The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 450,000 people and killed over 20,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 113,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— France's Macron deploys military to help fight virus.
— WHO chief says Trump is “taking responsibility” for virus response.
— Tony Awards postponed as Broadway stays dark.
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County officials say they no longer are including a 17-year-old boy in the tally of coronavirus deaths until they do more to determine his precise cause of death.
The county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, said Wednesday that she’s asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the death of the youth from the desert city of Lancaster.
She said that while the child did test positive for the coronavirus, there were “extenuating circumstances that pointed to an alternative diagnosis as well.”
The death is no longer being counted among LA County’s 13 total fatalities from the virus.
Gov. Gavin Newsom chided county officials, calling the backtrack a reminder that “in this moment it’s not just speed, it’s accuracy that must be front and center.”
A report last week by the CDC found no coronavirus deaths in the U.S. among people 19 and under.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's health minister says 15 people have died from the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 59.
Fahrettin Koca tweeted Wednesday that 561 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the number of infections in the country to at least 2,433.
WASHINGTON — A Department of Veterans Affairs plan to temporarily curtail a private-sector health care program is drawing concern from some veterans groups about availability of care during the coronavirus outbreak.
The VA said this week in a memo to Congress it would no longer vigorously enforce rules that allow a veteran to see a private doctor at government expense if their wait for VA care is 20 days (28 for specialty care) or their drive is 30 minutes or more. The guidance would last at least 30 days.
The VA pointed to a need to conserve resources and reduce routine appointments at both VA and at private hospitals in light of increased demand for coronavirus care, as well as to protect veterans from unnecessary COVID-19 exposure.
The agency said it would continue to provide private-care referrals to veterans with urgent clinical needs and also boost telehealth options.
The conservative Concerned Veterans for America said Wednesday that VA’s “blanket approach” to curtailing private care would unduly limit care for veterans, a mostly elderly population with special needs.
“While many health care providers are under immense strain, others may still have the capacity to treat veterans for routine conditions that impact their long-term well-being,” said the group’s executive director, Nate Anderson.
The program, expanded in 2018, is often touted by President Donald Trump as one of his signature accomplishments.
“We’re going to be very protective of our veterans,” he said at a White House coronavirus news briefing Sunday, pointing in part to the availability of the expanded Veterans Choice program during the outbreak.
BERLIN — The U.S. Army Europe says it has delivered medical supplies and equipment to help fight the new coronavirus in Italy's hard-hit region of Lombardy.
The move, which was part of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency's humanitarian assistance program, saw the 405th Army Field Support Brigade deliver hospital beds, mattresses, adjustable IV poles and other supplies from the U.S. Army Camp Darby in Livorno, Italy.
In a statement Wednesday, U.S. Army Europe's commanding general, Lt. Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, said the effort demonstrated “the U.S commitment to our NATO ally and the people of Italy during this crisis.”
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania lawmakers voted Wednesday to delay the state's primary election by five weeks to June 2, potentially past the spike of the state's spreading coronavirus cases.
The measure passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled state Legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said he will sign it. As a result, Pennsylvania will join more than 10 states in delaying primaries.
PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron launched a special military operation Wednesday to help fight the new coronavirus in France, one of the world’s hardest-hit countries.
As part of the new “Operation Resilience,” France is deploying helicopter carriers to help transport patients in overseas French territories in the Caribbean, South America and the Indian Ocean.
Striking a combative tone on a visit to a military field hospital in the virus-ravaged eastern city of Mulhouse, Macron paid homage to medics who have died, “who paid with their lives to save other lives.”
Macron also promised a “massive” new investment plan for public hospitals, after years of cost cuts in France’s renowned health care system that have complicated efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
Facing criticism that his government was too slow to lock down the country as the virus spread, Macron criticized those “who would fracture the country, when we should have one obsession: to be united to fight the virus.”
Reiterating that France is at “war” with the virus, Macron warned: “We are just at the beginning. But we will make it through, because we will not surrender, because we have the strength.”
BERLIN — Seven German medical associations have published recommendations for how doctors should determine which seriously ill patients with the new coronavirus can be given intensive care treatment when demand outstrips available capacity.
The 13-page guide published Wednesday states that "according to current information about the COVID-19 pandemic it is likely that despite capacity increases already made there soon won't be sufficient intensive care resources available also in Germany for all patients who would need them."
The document, posted on the website of Germany's Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine, recommends not providing intensive care if the process of dying has irreversibly begun, treatment wouldn't result in improvement or stabilization, survival would depend on permanent intensive care or the patient refuses intensive care.
The guide, which is backed by six other medical associations, suggests that decisions on allocating available beds may be necessary "analogous to triage in disaster medicine." It suggests that survival chances of patients with other serious illnesses should also be weighed and that age alone shouldn't be the deciding factor.
About 1,000 of the over 30,000 COVID-19 patients in Germany are currently receiving intensive care. The government aims to double the 28,000 intensive care beds in the country to cope with a predicted increase in cases.
ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday ordered Minnesota residents in nonessential jobs to stay at home for two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the coronavirus from overwhelming the state's health care system.
The governor's order begins at midnight Friday. He said the restrictions were critical to allow the state to protect its most vulnerable people and give time to build up the state's capacity to handle a flood of infections.
“I’m asking for your patience, your cooperation and your understanding," Walz said in a live video message. “My pledge to you is to use the valuable time you're giving us.”
Walz had held off on issuing the order because he wanted to see data and modeling to show whether it would make enough of a difference to justify the disruptions that could last for weeks or months.
BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little has issued a statewide stay-at-home order as the coronavirus continues to spread.
Little announced the order Wednesday, saying it would remain in effect for 21 days.
Idaho has more than 91 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Idaho has a population of about 1.7 million.
GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization commended U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “taking responsibility” for leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a virtual press briefing in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the U.N. health agency has called repeatedly for heads of state to lead a “whole-of-government” response to the new coronavirus.
“That’s exactly what he’s doing which we appreciate because fighting this pandemic needs political commitment,” Tedros said, referring to Trump.
Tedros has previously warned that countries taking measures to lock down their societies must use the time wisely to implement other aggressive interventions, including widespread testing and efforts to track down the virus’ transmission chains. WHO and other experts say it could be months before the outbreak peaks and loosening such controls too soon could allow the virus to resurge.
On Tuesday, Trump suggested the lockdown measures in the U.S. might be lifted by Easter and predicted there would be “packed churches” across the country.
“I know he’s doing all he can,” Tedros said, noting he and Trump spoke recently. “I believe that kind of political commitment and political leadership can bring change or can stop this pandemic.”
NEW YORK — With Broadway shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic, producers of the annual Tony Awards have postponed this year's celebration of American theater.
The show was originally scheduled for June 7 but the virus forced all 41 Broadway theaters to go dark and caused turmoil in the Tony schedule. Producers have not yet announced a rescheduled date.
Broadway abruptly closed on March 12, knocking out all shows on the Great White Way but also 16 that were still scheduled to open, including “Diana,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Company.” Broadway producers have vowed to resume musicals and plays the week of April 13.
BOSTON — U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton says he has decided to self-quarantine after experiencing symptoms of COVID-19.
Moulton, a 41-year-old Democrat and former presidential hopeful from Massachusetts, said in a statement Wednesday that he began feeling unwell Thursday, with a low-grade fever and a tightness in his chest he’d never felt before. Moulton said he also had a sore throat, though no serious cough, along with body aches and unusual fatigue. His wife had similar symptoms, he said.
Well before experiencing the symptoms, Moulton said, he instructed staff members in his offices in Salem and Washington to work from home, except for two essential workers. The House’s attending physician told him that because the symptoms are minor and a test would not change his treatment, he and his wife don’t qualify for tests, he said.
Moulton said that he has been steadily improving and that unless his symptoms worsen, he can end his self-quarantine Saturday.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's president says he believes his country will slow the transmission of the new coronavirus within two or three weeks.
In a televised address to the nation, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also expressed confidence that Turkey will overcome the coronavirus outbreak "in the shortest possible time with the least damage possible."
The country has so far reported 44 COVID-19 deaths and a total of 1,872 confirmed infections after conducting close to 28,000 tests.
Erdogan said, however, that the country was monitoring a further 53,000 people at their homes and 8,554 other people in hospitals.
NEW YORK — A “Top Chef Masters” winner and beloved restaurateur, Floyd Cardoz, has died of complications from the coronavirus. He was 59.
A statement released by his company says Cardoz died Wednesday. He was admitted a week ago to Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, New Jersey, with a fever and subsequently tested positive for the virus.
The chef won season three of Bravo's “Top Chef Masters” in 2011. He was a partner in three restaurants in his native Mumbai. In addition, he and famed restaurateur Danny Meyer operated the popular Manhattan eatery Tabla in the early 2000s. It closed in 2010.
THESSALONIKI, Greece — Staying at home is bad for Greece's drains.
Authorities in the country's second-largest city, Thessaloniki, say residents are straining the drainage system by flushing virus-related items down the toilet.
"We are advising the public not to dispose of ... antiseptic wipes, disposable gloves, and even masks — products recently consumed for personal safety against the COVID-19 virus," the city's water authority said in a statement. "These items combined with fats and oils can cause a blockage in pipes, at pumping stations, and at sewage facilities at a time when the company is operating with security personnel to safeguard the health of its employees."
Drainage pipes tend to be narrow in Greek cities, with used toilet paper commonly collected in small bathroom trash bins and not flushed down the toilet.
ALMASFUZITO, Hungary — Hungary's oil and gas company has refitted a production line normally used for making windshield washer fluid to instead produce liquid hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants.
MOL said Wednesday that it is producing 50,000 liters (13,210 gallons) of the fluids daily at its refinery in Almasfuzito.
MOL, which operates in 30 countries and has 26,000 employees, says it will also start making similar products at its facilities in Slovakia and Croatia.
JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's police minister says dog-walking is banned during the country's three-week lockdown that begins Friday to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
Bheki Cele also said people can't go running, contradicting the health minister's comments earlier in the day.
And Cele warned South Africans to essentially stay sober for 21 days, emphasizing that alcohol sales are prohibited.
The military and police will patrol to regulate movement, and all ports of entry are now closed. South Africa has the most COVID-19 cases in Africa with more than 700.
LONDON — Britain’s deputy ambassador to Hungary has died after contracting the new coronavirus.
The Foreign Office says Steven Dick, who was 37, died Tuesday in Hungary. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he was “desperately saddened by the news.”
Dick previously served in U.K. diplomatic posts in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and had been based in Budapest since late last year.
Dick’s parents said he had long dreamed of becoming a diplomat and “was very happy representing our country overseas. We are devastated by his loss.”
LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says more than 400,000 people have responded within a day to the government’s call for volunteers to help support the country’s most vulnerable people during the coronavirus outbreak.
On Monday the government called for a quarter of a million healthy people to sign up as “volunteer responders.” Johnson said 405,000 had already volunteered.
The National Health Service said the volunteers would start next week helping the 1.5 million people in Britain who have been asked to stay home and avoid contact with others for 12 weeks because they have underlying health conditions that increase their risk from the virus.
Johnson said they will perform tasks including delivering medicines, driving people home from medical appointments and making phone calls to check on people.
Johnson said “thank you on behalf of the entire country” to all those who have volunteered.
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey says it is keeping schools closed at least until April 30 as part of its effort to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.
The decision was announced following a meeting of Turkey's scientific advisory council on Wednesday.
The country closed schools two weeks ago and introduced remote schooling via the internet and television broadcasts. Education Minister Ziya Selcuk told reporters however, that "face-to-face" make-up classes would be held as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said 26 COVID-19 patients had recovered from the disease so far, including two people in their sixties who were treated in intensive care. A total of 136 people are still in intensive care, the minister said, including 102 who are intubated.
The minister said the 136 ICU patients were being administered a drug imported from China, which was reportedly effective in treating coronavirus patients there. Koca said Turkey could purchase more if it proves successful on the ICU patients in Turkey.
The country has so far reported 44 COVID-19 deaths and a total of 1,872 infections.
ATHENS, Greece — Authorities in Greece say the country's virus death toll has risen to 22 after two more deaths were reported, while the confirmed number of cases rose by 78 to reach 821.
Civil protection officials Wednesday also announced that several remote villages in northeastern Greece, near the country's border with Bulgaria, had been placed in quarantine due to a local spike in new coronavirus cases.
Separately, in neighboring North Macedonia, authorities reported a third virus death with the national case total at 177 people.
ROME — Italy has added 683 more dead and 5,210 infections to its coronavirus toll, but its initial steep rise in cases has continued to level off two weeks into a nationwide lockdown.
The new figures brought the number of infections to 74,386 and placed Italy on track to overtake China in the next day or two in having the most reported cases in the world. Italy last week reported more dead than China and on Wednesday registered a total of 7,503 dead with the virus, confirming its place as the European epicenter of the pandemic.
Dr. Massimo Galli of Milan’s Sacco Hospital said that the infections being verified in these days result from before many of the containment measures went into effect March 11. He told SKY TG24 that in his estimation the restrictions won’t be lifted any time soon.
“This is hard, but the numbers and facts say it,” Galli said.
His team at the Sacco Hospital has determined that the virus has been circulating in Italy since Jan. 25-26, and that it took almost a month for it to become recognized, around Feb. 20-21. That puts Italy as of March 3 at the same place Wuhan, China was on Jan. 25, he said, noting that China is only coming out of tight restrictions now, two months later.
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state has climbed to 3,800, with close to 900 in intensive care.
New York officials are keeping a close eye on already-stressed hospitals as the number of cases is projected to rise for perhaps three more weeks.
Cuomo said Wednesday that as many as 140,000 hospital beds may be needed in a state with 53,000. The state has more than 30,000 confirmed cases and 285 deaths. The nation-high figures are driven mostly by New York City.