TOP OF THE HOUR:
— U.N. says review conference to prevent spread of nuclear weapons postponed
— Brunei reports first coronavirus-related death
— South Korea reports 146 new cases but number of recoveries now exceed those under treatment
— U.S. government turns to public, private partnerships to continue feeding students.
UNITED NATIONS — The 191 parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty have decided to postpone a conference to review its implementation because of the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations said Friday.
The treaty is considered the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and the parties hold a major conference every five years to discuss how it is working. The meeting had been scheduled for April 27-May 22 at U.N. headquarters in New York.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the review conference will be held “as soon as the circumstances permit, but no later than April 2021.”
The U.N. said earlier this week that the conference was likely to be postponed, but the conference president-designate, Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen of Argentina, wanted to consult governments that are parties to the treaty.
The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which reached its 50th anniversary March 5, is credited with preventing the spread of nuclear weapons to dozens of nations. It has succeeded in doing this via a grand global bargain: Nations without nuclear weapons committed not to acquire them; those with them committed to move toward their elimination; and all endorsed everyone’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy.
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Brunei says a 64-year-old citizen has become the tiny oil-rich kingdom's first death from the new coronavirus.
Brunei has reported 115 cases since dozens of its citizens returned from a mass religious gathering in Malaysia that has sickened hundreds in the region.
SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 146 new cases of the coronavirus and five more deaths, bringing its totals to 9,478 cases and 144 deaths.
South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 4,811 people have been released from hospitals as of Saturday, marking the first time the number of recoveries exceeded the number of people remaining under treatment since the country confirmed its first COVID-19 case on Jan. 21.
The KCDC says 71 of the new cases came from the worst-hit city of Daegu, which has struggled to stem transmissions in hospitals, nursery homes and other live-in institutions.
Infections in the populous Seoul metropolitan area have reached 874 following a steady rise over the past two weeks that was mainly linked to passengers arriving from Europe and the United States.
South Korea is tightening border controls and began enforcing two-week quarantines on South Korean nationals and foreigners with long-term stay visas arriving from the United States on Friday. Similar quarantines had already been in place for passengers coming from Europe.
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun on Saturday called for Seoul and other local governments to strengthen their monitoring on South Koreans who returned from overseas after some of them triggered public anger by breaking quarantine and traveling to other regions before testing positive.
WASHINGTON — The District of Columbia has announced 37 new infections from the COVID-19 coronavirus, bringing the total up to 304, including four deaths.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced Friday that a senior member of her staff had died from the virus. Bowser has declared a state of emergency, shuttered all schools and ordered all non-essential businesses to close.
White House and Capitol tours have been cancelled and the National Zoo, Smithsonian museum network and Kennedy Center have closed. Police have blocked off dozens of streets, bridges and traffic circles to prevent crowds coming to see Washington’s signature blooming cherry blossom trees.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. federal government is turning to public/private partnerships to keep feeding students in need after the global pandemic forced nationwide school closures.
At a White House press briefing Friday, officials highlighted a pair of private sector-led initiatives aimed at feeding impoverished students who depend on their daily school meals.
McLane Global Logistics Chairman Denton McLane announced that his company, working with Baylor University, Pepsico, UPS and the Post Office, would be delivering pre-packaged meals that last two weeks directly to students’ homes.
He called the initiative “a real game-changer for rural families.”
Panera Bread CEO Niren Chaudhary said his company is launching a partnership with the USDA and Children’s Hunger Alliance to deliver boxed lunches to students across Ohio. He says the goal is to expand the program to other states later.
Districts across the U.S. have been looking for ways to continue feeding students during closures. Some are delivering breakfast and lunch by school bus, while others are asking families to pick up meals at district sites.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared a new rapid test from Abbott Laboratories, which the company says can detect the coronavirus in about 5 minutes.
Medical device maker Abbott announced the emergency clearance of its cartridge-based test in a release Friday night. The company says that its test delivers a negative result in 13 minutes when the virus is not detected.
The U.S. has been trying for weeks to ramp up coronavirus testing after a series of problems with the initial government-designed test. The nation’s daily testing capacity has been increasing as more diagnostic makers and large laboratories have developed tests.
Abbott’s testing cartridge fits into the company’s portable ID NOW device, which is used at hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices. The company said it would launch the test next week to select health care facilities that deliver urgent care.
The Abbott approval follows two other rapid tests cleared by regulators in the past week. Older laboratory-developed tests can take between 4 to 8 hours to deliver results.
Health experts say the U.S. should be testing 100,000 to 150,000 people per day to track and contain the virus. There are no official nationwide testing metrics, but private and public health labs currently report testing about 80,000 to 90,000 patients per day.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said there are certain parts of the country that will not be ready to return to a semblance of normalcy when his administration’s 15-day guideline to stem the spread of the new coronavirus expires next week.
Trump, who issued his guidelines on March 16, said he will meet with Vice President Mike Pence, White House task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci on Monday or Tuesday to review data on the spread of the disease.
Trump in a letter to governors Thursday said that risk considerations based on geography would likely dictate the next round of guidelines from the federal government. The president has said he wants to broadly reopen the economy by Easter Sunday, April 12.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has authorized Defense Secretary Mark Esper to call up an unspecified number of federal reservists to help with the coronavirus response.
Trump said in a letter to Congress Friday that he had authorized Esper to order units and individual members of the Selected Reserve, as well as certain Individual Ready Reserve members, to active duty.
These reservists are part of what is called the Ready Reserve, which is the category of reservists most often called to active duty. They are separate from, and in addition to, National Guard members who have been mobilized by governors.
The reserve call-up likely is intended to fill gaps in medical expertise as the military deploys field hospitals to cities hard hit by COVID-19 and provides other forms of medical support to state and local authorities.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he will press U.S. manufacturers to build 100,000 ventilators “pretty quickly” to meet the needs of American hospitals and medical providers around the world.
Trump’s call for the building of more ventilators comes one day after he pushed back on New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who cited medical experts' prediction that his state will need 30,000 to 40,000 ventilators when the coronavirus outbreak peaks there.
Trump said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday stressed the need for more ventilators in his country. He added Italy, Germany and Spain are also in need of more ventilators.
Trump said he believes U.S. manufacturers are able to take care of American needs while also helping other countries.
AMMAN, Jordan — Jordan has announced its first death from the new coronavirus.
State-run news agency Petra said Friday a woman in her 80s died from COVID-19. Jordan TV reported the woman had underlying medical conditions.
There have been 235 confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Arab kingdom.
On March 21, Jordan imposed an indefinite full lockdown after it had shut down its airspace and other border crossings.
NEW YORK — The United States has become the first country to exceed 100,000 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.
The U.S. reached the grim milestone late Friday afternoon, according to a count by Johns Hopkins University. Deaths in the U.S. topped 1,500 on Friday.
Globally, the count of people with the virus was nearing 600,000.
Italy has the second-most cases with more than 86,000 and China is third with more than 81,000. Italy has the most deaths with 9,134.
CHICAGO — The Illinois Nurses Association says 12 nurses from the University of Illinois Hospital in Chicago have tested positive for COVID-19.
The association's executive director, Alice Johnson, said nurses working in the hospital's unit caring for COVID-19 patients have had to work without necessary protective equipment.
“We hoped their hospital and their government would protect them, but they failed," Johnson said.
Michael Zenn, CEO of the University of Illinois Hospital and Clinics, said in a written statement that a “limited number of these cases are believed to be due to exposure in the health care setting.”
On Friday, the hospital planned to issue new guidance that employees in all inpatient and outpatient units wear masks daily.
DETROIT — Detroit's police chief has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Mayor Mike Duggan confirmed the positive test for Police Chief James Craig, saying, “He is very fit and he has mild symptoms.”
Day-to-day operations of the 2,200-officer department have been turned over to Assistant Chief James White, who is returning from quarantine but has tested negative for the disease.
As of Friday, 39 Detroit police officers had tested positive and 468 were in quarantine, Duggan said.
Three more states reported their first COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing the total to 46 as the number of U.S. cases continued to rise.
Officials in Nebraska, North Dakota and Maine announced the first deaths from the virus. The only states that haven’t had a confirmed COVID-19 death as of Friday afternoon are Hawaii, Rhode Island, Wyoming and West Virginia.
The Nebraska case involved an Omaha man in his 50s who had serious underlying health conditions before he was diagnosed.
The North Dakota case involved a man in his 90s in Cass County, the most populous county, who had underlying health conditions.
The Maine death was a man in his 80s who lived in Cumberland County, the state’s most populous county and the center of that state’s outbreak so far.
WASHINGTON — The USNS Mercy, one of the Navy's two hospital ships, will begin taking patients from pierside in Los Angeles on Saturday, in an effort to relieve overburdened medical facilities in the city as it struggles to handle the coronavirus outbreak.
The captain of the 1,000-bed ship said its operations will ramp up slowly, taking a handful of patients the first day, then gradually expanding over time.
“We would start slowly with a number like five for the first day, then doubling that and doubling again,” Navy Capt. John Rotruck told The Associated Press in an interview from the ship as it was heading into the port.
The Mercy’s arrival comes as the USNS Comfort, the Navy's other hospital ship, prepares to leave Virginia on Saturday, heading to New York City.
The ships will take only non-virus patients, freeing up hospital beds in the city for those who are infected.
There are about 1,000 sailors on the Mercy, and about two-thirds of that are medical staff. They’ve spent the last several days at sea training, since this is the first time that many of them will have worked together.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Friday signed a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package, calling the bill much-needed relief for American workers reeling from the economic tumult caused by the coronavirus.
Trump signed the bill in Oval Office ceremony surrounded by Republican lawmakers and members of his administration shortly after the Democratic-controlled House approved the massive spending package. Under the plan, many single Americans would receive $1,200, married couples would get $2,400 and parents would see $500 for each child.
The signing came the after the U.S. government on Thursday reported nearly 3.3 million new weekly jobless claims. The U.S. death toll has surpassed 1,200 from the virus.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has issued an order that the government can use to require General Motors to produce ventilators under Defense Production Act.
Trump signed the order Friday in the Oval Office as health professionals around the country lamented shortages of the machines that help patients with the coronavirus breathe.
In a joint statement, GM and Ventec Life Systems said they will build critical care ventilators at GM's manufacturing plant in Kokomo, Indiana, and start shipping them as soon as next month. GM also is to produce surgical masks at its plant in Warren, Michigan, that can be used by health care workers.
In a statement, the White House accused GM of wasting time in the contracting process.
"Our negotiations with GM regarding its ability to supply ventilators have been productive, but our fight against the virus is too urgent to allow the give-and-take of the contracting process to continue to run its normal course," the statement said.