TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Sisolak formalizes Nevada’s stay-at-home order.
— Wolf expands stay-at-home order for Pennsylvania.
— DeSantis issues stay-at-home order for Florida.
— Pence says U.S. food supply is strong.
— Pence: U.S. trajectory akin to hard-hit Italy.
LAS VEGAS — Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak issued a statewide directive telling Nevadans to stay at home, with an exception for essential trips.
The Democratic governor had already asked Nevada residents two weeks ago to stay home and ordered a closure of casinos and non-essential businesses, but on Wednesday he decided to formalize his request that Nevadans stay home with a written order.
Unlike the orders issued by some other governors, Sisolak’s directive does not include a penalty for those who violate it.
The governor’s order doesn’t apply to the homeless or people making essential trips such as to get groceries, receive health care or receive goods or services from businesses that have been allowed to stay open, such as pharmacies, hardware stores and restaurants that offer take-out only.
All Pennsylvania residents must stay home as much as possible to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Tom Wolf said Wednesday as he dramatically expanded the footprint of the quarantine to include the entire state.
The Democratic governor added 34 counties to his existing stay-at-home order, meaning that residents of all 67 of Pennsylvania’s counties are now asked to stay put unless they have a legitimate reason to go out.
The expanded order will take effect at 8 p.m. Wednesday and last through at least April 30.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a statewide stay-at-home order on Wednesday as federal and local pressure mounted for him to abandon the county-by-county approach he had implemented.
DeSantis told reporters that he is issuing the order after consulting with President Donald Trump and White House advisers, who have said that Americans need to stay home throughout April.
DeSantis’ move came hours after the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, said on NBC’s “Today” show that he would tell DeSantis that the federal guidelines for social distancing should be viewed as “a national stay-at-home order.”
The state’s confirmed cases are approaching 7,000, deaths have reached 86 and almost 900 are hospitalized with a university model cited this week at the White House showing an exponential growth in the coming weeks.
More than 30 other states had already issued such orders, including other large states such as California, New York and Illinois. Those all acted more than a week ago.
GORDONSVILLE, Va. — Vice President Mike Pence says Americans will have enough food and supplies to get through the coronavirus pandemic.
Pence said America’s food supply is “very strong” on Wednesday as he toured a Virginia distribution center for Walmart, the world’s largest retailer.
Shelves at grocery and other stores across the U.S. were picked clean of toilet paper and other essentials at the onset of the pandemic.
Pence toured a chilly warehouse for perishable goods ranging from potatoes to bananas. He had removed his suit jacket and sported a Walmart associate’s badge that said “Mike.”
The vice president told a Walmart truck driver that he and all drivers are considered “critical infrastructure.”
Pence used the intercom to tell all employees they’re on the “front lines” of the pandemic. He thanked them for doing a “great job” and for “keeping food on the table for the American people.”
WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence says the White House’s models for the coronavirus outbreak show the country on a trajectory akin to hard-hit Italy.
Speaking to CNN, Pence says, “We think Italy may be the most comparable area to the United States at this point.”
Pence was referencing the prediction models unveiled by the White House on Tuesday that project 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. deaths in the coronavirus pandemic. Those figures assume that the country maintains rigorous social-distancing practices for the duration of the public health crisis.
Italy’s health system was stretched beyond capacity weeks ago leading to soaring death tolls. U.S. governors and local officials have warned their states need urgent federal help to avoid a similar fate.
ROME — Premier Giuseppe Conte has extended Italy’s nationwide lockdown and industrial shutdown for another 10 days until April 13, arguing that the coronavirus emergency is far from over even if the rate of new infections is starting to slow.
Conte said Wednesday that if Italy were to ease its restrictions now, before the virus is fully under control, “all our efforts would be in vain and we would pay a high price — psychologically, economically and socially — because we’d be forced to start over.”
Italy went into nationwide lockdown on March 10, after a preliminary quarantine of a dozen small towns in northern Italy failed to stop the virus’ spread. Last week, Italy became the first western developed nation to idle all but essential industry, adding to a production shutdown that industrial lobby Confindustria forecasts will result in a 6% drop in GDP that could provoke a depression.
On Wednesday, Conte signed a new decree extending the shutdown until at least April 13. Conte said he knew it was asking a lot of Italians in particular to refrain from Easter celebrations April 12 but assured them that the government was already at work gaming out how Italy can begin slowly reopening once infections show a sustained decline.
He said the next phase would be living with the virus amid some activity and working toward a final phase of economic reconstruction.
Italy has seen a leveling off in the exponential growth of virus infections this week, registering 4,782 confirmed new infections for a total of 110,574. Italy’s death toll remains the highest in the world at 13,155.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says he is “deeply concerned” about the rapid spread of the new coronavirus and infection related to it.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus noted that the death toll from COVID-19 disease — now at more than 45,000 people worldwide — has more than doubled over the past week alone.
“In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths,” he told reporters in Geneva.
Tedros noted that many developing countries, which are so far less affected than richer Western countries and China, will struggle to cope. He appealed for debt relief for those countries.
Tedros also said that over the three months since the coronavirus outbreak first erupted in China, “we have learned an enormous amount and every day we learn more.”
While some countries have ordered people to stay-at-home and have ordered lockdowns of businesses, school and travel to limit the spread, he said such measures can also “have unintended consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable people.”
ROME — Italy added another 4,782 virus infections to bring its official total to 110,574. And Italy’s death toll, already the highest in the world, increased by another 727 victims to 13,155. But the rate of new infections continued its leveling off, and Lombardy officials reported continued easing of the pressure on intensive care units, where the numbers have fluctuated from 1,328 patients on Sunday to 1,342 on Wednesday.
Local officials and statisticians, however, have noted that Lombardy’s ICU numbers might not be rising because ICU are full and because many elderly people aren’t being brought to hospitals and are dying at home or in nursing homes where their deaths might not even be recorded as COVID-19 because they were never tested.
But if the trend of fewer hospital admissions continues and more ICU beds free up, “probably we’ll be able to admit patients who are being treated at home, because we can treat them at home, but just not in optimal safety” said Dr. Guido Marinoni, president of the order of doctors in hard-hit Bergamo.
MOSCOW — The Russian government said Wednesday that tests of a new coronavirus vaccine will begin in June.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova reported to President Vladimir Putin that the trials will involve 60 volunteers.
The vaccine is being developed by the state Vektor lab in Novosibirsk in Siberia. Golikova said that the government has allocated all the necessary resources to speed up its development.
She said that the preliminary research is set to be completed by early May and clinical tests are scheduled to start on June 29.
About three dozen labs across the world have been developing a vaccine against the new coronavirus.
The State Department said Wednesday it has now repatriated more than 30,000 Americans stranded or wishing to return from 60 countries because of the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s up by about 5,000 from Monday and reflects an increase in the number of evacuation flights that now stands at more than 350 flights with an additional 80 in the works for the coming days.
With the virus continuing to spread and more countries closing their borders to travelers, department officials said they could not guarantee the availability of future evacuation flights and urged Americans wanting to return home to do so immediately.
The noted that in Africa more than 30 of the continent’s 57 international airports have either closed or have severely limited incoming and outgoing flights.
In addition to repatriating private citizens, State Department officials said they had evacuated roughly 6,000 diplomats and family members from the 220 U.S. embassies and consulates, many of them in Europe, since January. The officials said they are tracking roughly 100 positive cases of the COVID-19 virus among embassy and consulate employees serving overseas and 36 positive cases among staff who work at State Department offices in nine cities in the United States.
The department has a global workforce of about 75,000 and, despite staffing drawdowns, the officials said only two diplomatic posts had been completely shuttered: the consulates in Vladivostok, Russia and Wuhan, China.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey said the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has surpassed 15,000 and the virus has now spread to all of the country’s 81 provinces.
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca also told reporters on Wednesday that 63 more patients have died of the virus, raising the death toll in Turkey to 277.
The number of confirmed cases now stands at 15,679, Koca said, with 2,148 more new infections detected in the past 24 hours.
The Turkish government had refrained from providing a breakdown of COVID-19 cases by region, saying it wanted to prevent people from traveling to areas that were free of the virus.
However, with infections now registered in all provinces, Koca revealed for the first time that 60 percent of the cases are located in Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. The number of cases in Istanbul stands at 8,852, followed by the Aegean coastal city of Izmir with 853 cases and the capital Ankara with 712, Koca said.
The minister also disclosed for the first time that at least 601 medical staff are infected.
PRAGUE — The Czech government has drafted legislation to impose moratorium on mortgages and loans to provide some relief to households and businesses amid the pandemic of the coronavirus.
Finance Minister Alena Schillerova said the payment of mortgage installments and personal, business and corporate loans can be delayed by three or six months.
Any loans and mortgages signed before March 26 are eligible, Schillerova said, and the delay will be free of charge.
Schillerova said she consulted the move with the Czech central bank and all major banks in the country. It will be mandatory for the banks to accept those requests for the delays after the plan is approved by Parliament.
The Czech Republic has 3,508 positive tests and 39 have died by Wednesday evening, according to the Health Ministry figures.
JOHANNESBURG — As the Southern Hemisphere tilts toward winter, South Africa’s health minister is warning that flu season will start next month and hospitals and clinics will be flooded with cases on top of the coronavirus.
Dr. Zweli Mkhize says the unexpectedly slow growth in the country’s virus numbers — now at 1,380 — means that “we may be currently experiencing the calm before the storm.”
The minister spoke as Africa’s most developed nation rolled out new mobile testing units. Cases across Africa are now above 5,800, with 49 of the continent’s 54 countries reporting cases.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice rescheduled West Virginia’s May 12 primary election to June 9 on Wednesday, citing fears about the coronavirus spreading at polling places.
Justice said medical experts told him that having the primary on its originally scheduled date of May 12 would be unsafe for voters and poll workers, since health officials have warned of a surge in the coming weeks.
“There is no question moving this date is the right thing to do,” said Justice, a Republican.
MOSCOW — The Russian ambassador in Washington said that a planeload of medical supplies sent to the U.S. reflects the need to pool global efforts to counter the coronavirus pandemic despite police differences.
The flight follows Monday’s phone call between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in which they discussed cooperation measures to fight the outbreak. Trump hailed Russia’s move as “very nice.”
Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov noted that the two countries pooled efforts to fight the Nazis and pointed at other examples of cooperation in the past. Russia-US ties have sunk to post-Cold War lows over the Ukrainian crisis and other issues, but Antonov said the pandemic requires a coordinated response.
LONDON — One of the U.K.’s leading public health officials has voiced concern over another daily increase in the number of people getting infected with the coronavirus.
Dr. Yvonne Doyle, medical director at Public Health England, said at the government’s daily news conference that it is “slightly concerning” that new infections have risen by more than 500 over the past couple of days to 3,009.
The worry is that the plateau seen over previous days may prove short-lived and that further restrictions may be needed to get on top of the outbreak.
Like others, the British government is seeking to lower the rate of new infections by an array of curbs on day-to-day life in order to ultimately reduce the number of deaths linked to COVID-19.
Doyle also urged people to stay at home after noting worrying figures showing an uptick in the number of motor vehicle journeys made. Those made on public transport remain at depressed levels.
RALEIGH, N.C — A North Carolina deputy died while hospitalized in intensive care for treatment of coronavirus, the sheriff said Wednesday.
Montgomery County Sheriff Chris Watkins said in a news release that Deputy Sypraseuth “Bud” Phouangphrachanh died Tuesday night in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Pinehurst. The 43-year-old deputy, who was married with five children, had experienced what he thought were allergy symptoms but later tested positive for COVID-19 and was admitted Monday to the hospital.
Phouangphrachanh served as a school resource officer and had been with the sheriff’s office for 14 years in the rural county east of Charlotte. The governor had ordered schools closed on March 16, but the sheriff said in a statement that Phouangphrachanh served multiple roles within the department.
“During his service to Montgomery County, he filled many roles, but his passion was as School Resource Officer where he worked with middle school and high school students,” the sheriff said, adding that he was known for his big smile and sense of humor.
He appears to be the first North Carolina law enforcement officer whose death was attributed to COVID-19.
The news release didn’t say whether the deputy contracted the virus while on duty. The sheriff didn’t immediately respond to an email asking if it’s clear when and how the deputy was exposed to COVID-19.
TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the Trump administration has dropped the idea of militarizing the Canada-U.S. border amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Trudeau says he had heard “that is not something they’re continuing to pursue.”
The Canadian government had been in discussions with the White House seeking to persuade the U.S. not to do it. Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland has said there no public health justification for troops. Very few people cross the border into the U.S. from Canada illegally and Canada has universal health care and widespread testing for the virus. And COVID-19 cases are surging more in the U.S. than in Canada. Canada and the United States have the longest un-militarized border in the world.
MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin said that more than 20,000 Russians are waiting for a chance to come back amid the pandemic.
Speaking in a conference call with Cabinet officials, Putin noted that many of them are coming back because they found it difficult to get proper medical assistance abroad.
Deputy Prime Minister Tatiana Golikova said that the number of Russians allowed to return will be limited to 700 a day, including 500 in Moscow, due to a limited capacity to properly screen and isolate those arriving.
Russia has completely shut its borders this week and sharply limited the number of flights taking Russians home, and thousands have been left stranded abroad waiting for a flight home.
Putin emphasized that “the situation in the country is exacerbating” too, noting that nearly 293,000 are in self-isolation over possible infection. Russia has registered 2,777 coronavirus cases and 24 deaths.
CUBA, Missouri — An eastern Missouri man has been charged with making a terrorist threat after he allegedly coughed toward customers and wrote COVID on a cooler at a Dollar Tree store.
John Swaller of Cuba was charged Tuesday and was being held on $25,000 bail in the Crawford County jail.
An employee of a the store called police because the 33-year-old man was intentionally coughing toward customers and had breathed on a cooler before writing COVID on the inside of the cooler.
The store was closed and sanitized. Cuba is about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.
Swaller’s father told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch his son does not have COVID-19. Police still used protective gear to transport Swaller to jail.
BERLIN — Chancellor Angela Merkel says it is far too early for Germany to consider loosening restrictions on public life. She says officials will review the situation just after Easter.
Merkel held a telephone conference Wednesday with German state governors and said they agreed the closure of non-essential shops and a ban on gatherings of more than two people in public will remain in place until at least April 19.
Merkel says authorities will review the situation the Tuesday after Easter.
Germany had more than 73,000 confirmed coronavirus infections as of Wednesday, including 802 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
WIMBLEDON, England — Wimbledon has been canceled for the first time since World War II because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The All England Club announced after an emergency meeting that the oldest Grand Slam tournament in tennis would not be held in 2020.
Wimbledon was scheduled to be played on the outskirts of London from June 29 to July 12.
It now joins the growing list of sports events scrapped in 2020 because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
That includes the Tokyo Olympics, the NCAA men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments and the European soccer championship.
The last time Wimbledon was called off was 1945.
Source: Associated Press