CORONAVIRUS:

 What You Need To Know

On Air Now

Listen Now

Weather

cloudy-day
64°
Mostly Cloudy
H 68° L 62°
  • cloudy-day
    64°
    Current Conditions
    Mostly Cloudy. H 68° L 62°
  • cloudy-day
    76°
    Afternoon
    Mostly Cloudy. H 68° L 62°
  • cloudy-day
    76°
    Evening
    Partly Cloudy. H 80° L 65°
Listen
Pause
Error

The latest newscast

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest traffic report

00:00 | 00:00

Listen
Pause
Error

The latest forecast

00:00 | 00:00

The Latest News about Government and Politics

    A small coastal city in Georgia that thrives on tourism closed its beach, fearing carefree crowds of teenagers and college students posed too great a risk for spreading the new coronavirus. Two weeks later, the state's governor has reversed that decision, saying people weathering the outbreak need fresh air and exercise. The clash has thrust tiny Tybee Island, east of Savannah, into a thorny debate that keeps cropping up during the coronavirus pandemic: How much can officials curtail freedoms during the crisis? And should those calls be made at the federal, state or local level? Tybee Island Mayor Shirley Sessions, sworn in barely three months ago, has taken on Gov. Brian Kemp after state officials on Friday reopened the beach in this community of 3,100 people. The beach typically operates with city-funded lifeguards, police patrols and trash cleanup. The change resulted from the Republican governor's order that people statewide should “shelter in place” — that is, they should stay home unless working jobs deemed essential, seeking medical care, shopping for groceries, or other exceptions including exercising outdoors. It also invalidated any restrictions already imposed by local governments if they went beyond the governor's limits. That meant a unanimous decision by Tybee Island’s city council to close its beach was suddenly overridden, and Sessions said the governor's office declined to reconsider when asked. Her blunt, public rebuttal to what she called the governor’s “reckless mandate” drew attention far beyond her small coastal home. “As the Pentagon ordered 100,000 body bags to store the corpses of Americans killed by the coronavirus, Governor Brian Kemp dictated that Georgia beaches must reopen,” Sessions said in a statement posted Saturday on the city’s website that was quickly spread on social media and quoted in news stories. Tybee Island mayors are elected in nonpartisan races, and Sessions doesn't identify as Democrat or Republican. Kemp noted Sunday on Twitter that state law enforcement officers were monitoring beaches at Tybee Island and elsewhere to ensure crowds weren’t gathering, and that beach traffic appeared sparse. Kemp said “beach gear and parties are prohibited.” “Patrols are vigilant so people can get fresh air and exercise while following social distancing rules,” the governor tweeted. The back-and-forth reflects the broader debate in the U.S. about whether severe limitations on people's movement are necessary, causing unacceptable disruption or even constitutional. Some faith leaders, for instance, have argued that bans on gatherings that applied to services violated religious freedom protections. The American Civil Liberties Union is asking a court to block part of Puerto Rico’s strict curfew, expressing concern about overreach. The Los Angeles County sheriff reversed his decision to shut down firearms dealers after he was sued by gun-rights groups. On Sunday, there were no lifeguards were on duty on Tybee's beaches, and local officials left in place plywood signs blocking boardwalks and wooden barricades to keep cars out of beachfront parking lots. “I would say we’re going to leave them up until somebody takes them down,” Sessions said in a phone interview. The mayor said she doesn’t understand why the state would assert control during the pandemic. Kemp’s office did not immediately respond to an email Sunday seeking further comment on the governor’s rationale. Kemp’s spokeswoman, Candice Broce, said in a statement Saturday that governor’s staff was in contact with Sessions and would provide resources as needed to enforce social distancing. Sessions said she’s thinks few people ventured to the beach over the weekend because they weren’t sure whether it was open or closed. She’s concerned that could change. The city moved to shut down the beach after thousands of young people swarmed to the sand and surf as schools and colleges canceled classes. Local officials worried that carefree crowds posed too great a risk for spreading the virus. Still, it was a painful decision for a city that’s typically hungry for spring tourists after the economically lean winter. “We are a very high-risk community. We have an older population and two nursing homes. We don’t have a medical facility,” Sessions said. “The sooner we take these actions, the sooner we’ll be able to get back to some type of normalcy.” For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and lead to death. On Sunday, the Georgia Department of Public Health reported more than 6,600 confirmed infections statewide and 211 deaths. Chatham County, which includes Tybee Island and neighboring Savannah, had more than 80 cases and three deaths. At least one Tybee Island resident is among those infected, Sessions said, as is an officer on the community’s small police force. Kemp’s order that reopened the beach also lifted a temporary ban Tybee Island had imposed on people checking into vacation rental homes. Sessions said she spotted license plates from New York, New Jersey and other states reeling from the pandemic as she walked the island over the weekend. And she fears many more visitors will show up for the upcoming Easter weekend. “I tell people it’s such a small sacrifice,' said Sessions, who’s still urging people to stay off the beach. 'The beach is going to be there in two months. But will we be there to enjoy it?”
  • With the military under broad pressure to step up its coronavirus response, Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Sunday defended the firing of an aircraft carrier commander who sought help for sailors during an outbreak as a matter of holding leaders “accountable.” He also said the matter was under review. In two television interviews, Esper said acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly made a “very tough decision” last Thursday to oust Capt. Brett Crozier of command of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which was docked in Guam, and that he supported the decision. “It was based on his view that he had lost faith and confidence in the captain, based on his actions. It was supported by Navy leadership,” Esper said. Still, the Pentagon chief declined to explicitly say he agreed with Modly’s assessment, noting that there is “an investigation ongoing.” “This could ultimately come to my desk,” he said. “I think Secretary Modly laid out very reasonably, very deliberately the reasons why. And I think, when all those facts come to bear, we will have a chance to understand why Secretary Modly did what he did.” Crozier circulated a memo to Navy leaders last week that was obtained by news media in which he urged speedy action to evacuate the ship of nearly 5,000 sailors as the coronavirus began to escalate. Modly said Crozier “demonstrated extremely poor judgment” in the middle of a crisis, although Navy officials later announced they would offload 2,700 sailors in the coming days. Videos went viral on social media over the weekend, showing hundreds of sailors gathered on the ship chanting and applauding Crozier on Thursday as he walked off the vessel, turned, saluted, waved and got into a waiting car. His firing comes amid pressure on the military as it seeks to step up its response to the coronavirus outbreak, including sending two Navy hospital ships to assist New York and Los Angeles. On Sunday, Esper said the Pentagon was sending over 1,100 additional doctors, nurses and other medical staff to New York as part of a COVID-19 operation that would have the military in charge of “the largest hospital in the United States,” with 2,500 beds at the city's Jacob Javits Convention Center. Esper issued new requirements for those visiting or working on Department of Defense installations regarding the use of cloth face coverings. He said that “to the extent practical,” all individuals on department property “will wear” the coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance from others. The guidance, outlined in a memo to senior military leaders Sunday, is effective immediately. As the coronavirus pandemic worsens and the country turns increasingly to the military for help, America’s armed services have been struggling to get new recruits as families and communities hunker down. The services, as a result, could fall thousands short of their enlistment goals if the widespread lockdowns drag on, forcing them to pressure current troops to stay on in order to maintain broader military readiness. Asked over the weekend about whether Crozier's firing could hurt morale in the military, President Donald Trump said he was not involved with the decision but agreed with it “100 percent.' “I thought it was terrible what he did to write a letter,” he told reporters Saturday. “I mean, this isn’t a class on literature. This is a captain of a massive ship that’s nuclear powered. And he shouldn’t be talking that way in a letter. He could call and ask and suggest.” Esper insisted it was not unusual for the Navy to relieve commanders so quickly without first completing a review into their actions. But he also declined to say what will happen to Crozier, citing the current ongoing investigation. Esper said he backed Modly's decision after also receiving advice from the chief of naval operations and Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. 'It's just another example of how we hold leaders accountable for their actions,' Esper said. He said over half of the ship had now been tested. About 155 sailors had tested positive for COVID-19, exhibiting “mild and moderate” symptoms with “no hospitalizations whatsoever.” 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. Esper said not all the sailors will be evacuated because the ship has sensitive equipment and weapons on board, and a new commander will be arriving there soon to assess the crew's safety. The ouster has drawn fire from different quarters, including former military commanders. On Sunday, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden called the Trump administration's handling of the case as “close to criminal.” “The idea that this man stood up and said what had to be said, got it out that his troops, his Navy personnel were in danger,” he said. “I think he should have a commendation rather than be fired.” Tweed Roosevelt, the great grandson of former President Theodore Roosevelt, called Crozier a “hero.” “In this era when so many seem to place expediency over honor, it is heartening that so many others are showing great courage, some even risking their lives. Theodore Roosevelt, in his time, chose the honorable course,” Tweed Roosevelt wrote in an op-ed Friday in The New York Times. “Captain Crozier has done the same.” Esper appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week,” and Biden also was on ABC.
  • Joe Biden said Sunday that the Democratic National Convention, already delayed until August because of the coronavirus, may need to take place online as the pandemic continues to reshape the race for the White House. The party 'may have to do a virtual convention,” the former vice president said. “The idea of holding the convention is going to be necessary. We may not be able to put 10, 20, 30,000 people in one place,' he told ABC's “This Week,” calling an online convention 'very possible.'' Biden has a commanding lead in the number of delegates needed to secure his party's presidential nomination at a convention in Milwaukee, originally scheduled for mid-July. Democrats hoped an early gathering would give the party more time to unify around a nominee who could defeat President Donald Trump in November. But officials announced on Thursday they were taking the unprecedented step of postponing the convention until August, just before the Republican National Convention is scheduled. The once-crowded Democratic primary has dwindled to Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But both have switched to addressing supporters online from home, with travel and campaign rallies — like many facets of American life — suspended for weeks because of the outbreak. Biden publicly endorsed delaying the convention before the move to do so was announced, and said Sunday that the extraordinary measure of holding one all online is still not a certainty. “What we do between now and then is going to dictate a lot of that as well,' he said. “But my point is that I think you just got to follow the science. Listen to the experts.' Biden also said he planned to wear a mask in public, heeding new federal guidelines that Americans use face coverings when venturing out. That contradicts Trump, who says he's choosing not do that. “He may not like how he looks in a mask,' Biden said of the president, adding that it was a mattering of following science. “That’s what they’re telling us,' the former vice president added. Speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams offered some of the starkest warnings about the virus yet, saying. “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly.” But he appeared to play down the mask issue, saying that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines emphasize that such coverings are voluntary and shouldn't be used as a substitute for the “social distancing” that has kept millions at home. “The president is making a choice that’s appropriate for him,” Adams said before showing off a mask he said he wears in public. “What I want Americans to know is, if you’re going out in public and you’re going to be closer than 6 feet to other people, you can use a cloth facial covering.” For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two weeks 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 U.S. surgeon general said Sunday that Americans should brace for levels of tragedy reminiscent of the Sept. 11 attacks and the bombing of Pearl Harbor, while the nation’s infectious disease chief warned that the new coronavirus may never be completely eradicated from the globe. Those were some of the most grim assessments yet for the immediate future and beyond. But hours later, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence tried to strike more optimistic tones, suggesting that hard weeks ahead could mean beginning to turn a corner. “We’re starting to see light at the end of the tunnel,” Trump said at an evening White House briefing. Pence added, “We are beginning to see glimmers of progress.” The president also insisted that both assessments from his administration — they came within 12 hours of each other — didn't represent an about-face or were even “that different.' “I think we all know that we have to reach a certain point — and that point is going to be a horrific point in terms of death — but it's also a point at which things are going to start changing,” Trump said. “We're getting very close to that level right now.” The president added that he thought the next two weeks “are going to be very difficult. At the same time, we understand what they represent and what that time represents and, hopefully, we can get this over with.” Still, Trump's own briefing also struck a somber tone at times. The president offered some of his most extensive comments to date to the families of those killed by the virus, urging the nation to pray for them and 'ask God to comfort them in their hour of grief.” “With the faith of our families and the spirit of our people and the grace of our God we will endure,” the president said. 'We will overcome.” Earlier Sunday, Surgeon General Jerome Adams told CNN, “This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly.” “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localized,' said Adams, the nation's top doctor. 'It’s going to be happening all over the country. And I want America to understand that.” The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 337,000, with the death toll climbing past 9,600. More than 4,100 of those deaths are in the state of New York, but a glimmer of hope there came on Sunday when Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state registered a small dip in new fatalities over a 24-hour period. Still, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said his state may run out of ventilators by week's end. Former Vice President Joe Biden suggested his party's presidential nominating convention, already pushed from July into August because of the outbreak, may have to move fully online to avoid packing thousands of people into an arena in Milwaukee. Biden has all but clinched his party's presidential nomination and held an online town hall from his home in Delaware at the same time Trump was addressing reporters. His tone was far less confrontational than Trump, who clashed with reporters and criticized Democratic Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker as being demanding and complaining while having “not performed well.” Biden sought to be uplifting and almost grandfatherly, taking questions from children with his wife. But he also said the president “has been awful slow” to use the powers of his office to compel private companies to make protective equipment for doctors and nurses, adding that “we should be much more aggressive.” Trump angrily deflected questions regarding the slow pace of the federal government’s response to the pandemic, praising federal officials he has elevated in recent weeks to coordinate the distribution of hard-to-find supplies. “The people that you’re looking at, FEMA, the military, what they’ve done is a miracle,” Trump told reporters. “What they’ve done is a miracle in getting all of this stuff. What they have done for states is incredible.” For most people, the virus 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. Also Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the toll in the coming week is 'going to be shocking to some, but that's what is going to happen before it turns around, so just buckle down.' Fauci said the virus probably won’t be wiped out entirely this year, and that unless the world gets it under control, it will “assume a seasonal nature.” “We need to be prepared that, since it unlikely will be completely eradicated from the planet, that as we get into next season, we may see the beginning of a resurgence,” Fauci said. “That’s the reason why we’re pushing so hard in getting our preparedness much better than it was.” The Defense Department released new requirements that all individuals on its property “will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain six feet of social distance in public areas or work centers.” That is in compliance with new federal guidelines that Americans use face coverings when venturing out. Trump had said previously that he's choosing not to wear a face mask and scoffed at the idea of using one while answering questions as he held news briefings like Sunday night's. “I would wear one,' he said, but only “if I thought it was important.” ___ Associated Press writer Brian Slodysko in Washington contributed to this report.
  • President Donald Trump is taking an old political adage to heart: Never let a crisis go to waste. The coronavirus is projected to kill more than 100,000 Americans. It has effectively shuttered the economy, torpedoed the stock market and rewritten the rules of what used to be called normal life. But in this moment of upheaval, Trump and his advisers haven’t lost sight of the opportunity to advance his agenda. A look at some of the president's notable moves: BRINGING BACK THE ENTERTAINMENT TAX DEDUCTION Trump has called on Congress to revive the tax deduction for business-related expenses on meals and entertainment, arguing it would help bolster high-end restaurants hammered by the outbreak. Trump’s own tax law in 2017 sliced the tax rate for corporations from 35% to 21% and eliminated the deduction. “This is a great time to bring it back,” Trump said of the resurrecting the tax break. 'Otherwise a lot of these restaurants are going to have a hard time reopening,” he said at White House briefing Wednesday. During a Rose Garden briefing last Sunday, Trump said he had spoken with celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck about the idea. Trump also name-checked prominent restaurateurs including Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten as he tried to make the case for reviving the deduction. Vongerichten is a tenant at the president’s Trump International Hotel and Tower in New York. “Congress must pass the old, and very strongly proven, deductibility by businesses on restaurants and entertainment,” Trump tweeted recently. “This will bring restaurants, and everything related, back - and stronger than ever. Move quickly, they will all be saved!” ___ USING VIRUS TO MAKE CASE FOR TIGHTER BORDERS Trump has repeatedly credited himself with moving in late January to bar entry from foreigners who had recently been in China. The president later also ordered the temporary suspension of travel from much of Europe to the United States, and has largely closed the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. But Trump has notably used the crisis to remind Americans about his 2016 campaign promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He argues a wall would help contain the coronavirus. In a tweet last month, he said the structure is “Going up fast” and “We need the Wall more than ever!” Leading public health experts disagree. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told lawmakers last month that he was unaware of any indication from his agency that physical barriers along America’s borders would help halt the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. Still, Trump argues that the virus has only spotlighted that his instincts on the border wall were right. The virus — and the subsequent opportunity to invoke emergency powers — has allowed Trump to lock down the borders and make sure virtually no immigrants are getting in. ___ PANDEMIC UNDERSCORES NEED FOR PROTECTIONISM, TRUMP SAYS Trump in recent days has grumbled that American companies such as 3M and GM are not doing enough to provide American medical workers and first responders with vital equipment they need. But the president and his aides have also made a broader argument about the need for the country to retool regulations to encourage the manufacturing of medicine and other key safety equipment on American soil. Peter Navarro, a senior trade adviser to Trump, said the pandemic, which has left hospitals short of ventilators and protective masks, has underscored the president’s “buy American, secure borders, and a strong manufacturing base” philosophy. “Never again should we have to depend on the rest of the world for our essential medicines and countermeasures,” Navarro said. ___ ADMINISTRATION ROLLS BACK MILEAGE STANDARDS On the same day that the White House announced projections that 100,000 to 240,000 Americans are likely to die from coronavirus, the Environmental Protection Agency introduced a controversial new federal rule that will relax mileage standards for years to come. The rollback is a victory for Americans who like their SUVs and pickup trucks, but it’s hardly without a cost. The government’s own projections indicate that the new standards also mean more Americans will die from air pollution, and there will be more climate-damaging tailpipe exhaust and more expense for drivers at the gas pumps. Trump hailed the new rule as reason for Americans to go out and buy big, new cars. “Great news! American families will now be able to buy safer, more affordable, and environmentally friendly cars with our new SAFE VEHICLES RULE,” Trump tweeted. Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups condemned the rollback, and years of legal battles are expected, including from California and other states opposed to the change. ___ KEEPING AN EYE ON OVERHAULING COURTS Trump announced Friday he was nominating a young, federal judge to fill a high-profile vacancy on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. Judge Justin Walker, 37, was confirmed less than six months ago for a seat on the U.S. District Court in Western Kentucky after a contentious nominating fight about his credentials. The former clerk to retired Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy is one of the youngest federal judges in the country. He also has deep ties to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican who hailed the nomination as an opportunity to 'refresh the second-most-important federal court in the country.″ Walker also clerked for Justice Brett Kavanaugh when Kavanaugh was a judge on the D.C. appeals court. Walker drew a rare “Not Qualified” rating from the American Bar Association when Trump nominated him last year to be a federal judge. Despite reservations from Democrats and the legal community about Walker’s credentials, his nomination was approved, 50—41. Opponents noted he was barely 10 years out of law school and had never served as co-counsel at trial when he was tapped for the federal bench. The Trump administration has worked feverishly to overhaul the federal courts, nominating and winning Senate confirmation for more than 190 judges over the past three years, a pace unseen since Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Even in the midst of battling a pandemic, Trump hasn’t lost sight of the long-term impact his nominations to the federal bench will have on his legacy. ___ This story has been corrected to reflect that the property in New York is the Trump International Hotel and Tower, not the Trump Tower.
  • In the decade before Michigan and its largest city became the latest hot spot for the deadly coronavirus, officials were steadily, and at times dramatically, cutting back on their first line of defense against pandemics and other public health emergencies. Approaching bankruptcy, Detroit disbanded most of its public health department and handed its responsibilities to a private nonprofit. When the department reopened in 2014 in the back of the municipal parking office, its per capita budget was a fraction of other big cities', to serve a needier population. In Ingham County, home to the capital city of Lansing, then-Public Health Director Renee Branch Canady sat down at budget time every year for seven straight years to figure out what more to cut. “It was just chop, chop, chop,” Canady said. By the time she left in 2014, all the health educators, who teach people how to prevent disease, were gone. What happened in Michigan also played out across the country and at the federal level after the 2008 recession, which caused serious budget problems for governments. But as the economy recovered, public health funding did not, a review of budget figures and interviews with health experts and officials shows. A shortfall persisted despite several alarming outbreaks, from H1N1 to Ebola, and has left the U.S. more vulnerable now to COVID-19, experts say. In normal times, public health workers are in the community, immunizing children, checking on newborns and performing other tasks. In a health emergency, they're tracing outbreaks, conducting testing and serving as “first responders” when people fall sick — efforts that are lagging in many states as the coronavirus spreads. “Our funding decisions tied their hands,” said Brian Castrucci, who worked with health departments in Philadelphia, Texas and Georgia and is now president of the de Beaumont Foundation, a health advocacy organization. The cuts came under both Democratic and Republican administrations. While there is no single number that reflects all federal, state and local spending, the budget for the federal Centers for Disease Control, the core agency for public health, fell by 10 percent between fiscal year 2010 and 2019 after adjusting for inflation, according to an analysis by the Trust for America’s Health, a public health research and advocacy organization. The group found that federal funding to help state and local officials prepare for emergencies such as the coronavirus outbreak has also fallen — from about $1 billion after 9/11 to under $650 million last year. Between 2008 and 2017, state and local health departments lost more than 55,000 jobs — one-fifth of their workforce, a major factor as cities struggle to respond to COVID-19. “It definitely has made a difference,' said John Auerbach, Trust for America's Health CEO and a former public health director in Massachusetts. New York has seen the most COVID-19 cases in the U.S., but numbers are surging in places such as Detroit, where those testing positive nearly tripled in the week between March 28 and Saturday, when officials said the city was approaching 4,000 cases, with 129 deaths. A more robust health system could have done more earlier to track down and isolate people who were exposed, said the city's former health director, Abdul El-Sayed. State spending on public health in Michigan dropped 16% from an inflation-adjusted high point of $300 million in 2004, according to a 2018 study. Some of the funding problems, Canady and other public health advocates believe, stem from a fundamental belief in smaller government among Republican governors, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who called for “shared sacrifice” after the state's auto-dependent economy was battered by the recession. In Kansas, then-Gov. Sam Brownback ran what he called a “red-state experiment” to cut taxes. State spending on its Public Health Division, outside of federal funds, dropped 28% between 2008 and 2016. The cuts meant a “shifting of responsibility for services from the state level to the county level,' Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said in an interview. 'And we saw that in public health.' In Maine, then-Gov. Paul Le Page's administration stopped replacing public health nurses who were dealing with families in the opioid crisis. The number of nurses fell from around 60 to the low 20s before the Legislature tried to reverse the action. Although agencies often receive emergency funding when a crisis strikes, the infusion is temporary. “Decisions are made politically to support something when it becomes an epidemic,” said Derrick Neal, a public health official in Abilene when Ebola surfaced in Texas. “And then as time passes, the funding shrinks.” In Oklahoma, state funding for the Department of Health still hasn’t returned to its levels of 2014, when a combination of slumping oil prices, tax cuts and corporate breaks punched a giant hole in the state’s budget. When state revenues later improved, the money went to other priorities. “It’s much easier to cut funding for public health than it is to start taking away benefits from people or access to care for people,' said former state Rep. Doug Cox, an emergency room doctor. Castrucci said the problem with providing more money only at times of emergency is it doesn't allow time to recruit and train new workers. “We waited until the house was on fire before we started interviewing firefighters,” he said. 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. ___ Associated Press reporters David Eggert in Lansing, Michigan, Paul Weber in Austin, Texas, John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Sean Murphy in Oklahoma City contributed to this report.
  • President Donald Trump talked to many U.S. pro sports leaders about the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, saying he was looking forward to the resumption of competitions “as soon as we can.” “I want fans back in the arenas,” Trump said later in a briefing at the White House. “I think it’s ... whenever we’re ready. As soon as we can, obviously. And the fans want to be back, too. They want to see basketball and baseball and football and hockey. They want to see their sports. They want to go out onto the golf courses and breathe nice, clean, beautiful fresh air.” A person with direct knowledge of the call said Trump believes the NFL season — scheduled to begin Sept. 10 — will start on time with fans in seats. But that seemed too optimistic for California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who was asked if he thought the NFL season would start on time. “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,” Newsom said. The NBA, NHL, NFL and Major League Baseball were all represented by their commissioners — Adam Silver, Gary Bettman, Roger Goodell and Rob Manfred, respectively. None of those leagues released public comment. A second person with knowledge of the call said some commissioners, Silver included, stressed to Trump that they are working on multiple season-resumption plans but cautioned nothing can move forward without clearance from public health officials. The people spoke to AP on condition of anonymity because no discussion from the call was to be revealed publicly. Others on the call included PGA Tour Commissioner Jay Monahan, LPGA Tour Commissioner Mike Whan, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, UFC President Dana White, World Wrestling Entertainment owner Vince McMahon, MLS Commissioner Don Garber, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Englebert and Breeders’ Cup President Drew Fleming. National Women's Soccer League Commissioner Lisa Baird was not included in the call, and that league was not pleased. “As a leader in women’s professional sports, the NWSL would welcome the chance to participate in any future discussions between the top sports leagues in the U.S. and the White House,' the league said. Trump addressed Little League players on Saturday, tweeting to tell them, “hang in there! We will get you back out on the fields, and know that you will be playing baseball soon. We will get through this together, and bats will be swinging before you know it.' Trump said the need for social distancing is affecting his 14-year-old son, Barron. The president described his son as a good athlete and soccer fan. “We have to get back,” Trump said. “We have to get back. Remember that. We have to get back and we have to get back soon.” ___ AP Auto Racing Writer Jenna Fryer, AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi, AP Golf Writer Doug Ferguson and AP Baseball Writers Ronald Blum and Stephen Hawkins contributed to this report. ___ More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-Sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Despite state and local limits on public gatherings, some faith leaders have persisted in holding in-person services -- a matter of religious freedom, they say, as the nation approached its fourth Sunday battling the coronavirus pandemic. The most high-profile clash over in-person worship – and crowd limits designed to stop the virus’ spread -- came in Florida, where Pastor Rodney Howard-Browne was arrested Monday for violating a county order by hosting a large number of congregants at his Tampa church. Howard-Browne said after his release he would move future worship online, but the county later ended its effort to apply limits on large gatherings to religious services after a statewide order described religious gatherings as essential. Law enforcement officials in Louisiana and Maryland took separate action this week against pastors who continue to hold in-person services in the face of stay-home orders in most states. But more than a half-dozen of those state orders provide a degree of exemption for religious activity, underscoring the political sensitivity of the decisions being made by states and localities. Vice President Mike Pence said this week that churches should not host groups bigger than 10 people. President Donald Trump said Saturday that he would be watching Palm Sunday services broadcast from Riverside, Calif., from a laptop. “People are watching on computers and laptops,” Trump said. “It’s sad.” Trump said he asked about endorsing the idea of people being able to gather outside for services on Easter Sunday if they practice social distancing, but recalled being told “Do we want to take a chance on doing that when we have been doing so well?” Trump earlier said that “my biggest disappointment is that churches can’t meet in a time of need.” The application of guidance on the ground has raised questions for some faith leaders. Pastor Alvin Gwynn Sr., of Baltimore’s Friendship Baptist Church, said that police tried to halt services at his church on Sunday even though he had limited in-person attendance to 10 people. Gwynn said in an interview that he still plans to hold in-person Easter services, citing the First Amendment’s protections for freedom of worship and assembly. Baltimore has “been through a lot” in recent years, said Gwynn, who leads a local ministers’ group that criticized the city’s police department leadership in 2015 following the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray. “Which is safer, in the church with potential virus, or go out the door and catch a bullet?” Gwynn said. Instructions for church gatherings in Maryland have been issued piecemeal. State guidance dated Monday described houses of worship as non-essential under a stay-home order issued by Maryland GOP Gov. Larry Hogan that allowing them only to conduct “minimal operations.” But follow-up guidance dated Wednesday states that “in-person services” can be held with 10 or fewer people. In Florida, attorneys at the Christian legal nonprofit representing Howard-Browne tabled their plans to file a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the county order used against him after the county reversed course. “Instead of using a scalpel to address this, they’re using a chainsaw,” said Liberty Counsel founder Mathew Staver, who added that executive orders designed to limit gatherings during the pandemic were “flying off printers and being signed by government officials with no constitutional readiness.” On Wednesday, Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a stay-home order describing religious services as essential, followed by a second order that overrides any localities’ conflicting guidelines — an edict that could impede local attempts to shut down future large worship services. Elsewhere, Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott also described religious services as essential in his order to limit gatherings during the pandemic. In Georgia, where some of the state’s worst virus outbreaks have been linked to large religious services, GOP Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday issued a stay-home order that states no faith-based gathering can occur with more than 10 people unless they keep a six-foot distance. While some faith leaders who continue to hold in-person services have pointed to their First Amendment rights, including Ohio’s Solid Rock megachurch, it’s not clear that their activity during the pandemic would be legally protected. State or local governments would be “constitutionally justified” in including houses of worship in their closure orders during a public health emergency as long as those orders are “generally applicable,” said John Inazu, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis who studies the First Amendment. But the burden shifts if a government attempts to stop a church from holding services with less than 10 people while allowing secular businesses to operate under the same conditions, Inazu added: “There, I think there’s a very plausible religious freedom claim.” Before issuing his order, Kemp held two calls with hundreds of clergy from across Georgia, urging houses of worship to stream services online or implement other social distancing measures, like holding drive-up services where people listen from their cars. Most religious services across the country have already moved online. “We’re making the best of a bad situation. It’s going to be devastating in the short term,” said Todd Gaddis, senior pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Georgia, referring to the loss of donations from in-person services. “But I’m confident there will be spiritual dividends in the long run.” And the Trump administration’s entreaties for churches to stop meeting in person extended beyond the White House. Sam Brownback, the president’s special envoy for religious freedom, said Thursday that “religious groups should practice social distancing.” Brownback, a Catholic, said that he’s skipped Mass for “several weeks, and it’s the longest period I’ve gone without going to Mass. And I think people should be doing this to stop the spread of the virus.” —- Associated Press writers Ben Nadler in Atlanta and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.
  • President Donald Trump is warning that the country could be headed into its “toughest” weeks yet as the coronavirus death toll mounts, but at the same time he expressed growing impatience with social distancing guidelines and said he’s eager to get the country reopened and its stalled economy back on track. “There will be a lot of death, unfortunately,” Trump said Saturday in a somber start to his daily briefing on the pandemic, 'There will be death.” Joining Trump were Vice President Mike Pence, virus task force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s foremost infection disease expert. Each stood far apart from one another on the small stage. Trump added a twist on his familiar push for a drug that hasn't been clearly shown to work to stop the virus — he said he may start taking it as a preventative measure after consulting with his doctor, even though there's no evidence to show it works for that, either. The president initially had suggested the country could reopen by Easter but pulled back seeing projections of a staggering death toll even if restrictive measures remain in place. But just days after extending tough national guidelines through the end of April, staring down historic levels of unemployment and economic standstill, he was talking about reopening as soon as possible, and speaking Saturday with leaders of professional sports leagues about filling arenas again. “This country was not designed to be closed,” he said. 'The cure cannot be worse than the problem.” The number of people infected in the U.S. has exceeded 300,000, with the death toll climbing past 8,400; more than 3,500 of those deaths are in the state of New York. For most people, the virus 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. Much of the country is under orders to stay home, including professional sports leagues that were among the first to clamp down in the pandemic. Trump spoke by phone with top leaders including Roger Goodell of the National Football League and the NBA’s Adam Silver, telling them he hoped to get people back in seats as soon as possible. “I want fans back in the arenas,' he said. “Whenever we’re ready, as soon as we can.” The virus has decimated the sports world with the National Basketball Association and the National Hockey League suspending their seasons indefinitely and Major League Baseball postponing the start of its season. The NCAA basketball tournament was also canceled; so were college spring sports. A person with knowledge of the call said some of the commissioners weren’t quite as optimistic as Trump because of the concerns raised by public health officials but appreciated the president’s desire to give people hope and fans a reason to be optimistic. The person requested anonymity to discuss the private call. California's Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has three NFL teams in his state, was asked if he thought the NFL season would start on time in September. “I’m not anticipating that happening in this state,' he said. Hard-hit states were seeing cases rise. Trump suggested that some states were asking for more medical supplies than they really needed. He said the goal was to stay several days ahead of critical medical needs in each state. “The fears of the shortages have led to inflated requests,” he said. Louisiana officials have said New Orleans is on track to run out of ventilators by next week. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose state is at the epicenter of the national pandemic with over 113,700 confirmed cases as of Saturday morning, has pleaded for ventilators for days. New York is poised to get more than 1,100 ventilators from China and Oregon. Health officials did offer some hope that social distance measures were working. Fauci said he saw the efforts in action as he went out for a walk in Washington, D.C., and noticed people waiting six feet apart for restaurant take out. “As sobering and a difficult as this is, what we are doing is making a difference,” Fauci said. But even as Fauci urged Americans to be patient and let mitigation efforts work, Trump said: “Mitigation does work. But again, we’re not going to destroy our country.' The previously booming economy had been among Trump's biggest talking points as he heads into the 2020 presidential election, but the past few weeks have seen precipitous drops as the U.S. deals with the fallout from the virus that has shuttered businesses, gutted airlines and forced people into their homes. The president also continued to tout hydroxychloroquine, a drug long used to treat malaria, rheumatoid arthritis and lupus, after very small preliminary studies suggested it might help prevent the coronavirus from entering cells and possibly help patients clear the virus sooner. But the drug has major potential side effects, especially for the heart, and large studies are underway to see if it is safe and effective for treating COVID-19. Trump suggested he may consider whether he should start taking the drug, though he also said he'd ask his doctor first. Some studies are testing whether hydroxychloroquine can help prevent infections in health care workers, but none has suggested that others, such as the president, should take it to prevent infection. With Congress away, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi pressed for the next aid package to be ready for an April vote in a letter to House Democrats. “We must double down on the down-payment we made in the CARES Act by passing a CARES 2 package,” she wrote about the just-passed $2.2 trillion bill, pushing for another additional unemployment benefits, small business loans and direct payments to Americans. ___ AP Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi in Indian Shores, Florida, contributed to this report.
  • While Wisconsin struggles to hold its primary on Tuesday, President Donald Trump and Democrats are bickering over how to provide voters with safe and secure access to a ballot as the coronavirus pandemic rages in the U.S. and threatens to extend into the fall, affecting the general election. With another economic rescue package in the works, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she wants money to give more voters the chance to cast their ballot by mail, an option that would allow people to vote without the concern over the safety of polling places. But Trump opposes voting by mail and is leading Republicans in a battle to limit its use, arguing that it would encourage fraud and lead to so many people voting that his party could not win. But the 2020 presidential election is creeping ever closer, and there are no signs yet of the pandemic abating, nor any word on when Americans on orders to stay home can resume normal life, so lawmakers are trying to figure out how to allow for voting in a world where face-to-face contact causes anxiety at the least and possibly sickness and death. The debate is playing out now in Wisconsin. It stands apart from other states that have delayed primaries because of the virus, though Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has issued a statewide stay-at-home order. Evers initially joined Republican leaders in seeking to hold the primary as planned on Tuesday, but he now favors an all-mail election with absentee voting well into May. Republicans maintain that in-person voting should go on as planned and have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block extended absentee voting. The election features the Democratic presidential primary between Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, but a bigger concern for Republicans is a state Supreme Court race that pits a conservative incumbent against a liberal challenger. In recent weeks, as Democrats nationwide have argued the country must prepare for voting largely by mail, Republicans have objected to or blocked expansions of such voting in Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania. “It shouldn’t be mail-in voting. It should be you go to a booth and you proudly display yourself,” Trump told reporters Friday evening. Earlier this week on Fox News Channel's “Fox & Friends,” he claimed the Democrats had a plan “that if you ever agreed to it you’d never have a Republican elected in this country again.” More than 290,000 people in the United States have tested positive for the virus so far, prompting more than a dozen states to delay their presidential primaries. Health officials are warning that the virus has the potential to return with a second wave during the next flu season, putting voters and poll workers in a dilemma where fulfilling a civic duty means putting their health at greater risk. Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington already provide registered voters with a ballot in the mail for all their elections, according to a Congressional Research Service report. California and Utah are among the states that give counties the option of mail-in voting. Proponents say it can improve participation, particularly with voters who have to work on election day, go to school or have mobility issues, such as the elderly or the sick. It could reduce the number of poll workers needed, as well as the long lines that often arise during a presidential election. “It just makes us more democratic,” Pelosi told reporters this week. “It just gives more people the opportunity to vote. So that is something we would like to see.” Trump contends fraud would increase with more mail-in voting, declaring, 'I think a lot of people cheat.” A North Carolina congressional election had to be rerun last year because the Republican candidate’s campaign had engaged in widespread fraud through mail ballots. But some Republicans have come to embrace the format, arguing it can be done securely and is cheaper and fairer than in-person elections. Utah, a GOP stronghold, is a recent convert to mail-in voting. Evidence shows it is Republicans, rather than Democrats, who are most likely to vote by mail, said Michael McDonald, a University of Florida professor who tracks balloting. State and local governments are responsible for determining whether or how to offer mail-in voting. A few bills introduced during the current session of Congress would require states to allow for early or mail-in voting for federal elections. Others would require states to allow mail-in voting during national emergencies and authorize the funds to help defray the costs. The $2.2 trillion rescue package that Congress passed included $400 million for states to invest in the next election so they could expand early voting, move to mail-in voting, or increase safety measures at polling sites. That’s a meager investment compared with the $2 billion that the Brennan Center for Justice recently said is needed to ensure the pandemic does not jeopardize a free and fair election. ——- Riccardi reported from Denver.

The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • More than 1.2 million people worldwide – including more than 312,000 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, April 5, continue below:  Florida congressman, first to test positive, now rid of virus Update 9:46 p.m. EDT April 5: A U.S. congressman from Florida who was the first representative to test positive, has recovered from the coronavirus. Rep. Mario Daiz-Balart said Sunday he was virus-free. “Today, after being deemed #COVID19 free by my doctor, I was able to reunite with my family in Miami,” Diaz-Balart said on social media. 'Though still a bit weak, I feel well, & I applied to participate in the (Red Cross) plasma donation to help those with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections.” He later stressed the importance of social distancing. “I want to reiterate the seriousness of this sickness, and I encourage everyone to continue to follow the (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines,” he said. Italy sees lowest death rate in weeks Update 8:56 p.m. EDT April 5: Health officials believe the curve is flattening in Italy where the country recorded its lowest death rate in nearly two weeks. Italy’s Civil Protection Service said Sunday 525 people died in a 24-hour period, the lowest since March 19 when 427 people died, The Associated Press reported. “The curve, which had been plateauing for days, is starting to descend,' health officials Silvio Brusaferro said Sunday. More than 15,800 people have died from the virus in Italy, according to Johns Hopkins virus tracking site. There are more than 128,000 confirmed cases. The country recorded more than 4,300 new cases Sunday. However, that number is a decrease from earlier in the outbreak when daily cases topped 6,000.The country has been on lockdown for nearly four weeks. The Associated Press contributed to this report. Washington sending 400 ventilators from national stockpile to New York Update 7:56 p.m. EDT April 5: Gov. Jay Inslee announced Sunday that Washington will be returning more than 400 ventilators from the federal government to help the state of New York, which is experiencing a higher number of coronavirus cases. 'I’ve said many times over the last few weeks, we are in this together. This should guide all of our actions at an individual and state level in the coming days and weeks,' Inslee said. The ventilators were sent from the Strategic National Stockpile, KIRO-TV reported. Washington recently purchased more than 750 of its own ventilators that will arrive over the next several weeks. “Thanks to the mitigation efforts the governor has put in place and the cooperation of Washingtonians, we have seen fewer infections in our communities than anticipated. Our current status allows us to help others who have a more immediate need,' said Raquel Bono, a former vice admiral and director of Washington state’s COVID-19 Health System Response Management. There are more than 7,400 confirmed cases and 319 deaths in Washington state, according to The New York Times. In New York state, there are more than 122,500 confirmed cases and 4,159 deaths. Boris Johnson admitted to hospital with virus Update 6:06 p.m. EDT April 5: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to a hospital Sunday because of the coronavirus. He went to the hospital because he still has symptoms 10 days after testing positive for the virus, The Associated Press reported. Officials said the move is a “precautionary step,” the BBC reported. Johnson is expected to stay overnight. Johnson, 55, has been quarantined since testing positive March 26. Tiger at Bronx Zoo tests positive for virus  Update 4:56 p.m. EDT April 5: A tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the coronavirus. It is believed the big cat was exposed to the virus by an employee at the zoo, accoridng to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Several lions and tigers were showing symptoms of the virus March 27, but only the one tested positive. All of the big cats are expected to recover. The zoo has been closed to the public since about mid-March. Other animals in the zoo are not showing signs of the virus. Death Valley National Park temporarily closes Update 3:26 p.m. EDT April 5: Death Valley National Park has been temporarily closed, effective Saturday due to public health concerns surrounding the spread of the coronavirus, the National Park Service said on its website. The National Park Service said Daylight Pass and California highway 190 will remain open at the park, which is located in California and Nevada. The order means all park facilities, restrooms, viewpoints, trails, roads, and campgrounds are closed until further notice, according to the website. Fauci says coronavirus could become seasonal Update 3:11 p.m. EDT April 5: Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. said there is a very good chance the new coronavirus “will assume a seasonal nature” because it is unlikely the disease will be under control globally. “Unless we get this globally under control, there’s a very good chance that it will assume a seasonal nature,” Fauci, speaking on CBS’ “Face the Nation,' said Sunday. “We need to be prepared, that since it unlikely would be completely eradicated from the planet, that as we get into (the) next (flu) season, we may see the beginning of a resurgence.” Trump approves disaster declarations for Delaware, South Dakota Update 2:06 p.m. EDT April 5: President Donald Trump approved disaster declarations for Delaware and South Dakota, according to CNN. The president has now approved disaster declarations for 42 states, the U.S. Virgin islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico. Navy captain relieved of aircraft carrier command tests positive Update 12:46 p.m. EDT April 5: Brett E. Crozier, the Navy captain removed from command of the coronavirus-stricken U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, has tested positive for COVID-19, The New York Times reported, citing who was removed from command of the coronavirus-stricken aircraft carrier U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, The New York Times reported, citing two Naval Academy classmates of Crozier’s who are close to him and his family. A Navy spokesman declined comment on the captain’s status, the newspaper reported. Crozier was removed from the warship Thursday. He was fired after the San Francisco Chronicle reported Crozier emailed a letter to Navy leaders that listed failures in providing necessary resources to disinfect the ship as the virus spread through it, the Times reported. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union” there were 155 confirmed coronavirus cases among sailors aboard the aircraft carrier. “There is an investigation ongoing,” Esper said on “State of the Union.” “All the services at times relieve commanders without the benefit of an investigation up front because they’ve lost confidence in them. It’s certainly not unique to the Navy.” NJ governor says state has secured 500 ventilators Update 12:14 p.m. EDT April 5: In a tweet Sunday, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said his state has secured about 500 additional ventilators after having “multiple” conversations with the White House. “Ventilators are our No. 1 need right now,” Murphy tweeted. “I won’t stop fighting to get us the equipment we need to save every life we can.” Queen Elizabeth II: 'History will remember your actions’ Update 10:44 a.m. EDT April 5: Queen Elizabeth II, making a rare address to the nation, is expected to urge citizens in the United Kingdom to exercise discipline and resolve during the coronavirus crisis. Normally the queen, now 93, makes one speech annually, but this will be the second in two months, the BBC reported. 'I am speaking to you at what I know is an increasingly challenging time,” she said, according to excerpts obtained by The Associated Press. “A time of disruption in the life of our country; a disruption that has brought grief to some, financial difficulties to many and enormous changes to the daily lives of us all.” The queen has given an address like this on only three other occasions, according to the AP: After the Queen Mother’s death in 2002, before the funeral of Princess Diana in 1997, and during first Gulf War in 1991. “I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge,” the queen said in remarks that will be broadcast Sunday night. “Those who come after us will say that the Britons of this generation were as strong as any.” ‘Hardest and saddest’ week ahead, surgeon general says Update 10:26 a.m. EDT April 5: U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams said the upcoming week will be the “hardest and the saddest” for Americans. Adams, speaking on “Fox News Sunday,” characterized the next phase of the coronavirus pandemic as a “Pearl Harbor moment” and a “9/11 moment.” “I want Americans to understand that as hard as this week is going to be, there is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Adams said on the news program. DC, Maryland, Virginia see increase in cases Update 10:10 a.m. EDT April 5: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise in the area around Washington, D.C. Sunday morning, there were 6.422 cases in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, The Washington Post reported. There were 3,126 cases in Maryland, 2,410 in Virginia and 906 in the District of Columbia, the newspaper reported. The total of virus-related deaths stood at 126 -- 52 in Virginia, 53 in Maryland and 21 in D.C. Pastor at Falwell’s church tests positive Update 8:59 a.m. EDT April 5: Charles Billingsley, worship leader of Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, tested positive for the coronavirus, Pastor Jonathan Falwell told WDBJ. Falwell posted the announcement on his Facebook page Saturday. He says Billingsley’s symptoms are mild and he is getting better each day. Legendary NFL kicker Tom Dempsey dies from complications Update 8:42 a.m. EDT April 5: Former NFL placekicker Tom Dempsey, who set an NFL record with a 63-yard field goal in 1970, died Saturday from complications from the coronavirus, his family said. He was 73. Dempsey contracted COVID-19 in March during an outbreak at a New Orleans retirement home, NOLA.com reported. He is one of 15 residents at the home to die from the virus. Dempsey was born without fingers on his right hand and wore a small, flat shoe on his kicking foot, the website reported. His record-setting field goal, on the last play of the game against the Detroit Lions on Nov. 8, 1970, at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, helped the Saints rally to a 19-17 victory. His field goal beat the previous mark by seven yards. NBA, Knicks, Nets work with Chinese official to donate 1M surgical masks to New York Update 7:50 a.m. EDT April 5: The NBA and two professional basketball teams are working with a Chinese official to provide 1 million surgical masks to “essential workers” in New York. According to Reuters, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the donation – a collaborative effort involving the league, the New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets and Chinese Consul General Huang Ping – Saturday on social media. “New York thanks you,” Cuomo tweeted Saturday afternoon. “We are beyond grateful for this gift of critically needed PPE.” >> See the tweet here As of Sunday morning, New York had reported at least 114,174 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 3,565 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. Pope Francis celebrates Palm Sunday Mass without public Update 6:52 a.m. EDT April 5: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Pope Francis took a different approach to his Palm Sunday Mass, typically celebrated outside in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City with tens of thousands of people looking on. According to The Associated Press, the pope celebrated the Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica. Only a few prelates, nuns and guests were invited to attend, the AP reported. As of Sunday morning, Italy had reported 124,632 COVID-19 cases – the third-highest in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University. Italy also had logged at least 15,362 deaths, more than any other country. Oprah Winfrey donating $10 million to relief efforts Update 5:45 a.m. EDT April 5: Media mogul Oprah Winfrey is donating $10 million amid the coronavirus pandemic, she said last week. In an Instagram post Thursday, Winfrey praised America’s Food Fund, a donation drive started by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, Laurene Powell Jobs, Apple and the Ford Foundation. According to the initiative’s GoFundMe page, it is currently benefiting two food charities: Feeding America and World Central Kitchen, founded by celebrity chef José Andrés. “I was struck by the work these organizations are doing, and while everyone’s priority right now is to stay safer at home, I know there are many of us looking for ways to help,” Winfrey wrote. “I believe that America’s Food Fund will be a powerful way to make a difference for our neighbors in need and am committing $1 million to this fund to support those facing food insecurity.” She added that she is “donating $10 million overall to help Americans during this pandemic in cities across the country and in areas where I grew up.” >> See the post here As of Sunday morning, America’s Food Fund’s crowdfunding campaign had raised more than $13 million toward its $15 million goal. Tokyo to report 143 new cases, breaking city’s single-day record Update 4:43 a.m. EDT April 5: Tokyo on Sunday will report 143 new coronavirus cases, topping the city’s single-day record, the Japan Times is reporting. Japan’s capital city has reported more than 1,000 cases of the virus, according to the newspaper. On Sunday morning, Johns Hopkins University reported 3,139 confirmed coronavirus cases and 77 deaths in Japan. BBB warns of fake coronavirus stimulus check, other scams Update 3:40 a.m. EDT April 5: Scammers across the United States continue to trick people in an attempt to steal their money or information, WHBQ-TV is reporting. The Better Business Bureau said that most of the recent scams reported involves the stimulus checks that the government will be sending out to citizens. Here are some of the scams reported to the BBB this week: A phone call saying that student loans qualify you for immediate COVID-19 relief. The woman who reported this scam said she doesn’t have any student loans. Two Facebook messages from someone posing as a government official that that says you qualify for an immediate COVID-19 grant. Both targets were offered grants of $50,000 to $300,000 if they paid an upfront fee by gift cards or wire. One victim said the person communicating with her was posing as William Barr, U.S. Attorney General. A Facebook message from a “friend” that asks you to call a specified number and give your Social Security Number so you can find out when you’ll get your government relief check. The woman who reported this scam said several of her church members had told her about it thinking it was real. A text message asking for your Social Security Number to see if you qualified for $50,000 from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The money was for seniors affected by coronavirus. A text message stating that if you confirmed your bank account information and paid $50, you could get your stimulus check immediately. The FBI has warned of a text message scam that appears to be from Costco offering you $100 to spend there. The FBI says if you click on the link, malware will be downloaded to your device. The Better Business Bureau said to remember: The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get the stimulus money. No fees. No charges. No nothing. The government does not need you to provide your personal information in order to receive your payment. They will deposit money into the account you gave on your tax return last year or send you a check. Anyone asking for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number is a scammer. The checks are not in the mail … yet. Anyone who tells you they can expedite your check for a fee is a scammer. Never give your bank account information to someone you don’t know. Scammers will call and pressure you to divulge your bank account information so they can steal the money in the account. Look-alikes and sound-alikes aren’t the real thing. Just because the a caller claims to be with the government doesn’t mean he is. Scammers make up official-sounding names to fool you. Phone numbers can deceive. Con artists “spoof” their phone numbers to change what you see in caller ID. They could be calling from anywhere. If you spot a scam, please report it to the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org/scamtracker. HIV drug showing signs of successfully treating coronavirus patients Update 1:44 a.m. EDT April 5: A drug used to treat HIV and cancer patients has shown success in treating some of the most severe coronavirus patients and was just cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to start a phase two clinical trial. Much of the work behind the drug is happening in Washington state. The drug was developed by a company called CytoDyn in Vancouver, Washington. It is manufactured by a company in Bothell, Washington, AGC Biologics, which makes a special molecule that is the key ingredient in the drug, KIRO-TV reported. Scientists at CytoDyn figured out it could work to treat COVID-19, and the first severely sick patients who’ve tried it have shown improvement. The drug is called leronlimab, comes in a vial and is a two-shot-per-week dose over two weeks. It is being tried on 10 of the most critically ill COVID-19 patients at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, the University Hospital for Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The patients are on ventilators, and some are barely conscious. “The first four patients who were intubated, two were extubated. One of them self-extubated and became alert,” said Nader Pourhassan, the CEO of CytoDyn. Now the two patients are out of the intensive care unit. Pourhassan said when he heard the results, he had to stop what he was doing. “And cried for about five minutes. It was very, very emotional,” Pourhassan said. He said studies show that in the U.S., 85% of COVID-19 patients who end up needing ventilators will die. But the patients who’ve gotten shots of this drug have shown strong results. “All eight patients we’ve analyzed so far – the first eight patients – saw immunological benefits. The FDA immediately allowed us to have a phase two randomized trial. We are initiating that today,” Pourhassan said Friday. He said the results were even seen in COVID patients who only got the shots three days, though it takes two weeks for the drugs to take full effect. Read more here. U.S. cases soar past 312,000, including nearly 8,500 deaths Update 12:53 a.m. EDT April 5: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States soared past 312,000 across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands early Sunday. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 312,146 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 8,496 deaths. Worldwide, there are 1,203,099 confirmed cases and 64,774 deaths from the virus. U.S. cases outnumber those in any other nation, including the 126,168 reported in Spain and the 124,632 confirmed in Italy. Of the confirmed deaths in the U.S., 3,565 have occurred in New York, 846 in New Jersey, 540 in Michigan and 409 in Louisiana. In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest-hit with at least 114,174 confirmed cases, followed by New Jersey with 34,124, Michigan with 14,225 and California with 13,878. Five other states have each confirmed at least 10,000 novel coronavirus cases, including: • Louisiana: 12,496, including 409 deaths • Massachusetts: 11,736, including 216 deaths • Florida: 11,545, including 195 deaths • Pennsylvania: 10,444, including 139 deaths • Illinois: 10,359, including 244 deaths Meanwhile, Washington state has confirmed at least 7,500 novel coronavirus infections, while Texas and Georgia have confirmed at least 6,000 cases each. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Seminole County deputies said they found trafficking amounts of heroin and cocaine after detectives found a stolen car Thursday morning at a Florida home. Deputies said cash and several handguns were also seized at the home in unincorporated Lake Mary. A baby alligator was also being kept illegally in the home, deputies said. Four suspects are facing several felony charges. “Make no mistake, any criminals thinking they can use our coronavirus emergency to take advantage know that our dedicated men and women are keeping our neighborhoods safe,” said Sheriff Dennis Lemma.
  • Gov. Jay Inslee announced Sunday that Washington will be returning more than 400 ventilators from the federal government to help the state of New York, which is experiencing a higher number of coronavirus cases. “I’ve said many times over the last few weeks, we are in this together. This should guide all of our actions at an individual and state level in the coming days and weeks,” Inslee said. The ventilators were sent from the Strategic National Stockpile. Washington recently purchased more than 750 of its own ventilators that will arrive over the next several weeks. “Thanks to the mitigation efforts the governor has put in place and the cooperation of Washingtonians, we have seen fewer infections in our communities than anticipated. Our current status allows us to help others who have a more immediate need,' said Raquel Bono, a former vice admiral and director of Washington state’s COVID-19 Health System Response Management. There are more than 7,400 confirmed cases and 319 deaths in Washington state, according to The New York Times. In New York state, there are more than 122,500 confirmed cases and 4,159 deaths.
  • Police in a Louisiana city blared a siren signaling the start of curfew -- unknowing that it sounded similar to the alarm in the horror movie “The Purge.” Crowley police sounded the siren Friday night, prompting complaints from residents familiar with the horror franchise, KATC reported. Chief Jimmy Broussard said he was not familiar with the movies. The department will no longer use any type of siren to note curfew hours, KATC reported. The siren sounded eerily similar to the alarm in the movie “The Purge,” where it signaled all crimes, including murder, were legal for a 12-hour period. The Acadia Parish sheriff distanced his department from the noise. “Last night a ‘Purge Siren’ was utilized by the Crowley Police Department as part of their starting curfew,” K.P. Gibson said in a statement. “We have received numerous complaints with the belief that our agency was involved in this process. We were not involved in the use of the ’Purge Siren’ and will not utilize any type of siren for this purpose.”
  • A tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the coronavirus. This is the first known infection in an animal or a tiger anywhere, The Associated Press reported. It is believed Nadia, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger, was exposed to the virus by an employee at the zoo, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Several lions and tigers were showing symptoms of the virus March 27, but only the one tested positive. All of the big cats are expected to recover. The zoo has been closed to the public since about mid-March. Other animals in the zoo are not showing signs of the virus. The zoo on Tuesday shared video on social media of the tigers enjoying a swim. Agriculture officials are warning people infected with the coronavirus to avoid their pets, like they would other people. “Anyone sick with COVID-19 should restrict contact with animals, out of an abundance of caution including pets, during their illness, just as they would with other people,” agriculture officials said in a statement. “Although there have not been reports of pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the United States, it is still recommended that people sick with COVID-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus.” The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Washington Insider

  • President Donald Trump this weekend bluntly warned Americans to prepare for what his team said could be one of the roughest weeks yet against the Coronavirus, as the U.S. has now had four consecutive days with over 1,000 new deaths related to the virus outbreak. 'This will be probably be the toughest week,' the President told reporters at a Saturday briefing. 'There will be a lot of death, unfortunately.' Top federal health officials agreed with that assessment. 'Right now, we're seeing - as well all said correctly - that this is probably going to be a really bad week,' said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert for the U.S. government. Fauci joined the President in again urging Americans to do what they can to limit their social activities, and thus limit the spread of the virus. 'The only tool - but the best tool that we have - is mitigation,' Fauci told reporters at a Sunday night White House briefing. Fauci reminded reporters that the measures being taken by Americans in terms of social distancing take about two and a half weeks to show up in terms of fewer cases, and a drop in the number of deaths. 'People really understand the responsibility they have for themselves, their family and for the country,' Fauci said at the White House. Fauci's colleague, Dr. Deborah Birx, told reporters that health officials continue to see the most problems in the New York City metro area, as well as in New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole. Birx also name-checked Massachusetts, Michigan, Washington State, Illinois, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. - where there have been rumblings in recent days about a possible broader spread of the virus. 'We do see hopeful signs in Spain and Italy. They have completed nearly four weeks of mitigation,' Birx said, telling Americans they should follow the lead of those nations in terms of social distancing, as a way to stop the spread of the virus. During Sunday's briefing, the President repeated his endorsement of the use of hydroxychloroquine - a drug often associated with malaria treatment - to be used against the Coronavirus. 'What really do we have to lose?' the President asked reporters at one point, encouraging people to use the drug, even though it has not been specifically found to stop the virus. 'It may not work, in which case, hey - it didn't work,' the President said at one point. 'And it may work, in which case, it may save a lot of lives.' 'If it does help, great,' Mr. Trump added. 'If it doesn't help, we gave it a shot.' The President's promotion of hydroxychloriquine has drawn concerns from Fauci - who has noted the lack of broader trials - but Mr. Trump has pressed forward with the idea, bolstered by support among GOP lawmakers and conservative media. On Sunday, when one reporter tried to ask Fauci his opinion, the President stepped in and did not let Fauci answer. 'You know how many times he's answered that question?' the President said to a reporter from CNN. '15 times. You don't have to ask that question. He's answered that question 15 times.' The death toll from the Coronavirus in the U.S. will go over 10,000 people on Monday.