February 26, 2020

Israel on Wednesday became the first country to officially warn its citizens to avoid any international travel amid fears over the coronavirus outbreak.

Several airlines have canceled flights to China, where the respiratory virus originated, and governments have issued warnings about travel to certain countries, but no country has actively urged their citizens avoid traveling abroad at large until now. "If you don't genuinely have to fly — don't do so," Israel's health ministry said in a statement.

Although the majority of cases remain in China, the virus has spread to several other countries. In response to criticism that the country was stoking panic and could cause both economic and diplomatic damage, the health ministry said they'd rather deal with the inconveniences now than be sorry later, The Times of Israel reports.

The only confirmed Israeli cases so far involve people who were on a cruise ship that was quarantined in Japan, although South Korea — which is experiencing one of the larger outbreaks beyond China — reportedly informed Israel over the weekend that a members from a group of pilgrims returned to South Korea from Israel and tested positive for the disease. Read more at The Times of Israel. Tim O'Donnell

7:08 p.m.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in "good spirits" as he receives treatment for the COVID-19 coronavirus at a London hospital.

Johnson tested positive for COVID-19 last month, and was admitted to St. Thomas' Hospital on Sunday night after his symptoms worsened. He was moved to the intensive care unit on Monday, and Raab on Tuesday said the prime minister is receiving oxygen treatment, but is not on a ventilator. Later, Downing Street said Johnson's condition is "stable."

Raab has been deputized and said he is standing in for Johnson "whenever necessary." He expressed confidence that Johnson will "pull through because if there's one thing I know about this prime minister, he's a fighter. And he'll be back at the helm, leading us through this crisis in short order." Catherine Garcia

5:16 p.m.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is putting a massive $1 billion toward coronavirus relief, he announced on Tuesday.

Dorsey in a tweet thread said he's moving $1 billion of his equity in Square, the mobile payments company he's also the CEO of, to an LLC called Start Small. This LLC will provide funding to global COVID-19 relief efforts, he said.

"After we disarm this pandemic, the focus will shift to girl's health and education, and UBI," Dorsey added.

Dorsey, who said the $1 billion is about 28 percent of his wealth, also shared a sheet on Twitter that he said will keep track of the donations.

"Why now?" he wrote. "The needs are increasingly urgent, and I want to see the impact in my lifetime. I hope this inspires others to do something similar. Life is too short, so let's do everything we can today to help people now."

Among those who previously announced donations amid the coronavirus crisis is Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who recently said he'd give $100 million to food banks. "Even in ordinary times, food insecurity in American households is an important problem, and unfortunately COVID-19 is amplifying that stress," Bezos said. But Dorsey's donation, Recode wrote, is "the country's most significant private gift to tackling the coronavirus and its consequences." Brendan Morrow

5:14 p.m.

House Intelligence Committee Chair sent a letter Tuesday to acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell demanding he explain President Trump's recent dismissals of Michael Atkinson and Glenn Fine, the inspectors general of the intelligence community and the Pentagon, respectively. The Washington Post's Greg Sargent says how Grenell responds could be "incredibly telling" about the Trump administration's future plans.

In the letter, Schiff asks Grenell to confirm whether he exercised his "authority" to prohibit Atkinson from doing his job, aside from the fact that he was the official who brought the infamous whistleblower complaint about Trump's Ukraine conduct to Congress, eventually leading to the president's impeachment. Schiff also called on Grenell to commit to stopping any form of retaliation against anyone who makes "protected disclosures of misconduct."

Sargent spoke with Ned Price, a former senior National Security Council official, who said if Grenell doesn't respond to those challenges, it will signal a willingness to allow Trump to proceed with a "campaign of retaliation," which Sargent argues is already underway.

Price added that if things continue down the current path, there could be an effort to expose the whistleblower or an effort against career analysts who concluded Russia interfered in the 2016 election on behalf of Trump. From Price's point of view, this would mean Trump "feels no limits whatsoever." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

4:08 p.m.

Surgeon General Jerome Adams and the director of the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention are both voicing optimism that the United States' coronavirus death toll can end up lower than the projection previously shared by the White House.

CDC director Robert Redfield in a Monday interview with KVOI Radio said the "large majority of the American public" is following social distancing guidelines, and he therefore anticipates "the numbers are going to be much, much, much, much lower than would have been predicted by the models," per Politico. The White House recently shared a forecast suggesting the U.S. coronavirus death toll could be between 100,000 and 240,000.

In a Tuesday appearance on Good Morning America, the surgeon general was asked about Redfield's comments and whether it's his expectation that the country's death toll will come in below the White House projection.

"That's absolutely my expectation, and I feel a lot more optimistic because I'm seeing mitigation work," Adams said.

"I really do believe that we will come in under those protections as long as we can continue to do our part for 30 days," Adams continued, referring to the federal social distancing guidelines that were recently extended until the end of April.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force's response coordinator, previously said the United States could be facing up to 200,000 coronavirus deaths even in a scenario where Americans do everything "almost perfectly."

The total number of coronavirus deaths in the United States has passed 11,000, and on Tuesday, New York reported its deadliest day so far. But New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) did say the hardest-hit state is "reaching a plateau in the total number of hospitalizations." He previously suggested New York could be seeing a "flattening of the curve" but stressed, "we have to continue the social distancing." Brendan Morrow

3:51 p.m.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly stepped down on Tuesday, a US official and a former senior military official tell CNN.

Modly reportedly offered his resignation after a Sunday recording revealed him mocking Navy Capt. Brett Crozier as "stupid" and "naive" in an address to Crozier's former crew. Crozier was ousted from his post on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt after sounding the alarm about COVID-19 spread on the ship. Politico reported Tuesday that Modly had offered his resignation to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, but it was unclear if Esper would accept it.

Crozier had sent a stern four-page letter to his superiors last begging for help containing a new coronavirus outbreak on his ship, where around 150 to 200 sailors had reportedly tested positive out of his nearly 5,000-person crew. His letter leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle, and Modly dismissed him over "a loss of trust and confidence." Modly then called Crozier "too naive or too stupid" to be running the ship in his leaked Sunday comments. He apologized on Monday, but many lawmakers had already called for his resignation.

Modly had only been in his position for a few months after Esper fired former Navy Secretary Richard Spencer in November. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:02 p.m.

Gaze up at the sky tonight, and you might just catch a glimpse of the "super pink moon" — the first full moon of spring.

Supermoons appear larger and brighter than regular full moons, and tonight's is the second in a series of three — the first was in March and the next will occur in May, per the Farmer's Almanac. But this will be the closest moon of 2020, reports Space, making it the biggest and brightest.

Despite being dubbed the "pink" moon, it won't have a springy hue, the Almanac notes. It gets the name from it's alignment with the early bloom of moss phlox, a pink wildflower native to North America.

A moon of many names, this one is also known as the "Paschal Moon," as it's occurrence determines when Easter falls — the first Sunday after the Paschal Moon.

Clear skies make ideal viewing conditions, but if the weather doesn't cooperate where you are, check out these live streams by Slooh and The Virtual Telescope Project. To find out when you should be on the lookout, use this moonrise calculator. Happy gazing! Taylor Watson

2:45 p.m.

Despite a lack of polling stations, long lines, and the looming presence of the coronavirus pandemic, Wisconsin voters begrudgingly set out for the polls Tuesday after the state decided to go through with its presidential primary and other local elections.

Despite their health and safety concerns, some voters felt it was necessary to go out precisely because Wisconsin was bucking the trend of delaying primaries, which has led to debates about voter suppression. "It feels bad to have to choose between your personal safety and your right to vote," Dan Bullock, a 40-year-old health care worker who voted Tuesday, told the The New York Times. "But you have to be heard, especially if there's people who are trying to minimize you."

Other voters called the decision "irresponsible," "crazy," and "difficult to watch," while some told the Times about people they knew who stayed home because of fears for their own health or because they had to look after younger children who they didn't want to bring to the stations.

Anecdotal evidence so far seems to indicate the coronavirus will have a large effect on voting in more urban areas. Milwaukee, Wisconsin's largest city, cut more than 170 polling stations, leaving only five in play, while drive-through voting appeared to aid turn out in rural parts of the state. Read more at The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

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