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

May 11, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Virus rampages across vast Navajo lands, close-knit families

TUBA CITY, Arizona (AP) — The virus arrived on the reservation in early March, when late winter winds were still blowing off the mesas and temperatures at dawn were often barely above freezing.

It was carried in from Tucson, doctors say, by a man who had been to a basketball tournament and then made the long drive back to a small town in the Navajo highlands. There, believers were preparing to gather in a small, metal-walled church with a battered white bell and crucifixes on the window.

On a dirt road at the edge of the town, a hand-painted sign with red letters points the way: “Chilchinbeto Church of the Nazarene.”

From that church, COVID-19 took hold on the Navajo Nation, hopscotching across families and clans and churches and towns, and leaving the reservation with some of the highest infection rates in the U.S.

Crowding, tradition, and medical disparities have tangled together on the tribe's land — an area nearly three times the size of Massachusetts — creating a virological catastrophe.

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As nations reopen, warning emerges about virus tracing voids

NEW YORK (AP) — A top world health official Monday warned that countries are essentially driving blind in reopening their economies without setting up strong contact tracing to beat back flare-ups of the coronavirus.

The warning came as France and Belgium emerged from lockdowns, the Netherlands sent children back to school, and many U.S. states pressed ahead by lifting business restrictions. Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced the company's 10,000-worker electric car factory near San Francisco was operating Monday in defiance of coronavirus health orders that closed nonessential businesses.

Authorities have cautioned that the scourge could come back with a vengeance without widespread testing and tracing of infected people’s contacts with others.

Fears of infection spikes in countries that have loosened up came true in recent days in Germany, where new clusters were linked to three slaughterhouses; in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the crisis started; and in South Korea, where 85 new cases were linked to nightclubs that reopened after anti-virus measures were eased.

The World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, Dr. Michael Ryan, said that robust contact tracing measures adopted by Germany and South Korea provide hope that those countries can detect and stop virus clusters before they get out of control.

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What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

The White House is requiring everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask or face covering after coronavirus scares near President Donald Trump, spotlighting the challenge Trump faces in instilling confidence in a nation reeling from the pandemic.

The directive comes after two known cases of COVID-19 among staffers in one of the most-protected complexes in America sent three of the nation’s top medical experts into quarantine and Vice-President Mike Pence into “self-isolation.”

The scare comes as the White House this week is emphasizing to the American people the steps being taken to assure their safety — in hopes that will coax them to resume normal activities.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Monday on the world’s coronavirus pandemic. Follow APNews.com/VirusOutbreak for updates through the day and APNews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak for stories explaining some of its complexities.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TODAY:

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Atlanta-area DA, 3rd outside prosecutor, to take Arbery case

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — Georgia's attorney general appointed a black district attorney from the Atlanta area Monday to take over the case of a white father and son charged with killing a black man, making her the third outside prosecutor in a slaying that's prompted a national outcry over suspicions that race played a role in delaying arrests.

Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was fatally shot Feb. 23 by the men who told police they chased him because they believed he matched the appearance of a burglary suspect caught on surveillance video. Gregory McMichael and his son, Travis McMichael, were arrested last week, more than two months later, after video of the shooting appeared online and provoked outrage. Federal prosecutors are also considering hate crimes charges, the Justice Department said; that would allow for a separate case in federal court.

Cobb County District Attorney Joyette M. Holmes takes over the case from prosecutor Tom Durden, who the state's attorney general said asked to be replaced by a prosecutor with a large staff as “this case has grown in size and magnitude.” Holmes is based in metro Atlanta, more than 300 miles (480 kilometres) from the coastal Georgia community in Glynn County where the shooting happened.

“District Attorney Holmes is a respected attorney with experience, both as a lawyer and a judge,” state Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican, said in a statement. "And the Cobb County District Attorney’s office has the resources, personnel and experience to lead this prosecution and ensure justice is done.”

Holmes served four years a magistrate judge in suburban Cobb County before Gov. Brian Kemp appointed her to fill the vacant district attorney's position last July. According to the Georgia Prosecuting Attorneys Council, Holmes is one of only seven black district attorneys in the state.

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Tesla CEO Musk restarts California factory amid lockdown

FREMONT, Calif. (AP) — Tesla CEO Elon Musk confirmed Monday that the company has restarted its California factory, a move that defied local government orders involving measures to contain the coronavirus.

In a tweet, Musk practically dared authorities to arrest him, writing that he would be on the assembly line and if anyone is taken into custody, it should be him.

State law allows a fine of up to $1,000 a day or up to 90 days in jail for operating in violation of health orders.

The plant in Fremont, a city of more than 230,000 people south of San Francisco, had been closed since March 23.

Early Monday, the parking lot was nearly full at the massive factory, which employs 10,000 workers, and semis were driving off loaded with vehicles that may have been produced before the shutdown.

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IRS sets deadline for relief payment by direct deposit

The Treasury Department and the IRS are urging taxpayers who want to get their economic impact payments directly deposited to their bank accounts to enter their information online by Wednesday.

The government has sent out about 130 million payments in the first four weeks of the program by both direct deposit and by mail.

The IRS said Monday that people should use the “ Get My Payment " tool on the IRS website by noon on Wednesday to provide their direct deposit information.

After that time, the agency will begin preparing millions of files to send to Bureau of Financial Services for paper checks that will begin arriving through late May and into June. The government cannot provide direct deposit once the process of sending a paper check has commenced.

The Get My Payment tool can be used to check on the status of a payment or provide direct deposit information. It has not always operated smoothly, but the IRS said many of its early glitches have been resolved.

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New coronavirus test is imperfect step toward mass screening

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new type of coronavirus test offers a cheaper, quicker way to screen for infections, moving the U.S. toward the kind of mass screening that experts say is essential to returning millions of Americans to school and work.

But the first so-called antigen test — announced Saturday by the Food and Drug Administration — is not quite the kind sought by top government health officials. It is less accurate than the current gold standard for testing and can only be run on specialized equipment.

“It is too early to tell,” said lab researcher Patricia Simner of Johns Hopkins University, assessing the test's impact. “It certainly has the potential to aid in more widespread testing.”

Some questions and answers about the new test:

WHAT'S DIFFERENT ABOUT THIS TEST?

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Trump faces virus at White House amid push to 'reopen' US

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump insisted Monday his administration has “met the moment” and “prevailed” on coronavirus testing, even as the White House itself became a potent symbol of the risk facing Americans everywhere by belatedly ordering everyone who enters the West Wing to wear a mask.

Trump addressed a Rose Garden audience filled with mask-wearing administration officials, some appearing publicly with face coverings for the first time during the outbreak, after two aides tested positive for COVID-19 late last week. The startling sight served only to further highlight the challenge the president faces in instilling confidence in a nation still reeling from the pandemic.

Trump himself, not wearing a mask, sought to emphasize to the American people the steps being taken to ensure their safety — in hopes that will coax them to resume normal activities.

Shortage of coronavirus testing has long been a sore spot for the president, but he insisted anew that everyone who wants a test can get one. The pledge, first issued by Trump more than two months ago, comes as governors across the country continue to call on the federal government to do more to boost supply to meet the requirements needed to begin “reopening” the nation.

The upbeat message was undercut by the new protective measures implemented to keep Trump safe, evidenced by the absence of Vice-President Mike Pence and three of the nation's top medical experts, who were in various states of isolation after two cases of COVID-19 were confirmed among staffers in one of the most-protected complexes in America.

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Twitter to label disputed COVID-19 tweets

CHICAGO (AP) — Twitter announced Monday it will start alerting users when a tweet makes disputed or misleading claims about the coronavirus.

The new rule is the latest in a wave of stricter policies that tech companies are rolling out to confront an outbreak of virus-related misinformation on their sites. Facebook and Google, which owns YouTube, have already put similar systems in place.

The announcement signals that Twitter is taking its role in amplifying misinformation more seriously. But how the platform enforces its new policy will be the real test, with company leaders already tamping down expectations.

Yoel Roth, Twitter’s head of site integrity, acknowledged as much: “We will not be able to take enforcement action on every tweet with incomplete or disputed information about COVID-19.”

Roth said Monday the platform has historically applied a “lighter touch" when enforcing similar policies on misleading tweets but said the company is working to improve the technology around the labels.

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AP source: Tagovailoa signs $30.275 million, 4-year deal

MIAMI (AP) — Now Tua Tagovailoa can pay for that Cadillac Escalade he gave his mom.

The new Miami Dolphins quarterback signed a $30.275 million, four-year guaranteed contract, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Monday.

The contract includes a $19.6 million signing bonus, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the Dolphins hadn't announced the deal.

Tagovailoa posted a video on Mother's Day that showed him surprising his mother, Diane, with a black SUV.

Last month the Dolphins selected Tagovailoa with the fifth overall pick in the draft. They are optimistic he’ll recover fully from a hip injury that ended his Alabama career in mid-November and hoping he’ll become a franchise quarterback.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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