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    Mexico has started taking tougher measures against the coronavirus after weeks of its president hugging followers and saying religious medals would protect him. Some experts warn the sprawling country of 129 million is acting too late and testing too little to prevent the type of crisis unfolding across the border in the United States. Last week Mexico banned non-essential government work as confirmed cases climbed, but took until late Monday to extend that to other business sectors and to bar gatherings of more than 50 people. By Tuesday, Mexico had reported more than 1,200 confirmed cases and at least 29 deaths. Experts say those figures greatly understate the true number of infections. Mexico has done far less testing than many other countries — around 10,000 tests. New York state alone had performed more than 205,000 tests by Tuesday. There were also signs the disease may be far more advanced in Mexico than the limited testing shows — three state governors have already tested positive for coronavirus. “Politics is very, very much involved in the decision-making going on right now,' said Janine Ramsey, an infectious disease expert who works for Mexico's National Public Health Institute, a federal research agency, and has spent 35 years of her public health career in Mexico. “Mexico, politically, does not value scientific evidence. Why? Because it takes decision-making away from the politicians,' Ramsey said. “For most of us, especially those of us who work with infectious pathogens, there is absolutely no excuse not to test because you cannot predict a) the response, b) the velocity of transmission, or c) the vulnerability of people' to becoming infected or to infecting others, she said. 'February and March is when we should have been testing everybody.” Dr. Joseph Eisenberg, chair of the Epidemiology Department at the University of Michigan's School of Public Health, agreed. “Testing is really our eyes, otherwise we’re kind of blind,” he said. “The only way you can really understand where the disease is and where you really need to focus your energies with respect to control is to be able to know where the infections are. And the only way to know that is through testing.” The Mexican government has defended its policies, saying that its robust health surveillance system gives it a good idea of how the epidemic is evolving and that health experts are charting the country's fight against the virus. It's focus now, it says, is keeping people at home to avoid a rapid spread that would quickly overwhelm the health care system. “We’re making an energetic, emphatic, unmistakable call: Stay at home,’’ said Hugo López-Gatell, the government’s coronavirus spokesman. “It’s urgent, it’s our last opportunity to do it, and do it now.” Still, despite some tougher measures by Mexican states that have imposed quarantines enforced by police, the federal call to stay home remains voluntary with no talk of penalties. And although Mexico and the U.S. agreed earlier this month to restrict traffic at their shared border, the ban applies only to people who cross for tourism, recreation or other non-essential activity. Mexican border communities have complained that Mexico was not restricting anyone from entering, and residents in one city even blocked the border crossing with their vehicles to try to stop traffic from the U.S. President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has maintained a relaxed public attitude despite the increasing alarm sounded by his health officials. He flew commercial to the western state of Sinaloa on Sunday, where he shook hands with residents, including the mother of convicted drug lord Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán Loera. “Coronavirus isn’t the plague,’’ the president declared in a video message on social media. And although he has met with people diagnosed weeks later with the virus, he hasn't been tested because he hasn't experienced symptoms, his spokesman said. Some experts bemoaned the mixed messages. “Ideally we’d see all public figures taking the actions that health authorities are calling for,’’ said Mauricio Rodriguez, a professor of medicine and spokesman for the coronavirus commission of the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The measures announced Monday are “too late” said Dr. Miguel Betancourt, president of the Mexican Society of Public Health. Those moves should have come two weeks earlier when the curve of infections began to steepen. “We still have time to avoid an outbreak that grows out of control but we all have to do our part,’’ he said. While for most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can lead to severe symptoms like pneumonia. Despite the government calls to stay home, many said they couldn’t comply because like more than half of Mexicans, if they don’t work, they don’t eat. “What other option are they offering?’’ asked Susana Ruiz, who was selling vegetables in a market in northern Mexico City over the weekend. Others said the government didn’t appear to think coronavirus was a grave threat to Mexico. “If this virus were so dangerous, I think they would have already closed the metro,” said Esperanza Rivas, a 50-year-old resident of the capital, where street markets and public transportation remain open. And many are taking their cues from the president himself, who had this to say at a news conference Tuesday: “Soon, very soon there's going to be the day of hugs and kisses in all the public plazas.' “We're going to hug because we're going to overcome this coronavirus crisis and the economic crisis and the social welfare crisis,” he said. ______ AP videojournalist Diego Delgado contributed to this report.
  • U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Tuesday that the world faces the most challenging crisis since World War II, confronting a pandemic threatening people in every country, one that will bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past.” There is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict,” the U.N. chief said at the launch of a report on the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19. Guterres called for a much stronger and more effective global response to the coronavirus pandemic and to the social and economic devastation that COVID-19 is causing. He stressed that this will only be possible “if everybody comes together and if we forget political games and understand that it is humankind that is at stake.” “We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is killing people, spreading human suffering, and upending people’s lives,” the report said. “But this is much more than a health crisis. It is a human crisis. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) is attacking societies at their core.” The secretary-general told reporters: “The magnitude of the response must match the scale of the crisis — large-scale, coordinated and comprehensive, with country and international responses being guided by the World Health Organization.” He stressed that “we are still very far from where we need to be to effectively fight the COVID-19 worldwide and to be able to tackle the negative impacts on the global economy and the global societies.” First, he said, many countries are not respecting WHO guidelines, with each tending to go its own way in dealing with the pandemic. “Let us remember that we are only as strong as the weakest health system in our interconnected world,” he said. “It is essential that developed countries immediately assist those less developed to bolster their health systems and their response capacity to stop transmission.” Secondly, he said, while $5 trillion has been mobilized, most of that money was by the developed world — including $2 trillion in the United States — to support their own economies from the consequences of the pandemic. “We are far from having a global package to help the developing world to create the conditions both to suppress the disease and to address the dramatic consequences in their populations, in the people that lost their jobs, the small companies that are operating and risk to disappear, those that live with the informal economy that now have no chance to survive,” he said. “Massive support to the developing world is still required.” The report also cites International Labor Organization estimates for 2020 that between 5 million and 25 million jobs will be lost, with a corresponding loss of between $860 million and $3.4 trillion in labor income. It also cited an estimate by the U.N. trade and development organization UNCTAD of a 30-40 percent “downward pressure' on global foreign direct investment flows this year. Guterres announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to support efforts in low- and middle-income countries, with the aim of swiftly enabling governments to tackle the crisis and promote recovery. He expressed hope that there will be “a positive response” from the international community to help vulnerable people including the tens of millions of refugees and internally displaced people, those in the slums of big cities in the global south, and poor people in middle-income countries who are more numerous than in the least developed countries. The secretary-general said developed countries must massively increase the resources available to the developing world by expanding the capacity of the IMF to issue special drawing rights, and enabling other international financial institutions to rapidly inject resources into countries that need them. Guterres said he strongly supports an idea from French President Emmanuel Macron, Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at last week’s summit of the Group of 20 major industrialized nations that there should be a G20 initiative to help Africa. “But, again, we must act quickly to make it happen,” he said. “If not, the African continent will have enormous difficulties in facing this challenge.”
  • A U.N. aid agency Tuesday began delivering food to the homes of impoverished Palestinians instead of making them pick up such parcels at crowded distribution centers — part of an attempt to prevent a mass outbreak of the new coronavirus in the densely populated Gaza Strip. As the virus continued to spread across the Middle East, Iran, the hardest-hit country in the region, reported 141 new deaths, pushing the death toll closer to 3,000 people. Late Tuesday, Gaza's Health Ministry said two more cases have been confirmed among travelers who returned from Egypt, bringing the number to 12. In Israel, defense officials said they had converted a missile-production plant into an assembly line for much-needed breathing machines. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, said it would pay medical expenses for anyone infected with the virus. In Gaza, the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian refugees has for decades provided staples like flour, rice, oil and canned foods to roughly half of the territory's 2 million people. Under the old system, those eligible lined up at crowded distribution centers four times a year to pick up their aid parcels. Starting on Tuesday, the agency began making home deliveries. 'We assessed that tens of thousands of people will pour into the food distribution centers and this is very dangerous,” said Adnan Abu Hasna, the agency's spokesman in Gaza. Some 4,000 deliveries were made Tuesday, with an estimated 70,000 others to be made over the next three weeks, he said. Drivers on three-wheel motorcycles dropped off the food, calling people out of their homes, confirming their identities and leaving the bags outside. The agency instructed people to stay 2 meters ( about 6 feet) from the delivery men to minimize the risk of infection. “This makes it easy for us,” said Manal Ziara, a resident of Shati refugee camp in west Gaza City. “The old mechanism causes crowding and touching that help the virus spread.' Twelve people have tested positive for coronavirus in Gaza, whose borders have been largely sealed by Israel and Egypt since the Islamic militant group Hamas seized the territory in 2007. However, there's only a small number of available tests. International officials fear the virus could quickly spread and overwhelm an already gutted health system. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia or death. Particularly hard hit has been Iran, home to 80 million people. Iran’s state TV reported 141 new deaths Tuesday, pushing the death toll to 2,898. Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said there are now 44,606 confirmed cases, including 3,703 in critical condition. In Saudi Arabia, King Salman said the government will pay for the treatment of all coronavirus patients, including visitors and foreign residents. Saudi Arabia has more than 1,500 confirmed cases of the virus and eight recorded deaths. It has sealed off three major cities and imposed a nighttime curfew across the country, as well as suspended flights and the yearlong Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca. In Israel, the Defense Ministry said it had overseen the conversion of a missile-production facility into an assembly line for ventilators. The line, set up at a facility belonging to state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, will produce ventilators made by Israeli company Inovytec. It produced its first 30 machines on Tuesday. The Israeli military, meanwhile, announced that its chief of staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, had entered quarantine after learning that he attended a meeting last week with an officer who was infected. It said Kochavi, who has no symptoms, would remain in isolation until the weekend. The army also said roughly 600 troops were being deployed to assist Israeli police in enforcing tight restrictions on movement Israel has recorded over 5,300 cases, with 20 deaths. In Jerusalem’s Old City, workers sanitized the Western Wall, the holiest site where Jews can pray, to protect those who visit the site. With the Passover holiday approaching next week, prayer notes tucked between the wall’s stones were removed using gloves and disposable wooden tools. The notes, which are removed twice a year, were collected in special bags and will be buried with other sacred papers. ___ Associated Press writers Aya Batrawy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; Audrey Horowitz in Tel Aviv, Israel and Amir Vahdat in Tehran contributed reporting.
  • For a few moments in the Rose Garden, the coronavirus pandemic is a bucking bronco with President Donald Trump on its back. His arm swings an invisible rope. He seems to be hanging on for dear life. “Ride it like a cowboy,' he growls. 'Just ride it. Ride that sucker right through.” This rodeo riff came during the daily White House coronavirus task force briefing, where science meets all things Trump. It's where the teetotaling president serves a 5 o'clock cocktail of public-health policy, twisted facts, invented achievements, performance art, hectoring, cheerleading, erraticism, improvisation, self-praise, pet theories and a dash of eloquence. Shaken not stirred. Late in starting, finished when he feels like it. The self-styled “wartime president” is, at least, a showtime president. He's enjoying the high ratings of his briefings and boasting they're up there with 'The Bachelor.' Meantime on the streets of the country, people are recoiling in the wake of each passing stranger's exhalation. In jammed hospitals, patients are fighting for life. The death toll arcs upward. Still the show must go on. Trump is the animated star of his production. Dr. Anthony Fauci is the stoic straight man, a venerated infectious disease scientist whose facial expressions are closely watched as if he is one oddball Trump remark away from losing it. He doesn't. But he's very tired on four hours of sleep. Day after day, Trump free-associates, harangues reporters, assails critics and spreads misinformation on all aspects of the crisis, at times overshadowing the fact-based information that public health officials have come to deliver, in the moments when Trump steps aside to let them speak. It was here one day that Fauci broke ranks in Trump's presence to refute his claims about a drug treatment for COVID-19. On this bright Sunday, the briefing was moved to the resplendent garden from the clammy confines of the press briefing room, a long-ago indoor swimming pool that still feels like one. With social-distancing signs posted on the backs of chairs, it has taken on the character of a hazmat zone. It gives literal meaning to the pandemic's cliche that we're all in this together. Out in the garden, Trump shoos away gnats and begins in buoyant fashion. The news is going to turn dark but he will take his sweet time getting there. “Beautiful day in the Rose Garden,” he tells the press corps. “Tremendous distance between chairs. Social distancing. You practice it very well. We appreciate it. That’s great.” Next up is word about a coming diagnostic test, almost instant, he says, and you don't have to get a swab shoved so far up your nose like he did when he submitted to a virus test a few weeks back. He's complained about it ever since. The new test is so easy that he said he just might get another one. Executives step up to say what their companies are doing about producing and shipping critical medical supplies. Praise for Trump's leadership is standard in their brief remarks. This is a president who wants a public display of appreciation and has said he may not call people back if he doesn't get that. We hear some basics about the world: “Think of it: 151 countries. Somebody said to me today ... they didn’t know that we had that many countries. A hundred and fifty-one countries. That’s something.” We hear a series of unverified statements: about an unidentified New York hospital he's been told is hoarding masks, an uncorroborated theory that the fatality rate in the U.S. is lower than in other countries, his conviction that the speedy new tests will be “a whole new ballgame.” He trots out the rhetorical bronco, saying some aides wanted him to just hang on and ride it out until the crisis passed but he felt he should do more. Trump's doggedly positive spin, evident for several months, begins to fray when he announces a month-long extension of social distancing guidelines that were to expire Monday. “The better you do,” he says of distancing, “the faster this whole nightmare will end.” This whole nightmare. As the briefing slips into its second hour, it becomes apparent that Trump is conditioning Americans to expect far more deaths from COVID-19 than anyone would think from his history of minimizing the crisis. Gone is the talk about the virus maybe going away like magic in the warmth of spring. Fauci and other public-health authorities had told him 100,000 to 200,000 people could die in this country from the virus if not enough is done to mitigate the pandemic. The president then invokes a far grimmer number, 2.2 million, an estimated death toll if no steps were taken to fight the pandemic, and summons Dr. Deborah Birx of the task force to explain it. Why introduce an even starker scenario than the already scary one? Because if 100,000 to 200,000 end up dying, Trump still wants history — and voters in the fall — to judge his effort a success. If the toll is in that range, he says, “We all, together, have done a very good job.” Behind such bravado, though, is a president seeing the pandemic — “the viciousness of it” — in increasingly personal and sober terms. “A lot of people are dying,” he says, “so it’s very unpleasant.” He says a friend, “a little older, and he's heavy, but he's a tough person,' landed in a hospital. “I call: ‘How’s he doing?’ ‘Sir, he’s in a coma. He’s unconscious.’ He's not doing well.” He speaks at length of body bags and “freezer trucks” he's seen on TV taking the dead from Elmhurst Hospital in Queens. The building is so familiar from his New York childhood that “I can tell you the color on the outside, the size of the windows. I mean, I know it very well, right?' “I’ve seen things that I’ve never seen before. I mean, I’ve seen them, but I’ve seen them on television in faraway lands. I’ve never seen them in our country.' The sun is slanting low in the garden as Trump brings this briefing to a close. “I want our life back again,” he says. 'I want our country back. 'I want the world back. “I want the world to get rid of this.”
  • The captain of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier facing a growing outbreak of the coronavirus is asking for permission to isolate the bulk of his roughly 5,000 crew members on shore, which would take the warship out of duty in an effort to save lives. In a memo to Navy leaders, the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt said that the spread of the disease is ongoing and accelerating and that removing all but 10% of the crew is a “necessary risk” in order to stop the spread of the virus. The ship is docked in Guam. Navy leaders on Tuesday were scrambling to determine how to best respond to the extraordinary request as dozens of crew members tested positive. “We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die. If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset our sailors,' said Navy Capt. Brett Crozier in a memo obtained by The Associated Press. A Navy official said Crozier alerted commanders on Sunday evening of the continuing challenges in isolating the virus. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that Crozier wants more isolated housing for the crew and that Navy leadership is reviewing options to ensure the health and safety of the crew. U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. John Aquilino told reporters on Tuesday that the Navy is working to get as many sailors as possible on shore, while still maintaining a core crew to monitor the nuclear reactors and keep the ship running. He said the pace may not be as fast as the commander would like, but it will be done on a rotation, with sailors staying on shore in isolation for 14 days, then returning to the ship virus-free so that others can go ashore. Asked about efforts to isolate sailors on shore, he said the Navy is doing what it can with facilities that are available. Officials are working with the government of Guam to try to get hotel rooms that will allow for greater isolation, Aquilino said. Aquilino would not discuss exact numbers or timelines, but agreed with Navy Secretary Thomas Modly's assertion that about 1,000 sailors have been taken off the ship so far. He added that no sailors are currently hospitalized. 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, and death. In Asia, a carrier presence is central to what the Pentagon has identified as a fundamental shift from fighting insurgent and extremist conflicts in the Middle East to a return to “great power competition.' That means, principally, a bigger focus on China, including its militarization of disputed areas of the South China Sea. The outbreak on the carrier may be the Navy’s most dramatic, but it tracks an accelerating upward trend across the military. The Pentagon said the number of cases in the military reached 673 on Tuesday morning, a jump of 104 from the day before and up from 174 a week ago. Since March 20, the total has surged tenfold, even as the Pentagon has taken many steps to try to limit the spread, including halting nearly all movement of troops overseas. The carrier, like other Navy ships, is vulnerable to infectious disease spread given its close quarters. The massive ship is more than 1,000 feet long (305 meters long); sailors are spread out across a labyrinth of decks linked by steep ladder-like stairs and narrow corridors. Enlisted sailors and officers have separate living quarters, but they routinely grab their food from crowded buffet lines and eat at tables joined end-to-end. Listing many of those problems, Crozier's memo, which was first reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, warns that the close quarters means that thousands of sailors now require quarantine. He said sailors have been moving off the ship into shore-based quarters, but much of that is also not adequate. He said much of the off-ship locations available so far are group quarantine sites, and already two sailors housed in an auditorium have tested positive for the virus. To stop the spread of the virus and prevent death, Crozier said they must take a methodical approach, move the majority of the sailors off the ship, isolate them and completely clean it. He said about 10% of the crew would have to stay on board to secure the vessel, run critical systems and sanitize everything. Aquilino declined to confirm that estimate but said he is working with commanders to get people quarantined and tested as quickly as possible. While removing that many may seem like an extraordinary measure, Crozier said it is a necessary risk. “It will enable the carrier and air wing to get back underway as quickly as possible while ensuring the health and safety of our sailors,” Crozier said, adding that finding appropriate isolation for the crew “will require a political solution, but it is the right thing to do.” Modly told CNN that efforts are underway to help the ship while ensuring that the Navy and the U.S. military continue to protect the country. “This is a unique circumstance,” he said. “And we’re working through it and trying to maintain that proper balance to ensure that our friends and allies, and most importantly our foes and adversaries out there, understand that we are not standing down the watch.” ___ AP National Security writer Robert Burns contributed to this report.
  • One by one, elderly residents of French nursing homes are going into forced isolation into their rooms. Their caregivers are walling themselves in as well. They are running out of body bags. But no one knows for sure how many people have become sick. Governments in Europe's hardest-hit countries — Italy, Spain and France — are not routinely testing for coronavirus among elderly residents who fall ill in nursing homes or even those who eventually die there, including those who suffered from symptoms of the disease. The three countries together make up around a third of the global pandemic's confirmed cases, and the lack of testing leaves hundreds, potentially thousands, of victims of the disease uncounted as health authorities try to trace its path. The heavy dependency upon hospitals to count coronavirus fatalities poses particular problems for evaluating the disease's spread among the oldest citizens. Hospitals are increasingly reluctant to admit elderly coronavirus patients judged to have little chance of successful treatment. Indications are they have paid a steep toll in anonymity. In France, the two regions hit earliest by the pandemic reported an over 30% increase in the number of deaths from March 1-16 compared to the previous year, according to the national statistics agency, which released the figures for the Haut-Rhin and southern Corsica regions late last week. Spain and Italy have not yet released initial death statistics for the month. In Madrid, one of the most affected cities in Europe, a leading regional official acknowledged that the coronavirus infection of one elderly woman was confirmed after her death only because the nursing home’s physician “insisted.” Around the Italian city of Bergamo, the epicenter of the country's outbreak, 400 people died in a single week in early March — four times the number who died the same week the previous year, according to the Bergamo mayor’s office. Only 91 of those had tested positive for the virus. In France, once two residents of the same nursing home test positive, any other residents who fall sick and ultimately succumb to the disease are “assumed” to have the illness, but they are not actually tested or counted among the national toll, which so far only includes those who have sought care in a hospital. The government has promised to include nursing home residents early this week but has yet to implement widespread testing of residents. The supply of body bags is dwindling, according to Marc Bourquin of the French hospital federation, an umbrella organization for half of the country’s 7,000 nursing homes. A study by Italy’s national health institute used sampling to approach the question of how many elderly in nursing homes died with the virus that causes COVID-19. In the hardest-hit region of Lombardy, half of all residents of nursing homes who died since Feb. 1 either had the virus or its flu-like symptoms, but most of the deaths only cited flu as tests were carried out irregularly. About 1 in 10 Italian nursing homes said they struggled to get residents into hospitals, and 1 in 4 had problems properly isolating those who tested positive for the virus. Britain, too, is trying to trace the disease among those who never make it to the hospital. The Office for National Statistics added 40 deaths Tuesday for a toll of 210 in England and Wales, to include people who died in nursing homes and other settings. In Germany, where deaths so far have been much lower than elsewhere in Europe and the United States, testing is routine for anyone with flu-like symptoms who visited a high-risk area or had contact with someone confirmed to have the virus. So if a case appears in a nursing home and patients or staff fall ill, testing is available to everyone. France, where the government is bracing for a wave of sickness in the next 14 days, went from forbidding visitors to nursing homes on March 11 to asking the facilities to take even sharper measures last weekend. “I’m asking the establishments to isolate residents in their rooms,” Olivier Véran, France’s health minister, said Saturday. “We have to give priority to testing personnel.” At many nursing homes, staff members are also volunteering to confine themselves with their charges. “This is not something we do lightly. It’s just that we have no choice,” Eric-Angelo Bellini, director of a nursing home in the central Vienne region, told Europe 1 radio. “Test us! Test all the staff, the residents!” It is an especially sensitive subject in France, where every worker is required by law to dedicate a day of “solidarity” pay annually to the elderly and disabled after a heat wave in 2003 left 15,000 vulnerable people dead across the country. While most people suffer only mild or moderate symptoms from COVID-19, the elderly are vulnerable to more severe illnesses, including pneumonia, which can be fatal. In Spain, soldiers disinfecting nursing homes last week discovered that residents at several facilities were living among the bodies of people suspected of dying from the virus. In the United States, several facilities have seen unusually high death tolls. Federal officials found that staff at multiple long-term care facilities contributed to the spread of COVID-19 among the elderly in the Seattle area. In multiple nursing homes in France, including one for Holocaust survivors in Paris, the number of dead reaches into the double-digits, with far more believed infected. The fear is that their deaths will go unremarked. “For the nursing homes, there will always be uncertainty,” Bouquin said. “The procedure is a doctor has to indicate the cause of death. And for that, there has to be tests.” ___ Parra reported from Madrid. Associated Press writers Colleen Barry in Soave, Italy, and Frank Jordans in Berlin also contributed to this report. ___ 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. ___ Follow AP news coverage of the coronavirus pandemic at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
  • Un-baaaaa-lievable: This wild bunch is completely ignoring rules on social distancing. With humans sheltering indoors to escape the new coronavirus, mountain goats are taking advantage of the peace and space to roam in frisky clumps through the streets of Llandudno, a town in North Wales. Andrew Stuart, a video producer for the Manchester Evening News, has been posting videos of the furry adventurers on his Twitter feed and they are racking up hundreds of thousands of views. He said the goats normally keep largely to themselves, in a country park that butts up against Llandudno. But now emboldened by the lack of people and cars, the long-horned animals are venturing deeper into the seaside town. The U.K. has been in lockdown for the past week to combat the spread of the coronavirus. “There’s no one around at the moment, because of the lockdown, so they take their chances and go as far as they can. And they are going further and further into the town,” Stuart told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday from his parents’ pub in Llandudno, where he is waiting out the pandemic. His videos show the goats munching on people’s neatly trimmed hedges and trees in front yards and loitering casually on empty streets as if they own the place. “One of the videos on my Twitter shows that they were on a narrow side street and I was on the other side and they were scared of me. They were edging away from me. So they are still scared of people,” Stuart said. “But when there’s hardly anyone around on the big streets, they are taking their chances, they are absolutely going for it. And I think because it’s so quiet, and there’s hardly anyone around to scare them or anything, that they just don’t really care and are eating whatever they can.” 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, and death.
  • The noodles smothered in peanut sauce are as much a trademark of Wuhan as deep-dish pizza in Chicago or spaghetti in Rome. Zhou Guoqiong still isn't allowed to serve customers inside her shop, but the stream of eager customers now lining up outside to take away those noodles testifies to the powerful desire to savor the familiar again after the easing of months of strict lockdown. Despite radically falling numbers of coronavirus infections, officials emphasize that Wuhan and the rest of China still have a long way to go. But the reappearance of Wuhan's favorite breakfast noodles is a tasty sign that life is slowly beginning to transition to normal in the Chinese city that served as the original epicenter of the global outbreak, first detected in December. Five days after reopening, Zhou and her husband now sell several hundred bags of “reganmian,” or “hot dry noodles,' every day — less than before the outbreak, but more than enough to keep them busy. “I’m happy as long as there is business,” Zhou said. Wuhan has recorded 2,548 deaths from the coronavirus and reported more than 50,000 cases, and the city essentially shut down starting Jan. 23. The head of the National Health Commission, Ma Xiaowei, said Tuesday that the “most dangerous, most critical stage' of the domestic outbreak appears to have passed. But he was insistent that strict quarantines on travelers and other restrictions such as school closures will be lifted only gradually and very, very carefully. “At present, the epidemic situation in China is not over,' foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a daily briefing. China says almost all of its coronavirus cases are now brought into the country by travelers from abroad, and Wuhan has not recorded any new confirmed or suspected cases in a week. Officials have said it must go a full 14 consecutive days without new cases before they lift draconian travel restrictions and social distancing demands. That can't come soon enough for Mr. Xiao, who runs a small butcher shop and tries to be guardedly optimistic about the future. He said his stock can last 10 days at the most and he needs to see a big jump in business. “I estimate in the next several months, I can sell half a cow every day,' said Xiao, who declined to give his full name. Much still hangs in the balance: Will his three partners rejoin the business? And with no other work skills, what will he do if sales don't pick up? Along Yanzhi Road in Wuhan's Wuchang district, shops are doing a brisk business in staples such as meat and noodles, their loudspeakers blaring to attract customers. Outside a food market, a long line formed of mostly elderly customers, all keeping their distance from each other and wearing the required masks, with some adding rubber gloves and hats. The market operates from only 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and admits just 30 customers at a time, for a maximum of 20 minutes each. One of those in line, 70-year-old retired civil servant Xiao Yuxia, said she lives by herself and planned to eat fish for the first time in two months. While many Chinese ordered what they needed using phone apps, 75-year-old retired worker Wang Haitao said he found that too confusing, and he and his wife are finding fewer choices on the list of options provided by community volunteers. Along with meat, fresh vegetables appeared to be in good supply, though not with much variety. The food boxes delivered by volunteers to low-rise compounds typical of older neighborhoods such as Yanzhi Street were loaded mainly with carrots and cabbages. The variety may be slightly better at the vegetable stalls set up around residential compounds, but social distancing is largely ignored at those: Customers and sellers gather in groups with little distance between them, bargaining and exchanging cash. A delivery man who declined to give his name said he leaves all his packages at the fences set up to isolate residential compounds. After resuming his job two days earlier, he said he has his work cut out for him, with warehouses stuffed with packages that have been stuck there for months. “We are still delivering the packages that people bought before the Lunar New Year,' he said, referring to the end of January. 'It’s hard to tell which are daily necessities bought after the virus outbreak.” ___ AP video journalist Olivia Zhang contributed to this story.
  • The bullet struck the 13-year-old as he stood on the balcony of his family’s home with his siblings. Below, police officers moved through the crowded neighborhood, enforcing Kenya’s new coronavirus curfew. Go upstairs, the children's mother had shouted minutes earlier, as gunfire echoed in the streets. “We thought it was safer,” the boy's 19-year-old sister, Aisha Hussein, told The Associated Press. But on the balcony the children noticed a targeting light, heard another gunshot and scattered. All but 13-year-old Yasin Hussein Moyo, who “just stood there, stunned,” his sister said. As he bled from the abdomen and their mother rushed up, the boy said, “Look mum, it hit me.” His family mourned him Tuesday on the outskirts of Nairobi, washing his small body according to Muslim rite, carrying him in a crowd through the street to the cemetery and burying him in the dirt with their bare hands. The killing might be the latest example of police abuse of coronavirus restrictions seen in several African nations in the past week. Kenya’s police inspector general has ordered an investigation into the boy’s death by “stray bullet,” including a forensic analysis of all firearms held by officers at the scene. “Our sincere condolences to the family,” the police tweet said. The family was stunned. Women wept in a courtyard at the cemetery, and leaned in for a final goodbye before the boy’s body was wrapped completely in white cloth. The father, Hussein Moyo, was furious. “They come in screaming and beating us like cows, and we are law-abiding citizens,” he said. His son died a few hours after midnight. Police shot him, a neighbor in the adjacent apartment block said. “I could see police aiming at the building,” Hadijah Mamo said. She heard gunfire and saw tear gas, and minutes later “I heard people screaming that the boy had been shot.” Kenya on Friday began imposing a 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew, and violence quickly followed. Police fired tear gas at a crowd of hundreds of commuters who tried to reach a ferry in the port city of Mombasa before the first night of curfew began. Elsewhere, officers were captured in mobile phone footage whacking people with batons. Another death has been blamed on police enforcement of the curfew. A motorcycle taxi driver, Hamisi Juma Mbega, died from his injuries after being beaten. He had breached the curfew by taking a pregnant woman to a hospital in Mombasa, according to a post-mortem report obtained by the AP. And the Independent Policing Oversight Authority, a civilian body established by parliament, said it is looking into another death blamed on police brutality, that of a bicycle taxi driver in Homa Bay county. Human rights groups, the Catholic church and even Kenya’s health ministry have condemned the actions of a police force that has long been accused of abuses. “People must be treated humanely,” the cabinet secretary for health, Mutahi Kagwe, said after Friday night’s events. Kenya now has 59 coronavirus cases, including one death from the disease.
  • Prince Harry and his wife Meghan officially make the transition Tuesday from senior members of Britain’s royal family to — well, it’s unclear. International celebrities, charity patrons, global influencers? The royal schism that the couple triggered in January by announcing that they would step down from official duties, give up public funding, seek financial independence and swap the U.K. for North America becomes official on March 31. The move has been made more complicated and poignant by the global coronavirus pandemic, which finds the couple and their 10-month-old son Archie in California, far from Harry’s father Prince Charles — who is recovering after testing positive for COVID-19 — and Harry’s 93-year-old grandmother, Queen Elizabeth II. 'As we can all feel, the world at this moment seems extraordinarily fragile,” the couple said in a final post Monday on their now-mothballed SussexRoyal Instagram account. 'What's most important right now is the health and well-being of everyone across the globe and finding solutions for the many issues that have presented themselves as a result of this pandemic,” they added. 'As we all find the part we are to play in this global shift and changing of habits, we are focusing this new chapter to understand how we can best contribute.' It is less than two years since ex-soldier Harry, who is sixth in line to the British throne, married American actress Meghan Markle at Windsor Castle in a lavish ceremony watched by millions around the world. Soon the couple began to bristle at intense scrutiny by the British media — which they said tipped into harassment. They decided to break free, in what Harry called a 'leap of faith' as he sought a more peaceful life, without the journalists who have filmed, photographed and written about him since the day he was born. Harry has long had an uncomfortable relationship with the media, which he blames for the death of his mother, Princess Diana. She died in a car crash in Paris in 1997 while being pursued by paparazzi. Harry’s unhappiness increased after he began dating Markle, then the star of TV legal drama “Suits.” In 2016 he accused the media of harassing his then-girlfriend, and criticized “racial undertones” in some coverage of the biracial Markle. It's clear that Meghan’s upbeat Californian style — embodied in the glossy images and life-affirming messages of the couple’s Instagram account — rankled with sections of Britain’s tabloid press, which is both insatiable for royal content and fiercely judgmental of the family members. The couple — who are keeping their titles, Duke and Duchess of Sussex, but will no longer be called Their Royal Highnesses — had hoped to keep using the Sussex Royal brand in their new life. But last month they announced they wouldn't seek to trademark the term because of U.K. rules governing use of the word 'royal.' The couple plans to launch a non-profit organization for their charitable activities in areas including youth empowerment, mental health, conservation, gender equality and education. Harry will also continue to oversee the Invictus Games, the Olympics-style competition he founded for wounded troops. Meghan has been announced as the narrator of “Elephant,” a Disney nature documentary. But for now, the couple’s office said they want the world to focus “on the global response to COVID-19.' 'The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will spend the next few months focusing on their family and continuing to do what they can, safely and privately, to support and work with their pre-existing charitable commitments while developing their future non-profit organisation,” the couple’s office said in a statement. The newly independent Harry and Meghan will also need to earn money to help pay for a multi-million dollar security bill. As senior royals, they have had bodyguards funded by British taxpayers. Since late last year, Harry and Meghan have since been based on Canada’s Vancouver Island, where security was provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Canadian authorities warned last month that would end once the couple ceased to be working royals. The duke and duchess recently moved to the Los Angeles area, where Meghan grew up and where her mother still lives. The news led President Donald Trump to tweet on Sunday: “the U.S. will not pay for their security protection. They must pay!' Harry and Meghan’s office said they had “no plans to ask the U.S. government for security resources. Privately funded security arrangements have been made.' Some royal historians warned that Harry and Meghan could struggle to find a fulfilling role. Comparisons have been drawn to King Edward VIII, who abdicated in 1936 to marry divorced American Wallis Simpson. The couple lived the rest of their lives in luxurious but lonely self-imposed exile from Britain. Royal historian Penny Junor said U.K.-based royals were helping boost the nation’s morale during the coronavirus pandemic. The queen has issued a message to the nation, while Harry’s brother Prince William and his children joined in a public round of applause for health care workers. 'All of this is absolutely what the family is about, and those members of the royal family that are on a limb now are pretty irrelevant,” Junor said.

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  • Ahead of an approaching cold front, Northeast Florida saw a line of strong storms roll through. Some of those storms prompted severe thunderstorm warnings and a few tornado warnings from the National Weather Service of Jacksonville. The NWS does believe an EF-0 tornado did touch during in northern St. Johns County on Tuesday evening. At this time, WOKV has not received any reports of injuries, but there have been reports of damage and downed trees.
  • Following the recent passage of a $2.2 trillion economic stimulus measure to help families and businesses with the financial strain of the coronavirus pandemic, WOKV's Consumer Warrior Clark Howard is breaking down some of the finer details. Howard says adults making up to $75,000 a year will get a $1,200 check, while a married couple making up to $150,000 will get $2,400, with $500 payments per child.  STORY: Are you getting a stimulus check; how much will it be? Use this calculator to find out However, Howard says that $500 payment doesn't include every child.  'You will not get money for your teenager. So, once your teenager goes past 16, they're out of the picture for the $500,' explains Howard.  Howard says this $500 payment also does not apply to other types of dependents, like if you're an adult taking care of your elderly parents.  Get more consumer news and advice from Clark Howard in his latest on-demand podcasts by clicking HERE.
  • The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity is working hard to make sure people throughout the state who are unemployed are getting the assistance they need during the coronavirus pandemic. That means hiring more staff members to help people who are trying to apply for unemployment benefits. Executive Director Ken Lawson signed an agreement with the U.S. Department of Labor over the weekend to execute the CARES Act in Florida. Lawson says his staff is working hard to implement those resources to Floridians as soon as possible. The week before most businesses closed due to government orders, the Department of Economic Opportunity received 28,000 calls. Last week in just four days, they received 130,000 calls. That higher volume of calls is overwhelming the staff, but it looks like help is on the way. Anyone who calls right now should expect to wait on hold for upwards of an hour, but hopefully that wait time starts dropping soon. The Department of Economic Opportunity is hiring 100 people statewide to answer calls, walk people through the application process, and handle processing applications. Florida residents eligible for reemployment assistance include people quarantined by a medical professional or government agency, people who have been laid off or sent home without pay for an extended period of time or people caring for an immediate family member diagnosed with coronavirus. Any Floridian whose employment has been negatively impacted by the virus can get more information here.
  • Isolation and fear during the coronavirus pandemic can create the perfect storm for domestic abuse. Some experts say victims are like prisoners in their own homes during quarantine.  “We’re talking about a horrible situation. People who normally might be able to call us, reach out to us, stop at our outreach center or go to work and look online to find how they can get help are prisoners in their own home,” Hubbard House CEO Gail Patin, EdD, LCSW, said.  Anyone who needs help and can safely get away from their abuser is asked to call the Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-500-1119 or Hubbard House in Jacksonville at (904) 354-3114.
  • The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is searching for a suspect they say is wanted for solicitation to commit first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Police identify the suspect as 23-year-old Bobby Taylor.  If you've seen him or know where he is, you're urged to call JSO at (904) 630-0500 or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-845-TIPS.

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