New York City erects quarantine checkpoints to curb coronavirus

By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – New York City will put up COVID-19 quarantine checkpoints at key entry points to ensure that travelers from 35 states on New York state’s travel advisory comply with the state’s 14-day quarantine mandate, Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Wednesday.

“Travelers coming in from those states will be given information about the quarantine and will be reminded that it is required, not optional,” de Blasio told a news briefing. He added that, under certain circumstances, fines for not observing the quarantine order could be as high as $10,000.

The Sheriff’s Office, in coordination with other law enforcement agencies, will begin deploying checkpoints at major bridge and tunnel crossings into New York City on Wednesday.

“This is serious stuff and it’s time for everyone to realize that if we’re going to hold at this level of health and safety in this city, and get better, we have to deal with the fact that the quarantine must be applied consistently to anyone who’s traveled,” de Blasio said.

Once the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, New York has taken strong steps to prevent a resurgence of cases that has emerged elsewhere.

In Illinois, where COVID-19 cases have risen for six weeks in a row, Chicago Public Schools will start the new academic year conducting all classes remotely, school officials said on Wednesday.

Teachers in the district, the country’s third largest with 350,000 students, had resisted a plan by city leaders to launch a hybrid model in which parents could choose to have their children attend in-person instruction in pods of 15 pupils twice a week.

The Chicago Teachers Union threatened to strike over safety concerns if city leaders did not go to all-remote learning.

“Nothing about this crisis has been easy,” Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said. “Every day has been another step into uncharted territory.”

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Writing by Lisa Shumaker; Editing by Howard Goller)

U.S. announces more coronavirus cases, details quarantine plans for returning travelers

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Monday announced a second case of transmission of the new coronavirus within the United States and provided more detailed plans on how it will handle travelers returning from China as the country works to limit the outbreak.

“We expect to see more cases of person-to-person spread,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said during a conference call that included confirmation of a handful of new cases, bringing the U.S. total to 11.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is making nearly $250 million in emergency funds available to cover the cost of the response, an agency spokesman said on Monday.

Some of that may be used to support screening and monitoring returning U.S. citizens from China who are exempt from the presidential proclamation issued on Friday suspending entry of foreign nationals who had visited China within the past 14 days.

The CDC outlined enhanced screening plans for family members of U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents returning from China, who may face a 14-day quarantine if they had been in Wuhan or the Hubei province of China, the epicenter of the epidemic.

Passengers arriving in the United States on commercial airlines will be directed to one of 11 U.S. airports for additional health assessments. If they show virus symptoms such as fever, U.S. citizens and those who are exempt will be transferred for medical evaluation, and will not be allowed to complete their travel plans.

“CDC is working with the states to determine where travelers will be quarantined,” Messonnier said.

Flights with U.S. government employees being evacuated by the State department will go to military bases. They will be under federal quarantine for 14 days from when they left Wuhan.

The CDC has sent additional teams to specific locations where the planes will arrive.

Those who do not have symptoms will be allowed to continue to their final destination, and will be asked to stay at home as much as possible and monitor their health for 14 days.

Where people will be quarantined may differ depending on the operational plans laid out by states. Some of the designated airports have military bases nearby, while some states have planned to use hotels.

“It is very localized depending on the state and local considerations,” Messonnier said. “We do not believe these people pose a risk to the communities where they are being temporarily housed. We are taking measures to minimize any exposure.”

HHS on Sunday notified Congress it may need to transfer $136 million to support efforts by the CDC, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response and the Office of Global Affairs to respond to the outbreak, the agency confirmed on Monday.

That followed a Jan. 25 notice to Congress that the CDC would tap as much as $105 million from a rapid response reserve fund to cover the costs for enhanced screening, transportation, and monitoring of U.S. citizens arriving from China.

Of the five new U.S. cases announced on Monday, one is in Massachusetts and the other four in California. Four of the five had recently traveled to Wuhan, where the outbreak originated.

One of the patients in California was infected through close contact with someone in the same household who had been infected in China. It marked the second instance of person-to-person spread of the virus in the United States after such a case was announced last week in Illinois.

The agency said it is currently monitoring 82 people for potential infection with the virus.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago; additional reporting by Manas Mishra in Bangaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

U.S. court to reconsider shielding airport screeners from abuse claims

FILE PHOTO: A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official wears a TSA badge at Terminal 4 of JFK airport in New York City, U.S., May 17, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Penney/File Photo

By Jonathan Stempel

(Reuters) – A federal appeals court decided to revisit its recent decision that made it difficult for travelers to sue U.S. airport screeners over claims of abuse at security checkpoints.

In a brief order on Wednesday, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia said a 13-judge panel will reconsider the 2-1 decision at a Feb. 20 hearing, in a rare review by the full court known as “en banc.”

The court had held on July 11 that U.S. Transportation Security Administration screeners were administrative employees of the federal government, and did not qualify as “investigative or law enforcement officers” who could be liable for civil claims under the Federal Tort Claims Act.

While the decision did not address criminal liability, Circuit Judge Thomas Ambro said in a dissent at the time that it would prevent many passengers from obtaining “any meaningful remedy” for assaults, wrongful detentions and made-up criminal charges, something he said Congress did not intend.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Justice, which represented the screeners, declined to comment.

The case had been brought by Nadine Pellegrino, a business consultant from Boca Raton, Florida, following a July 2006 screening at Philadelphia International Airport.

Pellegrino objected to the invasiveness of the screening, and was eventually jailed for about 18 hours and criminally charged with assault, making terroristic threats and other crimes, which she denied. She was acquitted at a trial.

Her case drew support from such groups as the Cato Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union.

“It’s vitally important for government officers to be held accountable for intentional misconduct,” ACLU lawyer Hugh Handeyside said in an interview. “Without that possibility, we might see more abuses.”

Ambro said the July 11 decision could provide immunity even in extreme cases, citing a 2015 incident where screeners allegedly manipulated a Denver International Airport checkpoint so a male screener could grope “attractive” male passengers.

Pellegrino, now 69, said an in interview the support she has received has been “astonishing,” adding: “We feel elated today that we’ll have an opportunity to have this reconsidered.”

The 3rd Circuit hears appeals from Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, but other courts can cite its decisions as precedent.

The case is Pellegrino et al v U.S. Transportation Security Administration et al, 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 15-3047.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Rare total solar eclipse spreads wonder across United States

Enthusiasts Tanner Person (R) and Josh Blink, both from Vacaville, California, watch a total solar eclipse while standing atop Carroll Rim Trail at Painted Hills, a unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, near Mitchell, Oregon, U.S. August 21, 2017. Location coordinates for this image is near 44°39'117'' N 120°6'042'' W. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

By Lee van der Voo and Harriet McLeod

SHERIDAN, Oregon/CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) – Millions of Americans looked skyward in awe through protective glasses, telescopes and cameras on Monday as the first coast-to-coast total solar eclipse in a century marched from the U.S. Pacific Northwest to the Atlantic seaboard.

After weeks of anticipation, onlookers from Oregon to South Carolina whooped and cheered as the moon blotted out the sun, plunging a narrow band of the United States into near darkness and colder temperatures for two minutes at a time. Even President Donald Trump stepped out of the White House to see the eclipse.

“It’s more powerful than I expected,” Robert Sarazin Blake, 40, a singer from Bellingham, Washington, said after the eclipse passed through Roshambo ArtFarm in Sheridan, Oregon. “All of a sudden you’re completely in another world. It’s like you’re walking on air or tunneling underground like a badger.”

Solar Eclipse in Depoe Bay, Oregon, U.S. August 21, 2017. Location coordinates for this image are 44º48'35" N 124º3'43" W. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Solar Eclipse in Depoe Bay, Oregon, U.S. August 21, 2017. Location coordinates for this image are 44º48’35” N 124º3’43” W. REUTERS/Mike Blake

No area in the United States had seen a total solar eclipse since 1979, while the last coast-to-coast total eclipse took place in 1918.

The rare cosmic event was expected to draw one of the largest audiences in human history, including those watching through broadcast and social media.

Some 12 million people live in the 70-mile-wide (113-km-wide), 2,500-mile-long (4,000-km-long) zone where the total eclipse appeared, while hordes of others traveled to spots along the route.

Solar Eclipse in Depoe Bay, Oregon, U.S. August 21, 2017. Location coordinates for this image are 44º48'35" N 124º3'43" W. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Solar Eclipse in Depoe Bay, Oregon, U.S. August 21, 2017. Location coordinates for this image are 44º48’35” N 124º3’43” W. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The eclipse first reached “totality” – the shadow cast when the sun is completely blocked by the moon – in Oregon at 10:15 a.m. PDT (1715 GMT) and began spreading eastward.

“It just kind of tickled you all over – it was wonderful – and I wish I could do it again,” said Stormy Shreves, 57, a fish gutter who lives in Depoe Bay, Oregon. “But I won’t see something like that ever again, so I’m really glad I took the day off work so I could experience it.”

The phenomenon took its final bow at 2:49 p.m. EDT (1849 GMT) near Charleston, South Carolina, where eclipse gazers had gathered atop the harbor’s sea wall.

A number of towns within the eclipse’s path set up public events. At the Southern Illinois University campus in Carbondale, Illinois, the 15,000-seat football stadium was sold out for Monday.

Other people in the eclipse zone hosted their own private viewing parties. At a mountain cabin in the woods in Murphy, North Carolina, the air grew cool as the moon slowly chipped away at the sun before covering it completely, leaving only a surrounding halo of light.

“That was the most beautiful thing. I could die happy now — I won’t, but I could,” said Samantha Gray, 20, an incoming graduate student at University of Chicago. “Anybody want to go on vacation with me in April 2024?”

Another total solar eclipse will cut from Mexico across the southeastern and northeastern United States on April 8, 2024.




The Monument of Liberty State is photographed while the solar eclipse is seen over Liberty State Island in New York, U.S., August 21, 2017. Location coordinates for this image are 40.4124°N, 74.237°W. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The Monument of Liberty State is photographed while the solar eclipse is seen over Liberty State Island in New York, U.S., August 21, 2017. Location coordinates for this image are 40.4124°N, 74.237°W. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

For millions of others outside the zone of totality, a partial eclipse appeared throughout North America, a spectacle that attracted its own crowds in cities like New York.


In Washington, D.C., Trump was photographed on a White House balcony squinting at the sun without protective eyewear, as an aide below shouted, “Don’t look!” Looking at the sun during a partial eclipse can cause severe eye damage.

Trump, first lady Melania Trump and their son, Barron, then donned protective glasses.

U.S. President Donald Trump watches the solar eclipse with first Lady Melania Trump and son Barron from the Truman Balcony at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

U.S. President Donald Trump watches the solar eclipse with first Lady Melania Trump and son Barron from the Truman Balcony at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 21, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Nearby, thousands of people lined the National Mall at 2:45 p.m., when four-fifths of the sun was blacked out.

“It’s amazing, super cool,” said Brittany Labrador, 30, a nurse practitioner from Memphis. “It’s kind of just cool to watch in the capital.”

Perhaps never before have so many people had the opportunity to see a total eclipse, said cartographer Michael Zeiler, who maintains the website and has seen nine total eclipses, including Monday’s.

Zeiler estimated up to 7.4 million people traveled to the zone to observe the total eclipse, which is taking place in the peak vacation month of August.

Many people trekked to remote national forests and parks of Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming. Those who live along the path, which cut through cities like Kansas City, Missouri, and Nashville, Tennessee, were able to simply walk out their homes and look up.


For those outside the shadow’s path or trapped indoors, a NASA-linked website,, provided a live stream filmed from the vantage point of 50 helium-filled balloons at a height of 80,000 feet (24,384 meters).

During a total eclipse, the sun’s disappearing act is just part of the show. The heavens dim to a quasi-twilight and some stars and planets become visible.

The last glimmer of light gives way to a momentary sparkle known as the “diamond ring” effect just before the sun slips completely behind the moon, leaving only the aura of its outer atmosphere, or corona, visible.


(Additional reporting by Jane Ross in Depoe Bay, Oregon, Brian Snyder in Carbondale, Illinois, Ian Simpson and Steve Holland in Washington, D.C., Steve Gorman in Salmon, Idaho, and Irene Klotz in Murphy, North Carolina; Writing by Frank McGurty and Joseph Ax; Editing by Bill Trott)