COVID-19 world update: Enforceable quarantine in NYC?; France orders 1 billion masks

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.

Black Press Media posted these files from the Associated Press at 5 p.m., Saturday, March 28.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

  • Spain’s deadliest day has over 800 deaths, over 8,000 news cases.
  • Trump raises idea of quarantine for New York, New Jersey, Connecticut.
  • Italy’s COVID-19 deaths down slightly from previous day.
  • Future of EU at risk, Spain says
  • France orders 1 billion protective masks

Trump floats 2-week quarantine of NYC, Gov. Cuomo calls it ‘federal declaration of war’

WASHINGTON —President Donald Trump said Saturday that he may order an “enforceable quarantine” for New York City and surrounding areas in New Jersey and Connecticut —prompting surprise and shock from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“This would be an enforceable quarantine. And, you know, I’d rather not do it, but we may need it,” Trump said.

Cuomo likened such a quarantine to a “federal declaration of war” on the city and state. “It would be chaos and mayhem. … I don’t think it is plausible. I don’t think it is legal,” he said hours later on CNN.

Such an order would be the most sweeping move so far in the effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 in the United States. In China, a two-month lockdown in Wuhan, where the new coronavirus emerged, began easing only on Saturday.

New York has roughly half of the nation’s confirmed cases.

“We’re looking at it and will be making a decision. A lot of the states that are infected — they’ve asked me if I’d look at it so we’re going to look at it,” Trump told reporters before boarding Air Force One for a short flight to Norfolk, Va., for a visit to a Navy hospital ship headed to New York. “It would be for a short time.”

Cuomo’s immediate reaction: No thanks.

“I don’t like the sound of it,” he told reporters in Albany. “I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable, and from a medical point of view I don’t know what you would be accomplishing.

France orders a billion protective masks

PARIS — France has ordered more than one billion protective masks, mainly from China, to try to make up for a shortage that is being felt in nations fighting the coronavirus pandemic, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced.

But French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, noting tensions in world markets, suggested at a news conference that traffickers and black marketeers are now in the mask business, given the competition in procuring the vital necessity for health workers.

Veran said that an “air bridge” to China was being put in place, but “I will have the certitude (the masks arrived) … only the minute the planes are on the tarmac.” He said one major difficulty is that countries already hit by the virus remain vigilant that should the epidemic return they are equipped.

As of Saturday, France had 37,575 confirmed cases and 2,314 deaths — with 319 new deaths in the last 24 hours, health authorities said.

The prime minister warned the French that “the fight has just begun.”

Infant dies of COVID-19

CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker says an infant with COVID-19 has died and an investigation is underway to determine the cause of death.

Officials didn’t release other information about the infant, who was from Cook County, which includes Chicago, including whether the child had other health issues.

The risk of death and severe illness from COVID-19 is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. In most cases, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization.

Children have made up a small fraction of coronavirus cases worldwide. A letter published in the New England Journal of Medicine by Chinese researchers earlier this month reported the death of a 10-month-old with COVID-19. The infant had a bowel blockage and organ failure, and died four weeks after being hospitalized.

Separate research published in the journal Pediatrics traced 2,100 infected children in China and noted one death, a 14-year old. The study found less than 6% of children were seriously ill.

Italy: COVID-19 crisis an “appointment with history”

ROME — Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte is hoping the European Union will put together a cohesive response to the plight of countries like his, whose economy has been crippled by the coronavirus outbreak.

Conte vowed to fight “to my very last drop of sweat” to prompt a “strong and cohesive European response.” Conte echoed an appeal the same evening by Spain, which is also reeling under a devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

Conte called the crisis “an appointment with history. Europe must say if it’s ready for this appointment” to effectively deal with social and economic shock wreaked by the pandemic.

Germany and the Netherlands are leading other EU nations in resisting calls for an issuance of joint European debt, colloquially dubbed “coronabonds.” Italian Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri expressed dismay that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in an interview described the bond idea as a “only a slogan.”

Crisis may delay Polish elections

WARSAW, Poland — Poland President Andrzej Duda says the May 10 date for the presidential election may not be realistic if the coronavirus spread continues and Poland remains under the current strict isolation regime for the citizens.

Duda’s words were the first sign from the ruling team that the elections may not be held as planned.

Earlier Saturday, the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party had the parliament approve changes to the electoral law to allow sick, quarantined and elderly people to vote remotely, in a clear preparation for May election.

Florida governor supports NYC quarantine

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican and close ally of President Donald Trump, tells reporters he had spoken with the president about the possibility of a coronavirus quarantine for the New York City area.

DeSantis says Florida will soon set up a checkpoint along Interstate 95 to screen travellers from that area, similar to one already in place along Interstate 10 to screen people from Louisiana. Many airports in Florida also are screening travellers from certain areas, requiring travellers to self-isolate for 14 days.

“I think whatever works is what we need to do,” DeSantis said. “We’re either fighting the virus or we’re not. The more people are being shuttled around the country, I just think it makes it more difficult. I think it would make it a lot easier if we didn’t have folks coming in from hot zones.”

Some South Carolina cities defy governor’s opposition to stay-at-home orders

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Leaders of several South Carolina cities say they are defying Gov. Henry McMaster’s opposition to stay-at-home orders and Attorney General Alan Wilson’s opinion that only McMaster can issue such measures.

In Folly Beach, where town officials had removed their checkpoint and had allowed vacation rentals to resume, the city council unanimously voted to re-establish the checkpoint and ban any new short-term rentals beginning Sunday.

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin says on Twitter that his city’s stay-at-home order would take effect at 12:01 a.m. Sunday as scheduled. He says Wilson’s Friday opinion is “incorrect on a constitutional and statutory basis.”

Italy frees up $400 million euros for food coupons and food aid

ROME — Three weeks into national containment measures that have shut down most shops and non-essential industry, many Italians are hurting for food money during the lockdown amid the country’s devastating COVID-19 outbreak.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte told the nation he has signed a decree freeing up 400 million euros ($440 million) for food coupons and packages of food aid. Volunteers from Italy’s national Civil Protection agency will bring food to those who must stay at home because they are in quarantine or ill with the coronavirus.

Conte appealed to large supermarket chains to give discounts of 5-10% to people presenting the special coupons. Said Conte: “People are suffering psychologically, they’re not used to staying in their homes. But they are also suffering economically.”

Conte declined to say when the lockdown could be ended or eased.

Germany: 12 die in nursing home

BERLIN — Twelve residents of a nursing home in northern Germany have died after being infected with the coronavirus.

Authorities say the 12 residents of the home in Wolfsburg died since Monday, news agency dpa reported. Mayor Klaus Mohrs said several hadn’t shown symptoms of COVID-19.

Local officials said 72 of the roughly 165 residents had been infected with the coronavirus, and they were separated from those who tested negative.

Another nursing home in the southern German city of Wuerzburg also has reported 12 deaths.

Germany has confirmed more than 56,000 infections with the coronavirus, including 403 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. That is a lower death rate than in many other countries.

First coronavirus deaths in Rhode Island

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rhode Island announced its first two deaths from the coronavirus on the same day that the state National Guard was expected to go door to door in coastal communities to find visitors from New York.

One person in their 80s died Friday night, the other person in their 70s died Saturday, the state Department of Health said.

There are now only three states with zero reported deaths: Hawaii, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The Guard was said to be asking people if they are visiting from New York and telling them about the mandatory 14-day quarantine for people from the state. The measure is needed to help control the spread of the new coronavirus because the New York City area is the epicenter of the pandemic in the U.S., Gov. Gina Raimondo said Friday.

Spain: Future of the EU is at stake

MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez says the future of the European Union is at stake if it fails to make a vigorous, united response to the coronavirus outbreak devastating the bloc’s southern flank.

“It’s Europe’s time to act. Europe is at risk,” Sanchez says in a nationally televised address.

Sanchez says the EU could not repeat the hard-love austerity strategy it employed during the 2008 recession when countries like Greece and Portugal were forced to request a bailout and slash their budgets.

He calls for a “new Marshall Plan” to help lighten the burden on the hardest-hit countries and cushion the inevitable blow coming from the drop in economic activity.

Italy and Spain lead the world in deaths reported from the virus with more than 15,000 between them.

Spain: Commuting ban starts Monday

MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has announced his government will order a two-week ban on commuting to all non-essential businesses starting on Monday.

Sanchez says in a publicly televised address that all workers are ordered to remain at home “as if it were a weekend” to “intensify” efforts to stem the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Spain is approaching the end of the second week of stay-at-home rules and the closing of most stores, but workers were allowed to go to offices and factories if they were unable to work from home.

Spain reported 832 deaths Saturday for a total of 5,690 fatalities, to go with 72,248 infections. Its health authorities say, however, that the rate of infection growth appears to be slowing.

New Orleans one of U.S.’s COVID-19 hot spots

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration is asking for donations of protective equipment.

The donations can be dropped off at Salvation Army drop boxes next to New Orleans Fire Department stations. Items being accepted include masks, gloves, disposable medical gowns, goggles and face shields.

“Like many places around the world, orders of PPE equipment made back in November 2019 have yet to be filled and our supply is running low. Any additional equipment the public can donate at this time will help keep our first responders safe and out on the streets,” New Orleans Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Collin Arnold said.

New Orleans is one of the nation’s hot spots for coronavirus.

Italy’s COVID-19 deaths reduce slightly from previous day

ROME — Italy’s COVID-19 deaths are down slightly from the previous day.

Civil Protection officials said there were 889 deaths in a 24-hour period ending Saturday evening in the country, where intensive care units have been overwhelmed at the heart of the outbreak in the north. That compares to 969 a day earlier, which was a one-day high in the country which has the world’s highest number of deaths of persons with confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

The day-to-day rise in new cases was just under 6,000, about the same as the previous day’s figure. Overall, Italy has at least 92,472 cases of COVID-19 and days ago surpassed the total of China, where the outbreak began in early 2020.

The current national lock-down decree expires on April 3, but health experts have said the need to try to contain contagion in the outbreak will likely last weeks beyond that.

U.N. donates protective masks to NYC

UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has announced the donation of 250,000 protective face masks, which had just been located in United Nations storage facilities, to the United States for use in hard-hit New York City.

The U.N. chief says: “These masks, in surplus to United Nations requirements, will be given to the medical professionals in New York City who have been working courageously, selflessly, and tirelessly in response to the spread of COVID-19 across the boroughs in the hope that they play some small role in saving lives.”

Guterres says the United Nations and the U.S. Mission to the U.N. are working with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office to ensure swift delivery of the masks to medical facilities around the city.

“On behalf of the U.N. community and the diplomatic corps, we sincerely hope this modest donation makes a difference,” Guterres said.

Illnesses in Detroit, a national hot spot for COVID-19, predicted to worsen next week

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has approved a major disaster declaration for Michigan, providing additional money to help the state address the COVID-19 pandemic.

The declaration announced by the White House on Saturday follows a back-and-forth between Trump and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who has criticized the Trump administration for its slow response to the pandemic, saying “we cannot weather this alone.”

The U.S. surgeon general said Friday that Detroit, a national “hot spot” for cases of the new coronavirus, will worsen next week. More than 3,600 people in Michigan were confirmed to have COVID-19 Friday. At least 92 have died, most from the three counties in the Detroit area, according to state officials.

Detroit has recorded 28 deaths and 1,166 cases, according to the city’s health department.

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