The Latest: Cruise ships begin transiting Panama Canal
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.
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PANAMA CITY — The Panama Canal Authority says two cruise ships carrying more than 1,800 passengers and crew, including some infected with COVID-19, had begun transiting the canal.
The announcement came after the passengers on the Zaandam and its sister ship the Rotterdam received mixed signals about their fate. While Panamanian officials said they would let the ships through the canal, Holland America Lines said it had not been given official permission and the mayor of Fort Lauderdale, Florida, said he didn't want it to dock near his city as planned, at least without extensive precautions.
On Sunday evening, the canal authority released a statement saying the ships had started transiting the canal.
Holland America Lines said Friday that four people aboard the Zaandam had died — though the cause was not reported — and at least two had tested positive for COVD-19. It has been at sea since leaving Argentina on March 7.
SYDNEY — Paramedics evacuated three crew members from a cruise ship that has become Australia’s largest source of the new coronavirus.
New South Wales state Chief Health Officer Kerry Chant said on Monday the three patients are not Australian citizens and were taken from the Ruby Princess to a Sydney hospital with the help of water police.
Authorities have been criticized for allowing 2,700 passengers and crew to disembark when the ship docked in Sydney on March 19 despite COVID-19 test results remaining unknown.
Many of the passengers traveled interstate and overseas before the health risk was known.
More than 300 people have contracted the virus from the ship, including two women, aged 77 and 75, who died.
More than 1,100 crew remain on board in quarantine.
Ruby Princess’ owner Carnival Corp. said in a statement the three crew members were suffering acute respiratory symptoms.
SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea has reported 78 new cases of the coronavirus and six more deaths, bringing its totals to 9,661 infections and 158 fatalities.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday at least 476 infections so far have been linked to recent arrivals from abroad with most of them being detected over the past two weeks.
South Korea from Wednesday will enforce two-week quarantines for all passengers arriving from overseas as authorities scramble to prevent the virus from re-entering amid broadening outbreaks in Europe, North America and beyond.
The country had already enforced two-week quarantines on South Korean nationals and foreigners with long-term stay visas arriving from Europe and the United States.
SALT LAKE -- Former Utah House speaker and auto executive Robert Garff died Sunday of complications of COVID-19, his daughter said.
Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard, R-North Salt Lake, posted on Facebook: “My loving dad passed away peacefully today from COVID-19. He has lived a long and happy life, full of vigor and love for our state and our families."
Garff, 77, was the third Utah resident to die of the virus.
Garff was a prominent Utah businessman and chairman of the Ken Garff Automotive Group. He served as speaker of the Utah House from 1985 to 1987 and chaired the Salt Lake Olympic Organizing Committee for the 2002 Winter Games.
NEW YORK — New York state surpassed a grim milestone Sunday as its death toll from the coronavirus outbreak climbed above 1,000, less than a month after the first case was detected in the state.
New York City reported in the evening that its toll had risen to 776. The total number of statewide deaths isn't expected to be released until Monday, but with at least 250 additional deaths recorded outside the city as of Sunday morning, the state's total fatalities was at least 1,026.
The virus has torn through New York with frightening speed.
The first known infection in the state was discovered on March 1. A second case was confirmed two days later.
The first fatality in the state was March 10.
Two days later, the state banned all gatherings of more than 500 people, darkening Broadway theaters and sports arenas. New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio closed New York City's schools March 15.
More severe restrictions came March 20, when Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all nonessential workers to stay home, barred gatherings of any size and instructed anyone out in public to stay at least 6 feet from other people. At the time, only 35 New Yorkers had been killed by the virus.
That was only nine days ago.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia has reported the state’s first death linked to the new coronavirus pandemic.
The fatality involved an 88-year-old woman from Marion County, the Department of Health and Human Resources said in a news release. The statement said no further details would be released.
“We extend our sincere condolences to this family,” DHHR Secretary Bill J. Crouch said in the statement.
West Virginia was the last U.S. state to report a confirmed case on March 17.
Hawaii and Wyoming are the only remaining states with no reported coronavirus deaths.
NEW ORLEANS — Orders closing many Louisiana businesses and keeping people home to slow the spread of COVID-19 “may well” have to be extended past April 13, Gov. John Bel Edwards says.
Edwards and New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell spoke to reporters at a briefing that was livestreamed from outside the city's convention center, which is being transformed into a 1,000-bed hospital.
That hospital, for recovering patients who no longer need ventilators or intensive care, will open by April 5, as will a nearby 250-bed center for some people awaiting test results, Edwards said.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says Congress should re-convene if some Americans don't get their coronavirus stimulus money because of antiquated state computer systems that aren't equipped to quickly handle the volume of federal money being sent to workers.
He says he wanted the money to be distributed by the federal government, but his opponents wanted it distributed through existing state unemployment systems.
Trump told reporters at Sunday's White House briefing on the virus that if Americans don't get their money quickly, he's going to call for Congress to reconvene or find other ways to distribute the money.
He says the federal government is equipped to quickly distribute money from the mammoth, $2.2 trillion stimulus package to shore up the U.S. economy.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is extending federal guidelines recommending people stay home and away from one another for another 30 days as the coronavirus continues to spread across the country.
Trump made the announcement during a Rose Garden briefing. The guidelines, originally tagged as “15 days to slow the spread” had been set to expire Monday.
Trump had said last week he hoped to have the country “re-opened” by Easter. But public health experts sounded the alarm, saying a rollback would speed transmission, making the situation worse.
The federal guidelines recommend that older people and those with preexisting conditions stay home and away from other people, and also recommend that all Americans avoid social gatherings, work from home and steer clear of bars and restaurants.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says two health insurers are waiving patient payments for coronavirus treatment.
Both Cigna and Humana won’t require many of their customers to make copayments or other forms of cost sharing for COVID-19 care. Health care providers would be reimbursed at the insurers’ in-network rates or Medicare rates.
Cigna said the waived payments would begin Monday and continue through May 31.
The moves could save those patients thousands of dollars, depending on their coverage and how much health care they’ve used so far this year, for treatment for the coronavirus. They come after Aetna last week announced payment waivers for patients for hospital stays tied to the coronavirus.
Many insurers have previously waived patient costs for testing or doctor visits and telemedicine to encourage people with coronavirus symptoms to get help.
WILMINGTON, Del. — Delaware's governor has issued an order telling out-of-state visitors to self-quarantine for two weeks.
The order by Gov. John Carney takes effect Monday morning and requires anyone entering the state from elsewhere to self-quarantine for 14 days. It does not apply to people who are only passing through the state.
“Now’s not the time to visit Delaware. We’re facing a serious situation here that is getting worse,” Carney said in a statement.
Those who disobey the order, which has some exceptions for health care workers and other essential tasks, could face criminal charges.
Statewide, health officials say there are more than 200 coronavirus cases and 31 hospitalizations as of Sunday morning.
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence has sent a letter to hospital administrators around the U.S. asking them to directly report their coronavirus testing data to the Department of Health and Human Services as well as their state officials.
He says the data is needed at the federal level to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to address the virus.
The letter says that at the president's direction, all hospitals should report their data on COVID-19 testing done outside certain commercial laboratories. Those commercial laboratories are LabCorp, BioReference Laboratories, Quest Diagnostics, Mayo Clinic Laboratories and the ARUP Laboratories. The letter asks the hospitals to report the data every day at 5 p.m.
CANBERRA, Australia — Australia has announced tough new foreign investment rules to prevent corporate predators from taking over companies amid plunging share prices during the new coronavirus crisis.
Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced the new regulations on Monday after Australian newspapers reported Chinese companies had snapped up Australian medical supplies in recent weeks for shipment to China.
Frydenberg told Nine Network television that the new regulations were not aimed at any particular country, but were designed to “stop predators who are acting against the national interest.”
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says his administration has identified cases of “hoarding” of medical supplies and equipment by hospitals and medical professionals.
As his administration looks to meet urgent shortfalls in personal protective equipment and ventilators needed for the coronavirus response, Trump is calling on them to release it to harder-hit areas.
Says Trump: “We have some health care workers, some hospitals frankly, individual hospitals and hospital chains we have them hoarding equipment, including ventilators.”
Trump is not naming names but says in some cases they’re in areas where they don’t expect the virus to have a major impact.
He says: “These are areas that in some cases that probably will not need them and in some cases even if they do, they have too many.”
Trump adds: “So they have to release ventilators if they have them, they have to release certain medical supplies and equipment.”
CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the state will soon more than double the number of daily COVID-19 tests it can administer as the number of cases surged.
Public health officials reported 1,105 new cases Sunday, including 18 deaths. Overall, Illinois has more than 4,500 cases with 65 deaths.
Pritzker said Illinois will increase its daily testing capacity from about 4,000 to 10,000 within 10 days. He said more workers are being added at labs, along with new technology.
He added that he spoke with Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories, which has made a portable rapid test, to ask that the state gets first dibs. The medical device maker says its cartridge-based test, approved Friday, delivers results within minutes.
The first-term Democrat, who has been critical of the federal government's response to the pandemic, said he had no choice. Cases are expected to peak next month.
“I'm not going to wait on promises from the federal government that will not be fulfilled,” he said.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death.
Public health officials said they are still investigating the death of an infant who had COVID-19.
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro continues to defy calls from health officials looking to prevent gatherings that might spread the new coronavirus, posting videos of himself gathering small crowds in several neighborhoods in the capital of Brasilia.
Since the beginning of the outbreak, Bolsonaro has downplayed the risks of COVID-19, calling it a “little flu” that largely threatens the elderly and most vulnerable. He has urged them to self-isolate, but otherwise has stressed the need to keep Brazil's economy running. He has clashed with several state governors who have introduced quarantine measures, such as in Sao Paulo or Rio de Janeiro.
“The virus is here, we’re going to have to confront it. Confront it like a man, not a boy!” Bolsonaro told supporters outside his official residence on Sunday. "We're all going to die one day.”
As of Sunday, the Brazilian Health Ministry had reported 3,904 confirmed cases and 114 deaths linked to COVID-19.
BEIRUT — Thousands of people around Lebanon stood and clapped on their balconies in a show of support to members of the country's medical sector who are leading the battle against the coronavirus.
At the Rafik Hariri University Hospital, a police force saluted doctors and nurses as well as the patients who are undergoing treatment. The hospital now is the main center in Lebanon to deal with coronavirus patients.
Lebanon's Health Ministry reported 26 new coronavirus cases, raising the total to 438. The ministry added in a statement carried by the state news agency that two more persons, both in their 70s, were killed by COVID-19, raising the total deaths in the tiny Arab country to 10.
LONDON — Britain has placed all parts of the country on an emergency footing — the first time such a thing has been done since World War II.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told reporters at a daily briefing that the move means strategic coordination centers will be established across the country.
He says “this is an unprecedented step in peace time — we haven't done anything like this since the Second World War.’’
Senior members of the emergency services and the military will be part of these groups.