The Latest: Trump uses law to prevent export of supplies
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:
—CDC recommending Americans cover their faces when leaving home.
—Trudeau warns U.S. not to block 3M from sending respirators to Canada.
—Chancellor Angela Merkel urging Germans to stay home over Easter.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is directing FEMA to prevent export of N95 masks and surgical gloves under the Defense Production Act.
Trump says the move is necessary to assure that the medical supplies are available for domestic medical use.
The move comes one day after the White House announced Trump invoked the Defense Production Act to compel Minnesota-based 3M to make as many N95 masks as the Federal Emergency Management Agency determines are needed.
Trump also announced Friday that his administration is encouraging many Americans to wear face masks in public. He stressed that the recommendation is optional and is conceding he will not be complying with it.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Gov. John Bel Edwards released New Orleans regional modeling that showed even as many people are following his stay-home order, the rate of strict compliance remains too low to keep from daily surges in new hospitalizations that will strain Louisiana’s ability to care for all patients.
Nearly 10,300 people have tested positive for the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus, according to figures released Friday by Louisiana’s health department. The state has the nation’s third-highest rate of coronavirus infections per capita, authorities say. Despite Edwards’ limit on public gatherings, New Orleans Police Superintendent Sean Ferguson said the department has responded to more than 800 calls regarding gatherings of people in just over a week.
WASHINGTON — The White House says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that Americans cover their faces when leaving the home, especially around other people. But President Donald Trump is calling it “voluntary” and says he himself won’t wear a mask.
Says Trump: “I’m choosing not to do it.”
The latest guidance suggests that Americans use makeshift coverings, such as T-shirts, scarves or bandanas to cover their noses and mouths. Medical-grade masks, especially N95 masks, are to be reserved for those on the front lines of trying to contain the pandemic.
The policy change comes as public health officials are concerned that those without symptoms can spread the virus which causes COVID-19.
WASHINGTON — A Pentagon spokesman says Defense Secretary Mark Esper is looking at the possibility of accepting COVID-19 patients aboard the Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort in New York harbor.
The ship, which began seeing non-COVID-19 patients on Wednesday, has been intended as a trauma treatment facility to take pressure off local New York hospitals.
Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman says there have been fewer trauma patients than expected, and the Pentagon, in conjunction with FEMA and New York state and city officials, is considering whether to start accepting COVID-19 patients. He said a decision is “not imminent.” He said the Comfort is not ideally suited to handle virus patients.
“It’s not an environment built for handling infectious diseases en masse,” Hoffman said.
He said it would be “very difficult” to keep the virus from the non-COVID patients on the ship and would limit the Navy’s ability to use the Comfort later elsewhere in the country if needed because it would have to undergo an “extensive deep cleaning” before moving.
HOUSTON — Immigration lawyers say the U.S. government has unexpectedly started to release detained migrants in Louisiana amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Several lawyers say they have been notified that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would start releasing their clients, some of whom had been previously denied parole. Nathalia Dickson, a lawyer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, says she knows of 16 people who are being released from one jail.
ICE spokesman Bryan Cox says the threat of the coronavirus is one factor in an ongoing custody review process, but denied there had been a “policy change.”
The agency has faced pressure to reduce its population of roughly 36,000 detainees, about half of whom are accused of civil violations rather than a criminal offense. Experts have warned that the coronavirus outbreak could particularly harm jails where social distancing and other practices to control the spread are difficult.
ICE says six detainees have been confirmed to have COVID-19, none in Louisiana.
SEATTLE — State mental health officials plan to release as many as 60 patients from Washington’s largest psychiatric hospital in order to reduce some of the stress that the new coronavirus has placed on staff at the 850-bed facility.
Sixteen workers and six patients at Western State Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19 and one patient died.
Moving some of the civil-commitment patients to group homes or supported-living facilities will help relieve some of the strain on the system, said Sean Murphy, Behavioral Health assistant secretary.
Western State already faced staffing shortages before COVID-19, he said, and after the outbreak, they released some of the high-risk staff for their protection, which made the situation more difficult.
PARIS — France’s coronavirus death count has jumped to more than 6,500, up by more than 1,000, since the pandemic began spreading around France.
Authorities have started including victims in homes for the aged. The chief of the country’s national health agency, Jerome Salomon, says reports from 3,000 establishments for the aged — still far from the total — show 1,416 residents died in the facilities from COVID-19.
The rising figures were announced as 160,000 police officers were deployed to ensure France’s strict confinement measures are respected at what normally would be the start of spring vacation.
CHICAGO — The American Medical Association is urging all U.S. governors to impose stay-at-home orders to fight the spread of COVID-19.
“It is vital that states keep residents at home to avoid overwhelming our health care systems and depleting the equipment, resources and manpower needed to care for the influx of critically ill patients,”’ the AMA said in a letter to the governors signed by the group’s CEO, Dr. James Madara.
The AMA also wants governors to enact emergency orders to close non-essential businesses, limit non-essential activities and prohibit gatherings.
Physical distancing is the only effective mechanism to stop the spread of the virus, the group said.
MOSCOW — Russia’s air transportation agency says it is banning flights that were to bring Russians back to the country amid the coronavirus pandemic, aiming to curtail infections at home.
The statement reported by Russian news agencies late Friday comes after the last-minute callback of an Aeroflot flight to New York from Moscow that was to repatriate Americans and the cancellation of a flight from New York to Moscow.
The statement says the move is “to maximize the protection of the health of Russian citizens and to limit the new wave of imported cases of coronavirus infection.”
NICOSIA, Cyprus — Orthodox Christian faithful took to their balconies in Cyprus’ coastal city of Limassol to chant a centuries-old Orthodox hymn in honor of health workers battling against the coronavirus.
With many holding candles, the faithful tuned in to radio and TV broadcasts of services held Friday evening at empty churches to chant along to the hymn and appeal for divine help in overcoming the virus.
Dedicated to Jesus Christ’s mother as “the champion leader,” the hymn is part of month-long Salutations to the Virgin Mary services.
VATICAN CITY — Italians sitting down for dinner and turning on the evening news were greeted by Pope Francis.
RAI state TV broadcast a recorded message from the pope, who said: “Let us pray to the Lord for all those who are tried in Italy and in the world” by the COVID-19 pandemic. Said Francis: “This evening I have the possibility to enter your homes” and asked viewers’ permission to chat with them a little.
Francis said he was thinking of the lively children forced with the rest of their families to stay home during government-ordered lockdowns aimed at containing the spread of coronavirus infections. He said “in his heart” he is holding those with family members sick with COVID-19 or who had died.
Francis will celebrate solemn Holy Week ceremonies without the public, starting with Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper says the state has received about one-third of what it requested from the National Strategic Stockpile and has been told not to expect any more any time soon.
Cooper underscored the difficult situation that state and local governments face in trying to resupply themselves by placing equipment orders.
“Right now, governments at all levels, hospitals, law enforcement and others are competing against each other for a scarce amount of personal protective equipment,” he said. “That means our buyers are placing orders nonstop. But most of them aren’t getting filled. There simply isn’t enough on the market to go around.”
WASHINGTON — The White House is stepping up precautions to protect the president and vice president from contracting the new coronavirus.
Starting Friday, anyone who is expected to be in “close proximity” to either President Donald Trump or Vice President Mike Pence will be given a quick COVID-19 test “to evaluate for pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic carriers status to limit inadvertent transmission.”
That’s according to White House spokesman Judd Deere.
All visitors to the White House complex already have their temperatures taken when entering the building and if they will be in close proximity to either Trump or Pence.
Trump took the new COVID-19 test on Thursday and the White House doctor said results were back in 15 minutes. He tested negative.
ROME — Lombardy’s hospitals are beginning to lighten up a little, says the health commissioner of the northern Italian region which has been the epicenter of Italy’s devastating COVID-19 outbreak.
Commissioner Giulio Gallera notes on Friday that the number of arrivals at Lombardy’s emergency rooms and hospital admissions were decreasing. He attributes the encouraging numbers to citizens heeding the strict rules of a national stay-at-home decree and even tighter regional rules. He is urging no let-up in the following of the rules.
MEXICO CITY — The coronavirus pandemic is even closing the taps on Corona beer — along with most other brews across Mexico.
Major breweries announced they are suspending operations in line with government orders for non-essential businesses to keep their workers at home.
Grupo Modelo, the maker of Corona and other popular brands, said it will suspend its operations at plants around the country by Sunday. The company pointed out in a statement that thousands of farmers depend on it buying their grain. It said had a plan that would allow it to continue production with 75% of its workforce at home if the government decides to allow it to continue operating.
Dutch brewer Heineken also announced Friday that it was suspending production at its plants and would stop distribution by Sunday in Mexico.
Some Mexican states have also imposed dry laws that restrict the sale of alcohol during the health crisis.
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel is urging Germans to stay home over Easter and says it would be “absolutely irresponsible” for her to set a date now for the loosening of restrictions meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Germany has largely shut down public life and banned gatherings of more than two people in public. Those restrictions will apply until at least April 19 and are to be reviewed after Easter.
Merkel, speaking in her first video message after emerging from two weeks of quarantine at home, says this will be a “very different” Easter and impressed on her compatriots that “even short trips inside Germany, to the seaside or the mountains or relatives, can’t happen over Easter this year.”
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says it would be a mistake for the United States to block 3M from sending respirators to Canada.
3M said Friday the Trump administration has requested 3M cease exporting respirators that they currently manufacture in the U.S. to Canada and Latin America. The company says there are significant humanitarian implications of ceasing respirator supplies to health care workers in Canada and Latin America, where 3M is a critical supplier of respirators.
Trudeau noted the U.S. also receives essential medical supplies and personnel from Canada and says they are making that point to the Trump administration. He says that message is getting through.
The prime minister says he is confident that the close and deep relationship between Canada and the U.S. will hold strong and that will not have to see interruptions in supply chains in either direction.
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