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The White House coronavirus task force, citing concern about the high infection rate in the New York City area, is asking everyone who has left that area recently to self-isolate for 14 days, wherever they are.

Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the task force, said at a Tuesday news conference that 60 percent of all the new cases in the United States are coming out of the New York City metro area.

“To everyone who has left New York over the last few days, because of the ... number of cases, you may have been exposed before you left New York," Birx said.

President Trump said Tuesday that he wants the country “opened up” by Easter — April 12 — and continued to play down the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic even as experts warned of a worsening crisis.

Here are some significant developments:

  • The number of confirmed cases around the world passed 400,000, suggesting that the global pace of infection continues to increase. Italy reported 743 new deaths, bringing the country’s total to 6,820. France became the fifth country to mark more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths.
  • Liberty University is welcoming students back to campus, while colleges across the county have sent students home to to try slow the spread of coronavirus.
  • Rep. Ben McAdams (D-Utah), who has covid-19, remains hospitalized because of low oxygen levels. Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) said he tested negative after being in contact with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who later tested positive.
  • The Tokyo Olympics have been postponed until 2021.
  • Ford sent teams of engineers this week to consult with counterparts at 3M and General Electric to ramp up production of 3M respirators, GE ventilators and new 3-D-printed face shields, the companies announced Tuesday.
  • The pandemic has hit the Federal Emergency Management Agency with the most complex disaster it has ever faced, threatening to swamp the agency, current and former FEMA officials say.
  • Terrence McNally, celebrated playwright who chronicled gay lives, died at 81 from complications of covid-19.

Should older Americans die to save the economy? Ethicists call it a false choice.

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Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick set off a firestorm of criticism after he suggested Monday that he and other older Americans should be willing to sacrifice their lives for the sake of the economy, which he said was in mortal jeopardy because of shutdowns related to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Let’s get back to living,” Patrick (R) said. “Let’s be smart about it. And those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”

Patrick’s comments, on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox News, came as President Trump shifted his comments from public health and toward the reopening of businesses that could bolster the economy. His comments provoked some panic, said Peter Wehner, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, even as policymakers are not facing the point where Americans have to choose between letting people die and letting the economy die.

“There’s an attitude toward the elderly of ‘Let them eat cake,’ ” said Wehner, who has worked in three Republican administrations. “This is very odd for the pro-life party that for so long it pushed a certain ethic.”

With much of the country under a kind of lockdown as the number of coronavirus cases rises, #NotDying4WallStreet became a leading trending topic on Twitter on Tuesday.

But policymakers, ethicists and religious leaders say the government — and the public — must find a balance between public health and economic concerns as they navigate this crisis. Ashish Jha, a professor of global health at Harvard University, said people have set up a false dichotomy, with the economy on one hand and public health on the other.

Read more here.

California will stop accepting inmates in state prisons

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California will stop transferring inmates or accepting new ones in state prisons for the next 30 days, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Tuesday evening.

The state’s prison system — one of the largest in the country — reported on Sunday that an inmate tested positive for the novel coronavirus, spurring already heightened fears that an outbreak could spread among an especially vulnerable population. Five employees across four other facilities also tested positive.

With inmates sharing small cells, going into crowded day rooms and sleeping just feet away from toilets, public health officials have worried that prisons are ripe for spreading the virus. At least 21 inmates in New York City jails have tested positive for the coronavirus, including some at the Rikers Island lockup.

Newsom’s order will affect California’s 35 state prisons and four youth correctional facilities. Any inmates who have not been taken to prison will remain in county custody, presumably in jails.

He also ordered state officials to conduct all scheduled parole hearings by video for 60 days, starting on April 13. That directive allows these in-person proceedings — which involve a long list of people, including lawyers, inmates, families and state employees — to be go ahead remotely.

Justice Dept. tells prosecutors to consider using terrorism laws to pursue those who intentionally spread coronavirus

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The Justice Department’s second-highest ranking official on Tuesday told federal law enforcement officials across the country that they should consider using terrorism laws to investigate and prosecute those who try to intentionally infect others with covid-19.

The guidance came in a memorandum from Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen, addressing the many potential crimes prosecutors might encounter in the wake of the global pandemic. Rosen wrote that among the wrongdoing officials might see is “the purposeful exposure and infection of others with COVID-19.”

“Because coronavirus appears to meet the statutory definition of a ‘biological agent’ "under federal law, Rosen wrote, “such acts potentially could implicate the Nation’s terrorism-related statutes.” He cited particular laws governing the development and possession of biological agents for use as a weapon, threats by wire and mail, and false information and hoaxes regarding biological weapons.

"Threats or attempts to use covid-19 as a weapon against Americans will not be tolerated,” Rosen wrote.

The guidance, thus far, appears to be theoretical. So far, the only coronavirus-related case the Justice Department has brought is a civil lawsuit against a website claiming to distribute coronavirus vaccines, which do not exist. Rosen’s memo also seemed to address a wide array of potential crimes stemming from the pandemic, ranging from people selling fake cures to businesses hoarding medical supplies in a way that might break the law.

A ‘loophole’ is letting gun shops in Los Angeles stay open, sheriff says

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The Los Angeles County sheriff said Tuesday that gun shops are not following public health precautions and have remained open because of a “loophole” in the county’s orders.

“We’ve received complaints from particular businesses who have not been adhering to the social distancing,” Sheriff Alex Villanueva said Tuesday during a news conference. “Chief among them have been gun shops, nightclubs, bars and strip clubs.”

While the loophole allowing shops in the county to remain open is sorted out, Villanueva said people shouldn’t be “panic gun buying and rushing to stores, which is what we are seeing.”

Gun stores have closed elsewhere in California, as well as in Virginia, New Jersey and New York, which didn’t include gun stores among the essential businesses that can stay open, such as grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations.

Pennsylvania had also closed down firearm dealers. However, after Pennsylvania Supreme Court justices narrowly dismissed a lawsuit filed by a gun shop that challenged the authority of Gov. Tom Wolf (D) to close businesses determined to be “non-life-sustaining,” Wolf has “allowed gun shops to reopen on a limited basis,” the Associated Press reported Tuesday night.

Wolf’s office did not announce the policy change, but an updated list of restrictions on businesses listed firearms dealers as not able to continue physical operations, except for noted exceptions like only being able to sell by individual appointment and sanitizing.

Second Amendment proponents argue access to guns, especially during a crisis, is essential.

State leaders in Utah ask LDS church members to refrain from large welcome parties as throngs of missionaries return home

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At Salt Lake City International Airport, huge groups of people regularly crowd around arrival gates, awaiting family members returning from lengthy mission trips around the country and abroad.

But some members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints faced criticism this week after throngs of people violated social distancing guidelines and gathered at the airport to welcome home missionaries whose trips were cut short by the coronavirus pandemic.

Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox tweeted that he was “really disappointed in the behavior we saw from missionary families” at the airport. “I get it, I’ve been there (and still have a child serving), but this is unacceptable,” he wrote. “In a time of shared sacrifice, we must do better to save lives."

Gov. Gary R. Herbert tweeted that only missionaries’ parents should meet them at the airport and that they should “not be met by groups of family or friends.”

“Large welcome parties are dangerous and could greatly increase the spread of coronavirus in our state,” he wrote.

Missionary work is a rite of passage for many young Mormons. The church, which is based in Salt Lake City, said in a statement that “substantial numbers of missionaries will likely need to be returned to their home nations” amid the coronavirus outbreak. Missionaries returning home are being asked to self-isolate for 14 days.

Brazilian president minimizes lethality, seriousness of coronavirus in extraordinary address

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RIO DE JANEIRO — Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro called for an end to mass isolation, criticized school closings and said the country must return to normalcy in an extraordinary Tuesday evening address that is sure to further inflame a country already bitterly divided over his response to the coronavirus crisis.

Calling the disease covid-19 a “little flu” and a “little cold,” he alleged politicians and the media had recklessly incited panic — even as the number of coronavirus cases in Brazil skyrocketed in recent days, reaching more than 2,200 cases and 46 deaths on Tuesday night.

“Most of the media has been countervailing,” he said. “They spread the sensation of dread, having as the flagship the high number of victims in Italy. The perfect scenario to be used by the media to spread hysteria throughout the country.”

Almost since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, Bolsonaro has sought to minimize the scope and lethality of the disease. He has called it a “fantasy” and lamented the “hysteria” surrounding it. He has repeatedly criticized the governors in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro for moving to stem the outbreak by closing malls, churches and schools and banning large gatherings.

Now, as the number of cases rise in Brazil — Latin America’s epicenter of the outbreak — public opposition is building against his laissez-faire handling of the crisis. Only 35 percent of the population, according to recent polling, think he is doing either a good or great job managing the public-health emergency.

Every night, people in the biggest cities are clanging pots from their windows — called panelaços — in protests of his governance. Even as Bolsonaro spoke Tuesday evening, the panelaços could be heard ringing in the cities.

Liberty University welcomes students back to campus despite coronavirus outbreak

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Students returned to Liberty University after spring break this week, even as colleges and universities across the country have sent students home to try to slow the spread of covid-19.

Earlier this month, Jerry Falwell Jr., the school’s president, said on Fox News that people were overreacting to the coronavirus pandemic and that the campus would open as usual this week. A few days later, after Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) banned gatherings of 100 people or more, Falwell reversed course and said most classes would be conducted online.

Concerned about Liberty University’s move, the governor directed his chief of staff to call Falwell on Tuesday, according to Northam spokeswoman Alena Yarmosky. She confirmed that the two spoke but did not indicate that the issue had been resolved.

“All Virginia colleges and universities have a responsibility to comply with public health directions and protect the safety of their students, faculty and larger communities,” Yarmosky said. “Liberty University is no exception.”

Some colleges with international students or homeless students don’t have the option of telling them to leave campus, the staffer said. But those student populations are relatively small, so social distancing can be maintained.

In an interview with The Washington Post on Tuesday, Falwell said Liberty is “abiding by the letter of the law.” He said he told the governor’s chief of staff that what Liberty was doing was no different from what other schools were doing.

“But we’re Liberty,” Falwell said, “so we get picked on.”

Falwell said the university is taking precautions in consultation with health experts, including switching to online instruction for most classes, cleaning surfaces hourly and serving meals as takeout only. Signs on chairs remind people not to sit too close together, he said, and students are using only every third computer in the computer center. The fitness center was limited to 10 people at a time, he said, but the school planned to close it Tuesday night.

Falwell said 1,000 to 2,000 students were on campus this week, including those renting apartments in town. “I’m guessing,” he said. “We really don’t know.”

Read more here.

Surge in cases suggests people fleeing New York City are infecting others, White House says

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Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, said Tuesday that a surge in cases on Long Island suggests people fleeing New York City are infecting others.

Long Island executives reported about 5,000 total cases -- almost 3,000 in Nassau County and close to 2,000 in Suffolk County, which covers the eastern two-thirds of the island, including the tony Hamptons. The two jurisdictions have a combined population of around 3 million.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone reported 422 new cases and four deaths Tuesday. It was the sixth consecutive day of virus-related deaths, he said.

Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said there were more than 400 new cases Tuesday and one death. Since the outbreak began, 10 have died.

“Right now, we are in a crisis period that we need to do everything we can to prevent a system overload,” Bellone said in a Facebook video.

People leaving the New York metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days, Brix said.

“Everyone who has left New York over the last few days, because of the rate of the number of cases, you may have been exposed before you left New York,” she said. “No matter where they have gone, whether it’s Florida, North Carolina or out to far reaches of Long Island. We are starting to see new cases across Long Island that suggest people have left the city.”

De Blasio announces he will release 300 Rikers inmates

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In anticipation of a worsening novel coronavirus outbreak in New York City correctional facilities, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans Tuesday to release select inmates from jail, including about 300 Rikers Island inmates who have less than one year left to serve and committed low-level offenses.

The city had already released 75 inmates but was working to identify inmates who shouldn’t be incarcerated during the pandemic, which de Blasio defined as anyone over 70 or who have preexisting conditions including asthma, diabetes or heart disease.

“No one over 70, no one with one of those five preexisting conditions should be in our jail system right now,” de Blasio said during a news conference. “We have to work through some intense, complicated legal issues, case by case.”

De Blasio said the legal procedure varies but that offenders could mostly be released either by him or by the state or a district attorney. He won’t release inmates serving time for domestic violence or sexual assault, he said.

At least 17 corrections staff members and 21 inmates have tested positive for the virus as of Saturday, according to Jacqueline Sherman, the interim chair of the Board of Corrections, the independent oversight agency for the city’s jails.

After transferring out of the Rikers Island jail complex, 68-year-old former film producer Harvey Weinstein tested positive for the coronavirus at a state prison near Buffalo on Monday.

“It is likely these people have been in hundreds of housing areas and common areas over recent weeks and have been in close contact with many other people in custody and staff,” Sherman wrote in a letter. “Given the nature of jails (e.g. dense housing areas and structural barriers to social distancing, hygiene, and sanitation), the number of patients diagnosed with COVID-19 is certain to rise exponentially.”

Amazon workers test positive for covid-19 at six U.S. warehouses

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SEATTLE — The U.S. coronavirus outbreak has spread to at least six Amazon warehouses, infecting workers racing to deliver massive volumes of packages for consumers leery of leaving their homes to shop.

In the last few days, Amazon workers tested positive for covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, in New York City; Shepherdsville, Ky.; Jacksonville, Fla.; Katy, Tex.; Brownstown, Mich., and Oklahoma City, according to Amazon and local media reports. In some cases, Amazon shut down facilities for cleaning, and some co-workers who were in close contact with their infected colleagues have been quarantined.

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.

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Ford, 3M and GE will make ventilators and respirators, but process could take months

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Three of the nation’s largest companies will team up to mass produce medical equipment to fight the novel coronavirus, repurposing existing parts and hundreds of workers in a wartime-like battle against the outbreak that has kneecapped the global economy and brought much of the country to a standstill.

Ford sent teams of engineers this week to consult with counterparts at 3M and General Electric to ramp up production of 3M respirators, GE ventilators and new 3-D-printed face shields, the companies announced Tuesday. The products are needed desperately by health-care workers and covid-19 patients as cases multiply across the country.

And though corporate partnerships can concentrate expertise to solve some problems, many of these efforts are nascent — commercial metamorphoses that require different production and supply chain mechanisms, and skilled workers.

In the Ford collaboration, for instance, the first ventilators or respirators to roll off the line are still months away. But the automaker has been able to pivot more quickly on the plastic face shields; it expects to deliver the first batch of 1,000 this week to Detroit Mercy, Henry Ford Health Systems and Detroit Medical Center Sinai-Grace hospitals for testing. Eventually, it expects to produce 100,000 a week.

“This is like bringing in the cavalry to say, ‘Okay, where can we double down to make things go faster and bigger?’” Mike Kesti, global technical director of 3M’s personal safety division, said in a phone interview.

Read more here.

Several guests who attended a party at Trump’s Los Angeles golf course have contracted coronavirus

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Several guests who attended a disco-themed birthday party at President Trump’s Los Angeles golf course this month have since contracted the coronavirus.

The March 8 party was held in an upstairs ballroom at the Trump National Golf Club Los Angeles in Rancho Palos Verdes. Roughly 70 people were invited to the event — a 70th birthday party of the town’s former mayor, Susan Brooks — including several local officials.

Since then, Brooks, as well as the current mayor, John Cruikshank, have both tested positive for the coronavirus. Los Angeles County supervisor Janice Hahn, who also attended the party, said she heard 17 people who were there reported falling ill, although she didn’t know how many have been tested for the virus.

The Easy Reader News first reported the outbreak after the party.

The Trump Organization and the Los Angeles club’s general manager did not respond to requests for comment. Several Trump Organization hotels and golf courses in the United States and overseas have closed due to the outbreak, and some properties have laid off employees.

The party came more than a week before Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) ordered California residents to stay home, and Trump Los Angeles has since closed. But the coronavirus still weighed on some guests’ minds at the time.

Hahn, the county supervisor, said she was cognizant of the virus at the party.

“I was very aware of trying not to touch people. I wasn’t even fist-bumping or toe-tapping,” Hahn said. “I was bowing and saying namaste.”

Guests crowded onto the dance floor and shared a microphone for speeches. People were “hugging and kissing and some even trying to insinuate to me that this was being overblown and it was media pollution,” Hahn said.

A week later, Brooks learned she’d tested positive for the virus.

In a brief interview, her daughter, Meredith Brooks, said that she hopes the situation can be a reminder of how quickly the virus spreads “in a party where nobody had any symptoms, and nobody knew they were ill.”

“Two weeks ago was a very different climate,” she said.

Officials instruct every New Yorker escaping the city to self-quarantine for 14 days

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With New York City feeling the brunt of the coronavirus spread, many New Yorkers are fleeing the city for other locations.

Deborah Birx and Anthony S. Fauci, public health experts on the White House coronavirus task force, stressed that those who leave the city should self-quarantine at their new location for 14 days to ensure that they don’t have the disease.

“To everyone who has left New York over the last few days, because of the rate of the number of cases, you may have been exposed before you left New York,” Birx said. “Everybody who was in New York should be self-quarantined, meaning for the next 14 days, to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread to others, no matter where they have gone, whether it’s Florida, North Carolina or out to the far, far reaches of Long Island.”

Fauci reiterated that guidance, calling it a “very serious situation.”

“They’ve suffered terribly through no fault of their own. But what we’re seeing now is that, understandably people want to get out of New York. … The idea, if you look at the statistics, it’s disturbing. About one per thousand of these individuals are infected. That’s about eight to 10 times more than in other areas, which means when they go to another place for their own safety, they’ve got to be careful.”

More than half of all coronavirus cases in the United States are from the New York metro area, Birx said. And 31 percent of U.S. deaths from covid-19 have occurred in the area, she said.

Vice President Pence said New York City is being treated as “a high-risk area” and will be receiving additional support and resources from the federal government.

Kentucky Gov. Beshear slams group that participated in ‘coronavirus party’

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Kentucky on Tuesday reported 39 new cases of the novel coronavirus, including one stemming from a “coronavirus party,” Gov. Andy Beshear (D) said.

“Anyone who goes to something like this may think that they are indestructible,” Beshear said, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. "But it’s someone else’s loved one that they are going to hurt. We are battling for the health, even the lives, of our parents and our grandparents.”

At a news conference, Beshear said the party involved a group of young people defying bans on mass gatherings.

“We cannot have them do this,” he said. “This is the challenge of our times.”

Last Thursday, Beshear signed an executive order banning all gatherings, including church services.