence was referencing the prediction models unveiled by the White House on Tuesday that project 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. deaths in the coronavirus pandemic. Those figures assume that the country maintains rigorous social-distancing practices for the duration of the public health crisis.

Italy’s health system was stretched beyond capacity weeks ago leading to soaring death tolls. U.S. governors and local officials have warned their states need urgent federal help to avoid a similar fate.

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ROME — Premier Giuseppe Conte has extended Italy’s nationwide lockdown and industrial shutdown for another 10 days until April 13, arguing that the coronavirus emergency is far from over even if the rate of new infections is starting to slow.

Conte said Wednesday that if Italy were to ease its restrictions now, before the virus is fully under control, “all our efforts would be in vain and we would pay a high price — psychologically, economically and socially — because we’d be forced to start over.”

Italy went into nationwide lockdown on March 10, after a preliminary quarantine of a dozen small towns in northern Italy failed to stop the virus’ spread. Last week, Italy became the first western developed nation to idle all but essential industry, adding to a production shutdown that industrial lobby Confindustria forecasts will result in a 6% drop in GDP that could provoke a depression.

On Wednesday, Conte signed a new decree extending the shutdown until at least April 13. Conte said he knew it was asking a lot of Italians in particular to refrain from Easter celebrations April 12 but assured them that the government was already at work gaming out how Italy can begin slowly reopening once infections show a sustained decline.

He said the next phase would be living with the virus amid some activity and working toward a final phase of economic reconstruction.

Italy has seen a leveling off in the exponential growth of virus infections this week, registering 4,782 confirmed new infections for a total of 110,574. Italy’s death toll remains the highest in the world at 13,155.

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PARIS — France has registered a record number of 509 hospital deaths from the coronavirus in 24 hours, the chief of the health service said Wednesday.

That brings the total number of deaths from COVID-19 in hospitals since March 1 to 4,032, Jerome Salomon said at a daily news conference. Those deaths do not include people who died outside a hospital setting.

A raft of deaths over the past month in homes for the aged, those considered the most vulnerable to the virus, has raised a stir.

On Wednesday, it was revealed that 19 people had died since March 20 in a home named The Riviera in the town of Mougins on the Cote d’Azur.

Salomon said he hopes to provide on Thursday a count of the number of people who have died in institutions for the aged. In eastern France, the hardest hit region in France, 411 out of 620 homes for the aged have cases of COVID-19.

Prime Minister Edouard Philippe last week ordered those in special homes confined to their rooms after an earlier ban on family visits.

Salomon said that 24,639 people were currently hospitalized in France with 6,017 in intensive care. France has resorted to transferring patients in the Paris region and the east to areas of the country with unoccupied intensive care beds, using the fast train, aircraft and military transport to do so.

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KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president on Wednesday likened the coronavirus pandemic with the Chernobyl nuclear disaster as he urged citizens to stay home.

A reactor exploded at Chernobyl nuclear power plant in then-Soviet Ukraine in 1986, spewing radiation across vast territories in the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe. Soviet authorities initially tried to hide the explosion from the public and many people remained unaware of the radiation hazard for several days.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video address that “no one was afraid because the radiation is invisible — just as the coronavirus.” He chastised Ukrainian from flouting government calls to stay home, saying “I’m asking you all to grow up.”

Ukraine so far has registered 669 coronavirus cases and 17 deaths.

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GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says he is “deeply concerned” about the rapid spread of the new coronavirus and infection related to it.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the death toll from COVID-19 disease — now at more than 45,000 people worldwide — has more than doubled over the past week alone.

“In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths,” he told reporters in Geneva.

Tedros noted that many developing countries, which are so far less affected than richer Western countries and China, will struggle to cope. He appealed for debt relief for those countries.

Tedros also said that over the three months since the coronavirus outbreak first erupted in China, “we have learned an enormous amount and every day we learn more.”

While some countries have ordered people to stay-at-home and have ordered lockdowns of businesses, school and travel to limit the spread, he said such measures can also “have unintended consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable people.”

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ROME — Italy added another 4,782 virus infections to bring its official total to 110,574. And Italy’s death toll, already the highest in the world, increased by another 727 victims to 13,155. But the rate of new infections continued its leveling off, and Lombardy officials reported continued easing of the pressure on intensive care units, where the numbers have fluctuated from 1,328 patients on Sunday to 1,342 on Wednesday.

Local officials and statisticians, however, have noted that Lombardy’s ICU numbers might not be rising because ICU are full and because many elderly people aren’t being brought to hospitals and are dying at home or in nursing homes where their deaths might not even be recorded as COVID-19 because they were never tested.

But if the trend of fewer hospital admissions continues and more ICU beds free up, “probably we’ll be able to admit patients who are being treated at home, because we can treat them at home, but just not in optimal safety” said Dr. Guido Marinoni, president of the order of doctors in hard-hit Bergamo.

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MOSCOW — The Russian government said Wednesday that tests of a new coronavirus vaccine will begin in June.

Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova reported to President Vladimir Putin that the trials will involve 60 volunteers.

The vaccine is being developed by the state Vektor lab in Novosibirsk in Siberia. Golikova said that the government has allocated all the necessary resources to speed up its development.

She said that the preliminary research is set to be completed by early May and clinical tests are scheduled to start on June 29.

About three dozen labs across the world have been developing a vaccine against the new coronavirus.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has surpassed 15,000 and the virus has now spread to all of the country’s 81 provinces.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca also told reporters on Wednesday that 63 more patients have died of the virus, raising the death toll in Turkey to 277.

The number of confirmed cases now stands at 15,679, Koca said, with 2,148 more new infections detected in the past 24 hours.

The Turkish government had refrained from providing a breakdown of COVID-19 cases by region, saying it wanted to prevent people from traveling to areas that were free of the virus.

However, with infections now registered in all provinces, Koca revealed for the first time that 60 percent of the cases are located in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. The number of cases in Istanbul stands at 8,852, followed by the Aegean coastal city of Izmir with 853 cases and the capital Ankara with 712, Koca said.

The minister also disclosed for the first time that at least 601 medical staff are infected.

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LONDON — One of the U.K.’s leading public health officials has voiced concern over another daily increase in the number of people getting infected with the coronavirus.

Dr. Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said at the government’s daily news conference that it is “slightly concerning” that new infections have risen by more than 500 over the past couple of days to 3,009.

The worry is that the plateau seen over previous days may prove short-lived and that further restrictions may be needed to get on top of the outbreak.

Like others, the British government is seeking to lower the rate of new infections by an array of curbs on day-to-day life in order to ultimately reduce the number of deaths linked to COVID-19.

Doyle also urged people to stay at home after noting worrying figures showing an uptick in the number of motor vehicle journeys made. Those made on public transport remain at depressed levels.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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