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New York edges toward lifting some coronavirus restrictions in some areas in May

New York edges toward lifting some coronavirus restrictions in some areas in May

TUESDAY, April 28, 2020
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WASHINGTON - Hard-hit New York edged toward lifting restrictions meant to limit the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus on Monday despite a shortage of testing, joining other U.S. states and some countries in Europe eyeing a gradual reopening, while the Trump administration said the federal government will only be a "last resort" source of critical virus tests.

The process of lifting stay-home policies remains a patchwork of faster-moving states and slower ones, but it has picked up momentum. New York, with the most confirmed cases in the United States, announced plans for partial reopening in some areas in May.

"We are turning the valves on reopening," said New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat. 

The continued lack of tests and the means to quickly analyze them is seen as the greatest roadblock to the gradual reopening of the country that President Donald Trump seeks.

The president on Monday talked up a public-private partnership that he said would expand access to tests at retail sites as the administration released voluntary guidelines for states and localities that would use testing to gauge the risk of lifting restrictions.

"There's a hunger for getting our country back, and it's happening and it's happening faster than people think," Trump said as the nation's economy reels six months before the fall election.

U.S. deaths passed 55,000, while confirmed cases neared 1 million. The United States remains the country with the most reported deaths worldwide, by a wide margin.

In New York, Cuomo said Monday that he wants to partially "unpause" beginning May 15, when regulations expire statewide.

Cuomo said he will extend restrictions in some areas of the state "but in some parts, in some regions, you could make the case that we should unpause."

New York City has been the hardest hit, while areas of Upstate New York have seen few deaths.

Cuomo said officials devising reopening measures should ensure that they meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's guidelines, consider how industries and businesses permitted to reopen will physically distance and monitor workers, and evaluate the capacity their local health systems will have during the flu season. Local officials should also think about their testing, tracing and isolating facilities, Cuomo said.

The White House is finalizing expanded guidelines to allow the phased reopening of schools and camps, child-care programs, certain workplaces, houses of worship, restaurants and mass transit, The Washington Post reported Monday, citing documents under review by administration officials.

As confirmed coronavirus cases surpassed 3 million worldwide, with about 210,000 deaths, the World Health Organization warned that the pandemic is disrupting lifesaving vaccination campaigns for polio and other diseases.

Amid border closures and travel restrictions, at least 21 countries have vaccine shortages, WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Spain launched one of the largest studies worldwide into the spread of the virus on Monday, as the country begins to ease a six-week confinement. This week, children under 14 are allowed outdoors for short walks. 

The study, designed by Spain's Carlos III Institute, will examine some 90,000 randomly selected people through a combination of tests, allowing researchers to calculate the percentage of the population that has been exposed to the virus and to detect active infections. Spain has the second-highest number of confirmed cases globally, at about 230,000.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson returned to work Monday after weeks of illness and recovery from covid-19, the disease the novel coronavirus causes, and the famed road race the French Grand Prix was postponed. It had been scheduled for June 28.

In the United States, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Congress might need to consider offering guaranteed income to some Americans to help the country recover from the worst economic downturn in decades, caused by the pandemic.

"We may have to think in terms of some different ways to put money in people's pockets," Pelosi said as House Democrats push to announce a major new economic rescue bill in the coming days. "Others have suggested a minimum income, a guaranteed income for people. Is that worthy of attention now? Perhaps so," she said on MSNBC.

The emerging new economic response bill, which if passed would be the nation's fifth, is expected to center on an infusion of cash to stabilize state and local budgets, which Pelosi has suggested could be around $700 billion.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said it's time to hit the "pause" button on spending more money, at least until lawmakers return to the Capitol in person. That's supposed to happen May 4, though it's unclear whether that deadline will be met.

Trump raised doubt about his support for another rescue bill on that scale, asking on Twitter why what he called "poorly run states" led by Democrats should be seeking "bailout help."

"Why should the people and taxpayers of America be bailing out poorly run states (like Illinois, as example) and cities, in all cases Democrat run and managed, when most of the other states are not looking for bailout help?" Trump wrote. "I am open to discussing anything, but just asking?"

States across the nation have seen declines in tax revenue during the pandemic, but many of those that have been hardest hit by the coronavirus - including New York, New Jersey and Illinois - have Democratic governors.

The bipartisan National Governors Association has asked Congress for $500 billion in assistance to address declining revenue, arguing that the money is needed to continue paying key personnel, including first responders.

Meanwhile, the government's small-business loan program reopened after receiving $310 billion in fresh funding last week, but it came under immediate pressure amid technical glitches and confirmation that the National Basketball Association's Los Angeles Lakers organization had received one of the program's taxpayer-backed loans. The NBA franchise said it was returning the money, something that several other well-off firms have done after their participation was revealed.

A panel overseeing the disbursement of U.S. coronavirus-related economic relief launched Monday with the appointment of an executive director and a website that encourages feedback and reports of fraud.

The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee was created by Congress to coordinate the efforts of federal inspectors general to "promote transparency" in the flow of more than $2 trillion of relief to citizens and businesses affected by the pandemic.

Robert Westbrooks, a veteran of federal oversight efforts and former federal criminal investigator, was named as the committee's executive director. 

New Jersey will remain under a stay-home order "until further notice," Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, said Monday as he outlined a tempered approach that is in contrast to states such as Georgia that are moving swiftly to ease social distancing restrictions and allow some nonessential businesses to reopen.

New Jersey will not begin reopening its economy until officials detect a 14-day trend of "appreciable and sustained" drops in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations, Murphy said at a news conference.

"We only want to have to do this once," he said.

New Jersey, one of the hardest-hit states, has reported more than 111,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 6,000 deaths. As of Sunday night, the number of people in intensive care units was down roughly 9% from last week. The number of those on ventilators was down 18% from a week prior.

Murphy said it is "too early to tell" whether the state's efforts to reopen will be dictated by region or county. He also declined to say whether the state's schools will reopen before the end of the academic year.

More than half the registered voters in New York state and nearly two-thirds of residents in New Jersey, both hot beds of the coronavirus epidemic in the United States, now know someone who has been infected with the virus, according to a pair of polls released Monday.

A Siena College Poll found that 51% of registered voters in New York personally know someone who has been infected - a large increase since last month, when fewer than one-third of New Yorkers said they knew an infected person.

In New York City, 60% know someone has been infected, while 46% personally know someone who has died, the poll found.

Meanwhile, in New Jersey, 61% of adults said they personally know someone who has contracted the virus, according to a new Monmouth University Poll. One-quarter of New Jersey residents reported that the coronavirus has affected themselves or a member of their family.

New York voters trust Cuomo over Trump to make a determination about reopening their state by a margin of 78% to 16%, according to the Siena poll.

Election officials in New York opted Monday to cancel the state's presidential primary, which had already been postponed from April 28 to June 23. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., had sought to remain on the ballot even as he has suspended his White House bid and endorsed former vice president Joe Biden to be the Democratic nominee.

Also Monday, the CDC added six more symptoms of the novel coronavirus to its website, which previously listed only fever, cough and difficulty breathing.

Now, the list of symptoms that may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus includes: chills; repeated shaking with chills; muscle pain; headache; sore throat; and loss of taste or smell.

Although these signs are new to the CDC's official list, many health-care providers have been aware of the expanded list of potential symptoms for weeks.