The Latest: Gates Foundation announces more grant funding
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:
—Trump says data indicates US is ‘past the peak’ for virus
— WHO regrets the U.S. decision to halt funding.
—Group of 20 nations agree to suspend debt payments.
—Trudeau says Canada’s lockdown will last ‘many more weeks.’
SEATTLE — The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has announced an additional $150 million in grant funding to help fight the coronavirus outbreak with diagnostics, therapeutics, and vaccines.
In a statement, the Seattle-based philanthropy also said it would use resources from the foundation’s $2.5 billion Strategic Investment Fund. These could be used to quickly get essential medical supplies to poorer nations and to help companies get financing to produce products in the fight against COVID-19.
Gates Foundation co-chair Melinda Gates said world leaders must unite to make sure diagnostics, vaccines and treatments are available in a fair way. The Gates Foundation previously committed $100 million to help deal with the pandemic.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is threatening to use what he says is his constitutional authority to adjourn both chambers of Congress to clear the way for recess appointments to his administration.
Trump said lawmakers have made it difficult to run the federal government, saying “every week, they put up roadblocks.” He says that the current practice of conducting “phony, pro-forma” sessions of Congress so that he can’t make recess appointments is a dereliction of duty that the American people cannot afford during the coronavirus crisis.
He complains that some of his nominees have waited years for approval, though previous presidents have leveled similar complaints.
SAN FRANCISCO — San Francisco’s public health director said that a month into a stay-in-place order that has California’s 40 million people trapped indoors, they still have problems getting a reliable supply of virus test swabs and the liquid used to transport the specimen. The ability to test widely is critical to re-open the state to business and recreation.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says data indicates the U.S. is “past the peak” of the COVID-19 epidemic, clearing the way for his plans to roll out guidelines to begin to “reopen” the country.
Speaking during his daily press briefing, Trump called the latest data “encouraging,” saying they have “put us in a very strong position to finalize guidelines for states on reopening the country.” Trump said those guidelines will be unveiled Thursday at the White House.
The guidelines are expected to clear the way for an easing of social distancing guidelines in areas with low transmission of the coronavirus, while keeping them in place in harder-hit places. The ultimate decisions will remain with governors.
ORLANDO, Fla. — U.S. train horns can deliver an ear-splitting jolt to drivers sitting in traffic or people drifting off to sleep at home, but they’ll be put to another use Thursday.
At 3 p.m. EDT, led by Amtrak, trains across the U.S. will sound their horns to honor the transportation employees who are considered essential workers during the new coronavirus crisis.
Amtrak trains, along with regional partner trains across the U.S., plan to give two blasts of their horns in a salute to transportation workers, as well as health care workers, first-responders, child care workers, grocery store employees and other workers providing essential services during the pandemic.
BERLIN — Automaker Volkswagen says it will resume production at passenger car plants in Europe next week, starting at plants in Zwickau, Germany and Bratislava, Slovakia.
The Wolfsburg, Germany-based company says other plants in Germany and in the U.S., Portugal, Spain and Russia will resume production in the week starting April 27. Factories in South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico will follow in May.
The Volkswagen brand’s chief operating officer, Ralf Brandstaetter, says decisions by various governments to loosen restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus outbreak mean “conditions have been established for the gradual resumption of production.”
He says the company has developed a “comprehensive catalog of measures” to protect employees’ health.
Most plants in China already have resumed production, as has Volkswagen’s components division.
PARIS — The French defense ministry says 668 members of the crew of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and accompanying vessels have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Charles de Gaulle returned to its base in the southern port of Toulon on Sunday after the outbreak broke out.
The French Defense Ministry said Wednesday that 1,767 Navy troops had been tested, a majority of them sailors from the Charles de Gaulle. Amid those infected with the virus, 31 are at a hospital, including one in intensive care.
Results of about 30% of the tests are not known yet.
The Charles de Gaulle crew members have been placed into quarantine in the military base of Toulon. The carrier and other vessels have started being disinfected.
The Charles de Gaulle cut short by about 10 days a nearly three-month mission in the central Mediterranean then in the Atlantic and North Sea.
BERLIN — The German military says it has given dozens of ventilators to its British NATO allies to help them tackle the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.
The Bundeswehr medical corps says it provided 60 ‘Life-Base III’ portable ventilators following a request last month from Air Vice-Marshal Alastair Reid, the acting surgeon general of the British armed forces.
Ventilators are used to provide seriously ill patients with COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by coronavirus, with sufficient oxygen.
Britain has had more than twice as many coronavirus deaths as Germany, despite having fewer confirmed infections.
CAIRO — Libya’s U.N.-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli, announced a lockdown that will last 10 days starting on Friday to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the war-torn country.
The besieged Tripoli administration ordered the shutdown of all large markets and non-essential shops in its territory, and banned cars from the roads. Citizens wearing masks may venture out by foot from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., the statement said. Banks, a main source of crowding in recent weeks, would also close.
The government, which rules a shrinking corner of the country’s west, had initially left it to local officials to impose most of the restrictive orders. But as confirmed infections rose to 35, including one death, it accepted a proposal from the National Center for Disease Control to take harsher steps.
LAS VEGAS — Las Vegas is withering with tourists staying home and conventions and businesses closed due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the city’s outspoken mayor .
“This shutdown has become one of total insanity,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman said the day after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak declared he was nowhere near reopening parts of the state’s idled economy.
“I am asking: Open the city. Open Clark County. Open the state,” said Goodman, reading a statement at the start of weekly online City Council meeting.
“For heaven’s sake,” Goodman said, “being closed is killing us already, and killing Las Vegas, our industry, our convention and tourism business that we have all worked so hard to build. The longer we wait to do this, the more impossible it will become to recover.”
State health officials reported Wednesday that more than 3,200 people have been diagnosed with the virus, and 131 have died.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s parliament has approved legislation that increases punishment for violence, threats or insults against medical staff while they are on duty.
The long-awaited bill was passed as a gesture to medical professionals battling the coronavirus outbreak.
The measure also allows medical personnel to refuse to treat aggressive or disrespectful patients as long as other personnel are available to step in.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Republican state senators blocked an emergency plan to expand early voting and mail-in balloting options for Louisiana’s July presidential primary, raising objections to wider use of vote-by-mail options for people worried about the risk of exposure to the coronavirus in one of the nation’s larger outbreaks.
GOP Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin ran into a wall of opposition from his fellow Republicans — including objections from the state Republican Party — for his proposal. A Senate committee packed with Republicans rejected an emergency certification that Ardoin needed to move ahead with the changes to polling places, early voting timelines and absentee-by-mail voting eligibility.
The vote’s impact on the election is uncertain. Senators suggested Ardoin should make changes and return with a new proposal, but Ardoin warned he wasn’t certain he could negotiate a redesigned plan in time to order the supplies he would need to conduct a safe election, such as additional voting equipment and protective gear for poll workers.
PARIS — For the first time since the virus outbreak began in the country, France reported a decrease in numbers of COVID-19 patients at hospitals.
National health agency chief Jerome Salomon says there were about 500 fewer people infected with the virus at hospitals than the day before.
Numbers of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units dropped for the seventh straight day, he added.
The overall death toll from the disease in France has risen to 17,167, including 10,643 at hospitals and 6,524 in nursing homes.
Salomon urged the French to keep enforcing strict confinement rules with the lockdown of the country extended to May 11. “We must remain vigilant,” he said.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser is extending the District of Columbia’s state of emergency through May 15 as the nation’s capital prepares for an expected surge in COVID-19 coronavirus infections.
Bowser’s executive order also made face coverings or masks mandatory for hotel employees and guests, riders in taxis and ride-share vehicles and employees and customers in food stores. The original state of emergency, declared on March 11, was set to expire on April 25.
As of Wednesday morning, Washington has identified 2,197 cases of virus infection with 72 deaths. DC health officials are predicting a peak surge in infections sometime in late May or June.
LANSING, Mich. — Hundreds of flag-waving, honking protesters drove past the Michigan Capitol to show their displeasure with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s orders to keep people at home and businesses locked during the coronavirus outbreak.
As snow fell, others got out of their vehicles and raised signs, one of which read, “Gov. Whitmer We Are Not Prisoners.” Another said, “Michigander Against Gretchens Abuses.”
The protest, called “Operation Gridlock,” was organized by the Michigan Conservative Coalition.
State police said they would stay on the sideline unless people could get hurt. The protest made big ripples: Traffic was barely moving around 1 p.m. nearby on westbound Interstate 496.
Whitmer, a Democrat, has extended a stay-home order through April 30 and has shut down schools and businesses deemed non-essential.
TORONTO — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada’s lockdown will last “many more weeks” and warned Canadians if the economy is reopened too soon all the sacrifices they are making now might be for nothing as the country could see another peak in coronavirus cases.
Trudeau says Canada is still “a number of weeks away” from being able to start to reopen and urged Canadians to be patient.
He says once there is some reopening there is going to be a need for rapid testing on a wide scale and extensive contact tracing for those who test positive. He says once Canada is past the first wave government needs to have the capacity to stamp out any future outbreaks.
His remarks are his strongest yet against loosening economic restrictions too soon.
Canada has more than 27,557 confirmed cases including 954 deaths.
LONDON — The head of the World Health Organization says it regrets the U.S. decision to halt funding.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the U.S. has been “a longstanding and generous friend to WHO and we hope it will continue to be so.”
He made the comments after President Donald Trump announced a halt to U.S. funding, temporarily suspending millions of dollars from the U.N health agency’s biggest funder.
Tedros says WHO remained committed to slowing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and it would work with its partners to ensure that any funding shortfall could be met.
“COVID-19 does not discriminate between rich nations and poor, large nations and small,” Tedros said. “This is a time for all of us to be united in our common struggle against a common threat, a dangerous enemy. When we’re divided, the virus exploits the cracks between us.”
Tedros says WHO’s member countries and independent organizations will assess the U.N. health agency’s performance at a later day. But the focus must remain on ending the outbreak.
DUBAI — The world’s wealthiest countries have agreed to immediately suspend billions of dollars in debt payments for the world’s poorest countries as nations race to spend money on health care and workers impacted by the pandemic.
The Group of 20 nations, which include the U.S., China, India, Germany, France and others, agreed unanimously Wednesday on the suspension of debt payments at a virtual summit of finance ministers that was presided over by Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed al-Jadaan said after the meeting, “All bilateral official creditors will participate in this initiative, which is an important milestone for the G-20.”
The G-20 didn’t say how many countries would be impacted, but French Finance minister Bruno Le Maire says 76 countries were eligible to the moratorium.
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