DURHAM TAKES THE LEAD IN COVID 19 CASES WITH DUKE UNIVERSITY CLUSTER: Durham County announced 11 new cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, all members of the Duke University community. Most of them traveled internationally and were quarantined in their homes off campus, Durham County and Duke reported in a news release. Duke officials would not say where they traveled. Its announcement on Wednesday follows a day when 15 other cases were announced, all part of a group who had traveled internationally. Four more people who were tested out of the country remained there. Duke announced it is postponing commencement for the Class of 2020 “in light of the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the latest public health advisories on travel and large gatherings.” In a letter to those students, Duke President Vincent Price said it was a “very difficult but necessary decision.” North Carolina had 92 cases of coronavirus after Duke’s announcement Wednesday, which followed five new cases in Wake County.
LINDBERG CONSULTANT UNDER INVESTIGATION AFTER HARASSING JURORS: The U.S. Attorney's Office is investigating after a consultant in a wealthy North Carolina businessman's recent bribery trial reached out to jurors, the federal judge in the case said Wednesday. The consultant says the calls were all made after the jury found Greg Lindberg guilty of trying to bribe state Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey. The judge ordered the consultant to stop Wednesday and said in the order that he forwarded the matter to the U.S. Attorney's Office, which has an "ongoing investigation." In his order, Cogburn said he asked the U.S. Attorney's Office to "commence a criminal investigation for jury harassment and intimidation." Convince's website, Cogburn noted in his order, says interviewers can find out whether a juror Googled extra information about the case during deliberations, which is against the rules. Juries are supposed to decide a case based solely on what they hear in court.
UNEMPLOYMENT FILINGS SPIKE DUE TO CORONAVIRUS LAYOFFS: Unemployment benefit requests in North Carolina surged this week due to the new coronavirus as business activity slowed and a ban on dining-in at restaurants and bars began. The state Division of Employment Security said the number of claims in which people blamed COVID-19 for their layoffs or for reduced hours surpassed 4,700 by Wednesday morning. In North Carolina’s recent robust economy -- the January jobless rate was 3.6% -- the number of overall claims has been roughly 3,500 per week, said Larry Parker, a division spokesman. Similar surges are occurring in other states. The division began offering the COVID-19 option as a claims reason in its filing system starting at noon Tuesday. Gov. Roy Cooper had just announced he would issue an executive order loosening unemployment benefit rules and closing all bars and restaurants except for takeout and delivery orders. About 80% of the people who filed said they were laid off, Parker said.
TWO CONGRESSMEN TEST POSITIVE FOR COVID 19 AFTER BUSY SESSION: Diaz-Balart, 58, decided to self-quarantine at his Washington apartment rather than return to Florida after the vote because his wife has an illness that makes her high-risk if she contracted the disease, his office said. “I want everyone to know that I am feeling much better. However, it is important that everyone take this extremely seriously and follow CDC guidelines in order to avoid getting sick and mitigate the spread of this virus. We must continue to work together to emerge stronger as a country during these trying times,” Diaz-Balart said. McAdams, 45, flew home Saturday after the House voted. On Sunday, not feeling better, he self-quarantined. McAdams developed a fever, dry cough and labored breathing. “On Tuesday, my doctor instructed me to get tested for covid-19 and following his referral, I went to the local testing clinic for the test,” he said, referring to the disease the virus causes. More than a dozen members of Congress have already proactively self-quarantined after coming into contact with someone who tested positive for the virus. At least two congressional staffers have tested positive.
CHINA REPORTS NO NEW LOCALLY-TRANSMITTED CASES, BEGINS HELPING OTHER COUNTRIES: Only a few weeks ago, China was overwhelmed by the coronavirus epidemic that began in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, accepting donations of masks and other medical supplies from nearly 80 nations and 10 international organizations. Now, with new daily cases at home dwindling into the single digits, China is mounting a diplomatic offensive to help as the rest of the world struggles to get the virus under control. From Japan to Iraq, Spain to Peru, it has provided or pledged humanitarian assistance in the form of donations or medical expertise — an aid blitz that is giving China the chance to reposition itself not as the authoritarian incubator of a pandemic but as a responsible global leader at a moment of worldwide crisis. “This could be the first major global crisis in decades without meaningful U.S. leadership and with significant Chinese leadership,” said Rush Doshi, director of the China Strategy Initiative at the Brookings Institution in Washington. He noted that only a few years ago the United States led the fight against Ebola. “China is now trying to repair its severely damaged international image due to its mishandling of the outbreak in Wuhan in early January,” Minxin Pei, a professor of government at Claremont McKenna College in California, wrote in an email. One of China’s leading entrepreneurs, Jack Ma, offered to donate 500,000 tests and one million masks to the United States, where hospitals are facing shortages despite having weeks of notice to prepare. In February, the United States flew in 17 tons of supplies to Wuhan aboard four flights that evacuated Americans from the city.