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COVID-19 outbreak sidelines another deployed Navy warship

SAN DIEGO — Another Navy warship is being sidelined with an outbreak of COVID-19 on board, military officials said Friday.

Several sailors on board the USS Kidd guided-missile destroyer, which is based in Everett, Wash., have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to Jonathan Hoffman, chief Pentagon spokesman. Hoffman announced the outbreak during a Pentagon news conference Friday morning.

One sailor was flown off the ship to San Antonio, Texas, for treatment. As of Friday, 17 additional sailors on board have tested positive for the virus, according to a Navy news release.

“Within 24 hours following the positive COVID-19 test of the Sailor, the Navy deployed a specialized medical team to the ship to conduct contact tracing and additional onsite testing,” the Navy said in a statement. “Testing continues, and we expect additional cases. All measures are being taken to evaluate the extent of the COVID-19 transmission on the ship.”

The Kidd is conducting drug interdiction operations in the eastern Pacific off the coast of South America, officials said.

The guided-missile destroyer left its home port in Washington state in January, making a stop in San Diego to join the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group when it left for its deployment, according to a post on the ship’s Facebook page.

The aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt has been sidelined in Guam with its own coronavirus outbreak, affecting more than 17% of its roughly 4,800 sailors. One sailor on the Roosevelt died of COVID-19 complications.

—The San Diego Union-Tribune


Supreme Court won’t halt Trump public charge rule amid outbreak

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court let President Donald Trump’s administration keep using a tough test to screen out green card applicants who might become dependent on government benefits, refusing to halt the policy because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

With no published dissents, the justices rejected a request from a New York-led group of state and local governments that said emergency Supreme Court intervention was needed to ensure immigrants weren’t deterred from using publicly funded health care programs and other benefits. The court also rejected a similar motion filed by Cook County, Ill.

The court left open the possibility that a request could be filed with a federal district court.

The justices earlier this year let the new test take effect, issuing a pair of 5-4 orders that blocked lower court rulings. The second of those orders prompted Trump to lash out at dissenting Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who had criticized the court majority as being too quick to grant administration requests.

The new rule changed what critics say was a longstanding understanding of the federal bar on permanent residency for “public charges.” The Trump rule expanded the definition of public charge and gave officials broad power to determine that someone is at risk of falling into that category.

Under the new rule, immigrants are considered public charges if they are deemed likely to receive public benefits, including the Medicaid health care program for the poor, for more than 12 months over a 36-month period.

Trump this week said his administration will suspend the issuing of green cards for 60 days in a step he said will preserve jobs for Americans who are out of work.

The New York-led group argued that the rule makes it less likely that immigrants will get tested for COVID-19 because they will be deterred from using Medicaid and other health care benefits. The group includes Connecticut, Vermont and New York City.

“The rule makes it more likely that immigrants will suffer serious illness if infected and spread the virus inadvertently to others — risks that are heightened because immigrants make up a large proportion of the essential workers who continue to interact with the public,” the group argued.

The Trump administration told the high court that publicly funded services for coronavirus prevention and treatment don’t count in the public charge analysis.

—Bloomberg News


Sweden steps up coronavirus controls as warm weather adds to risks

Sweden says it may adopt a tougher approach in enforcing social distancing guidelines after throngs of people headed for parks, bars and restaurants to make the most of the warm weather.

The country has so far stood out for its relaxed approach to fighting COVID-19, with the government relying on citizens to act sensibly, rather than imposing new laws or a full lockdown.

But on Friday, Interior Minister Mikael Damberg urged Swedes not to let down their guard.

While most people in Stockholm are acting responsibly, Damberg said “in some places and in some situations, the recommendations aren’t being followed.” Speaking to reporters in the capital, he said, “This is a critical situation and it’s time to follow the guidelines and take responsibility.”

Sweden’s strategy to contain the spread of COVID-19 has garnered international attention as schools, gyms, cafes, bars and shops have stayed open throughout the spread of the pandemic. Last week, the country’s top epidemiologist, Anders Tegnell, said the strategy appeared to be working, as the rate of infections showed signs of leveling off.

Authorities in Stockholm inspected 200 restaurants in the past two weeks, and have since expanded their vigil to ensure people are practicing social distancing. The city’s mayor warned that establishments caught in breach of guidelines will be shut.

—Bloomberg News


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