From Iran’s hot zone, Afghans flee home, spreading virus
Mahdi Noori, a young Afghan refugee in Iran, was left jobless when the factory where he’d worked cutting stone was shut down because of the coronavirus outbreak. He had no money, was afraid of contracting the virus and had no options. So he headed home.
He joined a large migration of some 200,000 Afghans and counting who have been flowing home across the border for weeks — from a country that is one of the world’s biggest epicenters of the pandemic to an impoverished homeland that is woefully unprepared to deal with it.
The massive influx of returnees — who are going back untested and unmonitored to cities, towns and villages around the country — threatens to create a greater outbreak in Afghanistan that could overwhelm its health infrastructure wrecked by decades of war.
Fired captain of aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt reportedly tests positive for COVID-19
The Navy captain who was removed from command of the coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19.
The New York Times reported on Sunday that Capt. Brett Crozier, fired from his post last week, had tested positive, citing two Naval Academy classmates of Crozier’s who are close to him and his family. A Navy spokesman declined to comment on Crozier’s health status.
The commander began exhibiting symptoms before he was removed from the warship Thursday, two of his classmates told the newspaper.
The San Diego-based Roosevelt is in port in Guam fighting an outbreak of COVID-19 among its crew.
1 dead, 13 hospitalized from cruise ship in Florida
Authorities say 14 people have been taken to hospitals from a cruise ship that docked in Florida with coronavirus victims aboard and one of them has died.
Two fatalities were reported earlier aboard the Coral Princess, which docked Saturday in Miami. The ship had more than 1,000 passengers and nearly 900 crew members.
Authorities did not immediately disclose whether the 14 people removed for immediate medical attention had a confirmed coronavirus link.
The Princess Cruises line ship began disembarking fit passengers cleared for charter flights Sunday. The cruise line said it was delayed by a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention policy preventing passengers from being placed on commercial flights.
Anyone with symptoms of the disease or recovering from it were being kept on ship until medically cleared.
U.S. ‘wasted’ months before preparing for virus pandemic
As the first alarms sounded in early January that an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China might ignite a global pandemic, the Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment.
A review of federal purchasing contracts by the Associated Press shows that federal agencies largely waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line healthcare workers.
By that time, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile. That federal cache of supplies was created more than 20 years ago to help bridge gaps in the medical and pharmaceutical supply chains during a national emergency.
Now, three months into the crisis, that stockpile is nearly drained, just as the numbers of patients needing critical care is surging. Some state and local officials report receiving broken ventilators and decade-old rotted masks.
Pastor who refuses to cancel Sunday services greeted by police
On Sunday, the pastor of Cross Culture Christian Center in Lodi, Calif., was greeted by several police officers in the parking lot about an hour before he intended to hold an in-person service despite coronavirus restrictions.
Pastor Jon Duncan, whose small evangelical church leases space in Bethel Open Bible Church, arrived Sunday morning to find that Bethel, which stopped having in-person services on March 15, had changed the locks on the building to prevent his congregants from entering, Lodi Police Lt. Michael Manetti told The Times.
Duncan had continued to hold in-person services for Cross Culture Christian Center amid the coronavirus outbreak.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hospitalized with COVID-19
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was diagnosed with the coronavirus more than a week ago, was admitted to a hospital Sunday for tests.
Johnson’s office said he was hospitalized because he still had symptoms 10 days after testing positive for the virus.
Downing Street said it was a “precautionary step” and that he remained in charge of the government.
Before his hospitalization, Johnson, 55, had been quarantined in his Downing Street residence. He was diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26.
Cameo videos let NBA stars connect with fans during self-isolation
Lakers center JaVale McGee has done the autograph thing countless times.
Fans line up at a collectibles shop or at a convention booth with jerseys, basketballs — whatever — all to get a few seconds from an NBA player and his autograph.
For McGee, it was a grind. The same pleasantries, the same Sharpie marker, the same autograph, over and over.
Like a lot of NBA players, though, he’s found an alternative way to connect with his fans — to help wish your girl a Happy Valentine’s Day, to shame you for a fantasy draft performance, to embarrass you for jumping on bandwagons and to share a small slice of his day thanks to cellphone video and Cameo, a Chicago-based company that books and delivers personalized messages.
“Sometimes, you’d go to signings and people would want stuff personalized and you’d have to say ‘No.’ If we personalized every one — we have 3,000 people waiting,” McGee said earlier this year before social distancing and self-isolation because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “With Cameo, it’s personalized.”
SoCal megachurch pastor tells people to attend church online
Amid stories that several megachurch pastors in recent weeks have defied calls to cancel gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump tweeted this weekend that he would be “tuning in” Sunday to listen to Greg Laurie, a Southern California megachurch pastor, online.
And so, from his empty Riverside campus at Harvest Christian Fellowship, a church of 15,000 people that would normally be bustling Sunday morning, Laurie filmed a greeting for “a very special guest to our service today.”
“Thank you for talking about the importance of the church in your press conferences,” Laurie said to Trump. “I know you had mentioned earlier that it was your hope that maybe we would be meeting in person on Easter, and unfortunately that has not worked out. But the amazing thing is we’re able to reach a lot of people now online.”
Across the country, pastors have revolted against stay-at-home orders, pitting public health concerns against claims of religious freedom.
Last week, a preacher in Tampa, Fla., was arrested for continuing to gather hundreds of people, with police saying he showed “reckless disregard for human life” by potentially exposing his congregation to the coronavirus.
Still, most churches have been improvising and taking services online.
California judicial leaders to adopt emergency order setting bail at zero for some offenses
In a move aimed at reducing the jail population to limit the spread of the coronavirus, California judicial leaders are set to meet remotely Monday, where they’re expected to adopt a statewide emergency order setting bail at zero for misdemeanor and lower-level felony offenses.
The Judicial Council, the policymaking body for California’s court system, also is expected to vote to suspend evictions and foreclosures and to allow for the expansion of court hearings held by video or telephone.
For criminal and juvenile proceedings, including arraignments and preliminary examinations, the council will direct courts to prioritize the use of technology to meet legal deadlines and ensure that defendants and children are not held in custody without timely hearings, according to a report prepared for Monday’s meeting.
In criminal cases, the defendant must agree before a court hearing can be held remotely.
Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer last week called on judicial leaders to issue a statewide order requiring preliminary hearings be held remotely. Orange County Public Defender Sharon Petrosino countered that clients had a constitutional right to appear in person for preliminary hearings. During preliminary hearings, prosecutors must show there is sufficient evidence to believe a crime has been committed.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic,” the report says, “trial courts must protect defendants’ constitutional rights to have the assistance of counsel and to be personally present with counsel, and at the same time take steps to protect the health of defendants, judicial officers, court staff, counsel, and all those who are required to be present in court.”
Defense lawyers say defendants must be able to see the witnesses testifying against them and confer with counsel.
Public defenders have complained that a previous emergency court order extending legal deadlines for arraignments and preliminary hearings have forced their clients to stay in potentially virus-infested jails.
The Judicial Council also is expected to order courts to give juvenile delinquency cases priority.
“Every state and territory in the country has now delayed jury trials,” the report says. “But courts must provide court access for defendants in custody who are entitled to timely pretrial appearances.”
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye heads the council, which is primarily made up of judges. Gov. Gavin Newsom has given her and the council extraordinary temporary powers to suspend laws to deal with the health crisis.
Death toll, number of infections in coming week may be ‘shocking to some,’ Fauci says
Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious-disease expert, warned Sunday that the numbers of deaths and COVID-19 infections in the coming week would be “shocking to some” but stressed that all Americans must do what they could to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Across the country, lives and livelihoods have been upended by restrictions on daily activities — measures that Fauci described as painful but necessary to ease the toll of the pandemic.
“We are struggling to get it under control, and that’s the issue that’s at hand right now,” he said in an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said everyone must “continue to do the physical separation, because we’ve got to get through this week that’s coming up.”
It would be “false,” he said, to state that the outbreak is under control.
There are preliminary signs that stay-at-home directives and social distancing have been effective, Fauci said, but “we’re still not at that apex.”
“Within a week, eight, nine days or so, we’re hopefully going to see that turning around,” he said.
Fauci, who said last week he did not understand why there was not a nationwide stay-at-home order in place, said Sunday that states that did not take such measures harmed the overall effort to stem the outbreak.
“It isn’t that they’re putting the rest of the country at risk as much as they’re putting themselves at risk,” he said. “Every time I get to that podium in the White House briefing room, I plead with people to take a look at those very simple guidelines of physical separation.”
President Trump has said he wants to leave it up to governors rather than imposing a nationwide stay-at-home order. The federal government has issued voluntary guidelines that call for steps including maintaining physical distance.
Governors, criticized by Trump, seek help: ‘States can’t possibly do what the federal government can do’
Days after President Trump criticized states for being ill-prepared for the coronavirus outbreak, several governors on Sunday renewed pleas for more federal help in procuring necessary medical supplies and equipment. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the lack of national coordination in fighting the coronavirus had been “ludicrous.”
Inslee, appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” cited good communication with Vice President Mike Pence and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But without mentioning President Trump by name, he blasted the president’s contention that the federal government was meant to serve as a “backup” for states’ efforts to obtain needed supplies.
“I mean, the surgeon general alluded to Pearl Harbor,” said Inslee, a Democrat. “Can you imagine if Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, ‘I’ll be right behind you, Connecticut. Good luck building those battleships.’ Look, we need a national mobilization of the manufacturing base of the United States.”
The governor of Illinois, Democrat J.B. Pritzker, said states lacked the power to invoke the Defense Production Act and therefore could not compel manufacturers to meet critical needs.
“The president does not understand the word ‘federal’ -- Federal Emergency Management Agency,” Pritzker said on CNN. “We have a state emergency management agency, but if he were right, why would we ever need a Federal Emergency Management Agency?
“It’s because individual states can’t possibly do what the federal government can do,” he said.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat who, like Inslee, has been the target of heated personal attacks by Trump, said Sunday that more robust testing efforts were needed to help public health experts tamp down scattered outbreaks before they became major conflagrations.
“My job is to do everything I can to protect the 10 million people of Michigan,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.” “Michigan is a hot spot; we need assistance, and I’m grateful for any partnership at the federal level.”
Some GOP governors who have avoided criticizing Trump or the federal response cited worsening situations in their states. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson talked about the challenges of procuring personal protective equipment for medical personnel.
“It’s difficult,” the Republican governor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Arkansas, he said, had sometimes been “outbid by another state after we’ve had the order confirmed.”
He added: “It literally is a global jungle that we’re competing in now.”
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, said his state was running out of ventilators and hospital beds. New Orleans is weathering one of the nation’s worst outbreaks.
“We now think it’s probably around the 9th of April before we exceed our ventilator capacity, based on the current number on hand,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Edwards said the state was “a couple days behind that on [intensive-care] bed capacity being exceeded.”
In New York, however, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said there were potential signs of hope. The state has suffered the nation’s worst outbreak.
He said at a news briefing on Sunday in Albany that the number of deaths had been dropping in the last few days, along with the number of new hospitalizations,. He said, however, it was “too early to tell” what that signaled.
Surgeon general calls coming week ‘our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment’
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said Sunday the coming week was going to be “the hardest and saddest of most Americans’ lives,” likening the projected toll from COVID-19 to “our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.
”More than 310,000 cases of the disease caused by the coronavirus have been reported, and the nationwide death toll is nearing 8,500.
Adams, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” urged Americans to follow social-distancing guidelines and to wear face coverings in public to help slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week called on Americans to wear masks when outside their homes, but Trump said Friday: “I don’t see it for myself.”
“The president is making a choice that is appropriate for him,” said the surgeon general, who has released a video showing how to make a simple homemade face covering with fabric and rubber bands. Wearing a mask, he cautioned, is not a substitute for social distancing.
Adams also deflected questions about the need for a nationwide stay-at-home order. Trump has said he prefers to leave the decision to governors, nine of whom have not issued such a directive in their states.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease specialist, said last week he did not understand why there was no nationwide stay-at-home order. Adams said in the Fox interview that the federal government’s guidelines, which are voluntary, were “essentially” a national order.
“Over 90% of the country is staying home,” he said.
Federal court panel denies motion to force California prisons to move inmates out of harm’s way
A federal court panel has denied an emergency motion to force California prison officials to move thousands of inmates out of harm’s way of the coronavirus.
“We are living in unprecedented times. The spread of COVID-19 is a global crisis, a crisis that is heightened in the most vulnerable groups among us,” the 15-page ruling begins.
The request by prisoners’ attorneys for mass releases in the face of that virus is “understandable,” and inmates have an 8th Amendment right to be protected from disease, the ruling states. But the three-judge panel ruled it is the wrong judicial panel to decide such a case.
The federal panel was created in 2007 to address chronic prison overcrowding, and affirmed in 2009 by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The judges Saturday said the question of protecting prisoners from COVID-19 belongs before a single court, such as one overseeing inmate medical care.
“We take no satisfaction in turning away Plaintiffs’ motion without reaching the important question of whether Defendants have implemented constitutionally adequate measures to protect the inmates of California’s prisons from the serious threat posed by this unparalleled pandemic,” the judges wrote. And they add, “It is likely that only through significant effort will California’s prisons be able to minimize the spread of COVID-19.”
Video: Spyder Surfboards sets up build-your-own skateboard drive-through
With the coronavirus leading to stay-at-home orders for most businesses, Dennis Jarvis, owner of Spyder Surfboards, and his family decided to think outside the box and set up a build-your-own skateboard drive-through.
Delaware police use checkpoints for governor’s travel order
WILMINGTON, Del. — Delaware police are enforcing Gov. John Carney’s latest order to blunt the spread of COVID-19 in part with checkpoints designed to discourage out-of-state visitors from entering the state.
Carney’s order allows any Delaware law enforcement officer to stop a vehicle with out-of-state tags except when they’re traveling on interstates.
State police did just that as they stood outside a Claymont shopping center on Friday. Officers asked out-of-state drivers among the 500 that passed through whether they had essential business at the shopping center, and turned them back if they didn’t, The News Journal of Wilmington reported.
No citations issued or arrests were made during Friday’s operation. Violating an emergency order is a misdemeanor, and can be punishable by a fine or prison time.
Troopers also performed similar patrols on roads in the Claymont area on Thursday night, a police news release said.
Carney’s order also tells out-of-state travelers, with some small exceptions, to self-quarantine for 14 days if they arrive in Delaware. A stay-at-home order has been in effect for almost two weeks.
As of Saturday, evening Delaware reported close to 600 positive COVID-19 cases and at least 14 deaths. The number of people with the virus who were hospitalized neared 100.
Pandemic exposes low pay and scant protections for nursing assistants and home-care aides
When she heard friends working at Lowe’s were in line for $300 hazard-pay bonuses, Allanah Smit wondered why her employer, Memorial Hospital in Gulfport, Miss., had no such plans. “Healthcare workers deserve hazard pay too,” she declared on Twitter. “Yes, we chose this profession, but we didn’t sign up to fight a global pandemic with ONE N-95 respirator and improper PPE.”
As a certified nursing assistant, Smit makes just over $14 an hour to bathe, feed, and reposition patients recovering from car accidents, strokes, and major surgeries like hip replacements. When elective surgeries were suspended last week as the coronavirus spread from hot spots such as New Orleans, Smit began caring for patients with symptoms of COVID-19.
As the healthcare system braces for the full impact of the pandemic, the shortage of doctors and nurses in epicenters like New York has gotten massive attention.
Less scrutiny has been paid to home health aides, personal care aides and certified nursing assistants — who collectively represent the largest category of healthcare workers in the country, nearly 5 million people working across a fragmented landscape that includes teaching hospitals and nursing homes, as well as homes and apartments. These are jobs that do not require an associate’s degree.
Even in hospitals, where wages are higher and full-time employment is the norm, these workers are typically paid less than $15 an hour. The pandemic has highlighted the low pay, lack of equipment and scant job security for these workers.
Trump pushes for return of sports, says it will happen ‘sooner rather than later’
President Trump, who spoke to commissioners from various sports leagues earlier in the day, said at Saturday news briefing that he was eager to have fans back in the arenas “whenever we’re ready, as soon as we can.”
“The fans want to be back too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey,” he said. “They want to see their sports. They want to go out to the golf courses.”
Trump added: “I can’t tell you a date, but I think it’s going to be sooner rather than later.”
At the news briefing, Trump said there was no contingency plan for the Republican National Convention, which is scheduled for Aug. 24-27 in North Carolina.
“We think by the end of August we’ll be in good shape,” he said.
California starts to arrest and charge violators of Safer at Home orders
As California officials try desperately to keep people inside to slow the spread of the coronavirus, authorities are beginning to crack down on scofflaws.
The crackdown has escalated in recent days, with nonessential businesses that refuse to shut down as well as people who defy orders to stay out of the water finding themselves in the crosshairs.
Los Angeles prosecutors on Friday filed criminal charges against two smoke shops, a shoe store and a discount electronics retailer, accusing them of refusing to shut down despite orders imposed to fight the coronavirus. It marks the first time the city has filed charges for violations of the “Safer at Home” order, which requires businesses deemed nonessential to close their doors to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
A paddle boarder was arrested Thursday after ignoring lifeguards’ orders to get out of the ocean near the Malibu Pier despite beach closures. County lifeguards patrolling the shore by boat tried to get the man to come ashore. Despite repeated orders to exit the water, the man continued paddle boarding for at least 30 minutes. Lifeguards eventually flagged down Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies who responded by boat to help, according to the Sheriff’s Department.
Spain starts to see slowdown in new cases
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez says that his nation, ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, is “starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Sánchez said that, if the current slowdown of the outbreak continued, Spain was on course to reduce its cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Current numbers show Spain has 124,000 cases of COVID-19 and over 11,000 deaths.
Sánchez gave a televised address to the nation Saturday and said Spain was close to reducing the spread of the virus. He implored citizens “to make more sacrifices” during the crisis.
Sánchez used the address to announce that the government planned to extend the lockdown of the country until April 26. Spain has been under lockdown orders for three weeks.
Strict limitations that have kept people at home except for shopping for food and medicine, as well as the closure of nonessential businesses, are believed to have helped Spain reduce its rate of contagion, which topped 20% last week, to 6% on Saturday.
Sánchez warned that when restrictions are loosened they will be rolled back gradually. He says it is unclear when all normal activities will be resumed.
New York to receive 1,000 ventilators from China, Gov. Andrew Cuomo says
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday that China was facilitating the shipment of 1,000 ventilators to his state and that he was continuing to shop for more of the lifesaving devices.
The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded a quarter of a million, with the death toll climbing past 7,000; more than 3,500 of those deaths were in New York state. Cuomo said the ventilators from China were expected to arrive Saturday.
“This is a big deal and it’s going to make a significant difference for us,” Cuomo said, adding that the state of Oregon also is sending 140 ventilators to New York. Cuomo is also looking for ventilators closer to home and has issued an order that forces even private hospitals in the state to redistribute ventilators to the hospitals most in need.
“I want this all to be over,” Cuomo said. “It’s only gone on for 30 days since our first case. It feels like an entire lifetime.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Saturday that Oregon planned to send 140 ventilators to New York.
President Trump announced late Friday he would prevent the export of N95 protective masks and surgical gloves to ensure they were available in the U.S. — prompting neighboring Canada’s prime minister to respond that cross-border aid goes well beyond supplies.
“I think of the thousands of nurses who cross the bridge in Windsor to work in the Detroit medical system every day,” Justin Trudeau said. “These are things Americans rely on.”
China honors virus victims with 3 minutes of reflection
With air raid sirens wailing and flags at half-staff, China held a three-minute nationwide pause for reflection on Saturday to honor those who had died in the coronavirus outbreak, especially “martyrs” who fell ill while fighting what has become a global pandemic.
Commemorations took place at 10 a.m. in all major cities but were particularly poignant in Wuhan, the industrial city where the virus was first detected in December.
Wuhan was placed under complete lockdown on Jan. 23 in an effort to stem the spread of the virus. It’s been lauded as a “heroic city” by the nation’s communist leadership for the sacrifices made by its 11 million citizens.
People have gradually been allowed to travel into and out of Wuhan under strict conditions. The quarantine in the city is to be formally lifted on Wednesday.
In Beijing, President Xi Jinping led other top officials, all dressed in black suits with white carnations, as they bowed before a flag at half-staff in the leadership compound of Zhongnanhai.
On Saturday, China reported one new confirmed case in Wuhan and 18 among people arriving from abroad, along with four new deaths, all in Wuhan. China now has recorded a total of 81,639 cases and 3,326 deaths, although those figures are generally considered to be understated because of a lack of testing and a reluctance to report the scale of the original outbreak.
China’s slow, cautious emergence from the global pandemic comes as the U.S. is struggling to deal with an outbreak that has taken more than 1,860 lives in New York City alone. Hard-hit European nations Italy, Spain and France are also seeing rising numbers of cases and deaths, although strict social distancing measures such as those adopted by China appear to be having an effect.
The State Council, China’s Cabinet, ordered that national flags be flown at half-staff around the country and at Chinese embassies and consulates abroad, and the suspension of all public recreational activities. The horns of automobiles, trains and ships joined in what China’s official Xinhua News Agency called a “wail in grief” for three minutes. China has held such moments of silence in the past, often to mark World War II-era atrocities by Japan, but rarely on a national scale.
Despite lockdown, Argentines awaiting government assistance line up in droves
Argentines left their homes in droves as banks reopened their branches to give out government assistance.
Thousands of pensioners and citizens who receive government welfare lined up outside banks to get their monthly payments. Branches, which have been closed since a nationwide lockdown began March 20, reopened Friday so citizens who couldn’t receive the payments on debit could get their cash.
The long lines underscore some of the strains that have been created by the coronavirus pandemic in a country where less than half of the population has a bank account. About 4% of pensioners don’t have a bank account, according to data from the pension agency Anses.
“It’s disappointing to see so many pensioners out; the largest risk group is on the streets,” said Damian Otuono, who runs a local food company, while he stood in line outside a branch of Banco Supervielle to deposit cash for his company. “It makes the lockdown feel worthless.”
The banks is open over the weekend so people can continue to receive their funds, according to a notice published by the central bank.
“The situation was overwhelming,” central bank chief Miguel Pesce said in an interview with Radio La Red. “We’re facing a situation that’s unprecedented around the world; there isn’t a guide to handling this situation.”
Argentina was one of the first countries in the region to order a lockdown, allowing citizens to leave their homes only for essential tasks. The lockdown was extended until April 12 as the government aims to avoid a full-scale health crisis. Argentina has 1,265 confirmed cases of the virus and 37 deaths.
“We’re asking that only pensioners with an urgent need go to the banks,” said Alejandro Vanoli, head of the state-run pension agency Anses, in an interview with local TV. “We’re calling for those who can resolve their needs online to use those channels.”
Trump administration tries to narrow stockpile’s role for states
The Trump administration has abruptly changed its description of the Strategic National Stockpile and put forward a narrower vision of the role the federal government’s repository of life-saving medicines and equipment should play in supplying states’ needs.
The change comes as the White House already is facing growing anger and worry from governors over federal assistance to fight the coronavirus outbreak. But it conforms with President Trump’s insistence that the stockpile is only a short-term backup for states, not a commitment to ensure supplies get quickly to those who need them most during an emergency, the latest front in a concerted White House effort to try to put the onus for battling the crisis on the states, with Washington meant to play more of a supporting role.
Trump angrily defended the approach in his Friday news conference, his early sunny demeanor darkening as he was pressed on expected death rates and comments by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, suggesting the national stockpile was not intended for states. He sparred with reporters and insisted his administration was “doing our best for New York,” the pandemic’s epicenter, even as Gov. Andrew Cuomo has warned the state is in danger of not having enough ventilators to help patients stricken with coronavirus in a matter of days.
Sean Penn’s nonprofit boosts COVID-19 testing efforts in Los Angeles
As the need for COVID-19 testing grows, the city of Los Angeles received an unexpected boost from actor Sean Penn and his nonprofit organization, Community Organized Relief Effort. The group, known as CORE, has been working with L.A. officials to run operations at some coronavirus drive-through testing facilities.
“We are accustomed to working in foreign places supporting other communities,” Penn said in an emailed statement. “In this situation, every single one of us responding, including myself, are also experiencing the impact of this crisis in our own personal lives.”
According to Los Angeles Deputy Mayor Jeff Gorell, CORE’s efforts will allow more city and county residents to be tested while freeing up first responders, including firefighters, for other emergency services.
39 million masks for hospitals never materialized. Federal officials are investigating
They had seemingly done the impossible. The union that represents healthcare workers in California announced it had arranged the purchase of 39 million N95 masks for hospitals and government agencies that badly need the protective equipment.
Among the intended recipients was Kaiser Permanente, which placed orders for 6 million masks.
A week later, none of those masks have materialized, and Kaiser is cooperating with a federal fraud investigation into the deal, a spokesman for the health plan confirmed.
Economy in shambles, Trump scrambles for new 2020 message
WASHINGTON —When President Trump battled impeachment early this year, his reelection campaign staff blasted out Facebook ads, texts and emails to donors and supporters, arguing that he was delivering gonzo job figures and a soaring stock market in the face of bitter partisan obstruction.
Those ads drew Trump’s highest audiences on Facebook, his campaign’s chief advertising platform, which it has used to test out thousands of messages and images since the 2016 election.
Now with the nation’s economy reeling, more than 10 million Americans out of work and the stock market plummeting 30%, Trump and his aides are struggling to find a new message he can take to Americans for the November election.
14 cases of COVID-19 among California homeless population
There have been 14 cases of COVID-19 in the homeless population across the state, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday.
The cases came from Los Angeles, San Francisco, Contra Costa, Ventura and Fresno. Newsom made clear that there were likely more cases lurking out there as testing ramps up.
“By the way, that’s an undercount,” he said during his news conference outside a motel in Sacramento that would be housing vulnerable homeless individuals.
“We know that’s just what’s been reported to us, but there’s heightened concern around the need to do more in our congregate facilities to isolate people into shelters like this and provide those basic essential services as we work through this crisis. ”
This count includes one homeless man who passed away in Santa Clara county last month.
The state hopes to lease up 15,000 rooms for homeless people, and counties have gotten 869 homeless individuals who are vulnerable to the virus into shelter.
So far 6,867 hotel and motel rooms have been committed to this effort.
During her news briefing Friday, Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said there were seven homeless individuals with confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the county. That was down from nine the day before, because upon further investigation, two of the people that were included in the count the day before were not actually homeless.
CIF announces high school spring sports season is canceled
The California Interscholastic Federation announced on Friday that the remainder of the high school spring sports season has been canceled.
The 10 section commissioners from around the state held a teleconference and confirmed they had run out of options in the face of a growing number of school districts announcing this week that their schools would remain closed because of social distancing measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
The big remaining state championship was in track and field, which was scheduled for May 29-30 at Buchanan High School in Clovis.
Preakness Stakes postponed
The Preakness Stakes, normally the second leg of horse racing’s Triple Crown, was postponed Friday, but no new date was announced. The move was expected given the uncertainty of everything in the wake of the coronavirus. The race was supposed to be held on May 16.
Last month the Kentucky Derby, scheduled for May 2, was moved to Sept. 5. At the time, Churchill Downs suggested that the Preakness and Belmont Stakes would follow. But, at the time neither The Stronach Group, which runs the Preakness in Baltimore, nor the New York Racing Assn, which puts on the Belmont, had made any decisions about the races.
Supreme Court postpones April oral arguments
The court said Friday it is postponing the arguments scheduled for later in April, including cases from Colorado and Washington on whether the unknown “electors” who are chosen by their state’s voters in November must follow the wishes of those voters.
But the court said it has not resolved how or when it will decide the cases from March and April. Earlier this week, the court had been scheduled to hear arguments on whether House Democrats may obtain President Trump’s tax returns. That dispute is now on hold.
Friday’s statement was a bit vague.
“The court will consider rescheduling some cases from the March and April sessions before the end of the term, if circumstances permit in light of public health and safety guidance at that time. The court will consider a range of scheduling options and other alternatives if arguments cannot be held in the courtroom, “ it said. Usually, the court hears arguments through the end of April and decides all of those cases by the end of June. But the summer recess is a tradition, not a legal requirement. The justices could remain in Washington for July or August.
They also may opt to decide the cases from March and April based on the legal briefs and without a public oral argument. Meanwhile, some business continues as normal. The court has been holding Friday morning conferences remotely, with only Chief Justice John Roberts present at the Court. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who turned 87 in late March, is still going to her private workouts sessions at the Court with her trainer Bryant Johnson.
He told the legal website Law 360, “The only reason why I didn’t shut the justice down is because, hey, she ain’t having it.”
Attempts for Middle East ceasefires amid the crisis have not stopped the fighting
BEIRUT —With governments worldwide increasing health measures to keep the spread of the deadly coronavirus at bay, one might think there would be virtually no time for waging war.
But it hasn’t turned out that way, at least not in parts of the Middle East.
Despite calls for a global ceasefire — “It’s time to put armed conflict on lockdown,” said U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a statement in March — regional conflicts appear to be immune to the coronavirus even as more than 4,000 have died across the Middle East and almost 90,000 people have confirmed cases.