The Latest COVID-19 Updates (May 19)

Staff Writer

12:30 p.m. HARRISBURG — Many homeowners, renters and people with disabilities will receive early rebates through Pennsylvania’s property tax/rent rebate program, Gov. Tom Wolf and treasurer Joe Torsella announced on Tuesday.
While rebates are typically issued beginning July 1, Wolf signed House Bill 1076 on Tuesday, authorizing early distribution in the hope of providing some small relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Torsella said the Pennsylvania Department of Revenue has already begun the process of dispersing funds. Approximately 111,000 applications are already underway, and the department plans to continue at a pace of about 60,000 a week. Torsella said the department typically issues about 500,000 payments every year.
Anyone who has applied can use the “Where’s My PA Property Tax Rent Rebate?” tool on the Department of Revenue’s website, www.revenue.pa.gov, to check the status of their rebate.
Those who are eligible include certain individuals age 65 and older, widows or widowers age 50 and older and Pennsylvanians with disabilities age 18 and older. There is an annual income cap of $35,000 for homeowners and $15,000 for renters, with half of Social Security income excluded. Applicants can qualify for a rebate of up to $975 for property taxes and rent paid in 2017.
The program is funded by the Pennsylvania Lottery and revenue from slots gaming, and has provided more than $6.9 billion in property tax and rent relief since 1971, Wolf said.
Application is free and can be done on the Department of Revenue website.

12 p.m. HARRISBURG — Jefferson County still has seven confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health’s Tuesday statistical update. The surrounding counties stood as follows: Clearfield, 33 cases; Indiana, 84 cases, four deaths; Armstrong, 58 cases, two deaths; Clarion, 24 cases, two deaths; Forest, seven cases; and Elk, six cases.

9 a.m. BRUSSELS — The European Union is supporting the World Health Organization. The EU is urging all countries to back the U.N. agency after President Donald Trump threatened to permanently cut U.S. funding.
European Commission spokeswoman Virginie Battu-Henriksson says global cooperation is “the only effective and viable option to win this battle.”
She says “this is the time for solidarity. It is not the time for finger pointing or undermining multilateral cooperation.”
In a letter to WHO’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Trump wrote the agency’s “repeated missteps” in its response to the pandemic have proven “very costly for the world.”
Trump’s threatened to cut U.S. WHO funding unless it commits to “substantive improvements” in the next 30 days.
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MOSCOW — Russia’s prime minister has fully resumed his duties after recovering from the coronavirus.
Mikhail Mishustin, 54, announced he was infected on April 30.
On Tuesday, Mishustin’s office says he's checked out of the hospital and returned to his duties in the Cabinet headquarters. He's set to take part in a video conference with President Vladimir Putin later in the day.
Several Cabinet ministers and Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov also have been infected. Peskov says he had double pneumonia caused by the virus. He noted he hadn’t met with Putin in person for more than a month.
Putin has limited public appearances and held most of his meetings online during the virus pandemic.
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GENEVA — A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization says the U.N. health agency doesn’t have an immediate reaction to a letter from U.S. President Donald Trump that listed his complaints, including “an alarming lack of independence” from China in its response to the coronavirus outbreak.
WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib says she's seen the letter.
“I don’t have any reaction, we have been busy trying to finalize our agenda for the World Health Assembly,” she said, referring to health agency’s annual meeting, which has been shortened and will end later Tuesday because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
“I am sure in the course of the day we will have more clarity and reaction to this letter,” she said at a regular U.N. briefing in Geneva.
Trump posted a letter to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, dated Monday, on his Twitter page overnight.
Among other things, Trump pointed to his decision to suspend U.S. contributions to the WHO pending a review of its actions in response to the outbreak. He faulted its “repeated missteps” in the response to the pandemic, saying they have proven “very costly for the world.”
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LONDON — Prince Charles is urging the public to join a national effort to help farmers bring in the harvest, comparing the need to pick fruit and vegetables with World War II era programs that fed the nation.
The heir to Britain’s throne offered his support to a government’s initiative to bring UK workers and farmers together to ensure crops are not left to rot in the fields.
Travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 crisis have impeded the travel of seasonal workers who have done the hard work in the past.
The prince, who runs an organic farm, says in a video “if the last few weeks have proved anything, it is that food is precious and valued, and it cannot be taken for granted.’’
He says food doesn't happen by magic and made no effort to gloss over the effort that would be required.
He says “it will be hard graft but is hugely important if we are to avoid the growing crops going to waste.”
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BEIJING — China supports an eventual review of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic, but not an immediate probe as Australia and others have proposed.
China had long rejected the idea of an investigation into the origins and response to the pandemic but its attitude appeared to soften at the World Health Assembly on Monday.
On Tuesday, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian says Chinese would agree to a probe “after the global epidemic is under control, summing up experience and making up for deficiencies.” The U.N.’s World Health Association should lead that work with a “scientific and professional attitude ... in the principle of objectivity and fairness."
He rejected Australia’s call for an independent body to launch the inquiry following complaints the WHO has shown favoritism toward China.

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