National News, Thursday, March 12 – Trump Bans Travel from Europe To U.S.; NBA Cancels Season; Oregon Gov. Brown To Ban Gatherings of 250 or More

News from across the nation and stories of interest, from

Thursday, March 12, 2020

In front of an all networks television audience President Trump from the oval office at the White House announced a 30-day ban on most travel from Europe into the United States.

Trump said he would act to offer financial assistance to those affected by the coronavirus pandemic rapidly spreading across the country and around the world.

Mr. Trump said the travel suspension would begin Friday at 11:59 p.m. and would exclude the U.K.   

“The restriction stops people not goods,” Mr. Trump later tweeted.

Hours after the address, the State Department advised U.S. citizens against all travel abroad, even to countries not yet experiencing an outbreak. The department warned of mandatory quarantines, travel restrictions and other measures that could complicate international travel.

The virus has spread to more than 100 countries, rattled Wall Street markets and disrupted daily life across the country and around the world. The sober address marked Mr. Trump’s most direct response to date, though he again tried to sound an optimistic note and defended actions already taken by his administration.

“This is not a financial crisis,” Mr. Trump said. “This is just a temporary moment in time that we will overcome as a nation, and as a world.” U.S. stock futures and global stock markets dropped after the president announced the new travel restrictions.

The restrictions will likely massively hurt the airline industry, already suffering from a plunge in travel as the virus has taken hold, and are likely be a major blow to Europe’s economy.

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday night said a proclamation signed by the president applies to most foreign nationals who have been in any of 26 European countries during the 14 days before their scheduled U.S. arrival.

Europe is the largest regional destination for U.S. travelers, according to U.S. Transportation Department, with 72.4 million passengers in the year ended June 2019. Central America is second, with 43.2 million passengers in the same period.

Airlines scrambled to understand what Mr. Trump’s announcement would mean for their operations. Carriers have already announced cuts to flying capacity all over the world due to flagging demand, but had planned to continue some flights to nd from Europe.

“We are in contact with the federal government to understand and comply with this directive. The health and safety of our customers and team members remains our highest priority,” American Airlines said in a statement.  American said the directive would affect 14 flights a day from Paris, Frankfurt, Munich, Barcelona, Madrid and Zurich.

“Delta has and will continue to quickly make adjustments to service, as needed, in response to government travel directives,” Delta Air Lines said in a statement. A spokesman for United Airlines Holdings Inc. said the airline would comply with the announcement.

Mr. Trump, who spoke for about 10 minutes, also said he would take emergency action “to ensure that working Americans impacted by the virus can stay home without fear of financial hardship.” He said any aid would be targeted for workers who are ill, quarantined or caring for others. The administration also plans to ask Congress to extend additional relief to those workers, he added.

Last year, 24% of U.S. workers, or about 33.6 million people, didn’t receive paid sick leave from their employer, the Labor Department said. They are concentrated in lower-wage and front-line service-sector positions. Of the lowest 10% of wage earners, only 31% had sick leave, compared with 94% of the top 10%.

Mr. Trump also said he would instruct the Internal Revenue Service to push back the April 15 tax-payment deadline for certain individuals and businesses, providing a cash cushion at a time when the economy may falter. He said the action would provide an additional $200 billion of liquidity to the economy.

Effective immediately, Mr. Trump said the Small Business Administration would offer low-interest loans to help small businesses overcome temporary economic disruptions caused by the virus. He said the administration planned to ask Congress to authorize an additional $50 billion for the program.

The president again urged Congress to approve “immediate payroll-tax relief.”

“Hopefully, they will consider this very strongly,” Mr. Trump said. The proposed payroll-tax cut faces resistance from both Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Late Wednesday, House Democrats prepared and released an economic package that includes paid sick leave for people affected by the coronavirus and expanded unemployment insurance, reflecting priorities laid out by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer at the start of the week.

Democratic lawmakers plan to pass it on the floor today, though it is unclear how much Republican support it will have.

Mr. Trump said insurers had agreed to waive copayments for coronavirus treatment. But America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade group for the industry, pointed to a press conference Tuesday where Vice President Mike Pence said insurers had agreed only to waive copayments for coronavirus testing.

Mr. Trump faces not only a national health problem but a political test as he heads deeper into the re-election campaign. A strong economy has been one of his biggest selling points, and the crisis has already taken a toll.

His chief rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, is set to give a speech on coronavirus today from Wilmington, Delaware.

The president has faced criticism that he has played down the threat for weeks, offering a mixed message as members of his administration have taken an increasingly sober outlook. On Twitter, Mr. Trump blasted Democrats and the news media and said it was a time for unity.

“We have a common enemy, actually, an enemy of the World, the CoronaVirus,” he wrote. “We must beat it as quickly and safely as possible. There is nothing more important to me than the life & safety of the United States!”

The mood about the coronavirus also hit the sports world last night as the National Basketball Association season was immediately suspended after a dramatic incident in which two teams were pulled off the court seconds before a game began and a player for the Utah Jazz tested positive for the coronavirus.

Oklahoma City Thunder and Utah Jazz players were moments from beginning their scheduled game on Wednesday when the abrupt postponement occurred after Jazz superstar Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus. He became the first major professional athlete infected in the U.S.

The league immediately suspended the season—capping an extraordinary day of turbulent upheaval in U.S. sports.

“The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic,” the league said.

The NBA’s decision came hours after the NCAA tournament said that March Madness would be played without fans. NBA games in progress on Wednesday night continued, and the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball did not immediately make any moves.

But one professional athlete testing positive for the virus might have been the tipping point for American sports.

“This seems more like out of a movie than reality,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said on ESPN as his team’s nationally televised game continued. “This is much bigger than the NBA.”

The preliminary medical research indicates that the incubation period for the virus is 2 to 14 days, and it’s unknown whether people transmit the virus before they are symptomatic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Gobert came into contact with dozens of players as the Jazz played seven games in Salt Lake City, Cleveland, New York, Boston and Detroit over the last two weeks.

The drama began seconds before tipoff, after the Thunder and Jazz went through warmups and had the starting lineups introduced in Oklahoma City, when a Thunder official ran onto the court and huddled with the referees.  The floor was suddenly cleared.  The players, coaches and officials returned to the locker room. They would not come back.

It was announced 30 minutes later that the game would not be played as scheduled.

The decision to suspend the season came hours after the league’s owners wrapped a conference call to determine how they should proceed with the rest of the season. Their options appear to be limited to playing in empty arenas or postponing games indefinitely—and they were planning to keep discussing the league’s immediate future today.

From sporting events to concerts and business conferences, California state health officials are recommending the cancellation of ANY gatherings of more than 250 people to help contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The California Department of Public Health is asking for the cancellations at least through the end of March.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom said these are recommendations at this time and not a mandate.  But Newsom said following the recommendations can help save lives and slow the spread of the disease.   Limiting such gatherings can help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and help preserve the resources of the health care system.

Smaller events can proceed only if organizers can keep people at least six feet apart to avoid transmission of the virus. Gatherings for people at higher risk for severe illness should be no more than 10 people, including at retirement facilities, assisted living facilities, developmental homes and support groups for people with health conditions.

The policy does not apply to school classes.

Oregon’s Governor Kate Brown followed suit almost immediately, announcing last night that she would ban all public gatherings of more than 250 people statewide for four weeks, effective immediately.

The measure is in attempt to slow the spread of novel coronavirus, which the World Health Authority has deemed a pandemic.

“It’s time for us all to do what we can to slow its spread and take care of one another,” Brown said in a written statement.  The governor will officially announce today social distancing measures for public places at a news conference during the midday today.

Oregon now has 21 diagnosed cases across eight counties. The two most recent patients are both men over the age of 80 and residents at a Lebanon veterans’ home.

Brown maintained the state’s guidance to keep schools open, according to a press release from her office. The release does say school activities like parent meetings, field trips and sporting events should be canceled.

Shortly after Brown’s announcement, the state’s two largest school districts, Portland Public Schools and Salem-Keizer Public Schools affirmed they are suspending large group activities, including school assemblies and off-site professional development for teachers. But unlike Seattle Public Schools, classes are continuing.

In Australia, feeling like he and his wife Rita Wilson were catching colds and feeling sluggish, actor Tom Hanks has announced he and Rita have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Hanks’ publicist also confirmed the news to reporters yesterday.

Hanks and his wife were in The Gold Coast, Australia, for the pre-production of Baz Luhrmann’s untitled Elvis Presley film, in which Hanks stars as Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker.

“We Hanks’ will be tested observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires,” Hanks added in a statement. “Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no? We’ll keep the world posted and updated. Take care of yourselves!”

Warner Bros. Studios stated shortly that they are aware of the Hanks’ conditions and will be “working closely with the appropriate Australian health agencies to identify and contact anyone who may have come in direct contact with the individual.”

“The health and safety of our company members is always our top priority, and we are taking precautions to protect everyone who works on our productions around the world,” the production company said in the statement. “The individual who tested positive for COVID-19 is currently receiving treatment.”

Hanks and Wilson’s son Chet responded to his parents’ diagnoses in a video, saying they both are “fine” and “not even that sick.” 

The coronavirus has now spread to over 100 countries. Stay tuned for updates on Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson here.

On Wednesday, it became the beginning of the end for one of Hollywood’s most powerful as Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood producer, was sentenced to 23 years in prison following a conviction stemming from sexual-assault allegations that sparked the #MeToo movement.

The judge said the sentence reflected evidence that Mr. Weinstein had sexually assaulted other women beyond the allegations he was convicted of.

Turning to the front row, where six women who testified against him sat with Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, he said: “My empathy has grown.”

Mr. Weinstein still faces criminal prosecution on similar allegations in Los Angeles, where the district attorney’s office said Wednesday it had begun the process of extraditing him from New York and bringing him to California for court proceedings. He has denied any nonconsensual sexual encounters.

Mr. Weinstein’s accusers wept and embraced each other after Justice Burke imposed the sentence and deemed him a convicted sex offender. Spectators cheered in the courthouse hallway as the women walked out of the courtroom for the last time.

Why cancelling events is becoming the thing to do.

In their response to the coronavirus outbreak, public health experts and government officials have repeatedly referenced the importance of “flattening the curve.” But what does this mean? Covid-19 appears to be more infectious than the common flu and the cause of a higher rate of deaths. But these numbers aren’t set in stone, with the differing pattern of the virus’ spread in various countries showing that interventions can make a big difference.

… Without protective measures to slow the spread of Covid-19, there is likely to be a large spike in infections in a short period of time. A big goal of public health officials now is to avoid a huge peak in Covid-19 cases in favor of a slower growth that becomes a moderate plateau. Infections still occur, but over a longer period — and “flattening the curve” turns the steep mountain of cases into a more sedate small hill.

… This more gentle increase in cases gives health systems the time to adapt and absorb the new patients, ensure that the virus is not spread further and effectively treat the most vulnerable. Many of the measures we have seen around the world to restrict travel and large gatherings are aimed at ensuring coronavirus does not run riot.

Hand Washing Quiz:   By now the entire globe should know how to properly wash hands because of the Coronavirus. Please take our quiz to see if you’re informed.

• You should scrub your hands for no less than 60 seconds. (False. 20 seconds is the minimum.)

• Warm or hot water is better than cold for washing hands. (False. Cold, warm or hot is fine as long as you’re using soap.)

• Soap and water is the best way to get rid of more germs. (True. Even better than hand sanitizers.)

• It’s OK if you skip washing the backs of your hands. (False. Wash all of your hand.)

• You don’t need to buy antibacterial soap. (True. Regular soap works fine.)

Google is recommending that all of its tens of thousands of North American employees work from home, its latest move to try and protect its employees from the growing coronavirus outbreak.

On Tuesday, the search giant sent out a memo to its workforce informing that it was now changing its policies to recommend all workers who are able to work remotely do so until at least April 10. The majority of Google’s 100,000-plus employees are based in North America.

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill must now deal not only with the threat of coronavirus to the American public, but also the risks they themselves face from the virus as it continues to spread.

The disease was a topic of discussion during a closed-door meeting of the House Democratic caucus yesterday morning with members receiving advice on how to interact with others as the virus spreads.

.. The attending physician asked members to stop touching during personal greetings, suggesting that members instead use the “live long and prosper sign,” a light-hearted reference to a salute and greeting accompanied by a hand gesture in the television series Star Trek.


Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers during a House Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday that COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus — is probably about 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu. Fauci is a part of the White House’s coronavirus task force. • VIDEO

… At the same time, he did clarify that 10 times figure actually brings the new coronavirus’ fatality rate lower than official estimates, which hover around 3 percent. The flu has a mortality rate of about point-1 percent, so, when considering the likelihood that there are many asymptomatic or very mild cases that have gone undiagnosed, Fauci places the new coronavirus’ lethality rate at somewhere around 1 percent.

While that’s a good deal lower than the current data suggests, it still would lead to significant numbers of fatalities, and makes the flu comparisons seem pretty questionable.

The new coronavirus can live in the air for several hours and on some surfaces for as long as two to three days.

Tests by U.S. government and other scientists suggests people can get infected through the air as well as from touching things that were contaminated by others who have it, in addition to direct person-to-person contact.

Stop shaking hands if you can.  In the weeks since the coronavirus outbreak, people have come up with all kinds of ways to avoid handshakes and other physical contact. People tend to be going with the elbow bump. Even so, dodging a handshake can be awkward.

… Etiquette expert Myka Meier says, “If someone reaches out to shake your hand, either socially or in business, you can simply say, ‘I’m going handshake-free to be extra careful. It shows thoughtfulness for other people’s health and well-being.” Meier, founder of New York City-based Beaumont Etiquette and author of Modern Etiquette Made Easy, suggests you “steer clear of telling people things like ‘I don’t want to spread germs,’ which implies you are sick, or saying anything that would imply they are ill.”

… Meier suggests two alternatives: Her “Stop, Drop and Nod” involves a pause, then clasping your hands behind your back and nodding in acknowledgement. Her second option, the “Grasp and Greet,” involves folding your hands together in front of yourself and mouthing or saying hello. She demonstrates both on her Instagram.

Imagine you are a millionaire or billionaire anxious about a deadly virus spreading around the globe. What would you do?

Where would you and your sacks of treasure go to hide from spiraling calamity? How about Survival Condo, a 15-story deep Cold War-era missile silo that has been repurposed as a luxury condo complex? The weapons that once occupied this space were called Atlas missiles, the first missiles capable of crossing continents to deliver an Armageddon-level nuclear warhead. By 1965 the Atlas had become obsolete and the 72 missile sites were decommissioned.

… Half the silos were destroyed by the government. The remaining empty silos and the land around them were auctioned off. Farmers often bought them for pennies on the dollar and used the land for grazing. Larry Hall, the developer and owner of Survival Condos, looked at these abandoned silos and saw a business opportunity. These were enormous underground cylindrical bunkers with hardened concrete walls up to nine feet thick and built to withstand a direct nuclear strike — a perfect place to hide out from a world-ending disaster.

… In 2008, Hall worked with the state of Kansas to find a silo that could be adapted for residential living. After acquiring one such silo in 2010, Hall started the arduous task of pumping out 1.3 million gallons of accumulated rainwater and gutting the silo of rusting launch structures and debris. With the silo emptied, Hall constructed a state-of-the-art underground condo building with a twist. The occupants of this luxury condo building, with redundant power systems, military-grade air filters and a five-year supply of food and water, could survive the apocalypse.

… He’s gotten a surge of interest in his Survival Condos thanks to the rise of COVID-19. Survival Condo units cost $1.5 million for 900 square feet, or $4.5 million for 3,600 square feet. And prices can go higher if you customize the space. For example, one Saudi customer opted to add an underground mosque as well as a concealed subterranean James Bond-style helicopter hanger linked by a tunnel to their unit.

… Each unit is equipped with an upscale modern kitchen and bathroom as well as “virtual windows,” wall screens that show a video-relayed current view of the outside world. The building also features a gym, a swimming pool, and a movie theater, alongside waste-processing facilities, a shooting range, a dog walking area, a classroom and aquaculture.

A Michigan woman’s loose change won her almost $400,000. Mary Ann Davis said she originally hadn’t intended to buy any lottery tickets when she visited a party store near her. But she had $6 in change in her purse and decided to buy three Lucky For Life Easy Picks. Davis’ winning ticket earned her a grand prize of $25,000 a year for life. She chose to take her winnings as a $390,000 lump sum payment.

Golf clubs can sometimes get expensive on their own, but using them to smuggle cocaine can really raise the street value.

The United States Customs and Border Protection intercepted a shipment of clubs Monday in a Miami area mail facility that contained about one pound of cocaine hidden in the shafts. The package, which was valued at about $30,000, came from Colombia and was headed to New York.

Chick-fil-A is bringing its dipping sauces to grocery stores for the first time. The fast-food chain will sell 16-ounce bottles of its signature Chick-fil-A and Polynesian sauces at all Target stores, and soon, many grocery chains.

… Chick-fil-A will also make 8-ounce bottled sauces available for purchase in its Florida restaurants. Sauces available in 8-ounce bottles include Chick-fil-A, Polynesian, Barbeque, Honey Mustard, and Garden Herb Ranch.

The complete skull of a previously unknown species of bird-like dinosaur has been discovered trapped in a chunk of 99-million-year-old amber.

Smaller than the size of the tiniest hummingbird alive today, its head was the size of a thumbnail, its jaw packed with serrated teeth, and its eyes bulging and lizard-like. Despite its teeny-tiny stature, the creature was likely a predator.

Friday is the first of two Friday the 13ths in 2020.

Any calendar year has a minimum of one Friday the 13th, and a maximum of three Friday the 13ths. The last time we had only one Friday the 13th in a calendar year was in May 2016 and the next time won’t be until August 2021. After tomorrow’s Friday the 13th the next will come in November.

Sad news if your name is Gary.  You’re probably the last of a long line of men named Gary. The name is going extinct. It’s been plummeting in popularity since the early 1950s — where America saw nearly 39,000 baby Garys. The name is now ranked number 674 in America.

Overprotective parents inhibit more than their kids’ freedom: they may also slow brain growth in an area linked to mental illness.

Children whose parents are overprotective or neglectful are believed to be more susceptible to psychiatric disorders — which in turn are associated with defects in part of the prefrontal cortex.

… Japanese researchers found that kids with overprotective parents had less grey matter in a particular area of the prefrontal cortex than those who had had healthy relationships. Neglect from fathers, though not mothers, also correlated with less grey matter. This part of the prefrontal cortex develops during childhood, and abnormalities there are common in people with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses.

While New York cancelled the Marathon scheduled for this Sunday, the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston typically draws large crowds too, and today officials canceled the parade amid a growing national COVID-19 outbreak. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced Tuesday:  “This decision is being made out of an abundance of caution to ensure that we are doing what is needed to keep the residents of Boston safe and healthy.”  The parade was scheduled for Sunday.

… This comes after Dublin, Ireland, canceled its St. Patrick’s Day parade. According to Fodor’s, the largest St. Patrick’s Day parade in the world isn’t in Boston or Dublin. It’s in New York, and it’s still on as of Tuesday.

Walmart said it is deploying an emergency employee leave program as the retailer confirms one of its store associates in Cynthiana, Kentucky, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

The infected employee is a woman and Walmart said she is improving with medical care.

… Walmart is the nation’s largest private employer with 1.5 million workers in the U.S. There are three major scenarios Walmart outlines for the new emergency leave policy to apply.

• The first allows employees to stay home if he or she is unable to work or feels “uncomfortable” at work, by waiving its attendance policy through the end of April. While the normal attendance policy will not be enforced in this circumstance, in order to have the leave paid, associates must use their regular paid time-off options.

• Second, if a store, club, office or distribution center fall under a mandated quarantine by either the government or Walmart, or if an individual employee has been told they need be quarantined, these employees will receive up to two weeks of pay and associated absences will not count against attendance.

• Third, if an individual associate becomes ill with a confirmed case of the coronavirus, the associate will receive two weeks pay. If the associate is unable to return to work after those two weeks, additional pay replacement may be available for up to 26 weeks for both full- and part-time hourly associates.

If you can’t stop touching your face amid coronavirus concerns, one Michigan pet supply company has a recommendation: the cone of shame.

Mike Palmer, owner of Premier Pet Supply, put on a recovery cone — typically used to keep dogs from scratching or biting injuries — in a company Facebook post. His public service announcement: Pet cones, available at his company’s eight locations, could help patrons follow the recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus by not touching their face. • IMAGE

Back to the homepage

Must Read

National News, Monday, Sept. 30 – Whistleblower Will Testify Says House

Brian Casey

National News, Friday, Feb. 28 – Wall Street Drops Again With Coronavirus Worries; Biggest Lose Since 2008

Brian Casey

National News, Monday, 9/14 – Wildfires Continue To Rage in Oregon and California; Many Deaths, Many More Missing

Brian Casey