The Latest: Trump hoping US deaths stay below 100,000

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Rajpath, India’s ceremonial boulevard is deserted, as India’s Presidential Palace is seen during a lockdown amid concerns over the spread of Coronavirus, in New Delhi, India, April 27, 2020. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

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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:

— Trump says he hopes U.S. deaths stay below “horrible number” of 100,000.

— South Carolina to lift stay-at-home order on Monday.

— New Mexico governor seals off roads in bid to contain outbreak in city of Gallup.

— U.N. chief seeks stronger efforts to aid elderly amid pandemic.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he’s hoping that the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States will be below 100,000.

Even that, he acknowledged on Friday, is a “horrible number.”

Trump’s predictions of the expected U.S. death toll have changed over time, and he repeatedly has used high estimates to make the case that his administration’s actions, especially his decision to restrict travel from China, have saved lives. His actions have been challenged by state, local and public health officials who have complained about shortages of testing supplies and safety gear for doctors and nurses.

On March 29, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, revealed models projecting the deaths of 100,000 to 240,000 Americans, assuming social distancing efforts were ongoing.

At the same time, she said epidemiology models initially had predicted a worst-case scenario of 1.5 million to 2.2 million U.S. deaths without mitigation efforts such as social distancing, hand washing and staying home as much as possible.

Soon after, Trump began speculating that the 100,000 figure was an outer limit. Later, he leaned more toward a projection of 60,000, but that now has been eclipsed by the current death toll of more than 64,000. On Monday, he was thinking 60,000 or 70,000.

At a White House event on Friday, Trump said “maybe millions of lives” have been saved by shutting down the economy.

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COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster says he will end the state’s stay-at-home order on Monday.

McMaster’s announcement came Friday, the same day many hotels near the state beaches could reopen and state parks unlocked their gates for the first time in more than a month.

The Republican governor also said outdoor dining areas of restaurants can reopen Monday as long as they follow strict distancing requirements, restrict tables to no more than eight people and sanitize seats and tables after each customer.

Hotels in the state’s most popular tourist destination, Myrtle Beach, can only honor reservations already made before the COVID-19 pandemic until May 15. Then they can take new reservations.

City officials are requiring hotels to restrict guest elevators to one person or family and all must wear masks. That could make it unappealing for some guests in the sprawling 15- or 20-story resorts that dot the area.

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SALEM, Ore. — Gov. Kate Brown says Oregon will launch an ambitious COVID-19 random testing program as it readies to reopen the economy.

The program will be carried out in a partnership with Oregon Health & Science University. A request for volunteers will go out mid-May.

When any of the 100,000 volunteers develop COVID-19 symptoms, they will be tested. Experts say the random testing helps determine where the virus is located in Oregon.

A few other states have started similar testing, but Oregon has “the opportunity to accelerate the impact and learn from the information,” Oregon Health & Science University President Danny Jacobs said.

Brown, a Democrat, also said some rural Oregon counties where there are almost zero coronavirus cases could begin reopening slowly starting May 15.

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BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards says he doesn’t foresee armed protesters disrupting lawmakers when a coronavirus-interrupted legislative session resumes Monday.

The Democratic governor noted that visitors aren’t allowed to bring firearms into Louisiana’s Capitol.

“I don’t expect to see that. Obviously we have some individuals around the state who want to give voice to their opinions, which are different than mine at the moment, with respect to the necessity of the stay-at-home order. And they have ample opportunity to do that,” Edwards said.

“I would ask those individuals to do that in an appropriate and safe manner. If they do that, then there won’t be any problems like you saw in Michigan.”

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AUSTIN, Texas — Texas’ reopening is underway with sparsely filled shopping malls and a man facing felony charges for pushing a park ranger into a lake.

New virus deaths in Texas also dropped Friday, one day after a single-day record of 50 fatalities was set on the eve of Republican Gov. Greg Abbott lifting stay-at-home orders. More than 120 people have died over the past three days in Texas, the worst stretch since the state’s first coronavirus case in March.

But Abbott, who isn’t yet allowing hair salons or gyms to open, says hospitalizations remain steady and infection rates are down.

In Austin, police say a 25-year-old man was charged with attempted assault on a public service worker after a video posted on social media showed a city park ranger getting shoved into the water Thursday while asking a crowd to keep 6 feet of distance.

The video shows shirtless parkgoers, some in swimsuits, and laughter is heard after the park ranger is pushed into shallow water near the shore. The Austin Parks and Recreation Department said in a statement it was “saddened” by the incident.

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HARRISBURG, Pa. — Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday that 24 counties in rural northern Pennsylvania will see some relief from his strictest orders for residents to stay at home and businesses to close as part of a strategy to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The counties have seen far fewer virus infections and deaths than most of the rest of the state.

The changes are to take effect next Friday, May 8, and affect about 1.5 million of Pennsylvania’s 12.8 million residents. Stay-at-home orders will be lifted and retail shops can start to reopen, though gyms, barbershops, nail salons, casinos, theaters and other such venues will remain closed and other restrictions will remain in place.

The state’s largest cities, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, will remain under the Democratic governor’s strictest orders.

The coronavirus has infected more than 45,000 Pennsylvania residents and killed nearly 2,300, according to the latest Health Department statistics.

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MOSCOW — Russia’s Minister of Construction has been hospitalized for treatment of coronavirus infection, the second high-ranking official to be infected in two days.

Construction minister Vladimir Yakushev will undergo treatment at a Moscow hospital, the ministry said Friday, according to Russian news agencies.

Deputy construction minister Dmitry Volkov also was diagnosed with the infection, the reports said.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Thursday he had contracted the virus.

Russia reported its largest one-day number of new inflections on Friday, nearly 8,000 new cases. Nearly 115,000 cases have been recorded nationwide.

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The governor of New Mexico invoked the state’s Riot Control Act on Friday as she sealed off all roads to nonessential traffic in the city of Gallup to help control a surging coronavirus outbreak in the former trading post city on the outskirts of the Navajo Nation.

Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham also announced a ban on routine outings and required that businesses close from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m. in the city of about 70,000 people.

COVID-19 infection rates in Gallup and surrounding McKinley County make it one of the worst U.S. hotspots for the pandemic as patients overwhelm intensive care facilities.

Lujan Grisham said the virus has run amok in McKinley County and physical distancing is not being maintained among residents.

“A problem in one part of our state, with a virus this contagious, is a problem for our entire state,” she said.

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CHESTERFIELD, Mo. — A resident of a suburban St. Louis nursing home is believed to be one of the oldest people in the world to survive the coronavirus.

Rudi Heider had two reasons to celebrate on Thursday — he turned 107 and he beat COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Relatives couldn’t come into his room at Friendship Village in Chesterfield, Missouri, but gathered outside his window while Heider enjoyed a slice of his favorite dessert, lemon meringue pie.

Heider said he looks forward to being able to be with family and friends again.

Heider’s granddaughter, Janet Heider of Seattle, called her grandfather “amazing.”

“I had to tell him that he’s lived through the Spanish Flu, two World Wars, a stroke at 100 years old, and a fractured vertebra at 104 years old that he would not to lose to COVID-19, and he ended up beating it,” she said.

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UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations secretary-general says the COVID-19 pandemic is causing “untold fear and suffering” for older people around the world who are dying at a higher rate, and especially for those over the age of 80 whose fatality rate is five times the global average.

Antonio Guterres said Friday that beyond the health risks, “the pandemic is putting older people at greater risk of poverty,” with an especially devastating impact on the elderly in developing countries.

The U.N. chief launched a 16-page policy briefing on the impact of COVID-19 on older people with several key messages, most importantly that “no person, young or old, is expendable” and “older people have the same rights to life and health as everyone else.”

Guterres also called for improved social support and “smarter efforts” to use digital technology to reach older people who may face great suffering because of isolation and restrictions on their movements.

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CHICAGO — A few hundred protesters chanting and carrying signs gathered Friday afternoon in front of Chicago’s Thompson Center building to call for a statewide lockdown to be lifted.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, a Democrat, and other state officials have offices in the building.

Demonstrators carried signs that read, “We demand Illinois opens now!,” “Reason over fear” and “The cure is worse than the disease.”

Others stayed put in cars, circling the block and honking their horns and waving American flags out their windows.

Some gathered outside wore masks, but many did not and stood close together. Police officers wore masks as they lined the street, directed traffic and hemmed protesters in on a sidewalk.

Among the organizers of the protest was Freedom Movement USA. It’s website describes itself as “a group of like-minded Republican activists” and said its members were avid supporters of President Donald Trump.

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LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — With gatherings banned amid a lockdown to combat the new coronavirus, a few thousand people staged a protest in Slovenia against the center-right government by riding their bicycles through the capital Ljubljana.

The cycling protest on Friday was held for the second week in a row following reports of alleged political pressure in the procurement of protective gear and ventilators.

Wearing face masks, the protesters passed through the center of the city before briefly stopping or riding in circles by the government and parliament buildings. Many shouted “Thieves!”

Slovenian anti-corruption authorities have launched an investigation into the allegations leveled by a whistleblower. Government officials have denied any wrongdoing, citing the need for hasty orders during the crisis.

A country of 2 million people, Slovenia has reported 1,434 cases of the new coronavirus while 93 people have died. Only five new infections were registered on Friday.

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DUBLIN — Ireland’s premier has announced an extension of the country’s coronavirus restrictions to May 18.

“We need two more weeks of tight restrictions to weaken the virus further,” Leo Varadkar said Friday.

However, he said people over 70 years old who have been told to stay home, or “cocoon,” can start going outside their homes starting Tuesday as long as they avoid all contact with people. The 2-kilometer limit that people are allowed to exercise outside their homes will also be extended to 5 kilometers.

Varadhar said that starting May 18, the country plans to reopen the economy in five stages, should the virus stay under control, with the last stage planned for August.

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