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VIRUS OUTBREAK-LOUISIANA

Louisiana virus cases spike as testing expands statewide

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana's confirmed number of coronavirus cases has spiked 42% higher in the latest figures. A backlog of tests results have poured in and confirmed Gov. John Bel Edwards' message that the virus's footprint across the state is much wider than limited testing has been able to document so far. The data released Thursday by the Louisiana Department of Health showed nearly 9,200 people have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. That's a jump of more than 2,700 confirmed cases from a day earlier and the largest single-day increase so far. The governor says that reflects more testing and a break in the logjam of getting results.

AP-US-OBIT-ELLIS-MARSALIS

Son: Jazz great Ellis Marsalis Jr. dead, 85; COVID involved

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A son of New Orleans jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis Jr. says the patriarch of the New Orleans clan that includes famed musician sons Wynton and Branford has died of pneumonia brought on by COVID-19. The jazz player and teacher was 85.  Poet and photographer Ellis Marsalis III said Wednesday his father had been hospitalized. The elder Marsalis opted to stay in New Orleans most of his career, gaining wider national prominence once his sons became famous. Four of his six sons are musicians: Wynton, the trumpeter, is America's most prominent jazz spokesman as artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York.

HIGH MISSISSIPPI RIVER

Spillway opening Friday to safeguard New Orleans levees

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The Army Corps of Engineers says the Mississippi River is so high that a spillway north of New Orleans must be opened to safeguard New Orleans levees. That will make an unprecedented third straight year and the fifth time this decade for opening the Bonnet Carré Spillway. The Corps had said earlier that the opening might be needed, and the district commander announced Thursday that it will happen. Col. Stephen Murphy says that if there aren't any more big rains in the river's vast watershed, the spillway will be open for about 30 days. He says that includes both a gradual opening and gradual closing.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-FEDERAL PRISONS

Federal inmates to be locked in cells for 14 days amid virus

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal Bureau of Prisons is locking inmates in their cells at all its facilities for 14 days in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus. The implementation of a new plan Wednesday comes as a focus shifts to a federal prison complex in Louisiana, where three inmates have died and nearly 20 others are hospitalized. The compound, known as FCC Oakdale, has emerged as ground zero in the federal prison system’s struggle to contain COVID-19 behind bars. The local health department told the federal government there was no need to test inmates there anymore for the coronavirus, saying those showing symptoms should just presume they have it.

CHURCH FIRE

Investigators: fire at Louisiana church ruled arson

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Investigators say a fire just after midnight Wednesday at a Louisiana church was deliberately set. The Baton Rouge Fire Department, in a news release, said it happened at Broadmoor United Methodist Church around 12:15 a.m. News outlets report when firefighters arrived, authorities said they found the church's detached meeting room engulfed in flames. The structure is used as a Boy Scout and Girl Scout location. The fire didn't spread to the church's main building, but the meeting room was totally destroyed. There were no reports of injuries and no arrests have been made.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-LOUISIANA-CHURCH SERVICE

Churchgoers flock to hear Louisiana pastor despite virus ban

CENTRAL, La. (AP) — Buses and cars filled a Louisiana church parking lot for another service as worshipers flocked to hear a pastor who is facing misdemeanor charges for holding services despite a ban intended to control the new coronavirus.  Some protesters turned out, too, including one man shouting through a bullhorn against the gathering at the Life Tabernacle Church in the city of Central. Pastor Tony Spell was issued a summons hours earlier on Tuesday for holding services previously at the church in violation of the governor's order banning gatherings. Authorities say more than 5,200 people in Louisiana have confirmed virus infections, and 239 state residents have died.

VIRUS OUTBREAK-GUNS

Gun background checks smash records amid coronavirus fears

Gun background checks have spiked to record numbers in the past month amid concerns about safety during the coronavirus crisis. FBI figures show that March saw the most background checks since the system began in 1998. Gun dealers say Americans worried about protecting themselves have fueled runs on firearms and ammunition. Gun control advocates worry the surge will lead to greater gun violence, especially among first-time buyers who may not be able to get proper training. The soaring numbers come amid debate in cities and states about whether gun shops should be considered essential businesses that can stay open during lockdowns meant to reduce the spread of the virus.

HIGH MISSISSIPPI RIVER

Louisiana spillway may open for record 3rd consecutive year

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Federal authorities say they may have to open up a major flood control project on the Mississippi River to ease pressure on New Orleans levees. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Tuesday that the river is expected to crest above 17 feet at a key New Orleans gauge as early as Friday. That would likely lead to the opening of a structure that diverts water through the Bonnet Carre spillway. It would be the first time the structure has been used three years in a row. Extended openings last year were blamed by Mississippi authorities for feeding toxic algae blooms and killing oysters, dolphins and other sea life.