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    Iran's president on Sunday lashed out at criticism of its lagging response to the worst coronavirus outbreak in the Middle East as a “political war,” saying he had to weigh protecting the economy while tackling the pandemic. Hassan Rouhani said the government had to consider the effect of mass quarantine efforts on Iran's beleaguered economy, which is under heavy U.S. sanctions. It's a dilemma playing out across the globe, as leaders struggle to strike a balance between containing the pandemic and preventing their economies from crashing. “Health is a principle for us, but the production and security of society is also a principle for us,' Rouhani said at a Cabinet meeting. “We must put these principles together to reach a final decision.' “This is not the time to gather followers,” he added. “This is not a time for political war.” Even before the pandemic, Rouhani was under fire for the unraveling of the 2015 nuclear deal he concluded with the United States and other world powers. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the agreement and has imposed crippling sanctions on Iran that prevent it from selling oil on international markets. Iran reported another 139 deaths on Saturday, pushing the total number of fatalities to 2,517 amid 35,408 confirmed cases. Most people suffer only minor symptoms, such as fever and coughing, and recover within a few weeks. But the virus can cause severe illness and death, especially in elderly patients or those with underlying health problems. It is highly contagious, and can be spread by those showing no symptoms. In recent days, Iran has ordered the closure of nonessential businesses and banned travel between cities. But those measures came long after other countries in the region imposed more sweeping lockdowns. Many Iranians are still flouting orders to stay home in what could reflect widespread distrust of authorities. Iran has urged the international community to lift sanctions and is seeking a $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. Elsewhere in the region, Qatar reported its first death from the new coronavirus late Saturday, saying the total number of reported cases there was at least 590. The tiny, energy-rich nation said it flew 31 Bahrainis stranded in Iran into Doha on a state-run Qatar Airways flight. But since Bahrain is one of four Arab countries that has been boycotting Qatar in a political dispute since 2017, Doha said it could not fly the 31 onward to the island kingdom. “Bahraini officials have said they will send a flight for them at some undefined point in the future,” the Qatari government said in a statement. Bahrain said it planned a flight Sunday to pick up the stranded passengers. The kingdom said it had its own repatriation flights scheduled for those still stuck in Iran and warned Qatar that it “should stop interfering with these flights.”
  • The streets of Stockholm are quiet but not deserted. People still sit at outdoor cafes in the center of Sweden's capital. Vendors still sell flowers. Teenagers still chat in groups in parks. Some still greet each other with hugs and handshakes. After a long, dark Scandinavian winter, the coronavirus pandemic is not keeping Swedes at home even while citizens in many parts of the world are sheltering in place and won't find shops or restaurants open on the few occasions they are permitted to venture out. Swedish authorities have advised the public to practice social distancing and to work from home, if possible, and urged those over age 70 to self-isolate as a precaution. Yet compared to the lockdowns imposed elsewhere in the world, the government's response to the virus allows a liberal amount of personal freedom. Standing at bars has been banned in Sweden, but restaurant customers can still be served at tables instead of having to take food to go. High schools and universities are closed, but preschools and primary schools are still running classes in person. “Sweden is an outlier on the European scene, at least,” said Johan Giesecke, the country's former chief epidemiologist and now adviser to the Swedish Health Agency, a government body. “And I think that's good.” Other European nations “have taken political, unconsidered actions' instead of ones dictated by science, Giesecke asserted. It remains unclear how long Sweden's exceptional state will last. Prime Minister Stefan Lofven, warning of “many tough weeks and months ahead,” announced Friday that as of Sunday, gatherings would be limited to 50 people instead of 500. The government noted that weddings, funerals and Easter celebrations would be affected. Still, to reduce the spread of the virus in Germany and the U.K., groups larger than two are currently prohibited unless they are composed of people who already live together. Officials in Italy and France introduced increasingly restrictive limits on public activities and eventually authorized fines because they said too many people ignored social distancing recommendations. For now, the Swedish government maintains that citizens can be trusted to exercise responsibility for the greater good and will stay home if they experience any COVID-19 symptoms. Many Swedes are indeed keeping the recommended distance from others. Victoria Holmgren, 24, praised the Swedish government’s handling of the public health crisis as “very good.” “And it's partly because I don't think I could manage being inside the whole day,” Holmgren said. But some scientists have criticized the Swedish Public Health Agency's approach as irresponsible during a worldwide pandemic that has already killed over 21,000 people in Europe. In an open letter to the government, some 2,000 academics called for greater transparency and more justification for its infection prevention strategy. Sten Linnarsson, a professor at Karolinska Institute, a prominent medical university in Sweden, said the concern centers on “the assessments and the course that the Swedish government has taken through this epidemic, and especially because there is really a lack of scientific evidence being put forward for these policies.” Linnarsson compared Sweden's handling of the virus to letting a kitchen fire burn with the intent of extinguishing it later. “That doesn't make any sense. And the danger, of course, is that it burns the whole house down,' he said. Sweden's current chief epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, argued that even if the country's comparatively permissive policies are an anomaly, they are more sustainable and effective in protecting the public's health than “drastic” moves like closing schools for four or five months. Sweden, a nation of 10 million, had a total of 3,447 confirmed virus cases and and 105 deaths by Sunday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. However, there has been limited testing, with some 24,500 tests conducted by Wednesday, according to official statistics. 'The goal is to slow down the amount of new people getting infected so that health care gets a reasonable chance to take care of them. And that's what we all do in every country in Europe,” Tegnell said. “We just choose different methods to do it.” Susanna Moberg, a 63-year-old retired teacher, said she trusted the government and also believes Sweden’s experience with the virus will not be as dire as Italy's, which has by far the most virus-related deaths in the world at more than 10,000. “I'm not so worried. I'm not 70 years yet. And my children are not sick so we will go to a restaurant on Sunday,” Moberg said. “We said ‘Everybody is well and the restaurant is open.’ So we will go there to celebrate. We can't stay at home the whole day, all week.” ___ Vanessa Gera in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at and
  • In her first address to the nation on the coronavirus pandemic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel calmly appealed to citizens' reason and discipline to slow the spread of the virus, acknowledging as a woman who grew up in communist East Germany how difficult it is to give up freedoms, yet as a trained scientist emphasizing that the facts don't lie. Then, wearing the same blue pantsuit from the televised address, the 65-year-old popped into her local supermarket to pick up food, wine and toilet paper to take back to her Berlin apartment. For her, it was a regular shopping stop, but photos snapped by someone at the grocery store were shared worldwide as a reassuring sign of calm leadership amid a global crisis. With the coronavirus outbreak, Merkel is reasserting her traditional strengths and putting her stamp firmly on domestic policy after two years in which her star seemed to be fading, with attention focused on constant bickering in her governing coalition and her own party's troubled efforts to find a successor. Merkel has run Germany for more than 14 years and has over a decade's experience of managing crises. She reassured her compatriots in the 2008 financial crisis that their savings were safe, led a hard-nosed but domestically popular response to the eurozone debt crisis, and then took an initially welcoming — but divisive — approach to an influx of migrants in 2015. In the twilight of her chancellorship, she faces her biggest crisis yet — a fact underlined by her decision last week to make her first television address to the nation other than her annual New Year's message. 'This is serious — take it seriously,' she told her compatriots. 'Since German unification — no, since World War II — there has been no challenge to our country in which our acting together in solidarity matters so much.' With Germany largely shutting down public life, she alluded to her youth in communist East Germany as she spelled out the scale of the challenge and made clear how hard she found the prospect of clamping down on people's movement. 'For someone like me, for whom freedom of travel and movement were a hard-won right, such restrictions can only be justified by absolute necessity,' she said. But they were, she said, 'indispensable at the moment to save lives.' The drama was evident in Merkel's words, but the manner was familiar: Matter-of-fact and calm, reasoning rather than rousing, creating a message that hit home. It is a style that has served the former physicist well in juggling Germany's often-fractious coalitions and maintaining public support over the years. 'Merkel painted a picture of the greatest challenge since World War II, but she did not speak of war,' the influential Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper wrote. 'She did not rely on martial words or gestures, but on people's reason. ... Nobody knows if that will be enough, but her tone will at least not lead the people to sink into uncertainty and fear.' Merkel's response to the coronavirus pandemic is still very much a work in progress, but a poll released Friday by ZDF television showed 89% of Germans thought the government was handling it well. The poll saw Merkel strengthen her lead as the country's most important politician, and a strong 7% rise for her center-right Union bloc after months in which it was weighed down by questions over its future leadership. The poll, done by Forschungsgruppe Wahlen, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. The 65-year-old chancellor initially had Health Minister Jens Spahn be the public face of the government's response, drawing some criticism but has taken center stage over the past two weeks. She kept that up after going into quarantine on Sunday after a doctor who gave her a vaccination tested positive for the coronavirus. Since then she has twice tested negative for the virus herself but continues to work from home. On Monday, she led a Cabinet meeting by phone from home and then issued an audio message setting out a huge government relief package to cushion the blow of the crisis to business — a format she said was 'unusual, but it was important to me.' Her vice chancellor, Olaf Scholz, who is also finance minister and a member of her coalition partner Social Democrats, has also had a chance to shine in the crisis, leading the way with the aid package that will allow Germany to offer businesses more than 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) that he described as a 'bazooka.' The jury is still out on how the government's approach will work, but after having run a budget surplus for a half-decade, Germany is well-prepared to offer the massive aid program. Its health care system has been in good enough shape to be taking in patients from overwhelmed Italy and France, with intensive care beds still available. Although Germany has registered the third-highest number of coronavirus infections in Europe with 57,695, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, it has only seen 433 people die, placing it sixth in Europe behind Italy, Spain, France, Britain and even the Netherlands. Italy alone has over 10,000 dead. Experts have attributed Germany's success partially to widespread and early testing for the virus, among other things. In an audio message Thursday night, Merkel cautioned, however, that it was far too early to declare victory over COVID-19, saying “now is not the time to talk about easing measures.” No matter what the outcome of Germany's virus-fighting efforts, it won't change the fact that the Merkel era is drawing to a close. Merkel has never shown any signs of backing off her 2018 vow to leave politics at Germany's next election, due next year. But the crisis may burnish her government's lackluster image and improve its chances of making it through to the fall of 2021, after persistent speculation that it wouldn't last the full legislative term. And it certainly could put her successor on a better footing —though just who that will be is also up in the air. Merkel stepped down as her party's leader in 2018 but her heir apparent, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, lasted just over a year before declaring that she would step down after failing to establish her authority. The decision on who will take over the leadership of Merkel's Christian Democratic Union party was supposed to be made in April, but has been put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. ___ Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at and
  • Health authorities urged millions of residents of the New York City region to avoid non-essential travel due to surging coronavirus infections there as deaths in the United States and Europe rose and countries including Russia and Vietnam tightened travel and business restrictions. The travel advisory late Saturday came after the number of confirmed American deaths passed 2,000, more than double the level two days earlier. It applies to the 8.6 million people of New York City, the hardest-hit U.S. municipality, and others in the states of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. The advisory cited “extensive community transmission” in the area and urged residents to avoid travel for 14 days. Worldwide infections surpassed 660,000 mark, with more than 30,000 deaths as new cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. The United States leads the world with more than 120,000 reported cases. Five other countries have higher death tolls: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France. Italy has more than 10,000 deaths, the most of any country. The disease has spread to major U.S. cities including Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago and into rural America, where hotspots erupted in Midwestern towns and Rocky Mountain ski havens. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said defeating the virus will take “weeks and weeks and weeks.” The United Nations, which has its headquarters in New York City, donated 250,000 face masks to the city. Cuomo postponed the state's presidential primary from April 28 to June 23. The travel advisory by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said employees of trucking, food supply, financial services and some other industries were exempt. It said governors of the three states had “full discretion” over how to carry out the advisory. Earlier, Cuomo and governors of the other states rejected a suggestion by President Donald Trump that he might impose a quarantine on the region. Cuomo said that would be illegal, economically catastrophic and unproductive since other areas are already seeing a surge. Elsewhere, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin ordered his country's borders closed on Monday. Diplomats and residents of the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on the Baltic Sea were exempt. Vietnam cut back domestic airline flights and closed restaurants and other businesses for two weeks from Saturday. Gatherings of more than 20 people were banned and the government urged companies to allow employees to work from home if possible. Vietnam has quarantined nearly 60,000 people who entered the country from virus-infected nations or had contact with infected people, according to the Health Ministry. Canada's most populous province, Ontario, prohibited gatherings of more than four people in an emergency order Saturday. In Poland, President Andrzej Duda said the May 10 date for a presidential election may not be realistic under anti-virus restrictions. The opposition in parliament has called for postponing the vote, but the ruling party said it sees no reason for delay. Parliament approved changes Saturday to the election law to allow sick, elderly and quarantined people to vote remotely. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and lead to death. More than 135,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University. In Detroit, which has a large low-income population, the death toll rose to 31 with 1,381 infections as of midday Saturday. “The trajectory of Detroit is unfortunately even more steep than that of New York,” said Dr. Teena Chopra, the medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center. Chopra said many patients have ailments including asthma, heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. “This is off the charts,” she said. “We are seeing a lot of patients that are presenting to us with severe disease, rather than minor disease.” Some U.S. states began to try to limit exposure from visitors from harder-hit areas. Rhode Island National Guard troops were instructed to go door to door in coastal communities to find New Yorkers and advise them about a mandatory 14-day quarantine for people from the state. In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered anyone arriving from neighboring Louisiana to self-quarantine and said law enforcement officers would set up checkpoints to screen cars from the state. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot closed popular lakeshore parks after people ignored an order to stay home and urgings to avoid each other in public. The governor of Kansas has ordered the public to stay home starting Monday as the the virus takes hold in more rural areas where doctors worry about the lack of intensive care unit beds. A cluster of three counties in rural Indiana have surging rates of confirmed cases. One of them, Decatur, population 26,000, has 30 cases with one confirmed death and another suspected, said Sean Durbin, the county’s public health emergency preparedness coordinator. The county health department has run out of personal protective equipment, Durbin said. The last supply from the federal stockpile arrived more than a week ago and contained just 77 N95 masks and two dozen face shields. “I wish there was a stronger word for disappointed,' he said. 'I’m calling on them to do better.” Blaine County, Idaho, a scenic ski haven for wealthy tourists, now has about 100 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the highest rate per capita outside the New York City area. Two people have died. European governments including Italy, Spain and France have imposed lockdowns that left normally bustling city streets empty. Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte signed a decree freeing up 400 million euros ($440 million) for coupons and packages of food aid to be delivered door-to-door if necessary. Italy has almost completed a three-week lockdown. In Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, the death toll rose to 5,812. Another 8,000 confirmed infections pushed that count above 72,000 cases. The rate of infection is slowing and figures “indicate that the outbreak is stabilizing and may be reaching its peak in some areas,' said Spain's director of emergencies, Fernando Simon. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called for a more vigorous response from the European Union. Spain, Italy, France and six other members have asked the union to share the burden of European debt, dubbed coronabonds in the media, to help fight the virus. But the idea has met resistance from other members, led by Germany and the Netherlands. “It is the most difficult moment for the EU since its foundation and it has to be ready to rise to the challenge,” Sanchez said. As others tightened controls, China eased more restrictions following the ruling Communist Party’s declaration of victory over the coronavirus in the country where it emerged in December. Subway and bus service resumed Saturday in Wuhan, the city of 11 million people at the center of the outbreak. Restrictions that bar Wuhan residents from leaving Hubei province end April 8. ___ Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report. ___ Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at and
  • As the coronavirus rages across the United States, mainly in large urban areas, more than a third of U.S. counties have yet to report a single positive test result for COVID-19 infections, an analysis by The Associated Press shows. Data compiled by John Hopkins University shows that 1,297 counties have no confirmed cases of COVID-19 out of 3,142 counties nationwide. Of the counties without positive tests, 85% are in rural areas — from predominantly white communities in Appalachia and the Great Plains to majority Hispanic and Native American stretches of the American Southwest — that generally have less everyday contact between people that can help transmit the virus. At the same time, counties with zero positive tests for COVID-19 have a higher median age and higher proportion of people older than 60 — the most vulnerable to severe effects of the virus — and far fewer intensive care beds should they fall sick. Median household income is lower too, potentially limiting health care options. The demographics of these counties hold major implications as the Trump administration develops guidelines to rate counties by risk of the virus spreading, empowering local officials to revise social distancing orders that have sent much of the U.S. economy into freefall. President Donald Trump has targeted a return to a semblance of normalcy for the economy by Easter Sunday, April 12. Experts in infectious disease see an opportunity in slowing the spread of coronavirus in remote areas of the country that benefit from “natural” social distancing and isolation, if initial cases are detected and quarantined aggressively. That can buy rural health care networks time to provide robust care and reduce mortality. But they also worry that sporadic testing for coronavirus could be masking outbreaks that -- left unattended -- might overwhelm rural health networks. “They'll be later to get the infection, they'll be later to have their epidemics,” said Christine K. Johnson, a professor of epidemiology at the University of California, Davis. “But I don't think they're going to be protected because there's nowhere in the U.S. that's isolated.” Counties that have zero confirmed COVID-19 cases could raise a red flag about inadequate testing, she said. “I hope the zeros are really zeros -- I worry that they’re not doing enough testing in those regions because they’re not thinking they’re at risk,” she said. In New Mexico, a state with 2 million residents spanning an area the size of Italy, Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham has moved aggressively to contain the coronavirus' spread with a statewide school shutdown and prohibition on most gatherings of over five people. Nearly half of the state's 33 counties are free of any positive coronavirus cases. New Mexico is among the top five states in coronavirus testing per capita, though some virus-free counties aren't yet equipped with specialized testing sites beyond samplings by a handful of doctor offices. Torrance County Manager Wayne Johnson said plans are being prepared for the first three dedicated COVID-19 testing sites, in the high-desert county of 15,000 residents that spans an area three times the size of Rhode Island. A statewide stay-at-home order is keeping many residents from commuting to jobs in adjacent Bernalillo County, the epicenter of the state’s COVID-19 infections, with 93 confirmed cases out of a state government tally of 208 as of Saturday night. “We don’t have any test sites open, and part of that is that we don’t have any needs for the test yet,” Johnson said. Still, Johnson said he worries that an outbreak could overwhelm the county's sole local medical clinic and an all-volunteer corps of emergency medical technicians. The state´s first of two coronavirus-related deaths occurred last Sunday within a southern oil-producing region in Eddy County, where two other positive tests have surfaced. A man in his late-70s died shortly after arriving at a hospital in Artesia, and tested positive postmortem. He had previously visited two health clinics, and at the hospital five staff were quarantined for possible exposure even though they wore face masks. State Deputy Epidemiologist Chad Smelser said health officials have continued to painstakingly retrace the steps of infected patients and notify people who came into contact with them. There are dozens of connections per infection on average. “We know the details of his prior visits in the health care system,' Smelser said of the deceased Eddy County patient. 'We've worked with those physicians to assess their exposure. And we do not believe that he acquired it in the health care setting.” State health officials say it is unclear how many people have been tested for coronavirus in each county. Medical experts say uneven testing patterns across the country make it difficult to gauge whether remote areas are really better off. “It’s a fundamental unknown,” said Benjamin Neuman, a virologist at Texas A&M University in Texarkana. “I think there is some truth to that notion that there are lower infection rates out there” in rural areas. He said he fears for homeless populations and undocumented migrants. ¨We hope they stay safe. Those would be hard places to get rid of the coronavirus,¨ Neuman said. Complaints that testing is not readily available extend to the crossroads town of Crossett in southern Arkansas, where surrounding Ashley County has no confirmed coronavirus cases. Disabled veteran Marty Zollman, 42, of Crossett says his wife, a clothing store clerk, and teenage daughter sought coronavirus testing this week for fever and flu-like symptoms at a local health clinic and were turned away. “We might be contagious, but no one will test her,” Zollman said of his wife, Janet, who was awaiting surgery for breast cancer. “They keep turning her down. They don’t have a source of testing.” He lashed out at Trump for indicating that testing is readily available. “Now it’s time for me to call his bluff. If he’s got the equipment ... he’s got to provide it,” Zollman said. In New Mexico, along the southernmost finger of the Rocky Mountains, Mora Valley Community Health Services and a companion agency attend to elderly patients living in extreme poverty in Mora County, where there have been no confirmed COVID-19 infections and few if any people tested. With a population of 4,500 that is more than 80% Latino, the county is among the economically poorest in the nation. Average combined household income is $27,000. “There's elderly out there that have dementia, who don't have a family ... who eat out of cans,' said Julián Barela, CEO of Community Health Services, which ordinarily serves a steady stream of Medicaid and Medicare patients with health, dental and behavior health services. Under new state directives, the clinic has scuttled all non-emergency appointments — most of its caseload — to comply with a measure designed to conserve dwindling protective gear such as masks, gloves and gowns for health care workers, Barela said. The clinic has yet to see a patient with telltale symptoms of coronavirus worth testing. Barela said it has been alarming to turn away patients who feel they need attention as new federal grant money arrives. “We don't have an emergency backlog, it doesn't seem reasonable that we're just shut down,” he said. “We should not operate the same as New York. There is no reason for it.”
  • The world changed remarkably this past week — yet again, just as it did the week before, as the coronavirus marched across the world. No corner of the planet was safe, it seemed: If the virus itself wasn't upending lives, it was the isolation that spread as the world locked down or the economic repercussions of the fight. Associated Press journalists across the planet chronicled it. This guide to some of their words and images is a diary of a world at once on pause and in the middle of the biggest fight of its generation. More than perhaps anyone, front-line medical professionals are seeing the virus' effects up close — and taking the biggest risks. This series of portraits from Italy, showing some of them up close, puts faces with the facts. And in Iran, another hard-hit area, belief in a false treatment that was poisonous killed hundreds. New York City became a terrifying epicenter of the virus in the past week as a “cacophony of coughing” overran emergency rooms and health care workers worried they might be next. And as more was asked of Americans, an important question emerged: Are they ready for a once-in-a-generation kind of sacrifice? In addition to covering breaking news, the AP is focusing on several overall areas in its coverage. Here's a look at some of the most significant work from those areas over the past week. HEALTH AND SCIENCE: THE VIRUS, AND FIGHTING IT Scientists are scrambling to find ways to protect people from the coronavirus including collecting the blood of recovered patients to harvest the antibodies they’ve already produced to fight the virus. The excitement about treating the new virus with a malaria drug now used against lupus and rheumatoid arthritis along with an antibiotic is raising hopes, but the evidence that it works is thin. With capacity also stretched thin, U.S. hospitals are rushing to find beds for a coming flood of patients, opening older closed hospitals and repurposing other medical buildings. And in the world's most densely populated cities, how do you practice social distancing? The distancing rules are affecting U.S. seniors in nuanced ways. Some are resilient and say the coronavirus crisis reminds them of World War II rationing and past disease epidemics. Others are isolated and lonely in senior homes that have imposed visitor bans. Those struggling with mental illness and substance abuse face challenges, too, from a pandemic that requires distancing and isolation. And in Europe, political leaders are hailing a potential breakthrough in the fight against COVID-19: simple pin-prick blood tests or nasal swabs that can determine within minutes if someone has, or previously had, the virus. The tests could reveal the true extent of the outbreak, but some scientists have challenged their accuracy. THE ECONOMY: RECESSION LOOMS The effects of the pandemic reverberated through the world economy. Businesses shut down, millions of people lost jobs, and governments scrambled to put together aid packages. Feel like you had whiplash? You’re not alone. Never before have economies screeched to such a sudden, violent stop. Some economists see a downturn that could rival the Great Depression. The U.S. reported astronomical unemployment figures, quadrupling the previous record for claims, set in 1982. Congress passed a $2.2 trillion emergency relief package, which led to examinations of the ways that might help people stay afloat and answers about the one-time checks for most Americans and enhanced unemployment benefits included in the package. President Donald Trump vowed that the U.S. economy would be open for business by mid-April, but experts warned that it’s not as easy as flipping a switch. In Europe, the crisis is already challenging farmers, with closed borders preventing seasonal workers from showing up to harvest crops. And in Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, we started to get a sense of how things might look when restrictions ease, with millions of people heading back to work as authorities began lifting the last of the controls that confined them to their home. In places just starting lockdowns, people whose jobs could continue came to terms with the realities of working from home, admiring each others’ kitchen cabinets on video conference calls and dealing with interruptions from kids and pets. And in a bit of brighter news, volunteers around the world banded together to sew masks for hospital workers facing shortages of protective equipment. GOVERNMENTS: ARE THEY ACCOUNTABLE? Questions of accountability are at the core of the coronavirus saga. Who is doing what, and are they doing right? Are abuses of power taking place? Where can — and should — nations, government and businesses do better to protect people? From Washington, a $2 trillion legislative package to shore up the economy was carefully written to prevent President Donald Trump and his family from profiting from the fund. But the fine print reveals that businesses owned by Trump and his family still may be eligible for some assistance. The nation's governors are trying to get what they need from Washington, and fast. But that means navigating the disorienting politics of dealing with Trump, an unpredictable president with a love for cable news and a penchant for retribution. The Pentagon was racing to shield vital missions even as it faced urgent calls for help on the civilian front. And for prisons around the United States, plagued for years by violence, misconduct and staffing shortages, the coronavirus pandemic throws gasoline on the fire. The Federal Bureau of Prisons has a scattershot policy on COVID-19 safety, and both advocates and even prison guards are calling for quick reform. INEQUALITY: THE STRUGGLING The world is getting used to a new normal of curfews, economic devastation and deep travel restrictions. For the people of Gaza, Sarajevo, Lebanon and other places that have known war and siege, this is all too familiar. Recalling life under siege in Kashmir, one man remembers: “It helped us to rediscover the family and social talk.' Overlooked people and communities everywhere are struggling with the new coronavirus. There are the Americans who’ve had their water shut off in an age when hand washing could save your life, and the smaller communities that are dealing with the crisis. Two families in San Francisco, one rich and one poor, face very different struggles as they navigate this frightening time. In this view from rural America, we meet people and communities filled with fear that, despite the natural social distancing there, the pandemic is coming. And in Europe, the mostly deserted streets of virus-riddled Spain are still populated with homeless people, as documented in a sobering photo essay. THE RIPPLE EFFECT: SOCIETY AND CULTURE As the virus spreads, life changes — for right now and, maybe in some cases, for the long term as well. People stuck at home changed entire family configurations, leading to some couples trying to figure out new challenges — and some partners and children becoming potentially more vulnerable to abuse. Other families drew closer, some by taking walks in their neighborhood, as seen in this profile of a Virginia community. More restaurant- and takeout-focused diners turned to — or turned back to — cooking. And laughter, long a go-to expression in tough times, was bursting forth in unusual, virus-specific ways. In Lebanon, COVID-19 managed to do what a string of wars could not: shut down nightlife. In France, where going out for the morning baguette is an irrepressible part of life, the push to isolate was creating new conversations about it. And an American milestone, baseball's opening day, passed without a single crack of a bat in ballparks that were empty and desolate. 'ONE GOOD THING' AP’s new daily series “One Good Thing” is designed to tell stories about the kindness of strangers and those individuals around the world who sacrifice for others during the outbreak. That means a sailmaker in Maine making masks and university veterinary departments loaning ventilators to ill-equipped hospitals. And in Berlin, “United We Stream” was dreamed up as a way to keep the moribund nightlife financially healthy while entertaining a quarantined city. GROUND GAME: INSIDE THE OUTBREAK Tune in daily to the virus edition of AP's “ Ground Game ” podcast, where host Ralph Russo taps the expertise of AP's global team covering the coronavirus story. ___ Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at and
  • President Donald Trump has backed away from calling for a quarantine for coronavirus hotspots in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, instead directing Saturday night that a “strong Travel Advisory” be issued to stem the spread of the outbreak. Trump's talk earlier Saturday of what he called a quarantine for those hard-hit areas raised questions whether the federal government had the power to do so. Vice President Mike Pence has since tweeted federal health officials are urging residents of the three states “to refrain from non-essential travel for the next 14 days.” The United States has more confirmed coronavirus infections than any other country. Cities including Detroit, Chicago and New Orleans are growing as hot spots of infection, while New York City continues to be pummeled. Nurses there are calling for more masks and other gear to safeguard themselves against the virus that has so far sickened more than 52,000 people and killed over 700 in New York state, mostly in the city. Italy's death toll from the coronavirus pandemic is the highest in the world, with 10,000 fatalities. Here are some of AP's top stories Saturday on the world's coronavirus pandemic. Follow for updates through the day and for stories explaining some of its complexities. WHAT'S HAPPENING TODAY: — The coronavirus continued its unrelenting spread across the U.S. with fatalities doubling in two days to more than 2,000 and authorities saying Saturday an infant who tested positive died in Chicago. Elsewhere, Russia announced a full border closure and prevention measures turned violent in parts of Africa, with Kenyan police firing tear gas and officers elsewhere seen on video striking people with batons. — Health experts say U.S. prisons and jails are a potential epicenter for the coronavirus: Social distancing is nearly impossible, medical services behind bars have long been substandard and even hand sanitizer is deemed contraband in some because of its alcohol content. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomohas delayed the state's presidential primary from April to June to keep people from gathering during the coronavirus pandemic. More than a dozen states have delayed some elections, in some cases including their presidential primaries. — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 will not be allowed to board domestic flights or intercity trains. Trudeau's wife tested positive for the virus but she said Saturday she has recovered. — Census workers in the U.S. have to take a different approach to collecting information. Nonprofits and civic organizations leading census outreach efforts are pivoting to digital strategies. — Brazil's president is being sharply criticized for downplaying the pandemic, even suggesting Brazilians have a natural immunity to the virus that causes COVID-19. — U.S. child welfare agencies are confronting new challenges. Many agencies, seeking to limit the virus’s spread, have cut back on in-person inspections at homes of children considered at risk of abuse and neglect. — More than a fifth of Detroit’s police force is being quarantined after two officers died from the virus and at least 39 tested positive, including the chief. — The coronavirus pandemic is defining for the globe what's “essential” and what things we really can't do without, even though we might not need them for survival. ___ WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. The vast majority of people recover. Here are the symptoms of the virus compared with the common flu. One of the best ways to prevent spread of the virus is washing your hands with soap and water. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends first washing with warm or cold water and then lathering soap for 20 seconds to get it on the backs of hands, between fingers and under fingernails before rinsing off. You should wash your phone, too. Here’s how. Misinformation overload: How to separate fact from fiction and rumor from deliberate efforts to mislead. TRACKING THE VIRUS: Drill down and zoom in at the individual county level, and you can access numbers that will show you the situation where you are, and where loved ones or people you’re worried about live. ___ ONE NUMBER: 2.2 MILLION: More than 2.2 million people are imprisoned in America, more than any other place in the world. Health experts say prisons and jails are a potential epicenter for America’s coronavirus pandemic. ___ IN OTHER NEWS: PORTRAITS FROM THE PANDEMIC: The doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic in Italy are almost unrecognizable behind their masks, scrubs, gloves and hairnets — the flimsy battle armor that is their only barrier to contagion. ___ Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at and
  • Another member of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Cabinet has developed symptoms of COVID-19, as the number of people with the coronovrius to die in the U.K. passed the 1,000 mark Saturday. Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said he had symptoms of the disease and was self-isolating a day after the prime minister and Britain's health secretary revealed they tested positive for the virus and were experiencing mild symptoms. Johnson. 55. is the highest-profile political leader to have contracted the virus. Jack sat beside him in the House of Commons on Wednesday before Parliament shut down until at least April 21 to reduce the risk of infections. Business Secretrary Alok Sharma said Johnson continues to show only 'mild symptoms' of coronavirus. “He continues to lead the government's effort in combating Covid-19,'' Sharma told reporters, 'This morning he held a video conference call and he will continue to lead right from the front on this. 'What this has reminded us is that no one is immune and that is precisely why we ask people to follow the Government advice in terms of staying at home where they are able to do that,'' Sharma said. Johnson has been accused of failing to follow the British government's distancing measures after he, Health Secretary Matt Hancock, 41, and the chief medical officer of England began self-isolating with symptoms Friday. The medical officer, Dr. Chris Whitty, has been advising the prime minister during the virus pandemic and not said if he was tested. The editor of the respected British medical journal The Lancet published a scathing editorial Saturday that criticized the government for doing too little, too late to protect public health and leaving the U.K.'s public health system “wholly unprepared for this pandemic.” Lancet editor Richard Horton wrote that despite numerous warnings, Britain's strategy for containing the virus failed, 'in part, because ministers didn't follow WHO's advice to 'test, test, test' every suspected case. They didn't isolate and quarantine. They didn't contact trace. “These basic principles of public health and infectious disease control were ignored, for reasons that remain opaque.” Horton said. Keith Willett, the National Health Service's strategic incident director for COVID-19, disputed the editorial’s conclusions. He said the NHS freed up 33,000 beds for virus patients - a third of all hospital capacity -and enabled 18,000 nurses and doctors to return to practice. Three new makeshift hospitals are being built. “In respect of our NHS responsibilities and response, the facts clearly speak for themselves,' Willett said. NHS employees have begun getting tested for the virus, a move seen as helping get self-isolating staff members back on the job. The issue of health workers going into self-isolation has proved to be a big problem for the NHS because workers are sometimes in that position because they have an ill family member, not because they themselves are infected. Meanwhile, authorities released photos of the inside of the ExCel center, an exhibition space which is being converted into a makeshift hospital. It will have two wards, and ultimately have a capacity of 4,000. Initially, however, it will house some 500 beds with ventilators and oxygen. The U.K. had 17,300 confirmed virus cases as of Saturday, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. British officials reported that the number of deaths increased by 260 from a day earlier, bringing the country's total for virus-related deaths to 1,019. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. ___ Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at and
  • Salvador Calzadillas isn't worried about catching the coronavirus when he's picking mandarin oranges in the trees in central California. But he said the mere act of getting to the groves each day puts him and his wife, also a farmworker, at risk, and there’s nothing they can do to change that. Farmworkers, after all, can't work from home. Calzadillas and his wife are among half a dozen workers who crowd into a car or van to get to the groves a 40-minute drive away. There, they are huddled in a group to get daily instructions — without regard for social distancing, he said. “There’s been no changes so far, everything is the same,” Calzadillas said. “Many of my co-workers say it’s like we’re immortal, we’re working just the same. There’s no prevention, and we keep working.” The 31-year-old is one of many workers on farms operating as essential businesses in the heart of California's farm-rich Central Valley, supplying food to much of the United States even as schools, restaurants and stores have closed down because of the virus. More than a third of the country's vegetables and two-thirds of its fruits and nuts are grown in California, whose farms and ranches brought in nearly $50 billion in 2018, according to the state Department of Agriculture. Agriculture groups and union leaders are urging employers to take extra precautions to prevent the outbreak from spreading among California's farmworkers, who are already in short supply. Workers getting sidelined by illness could jeopardize crop yields and disrupt the food supply. Some farms are heeding the call, union officials and growers say. But it can be difficult to separate workers by 6 feet (2 meters) as recommended because of the way certain crops are grown, said Dave Puglia, president of Western Growers, a group representing family farmers in California, Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico. And efficiency is also critical, he said, with farmers facing pressure to restock grocery shelves. “You would have to stagger the workers who are harvesting,” Puglia said. “That is a very inefficient and a very, very costly way to operate, and most farmers wouldn't be able to do it. They would be losing way too much money.” Western Growers said many members have added sanitation stations in the fields and required hand-washing before and after work as well as spaced out workers in packing facilities. United Farm Workers is using the moment to push for longstanding requests, including removing the need for a doctor's note and other hurdles to getting sick pay. In a letter to the agriculture industry, the union said workers should be able to wash their hands frequently and be encouraged to stay home if they are sick. 'What we're finding is that most growers are not communicating with their employees to even share the basics: how to practice best practices (like) washing your hands' and keeping distance from others, said Armando Elenes, secretary treasurer at United Farm Workers, which represents up to 27,000 seasonal workers. Joe Pezzini, president of vegetable grower Ocean Mist Farms, said his office and sales staff are working remotely wherever possible. He said the company, which operates in California's Coachella Valley and Central Coast, had workers use gloves and sanitized equipment to ensure food safety long before the virus appeared. “One of the biggest changes is just in the training and education,” he said, including encouraging workers to keep a safe distance from each other, even on breaks. “Partly for personal safety, but it’s also for, ‘Hey, we’re feeding the nation. We’re creating food the nation needs right now.’” The coronavirus crisis has drawn fresh attention to farmers' critical role, with residents finding some supermarket shelves cleaned out by people stocking up and then hunkering down in their homes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the threat of contracting COVID-19 from food or food packaging is low. Farmers and workers are mostly concerned about passing it to each other. For most, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. As of Friday, more than 90 people have died of the virus in California and over 4,600 have tested positive, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Most cases are in the San Francisco Bay Area and around Los Angeles. Leti Martinez, who picks mandarin oranges, said her employer told her little about the virus except to explain that the farm is allowed to keep operating. The 31-year-old said she wears gloves to prevent her hands from getting cut and wraps a cloth around her face to keep out the dust. But she is worried about her commute with other workers and said they sometimes face a shortage of running water in the bathrooms once they’re there. Another concern is conditions for foreign workers in the U.S. on temporary agricultural visas, known as H-2As. They often live in close quarters, sometimes with bunk-style beds or in motels provided by their employers, and commute together in vans and buses. A coalition of farmworker advocates has asked U.S. officials to require employers to provide at least 6 feet between beds for such workers and that they be tested for the virus before entering the country. A Labor Department spokesman said this week that there were no announcements about changed working conditions for H-2A workers. Those workers account for a small percentage of farm labor overall but are significant in Colorado, which has a shorter growing season, and for certain crops, like berries, said Puglia of Western Growers. To address conditions at the thousands of farms that the California Farm Bureau Federation represents, its president, Jamie Johansson, said he has told farms to have workers go out in smaller groups “when possible.” His organization also says hand-washing on farms is routine for food safety reasons. Some small farms are taking extra measures. Heringer Estates, a 152-year-old family-owned vineyard and winery in Clarksburg, has 30 workers growing its grapes. Steve Heringer said workers now have more hand sanitizer and already use their own gloves for field work. “If they're working in rows, (we) have them working back to back” to maximize distance, he said. “It's had pretty little impact on the vineyard side, but we have a heightened awareness.” ___ Taxin reported from Orange County, California.
  • In tiny Munfordville, Kentucky, the closure of the public library has cut people off from a computer used only for filling out census forms online. In Minneapolis, a concert promoting the once-a-decade count is now virtual. In Orlando, Florida, advocates called off knocking on doors in a neighborhood filled with new residents from Puerto Rico. Across the U.S., the coronavirus has waylaid efforts to get as many people as possible to participate in the count, which determines how much federal money goes to communities. The outbreak and subsequent orders by states and cities to stay home and avoid other people came just as the census ramped up for most Americans two weeks ago. On Saturday, the Census Bureau announced it was going to continue to suspend its 2020 census field operations for another two weeks to April 15. That leaves thousands of advocates, officials and others who spent years planning for the U.S. government's largest peacetime mobilization scrambling to come up with contingency plans for pulling it off amid a pandemic. “Right now, everybody is faced with figuring out how to outreach to our communities not being face to face,” said Jennifer Chau, leader of a coalition of Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander organizations in Phoenix that passed out 300 reusable boba tea cartons in January to anyone who signed a card pledging to complete their census form. Nonprofits and civic organizations leading census outreach efforts are pivoting to digital strategies. Texting campaigns, webinars, social media and phone calls are replacing door-knocking, rallies and face-to-face conversations. But it comes at a cost: Experts say connecting with trusted community leaders in person is the best way to reach people in hard-to-count groups that may be wary of the federal government. 'It's making it exponentially more difficult to get the kind of accurate count that is needed for this census. There's no sugarcoating it. It's really tough,' said Arturo Vargas, CEO of NALEO Educational Fund, a Latino advocacy group. “Thank goodness for technology. We wouldn't be able to do what we're doing without it.” Although the U.S. Census Bureau is spending $500 million on outreach efforts, including advertising, it's relying on more than 300,000 nonprofits, businesses, local governments and civic groups to encourage participation in their communities. The groups are recalibrating their messaging to address the upheaval in people's lives, including job losses and stay-at-home orders, and to focus on how census numbers help determine the distribution of federal aid or medical supplies their communities may get during the coronavirus crisis. The groups also are emphasizing that if people answer the questionnaire online, by phone or by mail now, they can avoid having a census taker sent to their house to ask them questions come late spring and summer. “We want people to understand that even though we have this health emergency going on, there's a connection to the census with how the distribution of funds to states is all going to rest on how many people there are in a community,” Minnesota's demographer Susan Brower said. The 2020 census will help determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, as well as the distribution of some $1.5 trillion in federal spending. The coronavirus has forced the U.S. Census Bureau to delay the start of tallies of homeless people and other transient populations such as racetrack workers, college students, prisoners and nursing home residents. It has pushed back the deadline for wrapping up the count by two weeks, to mid-August. “Of all of our worst nightmares of things that could have gone wrong with the census, we did not anticipate this set of actions,' said Al Fontenot of the Census Bureau. “But our staff has been extremely resilient about looking for solutions.' On the plus side, more people at home now have time to answer the questionnaire, and the deadline extension offers chances to reach out to more people, Brower said. In some places, outreach done well before the virus spread in the U.S. is paying off, but organizers aren't sure it will last. For the first week that people could start answering the 2020 questionnaire, New York City — which had dedicated $40 million to outreach efforts — was well ahead of its 2010 pace of self-responses. But now it's the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. The coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, including fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. More than 30% of U.S. residents already had answered the census questionnaire as of Friday. Most of the temporary census takers hired by the government won't be sent out until May to knock on the doors of homes where people haven't yet responded. 'We are trending much better than 10 years ago, even in this craziness,' said Sheena Wright, president and CEO of United Way of New York City. That's despite events meant to generate participation getting canceled or delayed. Pittsburgh had commissioned Jasmine Cho, who uses cookie decorating to highlight Asian American and social justice issues, to lead decorating workshops with a census theme. An October session drew almost 50 people and grabbed attention, but workshops planned for March and April were canceled. “I'm hopeful that under the current quarantine measures, that people will actually pay more attention to their census mailings and take the time to complete it,” Cho said. The self-described “cookie activist” and the city are in talks to make an online instructional video about census-themed cookie decorating. San Francisco was supposed to ring in Census Day on April 1 with one of its famous cable cars rolling through iconic neighborhoods, but that became a casualty of COVID-19. Money from a $3.5 million budget earmarked for food and venues for census form-filling parties and town halls in the Bay Area will now go toward video marketing and printed materials, according to Stephanie Kim of the United Way Bay Area. “It's been hard to have to pivot on all the activities and events they were planning for for a long time,” Kim said. “So many organizations had planned for big community get-togethers.” ___ Follow Mike Schneider on Twitter at Tang reported from Phoenix and is a member of The Associated Press’ race and ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter at

Local News

  • UPDATE [7 p.m.]: The Georgia Department of Public Health on Friday night reported one more death due to COVID-19 since noon, bringing the state’s toll to 65. The state had topped 2,000 cases at noon, and the DPH recorded an additional 197 cases since then, bringing the total to 2,198. Of those patients, 607 are hospitalized, which is about 27.6% of all cases. Friday’s update was the first time the DPH had released data on where people died. Dougherty County led the count with 13 deaths, followed by Fulton with 12 and Cobb and Lee each with five. Nearly 10,000 tests have been conducted across the state. About 22.2% of those returned positive results. Chattahoochee and Hart counties recorded their first cases Friday, bringing the number of counties affected to 104. Habersham had its only case removed, and it’s unclear whether that was a false positive or if it was moved to a different county’s count. Fulton County saw the largest increase in new cases with 40, followed by DeKalb at 38 and both Cobb and Gwinnett with 19. Fulton still leads the state in cases with 347. As of 7 p.m. Thursday, there were 219 cases in DeKalb, 163 in Cobb, 121 in Gwinnett, 107 in Bartow, 53 in Clayton, 50 in Cherokee, 44 in Henry, 32 in Douglas, 30 in Hall, 22 in Fayette, 21 in Forsyth, 16 in Rockdale, 15 in Newton and 13 in Paulding. Patients between the ages of 18 and 59 make up the majority of cases at 56%, while those 60 and older make up 34% of cases. The DPH does not release compiled data on how many patients have recovered. For the full update, click here. ORIGINAL STORY [noon]: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Georgia surpassed 2,000 Friday as the death toll continues to climb. At 2,001, the cases reported by state health officials have increased 150% since the start of this week. On Monday, the number of confirmed cases across the state was fewer than 1,000. At least 64 Georgians have died as a result of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, according to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Public Health. Eight more deaths were reported since late Thursday night.   Of those infected, less than one-third are hospitalized across the state, according to health officials.  » COMPLETE COVERAGE: Coronavirus in Georgia For most, COVID-19 causes only mild or moderate symptoms. Older adults and those with existing health problems are at risk of more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover in a matter of weeks. » DASHBOARD: Real-time stats and charts tracking coronavirus in Georgia » MORE: Map tracks coronavirus globally in real time The virus has now affected two-thirds of the counties in the state, with the greatest impact to those in metro Atlanta. Georgia ranks 10th nationally in number of confirmed cases. It is sixth in number of deaths caused by COVID-19, according to the latest available data. About 3.2% of Georgians who have tested positive have died. » AJC IN-DEPTH: In hard-hit Georgia, virus expected to linger Habersham County reported its first case Friday and Upson reported its first two, further widening the gap between counties affected by the virus and those untouched. Only 56 of Georgia’s 159 counties do not currently have coronavirus cases.   The situation in Dougherty County is worsening. The southwest Georgia county of about 90,000 people reported 29 new cases since late Thursday night, according to health officials. Its total of 193 confirmed cases falls behind the much larger Fulton County but ahead of all other metro Atlanta counties. Considering the latest figures, Dougherty has the state’s highest concentration per capita of patients known to be infected with COVID-19.  » MORE: City under siege: Coronavirus exacts heavy toll in Albany Of the metro Atlanta counties, there are now 307 cases of the virus in Fulton, 181 in DeKalb, 144 in Cobb, 102 in Gwinnett, 98 in Bartow, 55 in Carroll, 46 each in Cherokee and Clayton, 40 in Henry, 27 in Douglas, 24 in Hall, 16 in Rockdale, 15 in Newton and 12 in Paulding. The number of confirmed cases has multiplied rapidly as the virus spreads and testing capacity has ramped up. As of Friday, nearly 10,000 tests had been conducted across the state, and about 20% of those returned positive results.  As numbers balloon, Gov. Brian Kemp has renewed his call for Georgians to stay home and practice social distancing. At a town hall broadcast Thursday night, Kemp urged residents to heed directives to avoid more restrictive measures, like a statewide stay-at-home mandate. » RELATED: Kemp urges Georgians to heed virus warnings but balks at drastic steps Bars and nightclubs remain closed across the state, many public gatherings are banned, and the elderly and medically fragile are ordered to shelter in place. » PHOTOS: Metro Atlanta adjusts to shifts in daily life amid coronavirus crisis Many Georgia cities, including several in metro Atlanta, have issued their own stay-at-home orders to residents, shutting down nonessential businesses and imposing curfews. On Thursday, Kemp extended the closure of public schools into late April. » MORE: Georgia families brace after Kemp extends closure of schools Those who believe they are experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19 are asked to contact their primary care doctor or an urgent care clinic. Do not show up unannounced at an emergency room or health care facility. Georgians can also call the state COVID-19 hotline at 844-442-2681 to share public health information and connect with medical professionals.  — Please return to for updates.
  • The University of North Georgia says it will adopt a distance-learning model for the remainder of this year’s spring semester classes.   From the UNG website… The University System of Georgia (USG) has determined that all 26 institutions, including UNG, will move to online instruction for all courses for the remainder of the semester with extremely limited exceptions. This action comes following last week’s decision to suspend instruction for two weeks to ensure business and instructional continuity, and to allow further state assessment of COVID-19. In the end, we want to ensure that our faculty, staff and students are safe; that we do our part to help stem the spread of the coronavirus in Georgia; and that we fulfill our mission to graduate our students even in the face of these challenging times.  Based on the March 16 announcement from the USG                  , students will not be allowed to return to campus until they receive permission from the university, which will be forthcoming soon. Additionally, residence halls will be closed, with minimal exceptions for students unable to return home or who cannot find housing elsewhere. We will make every effort to accommodate those students who are unable to depart campus.  We will send specific instructions to students regarding when they can return to campus to retrieve their belongings from residence halls. Students will be expected to follow those instructions. We will provide additional information on refunds for housing, dining, and other services, as we receive additional guidance from the USG. Students should wait for university officials to contact them.  The university will remain open, with minimal staff physically on-site, to ensure continuity of certain services.  We know that students, faculty and staff will have many questions based on this announcement. We will be providing more detailed information to you frequently in the days ahead. 
  • With schools in Athens and around the state not re-opening until April 27 at the earliest, the Clarke County School District continues to provide meals for students.  From the Clarke Co School District… The CCSD will provide free meals for students beginning Tuesday, March 17. Meals will be available for pick up during weekdays at two locations (Hilsman Middle and Oglethorpe Ave. Elem) and delivered to select neighborhoods via school bus (along existing bus routes).  Click here to view community food resources. Pick-up Locations (Hilsman Middle and Oglethorpe Ave. Elementary) Meals will be available for pickup between 8:00 a.m. – Noon at the following locations:  Hilsman Middle School – 870 Gaines School Rd, Athens, GA 30605  Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School – 1150 Oglethorpe Ave, Athens, GA 30606 Bus Delivery Routes to Select Neighborhoods (along existing bus routes) - Updated 3/26/20 Following are links to the delivery schedule to select neighborhoods. A CCSD school bus will make scheduled stops to deliver meals. Click on a neighborhood location to view the bus delivery routes:  Route 1: BETHEL HOMES, PARKVIEW, ROCKSPRINGS & BROAD ACRES  Route 2: VINE & HERMAN ST., NELLIE B., SPRING VALLEY ESTATES, HALLMARK MHP  Route 3: HIGHLAND GREENS MHP, PINEWOOD MHP, & COUNTRY CORNERS MHP  Route 4: PINEWOOD APTS, CLARKE GARDEN APTS, TOWNE VIEW PL  Route 5: ATHENS GARDEN, DEER PARK, FIREWOOD, & BIG OAK CIR  Route 6: KNIGHTS BRIDGE MHP, STONEHENGE, CREEKSIDE MANOR, INTOWN SUITES, & OGLETHORPE ELEM  Route 7: COLUMBIA BROOKSIDE, UNIVERSITY GARDENS, SYCAMORE DRIVE  Route 8: SOUTH RIDGE, ROLLING RIDGE, & KATHWOOD  Route 9: HIGHLAND PARK & COLLEGE GLEN  Route 10: WESTCHESTER & TALLASSEE  Route 11: KNOLLWOOD APTS, OLD HULL RD. & FOURTH ST.  Route 12: SPRING VALLEY MHP, SARTAIN DR,& WINTERVILLE RD  Route 13: GARNETT RIDGE, CHATHAM PARK, VINEYARD  Route 14: BURKLAND DR, DANIELSVILLE RD., FOREST ACRES, FREEMAN DR.  Route 15: CREEKSTONE, NORTH BLUFF, SLEEPY HOLLOW MHP  Route 16: CAMPBELL DR., NELLIE MAE DR. Service Guidelines To ensure the safety of all our students, we request the following guidelines be followed:  Students must be present to get their meals.  At this time, adult meals are not available for purchase.  Students must take the entire meal – choices will not be provided.  Follow the directions of the meal service monitor. Be patient as a line may develop, but we will serve students in a timely and safe fashion.  Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.  Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.  Avoid close contact with people who are sick.  Cough or sneeze into an elbow or use a tissue and place immediately in the trash.
  • Athens-Clarke County has been served the lawsuit filed by Athens gun shop owner Andrew Clyde. Clyde, who is a candidate for Congress in Georgia’s 9th District, has filed suit seeking an injunction of enforcement of a 24-7 shelter in place order issued by Athens-Clarke County Commissioners last week. His attorney says the coronavirus-inspired measure is vague and overly broad and, even though it does not appear to order the closure of gun shops, is adversely impacting Clyde’s business on Atlanta Highway in Athens. Attorney Mo Wiltshire says lawyers are trying to arrange a hearing via video conference, and he says other Athens business owners are also expressing concerns about the County’s coronavirus ordinance. 
  • The latest numbers from the state Labor Department do not reflect the impact of Athens’ coronavirus-inspired economic lockdown: the February jobs report shows a 3.3 percent unemployment rate for Clarke, Oconee, Oglethorpe, and Madison counties. The metro-Athens jobless rate was 3.1 percent in January. From the Ga Dept of Labor… According to preliminary data, the four-county metropolitan statistical area (MSA) also showed a jump in employment for the month and the year.    In Athens, the unemployment rate increased 0.1 percentage points in February, reaching at 3.3 percent. A year ago, the rate was 3.7 percent.    The labor force increased in February by 967 and ended the month with 100,244. That number is up 510 when compared to February of 2019.    Athens ended February with 96,600 jobs. That number increased by 700 from January to February, but went down by 300 when compared to the same time last year.    Athens finished the month with 96,973 employed residents. That number increased by 889 over the month and is up by a significant 883 when compared to the same time a year ago.    The number of unemployment claims went down by about 25 percent in February. When compared to last February, claims were up by about 41 percent.   The four-county MSA includes Clarke, Madison, Oconee, and Oglethorpe counties.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS Georgia quarterback D'Wan Mathis was back in his home state of Michigan over spring break when the coronavirus pandemic began to take effect. Some of the Bulldogs' players would end up staying home when UGA suspended and then canceled face-to-face spring semester classes. But not Mathis. 'D'Wan came back on spring break and told me he loves where he is from, but that he needed to go back to Georgia,' Terence Mathis told DawgNation on Friday. 'He said, Daddy, I love you, but I'm leaving.' 'For us, we're just happy he was granted the exemption to stay near campus where they have the best doctors in the world keeping up with him.' The former Ohio State quarterback commit from metro Detroit has had a challenging rehabilitation period after an emergency brain surgery procedure last May 23 put him in the ICU unit at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center. 'I want the public to know this, please write this: Georgia could have given up on my son,' Terence Mathis said. 'But instead, Kirby and his staff have treated D'Wan as though he was their own son. They've used every possible resource to stay behind him and keep him engaged with the team after saving his life.' RELATED: Georgia saved my son's life, medical director Ron Courson praised Indeed, Coach Kirby Smart made it clear last May that Georgia would not rush Mathis' comeback, and they planned for a complete recovery. 'We are expecting a full recovery, and the timeline is the least of our concerns,' Smart said at SEC spring meetings. Mathis' comeback has come in stages. He was cleared to run and lift last July. By the start of the 2019 season, he was participating in limited drill work. By last November, Mathis running the scout team offense and playing with such passion that coaches and doctors had to reel him in and remind him to use some restraint. Mathis was cleared to go through spring football drills, though it's important to note he's not yet been cleared for game action. There's an MRI test scheduled for May that could provided the all-important clearance for total contact (UGA doesn't tackle its quarterbacks in spring drills). More good news came on Friday, when the SEC added some provisions for coaches to instruct players. Mathis, along with fellow Georgia football quarterbacks Jamie Newman, Caron Beck and Stetson Bennett, has the benefit of chalk talks starting at 1 p.m. next Monday. RELATED: SEC moves toward resuming football preparations Terence Mathis maintains the football will take care of itself. He said the most important thing to the Mathis family is how D'Wan has been accepted into the Georgia football community. 'I'm indebted to Georgia, they have extended this incredible opportunity to D'Wan,' Terence Mathis said. 'Especially during these tough times, and you know it's bad up here in Michigan. 'It means everything to us as a family for him to now have the opportunity to be involved with the football planning while still pursuing academics. 'Coach (Todd) Monken has reached out to me and let me know that D'Wan is having positive progress.' Mathis' upside was obvious to all who watched last year's G-Day Game. The 6-foot-6, 205-pounder was 15-of-28 passing for 113 yards and provided one of the biggest highlights of the Georgia football spring game. Mathis, who ran a 10.8-second time in the 100 meters in high school, showed his speed when he caught a double-reverse pass from Matt Landers for a 39-yard touchdown. TRICK PLAY ALERT #GDay #GoDawgs Georgia Football (@GeorgiaFootball) April 21, 2019 'D'Wan, he's explosive,' Jake Fromm said of his former understudy. 'I think he converted three or four first downs in a row with his legs. 'The guy can run the ball, he can throw it 70 yards, he's going to be a great player.' The strong performances in spring drills kept Mathis going during the dog days of last summer and into the season. But there were also frustrating times when D'Wan Maths didn't know what to do without football, unable to travel to away games. That's when Georgia came up biggest, according to his father. 'As frustrated as he got, the more they wrapped their arms around him,' Terence Mathis said. 'Those coaches could have said they were too busy trying to win the SEC East again and play for another league title. But they didn't say that. 'They believed in D'Wan, and they have stayed behind him, and the DawgNation fans have stayed behind him, too.' There is no timetable for college football to return at the time of this publication (March 28). The coronavirus has put all group activities around the world on hold. But Terence Mathis said his son will remain in Athens. 'That's what he considers his home now,' he said, 'and it's where we believe he belongs.' DawgNation D'Wan Mathis stories Mind Game: D'Wan Mathis ready to compete for starting job Mathis tipped by social media Ohio State misled him on Justin Fields D'Wan Mathis recovering after emergency brain cyst surgery Jake Fromm shares observations of D'Wan Mathis The post Georgia quarterback D'Wan Mathis continuing comeback home' in Athens, granted exemption appeared first on DawgNation.
  • DawgNation has four staffers who cover Georgia football from every angle: Beat, live streams, photos, podcasts, recruiting, etc. The 'Cover 4' concept is: 1) Present a topic; 2) Offer a reasoned response; 3) Share a brisk statement on that opinion. 4) Pepper the page with photos for the big picture. For this edition, we discuss what Georgia fans would have been talking about now had COVID-19 not put our way of life on hold. DawgNation continues with the 'Cover 4' concept. The focus is always a timely look with each of our guys manning the secondary on a pertinent topic. We're looking at our now useless Georgia spring practice schedule from earlier this year. It makes us wince. Poof. All of that is gone. But football will return. Someday. Hopefully soon. That schedule says the 2020 Bulldogs would have been six practices deep into their spring drills after today. What would have DawgNation been talking about right now? We closed our eyes and imagined what that would have looked like. It resulted in another 'Cover 4' discussion of four different aspects of the team. It was fun to do amidst a time of great renewal for the Georgia program. Well, except for a salty defense which should be the best of the Kirby Smart era in Athens. The quick in-and-out game remains. The Cover 4 is designed to come out as quick as everyone is to try to maintain their social distancing these days. What would have been the big Georgia football spring practice storyline right now? Brandon Adams: Jamie Newman The 'why' from 'DawgNation Daily' here: 'The quarterback is almost always the biggest story, and this certainly would've been the case with Newman. The absence of spring practice only increases our anticipation to see Newman's debut this fall .' Mike Griffith: The offensive line The 'why' from 'On the Beat' here: 'This is the area Kirby Smart is most concerned about, and he'll say it. There will be discussion about different players lining up in different places, and injury updates . ' Connor Riley: Todd, Todd, Todd Monken The 'why' from 'Good Day UGA' here: ' Between Smart and some offensive players, we'd have gotten to hear more about working with the new offensive coordinator and what he brings to the table, as well as the working dynamic with Smart.' Jeff Sentell: The need for more playmakers at receiver. Again. The Intel here: 'Kirby Smart made it clear last spring he didn't have enough playmakers at receiver. He wanted to see what Dominick Blaylock, Lawrence Cager and George Pickens could add to the unit. It would have been the same chorus this year. The only differences between the receivers practicing last spring would have been the subtraction of veterans J.J Holloman and Tyler Simmons and the addition of Pickens and Justin Robinson. The Bulldogs will again await the arrival of Jermaine Burton, Marcus Rosemy, Ladd McConkey and Arian Smith with great anticipation. When they hit the field, that's when we will get a glimpse of where Monken's new offense can take Georgia this fall.' The post Georgia football: What would have been the talk of spring practices by now? appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS Georgia and its new quarterback will be among the favorites when college football resumes, per the latest online odds from Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman is ranked fifth among the Heisman Trophy contenders without having even taken his first snap for the Bulldogs. To boot, Newman along with the rest of SEC players has just now gotten approval to receive online 'chalk talk' instruction from quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator Todd Monken starting at 1 p.m. on Monday. Former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy at Ohio State (+450), followed by Clemson's Trevor Lawrence (+475), Oklahoma's Spencer Rattler (+1000), Texas' Sam Ehlinger (+1200) and then Newman (+1400). Other SEC quarterbacks among the favorites include Florida's Kyle Trask, who is tied for ninth with USC QB Kedon Slovis (+2500), Alabama QB Mac Jones and North Carolina QB Sam Howell. Tailback Zamir White is tied for 25th among the Heisman Trophy contenders listed (+6600). But White, like Newman, has yet to secure the starting spot at his position entering into what will be a unique yet still very competitive offseason. SEC teams are currently suspended from any on-campus activities and are social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Once play resumes, Georgia figures to be in as good as shape as any program in the nation. RELATED: 4 reasons why Georgia football set for title run in 2020 The Bulldogs, as a team, rank fourth among the national championship contenders, per the online odds. Clemson is the favorite to win the national championship (+275), followed by Ohio State (+350), Alabama (+550) and then Georgia (+900). LSU is No. 5 on the preseason odds list (+1000), with Florida No. 6 (+1200), Oklahoma No. 7 (+2000) and Auburn, Notre Dame, Oregon, Penn State, Texas and Texas A&M tied at No. 8 (+2500). Georgia football offseason reads WATCH: Monty Rice shows proof of 'invisible progress' at Georgia The post Georgia football, Jamie Newman stand tall among preseason favorites in updated odds appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS SEC administrators took the first step toward resuming football-related activity, giving the OK for online instruction beginning at 1 p.m. (EDT) on Monday. It's a small step, but it shows the intent for preparation leading into the 2020 season, even as some have become skeptical amid the challenges presented by the coronavirus pandemic. 'What they will be allowed to do now is what they could have been doing in campus football meetings, from an instruction standpoint,' Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity told DawgNation on Friday. 'Coaches are obviously not able to provide any physical delivery of information, or conduct any physical activity,' McGarity said, referring to the current SEC policy which runs through April 15. 'But if you want to sit down online with a group of wide receivers and show vide0, and teach and have chalk talks, all that is fine.' Big for Georgia Obviously it's key for Georgia football, which has a new offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in Todd Monken and is replacing three-year starter Jake Fromm at quarterback. Wake Forest graduate transfer Jamie Newman is the favorite to assume controls of an offense that will have RPO and Pro Style principles. The modification for online instruction applies to all sports. There remains a strong likelihood the SEC's ban on team activities on campus will be extended beyond April 15, with schools finishing their spring academic courses online. The Big Ten announced on Friday itwill extend the previously announced suspension of all organized team activities through May 4. Student-athletes who have not yet enrolled in school will not be eligible for the online chalk talk interaction, per the modifications' stipulations. Georgia true freshman quarterback Carson Beck was an early enrollee, so he will be eligible. reported on Friday there have been 2001 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Georgia, including 29 in Clarke County, home to the University of Georgia. RELATED: Coronavirus dashboard, real-time stats in Georgia of cases Timeline in place? Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said on ESPN that he considers July 1 a deadline of sorts, as far as getting the players engaged in physical activity leading into the season. 'There's going to be a day where we all, as college football administrators and coaches, come up with a date where, from a player safety standpoint, we have to say this is the date that we can live with to get these young men physically ready to go into camp,' Kelly said earlier this week on SportsCenter. 'If you can't start training your football team by July 1 .the realistic goal is minimum of four weeks of conditioning before you put them in camp,' Kelly said. 'College football is going to be affected if we're not playing in 90 days, in terms of the conditioning element and getting these young men ready.' Georgia coach Kirby Smart has yet to issue a public statement on his thoughts about the return to football, other than a video. RELATED: UGA Kirby Smart releases coronavirus-related video SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said the league meetings and annal SEC Media Days remain on schedule. RELATED: Greg Sankey full steam ahead' approach amid coronavirus uncertainty SEC Memo The new allowance permitting the 'online chalk talks,' so to speak, comes with stipulations outlined in an SEC memo first obtained by 247Sports and confirmed by McGarity: 1. All required physical athletic activities (e.g., strength and conditioning workouts, sport- specific workouts) shall be prohibited. This prohibition includes both in-person involvement, and any virtual involvement by institutional staff such as remotely watching, directing, or reviewing physical workouts. 2. Required virtual film review, chalk talk, etc. that does not include physical activity shall be permissible. Any required activity of this nature shall be limited to two (2) hours of activity per week in all sports, shall be scheduled in accordance with the institution's established Time Management Policy, and shall not interfere with required class time for online instruction. These activities may not include a review by or live monitoring of film/video of a student-athlete engaging in workouts or physical activity occurring after March 13, 2020. Institutions may not suggest or require a student-athlete to make film/video of his/her workouts or physical activity available by other means (such as social media). 3. Prospective student-athletes may not be involved in any way in such required, countable activities conducted by the institution. 4. Only countable coaching staff members may be involved in providing technical or tactical instruction to student-athletes as part of such virtual activity. 5. Student-athletes may continue to be provided strength and conditioning workouts and/or sport-specific drills; however, coaches and other athletics staff may not observe the activity (virtually or in-person). Student-athletes may not be required to workouts and/or drills, nor may they be required to report back on such activity to any athletics staff member. 6. These modifications shall be effective as of 12:00 pm Central/1:00 pm Eastern on Monday, March 30. 7. Further assessment of off-season and/or summer activities will occur in the coming weeks. 8. Athletics programs are expected to comply with public health directives governing workplace activity and limitations on gatherings. This policy does not impact the Conference's earlier statement that you may continue to 'provide student-athletes with care and support in the areas of academics; medical care; mental health and wellness; and housing, as needed.' Consistent with normal practice, violations of this SEC policy are to be reported to the Conference office and will be subject to penalties at the discretion of the Commissioner. If you have any questions, please contact our office. In the meantime, Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning made it clear the Bulldogs' assistant coaches will continue to spend time with family, practice social distancing and encourage fans and players to wash their hands. Hunker Down! #GoDawgs @GeorgiaFootball Dan Lanning (@CoachDanLanning) March 27, 2020 The post SEC steps toward resuming football preparations, approves online chalk talks appeared first on DawgNation.
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