Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 29, 2020

Tim O'Donnell
New York City.
KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images


Trump decides not to order quarantine for New York region

President Trump on Saturday backed down from ordering a quarantine of the New York region, including New Jersey and Connecticut, to prevent residents from leaving during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Trump eventually came to the conclusion a quarantine "would not be necessary," instead asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to issue a travel advisory. The CDC urged residents in the tri-state area to halt non-essential travel for the next 14 days, with exceptions for employees in critical industries like health care. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) previously called the idea of an enforceable quarantine "preposterous." New York City remains the epicenter of the United States' coronavirus outbreak. [The Washington Post, CDC]


Italy's coronavirus death toll surpasses 10,000

Italy, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus pandemic in Europe, saw the number of deaths resulting from COVID-19 cross the 10,000 threshold Saturday, as the number of confirmed cases passed 90,000. Italy announced 889 deaths over the previous 24-hour period, a fall from Friday, which saw a record 969 new fatalities. The number of new cases remained level, as the country hopes it is has already hit its daily peak in that regard, and recoveries continued on an upward trend. Spain, meanwhile, reported 838 new deaths over a 24-hour period Saturday, its highest total since the outbreak began, bringing the total number of COVID-19-related fatalities in the country to 6,258. [Deutsche Welle, The Guardian]


Coronavirus ICU patients in California double

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Saturday that the number of novel coronavirus patients in the state's intensive care unit beds more than doubled overnight from 200 on Friday to 410 on Saturday. The COVID-19 hospitalization rate rose by 38.6 percent. Newsom said it's "devastating" for the patients and their families, but acknowledged California is "blessed" that numbers still seem "relatively modest" compared to other parts of the country. Overall, California has more than 5,500 confirmed cases and more than 115 deaths attributed to COVID-19. There are some reports of inadequate testing, however. California reportedly has 7,200 ICU beds across 365 hospitals statewide, many of them in the Los Angeles area. [The Los Angeles Times, The Mercury News]


Tornado damages mostly empty mall, injures 6 in Arkansas

A strong tornado struck northeastern Arkansas on Saturday amid a severe weather outbreak across much of the Midwest. Search and rescue operations were reportedly underway at a mall in Jonesboro, Arkansas, where vehicles were reportedly overturned. Most stores at the mall were closed, however, because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Jonesboro E-911 Director Jeff Presley said under normal circumstances the mall would have been packed at the time the tornado struck. Six people reportedly suffered minor injuries as a result of the tornado and were taken to a local hospital. The storm system also caused flash flooding in the Cleveland, Ohio, metro area Sunday morning, prompting water and rescue operations and closing a section of highway. [Fox News, The Weather Channel]


North Korea launches another weapons test

North Korea once again launched projectiles — suspected to be short-range ballistic missiles — into the Sea of Japan on Sunday, South Korean military officials said. It was North Korea's fourth weapons test this month. The recent launches have rankled South Korea even more than usual since they've taken place during a global health crisis caused by the novel COVID-19 coronavirus. South Korea called the actions "deeply inappropriate," urging Pyongyang to cease similar operations going forward. Seoul tried issuing a similar warning last week, as well, but the message apparently didn't register. The United States says it's aware of the tests. President Trump last week reportedly sent North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a letter offering to cooperate in the fight against the coronavirus. [The New York Times, NBC News]


Trump, Biden neck-and-neck in new poll

A new Washington Post-ABC News poll shows President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, in a close race months ahead of November's general election. Trump had previously trailed Biden by 7 percentage points, but the latest survey — which comes amid the novel coronavirus pandemic — moves him into a near-tie. Trump outpaces Biden when it comes to whom voters think is better equipped to handle the pandemic, but the margin of error makes the difference statistically insignificant. Biden, though, is more trusted to deal with health care issues overall, while Trump got higher marks for his ability to manage the economy. [The Washington Post]


Former GOP Sen. Tom Coburn dies at 72

Former Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn (R) died Saturday at his home in Tulsa after a long battle with prostate cancer. He was 72. Coburn had battled health issues for many years, and his bout with cancer led him to retire from the Senate in 2015, two years before his second term was up. An obstetrician by training, Coburn — who served in the House before winning a seat in the upper chamber — was known for his fierce commitment to conservatism, both fiscally and socially. He was opposed to the expansion of the federal government, abortion rights, and same-sex marriage, and did not believe in global warming science. Still, he was known for bipartisanship on oversight issues and received praise from Democrats for his response to the 2008 financial crisis and his investigations into corruption, tax avoidance, and fraudulent social security claims. [The Washington Post, The Week]


Saudi Arabia intercepts missile over Riyadh

Saudi Arabia's air defenses intercepted two ballistic missiles above the kingdom's capital, Riyadh, and the city of Jizan in the south, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting in neighboring Yemen said. Residents in Riyadh said they could hear the missile being destroyed. No group has claimed responsibility for the attempted attacks, but Saudi state media accused the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Houthis have previously launched several attacks against Saudi Arabia, with whom they've been battling in Yemen since 2015, though most of those previous attempts targeted bases and towns across the border. The United Nations has called for a ceasefire in Yemen to further protect citizens from the novel coronavirus pandemic. [Al Jazeera, The Financial Times]


Knicks, Rangers owner Dolan tests positive for coronavirus

James Dolan, the owner of the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers, has tested positive for the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, the Knicks said in a statement Saturday night. The 64-year-old Dolan is reportedly experiencing "little to no symptoms" and is in isolation while continuing to oversee business operations for the Madison Square Garden Company, of which he's the executive chairman. Both the NHL and NBA seasons have been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Rangers were in the midst of a surprising 37-28-5 record at the time of suspension, while the Knicks were 21-45. New York has become the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. [ESPN, New York Knicks]


Hanks, Wilson return to U.S. after coronavirus quarantine in Australia

Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson have returned to the United States. The married couple had been quarantined in Australia after they both tested positive for the novel COVID-19 coronavirus earlier this month. Hanks had been doing pre-production work for a movie in Australia. Both Wilson and Hanks had mild symptoms of COVID-19 and have been recovering. Now that they're back in the U.S., Hanks said they will continue to shelter in place and distance themselves. "Many, many thanks to everyone in Australia who looked after us," Hanks tweeted Saturday. "Their care and guidance made possible our return to the USA." [CNN, Tom Hanks]