Some California gyms reopen in defiance of stay-at-home rules

A few fitness centers and gyms in Southern California are reopening, in some cases challenging California’s stay-at-home rules.

In Riverside County, the Self Made Training Facility in Corona reopened May 4.

The business is classified as a private training facility rather than a gym, so the opening complies with Riverside County’s health orders, its owner, Kelly Michelsen, said Friday.

Though the facility resembles a gym, it offers appointment-only sessions with personal trainers and is not open to general membership, she said. “We can control our environment and there’s not a lot of foot traffic coming in here,” Michelsen said. The training facility had been closed since March 20 and was not able to obtain economic relief funds, she said.

Michelsen was able to dip into personal reserves during the pandemic, but many of the personal trainers took a hit and wanted to get back to work, she said.

“I felt it was extremely important, especially during this time, that we spread awareness to people that long-term health is important,” she said. “I have private personal trainers that are very skilled in that.”

Since reopening, the facility has taken extra precautions, including checking temperatures at the door, having clients sign a waiver and wash their hands before and after sessions, and limiting capacity to eight trainers and eight clients per hour, Michelsen said.

She said she’s also placed markers six feet apart to encourage distancing between trainers and clients. She said business has been brisk, and she’s received nothing but support from the community.

“The private personal trainers have seen an influx of people that can’t go to regular gyms that are scheduling appointments with them,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the county said she was not aware of an exemption for private training facilities but deferred to the state.

California’s stay-at-home orders classify gyms and fitness studios as higher-risk businesses, which are permitted to reopen during Phase 3 of the state’s recovery plan. The state is currently in Phase 2.

At least two gyms in San Diego County — one in Oceanside and the other in Vista — reopened this week, despite county and state prohibitions. Both owners said they fear they could be forced to shut down at any time.

Oceanside police arrested Metroflex Gym owner Lou Uridel for opening his business on Sunday. He was released the same day, and reopened again Wednesday after holding what he called a “freedom rally” attended by well over 100 people in the parking lot outside his business.

He said Thursday that officers had warned him again that he could be cited for each day he remains open, but so far the police had taken no additional action and he had no intention of closing.

Uridel was only the second person cited in Oceanside for violating COVID-19 health restrictions, said police spokesman Tom Bussey. The previous arrest was several weeks ago, when lifeguards detained a surfer who ignored repeated warnings to leave the ocean before the county lifted the surfing ban in late April.

“Our objective is one of education and compliance,” Bussey said Thursday. “Most people are good about doing what is asked. We are trying to protect lives here.”

A separate north San Diego County fitness business, Gym Vista, reopened May 7 and remains open despite the state and county prohibitions on nonessential businesses.

The gym was crowded with people working out on exercise machines Thursday afternoon. No one wore face masks, and few appeared to be maintaining a six-foot distance.

“The owner was warned and given copies of the state and county public health order,” said San Diego County sheriff’s Lt. Ricardo Lopez on Friday. “Since he chose to remain open, a case for violating [the order] was submitted to the district attorney’s office.”

“For the majority of the violations, deputies have been able to use education to gain voluntary compliance,” Lopez said.

Manager and co-owner Todd Danner said Thursday that since the warning, Sheriff’s Department patrol cars drive past the gym several times a day, apparently in response to phone calls.

Before its reopening, the Vista gym sent a news release to the media and city officials, stating that the business would adhere to all public health guidelines, hire additional cleaning staff and require members to declare that they have no COVID-19 symptoms and sign waivers accepting personal responsibility.

“We wanted to make it known we were opening up for the community we serve,” Danner said.

Europe prepares to ease lockdowns as signs pandemic ebbing

Italy will follow Spain this week in allowing people out to exercise more as virus curbs are eased

European nations on Sunday prepared for further cautious easing of coronavirus restrictions following signs the pandemic may be slowing, with hard-hit Italy set to follow Spain in allowing people outside after weeks of confinement.

More than 243,000 people have been killed and 3.4 million infected worldwide by the virus, which has left half of humanity under some form of lockdown and pushed the global economy towards its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

With signs that the spread of the disease is coming under control, parts of Europe, Asia and the United States have begun to lift restrictions to try to inject life into economies crippled by weeks of closures and ease the pressure on populations weary of confinement.

After a two-month lockdown, Italians on Monday will be allowed to stroll in parks and visit relatives. Restaurants can open for takeaways and wholesale stores can resume business, but there was some confusion about the extent of the easing.Despite some nations lifting virus curbs, restrictions will remain to stop a new wave of cases

Romans were doing aerobics on their rooftop terraces and exercising indoors on Sunday and the squares in the city centre were mostly empty on the last day Italians were obliged to remain within 200 metres of their homes.

“On the one hand, we’re super excited for the reopening, we’re already organising various activities the kids will be able to do with their grandparents outdoors, workshops in the garden, that sort of thing. The kids can’t wait to see them,” said Rome resident Marghe Lodoli, who has three children.

“On the other hand, it’s disorientating. The rules are not clear, and we’re not sure if just using common sense will do.”

– ‘Past the peak’ –

Italian authorities have said some preventative measures are still needed in a country that has the second-highest number of virus deaths in the world after the United States.

Several industries including automobile sector and construction have already restarted work.

But Italy’s 20 regions have imposed their own regulations, leading to some confusion over what people can and cannot do. Veneto and Calabria lifted their lockdowns early and allowed bars and restaurants to open with outdoor tables.In Europe, some cafes and restaurants are open for take away service only

Elsewhere in Europe, Germany will continue its easing on Monday, while Slovenia, Poland and Hungary will allow public spaces and businesses to partially reopen.

In another sign of life returning, Germany’s minister for the interior and sport said Sunday he supports a resumption of the country’s football season this month as long as teams respect hygiene conditions.

Covid-19, Please Support Us
The British government will unveil its own “roadmap” to ease the country out of lockdown this week, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country was “past the peak” of the outbreak.

With health experts warning the disease could hit hard once again, governments are trying to balance easing up restrictions to help battered economies against the risk of fresh outbreaks.World toll of coronavirus infections and deaths as of May 2 at 1900 GMT

Despite moves to ease curbs across the globe, more than 4.6 billion people are still on some form of lockdown or obligation to stay confined at home.

Most governments are sticking to measures to control the spread of the virus – social distancing and masks in public — and more testing to try to track infections even as they relax curbs on movement.

Face masks will be mandatory on public transport starting Monday in Spain, where people were allowed to go outdoors to exercise and walk freely on Saturday after a 48-day lockdown.

Even as some European countries gradually lift restrictions, officials in Moscow — the epicentre of the contagion in Russia — urged residents to stay home.

With cases increasing by several thousand each day, Russia is now the European country registering the most new infections.

– Prepare for ‘bad scenarios’ –

European leaders are backing an initiative from Brussels to raise 7.5 billion euros ($8.3 billion) to tackle the pandemic and raise funds for efforts to find a vaccine for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.South Korea — once the second worst-hit nation on the planet — will ease a ban on some gatherings and events

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel gave their support in an open letter in weekend newspapers.

With pressure growing on governments worldwide to balance public health requirements with the need to ease intense economic pain, some nations in Asia announced similar easing measures.

South Korea — once the second worst-hit nation on the planet — said Sunday it would ease a ban on some gatherings and events as long as they “follow disinfection measures”.

Thailand allowed businesses such as restaurants, hair salons and outdoor markets to reopen so long as social distancing was maintained and temperature checks carried out.

But experts have cautioned that many countries are still not through the worst.

The Philippines suspended all flights into and out of the country for a week starting Sunday in a bid to ease pressure on its congested quarantine facilities.Thailand allowed businesses such as restaurants, hair salons and outdoor markets to reopen so long as social distancing was maintained

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced mosques would reopen across large parts of the Islamic Republic, after they were closed in early March to try to contain the Middle East’s deadliest COVID-19 outbreak.

Rouhani warned, however, that while Iran would reopen “calmly and gradually”, it should also prepare for “bad scenarios”.

– ‘Beyond breaking point’ –

US leaders face immense pressure to ease virus measures as the economy has been hammered with tens of millions left jobless.

The United States has the most coronavirus deaths in the world and President Donald Trump is keen for a turnaround to help reduce the economic pain.Protesters in some US states are demanding virus lockdowns end to restart local economies

Florida is set to ease its lockdown on Monday, as authorities in other states wrestle with pressure from demonstrators — some armed — who have rallied against the lockdowns.

There are signs that the pandemic is slowing down in some parts of the United States.

In New York City, the epicentre of the US outbreak, an emergency field hospital erected in Central Park is set to close, the Christian charity running it said Saturday, as virus cases decline in the city.

But authorities are wary of letting their guard down too fast, with fears the virus could wreak havoc in the most vulnerable communities in the United States.

A massive wave of infections is sweeping through America’s prison population — the world’s largest at 2.3 million — with coronavirus deaths on the rise in jails and penitentiaries across the country.

Riots over inadequate protection and slow responses by authorities have already broken out in prisons in Washington state and Kansas.

“Things are beyond breaking point at this facility,” said Brian Miller, an officer at Marion prison in Ohio. “Right now it’s hell.”

Pompeo says ‘enormous evidence’ virus came from Wuhan lab

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says there is “enormous evidence” that the new coronavirus originated in a lab in Wuhan, China

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Sunday that there was “enormous evidence” that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a laboratory in Wuhan, China.

“There is enormous evidence that this is where it began,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

But while highly critical of China’s handling of the matter, Pompeo declined to say whether he thought the virus had been intentionally released.

President Donald Trump has been increasingly critical of China’s role in the pandemic, which has infected nearly 3.5 million people and killed more than 240,000 around the world.

He has insisted that Beijing recklessly concealed important information about the outbreak and demanded that Beijing be held “accountable.”

News reports say Trump has tasked US spies to find out more about the origins of the virus, at first blamed on a Wuhan market selling exotic animals like bats, but now thought possibly to be from a virus research laboratory nearby.

Pompeo, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, told ABC that he agreed with a statement Thursday from the US intelligence community in which it concurred “with the wide scientific consensus that the COVID-19 virus was not man-made or genetically modified.”

But he went further than Trump, in citing “significant” and “enormous” evidence that the virus originated in a Wuhan laboratory.

“I think the whole world can see now, remember, China has a history of infecting the world and running substandard laboratories,” Pompeo said.

He said early Chinese efforts to downplay the coronavirus amounted to “a classic Communist disinformation effort. That created enormous risk.”

“President Trump is very clear: we’ll hold those responsible accountable.”

Kim Jong Un’s death will be announced weekend- NK defector, Ji Seong-Ho

A North Korean defector, Ji Seong-ho, has claimed he is ’99 per cent sure’ that its leader, Kim Jong Un is dead.

This is contradictory to confirmation by top foreign policy adviser to South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Lasgidi Reporters recalls that Moon Jae-in had denied speculations that Kim was dead.

Jae-in told CNN that the North Korean leader is “alive and well.”

But, Seong-ho, who earned a proportional representation seat of a minor party in the country’s April 15 elections, told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency that Kim died after his recent surgery and that North Korea will announce the news this weekend.

Covid-19, Please Support Us
He, however, said there are complicated issues regarding his succession.

“I’ve been informed that Kim died last weekend’ after cardiovascular surgery.

The defector said Kim’s sister Kim Yo-jong, who was named an alternate member of the ruling Workers’ Party’s powerful Central Committee Politburo last month, was in line to succeed her brother but added that the secretive state was ‘grappling with a complicated succession issue’.

‘I’ve wondered how long he could have endured after cardiovascular surgery. I’ve been informed that Kim died last weekend.

“It is not 100 percent certain, but I can say the possibility is 99 percent. North Korea is believed to be grappling with a complicated succession issue.”

Trump’s coronavirus briefing room antics entertain — and appall

US President Donald Trump’s coronavirus briefings are his show

“Nasty,” Donald Trump calls one reporter, “third-rate,” he brands another. The US president seems to loathe journalists but at his tempestuous coronavirus press conferences he just keeps coming back for more.

Every day for weeks now, Trump has spent up to two hours of primetime television delivering his unique blend of insults, jokes and cheerful boasts.

The briefings began as a way to inform an anxious nation on the COVID-19 emergency, turning health officials, like infectious diseases specialist Anthony Fauci, into household names. The usually bland vice president Mike Pence has won respect for his calm but unvarnished updates on the numbers of the sick and dead.

Sooner or later, though, the events were bound to become all about this most limelight-loving of presidents. And it was sooner.

Trump made himself lead actor, director and producer in the latest version of a reality TV show he has been playing much of his life — the omnipotent, irascible chief executive.

In some ways it seems to have worked. Ratings have been as high, Trump likes to quote from a newspaper report, as the finale to “The Bachelor” reality show.

However, many of those viewers must have included Americans simply hoping for information on the pandemic — a captive audience.

By Thursday, even the pro-Republican editorial board of The Wall Street Journal had had enough, urging Trump to leave the briefings to experts and to keep himself mostly away.

“A friend of ours who voted for President Trump sent us a note recently saying that she had stopped watching,” the editorialists wrote in a drily devastating review.

“Why? Because they have become less about defeating the virus and more about the many feuds of Donald J. Trump.”

“Fake News!” Trump tweeted furiously back at the The Wall Street Journal.

But coincidentally or not, on Thursday evening he for the first time left his briefing after around only 20 minutes. The sober experts stayed to give the bulk of the presentation — just as the Journal had recommended.

– ‘Thank you Mr President’ –

At least until Thursday’s curtailed episode, the briefings follow a careful choreography, all designed to magnify Trump.The curtain goes up on another briefing by US President Donald Trump

When officials do get to the microphone, the first thing they do is give praise. This is just a recent smattering:

“As the president said so well,…”

“I just want to begin by thanking President Trump.”

“Another example of the bold leadership of President Trump.”

“Great to see countries of the world rally behind President Trump.”

Things aren’t quite so ardent between Trump and the journalists.

Trump’s media bashing is nothing new. But in a room with only a handful of reporters allowed due to social distancing measures, the presidential aggression gets very personal.

“You’re a third-rate reporter and what you just said is a disgrace, OK?” Trump told ABC News correspondent Jonathan Karl.

Trump called other reporters “nasty” and “terrible.” He cautioned yet another to “be nice. Don’t be threatening.”

Trump even lashed out at the Fox News correspondent for asking a tough question, apparently wondering why the reporter was not throwing softballs, as the network’s overtly pro-Trump hosts do.

“I thought you were with Fox,” he said.

– It gets weirder –US President Donald Trump lashes out at ABC News chief White House correspondent Jonathan Karl

Whether Trump truly loathes journalists is a matter of speculation.

As a veteran self-publicist, he revels above all in maximum exposure. He speaks to reporters far more often than typical predecessors in the Oval Office.

Trump can also count on a friendly question or two from fringe right-wing cable outlets like OANN, which have an increasingly strong presence in the briefing room.

“They treat me very nicely,” Trump recently told the OANN’s reporter, before she even began her question.

At another briefing, the new correspondent for a rival conservative network, Newsmax, turned out to be none other than Sean Spicer — a former Trump spokesman.

But there are softball questions and then there are the plain bizarre, leaving both reporters and Trump’s staff, waiting near the podium, in disbelief.

At a briefing this Wednesday, it was time for the latter: a New York Post reporter wanting to know if Trump would pardon the convicted murderer/zoo keeper star of Netflix hit “Tiger King.”

Forgotten was the raging pandemic. Forgotten were the millions of newly unemployed Americans. Forgotten were arguments over whether Trump dealt well or badly with an unprecedented crisis.

It was time to banter about “Joe Exotic” and Trump joking — presumably — that he’d “look into” the pardon idea.

Asian markets rise after Fed stimulus boosts Wall St

The coronavirus pandemic has hammered economies around the world, sending governments scrambling to put together massive stimulus measures

Asian markets were mostly higher in morning trade on Friday after the latest US coronavirus stimulus measures boosted Wall Street overnight.

In its latest attempt to ease the economic pain inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the US Federal Reserve said it would pump $2.3 trillion through new lending programmes.

The pandemic has now claimed more than 94,000 lives around the world and hammered economies, sending governments and central banks scrambling to put together unprecedented, massive emergency measures.

The strong close on Wall Street helped boost Tokyo’s benchmark Nikkei 225 index by 0.4 percent in the afternoon.

Seoul was also up, rising 0.7 percent, and Taipei gained 0.1 percent. But Shanghai was down 0.7 percent.

Hong Kong, Sydney, Wellington, and Singapore were closed for a public holiday.

The Fed appears to be “on a mission to blow holes in every dam that stops the flow of credit”, said Stephen Innes, chief global markets strategist at AxiCorp.

“And it sure sounds like they have plenty more dynamite if needed.”

The European Union also followed the US with its own rescue package worth 500 billion euros ($550 billion) to ease the impact of COVID-19 in the 27-nation bloc.

Millions of jobs have been shed during the pandemic, with data released Thursday showing 17 million people have lost their jobs in the United States alone since mid-March.

But investors appear to be focused more on the impact of the stimulus packages and if they will be able to achieve the stability governments are hoping for.

– Worst ‘since Great Depression’ –

The latest emergency measures came as the International Monetary Fund warned that 170 of its 180 members would see declines in per capita income this year.

“We anticipate the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression,” said IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva, urging governments to provide lifelines to businesses and households alike, and cautioned that “it could get worse”.

All major oil producers except Mexico, meanwhile, agreed to cut output and May and June by 10 million barrels a day after marathon talks to stabilise crude prices.

Oil has plummeted to near-two-decade lows in recent weeks because of the pandemic’s impact on the global economy and a bruising price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia.

But while Riyadh and Moscow have agreed, OPEC said the deal can only take effect after consent from Mexico — which did not agree to its share of cuts under the deal.

Brent Crude was down 4.1 percent, and West Texas Intermediate was 9.3 percent lower.

– Key figures around 0445 GMT –

Tokyo – Nikkei 225: UP 0.4 percent at 19,425.96

Shanghai – Composite: DOWN 0.7 percent at 2,807.64

Hong Kong – Hang Seng: Closed for a public holiday

Euro/dollar: UP at $1.0939 from $1.0929 at 2100 GMT Thursday

Dollar/yen: DOWN at 108.38 from 108.47

Pound/dollar: FLAT at $1.2464

Euro/pound: UP at 87.76 pence from 87.64 pence

Brent Crude: DOWN 4.1 percent at 31.48 per barrel

West Texas Intermediate: DOWN 9.3 percent at 22.76 per barrel

New York – Dow: UP 1.2 percent at 23,719.37 (close)

London – FTSE 100: UP 2.9 percent at 5,842.66 (close)

COVID-19: Jack Ma sends second batch of medical supplies to Nigeria, others

Chinese billionaire, Jack Ma, has confirmed that his second donation to 54 African countries have been dispatched to help the continent with its fight against COVID-19.

The medical supplies would soon arrive Ethiopia, the headquarters of African Union, for onward distribution to countries.

Jack Ma disclosed the information via his Twitter page on Monday.

According to him, the second consignment includes 500 ventilators, 200,000 suits and face shields, 200,000 thermometers, one million swabs and extraction kits and 500,000 gloves.

A few weeks ago, the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation donated similar medical supplies to Africa.

Nigeria’s Minister of Health, Dr Osagie Ehanire, confirmed receipt of the first dispatch a few weeks ago.