The acting Navy Secretary who fired the captain of an aircraft carrier who sought help for his virus-stricken sailors, then disparaged him, was forced out of his post Tuesday.
A rally by U.S. stocks fizzled toward the end the trading day after they initially rose sharply, fueled by hopes the peak of the coronavirus pandemic may come soon and President Donald Trump’s hint of a second round of stimulus checks.
Masked voters ignoring a stay-at-home order spent hours in well-spaced lines at polling sites across Wisconsin, while in Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in a life-and-death struggle with the coronavirus that already has killed more than 82,000 worldwide.
While federal health officials have warned Americans of a grim week ahead, there are “positive signs” emerging in coronavirus hot spots. Fewer hospitalizations and intubations were reported in New York, while Spain and Italy also appeared headed for the downside of the curve.
There were more than 399,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. and more than 12,900 deaths as of early Wednesday. Worldwide, there were more than 1.4 million confirmed cases Tuesday afternoon, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
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Beloved songwriter John Prine dies after coronavirus hospitalization
Renowned songwriter John Prine died Tuesday almost two weeks after being hospitalized with coronavirus. Prine, 73, grew up in suburban Chicago before becoming a part of the country folk scene in the 1970s and drawing comparisons to Bob Dylan.
He went on to win two Grammys. His songbook transcended era and genre, earning him a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and place in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His songs were covered by a litany of country singers, including Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, George Strait and John Fogerty. “Angel from Montgomery,” “Sam Stone,” “Hello in There” were among his famous hits.
His death inspired reaction from popular entertainers Jason Isabell, Mandy Moore and Seth Meyers and many others.
Donald Trump says he never saw aide Peter Navarro’s warning memos
President Donald Trump said Tuesday he has not seen memos in which one of his top advisers warned earlier this year that a coronavirus pandemic could endanger millions of Americans, but that even if he had, it would not have changed his response to the crisis.
Peter Navarro, the top trade and manufacturing aide to the president, laid out the warning in two memos – one on Jan. 29 and another on Feb. 23 – while Trump played down concerns about the coronavirus, according to reports from the New York Times and Axios.
Trump said he didn’t know about the memos until a couple of days ago. “I asked him about it a little while ago because I read something about a memo,” Trump said Tuesday during a White House coronavirus briefing.
Trump downplayed Navarro’s warnings, arguing that he already had started to move to shut down U.S. borders by the time the memos were written.
– Michael Collins, John Fritze and Rebecca Morin
California lends 500 ventilators: ‘I know other states would do the same’
California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday tweeted out a list of the recipients of the 500 ventilators the Golden State is lending to other jurisdictions. The top beneficiaries will be New York and New Jersey, which have by far the most coronavirus cases in the nation, as well as Illinois. Each of them will get 100 ventilators.
Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware and Nevada will receive 50 each.
“Practicing our duty as Americans to take care of one another,” Newsom’s tweet said. “I know other states would do the same.”
Newsom said Monday that California has procured enough ventilators for its current needs but is not giving them away, only loaning them. Washington state and Oregon had previously shipped out ventilators as well.
The White House coronavirus coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, noted the states’ spirit of cooperation at Tuesday’s daily briefing.
“As their governors and their health commissioners looked at their curves, looked at their hospitals, looked at their ICU and looked at their needs,” she said, “they decided that they didn’t need those at this time and wanted to make it available for other states.”
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly out after USS Theodore Roosevelt flap
Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly was forced to resign after he mishandled firing the captain of the virus-stricken USS Theodore Roosevelt, a source with knowledge of the decision has confirmed.
Modly’s survived his initial decision to fire Capt. Brett Crozier after the aircraft carrier’s skipper leaked email to Navy officials showed him pleading for help as the coronavirus swept through the Roosevelt’s 4,800-member crew. Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Adm. Mike Gilday, the chief of naval operations, voiced support for Modly’s move.
But Modly’s decision to fly to Guam to visit sailors and explain his decision in a profanity-laced speech proved to be his undoing. He apologized Monday for his speech.
Modly had disparaged Crozier, who was cheered by the vessel’s crew as he departed, calling him “too naive or too stupid” to command the aircraft carrier.
– Tom Vanden Brook
Masks, social distancing greet Wisconsin voters on electionday
Wisconsin voters formed long, social-distance-conscious lines Tuesday, greeted by poll workers in masks and gloves as the state pressed ahead with its spring election. Members of the National Guard helped out because of a dearth of volunteers. “I voted” stickers were not available, viewed as a possible tool to spread the disease.
Casey Hughes and Kayla Haessler were given masks by the Milwaukee Health Department an hour after lining up blocks away from their polling site. Ninety minutes later, they were inside the school, waiting in line on Xs marked with tape to guide social distancing.
State health officials warned that coronavirus cases may increase because thousands of people are heading to the polls.
Gov. Tony Evers’ effort Monday to postpone the election was swiftly rejected by the conservative majority of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Surgeon General Jerome Adams warned voters to take precautions to stay safe.
“I say as a black man that I know that people have died for the right to vote,” Adams said during an interview with the TODAY show Tuesday. “This is very important to our entire country, and if people are going to go out there and vote, then please do it as safely as possible.”
– Molly Beck and Patrick Marley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
US death toll ‘absolutely’ will be less than projections, surgeon general says
The coronavirus death toll in the U.S. likely will be less than the projections of 100,000 to 240,000 issued by the White House task force a week ago, the nation’s surgeon general and head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say.
“That is absolutely my expectation, and I feel a lot more optimistic because I’m seeing mitigation work,” said Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who on Sunday warned that this week would be the outbreak’s “Pearl Harbor moment.” He lauded public health officials in California and Washington state, where the confirmed cases curve have flattened, with providing a blueprint for the rest of the nation.
CDC chief Robert Redfield told KVOI radio in Tucson, Arizona, that social distancing of the type ordered by nearly all state governors will tamp down the outbreak: “I think you’re going to see the numbers are, in fact, going to be much less than what would have been predicted by the models.”
More NYC deaths than on 9/11
Even though there have been some hopeful recent signs for New York City in its pitched battle with the coronavirus, the Big Apple crossed a somber milestone that underscored the huge toll the virus has taken.
With 731 deaths linked to COVID-19 reported by New York state Tuesday, the total for the city at the heart of the outbreak surged to at least 3,202, with some estimates as high as 4,000. That’s hundreds more than died in the World Trade Center attack 18-plus years ago.
“A lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The deadliest terror attack ever on U.S. soil killed 2,753 people in New York City and 2,977 overall, when hijacked planes slammed into the twin towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept. 11, 2001.
While that was a one-day event with long-lasting repercussions, the virus’ onslaught has been spread out over three-plus weeks, and its damage continues to accrue. New York City reported its first fatality from the outbreak March 13.
Stocks’ rally sputters at the end
Wall Street’s stock market rally fizzled in the final hour of trading Tuesday following another plunge in oil prices.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 26.13 points to close at 22,653.86, erasing gains after climbing nearly 1,000 points early in the day. The Standard & Poor’s 500 lost 0.2% to end at 2,659.41, after being up as much as 3.5%.
The gains mostly evaporated in late trading after the price of U.S. crude oil slid more than 9%. Energy stocks in the S&P 500 slung onto a 2.5% gain after earlier being up nearly 8%. Energy markets remained volatile as traders looked for signs that Saudi Arabia and Russia may back off their price war and cut back on some of their production. Demand for oil has plummeted due to the weakening economy, and any cutback in production would help prop up its price.
A meeting between OPEC, Russia and other producers planned for Monday was pushed back to Thursday.
– Jessica Menton
Clemson party prompts officials to enact more social-distancing restrictions
After police officers broke up a party Friday night where at least 100 people gathered, the city of Clemson, South Carolina, is working to enforce social-distancing guidelines at private residences amid the pandemic of COVID-19.
A Friday evening party at the rental home of a Clemson University student prompted several calls from neighbors to the police department, which eventually dispersed the crowd without issuing charges, according to officer Matt Culbreath.
On Monday, Police Chief Jeff Stone said any more large gatherings will be broken up, even those on private property.
He said the police will act under the authority given by a two-year-old “social host ordinance” that requires the host of a social gathering to prevent it from “getting out of control to the extent that the public health, safety, peace and welfare is threatened and/or disturbed.”
Donald Trump ousts COVID-19 stimulus watchdog Glenn Fine
President Donald Trump replaced acting Pentagon Inspector General Glenn Fine, a move that also removes Fine as the top watchdog for COVID-19 stimulus.
Fine had been selected by fellow inspectors general to chair the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee to oversee the $2 trillion stimulus law. Trump has said he would ignore portions of the law, demanded by some Democrats, to provide Congress with details of the stimulus spending, arguing that the requirements would infringe on the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution.
– Tom Vanden Brook
British PM Boris Johnson remains in ICU, getting ‘oxygen treatment’
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was hospitalized Sunday as he continued to experience COVID-19 symptoms 10 days after testing positive, remained in intensive care Tuesday. Johnson, 55, had been moved to ICU so he would be near a ventilator if needed, the BBC reported. Johnson’s spokesman said Tuesday the prime minister does not have pneumonia.
“The prime minister has been stable overnight and remains in good spirits,” his office said in a statement. “He is receiving standard oxygen treatment and breathing without any other assistance. He has not required mechanical ventilation or non-invasive respiratory support.”
Britain appears to have become Europe’s deadliest hot spot, recording more than 600 deaths Sunday and nearing 6,000 total deaths from the outbreak.
Wuhan an epicenter no more: Last travel restrictions lifted
Cars lined up at expressway toll gates, and crowds of passengers boarded trains early Wednesday to leave the Chinese city of Wuhan after the government lifted outbound travel restrictions. The city, the world’s first COVID-19 epicenter, was locked down for more than 10 weeks in China’s frantic effort to stem the spread of what has become a global pandemic. Hospitalizations and deaths because of the virus have almost disappeared now, and restrictions have gradually been loosened in recent weeks.
The city’s 11 million residents will be permitted to leave without special authorization as long as a mandatory smartphone application powered by a mix of data-tracking and government surveillance shows they are healthy and have not been in recent contact with anyone confirmed to have the virus.
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Black Chicagoans face high COVID-19 death rate
More than half of the coronavirus patients in Chicago and about 70% of COVID-19 deaths have been African Americans, even though black Chicagoans make up just 30% of the city’s population. The city’s Public Health Department blamed early community spread in black communities and higher rates of chronic underlying health issues. The report also noted that the highest incidence of cases involved “historically under-resourced communities.”
“This data is extremely troubling,” Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “We are determined to lessen the impact of COVID-19 by engaging communities that have traditionally been overlooked and that have suffered disinvestment and neglect for generations.”
Other major cities are showing a similar pattern, although most federal officials and states are not keeping track or releasing racial data on coronavirus victims.
Coronavirus in the US: The number of new cases each day
Insurers refunding millions because Americans are driving less
Auto insurance companies Allstate and American Family Insurance said they will give policyholders millions of dollars back because Americans are driving less during the coronavirus pandemic. American Family Insurance said it will return about $200 million to its policyholders. Allstate said it would return $600 million in premiums to customers, with most policyholders getting back 15% of their premium in April and May.
“This is fair because less driving means fewer accidents,” said Tom Wilson, Allstate chairman, president and CEO.
– Brett Molina
Contributing: The Associated Press