Tribune News Service

News Budget for Saturday, March 21, 2020


Updated at 11 p.m. EDT (0300 UTC).






Additional news stories appear on the MCT-NEWSFEATURES-BJT.

This budget is now available at TribuneNewsService.com, with direct links to stories and art. See details at the end of the budget.


^Trump says virus plan with $2 trillion impact 'very close'<

CORONAVIRUS-STIMULUS-2ND-LEDE:BLO — President Donald Trump said negotiators in Congress and his administration are "very close" to agreement on a coronavirus economic-relief plan that his economic adviser said will aim to boost the U.S. economy by about $2 trillion.

The economic measure is intended to "keep companies together, keep workers paid, so they can live and sustain," Trump said at a White House briefing. "We're asking people not to work because we have to stay away from each other," he said, adding that the hope is to "win with as few lives lost as possible."

1300 (with trims) by Daniel Flatley, Laura Litvan and Colin Wilhelm in Washington. MOVED


^New York state needs 50,000 extra hospital beds, Gov. Cuomo says<

CORONAVIRUS-NY:BLO — The state of New York is racing to add tens of thousands of hospital beds, buy thousands of ventilators and distribute millions of masks to medical workers as coronavirus infections in the state rose above 10,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

More than 6,200 of the cases, or about 60%, are in New York City, Cuomo said at a news conference in Albany. Positive tests have surged as coronavirus checks expanded to more than 45,000 people. Cuomo said he hasn't been checked because he has shown no symptoms and didn't want to waste a test.

350 by Christian Berthelsen in New York. MOVED


^FDA approves coronavirus test with 45-minute turnaround<

CORONAVIRUS-RAPIDTEST:DPA — The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a test that could detect coronavirus in patients in about 45 minutes, according to the developer of the units.

The device is made by Cepheid, a California-based company, which said units would be ready to be shipped next week.

The move could make it easier for health care workers to treat patients and aid in the correct allocation of resources, amid a trying time for hospitals.

250 by dpa staff in Washington. MOVED


^'A mess in America': Why Asia now looks safer than the US in the coronavirus crisis<

CORONAVIRUS-US-ASIA:LA — In January, as Singapore racked up the highest numbers of coronavirus infections outside China, an alarmed Shasta Grant searched for flights back home to Indianapolis.

The 44-year-old American writer, who moved to this island city-state with her family eight years ago, worried that their adopted home would be ravaged again by a runaway disease. Two months later, Singapore and other Asian nations have largely corralled their outbreaks while the virus roars across North America and Europe, leaving Grant dumbstruck at how quickly the U.S. went from a distant spectator of the epidemic to one of its primary victims.

1450 (with trims) by Shashank Bengali in Singapore. MOVED


^Kenny Rogers, country-pop hitmaker and crossover star, dies at 81<

ROGERS-OBIT:LA — Country music legend Kenny Rogers, the congenial, silver-bearded crooner of "The Gambler," "Islands in the Stream" and "Lady," has died of natural causes at age 81. Rogers' verified Twitter account announced the news in a statement late Friday.

"The Rogers family is sad to announce that Kenny Rogers passed away last night at 10:25 p.m. at the age of 81," it read. "Rogers passed away peacefully at home from natural causes under the care of hospice and surrounded by his family."

1950 by Nardine Saad. MOVED



^Trump insists coronavirus testing 'going very well'<

CORONAVIRUS-TRUMP:BLO — President Donald Trump said the expansion of testing for coronavirus in the U.S. is "going very well," following lengthy delays in the distribution of testing kits.

Appearing alongside Trump at a daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence said that test results are in for about 195,000 Americans, and others have been tested at thousands of labs whose data hasn't yet been rolled in.

450 by Josh Wingrove in Washington. (Moved as a Washington story.) MOVED



Also moving as:

CORONAVIRUS-TRUMP:NY — 550 by Dave Goldiner. (Moved as a Washington story.) MOVED


^Los Angeles County reports two more coronavirus deaths and 59 new cases<

^CORONAVIRUS-CALIF-1ST-LEDE:LA—<Los Angeles County health officials on Saturday confirmed two more coronavirus deaths and 59 new cases, bringing the total in the county to 351.

The individuals who died were both older than 65 with underlying health conditions; one person lived in the Miracle Mile area and the other individual resided in Del Rey, public health officials said in a statement.

"Because there are positive cases across the entire County, the public should not think one location is safer than another," according to the statement.

The total number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus, in California now stands at more than 1,300, but officials have said that is a gross underestimation because of the lack of tests for the virus. Testing picked up this week but healthcare authorities said they still don't have anything close to a firm estimate of how many people are infected.

1650 (with trims) by Alex Wigglesworth, Maria L. La Ganga, Richard Winton and James Queally. MOVED


^Coronavirus and climate change could stretch FEMA past its limit<

CORONAVIRUS-FEMA:BLO — It wasn't until Wednesday, five days after President Donald Trump declared a national emergency, that the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it was "leading the federal coordination" to the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S.

While the disaster-response agency is better known for its work in the aftermath of storms than disease outbreaks, it is the part of the federal government often charged with procuring supplies quickly. The decision to activate FEMA to its highest state, Level 1, didn't surprise James Kendra, who directs the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware.

1200 by Leslie Kaufman and Brian K. Sullivan in Washington. MOVED


^'People need to wake up.' A skeptical rural US lacks resources for coronavirus fight<

CORONAVIRUS-RURALAMERICA:KC — Roxine Poznich says she won't close her used book shop in Fort Scott, Kansas, until someone makes her.

The 73-year-old proprietor worked in the lab at the town's hospital for decades. But that job vanished when Mercy Hospital closed its doors two years ago. She now relies on the bookstore income for grocery money, she said.

Like many who live away from the country's large population centers, Poznich says she isn't too worried about the coronavirus. But she said the lack of a hospital in the southeast Kansas town of 7,800 will exacerbate any local outbreak.

2400 (with trims) by Kevin Hardy, Judy L. Thomas and Steve Vockrodt. MOVED


^Eerie silence on the Mexico border as people, businesses await full effect of partial closure<

CORONAVIRUS-US-BORDERS:DA — The world's busiest border region came to a giant crawl early Saturday, leaving millions of people with family and work ties on both sides in limbo.

Here along the usually bustling South El Paso Street, butting up against Ciudad Ju rez and the Paso del Norte international bridge, the area was eerily quiet. Activity came to a sudden halt after the border was closed to "nonessential" traffic at 12:01 a.m. Saturday.

550 by Alfredo Corchado in El Paso, Texas. MOVED


^COVID-19 doctors running out of masks? Try a bandanna, the CDC says<

CORONAVIRUS-FACEMASKS:LA — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has new advice for medical workers desperate for protective gear against COVID-19: Try a bandanna for protection.

The agency, scrambling to advise healthcare workers faced with severe shortages of gear, also recommends that another "last resort" solution could be a scarf.

550 by Emily Baumgaertner. MOVED


^Why is the coronavirus so much more deadly for men than for women?<

CORONAVIRUS-MEN:LA — Men are faring worse than women in the coronavirus pandemic, according to statistics emerging from across the world.

This week, White House COVID-19 Task Force director Dr. Deborah Birx cited a report from Italy showing that men in nearly every age bracket were dying at higher rates than women. Birx called it a "concerning trend."

1000 (with trims) by Melissa Healy. MOVED


^A third LAPD officer tests positive for the coronavirus<

CORONAVIRUS-LAPD:LA — A third Los Angeles police officer has tested positive for the coronavirus and was exhibiting symptoms inside a Los Angeles Police Department station for several days this week, according to law enforcement officials who spoke to the Los Angeles Times on Saturday on condition of anonymity.

The officer, who had recently returned from a vacation out of the country, was "coughing and sweating" during roll call in Central Division, which patrols areas that include downtown L.A., two of the officials said.

250 by James Queally and Richard Winton in Los Angeles. MOVED


^Don't panic, food supply chain is healthy, government officials say<

CORONAVIRUS-FOODCHAIN:DE — Despite the empty shelves shoppers are sometimes finding in grocery stores, food industry sources say there's no need to worry, the food supply chain is well stocked.

While supplies at the retail level have been taxed at times by all the stockpiling panicked customers are doing during the coronavirus pandemic, area grocery stores are continuing to restock regularly from their normal supply lines, even as new suppliers become available.

According to the FDA website there are no nationwide shortages of food, though inventory of some foods might be temporarily low before stores can restock.

950 (with trims) by Susan Selasky. MOVED


^With coronavirus, religious groups use technology to cope<

RELIG-CORONAVIRUS-TECH:PT — Coming weeks will bring significant religious observations. Christians will observe Holy Week and Easter, Jews will celebrate Passover and Muslims will begin the holy month of Ramadan.

The emergence of a pandemic has created unprecedented challenges and, some believe, even opportunities. With restrictions against gatherings of more than 10 persons, religious groups are devising ways to provide spiritual sustenance and fortitude in fearful times. Mandated social distancing means embracing technology to create virtual spiritual communities.

1200 (with trims) by Waveney Ann Moore in St. Petersburg, Fla. MOVED


^Washington state preparing for life-or-death decisions if health care system is overwhelmed<

CORONAVIRUS-TOUGHDECISIONS:SE — Washington state and hospital officials have been meeting to consider what once was almost unthinkable — how to decide who lives and dies if, as feared, the coronavirus pandemic overwhelms the state's health care system.

"We don't want to do it. We don't think we should have to do it," said Cassie Sauer, chief executive of the Washington State Hospital Association, which along with state and local health officials has been involved in refining what Sauer called a "crisis standard of care" — essentially guidelines to health care officials on who should receive treatment and who should be left to die.

950 (with trims) by Mike Carter in Seattle. MOVED


^Does air pollution make you more susceptible to coronavirus? California won't like the answer<

CORONAVIRUS-POLLUTION-QA:LA — The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus has many people wondering what environmental factors, beyond age and underlying health problems, make some individuals more vulnerable to COVID-19 than others.

That's especially true in California, where residents have long struggled with the nation's worst-polluted air.

1250 by Tony Barboza. MOVED


^Grocers should show 'human kindness' and pay older workers to stay home, California senator writes<

CORONAVIRUS-GROCERS-SENIORS:SA — A California state senator and former union leader asked the California Grocers Association to send older workers home with pay to minimize their risk of COVID-19 infection.

State Sen. Connie Leyva, a Democrat, said in a letter to the grocery association that workers older than 65 are at greater risk of contracting the rapidly spreading coronavirus that has already killed 19 Californians.

300 by Hannah Wiley in Sacramento, Calif.. MOVED


^Coronavirus is crushing Florida's tourism industry, and hotels are trying to hang on<

CORONAVIRUS-FLA-TOURISM:FL — Amid the carnage of the coronavirus in South Florida, hoteliers might consider themselves fortunate to have accidental tourists such as Tim Zacharias and Susan Chapel.

The Michigan couple, bumped from a cruise out of Barbados, made their way to Fort Lauderdale this week and landed at the beachfront Ritz-Carlton, where the rooms, like everywhere else along the city's famous shoreline, are largely empty.

They visited a nearly deserted Las Olas Boulevard, shopped at a boutique called Celebrity of Las Olas and sampled takeout drinks and snacks from the nearby La Bonne Crepe. Zacharias offered owner Eric Melot a generous tip. The French-American bistro, which Melot has owned for four years, was closing Sunday night. Earlier in the week, he laid off 19 people.

1250 (with trims) by David Lyons in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. MOVED


^Spring break is over: Miami Beach almost unrecognizable as partying ends<

CORONAVIRUS-SPRINGBREAK:LA — It was just a week ago that Felix Mohen landed in Florida, hopped in an Uber and headed straight for Ocean Drive, the famed South Beach promenade of open-air poolside bars, topless sunbathing and neon-lit Art Deco hotels across miles of beaches that swell with thousands of revelers each March for spring break.

Mohen, an 18-year-old French student enrolled at Hult International Business School in Cambridge, Mass., came with four college friends for a quick escape from the winter in New England.

"We'll never see Miami like this again," said Mohen, 18, as he watched police barriers and officers block the beach walkways across the street. "At least we saw the sand before they told everyone to leave."

850 (with trims) by Jaweed Kaleem in Miami Beach, Fla. MOVED


^Coronavirus-curing toothpaste? $100 for toilet paper? Anxiety over spread of disease ignites a rush of virus-related scams<

CORONAVIRUS-SCAMS:PH — No, chewing garlic pills or drinking colloidal silver won't help you stave off the coronavirus. Legitimate doctors won't send emails in broken English claiming to have treated your sick relatives and demanding thousands of dollars in return. And no one, state and federal authorities say, should be charging as much as $10 for a roll of toilet paper.

But just as the spread of the coronavirus has sparked a collective wave of national anxiety, a litany of price-gougers, snake-oil salesmen, email phishers and scammers is emerging just as quickly to exploit it.

1000 (with trims) by Jeremy Roebuck in Philadelphia. MOVED


^Coronavirus: Even 'flushable' wipes not flushable, say officials<

CORONAVIRUS-WIPES:DBN — The run on toilet paper amid the coronavirus pandemic has led folks to try and find more creative ways to take care of business.

Some are resorting to paper towels or buying up cheap washcloths to use, wash, and reuse while many are resorting to baby wipes, hand wipes and so-called "flushable" wipes.

But those wipes and other items are literally causing problems down the line by clogging up local sewer systems, say officials, who are imploring everyone to stop flushing anything other than toilet paper down the toilet.

500 by Casmira Harrison in Daytona Beach, Fla. MOVED


^Lora Shiao to be acting head of US counterterrorism agency<

ANTI-TERRORISM-CHIEF:BLO — Lora Shiao, a career U.S. intelligence officer, will be named as acting director of the National Counterterrorism Center, two people familiar with the matter said.

Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell is expected to make the announcement on Monday. Shiao will be the first woman to hold the post.

250 by Nick Wadhams and Jennifer Jacobs in Washington. MOVED


^California Rep. Mark DeSaulnier in critical condition with pneumonia<

CONGRESS-CALIF-DESAULNIER:CON — California Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier is in critical condition after being hospitalized for pneumonia, his office announced Saturday.

DeSaulnier was admitted to the hospital earlier this week because of complications of pneumonia from a rib fracture, which he suffered after falling during a run. His office noted he tested negative for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

150 by Bridget Bowman in Washington. MOVED


^Fewer refineries able to get biofuel waivers under Trump plan<

TRUMP-REFINERIES-WAIVERS:BLO — The Trump administration doesn't plan to challenge a federal court ruling that dramatically curbs its ability to exempt oil refineries from biofuel-blending requirements, according to three people familiar with the matter.

Under a decision reached late this week by top administration officials, the Environmental Protection Agency will now apply that 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling nationwide, so that just a handful of U.S. refineries remain eligible for the valuable exemptions.

250 by Jennifer A. Dlouhy in Washington. MOVED



^Biden vs. Trump: Who would win Florida in November?<

FLA-BIDEN-TRUMP:OS — Joe Biden, who thumped Bernie Sanders in Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary, would face a greater challenge in Florida against President Donald Trump and a campaign that has never ceased since 2016.

"It's a whole new ballgame," said John Quinones, the first Puerto Rican Republican elected to the Florida legislature. "Florida is going to be ground zero when it comes to potentially deciding the election. And I know local Republicans are very geared up."

1350 (with trims) by Steven Lemongello in Orlando, Fla. MOVED


^Joe Biden slams Trump for bungling coronavirus response in 'He Knew' ad<

^CORONAVIRUS-BIDEN-TRUMP:NY—<Former Vice President Joe Biden slammed President Donald Trump Saturday over his failure to contain the coronavirus crisis in a new digital ad.

The Democratic presidential front-runner detailed Trump's statements downplaying the severity of the crisis even as the pandemic spread across the globe.

"Donald Trump has failed the American people," Biden wrote on Twitter.

Trump says he has done a "tremendous" job mobilizing the nation in the face of a crisis that no one could have seen coming.

250 by Dave Goldiner. MOVED


^What is a housebound Joe Biden doing all day?<

BIDEN-HOMEBOUND:LA — Do you wonder what Joe Biden is doing all day? Now that the former vice president's campaign for the Democratic nomination is all but over, he's been nearly totally eclipsed by news of the coronavirus outbreak and President Donald Trump's handling, and mishandling, of the crisis.

Biden hopes to change that by meeting more frequently with the media, and got started Friday in a conference call with reporters. He gave quite a rundown of what he's doing with his long days at home in Wilmington, Del., where he is cooped up like most Americans because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not surprisingly for Biden, he's doing a lot of talking. He said he spends up to seven hours a day on the phone — talking with governors, senators, House members, mayors, policy experts and hospital officials. And of course he talks to his own policy and political staffs, who also are mostly working from home, spread along the Eastern Seaboard.

500 by Janet Hook in Washington. MOVED


^Sen. Amy Klobuchar is in the mix for Joe Biden's running mate<

KLOBUCHAR-BIDEN:MS — Former Vice President Joe Biden is now the presumed Democratic presidential nominee, so expect a couple of months of speculation about Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., as a possible running mate.

At his debate on March 15 with Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, Biden pledged to pick a woman as his vice presidential candidate. The next day, the Washington Post put Klobuchar second on a list of likely prospects behind California Sen. Kamala Harris.

200 by Patrick Condon in Minneapolis. MOVED



^Jets at 3 NY-area airports grounded briefly due to virus exposure of airport staffers<

NYAIRPORTS-CLOSED:NY — The Federal Aviation Authority temporarily suspended flights coming out of New York City's three regional airports Saturday afternoon over concerns of virus exposures to staff, authorities said.

Philadelphia airports were also temporarily closed because of virus-related staffing issues, according to the Associated Press.

The grounding was called after an air traffic controller trainee at the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma, N.Y., tested positive for COVID-19.

150 by Clayton Guse and Thomas Tracy in New York. MOVED


^Police in Philly and other Pa. counties stop issuing license-to-carry permits to gun owners<

PA-GUN-PERMITS:PH — The coronavirus pandemic has led to a rush to purchase firearms and ammunition in the Philadelphia region and across Pennsylvania, leading to long lines at some gun shops.

But the Philadelphia Police Department has shut down its gun-permits unit. Firearm owners without a license-to-carry permit will, in almost all circumstances, not be able to carry the weapons without risking arrest.

600 by William Bender in Philadelphia. MOVED


^Columbus Day in Colorado is no more; it's now Frances Cabrini Day<

COLO-COLUMBUSDAY:GT — The first Monday next October will be Frances Xavier Cabrini Day in Colorado, not Columbus Day.

Gov. Jared Polis on Friday signed into law House Bill 1031, which renames the holiday after the Catholic nun who started several charitable organizations in Colorado, including the Queen of Heaven orphanage in Denver and a summer camp for girls that is now the home of the Mother Cabrini Shrine. Cabrini Day will be the first paid holiday in the state named after a woman.

200 by Marianne Goodland in Colorado Springs, Colo. MOVED


^Dolly Parton posts emotional tribute to 'Islands in the Stream' partner Kenny Rogers<

^ROGERS-OBIT-PARTON:LA—<Dolly Parton, a longtime friend and collaborator with singer Kenny Rogers, said on Saturday that she was heartbroken to find out he had died Friday.

Rogers was 81.

"I think I can speak for all his family, his friends and fans, when I say that I will always love you," Parton said on a video posted on Twitter.

150 by Wendy Lee. MOVED



^Italy to shut down all nonessential production activities<

CORONAVIRUS-ITALY-1ST-LEDE:DPA — The Italian government is closing all nonessential production activities in connection with the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said late Saturday. He spoke of the "greatest challenge since the Second World War."

Italy reported almost 800 new coronavirus deaths on Saturday with the outbreak showing no signs of abating despite ever stricter curfews being enforced nationwide.

550 by Annette Reuther in Rome. MOVED


^Spain's coronavirus outbreak to worsen in next days, leader warns<

CORONAVIRUS-SPAIN:BLO — The novel coronavirus outbreak in Spain, already among the harshest in the world, will continue to expand, with more cases and deaths over the next few days, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said.

"Confirmed cases and deaths will increase in the next days. We have to remain strong until the end of next week," Sanchez said in a speech on Saturday evening.

200 by Thomas Gualtieri. MOVED


^China reports new daily high for imported coronavirus cases<

^CORONAVIRUS-CHINA-TOLL:DPA—< Chinese health authorities reported 46 new cases of the new coronavirus and six new deaths related to it over the past day, according to the most recent statistics released on Sunday.

Of the new cases, 45 were imported from outside of China, a new daily high for imported cases after 41 were reported on Saturday. Only one new infection was locally transmitted.

100 in Beijing. MOVED

^Experts fear India will be the next coronavirus hotspot<

CORONAVIRUS-INDIA:LA — Every year, hundreds of thousands of Hindus throng the northern Indian town of Ayodhya, the mythological birthplace of the god Ram, to mark the deity's birthday with recitals, chariot processions and ablutions in a sacred river.

In the era of the coronavirus, the festival known as Ram Navami seemed like a ticking time bomb. Organizers on Friday agreed to call off the mass gathering days before it was scheduled to begin, but devotees are still expected to gather in small numbers at local temples during the nine-day fete.

In India, social distancing isn't really an option. One of the most densely populated countries on Earth, with 1.3 billion people elbowing for space on nearly every street corner, apartment block, train car and house of worship, India is viewed as fertile ground for an explosion of the coronavirus.

850 by Shashank Bengali and Parth M.N. in Mumbai, India. MOVED


^China orders local staff to leave US news outlets in Beijing<

USCHINA-JOURNALISTS:BLO — Authorities in Beijing have forced at least seven Chinese nationals to stop working for American news outlets there, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the latest development in an ongoing dispute between the U.S. and China over media access.

Members of the New York Times, Voice of America and two other outlets were dismissed from their jobs on Thursday and Friday, the group said, identifying only the newspaper and the U.S. Congress-funded broadcaster.

400 by Bloomberg News in Beijing. MOVED



^Coronavirus drugs: Where we are and what we know<

MED-CORONAVIRUS-DRUGS:LA — Medicines designed to treat COVID-19 won't be on pharmacy shelves for months or even years, but thousands of patients are in hospitals and health clinics now. So doctors are looking to drugs that are already approved for treating other diseases.

Malaria, HIV and arthritis wouldn't seem to have much in common with SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that has upended the world in just a few short months. But medicines developed for those ailments are showing some promise against the respiratory illness at the center of the pandemic.

Here's a closer look at some of the medicines being tested to see if they're effective against COVID-19.

1500 by Amina Khan. MOVED




These stories moved earlier in the week and remain suitable for publication.

^'Single point of failure': The CDC's past successes with an FDA process set the table for coronavirus testing debacle<

CORONAVIRUS-TESTING-CDC:SE — In late April 2009, Dr. Joshua Sharfstein, then the Food and Drug Administration's principal deputy commissioner, received an urgent weekend phone call from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Rich Besser told Sharfstein that the CDC — and by, extension, public health departments nationwide — faced a serious problem.

Less than two weeks earlier, the CDC had identified a virulent new strain of swine flu.

Widespread diagnostic testing was needed immediately to understand the scope of the nation's outbreak.

Within 48 hours, Sharfstein and a team of FDA lawyers found a way to get tests out quickly through an existing FDA process called "Emergency Use Authorization."

That regulatory innovation, which allowed the swine flu test to bypass typical FDA trials that can take more than a year, has since served as a national model for pandemics.

But past successes with the emergency authorization process also set the stage for what would be its biggest failure: Quickly getting reliable diagnostic tests for the novel coronavirus into labs nationwide last month.

With the CDC always serving as the emergency authorization applicant and test distributor on behalf of scores of domestic public health labs, a key weakness was overlooked: If something went wrong with the CDC's tests, the labs that relied on them would be rendered helpless and without immediate testing alternatives.

2300 by Lewis Kamb in Seattle. MOVED


^As coronavirus spreads widely, millions of older Americans live in counties with no ICU beds<

^CORONAVIRUS-ICU-BEDS:KHN—<More than half the counties in America have no intensive care beds, posing a particular danger for more than 7 million people who are age 60 and up ? older patients who face the highest risk of serious illness or death from the rapid spread of COVID-19, a Kaiser Health News data analysis shows.

Intensive care units have?sophisticated equipment, such as bedside machines to monitor a patient's heart rate and ventilators to help them breathe. Even in communities with ICU beds, the numbers vary wildly ? with?some having just one bed available for thousands of senior residents, according to the analysis based on a review of data hospitals report each year to the federal government.

2200 by Fred Schulte, Elizabeth Lucas, Jordan Rau, Liz Szabo and Jay Hancock. MOVED


^A fight over fracking at a Pennsylvania steel mill is forcing a reckoning among Democrats<

PA-FRACKING:PH — About a year ago, Charda Jones finally had enough money to pay off some student loans and move out of her parents' house into a third-floor apartment across the street from a steel mill that helped build America.

Jones, 31, grew up in Braddock, a town of 2,114 people about 11 miles southeast of Pittsburgh on the Monongahela River, and last year became mayor. She was used to the pollution. What she found more troubling was U.S. Steel's plan, in the works now for more than two years, to lease 10 acres to a New Mexico-based oil and gas company to extract natural gas a mile beneath the surface using a controversial drilling technique known as fracking.

As word spread, others grew suspicious of what the proposal might mean for public health. Some of them got elected to local and state office. And in January, a neighboring town revoked the gas company's permit to build part of a well site on its land.

More than a decade into a natural gas boom that has driven down energy costs for consumers and literally reshaped the landscape with thousands of wells and pipelines carrying gas across the state, this pocket of southwestern Pennsylvania is facing a reckoning over the issue.

2600 by Andrew Seidman in Braddock, Pa. MOVED


^Nationalism could rear its head as Europe battles coronavirus<

CORONAVIRUS-EUROPE-NATIONALISM:LA — In long-ago days before the novel coronavirus swept Europe — last week, last month — the contagion many leaders in the region most feared was a virulent strain of nationalist populism.

In recent years, authoritarian-style leaders like Hungary's Viktor Orban have entrenched themselves in the heart of Europe, seeking to stifle institutions like free media and an independent judiciary, at the same time blaming migrants for a host of social ills.

Already, the European Union had been tested by Brexit and internal discord. Now, as grand boulevards and great cathedrals stand empty and scarce hospital beds inexorably fill, those same leaders wonder whether the coronavirus will drive a sharp nationalist wedge between members of the 27-nation bloc.

1200 by Erik Kirschbaum, Laura King and Meg Bernhard in Berlin. MOVED




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