North Korea has told the World Health Organization that it has tested 25,986 people for the coronavirus through April but still has yet to find a single infection.
The WHO said in a weekly monitoring report that North Korea’s testing figures include 751 people who were tested during April 23-29, of which 139 had influenza-like illnesses or severe respiratory infections.
Experts have expressed skepticism about North Korea’s claim of a perfect record in keeping out COVID-19, given its poor health infrastructure and a porous border it shares with China.
North Korea has described its anti-virus efforts as a “matter of national existence.” It has barred tourists, flown out diplomats and severely restricted cross-border traffic and trade.
The North has stopped providing the number of people it quarantines this year, but previously said it had quarantined tens of thousands who had exhibited symptoms.
JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi will stop accepting supplemental unemployment benefits for pandemic relief from the federal government next month.
Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that the weekly supplement of $300 per person was intended to help people “who are unemployed through no fault of their own” because of the coronavirus pandemic. He says that conversations with small business owners and employees indicate the aid is no longer needed.
Reeves says Mississippi will opt out of the additional federal unemployment benefits June 12, the earliest date allowed by federal law. Without the federal supplement, the maximum weekly unemployment benefit in Mississippi is $235.
The governor also says he has told the Department of Employment Security to resume requiring that a person document they are looking for a job in order to receive unemployment benefits.
MONTGOMERY, Ala.—Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced Monday that Alabama will be the latest U.S. state to halt pandemic-related unemployment boosts, including the additional $300 benefit from the federal government.
Ivey cites an increase in job postings and complaints from businesses that they are unable to hire workers. She says she believes the increased unemployment assistance intended to bring emergency relief during the pandemic is now contributing to a labor shortage.
That view is echoed by conservative groups but disputed by some advocates for low-income families.
“As Alabama’s economy continues its recovery, we are hearing from more and more business owners and employers that it is increasingly difficult to find workers to fill available jobs, even though job openings are abundant,” Ivey said in a statement.
Ivey says Alabama will end its participation in all federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation programs effective June 19. That includes the additional $300 weekly payment to recipients of unemployment compensation and benefits to gig and part-time workers who would not usually qualify.
LOS ANGELES -- Los Angeles County expects to reach so-called community immunity by mid-to-late July, officials said Monday.
According to Barbara Ferrer, the county’s public health director, the county expects to administer 400,000 shots weekly.
The county has administered nearly 8.5 million doses as of May 7 and needs to put an additional 1.5 million first doses in arms to hit the goal of 80% of county residents vaccinated.
The county reported four deaths on Monday and there is a lag in weekend reporting, Ferrer said. The county has had just over 24,000 pandemic-related deaths in total.
The county also reported 179 new cases on Monday.
LOS ANGELES -- The superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District said Monday there are disparities in the return of students to classrooms in the nation’s second-largest district.
Elementary schools have higher in-person enrollment in more affluent communities than in low-income communities while the opposite is true in high schools, Superintendent Austin Beutner said in his weekly video briefing to the school community.
Beutner cited the example of West Los Angeles, where median household incomes exceed $115,000 and nearly 70% of elementary school students have returned to campus for in-person learning. In the city of Bell, however, where incomes are about $44,000, fewer than 20% of students are at schools.
At the high school level, COVID-19 safety protocols keep most instruction on-line, even for those who attend in person.
In the city of Huntington Park, where the median income is about $44,000, 12% of high school students have returned to in-person learning. In the Woodland Hills area of Los Angeles, where the median is nearly $100,000, only 5% have returned.
Beutner stressed the extensive safety measures put in place on campuses, the district’s massive COVID-19 testing program and commitment to make vaccinations available.
IRVINE, Calif. -- Prosecutors say a Southern California man has pleaded not guilty to charges he obtained $5 million in federal coronavirus-relief loans for phony businesses and then used the money for lavish vacations and to buy a Ferrari, a Bentley and a Lamborghini.
Mustafa Qadiri was arrested last week on suspicion of scheming to defraud the Paycheck Protection Program.
The 38-year-old will stand trial in June on multiple charges including bank fraud, wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and money laundering.
Prosecutors say his loan applications included altered bank records, fake tax returns and false information about employees.
He was released on $100,000 bond.
Qadiri’s attorney, Bilal A. Essayli, declined further comment Monday.
EATTLE -- Washington state’s Department of Health says preliminary data shows more people died of drug overdoses in 2020 than any other year in at least the last decade.
Authorities say the effects of the coronavirus pandemic likely led to a drug use surge.
The Seattle Times reports fatal drug overdoses increased by more than 30% last year compared to 2019. That’s an increase more than twice as large as any other year over the last decade.
Officials are still analyzing the preliminary data and causes of death in specific cases and expect the number of overdose deaths to grow even higher.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Millions of Californians would get tax rebates of up to $1,100 under a proposal unveiled by Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom as part of a broader pandemic recovery plan made possible by an eye-popping $75 billion budget surplus.
Individuals and households making between $30,000 and $75,000 annually would get a $600 payment under Newsom’s plan announced Monday. All households making up to $75,000 with at least one child, including immigrants who file taxes, would get an extra $500 payment.
The payments are part of what Newsom is calling a $100 billion plan to drive the state’s economic recovery. It also comes as Newsom faces a recall election.
The massive budget surplus is largely due to taxes paid by rich Californians who generally did well during the pandemic, and marks a major turnaround after officials last year said they feared a deficit of more than $50 billion.
The payments will total an estimated $8.1 billion, said H.D. Palmer, a spokesman for the state Department of Finance. The proposal also includes $5.2 billion to pay back rent and $2 billion for overdue utility bills for people who fell behind during the pandemic.
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