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US notebook

Florida cities order people to stay home; governor resists

An aerial view from a drone showed an empty, closed beach in Miami Beach as the city continues its efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
An aerial view from a drone showed an empty, closed beach in Miami Beach as the city continues its efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Joe Raedle/Getty Images/Getty Images

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Governor Ron DeSantis has refused to follow the lead of other states that have issued broad shutdowns to control the spread of the coronavirus, instead shifting the onus to outside travelers whom he blames for bringing COVID-19 into Florida.

DeSantis issued an executive order Monday requiring anyone arriving on a flight from New York City and New Jersey to self-quarantine for two weeks. On Tuesday, he extended that order to anyone who had arrived by flight or by car within the past three weeks.

The governor order’s came after cities in the tourism-dependent state had closed beaches to throngs of spring breakers and more than a week after Disney World, Universal Studios, and other attractions popular with out-of-state visitors closed their gates.

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State officials have not responded to a request from The Associated Press for information on how many people diagnosed in Florida recently arrived from New York or had contact with someone who did. Officials from New York and New Jersey did not immediately comment on DeSantis’ order.

A check of the online flight boards at Florida’s six busiest airports showed that about 40 percent of approximately 150 flights from the New York City area had been canceled Tuesday. It was hard to gauge how much of that was because of DeSantis’ order, however. Flight travel to all destinations across the country has plummeted due to the coronavirus outbreak: US airlines have already cut most of their international flights and have announced plans to reduce service within the United States by up to 40 percent in April. More than 8,300 US flights were canceled Tuesday, according to tracking service FlightAware.

Associated Press

Three popular national parks are forced to close

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — Three of America’s most well-known national parks — Yellowstone, Grand Teton, and Great Smoky Mountains — closed their gates Tuesday as people shut in because of the coronavirus lost more options for recreation. They join a growing list of National Parks sites from New York to California that have closed, including the Statue of Liberty and Alcatraz.

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Yellowstone, the world’s first national park, and neighboring Grand Teton, announced their closures hours after Great Smoky Mountains in Tennessee. They follow closures at Yosemite in California and Rocky Mountain in Colorado in recent days.

The decision to close Yellowstone came after Montana Governor Steve Bullock, Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon, and local officials urged the park to keep visitors out to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Associated Press

Texas official backs Trump’s ‘get back to work’ call

HOUSTON — President Trump’s message that he wants the country to get back to work sooner rather than later has hit home with at least one senior state official — Dan Patrick, the Texas lieutenant governor.

Patrick, the Texas chairman of the president’s campaign, appeared on Fox News on Monday and said that he was not only ready for the country and the economy to get moving again amid the coronavirus pandemic, but also that he and other grandparents might be willing to die for that to happen.

“My message is that let’s get back to work,” Patrick, 69, said on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” “Let’s get back to living. Let’s be smart about it, and those of us who are 70-plus, we’ll take care of ourselves, but don’t sacrifice the country.”

He added: “I’m not living in fear of COVID-19. What I’m living in fear of is what’s happening to this country. And you know, Tucker, no one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival, in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”

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Patrick’s comments set off a backlash online but were also met with some approval, with the reaction often splitting along Democratic and Republican lines. On social media, humorous GIFs about whether the old should sacrifice themselves for the young spread like wildfire, and #NotDying4WallStreet began trending on Twitter.

One woman used the hashtag to comment: “Not one single human being deserves to die for somebody else’s stock portfolio.”

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo appeared to mock the idea.

“Well, we’ll just sacrifice old people. They’re old people anyway. And the old get left behind,” he said at a news briefing on that state’s explosive number of coronavirus cases. “What is this, some modern Darwinian theory of natural selection? You can’t keep up, so the band’s going to leave you behind.”

New York Times

Calif. in all-out effort to obtain protective gear

SACRAMENTO — California is scrambling to obtain protective gear for health care workers and first responders, reaching out worldwide and working with locals to ratchet up production as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps through the nation’s most populous state.

The state is trying to acquire about 1 billion sets of gloves and hundreds of millions of gowns, surgical masks, and face shields, Governor Gavin Newsom said Monday.

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Among other things, he said the state would charter flights from China with gear and had heard from companies wanting to use 3-D printers to make surgical masks.

Newsom’s announcement came as California added hundreds more coronavirus cases to its total. A tally by Johns Hopkins on Tuesday counted more than 2,200 cases and 43 deaths statewide.

Associated Press

Cuomo warns pandemic crisis is closer than thought

NEW YORK — Governor Andrew Cuomo sounded his most dire warning yet about the coronavirus pandemic Tuesday, saying the infection rate in New York is accelerating and the state could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis that sees 40,000 people in intensive care.

Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which now have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide.

The rate of new infections, Cuomo said, is doubling about every three days. While officials once projected the peak in New York would come in early May, they now say it could come in two to three weeks.

“We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own,” he said during a briefing at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. “One of the forecasters said to me we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train.”

New York officials have been racing to essentially double their hospital capacity to up to 110,000 beds. Cuomo now said there could be a peak need of 140,000 beds.

There were more than 25,000 positive cases in New York state and at least 210 deaths, according to state figures. Most of the cases and deaths have been in New York City, an emerging worldwide hotspot in the outbreak.

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New York officials are planning to add at least 1,000 temporary hospital beds at the Javits Center for non-COVID-19 patients and thousands of beds elsewhere. But Cuomo said “they’re nowhere near” the number that will be needed. The state also faces shortages of ventilators and protective equipment for medical workers.

New York has 7,000 ventilators. Cuomo called for a national push to send ventilators to New York now, saying the city needs 20,000 of them in a matter of weeks. He said the equipment could then be redeployed to different areas once the peak passes in New York.

Associated Press