Up to the minute: Nearly 13,000 die from coronavirus

A police car patrols in downtown Milan, northern Italy, in front of the Lombardy region headquarters building where office lights have been left on to compose the Italian words 'State a casa' (Stay home), Wednesday, March 18, 2020. Italian authorities say too many people are violating last week's national decree, which allows people to leave homes to go to workplaces, buy food or other necessities or for brief strolls outside to walk dogs or get exercise. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.(AP Photo/Luca Bruno) Title

The Associated Press

Associated Press

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 303,000 people and killed more than 12,940. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 91,600 people have recovered so far, mostly in China. 

TOP OF THE HOUR: 

—FAA briefly halts flights to NYC-area airports.

—Italy's coronavirus deaths, cases continue to rise.

—U.S. approves first rapid coronavirus test.

Italy orders complete shutdown 

ROME — Losing patience over unanswered demands for stronger measures by the national government, the leader of Italy's region most stricken by COVID-19 cases has ordered his own stiffer measures.

The ordinance by Lombardy Gov. Attilio Fontana issued Saturday night orders all guests out of hotels in Lombardy within 72 hours and directs supermarkets to take the temperature of customers before they enter the store. It also bans all outdoor sports or exercise, even if practiced by individuals at a safe distance.

Earlier in the day the mayor of Milan, Italy's financial hub and Lombardy's main city, warned local officials would crack down if some citizens kept flaunting national lock-down restrictions, including hanging out with others outdoors to stroll or jog.

Hotels may only now be used in case of need for Italy's increasingly desperate efforts to contain Europe's largest outbreak of the new coronavirus.

Pandemic hits Brazil

SAO PAULO — Brazil's health ministry says 18 people have died so far from the new coronavirus, with 1,128 infected in Latin America's largest nation.

The state of Sao Paulo alone has recorded 15 deaths, six of them reported on Saturday. That led Sao Paulo state Gov. João Doria to announce a two-week, statewide partial shutdown — a first in Brazil. Bars, restaurants and nonessential shops may not open, but people will be allowed to go outside.

Curfew in Macedonia 

SKOPJE, North Macedonia — North Macedonia's government has decided to impose a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. starting from Sunday in a bid to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus.

Caretaker Prime Minister Oliver Spasovski said after an urgent session of his cabinet that authorities were forced to impose such a "rigorous" decision — for the first time in the tiny Balkan country's history— in order to protect the people's health.

Health authorities have confirmed 85 people, including a 4-year old girl, infected with the new coronavirus.

No deaths has been reported; one woman is in critical condition.

Authorities said more than 3,700 people among the country's population of about 2.1 million are in quarantine. Two western regions have been sealed for 30 days.

New cases in Turkey 

ISTANBUL — Turkey has announced the death of 12 more patients, bringing the death toll from the novel coronavirus to 21. 

Health Minister Fahrettin Koca said on Twitter the number of infections has risen to 947, with 277 new cases of COVID-19 detected Saturday. 

The ministry also announced a 15-minute rapid test kit was being distributed across Turkey. 

Ankara took its strictest measures so far Saturday, banning people over 65 and those with chronic health problems from leaving their homes. The interior ministry ordered all restaurants shut to customers except for deliveries and pickups. Earlier, the ministry banned picnics and barbecues as Turkish citizens ignored warnings to remain at home.

Italy’s patient 1 loses father 

ROME — One of the latest deaths in Italy's coronavirus crisis is the father of a young man known as Italy's Patient No. 1.

Italian state TV said the father was one of 62 deaths so far in the outbreak that have occurred in Castiglione d'Adda, one of 10 Lombard towns which were the first to be put on lockdown in northern Italy.

The man's son, 38, is recovering after weeks of being in critical condition, but his condition has notably improved. The patient is also an expectant father, with a child due to be born with days.

Castiglione d'Adda's has about 4,600 inhabitants. Italian news reports said the father of Italy's first confirmed patient with COVID-19 died on Friday. In all, Italy has more than 53,500 cases of the new coronavirus.

Public transportation halted

MOSCOW — The capital of Uzbekistan is halting public transport as of Sunday, according to the country's office for preventing spread of the novel coronavirus.

The announcement said the ban includes subways, buses and fixed-route minibuses in Tashkent, a city of 2.4 million. Taxis will be allowed to operate if they are disinfected at an official center.

Uzbekistan has reported 47 cases of infection.

Germans urged to stay at home

BERLIN — German Chancellor Angela Merkel was seen doing some shopping Friday, stocking up on essentials for the weekend at her local supermarket.

Merkel has urged Germans to stay at home and practice social distancing to help beat the coronavirus outbreak.

Tabloid newspaper Bild reported Saturday that Merkel filled a small shopping cart with soap, preserved cherries and toilet paper. The paper also published pictures showing what appeared to be four bottles of wine.

France containment is evolving 

PARIS — France's health ministry says the country is "rapidly evolving towards a generalized epidemic on the territory" concerning COVID-19.

It says France's current containment measures, in place since Tuesday and running 15 days, could be renewed depending "on the observance of the application of containment by the population."

The French Ministry says severe forms of the new coronavirus are observed even in young adults: 50 percent of people hospitalized in intensive care are less than 60 years old.

A closed off country has its first case 

Eritrea, one of the world's most closed-off countries, is reporting its first coronavirus case.

Information minister Yemane Gebremeskel says the 39-year-old patient is an Eritrean national who arrived Saturday in the East African nation from Norway.

Eritrea on Monday urged citizens to refrain from domestic and foreign travel except for "extremely urgent and unavoidable" reasons. At least 41 of Africa's 54 countries now have cases with a total over 1,100.

Sewing masks 

LEBANON, N.H. — New Hampshire's largest hospital is encouraging volunteers to sew face masks for patients, visitors and staff so that medical-grade protective equipment can be conserved for front-line health care workers.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center is preparing kits with fabric and elastic for pickup and has set up a website with directions on how to sew the masks based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Kristin Roth, the hospital's director of volunteer services, says the nearly 500 people who typically volunteer at the facility have been eager to step up. "We were being inundated with questions about, 'How can I help?'" she said.

Flights banned by FAA

WASHINGTON — The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted a brief suspension of flights to New York City-area airports because of coronavirus-related staffing issues at a regional air-traffic control center.

In an alert posted online Saturday, the agency advised air traffic controllers to "stop all departures" to Kennedy, LaGuardia, Newark and other airports in the region.

The directive also affected Philadelphia International Airport.

The halt was lifted after about 30 minutes. Initially air traffic controllers were warned it could last several hours.

Africa lockdowns 

Lockdowns have begun in Africa in the latest rushed measures to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

Rwanda's prime minister announced that all unnecessary movements outside the home are banned as of midnight except for essential services such as health care and shopping.

The East African nation has 17 cases. It has told all public and private employees to work from home. Shops and markets not selling food, fuel or health or cleaning items are closed. All bars are closed and restaurants can only provide takeaway. The measures will last for two weeks.

Tunisia earlier imposed a lockdown.

Russia sends aid to Italy 

MOSCOW — The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin told Italian PM Giuseppe Conte that Russia will provide aid to help Italy cope with the new coronavirus.

Putin said Russia will provide protection means, aerosol disinfection trucks, medical and other equipment and will send teams of experts to the worst affected regions of Italy.

The supplies will be provided by the Russian Defense Ministry and carried by its transport planes.

New Jersey is closed except for essentials 

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy tweeted he has ordered residents to stay home and nonessential retail businesses to close by 9 p.m. Saturday.

He also said all gatherings are canceled. He ordered all residents to stay at home with some exceptions, such as obtaining essential goods or services, seeking medical attention, visiting family or close friends, reporting to work, or engaging in outdoor activities. He says gatherings such as weddings, in-person services and parties are banned.

Serbian curfew 

BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic announced that the government will extend the curfew already in place as part of efforts to contain the spread of the new coronavirus.

Vucic said the curfew will extend by additional three hours and will last from 5 p.m. local time until 5 a.m.

Vucic said harsh measures are necessary "so we would survive." He said a 24-hour curfew will be imposed if people continue to defy orders to stay indoors. Serbia has reported one death from the new coronavirus and 171 confirmed cases.

Detroit cases reported 

DETROIT — Henry Ford Health System reported 120 positive COVID-19 cases by 9 a.m. Saturday at four of its hospitals. Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit had 70 of those cases.

Hospital staff are creating homemade facemasks and eye protection equipment for health care workers.

But supplies of respirator and other types of masks are dwindling. So is hand sanitizer, hospital isolation gowns, gloves, thermometers with disposal sheets, and nasal swabs used to collect samples from patients.

"On a national and global basis, the key supplies are in very short supply," said Jim O'Connor, vice president of Supply Chain Management for Henry Ford Health System. "We're all struggling to obtain supplies at the level we would like. We are currently providing our supplies as required."

The health system has about 400 ventilators at its facilities. Another 74 are on order, but it could take about eight weeks for them to arrive.

"To say we're not concerned would be not true," Dr. Betty Chu told reporters during a conference call.

First death in Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico is reporting its first COVID-19 death.

The Health Department says the victim is an elderly Italian woman who was aboard the Costa Luminosa cruise ship that stopped in the U.S. territory earlier this month.

Officials say 21 people have tested positive and another 71 are awaiting test results. Among those infected are people without a history of travel. Police also have cited more than 120 people for violating a curfew imposed earlier this week to help curb coronavirus cases.

Oklahoma asks for mask donations 

OKLAHOMA CITY — Oklahoma's largest health system, Integris Health, is turning to the public and asking for donations of masks, hand sanitizers, disposable gloves known as nitrile gloves, touchless thermometers, impermeable gowns, eye protection and bleach and disinfectant wipes.

"It's just the perfect storm of a worldwide pandemic, health care systems around the country and around the world are needing the same things at the same time," Integris spokeswoman Brooke Cayot says.

Donations are being collected Saturday and Monday afternoons in a parking lot of Integris Baptist hospital in northwest Oklahoma City.

The virus was slower in coming to Oklahoma, Cayot said, but there are now 53 confirmed cases, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Saturday, and one death.

Grim day in Italy 

ROME — Italy's grim tally of coronavirus cases and deaths has continued to soar, with officials announcing new day-to-day highs: 793 dead and 6,557 cases. 

The country, the heart of western Europe's rampaging outbreak, now counts 53,578 known cases. More than 60 percent of the latest deaths occurred in the northern region of Lombardy, whose hospitals have been reeling under a staggering case load that has left intensive care beds hard to find and respirators in dire supply. The new increases come nearly two weeks into a national lock-down in a desperate bid to contain the spread of the virus.

New test is approved 

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the first rapid coronavirus test, which produces results in about 45 minutes.

An FDA spokeswoman confirmed the approval after an announcement from Cepheid, a Silicon Valley molecular diagnostics company.

It can take at least a few days to get results from current coronavirus tests, which typically are sent in batches to reference labs, said Dr. David Persing, the company's chief medical and technology officer.

"What's really needed is a test that can rapidly determine status of infection on site when patients are being seen," he said on a company video.

Cepheid said it will begin shipping its tests next week.

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