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What's in store: Groceries installing barriers amid outbreak

QUINCY, Mass. (AP) — Grocery stores across the U.S. are installing protective plastic shields at checkouts to help keep cashiers and shoppers from infecting one another with the coronavirus. The see-through barriers are going up this week at supermarket chains including Stop & Shop, Giant Eagle, Kroger, Walmart and Publix. Grocers say they're trying to protect employees and consumers, since bagging and paying for food takes place well within the minimum 6-foot distance public health experts are urging people to maintain. Some grocery stores in France also installed similar barriers last week when that country went into lockdown.


Florida's number of coronavirus cases jumps sharply

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Crew members possibly ill with coronavirus have been brought into Miami for treatment from two cruise ships. About a dozen crew members from the Costa Cruise ships Magica and Favolosa required hospitalization Thursday. The ships only have crew members aboard and remain offshore. Meanwhile, officials in the state's second-largest county issued a stay-at-home order that starts Friday. The only exceptions for Broward County residents are when they are getting food or other essentials, going to work or have an emergency. Florida's coronavirus cases jumped 35% in one day and are now approaching 2,400. There have been more than 25 deaths in the state.


74,000 Floridians seek benefits, critics demand reform

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — More than 74,000 Floridians applied for unemployment benefits last week. That's a tenfold increase from the previous week, as the spread of the novel coronavirus shut down the state's theme parks and visitors stayed away from its hotels and airports. The figures were released on Thursday. The extraordinary jump in unemployment benefits applications came the same week the largest theme park resorts in Florida _ Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld Orlando and Busch Gardens Tampa _ closed their gates and emptied their hotels. Cruise lines also halted trips and Gov. Ron DeSantis suspended on-premise food and alcohol consumption at Florida restaurants and bars.


Man, woman fatally shot by officers in Florida

ORMOND BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say Florida police officers responding to a disturbance fatally shot a man and woman. Police say the shooting occurred Thursday afternoon near the Halifax River in Ormond Beach. Investigators weren't immediately releasing details about what led to the shooting. Police say five officers fired their weapons. None were injured. They've been placed on administrative leave. State law enforcement officials will investigate the shooting. Ormond Beach is located just north of Daytona Beach.


FBI chief pledges to find answers on ex-agent Levinson

WASHINGTON (AP) — The FBI won't give up on “finding out what happened" to former agent Robert Levinson, who the U.S. government believes died in the custody of the Iranians. That's according to an email FBI Director Chris Wray sent to the FBI workforce Thursday. The email was obtained by The Associated Press. It was as sent a day after Levinson's family revealed that the U.S. government had concluded that Levinson was dead. U.S. officials have not specified the nature or circumstances of Levinson's death, except to say they believe it happened some time ago.


Texas is bigger: Lone Star State's metros lead decade growth

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Everything really is bigger in Texas. New figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau shows that three metro areas in the Lone Star State had some of the biggest population gains over the past decade. Dallas increased by 1.2 million people, the most of any U.S. metro area. It was followed by Houston, which added another 1.1 million residents over the decade.  Austin grew by more than a half million residents from 2010 to 2019, the eighth biggest numeric growth among U.S. metros. Phoenix's population of 4.9 million residents last year knocked Boston off the list of top 10 most populous metro areas.


Coronavirus halts high speed train service in South Florida

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Authorities say South Florida's high speed train service has shut down due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. Brightline suspended the train service between Miami and West Palm Beach on Wednesday evening. Company president Patrick Goddard said in a news release that the company was taking the measure to help “flatten the curve" as the virus outbreak spreads across South Florida. He says the company will follow the lead of the Centers for Disease Control and federal and state officials in deciding when to continue operations. The train also makes a stop in Fort Lauderdale.


Virus relief package could help Trump, Kushner businesses

WASHINGTON (AP) — The $2 trillion coronavirus aid package moving through Congress was carefully written to prevent President Donald Trump and his family from profiting from the federal fund. But the fine print reveals that businesses owned by Trump and his family still may be eligible for assistance.The massive relief fund, rushed through the Senate and expected to soon be passed by the House, includes language inserted by Democrats that explicitly prevents Trump, who did not divest from his company before taking office, from using the federal money as a windfall for his struggling hotel and country club business. Ethics groups warn that the 880-page bill contains loopholes in the ethics ban and wording elsewhere could theoretically allow banned parties to still benefit from the federal giveaways.


Trump camp threatens local TV stations over Democratic ad

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump's reelection campaign is threatening legal action against local TV stations in Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin if they don't pull a Democratic anti-Trump commercial the campaign says is false. Priorities USA Action Fund responded by soliciting financial contributions to keep the 30-second ad on the airwaves. The campaign says the commercial includes the “false assertion” that Trump called the coronavirus a “hoax.” The ad strings together audio of comments by Trump, including of him saying, “This is their new hoax.” The states where the ad is airing are among those where Trump is spending heavily to win reelection.


Ex-aide to Miami mayor faces federal child porn charges

MIAMI (AP) — A former aide to the mayor of Miami who was previously charged in state court with groping a teenage boy at City Hall and then sending him a lewd photograph is now facing federal child porn charges. The U.S. attorney's office in Miami filed a criminal complaint Wednesday against 48-year-old Rene Pedrosa, who resigned from the mayor's office last month. The federal complaint says Pedrosa contacted the 16-year-old victim in November through Instagram to discuss a web design job at the mayor's office. During a meeting later that month at City Hall, Pedrosa touched the teen inappropriately. The complaint says Pedrosa and teen later exchanged explicit photos.