Coronavirus headlines: LA first major US city offering all residents tests

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April 29, 2020

(WJW) — As of Wednesday, there are 3,127,519 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the world.

That number includes over 1 million in the United States, which has seen more than 58,000 deaths. There have been 935,646 recoveries.

10:30 p.m. update:

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The city of Los Angeles will offer free coronavirus testing to all residents regardless of whether they have symptoms, Mayor Eric Garcetti announced Wednesday.

Testing centers have been set up across the city but until now they were reserved for those with symptoms and frontline employees like health care and grocery store workers.

Los Angeles will be the first major U.S. city to offer “large, widescale testing to all its residents, with or without symptoms,” Garcetti said at his daily briefing. People can sign up online for appointments starting immediately.

Priority will still be given to people with symptoms, such as a fever, cough and shortness of breath, the mayor said.

Los Angeles city and county were slow to set up widespread testing but in recent weeks expanded the number of test sites. As of Wednesday, there were 34 sites across the county, Garcetti said. He said he’s confident the city will have the capacity to test everyone.

“This is a smart thing to do,” he said. “It’s smart to make sure that you are clear.”

Residents who feel healthy, have been staying at home and haven’t been in contact with infected people may decide against getting testing, he said. People will be able to go back for tests several times, without limit.

About half of California’s total coronavirus cases are in the Los Angeles area. LA County reported 1,541 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, raising the total to 23,485. Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said the large number is primarily due to increased testing — in part at institutional settings — and some lag in reporting from last weekend.

9:20 p.m. update:

ROME (AP)— The Italian government has decreed that the data provided through an app to facilitate tracing of persons who come in close contact with someone positive for COVID-19 will be completely anonymous and that all data will be destroyed by year’s end.

Premier Giuseppe Conte’s Cabinet, at a meeting that ended early Thursday, approved a law, in the form of the decree, that guarantees that those who decide not to use the app won’t suffer limits on their movement or other rights.

Health authorities are encouraging Italians to use the app as a key tool to prevent the rate of contagion to rise again in Italy. The app, which uses Bluetooth, won’t geo-localize users, and data will only be mined for purposes of containing the virus or for epidemiological study, the government said Thursday.

The Cabinet also stipulated that any bid to release to house arrest prison inmates convicted of terrorism or Mafia crimes due to COVID-19 concerns must seek the opinion of prosecutors, or in the case of top organized crime bosses must run the request by Italy’s national anti-Mafia prosecutor. Prosecutors have expressed concern mobsters can exploit the pandemic to get out of prison.

8:30 p.m. update:

LONDON (AP) — The U.K. has the third-highest coronavirus death toll in the world after the British government published new figures that now include those who passed away in care homes and elsewhere in the community. After factoring in deaths in all settings, the number of people in Britain who have died after testing positive for the virus has now hit 26,097, way ahead of the 21,678 announced on Tuesday. Under the new measurement, the U.K. has leapfrogged Spain and France in Europe, with only Italy ahead. The U.S. has recorded the highest death numbers in the world. 

7:45 p.m. update:

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Big meatpacking companies that have struggled to keep plants open during the coronavirus crisis say they welcome President Donald Trump’s executive order that plants must remain open. But unions, some employees and Democrats raised questions about whether workers could be kept safe. Trump has used the Defense Production Act to classify meat processors as critical infrastructure to try to prevent supermarket shelves from running out. Some employees and unions say the president’s order was not enough. They are calling on authorities to ensure social distancing in plants and to offer greater protections such as priority access to testing and protective equipment.

6 p.m. update:

(AP) WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he is planning to travel to Arizona next week and is looking forward to resuming campaign rallies after spending more than a month mostly cooped up at the White House because of the coronavirus.

Trump says he is looking forward to his Arizona trip next week and also hopes to visit Ohio soon despite the fact that much of the nation remains on some sort of lockdown as the virus continues to spread.

He says: “We’re going to start to move around and hopefully in the not-too-distant future, we’ll have some massive rallies and people will be sitting next to each other.”

Trump wouldn’t say exactly when he expects to be able to resume his rallies, but said it will depend, in part, on the state.

5:15 p.m. update:

(AP)– The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has voted unanimously to cancel the induction ceremony due to safety concerns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Class of 2020 consisting of Derek Jeter, Marvin Miller, Ted Simmons and Larry Walker will be inducted July 25 of next year alongside any new members elected as part of the Hall of Fame Class of 2021. The awards presentation also will recognize the Hall of Fame’s 2020 and 2021 winners. This year’s honorees include J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner Nick Cafardo, Ford C. Frick Award winner Ken Harrelson, and Buck O’Neil Lifetime Achievement Award winner David Montgomery.

Hall of Fame Chairman Jane Forbes Clark says the board took the advice of government officials as well as federal, state and local medical and scientific experts. Hall of Famer Joe Morgan called it a very difficult decision, but with so many unknowns facing the world, he says the board felt strongly it was the right decision.

3:30 p.m. update:

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says the federal government’s coronavirus social distancing guidelines will be “fading out” when they expire on Thursday and states pivot to reopening. The administration says the guidance issued 45 days ago has been incorporated into recommendations given to states on how they can begin the process of gradually reopening their economies. The news comes on a day that brought hopeful signs on a new treatment along with grim economic numbers. The U.S. economy shrank at a 4.8% annual rate last quarter.

1:30 p.m. update

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Gov. Mike DeWine on Tuesday relaxed his order on mandatory face coverings for business customers and clients, saying that after receiving input on his decision, mask-wearing will be recommended but not required.

The governor clarified late in the day that masks will still be required for employees under most circumstances. As of Tuesday night, the first protocol on DeWine’s online list for businesses starting to reopen said: “Require face coverings for employees and recommend them for clients/customers at all times.”

12:30 p.m. update

WASHINGTON — Federal authorities are giving cleaning and disinfecting tips for schools and workplaces to help deal with the coronavirus.

The Environmental Protection Agency and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the cleaning guidelines Wednesday.

12 p.m. update

(CNN) — The Navy announced Wednesday that it is launching a broader inquiry into the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus outbreak aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier, effectively delaying its recommendation that the ship’s commanding officer be reinstated.

The announcement comes after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper previously declined to immediately endorse the Navy’s original investigation into the issue which included a recommendation to reinstate Capt. Brett Crozier.

“After carefully reviewing the preliminary inquiry into the events surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71), the Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. Mike Gilday, provided me with his recommendations. Following our discussion, I have unanswered questions that the preliminary inquiry has identified and that can only be answered by a deeper review,” acting Navy Secretary James E. McPherson said in a statement.

“Therefore, I am directing Adm. Gilday to conduct a follow-on command investigation. This investigation will build on the good work of the initial inquiry to provide a more fulsome understanding of the sequence of events, actions, and decisions of the chain of command surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak aboard USS Theodore Roosevelt,” he added.

10:15 a.m. update

(CNN) — US stocks rose sharply Wednesday after Gilead Sciences announced encouraging results for its experimental coronavirus treatment.

The upbeat news on Gilead’s remdesivir is raising hopes of progress on the fight against a pandemic that has killed more than 50,000 people and crushed the American economy.

Gilead Sciences announced it is “aware of positive data” from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ study of remdesivir for the treatment of COVID-19. The company said it understands the trial “met its primary endpoint.”

The news sent US stocks soaring because there are currently no treatments approved by the FDA for treating coronavirus. The Dow was up more than 400 points at the open.

8:45 a.m. update

The US economy contracted for the first time in nearly six years between January and March, as the coronavirus crisis put the world in a choke hold.

America’s first-quarter GDP fell at a 4.8% annualized rate, the US Bureau of Economic Analysis reported on Wednesday.

It was the first contraction of the US economy since the first quarter of 2014, and the worst drop since the fourth quarter of 2008.

Consumer spending, the largest contributor to US GDP, declined at a 7.6% annualized rate, its deepest decline since the second quarter of 1980.

The economy came to a screeching halt in March, when businesses shut and stay-at-home orders were put in place across the country. That was enough to offset the economic activity in January and February.

In the current quarter, the economy is expected to contract even further. Even though some states are beginning to reopen, experts believe it will be some time until activity levels are back to what they were before the outbreak.

8:30 a.m. update

(CNN) — A German company working with US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has begun human trials of a potential Covid-19 vaccine that could supply millions by the end of the year, according to the two firms.

Pfizer says it will begin testing the experimental vaccine in the United States as early as next week, and says a vaccine could be ready for emergency use in the fall, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Mainz-based BioNTech reported that the first cohort of participants had been given doses of the potential vaccine, BNT162, in a Phase 1/2 clinical study in Germany.

“Twelve study participants have been vaccinated with the vaccine candidate BNT162 in Germany since the start of the study on April 23, 2020,” the company said in a statement.

No information on the results is currently available. BioNTech said around 200 healthy volunteers aged 18 to 55 years old would be given doses ranging from 1µg (microgram) to 100µg to find the optimal dose for further studies.

“In addition, the safety and immunogenicity of the vaccine will be investigated,” added the biotech company.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan to initiate trials for BNT162 in the US on regulatory approval, expected shortly, the statement said.

The German Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedical Drugs approved the trial — the country’s first clinical trial for a vaccine against Covid 19 — on April 22.

“The two companies plan to jointly conduct clinical trials for the COVID-19 vaccine candidates initially in Europe and the U.S., across multiple research sites,” Pfizer announced in its first quarter report, published online Tuesday.

“The companies estimate that there is potential to supply millions of vaccine doses by the end of 2020, subject to technical success of the development program and approval by regulatory authorities, and the potential to rapidly scale up the capacity to produce hundreds of millions of doses in 2021.”

Pfizer isn’t the only group with a potential Covid-19 vaccine in the works. Last week, scientists at Oxford University’s Jenner Institute in the United Kingdom began testing its vaccine on humans Thursday and, depending on the trial results, could be ready as early as September. Officials say that more than a half-dozen vaccine programs are in the clinical trial phase and more than 80 are in preliminary phases.

6:45 a.m. update:

(CNN) — A second round of the coronavirus is ‘inevitable,’ the nation’s leading epidemiologist says, but just how bad it is will depend on the progress the US makes in the coming months.

“If by that time we have put into place all of the countermeasures that you need to address this, we should do reasonably well,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “If we don’t do that successfully, we could be in for a bad fall and a bad winter.”

If states begin lifting restrictions too early, Fauci says he predicts the country could see a rebound of the virus that would “get us right back in the same boat that we were a few weeks ago,” adding that the country could see many more deaths than are currently predicted.

So far, more than 1 million Americans have been infected and at least 58,355 have died. A leading model predicts more than 72,000 people will die in the US by early August.

Being able to test for the virus, track cases and isolate every infected American will be key factors in ensuring that second wave isn’t as deadly, Fauci says.

The US continues to lag behind in testing, according to a new report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. The nation has performed 16.4 tests per 1,000 people, according to the report. Spain and Italy, with the second and third highest number of cases after the US, have conducted 22.3 and 29.7 tests per 1,000 people respectively.

Fauci says the federal government needs to provide strategic guidance and assistance to help states up their number of conducted tests. He hopes he can guarantee everyone who needs a test can get one by the end of May or early June.

“The truth is that we’re going in the right direction,” he said. “But we need to continue to partner in a very active collaborative way with the states, we need to help them the same way they need to do the execution.”

Continuing coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, here, including the latest news from Ohio.

Coronavirus resources

  • Click here for more about coronavirus and animals
  • Click here for coronavirus symptoms
  • Click here for coronavirus basics
  • Click here for more on how COVID-19 spreads
  • The Ohio hotline for coronavirus questions is 1-844-4-ASK-ODH

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