Trump announces tougher coronavirus guidelines

(AP) - The Trump administration said Monday that the public should avoid gatherings larger than 10 people and cancel discretionary travel, among other social distancing guidelines, in a bid to slow the coronavirus outbreak.

A member of the media, left, gets their temperature taken by a member of the White House physicians office, over concerns about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room at the White House, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Washington. (Source: AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The White House is recommending that older people and those with underlying health conditions “stay home and away from other people” as it continues to step up efforts to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The White House is laying out steps it is encouraging Americans to take as part of a campaign that it is calling, “15 days to slow the spread.”

They also want Americans to work from home if possible, avoid eating or drinking in bars and restaurants, and “avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.”

The White House is also advising governors in states with evidence of community transmission to close schools and says that states with evidence of community spread should close restaurants, bars, gyms, and other venues where people gather.

Millions of Americans are holed up at home against the coronavirus, with many of them thrown out of work until further notice.

Authorities have tightened the epic clampdown and the list of businesses forced to close across the U.S. has been extended to restaurants, bars, gyms and casinos.

The rapid work stoppage had Americans fretting about their jobs and their savings, threatened to overwhelm unemployment benefit programs, and heightened fears the country could plunge into a recession.

The U.S. surgeon general, meanwhile, said the number of U.S. coronavirus cases has reached the level that Italy recorded two weeks ago - a signal that infections are expected to rise in America.

In Washington, the Supreme Court said it was postponing legal arguments because of the outbreak, while the governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut said bars, restaurants and casinos, will close on Monday night.

Offices for the Social Security Adminstration will be closed to the public starting Tuesday in an effort to protect those most at risk from the virus: the elderly and people with underlying conditions.

The SSA will still provide critical services by phone.

The nation’s top infectious disease official said he would like to see a 14-day national shutdown imposed. Dr. Anthony Fauci said Americans should be prepared to “hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing.”

While it does not appear President Donald Trump would order such a shutdown, officials in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts ordered bars and restaurants shuttered.

The Washington governor is expected to issue a similar ban Monday. New York City limited eateries to handling takeout and delivery orders.

In addition, schools in more than 30 states have closed their doors.

Trump administration officials on Sunday described a targeted, government-driven effort to screen for the virus in the most vulnerable Americans and those able to treat them.

Officials said federal emergency and health workers would partner with states to set up community centers capable of testing 2,000 to 4,000 people per day. The details come amid growing frustration about lack of access to testing and concerns the virus is spreading undetected.

The death toll in the United States climbed to 65, while infections neared 4,000.

San Francisco Bay Area counties issue shelter-in-place order

Officials in six San Francisco Bay Area counties issued a shelter-in-place mandate on Monday affecting nearly 7 million people, including the city of San Francisco itself.

The order says residents must stay inside and venture out only for necessities for three weeks starting Tuesday in a desperate attempt by officials to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

It affects the counties of San Francisco, Marin, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa.

Millions of students are staying home from school to contain the spread of the coronavirus, with districts covering 85% of the state’s students shuttered.

6 more deaths in hard-hit Washington state

Health officials report that six more people have died of the new coronavirus in Washington state, bringing the death toll there to 48.

King County officials said Monday that the latest victims ranged in age from 50 to a woman in her 90s who was a resident of nursing center in Redmond. None was identified as being a resident of the Life Care Center in Kirkland, which has been the epicenter of the virus in the state.

Washington has nearly two-thirds of the total coronavirus deaths in the United States.

Coronavirus vaccine test opens as US volunteer gets 1st shot

U.S. researchers have given a healthy volunteer the first shot of an experimental coronavirus vaccine as anxiously awaited testing opens.

Monday’s milestone is just the first step in a long process.

The effort is one of several worldwide hunting for protection against COVID-19, even as the pandemic grows.

The study is run by scientists at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Research Institute in Seattle.

The shots were developed by the National Institutes of Health in record time after the new coronavirus exploded from China.

Experts say it will be at least a year before any vaccine is ready for widespread use.

US surgeon general: US cases are where Italy was 2 weeks ago

The U.S. surgeon general says the number of coronavirus cases in the United States has reached the level that Italy recorded two weeks ago.

It’s a sign that infections are expected to rise in America as the government steps up testing and financial markets continue to fall. Dr. Jerome Adams told Fox News on Monday the U.S. is at a critical inflection point, and that the nation is where Italy was two weeks ago.

Two weeks ago, there were 1,700 cases of coronavirus in Italy.

Now, Italy is reporting an estimated 25,000 cases and more than 1,800 deaths. So far, 65 people have died in the United States.

As society shuts down, airlines ground flights

Major airlines are scaling back flights dramatically in response to the coronavirus crisis that has seen Europe and the wider world go into lockdown.

Budget airline EasyJet said it is making big cancellations that will continue on a rolling basis. It said that could result in the grounding of the majority of its fleet.

BA’s parent company, IAG, which also owns Spain’s Iberia, said that for April and May it plans to reduce capacity by at least 75% from the previous year. It also said it is reducing operating expenses, including through voluntary leave options.

Ryanair, Europe's busiest airline, said it expects to ground the majority of its fleet across Europe over the next 7-10 days.

Travel company Tui is suspending the vast majority of travel operations until further notice, including package travel, cruises and hotel operations.

A day earlier, United Airlines had said it needs to cut flying capacity by 50% in April and May, while American Airlines announced a 75% cut to international flights.

Trudeau closes Canada border to non-citizens; Americans exempted

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he is closing his country’s borders to anyone not a citizen or a permanent resident or American amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trudeau announced the move Monday outside his residence, where he is self isolating after his wife tested positive for the new coronavirus.

He also asked Canadians to say home as much as possible amid the pandemic

Easter Egg Roll on White House lawn called off

The White House is canceling its annual Easter Egg Roll over coronavirus concerns.

The event, in which thousands of children and adults roll hard-boiled eggs across the lawn and play other games, had been scheduled for April 13.

Melania Trump announced the cancellation Monday, saying it was being done “out of an abundance of caution” and in keeping with the national emergency President Donald Trump declared last week.

The first lady says she regretted having to make the call, but added that difficult decisions are needed “in the short term to ensure a healthy country for the long term.”

She encouraged the public to heed the advice of state and local officials and to follow guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for staying healthy.

Mar-a-lago closes for deep clean after multiple coronavirus cases

After multiple confirmed cases at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort last week, including a fundraiser attendee and an aide to the Brazilian president, the club is undergoing a deep clean, a member tells CNN.

Members were notified via email that the club will be closed Monday for a cleaning, including its grand ballroom, with the exception of the beach club, which is separate to the main area (across the street) and will remain open.

Dinner will be served as usual Tuesday through Saturday.

Peace Corps evacuating volunteers worldwide amid outbreak

The Peace Corps is telling its volunteers around the world that it is suspending all operations globally and evacuating all volunteers in light of the spread of the new coronavirus.

In an open letter to volunteers posted Sunday on its website, the federal agency’s director, Jody Olsen, says the decision follows recent evacuations in China and Mongolia due to the outbreak.

Olsen says that with evacuations now underway at other posts and travel becoming more challenging by the day, the agency decided to expand the suspension and evacuations.

Olsen’s statement stressed that posts would not close, but didn’t provide a timeline for resuming operations.

As of September 2019, the service program run by the U.S. government said it operates in more than 60 countries and has more than 7,300 volunteers and trainees.

The Peace Corps was established in 1961 during the Kennedy administration as a government-run volunteer program serving nations around the world.

NASCAR extends season suspension

NASCAR has suspended its season until May as part of the CDC’s recommendation to postpone gatherings for the next eight weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision came after at least two Monday conference calls between the sanctioning body and its team owners.

The series plans to return to the track at Martinsville Speedway in Virginia on May 9.

Indy 500 decision delayed

Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials say they are holding off on postponing the month of May activities that conclude with the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend.

The Indy 500 draws crowds in excess of 300,000.

“We are aware of the CDC’s interim guidance suggesting the postponement of events involving more than 50 people over the next eight weeks,” the speedway said in a statement released before 6 a.m. local time.

“Our priority is to do our part in protecting the public health while still conducting the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge as scheduled on May 24. This continues to be a dynamic situation which we are monitoring constantly in coordination with federal, state, local and public health officials.”

IOC official says no deadline for decision on Olympics

The leader of the IOC’s coordination commission for the Tokyo Olympics says there is no May deadline to cancel the games and he remains confident the event will go ahead despite sports coming to a virtual standstill globally amid the coronavirus epidemic.

John Coates tells an Australian newspaper, “it’s all proceeding to start on the 24th of July.”

He rebuffed speculation that the end of May loomed as the deadline to make a call on the Tokyo Olympics.

The Greek Olympic committee says the Olympic flame handover ceremony for the Tokyo Games will take place without spectators in an effort to contain the coronavirus outbreak.

The committee says the accreditation cards that had been issued for Thursday’s ceremony at the stadium in Athens where the first modern Olympics were held in 1896 would not be valid.

The body's headquarters will also remain closed from Monday until further notice.

The committee canceled the remainder of the Olympic torch relay last week after crowds gathered in southern Greece to watch part of the torch relay in Sparta, where the torch was carried by actor Gerard Butler.

Greek health authorities have warned people to stay home, and have shut down everything from restaurants, bars and cafes to public organized beaches, ski resorts, hair salons and movie theaters, in an effort to curb the spread of the virus.

Greece currently has 331 confirmed cases and four deaths.

IRC starts $30M campaign to aid vulnerable areas

The International Rescue Committee is launching an emergency campaign to raise $30 million to help refugees, people displaced in their own countries and those living in nations with weak health systems respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

IRC President and CEO David Miliband said that “while coronavirus is a serious threat where there is a health system, its dangers are magnified in communities where there is no such system.”

He said in a statement that “refugees, families displaced from their homes, and those living in crisis will be hit the hardest by this outbreak.”

COVID-19 is now confirmed in crisis-affected countries where the IRC operates like Afghanistan, Iraq, Burkina Faso and Venezuela, Miliband said, warning that the virus “will thrive in active war zones like Yemen and Syria, putting the lives of thousands of civilians in even more danger.”

EU chief proposes 30-day ban on nonessential entry into bloc

The European Commission president wants the European Union to put in place a 30-day ban on people entering the bloc unless their travel is essential, in an effort to curb the spread of coronavirus.

On the eve of an EU summit via video-conference, Ursula Von der Leyen said Monday that “I propose to the heads of states and government to introduce temporary restrictions on non-essential travel to the European Union.”

Von der Leyen says that people with long-term EU residency or who are family members of European citizens, plus diplomats, doctors and health care workers could be exempted from the ban.

Transport workers could also be exempt.

Spain fourth-most infected country

Spain has become the fourth most virus-infected country in the world, surpassing South Korea with a sharp curve of contagion, and closing its borders is a “real possibility” being considered.

The topic will be discussed by European Union members on Monday, according to the country’s interior minister.

Coronavirus cases in Spain rose by roughly 1,000 cases in 24 hours to 8,744 on Monday, and the number of fatalities reached 297.

Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska said a total lockdown could be the next step, after deploying the army to the streets and to clean train stations, ordering 46 million to stay at home and taking over control of private hospitals.

Portugal and Spain have already agreed to halt tourism across their 1,200-kilometer (750-mile) shared border. Goods and workers will still be allowed in and out. About half of the deaths have been in the capital, Madrid.

Hungary closing borders to foreigners

Hungary’s prime minister says the country is closing its borders to foreigners and only citizens will be allowed in. Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Monday in Parliament that international coordination about the border closures is underway.

Orban also said all bars, restaurants and shops will have to close daily at 3 p.m., with only food stores, pharmacies and drug stores allowed to stay open longer.

Cinemas, cultural institutions and nightclubs will also be closed, while sporting events can still be held if organizers assume responsibility, but only without spectators.

Schools were closed to students on Monday, with distance learning programs starting to be implemented.

So far, 30 people in Hungary have been infected with one virus-related death.

Virus toll in Iran climbs as lockdowns deepen across Mideast

Iran has reported a record rise of 129 fatalities from the new coronavirus, pushing its total death toll to 853 amid nearly 15,000 confirmed cases.

Lebanon went into lockdown and Iraqis prepared for a curfew as part of regional efforts to contain the new coronavirus, but in Iran businesses have remained open.

The divergent approaches adopted by local authorities reflect continued uncertainty over how to slow the spread of a virus that has infected around 170,000 people worldwide and caused more than 6,500 deaths.

Some have opted for an even more aggressive response, with Israel authorizing the use of phone-snooping technology long used against Palestinian militants to track coronavirus patients.

Asia urges vigilance to maintain hard-won infection drops among economic worries

People around the world began holing up at home, stocking up on supplies and keeping a wary eye on how close they got to friends and neighbors as fear of the fast-spreading coronavirus sunk in.

While it’s a reality Northeast Asia has been living with for months, there were signs across the region that the focus of the pandemic was shifting away from its former epicenter, even as countries urged vigilance against hard-won drops in infections.

South Korea reported 74 additional cases of the new coronavirus Monday, continuing its downward trend.

The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the additional cases brought the country’s total to 8,236. It has 75 deaths.

The country’s central bank executed an emergency rate cut of 0.5 percentage point to help ease the economic fallout from the virus.

The Bank of Korea’s move on Monday brought its policy rate to an all-time low of 0.75% amid concerns that the global spread of COVID-19 will rattle South Korea’s trade-dependent economy.

South Korea has the fourth-highest number of cases worldwide, but its new cases have been declining recently. About 90% of cases in South Korea are in the southeastern city of Daegu and nearby areas.

China’s consumer spending and other business activity fell more than expected in January and February as it fought the virus outbreak, prompting some forecasters to warn this year’s economic growth might slump to its weakest level since the 1970s.

Retail sales fell 20.5% from a year ago after shopping malls and other businesses were closed in late January.

Factory output declined by a record 13.5% after the Lunar New Year holiday was extended to keep manufacturers and offices closed.

Economists warned manufacturers and others will struggle despite official efforts to reopen factories and other businesses in many areas while preventing a new spike in infections.

Japan’s central bank is expanding its purchases of stocks, bonds and other assets and provide zero interest loans to companies running short of cash due to the virus outbreak.

The measures were among many by central banks seeking to salvage economies swooning from downturns in travel and other spending as authorities impose sweeping controls to curb the spread of the virus.

The BOJ’s move followed a decision by the U.S. Federal Reserve’s decision to cut its key interest rate to near zero to help boost the availability of cash and credit.

The BOJ cut its key policy rate to minus 0.1% several years ago as part of a massive, prolonged effort to use cheap credit to keep the economy growing.

Japan’s economy contracted at a 7.1% annual pace in the last quarter and is expected to shrink further in this quarter given the shock from the coronavirus outbreak.

Duterte tightens virus quarantine in northern Philippines


Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is placing the northern third of the country under an “enhanced community quarantine” that requires millions of people to stay mostly at home in an attempt to contain the coronavirus, which has killed 12 people in the Southeast Asian nation.

Under the monthlong containment, most office work and public transportation on Luzon iiland, which includes Manila, will be suspended.

Officials say public movement will be restricted, with residents allowed to buy food at stores but not to crowd together.

Banks, hospitals and supermarkets will remain open.

Duterte also placed the rest of the Philippines under “a state of public health emergency.”

New Africa coronavirus crisis looms with internal spread

The coronavirus has now been confirmed in at least 30 of Africa’s 54 countries.

Regional power South Africa is warning of a new crisis once the virus begins to spread at home and into crowded low-income communities.

The most alarming confirmation of a first case comes from Somalia. It has one of the continent’s weakest health systems after nearly three decades of conflict.

Tanzania, Liberia and Benin also announced their first cases.

African nations have begun imposing travel restrictions as many confirmed cases come from abroad.

Algeria has cut off all air and sea contact with Europe, effective Thursday.

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