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Sailor on USS Roosevelt dies, Spain eases some lockdown measures: Monday’s coronavirus news

Here’s what you need to know today.

In this handout released by the US Navy, the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) leaves its San Diego homeport on January 17, 2020.
US Navy via Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide has now exceeded 1.8 million. The United States makes up more than a quarter of those cases, with more than 558,000 confirmed infections.

The US reached the highest number of reported deaths in the world over the weekend, surpassing Italy (although Italy still has more deaths per capita). More than 22,000 people have died from coronavirus in the US as of April 13.

Among those is the first sailor from the USS Theodore Roosevelt — the aircraft carrier whose large coronavirus outbreak raised serious questions about the Navy’s handling of the crisis — to die of coronavirus-related complications.

Elsewhere in the world, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was released from the hospital after spending a week there, including a few days in the ICU. And Spain, which has seen its daily death toll and infection rate from coronavirus slow in recent days, is partially easing some of its lockdown restrictions in an attempt to help the economy.

Here’s what you need to know today.

Sailor from USS Theodore Roosevelt dies of coronavirus

The first sailor from the USS Theodore Roosevelt has died of complications related to the coronavirus. More than 580 sailors of the ship’s 4,800 crew members have tested positive for the coronavirus, but this is the first known death. The sailor’s identity has not been released.

According to the Navy, the sailor tested positive for Covid-19 on March 30 and was placed in isolation on a naval base in Guam. He was found unconscious on April 9 and hospitalized.

On March 30, Brett Crozier, the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, wrote a letter to top Navy officials warning that the measures in place to protect his crew from the spread of the coronavirus were insufficient and pleading for help. The letter, which was unclassified, was quickly leaked to the press and was published by the San Fransisco Chronicle the next day.

Crozier was promptly removed from his post, with then-acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly saying Crozier had shown “poor judgment” in disseminating the letter too widely (he’d copied some 20 to 30 people on it, according to CNN) and had violated the chain of command.

Modly then delivered a speech to the Roosevelt’s 4,000 crew members in which he called Crozier “stupid” — and then that speech leaked. Modly handed in his resignation on Tuesday, which Secretary of Defense Mark Esper accepted.

The saga raised a lot of questions about the Navy’s handling of the coronavirus and the endangered crew members, as it looked as though they were trying to silence Crozier for having sounded the alarm. (Crozier himself tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month.)

What’s more, it highlighted the dearth of permanent leadership at the top of the Navy, which hasn’t had a Senate-confirmed secretary since November.

More broadly, the Pentagon’s overall lack of transparency in its Covid-19 response has come under scrutiny, as Esper had previously directed commanders to stop publicly announcing Covid-19 cases, saying it threatened operational security.

Boris Johnson is out of the hospital, as the UK’s coronavirus crisis escalates

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was released from St. Thomas’s hospital in London on Sunday after spending a week in the facility because of his coronavirus symptoms. Johnson, who spent about three days total in the intensive care unit, was moved to a regular ward on Thursday and has now been discharged.

Johnson is now recovering at Chequers, the prime minister’s country estate in England. Right now, one of his cabinet ministers, Dominic Raab, is running things in his absence; a spokesperson for the prime minister said Monday that Johnson is recuperating and not doing any government work right now.

Johnson put out a video Sunday thanking the staff at the National Health Service, whom he later specifically thanked by name, for saving his life. “It’s hard to find the words to express my debt, but before I come to that I want to thank everyone in the entire UK for the effort and the sacrifice you have made, and are making,” Johnson said, referring to the country’s still-in-place lockdown measures.

Johnson’s statement raised some concerns among reporters that the prime minister’s office had not been fully forthright about the seriousness of Johnson’s condition, but his office pushed back on those characterizations.

The UK is considering whether and for how long to extend its lockdown measures, which are currently in place but up for review. A decision is expected Thursday, and, as in the United States, there’s vigorous debate about whether the public health measures should be eased to try to rescue a floundering economy. The United Kingdom has confirmed nearly 90,000 cases of coronavirus as of April 13 and reported more than 11,000 coronavirus deaths.

Spain eases lockdown restrictions

Spain and Italy have been the two European countries hardest hit by the coronavirus so far. Spain has recorded 169,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as of April 13, with more than 17,400 deaths.

The country has been under stringent lockdown measures since March 15, with most businesses closed except essential shops like grocery stores and pharmacies, and people ordered to stay home unless they need food, medicine, or money; need to seek medical care or take care of a dependent; or are part of the workforce deemed essential. Spain later tightened those measures at the end of March, basically putting all nonessential work on pause.

But now the Spanish government is pulling back on those measures slightly in an attempt to ease some of the economic pressure from this expansive shutdown. Spain’s death rate appears to be slowing, as does the rate of new infections, offering an optimistic — if still uncertain — sign that the coronavirus might have reached its peak in the country.

As of Monday, workers in construction and manufacturing will be allowed to return to their jobs or reopen their businesses. Stay-at-home measures will remain in place for everyone else, though, and all other businesses, including bars and restaurants, are still closed through April 26.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez warned that the country was “still far from victory, from the moment when we will recover normality in our lives.” He added that any moves to continue easing the lockdown would be done gradually.

And some good news

On Easter Sunday, Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli gave a performance from the Duomo di Milano, a famous cathedral in Milan. He performed alone, except for the organist who accompanied him. The performance was livestreamed, with 22 million viewers tuning in on Easter, according to the Washington Post.

Milan, the capital of Lombardy, is the epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak.

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