Report in Poland Lists Judges, Prosecutors Facing Reprisals 

An association of judges in Poland published a report Saturday listing dozens of judges and prosecutors who face reprisals and disciplinary measures for having criticized or questioned changes the country’s right-wing government has made to the judicial system. The 200-page report issued by the Polish judges’ association Iustitia named judges and prosecutors who were called before disciplinary bodies, moved to lower courts or had cases taken away from them. The actions took place after the lawyers and jurists commented on the reorganization of the judiciary or issued rulings that seemed to deviate from government policy. Among those listed in the report as being subject to reprisals are Warsaw District Court Judge Igor Tuleya; Olsztyn District Court Judge Pawel Juszczyszyn; and Iustitia’s president, Judge Krystian Markiewicz of the District Court in Katowice. Markiewicz has urged the European Union to act in defense of judicial independence in Poland. Some 4,000 out of Poland’s 10,000 judges are Iustitia members. “As judges we stand guard over the civil rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution,” said the English-language version of the report. “We do not and will not agree to politicize the courts,” it said. ‘Slandering’ judges, prosecutorsThe report also names and quotes government and judiciary officials who, it says, have been publicly “slandering” the judges and prosecutors in Poland and internationally. The government says the changes it has introduced since 2016 were designed to make the justice system more efficient and free of jurists left over from Poland’s communist era. In response to criticism coming from newer judges, the government said it is taking steps to prevent “anarchy” in the court system. The EU, international judicial bodies and critics in Poland have said the changes could undercut judicial independence, the rule of law, and the democratic system of checks and balances. One recent law allows politicians to fine and fire judges who are considered biased because of their group affiliations or who take actions regarded by the government as harmful to the Polish court system. Candidate’s promiseAt a political convention Saturday, the main opposition candidate in Poland’s May 10 presidential election said that if elected, she would make right “all wrongs done to independent judges” by the ruling Law and Justice party. “Poland’s judges are persecuted,” Malgorzata Kidawa-Blonska, who is running for the pro-EU Civic Platform party, said. Kidawa-Blonska is among several candidates challenging Poland’s incumbent president, Andrzej Duda. Opinion polls suggest she may provide competition for Duda, who is backed by the ruling party. Kidawa-Blonska said that as president, she would work to regain Poland’s place as a respected European Union member and to unify the country after what she described as divisions created by the conservative Law and Justice government. She said her guiding values would be “mutual respect, trust and honesty.” 

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New US Guidelines Will Allow Faster Coronavirus Testing

Federal regulators are allowing hospitals and other laboratories to develop their own tests for the coronavirus in an effort to relieve what critics say is a shortage of testing for the virus.  The urgency for testing is growing as health officials report several new coronavirus cases in the United States and the country’s first death — a man in his 50s from Washington state.The new policy unveiled on Saturday by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), follows criticism that a lack of testing has allowed the virus to spread undetected.”It’s going to be really useful for greatly expanding the number of places that can do the tests,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.  Hospitals have been sending samples to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta for testing. Getting results takes 48 hours.Problems with CDC testThe CDC had produced a test for health departments across the country to use. But many reported problems with the tests giving inconclusive results. The problem was traced to an improperly manufactured ingredient. The CDC said the test could be used with the other components. In addition, it plans to send out new test kits to public health labs.  In the meantime, however, the problems limited the ability of health care workers to test patients for coronavirus.  “If we had the ability to test earlier, I’m sure we would have identified patients earlier,” said Jeff Duchin, an official of Seattle & King County Public Health, during a conference call with reporters.  Washington state identified two new cases on Friday, including one with no known connection to other cases, which raises concerns that the virus is spreading undetected.  The New York State health department, some hospital labs and others had developed their own tests. But since they had not been approved by the FDA, their results were not considered valid.  Hospital labs had criticized the approval process in a letter to Congress Friday, FILE – Personnel at the the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention work at the Emergency Operations Center in response to the 2019 novel coronavirus, Feb. 13, 2020, in Atlanta.New FDA policy
On Saturday, the FDA issued a new policy allowing these labs to develop their own assays, and issued instructions for how to validate the tests.”This approval will expedite wait time and improve New York’s ability to more effectively manage the coronavirus situation as it unfolds,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.Rather than needing to send tests to Atlanta, or even to a state health lab, tests will be available at local hospitals or commercial labs.”The closer we can put it towards patients, the better it’ll be for clinicians,” Nuzzo, of Johns Hopkins, said.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s Viral Spin on Virus; Dem Oversteps

President Donald Trump has not proved to be the bearer of reliable information when calamity threatens and people want straight answers about it. That’s happening again as he addresses the prospect of a coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
With numbers still low, but the first death in the U.S. now reported, the infectious disease risks not only public health but the economy he holds up to voters for his reelection. To date, his comments have largely seemed intended to put a positive spin on hard information from the scientists, as if he were wishing the problem away.
Trump’s comment Friday night, characterizing Democratic criticism of the administration’s response to the virus as a “hoax,” lent weight to the perception that he’s minimizing the potential for harm in search of political gain. He emphasized Saturday that he does not consider the coronavirus threat a hoax – only the pushback from Democrats.
Trump has a record of unreliability on this front. In one hurricane episode, he displayed a map doctored to reflect his personal and ill-founded theory that Alabama would  take it on the chin. In another, he dismissed the Puerto Rico death toll as a concoction by Democrats.
He was fast off the mark to describe the injuries suffered by U.S. service members from an Iranian missile attack as little more than headaches, when it turned out scores suffered traumatic brain injury.
For their part, Democrats have been quick to criticize the Trump administration – at times too quick. Several presidential candidates described the federal response as hampered by Trump budget cuts, which have not happened, and by a decimated public-health bureaucracy, despite the top-of-class scientists steering the effort.Here are the facts behind some of the political rhetoric of the past week, on the virus and more.Virus Outbreak TRUMP: “We are rapidly developing a vaccine. … The vaccine is coming along well, and in speaking to the doctors, we think this is something that we can develop very rapidly.” – news conference Wednesday.THE FACTS: No vaccine is imminent for the coronavirus.
A candidate vaccine for the virus causing COVID-19 is approaching first-step safety tests, but federal experts say anything widely usable is probably more than a year away.
“We can’t rely on a vaccine over the next several months,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health.
—TRUMP: “The level of death with Ebola – you know, at the time, it was a virtual 100%. … There’s a very good chance you’re not going to die. It’s very much the opposite. You’re talking about 1 or 2%, whereas in the other case, it was a virtual 100%. Now they have it; they have studied it. They know very much. In fact, we’re very close to a vaccine.” _ news conference Tuesday in New Delhi.THE FACTS: “Close” is not correct. A vaccine has already been developed for Ebola. The FDA approved an Ebola vaccine in December. Even before its U.S. approval, it was being used in Congo to help stem the current outbreak.
       ___TRUMP, on U.S. coronavirus cases: “We’re going down, not up. We’re going very substantially down, not up.” – news conference Wednesday.THE FACTS: That was false assurance. He was referring to the fact that most of the people he cited as having COVID-19 in the U.S. are getting better. But that is not indicative of the spread or containment of the disease since most victims, by far, recover.
Cases in the U.S. are almost certain to increase, his own officials have said repeatedly, and he acknowledged as much Saturday.
       ___TRUMP:  “The flu in our country kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year; that was shocking to me. And so far, if you look at what we have with the 15 people, and they are recovering.”THE FACTS: His remarks on the coronavirus risks are misleading. Scientists don’t know enough about how deadly the new virus actually is, and so far it hasn’t infected nearly as many people as the flu. Of the cases cited by Trump, they are not “all recovering.” One died and four others are “very ill,” he said Saturday.
Flu deaths fluctuate depending on which strain is circulating and how well each year’s vaccine is working, but Trump’s cited range is in the ballpark. Two flu seasons ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated there were 80,000 U.S. deaths, the highest death toll in at least four decades. This year’s flu season isn’t as deadly; so far this season, the CDC estimates there have been 16,000 to 41,000 deaths from the flu.
As to COVID-19, an illness characterized by fever and coughing and in serious cases shortness of breath or pneumonia, there are now at least 60 cases in the U.S., with no deaths reported. In addition to the ones Trump cited, 45 were among groups the U.S. government evacuated and quarantined either from China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
In the hardest-hit part of China, the death rate from the new coronavirus was between 2% and 4%, while in other parts of China it was 0.7%. In contrast, the death rate from seasonal flu on average is about 0.1%, said Fauci, of the U.S. National Institutes of Health. That’s far lower than what has been calculated so far for COVID-19. But millions of people get the flu every year around the world, leading to a global annual death toll in the hundreds of thousands.
       ___MIKE BLOOMBERG: “There’s nobody here to figure out what the hell we should be doing. And he’s defunded _ he’s defunded Centers for Disease Control, CDC, so we don’t have the organization we need. This is a very serious thing.” _ Democratic presidential debate Tuesday.JOE BIDEN, comparing the Obama-Biden administration with now: “We increased the budget of the CDC. We increased the NIH budget. … He’s wiped all that out. … He cut the funding for the entire effort.”THE FACTS: They’re both wrong to say the agencies have seen their money cut. Bloomberg is repeating the false allegation in a new ad that states the U.S. is unprepared for the virus because of “reckless cuts” to the CDC. Trump’s budgets have proposed cuts to public health, only to be overruled by Congress, where there’s strong bipartisan support for agencies such as the CDC and NIH. Instead, financing has increased.
Indeed, the money that government disease detectives first tapped to fight the latest outbreak was a congressional fund created for health emergencies.|
Some public health experts say a bigger concern than White House budgets is the steady erosion of a CDC grant program for state and local public health emergency preparedness – the front lines in detecting and battling new disease. But that decline was set in motion by a congressional budget measure that predates Trump.
The broader point about there being “nobody here” to coordinate the response sells short what’s in place to handle an outbreak.
The public health system has a playbook to follow for pandemic preparation – regardless of who’s president or whether specific instructions are coming from the White House. Public-health experts outside government have praised the CDC’s work so far and noted that its top scientific ranks have remained stable during the past three years.
       ___Health Care BERNIE SANDERS: “What every study out there – conservative or progressive – says, Medicare for All' will save money.`` - Democratic debate.THE FACTS: Not true. Some studies say that, some don't.
Sanders, a Vermont senator, cites a recent medical journal article in The Lancet, which estimated ``Medicare for All'' would save more than $450 billion annually, or about 13%.
But other studies have found a Sanders-like single-payer plan would cost more, partly because free health care would increase the demand for services.
A study last fall from the Commonwealth Fund and the Urban Institute estimated that such a plan would increase national health spending by about $720 billion. A Rand study estimated spending would increase 1.8% under a national single-payer plan.
       ___Gun Control JOE BIDEN: "A hundred and fifty million people have been killed since 2007, when Bernie voted to exempt the gun manufacturers from liability.'' - Democratic debate.THE FACTS: Biden vastly overstated gun deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about 413,000 gun deaths from 2007 to 2018, a far cry from 150 million, which equates to close to half the U.S. population. More than half of the gun deaths in 2018 were from suicide, says the CDC. His campaign acknowledged he misspoke.
       ___AMY KLOBUCHAR: "I am the author of the bill to close the boyfriend loophole that says that domestic abusers can't go out and get an AK-47.''
BIDEN: ``I wrote that law.''
KLOBUCHAR: "You didn't write that bill, I wrote that bill.''
BIDEN: "I wrote the bill, the Violence Against Women Act, that took (guns) out of the hands of people who abused their wife.''
KLOUBCHAR: "OK we'll have a fact check look at this." - Democratic debate.
BIDEN: "No, let's look at the fact check. The only thing (is) that that boyfriend loophole was not covered, I couldn't get that covered. You, in fact, as a senator tried to get it covered and Mitch McConnell is holding it up on his desk right now.''THE FACTS: Klobuchar, a Minnesota senator, correctly called out the former vice president for seeming to take credit for legislation closing the "boyfriend loophole.'' Biden conceded the point, then correctly pointed out that the loophole has not been eliminated in law.
In short, Biden did write the legislation that became the Violence Against Women Act, one of his most prominent achievements. The 1994 law sets out services and specific protections for victims of domestic violence.
Klobuchar took the lead in the Senate on legislation passed by the House that would extend the law's protections to help women who are threatened by abusive partners who are not a spouse, ex-spouse or parent of a common child _ in other words, boyfriends or dating partners. But that effort, opposed by the National Rifle Association, has been hung up in the Senate.
 ___Women in the Workplace
BLOOMBERG, responding to Elizabeth Warren's demand that he lift non-disclosure agreements for all women who signed them: "We are doing that, senator.'' - Democratic debate.THE FACTS: He hasn't done that.
Bloomberg agreed to release three women from non-disclosure agreements in situations where they specifically identified an issue with him. But many more former Bloomberg employees have signed such agreements, having to do with the culture and work environment at his company. He hasn't freed them from their obligation to stay quiet about their complaints.
       ___
WARREN: "At least I didn't have a boss who said to me 'kill it' the way that Mayor Bloomberg is alleged to have said to one of his pregnant employees.''
BLOOMBERG: "I never said that.'' - Democratic debate.THE FACTS: The woman who made the allegation against Bloomberg recounted it in a legal filing.
Former Bloomberg employee Sekiko Sekai Garrison, 55, filed a complaint against Bloomberg and his company with the New York Division of Human Rights in 1995. In Garrison's written complaint, she recounted several personal interactions with Bloomberg when she worked at the company.
In one incident, Garrison said Bloomberg approached her near the office coffee machines and asked if she was still married, according to the complaint.
Garrison says she responded that her marriage was great and that she was pregnant with her first child, and alleged that Bloomberg replied: "Kill it.'' Bloomberg has denied that the exchange happened, but in her complaint, she transcribed a voicemail she says Bloomberg later left on her voicemail, apologizing and saying he meant the
“kill it” remark as a joke. Her complaint was eventually settled as part of a lawsuit with no admission of guilt, and she resigned from the company.
       ___India
TRUMP: “Now, India has more people than any country, a little bit more than China.“ – news conference Tuesday in New Delhi.THE FACTS: He’s getting ahead of population projections.
India is projected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country around 2027, according to the U.N.’s World Population Prospects report.
       ___
TRUMP, on India’s leader, Narendra Modi: “Under Prime Minister Modi, for the first time in history, every village in India now has access to electricity.” – rally Monday in Ahmedabad, India.THE FACTS: That’s false. The Indian government says a village is considered electrified if at least 10% of homes and public buildings have electricity. According to the World Bank, about 99 million people, or 7% of India’s population, still live in the dark.
       ___
TRUMP: “Six hundred million more people have access to basic sanitation.” – rally Monday.THE FACTS: It’s true that India has built more than 110 million new toilets since Modi’s government came to power in 2014, leading to increased access to basic sanitation. But implementation has been spotty in a country where venturing into the fields to defecate has been widespread and accepted.
More than 60% of India’s 1.3 billion people live in more than 600,000 villages. Poor villagers who couldn’t build toilets in their homes chose open fields, forests, ditches and other open spaces for defecation _ and that cultural practice has been slow to change.
2018 study conducted by the non-profit Research Institute for Compassionate Economics, for instance, found 44% of the rural population across four large states still defecate in the open. Nearly one-quarter of people in households with toilets also continued to defecate in the open, a figure unchanged from 2014, according to the study.
After becoming India’s prime minister, Modi promised to make India free of open defecation. He’s acknowledged the task is not over.
The World Bank previously said about 1 in every 10 deaths in India is linked to poor sanitation.
       ___China
BLOOMBERG, on China’s president, Xi Jinping: “In terms of whether he’s a dictator, he does serve at the behest of the Politburo, their group of people. There’s no question he has an enormous amount of power. But he does play to his constituency.” – Democratic debate.THE FACTS: He’s minimizing Xi’s broad powers in China.
Xi serves as the head of the ruling Communist Party’s Politburo Standing Committee and is also head of state and leader of the party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army. The Politburo and its standing committee aren’t generally viewed as a check on his power. Although Xi’s moves to accumulate power have been criticized by some non-party intellectuals, he faces no clear rivals or constraints on his power.
However, a faltering economy and the knock-on effects of the coronavirus outbreak that originated in China are seen as placing him under greater pressure than he has previously faced.
      

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Empty Streets, Economic Turmoil as Coronavirus Alters Daily Life

The coronavirus claimed its first victim in the U.S. Saturday as the number of cases shot up in Iran, Italy and South Korea and the spreading outbreak continued to shake the global economy.
The virus altered daily life around the world as governments moved to combat the contagion. Islam’s holiest sites were closed to foreign pilgrims, while professional baseball teams played in deserted stadiums in Japan and officials in France advised residents to forgo customary greeting kisses.
The list of countries touched by the virus climbed to nearly 60, with new cases reported Saturday in Lebanon, Mexico, France and Ecuador. More than 85,000 people worldwide have contracted the virus, with deaths topping 2,900.
A man in his 50s with underlying health conditions became the first coronavirus death on U.S. soil. President Donald Trump initially said the victim was a woman, but the person’s gender was later confirmed by state and federal health officials. Officials say they aren’t sure how the man acquired the virus, as he had not traveled to any effected areas.
“Additional cases in the United States are likely, but healthy individuals should be able to fully recover,” Trump said Saturday at a briefing, where officials announced heightened warnings about travel to certain regions of Italy and South Korea as well as a ban on travel to Iran.
Many cases of the virus have been relatively mild, and some of those infected are believed to show no symptoms at all. But that can allow for easier spread, and concern is mounting that prolonged quarantines, supply chain disruptions and a sharp reduction in tourism and business travel could weaken the global economy or even cause a recession.
South Korea, the second hardest hit country after China, reported 813 new cases Saturday – the highest daily jump since confirming its first patient in late January and raising its total to 3,150.
Italian authorities say the country now has more than 1,100 coronavirus cases, with 29 deaths so far.
Iran is preparing for the possibility of tens of thousands'' of people getting tested for the virus as the number of confirmed cases spiked again Saturday, an official said. So far, the virus and the COVID-19 illness it causes have killed 43 people out of 593 confirmed cases in Iran.
As governments scrambled to control the spread and businesses wrestled with interruptions, researchers working to better understand the disease reported that the death rate may be lower than initially feared as more mild cases are counted.A teen wears a medical mask as a precaution against the spread of the new coronavirus, during an outing in Mexico City, Feb. 29, 2020.Effort to understand virus
A study by Chinese researchers published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine analyzing 1,099 patients at more than 500 hospitals throughout China calculated a death rate of 1.4%, substantially lower than earlier studies that focused on patients in Wuhan, where it started and has been most severe.
Assuming there are many more cases with no or very mild symptoms, "the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%,'' U.S. health officials wrote in an editorial in the journal.
That would make the new virus more like a severe seasonal flu than a disease similar to its genetic cousins SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or MERS, Middle East respiratory syndrome.
Evidence of the virus' economic toll continued to mount Saturday, with a new report showing a sharp decline in Chinese manufacturing in February after efforts to contain the virus shut down much of the world's second-largest economy.
The survey, coming as global stock markets fall sharply on fears that the virus will spread abroad, adds to mounting evidence of the vast cost of the disease that emerged in central China in December and its economic impact worldwide.
The monthly purchasing managers' index issued by the Chinese statistics agency and an industry group fell to 35.7 from January's 50 on a 100-point scale on which numbers below 50 indicate activity contracting.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced a 270 billion yen ($2.5 billion) emergency economic package to help fight the virus. Abe said at a news conference that Japan is at critical juncture to determine whether the country can keep the outbreak under control ahead of the Tokyo summer Olympics.
Abe, whose announcement this past week of a plan to close all schools for more than a month through the end of the Japanese academic year sparked public criticism, said the emergency package includes financial support for parents and their employers affected by the closures.
"Frankly speaking, this battle cannot be won solely by the efforts of the government,'' Abe said Saturday.
We cannot do it without understanding and cooperation from every one of you, including medical institutions, families, companies and local governments.”
Even in isolated, sanctions-hit North Korea, leader Kim Jong Un called for stronger anti-virus efforts to guard against COVID-19, saying there will be “serious consequences” if the illness spreads to the country.
China has seen a slowdown in new infections and on Saturday morning reported 427 new cases over the past 24 hours along with 47 additional deaths. The city at the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan, accounted for the bulk of both. The ruling party is striving to restore public and business confidence and avert a deeper economic downturn and politically risky job losses after weeks of disruptions due to the viral outbreak.Pedestrians wearing face masks cross a square in western Tehran, Iran, Feb. 29, 2020.Deserted streets
In other areas caught up in the outbreak, eerie scenes met those who ventured outside.
Streets were deserted in the city of Sapporo on Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido, where a state of emergency was issued until mid-March. Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced they would close, and big events were canceled, including a concert series by the K-pop group BTS.
In France, the archbishop of Paris advised parish priests not to administer communion by placing the sacramental bread in worshippers’ mouths. Instead, priests were told to place the bread in their hands. The French government cancelled large indoor events.
Saudi Arabia closed off Islam’s holiest sites in Mecca and Medina to foreign pilgrims, disrupting travel for thousands of Muslims already headed to the kingdom and potentially affecting plans later this year for millions more ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan and the annual hajj pilgrimage.
Tourist arrivals in Thailand are down 50% compared with a year ago, and in Italy _ which has the most reported cases of any country outside of Asia – hotel bookings are falling and Premier Giuseppe Conte raised the specter of recession.
The head of the World Health Organization on Friday announced that the risk of the virus spreading worldwide was “very high,” while U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the window of opportunity for containing the virus was narrowing.
Economists have forecast global growth will slip to 2.4% this year, the slowest since the Great Recession in 2009, and down from earlier expectations closer to 3%. For the United States, estimates are falling to as low as 1.7% growth this year, down from 2.3% in 2019.
Despite anxieties about a wider outbreak in the U.S., Trump has defended measures taken and lashed out at Democrats who have questioned his handling of the threat.At a political rally Friday night in North Charleston, South Carolina, Trump asserted that Democratic complaints about his handling of the virus threat are “their new hoax,” echoing similar past complaints by the president about the Russia investigation and his impeachment.
Trump accused Democrats of “politicizing” the coronavirus threat and boasted about preventive steps he’s ordered in an attempt to keep the virus from spreading across the United States. 

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Man in Washington State 1st in US to Die from Coronavirus

A man has died in Washington state of COVID-19, state health officials said Saturday, marking the first such reported death in the United States.
State officials issued a terse news release announcing the death, gave no details and scheduled a news conference. A spokesperson for EvergreenHealth Medical Center, Kayse Dahl, said the person died in the facility in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, but gave no other details.
State and King County health officials said “new people (have been) identified with the infection, one of whom died.” They did not say how many new cases there are.
Amy Reynolds of the Washington state health department said in a brief telephone interview: We are dealing with an emergency evolving situation.''
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the person who died was a man from Washington state.
"It is a sad day in our state as we learn that a Washingtonian has died from COVID-19. Our hearts go out to his family and friends," Inslee said. "We will continue to work toward a day where no one dies from this virus.
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States is considered small. Worldwide, the number of people sickened by the virus hovered Friday around 83,000, and there were more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.
Most infections result in mild symptoms, including coughing and fever, though some can become more serious and lead to pneumonia. Older people, especially those with chronic illnesses such as heart or lung disease, are especially vulnerable. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.
Health officials in California, Oregon and Washington state worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities after confirming three patients were infected by unknown means.
The patients - an older Northern California woman with chronic health conditions, a high school student in Everett, Washington and an employee at a Portland, Oregon-area school - hadn't recently traveled overseas or had any known close contact with a traveler or an infected person, authorities said.
Earlier U.S. cases include three people who were evacuated from the central China city of Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak; 14 people who returned from China, or their spouses; and 42 American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, who were flown to U.S. military bases in California and Texas for quarantining.
Convinced that the number of cases will grow but determined to keep them from exploding, health agencies were ramping up efforts to identify patients.
The California Department of Public Health said Friday that the state will receive enough kits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to test up to 1,200 people a day for the COVID-19 virus - a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom complained to federal health officials that the state had already exhausted its initial 200 test kits.
Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area reported two cases where the source of infection wasn't known. The older woman was hospitalized for a respiratory illness, and rapid local testing confirmed in one day that she had the virus, health officials said.
"This case represents some degree of community spread, some degree of circulation," said Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County and director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department.
"But we don't know to what extent,'' Cody said. "It could be a little, it could be a lot.''
"We need to begin taking important additional measures to at least slow it down as much as possible,'' she said.
Cody said the newly confirmed case in Santa Clara County is not linked to two previous cases in that county, nor to others in the state.
The Santa Clara County resident was treated at a local hospital and is not known to have traveled to Solano County, where another woman was identified Wednesday as having contracted the virus from an unknown source.
Dozens of people had close contact with the Solano County woman. They were urged to quarantine themselves at home, while a few who showed symptoms of illness were in isolation, officials said.
At UC Davis Medical Center at least 124 registered nurses and other health care workers were sent home for "self-quarantine" after the Solano County woman with the virus was admitted, National Nurses United, a nationwide union representing RNs, said Friday.
The case "highlights the vulnerability of the nation's hospitals to this virus," the union said.
Earlier Friday, Oregon confirmed its first coronavirus case, a person who works at an elementary school in the Portland area, which will be temporarily closed.
The Lake Oswego School District sent a robocall to parents saying that Forest Hills Elementary will be closed until Wednesday so it can be deep-cleaned by maintenance workers.
Washington state health officials announced two new coronavirus cases Friday night, including a high school student who attends Jackson High School in Everett, said Dr. Chris Spitters of the Snohomish County Health District.
The other case in Washington was a woman in in King County in her 50s who had recently traveled to South Korea, authorities said.
Both patients weren't seriously ill.
But health officials aren't taking any chances. Some communities, including San Francisco, already have declared local emergencies in case they need to obtain government funding.
In Southern California's Orange County, the city of Costa Mesa went to court to prevent state and federal health officials from transferring dozens of people exposed to the virus aboard a cruise ship in Japan to a state-owned facility in the city. The passengers, including some who tested positive for the virus and underwent hospital care, had been staying at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California.
On Friday, state officials said the federal decided it no longer had a crucial need to move those people to the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa. That's because of the imminent end of the isolation period for those passengers and the relatively small number of persons who ended up testing positive, officials said.
The new coronavirus cases of unknown origin marks an escalation of the worldwide outbreak in the U.S. because it means the virus could spread beyond the reach of preventative measures like quarantines, though state health officials said that was inevitable and that the risk of widespread transmission remains low.
California public health officials on Friday said more than 9,380 people are self-monitoring after arriving on commercial flights from China through Los Angeles and San Francisco. That's up from the 8,400 that Newsom cited on Thursday, though officials said the number increases daily as more flights arrive.
Officials are not too worried, for now, about casual contact, because federal officials think the coronavirus is spread only through
close contact, being within 6 feet of somebody for what they’re calling a prolonged period of time,” said Dr. James Watt, interim state epidemiologist at the California Department of Public Health.
The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.
As infectious disease experts fanned out in the Solano County city of Vacaville, some residents in the city between San Francisco and Sacramento stocked up on supplies amid fears things could get worse despite official reassurances, while others took the news in stride.
The woman in the community who has coronavirus first sought treatment at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, before her condition worsened and she was transferred to the medical center in Sacramento.
Sacramento County’s top health official told The Sacramento Bee on Friday that he expects several medical workers to test positive themselves in the next few days. Numerous workers at both hospitals have been tested, but the tests were sent to labs approved by the CDC and generally take three to four days to complete.
Peter Beilenson, Sacramento County’s health services director, said he expects even those who test positive to become only mildly ill.
Confusion over how quickly the woman was tested for coronavirus concerned McKinsey Paz, who works at a private security firm in Vacaville. The company has already stockpiled 450 face masks and is scrambling for more “since they’re hard to come by.” The company’s owner bought enough cleaning and disinfectant supplies to both scrub down the office and send home with employees.
But they appeared to be at the extreme for preparations.
Eugenia Kendall was wearing a face mask, but in fear of anything including the common cold. Her immune system is impaired because she is undergoing chemotherapy, and she has long been taking such precautions.
“We’re not paranoid. We’re just trying to be practical,” said her husband of 31 years, Ivan Kendall. “We wipe the shopping carts if they have them, and when I get back in the car I wipe my hands _ and just hope for the best.”
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South Korea Tests for Coronavirus at Drive-through Clinics

South Korea has experienced a massive spike in confirmed coronavirus infections over the past week. One reason the numbers have jumped so quickly: South Korea is making it very easy for people to get coronavirus tests. As of Friday, the country had tested about 80,000 people. Many are getting tested at specially created drive-through clinics. VOA’s Bill Gallo and Korean service video journalist Hyungjin Kim have the details.

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Trump Says Additional Coronavirus Cases Likely

President Donald Trump says 22 people in the U.S. have been stricken by the new coronavirus and additional cases in the United States are “likely.”
Trump provided an update on the virus after the first reported U.S. death Saturday, of a woman he described as being in her late 50s and having a high medical risk. He says healthy Americans should be able to recover if they contract the new virus.
The virus threat has spooked global markets and the public at large. Trump is cautioning that there's no reason to panic at all.''
Trump spoke a day after he denounced criticism of his response to the threat as a
hoax“ cooked up by his political enemies.
On Friday, health officials confirmed a second case of coronavirus in the U.S. in a person who didn’t travel internationally or have close contact with anyone who had the virus. The U.S. has a total of about 60 confirmed cases.
At a political rally Friday night in South Carolina, Trump sought to steal some of the spotlight from his Democratic rivals who were campaigning across the state on the evening before its presidential primary. He accused Democrats of “politicizing” the coronavirus threat and boasted about preventive steps he’s ordered in an attempt to keep the virus that originated in China from spreading across the United States. Those steps include barring entry by most foreign nationals who had recently visited China.
“They have no clue. They don’t have a clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa,” Trump said, referring to problems that plagued the Democratic vote in the Iowa caucuses Feb. 3.
“They tried the impeachment hoax. … This is their new hoax,” Trump said of Democratic denunciations of his administration’s coronavirus response.
Some Democrats have said Trump could have acted sooner to bolster the U.S. response to the virus. Democratic and Republican lawmakers also have said his request for an additional $2.5 billion to defend against the virus isn’t enough. They’ve signaled they will provide substantially more funding.
Trump said Democrats want him to fail and argued that steps he’s taken so far have kept cases to a minimum and prevented virus deaths in the U.S. 

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French Film Awards Held Amid Calls for More Diversity

France’s annual Cesar Award film ceremony Friday is already clouded in controversy, with a shake-up of its board, sexual assault accusations against top director Roman Polanski, and now, fresh calls for more diversity on screen.After Hollywood, French cinema is having its own introspective moment. The latest hashtag trending this week is #BlackCesars, after some 30 leading members of France’s film industry denounced its lack of diversity.  In an open letter published in a French newspaper this week, they claimed actors, directors and producers of ethnic African and Asian origin, and those from France’s overseas territories, are essentially invisible. They mostly get insignificant roles, the group claimed, that would never allow them to be nominated for Cesars or other awards. Many of the signatories are from minority backgrounds.  Hermann Ebongue, secretary general of anti-discrimination group SOS Racisme, notes calls for more diversity in the industry are not new. Although this year’s Academy Awards faced similar criticism, he believes minority artists in the United States still have more opportunities to become stars than in France.  The #BlackCesars petition also points to what it calls a paradox of American film director Spike Lee becoming the first black head of the Cannes Film Festival’s jury in May.  The diversity criticism here comes amid a shake-up of the Cesar’s management. Its board resigned en masse earlier this month, after film industry members accused it of being undemocratic and dysfunctional.Women’s rights activists protest against multiple nominations for Roman Polanski at the Cesar Awards ceremony, in Paris, France, Feb. 28, 2020.Meanwhile, another crisis is part of the backdrop of the awards ceremony. Franco-Polish film director Roman Polanski, whose movie An Officer and a Spy tops the list of nominations, faces accusations of rape and sexual harassment. He denies the accusations and said he would not attend following a storm of protest.  Some minority actors and directors have broken the glass ceiling here. Among them: film star Omar Sy, and director Ladj Ly, whose movie Les Miserables — set in France’s rough, multi-ethnic banlieues, or suburbs, — is another leading Cesar contender. Ly was also France’s first black film director to be nominated for an Oscar this year.  But activists say these stars remain the exceptions. Their box-office success, they say, proves French audiences also want more diversity onscreen.  Ebongue, of SOS Racisme, says real change will come when the industry as a whole signs on to petitions like #BlackCesars — and not just a minority of members. 

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