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More US service members diagnosed with brain injury after Iran missile attack

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A picture taken on January 13, 2020 during a press tour organised by the US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group, shows a view of the damage at Ain al-Asad military airbase housing US and other foreign troops in the western Iraqi province of Anbar.

Ayman Henna | AFP | Getty Images

A total of 50 U.S. service members suffered traumatic brain injury from this month’s Iranian missile attack on Iraqi bases hosting American troops, the Pentagon said Tuesday.

Of those TBI cases, which can include concussions, 31 were treated in Iraq and have returned to duty, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Thomas Campbell said in a statement.

Last week, the Pentagon said there were 34 service members diagnosed with concussions and traumatic brain injuries.

Of the 16 new diagnosed cases, 15 service members have returned to duty in Iraq, Campbell said.

Iran launched ballistic missiles at two bases in Iraq housing American troops on Jan. 8 local time. The strike was in retaliation for the U.S. killing of Iran’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was commander of its elite Quds Force, in a drone attack outside Baghdad’s airport less than a week before.

No one was killed in Iran’s strikes, and a day after targeting U.S. forces, President Donald Trump said that no one was hurt or killed.

Chief Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman has said that a lot of TBI symptoms are late developing and manifest themselves over a period of time.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says on its website that some symptoms of concussions and other traumatic brain injury can appear right away, but other symptoms may not be noticed for days or months after the injury.

One of those new cases involved a service member transported to Germany for further evaluation and treatment, bringing the total taken there to 18. That person had been taken to Germany “for other health reasons and has since been diagnosed with a TBI,” Campbell said.

Last week, another Pentagon spokesman said that eight U.S. service members who were sent to Germany were then taken to the United States.

Campbell’s statement Tuesday said that there was no information as to whether anyone else has returned to the U.S.

A service member that had been taken to Kuwait for treatment has since returned to duty, Campbell said.

Hours after Iran launched missiles against U.S. forces, Iran’s armed forces shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane that departed from Tehran’s airport, in an incident that Iranian officials blamed on “human error” and which Iran’s president has called an “unforgivable mistake.”

All 176 people aboard Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 were killed, including many Iranians and Canadians.

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Philippines sees largest daily rise in deaths, India turns to idled trains

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This is CNBC’s 24-hour blog covering all the latest news on the coronavirus outbreak. All times below are in Eastern time. This live blog will be updated throughout the day as the news breaks. 

All times below are in Eastern time.

  • Global cases: At least 614,884
  • Global deaths: At least 28,687
  • U.S. cases: At least 104,837
  • U.S. deaths: At least 1,711

All data above is provided by Johns Hopkins University.

9:54 am: Quarantines lead to a massive drop in air pollution

As coronavirus quickly spreads around the world, it’s forcing people to stay put, and wreaking havoc on the economy. Millions are either out of a job or working from home. Factories are shuttering, and with mandates to stay inside becoming the new norm, people aren’t driving or flying.

All this has led to an enormous decline in air pollution, which kills a total of 4.2 million people every year, and over 1 million in China alone. The last two months have seen a huge uptick in air quality, especially in hard-hit areas like Wuhan and Northern Italy, as well as a number of metropolitan areas throughout the U.S.

While experts caution against viewing these numbers as a cost-benefit calculation around pandemics, some climate scientists hope that they will help shed a light on the massive environmental impact of our everyday habits and economic activities, potentially leading to some positive change after the crisis subsides. —Katie Brigham

9:49 am: Banks say they’re providing financial relief, but customers find the offers misleading

Bank of America is one of many financial institutions that have reached out to customers to help provide relief in the event of hardship caused by the coronavirus outbreak. But social media has been flooded recently with complaints from customers who say that when they reached out to their banks for help, they found the “relief” was not what they expected

For its part, Bank of America told CNBC Make It that each client situation is unique, and it’s handling requests on a case-by-case basis. —Megan Leonhardt

9:30 am: Philippines reports 14 new coronavirus deaths, 272 infections

The Philippine health ministry reported 14 new coronavirus deaths and 272 additional cases, marking the country’s single largest daily increase in fatalities and infections.

The latest information brought total infections in the Philippines to 1,075 and deaths to 68, the health ministry said, adding that four patients have recovered, bringing the total to 35. —Reuters

9:27 am: Japan Prime Minister Abe says his country is at a critical stage

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the country is at a critical stage in dealing with coronavirus infections but not at a point to declare a state of emergency. He said Japan has managed to keep clusters under control by carefully following infection routes. But the initial strategy is now having difficulty, with a rise of infections that are no longer traceable — an early sign of infection explosion.

Abe said once there is infection overshoot, “our strategy of slowing down the peak of the infections will instantly fall apart.” He added, “under the current situation, we are just barely holding up. But I understand we are standing on the edge.”

Abe convened a taskforce Thursday, the day after Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike made a stay-at-home request to its 14 million residents after seeing a spike in the number of new cases of the COVID-19 to 41. —Associated Press

9:16 am: How the United States fell dangerously behind in testing

Medical personnel from Riverside (CA) University Health Systems hospitals administer a Coronavirus Test to an individual during drive-through testing in the parking lot of Diamond Stadium.

Photo by Bob Riha, Jr./Getty Images

The deadly coronavirus pandemic has stopped the world in its tracks, and exposed a weak spot in U.S. preparedness for a public health emergency.

Experts say aggressive diagnostic testing is essential in order to learn where and how an epidemic spreads. But in the critical first weeks of the outbreak in the U.S., one problem after another prevented doctors, clinics and labs around the country from testing enough people.

Patients in America were being sent home as hospitals limited their use of tests to conserve supply, while other countries like South Korea found a way to test hundreds of thousands of people quickly.

Now, the U.S. is months behind in understanding the true scope of the virus. Testing capacity is finally ramping up, but is it too late? —Arielle Berger, Jordan Smith

9:14 am: Getting married in the age of coronavirus

Thousands of Americans have had to cancel their weddings as states made the decision to limit group gatherings and the world has shifted to social distancing as a way of life. Couples around the country are considering options around canceling or postponing weddings because of quarantines.

The postponements and cancellations have rocked the wedding industry, causing layoffs and a backlogged 2021 season. Some couples still want to plan celebrations on their wedding date and have turned to Zoom to celebrate with friends. —Alex Sherman

9:09 am: India plans to turn some idled trains into isolation wards

India said it was planning to turn some railway coaches into isolation wards for patients with coronavirus, as authorities scramble to prepare the country’s health infrastructure for an expected surge in cases.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the country’s 1.3 billion people this week to stay indoors for three weeks in the world’s biggest lockdown, seeking to curb the spread of the illness.

India’s network of trains, the country’s lifeblood, has been idled. One train coach has been turned into a prototype quarantine facility, state-owned Indian Railways said in a statement on Saturday. Once they get clearance, the plan is for each of India’s railway zones to convert 10 coaches into such wards every week, the company added. Indian Railways has 16 zones, according to its website. —Reuters

Read CNBC’s coverage from CNBC’s Asia-Pacific and Europe teams overnight here: Global cases surge past 600,000, Spain infections exceed 72,000, Iran reports 2,500 deaths

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U.S. moving less, sleeping more in quarantine

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San Francisco resident Laurie Farr tries out a Fitbit Ionic

Andrew Evers, CNBC

While Americans are home, under orders to stay indoors or self-quarantine to slow the outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus, they’re moving less and sleeping more, according to a new study using data from over 68,000 fitness trackers. The research included Apple Watches, Fitbits and Garmin smartwatches. 

The COVID-19 Pulse study, conducted by Evidation Health, found that activity levels in the United States were down 39% on Tuesday, March 24 compared to activity recorded on March 1. In New York City alone, the data shows that physical activity dropped 50% during the week the city ordered residents to stay home. 

Time asleep increased by 20% after President Trump declared a national emergency on March 13. Evidation’s analysis of the data found that people were sleeping 10% more in every state except Hawaii and Alaska during that time period.

Evidation said people are increasingly willing to contact medical services remotely. Thirty percent of respondents now plan to use telemedicine over a primary care physician or emergency room if they have coronavirus symptoms, up from 19% on March 12.

Results from the survey also showed that 49% of respondents said their anxiety had increased in the past week, up from 29% on March 12. Anxiety was up in every state.

The study was conducted through the company’s Achievement app. Nearly 160,000 people participated across all 50 states (though 68,000 had fitness trackers.) The company plans to update its findings on a regular basis.

The study is tracking declines in physical activity state by state.

Evidation Health

“We’re all staying at home and a lot less active, we’re sleeping more, we’re snacking more, and we’re keeping an eye on our health at home,” Evidation Health president Christine Lemke said.

The study found that time asleep has increased almost 20% nationwide based on data from over 68,000 fitness trackers.

Evidation Health

“Mostly, we wanted to see differences in states. We know states are seeing different symptom rates and different disease rates,” Lemke said. “We’re doing this study to watch the trend over time.”

While Evidation’s data show that activity is down in every state, the speed of the drop varied by state. “It’s not hard to tell the states that put shelter in place ahead of other counties and who might be adhering to them more,” Lemke said, adding that physical activity can be used as a way to infer how well people are social distancing. 

The study can track declines in activity at the county level.

Evidation Health

The study doesn’t just rely on data from smartwatches and other wearables. It also includes a detailed survey that includes questions on whether respondents’ workplaces have been shut down, where they get their coronavirus news and what respondents are doing in response to the outbreak. The company is surveying the same group of people each week so that the results can be compared to each other.

Evidation Health specializes in observing trends from device data that people choose to share. It partners with companies like Apple, Eli Lilly, and Johnson & Johnson to help big companies conduct studies using fitness tracker data.

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NASA picks SpaceX for lunar orbit missions with Dragon XL, Falcon Heavy

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A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket, carrying the Arabsat 6A communications satellite, lifts off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, April 11, 2019.

Thom Baur | Reuters

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration on Friday picked SpaceX as the first supplier to bring cargo to the agency’s Gateway station in orbit around the moon, a big contract win for Elon Musk’s space company.

SpaceX said it will use a new variation of its cargo spacecraft, called Dragon XL, to carry “more than 5 metric tons of cargo to Gateway in lunar orbit.” The company will lift the spacecraft using its Falcon Heavy rocket, the most powerful rocket in the world.

“Returning to the Moon and supporting future space exploration requires affordable delivery of significant amounts of cargo,” SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement.

SpaceX has been launching cargo to the International Space Station under a similar NASA contract since 2012, using its Cargo Dragon spacecraft. Additionally, SpaceX has launched its Falcon Heavy rocket three times. A Falcon Heavy rocket goes for between $90 million and $150 million per launch depending on the circumstances.

NASA expects to award $7 billion worth of supply contracts under the Gateway program. Those will span multiple missions to Gateway, lasting between 6 months and a year each.

Illustration of the SpaceX Dragon XL as it is deployed from the Falcon Heavy’s second stage in high Earth orbit on its way to the Gateway in lunar orbit.

SpaceX

“This contract award is another critical piece of our plan to return to the Moon sustainably,” NASA leader Jim Bridenstine said in a statement.

Gateway is a small spaceship that NASA plans to put in orbit around the moon to host astronauts as well as conduct scientific experiments. Bridenstine described Gateway as “the cornerstone” of NASA’s Artemis program, which is the agency plan to land U.S. astronauts on the lunar surface by 2024. 

“This deep space commercial cargo capability integrates yet another American industry partner into our plans for human exploration at the Moon in preparation for a future mission to Mars,” Bridenstine said.

SpaceX has completed 20 cargo missions to the International Space Station since its first in 2012.

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