President Donald Trump travels to Norfolk, Va. on Saturday to give a send-off for a naval hospital ship bound for New York City and a new coronavirus test was approved that could be a “game changer.”
Trump said Saturday he is considering imposing a two-week quarantine on New York and parts of New Jersey and Connecticut to deal with the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
“We’d like to see New York quarantined because it’s a hot spot,” Trump told reporters from the White House South Lawn as he departed for Norfolk. “I’m thinking about that right now. We might not have to do it, but there’s a possibility that sometime today we’ll do a quarantine.”
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he had no idea what Trump was talking about: “I don’t even know what means. I don’t know how that could be legally enforceable.”
A five-minute, point-of-care coronavirus test could be coming to urgent care clinics next week, and experts say it could be “game-changing.”
The U.S. counted more than 105,000 cases of coronavirus early Saturday, with at least 1,700 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. More confirmations are expected as the U.S. ramps up testing.
More than 600,000 people are known to have been infected globally, and roughly 27,000 have died.
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Trump to give send-off to naval hospital ship bound for NYC
President Donald Trump travels to Norfolk, Virginia, to give a ceremonial send-off to a naval hospital ship departing for New York City to help with the response to the rapid spread of the virus.
The USNS Comfort is equipped with 1,000 hospital beds and will carry more than 1,200 medical personnel and supplies to New York, which has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
The doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, x-ray technicians, orderlies and other medical staff aboard the vessel will support New York City’s medical community and conserve hospital capacity by treating some virus patients aboard the ship, the White House said.
The ship was not scheduled to leave for New York Harbor for another three weeks, but officials pushed up its departure date because of the rapid spread of the virus.
The USNS Mercy, another naval hospital ship, arrived Friday in Los Angeles to help in the city’s response to the global pandemic.
– Michael Collins
Trump signs historic relief package into law
A bipartisan $2 trillion aid package was approved by the House of Representatives and signed by President Donald Trump on Friday, as the nation wrestles with unemployment and health threats from the coronavirus.
The stimulus provides $1,200 to most Americans along with funds for small businesses and unemployment insurance.
“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” Trump said at the signing.
While the president’s signature ended the legislative effort on Capitol Hill, it marked a beginning to the government’s work managing the crisis. Now the Trump administration must rapidly pump hundreds of billions of dollars into the economy in the form of direct payments, loans and grants to hard-hit industries such as the airlines.
– Christal Hayes
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New coronavirus test could be a ‘game changer’
A five-minute, point-of-care coronavirus test could be coming to hospitals next week.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued Emergency Use Authorization to Abbott Labs on Friday for a coronavirus test that delivers positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes, the company said.
The company expects the tests to be available next week and expects to ramp up manufacturing to deliver 50,000 tests per day.
“I am pleased that the FDA authorized Abbott’s point of care test yesterday. This is big news and will help get more of these tests out in the field rapidly,” said FDA Commissioner Steve Hahn in a statement. “We know how important it is to get point of care tests out in the field quickly. These tests that can give results quickly can be a game changer in diagnosing COVID-19.”
– Grace Hauck
Could MLB season go to Thanksgiving?
No one knows when the Major League Baseball season will start this year, or if it is played at all.
If there is a season, there’s no telling whether games will be played in front of fans, in empty stadiums or at neutral sites.
There could be more scheduled doubleheaders than ever before, prolonged stretches with no days off, and for the first time since World War II, no All-Star Game.
No one has the answers yet, but players union chief Tony Clark said Friday that no matter what the conditions – provided it’s safe – the players want to play baseball as soon and for long as possible.
Yes, even up until Thanksgiving.
“Players want to play,’’ Clark said, “That’s what we do. Being able to get back on the field and being able to play, even if that means their fans are watching at home.”
– Bob Nightengale
Last-minute revision allows more low-income Americans to get $1,200 checks
Americans with little or no tax liability will now be able to receive $1,200 ($2,400 for joint tax returns) under the historic, $2 trillion economic recovery package.
The original legislation had directed that one-time payments of up to $1,200 be made to most Americans who file individual tax returns but included a $2,500 minimum income threshold to earn any rebate. That meant that individuals with little income tax liability would have gotten a minimum of $600 ($1,200 for joint filers).
But a subsequent version of the bill – approved by the Senate on Wednesday and the House on Friday – dropped the minimum income threshold so that all low-income individuals will now be eligible for the full $1,200 ($2,400 for joint returns).
A caveat: To qualify, they must have filed tax returns in either 2018 or 2019 or receive Social Security or veterans’ benefits so the Internal Revenue Service can calculate their rebate, said Garrett Watson of the Tax Foundation, a Washington-based think tank. Read more here.
– Michael Collins
New Yorkers pulled over in Rhode Island over quarantining
The welcome mat is not out for New Yorkers. Governors in Texas, Florida, Maryland and South Carolina this week ordered people arriving from the New York area – including New Jersey and Connecticut – and other virus hot spots to self-quarantine for at least 14 days upon arrival.
Connecticut officials have also pleaded with New Yorkers and others from out of state to avoid visiting unless absolutely necessary.
But, in the most dramatic steps taken to date, Rhode Island State Police on Friday began pulling over drivers with New York plates so that National Guard officials can collect contact information and inform them of a mandatory, 14-day quarantine.
The state police are setting up a “welcome center” to make sure that they get information for tracking people in cars with New York license plates. Police are patrolling the beach. Meanwhile, the ACLU is warning this it’s not constitutional to stop cars simply because they have New York plates.
Gov. Gina Raimondo ratcheted up the measures Friday afternoon, announcing she’ll also order the state National Guard to go door-to-door in coastal communities starting this weekend to find out whether any of the home’s residents have recently arrived from New York and inform them of the quarantine order.
– Providence Journal
Dozens of most popular stores say they will be closed for weeks – or more
Some of America’s most iconic stores that temporarily shut down are now saying closures will last for many weeks – and possibly indefinitely.
The latest casualties from the coronavirus economic deluge include Apple, Express, Urban Outfitters and Guess? stores, all of which are closed “until further notice.” Nike, meanwhile, says company stores “will remain temporarily closed in multiple countries around the world.”
L Brands, parent company of Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, announced Friday it “is not currently able to predict the timing of store reopening.”
Nordstrom extended its two-week closures “for at least one week, through April 5,” the department store chain said March 25. Kate Spade and Coach stores will stay closed an “additional two weeks” through April 10 while Men’s Wearhouse locations are closed “until at least May 4.”
– Kelly Tyko
Coronavirus cases soar in rural America
Metropolises like New York City and New Orleans have seen a recent explosion of coronavirus cases. But rural counties in Georgia, Colorado, Utah and Idaho are also experiencing some of the highest rates of coronavirus cases per capita in the nation, threatening to overwhelm local hospitals and challenging perceptions of the virus’ reach.
In Dougherty County, Georgia,, the rate of confirmed cases was the nation’s 12th highest at 179.7 per 100,000 people, higher than many metro areas, with 164 testing positive for the illness and six deaths. The county is about three hours south of Atlanta and has a population of about 90,000.
Its local hospital, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, is maxed out of intensive care beds and on Thursday only had four remaining hospital beds, said Chief Medical Officer Dr. Steven Kitchen. Patients who come into the emergency room and require an ICU bed are being directed to other facilities in the state.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers Dougherty County “extremely vulnerable” on the Social Vulnerability Index. The federal Health Resources & Services Administration also nationally ranked the county in the worst third of counties in a list of medically underserved areas.
– Adrianna Rodriguez, Rick Jervis, Deborah Berry, Matt Wynn
USA TODAY investigates
• Chloroquine treats malaria: Will it work against coronavirus? The side effects are risky, experts say
• The US had a chance to learn from anthrax, SARS, H1N1 and Ebola. So why is the federal coronavirus response so messy?
• ‘On-the-job emergency training’: Hospitals may run low on staff to run ventilators for coronavirus patients.
• A secretive cache of medical supplies to save Americans from deadly disasters for years lacked the funding to prepare for a pandemic, former managers of the stockpile told USA TODAY.
• Americans are suffering today because officials botched the rollout of testing, derailing containment. Federal officials misled scientists about problems with their test, wasting weeks before letting others fix. Hospitals and labs are paying the price. Read our investigation.
Stranded Americans brought home on US immigration jets
Nearly 300 Americans stranded in Central America have returned to the U.S. this week aboard flights used by U.S. immigration authorities to deport people back to their home countries.
The Americans have been brought back to the U.S. on the return legs of three separate removal flights to Central America, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials said. Those return flights usually are empty except for pilots and staff.
Since Sunday, 273 Americans have flown back to the U.S. on removal flights, said Mary Houtmann, an ICE spokesperson.
The total includes 128 Americans flown back from Honduras to Alexandria, Louisiana on Sunday, 81 Americans flown back from El Salvador to San Antonio, Texas on Tuesday and 64 Americans flown back from El Salvador to Mesaon Wednesday.
– The Arizona Republic
Disney parks to stay closed indefinitely
Citing an “increasingly complex crisis,” Disneyland and Disney World are going to stay closed “until further notice” due to the pandemic, the Walt Disney Company said Friday.
The decision dashes hopes that the theme parks would reopen by next month, as had been previously announced. Earlier this week, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Hollywood announced they were extending their closures through April 19.
“The safety and well-being of our guests and employees remains the Walt Disney Company’s top priority,” Disney said in a statement.
The company said the decision was “in line with direction provided by health experts and government officials.”
– Bryan Alexander and Chris Woodyard
British PM Boris Johnson is self-isolating after testing positive
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is self-isolating after announce he tested positive for the coronavirus on Friday. He’s the first world leader to contract COVID-19.
Johnson, 55, said he developed mild symptoms over the last 24 hours. “I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus,” he said.
Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II’s son and heir to the British throne, tested positive for the coronavirus this week and was self-isolating in Scotland, according to his office. He only displayed mild symptoms, his office said.
– Kim Hjelmgaard
More on the coronavirus
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• 8 strains of the coronavirus are circling the globe. Here’s what clues they’re giving scientists.
• Can sports avoid deadly ‘biological bomb’ when play resumes? A European soccer match is being blamed for spreading the coronavirus in two countries. Now U.S. leagues are considering how to avoid similar results.
• Easter: How will it be different this year amid coronavirus?
• Quarantine TV: Our list of 100 shows to watch.
• On the lighter side: Watch puppies roam free at aquarium closed to public during coronavirus outbreak.
• ‘Reckless’ Gen Z got bad information on coronavirus. Here’s what experts want them to know.
• Some good news: 101-year-old Italian man, born amid Spanish flu pandemic, survives coronavirus illness, official says.