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Coronavirus updates from March 19, 2020

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This live blog has ended. Follow the latest coronavirus updates here.    

President Trump says he is ordering the FDA to fast-track the use of two drugs for sick patients, though the agency says it could still take months of clinical trials. More than 14,200 people have now tested positive in the U.S. and at least 187 have died. Experts warn those numbers will continue to spike as more people are tested.

Meanwhile, Senate Republicans introduced emergency legislation to address the economic fallout from the outbreak. The third phase of the legislative response to the pandemic includes direct cash payments to many Americans. In California, Governor Gavin Newsom announced a statewide order for residents to stay at home. The order will begin Thursday night.  

The State Department told citizens who traveled abroad they should come home immediately or prepare to remain overseas. Italy now has the most coronavirus-related deaths, overtaking China, where the global outbreak started. A total of 3,405 people have died in Italy, and more than 3,100 in China, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

  • Top questions about coronavirus - answered
  • Tips for managing anxiety as the pandemic spreads in the U.S.
  • Officials warn U.S. hospitals are unprepared for the scale of the crisis

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for detailed information on coronavirus treatment and prevention.

 

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."

Read more about the decision here

By William Harwood
 

Latest U.S. numbers

There are more than 14,200 cases in the U.S., and at least 187 deaths linked to the virus.

74 - Washington 
26 - New York
18 - California 
10 - Georgia
9 - New Jersey
9 - Florida
8 - Louisiana
4 - Illinois
4 - Texas
3 - Colorado
3 - Oregon
3 - Michigan
2 - Indiana
2 - Virginia
2 - Connecticut
2 - Kentucky 
1 - Kansas
1 - South Dakota
1 - Nevada 
1 - South Carolina 
1 - Pennsylvania
1 - Missouri
1 - Maryland
1 - Mississippi

By Justin Carissimo
 

Actor Daniel Dae Kim uses coronavirus diagnosis to shed light on social issues

After getting diagnosed with coronavirus, actor Daniel Dae Kim used Instagram to share some COVID-19 wisdom with his followers. "The Good Doctor" and "Lost" actor used the social media platform to explain the testing procedure, encourage his fans to practice social distancing, and shed light on social issues related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kim, best known for his roles as Jin-Soo Kwon in "Lost," Chin Ho Kelly in "Hawaii Five-O," and Dr. Jackson Han in "The Good Doctor," was diagnosed Wednesday with COVID-19 while in Hawaii, he said in the video. He believes he contracted the virus while filming the TV show "New Amsterdam" in New York City.

While he said he wanted to shed light on the coronavirus testing process, he also said he wanted the video to shed light on other pressing coronavirus-related social issues, primarily xenophobia. 

"Please, please stop the prejudiced and senseless violence against Asian people. Randomly beating elderly, sometimes homeless Asian Americans is cowardly, heartbreaking, and it's inexcusable," he said in the video. "... I got it in America, in New York City. And despite what certain political leaders wanna call it, I don't consider the place where it's from as important as the people who are sick and dying."

Read more here

By Li Cohen
 

Positive cases hit the U.S. immigration system

Officials confirmed on Thursday night that a staff member at a New York facility that cares for unaccompanied migrant children in U.S. custody tested positive for COVID-19. The government is consulting with the local health department about "the level of exposure for the children" in the facility.

The unidentified New York facility, overseen by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), has stopped receiving unaccompanied minors, and officials are notifying any staff that may have been exposed. Nationwide, the U.S. government has tested four unaccompanied children in ORR custody for the coronavirus. Two tests came back negative and the others are pending.

Separately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials announced that one of the agency's medical staffers at a detention facility in Elizabeth, New Jersey, tested positive for the virus. The staffer was recently under self-quarantine and is now receiving treatment, according to officials. Earlier in the day, an officer at a jail in Bergen County, New Jersey, used by ICE also tested positive for the virus.

ICE said there have not been any confirmed COVID-19 cases among its tens of thousands of immigrant detainees. But the agency continues to face intensifying pressure to release some detainees to avert a potentially deadly coronavirus outbreak inside the world's largest immigration detention system. 

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez
 

California governor announces statewide stay-at-home order

California Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday announced a statewide order for residents to stay at home. The order will begin Thursday evening. Essential services like grocery stores and pharmacies will remain open, but venues like bars, dine-in restaurants and gyms will be closed. 

"This is a moment where we need to have straight talk and we need to tell people the truth," Newsom said. 

He added that the order will not be enforced by law enforcement, and that he is relying on the social contract to keep people indoors. 

"I don't believe the people of California need to be told through law enforcement," he said.  

By Victoria Albert
 

High-risk individuals plead with others to practice social distancing

Online, some young people are pleading with strangers to practice social distancing as a matter of life or death. An estimated 10 million Americans have a medical condition that weakens the immune system — and in Italy, 99% of the patients who died from the coronavirus had preexisting conditions. 

Watch Errol Barnett's report below. 

Young people plead with strangers online to practice social distancing
 

FBI says cybercriminals will target 3 states with coronavirus scams

There has been a "significant spike" in coronavirus scams across the nation, with the FBI anticipating that criminals will zero in on three states with high rates of infections: Washington, California and New York, Section Chief Herb Stapleton of the FBI Cyber Division, confirmed to CBS News on Thursday.

"Virtually all of the attacks targeting U.S. victims are from criminals who reside outside U.S. borders," Stapleton said. "The increased targeting is aimed at parts of the country disproportionately affected by the virus."

According to Stapleton, the spike encompasses activities like scams in which criminals try to hijack government relief checks, sell fake vaccines and test kits, or pose as charities claiming to help victims. In these cases, the criminals ask for money upfront, either as a charitable donation, or cash to expedite the relief check.

Read more about the scams here.

By Catherine Herridge
 

Unemployment rates skyrocket as government works to relieve financial burden

Unemployment claims are skyrocketing across the nation, as more and more businesses are forced to close their doors. The federal government is trying to put a band-aid on the financial bleeding by working to send out stimulus checks of $1,000 per adult and $500 per child — but many Americans fear that will be far from enough. 

Watch Kris Van Cleave's report below.

U.S. unemployment claims skyrocket as the government works to relieve financial burden
 

Two Lakers players test positive

Two players on the Lakers have tested positive for coronavirus, the team announced Thursday in a statement. The team did not identify who those players are.

The team said that the players were tested after they learned that four members of the Brooklyn Nets, who the Lakers faced on March 10, had been diagnosed with the disease. The team added that both of the players are asymptomatic and that they are isolated and under the care of the team physician.

The statement added that all players and members of the Lakers staff are still advised to self-quarantine.

Lakers logo
This 2017 image shows a Lakers jersey.  Kevork Djansezian / Getty
By Victoria Albert
 

Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart tests positive

Boston Celtics point guard and shooting guard Marcus Smart announced Thursday that he has been diagnosed with the coronavirus.

"I'm okay, I feel fine, I don't feel any of the symptoms," Smart said in a video posted to Twitter. "But I can't stress enough, practicing social distancing, and really keeping yourself away from a large group of people, and really just washing your hands."

Smart's video came minutes after the team announced that a player had been diagnosed with the virus. In a statement, the team said that the player was tested because of known exposure to a positive case and that the Celtics are awaiting more testing results.

By Victoria Albert
 

2020 G7 summit will be held via teleconference

The G7 summit, an annual meeting of world leaders, will be held via teleconference this year, according to White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere. 

"In order for each country to focus all of its resources on responding to the health and economic challenges of COVID-19 and at President Trump's direction, National Economic Council Director and U.S. Sherpa for the 2020 G7 Larry Kudlow has informed his Sherpa colleagues that the G7 Leaders' Summit the U.S. was set to host in June at Camp David will now be done by video-teleconference," Deere said. 

The summit was originally scheduled for early June. 

— Kristin Brown

 

Cannes International Film Festival won't run in May

Cannes International Film Festival announced Thursday that the event will not go on as planned, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The iconic film event was originally scheduled to run from May 12-23. 

The organization said in a statement on its website that it was considering several options for this year's festival, including rescheduling it for a date near the end of June. 

"As soon as the development of the French and international health situation will allow us to assess the real possibility, we will make our decision known," the organization said. 

By Victoria Albert
 

Three members of Philadelphia 76ers organization test positive

Three members of the Philadelphia 76ers organization have tested positive for coronavirus, the team announced Thursday. Those individuals are currently in self-isolation.

"The Philadelphia 76ers, in consultation with medical experts and the NBA, received the recommendation that certain individuals from the organization, including players, coaches and specific basketball operations support staff, be tested for COVID-19," the team said in a statement. "The tests were secured and processed privately." 

Cavaliers 76ers Basketball
This 2013 image shows the 76ers logo in Philly. Matt Slocum / AP
By Victoria Albert
 

Rikers Island inmate tests positive

NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio said Thursday that for the first time an inmate at Rikers Island has been diagnosed with the new coronavirus. He said the man, who is in his early 30s, is "doing OK" after being moved to isolation. Several other inmates were being checked for symptoms.

Several guards at the jail have tested positive. On Sunday, a civilian investigator for the jail agency died of the disease.

About 40 inmates with health vulnerabilities and who are believed to be at low-risk to re-offend have been put on a list to be released from city jails, de Blasio said. The state's prison system had at least two employees test positive, but no inmates. At least 20 members of the New York Police Department have tested positive, the department said. —The Associated Press

 

"There is hope": Two drugs could help patients fight back

One of the reasons health professionals are so worried about the coronavirus pandemic is that there is no specific medicine to treat or prevent the disease — if a patient gets sick, all doctors can do is provide supportive treatment to help them breathe. But in Thursday's coronavirus task force briefing from the White House, President Trump touted two preexisting treatments that have been floated as potential ways to help patients fight back.

Both drugs are still in clinical trials for coronavirus. But CBS News medical contributor Dr. David Agus joined "CBS Evening News" anchor Norah O'Donnell to break down what we know about the medications.

Read the full interview with Dr. Agus here

 

Senate GOP bill includes checks up to $1,200 for Americans

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has introduced emergency stimulus legislation to address the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak, the third phase of the legislative response to the pandemic that has killed thousands around the world and tanked financial markets.

The "phase three" bill unveiled by Senate Republicans on Thursday includes rebates of $1,200 for most individuals who reported less than $75,000 on their 2018 tax returns, or $2,400 per couple who filed their taxes jointly and made less than $150,000.

Another $500 would be added for every dependent child. Low-income Americans with at least $2,500 of qualified income get a smaller benefit of $600, or $1,200 for couples. — Grace Segers and Stefan Becket

Read more here.

 

Saints head coach Sean Payton says he's tested positive for coronavirus

Sean Payton, the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, says he's tested positive for coronavirus. Payton, 56, told ESPN he received the test result Thursday afternoon and will self-quarantine throughout the weekend.

"This is not just about social distancing," Payton told ESPN. "It's shutting down here for a week to two weeks. If people understand the curve, and understand the bump, we can easily work together as a country to reduce it. Take a minute to understand what the experts are saying. It's not complicated to do what they're asking of us. Just that type of small investment by every one of us will have a dramatic impact."

Payton is believed to be the first person in the NFL to test positive for COVID-19.

"I was fortunate to be in the minority, without the serious side effects that some have. I'm lucky," he told ESPN. "Younger people feel like they can handle this, but they can be a carrier to someone who can't handle it. So we all need to do our part. It's important for every one of us to do our part."

By Justin Carissimo
 

Tesla suspends production at California and New York facilities

After meeting with local, state and federal officials, Tesla announced Thursday that they would temporarily suspend production at its facilities in Fremont, California, and Buffalo, New York, with some exceptions.

"Our factory in New York will temporarily suspend production as well, except for those parts and supplies necessary for service, infrastructure and critical supply chains," the company said in a statement.

The company said operations at its Nevada facility would continue.

By Justin Carissimo
 

Connecticut postpones presidential primary

Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont announced he would postpone the state's presidential primary, which was scheduled for April 28, amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus, making the state the sixth to delay its 2020 primary.

"In coordination with other states and our Secretary of the State, and in an effort to carry out Democracy while keeping public health a top priority, I have decided to move our presidential primary to June 2nd," Lamont first stated in a tweet.

The move follows one earlier this week by Maryland, which also delayed its presidential primary from April 28 to June 2. Four other states have also delayed primaries, including Ohio, Louisiana, Georgia and Kentucky.

Read more here.

By Sarah Ewall-Wice
 

State Department warns citizens against traveling abroad

The U.S. State Department on Thursday warned U.S. citizens against traveling overseas. They advised travelers to return home or prepare to remain abroad. 

"In countries where commercial departure options remain available, U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period. U.S. citizens who live abroad should avoid all international travel," the department said in a statement.

By Justin Carissimo
 

Trump plans to temporarily close southern border to non-essential traffic

President Trump is expected to announce Friday that he plans to temporarily close the U.S.-Mexico border to non-essential travel, according to two administration officials. The arrangement would be similar to the temporary closure of the Canadian border, with exemptions for trade and essential personnel. 

Mr. Trump hadn't ruled out the possibility publicly. When asked about possible border closures, Mr. Trump said earlier this week, "I don't want to say that, but we are discussing things with Canada, and we're discussing things with Mexico."

Mexico has relatively few confirmed coronavirus cases, compared with the United States' at least 9,415 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins data. Mexico had been considering closing the border with the U.S. to keep infected foreign nationals out of its country.

It is unclear if the Department of Homeland Security has a plan in place to handle migrants at the border, most importantly for those seeking asylum. — Weijia Jiang, Arden Farhi and Fin Gomez

 

Chicago Police Department confirms coronavirus case

A member of the Chicago Police Department tested positive for coronavirus early Thursday morning, spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi announced Thursday. The individual will remain home until medically cleared, he said.

"Once we were notified of the confirmed case, the department began a thorough cleaning and disinfection of the facility where the employee was stationed. The employee's work area and any vehicles and equipment used by the individual are also being cleaned," Guglielmi said in a statement. 

The department is working with the city's Department of Public Health to identify anyone who was in contact with the employee, he added.

By Justin Carissimo
 

Calls grow for ICE to release immigrants to avoid outbreak

Doctors, lawyers, asylum-seekers and former officials are urging the Trump administration to release thousands of immigrants from detention to avoid a potentially deadly coronavirus outbreak in scores of facilities across the country.

Unless Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) dramatically reduces the number of immigrants in its custody, experts warn the coronavirus could spread quickly among the roughly 37,000 detainees in the system.

"It's a vulnerable situation," John Sandweg, an acting head of ICE during the Obama administration, told CBS News. "You have the exact situation everyone is cautioning against. You have a bunch of people contained in a very small environment."

Read more here.

By Camilo Montoya-Galvez
 

Queen Elizabeth issues a message

Britain's Queen Elizabeth issued a message to the United Kingdom on Thursday. Read the full text below:

"As Philip and I arrive at Windsor today, we know that many individuals and families across the United Kingdom, and around the world, are entering a period of great concern and uncertainty.

"We are all being advised to change our normal routines and regular patterns of life for the greater good of the communities we live in and, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them.

"At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation's history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal.

"We are enormously thankful for the expertise and commitment of our scientists, medical practitioners and emergency and public services; but now more than any time in our recent past, we all have a vitally important part to play as individuals - today and in the coming days, weeks and months.

"Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe. I am certain we are up to that challenge. You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part."

By Haley Ott
 

Maine governor presses federal government for protective equipment

Maine Governor Janet Mills has pressed the federal government to expedite the release of protective equipment from the U.S. government's stockpile.

"At present, the demand from providers and first responders in our state will soon outstrip our available supply, even with the initial distribution," Governor Mills wrote in a letter to Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar.

Mills has also pressed for "a steady and reliable supply" of testing materials.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Death toll in England rises to 128

The death toll from the coronvavirus outbreak in England has risen to 128, with 29 more patients dying of COVID-19, NHS England announced Thursday. 

Six people have died in Scotland and two people in Wales, and Northern Ireland announced its first death on Thursday, bringing the death toll for the entire United Kingdom to 137.  

By Haley Ott
 

Trump puts onus on states to secure scarce medical equipment

President Trump said much of the responsibility to secure enough ventilators, masks and tests lies with governors, as he delivered a press conference alongside members of the Coronavirus Task Force Thursday. Mr. Trump enabled the Defense Production Act Wednesday, but says won't implement it until he needs to, despite criticism that production of medical equipment needs to be ramped up now. 

Health care providers are also still reporting a lack of the tests they need, and a backlog in processing those tests. 

"First of all, governors are supposed to be doing a lot of this work and they are doing a lot of this work," the president said Thursday. "The federal government's not supposed to be out there buying vast amounts of items and then shipping, you know, we're not a shipping clerk. The governors are supposed to be, as with testing, the governors are supposed to be doing it."

"We'll help out and we'll help out wherever we can," he continued. "And we can buy in volume and in some cases great volume. With the masks as an example, which were really a problem, we have helped out. And there are right now millions of masks being made. But this is really for the local governments, governors and people within the state, depending on the way they divide it up."

Still, the president added his administration is working "very hard" to secure more ventilators, and said they'll have a much better idea of what they will need in the next couple days. Vice President Mike Pence told reporters Thursday they're "increasingly confident" they will have the number of ventilators they need.

Read more

 

Why India may be about to discover "tens of thousands" more cases

Many people in India with symptoms indicative of a possible COVID-19 infection have been turned away from hospitals as they seek tests, and that is causing increasing fear in the world's second most populous country.

India has some of the most densely populated cities in the world, but has reported only four deaths and 173 confirmed cases of COVID-19 so far. Experts believe the low testing rate may be hiding thousands more patients from the data. 

Professor Ramanan Laxminarayan, an epidemiologist and senior research scholar at Princeton University, told CBS News the actual number could be in "tens of thousands."  

"The number of tests being done in India right now is grossly inadequate… also because the criteria is narrow," Laxminarayan told CBS News. "India should be conducting at least 10,000 to 20,000 tests per day… it has the capacity to conduct 100,000 tests per day."

-Arshad R. Zargar

Read more

 

California governor: 60,000 homeless could get virus

California Governor Gavin Newsom estimates up to 60,000 homeless could end up infected. California has more than 150,000 homeless people, the most in the nation, and as the rest of the state's residents are being told to stay apart and to frequently wash their hands, the homeless are living just as they did before the outbreak.

The virus could easily sweep through homeless encampments where people live live close together and hygiene is poor or nonexistent. The governor announced he would spend $150 million on efforts to shield that population from the virus.   

There is one confirmed death of a homeless person in California so far. Newsom said the person died in Santa Clara County, just south of San Francisco. Newsom and the county health department provided no details about the person. 

"I hope you get a sense of the seriousness we're taking the issue of homelessness," Newsom said in a Facebook Live broadcast.  

-The Associated Press

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Prince Albert of Monaco tests positive

Prince Albert of Monaco has tested positive for the new coronavirus, the palace said in a statement Thursday. The palace said he took a test earlier this week.

According to the statement, the 62-year-old prince is being closely monitored by a medical team at Princess Grace Hospital, named for his mother. His doctors said they have no concerns in regards to his health.

The statement also said Prince Albert will continue to lead Monaco from his home office, and the palace plans to provide regular updates on his health as they arise. 

"His Serene Highness urges the people of Monaco to respect shelter-in-place orders and to abide with social-distancing rules," the statement said. "Respecting these measures is the only way to contain the spread of coronavirus."  

Read more 

By Sophie Lewis
 

Walmart limiting purchases of milk, eggs and other products

Walmart said it is limiting purchases of some products, including paper products, milk, eggs and hand sanitizer in response to panic buying. Although manufacturers report no shortages of toilet paper, for instance, stores are struggling to keep shelves stocked with that and other essentials because of hoarding.

"Our stores will have limits for customers in certain categories including paper products, milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, diapers, wipes, formula and baby food," Walmart said on its corporate blog on Wednesday.

Read more

By Aimee Picchi
 

McConnell set to unveil massive "phase 3" coronavirus stimulus bill as crisis deepens

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is set to unveil a massive spending package to respond to the economic fallout of the coronavirus outbreak as early as Thursday, the third phase of the legislative response to the pandemic that has killed thousands around the world and tanked financial markets.

While the details remain in flux, the "phase three" package is expected to cost upwards of $1 trillion, and include provisions to send direct cash payments to every American. In a memo laying out the administration's request, the Treasury Department asked for two rounds of direct cash payments to taxpayers, worth $250 billion each. The first payment would be made April 6, and the second would come on May 18 if the crisis hasn't abated.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview with Fox Business Thursday morning that the administration would like to see $1,000 checks sent to every adult and $500 for every child, with up to $3,000 provided for a family of four. According to the Treasury memo, these payments would be "fixed and tiered based on income level and family size."

 

Stocks slide as jobless claims surge: "Tip of the iceberg"

Stocks dropped on Thursday after jobless claims surged to their highest levels in two years because of a spike in layoffs due to the coronavirus. The decline in share prices came after the Dow on Wednesday closed below 20,000 points, wiping out nearly all of the market's gains under President Donald Trump.  

The Dow slumped 538 points, or 2.7%, to 19,360 in morning trade, while the broad-based S&P 500 declined 2.6% and the tech-heavy Nasdaq slipped 1.2%. 

By Aimee Picchi
 

Olympic flame set to arrive in Japan, as a Japanese official calls the games "cursed"

The Olympic flame is set to arrive in Japan from Greece even as the opening of the Tokyo Games in four months is in doubt, with more voices calling for the event to be postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The flame will touch down Friday aboard a white aircraft painted with the inscription "Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay" along its side, and "Hope Lights Our Way" stenciled near the tail section.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hopes to use the Olympics to crown his run as Japan's longest serving premier, and many suggest he may not be around long if the games are put off and the economy slumps.

Taro Aso, the Japanese finance minister and former prime minister, characterized the Tokyo Games as the "cursed Olympics" on Wednesday in a parliamentary committee.  

"This isn't a phrase that the press could like to hear, but it's true," said Aso, who was a member of Japan's shooting team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. He pointed out that even as the situation in Japan and Asia improves, it's worse globally.

- Associated Press

 

Conservative U.S. lawyer files suit against China over coronavirus

A conservative lawyer has filed a class-action lawsuit against China for the coronavirus pandemic, pushing an unsubstantiated claim that the Chinese government developed the virus as an illegal biological weapon to unleash on the world.

Lawyer Larry Klayman and his group Freedom Watch filed the complaint in federal court in Texas seeking at least $20 trillion from the Chinese government because of its "callous and reckless indifference and malicious acts."

Researchers and public health experts have repeatedly shot down the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was man-made, with studies showing it originated as an animal virus that eventually jumped to humans. Nonetheless, the claim has gained traction on the right, with conservative media figures seizing upon it to advocate for a more aggressive U.S. posture toward China.

By Tucker Reals
 

Surge in Americans applying for unemployment benefits

The number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits surged to their highest level in over two years, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday.

In the week ending March 14, workers filed 281,000 jobless claims, a jump of 70,000 from the previous week. This is the highest level for initial claims since September 2, 2017, when applications for aid reached 299,000. The 33% jump from the week before is the highest one-week increase since 1992.

The latest figure likely underestimates the true number of newly unemployed workers. Many states reported a surge in layoffs in just the last few days, as many restaurants, bars, hotels, gyms, malls and other businesses closed to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Gyms get creative to keep clients healthy amid pandemic
By Irina Ivanova
 

How to help your favorite restaurants survive the virus

As the coronavirus outbreak forces more businesses across the country to close, America's restaurants are poised to take one of the biggest economic hits.

A handful of states — including California, Florida and New York — have ordered restaurants to close their doors and offer takeout and delivery options only. On Wednesday, one massive restaurant group in New York city said it was laying off roughly 2,000 people, about 80% of its staff.

CBS News spoke to restaurant owners and servers in New York about some of the ways patrons can help their favorite establishments survive the crisis.

By Kate Smith
 

More than 4,000 fined for violating France's lockdown, which will likely be extended

More than four thousand fines were handed out by French police Wednesday to people who didn't follow the strict lockdown rules.

Those rules include always carrying a printed government form explaining exactly why one is out of the home. That can only be for specific essential reasons such as buying food, a medical appointment, or solitary exercise.

FRANCE-HEALTH-VIRUS
Police officers check documents of a man on the "Promenade des Anglais" in the French Riviera city of Nice, on March 19, 2020, on the third day of a strict lockdown in France to stop the spread of COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus. VALERY HACHE/AFP/Getty

France's interior minister said police had 70,000 exchanges with people Wednesday, as some opted for a wide interpretation of the new rules. One woman in western France argued that meditating on the beach was her permitted exercise – and the police had to agree, although they pointed out that if she stayed too long, it would be considered as just sunbathing.

Meanwhile, the head of France's public health body says the lockdown will very likely be extended beyond the initial two weeks.

By Elaine Cobbe
 

Virus outbreak at Seattle-area nursing home fueled by sick workers, CDC finds

A CDC report covering the alarming coronavirus spread at Washington state's Life Care Center has revealed that some of the nursing home's staff continued to work while showing coronavirus symptoms. The investigation found several missteps that helped the outbreak at the center spread. There have been 35 deaths linked to the hard-hit nursing home thus far.

According to the investigation, several residents who had developed respiratory illness in mid-February tested negative for influenza. Roughly two weeks later, health officials confirmed the first case of coronavirus. Since then, the agency reports, 62% of the roughly 130 elderly residents have become infected and 27% have died.

CDC coronavirus report reveals crucial missteps at Life Care nursing home

The probe found that staffers who had gone on to work a second shift at a different facility may have assisted in spreading the virus. At least 10 other nursing homes have reported cases of coronavirus in King County, where Life Care is located.

 

COVID-19 presents some hourly workers without sick leave a dire choice

Without an option to work remotely during the coronavirus outbreak, some hourly workers in America worry they'll soon have to make a difficult choice: stay at home unpaid, or go to work sick. Nearly one in four U.S. workers does not have access to paid sick days and 60% live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Adriana Alvarez, a 27-year-old single mother who has been working at McDonald's since she was 17, said work has been "extremely nerve-wracking" with the threat of the coronavirus. 

"There's a lot of people coming through the drive-through. We're exchanging money," she said. "We're dealing with food. What if it spreads through food, you know what I mean?"

Single mom struggles to make ends meet amid coronavirus crisis

Alvarez is calling on McDonald's to provide paid sick leave to all employees. She has sick days, but said it's hard to use them. "They don't want to give it to us," she told CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz.

McDonald's said corporate restaurants are providing two weeks paid sick leave due to the coronavirus, but that doesn't apply to franchises.

 

Italians told nationwide lockdown will have to be extended

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Thursday that the stringent lockdown measures currently in place in Italy would need to be extended beyond the original deadlines set for late March and early April. 

Conte's statement came after Italy reported 475 deaths from the new coronavirus on Wednesday alone - a higher single-day death toll than any nation, even China, has recorded since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

"We have avoided the collapse of the system," Conte told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. "The restrictive measures are working."

Even after the rate of new infections peaks and starts to decline, Conte warned that his country would not be able to "immediately return to life as before."

Medical worker wearing a protective mask, glasses and suit treats a patient suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in an intensive care unit at the Oglio Po hospital in Cremona
A medical worker wearing a protective mask, glasses and suit treats a patient suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in an intensive care unit at the Oglio Po hospital in Cremona, Italy March 19, 2020. FLAVIO LO SCALZO/REUTERS

Conte did not give any time frame for the easing of restrictions, saying such decisions would be taken based upon advice from the scientific community. Similarly, Italy's Education Minister said it was impossible to predict when the nation's schools might reopen. 

The premier once again urged Italians to stay home, and warned of "penal sanctions" for those who break the rules. The measures order Italians to remain in their homes except to go to jobs that can't be done from home, for health care or necessities. Pharmacies, food stores and newspaper kiosks remain open but most other shops are closed nationwide. 

Conte said he didn't, at this time, foresee any need for additional restrictive measures.

-Anna Matranga

 

"This is serious. Take it seriously," Germany's Angela Merkel pleads with her country

Chancellor Angela Merkel has appealed to Germans to exercise discipline and solidarity and adhere to guidance on social distancing as they face what she called the biggest challenge since World War II.

"We must keep our distance out of consideration for each other," Merkel said, pleading with Germans to heed advice on social distancing to slow the spread of the deadly new coronavirus. "It depends on each and every one of us, without exception."

She appealed to Germans to stock up responsibly, saying: "It is always good to have provisions, but shopping like there is no tomorrow is nonsensical and ultimately selfish."

Weekly Government Cabinet Meeting
German Chancellor Angela Merkel addresses her nation about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, March 18, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. Getty/Handout

Merkel's appeal came as Germany's public health body, the Robert Koch Institute, warned of a possible "exponential increase in infection rates in Germany." It said if social distancing measures don't prove effective, "we can expect up to 10 million infections within two months."

Germany has not yet imposed the kind of broad, shelter in place orders for all citizens that have been given in Italy, France and Belgium.

Merkel also tried to reassure German businesses on Wednesday, saying her government "can and will do everything we can to help our entrepreneurs and employees through this difficult time."

-Anna Noryskiewicz

 

Russia says it has had its first coronavirus death

Russia has reported its first coronavirus death, a 79-year-old woman who died in a hospital in Moscow.

Health officials said she was hospitalized last week and suffered from a variety of chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

Russia has registered 147 cases of the coronavirus and nine recoveries. The authorities have taken a variety of measures to slow the spread of the disease, such as closing the borders for foreigners and testing of everyone returning from countries affected by the pandemic. Starting from next week, all schools will be closed. The government has repeatedly urged Russians to stay home and limit all contacts.

On Thursday, Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said additional measures might be taken as the outbreak unfolds. 

-Associated Press

 

Senior European diplomat, who negotiated Brexit, has coronavirus

Michel Barnier, the European Union's chief negotiator for the future relationship with Britain after Brexit, says he has been infected with the coronavirus.

Barnier tweeted from Brussels that he was doing well and is in good spirits. Belgium, along with France and Italy, is under a mandatory national lockdown order.

"I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team," Barnier said. "For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together." 

-CBS/AP

By Tucker Reals
 

States scrapping standardized tests due to school closures face hurdles

Closing schools to combat the spread of the coronavirus is having a sweeping impact on an annual rite of spring: the standardized tests that are dreaded by millions of students and teachers alike.

Several states have canceled standardized testing for this academic year as they face school closures that could last weeks or months. The tests were scheduled to begin in early April in many states.

While that's easing the burden on students and teachers, it's also creating problems. The federal government requires states to perform annual standardized assessments under the Every Student Succeeds Act. And education groups warn that moving classes online won't deliver equitable learning across states, school districts and even within classrooms.

-Associated Press

 

California eyes hotels, rec centers to help protect 150,000 homeless from COVID-19

California has more than 150,000 homeless people, the most in the nation, and there's concern that as the rest of the state's residents are being told to stay apart and to frequently wash their hands, the homeless are living just as they did before the outbreak.

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday that he would spend $150 million on efforts to prevent the COVID-19 virus from sweeping through that population.

"I hope you get a sense of the seriousness we're taking the issue of homelessness," Newsom said in a Facebook Live broadcast.

US-VIRUS-HEALTH-EPIDEMIC
Stuart Malcolm, a doctor with the Haight Ashbury Free Clinic, speaks with homeless people about the coronavirus (COVID-19) in front of a boarded-up shop in the Haight Ashbury area of San Francisco California on March 17, 2020. JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty

Two-thirds of the money will go directly to local governments to spend on homeless services and $50 million will be used by the state to purchase 1,300 travel trailers and lease hotel rooms for emergency housing.

California also has identified 950 hotels that could lease rooms to local governments to house the homeless.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that the city, through the Red Cross, will provide 6,000 emergency beds at recreation centers, including 1,600 by week's end.

-CBS/AP

 

Indonesia quarantining 9,000 Muslim pilgrims to screen for coronavirus

Indonesia halted a mass congregation of nearly 9,000 Muslim pilgrims and began quarantining them and checking their health Thursday to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The four-day gathering at a boarding school in a rural area in south Sulawesi province wasn't approved by authorities and drew fears it could spread the virus widely in the world's fourth most populous nation.

It was organized by a Muslim missionary movement, Jamaat Tabligh, which held a similar event in Malaysia three weeks ago that has been linked to nearly two-thirds of that country's 790 infections as well as dozens of cases in other nations.

Virus Outbreak Southeast Asia
Muslim pilgrims pray on a field where a mass congregation was supposed to be held in Gowa, South Sulawesi, Indonesia, March 19, 2020. Indonesia halted the congregation of thousands and began quarantining and checking their health to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus. Syaief/AP

South Sulawesi Gov. Nurdin Abdullah said medical teams screening more than 8,600 participants found a local man with fever who was taken to a hospital.

-Associated Press

 

Iran freeing 10,000 more prisoners to help fight coronavirus

Iran's top leader will pardon 10,000 more prisoners in an apparent effort to combat the coronavirus, state TV reported Thursday.

As part of steps to curb the spread of the new virus that has killed more than 1,100 people in Iran, the country has already released 85,000 prisoners on temporary leave.

The Middle East has some 20,000 cases of the virus, with most in Iran or originating from Iran.

-Associated Press

 

France "very likely" to extend national 2-week coronavirus lockdown

France's two-week home confinement will "very likely" have to be extended to curb the novel coronavirus pandemic, the head of the country's public health agency said Thursday.

"Between two and four weeks" are required for the outbreak to be contained, Genevieve Chene told Franceinfo radio, which means an extension of the home confinement that began Tuesday would "very likely be necessary."

So far only France and Belgium have followed Italy's lead in imposing national lockdown measures to try and stem the spread of the COVID-19 disease. In the U.S., the city of San Francisco has imposed similar restrictions.

-CBS/AFP

 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac temporarily suspending some foreclosures and evictions

Mortgage buyers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac said they would temporarily suspend foreclosure sales and evictions of borrowers in single family homes owned by their companies. The action is among the many efforts going on nationwide to protect those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The companies also announced an expansion of forbearance programs and the suspension of reporting to credit bureaus of past due payments for certain borrowers hurt by the national emergency. 

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac do not make loans, but buy them from lenders and bundle them into securities, guarantee them against default and sell them to investors.   

- Associated Press

 

China reports a day without a single new domestic coronavirus case

China's health ministry announced Thursday that Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, reported no new cases in the past 24 hours. The announcement suggests the nation's strict containment measures proved effective in lowering the number of cases. 

The ministry said Thursday that results over the past 24 hours showed 34 new cases in all of mainland China, all detected in people arriving from abroad. Wuhan at the peak reported thousands of new cases of coronavirus infections daily, overwhelming its health care system. 

China has only just begun loosening draconian travel restrictions within the country, but has stepped-up 14-day quarantine regulations on those arriving in Beijing, Shanghai and elsewhere from overseas, amid expectations of a new influx of students and others returning home. 

 China has now recorded a total of 80,928 confirmed virus cases with 3,245 deaths. Another 70,420 people have been released from hospital and 7,263 remain in treatment.

-Associated Press

 

De Blasio says some inmates could be released in the next 48 hours

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that some inmates with minor charges or health concerns could be released within the next 48 hours to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

"In the next 48 hours, we will identify any inmates who we think need to be brought out either because of their own health conditions — if they have any preexisting conditions, et cetera — or because the charges were minor and we think it's appropriate to bring them out in this context," de Blasio said on WCBS NewsRadio, an affiliate of CBS News Radio.

"That said, we still need our criminal justice system to function," he added. "We've gotta balance, here, public safety with the very real concern about health in the jails — so that's something we're going to be looking at every single day."

 

The wave of coronavirus cases is shutting down Florida beaches

Thousands of people have ignored new guidelines calling for social distancing and are continuing to flock to Florida's beaches — but now, cities have had enough. Several cities in Florida have started to close down beach access in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, which has infected at least 328 Florida residents and visitors.

The Clearwater City Council voted to close down Clearwater Beach for two weeks, starting March 23 at 6 a.m. The shutdown does not include restaurants or businesses along the beach, according to a tweet by the council. 

Other popular beach spots in Florida are starting to limit public use as well. Cocoa Beach announced Wednesday on the city's website that "beachside parks and beachside public parking areas" will close Friday and remain closed "until further notice in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19." Lee County in Southwest Florida will close county-owned beaches, beach accesses and the Fort Myers Beach Pier beginning Thursday at 6 p.m. 

By Li Cohen
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