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    President Donald Trump's allies are trying to contain a politically risky election year fight with Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as he struggles to balance presidential politics with a global pandemic in one of the nation's most important swing states. Both sides have tried to de-escalate the feud this week, although Trump's supporters in particular sought to downplay tensions that ratcheted up over the weekend when the Republican president unleashed a social media broadside against Whitmer, a Democrat who had been critical of the federal government's response to the coronavirus outbreak. Trump has clashed with other Democratic governors as well, but he saved his most aggressive insults for the first-term female governor, who is considered a leading vice presidential prospect for his opponent. “Everyone should be shedding the partisanship and coming together,” Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said in an interview, suggesting that some of Trump's criticism had been mischaracterized. “I am rooting for Gov. Whitmer,” said McDaniel, who lives in Michigan. “I think she’s done good things. ... I just didn't like her trying to lay every problem at the president’s feet.” The backpedaling underscores the nature of the dispute, which comes seven months before Election Day in a state that could make or break Trump's reelection bid. Michigan is an elite presidential battleground that has historically celebrated bipartisanship and pragmatism while rewarding candidates who rally behind key institutions in crisis. Four years ago, Trump eked out a win by about 11,000 votes out of more than 4.5 million cast in the state. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee and McDaniel's uncle, lost his home state of Michigan in 2012 after opposing federal efforts to rescue the automotive industry. And Trump, by unleashing a personal attack against the state's governor in the midst of a pandemic, has sparked new fears that he, too, may be hurting himself and his party on the eve of the next election. Michigan Rep. Paul Mitchell, a Republican, said he raised concerns about Trump's political attack with the administration directly. “I did relay to the administration that I didn’t think it was helpful and why play that game,” Mitchell said in an interview. “These are times when the American people look for leaders. Leaders don’t whine. Leaders don’t blame.' He said he raised similar concerns with Whitmer's office, suggesting that her criticisms about the federal response have not necessarily been accurate. 'This is not the time where we need more drama in this country,' Mitchell said. While political fights are common for Trump, Whitmer's rise in Democratic politics has been defined by her decision usually not to attack the president. Whitmer, a 48-year-old longtime state legislator and attorney, ran for governor as a pragmatic liberal, emphasizing her bipartisan work while pledging to fix Michigan’s crumbling roads. She rarely talked about Trump before the election or after. When she gave Democrats' response to Trump's State of the Union speech in February, she pivoted from his impeachment to issues concerning working-class voters, including health care, and made only passing references to his behavior. But as a frequent guest on national media in recent weeks, Whitmer has criticized the federal response while pleading for ventilators, personal protection equipment and test kits as Michigan has emerged as one of the hardest-hit states. Republicans were especially upset after she implied during a Friday radio interview that the Trump administration was intentionally withholding medical supplies from Michigan. In a weekend tweet storm as the coronavirus death toll surged, Trump called her “Gretchen ‘Half’ Whitmer,' charging that she was in “way over her head” and “doesn't have a clue' about how to handle the health crisis. Two days earlier, Trump said publicly that he had instructed Vice President Mike Pence, the leader of the White House's pandemic response, not to call “the woman in Michigan.' Trump has since deleted the tweet. And in a press briefing on Tuesday, he said he had a productive conversation with Whitmer earlier in the day. The governor, too, has backed away from the feud this week as the state grapples with the escalating crisis. Michigan reported more than 7,600 cases of coronavirus and 259 deaths as of Tuesday. In a statement, Whitmer declared that her “No. 1 priority is protecting Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19.' “I don’t care about partisan fights or getting nicknames from the president,' she said. Yet Trump's initial fiery response — and the scramble to contain it — is nothing if not consistent. The former New York real estate magnate has showed he cannot help but respond with force when criticized. As first lady Melania Trump noted four years ago, “When you attack him he will punch back 10 times harder.” In this case, however, allies quietly note that he did not consider the likely political ramifications in a state he badly needs to win in November. “Anyone with half a brain can see that attacking an incredibly popular governor who's showing real leadership during a crisis is not a net plus,” said John Anzalone, whose firm handles polling for Whitmer and former Vice President Joe Biden's presidential campaign. Biden has stood up for Whitmer repeatedly in recent days. On Tuesday evening, Biden's senior adviser Anita Dunn reinforced Biden's support for the governor, who she said “is fighting hard for her state and setting an example for leaders across the nation.” “Joe Biden prays that Donald Trump can find the strength to live up to her example,” Dunn said. Meanwhile, it was difficult to find a Michigan Republican willing to defend Trump's behavior. A spokeswoman for Republican state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey had this to say when asked about Trump's declaration that Pence should not call Whitmer: “The Senate majority leader believes everyone is coping with an unusual amount of stress during this time.' The clash was particularly sensitive because of the evolving nature of gender politics in the Trump era. Suburban women, including many Republicans, have increasingly fled Trump's GOP, enabling major Democratic victories across the country in 2018 and 2019. His decision to single out Whitmer came the same week he attacked another high-profile Michigan woman, General Motors CEO Mary Barra, whom he jabbed for not working fast enough to help the government produce ventilators. “Always a mess with Mary B,” Trump tweeted. Trump's team hopes to repair the relationship with suburban women before Election Day, at least somewhat, in a state that matters more than most. Democrats will not make it easy. 'It's sad but not shocking that President Trump has attacked Gov. Whitmer for doing her job. He clearly has a problem with strong, competent women,' said Stephanie Schriock, president of the group EMILY'S List, which helps elect women who support abortion rights. Meanwhile, Republican Bill Schuette, whom Whitmer defeated in 2018, praised Trump’s leadership managing the pandemic but also said “we need to lay down the politics' in response to questions about the president's divisive comments and her performance during the crisis. “This is not a time for partisanship,” Schuette said. 'This is a time of working together in an open, honest fashion. That's what people expect and deserve, particularly in a time of crisis.” ___ Peoples reported from New York. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • President Donald Trump's impeachment trial distracted the federal government from the coronavirus as it reached the United States in January, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, despite warnings at the time from public health experts and members of Congress about the spread of the deadly virus. The outbreak 'came up while we were tied down on the impeachment trial. And I think it diverted the attention of the government, because everything every day was all about impeachment,'' McConnell told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt. The Trump administration has been severely criticized for its slow response to the pandemic, especially for the shortage of coronavirus testing kits when the infection first spread to the U.S. from China. Trump initially downplayed the virus, comparing it to the seasonal flu and declaring it may go away on its own. The administration also has been criticized for not supplying needed protective medical gear for health care workers. McConnell's argument breaks sharply with assurances that the Trump administration made early on about the virus. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who declared a public health emergency Jan. 31, said at the time that the public 'can be assured the full weight of the U.S. government is working to safeguard the health and safety of the American people.” And weeks after his Feb. 5 acquittal in the impeachment trial, Trump continued to minimize fears as he insisted the U.S. was “very, very ready” for whatever the outbreak brings. On Feb. 25, he told business leaders in India: 'I think that’s a problem that’s going to go away.' Asked about McConnell's comment, Trump said Tuesday that he “certainly devoted a little time to thinking about' impeachment, but added: “I don't think I would have done any better had I not been impeached. ... I don't think I would have acted any faster.” As the pandemic has worsened in recent weeks, Trump has ramped up the federal response. He announced Sunday that he is extending social distancing guidelines through April 30 at least, backing away from an earlier call to have the country “opened up and raring to go” by Easter, April 12. Congress has approved three bills responding to the outbreak, including an unprecedented $2.2 trillion package Trump signed last week. McConnell said Republican Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas was among the first in Congress to raise an alarm. Cotton, an outspoken critic of China's communist government, has said he does not trust China to act truthfully about the virus. “He was first, and I think Tom was right on the mark,'' said McConnell, a Kentucky Republican. 'Tom figured this out early, and he was absolutely right.' Cotton, in a separate interview with Hewitt on Tuesday, said he had been studying the virus since mid-January. 'Unfortunately, Washington, especially the Congress, was consumed with another matter ... the partisan impeachment of the president,'' he said. 'I was focused at the time on what I thought was going to be a growing crisis coming out of Wuhan. And, unfortunately, it’s been proven correct,'' Cotton said. The virus originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has climbed past 3,500, eclipsing China’s official count. The Trump administration briefed the Senate on Jan. 24 — during the impeachment trial — and again on Feb. 5, the day Trump was acquitted. Still, the threat posed by the virus was not widely understood, and some lawmakers complained that Trump wasn’t taking the growing threat seriously. For weeks after the first U.S. case of the coronavirus was confirmed in January, government missteps caused a shortage of reliable laboratory tests for the coronavirus, leading to delays in diagnoses. Republican and Democratic leaders of the Senate health and foreign relations committees issued a joint statement after the Jan. 24 briefing, declaring, “We are monitoring the outbreak of a novel coronavirus closely and are in close communication with United States government agencies on actions and precautions needed to prevent further spread of this virus.' The statement said China 'has taken steps to share information with international health experts'' and thanked administration officials for providing an update. Two days later, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer called on the administration to declare the coronavirus a public health emergency, freeing up $85 million for federal agencies. Azar, in declaring the public health emergency for the entire U.S. on Jan. 31, said: 'While this virus poses a serious public health threat, the risk to the American public remains low at this time, and we are working to keep this risk low.” That same day, Trump imposed travel restrictions on China in response to the outbreak. Most major airlines had already suspended flights to China, following the lead of several major international carriers. An earlier State Department advisory told Americans not to travel to China because of the outbreak. Despite those actions, the administration — and Trump himself — downplayed the virus for weeks before taking more drastic steps this month. Trump speculated last week that the country could reopen by Easter, but now says distancing guidelines should remain in place through April. Cotton called Trump's decision to impose travel restrictions on China “probably the single most important thing the U.S. government has done over the last two months.'' But Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said Trump has been slow to respond from the start. “Just left the Administration briefing on Coronavirus. Bottom line: they aren't taking this seriously enough,” he tweeted Feb. 5. His opinion remains unchanged. “Unfortunately, the Trump administration has completely botched the response to COVID-19 so far,'' Murphy wrote Tuesday in Foreign Policy magazine. Trump ”denied the risk of the disease for weeks, failed to ramp up testing measures ... and Americans are paying the price for it. The next virus is not going to wait for the U.S. government to get its act together.' The virus has caused a global pandemic that has sickened about 800,000 people and killed tens of thousands, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. ___ Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick and Kevin Freking contributed to this story.
  • When it came time to heave the largest aid package in U.S. history over the finish line, Republican Rep. Mark Meadows was the closer, working with Democrats to get it done. He wasn't just any member of Congress. In a highly unusual arrangement, Meadows has been pulling off a balancing act, simultaneously maintaining his seat representing North Carolina in the House while also acting as the de facto White House chief of staff during one of the biggest crises faced by any president in modern history. Meadows is expected to resign from Congress as early as Friday, after which he will formally take over the chief of staff role still technically held by Mick Mulvaney, who never shook his “acting” title. In truth, it was nearly two weeks ago that aides to Mulvaney helped pack up his office and move out of the West Wing, raising questions about who, exactly, has been in charge. “I'm still a member of Congress; Mick Mulvaney's still the acting chief, officially,” Meadows told reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. He said he would 'end up resigning as a member of Congress” toward the end of the month. But Meadows' efforts over the last week shine a light on his likely role going forward. While Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and White House legislative affairs director Eric Ueland did much of the heavy lifting for the White House in talks about the aid package, Democrats and Republicans said Meadows played a key role in the late stages. The co-founder of the conservative House Freedom Caucus shuttled between Capitol Hill leadership offices and meetings with top Democratic negotiator Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Meadows' role as a compromise-seeker on a bipartisan package marked an unlikely change of roles for a lawmaker who made his name in Congress as the man who toppled Republican former House Speaker John Boehner in 2015. The Freedom Caucus declined to back the $2 trillion stimulus bill, but it didn't oppose it either, a testament to Meadows' ability to soothe GOP objections to the big-spending bill. In the view of one top Democrat, he was “the closer' who knew what was needed to get the bill past the finish line and deliver on the most important variable: ensuring the deal was something Trump would agree to sign into law. Schumer gave a shout-out to Meadows by name on the Senate floor along with Mnuchin and Ueland ahead of Wednesday's late-night vote on the $2.2 trillion bill. Reviled by Democrats and a thorn to Republican leadership on Capitol Hill, the Freedom Caucus has a reputation for attention-grabbing moves that often backfire spectacularly for the party. The GOP's 2017 Obamacare repeal effort was bedeviled in the House by the caucus' stubborn demands. But lawmakers recognize that Meadows has Trump’s ear, and have grown to respect his feel for the House GOP conference. He and GOP leader Kevin McCarthy have also worked to move beyond past differences, although a distrust of Meadows lingers among many Republicans who’ve clashed with him over the years. One Republican close to the talks said that during the negotiations, Meadows worked to push the president's priorities as the package moved through Congress. His involvement also helped temper concerns from some conservatives who remain wary of Mnuchin — a former Democrat and Goldman Sachs banker — and see him as too eager to sign onto Democratic proposals. “Mark is respected by everyone in the House and certainly respected by conservatives in the House. I think he's respected by everyone in the Senate, by conservatives in the Senate as well,' said Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, one of Meadows' best friends in Congress. Trump announced on Mar. 6 — just as the country was beginning to recognize the dire threat posed by the coronavirus — that he had decided to shake up his senior staff and would be replacing Mulvaney as chief of staff. He had been hankering to make the move for months as part of a larger effort to surround himself with loyalists, but waited until the impeachment saga ended to act. Mulvaney and Meadows, longtime friends, had intended to spend the interim period together at the White House to ensure a smooth transition, but those plans were partially scuttled when both men were forced into self-isolation after potential exposure to the virus. Both tested negative. Some White House staffers have described confusion over who was supposed to be running the West Wing over the past several weeks. Some of the murkiness of Meadows' status is deliberate, as his dual status tests the Constitution's prohibition on a sitting member of Congress holding an “office under the United States.” White House aides have pointed out that Meadows is not drawing a salary. But in practice, they have acknowledged that his “in-waiting” status is a technicality until he formally resigns his seat. Meadows' spokesman Ben Williamson said that during the transition, Meadows wasn't doing his job as a lawmaker 'full-time,' but that he remained in Congress because it helped his office function more effectively. When a lawmaker leaves office, the House clerk's office formally manages affairs until a successor is elected. Jordan said he saw nothing wrong with Meadows making the transition to the White House while still in Congress. “He was many times working for his constituents, but he was also looking at the interests of the president, particularly on policy areas and investigation areas, where he thought the president was getting a bad deal from Democrats,' Jordan said, referring both to impeachment and the Russia investigation. Regardless of when the official hand-off happens, Meadows inherits a job that has been dramatically reduced in influence. Trump spurned efforts by his previous chiefs of staff — Meadows will be his fourth — to create clear chains of command and streamline the flow of information and access to the president. For months now, Mulvaney has been largely cut out of the administration's biggest decisions, from coordinating his defense against impeachment to the fight against the coronavirus. “In effect, what's happened is Trump, with Mulvaney's help, redefined the job out of existence,' said Chris Whipple, author of “The Gatekeepers: How the White House Chiefs of Staff Define Every Presidency.' He called the current arrangement both “bizarre” and “unprecedented.' “It's clear, three years in, that Trump has no interest in empowering a chief of staff to do the job,” he added. Meadows' allies say he enters the White House with realistic expectations about his role. Rather than attempting to centralize the flow of information through his office — which predecessors have tried to do in an effort to control the impulsive president — they said he intends to focus heavily on the administration's communications strategy and organizing the White House for the coming reelection fight. Meadows, a longtime Trump confidant and sounding board, is known as a policy wonk with smart political instincts. But the former restaurant owner and real estate developer has little experience in crisis management. What Trump needs now more than ever, critics say, is a chief of staff who can tell him things he doesn't want to hear. “In a crisis, like this, that is exponentially more important,” said Whipple. House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy told reporters Thursday that Meadows would make a “great” chief of staff and strengthen the White House's relationship with Capitol Hill. “He's had great relationships on both sides of the aisle, too, so it's a benefit to all,' McCarthy said. ___ Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report. ___ Follow Miller and Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ZekeJMiller and https://twitter.com/colvinj.
  • President Donald Trump declared that 'I'll be the oversight' as lawmakers were in the final days of drafting what became a $2.2 trillion rescue plan for American businesses. In the end, Congress ensured that won’t be the case. The legislation, designed in part to help businesses and corporations hammered by closures due to the coronavirus pandemic, creates multiple layers of accountability for the billions of dollars in loans, grants and direct cash that will soon flow from the federal government. The House is expected to pass it Friday and send it to Trump for his signature. The new oversight system will test the relationship between the White House and Congress, which frayed after Democrats won the House and deteriorated severely during Trump's impeachment as officials flouted requests for witnesses and documents. Trump’s assertion of responsibility for the coronavirus funds came Monday evening as his Treasury secretary, Steven Mnuchin, was on Capitol Hill crafting the package in late-night meetings with Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., had each introduced their own proposals, and Democrats said the Republican bill wasn’t strong enough, arguing that it would create a “slush fund” for corporations. In the end, the bipartisan final package incorporated much of what Democrats wanted, creating a trio of watchdogs, plus other checks, to try to ensure the money isn’t misused. It establishes an oversight board made up of inspectors general, called the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, stands up a separate dedicated inspector general position at the Treasury Department and creates a new committee of experts that reports to Congress. Other accountability measures include more money for watchdogs in multiple federal agencies and requirements that the administration file detailed reports that analyze the flow of cash as it happens. “Whenever you are appropriating over $2 trillion dollars it’s important to ensure the money is spent the way it’s intended,” says Michigan Sen. Gary Peters, the top Democrat on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Peters helped negotiate the oversight provisions with Schumer and the GOP chairman of the panel, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson. “This needs to be outside of politics, that’s the only way it has any credibility,” Peters said. Both Peters and House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., suggested lawmakers could consider additional oversight provisions when Congress passes more legislation to deal with the pandemic. Maloney praised the economic relief bill, but said in an emailed statement said that Democrats “think it could go even further to protect American taxpayers, and we are continuing to examine additional options.' Watchdog groups that track government spending and oversight said the bill wasn't perfect, but provides essential resources as the pandemic worsens. Sean Moulton, a senior policy analyst at Project On Government Oversight, said his group is encouraged that there is “more than one lens of accountability” for the businesses that will be receiving the money. “We’re pleased that they aren’t putting all of their oversight eggs in one basket,” Moulton said. Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen, said she believed that Trump’s declaration that he could personally oversee the process likely ensured that stronger provisions were included. “It showed his hand,’’ Gilbert said. The bedrock of the new oversight is the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, which will be made up of independent inspectors general. Modeled after a similar board created to monitor the 2008 Troubled Asset Relief Program that rescued banks, the panel will have the ability to obtain documents, coordinate audits and identify waste and abuse. The board will report what they find on a central website. Separately, Trump will appoint a special inspector general inside the Treasury Department who will be able to inspect records and review how the money is doled out. That position will be confirmed by the Senate - a process that could take weeks if the chamber stays out until April 20, when senators are currently scheduled to return. Democrats also secured the creation of a Congressional Oversight Commission that will oversee the Treasury Department. Experts on the panel will be appointed by House and Senate leaders. Maloney said “the ideal makeup” of the panel would be a diverse set of experts “to complement the other oversight bodies established under the bill.” The legislation also includes a provision ensuring that bailout funds are not given to companies where a federal official, including the president, has at least a 20 percent interest. Language directed at airlines would block stock buy-backs and limit executive compensation. Oversight groups fret that the legislation doesn’t give the inspector generals panel subpoena power. They also note that Trump will be the one to appoint Treasury's inspector general, a potential wild card. “It’s all very personality driven,” said Scott Ellis of the group Taxpayers for Common Sense. “(Inspectors general) can be very effective and not so effective.” Negotiations on the bill churned until the end, with Democrats complaining in the hours before the vote that bipartisan language requiring the government to publish weekly lists of companies and entities that gain financing through the bailout funds was left out. Without this language, this information could have been kept secret from public, the Democrats argued. The language ended up in the final version. And though the end product was bipartisan — the Senate vote was 96-0 — the two parties had sharp disagreement. Republican Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said on the Senate floor before the bill was passed that Democrats 'wanted to make sure there was great transparency because they didn’t trust the Trump administration. So they built in an inspector general and additional people to watch the Treasury through the process.'' Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, senior Democrat on the Senate Banking Committee, said that Democrats pushed for the provisions to put workers first. Lawmakers need to “make sure money actually ends up in the pockets of workers, not CEOs,’’ Brown said.
  • The Senate passed a mammoth $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems engulfed by the coronavirus pandemic, an unprecedented response amid record new jobless claims and mounting evidence that the economy is in a recession. The unanimous Senate vote late Wednesday came despite misgivings on both sides about whether it goes too far or not far enough and capped days of difficult negotiations as Washington confronted a national challenge unlike it has ever faced. Thursday brought grim economic news as the government reported 3.3 million new weekly unemployment claims, four times the previous record, fresh evidence that the U.S. is sinking into recession as coronavirus isolation steps have led to business closures. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in a televised interview that the economy “may well be in a recession.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., swung behind the bipartisan agreement, saying it “takes us a long way down the road in meeting the needs of the American people.' The measure is set for House passage on Friday and President Donald Trump's immediate signature. The 880-page measure is the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared somber and exhausted as he announced the vote — and he released senators from Washington until April 20, though he promised to recall them if needed. “Pray for one another, for all of our families and for our country,' said McConnell, R-Ky. “The legislation now before us now is historic because it is meant to match a historic crisis,' said Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Our health care system is not prepared to care for the sick. Our workers are without work. Our businesses cannot do business. Our factories lie idle. The gears of the American economy have ground to a halt.' The package is intended as relief for a sinking economy and a nation facing a grim toll from an infection that's killed more than 21,000 people worldwide. “This is a unique situation. This is not a typical downturn,” Fed chief Powell told NBC's “Today” show. 'What's happening here is people are being asked to close their businesses, to stay home from work and to not engage in certain kinds of economic activity and so they're pulling back. And at a certain point, we will get the spread of the virus under control and at that time confidence will return, businesses will open again, people will come back to work.” Underscoring the effort's sheer magnitude, the bill finances a response with a price tag that equals half the size of the entire $4 trillion-plus annual federal budget. The $2.2 trillion estimate is the White House's best guess. Insistently optimistic, Trump said of the greatest public health emergency in anyone's lifetime, 'I don’t think its going to end up being such a rough patch' and anticipated the economy soaring “like a rocket ship” when it's over. The drive by leaders to speed the bill through the Senate was Wednesday slowed as four conservative Republican senators from states whose economies are dominated by low-wage jobs demanded changes, saying the legislation as written was so generous that workers like store clerks might opt to stay on unemployment instead of return to their jobs. They settled for a failed vote to modify the provision. Wednesday's delays followed Democratic stalling tactics earlier in the week as Schumer held out for additional funding for states and hospitals and other provisions. The sprawling measure is the third coronavirus response bill produced by Congress and by far the largest. It builds on efforts focused on vaccines and emergency response, sick and family medical leave for workers and food aid. Senate passage delivered the legislation to the Democratic-controlled House, which is expected to pass it Friday. House members are scattered around the country. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said the measure would pass by voice vote without lawmakers having to return to Washington. House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy said Thursday his members were on board. “We'll have a debate, and then we'll have a voice vote to bring it up and move it to the president's desk,” he told Fox News Channel. He said that while Democrats inserted things in the bill that didn't deal with coronavirus, ”we will still get this package done for hospitals, workers, small businesses.' “Every day matters, so we want to get this done quickly,” McCarthy said. The package would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payroll while workers are forced to stay home. It includes a heavily negotiated $500 billion program for guaranteed, subsidized loans to larger industries, including airlines. Hospitals would get significant help as well. Six days of arduous talks produced the bill, creating tensions among Congress' top leaders, who each took care to tend to party politics as they maneuvered and battled over crafting the legislation. But failure was not an option. “This is a proud moment for the United States Senate and the country, and we’re going to win this battle,” McConnell told reporters after the vote. “We've pivoted from impeachment to 100-to-nothing on this rescue package ... this is about as flawless as you could possibly be.” The vote actually was 96-0 because several members missed the vote out of concerns they have been exposed to the virus. The bill would provide one-time direct payments to Americans of $1,200 per adult making up to $75,000 a year and $2,400 to a married couple making up to $150,000, with $500 payments per child. A huge cash infusion for hospitals expecting a flood of COVID-19 patients grew during the talks to an estimated $130 billion. Another $45 billion would fund additional relief through the Federal Emergency Management Agency for local response efforts and community services. Democrats said the package would help replace the salaries of furloughed workers for four months, rather than the three months first proposed. Furloughed workers would get whatever amount a state usually provides for unemployment, plus a $600-per-week add-on, with gig workers like Uber drivers covered for the first time. Businesses controlled by members of Congress and top administration officials, including Trump and his immediate family members, would be ineligible for the bill's business assistance. Schumer boasted of negotiating wins for transit systems, hospitals and cash-hungry state governments that were cemented after Democrats blocked the measure in votes held Sunday and Monday. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the Senate package would send less than $4 billion to New York, far short of his estimate that the crisis will cost his state up to $15 billion over the next year. More than 280 New Yorkers have died from the virus, a death toll more than double that of any other state. Still, Pelosi said the need for more money for New York is “no reason to stop the step we are taking.” Pelosi was a force behind $400 million in grants to states to expand voting by mail and other steps that Democrats billed as making voting safer but Republican critics called political opportunism. The package also contains $15.5 billion more for a surge in demand for food stamps as part of a massive $330 billion title for agency operations. State and local authorities would receive up to $150 billion in grants to fight the virus, care for their residents and provide basic services. Republicans won inclusion of an employee retention tax credit that's estimated to provide $50 billion to companies that retain employees on payroll and cover 50% of workers' paycheck up to $10,000. Companies would also be able to defer payment of the 6.2% Social Security payroll tax. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, or death. In the United States, more than 69,000 people have been sickened and more than 1,000 have died. ___ Associated Press writers Matthew Daly, Alan Fram, Mary Clare Jalonick, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.
  • The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 460,000 people and killed over 20,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 113,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China. TOP OF THE HOUR: — Finland restricts travel to and from its capital city. — WHO chief says Trump is “taking responsibility” for virus response. — Tony Awards postponed as Broadway stays dark. ___ HELSINKI — The Finnish government says it will block the movement of citizens into and out of a key southern region that includes the Nordic nation's capital, Helsinki, to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus to other areas. Prime Minister Sanna Marin said late Wednesday the measure concerns the Uusimaa region including Helsinki and affects the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland's population. The government made the decision as the 'risk of substantial spreading of the infection from the Uusimaa region to rest of Finland is high' through non-necessary travelling, said Krista Kiuru, the social affairs minister. Police are set to enforce the new regulation, which is set to begin March 27 and end April 19. It will cease all non-necessary human traffic to and from Uusimaa, the region that has been hit worst by the virus. Nationwide, Finland has so far confirmed 880 cases of COVID-19 and three deaths. ___ GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Palestinian Health Ministry says seven new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Gaza Strip, putting the total at nine. The ministry said Wednesday that the seven cases were security workers who made contact with the first two people infected with the virus. Those two men had returned to the Palestinian enclave from Pakistan and tested positive last Thursday. The ministry said the new patients have been in quarantine since the first cases were detected. The Gaza Strip has been reeling under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, raising concerns about the capabilities of its poor health system to handle an outbreak in the overcrowded territory. About 1,500 Palestinians who returned to Gaza via Israel and Egypt have been placed in obligatory quarantine at hastily set-up facilities. ___ LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles County officials say they no longer are including a 17-year-old boy in the tally of coronavirus deaths until they do more to determine his precise cause of death. The county’s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, said Wednesday that she’s asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the death of the youth from the desert city of Lancaster. She said that while the child did test positive for the coronavirus, there were “extenuating circumstances that pointed to an alternative diagnosis as well.” The death is no longer being counted among LA County’s 13 total fatalities from the virus. Gov. Gavin Newsom chided county officials, calling the backtrack a reminder that “in this moment it’s not just speed, it’s accuracy that must be front and center.” A report last week by the CDC found no coronavirus deaths in the U.S. among people 19 and under. ___ ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's health minister says 15 people have died from the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 59. Fahrettin Koca tweeted Wednesday that 561 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the number of infections in the country to at least 2,433. ___ BERLIN — The U.S. Army Europe says it has delivered medical supplies and equipment to help fight the new coronavirus in Italy's hard-hit region of Lombardy. The move, which was part of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency's humanitarian assistance program, saw the 405th Army Field Support Brigade deliver hospital beds, mattresses, adjustable IV poles and other supplies from the U.S. Army Camp Darby in Livorno, Italy. In a statement Wednesday, U.S. Army Europe's commanding general, Lt. Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, said the effort demonstrated “the U.S commitment to our NATO ally and the people of Italy during this crisis.” ___ HARRISBURG, Pa. — Pennsylvania lawmakers voted Wednesday to delay the state's primary election by five weeks to June 2, potentially past the spike of the state's spreading coronavirus cases. The measure passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled state Legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said he will sign it. As a result, Pennsylvania will join more than 10 states in delaying primaries. ___ PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron launched a special military operation Wednesday to help fight the new coronavirus in France, one of the world’s hardest-hit countries. As part of the new “Operation Resilience,” France is deploying helicopter carriers to help transport patients in overseas French territories in the Caribbean, South America and the Indian Ocean. Striking a combative tone on a visit to a military field hospital in the virus-ravaged eastern city of Mulhouse, Macron paid homage to medics who have died, “who paid with their lives to save other lives.” Macron also promised a “massive” new investment plan for public hospitals, after years of cost cuts in France’s renowned health care system that have complicated efforts to stem the spread of the virus. Facing criticism that his government was too slow to lock down the country as the virus spread, Macron criticized those “who would fracture the country, when we should have one obsession: to be united to fight the virus.” Reiterating that France is at “war” with the virus, Macron warned: “We are just at the beginning. But we will make it through, because we will not surrender, because we have the strength.” ___ BERLIN — Seven German medical associations have published recommendations for how doctors should determine which seriously ill patients with the new coronavirus can be given intensive care treatment when demand outstrips available capacity. The 13-page guide published Wednesday states that 'according to current information about the COVID-19 pandemic it is likely that despite capacity increases already made there soon won't be sufficient intensive care resources available also in Germany for all patients who would need them.' The document, posted on the website of Germany's Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine, recommends not providing intensive care if the process of dying has irreversibly begun, treatment wouldn't result in improvement or stabilization, survival would depend on permanent intensive care or the patient refuses intensive care. The guide, which is backed by six other medical associations, suggests that decisions on allocating available beds may be necessary 'analogous to triage in disaster medicine.' It suggests that survival chances of patients with other serious illnesses should also be weighed and that age alone shouldn't be the deciding factor. About 1,000 of the over 30,000 COVID-19 patients in Germany are currently receiving intensive care. The government aims to double the 28,000 intensive care beds in the country to cope with a predicted increase in cases. ___ ST. PAUL, Minn. — Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday ordered Minnesota residents in nonessential jobs to stay at home for two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the coronavirus from overwhelming the state's health care system. The governor's order begins at midnight Friday. He said the restrictions were critical to allow the state to protect its most vulnerable people and give time to build up the state's capacity to handle a flood of infections. “I’m asking for your patience, your cooperation and your understanding,' Walz said in a live video message. “My pledge to you is to use the valuable time you're giving us.” Walz had held off on issuing the order because he wanted to see data and modeling to show whether it would make enough of a difference to justify the disruptions that could last for weeks or months. ___ BOISE, Idaho — Idaho Gov. Brad Little has issued a statewide stay-at-home order as the coronavirus continues to spread. Little announced the order Wednesday, saying it would remain in effect for 21 days. Idaho has more than 91 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Idaho has a population of about 1.7 million. ___ GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization commended U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday for “taking responsibility” for leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a virtual press briefing in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the U.N. health agency has called repeatedly for heads of state to lead a “whole-of-government” response to the new coronavirus. “That’s exactly what he’s doing which we appreciate because fighting this pandemic needs political commitment,” Tedros said, referring to Trump. Tedros has previously warned that countries taking measures to lock down their societies must use the time wisely to implement other aggressive interventions, including widespread testing and efforts to track down the virus’ transmission chains. WHO and other experts say it could be months before the outbreak peaks and loosening such controls too soon could allow the virus to resurge. On Tuesday, Trump suggested the lockdown measures in the U.S. might be lifted by Easter and predicted there would be “packed churches” across the country. “I know he’s doing all he can,” Tedros said, noting he and Trump spoke recently. “I believe that kind of political commitment and political leadership can bring change or can stop this pandemic.” ___ NEW YORK — With Broadway shuttered amid the coronavirus pandemic, producers of the annual Tony Awards have postponed this year's celebration of American theater. The show was originally scheduled for June 7 but the virus forced all 41 Broadway theaters to go dark and caused turmoil in the Tony schedule. Producers have not yet announced a rescheduled date. Broadway abruptly closed on March 12, knocking out all shows on the Great White Way but also 16 that were still scheduled to open, including “Diana,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Company.” Broadway producers have vowed to resume musicals and plays the week of April 13. ___ BOSTON — U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton says he has decided to self-quarantine after experiencing symptoms of COVID-19. Moulton, a 41-year-old Democrat and former presidential hopeful from Massachusetts, said in a statement Wednesday that he began feeling unwell Thursday, with a low-grade fever and a tightness in his chest he’d never felt before. Moulton said he also had a sore throat, though no serious cough, along with body aches and unusual fatigue. His wife had similar symptoms, he said. Well before experiencing the symptoms, Moulton said, he instructed staff members in his offices in Salem and Washington to work from home, except for two essential workers. The House’s attending physician told him that because the symptoms are minor and a test would not change his treatment, he and his wife don’t qualify for tests, he said. Moulton said that he has been steadily improving and that unless his symptoms worsen, he can end his self-quarantine Saturday. ___ ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey's president says he believes his country will slow the transmission of the new coronavirus within two or three weeks. In a televised address to the nation, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also expressed confidence that Turkey will overcome the coronavirus outbreak 'in the shortest possible time with the least damage possible.' The country has so far reported 44 COVID-19 deaths and a total of 1,872 confirmed infections after conducting close to 28,000 tests. Erdogan said, however, that the country was monitoring a further 53,000 people at their homes and 8,554 other people in hospitals. ___ NEW YORK — A “Top Chef Masters” winner and beloved restaurateur, Floyd Cardoz, has died of complications from the coronavirus. He was 59. A statement released by his company says Cardoz died Wednesday. He was admitted a week ago to Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, New Jersey, with a fever and subsequently tested positive for the virus. The chef won season three of Bravo's “Top Chef Masters” in 2011. He was a partner in three restaurants in his native Mumbai. In addition, he and famed restaurateur Danny Meyer operated the popular Manhattan eatery Tabla in the early 2000s. It closed in 2010. ___ THESSALONIKI, Greece — Staying at home is bad for Greece's drains. Authorities in the country's second-largest city, Thessaloniki, say residents are straining the drainage system by flushing virus-related items down the toilet. 'We are advising the public not to dispose of ... antiseptic wipes, disposable gloves, and even masks — products recently consumed for personal safety against the COVID-19 virus,' the city's water authority said in a statement. 'These items combined with fats and oils can cause a blockage in pipes, at pumping stations, and at sewage facilities at a time when the company is operating with security personnel to safeguard the health of its employees.' Drainage pipes tend to be narrow in Greek cities, with used toilet paper commonly collected in small bathroom trash bins and not flushed down the toilet. ___ ALMASFUZITO, Hungary — Hungary's oil and gas company has refitted a production line normally used for making windshield washer fluid to instead produce liquid hand sanitizers and surface disinfectants. MOL said Wednesday that it is producing 50,000 liters (13,210 gallons) of the fluids daily at its refinery in Almasfuzito. MOL, which operates in 30 countries and has 26,000 employees, says it will also start making similar products at its facilities in Slovakia and Croatia. ___ JOHANNESBURG — South Africa's police minister says dog-walking is banned during the country's three-week lockdown that begins Friday to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Bheki Cele also said people can't go running, contradicting the health minister's comments earlier in the day. And Cele warned South Africans to essentially stay sober for 21 days, emphasizing that alcohol sales are prohibited. The military and police will patrol to regulate movement, and all ports of entry are now closed. South Africa has the most COVID-19 cases in Africa with more than 700. ___ LONDON — Britain’s deputy ambassador to Hungary has died after contracting the new coronavirus. The Foreign Office says Steven Dick, who was 37, died Tuesday in Hungary. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he was “desperately saddened by the news.” Dick previously served in U.K. diplomatic posts in Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and had been based in Budapest since late last year. Dick’s parents said he had long dreamed of becoming a diplomat and “was very happy representing our country overseas. We are devastated by his loss.”
  • The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. TOP OF THE HOUR: — South Korea’s central bank to temporarily provide “unlimited” money to eligible banks, financial institutions — Japan setting up task force to discuss coronavirus measures, emergency responses — Western Australia wants residents on cruise ship to isolate on resort island — Alaska Airlines to reduce flights by 70%, cut pay to its CEO and president to zero ___ SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea’s central bank says it will temporarily provide an “unlimited” amount of money to eligible banks and other financial institutions for three months through repurchase agreements as it tries to calm financial markets rattled by the global coronavirus crisis. The Bank of Korea on Thursday said the measure was unprecedented but didn’t provide an estimate on how much money would be supplied to financial markets through the short-term borrowings. The bank last week executed an emergency rate cut of 0.5 percentage points to help ease the economic fallout from the coronavirus, which brought its policy rate to an all-time low of 0.75%. Some experts say it’s unclear whether traditional financial tools to boost money supplies would be effective now when the global pandemic has damaged both supply and demand, decimating industrial hubs in China and Italy and forcing millions to stay at home under tightened quarantines. ___ TOKYO — Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is setting up a special task force to discuss coronavirus measures and emergency responses as the government now considers the spread of the COVID-19 virus rampant in the country, officials said Thursday. The meeting is backed by a special law enacted earlier this month to allow Abe to declare a state of emergency. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said ministers in Abe’s Cabinet accepted the latest assessment submitted by a government-commissioned experts’ panel that the coronavirus outbreak in Japan is feared to have been widespread in the country. Nationwide, Japan had 93 new cases on Wednesday, including 41 in Tokyo alone. The number has doubled from past few weeks, amid a rise of untraceable infections in Tokyo, Osaka and other cities, while a growing number of cases were brought in from abroad, Kato said. A sharp increase prompted alarmed Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike to hold an emergency news conference Wednesday to ask Tokyo residents to work from home as much as possible and stay home during the coming weekend, suggesting a possible so-called “lockdown” if the infection turns “explosive.” Japan as of Wednesday has 2,003 confirmed cases, including 712 from a cruise ship, with 55 deaths. ___ CANBERRA, Australia — The Western Australia state government says it only wants to isolate its own residents on a resort island for 14 days and wants hundreds of other Australians and foreigners aboard a cruise ship due to dock soon to fly home. State Premier Mark McGowan said Thursday that dealing with three cruise ships hoping to dock at the port town of Fremantle is “extremely complicated.” The Vasco da Gama has been asked to delay its arrival at Fremantle from Friday to Monday to allow time to prepare Rottnest Island, a 24-kilometer (15-mile) ferry journey away, as a quarantine center for the 200 Western Australians aboard. McGowan says he wants the other 1,300 passengers and crew -- including 600 Australians -- to remain on board until they can fly directly home. The state government is dealing with other governments to arrange that. No cases of the new coronavirus have been confirmed on the Vasco da Gama, but seven COVID-19 cases have been confirmed on another cruise ship off the Australian west coast, Artania. A third ship, Magnifica, is anchored off the west coast and has not reported illness. Magnifica left Fremantle on Tuesday, but has since been told by the United Arab Emirates that it can’t dock in Dubai. The Artania and Magnifica have almost 3,000 passengers and crew on board but no Australians. “No one will be disembarking at Fremantle unless a passenger is in a life-threatening emergency,” McGowan said. McGowan wants any medical cases that must come ashore to be taken to an Australian military base. ___ SEATTLE — Alaska Airlines will reduce flights by 70% in April and May and cut pay to its CEO and president to zero through September to conserve cash amid the coronavirus outbreak. The Seattle-based airline said Wednesday that like other airlines they are seeing demand for flights drop by more than 80% and flight schedules for June and beyond will be based on demand. 'These actions are unprecedented, but these are truly unprecedented times,' Alaska CEO Brad Tilden said in a news release. Additionally, Alaska plans to slash pay by 50% to the president of Horizon Air, and cut it by 20 to 30% for other executives. The company board also will not take their pay. The company has worked with the White House, The Treasury Department, and Congress on a $50 billion aid package for passenger airlines, Tilden said. “As we more fully understand the impact of these provisions, we will add to our plans to manage through this change,' he said. ___ SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has reported 104 new cases of the coronavirus and five more deaths, bringing its totals to 9,241 infections and 131 deaths. South Korea’s Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention said Thursday that 30 of the new cases were linked to recent arrivals. Health authorities have been scrambling to prevent the virus from re-entering as an increasing number of South Koreans return from Europe and the United States amid broadening outbreaks and suspended school years. From Friday, the country will enforce 14-day quarantines on South Korean nationals and foreigners with long-term stay visas arriving from the United States. Similar measures have already been applied to passengers arriving from Europe. South Korean Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun on Thursday ordered officials to employ a “no-tolerance” policy on those who disobey quarantines, saying that South Korean nationals would be sued and foreigners would be expelled. ___ PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad — Trinidad & Tobago is reporting its first death from the coronavirus. Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said late Wednesday that the patient was an elderly man with a pre-existing medical condition. The twin-island nation of 1.4 million people has more than 50 confirmed cases. The oil- and gas-rich nation shuttered its borders earlier this week and has refused entry to everyone, including Trinidadians now stuck abroad. ___ MADRID — Spain’s Parliament has voted in favor of the government’s request to extend the state of emergency by two weeks that has allowed it to apply a national lockdown in hopes of stemming its coronavirus outbreak. The parliamentary endorsement will allow the government to extend the strict stay-at-home rules and business closings for a full month. The government declared a state of emergency on March 14. It will now last until April 11. Spain’s government solicited the two-week extension after deaths and infections from the COVID-19 virus have skyrocketed in recent days. Spain 47,600 total cases. Its 3,434 deaths only trail Italy’s death toll as the hardest-hit countries in the world. The parliament met with fewer than 50 of its 350 members in the chamber, with the rest voting from home to reduce the risk of contagion. ___ BEIJING — China’s National Health Commission on Thursday reported 67 new COVID-19 cases, all of which it says were imported infections in recent arrivals from abroad. Once again, there were no new cases reported in Wuhan, the central Chinese provincial capital where the coronavirus emerged in December. After a months-long lockdown, Wuhan residents are allowed out of the city but cannot leave Hubei province until April 8. China has started lifting the last of the controls that confined tens of millions of people to their homes. As outbreaks escalate in the United States and Europe, China’s ruling Communist Party has declared victory over the epidemic and is relaxing restrictions to revive the economy. ___ WASHINGTON — District of Columbia health officials announced 48 new positive infections from the coronavirus, including a 2-month-old boy, bringing the total up to 231. Officials also announced Washington’s third death from the virus, a 75-year-old woman. Officials in Washington have long predicted that infection numbers would spike as testing became more available. Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a state of emergency, shuttered all schools and ordered all non-essential businesses to close. White House and Capitol tours have been cancelled and the National Zoo, Smithsonian museum network and Kennedy Center have closed. Police have blocked off dozens of streets, bridges and traffic circles to prevent crowds coming to see Washington’s signature blooming cherry blossom trees. ___ WASHINGTON — A U.S. Marine has become the first person stationed at the Pentagon to test positive for coronavirus. The Marine has been in isolation at home since March 13, when a member of his immediate family began to show symptoms. The Pentagon said his workspace has been cleaned and a contact investigation is underway. Two other defense workers who had visited the Pentagon have tested positive, but they were not assigned to the building. ___ DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is issuing a statewide stay-at-home order in an attempt to stem the rapid spread of the coronavirus. Polis said he is taking this “extreme measure,” effective Thursday until April 11 because restrictions taken to date haven't done enough to reduce the spread of the virus. People should only leave home when they absolutely must, he said, for grocery shopping, to seek medical care or to care for dependents. Polis' order comes after six Colorado counties issued stay-at-home orders affecting nearly 3 million people. More than 1,086 people in Colorado have tested positive for the virus and at least 20 people have died. — WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has halted for 60 days the movement of US troops and Defense Department civilians overseas as a further measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The stoppage is expected to affect about 90,000 troops scheduled to deploy abroad or to return from abroad over the next two months. Some exceptions are allowed, and the order by Defense Secretary Mark Esper will not stop the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan as called for in last month’s deal with the Taliban. ___ WASHINGTON — The White House says New York residents who have left the metro area in recent days should self-isolate for 14 days, clarifying guidance announced Tuesday which had applied to anyone who had visited New York recently. Dr. Deborah Birx issued the new guidance Wednesday from the White House press briefing room, saying it applied to “residents of the metro area that may have gone to second homes or other places to reside.” She says: “We’ve asked all of them to carefully monitor their temperatures and self-isolate from the communities where they went just to ensure their own health and the health of their communities.” The New York metro area is now the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., accounting for more than 50% of all new infections reported in recent days. ___ UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is welcoming calls by some groups for an immediate ceasefire to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, and says he sees “a clear conscience emerging” that it’s time to concentrate on the war against COVID-19. He pointed to communist guerrillas in the Philippines announcing a ceasefire from Thursday to April 15 in response to his appeal, and said he was encouraged to see a truce in Libya between the warring parties “holding with difficulties.” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric also noted the humanitarian truce called for by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the country’s northeast to deal with the virus. The group was allied with the United States in the fight against Islamic State extremists. Guterres said at a humanitarian briefing Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority and Israel have also been able to work together on COVID-19, “even if we know the extreme division that exists politically between the two.” He said U.N. envoys around the world are talking to warring parties about ceasefires and he expressed hope that “it will be possible in Yemen and Syria to make serious progress” to end fighting and tackle the coronavirus.
  • Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard suspended her presidential campaign on Thursday, ending a long-shot effort that saw her feuding with Hillary Clinton and raising fears among Democrats that she would mount a third-party 2020 bid. In an email and a video posted to Twitter, Gabbard offered her full support to former Vice President Joe Biden, saying “it's clear that Democratic primary voters have chosen' him to take on President Donald Trump in November. Noting their political differences, Gabbard said she respected Biden and had confidence in the motivations of his campaign effort. “Although I may not agree with the vice president on every issue, I know that he has a good heart, and he's motivated by his love for our country and the American people,' Gabbard said. 'I'm confident that he will lead our country, guided by the spirit of aloha respect and compassion, and thus help heal the divisiveness that has been tearing our country apart.” As the coronavirus outbreak continues, Gabbard, a military veteran and a major in the Army National Guard, said she would focus on her continued service, including military experience, should it be needed. “I feel that the best way I can be of service at this time is to continue to work for the health and wellbeing of the people of Hawaii and our country in Congress, and to stand ready to serve in uniform should the Hawaii National Guard be activated,” said Gabbard, who served two tours of duty in the Middle East. During her candidacy, Gabbard appeared often on Fox News Channel and angered fellow Democrats by voting “present” on the articles of impeachment against Trump. Gabbard attracted a sizable following in New Hampshire, where she frequently campaigned ahead of the state’s February primary. Some past supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the state warmed to her campaign over time, and she espoused a similar outsider approach to Sanders' 2016 run, which she supported. She was also part of what once was a historically diverse Democratic field and the last of a half-dozen female candidates to depart the race. The 38-year-old American Samoan’s campaign website described her as “the first Hindu to run for president and first practicing Hindu in Congress.” And as one of the youngest candidates in the field, Gabbard outlasted senators and governors who came into the large Democratic primary race with higher profiles. Although she failed to qualify for any stage past the fifth debate, in November, Gabbard was awarded two delegates once voting began, according to The Associated Press’ count, both in the March 2 contest in her native American Samoa. Yet Gabbard’s 2020 campaign was also quick to attract questions from voters. The Hawaii congresswoman has faced backlash for her 2017 meeting in Syria with Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose government has been accused of chemical weapons attacks against its own citizens. And with a primary challenge looming, she announced in October she would not run for reelection to her Hawaii congressional seat. Gabbard’s decision became public shortly after a public feud with Clinton, the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee. In a podcast interview, Clinton appeared to call her “the favorite of the Russians” and said she believed Republicans have “got their eye on somebody who’s currently in the Democratic primary and are grooming her to be the third-party candidate.” Gabbard responded by calling Clinton the “personification of the rot that has sickened the Democratic Party for so long.” In January, she filed a defamation lawsuit against Clinton, saying Clinton's comments were based on either her own imagination or “extremely dubious conspiracy theories” that any reasonable person would know to be “inherently and objectively unreliable.” Asked to comment on the lawsuit, Clinton spokesman Nick Merrill said, “That's ridiculous.” As most of her Democratic House colleagues voted to impeach Trump in December, Gabbard chose to vote present on the two articles of impeachment. Former Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie called for Gabbard to resign over the vote and said she wasn't doing her job representing Hawaii. 'Look, I did not take the easy vote,” Gabbard said after returning to the campaign trail. “I took the vote that I felt was in the best interest of our country and standing in the center to be able to bring the country together, to be able to begin this reconciliation that I think is so necessary in this terribly divided moment in our country.' Questions over whether Gabbard would mount a third-party run in November’s general election continued following her feud with Clinton. Even as she was questioned for her present vote on the impeachment articles, Gabbard maintained that a third-party campaign was not something she was considering. “Absolutely not,” Gabbard said in December 2019. 'It's not going to change. My decision won't change, no matter how many times people say it, no matter how many times I get asked the question, it's not changing. I'm running to be the Democratic nominee.” ___ Meg Kinnard can be reached at https://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • After questioning the seriousness of COVID-19, defying his own health ministry's recommendations and denouncing a “certain hysteria,” Brazil's president is now projecting himself as leading the nation's response to the coronavirus crisis in what has become one of the biggest challenges to his presidency. President Jair Bolsonaro provoked the ire of many Brazilians and even former political allies with his blasé attitude to the global pandemic and insistence on shaking supporters' hands at a protest. One of Brazil's most popular news sites, UOL, reported Bolsonaro had suggested the Chinese government caused the coronavirus outbreak — a claim later voiced publicly by his son, a lawmaker. China's embassy rebuffed the allegations, saying on Twitter they were 'extremely irresponsible.' While countries around Latin America and the world have closed borders, quarantined millions, canceled international flights, and shut down schools, Brazil has done none of these things, except for closing a stretch of its vast border with Venezuela. Flights continue in and out of the country. No lockdowns have been ordered and state governments and municipalities have taken the lead in telling people to stay home. “Coronavirus in Brazil is acting as a kind of catalyst, channeling all this discontent and accelerating the process” against Bolsonaro, said Carlos Melo, a political science professor at the Insper University in Sao Paulo. “When he came out to the streets for the protests, he made a very big, very serious mistake. Now he is trying to regain control.” Faced with a growing backlash, a concerned-looking Bolsonaro, flanked by many of his ministers, on Wednesday gave his first press conference on the coronavirus at Brazil's presidential palace. During the two-hour event, Bolsonaro said he would redouble efforts to fight COVID-19, but did not announce any new measures. For the first time since the outbreak, he thanked lawmakers for their efforts and called on them to approve a “state of calamity,” which would allow the government to spend more than the annual budget allows, with funds going toward health and job preservation. But the press conference conveyed mixed messages about how to deal with the pandemic. While vowing to fight the outbreak, he sat shoulder-to-shoulder with his ministers in a violation of the social distancing prescribed by international authorities. Government officials wore white masks, but several of them, including Bolsonaro, removed them repeatedly when speaking. “As the head of the executive I have to be in the front lines with my people,” Brazil's president said. “Don't be surprised if you see me entering a crowded bar in Sao Paulo, a ferry from Niteroi to Rio or in a bus in Belo Horizonte.” Critics say Bolsonaro's about-face on the virus follows U.S. President Donald Trump's example. But for many, it is too little, too late. Brazil's president had until recently remained largely absent from press conferences, leaving them to ministers or top health officials. Over the weekend, he was seen meeting and shaking hands with a group of supporters. His decision to come into physical contact with the crowd while awaiting final results of his second COVID-19 test contradicted the recommendations his health minister previously issued about avoiding large gatherings. 'How does a man who is possibly infected go into the middle of a crowd?' Janaina Paschoal told fellow lawmakers in Sao Paulo's legislature. “This man has to leave the Presidency of the Republic, let (vice-president Hamilton) Mourão, who understands matters of defense, lead the nation.' Paschoal, a conservative who was once in the running to be Bolsonaro's vice-president, had criticized the president but never before demanded he step down. Multiple members of Bolsonaro's administration have contracted the coronavirus. His top national security adviser, Gen. Augusto Heleno, confirmed Tuesday he tested positive after attending a recent trip to the U.S. along with Bolsonaro. According to online news site G1, more than a dozen members of a delegation who met with President Donald Trump in Mar-a-Lago have also received positive test results. So far more than 400 people have been infected in Brazil, and four have died, with officials expecting that number to rise significantly in the coming days. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority recover. Lawmaker Alexandre Frota, another close ally turned critic, said Monday he has prepared an impeachment request he will send to congress. Bolsonaro maintains a strained relationship with the speaker of the lower house, Rodrigo Maia, but it is unlikely congress would consider an impeachment request amid the crisis. Even his intellectual guru, Olavo de Carvalho, a conservative Brazilian writer who lives in the U.S., posted a Facebook message suggesting Bolsonaro was on the wrong course and poorly advised. “From the beginning of his term I told the president he should disarm his enemies before trying to solve any ‘national problem.’ He did the opposite,” Carvalho wrote. “I am sorry. Now it may be too late to react.” On Tuesday and Wednesday night, Brazilians in cities including Sao Paulo, Rio and Brasilia protested Bolsonaro in one of the few ways possible at a time of social distancing: leaning from their windows and banging pots and pans. Some shouted “Bolsonaro out!' On his official Twitter account, Bolsonaro complained the media had failed to communicate a counter pots-and-pans protest in favor of his administration, which took place a half hour later. That demonstration wasn’t nearly as loud or as long, and participants were shouted at by those in neighboring buildings. –– AP reporter Mauricio Savarese contributed to this report from Sao Paulo and David Biller from Rio.
  • The U.S. surgeon general caught the eye of Donald Trump in a tried-and-true way: praising the 45th president on television. At a recent briefing with his coronavirus task force standing behind him, Trump turned to Dr. Jerome Adams and declared the previously low-profile 20th surgeon general among the administration’s “stars” to emerge from this crisis. “I watched him the other day. It was such a fantastic job you did, and I really appreciate it,' Trump said. Trump didn’t specify what media appearance he was referring to. But during the span of a few days, Adams had said that Trump sleeps less than he does but was in better health, echoed Trump’s argument that most Americans should be more worried about the seasonal flu than the new virus and defended the Republican president’s claim that Democratic lawmakers’ politicization of the crisis was, in Trump's words, a “new hoax.” At the same news conference where Trump praised him, Adams scolded the media for “bickering” and “partisanship” in their coverage of the administration’s missteps. “No more criticism or finger-pointing,” Adams said. Surgeons general rarely garner much attention. The most impactful announcement from a surgeon general came in 1964 when Dr. Luther L. Terry told the nation that there was a link between lung cancer and smoking. More recently, they have been in the public eye because their medical advice caused political problems for the president. Dr. C. Everett Koop was at odds with the Reagan White House with his calls for AIDS education for elementary school students and support of condoms for disease prevention. Dr. Jocelyn Elders was fired by Bill Clinton after she affirmed at an AIDS conference that it may be appropriate to promote masturbation to help dissuade young people from engaging in risky sexual activity. Dr. Richard Carmona said after he left the office that the George W. Bush administration tried to 'water down' his report on the dangers of secondhand smoke . Adams, an anesthesiologist, has gained notice during the coronavirus crisis for his eager defense of the president. Days after Vice President Mike Pence tapped him to join the task force, Adams conducted a radio interview where he appeared to stray far outside the scope of medicine to defend Trump's comment at a South Carolina rally that Democrats were pushing a “new hoax” by spotlighting the coronavirus. “I will tell you when he said hoax, he was not referring to the coronavirus,” Adams said. “He said, and this is from his mouth to your ears, he was referring to the way he had been treated by the opposite party in terms of impeachment, in terms of criticizing the coronavirus response so far, in terms of taking every opportunity to bring him down.” Adams also raised eyebrows this week for incorrectly referring to South Korea as an authoritarian country. he was trying to make the point that as a democracy, the U.S. should tread carefully in how it goes about stemming the virus. “We are not an authoritarian nation, so we have to be careful when we say, ‘Let’s do what China did. Let’s do what South Korea did,’” Adams said during an interview on “Fox & Friends,” equating South Korea’s democratic republic with communist China’s unelected government. In recent days, Adams, a 45-year-old married father of three children, has been at the center of the administration's public push to underscore to the young and healthy to avoid gatherings of 10 or more and practice social distancing for the sake of older generations. Adams was dispatched Thursday to do a round of appearances on the morning news programs, conveying the message that people's actions can help save lives and limit the spread of the virus. Later, he joined the president at a news conference where he echoed Trump's praise of Food and Drug Administration officials as “tireless' in their efforts to bring drugs to the market for those stricken by the virus. The White House also says that Adams and other high-profile administration officials will appear in nationally broadcast public service announcements that highlight how Americans can protect themselves and those most at risk. A spokeswoman for Adams said he was not available to comment. It was his relationship with Pence that brought Adams to Washington. When Adams arrived on the job in 2017, he was well-regarded by public health experts and industry insiders and in his adopted state of Indiana, where he served as state health commissioner when Pence was governor. Adams played a key role in persuading Pence to back a needle exchange after an HIV outbreak in rural Indiana among intravenous drug users. After Trump appointed Pence to take over the administration’s coronavirus response in late February, the vice president added Adams. “I have seen him communicate well and organize well and he brings around him a team of people that know things he doesn’t know — always the sign of a good leader,” said Beth Meyerson, a health policy expert at the University of Arizona who worked closely with Adams during the HIV outbreak in Indiana. Others in the public health community say he’s strayed from the traditional role of the surgeon general as “the nation’s doctor' and administration’s chief medical adviser. “Jerome Adams came in with a great reputation,” said Kavita Patel, a Johns Hopkins Medicine internist who served as a senior adviser in the Obama administration. “There was the comment he made about South Korea. At times, it feels like there is a little too much politics in how he’s been speaking about the administration’s coronavirus efforts. That’s where, unfortunately, he loses credibility. The office should not be political.” Adams was a “bright and engaging” doctor while he was Indiana’s state health commissioner, said Charlie Brown, who was the top Democrat on the Indiana House public health committee at the time of the 2015 HIV outbreak in southern Indiana. More than 180 HIV cases were tied to needle-sharing among intravenous drug users who were injecting a liquefied painkiller. Pence, citing law-and-order objections, had resisted calls to allow needle-exchange programs to stem the spread of diseases. Eventually, with the guidance of Adams, Pence came to reluctantly agree to the distribution of clean needles. “He was right on point with those issues that were impacting health care in Indiana when he was here,” Brown added. “But now it is like a different world. It’s unreal. The Jerome Adams that I knew and the one that I see step before the microphone now just does not make any sense.” Elders, the Clinton administration-era surgeon general, said she first came to know Adams during his time as Indiana’s state health commissioner and was quickly impressed. She described him as the type of medical professional who can provide Trump and Pence with sound advice in shaping policy. “His heart's in the right place, he’s a good physician and good scientist,” Elders said. But Elders added that Adams' wading into politics undermines the credibility of the surgeon general’s office. “I don’t think it’s the surgeon general’s place to be scolding the media about politics,” Elders said. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three weeks to six weeks to recover. ___ Davies reported from Indianapolis. ___ The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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  • A former television meteorologist and mayor’s spokesman was arrested after sending threatening emails to a Nebraska county health official, investigators said. Ronald Penzkowski, also known by his on-air name Ron Gerard, sent 15 to 30 hostile emails to Dr. Adi Pour, director of the Douglas County Health Department from March 25 to March 31, investigators said Wednesday, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Douglas County Sheriff’s Capt. Wayne Hudson said Penzkowski attempted to conceal his identity while sending the “threatening and disturbing” emails, the World-Herald reported. The emails were directed at Pour’s response to the coronavirus and threatened to “lynch” and “slice her throat.” They would come from a new email address each time they were blocked. One of the emails was sent from the name Frank Gorshin, an actor who played the Riddler on the “Batman” television show, KETV reported. Investigators traced the emails back to Penzkowski. They are also looking to see if other emails can be traced to him. Penzkowski was arrested and charged with making terroristic threats and stalking, KETV reported. “They make those decisions with one common goal, and that’s to protect the public,” Hudson told the World-Herald. “If we get further reports of public officials being threatened, we’re going to take them seriously and we’re going to investigate them thoroughly.” Pour has worked as director of the health department since 2002, the World-Herald reported. Penzkowski worked as director of communications under Mayor Jim Suttle before resigning in 2010. Before that, he worked as a television meteorologist. There are 249 confirmed coronavirus cases and five deaths in Nebraska, The New York Times reported.
  • Nearly 952,000 people worldwide -- including more than 216,000 people in the United States – have been infected with the new coronavirus, and the number of deaths from the outbreak continues to rise. Officials are attempting to contain the COVID-19 outbreak in the U.S. as hospitals brace for unprecedented patient surges. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is tracking cases in the U.S. here.  Live updates for Thursday, April 2, continue below:  Hundreds of thousands of gallons of milk dumped amid surplus caused by COVID-19 Update 11:30 a.m. EDT April 2: Many dairy processing plants across Wisconsin have more product than they can handle and that’s forced farmers to begin dumping their milk down the drain. That’s the case at Golden E Dairy near West Bend. Farmer Ryan Elbe told WISN-TV they are dumping about about 30,000 gallons (113,562 litres) a day. The coronavirus has dried up the marketplace for dairy products as restaurants, schools and food service businesses have been closed. About one-third of the state’s dairy products, mostly cheese, are sold in the food-service trade. The Journal Sentinel reported that Elbe’s cooperative Dairy Farmers of America has agreed to pay them for milk that’s being dumped. But like most cooperatives, DFA can only afford to do that for so long. Elbe’s parents started the farm with 80 cows in 1991, an operation that has grown to 2,400 cows today. Amazon to check employees’ temperatures, deploy masks beginning next week, report says Update 11 a.m. EDT April 2: Amazon will begin checking temperatures and handing out face masks for staff members at all its Whole Foods locations and at warehouses in Europe and the U.S. as employees continue working during the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported. Company officials told Reuters they would begin checking employee temperatures beginning next week using no-contact forehead thermometers. Anyone determined to have a temperature over 100.4 Fahrenheit will be sent home, the news site reported. Amazon officials also told Reuters its locations will be getting surgical masks by early next week. Michigan suspending in-person classes through end of school year Update 10:45 a.m. EDT April 2: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan on Thursday announced schools in the state would be closed through the end of the school year due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Detroit Free Press. “My number one priority right now is protecting Michigan families from the spread of COVID-19,' Whitmer said in a statement obtained by the Free Press. “For the sake of our students, their families, and the more than 100,000 teachers and staff in our state, I have made the difficult decision to close our school facilities for the remainder of the school year.” The decision will impact about 1.5 million students in Michigan, the Free Press reported. Remote learning will continue for students in the state. Defense Department providing 100,000 body bags to FEMA Update 10:15 a.m. EDT April 2: The Department of Defense is working to fulfill a request from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for 100,000 body bags as the coronavirus death toll rises in the U.S., according to multiple reports. In a statement obtained by CNN, Defense Department spokesman Lt. Col. Mike Andrews said the request was being filled in line with a longstanding agreement with FEMA “to procure key commodities from (the Defense Logistics Agency’s) industrial partners during crisis response operations.” “DLA is currently responding to FEMA’s prudent planning efforts for 100,000 pouches to address mortuary contingencies on behalf of state health agencies,” the statement said. Stocks open higher after early stumble Update 9:55 a.m. EDT April 2: Stocks opened modestly higher on Wall Street Thursday, a day after dropping 4.4%. Stocks had been headed for an even higher open until the Labor Department reported that more than 6.6 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, double the record high set just one week earlier. It was the latest sign that large numbers of Americans are losing their jobs as the economic damage from the coronavirus accelerates. The U.S. and other large economies are widely believed to have sunk into severe recessions as businesses shut down the world. The price of crude oil jumped 8% to about $22 a barrel. Still unclear why some COVID-19 patients get sicker than others, Fauci says Update 9:50 a.m. EDT April 2: The nation’s top infectious disease official, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Thursday that officials are no closer to figuring out why some seemingly healthy people infected by the new coronavirus develop only mild or no symptoms but others become very sick. During an interview Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show, Fauci said he’s been “puzzled from the beginning” about the coronavirus pandemic. “It is very strange how one individual can get infected and have either mild or no symptoms and another individual could rapidly deteriorate with viral pneumonia and respiratory failure,” Fauci said. “There’s something in mechanism, whether it’s genetic, whether it’s immune response.” Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He said on “Today” that it’s “very strange” how the virus can be “completely devastating” and lead to “viral pneumonia and respiratory failure” in one person and be “absolutely nothing” in another person. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he’s been working in infectious diseases for almost 50 years but doesn’t “fully understand exactly what the mechanism of that is.' He said finding the answer is going to require natural history studies, which follow people over time while collecting their health information. Officials report 569 new fatal coronavirus cases in the UK Update 9:30 a.m. EDT April 2: Officials in the United Kingdom recorded 569 new fatal COVID-19 cases on Thursday, raising the country’s coronavirus death toll to 2,921. Authorities with the British Department of Health and Social Care also announced 4,244 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases. In all, officials said 33,718 people have been diagnosed with coronavirus infections in the U.K. New England Patriots jet flying medical supplies from China to Boston Update 9:20 a.m. EDT April 2: A private plane owned by the New England Patriots will land Thursday in Boston with needed medical supplies to help in the response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to multiple reports. Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts said Thursday that the plane, was carrying more than one million N95 masks from China, according to ABC News. A source told CNN that Baker coordinated with the Patriots and the team’s owner, Robert Kraft, to get the supplies to the state. “Huge thanks to the Krafts and several dedicated partners for making this happen,” Baker wrote Thursday. Fauci: There’s still time to avoid 100,000 deaths from coronavirus in US Update 9:05 a.m. EDT April 2: Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, emphasized Thursday that Americans still have time to avoid the 100,000 to 200,000 deaths predicted in the U.S. from the coronavirus outbreak. “It’s within our power to modify those numbers,” Fauci said in an appearance Thursday on “CBS This Morning.” On Sunday, President Donald Trump said that if his administration can keep deaths from the virus to 100,000, that would be a “good job.” The number was based on a model which showed that “even with considerable mitigation, you still could anticipate between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths,” Fauci said Thursday. “We shouldn’t give up and accept it and say, 'OK that’s going to happen,” Fauci told 'CBS News This Morning.” “We need to push and push with the mitigation to try to get that number lower than the projected number by the model.” Record 6.6 million seek US jobless aid Update 8:40 a.m. EDT April 2: More than 6.6 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, far exceeding a record high set just last week, a sign that layoffs are accelerating in the midst of the coronavirus. The job cuts are mounting against the backdrop of economies in the United States and abroad that have almost certainly sunk into a severe recession as businesses close across the world. The figure for last week is much higher than the previous record of 3.3 million reported for the previous week. The surging layoffs have led many economists to envision as many as 20 million lost jobs by the end of April. The unemployment rate could spike to as high as 15% this month, above the previous record of 10.8% set during a deep recession in 1982. Boeing offering employees voluntary layoffs Update 8:25 a.m. EDT April 2: Boeing will offer employees voluntary layoffs in a bid to offset the financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, according to KIRO-TV and CNBC. “We’re in uncharted waters,” the company’s new CEO, David Calhoun, wrote in a memo sent to employees, according to KIRO-TV. “We’re taking actions — including offering this (voluntary layoff) plan — based on what we know today.” Boeing has more than 150,000 employees worldwide. >> Read more on KIRO7.com: Boeing announces it will be cutting workers Global coronavirus deaths near 50K, worldwide cases approach 952K Update 7:24 a.m. EDT April 2: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus hit 48,284 early Thursday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. In the four months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 951,901 people worldwide. • The United States has reported 216,722 cases, resulting in 5,137 deaths. • Italy has confirmed 110,574 cases, resulting in 13,155 deaths. • Spain has reported 110,238 infections, resulting in 10,003 deaths. • China has recorded 82,431 cases, resulting in 3,322 deaths. • Germany has reported 77,981 cases, resulting in 931 deaths. • France has confirmed 57,780 infections, resulting in 4,043 deaths. • Iran has recorded 50,468 cases, resulting in 3,160 deaths. • The United Kingdom has reported 29,872 cases, resulting in 2,357 deaths. • Switzerland has confirmed 18,117 cases, resulting in 505 deaths. • Turkey has recorded 15,679 cases, resulting in 277 deaths. Spain’s coronavirus death toll tops 10K after highest single-day increase Update 6:56 a.m. EDT April 2: At least 10,003 people have died after testing positive for the novel coronavirus in Spain, the country’s health ministry announced Thursday. The latest figures include 950 fatalities recorded in the past 24 hours alone, representing the European nation’s largest single-day increase since the pandemic began. According to a Johns Hopkins University tally, Spain has reported a total of 110,238 infections and trails only Italy in terms of virus-related fatalities where 13,155 people have died. New unemployment claims could hit 3.1 million Update 6:44 a.m. EDT April 2: Economists anticipate an additional 3.1 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to force business closures, layoffs and financial uncertainty. According to The Wall Street Journal, a record 3.3 million people sought jobless benefits two weeks ago, and the 3.1 million surveyed economists believe filed last week comprise more claims than those which have been processed in the past six months.  British docs receive guidance on parsing out ‘scarce lifesaving resources’ amid coronavirus Update 5:49 a.m. EDT April 2: The British Medical Association has issued new ethics guidelines dictating which patients should be saved if the United Kingdom’s health system becomes overwhelmed by the novel coronavirus pandemic. ]Per the new guidelines, ventilators could be removed from treatment protocols for older patients with a low survival probability if the machines mean healthier patients might survive. 'As such, some of the most unwell patients may be denied access to treatment such as intensive care or artificial ventilation,' the BMA’s ethics guidance note states, adding, “This will inevitably be indirectly discriminatory against both the elderly and those with long-term health conditions, with the latter being denied access to life-saving treatment as a result of their pre-existing health problems.' The guidance note was updated April 1. ‘Unruly’ coronavirus quarantine violators could be shot, Philippine president says Update 3:16 a.m. EDT April 2: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte warned during a Wednesday address that citizens who disregard the nationwide novel coronavirus quarantine and become unruly could be shot by authorities. Duterte’s remarks came during a televised address, covered by CNN Philippines. “My orders to the police, the military and the barangays: If they become unruly and they fight you and your lives are endangered, shoot them dead!” Duterte said. Israel’s health minister tests positive for coronavirus Update 2:52 a.m. EDT April 2: Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman, 71, has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus. The health ministry confirmed Litzman’s illness in a statement issued Thursday. Litzman has held the position for nearly a decade. To date, Israel has confirmed 6,092 coronavirus cases, resulting in 26 deaths. Coronavirus pandemic fueling gun sale background check surge, FBI says Update 2:39 a.m. EDT April 2: The FBI reported a record-setting number of gun purchase background checks during the month of March as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep across the globe. According to data released by the bureau, the 3.7 million checks conducted in March represent a 41 percent month-over-month surge and the most processed during a one-month period since the FBI began tracking the information in 1998. Illinois led the nation in March with more than half a million federal firearm background checks conducted, followed by Texas, Kentucky, Florida and California, CNN reported. Click here to see the FBI data. Boeing preps to offer buyouts, early retirement amid coronavirus cash crunch Update 2:10 a.m. EDT April 2: Aerospace giant Boeing could soon begin offering early retirement and buyout packages to employees as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues pummeling the aviation industry, The Wall Street Journal reported. Read more here. Biden says Democratic National Convention likely to be postponed amid coronavirus crisis Update 1:28 a.m. EDT April 2: The Democratic National Convention will likely be shelved for several months due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said during a Wednesday night webcam interview on “The Tonight Show.”The “I doubt whether the Democratic convention is going to be able to be held in mid-July, early July,” Biden said, adding, “I think it’s going to have to move into August.” The convention is currently slated for July 13-16 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Jazz icon Ellis Marsalis Jr., 85, dies from coronavirus complications Update 1:12 a.m. EDT April 2: Jazz legend and patriarch of a musical dynasty Ellis Marsalis Jr. died on Wednesday from complications associated with the novel coronavirus. He was 85. 'Ellis Marsalis was a legend. He was the prototype of what we mean when we talk about New Orleans jazz,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement, adding, “He was a teacher, a father, and an icon — and words aren’t sufficient to describe the art, the joy and the wonder he showed the world.”  US coronavirus deaths hit 5,119, total cases top 216K Update 12:20 a.m. EDT April 2: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 216,000 early Thursday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 216,515 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 5,119 deaths. U.S. cases now outnumber those in any other nation by wide margins, including more than twice the 110,574 reported in Italy and the 104,118 confirmed in Spain. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 1,941 – or roughly 40 percent of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 355 in New Jersey and 337 in Michigan.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 83,712 confirmed cases – or more than three times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 22,255 and Michigan with 9,334. Five other states have now confirmed at least 6,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • California: 8,155, including 171 deaths • Massachusetts: 7,738, including 122 deaths • Florida: 7,495, including 100 deaths • Illinois: 6,980, including 141 deaths • Louisiana: 6,424, including 273 deaths Meanwhile, Washington and Pennsylvania each has confirmed at least 5,000 novel coronavirus infections, trailed only slightly by Georgia with 4,748 cases; Texas, Connecticut and Colorado each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Tennessee, Indiana and Ohio each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • A train engineer was suspicious of the government since the USNS Mercy arrived at the Port of Los Angeles. So federal officials said he drove a locomotive off the track directly toward the hospital ship, The Associated Press reported. The engine went through barriers and fences before stopping about 250 yards from the ship Tuesday, the AP reported. Eduardo Moreno has been charged with train wrecking, a federal charge, the US Department of Justice said. He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison if found guilty. Officials said Moreno thought the Mercy was in the region because of a government takeover. Moreno said he acted alone and did not preplan the attack. A California Highway Patrol officer saw the crash and took Moreno into custody, the DOJ said.
  • UF Health Jacksonville is anticipating a wave of coronavirus patients will arrive in NE Florida, peaking in May.  Dr. David Caro with the UF Health Jacksonville Department of Emergency Medicine and Disaster Medical Director, told Jacksonville’s Morning News that we are currently in the calm before the storm.  “We’re taking all precautions to try and make sure that we’ve got the best care that we can give”, said Dr. Caro.  But he said despite the best care possible, there will be a growing death toll locally with this pandemic. Caro said UF Health is stockpiling personal protective equipment (PPE’s) and they’re conserving everything that is currently on hand.  “It comes down to our supply chain and what we can bring in”, Caro said, as they consistently take inventory of all supplies.  LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE
  • The music world is mourning the loss of jazz master pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr. His son Branford Marsalis said his father died from complications of COVID-19, The New York Times reported. Ellis Marsalis had six sons, four of whom followed his career in music. Wynton Marsalis, who plays jazz trumpet, is the managing and artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Branford Marsalis plays jazz saxophone, has recorded with Sting and was the band leader of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' starting in 1992. Wynton Marsalis said his father was “the guiding force behind a late-20th-century resurgence in jazz.” The New York Times said Ellis Marsalis left a legacy in the jazz world by teaching future stars the trade, including Terence Blanchard, Donald Harrison Jr., Nicholas Payton and Harry Connick Jr. who remembered the legend on social media. Ellis Marsalis had been a staple for 30 years at Snug Harbor Jazz Bistro in New Orleans. He ended his shows in January, telling the club’s owner that it was too exhausting to play the two 75-minute sets every Friday night, USA Today reported. The club’s owner called him “a foundation pillar of the Snug Harbor musical legacy.” Ellis Marsalis was 85.

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