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

April 05, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Americans brace for 'hardest, saddest' week of their lives

NEW YORK (AP) — Americans braced for what the nation's top doctor warned Sunday would be “the hardest and saddest week” of their lives while Britain assumed the unwelcome mantle of deadliest coronavirus hot spot in Europe after a record 24-hour jump in deaths that surpassed even hard-hit Italy's.

Britain's own prime minister, Boris Johnson, was hospitalized, 10 days after testing positive for COVID-19 in what his office described as a “precautionary step.”

Amid the dire news, there were also glimmers of hope some hard-hit areas — the number of people dying appeared to be slowing in New York City, Spain and Italy. The news was cautiously welcomed by leaders, who also noted that any gains could easily be reversed if people did not continue to adhere to strict lockdowns.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams offered a stark warning about the expected wave of virus deaths.

“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9-11 moment,’’ he told “Fox News Sunday.”

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U.S. 'wasted' months before preparing for virus pandemic

WASHINGTON (AP) — After the first alarms sounded in early January that an outbreak of a novel coronavirus in China might ignite a global pandemic, the Trump administration squandered nearly two months that could have been used to bolster the federal stockpile of critically needed medical supplies and equipment.

A review of federal purchasing contracts by The Associated Press shows federal agencies largely waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment needed by front-line health care workers.

By that time, hospitals in several states were treating thousands of infected patients without adequate equipment and were pleading for shipments from the Strategic National Stockpile. That federal cache of supplies was created more than 20 years ago to help bridge gaps in the medical and pharmaceutical supply chains during a national emergency.

Now, three months into the crisis, that stockpile is nearly drained just as the numbers of patients needing critical care is surging. Some state and local officials report receiving broken ventilators and decade-old dry-rotted masks.

“We basically wasted two months,” Kathleen Sebelius, health and human services secretary during the Obama administration, told AP.

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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson hospitalized with virus

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was admitted to a hospital Sunday for tests, his office said, because he is still suffering symptoms, 10 days after he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Johnson’s office said the admission to an undisclosed London hospital came on the advice of his doctor and was not an emergency. The prime minister's Downing St. office said it was a “precautionary step” and Johnson remains in charge of the government.

Johnson, 55, has been quarantined in his Downing St. residence since being diagnosed with COVID-19 on March 26 — the first known head of government to fall ill with the virus.

Johnson has continued to preside at daily meetings on Britain’s response to the outbreak and has released several video messages during his 10 days in isolation.

In a message Friday, a flushed and red-eyed Johnson said he said he was feeling better but still had a fever.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump pitches drug unapproved for coronavirus

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is pitching a medicine for COVID-19 sufferers that science has not concluded is effective or safe for their use. “Take it,” he said of the drug.

For people sick with the coronavirus, he said Sunday, “It can help them but it’s not going to hurt them.” In fact, it may or may not help some people, and it may or may not hurt them.

His straight-ahead advocacy of hydroxychloroquine, a malaria drug, is the latest and one of the most consequential examples of Trump and public-health authorities not being on the same page in the pandemic.

His statement came on a weekend when Trump also misrepresented the facts behind his firing of the intelligence community’s inspector general whose handling of a whistleblower complaint led to impeachment proceedings against the president.

A look at his weekend remarks:

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Chaos and scrambling in the US oil patch as prices plummet

NEW YORK (AP) — In Montana, a father and son running a small oil business are cutting their salaries in half. In New Mexico, an oil truck driver who supports his family just went a week without pay. And in Alaska, lawmakers have had to dip into the state's savings as oil revenue dries up.

The global economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic has devastated the oil industry in the U.S., which pumps more crude than any other country. In the first quarter, the price of U.S. crude fell harder than at any point in history, plunging 66% to around $20 a barrel.

A generation ago, a drop in oil prices would have largely been celebrated in the U.S., translating into cheaper gas for consumers. But today, those depressed prices carry negative economic implications, particularly in states that have become dependent on oil to keep their budgets balanced and residents employed.

“It's just a nightmare down here,” said Lee Levinson, owner of LPD Energy, an oil and gas producer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. “Should these low oil prices last for any substantial period of time, it's going to be hard for anyone to survive."

Crude prices recovered some ground, trading at around $28 a barrel Friday, after a week in which President Donald Trump tweeted that he expects Saudi Arabia and Russia will end an oil war and dramatically cut production.

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What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

Federal officials waited to order medical supplies until stocks in the U.S. were running critically low as the new coronavirus spread across the country. A review of federal purchasing contracts by The Associated Press shows federal agencies waited until mid-March to begin placing bulk orders of N95 respirator masks, mechanical ventilators and other equipment urgently needed by front-line health care workers.

Queen Elizabeth II appealed to Britons to exercise self-discipline in “an increasingly challenging time” as the country saw a record 24-hour jump in coronavirus deaths.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 10 days after his COVID-19 diagnosis, was admitted to a London hospital for tests and remains in charge of government. His office says that “precautionary step” was taken because he is still suffering symptoms.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned Americans that this week is going to be “the hardest and the saddest" since the coronavirus struck the country. And the government’s top infectious disease expert says there is a very good chance the new coronavirus “will assume a seasonal nature,” meaning the U.S. could see the “beginning of a resurgence” during the next flu season.

Europe's hardest-hit country is finally seeing a sign of hope: Italy’s daily death toll was at its lowest in more than two weeks and health officials noted with caution Sunday that the infection curve was finally descending.

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Island mayor battles Georgia governor over virus limitations

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) — 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.

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Amid coronavirus pandemic, black mistrust of medicine looms

NEW YORK (AP) — Just as the new coronavirus was declared a global pandemic, gym members in New York City frantically called the fitness centre where Rahmell Peebles worked, asking him to freeze their memberships.

Peebles, a 30-year-old black man who’s skeptical of what he hears from the news media and government, initially didn’t see the need for alarm over the virus.

“I felt it was a complete hoax,” Peebles said. “This thing happens every two or four years. We have an outbreak of a disease that seems to put everybody in a panic.”

Peebles is among roughly 40 million black Americans deciding minute by minute whether to put their faith in government and the medical community during the coronavirus pandemic. Historic failures in government responses to disasters and emergencies, medical abuse, neglect and exploitation have jaded generations of black people into a distrust of public institutions.

“I’ve just been conditioned not to trust,” said Peebles, who is now obeying the state’s stay home order and keeping his distance from others when he goes out.

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Trump uses coronavirus crisis to push his broader agenda

WASHINGTON (AP) — 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

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Tiger at NYC's Bronx Zoo tests positive for coronavirus

NEW YORK (AP) — A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the new coronavirus, in what is believed to be the first known infection in an animal in the U.S. or a tiger anywhere, federal officials and the zoo said Sunday.

The 4-year-old Malayan tiger named Nadia — and six other tigers and lions that have also fallen ill — are believed to have been infected by a zoo employee who wasn't yet showing symptoms, the zoo said. The first animal started showing symptoms March 27, and all are doing well and expected to recover, said the zoo, which has been closed to the public since March 16 amid the surging coronavirus outbreak in New York.

The test result stunned zoo officials: “I couldn't believe it,” director Jim Breheny said. But he hopes the finding can contribute to the global fight against the virus that causes COVID-19.

“Any kind of knowledge that we get on how it’s transmitted, how different species react to it, that knowledge somehow is going to provide a greater base resource for people,” he said in an interview.

The finding raises new questions about transmission of the virus in animals. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, which confirmed Nadia's test result at its veterinary lab, said there are no known cases of the virus in U.S. pets or livestock.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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