The Latest: Florida’s largest counties planning to reopen

U.S. & World

This March 23, 2020, photo shows a deserted New Delhi railway station during lockdown in India. India is set to re-open some parts of its colossal rail network on Tuesday, as the country looks at easing its nearly seven-week strict lockdown amid an increase in coronavirus infections. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)

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The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Florida’s two largest counties plan partial reopening.

— China to test all residents of Wuhan.

— AP analysis shows two Tennessee counties with high infection rates.

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Florida’s two largest counties appear to be heading toward a partial reopening of their economies next week from the new coronavirus shutdown under a plan that would impose severe restrictions that mirror the rest of the state.

Miami-Dade and Broward counties are finishing a plan that would allow retailers, restaurants and personal care businesses like barber shops and salons to reopen on Monday, about two months after they closed. The two counties account for almost half of the state’s confirmed coronavirus cases.

While details aren’t finalized, current plans call for restaurants and retail stores reopening under the state’s rules that limit them to to 25% capacity indoors. Restaurants with outdoor seating would have to keep tables 6 feet apart. The rest of the state began reopening last week.

The plan also calls for Broward and Miami-Dade beaches to remain closed, but several Broward commissioners said they would like them to also reopen Monday.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Fear of contracting the coronavirus doesn’t meet the criteria to vote by mail due to illness in Tennessee, state officials said Tuesday.

Coordinator of Elections Mark Goins told The Associated Press in a statement that the fear of getting ill does not fall under the definition of ill. Still, state officials recommended preparing as though all 1.4 million registered voters who are at least 60 will cast ballots by mail in the August primary election.

The guidance comes after the release of Tennessee’s COVID-19 election contingency plan, which doesn’t contemplate a shift to allow all voters to cast ballots by mail due to fears of contracting or unknowingly spreading COVID-19 at the polls.

About a third of states require an excuse to vote absentee, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

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ALAMEDA, Calif. — Tesla CEO Elon Musk has emerged as a champion of defying stay-home orders intended to stop the coronavirus from spreading, picking up support as well as critics on social media.

Among supporters was President Donald Trump, who on Tuesday tweeted that Tesla’s San Francisco Bay Area factory should be allowed to open despite health department orders to stay closed except for basic operations. Trump wrote that the plant can be reopened safely.

Tesla’s factory reopened Monday with Musk daring authorities to arrest him. The company submitted a plan to protect worker safety, which the Alameda County Public Health Department is reviewing.

The plant in Fremont, a city of more than 230,000 people south of San Francisco, had been closed since March 23. It employs about 10,000 workers.

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BEIJING — Local media report that authorities are preparing to conduct coronavirus tests on all 11 million residents of the central Chinese city of Wuhan following a slight increase in cases.

The tests in the metropolitan area that was the outbreak center of the global pandemic are to be carried out over a 10-day period. The goal is to identify those who may be carrying the virus after six additional cases were recently recorded.

Wuhan ended a 76-day lockdown earlier this month, but authorities have warned consistently about a potential second wave of infections.

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BOGOTÁ, Colombia — Concern is growing in Colombia as cases of the new coronavirus continue to rise in the Amazon, one of the country’s most vulnerable regions.

Health workers have now diagnosed 718 cases of COVID-19 in one of six Amazonian departments. That’s up from just 105 cases at the start of May. Local officials warn they have no ICU beds and are unprepared for a large outbreak.

Lawmakers say Amazonas department now has a higher rate of contagion per 1 million residents than any other part of the country. One of the focal points of the outbreak is a jail where 89 of 181 inmates have contracted the virus.

A major concern is the area’s close proximity to Brazil, which has emerged as an epicenter for the virus in Latin America.

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BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top diplomat is warning member countries not to slash defense spending as their economies buckle under pressure from the coronavirus because the disease is likely to spark security challenges in coming years.

After chairing a video conference of defense ministers on Tuesday, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said it was clear the pandemic is very likely to deteriorate the security environment in the years ahead. Borrell said as the crisis also hits the economy, it’s important to secure the necessary funding for security and defense.

Talks between the 27 EU member countries over their next long-term budget have been blocked for more than a year, well before the coronavirus hit Europe. Cuts to defense funds in that spending package were already being considered and, given the impact of the disease, seem even more likely now.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Two rural counties in Tennessee are reporting some of the highest per capita coronavirus infection rates in the United States.

Trousdale County has the highest per capita coronavirus infection rate and Bledsoe County has the fifth highest, according to an Associated Press analysis. In both counties, the high infection rates are attributable to their local prisons.

Trousdale, a county of just over 9,500 people, has reported 1,363 cases of the virus, nearly all of those at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center run by private prison contractor CoreCivic.

Bledsoe County has reported 604 cases, including 586 at the state-run Bledsoe County Correctional Complex. Nearly all the inmates there completed 14 days of isolation without becoming ill, state corrections officials have said.

Two Trousdale prisoners and one Bledsoe prisoner have died after testing positive, although prison officials say they are asking the medical examiner to determine the exact causes of death.

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LONDON — British police are investigating after a railway ticket office worker who was spat at by a man claiming to have the coronavirus died with COVID-19.

The TSSA trade union says Belly Mujinga was working at London’s Victoria station on March 22 when a man spat and coughed at her and a colleague. Both workers fell ill within days, and the 47-year-old Mujinga died in a London hospital on April 5. Mujinga’s husband said his wife had underlying respiratory problems when she was admitted to a hospital three days before she died.

The union says the two two railway workers reported the spitting incident to a supervisor, but police were not initially informed. The British Transport Police said Tuesday that it was now investigating

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the attack “despicable.”

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ACCRA, Ghana — Unions in an industrial city just outside Ghana’s capital have asked the government to conduct mass testing of workers and people in the city and to fumigate workplaces.

The plea comes after government officials said one person who tested positive for the new coronavirus infected at least 533 workers at a fish-processing factory in Tema. The infections at the Pioneer Food Cannery were announced over the weekend.

As of late Monday, the West African nation had tested more than 161,300 people, of which 5,127 tested positive for COVID-19, according to Ghana’s health service.

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ROME — A big jump in confirmed COVID-19 cases in Italy’s hardest-hit region contributed to the country’s highest day-to-day increase in several days.

According to Health Ministry data, 1,033 new cases were confirmed in Lombardy. But the Civil Protection Agency said that in addition to confirmed infections in the last 24-hour period, Lombardy’s latest number includes cases from several days earlier that hadn’t been included in previous tallies, driving up the region’s caseload in one day.

In contrast, the previous few days had seen Lombardy’s daily new caseload running in the few hundreds.

Overall, Italy counts 221,216 confirmed coronavirus infections. Experts say the true number is doubtlessly much higher, pointing out that many people with mild symptoms often don’t get tested.

Authorities registered 172 deaths in infected patients in the 24-hour period ending Tuesday evening, raising to 30,911 the confirmed death toll. Nearly half of those deaths have occurred in Lombardy, where the country’s outbreak began in late February.

Health officials are anxiously awaiting daily case numbers later in the week to determine if a partial lifting of lockdown restrictions on May 4 caused any rise in contagion rates.

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SEATTLE — UW Medicine, the Seattle-area health care system which has played a leading role in responding to the coronavirus outbreak, is now facing a huge financial hole because of the fallout from COVID-19.

The Seattle Times reports UW Medicine’s losses could be more than $500 million by the end of summer. That’s according to an email Monday from UW Medicine CEO Dr. Paul Ramsey that was obtained by the newspaper. Ramsey wrote that staff cuts, furloughs, hiring restrictions and a pay cut for senior leadership could all be implemented.

UW Medicine’s total budget for fiscal year 2020 was $5.8 billion. In early March, UW Medicine was among the first in the state to set up drive-thru sites to test its employees and patients, as well as University of Washington students who were showing symptoms of COVID-19.

Researchers at UW Medicine are also working on a variety of potential treatments and vaccinations for the virus.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria’s health authorities are gradually lifting restrictions after the country’s parliament decided not to extend the state of emergency imposed on March 13.

People can again visit indoor museums, galleries and libraries, as well as theater performances and concerts on outdoor stages. Cinemas are reopening, but no more than 30 percent of the seats may be occupied. Restaurants and cafes are open, but for now customers are only allowed to sit on terraces or in gardens.

To support the hard-hit tourism sector, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov on Tuesday announced the reducing of the value-added tax rate on restaurants from 20% to 9%. The Balkan country’s economy relies heavily on its Black Sea and ski resorts as tourism contributes 12% to Bulgaria’s GDP.

Bulgaria has confirmed 2,023 COVID-19 cases and 95 deaths from the disease.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations secretary-general is urging religious leaders to challenge “inaccurate and harmful messages” fueling rising ethno-nationalism, hate speech and conflict as the coronavirus pandemic circles the globe.

Antonio Guterres warned “extremists and radical groups are seeking to exploit eroding trust in leadership and feed on people’s vulnerability to serve their own ends.”

He says the role of faith leaders in addressing the challenges of COVID-19 can play “a pivotal role.”

The U.N. chief cites an “alarming increase in violence against women and girls” as the pandemic spreads. Guterres appealed to religious leaders “to categorically condemn such acts and support shared principles of partnership, equality, respect and compassion.”

He also called on the leaders to join the fight against misinformation about COVID-19.

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HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont has replaced the state’s public health commissioner, a change a state official says was made because of missteps dating to last year.

The official announcement from the Democratic governor didn’t say why he was replacing Renée Coleman-Mitchell with Deidre Gifford, commissioner of the state Department of Social Services, who also will serve as acting public health commissioner.

According to the state official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information, Lamont removed her for slow action on a plan to protect nursing homes from the coronavirus and refusing to publicly release school-by-school vaccination rates last year.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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