The Latest: Public sector jobs not immune from pandemic ills
Federal, state and local governments in the United States have shed over 1.5 million jobs since March as they begin to deal with the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. And it could get worse for workers in the public sector, usually a stable part of the U.S. economy.
Governments are trying to balance their budgets for a fiscal year that starts July 1 but expect tax revenue to be down by 20% or more in many places.
That means temporary cuts to get through the next month could become permanent and affect everything from schools to trash pickup.
Unions and bipartisan groups are pushing Congress to send state and local governments more help quickly. Following a $2.2 trillion coronavirus aid package in March, the Democratic-led House last month approved an additional $3 trillion bill, which includes $1 trillion for governments.
But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said his chamber will not agree to such as large amount — or anything quickly.
HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY ABOUT THE VIRUS OUTBREAK:
— Virus encourages American students to consider universities closer to home
— More than two dozen COVID-19 cases clustered at sealed-off Rome hospital
— Travel restrictions and lockdowns have made for one of Normandy’s loneliest D-Day remembrances
— People in Asia, Australia and Europe brave gloomy weather, infection risk and protest bans to voice support for George Floyd and for what is becoming an international Black Lives Matter movement. Demonstrations took place in Sydney, London, Seoul and other cities in a worldwide wave of solidarity.
— While seasonal colds and the flu spread through NFL locker rooms most years, football teams now have COVID-10 to worry about. Coaches are returning to their offices, but many players polled by The Associated Press say they’re scared to return to work without a cure or a vaccine for the coronavirus.
— Lockdowns that have kept vehicles off roads and people at home have been cited as a temporary boon for the environment. But scientists say the coronavirus is now hampering critical work to protect threatened species and habitats worldwide.
Go to https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates throughout the day.
HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING TODAY:
HOUSTON — The Houston, Texas area has begun to see a significant increase in cases and hospitalizations related to the coronavirus.
The upturn began two weeks ago and accelerated this week, the Houston Chronicle reported Saturday.
“This is a trend we’re definitely keeping an eye on,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, the county’s top elected official.
Health officials believe people might have let down their guard and come in closer contact with others after the state authorized businesses to reopen and last month’s Memorial Day weekend holiday.
Restrictions in the Houston area and the rest of Texas began to be lifted on May 1, with the reopening of restaurants, retail stores and malls, but with limits.
COVID-19 patients have occupied hospital intensive care units in the nine-county Houston area at higher levels during the first three days in June than they did on any single day in May, according to data compiled by the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council, which coordinates the region’s emergency response to disasters.
Counts of COVID-19 cases have also increased. The rolling average in the Houston region rose from 267 on May 22 to 358 on June 4.
DENVER — Seasonal colds and the flu spread through NFL locker rooms just about every year, but teams now have COVID-19 to worry about.
Offseason workout programs have been entirely virtual since the league closed team facilities in March. Coaches began returning to their offices Friday but players not seeking treatment for injuries probably won’t be allowed to return until training camps open next month.
Many players polled by The Associated Press say they’re scared to return to work without a cure or a vaccine for the coronavirus, which has caused more than 100,000 deaths in the U.S. But they’re putting their trust in the health protocols the NFL’s medical staff is developing for practices to resume and games to return.
Safeguards are expected to include daily temperature checks and frequent virus tests, with sick players quarantined for two weeks.
ROME — Italy added another 270 confirmed coronavirus cases to its official count, including a cluster of two dozen more cases at a Rome hospital that has been sealed off to contain the spread.
The Italian civil protection agency on Saturday also reported the deaths of 72 more people with the virus. Italy’s official COVID-19 death toll now stands at 33,846, but officials say the real mortality figure in Europe’s one-time coronavirus epicenter likely is much higher.
Regional health authorities in Rome reported 24 new cases at the San Raffaele Pisana hospital, a 298-bed clinic in the Italian capital that specializes in neurological rehabilitation and Parkinson’s research. Another hospital in the same San Raffaele group was placed under quarantine in April after more than 150 viral infections and several deaths were recorded at its Rocca di Papa nursing home south of Rome.
Italy’s outbreak hit the northern region of Lombardy hardest, with more than 90,000 cases out of Italy’s official caseload of 235,000 and more than 16,000 deaths.
SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia’s Health Minister says 90% of the country’s 125 new coronavirus cases have been traced to 15 families and their contacts.
Another health official said earlier Saturday that people suspected to have been in contact with infected individuals are providing false phone numbers and addresses and refusing to abide by mandatory two-week quarantines.
Authorities have said that a new spike of COVID-19 cases in North Macedonia this week was the result of people ignoring instructions to wear protective masks and gloves and to maintain social distance.
In response to the spike in cases, North Macedonia’s government has imposed an almost total curfew in four regions from 9 p.m. Thursday to 5 a.m. Monday. Only hospitals and pharmacies are open.
The country now has 2,915 confirmed coronavirus cases, including 151 deaths.
COLOMBO, Sri Lanka – Sri Lanka says it will be reopen for international tourists starting August 1 after a “successful containment” of the novel coronavirus.
The country’s airports had been closed since March because of the global pandemic.
Sri Lanka Tourism said in a statement on Saturday that all precautionary measures recommended by global health and travel authorities have been put in place to keep visitors and residents safe.
The statement says only online visa applications will be accepted and all tourists must show proof they tested negative for the virus 72 hours before arriving in Sri Lanka. Visitors also must have a confirmed travel itinerary, a return plane ticket and a travel insurance with health and hospitalization coverage.
There will be mandatory health screening and testing at the airport. Tourists will be lodged at a nearby hotel pending COVID-19 test results.
Sri Lanka has reported 1,810 confirmed cases, including 11 deaths.
MADRID — Masterpieces by Velázquez, Goya, and Picasso can be enjoyed once again now that the most important art museums in Spain’s capital have reopened after almost three months closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Madrid’s Museo del Prado opened its doors on Saturday for 1,800 visitors, who had to wear face masks and have their temperature taken before viewing what the museum called its “most iconic works.”
The special exhibition titled “Reunited” includes over 190 works that were relocated inside the huge museum to streamline the flow of visitors, who must stay on a fixed route past Velázquez’s “Las Meninas,” Fra Angelico’s “The Annunciation”, and Rubens’ “Saturn Devouring a Son.”
El Prado had not been shuttered for such a long time since the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.
The city’s other two leading museums, the Reina Sofía and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, also welcomed back art lovers.
MOSCOW — Moscow residents clad in face masks and gloves have ventured into Red Square for an outdoor book market, a small sign of the Russian capital’s gradual efforts to open up amid coronavirus concerns.
Although the city’s ban on public gatherings continues, authorities gave permission to hold the market under tight limitations. Visitation to the outdoor bookstalls is limited to 6,000 people a day, divided into five two-hour shifts, and all the shoppers had to apply for permission and receive QR codes for admittance.
Many of the attendees on Saturday appeared unconcerned about social distancing as they browsed, but market workers periodically sprayed the books and shelves with disinfectant.
JAKARTA, Indonesia — Indonesia reported nearly 1,000 new cases of the virus on Saturday, a new single-day high for the country that brought its total caseload past 30,000, as the government unveiled a stimulus package worth $47.6 billion to anchor the virus-battered economy.
The health ministry said there were 993 newly infected people over the past 24 hours. Indonesia has confirmed 30,514 cases, including 1,801 deaths, the most in Southeast Asia.
Finance Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati said a 677.2 trillion rupiah ($47.6 billion) stimulus package aims to strengthen the health care system, direct more spending toward social protection to boost consumption, and provide incentives to rescue Indonesian businesses from bankruptcy and workers from layoffs.
BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel says more than a third of the stimulus package agreed by her government this week is devoted to tackling future challenges such as climate change.
Germany’s three governing parties announced a 130 billion-euro ($146 billion) package Wednesday to revive the economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
In her weekly video address Saturday, Merkel said that 50 billion euros alone would go toward boosting the use of hydrogen as a clean alternative to fossil fuels, encouraging the purchase of electric vehicles, equipping schools with IT devices and researching future technologies such as quantum computing.
Merkel acknowledged that Germany will have to borrow money to pay for the additional spending, but insisted that “now, during the worst economic crisis that (post-war) Germany has experienced, it’s right to act with bravery and resolve.”
MOSCOW — Russia reported its second-highest one-day death toll from COVID-19 even as the number of new coronavirus infections remained steady.
The national coronavirus task force said Saturday that 197 people died over the past day, sharply up from 144 a day earlier. The highest one-day death toll was 232 on May 29.
There were 8,855 new infection cases overall. Russia has recorded more than 458,000 cases, including 5,725 deaths.
Although Moscow and its surroundings have been the epicenter of the pandemic, accounting for about half of the infections and deaths, the figures reported Saturday showed only about one-third of the new infections were in the capital area.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — After loosening some restrictions, Saudi Arabia on Saturday reimposed a 3 p.m. curfew on residents in its second-largest city of Jiddah and suspended prayers in mosques there again.
The decision comes as confirmed cases of the coronavirus continue to rise, including an alarming spike in the number of critical cases.
The kingdom has recorded more than 95,000 cases, including 642 deaths.
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan reported 97 more coronavirus deaths on Saturday, the highest 24-hour increase to its fatalities, as authorities urged volunteers to motivate people to adhere to social distancing regulations to contain the spread of the virus.
According to Usman Dar, who heads the “Corona Relief Tiger Force,” about 1 million volunteers have signed up recently in response to the government’s call to help the country’s most vulnerable people during the coronavirus outbreak.
He told reporters that 165,348 volunteers are currently assisting authorities to contain the spread of the virus.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has said the volunteers will also be used to deliver food and medicine to needy and poor people if needed.
Pakistan also reported 4,734 new virus cases, raising its overall infections to 93,983.
With the latest 97 virus-related deaths, Pakistan’s overall fatalities have jumped to 1,935.
PARIS — Paris police have banned a third protest that had been planned for Saturday to condemn alleged police abuses in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Police cited a risk of spreading COVID-19 and fears of public unrest. The police decree noted that social distancing regulations ban gatherings of more than 10 people.
Online posts called for people to gather Saturday afternoon in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
Paris police had previously also banned two other planned gatherings Saturday outside the US Embassy.
NEW DELHI — India surpassed Italy as the sixth worst-hit by the coronavirus pandemic after another biggest single-day spike in confirmed infections.
The Health Ministry reported 9,887 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total to 236,657.
Most of the new cases are in rural areas following the return of hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who left cities and towns after the lockdown in late March.
The lockdown is now largely being enforced in high-risk areas while authorities have partially restored train services and domestic flights and allowed shops and manufacturing to reopen. Shopping malls and religious places are due to open on Monday with restrictions to avoid large gatherings.
BEIJING — China is ordering its highest level of protection for the armadillo-like pangolin as part of its crackdown on the wildlife trade following the global coronavirus pandemic.
While the virus is believed to have originated in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, most scientists say it was most likely transmitted from bats to humans via an intermediary animal such as the pangolin.
The order Friday from the National Forestry and Grassland Administration does not explicitly mention the virus outbreak as a reason for the measure, but the timing appears to indicate that was a consideration.
Pangolin meat is considered a delicacy by some Chinese and its scales are used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Other animals protected at China’s top level include giant pandas, Tibetan antelopes and red-crowned cranes.
BEIJING — China’s capital is lowering its emergency response level to the second-lowest starting Saturday for the coronavirus pandemic.
That will lift most restrictions on people traveling from Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei, where the virus first appeared late last year. They will no longer face 14-day mandatory quarantines and other forms of monitoring, and those currently in such situations will be allowed to return to their normal lives.
Beijing residential compounds will not be required to conduct temperature checks and masks no longer must be worn for outdoor activities. Kindergartens will reopen and other grades still suspended will restart classes.
Beijing has reported no new cases of local transmission in at least 50 days and as many as 90 days in some districts.
SANTA FE, N.M. — The New Mexico Supreme Court is temporarily suspending consumer debt collection such as garnishing wages and seizing assets in response to the coronavirus pandemic and its related economic downturn.
The court on Friday ordered the temporary suspension in a new effort to alleviate economic hardship amid a surge in unemployment and uncertainties.
The decision comes as a virus outbreak continues to race through privately run prison facilities for state and federal inmates in Otero County. There have been 583 positive tests among inmates there.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak