By The Associated Press
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:
— Warm weather draws people outdoors in California, prompting warnings
— Britain tops 20,000 deaths from coronavirus.
— WHO warns against idea of ‘immunity passports.’
— Spain hopeful of easing confinement restrictions soon.
LOS ANGELES — A spring heat wave drove an uptick of people to California beaches, golf courses and trails, leading to the closure of one coastal park as authorities warned people not to swarm recreational areas for fear of igniting a deadly coronavirus surge.
Temperatures soared into the 80s and 90s in many areas from Sacramento to San Diego on Saturday. While most recreation remains shuttered under various stay-at-home orders, officials are wary that those still open could draw crowds that will ignore social distancing rules and seek sun and air after being mainly confined indoors for more than a month.
“We’re seeing a summer day crowd,” said Brian O’Rourke, a lifeguard battalion chief in Newport Beach in Orange County, which saw an estimated 40,000 people on Friday. A similar crowd was expected Saturday as the fog burns off.
Police in Pacific Grove said they had to close the picturesque Lovers Point Park and Beach at the southern end of Monterey Bay because of a lack of social distancing.
Los Angeles city and county beaches, trails and playgrounds were closed, and officers on horseback were patrolling those areas to enforce social distancing rules. The city also opened cooling centers for people “who might not be able to survive the heat wave at home,” Mayor Eric Garcetti said.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says his press briefings are “not worth the time & effort” as his administration prepares to adjust his public presence amid the coronavirus pandemic toward addressing the nation’s economic woes.
Tweeting on Saturday, one of the few days in which he has not held a daily briefing since the start of the outbreak, Trump says: “What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately.”
The president’s tweet comes two days after he used a briefing to muse about the injection of chemical disinfectants, drawing warnings from manufacturers and the nation’s top medical professionals. The White House claimed Friday that Trump was misinterpreted, though the president later asserted he was speaking “sarcastically.”
His tweet questioning the value of press briefings also comes as White House aides are developing plans to shift the president’s public emphasis from the virus to addressing the economic crisis it has caused and the government’s plans for reopening the economy.
NEW YORK — Potbelly Sandwich Shop is the latest large company to say it will return money it received as part of the Payroll Protection Program.
The company said Saturday that its sales dropped dramatically when COVID-19 hit, forcing it to furlough employees and close shops. Potbelly applied for and qualified for assistance under the program.
“We were surprised and disappointed when the fund was quickly exhausted, leaving many without help,” the company said in a news release. “We are returning the PPP loan after further clarification from the Treasury Department.”
The Chicago-based sandwich shop has about 6,000 employees and annual revenues of more than $400 million, according to FactSet.
The PPP is intended to help small businesses with fewer than 500 employees. Its initial $349 billion in funds ran out last week and the House gave final approval to $310 billion in additional funds Thursday.
PHOENIX — The pace of additional deaths in Arizona’s coronavirus outbreak has slowed following a recent surge.
The Department of Health Services’ tally of deaths statewide rose by seven to 273 as of Saturday, following an increase of 17 deaths reported Friday and a total of 62 deaths reported over the previous three days
The department said there were 6,820 cases reported statewide as of Saturday, an increase of 235 from Friday.
Health officials say the recent surge in reported fatalities likely resulted from a boost in cases weeks ago. It was expected to slow because it often takes weeks for patients to die once hospitalized and because hospitalizations appear to have leveled off.
WASHINGTON — The Navy reports that the number of sailors aboard the USS Kidd confirmed to be infected with the novel coronavirus has nearly doubled, rising from 18 to 33.
The destroyer with its crew of 350 are off the Pacific coast of South America on a mission related to U.S. counter-drug activities.
In a statement issued Saturday, the Navy said a medical team continues testing of the Kidd’s crew. Two sailors have been medically evacuated to the United States. Meanwhile, officials say those aboard the Kidd are wearing N95 masks and other personal protective equipment.
The Navy says the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island is en route to rendezvous with the Kidd in case medical support is required at sea. Officials say the Makin Island has a fleet surgical team, intensive care capacity and ventilators, as well as additional testing capability.
The Kidd is the second Navy ship at sea to report an outbreak of the coronavirus. Officials say the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt has reported more than 850 cases of infection among its nearly 5,000 crew members. Most of its crew has been moved ashore to quarantine on Guam.
UNDATED — Dr. Anthony Fauci is urging careful science to prove whether any of the drugs being explored as COVID-19 treatments actually work.
Fauci, infectious diseases chief at the National Institutes of Health, said Saturday during an online meeting of the National Academy of Sciences that the only way to get an answer that is not just perpetual ambiguity is by doing a randomized controlled trial.
“We need something out there, but safety and efficacy is something we owe to the global population,” Fauci said.
Fauci also stressed that caution is needed as economies reopen, pointing to a step-wise approach with restrictions gradually lifted as areas reach certain milestones.
“Any attempt to leapfrog over these almost certainly will result in a rebound, and then we can set ourselves back,” he said. “If we don’t get control of it we will never get back to normal. I know we will, but we’ve got to do it correctly.”
Fauci also cautioned against looking for a magic number of available tests needed as the country reopens.
“We don’t want to get fixated on how many tests you need,” Fauci said. Instead, places must “have enough tests to respond to the outbreaks that will inevitably occur.”
MIAMI — The president of a Florida medical center said at a press conference Saturday that any changes made going forward will have to be evaluated daily.
Orthopedic surgeon Wael Barsoum was referencing remarks by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about restarting activities, such as elective procedures and surgeries.
“I think that there is a lot of excitement about seeing what happens as we move forward, as we start slowly seeing changes with the requirements that we’ve had put in place,” said Barsoum, president of Cleveland Clinic Florida. “But please recognize that we will learn every day, and we may have to step back from some of those decisions as a society.”
Barsoum said he told his parents, who are 75 and 84 years old, that regardless of what happens in the coming weeks he expects they will remain indoors.
MADRID — Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says that Spaniards will be allowed to leave their homes for short walks and exercise starting on May 2 after seven weeks of strict home confinement.
Sánchez announced in a televised address Saturday that the government plans to allow those outings for physical fitness “if the evolution of the epidemic remains favorable as it has recently.” Since the start of the state of emergency, Spaniards have only been allowed to leave home for essential shopping, except those workers in industries who cannot work from home.
Sánchez also announced that he would present a detailed plan on the “de-escalation” of the lockdown on Tuesday that he hopes to put into effect in the coming weeks.
Spain has one of the world’s strictest lockdowns as it fights to contain a COVID-19 outbreak that has claimed over 22,000 lives and infected over 200,000 people.
The measures have helped reduce a daily contagion rate that was over 20% a month ago to under 2% this week. On Sunday, children under 14 years old will be allowed to take walks with a parent for up to one hour and within one kilometer from home, ending six weeks of complete seclusion.
“Maximum caution will be our guideline for the rollback,” Sánchez said. “We must be very prudent because there is no manual, no road map to follow.”
ROME — Nearly 200,000 Italian companies have asked authorities for permission to be able to operate during Italy’s lockdown, either because they help essential businesses or because they deem themselves strategic for the national economy during the coronavirus pandemic.
The interior ministry said Saturday that a streamlined procedure is being implemented that “trusts the sense of responsibility of individual business persons” in allowing companies to resume operations.
The ministry’s local authorities can verify that a company respects COVID-19 safety rules, including social distancing. Most of the requests have come from three northern regions that are among Italy’s most productive, but also among those most heavily hit by coronavirus cases.
So far, only a tiny percentage of the businesses have been found not following the rules, which are part of a government decree aimed at containing Italy’s COVID-19 outbreak.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health ministry has documented 106 new deaths from COVID-19, bringing the death toll to 2,706.
Minister Fahrettin Koca shared daily figures Saturday, showing 2,861 new confirmed cases. The total number of confirmed infections has reached 107,773.
According to the data, 3,845 people were released from hospitals in the past 24 hours, increasing the number of recovered patients to 25,582.
“The rate of positive tests is decreasing,” Koca tweeted and urged continued precaution.
Turkey ranks seventh in the world for the number of confirmed infections, according to Johns Hopkins University. But experts believe the actual toll of the pandemic around the world is higher than the tally.
Nearly 870,000 people have been tested in Turkey so far.
NEW YORK — Oil producers in the U.S. are making painful decisions about how to shut down operations after the pandemic decimated the need for fuel.
The price of U.S. benchmark crude plummeted more than 70% since the start of the year, selling for $17 a barrel Friday, well below what producers need to remain viable.
Parsley Energy, a mid-sized fracking company based in Austin, Texas, lost half its market value since the year began and told regulators it has been shutting down enough wells to take about 400 barrels of oil per day off the market.
In recent weeks, Exxon slashed its capital spending plan by 30%, or $10 billion, and Chevron gutted its capital expenses by 20%, or $4 billion. Both companies are planning to halt drilling for new oil in different parts of the world and will likely shrink further since conditions have deteriorated since their announcements.
BERLIN — About 1,000 people gathered in Berlin to protest restrictions caused by the coronavirus, defying social distancing rules.
Demonstrators have gathered in the Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz square in Berlin for several Saturdays. The protests have drawn a variety of people, including some right-wing populists and conspiracy theorists.
News agency dpa reported police repeatedly called on participants to leave and a few people were detained before the crowd dispersed.
Although Germany recently loosened its restrictions slightly by allowing small shops to reopen, rules still call for people to keep a 1.5-meters (5 feet) apart in public.
Authorities can allow gatherings of up to 20 people, although that permission wasn’t granted for Saturday’s protest.
The Volksbuehne theater distanced itself from the demonstration saying, “we are not your backdrop.”
ROME — Italy has reported 415 deaths and 2,357 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The Italian health ministry puts Europe’s highest death toll at more than 26,000. The total known infections stand at more than 195,000.
The Lombardy region registers the most cases in Italy, adding some 700 on Saturday for a total of nearly 72,000 infected persons there since Italy’s first case in that northern region on Feb. 20.
Much of Italy’s south has been spared the brunt of the outbreak. Authorities cautioned Italians against abandoning social distancing practices after the current lockdown ends and looser restrictions begin on May 4.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece has recorded no deaths from COVID-19 in the past 24 hours.
Greek authorities say the total number of fatalities remains at 130. There were 16 new confirmed cases, raising the total to 2,506.
The number of people on ventilators in intensive care units continued to decline to 47.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and several ministers met Saturday to consider gradually easing the strict quarantine measures. Mitsotakis will make an announcement on Monday.
OSLO, Norway — Norway is extending the ban on all events with more than 500 participants until Sept. 1
Norwegian Culture Minister Abid Raja said during a press conference Saturday “there is now a ban on major sporting events, festivals and concerts until 15 June. That ban is now extended until September 1.”
He says the decision wasn’t easy for the Norwegian government to make but stressed “we cannot have big events (in Norway) that can contribute to more infections that will affect life and health.”
Norway has reported 201 coronavirus deaths and 7,493 confirmed cases.
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The Latest: Warm California weather draws crowds outdoors