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Colleges get ready…


A team from the University of Rochester Medical Center gathered in late February for a drill: What would the hospital do if someone showed up presenting with symptoms of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus?

The group went through the steps: Masks on. Get the patient into an isolation room. Rule out other possible causes. Notify county and state health officials.

Now,…



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Fears close down France's Louvre Museum…


PARIS (AP) — The spreading coronavirus epidemic shut down France’s Louvre Museum on Sunday, with workers who guard its trove of artworks fearful of being contaminated by the museum’s flow of visitors from around the world.

“We are very worried because we have visitors from everywhere,” said Andre Sacristin, a Louvre employee and union representative for its staffers.

“The risk is very, very, very great,” he said in a phone interview. While there are no known virus infections among the museum’s 2,300 workers, “it’s only a question of time,” he said.

A short statement from the Louvre said a staff meeting about virus prevention efforts stopped the museum from opening as scheduled Sunday morning. Would-be visitors were still waiting to get inside on Sunday afternoon.

The shutdown followed a government decision Saturday to ban indoor public gatherings of more than 5,000 people.

Sacristin said that new measure exacerbated the fears of Louvre workers that they might be in danger of contamination, because the museum welcomes tens of thousands of visitors each day. Also worrying staffers is that museum workers from northern Italy are now visiting the Louvre. They have come to collect works by Leonardo da Vinci that were loaned for a major exhibition, he said.

A meeting about virus prevention is scheduled for Monday between union representatives and the museum management, said Sacristin, who will be taking part.

He said museum visitors should be subjected to health checks to protect staffers and that if cases of coronavirus contamination are confirmed “then the museum should be closed.”

Workers have asked for masks to be distributed but so far have been given only an alcohol-based solution to disinfect their hands, he said.

“That didn’t please us at all,” he said.

Louvre workers first held their own meeting on Sunday morning and then demanded talks with the museum management, he said, and some staffers were refusing to work because they fear contamination.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the new coronavirus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak



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First Australian to die…


The first person to die from the coronavirus in Australia has been named as James Kwan, a retired travel agent from Perth.

Mr Kwan, 78, was diagnosed with the virus after going on the infected Diamond Princess cruise ship.

He died in the early hours of Sunday morning at the Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

A friend told The Australian Mr Kwan was very devoted to his family.

They described the situation as “really tragic”.

He had been taken from a Darwin quarantine camp with his wife, who is also infected, after being isolated in a quarantine camp there from Japan.

The couple were two of 164 Australians who were quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess with coronavirus then flown from Japan to Darwin and placed in isolation at the Howards Springs camp.

Mr Kwan’s wife Theresa is now in isolation at a Perth hospital.

She said in a statement that her husband passed away peacefully knowing his family loved him.

Just hours after Mr Kwan’s death, a sixth person was diagnosed with coronavirus in NSW.

A woman in her 50s is the latest to be diagnosed with the virus after recently returning to Australia from Iran.

She flew back to Sydney on February 23 on Qatar Airways Flight QR 908 and developed symptoms of the virus the following day.

She was tested for the coronavirus on February 29 after presenting to a hospital emergency department.

Because the woman’s symptoms began within 24 hours of arriving in Sydney, people who were sitting close to her on her flight will be followed up and asked to self-isolate.

The latest case of the coronavirus in NSW is not linked to, and was not on the same flight, as the fifth confirmed case who has also returned from Iran but on a different day.

Victoria has also confirmed another case of coronavirus, with a woman in her 30s becoming the ninth person in the state to come down with the illness.

The state’s Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Sunday the woman landed in Melbourne from Iran.

The Victorian woman travelled from Tehran via Kuala Lumpur and Bali, arriving in Australia around 6am on Friday.

She started feeling unwell while travelling to Melbourne, and authorities are following-up with fellow plane travellers.

She was admitted to hospital on Saturday and put in isolation, then confirmed positive for the COVID-19 virus on Sunday.

Another person who was in contact with the woman will be tested for the virus and has been forced to self-isolate at home for 14 days.

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As coronavirus deaths in Iran spiral upwards, the man becomes Australia’s second infected person returning from there to test positive for the virus.

Aged in his 40s, the man flew into Sydney from Iran on February 22 and developed symptoms two days later.

On Friday, he went to hospital where he was tested for COVID-19.

“He was advised to be isolated at home while waiting for the test result which was confirmed positive for COVID-19 late on 29 February,” NSW Chief health officer Kerry Chant said.

He has not displayed severe symptoms, but is being treated in Sydney Westmead Hospital.

The man was recorded as the second case in Australia to have come from Iran after a Gold Coast beautician tested positive for COVID-19 late on Friday.

The woman, 63, had returned from Iran on Monday and gave up to 40 customers facial treatments at the salon before she fell ill on Thursday.

Anyone who went to Hair Plus salon, in the Australia Fair shopping centre at Southport, Queensland last week is advised to get tested.

The woman is now in a stable condition and in isolation in the Gold Coast University Hospital.

RELATED: Follow updates on the coronavirus outbreak

A Sydney man who is being tested for the coronavirus could be the first person in Australia to contract the disease through person-to-person transmission.

The man in his 50s, understood to be a medical worker, is believed to have travelled to China months ago but has just recently started showing signs of the virus, The Daily Telegraph reported.

He is currently being cared for in a NSW hospital while he undergoes testing for the coronavirus.

“Additional specimens were collected overnight and are being tested today to confirm

whether or not he has the infection,” a NSW spokesperson said.

“He is currently being cared for in hospital. No more personal details relating to this patient will be released at this stage.”

There are yet to be any confirmed cases of person-to-person transmission in Australia.

All four of NSW’s previous coronavirus cases have since been discharged from hospital.

A sixth person, a man aged in his 50s, is currently being tested for COVID-19.

A total of 23 coronavirus infections have been recorded in Australia to date.

After activating a coronavirus emergency response plan for Australia on Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison imposed an Iran travel ban which came into force today.

Foreign nationals coming from Iran will be forced to spend a fortnight in a third country before being allowed into Australia.

Australian citizens and permanent residents will need to isolate themselves for a fortnight after returning from Iran.

Iran has recorded 43 deaths from coronavirus, nine more since it had on Saturday, and has the highest COVID-19 mortality rate outside China.

Predictions are the death toll will continue to rise and the World Health Organisation has dispatched a medical team to Iran.

The Australian Government has a ban on foreign nationals who leave China from entering Australia for a duration of two weeks.

RELATED: Steps you must take to avoid killer virus

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As of Sunday morning, more than 79,251 coronavirus cases had been recorded in China, followed by 3150 in South Korea, 1128 in Italy, 593 in Iran and 241 in Japan.

The world death toll is 2941, with 2727 of those in the Wuhan province Hubei, a total of 54 in other parts of China, 29 in Italy and 16 in South Korea.

candace.sutton@news.com.au



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NYC to remove iconic payphones off streets…


The removals will begin in Hell’s Kitchen this month.

New York City is reportedly planning to remove all of the last remaining public payphones from the city’s streets.

About 30 payphones will be removed from Hell’s Kitchen by the end of the month, according to ABC News’ New York City station WABC, followed by an estimated 3,000 more across the city’s five boroughs in the coming months.

Before payphones, phone booths used to be ubiquitous around New York City but faded from popularity – and functionality – with the invention and use of the smart phone.

There are currently only four phone booths left in New York City, according to the New York Times – all of them on the Upper West Side. The last remaining booths can all be found on West End Avenue on 66th Street, 90th Street, 100th Street and 101st Street.

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson spoke to Gothamist about the plans to remove payphones around the city on Feb. 28.

“My office has received numerous community complaints from local residents about these antiquated pay phones, which present public safety and quality of life issues,” Johnson said. “Additionally, they take up sorely needed sidewalk space that could better serve people with disabilities, families with strollers and ease sidewalk congestion.”

Some of the payphones will be replaced with Link NYC internet kiosks which provide free internet and phone calls to the public.



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Matthews absent from MSNBC after sexism allegations, on-air slip-ups…


MSNBC’s Chris Matthews was noticebaly absent from the network’s South Carolina primary coverage Saturday evening, one day after being accused of “sexist” behavior by a former network contributor — and then later misidentifying a politician while on the air.

Earlier in the week, Matthews had issued an on-air apology after drawing backlash for comparing the Nevada caucus victory of Sen. Bernie Sanders to the 1940 invasion of France by the Nazis.

In an op-ed for GQ on Friday, journalist Laura Bassett claimed Matthews had used sexist language when she would visit the MSNBC studio to appear on his show as a guest.

EX-MSNBC GUEST RIPS ‘IRRESPONSIBLE’ NETWORK, CLAIMS MATTHEWS’ ‘SEXIST’ BEHAVIOR UNDERMINED HER PERFORMANCE

She recalled Matthews looking at her in an adjacent makeup chair before an appearance in 2016 and asking: ‘Why haven’t I fallen in love with you yet?'” Bassett said she laughed nervously but Matthews kept making comments to the makeup artist. “Keep putting makeup on her, I’ll fall in love with her,” Matthews allegedly said.

She said he made another comment about her makeup during a separate appearance. “Make sure you wipe this off her face after the show,” she wrote he said to the makeup artist. “We don’t make her up so some guy at a bar can look at her like this.”

Bassett said she decided to write the op-ed because of a “sexist” interview Matthews did with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., after the last debate in which he pressed her about her accusation that former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg has once told a woman at his company to “kill” her unborn baby. Bloomberg denies he said it.

A feminist group has called for Matthews’ firing over the interview.

Bassett said she wrote a similar op-ed in 2017 without naming Matthews because she was afraid to publicly accuse him at the time, but wrote many women reached out to her saying they knew who she was talking about.

She said while she didn’t think Matthews’ behavior rose to the level of criminal sexual harassment, it undermined her ability to do her job.

In 2017, it was reported that NBC paid $40,000 to a producer on Matthews’ show who claimed he sexually harassed her.

MSNBC has not confirmed the amount paid to the woman, nor has the network said whether the payment was made to settle a harassment claim.

An MSNBC spokesperson said at the time that executives were told that Matthews made inappropriate jokes and comments about the woman in front of others, that the matter was reviewed and it was determined the comments were inappropriate and made in poor taste but were never meant as propositions.

NBC did not immediately respond to Fox News’ after-hours request for comment.

‘Mistaken identity’

Then during his “Hardball” broadcast Friday, Matthews mistook Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., for Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Jaime Harrison, chalking it up as a case of “mistaken identity.”

Harrison was appearing on “Hardball” to discuss his campaign to unseat Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., but the interview went off the rails when Matthews ran a clip of Scott standing beside Graham at that evening’s Trump rally in North Charleston and assumed it was Harrison.

Both Scott and Harrison are African-American.

CHRIS MATTHEWS MISTAKES GOP SEN. TIM SCOTT FOR DEMOCRATIC CHALLENGER TO LINDSEY GRAHAM

“Jaime, I see you standing next to the guy you’re going to beat right there, maybe,” he said. “Maybe? Maybe, maybe? Lindsey Graham?”

Soon Matthews realized his error and apologized to Harrison.

“What am I saying? Big mistake. Mistaken identity, sir. Sorry,” Matthews said.

Harrison appeared to roll his eyes and looked shocked, but kept a smile on his face and answered Matthews’ question.

‘I will strive to do a better job’

Matthews also took fire for a comment he made about Sanders’ decisive victory in Nevada last weekend, comparing the candidate to the Nazis’ defeat of France during World War II.

“I’m reading last night about the fall of France in the summer of 1940,” Matthews said during the network’s Nevada coverage. “And the general calls up Churchill and says, ‘It’s over,’ and Churchill says, ‘How can it be? You got the greatest army in Europe. How can it be over?’ He said, ‘It’s over.’”

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But many viewers were outraged by the comments — and Matthews apologized Monday.

“Senator Sanders, I’m sorry for comparing anything from that tragic era in which so many suffered, especially the Jewish people, to an electorate result in which you were the well-deserved winner,” Matthews said. “This is going to be a hard-fought, heated campaign of ideas. In the days and weeks and months ahead, I will strive to do a better job myself of elevating the political discussion. Congratulations, by the way, to you, Senator Sanders, and to your supporters on a tremendous win down in Nevada.”

Fox News’ Sam Dorman, Nick Givas and Joseph Wulfsohn contributed to this story.



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Hand Sanitizer Hard to Find…




an empty bottle on a table: “We have added shifts and have team members working overtime,” the company that makes Purell said.


© Randy Hoeft/Yuma Sun, via Associated Press
“We have added shifts and have team members working overtime,” the company that makes Purell said.

CEDAR KNOLLS, N.J. — Many shoppers at the local Walmart had the same question on Friday morning: “Where do I find your hand sanitizer?”

The answer: Nowhere.

Employees at the Cedar Knolls store showed shopper after shopper shelves devoid of any hand sanitizer. When an employee found a lone small box of travel packs of Clorox disinfecting wipes high on a shelf, hands reached in, grabbing the packs, three or more at a time.

Asked when more hand sanitizers would be available, the employee shrugged.

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A few miles away, at a CVS Health, an employee laughed softly when asked where the hand sanitizers were, pointing to a shelf where only five bottles of CVS’s private-label brand sat. Then a man grabbed one and made his way to the checkout line, reducing the stock to four.

As the coronavirus spreads and people clamor to protect themselves from getting sick, the United States, like other countries, is seeing high demand for items like masks and hand sanitizer.

Most health officials and disease specialists say one of the best preventive measures against the coronavirus or any other outbreak is frequent washing of hands, using soap and water to scrub fronts, backs and between fingers for at least 20 seconds.

If soap and water aren’t available, health professionals say, then hand sanitizer can be used, as long as it contains at least 60 percent alcohol and the gel is squirted onto the hands and rubbed briskly all over them for about 20 seconds.

In some cases, the demand is outstripping inventory.

On Amazon, for instance, a search for popular hand sanitizer brands like Purell, Germ-X or even Amazon’s private-label brand, Solimo, showed many were unavailable. In some cases, what was available was being sold by third-party sellers at high prices. On Friday morning, a pack of two 12-ounce bottles of Purell could be had from a third-party seller for $49.99.

Amazon did not respond to emails seeking comment about its supply of hand sanitizers and how it handles third-party sellers that may be price-gouging customers.

Walmart’s website also showed many hand sanitizers as out of stock. Those that were available appeared to be from other parties selling them at high prices. The company did not respond to a request for comment.

Gojo Industries, a small family-owned company in Akron, Ohio, that started making hand cleaners in the 1940s and invented Purell in 1988, has significantly increased production in recent weeks, according to Samantha Williams, a spokeswoman.

She added that the current levels of demand, while high, were comparable to past moments, like the SARS epidemic in 2002 and 2003 or even influenza outbreaks.

“We have added shifts and have team members working overtime — in accordance with our plans for situations like this,” she said in a statement.

Purell says its spray disinfectants, which are used for household cleaning and are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, have demonstrated effectiveness against “a strain of the human coronavirus.” But the Federal Drug Administration, which regulates hand sanitizers, sent a warning letter to Gojo in January, telling the company to stop making marketing claims that its hand sanitizers could prevent infections from things like the Ebola virus, norovirus and MRSA. The F.D.A. said those claims were not supported by “any adequate and well-controlled studies.”

Gojo’s website states that its hand sanitizers are 70 percent ethyl alcohol.

Bath & Body Works, the scented bath product chain owned by L Brands, said on an earnings call this week that it was seeing a surge in demand for hand sanitizer, which accounts for 5 percent of its business.

“It is presently growing at a very high rate for reasons we would all understand,” Stuart Burgdoerfer, the chief financial officer of L Brands, said.

Michael DeAngelis, a spokesman for CVS Health, said that demand was causing “temporary shortages” at some locations and that those stores were being restocked as quickly as possible.

He said the company was working with suppliers to meet customer demand, adding, “At this time, we have no purchase limit for these items.”



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USA to free 5,000 Taliban fighters…



USA to free 5,000 Taliban fighters...

(Third column, 5th story, link)






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This Is Different. Almost No Company Safe…


Companies have endured financial meltdowns, civil wars and natural disasters. But nothing in modern memory has dented both demand and supply so quickly for so many industries as the coronavirus.

The virus, which has infected more than 85,000 people, has quickly spread through Asia and Europe, disrupted global travel and hobbled supply chains that churn out everything from smartphones to pharmaceuticals. In days, it went from pockets of woe to the top concern of chief executives world-wide.



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Deepening Rout in Commodities Stokes Fears About World Economy…


The coronavirus outbreak has sparked one of the largest retreats in commodity prices in years, forcing investors to brace for even steeper declines and sending a warning signal about the world economy’s prospects in 2020.

Raw materials sensitive to shifts in global growth have been among the hardest hit investments since the coronavirus began spreading around the globe and hurting travel and corporate activity. Oil prices have fallen 32% in less than two months and last week recorded their worst week since the financial crisis….



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Coughing pope cancels retreat…


VATICAN CITY (AP) — A coughing Pope Francis told pilgrims gathered for the traditional Sunday blessing that he is canceling his participation at a week-long spiritual retreat in the Roman countryside because of a cold.

It is the first time in his seven-year papacy that he has missed the spiritual exercises that he initiated early in his pontificate to mark the start of each Lenten season. Such retreats are typical Jesuits, an order to which he belongs.

The 83-year-old pontiff, who lost part of a lung to a respiratory illness as a young man, has canceled several official engagements this week as he battled an apparent cold.

His weekly appearance Sunday to pilgrims from a window high above St. Peter’s Square was the first time he has been seen publicly since Ash Wednesday, when he was seen coughing and blowing his nose during Mass.

Francis paused twice to cough Sunday while addressing the faithful. At the end, he asked for prayers for the spiritual retreat, adding “unfortunately a cold prevents me from participating this year. I will be following the meditation from here.”

Earlier this week, the pope canceled two planned official audiences — formal affairs in the Apostolic Palace where Francis would have delivered a speech and greeted a great number of people at the end. Those were to include an audience with an international bioethics organization and with members of the scandal-marred Legion of Christ religious order.

Francis has never previously canceled so many official audiences or events in his papacy. He was, however, continuing to work from his residence at the Vatican’s Santa Marta hotel and was receiving people in private, the Vatican press office said. On Saturday, those private meetings were with the head of the Vatican’s bishops’ office, Francis’ ambassadors to Lebanon and France and a Ukrainian archbishop.

He was to have left Sunday for the retreat outside of Rome.

The Vatican has described Francis condition as “a slight illness,” without giving other details. Francis’ illness, though, has come amid general alarm in Italy over the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 1,100 people, mostly in northern Italy.

There have been just six cases reported in Lazio, where Rome is located, to date.



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