Denver Health orders closure of U.S. Post Office center over COVID-19 concerns.

Denver health officials ordered the U.S. Post Office distribution center to shut down, citing COVID-19 concerns, but the post office remains open.

Denver Department Public Health & Environment sent a letter to the USPS facility, 7550 E 53rd Place, on Wednesday ordering it “to close all onsite operations, effective immediately.”

The city’s order said the facility “must remain closed” until multiple COVID-19 “control measures” are met and that “approval for reopening” will only be granted by a DDPHE representative.

The State of Colorado has reported multiple confirmed COVID-19 cases of employees working at the distribution center, according to the letter.

USPS officials were quick to respond and the facility remained open on Thursday.

“We strongly disagree with the Denver Public Health order, which was made without a visual verification, without advanced coordination with the team of postal employees working on these issues with Denver Public Health, and without the understanding of the Postal Service’s substantial, ongoing efforts to protect its employees and the public,” said a USPS statement.

“The Denver Processing and Distribution Center is federally owned and operated and is committed to all federal and CDC directives and safeguards in regards to COVID-19 protection,” the USPS statement said. “We have provided Denver Public Health the necessary documentation to satisfy their inquiry and are confident the order will be rescinded.”

USPS said in a news release that the center handles 10 million pieces of mail a day for more than 6 million people in Colorado and Wyoming. The release said it is the fourth-largest processing center in the nation.

DDPHE officials said that “minimal observations” were made on a Wednesday inspection because of “refusal of information and access to the facility.”

In the letter, Denver officials said that all employees must be screened at the beginning and end of every shift and that all workers must be monitored closely. The letter also states that the entire facility must be disinfected.

City health officials said the USPS must provided the city with a list of all confirmed cases, within 24 hours, and update the list every Monday until notified that it will be no longer necessary.

Failure to conform could result in citations and summons, the letter, signed by Jessica Paulin, public health investigator, said.

The city said in a separate release late Thursday night: “This was a measure of last resort, and the only remaining tool we have to get the facility management’s attention and secure public health compliance during a pandemic. DDPHE and the City Attorney are committed to resolving these concerns with federal authorities quickly.”

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Trump arrives in Michigan to visit Ford plant amid political tensions

YPSILANTI, Mich. (Reuters) – President Donald Trump traveled on Thursday to the crucial U.S. election battleground state of Michigan to visit a Ford Motor Co (F.N) plant amid hostility with its Democratic governor over how quickly to reopen its economy during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump, a Republican seeking re-election on Nov. 3, has urged states to loosen coronavirus-related restrictions so the battered U.S. economy can recover even as public health experts warn that premature relaxation of restrictions could lead to a second wave of infections.

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, seen as a potential vice presidential running mate for presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, is facing a backlash from some critics against her stay-at-home orders in a state hit hard by the last recession. Trump has encouraged anti-lockdown protests against Whitmer held in Michigan’s capital.

Trump arrived in the city of Ypsilanti to tour a Ford plant that has been recast to produce ventilators and personal protective equipment and to discuss vulnerable populations hit by the virus in a meeting with African-American leaders.

It is not clear if Trump, who has said he is taking a drug not proven for the coronavirus after two White House staffers tested positive in recent weeks, will wear a protective face mask. He has declined to wear one on previous factory tours despite guidelines for employees to do so.

When asked by reporters before leaving the White House if he planned to don a face covering, Trump said, “I don’t know. We’re going to look at it. A lot of people have asked me that question.”

On Tuesday, Ford reiterated its policy that all visitors must wear masks but did not say if it would require Trump to comply.

Trump on Wednesday threatened to withhold federal funding from Michigan over its plan for expanded mail-in voting, saying without offering evidence that the practice could lead to voter fraud – though he later appeared to back off the threat.

Whitmer told a news conference she spoke with Trump on Wednesday and he pledged federal support for flood recovery, as rising floodwaters have caused more trouble in Michigan, displacing thousands of residents near the city of Midland.

“I made the case that, you know, we all have to be on the same page here. We’ve got to stop demonizing one another and really focus on the fact that the common enemy is the virus. And now it’s a natural disaster,” Whitmer told CBS News, describing her conversation with Trump.

Regarding Trump’s funding threat, Whitmer said, “Threatening to take money away from a state that is hurting as bad as we are right now is just scary, and I think something that is unacceptable.”

Biden also criticized Trump, saying in a statement, “In the wake of disaster, Donald Trump once again showed us who he is – threatening to pull federal funding and encouraging division.”

Whitmer on Thursday moved to further reopen Michigan’s economy through a series of executive orders.

Trump and Ford have been at odds over its decision last year to back a deal with California for stricter vehicle fuel economy standards than his administration had proposed. Trump first sparred with Ford during the 2016 campaign over the automaker’s investments in Mexico and had vowed to slap hefty tariffs taxes on its vehicles made in Mexico.

Trump won in Michigan in the 2016 election, the first Republican to do since 1988. Trump’s handful of trips out of Washington since the pandemic went into full force have focused on election battleground states such as Arizona and Pennsylvania.

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U.S. masses planes at Japan base to show foes and allies it can handle coronavirus

TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. Air Force transport aircraft on Thursday massed at Washington’s key Asian military air transportation hub, Yokota Air Base in Japan, to show potential foes and allies it was ready for action despite the coronavirus emergency.

“It shows both our adversaries as well as our allies in Japan the importance of our placement, the importance of our ability to execute our mission,” base Vice Commander, Colonel Jason Mills, said.

U.S. forces are stationed in Japan to defend Washington’s key Asian ally from attack from North Korea, but also to check China’s growing influence in the wider region, including Southeast Asia and the South Pacific.

As Washington tries to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, some officials worry outbreaks in the military may provide fodder for Beijing to question U.S. strength in the region.

“When you’re dealing with COVID-19 induced domestic chaos, you just can’t pay as much attention to foreign affairs,” said Grant Newsham, a research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies and a former U.S. Marine colonel who liaised with Japan’s Self Defense Forces.

In April, the U.S. aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt was forced to dock in Guam after a coronavirus outbreak infected several hundred sailors. Carriers such as the Ronald Reagan that is forward deployed in Japan and others that regularly pass through Asian waters are among the most conspicuous symbols of U.S. military might.

Yokota has had to quarantine sailors passing through the base who have tested positive for the virus.

Yokota’s air wing, including C-130 transport planes and helicopters, moves troops and equipment around the Asia Pacific. Like other bases in Japan, which hosts the largest concentration of U.S. military personnel outside the United States, it has declared a public health emergency.

Troops at the base in western Tokyo are under orders to keep a distance from each other and local people and wear face masks. Commanders have also split personnel into shifts to lessen contact.

The coronavirus, like the rain that reduced visibility on Thursday, was another issue for air and ground crews to deal with to keep their aircraft flying, said Mills.

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Japan to lift emergency state for Osaka, Kyoto, Hyogo: economy minister

TOKYO (Reuters) – Japan will lift its state of emergency in Osaka, Kyoto and Hyogo on Thursday as the number of new coronavirus infections drops, Economy Minister Yasutoshi Nishimura said on Thursday, with the country eager to revive its battered economy.

Tokyo and four other prefectures, including the northern island of Hokkaido, would remain under the state of emergency – which has already been lifted for much of the country.

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Aid groups slam U.N. council failure to take coronavirus action

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Several aid groups criticized the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday for being unable to agree on a resolution backing U.N. chief Antonio Guterres’ call for a global ceasefire so the world can focus on combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The 15-member council has been negotiating for two months, but talks have been stymied by a stand-off between veto-powers China and the United States over whether to urge support for the World Health Organization. Washington does not want a reference to the global health body, while Beijing wanted it included.

“The paralysis of the Security Council in the face of COVID is shameful. To millions of people, it is also incomprehensible,” said David Miliband, chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, in a joint statement with International Crisis Group, CARE USA and Save the Children.

The new coronavirus causes the illness COVID-19, which has infected more than 4.8 million people and killed over 319,000 globally.

Rob Malley, chief executive of International Crisis Group, criticized the United States and China for treating the council negotiations as an opportunity for a “blame game” instead of a chance to “make a straightforward call for a reduction in violence during the pandemic.”

“Neither Washington nor Beijing seems able or willing to show leadership at the U.N. during a global crisis,” he said.

The United States suspended funding to the WHO last month, accusing it of promoting Chinese “disinformation” about the novel coronavirus outbreak, although WHO officials denied the accusation and China said it was transparent and open.

“The U.N. Security Council has a historic opportunity to stop the fighting globally and to ensure aid workers have full access,” said Inger Ashing, chief executive of Save the Children. “Countries should not be counting their dead children but focus on battling the virus within their borders.”

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U.S. praises Taiwan's coronavirus response, hails 'shared vision'

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday congratulated Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-Wen on her re-election, praised the country’s coronavirus response and called it a reliable partner, in a statement that sharply contrasted with recent U.S. criticism of China, which claims Taiwan as a province.

“We have a shared vision for the region – one that includes rule of law, transparency, prosperity, and security for all, Pompeo said in a statement. “The recent COVID-19 pandemic provided an opportunity for the international community to see why Taiwan’s pandemic-response model is worthy of emulation.”

China views Tsai, who will be sworn into office for her second and final term on Wednesday, as a separatist bent on formal independence for Taiwan.

At her inauguration, Tsai will say that Taiwan will seek to “actively participate” in international bodies and deepen its cooperation with like-minded countries, generally a reference to the United States and its allies. One of the top international bodies is the World Health Organization, which currently has locked Taiwan out, at China’s request.

Since the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 disease was discovered in China’s Wuhan province less than six months ago, tensions have mounted between the United States and its trade-war foe China.

President Donald Trump’s administration has cast China as secretive and ineffective in dealing with the virus now sweeping across the United States, and has pushed the massive Asian economy to uphold agreements on ending the countries’ trade war.

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Mental health evaluation ordered for Colorado man; investigators said he was “gearing up” for a coming war – The Denver Post

A judge on Monday ordered a mental health evaluation for a Loveland man whom prosecutors said was heading to a protest against COVID-19 lockdown restrictions when FBI agents found pipe bombs in his home.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Hegarty ruled Bradley Bunn, a 53-year-old Army veteran, poses a danger to the community and ordered him to remain in custody while he awaits an evaluation. A defense attorney can renew a request for Bunn to be freed after the evaluation, the magistrate said.

FBI agents searched Bunn’s Loveland home on May 1 and allegedly found four pipe bombs. Bunn told investigators that he would “fight to the death” anyone who tried to disarm him, had started to “gear up” for a coming war and would be willing to “take out a few” officers to “wake everyone up,” a federal prosecutor said during a court hearing.

The magistrate said he needs to hear from a mental health expert before he can decide if Bunn’s words reflect a “real threat” against the public or merely an expression of his mental health condition. Hegarty also questioned if Bunn’s statements relate to the “current state of affairs in this country, where lots of people are upset and are rallying and protesting at capitals all over the country” against lockdown orders.

“There’s a battle going on in this country on this issue, and I don’t know whether and how much to attribute this unique circumstance in our history to what Mr. Bunn has expressed,” Hegarty said.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued an alert that said a white supremacist group was inciting followers to shoot through their doors at FBI agents and police officers, prosecutors wrote in a court filing. The warning related to unspecified “associates” of Bunn.

Authorities haven’t publicly linked Bunn to any group or movement, but a federal prosecutor said agents intercepted Bunn on his way to an armed protest at the Colorado State Capitol against COVID-19 restrictions.

A court document laying out the evidence for Bunn’s arrest said he built the pipe bombs to defend himself against a “hard entry” in the middle of the night but did not explain who would be breaking in.

Bunn was serving in Iraq when he suffered a traumatic brain injury from an exploding device and had a “100% disability rating” from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, according to his attorney.

Federal public defender Matthew Golla has said Bunn has untreated mental health issues from serving as a rifle platoon commander in Iraq and that, without his medication, he was “easy prey” for agents to make broad statements about his beliefs on weapons.

During a previous hearing, Hegarty said he was inclined to release Bunn to an inpatient treatment program at the Department of Veterans Affairs and delayed a decision to find out whether the VA could take him. Golla said an outreach coordinator told him last week that the VA wasn’t “traveling” to conduct mental health evaluations.

The magistrate said the VA has a duty to care for Bunn, who “risked his life in combat for our country.”

“We are supposed to take care of our veterans. It’s just remarkable to me that they can’t find resources on an emergency basis,” Hegarty said.

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Delta to resume flying several major routes in June

(Reuters) – Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) said on Monday it would resume flying several major routes in June that were suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Salt Lake City to Mexico City is among several routes the U.S. carrier is resuming next month even as its overall second quarter schedule is expected to be 85% smaller than last year.

(This story corrects to remove reference to “Detroit to Toronto” and “Seattle to Shanghai” routes in second paragraph)

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Russia looks to U.S. for aid as new coronavirus cases drop to lowest since May 1

MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia is working on getting reciprocal medical aid from the United States, Moscow said on Monday after the country reported its lowest overnight rise in coronavirus cases since May 1.

But Russia, whose tally of 290,678 cases is the second highest after the United States, said the situation remained difficult after officials reported 8,926 new infections.

This marked the third day in a row that the figure was below the 10,000 mark which it has been above for most of this month.

Meanwhile, Moscow is working on securing supplies of reciprocal medical aid from the United States to help it combat the coronavirus, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Sergei Ryabkov said.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Washington was sending Moscow some testing equipment and medical ventilators to help it manage the crisis and that the equipment was “on its way”, the Washington Examiner reported on Sunday.

Although Russia sent a batch of Russian-made medical ventilators to the United States in early April, U.S. officials say they were not needed in the end.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus last month, told a televised government meeting on Monday that the situation overall was improving and that many patients were being discharged by hospitals.

“The situation … remains difficult, but we can nonetheless say we have managed to stop the growth in the infection (rate),” he said at the meeting held by video conference. “The dynamic is positive, according to the most cautious estimates.”

Moscow and Russian regions across 11 time zones are in their eighth and seventh week of a lockdown respectively to curb the spread of the coronavirus, but Mishustin said that 27 regions were safe to begin gradually relaxing their restrictions.

He did not specify which regions this applied to.

Russia’s coronavirus taskforce said on Monday that 91 people had died in the last 24 hours, pushing the country’s death toll to 2,722 as Moscow looked to the United States for help.

Ryabkov said on Monday that U.S. President Donald Trump had promised earlier that the United States would be ready to help Russia with equipment once it was mass producing ventilators.

“That possibility was welcomed with gratitude from our side, this issue is now being worked on. We consider mutual help to be a straight-forward matter,” Ryabkov was quoted by Russia’s RIA news agency as saying.

The ventilator that Russia sent to the U.S., the Aventa-M, came under the spotlight last week after it was reported to have caused two hospital fires, in Moscow and St Petersburg.

Russia subsequently suspended the use of the Aventa-M, although only those manufactured from April 1, after the ventilators had been sent to the United States.

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Hungary and Slovenia aim to reopen border by June 1: minister

BUDAPEST (Reuters) – Hungary and Slovenia have agreed on a road map towards a gradual reopening of their border by June 1, Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto wrote on his Facebook page on Monday.

Hungary started lifting coronavirus restrictions in Budapest from Monday, though residents returning to shops or travelling on public transport will have to wear face masks.

“Restarting our economies is not possible without restarting international cooperation,” Szijjarto wrote, adding that annual trade between the two European Union member states was worth more than 2.5 billion euros.

“Therefore, without jeopardising the protection of health, which is a priority, an easing of restrictive measures imposed at the borders is needed.”

A phased reopening is the government’s strategy to head off deeper and more lasting harm to the economy, which is expected to shrink by about 4% this year, according to a Reuters survey.

As of Monday, Hungary had reported 3,535 cases of coronavirus, 462 deaths and 1,400 recoveries. Slovenia had reported 1,466 cases and 104 deaths.

Szijjarto said a lockdown in the two countries had helped prevent the large-scale spread of the coronavirus, allowing for a gradual restarting of economic activity.

“Taking all this into account, we have started working on a gradual phase-out of measures restricting border crossings, setting June 1 as a target date,” Szijjarto wrote.

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