Updates: Albuquerque retirement facility has 18 coronavirus cases

Closed stores are shown at a central plaza and shopping district amid a public health order that has closed down most retail stores and suspended dine-in restaurant service in Santa Fe, N.M., Friday, March 27, 2020. New Mexico Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Jen Schroer says the state's tourism industry will continue to suffer amid COVID-19 restrictions and vowed the state will do what it can to help hotels, tourist spots, and businesses recover once restrictions are lifted. (AP Photo/Morgan Lee)

The Associated Press

The latest updates 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.

The Associated Press

Eighteen residents at a retirement facility in New Mexico's most populous city have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the state's total to nearly 500 cases, officials announced Friday.

Mark DiMenna, deputy director of Albuquerque's Environmental Health Department, confirmed the positive tests for COVID-19 two days after the first infection turned up at La Vida Llena.

Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham says the infection at the assisted and independent living facility has been traced by health officials to a worker who may have transmitted the disease unwittingly before showing medical symptoms of COVID-19, which is characterized by fever, shallow breathing and other symptoms.

The governor said new testing is underway at an assisted living center in Santa Fe where one worker has tested positive for coronavirus, without naming the facility, and that surveillance was increased at a facility in Sandoval County.

New Mexico suspended public access to assisted living facilities, with exceptions for end-of-life hospice care, shortly after the first coronavirus in the state was detected in mid-March. People over the age of 60 are more vulnerable to severe effects of the contagion, according to medical experts.

Lujan Grisham, who says she halted in-person visits to her own mother at an assisted living facility as a precaution, said during an online update Friday that a total of 495 cases have been confirmed as testing ramps up. She said 10 people have died and another 41 remain hospitalized.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Hardest and saddest week ahead

Surgeon General Jerome Adams is bracing Americans for what he says is going to be ``the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives’’ because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Adams tells ``Fox News Sunday’’ that ``this is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.’’

He wants to make clear that ``it’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.’’

Adams also has a message to governors who haven’t yet imposed shelter-in-place orders in their states. He says the handful of states in that category are states where a large amount of food is produced for the country, and that’s been part of the struggle when it comes to stay-at-home restrictions.

But Adams has a message for those governors: ``If you can’t give us a month, give us what you can. Give us a week. Give us whatever you can to stay at home during this particularly tough time when we’re going to be hitting our peak over the next seven to 10 days.’’

Russia infections

MOSCOW — The spokesman for Vladimir Putin says the Russian president will continue working remotely for at least another week amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Dmitry Peskov said on state television Putin and people who work with him are being tested regularly. 

Russia's coronavirus task force says the number of infections in the country was 5,389, which is up almost 700 than the previous day. There have been 45 deaths recorded.

Rome discharges patients

ROME — Rome's main hospital for treating COVID-19 infections says more patients were discharged than admitted for the first time since Italy's outbreak began. 

Spallanzani Hospital's daily bulletin on coronavirus cases was another positive sign that Italy's rigid lockdown measures have apparently slowed the contagion. The lockdown has been four weeks now. 

Health authorities in Lombardy said last week overwhelmed hospitals were starting to feel some relief. The northern region has more than half of Italy's 15,000 deaths. 

Spallanzani had treated the first known COVID-19 cases in Italy, which was a vacationing Chinese couple who fell sick in late January. They were discharged last month.

China delivers masks

PARIS — An Airbus plane has traveled from China to France and returned with a cargo of 4 million face masks.

The European multinational said in a statement that the flight landing in France on Sunday morning was its third such mission between China and France.

Airbus says it is continuing "to purchase and supply millions of face masks from China." 

It added the large majority of the masks will be donated to governments of the Airbus home countries, which are predominately France, Germany, Spain and the U.K.

Military music

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka — Sri Lanka's military troops and police personnel are performing musical programs to boost the mental health of citizens under lockdown during coronavirus pandemic.

The programs cater to people living in apartments who can't leave due to the curfew. Music bands go to each of the apartments and perform on a makeshift stage. 

Sri Lanka has been under a countrywide curfew since March 20. Police are strictly imposing the curfew. There have been 13,716 people arrested for violating curfew and 3,423 vehicles seized.

Curfew will be lifted for eight hours in 19 districts on Monday to allow people to buy food and other essentials. The curfew in six other districts which have been identified as high-risk areas will continue indefinitely. 

Five people have died due to the virus in Sri Lanka and the total number of confirmed cases are at 166.

Pilots to the people

PRAGUE — More than 300 pilots in the Czech Republic have joined forces in a group of volunteers who use their private planes to distribute medical equipment all across the country.

The "Pilots to the People" project is meant to help the state authorities fighting the epidemic of the coronavirus "to deliver supplies to any place in the country as soon as possible."

The service is offered free of charge and the pilots pay for the gas. There's a network of some 200 airports in the country they can use, making it possible to efficiently serve the entire country.

The group says their goal is to transport the material to any hospital, clinic or any other place where it's needed in within two hours.

Dan Stastny, one of the founders of the project told The Associated Press on Sunday. that besides the speed, they "can land at any sort of airstrip for ultralight planes which is a great advantage." 

The volunteers mostly include amateurs, sport and small planes pilots.

Revolutions can wait

BANGKOK — A Muslim separatist group in Thailand has announced it is suspending guerrilla activity to facilitate humanitarian access during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Barisan Revolusi Nasional says in a statement posted Sunday on its Facebook page that it was acting "in order to create a safer and more suitable environment ... for health care agencies and other organizations tasked with preventing and containing the outbreak of Coronavirus."

It says its suspension will remain in effect as long as the group is not attacked by government forces.

The group, generally known as the BRN, has been leading a loose alliance fighting for autonomy for Thailand's three southernmost provinces, the only ones with Muslim majorities in the predominantly Buddhist nation. About 7,000 people have been killed since the conflict flared up in 2004.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday that warring parties in 11 countries had responded positively to his appeal for a global cease-fire to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Infections slowing in Spain

MADRID — The rate of the coronavirus outbreak continues to slow in Spain, the country with the second most infections behind the United States.

Spain recorded 6,023 confirmed new infections on Sunday, taking the national tally to 130,759. That is down from an increase of 7,026 infections in the previous 24-hour period, confirming the downward tendency of the past week.

Confirmed new deaths also dropped to 674 fatalities, taking the national tally to 12,418. That is the first time new deaths have fallen below 800 new fatalities in the past week.

As its outbreak loses steam, Spain's government has started to cautiously consider when it can start to reactivate an economy that has been shut down and put hundreds of thousands out of work.

"We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel," Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told the nation Saturday.

But to get there, Sánchez announced that he would ask the Parliament to extend the state of emergency by two more weeks, taking the lockdown on mobility until April 26. He added that a team of experts is also studying how to plan for a gradual loosening of restrictions to reactive the country's dormant economy and social life.

France turns to speedy trains

By SYLVIE CORBET and ANGELA CHARLTON Associated Press

PARIS (AP) — The high-speed train whooshing past historic World War I battle zones and through the chateau-speckled Loire Valley carried a delicate cargo: 20 critically ill COVID-19 patients and the machines helping keep them alive.

The TGV-turned-mobile-intensive-care-unit is just one piece of France's nationwide mobilization of trains, helicopters, jets and even a warship, deployed to relieve congested hospitals and shuffle hundreds of patients and medical personnel in and out of coronavirus hotspots.

"We are at war," President Emmanuel Macron tells his compatriots, again and again. 

But as the 42-year-old leader casts himself as a warrior and harnesses the might of the armed forces, critics charge that he waited far too long to act against this foe. France, one of the world's wealthiest countries with one of the best health care systems, they say, should never have found itself so deep in crisis.

Macron had just emerged from weeks of damaging retirement strikes and a year of violent "yellow vest" protests over economic injustice when the pandemic hit. Now he is struggling to keep the house running in one of the world's hardest-hit countries.

The Rungis food market south of Paris, Europe's biggest, is transforming into a morgue as France's death count races past 7,500. Nearly 7,000 patients are in intensive care, pushing French hospitals to their limit and beyond. Doctors are rationing painkillers and re-using masks.

France's centralized state and powerful presidency make it easier to coordinate the exceptional patient-moving efforts, which have crisscrossed the country and even extended to overseas territories.

But the pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the world-renowned state hospital system after decades of cost cuts. When the president visited a Paris hospital on the front lines of the virus battle, an angry neurologist challenged him to reinvest massively.

"When it was about saving Notre Dame, many were moved," Dr. Francois Salachas said, a reference to the Paris cathedral that was severely damaged by fire a year ago, prompting immediate, massive pledges of public and private funds for reconstruction. "This time it's about saving public hospitals, which are going up in smoke at the same speed as Notre Dame almost did."

History will remember

In a rare address to the nation, Queen Elizabeth II plans to exhort Britons to rise to the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic, drawing on wisdom from her decades as Britain's head of state to urge discipline and resolve in a time of crisis.

The 93-year-old monarch is expected to acknowledge the suffering that many families have experienced because of the COVID-19 crisis, which has infected over 42,000 citizens in the U.K. and killed at least 4,313 of them. She will seek to lift spirits and offer hope to the country in its hour of need.

"I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time,'' she said, according to excerpts released ahead of remarks that were being broadcast Sunday night. "A time of disruption in the life of our country; a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all."

The queen gives yearly Christmas messages but has given an address like this on only three previous occasions. She delivered speeches after the Queen Mother's death in 2002, before the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997, and at the time of the first Gulf War in 1991. 

The queen will laud Britain's beloved National Health Service and others in essential services, together with some 750,000 people who volunteered to help the vulnerable. 

"I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge," she said. "Those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.'' 

"That the attributes of self-discipline, of quiet, good-humored resolve, and of fellow feeling still characterize this country," she said, according to excerpts. 

The crisis has hit close to home for the queen. Her son and the heir to the throne, 71-year-old Prince Charles, had a mild case of the disease. She herself left London, the epicenter of Britain's outbreak, and took up residence at her home in Windsor with her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh.

Both the monarch and her 98-year-old husband are among those over 70 whom the British government have advised to stay home for 12 weeks.

The address was recorded at in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle. The location was chosen specifically because it allowed enough space between the monarch and the camera person, who wore personal protective equipment.

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