In Brief: May 9, 2020

Docs show top WH officials buried CDC report

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The decision to shelve detailed advice from the nation’s top disease control experts for reopening communities during the coronavirus pandemic came from the highest levels of the White House, according to internal government emails obtained by The Associated Press.

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The files also show that after the AP reported Thursday that the guidance document had been buried, the Trump administration ordered key parts of it to be fast-tracked for approval.

The trove of emails show the nation’s top public health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spending weeks working on guidance to help the country deal with a public health emergency, only to see their work quashed by political appointees with little explanation.

The document, titled “Guidance for Implementing the Opening Up America Again Framework,” was researched and written to help faith leaders, business owners, educators and state and local officials as they begin to reopen. It included detailed “decision trees,” or flow charts aimed at helping local leaders navigate the difficult decision of whether to reopen or remain closed.

White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany said Friday that the documents had not been approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield. The new emails, however, show that Redfield cleared the guidance.

Stuck on cruise ships during pandemic, crews beg to go home

MIAMI — Carolina Vásquez lost track of days and nights, unable to see the sunlight while stuck for two weeks in a windowless cruise ship cabin as a fever took hold of her body.

On the worst night of her encounter with COVID-19, the Chilean woman, a line cook on the Greg Mortimer ship, summoned the strength to take a cold shower fearing the worst: losing consciousness while isolated from others.

Vásquez, 36, and tens of thousands of other crew members have been trapped for weeks aboard dozens of cruise ships around the world — long after governments and cruise lines negotiated their passengers’ disembarkation. Some have gotten ill and died; others have survived but are no longer getting paid.

Both national and local governments have stopped crews from disembarking in order to prevent new cases of COVID-19 in their territories. Some of the ships, including 20 in U.S. waters, have seen infections and deaths among the crew. But most ships have had no confirmed cases.

From wire sources

“I never thought this would turn into a tragic and terrifying horror story,” Vásquez told The Associated Press in an interview through a cellphone app from the Greg Mortimer, an Antarctic cruise ship floating off Uruguay. Thirty-six crew members have fallen ill on the ship.

Roy Horn of Siegfried &Roy dies from coronavirus at 75

LAS VEGAS — Roy Horn of Siegfried &Roy, the duo whose extraordinary magic tricks astonished millions until Horn was critically injured in 2003 by one of the act’s famed white tigers, has died. He was 75.

Horn died of complications from the coronavirus on Friday in a Las Vegas hospital, according to a statement released by publicist Dave Kirvin.

“Today, the world has lost one of the greats of magic, but I have lost my best friend,” Siegfried Fischbacher said in the statement. “From the moment we met, I knew Roy and I, together, would change the world. There could be no Siegfried without Roy, and no Roy without Siegfried.”

He was injured in October 2003 when a tiger named Montecore attacked him on stage at the Mirage hotel-casino in Las Vegas. He had severe neck injuries, lost a lot of blood and later suffered a stroke. He underwent lengthy rehabilitation, but the attack ended the long-running Las Vegas Strip production.

The darker-haired of the flashy duo, Horn was credited with the idea of introducing an exotic animal — his pet cheetah — to the magic act.

Trump says ‘no rush’ on more aid as jobless crisis grows

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said Friday he’s in “no rush” to negotiate another financial rescue bill, even as the government reported that more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs last month due to economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus.

The president’s low-key approach came as the Labor Department reported the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression and as Democrats prepared to unveil what Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer calls a “Rooseveltian-style” aid package to shore up the economy and address the health crisis.

Some congressional conservatives, meanwhile, who set aside long-held opposition to deficits to pass more than $2 trillion in relief so far, have expressed reservations about another massive spending package.

“We’ve kind of paused as far as formal negotiations go,” Larry Kudlow, the director of the National Economic Council told reporters Friday. He said the administration wanted to let the last round of recovery funding kick in before committing to hundreds of billions or more in additional spending. “Let’s have a look at what the latest round produces, give it a month or so to evaluate that.”

Kudlow added that talks were in a “lull” and that administration officials and legislators would “regroup” in the next several weeks.

White father, son charged with murder in Ahmaud Arbery case

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — The white father and son stood quietly Friday as the judge read murder and aggravated assault charges against them in the fatal shooting of a black man who was running through their Georgia neighborhood. In just a few minutes, their first court appearance was over. It was a moment that many in Ahmaud Arbery’s community had waited more than two months for, as a series of prosecutors declined to bring charges against the men.

Earlier in the day — on what would have been Arbery’s 26th birthday — a boisterous crowd of several hundred people, most wearing masks to protect against the coronavirus, gathered outside the Glynn County courthouse for about 90 minutes and sang “Happy Birthday” in his honor.

With the coronavirus dominating the news and drastically altering Americans’ lives, Arbery’s shooting initially drew little attention outside Brunswick, about 70 miles (115 kilometers) south of Savannah. The working-class port city of about 16,000 also serves as a gateway to beach resorts on neighboring St. Simons and Sea Islands.

The Satilla Shores neighborhood where Arbery was killed on Feb. 23 lies at Brunswick’s edge, with comfortable brick and stucco homes nestled next to marshland. A wooden cross and flowers left as a memorial near the spot where Arbery died was decorated with foil birthday balloons Friday.

A video of the shooting shared widely on social media Tuesday thrust the case into the national spotlight and prompted widespread outrage. The investigation led by local authorities had seemed stalled and, amid the national uproar, a prosecutor specially appointed last month asked the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to get involved. On Thursday evening, the GBI announced the arrests of Gregory and Travis McMichael.

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Flynn dismissal a surprise? AG Barr in sync with Trump

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he didn’t know the Justice Department was planning to drop its case against his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn.

But it didn’t really matter.

The extraordinary action underscored the extent to which Trump and Attorney General William Barr have been in sync in their views on the federal Trump-Russia investigation — with or without communicating about it. Barr himself has openly challenged the decisions of predecessors and his own prosecutors. He’s launched internal probes to investigate the investigators.

Trump is emphatically welcoming the Flynn action. He has relentlessly railed against the special counsel’s inquiry into his 2016 campaign’s contacts with Russia — which the Flynn case grew out of — and was eager for news in his favor to shift voters’ focus away from his administration’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic that has crippled the U.S. economy.

Beyond that, the decision to dismiss the Flynn case had the effect not only of undoing a key prosecution from special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of Trump’s winning campaign, but also of sparing the president from having to make a politically charged pardon decision in the current election year.

VP Pence’s press secretary tests positive for coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence’s press secretary has the coronavirus, the White House said Friday, making her the second person who works at the White House complex known to test positive for the virus this week.

President Donald Trump, who publicly identified the affected Pence aide, said he was “not worried” about the virus spreading in the White House. Nonetheless, officials said they were stepping up safety protocols for the complex.

Pence spokeswoman Katie Miller, who tested positive Friday, had been in recent contact with Pence but not with the president. She is married to Stephen Miller, a top Trump adviser. The White House had no immediate comment on whether Stephen Miller had been tested or if he was still working out of the White House.

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Katie Miller had tested negative Thursday, a day before her positive result.

“This is why the whole concept of tests aren’t necessarily great,” Trump said. “The tests are perfect but something can happen between a test where it’s good and then something happens.”

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