The Latest COVID-19 Updates (May 14)

Staff Writer

1:30 p.m. HARRISBURG, Pa. — Two days after Gov. Tom Wolf lambasted them as “cowardly” and vowed to withhold funding, several Pennsylvania counties signaled Wednesday they are moving ahead with plans to defy him by lifting some pandemic restrictions. Others backed down under the governor’s threat.
Commissioners in many GOP-controlled counties where the Democratic governor has yet to ease any restrictions say they can manage the public health impacts of COVID-19 and reopen safely. They say the shutdown threatens to destroy local economies.
Beaver County, home to a severe nursing home outbreak, said it plans to operate as if Wolf had already eased restrictions there, meaning residents can freely leave their homes and retailers, offices and other kinds of businesses can reopen.
ATLANTA — Atlanta’s zoo plans to reopen this weekend as more Georgia businesses attempt to get back to normal amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Outdoor areas of the zoo will reopen to the public on Saturday, with employees wearing masks and the number of visitors limited, zoo officials said.
“We are pleased to welcome our members and guests back to the outdoor experiences and connections to wildlife that can only be found at Zoo Atlanta,” Raymond King, the zoo’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
“As important as this is to us, it was essential that we not reopen the zoo until we could do so confidently, with the safety of our visitors, team members and the animals in our care as the number one priority,” he added. “Many weeks of planning have gone into our reopening, and everything we have done or will do is being done with this in mind.”
RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro warned of looming “chaos” as he once again lambasted governors and mayors who introduced lockdowns in cities to limit spread of the new coronavirus.
Bolsonaro told journalists in Brasilia the lockdowns and closing everything "is the path to failure. It will break Brazil.”
Meanwhile, local news website G1 reported Thursday that 900 people in Rio de Janeiro were waiting for an intensive care bed in one of the state’s overwhelmed units. And Alagoas joined the growing list of states whose intensive-care units are full in several hospitals.
In Rio and neighboring Minas Gerais state, Federal Police served dozens of arrest warrants targeting businessmen who paid bribes to win public tenders over the past decade, and recently used their connections to secure contracts for work linked to the pandemic. They took advantage of the state of calamity that allowed state governments to award contracts worth millions without bids, a Federal Police statement said.
LOS ANGELES — Everyone in Los Angeles must wear a mask when outside their homes.
The new order is intended to slow the spread of the coronavirus as easing of other restrictions allows more people to return to work and recreation. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the requirement Wednesday evening, saying “every reasonable precaution” must be taken as steps are slowly being taken to reopen the economy.
Easing of the “safer at home” orders issued by the city and Los Angeles County began last week with the reopening of some retail using curbside pickup, hiking trails and golf courses. Beaches reopened Wednesday, and there is now further opening of retail, manufacturing and logistics.
MOSCOW — Russia’s capital on Friday is to begin free coronavirus testing for all residents.
Under the program announced by Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, tests for coronavirus antibodies, a marker of infection, will be conducted at 30 clinics throughout the city. Sobyanin said that 70,000 city residents will receive invitations for testing “every few days” and the city will have the capacity to do 200,000 tests a day by the end of the month.
Moscow, with a population of about 12 million, accounts for half the country’s more than 221,000 reported infections.

12 p.m. HARRISBURG — Jefferson County still has seven cases of COVID-19, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s daily statistical update on Thursday. The surrounding counties stood as follows: Clearfield, 33 cases; Indiana, 82 cases, five deaths; Armstrong, 56 cases, five deaths; Clarion, 24 cases, one death; Forest, seven cases; and Elk, six cases, one death.

9 a.m. WASHINGTON (AP) — America faces the “darkest winter in modern history” unless leaders act decisively to prevent a rebound of the coronavirus, says a government whistleblower who alleges he was ousted from his job after warning the Trump administration to prepare for the pandemic.
Immunologist Dr. Rick Bright makes his sobering prediction in testimony prepared for his appearance Thursday before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Aspects of his complaint about early administration handling of the crisis are expected to be backed up by testimony from an executive of a company that manufactures respirator masks.
A federal watchdog agency has found “reasonable grounds” that Bright was removed from his post as head of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority after sounding the alarm at the Department of Health and Human Services. Bright alleged he became a target of criticism when he urged early efforts to invest in vaccine development and stock up on supplies.
BEIJING — China’s foreign ministry says U.S. authorities have failed to effectively fight the global coronavirus pandemic and “abused American people’s trust.”
Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian did not identify any officials by name but appeared to be firing back against accusations from the Trump administration that China mishandled or deliberately delayed releasing information about the outbreak first detected in the central Chinese city of Wuhan late last year.
U.S. officials were “engaged in political manipulation of buck-passing and shirking responsibilities,” Zhao said at a daily briefing Thursday. He dismissed discussion of legal action against the Chinese government as “frivolous” and said the U.S. should “focus more on fighting the epidemic and safeguarding the lives and health of the American people and stop playing such buck-passing game.”
COPENHAGEN, Denmark — The World Health Organization says it has seen an overall slowing of the pandemic” in its vast European region, but there is “no room for complacency” and people should “remain vigilant.”
Hans Kluge, head of the WHO’s Europe office, stressed at a news conference Thursday that the pandemic has not been stopped and an increase in cases has been reported in the eastern part of its region.
“The lesson here is: no time for celebration but time for preparation,” said Kluge.
It was not the first time the world faced a pandemic but “definitely, this has been a very, very devastating one.” He notes noting that “even if we have had few cases, we have seen the strongest health systems can be overwhelmed in a couple weeks.”
The regional office serves the body’s European region that comprises 53 countries, covering a vast geographical region from the Atlantic to the Pacific oceans.
LONDON — British health authorities have for the first time approved an antibody test that shows whether people have previously been exposed to the new coronavirus.
The test, manufactured by Swiss pharmaceutical firm Roche, has already been approved for use in the United States and the European Union.
Public Health England says government scientists found the test to be 100 percent accurate. It shows whether people have been exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 and have developed antibodies against it, which may provide some immunity.
The British government says it is working on plans to offer antibody tests to health care workers and the public.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said an antibody test could be a “game changer” in allowing the U.K. to end its national lockdown. But attempts to find a reliable test have been troubled. Some 17.5 million tests ordered from various suppliers all failed to meet U.K. standards.