NEW YORK — After working with neighboring states on coronavirus-related closing and reopening plans, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Sunday that New York will join with states from Massachusetts to Delaware to create a regional supply chain for masks, gowns, ventilators, testing supplies and other equipment vital to fighting the disease.
The states are joining together after months of dealing separately with what Cuomo said was a “totally inefficient and ineffective” purchasing process that pitted all 50 states against each other, as well as the federal government and other entities, driving up prices as supplies dried up.
New York buys about $2 billion worth of medical equipment supplies per year, Cuomo said. The other states joining the consortium together spend about $5 billion per year. Working together, they’ll have stronger purchasing power and improve their clout with global suppliers, Cuomo said.
“It will make us more competitive in the international marketplace and I believe it will save taxpayers money,” Cuomo said. “I also believe it will actually help us get the equipment, because we have trouble still getting the equipment.”
The other states in the consortium are Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. One goal, the states’ governors said, is to find suppliers within the region, instead of relying on swamped manufacturers in China and other faraway places.
WASHINGTON — Michigan’s governor says gun-carrying protesters who demonstrated inside her state’s Capitol “depicted some of the worst racism” and “awful parts” of U.S. history.
Democrat Gretchen Whitmer tells CNN that the protests featured “Confederate Flags, and nooses,” as well as swastikas.
Members of the Michigan Liberty Militia protested the state’s stay-at-home orders this week, some with weapons and tactical gear and their faces partially covered. They went inside the Capitol, where being armed is allowed, then demanded access to the House floor, which is prohibited.
Some went to the Senate gallery, where a senator said armed men shouted at her.
Michigan’s Republican-controlled Legislature has questioned Whitmer’s authority to extend stay-at-home orders amid the coronavirus pandemic. But the governor used an executive order to extend a state of emergency declaration and has directed most businesses statewide to remain closed.
Mentioned as a possible running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Whitmer said Sunday, “This isn’t something we just negotiate ourselves out of and it’s a political matter.”
“This is a public health crisis,” she said.
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says China has been responsible for the spread of disease in the past and must be held accountable for the coronavirus pandemic that originated in the country.
In comments likely to spark protests from Beijing and elsewhere, Pompeo said “China has a history of infecting the world.” He cited poor safety and security at epidemiological laboratories, including in the city of Wuhan where the virus was first reported.
He stressed that he had no reason to believe that the virus was deliberately spread but he ramped up already harsh U.S. criticism of the Chinese for their response to the outbreak.
“Remember, China has a history of infecting the world, and they have a history of running substandard laboratories,” Pompeo said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” program.
“These are not the first times that we’ve had a world exposed to viruses as a result of failures in a Chinese lab. And so, while the intelligence community continues to do its work, they should continue to do that, and verify so that we are certain, I can tell you that there is a significant amount of evidence that this came from that laboratory in Wuhan.”
Pompeo appeared to be referring to previous outbreaks of respiratory viruses, like SARS, which started in China. But his remark may be seen as offensive in China given the history of U.S. discrimination against the Chinese and people of Chinese origin dating to the 19th century.
ROME — On the eve of the start in Italy of partially eased restriction on citizens’ movements during COVID-19 lockdown, the nation received some encouraging news after weeks of grim daily tallies of caseload and deaths.
Health Ministry figures put the number of deaths in the 24-hour period ending Sunday evening at 174, the lowest day-to-day number since 168 on March 10, at the start of national lockdown.
The number of new cases, 1,389, was also the lowest the nation has seen in two months. Italy’s number of known COVID-19 infections total is 210,717, although authorities say the number is likely higher as many infections in people with no or almost no symptoms are believed to have gone undetected.
Italy’s death toll stands at 28,884, but that number, too, could be much higher, since many elderly persons in recent weeks died in nursing homes but weren’t tested to see if they had coronavirus infection.
BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana lawmakers are restarting their legislative session Monday in a state reshaped by the coronavirus pandemic.
They are grappling with new budget troubles, squabbling over what bills should take priority and feuding over whether they should return at all.
Republicans want to resume the final four weeks of a session that began March 9 — the same day Louisiana had its first positive coronavirus test.
Democrats say it’s unsafe to bring hundreds of people into the Capitol.
Nearly 2,000 Louisianans have died from the virus, including a House lawmaker. Senate President Page Cortez and House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, both Republicans, are pledging intense cleaning and protective measures.
But while masks are “encouraged” for the building, they won’t be required.
Democratic Rep. Ted James of Baton Rouge was hospitalized for days with COVID-19. He announced on Twitter he wouldn’t attend session Monday “and do not see myself going to the Capitol in the foreseeable future.” He called the return irresponsible and said “there is no safe way to practice social distancing.”
PRISTINA, Kosovo — A 26-year old Kosovar Albanian man died after jumping in an effort to escape from a quarantine building in the capital Pristina, police and health authorities reported Sunday.
The man, a resident in Gjilan, 50 kilometers (30 miles) south of Pristina, had resisted being kept under quarantine upon his return from Germany a day earlier, the local media reported referring to witnesses also sheltered at the quarantine buildings. He jumped from the fourth floor of a building and emergency doctors said he had arrived dead.
Acting Prime Minister Albin Kurti expressed regrets for his death, adding that an investigation has been launched.
Authorities take every person coming to Kosovo in specially arranged flights in a 14-day quarantine at the student campus’ dormitories. The campus has sheltered about 1,000 people since the country’s lockdown in mid-March and now there are 165 persons sheltered there.
Kosovo has eased some of its restrictive measures, but its borders continue to remain shut.
The virus has killed 22 people and infected at least 823.
LONDON — Britain’s Department of Health says 315 people have died after testing positive for COVID-19 in the last reporting period.
The figure reflects the tally as of 5 p.m. Saturday and brings the total number of people who have died in hospitals, care homes and the wider community to 28,446 up from 28,131 the day before.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the country has passed the peak of infection following a national lockdown that began March 23.
He has pledged to offer a road map out of the lockdown later this week.
ROME — The governor of Sardinia is easing some COVID-19 restrictions on both the Italian island’s spiritual and animal flocks.
The new rules signed by Gov. Christian Solinas on Saturday will allow resumption of public Masses. Popular ceremonies like first Communion will still be prohibited.
Italy’s bishops blasted Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte a week ago for not allowing faithful to atttend public Masses. Solinas said Sardinia’s bishops can decide physical distancing measures for safety in the pews.
Conte says the government is working out details for Masses to resume nationwide.
Sardinia’s new rules allow resumption of sheep-sheering. While nationwide hair salons can’t open before June 1, Solinas gave the OK for hairdressers in Sardinia to resume business on May 11 in towns where contagion rates have dropped to zero.
Many governors insist their economy must restart sooner.
Sardinia is a region of 1.6 million people and has had less than a dozen new coronavirus cases for several straight days now. Early in the outbreak, the Mediterranean island banned arrivals of all flights and ships.
ISTANBUL — Turkey’s health minister has announced 61 new deaths in the past 24 hours, which is the lowest death rate in more than a month from COVID-19.
The total death toll stands at 3,397.
Fahrettin Koca tweeted Sunday 1,670 more cases were confirmed, with the total number of infections now at 126,045. The daily increase is the lowest climb in more than a month, but the number of administered tests has also decreased.
Turkey ranks eighth in confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins University, but experts believe the tally around the world is higher than reported.
The health minister said 4,892 people were discharged from hospitals Sunday, with total recoveries now above 63,000.
ATHENS, Greece — There was a single fatality in Greece from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, raising the total to 144.
There were only six new confirmed cases and the total number is now 2,626 in figured released Sunday. There are 37 people on ventilators and 78 have exited intensive care.
The strict quarantine measures imposed on March 23 are being relaxed starting Monday, with residents no longer required to send a message stating their reason for leaving home.
Some shops, like bookstores and hairdressers, are opening, but there is also an enforced policy of wearing masks while using public transport.
The Greek government has repeatedly said that the relaxation will not last if cases spike; the ban on trips to the countryside or the islands is being maintained for the time being.
WASHINGTON — White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx is calling it “devastatingly worrisome” to see protesters in Michigan and elsewhere not wear masks or practice social distancing as they demonstrate against stay-at-home orders.
Birx was responding to the hundreds of protesters who crowded the Michigan statehouse last week to push for a reopening of businesses.
She tells “Fox News Sunday” that people “will feel guilty for the rest of our lives” if they pick up the virus because they didn’t take precautions and then unwittingly spread it to family members who are especially vulnerable to severe illness due to preexisting conditions or older age.
Protests took place in several states over the weekend amid growing frustration over the economic impact from stay at home orders during the coronavirus outbreak.
Birx says: “We need to protect each other at the same time we’re voicing our discontent.”
BERLIN — An international media rights group says the coronavirus pandemic is being used by governments around the world to increase restrictions on press freedoms.
The International Press Institute issued a report Sunday to coincide with World Press Freedom Day 2020, which concludes that in both democratic and autocratic states the “public health crisis has allowed governments to exercise control over the media on the pretext of preventing the spread of disinformation.”
It says authoritarian governments have been abusing emergency measures to “further stifle independent media and criminalize journalism,” while in democracies “efforts to control the public narrative and restrict access to information around the pandemic are on the rise.”
The Vienna-based organization said it has documented 162 press freedom violations related to coronavirus coverage over the past two and a half months. Almost a third of the violations have involved the arrest, detention or charging of journalists.
World Press Freedom Day was proclaimed by the United Nations in 1993.
Ahead of this year’s event, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the COVID-19 crisis has underscored the importance of a robust and free press.
He says “As the pandemic spreads, it has also given rise to a second pandemic of misinformation, from harmful health advice to wild conspiracy theories. The press provides the antidote: verified, scientific, fact-based news and analysis.”
MADRID — The Spanish government has said three Spaniards, one Bolivian resident in Spain and two Bolivian air force pilots have died in a plane crash in Bolivia. The four passengers were on the way back to Spain as part of repatriation efforts amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Spanish government spokeswoman Jesús María Montero confirmed Sunday the nationality of the passengers of the plane crash that was reported by the Bolivian air force.
The Bolivian air force said the crash occurred Saturday when the small aircraft “on a humanitarian air mission” crashed during a flight between the Bolivian cities of Trinidad and Santa Cruz.
The air force said they will investigate the cause of the accident.