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Mission launches to International Space Station after extended quarantine

2:20 p.m.

One American astronaut and two Russian cosmonauts have successfully arrived at the International Space Station after passing an extended quarantine before blast off to prevent the earthbound coronavirus from spreading to the stars (or at least Earth’s low orbit).

Pre-launch isolation is routine for astronauts, but to ensure none of the spacemen had the virus, their scheduled isolation began earlier, the BBC reported. Family and nonessential personnel were not allowed to attend the launch and mask-wearing support staff kept their distance as the three men left for the rocket. 

Launching at around 1 p.m. local from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, a Russian Soyuz rocket catapulted NASA’s Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos’ Anatoly Icanishin and Ivan Vagner to space and docked with the space station about six hours later, according to NASA.

Cassidy will become the commander of the space station’s new mission, Expedition 63, during a change of command ceremony on April 15. This is the third spaceflight for Cassidy and Ivanishin, and Vagner’s first.

“No virus is stronger than the human desire to explore,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine while congratulating and thanking the crew on Twitter after the launch.

Smokers, vapers at greater danger for coronavirus, experts say

12:15 p.m.

This Tuesday, Dec. 17, 2019 photo shows a group of cigarettes in New York. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison) | Patrick Sison, Associated Press

As if smoking and vaping weren’t unhealthy enough, experts now say that those who enjoy drags from a cigarette or vaping device face greater risks related to COVID-19. 

The act of bringing the tobacco or marijuana vector to one’s mouth, the effects of smoke or vapor on the lungs, and smoker’s cough all exacerbate both the complications and spread of disease, The New York Times reported. 

“You are spreading whatever is in your hand into your body. At the same time, many of my patients who smoke or vape have increased coughing or expectorating. And that’s a recipe for increased spread,” explained Harvard Medical School professor Dr. Jonathan Winickoff. 

Winickoff, who asked the Massachusetts attorney general on Wednesday to issue a public advisory about the dangers of smoking during the outbreak, said “quitting during this pandemic could not only save your life, but by preventing the need for your treatment in a hospital, you might also save someone else’s life.”

The advisory points out that it may be more difficult for smokers and vapers — who could be more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections — to resist the virus.

Smokers were more likely to have a severe reaction to the virus in a study of coronavirus patients in China published in the New England Journal of Medicine. The Times reported that smoking was a factor in 2012 for people who became sick with Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS).

First lady to deliver Easter eggs to coronavirus responders

10:50 a.m.

Wooden Easter eggs sit in a box at the White House waiting to be delivered to organizations in the area Wednesday, April 8, 2020, in Washington. With the annual White House Easter Egg Roll canceled due to concerns about large gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic, first lady Melania Trump is giving 25,000 commemorative Easter eggs to area children's hospitals, federal agencies, aid groups and grocery store chains. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) | Evan Vucci, Associated Press

First lady Melania Trump will play the role of the Easter Bunny this year for thousands of coronavirus responders, health care workers and grocery store employees, after the annual White House Easter Egg Roll was canceled due to the pandemic, The Associated Press reported. 

This week, she will deliver 25,000 pastel-painted eggs — which would have been used in the egg roll — to local children’s hospitals, government agencies and aid groups and grocery stores that have remained open as essential services during the pandemic, according to AP.

“It is because of you that the people of America are receiving the care and treatment they need,” Trump said in a video appearance. 

The eggs are a “small token of appreciation” for individuals serving the public good, the first lady’s office said.

The White House Egg Roll — which was scrapped to prevent a large gathering — has only been canceled 17 times in its history of more than 140 years. The event would have taken place on the Monday following Easter.