Coronavirus updates: 16 states close all schools, US death toll hits 50

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At least 16 states have closed all schools, keeping more than a quarter of U.S. schoolchildren out of the classroom. All of Europe – including the United Kingdom and Ireland – is now under U.S. travel restrictions. President Donald Trump is waiting for the results of a coronavirus test.

Trump spoke at the White House with his virus task force one day after declaring the coronavirus pandemic to be a national emergency.

Some highlights of the press conference:

  • Trump praised a late night deal between House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin that would provide economic relief to Americans affected by the crisis and provide for free testing for the virus.
  • The U.S. is extending its Europe travel ban to cover the United Kingdom and Ireland so that residents of those countries will not be allowed to travel to the U.S. for 30 days, beginning Monday.
  • Trump said the administration is considering some domestic travel restrictions from areas hard hit by the pandemic.

At least 50 people have died in the U.S., where there have been more than 2,100 confirmed cases of the virus. Worldwide, cases were nearing 150,000 on Saturday with more than 5,500 deaths.

Refresh this page for the latest updates on coronavirus. Here are some significant things to know:

Soldiers returning from 9 months in Afghanistan now under quarantine

More than 300 paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team started a 14-day quarantine Saturday after being deployed for nine months in Afghanistan.

The move is a precautionary measure, division officials said.

Col. T.J. Rainsford, a spokesman for the 18th Airborne Corps, said that as of Saturday morning, there were no positive cases of the new coronavirus at Fort Bragg, the largest Army installation in the country.

The quarantining of the soldiers was directed by the Army, which said that troops leaving areas that are labeled Level 2 or higher by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention should stay in quarantine for two weeks.

While in quarantine, the paratroopers will be monitored for health and get appropriate medical treatment, according to the division.

At least 16 states close all schools

At least 16 states and a number of large urban school districts – including Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest – are shutting down all K-12 schools as part of a sweeping attempt to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Washington have all ordered all schools closed.

In addition to Los Angeles, major metropolitan districts in Atlanta, Austin, Denver, Miami-Dade County, San Francisco, San Diego and Washington, D.C., have also shuttered. A growing number of smaller districts around the country have also chosen to close.

According to a count updated mid-afternoon Friday by Education Week magazine, about a quarter of American schoolchildren had been or were scheduled to be affected by a school closures – and that was before some states announced their actions.

The magazine said at least 46,000 schools were closed, are scheduled to close, or were closed and later reopened, affecting at least 21 million students.

Customs intercepts fake virus tests

U.S. Customs and Border Protection is advising Americans to be aware of “bogus home testing kits for sale either online or in informal direct to consumer settings” after officers at Los Angeles International Airport intercepted a package containing suspected counterfeit COVID-19 test kits arriving from the United Kingdom, the agency said Saturday.

The officers discovered six plastic bags containing various vials while conducting an enforcement examination Thursday. The vials were filled with a white liquid and labeled “Corona Virus 2019nconv (COVID-19)” and “Virus1 Test Kit,” the agency said. The agency turned the shipment over to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for analysis.

– Grace Hauck

Trump adds UK, Ireland to travel restrictions

Trump on Saturday said the United Kingdom and Ireland will be added to the Europe travel restrictions that went into effect late Friday. This means residents of those countries will not be allowed to travel to the United States for 30 days beginning Monday.

U.S. residents and legal permanent residents won’t be banned but they will face airport screenings upon their return and will be asked to self quarantine for 14 days.

In response to the broadened ban and the resulting falloff in travel demand, airlines are likely to sharply cut flights between the U.S. and London and Ireland. Delta Air Lines and American Airlines suspended all flights between the U.S. and the 26 European countries covered by the initial ban.

Meanwhile, Trump said he is considering domestic travel restrictions “specifically from certain areas” after the Pentagon restricted service members’ domestic travel. “If you don’t have to travel I wouldn’t do it … we want this thing to end.” Read more here.

– Dawn Glibertson 

Census deadline could change

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Saturday the deadline to respond to the 2020 Census is still the end of July, but that could change if the coronavirus crisis impacts the national operation.

Civil rights groups and community activists had called for the Census Bureau to consider extending the July 31 deadline as concerns increase about the impact of the outbreak on the decennial count.

Ross said the agency has a $2 billion contingency budget and will adapt its plans to deal with the coronavirus crisis, including deadlines. Households have until July 31 to respond to the population survey.

Civil rights groups said they’re worried about the safety of census takers and are concerned communities that have long been under counted may not respond.

Census officials have been scrambling to meet deadlines, including recruiting and hiring thousands of workers who will knock on the doors of people who don’t respond to the survey. The deadlines are critical as the Census is required to provide information to Congress. That information is used to distribute billions in federal funds and determine the number of members of Congress for each state.

—    Deborah Berry 

NCAA had, spent rainy-day fund

The cancellation of the NCAA’s Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments is likely to wreak financial havoc on colleges and universities that depend on the millions of dollars in revenue the games bring in.

It turns out the NCAA did have the foresight to begin planning for an unknown catastrophic event that would threaten its biggest and most lucrative event.

By 2014, the association had accumulated a nearly $400 million cushion as a hedge against a massive loss of revenue from the tournament.

Then, at the direction of its governing board of college presidents, the NCAA distributed that money to schools to help them with increasing costs and spent it on their behalf in other ways, including a $208.7 million legal settlement.

“The NCAA will be fine,” said Barbara Osborne, a sports administration professor at the University of North Carolina. “But all schools will be having huge belt tightening because of this.” Read more here.

– Steve Berkowitz 

Mnuchin says more bills coming on cruise, hotel, airline assistance

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin praised the legislation passed by the House early Saturday morning and said the next round of legislation would address the cruise, hotel and airline industries.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday in a letter to lawmakers the House would start work on a third legislative package to “protect the health, economic security and well-being of the American people.”

The House passed a bill early in the morning to provide paid sick leave and free coronavirus testing, and Mnuchin told reporters the bill “delivers on what the president announced in his speech the other night.”

“People who need to be quarantined, we want them at home and we don’t want them to fear not getting paid,” he continued.

Mnuchin said there was language agreed to with Pelosi and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that did not make it into the final bill, “so there will be a technical correction Monday morning.”

– Nicholas Wu and Courtney Subramanian

Trump: Federal Reserve should be ‘more proactive’

Trump again slammed the Federal Reserve on Saturday, saying the central bank hasn’t done enough to calm financial markets amid the coronavirus pandemic.

At an unusual Saturday news conference, Trump offered praise to Congress, the American people and even the press for their response to the coronavirus scare. But the Fed – one of his favorite targets – got only presidential scorn.

“I thought the Fed would be and should be much more proactive,” Trump said. “Our Fed is following.”

Trump is frequently critical of the Fed and Chairman Jerome Powell, whom he appointed to the chairmanship in 2017. Trump claims that interest rate hikes have slowed economic growth.

The Fed cut interest rates two weeks ago in a rare emergency move in response to the threat the coronavirus posed to the economy and financial markets. But Trump thinks it should be doing more.

“Our Fed is not doing what they should be doing,” he said, arguing the U.S. shouldn’t have a rate higher than competitor nations such as Germany and Japan.

Asked whether he intends to fire Powell, Trump said he has the authority to do so, “but I’m not doing it.”

– Michael Collins

France closes all schools, restaurants, Eiffel tower; Spain locks down 46M citizens, Israel bans gatherings

France and Spain followed Italy’s lead with tough new measures, leaving the Eiffel Tower and Louvre shuttered and 46 million Spanish citizens in a lockdown.

Italy also invoked sharp new measures, including closing playgrounds and parks.

France’s orders closed cafes, restaurant and cinemas. The government has banned all gatherings of more than 100 people, ordered all schools closed and asked companies to allow workers to stay home.

In declaring a two-week state of emergency Saturday, Spain prepared to close all schools, universities, restaurants, bars and hotels nationwide.

Spain’s declaration comes as coronavirus cases soared to over 5,700 with 136 deaths. The declaration also would allow the government to limit free movement, confiscate goods and take over control of industries and private facilities, including private hospitals.

Residents of Madrid, which has around half the infections, and northeastern Catalonia awoke to shuttered bars and restaurants and other non-essential commercial outlets as ordered by regional authorities.

In Italy, mayors of many cities, including Rome and Milan, decided to close public playgrounds and parks as European countries fashion different polices to try to combat the spread of the virus.

Elsewhere, Denmark and Poland became the latest countries to shut their borders to most travelers.

Israel on Saturday banned gatherings of more than ten people and ordered that restaurants and movie theaters close. Supermarkets, banks, pharmacies and gas stations are allowed to remain open.

More on coronavirus:

Department of Transportation issues emergency declaration

Truckers hauling loads of emergency supplies and commercial drivers transporting relief personnel due to the coronavirus outbreak will no longer be subject to federal rules regarding maximum number of work hours, the Department of Transportation said Saturday in issuing a national emergency declaration.

The declaration waives otherwise strict rules governing driving and rest period times, intended to reduce highway deaths. It is intended to cut red tape that otherwise might hold up emergency relief, officials said.

It will apply to drivers hauling critical medical supplies like masks, hand sanitizer, soap and disinfectants needed by health care workers. Also mentioned are sanitation supplies for communities. Included, too, is food for emergency restocking of stores, workers and supplies for temporary housing or quarantine facilities related to COVID-19 and transportation of medical or other emergency-service personnel.

“This declaration will help America’s commercial drivers get these critical goods to impacted areas faster and more efficiently,” said Jim Mullen, acting administrator of the department’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.

The order requires truckers be allowed to rest for a minimum of 10 consecutive hours if they say they need time off before returning to work at the terminal or their normal reporting location. Normally, truckers are subject to elaborate rules that limit them to 11 hours of driving a day during a 14-hour period after 10 hours of rest.

The administration’s order includes stipulations to prevent abuse. It won’t apply to commercial deliveries, for instance, or to mixed loads – items both considered part of the emergency relief shipped along with general cargo.

– Chris Woodyard

Ahead of Pence briefing, White House checks temperatures for those around Trump, Pence

Ahead of a press briefing Saturday with Vice President Mike Pence, a member of the White House Physicians Office took the temperature of reporters and television crews.

“Out of an abundance of caution, temperature checks are now being performed on any individuals who are in close contact with the President and Vice President,” said White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere.

One symptom of the coronavirus, which has been named COVID-19, is a fever.

One reporter whose temperature was too high was escorted out by staff. Pence’s press secretary Katie Miller said the White House Medical Unit took the person’s temperature three times over a 15-minute period and that “all three registered above the @CDCgov 100.4 guidelines.”

– Nicholas Wu

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Trump awaiting coronavirus test results

Trump said Saturday he had taken the test for the coronavirus following his recent exposure to two Brazilian officials who later tested positive for the virus.

Trump told reporters his temperature was “totally normal” and that he took the test Friday night, and the results would take “few days” while it was sent to a lab.

A White House doctor issued a statement late Friday saying the president didn’t need to get tested or self-quarantined for coronavirus because he had not exhibited any symptoms. Read more here.

– Courtney Subramanian

New York reports first virus-related death

An 82-year-old woman with emphysema died Saturday in Manhattan, marking New York state’s first death linked to the coronavirus, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The unidentified woman, who died in a New York City hospital, was first admitted to the hospital March 3, Cuomo said.

The effects of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, can be significantly exacerbated by an underlying respiratory illness, like emphysema, that can cause shortness of breath.

The number of confirmed cases jumped to 524 on Saturday, a one-day increase of 103 cases. Read more here. 

– Jon Campbell

Surgeon General: Protect ‘your nana, your granddaddy’ from coronavirus

Surgeon General Jerome Adams told reporters Americans needed to protect those most at risk from the coronavirus like the elderly and those with medical conditions.

“Social distancing and mitigation: they’re to protect your nana, your grandaddy,” said Adams, who urged everyone to “pitch in and share the facts” to “get through the outbreak.”

“If we are complacent, selfish, uninformed – this situation will last longer and more people will be hurt,” he said.  “No more finger-pointing or criticism.”

He also stressed that “almost all people” will recover from the coronavirus, noting that “98.9% of people will recover.”

– Nicholas Wu and Courtney Subramanian

Royal Caribbean to suspend operations

Royal Caribbean will suspend operations globally as of midnight Saturday amid the coronavirus pandemic. “We will conclude all current sailings as scheduled and assist our guests with their safe return home,” according to a statement on the cruise line’s website. “As with our announcement yesterday regarding U.S. sailings, we expect to return to service on April 11, 2020.”  Read more here.

– David Oliver 

Harris Teeter, Fred Meyer stop 24-hour service

Kroger is ending 24-hour service in some cities to allow crews to clean and restock stores. Here’s where stores are affected:

  • All QFC stores, based in the Pacific Northwest (Seattle, Oregon), have moved away from 24 hours
  • Most Fred Meyer stores in the Pacific Northwest have followed suit
  • Harris Teeter, based in North Carolina and serving the Southeast from Florida to Washington, D.C., are closing nightly

Kroger did not say whether or not hours have changed in Cincinnati, where it is based, or in other regions. The company said decisions on hours were being made by local management

Kroger rival Publix, based in Florida and serving the Southeast, has also curtailed 24-hour service.

“We are focused on having clean, open and stocked stores for our customers and some 24-hour store locations are making this decision based on local circumstances,” Kroger said Saturday. “We will continue to make decisions that allow us to operate efficiently to serve our customers and support our associates.” Read more here.

– Alexander Coolidge

Virus halts justice system

Courts across the country are suspending cases to minimize community exposure to COVID-19. Here’s a look at what’s going on:

  • Many criminal and civil cases in Cook County, Illinois, where Chicago is located, will be postponed for a 30-day period starting Tuesday. “We will continue to identify the appropriate balance between allowing access to justice and minimizing the threat to public health,” Chief Judge Timothy C. Evans said in a press release Friday.
  • Florida has suspended jury trials throughout the State Courts System until March 27.
  • The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court postponed all jury trial empanelments until April 21. The order does not affect juries already selected. No new grand juries will be empaneled before April 21. The court also prohibited people who have symptoms of, or any exposure to, COVID-19 from entering a courthouse or other state court facility.
  • The Supreme Court of North Carolina suspended superior court and district court proceedings for at least 30 days, with some exceptions.
  • Connecticut has suspended all jury trials for the next 30 day, with the exception of jury trials already in progress and criminal jury trials necessitated by the filing and granting of a speedy trial motion.

House approves Trump-backed deal on economic relief

The House overwhelmingly passed legislation to provide economic relief to Americans affected by coronavirus after President Donald Trump said Friday he would support the sweeping measure.

The Families First Coronavirus Response Act was adopted 363-40 with every Democrat and most Republicans voting in favor of the measure. The vote was conducted shortly after midnight Friday following two days of around-the-clock negotiations between Democratic leaders and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

The legislation would ensure sick leave for affected workers and include money for testing for Americans, including the uninsured. Trump and lawmakers have been under pressure to ease fears over the spread of the deadly coronavirus, which has halted many parts of public life, forced the closure of schools and pummeled financial markets.

The bill now heads to the Senate for an expected vote Monday. Read more here. 

– John Fritze and Ledyard King

Apple to close stores for 2 weeks

Apple announced it will close all its retail stores outside Greater China until March 27 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” Apple CEO, Tim Cook, said in a statement late Friday.

Cook said its online stores will remain open, as well as the Apple Store app. Workers will continue to receive pay, according to the post.

All Apple stores in Greater China have reopened as of Friday. The company began closing stores there as the virus spread.

Apple also said Friday that its annual developers conference held in June will shift online amid the spreading coronavirus pandemic.

– Coral Murphy

NAACP worried communities of color may face another ‘Katrina-like’ response

Concerned that communities of color may face another “Katrina-like” response from the federal government, the NAACP is hosting an emergency national tele-town hall Sunday to make sure they have information to recognize and get treatment for the coronavirus.

Civil rights groups and lawmakers – already concerned about health disparities in communities of color – worry there may also be a slow response to the coronavirus crisis, including access to tests and treatment. Democrats and advocates have criticized the Trump administration for not doing enough to address the crisis.

“I’m extremely concerned that our lack of preparedness … would result in a Katrina-like response where there was vast inequities between who receive services and who did not receive services and that line was drawn based on race, primarily, and class,’’ Derrick Johnson, president of the national NAACP, told USA TODAY.

Former President George W. Bush and his administration came under fire in 2005 for the slow response to Hurricane Katrina. The hurricane left more than 1,800 dead in the region and devastated communities, many of them African American.

The tele-town hall scheduled for 8 p.m. EST will focus on how to identify symptoms and how to prepare. It aims to provide listeners with information on “how to navigate in this current reality,’’ said Johnson.

You asked, we’re answering: Specific answers to readers’ coronavirus questions

Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, who will be part of the town hall,said she’s concerned about the impact of the coronavirus on communities of colors and about whether there are enough tests. “As it connects to every other public health issue our folks are the last to have access to what is needed to allow them to be diagnosed and treated,” she said.

Johnson said while all communities will be impacted, he’s worried about different response in communities of color.

“I think our president has undermined the ability of our medical health professions both in government and outside of government from implementing an aggressive plan to address this pandemic,’’ said Johnson, adding that Trump hasn’t listened to medical professionals. “He is the problem on top of the problem.”

Separately, members of the congressional Tri-Caucus, called on health officials to  provide information in languages other than English. The Tri-Caucus include the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.

– Deborah Berry

‘Now it’s real’: Long lines, bare shelves at stores around the country

With shelves in many stores picked bare, the coronavirus is spurring panicked shoppers to stock up on products ranging from cleansing wipes to peanut butter as they prepare to hunker down in the midst of the growing pandemic.

Shoppers at a Walmart in Gardena, California, were greeted by a notice saying they couldn’t buy more than two packages of toilet paper, hand sanitizer or cleaning wipes, only to discover that by 9:30 a.m., they were already too late. At a Coscto in Lawndale, California, shoppers had to wait an hour for two cases of bottled water, the most water they were able to buy.

“Before it was a scare,” Chiquita Thursby said. “Now it’s real.” Read more here.

– Charisse Jones and Kelly Tyko

Map: Which states have coronavirus cases?

Trump said Saturday there have been 50 deaths in the U.S. More than 2,170 cases of coronavirus in the U.S., according to a dashboard run by Johns Hopkins University. The majority of the deaths have been in Washington state, while California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey and South Dakota have all reported deaths. At least 12 people have recovered in the country.

Source: USA Today

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