TOP OF THE HOUR: — Probe suggests many more virus-related deaths in Mexico City than official count. — Hong Kong ramping up coronavirus testing. — China reports 6 new cases, South Korea 13. — Texas continues swift reopening.
— Trump says he's taking malaria drug to protect against virus.
A registry of death certificates in Mexico City suggests there have been 4,577 cases in which doctors mentioned coronavirus or COVID-19 as a possible or probable cause of death, more than three times the official count.
The federal government acknowledges only 1,332 confirmed deaths in Mexico City due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Mexicans Against Corruption said in a report Monday it obtained access to a database of death certificates issued in Mexico City between March 18 and May 12. It showed that in explanatory notes attached to 4,577 death certificates, doctors included the words “SARS,” “COV2,” “COV,” “Covid 19,” or “new coronavirus.”
The virus’ technical name is SARS-CoV-2. The notes the group counted included terms such as “suspected,” “probable," or “possible” when describing the virus' role in the deaths. In 3,209 certificates, it was listed as a suspected contributing factor along with other causes of death, like pneumonia, respiratory failure, septic shock or multiple organ failure.
Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has acknowledged there are more virus-related deaths than officially reported, and has said a special commission will review the death figures. Her office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new report.
HONG KONG — Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam says the territory is ramping up coronavirus testing, especially for workers at the busy international airport and caregivers at homes for the elderly and disabled.
Lam said Tuesday tests would be increased from 4,500 to 7,000 daily with both the government health department and university laboratories taking part. Hong Kong has gone several days without new local infections, but a recent cluster among three members of the same family has increased concerns about those who show no symptoms passing the virus on to others, something authorities hope can be remedied with increased testing.
A densely populated city of more than 7 million people just across the border from mainland China, Hong Kong has reported 1,055 COVID-19 cases and four deaths.
BEIJING — China reported six new coronavirus cases Tuesday, a day after President Xi Jinping announced his country would provide $2 billion to help respond to the outbreak and its economic fallout.
Three of the new cases were listed as imported. Two were registered as local infections in Jilin province, and another local case was identified in Hubei province, where China’s outbreak was centered.
Authorities in Hubei carried out nucleic acid tests on more than 1.5 million people between May 11 and May 17. More than 72.5% of tests were administered in Wuhan, where authorities plan to eventually test all 11 million residents as part of safeguards against a second wave of virus cases.
Wuhan and surrounding cities in Hubei accounted for the bulk of China’s reported 82,690 cases and 4,634 deaths from COVID-19.
Xi’s appearance via video link at the World Health Assembly on Monday came amid finger-pointing between the United States and China over the pandemic, and the World Health Organization bowing to calls from most of its member states to launch an independent inquiry into how it managed the response to the coronavirus.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 13 new coronavirus cases, a possible sign that a recent outbreak in the capital area is stabilizing as officials prepare to reopen schools this week.
Figures announced by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday brought national totals to 11,078 cases and 263 deaths.
Nine of the new cases were from Seoul and nearby regions, where dozens of infections have been linked to club goers who went out in early May as the country began relaxing social distancing measures.
Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip urged vigilance to maintain hard-won gains against the virus and called for education officials to double check preventive measures with high school seniors returning to school on Wednesday.
University of Notre Dame officials announced Monday the school’s campus will reopen to students on Aug. 10, with social distancing, a mask requirement, testing and contact tracing to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Notre Dame's president, the Rev. John Jenkins, said the university will open to students two weeks earlier than originally scheduled. He said there won’t be a fall break and the semester will end before Thanksgiving.
“Bringing our students back is in effect assembling a small city of people from many parts of the nation and the world, who may bring with them pathogens to which they have been exposed,” Jenkins said in a statement. ``We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet.”
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas is allowing most facets of daily life to reopen under what Republican Gov. Greg Abbott calls the second phase of one of the nation’s swiftest reboots.
Abbott’s sweeping new orders Monday lifts most full lockdown orders in Texas. Bars, child daycare centers and zoos are the latest businesses that can start reopening. Summer camps and youth sports will also be allowed by June.
Abbott says social distancing measures must still be in place, including limits on customers and no fans at sporting events. Theme parks remained closed.
Abbott says he’s seen “no evidence” that raise concerns about a possible new wave of cases that might force Texas to impose tougher restrictions again.
Democrats have criticized the governor for going too fast. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says he probably would’ve chosen a different pace and that his “only hope and prayer” is there’s not another spike in cases.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Monday he is taking a malaria drug to lessen symptoms should he get the new coronavirus, even though the drug is unproven for fighting COVID-19.
Trump told reporters he has been taking the drug, hydroxychloroquine, and a zinc supplement daily “for about a week and a half now.” Trump spent weeks pushing the drug as a potential cure for COVID-19 against the cautionary advice of many of his administration’s top medical professionals. The drug has the potential to cause significant side effects in some patients and has not been shown to combat the new coronavirus.
Trump said his doctor did not recommend the drug to him, but he requested it from the White House physician.
Trump repeatedly has pushed the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine with or without the antibiotic azithromycin, but no large, rigorous studies have found them safe or effective for preventing or treating COVID-19. They can cause heart rhythm problems and other side effects. The Food and Drug Administration has warned against the drug combo and said hydroxychloroquine should only be used for coronavirus in formal studies.
Two large observational studies, each involving around 1,400 patients in New York, recently found no benefit from hydroxychloroquine. Two new ones published Thursday in the medical journal BMJ reached the same conclusion.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — California Gov. Gavin Newsom relaxed county reopening criteria on Monday, a move he said will allow most of the state’s 58 counties to begin allowing dining in restaurants and other services.
“Bottom line is: People can go at their own pace, and we are empowering our local health directors and county officials that understand their local communities and conditions,” Newsom said.
The new criteria he outlined applies to counties that want to reopen faster than the state. While retail may open for curbside pickup statewide, restrictions on dining in at restaurants and other services are still in place statewide. Counties can move faster if they win state approval.
Twenty-four counties in mostly rural Northern California already won approval under the old guidance.
The new criteria eliminates requirements that a county have zero deaths and no more than than one case per 10,000 residents over a two-week period. Instead, counties must have no more than 25 cases per 100,000 residents or no higher than an 8% positive rate among people testing for the coronavirus. They also must have no higher than a 5% increase in hospitalizations over a 7-day period or fewer than 20 hospitalizations total over 14 days. The latter will ensure small counties don’t get penalized for just one or two extra hospitalizations.
Newsom also said counties will soon be able to allow shopping in stores and hair salons to reopen. He also suggested professional sports could begin in June without spectators. He said the reopening of churches could begin within weeks.
WASHINGTON — Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is slamming the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, proclaiming that President Donald Trump, “had months, months to take action” and failed to do so before the U.S. death toll began rising.
Biden addressed the AAPI Victory Fund’s “Progressive Summit” virtually on Monday, speaking from his home in Delaware, as Canadian geese honked loudly and persistently in the background. The group aims to empower Asian American and Pacific Islanders.
The former vice president said of the virus, “The scale of the loss is staggering and it’s infuriating.”
“But more than that, it’s heartbreaking to think how much fear, how much loss, how much agony could have been avoided if the president hadn’t wasted so much time and taken responsibility,” Biden said. “We got denials, delays, distraction — many of which were openly xenophobic.”
Biden added, that the country, “Got bald-faced lies about testing capacity that, ‘Anyone who wants a test can get a test.’”
“It wasn’t remotely true two months ago,” he said “and it still isn’t.”
CAIRO — The governor of Egypt’s Daqahlia province, northeast of the capital, has contracted the coronavirus, among the highest-ranking officials in the Arab world’s most populous nation to be infected.
In an interview with the local Sada el-Balad channel, Dr. Ayman Mokhtar says he’s in stable condition but suffers debilitating fatigue and a cough.
The Nile Delta governorate has been a virus hot spot in Egypt, targeted with tight movement restrictions in recent weeks.
Egypt has reported 12,764 cases and 645 deaths because of the virus, a relatively modest toll compared with some other countries in the region. But the count is rapidly accelerating, raising fears that a bigger outbreak is yet to come.
ORLANDO, Fla. — As Walt Disney World prepares to allow some third-party shops and restaurants to open at its entertainment complex later this week, it’s posting a warning.
While enhanced safety measures are being taken at Disney Springs, “an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present,” the company said Monday on a website for the entertainment complex.
“COVID-19 is an extremely contagious disease that can lead to severe illness and death. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, senior citizens and guests with underlying medical conditions are especially vulnerable,” the warning said. “By visiting Disney Springs you voluntarily assume all risks related to exposure to COVID-19.”
The opening of some shops and restaurants at Disney Springs on Wednesday marks the latest baby steps Orlando’s theme park resorts are taking toward reopening since mid-March when the spread of the new coronavirus forced them to shut their gates.
Last week, Universal Orlando allowed the opening of about a half-dozen restaurants and eateries, as well as two retail shops and some merchandise carts at its Citywalk entertainment complex.
SALEM, Ore. — A county judge has declared Oregon Gov. Kate Brown’s coronavirus restrictions “null and void” because she didn’t have her emergency orders approved by the Legislature following 28 days.
Baker County Circuit Judge Matthew Shirtcliff made the ruling Monday in a lawsuit brought by churches who had sued saying the social-distancing directives were unconstitutional.
The suit had also argued that emergency powers only last for a month and after that Brown would have needed legislative approval. The judge agreed.
Brown said she would immediately appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court to try to keep the emergency orders in effect.
LANSING, Mich. — Restaurants, bars and other retail businesses can open in much of northern Michigan starting Friday, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced in relaxing her stay-at-home restrictions — a key step for the tourism-dependent region before the Memorial Day weekend and summer season.
Bars and restaurants, which have only been able to do pickup and delivery, will have to limit capacity to 50% under Monday’s announcement.
Groups will be required to stay 6 feet apart, and servers will have to wear face coverings. Office business also will be able to resume if work cannot be done remotely.
The governor’s latest order keeps closed other places of public accommodation such as movie theaters, gyms and hair salons in all 83 counties, at least through May 28.
Whitmer called the partial reopening of northern Michigan a “big step,” but urged people to not “go rushing out.” She recommended that residents considering visiting the Upper Peninsula or a 17-county region of the northern Lower Peninsula — which have 7.5% of the state’s 10 million people — to “think long and hard.”
“The whole state is watching to make sure we get this right,” said Whitmer, a Democrat who has been criticized by Republican lawmakers for not earlier restarting sectors by region. “If we get this right, we will be able to take the next step.”
Whitmer also issued an order requiring that businesses resuming in-person work develop a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan and make it available to employees and customers by June 1.
JUBA, South Sudan — South Sudan Vice President Riek Machar says he has tested positive for the coronavirus.
The former leader of the armed opposition in South Sudan’s five-year civil war rejoined the government months ago under the latest peace deal.
Machar is the deputy of the country’s COVID-19 task force and says all of its members were tested after one was found to have the virus.
He says his wife, the defense minister, also has tested positive but says “many” of those who tested positive are in good health.
Machar’s spokesman James Gatdet says that includes Machar and his wife, and he adds that the infections will not hinder the implementation of the peace deal.
South Sudan’s government says the country now has 347 confirmed virus cases.
ROME — Italy has registered its lowest daily increases in both deaths and new cases of COVID-19 since before the national lockdown began in early March.
According to data from the Health Ministry, 99 deaths of persons with coronavirus infections were registered in a 24-hour period ending Monday evening.
That same period saw 451 confirmed new cases.
On Monday, Italians enjoyed a first day of regained freedoms, including being able to sit down at a cafe or restaurant, shop in all retail stores or attend church services such as Mass.
But until next month they still can’t travel outside their regions except for work or other strict necessities, as lockdown rules are gradually lifted.
Italy now officially has 32,007 deaths, although many in nursing homes who died during the lockdown period weren’t tested for coronavirus as the tests were mainly given to hospitalized patients.
Overall, there are 225,886 confirmed cases of COVID-in Italy, where Europe’s outbreak began.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president has announced a new four-day curfew during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr to be applied across the country to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Speaking after a cabinet meeting, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he hoped the restrictions would no longer be needed after the next round of lockdowns between May 23 and 26.
Previous weekend and national curfews were applied to 31 provinces, but this round will restrict people to their homes in all 81 provinces.
The country has opted to impose short weekend and holiday curfews, instead of full lockdowns, fearing possible negative effects on the already troubled economy.
Turkey’s health ministry announced 31 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the lowest since the end of March, bringing the death toll to 4,171. The data also showed 1,158 new infections with the total now at 150,593.
GENEVA — The U.S. Health and Human Services secretary has demanded “change” at the World Health Organization, accusing it of failing to obtain the information the world needed as the coronavirus outbreak emerged.
Alex Azar said the United States supports an independent review of “every aspect of WHO’s response to the pandemic,” keeping up a U.S. onslaught against the U.N. health agency over its alleged failure to press China to be more transparent about the origins of the outbreak.
Without mentioning China by name, Azar said: “In an apparent attempt to conceal this outbreak, at least one member state made a mockery of their transparency obligations, with tremendous costs for the entire world.”
Azar, speaking by video conference to the WHO’s annual assembly, also joined recent statements from the U.S. State Department blasting the U.N. health agency for not allowing Taiwan, whose government is a rival of China’s, to attend the event as an observer state.
“The health of 23 million Taiwanese people should never be sacrificed to send a political message,” Azar said.
He said the United States had allocated $9 billion to benefit the global coronavirus response.
Azar spoke just hours after Chinese President Xi Jinping addressed the assembly by videoconference, saying China would spend $2 billion to help respond to the COVID-19 crisis and economic fallout from it.
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