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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

March 22, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Congressional rescue talks churn as crisis deepens

WASHINGTON (AP) — Top-level negotiations between Congress and the White House churned into the night Sunday over a now nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package, as the coronavirus crisis deepened, the nation shut down and the first U.S. senator tested positive for the disease.

As President Donald Trump took to the podium in the White House briefing room and promised to help Americans who feel afraid and isolated as the pandemic spreads, the Senate voted against advancing the rescue package. But talks continued on Capitol Hill.

“I think you'll get there. To me it's not very complicated: We have to help the worker. We have to save the companies," Trump said. “We're enduring a great national trial and we will prove that we can meet the moment. We're at war."

Inside the otherwise emptied out Capitol, the draft aid bill was declared insufficient by Democrats, who argued it was tilted toward corporations and did too little to help workers and health care providers. Republicans returned to the negotiating table.

With a population on edge and shell-shocked financial markets poised for the new work week, Washington laboured under the size and scope of the rescue package that's more ambitious than any in recent times — larger than the 2008 bank bailout and 2009 recovery act combined.

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What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

The death toll from the global coronavirus pandemic has surpassed 14,600 people worldwide, and it has sickened more than 335,000. Leaders in the U.S. are hammering out a rescue package that could be worth nearly $2 trillion, while the death toll in Italy soars again.

Here are some of AP's top stories Sunday on the world's coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day.

WHAT'S HAPPENING TODAY:

— Italy's coronavirus infections continue to soar, with 59,000 cases and 5,476 deaths.

— Congress and the White House still trying to craft a mammoth rescue package that could be worth nearly $2 trillion.

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New York quiets to slow virus as state becomes next hot spot

NEW YORK (AP) — No more play dates, no more picnics in the park with friends, no more pickup games of basketball. No more commuting or using public transport — unless absolutely essential. New York implemented dramatic restrictions Sunday in an attempt to slow a pandemic that has swept across the globe and threatened to make the state one of the world's biggest coronavirus hot spots.

As infections soar — or in anticipation that they will — officials worldwide warned of a critical shortage of medical supplies. Spain was erecting a field hospital in a convention centre, British health workers pleaded for more gear, saying they felt like “cannon fodder,” and President Donald Trump ordered mobile hospital centres be sent to Washington, California and New York.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all nonessential businesses in the state to close and nonessential workers to stay home starting Sunday night, tightening even further restrictions put in place earlier.

Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also called for getting everything from masks to ventilators, as well as doctors and other medical workers to New York, warning a mounting death toll might grow more steeply without more federal help.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, promised on CBS' “Face The Nation” that the medical supplies are about to start pouring in and will be “clearly directed to those hot spots that need it most.”

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Sen. Rand Paul tests positive for virus, forcing quarantines

WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, becoming the first case of COVID-19 in the Senate and raising fears about the further transmission of the virus among Republicans at the Capitol.

Paul, an eye surgeon, went into quarantine Sunday after learning his results. He said he has not had symptoms and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He said he was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.

His announcement led Utah's two GOP senators — Mike Lee and Mitt Romney — to place themselves into quarantine, stepping away from negotiations as the Senate worked on a $1.4 trillion economic rescue package for the coronavirus crisis. At least five senators, including Paul, were in self-quarantine Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

"The coronavirus has hit the Senate today,'' said McConnell, R-Ky. "It's not just back in our states but right here in the Senate.''

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona elected in 2018, chastised Paul on Twitter, saying his decision to return to the Capitol after he was tested — but before he learned the results — was "absolutely irresponsible.''

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Chaos, inconsistency mark launch of drive-thru virus testing

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Drive-thru sites have been opening around the United States to make it quicker and safer to test people for the new coronavirus. But much like the rest of the U.S. response to the pandemic, the system has been marked by inconsistencies, delays, and shortages. Many people who have symptoms and a doctor’s order have waited hours or days for a test.

More than a week after President Donald Trump promised that states and retail stores such as Walmart and CVS would open drive-thru test centres, few sites are up and running, and they're not yet open to the general public. Some states are leaving it to the private sector to open test locations; others are co-ordinating the effort through state health departments.

Patients have complained that they had to jump through cumbersome bureaucratic hoops and wait days to get tested, then wait even longer for a result. Testing centres opened in some places only to be shut down shortly afterward because of shortages of supplies and staff. And while the drive-thru test centres that have opened are generally orderly, there have been long lines at some.

The slow ramp-up of the COVID-19 testing and the spotty nature now of the system makes it hard for public health officials to track the spread of the disease and bring it under control.

"We need to be testing more broadly to fully understand the scope of the public health situation we are facing," said Joseph Wendelken, a spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Health.

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Virus outbreak means (mis)information overload: How to cope

The coronavirus pandemic is leading to information overload for many people, often making it difficult to separate fact from fiction and rumour from deliberate efforts to mislead.

Already, text messages predicting a nationwide lockdown have circulated, along with social media posts telling people that one way to get tested for the virus is by donating blood or warning that mosquitoes can carry it. All are untrue. Such falsehoods can endanger public health, sow confusion and fear, and prevent important information from reaching people during a crisis. The Associated Press has debunked many such claims, including one about bananas supposedly preventing people from catching the virus and another on “Harry Potter” actor Daniel Radcliffe testing positive.

COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, has stricken thousands across the globe but usually presents only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For older adults and people with other health problems, it can cause complications or sometimes death. Most people recover.

Here are some things you can do to separate fact from misinformation:

LOOK FOR THE SOURCE

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Whiplash: All at once, a steady US economy screeches to halt

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three weeks ago, EmpireCLS was heading toward a second straight year of record business. A car service company in New Jersey, Empire couldn’t even find enough chauffeurs and office workers to meet its needs.

Now? With stunning speed, business in the United States — as well as in Europe and elsewhere — has collapsed in the face of the coronavirus and warnings for everyone to stay home. Suddenly, no one needs a chauffeur.

“We went from full throttle to 90% revenue loss in three weeks,’’ said CEO David Seelinger. “We’ve been through 9-11. We’ve seen recessions. We’ve never seen anything like this.’’

Seelinger spent last Sunday laying off 750 of his 900 employees.

“It was the most difficult day of my career,’’ he said.

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Virus rebels from France to Florida flout lockdown practices

PARIS (AP) — Young German adults hold “corona parties" and cough toward older people. A Spanish man leashes a goat to go for a walk to skirt confinement orders. From France to Florida to Australia, kitesurfers, college students and others crowd the beaches.

Their defiance of lockdown mandates and scientific advice to fight the coronavirus pandemic has prompted crackdowns by authorities on people trying to escape cabin fever brought on by virus restrictions. In some cases, the virus rebels resist — threatening police as officials express outrage over public gatherings that could spread the virus.

“Some consider they're little heroes when they break the rules," French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said. "Well, no. You're an imbecile, and especially a threat to yourself.”

After days of noncompliance by people refusing to stay home and venture out only for essential tasks, France on Friday sent security forces into train stations to prevent people from travelling to their vacation homes, potentially carrying the virus to the countryside or beaches where medical facilities are less robust. The popular Paris walkway along the Seine River was closed and a nightly curfew was imposed in the French Mediterranean city of Nice by Mayor Christian Estrosi, who is infected with the virus.

Florida officials closed some of the state's most popular beaches after images of rowdy spring break college crowds appeared on TV for days amid the rising global death toll, which surpassed 13,000 on Sunday. Australia closed Sydney's famous Bondi Beach after police were outraged at pictures of the crowds.

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During virus, priests master livestream at Gothic cathedral

MARSEILLE, France (AP) — Recent restrictions on gatherings in France to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus have forced religious communities to adapt the way they express their faith.

On a typical Sunday morning, Father Philippe Rochas greets roughly 350 worshippers as they trickle into the neo-Gothic St.-Vincent-de-Paul church in the heart of Marseille.

This Sunday, however, he sat hunched over a webcam as he and his fellow priests prepared an empty meeting room to live-stream Sunday Mass directly to the screens of parishioners confined at home.

“I already realize that the people who see us online are very happy to have this service, as a kind of comfort,” Rochas told The Associated Press.

As he delivered a sermon to just over 70 live viewers Sunday morning, one commented on the site: “glory be to god, amen,” followed by a prayer emoji.

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Canada says no athletes at Tokyo Games if not postponed

TORONTO (AP) — The Canadian Olympic Committee says it won't send athletes to the Tokyo Games unless they're postponed for a year, becoming the first country to threaten such a move in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

The committee sent out a statement Sunday evening saying it was willing to help the IOC search for alternatives, but that it was not safe for athletes, “their families and the broader Canadian community for athletes to continue training for these Games.”

“In fact, it runs counter to the public health advice which we urge all Canadians to follow.”

Canada brought 314 athletes who combined to win 22 medals at the Rio Games in 2016.

Some of its most notable performers included swimmer Penny Oleksiak and sprinter Andre De Grasse.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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