FBI task force finds large supply of PPE; U.S. has over 216K cases, over 5,100 coronavirus deaths

Coronavirus

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:

— Hoarding and price gouging task force finds 192,000 N-95 masks to ship to NY and NJ.

— Puerto Rico authorities bust barbershop operating during curfew.

— Red Cross trailer loaded with emergency supplies stolen from Southern California office.

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WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says it is distributing about 192,000 N-95 masks to frontline medical workers in New York and New Jersey that were found during an investigation by the new coronavirus hoarding and price gouging task force

Officials say the masks, gloves, gowns, hand sanitizer and other personal protective equipment were found by the FBI on March 30. The Justice Department says it notified the Department of Health and Human Services, which compelled the supplies be turned over as part of the Defense Production Act.

Agents also found nearly 600,000 medical-grade gloves, 130,000 surgical masks, some N100 masks and disinfectant spray and towels.

Authorities said the owner would be paid “fair market value” for the supplies. The equipment is being sent to officials with the New York city and state health departments and the New Jersey Department of Health.

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PARIS — A portion of Europe’s largest food depot is being converted into a mortuary and funeral home.

The food depot outside Paris is needed as bodies are accumulating from the new coronavirus too quickly for professionals to cope.

The police chief for the Paris region made the decision to open a hall of the market in Rungis for storage of bodies and caskets starting on Friday. Families will be able to pay respects to departed loved ones beginning next week.

The hall is located in an isolated area of the massive food depot which supplies stores and other food outlets.

Police did not specify the capacity of the hall.

The decision was made by Police Chief Didier Lallement to seek out a space with sufficient capacity because the epidemic has created shortages in mortuaries and funeral homes in the Paris region.

Salons for grieving families to pay respects at loved one’s casket are being created.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Officials say five men standing in line for a haircut at a clandestine barbershop in Puerto Rico have been detained for violating the new coronavirus curfew.

Police say the barber was operating in the northern town of Canovanas. The U.S. territory is in the midst of a month long curfew in which all non-essential businesses have been ordered closed.

Hundreds have been detained for violating the curfew. The government has reported 12 deaths and more than 300 confirmed cases of COVID-19.

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. — A second Red Cross trailer loaded with emergency supplies has been stolen from a Southern California office of the organization.

Police say two men in a pickup drove into a Red Cross parking lot in Riverside on Sunday. They pried a lock, connected the trailer to their truck and left.

The trailer was used for establishing emergency shelters and was filled with cots, blankets and some masks.

Red Cross spokeswoman Brianna Kelly tells the Press-Enterprise the supplies were not related to the coronavirus. The trailers are typically used during wildfires or floods. The first trailer was stolen several weeks ago. It’s not known if the thefts are related.

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WEST BEND, Wis. — Many dairy processing plants across Wisconsin have more product than they can handle and that’s forced farmers to begin dumping their milk down the drain.

That’s the case at Golden E Dairy near West Bend. Farmer Ryan Elbe told WISN-TV they are dumping about about 30,000 gallons (113,562 litres) a day.

The coronavirus has dried up the marketplace for dairy products as restaurants, schools and food service businesses have been closed. About one-third of the state’s dairy products, mostly cheese, are sold in the food-service trade.

The Journal Sentinel reports that Elbe’s cooperative Dairy Farmers of America has agreed to pay them for milk that’s being dumped. But like most cooperatives, DFA can only afford to do that for so long.

Elbe’s parents started the farm with 80 cows in 1991, an operation that has grown to 2,400 cows today.

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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The new coronavirus pandemic is expected to wipe out $23 billion in passenger revenue from airlines across the Middle East and Africa this year.

That’s according to an assessment Thursday by the aviation industry’s largest trade association.

The International Air Transport Association has been pleading for governments to rescue carriers with financial assistance and tax cuts. Flights around the world are grounded and airports are shuttered except to cargo flights and returning citizens.

The group said Mideast airlines will see a $19 billion drop in revenue this year as compared to 2019. Airlines in Africa, which include EgyptAir, are expected to see a $4 billion drop.

Hundreds of thousands of job in the aviation sector are also at risk across both regions.

IATA said projections are based on assumptions that travel restrictions will continue through the second quarter of 2020. Even if travel recovers partially in the second half of the year, it will be slow and impacted by an overall slump in the global economy and weakened passenger demand.

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — A domestic abuse association in Cyprus says forced seclusion because of the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a nearly 50% spike in family violence reports in March.

The Association for the Prevention and Handling of Violence in the Family says of the nearly 2,100 calls to its helpline through March, more than half went unanswered because staff were overwhelmed.

The association says confinement due to the new virus increases the intensity, frequency and danger of violence against women and children. It also offers perpetrators different ways to abuse victims like using children to pressure a spouse psychologically, using threats of exposure to the virus, withholding items like medicine, masks and antiseptic liquids and preventing women from seeking medical help in case symptoms appear.

The association said it continues its operate its helpline and that all shelters remain open.

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BERLIN — An app developed by German non-profit group Data4Life and Berlin’s renowned Charité hospital that makes the process of testing for the new coronavirus more efficient is being made freely available to other institutions around the world.

The CovApp was launched in the German capital last month to help people determine whether they should visit a testing center if they believe they are infected.

Depending on the answers users provide about their symptoms and recent activity, the app either suggests they rest at home or refers them to a nearby medical facility to get a test.

The data collected beforehand can be provided to doctors at the facility to shorten the waiting time there.

The app’s makers said Thursday they are making the code open source, meaning it will be “freely accessible for everyone.”

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BERLIN — Germany plans to loosen a week-old ban on most seasonal workers entering the country amid concerns about the impact on farms.

Farms last year employed nearly 300,000 seasonal workers, many from eastern Europe.

The interior and agriculture ministries says up to 40,000 seasonal workers will be allowed into Germany in April and the same number in May.

Authorities hope that some 10,000 people per month who are already in Germany can be recruited, such as the unemployed, students or asylum-seekers.

Newcomers will be allowed in only by plane and must be given medical checks on arrival. They will have to live and work separately from other employees for the first 14 days and wear protective gear while working.

Farmers had been able to bring in only 20,000 seasonal workers before new arrivals were halted last week but they will need some 100,000 by the end of May.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is still showing symptoms almost a week after he announced he had the new coronavirus.

Johnson’s spokesman says the prime minister “continues to have mild symptoms.”

Johnson said Friday he had tested positive for COVID-19 after developing a fever and a cough. He said he was following U.K. health officials’ advice to self-isolate for seven days.

That period is almost up.

Spokesman James Slack did not confirm whether Johnson would end his quarantine. Slack said the prime minister is following “the best medical and scientific advice” about when to end his quarantine.

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VATICAN CITY — The Vatican has recorded its seventh coronavirus case and extended its partial lockdown of activities until May 4.

The Vatican says a Vatican employee tested positive after having been on home quarantine since mid-March because his wife, who works in a hospital, was infected.

The Vatican previously had six cases, including a high-ranking official who lived in the same residence as Pope Francis. The Vatican has said the pope and his closest advisers haven’t been infected.

Francis also Thursday issued a decree extending the suspension of activities of the Vatican City State’s criminal tribunal until May 4.

The Holy See says it has reduced its activities to only work essential for the functioning of the headquarters of the universal Catholic Church.

Francis’ Holy Week and Easter services, which begin Sunday with Palm Sunday, are being conducted without the faithful present.

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Washington — A Pentagon spokesman says the Federal Emergency Management Agency has requested 100,000 human remains “pouches.”

Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Andrews says the request is being fulfilled by the Defense Logistics Agency. Pouches are also commonly referred to as “body bags.”

Andrews wrote in a statement that the Department of Defense and the Defense Logistics Agency have a longstanding arrangement with FEMA to procure key commodities during crisis response operations.

Andrews added the Defense Logistics Agency is currently responding to FEMA’s prudent planning efforts for 100,000 pouches to address mortuary contingencies on behalf of state health agencies.

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Public rejection of the burial of people with the new coronavirus has been growing in Indonesia for over a week as some fear the disease can spread from the corpse to nearby community.

Indonesia has reported nearly 1,800 positive cases of the coronavirus with 170 deaths.

Television footage showed villagers in Central Java’s Banyumas district blocked an ambulance carrying a coffin wrapped in plastic with a victim of the coronavirus. Some were throwing wooden sticks to prevent the ambulance from approaching a public cemetery near their homes.

Similar situations occurred in some parts of the archipelago nation, mainly on Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi islands. Authorities are trying to convince the public that the burial of people with COVID-19 is not something to be wary of.

The protests has prompted local administrations to prepare plots of land as graveyard specifically designed for COVID-19 patients.

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — The state reported 272,117 jobless claims for the week ending March 28, a second straight week of record losses.

Ohio has received 468,414 claims the past two weeks, which is more than 100,000 for all of 2019. The state has paid out $45 million to more than 108,000 claimants.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Authorities in Puerto Rico say they have detained six police officers accused of violating curfew after they were tipped off that the group was hanging out at a beach in the island’s southeast.

Officials say the five women and one man are members of Puerto Rico’s Joint Rapid Action Forces. The division in part serves as a liaison to federal law enforcement agencies.

Hundreds of people have been detained amid a month long curfew aimed at stopping the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. territory. Puerto Rico has reported at least 12 deaths and more than 300 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

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TOKYO — Tokyo has reported 97 new cases of the new coronavirus in another record single-day increase as the infection accelerated in Japan’s capital.

Officials are scrambling to secure more beds to accommodate an influx of patients.

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike started to raise alarms last week when the number of untraceable cases started to soar. Japan has more than 3,000 cases, including 712 from a cruise ship, with 71 deaths.

Experts on a government panel have called on Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to take steps to prevent medical systems from collapsing.

Koike and heads of Tokyo’s four neighboring prefectures jointly issued a weekend stay-at-home request to their residents last week that will last until at least mid-April. Department stores in Tokyo and its vicinity have already announced their weekend closures.

Tokyo initially only had about 130 beds for isolated treatment of infectious diseases and already had to quadruple the number to accommodate the rising COVID-19 patients.

Koike says Tokyo has secured 700 more beds and plans to get thousands more in coming weeks. She says the city plans to eventually transfer those with slight symptoms to hotels and public facilities to make room for severe patients.

More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — doubling a record high set just one week earlier — a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump is resisting calls to issue a national stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the coronavirus despite his administration’s grim projections of tens of thousands dying.

One by one, states are increasingly pushing shutdowns: Florida, Nevada and Pennsylvania have all added or expanded stay-at-home orders.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Thursday on the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day and APNews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak for stories explaining some of its complexities.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

—The piercing, unrelenting wail of ambulances in the otherwise eerily quiet streets of New York City has become a harrowing soundtrack of the pandemic. America’s largest city is the worst hit by the virus and the statewide death toll is over 1,900.

— The economic damage from the coronavirus crisis is piling up, with an unprecedented 6.6 million Americans filing for unemployment benefits in a single week. And the competition for masks and other protective gear intensified amid growing evidence that people who are infected but have no symptoms can spread the virus.

—The worldwide race to protect people against unwitting coronavirus carriers intensified Thursday, pitting governments against each other as they buy protective gear and prompting new questions about who should wear masks, get temperature checks or even be permitted to go outside.

—Nursing homes across the U.S. have been in lockdown for weeks under federal orders to protect their frail, elderly residents from coronavirus, but a wave of deadly outbreaks nearly every day since suggests that the measures either came too late or were not rigorous enough.

— President Donald Trump has held an unequivocal position about China and the coronavirus — several of them. Trump initially praised China, then excoriated Beijing after it made unsubstantiated claims that the virus originated in the United States. Now, Trump is back to offering niceties.

— Residents are snitching on businesses and neighbors as authorities worldwide work to enforce business shutdowns and stay-at-home orders meant to limit person-to-person contact amid the coronavirus pandemic.

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

For most people, the 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 and death. The vast majority of people recover.

Here are the symptoms of the virus compared with the common flu.

One of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus is washing your hands with soap and water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first washing with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails before rinsing off.

You should wash your phone, too. Here’s how.

TRACKING THE VIRUS: Drill down and zoom in at the individual county level, and you can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you’re worried about live.

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ONE NUMBER:

— ONE MILLION: The New England Patriots’ team plane is expected to return to Boston from China on Thursday carrying more than 1 million masks critical to health care providers fighting to control the spread of the coronavirus.

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IN OTHER NEWS:

— MUSIC GOES ON: Even with its members scattered far and wide by the coronavirus, an orchestra in France has managed to make sweet music in lockdown. Musicians with the National Orchestra of France filmed themselves playing “Bolero” alone at home.

— TEDDY BEAR HUNT: Teddy bears are popping up in the unlikeliest of places. New Zealanders are embracing an international movement in which people are placing the stuffed animals in their windows during coronavirus lockdowns to brighten the mood and give children a game to play by spotting the bears in their neighborhoods.

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

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