FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – A cruise ship that has been floating at sea with coronavirus patients aboard for two weeks after being turned away from South American ports was finally allowed to dock in Florida on Thursday.
The Zaandam and a sister ship sent to help it, the Rotterdam, were both given permission to disembark passengers at Port Everglades after days of negotiation with local officials who feared it would divert needed resources from a region that has seen a spike in virus cases. The final agreement was reached Thursday afternoon between local, state and federal officials and Carnival Corp., which owns the Zaandam and the Rotterdam, said Broward County officials and Holland America, the company that operates the ships.
For nearly three weeks, passengers have not been able to step on dry land. Four elderly passengers have died on the Zaandam, at least two from COVID-19, said William Burke, chief maritime officer for Carnival Corp., which owns the ships.
Carrier captain fired over virus memo
The captain of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier facing a growing outbreak of the coronavirus was fired Thursday by Navy leaders who said he created a panic by sending his memo pleading for help to too many people.
Navy Secretary Thomas Modly said the ship's commander, Capt. Brett Crozier “demonstrated extremely poor judgment” in the middle of a crisis.
He said the captain copied too many people on the memo, which was leaked to a California newspaper and quickly spread to many news outlets. He said Crozier should have gone directly to his immediate commanders, who were already moving to help the ship.
The USS Theodore Roosevelt, with a crew of nearly 5,000, is docked in Guam, and the Navy has said as many as 3,000 will be taken off the ship and quarantined by Friday. More than 100 sailors on the ship have tested positive for the virus, but none are hospitalized at this point.
Payments by check to lag behind
The federal government expects to begin making payments to millions of Americans under the new stimulus law in mid-April, but some people without direct deposit information may not get checks until mid-August or later, according to a memo obtained Thursday by The Associated Press.
The document from the House Ways and Means Committee says the IRS will make about 60 million payments to Americans through direct deposit in mid-April, likely the week of April 13. Then, starting the week of May 4, the IRS will begin issuing paper checks to individuals, the memo says. The paper checks will be issued at a rate of about 5 million per week, which means it could take up to 20 weeks to get all the checks out. That timeline would delay some checks until the week of Aug. 17.
Democratic convention date moved
Democrats announced Thursday that they were postponing their presidential nominating convention until August, an unprecedented move that shows how the coronavirus is reshaping the battle for the White House.
The party had hoped that a mid-July convention would give them more time to rally behind a nominee and unify against President Donald Trump. But concerns that large crowds will spread the virus prompted Democrats, including prospective nominee Joe Biden, to press for alternatives.
Wisconsin primary ordered to go on
A federal judge on Thursday declined to postpone Wisconsin's presidential primary as the coronavirus spreads, but he ordered that people be given an extra six days beyond Tuesday's election for absentee voting.
U.S. District Judge William Conley's order essentially extends the election by nearly a week. He blasted state leaders' decision not to delay the election to protect people's health but refused to postpone it himself, saying a federal judge shouldn't act as the state's health officer.
Officials give warning on Africa cases
Some African countries will have more than 10,000 coronavirus cases by the end of April, health officials projected Thursday, as the continent least equipped to treat serious infections has an “enormous gap” in the number of ventilators and other critical items.
While cases across Africa are now above 6,000 at what has been called the dawn of the outbreak, the continent is “very, very close” to where Europe was after a 40-day period, the head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. John Nkengasong, told reporters.
The virus “is an existential threat to our continent,” he said. All but four of Africa's 54 countries have cases after Malawi on Thursday reported its first, and local transmission has begun in many places.
Detroit bus driver in angry video dies
A Detroit bus driver who had expressed anger on Facebook about a coughing passenger has died from COVID-19, officials said Thursday.
“For you to get on the bus ... and cough several times without covering up your mouth and you know (we're) in the middle of a pandemic – that lets me know that some folks don't care,” Jason Hargrove said in his video, posted March 21.
On March 17, the city eliminated fares, promised more cleaning and told bus riders to enter and exit from the rear door only. The changes occurred after drivers declined to work that day to protest conditions.