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AP News in Brief at 11:01 p.m. EDT

March 31, 2020 - 8:02 PM

White House projects 100K to 240K US deaths from virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned Americans to brace for a “hell of a bad two weeks” ahead as the White House projected there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained.

Public health officials stressed that the number could be less if people across the country bear down on keeping their distance from one another.

“We really believe we can do a lot better than that,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, the co-ordinator of the White House coronavirus task force. That would require all Americans to take seriously their role in preventing the spread of disease, she said.

Added Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, “This is a number that we need to anticipate, but we don’t necessarily have to accept it as being inevitable.”

Trump called it “a matter of life and death” for Americans to heed his administration’s guidelines and predicted the country would soon see a “light at the end of the tunnel” in a pandemic that has killed more than 3,500 Americans and infected 170,000 more.

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What you need to know today about the virus outbreak

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed past 3,500 Tuesday, eclipsing China’s official count. President Donald Trump warned Americans to brace for a “rough two-week period” as public health experts projected 100,000 to 240,000 people could die in the U.S. even if Americans follow social-distancing guidelines.

In hard-hit New York, the mammoth convention centre started taking patients to ease the burden on the city’s overwhelmed health system and the tennis centre where the U.S. Open is held was being turned into a hospital.

There have been more than 850,000 global infections and more than 42,000 deaths worldwide.

Here are some of AP’s top stories Tuesday 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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Help heads to NYC as experts predict over 100,000 US deaths

NEW YORK (AP) — With refrigerated morgue trucks parked on New York City's streets to collect the surging number of dead, public health officials projected Tuesday that the coronavirus could ultimately kill more than 100,000 people across the U.S. Some states that have become hot spots warn they're running low on ventilators, while two cruise ships pleaded for Florida to allow them to dock to carry off the sick and dead.

The number of U.S. deaths could range from 100,000 to 240,000 even if Americans continue to stay home and limit contact with others, experts predicted at a media briefing with President Donald Trump. But they said they hope the figure won't soar that high if everyone does their part to prevent the virus from spreading.

“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” said Trump, who has extended social distancing guidelines to April 30. “We're going to go through a very tough two weeks.”

Elsewhere around the world, hard-hit Italy reported that the infection rate appears to be levelling off and new cases could start declining, but that the crisis is far from over. Spain struggled to fend off the collapse of its hospital system. Vladimir Putin's Russia moved to crack down on quarantine violations and “fake news” about the outbreak. And China edged closer to normal as stores in the epicenter city of Wuhan began reopening.

Worldwide, more than 850,000 people have been infected and over 42,000 have died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Italy and Spain accounted for half the deaths, while the U.S. had over 185,000 infections and more than 3,800 dead. That's above the official toll of about 3,300 in China, where the virus began.

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What you need to do to get your government stimulus check

The IRS and the Treasury Department say Americans will start receiving their economic impact checks in the next three weeks.

The payments are part of the $2.2 trillion rescue package signed into law last week by President Donald Trump aimed at combating the economic ravages of the coronavirus outbreak.

Most people don't need to do anything to get the money. But some — including senior citizens and low-income people who might not traditionally file tax returns — do need to take action. People behind on filing their taxes might also want to get caught up.

The IRS and Treasury have provided more details on how to ensure you get paid. Here are the basics:

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Watchdog finds new problems with FBI wiretap applications

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Justice Department inspector general has found additional failures in the FBI's handling of a secretive surveillance program that came under scrutiny after the Russia investigation, identifying problems with dozens of applications for wiretaps in national security investigations.

The audit results, announced Tuesday by Inspector General Michael Horowitz, suggest that FBI errors while eavesdropping on suspected spies and terrorists extend far beyond those made during the investigation into ties between Russia and the 2016 Trump campaign. They come as the FBI has scrambled to repair public confidence in how it uses its surveillance powers and as lawmakers uneasy about potential abuses have allowed certain of its tools to at least temporarily expire.

The new findings are on top of problems identified last year by the watchdog office, which concluded that the FBI had made significant errors and omissions in applications to eavesdrop on former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page during the early months of the Russia investigation. Those mistakes prompted internal changes within the FBI and spurred a congressional debate over whether the bureau's surveillance tools should be reined in.

After the Russia report was submitted last December, Horowitz announced a broader audit of the FBI's spy powers and the accuracy of its applications before the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The watchdog office selected for review a subset of applications in both counterterrorism and counterintelligence investigations covering the period from October 2014 to September 2019. It found problems in each of the more than two dozen applications it reviewed, including “apparent errors or inadequately supported facts."

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A guide to surviving financially as the bills come due

The coronavirus has dealt a financial blow to millions of Americans and now April's bills are coming due.

The good news is there is help available. Reach out immediately to your mortgage lender, student loan servicer or utility provider to see what's available. Other assistance, such as stimulus checks or unemployment benefits, will take more time. The bottom line is that you need to take action to seek certain forms of relief.

Here is help navigating the biggest issues:

HOUSING

Numerous mortgage lenders have said they are willing to work with distressed borrowers, including potentially suspending or reducing payments. Contact them immediately to find out about your options.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump's misfires on virus death rates, tests

WASHINGTON (AP) — Facing a grim reality of surging coronavirus cases, President Donald Trump is making premature assertions about relatively low death rates in the U.S. and revising history about how seriously he viewed the threat, including the need for ventilators.

A look at his claims:

MORTALITY

TRUMP: “So we have more cases than anybody, but we’re doing really well, and we also have a very low — relative to other countries — very low mortality rate. And there are reasons for that.” — interview Monday with “Fox & Friends.”

TRUMP: “We've been doing more test — tests than any other country anywhere in the world. It's one of the reasons that we have more cases than other countries, because we've been testing. It's also one of the reasons that we're just about the lowest in terms of mortality rate.” — news briefing Sunday.

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CNN's Cuomo, with coronavirus, completes show from basement

NEW YORK (AP) — A bleary-eyed Chris Cuomo, saying he wanted to be a cautionary tale for his audience, anchored his CNN show from his basement Tuesday after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Via remote link, he interviewed Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, an emergency room nurse and CNN medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who expressed worry about one of Cuomo's symptoms.

“Brace yourself,” Cuomo told viewers, “not for a hoax. But for the next few weeks of scary and painful realities. This is a fight. It's going to get worse. We're going to suffer.”

Cuomo looked pale, his eyes watery and red-rimmed. He took a few deep breaths to compose himself. He repeated himself. Even Gupta said he didn't look good, and said he'd call later to talk about a tightness Cuomo was feeling in his chest.

The 49-year-old newsman, whose brother, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, has logged just as much television airtime lately with daily briefings on how the disease is affecting his state, said earlier that he knew it was a matter of time because of how often he was exposed to people. He said he's staying in the basement of his Long Island home to protect himself from his wife and children.

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Too little too late? Experts decry Mexico virus policy delay

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico has started taking tougher measures against the coronavirus after weeks of its president hugging followers and saying religious medals would protect him. Some experts warn the sprawling country of 129 million is acting too late and testing too little to prevent the type of crisis unfolding across the border in the United States.

Last week Mexico banned non-essential government work as confirmed cases climbed, but took until late Monday to extend that to other business sectors and to bar gatherings of more than 50 people. By Tuesday, Mexico had reported more than 1,200 confirmed cases and at least 29 deaths.

Experts say those figures greatly understate the true number of infections. Mexico has done far less testing than many other countries — around 10,000 tests. New York state alone had performed more than 205,000 tests by Tuesday. There were also signs the disease may be far more advanced in Mexico than the limited testing shows — three state governors have already tested positive for coronavirus.

“Politics is very, very much involved in the decision-making going on right now," said Janine Ramsey, an infectious disease expert who works for Mexico's National Public Health Institute, a federal research agency, and has spent 35 years of her public health career in Mexico.

“Mexico, politically, does not value scientific evidence. Why? Because it takes decision-making away from the politicians," Ramsey said.

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AP PHOTOS: Indian migrants walk hundreds of miles to go home

NEW DELHI (AP) — They were hungry. Some had not eaten for days. Others survived on water and biscuits.

But they walked anyway for hundreds of miles, in groups of families that included men and women, young and old — all trudging along deserted highways.

Some had nothing but flip-flops on their feet, and others lugged bags on their heads. Young parents balanced children on their shoulders.

Over the past week, India’s migrant workers — the mainstay of the country’s labour force — spilled out of big cities that have been shuttered due to the coronavirus and returned to their villages, sparking fears that the virus could spread to the countryside.

It was an exodus unlike anything seen in India since the 1947 Partition, when British colonial rule ended and the subcontinent was split between Hindu-majority India and mostly Muslim Pakistan.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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