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    U.S. Attorney General William Barr will be a featured speaker Wednesday at the National Religious Broadcasters convention in Tennessee. U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Jay Sekulow, one of the attorneys who defended President Donald Trump during his impeachment trial, are also on the schedule. Barr's afternoon presentation is part of a forum that will explore how the First Amendment should handle “divergent, and sometimes clashing, religious faiths,” according to the convention schedule. DeVos and Sekulow will form part of a morning panel discussing public policy. National Religious Broadcasters, or NRB, describes itself as an international association of Christian communicators. Members subscribe to a conservative statement of faith that includes a belief in the infallibility of the Bible, a belief that marriage is between one man and one woman and a belief that men and women have “distinct roles.' The convention at a Nashville hotel runs through Friday.
  • Senate Democrats on Tuesday blocked a pair of Republican bills that would ban most late-term abortions and threaten prison for doctors who don't try saving the life of infants born alive during abortions. The measures have been defeated multiple times in recent years, but Senate Republicans pushed for renewed votes to allow GOP lawmakers to make an election-year appeal to conservative voters. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accused Democrats of bowing to “the radical demands of the far left' to “drown out common sense” and the views of millions of Americans. 'It almost defies belief that an entire political party could find cause to object to this basic protection for babies,'' the Kentucky Republican said. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer blasted McConnell for taking up the Senate's time on what he called 'fake, dishonest and extreme legislation that has nothing to do with improving the lives of ordinary Americans.'' Noting that existing laws protect infants, Schumer said the GOP bills would, in effect, “criminalize' women’s reproductive care and intimidate health care providers. “Putting these already defeated bills up for a show vote is not a good faith attempt to improve the lives of ... American women,'' the New York Democrat said. 'Every single Senate Republican knows that these bills cannot and will not pass. But they’re putting them on the floor anyway to pander to the hard right. And to cover up the fact that they won’t provide good health care for women.'' Senators voted 56-41 for the born-alive bill, and 53-44 for a separate measure banning most abortions after 20 weeks. Both tallies were short of the 60 votes needed to end Democratic delaying tactics and force a Senate vote. Democratic Sens. Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Doug Jones of Alabama and Joe Manchin from West Virginia were the only lawmakers to cross party lines on the born-alive bill. Jones and GOP Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska opposed the late-term abortion ban. Three senators seeking the Democratic nomination for president — Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota - did not cast votes. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said the Senate debate was not about passing laws or even health care. 'It is really about Republicans’ crass political calculation that they can fire up their far-right base with an all-out war against the constitutionally protected right to safe, legal abortion,'' she said. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said the bill he sponsored was not about limiting access to abortion at all. Instead, the bill is intended to make sure that every newborn baby 'has a fighting chance — whether she’s born in a labor and delivery ward or whether she’s born in an abortion clinic.” Sasse's bill would make it a crime to deny care to a baby that’s survived an abortion. “Are we a country that protects babies that are alive, born outside the womb after having survived a botched abortion?'' he asked. Or is the United States a country “that says it’s okay to just sit back and allow that baby to die? It’s a plain and simple question and we all know what the right answer is,'' Sasse said. ”This isn’t a hard call.” A separate bill sponsored by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., would essentially ban abortion after 20 weeks, the point at which many scientists say an unborn child can feel pain. Graham said he believe a majority of Americans oppose allowing abortion in the fifth month of pregnancy. The United States is currently one of seven countries in the world that permit elective abortion after 20 weeks. 'The United States should not be in that club,'' Graham said. The two votes marked the latest instance in which Republicans have tried to go on offense on the issue of abortion and put Democratic lawmakers who support abortion rights in an uncomfortable position. 'It’s hard to believe that, in 21st century America, the life of a baby more than halfway through pregnancy is considered up for debate, but it’s true,'' said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a group that works to elect anti-abortion candidates. Opponents, noting the rarity of such births and citing laws making it a crime to kill newborn babies, said the GOP bills were unnecessary. They called the proposals part of a push by abortion opponents to curb access to the procedure and intimidate doctors who perform it, and said late-term abortions generally occur when the infant is considered incapable of surviving after birth. Only 1% of all abortions occur after 21 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights. Abortions during the final weeks are rarer still. Doctors' and abortion-rights groups say it is extremely unusual for live infants to be born during attempted late-term abortions, which they say usually occur when the baby is extremely deformed or deemed unable to survive after birth. In such cases, families sometimes decide they want to induce labor so they can spend time with the infant before it dies. “Families across the country have actually faced these decisions, have spoken out to make clear politicians should have no part in them,'' Murray said. ”Pressing for these awful bills year after year may be nothing more than a cynical political tactic for Republicans, but passing them would be an unconscionable exercise in cruelty.'' ___ Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this story. __ This story corrects the vote counts on both bills. An earlier version reversed the vote counts.
  • Republican U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter's resignation from Congress last month after pleading guilty to a corruption charge unleashed a GOP slugfest over the vacancy in one of the party's few remaining House seats in California. Most of the action in the 50th District involves two Republican heavyweights: Darrell Issa, who is seeking a return to Congress after leaving his seat in a neighboring district two years ago, and Carl DeMaio, a well-known San Diego radio host and political commentator. Both have questioned the other's loyalty to President Donald Trump and called the other a liar. Issa recently faced backlash, including from some Republican supporters, for an advertisement that included references to headlines noting the sexual orientation of DeMaio, who is gay. Critics said it amounted to gay-baiting. The headlines were from media outlets, and Issa said the ad was meant to draw attention to DeMaio's failures on issues. “I think it’s an illustration of how civil wars are the nastiest wars,' said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College. The 50th is an outlier in California, a strongly conservative district in a state where Republicans hold just six of 53 House seats. And for almost 40 years, a Hunter represented the area east of San Diego — Duncan Hunter Sr. served 28 years and was followed by his son, a combat Marine who held the seat for 11 years. Hunter Sr., still widely revered in the district, has endorsed Issa. His son faces sentencing March 17. Under California election rules, the top two vote-getters in the March 3 primary advance to the general election, regardless of party affiliation. There are four Republicans running, and it's expected the votes among them will be divided such that the only Democrat in the field, 31-year-old former Obama administration official Ammar Campa-Najjar, will advance and face one of them in November. Campa-Najjar lost a close race to Hunter in 2018. It's been an expensive battle for Issa and DeMaio. Issa has spent about $2.7 million and has about $1.4 million cash on hand, while DeMaio has spent about $2 million and had more than $724,000 cash on hand by the end of February, according to the Federal Election Commission. Issa, a car alarm magnate, was for years the wealthiest member of Congress. He built a national reputation and became a GOP darling when he chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and emerged as the chief congressional antagonist to then-President Barack Obama. After narrowly winning reelection in 2016, Issa, 66, decided not to run again two years later in the seaside 49th District where Democrats had been gaining ground for years. Democrat Mike Levin easily won the open seat, part of a Democratic sweep of seven GOP seats in California. DeMaio, a former San Diego city councilman, said Issa “fled” the 49th, but Issa said he retired to accept Trump's nomination to be director of the U.S. Trade and Development Agency. Issa's confirmation languished in the Senate for a year. He then withdrew and in September entered the race for Hunter's seat. The animosity between Issa and DeMaio, 45, was evident from the start. On the day Issa announced his candidacy DeMaio held a dueling news conference yards away. The candidates share similar agendas that support Trump's stands on issues such as stricter immigration enforcement and gun rights. But each has tried to make voters believe the other is not truly in step with the president, who has not endorsed either candidate. A new Issa TV ad alleges DeMaio encouraged people to vote Libertarian in the 2016 election and called Trump a “pig” on his radio show. DeMaio responded with his own ad pointing out that Issa in 2017 supported calling a special prosecutor to investigate alleged ties between between Trump’s campaign and Russia. The ad calls Issa “another Mitt Romney, lying to you, betraying President Trump.' Romney, a Utah senator, was the only Republican to vote to convict Trump in the Senate impeachment trial. The San Diego Union-Tribune, the largest local newspaper, is fed up with both candidates. It said a 'general election without this pair’s vitriol would be a blessing,' and endorsed Republican state Sen. Brian Jones and Campa-Najjar, saying both are more focused on serving the district where they have long lived. Issa and DeMaio don't live in the district. Rae Moore, a Democratic voter, hopes the infighting will help flip the district. She said DeMaio and Issa have had their time in politics. “We need regular, normal people,' said Moore, a lifelong resident of Lakeside, a Western-style town that welcomes people with a sign topped by a cowboy on a bucking bronco. Leslie Lacher, 63, said keeping the district in Republican hands is paramount, and she believes Issa is the best choice. She noted DeMaio fell short in his bids in 2012 for San Diego mayor and in 2014 for the 52nd Congressional District, and led a failed effort to repeal a state gas tax increase in 2018. “I want somebody strong,' Lacher said. “I want somebody who can win.' Brittany Markham, 32, said the district needs DeMaio. The stay-at-home mom described him as an 'outsider kinda like Trump who can get things done.' Hair stylist Danielle Newton, 43, said the slugfest has her head spinning about who would be best to replace Hunter, a former schoolmate she always supported. She liked how Hunter and his father were involved in the community. “I'd like to think we have to have someone out there who still cares as much as the Hunters did,' she said.
  • A man held up a hostile poster a few rows behind Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin as she spoke. On other side of the room, allies hoisted a Slotkin-friendly banner. But what was perhaps most striking at Slotkin's first town hall since President Donald Trump's impeachment was a newfound sense of civility. Inside East Lansing High School's auditorium Friday there were no boos. No rowdy interruptions. No pauses in the program to let the tension pass, even in this swing House district at the center of a 2020 presidential battleground state. It was a sharp contrast from the five raucous public gatherings during the House impeachment proceedings last fall. The tenor suggested that Republican attacks on Democrats for backing impeachment may fall flat in some places. And it offered a snapshot of how effectively Democrats are making that turn from the doomed process to their agenda and the November elections. Slotkin, 43, does not adopt a harsh anti-Trump posture. She focuses instead on lowering prescription drug costs and making drinking water safe. She is testifying in Washington this week on infrastructure, and she'll soon introduce a border security bill. When asked, she'll discuss the contentious Democratic presidential primary, whether Trump himself is a national security threat and, of course, impeachment. At Slotkin's town hall on Friday, she did not mention what Trump calls “the i-word.” The issue only came up in the last audience question read by an aide: Does the congresswoman regret her vote to impeach? “There are some things that are more important than winning your next election,” Slotkin, a former CIA officer who worked under Republican and Democratic presidents, said from the stage. “So, I don't regret it.' Her standing with voters will ultimately be tested in November. Though she is considered a vulnerable freshman incumbent who ousted a Republican congressman, she maintains robust fundraising and the strong backing of her party in a district Trump won by 7 percentage points. Slotkin reported raising $1.3 million in the fourth quarter, and ended the year with nearly $2.9 million on hand — the most of any vulnerable Democrat, according to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. But that was a trend among this group of 42 Democrats in difficult races supported by the party's Frontline program. Republicans are struggling over who her opponent should be, with five hopefuls who spoke the night before Slotkin's town hall in conservative Livingston County. None has raised anything close to Slotkin's campaign cash. About a dozen showed up outside the town hall Friday to chant and carry signs that said things like “Impeach Slotkin.' Some of Slotkin's supporters answered them as they waited in line. A small group of of police officers watched. Paul Junge, a former TV broadcaster who is one of the five Republicans hoping to challenge Slotkin, suggested she's more like members of the liberal “Squad” of new congresswomen who called for Trump's impeachment virtually since their first day in Congress. “I think her judgment and her values are just out of step with the 8th District and we deserve better representation,' said Junge, who has nearly $235,000 on hand, including a loan to his campaign of $125,000. For Slotkin and Democrats like her, the question is whether voters buy the focus on local issues in the Twitter-centric Trump era, said Michigan GOP consultant John Sellek. In Slotkin's case, he pointed out, she sought a national profile by speaking widely about her background as a former CIA officer and taking leading roles on impeachment and Iran. “All these races are now nationalized,” Sellek said. “This entire election for the 8th Congressional District is not about East Lansing, Brighton and Rochester. Essentially it’s about President Trump.” On the subject of the president, Slotkin treads carefully. She's been clear that she's deeply troubled by his pressure on Ukraine to help him politically, as well as his effort to sideline members of the intelligence community. His emboldened conduct against the FBI after his acquittal, she said in an interview before the town hall, is concerning. Asked whether given the broad range of Trump's behavior and her expertise, he is a security threat, Slotkin pauses for a few seconds and references his decisions: Trump's pullout of Syria, his provocations against North Korea's Kim Jong Un and his deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “I think decidedly many of them make us less safe and are a threat to our national security,” Slotkin said in her district office. But she's quick to add that she agrees with Trump on some policies, such as the USMCA trade agreement. For Slotkin, the post-impeachment reality in a district both she and Trump won is about being a Democrat without siding with the party's more vocal progressives. So for now, she's not endorsing anyone in the ferocious Democratic presidential nominating contest. She won't watch their debates, because she is “embarrassed by the bickering.' She says she will, however, endorse the eventual Democratic presidential nominee. She also notes that a super PAC funded mostly by Mike Bloomberg, now a Democratic candidate for president, spent thousands of dollars on her 2018 election. “I just want someone who shows up and who takes Michigan seriously and who will explain how they're going to govern — and not just for blue America,” she said. Asked if she could see herself endorsing front-runner Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist and political anathema to centrists like Slotkin, she demurs. “We are a long way from there,” she says. Inside the hall later that night, a man a few rows from Slotkin briefly held up a sign with a lot of text that said, “Liberal Elissa Slotkin puts party before country always!” Elsewhere, the couple held a banner that said Slotkin “serves Michigan with integrity.' Slotkin herself explicitly called for civility — and the audience, which included several people with red Trump hats and pro-Trump signs, applauded. “In Michigan, we fight about sports,” Slotkin told the crowd. “That political polarization has been imported from Washington.”
  • Prioritizing pageantry over policy, President Donald Trump basked in India's welcoming embrace on a day that featured a mega-rally with cheering crowds, a mutual admiration show with his counterpart and a sunset tour of the famed Taj Mahal. Trump used Day One of his whirlwind 36-hour visit to India to reaffirm close ties with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and tease progress on a trade deal down the road. But the day was largely devoted to a trio of enviable photo-ops: the largest rally of Trump's presidency sandwiched between visits to a former home of independence leader Mohandas Gandhi and the Taj Mahal. In his first hours on the subcontinent, Trump received the adulatory reception that has eluded him on many foreign trips. More than 100,000 people packed the world's largest cricket stadium, nearly all of then wearing white caps with the name of the event, “Namaste, Trump.” But miles away in the capital of New Delhi, police used tear gas and smoke grenades to disperse a crowd of clashing protesters hours before Trump was due to arrive, as violence broke out over a new citizenship law that excludes Muslims. Anti-Trump street demonstrations also erupted in Kolkata, Hyderabad and Gauhati. Trump opened his rally speech in Ahmedabad on Monday by declaring that he had traveled 8,000 miles to deliver the message that “America loves India, America respects India and America will always be faithful and loyal friends to the Indian people.” He praised India as a place where different faiths “worship side by side in harmony” and made no mention of the new law that is raising fears that the country is moving toward a religious citizenship test. And yet, he emphasized his own administration's efforts to secure its borders and crack down on “radical Islamic terrorism.' The sun-baked city bustled around him, its streets teeming with people eager to catch a glimpse of the American president. The president's motorcade traveled newly cleaned roads planted with flowers and featuring elaborately costumed dancers and musicians as well as hundreds large of billboards featuring the president, Modi and first lady Melania Trump. Tens of thousands lined the route, making an impressive showing, but well short of the over-the-top prediction of up to 10 million that Trump had said Modi promised him would be on hand. His first stop was Gandhi's home, where Trump donned a prayer shawl and removed his shoes to walk through the humble ashram. He inspected the spinning wheel used by the famed pacifist and saw a statue of monkeys representing Gandhi's mantra of 'See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil.' Then it was on to a far more boisterous setting: the mega-rally at the world's largest cricket stadium. A battery of carefully chosen Modi loyalists and workers from his Bharatiya Janata Party lined the road to accord the president a grand welcome, which had the feel of a carnival. Tens of thousands of police officers were also on hand to keep security tight and a new wall was erected in front of a slum, apparently to hide it from the president's motorcade. Modi, a noted hugger, figuratively and literally embraced Trump at the start of the “Namaste Trump” rally that was, in a way, the back half of home-and-away events for the two men. Both had attended a “Howdy Modi” rally in Houston last year that drew 50,000 people. Trump lavished praise on both Modi and the democracy he leads, highlighting an effort to lift residents out of extreme poverty. “India gives hope to all of humanity,' he told the crowd. The stadium was packed with revelers, many of whom wore Trump and Modi masks as they sat in 80-degree heat. Yet scores of attendees, particularly those sitting in the sun, streamed out before Trump had finished his 27-minute speech. Before he arrived, the crowd listened to a medley of Bollywood hits and songs from Trump's usual campaign rally playlist, including Elton John numbers that seemed to puzzle some in the chanting, colorful crowd. Trump, whose foreign visits typically are light on sightseeing, told reporters traveling with him that he was eager to see the Taj Mahal, which he'd never visited, and later delighted in the immense white marble 17th century mausoleum in the city of Agra. As daylight began to fade, Trump and his wife posed for photos, including some in front of the iconic bench where Princess Diana sat alone in 1992 in what became an enduring image. ”Really incredible, an incredible place,” Trump told reporters as he stood in the structure's shadow. Local media had warned of the dangers of the monkeys that inhabit the landmark and pester tourists for food and, on occasion, menace both visitors and slingshot-carrying security guards. But the animals were successfully cleared from the site before the Trumps' visit. Trump's trip comes as he is in the midst of an election year and after he was acquitted by the Senate on impeachment charges. Foreign trips offer powerful political imagery for presidents facing reelection: They can be feted on the world stage while their rivals in the opposing party slog through visits to diners in early-voting states and clash in debates. This trip, in particular, reflects a Trump campaign strategy to showcase him in his presidential role and provide counter-programming to the Democrats’ primary contest. The visit also comes at a crucial moment for Modi, a fellow populist, who is saddled with a steep economic downturn and unfulfilled campaign promises on job creation. Trump will spend Tuesday in New Delhi, a bustling, noisy, colorful capital that also is dotted with half-finished construction projects stalled due to disappearing funding. The president also will hold meetings with Modi over stalled trade talks and attend a gala dinner. Their two nations are closely allied, in part to act as a bulwark against the rising influence of China. Trump announced at the stadium that India would soon buy $3 billion of American military equipment. But trade tensions between the two countries have escalated since the Trump administration imposed tariffs on steel and aluminum from India. India responded with higher penalties on agricultural goods and restrictions on U.S. medical devices. The U.S. retaliated by removing India from a decades-old preferential trade program. Trump voiced optimism during the rally that a deal could be reached but also lightheartedly said of Modi: “Everybody loves him, but I will tell you this: He’s very tough.” ___ Sheikh Saaliq contributed reporting. Lemire reported from New Delhi. Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann and Darlene Superville in Washington and Emily Schmall in New Delhi contributed to this report. ___ Follow Colvin on Twitter at http://twitter.com/colvinj and Lemire at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire
  • President Donald Trump said Sunday that he has never been briefed about Russian efforts to help Bernie Sanders win the Democratic presidential nomination and he accused the Democratic chairman of the House Intelligence Committee of leaking election security information from a classified briefing. Sanders acknowledged on Friday that he was briefed last month by U.S. officials about Russian efforts to boost his chances to be the nominee against Trump in November. ``I read where Russia is helping Bernie Sanders,' Trump told reporters before leaving on a trip to India. “Nobody said it to me. Nobody said it to me at all. Nobody briefed me about that at all. ... They leaked it.” He accused Rep. Adam Schiff of California, the committee chairman who played a lead role in Trump's impeachment, of leaking information from a classified briefing. “Schiff and his group, they leaked it to the papers and as usual,” Trump said. “They ought to investigate Adam Schiff for leaking that information. He should not be leaking information out of intelligence. They ought to investigate Adam Schiff.” Schiff said Trump's accusation was false. “Nice deflection, Mr. President. But your false claims fool no one,” Schiff tweeted. “You welcomed Russian help in 2016, tried to coerce Ukraine’s help in 2019, and won’t protect our elections in 2020.” Schiff also claimed that Trump “fired” Joseph Maguire this past week as acting national intelligence directo for “briefing Congress” about election interference from Russia. “You've betrayed America. Again,” Schiff tweeted. A nearly two-year investigation led by special counsel Robert Mueller concluded there was a sophisticated, Kremlin-led operation to sow division in the U.S. and upend the 2016 election by using cyberattacks and social media as weapons. Intelligence officials have warned Russia is doing the same in 2020. Trump, however, has remained skeptical about the Russian interference. Asked why Trump recently called Russian interference in the election 'another misinformation campaign' that is being 'launched by Democrats in Congress,' Marc Short, chief of staff for Vice President Mike Pence, defended the president. Short told NBC's “Meet the Press.' that Trump does want to stop foreign interference in the elections. Short also said Trump wants to have a briefing at the White House in the next couple weeks so 'we can tell the American people how we're making sure that our voting is safer.' Conflicting accounts emerged from the recent closed-door briefing that election security officials gave to the House committee on interference by Russia and other nations in the 2020 campaign. One intelligence official said that lawmakers were not told that Russia was working to directly aid Trump. But other people familiar with the meeting said they were told the Kremlin was looking to help Trump's candidacy. The people spoke on condition of anonymity to discussed the classified briefing. It's unclear whether the committee members were also briefed about Russian efforts to boost Sanders — a move that could be seen as beneficial to Trump's re-election bid. “I think what it could be is, you know, the Democrats are treating Bernie Sanders very unfairly and it sounds to me like a leak from Adam Schiff because they don’t want Bernie Sanders to represent them,' Trump told reporters on the South Lawn. Trump's national security adviser said Russia probably would favor Sanders. “They'd probably like him to be president, understandably, because he wants to spend money on social programs and probably would have to take it out of the military,' Robert O'Brien told CBS' “Face the Nation.” O'Brien claimed he had not seen any intelligence or analyses indicating that Russia was aiding Trump and neither had top leaders in the intelligence agencies. “The national security adviser gets pretty good access to our intelligence,' O'Brien told ABC's “This Week.'' “All I know is that the Republicans on the side of the House hearing were unhappy with the hearing and said that there was no intelligence to back up what was being said,” O'Brien said. 'But here's the deal: I don't even know if what's been reported as being said (by the briefers) is true. You know those are leaks coming out of that hearing.” O'Brien also denied reports that Trump became angry when he was told about the briefing and that he confronted Maguire and subsequently replaced him with the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell. O'Brien said Trump was not angry with Maguire and would have liked Maguire to stay in government in a different role. He said Maguire's time as acting director of national intelligence was up in early March and the White House needed an individual — someone who had already been confirmed by the Senate — to temporarily replace him. “Ambassador Grenell is there for a temporary period of time,” O'Brien said, adding that Trump was expected to announce a nominee to be quickly confirmed by the Senate as full-time director. The president has said he is considering three or four candidates. Short said Trump was frustrated that election security officials went to brief the House Intelligence Committee before briefing him, but Short denied that Maguire's exit was related to the congressional briefing. 'The president's frustration was that he wasn't briefed before they were briefed,' Short said. “So you had midlevel people going up into a very partisan environment that's supposed to be behind closed doors. ... The president's concern was exactly to say, 'Look, if you do that, they're going to say that the Russians are trying to help Donald Trump,' which is exactly what the leak said.”
  • Votersseeking to take back a U.S. Senate seat in closely divided North Carolina must choose whether liberal populism or centrist pragmatism is best suited to unseat Republican incumbent Thom Tillis, a devotee of President Donald Trump. Next month’s Democratic Senate primary has some parallels to the presidential race in that voters are trying to decide which candidate — and which philosophy — have the best shot at defeating the Republican incumbent. But it's not neatly delineated. The stakes are high in North Carolina, a presidential swing state that Trump won in 2016. Tillis is among a handful of Republican incumbents whom Democrats are targeting to take back control of the chamber. Underscoring the seat's importance, a mysterious PAC funded by a group with ties to Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has spent around $3 million in the Democratic primary to help a Senate candidate well behind in fundraising — an effort to create a taxing Democratic battle that could help Tillis stay in office. The leading candidates are ex-state legislator Cal Cunningham, an Iraq war veteran who ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate 10 years ago, and current state Sen. Erica Smith. Democrat Ella Nelson, 65, who attended a Black History Month parade in Durham where Cunningham and Smith appeared, said she was undecided on a choice but focused on finding someone who can beat Tillis. It’s about “replacing those that are not working for the people,” Nelson said. Cunningham has the endorsement of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. The committee, two pro-Cunningham super PACs and Cunningham's campaign have spent over $10 million for the primary, campaign finance reports show. Cunningham's campaign is “performing at a very high level, the level that the campaign needs to perform to unseat a Republican incumbent in a purple state and a battleground,” he said in a recent interview. Smith, a former engineer turned K-12 teacher and pastor from northeastern North Carolina, criticizes Cunningham as “the establishment’s pick” and says party leaders are stacking the deck against her as a black woman. Both candidates describe themselves as progressive and say they will support whoever becomes the Democratic presidential nominee. But they are clearly in separate political lanes. While Smith said she won't endorse a presidential candidate before the primary, her platform is aligned with those who embrace Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren on policies such as Medicare for All and the Green New Deal. Cunningham said he cast his absentee vote for moderate Pete Buttigieg, citing the candidate's focus on faith and their shared military service. Cunningham supports some kind of public insurance option — but not Medicare for All — and is a proponent of wind and solar power to combat climate change. He opposes efforts to decriminalize border crossings. In an interview, Smith described her platform as 'job creation, being able to have a livable wage, sustaining our planet, providing health care for all.” Smith, who had $128,000 cash in mid-February compared to $1.5 million for Cunningham, is building name recognition from an unlikely — and uncomfortable — source. The Faith and Power PAC, funded entirely so far from the Senate Leadership Fund, which is led by McConnell's former chief of staff, has spent $2.9 million on pro-Smith TV ads, mailers and phone banks and anti-Cunningham materials. “Who's got the courage to vote for ‘Medicare for All’? Erica Smith. The number one supporter of the Green New Deal? Erica Smith again,” a narrator of one of the ads says. Senate Leadership Fund President Steven Law embraced the narrative that it's meddling to weaken Cunningham, calling it 'more successful than we could have imagined.' While Cunningham has the inside track to the nomination, this unusual pro-Smith effort could help her, according to Mac McCorkle, a Duke University instructor and former Democratic consultant. Three other Democrats are on the ballot. “It still may put her above water, and it could be a competitive race,” McCorkle said, adding that Cunningham hasn't fully ceded the liberal mantle. “He talks about himself as a progressive, which I think that's smart.” Cunningham has run a counterattack ad against one Faith and Power PAC commercial. Meanwhile, Tillis -- heavily favored to win his own four-candidate primary — argues his eventual opponent will have an uncomfortable situation if Sanders wins the presidential nomination. “If Erica Smith believes people in North Carolina, and if Cal Cunningham believes people in North Carolina want Bernie Sanders and his liberal, progressive policies in place, then they need to be informed about it,” Tillis said in a news release. Tillis became one of President Trump’s most dependable supporters against impeachment; Cunningham and Smith have blasted him for it. With African Americans expected to cast 40% of primary ballots, Cunningham and Smith are aggressively courting black voters. Smith's endorsement by the influential Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People allowed her to stand on the group’s float in this month's parade. Smith supporter and state employee Phyllis Jones, 49, of Raleigh said she's excited a black woman is on the ballot. “We lend a voice in areas where we have been silent in the past,” Jones said. But race didn’t matter to 63-year-old Delmar Jones -- unrelated to Phyllis Jones -- saying he appreciated shaking hands with Cunningham and his views on impeachment: “He means business, and I like the message.
  • The Latest on the 2020 presidential campaign (all times local): 9:15 p.m. Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is lumping the “Democratic establishment” in with the corporate and Republican establishment and saying they can’t stop him. Sanders is the favorite in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses after winning New Hampshire and essentially tying for first in Iowa. His rivals and some party centrists have become alarmed that the self-declared democratic socialist could win the nomination as his opponents split the non-Sanders vote. Sanders is an independent who caucuses with Democrats. In Nevada he has stressed his independence from the party. On Friday night he went furthest yet. He said the establishment was “getting worried” about a multiracial coalition that wants higher wages and health care. “When we stand up together, they’re not going to stop us,” Sanders told a crowd in a Las Vegas park. 9 p.m. Sen. Amy Klobuchar capped a day of campaigning across Nevada telling a crowd in Reno she's the best candidate for those who are tired of extremes and want someone with proven experience who can bring people together. The Minnesota Democrat started Friday morning in Las Vegas and traveled to rural Elko before making one final plea for support in Reno before Saturday’s first-in-the West presidential caucuses. Klobuchar says she has a track record of being able to work not just with Democrats but also Republicans and independents to find common ground. She said it takes real courage to be willing to stand next to someone you don’t always agree with to find solutions. She told about 200 people Friday night in a Boys & Girls Club gym in Reno that if they are “tired of the noise and nonsense in our politics, and the extremes — you’ve got a home with me.” 8:50 p.m. Joe Biden is making his last pitch to supporters before seeking a badly needed boost for his campaign in Nevada’s Saturday caucuses. The former vice president excoriated President Donald Trump while speaking in front of about 250 supporters at a Las Vegas middle school, including the president’s downplaying of U.S. intelligence conclusions that Russia interfered in the 2016 election. Biden said Russia is also trying to affect “who becomes the nominee in the Democratic Party,” a reference to reports Friday that intelligence officials have concluded Russia is trying to interfere and help Trump’s re-election and to boost the candidates of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Biden said that though Trump was impeached, he wasn’t removed from office and “he thinks he has free reign to do anythIng at all.” 8:40 p.m. Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says he’ll never know the struggles that people of color endure but as president he’ll surround himself with people who do. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana was asked by a voter at his last campaign rally before the Nevada caucuses why polls show him lagging with voters of color. Buttigieg says he’ll never have the experience of a black man watched suspiciously in the mall or a black woman denied pain medication at a hospital. “That's the promise that I will make — that I will always show up. I will always listen. I will always learn and these voices will be elevated and empowered in my white house just as they are in my campaign,” Buttigieg told more than a 1,000 people in a middle school gym in Las Vegas. Buttigieg focused his closing message to Nevada voters on a call to unity, saying “we’ve got to put forward a nominee who can bring as many Americans as possible into a majority that can defeat Donald Trump.” He lobbed an implicit criticism at Bernie Sanders, saying Americans shouldn’t have to choose between a revolution and the status quo. 7:40 p.m. Sen. Elizabeth Warren made a last pitch to Nevada voters, saying Senate filibuster should be eliminated if lawmakers, like Senate leader Mitch McConnell, keep blocking gun control that many Americans support. Warren was holding a town-hall style event Friday in Las Vegas before the state’s voters become the first in the West to decide on a Democratic nominee. With the site of the biggest mass shooting in modern history about 5 miles away, Warren mentioned rival presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders by name in her comments about the obstacles to changing gun laws . “When other people who are running for president -- and I say this just as a factual statement -- like Bernie, who say they want to make real change but they will not roll back the filibuster, keep in mind what that means,” Warren said. “They have given a veto to the gun industry.” There were about 500 people at the event, according to Warren’s campaign. 6:40 p.m. The campaign of Democratic presidential candidate Tom Steyer says it has reached a tentative deal to unionize just ahead of the Nevada caucuses. The California billionaire climate activist’s campaign announced Friday it had reached an agreement with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 2325. Steyer’s campaign says a majority of field staff agreed to be represented by IBEW Local 2325, and the negotiated agreement will be subject to ratification by campaign staff. Labor support for candidates is expected to play a critical role in Saturday’s Nevada caucuses, and lobbying for union backing has been spirited. Staffs of several Democratic campaigns have unionized as the field lobbies to garner labor support ahead of the eventual nominee’s general election matchup with President Donald Trump. Other campaigns that have organized include Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden and former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg.
  • A federal judge on Friday dismissed a racketeering lawsuit brought by Republican Rep. Devin Nunes against the political research firm that enlisted a former British spy to look into Donald Trump’s ties to Russia during the 2016 presidential campaign. Nunes, the former chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and a vocal ally of Trump, had accused Fusion GPS in a lawsuit last year of harassing him and trying to impede his panel's investigation into Russian election interference. The lawsuit, which was filed in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, and also named a nonprofit advocacy group as a defendant, sought nearly $10 million in damages. Lawyers for Fusion denied the allegations, and U.S. District Judge Liam O'Grady dismissed the lawsuit in a two-page order Friday. “Defendants raise significant questions and make meritorious arguments as to both the sufficiency of the factual pleadings and the court's jurisdiction over these defendants,' O'Grady wrote. Fusion GPS was paid by Democrats in 2016 to investigate Trump's ties to Russia ahead of the election. As part of that work, Fusion enlisted a former British operative named Christoper Steele, who compiled his research into a series of files that came to be known colloquially as the Steele dossier.
  • President Donald Trump rallied supporters in the battleground state of Nevada on the eve of the state's caucuses and predicted chaos once again for Democrats for their management of the voting process, Looking to exploit Democratic divisions as he focuses on his reelection fight, Trump pointed to Iowa, where a tally of the caucus votes ended in chaos earlier this month. “I hear their computers are all messed up just like in Iowa,' Trump said of Nevada's Democrats. “They can't count votes.” Nevada scrapped its Republican caucuses last year, as is common when an incumbent is in the White House. It allows Trump to consolidate his support as the Democratic field remains bitterly divided. The state GOP will formally bind its delegates to Trump on Saturday. Trump was closing out a four-day, four-state political tour through the West that saw him hold three campaign rallies, a pair of high-dollar fundraisers and promote policies that benefited many of his supporters. Speaking to thousands of fans Friday at the Las Vegas Convention Center, Trump also rejected a fresh intelligence community assessment that Russia was seeking to interfere in the 2020 race just as it did in 2016 on Trump's behalf. “Here we go again,' Trump said, as the crowd booed. “Aren't people bored?” The president speculated that Russian President Vladimir Putin would prefer Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders as president. “Wouldn't he rather have say, Bernie, who honeymooned in Moscow?' Trump said. Sanders on Friday condemned Russian efforts to interfere in the 2020 election after The Washington Post reported U.S. officials have told him that Russia was trying to help his campaign. The statement did not confirm the report. Feeling his reelection odds rising after his acquittal in the Senate impeachment trial and his campaign’s record fundraising, Trump seized on the deep divisions and personal tiffs on display in this week's Democratic debate. Trump was still regaling his audiences with his critical assessments of the Democratic debate field, including former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, whom he's branded “mini Mike.' “We are going to win Nevada in a big, beautiful landslide,' Trump predicted. Trump called up to the stage members of the 1980 U.S. Olympic men's hockey team that defeated the Soviet Union's team in Lake Placid 40 years ago. Most were wearing Trump's signature red campaign hats.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Florida’s surgeon general is looking to start lab testing for the coronavirus in three cities across the state, and Jacksonville is one of them. Right now, Florida doesn’t have any working test kits so concerned patients have to go to Atlanta to be tested. Doctors at UF Health Jacksonville say they’re ready if the hospital starts taking on potential patients. “We routinely test ourselves against this,” says Chad Nielson with the infection control department. “We do simulations. We do readiness exercises. We are ready to handle one of these patients.” He says they have an area where a patient could be quarantined, and they’ve taken every precaution to make sure the virus won’t spread from the patient to the lab to the general public. “It’s very safe and there are a lot of structures in place,” he says. Florida did receive some test kits, but there was a problem with them so they were pulled. If more come, Nielson says they’ll be ready at UF Health Jacksonville.
  • Jacksonville leaders say that people are dying from the opioid crisis at such a high rate that the Duval County Medical Examiner’s Office needs to expand.  2019 was a violent year in Jacksonville, with 130 murders. There were nearly 160 opioid-related deaths in Northeast Florida last year. These numbers, and the growing population, has prompted the M.E. office to expand its department.  In the FY 2019-2020 approved budget, the City of Jacksonville agreed to allocate more funding to this department. The M.E. office said it will go toward more personnel and possibly more office space in Jacksonville.  The Duval County office serves four additional counties: Clay, Nassau, Columbia and Hamilton.  Action News Jax reached out to Chief Medical Examiner Dr. B. Robert Pietak for an interview, but he declined.  In a statement Pietak said in part, “Currently there are no backlog of cases at the office, however, based on the National Association of Medical Examiner’s guidelines we are recruiting for an additional forensic pathologist to join the office and maintain the recommended caseload of under 250 cases per doctor.”  The Florida Department of Health said Duval County is one of the top three Florida counties for opioid-related deaths. The department works with the city, Jacksonville Fire and Rescue and other local departments on treatment and prevention.  “Back in 2017, we were alarmed because we had over 441 opioid-related deaths,” Director of Maternal and Child Health Karen Tozzi said. “Because of that, we were targeted by the CDC to be able to get funding to work on preventing overdoses.”  The city started a pilot program with Gateway to create Project Save Lives. This put peer specialists in local emergency rooms to meet patients during treatment. Since then, Tozzi said they have seen a decrease in opioid-related deaths, but the number of patients spiked again in 2019.  “What we were finding is we were doing drug testing at the time people were coming into the emergency room and at that point we learned that it wasn’t just people are taking opioids. It was people taking other drugs with fentanyl and opioids in it.”  The department also partners with Drug-Free Duval for community awareness and prevention. More can be found here: http://www.floridahealth.gov/statistics-and-data/fl-dose/reports.html
  • The Jacksonville Beach Police Department is reaching out to the community for information about a trailer stolen from the Springing the Blues Festival with about $10,000 worth of equipment in it. It was parked on private property next to the Gate Station in South Jax Beach. According to JBPD, there is a video of suspects stealing the trailer, driving it up to the gas station and going inside.  Anyone who can identify them is asked to contact Cpl. Dan Watts, Jacksonville Beach Police Department, at 904-247-6341.  The Springing the Blues Festival is willing to officer a package of 6 VIP tickets for information leading to their arrest as a thank you.
  • A Texas 11-year-old was airlifted to a hospital last week following a physical confrontation with a teacher over a juice box, the boy’s mother said. Kiana Randolph told ABC13 in Houston that her son, Kamauri Williamson, required six stitches to close a large gash over his eyebrow. She told the news station that the injury resulted in his being airlifted to Texas Medical Center for treatment. Randolph said she first learned of her son’s injury when she received a call from the Post Elementary School nurse, who told her that her son was hurt during lunch. When she arrived at the school, she found her son being airlifted from campus. The distraught mother then learned Kamauri was hurt during an altercation over a juice box, during which a teacher accused him of stealing the drink. Randolph said the teacher banged the boy’s head on a desk. Portions of the fight were caught on surveillance cameras. “You see the teacher grab the hoodie and you see him, at one point, my son’s feet lift up off the ground,” Randolph told ABC13. “He’s basically being choked.” Officials with the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District released a statement to the news station. “A Post Elementary School student had a medical emergency last Wednesday that precipitated the need for emergency treatment,” the statement read. “The employee was placed on administrative leave, and the incident is currently under investigation.” Randolph said she never thought something like this would happen to her son. They’re supposed to be in a safe place while you’re at work, and to get this type of reaction of a head being busted open, especially over a juice box,” she said, frustrated. “Nobody deserves this, especially my son.” A lawyer for the family told ABC13 he has trust in the justice system. “I hope this guy is going to be prosecuted for doing something that he shouldn’t have,” attorney Adam Ramji said. “More so, I think that example is being made and other teachers need to be aware that if you’re around children, there’s a certain way to manage it and there’s definitely a certain way not to manage it.” Randolph said the teacher needs to not work with children anymore. “Just, not at all,” she said. “That was just very, very upsetting to watch as a mother. It’s very hurtful. No one’s child should be treated like that in any manner.”
  • The death toll attributed to the 2019 novel coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, continues to rise, with tens of thousands of people sickened and thousands of others killed by the virus, mostly in China. Here are the latest updates:   Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirms first case of unknown origin in Northern California  Update 8:15 p.m. EST Feb. 26: The CDC told The Sacramento Bee Wednesday that a confirmed case in Northern California is of an unknown origin. The person is resident of Solano County and is being treated in Sacramento, according to KRON. The CDC told KRON that the patient has not travelled to a foreign country and has not been in contact with a confirmed case. It is possible that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected the CDC said in a release. The CDC said that it is possible that this is an instance of community spread of COVID-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States. Community spread means spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. Trump appoints Pence to lead response Update 7 p.m. EST Feb. 26: President Donald Trump put his vice president in charge of overseeing the nation’s response. He will be working with the government’s top health authorities and Trump’s earlier-appointed coronavirus task force, to oversee the response. California: Orange County to declare local health emergency Update 4:45 p.m. EST Feb. 26: Officials in Orange County, California, are expected to declare a local health emergency later Wednesday in response to increasing cases of the coronavirus in the United States, the Los Angeles Times reported. County supervisors Michelle Steel and Andrew Do called a news conference in Santa Ana to discuss the declaration, the newspaper reported. Orange County has one confirmed case of the coronavirus, a man in his 50s who has since recovered, according to the county’s Health Care Agency website. Norway has first case Update 3:45 p.m. EST Feb. 26: Norway has its first positive test for coronavirus, CNN reported. The person had no symptoms but had recently returned from an area of China that is a hotbed for the virus. The result was weak, officials with Norway’s Institute for Public Health said. More new cases outside of China than in Update 2:57 p.m. EST Feb. 26: For the first time since the outbreak started, there are more new cases of coronavirus in a single day outside of China than inside the country. The World Health Organization says China had only 412 newly confirmed cases Wednesday. There were 459 new cases over the rest of the world, CNN reported. As for the US, there are a total of 60 cases with 15 of them coming from travel or close contact with travelers, the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday, according to CNN. President Donald Trump to hold press conference with CDC Wednesday Update 8:39 a.m. EST Feb. 26: President Donald Trump says he will be holding a joint press conference with the CDC Wednesday at 6 p.m. EST. Trump and his supporters have been saying that virus is not as bad as it seems, saying via Twitter that news outlets “are doing everything possible to make the Caronavirus [sic] look as bad as possible, including panicking markets, if possible. Likewise their incompetent Do Nothing Democrat comrades are all talk, no action, USA in great shape!” The Washington Post reported. Earlier this year, Trump said that the coronavirus was under control in the US saying “It’s going to be just fine.” That statement was made during January’s World Economic Forum in Switzerland in January. At the time there was one person confirmed to have had coronavirus in Washington state. Now there are more than 50 people in the country who have tested positive, and the CDC has warned Americans to brace and prepare for a crisis, NBC News reported Tuesday. The CDC advised that the U.S. should prepare for disruptions to their daily lives like closing schools, working from home and delaying elective medical procedures, NBC News reported. Greece reports first confirmed; Italy struggles to contain outbreak Update 7:49 a.m. EST Feb. 26:  Greece has confirmed its first novel coronavirus case in a 38-year-old Thessaloniki woman. A health ministry spokeswoman told CNN the woman returned recently from an affected area in northern Italy. She is hospitalized, but is listed in good condition. Northern Italy – specifically the Lombardi region – has emerged as the European epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak. To date, more than 320 cases have been confirmed nationwide, resulting in 12 deaths, CNN reported. Cases in Greece, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland and France have also been linked to the Italian cluster. Brazil confirms first novel coronavirus case Update 7 a.m. EST Feb. 26:  South America has confirmed its first novel coronavirus case, making Antarctica the only continent remaining untouched by the fast-spreading contagion, Reuters reported. The patient is a 61-year-old being treated at a Sao Paulo hospital in Brazil after visiting Italy. Iran confirms 19th death Update 5:25 a.m. EST Feb. 26: Iran’s health ministry spokesman confirmed that the country’s 19th citizen has succumbed to the novel coronavirus. Kianush Jahanpur told state television on Wednesday the nationwide number of confirmed cases has reached 139 and Iran has the highest number of deaths attributed to the outbreak outside of mainland China. Jahanpur also told Iranians to cancel all nonessential travel and urged all residents to avoid Gilan and Qom, the two areas of the country with the highest concentration of confirmed novel coronavirus cases. Spain confirms 8 new cases Update 5:25 a.m. EST Feb. 26: In the 24 hours since a hotel in Tenerife was placed on lockdown, Spain has confirmed eight new cases of the novel coronavirus, according to The Washington Post. At least two of the newest cases were confirmed in Madrid, while a third was diagnosed in Barcelona. UK launches mass testing Update 5:25 a.m. EST Feb. 26: The United Kingdom began mass testing of its population Wednesday to determine if the spread of the novel coronavirus is more rampant than originally believed, The Washington Post reported. Public Health England Medical Director Prof Paul Cosford said people with flu-like symptoms will be tested in 11 hospitals and 100 private practices across the country. “We are heightening our vigilance,” he told the British Broadcasting Corp. on Wednesday, adding, “There is random testing of those people…that’s to check we have any transmission that we are not aware of.” As of Tuesday, 6,795 people had been tested for the virus, yielding 13 confirmed cases and zero deaths, the Post reported. First French national dies from novel coronavirus Update 5:25 a.m. EST Feb. 26: A 60-year-old man in Paris has become the first French national to die from the coronavirus, CNN reported, citing the director general of the French health authority. Jerome Salomon told reporters on Wednesday the man died at the Pitie Salpetriere hospital in the French capital. Meanwhile, two additional novel coronavirus cases were reported in the country, including a 55-year-old French man being treated in a hospital in Amiens and a 36-year-old French man in Strasbourg. Hong Kong confirms 4 new infections Update 5:23 a.m. EST Feb. 26: Four additional novel coronavirus cases have been confirmed by health officials in Hong Kong, bringing the city’s total number of cases to 89. According to CNN, the new cases include two passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, a man linked with a previously confirmed case and a domestic helper who was linked to a previous case. To date, 24 people have been discharged from medical facilities following recovery, while one patient remains in critical condition and another 64 continue receiving treatment in hospitals. San Francisco declares local emergency over coronavirus Update 5:21 a.m. EST Feb. 26: Despite having confirmed zero cases of the novel coronavirus, San Francisco authorities declared a local emergency Tuesday as the fourth-largest California city prepares for the infection’s spread within its tight-knit communities, Reuters reported. “Although there are still zero confirmed cases in San Francisco residents, the global picture is changing rapidly, and we need to step-up preparedness,” Mayor London Breed said in a statement. Rate of new mainland China cases decreases, infections elsewhere on the rise Update 4:01 a.m. EST Feb. 26: The rate of new novel coronavirus cases continued its decline in China Wednesday, but health experts cautioned against underestimating the virus’ staying power, The Washington Post reported. The Chinese government confirmed 406 new cases diagnosed on Wednesday and an additional 52 deaths. The latest figures bring mainland China’s total infections to 78,064, resulting in 2,715 deaths. Meanwhile, CNN reported: • South Korea confirmed an additional 115 cases and another death, bringing the nationwide total to 1,261 cases and 12 deaths. The latest figures mean 184 new cases were confirmed on Wednesday alone. • Kuwait’s newest case brings that nation’s total confirmed infections to 12. • Bahrain confirmed three new cases Tuesday, bringing its nationwide total to 26. • More than 90 total cases have been confirmed in Iran, resulting in 15 deaths. • Taiwan reported its 32nd novel coronavirus case on Wednesday. • Thailand confirmed three additional novel coronavirus infections on Wednesday, brining its nationwide total to 40. China asks banks to disinfect, hold cash Update 3:58 a.m. EST Feb. 26: Beijing is asking all banks in the region to disinfect paper cash and keep the notes in a dry place for at least seven days before returning them to circulation, The Washington Post reported. Beijing’s Banking and Insurance Regulatory Bureau made the request Wednesday while also imploring financial institutions to “intensify disinfection” protocols at counters and public facilities in all “customer-facing banking and insurance establishments,” the Post reported. Read more here. European outbreaks mirroring those in Asia, the Middle East Update 2:20 a.m. EST Feb. 26: Despite its Chinese origins, an outbreak in Italy has given the novel coronavirus a foothold in Europe that has now spread to five additional countries. According to The New York Times, Spain, Austria, Croatia, Switzerland and France all reported cases linked to Italy’s Lombardy region on Tuesday. On Wednesday in Innsbruck, the Austrian ski town in the Alps, authorities sealed off the 108-room Grand Hotel after a hotel employee, who had recently visited Lombardy, tested positive for the virus. The move came less than 24 hours after Spain cordoned off the H10 Costa Adeje Palace on the resort island of Tinorefe after a guest tested positive. According to CNN, a total of 212 infections have been confirmed in the Lombardy region, alone, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte was forced to admit on Monday that a hospital in the northern town of Codogno had mishandled the region's first coronavirus case, known as Patient 1, by not following protocol. Patient Zero, or the individual responsible for importing the virus to the country, has not yet been identified by Italian authorities. The virus’ spread to date in Europe has mirrored outbreaks in the Middle East and Asia, the Times reported. Meanwhile, a new case was confirmed in southern Germany late Tuesday, and the patient had just returned from a trip to Milan in northern Italy, The Wall Street Journal reported. U.S. soldier stationed in South Korea tests positive for virus Update 9:30 p.m. EST Feb. 25:  A U.S. military statement said a 23-year-old soldier who tested positive was in self quarantine at his off-base residence. He had been based in Camp Caroll in a town near Daegu, and visited Camp Walker in Daegu earlier this week. The military said South Korean authorities and U.S. military health professionals tracing his contacts to determine if other people may have been exposed. South Korean virus cases jump, total now 1,146 Update 8:30 p.m. EST Feb. 25: South Korea has reported 169 more cases of the new coronavirus, mostly in the southeast city of Daegu and nearby areas, bringing its total number of infections to 1,146. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that 134 of the new cases were confirmed in Daegu, where the government has been mobilizing public health tools to contain the virus. Another 19 cases came from the neighboring North Gyeongsang Province towns. Chinese officials have reported a slowing in the number of new cases in recent days but it still has most of the world’s 80,000 cases and 2,700 deaths. Stock market falls 879 points Update 4:12 p.m. EST Feb. 25: The stock market plunged for the second consecutive day Tuesday, as concerns about the coronavirus caused investors to dump stocks, according to The New York Times. The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 897.44 points Tuesday, its worst two-day stretch of selling in two years, according to The Wall Street Journal. The market closed at 27,081.96 a drop of 3.15%, The S&P 500 fell 3.03%, losing 97.68 points to close at 3,128.21. The Nasdaq Composite lost 2.77%, falling 255,67 points to 8,965.61. The Dow Jones dropped by as much as 900 points Tuesday afternoon after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned of the inevitability of the virus spreading to communities in the United States, The Washington Post reported. CDC: Americans should brace for virus spreading in US Update 1:41 p.m. EST Feb. 25: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans should brace for the inevitability the coronavirus will spread to communities in the United States, The New York Times reported. “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States, Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Tuesday. “It’s not so much of a question of if this will happen in this country anymore but a question of when this will happen.” Messonnier said public health officials have no idea whether the spread of the coronavirus to the United States would be mild or severe. However, she added that Americans should be ready for significant disruption to their daily lives. “We are asking the American public to prepare for the expectation that this might be bad,” Messonnier told reporters. Alex Azar II, the secretary of health and human services told a Senate committee, “This is an unprecedented, potentially severe health challenge globally,” the Times reported. National Institutes of Health could start vaccine clinical trials in three months Update 12:15 p.m. EST Feb. 25: The Health and Human Services Secretary says the National Institutes of Health will have a coronavirus vaccine clinical trial in three months, Fox News reported. Sec. Alex Azar says the country is preparing for an outbreak, with 30 million respirator masks already stockpiled, but they do need 10 times that for healthcare workers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expecting the virus to spread through communities. Dr. Nancy Messonnier said during a call with the media, it’s “more a question exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness,' Congressional Quarterly reported. Another death linked to Diamond Princess Update 10:31 a.m. EST Feb. 25: Another passenger who had been on the ship Diamond Princess has died. That brings the number of deaths connected to the quarantined cruise ship to four, CNN reported. His death brings the death toll in Japan to five. As for a vaccine, despite China’s claims that one is in development, U.S. Senators were told during a briefing that one is at least 12 to 18 months away, CNN reported. China claims to have developed vaccine, US lawmakers briefed on outbreak Update 10 a.m. EST Feb. 25: Researchers at China’s Tianjin University say they have created an oral vaccine, NBC News and China’s Global Times have reported. The lead on the project says he has taken four doses and has not had any side effects. The university now needs to start clinical trials. The vaccine is only in its first steps and still has to be tested through animal and human trials, NBC News reported. Meanwhile, US Senators were briefed Tuesday morning, CNN reported. The briefing, which was classified, spurred a question, according to Democrat Whip Dick Durbin, “whether or not [countries] will be aggressive in quarantine cases and reduce the spread beyond their borders. We still have to wait to see.” To help stop the spread, one diocese in Northern Italy has canceled Ash Wednesday mass. Instead the faithful are being told to stay home and pray with the help of a live stream, CNN reported. There will be prayers for the sick included in this year’s service. Churches will still be open for private worship Iran Deputy Health Minister tests positive Update 7:05 a.m. EST Feb. 25: Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi has tested positive for the coronavirus, Bloomberg and other media outlets reported. He is now under quarantine, Reuters reported. Harirchi’s diagnosis comes after accusations that the government of Iran is lying about how big the outbreak is in the country. A member of parliament in Qom said there have been 50 deaths in the city attributed to the virus. Harirchi said that number was too high, and said that if even half that number of people died in the city because of coronavirus, he would resign, the BBC reported.  977 cases, 10 deaths reported in South Korea Update 3:53 a.m. EST Feb. 25: Health officials in South Korea announced Tuesday afternoon that 84 more cases of coronavirus have been reported in the country, raising the total number of cases there to 977, CNN is reporting. Ten people have died. More cases of Coronavirus in China and South Korea reported Update 9:30 p.m. EST Feb. 24: China and South Korea reported more cases of a new viral illness that has been concentrated in North Asia but is creating worrisome, increasing clusters in the Middle East and Europe. China reported 508 new cases and another 71 deaths, 68 of them in the central city of Wuhan. The updates bring mainland China’s totals to 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths. South Korea now has the second-most cases with 60 reported, bringing its total to 893. South Korea has reported a near 15-fold increase in infections with the new coronavirus in a week, as health workers continue to find batches in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas, where panic has brought towns to an eerie standstill. Dow drops more than 1,000 as outbreak threatens the economy Update 4:30 p.m. EST Feb. 24: The Dow Jones Industrial Average sank more than 1,000 points as the spread of the new coronavirus threatened wider damage to the global economy. The drop was the worst for the index in two years and wiped out its gains so far in 2020. Nervous investors scrambled for safety, loading up on gold, U.S. government bonds and other safe-harbor assets. The price of oil fell sharply on expectations that demand for energy would tumble. The Dow lost 1,031 points, or 3.6%, to 27,960. The S&P 500 fell 111, or 3.4%, to 3,225. The Nasdaq fell 355, or 3.7%, to 9,221. More than 79,000 people worldwide have been infected by the new coronavirus. China, where the virus originated, still has the majority of cases and deaths. The rapid spread to other countries is raising anxiety about the threat the outbreak poses to the global economy. China outbreak under control while infection spreads in other parts of world Update 3:25 p.m. EST Feb. 24: The World Health Organization is warning that while China may have control over the outbreak, the rest of the world may not be so well prepared. Officials with the WHO found that cases peaked and plateaued between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2 then started to decline, The New York Times reported. Locking down the areas of China where the virus was most prevalent helped curb its spread outside of those zones, the Times reported. Meanwhile, the number of positive cases of coronavirus has climbed to 53, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Washington Post Reported. Read the latest situation report from the WHO below. Italy reports 219 cases, 5 deaths Update 7:29 a.m. EST Feb. 24: Italy is reporting at least 219 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country, CNN is reporting. The virus has killed five people there, officials said. Global death toll hits 2,619 Update 3:11 a.m. EST Feb. 24: At least 2,619 people worldwide have died from coronavirus, CNN is reporting. The vast majority of the deaths – 2,582 – occurred in China, while 27 others were reported in other countries, such as Iran, South Korea, Japan, Italy, Hong Kong, the Philippines, France and Taiwan, officials said. Plan to bring coronavirus patients to Alabama scuttled  Update 4:35 p.m. EST Feb. 23:  A plan to quarantine some passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship at a Federal Emergency Management Agency center in Alabama was canceled Sunday. Passengers who tested positive for the coronavirus but did not have symptoms were going to be taken to the FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston, Alabama, under a plan announced Saturday by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. However, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby and Gov. Kay Ivey pushed back. 'I just got off the phone with the President,” Shelby wrote Sunday on social media. “He told me that his administration will not be sending any victims of the Coronavirus from the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Anniston, Alabama.” Ivey also confirmed the change. 'President Trump called to assure me that this plan will not move forward,” Ivey said on social media. “I thanked him for his support of (Alabama)! We always want to help our fellow Americans, but this wasn’t fully vetted.” Italy locks down more than 50,000 people Update 2:05 p.m. EST Feb. 23: Italy locked down more than 50,000 people in 10 towns in the country’s northern region of Lombardy, according to The New York Times. Government officials said there are now 152 confirmed cases, several events across Italy were canceled Sunday, including the last two days Venice’s Carnival, The Washington Post reported. Officials said Sunday, that 88 of the cases reported in Italy are from the Lombardy region, the Times reported. Three people have died, including a 77-year-old woman and a 78-year-old man, and at least 26 are in intensive care, according to officials. In other news, the Chinese government reported 648 new cases across the country Sunday and 97 deaths, the Post reported. That brings the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 76,936; there have been 2,442 deaths. China’s Xi calls virus ‘a crisis’ and ’big test’ Update 10:05 a.m. EST Feb. 23: China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, told Communist Party officials at a meeting Sunday that the coronavirus epidemic was “a crisis and a big test” for the country. Xi admitted “obvious shortcomings in the response to the epidemic,” but did not give details, according to The New York Times. Xi also said officials should “learn lessons” and improve China’s ability to respond to public health emergencies, the newspaper reported. He said the outbreak in China presented “the fastest spread, the widest scope of infections and the greatest degree of difficulty in controlling infections” of any public health emergency since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Times reported, citing the official Xinhua News Agency. 132 coronavirus cases confirmed in Italy Update 7:36 a.m. EST Feb. 23: At least 132 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Italy, officials announced Sunday. According to CNN, two people there have died, while another 26 are being treated in intensive care.  South Korea reports 46 more coronavirus cases; total there hits 602 Update 3:51 a.m. EST Feb. 23: South Korean health officials said they have confirmed a total 602 coronavirus cases in the country, CNN is reporting. News of the new total came Sunday after the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed 46 more cases of the virus, according to CNN. Five patients in South Korea have died from the illness, the outlet reported. 6th person dead from coronavirus in Iran  Update 5:36 p.m. EST Feb 22: A sixth person in Iran has died from the deadly coronavirus that originated in China.  The person also had a heart condition, The Associated Press reported. A fifth fatality in Iran was reported earlier Saturday.  There have been 28 reported cases of coronavirus in Iran. People are being treated in Tehran, Qom, Arak and Rasht. Officials will use center in Alabama as quarantine facility Update 2:06 p.m. EST Feb 22: Concern is growing in Israel, where health officials said a woman who was a passenger aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan tested positive for the virus after returning home, The New York Times reported. Meanwhile, after nine South Koreans who visited Israel tested positive for the coronavirus after returning home, the Israeli government began closing the country to South Korean travelers, the newspaper reported. Passengers flying on a Korean Air flight scheduled to land at Ben Gurion Airport at 7:30 p.m. Saturday were expected to be barred entry into the country, the Times reported, citing Ynet, an Israeli news organization. Government officials were expected to decide Sunday whether other inbound flights from South Korea would be allowed, the newspaper reported. Japan waited 72 hours before imposing quarantine on cruise ship Update 10:56 a.m. EST Feb 22: More than 72 hours elapsed before Japanese officials imposed a quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, The New York Times reported. Early on the morning of Feb. 2, before the ship had docked in Yokohama, Hong Kong officials informed the Japanese health ministry about an infected passenger, the newspaper reported. A spokeswoman for Princess Cruises said the company received “formal verification” of the infection from Hong Kong on Feb. 3, the Times reported. The announcement was made to passengers that night, and they were advised around 11 p.m. to remain in their rooms, the Times reported. On Feb. 5, the captain of the Diamond Princess confirmed there were 10 cases of the coronavirus on the ship, and passengers were told they needed to return to their rooms, where they were quarantined for 14 days, according to the newspaper. University of Memphis graduate Luke Hefner, a singer who was aboard the Princess Diamond, was one of the 10 people on board confirmed with the virus, WHBQ reported. After Hefner tested positive for the virus, crews rushed him off the ship and into a Japanese hospital Feb. 18, the television station reported. WHO experts heading to China; African nations warned Update 9:25 a.m. EST Feb 22: A team of experts from the World Health Organization was heading to the Chinese city of Wuhan, the center of the coronavirus epidemic, the agency’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, told The New York Times. Tedros confirmed the trip during an address Saturday morning to African officials from Geneva, the newspaper reported. “We have to take advantage of the window of opportunity we have, to attack the virus outbreak with a sense of urgency,” Tedros told the leaders during an emergency meeting on the response to the coronavirus in the continent. There has been only one confirmed case of coronavirus in Africa, but officials are concerned because several countries have strained health systems, the Times reported. The WHO has identified 13 priority countries in Africa because of their direct links to China, the newspaper reported. Italy confirms 2nd coronavirus death  Update 6:45 a.m. EST Feb 22: A second novel coronavirus patient in Italy has died. A spokesperson for the country’s department of civil protection, or Protezione Civile, confirmed the death to CNN on Saturday. According to a health ministry spokesman, the woman who previously tested positive for the virus died in the northern region of Lombardy. South Korea reports 229 new cases in 24 hours  Update 6:17 a.m. EST Feb 22: An additional 87 novel coronavirus cases reported Saturday brings South Korea’s 24-hour total to 229 and the country’s total number of confirmed cases to 433. According to a statement issued by the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 62 of the 87 new cases are linked with the Shincheonji religious group, and three cases are linked with Cheongdo Daenam hospital, in North Gyeongsang province. Iran confirms 10 new cases, 5th death  Update 6:15 a.m. EST Feb 22: The numbers might sound low, but the surge in diagnosed novel coronavirus cases in Iran is boosting concerns among global health officials the outbreak could soon reach pandemic levels. Iran’s health ministry confirmed 10 new cases of the virus – bringing the country’s total to 28 – and a fifth fatality. The ripple effect among travelers, however, is sounding alarm bells among infectious disease experts. According to the New York Times, cases confirmed in both Canada and Lebanon have been traced to travel to and from Iran. “The cases that we see in the rest of the world, although the numbers are small, but not linked to Wuhan or China, it’s very worrisome,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said Friday at a news conference at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva. “These dots are actually very concerning.” Kianoush Jahanpour, Iran’s health ministry spokesman, said that of the 10 latest reported cases, two were diagnosed in Tehran and eight are in Qom. According to The Associated Press, two elderly patients died in Qom Wednesday and the two Tehran patients either visited or had links to Qom. Novel coronavirus cases diagnosed outside mainland China surpass 1,500  Update 3:24 a.m. EST Feb 22: With health officials monitoring the novel coronavirus’ spread beyond its epicenter in Wuhan, China, the number of confirmed cases diagnosed outside mainland China hit a new milestone early Saturday morning. The latest figures indicate more than 1,500 cases and 15 deaths attributed to the virus have been recorded in more than 30 countries and territories outside mainland China since December, CNN reported. The geographic breakdown of confirmed cases and deaths is as follows: • Australia: at least 21 cases • Belgium: at least 1 case • Cambodia: at least 1 case • Canada: at least 9 cases • Egypt: at least 1 case • Finland: at least 1 case • France: at least 12 cases, 1 death • Germany: at least 16 cases • Hong Kong: at least 68 cases, 2 deaths • India: at least 3 cases • Iran: at least 18 cases, 4 deaths • Israel: at least 1 case • Italy: at least 17 cases, 1 death • Japan: at least 738 cases, including 639 linked to the Diamond Princess cruise ship; 3 deaths • Lebanon: at least 1 case • Macao: at least 10 cases • Malaysia: at least 22 cases • Nepal: at least 1 case • Philippines: at least 3 cases, 1 death • Russia: at least 2 cases • Singapore: at least 86 cases • South Korea: at least 347 cases, 1 death • Spain: at least 2 cases • Sri Lanka: at least 1 case • Sweden: at least 1 case • Taiwan: at least 26 cases, 1 death • Thailand: at least 35 cases • United Arab Emirates: at least 9 cases • United Kingdom: at least 9 cases • United States: at least 35 cases • Vietnam: at least 16 cases Mainland China death toll reaches 2,345  Update 3:22 a.m. EST Feb 22: China’s National Health Commission confirmed early Saturday the death toll from the novel coronavirus has increased by another 109 fatalities to 2,345. According to CNN, all but three of the latest mainland deaths occurred in the outbreak’s Hubei province epicenter. The latest figures bring the global death toll to 2,360. Meanwhile, confirmed cases in increased by 397 on Friday, bringing mainland China’s total number of recorded cases to 76,288. Health authorities contend a total of 20,659 patients have recovered from the virus and been discharged from medical facilities. Australia confirms 6 new cases  Update 3:20 a.m. EST Feb 22: Six people repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, boosting Australia’s total infection count to 21. According to the Australian government’s Department of Health, 10 patients have recovered from the illness. Diamond Princess cruise ship awaits scrub down  Update 3:18 a.m. EST Feb 22: The Diamond Princess cruise ship will soon undergo a thorough deep cleaning to prepare the vessel to resume sailing on April 29. Negin Kamali, Princess Cruises’ public relations director, told CNN Travel the company is working in tandem with the Japanese health ministry to hammer out sanitation specifics for the 116,000-ton ship. The vessel will be “fully sanitized by a cleaning company with an expertise in this area following guidance from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization,” Kamali told CNN. Only 31 passengers remained onboard the ship Saturday morning after 253 who tested negative for the novel coronavirus were allowed to disembark on Friday. The ship’s 924-member crew also remains aboard. The ship has been moored in Yokohama Bay off the coast of Japan since early February. To date, the virus-stricken ship, which housed 3,600 crew and passengers upon arrival, is linked to at least 639 coronavirus infections, CNN reported. Japan reports 12 new cases  Update 3:16 a.m. EST Feb 22: Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare confirmed early Saturday the diagnoses of 12 new novel coronavirus cases, including three teenagers. The latest report brings Japan’s total number of infections to 738, including 99 on land and 639 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.  Italy confirms first novel coronavirus death Update 3:14 a.m. EST Feb 22: Italian officials confirmed Saturday their first citizen has succumbed to the novel coronavirus. The 78-year-old man died in a Padua hospital in northern Italy. To date, the country has recorded a total of 17 infections. Taiwan confirms 2 new cases Update 3:12 a.m. EST Feb 22: Taiwan’s novel coronavirus infection count now stands at 26 after two additional cases were confirmed on the island Saturday. The most recent patients are the daughter and granddaughter of a previously diagnosed patient, and neither had traveled recently. 142 new cases of the virus reported in South Korea  Update 9 p.m. EST Feb 21: South Korea reported a six-fold jump in viral infections in four days to 346, most of them linked to a church and a hospital in and around the fourth-largest city where schools were closed and worshipers and others told to avoid mass gatherings.  Of the 142 new cases in South Korea, 131 are from Daegu and nearby regions, which have emerged as the latest front in the widening global fight against COVID-19.  China the daily count of new virus cases there fell significantly to 397, with another 109 people dying of the disease, most in the epicenter of Hubei province.  The new figures bring the total number of cases in mainland China to 76,288 with 2,345 deaths, as strict quarantine measures and travel bans continue to contain the disease that emerged in China in December and has since spread world-wide. The daily figure is down from 889. WHO’s latest situation report The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization says that coronavirus has been found in 30 countries around the world. Read the latest situation report from the WHO below. Italy’s virus cases quadruples Update 1:20 p.m. EST Feb 21: Officials in Italy are reporting that the number of people infected by coronavirus has quadrupled. As of Friday, the country has seen 17 cases, with 14 of them new. They are being considered secondary contagion cases and are clustered in small towns around Lodi, in the Lombardy region, The Associated Press reported. It was previously reported that a 38-year-old man, who is in critical condition due to coronavirus, passed the illness to his wife and a close friend after he picked it up from a person who had been in China, but not showing any symptoms. The person who was in China is in isolation and may have antibodies to battle the illness. Three patients at the hospital where the patient who is in critical condition visited when he was being treated for flu-like symptoms have tested positive. As do five nurses and doctors at the same facility. Three people who went to the same cafe as the 38-year-old man who is sick also have tested positive. Because of the cluster, the mayor of Codogno has closed schools, public buildings,s restaurants and coffee shops. And has ordered the 14-day quarantine of anyone who came in contact with the man and the two people first diagnosed, the AP reported. 1 new coronavirus case confirmed in Singapore Update 11 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Officials with Singapore’s Ministry of Health have verified another case of coronavirus in the country, bringing the total number of people infected in Singapore to 86. Authorities said the newest case involves a 24-year-old Singaporean man who was under isolation Friday at Ng Teng Fong General Hospital. His illness was linked to one reported earlier this week involving a 57-year-old woman who had no history of recent travel to China. Officials said 47 people who have been diagnosed with coronavirus in Singapore have since recovered and been released from hospitals. Lebanon, Israel confirm 1st coronavirus cases Update 10 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Health officials in Lebanon and Israel announced Friday the first confirmed coronavirus cases in the countries. Lebanon’s health minister, Hamad Hassan, said Friday that a 45-year-old woman tested positive for coronavirus after entering the country from Iran, Reuters reported. She was being quarantined Friday at a hospital in Beirut, according to Reuters. The Jerusalem Post reported an Israeli who returned to the country Thursday after being evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship has tested positive for the virus. The coronavirus case marked the first in Israel, though health officials noted the passenger had contracted virus while in Japan. Earlier this month, thousands of people were quarantined on the Diamond Princess, docked off the coast of Japan, due to coronavirus fears. Hundreds of people on the ship ended up testing positive for the viral infection. South Korea reports 2nd coronavirus death  Update 9 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Officials in South Korea reported the country’s second death due to coronavirus Friday, The Washington Post reported. Citing the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Post reported a woman in her 50s died after testing positive for the virus Friday at Daenam Hospital. She was transferred to a bigger hospital in Busan, where she died around 6 p.m., according to the newspaper. The death marked the second related to COVID-19 in South Korea. On Wednesday, a 63-year-old patient died after suffering symptoms of pneumonia in what was suspected to be the country’s first coronavirus death, according to The New York Times. Iran confirms 18 cases, 4 deaths Update 7:50 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Iranian officials confirmed on Friday that 13 new cases of the novel coronavirus have been diagnosed and two additional patients have died. Friday’s figures bring Iran’s total number of infections to 18 and the death toll from the virus to four, CNN reported. “According to the latest laboratory reports 13 more contractions of coronavirus have been confirmed, including 7 in Qom, 4 in Tehran, and two in Gilan. Unfortunately, out of these cases two have lost their lives,' health ministry spokesman Kianoosh Jahanpour tweeted Friday. 3 novel coronavirus cases confirmed in Italy Update 7:32 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Italy confirmed its first novel coronavirus cases Friday, noting three people in a city near Milan have tested positive for the illness. According to The Washington Post, the first patient to contract the virus was a 38-year-old man in the northern region of Lombardy, who fell ill after dining with a friend who had recently returned from China. The man then passed the illness on to his wife and a close friend. All three patients have been hospitalized, the Post reported. Confirmed novel coronavirus cases, fatalities continue to increase globally Update 6:46 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Globally, more than 76,900 novel coronavirus cases have been reported, according to the latest figures released Friday morning by health officials in China. Although the majority of cases – around 75,600 – remain clustered in mainland China, more than 1,300 cases have been confirmed in 29 countries, CNN reported. Meanwhile, 118 additional deaths were confirmed in mainland China Friday, with the global death toll reaching 2,247, the network reported. Vaccine nearing clinical trials in China Update 6:44 a.m. EST Feb. 21: Xu Nanping, China’s vice minister of Science and Technology, told reporters Friday that Chinese researchers expect to submit the first COVID-19 vaccine for clinical trials around late April. The status update comes roughly one month after Chinese officials established a coronavirus scientific research group, consisting of 14 experts led by renowned pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan, The Washington Post reported. “One month is a very short time for scientific research, but a very long time for patients struggling with the disease. The scientific and technological community nationwide will put the safety of people’s lives and health first and spare no effort to continue to produce tangible and effective scientific research results,” Xu told reporters during the briefing. Protesters attack Wuhan evacuee bus in Ukraine; 9 police officers, 1 civilian injured Update 6:42 a.m. EST Feb. 21: The Ukrainian Ministry of Internal Affairs said nine police officers and one civilian were injured Thursday when protesters attacked a bus carrying evacuees from Wuhan, China. According to CNN, protesters had blocked roads in Noviy Sanzhari, the town where the evacuees are to be monitored for two weeks at a medical facility belonging to the Ukrainian National Guard. “Those people who today threw stones at the evacuees of Ukrainians and law enforcement officers ... We will make a decision on their punishment,” said Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, confirming one officer was seriously injured in the incident instigated by “aggressive citizens,” the network reported. South Korean coronavirus infections continue to increase Update 3:46 a.m. EST Feb. 21: The number of confirmed novel coronavirus infections in South Korea increased to 204 on Friday, nearly doubling in 24 hours and almost quadrupling in three days, the South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed in a statement issued early Friday. Health officials believe the majority of the new cases are connected to a church in Daegu, a city of about two and half million people in the southeastern region of the country. Specifically, 42 of the newest cases reported Friday have been traced to the church called Shincheonji. The country also reported on Thursday what officials believe could be South Korea’s first fatality from the virus. The 63-year-old woman exhibiting symptoms of pneumonia died Wednesday at the Daenam Hospital in Cheongdo, The New York Times reported. Prison outbreaks boost novel coronavirus cases in mainland China Update 3:43 a.m. EST Feb. 21: More than 500 novel coronavirus cases have been confirmed in prisons across China, including 271 cases – 51 of which had been counted in previous tallies – in Hubei province, CNN reported. Meanwhile, officials announced in a joint news conference on Friday that of the 2,077 prisoners and staff at Rencheng prison in China’s eastern Shandong province tested for the virus, 200 prisoners and seven staff members tested positive. Zhejiang province announced 34 prison cases on Friday, bringing the correctional total to 512, CNN reported. Canada records its 9th confirmed novel coronavirus case, 6th in British Columbia Update 3:41 a.m. EST Feb. 21: British Columbia’s Ministry of Health confirmed Friday a woman in her 30s has become the province’s sixth diagnosed case of novel coronavirus and the ninth for Canada. According to the statement, the woman had recently returned from Iran and is being isolated at home while public health officials identify and contact those people with whom she had contact upon returning Meanwhile, 47 of the 256 Canadian passengers aboard the beleaguered Diamond Princess cruise ship – moored off the coast of Japan – have tested positive for the virus. All 256 will be subject to a 14-day quarantine in Ontario once their evacuations are complete, CNN reported. 11 of 13 people evacuated to Omaha test positive for COVID-19  Update 11 p.m. EST Feb. 20: Federal experts confirmed that 11 of 13 people evacuated to an Omaha hospital from a cruise ship in Japan have tested positive for COVID-19, Nebraska officials announced Thursday night. The University of Nebraska Medical Center said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had verified test results completed Monday by the Nebraska Public Health Lab. Ten of those people are being cared for at the National Quarantine Unit while three are in the nearby Nebraska Biocontainment Unit. The medical center said only a few of the patients were showing symptoms of the disease. All 13 people were passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship who were evacuated to the U.S. on Feb. 17. China reports fall in new virus cases, 118 deaths  Update 10 p.m. EST Feb. 20: China reported a further fall in new virus cases to 889 as health officials expressed optimism over containment of the outbreak that has caused more than 2,200 deaths and is spreading elsewhere.  New infections in China have been falling for days, although changes in how it counts cases have caused doubts about the true trajectory of the epidemic.  China’s figures for the previous 24 hours brought the total number of cases to 75,465. The 118 newly reported deaths raised the total to 2,236. More than 1,000 cases and 11 deaths have been confirmed outside the mainland. 4 Americans who tested positive for COVID-19 sent to hospital in Spokane, Washington  Update 7:30 p.m. EST Feb. 20: Four Americans who tested positive for the new virus that caused an outbreak China are being sent to a hospital in Spokane, Washington, for treatment, officials said Thursday.  The four were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and were flown back to the U.S. over the weekend, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. They were being transferred from Travis Air Force Base in California, hospital officials said.  Two patients arrived at the hospital Thursday in satisfactory condition with two more expected soon, said Christa Arguinchona, who manages a special isolation unit at Sacred Heart Medical Center. The hospital is one of 10 in the nation funded by Congress to treat new or highly infectious diseases.  “The risk to the community from this particular process is zero,” said Bob Lutz of the Spokane Regional Health District at a briefing Thursday at the hospital. WHO: ‘This is no time for complacency’ Update 2:25 p.m. EST Feb. 20: World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday that recent declines in the number of new coronavirus cases being reported in China were encouraging, but he warned, “this is no time for complacency.” As pf 6 a.m. Geneva time Thursday, 74,675 people in China and 1,076 people in order parts of the world had been sickened by coronavirus, according to WHO. Officials said 2,121 people in China and seven people outside of the country have died thus far of the viral infection. 'This is the time to attack the virus while it is manageable,” Tedros said, according to The Washington Post. “You will get sick of me saying that the window of opportunity remains open for us to contain this COVID-19 outbreak.” CDC warns travels to take precautions for travel to Japan, Hong Kong Update 12:20 p.m. EST Feb. 20: The Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued new coronavirus-related travel advisories Thursday for Americans visiting Japan or Hong Kong. The advisories warned travelers to avoid contact with sick people, avoid touching their eyes, noses or mouths with their unwashed hands and recommended using soap and water often to wash hands for at least 20 seconds. Officials said Thursday that it remained unnecessary to postpone or cancel trips to Japan or Hong Kong due to the virus. However, the CDC advisories noted “multiple instances of community spread' in both locales, meaning people “have been infected with the virus, but how or where they became infected is not known.” Officials with the CDC previously issued an advisory warning travelers to avoid non-essential travel to China. According to Japanese health officials, authorities have seen 73 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the country. One person in Japan has died of the viral infection. Health official in Hong Kong have confirmed 65 cases of coronavirus. Japan reports 12 new coronavirus cases, Singapore confirms 1 more  Update 11 a.m. EST Feb. 20: Officials in Japan have reported a dozen new confirmed cases of the coronavirus, CNN reported, citing the Japanese health ministry. The new cases include two government officials who worked on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, according to CNN. Thousands of people were quarantined on the ship for two weeks as it was docked off the coast of Japan due to coronavirus fears. Hundreds of people on the ship ended up testing positive for the viral infection.  Officials with the Singapore Ministry of Health said Thursday that a new case of coronavirus had been confirmed in the country. The case, involving a 36-year-old Chinese national who was in Singapore on a work pass, is the 85th reported in Singapore.  Global death toll hits 2,126  Update 7:40 a.m. EST Feb. 20: More than 2,120 people have died globally and thousands of others have fallen ill due to the 2019 novel coronavirus, according to multiple reports.  At least 2,126 people globally have died from coronavirus, CNN reported Thursday. A majority of the deaths have been reported in China, where health officials announced 114 more deaths and 394 more confirmed cases of the illness. Overall, 75,730 coronavirus cases have been reported worldwide, including 74,576 in China, according to CNN.

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