The Latest: UN approves resolution recognizing virus effects

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:

— U.N. General Assembly unanimously approves resolution recognizing “unprecedented effects” of coronavirus pandemic.

— Patriots team plane returns from China with most of order of 1 million masks.

— President Trump considers intervening to stop release of some prisoners.

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UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. General Assembly has unanimously approved a resolution recognizing “the unprecedented effects” of the coronavirus pandemic and calling for “intensified international cooperation to contain, mitigate and defeat” COVID-19.

The 193-member world body did not approve a rival resolution sponsored by Russia calling for U.N. solidarity in the face of the challenges posed by COVID-19 and urging countries not to apply unilateral sanctions without U.N. Security Council approval in order to tackle the virus.

Under new voting rules instituted because the General Assembly isn’t holding meetings, if a single country objects a resolution is defeated.

Diplomats said the European Union, United Kingdom, United States and Ukraine objected to the Russian draft, and the General Assembly was extending the deadline for objections until 6 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. It wasn’t clear if Russia would make changes to try to win approval.

General Assembly President Tijjani Muhammad-Bande sent a letter to all U.N. member nations Thursday night informing them that there were no objections to the resolution entitled “Global Solidarity to fight the coronavirus disease” sponsored by Ghana, Indonesia, Liechtenstein, Norway, Singapore and Switzerland, and Liechtenstein. He said the resolution was approved and is in effect.

The resolution also recognizes COVID-19’s “severe disruption to societies and economies, as well as to global travel and commerce, and the devastating impact on the livelihood of people,” and that “the poorest and most vulnerable are the hardest hit.”

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BOSTON — The New England Patriots’ private team plane returned to Boston from China carrying most of an order of 1 million masks critical to health care providers fighting to control the spread of the coronavirus.

“This shipment comes at a critical time as we prepare for an anticipated surge in the coming weeks ahead,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said. “What we were able to accomplish with this particular mission will go a long way forward in this fight.”

Baker secured the N95 masks from Chinese manufacturers, but had no way of getting them to the U.S. Baker said Thursday an earlier order for 3 million masks had been confiscated at the Port of New York and this time he wanted a direct humanitarian delivery to the state.

In an interview with Patriots.com radio Thursday, Kraft Sports and Entertainment chief operating officer Jim Nolan said the Chinese government didn’t sign off on the trip until March 27. He said the hurdles included legal logistics that were only cleared thanks to cooperation involving multiple state, U.S. and international entities. Nolan said the Patriots received permission to land in China and got a waiver of a 14-day quarantine because the pilots didn’t get off the plane.

Baker said some masks will go to New York and Rhode island. The story was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is considering intervening to stop the release of some prisoners amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Correctional facilities in states such as California, Michigan and Pennsylvania have begun releasing certain inmates as the prisons face a shortage of medical supplies.

Trump said Thursday that “we don’t like it.”

The president added that “we’re looking to see if I have the right to stop it in some cases.”

He did not elaborate what measures, or under what legal authority, he would take to stop or reverse the releases.

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DETROIT — A Detroit bus driver who had expressed anger on Facebook about a coughing passenger has died from COVID-19, officials said Thursday.

Jason Hargrove felt ill about four days after posting a passionate video on social media on March 21. He died Wednesday, said Glenn Tolbert, the head of the drivers union.

Hargrove posted a profanity-laced video complaining about a woman whom he said had repeatedly coughed while on his bus. The coronavirus can spread through coughs. The woman was not in the video.

Hargrove said drivers are “public workers doing our job, trying to make a honest living, take care of our families.”

“For you to get on the bus … and cough several times without covering up your mouth and you know (we’re) in the middle of a pandemic — that lets me know that some folks don’t care,” Hargrove said. “At some point in time, we’ve got to draw the line and say enough is enough. I feel violated.”

On March 17, the city eliminated fares, promised more cleaning and told bus riders to enter and exit from the rear door only. The changes occurred after drivers declined to work that day to protest conditions.

Mayor Mike Duggan said “everybody in America” should watch Hargrove’s video.

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WASHINGTON — White House coronavirus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx says incoming infection data suggests not enough Americans are abiding by guidelines in the national “call to action” to stem the spread of the virus.

Administration officials say the United States’ infection and death rate from the virus is akin to what hard-hit Italy is facing. Italy has a population of about 60 million and has recorded nearly 14,000 deaths and 115,000 infections. The United States, with a population of about 327 million, has recorded more than 5,800 deaths and more than 240,000 infections.

Birx noted that Spain, Italy, France, and Germany have begun “to bend their curves.” But she says Americans will need to do a better job abiding by social distancing guidelines issued by the White House so the U.S. can do the same.

The White House issued its social distancing guidelines on March 16. Americans were advised to work from home when possible, cancel onsite learning and frequently wash hands.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s administration is looking to crack down on a growing black market of medical supplies.

The national Defense Production Act policy coordinator, Peter Navarro, says there is a “black market springing up” to drive up prices of protective gear.

He said the federal government would step in to stop the practice.

But Trump added that states would remain the primary purchaser of medical supplies and that the federal government would remain in a backup role.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act to rapidly expand domestic manufacturing of N95 protective masks by Minnesota-based by 3M to assist first responders.

A memorandum signed by Trump calls for DHS Secretary Chad Wolf to “use any and all authority available” under the act to acquire masks produced by 3M Co. FEMA Administrator Rear Adm. John Polowczyk is charged to determine the number of masks needed, according to the memo.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told lawmakers in late February that the U.S. needed a stockpile of about 300 million N95 face masks for medical workers on the front lines of stemming the spread of the virus.

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WASHINGTON — The White House says it is prepared to launch a $350 billion lending program on Friday that is intended to help struggling small businesses that have been affected by the coronavirus catastrophe.

Small Business Administration administrator Jovita Carranza said the paycheck protection program will help small companies keep employees on payroll and remain afloat.

Lenders have raised concerns that they won’t be able to handle the crush of applications as businesses scurry for a cash infusion and help keeping employees on the payroll. The Labor Department announced that unemployment claims soared to 6.6 million last week, more than double the previous week.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration decided to raise interest rate to 1% instead of 50 basis points to make the program more attractive to community lenders.

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NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio has asked New Yorkers to wear a face covering when they go outside and will be near other people.

He cited research showing asymptomatic people could be spreading the coronavirus without realizing it. De Blasio said at a press briefing that until now, “there just wasn’t evidence” to support the move.

“When you put on that face covering, you’re protecting everyone else,” he said.

The mayor said it could be a scarf or a bandanna or anything homemade, but it should not be a surgical mask needed by front-line medical workers.

A recent study by researchers in Singapore became the latest to estimate that somewhere around 10% of new infections may be sparked by people who carry the virus but have not yet suffered its flu-like symptoms.

In response to that study and others, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed how it defined the risk of infection for Americans. The agency’s new guidance targeted people who have no symptoms but were exposed to others with known or suspected infections. It essentially says that anyone may be a carrier, whether that person has symptoms or not.

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WASHINGTON — The Congressional Budget Office on Thursday projected the U.S. unemployment rate will exceed 10% this quarter, while the economy could shrink by an annualized rate exceeding 28%.

The estimates don’t take into account the massive economic rescue package that Congress passed a week ago. They could be much larger.

CBO Director Phillip Swagel wrote in a blog post that “CBO expects that the economy will contract sharply during the second quarter of 2020 as a result of the continued disruption of commerce stemming from the spread of the novel coronavirus.”

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TORONTO — The mayor of Canada’s most populous city says anyone caught walking within 2 meters (6 feet) of another person in a Toronto public park or square may be subject to a fine of up to $5,000 Canadian (U.S. $3,536).

Mayor John Tory says the public has been warned many times and the willful disobedience needs to stop.

Tory says parks and public spaces are where the problems are now. He says people who don’t live with each other need to separate themselves.

The mayor says he doesn’t want Toronto to become New York, which has been the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States.

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WASHINGTON — The Environmental Protection Agency says it will give Americans more time to comment on its proposal to change the way it regulates public health threats, after a storm of complaints that it was pushing through the rollback during the coronavirus crisis.

The agency said it would accept public comment through May 18, a four-week extension.

The rule at issue would require disclosure of more of the raw data behind any public health studies that federal authorities consider in deciding whether to regulate a hazardous substance. Critics say it would weaken regulation overall, by potentially requiring regulators to disregard broad health studies based on confidential patient or client data.

Democratic lawmakers, state attorney generals, environmental groups and others objected when the agency released its latest version of the proposal in mid-March, and set a 30-day comment period.

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WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is formalizing new guidance to recommend that many, if not almost all, Americans wear face coverings when leaving home, in an effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The recommendations were still being finalized Thursday. They would apply at least to those who live in areas hard-hit by community transmission of the virus that causes COVID-19.

A person familiar with the White House coronavirus task force’s discussion said officials would suggest that non-medical masks, T-shirts or bandannas be used to cover the nose and mouth when outside the home — for instance, at the grocery store or pharmacy. Medical-grade masks, particularly short-in-supply N95 masks, would be reserved for those dealing directly with the sick.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the proposed guidance before its public release.

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Passengers aboard two cruise ships that have had coronavirus cases and deaths have been given the green light to disembark at a Florida port.

Broward County Commissioner Michael Udine said Thursday that an agreement had been reached between local, state and federal officials and Carnival Corp., which owns the Zaandam and the Rotterdam. And Port Everglades traffic records list the two ships’ arrival as “confirmed.”

The cruise line Holland America is operating the ships. Holland America says 45 passengers who are mildly sick will stay on board until they recover, but that it needs 10 people to be taken to a Fort Lauderdale hospital for immediate medical care.

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NEW YORK — The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide passed the 1 million threshold Thursday as the pandemic swept across the globe.

Johns Hopkins University’s website showed the milestone was hit Thursday afternoon. The count represents confirmed cases, but the true numbers are believed to be much higher.

Nearly 51,500 people have died from the virus.

The United States accounts for about 236,000 of the confirmed cases — more than any other country, according to the tally.

The milestone came on the same day that figures showed more than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week in the latest indication that the pandemic is ravaging global economies.

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UNITED NATIONS — United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says the U.N. is facing a cash crisis because of non-payment of dues by member states, which has been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic.

The U.N. chief said in a letter to the 193 U.N. member nations obtained Thursday by The Associated Press that outstanding payments for regular budget operations have now reached $2.27 billion “and we have no clear indication of when these payments might be received.”

Guterres said “unpredictable cash inflows, exacerbated by the global crisis posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, seriously threaten” the U.N.’s ability to do its work.

He announced a temporary hiring freeze and urged all countries to pay their dues and adopt measures to enable the U.N. to better cope with a cash crisis.

The U.N.’s annual operating budget for 2020 is nearly $3.1 billion, and Guterres said the gap between its planned and actual collections is already more than $220 million.

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SEATTLE — Federal authorities have proposed a $611,000 fine for a Seattle-area nursing home connected to at least 40 coronavirus deaths.

State regulators and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services conducted an inspection of the Life Care Center of Kirkland on March 16, finding serious infractions that they said placed residents in immediate danger.

Authorities said Life Care had at least partially fixed the most serious problems by the time they conducted follow-up inspection last weekend. In a letter to Life Care on Wednesday, CMS proposed a fine of $611,000, but said that could be adjusted up or down based on how Life Care continues to correct remaining problems.

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RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia long-term care facility that tested all of its residents because of the scope of its coronavirus outbreak announced more deaths Thursday, bringing the total to 16, but said many residents who tested positive showed no signs of being ill.

The testing more than doubled the number of confirmed cases at Canterbury Rehabilitation & Healthcare Center, according to a statement from the facility. Ninety-two in-house or hospitalized residents tested positive, the statement said, up from a total earlier in the week of 41.

Of those who tested positive, 53, or about 58%, showed no sign of being ill.

Canterbury’s medical director, Dr. Jim Wright, said in an interview this week that at one point in the outbreak, staff were triaging patients in a way he never expected to see in the United States.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Categories: National News