CORONAVIRUS:

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    The coronavirus pandemic surged into Sean Durbin’s farm-speckled Indiana county much faster than most other parts of rural America, contributing to at least 10 deaths and dozens of serious illnesses. Decatur County and two other counties in southeast Indiana have among the highest per-capita infection rates in the country, topping the Seattle area and some counties near hard-hit Detroit. As Decatur County’s public health preparedness coordinator, Durbin is working to stem the spread of the virus, even as he grieves the loss of a close friend to COVID-19 and stays apart from his wife so she can help with their new grandchild. “Every death makes me question if I did enough,” said Durbin, who is 57. “We have been ahead of everything the state has done in this county, and I still go to bed every night and ask, ‘What more could I have done to protect this population?’” Last Thursday, county officials banned nonessential travel and ordered all restaurants closed, including for takeout orders, going beyond the requirements of the governor’s stay-at-home order that took effect March 25. Decatur, Franklin and Ripley counties have a combined population of nearly 78,000 people and more than 235 confirmed coronavirus cases through Tuesday, placing them among the top 100 counties for high infection rates across the nation, according to data tracked by Johns Hopkins University. Health leaders can’t pinpoint why the area has such a high infection rate. Some point to truckers stopping off from Interstate 74 — the main route between Indianapolis and Cincinnati — and locals who work in those cities. Or suggest it's linked to the young adults who have left their hometowns for jobs and schools in recent years. “With this crisis in the big cities, we’re seeing a lot of license plates from those other states showing up because they’re coming back to mom and grandma and uncle Joe,” said Dr. David Welsh, the Ripley County health officer. There have been more than 20 COVID-19-related deaths in the three counties. At least two dozen patients are seriously ill, while others, including an infected 11-year-old child, have been recovering at home. For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms that clear up in two to three weeks. Older adults and people with existing health problems are particularly susceptible to more severe illness, including pneumonia. The three counties have older populations than Indiana as a whole, with more than 17% of residents older than 65, according to census information. Decatur County officials imposed tougher travel and business restrictions after officials saw parents still taking their children grocery shopping and teenagers gathering in parking lots, Durbin said. On the first day of the new rules, the streets in the county seat of Greensburg, population 12,000, were largely quiet, and few shoppers roamed the aisles of Walmart. Greensburg resident Judith Corner said she believed people were taking the warnings seriously, and that she agrees with the precautions. “I’ve had friends that are wearing their masks and gloves to the store,” she said. “If we go for a walk, then we stay 6 feet apart.” Honda’s 2,500-worker auto plant in Greensburg has been closed since March 23. A company spokesman said one contractor tested positive, and that person's colleagues have been notified. The area's two hospitals, in Greensburg and Batesville, normally operate with 25 available beds each. Both have plans to more than double that capacity and treat more seriously ill patients as cases surge. Dr. Wayne Perry, chief of staff at Decatur County Memorial, said his hospital has the same concerns as larger ones about the availability of testing, protective gear and ventilators. And he worries about the number of drivers he sees during his 5-minute drive from home to the hospital. “Until people see and really understand and appreciate the threat, then it’s someone else’s problem,” Perry said. “These measures are so important. Our only fight against this right now is social distancing and following those guidelines.” The health department has been assisting with testing and tracking illnesses in rural areas, said Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner. The agency is also trying to help rural hospitals obtain equipment. Durbin has been staying away from his wife, including sleeping in a different room. They said their goodbyes on Monday, when she headed to Cincinnati to help their daughter with their new grandson. “Couldn’t even give her a hug,' Durbin said. “We’ll just have to get used to that. That’s the way of life these days.” Durbin said he’s been healthy so far and will keep showing up at the four-employee health department as long as he can. But he despairs at the prospect of not meeting his grandson for months and for the losses in the community where he’s lived since he was a teenager. “I know several of the people who have died. And if I don’t know them, I know somebody who knows them,” Durbin said. “So you see the grief. You see how it hits home. That would be the biggest difference than a big city — is that we all know each other. It’s like somebody from your family dying.” ___ Davies reported from Indianapolis. Associated Press video journalist Noreen Nasir in Chicago contributed to this report.
  • Taiwan's foreign ministry on Thursday strongly protested accusations from the head of the World Health Organization that it condoned racist personal attacks on him that he alleged were coming from the self-governing island democracy. The ministry expressed “strong dissatisfaction and a high degree of regret' at WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus' remarks at a press briefing Wednesday. It requested he “immediately correct his unfounded allegations, immediately clarify, and apologize to our country.” Taiwan’s 23 million people have themselves been “severely discriminated against” by the politics of the international health system and “condemn all forms of discrimination and injustice,” the statement said. Taiwan is a 'mature, highly sophisticated nation and could never instigate personal attacks on the director-general of the WHO, much less express racist sentiments,' it said. At the press briefing in Geneva, Tedros vocally defended himself and the U.N. health agency's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. He accused Taiwan's foreign ministry of being linked to a months-long campaign against him and said that since the emergence of the new coronavirus, he has been personally attacked, including receiving at times, death threats and racist abuse. “This attack came from Taiwan,” said Tedros, who is a former Ethiopian health and foreign minister and the WHO's first African leader. He said Taiwanese diplomats were aware of the attacks but did not dissociate themselves from them. “They even started criticizing me in the middle of all those insults and slurs,” Tedros said. “I say it today because it’s enough.” The basis of his allegations were unclear. Tedros was elected with the strong support of China, one of five permanent veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council and which claims Taiwan as its own territory. He has firmly backed Beijing's claims to have been open and transparent about the outbreak, despite strong evidence that it suppressed early reports on infections, while echoing its criticisms of the U.S. At China's insistence, Taiwan has been barred from the U.N. and the WHO and even stripped of its observer status at the annual World Health Assembly. At the same time, it has one of the most robust public health systems in the world, and has won praise for its handling of the virus outbreak. Despite its close proximity to China and the frequency of travel between the sides, Taiwan has reported just 379 cases and five deaths. U.S. and Taiwanese officials met online last month to discuss ways of increasing the island’s participation in the world health system, sparking fury from Beijing, which opposes all official contacts between Washington and Taipei. Also at Wednesday's briefing, Tedros sought to rise above sharp criticism and threats of funding cuts from President Donald Trump over the WHO's response to the outbreak. The vocal defense came a day after Trump blasted the agency for being “China-centric” and alleging that it had “criticized” his ban of travel from China as the COVID-19 outbreak was spreading from the city of Wuhan. In a further comment on Tedros' remarks, Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu tweeted that the island agreed with his assertion that there was, “No need to use COVID to score political points.' “We agree! Yet without evidence, #Taiwan is accused of orchestrating personal attacks. This claim is baseless, without merit & further marginalizes the good work in which the @WHO is engaged worldwide,' Wu tweeted. Tedros had not appeared to have accused the Taiwanese government of being directly behind the attacks, but merely of condoning them.
  • Instead of preparing for a playoff run, LeBron James is mostly spending the spring playing hoops with his teenage sons and enjoying tea time with his young daughter. And when he isn't binge-watching “Tiger King” with his wife, he is scanning the news for information on whether the coronavirus pandemic will allow the Los Angeles Lakers to finish their impressive season chasing an NBA championship. James is still optimistic about the Lakers' future, but he also knows safety comes first. “I don’t think I’ll be able to have any closure if we do not have an opportunity to finish this season,” James said from his home Wednesday on a conference call with Lakers beat reporters. The Lakers were cruising toward their first playoff berth since 2013 when the NBA season was suspended March 11. They have the Western Conference’s best record at 49-14, leading the second-place Clippers (44-20) by 5 1/2 games and trailing only Milwaukee (53-12) in the overall league standings. The Lakers did it following a thorough roster turnover last summer headlined by the arrival of Anthony Davis. They also persevered through a stressful preseason trip to China, followed by the death of franchise icon Kobe Bryant in a helicopter crash in January. James' 17th NBA season is obviously unique for many reasons, but he is uncommonly proud of what the Lakers have accomplished so far. “I can have some satisfaction on what our team has been able to do this year (with) a first-year coach, first-year system, a whole new coaching staff, bringing on so many new pieces to our team this year,” James said. “I honestly didn’t think that we would be able to come together as fast as we did, just having so many new pieces (and) bringing in Anthony. He spent seven years in New Orleans, so he was coming into a new system, playing along with myself, and how we would be able to come together? I thought it would take us a lot longer than it did, but I was wrong. I was very wrong about that.” And then all that good work abruptly stopped four weeks ago. Two unidentified Lakers players subsequently tested positive for coronavirus, but the Lakers say James and his teammates are all healthy after they completed their 14-day isolation. James will be deeply disappointed if the Lakers don't get a chance to test themselves during a playoff run, yet he realizes what's most important in the upcoming weeks and months. James initially expressed reluctance about playing games in empty arenas, or the possibility of NBA teams gathering in the same city to complete the season in a form of sports quarantine. The 16-time All-Star selection now says he is up for anything that's safe and smart. “If it’s in one single, isolated destination, if it’s Las Vegas or somewhere else that can hold us and keep us in the best possible chance to be safe, not only on the floor but also off the floor as well, then those conversations will be had,” James said. “Once this thing gets a good handle on it and the people in the higher ranks understand it, if they know we are safe, then we can make the next step. But the safety is always the most important, and then we go from there.” James isn't yet back at work with Mike Mancias, his personal trainer. Instead, he says he is training with his wife, Savannah, and playing plenty of hoops with Bronny James, their 15-year-old son, at a thoroughly sterilized court owned by a friend. He also shoots hoops outside at his own home with the whole family. James is doing weekly meditation, but says his mental state is outstanding thanks to his family. He has frequently spoken about missing time with loved ones during the grind of the NBA season, so he is enjoying this intensive togetherness with his kids. “They wake up every day in a positive mind frame,” James said with a laugh. “Maybe one reason is they’re not actually in school, so I know they get to sleep in a lot more now. But also they’re just so appreciative of life. ... Just being able to see my kids wake up with that positive attitude helps. For me, I wake up, I’m able to get a nice breakfast, and then I train. And when I’m training, I’m always in a very positive state of mind.” ___ More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Former Texas Rangers star Josh Hamilton has been indicted on a felony charge of injury to a child after his teenage daughter accused him of beating her. A Tarrant County grand jury indicted the 38-year-old Hamilton on Monday. He remains free on $30,000 bond after he turned himself in to authorities on Oct. 30. If convicted, he faces a prison sentence of two to 10 years in prison. Hamilton's attorneys say the Texas Rangers Hall of Famer is innocent of the charge. His 14-year-old daughter told her mother, Hamilton’s ex-wife, that her father struck her after he became enraged by a comment from her. According to an affidavit by a Keller Police Department detective, Hamilton’s daughter told police that he went on a rampage Sept. 30. She says she made a comment to Hamilton that upset him, so he threw a full water bottle overhand at her, hitting her in the chest, then cursed and shouted at her. He pulled away the chair on which she rested her feet and threw it, breaking the chair, she told detectives. It didn’t hit her, but he then grabbed her by the shoulders and lifted her from the chair on which she sat. She fell to the floor, and he lifted her up, threw her over his shoulder and carried her to her bedroom. The girl said at this point she was telling Hamilton, “I’m sorry.” Upon reaching her bedroom door, he tossed the teen onto her bed, pressed her face onto the mattress and began hitting her legs with an open hand and closed fist. She said that after he finished striking her, he told her, “I hope you go in front of the f---ing judge and tell him what a terrible dad I am so I don’t have to see you anymore and you don’t have to come to my house again.” As he left the room, Hamilton's daughter said he told her to gather her things for school. When she replied that she had already put them in the car, he responded, “Well, aren’t you just the perfect child.” After Hamilton was the first overall pick out of high school in the 1999 amateur draft by Tampa Bay, his career was nearly destroyed by cocaine and alcohol addiction. He returned to baseball with Cincinnati and made his big league debut in 2007, when he hit 19 homers in 90 games before being traded to the Rangers. He was part of their only two World Series teams (2010 and 2011) and was an All-Star five seasons in a row. An awe-inspiring display in the Home Run Derby at Yankee Stadium in 2008 was a highlight of his career, when the first-time All-Star led the American League with 130 RBI while hitting .304 with 32 homers in his first full season. He hit four homers in the 2010 AL Championship Series and had a four-homer game at Baltimore in 2012. Hamilton left the Rangers in free agency, signing a $125 million, five-year deal with the Los Angeles Angels before the 2013 season. He was recovering from shoulder surgery when the Angels traded him back to Texas in 2015 after his two injury-plagued seasons with Los Angeles. He played 50 games for Texas in 2015 but never again after he underwent surgery at least three times afterward.
  • A girl with a rare form of epilepsy whose recovery inspired the name of a medical marijuana oil that drew families of children with similar health problems to Colorado for treatment has died after being hospitalized and treated as a likely coronavirus patient, her mother said Wednesday. Charlotte Figi was 13. Charlotte, who lived in Colorado Springs, died Tuesday after suffering a seizure that resulted in cardiac arrest and respiratory failure, her mother, Paige Figi, said in a statement. Charlotte tested negative for the coronavirus when she was initially admitted to a hospital on Friday but was still treated as a likely COVID-19 case when she was returned to the hospital Tuesday after the seizure because her whole family had been sick for a month with suspected coronavirus symptoms, Figi said. Her death was first announced by the group co-founded by Paige Figi, Realm of Caring Foundation, to help other families who uprooted their lives for a chance to use cannabis to treat their children's seizures before marijuana became more widely legalized in the United States. Charlotte’s case and the advocacy of her parents played a significant role in drawing attention to the potential that a drug derived from cannabis could be used to treat epilepsy. “Some journeys are long and bland and others are short and poignant and meant to revolutionize the world. Such was the path chosen by this little girl with a catastrophic form of epilepsy called Dravet Syndrome,” the announcement said. At age 5, Charlotte suffered as many as 300 grand mal seizures a week, used a wheelchair, went into repeated cardiac arrest and could barely speak. With doctors out of ideas, Paige Figi began calling medical marijuana shops. Her symptoms largely disappeared after she began taking an oil created using a strain of marijuana with low THC, the drug's psychoactive compound, but high in the chemical CBD, created by Stanley Brothers, a marijuana business in Colorado. It later named it after her. Federal prohibition of marijuana has limited research into marijuana and individual compounds' health effects, but Charlotte's family and hundreds of others shared their own experience using it for seizure disorders. U.S. health regulators in 2018 approved the first prescription drug made with CBD to treat rare forms of epilepsy in young children. In an online tribute, Stanley Brothers praised Charlotte as “a light that lit the world.” “She grew, cultivated by a community, protected by love, demanding that the world witness her suffering so that they might find a solution,” it said. For most, the coronavirus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and death. Over 300,000 people worldwide have recovered.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued new guidelines for essential workers, such as those in the health care and food supply industries. The guidance is focused on when those workers can return to work after having been exposed to the new coronavirus. — Do take your temperature before work. — Do wear a face mask at all times. — Do practice social distancing as work duties permit. — Don't stay at work if you become sick — Don't share headsets or objects used near face. — Don't congregate in the break room or other crowded places. The CDC also issued guidance for employers in essential industries. — Do take employees' temperature and assess for symptoms prior to their starting work. — Do increase the frequency of cleaning commonly touched surfaces. — Do increase air exchange in the building. — Do send sick workers home immediately. — Do test the use of face masks to ensure they don't interfere with workflow.
  • Texas A&M Chancellor John Sharp said Wednesday that officials believe a 13-game college football schedule would be possible even if the start of the season was delayed until October because of the new coronavirus. The season is scheduled to begin with seven FBS games Aug. 29 before the majority of teams open the following week. Speaking in a live video discussion with the Texas Tribune, Sharp addressed the football season in answering a question about the university system's lost revenue because of college sporting events which have been canceled because of the COVID-19 virus. Sharp said he's gotten many questions about football and whether it will return on time this season, if at all. “In some conversations with SEC officials and NCAA, I think they’ve come to the conclusion that you can probably start football as late as October and still have a 13-game schedule,' Sharp said. Sharp then added that there are many unknowns about football season because of the pandemic that has killed thousands and shut down sports across the globe. “We don’t know when this thing is going to end,' he said. “We don’t know when this is going to happen. For all we know, we may have football where we have coaches and players and referees on a field with a TV camera and nobody in the stadium. We don’t know.' SEC spokesman Herb Vincent said he was not familiar with the conversations Sharp referred to, but addressed the league's hopes for the upcoming season. “Our focus is on preparing to play the season as scheduled,' Vincent said in an email to The Associated Press. “As we have done in recent weeks, using the best available information from public health officials, at an appropriate time we will make decisions about the future.' The NCAA didn't immediately respond to a request seeking comment about Sharp's remarks. ___ More AP college football: https://apnews.com/Collegefootball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • The stage is set for November. Barring unforeseen disaster, Joe Biden will represent the Democratic Party against President Donald Trump this fall, the former vice president's place on the general election ballot cemented Wednesday by Bernie Sanders' decision to end his campaign. Biden likely won’t secure the number of delegates needed to clinch the nomination until June. But without any Democratic rivals left, a general election campaign that will almost certainly be the most expensive and among the nastiest in U.S. history is underway. “It won’t be easy. Nobody’s confused about that. But we are ready for the general election. We are ready for our standard-bearer,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said. “I’m confident because Joe Biden's values reflect the values of the majority of the American people that we can win.' In Biden and Trump, voters will choose between two white septuagenarians with dramatically different prescriptions for health care, climate change, foreign policy and leadership in an era of extreme partisanship. At 77, Biden becomes the oldest major party presidential nominee in modern history. And having spent most of his life as an elected official in Washington, no nominee has had more experience in government. But in Trump, Biden is up against an adversary the likes of which he has never faced in his decadeslong political career. The 73-year-old Republican president opens with a massive cash advantage and a well-established willingness to win at any cost. Trump's campaign is moving forward with a multipronged attack that mixes legitimate criticism with baseless charges and, in some cases, outright conspiracy theories. It's similar to the unconventional playbook Trump used against Hillary Clinton four years ago with unexpectedly devastating success. Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh said Biden will be portrayed as too liberal for most Americans, weighed down by questions about his son's overseas business dealings and about questionable mental acuity at his age. Brad Parscale, Trump's campaign manager, predicted Trump would “destroy” Biden, whom the president and his allies have nicknamed “Sleepy Joe.” “President Trump is still disrupting Washington, D.C., while Biden represents the old, tired way and continuing to coddle the communist regime in China,” Parscale said. Trump's team also believes he can win over disaffected Sanders supporters who see Biden as a consummate insider. Shortly after Sanders' announcement, the president charged without evidence that Democratic leaders were plotting against Sanders. The Republican National Committee has already assembled an extensive research book on Biden. The GOP has devoted 10 researchers to Biden and sent hundreds of Biden-related freedom of information and public records requests to gather additional damaging material. Before Biden can shift his entire focus to Trump, the former vice president is tasked with winning over Sanders' skeptical far-left supporters, who have trashed Biden's record on trade, criminal justice, corporate America and foreign policy. The party's most progressive wing also fears that Biden's policies on health care and the environment, among others, don't go far enough. For example, Biden supports universal health care, but unlike Sanders, he would preserve the private insurance system and offer Americans a government-backed “public option” instead of Sanders' signature “Medicare for All.' Biden advisers note that he had already begun reaching out to Sanders' aligned progressive organizations, including those focused on young people like the Sunrise Movement and the March For Our Lives. Perhaps Biden's most powerful ally, former President Barack Obama, was quiet on Wednesday. Still, the former president and first lady Michelle Obama are ultimately expected to help rally the party behind Biden, who served for eight years as Obama's vice president. Trump tried to raise suspicion about why Obama had yet to endorse Biden, saying: “When is it going to happen? Why isn’t he? He knows something that you don’t know.” Former presidents typically don’t interject themselves in the primary process, and Obama had long maintained he wouldn’t get involved until a nominee had been selected. Biden's new status as the presumptive nominee affords him the freedom to move forward more openly with selecting his own running mate. He’s already started vetting potential vice presidents, but he had to tread gently with Sanders still in the race. No more. The campaign’s general counsel, Dana Remus, and an outside adviser, Bob Bauer, are leading the early weeks of the search process. Bauer served as White House counsel to Obama and is married to Anita Dunn, Biden’s top campaign strategist. Biden acknowledged during a virtual fundraiser Wednesday that his team has discussed a faster timeline for announcing his running mate, which traditionally comes on the eve of the national convention. But, he added, “It’s going to take a while to get through the usual vetting.” Meanwhile, both candidates are staring down a coronavirus pandemic that has turned 2020 campaign logistics on their head. With peak infection rates still several weeks away for many parts of the country, the outbreak and related economic devastation will play a major role in shaping voter attitudes and campaign logistics. For now, Biden and Trump are effectively stuck at home like much of America. Biden's team suggest that his empathy and experience are right for the moment, yet he has struggled to be heard from the makeshift television studio in the basement of his Delaware home. The campaign has committed to at least one virtual event each day, while Trump has starred in widely viewed daily White House briefings about the coronavirus outbreak. Despite the challenges, Biden will move into the fall with a broad coalition comprised of working-class whites, older African Americans and even disaffected Republicans who have been alienated by Trump's GOP. The Lincoln Project, a collection of former Republicans, formally endorsed Biden shortly after Sanders' announcement. “As America contends with unprecedented loss, we need a leader who can steady our ship of state, bind up our common wounds, and lead us into our next national chapter,' said group co-founder Reed Galen. 'Joe Biden has the humanity, empathy and steadiness we need in a national leader.” ___ Associated Press writer Bill Barrow in Atlanta contributed to this report. ___ Catch up on the 2020 election campaign with AP experts on our weekly politics podcast, “Ground Game.”
  • For all the planning that went into “CBS This Morning” putting on a broadcast with its anchors working remotely, no one thought about the pillow. It sat — slightly crookedly — on a chair behind Gayle King in the makeshift studio set up in her family room. And that pillow, every time the camera caught it, was driving one viewer nuts. More than most news programs, morning shows on ABC, CBS and NBC thrive by fostering a sense that their personalities are a chummy family. Now, due to coronavirus restrictions, those family members appear onscreen in dislocated boxes, and invite viewers into their homes instead of vice versa. The least they can do is straighten out the furniture. “We're doing the best we can,” King replied on-air to the pillow-obsessed fan. “CBS This Morning” was first evicted from its New York studio on March 12 after someone in the building came down with the coronavirus, but it resisted breaking up its team of King, Tony Dokoupil and Anthony Mason. They traveled to a studio in Washington, D.C. for two days, returned to CBS headquarters then did a week at a nearby theater where Stephen Colbert films the “Late Show” when he has an audience. But after Mason began to self-quarantine after being exposed to someone who had exhibited coronavirus symptoms, work at home became a reality for CBS News. Each morning show had its own trigger. Because past health issues compromised Robin Roberts' immune system, her doctor ordered ABC's “Good Morning America' anchor out of New York. A cold first forced the “Today” show's Savannah Guthrie into a basement in upstate New York. “There's an intimacy to morning television, and what I'm very proud of is that we've been able to stay a family,” Roberts said. “Yes, we may be in different boxes on the screen and not sitting next to each other, but we're still connected.” Roberts said she senses viewers looking over her shoulder at framed pictures in the background of the daily camera shot from her Connecticut home, trying to figure out who they are. “We're opening up our homes,” she said. “We're being very vulnerable in sharing so much of ourselves and people that are at home and missing their colleagues, they're doing the same thing. It's very relatable.” On NBC's “Today” show, Carson Daly has shown off his new baby and submitted to a homemade haircut. Roberts' “GMA” partner, George Stephanopoulos, started worked from home after his wife, Ali Wentworth, came down with COVID-19. With the responsibility of taking care of her and their children while watching their own health, he's looked utterly exhausted. NBC's Al Roker, delivering weather forecasts from his kitchen with his backyard in view, has one of the more interesting backdrops. So is the knick-knack filled dining room where Mason sits, dominated by a large painting of the Piazza San Marco in Venice. With a large monitor behind him, Dokoupil's location seems indistinguishable from a regular studio, in part because he has to share a workspace with his wife, NBC News' Katy Tur. Guthrie has gone from drab — an ugly blue backdrop — to arguably deceptive, a background photo of Rockefeller Center. Her backing is a fluid situation. The basement isn't exactly picturesque, but it's the best place to set up the studio, she said. “The problem with my kitchen is that it's teeming with toddlers,” she said. “It's better in the basement.” Not every personality works from home. Guthrie's partner Hoda Kotb has largely kept to the show home off Rockefeller Plaza, where the crowds that used to peer into the streetside studio are now gone. When she broke down following a recent story about New Orleans, Guthrie was too far away to offer a hug. It would have violated social distancing protocol, anyway. “Everybody wants to have the optimal working conditions,” King said, “and the optimal working conditions are to gather at that table ... When it's no longer feasible or no longer smart to do that, you have to pivot. This story is such a moving target.” She's learned she's not the work-at-home type. King is about to become even more alone; she's had help from a technician but that will end when CBS installs a robotic camera. “I know the importance of doing it this way,' she said. 'The social distancing is no joke ... If any one of us goes down, all of us go down.” The intense story has also forced content changes on the shows, not just physical ones. Lighter, celebrity segments are largely gone. From her basement, Guthrie has interviewed Govs. Andrew Cuomo and J.B. Pritzker, Trump administration medical experts Jerome Adams, Deborah Birx and Anthony Fauci, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio, Fed Chairman Jerome Powell and the heads of Ford and Johnson & Johnson. While news prevails, the shows want to highlight heroes and do service journalism. A segment about cleaning groceries got 3 million hits on Roberts' Facebook page. As one producer said, “I could visit every emergency room in the country every day, but even I wouldn't want to watch that.” Maintaining a balance is important, said “Today” executive producer Libby Leist. “Sometimes it's how you tell the story,” Guthrie said. “I think we're trying to have a touch that is human and, for lack of a better word, gentle, while also being rigorous, straightforward and honest.” ___ This story corrects that Antony Mason began to work at home after being exposed to someone who exhibited coronavirus symptoms, instead of someone who tested positive.
  • Linda Tripp, whose secretly recorded conversations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky led to the 1998 impeachment of President Bill Clinton, died Wednesday at age 70. Her death was confirmed by attorney Joseph Murtha. He provided no further details. In August 1994, Tripp became a public affairs specialist at the Pentagon, where Lewinsky worked after being a White House intern. The two reportedly became friends. Tripp made secret tapes of conversations with Lewinsky, who told her she had had an affair with Clinton. Tripp turned almost 20 hours of tapes over to Kenneth Starr, the independent prosecutor investigating the president, prompting the investigation that led to his impeachment. As news broke Wednesday that Tripp was near death, Lewinsky tweeted that she hoped for her recovery “no matter the past.”