The Latest COVID-19 Updates (April 28)

Staff Writer

3 p.m. WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will sign an executive order Tuesday meant to stave off a shortage of chicken, pork and other meat on American supermarket shelves because of the coronavirus.
The order will use the Defense Production Act to classify meat processing as critical infrastructure to keep production plants open.

2 p.m. LONDON (AP) — Doctors in Britain, Italy, and Spain have been warned to look out for a rare inflammatory condition in children that is possibly linked to the new coronavirus.
Earlier this week, Britain’s Paediatric Intensive Care Society issued an alert to doctors noting that, in the past three weeks, there has been an increase in the number of children with “a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care” across the country. The group said there was “growing concern” that either a COVID-19 related syndrome was emerging in children or that a different, unidentified disease might be responsible.
“We already know that a very small number of children can become severely ill with COVID-19 but this is very rare,” said Dr. Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health. He said the syndrome was likely caused by an overreaction of the body's immune system and noted similar symptoms had been seen in some adults infected with the coronavirus.
The cases were also reported to have features of toxic shock syndrome or Kawasaki disease, a rare blood vessel disorder. Only some of the children tested positive for COVID-19, so scientists are unsure if these rare symptoms are caused by the new coronavirus or by something else. Health officials estimate there have been about 10-20 such cases in Britain and NHS England said it is urgently investigating the reports.
Viner said that although doctors were considering other potential causes for the syndrome, including other viruses or new medications, “the working hypothesis is that it's COVID-related.”

12 p.m. HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s daily statistical update on COVID-19 showed no change in Jefferson County’s status, with four confirmed cases. The surrounding counties stood as follows: Clearfield, 11 cases; Indiana, 63 cases, four deaths; Armstrong, 47 cases, two deaths; Clarion, 22 cases, one death; Forest, seven cases; and Elk, three cases.

11:30 a.m. WASHINGTON — Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin says any loan exceeding $2 million from the Paycheck Protection Program will result in an audit before the loan is forgiven.
The announcement stems from concern over large companies gaining access to a program designed to help small businesses weather the coronavirus pandemic. Mnuchin says on CNBC the Small Business Administration will conduct reviews that makes sure “the intent for the taxpayers is fulfilled here.”
Mnuchin says it was up to borrowers to certify they met the parameters for receiving a loan. He says the borrowers “have criminal liability” if they made a false certification.
Some companies, such as Shake Shack and the Los Angeles Lakers, have returned the loans.
CANBERRA, Australia — The Chinese Foreign Ministry has again dismissed Australia’s call for an independent inquiry into the coronavirus, saying a senior Australian diplomat agrees that it is not the time for such an investigation.
Australia’s call for an international inquiry independent of the World Health Organization into where the respiratory virus came from and the United Nations agency’s handling of the emerging pandemic is placing increasing strain on Australia-China relations.
Chinese Ambassador Cheng Jingye warned in a newspaper interview published on Monday that pursuing an inquiry could spark a Chinese consumer boycott of students and tourists visiting the country and sales of major exports, including beef and wine.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade secretary Frances Adamson responded by calling Cheng to express Australia’s concerns about the interview.
The Chinese Embassy on Tuesday released a statement saying Adamson “admitted it is not the time to commence the review now and Australia has no details of the proposal.”

10 a.m. LONDON — An official says the British government’s virus contact tracing app will be ready in two to three weeks.
Britain and many other countries are developing mobile apps to help reduce infections after they ease lockdown restrictions.
Matthew Gould, CEO of the National Health Service’s digital transformation unit, says a San Francisco-based software company Pivotal Labs has done most of the work building the app.
He told Parliament’s science and technology select committee the rollout will be part of a wider post-lockdown strategy that includes expanded testing.
The app will use Bluetooth signals to anonymously log when a user comes into close contact with others. The data is kept on devices. But if users later develop COVID-19 symptoms or get positive test result, they can choose to upload the data to a central server so those contacts can be alerted.
Gould says such an approach would maintain user privacy while allowing authorities to see any patterns in the movement of the virus.
WARSAW, Poland — Authorities in Poland say a 100-year-old World War II veteran and former firefighter has recovered from COVID-19.
Iwona Soltys, a spokeswoman for a government hospital in Warsaw, tweeted that Stanislaw Bigos has recovered. She wished him plenty of health, positive thinking and energy in the future.
Deputy Interior Minister Blazej Pobozy tweeted it was “super news coming from our hospital.” He sent greeting to Bigos and congratulations to the doctors.
A nation of 38 million, Poland has reported more than 12,000 COVID-19 cases and 570 deaths.

9 a.m. PARIS (AP) — France and Spain, two of the worst-hit countries in the coronavirus pandemic, were laying out separate roadmaps Tuesday for lifting their lockdowns, while signs emerged that the virus has been all but vanquished in New Zealand and Australia.
But on the other side of the globe, Brazil was emerging as a new hotspot for infections. And new doubts were raised over whether Japan would be able to host the already postponed Summer Olympics next year without the development of a vaccine.
Brazil, Latin America’s most populous country with 211 million people, has reported 4,600 deaths and 67,000 confirmed infections. But the true numbers are believed to be vastly higher given the lack of testing and the many people who haven’t sought hospital care.
Medical officials in Rio de Janeiro and at least four other major Brazilian cities have warned t hat their hospital systems are on the verge of collapse or are too overwhelmed to take any more patients. There are also signs that a growing number of Brazilian victims are dying at home.
New Zealand, on the other hand, reported just three new infections Tuesday. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said people had done an incredible job of breaking the chain of virus transmission but cautioned they needed to remain vigilant.
President Donald Trump says states should “seriously consider” reopening their public schools before the end of the academic year, even though dozens already have said it would be unsafe for students to return until the summer or fall.
Trump made the comments Monday in a call with governors discussing how to reopen their economies, among other topics.
“Some of you might start thinking about school openings, because a lot of people are wanting to have the school openings. It’s not a big subject, young children have done very well in this disaster that we’ve all gone through," he said. While addressing Vice President Mike Pence, Trump added that it's something "they can seriously consider, and maybe get going on.”
None of the governors on the call responded to the suggestion, according to a recording obtained by The Associated Press.
KABUL, Afghanistan — War-ravaged Afghanistan has conducted barley 9,000 tests for COVID-19 and has recorded more than 1,800 positive cases, meaning one in nine Afghans tested were positive.
The government ordered a lockdown in several cities earlier this month. However, Afghanistan’s feuding political leaders have come under sharp criticism from the United States for bitter infighting that has raged for months. The U.S. has urged President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who also declared himself president, to set aside their differences to fight against the pandemic.
The U.S. has also urged the Taliban to reduce violence, also to battle the spread of the disease. It is feared an explosion in the number of COVID-19 cases could overwhelm a health care system that is woefully inadequate and largely destroyed by four decades of war.
The inadequate testing is particularly troubling because more than 200,000 Afghan refugees have returned in recent months from Iran, which is reeling from the pandemic. Iran is the hardest hit country in the region recording 91,472 positive cases and more than 5,800 deaths since it first surfaced earlier this year.
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is calling for “prudence and obedience” to government protocols dictating the easing of coronavirus shutdowns to prevent infections from surging again.
Francis made the appeal Tuesday after Italian bishops bitterly complained that the Italian government’s reopening schedule contained no provisions for Masses to be resumed.
At the start of his morning Mass Tuesday, Francis said: “As we are beginning to have protocols to get out of quarantine, let us pray that the Lord gives his people, all of us, the grace of prudence and obedience to the protocols so that the pandemic doesn’t return.”
The government announced Sunday that funerals could resume starting May 4, but there was no information on when the faithful could attend Mass. In a statement, Italian bishops said they “cannot accept that the exercise of the freedom of worship is compromised.”
The office of Premier Giuseppe Conte’s hastily responded that it was working on protocols to allow the resumption of Masses as soon as possible but “in conditions of maximum security.”
The clash was an unusual public display of tensions between church and state over the virus-imposed curbing of public religious observance, which has been blamed for helping to spread the infection in some parts of the world.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has repeated calls for joint efforts with North Korea to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which it sees as a potential opportunity to improve strained bilateral relations.
A South Korean presidential official, who refused to be named during a background briefing on Tuesday, said Seoul doesn’t expect the possible anti-virus efforts to clash with international sanctions against North Korea over its nuclear program.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in, who held three rounds of peace talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in 2018, earlier said joint anti-virus efforts could provide a “new opportunity” for inter-Korean engagement.
But the North has been ignoring the South’s calls after it virtually shut down all cooperation with its rival in past months amid faltering nuclear talks with the Trump administration. The North in late January closed an inter-Korean liaison office in the border town of Kaesong over virus concerns.
The North has said there hasn’t been a single virus case on its territory, but the claim is questioned by many outside experts.
Edwin Salvador, the World Health Organization’s representative to North Korea, said in an email to AP last week that the country reported that it tested 740 people for COVID-19 as of April 17 but that all came out negative. He said the North also said it so far released more than 25,000 people from quarantine since Dec. 31.
TOKYO — Japan said it will approve remdesivir, a closely watched antiviral drug made by Gilead Sciences Inc., for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in the country.
The drug is expected to be the first approved COVID-19 drug in Japan, ahead of a Japanese-developed anti-flu drug favipiravir.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters Tuesday that Japan has been part of a multinational joint testing of remdesivir since March and it was moving ahead overseas. Japan has a fast-track permit for emergency use of drugs approved overseas.
Remdesivir was originally developed to treat Ebola. A leak by the World Health Organization of a Chinese clinical trial suggesting the drug was not effective in severe cases, cast doubts over its effectiveness. The drug has been also used for SARS and MERS, but it is still under investigation for COVID-19.
Japan is currently testing favipiravir, jointly developed by Fujifilm and Toyama Chemical Co., at Japanese hospitals. Experts say both remdesivir and favipiravir can be effective when used in an early stage of COVID-19.
“We will do our utmost to deliver effective drugs for the patients as soon as possible,” Suga said.