The Latest COVID-19 Updates (May 15)

Staff Writer

3:30 p.m. VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Canada’s Pacific Coast province of British Columbia is allowing schools to reopen on June 1 but on an optional and part time basis. British Columbia Education Minister Rob Fleming says kindergarten through grade five will be open two or three days. Fleming says there will be staggered lunches and recesses.
Fleming says grade six through 12 students will likely only attend school once a week. Parents will be given the choice to allow their children to attend. British Columbia Premier John Horgan says these steps will pave the way for a full start in September if it is safe. The province has roughly 2,392 of Canada’s 74,532 confirmed cases.
LOS ANGELES — A Navy hospital ship that came to the Port of Los Angeles to help the region during the coronavirus crisis has departed. Tugs pulled the Mercy away from its dock shortly after 7 a.m. Friday.
The 1,000-bed ship arrived in Los Angeles harbor at the end of March to provide beds for non-coronavirus cases to take the load off regional medical centers preparing for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients. However, Los Angeles hasn’t been overrun with virus cases, and so the Mercy didn’t play a huge role as a safety net. The ship is returning to San Diego.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Another 2.6 million people across western Pennsylvania began to emerge from pandemic restrictions Friday as Gov. Tom Wolf prepared to announce that 12 more counties soon would join them in a partial easing.
Wolf planned to announce that Adams, Beaver, Carbon, Columbia, Cumberland, Juniata, Mifflin, Perry, Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wayne and York will be the next batch of counties moving to the “yellow” phase of his reopening plan, effective May 22, The Associated Press has learned. They are primarily in the south-central and northeast regions of the state.
They’ll join residents of 13 lightly impacted counties — including the cities of Pittsburgh, Johnstown and Altoona — where Wolf lifted his stay-at-home orders on Friday and gave permission for retailers and other types of businesses to reopen. Twenty-four counties across a vast swath of primarily rural northern Pennsylvania were the first to see a partial reopening last week.
All told, by the end of next week, more than 40% of Pennsylvania’s population of 12.8 million will have seen an easing of pandemic restrictions that were intended to prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with very ill COVID-19 patients.

2 p.m. PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island sued Friday, seeking the release of dozens of detainees at a federal lockup where a lawyer says the coronavirus is spreading “uncontrollably.”
The number of detainees testing positive has more than doubled in recent days at the Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls from 15 to 38, the ACLU said. Ten staff members have also tested positive.
The lockup holds as many as 770 inmates in the custody of agencies including the U.S. Marshals Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, but it’s not clear how many are currently there. The ACLU argues detainees can’t follow social distancing guidelines in small cells.
“The alarming news is that COVID-19 is spreading uncontrollably at the Wyatt,” lawyer Deborah Gonzalez said. Spokespeople for ICE and the lockup declined to comment on the lawsuit but said additional testing and monitoring is possible. Three ICE detainees were already released after a prior ACLU lawsuit.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday that he’s hopeful to have a coronavirus vaccine on the market by the end of the year or shortly thereafter.
Moncep Slaoui, a former pharmaceutical executive who Trump has tapped to serve as the administration’s virus czar, said that early trial data suggests that “a few hundred million doses of vaccine” will be delivered by late 2020.
Trump, speaking at a Rose Garden event, reiterated that he wants to see states move forward with reopening their economies.
“We are back, vaccine or no vaccine,” Trump said.
NEW YORK -- After two months of strict limits on business and social distancing, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo welcomed the first loosening of restrictions in many parts of the state Friday and announced that beaches would be allowed to open in time for the Memorial Day weekend.
State and municipal beaches throughout the state will be allowed to open the Friday before the holiday, but with limits, the Democrat said.
Capacity will be limited to no more than 50 percent of normal, with parking limited to trim crowds. Group activities will not be allowed. Picnic areas and playgrounds will stay closed. Employees need to wear masks.
It will be up to local governments, Cuomo said, to decide whether to allow municipal beaches to reopen. If they do, they must follow the state’s rules.
“If there is a problem, and the locals do not enforce those regulations, we will close those beaches,” Cuomo said.
Beaches in New Jersey and Connecticut will also be open for the holiday weekend, and Cuomo said part of the rationale for reopening was to prevent New Yorkers from flocking to those states as the weather warms.
NEW YORK — New York City will spend $55 million to provide 74,000 free air conditioners to low-income older adults who may be cooped up inside their apartments all summer because of the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday.
“Knowing that low-income seniors are the most vulnerable, we’re going to start an initiative right away to get them air conditioners,” de Blasio said.
Other measures aimed at helping New Yorkers survive summer in the era of social distancing will include setting up air-conditioned cooling centers in facilities such as gyms and libraries and opening fire hydrants safely.
“This is all about protecting New Yorkers and helping them through the summer,” de Blasio said.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency is pushing back on reports it confiscated or diverted shipments of personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic.
FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor calls such reports “absurd.” The agency has been coordinating the emergency import of millions of surgical masks, respirators, and other protective equipment and distributing the gear around the country.
Gaynor says FEMA doesn’t have the legal authority to seize or divert PPE shipments.
He blamed the reports on vendors playing customers against each other to get the best price. The FEMA administrator says they will quote a price to a buyer and then claim FEMA seized the shipment after finding someone willing to pay a higher price for scarce materials.
Gaynor says in a conference call, “FEMA has become a convenient scapegoat for malicious actors who are unable to deliver on the promises they have made or are engaging in illegal activity.”

12 p.m. HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Health’s daily COVID-19 statistical update showed Jefferson County steady at seven confirmed cases Friday. The surrounding counties stood as follows: Clearfield, 33 cases; Indiana, 84 cases, six deaths; Armstrong, 57 cases, five deaths; Clarion, 24 cases, one death; Forest, seven cases; and Elk County, six cases, one death.

10:30 a.m. MOSCOW — Russian doctors say they are treating a woman who may have contracted coronavirus for the second time after recovering from it.
The woman was discharged from a hospital in the Siberian city of Ulan-Ude after receiving treatment for coronavirus and testing negative for it in early April. But two weeks later she started having respiratory symptoms again and tested positive for the virus for the second time.
She was readmitted to the hospital and is currently being treated, says its chief doctor Tatyana Symbelova.
“The question is whether it’s a re-infection, because 15-16 days passed between discharged and respiratory symptoms appearing, or the disease she had earlier coming back. It is not entirely clear for us at this point,” Symbelova says.
According to the World Health Organization, no studies have shown people who have recovered from the coronavirus are immune to becoming infected again.
Russia reported over 262,000 coronavirus cases on Friday and 2,418 deaths.
PARIS — France’s national health agency announced a 9-year-old child had died in France with symptoms of a rare inflammatory condition likely linked to coronavirus.
Doctor Fabrice Michel of the La Timone hospital in Marseille, where the child was hospitalized, confirmed to Associated Press on Friday “the child had tested positive in serological tests to SARS-CoV-2,” the virus that causes COVID-19. But he says the child had not developed any symptoms of COVID-19.
The child died of brain damage relating to cardiac arrest with a form of Kawasaki disease. About 125 children in France have developed symptoms similar to those of Kawasaki disease and some French doctors believe it is linked to coronavirus.
Doctors in Britain, Italy and Spain have been warned to look out for this rare inflammatory condition in children. Last month, Britain’s Paediatric Intensive Care Society issued an alert to doctors noting there has been an increase in the number of children with “a multi-system inflammatory state requiring intensive care” across the country.
The group says there was “growing concern” that either a COVID-19 related syndrome was emerging in children or a different, unidentified disease might be responsible.

9 a.m. WASHINGTON — Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Steve Hahn says it will be up to the White House to determine whether it continues to use a coronavirus test that has falsely cleared patients of infection.
Hahn Told CBS on Friday the FDA will keep “providing guidance to the White House regarding this test” but whether to keep using the test “will be a White House decision.”
The test is used daily at the White House to test President Donald Trump and key members of his staff, including the coronavirus task force. The FDA said late Thursday it was investigating preliminary data suggesting Abbott Laboratories’ 15-minute test can miss COVID-19 cases, producing false negatives.
Hahn told CBS the test is on the market and the FDA continues to “recommend its use or to have it available for use.” But he suggested if doctors or patients suspect they’ve received a false negative, they should do another test.
BEIJING — China’s foreign minister says the country has brought the coronavirus outbreak under control and he lashed out at foreign politicians he accused of having “insisted on politicizing the epidemic, labeling the virus, and smearing the World Health Organization.”
Wang Yi’s comments carried by the official Xinhua News Agency appeared directed at the United States, where President Donald Trump’s administration has repeatedly castigated China for allegedly covering up the initial outbreak and has suspended payments to the WHO over what it calls a pro-China bias and failure to effectively deal with the pandemic.
Other countries, including Australia, have also urged an independent investigation into the origin of the pandemic, calls that China has furiously rejected.
Under head of state and ruling Communist Party leader Xi Jinping’s leadership, China has been able to “put the outbreak under control through arduous efforts and has been gradually resuming economic and social life while undertaking prevention and control measures on a regular basis,” Wang was quoted as saying in a phone call Thursday with the foreign ministers of Hungary, Estonia and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
China has “overcome its own difficulties, offered support and assistance to relevant countries, shared prevention and control experiences and treatments without reservation, and facilitated various countries’ purchase of anti-epidemic supplies in China,” Wang said.
Attempts to politicize the pandemic and smear the WHO are “a serious violation of international moral principles and undermine international anti-epidemic efforts,” Wang added.