AP News in Brief: 03-31-20

  • The Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort arrives in New York, Monday, March 30, 2020. The ship has 1,000 beds and 12 operating rooms that could be up and running within 24 hours of its arrival on Monday morning. It's expected to bolster a besieged health care system by treating non-coronavirus patients while hospitals treat people with COVID-19. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

‘Please come help us’: New York begs for medical workers

NEW YORK — New York’s governor urgently appealed for medical volunteers Monday amid a “staggering” number of coronavirus deaths, as he and health officials warned that the crisis unfolding in New York City is just a preview of what other U.S. communities could soon face.

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“Please come help us in New York now,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said as the state’s death toll climbed by more than 250 people in a day to a total of over 1,200, most of them in the city. He said an additional 1 million health care workers are needed to tackle the crisis.

“We’ve lost over 1,000 New Yorkers,” Cuomo said. “To me, we’re beyond staggering already. We’ve reached staggering.”

Even before the governor’s appeal, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals were stepping up to volunteer, and a Navy hospital ship, also sent to the city after 9/11, had arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on overwhelmed hospitals.

“Whatever it is that they need, I’m willing to do,” said Jerry Kops, a musician and former nurse whose tour with the show Blue Man Group was abruptly halted by the outbreak.

Countries crack down on basic rights amid virus pandemic

BELGRADE, Serbia — Soldiers patrol the streets with their fingers on machine gun triggers. The army guards an exhibition center-turned-makeshift-hospital crowded with rows of bunks for those infected with the coronavirus. And Serbia’s president warns residents that Belgrade graveyards won’t be big enough to bury the dead if people ignore his government’s lockdown orders.

Since President Aleksandar Vucic announced an open-ended state of emergency on March 15, parliament has been sidelined, borders shut, a 12-hour police-enforced curfew imposed and people over 65 banned from leaving their homes — some of Europe’s strictest measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Serbian leader, who makes dramatic daily appearances issuing new decrees, has assumed full power, prompting an outcry from opponents who say he has seized control of the state in an unconstitutional manner.

Rodoljub Sabic, a lawyer and former state commissioner for personal data protection, says that by proclaiming a state of emergency, Vucic has assumed “full supremacy” over decision-making during the crisis, although his constitutional role is only ceremonial.

“He issues orders which are automatically accepted by the government,” Sabic said. “No checks and balances.”

New Trump mileage standards to gut Obama climate effort

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is poised to roll back ambitious Obama-era vehicle mileage standards and raise the ceiling on damaging fossil fuel emissions for years to come, gutting one of the United States’ biggest efforts against climate change.

The Trump administration is expected to release a final rule Tuesday on mileage standards through 2026. The change — making good on the rollback after two years of Trump threatening and fighting states and a faction of automakers that opposed the move — waters down a tough Obama mileage standard that would have encouraged automakers to ramp up production of electric vehicles and more fuel-efficient gas and diesel vehicles.

“When finalized, the rule will benefit our economy, will improve the U.S. fleet’s fuel economy, will make vehicles more affordable, and will save lives by increasing the safety of new vehicles,” EPA spokeswoman Corry Schiermeyer said Monday, ahead of the expected release.

Opponents contend the change — gutting his predecessor’s legacy effort against climate-changing fossil fuel emissions — appears driven by Trump’s push to undo regulatory initiatives of former President Barack Obama, and say even the administration has had difficulty pointing to the kind of specific, demonstrable benefits to drivers, public health and safety or the economy that normally accompany standards changes.

The Trump administration says the looser mileage standards will allow consumers to keep buying the less fuel-efficient SUVs that U.S. drivers have favored for years. Opponents say it will kill several hundred more Americans a year through dirtier air, compared to the Obama standards.

Judges slow abortion bans in Texas, Ohio, Alabama amid virus

DES MOINES, Iowa — Federal judges on Monday temporarily blocked efforts in Texas and Alabama to ban abortions during the coronavirus pandemic, handing Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers a victory as clinics across the U.S. filed lawsuits to stop states from trying to shutter them during the outbreak.

A new Ohio order is also unconstitutional if it prevents abortions from being carried out, a separate judge ruled Monday. The ruling instructed clinics to determine on a case-by-case basis if an abortion can be delayed to maximize resources — such as preserving personal protective equipment — needed to fight the coronavirus. If the abortion is deemed necessary and can’t be delayed, it’s declared legally essential.

The rulings indicated judges were pushing back on Republican-controlled states including abortion in sweeping orders as the outbreak grows in the U.S. In Texas, the ruling came down after state Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, said abortion was included in a statewide ban on nonessential surgeries.

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But U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel said the “Supreme Court has spoken clearly” on a woman’s right to abortion. One abortion provider in Texas, Whole Woman’s Health, said it had canceled more than 150 appointments in the days after the Texas order went into effect.

By wire sources

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