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

March 14, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Spain locks down its citizens, while France shuts nightlife

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Spain locked down its 46 million citizens and France ordered the closing of just about everything the rest of the world loves about it — the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the cafes and restaurants — as governments took increasingly desperate measures to put more space between people and contain the coronavirus.

More borders snapped shut around the globe on Saturday and Sunday: President Donald Trump announced that the U.S., which days ago barred travellers from most of Europe, will extend the ban to Britain and Ireland. In the Philippines, thousands of police and soldiers started sealing the densely populated capital from most domestic travellers in one of Southeast Asia’s most drastic containment moves.

Meanwhile, China, where the virus first appeared late last year, continued to relax its drastic restrictions, illustrating the way the centre of gravity in the crisis has shifted westward toward Europe. The virus has infected more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed over 5,600.

In a nationally televised address Saturday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez detailed the battery of exceptional measures put in place as part of a two-week state of emergency to fight the sharp rise in infections.

Later Saturday, Spain’s government said Sánchez's wife has tested positive for coronavirus. Begoña Gómez and the prime minister are in good health, the goverrnment said.


Americans brace for new life of no school and growing dread

Millions of Americans braced for the week ahead with no school for their children for many days to come, no clue how to effectively do their jobs without child care, and a growing sense of dread about how to stay safe and sane amid the relentless spread of the coronavirus.

Are play dates for the kids OK? How do you stock up on supplies when supermarket shelves are bare? How do you pay the bills when your work hours have been cut? Is it safe to go to the gym? And how do you plan for the future with no idea what it holds?

"Today looks so different from yesterday, and you just don't know what tomorrow is going to look like," said Christie Bauer, a family photographer and mother of three school-age children in West Linn, Oregon.

Tens of millions of students nationwide have been sent home from school amid a wave of closings that include all of Ohio, Maryland, Oregon, Washington state, Florida and Illinois along with big-city districts like Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. Some schools announced they will close for three weeks, others for up to six.

The disruptions came as government and hospital leaders took new measures to contain an outbreak that has sickened more than 150,000 people worldwide and killed about 5,800, with thousands of new cases being confirmed every day.


Trump tests negative for virus; White House begins screening

WASHINGTON (AP) — After days of resisting screening for the coronavirus, President Donald Trump tested negative for the virus, officials said Saturday night. Meanwhile, the White House began checking the temperature of anyone coming into close contact with the president and other officials.

Prior to his testing, Trump said his personal physician told him he didn't show symptoms and didn't need to take the test. But Trump decided to do it anyway after repeated questions from reporters about why he was hesitating to undergo screening when he had been exposed to at least three people who have tested positive for the virus.

The White House released the test results just hours after Trump told reporters that he had been tested and that his temperature was “totally normal.” He was recently in contact with three people at his Florida resort who have tested positive for the virus, including two aides to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.

“One week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation in Mar-a-Lago, the President remains symptom-free,” Sean Conley, the president’s physician, said in a memo.

Multiple lawmakers and countless citizens across the country who have had the same degree of exposure have not only tried to get tested, but also chosen to quarantine themselves as a precaution and to avoid potentially infecting others.


Straight-talking Fauci explains outbreak to a worried nation

WASHINGTON (AP) — If Dr. Anthony Fauci says it, you'd be smart to listen. As the coronavirus has upended daily life across the globe, Fauci has become the trusted voice in separating fact and fiction.

The fear and confusion of outbreaks aren't new to Fauci, who in more than 30 years has handled HIV, SARS, MERS, Ebola and even the nation's 2001 experience with bioterrorism — the anthrax attacks.

Fauci's political bosses — from Ronald Reagan to Donald Trump — have let him do the explaining because he's frank and understandable, translating complex medical information into everyday language while neither exaggerating nor downplaying.

If you quizzed former presidents about who influenced their views on infectious diseases, “Tony's name would be first on the list, and you wouldn't have to remind them,” said former health secretary Mike Leavitt, who worked with Fauci on bird flu preparedness.

At 79, the government's top infectious disease expert is by age in the demographic group at high risk for COVID-19. But he's working round the clock and getting only a few hours of sleep. He's a little hoarse from all the talking about coronavirus, and he'll be on the TV news shows Sunday. Yet his vigour belies his age, and he credits it to exercise, including running. As of Thursday, he had not been tested for coronavirus. The National Institutes of Health, where he works, said that's because he hasn't needed to be.


Smart move or grave mistake? NYC keeps schools open

NEW YORK (AP) — As schools across the U.S. shut down in hopes of helping to fight the coronavirus, New York City officials are arguing just the opposite: They're keeping the nation's largest school system open to ensure that health and emergency workers aren't tied down with kids at home.

But teachers, many parents and some health experts say the city is making a grave mistake by continuing to call more than 1.1 million children to public schools even as it calls for “social distancing” elsewhere to stem the virus' spread.

While many families elsewhere in the country spent Saturday making hasty plans for an unexpected school shutdown, New Yorkers debated the city's decision.

"You're not going to have a functioning health care system if the folks in the medical field, the doctors, the nurses, the techs, everyone has to stay home with their kids,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on MSNBC.

Parent Anna Gold didn't see it his way.


'He's an inmate': Anguish mounts over virus-hit nursing home

KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) — Desperate to talk to their dad, Scott Sedlacek and his brother, Steve, stood outside his open nursing home window and shouted. They could barely hear his weak replies, but one came through clearly.

“I feel like (expletive),” the 86-year-old told them.

Chuck Sedlacek arrived at the Life Care Center of Kirkland three weeks ago for physical therapy, just before the suburban nursing home became the epicenter of the nation's worst coronavirus outbreak.

Now he's in worse shape than before.

He’s in isolation after contracting the virus, but his symptoms haven't progressed enough to warrant moving him to a hospital. He came seeking rehab for a broken ankle and banged-up knee after a fall, but he hasn't gotten out of bed in two weeks. Though he previously lived independently in a senior community where he could walk the halls and visit old friends, he’s now losing his mobility from lack of exercise.


Biden wins endorsement from NEA, nation's largest union

The nation’s largest labour union has lined up behind Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, with the National Education Association on Saturday endorsing the former vice-president for the Democratic nomination over his last remaining primary rival Bernie Sanders.

The NEA’s board of directors chose Biden following a recommendation from the organization’s political action committee board, following months of surveying the organization's 3 million members and multiple presidential candidate forums held around the country.

NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia, whose union tops 3 million members, called Biden a “tireless advocate for public education” and “the partner that students and educators need now in the White House.”

The union’s decision came with Biden on the cusp of stretching out an insurmountable delegate lead over Sanders. The two candidates meet Sunday for their first one-on-one debate, two days before four populous states – Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio – hold primaries with a combined 577 delegates up for grabs. Biden currently leads Sanders, a Vermont senator, by more than 150 delegates with more than half of the national total already awarded, a gap that means Sanders must win 57% of the remaining delegates to wrest the nomination from Biden. There is no precedent for such a comeback.

In the four states that vote Tuesday, almost 760,000 voters live in households with at least one NEA member, according to the union. NEA officials said the union’s PAC would immediate push digital advertising into the four states on Biden’s behalf, while also communicating with NEA households.


Georgia 2nd state to postpone pres. primaries over virus

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's March 24 presidential primaries have been postponed until May because of fears over the new coronavirus, state election officials announced Saturday, a day after Louisiana also pushed back its primaries.

In-person early voting, which began statewide March 2, will be halted and the election will be moved to May 19, when Georgia’s other 2020 primary elections are being held, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said in a statement.

In addition to public safety, one of the biggest considerations was the risk the virus posed to poll workers, who are often older, election officials said.

“Events are moving rapidly and my highest priority is protecting the health of our poll workers, and the community at large,” Raffensperger said.

The action followed Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature of an emergency declaration that unlocked sweeping powers to fight COVID-19. In a speech Saturday, the governor renewed a call for places of worship, schools and others to consider cancelling large gatherings as cases in the state rise.


Virus-related shutdowns bringing US economy to grinding halt

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — It took 15 minutes for the coronavirus to wreck Shelley Hutchings’ carefully calculated financial plans.

Hutchings, a bartender and performer, had lined up gigs in advance of the South by Southwest film, music and technology festival, which draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Austin each year. She'd expected to earn about $3,000 — enough to pay her taxes and buy a new sewing machine for a tailoring business she runs.

Relaxed, she sat down to watch a movie. Then her phone started vibrating. Cancellations rolled in. One by one, the jobs she's been counting on were gone. In the face of the spreading coronavirus outbreak, Austin officials had called off the festival just as the first attendees had begun to arrive.

“In 15 minutes, things fell apart,” Hutchings said. “To watch it vanish, all at once, was shocking.”

As Hutchings and hundreds of millions of Americans can attest, damage from the coronavirus has pummeled the U.S. economy with breathtaking speed and force. Hour by hour, day by day, the activities that households take part in and spend money on — plane trips, sporting events, movies, concerts, restaurant meals, shopping trips for clothes, furniture, appliances — are grinding to a halt.


AP Exclusive: Inside massive DEA raid targeting drug cartel

CHANTILLY, Va. (AP) — In the darkness, the team suits up quietly, putting on their helmets and tactical gear. Federal agents lug battering rams, bolt cutters and heavy weaponry by foot up a hill on a residential California street that's softly aglow from street lamps. Then the agents turn onto the walkway of their target's home.

“Police! Search warrant!” one officer yells as agents bang on the front door. “Police search warrant!” And then three thunderous bangs as the task force breaks down the front door.

Moments later, a reputed member of the Jalisco New Generation Cartel, known as CJNG, is walked out in handcuffs.

In early-morning raids Wednesday, agents fanned out across the United States, culminating a six-month investigation with the primary goal of dismantling the upper echelon of CJNG and hoping to get closer to capturing its leader, one of the most wanted men in America. There's a $10 million reward for the arrest of Nemesio “El Mencho” Oseguera.

The gang controls between one-third and two-thirds of the U.S. drug market. It is so violent that members leave piles of bodies in streets and hanging from overpasses in Mexico, and they fill the city of Guadalajara with mass graves. They carry machine-guns and hand grenades. They once used rocket launchers to shoot down a Mexican military helicopter.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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