By Keir Simmons, Linda Givetash and Laura Saravia for NBC News
LONDON — An experimental vaccine for COVID-19 under development at Oxford University hit a milestone Friday with researchers announcing it will be progressing to advanced stages of human trials.
It will be tested in 10,260 volunteers across the United Kingdom to determine how effective it is at preventing infection, the university said in a statement. If successful, it could be on the market as early as September, according to British-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca, which partnered with the university in April to manufacture and distribute the vaccine.
“We’re thrilled,” Adrian Hill, one of the researchers leading the project, told NBC News.
The company agreed to produce at least 400 million doses and secured total manufacturing capacity to produce 1 billion doses by the end of 2021, with first deliveries this September.
Researchers are still monitoring the first 1,000 volunteers who either received a dose or were part of the control group in the first phase of the current study to see if they develop antibodies or become infected with the coronavirus.
Government approval is now allowing researchers to move ahead with the second and third phases of testing, which will see more people across a wider age range — including older adults and children — tested. The second phase begins June 1 in the U.K. and researchers hope to launch clinical trials in the United States in the coming weeks.
Health care professionals are among the volunteers in the trial because of their exposure to the virus.
On its chances of working, Hill said, “We still think they’re fairly high but not guaranteed. But we’re doing our best to show that it works over the next few months.”
Researchers hope to have results from the thousands of new participants by the end of August.
While the trials are moving quickly, Hill said, safety has not been compromised.
Although the prospect of a vaccine provides hope for bringing an end to the pandemic, Hill added that in the meantime people should continue to heed social distancing measures.
“Nobody really wants to get infected with this virus and there are lots of things you can do to reduce your chances of that,” he added.Keir Simmons
Keir Simmons is a London-based foreign correspondent for NBC News.
Linda Givetash is a London-based producer for NBC News. Laura Saravia
By Linda Givetash and Stella Kim of NBC News and Reuters
After being lauded for its success in containing the coronavirus, a spike in cases in Seoul has prompted South Korean officials to tighten social distancing measures so as to curb a second wave of the pandemic.
“If we fail to eradicate the spread of the virus in the metropolitan area at an early stage, it will lead to more community infections, eventually undermining school reopenings,” Park Neung Hoo, minister for health and welfare, said in a news briefing.
On Wednesday, the latest move in a phased reopening of the country allowed more than 2 million children to return to class.
The “strengthened” measures now being enforced in major metropolitan areas for the next two weeks will see tougher quarantining policies, a plea to businesses to enforce staggered working hours and the shutting of public facilities like museums. Businesses such as bars, clubs and sporting venues are being advised to close.
Religious establishments are being urged to maintain strict distancing measures and even close in some areas, while the public generally is being asked to remain vigilant about personal hygiene and avoiding large gatherings.
“But basically, I don’t expect huge changes made to the infection prevention policy direction,” Park said.
While measures are being tightened in cities, Park said they would continue to be eased for the rest of the country.
But he warned that officials would be forced to return to an “intense social distancing scheme” if the virus spread was not brought under control by June 14.
The at least 82 new cases this week have been linked to a cluster of infections at a logistics facility operated by Coupang Corp., one of the country’s largest online shopping companies, in Bucheon, west of Seoul, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Some 4,100 workers, including 603 delivery people, at the warehouse were believed to have not followed social distancing and protective measures properly, including wearing masks, KCDC deputy director Kwon Jun-wook told a briefing.
Coupang said the Bucheon center went through daily disinfection and all employees wore masks and gloves and had temperatures checked.
By James Salzer for Atlanta Journal-Constitution via PoliceOne
ATLANTA — Georgia senators expressed concern Wednesday over budget plans that would force state troopers and GBI agents to take nearly five weeks off without pay in the coming year.
The GBI and Department of Public Safety — like much of state government — are personnel-heavy. So there was no way for agency leaders to develop required plans to cut spending without eliminating jobs or furloughing staffers. For GBI staffers and state troopers, agency proposals would require up to 24 furlough days in fiscal 2021, which begins July 1.
“It was a very difficult decision,” DPS Commissioner Gary Vowell told a Senate budget subcommittee. “We’re counting nickles and dimes and looked everywhere we can and been as innovative as we can without laying people off.
“I am open for recommendations, but with 14% (in cuts), I don’t see any other way.”
Sen. John Albers, R-Roswell, the chairman of the subcommittee, told Vowell: “I certainly have grave concerns about the 24 furlough days. You were undermanned before this all started.”
Sen. Tyler Harper, R-Ocilla, a member of the subcommittee, told the DPS commissioner, “We want to do what we can to make sure you have the resources to do your job on a daily basis.”
The hearing Wednesday came a day after Senate subcommittees began reviewing budget proposals for the upcoming year. The 2020 session was suspended in March because of the coronavirus pandemic, and lawmakers will restart it next month.
The leaders of the House and Senate budget committees and the Office of Planning and Budget sent letters to state agencies May 1 requesting plans to cut spending 14% — or more than $3.5 billion — in the upcoming fiscal year because of the coronavirus recession.
The Department of Corrections said it would close several facilities. It currently houses 51,000 inmates.
While some agencies — including the Corrections Department — have said they could cut 14% without furloughing employees, other, such as the GBI and the Georgia State Patrol, said they couldn’t. Both agencies also said they would eliminate or freeze vacant jobs.
The state crime lab, for instance, would freeze vacant scientist and lab technician positions.
GBI Director Vic Reynolds said up to 28 agent positions would be left vacant, and that “boots-on-the-ground” officers would take furloughs like everyone else.
“We’ll probably have to be more circumspect about the kind of cases we get involved in around the state,” Reynolds said.
“It will probably lend itself to violent crime, gang-related crime, human trafficking,” he said. “I don’t envision in the future the bureau responding to assist in burglary calls or nonviolent property crimes the way the situation is today.”
The DPS would delay a new trooper class a year and freeze vacant positions, in addition to the furloughs. The agency currently has about 500 troopers working Georgia roads.
Harper indicated that lawmakers would work to reduce the number of furlough days for law enforcement agencies.
“Obviously, public safety is one of the more important duties the government provides for the safety and security of its citizens,” he said.
What that could mean is that some agencies that said they could get by without furlough days, or with very few, may be asked to take deeper cuts.
Included in the budget plans submitted last week was a $3.6 million spending reduction for accountability courts.
The courts, which were greatly expanded by then-Gov. Nathan Deal, allow defendants to avoid prison time if they stay sober, get treatment, receive an education and find a job. The courts are set up for drug addicts, drunken drivers, the mentally ill and veterans who’ve been charged largely with nonviolent crimes and low-level offenses, and they have been highly popular with lawmakers.
Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin, the head of the courts’ council, said the spending cuts would mean the elimination of eight to 12 courts throughout the state. She said about 1,900 fewer people would be able to participate in the programs.
“That will be 1,900 folks who are currently working,” she said. “They have continued to work during the pandemic. They are working in fast-food restaurants, they are working in chicken plants in Gainesville, they are working on construction sites and they are mowing our lawns.
“Those are people who will likely wind up in either local jails or prisons if they don’t have the opportunity to do this,” she said.
The budget proposal said the state would lose almost $35 million in savings it would have received by keeping those people out of prison.
He added: “These are painful cuts. The (funding) pie is only so big, and we have to cut the slices.”
At the end of the hearing, Albers announced he would donate his $17,000 legislative salary this year to “first responders and people in need.” Lawmakers are also likely to consider a Senate bill to cut their salaries, since furloughs will mean pay cuts for rank-and-file state employees.McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Police in Hong Kong have arrested about 300 people and fired pepper pellets amid new anti-mainland unrest.
Protesters were rallying against a bill on China’s national anthem and Beijing’s planned introduction of a national security law.
Police said most arrests were on suspicion of unauthorised assembly.
Protesters oppose the anthem bill, which would criminalise insulting it, and the security law, which they fear will strip Hong Kong of basic freedoms.
Meanwhile in the US, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he has certified to Congress that Hong Kong no longer merits special treatment under US law.
“No reasonable person can assert today that Hong Kong maintains a high degree of autonomy from China, given facts on the ground,” he said in a statement.
How did the protests play out?
The initial call by demonstrators had been to gather at the Legislative Council (Legco) building in the Central district. But it had been surrounded by riot police and blocked off by water-filled barriers and large protests there failed to materialise.
MPs there have been debating the second reading of the national anthem bill.
Protesters took to the streets, blocking traffic in both Central and Causeway Bay. Police said on a Facebook post they had arrested 180 people there.
They later added that another 60 had been arrested in the Mongkok district for blocking traffic, and 50 more in Wan Chai.
Other arrests were made for suspicion of possessing offensive weapons, including petrol bombs.
Marches and protests have taken place in a number of other districts.
One protester in Central told the South China Morning Post: “We want to protect our freedom of speech. It will no longer be Hong Kong, but will become just another Chinese city.”
Another demonstrator told Reuters: “Although you’re afraid inside your heart, you need to speak out.”
What is the anthem bill?
If it becomes law, anyone who misuses or insults China’s national anthem, the March of the Volunteers, would face a fine of up to HK$50,000 (£5,237; $6,449) and up to three years in prison.
If it passes the second reading in Legco on Wednesday, it could go to a third reading and a vote early next month.
Hong Kong does not have its own anthem and so the Chinese anthem is sometimes played at events like football matches.
In recent years, the anthem has been booed frequently. A 2022 Fifa World Cup qualifier, for example, saw thousands booing.
What is the security law about?
Beijing has proposed imposing it in Hong Kong.
It would ban treason, secession, sedition and subversion and China says it is needed to combat violent protests that have grown in the territory.
The anti-mainland sentiment was fuelled last year by a proposed – and later scrapped – bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to China.
Critics say the security law is a direct attempt to curtail the freedoms given Hong Kong in the mini-constitution that was agreed when sovereignty was handed back to China in 1997.
Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam has denied that the law, which is set to go to a vote this week and could be in force as early as the end of June, will curtail the rights of Hong Kongers.
A group of 200 senior politicians from around the world have issued a joint statement criticising China’s plan.
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump said the US would announce a “very powerful” response to the proposed legislation before the end of the week. China’s plans had already been condemned by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who described them as a “death knell” for the city’s freedoms.
The UK, Australia and Canada have also expressed their “deep concern”.
There have been violent clashes between police and protesters in the US city of Minneapolis following the death of an unarmed black man in police custody.
Police fired tear gas and protesters threw rocks and sprayed graffiti on police cars.
Video of the death shows George Floyd, 46, groaning “I can’t breathe” as a policeman kneels on his neck.
Four police officers have been fired, with the mayor saying that being black “should not be a death sentence”.
The incident echoes the case of Eric Garner, who was placed in a police chokehold in New York in 2014. His death became a rallying call against police brutality and was a driving force in the Black Lives Matter movement.
What happened at the protests?
They began in the afternoon on Tuesday, when hundreds of people came to the intersection where the incident had taken place on Monday evening.
Organisers tried to keep the protest peaceful and maintain coronavirus social distancing, with demonstrators chanting “I can’t breathe,” and “It could’ve been me”.
Protester Anita Murray told the Washington Post: “It’s scary to come down here in the middle of the pandemic, but how could I stay away?”
A crowd of hundreds later marched to the 3rd Precinct, where the officers involved in the death are thought to have worked.
Squad cars were sprayed with graffiti and protesters threw stones at the police building. Police fired tear gas, flash grenades and foam projectiles.
One protester told CBS: “It’s real ugly. The police have to understand that this is the climate they have created.”
Another said: “I got on my knees and I put up a peace sign and they tear-gassed me.”
Police said one person had suffered non-life-threatening injuries after being shot away from the protest area but gave no further details.
What happened to George Floyd?
Officers responding to reports of the use of counterfeit money had approached Mr Floyd in his vehicle.
According to police he was told to step away from the vehicle and physically resisted officers.
A police statement said: “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.”
The video taken at the scene does not show how the confrontation started.
It shows a white officer using his knee to pin Mr Floyd to the ground by the neck.
Mr Floyd groans “please, I can’t breathe” and “don’t kill me” as bystanders urge officers to let him go.
He ceases to move and an ambulance arrives to take him to hospital where he later died.
What was the official response?
Mayor Jacob Frey said it was the “right call” to fire the officers.
He said: “Being black in America should not be a death sentence. For five minutes we watched as a white police officer pressed his knee into the neck of a black man. For five minutes. When you hear someone calling for help, you are supposed to help.”
The FBI is investigating the incident and will present its findings to the Minnesota state’s attorney for possible federal charges.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar urged a thorough outside investigation, saying: “Justice must be served for this man and his family, justice must be served for our community, justice must be served for our country.”
There have been calls from some for the officers to be charged with murder.
The Minnesota police handbook states that officers trained on how to compress the neck without applying direct pressure to the airway can use a knee under its use-of-force policy. This is regarded as a non-deadly-force option.
What’s the backstory here?
By Jessica Lussenhop in Minneapolis
The most surprising thing about the response to the in-custody death of George Floyd was the swiftness with which the four police officers involved were sacked. This is almost always the first demand made by protesters – a demand that is often never met.
While Minneapolis is a very liberal city, it is also very segregated and the region has seen several controversial police killings.
In 2017, Justine Damond was killed after she called to report a possible sexual assault in her alley. The officer was tried for murder and sentenced to 12.5 years in prison. During a 2016 traffic stop, Philando Castile was shot and killed by a police officer who was tried and acquitted of manslaughter. Jamar Clark was killed by Minneapolis officers in 2015, and charges were never brought.
All three incidents sparked large protest movements.
It seems plausible that city officials hoped their decisive action would prevent mass protests in the middle of the pandemic, but thousands took to the streets.
Demonstrators later smashed a police precinct door, and police used tear gas and non-lethal rounds, making it all but certain that these demonstrations will continue.
Why is the case so sensitive?
Allegations of police brutality have been constantly highlighted since the start of the Black Lives Matter movement. It began after the acquittal of neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American Trayvon Martin in February 2012.
The deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York in 2014 sparked huge protests.
“I can’t breathe” became a national rallying cry as Garner, an unarmed black man, uttered the phrase 11 times after being detained by police in a chokehold on suspicion of illegally selling loose cigarettes.
The New York City police officer involved in Garner’s arrest was fired five years later, but no officer was charged.
Recent allegations of police wrongdoing include the shooting of a black woman in her home in Louisville by three white Kentucky policemen and the shooting of a man by an officer in Maryland.
Police in Georgia are also accused of trying to cover up the killing of black jogger, Ahmaud Arbery, allegedly by the son of a retired law official.
Paige Fernandez of the American Civil Liberties Union, said of the latest case in Minnesota: “This tragic video shows how little meaningful change has emerged to prevent police from taking the lives of black people.”
London (CNN) It gets really, really hot inside the protective gear Sean White has to wear most of the time. His skin is sore from the tight-fitting face mask and two pairs of gloves worn almost non-stop for 12 hours at a time.
White is a critical care nurse at a major teaching hospital in London and — like nurses in almost every country around the world — he couldn’t be any more frontline in the battle against coronavirus. His hospital is currently treating several hundred Covid-19 patients in the city at the epicenter of the UK outbreak, which has so far claimed more than 7,000 lives.
When coronavirus patients end up in hospital, it’s nurses who care for them most of the time and who are responsible for making sure they receive the right treatment.
“There is still this view that nurses, you know, are washing patients, feeding them and just being these compassionate, caring souls… which is exactly what nurses are, but there is this other layer of things that nurses do now,” said Laura Duffell, a matron nurse at the King’s College Hospital in London.
White spends his working days taking care of people who are fighting for their lives. Patients are often on ventilators, suffering from multiple organ failure, sedated, with number of tubes attached to them. It’s a high-pressure job, but he knows what he is doing — he has been doing it for years.But in this crisis, White says even he is at his limits.
“We’re having to prioritize things, not do some of the other things that we normally do, we make changes to our normal practice,” he said.
White checks patients’ oxygen levels, adjusts ventilators, runs blood tests, cleans wounds, replaces dressings, monitors tubes and takes care of sick people’s mouths and eyes. Once every four hours, he moves them to prevent bed sores. He also reassures them when they wake up in a scary and unfamiliar environment.
At normal times, each nurse looks after one patient at a time. But these are not normal times. White has been deployed to other intensive care units (ICUs) and is now regularly juggling two patients. The plan is to go up to four if necessary, he says.
“These are demanding patients,” said Rosana Josep Zaragoza, a nurse working at Guy’s Hospital in London, of ICU coronavirus cases. “They might have eight infusions attached to their bed and you have to make sure they are not running out, that they are working properly, and you are dealing with a breathing machine and sometimes a kidney machine,” she added.
At the same time, the nurses are very aware of the risk they themselves are facing. White said that he and his colleagues are wondering “when, rather than if” they catch the virus. “We’re hoping that it will be like a cold, but we keep hearing all the time of people who don’t necessarily have health problems who have died,” he said.
The coronavirus crisis has hit the UK at the time when its public health system, the National Health Service, was already highly stretched because of the country’s aging population and the spending cuts that followed the 2008 financial crisis.
Before the outbreak, a combination of tough conditions and low pay was leading to many nurses leaving the profession, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). There are over 40,000 nurse vacancies across the UK, 10,000 of which are in London, says the RCN. At the same time, fewer young people are joining the pipeline because of cuts to training funding, it adds.
In the UK, nurses’ pre-tax salaries start just below £25,000 ($30,000) a year. That’s £5,000 below the country’s median salary. With more experience, pay for most can rise to around £37,000 ($45,535) a year, depending on seniority. The RCN said most nurses’ paychecks falls into that region. Nurses with advanced training — such as a master’s degree — can make up to £44,503. Only matrons, chief nurses and specialized consultant nurses earn more than that.
For comparison, doctors start at £28,200 to £32,691 during the first two years after medical school, when they are still training. After that, their basic salary rises to £38,693 to £49,036 during specialist training. Once fully qualified and with years of experience, doctors in the public system can earn as much as £107,000.
White has been a frontline healthcare worker for a decade, and spent a big chunk of this time in critical care. He is planning to leave nursing after the coronavirus crisis has passed and work on building up his own business in medical aesthetics. While he will continue to work shifts in critical care to maintain his skills and fill in where the need is, his main focus will be elsewhere. A better work-life balance and the desire to do new things are among the reasons for his move, but money is also a factor.
Even though nurses based in London get extra cash to cover the city’s higher cost of living, most end up living on very tight budgets. According to a RNC survey published in January, 26% of nurses in London said they were financially struggling and further 42% said they were just about able to meet essential living costs, but wouldn’t be able to cope with any unexpected costs.
Long-term staff shortages are making the current crisis worse. There also aren’t currently enough coronavirus tests for healthcare workers in the UK. This means that any time a hospital employee or a member of their household shows symptoms, they have to self-isolate and stop work — even if they don’t actually have the disease. The government has been trying to ramp up testing and as of Wednesday, 20,000 UK health workers and their family members have been tested, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said.
Duffell said the high cost of living in places like London forces people to live with roommates, further exacerbating the situation.”Many nurses will live with other healthcare professionals, partly because of the shift patterns and the understanding … and then … it means that if someone is then symptomatic, the whole household have to isolate, which means we have four [or] five nurses who are all off at the same time,” Duffell said.
‘It’s a hideous situation’
The coronavirus pandemic also means many nurses are being redeployed to departments they don’t normally work in, including intensive and critical care.
Josep Zaragoza, the Guy’s Hospital nurse, has found herself exactly in that position. She expects to start working in ICUs this week. And while she has worked there in the past, she hasn’t done so in four years.
“I am scared,” she said. “I have been doing something completely different now, and obviously, ICU … it’s a really specialized area and the patients are very sick, so you have to know what you’re doing, the pressures are enormous,” she said.
Josep Zaragoza said her hospital has been providing nurses like her with refresher training and simulation days. She said she will likely get to spend two days at the ICU observing and working alongside other nurses before starting to take care of patients on her own.”I think it should be at least a week … but I understand that they need nurses up and running as soon as possible,” she added.
Josep Zaragoza can rely on past experience, but many of her colleagues are being redeployed into jobs that are completely new to them. “I can’t imagine how nervous people are going into such a specialized area which they have never worked in,” she said. A spokesperson from Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust said the hospital has asked “all clinical teams to be prepared for the potential redeployment,” adding that temporarily redeployed staff “will receive appropriate training and support if necessary.
“Other major hospital are experiencing the same problems. A spokeswoman for Barts Health NHS Trust, the body that oversees the Royal London Hospital, said the hospital was “working hard to while ensuring the safety of patients, staff and visitors.” The spokeswomen referred to the hospital’s peak operating plan, which says that “large number of staff” will be retrained and redeployed.
Duffell manages a team of around 50 to 60 nurses and healthcare assistants across several children’s wards. Some of them are now being reassigned to positions in critical care, despite not having the training that is normally required for these roles. In a statement on the King’s hospital website, Sarah Dheansa, the acting head of nursing for neurosciences and a member of the hospital’s Covid-19 response team, described the situation as challenging, but added the hospital had good processes in place.
Duffell added: “You’ve got a junior nurse in a flood of tears because she feels like she’s putting people at risk and you have to have that conversation that actually, you’re doing your absolute best, you rely on your knowledge and you know what you’re doing.”It’s a hideous situation and unfortunately, I think there are going to be a huge number of nurses that are going to be quite traumatized.”
This story has been updated to correct the name of the hospital where Laura Duffell works.
It is not clear how much stock pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences has available to treat UK patients.
Allocation of the intravenous drug will be based on the advice of doctors.
Minister for Innovation Lord Bethell said: “This shows fantastic progress. As we navigate this unprecedented period, we must be on the front foot of the latest medical advancements, while always ensuring patient safety remains a top priority.
“The latest, expert scientific advice is at the heart of every decision we make, and we will continue to monitor remdesivir’s success in clinical trials across the country to ensure the best results for UK patients.”
Dr Stephen Griffin from the University of Leeds Medical School, said it was perhaps the most promising anti-viral for coronavirus so far.
He said patients with the most severe disease would be likely to receive it first. “Whilst this is clearly the most ethically sound approach, it also means that we ought not to expect the drug to immediately act as a magic bullet.
“We can instead hope for improved recovery rates and a reduction in patient mortality, which we hope will benefit as many patients as possible.”
Other drugs being investigated for coronavirus include those for malaria and HIV.
The World Health Organization says the temporary suspension is a precaution, after a recent medical study found the drug might increase the risk of death and heart rhythm complications.
In the UK, the Recovery trial looking at using this drug in patients remains open, but another one, using it in frontline NHS staff to prevent rather than treat infections, has paused recruiting more volunteers.
NAHANT, Mass. — For some families — even those of a different species — a small act of kindness can make “all the difference in the world.”
On Saturday morning, State Police Trooper Jim Maloney worked with local and state partners to rescue eight ducklings trapped in a storm drain in the Nahant Beach parking lot, state police said.
Following the rescue, the eight ducklings were reunited with the mother duck who was waiting anxiously nearby, state police said.
“It’s a state trooper’s most fundamental mission to help others in a time of crisis and danger,” state police said in a Facebook post. “Sometimes, those in danger cannot speak for themselves. And sometimes they are a different species.
“So, when Massachusetts State Trooper Jim Maloney came across some baby ducks who had fallen through the grate of a storm drain in the parking lot at Nahant Beach Saturday morning, he fulfilled that mission to help others, with some assistance from our state and local partners.”
Shortly before 9:30 a.m., Maloney noticed eight ducklings were trapped in the water under a heavy grate. The ducklings’ mother and another baby sibling who had not fallen through were waiting nearby “because Mama would not leave her trapped babies,” state police said.
Maloney contacted the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, which manages the beach, and asked for someone to respond with a crowbar. Backup from DCR, Nahant’s Department of Public Works and an Animal Control officer from Lynn soon arrived and the rescue was underway, state police said.
A Nahant DPW crew member pried open the gate, Lynn’s Animal Control officer fished out the ducklings with a net and the ducklings were placed in a cardboard box in Maloney’s cruiser until the mother duck came out of the grass to claim her ducklings, state police said.
By 10 a.m., the mother duck had emerged from the brush, and was rewarded with the ducklings being taken out of the cardboard box and placed at the edge of the grass to entice a reunion, state police said.
“The mother immediately went to them, and together she and her nine babies — the family fully reunited — walked back into the grass,” state police said. “A small act amid the enormity of the ongoing health crisis, perhaps, but for one mother duck and her tiny babies, it made all the difference in the world.” McClatchy-Tribune News Service
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — With forecasters predicting another intense Atlantic hurricane season with as many as 13 to 19 named storms, disaster preparedness experts say it’s critically important for people in evacuation zones to plan to stay with friends or family, rather than end up in shelters during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Shelters are meant to keep you safe, not make you comfortable,” said Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator for resilience at FEMA.
“Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place, including what is in your go-kit, evacuation routes, shelters, and more,” Castillo said. “With tornado season at its peak, hurricane season around the corner, and flooding, earthquakes and wildfires a risk year-round, it is time to revise and adjust your emergency plan now.”
Six to 10 of these storms could develop into hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or more, and three to six could even become major hurricanes, capable of inflicting devastating damage.
“It is not possible to predict how many will hit land,” said Neil Jacobs, acting administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center. The agency will update the forecast in August as the Atlantic region heads into its most active months.
The region has been a “high activity era” since 1995, with warmer ocean temperatures and stronger West African monsoons causing above-average activity, NOAA forecaster Gerry Bell said.
An average Atlantic season has 12 named storms, but last year was the fourth consecutive season to have more, with 18 named storms, including three intense hurricanes — Dorian, Humberto and Lorenzo. The only other period on record that produced four consecutive above-normal seasons was 1998-2001.
The season officially extends from June through November, but Tropical Storm Arthur jumped the gun last week off the eastern U.S. coastline.
“As Americans focus their attention on a safe and healthy reopening of our country, it remains critically important that we also remember to make the necessary preparations for the upcoming hurricane season,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “Just as in years past, NOAA experts will stay ahead of developing hurricanes and tropical storms and provide the forecasts and warnings we depend on to stay safe.”