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Coronavirus confirmed in all U.S. states as world faces long-term turmoil

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On the surface, West Virginia might have seemed immune to coronavirus.

While the other 49 states had reported more than 5,000 cases combined, West Virginia didn’t report its first case until Tuesday afternoon, when Gov. Jim Justice announced an infection in the state’s eastern panhandle.

But that doesn’t mean the deadly virus hadn’t earlier reached the state, where coal miners and elderly residents can be especially vulnerable.

West Virginia’s lag might be due to a lack of testing, said a federal lawmaker and a sick nurse who’s been rejected repeatedly for testing.

“We’ve only had 84 tests in my state” as of Monday, said Joe Manchin, the state’s senior US senator.

“I have over 720,000 elderly. I’ve got over 220,000 that are critically ill under 60 years of age,” Manchin said. “If you put all this together, of the 1,800,000 people (living in West Virginia), I have over a million that could be absolutely, totally devastated by this virus if it hits.”

He said he’s extremely worried about those with respiratory illnesses.

“If we don’t even have the tests to identify who is ill, who needs treatment … what do we do?” he said. “I don’t have the ventilators. I don’t have the respirators. I don’t have anything available to that many people that are that vulnerable.”

Manchin said he’s asked Vice President Mike Pence, who’s leading the Trump administration’s response to the outbreak, and others to increase testing capabilities in West Virginia.

In the meantime, some sick residents are left to worry and wait.

‘We have been unable to get permission’

One nurse in West Virginia said she’s been very sick for more than a week but has been unable to get a coronavirus test despite repeated requests by her and her doctors.

The nurse, who asked not to be identified for fear that she will lose her job, told CNN that she first developed a fever of between 100 and 103 degrees and an “unrelenting cough” that won’t let up.

The nurse said she was tested for two strains of the flu, and both came back negative. But when she asked to be tested for the coronavirus she was declined repeatedly.

“I have had several doctors ask for me to be tested, but we have been unable to get permission for me to be tested,” she said.

The nurse said she and her doctors have repeatedly contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the West Virginia health department.

She said her requests were declined because she has not been in direct contact with someone who has tested positive.

Now, other members of her family have also fallen sick. When they tried to get tested for coronavirus, they were also declined, the nurse said.

“At this point I’m so angry and outraged at the way this is being handled,” she said.

Why testing in West Virginia is scarce

The West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources said testing supplies “are not unlimited.”

“Currently, COVID-19 testing is used in accordance with guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),” the health department said in a statement Monday.

Confusion over the availability and criteria for coronavirus testing leaves sick people in limbo

It said two groups of people have been prioritized for testing since early March. They include:

— Seriously ill people who are hospitalized or otherwise are at high risk of complications — for example, people with coronavirus symptoms who are elderly or have serious underlying chronic illnesses. “No history of potential exposure is needed for these patients,” the health department said.

— People who are at medium to high risk of having been infected. “This includes any individual with symptoms of lower respiratory illness (fever, cough, shortness of breath) AND a history of likely exposure to COVID-19 within 14 days of symptom onset (e.g., close contact with an individual confirmed to have COVID-19 or recent travel history from or living in areas with widespread community transmission) AND do not have another identified cause for their illness (e.g., flu, or other respiratory viruses),” the health department’s statement said.

“These are slight modifications of CDC Guidelines, focusing on those most ill in criteria one above, given that supplies are limited, and some products remain on backorder in West Virginia and nationally. They are subject to change.”

What West Virginia did proactively

Even before its first confirmed case, the state rolled out a series of precautions aimed at staving off coronavirus.

On Friday, Gov. Justice announced all schools will be closed to students through at least March 27.

On Tuesday, Justice ordered the closure of bars, casinos, and restaurants to seating customers.

Earlier, Justice had asked all nursing homes to restrict visitors, with exceptions for serious cases such as end-of-life situations. The governor also banned out-of-state and international travel for state employees on official business.

But even the governor knew coronavirus in West Virginia was inevitable.

“Even though we still don’t have a confirmed case at this time, in talking to our great medical professionals we know that eventually that will no longer be the case,” Justice said last week.

“So we’re continuing to do everything in our power to be prepared, but we also have to be proactive to make sure all West Virginians are as safe as possible.”

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Covid-19 cases rise aboard first cruise to resume sailing in the Caribbean

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So far a total of seven passengers have tested positive for Covid-19 aboard the SeaDream 1 cruise ship docked in Barbados, according to two passengers on the ship.
Passengers who have tested negative for the virus will be able to leave the ship and travel home, Gene Sloan and Ben Hewitt told CNN on Friday. They are both among a handful of cruise journalists and bloggers on board.

The SeaDream Yacht Club cruise was the first to return to the Caribbean since the coronavirus pandemic shut operations down in March and was meant to demonstrate that increased safety protocols, including regular testing aboard the ship, could allow cruise voyages to take place during the pandemic.

Instead one passenger fell ill on Wednesday, forcing the SeaDream 1 to return to Barbados, where all 53 passengers and 66 crew were tested.
Hewitt said the crew had informed passengers that everyone who had tested negative twice would be allowed to disembark the ship and fly home on Saturday.
SeaDream Yacht Club said in a news release Thursday afternoon that “guests” had received “assumptive positive” results to preliminary rapid Covid tests, but did not specify the number who had done so.

SeaDream was asked to confirm the exact number of positive results.
SeaDream responded “We are working closely with local health and government authorities to resolve this situation in the best possible way,” said SeaDream‘s Andreas Brynestad, in the SeaDream release.

Passenger Gene Sloan took this photo during the cruise that's been cut short by a Covid-19 outbreak.
Passenger Gene Sloan took this photo during the cruise that’s been cut short by a Covid-19 outbreak. Gene Sloan/The Points Guy

Intercom announcement of positive test result

Sloan, who is a senior reporter for cruise and travel at The Points Guy, reported that the Covid scare started when the captain informed passengers of the preliminary positive test over the ship’s intercom system shortly before lunchtime on Wednesday.

Passengers were instructed to return to their cabins and remain isolated there, he said.

The ship, which was in the Grenadines at the time of the first preliminary positive test, docked in Barbados Wednesday evening.

“It’s not a great development for the cruise industry,” Sloan told CNN via email on Wednesday from his cabin on board. “I think the hope had been that the rigorous testing that SeaDream was doing would keep Covid off its ship.”

Multilayer testing for Covid-19 has been an integral part of SeaDream‘s efforts to create a Covid-19 negative bubble aboard its ships.

Passengers were tested in advance of traveling to the ship and also before boarding the ship, Sloan said.

“And SeaDream also was testing passengers four days into the trip,” he said. “We were scheduled to be tested again today. That’s a more rigorous testing plan than most lines had been discussing for the restarts.”

The protocol is due in part to the strict testing required by Barbados, where the ship will be based for the season, Sloan noted.

“I think what this shows is it’s going to happen. And until there’s a vaccine or herd immunity, when cruising starts up you’re going to see things like this happen. The question is how often and how big?”

The current sailing was carrying 53 passengers and 66 crew, Sloan said.
The SeaDream 1 is sailing carrying 53 passengers and 66 crew, Sloan said. Gene Sloan/The Points Guy

Voyages from Barbados

SeaDream‘s winter voyages from Barbados started on November 7 with the sailing that has now been cut short.

These new Caribbean sailings follow a successful summer season for SeaDream in Norway, which the company said “resulted in zero positive cases during the entire Norwegian summer season.”

“After completing a successful summer season in Norway, we implemented even stricter health and safety protocols for our Barbados winter season. All guests were tested twice prior to embarkation and we are in the process of retesting guests,” said SeaDream‘s Andreas Brynestad in the statement released on Thursday.

Ben Hewitt, host of Cruise with Ben & David on YouTube, expressed his disappointment and frustration with the virus in an interview Thursday from his stateroom.

“It’s just so disappointing that this has happened because everybody has their hopes up high, and we can’t see anything more that they could’ve done,” said Hewitt.

“It’s just such a horrible virus, it just gets everywhere even with the constant testing.”

The use of masks on the voyage has been far less stringent.

Sloan told CNN that initially no one was wearing face masks, not even the crew. Crew members told him they weren’t necessary since the ship was a Covid-free “bubble.”

Then a few days into sailing, SeaDream instituted a mask policy but didn’t offer an explanation, he said.

Fewer than 250 guests

SeaDream‘s ships, which the company refers to as “superyachts,” have 56 staterooms, with a capacity for 112 guests and 95 crew.

Carrying fewer than 250 guests outside of US waters allows SeaDream to operate outside of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s orders around cruising.

The CDC recently issued a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for Cruise Ships.”

The order, which applies to cruise ships in US territorial waters that have capacity to carry at least 250 passengers, is considered a tentative step toward the resumption of cruising.

Safety measures may not be enough to contain the virus.
This was one of the safety measures that was being taken aboard the SeaDream 1 cruise ship. Unfortunately this seem to not be enough to contain the virus. Gene Sloan/The Points Guy

Trade group Cruise Lines International Association said it will work with the CDC to resume US sailings as soon as possible, but that its members would continue a voluntary suspension of operations through the end of 2020.

On Friday, a letter signed by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA) called on the CDC to reinstate its no-sail order for cruise ships and reverse efforts to restart the industry’s US operations.

The letter cites the outbreak aboard SeaDream 1.

Despite precautions, “the virus was still able to infect multiple people on the ship, with the possibility of more confirmed cases emerging as passengers and crew are retested,” the letter reads.

“Unfortunately, this troubling development is not surprising and reaffirms the need to exercise extreme caution before sending passengers and crew back out to sea on cruises.”

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Obama Rips Trump For Refusing To Congratulate President-Elect Biden

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Former President Barack Obama is reminding the nation he congratulated President Donald Trump as soon as he won the election … a courtesy the President’s refusing to extend to President-Elect Joe Biden.

The former president ripped Trump for failing to acknowledge Biden as president-elect with so much as a congratulatory phone call in an interview with “CBS This Morning,” telling Gayle King Trump is damaging our democracy with the way he’s eschewing what’s traditionally been a peaceful — and cordial — transfer of power.

Obama recalled election night 2016, saying he stayed up until the wee hours of the morning to phone Trump and congratulate the president-elect. Obama says he was doing what presidents do, just as George W. Bush graciously did during Obama’s historic 2008 victory.

Trump’s refusal to concede and call up president-elect Biden is clearly not sitting well with Obama.

As you know … Obama previously chided Trump and the GOP for continuing to make baseless claims of election fraud in an interview with “60 Minutes,” telling Scott Pelley it undermines the country.

Obama points out Biden and 2016 Trump will end up with the same number of Electoral College votes, 306, but says half the country likely won’t take that into account if they keep consuming conservative media … which Obama says presents voter fraud allegations as fact.

Bottom line. Obama explains why Republicans can’t stop Biden and Vice-President Elect Kamala Harris from being sworn in.

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Joe Biden wins the 2020 US Presidential election

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Following a tense week of vote tallying, Joe Biden won the state of Pennsylvania and vaulted ahead in the race to become the next president of the United States. Biden’s win in the critical state put him over the threshold of 270 electoral votes, cutting off all avenues for his opponent.

Biden prevailed by flipping key states that went to Trump in 2016, including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Trump again won in Florida and Ohio, but in the end was unable to chart a path to an electoral victory. Biden also leads by millions in the popular vote, with a record number of votes cast this year, many through the mail.

As his vice president, Kamala Harris will make history in myriad ways, becoming the first woman — and the first woman of color — to occupy the office. Harris, a California senator and the state’s former attorney general, built a career in the tech industry’s front yard.

Shattered barriers aside, this year’s election will likely go down in infamy for many in the U.S. The race was the strangest in recent years, characterized by rising storms of misinformation, fears over the fate of scaled-up vote-by-mail systems and a deadly virus that’s claimed well over 230,000 American lives. Biden’s campaign was forced to adapt to drive-up rallies and digital campaigning instead of relying on door-knocking and face-to-face interaction to mobilize the vote.

The circumstances of the election also created the perfect ecosystem for misinformation — a situation made worse by President Trump’s false claim of victory early Wednesday morning and ongoing claims of Democratic voter fraud. Trump appears to be in no mood to concede the election, but in the end the vote is what it is and Joe Biden will take office on January 20, 2021.

While a sitting president rejecting that unwritten democratic norm would be alarming, Trump’s decision will have little bearing on the ultimate political outcome. Whatever the coming days hold, the U.S. is entering into a new and unprecedented phase of uncertainty in which misinformation abounds and political tensions and fears of politically-motivated violence are running high.

The former vice president’s win brings a four year run of Trumpism to an abrupt end, though its effects will still reverberate throughout American politics, likely for decades. It also ushers in a new era in which Joe Biden plans to draw on the influence of an unlikely coalition of Democrats from across the political spectrum. The Senate still hangs in the balance with two tight races in Georgia headed to January runoffs.

Biden has laid out plans for sweeping climate action, and a healthcare extension that would cover more Americans and provide an opt-in Medicare-like public option. But his ability to enact most of those grand plans would hinge on a Democratic Senate. While either party was likely to continue pursuing more aggressive regulation for the technology industry, we’ll be watching closely for signals of what’s to come for tech policy.

But even without the Senate, the president-elect may be capable of making a swift and critical impact where it’s most needed: the coronavirus pandemic. In the continued absence of a national plan to fight the virus and a White House that downplays its deadliness and discourages mask-wearing, COVID-19 is raging out of control in states across the country, signaling a very deadly winter just around the corner.

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