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The Latest: Whitmer wins legal fight with lawmakers

May 21, 2020
Associated Press

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:

— Michigan governor wins legal fight with lawmakers over virus.

— Trump: “full” G7 summit bringing together the leaders of the world’s major economies “looks like” it “will be on.”

— Spanish health authorities: daily death toll has remained under 100 fatalities for a fifth consecutive day.

— US sends 50 ventilators to Russia, with 150 more to follow.

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DETROIT — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer prevailed Thursday in a high-stakes challenge from Republican lawmakers who sued over her authority to declare emergencies and order sweeping restrictions during the coronavirus outbreak.

A 1945 law cited by Whitmer, a Democrat, is not limited to local and regional emergencies only and can have no end date, said Judge Cynthia Stephens of the Court of Claims.

The lawsuit by the House and Senate grew out of frustration with Whitmer’s one-size strategy to stop the spread of the coronavirus by keeping people at home statewide and shutting down businesses, even if some regions were not harmed much by the virus or COVID-19.

The Legislature did not extend Whitmer’s disaster emergency declaration in late April but she acted anyway, pointing to the ’45 law.

The Legislature preferred a 1976 statute that gives it a say in emergency declarations after 28 days. Indeed, the judge said the governor can’t use that law to extend emergencies without input from lawmakers.

The decision was a third time that a Court of Claims judge ruled in favor of Whitmer. The other lawsuits were brought by residents, a business owner and a new group that has organized protests at the Capitol.

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CONCORD, N.C. — Federal Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said he came to North Carolina to see the work being done in Charlotte and to highlight the upcoming NASCAR Coca-Cola 600.

He described the race as “an important part of getting America back and to working to school, to functioning, to getting people out and getting our activities going again.”

He praised moves that governors have been making to reopen their economies — with North Carolina set to enter a second phase of loosened restrictions Friday — saying that there are health risks associated with restricting economies that must be weighed against the risks of the virus.

He said that economic downturns can lead to increased suicide rates, reductions in cancer screening and reductions in vaccine use.

Azar addressed reporters after touring a testing center at the Charlotte Motor Speedway and having a discussion with health leaders about reopening state economies.

Asked by a reporter if state reopenings create a risk of a second wave of virus cases, Azar said it’s too early to tell.

Asked about what preparations Charlotte will need to make to safely host the Republican National Convention in August, Azar said that increasing testing capacity would be important. However, he didn’t refer to the RNC as a certainty, but rather noted that “we’re several months away from the possibility of the RNC.”

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says a “full” G7 summit bringing together the leaders of the world’s major economies “looks like” it “will be on.”

But he says the in-person event — which had been scrapped in March because of the coronavirus — will now take place “primarily at the White House,” with “a piece of it” perhaps taking place at the nearby Camp David presidential retreat.

Trump made the comments while departing the White House for a trip to Michigan on Thursday.

The District of Columbia remains under stay-at-home orders and U.S. travel restrictions remain in place on many Group of Seven nations.

But Trump has said that holding the event would be a “great sign to all” that things are getting back to normal.

He said a formal announcement will likely come early next week.

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MADRID — Spanish health authorities say that the daily death toll for its COVID-19 outbreak has remained well under 100 fatalities for a fifth consecutive day.

But the government’s leading virus expert warned Thursday that Spain cannot let down its guard a day after hundreds of people tried to sunbathe in Barcelona when the beach was reopened only for jogging and walking. Police had to remind them that social gatherings were still not permitted.

“These are images that no one likes,” leading health official Fernando Simón said. “They show that there is a part of the population that is still not fully aware (of the danger).”

Overall, though, Simón said Spain is maintaining its favorable evolution of the coronavirus outbreak.

The health ministry reported a confirmed 48 new deaths over the past 24 hours, but that figure was missing the data from the Catalonia region home to Barcelona, one of the hardest-hit areas. Simón said the region was still confirming its data for the day, but that he expected the full daily death count for the country to be around 50.

Spain is emerging slowly from a strict lockdown that has brought its daily infection rate increase from more than 20% in March and April to under 1% for the past week. On Friday, health authorities should decide if Madrid and Barcelona are in condition to loosen restrictions and reopen outdoor seating for restaurants and bars that have been closed for more than two months.

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Department of Corrections is moving more than 140 healthy inmates from one county jail that reported it was ill-equipped to deal with the coronavirus to a state prison.

The DOC says Comanche County Detention Center inmates with two consecutive negative tests began being moved on Wednesday.

County inmates who have tested positive for the virus will remain quarantined at the jail in Lawton.

The department said in a news release Thursday that 73 inmates had been moved and 69 more will be transported to state facilities. More than 100 inmates and 16 staff members at the jail have tested positive for COVID-19.

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LAS VEGAS — Three major Las Vegas casino companies have announced their employees will be tested for COVID-19 before returning to work.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that MGM Resorts International, Caesars Entertainment and Boyd Gaming have launched employee testing measures as businesses are preparing to reopen.

A joint statement says the University Medical Center will administer tests at the Las Vegas Convention Center. Results are expected within 48 hours. Depending on where employees work, testing may not be required.

Casino operations in Nevada stopped in March after Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak imposed a stay-at-home order and closures of non-essential businesses.

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MOSCOW — The United States has delivered 50 ventilators to Russia as part of a $5.6 million humanitarian donation to help the country cope with the pandemic.

The U.S. Embassy said the first shipment of U.S.-manufactured breathing machines arrived in Moscow on Thursday, and another 150 will follow next week.

U.S. Ambassador John Sullivan emphasized that “particularly in times of crises we must work together,” adding “we must set aside policy differences and focus on the needs of our people.”

Russia has reported more than 317,000 infections and more than 3,000 deaths. Officials have scrambled to secure ventilators and other essential supplies as COVID-19 spread.

Russia sent a planeload of medical supplies, including ventilators, to the U.S. last month. Russia’s state investment fund said this week it has fully funded the delivery.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has decided to exempt health workers from other countries who work for the country’s National Health Service from an otherwise mandatory surcharge to use the health system, in a reversal of a policy criticized by some as anti-immigrant and racist.

A statement from No. 10 Downing Street on Thursday said the Prime Minister had asked the Home Office and the Department of Health and Social Care “to remove care workers from the NHS surcharge as soon as possible.”

The surcharge applies to immigrants to the U.K. and is scheduled to increase in October.

Medical organizations have long slammed the surcharge for NHS health professionals, arguing they should not be charged to use the same health service they work for.

After Johnson recovered from COVID-19 last month — which included a stay in intensive care — he publicly thanked two of the nurses who cared for him, from Portugal and New Zealand.

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MILAN — Italy reported 156 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total in the epidemic to 32,486 on Thursday as Italy marks the third week of gradual reopening.

Confirmed new cases rose by 642, or .28%, to 228,006, with half in the populous northern region of Lombardy which has borne the brunt of the epidemic.

Calabria in the south and Bolzano in the north were the only areas to report zero cases.

The number of people who are currently positive sank by nearly 3% to 60,960, according to the civil protection agency, and there were nearly 400 fewer coronavirus patients in hospital beds.

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LONDON — British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says results of a government antibody surveillance study suggest that 17% of people in London and around 5% of the rest of the country have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies.

He said Thursday that the government has signed contracts to supply 10 million antibody tests from Roche and Abbott. The tests will start to be rolled out next week, starting with health care workers, patients and nursing home residents.

He also said that the government is trialing a new, faster swab test that would tell people if they currently have the coronavirus. The new test would return results in 20 minutes.

Official figures show that the death toll involving those tested positive for COVID-19 in Britain has reached 36,042, an increase of 338 from the previous day’s figures.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey has reported its lowest daily increase in confirmed novel coronavirus cases in the past two months, announcing 961 new infections.

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca on Thursday also reported 27 more deaths in the past 24 hours. The total number of infections in the country stands at 153,548, with a total of 4,249 deaths.

Koca tweeted that the number of patients needing intensive care also continued to decrease. The number of patients that have recovered has reached 114,990.

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GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — A wave of new coronavirus cases detected in quarantine facilities in Gaza has raised new concerns about a possible outbreak in the isolated Palestinian territory.

Gaza’s health infrastructure has been heavily degraded by a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after the Islamic militant group Hamas seized power in 2007, as well as three wars between Israel and Hamas.

The Health Ministry has reported 35 new cases over the past three days, bringing the total number to 55. All the new cases have been detected among returnees from abroad, all of whom are immediately placed in mandatory quarantine in facilities at the border.

Yousef Abu el-Rish, a senior Health Ministry official, said Thursday it is investigating whether the virus has spread beyond the quarantine facilities, where some 2,000 people are housed.

Khalil al-Hayya, a senior Hamas official, says authorities are considering imposing a curfew across the territory, which is home to around 2 million people.

Authorities have relaxed restrictions aimed at preventing an outbreak in recent weeks, allowing restaurants and cafes to reopen. Mosques were to reopen for Friday prayers after nearly two months of closure.

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LONDON — Scotland’s leader has presented a “route map” for easing coronavirus restrictions in the months ahead while observing social distancing guidelines.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon told Scottish lawmakers the lockdown will be loosened in three-week intervals, subject to progress in virus control. But, she added, the proposals “cannot be set in stone.”

Starting May 28, two households may see each other in small groups in “outdoor spaces.” That’s more than what is now allowed in England, where only individuals from two households can meet outside.

Other planned changes in Scotland beginning next week include the reopening of gardening stores and allowing noncontact outdoor leisure activities, such as golf and fishing. Schools, though, will not reopen until Aug. 1. Some English schools may be reopening June 1.

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ROME — A new government report indicates there were 46,909 excess deaths in Italy in March and April compared to what would have been expected. The report says it would be accurate to attribute most of the deaths to the coronavirus.

Italy’s social security and welfare agency (INPS) concluded the official COVID-19 death toll reported by the civil protection department “isn’t very reliable” since it includes only those who tested positive for the virus, omitting those who died at home or in nursing homes without ever being tested.

By the end of April, Italy’s official COVID-19 death toll stood at 27,938. INPS said excess deaths at that point had reached 46,909 and said most of the 18,971 deaths making up the difference could be attributed to the pandemic.

The agency reached that conclusion by noting that the five Lombardy provinces with the most excess deaths were the same five provinces hardest hit by the virus. In addition, most of the excess deaths were among the elderly men who account for most COVID victims.

Italy was the first country in the West to be slammed by the virus and its official toll lags only that of the U.S. and Britain.

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

 
 

 

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