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States move at various speeds over coronavirus; China reports just 3 new cases

Here is a look at some of the latest news on COVID-19 from the U.S. and around the world on Sunday.

WASHINGTON — This article contains ongoing U.S. and international updates on the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects. Here are some key updates for Sunday, April 26, 2020. You can find more details by scrolling through the story.

Key updates:

  • House Speaker Pelosi addresses state governor frustration on relief money
  • South Korea mulls reopening schools after 26th straight day under 100 new cases
  • China reports just 3 new virus cases, no new deaths for the 12th day in a row
  • Italian citizens, sports teams regaining some freedoms; bishops seeking return of public Masses along with other freedoms 
  • Hundreds of new virus deaths reported in Singapore 

There were more than 965,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States on Sunday, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 54,000 deaths in the U.S. and over 206,500 deaths worldwide.

The global total of confirmed cases is over 2.9 million. 

For most, the virus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death.

RELATED: Worldwide death toll from coronavirus surpasses 200,000

South Korea mulls reopening schools

South Korea reported only 10 new cases of the coronavirus, its 26th straight day below 100 as officials mulled reopening schools amid the slowing caseload.

The figures released by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday brought the national totals to 10,738 cases and 243 deaths.

At least 1,044 infections have been linked to international arrivals, but such cases have also declined in recent weeks amid tightened border controls.

Using an active test-and-quarantine program, South Korea has so far managed to slow its outbreak without imposing lockdowns or business bans. But schools remain shut while providing children remote learning.

Prime Minster Chung Sye-kyun during a virus meeting Monday instructed education officials to prepare measures to ensure hygiene and enforce distance between students at schools so the government could announce a timeline for reopening schools no later than early May.

China reports 3 cases, no new deaths

China reported just three new coronavirus cases Monday, and no new deaths for the 12th day in a row.

A total of 723 people remain hospitalized and just under 1,000 were being kept in isolation and under monitoring for being suspected cases or for having tested positive for COVID-19 without showing symptoms.

Beijing added one additional postmortem death to its count, raising China’s overall death toll to 4,633 among 82,830 cases. Of the new cases, two were imported and one was detected in the province of Heilongjiang bordering Russia, according to the National Health Commission.

Credit: AP
A man and woman ride bicycles near a sign advising people to stay away from the beach, amid the coronavirus pandemic, along the Great Highway near Ocean Beach in San Francisco, Saturday, April 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Publicly traded hotel firms won't give back small business loans

Three publicly traded hotel companies tied to a Texas businessman say they will not give back any of the $126 million in loans they have applied for from a government program aimed at helping small businesses. Several other big companies have said they will return loans under the Paycheck Protection Program after large chains were criticized for taking them. 

The three hotel companies keeping the loans say they will use the money to put employees back to work. The government loan program is intended to help businesses with fewer than 500 employees.

Ashford Inc., Ashford Hospitality Trust and Braemar Hotels & Resorts, which are tied to Texas hotel magnate Monty Bennett, have applied for $126 million in loans and received $69 million, according to a calculation from securities filings by The Associated Press. Since mid-March, the companies and their hotel properties have furloughed or laid off 90% of their workforce.

Thousands pack beaches during SoCal heat wave

A lingering heat wave lured people to Southern California beaches, rivers and trails again Sunday, prompting warnings from officials that defiance of stay-at-home orders could reverse progress and bring the coronavirus surging back.

Tens of thousands of people packed the sand at Newport Beach in Orange County, where residents compared weekend crowds to the Fourth of July and lifeguards reminded people to stay apart if they were in groups of six or more.

Neighboring Huntington Beach also saw big gatherings, despite the closure of parking lots and metered parking restricted along Pacific Coast Highway. Temperatures were close to 90 degrees.

Robin Ford surveyed the crush of visitors with concern.

“Unless all these people are in one household, it does look like they are not social distancing," Ford told the Orange County Register. "They could be spread out more.”

Credit: AP
A man and woman ride bicycles near a sign advising people to stay away from the beach, amid the coronavirus pandemic, along the Great Highway near Ocean Beach in San Francisco, Saturday, April 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

Italian bishops seek return of public Masses

After Italy’s bishops complained that the latest lockdown rules still don’t allow public Masses, Premier Giuseppe Conte’s office has promised to come up with a plan that would let the faithful attend services while respecting social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since a national lockdown began in early March, churches in Italy haven’t been allowed to hold Masses for the public, although they can keep their doors open for those wanting to pray individually.

Conte on Sunday announced some easing of containment measures for the nation, starting May 4.

In response, the Italian bishops conference quickly put out a sharply worded statement, saying bishops “cannot accept seeing the exercise of freedom of worship be compromised” and insisting that the faithful must have access especially to the sacraments.

Italians regaining some freedoms

After seven weeks in lockdown to contain one of the world’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19, Italians are regaining some freedoms.

Premier Giuseppe Conte says that starting May 4, public parks and gardens will re-open and people will be able to visit relatives who live in the same region.

However, Conte told the nation in a televised address Sunday night that citizens must practice social distancing. In the case of parks, mayors can impose limits, such as how many people enter, to avoid crowding.

During family visits, people will have to wear masks and can’t hold parties. If people don’t follow the new measures, Conte says “the curve of contagion can rise again, it will go out of control, deaths will climb and we’ll have irreparable damage” to the economy.

Conte says professional sports teams can resume training on May 18 and athletes in individual sports can resume training on May 4.

That means the Serie A soccer league could resume playing games in June. It has been suspended since March 9. Twelve rounds remain in Serie A, plus four other games that were postponed from the 25th round. The Italian Cup was suspended after the first leg of the semifinals.

Also on May 18, libraries, museums and art exhibitions can re-open.

Factories, construction sites and wholesale supply businesses can resume activity as soon as they put safety measures into place aimed at containing COVID-19.

But Conte says that if the epidemiological curve of contagion starts to rise again, the government will quickly intervene and shut down such industrial activity again.

Conte offered a new mantra for the about-to-begin second phase: “If you love Italy.... keep the social distance.”

Health ministry figures indicate that Italy had seen its lowest day-to-day increase in deaths – 260 – since mid-March, during the first week of lockdown. Starting May 4, funerals will be allowed, but preferably should be held in the open, no more than 15 persons can participate and mourners must wear masks. If all goes well, retail shops will reopen on May 18, and restaurants, cafes, barber shops and hair salons on June 1.

Speaker Pelosi addresses frustration from state governors

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the nation’s governors are rightfully feeling impatient about getting financial help from Congress during the coronavirus outbreak and insists the aid will come.

The California Democrat tells CNN’s “State of the Union” that governors “should be impatient. Their impatience will help us get an even bigger number” in the next congressional relief package. Pelosi has already pledged to provide them billions in aid.

With much of the American economy shuttered during the pandemic, state and local governments are reeling from declining sales tax revenues and surging unemployment benefit costs.

Several governors, including Democrat Andrew Cuomo of New York, say federal aid should have been approved in the last relief package. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has since expressed opposition to providing more local help.

But Pelosi says people should judge the latest federal aid package “for what it does. Don’t criticize it for what it doesn’t, because we have a plan for that. And that will happen.”

Credit: AP
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., departs a news conference on Capitol Hill, Friday, April 24, 2020, in Washington. (AP)

China says it sees no COVID-19 deaths again after more than a week

China on Sunday reported no new deaths from the coronavirus for the 11th straight day. 

The country also confirmed 11 more cases, raising its total to 82,827. Five of the new cases were in Heilongjiang province, a northeastern border area with Russia that has seen a surge in infections. Another was in Guangdong province, a manufacturing and tech region bordering Hong Kong in the south. 

The other five were imported from overseas. China has identified 1,634 imported cases in all. 

931 new cases reported in Singapore 

Singapore reported 931 new cases to raise its total to 13,624. Most of the new infections are from foreign workers’ dormitories, which have been locked down as the government struggles to curb the outbreak. 

South Korea reports 10 additional cases

South Korea on Sunday confirmed 10 more cases of the coronavirus over the past 24 hours, a continuation of a slowing caseload in the country. The additional infections mark the ninth day in a row that South Korea’s daily increase was below 20. 

The state-run Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the caseload stood at 10,728, including 242 deaths.

RELATED: VERIFY: Do not ingest or inject disinfectants under any circumstances

Credit: AP
A bus driver wears a face mask and is sits behind a plastic curtain as he drives a metro bus in San Antonio, Wednesday, April 22, 2020. San Antonio remains under stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 outbreak and residents are required to wear face coverings or masks whenever in public. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)