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The US economy’s long road to recovery after the pandemic

So far, Congress has approved nearly $3 trillion in aid

WASHINGTON D.C. (NEXSTAR) — The US economy continues to crash as a result of the pandemic. Now, some states are starting to reopen businesses against the advice of medical experts, and even President Donald Trump, in an effort to save their economies, but some members of Congress think it will be a long road to recovery that will require even more federal aid.

Even after approving an additional $480 billion in aid for small businesses, hospitals, and testing, lawmakers acknowledged it will still be a long road to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic. State and local governments say they’re still waiting for help, but Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says Congress needs to be cautious.

“Take a look at how much debt we’ve racked up,” said McConnell.

In a radio interview Wednesday, McConnell suggested that allowing states to file for bankruptcy would be better than borrowing more money at the federal level. States are losing huge sums of tax revenue needed to pay for police, fire, and other essential services.

“And they are our heroes right now, so I don’t know what Mitch McConnell is thinking, but that’s totally irresponsible,” said Rep. Steven Horsford of Nevada.

So far, Congress has approved nearly $3 trillion in aid.

“It’s absolutely clear that more help is going to be needed with unemployment insurance,” said Rep. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico.

New Mexico Representatives Lujan and Deb Haaland say people are in dire need.

“We would like. to see an influx to SNAP benefits,” said Haaland.

Democrats also want more money for the post office and for expanding rural broadband so Americans can have access to telemedicine and del e-learning. Now, and if a second wave of COVID-19 cases arrives in the fall.

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Navy recommends reinstatement of fired carrier captain

The top Navy officer has recommended the reinstatement of the aircraft carrier captain fired for sending a fraught email to commanders pleading for faster action to protect his crew from a coronavirus outbreak, officials familiar with the investigation said Friday.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday recommended that Capt. Brett Crozier be returned to his ship, said the officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the results of an investigation that have not yet been made public.

If approved, his recommendation would end a drama that has rocked Navy leadership, sent thousands of crew members of the carrier Theodore Roosevelt ashore in Guam for quarantine and affected the fleet operations across the Pacific, a region critical to U.S. national security interests.

Gilday met with Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday and with Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Friday morning to lay out his recommendations. An official says Esper has asked for a delay in any public announcement while he considers the recommendation.

Earlier in the day, Esper’s chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman had suggested that Esper was going into the matter with an open mind, and “is generally inclined to support Navy leadership in their decision.”

The extraordinary episode has unfolded before a public already overwhelmed by the pandemic. And it has played out as the military copes with the coronavirus by reducing training, scaling back recruiting and halting personnel movements even as it deploys tens of thousands of National Guard and other troops to help civilian agencies deal with virus outbreaks across the country.

Crozier was abruptly removed earlier this month by acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly, who himself resigned days later amid widespread condemnation of the move. Crozier’s return would reunite him with crew members who were so upset about his firing that many crowded together on the deck and applauded and chanted his name as he strode off the ship after his dismissal.

As of Thursday, 840 sailors on the Theodore Roosevelt had tested positive for the virus and four are hospitalized. Crozier himself also has reportedly tested positive. One sailor, from Arkansas, has died, and more than 4,200 of the ship’s nearly 5,000 crew members have been moved onto the island for quarantine.

Clearing the ship and its crew of the virus has proven to be difficult and complicated. Sailors who test negative after finishing their time in quarantine are suddenly showing symptoms a day or two later. The virus’ unpredictable behavior is challenging the broader international medical community, making it harder to determine when the carrier might be able to either return to duty or head home.

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Woman Warned Not To Return to Store Wearing Her Incredible Pro-Life Shirt

Conservative pundit Elisha Krauss caused quite a stir when she walked into a store on Thursday donning a pro-life T-shirt emblazoned with the message, “Women’s Rights Begin in the Womb.”

This slogan is a simple, common-sense statement affirming the right to life for female babies in the womb, cleverly challenging the narrative that abortion is only about the pregnant woman’s rights.

But a security guard at Gelson’s Market in Van Nuys, California, apparently considered the slogan to be fighting words, and told Krauss not to come back into the store wearing the T-shirt because it could possibly incite violence.

The Daily Wire contributor and podcaster shared her ordeal on Twitter.

“Was just asked by the security guy at the @gelsonsmarkets on Van Nuys to ‘next time don’t enter the market wearing a shirt that’s controversial’ and I asked why. He said he didn’t want to be responsible for a fight and I said, ‘you’re not responsible for what happens to me … I am.’”

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The security guard apparently disagreed.

“He said ‘just don’t wear such a controversial shirt next time.’ I said no one seemed bothered and no one commented. He waved me off. No one commented. I socially distanced. I wore a mask. I had Lysol wipe in my hand.”

Krauss then shared a photo of the offending garment:

By her own account, Krauss followed every safety procedure for social distancing and only raised the ire of the security guard, no one else, with her T-shirt.

The shirt contained neither profanity nor anything graphic, and simply made the true statement that female babies in the womb have, or at least should have, the right to life in utero.

Nevertheless, in an instance of what leftists would normally describe as mansplaining, this security guard took it upon himself to assess Krauss’ wardrobe selection and decide that he had to protect her from her own choice.

RELATED: Texas Has Gotten So Tough with Planned Parenthood During COVID Crisis That PP’s Suing the State

Do you think there is a double standard when it comes to people taking offense to pro-life messages?

Oddly enough, he felt justified to order Krauss to censor herself if she ever returned to the store. He was essentially expressing his opinion on abortion, despite the fact that pro-abortion advocates are always telling men they have no right to an opinion on the matter since they can’t get pregnant.

It is hardly a stretch to imagine that a woman wearing a shirt with the pro-abortion slogan “My Body, My Choice” would not have been similarly stopped and schooled on her apparel.

The worst part of his assumption is the illogical idea that when conservatives oppose something so awful and barbaric as the maiming and killing of children in the womb, their opposition to the bloodbath is the real scandal.

To the supermarket’s credit, when Live Action reached out for comment, the company issued a statement apologizing for the security guard’s behavior and promising that he would never be assigned to that store again.

“We would like to sincerely apologize to Ms. Krauss for the completely inappropriate comment made to her by the third-party security guard at the Sherman Oaks location,” the statement said.

“The guard in question was immediately replaced and the guard company was contacted to ensure that the guard in question is never assigned to work at any Gelson’s locations ever again. Gelson’s hires guards to guarantee the safety of its customers and to ensure that COVID19 rules and restrictions such as the wearing of masks and social distancing are adhered to.”

The sad fact is that while Krauss and her pro-life T-shirt presumably went through the rest of the day without inciting violence, babies continued to die a violent death in abortion mills around the country.

That, of course, is the real violence the security guard should have been worried about.

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

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National Independent Venue Association Appeals to Washington Leadership

A newly formed organization of independent venue owners, the National Independent Venue Association (NIVA), has sent a letter to Washington appealing for help and proposing solutions for their industry during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Local venues supporting the efforts include 1720, the Bootleg Theater/Sid the Cat Presents, the Fremont Theater, Ham and Eggs, Hotel Café, Junior High, L’Affaire Musicale, Largo at the Coronet, the Rainbow Bar and Grill, SOhO, the Teragram Ballroom, the Hi Hat, the Satellite, Troubadour, Whisky A Go Go, Wisdome LA and Zebulon.

“Our passionate and fiercely independent operators are not ones to ask for handouts,” said Dayna Frank, NIVA Board President and owner of First Avenue in Minneapolis, in a press release. “But because of our unprecedented, tenuous position, for the first time in history, there is legitimate fear for our collective existence.”

The letter, sent to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, House of Representatives Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, expresses concerns about the fact that concert venues may well not be permitted to reopen until 2021 as we seek to protect the health of everyone.

“In our present situation, in order to ensure public health, we have no opportunity to generate revenue and we have no work to offer most of our employees,” the letter reads.

It goes on to suggest solutions in the form of tax relief, unemployment insurance, and mortgage and rent forbearance.

They stress that they are not looking to reopen until it is safe to do so, and with safety policies in place, but that their industry is in crisis and requires help.


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Covid-19 is ravaging nursing homes. Government records show why

Troubled facilities and highly rated nursing homes alike have been struggling, with overwhelmed workers trying to identify, isolate and treat patients with the disease on top of their already demanding jobs. Measures aimed at protecting residents from the spread of the disease, meanwhile, have left them even more vulnerable and closed off from the public.

As a result, government watchdogs say it is becoming easier for substandard care to go unchecked and for some facilities to keep dangerous secrets.

“There are no tests,” a nurse at a Michigan facility told a state health department employee at the end of March, according to a government report, recounting how they were expected to take care of a unit full of pneumonia patients known as the “Covid unit” and had brought their own medical supplies for residents. “I have one (resident) who is actively dying right now.”

After announcing its first positive case of coronavirus, town officials in Massachusetts publicly condemned a local nursing home when the fire chief noticed a spike in calls from the facility but couldn’t find out what was going on inside the walls.

Police reports obtained by CNN through a public records request show how there had been warning signs about trouble brewing within a massive New Jersey long-term care facility — including multiple calls to police and reports of alleged patient neglect — for days before police discovered more than a dozen bodies in a makeshift morgue.

Many of the country’s nursing homes were already understaffed and frequently cited for lax infection control before coronavirus began to spread. Now staff are risking their own health and often lacking access to the supplies and testing they need as they care for a population at high risk of dying from the disease.

State long-term care ombudsmen, who are tasked with protecting residents, told CNN there are not enough eyes on these facilities at a time when oversight is needed the most.

Routine health and safety inspections have been suspended by the federal government to protect against any additional exposure to workers and residents. A CNN review of more than 100 inspection reports documenting visits still taking place, and complaint information gathered from state ombudsmen, provides a snapshot of serious problems during this pandemic — including unacceptable care and failures to take steps to stem spreading infections.

Government employees: What public records should we request as we report on the coronavirus?

Families, who are often the ones keeping tabs on their loved ones’ care and in some cases even supplementing that care, have been restricted from visiting facilities in an attempt to slow the spread. CNN spoke with family members of nursing home residents in four different states who said they had struggled to get them tested for the virus or receive any updates about their conditions — and in some cases facility officials had kept vital information from them. One woman said she resorted to calling 911 herself to get her very sick father, who she said tested positive for coronavirus, admitted to the hospital — where she said he remained as of Thursday in critical condition.

On Sunday, the federal government announced a new rule requiring nursing homes to report Covid-19 cases to residents and their families and the CDC. Ombudsmen say it remains to be seen how — and how aggressively — this will be enforced by state inspectors. And even when facilities are cited for severe violations, critics have long argued that government penalties are too low to discourage the worst behavior.

“I’m concerned about neglect, poor care, rights being violated and abuse right now,” said Patricia Hunter, the long-term care ombudsman for Washington state, where the first nursing home outbreak publicly unfolded.

Repeated calls

More than a week before the Andover Subacute and Rehab Center II in New Jersey made headlines with the discovery of 17 bodies in the facility’s morgue on April 13, there were signs of a deepening crisis, according to police reports obtained by CNN.

Repeated calls to police were made. There were calls about patients with symptoms such as a high fever or respiratory distress. One resident was taken to the hospital, reports show; another call was cancelled even though the patient had been in “full code” — meaning they were in need of resuscitation. It’s unclear if a third ever made it to the hospital. Police also responded to a fire alarm there, but when they arrived, the report states, they were told it was a false alarm and that maintenance had it under control.

36 are dead from coronavirus at 'overwhelmed' New Jersey nursing home

And three days before the bodies were found, reports show county health officials told police they had been fielding complaints about understaffing, a lack of protective equipment and patient neglect — including allegations that some residents weren’t being fed.

Even after the police discovered the extent of deaths at the facility (which they said at the time weren’t necessarily all linked to Covid-19), frantic calls to police continued. A resident said he wasn’t being allowed to call his family, though staff claimed to police it was because it was after hours. Other callers said the facility was in desperate need of more protective gowns and body bags, and a state senator reported there was no staff at the facility. One resident was sent to the hospital with hypothermia when the facility’s heat reportedly stopped working, a report shows, though staff later told police the heat was working. As public scrutiny intensified, a nurse reported receiving threats.

An ambulance departs Andover Subacute and Rehabilitation Center in Andover, New Jersey. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images)

The state has since said more than 30 of the facility’s residents have died of Covid-19 and there have been more than 100 confirmed cases.

The facility owner said in a statement that staff had notified state authorities when “there was a tragic surge in patient deaths,” with 15 patients dying in a matter of days. He said employees tried to work with funeral homes to transport the deceased residents but were “left to manage these fatalities as best they could.” He added that resident safety was paramount at the facility, which had faced challenges related to a lack of protective gear and staffing complications after workers also became ill.

In an earlier statement, a facility attorney said that nursing home officials were confident that any future review by the state of what had occurred “will confirm that the facility has been addressing the unprecedented challenges from this pandemic appropriately.”

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New Jersey has become a Covid-19 hotspot, reporting more than 2,500 confirmed and suspected deaths and more than 13,000 cases in hundreds of state long-term care facilities.

Another New Jersey facility with a high number of coronavirus cases is the Lakeland Health Care Center, where Denise Jorgensen’s 78-year-old father had been rehabbing a broken hip. She said she and her brother were kept in the dark about her father’s fever for days. It was around then a doctor told them he suspected their father had Covid-19 but the facility had run out of tests, according to the family. They said they only learned there had already been deaths in the facility when a mayor wrote a letter to borough residents saying there was a “major Covid-19 outbreak” and that eight residents had died of Covid-19.

Denise Jorgensen said her father, George P Hanratty, died on March 31 after getting sick at the Lakeland Health Care Center.

Jorgensen said she couldn’t get through to anyone at the facility until 2 a.m. and was told not to be upset about the letter. She said around eight hours later, she learned that her dad had passed away. A facility official said he could not comment on specific individuals but that the facility has been “fully transparent in our reporting to state and local officials, accepting of their input and compliant with their recommendations.”

While state data shows there have been 19 Covid-19 deaths at the facility, borough documents tracking coronavirus at the Lakeland nursing home report 21 deaths specifically from the disease but say that 35 residents have died. On the day Jorgensen’s father passed away, there is a note in the borough’s records saying there were no test kits available.

“I don’t know what is going on in these nursing homes, but they are not being truthful with the families,” she told CNN. “And since we can’t visit or get in touch with anyone they are getting away with it.”

‘It feels horrible’

An analysis of the limited nursing home inspections that have occurred nationwide since last month shows failures in care may have caused Covid-19 to spread to both staff and employees. The reports detail supply shortages, failures to report Covid-19 infections and exposure to authorities, nurses not adequately monitoring potential symptoms of the disease and staff not properly wearing masks.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, the federal agency that regulates nursing homes, instructed state officials in March to stop conducting routine health and safety inspections in order to protect residents. Instead, they have focused on inspecting facilities to check for infection control measures and investigate reports of “immediate jeopardy” situations — which CMS defines as meaning residents are at risk of serious injury or death.

In a review of recent inspection reports and enforcement letters obtained from the agency, CNN identified seven nursing homes that had been cited with the most serious violations related to Covid-19. Around 100 facilities had been cited for “deficiencies” specifically related to infection control since March 14, according to a separate spreadsheet provided by CMS.

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At the Advantage Living Center in Roseville, Michigan, for example, a federal inspection report from the end of March recounts a litany of missteps. In one case, a nurse working the night shift found a patient who was “gray, kinda pale” and rapidly declining, saying that no one had given the resident the fluids they were supposed to have received. “Their mouth was so dry, they couldn’t even talk,” the nurse said. They then transferred the patient to isolation.

When the inspector asked why this resident with Covid-19 symptoms wasn’t transferred to the hospital sooner, the assistant director of nursing replied that the staff was overwhelmed. “I mean, they are taking care of so many people.” One nurse said the patient’s deteriorating condition hadn’t been better documented because the facility had been short staffed and very busy and most likely forgot, the inspector wrote.

The resident later died at the hospital. Though they were still awaiting test results, doctors told the family they suspected it to be related to Covid-19, according to the report.

The inspection report documenting the patient’s care detailed other problems at the facility. Nurses reported bringing in their own medical supplies to treat residents, such as thermometers and blood pressure cuffs because the home didn’t have what they needed. The report also found inadequate monitoring of patient conditions, understaffing and failing to properly isolate residents with suspected Covid-19 — with a delay as long as nine days.

“It feels horrible,” a nursing assistant reportedly told the inspector when asked about whether staff were able to meet the needs of residents.

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The Advantage Living Center did not respond to a request for comment from CNN, but provided a plan of correction in the inspection report — without admitting to the allegations made. It said that medical records showed the resident received fluids at the time they had been ordered and that employees have been retrained on a number of practices such as proper PPE usage. The facility said it had utilized temporary staffing and that facility-provided medical equipment was being used. Employees were also being “re-educated on Covid-19 as information emerges and trends are identified, including the rapid change in condition and rapid deterioration that can occur for residents with symptoms.”

‘We can’t trust them’

Born during the 1918 flu pandemic, 101-year-old Jean O’Brien’s health had already begun to decline as she struggled with the social isolation of being stuck in her room at the Four Chaplains Nursing Care Center in Westland, Michigan.

Family members worried that the virus would be a death sentence if she caught it, but fortunately — as far as they knew as of early April — there hadn’t been any coronavirus cases in the facility yet.

101-year-old Jean O'Brien's family was devastated when they learned she had tested positive for Covid-19 this week.

Then her daughter, Megan O’Brien, said her family learned from nurses on April 11 that the nursing home would be opening its doors to Covid-19 patients. O’Brien, her eight siblings and many nieces and nephews rallied together to call employees at the facility and its corporate owner, as well as government officials — demanding more information about how residents would be kept safe.

At that time, her biggest concern was the virus entering — and then spreading throughout — the facility. But she soon learned it already had. After appearing on the local news, O’Brien received an alarming message from Trace Fryz, whose mother was also at the facility. Fryz’s mother had tested positive for Covid-19 and died from the disease at a hospital weeks earlier. Fryz told O’Brien that it appeared the facility had not been forthcoming about Covid-19 deaths.

Covid-19 is listed on Trace Fryz's mother's death certificate.

In an interview with CNN, Fryz said she first learned that her mother’s facility had multiple coronavirus cases from an ER doctor treating her mother when she was rushed there after falling unconscious at a dialysis appointment.

O’Brien said the facility continues to deny it has had any deaths related to the disease.

After finally getting her mother tested, with the help of separate hospice employees, O’Brien said the family learned on Tuesday that her mother had tested positive. They had been preparing to pull her from the home and care for her in a local Airbnb, and the family is now trying to figure out how to proceed, saying there have just been “too many lies from the facility.”

This photo of Fryz's mom with family was taken shortly before she fell ill with coronavirus.

“We can’t trust them,” she said, adding that she is angry at the facility’s corporate owners, not its workers who she believes are still trying to take good care of her mother. “We would have taken her out weeks ago.”

The administrator at Four Chaplains told CNN that all she could say was that the facility was not accepting new Covid-19 patients. She referred all questions to its corporate owner, NexCare Health Systems, which did not respond to repeated inquiries. The state department of health said it had only just begun to collect data on Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes and suggested contacting the local health department. A Wayne County spokesperson told CNN that the facility currently has four Covid-19 deaths and 32 cases entered in a state database but said he would be unaware of any deaths where a resident hadn’t been tested for the disease.

‘Ticking time bomb’

As the virus has spread across the country, government watchdogs have been logging complaints from families, residents and employees about issues similar to those detailed by federal inspection reports.

In addition to the many reports of understaffing, PPE shortages and a lack of transparency, state ombudsman offices told CNN they have received complaints about patients being unfairly evicted and concerns from nursing home employees who have reported being worried they will be punished for speaking out about problems.

“Our program has been inundated with calls,” said Salli Pung, the Michigan state long-term care ombudsman, adding that she received more than 200 calls related to Covid-19 in March alone. “We continue to be very concerned about the overall lack of oversight in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.”

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Several offices noted concerns that nursing homes were not being forthcoming with information about Covid-19 cases in their facilities.

Advocates for long-term care residents said there is a short-term financial incentive to downplay infections since a publicized outbreak could result in families removing their loved ones and hurt future business. An outbreak could also open the doors for inspectors to cite a facility for numerous other violations such as understaffing.

In Virginia, state ombudsman Joani Latimer said one family member recently told her office that a nursing home resident had worsening Covid-19 symptoms but was not being tested or sent to the hospital. So the family member pulled the resident from the facility and drove them there, and a test came back positive. The family is now attempting to provide care at their home, Latimer said.

Fryz's mother Loretta posed with a shamrock last month.

She said that the unraveling of nursing homes under the stress of a pandemic like this was a “ticking time bomb,” given the staffing crisis that already existed in long-term care facilities. “Until we fully examine and address that problem, we put our residents at risk.”

Hunter, the Washington state ombudsman, has had the opposite problem when it comes to complaints. During more normal times, the office’s phone rings around 50 to 80 times a week, with callers reporting dangerous situations within facilities or other problems that warrant further investigation, among other calls.

But now, as visits from family and local watchdogs that often lead to complaints have been mostly cut off, her office has only been getting around 25 calls a week.

“I have never witnessed the phone go silent and that is virtually what has happened,” said Hunter, who has been the state ombudsman for more than eight years.

‘Sudden rush of patients’

Scott Wodzinksi, the fire chief in the 10,000-person town of Littleton, Massachusetts, began noticing a sharp uptick in calls for service at the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley at the end of March — reporting that his department had responded to the facility 18 times in a week.

Suspecting coronavirus could be the culprit, he and other town officials who were attempting to respond to the crisis and keep tabs on the situation say they were stonewalled when they tried to get answers from the nursing home. They wanted to know how many of its 100 or so residents were sick with the virus — information that was vital for the first responders.

Nursing homes still struggle to get protective gear and quick testing

A public controversy ensued, with the town claiming the facility initially turned down the help of the National Guard — which had been summoned in early April to conduct testing and ended up being let into the facility a couple days later.

The town asked the state health department to intervene. And with the help of lawmakers, they then sent a letter to the corporate owners of the facility, Life Care Centers of America, the same company that owned the nursing home in Kirkland, Washington — the site of the nation’s first outbreak. The Kirkland facility faces a federal fine of more than $600,000 for alleged failures if it does not correct the problems found. The town’s letter criticized the company for its “apparent lack of readiness or responsiveness to the COVID-19 threat” and stated that in both cases, administrators “did not provide adequate notification to authorities.”

Tim Killian, a crisis management spokesman hired by Life Care, said the company is confident that both the Nashoba Valley and Kirkland facilities had been in complete compliance with state and federal regulations. He said the company had hoped the federal government would have recognized that what happened in the Kirkland facility was “a unique situation.” About the Nashoba facility, he said the company shared the town of Littleton’s concerns but had been in touch with local and state health officials as soon as a positive test was received — adding that Life Care had welcomed the help of the National Guard.

Healthcare workers transport a patient on a stretcher into an ambulance at Life Care Center of Kirkland in Washington state. (David Ryder/Getty Images)

“To us it’s this unfair environment where the public has somehow come to believe that nursing homes are to blame, that this was caused by us and not something that happened to us,” he told CNN, noting how facility workers had now been receiving death threats. “It was probably inevitable that Covid was entering our building as it has entered most nursing homes.”

CMS said an investigation at the Life Care Center of Nashoba Valley is ongoing and could not comment further. As of April 13, the most recent data provided by the facility, the majority of its residents tested positive for Covid-19 and there had been 14 deaths.

Do you have anything to share about Covid-19 in nursing homes? Is there something else you think we should investigate? Email us: watchdog@cnn.com.

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Brazil ‘super minister’ quits in Bolsonaro’s worst crisis yet

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro suffered the heaviest blow to his presidency so far as his popular justice minister quit on Friday and accused him of potentially criminal meddling in law enforcement, adding to the turmoil of a government struggling to confront a fast-growing coronavirus outbreak.

Sergio Moro, who won broad public support for jailing corrupt politicians and businessmen as a judge, said he was resigning because Bolsonaro fired federal police chief Mauricio Valeixo for personal and political reasons.

The shocking exit and allegations from the so-called ‘super minister’ were a hammer blow for Bolsonaro, whose popularity had already slumped for downplaying the novel coronavirus as a “little cold.” The virus has taken more than 3,600 lives in Brazil and experts say the peak has yet to come.

Former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso urged Bolsonaro to step down, while the leader of the influential gun lobby in Congress – a longstanding ally – said he could be impeached.

Moro’s soft-spoken address on live television included a series of devastating accusations against the president, who has yet to explain why he wanted Valeixo out.

The president’s office did not respond to a request for comment. Bolsonaro said on Twitter he would “re-establish the truth” at a 5 p.m. news conference.

Brazilian financial markets tumbled, with stocks falling nearly 10% before paring losses and the exchange rate slipping more than 3% to a record low. Investors fear Economy Minister Paulo Guedes could be the next ‘super minister’ to exit.

The grave allegations against Bolsonaro are likely to expose him to serious political and even legal risks.

Moro said Bolsonaro had expressed concern about Supreme Court investigations, without giving further details, and he wanted inside information from his top cop.

“The president emphasized to me, explicitly, more than once, that he wanted someone who was a personal contact, whom he could call, from whom he could get information, intelligence reports,” Moro said. “And really, that’s not the job of the federal police to give that information.”

Capitao Augusto, head of the gun lobby in Congress, which has been key to the president’s threadbare coalition, said this was the “beginning of the end” for Bolsonaro.

“His position is becoming more and more untenable,” Augusto told Reuters, adding that a parliamentary investigation was certain. “I think that after this pandemic, the first topic that will be debated will be the question of the impeachment of the president.”

The head of the Brazilian bar association OAB, Felipe Santa Cruz, also said the organization would “analyze the alleged crimes highlighted by Moro.”

As Moro finished his televised address, protests rang out across Brazil, with people banging pots and pans from their apartments and shouting “Bolsonaro out!”

Brazil’s Justice Minister Sergio Moro speaks during a news conference in Brasilia, Brazil April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino

LOSING ALLIES

Moro’s exit may alienate voters who backed Bolsonaro for his anti-corruption campaign in 2018, leaving the president more reliant on conservative social activists, along with the current and former generals with prominent positions in his cabinet.

“The exit of minister Sergio Moro from the government shows the Bolsonaro government distancing itself from the popular desire to fight corruption. It is the defeat of ethics,” the centrist Podemos party said in a statement.

The crisis comes just a week after Bolsonaro fired popular Health Minister Luiz Henrique Mandetta, following clashes over how to tackle the coronavirus outbreak. Mandetta, like most health experts, had supported social distancing orders by Brazilian governors, but Bolsonaro called the measures “poison” whose economic consequences could kill more than the virus.

Brazil has registered 357 coronavirus deaths in the last 24 hours, the Health Ministry said on Friday, taking the death toll to at least 3,670 as confirmed cases rose to nearly 53,000.

The government turmoil sparked a sell-off among investors already concerned about a diminished role for University of Chicago-trained Economy Minister Guedes.

“We’re seeing the government come apart,” said Fernando Bergallo, head of currency trading at FB Capital. “There are rumors that the next to go is Paulo Guedes. With that, the government is finished.”

The Economy Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Slideshow (5 Images)

Moro said he had agreed to serve in Bolsonaro’s government as long as he had free rein to appoint his subordinates without political pressure. However, he said Bolsonaro had been seeking to change the top federal police officer since the second half of 2019 without giving an adequate reason.

The former judge said he had not seen such political interference in Brazil’s federal police even under previous governments whose officials and allies were investigated and convicted of participating in sweeping corruption schemes.

For four years, Moro oversaw Brazil’s largest-ever corruption probe, which uncovered billions of dollars in bribes and jailed scores of powerful businessmen and politicians, including leftist former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

“The president is digging his pit. Resign before being resigned,” former President Cardoso said on Twitter. “Let the vice-president take over.”

Reporting by Ricardo Brito; Additional reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello, Marcela Ayres, Isabel Versiani, Anthony Boadle and Lisandra Paraguassu in Brasilia, Eduardo Simoes and in Sao Paulo, Rodrigo Viga Gaier in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Gabriel Stargardter and Stephen Eisenhammer; Editing by Brad Haynes, Angus MacSwan and Richard Chang

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In Florida, DeSantis taps his inner Trump





Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis | AP Photo/Steve Cannon

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is resurrecting a Trumpian style that served him on the campaign trail but has been dormant since taking state office.

Emboldened by a flattening curve of coronavirus cases in Florida after weeks of national ridicule, the Republican is tapping his inner Trump after serving his swing state as a kinder, gentler leader with a soft spot for teachers and the environment.

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In his first 16 months as governor, he won an uneasy truce with Democrats and his approval ratings soared. But the political pressures of the coronavirus pandemic have roused the campaign-trail DeSantis, a defensive partisan with a Trumpian bone to pick with his perceived enemies, including Democrats and the media.

This week, DeSantis has devoted his coronavirus briefings to complaints about unfair treatment and he’s returned, after a long absence, to the friendly airwaves of Fox News to lash out at the “Acela” media.

For weeks, Florida was beset with ominous forecasts that its pandemic response — or lack thereof — would lead to high rates of infection and death and overwhelm the health care system.

Public health experts continue to urge caution, but, for now, Florida’s coronavirus reality has not lived up to its dire expectations.

“Those predictions were made time and time and time again, and they were wrong,” DeSantis told reporters Tuesday in a full-throated, sometimes petulant defense of his policies. “What we have done has worked.”

During that 20-minute appearance, DeSantis clashed with members of the press in ways that were reminiscent of his 2018 campaign, a departure from how he’s governed since taking office.

“A lot of the [coverage] was politically motivated. A lot of these outlets have clear agendas,” he said. “We are going to show Florida did better than any of the projections.”

DeSantis this week also returned to Fox News, where he once was a former mainstay. He has largely avoided the outlet since taking office.

On “Fox & Friends” Tuesday morning, DeSantis blasted the “Acela media,” a nod to the negative press he drew by not closing beaches or instituting a stay-at-home order after most governors had. Critics had painted DeSantis as slow-moving and ham-handed.

A day later, DeSantis was back on Fox touting his successes.

“We did way better than the experts said we would, and I think we did it with a smart, data-driven approach,” DeSantis told Sean Hannity Wednesday night. “What we have done has worked.”

As DeSantis spoke to Hannity, visualizations drawn up by his office flashed across the screen. One showed Florida’s hospitalization rate at 10.3 per 100,000 people, far lower than states like New York and New Jersey.

“Clearly there has been a tone shift, he is punching back at the media and partisans who criticized him for not closing the state sooner and for opening beaches,” said Nick Iarossi, a lobbyist and DeSantis fundraiser. “Florida has flattened the curve and is one of the most prepared states. His policies have worked.”

“This is the DeSantis that voters elected, he tells it like it is and challenges naysayers,” Iarossi said.

While some numbers point improvement, Florida is not out of the woods. On Thursday, the state had 1,300 new coronavirus cases, the biggest one-day increase since April 3. On Friday, the state’s three-day average of new positives was 979, up from 746 on April 20.

As DeSantis aggressively touts reassuring health data, this week he’s turned his focus away from the state’s failing unemployment system, which continues to draw negative, nationwide attention.

As of Friday, the state had verified fewer than 700,000 claims for unemployment benefits. Just 22 percent of applicants have received payments.

DeSantis rode into the governor’s mansion in 2018 on the heels of a primary endorsement from President Donald Trump. Partly as a byproduct of Trump’s support, DeSantis adopted an aggressive campaign style that, even in the general election, targeted talking points and strategies to base supporters, not the moderates he needed to sway.

His tone changed abruptly when DeSantis took office in January 2019. He turned his legislative focus to the environment and public education, a portfolio that endeared him even to Democrats, who were surprised to see a GOP governor giving their priorities more than lip service.

The moderate governing style drew approval ratings in the 60s and included a retreat from Fox News — at least temporarily.

“Getting him on Hannity last night was a great idea. He got to talk director to the base, his people,” Brian Ballard, a prominent GOP lobbyist and Trump insider, said Thursday. “He has been derided and made fun of, and I think he feels like he really now wants to get his message out.”

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, a longtime DeSantis ally, said the new approach is more a snapshot in time, not a reversal of the style of governance DeSantis has employed since taking office.

“It’s only reasonable for the governor to use national media to try and correct the record,” Gaetz said. “But in my conversations with the governor, I don’t think he misses being a regular fixture on Fox News, or the powdered makeup and lights.”

DeSantis this week assembled working groups of political and business leaders to craft recommendations for reopening the state’s economy, a decision supported by the numbers he now touts, but the meetings come as public health experts urge caution.

Even as he pushes back on the negative press, he has risked drawing more.

“If people start to go back to normal social interaction or even progressively go back, the risk transmission will go up,” Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation Director Christopher Murray told CNN on Thursday. “The risk is very great for resurgence from these early openings.”

IHME initially forecast that Florida would have more than 400,000 positive cases, a prediction that has so far fallen way short.

Florida as of late Friday had about 30,000 confirmed cases and more than 1,000 deaths, but has beaten those early, dire forecasts.

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Chief of naval operations recommends reinstatement of Brett Crozier, fired captain of USS Roosevelt

The chief of naval operations has recommended that Captain Brett Crozier be reinstated as the commander of the USS Roosevelt, CBS News has confirmed.

Earlier this month, Defense Secretary Mark Esper had suggested it was possible Crozier’s command of the carrier might be restored once an investigation into his firing was complete.

Crozier was removed from his command after a memo he circulated pleading for help from Washington became public. As of Friday, 856 members of the 4,000-person crew on the USS Roosevelt, a Navy aircraft carrier docked in Guam, have tested positive for the coronavirus. The Navy said 112 sailors have recovered and more than 4,200 have moved ashore.

Acting Secretary of the Navy Thomas Modly said Crozier had gone outside the chain of command by not bringing his concerns to his direct superior. Within days, Modly resigned after a recording of him harshly criticizing Crozier was made public.

The New York Times first reported the Navy’s recommendation.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

David Martin and Mary Walsh contributed to this report.

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The “Parks and Recreation” cast is reuniting for a special coronavirus episode

Not even a pandemic can keep Leslie Knope from trying to save the world. The cast of NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” is reuniting for a single episode next Thursday to raise money for Feeding America’s COVID-19 Response Fund, according to a press release from NBC. 

Along with Leslie Knope, played by Amy Poehler, the special half-hour episode will see the return of cast members Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Rashida Jones, Adam Scott, Retta, Rob Lowe, Chris Pratt, Aziz Ansari, and Jim O’Heir. The episode will air on April 30 at 8:30 p.m. ET/PT on NBC. The release said “several guest stars from the Pawnee universe may pop in,” too. 

The episode is based on the the present-day pandemic and will follow Leslie Knope as she attempts to stay connected with her former Pawnee Parks Department co-workers in the age of social distancing, according to Entertainment Tonight

Pratt, who portrays the fictional small town’s beloved rock star Andy Dwyer, posted about the reunion on Instagram. He said the episode has already been filmed and that “many are saying it’s the greatest episode of television ever to be filmed in Quarantine. It’s not a competition. But if it was… we would easily win.”

In the video Pratt and the other actors posted, Poehler says the episode was filmed entirely in the actors’ individual homes. 

The show’s executive producer Michael Schur said they were looking for ways to help people during the coronavirus pandemic, and decided that “bringing these characters back for a night could raise some money.” 

“I sent a hopeful email to the cast and they all got back to me within 45 minutes,” he said. “Our old ‘Parks and Rec’ team has put together one more 30-minute slice of (quarantined) Pawnee life and we hope everyone enjoys it. And donates!”

Feeding America set up the COVID-19 fund in March to help food banks “secure the resources they need to serve the most vulnerable members of the community during this difficult time,” according to their website. 

State Farm and Subaru of America will each make matching donations of $150,000, according to the release. NBCUniversal and the writers, producers, and cast of “Parks and Recreation” will also chip in, offering an overall total of $500,000 in matching donations through May 21.