The Latest: Senators looking to help first responders

Manal Abdul-Samad

A paramedic sprays Minister of Information Manal Abdul-Samad with disinfectant as she arrives for a parliament meeting, in Beirut, Lebanon, Tuesday, April 21, 2020. Lebanon’s parliament began a three-day legislative session Tuesday at a Beirut theater so that legislators can observe social distancing measures due to the coronavirus pandemic, as protests against the country’s ruling elite in the crisis-hit country resumed. (AP Photo/Bilal Hussein)

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.


—President Trump heads to Phoenix to tour Honeywell plant.

—French President Macron criticized for opening schools next week.

—Britain’s official coronavirus death toll becomes highest in Europe.


WASHINGTON — Two U.S. senators are proposing to amend federal legislation to temporarily assume that first responders who contracted the coronavirus within 45 days of their last shift were infected during work and are eligible for death benefits.

The federal Public Safety Officers Benefits Program provides death benefits to the survivors who die in the line of duty or as a result of a work-related incident. The program now requires evidence that shows the death was caused by an infectious disease related to work — a difficult determination with the coronavirus amid a pandemic.

The legislation was proposed by senators Chuck Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, and Cory Booker, a Democrat from New Jersey.

Federal death benefits include a one-time payment of $359,316 and/or education assistance of $1,224 a month to survivors.


DOVER, Del. — Democratic Gov. John Carney says he will allow small businesses in Delaware to resume limited operations starting Friday.

The announcement is aimed at gradually lifting restrictions that Carney imposed on individuals and businesses more than seven weeks ago in an effort to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

Retailers such as department stores, tobacco shops, book stores and thrift stores will be allowed to do business using curbside pickup as long as social distancing can be maintained. Jewelry stores will be allowed to conduct business by appointment only.


LONDON — Britain’s foreign secretary has warned about “hostile states” and criminal gangs exploiting the coronavirus crisis for fraud and espionage, saying there is evidence they are targeting organizations trying to tackle the pandemic.

Dominic Raab says officials have “identified campaigns targeting health care bodies, pharmaceutical companies, research organizations and various different arms of local government.”

Most of the attacks aim to steal personal data and intellectual property, he added.

He says Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre and the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency have issued a joint warning over the concerns.


CHARLESTON, W. Va. — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told West Virginia officials that respirator masks distributed to 50,000 first responders might be counterfeit, but officials decided to leave them in use, according to a report.

After the warning, the state’s top public safety official issued a report to first responders that said the masks are “authentic,” the Charleston Gazette-Mail reported.


MEXICO CITY — Mexico has received a shipment of 211 medical ventilators from the United States as part of aid that U.S. President Donald Trump promised his Mexican counterpart.

“We want to very fully thank the government of the United States, especially President Trump,” said Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard. “As the saying goes, when there are hard times is when you know who your friends are.”

Mexican President Andés Manuel López Obrador said last month that Trump had promised aid when he called and asked for help in obtaining 1,000 ventilators and other equipment for intensive care units.

Ebrard said the shipment includes equipment made by Swiss-based Hamilton Medical at prices ranging from $16,000 to $24,000.

He said they would be sent to government hospitals.

As of midday Tuesday, Mexico had reported 24,905 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 2.271 deaths, though officials acknowledge that actual infections are a multiple of the tested figure.


LONDON — Britain’s official coronavirus death total has passed Italy’s number to become the highest in Europe.

The U.K. government says 29,427 people with COVID-19 have died in hospitals, nursing homes and other settings, an increase of 693 on the figure announced a day earlier. In Italy, 29,315 people confirmed to have the virus have died.

The toll is the second-highest in the world behind the United States.

Both the British and Italian tallies are probably underestimates because they do not included suspected cases. In the U.K. there have been 32,375 deaths in which COVID-19 was either confirmed or suspected.


ROME — Italy has reported its lowest daily number of new COVID-19 cases since its lockdown began in early March.

The Italian health ministry registered 1,075 new cases, running the overall number of confirmed infections nationwide to 213,013, although experts note that many persons with no or mild symptoms never get tested. All but two of Italy’s 20 regions had 100 or fewer new cases in the 24-hour period ending Tuesday evening.

While the lower number of daily new cases is heartening, epidemiologists have warned that the daily numbers will be especially critical to watch in about two weeks, when it will be clearer if partially lifted lockdown rules, which went into effect on Monday, might see an uptick in infections.

The death toll rose to 29,315, with 236 more deaths of infected persons registered on Tuesday.


NEW DELHI, India — Health officials in India are rushing to contain the spread of the virus in the southern Indian city of Chennai in Tamil Nadu after a large cluster was discovered in one of the country’s largest markets for fruits, vegetables and flowers.

J. Radhakrishnan, the nodal officer for COVID-19 in Chennai, tells The Associated Press that some 7,000 people connected to the busy Koyambedu market that remained open through India’s nationwide lockdown were being traced and quarantined. Many of these people had returned to their homes in different districts in the region, he says.

The market is spread over 250 acres and has around 500 shops. It was shut on Monday after the viral cluster was detected.

Chennai now has 2,008 cases, with 545 cases detected in the past two days, and the city now accounts for half of the state’s total 4,058 cases.


ATHENS, Greece — Greek authorities have issued a public warning to coffee-bar owners who dodge lockdown restrictions by selling takeaway alcoholic drinks to customers who gather outside to drink them as the establishments play loud music.

Civil Protection Agency chief Nikos Hardalias says the practice is forbidden and police will be on the lookout for offenders. Coffee shops can only sell takeaway coffee under current regulations.

Greece has recorded 10 new coronavirus cases and no deaths. A total of 2,642 infections have been recorded and 146 deaths.

But the health ministry’s spokesman for coronavirus matters, infectious diseases specialist Sotiris Tsiodras, noted Greece might have over-reported its own coronavirus deaths. Answering a question during his daily briefing, Tsiodras said Greece’s death toll includes anyone who died and tested positive for the virus, regardless of whether their death might have been due to other, unrelated causes.


MADRID — Spain’s Socialist-led government will ask parliament on Wednesday to extend the state of emergency another two weeks through May 24.

But the conservative Popular Party, the main opposition, is reluctant.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says extending the state of emergency “is the only instrument that allows the government to limit mobility, in order to prevent contagion, save lives and protect citizens.”

Health Minister Salvador Illa says the state of emergency, which has allowed the government to impose a lockdown, has been “essential” in reducing the daily infection rate from 35% to 0.4%.

Finance Minister Maria Jesus Montero warned that economic measures to cushion the pandemic’s blow are dependent on state of emergency legislation.

If the Popular Party votes against the extension, it could scuttle the government’s pandemic plans. It may decide to abstain, in which case the government’s request should win approval.


HARTFORD, Conn. — Gov. Ned Lamont ordered in-person classes at all Connecticut K-12 public schools to remain canceled for the rest of the current school year, requiring districts to continue distance learning.

The Democrat says schools must continue providing to-go meals to children under the school lunch and breakfast programs. Lamont says he’s working with state and local education officials to determine whether summer school programs should be held.

Lamont says he was hoping high school seniors could complete the final few weeks, but it wasn’t possible given the virus and the need to “protect everyone’s safety.”

The state’s largest teachers’ union, the Connecticut Education Association, praised Lamont’s decision.


MASERU, Lesotho — Lesotho, the only nation among Africa’s 54 to not report a case of COVID-19, will lift its five-week lockdown on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Tom Thabane says schools, churches and bars will open, with restrictions. Businesses will open but they must maintain social distancing and staff must work in shifts to reduce congestion. Churches can open but they must have less than 50 people per service. People will be expected to wear face masks in public.

Thabane says mass-testing will begin. The tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho is surrounded by South Africa, which has Africa’s highest number of confirmed cases at 7,220.

South Africa slightly eased its strict lockdown this week to allow some mines, manufacturers and retailers to resume operations at up to 30% capacity. Rwanda and Nigeria also eased restrictions this week.


WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says Americans should think of themselves as “warriors” in the fight against the new coronavirus.

Trump spoke to reporters Tuesday before boarding Air Force One for a trip to Phoenix to tour a Honeywell plant that’s making N95 respirator masks.

Trump’s trip is designed to give the appearance of a return to normalcy as states begin to reopen after shutting down in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.

The president has stayed close to the White House since mid-March, when he declared a national emergency over the outbreak. He traveled to Virginia at the end of March to see a Navy hospital shift off to New York, and he spent this past weekend at the Camp David presidential retreat in Maryland.

Trump says: “The people of our country should think of themselves as warriors. Our country has to open.”


LONDON — Virgin Atlantic says it plans to cut 3,150 jobs and end its operation at London’s Gatwick Airport.

The company says the job losses will be across the board and it will reduce the size of its fleet.

Virgin is applying for emergency loans from the British government. The airline says recovery is expected to take up to three years.

Also, new car sales in the U.K. came to a near standstill in April, the lowest monthly level since 1946.

Figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders indicate only 4,321 cars were registered during the month, down 97% from the year before. Dealerships were closed and potential buyers have been in lockdown since March 23.


ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state is reporting more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities.

At least 4,813 people have died from COVID-19 in the state’s nursing homes since March 1, according to a tally released by Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office late Monday. It includes, for the first time, people believed to have died from the coronavirus before it could be confirmed by a lab test.

Exactly how many nursing home residents have died remains uncertain despite the state’s latest disclosure. The list doesn’t include nursing home residents who were transferred to hospitals before dying.


BEIRUT — Dozens of Lebanese returned home from Syria after authorities briefly opened two border crossings nearly two months after they were closed.

The returnees were subjected to tests for the coronavirus and will stay in hotels for one day to wait for the results. Lebanon, which has reported 741 cases of coronavirus and 24 deaths, will extend the lockdown until May 24.

Information Minister Manal Abdul-Samad says the government has asked security forces to make sure the lockdown is enforced.

She also says Lebanon accepted a $750,000 donation from Google in the form of advertisements to raise knowledge about coronavirus.


PARIS — French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed plans to gradually reopen schools next week amid concerns from mayors, teachers and parents about the timing.

Macron, wearing a mask, visited a primary school in a suburb west of Paris on Tuesday that has remained open for children of health workers.

More than 300 mayors in the capital region, including Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo, urged Macron in an open letter to delay the reopening of primary schools scheduled for next week.

They denounced an “untenable and unrealistic timetable” to meet the sanitary and safety conditions required by the state, including class sizes capped to a maximum of 15. The majority of French children attend public schools.

Many parents say they won’t send their children back to school as France is one of the world’s hardest-hit countries by the coronavirus.

France starts lifting confinement measures on May 11, with businesses to resume activity and parents to return to work.


GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office says conditions in many prisons in the Americas are “deeply worrying” as COVID-19 spreads in many overcrowded facilities that lack hygiene.

Rights office spokesman Rupert Colville says fear of contagion and lack of basic services like access to food and health care have stoked riots and protests in some prisons.

He pointed to outbreaks of deadly violence in detention centers in Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela in recent weeks, along with attempted prison breaks in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and the United States.

Colville says the incidents suggest some states had not taken “appropriate measures to prevent violence in detention facilities,” urging states to investigate the deaths and injuries and any allegations of use of force by authorities during the rioting.


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