The Latest: Georgia governor allows businesses to reopen


The Latest 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.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Georgia governor says gyms, hair salons, other businesses can soon reopen.

— Maryland governor secures 500,000 tests from South Korea.

— France surpasses 20,000 coronavirus deaths.

— Mexican president asks drug cartels to stop handing out aid packages.

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ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has rolled out aggressive plans to reopen the state’s economy, saying many businesses shuttered to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus may reopen their doors as early as Friday.

The Republican governor announced that gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo parlors are among the businesses allowed to reopen Friday — as long as owners follow strict social distancing and hygiene requirements. By Monday, movie theaters may resume selling tickets and restaurants limited to takeout orders can go back to limited dine-in service.

“In the same way that we carefully closed businesses and urged operations to end to mitigate the virus’s spread, today we’re announcing plans to incrementally and safely reopen sectors of our economy,” Kemp said.

In addition to calls from President Donald Trump, Kemp has heard scattered public calls in Georgia to lift restrictions.

At least 733 deaths statewide have been linked to the virus, the Georgia Department of Public Health said. Infections have been confirmed in nearly 19,000 people.

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FREETOWN, Sierra Leone — Sierra Leone President President Julius Maada Bio will be working from home for the next two weeks after a member of his security staff tested positive for coronavirus, a government spokesman confirmed late Monday.

The president did not directly address his plans in a speech broadcast on state television but told Sierra Leoneans that the process of identifying the man’s primary and secondary contacts already had begun.

“Let me assure the public that members of my family and staff are healthy and have shown no symptoms consistent with COVID-19,” he said in the televised speech. “As president I will continue to provide leadership for the fight against COVID-19.”

Howard Thomas, a spokesman with the Ministry of Health and Sanitation, later confirmed that the president would be working from home.

Sierra Leone, which lost nearly 4,000 people during the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, was among the last countries in Africa to report a coronavirus case. While the country is among the poorest in the world, it gained substantial experience tracing and isolating contacts during the Ebola outbreak.

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LANSING, Mich. — Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday compared the fight against the cornonavirus to the sacrifice needed during World War II, criticizing protesters who flocked to the Michigan Capitol last week to denounce her weekslong restrictions against work and gatherings.

“President Trump called this a war and it is exactly that. So let’s act like it,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said.

“In World War II, there weren’t people lining up at the Capitol to protest the fact that they had to drop everything they were doing and build planes or tanks or ration food,” the governor said.

It was the second time that the governor publicly went after the thousands of protesters who drove and honked past the Capitol last Wednesday. About 150 stood on the Capitol grounds with signs that portrayed Whitmer as a dictator who was depriving them of a living with her stay-at-home orders and business shutdowns.

Meanwhile, the state health department reported a daily rise in new coronavirus cases and COVID-19 deaths, but both were smaller than the new numbers disclosed Sunday. Cases increased by 576 to 32,000, while deaths rose by 77 to 2,468.

They included a 5-year-old Detroit girl, Skylar Herbert, the youngest person to die in Michigan.

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WEST POINT, Ga. — Automaker Kia plans to reopen its manufacturing plant in west Georgia next week after a nearly monthlong shutdown that the company attributed to supply chain shortages and concerns of spreading the coronavirus.

All 2,800 workers at Kia’s plant in West Point will return to work when production resumes, said Rick Douglas, spokesman for Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia. Douglas did not give a specific reopening date. The Kia plant, the only auto manufacturer in Georgia, is located about 110 miles southwest of Atlanta. It has been shut down since March 30.

Even before auto production resumes at the Georgia plant, about 40 workers Monday began making face shields at the facility to help offset a shortage of protective gear for medical workers and first responders.

The company said employees making face shields are having their temperatures scanned and are being provided with face masks and gloves. Their work stations are being staggered to enforce social distancing.

Douglas said similar safeguards will be used when the rest of Kia’s Georgia employees return to work next week.

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Maryland will be able to test 500,000 more people for COVID-19 thanks to a shipment of tests from South Korea.

Gov. Larry Hogan announced Monday that his wife Yumi Hogan, who is Korean-American, negotiated the shipment with Korean officials.

The Republican governor said Maryland has been doing everything in its power to increase testing capacity.

“Unfortunately, we have also had to compete with every state in America in our attempts to procure tests from every domestic producer in the U.S. and from sources around the globe,” Hogan said.

Hogan said his wife started talking to Korean officials in late March, setting in motion 22 days of vetting and negotiations.

The governor said adequate testing is one of the four building blocks on the road map to recovery and reopening businesses closed during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The (Trump) administration made it clear over and over again. They want the states to take the lead, and we have to go out and do it ourselves, and so that’s exactly what we did,” Hogan said.

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THESSALONIKI, Greece — Authorities in Greece’s second-largest city, Thessaloniki, say riot police were called in to disperse a group of soccer supporters who defied restrictions to celebrate the birthday of a local club.

Police said at least 10 people were fined and several were detained late Monday after dozens of supporters refused to disperse outside PAOK soccer club’s Toumba Stadium as the club marked 94 years since its foundation.

Riot police used flash grenades to break up the crowd. No injuries were reported.

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BOSTON — Massachusetts has become a hotspot of coronavirus infections, drawing the concern of federal officials and promises of aid from hard-hit New York.

The state’s death toll is expected to surpass 2,000 this week, doubling in less than a week. Officials are scrambling to boost hospital capacity and trace new infections to curb the spread of the disease.

Vice President Mike Pence has said the White House is closely watching the Boston area. The coordinator of the federal coronavirus task force, Dr. Deborah Birx, said officials are “very much focused” on Massachusetts. There were 146 new deaths reported in Massachusetts on Sunday, bringing the state’s death toll to more than 1,700.

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PARIS — France has reported more than 20,000 deaths attributed to the new coronavirus since the pandemic began, surpassing the deadly heat wave that hit the country in 2003.

The head of the national health agency, Jerome Salomon, said France passed a “very painful, symbolic mark” by registering 12,513 deaths in hospitals and 7,752 in nursing homes as of Monday.

The country has not been counting people who die with the virus at home.

Salomon said the virus has killed more people than have died from the flu in any single winter in the country and more than the 2003 heat wave that left 19,000 people dead.

He said that the epidemic in France has reached a high “plateau” that’s trending slowly downward.

There were 5,683 patients in intensive care across the country, a number that dropped for the 12th straight day.

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MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s president acknowledged Monday that drug cartels have been handing out aid packages during the coronavirus pandemic, and called on them to stop.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said such handouts have occurred “in several places,” but said the government can’t stop the practice.

“It is something that happens, it cannot be avoided,” López Obrador said.

“I don’t want to hear them saying, ‘We are handing out aid packages,’” he said. “No, better that they lay off, and think of their families, and themselves, those that are involved in these activities and who are listening to me now or watching me.”

Videos posted on social media have shown one of the daughters of imprisoned drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman handing out boxes of rice, pasta, cooking oil and toilet paper with Guzman’s image printed on them.

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ANKARA, Turkey — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a four-day curfew in 31 provinces to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

In an address to the nation following a Cabinet meeting on Monday, Erdogan said the curfew will take effect on April 23, which is a public holiday in Turkey, and end at midnight on Sunday, April 26.

“The aim is to reduce the spread of the outbreak in a way that will make a return to normal after the Ramadan holiday possible,” Erdogan said, in reference to a four-day holiday that starts on May 24 in Turkey and marks the end of the holy Muslim month of fasting.

Erdogan’s government has not imposed a total lockdown, fearing its negative impacts on the already frail economy. It has opted for piecemeal measures instead, including weekend curfews and banning people above the age of 65 and below the age of 20 from leaving homes.

Turkey’s confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 4,674 in the past 24 hours to reach a total of 90,980. The reported death toll rose by 123 for a total of 2,140.

Erdogan also said Turkey plans to repatriate as many as 25,000 Turks in several countries before the Ramadan holiday.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s defense minister says the army has been guarding 20 camps for asylum seekers in the Balkan country. The military presence is intended to make sure all migrants stay inside as part of strict measures against the new coronavirus.

Defense minister Aleksandar Vulin said Monday there are some 8,000 migrants in Serbia who are faced with a 24-hour daily curfew. Vulin says migrants occasionally attempt to leave the camps but are stopped by the army.

Serbia has imposed a state of emergency and deployed the army to help contain the virus. Troops have been deployed outside hospitals and took part in setting up emergency facilities.

Serbia has reported 6,630 cases of COVID-19 while 125 people have died. Health authorities have said the situation has stabilized in the past several days, allowing for easing of some restrictions.

Migrants from the Middle East, Africa or Asia travel through Serbia while trying to reach Western Europe after fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries.

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SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA — More people appear to be joining a hunger strike in Bosnia over alleged failure by the authorities to protect them from the new coronavirus while forcing them to quarantine in government-run facilities.

According to hunger strikers, close to 80 people currently held in quarantine in a hotel in the central town of Zenica started refusing food Monday and were soon joined by 150 others who have been quarantined in a student dormitory in Sarajevo.

Hundreds of Bosnians who rushed home amid the coronavirus pandemic were ordered to quarantine in those and other facilities for anywhere between 14 and 28 days.

Hunger strikers said they were refusing food to pressure authorities into allowing them to self-isolate in their homes.

“Here, we all mix in hallways and if one of us is infected, we will all get infected,” Mirsad Susic, a hunger striker in Zenica, told the Associated Press by phone.

Susic claimed the the people who are currently quarantined in Zenica, some of them for over two weeks, have yet to be tested for COVID-19.

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PRAGUE — The Czech government has approved a record high budget deficit as it tries to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Finance Minister Alena Schillerova says the deficit for this year should reach 300 billion Czech crowns ($11.9 billion).

Previously, the biggest deficit was 192 billion crowns ($7.6 billion) in 2009 during the global economic downturn.

The government had already increased the deficit to 200 billion crowns, five times more than originally predicted.

Monday’s announcement comes amid the easing of restrictive measures adopted in response to the outbreak. Outdoor farmers markets and car dealerships reopened on Monday, while professional athletes were allowed to return to outdoor training in small groups of eight. Also, weddings with up to 10 people can take place.

The Czech Republic has 6,838 infected people and 194 have died, according to Health Ministry figures released Monday.

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Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak



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