TOP OF THE HOUR: — UN increases amount of appeal to fight coronavirus to $6.7 billion — Democrats on NY Board of Elections challenge reinstatement of presidential primary — China says all areas of country have been downgraded to low virus risk
— Brazil’s health minister for the first time has said that lockdowns will be needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. — U.K. has become second country to record more than 30,000 deaths as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
— Former CDC director: US will reach 100,000 virus deaths by the end of May..
The United Nations is increasing its appeal to fight the coronavirus pandemic in fragile and vulnerable countries from $2 billion to $6.7 billion.
U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock reiterated that the peak of the pandemic is not expected to hit the world’s poorest countries for three to six months. But he said there is already evidence of incomes plummeting and jobs disappearing, food supplies falling and prices soaring, and children missing vaccinations and meals.
Since the original appeal on March 25, the U.N. said $1 billion has been raised to support efforts across 37 fragile countries to tackle COVID-19.
The updated appeal launched Thursday includes nine additional vulnerable countries: Benin, Djibouti, Liberia, Mozambique, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Togo and Zimbabwe.
Lowcock said “in the poorest countries we can already see economies contracting as export earnings, remittances and tourism disappear.
“Unless we take action now, we should be prepared for a significant rise in conflict, hunger and poverty,” he warned. “The specter of multiple famines looms.”
SEOUL, South Korea __ South Korea says it’ll expand its humanitarian shipments of masks to other countries amid waning domestic cases of the coronavirus.
The country’s food and drug safety minister, Lee Eui-kyung, told reporters Thursday that a total of 70 countries had requested for mask shipments from South Korea.
Lee says South Korea will focus on assisting countries with bigger outbreaks which urgently need masks. She says diplomatic and security relations will also be considered before choosing which countries South Korea will support.
Lee says the South Korean government will purchase masks for free overseas provisions or allow domestic companies to export them. Since March, South Korea has largely banned the exports of masks.
Earlier Thursday, South Korea reported four more virus cases over the past 24 hours in a continued slowdown of news cases in the country.
NEW YORK -- Democratic members of the state’s Board of Elections filed an appeal Wednesday of a federal judge’s reinstatement of the New York presidential primary.
The appeal by board Commissioner Andrew Spano and other members comes a day after the June 23 primary was reinstated by U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres in Manhattan, who said canceling it would be unconstitutional and deprive withdrawn presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Andrew Yang of proper representation at the Democratic convention.
Torres said there was enough time before the primary to plan how to carry it out safely.
Torres’ decision came after lawyers for Sanders and Yang argued Monday that their clients would be harmed irreparably.
Asked for comment on the appeal Wednesday night, Sanders’ attorney Arthur Schwartz said it’s disappointing and there are safe ways to have a primary on June 23.
The Democratic members of the State’s Board of Elections voted last week to cancel the presidential primary even though New York still planned to hold its congressional and state-level primaries June 23.
BEIJING — China on Thursday declared all areas of the vast country have been downgraded from high to low virus risk, as the numbers of new cases falls to near zero and no new deaths have been reported in more than three weeks.
The last region to be downgraded was Linkou county outside the city of Mudanjiang in the province of Heilongjiang that borders on Russia and where the most recent spike in cases had been reported. Authorities shut an emergency field hospital in the region after the closing of the land border and strict social distancing measures appeared to have effectively brought the number of new cases to zero.
China’s National Health Administration on Thursday reported just two new coronavirus cases, both of them brought from overseas, and said 295 people remained in hospital with COVID-19. Another 884 people were under isolation and monitoring for being suspected cases or for having tested positive while showing no symptoms.
In total, China has reported 4,633 deaths among 82,885 cases of the virus that is believed to have originated in the central industrial city of Wuhan late last year before spreading worldwide.
SEOUL, South Korea -- Military aircraft will be used to transport 500,000 masks intended for U.S. veterans of the 1950-53 Korean War as South Korea expands efforts to help other countries deal with the coronavirus while its own outbreak slows.
South Korea’s Defense Ministry said Thursday the C-130J cargo plane will depart from an air base in the southern town of Gimhae on Friday.
The ministry says another 500,000 masks will be distributed to Korean War veterans in other nations through diplomatic offices and that they would be able to receive them by mid-May or earlier.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported four new cases of the virus and one more death, bringing national totals to 10,810 and 254 deaths. The country was reporting around 500 new cases a day in early March, but last saw a daily jump over 100 on April 1.
South Korea since March has banned the exports of masks and channeled most domestically produced masks to pharmacies, where people are currently limited to buying three masks per week. The nationwide rationing program was a drastic attempt at calming public anger over shortages, but officials say supply has now stabilized and that the country may send more masks overseas at a level that doesn’t disrupt domestic use.
WELLINGTON, New Zealand — Bars, retail stores and hair salons could be reopened from next week and domestic travel once again allowed in New Zealand.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Thursday outlined what the country would look like under a further relaxation of its lockdown rules. Much of the country would get back to a semblance of normality. Senior lawmakers will decide Monday whether to go ahead with the plan from Wednesday.
Under the plan, schools could reopen from the following week. The country’s borders would remain shut. Gatherings would be restricted to 100 people and social distancing protocols would be required. Professional sports would start again, although without the crowds. Hair salons could reopen but staff would be required to wear masks and protective gear. At bars, restaurants and other social venues, people would need to be individually seated, making it unlikely that certain businesses such as nightclubs could reopen.
Ardern said it was important for the country to proceed cautiously and not backslide, saying it was like being halfway down Mt. Everest and that nobody wanted to climb the mountain again.
New Zealand has been successful in reducing new cases of the virus to a trickle, including two days this week when no new cases were recorded. In total, the country has reported close to 1,500 cases and 21 deaths.
MANILA, Philippines — A cruise ship that is the subject of an Australian criminal investigation for sparking coronavirus infections has sailed into Philippine waters en route to Manila to bring Filipino crewmen home.
The Philippine coast guard said Thursday the Ruby Princess will drop anchor in Manila Bay, where at least 16 other luxury cruise ships have converged since last month while waiting for more than 5,000 Filipino crew members to be tested for the coronavirus before disembarking.
Coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo said 214 Filipino crewmen on board the Ruby Princess will be tested.
The Ruby Princess has been linked to 19 deaths in Australia and two in the United States. An Australian government inquiry is underway into why 2,700 passengers and crew were allowed to disembark in Sydney on March 19 before the test results of sick passengers were known.
Many passengers flew from Sydney overseas. Two died at home in the United States, including Los Angeles resident Chung Chen, whose family is suing Princess Cruises for more than $1 million for failing to alert passengers to the risk.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s largest airline says it will resume some of its suspended flights to North America, Europe and Asia next month to expand cargo transport and prepare for a possible increase in travelers as countries ease their coronavirus restrictions.
Despite the increased flights, Korean Air said Thursday it will still be operating only 32 of its 110 international routes in June.
The airline next month will resume flights to Washington, Seattle, Vancouver and Toronto and increase the number of weekly flights to San Francisco, Atlanta and Chicago.
For Europe, the airline will resume flights to Amsterdam and Frankfurt and increase flights to Paris and London. Flights to Singapore, Kula Lumpur, Myanmar’s Yangon and Vietnam’s Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City will also be resumed.
Korean Air has said the coronavirus pandemic, which has decimated global travel, has pushed South Korean airlines into an existential crisis and called for stronger government support. The company is currently rotating 70% of its 20,000 workers on six months paid leave.
WALLA WALLA, Wash. — Authorities say some people are intentionally flouting health recommendations by exposing themselves and others to the coronavirus at “COVID parties” in southeastern Washington state.
Meghan DeBolt, director of Walla Walla County’s Department of Community Health, told the Union-Bulletin this week that contact tracing has revealed that some are attending gatherings with the idea that it is better to get sick with the virus and get it over with. New positive test results in the county have resulted from such parties.
“We ask about contacts, and there are 25 people because: ‘We were at a COVID party,’” DeBolt said.
Washington State Department of Health officials on Wednesday released a statement saying gathering in groups in the midst of this pandemic can be incredibly dangerous and puts people at increased risk for hospitalization and death.
SAN DIEGO — A 57-year-old person in immigration custody died Wednesday from complications related to the coronavirus, authorities said, marking the first reported death from the virus among about 30,000 people in immigration custody.
The detainee had been held at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego and hospitalized since late April, said Craig Sturak, a spokesman for the San Diego County Health & Human Services Agency.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement would neither confirm nor deny the death. CoreCivic Inc., the private company that operates the detention center, didn’t respond to a request for comment.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Millions of protective masks that were to arrive in California this week as part of the state’s nearly $1 billion deal with a Chinese company have been delayed, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.
The governor said the N95 masks made by BYD, an electric vehicle manufacturer with a California manufacturing plant, were stalled in the federal certification process. He did not explain further, and his office did not respond to a request for more information.
Last month, Newsom announced the deal to great fanfare, calling it a “bold and big” effort in the state’s fight against the coronavirus. He said the deal would result in 500 million masks that were a mixture of traditional surgical masks and the more protective N95 models to the state over the next 2.5 months.
The state took the unusual step of paying about half the contract up front to cover about 300 million N95 masks at $3.30 per mask. The payment was made to Global Healthcare Product Solutions, a subsidiary of BYD.
The price per mask was first reported Wednesday by the Los Angeles Times and based on purchasing documents from the state treasurer’s office. The total contract also included looser-fitting surgical masks, though details on those were not part of the initial payment, said Brian Ferguson, a spokesman for the Office of Emergency Services.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — More than 60% of coronavirus deaths in Washington are linked to long-term care facilities and authorities say more than 250 such locations in the state have reported at least one COVID-19 case.
The state’s COVID-19 response team released information Wednesday showing there were 507 deaths tied to such facilities as of last Saturday, accounting for 61% of virus fatalities in the state at the time. There were 2,894 positive cases associated with care facilities, representing 19% of total cases as of last week.
Nursing homes have been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the nation’s first deadly cluster of COVID-19 cases happened at a Seattle-area care facility, where more than 40 people died.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Gov. Gavin Newsom signed an executive order allowing employees across California’s economy to apply for worker’s compensation if they contract the coronavirus.
It presumes that the infection was work-related unless employers can prove otherwise. The presumption applies for the next 60 days and is retroactive to March 19, when Newsom first ordered all but essential workers to stay at home.
He said the change is needed now as California prepares to relax those orders in coming days and weeks. A state rating bureau previously said such a decision could cost from about $2 billion to nearly $34 billion annually.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Republican lawmakers trying to unravel Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ statewide stay-at-home order are moving legislation that would keep the governor from enforcing the restrictions.
The Democratic governor’s decision to extend his stay-at-home order through May 15 has provoked criticism from Republicans who prefer a parish-by-parish approach.
A House committee voted 9-7 Wednesday to advance a proposal to strip Edwards’ ability to penalize businesses that don’t comply with his order, for 15 days from passage.
It would have to win support from the House and Senate to take effect. And it could be moot within days.
Edwards will announce Monday if he’ll lessen the restrictions May 16, and he’s said he’s hopeful he’ll be able to do so.
BRASILIA, Brazil — Brazil’s health minister for the first time has said that lockdowns will be needed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in Latin America’s most populous country, where deaths have hit a new high of more than 600 two days in a row.
Nelson Teich told reporters that lockdowns will be important for parts of the country with high infection rates and crowded hospitals with more patients arriving. He didn’t name any specific cities or states.
Teich’s comments stood in stark contrast to comments over the past two months from President Jair Bolsonaro, who has called the virus a “little flu” and criticized business shutdowns ordered by governors as more damaging to the country’s economy than the virus itself.
Teich took office last month as virus cases started surging in Brazil. He pledged to save both lives and the economy and said at the time that he and Bolsonaro saw eye to eye.
Brazil is the hardest hit country in Latin America by the coronavirus. Experts fear that the situation will get worse, especially in the teeming slums called favelas where more than 11 million people live in cramped conditions.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said that schools should re-open in most of the country but that it would be understandable if older teachers with health issues stayed home.
Trump was asked about schools in the Oval Office during an appreciation ceremony for and with nurses.
Most schools around the country shut down in March and have shifted to remote learning through the end of the academic year. Reopening them is considered key to getting the economy moving again.
It was the second time in two weeks Trump has endorsed the idea, citing how children have fared during the coronavirus pandemic.
On a call with governors last week, he said states should “seriously consider” reopening schools before the end of the academic year.
“It’s incredible,” he said Wednesday. “We realize how strong children are. Their immune system is maybe a little bit different, maybe it’s just a little bit stronger or maybe it’s a lot stronger. Could be a lot stronger. We’ve learned a lot by watching this monster.”
The comments have provoked backlash from teachers unions and others who say reopening too early would be dangerous for students and staff.
HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut’s colleges and universities may open at their discretion, in a phased-in way between May 20 and September 1, with mass COVID-19 testing of students living on residential campuses, under a package of recommendations submitted to Gov. Ned Lamont.
The plan, however, depends on certain benchmarks being met, such as a steady decline in hospitalizations in Connecticut and colleges and universities having adequate supplies of tests, face masks and personal protective equipment.
Approximately 190,000 students are enrolled in higher education institutions across Connecticut. They employ about 45,000 people.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has asked the Justice Department to investigate allegations of potential market manipulation and possible price fixing by meatpackers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump told reporters at the White House that he’s asked the Justice Department to launch an investigation.
Justice Department spokeswoman Kerri Kupec confirmed the president has asked the agency to investigate potential antitrust issues. Officials said the department has also received a number of inquiries from members of Congress about the matter.
Attorneys general for 11 Midwestern states also asked the Justice Department to pursue a federal investigation. They noted in a letter to William Barr on Tuesday that the domestic beef processing market is highly concentrated, with the four largest beef processors controlling 80 percent of the industry.
They said the meat market could be “particularly susceptible to market manipulation” especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
LONDON — The U.K. has become the second country to record more than 30,000 deaths as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said at the government’s daily briefing that another 649 people in the U.K. have died in all settings, including hospitals and care homes, after testing positive for the coronavirus.
That takes the U.K.’s official death toll to 30,076, only behind the United States, which has more than 71,000 coronavirus-related deaths.
The British government is expected to extend the lockdown restrictions on Thursday when they come up for review, partly because deaths remain elevated despite falling when measured over a seven-day period.
Tom Frieden, a former director of the CDC, testified at a House hearing that there will be 100,000 deaths in the United States by the end of May.
As bad as the crisis has been, “It’s just the beginning,” he said.
“Our war against COVID will be long and difficult.”
Republican Rep. Andy Harris of Maryland, a hearing participant, said reopening the economy can’t wait. “We’re safer from death if we’re not born,” he said.
LANSING, Mich. — The Republican-led Michigan Legislature is suing Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, asking a judge to declare invalid and unenforceable her stay-at-home order and other measures issued to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in the state Court of Claims, says a 1945 law that gives the governor broad emergency powers to order such restrictions governs local, not statewide, declarations such as the one that has been in place since March.
It contends Whitmer needs legislative approval to extend the declaration and effectively keep intact the stay-home directive.
The order is in place at least through May 15 and generally requires people to shelter in place except to do critical jobs, exercise outdoors and buy groceries or other items.
Nearly 4,200 people in Michigan have died of complications from COVID-19.
Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.