The Latest: Italy tops 69,000 coronavirus cases

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Top U.S. defense and military leaders warn virus problems could extend for eight to 10 weeks

Italy tops 69,000 COVID-19 cases

Credit: AP Bernat Armangue

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 400,000 people and killed over 18,000. 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 103,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Italy has added thousands more coronavirus cases, pushing nation’s total to over 69,000.

— Top U.S. defense and military leaders warn virus problems could extend for eight to 10 weeks.

— Former President Jimmy Carter encourages donations to groups helping virus victims.

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ROME — Three weeks into national lockdown, Italy’s daily bulletin about its COVID-19 outbreak added thousands more cases, pushing the nation’s overall total to more than 69,000.

Civil Protection authorities say there were 743 more deaths of infected persons in a 24-hour period, adding to Italy’s overall death toll that is the world’s highest. After two straight days of day-to-day increases in new cases that had seen lower numbers, authorities on Tuesday said there were 5,249 new cases.

A day earlier, new cases in a 24-hour period had totaled some 460 fewer. For two days running, the percentage of day-to-day increase in case load stands at 8%. Health authorities have cautioned that it’s too soon to say if Italy is about to see a peak in the outbreak. The country now has at least 6,820 deaths.

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WASHINGTON — Top U.S. defense and military leaders are warning department personnel that the coronavirus problems could extend for eight to 10 weeks, or even into the summer.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Defense Department town hall meeting that the virus could extend into late May or June, and possibly even July. He says there are a variety of models from other countries, so the exact length of the virus and its restrictions are not yet clear.

Both Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned of potential national security challenges if the virus triggers a global recession and countries struggle to support their people. They also said the pandemic could have an impact on U.S. military readiness, but they expect that to be manageable as nations recover.

Milley says, “We will get through it.”

Esper says the Defense Department is trying to make sure there are enough test kits and that the results come back quickly. He expects more kits soon and says the testing turnaround will “increase dramatically.”

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ATLANTA — The Carter Center in Atlanta is asking supporters to forgo their next donation to it and direct it instead to a local group that is “reducing the suffering caused by this pandemic.”

The directive was signed by former President Jimmy Carter, his wife Rosalynn and their grandson Jason, who is chairman of the center’s board of directors.

The Carters say they have “every confidence” that the United States will pull together and overcome the threat brought by the coronavirus pandemic. They say the virus is a global threat to physical and economic health must be addressed “at every level of government and society.”

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LONDON — British Health Secretary Matt Hancock says the government is looking to build a volunteer army of a quarter of a million people to help deliver food and medicines to those quarantined during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hancock says the government is looking for people in good health to help the National Health Service support those who have been ask to “shield themselves.”

Though Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced sweeping curbs on people’s movements, the most vulnerable, including those with long-term health conditions, have effectively been told they must stay in place for at least 12 weeks.

Hancock says nearly 12,000 retired medical personnel have answered the call to help out. A new hospital will open at the Excel Centre in east London. Two wards capable of caring for 2,000 patients each will open next week at one of the country’s main events venues.

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LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva wants to see gun shops shut down during the coronavirus pandemic.

There are many restrictions in place on Los Angeles businesses, but those deemed essential remain open. However, Villanueva says gun shops “are not an essential function. We will be closing them.”

However, the sheriff’s authority to close gun shops is unclear since the California Department of Health says they are considered essential under the county’s “Safer at Home” order.

Villanueva says adding guns to households where more people are at home during a crisis increases the risk that someone will be shot.

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PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad — Trinidad & Tobago has temporarily closed all its sea and air ports to help curb coronavirus cases.

The measure went into effect Tuesday and comes as countries including Britain rushed to try and evacuate their citizens. The government says it won’t grant any exemptions. The twin-island nation has over 50 confirmed COVID-19 cases.

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STOCKHOLM — Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg says on social media that she believes she has recovered from mild symptoms of COVID-19 experienced during a period of quarantine following a European trip.

The teenager called on young people to protect groups at greater risk from the disease. Thunberg says her mild symptoms are “what makes it so much more dangerous” due to the risk of passing on the virus without knowing it.

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WASHINGTON — The federal Bureau of Prisons is instituting a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all new inmates entering any of the 122 federal correctional facilities in the U.S. in response to coronavirus concerns.

The announcement comes as the number of confirmed cases continues to grow among inmates and staff members at Bureau of Prisons facilities. There are more than 175,000 inmates in the federal prison system.

Union officials have raised concerns about whether there are adequate supplies of personal protective equipment for officers and inmates to slow the spread of the virus.

The Bureau of Prisons says it is working with court officials, local and state correctional institutions and the U.S. Marshals Service to “mitigate the risk of exposure in pretrial detention and jail facilities” and ensure safe inmate transfers.

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HONOLULU — The state of Hawaii has recorded its first death from COVID-19.

State officials say the unidentified adult suffered from multiple underlying health conditions, and that the available history of the person suggests they had a potential indirect travel-related exposure.

The person was tested at a clinical commercial laboratory, but the results were indeterminate.

Authorities say the person died Friday, and follow-up testing at a state lab on Monday confirmed the cause was COVID-19. Other than they lived on Oahu, officials didn’t release the person’s age or gender. The state health department says Hawaii has 77 positive cases with a majority of those on Oahu.

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NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his most dire warning yet about the coronavirus pandemic, saying the infection rate in New York is accelerating and the state could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis that projects 40,000 people in intensive care.

Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which now have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide.

Cuomo says the rate of new infections is doubling about every three days. While officials once thought the peak in New York would come in early May, they now say it could come in two to three weeks.

“We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own,” he said during a briefing in New York City. “One of the forecasters said we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train.”

There were nearly 26,000 positive cases in New York state with 210 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

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NEW DELHI — India will begin the world’s largest lockdown.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced it in a TV address Tuesday night, warning that anyone going outside risked inviting the coronavirus inside their homes. He pledged $2 billion to bolster the country’s beleaguered health care system.

“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” said Modi, adding that if the country failed to manage the next 21 days, it could be set back by 21 years.

India’s stay-at-home order puts nearly one-fifth of the world’s population under lockdown.

Indian health officials have reported 469 active cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths. Officials have repeatedly insisted there is no evidence yet of communal spread but have conducted relatively few tests for the disease.

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LONDON — Britain’s Treasury chief says a financial support package is being considered to help the 5 million self-employed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rishi Sunak told lawmakers the Treasury has been looking at this issue “in intense detail.” No timetable was offered.

Last week, Sunak said the government would pay four-fifths of the wages of workers if companies kept them on their payroll, up to 2,500 pounds ($2,950) a month.

With the government effectively closing down large chunks of the economy, many self-employed people face financial ruin — electricians, gym instructors and make-up artists cannot ply their trade over coming weeks.

Sunak said the government is “determined to find a way to support them” and make it “fair to the vast majority of the British workforce.”

Sunak said it’s more difficult to design a plan for the self-employed, largely because they don’t pay tax the same way as salaried workers.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexican health officials called on all businesses and organizations to suspend most work that requires travel.

Deputy health secretary Hugo López-Gatell said at a news conference hosted by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that work requiring people to travel between home and work sites or to public spaces must stop.

The measure, which could bring much of the country’s economic activity to a halt, was included in a list of measures the government has already implemented. There was no discussion of how it would be enforced or whether there would be penalties.

Many companies have already implemented plans to have employees working from home, but most businesses remain open, including restaurants and gyms.

López-Gatell called on employers to implement plans to keep working. “Institutions, private organizations can’t stop because we all depend on them,” he said.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called on business owners not to fire workers. Some Mexicans have criticized the government for not implementing stricter controls earlier.

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MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin visited a Moscow hospital for coronavirus patients and wore a protective suit.

During a visit to the Kommunarka hospital on the outskirts of Moscow, Putin praised its doctors for high professionalism, saying they were working “like clockwork.”

After a meeting with the hospital’s chief doctor, Putin donned a yellow hazmat suit with a mask and went into the area where patients were treated.

Russia has registered 495 cases of the coronavirus and reported no deaths, which contrasts with the quick spread of contagion in Europe. Some experts say the low numbers could be attributed to a relatively slow pace of screening. Until recently, just one lab in Novosibirsk was analyzing tests from all over Russia and authorities have moved to open new labs and increase the number of tests.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reported to Putin the number of coronavirus tests performed in the capital will increase from about 3,000 a day to 13,000 later this week. Sobyanin says the situation could quickly exacerbate.

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BUCHAREST, Romania — Romania’s president says the country will upgrade a nighttime curfew and make it mandatory for Romanians to stay home all day with a few exceptions.

President Klaus Iohannis says only people going to work, the pharmacy or food store for “essential shopping” will be allowed out.

People over 65 are banned from leaving their homes, while people in quarantine will be equipped with electronic monitoring devices.

Romania has 762 confirmed cases of people infected with the coronavirus. So far, eight deaths have been linked to COVID-19.

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GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — A U.S. Navy sailor has become the first person to test positive for the coronavirus at the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The base says in a statement Tuesday the unidentified sailor is isolated at home at the naval station along the southeastern coast of Cuba. The base says health authorities are attempting to track anyone who had contact with the sailor.

Medical personnel have been screening anyone who arrives at the base and the Navy has imposed social-distancing rules.

The naval station has a population of about 6,000 people. That includes about 2,000 foreign laborers from Jamacia and the Philippines.

There are still 40 prisoners held at the Guantanamo detention center. Most base personnel have no contact with the men held there

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