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Health Headlines

    Two elderly passengers taken off the Diamond Princess cruise ship because they were infected with a new virus have died, Japan's health ministry said Thursday, becoming the first fatalities from the virus-stricken vessel. Japan now has three deaths linked to the COVID-19 illness. Japan's NHK public television said both were Japanese in their 80s. A health ministry official only confirmed that they had been previously been hospitalized in serious condition and had existing chronic diseases. The official spoke anonymously, citing office protocol. The new virus began in China late last year has sickened tens of thousands of people, mostly in central China's Hubei province. The 621 cases confirmed among the Diamond Princess's original 3,711 people on board are the most anywhere outside China. The Diamond Princess, docked in Yokohama port, near Tokyo, started letting passengers who tested negative for the virus leave the ship Wednesday. Test results are still pending for some people on board. Japan's government has been questioned over its decision to keep people on the ship, which some experts have called a perfect virus incubator. Health Minister Katsunobu Kato initially said those with negative virus tests had fulfilled the Japanese quarantine requirement and were free to walk out and go home on public transportation. Later Wednesday, he urged the former passengers to refrain from non-essential outings and try to stay home for about two weeks. 'COVID-19 is not 100% known, and a lot of people got infected on the Diamond Princess. Taking those factors into consideration, we believe taking extra caution will contribute to preventing the risk of future infections,' he said. About 500 passengers had left the ship by Wednesday evening, and Japanese officials were to spend the next three days disembarking about 2,000 others. The Diamond Princess was quarantined after one passenger who left the ship earlier in Hong Kong was found to have the virus. Crew members, who couldn't be confined to their rooms because they were working, are expected to stay on the ship. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said a more controlled health watch for the crew would start immediately because they can isolate themselves by spreading out and using vacated passenger rooms. Before the quarantine on the ship had ended, the United States evacuated more than 300 Americans and put them in quarantine in the U.S. for another 14 days. South Korea, Australia and Hong Kong evacuated their residents for quarantines as well, and Canada and Italy sent flights for their citizens as well.
  • New virus cases in China rose by just 394 from the previous day, with a rise in the death toll of 114, the government said Thursday, as health inspectors went door-to-door to find every infected person in the worst-hit city. Mainland China has now reported 2,118 deaths and 74,576 total cases. While the overall spread of the virus has been slowing, the situation remains severe in Hubei province and its capital, Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first detected in December. More than 80% of the country's cases are in Hubei and 95% of the deaths, according to data from China's National Health Commission. The new daily figure is a notable drop from the 1,749 cases recorded the previous day. Inspectors in protective suits went door-to-door Wednesday in Wuhan to try to find every infected person. “This must be taken seriously,' said Wang Zhonglin, the city's newly minted Communist Party secretary. Cities in Hubei with a combined population of more than 60 million have been under lockdown since the Lunar New Year holiday last month, usually China's busiest travel period. Authorities halted nearly all transportation and movement except for quarantine efforts, medical care, and delivery of food and basic necessities. “Wartime” measures were implemented in some places, with residents prevented from leaving their apartments. The stringent measures have followed public fury over Hubei authorities' handling of the outbreak when it began in December. The risk of human-to-human transmission was downplayed, and doctors who tried to warn the public were reprimanded by police. Wuhan residents reported overcrowding in hospitals and futile attempts to seek treatment. Many countries have also set up border screenings and airlines have canceled flights to and from China to prevent further spread of the disease, which has been detected in around two dozen countries and caused more than 1,000 confirmed cases outside mainland China. Six deaths have been confirmed outside the mainland — two in Hong Kong and one each in Taiwan, Japan, the Philippines and France. Chinese scientists reported some troubling findings about how the virus spreads. Swabs were taken on 14 people who returned to Guangdong province in January after visiting Wuhan and developing the disease. High amounts of the virus were detected soon after symptoms started, more in the nose than in the throat, and the virus was also found in one of their close contacts who never showed any symptoms. That adds to concern about potential spread of the virus by people who may not know they're infected. The report from the Guangdong Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention was published by the New England Journal of Medicine. In Japan, about 500 passengers who tested negative for the virus departed the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship Wednesday. Australia and Hong Kong also brought home their residents from the ship and put them in 14-day quarantines. The ship has 621 cases of the virus, the most outside China. Results were still pending for some other passengers and crew among the original 3,711 people on board. Passengers from another cruise ship Westerdam have tested negative for the virus, according to Cambodia's Health Ministry, but they are stuck on the ship or in Cambodia because they have limited travel options there and other countries are concerned they could carry the virus. Seven hundred of the Westerdam's passengers had already left Cambodia after the ship docked last week, only to have one woman test positive for the virus when she arrived in Malaysia. ___ Associated Press writers Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Marilynn Marchione in Milwaukee, video journalist Katie Tam in Hong Kong and researcher Yu Bing in Beijing contributed to this report.
  • About 500 passengers left the Diamond Princess cruise ship Wednesday at the end of a much-criticized two-week quarantine that failed to stop the spread of the new virus among passengers and crew. The quarantine's flop was underlined as Japanese authorities announced 79 more cases, bringing the total on the ship to 621. Results were still pending for some other passengers and crew among the original 3,711 people on board. Japan's government has been questioned over its decision to keep people on the ship, which some experts have called a perfect virus incubator. The Diamond Princess has the most infections outside of China, where the illness known as COVID-19 emerged late last year. Many foreign governments won't let passengers from the ship return unless they go through another quarantine period, so it was striking to see passengers disembark, get into taxis and disappear into Yokohama, where the ship is docked. Japanese soldiers helped escort some passengers, including an elderly man in a wheelchair who wore a mask and held a cane. Some got on buses to be transported to train stations. Some people still in their cabins waved farewell from their balconies to those who had already been processed. 'I'm a bit concerned if I'm OK to get off the ship, but it was getting very difficult physically,' a 77-year-old man from Saitama, near Tokyo, who got off with his wife, told Kyodo News. 'For now, we just want to celebrate.' Health Minister Katsunobu Kato initially said Wednesday that those with negative virus tests had fulfilled the Japanese quarantine requirement and were free to walk out and go home on public transportation. He said passengers were only asked to watch their health carefully for a few days and notify health authorities if they have any symptoms or worries. But after meeting with experts later in the day, he urged the former passengers to refrain from non-essential outings and try to stay home for about two weeks. 'COVID-19 is not 100% known, and a lot of people got infected on the Diamond Princess. Taking those factors into consideration, we believe taking extra caution will contribute to preventing the risk of future infections,' he said. Some passengers said on Twitter they received health forms in the morning asking if they had symptoms such as a headache, fever or coughing. Passengers who tested negative and had no symptoms still had to get their body temperature checked before leaving. Passengers were provided with a certificate stating their negative test results and completion of the quarantine. Still, Masao Sumida, an 84-year-old passenger from Chiba, near Tokyo, told NHK television he was worried people around him might have doubts. “I know I tested negative, but I'm afraid people may try to stay away from me,' he said. Mitsuo Kaku, a professor at Tohoku University's Laboratory of Infectious Disease, said on NHK that the risk of virus transmission by those who tested negative is low, but passengers who get off the ship should “use ample precautions” to protect themselves and people around them for about two more weeks. About 500 passengers had left the ship by Wednesday evening, and Japanese officials were to spend the next three days disembarking about 2,000 others. The Diamond Princess was quarantined after one passenger who left the ship earlier in Hong Kong was found to have the virus. Crew members, who couldn't be confined to their rooms because they were working, are expected to stay on the ship. The National Institute of Infectious Diseases said in a report Wednesday that the crew had not been fully isolated during the quarantine period. It said the quarantine was effective in reducing transmission among passengers, and that the increase in cases toward the end was mostly among crew or passengers in shared cabins. “It should be noted that due to the nature of the ship, individual isolation of all those aboard was not possible,” it said. Some medical experts who assisted with the quarantine have said anti-infection measures were often sloppy on the ship. Four health workers — a quarantine official, a physician, a paramedic who took an infected passenger to a hospital and a health ministry official — became infected. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said a more controlled health watch for the crew was starting immediately because they can be spread out and kept in isolation by using vacated passenger rooms. Before the quarantine on the ship had ended, the United States evacuated more than 300 Americans and put them in quarantine in the U.S. for another 14 days. South Korea on Wednesday returned seven people from the cruise ship, placing the six South Koreans and one Japanese family member into quarantine. Australia evacuated about 180 people early Thursday who will be staying for two weeks at a facility near the northern city of Darwin. And a chartered Cathay Pacific flight carrying 106 passengers arrived back in Hong Kong, which will quarantine them at a suburban government housing block. Other foreign passengers were to be picked up by chartered flights sent from Canada and Italy. The U.S. government said Americans who remained on board instead of returning on the chartered flights would not be allowed to return for at least two weeks after they come ashore. Other governments picking up passengers have similar policies. ___ Yamaguchi reported from Tokyo. Associated Press writer Maria Cheng in London contributed to this report.
  • The cheers of celebration have faded. The waving of roses has ceased. Having finally reached a friendly port in Cambodia willing to accept them after nearly two weeks of uncertainty at sea, hundreds of cruise ship passengers eyed warily over fears of a new virus are now simply trying to find a way home. “We’re in this sort of surreal world,” said Lydia Miller, 55, of Orcas Island, Washington, who is camped out at a hotel in the capital, Phnom Penh, waiting for word on how she and her husband might be able to return to the U.S. “It’s a weird feeling to travel and go on a trip and you don’t know when you can come home.” The Westerdam arrived Feb. 13 in Cambodia after repeatedly being denied entry to other ports. The thrill of the moment, complete with a visit from the country’s prime minister greeting passengers with hugs and flowers, has now evaporated for those still facing a logistical nightmare to get home. Travel options already limited by the number of airlines serving Cambodia have been narrowed by a growing list of countries denying entry to passengers who were aboard the Westerdam. A diplomat working with the passengers in Phnom Penh said getting people home remains complicated by individual countries’ travel restrictions and a dearth of available flights. That was echoed by Holland America Line, which operates the Westerdam and has been coordinating passengers’ flights. “We showed up in a city unexpected and there’s only so many flights a night and we have a lot of people we’re trying to funnel through that system and we’re putting a lot of stress on that system,” Holland America’s president, Orlando Ashford, said by phone from Phnom Penh. “It’s a math problem: How many people do you have? How many seats do you have?” Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Taiwan are among those refusing to allow passengers in, making flying to Europe and the Americas difficult. Some airlines, such as Emirates, stop in Bangkok before proceeding to hubs such as Dubai, further limiting available flights. Still, Ashford expressed hope that remaining passengers would be on their way home “in a couple of days.” Miller and her husband changed their travel arrangements three times as Holland America repeatedly revised its itinerary when Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and the American territory of Guam refused to allow it to dock. They spent hours walking 10 miles around the ship each day, listening to podcasts, making their way through a stash of issues of The New Yorker that they toted along and perfecting their pingpong game. They have flights scheduled for Saturday via Seoul, but know they won’t be able to board them because the South Korean government would deny them entry. When they finally disembarked the ship in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Miller’s husband, John, was so grateful he sunk to his knees and pressed his hands together in gratitude and joy. Their fears of being stuck at sea were gone, and the couple decided to make the most of their time, meandering along the Mekong River, buying street food and otherwise relishing their time in the Cambodian capital. After one passenger from the ship was found to have contracted the illness known as COVID-19, though, they were directed to report to a hotel where other passengers were gathered and they knew getting home might not be so simple. “It was just this horrible gut feeling that everything changed in that moment,” she said. Tony Martin-Vegue, whose wife, Christina Kerby, remains in Phnom Penh, began immediately preparing for her return home to California’s Bay Area once she got off the ship. He cleaned the house and, with the couple’s 10-year-old son and 5-year-old daughter, picked up flowers and a favorite local coffee and planned a party to welcome her home. Now he’s not sure when that might happen. “It’s kind of limbo right now,” he said. “I’m worried about how she’s going to get home.” Kerby has chronicled her time aboard the Westerdam, from a poolside yoga class to daily ice cream offerings to a towel-folding demonstration. She wrote of feeling “jubilation and relief” as the ship pulled into port and the “terrible and frightening” ordeal of “doctors in moon suits” poking a long swab up her nose to test her for the virus. The immediate joy of reaching land has given way to the realization she doesn’t know when she’ll return home. “As the days go on I just feel like the probability of getting her home soon seems to be shrinking as the disease spreads and governments are continuing to react to it,” Martin-Vegue said. “This doesn’t have an outcome that’s around the corner.” The Westerdam, with 2,257 passengers and crew aboard, began letting passengers off on Friday as they found flights home. But that was stopped once news broke that an 83-year-old American woman who had been on the ship and subsequently traveled to Malaysia was found to be carrying the virus. Some 255 passengers and 747 crew members were held on the ship while further testing was conducted. Cambodia’s Ministry of Health said Wednesday that all the tests came back negative and that all passengers were reported to be healthy and fever-free. After that, remaining passengers were allowed off the ship. They were taken to the same Phnom Penh hotel where others from the Westerdam milled around a sprawling lobby dotted with palm trees waiting for news on flights home. Two small American flags were set on a table with representatives from the U.S. Embassy; a big yellow kangaroo adorned a table for Australians. White boards announced news of flight arrangements and updates about new restrictions on which countries would allow passengers to pass through. “We’re going to any country that will safely accept and transit and allow our guests to transition,” Ashford said. Those who have already been on land for several days cautioned the newly disembarked guests to temper their expectations about reaching home soon. The Millers, who run an inn at home, had saved up frequent flier miles for years for their trip and purposely picked a cruise itinerary with lots of time in port and fewer days simply sailing at sea. They were drawn by the thrill and uncertainty of travel, but now are just looking for the normalcy of routine, to share morning coffee at home, tend to their farm animals and talk to arriving guests. “We love traveling and we love every day not knowing what’s going to happen and just being spontaneous,” Miller said. “But I’m longing for just the ordinary life right now of knowing what’s going to be the next day.” ___ Associated Press writers Grant Peck in Bangkok and Sopheng Cheang in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, contributed to this report.
  • A dengue epidemic in several French Caribbean islands has claimed its second victim, officials said Wednesday. A 75-year-old French woman who traveled regularly to St. Martin died this month after contracting the mosquito-borne virus and being evacuated to Paris, according to a statement from the Regional Health Agency for Guadeloupe, St. Martin and St. Barts. It is the second such death reported this month in the region. Officials in the nearby island of Martinique announced last week that one of three unidentified people who were recently hospitalized with dengue died. The viral infection usually causes a severe headache, rash and high fever and can become hemorrhagic, leading to death.
  • Aliya Feroe recalls the flustered OB-GYN who referred her to another physician after learning she identified as queer. For Rhi Ledgerwood, who was designated female at birth, identifies as trans and doesn’t have sex with men, it was a doctor advising about condoms and pregnancy prevention. For Tim Keyes, who came out as gay at age 17, it’s when doctors automatically assumed he sleeps with women. Ask any LGBTQ patient about awkward doctor visits and chances are they’ll have a story to tell. When being heterosexual is presumed even in doctors’ offices, those who identify otherwise can feel marginalized and less likely to seek medical care, contributing to health problems that include high rates of depression, suicidal behavior, alcohol and drug use and inadequate health screenings, LGBTQ advocates say. Now, moves are afoot to remedy that. The American Medical Association vowed in November to push for a federal ban on gay conversion therapy. Medical schools are beefing up education on LBGTQ health issues. And some schools are making a major push to recruit LGBTQ medical students, backed by research showing that patients often get better care when treated by doctors more like them. Feroe, Keyes and Ledgerwood — all pursuing medical careers — are part of the trend. “LGBTQ physicians deserve an equal standing in the medical community and LGBTQ patients deserve the same quality of care awarded to anyone else,” said Feroe, a third-year Harvard medical student. Increasing LGBTQ enrollment and training in LGBTQ health issues in medical schools can help achieve those goals, advocates say. Exact numbers of LGBTQ medical students and doctors are unknown. In 2018, the AMA added sexual orientation and gender identity as an option for members to include in demographic profiles the group compiles. Of the 15,000 doctors and students who have volunteered that information so far, about 4% identify as LGBTQ. That’s similar to Gallup estimates for the general U.S. population, although LGBTQ advocates believe the numbers are higher and rising as more people are willing to “out” themselves. This past fall, Harvard’s entering class of medical students was 15% LGBTQ, a milestone that is no accident. The American Association of Medical College’ primary application used by U.S. schools began offering prospective students the option of specifying gender identity and preferred pronouns in 2018. Harvard’s school-specific application allows applicants to identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer. A response is not required, but the option “sends a message that you’re wanted,” said Jessica Halem, the medical school’s LGBTQ outreach director. “We know that doctors need to look like and be a part of the communities they serve,” Halem said. “We have gay Muslim students. Lesbians from China. Students who are survivors of conversion therapy,” she said. 'They are now out and very proud gay people and they are healing those wounds.' Feroe had intended to present herself as straight in medical school, fearing doing otherwise would be off-putting for patients and make her feel like an anomaly among her peers. But Harvard has an active LGBTQ student group on campus, faculty members who ask students if they prefer being called her, him or they, and coursework addressing LGBTQ medical care. Halem said that includes what screening tests are needed for women who have sex with transgender men, the hormone treatments to prescribe for transgender patients, and what it means when someone identifies as pansexual. Feroe said she was “blown away” during a recent surgery rotation at one of Harvard’s affiliated hospitals, where a few patients were accompanied by same-sex partners. The doctors she was training with “smoothly asked about people’s lives” and were completely comfortable “when learning patients were queer,” she said, important steps toward offering non-judgmental “patient-centered” care. A 2017-18 Association of American Medical Colleges report found that while most schools include some LGBTQ coursework, half reported three or fewer lectures, group discussions or other learning activities. And a study of medical residents published last March found a widespread lack of knowledge on LGBTQ health issues. Dr. Carl Streed, the lead author and an associate professor at Boston University’s medical school, is among advocates pushing for a standardized, mandatory LGBTQ curriculum to fill the gaps. Streed said a harrowing doctor’s visit nearly 15 years ago when he had symptoms of a cold and swollen lymph nodes motivated him to pursue a medical career. “When I explained I was a gay man, the physician became very brusque, suggested HIV testing, left the room and never came back,” recalled Streed, who was an undergraduate at the time. Testing elsewhere showed Streed did not have HIV, but no one suggested tests for illnesses more common among college students, including mononucleosis, and he never received a diagnosis. Physicians’ personal beliefs should not “determine the quality of care and compassion that is delivered to patients,” he said. Rhi Ledgerwood entered the University of Louisville medical school in 2014, the year it became the pilot site for coursework and training in LGBTQ health issues based on guidelines from the Association of American Medical Colleges. At Louisville, LGBTQ health care topics are woven into the curriculum in classes that explore issues such as gender-affirming hormone therapy, taught along with more traditional coursework. Ledgerwood, now a medical resident in pediatrics, remembers feedback from classmates “who felt it didn’t apply to them or their future practices. It went against their beliefs and they didn’t feel like they should be wasting their time on this subject.” They were politely told the curriculum was here to stay, and Louisville now serves as a model for other medical schools. When Tim Keyes enrolled in Stanford University’s medical school in 2015, he was surprised to learn he was one of only two gay students in the first-year class who were “out.” “Because we’re here in the California Bay area, I was expecting the community to be a little bit different,” Keyes said. LGBT health issues were crammed into one elective class that attracted relatively few students, but now a broader focus is part of the mandatory curriculum. Two years ago, Keyes was among six students at four universities who created the Medical Student Pride Alliance. The group has 31 chapters on U.S. campuses and works to promote recruitment of LGBTQ students in medical schools, more enlightened coursework and improvements in LGBTQ medical care. A lecture he heard at Stanford in which a professor mentioned that nearly 1 in 2 teens under age 18 who identify as transgender will attempt suicide shows why the group’s work is so important, Keyes said. The professor went on to note that studies have shown “the risk becomes much closer to zero,” Keyes recalled, “if a physician simply counsels them and offers affirmative care.” ___ The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
  • A bill to allow medical marijuana cleared its first hurdle Thursday in the Alabama Legislature, giving hope to advocates after years of setbacks. Audience members applauded as the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 8-1 for the bill, putting it in line for a Senate floor vote later this session. The bill by Republican Sen. Tim Melson would allow people to be prescribed medical marijuana for 15 conditions including cancer, anxiety and chronic pain, and to purchase cannabis products at a licensed dispensary. The bill would allow marijuana in forms such as pills, gelatinous cubes, oils, skin patches, gels and creams but not products consumed by smoking or vaping. Advocates crowded into a public hearing at the Alabama Statehouse to watch the debate and tell lawmakers their stories. “This bill is not about getting high. This bill is about getting well,” said Dr. Alan Shackelford, a Colorado doctor who described the success of using medical marijuana in people with seizures and cancer. Christi Cain said her son Hardy’s debilitating seizures have been helped by CBD oil, now legal, in Alabama, but said the higher doses that could help him more aren’t legal in the state. “An area code shouldn’t affect one health’s care. If Hardy didn’t live in Alabama, he could be seizure-free. We shouldn’t have to be and don’t want to be medical refugees,” Cain said. The bill drew opposition from some law enforcement and conservative groups. They expressed concern about dosing, safety and the potential for abuse. “Just because we put the word medical in front of marijuana does not make it medicine,” Shelby County Sheriff's Capt. Clay Hammac said. Pastor Rick Hagans described addicts he buried. He said while they obviously didn’t overdose on marijuana, they started their drug use with pot. Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall sent lawmakers a letter expressing his opposition, and noting that marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Medical marijuana advocates have for years made little headway in Montgomery. A medical marijuana bill in 2013 won the so-called “Shroud Award” for the “deadest” bill that year in the House of Representatives. A bill cleared the Alabama Senate last year, but the idea faces continued skepticism in the House of Representatives.
  • Surgeons at King's College Hospital in London removed a brain tumor from a woman who played the violin during the procedure. Doctors for violinist Dagmar Turner, 53, mapped her brain before the surgery to identify areas that were active when she played the instrument and those responsible for controlling language and movement. Doctors then woke her in mid-procedure so she could play to “ensure the surgeons did not damage any crucial areas of the brain that controlled Dagmar’s delicate hand movements,'' the hospital said in a statement. “We knew how important the violin is to Dagmar, so it was vital that we preserved function in the delicate areas of her brain that allowed her to play,'' said Prof. Keyoumars Ashkan, her neurosurgeon. “We managed to remove over 90% of the tumor, including all the areas suspicious of aggressive activity, while retaining full function in her left hand.” Turner, who plays in Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra and various choral societies, left the hospital three days later and hopes to return to her orchestra soon. She was full of praise for the efforts of Ashkan, a fellow music lover. “The thought of losing my ability to play was heart-breaking but, being a musician himself, Prof. Ashkan understood my concerns,'' she said. “He and the team at King’s went out of their way to plan the operation – from mapping my brain to planning the position I needed to be in to play.''
  • Russia's entry ban for Chinese nationals will be partial and only affect those who travel with tourist, private, student and work visas, the country's Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, clarifying the conditions of a sweeping entry ban for Chinese citizens announced the day before. Visitors with official, business, humanitarian and transit visas will still be allowed into the country, the Ministry said. The ban goes into effect on Thursday at midnight Moscow time (2100 GMT). It was announced by the Russian government on Tuesday amid the new coronavirus outbreak centered in China that has infected more than 75,000 people worldwide. The measure is one of many Russia has taken to keep the virus from spreading. The country so far has reported three confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease — two Chinese citizens in Russia who were treated and released, and a Russian national infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship. Russia suspended all trains to China and North Korea, shut down its land border with China and Mongolia and extended a school vacation for Chinese students until March 1. Hundreds of Russians who returned from China this year have been hospitalized as a precaution, and medics continue to monitor more than 14,000 people in total. However, while some of these steps at first appeared sweeping, they turned out to have loopholes and caveats that allowed Russia to maintain its political and economic ties with China. Those ties became increasingly important for Moscow after its relations with the West soured over Russian's 2014 annexation of Crimea and other disputes. Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova argued that the entry ban was necessary because Russia lacks enough facilities to hospitalize all Chinese travelers who may have the virus. “Ensuring quarantine conditions with permanent monitoring for thousands of travelers from China is unfeasible,” Golikova said. As described Wednesday, this week's partial entry ban would minimize the effect on business connections between China and Russia and on the operation of Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport, a major transit hub for Chinese tourists traveling to Europe. In the same vein, the Russian government last month halted most air traffic to China, with exceptions for four Chinese airlines and flagship Russian carrier Aeroflot. Currently, there are still regular flights to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. China has remained a top trading partner for Russia for the last decade, so cutting the ties completely is hardly an option, Alexander Gabuyev, chair of the Russia in the Asia-Pacific Program at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said. “This contradiction between the need to... control the spread of disease and at the same time to maintain good economic ties with China is dictating this two steps forward, one step back policy,” Gabuyev said. Visitors coming to Russia for business or humanitarian purposes account for 10% of all Chinese travelers, according to Gabuyev. Last year, 1.5 million Chinese tourists traveled to Russia. However, Russia's tourism industry is about to suffer a significant blow with the flow of Chinese visitors effectively cut off during the entry ban. Because of all the restrictions, tour operators working with Chinese travelers could lose up to $47 million of profits in the coming months, Maya Lomidze, head of the Association of Tour Operators of Russia, said Wednesday. “The forecast is pessimistic at this point,” Lomidze said. “It would be good to have an understanding of how the situation in China will unfold and how long the travel ban for Chinese nationals will last.” ___ See more AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak
  • The new virus has killed two elderly Iranian citizens, Iran's state-run IRNA news agency reported Wednesday. IRNA quoted Alireza Vahabzadeh, an adviser to the country's health minister, as saying that both victims had been carrying the coronavirus and were located in Qom, about 140 kilometers (86 miles) south of the capital Tehran. The state news agency said later that schools and universities in Qom would be closed so an investigation could take place. No additional details were released. Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian authorities confirmed two cases of the new virus, the first in the country, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency. Officials later said the two patients had died. ISNA quoted an official in the country’s health ministry, Kiyanoush Jahanpour, as saying that “since last two days, some suspected cases of the new coronavirus were found.” The virus causes the illness that the World Health Organization recently named COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it. The new virus emerged in China in December. Since then, more than 75,000 people have been infected globally, with more than 2,000 deaths being reported, mostly in China. The new virus comes from a large family of what are known as coronaviruses, some causing nothing worse than a cold. It causes cold- and flu-like symptoms, including cough and fever, and in more severe cases, shortness of breath. It can worsen to pneumonia, which can be fatal. First detected in China, the virus is believed to have originated in a type of wild animal sold at a Chinese market to be consumed as food. Iran has applied safety measure on arrival flights at its airports to control a possible spread of the virus. Elsewhere in the Middle East, nine cases have been confirmed in the United Arab Emirates, seven of them Chinese nationals, one Indian and one Filipino, while Egypt's Health Ministry confirmed its first case last Friday. Egypt's Health Ministry only identified its sole case as a foreigner who is carrying the virus but not showing any serious symptoms. The ministry said the person was hospitalized and in isolation. It did not specify the person's nationality or what port of entry he or she arrived at in Egypt. The case in Egypt was also the first on the African continent. Experts and African leaders have expressed concern that should the virus spread there, it might wreak havoc among less developed countries with fewer health resources. ___ This story has been corrected to show that of the nine cases confirmed in the United Arab Emirates, not all are Chinese; seven are Chinese nationals, one is Indian and one is Filipino.

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  • NASCAR driver Ryan Newman, who was involved in a horrific crash during the final lap of the Daytona 500, was hospitalized after Monday’s race. Update 2:03 p.m. EST Feb. 19: According to Roush Fenway Racing, NASCAR driver Ryan Newman was released from a Daytona Beach hospital Wednesday afternoon, two days after he was involved in a scary crash on the final lap of the Daytona 500. Roush tweeted a photograph of Newman leaving Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach, holding the hands of his two daughters. “Ryan Newman has been treated and released from Halifax Medical Center,” the racing team tweeted. Update 12:25 p.m. EST Feb. 19: Ryan Newman continued to show “great improvement” as he recovered from injuries he suffered Monday night in a final-lap crash at the Daytona 500 race, his racing team said. Roush Fenway Racing tweeted a statement that said Newman was “fully alert” and walking around Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach. The racing team also tweeted a photo of a smiling Newman with his children. Update 4:47 p.m. EST Feb. 18: In a statement Tuesday afternoon, Roush Fenway Racing tweeted that Ryan Newman was “awake and speaking” with family members and doctors. Newman, who was seriously injured in a final-lap wreck during Monday’s Daytona 500 race, remains at the Halifax Medical Center in Daytona Beach. Update 10:13 p.m. EST Feb. 17: In a statement Monday night, NASCAR officials said Newman, 42, was in serious condition, “but doctors have indicated his injuries are not life-threatening.” Original report: Newman, 42, has 18 Cup wins, including the 2008 Daytona 500 and 2013 Brickyard 400. He was battling for the lead with Ryan Blaney and Denny Hamlin on the final lap of the 2.5-mile track at Daytona International Speedway when he crashed. Newman was in the lead coming into the final turn with Blaney and eventual winner Hamlin in close pursuit, NASCAR.com reported. Closing in on the finish line, Newman attempted to block Blaney, who was in second place. The impact of the cars touching sent Newman’s car airborne and into the wall. Newman’s car flipped several times and was hit head-on by Corey LaJoie, who sent Newman skidding across the track upside down Newman’s No. 6 Ford crossed the finish line engulfed in flames, ESPN reported. An ambulance departed Daytona International Speedway’s front stretch at 8:10 p.m. Newman was taken to an area hospital. His condition was unknown. 'I think we take for granted sometimes how safe the cars are, and No. 1, we are praying for Ryan,'' Hamlin said. “I hope he’s all right,” Blaney told reporters. “I was trying to push him to the win. I don’t like saying that things just happen because I feel really bad about it. It was a close one. I just hope Ryan is all right.” “I was hoping he would kind of bounce off the fence to the left, but he didn’t and I hit him,” Lajoie said. “I don’t know exactly where I hit him. I haven’t seen a replay. It was some scary stuff.” Newman, who led 15 laps, was credited with a ninth-place finish. “We ask that out of respect for privacy that you please do not speculate on Ryan Newman’s condition until an official statement has been issued,” Roush Yates Engines tweeted. Kelley Earnhardt, the daughter of Dale Earnhardt Sr., tweeted, “Please let @RyanJNewman be ok!” Dale Earnhardt Sr. died in a final-lap crash at the Daytona 500 in 2001. Newman, born Dec. 8, 1977, in South Bend, Indiana, was named Winston Cup rookie of the year in 2002, beating Jimmie Johnson, according to his NASCAR biography. Nicknamed “Rocket Man,” Newman graduated with honors from South Bend La-Salle High School in 1996. He studied engineering at Purdue University but at the same time, continued to race. Newman was a champion midget racer when he was 17, ran USAC sprint cars and won that division’s Silver Crown championship in 1999.
  • A mistrial has been declared by Athens Judge David Sweat in the courthouse hacking case involving a Gwinnett County judge. Channel 2 Gwinnett County Bureau Chief Tony Thomas said Superior Court Judge Kathryn Schrader walked out of court without comment as she remains suspended from the bench on charges that she hired three men to hack into the county computer system amid fears the district attorney’s office was spying on her. After the mistrial, the jury foreperson, Rachel Steahr, told Thomas she was frustrated because basically the evidence didn’t provide any clear answers to what happened. “There was a lot of evidence and it was really good, but either side it wasn't strong enough. They needed more since they didn’t come to a conclusion of how this happened,” Steahr said. She said a majority of jurors thought Schrader was not guilty on count one of computer trespassing, were split on the second charge and wanted to convict on the third charge. Prosecutors said they are now trying to figure out if they want to retry this case. “We are going to continue to reevaluate the case. We are going to be in discussion with the executive director and make a decision,” prosecutor John Regan said. Schrader’s attorney maintains her client is innocent. “I'm always relieved when it's clear our message was heard. She is not guilty,” said defense attorney BJ Bernstein. Prosecutors said it remains unclear when they may retry the case, but they are hoping to make it happen sooner rather than later.
  • We are learning more about the three University of Georgia employees arrested last week on theft charges: Amy Stowers is from Gainesville and was manager of the University’s Vision Clinic. She’s facing felony charges, accused of masterminding a bribery scheme that netted a reported $2,500 from eyeglass vendors. Two other women are facing misdemeanor counts after taking gift cards from vendors, cards said to have been worth several hundred dollars.From Asia Simone Burns, AJC… Amy Stowers, Rita Melville and Jamie Fay Coley were each taken into custody in connection with the investigation.  Police said Stowers, who managed the University Health Center Vision Clinic, orchestrated the bribery scheme. According to the police report, she made a “prohibited” agreement with an optical vendor, who was not named. The vendor would give her gift cards, and in exchange she would lead the vendor to believe it would “influence the performance of her official duties,” the report said.                    Stowers received about $2,550 in gift cards from the vendor, police said.  As part of the same agreement, Melville and Coley, who were opticians in the clinic, received $348 and $404 in gift cards, respectively.  The funds stemmed from the sale of eyewear frames, the report said. The women were able to convert the proceeds for personal use.  Stowers is facing four counts of felony bribery, while Coley and Melville each face six counts of misdemeanor theft by conversion. Stowers was booked into the Clarke County Jail on Wednesday and released the following day on a $44,400 bond. Coley and Melville were both booked into the jail Friday morning and released the same day on $10,100 bonds.
  • The Newton County parents convicted of murder says there is no evidence they killed their 2-week-old daughter.  Both Christopher Michael McNabb and Cortney Marie Bell have filed motions for new trials, according to documents filed in Newton Superior Clerk. Both were convicted of killing baby Caliyah in May 2019.  In his motion filed Monday, McNabb says prosecutors were unable to prove he killed baby Caliyah and that his prior attorney was ineffective during the trial.  “There was no physical or direct evidence produced that demonstrated that Mr. McNabb caused the child’s death. Nor was the State able to demonstrate what actually caused the child’s severe injuries,” McNabb’s motion states. “The thrust of the State’s case was that Mr. McNabb was a bad man that lived in a bad environment.” In her motion for a new trial, filed in late January, Bell also says prosecutors did not prove she was responsible for Caliyah’s death.  “The State did not prove that Ms. Bell caused Caliyah’s death, at best they attempted at trial to prove that she contributed to the circumstances that led to Caliyah’s death,” her motion states.  A jury deliberated about an hour before convicting both McNabb and Bell following a joint trial. McNabb was sentenced to life in prison without parole, Bell to 30 years with 15 to serve. But both parents were adamant they weren’t responsible for Caliyah’s death.  “I’m innocent. I didn’t do it,” McNabb told Judge John Ott before his sentencing. “If you ever find out who did it, they deserve to be under the jail.” In October 2017, Bell reported the baby missing from the family’s mobile home. That night, McNabb angrily demanded the child’s return in front of television cameras. It’s likely that Caliyah was already dead by the time McNabb pleaded for the community’s help in finding her, according to investigators. 
  • Athens Democrats hold a debate watch party tonight, as Democratic presidential candidates take the stage in Las Vegas in advance of Saturday’s Nevada caucuses. Tonight’s local viewing is set for 8 o’clock at Little Italy on Lumpkin Street in downtown Athens. The debate—the first to include former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg--can be heard live on WGAU. It starts at 9 o’clock, with television on MSNBC. From Facebook… Join your fellow democratic socialists for some #yallidarity and FREE PIZZA! We'll gather in the back room of Little Italy downtown, and cheer Bernie on as he continues to rise above the fray of the party establishment. It's the first debate featuring American Oligarch and proud stop-and-frisk-er Michael Bloomberg, so it's a must-watch. Come have fun with like-minded folks, and learn more about how you can get involved with Athens Area DSA... we need your ideas and energy!

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS Georgia basketball had the sellout crowd at Stegeman Coliseum rocking on Wednesday night, upsetting No. 13-ranked Auburn 65-55. Freshman Anthony Edwards had 18 points and six rebounds to lead the Bulldogs, who snapped a four-game losing streak with the victory. Georgia (13-13, 3-10 SEC) had lost three of the previous four games after leading by double-digits, but not this time against the Tigers (22-4, 9-4). The Bulldogs went up 10 points on a Sahvir Wheeler free throw that made it 37-27 with 14:55 left. Auburn couldn't get closer than three rest of the game. Wheeler had 13 points and four assists, controlling the ball and the tempo against Bruce Pearl's trapping Tigers with the seventh sellout crowd of the season urging him on. Freshman Toumani Camara took care a lot of the tough work in the paint with 12 points and eight rebounds. Camara sealed the win down the stretch, 5-of-6 from the free-throw line in the final 22 seconds. It's UGA's second win over a ranked opponent this season. Georgia beat then-No. 9 Memphis 65-62 on Jan. 4 in Memphis Auburn won the teams' first meeting by an 82-60 count on Jan. 11 in Auburn. But Georgia served notice of just how good it can be when Rayshaun Hammonds (13 points, eight rebounds) is playing well in the first half, leading 31-25 at the break. The Bulldogs had led by as many as nine before intermission, a Hammonds' fast break layup giving UGA a 21-12 lead at the 9:31 mark. Hammonds scored all 10 of his first-half points the first 11 minutes of the game, also pulling down six rebounds. Edwards, meanwhile, didn't score the first eight minutes of the game. But Edwards third bucket of the game was a big one, as it ended a 9-0 Auburn run and put the Bulldogs back on top 25-23 with 3:55 left in the half. It was a lead Georgia would never relinquish. The Bulldogs return to action at 6 p.m. on Saturday against Vanderbilt in Nashville (TV: SEC Network). DawgNation Georgia basketball Georgia basketball drops close one at Texas A&M, Anthony Edwards ill Alabama topples Georgia in overtime Georgia suffers deflating defeat at Florida UGA snaps four-game losing streak with Texas A&M win Perplexing loss for Georgia basketball at Missouri Column: Anthony Edwards needs to get back to having fun Georgia comes up short in hard-fought loss at Kentucky Anthony Edwards puts the squeeze on Tennessee in blowout win Freshman Anthony Edwards discloses injury, status Sahvir Wheeler on clutch game-winner, 'been there a ton of times' Anthony Edwards lights up Michigan State for 37 in 93-85 loss Rayshaun Hammonds wrecks Georgia Tech Anthony Edwards draws standing ovation in opener The post Georgia basketball upsets Auburn before sellout crowd at Stegeman Coliseum appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS The NCAA Transfer Working Group looks to open the door for for football transfers to gain immediately eligibility. 'The current system is unsustainable, (and) working group members believe it's time to bring our transfer rules more in line with today's college landscape,' Mid-American Conference commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, the chair of the working group, said in an NCAA article. 'This concept provides a uniform approach that is understandable, predictable and objective. Most importantly, it benefits students.' Per the proposal: The working group concept would change waiver criteria to allow approvals for first-time four-year transfers in all sports to compete immediately if they: Receive a transfer release from their previous school. Leave their previous school academically eligible. Maintain their academic progress at the new school. Leave under no disciplinary suspension. The proposal could be in place by the 2020-21 academic year. Of course, it's all too late for former Georgia tight end Luke Ford. RELATED: Ford transfer tied to being closer to agi ng grandfather Ford, who spent the 2018 season with the Bulldogs, lost his bid for a waiver last summer that would have allowed him to play for Illinois during the 2019 season. My Grandpa just passed on to a better place in heaven. Love you Papa! I'm sorry you didn't get to see me play in person, my heart is devastated Rest in Paradise L U K E F O R D (@lukeredx97) February 19, 2020 Ford lost his appeal following the 2018 season despite being represented by high-profile attorney Thomas Mars. Mars, of course, keyed Justin Fields' successful bid for immediate eligibility at Ohio State last season after he transferred from Georgia. The NCAA Transfer Working Group's proposal for football, basketball, baseball and hockey would be the same as the transfer legislation already in existence for other sports. The Division I Council appointed the council last fall, well aware that there could be unintended consequences. 'We know that challenges will exist with this concept, particularly as it relates to other coaches potentially tampering with currently enrolled student-athletes,' Steinbrecher s aid in the NCAA.org story. 'The working group will continue to examine this, as well as any potential financial aid and academic impacts, so the Council can make a fully informed decision.' ACC Network analyst and former Georgia football coach Mark Richt is among those who have concerns. I know, I have an idea. You recruit and develop players and when I think they're good enough I will poach them from your roster! Welcome to what the new normal will look like in college football! Mark Richt (@MarkRicht) February 18, 2020 ESPN analyst and Georgia football legend David Pollack expressed frustration with the inconsistency of the current policy. 'Fields versus Luke Ford, guys that were at Georgia, what determines who gets it (immediate eligibility)?' Pollack said to DawgNation last summer. 'Somebody's family is sick (Ford's grandfather), or somebody has a reason to go back home and they get a no,' and somebody else that doesn't really have a reason gets a yes.' That drives you nuts for the kids. 'Some people get waivers, some people don't, and it makes absolutely no sense.' Related: David Pollack goes off on NCAA transfer inconsistencies Current Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart has been relatively liberal in his view of transfers and the invent of the NCAA transfer portal. Smart said his priority is that the NCAA do what's best for the student-athletes. 'Kids have always been able to go places, change and make decisions. Roster management hasn't changed from the standpoint of, we've been working off 85, working off medical (redshirts),' Smart said last year. 'There's been slight changes to the number of guys you can sign early, there's been a slight of increase of players who have come out early over time. 'As we continue to grow, it's something we'll deal with. I don't think there's a major concern there. You've got 85 scholarships, you operate at your 85. NFL teams do it with less than that so I'm not that concerned about roster management as I am making sure what's best for the student athlete is what we do.' The post NCAA group recommends immediate eligibility for transfers, too late for Luke Ford appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Kirby Smart is considered one of the top defensive minds in football, constantly studying trends and concepts at the NFL, collegiate and even high school level. It's a safe bet the Georgia football head coach is considering new wrinkles this offseason just like the rest of the coaches who attend and speak at the UGA Coaches Clinic March 26-28. Smart has landed a star-studded guest speaker lineup consisting of new Mississippi State coach Mike Leach, Tennessee Titans coach Mike Vrabel and new New York Giants coach Joe Judge. Middle school and high school coaches who want to attend the clinic can sign up through the school's website. Smart's staff will be involved coaches love to talk ball. But as much as anything, they will also be listening to one another. Especially when it's Leach's turn to speak. The Bulldogs are overhauling their offense. A dual-threat quarterback is set to be under center this season, with Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman the favorite entering spring drills. Smart says he's looking for the same things from his offense as before: efficiency, scoring and explosive plays. RELATED: Kirby Smart offers no grand speech' on future of Georgia football offense But Georgia has not locked into how it will go about it, even after the hiring of former NFL offensive coordinator Todd Monken, whose 2018 Tampa Bay offense set franchise records. Monken and Leach will be quite a meeting of the offensive minds. Leach is known for building some of the nation's most potent and prolific spread offenses, those of the 'Air Raid' variety he helped develop with Hal Mumme at Valdosta State and Kentucky. Washington State quarterback Anthony Gordon had the second-highest passing yards in the FBS ranks last season (5,579) and the fourth-highest completion percentage (71.6) operating out of Leach's offense. RELATED: The Mike Leach coaching tree Vrabell, a former defensive coordinator with the Houston Texans, saw his team rank 12th in the NFL in total defense last season. The Titans, however, were tied for 10th in the NFL with 23 takeaways an area Smart has said UGA has room to improve. Judge is the Giants new coach in New York after an eight-year stint on Coach Bill Belichick's staff in New England. Judge worked with the Patriots' special teams throughout his tenure, adding the role of wide receivers coach last season. New England's special teams were among the best in the NFL throughout last season, per advanced metrics. They have traditionally been among the best in the NFL under Belichick, a characteristic Smart harps about wanting in his program. Each member of the Georgia football coaching staff will also participate in 'chalk talks' at the clinic. Bulldogs defensive coordinator Dan Lanning is fast becoming one of the hottest coaching commodities. His future in Georgia figures to be shorter rather than longer with programs recognizing his talents and head coach potential. Lanning's defense was tops in the nation in scoring defense and rushing defense, while finishing third in total defense and eighth in pass efficiency defense. This, despite not having any defensive players selected first-team All-SEC by an Associated Press panel. RELATED: League-leading Georgia defense shut out of first-team All-SEC picks Georgia had 37 players on defense get more than 100 snaps last season. The post Georgia football sure to benefit from Air Raid' guru Mike Leach at coaching clinic appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Jake Fromm's arm strength holds the key to his NFL draft status, according to ESPN analyst Mel Kiper jr. 'We know what he has: the smarts, we know he has the leadership, we know he's an accurate passer forget the numbers, he lost all his receivers going into this year so you know he can do all those things,' Kiper said on an ESPN teleconference on Wednesday. 'But is the arm good enough? (That's what) people are going to be really scrutinizing with Fromm going through this whole draft process leading up into late April, which will determine whether he's a second round pick, or whether he's a fourth- or fifth-round pick.' Kiper Jr. continues to maintain that Fromm reminds him of Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton. But, the long-time draft expert said, there is also a scenario where he projects more closely to former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray. Fromm's performance at the NFL combine next week in Indianapolis will obviously be important. 'Only thing (that's) gonna be on display there, he's going to have to show is the necessary arm strength, because that's going to determine, is he Aaron Murray or is he Andy Dalton?' Kiper Jr. said. 'That's what everybody is trying to figure out.' The NFL combine runs from Feb. 23 through March 2 with testing taking place in Lucas Oil Stadium. Quarterbacks and wideouts will workout on Feb. 27. 'If he's Andy Dalton, you're talking about a second round, early-second round type of quarterback. If you're Aaron Murray, you're a later-round quarterback who's now playing in the XFL.' Murray, currently with the Tampa Bay Vipers of the XFL, was drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Murray is the SEC's all-time leading passing yardage and passing touchdown leader, played for Mark Richt in Athens from 2010-2013. Kiper, however, has leaned more toward the Dalton comparison, which he first revealed last month during a podcast with fellow draft analyst Todd McShay. 'The easiest (comparison) in this draft is Jake Fromm to (Cincinnati Bengals quarterback) Andy Dalton,' Kiper said. 'From competitiveness, leadership, smarts, size ' Kiper, like Georgia coach Kirby Smart, qualified the drop-off in Fromm's numbers to the loss of UGA's top five pass catchers from the season before, along with other attrition. 'All of (Fromm's) touchdowns were gone,' he said. 'Think about (former UGA players) Riley Ridley, Mecole Hardman, Terry Godwin, Isaac Nauta. 'Then, he also lost Elijah Holyfield who was the No. 2 or 1-A running back with (D'Andre) Swift, who had a big year. And he lost his center as well. You can't take that away with anybody.' Fromm has been working out in Mobile, Ala., at 'QB Country' with his quarterback coach, David Morris, in preparation for the NFL combine. RELATED: AJC exclusive with Jake Fromm, what went into decision Fromm is one of 10 Georgia football players who received an invite to the all-important combine. Players will undergo thorough medical exams in addition to testing out in drill work and meeting with teams. RELATED: The 10 Georgia football players invited to 2020 NFL Combine DawgNation: Georgia in the NFL draft Jake Fromm evaluation, comparison, per former Super Bowl scout ESPN labels Georgia a 'loser' in NFL early entry process Evaluating Andrew Thomas, why he's a first-round lock Eli Wolf, Charlie Woerner, Brian Herrien, Tyrique McGhee shine in all-star games Todd McShay projects Georgia QB Jake Fromm to have first-round talent Closer look at Jake Fromm's decision, factors and faith Mel Kiper Jr.'s mock: Andrew Thomas and D'Andre Swift future teammates The post Jake Fromm 2020 NFL Draft stock hinges on arm strength, per Mel Kiper Jr. appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia basketball coach Tom Crean is referring to it as an 'opportunity' game when the Bulldogs take on SEC powerhouse Auburn. Bruce Pearl looks at it as a 'must-win' for his Tigers. Georgia (12-13, 2-10 SEC) plays against No. 13-ranked Auburn (22-3, 9-3) at 7 p.m. with a sold-out crowd awaiting the tip at Stegeman Coliseum (TV: ESPN2). ' We have tremendous opportunity tomorrow night with Auburn, and the way that they're playing,' Crean said. 'They pose numerous challenges as most everybody else in this league does but especially the way they're playing. 'The way they're getting fouled right now, the way their offensive rebounding the ball, extremely high levels, playing extremely fast, aggressive. They play with great confidence and are playing like a veteran team.' Auburn is coming off a shocking 85-73 road loss to Missouri, a defeat that could be attributed to a 1-of-17 shooting night beyond the 3-point arc. Bruce Pearl's team did, however, get to the free-throw line to attempt an eye-popping 46 free throws. 'I look at it this way: the Georgia game is a must-win if we're going to stay in this conference championship race,' Pearl said. Kentucky is a game up on Auburn with its Tuesday night win over LSU. '(Georgia is a) tough place to play, hard to win on the road, but if we're going to be in this conference championship race, we have to win the game,' Pearl said. 'Strong statement with seven games left, but I've always kept it real with my team.' Georgia expects to have a healthy Anthony Edwards primed for the meeting. Edwards, recently projected by ESPN to be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft, has been battling flu-like symptoms during the Bulldogs' four-game losing streak. Crean stressed the importance of team focus for the upcoming game. Junior forward Rayshaun Hammonds has shown signs of returning to form after going through a self-admitted slump. Freshman point guard Sahvir Wheeler appears recovered from an ankle injury that slowed him during the team's four-game losing streak the second half of January. If the Bulldogs can get Edwards, Hammonds and Wheeler healthy and playing well at the same time, it would greatly improve the team's chances for a strong finish. 'We just need to focus on playing well,' Crean said. 'Like playing longer stretches together, talking through it, playing with confidence not, you know, not waiting for the bottom to fall out right and that's what happens sometimes with teams it's just keeps playing.' A loud home crowd could go a long way for the Bulldogs on Wednesday night with the team looking to snap out of a funk that's seen it lose eight of the last nine games. Auburn won the first meeting between the teams this season, 82-60, on Jan. 11 in Auburn. The post Georgia basketball braces for Auburn team bringing must-win' mentality to sold-out Stegeman Coliseum appeared first on DawgNation.