The Latest: 2 skiers die as Italy reopens from lockdown
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.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Fire strikes Moscow hospital treating COVID-19 patients.
— Drug remdesivir being shipped to six more states.
— Italy releases near-record number of people from hospitals.
ROME — At least two people have died in separate avalanches in northern Italy on the first weekend Italians have been allowed to venture far afield after a two-month coronavirus lockdown.
The Trento Alpine Rescue service said the body of one man was found late Saturday on the Folgaria plateau after an avalanche separated him from his dog. The pet was found unharmed.
At the ski resort of Cortina, the body of a skier was found after a separate avalanche. His brother was rescued, the ANSA news agency said.
Italian authorities closed ski lifts early on in Italy’s lockdown and they remain closed, but skiers can still venture out on ungroomed, unmarked terrain.
MOSCOW — A fire at a Moscow hospital treating people infected by the new coronavirus killed one patient and forced the evacuation of about 200 others.
News reports said the fire at the facility in the northern part of the city has been extinguished. No cause was immediately determined for the fire, which affected a ward of the hospital that had been repurposed for treating victims of the new coronavirus.
Mayor Sergei Sobyanin confirmed reports that a patient had died and said those evacuated would be transferred to other hospitals. It was not clear how many of the evacuees were suffering from COVID-19.
NEW YORK — Two children and a teenager have now died in New York state from a possible complication from the coronavirus involving swollen blood vessels and heart problems, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.
More than 70 children in New York have been diagnosed with symptoms similar to Kawasaki disease — a rare inflammatory condition in children — and toxic shock syndrome. Most of them are toddlers and elementary-age children.
Cuomo announced the deaths of a 7-year old in Westchester County and a teenager in Suffolk County a day after discussing the death of a 5-year-old boy Thursday at a New York City hospital.
There is no proof that the virus causes the mysterious syndrome.
WASHINGTON — U.S. regulators have approved a new type of coronavirus test that administration officials have promoted as a key to opening the country.
The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday announced emergency authorization for antigen tests developed by Quidel Corp. of San Diego. The test can rapidly detect fragments of virus proteins in samples collected from swabs swiped inside the nasal cavity, the FDA said in a statement.
The antigen test is the third type of test to be authorized by the FDA. Antigen tests can diagnose active infections by detecting the earliest toxic traces of the virus rather than the genetic code of the virus itself.
Currently, the only way to diagnose active COVID-19 is to test a patient’s nasal swab for the genetic material of the virus. While considered highly accurate, the tests can take hours and require expensive, specialized equipment mainly found at commercial labs, hospitals or universities.
ROME — Italy says a near-record 4,008 people were released from hospitals in the past day after testing negative for COVID-19 as the country continues its cautious reopening after a two-month national lockdown.
Another 1,083 people tested positive, half of them in hard-hit Lombardy, bringing Italy’s confirmed number of cases to 218,268. Officials say the real number is as much as 10 times that.
Another 194 people died, one of the lowest day-to-day death tolls in recent weeks. The confirmed COVID-19 toll in the onetime European epicenter is 30,395.
Another 134 intensive care beds were freed up, bringing the total number close to 1,000. At the height of the outbreak, there were more than 4,000 people in ICUs, and the wards in Lombardy were nearly saturated.
LONDON — The British government is making $3.1 billion (2 billion pounds) available to boost cycling and walking once lockdown restrictions are eased.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said at the government’s daily briefing that the package to put cycling and walking at “the heart of our transport policy” will be necessary, even after public transport networks get back to normal during the coronavirus pandemic. He said that because of the ongoing social distancing guidelines, trains and buses will operate at only 10% of capacity.
Shapps also said another 346 people who tested positive for COVID-19 have died in the U.K. in all settings, including hospitals and care homes. That increases the death toll in the U.K. to 31,587, the highest in Europe.
ISTANBUL — Turkey reported 50 new COVID-19 deaths and 1,546 fresh cases Saturday as it prepared steps to return to normal life.
Total fatalities stand at 3,739, while infections number 137,115. According to figures posted on Twitter by Health Minister Fahrettin Koca, 89,480 patients have recovered.
Shopping malls, barber shops, hairdressers and beauty salons will open for business on Monday as Turkey starts easing restrictions.
Meanwhile, one of Turkey’s biggest soccer clubs, Besiktas, announced a player and a club employee had tested positive for the new coronavirus. Earlier this week, the Turkish Football Federation said matches behind closed doors would resume next month, prompting the resumption of limited training sessions.
WASHINGTON — The federal government is sending supplies of the first drug that appears to help speed the recovery of some COVID-19 patients to six states, where it will be distributed by health departments.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Saturday that it is delivering 140 cases of the drug remdesivir to Illinois, 110 cases to New Jersey, 40 cases to Michigan, 30 cases each to Connecticut and Maryland and 10 cases to Iowa. Each case contains 40 vials of the drug, the department said in a statement.
“State and local health departments have the greatest insights into community-level needs in the COVID-19 response,” the statement said.
Earlier this week the government sent 565 cases to New York, 117 to Massachusetts, 94 to New Jersey, 38 to Indiana, 33 to Virginia, 30 to Rhode Island, and seven to Tennessee.
The company that makes the antiviral drug, California-based Gilead Sciences, has said it is donating its entire current stockpile to help in the U.S. pandemic response.
Remdesivir was cleared for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration last week.
The department says the doses have to go to more critical patients including those on ventilators or in need of supplemental oxygen.
WASHINGTON — FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, is in self-quarantine for the next two weeks after coming in contact with a person who has tested positive for COVID-19.
Stephanie Caccomo, a spokeswoman for the Food and Drug Administration, says Hahn tested negative for the virus after he learned of the contact. He wrote a note to staff on Friday to alert them to the contact.
Hahn was scheduled to testify before a Senate panel on Tuesday, along with infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Robert Redfield.
The administration is not confirming the person Hahn had contact with that tested positive for the virus. But the news follows the confirmation that two people who work in the White House complex are known to have tested positive for the virus this week.
BERLIN — A Germany union that represents workers in the food industry says recent coronavirus outbreaks in slaughterhouses were the result of “a sick system.”
Freddy Adjan, a senior NGG union official, says the meat industry has for years been relying on “dubious subcontractors” that exploit workers. “The employers aren’t just outsourcing the work, but handily also all responsibility to the subcontractors.”
The union wants comprehensive checks and rules for the industry, including for workers’ accommodation.
Adjan didn’t name specific companies. But a major meat producer in western Germany has come under fire after 180 workers in the town of Coesfeld tested positive for the virus. There’s also been a large outbreak at a slaughterhouse in northern Germany.
Adjan says “this crisis makes clear how overdue it is to press the stop button and end the ruinous price battle over meat.”
ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities announced one death from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 151.
There were 19 confirmed new infections to total 2,710. There are 28 people on ventilators and 86 people have exited intensive care.
Authorities are concerned about people flocking to beaches during the first weekend of relaxed quarantine measures. Young people also are congregating in public squares despite the ban on large groups and have occasionally clashed with police.
MADRID — Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says loosening the nearly two-month lockdown will be for naught if people don’t obey social distancing rules.
He reminded Spaniards on Saturday, two days before 51% of the nation of 47 million will be allowed to sit at outdoor cafes, “the virus has not disappeared.”
On Monday, many regions not as hard hit by the virus will permit gatherings of up to 10 people and reopen churches, theaters, outdoor markets and other establishments with limits on occupancy.
Madrid and Barcelona will stay under stricter confinement. Two-meter social distancing rules remain in effect.
“The struggle goes on and will last until we find a vaccine,” Sanchez said. “Meanwhile, we have to live with the virus, that is why we must reinforce our health care system and strengthen its capabilities.”
Sánchez and Spain’s army have warned of possible surges in the coming months.
Spain’s health ministry reported 179 new confirmed deaths on Saturday, increasing the death toll to 26,478. A month ago, Spain was averaging 900 daily deaths.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican Museums are gearing up to resume visits to the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Gardens and papal estate outside Rome after a two-month coronavirus lockdown.
New protocols will require reservations in advance, protective masks and likely afternoon and evening visiting to stagger crowds.
The Vatican hasn’t announced a reopening date for the museums. The head of the Vatican City State that oversees the museums, Bishop Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, suggested Saturday it might not be ready to coincide with the May 18 reopening of Italian museums.
But he says the Vatican was finishing the installation of scanners to check temperatures of museum visitors and preparing protocols for tours of the Vatican Gardens and the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo on Lake Albano.
The Vatican Museums usually receive 7 million visitors a year and are the main source of income funding the Holy See bureaucracy. Vergez says the museums have a “solid” economic foundation.
The Vatican, a city state in the center of Rome, imposed a lockdown in tandem with the rest of Italy, which was the first European country hit hard by COVID-19. This week, Italy began a cautious and gradual reopening.
PATNA, India — About 70 people fled from a quarantine center in the Indian state of Bihar’s Nawada district, alleging poor facilities and lack of food.
They are among the tens of thousands of migrant workers who left India’s cities when a nationwide virus lockdown was imposed March 25, walking toward their home villages fearing starvation if they remained.
Local TV broadcast images of the migrants running from the center with their belongings on Saturday. As many as 150 migrants are quarantined at Aadarsh Inter School at Sirdala block in Nawada district, about 90 kilometers (56 miles) from the state capital of Patna.
District magistrate Yashpal Meena says 50 of the migrants fled after one of the occupants tested positive for COVID-19. He says at least 15 were found and brought back to the center.
India’s pace of infection has spread in recent days since Prime Minister Narendra Modi partly lifted the lockdown to ease the economic hardships on migrant workers. The government is running special trains to give immigrants rides back home after 14 days in quarantine.
India has reported just under 60,000 positive cases of COVID-19 and 1,981 deaths.