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NASA suspends work on moon rocket, capsule due to COVID-19 threat


NASA is closing the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans and the nearby Stennis Space Center in Mississippi because of the “rising number of COVID-19 cases in the community,” administrator Jim Bridenstine announced Thursday evening. As a result, work on the agency’s Space Launch System rocket and Orion crew capsules, both critical elements in NASA’s Artemis moon program, will be suspended.

“The NASA and contractors teams will complete an orderly shutdown that puts all hardware in a safe condition until work can resume,” Bridenstine said in a blog post. “Once this is complete, personnel allowed onsite will be limited to those needed to protect life and critical infrastructure.”

“We realize there will be impacts to NASA missions,” he added, “but as our teams work to analyze the full picture and reduce risks we understand that our top priority is the health and safety of the NASA workforce.”


California orders its nearly 40 million residents to stay home to prevent the spread of coronavirus


The nation’s most populous state is ordering its nearly 40 million residents to stay home to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order marks the first statewide mandatory restrictions issued in the United States to help combat the outbreak. It goes into effect Thursday at midnight and includes exemptions for essential services such as public safety and medical care.
Nineteen people have died and more than 900 have tested positive for coronavirus in California. The restrictions, which will remain in place until further notice, come a day after Newsom warned that more than half the state is projected to be infected with the virus in two months.

Essential services will be open

Under the order, essential services such as gas stations, pharmacies, grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores and delivery restaurants will remain open. So will banks, local government offices that provide services and law enforcement agencies.

Nonessential services such as dine-in restaurants, bars, gyms and convention centers will shut down.

Social distance is still required
Even with the order, California residents can participate in some activities as long as people maintain a social distance, he said. “Go about the essential patterns of life, but do so by socially distancing themselves from others and do so using a common sense,” Newsom said. “Home isolation is not my preferred choice, but it is a necessary one. This is not a permanent state, it is a moment in time.”
The order will not be enforced by law enforcement, he added.

Coronavirus: Apple to accept apps from credible sources only; bans COVID-19-themed entertainment, game apps


Apple is stepping up efforts to combat misinformation and hoaxes around the coronavirus outbreak. The company on Saturday said it would accept only “reputable” and credible apps related to COVID-19. Apple has also banned entertainment or game apps with coronavirus as a theme on its App Store.

“…we’re evaluating apps critically to ensure data sources are reputable and that developers presenting these apps are from recognized entities such as government organizations, health-focused NGOs, companies deeply credentialed in health issues, and medical or educational institutions. Only developers from one of these recognized entities should submit an app related to COVID-19. Entertainment or game apps with COVID-19 as their theme will not be allowed,” Apple said on its developer website.

Apple said it is encouraging developers to choose “Time-Sensitive Event” on the expedite request form to fast-track review on App Store.

Apart from new stringent policies around COVID-19 themed apps, Apple has also waived off membership fees for the NGOs and government agencies which plan to distribute free apps on the App Store.

Misinformation has become a big challenge for social networking platforms since the coronavirus outbreak. Earlier this month, Facebook announced giving free and unlimited “ad credits” to the World Health Organisation (WHO). It also said it was working with more agencies and organizations around the world to tackle misinformation related to COVID-19.

Google is also taking similar measures to prevent conspiracy theories and cyberattacks themed on coronavirus. “We are also helping WHO and government organizations run PSA ads,” said Google CEO Sundar Pichai in a post earlier this month.

Apple, in the meanwhile cancelled the physical event for its annual WWDC developer conference, scheduled to take place in June this year. The company has also announced closing all stores outside Greater China until March 27.

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The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has decided to suspend IPL 2020 till 15th April 2020, as a precautionary measure against the ongoing Novel Corona Virus (COVID-19) situation.

The BCCI is concerned and sensitive about all its stakeholders, and public health in general, and it is taking all necessary steps to ensure that, all people related to IPL including fans have a safe cricketing experience.

The BCCI will work closely with the Government of India along with the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and all other relevant Central and State Government departments in this regard.

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Covid-19: Twitter makes working from home mandatory for employees globally

Twitter Inc. escalated its coronavirus response by mandating that all employees must work from home, having previously only recommended the practice. The San Francisco-based company has more than 35 offices around the world, with its Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea locations already put on mandatory remote work due in part to government restrictions.
As it expands the policy to its global workforce, Twitter said it will continue to pay contractors and hourly-wage workers to cover standard working hours during the disruption.

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The steps taken by the social media giant mirror responses across the U.S. tech industry, with Microsoft Corp. and others committing to pay hourly workers unable to do their on-site jobs and also urging those who can to switch to working remotely. 

Large events across the U.S. are getting canceled, including the South by Southwest festival this month, the Google I/O developer conference in May and the E3 gaming expo scheduled for June. Local and state authorities are also imposing bans on gatherings of large crowds, while the National Basketball Associationsuspended its season after identifying a positive Covid-19 case among its players.