The Afghan government forces following cleanup operations launched Friday in Qaisar district of the northern Faryab province have driven the militants out of five villages and restored law and order there, provincial police office said in a statement released here Saturday.
The villages recaptured from the insurgents include Arzoloq, Belalbek, Yaqarbagh, Rigration and Sufi Qala, the statement asserted, adding law and order have been restored there.
Three insurgents have been killed and three others wounded in the ongoing operation, according to the statement.
Three security personnel have also suffered injuries, following the militants' defensive gunfire, the statement further added.
Taliban militants fighting the government forces to regain power haven't commented
WASHINGTON -- The U.S. federal government confiscated a shipment of 1 million N95 masks that had been ordered for firefighters in Miami-Dade County in southeastern U.S. state of Florida, local media reported recently, citing a top county official.
"We are going to meet the plane and actually take them. That's like gold, you know. But we got the word from the company that they had been taken from the federal government," Frank Rollason, county director of emergency management, was quoted as saying on Wednesday by the WLRN Public Radio and Television.
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BEIJING -- China's steel sector was badly hurt by the novel coronavirus outbreak, with production slowing and prices slumping in the first quarter of this year, but analysts expect recovery in Q2 as demand rebounds.
Production of rolled steel totaled 267 million tonnes in Q1, down 1.6 percent year on year, as compared with an increase of 10.8 percent during the same period last year, data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) showed.
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NEW DELHI -- India's federal health ministry on Saturday morning reported 52 new deaths and 1,054 fresh positive cases since last evening, taking the number of deaths to 775 and total cases to 24,506.
"As on 8:00 a.m. (local time), today 775 deaths related to novel coronavirus have been recorded in the country," said an information released by the ministry.
According to ministry officials, 5,063 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement, and the number of active cases in the country stood at 18,668.
VIENTIANE -- The Laos-China Railway Co., Ltd. (LCRC), a joint venture based in the Lao capital Vientiane in charge of the railway, said on Saturday that the China Railway Group Limited (CREC) has resumed construction at all its work sites along the China-Laos Railway.
Huang Hong, general manager of the CREC China-Laos Railway Project Headquarters in Vientiane, told Xinhua that the CREC, as the main force in the construction of China-Laos railway, has resumed construction in the northern Laos' mountains by 100 percent, which means the railway building has almost returned to the normal level.
Huang also handed over 200,000 medical masks donated by the CREC to Somdy Douangdy, Lao deputy prime minister and chair of the Task Force Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control.
The novel coronavirus spread on the west coast of the United States weeks earlier than initially believed, according to new information released by local public health officials this week.
Health authorities of Santa Clara County in the western U.S. state of California confirmed Tuesday that two patients had died of COVID-19 at least three weeks before the first known U.S. death from the novel coronavirus disease on Feb. 29 in Kirkland in Washington State.
According to a statement issued by the Northern California county's Emergency Operations Center, the Medical Examiner-Coroner performed autopsies on two individuals who died at home in early February, and received results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, which showed both tested positive for COVID-19.
"As the Medical Examiner-Coroner continues to carefully investigate deaths throughout the county, we anticipate additional deaths from COVID-19 will be identified," the statement said.
Patricia Dowd, a 57-year-old San Jose woman, who died at home on Feb. 6.
Jeffrey V. Smith, Santa Clara county executive, told Xinhua in an email interview that "so far, this is the earliest death in the United States."
Santa Clara County's public health officer Dr. Sara Cody told media that Dowd and another 69-year-old man who died at home on Feb. 17 had no "significant travel history," and they presumably caught the virus through community spread.
Family members said Dowd, who worked as manager for a semiconductor company, became unusually sick in late January. She had flu-like symptoms for a few days, then appeared to recover. When she was found dead in early February, the initial culprit had appeared to be a heart attack, the Los Angeles Times reported this week.
"What these deaths tell us is that we had community transmission probably to a significant degree far earlier than we had known," Cody told reporters.
"When you have an outcome like death or ICU, that means that there's some iceberg of cases of unknown size that underlie those iceberg tips," she said.
Neeraj Sood, a professor at the Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California, told the Los Angeles Times that he believes the virus was circulating weeks before the newfound death.
"When you start seeing the first death, actually, the number of cases in the population is probably pretty high already. It's been in the community for a long time," Sood was quoted as saying by the Los Angeles Times.
"These patients apparently contracted the illness from community spread. This suggests that the virus was circulating in the Bay Area in January at least, probably earlier," Smith told Xinhua.
According to a new study released by researchers at Stanford University earlier this month, some 48,000 to 81,000 people in Santa Clara County alone may already have been infected with COVID-19 by early April, an indication that 2.5 percent to 4.2 percent of county residents may have antibodies.
There are 2,018 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 98 deaths in Santa Clara County so far, according to data released by the county's Public Health Department on Friday morning.
The U.S. state of Georgia, which on Friday reopened some non-essential businesses, is among the boldest states in the country to do so, and a number of other states are expected to follow suit despite great concerns over COVID-19.
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has allowed some non-essential businesses, such as gyms, barbershops, hair salons and tattoo parlors, to reopen their doors from Friday. In-person religious services can also resume this weekend, and restaurant dining rooms, theaters and some other businesses can reopen from Monday, according to the governor's order.
As of Friday night, more than 22,000 people in Georgia have tested positive and about 900 have died from the virus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The state has not seen a 14-day downward trajectory in the rate of new confirmed COVID-19 cases, a benchmark set by the White House's reopening guidelines.
Some salon and barbershop owners in the state said there will be no shortage of clients eager to support their businesses, while others said they will not reopen until they feel safe, local media reported.
"We lost graduations, proms and weddings," said David Huynh, a nail salon owner in Savannah. "Already I see stores closing down permanently ... A lot of people don't realize if the nation stays shut down any longer, there will be severe consequences."
Huynh on Friday had 60 appointments scheduled at his nail salon, which has been closed since last month, the Associated Press reported.
In a tweet earlier on Friday, U.S. President Donald Trump reiterated his recent opposition to Georgia's partly reopening, saying "spas, beauty salons, tattoo parlors, & barber shops should take a little slower path."
Kemp, a Republican, said earlier this week that his order set out social-distancing and sanitation guidelines meant to balance the need to save lives with the need to save businesses.
However, the state is not the only one struggling to partly and gradually reopen its economy amid the dilemma. Data from Johns Hopkins University showed over 890,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed across the country as of Friday night, with over 51,000 deaths reported.
The Congressional Budget Office said Friday that the unemployment rate around the country, which was near a 50-year low before the coronavirus struck, will surge to 16 percent by September as the economy withers under the impact of the outbreak.
According to an order issued by Texas Governor Greg Abbott last week, retail businesses can offer curbside pickup or delivery to their customers starting Friday, for the first time in weeks. First Colony Mall in Sugar Land announced on its website that some stores and restaurants will open with limited hours or by appointment only; Memorial City Mall in Houston said it will provide contact-free curbside pickup.
Last week in Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz signed an executive order that reopened outdoor recreational businesses, including golf courses, bait shops, public and private marinas and outdoor shooting ranges. The order went into effect on April 18, the same day when New York joined Connecticut and New Jersey in opening up their marinas, boatyards and boat launches for recreational use.
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy on Wednesday also issued a health mandate that allows restaurants, stores, personal care services such as hair and nail salons and other non-essential businesses to open from Friday.
In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis gave some municipalities the green light on April 17 to reopen beaches with restricted hours for walking, biking, hiking, fishing, running, swimming, taking care of pets and surfing. Schools in the southeastern state will remain closed through the end of the academic year, according to a USA Today report.
In Tennessee, restaurants will be allowed to open from April 27 for dine-in service with reduced capacity and retail stores will be permitted to reopen on April 29. Oklahoma and Montana have also issued aggressive plans that will see some businesses and churches open by the start of next week, said the report.
Several states have announced plans to coordinate their response with neighbors: California is moving forward in coordination with Washington and Oregon; governors from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island announced plans to form a joint task force.
California Governor Gavin Newsom on Wednesday made the first modification to the state's stay-at-home order with the resumption of "essential" surgeries, though emphasizing that California was not prepared "to open up large sectors of our society."
However, not all states are pushing the reopening. Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf has extended the state's stay-at-home order until May 8, and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan said Friday that Maryland could not be ready until early May to begin phase one of its three-phase recovery process.
"If we try to rush this and if we don't do it in a thoughtful and responsible way, it could cause a rebound of the virus, which could deepen the economic crisis, prolong the fiscal problems and slow our economic recovery," Hogan said.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said in an interview with ABC News on Friday that it was "unacceptable" to have people going out in public and called on residents to remain at home.
"There's nothing essential about going to a bowling alley or getting a manicure in the middle of a pandemic," she said. "I think to make an assumption that we are out of the woods is not based on anything other than a desire to open up businesses. And what I believe is that there are some that are willing to sacrifice lives for the sake of the economy and that is unacceptable to me."
Trump announced guidelines on April 16 for all 50 states to start reopening their economies and is currently pushing to relax the country's shutdown by May 1.
What President Donald Trump says and does often flies in the face of mainstream science. Coronavirus and the idea of injecting disinfectants is only the latest episode.
When a rare solar eclipse happened in 2017, astronomers and eye doctors repeatedly warned people not to stare directly at the sun without protection. Photos show Trump did anyway. He later donned protective glasses.
For decades, scientists have called climate change a pressing issue, pointing to data, physics and chemistry. Trump regularly called it a hoax until recently. He also claims that noise from wind turbines — which he refers to as windmills — causes cancer, which is not accurate. He's also claimed that exercise will deplete the finite amount of energy a body has, while doctors tell people that exercise is critical to good health.
When Trump wanted to defend his warning that Alabama was threatened by Hurricane Dorian last year, he displayed an official weather map that had been altered with a marker to extend the danger areas. Alabama National Weather Service meteorologists were chastised by their agency chief when they issued tweets to reassure worried residents that they were not in the path of the hurricane.
On Thursday, Trump raised the idea of injections of disinfectant to fight the coronavirus, which health officials warned would be dangerous. The president later claimed he was being sarcastic, although the transcript of his remarks suggests otherwise. Trump also suggested ultraviolet light, even internal light, could be a possible preventative measure, contrary to scientific advice.
On Friday, as the recorded U.S. death toll passed the 50,000 mark, the Food and Drug Administration issued an alert about the dangers of using a malaria drug that Trump has repeatedly promoted for coronavirus patients.
Asked what kind of grade he'd give Trump on science, M. Granger Morgan, a Carnegie Mellon University engineering and policy professor who has advised Democratic and Republican administrations, answered with a quick "F."
"When he starts to air things like that (injection), it's definitely a danger to the public because some people might actually do that," said Nobel Prize-winning physicist Steven Chu, who was energy secretary in the Obama administration. "This isn't science. This is something else."
"Our president certainly has high confidence in his beliefs," said Chu, chairman of the board of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the world's largest general scientific society. "Scientists always test their beliefs all the time. That's part of the fabric of science."
Trump seems to put science, medicine and controlled studies on equal footing with rumor and anecdotes, said Sudip Parikh, a biochemist who is chief executive officer of AAAS.
Mixing those two up when talking to the public is "terrible for communication," Parikh said. It muddles and confuses the public, he said.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said "any suggestion that the president does not value scientific data or the important work of scientists throughout his time in office is patently false." Deere pointed to "data-driven" decisions on the virus, such as limiting travel from highly infected areas, expediting vaccine development and issuing social distancing guidance to slow the spread of the virus.
Deere pointed to Trump saying on Thursday, "My Administration has partnered with leading technology companies and scientific journals to create a database of 52,000 scholarly articles on the virus that can be analyzed by artificial intelligence."
Presidents of both parties often put politics before science, and Trump is not unusual there, Morgan said. But this administration has regularly contradicted science and doctors.
"We've seen daily statements that run counter to reality, and science is about physical reality," Morgan said. "Science matters."
Both Morgan and Chu said Thursday's ultraviolet and disinfectant comments could end up hurting people who don't listen to doctors. They pointed to a case in Arizona where a couple misinterpreted Trump's promotion of malaria drug and wrongly used related chemicals; one of them died. Friday's FDA warning was issued because of reports of dangerous side effects and deaths from the use of the malaria drugs in test treatments.
Gretchen Goldman, research director for the Union of Concerned Scientists' Center for Science and Democracy, said the actions of Trump and his administration "have ignored science, censored science, manipulated science across agencies."
"It's a different beef than we've seen in past administrations," Goldman said. "This administration, there's a lot of disinterest and disrespect for science and the process."
Her advocacy group listed 130 "attacks on science."
Goldman published a survey this week in the peer-reviewed science journal PLOS One that she and colleagues made of 3,700 federal scientists. Half of them said political interests hinder their agencies from making science-based decisions. One in five reported political interference or censorship of some kind either from political appointees in their own agency or in the White House.
Goldman said the survey, conducted in 2018 before the coronavirus outbreak, found that the highest level of scientists claiming White House interference was in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Meteorologist Ryan Maue, a conservative scholar, said that on policy, he and other conservatives like Trump's agenda of deregulation, including pulling out of the United Nations' Paris climate agreement. He pointed to increased funding of NASA and its return to the moon mission as pro-science, and added that the weather service is improving its forecast models.
But when it comes to communicating science, Trump "is a mess," Maue said. He's trying to be funny and folksy "and it doesn't work and the media is eating that stuff up alive. And I think that's fair."