Masahiro Tanaka leaves US for Japan over coronavirus ‘danger’

Masahiro Tanaka recently returned to Japan with his family, in fear of contracting the coronavirus.

Having been in Florida following the suspension of the baseball season, the Yankees starting pitcher revealed on Twitter that he traveled back to his homeland in late March because he believed he, his wife and two children were in “danger” of potentially becoming infected with COVID-19.

Tanaka, 31, said no one in his family is showing any symptoms of the disease, but they would self-quarantine for two weeks in Japan, as the government requests.

“By entering Japan from the United States, where the infection of the new coronavirus is expanding, even though we currently have no symptoms, would you still infect someone without knowing it? Wouldn’t my family get infected? There were various thoughts,” said Tanaka, according to a translation provided to “However, after spring training was discontinued, there was a situation where I was in danger because of the coronavirus infection while staying in Florida. I have decided to return home temporarily with deep caution.

“We are currently self-quarantined at home for two weeks, as requested by the Japanese government. As a person traveled from foreign country, I will continue to take responsible actions.”

Despite Florida’s vulnerable elderly population, Gov. Ron DeSantis first enacted a statewide stay-at-home order Wednesday. Tanaka’s other home, in New York City, is in the American epicenter of the crisis.

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Tanaka, who is due to be a free agent following the 2020 season, had continued working out at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa after spring training was suspended on March 12.

Days later, Tanaka seemed aware the whole season could eventually be scrapped.

“It’s all guessing,” Tanaka said. “We don’t know what’s gonna happen. I feel the most important thing right now is to try to strive to see the end of this. I’m not talking about baseball, but the whole thing.”

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Dozens of US students contract coronavirus on beach resort holiday

Austin: Two weeks ago, amid the coronavirus pandemic, about 70 students from the University of Texas at Austin partied in Mexico on spring break. The students, all in their 20s, flew on a chartered plane to Cabo San Lucas, and some returned on separate commercial flights to Texas.

Now, 28 of them have tested positive for the virus and are self-isolating. Dozens more are under quarantine and are being monitored and tested, university officials said Wednesday.

Spring break revellers party together, ignoring restrictions, in Florida last month.Credit:AP

The Austin outbreak is the latest to result from a group of college students who ignored social-distancing guidelines, went on traditional spring break trips and have now tested positive for the coronavirus. Many of them appeared to be under the mistaken impression that young people are not as likely to get the coronavirus as older people are. Students at the University of Tampa, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and other colleges have tested positive after returning from spring break trips to Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and elsewhere.

The defiant attitude, at a time when millions of Americans were hunkered down at home and staying away from school, work and relatives, was embodied by Brady Sluder, a young man on spring break in Miami who declared from a packed beach: "If I get corona, I get corona. At the end of the day, I'm not going to let it stop me from partying." Sluder, whose television interview was shared widely, later apologised on Instagram.

In Austin, health officials with the city government and the university have contacted every young person who was on the chartered plane, using flight manifests shared by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the authorities said. City health officials used the case to urge residents of all ages to stay home and to avoid nonessential travel. Four of the 28 students who tested positive had not shown any symptoms of coronavirus.

"The virus often hides in the healthy and is given to those who are at grave risk of being hospitalised or dying," Dr Mark Escott, the interim medical director and health authority for the city of Austin and Travis County, said in a statement. "While younger people have less risk for complications, they are not immune from severe illness and death from COVID-19," the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The University of Texas at Austin cancelled classes March 13 and resumed instruction online Monday.

"The incident is a very strong reminder of the importance of taking seriously the warnings of public health authorities on the risks of COVID-19," said J.B. Bird, director of media relations at the university.

The state's flagship university has been hit hard by the virus. Its president, Gregory Fenves, announced last month that his wife had tested positive, and that his family was self-isolating. Fenves' wife, Carmel, began exhibiting flu-like symptoms after the couple travelled to New York City for events with alumni and students. Fenves' tests later came back negative.

Bird said that as of Tuesday, 38 students and seven faculty members had either tested positive, were presumed positive or had self-reported having the virus. That figure includes the 28 students who went to Cabo San Lucas.

"I'm not going to judge those students' decision," said Camron I. Goodman, 24, the university's student government president. "A lot of students had to make some tough decisions about their spring break plans."

The group of roughly 70 students departed from the Austin airport March 14 and many of them returned March 19. The trip was organised by a company called JusCollege, which bills itself as a "one-stop shop" for spring break and college-oriented trips. On Wednesday, the company's website still included an event listing for "Cabo Spring Break 2020" from Feb. 23 to April 10. "Join us as we take over Cabo San Lucas for Spring Break 2020!" the listing reads. "Place your deposit to lock in best pricing."

The Austin television station KVUE posted emails that the company sent to students in the days before the trip, assuring them that spring break was still on and was still safe.

One of the emails, sent by the company March 3, read, "We believe that our travel destinations remain among the safest and most enjoyable places in the world to visit right now." In another, sent March 12, the company wrote that "we're currently in our 2nd week of Cabo and have had almost 5000 travellers, all with no issues."

A statement later posted on the JusCollege website told travellers that the remaining spring break trips were being postponed until a later date in 2020.

"We are committed to building solutions that connect people and provide safety and security for our community while sustaining our love of adventure," the company's statement read.

The New York Times

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Lawmakers Across The US Are Mourning Friends, Staff, And Family Members Who Died Of The Coronavirus

The journalists at BuzzFeed News are proud to bring you trustworthy and relevant reporting about the coronavirus. To help keep this news free, become a member and sign up for our newsletter, Outbreak Today.

April Dunn

April Dunn (right) and her friend Brandi Melissa.

April Dunn, a staff member of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards’ Office of Disability Affairs, died March 28 after complications related to the coronavirus. She was 33.

Friends said Dunn tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on Thursday, March 26, and was hospitalized on Friday. She died the next day.

“She lived her life to the fullest and improved the lives of countless Louisianans with disabilities as a dedicated staff member in the Governor’s Office of Disability Affairs,” Edwards said in a Twitter thread, calling her “an inspiration to everyone that met her.”

Dunn was a fierce advocate for disability rights and suffered from several underlying conditions, including cerebral palsy. The Louisiana native began her advocacy during her fight to obtain her high school diploma and attend college.

In 2013, she joined forces with other advocates to help pass Act 833 — a bill that allows “alternative pathways” to high school graduation for people with disabilities. Dunn had been denied a high school diploma after successfully completing her coursework but failing to pass standardized testing. Dunn was also the chair of the Louisiana Developmental Disability Council.

“I mean she went from surviving fetal alcoholism syndrome, through foster care, to being adopted to working in the governor’s office after she finished college,” Dunn’s close friend, Brandi Melissa, 36, told BuzzFeed News. “She was amazing.”

Lawmaker Isaac Robinson, an attorney turned politician who represented parts of Detroit, is suspected to have died as a result of the coronavirus on March 29. He was 44.

His mother, Rep. Rose Mary C. Robinson, a former Detroit lawmaker, told Crain’s Detroit her son had complained of difficulty breathing but had refused to get medical assistance. She told the outlet she suspected his ailments were related to the coronavirus, though he never took a test.

“He was my neighbor and I served with his mother,” Rep. Rashida Tlaib told BuzzFeed News in a text message. “Known him since 2008 when we were both young activists. His death woke people up. People are shocked.”

Robinson, a Democrat, was elected to the Michigan state legislature in 2018 besting 13 others in a Democratic primary. He eventually succeeded his mother, who held the seat before him but was unable to run again because of restrictions that limit the number of terms an officeholder may serve.

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    61, an audio technician for NBC News in New York City.
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    65, a flight attendant for American Airlines in Philadelphia.
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    73, a neurosurgeon who separated conjoined twins.
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    48, a nurse at Mount Sinai West Hospital in New York City.
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    30, a high school baseball coach in River Vale, New Jersey.
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    44, father of six in New Braunfels, Texas.
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    54, a CBS News journalist in New York City.
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    36, school principal in Brooklyn.
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    42, a single mother of six and breast cancer survivor in Snohomish County, Washington.
  • Nashom Wooden
    50, a drag queen in New York City.
  • Josh Wallwork
    45, a costumer for Law & Order: SVU in New York City.

Before taking office, Robinson operated his own law firm and had previously served as political counsel for the labor union, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, of which he was a member.

“He really empowered others,” longtime friend Al Williams told BuzzFeed News.

“He was a true public servant,” Williams said, fighting back tears. “It didn’t matter who we were up against.”

Before graduating from Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law, Robinson completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan. He was a graduate of Renaissance High School in Detroit, where he played basketball for the school’s team.

“It wasn’t known for its athletics but he was on the varsity basketball team,” Williams, 40, said. “Only white boy on the team — everybody loved him.”

Democratic and Republican politicians in Michigan tweeted their condolences to the family while lauding Robinson.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer tweeted, saying Robinson “had a huge heart, a quick wit, and a genuine passion for the people.”

Speaker of Michigan’s House of Representatives Lee Chatfield, a Republican, said, “Isaac was a passionate public servant who loved Detroit. He had a big heart, fought hard for his beliefs, and fought even harder for the people he served so honorably.”

Robert Garff

Robert Garff, a former Utah state lawmaker and philanthropist, died March 29 after he and his wife Katharine tested positive for COVID-19. He was 77.

Friends said Garff became ill after returning from a trip to Palm Springs, California.

Garff, a Utah native, served as speaker of the Utah House of Representatives from 1985 to 1987. He became CEO of the family business, Ken Garff Automotive Group, four decades ago and also served on the board of Intermountain Healthcare — the largest health care provider in the Intermountain West of the country.

“Even when he was alive, I described Bob as the nicest man you’d ever meet,” friend and current CEO of Ken Graff Automotive Group, Brett Hopkins, told BuzzFeed News. “He was very kind, very sincere, very, very interested in people.”

Hopkins said Garff enjoyed doing cattle roundups and did so even up until a couple of years ago with his family and friends on his ranch in Summit County. Garff is survived by his wife, five children, and 21 grandchildren.

Politicians mourned the Utah legend on social media, including his daughter, state Rep. Melissa Garff Ballard, who announced his death.

“He has lived a long and happy life, full of vigor and love for our state and our families,” she wrote.

Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah, who had himself been self-quarantining but tested negative for the coronavirus, released a statement calling Garff “a dear friend.”

“Bob’s contributions to our state, to our economy, and to our church will be heralded by many,” Romney tweeted. “But for me, it was his sound and principled leadership as the Chairman of the Olympic Winter Games of 2002 that is most compelling.”

George Valentine

Former chief deputy attorney general Natalie Ludaway (left), George Valentine, and DC Attorney General Karl A. Racine.

George Valentine, a member of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s legal counsel, died March 27 after he was diagnosed with COVID-19. He was 66.

“George’s dedication to the people he served was evident in his work and in the love and wisdom he shared with residents and colleagues.” Bowser said on Twitter.

Valentine worked as deputy attorney general for the Civil Litigation Division and most recently as deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Legal Counsel. He earned his undergraduate degree at Oakwood College in Alabama and then pursued a law degree at Harvard Law School, according to social media posts and his LinkedIn page. Friends and colleagues remember him as “kind” and “smart.”

Valentine cared deeply about underserved children in DC and routinely volunteered to be a foster parent and had adopted a child, according to the DC attorney general.

“The George Valentine that we know as the fella that can go into the courtroom and manage lawyers and develop lawyers is one person. The George Valentine that went out of his way to look out for kids who needed a consistent adult in their life is someone we all will miss,” DC Attorney General Karl Racine told BuzzFeed News in a phone interview.

Rancine told BuzzFeed News that Valentine contributed mightily to the District of Columbia as a lawyer, working for over 25 years with a win rate of approximately 95% in DC courts.

Racine said he was “deeply saddened personally” to hear the news of Valentine’s death. “That obviously brought a level of profound reality to the situation that we’re in with the virus and the pandemic.”

Anthony Spadaccini

Former Connecticut representative Anthony Spadaccini died March 25 due to complications related to the novel coronavirus — the first known death in Stamford, where he served on the board of representatives from 2018 to 2019.

The 54-year-old recently worked as the chief operating officer for a local distribution center where he managed the production floor. He leaves behind his wife, Stefanie, and two sons, Anthony and Paul.

His former employer and close friend James Lyman described him as “hardworking and caring,” and told BuzzFeed News the staff is “completely distraught at this loss.”

“He was a very productive and stern manager but he was also very fatherly to all the employees,” Lyman told BuzzFeed News. “The personality on the production floor was kind of different than the personality in the break room.”

Ron Golden

Ron Golden, older brother to Minnesota’s Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, died March 21 due to complications related to the coronavirus. He was 56.

Golden’s immune system was compromised after having been diagnosed with cancer just weeks before contracting COVID-19, Flanagan said in an Instagram post. He was the second resident to succumb to the disease at the time.

“To many, he’ll be a statistic: Tennessee’s second COVID-related death. But to me, I’ll remember a loving, older brother, uncle, father, and husband,” Flanagan said.

Flanagan described her brother as a “tough-as-nails Marine who was a big teddy bear on the inside.” Flanagan, a Democrat, said her brother’s politics weren’t like hers “AT ALL” and the two often joked about it.

In January, the two mourned the death of their father, Marvin Manypenny.

Golden was a member of the Native American band White Earth Band of Ojibwe, located in northwestern Minnesota, but was raised in Tennessee, where he died.

Golden’s widow, Jose Golden, plans to spread his ashes in Minnesota where their father is buried, Flanagan told reporters March 25.


COVID-19 is the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. The relationship between the disease and the virus was misstated in an earlier version of this post.

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US racing tips: Templegate's best bets for the meeting stateside at Tampa Bay Downs on Friday live on Sky Sports Racing



HIFALUTIN almost lived up to her name here last time when finishing a good third in a similar race to this. That was another placed effort and is better form than most of today’s rivals.

La Wapa went well for a long way here last time and looks a fair price to hit the frame again.

Billysbirthdaygirl is taking a drop in grade and has not gone unnoticed in the market on her three starts so far. It would be no surprise to see her go very close in a race that appears to lack depth.

Newcomer Palaces Diamond is worth a look in the market although her yard is not flying at present.


THIRTY NINE SEVEN is turned out quickly after finishing a good second here last time. She has a good record over this trip with three wins and seven places so should be right in the mix again.

Sonoma Storm was run out of it late on last time but she may have needed that first run of the season and is capable of better.

U Know I B Lion is dropping in trip after a modest effort over 7f last time out. She’s much happier over this distance and is having her sights lowered slightly too. She wouldn’t be a surprise winner.


VOLADOR came back from a break with a pretty quiet effort here last time but she should much fitter for the experience. This looks a much softer contest and she’s open to plenty of improvement.

Imaginary Friend was a fair third there last time when fading in the closing stages after not getting the best of runs. There was enough in that performance to suggest she could figure at this level.

West Burke was a little disappointing last time when finishing sixth. But she was just a neck off the pace two starts ago and is capable of bouncing back.

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CHIEF OF JOY comes from a trainer and jockey team that has a high strike rate and they landed a victory with this four-year-old last term. He takes a fair drop in class here and has no issues with the distance.

Fine Spirit landed a convincing win here last time when powering home strongly. This slightly longer trip holds no fears and another bold bid is expected.

Snow Lion was just over a length off the pace here last time and should appreciate moving up in distance as he does today. Trainer Thomas Foley is in decent form which is another plus.


MAST COVE has a good record over this trip and has two wins and two places from just five starts at the track. She was beaten in a head-bobber last time over this distance and has landed five wins when teaming up with jockey Scott Spieth.

Alluring Approval has really approved since moving to trainer William March with a win and two seconds from her last three outings. She was just half a length off the leader here latest and should be right in the mix again.

J P’S Gia didn’t get much luck in running when behind Alluring Approval last time but was in good form earlier and can bounce back.


VAUNT showed lots of promise when coming back from almost a year off to finish second here last time. She was right in the shake-up until tiring in the closing stages, which is understandable. She’l be fitter now and and drops to her favourite distance.

Sugar Fix has been in cracking form with two wins and two seconds from her past four runs – although she lost one of those victories in the stewards’ room. This trip is ideal and she’ll be right there again.

Zodiac Princess put in her best effort for a while when beaten two lengths here last time. She takes a drop in class today which will help.


INDIAN GULCH landed five wins and five places last season and put in some good performances in the process. He is at home over this trip and he has a strong record in this class.

Josie’s Riddle is two from three when tackling this distance and is another taking a drop down the grades which should boost his chance.

Das Da One had more than six lengths in hand when winning here last time so shouldn’t be worried about taking on better horses today. He’s relatively lightly raced and could take a step forward.


VI HAINES showed lots of promise when third on her debut at Tampa Bay last time out. She was coming back from almost a year off so was entitled to need the run. She led for a long way before just folding late on. She should do better with the benefit of that outing.

Factor Around has looked a little rusty this season but she has some decent form in the book, including over this trip, and could well hit the frame.

Lipstikliesnlovers hasn’t shown a lot so far but is taking a drop in grade here after a couple of runs at Gulfstream and it’s still early days after just three outings.

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US now has the most coronavirus cases in the world

US now has the most coronavirus cases in the WORLD with 83,553 infections – more than China or Italy – as experts warn death toll could reach 80,000 even if with quarantines – but Trump blames testing for new figure

  • US now has the most coronavirus cases in the world with 83,553 infections and more than 1,205 deaths
  • New figures released Thursday show the US has overtaken China and Italy with number of confirmed cases 
  • Italy is still the hardest hit country in terms of deaths with more than 8,000. China as recorded more than 3,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic 
  • The number of coronavirus infections have now topped a half-million worldwide 
  • The World Health Organization this week predicted a grim outlook for the US, saying that the country would quickly become the global epicenter of the pandemic 
  • It comes as new research showed the outbreak could lead to more than 80,000 deaths in the US within the next four months even if social distancing measures are respected
  • Coronavirus symptoms: what are they and should you see a doctor?

The United States now has the most coronavirus cases in the world with 83,553 infections and 1,205 deaths. 

New figures released on Thursday show that the US has overtaken China and Italy with the number of confirmed cases in the global pandemic. 

Italy is still the hardest hit country in terms of deaths with more than 8,000 fatalities. China, where the pandemic began in December, has recorded more than 3,000 deaths. 

The number of coronavirus infections have now topped a half-million worldwide. 

It comes after the World Health Organization this week predicted a grim outlook for the US, saying that the country would quickly become the global epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic given the ‘very large acceleration’ of confirmed infections.  

New York on Thursday recorded 100 coronavirus deaths in just 24 hours, bringing the state total to 385, as the number of fatal cases across the United States increased to 1,205.  

New York, which is the epicenter of the US outbreak with 50 percent of the country’s total confirmed cases, now as 385 deaths and more than 37,000 infections. 

There are 281 deaths in New York City and 21,873 infections.   

Louisiana is now emerging as the possible next epicenter of the US outbreak after infections rose by 30 percent in 24 hours. That state recorded 2,305 infections and 83 deaths by Thursday. Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans has been blamed for the outbreak there. 

New Jersey has 6,876 confirmed cases and 81 deaths, while California has 3,899 cases and 81 deaths. Washington state, which was initially the epicenter following an outbreak at a Seattle nursing home, now has 3,207 confirmed cases and 150 deaths. 

It comes as new research showed the outbreak could lead to more than 80,000 deaths in the US within the next four months and overwhelm hospital capacity nationally as soon as early April even if social distancing measures are respected.  

Forecasters at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine have predicted that during the epidemic peak – set for some point in April – as many as 2,300 patients could die every day. 

This was the case even if the population adhered to strict social distancing measures. 

Their predictions came after analyzing the latest COVID-19 data, including hospitalization and mortality rates, as well as patient date in terms of age, gender and pre-existing health problems. 

The analysis warned that based on current trends, demand for both ICU beds and ventilators would far exceed capacity for COVID-19 patients as early as the second week of April. 

It comes as health care systems in both New York and Europe buckled under the weight of caring for seriously ill victims as officials desperately searched for enough ventilators to keep them alive.

New York City’s convention center is now being turned into a temporary hospital and a makeshift morgue was set up outside Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital on Wednesday to cope with a possible surge in victims. 

Public health officials in New York hunted down beds and medical equipment and put out a call for more doctors and nurses for fear the number of sick will explode in a matter of weeks, overwhelming hospitals as has happened in Italy and Spain. 

In a preview of what might be ahead for the US, Spain has converted hotels into makeshift hospitals and turned an ice rink in Madrid into a temporary morgue. The curve of infections has not slowed in Spain, which now has more than 4,100 deaths, second only to Italy’s death toll.  

Faced with the exponential spread of the pandemic, the US Senate passed a $2.2 trillion economic rescue package steering aid to businesses, workers and health care systems. 

Millions of Americans hoped the measure would give them a lifeline as they lost jobs, income and child care due to the social-distancing rules needed to slow the spread of the virus. 

At least 1.5 billion people across the world are now under severe travel restrictions. 

But the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, scolded world leaders for wasting precious time in the fight against the virus that has already killed more than 21,000 people, thrown millions out of work and ravaged the world economy.

He called it ‘public enemy No. 1.’ 

Across the US, roughly half of the population have been affected by stay-at-home orders in at least 18 states. 

The sweeping orders are aimed at slowing the spread of the pathogen but have upended daily life as schools and businesses shutter indefinitely. 


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US indicts Venezuela's Maduro on narcoterrorism charges

‘Nobody seems to care’ about human rights violations in Venezuela, former mayor says

Ramon Muchacho, former Mayor of Chacao, Venezuela, joins FOX Business to discuss the violence perpetrated by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro against his own people, and how the international community is responding.

MIAMI — Nicolás Maduro effectively converted Venezuela into a criminal enterprise at the service of drug traffickers and terrorist groups as he and his allies stole billions from the South American country, the Justice Department charged in several indictments against the embattled socialist and his inner circle that were made public Thursday.

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One indictment by prosecutors in New York accused Maduro and socialist party boss Diosdado Cabello of conspiring with Colombian rebels and members of the Venezuelan military “to flood the United States with cocaine” and use the drug trade as a “weapon against America.” Criminal acts to advance a drug and weapons conspiracy that prosecutors contend dates back to the start of Hugo Chavez's revolution in 1999 occurred in places as far afield as Aruba, Syria, Mexico, Honduras and Iran, the indictment alleged.

In coordinated actions, prosecutors in Miami charged the head of the Maduro-stacked Supreme Court, Maikel Moreno, with money laundering. Maduro's other key plank of power — the military — also took a hit as May 2019 charges against Defense Minister Gen. Vladimir Padrino were unsealed from Washington.


As the indictments were announced, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the State Department would offer cash rewards of up to $55 million for information leading to the arrests or convictions of Maduro and his associates. It offered rewards up to $15 million for Maduro and up to $10 million each for the others.

“The Maduro regime is awash in corruption and criminality,” U.S. Attorney General William Barr said in an online news conference from Washington. “While the Venezuelan people suffer, this cabal lines their pockets with drug money, and the proceeds of their corruption. And this has to come to an end.”

The shock indictment of a functioning head of state is highly unusual and is bound to ratchet up tensions between Washington and Caracas as the spread of the coronavirus threatens to collapse Venezuela's health system and oil-dependent economy driven deep into the ground by years of corruption and U.S. sanctions.

Analysts said the action could boost U.S. President Donald Trump’s re-election chances in the key swing state of Florida, which he won by a narrow margin in 2016 and where Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans fleeing authoritarian regimes have political muscle.

But its unclear how it brings Venezuela any closer to ending a 15-month standoff between Maduro, who has the support of Russia and China, and the U.S.-backed opposition leader Juan Guaidó. It also could fragment the U.S.-led coalition against Maduro if European and Latin American allies think the Trump administration is overreaching.

“This kind of action does nothing to help a negotiated solution — something that’s already really difficult,” said Roberta Jacobson, who served as the State Department’s top diplomat for Latin America until 2018.

Maduro, a 57-year-old former bus driver, portrays himself as an everyman icon of the Latin American left. He’s long accused the U.S. "empire" of looking for any excuse to take control of the world’s largest oil reserves, likening its plotting to the 1989 invasion of Panama and the removal of strongman Gen. Manuel Noriega to face drug trafficking charges in Florida.

Barr and Elliott Abrams, the State Department’s special envoy on Venezuela, are driving the hawkish U.S. stance toward Maduro much as they pushed for Noriega’s ouster in the late 1980s — Barr as a senior Justice Department official and Abrams as assistant secretary of state for Latin America.

U.S. officials see other parallels as well. Noriega transformed Panama into a playground for violent, international drug cartels while the Trump administration has accused Maduro and his military henchmen of harboring drug traffickers, guerrillas from Colombia and even Hezbollah, a designated terrorist group.

They also have accused government officials together with well-connected businessmen of stealing hundreds of billions of dollars from the state coffers, much of it from state oil giant PDVSA, which has seen its production plunge to a seven-decade low.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a press conference at the Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas, Venezuela in March 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

Still, charging Maduro was no easy task. Sitting foreign leaders normally enjoy immunity from prosecution under U.S. law and international norms.

But the U.S. is among 60 countries that no longer consider Maduro a head of state even if he does hold de facto power. They instead recognize Guaidó, the head of congress, as Venezuela’s rightful leader following the socialist’s re-election in a 2018 race marred by allegations of fraud and an opposition boycott.

The evidence against Maduro was collected over several years by investigators in Miami, New York, Houston and Washington who have brought drug trafficking, foreign bribery and money-laundering charges against several senior Venezuelan officials, members of the military and government-connected businessmen.

Much of those probes have focused on PDVSA, which is the source of practically all of Venezuela’s export revenue. The U.S. last year sanctioned PDVSA, barring Americans from doing business with the oil giant.

But to the surprise of many, Chavez’s hand-picked heir has stubbornly clung to power, withstanding months of street protests last year and even a U.S.-backed military revolt all the while millions of Venezuelan migrants flee hyperinflation and widespread food shortages.


With support on the streets for Guaidó fading, the Trump administration raised the ante last fall, withdrawing support for a Norway-sponsored mediation effort and extending sanctions so that even foreign companies faced retaliation for extending Maduro a lifeline.


Separately, Barr, echoing calls from Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, prioritized investigations into Maduro’s inner circle, according to two people who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal Justice Department deliberations.

The pressure to deliver, the people said, went into overdrive around the time when Guaidó visited Washington in February and Trump praised him as his guest at the State of the Union address as “a very brave man, who carries with him the hopes, dreams and aspirations of all Venezuelans.”

Nicolas Maduro President of Venezuela gestures as he speaks on June 27, 2019 in Caracas, Venezuela. (Photo by Matias Delacroix/Getty Images)

But the spread of the coronavirus pandemic delayed the announcement, which was originally scheduled for March 16, according to the people.

The virus is likely to further distract Washington’s attention and threatens to splinter the opposition, some of whom have expressed a willingness to work with Maduro to stem the burgeoning medial crisis. It could also give new life to Maduro’s call for the U.S. to ease sanctions, an idea that several European Union allies have also warmed to.


Frank Mora, a former Pentagon official, said the U.S. is right to condemn Maduro and others for repressing his people, stealing from state coffers and turning Venezuela into a criminal state.


But he worries the indictments play more into the emotion of Latino voters in Florida than help address the country’s grinding crisis.

“We’re not going to go in and capture him,” said Mora, who now heads the Latin America studies institute at Florida International University. “This isn’t about regime change or restoring democracy to Venezuela. It’s about electoral politics."

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Spike in US deaths, hospitalisations as coronavirus’ reach deepens

New York: New York once again saw a spike in the number of deaths and hospitalisations related to the coronavirus, a bleak trend for the epicentre of the US's outbreak of the fast-spreading virus. There are now more than 37,000 confirmed cases in the state.

A member of the Brooklyn Hospital Center COVID-19 testing team calls in the next patient in line.Credit:AP

The increase in cases, deaths and hospitalisations comes as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo detailed how the outbreak will have dramatic economic effects on the state.

Coronavirus deaths and hospitalisations in New York were both up dramatically, a stark sign of the outbreak's quickly increasing reach.

The US has more than 81,930 cases including least 1177 deaths, making it the country with more infections than any other, including China, where the pandemic began.

The highest number of deaths in the US was recorded on Wednesday when 223 people died.

About half of all US cases were in New York, which had almost 10 times more than any other state.

New York state's death toll from the coronavirus jumped by 100 in one day, pushing the number to 385, Cuomo said on Thursday. He added that experts expect the number to increase as critically ill patients who have been on ventilators for several days succumb to the virus.

"That is a situation where people just deteriorate over time," Cuomo said. "And that is what we're seeing."

More than 5300 COVID-19 patients were hospitalised statewide as of Thursday, a 40 per cent increase from the day before. Nearly 1300 patients were in intensive care, a 45 per cent increase.

Workers from the Office of Chief Medical Examiner stand next to a tent outside Bellevue Hospital in New York City. Credit:Bloomberg

Hospitals in hard-hit New York City are trying to deal with the growing crush of patients and the need for medical equipment like face masks and ventilators.

The recent death toll includes a health care worker at one of the New York City hospitals under siege by the coronavirus has died, according to coworkers and his sister. Kious Kelly, an assistant nurse manager at the Mount Sinai West hospital in Manhattan, died Tuesday from the virus after he got sick two weeks ago, multiple friends said in social media posts.

Kelly's sister, Marya Sherron, told the New York Post that her brother had informed her of his illness about 10 days earlier.

"He told me he had the coronavirus," she said. "He was in ICU but he thought he was OK. He didn't think it was serious as it was."

Sherron said Kelly had severe asthma but was otherwise healthy.

Cuomo warned the economic toll of the coronavirus outbreak will be dramatic in New York and castigated federal officials for what he called a failure to address lost revenue in their $US2.2 trillion relief package.

"The Congressional action, in my opinion, simply failed to address the governmental need," he said Thursday at a state Capitol news conference. "I find it irresponsible. I find it reckless."

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First US child to ‘die of coronavirus’ is identified as LA high schooler, 17 – The Sun

THE California teen who is believed to be the first US minor to 'die from coronavirus' has been identified as William Whang, The Sun can reveal.

William passed away last Wednesday at the age of 17 and was not confirmed to have COVID-19 until after his death.

The LA County Medical Examiner has not listed William's cause of death and says that an investigation is pending to determine if it was in fact COVID-19.

He went to the hospital five days before his death with respiratory problems but was turned away according to Lancaster Mayor Rex Pariss.

The teenager was later admitted at Antelope Valley Hospital where he died from septic shock.

The Global Sepsis Alliance stated that COVID-19 can cause sepsis, which can lead to septic shock.

His cause of death is pending further investigationThe Sun learned on Wednesday that William's family had no idea that the teen had coronavirus at the time of his death, and even held a funeral with the body earlier this week.

Speaking to the Sun, Mayor Pariss said: "They had the funeral already. His family has no idea he was the boy in the news.
“The family didn’t know about COVID-19. They were shaking hands at the funeral.”

The father has been trying to get tested but to no avail, the mayor said: “He has just been told to self-quarantine."

Mayor Pariss added that the teenager "did not meet the criteria for public health to OK a test and the only time he was tested was after he died."

William was originally said to be one of four new coronavirus deaths in LA County on Tuesday.

They also announced an additional 128 cases in the county that day.

There have been claims the young boy had bacterial pneumonia and possibly an underlying heart condition, but none of that has been confirmed at this time.

LA Mayor Eric Garcetti also responded to the death, stating on Wednesday: "I was informed by the county that this individual did not have pre-existing conditions. It’s a sober reminder that anybody can die from this disease."

Speaking to Fox 11, Mayor Pariss said the city has purchased 100,000 coronavirus test kits.

He also advised on social media: "Keep your children home. This is no longer an old people's disease."

Governor of California Gavin Newsom reiterated this sentiment, revealing that half of the cases in the state are individuals between the ages of 18 to 49.

In a statement released yesterday, LA County health officials said: "Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality."

Dr Barbara Ferrer, Los Angeles County Public Health Director, said: "Each loss we experience in LA County is tragic, and we are sending our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones who've had to endure this tragedy.

"While Public Health is doing everything possible to mitigate the impact of this disease in our community, we can only flatten the curve if EVERYONE takes social distancing seriously and adheres to all isolation and quarantine orders issued by our Health Officer.”

The release also stated that there are 10 coronavirus cases in the age group of 0 to 17 in the Los Angeles County.

Currently, 42% of those infected with the illness in the county are aged between 18 to 40.

The total number of coronavirus fatalities in the US now stands at 1,041 but is expected to rise, Dr Jermone Adams warned on Monday.

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