January 30, 2019

As historically-low temperatures sweep through much of the country, Chicago train tracks are literally being set on fire to keep the trains operating.

ABC News on Tuesday night posted a stunning video of commuter rail tracks in the city set aflame so the trains can keep running while the temperature dropped well below zero.

Jalopnik explains that when temperatures are below zero, "the metal of the train tracks can contract to the point that it will pull up the bolts holding it in place," and so crews will actually burn the tracks using kerosene to warm them up. Once they've been heated, the tracks will "be re-bolted, or welding repairs can be affected on the broken tracks."

Parts of Chicago are being hit with wind chills as low as 49 degrees below zero, per The Chicago Tribune. The temperature is likely to dip below 27 degrees below zero, which would make Jan. 30 the coldest day ever recorded in Chicago's history. Brendan Morrow

8:02 a.m.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will self-quarantine once again after the country's health minister tested positive for coronavirus.

Israeli Health Minister Yaakov Litzman and his wife both tested positive for COVID-19 and have now self-isolated, the Health Ministry announced Thursday. Litzman "has had frequent contact with" Netanyahu, The Associated Press reports.

Netanyahu as a result will self-quarantine, with this coming after he already isolated himself when an aide tested positive for COVID-19. The prime minister had concluded his two days of isolation on Wednesday, but he will now go back into self-quarantine until next week, Reuters reports. Litzman and his wife reportedly feel well, and Netanyahu has tested negative for COVID-19 twice, according to CNN.

Additionally, other Israel officials like the head of Israel's spy agency Mossad have reportedly been told to self-quarantine, and the director of the Health Ministry and members of Litzman's staff will do so as well, per the AP. Israel has reported more than 6,000 cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Brendan Morrow

7:58 a.m.

You may have missed it among any (poorly timed) April Fools' Day pranks, but Wednesday was Census Day, that time of year where your residence starts counting for the 2020 census. Full Frontal's Samantha Bee did not forget. On Wednesday's show, filmed in the woods, Bee said — no doubt accurately, in many cases — that you've probably received a letter from the U.S. Census Bureau already and dropped it "in your mail quarantine pile."

"If you open it, you'll find an ID code that, for the first time, lets you fill out the census online," Bee said. "It shouldn't take more than 10 minutes — and I do know that you have 10 minutes right now." Since the census is so "incredibly important to fill out," Bee said, she commissioned a song from rapper and filmmaker TT the Artist to explain why, with help from Full Frontal animators Daniel Spenser and Cassidy Routh.

The Census Bureau is legal compelled to finish collecting information about every American by Dec. 31, but it suspended field operations two weeks ago to assess the safest way forward amid the coronavirus pandemic. If people fill in their census forms online, fewer census takers will have to start knocking on doors starting in mid-April or May. As of the March 31, more than 38 percent of households had already answered the census questions. In case you didn't watch TT the Artist's song, the decennial census determines the number of U.S. House seats and Electoral College votes each state gets, plus the amount of money from the federal government. Peter Weber

6:59 a.m.

Chris Cuomo, the CNN host and younger brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), announced Tuesday that he tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus. He still broadcast his CNN show from his basement, explaining that his greatest fear was spreading the disease to his wife and children. On Wednesday night's show, Cuomo said his wife and children have tested negative, and he described his "freaky" Tuesday night of fever, hallucinations, and rigors — shivers — so intense he chipped a tooth.

"This virus came at me — I've never seen anything like it," Cuomo said, explaining that he had a fever of up to 103-plus "that wouldn't quit. And it was like somebody was beating me like a piñata." He said he shivered so violently he chipped a tooth — "these are not cheap, okay?" — and after staying up all night, "I'm telling you, I was hallucinating. My dad was talking to me, I was seeing people from college, people I hadn't seen in forever. It was freaky what I lived through last night. And it may happen again tonight," or for the next eight to nine nights.

Cuomo urged everyone to do everything the can — primarily self-isolating — to protect themselves, their loved ones, and medical workers from suffering his fate or worse. Earlier, he and CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussed what went wrong in the U.S. and the mistakes some states are still making, and Gupta suggested Cuomo might consider taking a sick day or two. Watch below. Peter Weber

6:04 a.m.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, longtime head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the trusted face of President Trump's COVID-19 response, has been assigned his own security detail amid a sharp uptick in unwanted attention, positive and negative, The Washington Post reported Wednesday evening. The Justice Department confirmed it approved a request for the U.S. Marshal's Service to deputize Health and Human Services Department security officials to guard Fauci.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar had requested a security detail for Fauci after growing concerned about online threats and right-wing conspiracy theories targeting the top U.S. infectious disease expert, the Post reports. "The concerns include threats as well as unwelcome communications from fervent admirers," thought "the exact nature of the threats against him was not clear." Fringe conservative sites have accused Fauci of trying to sabotage Trump's re-election by advising economically painful social-distancing measures to slow the spread of the deadly virus and hundreds of thousands of lives. Pro-Trump groups have glommed onto the baseless allegations.

Trump himself is said to respect Fauci, 79, and value their working relationship. Fauci declined to address questions Wednesday about whether he was assigned bodyguards, but Trump jumped in, telling reporters: "He doesn't need security. Everybody loves him." Peter Weber

5:11 a.m.

"Social distancing is working" to slow the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, but "we know the worst is yet to come," Stephen Colbert said on Wednesday's Late Show. "Yesterday, the White House announced they project between 100,000 and 240,000 coronavirus deaths. And with these devastating projections, it seems like President Trump now understands the gravity of the situation we're all in. He held a two-hour briefing yesterday, and his tone was far more serious," mostly. But "even though the president appears to be taking this seriously, he still hasn't issued any order to shut down the whole country," he noted.

Yes, "Trump, who usually treats his daily briefings like the last scene in Scarface, came out yesterday and acted, for the first time ever, like he had also been reading the news," Trevor Noah said on his Daily Social Distancing Show. "But while the president may finally be grasping the gravity of this outbreak, he and his allies continue to make excuses for why it took him so long to respond." Noah explained why China's obfuscation, impeachment, and Barack Obama — the "one person who Trump loves to blame for everything that goes wrong in his life" — are not responsible for Trump ignoring the advisers warning him about the pandemic since mid-January. Still, he said, "I hope that he is taking it seriously, because let's be real: This is still Donald Trump, people. I wouldn't be shocked if he acted like this and then tomorrow he comes out like, 'April Fool! I'll see you losers on Easter! Did you see me? I acted sad, hahaha.'"

"Because he managed to restrain himself for an hour, after weeks of lies and serial failures that led us to this harrowing moment, some in the media were actually gullible enough — after four years! — to give Trump credit for his change of tone," Seth Meyers said at Late Night, now taped in his attic. Look, "Trump had many warnings that something like this was coming, and yet he and his aids repeatedly downplayed or dismissed the threat." He was especially exasperated at Trump trying to "memory-hole" his comparison of COVID-19 to the flu. Trump is "deeply ill-equipped" to be president during this pandemic, but he "would have been great at quarantine," Meyers said. "President Hillary Clinton would have held you up as an example of how to do social distancing." Watch below. Peter Weber

2:51 a.m.

As the world creeps toward 1 million confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus and surpasses 47,000 deaths, the U.S. hit a grim milestone on Wednesday, reporting more than 1,000 deaths tied to the coronavirus for the first time. As of Thursday morning, according to a widely cited count from Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has 216,721 cases and 5,138 coronavirus deaths, including 1,374 in New York City. The number of deaths reported Wednesday, 1,040, is more than twice the previous U.S. high mark, 504 deaths, registered Tuesday, USA Today reports.

The U.S. now has the largest confirmed outbreak of COVID-19 in the world, though there are serious doubts about the numbers reported from China and other nations. Only Italy (13,155 deaths) and Spain (9,387) have higher official death counts. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said the administration believes "Italy may be the comparable area to the United States at this point," citing models of the pandemic. In Italy, the strain on the hospitals from the spike in COVID-19 cases has blocked other ill people from getting care.

The death tolls in the U.S. and other hard-hit countries don't reflect "the untold stories of people who don't go to see overburdened doctors, delaying treatment for illnesses that turn terminal, or of those who languish as they wait for treatment at emergency rooms flooded with COVID-19 patients," Josh Kovensky writes at Talking Points Memo. "Meanwhile, the lack of testing has meant that people may have died of COVID-19 itself without ever having been diagnosed."

Some researchers predict that the U.S. death toll will top 2,200 a day by mid-April, USA Today reports. The No. 1 cause of death in the U.S., heart disease, currently kills about 1,772 Americans a day, according to CDC figures, while lung cancer kills 433 people a day, breast cancer kills about 166 people a day, and the 2017-18 flu — the worst outbreak in the last decade — killed an estimated 508 people a day. Peter Weber

1:48 a.m.

Until Wednesday night, the Internal Revenue Service said that Social Security recipients, veterans, low-income citizens, and others who don't typically have to file tax returns will have to do so this year if they want to receive the $1,200 checks Congress authorized to help get the U.S. through the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. That policy didn't last long.

After members of Congress pressed the Trump administration to find a way to get payments to seniors who already receive monthly checks from the government and don't file tax returns, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced Tuesday night: "Social Security recipients who are not typically required to file a tax return need to take no action, and will receive their payment directly to their bank account." The law Congress wrote encouraged the IRS, in charge of issuing the one-time checks, to get payment information from other agencies.

Now, Social Security retirement and disability recipients will likely get their check without filling out IRS forms, but the IRS still faces a huge challenge to get checks to the rest of the 18 million to 30 million eligible Americans who don't file tax returns, The Wall Street Journal reports. The IRS "has said it would create simple forms so people who have legitimate reasons for not filing returns can supply information such as bank account details for direct deposits. That information is important because people who need paper checks will need to wait much longer." The IRS is hoping to start sending out payments in about three weeks. Peter Weber

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