National News

AP-NORC poll: Seeking virus data, people struggle with trust

WASHINGTON (AP) — When John Manley tested positive for COVID-19, his sister urged him to get on the malaria drug that she’d heard Fox News hosts plugging and that President Donald Trump was heralding as a potential “game changer” for fighting the coronavirus.
But Manley, 58, a civilian U.S. Army public affairs officer, was skeptical of using a drug not approved by the Food and Drug Administration for treating the virus and decided it was a gamble not worth taking.
“It caused a huge rift in the family because the science wasn’t behind it,” said Manley, who lives in Stuttgart, Germany, and whose wife, Heidi Mathis, also tested positive for the virus after a visit to New York. Both have since recovered, and the FDA has advised people not to take the drug outside a hospital or clinical trial.
The Manley family squabble highlights an essential question that many Americans are grappling with as they seek out the information they need to stay safe during the country’s worst public health crisis in a century: Whom do you trust?
Or, as Manley frames it: “What is being jammed down our throats in our news? Who is talking about these things? Where do you go to actually get something you can believe?”
Sixty-eight percent of Americans say they highly trust the information that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is providing about the virus, 66% trust their doctor or health care provider, and 52% said the same about their state or local government, according to a recent Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll.
But Americans are more skeptical of the coronavirus information they’re getting from the media and from family and friends, with 32% saying they have a lot of trust in information provided by each. Only 23% of Americans said they have a great deal or quite a bit of trust in the information that Trump provides on the coronavirus, according to the poll.
In interviews, Americans said the process of consuming, digesting and discerning the credibility of the fire hose of virus information coming from politicians, public health experts and the media — not to mention what their family, friends and colleagues are sharing on social media — has become a time-consuming and frequently unsettling process.
Gary Thomas, 71, a retiree from Pueblo, Colorado, and longtime news junkie, has become even more regimented in his consumption. He begins each day at the breakfast table, where he’ll spend a couple of solitary hours with his phone and coffee reading the latest virus news. He’ll later put in several more hours watching the latest developments on cable with his wife, while continuing to monitor newspaper apps and social media feeds.
Contrast that with Michele Cody, 45, a technology manager from Riverton, New Jersey. She’s become so worn down by the crush of information that she’s put herself on a news diet — giving up her early morning newscast and relying more on a roundup of coronavirus news pushed to her inbox.
Retiree Jana Foley decided the best way to get the information she needs out of Trump’s briefings, and keep her blood from boiling, is through selective use of the mute button on her TV remote.
“When Trump is talking, we usually turn it down because we just get really upset and aggravated,” said Foley, 71, of Johnston, Iowa. “We turn it up when the experts are speaking.”
Vance Davis, 53, of Atlanta, finds himself frustrated with media coverage that he thinks is tinged with anti-Trump bias. In recent weeks, he said he’s stopped watching CNN and is now flipping between Fox News, the conservative One America News Network and Al Jazeera, the Qatar-headquartered network’s English newscast.
Davis said that much of the media has unfairly piled on Trump, overplaying things like the president’s musings that injecting disinfectant could be a cure for the virus. He said Trump could have handled the situation better by saying he misspoke instead of claiming he was being sarcastic.
Still, Davis said, he trusts the president “quite a bit.”
“Sometimes, he may grandstand too much, but you have to understand who he is and just suck it up,” he said.
Zach Stafford, 24, an AmeriCorps educator from Belleville, Illinois, watched the crisis unfold overseas and began to worry about the personal ramifications if it made it to the U.S.: His mother, Debra Mize, 61, has multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that makes her more vulnerable if she catches the virus. He immediately realized that trustworthy information on the virus was crucial for preserving his mother’s well-being.
The two have since been glued to the news, watching Trump’s briefings and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s morning updates, as well as Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s news conferences.
Mize said on most mornings she’ll wake up around 4 a.m., make her way to her recliner and begin scrolling through social media, news sites and Boston College historian Heather Cox Richardson’s daily newsletter. By day’s end — typically with liberal commentator Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC broadcast — Mize calculates she’s consumed about six hours of news.
She’s found herself flustered arguing with friends on social media who are convinced that the virus — and the need for social distancing — is a hoax. One was insistent that 5G towers, the ones that create speedy internet connections, were to blame for the pandemic. There is no evidence of this.
“When she started using it to justify the fact that she wasn’t going to listen to the stay-at-home orders … I just unfriended her,” Mize said.
In rural Clay County, Nebraska, Tim Lewis, an emergency manager for the county, said winning trust and persuading people to follow the state’s social distancing guidelines is a battle that sometimes needs to be waged one person at a time.
On a recent afternoon, Lewis was preparing to reach out to one of the county’s 6,200 residents who unnerved neighbors by telling them he had close contact with coronavirus-infected patients elsewhere in the state but saw no need to self-quarantine.
“This isn’t New York,” said Lewis, whose county has had nine people test positive for the virus. “But we’re trying to get people’s trust and help them understand this is a world thing.”
Both state and local government officials are getting high marks from Americans, with 63% of respondents approving of their handling of the crisis, according to the latest AP-NORC poll. In comparison, only 40% said they approved of the federal government’s handling of the crisis, and 28% approved of congressional leaders’ performance.
Fully 60% of respondents said Trump was not listening to health experts enough, while 35% said he was listening to them just the right amount.
Brian Haferkamp, a web developer from Maywood, Illinois, said he hasn’t put much trust in Trump’s rhetoric from the bully pulpit. Instead, Haferkamp, 42, said he’s been paying attention to guidance from state and local officials in Cook County, which has had more than 1,400 coronavirus-related deaths.
“In the end, I think our local government is where it’s going to come down and have the most practical meaning,” Haferkamp said.
Back in Germany, Manley is still spending much of his days reading and watching U.S. media coverage and tuning into White House and state officials’ briefings.
At the top of his mind is his wife, in the midst of her illness, telling him what she wanted him to do with her remains if she didn’t make it. A few weeks later, after he was diagnosed, he lay awake in the middle of the night, scared to fall asleep.
That visceral sensation of fear is something he wishes could be properly conveyed to Americans.
He says nothing — briefings, newscasts or friends — can prepare people for that moment “when it drives you to end-of-life conversations, and it drives you to not wanting to go to sleep because you don’t know if you’ll wake up.”

National News

Turtle Recall: Derby dashed, turtles go in slow, steady race

Losing the Kentucky Derby has left race fans shell-shocked.
The first Saturday in May has yielded to the legs of a bunch of slowpokes: Seattle Slow headlines a field of turtles — yes, turtles — that will race in the Kentucky Turtle Derby.
Call it, the slowest eight minutes in sports.
The race is more methodical marathon that mad dash to the finish — though the victor can win at the line by a turtleneck rather than a nose — and is just one more offbeat sport that has had a moment during the coronvirus pandemic.
The Derby, America’s longest continuously held sports event, had been scheduled for May 2. It will now be run Sept. 5, kicking off Labor Day weekend. It’s the first time the Derby won’t be held on its traditional first Saturday in May since 1945, when it was run June 9. The federal government suspended horse racing nationwide for most of the first half of the year before World War II ended in early May, but not in time to hold the first leg of the Triple Crown that month.
Looking for a slower substitute, the first Kentucky Turtle Derby was hatched.
The Courier-Journal headline from 1945 read: “167 Turtles Arrive for Races Saturday” and about 6,500 fans filled the Jefferson County Armory for the 8 p.m. post time. The event went down like this: 20 turtles were herded into seven qualifying races and the winners went on to compete in a 20-foot finale.
The Kentucky Derby Museum reported that Broken Spring paid $2.50 on his win and $8,000 was raised to support a local children’s health charity.
With Old Forester signed on as a sponsor, Saturday’s race will run at 7 p.m. on
The sounds may be familiar for Derby fans: Triple Crown announcer Larry Collmus is calling the race and bugler Steve Buttleman will serenade viewers prior to the turtles taking off.
“I don’t think I’ve called a race that’s eight minutes long,” Collmus said. “I’m going to have to drink plenty of water to prepare for that one. With the Kentucky Derby, there’s months of preparation getting to know all the horses, getting the names in your head. These turtles, they’re going to be a little bit new to me.”
The Derby was first run in 1875 and has gone uninterrupted, even through the Great Depression and World Wars I and II. In 1943, there were travel restrictions imposed by World War II and no out-of-town tickets were sold. Still, the Derby went on, with Count Fleet winning in front of 65,000. The colt won the Triple Crown that year.
Yes, in the slow-and-steady-wins-the-race tradition of turtles, the event is finally back.
The turtle race will actually be pre-taped in Chicago with the likes of Sir-Hides-A-Bunch, American Toruga and Galapa-GO! in the field. There was no immediate word if Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello or Raphael would be eligible to compete.
“It is weird, but there’s been a lot of weird going on the last couple of months in this country,” Collmus said. “It will be like the Derby broadcast. Just turtles instead.”
And one big shell-abration at the end.

National News

This is his quest: An actor serenades the front-line workers

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s a stunning sound, emerging amid the clanging and the whooping and the banging and the honking at 7 p.m. each night as New Yorkers cheer front-line workers: the velvety, buttery baritone of Brian Stokes Mitchell.
For decades, Mitchell’s voice has been one of the most celebrated in the Broadway theater, evoking goosebumps in musicals like “Kiss Me, Kate,” for which he won a Tony, and “Man of La Mancha,” in which he played Don Quixote. Now, with Broadway’s houses shuttered due to the coronavirus, the voice rings out from a fifth-floor apartment on the Upper West Side — fittingly on Broadway, a couple miles up from the theater district.
“This is my quest,” Mitchell sings, leaning precariously out his window, launching directly into the meatiest part of “The Impossible Dream.”
“To follow that star. No matter how hopeless, no matter how far …”
Below, and across the avenue in their apartments, neighbors cheer. But Mitchell, 62, is looking to serenade crews of ambulances, fire engines, police cars, or medical workers from the nearby urgent care facility. When they do stop and listen — as a city bus did recently — Mitchell sings directly to them. And when people clap, he sweeps his arms over the workers, as if to say: “Not me. Them.”
Mitchell’s gratitude, expressed nightly the last few weeks, stems from a very personal ordeal. He himself is a survivor of the coronavirus, falling ill in late March. One night, he had a fever nearing 105 degrees, and almost was hospitalized. He’s been symptom-free for three weeks.
“I’d been going to the window to applaud for the health care workers like everybody else in New York,” he says. “Then one night I spontaneously thought, ‘Oh, I think my lungs feel like I can sing now.'”
And so, he did. He thought it would be a one-night gig. He was mistaken. People kept coming.
“To fight for the right, without question or pause, to be willing to march into hell for a heavenly cause!” Mitchell smiles as he repeats the words, amazed at how appropriate they are for medical workers fighting an “unbeatable foe.”
“People think it’s just called ‘The Impossible Dream,’ but it’s also called ‘The Quest,'” he says. “It’s not about DOING the impossible. It’s about trying.”
It is, of course, a terrible time for the theater community, with arts institutions suffering severe economic loss. Mitchell is chairman of The Actors Fund, which helps performing arts and entertainment professionals. He’s donating all profits from his latest album, “Plays With Music,” to the fund.
When the city shut down, Mitchell was working on numerous projects. “Everything was canceled,” he says. “I have no idea when they’ll come back. A year? Six months? Unfortunately I think our sector will be one of the last to come back fully.”
For now, though, Mitchell feels busy with his unpaid gig. “Broadway’s closed, but someone’s still singing on Broadway!” he quips.
His performance ends with a flourish: “And the world will be better for this, that one man, scorned and covered with scars, still strove, with his last ounce of courage, to reach the unreachable star!”
Mitchell, though, adapts the lyrics to squeeze in words like “one first responder and health-care worker.” The audience cheers.
“It’s three minutes,” says onlooker Sari Rubin, “of me remembering that there’s good in the world.”

National News

NYC subway will halt overnight service due to virus

NEW YORK (AP) — New York City will shut down its subway system each day from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. to increase cleaning of trains and stations during the coronavirus crisis, Gov. Andrew Cuomo anounced Thursday.
Subway trains, which had been disinfected at least once every 72 hours, will be cleaned once every 24 hours starting May 6.
Cuomo said buses, vans and other alternative transportation will be provided at no charge for essential workers to get around while the subway system is closed.
Cuomo said the increased cleaning is a “daunting challenge,” but vital to keeping the system safe because it continues to be a place of high density. Images posted on social media in recent weeks have showed packed subway cars, leading police to increase social distancing enforcement.
“You have to disinfect every place a hand could touch on a subway car. Every rail, every pole, every door,” Cuomo said. “Or, coughing, sneezing, wherever droplets could land.”
Dozens of transit employees have died of the coronavirus and the system has become a haven for homeless people during the crisis.
Ridership plunged by 92% since the start of the pandemic, Cuomo said, and most of the people commuting are health care workers, first responders and other front-line workers who’ve been keeping the city running.
The shutdown affects the slowest part of the day for the subway system, in terms of ridership. Around 10,000 people ride the system overall during that period of time, Cuomo said.
Commuter trains serving Long Island and the city’s northern suburbs will also be disinfected every 24 hours, he said.
“Think about it, the entire public transit system in downstate New York will be disinfected every 24 hours,” Cuomo said. “We’re doing a lot of things here that we’ve never done before.”
Here are the latest coronavirus-related developments in New York:
A Navy hospital ship left New York City on Thursday, a month after it was sent to relieve stress on hospitals at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
After arriving to great fanfare, the USNS Comfort treated just 182 people as a surge in cases in the hard-hit city fell short of the worst-case projections. The last dozen patients on the ship were discharged or transferred to other hospitals over the weekend.
Eleven people that were treated on the ship died from coronavirus, the Defense Department said. Several ship personnel came down with coronavirus while deployed to New York.
A Pentagon spokesman called the ship’s departure “a sure sign of modest progress in mitigating the virus in the nation’s hardest hit city and is a welcome sign.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said last week that he and President Donald Trump agreed the Comfort was no longer needed in New York City.
“I believe Comfort not only brought comfort but also saved lives,” Cuomo said.
The Comfort and its 620 doctors, nurses and other crew members will return to the homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, where the ship will be restocked and be readied for another possible assignment. It’s due to depart New York around noon Thursday.
Trump said he asked Cuomo if “we could bring the Comfort back to its base in Virginia so that we could have it in other locations.”
The president sent the Comfort to his home state last month as projections showed it would need to double hospital capacity to 110,000 beds by the end of April. Disease-related hospitalizations peaked far below that — at 18,825 on April 12 — and have ticked down considerably since then. The number of new hospital admissions is holding at around 950 people a day.
More than 18,000 people in the state have died from coronavirus, most of them in New York City. That total doesn’t include more than 5,300 deaths in the city that were attributed to the virus on death certificates but weren’t confirmed by a lab test.
The Defense Department said it did not have information on how much the Comfort’s mission to New York cost.
The Comfort has a capacity of up to 1,000 hospital beds, but according to New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, it had 427 set up for the coronavirus crisis — and all of those weren’t needed.
Originally deployed to care for patients without coronavirus, the Comfort switched gears days after arriving to a Manhattan pier March 30 and started accepting them as the city’s hospitals became overrun with people suffering from the disease.
That came after hospital administrators, relaying concerns of doctors and other emergency room staff, practically begged the government to open the hospital.
“I understand the intention maybe of being helpful, but if you open up these facilities and you create all these beds, and then you decide that you don’t want to take sick patients, it’s a pretty useless proposition,” Michael Dowling, president and CEO of hospital operator Northwell Health, said in an interview early April.
“This is the Department of Defense. We are in a war today with a virus. I assume that they’re used to dealing in wartime battlefields. This is a wartime battlefield right now,” Dowling added.
More than 1,000 New York City employees will be assigned to patrol parks and other public spaces to ensure people are adhering to social distancing guidelines as the city prepares to battle the coronavirus pandemic into the summer months, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
The city workers will also pass out 275,000 face coverings, de Blasio said.
De Blasio said the city is ramping up testing for the coronavirus as well as production of surgical gowns for health care workers treating patients infected with the virus. He said 11 coronavirus testing sites set up around the city will perform 14,000 tests this week, and the capacity will expand to 43,000 tests at 30 sites by the week of May 18.
Local businesses in the city are now making 125,000 surgical gowns a week, de Blasio said, up from zero before the pandemic. City officials arranged for millions more gowns to be produced at a factory in Vietnam and air-freighted to New York. “We are now confident we will have enough surgical gowns to get us through the middle of May,” de Blasio said.
Asked about the federal government’s guidance for battling the virus, de Blasio called President Donald Trump’s White House briefings “sad” and “incoherent.”
“Here’s what we know in New York City: We have not beaten this disease yet, and we’re going to take a tough line,” he said.

International Headlines

Top diplomats discuss peace plans for eastern Ukraine

MOSCOW (AP) — Top diplomats from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany discussed ways to advance the peace process for eastern Ukraine in Thursday’s call, but failed to achieve any tangible progress.
The call follows a December summit in Paris where the leaders of the four nations agreed to make additional steps toward ending the fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russia-backed rebels. The six-year conflict that erupted after Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea has killed more than 14,000 people.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said at a briefing after the call that the four ministers agreed that negotiators from Russia, Ukraine and the rebels should quickly discuss specifics of a new cease-fire. Numerous previous attempts to establish a lasting truce have failed amid mutual accusations.
Kuleba added that he called for speeding up efforts to ensure the release of remaining prisoners.
Speaking to reporters after the call, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also voiced hope for more prisoner exchanges, but accused Ukraine of dragging its feet on selecting new areas for troop withdrawal from the line of contact.
Lavrov also noted that the Ukrainian authorities have continued to shun direct dialogue with the rebels, stymieing peace efforts. He emphasized that such negotiations are essential for implementing earlier agreements that envisaged a broad autonomy for the rebel regions.
Kuleba rejected Lavrov’s arguments, insisting that Ukraine will not talk to the “illegal formations.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was elected a year ago, has made settling the conflict in eastern Ukraine his top priority. Ukraine and the rebels have exchanged prisoners and pulled back their troops from several sections of the front line as part of confidence-building measures, but sporadic clashes have continued and efforts to negotiate a political settlement have stalled.
During their talks in December, the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany scheduled their next meeting for April in Berlin, but the coronavirus pandemic scuttled those plans.
Asked about the difficulties of holding talks by video conference, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that “the biggest problem probably lies in the fact that everyone sits in a different room and has control over their own microphone.” While Thursday’s call resulted in a discussion and a compromise “in many areas … I still clearly prefer physical meetings,” he observed.
The four-way talks focused on the implementation of a 2015 peace agreement for eastern Ukraine that was signed in Minsk and brokered by France and Germany.
Maas said that many of the elements agreed in Minsk and Paris have yet to be implemented. “These compromises, which are the result of long and hard negotiations, mustn’t be destroyed, including through inaction,” the minister added.
He said that the ministers agreed that representatives of Russia, Ukraine and the rebels in the so-called Contact group should focus on providing more humanitarian crossings across the line of contact and taking other steps to help the residents of the region ravaged by the six-year conflict.
The four ministers agreed to have another foreign ministers’ meeting in a month to review progress, rather than aim for a leaders summit, Maas said.

International Headlines

Ghana’s virus cases spike 10 days after lockdown is lifted

ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — Confirmed coronavirus cases in Ghana have surged above 2,000, increasing 24% in a matter of days, health officials announced Thursday, reflecting mostly test taken during a recent three-week lockdown in the West African country’s two largest cities.
And Indian Ocean island nation of Comoros announced its first confirmed case, making it the 53rd of Africa’s 54 countries to report COVID-19. Only the small southern African kingdom of Lesotho has not reported a case of the disease.
African nations have now reported more than 37,400 cases, including 1,598 deaths, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
In South Africa, which has the continent’s highest number of reported cases at 5,350, community health workers continued testing in Johannesburg.
The Ghana Health Service reported 403 new cases, bringing the total to 2,074. The spike was announced 10 days after President Nana Akufo-Addo eased a three-week lockdown in the capital of Accra and in the city of Kumasi.
The president had warned over the weekend that there was a backlog of some 18,000 tests.
“The overwhelming majority of these contacts have been established in the last three weeks of the partial lockdown in Accra and Kumasi,” he had said.
Ghana’s updates are being closely watched by leaders of other African countries that have pledged to lift their own restrictions on economic activity and social gathering as soon as possible. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, has said that on Monday it will lift its lockdowns in the capital of Abuja and Lagos, the country’s largest city with 21 million people.
Some questioned whether it was too soon to begin reopening in Ghana, but the president insisted that early and aggressive contact tracing gave health officials the upper hand. In announcing the lifting on April 20, the president emphasized that Ghana would “adapt as the situation changes.”
“We will tailor our solutions to our unique social, economic and cultural conditions,” he said. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
While many in Ghana welcomed the easing of social distancing measures, saying it would increase consumer confidence and prevent layoffs, others now say the stigma of COVID-19 is still negatively affecting the economy.
Adwoa Nyarku said she used to earn about $100 a week cleaning houses in the capital of Accra, where 89% of the country’s confirmed cases have been reported. More than a week after the reopening, though, she still isn’t back at work.
“All the people l work for do not even want me around their homes,” she lamented. “They want to be safe and l understand it, but it also means, l have nothing to feed myself and children with.”

International Headlines

Russian prime minister says he tested positive for virus

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin says he has tested positive for the new coronavirus and has told President Vladimir Putin he will self-isolate.
First Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Belousov will temporarily perform Mishustin’s duties, but the prime minister said Thursday that he would stay in touch on key issues.
Mishustin, 54 ,was named prime minister in January.
During a video call, Putin voiced hope that Mishustin would continue taking part in drafting policies to shore up the Russian economy, which has been hurt by the virus pandemic.
In Russia, the prime minister oversees the economy and answers to the president.
It was not immediately clear when Putin last met with Mishustin in person. The Russian president has minimized meetings and switched to holding video conferences with officials during the pandemic.

International Headlines

Johnson: UK ‘past the peak’ of outbreak but must be cautious

LONDON (AP) — Britain is past the peak of its coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Thursday, as he promised to reveal a “road map” out of national lockdown — but not yet.
Appearing at a news conference for the first time since he fell seriously ill with the virus a month ago, Johnson said “we’re past the peak and we are on the downward slope.”
The number of hospital admissions and people in intensive care with COVID-19 are now falling, and deaths are increasing less sharply than in early April.
And, crucially, the disease’s reproduction rate — the number of people each person with the virus infects — is now below 1. Chief Scientific Adviser Patrick Vallance said it was between 0.6 and 0.9 in different parts of the U.K.
As other European countries begin to reopen businesses and schools, Johnson is under pressure to reveal when and how the government will ease a nationwide lockdown that was imposed on March 23. The restrictions are due to last at least until May 7.
Johnson said he would set out a “comprehensive plan” next week about steps to restart the economy, reopen schools and get people back to work. In an apparent change in government policy, he said that face coverings will be “useful” in the next stage of the crisis, for both epidemiological reasons and to give confidence to those returning to work.
However, he stressed that any changes would be gradual.
“We’ve come under what could have been a vast peak … and we can now see the sunlight and pasture ahead of us,” he said. “And so it is vital that we do not now lose control and run slap into a second and even bigger mountain.”
Johnson’s Conservative government is facing growing criticism as it becomes clear the country will have one of the world’s highest coronavirus death tolls.
Johnson said that another 674 people with the coronavirus have died in hospitals, nursing homes and other settings, taking the total to 26,711. Only the United States and Italy have higher tolls, though Johnson stressed that international comparisons are “very difficult.”
Johnson acknowledged frustration about problems getting protective equipment to front-line workers and in carrying out testing, but insisted that the government was throwing “everything at it, heart and soul, night and day, to get it right.”
The government has acknowledged that it may miss its self-imposed goal of conducting 100,000 tests for coronavirus a day by the end of Thursday.
The government has been criticized for failing to catch most cases of COVID-19 and now says wide-scale testing will be key to controlling the virus and lifting the restrictions on business and daily life.
Earlier this month, the government vowed to perform 100,000 tests a day by April 30. The number has been climbing steadily, and hit 81,000 on Thursday, Johnson said.
Chris Hopson, who heads NHS Providers, an umbrella group for U.K. hospitals, said the 100,000-a-day target was a “red herring,” and urged the government to set out a detailed strategy for who would get tested and when.
“What we need to know is what are we going to do in terms of the testing regime over the next six, eight, 10, 12 weeks as we come out of lockdown,” Hopson said.
He said 800,000 health care workers will need to be tested regularly to ensure they remain free of the virus.
Johnson, 55, only returned to work on Monday after recovering from a bout of COVID-19 that put him in intensive care. His fiancee, Carrie Symonds, gave birth to their son on Wednesday.
“Tragically thousands of people have been less fortunate than I was,” he said.

International Headlines

Top European Union diplomat denies bowing to China pressure

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union’s top diplomat denied Thursday that his agency bowed to pressure from China and watered down a report that criticized the country’s role in promoting disinformation about the coronavirus.
In an April 24 article, the New York Times said EU officials had “softened their criticism of China” in a report on the way governments push disinformation during the pandemic because the officials were “worried about the repercussions” of angering one of the bloc’s biggest trading partners.
The article, backed by internal email correspondence, caused an uproar at the European Parliament, with EU lawmakers angry that the 27-nation bloc’s reputation was at stake. The assembly’s foreign affairs committee demanded that EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell explain.
During a grilling via videoconference, Borrell said the newspaper had compared the contents of a report meant for internal use within the External Action Service — essentially the EU’s foreign office — with a different document prepared for broader publication on the agency’s website.
Borrell acknowledged that China did complain about the report, but he said that kind of objection was “the daily bread” of diplomacy and insisted Beijing had absolutely no influence on thinking inside the EU agency.
Chinese officials “expressed their concern through the diplomatic channels,” but the text published on the EUvsDisinfo website remains critical of China and speaks for itself, Borrell said.
“For sure, they were not happy. They will continue not being happy,” he said.
“There was no watering-down of our findings,” the EU diplomat said. He underlined the bloc’s policy toward Beijing as treating it “as a key partner, but also a competitor and a systemic rival.”
While some lawmakers accepted Borrell’s explanation, quite a few were critical. Some demanded to see all versions of the reports.
“Honestly, your explanation doesn’t really convince me,” Belgian parliamentarian Hilde Vautmans said, going on to ask Borrell to tell lawmakers “who interfered, which Chinese official put pressure, at what level, what means of pressure. I think that Europe needs to know that otherwise we’re losing all credibility.”
The public report — a “Short Assessment of Narratives and Disinformation” surrounding the coronavirus — points to what the authors described as evidence of “a coordinated push by official Chinese sources to deflect any blame for the outbreak of the pandemic and publicizing announcements and deliveries of bilateral assistance.”
The report also states that “Chinese officials and state media try to curtail any mentions of Wuhan as the origin of COVID-19.”
The report is more critical of Russia’s role in the spread of coronavirus-linked fake news.

Hawaii Headlines

Haiku Stairs management transferred

HONOLULU (AP) — The Honolulu Board of Water Supply has voted to transfer management of Haiku Stairs and the surrounding land to the City and County of Honolulu.

A unanimous vote by the seven-member board Monday backed the transfer of the popular mountainside attraction nicknamed the Stairway to Heaven.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell submitted a plan for the acquisition that includes allowing a contractor to manage the Haiku Stairs.

Until the deal is completed the board will continue financing security to deter hikers at a cost of about $250,000 per year. About 10,800 people have been turned away from the metal stairs since 2017, officials said.

The stairs are part of a World War II-era military installation that has been officially closed to the public for decades.

The attraction is still visited daily by hiking enthusiasts, and area residents have complained that some hikers trespass and vandalize their properties.

The staircase has caused injuries and costly rescues of hikers who ignore security guards and trespassing signs.