Category: Opinion

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Infects Iranian Vice President, Kills Ambassador To Vatican…


Update (0940ET): FARS news agency reports that for former Iranian Ambassador to The Vatican has died from Covid-19.

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Nothing says ‘we’ve got this under control’ like confirming that a handful of your government’s most-senior officials have caught the virus at the root of a deadly pandemic sweeping the globe.

After confirming on Thursday that its ‘official’ death toll from the outbreak had reached 22 with 141 cases confirmed (lawmakers have claimed that the death toll as of Monday was up to 50 in Qom alone), Iranian state media reported that the country’s vice president for women and family affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar has tested positive for the virus.

She is the third senior official to be infected, alongside the Deputy Health Minister and Cleric Hadi Khosroshahi, who succumbed to the pneumonia due to his advanced age.

Masoumeh Ebtekar

In a recent tweet from Ebtekar’s twitter account (because seemingly every senior Iranian official including the Ayatollah is on twitter), Ebtekar, an immunologist by training, criticized hysteria and panic being propagated by news reports.

Iran cancelled Friday prayers in Tehran on Friday as the virus spread further in the capital city. With Iran’s economy badly damaged by sanctions which have also contributed to shortages of essential supplies including medicine and medical products, it is uniquely vulnerable to the virus’s devastation.

And the more the regime scrambles to try and contain it, the further it spreads, as Iran’s neighbors close their borders to its citizens and turn away from the Middle East’s worst virus ‘”hot spot”.

And as more government officials fall ill, we can’t help but wonder how much longer until the Ayatollah gets sick?



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Hearse with body in back stolen from church…


PASADENA, California — A mortuary’s Lincoln Navigator with a woman’s body in the back was stolen from a church in Southern California, sheriff’s deputies say.

Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies were searching for the hearse, which was stolen from outside St. Anthony’s Church in Pasadena just after 8 p.m. Wednesday local time.

The Sheriff’s Department tweeted out a plea for the suspect to return the vehicle, or at least the body inside:

“To the suspect(s) driving around in a Black Lincoln Navigator stolen from the 700 blk of Rosemead Bl just after 8PM today in uninc #Pasadena: Out of all the bad decisions you have made, at least make one good one & bring back the deceased person & casket inside the Navigator.”

The tweet received over 1,500 likes and 1,000 retweets within a few hours.

St. Anthony Greek Orthodox Church was holding a prayer service called a Trisagion Wednesday evening, often held the night before a funeral in the Greek Orthodox tradition. A funeral was scheduled for the morning.

Officials, however, told our sister station KABC the woman’s body that was stolen was not associated with the service, but was in a mortuary vehicle that happened to be stopping by the church at the same time. The mortuary attendant was bringing one body inside the church, while another remained in the vehicle that was left parked outside.

Initial reports said a body and casket were stolen. However, sources later said the body was not in a casket, but in a body bag.

Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.



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VIRUS: 14% of patients who recovered test positive again…


China has discovered that roughly 14% of patients who recover from coronavirus test positive for the killer disease again – with the mechanism behind the virus’ apparent ability to re-infect a complete mystery.

This comes after Japan reported that a female tour-bus guide aged in her 40s had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus for a second time in Osaka.

Normally, when you overcome a virus you gain immunity for a while afterwards which is why it is so rare for children to get chickenpox twice.

The statistics from China came from reports from hospitals in Guangdong province.

China has found that 14% of recovered coronavirus patients later tested positive again
China has found that 14% of recovered coronavirus patients later tested positive again

A positive test means the “recovered” patients may still be carrying the virus, straitstimes.com reports.

Currently, scientists do not know why it happens and whether these patients could still be infectious, said Song Tie, deputy director of the Guangdong Centre of Disease Control and Prevention.

It is thought that the patients may still be fighting-off lung infections and are not yet completely healthy, Song added.

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CORONAVIRUS OUTBREAK

Patients are considered “recovered” when throat and nose swabs are negative in two consecutive tests, a CT scan is negative for lung lesions, and they have no fever or other symptoms, according to COVID-19 guidelines by the National Health Commission.

Dr Babak Ashrafi, at UK-based online doctor Zava, told Metro.co.uk: “Experts are busy gathering information from those who have become infected to see how well their immune systems react and how long they’ll remain immune.

Londoners have started to take coronavirus precautions

“We do know that when you catch a virus, your body learns how to fight it off.

“However, like our minds, our bodies can forget over time how to do this and immunity can wear off over time after initial infection.”

Another theory is that the original tests which said the patients had fully recovered were wrong – but that also raises concerns about containing the virus.



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Angst over keeping House control…


WASHINGTON (AP) — Sen. Bernie Sanders’ ascendancy as Democrats’ leading presidential hopeful fueled growing unease as lawmakers openly expressed anxiety that the self-proclaimed democratic socialist could cost them House control and questions abounded over what party leaders should do.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., projected calm — and neutrality — on Wednesday as she batted away reporters’ queries about whether it was time for her to try thwarting Sanders to protect her party’s majority.

“We’re not going to lose the House,” she said. “We’re going to be united by whomever is the candidate for president. But we are taking responsibility for winning the House, and we’re not assuming anything. But we feel very confident.”

She delivered a similar message to colleagues at a closed-door meeting Wednesday morning, when she told them, “We cannot show any division. This has to be about unity, unity, unity.” Her remarks were described by a Democratic aide on the condition of anonymity to relay private comments.

Yet with Sanders, I-Vt., riding high after early nominating contest wins in New Hampshire and Nevada and a virtual first-place tie in Iowa, other House Democrats were less sanguine.

Time was growing short to head Sanders off. South Carolina holds its primary Saturday, followed three days later by Super Tuesday, when contests in 14 states and one territory will decide one-third of the delegates to this summer’s Democratic convention.

Rep. Tom Malinowski, a freshman from a closely divided New Jersey district, said Democrats have “a simple path” to defeating President Donald Trump by focusing on health care, the economy and a promise that their presidential candidate won’t lie. “I don’t want to squander that opportunity” by nominating a contender who divides Democrats, he said in an unspoken reference to Sanders.

Freshman Rep. Elaine Luria, D-Va., who defeated an incumbent Republican in 2018 in a swing district in coastal Virginia, said a Sanders candidacy would be “incredibly divisive” and endanger more centrist lawmakers like herself. The former Navy commander said of GOP efforts to paint all Democrats as socialists, “Bernie Sanders just adds fuel to that fire.”

Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., a leader of his party’s House moderates, said there is widespread concern among lawmakers from competitive districts “that a Sanders candidacy would sink their reelections.”

Peters, whose San Diego district is safely Democratic, said Sanders would complicate moderates’ reelection bids because “the face of the Democratic Party might be spouting things that are absolutely anathema to your voters.” Sanders advocacy for “Medicare for All,” the Green New Deal and student loan forgiveness has alienated many moderates.

Of the 42 House seats Democrats gained in 2018 when they captured the majority, 29 are from districts that Trump either won in 2016 or lost by a narrow 5 percentage points or less. Most of them are moderates.

Republicans will need to gain 18 seats in November’s elections to win House control, assuming they retain three vacant seats held previously by the GOP.

Asked what Pelosi was doing about Sanders, Peters said, “I hope that we do have a conversation as a party” about his impact on endangered Democrats.

Hours after No. 3 House Democratic leader James Clyburn endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic nod, Clyburn declined to say Wednesday whether it was time for Pelosi to speak up. “I don’t tell people what to do politically,” Clyburn, from South Carolina, told reporters.

Asked if Sanders would cost Democrats the House, Clyburn said, “I don’t know if he will or not. It’s not a chance I want to take.”

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, one Democratic lawmaker from a competitive district said many party moderates were eager for Pelosi to do something to hinder Sanders’ drive toward the nomination.

No lawmakers interviewed specified what leaders could do to help sidetrack Sanders. Any action they took would risk backfiring by antagonizing liberal voters who all Democrats will need this fall.

Sanders’ rise has put many Democrats in a delicate situation similar to what many Republicans faced four years ago. As Trump roared toward the GOP nomination, his anti-immigrant views and personal foibles soured Republican congressional candidates, but many chose not to abandon him and risk alienating their party’s base, conservative voters.

Underscoring the tricky political terrain they face, several vulnerable Democrats said Wednesday that they would back whoever their party’s nominee is, but stopped short of saying they would campaign with Sanders.

“We haven’t gotten that far yet,” said Rep. Lucy McBath from a closely divided district outside Atlanta.

“I’ll cross that bridge if I come to it,” said Michigan Rep. Elissa Slotkin, from a Lansing-area district that leans toward the GOP.

Some of Congress’ most liberal Democrats have endorsed Sanders. One of them seemed to apply pressure on Pelosi on Wednesday to not undermine him.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., said Pelosi “plays a very important role in staying neutral and calming everybody down.” She said Pelosi and other leaders who have not endorsed a candidate should continue that stance.

“They’re going to have to win the votes for their own leadership positions within the caucus, and I think that weighing in would not be appropriate for the speaker,” Jayapal said. The House majority party elects the speaker for every new Congress.

Democratic Party officials will brief lawmakers Thursday on the rules that will govern their nominating convention this summer in Milwaukee. The party has weakened the clout of superdelegates, who include members of Congress, but they could play an important role if the convention does not choose a nominee during the gathering’s first ballot.

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Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”



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Running out of time: East Africa faces new locust threat…


The locusts are swiftly breeding and their numbers could increase 400-fold by June if the infestation is left unchecked, the UN has warned

By Omar Mohammed and Dawit Endeshaw

NAIROBI/ADDIS ABABA, Feb 27 (Reuters) – Countries in East Africa are racing against time to prevent new swarms of locusts wreaking havoc with crops and livelihoods after the worst infestation in generations.

A lack of expertise in controlling the pests is not their only problem: Kenya temporarily ran out of pesticides, Ethiopia needs more planes and Somalia and Yemen, torn by civil war, can’t guarantee exterminators’ safety.

Locust swarms have been recorded in the region since biblical times, but unusual weather patterns exacerbated by climate change have created ideal conditions for insect numbers to surge, scientists say.

Warmer seas are creating more rain, wakening dormant eggs, and cyclones that disperse the swarms are getting stronger and more frequent.

In Ethiopia the locusts have reached the fertile Rift Valley farmland and stripped grazing grounds in Kenya and Somalia. Swarms can travel up to 150 km (93 miles) a day and contain between 40-80 million locusts per square kilometre.

If left unchecked, the number of locusts in East Africa could explode 400-fold by June. That would devastate harvests in a region with more than 19 million hungry people, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has warned.

Uganda has deployed the military. Kenya has trained hundreds of youth cadets to spray. Lacking pesticides, some security forces in Somalia have shot anti-aircraft guns at swarms darkening the skies.

Everyone is racing the rains expected in March: the next generation of larvae is already wriggling from the ground, just as farmers plant their seeds.

“The second wave is coming,” said Cyril Ferrand, FAO’s head of resilience for Eastern Africa. “As crops are planted, locusts will eat everything.”

The impact so far on agriculture, which generates about a third of East Africa’s economic output, is unknown, but FAO is using satellite images to assess the damage, he said.

PESTICIDE SHORTAGES

In Kenya, the region’s wealthiest and most stable country, the locusts are mostly in the semi-arid north, although some crops have been affected, said Stanley Kipkoech, a senior official at the Ministry of Agriculture.

This month, Kenya ran out of pesticide for about a week and a half, he said. Farmers watched helplessly as their families’ crops were devoured.

In Ethiopia, the government can only afford to rent four planes for aerial spraying, but it needs at least twice that number to contain the outbreak before harvesting begins in March, Zebdewos Salato, director of plant protection at the Ministry of Agriculture, told Reuters.

“We are running out of time,” he said.

Ethiopia’s single pesticide factory is working flat out.

The country needs 500,000 litres for the upcoming harvest and planting season but is struggling to produce its maximum 200,000 litres after foreign exchange shortages delayed the purchase of chemicals, the factory’s chief executive Simeneh Altaye said.

FAO is helping the government to procure planes, vehicles and sprayers, said Fatouma Seid, the agency’s representative in Ethiopia. It is also urgently trying to buy pesticides from Europe.

MONEY AND GUNS

Pest controllers in Somalia can’t enter areas controlled by the Islamist al Shabaab insurgency, said Aidid Suleiman Hashi, environment minister for the southern region of Jubbaland.

When the locusts invaded, residents blew horns, beat drums and rang bells to scare away the insects. Al Shabaab fired anti-craft and machine guns at the swarms, Hashi said. Jubbaland forces, not to be outdone, did so too.

Under such circumstances, contractors are reluctant to do aerial spraying, FAO said.

Meanwhile, locusts – which have a life cycle of three months – are breeding. FAO says each generation is an average of 20 times more numerous.

When eggs hatch, as they are doing now in northern Kenya, the hungry young locusts are earthbound for two weeks and more vulnerable to spraying than when they grow wings.

After that, they take to the air in swarms so dense they have forced aircraft to divert. A single square kilometre swarm can eat as much food in a day as 35,000 people.

FAO said containing the plague will cost at least $138 million. So far, donors have pledged $52 million. Failure means more hunger in a region already battered by conflict and climate shocks.

Since 2016, there have been droughts in Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, then floods, Ferrand said. In South Sudan, more than half the population already faces food shortages.

CLIMATE CHANGE

The rains that blessed the region with a bumper crop last year after a prolonged drought also brought a curse.

A cyclical weather pattern in the Indian Ocean, intensified by rising sea temperatures, contributed to one of the wettest October-December rainy seasons in five decades, said Nathanial Matthews of the Stockholm-based Global Resilience Partnership, a public-private partnership focused on climate change.

Locusts hatched in Yemen, largely ignored in the chaos of the civil war. They migrated across the Red Sea to the Horn of Africa, then spread to Sudan, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya. Now they have been spotted in Uganda, South Sudan and Tanzania.

The rains awoke the dormant eggs then stronger and more numerous cyclones scattered the insects. Eight cyclones tore across the Indian Ocean in 2019, the highest number in a single year since records began, said Matthews.

(Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu, Abdiqani Hassan in Garowe, Somalia, Denis Dumo in Juba; Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Alexandra Zavis and Mike Collett-White)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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'PAINTED BIRD' trailer: 'Savage' WWII drama that prompted mass festival walkouts…


Ever since its festival debut in 2019, The Painted Bird has been called one of the most brutal Second World War films of all time.

Those who have read the source material won’t be surprised – Jerzy Kosiński’s novel of the same name shows the war through the eyes of a young boy, who witnesses depravity in the form of incest, bestiality and rape.

Going by the reviews of Václav Marhoul’s adaptation, the Czech film doesn’t shy away from the horrors featured in Kosiński’s pages.


The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw called it a “savage three-hour tour of hell”, writing: “This is a monumental piece of work and one I’m deeply glad to have seen. I can also say that I hope to never cross its path again.”

According to those who were present, the film was so shocking that more than half of its audience walked out midway through when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival last September.

The black-and-white film stars, among others, Stellan Skarsgård, Harvey Keitel and Udo Kier, and is finally released in the UK on 27 March.

Film festivals have a long history of cinema walkouts. The most recently occurred at Berlinale 2020 during a screening of Trouble with Being Born, which depicts a sexualised relationship between an adult man and an android that looks like a 10-year-old girl.

Meanwhile, Netflix has just released what is being called its most harrowing series yet – a true-crime documentary on the trials investigating the murder of eight-year-old Gabriel Fernandez.



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Bizarre Wellness Secrets From Canyon Ranch Spa: Sex, Food, Botox…



Bizarre Wellness Secrets From Canyon Ranch Spa: Sex, Food, Botox...

(Third column, 12th story, link)






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Pedestrian Deaths 30-Year High…


U.S. pedestrian deaths rose in 2019 to their highest level in 30 years, even as the nation’s roadway crash fatalities overall have been falling, according to a new report.

An estimated 6,590 pedestrians were killed in motor-vehicle crashes last year, a nearly 5% increase from the 6,283 deaths in 2018, according to the report released Thursday by the Governors Highway Safety Association, a nonprofit that represents state highway-safety offices.



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Saudi Arabia Suspends All Religious Pilgrimages…


RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has placed a temporary ban on Umrah pilgrims in an attempt to ensure public safety by preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

Most foreign pilgrims often visit the Prophet’s Mosque in Madinah before or after the completion of their religious duties in Makkah, this has also been halted.

It is one of a number of precautionary restrictions announced early on Thursday as health authorities in the Kingdom closely monitor the spread of the virus. Tourist-visa holders from countries judged to pose a particularly high risk of spreading the virus will also be denied entry.

In addition, Saudi nationals and citizens of Gulf Cooperation Council nations will not be able to use a national identity card to travel to and from the Kingdom for the time being. Exceptions to this shall be granted to Saudis returning home, and citizens of GCC countries who are in the Kingdom and want to return to their home countries, provided that they left or entered the Kingdom using a national identity card.

Health authorities at entry points will verify which countries travelers visited before arriving in Saudi Arabia and apply all necessary precautionary measures.

Saudi officials stressed that the restrictions are temporary and will be continuously reviewed by the health authorities. They reiterated the Kingdom’s support for and implementation of international efforts to limit the spread of the virus, and the Foreign Ministry urged citizens not to travel to the countries worst affected by the coronavirus.

Nearly 7 million Umrah pilgrims visit the Kingdom each year, the majority of whom arrive at airports in Jeddah and Madinah.

Earlier, it emerged that seven Saudis are among the latest coronavirus cases in Bahrain and Kuwait. The Bahraini Ministry of Health on Wednesday said six Saudi women has tested positive for the virus.

They had arrived at Bahrain International Airport on a flight from Iran. The total number of confirmed cases in the country stands at 26. Studies at schools and universities have been suspended for two weeks in an effort to limit the spread of the virus.

Kuwait announced the first case of a Saudi citizen infected by the virus. The man, who had arrived in the country from the Iranian city of Mashhad, has been placed in quarantine for 14 days. There have been 26 confirmed cases of the virus to date in Kuwait.

The Saudi Ministry of Health has been providing neighboring Arab countries with advice and guidelines for controlling infectious diseases such as the coronavirus and dealing with health emergencies.

Dr. Hani bin Abdul Aziz Jokhdar, the deputy minister of public health, said that the guidelines were based on Saudi Arabia’s experience of protecting the health and well-being of pilgrims during Hajj season.

He led the Kingdom’s delegation at a meeting of the Executive Office of the Council of Arab Ministers for Health on Wednesday at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo.



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83 ISOLATE IN NEW YORK


MINEOLA, N.Y. (WCBS 880) — Nassau County health officials are warning residents to remain vigilant as over 80 people remain under voluntary quarantine for possible coronavirus exposure.

The county’s Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Eisenstein says 175 residents have had some sort of voluntary isolation from the public, family and friends after traveling to China.

Though there have not be any confirmed cases in the county, or the rest of New York, there are 83 people still under isolation. They must remain under quarantine for 14 days to prevent the possible spread of coronavirus, should they be infected.

“We check in with them every day for their temperature. They’re in communication with us, we’re in communication with them,” Dr. Eisenstein said.

Six people exhibited possible symptoms of the coronavirus – including coughing and a fever. They have all been checked and so far, five Long Islanders have been cleared.

The health department is still awaiting the results of the sixth person.

“We discuss with them the importance of them voluntarily complying with removing themselves from contact with other people, and all of them, to this point, have understood,” the health commissioner said.

RELATED: Medical Mask Prices Surge on Amazon as CDC Warns of Coronavirus in the US

All of the hospitals in Nassau County have isolation rooms and while there have not been any mandatory quarantines, Dr. Eisenstein says they are prepared to contain any possible outbreak in New York.

“If somebody were not compliant, we would take next steps. We are prepared for all circumstances,” he says.

The news comes on the same day that President Donald Trump plans to hold a news conference at the White House to discuss efforts to address coronavirus. 

Over 80,000 people have been infected globally from the viral outbreak that began in Wuhan, China and more than 2,700 people have died.

With outbreaks reported in Italy, South Korea and Iran, officials from the CDC said Tuesday that it is inevitable that the coronavirus will spread more widely in America, where a total of 35 cases have been reported.

“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen — and how many people in this country will have severe illness,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), told WCBS 880 that the coronavirus is likely to become a global pandemic if containment measures aren’t improved.

But Trump said Tuesday that the situation is “very well under control in our country.” 

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo believes differently and says it’s “highly probable” that coronavirus will spread to New York.

“It is highly probable that you’ll see a continuing spread of this virus. It’s highly probable that we will have people in New York State who test positive,” he said during a press conference.

He adds that the large amount of tourists that flock to the state and New York City every day puts our area at great risk and the state’s Department of Health will work with area airports to make sure employees are properly trained and have access to cleaning and protective equipment.

“New York is the front door, internationally. We have people traveling here from all across the word. You see how it’s spreading and affecting different countries – Italy recently – but that will continue. Again, I think it’s highly probable and no one should be surprised when we have positive cases in New York,” Cuomo said.

The governor also plans to ask for several million dollars to assist the health department for when the virus ultimately comes to the state.

“We’ll be sending an emergency supplemental appropriations bill up next week to the Legislature, asking for an addition $40 million as an emergency supplemental appropriation for the Department of Health,” Cuomo said. 

The money would go to hiring additional staff, procuring equipment and any other resources necessary to respond to the potential novel coronavirus pandemic. 

Cuomo will also propose legislation to grant authority to Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker to ensure local health departments and public and private hospitals statewide take certain actions and measures in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak as needed. 

The governor is also calling on the federal government to authorize the Wadsworth Center and NYC Public Health Lab to test for the virus.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said no one should take the coronavirus situation lightly, but stresses there is no cause for panic.

“New Yorkers I have often said do not scare easily, do not get intimidated, do not panic,” de Blasio said. “New Yorkers are very, very consistent. They’re tough, they’re resolute, they help each other, they know how to deal with pretty much anything so I’m going to ask everyone who’s listening to me right now this is not the time to sow panic, this is the time to share information and help people. This can be dealt with, the places that have had the problem are the places that did not deal with reality. That were not honest and open, that did not help people understand what to do, that did not make help available easily. We’re doing the exact opposite here in New York City.”

While there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in the city, de Blasio said all elements of the city government are in a state of high vigilance.

The mayor said the city has 1,200 hospital beds that can be made available immediately, should the need arise, and public health officials have already distributed 1.5 million masks across the city. Requests are out for another 300,000 surgical masks.

He is also calling on the CDC to work with local laboratories and expand its testing protocol upon entry to any traveler returning from Hong Kong, Iran, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

The mayor said the current protocol is too narrowly focused on travelers returning from China.

Meanwhile, Syracuse University has announced it will be suspending its study abroad program in Italy due to the spread of the virus.

School officials say 342 students currently studying in Florence will be returning to the United States after spring break in March.

Stay informed, stay connected — follow WCBS 880 on Facebook and Twitter. Download the RADIO.COM app + favorite WCBS 880 for breaking news, traffic and weather alerts.



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