WATCH: White House recommends testing in nursing homes; US has over 216K recoveries and over 79K 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:

— White House recommends coronavirus testing of more than 1 million nursing home residents and staff in next 2 weeks.

— Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds will follow “modified quarantine” plan.

— Cape Town becomes South Africa’s virus hotspot.

WASHINGTON — The White House is recommending that all nursing home residents and staff be tested for the new coronavirus in the next two weeks.

Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the White House coronavirus task force, told governors on a video conference call Monday that it’s the federal government’s strong recommendation that such testing be done.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force coordinator, told governors to focus over the next two weeks on testing all 1 million nursing home residents. She says the White House will help states that need it.

Nursing homes and the elderly have been shown to be especially susceptible to the virus.

The Associated Press obtained a recording of the meeting.

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ROME — For a fifth straight day on Monday, Italy’s daily number of new COVID-19 infections has declined.

According to Italian Health Ministry data, there were 744 confirmed new cases registered since Sunday evening.

That number is lower than daily caseloads when contagion containment measures went into effect nationwide in early March.

The country where Europe’s outbreak began now has 219,814 cases, a tally that experts say is surely significantly lower than actual infections, since many with mild or moderate coronavirus symptoms didn’t get hospitalized or tested.

In recent days, the number of daily new deaths also has been significantly lower than in early weeks, with 179 registered on Monday.

Still, the known death toll is one of the world’s highest —30,739. Health officials say it will be later this week at earliest before they can assess if a limited easing of lockdown restrictions on citizens’ movements, including the opening of public parks last week, has triggered any uptick in infections.

Italy is moving cautiously and gradually in reopening economic sectors and in removing travel limits.

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Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said she will follow a “modified quarantine” plan after meeting with Vice President Mike Pence at a time when one of his aides tested positive for coronavirus.

Reynolds said that Pence’s aide was at the White House when she visited last Wednesday to brief Pence and President Donald Trump on Iowa’s response to the pandemic.

Reynolds met again with Pence on Friday when he visited Iowa to meet with religious leaders and food executives. Although Pence had just learned of his aide’s infection, he didn’t wear a mask during his visit and neither did the governor or other Iowa politicians.

Reynolds said that she had no contact with Pence’s aide when in Washington but that “out of an abundance of caution” she will take steps to isolate herself. Reynolds said that she tested negative Monday for coronavirus and is feeling healthy.

Reynolds said that her temperature will be taken before she enters the State Emergency Operations Center in Johnston, where she’s been working. She said that many of her aides will work from home. She said she’ll have only “minimal interactions” with others and will wear a mask and practice social distancing when she does.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf blasted local elected officials who plan to reopen in defiance of his shutdown orders, threatening Monday to yank coronavirus aid and declaring they are “choosing to desert in the face of the enemy.”

The normally mild-mannered Democrat fired back after several counties declared themselves in open rebellion against his restrictions on businesses and movement, saying local officials who pronounce themselves open for business will pay a steep price.

“To those politicians who decide to cave into this coronavirus, they need to understand the consequences of their cowardly act,” said Wolf, threatening to withhold state and federal funding to counties “that put us all at risk by operating illegally.”

Wolf also warned businesses that choose to “follow the whims of local politicians and ignore the law” by reopening in defiance of the shutdown that they risk businesses licenses, certificates of occupancy and other required governmental approvals to operate.

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NEW YORK — Several regions of upstate New York that have shown progress in taming the coronavirus outbreak are ready to gradually restart economic activity by the end of the week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo shut down the entire state March 22 as the New York City area emerged as a global pandemic hot spot, but the outbreak has been less severe in the state’s smaller cities and rural areas. He said three upstate regions have met all criteria for opening some business activity after May 15: the Southern Tier, Mohawk Valley and the Finger Lakes. Other upstate regions are making progress and could follow soon after.

The reopening regions still need to work out logistics, such as creating regional “control rooms” to monitor the effects of the reopening.

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CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office says a senior staff member has tested positive for COVID-19, but the governor has tested negative.

The first-term Democrat’s office released a statement Monday saying all employees, including Pritzker, will work from home “for an appropriate isolation period.” The statement didn’t specify how long that would last.

The office says the staff member was asymptomatic, but tested positive last week and was in close proximity to the governor. Pritzker and all other staff have tested negative.

Roughly 20 administration officials have been working from a downtown Chicago office building where Pritkzer was holding daily news conferences during the pandemic.

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BERLIN — The German government is making available 750 million euros ($810 million) to speed up the production and development of a vaccine against the new coronavirus.

Science minister Anja Karliczek said Monday that about 500 million euros will go into scientific studies and vaccine trials, while 250 million euros will go into expanding production capacities in Germany.

Numerous universities and companies worldwide, including in Germany, are rushing to develop a vaccine for the pandemic-causing virus.

Germany has recorded more than 170,000 cases and at least 7,484 deaths since the start of the outbreak.

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PARIS — French defense minister Florence Parly has acknowledged “mistakes” that led about two-thirds of troops aboard an aircraft carrier to be infected with the coronavirus.

Parly told French lawmakers Monday that one sailor from the Charles de Gaulle remains hospitalized. Others have recovered.

The number of positive cases reached a total 1,046 out of 1,760 sailors onboard the aircraft carrier.

The investigation shows that the virus first infected people after Feb. 26 while the carrier was at sea, Parly said.

The virus was then introduced again onboard during a stop in the French port of Brest in mid-March, as the country was about to enter into lockdown.

Parly said the commandment established precautionary measures, like increasing physical distance between sailors, but they were lifted at the end of March because of concerns of the low morale of the troops. She said the virus was not detected onboard before April 5.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Hair and nail salons along with barbershops began reopening in much of Florida on Monday.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis allowed such businesses to reopen with tight regulations except in hard-hit Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the state’s two most-populous. That comes almost six weeks after they were ordered closed statewide.

DeSantis himself has expressed eagerness to get a haircut, saying last week he hasn’t had one since February.

The state has ordered that barbers, cosmetologists and manicurists wear masks when seeing customers, that they require appointments so that few people will be waiting inside and that they spend 15 minutes between each customer sanitizing the work station.

Customers were already waiting when J. Henry opened his barbershop early Monday in downtown Orlando. Folding chairs lined the outside front window for waiting customers so they wouldn’t be inside and there was a sign-in notebook on a stand next to the door to fulfill the appointment requirement.

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ATHENS — A national teachers’ union in Greece says a government decision to livestream school classes could violate children’s privacy rights and should be revised.

Classes for the final year of high school reopened Monday, with lower grades to follow next week. The livestreaming allows teachers to rotate student attendance and keep classrooms at 50% capacity or below.

Stelios Petsas, a government spokesman, said the online class coverage would remain in effect, noting that the Greek independent Data Protection Authority “had been consulted and provided written consent.”

Greece’s COVID-19 death toll remained at 151 Monday with no new fatalities being reported since Saturday. Ten new cases brought the confirmed total to 2,726, the Health Ministry said.

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ROME — Italy’s transport minister says tourists from abroad won’t have to go into quarantine once they are able to visit again.

Presently during pandemic travel restrictions, foreigners can enter Italy for as long as five days but only for work reasons. Then they must leave.

Transport Minister Paola De Micheli told the foreign press association in Rome on Monday that when that restriction can be lifted depends on how coronavirus infection rates are running in specific countries.

When visitors for pleasure eventually can resume travel to Italy, “we can’t insist that a tourist comes and goes into quarantine,” the minister said.

Tourism is a major Italian industry. So far, Italians can’t even leave their home region to travel within the country for tourism. De Micheli estimated travel between Italian regions would probably resume sometime in the first half of June.

If Italians go abroad, they won’t be required to quarantine upon return “if the epidemiological situation is under control” in the country they have visited, the minister said.

Meanwhile, Italy is trying to convince other European Union countries to agree upon common health rules to allow tourists to move around within the EU, perhaps by creating “touristic corridors” with standardized COVID-19 safety measures.

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CHICAGO — U.S. children critically ill with COVID-19 have better outcomes than has been seen in adults, a study published Monday found.

Of 48 children treated in several U.S. intensive care units, more than one-third were put on ventilators but only two died.

By contrast, death rates of 50% and higher have been reported in adults critically ill with COVID-19, particularly among those on ventilators.

The results in JAMA Pediatrics echo reports from China. COVID-19 is generally a much milder disease in children although they can spread it to others without showing symptoms.

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JOHANNESBURG — Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape province have become South Africa’s coronavirus hotspot, accounting for more than half of the nation’s confirmed cases.

South Africa has confirmed more than 10,600 cases of COVID-19 and the Western Cape province has 5,621 cases, according to figures released Monday. Of the country’s 206 deaths caused by COVID-19, 116 have occurred in the province.

Cape Town, with its poor, densely populated townships, is the center of the cases in the province.

South Africa has the continent’s highest number of confirmed cases and has eased its restrictions to allow an estimated 1.6 million people to return to work in selected mines, factories and businesses.

However, the concentration of cases in Cape Town may see the city return to a stricter lockdown.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government is ready to partially ease mandatory use of face masks, its most visible tool to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Minister Adam Vojtech says the protective masks that people have been required to wear in public since March 19 will be mandatory only inside buildings, on public transport and in other enclosed spaces as of May 25.

Vojtech says in the open air, masks will have to be used if two people who are not relatives are closer to each other than 2 meters (6.5 feet).

“We can afford to do that,” Vojtech said Monday.

The day-to-day increase of COVID-19 cases was well under 100 for the 10th straight day in the Czech Republic, according to Health Ministry figures released Monday. Three people died on Sunday for a total of 281 with the fatalities remaining under 10 a day since April 13.

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MADRID — A spokeswoman for Spain’s Guardia Civil says it is bringing charges against flag carrier Iberia for failing to comply with hygiene rules adopted to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

She says Guardia Civil officials checked an Iberia Express domestic flight that landed Sunday in Madrid and found it was 70% full. Under Spain’s state of emergency, planes can be no more than half full.

The spokeswoman discussed the case on condition of anonymity, in line with police policy.

The plane flew to the Spanish capital from the country’s Canary Islands on Sunday. Some passengers complained on social media that the plane was too full, preventing them from taking social distancing measures.

Iberia issued a statement Monday setting out the hygiene measures it is taking but did not directly address the police and passenger allegations.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A man from Rotterdam knew just what he wanted tattooed on his leg as soon as coronavirus restrictions would allow.

Local broadcaster Rijnmond reported that Rens van Gastel got inked Monday with a picture of what he called “the product of the year,” a roll of toilet paper.

The 56-year-old took advantage of the government easing coronavirus restrictions to visit the Tattoo Grot parlor in the port city for a picture of a roll of TP on a hanger emblazoned with the year 2020.

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GENEVA — Switzerland has begun a gradual return nearer to normal amid a recent decline in confirmed coronavirus cases.

The government on Monday relaxed nearly two months of restrictions that had shuttered schools, offices, restaurants and nearly all stores except food vendors and pharmacies.

Geneva’s old-city shopping district got a bit more bustle as kids returned to classes, stores reopened their doors, and downtown eateries got back to business by erecting partitions between tables, unfurling long-unused parasols and trotting out bottles of hand sanitizer for patrons at their entrances.

The Federal office of public health said only 39 new cases were recorded over the last day, confirming a decline from a peak of nearly 1,500 tallied in a single day on March 23. All told, Switzerland has recorded 30,344 confirmed cases and 1,543 deaths in the outbreak.

Daniel Koch, who heads the office’s infectious diseases unit, called the evolution “positive” and said authorities would be on the lookout for the possibility of expediting a further easing of the restrictions as conditions evolve.

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WASHINGTON — Two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff missed a meeting with President Donald Trump over the weekend because of coronavirus concerns.

The Pentagon says Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, is self-quarantining after having contact with a COVID-positive family member, although Gilday tested negative. He is working from home this week.

Also, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, Gen. Joseph Lengyel, tested positive for the coronavirus on Saturday but later tested negative. The Pentagon says he is scheduled to be retested Monday.

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin has declared an end to a nationwide partial economic shutdown but noted that some restrictions will remain.

Putin, speaking in a televised address to the nation Monday, said that it will be up to regional governors in the far-flung Russian Federation to determine what industrial plants could reopen starting Tuesday. He emphasized that it’s essential to preserve jobs and keep the economy running provided that workers strictly observe sanitary norms.

Putin ordered the economic shutdown in late March, although key industrial plants and some other sectors have been allowed to continue operating. Most Russians have been ordered to stay home, except for visits to nearby stores, pharmacies and visits to doctors.

Moscow will allow all of its industrial plants and construction sites to resume work starting Tuesday, and Putin said other regions may follow the example. Non-food stores, hairdressers, car dealers and most other enterprises in the services sector remain shut.

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