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HeadlinesMarch 17, 2020

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More Countries Enact Travel Bans, Isolation Measures, as Coronavirus Cases Top 183,000

Mar 17, 2020

There are now over 183,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide, with over 7,100 reported deaths. The European Union is preparing to vote on a proposal to shut all external borders and impose a 30-day continent-wide foreign travel ban.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron warned that French people were not heeding government directives and continuing to gather in public spaces.

President Emmanuel Macron: “These efforts that I am asking of you, I know that they are novel, but the circumstances oblige us to do so. We are at war, in a health war, surely. We’re fighting neither another army nor our own nation. But the enemy is here, invisible, untouchable, which is advancing, and this requires our general mobilization.”

France is planning to deploy 100,000 police to enforce the coronavirus lockdown and impose penalties for those who don’t respect the new rules. The ongoing anti-government “Yellow Vest” protests have continued in the face of new restrictions. Thousands of French security forces confronted hundreds of demonstrators Saturday in Paris. Macron did allow municipal elections to go ahead Sunday despite concerns over crowds.

Meanwhile, the pandemic continues to grip Spain — now the fourth most infected country worldwide, with over 9,000 cases and 300 deaths. Two thousand new cases were confirmed over the past day. The Spanish government announced it was nationalizing hospitals and private healthcare companies to better manage the pandemic. We’ll have more from on the ground in Spain, after headlines.

In Italy, reports emerged that overrun hospitals may have to start refusing intensive care treatment to patients over 80 years of age, according to a draft of plans on how to cope with the crisis.

Fiat Chrysler, PSA Group and Renault announced they were closing 35 manufacturing facilities across Europe. Video circulated on social media of Mercedes-Benz workers in Spain striking after they were asked to keep working during the pandemic.

Canada has announced it is shutting its borders to foreign nationals, though the order has some exceptions, including, for now, U.S. citizens.

Cuba has given permission for cruise ships to dock on the island if they are carrying COVID-19 patients — saying this is a time for solidarity and that health is a human right. A British cruise ship carrying five people who tested positive for coronavirus is set to dock in Cuba after days stranded in the ocean, being turned away by other countries.

Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte has put the entire island of Luzon, which includes the capital Manila, on lockdown, affecting 57 million people. There are 142 confirmed cases and 12 deaths in the Philippines. Critics say the quarantine presents a near-impossible dilemma for the island’s many hourly workers who must choose between survival and their health. This is a Manila resident.

Clemente Naseba: “It’s hard for the workers because they will get hungry, their children will get hungry. What about the people who can’t work? Because they are quarantined at home, they can’t go out. They have no money for food.”

South Africa has declared a national disaster, imposing massive travel bans. Sudan has sealed off all seaports, land crossings and airports. Egypt, which has the highest number of coronavirus cases in Africa with at least 160 infections, announced it will suspend all flights starting Thursday. Twenty-seven African countries have confirmed nearly 350 coronavirus cases.

As coronavirus cases mount in the Middle East, there is growing concern Syria might face a major outbreak that could be “catastrophic” to civilians already dealing with the ongoing war and massive displacement.

According to Iranian officials the country has temporarily released 85,000 prisoners, including political prisoners, in response to the pandemic. The death toll in Iran has topped 850, and nearly 15,000 people have been confirmed infected.

In Latin America, Chile is closing its borders Wednesday and imposing isolation as the nation has the highest number of coronavirus cases in South America. Venezuela and Peru have also ordered all citizens to stay home. Colombia and Costa Rica are also closing their borders and imposing curfews.

Meanwhile, China marked a major milestone Tuesday as it announced it had just one new case over the past day.

U.S. Braces for Spread of Coronavirus as Trump Lauds Gov’t Response Despite Severe Lack of Testing

Mar 17, 2020

Here in the United States, there have been more than 4,500 confirmed cases and 87 deaths, but more accurate numbers are still not known as testing remains extremely limited. President Trump released national guidelines Monday designed to help control the spread of COVID-19, including avoiding gatherings of 10 or more people, stopping discretionary travel, and avoiding restaurants, bars, gyms and other public places for the next two weeks. Trump appeared to acknowledge the severity of the pandemic for the first time, saying, “This is a bad one. … It’s just so contagious.” Trump responded to a reporter asking him to rate his administration’s response to the pandemic.

President Donald Trump: “I’d rate it a 10. I think we’ve done a great job. And it started with the fact that we kept a very highly infected country, despite all of the — even the professionals saying, 'No, it's too early to do that,’ we were very, very early with respect to China. And we would have a whole different situation in this country if we didn’t do that. I would rate it at a very, very — I would rate ourselves and the professionals — I think the professionals have done a fantastic job.”

Medical and public health experts say Trump’s early dismissal and delayed response to the outbreak contributed to coronavirus spreading undetected for weeks. Trump again attacked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo Monday, tweeting, “Just had a very good tele-conference with Nations’s Governors. Went very well. Cuomo of New York has to 'do more'.” Governor Cuomo responded “I have to do more? No — YOU have to do something! You’re supposed to be the President.” He later added, “Happy to do your job, too. Just give me control of the Army Corps of Engineers and I’ll take it from there.” New York recently closed all its schools, restaurants and entertainment venues in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Residents across six counties in the San Francisco Bay Area have been ordered to “shelter in place” until April 7. The directive affects around 7 million people.
As of Monday, 37 states and the District of Columbia have moved to close public schools in some way. Over 37 million students and their families are being affected. Many districts are implementing alternative plans so that students who need it can still receive free meals.

The Supreme Court is delaying oral arguments. It’s the first time the court has taken such measures since the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic. The court was scheduled to hear arguments later this month around Trump’s attempts to shield his tax returns and financial documents from lawmakers and a New York prosecutor.

The U.S. airline industry is seeking a $50 billion bailout package to cope with the fallout of the outbreak. Trump tweeted Monday, “The United States will be powerfully supporting those industries, like Airlines and others, that are particularly affected by the Chinese Virus. We will be stronger than ever before!” The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization have explicitly warned that referring to COVID-19 as a “Chinese” virus is not accurate and further fuels racism against Chinese people and other people of Asian descent. Trump did not offer similar assistance to homeless people, uninsured or unemployed people, and workers affected by the pandemic.

In election news, Kentucky became the latest state to postpone its primary over the outbreak. Meanwhile, in Ohio, which was set to vote today, Governor Mike DeWine ordered officials to not open polling places, despite a judge denying a last-minute bid to delay the election. Election officials in Arizona, Florida and Illinois said their primaries would proceed as scheduled today.

In Ohio, the ACLU welcomed the release of vulnerable prisoners in Cuyahoga County during the pandemic. The prisoners either had their cases settled or were released on house arrest. The ACLU and other rights groups are calling on prisons around the country to release high-risk and elderly prisoners.

Meanwhile, in New York, an investigator with the Department of Correction died after contracting COVID-19. The investigator had limited contact with prisoners, according to officials, but his death further fueled concerns over how to protect prisons during the outbreak. The New York City Department of Correction said Monday it was suspending in-person visits starting this week.

In New York City and other locations across the country, St. Patrick’s Day celebrations have been canceled or postponed. It’s the first time the event has been called off in New York City in over 250 years. Other major annual events, including the Kentucky Derby, have also been called off. Major League Baseball became the latest sporting organization to suspend its season.

Amazon said Monday it would hire an additional 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers to handle a surge in online shopping.

A government official said Monday the first clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine had begun. It could take from one year up to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine.

The White House said more coronavirus drive-through and walk-through test locations will open this week.

This comes as German biotech firm CureVac has denied reports Trump attempted to get exclusive rights to a coronavirus vaccine it is developing. Reports emerged over the weekend Trump offered the CureVac CEO around $1 billion for the rights — which would make the vaccine available only in the United States. CureVac’s majority owner, co-founder of German software giant SAP, reportedly confirmed the conversation took place, despite the recent denial. German officials also confirmed the story and rejected the idea, saying, “if a vaccine is developed in Germany, then it is for Germany and the world.” The White House has also denied the reports.

Stock Market Plummets as Trump Acknowledges Economy “May” Be Headed Toward Recession

Mar 17, 2020

The Dow dropped nearly 3,000 points, and the S&P 500 fell about 12% Monday — the largest drop since 1987’s “Black Monday” — despite the Fed cutting interest rates to near zero. Over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the stock market turmoil is a “great investment opportunity” for long-term investment. A reporter asked Trump Monday if the economy was headed toward a recession.

President Donald Trump: “Well, it may be. We’re not thinking in terms of recession. We’re thinking in terms of the virus. Once we stop, I think there’s a tremendous pent-up demand, both in terms of the stock market and in terms of the economy. And once this goes away, once it goes through and we’re done with it, I think you’re going to see a tremendous, a tremendous surge.”

Fire Kills Young Girl at Refugee Camp in Lesbos

Mar 17, 2020

In Greece, a child was killed by a fire at an overcrowded migrant camp on the island of Lesbos Monday. The girl was believed to be around 6 or 7 years old. The cause of the fire has not been confirmed. The Moria camp, which has a capacity of less than 3,000 people, is now housing over 19,000 refugees. Doctors Without Borders urged Greece on Sunday to immediately evacuate refugees living in overcrowded camps because of fears the coronavirus would quickly spiral out of control if it reached the camps.

Netanyahu Rival Benny Gantz Asked to Form New Government

Mar 17, 2020

In Israel, President Reuven Rivlin has asked former army chief and head of the Blue and White party Benny Gantz to form a new government, in the latest blow to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu’s Likud party received more votes than Gantz in this month’s election, but Gantz received endorsements from enough lawmakers to narrowly hold majority support.


U.S. to Pull Out of Several Iraqi Bases After Recent Attacks

Mar 17, 2020

The U.S. is pulling out of several key bases in Iraq amid heightened tensions in the region. Two Americans and one Briton were killed and over a dozen others injured in a rocket attack on the Taji military base near Baghdad last week. The U.S. responded by launching retaliatory airstrikes against Iranian-backed militia sites, and on Saturday, rockets struck a base housing U.S. troops. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Monday the U.S. would take self-defensive action if attacked.


Mitch McConnell Urging Conservative Judges to Retire While GOP Still Holds Senate & Presidency

Mar 17, 2020

The New York Times is reporting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican senators have been privately contacting conservative federal judges to urge them to retire, so they can be replaced while Republicans still control the Senate and Trump is in the White House. Over 90 Republican-nominated judges would be eligible for “senior status,” which opens up their spots on the bench while allowing them to keep hearing cases and receive full pay. Trump has appointed over 180 federal judges since coming into office — including around 50 appeals court judges, which amounts to nearly one-quarter of all federal appeals court judges.

Gunman Kills 5 People at Missouri Gas Station

Mar 17, 2020

In Missouri, a gunman opened fire at a gas station convenience store, killing five people, including himself. A police officer was also among the dead. The identity and the motive of the shooter have not yet been revealed.


Maryland Senate Passes Bill to Provide $580 Million to HBCUs

Mar 17, 2020

In Maryland, the Senate voted unanimously to pass a bill providing $580 million to the state’s four historically black colleges and universities over 10 years. The legislation was already approved in the Maryland House. The legislation is part of a settlement in a lawsuit that alleges Maryland consistently discriminated against and underfunded HBCUs .

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