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HARTFORD, Conn. — The U.S. surpassed a jarring milestone Wednesday in the coronavirus pandemic: 100,000 deaths.
That number is the best estimate and most assuredly an undercount. But it represents the stark reality that more Americans have died from the virus than from the Vietnam and Korea wars combined.
“It is a grim milestone,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington. “It’s a striking reminder of how dangerous this virus can be.”
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 5.6 million people and killed more than 350,000, with the U.S. having the most confirmed cases and deaths by far, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Europe has recorded about 170,000 deaths, while the U.S. reached more than 100,000 in less than four months.
The true death toll from the virus, which emerged in China late last year and was first reported in the U.S. in January, is widely believed to be significantly higher, with experts saying many victims died of COVID-19 without ever being tested for it.
At the end of March, the United States eclipsed China with 3,500 deaths. Now, the U.S. has not only the highest death total, but the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, making up more than 30% of the global total.
NEW YORK — The easing of some coronavirus restrictions Wednesday on Long Island left New York City as the only part of the hardest-hit U.S. state that has yet to begin the process of reopening the economy.
The sprawling suburbs of Nassau and Suffolk counties, where the virus has killed at least 4,000 people, won approval Tuesday from Gov. Andrew Cuomo to gradually restart construction, manufacturing, agriculture and retail activity two months after nonessential business ceased.
The Democratic governor also lobbied President Donald Trump in Washington for help with massive New York City transportation projects — including train tunnels, a subway expansion and an airport rail link — and accused top Republicans who oppose more aid of “abusing” states, such as New York, that suffered heavy coronavirus losses.
The projects require some federal funding or approval. Cuomo said he and the Republican president, who are often at odds, will talk again next week.
HARRISBURG, Pa. — Professional sports can resume in Pennsylvania where the governor’s stay-at-home order to stem the spread of the coronavirus is no longer in force, but without spectators, Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration said Wednesday.
Those teams and competitors will be allowed to practice or play in counties where Wolf’s yellow or green designation applies in his stoplight-colored three-phase reopening plan.
To resume, a team or a league must develop a coronavirus safety plan that has been approved by Wolf’s state Department of Health and it must include testing or screening and monitoring of all “on-venue” players and personnel, the administration said.
Fans or spectators cannot be permitted inside or outside the sporting venue property, the administration said.
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed an executive order Wednesday that formally implements the next phase of his “Stay Safe MN” plan, which will allow restaurants and bars to offer outdoor dining and salons and barber shops to reopen starting next Monday.
Those businesses must observe capacity limits and follow other safety restrictions. There’s still no target date for allowing restaurants and bars to serve guests indoors.
Walz acknowledged at a news conference that the terms of his order aren’t substantially different from the “cautious, strategic turn of the dial” he announced for these businesses last week.
The governor took note of the grim milestone of the U.S. passing 100,000 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday. He said the peak in Minnesota is “still a ways off” and that how well Minnesotans comply with health guidelines — including social distancing, wearing masks and staying home when sick — will have an impact.
Many restaurant owners have complained that allowing outdoor-only dining doesn’t give them enough relief from the shutdown that Walz imposed starting March 17, with exceptions for takeout and delivery service.
The governor acknowledged the continuing economic pain but said long dinners with friends in smaller spaces pose one of the higher risks for spreading the coronavirus.
“It was never meant to make people whole, it was one step in the direction,” he said of outdoor dining. But he added that the discussions have given his administration a “jump start” on what the next steps might include.
OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said that churches, mosques and synagogues can resume in-person services, with those in counties in the second stage of the state’s COVID-19 reopening plan allowed to have smaller in-building services and the remainder limited to outdoor services with no more than 100 people.
Religious organizations are required to have a plan that encompasses sanitation and physical distancing of seats or pews, limiting access points to buildings, and requiring all employees, members and visitors to wear face coverings, regardless of whether the service or event is inside or outside.
There also must be no direct physical contact, and anything to be consumed — such as a communion wafer — may not be presented in a communal container or a plate.
Additionally, while singing is permitted during a service, people must keep face coverings on, and choirs will not be allowed to perform during services.
GUILFORD, Conn. — A small cruise company says it plans to be the first to begin cruising again on U.S. waters since the coronavirus pandemic caused cruise ships to be anchored across the globe.
American Cruise Lines announced this week that the 184-passenger modern riverboat American Song will depart from Portland, Oregon, on June 20 and sail to Clarkston, Washington, along the Columbia and Snake rivers.
The company also said in a news release that the 190-passenger American Harmony is scheduled to depart from Memphis, Tennessee, on June 28, and sail along the Mississippi River to New Orleans.
American Cruise Lines, which is based in Guilford, Connecticut, said it would voluntarily sail at 75% capacity and will adhere to safety protocols.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control in March issued a “no sail” order to cruise companies, but it only applies to those with more than 250 passengers and crew members on board.
American Queen Steamboat Co. has also said that it will resume cruises on the Mississippi River in late June.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee will soon stop providing the names and addresses of COVID-19 patients to first responders, after initially arguing that doing so would protect those on the front line.
Gov. Bill Lee’s administration decided on the change this week, conceding that the data may have created a false sense of security to those responding to emergency calls. The data sharing will stop at the end of the month.
The announcement follows an Associated Press review that found public officials in at least two-thirds of states are sharing the addresses of people who tested positive with first responders.
A small handful of those states, including Tennessee at the time, also shared the patients’ names.
Supporters argue that the information is vital to helping them take extra precautions to avoid contracting and spreading the coronavirus.
Yet civil liberty and community activists have expressed repeated concerns of potential profiling in African American and Hispanic communities that already have an uneasy relationship with law enforcement.
UNITED NATIONS — The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross says the organization has recorded 208 COVID-19-related attacks against health workers and installations in 13 countries since March.
Peter Maurer said that while there has been an outpouring of gratitude for health workers in many countries, in reality health workers are being abused and health systems are being targeted at a time when they are most needed.
He told reporters the ICRC compiled data from 13 countries in the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, the Americas and Africa where it operates, and it’s “likely the actual numbers are much higher than what we calculated.”
Maurer told the U.N. Security Council and a briefing to reporters that the incidents range from verbal threats to burning down facilities reportedly housing COVID-19 patients.
He said 23 percent of incidents included physical assaults, 20 percent were discriminatory-related attacks on health workers, and the rest included the deliberate failure to provide or deny assistance, verbal assaults and threats, and a disregard for health personnel protective measures.
ROME — Italy’s known death toll in the COVID-19 pandemic topped 33,000 on Wednesday, with 117 more deaths registered nationwide since the previous day.
But authorities acknowledge that the real number of deaths will probably never be known since many with coronavirus symptoms in care residences or in their own homes died without being tested in the past few months.
Lombardy, the northern region, which has registered more than a third of the entire nation’s known cases, confirmed 384 new coronavirus infections on Wednesday, considerably more than the 73 registered in the next heaviest-hit region, Piedmont, also in the north.
Health Ministry and other government officials are closely monitoring regions for any jump in new cases following the May 18 easing of many lockdown restrictions, including allowing all retail stores to re-open and cafes and restaurants to resume in-house service.
Italians are waiting to learn if they will be able to freely travel among all regions starting on June 3, or only among some of them, in view of contagion rates.
Currently travel between regions is limited to strict necessity.
Italy registered 584 confirmed new cases on Wednesday, raising to 231,139 the total number of known coronavirus infections in the country, according to Health Ministry figures.
SeaWorld and Walt Disney World will reopen in Orlando, Florida, in June and July after months of being closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to plans a city task force approved Wednesday.
The proposals will now be sent to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for final approval.
The plan calls for SeaWorld to open to the public on June 11. Disney plans a tiered reopening, with Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom opening on July 11, followed by Epcot and Hollywood Studios on July 15.
Last week, Universal Orlando presented its plan to reopen on June 5. That plan also has been approved by the Orlando task force, which sent its recommendation to the governor.
Disney’s senior vice president of operations, Jim McPhee told the task force the parks would open with limited capacity, but he didn’t specify the number of guests who would be allowed in initially.
Disney World also plans smaller, soft openings prior to July 11, but no specifics were provided.
SeaWorld is planning an employee appreciation event on June 10 before opening to the public the next day, said Interim CEO Marc Swanson.
ATHENS, Greece — Greece says the United States is unlikely to be on a list of countries that will be allowed to resume direct flights to Greece in the coming weeks but could be added later in the summer.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Wednesday that Greece’s government was finalizing the list of countries that will be allowed to resume flights to Athens on June 15 and regional airports on July 1 and has already stated that Germany will be included.
“It is unlikely that the (U.S.) will be on our list, given the data that we currently have,” Mitsotakis told a web event hosted by the Brookings Institution and Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia.
“We will start with countries that have similar epidemiological data with Greece. And we expect to gradually ramp up direct flights to our islands.”
SAO PAULO — Sao Paulo state, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Brazil, will reopen some of its closed businesses starting June 1 despite a growing number of confirmed COVID-19 cases.
Gov. João Doria said Wednesday that stay-at-home recommendations will remain in effect until June 15 for the state that’s home to 46 million people, but some economic activity will resume in less affected regions, including Sao Paulo city, as long as social distancing guidelines are respected.
More than 6,400 people have died because of the new coronavirus in Sao Paulo state, about one-fourth of all of Brazil’s deaths. Experts and even some authorities have said that represents a significant undercount because of insufficient testing.
Doria said Sao Paulo regions that reduce daily increases in their COVID-19 cases and have enough available intensive care beds can partially reopen stores, shopping malls, offices, car dealerships and real estate brokerages. Sao Paulo never imposed a lockdown, so non-essential industries and civil construction were never closed. Doria said the decision is based on scientific guidelines.
Doria has been frequently singled out for criticism by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who has opposed governors’ restrictions on activity.