Coronavirus News Roundup

Beware of coronavirus-related scams, state officials urge

Scammers are working to take advantage of the fear and anxiety that have taken hold as the COVID-19 pandemic has spread, officials warn.

Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson alerted people to charity scams in a statement last week.

“In this unprecedented situation, many of us are searching for ways to help,” Ferguson wrote. “Unfortunately, scammers look for ways to prey on Washingtonians’ good will.”

Some organizations will appear to be collecting donations for first responders or others impacted by coronavirus but are not legitimate, Ferguson said.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman encouraged individuals to continue to be charitable but take steps to make sure the organizations to which they donate are legitimate.

“I want to caution our fellow Washingtonians to pause before you donate,” Wyman wrote in a statement. “Take your time and ask the right questions to make sure they are a legitimate organization before you give them your money.”

— The Spokesman-Review

Flood of 911 callers wanted to know if Washington state ‘stay home’ order affects them

Immediately after Gov. Jay Inslee announced his “stay at home” order Monday night, Mason County 911 dispatchers started to field a very different kind of call.

It wasn’t about emergencies, but about confusion over the governor’s order.

They received so many calls that they finally posted a message on Facebook, including a link that directs callers to the appropriate resource, Mason County 911 director Mike Evans said Tuesday.

The message reads: “PLEASE DO NOT CALL 911 for info regarding ‘Stay home, stay healthy.’”

Gov. Inslee’s message was televised about 5:30 p.m. Monday. As soon as it was over, Mason County 911 received about a dozen calls from people “trying to understand if they were essential or not,” Evans said.

And that continued for the next two hours with only three dispatchers, he said.

Thurston County 911 also fielded similar calls and directed those callers to “We got our fair share,” a Thurston County dispatcher said Tuesday.

Inslee ordered most of Washington’s 7.5 million residents to stay home for at least two weeks as the state tries to slow the growing spread of the novel coronavirus, The Olympian reported.

People are allowed to leave home to pursue an essential activity such as shopping for groceries or gas or going to a doctor’s appointment or the pharmacy. They also can go for walks as long as they maintain a 6-foot distance from other people.

But a long list of businesses will remain open because the state has deemed them essential to public safety, and others who can work from home are allowed to telecommute. The full list of those “essential” jobs can be found online at The Olympian website.

— The Olympian

UN chief calls for a ‘war-time’ response to pandemic by G-20

NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres has called for a “war-time” response package to the coronavirus pandemic from the G-20 group of leading economic powers.

G-20 leaders “must inject massive resources into economies, reaching double digit percentage points in the world’s gross domestic product,” Guterres said in a letter, dated Monday, seen by dpa.

He said the coordinated stimulus bill should be “in the trillions of dollars” to help poor countries.

“We must create the conditions and mobilize the resources necessary to ensure that developing countries have equal opportunities to respond to this crisis in their communities and economies,” the U.N. chief wrote. “Anything short of this commitment would lead to a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions affecting us all.”

Guterres also called for a ban on tariffs, quotas and other restrictions on trade, and for the waiving of sanctions to ensure countries have access to food and medical supplies.

— McClatchy News Service

Spain reports deadliest day of outbreak as virus crisis deepens

Spain reported another 738 deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, the deadliest day in the country to date.

The total number of fatalities rose to 3,434, and the number of confirmed cases climbed to 47,610, from 39,673, the Health Ministry said.

Spain has been rocked by the second-worst outbreak in Europe after Italy, which had its second-deadliest day Tuesday. That dashed hopes the toll of Italian fatalities is declining. Hospitals there are overflowing and the government is struggling to bring the crisis under control.

Still, the latest Italian data showed active cases rose the least in nearly a week — a possible early indication that severe restrictions on movement are slowing the spread of the disease. Confirmed cases in the country now total 69,176.

— Bloomberg News

Britain’s Prince Charles tests positive for coronavirus

LONDON — Prince Charles, 71, has tested positive for infection with the coronavirus, the British royal family said on Wednesday.

Clarence House said Charles is self-isolating at home in Scotland with his wife Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall.

“He has been displaying mild symptoms but otherwise remains in good health and has been working from home throughout the last few days as usual,” it said, adding that Camilla, 72, is not infected.

A Buckingham Palace spokeswoman said Queen Elizabeth II, Charles’ 93-year-old mother, “remains in good health.”

Charles hosted a Water Aid summit at Clarence House in London on March 10 that was attended by another infected royal, Prince Albert II of Monaco.

The royal palace in Monaco confirmed on March 19 that Albert, 62, had tested positive for coronavirus, adding that his health “does not give any cause for concern.”

— McClatchy News Service

National parks are closing after waived fees led to more visitors

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A week ago, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt waived entry fees to national parks across the country to encourage people to use the outdoors as safe escapes during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were limited restrictions and warnings for people to stay at least 6 feet apart to protect themselves.

Cabin-sick visitors eager to escape the confines of their homes came in droves, partly lured by warmer weather and blooming flowers. The large numbers prompted the National Park Service to close access to some parks this week, including some of the largest and most visited.

“Despite park efforts over the last week to comply with the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance for social distancing, approximately 30,000 people entered the park daily resulting in congested conditions at popular locations such as Laurel Falls, Newfound Gap, and Cades Cove,” the NPS said in announcing the closure of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park last year. “Visitors from across the country have flocked to the area due to Spring Break, wildflowers, and warm weather conditions.”

The agency has also closed off access to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National parks in Wyoming, Yosemite National Park in California and Hawaii National Park.

“The National Park Service listened to the concerns from our local partners and, based on current health guidance, temporarily closed the parks,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly and Grand Teton Acting Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail, said in a news release. “We are committed to continued close coordination with our state and local partners as we progress through this closure period and are prepared when the timing is right to reopen as quickly and safely as possible.”

The financial implications to the park service of the closures and free entry are unclear. The Interior Department and the National Park Service did not immediately respond to a request for comment.