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

March 30, 2020 - 8:04 PM

New York governor begs for help amid 'staggering' death toll

NEW YORK (AP) — New York's governor issued an urgent appeal for medical volunteers Monday amid a “staggering” number of deaths from the coronavirus, as he and health officials warned that the crisis unfolding in New York City is just a preview of what other communities across the U.S. could soon face.

“Please come help us in New York now,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as the state's death toll climbed by more than 250 in a single day to a total of more than 1,200 victims, most of them in the city. He said an additional 1 million health care workers are needed to tackle the crisis.

“We've lost over 1,000 New Yorkers," Cuomo said. "To me, we're beyond staggering already. We've reached staggering.”

Even before the governor's appeal, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals in New York were stepping up to volunteer, and a Navy hospital ship, also sent to the city after 9-11, had arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on overwhelmed hospitals.

"Whatever it is that they need, I’m willing to do,” said Jerry Kops, a musician and former nurse whose tour with the show Blue Man Group was abruptly halted by the outbreak.

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What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

The governors of New York and California are moving to rapidly expand the ranks of health care workers, as the death toll from COVID-19 in New York surged past 1,200 while hospitalizations in California doubled in the last four days.

The spike in deaths in New York was another sign of the long fight ahead against the global pandemic, which has infected three-quarters of a million people worldwide, filled Spain's intensive care beds to capacity and shut millions of Americans indoors.

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:

-The city at the centre of China’s virus outbreak was reopening for business after authorities lifted more of the controls that locked downs tens of millions of people for two months. “I want to revenge shop,” declared an excited customer at one of Wuhan’s major shopping streets.

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Countries crack down on basic rights amid virus pandemic

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Soldiers patrol the streets with their fingers on machine-gun triggers. The army guards an exhibition centre-turned-makeshift-hospital crowded with rows of bunks for those infected with the coronavirus. And Serbia’s president warns residents that Belgrade graveyards won’t be big enough to bury the dead if people ignore his government's lockdown orders.

Since President Aleksandar Vucic announced an open-ended state of emergency on March 15, parliament has been sidelined, borders shut, a 12-hour police-enforced curfew imposed and people over 65 banned from leaving their homes — some of Europe’s strictest measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Serbian leader, who makes dramatic daily appearances issuing new decrees, has assumed full power, prompting an outcry from opponents who say he has seized control of the state in an unconstitutional manner.

Rodoljub Sabic, a lawyer and former state commissioner for personal data protection, says that by proclaiming a state of emergency, Vucic has assumed “full supremacy” over decision-making during the crisis, although his constitutional role is only ceremonial.

“He issues orders which are automatically accepted by the government,” Sabic said. “No checks and balances."

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New Trump mileage standards to gut Obama climate effort

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is poised to roll back ambitious Obama-era vehicle mileage standards and raise the ceiling on damaging fossil fuel emissions for years to come, gutting one of the United States' biggest efforts against climate change.

The Trump administration is expected to release a final rule Tuesday on mileage standards through 2026. The change — making good on the rollback after two years of Trump threatening and fighting states and a faction of automakers that opposed the move — waters down a tough Obama mileage standard that would have encouraged automakers to ramp up production of electric vehicles and more fuel-efficient gas and diesel vehicles.

“When finalized, the rule will benefit our economy, will improve the U.S. fleet’s fuel economy, will make vehicles more affordable, and will save lives by increasing the safety of new vehicles," EPA spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer said Monday, ahead of the expected release.

Opponents contend the change — gutting his predecessor's legacy effort against climate-changing fossil fuel emissions — appears driven by Trump's push to undo regulatory initiatives of former President Barack Obama, and say even the administration has had difficulty pointing to the kind of specific, demonstrable benefits to drivers, public health and safety or the economy that normally accompany standards changes.

The Trump administration says the looser mileage standards will allow consumers to keep buying the less fuel-efficient SUVs that U.S. drivers have favoured for years. Opponents say it will kill several hundred more Americans a year through dirtier air, compared to the Obama standards.

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How dire projections, grim images dashed Trump's Easter plan

WASHINGTON (AP) — The two doctors spread out their charts on the Resolute Desk in the Oval Office.

The projections were grim: Even if the U.S. were to continue to do what it was doing, keeping the economy closed and most Americans in their homes, the coronavirus could leave 100,000 to 200,000 people dead and millions infected. And the totals would be far worse if the nation reopened.

Those stark predictions grew even more tangible and harrowing when paired with televised images of body bags lined up at a New York City hospital not far from where Trump grew up in Queens.

The confluence of dire warnings and tragic images served to move the president off his hopes for an Easter rebirth for the nation's economy.

But while Trump sided with the White House doctors over its economists, at least for now, the decision shed light on a West Wing beset with divisions and a commander in chief torn between an instinct to embrace the image of a wartime president fighting an invisible enemy and the desire to protect the nation’s bottom line as he barrels into a bruising reelection fight.

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Gas is cheap, but for many motorists there's nowhere to go

DALLAS (AP) — U.S. gasoline prices have dropped to their lowest levels in four years, and they are almost sure to go lower as oil prices plunge.

Price-tracking services put the national average Monday around $2 a gallon. Some stations were spotted charging under a dollar.

But don't expect a stampede to the pumps. Demand is weak because so many Americans are under shelter-in-place rules and businesses have been shuttered because of the coronavirus outbreak.

“For most Americans who are home practicing social distancing and not driving to work or taking their children to school, you are only filling up maybe once a week, maybe every couple of weeks,” said Jeanette Casselano, a spokeswoman for the AAA auto club. “You are not reaping the benefits.”

Prices have plenty of room to keep falling — maybe below $1.50, according to analysts.

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Judges slow abortion bans in Texas, Ohio, Alabama amid virus

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Federal judges on Monday temporarily blocked efforts in Texas and Alabama to ban abortions during the coronavirus pandemic, handing Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers a victory as clinics across the U.S. filed lawsuits to stop states from trying to shutter them during the outbreak.

A new Ohio order is also unconstitutional if it prevents abortions from being carried out, a separate judge ruled Monday. The ruling instructed clinics to determine on a case-by-case basis if an abortion can be delayed to maximize resources — such as preserving personal protective equipment — needed to fight the coronavirus. If the abortion is deemed necessary and can’t be delayed, it’s declared legally essential.

The rulings indicated judges were pushing back on Republican-controlled states including abortion in sweeping orders as the outbreak grows in the U.S. In Texas, the ruling came down after state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said abortion was included in a statewide ban on nonessential surgeries.

But U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said the “Supreme Court has spoken clearly" on a woman's right to abortion. One abortion provider in Texas, Whole Woman's Health, said it had cancelled more than 150 appointments in the days after the Texas order went into effect.

“There can be no outright ban on such a procedure," Yeakel wrote. Paxton said the state would appeal.

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FBI reaches out to Sen. Burr over stock sales tied to virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI has reached out to Sen. Richard Burr about his sale of stocks before the coronavirus caused markets to plummet, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

The outreach suggests federal law enforcement officials may be looking to determine whether the North Carolina Republican exploited advance information when he dumped as much as $1.7 million in stocks in the days before the coronavirus wreaked havoc on the economy.

Burr has denied wrongdoing but has also requested an ethics review of the stock sales.

The Justice Department's action, first reported by CNN, was confirmed by a person familiar with the matter who was not authorized to discuss it and spoke on condition of anonymity. The Justice Department declined to comment.

In a statement, Alice Fisher, an attorney for Burr, said, “The law is clear that any American -– including a Senator -– may participate in the stock market based on public information, as Senator Burr did.

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Gray hair, don't care: Cuts and colour lead to home travails

NEW YORK (AP) — Sister love playing out in a living-room hair trim. A botched home dye job with a silver lining. Stylists shipping out kits of personalized colour with promises to talk their regulars through the process via FaceTime.

As the spread of the coronavirus sends more people into isolation, trips to beloved salons and barbershops for morale-boosting services and camaraderie are on hold.

While some brazenly cut themselves new bangs, turn to over-the-counter colour or try picking up electric clippers and scissors to work on the heads of loved ones, others are letting nature take its course.

Memes and real-life stories are flying about cuts gone bad and the onslaught of gray hair, along with out-of-control eyebrows, sad lash extensions and overdue nail work. While such things seem frivolous in the sad and desperate crush of the pandemic, many people are reaching for rituals as emotional relief and connection to their longstanding way of life.

Mary Beth Warner in Syracuse, New York, has a lighthearted air about her as she hunkers down with her husband and 17-year-old son, but she isn't laughing on the inside.

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'Strega Nona' author Tomie dePaola is dead at age 85

CONCORD, New Hampshire (AP) — Tomie dePaola, the prolific children's author and illustrator who delighted generations with tales of Strega Nona, the kindly and helpful old witch in Italy, died Monday at age 85.

DePaola died at the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, according to his literary agent, Doug Whiteman. He was badly injured in a fall last week and died of complications following surgery.

He worked on over 270 books in more than half a century of publishing, and nearly 25 million copies have been sold worldwide and his books have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Author Lin Oliver mourned his loss, tweeting that “He was a creator of beauty and a beloved friend.” New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu issued a statement, praising dePaola as “a man who brought a smile to thousands of Granite State children who read his books, cherishing them for their brilliant illustrations.”

Strega Nona, his most endearing character, originated as a doodle at a dull faculty meeting at Colby Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire, where dePaola was a member of the theatre department. The first tale was based on one of his favourite stories as a child, about a pot that keeps producing porridge. “Strega Nona: An Original Tale,” which came out in 1975, was a Caldecott finalist for best illustrated work. Other books in the series include “Strega Nona's Magic Lessons” and “Strega Nona Meets Her Match.”

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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