NEWS BRIEFS

Garden City Telegram

Cuomo calls on NY hospitals to test for highly contagious COVID-19 variant

ALBANY, N.Y. - Gov. Andrew Cuomo is calling on New York hospitals and labs to specifically test for a new highly contagious COVID-19 mutation found in the United Kingdom.

The governor, who a day earlier worked out a deal with airlines requiring travelers from England report a negative coronavirus test before flying to the Empire State, said he believes the new strain is likely already in the U.S.

“If the variant is here, I want to know, because that would be problematic,” Cuomo said Tuesday during a phone briefing with reporters. “We want to test for the variant. If it’s here we want to know it. We want to isolate it immediately.

“If it’s here, where, where is it?” he added.

The governor has fumed at the federal government in recent days, blasting the Trump administration for not acting swiftly in response to the discovery of the new strain of the deadly virus.

Random sampling of about 4,000 COVID-19 tests have already been completed in the state with no sign of the mutation. Cuomo said officials will work with hospitals to ensure that they have the tools needed to complete the more complex testing method, and contact tracing could help track the spread. - New York Daily News

Congress approves upgrading Jimmy Carter sites in Plains to national park

WASHINGTON - The U.S. House and Senate have signed off on a measure that would upgrade the federal designation of various sites in Plains, Georgia, tied to former President Jimmy Carter. Now, it's up to President Donald Trump to decide if he will sign the bill into law.

That would allow the farm where Carter grew up, the train depot that once headquartered his presidential campaign, his old high school and the city center to be upgraded from "historic sites" to a "national historic park."

The Jimmy Carter National Historical Park would also one day include the home where the 96-year-old and his wife, Rosalynn, reside today. After they pass away, the park would expand to include their burial site.

The U.S. House approved the measure, H.R. 5472, by a voice vote on Thursday. The Senate approved it Monday by unanimous consent. U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, a Georgia Democrat and the bill's sponsor, said the changes are a needed tribute to the country's longest-living ex-president.

"President Carter has spent his life making Plains, Ga., and America a better place for all and it is fitting that we honor him with this change," he said in a statement. - The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

US population growth slows to lowest rate in over a century

The long-slowing rate of population growth in the U.S. has ebbed to its lowest level since at least the start of the 20th century, according to federal figures released Tuesday.

Between July 2019 and July 2020 - a stretch that includes the early months of the coronavirus crisis - the American population climbed by just 0.35 percent, according to Census Bureau estimates.

William Frey, a demographer at the at the Brookings Institution, said the pandemic’s deadly effects have compounded with pandemic-era immigration restrictions, stifling population growth.

In the previous round of annual figures, the population grew by roughly 0.46%, also a historically low figure. Frey said growth has been slow since the Great Recession, but the new factors piled on to produce the molasses-like pace in the latest estimates.

“Clearly, mortality is a piece of it. Immigration even more strongly,” Frey told the Daily News. “This is pretty drastic.” - New York Daily News

Israel's Knesset dissolving; new elections expected in March

TEL AVIV, Israel - Israel trudged toward its fourth election in two years Tuesday after the ruling coalition failed to reach an agreement on a state budget in last-ditch talks.

The parliament looked set to automatically dissolve at midnight local time, when the deadline for the budget would expire. The election is expected to take place March 23.

The government meanwhile approved a Finance Ministry proposal for a budgetary arrangement for 2021.

Both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz blamed the other for the breakdown of their unity government.

"Out of a sense of responsibility to the Israeli people, I have decided that we will approve legislation that will enable a rolling budget for 2021, so that the country can minimally function during elections season," Gantz wrote in a Facebook post.

"The Prime Minister and Finance Minister (Yisrael Katz) have been wildly irresponsible, denying the country a budget for six months in flagrant violation of their commitment, and all out of narrow, self-serving personal considerations," he charged. - dpa