iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — The changing nature of the explosives being used in and around Austin has investigators scrambling for a break in the case, but police continue to reiterate their call for residents to be exceedingly cautious. Police have been warning residents about suspicious packages since the second and third package bombs detonated at residences in the Texas capital on March 12, but the nature of the warnings have changed as the types of explosives have evolved.The first three blasts stemmed from package bombs that were left in front of private homes. The fourth explosive is believed to have been detonated by a trip wire in a grassy area next to a road. And now investigators are working to determine if a blast at a FedEx distribution facility about 65 miles southwest of Austin is connected. According to police, who spoke with San Antonio ABC affiliate KSAT, a medium-sized box exploded at the facility in the early hours this morning.Possible warning signsThe general warning that Austin police have been stressing to residents is that they should report any suspicious items they see, “whether it be a package, a bag, a backpack or anything that looks out of place,” they wrote in a statement this morning. On March 17, one day before the fourth blast, the Austin police released a graphic with a picture of an example of a suspicious package. It highlighted several signs that should spark suspicion, including excessive postage, misspelled words or a badly written address. A note that the package is “Personal!” or confidential or has no return address should be red flags, too.Oily stains, strange scents, powder residue or protruding wires were also listed as indicators of a suspicious package. Specifics about the package deliveriesIn addressing the first three blasts, Austin police chief Brian Manley said they did not believe that the packages are being delivered by any formal mail services, including the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, UPS or DHL.“They’re an average-size delivery box. They’re not exceptionally large,” Manley said on March 12, the day of the second and third blasts.The suspect or suspects did not ring the doorbell with the delivery of the first three packages, Manley said, so it is unclear how long the packages were on the victims’ porches before they saw and moved them.“What we know is when the victims have seen these packages on the front porch, they have gone out and handled them in some way or another and have had the explosions occur,” Manley said.“These devices can explode in many ways, either by being moved or being opened. So that’s why I want to reiterate the importance that if you see something that’s out of place, do not handle it, do not move it, do not touch it. Call us,” Manley said.“If you had a package at your home and you were not expecting a delivery, if the package delivered to your doorstep looks suspicious in any way, call 911 and report it. We will respond,” Manley said.Police received hundreds of calls about packages in the days after that warning.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
ABCNews.com(NEW YORK) — Heavy rain, gusty winds and thunderstorms are hitting South Florida as the Gulf Coast braces for looming Tropical Storm Gordon.A hurricane warning is in effect along the Mississippi and Alabama coast, where the storm is expected to make landfall Tuesday night or early Wednesday.Gordon is forecast to strengthen into a minimal Category 1 hurricane just before landfall, the National Hurricane Center said Monday.“The City of New Orleans is prepared,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said in a statement. “I am urging all of our residents to monitor the weather forecasts, to stay informed, and to have a plan in place.”Parts of the Gulf Coast could see 3 to 6 inches of rain and South Florida could see up to 8 inches of rain.Wind gusts could reach 50 to 60 mph.Flash flooding and an isolated tornado are also possible.Wet Labor DayMeanwhile, a lot of the country is facing heavy rain and flooding this Labor Day — especially Kansas.At least 300 people were displaced in Riley County, Kansas, after the area was struck by heavy rain and significant flooding.Over 700 homes are without power and many bridges and roads are closed.Fire crews headed down streets in boats to rescue residents and pets.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Oklahoma Department of Corrections (STILLWATER, Okla.) — A massive manhunt in Oklahoma for a convicted murderer serving a life sentence continued Sunday, three days after he posed as his look-alike cellmate and was bailed out of a county jail, officials said.Escaped fugitive Patrick Walker, 34, was described as a “violent individual” by state prison officials, who are asking the public to call 911 if he is spotted.Matt Elliott, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Department of Correction, said U.S. Marshals, county deputies and state troopers across the state are searching for Walker.“It’s as intense as it was from the beginning. The marshals were involved from Day 1,” Elliott told ABC News on Sunday.Walker escaped Thursday from the Payne County Jail in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he was being held pending a court hearing on charges he assaulted a guard at the Cimarron Correctional Facility in Cushing, Oklahoma, officials said.“He impersonated one of his cellmates, had their identification information — like their ID cards, things like that,” Elliott told ABC affiliate station KOCO-TV in Oklahoma City. “He was able to pose as that inmate and bond out.”Walker allegedly stole the identification card of Charles Pendarvis, threatening to harm Pendarvis’ family if he didn’t give him his ID, officials said.Elliott said Walker may still be using Pendarvis’ identity and that investigators are looking into whether Walker got outside help in arranging the bond.Walker signed his own name on the bail forms when he was released Thursday night, but the bondsman who asked for his signature didn’t catch it until after Walker left the jail and vanished, officials said.“This is a violent individual, and he should not be approached or dealt with in any way other than by law enforcement,” Elliott said. “If anybody sees him or thinks they may recognize him, they need to call 911 immediately.”Authorities suspect Walker is armed and dangerous.He was described as standing 5 feet 7 inches tall and weighs 174 pounds, with brown eyes and a long scar on the left side of his face running parallel to his jawline.Walker is serving a life sentence for the Nov. 6, 2001, killing of 19-year-old Brandon Harlan, who was found shot to death in a car in Oklahoma City. A jury convicted Walker of murder in 2003, and he was sentenced to life in prison.Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
US Coast Guard(CLEVELAND, Ohio) — An ice floe became a nightmare for dozens of fishermen in Lake Erie on Saturday afternoon after rising temperatures caused the chuck of ice to float away from shore.The U.S. Coast Guard was forced to rescue 46 ice fishermen near Catawaba Island, Ohio, after the sheets broke free and began floating away with them on it. When the ice began to break and separate from the shore, about 100 other fishermen were able to get back on land. The Coast Guard was called to rescue the remaining fishermen with help from Catawaba Island Fire, Put-in-Bay Fire and Southshore Towing.“As soon as we got our lines down a guy started screaming and that’s when we knew something had happened,” fisherman James Gibelyou told Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS. “Running across, guys were falling in,” Gibelyou continued. “I decided to stay back; I knew better to wait for rescue.”Gibelyou said he waited a couple hours for rescue and floated almost 2 miles out into the lake. There were no injuries reported.The high temperature in Sandusky, just a few miles south of Catawaba Island, was a relatively balmy 41 degrees on Saturday. The high just four days earlier was 19 degrees.The water temperature in Lake Erie was 33 degrees off Toledo, Ohio, on Saturday, according to the National Weather Service. Ice fishing is a popular pastime along the northwest coast of Ohio. Walleye, yellow perch and smallmouth bass are all common in the western basin during the winter season, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Wildlife.“As temperatures begin to rise, the Coast Guard strongly urges people not to go out onto ice,” the service said in a statement. “Ice may look safe but it is difficult to determine the thickness visually and the increase in warm weather will continue to melt and weaken the ice.”Everyone was rescued by 11:15 a.m., the Coast Guard said.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
aimintang/iStock(STATE COLLEGE, Pa.) — Four former Pennsylvania State University fraternity brothers have been sentenced in connection with the death of a pledge during a booze-soaked hazing ritual two years ago.Luke Visser, Joseph Sala, Joshua Kurczewski and Michael Bonattuci, former members of the Penn State chapter of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity, were sentenced on Tuesday by a judge in Centre County Court in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania, courthouse sources told ABC News. All four had previously pleaded guilty to hazing-related charges stemming from the February 2017 death of 19-year-old sophomore Timothy Piazza. “There’s still a long road ahead of us,” Piazza’s father, Jim Piazza, told ABC News in an interview Tuesday.Visser received two to six months in jail and three years of probation. Sala was sentenced to three to 10 months of house arrest plus two years of probation. Kurczewski received three to nine months in jail and one year of probation. Bonatucci was sentenced to one to six months in jail plus one year of probation. They also were ordered to pay fines and perform community service, sources told ABC News.It’s the first time the judge has handed down jail sentences in the case, which was prosecuted by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office.“Today was a significant step forward in the long road to justice for the parents of Tim Piazza with the sentencing of three individuals to prison,” the Piazza family attorney, Thomas Kline, told ABC News in a statement Tuesday.Piazza, of Lebanon, New Jersey, died from traumatic brain injuries Feb. 4, 2017, two days after he fell down a flight of stairs into the basement at the Beta Theta Pi fraternity during a night of heavy drinking for a pledge acceptance ceremony called “The Gauntlet.” Fraternity brothers carried Piazza back upstairs and placed him on a couch, where they poured water on his face and slapped him in an attempt to wake him up, according to a grand jury report that cited evidence including surveillance video, witness testimony and phone records.Piazza tried to stand on his own but fell down each time until he eventually stopped moving. A fraternity member finally called 911, about 12 hours after the initial fall, by which time Piazza was breathing heavily, had blood on his face and his skin had turned grey, according to the grand jury report.In March 2017, the Beta Theta Pi fraternity was permanently banned from Penn State. The university said its investigation of the fraternity revealed “disturbing facts,” including a persistent pattern of serious alcohol abuse, hazing as well as illicit drug use and sales.After their son died, Jim and Evelyn Piazza helped form the Anti-Hazing Coalition with other families who have experienced a similar loss. The national coalition, which includes organization that represent dozens of fraternities and sororities, is fighting for new legislation to increase criminal penalties.In October, the Piazzas joined Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf at the signing of the Timothy J. Piazza Anti Hazing Law, which requires schools in the state to help prevent hazing, to provide law enforcement tools to address hazing and to hold abusers accountable.“There’s still a lot that needs to occur in regards to Tim’s killing,” Jim Piazza told ABC News on Tuesday. “There’s a lot to be seen.”Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
traveler1116/iStock(MONTGOMERY, Ala.) — Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey on Monday signed into law a controversial bill that requires chemical castration for convicted child sex offenders before they are released from prison. The bill, HB 379, requires convicted offenders who abused a child under the age of 13 to take drugs — such as medroxyprogesterone acetate treatment, that block the production of testosterone as well as other naturally occurring hormones and chemicals in the body that drive libido — as a condition for parole. Offenders will also be required to pay for the treatment unless they cannot afford it. Alabama is not the only state to require chemical castration for sex offenders. California passed a chemical castration bill in the 1990s for repeat child sex offenders, and a similar law exists in other states including Florida, Louisiana, Montana and Oregon.Michigan used to have a law mandating chemical castration as a parole condition, but an appeals court in 1984 ruled it unlawful. Texas, meanwhile, has a law that stipulates an orchiectomy cannot be a condition for parole, and the inmate must request the procedure for it to be performed.Under the Alabama law, chemical castration treatment is planned to start a month before an inmate is set to be released from prison, and will continue until the court decides it is no longer necessary, according to the bill. Once released, if the parolee decides to stop receiving the treatment, they will be found in violation of their parole and immediately sent back to prison. Some studies have found that chemical castration of sexual offenders is effective in reducing recidivism in certain cases.Critics of mandated chemical castration, such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), say it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment’s ban of “cruel and unusual punishment”. In 1997, the ACLU openly opposed the passing both California and Florida’s castration laws.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
Lansing Police Department(LANSING, Mich.) — A Michigan police department has released body camera footage that appears to show an officer striking a 16-year-old runaway they were apprehending to return to a youth center.Officers from the Lansing Police Department were called on Friday morning after emergency dispatchers received a 911 call from a resident asking police to pick up two teens who had escaped from an in-county youth center, Lansing Police Chief Mike Yankowski told reporters during a news conference on Friday. The teens, a 16-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy, were being housed at the center for probation violations, and police had warrants to re-detain them, Yankowski said. Officers had been looking for them in the same area the day before, Yankowski said.When officers arrived to the neighborhood, they spotted two people who matched the teens’ descriptions who “took off running” once the officers identified themselves, Yankowski said.Body camera footage from officer Bailey Ueberroth begins as he chases the 16-year-old girl through a residential neighborhood in Lansing. After Ueberroth handcuffs her, they walk together back to his patrol car, and she begins shouting at people on the street before slipping out of her handcuffs.Another officer then comes to assist re-securing the handcuffs as the teen and Ueberroth struggle on the ground, the video shows, and the teen continues to yell at the onlookers on the street.“I didn’t put my hands on her,” she screams in frustration. “You called the police for no reason.”The teen then falls to the ground, causing the officers to carry her back to the patrol car by her legs and arms, the video shows.Once she was placed in the backseat, she extended her right leg to prevent the officers from closing the car door. PHOTO: Body camera footage from the Lansing Police Department shows an officer striking a 16-year-old girl who had escaped from a youth home on probation violation charges on Friday, June 14, 2019. Lansing Police DepartmentThe teen could be heard yelling at the officer to stop hitting her, but she continued to hold the car door open with her foot, telling officers “no” when they told her to put her leg in the car.“I ain’t doing s—,” the teen says as multiple people on the street admonish the officers for how they handled the situation.Once the officers finally close the door, Ueberroth starts the car and drives away as the teen cries in the backseat.The 15-year-old male was also captured and returned to the youth center, Yankowski said. He did damage to another patrol car by kicking it, Yankowski added.Officers are permitted to use force that is “objectively reasonable,” and this case will be thoroughly reviewed, Yankowski said.Ueberroth has been with the department for six months and Howley has been with the department for a year, police said in a press release. They have been placed on administrative leave as the department conducts the internal investigation.The girl was not injured in the incident and did not require medical attention when she returned to the youth center, according to the police chief.Both officers suffered minor scrapes and cuts and one of the officers strained a hand, Yankowski said.Copyright © 2019, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.
iStock(JONESBORO, Ark.) — Five young girls in Arkansas are being praised for springing into action after spotting a man who appeared to be trying to take his own life.Allannah Orsby, A’niah Graves, Diamonique Reynolds, Jimaria Jackson and McKinna Robinson, ages 12 to 14, were on their way to Annie Camp Junior High in Jonesboro for their basketball game when they crossed a bridge and saw a man with cables, according to Vicki Montgomery, the head coach of the girl’s basketball team.As they walked by, the man told them, “Y’all have a nice life,” Montgomery told ABC News in a telephone interview.“They turned around and he was placing rope and cable over his neck,” Montgomery said.The girls immediately called 911 and began talking to the man until help arrived.“They got really scared,” Montgomery said. “They told him not to do that.”Jonesboro police confirmed to ABC News that it was students who alerted officials to the man.“When we see something, we need to say something if it is out of the ordinary,” police spokeswoman Sally Smith told ABC News.Police said they could not say the status of the man at this time, but he was uninjured when they arrived and taken to a hospital.Montgomery said the girls hadn’t told her about the incident, which occurred on Dec. 5, after it happened. It was another coach who came up to Montgomery the next day and said, “your girls saved some guy’s life last night.”“They didn’t do it for publicity,” she said. “They did it because they genuinely cared about a person they didn’t know.”She said the ordeal was an experience that has greatly affected them.“Some of them struggle in life, as well. I think it opened their eyes to things that, at that age, most adults don’t even see,” Montgomery said. Copyright © 2019, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
Bowie State University(BOWIE, Md.) — A Maryland university has opened a new food pantry for students with the aim of eliminating the stigma of utilizing the resource for their nutritional needs.Bowie State University upgraded its previous, smaller food bank to a larger, welcoming space after receiving the $10,000 grant from Food Lion Feeds, Brent Swinton, Bowie’s vice president for institutional advancement, told ABC News. It contains both non-perishable items and fresh produce several times a week as well as toiletries and other supplies.School administrators decided to create the lounge after noticing a national trend of students needing “extra nourishment” during the day, Swinton said.About 45% of 86,000 college students nationwide said they experience food insecurity, according to a 2019 survey by the Hope Center for College Community and Justice at Temple University in Philadelphia. Data from the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study found that 39% of undergraduates fell at or below 130% of the federal poverty line in 2016.The food pantry is located near the library and computer lab, making it convenient for students to stop by to pick up what they need or hang out in the lounge area, Swinton said. The space was created to encourage students — both on campus and those who commute — to take advantage of the resource and not worry about any stigmas that may be associated with needing help, he added.Students who may be in need of help include athletes whose scholarships only provide them with a five-day meal plan, leaving them to provide their own meals on the weekends.Sadiyah Jenkins, a senior psychology major who attended the pantry’s ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday, emphasized the need for the pantry for the student population. She described the space to ABC News as convenient as well as “very fun” and “very welcoming.”Jenkins plans on going to the bank once or twice a week to grab a few items.“If I need more, I know I can always come back,” she said.Currently, the food pantry is open for limited hours but organizers are aiming to extend those hours and ensure it’s running seven days a week, Swinton said. The bank will continue to be stocked by the local Food Lion grocery store and the Capital Area Food Bank as well as by alumni and other local donors.The university believes that focusing on the needs of students outside the classroom will help them achieve inside the classroom and eventually graduate, Swinton said. It is the first HBCU in Maryland and one of the first in the country to provide such a program, Swinton said. Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.
narvikk/iStock(NEW YORK) — pandemic of novel coronavirus, which began in China just three months ago, has tightened its grip around Europe and North America.The new respiratory virus, known officially as COVID-19, has spread to every continent except Antarctica as well as every single European country.There are more than 229,000 diagnosed cases globally and over 9,300 fatalities, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Over 84,000 people with diagnosed cases have recovered.There are 10,755 diagnosed cases in the U.S., spanning all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. At least 159 people have died in the U.S., according to ABC News’ count.Here’s how the news is unfolding Thursday. All times Eastern:1:50 p.m.: All Texans must avoid gatherings of more than 10Texas is joining other states across the country in ordering the closure of all schools, gyms and restaurants.Restaurants may still operate as take-out and drive-thru, according to the executive order, which goes into effect at midnight.All Texans must avoid social gatherings of more than 10 people, Gov. Greg Abbott announced.Visits to nursing homes are also banned unless to provide critical assistance.More than 140 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in Texas and at least three people have died, officials said.1:30 p.m.: Italy’s death toll surpasses China’s number of fatalitiesWith 427 deaths in the last 24 hours, Italy’s COVID-19 death toll has reached 3,405, surpassing China’s number of fatalitiesCoronavirus has killed 3,249 in China, according to Johns Hopkins University.As COVID-19 ravages Italy, China’s mainland reported a major milestone Thursday — no new domestic COVID-19 transmissions for the first time since the outbreak started.Meanwhile, Spain saw 294 fatalities from coronavirus within 24 hours, bringing the country’s total number of deaths to 803, according to Spain’s Health Ministry.With over 17,000 diagnosed cases, Spain is the second hardest-hit nation in Europe, following Italy.12:09 p.m.: Malaria drug, recovered patients’ blood are potential treatmentsPresident Donald Trump said Thursday the malaria drug chloroquine will be made available “almost immediately” to treat COVID-19. He said the drug is being studied and the FDA had already approved its use.Chloroquine, an old malaria drug, may help treat novel coronavirus, doctors sayFDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the malaria drug is one “the president has directed us to take a closer look at, as to whether an expanded-use approach to that could be done to actually see if it benefits patients.”“We want to do that in the setting of a clinical trial,” he said. Hahn also spoke about convalescent plasma as a potent treatment. He said officials are looking into collecting recovered patients’ blood to provide to others who are sick to try to help strengthen their response to the virus.11:06 a.m.: Prince Albert II of Monaco tests positive for COVID-19Prince Albert II of Monaco has tested positive for COVID-19. A statement posted to the palace’s Facebook account says his condition “does not cause concern.”The statement says the prince, who is the son of Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly, is working from his private apartment and taking containment measures to limit contact with others. 10:50 a.m.: 75% of New Yorkers must work from homeAs cases increase in New York state, no more than 25% of employees can be in the workplace at the same time, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated. The other 75% must work from home.There are 4,152 people in New York diagnosed with coronavirus, though Cuomo cautioned that there’s many others who have the virus but haven’t been tested.Of those diagnosed in the state, 19% are in hospitals, he said.Cuomo chastised the young people still flocking to beaches for spring break, calling it “so unintelligent and reckless I can’t even begin to express it.”Cuomo also announced some economic relief for New Yorkers.“If you are not working, if you are working only part-time, we’re going to have the banks and financial institutions waive mortgage payments for 90 days,” the governor said.10:02 a.m.: White House aims to send most US adults $1,000, Mnuchin says The White House is working to send $1,000 dollar checks to most adult Americans and an additional $500 per child, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo in a phone interview.These checks would be part of the trillion dollar plan for “phase 3,” which would be the third stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in response to COVID-19.Mnuchin said another round of identical payments would be sent out in another six weeks if the country was still experiencing a national emergency. 8:25 a.m. ‘This is absolutely serious,’ U.S. surgeon general warnsU.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams is urging young Americans to take the novel coronavirus pandemic more seriously and cooperate with health precautions, as throngs of college students were seen crowding beaches and bars for spring break. “This is absolutely serious. People are dying,” Adams told ABC News in an interview Thursday on Good Morning America.“Think about your grandmother, think about your grandfather,” he added. ” You’re spreading disease and that could be what ultimately kills them.” Adams advised all Americans — young and old — to restrict non-essential travel, to stay home from work if possible and to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. “If we all do that across the country, then we can have our trajectory like China which overnight, good news, reported no new domestic cases,” he said. “Italy looks like the worst case scenario and it’s why we are ringing the alarm, why we’re telling America to take this seriously. But we have a better case scenario and China is reassuring. China shows us that if we do this, then in six to eight weeks we will hit our peak and start to come back down again.”The surgeon general emphasized that everyone has a role to play in fighting the epidemic and “little things that you do add up to big changes over time.” “If you are negligent, if you don’t practice good hygiene, if you go out and spread disease to someone else, then it can add up over time,” he said. “But good behaviors add up over time and what I tell people is, I want everyone to act as if you have the virus. Whenever you’re interacting with someone else, just imagine you have the virus and act as if you want to protect them or that they have the virus and you want to protect from getting it.”When asked about the frustration surrounding the lack of diagnostic tests for COVID-19, Adams said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “was never designed to provide millions of tests.” “What we’re really focused on now is making sure people who are at highest risk, including our health care workers, critically important, and people who have symptoms can get tested,” he said. “Thousands more tests this week, tens of thousands increasing by the day, and we’re not where we want to be but we feel like we’re moving in the right direction.” “Unfortunately, people who are asymptomatic or don’t really need to be tested based on priorities are out there getting tests and clogging up the lines,” he added. “Then our older people and sicker people, our health care workers won’t be able to get that testing.”7:51 a.m. CDC releases new data showing young patients are being hospitalized, tooOut of 508 patients known to be hospitalized for novel coronavirus in the United States, a decent portion of them were actually relatively young, according to data released late Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The new data shows that 20 percent of those 508 hospitalizations were patients who ranged in age from 20 to 44. Another 18 percent were between the ages of 45 and 54.COVID-19 is still significantly more dangerous for older people, with 80 percent of deaths associated with adults over the age of 65. But the new data is noteworthy considering evidence that young people may be taking warnings about social distancing less seriously. The more younger people who require hospitalization, the less resources there are for the older patients who are more likely to die from the disease.6:56 a.m. 50 new infections per hour in Iran, health ministry spokesman saysA spokesman for Iran’s health ministry revealed Thursday just how badly the novel coronavirus is ravaging his country.Kianoush Jahanpour said on Twitter that 50 people are contracting COVID-19 every hour in Iran, with one person dying from the disease every 10 minutes.“In terms of this information, make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” Jahanpour tweeted.More than 17,360 people in Iran have been infected with the new virus and 1,135 of them have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Iran has the third-highest national total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world.Iran’s deputy health minister, Alireza Raisi, urged residents on Wednesday to “please follow the guidelines and stay at home.”6:30 a.m. EU’s Brexit negotiator tests positiveThe European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator revealed Thursday that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.Michael Barnier, a French politician serving as the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, made the announcement on Twitter.“I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team,” Barnier tweeted. “For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.”I would like to inform you that I have tested positive for #COVID19. I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team.For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) March 19, 2020Barnier was scheduled to hold talks over a future trade deal between Britain and the European Union on Wednesday with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser, David Frost. But the negotiations were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.Although the United Kingdom formally left the European Union on Jan. 31, the country is in a Brexit transition period as both sides work to agree on a trade deal before the end-of-year deadline.4:40 a.m. Honolulu denies two cruise ships from disembarkingPassengers and crew aboard two cruise ships set to dock in Honolulu won’t be allowed to disembark in Hawaii’s capital, officials said, even though there are no positive coronavirus cases on either vessel.State authorities and cruise line officials previously said passengers and crew would be allowed to leave the ships at Honolulu Harbor. But on Tuesday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige asked visitors to postpone their travel to the island state for at least 30 days as part of efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The two vessels were already at sea at the time.Now, the ships will only be allowed entry to refuel and restock on food and supplies. The Maasdam, operated by Holland America Line, is scheduled to arrive at Honolulu Harbor on Friday and depart the following day. The Norwegian Jewel, operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, is scheduled to arrive Sunday.“The health and safety of all people in Hawaii is always at the forefront of operational decisions. Presently, all state resources are focused and directed towards containing the spread of COVID-19. Allowing more than 2,500 passengers and crew to disembark will further strain these resources,” Hawaii Department of Transportation Director Jade Butay said in a statement Wednesday night. “HDOT and the State are allowing the ships to dock at Honolulu Harbor so they may refuel and restock. Neither ship had originally planned to make Hawaii its final port and both will carry on to mainland destinations, where more resources can be marshaled to handle the passengers and crew properly.”4:09 a.m. Virus shuts down Las Vegas air traffic control towerThe air traffic control tower at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas has temporarily closed after an air traffic controller tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.The Las Vegas Terminal Radar Approach Control has assumed control of the airspace. McCarran International Airport remains open and operations will continue at a reduced rate until the situation is resolved.The FAA continues to maintain close contact with airports, airlines and other stakeholders during the situation, a spokesperson told ABC News.“The safety of our staff and the traveling public is the FAA’s top priority,” the spokesperson said in a statement late Wednesday. “Our controllers, inspectors and others with critical safety or security sensitive roles are essential components of our national airspace.”3:50 a.m. Half of the world’s student population out of schoolMore than 861.7 million children and youth — roughly half of the world’s student population — are not attending school as 107 countries enforce nationwide closures of educational institutions in an attempt to contain the coronavirus pandemic, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.An additional 12 countries have implemented localized school closures and, should these become nationwide, millions of more students will be impacted, UNESCO warned.2:30 a.m. China reports no new domestic transmissions for 1st time since outbreak beganChina’s mainland has reported no new domestic transmissions of the novel coronavirus for the first time since the outbreak started — a major milestone in the country’s fight against the epidemic.The Chinese National Health Commission said on Thursday that there were 34 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the mainland during Wednesday, but all were imported from overseas. There were no new cases of any kind reported during Wednesday in the city of Wuhan nor its surrounding Hubei province, the original epicenter of the virus outbreak.The newly identified virus first emerged in Wuhan back in December and, within weeks, the city was reporting thousands of new infections daily at the height of the country’s epidemic. Overall, China has reported more than 81,000 confirmed cases, mostly in Hubei province.Earlier this month, Chinese state media reported that the last of a dozen makeshift hospitals built to house coronavirus patients in Wuhan had wrapped up operations and officially closed. The first groups of Chinese medical teams who were deployed to Wuhan to assist with the outbreak began leaving on Tuesday.Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.