Japan's growth drops amid pandemic, worse times likely ahead

TOKYO — Japan's economic growth plunged into recession in the first quarter as the coronavirus pandemic squelched production, exports and spending, and fears are growing worse times may lie ahead.

The Cabinet Office reported Monday a drop of 3.4% annual pace in seasonally adjusted real gross domestic product, or GDP, the total value of a nation's goods and services, for the January-March period, compared to the previous quarter.

The annual pace gives what the rate would be when continued for a year. For just the quarter, the drop was 0.9%. Exports dived 21.8%. Private residential investments slipped nearly 17%, and household consumption edged down 3.1%.

Analysts say things are expected to get worse, as the world's third-largest economy undergoes its biggest challenge since World War II.

Mexico's COVID-19 death toll could be three times official count

MEXICO CITY — A registry of death certificates in Mexico City suggests there have been 4,577 cases in which doctors mentioned coronavirus or COVID-19 as a possible or probable cause of death, more than three times the official count.

The federal government acknowledges only 1,332 confirmed deaths in Mexico City due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Mexicans Against Corruption said in a report Monday it obtained access to a database of death certificates issued in Mexico City between March 18 and May 12. It showed that in explanatory notes attached to 4,577 death certificates, doctors included the words “SARS,” “COV2,” “COV,” “Covid 19,” or “new coronavirus.”

The virus’ technical name is SARS-CoV-2. The notes the group counted included terms such as “suspected,” “probable,” or “possible” when describing the virus’ role in the deaths. In 3,209 certificates, it was listed as a suspected contributing factor along with other causes of death, like pneumonia, respiratory failure, septic shock or multiple organ failure.

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has acknowledged there are more virus-related deaths than officially reported, and has said a special commission will review the death figures. Her office did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the new report.

Thailand's travel ban impacts the country's elephants

Trump admin taps startup to build first stockpile of key drug ingredients

Seeking to secure the nation's supply of critical medications, the Trump administration has signed a $354 million contract that would create the nation's first strategic stockpile of key ingredients needed to make medicines.

The agreement was signed Monday with Phlow Corp., a generic drug maker based in Virginia. According to a news release to be made public Tuesday, the project will use federal funds from the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority under the Department of Health and Human Services.

The goal is twofold: to enable the U.S. to manufacture essential drugs at risk of shortage and to create a reserve of active pharmaceutical ingredients to reduce the dependence on foreign suppliers.

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Essential workers balance low pay, COVID-19 worries while staying open for America

Trump threatens to make WHO funding freeze permanent

President Donald Trump on Monday threatened to make the freeze on U.S. funding for the World Health Organization permanent.

He also laid out allegations of "missteps" in the way the agency responded to the coronavirus in a letter he said he sent to the WHO's leader.

The letter, which was posted to Trump's Twitter account, is addressed to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. It accuses the organization of an "alarming lack of independence from the People's Republic of China."

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Texas schools will be allowed to open for summer classes

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday eased more restrictions on restaurants and will allow summer school as soon as June 1.

Restaurants can now have up to 50 percent capacity and summer schools can reopen if they choose as long as social distancing and other regulations are maintained, the governor said. Still, he urged Texans to follow rules.

Also Monday, the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston said that all Masses at the Holy Ghost Church have been canceled after a parish priest died on May 13, and after five of seven people he shared a residence with tested positive for COVID-19.

The priest, Donnell Kirchner, 79, was diagnosed with pneumonia and sent home, and the archdiocese said it was not clear if he was tested for COVID-19. But the others were tested, and this past weekend five of the seven who he shared a residence with tested positive, the archdiocese said.

Two of those who tested positive are priests who have been active in celebrating Masses at the church since it reopened May 2. The archdiocese said that crowds have been limited but encouraged anyone who attended Mass to monitor themselves for symptoms and to get tested as a precaution. 

Northam to open Virginia Beach in time for holiday weekend

RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is relaxing restrictions on beachgoers in Virginia Beach ahead of the Memorial Day weekend.

Northam said Monday he is allowing the beaches to open under modified conditions including sunbathing and surfing starting Friday. Northam said there will still be a ban on group sports, alcohol use, electronic speakers, and tents. And beach parking will be capped at 50 percent capacity.

Last week, most of Virginia began Northam’s first phase of a gradual reopening plan, which kept in place beach closures except for exercise and fishing.

Those rules were not strictly enforced and warm weather last weekend drew large crowds to the Virginia Beach oceanfront, the state’s most popular beach.

The governor sternly warned that he could close the beaches again if his new rules aren’t followed.

University of Notre Dame plans to reopen campus to students in August

The University of Notre Dame plans to allow students back to campus in August after all in-person classes were canceled in March because to the coronavirus epidemic, the school's president said Monday.

There will be "comprehensive testing for COVID-19, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation protocols, social distancing and mask requirements, and enhanced cleaning of all campus spaces," the university in South Bend, Indiana, said in a statement.

Last week, the California State University System said that it plans to offer most of its courses for the fall virtually.

Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins said in a letter to the campus community that reopening the campus is like "assembling a small city of people" from all over the U.S. and the world.

"We recognize the challenge, but we believe it is one we can meet," Jenkins wrote. The university president cited remarks from Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb that he hopes to have the state "back on track" and on its final stage of reopening by July 4. That stage allows large events like conventions and sporting events, although with social distancing.

 

130,000 autoworkers return to factories

More than 130,000 autoworkers returned to factories across the U.S. for the first time in nearly two months Monday in one of the biggest steps yet to restart American industry.

Detroit’s Big Three — Fiat Chrysler, General Motors and Ford — as well as Honda and Toyota all had screening procedures in place at dozens of factories that reopened from the Great Lakes states south to Tennessee and Texas and out west at Tesla’s factory near the San Francisco Bay.

Do you love your grandma enough to be infected with coronavirus?

After forming in late March, a nonprofit called 1 Day Sooner has heard from more than 20,000 volunteers willing to be infected with COVID-19 to speed the development of a vaccine.