Nation and world news briefs

©Tribune News Service

2 Capitol Police officers have tested positive for coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Two Capitol Police officers have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, an incursion into the force that protects the U.S. Capitol complex, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

On March 20, union head Gus Papathanasiou told Capitol Police Chief Steven A. Sund he has been flooded with inquiries from officers concerned about contracting the coronavirus. Unlike staffers and other employees who can work from home, many officers are required to maintain a physical presence around the grounds.

Sund sent that email after a first officer tested positive for the virus and began to self-quarantine on March 18. The Hill reported that first officer’s positive diagnosis on Sunday.

Thus far, give lawmakers have tested positive for coronavirus. Additionally, New York Democratic Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez disclosed on Monday that she had been diagnosed with a “presumed coronavirus infection.”

— CQ-Roll Call


Spain struggles to contain virus with deadliest day of outbreak

Spain reported its deadliest day since the coronavirus crisis started, leaving hospitals overflowing with sick patients and the government struggling to bring the spread of the disease under control.

The total number of deaths rose by 849 to 8,189 in the past 24 hours, according to Health Ministry data. The number of new cases increased by 9,222 on Tuesday — the most in a single day — to bring the total confirmed infections in the country to 94,417.

The Spanish government is betting that severe restrictions on public life at least through the Easter weekend will help curtail the spread of the disease, which has killed more people in Spain than in China where the pandemic started.

A two-week, nationwide lockdown began March 14, when the government announced a state of emergency, and was subsequently extended to April 11.

Spain prides itself on having one of the world’s best health services, but it has been stretched to breaking point by the crisis. Problems range from a shortage of hospital and intensive-care beds to a lack of coronavirus testing kits and basic medical equipment.

— Bloomberg News


Cross-border smuggling tunnel discovered in San Diego; nearly $30 million worth of drugs seized

SAN DIEGO — Nearly $30 million worth of drugs was seized after a cross-border tunnel that runs from Tijuana to San Diego was found earlier in March, federal officials said Tuesday.

The 2,000-foot-long tunnel was discovered on March 19 by law enforcement officers, with Mexican officers locating the tunnel entrance in Tijuana.

Agents searched the San Diego warehouse where the tunnel ends after obtaining a federal search warrant and seized approximately 1,300 pounds of cocaine, 86 pounds of methamphetamine, 17 pounds of heroin, 3,000 pounds of marijuana and more than 2 pounds of fentanyl inside the tunnel, officials said.

Officials said this was the first time five different types of drugs were found inside a smuggling tunnel. The street value of the drugs seized is estimated at $29.6 million.

The tunnel, which extends for more than 2,000 feet underground, has an average depth of 31 feet and was 3 feet wide through most of the passageway.

Agents believe the tunnel has existed for several months. It had reinforced walls in certain sections as well as ventilation, lighting and an underground rail system.

U.S. Attorney Robert Brewer said the seizure was the most valuable single-day tunnel seizure in recent memory.

— The San Diego Union-Tribune


Bay Area mom gets 7-month prison sentence in college admissions scandal

Elizabeth Henriquez, a Bay Area mother who conspired to fix her daughters’ college test scores and buy a Georgetown tennis coach’s fraudulent endorsement, was sentenced Tuesday to seven months in prison.

Henriquez pleaded guilty last year alongside her husband, Manuel, to conspiring to commit fraud and money laundering with William “Rick” Singer, the Newport Beach, Calif., consultant at the center of the college admissions scandal. On five occasions, the couple acknowledged, Singer’s accomplices fed their two daughters the answers to their SAT and ACT exams while pretending to proctor the tests. The couple also paid $400,000 for a Georgetown tennis coach to endorse their older daughter as a talented tennis player, which she was not.

In addition to the seven-month prison term, U.S. District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton ordered Henriquez to pay a $200,000 fine. To protect the participants from the coronavirus, the sentencing hearing was conducted by video conference.

Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, who charged the Henriquezes and 51 others in Singer’s scheme, had asked Gorton to send Elizabeth Henriquez to prison for 26 months — the longest sentence they’d requested in the case to date. Aaron Katz, Henriquez’s lead attorney, had proposed a sentence of home confinement and probation. Katz cited the coronavirus pandemic as a factor weighing in favor of house arrest, rather than incarceration.

Manuel Henriquez, the former chairman of a publicly traded venture capital company, will be sentenced next week; prosecutors have asked Gorton to put him behind bars for 18 months.

— Los Angeles Times


Dr. Fauci says ‘we’ll get through this’ in uplifting coronavirus bedside message

America’s doctor offered an inspiring bedside message of hope as the nation faces the deadliest days and weeks of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci calmly told Americans on Tuesday that we can “get over this” if we continue to observe strict shutdowns and social distancing.

“We really have to hang in there,” Fauci told CNN. “So let’s all hang in there together. We will get over this and this will end.”

Even as he suggested that the Centers for Disease Control may order all Americans to wear masks outside, Fauci said the strategy so far is working as well as could be expected.

“We do believe it’s working. It’s hard. It’s not an easy thing to do,” he said. “There’s suffering and there’s death and there’s massive inconvenience economically and otherwise. But we’re really a strong nation. We’ve been through some amazing things in our history.”

— New York Daily News