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

March 13, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Trump declares emergency; world steps up fight against virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States declared a state of emergency Friday as many European countries went on a war footing amid mounting deaths as the world mobilized to fight the widening coronavirus pandemic.

At the White House, where President Donald Trump made the emergency decree, drug company executives vowed to work together and with the government to quickly expand the country's coronavirus testing capabilities, which are far behind those in many countries.

“We will defeat this threat,” Trump told a news conference. “When America is tested, America rises to the occasion.”

While the aggressive spread of the virus in Europe, North America and the Middle East has dashed any hopes for quick containment, dozens of countries have imposed increasingly severe measures over the past couple days — shutting borders, expanding testing, closing school for tens of millions of children and ordering tens of thousands of businesses to close their doors — to try to face down the disease.

The U.S. emergency decree will open up $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the outbreak, said Trump, who also gave the secretary of health and human services emergency powers to waive federal regulations to give doctors and hospitals “flexibility” in treating patients.

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Stocks roar back on hopes for government's virus plan

NEW YORK (AP) — Wall Street roared back from its worst day in 30 years Friday with a broad rally that sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average nearly 2,000 points higher — its biggest point gain ever — after President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency.

Fueled by a late-day surge while Trump was speaking, the Dow saw its largest percentage gain since 2008. The rally recouped many of the losses from a day earlier, when the index experienced its worst slide since the Black Monday crash of 1987 and European indexes had one of the worst drops on record. The major indexes each closed with gains of more than 9%.

The session capped a dizzying week on Wall Street, with wild swings driven largely by uncertainty over how much damage the coronavirus would cause to the global economy. By Thursday, the Dow had suffered two drops of more than 2,000 points and the longest-ever bull market had ended.

Then on Friday stocks rallied, shooting sharply upward in the last half-hour of trading as investors appeared to gain confidence that the Trump administration has a plan to combat the outbreak from both a health care and economic perspective.

Despite Friday's pickup, the market still ended the week with its second-worst weekly loss in the past 10 years. All the major indexes are in what traders call a bear market.

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Trump scrambles to broaden coronavirus testing options

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration scrambled Friday to broaden testing for the coronavirus with a flurry of new measures, and public confusion persisted over who should be tested and how to get checked for the disease.

Declaring a national emergency, President Donald Trump and senior staffers laid out a new testing strategy designed to screen hundreds of thousands of Americans at drive-thru centres based around major retail chains.

Countries including South Korea and Germany have been using that approach for weeks, allowing people to quickly provide a throat or nasal swab for testing without leaving their cars.

“We want to make sure that those who need a test can get a test very safely, quickly and conveniently,” Trump said at a news conference in the Rose Garden. But he added that the test is not intended for everyone, such as those without symptoms.

The moves come a day after one of the government's top health officials called the initial testing effort “a failing” and health care professionals, politicians and patients across the country complained about lack of access to testing.

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Trump declares virus emergency; Pelosi announces aid deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency to free up money and resources to fight the outbreak, and then threw his support behind an aid package from Congress that is on track to provide direct relief to Americans.

From the Rose Garden, Trump said, “I am officially declaring a national emergency," unleashing as much as $50 billion for state and local governments to respond to the crisis.

Trump also announced a range of executive actions, including a new public-private partnership to expand coronavirus testing capabilities with drive-through locations, as Washington tries to subdue the new virus whose spread is roiling markets, shuttering institutions and disrupting the lives of everyday Americans.

But he denied any responsibility for delays in making testing available as his administration has come under criticism for being too slow to respond.

Trump said, “I don't take responsibility at all" for the slow rollout of testing.

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Biden virtual town hall marks new normal for campaigning

CHICAGO (AP) — Joe Biden held a town hall in Illinois — or at least tried to — from 800 miles away in Delaware. Bernie Sanders is staging daily news conferences from Vermont, instead of his usual rallies around the country with thousands of supporters.

The global coronavirus pandemic has sent the 2020 presidential campaign into a virtual phase.

Big rallies and handshakes are out. Virtual phone banks and town halls are the new normal. Political parties and groups are cancelling in-person gatherings.

States holding primaries in coming weeks have urged more voters to cast ballots by mail and extended hours for early voting centres in an effort to avoid election day crowds. On Friday, Louisiana's governor said he planned to postpone his state's April 4 primary to June.

The Biden campaign scrapped plans for a Chicago rally ahead of Illinois' Tuesday primary due to warnings from public and health officials against large gatherings. Instead, the Democratic front-runner was supposed to take questions Friday in a virtual town hall via Facebook live.

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AP Exclusive: Immigration hearings delayed, 1 court shut

WASHINGTON (AP) — Seattle's immigration court will close down as the nation continues to grapple with managing the coronavirus pandemic, and several other large immigration courts will postpone certain hearings for immigrants who are not detained that often involve large groups.

The court in Seattle was temporarily shut down earlier this week over a report of a second-hand exposure to the virus and will remain shut until April 10. Seattle is among the areas hardest hit so far, with a cluster of deaths and dozens sickened. The number of cases in the U.S. was put at around 1,700 Friday, with about 50 deaths. But by some estimates, at least 14,000 people might be infected.

According to a statement obtained by The Associated Press from the Executive Office for Immigration Review, which manages the immigration court system, other courts will remain open where the virus has struck, including Boston, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Newark, New Jersey, and Sacramento, California. But “master calendar" dates for those who are not detained will be postponed. Those hearings can include dozens of people in a single courtroom.

"The agency continues to evaluate the dynamic situation nationwide and will make decisions for each location as more information becomes available," according to the statement from EOIR, which is a division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

There are 68 immigration courts nationwide; the others will operate as scheduled but officials with EOIR said they are evaluating and will adjust as needed.

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Census faces challenges as it aims to hire up to 500,000

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — The U.S. Census Bureau said it has reached its goal of recruiting more than 2.6 million applicants for the once-a-decade head count that launched for most of America this week — but it has been a bumpy road getting there and the new corona virus will likely make the path even more difficult.

The nation's abundance of jobs has complicated the effort, and some rural areas — particularly in New England, Appalachia and some Rocky Mountain states — are falling behind recruitment goals as the agency works to hire up to a half-million temporary workers before May. Falling short could threaten the count in some parts of the country, which in turn could lead to underrepresentation in Congress and less federal funding.

An analysis by The Associated Press shows how low unemployment has affected the bureau's ability to attract workers, with urban counties, especially large ones, more likely to hit recruitment goals than rural areas. The bureau has yet to account for how hiring could be affected by novel coronavirus concerns. The virus may dampen workers' enthusiasm for going door to door, but it could also create a new application pool of workers who have been laid off.

On Friday, Census Bureau officials told U.S. lawmakers that concerns about the virus hadn't yet caused a drop in staffing levels, according to a statement from the House Committee on Oversight and Reform.

The Census Bureau hasn't ruled out extending the count past the end of July, when it was scheduled to end, and bureau officials will make a decision after reviewing response rates. The bureau also is shifting training for temporary census-takers online and providing safety equipment for workers, according to the House committee.

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Lawyer: Man killed by officer was asleep when police fired

SILVER SPRING, Md. (AP) — A Maryland man who was shot and killed by a police officer was asleep in his bedroom when police opened fire from outside his house, an attorney for the 21-year-old man’s family said Friday. The man's girlfriend was also wounded.

The Montgomery County Police Department said in a news release Friday that Duncan Socrates Lemp “confronted” police and was shot by one of the officers early Thursday. Rene Sandler, an attorney for Lemp’s relatives, said an eyewitness gave a “completely contrary” account of the shooting. She said police could have “absolutely no justification” for shooting Lemp based on what she has heard about the circumstances.

“The facts as I understand them from eyewitnesses are incredibly concerning,” she told The Associated Press.

The warrant that police obtained to search the Potomac home Lemp shared with his parents and 19-year-old brother doesn’t mention any “imminent threat” to law enforcement or the public, Lemp’s relatives said in a statement released Friday by their lawyers. Nobody in the house that morning had a criminal record, the statement adds.

“Any attempt by the police to shift responsibility onto Duncan or his family, who were sleeping when the police fired shots into their home, is not supported by the facts,” the statement says.

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Business fallout: Apple goes online, Delta slashes flights

Apple said its annual developers conference would take place entirely online this year, joining a growing list of companies that are cancelling big, in-person events as the coronavirus spreads.

Thousands of engineers and customers attend the Worldwide Developers Conference, or WWDC, which is in its 31st year.

Apple said it would give $1 million to organizations in San Jose, California, to help with the money they would lose from Apple cancelling the in-person event. The event had been held in San Jose for the past few years.

Google and Facebook also cancelled their flagship developers conferences in the face of coronavirus health concerns.

Meanwhile, Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett told shareholders Friday that they won't be allowed to physically attend the company's May 2 annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, because of the coronavirus threat.

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AP Exclusive: Inside NCAA's attempt to save March Madness

As it became apparent the NCAA basketball tournaments could not be held during their usual three-week window because of concerns about the coronavirus, organizers scrambled to devise a plan for a 16-team event to salvage the post-season in one long weekend.

NCAA vice-president of men's basketball Dan Gavitt told AP on Friday that he started to consider ways of condensing the tournament Wednesday night after the NBA announced one of its players tested positive for the virus and the league suspended its season.

But the reality set in that even a shortened tournament could not be pulled off without putting people at risk, and the NCAA's biggest event of the year was cancelled Thursday afternoon.

The cancellation of the men's and women's basketball tournaments came a day after the NCAA had announced it planned to play the games while restricting fan access.

“We did spend a significant amount of time very late Wednesday night trying to figure out alternative models,” Gavitt said.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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