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As people continue to protest following the death of George Floyd at rallies nationwide, officials are worried that the large gatherings will spark new coronavirus outbreaks.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, for example, warned that “if you were out protesting last night, you probably need to go get a COVID test this week.”
As of early Monday, the virus had killed more than 104,000 in the U.S. and more than 372,000 worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University data. There are more than 6.1 million confirmed cases across the globe and 1.7 million in the U.S.
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Here are a few key developments from Sunday:
- A sweeping national survey has exposed a staggering ethnic divide as Latinos are hit hard by the new virus. Hispanic households are reporting serious COVID-19 symptoms nearly twice as often as others, a USA TODAY analysis found.
- The gym chain 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide could be on the brink of filing bankruptcy, according to published reports.
- The family of a cruise ship passenger who died of the coronavirus has sued Princess Cruises and its parent company in federal court.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill that will pay death benefits to the families of front-line workers who died fighting the coronavirus.
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Italy welcoming back tourists; Europe slowly reopens
The Colosseum in Rome reopened Monday as Italy, the first European country to lock down, continues to slowly ease its social distancing measures and eyes a return of some tourists later this week.
Starting Wednesday, Italy will allow travelers from the 25 other members of the Schengen visa-free travel area that covers much of Europe to come to Italy with no restrictions. But few are expecting large numbers to arrive – at least at first.
Rome, which is home to nearly 3 million permanent residents, is hardly a ghost town, though. Kids kick soccer balls between the pillars of the ancient portico of the Pantheon, dog walkers circle Piazza Navona’s oval track, solitary pedestrians emerge from the shadows of majestic palaces, and tiny flowers sprout through the cobblestones of Campo de’ Fiori.
Elsewhere in Europe, Greece lifted lockdown measures Monday for hotels, campsites, open-air cinemas, golf courses and public swimming pools. The Netherlands reopened museums, and England saw some elementary classes return.
– Eric J. Lyman, Special to USA TODAY
Busy hurricane season + coronavirus pandemic=”a cataclysmic scenario”
Thanks to COVID-19, the hurricane season that officially starts Monday will be unlike any other.
“The combination of an ongoing pandemic and what NOAA has forecast to be a busy hurricane season is a cataclysmic scenario,” according to the disaster policy group SmarterSafer Coalition.
Federal forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration last month predicted as many as 19 named storms would form, of which as many as 10 will be hurricanes. It’s just one of many forecasts that predict an unusually busy season in 2020.
Even without the pandemic, this “would be a challenging hurricane season,” said Rachel Cleetus of the Union of Concerned Scientists, because of the predicted number of storms. “As a nation, we’re not prepared, and this is putting people’s lives at risk.”
– Doyle Rice, USA TODAY
R-0 may be the most important scientific term you’ve never heard of when it comes to stopping the coronavirus pandemic.
Latino homes report serious COVID-19 symptoms nearly twice as often
A sweeping national survey believed to be the largest measurement of symptoms of COVID-19 has exposed a staggering ethnic divide as Hispanic are hit hard by the new virus.
Since March, 1.6 million people have answered the basic question: Is anyone in your home experiencing symptoms ranging from a dry cough to difficulty breathing?
Across the nation, Hispanic households said yes to symptoms of COVID-19 – the lung disease caused by the virus – nearly a third more often than others, a USA TODAY analysis found.
When the list is narrowed to what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently identified as the most serious pairs of ailments – dry cough and difficulty breathing, or fever and loss of taste or smell – the differences were far starker: Hispanics experienced them almost twice as often.
– Kenny Jacoby and Marco della Cava, USA TODAY
South Korea case spike sparks alarm
South Korea has reported 238 cases of the coronavirus over the past five days, causing some worry as the country has eased social distancing rules, including opening schools.
Most of the cases are centered in the Seoul metropolitan area, and hundreds of infections have been linked to nightspots, restaurants and a massive e-commerce warehouse near Seoul.
According to the Yonhap News Agency, Monday’s 35 new cases is a slight tick down after Thursday saw a two-month high of 75 cases. The news agency reported that some worries have been raised as nearly two dozen cases were traced to 13 small churches in Incheon, west of Seoul, and Gyeonggi Province surrounding the capital.
George Floyd protests could spark new coronavirus infections, experts say
Civil unrest across the nation fueled by racial injustice is raising fears of new coronavirus infections.
Melanie Campbell, president of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said anger in the black community has been building for years. George Floyd’s death spurred them to take to the streets even as the coronavirus has taken a disproportionate toll on African Americans.
“Black people are risking their lives protesting in the middle of a pandemic that’s killing black folks. That’s real,” she said. “There is no convenient time to fight back.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms warned that “if you were out protesting last night, you probably need to go get a COVID test this week.” Bottoms warned that “there is still a pandemic in America that’s killing black and brown people at higher numbers” than white people.
Health experts fear carriers of the virus who have no symptoms could unwittingly infect others at protests where social distancing is simply not taking place. The merits of the protesters’ cause “doesn’t prevent them from getting the virus,” said Bradley Pollock, chairman of the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of California, Davis.
– Deborah Barfield Berry, USA TODAY
More coronavirus news and information from USA TODAY
24 Hour Fitness reportedly preparing for bankruptcy filing
Gym chain 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide is reportedly preparing to file for bankruptcy, as retailers and other companies navigate the coronavirus pandemic. According to The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg, the company is seeking a loan to allow them to keep operating through a restructuring.
The company has more than $1.3 billion in debt after a buyout by AEA Investors and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, reports Bloomberg. Based in California, 24 Hour Fitness Worldwide operates more than 430 clubs across the country. The Journal reports the company plans to close some gyms permanently.
In a statement obtained by USA TODAY, 24 Hour Fitness says they look forward to continue reopening clubs nationwide as coronavirus restrictions are lifted. “We are considering a broad range of options to ensure the long term sustainability and success of 24 Hour Fitness and we are not going to comment publicly on our strategic plans,” said the company.
– Brett Molina, USA TODAY
Family of Grand Princess passenger who died of coronavirus files suit against Carnival
The family of a California cruise ship passenger who died of the coronavirus has sued Princess Cruises and its parent company in federal court. Ronald Wong, 64, and his wife, Eva, were passengers on the Grand Princess when the ship set sail from San Francisco on Feb. 21. He died in a California hospital a month later after testing positive for coronavirus. Eva Wong tested positive and recovered.
According to the complaint, filed last week in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Princess and its parent, Carnival Corp., should have known that a passenger on the ship’s prior voyage had the coronavirus. Sixty-two passengers and 1,000 crew members who sailed on the Grand Princess to Mexico stayed on board for the next sailing to Hawaii, according to the complaint.
– Curtis Tate, USA TODAY
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs bill to support families of front-line workers
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Saturday signed a bill into law that creates a death benefit for the families of state and local government workers who have been on the front lines of the state’s coronavirus response, according to a statement. Those workers “gave their lives for us,” Cuomo said.
New York has been the state hardest hit by the coronavirus. On Saturday, Cuomo also confirmed 1,376 new cases of the virus. According to the governor’s office, that brings the statewide total to 369,660 confirmed cases.
Contributing: The Associated Press
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