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    Nearly 608,000 people worldwide -- including nearly 105,000 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 Saturday, March 28, continue below: Global coronavirus deaths top 28K, worldwide cases near 608K Update 7:35 a.m. EDT March 28: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus hit 28,125 early Saturday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. In the three months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 607,965 people worldwide. • The United States has reported 104,837 confirmed cases, resulting in 1,711 deaths. • Italy has confirmed 86,498 cases, resulting in 9,134 deaths. • China has recorded 81,996 cases, resulting in 3,299 deaths. • Spain has confirmed 65,719 infections, resulting in 5,138 deaths. • Germany has reported 53,340 cases, resulting in 395 deaths. • Iran has recorded 35,408 cases, resulting in 2,517 deaths. • France has confirmed 33,414 infections, resulting in 1,997 deaths. • The United Kingdom has reported 14,754 cases, resulting in 761 deaths. • Switzerland has confirmed 13,187 cases, resulting in 240 deaths. • South Korea has recorded 9,478 cases, resulting in 144 deaths. Japanese PM warms of ‘explosive spread’ of coronavirus threatening urban hubs Update 7:20 a.m. EDT March 28: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a stern warning during a Saturday news conference, urging citizens to prepare for a “long-term battle” as the novel coronavirus threatens an “explosive spread” across the country. The Washington Post, citing Japanese media coverage of the news conference, reported Abe said cases of unknown origin are spiking, especially in the urban hubs of Tokyo and Osaka. “An uncontrollable chain of infection could lead to explosive spread somewhere,” he said. Abe’s comments came one day after Japan recorded its largest single-day spike in new cases of 123, bringing the nationwide total to 1,499 and 49 deaths. Nearly half of those newest cases were detected in Tokyo. New coronavirus cases spike in South Korea following steady decline Update 5:13 a.m. EDT March 28: Following a week of significantly decreased volume, South Korea reported a spike of 146 new coronavirus infections on Saturday. According to the nation’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the new cases bring South Korea’s total infections to 9,478, but Friday’s uptick stood in stark contrast to the fewer than 105 cases reported each day for the past week. On a more positive note, the country’s CDC confirmed only about 4,500 coronavirus patients remain isolated for treatment, while more than 4,800 patients have been deemed recovered and discharged from isolation. Italy’s coronavirus cases surpass those in China Update 5:07 a.m. EDT March 28: The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Italy has reached 86,498, making it the second nation in as many days to surpass China’s total of 81,946. The United States eclipsed China’s infection total on Thursday – and currently reports slightly under 105,000 confirmed cases – but Italy’s death toll continues to climb as the outbreak ravages Europe.  Health officials confirmed 969 virus-related deaths in Italy on Friday, alone, making it the largest single-day death toll recorded by an country since the pandemic began. To date, the nation has reported a total of 9,134 fatalities, followed by Spain with 5,138 deaths and China with 3,295. U.S. Navy locks down Yokosuka base after sailors test positive for coronavirus Update 3:31 a.m. EDT March 28: The U.S. Navy has ordered a lockdown of its Yokosuka base after recording its second and third cases of novel coronavirus on Friday. The strategic Pacific base houses the Seventh Fleet. In a video posted to Facebook, Yokosuka Capt. Rich Jarrett encouraged residents on base to remain in their quarters “maximum extent possible.” “This is not a time to do lawn maintenance, take the dog for a long walk or go for a run. Time outdoors should be for necessities only and should be conducted as quickly as possible,” Jarrett posted in a Saturday morning update. Ginnie Mae poised to ease mortgage firms’ coronavirus fallout Update 3:18 a.m. EDT March 28: Mortgage firms are bracing for the crunch when borrowers begin falling behind on their payments, and Ginnie Mae sits poised to assist them in weathering the financial fallout of he novel coronavirus pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported. Ginnie Mae, which already guarantees more than $2 trillion of mortgage-backed securities, told the Journal late Friday it will help companies such as Quicken Loans Inc. and Mr. Cooper Group Inc. with their anticipated cashflow interruptions. The agency will leverage a program typically reserved for natural disaster response. Read more here. Duke University develops N95 mask decontamination method to assist coronavirus fight Update 3:03 a.m. EDT March 28: Duke University researchers in North Carolina have developed a method for cleaning used N95 respirator masks, CNN reported. By Friday night, Duke’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory team had already decontaminated hundreds of used N95 respirators without damaging them, so they can be re-worn several times, the network reported. More importantly, the researchers published their decontamination protocol, encouraging other medical centers and research facilities to follow suit. Specifically, the method uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide to kill microbial contaminants, CNN reported. Read more here. Trump issues order allowing Pentagon to reactivate former troops for coronavirus response Update 2:40 a.m. EDT March 28: U.S. President Donald Trump issued an order late Friday allowing the Pentagon to return certain troops to active duty in response to the mounting coronavirus crisis, The Washington Post reported. According to the Post, the order allows for the reactivation of former U.S. troops and members of the National Guard and Reserve to bolster the military’s ongoing efforts to help contain the virus’ spread. “Generally, these members will be persons in Headquarters units and persons with high demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said in a statement released early Saturday morning. Read more here. MLB, players strike deal should coronavirus cancel 2020 baseball season Update 2:14 a.m. EDT March 28: Major League Baseball owners and players ratified a deal Friday that sets terms should the novel coronavirus pandemic postpone or even cancel the 2020 season. According to NPR, players will be paid $170 million in advanced salaries over the next two months, and should the season ultimately be canceled, the advances will not have to be paid back. Meanwhile, players will receive “service time” credit for an entire year even if they only play portions of the 2020 season. The season had been slated to open Thursday and run through late October, NPR reported. Delta offering medical volunteers free flights to emerging US coronavirus hotspots Update 1:57 a.m. EDT March 28: Delta Air Lines announced Friday it will fly select medical workers to areas of the country hardest hit by the novel coronavirus for free. By early Saturday morning, the company had confirmed free, round-trip Delta flights will be offered to certain medical volunteers bound for Georgia, Louisiana and Michigan during the month of April. State-by-state breakdown of 101,242 US coronavirus cases, 1,588 deaths Update 12:44 a.m. EDT March 28: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States soared past 104,000 across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands early Saturday morning. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 104,661 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 1,706 deaths. U.S. cases now outnumber those in any other nation, including the 86,498 reported in Italy and the 81,946 confirmed in China. Of the confirmed deaths, 519 have occurred in New York, 175 Washington state and 119 in Louisiana.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 44,635 confirmed cases – more than five times any other state – followed by New Jersey with 8,825 and California with 3,801. Five other states have each confirmed at least 3,000 novel coronavirus cases, including: • Washington: 3,723, including 175 deaths • Michigan: 3,657, including 92 deaths • Massachusetts: 3,240, including 35 deaths • Florida: 3,192, including 45 deaths • Illinois: 3,026, including 34 deaths Meanwhile, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Georgia each has confirmed at least 2,000 novel coronavirus infections, while Colorado, Texas, Connecticut, Tennessee and Ohio each has confirmed at least 1,000 cases. The figures include 21 people aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship and 49 repatriated citizens. The repatriations include 46 sickened aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and three others retrieved from the outbreak’s epicenter in Wuhan, China. CNN’s state-by-state breakdown – including presumptive cases – of at least 101,242 cases detected on U.S. soil is as follows: • Alabama: 638, including 3 deaths • Alaska: 69, including 1 death • Arizona: 665, including 13 deaths • Arkansas: 386, including 3 deaths • California: 3,801, including 78 deaths • Colorado: 1,734, including 31 deaths • Connecticut: 1,291, including 27 deaths • Delaware: 163, including 2 deaths • District of Columbia: 267, including three deaths • Florida: 3,192, including 45 deaths • Georgia: 2,198, including 65 deaths • Guam: 49, including 1 death • Hawaii: 120 • Idaho: 230, including 4 deaths • Illinois: 3,026, including 34 deaths • Indiana: 981, including 24 deaths • Iowa: 235, including 3 deaths • Kansas: 202, including 4 deaths • Kentucky: 302, including 7 deaths • Louisiana: 2,746, including 119 deaths • Maine: 168, including 1 death • Maryland: 774, including 5 deaths • Massachusetts: 3,240, including 35 deaths • Michigan: 3,657, including 92 deaths • Minnesota: 398, including 4 deaths • Mississippi: 579, including 8 deaths • Missouri: 670, including 9 deaths • Montana: 109, including 1 death • Nebraska: 89, including 2 deaths • Nevada: 535, including 10 deaths • New Hampshire: 187, including 2 deaths • New Jersey: 8,825, including 108 deaths • New Mexico: 191, including 1 death • New York: 44,635, including 519 deaths • North Carolina: 763, including 3 deaths • North Dakota: 68, including 1 death • Ohio: 1,137, including 19 deaths • Oklahoma: 322, including 8 deaths • Oregon: 414, including 12 deaths • Pennsylvania: 2,218, including 22 deaths • Puerto Rico: 64, including 2 deaths • Rhode Island: 203 • South Carolina: 539, including 13 deaths • South Dakota: 58, including 1 death • Tennessee: 1,203, including 6 deaths • Texas: 1,731, including 23 deaths • U.S. Virgin Islands: 19 • Utah: 480, including 2 deaths • Vermont: 184, including 10 deaths • Virginia: 604, including 14 deaths • Washington: 3,723, including 175 deaths • West Virginia: 96 • Wisconsin: 842, including 13 deaths • Wyoming: 70
  • In a quiet suburb just north of Richmond, Virginia, a mother and her three children spend a weekday afternoon planting a small garden of spinach, red cabbage and lettuce. Across town, a dad teaches his kids how to play volleyball on an empty court. In a sprawling park, a father shows his son and daughter the perfect flick of the wrist to skip rocks in a stream. Similar scenes — idyllic, except for the context — are playing out in communities around the United States. Stuck at home, thrust together, parents and children are navigating the most unsettling of circumstances and finding new ways to connect. This is one community's story, gathered this week from walks and observations of families keeping to themselves yet still, somehow, managing to remain part of a larger whole. With its top-rated schools, bucolic parks and large collection of shops and restaurants, Glen Allen is the kind of place built for families. The once-rural area is now one of the most sought-after suburbs of Richmond, 11 miles (18 kilometers) northwest of the capital. Its population of just under 15,000 gives it a not-too-big and not-too-small feel, and its proximity to Richmond makes it a prime commuter community. As in so many other American towns, life here has changed since the coronavirus began to spread. Large gatherings are banned. Schools have closed through the rest of the academic year. Countless businesses are shuttered, at least for the time being. Neighborhoods and parks that are normally deserted on weekdays are now filled with parents and children, out for a walk, run or bike ride together — carefully maintaining distance, but still clearly part of a community. On Wintercreek Drive, families play games together in their own yards and talk to neighbors over backyard fences, standing back at least 6 feet so as not to risk exposure. In Echo Lake Park, families walk their dogs, smile and nod as they pass other dog walkers on a half-mile nature trail. In Crump Park, an expansive recreation area with large open fields and an 1860 living history farm, families play together in small groups, dotting the landscape with pods of people — each yards apart from the other, observing social distancing guidelines in the age of coronavirus. A father and his preteen son sit by a pond fishing. Two children ride scooters as their dad walks behind them. A family of four spreads out a blanket and has a picnic. “All their activities — swimming, basketball, volleyball — they've all been canceled. That opens up a lot of free time,” says Dwayne Cook, a 52-year-old mortgage broker who has been taking breaks from working at home to go to the park with his two children, Cameron, 14, and Corinne, 12. Cook says he spent one trip teaching his kids how to skip rocks in a stream. He and his son also had a pull-up contest on the playground. “It's nice to be outside, get some sun and leave the phones in the car,' he says. Fifty yards away, two kites bob high above a hill. Brett and Teresa Hobbs are teaching their two daughters, ages 7 and 11, about the gift of a perfect afternoon breeze. “For our family, it's given us more time to talk,” says Teresa Hobbs, a kindergarten teacher. In a cozy subdivision called Winterberry, Meg and Dan Tully have been trying to come up with ways to balance working at home with schoolwork and the need to keep their three active boys busy. With the school running club shut down, they've been taking turns leading the boys on their usual mile run. Dan Tully, a telecommunications engineering manager, still dresses in business attire for video conferences while working at home. During occasional breaks, he kicks a soccer ball around the yard with his kids. On one recent day off, he and his wife took the boys to a nearly empty Twin Hickory Park and taught them the finer points of spiking and serving a volleyball. A quarter-mile away, Jamie and Joe Burton and their three children are eating dinner together every night, once a rarity with their busy schedules. Their daughters, 12 and 9, are competitive gymnasts who used to practice five nights a week, while their son had weekly baseball games and practices. Jamie Burton, a registered nurse, still must go to work. But because the kids are home from school and their extracurricular activities have all been canceled, the family's lighter schedules have opened up new opportunities for doing things together. “My oldest daughter said, ‘Mom, I know this is scary and a lot of things are going on in the world. But the one positive I see immediately is that we're able to spend more family time together,'' Burton says. Burton's neighbor Stephanie Owens, a pharmacist, has also continued her usual work schedule. But the kids being home from school has created extra pockets of time. Last week, she, her brother, mother and her three sons — 12, 8 and 3 — all planted a small garden in a corner of their backyard. “It's nice to be able to have more time with them,” Owens says. “Usually, it's get up in the morning, get ready to go to school, do homework at night and go to bed.” This is, it seems, a case of circumstances helping to double down on a trend that already exists. Liana Sayer, director of the Time Use Laboratory at the University of Maryland, says research shows that parents have been spending more leisure time with their children since the 1970s. She expects that trend to only accelerate as the coronavirus continues to disrupt daily life. “We have a new set of constraints now — one that is forcing people to spend time together, not keeping them apart in the way that work schedules and school schedule and activities' schedules did,” Sayer says. All of this togetherness and free time has been a silver lining in the coronavirus outbreak for many middle-class and affluent families. But it's hardly universal. Jessica Calarco, a sociology professor at Indiana University, says the crisis hasn't provided the same opportunities for many working-class families, hourly workers and single parents. They're wondering how they are going to pay for child care and worrying about losing their jobs as more and more businesses close. “They don’t have the flexibility to work at home or take an hour out of the middle of the day to take a walk with their kids because of the other types of pressure they may be facing,” Calarco says. “I worry about the inequalities that are resulting from this.” ___ Follow Denise Lavoie on Twitter at http://twitter.com/deniselavoie_ap ___ Check out AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak.
  • The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery fought to end segregation, lived to see the election of the country’s first black president and echoed the call for “justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” in America. For more than four decades after the death of his friend and civil rights icon, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the fiery Alabama preacher was on the front line of the battle for equality, with an unforgettable delivery that rivaled King’s — and was often more unpredictable. Lowery had a knack for cutting to the core of the country’s conscience with commentary steeped in scripture, refusing to back down whether the audience was a Jim Crow racist or a U.S. president. “We ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back; when brown can stick around; when yellow will be mellow; when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right,” Lowery prayed at President Barack Obama’s inaugural benediction in 2009. Lowery, 98, died Friday at home in Atlanta, surrounded by family members, they said in a statement. He died from natural causes unrelated to the coronavirus outbreak, the statement said. “Tonight, the great Reverend Joseph E. Lowery transitioned from earth to eternity,” The King Center in Atlanta remembered Lowery in a Friday night tweet. “He was a champion for civil rights, a challenger of injustice, a dear friend to the King family.” Lowery led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference for two decades — restoring the organization’s financial stability and pressuring businesses not to trade with South Africa’s apartheid-era regime — before retiring in 1997. Considered the dean of civil rights veterans, he lived to celebrate a November 2008 milestone that few of his movement colleagues thought they would ever witness — the election of an African-American president. At an emotional victory celebration for President-elect Barack Obama in Atlanta, Lowery said, 'America tonight is in the process of being born again.' An early and enthusiastic supporter of Obama over then-Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton, Lowery also gave the benediction at Obama's inauguration. 'We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that, yes, we can work together to achieve a more perfect union,” he said. In 2009, Obama awarded Lowery the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. In another high-profile moment, Lowery drew a standing ovation at the 2006 funeral of King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, when he criticized the war in Iraq, saying, 'For war, billions more, but no more for the poor.' The comment also drew head shakes from then-President George Bush and his father, former president George H.W. Bush, who were seated behind the pulpit. Lowery's involvement in civil rights grew naturally out of his Christian faith. He often preached that racial discrimination in housing, employment and health care was at odds with such fundamental Christian values as human worth and the brotherhood of man. 'I've never felt your ministry should be totally devoted to making a heavenly home. I thought it should also be devoted to making your home here heavenly,' he once said. Lowery remained active in fighting issues such as war, poverty and racism long after retirement, and survived prostate cancer and throat surgery after he beat Jim Crow. His wife, Evelyn Gibson Lowery, who worked alongside her husband of nearly 70 years and served as head of SCLC/WOMEN, died in 2013. “I’ll miss you, Uncle Joe. You finally made it up to see Aunt Evelyn again,” King's daughter, Bernice King, said in a tweet Friday night. Lowery was pastor of the Warren Street Methodist Church in Mobile, Alabama, in the 1950s when he met King, who then lived in Montgomery, Alabama. Lowery’s meetings with King, the Rev. Ralph David Abernathy and other civil rights activists led to the SCLC’s formation in 1957. The group became a leading force in the civil rights struggle of the 1960s. Lowery became SCLC president in 1977 following the resignation of Abernathy, who had taken the job after King was assassinated in 1968. He took over an SCLC that was deeply in debt and losing members rapidly. Lowery helped the organization survive and guided it on a new course that embraced more mainstream social and economic policies. Coretta Scott King once said Lowery 'has led more marches and been in the trenches more than anyone since Martin.' He was arrested in 1983 in North Carolina for protesting the dumping of toxic wastes in a predominantly black county and in 1984 in Washington while demonstrating against apartheid. He recalled a 1979 confrontation in Decatur, Alabama, when he and others were protesting the case of a mentally disabled black man charged with rape. He recalled that bullets whizzed inches above their heads and a group of Klan members confronted them. 'I could hear them go 'whoosh,'' Lowery said. 'I'll never forget that. I almost died 24 miles from where I was born.' In the mid-1980s, he led a boycott that persuaded the Winn-Dixie grocery chain to stop selling South African canned fruit and frozen fish when that nation was in the grip of apartheid. He also continued to urge blacks to exercise their hard-won rights by registering to vote. 'Black people need to understand that the right to vote was not a gift of our political system but came as a result of blood, sweat and tears,' he said in 1985. Like King, Lowery juggled his civil rights work with ministry. He pastored United Methodist churches in Atlanta for decades and continued preaching long after retiring. Born in Huntsville, Alabama, in 1921, Joseph Echols Lowery grew up in a Methodist church where his great-grandfather, the Rev. Howard Echols, was the first black pastor. Lowery’s father, a grocery store owner, often protested racism in the community. After college, Lowery edited a newspaper and taught school in Birmingham, but the idea of becoming a minister 'just kept gnawing and gnawing at me,' he said. After marrying Evelyn Gibson, a Methodist preacher’s daughter, he began his first pastorate in Birmingham in 1948. In a 1998 interview, Lowery said he was optimistic that true racial equality would one day be achieved. 'I believe in the final triumph of righteousness,' he said. 'The Bible says weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” A member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, Lowery is survived by his three daughters, Yvonne Kennedy, Karen Lowery and Cheryl Lowery. ___ This story has been corrected to show that one of Lowery's daughters is Cheryl Lowery, not Cheryl Lowery-Osborne. ___ Errin Haines, a former staffer of The Associated Press, was the principal writer of this obituary.
  • For many in the public health and political worlds, Dr. Deborah Birx is the sober scientist advising an unpredictable president. She's the data whisperer who will help steer President Donald Trump as he ponders how quickly to restart an economy that's ground to a halt in the coronavirus pandemic. Others worry that Birx, who stepped away from her job as the U.S. global AIDS coordinator to help lead the White House coronavirus response, may be offering Trump cover to follow some of his worst instincts as he considers whether to have people packing the pews by Easter Sunday. In coming days, immunologist Birx will be front and center in that debate along with the U.S. government's foremost infection disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, as well as Vice President MIke Pence. Birx will bring to the discussion what she fondly refers to as her sheet music — data on testing, mortality, demographics and much more. “What the president has asked us to do is to assemble all the data and give him our best medical recommendation based on all the data,” Birx told reporters. “This is consistent with our mandate to really use every piece of information that we can in order to give the president our opinion that’s backed up by data.” But will Trump listen? The president has sent mixed messages on that. He plans to meet with the two doctors and Pence on Monday to review the latest data on the spread of the disease. His administration's original 15-day guidelines promoting social distancing expire Tuesday. Over a matter of weeks, Trump has veered from playing down the virus threat to warning Americans it could be summer before the pandemic is under control. And in more recent days, he's talked eagerly about having parts of the country raring back by Easter in two weeks. As the president’s message has vacillated, Birx has emerged as one of the most important voices laying out the administration’s pandemic response. She has a way of spelling out the implications of the virus to Americans in personal terms while offering reassurances that the administration is approaching the pandemic with a data-driven mindset. Former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who helped shepherd Birx’s ambassadorial nomination through the Senate in the Obama administration, said it’s like Birx and Fauci have become a tag team for science in the midst of calamity. “I can’t imagine how complicated it is to have a boss –- if you will — who insists on saying things on a regular basis that are just not true and aren’t based on any science,” Sebelius said. In her public comments, Birx has taken pains to avoid publicly contradicting Trump when he’s offered some decidedly unscientific riffs, unlike Fauci, a professional mentor, who has been known to push back pointedly. Instead, her messaging has toggled between providing digestible interpretations of what the data is saying about the spread of the virus and offering relatable pleas to the American public to practice social distancing to help stem the disease. In recent days, Birx has received praise from Trump backers and pushback from some fellow scientists after she minimized what she called “very scary” statistical modeling by some infectious disease experts. One study, published this month by Harvard University epidemiologists, found that the need to maintain social distancing remains crucial in the weeks ahead to prevent the American healthcare system from becoming overwhelmed by new cases. “The scenario Dr. Birx is ‘assuring’ us about is one in which we somehow escape Italy's problem of overloaded healthcare system despite the fact that social distancing is not really happening in large parts of the US,” Marc Lipsitch, a co-author of the study, wrote on Twitter. Birx also has drawn criticism for asserting that there are still beds in intensive care units and a “significant” number of ventilators available in hospitals around New York City -- the area hardest hit by virus. That message doesn't jibe with the dire warnings of city hospital workers, who in recent days have said they're ill-equipped and in danger of being overwhelmed by patients stricken with the virus. Birx’s friends and colleagues say she is one of the adults in the room who is providing the president with clear-headed advice and giving Americans the information they need to stay safe. “She’s a tough cookie,” said Michael Weinstein, who heads the AIDS Healthcare Foundation and got to know Birx professionally after she was named the global AIDS coordinator in 2014. “She’s 100% about the data.” In the sea of men in dark suits who have been appearing with Trump for daily briefings, the 63-year-old mother of two with a fondness for colorful scarves stands out. Her seemingly endless scarf collection was even fodder for comedian Paula Poundstone recently on the NPR quiz show “Wait Wait...Don’t tell me!” Birx’s resume is impressive: She is a U.S. Army physician and recognized AIDS researcher who rose to the rank of colonel, head of the global AIDS program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a rare Obama administration holdover as the State Department’s ambassador-at-large leading a U.S. taxpayer-funded worldwide campaign to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS. Birx has also developed a reputation as a tough boss. Some who fall under her watch at the global effort known as PEPFAR have complained that the leadership of her office has been“dictatorial' and “autocratic,” according to a State Department Office of Inspector General audit released earlier this year. “She has somewhat of a reputation of being a hard task-master,” said John Auerbach, head of the nonprofit Trust for America’s Health.. “She is incredibly hard-working, someone who was driven and would drive other people to work really hard and to do their best work.” Birx has also been perhaps the most outspoken in calling for Americans to be mindful in how they are interacting with others. And she’s made the case in personal terms. The doctor says she’s avoided visiting with her young grandchildren as she practices social distancing, and she's spoken in admiring tones of her two millennial daughters when making the case that younger Americans’ actions will play a key role in determining how quickly the country can contain the virus. She also has spoken of her grandmother living with a lifetime of guilt, because she caught the flu at school as a girl and, in turn, infected her mother — one of an estimated 50 million people worldwide who died in the 1918 influenza epidemic. “She never forgot that she was the child that was in school that innocently bought that flu home,” Birx said of her grandmother. Birx, who declined to be interviewed for this article, told a Christian TV network popular with Trump’s evangelical base that she’s confident that the president is, like her, a student of data. “He’s been so attentive to the scientific literature and the details and the data,” Birx told CBN. “I think his ability to analyze and integrate data that comes out of his long history in business has really been a real benefit during these discussions about medical issues because in the end, data is data.”
  • Republicans who have spent the past decade howling about the danger of ballooning deficits embraced the mammoth coronavirus rescue package approved by Congress this week, shrugging off past concerns about the nation's spending in the face of a public health crisis. In many cases, the conservatives who backed the $2 trillion bill — the largest economic relief bill in U.S. history — were the very same who raged against the nearly $800 billion economic stimulus package backed by the Obama administration. But facing the unprecedented threat of a global pandemic — and working under a Republican president who has largely brushed off concerns about debt and deficits — the GOP has been willing to overlook an unprecedented flood of taxpayer spending. Leading budget hawk Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., who insisted in 2009 that government cannot spend its way out of a recession, this week joined a unanimous Senate majority that approved what he described as “the biggest government intervention in the economy in the history of the world.” “This is a response to an invasion,' he told reporters. “This is the kind of thing you’d have to do if we were at war.” Like other conservatives, he noted that much of the nation's current economic distress was caused by the government's social distancing orders, while the Obama stimulus was in response to a crisis created by the private sector. Failing to take dramatic action now, Toomey said, 'would be a wildly imprudent thing, and it would probably result in such a severe recession — it might very well be a depression — and it could take decades to come out of this.” Even before the health crisis struck, the Republican-aligned fiscal conservative movement had dramatically diminished under Trump, who has pushed the nation's budget deficit to heights not seen in nearly a decade. That's prompted arguments that the GOP is hypocritical when it comes to government spending. Mick Mulvaney, Trump's outgoing chief of staff and a former Republican congressman aligned with the tea party, told a private audience last month that the GOP only worries about deficits “when there is a Democrat in the White House,” according to a report in The Washington Post. For the first time in the modern era, Republicans are on record supporting direct cash payments to tens of millions of Americans — a government-backed measure more likely to be found in socialist countries. The legislation offers Americans grants of up to $1,200 each with an additional $500 for each child. Also in the bill: a massive expansion of unemployment benefits, $500 billion in loans to businesses and local governments, and tens of billions more for the airline industry, hospitals and food assistance. David McIntosh, president of the Club for Growth, Washington's preeminent fiscal conservative watchdog that Toomey previously led, raised the possibility that the coronavirus package could push this year's budget deficit to $4 trillion. The largest annual deficit in U.S. history was $1.4 trillion in 2009. “The spending is just outrageously high,” McIntosh said in an interview. “But on the short-term basis, we’re pleased.” He opposed the direct payments to Americans but was satisfied that a significant portion of the taxpayer-funded package consists of loans likely to be repaid. He added that Congress rejected what he called the Democrats' list of unrelated “political goodies.' “Yes, it's too much, and we’re worried about overall spending, but we recognize something has to be done,” McIntosh said. “That’s the kind of comment I’m hearing from conservatives who would normally oppose big spending bills.” What remains of the tea party movement, which sprang up early in Barack Obama's presidency to oppose government spending, has largely been silent. One major exception: Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who upset congressional leaders — and Trump himself — on Friday by unsuccessfully trying to force a formal House vote on the historic legislation. Massie tweeted that the $2 trillion rescue package, in addition to an additional $4 trillion in stimulus from the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department, would create roughly $17,000 in new debt for every American citizen. “Not a good deal,” he wrote. Trump, in a rare public rebuke against another Republican, punched back on Twitter: “Throw Massie out of the Republican Party.” The Congressional Budget Office reported weeks before the coronavirus outbreak that the national debt was already on track to reach nearly 100% of the gross domestic product in just 10 years. The current package, and a subsequent round of government intervention already being discussed, will substantially escalate that timeline. The budget office is not expected to release specific projections on the fiscal impact of the legislation until after it's passed. Not including the rescue package, the current national debt exceeds $23.5 trillion, which is $3.5 trillion more than when Trump took office. The coronavirus spending surge will put heightened pressure on lawmakers to cut the social safety net in the coming year, including Social Security and Medicare. Trump and leading Democratic rival Joe Biden have both promised not to touch the popular entitlement programs, yet they consume a disproportionate share of government spending. “The future will be more painful,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Still, she added: “This is definitely not the time to worry about the deficit. This is the time to be borrowing as much as we need to deal with the huge health crisis.” Grover Norquist, one of Washington's most notorious fiscal hawks, praised a series of temporary deregulations in the legislation that he hopes might permanently eliminate bureaucracy controlling such things as medical professionals' ability to work in other states, the use of health savings accounts and liquor store deliveries. He predicted that the rescue package could actually lead to a “more open society with more freedom.' “There's no permanent damage,' Norquist said. “On balance, it seems to have been the best you could do under the circumstances.”
  • During the middle of her shift last week, Samantha Jacobson got the news that she wouldn’t have her job as a cocktail server at Disney Springs for a while. “It was a shock, because this is my only source of income and I love my job,” Jacobson said. “It was pretty hard and stressful.” With no savings and no job prospects, the 24-year-old went to social media and posted about her woes. She never expected a response from superstar Taylor Swift. “My initial reaction was that it was fake,” Jacobson said. “I thought it was a scammer, someone pretending to be her. I probably clicked her icon 10 or 15 times to see if it really went back to her actual Twitter.” But it was real, and Swift immediately sent $3,000 to Jacobson’s PayPal account. “It’s crazy. I’m still speechless,” Jacobson said. “So many people have reached out and messaged me and called me, and I just can’t wrap my head around that, out of her millions and millions of fans, she picked me.” Jacobson said she is grateful for the help. “I think it really shows that there are still so many good people in the world with such pure hearts that really, genuinely just want to help people,” she said. Jacobson said she plans to pay off her bills and pay it forward, which is exactly what she believes Swift would want her to do.
  • Dr. Sunil Joshi of Family Allergy and Asthma Consultants, recommends the following when bringing in outside food to your home: Wash your hands. Order hot foods when possible. The warmer the food, the less likely any virus is to survive. Warm up the food once you receive it. Take the food out of the container, and put it on to your own plate. Use your own silverware. It should be noted that the Food and Drug Administration says there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with the spread of COVID-19: “Currently there is no evidence of food or food packaging being associated with transmission of COVID-19. It may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. CDC notes that in general, because of poor survivability of these coronaviruses on surfaces, there is likely very low risk of spread from food products or packaging that are shipped over a period of days or weeks at ambient, refrigerated, or frozen temperatures. It is more likely that a person will be exposed by person-to-person transmission involving close contact with someone who is ill or shedding the virus.”
  • Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson returned to Los Angeles Friday after spending two weeks in quarantine in Australia. The couple were photographed smiling in an SUV according to Entertainment Tonight. Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson confirmed on March 11 that they both tested positive for Coronavirus in an Instagram post. Hanks had been in Australia shooting an untitled Elvis Presley biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann. Hanks plays Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker. The film, slated for release in October 2021, has suspended production, Warner Bros. said. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • The surge of coronavirus cases in California that health officials have warned was coming has arrived and will worsen, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday, while the mayor of Los Angeles warned that by early next week his city could see the kind of crush that has crippled New York. “We are now seeing the spike that we were anticipating,” Newsom declared while standing in front of the 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship Mercy that arrived in the Port of Los Angeles. It will take non-virus patients to free up rooms at hospitals for infection cases. Newsom said California's cases grew 26% in one day even with the results of 65,000 tests still pending. Johns Hopkins University tallied more than 4,700 California cases Friday, with at least 97 deaths. After a slow start, testing has accelerated rapidly, from about 27,000 on Tuesday to 88,000 on Friday. In Los Angeles County — the nation's most populous with more than 10 million residents — there were 678 new cases in the past two days for a total of nearly 1,500. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said if the trend continues, the city's cases could double every two days. That would put Los Angeles on par with New York City's outbreak in five days. “We will be where they are,' Garcetti said. “We will have doctors making excruciating decisions. We will be trying to figure out what we do with that surge, how to get ventilators, where to find beds.' New York City has more than 26,000 cases and at least 366 deaths. Newsom has said the state could need 50,000 additional hospital beds. Since the crisis started. the state's 416 hospitals have been able to find space for 30,000 more patients in their facilities. State and local officials have scrambled to find other locations. Newsom obtained emergency funding from the state Legislature to lease room for more than 500 patients at two hospitals, one in the San Francisco Bay Area that is bankrupt and a Los Angeles facility that closed in January. Beyond the Mercy hospital ship, the military is providing eight field hospitals with room for 2,000 patients. The massive Los Angeles Convention Center also is being readied to serve as a location for patients. Meantime, state officials are trying to find 10,000 ventilators, and so far have 4,095. Newsom said the only federal help has been 130 ventilators sent to Los Angeles. It was a subtle, and rare, criticism from Newsom of the Trump administration during the crisis. While the Democratic governor has often sparred with Trump over policies, he has praised the Republican president for his response to the virus. In fact, Newsom's comments now are part of a Trump campaign ad titled “Hope.' At his news conference Friday, Newsom said it's “a time for partnership, not partisanship. As I said, an open hand, not a clenched fist. ... I'm candidly grateful for his leadership for the state of California.” Newsom and Garcetti continued to urge people to stay home and maintain social distancing when out on essential errands With sunny weather in the forecast, Los Angeles County ordered a three-week closure of public trails, beaches, piers, beach bike paths and beach access points. The order came after hordes of people visited beaches last weekend, the first under expanded closure orders. San Diego County and other local governments have similar restrictions. Garcetti said the city was prepared to step up its enforcement, including shutting off power to nonessential businesses that refuse to close. Garcetti added: “99.99 percent of this can be done without any criminal penalty, but we are prepared if anybody is an outlier.' In San Francisco, where nearly 300 people have tested positive and at least three have died, Mayor London Breed pleaded with people to stay inside. The National Park Service has closed parking lots to popular beaches and open fields. Breed asked people to walk to their neighborhood park if they need fresh air, but not to get in their cars to drive to the beach. “We know what happened last weekend,” she said. “Sadly, we saw a number of areas in our city that were just jam-packed, and we also saw people who were playing things like volleyball and basketball and other sports” that violate orders for people to stay apart from others. Meanwhile, Marin County in the San Francisco Bay Area reported its first death related to the virus: a man in his 70s who had been a passenger aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship during a February voyage to Mexico. The man died Friday after being hospitalized for nearly three weeks, county health officials said. Federal officials announced Thursday that two men who had traveled on the ship had died. Thousands of passengers on the vessel were quarantined earlier this month after a passenger from a previous trip died and nearly two dozen passengers and crew tesed positive for the virus. Two a former passenger on a previous trip died of the disease. The virus has had a crippling impact on the economy. Nationwide, more than 3.3 million people have filed for unemployment benefits. About a third of those claims are in California, where thousands of businesses have been forced to close. On Wednesday, five of the nation's largest banks plus hundreds of credit unions and state-chartered banks agreed to defer mortgage payments for people affected by the virus. Newsom took that one step further on Friday by ordering a ban on all evictions for renters through May 31. The order takes effect for rents due on April 1. And it only applies to tenants who are not already behind on their payments. To be eligible, renters must notify their landlords in writing up to seven days after rent is due. Tenants must be able to document why they cannot pay, which include termination notices, payroll checks, medical bills or “signed letters or statements form an employer or supervisor explaining the tenant's changed financial circumstances.' ___ Beam reported from Sacramento, California. Associated Press reporters Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento and Janie Har in San Francisco contributed to this report.
  • Disney officials announced Friday that they are extending the closure of Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort until further notice due to COVID-19. A spokesman said they will continue to pay hourly parks and resort cast members through April 18. Read the statement in full below: “While there is still much uncertainty with respect to the impacts of COVID-19, the safety and well-being of our guests and employees remains The Walt Disney Company’s top priority. As a result of this unprecedented pandemic and in line with direction provided by health experts and government officials, Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort will remain closed until further notice.” The Walt Disney Company has been paying its cast members since the closure of the parks, and in light of this ongoing and increasingly complex crisis, we have made the decision to extend paying hourly parks and resorts cast members through April 18. The Associated Press contributed to this story.

The Latest News Headlines

  • Nearly 608,000 people worldwide -- including nearly 105,000 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 Saturday, March 28, continue below: Global coronavirus deaths top 28K, worldwide cases near 608K Update 7:35 a.m. EDT March 28: The global death toll attributed to the novel coronavirus hit 28,125 early Saturday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. In the three months since the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, it has infected at least 607,965 people worldwide. • The United States has reported 104,837 confirmed cases, resulting in 1,711 deaths. • Italy has confirmed 86,498 cases, resulting in 9,134 deaths. • China has recorded 81,996 cases, resulting in 3,299 deaths. • Spain has confirmed 65,719 infections, resulting in 5,138 deaths. • Germany has reported 53,340 cases, resulting in 395 deaths. • Iran has recorded 35,408 cases, resulting in 2,517 deaths. • France has confirmed 33,414 infections, resulting in 1,997 deaths. • The United Kingdom has reported 14,754 cases, resulting in 761 deaths. • Switzerland has confirmed 13,187 cases, resulting in 240 deaths. • South Korea has recorded 9,478 cases, resulting in 144 deaths. Japanese PM warms of ‘explosive spread’ of coronavirus threatening urban hubs Update 7:20 a.m. EDT March 28: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe issued a stern warning during a Saturday news conference, urging citizens to prepare for a “long-term battle” as the novel coronavirus threatens an “explosive spread” across the country. The Washington Post, citing Japanese media coverage of the news conference, reported Abe said cases of unknown origin are spiking, especially in the urban hubs of Tokyo and Osaka. “An uncontrollable chain of infection could lead to explosive spread somewhere,” he said. Abe’s comments came one day after Japan recorded its largest single-day spike in new cases of 123, bringing the nationwide total to 1,499 and 49 deaths. Nearly half of those newest cases were detected in Tokyo. New coronavirus cases spike in South Korea following steady decline Update 5:13 a.m. EDT March 28: Following a week of significantly decreased volume, South Korea reported a spike of 146 new coronavirus infections on Saturday. According to the nation’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the new cases bring South Korea’s total infections to 9,478, but Friday’s uptick stood in stark contrast to the fewer than 105 cases reported each day for the past week. On a more positive note, the country’s CDC confirmed only about 4,500 coronavirus patients remain isolated for treatment, while more than 4,800 patients have been deemed recovered and discharged from isolation. Italy’s coronavirus cases surpass those in China Update 5:07 a.m. EDT March 28: The number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases in Italy has reached 86,498, making it the second nation in as many days to surpass China’s total of 81,946. The United States eclipsed China’s infection total on Thursday – and currently reports slightly under 105,000 confirmed cases – but Italy’s death toll continues to climb as the outbreak ravages Europe.  Health officials confirmed 969 virus-related deaths in Italy on Friday, alone, making it the largest single-day death toll recorded by an country since the pandemic began. To date, the nation has reported a total of 9,134 fatalities, followed by Spain with 5,138 deaths and China with 3,295. U.S. Navy locks down Yokosuka base after sailors test positive for coronavirus Update 3:31 a.m. EDT March 28: The U.S. Navy has ordered a lockdown of its Yokosuka base after recording its second and third cases of novel coronavirus on Friday. The strategic Pacific base houses the Seventh Fleet. In a video posted to Facebook, Yokosuka Capt. Rich Jarrett encouraged residents on base to remain in their quarters “maximum extent possible.” “This is not a time to do lawn maintenance, take the dog for a long walk or go for a run. Time outdoors should be for necessities only and should be conducted as quickly as possible,” Jarrett posted in a Saturday morning update. Ginnie Mae poised to ease mortgage firms’ coronavirus fallout Update 3:18 a.m. EDT March 28: Mortgage firms are bracing for the crunch when borrowers begin falling behind on their payments, and Ginnie Mae sits poised to assist them in weathering the financial fallout of he novel coronavirus pandemic, The Wall Street Journal reported. Ginnie Mae, which already guarantees more than $2 trillion of mortgage-backed securities, told the Journal late Friday it will help companies such as Quicken Loans Inc. and Mr. Cooper Group Inc. with their anticipated cashflow interruptions. The agency will leverage a program typically reserved for natural disaster response. Read more here. Duke University develops N95 mask decontamination method to assist coronavirus fight Update 3:03 a.m. EDT March 28: Duke University researchers in North Carolina have developed a method for cleaning used N95 respirator masks, CNN reported. By Friday night, Duke’s Regional Biocontainment Laboratory team had already decontaminated hundreds of used N95 respirators without damaging them, so they can be re-worn several times, the network reported. More importantly, the researchers published their decontamination protocol, encouraging other medical centers and research facilities to follow suit. Specifically, the method uses vaporized hydrogen peroxide to kill microbial contaminants, CNN reported. Read more here. Trump issues order allowing Pentagon to reactivate former troops for coronavirus response Update 2:40 a.m. EDT March 28: U.S. President Donald Trump issued an order late Friday allowing the Pentagon to return certain troops to active duty in response to the mounting coronavirus crisis, The Washington Post reported. According to the Post, the order allows for the reactivation of former U.S. troops and members of the National Guard and Reserve to bolster the military’s ongoing efforts to help contain the virus’ spread. “Generally, these members will be persons in Headquarters units and persons with high demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said in a statement released early Saturday morning. Read more here. MLB, players strike deal should coronavirus cancel 2020 baseball season Update 2:14 a.m. EDT March 28: Major League Baseball owners and players ratified a deal Friday that sets terms should the novel coronavirus pandemic postpone or even cancel the 2020 season. According to NPR, players will be paid $170 million in advanced salaries over the next two months, and should the season ultimately be canceled, the advances will not have to be paid back. Meanwhile, players will receive “service time” credit for an entire year even if they only play portions of the 2020 season. The season had been slated to open Thursday and run through late October, NPR reported. Delta offering medical volunteers free flights to emerging US coronavirus hotspots Update 1:57 a.m. EDT March 28: Delta Air Lines announced Friday it will fly select medical workers to areas of the country hardest hit by the novel coronavirus for free. By early Saturday morning, the company had confirmed free, round-trip Delta flights will be offered to certain medical volunteers bound for Georgia, Louisiana and Michigan during the month of April. State-by-state breakdown of 101,242 US coronavirus cases, 1,588 deaths Update 12:44 a.m. EDT March 28: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States soared past 104,000 across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands early Saturday morning. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 104,661 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 1,706 deaths. U.S. cases now outnumber those in any other nation, including the 86,498 reported in Italy and the 81,946 confirmed in China. Of the confirmed deaths, 519 have occurred in New York, 175 Washington state and 119 in Louisiana.  In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 44,635 confirmed cases – more than five times any other state – followed by New Jersey with 8,825 and California with 3,801. Five other states have each confirmed at least 3,000 novel coronavirus cases, including: • Washington: 3,723, including 175 deaths • Michigan: 3,657, including 92 deaths • Massachusetts: 3,240, including 35 deaths • Florida: 3,192, including 45 deaths • Illinois: 3,026, including 34 deaths Meanwhile, Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Georgia each has confirmed at least 2,000 novel coronavirus infections, while Colorado, Texas, Connecticut, Tennessee and Ohio each has confirmed at least 1,000 cases. The figures include 21 people aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship and 49 repatriated citizens. The repatriations include 46 sickened aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship and three others retrieved from the outbreak’s epicenter in Wuhan, China. CNN’s state-by-state breakdown – including presumptive cases – of at least 101,242 cases detected on U.S. soil is as follows: • Alabama: 638, including 3 deaths • Alaska: 69, including 1 death • Arizona: 665, including 13 deaths • Arkansas: 386, including 3 deaths • California: 3,801, including 78 deaths • Colorado: 1,734, including 31 deaths • Connecticut: 1,291, including 27 deaths • Delaware: 163, including 2 deaths • District of Columbia: 267, including three deaths • Florida: 3,192, including 45 deaths • Georgia: 2,198, including 65 deaths • Guam: 49, including 1 death • Hawaii: 120 • Idaho: 230, including 4 deaths • Illinois: 3,026, including 34 deaths • Indiana: 981, including 24 deaths • Iowa: 235, including 3 deaths • Kansas: 202, including 4 deaths • Kentucky: 302, including 7 deaths • Louisiana: 2,746, including 119 deaths • Maine: 168, including 1 death • Maryland: 774, including 5 deaths • Massachusetts: 3,240, including 35 deaths • Michigan: 3,657, including 92 deaths • Minnesota: 398, including 4 deaths • Mississippi: 579, including 8 deaths • Missouri: 670, including 9 deaths • Montana: 109, including 1 death • Nebraska: 89, including 2 deaths • Nevada: 535, including 10 deaths • New Hampshire: 187, including 2 deaths • New Jersey: 8,825, including 108 deaths • New Mexico: 191, including 1 death • New York: 44,635, including 519 deaths • North Carolina: 763, including 3 deaths • North Dakota: 68, including 1 death • Ohio: 1,137, including 19 deaths • Oklahoma: 322, including 8 deaths • Oregon: 414, including 12 deaths • Pennsylvania: 2,218, including 22 deaths • Puerto Rico: 64, including 2 deaths • Rhode Island: 203 • South Carolina: 539, including 13 deaths • South Dakota: 58, including 1 death • Tennessee: 1,203, including 6 deaths • Texas: 1,731, including 23 deaths • U.S. Virgin Islands: 19 • Utah: 480, including 2 deaths • Vermont: 184, including 10 deaths • Virginia: 604, including 14 deaths • Washington: 3,723, including 175 deaths • West Virginia: 96 • Wisconsin: 842, including 13 deaths • Wyoming: 70
  • Starting Saturday, the federal drive-thru coronavirus testing site at Lot J at TIAA Bank Field will be waiving the fever requirement. Previously, patients who wanted to be tested had to have an on-site temperature of 99.6 degrees or higher. Instead, patients will only need to exhibit respiratory symptoms or be a first responder or healthcare worker who has direct contact with patients.  While a doctor’s order and appointment are not required, you will be evaluated by a medical professional on site. If you don't meet the requirements, you will not be tested.  If you wish to be tested, you need to follow the following rules:  • Bring your own pen  • Bring a photo ID (first responders and healthcare professionals should bring a work ID)  • Refrain from taking any fever-reducing medicine four to six hours before testing  • Remain inside of vehicle at all times  A maximum of four people per car can be tested.  With long lines expected around the stadium, drivers coming from the Westside should use Bay Street, while drivers coming from the Eastside should use Gator Bowl Boulevard. The site is open from 9 AM to 5 PM, 7 days a week.
  • Joseph Maldonado-Passage seems made for reality TV. The one-time Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate and former wildlife park owner, known to fans by the moniker “Joe Exotic,” is a self-described “gay, gun-carrying redneck with a mullet.” A tiger breeder, he had his own YouTube channel, JoeExoticTV, on which he used to post footage of his wild exploits. His reality today is much different. Maldonado-Passage, 57, is currently serving a 22-year federal prison sentence for two counts of murder-for-hire, eight counts of falsifying wildlife records and nine counts of violating the Endangered Species Act. According to federal prison records, Maldonado-Passage is currently housed at the Federal Medical Center Fort Worth. Maldonado-Passage’s crimes are on full display in “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” a seven-episode limited series on Netflix that chronicles how Maldonado-Passage went from freedom in the wild to behind bars in a federal prison in Texas. The streaming service describes the series as “a jaw-dropping true tale of con artists, polygamy, rivalry and revenge.” Netflix’s description of the documentary’s star is similar: A “mulleted, gun-toting polygamist and country western singer who presides over an Oklahoma roadside zoo.” Watch Netflix’s trailer for “Tiger King” below. “Charismatic but misguided, Joe and an unbelievable cast of characters including drug kingpins, conmen and cult leaders all share a passion for big cats, and the status and attention their dangerous menageries garner,” the description states. “But things take a dark turn when Carole Baskin, an animal activist and owner of a big cat sanctuary, threatens to put them out of business, stoking a rivalry that eventually leads to Joe’s arrest for a murder-for-hire plot, and reveals a twisted tale where the only thing more dangerous than a big cat is its owner.” Maldonado-Passage is in prison for hiring someone to kill Baskin. The charges of falsifying records and violating the Endangered Species Act stem from his slaughtering of five tigers at his refuge. Watch a “Joe Exotic Sizzle Reel” from Maldonado-Passage’s YouTube channel below. It may contain some graphic language. ‘Tiger King’s’ reception in the age of coronavirus The documentary series has had remarkable success as Netflix viewers try to temporarily forget about the terrifying global coronavirus pandemic that, as of Friday afternoon, had sickened well over half a million people worldwide and killed more than 26,000. Memes abound on social media, and everyone from celebrities like Kim Kardashian West to, well, average Joes, have weighed in on the craziness. Actor and musician Jared Leto hosted an online “Tiger King” watch party -- and dressed as “Joe Exotic” for the occasion. Below are some of the other memes: The Netflix documentary is not the first time the “Joe Exotic” case has garnered national attention. Baskin was the main subject of a podcast by Wondery for its series, “Over My Dead Body.” More Hollywood fodder about Maldonado-Passage and Baskin is on the way. Vanity Fair reported that comedian and actress Kate McKinnon has signed up to star in and executive produce a limited series based on that podcast. McKinnon is slated to portray Baskin. Maldonado-Passage’s role has not yet been cast, though Vanity Fair’s article said this: “Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson are thumb-wrestling to see whose agent gets to reach out about playing Joe Exotic, while David Spade is crafting a really, really long text to McKinnon about their shared SNL ties.” Actor Dax Shepard also has thrown his hat into the ring. “If I don’t get cast as Joe Exotic in the eventual biopic, Hollywood is broken,” Shepard tweeted. Edward Norton replied: “Um, step aside, pal. You’re way too young and buff and you know it.” Netflix U.S. also replied to Shepard’s tweet. “I’m liking what I’m hearing,” the tweet said. Buzzfeed News reported that the series’ creators are hinting at a possible second season. “Tiger King” director Eric Goode told the Los Angeles Times that Maldonado-Passage is happy with the finished documentary and is “over the moon” about being a household name. “Joe has called me quite a few times over the last few days and weeks. One, he is absolutely ecstatic about the series and the idea of being famous,” Goode told the Times. “He’s absolutely thrilled. I think he is trying to be an advocate for -- no surprise -- criminal justice reform. He is in a cage, and of course, he’s going to say that he now recognizes what he did to these animals.” Goode indicated he didn’t necessarily believe the former wildlife owner is regretful. “I take it with a big grain of salt when he says he is now apologetic for keeping animals,” the director said. Not everyone is thrilled by the series, particularly Baskin, who used her rescue’s website to refute the lies she alleges are included in the documentary. One of the more salacious bombshells: a suggestion that Baskin had a hand in the disappearance of her husband, Don Lewis, more than two decades ago. “When the directors of the Netflix documentary Tiger King came to us five years ago, they said they wanted to make the big cat version of Blackfish (the documentary that exposed abuse at SeaWorld) that would expose the misery caused by the rampant breeding of big cat cubs for cub petting exploitation and the awful life the cats lead in roadside zoos and back yards if they survive,” Baskin says in her rebuttal. “There are not words for how disappointing it is to see that the docuseries not only does not do any of that, but has had the sole goal of being as salacious and sensational as possible to draw viewers,” she writes. “As part of that (goal), it has a segment devoted to suggesting, with lies and innuendos from people who are not credible, that I had a role in the disappearance of my husband Don 21 years ago.” According to People magazine, Don Lewis, 59, vanished in August 1997 and was never seen again. His car was found abandoned at an airport and, according to The Charley Project, the keys were on the floorboard. The Florida Crime Information Center still has Jack Donald Lewis, who vanished Aug. 8, 1997, listed as a missing person out of Hillsborough County. At the time of his disappearance, authorities said he may have traveled to Costa Rica. Lewis’ oldest child, Donna Pettis, told People in 1998 that his family believed Baskin was involved in his disappearance. Baskin feeding his body to big cats would be “a perfect scenario to dispose of someone,” Pettis told the magazine. “We were upset that the cops didn’t test the DNA on the meat grinder.” Baskin refutes the “absurd claims” about her husband and writes that Lewis was showing signs of mental deterioration for a couple of years before he vanished. She said he had begun hoarding vehicles and other equipment on the 40 acres where the sanctuary sits. “He deteriorated into dumpster diving and even got stuck in a dumpster and called me crying because he did not know where he was,” she writes. “Back then Alzheimer’s was not a commonly used word.” Click here to read all of Baskin’s statement refuting the claims made in the documentary. “The series presents this without any regard for the truth or in most cases even giving me an opportunity before publication to rebut the absurd claims,” she writes. “They did not care about truth. The unsavory lies are better for getting viewers.” Another character in the series who has disputed his portrayal is Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, who runs the Myrtle Beach Safari in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Antle’s safari was recently raided by police, according to The Washington Post. The Myrtle Beach Sun News reported that a former employee of Antle’s accuses him on the series of running his business like a cult. Antle responded to the negative portrayal on Instagram. “It is important to understand that this series is not a documentary; it’s sensationalized entertainment with paid participants,” Antle alleges. “‘Tiger King’ is the bizarre story of Joe and Carole and their feud. These characters are not representative of experts in the wildlife sector or world-class facilities like ours here in Myrtle Beach. “Myrtle Beach Safari has been recognized by the state of South Carolina as one of the preeminent wildlife facilities in the United States. We’ve also received international accolades for the critical role we provide with our qualified, captive breeding programs and our global conservation efforts of threatened and endangered species.” Crimes behind the docuseries Federal authorities and court records give a detailed look into the crimes that sent Maldonado-Passage, of Wynnewood, Oklahoma, to prison. Maldonado-Passage, who also goes by the name Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, had an ongoing dispute with Baskin stemming from her criticism of his wildlife center’s care, exhibition and breeding practices for big cats like lions and tigers. Baskin is the founder of Big Cat Rescue, an animal sanctuary based out of Tampa, Florida. “Until 2011, the dispute was carried on primarily through traditional and social media,” a November 2018 indictment in the case reads. That year, Baskin filed a civil lawsuit against Maldonado-Passage. The Tampa Bay Times reported that, in retaliation for Baskin’s outreach efforts to stop people from booking his traveling petting zoo, Maldonado-Passage had renamed the attraction “Big Cat Rescue Entertainment.” The trademark infringement suit in February 2013 resulted in a judgment against Maldonado-Passage, requiring him to pay Baskin more than $1 million. She and her sanctuary have never received any of the money. By January 2012, Maldonado-Passage’s criticism of Baskin turned to threats of violence, including threats on Facebook and YouTube. According to an interview Baskin did with the Times, the threats included a video Maldonado-Passage made of himself shooting a blow-up doll dressed to look like her. He also produced an image of Baskin hanging in effigy, the newspaper reported. In early November 2017, Maldonado-Passage began trying to hire a hit man to travel to Florida and kill Baskin, the indictment says. On Nov. 6, the supposed hit man traveled from Oklahoma to Dallas to get fake identification for use when traveling to Florida. Later that month, Maldonado-Passage mailed the man’s cellphone to Nevada to conceal the proposed gunman’s involvement in the plot. That same day, Nov. 25, Maldonado-Passage gave the man $3,000 he had received in the sale of a big cat to the man as payment for Baskin’s murder, the indictment says. Thousands more would be paid once the job was complete. That plot never materialized. The Times reported last year that the would-be killer ran off with the money and never made it to Florida. Jurors at Maldonado-Passage’s trial also heard that, beginning in July 2016, Maldonado-Passage repeatedly asked a second witness to kill Baskin or to help him find someone who would. The person he went to that time went to authorities and arranged a December 2017 meeting with a supposed hit man. The hit man was an undercover FBI agent. “The jury heard a recording of his meeting with the agent to discuss details of the planned murder,” according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Oklahoma.
  • Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order earlier this week that requires anyone flying to Florida from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey to self-isolate for 14 days. Now, the Nassau County Board of Commissioners has finalized an order that requires anyone driving from N.Y., N.J. and C.T. to self-isolate for 14 days and let the health department and hotels know before they arrive.  Action News Jax was at the Florida Welcome Center in Nassau County just south of the Fla.-Ga. and found several license plates from N.Y. and N.J.  “I think it’s a good idea,” said Trina Hebert, who recently helped her brother escape the COVID-19 outbreak in N.Y. “It’s the only way we’re going to end this. It’s the only way it’s going to stop.”  The restrictions will apply retroactively to people who arrived in Nassau from Monday, March 23 through today.
  • The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is doing everything possible to make sure customers are not at risk amid the coronavirus outbreak. The latest precaution is being implemented today. JTA has started blocking off seats on buses to ensure social distancing. “We know that this is a little inconvenient at times, but we’re doing this with the goal of keeping everyone as safe as possible,” says JTA spokesman David Cawton. Cawton says they’ll block off up to 18 seats on JTA buses that have the highest number of riders. The seats that are blocked have special signage to promote the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help people slow down the spread of the virus. “This will reduce the capacity on board a bus and increase social distancing,” Cawton says. The modified bus schedule JTA put in place March 17 will continue until further notice. Cawton says JTA has also decided to delay the opening of the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center at LaVilla. It was supposed to open Monday, but the Rosa Parks Transit Station will be the hub for JTA buses for now. “Once we get a better control on this whole pandemic, then will be an opportunity to welcome everyone into that facility,” Cawton says.

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