– Seattle cruise line laying off workers
– Navajo Nation president says reservation still not safe
SANTA FE, N.M. – New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the state is woefully short of professionals devoted to contact tracing aimed at alerting people who are exposed unknowingly to the new coronavirus.
The state has about 100 workers devoted to tracing exposure to the disease through interviews with people who have tested positive. It needs at least 670 professionals.
The state last month embarked on a contact-tracing pilot program but little has been said publicly about the effort. The congressional delegation says New Mexico is in line for more than $77 million in federal funding for testing and contact tracing.
New Mexico has more than 5,500 cases, with 11 new deaths reported Thursday.
RICHMOND, Va. – Virginia’s capital city and a rural county on the Eastern Shore are opting out of beginning to reopen Friday, saying it is still too soon to ease restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Gov. Ralph Northam granted requests to the city of Richmond and Accomack County on Thursday afternoon to delay a gradual reopening of some nonessential businesses just hours ahead of when those areas were set to start reopening. The governor is easing some restrictions in most of the state Friday. He previously granted a two-week delay to several localities in northern Virginia.
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney said at a news conference that the most recently available data show an increase in the number of coronavirus tests coming back positive in the past two weeks. He also said the virus is having a disproportionate impact on people of color and noted that Richmond has a higher percentage of minorities than the rest of the state.
DENVER – Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Thursday that city employees, including himself, will be furloughed for eight days this year to chip away at an expected $226 million budget gap caused by the new coronavirus.
The move will save about $16 million and doesn’t apply to uniformed employees like police.
Hancock called on lawmakers to include cities in the next federal aid package. “The reality is this: If cities can’t recover, there will be no national recovery,” he said.
LANSING, Mich. – Hundreds of people angry or frustrated over Michigan’s coronavirus stay-at-home order protested again outside the state Capitol, braving heavy rain to call for a loosening of restrictions and for business owners to reopen in defiance of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Thursday’s demonstration numbered about 200 and was smaller than previous rallies. The Senate canceled session so the Capitol could be closed weeks after some armed protesters entered the building during a rally.
The latest protest was led by Michigan United for Liberty, a conservative activist group that has sued the governor and organized or participated in several rallies since early April.
PHOENIX – Arizona health officials report an additional 30 deaths from the coronavirus outbreak, raising the statewide fatality total to 624 as of Thursday.
The Department of Health Services said there were 498 additional confirmed COVID-19 cases, for a statewide total of 12,674. Of the deaths, 497 involved people age 65 or older. The actual number of people infected is likely much higher because many with mild symptoms don’t seek testing and many who did were turned away for months because of a testing supply shortage.
Gov. Doug Ducey said earlier in the week he will allow his stay-at-home order to expire Friday as he continues easing restrictions imposed to slow the outbreak.
SEATTLE – Seattle-based cruise line Holland America said Thursday it will lay off, furlough or reduce the hours or pay of all of its employees based on shore because of the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
The Seattle Times reports that nearly 2,000 people will be laid off. The company says a no-sail order from federal health officials means the company is not generating revenue.
Most of Holland America’s land-bound staff work in Seattle and Santa Clarita, California.
The cruise line canceled all of its voyages out of Seattle last week.
BOISE, Idaho – Idaho Gov. Brad Little says the state will move to the second stage of his four-stage plan to return to regular activity and recover from the economic damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The Republican governor said Thursday that restrictions will be lifted starting Saturday on restaurant indoor dining, hair salons, and indoor gyms and recreation facilities. But social distancing requirements remain, meaning restaurants have to limit seating capacity to 50%.
Little’s plan for moving through the four stages by the end of June is based on declining infections and strong testing. The readiness of the health care system is another factor.
BERLIN – Germany’s president is urging citizens to have more faith in science than conspiracy theories if they want to avoid getting the new coronavirus.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier expressed concern Thursday at the declining acceptance for measures intended to slow the spread of the virus, such as social distancing, and the growing protests in Germany against pandemic restrictions.
Germany has seen numerous and, at times, violent demonstrations against government-imposed restrictions in recent days. Officials have warned that the protests are attracting far right and anti-government extremists, as well as people who claim the pandemic is part of a secretive global conspiracy.
More than 7,700 people have died of COVID-19 in Germany, which has recorded over 170,000 cases.
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. – The president of the Navajo Nation says additional deaths and COVID-19 cases reported on the tribe’s sprawling reservation indicate it’s still not safe for residents to go out in public.
The tribal health department late Wednesday reported 147 more confirmed COVID-19 cases with 16 additional deaths from the coronavirus outbreak. The increases put the number of cases at 3,392 with a total of 119 deaths.
Tribal President Jonathan Nez said residents should still should stay home and only go out in public when necessary.
The reservation includes large areas of Arizona and New Mexico and a small part of Utah.
LONDON – London’s mayor is warning that the British government must quickly come up with a rescue package to stop the capital’s mass transit systems from running out of money amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Sadiq Khan said Transport for London may be forced to cut services because the government hasn’t given it the funding it desperately needs. He called for a bailout to be finalized by the end of Thursday.
The network has lost most of its income during the coronavirus lockdown and thousands of staff have been furloughed.
Downing Street said negotiations were in an “advanced stage” and its priority was reaching a funding deal with the transport network.
The government also said Thursday that another 428 people died in the U.K. after testing positive for the coronavirus across all settings, including hospitals and care homes. That increases the total to 33,624, second globally to the United States.
BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro says his administration will ease rules for use of an anti-malaria drug to treat people infected with the coronavirus.
The government’s health ministry previously allowed the use of chloroquine only for coronavirus patients hospitalized in serious condition. Bolsonaro said Thursday said he was permitting expanded use of the treatment despite a warning earlier this week by the health minister about the drug’s side effects.
Brazilian scientists last month stopped part of a chloroquine study after heart rhythm problems were detected in 25% of the people given the higher of two doses being tested.
Johns Hopkins University reports that there have been more than 13,000 COVID-19 deaths in Brazil, Latin America’s hardest-hit country.
WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump says he’s intent on building the nation’s stockpile of ventilators, masks and other equipment to meet future health threats.
Trump says his administration has awarded contracts for nearly 200,000 ventilators and 800,000 N95 respirators and facemasks. He says his goal is to produce “everything America needs for ourselves and then export to the world, including medicines.”
Trump’s comments came at a medical equipment distributor in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he was thanking workers in a key battleground state. The comments came on the same day that a federal whistleblower testified before a House panel about his repeated efforts to jump-start U.S. production of respirator masks that he says went nowhere.
BELMAR, N.J. – New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy issued long-awaited guidance Thursday to officials in shore towns on reopening beaches, directing them to set occupancy limits, require 6 feet (2 meters) of space between beachgoers, except family members or couples, and prohibit groups of 10 or more from congregating on the beach.
Showers, changing pavilions and rest rooms should be open, but amusement rides and arcades will remain closed and beach fireworks prohibited. Murphy also urged towns to set limits on the amount of daily beach badges they sell.
The Democratic governor gave considerable leeway to local officials in reopening their beaches, refusing to set a uniform occupancy limit. He’s letting individual towns decide how much is enough.
CAIRO – A former Sudanese minister close to ousted autocrat Omar al-Bashir has died of the new coronavirus while detained on corruption charges, according to a statement from public prosecutors.
Sharif Ahmed Omar Badr, former investment minister and leader in al-Bashir’s ruling Congress Party, was transferred from a Khartoum police station to quarantine at a hospital, where he died Thursday.
Sudan has reported 1,818 infections and 90 deaths caused by the virus.
Badr had been entangled in a number of financial scandals and suspicious business deals during al-Bashir’s rule, including as chairman of Sudan Airways.
BLOOMINGTON, Minn. – The Mall of America will partially reopen June 1 in compliance with Minnesota’s new safety protocols for slowly reopening the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic, mall management announced Thursday.
Gov. Tim Walz’s decision to allow his stay-at-home order to expire and allow retailers to start reopening on Monday was “promising news” for the mall and all retailers, the mall said in a statement.
The mall, which has more than 520 stores and restaurants that draw visitors from around the world, is the largest shopping and entertainment complex in North America. It shut down March 17, though some of its merchants recently began offering curbside service.
All dining venues and attractions will remain closed pending further guidance from the state, though food establishments can offer curbside and delivery service in the meantime. The complex will reopen with social distancing signage, specific doors for entering and exiting to redirect foot traffic, enhanced cleaning procedures, modified operating hours, capacity limits and reconfigured seating, among other safety measures.
SALEM, Ore. – Oregon Gov. Kate Brown is allowing the vast majority of counties in the state to reopen in a first phase affecting restaurants, bars, hair salons and many other businesses, though just under half the population will be affected.
The order affects 28 of Oregon’s 36 counties, starting Friday. Three Portland-area counties comprising the state’s major population center did not request a reopening, and the applications to reopen of two counties in the area around the state capital of Salem were rejected. Three other mostly rural counties’ applications remain under review.
Just over half the state’s population live in those counties that either didn’t submit, or were denied, applications to reopen.
Brown says she hopes the entire state can reopen in the fall.
HARTFORD, Conn. – Some Democratic state senators asked Gov. Ned Lamont to delay plans to begin phasing out Connecticut’s COVID-19 restrictions next week, noting some parts of the state are still seeing an increase in cases.
“Reopening is essential – but to do it while the first wave of the pandemic is still raging will not lead to a second wave, it will simply add fuel to the first wave, delaying our eventual recovery,” they wrote to the fellow Democrat.
The letter was released shortly after most of the same lawmakers released one containing a list of questions and recommendations about testing, contact tracing, plans to handle any COVID-19 flare-ups and other matters.
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