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Coronavirus updates: Trump suspends some travel from Europe for 30 days

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Trump announces travel ban from most of Europe

Follow Thursday's latest coronavirus updates here.

The White House announced Wednesday that non-U.S. citizens won't be allowed to travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days, in an unprecedented attempt to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. The travel suspension won't apply to the United Kingdom. 

Initially, the suspension appeared to be broader. "To keep new cases from entering our shores, we will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days," Mr. Trump said in a brief, rare address to the nation. "The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground. There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings." 

But the White House later clarified in a tweet that the suspension only applied to foreign nationals who have traveled to one of 26 European countries in the past 14 days. The tweet said American citizens would be exempt from the restrictions, and would be directed to "limited airports" for screening. The White House also said the restrictions would actually go into effect at midnight Saturday.

In addition, Mr. Trump initially said the travel suspension would apply to travelers and "trade and cargo." Within an hour of the address, he corrected himself on Twitter: "The restriction stops people not goods," the president wrote.

The announcement came after the World Health Organization declared Wednesday that the coronavirus outbreak spreading around the globe can now be characterized as a pandemic. WHO Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the WHO is "deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity" of the outbreak.  

The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States continued to rise. Delays at the federal level have left many state and local health authorities racing to catch up, with backlogs of people waiting to be tested for the COVID-19 disease.

Global stock markets have been sliding on fears the new coronavirus would slam economic growth. U.S. stocks measured by the S&P 500 were down nearly 5% on Wednesday, and after Mr. Trump's address from the Oval Office, S&P futures were indicating stocks would open sharply lower Thursday morning. Investors worried about the hit to the economy from cutting off travel from Europe and about proposals being made to offset that impact that many thought might not be bold enough.

Meanwhile, in origin country China, there is mounting evidence that strict control measures pay off. Premier Xi Jinping has declared the disease "basically curbed," and with only about 10 new domestic infections reported in China on Wednesday, other countries were adopting similar tactics. 

Italy has the biggest coronavirus outbreak outside China, with more than 800 dead and more than 12,000 COVID-19 infections. The whole nation is under stringent travel restrictions. There have now been more than 120,000 cases worldwide, and more than 4,300 people have died. The vast majority of cases are mild, and almost half of those infected have already recovered.

For detailed information on coronavirus prevention and treatment, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website here

 

White House suspends public tours

The White House has suspended public tours of the presidential residence amid the outbreak of the coronavirus.

A recorded message on the 24-hour information phone line for White House tours said all tours were suspended temporarily  "out of an abundance of caution" and urged anyone with a tour booked to contact the entity with which they had arranged the visit.

By Tucker Reals
 

Asian shares plunge after Wall Street's drop on virus pandemic fears

Asian shares plunged Thursday after the World Health Organization declared a coronavirus pandemic and indexes sank on Wall Street.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 dived 4.4% to 18,559.63. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 7.4% to 5,304.60. South Korea's Kospi dipped 4.7% to 1,817.87. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 3.6% to 24,316.77, while the Shanghai Composite index shed 1.9% to 2,912.33.

Thailand's benchmark plunged 9%. India's Sensex swooned 7%.

"Some of the biggest markets, such as Hong Kong or Japan or Australia, are down around four to five percent. And we haven't seen, you know, a significant buy-in interest yet, so traders are still in the get-out mode. They just want to have it in cash," said Jackson Wong of Amber Hill Capital Ltd., in Hong Kong.

"That's a typical panic mode, but whether this panic mode will stop in the short term, it really will depend on how the virus incident goes forward," Wong said.

- Associated Press

 

Twitter tells all its employees to work from home

Twitter has ordered all employees worldwide to work from home in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly new coronavirus.

The social media platform had already announced a mandatory work from home policy for its staff in South Korea, Hong Kong and Japan earlier this month and suspended "non-critical" business travel and events in February.

Twitter human resources chief Jennifer Christie said in a blog post late Wednesday that, "We understand this is an unprecedented step, but these are unprecedented times."

Other internet giants have brought in their own policies to protect staff from infection.

Google began restricting visits to its offices in Silicon Valley, San Francisco and New York on Monday. Apple has also encouraged employees to work from home. Facebook shut its offices in Singapore and London for "deep cleaning" last week after an employee who had spent time in both was diagnosed with the virus. -- Agence France-Presse

 

Philippine president to get tested for COVID-19

Philippine officials say President Rodrigo Duterte will be tested for the new coronavirus after he met with Cabinet officials who were exposed to infected people. 

A senator and former presidential aide said Duterte has no symptoms of COVID-19 but wanted to make sure he is healthy and could continue to engage with the public. 

At least five Cabinet members, including Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez, have self-quarantined after being exposed to COVID-19 patients. 

Officials say part of the presidential palace will be disinfected because some finance officials worked in the area after working with Dominguez.

-- The Associated Press

 

Washington senator's office has first coronavirus case on Capitol Hill

The first coronavirus case in the U.S. Capitol has been diagnosed. A staff member for Washington Senator Maria Cantwell has tested positive for the disease, her office said in a statement. 

Cantwell's office said that the individual has been in isolation since symptoms appeared. The Capitol's attending physician advised Cantwell to close her office for the rest of the week and have the office deep-cleaned, which the Washington Democrat is doing.

The individual has not had known contact with the senator or any other members of Congress. Cantwell is requesting testing for anyone who had contact with the individual and has symptoms of coronavirus infection.

 

State Department raises global health advisory to "reconsider travel"

In the hours after President Trump announced that some travel from Europe would be suspended, the State Department raised its global health advisory to level three, "reconsider travel." 

"Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions," the department wrote in a press release. "Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice."      

By Victoria Albert
 

Stock markets sink after Trump's address

Global stock markets have been sliding on fears coronavirus would slam economic growth. U.S. stocks measured by the S&P 500 were down nearly 5% on Wednesday, and after Mr. Trump's address from the Oval Office, S&P futures were indicating stocks would open down another 4% Thursday morning. The concern: Cutting off travel from Europe and that economic proposals weren't bold enough.

By Lex Haris
 

Here's what Trump announced in his address to the nation

In an address to the nation Wednesday night, President Trump promised to deliver the "most aggressive and comprehensive effort to combat a virus" in modern history. Here's what he announced: 

  • A ban on some travel from Europe for 30 days. The ban starts Friday at midnight, and does not apply to the United Kingdom.
  • A commitment to waive co-pays and extend insurance for coronavirus treatments.

  • Small Business Administration to extend low-interest loans to affected companies. 

  • Treasury Department to defer tax payments without interest or penalties for impacted businesses and individuals.

  • Will call on Congress to provide payroll tax relief. 

By Victoria Albert
 

NBA suspends season after Utah Jazz player tests positive for coronavirus

The NBA suspended its season after a player tested positive for the coronavirus, the league announced in a statement Wednesday. The test result was reported before the cancellation of Wednesday night's game between the Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. 

The player was not present at the game, the league said.

"The NBA is suspending gameplay following the conclusion of tonight's schedule of games until further notice. The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic," the statement said.

By Justin Carissimo
 

Tom Hanks announces he and Rita Wilson have coronavirus

Tom Hanks announced Wednesday night that he and his wife Rita Wilson were diagnosed with coronavirus while traveling in Australia. 

"We felt a bit tired, like we had colds, and some body aches," Hanks wrote on Twitter. "Rita had some chills that came and went. Slight fevers too. To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the Coronavirus, and were found to be positive." 

"We Hanks' will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires," Hanks added. "Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no?" 

By Victoria Albert
 

Pelosi and McConnell moving towards halting U.S. Capitol tours

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are moving toward temporarily halting tours of the U.S. Capitol as a result of rising concerns over the spread of coronavirus. This decision was made jointly by the two leaders with input from the attending physician of the Capitol, a Senate leadership aide told CBS News. 

Senator Dianne Feinstein, of California, told reporters earlier Wednesday that she believes the U.S. Capitol should be temporarily closed as a precaution. At 86, Feinstein is the oldest member of Congress and in an age group that is at higher risk of becoming very ill from COVID-19. Many lawmakers in Congress are over the age of 65.

"I'm worried about the fact that we need to close this place down," Feinstein said. "I really believe that now." 

By Nancy Cordes
 

Italy tightens coronavirus restrictions, shuttering non-essential shops

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte tightened restrictions on the country Wednesday, after Italy reported the highest daily increase in deaths of any country since the beginning of the outbreak, according to Reuters. 

Conte said all shops other than supermarkets, food stores and pharmacies will be closed, Reuters reports. That means hairdressers, bars, and restaurants will all be closing their doors. 

"We will only be able to see the effects of this great effort in a couple of weeks," he said, according to Reuters. There are currently more than 12,000 confirmed cases and more than 800 deaths in Italy, according to Johns Hopkins. 

 

U.S. death toll rises to 38

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus rose to 38 on Wednesday, as California and Washington reported additional deaths. 

There are now 30 people dead from the virus in Washington, 23 of whom have been linked to the Life Care Center in Kirkland. The death toll in California now stands at 4. There have also been deaths in New Jersey, Florida and South Dakota. 

By Victoria Albert
 

NCAA March Madness games will be played with no fans in attendance

The upcoming NCAA Men's and Women's Division 1 basketball tournaments will be played without fans in attendance, NCAA president Mark Emmert announced in a statement Wednesday. Attendance will be limited to staff and family members.

"While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States," the statement said. "This decision is in the best interest of public health, including that of coaches, administrators, fans and, most importantly, our student-athletes."

The Big Ten, Mid American and American West conferences followed the NCAA's lead, announcing soon after that their tournament games will be limited to athletes, coaches, event staff, essential team and Conference staff, media, and immediate family members of the teams. The restrictions will also apply to other winter and spring Big Ten conference competitions, the organization said in a press release

By Justin Carissimo
 

China's UN envoy calls for scaling down of UN meetings

China's United Nations Ambassador Zhang Jun, who leads the work of the 15-nation UN Security Council for the month of March, spoke with reporters shortly after the WHO's decision to call the global spread of coronavirus a pandemic.

"The general assembly, [the economic and social council], and the security council, together with the secretariat are coordinating on this matter while it is our firm belief that we should not panic," China's envoy said.

As president of the council, Zhang said China believes it should take "precautionary measures to prevent the spreading of the coronavirus in this building, to cooperate with each other, and also in protecting ourselves."

On Wednesday, China issued a confidential working note obtained by CBS News to world powers of the 15-nation security council that "focuses on the scaling down of the meetings and the format of the meetings of the Security Council, and making sure that we will be in a better position to protect ourselves."

By Pamela Falk
 

Two CBS News employees test positive for coronavirus

In an email to staff, CBS News President Suzan Zirinsky said two employees have tested positive for the coronavirus. Employees in the CBS Broadcast Center and CBS News building at 555 West 57th Street will work remotely while the buildings are cleaned and disinfected. 

Coverage on CBS News broadcasts, the CBSN stream and CBSNews.com will continue. 

"We have been planning for this possibility and want everyone to be assured that we are taking all necessary measures," the note said. 

The note said the company has identified employees who may have been in direct contact with the individuals. They will be asked to self-quarantine and work remotely for 14 days. 

By Justin Carissimo
 

NBA game will be held without fans

The Thursday night game between the Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets will be held without fans in San Francisco's Chase Center out of concerns over the spread of the coronavirus, the Warriors announced in a statement Wednesday. All other events at the arena will be postponed at this time. 

"We will continue to monitor this evolving situation closely to determine next steps for future games and events," the team said in a statement. "We appreciate the understanding and patience of our fans, guests and partners during this unprecedented time."

By Justin Carissimo
 

New York universities to "release" students for remainder of semester

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Wednesday that New York state universities, SUNY and CUNY, will soon allow students to leave campus for the remainder of the semester. Cuomo said the decision is an effort to "reduce density" on campuses.

"Campuses will be releasing students to the best of their ability starting March 19," Cuomo said at a press conference.

The measure is not mandatory, according to the governor, and exceptions will be made for students who would be burdened by the release or need to be on campus for class. Dorms will stay open to accommodate students who need housing, Cuomo said.

Official decisions about graduation ceremonies have not been made, but the "expectation" is that many graduation ceremonies will not take place in person.

"Different schools can calibrate differently," Cuomo said.

"Otherwise they will be releasing for the rest of the semester." 

By Audrey McNamara
 

Health officials testify on coronavirus response

The House Oversight Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday on coronavirus preparedness and response. 

Among those testifying are Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Robert Redfield, director of the CDC, and Robert Kadlec, assistant HHS secretary for preparedness and response.

The hearing started at 9:30 a.m. ET. It was later in recess and scheduled to resume Thursday. 

 

San Francisco bans large group events

The Golden State Warriors may become the first major sports team in the United States to play a home game without fans after San Francisco announced Wednesday it is banning gatherings of 1,000 people or more for at least the next two weeks, CBS SF Bay Area reports.

Mayor London Breed announced the ban, which includes sporting and music events.

"We know cancelling these events is a challenge for everyone and we've been talking with venues and event organizers about the need to protect public health," Breed said. "Today I spoke with the Warriors to discuss the steps we're taking to cancel large events and they are in support of our efforts."

The Warriors are scheduled to play two home games at the Chase Center over the next two weeks – on Thursday night against the Brooklyn Nets and on March 25 against the Atlanta Hawks.

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

World Health Organization declares coronavirus outbreak is a pandemic

The World Health Organization on Wednesday officially classified the international coronavirus outbreak as a pandemic. 

"A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease," the World Health Organization says on its website.

WHO Director Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a briefing that "pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly," and added that the classification "does not change WHO's assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus."

"It doesn't change what WHO is doing, and it doesn't change what countries should do," he said. 

"It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death."

He added that, "We have never before seen a pandemic sparked by a coronavirus. We have never before seen a pandemic that can be controlled at the same time," he said.

By Audrey McNamara
 

Tests show new virus lives on some surfaces for up to 3 days

The new coronavirus can live in the air for several hours and on some surfaces for as long as two to three days, tests by U.S. government and other scientists have found.
 
Their work, published Wednesday, suggests that the virus can spread through the air as well as from touching things that were contaminated by others who have it, in addition to direct person-to-person contact.

Researchers used a nebulizer device to put samples of the new virus into the air, imitating what might happen if an infected person coughed or made the virus airborne some other way. They found that viable virus could be detected up to three hours later in the air, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

The tests were done by scientists from the National Institutes of Health, Princeton University and the University of California, Los Angeles, with funding from the U.S. government and the National Science Foundation.The findings have not been reviewed by other scientists yet and were posted on a site where researchers can quickly share their work before publication.  

-The Associated Press
 
 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Washington state bans large gatherings in 3 counties

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Wednesday that gatherings of 250 people or more will be banned in three of the state's counties: King, Snohomish and Pierce counties. The order applies to social and spiritual gatherings and recreational activities.

"This is an unprecedented public health situation and we can't wait until we're in the middle of it to slow it down," Inslee said. "We've got to get ahead of the curve. One main defense is to reduce the interaction of people in our lives."

"We recognize this new limitation will impact thousands of people, their plans, and their investments in these events," he said. "However, this is one of the most prudent choices we can make to keep people safe in this rapidly evolving health crisis. We want to do all we can to protect Washingtonians."

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Senator Feinstein says she believes Capitol should be temporarily closed

Senator Dianne Feinstein told reporters that she believes the U.S. Capitol should be temporarily closed amid concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. At 86, Feinstein is the oldest member of Congress and in an age group that is at higher risk of getting very ill from COVID-19.

"I'm worried about the fact that we need to close this place down. I really believe that now," Feinstein said. 

She added that the number of cases were "serious and its increasing."

Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that closing the Capitol to visitors "certainly is something that we'll have to consider and that may be a step we need to take."

-Natalie Brand and Grace Segers

 

Washington D.C. recommends all "non-essential mass gatherings" be canceled

Washington D.C. on Wednesday recommended that all "non-essential mass gatherings" be canceled through March 31. The city's public health department defined mass gatherings as "events where 1,000 or more people congregate in a specific location." 

"DC Health recommends that non-essential mass gatherings, including conferences and conventions, be postponed or cancelled," the city said in a press release

"We also recommend that any social, cultural, or entertainment events where large crowds are anticipated be reconsidered by the organizer"

As of Wednesday, the District of Columbia had four confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, and Maryland and Virginia each had nine, according to Johns Hopkins University. 

By Audrey McNamara
 

It costs under $100 to fly from Chicago to Miami right now

According to Google Flights, it costs under $100 to fly from Chicago to Miami right now, about $228 to fly from Los Angeles to Hawaii, and just about $400 to fly from New York to London.

Cheap flights during the coronavirus outbreak are tempting. Here's what you should consider before booking.

 

Washington D.C. postpones St. Patrick's Day parade

Washington D.C.'s St. Patrick's Day parade has been postponed to an undetermined date, the city's parade committee announced Wednesday. The parade was scheduled to take place this Sunday, March 15. 

"This decision was not made lightly and was done out of caution to ensure the safety and health of the thousands of attendees from the Washington area that attend the parade every year," the committee said in a press release

"Rather than canceling, we are postponing our annual celebration for an event and date still to be determined."

As of Wednesday, the District of Columbia had four confirmed coronavirus cases, while Maryland and Virginia each had nine, according to Johns Hopkins University.

By Audrey McNamara
 

A $220 bottle of Lysol? Coronavirus leads to price-gouging on Amazon

In the weeks after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global health emergency, consumers looking for hand sanitizer and face masks on Amazon found most of the products cost 50% more than usual, according to a study released Wednesday by U.S. PIRG Education Fund.

The consumer advocacy group said it used price-tracking software to review prices on Amazon for the highest-ranking search results following the WHO declaration on January 30, versus the average 90-day cost between December 1 and February 29. Price spikes for masks were especially dramatic, surging 166% on average from the proceeding three-month period.

U.S. PIRG found a package of 320 Lysol disinfecting wipes that usually cost $13.57 priced at $220. Another listing offered Purell sanitizer that normally sells for $7.99 priced as high as $49.95.

The group said such price-gouging was especially rampant among third-party vendors, but that it also took place for Amazon's own products. Nearly one in six masks and hand sanitizers sold by the retailer saw their prices jump at least 50% in February, as Americans became more aware of the virus.

Amazon did not return a request for comment. 

Read more

By Kate Gibson
 

Qatar says cases of new virus rise from 24 to 262

Qatar says cases of the new coronavirus in the energy-rich nation have gone from 24 to 262. Qatar made the announcement Wednesday night, saying the new cases had been found in quarantine and not mixing out in the public.  

Qatar neighbors Saudi Arabia and is home to the long-haul carrier Qatar Airways. 

-The Associated Press 

 

DC schools to close Monday to prepare for potential coronavirus impact

District of Columbia Public Schools says it is closing schools this upcoming Monday to prepare for potential coronavirus impact.

Professional Development Day for teachers was originally scheduled to take place on Friday of next week but has been moved up to Monday, March 16 – a shift that is "just one component of DCPS' COVID-19 emergency preparedness planning," Lewis D. Ferebee, chancellor of DC Public Schools, said.

"DC Health continues to report no widespread community transmission of COVID-19, and prevention remains our priority," he said. "However, this situation remains dynamic, and preparation is critical every day. With this in mind, DCPS is accelerating our planning timeline with teachers and school leaders to ensure that our educators are fully equipped to support distance learning as needed."

 

NYC mayor says he has "real concerns" about St. Patrick's Day parade

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday he has "real concerns" about next week's St. Patrick's Day Parade, CBS New York reports.

"We're talking it through with the parade committee. We have to really think about this one because it is obviously a beloved event and an important event," de Blasio said.

"The parade is kind of a mixed bag in terms of making this decision because again, an outdoor environment where there's a breeze and you're not talking about something that hangs in the air. It's not a slam dunk to say that this is something that should be instantly canceled," de Blasio said. 

"On the other hand, there are some real concerns. We're going to talk it through with the parade committee. Let's see where that goes in the next day or two."

Organizers have canceled the New York City Half Marathon, which was scheduled for Sunday. The New York International Auto Show at the Javits Center, originally set for April, was rescheduled for later this year. And New York City Public Schools canceled face-to-face parent teacher conferences Thursday and Friday, replacing them with phone calls or virtual conferences.

 

Chicago cancels St. Patrick's Day parade

Chicago's world-famous St. Patrick's Day parade has been canceled. It was set to take place this Saturday, March 14. 

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said at a press conference Wednesday that all three of the city's major weekend parades – as well as the annual river-dyeing – are canceled. 

The parade's website did not provide an explanation for the cancellation, but directed people to the Chicago Department of Public Health's coronavirus website for more information. 

Illinois has a total of 19 confirmed COVID-19 cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

By Audrey McNamara
 

Universities make drastic changes amid outbreak

Colleges and universities nationwide are grappling with how to handle the remainder of the school year amid coronavirus concerns.

Multiple universities in Massachusetts have taken action, CBS Boston reports. Harvard University on Tuesday became the first Boston school to announce it would shift to online only classes for the rest of the year. The university asked students to move out of their dorms by Sunday at 5 p.m. and not return to campus following spring break.

Later on Tuesday, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology followed suit. MIT moved its classes online and also asked students to move out of their dorms.

Emerson College, Amherst College, Smith College, Babson College, Suffolk University and Tufts University are among the other Massachusetts schools that will hold online classes only for the remainder of the semester.

As of Wednesday, Boston College, Northeastern University, Boston University and UMass had not made any changes.

 

Stocks fall on Wall Street as wild swings continue

Stocks were sinking again Wednesday, wiping out more than half of a huge rally from the day earlier.
    
Stocks fell from the opening of trading in New York, including a 3% drop for the S&P 500. Perhaps the best gauge of confidence in the economy on Wall Street recently, Treasury yields, pulled back. Asian markets also fell, while European markets were steadier following the cut by the Bank of England. 
  
The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 808 points, or 3.2%, to 24,222, and the Nasdaq was down 2.5%.

The speed of the market's declines and the degree of its swings the last few weeks have been breathtaking. It was only three weeks ago that the S&P 500 set a record high, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average has had six days where it swung by 1,000 points since then. It's done that only three other times in history. 

-The Associated Press 

By Sarah Lynch Baldwin
 

Italy's patient zero identified as German, says head of Milan infectious disease hospital

Patient zero in Italy has been identified as a German national, according to Dr. Massimo Galli, head of infectious disease at Milan's Sacco hospital. Genetic testing has identified patient zero as coming from Germany into northern Italy sometime between January 25 and 26.

According to Galli, an analysis of five genetic sequences indicates that three of them are related to the viruses isolated in Lombardy, Italy. That means that the Italian strain of the virus derives from the same genetic branch that was isolated in Munich, Galli said.

Many Italians have voiced concerns that they're being cast as pariahs in Europe, accused of exporting the virus all over the world. The virus, however, appeared in Germany before it showed up in Italy.

The first cases in Europe were detected in Bavaria, Germany, on January 27. A few days later, Rome, Italy, reported several cases in Chinese tourists from Wuhan, with no sign of community transmission. The outbreak in the north of Italy occurred much later, on February 21, but patient zero had not been identified.  

-Anna Matranga

 

Fauci: "It's going to get worse"

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a hearing before the House Oversight Committee that the spread of COVID-19 "is going to get worse."

"We will see more cases," Fauci said, adding that the extent to which it worsens depends on the ability of communities to contain and mitigate the disease.

He said it is not currently known how many people in the U.S. are infected. 

According to John Hopkins University, more than 1,000 COVID-19 cases have been confirmed in the country. 

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said that 75,000 tests are currently available.

By Grace Segers
 

Hearing with health officials must end early due to emergency meeting

House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney announced at the beginning of a hearing with administration health officials on Wednesday that the hearing must end at 11:30 a.m. Maloney said the officials were asked to attend an emergency meeting on coronavirus at the White House. 

A White House official told CBS News the meeting was scheduled yesterday and "is part of the Administration's ongoing whole-of-government response to the Coronavirus."

The officials testifying Wednesday are appearing before the committee to discuss the administration's response to the coronavirus. Among those testifying are Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and CDC Director Robert Redfield.

By Grace Segers
 

Bank of England lowers interest rate as U.K. lawmaker diagnosed with coronavirus

The Bank of England slashed its interest rate to a record low 0.25 percent Wednesday as part of coordinated emergency action with the U.K. government to combat the economic fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.

The reduction from 0.75 percent headed a "package of measures to help U.K. businesses and households bridge across the economic disruption that is likely to be associated with COVID-19," the central bank said in a statement.

Six people have died in Britain from the virus, with more than 370 confirmed cases. It was revealed Tuesday that a minister in the health department, Nadine Dorries, had tested positive for COVID-19, the first British lawmaker to contract the virus.

CBS/AFP

 

Poland health chief urges entire nation to stay home: "Let's take this seriously"

Poland's health minister Lukasz Szumowski urged everyone in the country of almost 40 million people to stay home, calling it "a time of quarantine of our entire society." 

"This is a time we should spend at home in isolation, let's take this seriously," he said.

The General Commander of the Polish Armed Forces has been confirmed as one of Poland's 25 cases of the new coronavirus. He was quarantined in hospital after returning from a conference in Germany.

"One must act quickly, in advance, wherever one can," said the country's Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, announcing the government's decision to cancel all large-scale events and close schools and nurseries from March 16 until at least March 25. The government also ordered the limiting of cultural activities, including the closure of museums, operas, theaters and other public venues. 

Mandatory health checks are being carried out on anyone crossing the border into Poland from Germany or the Czech Republic, and the government has tasked state-run oil firm Orlen with producing one million liters of hand sanitizer.

Anna Noryskiewicz  

 

Norway cancels NATO exercises with coronavirus "out of control"

Norway's armed forces said Wednesday they had cancelled a Cold Response exercise that was meant to gather 15,000 NATO and allied soldiers from March 12-18 because of concerns over the new coronavirus.

"The coronavirus is out of control," the head of the army's operations center, Rune Jakobsen, told reporters.

"We would rather preserve our army's combat capabilities so we can support society in the turbulent period to come."

The U.S. military's European Command issued a statement Wednesday acknowledging Norway's decision, and adding that it was "working closely with our Norwegian Allies to manage the safe and orderly transition of our personnel. We appreciate the hard work that Norway has put in to making this exercise happen and we look forward to continued collaboration and opportunities to engage in the future."

U.S. sends Russia a message with Arctic Circle war games

As CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reported last year for "60 Minutes," the U.S. and its NATO allies have increased the frequency and size of their military exercises in northern Europe. In 2018, NATO held the largest one to date in Norway, which has a tiny military of its own but sits on the front lines with an increasingly aggressive Russia.

- CBS/AFP

 

U.S. health chief insists no "barrier from the federal government" to virus testing

For days there has been criticism from health experts that the U.S. has been slow to ramp-up wide-scale testing for the new coronavirus, which may have allowed it to spread widely, undetected. There have also been anecdotes from Americans saying they've sought testing for the new disease, but were refused because they didn't meet government criteria to be tested.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told "CBS This Morning" on Wednesday that there was no "barrier from the federal government whatsoever" to health workers getting their hands on testing kits if they want them. He insisted there had been no instance "where a public health official needed to test somebody and couldn't."

He said the federal government was still "expanding the testing" to ensure the process across the country was "as convenient as possible." Azar said 1 million tests had already been distributed, and 2 million more were "being shipped or waiting to be ordered."

Alex Azar says coronavirus cases may rise throughout the year

There is, in fact, a "surplus of testing capacity in the U.S. now," Azar said.  He added that administration officials had "been very clear from Day 1: we're going to see further spreading, and we're going to see more cases." 

By Tucker Reals
 

3 TSA workers at San Jose airport test positive for coronavirus

Three TSA agents who work at Mineta San Jose International Airport have tested positive for coronavirus, a TSA spokesperson said Tuesday.

The three Transportation Security Officers are currently receiving medical care and all other TSA employees they've been in contact with over the past two weeks are now quarantined at home, the TSA said.

Airport screening checkpoints remain open at Mineta San Jose. TSA is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the California Dept. of Public Health as well as the Santa Clara County Public Health Dept. to monitor the situation.

"The safety and health of our employees and the traveling public are #1," the airport said on Twitter following the TSA news. The airport remains open for business following mandates and guidelines provided by Santa Clara County public health officials.

Reporting by CBS San Francisco/KPIX

By Tucker Reals
 

Honduras confirms first coronavirus cases, including a pregnant woman

Honduras has confirmed the first two cases of the new coronavirus disease in the Central American nation. One of the patients is a 42-year-old pregnant woman, said to be hospitalized in stable condition.

Officials said in a video posted to a government website dedicated to Honduras' COVID-19 response that the woman flew into Tegucigalpa to the country from Spain (where there is a significant outbreak) on March 4, showing no symptoms. 

The other case was a 37-year-old man who flew back to Honduras on March 5 from Switzerland. He has not shown serious symptoms but has been isolated for monitoring.

Elsewhere in Central America, there were fewer than 10 cases confirmed in both Mexico and Panama, and Costa Rica had at least 13 cases as of Tuesday. The only death reported in Central America from the disease as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University, was one in Panama.

By Tucker Reals
 

China allowing some businesses to reopen as Beijing gains control over virus

The province at the center of China's virus outbreak is allowing factories and some other businesses to reopen in a show of confidence that Beijing is gaining control over the disease that devastated its economy. The country's communist leaders are moving to revive business after the most sweeping anti-disease controls ever imposed shut down manufacturing, travel and other industries in late January, sending shock waves through the global economy.

On Tuesday, President Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus emerged in December, signaling China's crisis might be passing even as the United States and European governments tighten anti-disease controls. 

Chinese President Xi learns about the hospital's operations, treatment of patients, protection for medical workers and scientific research at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan
Chinese President Xi Jinping learns about the hospital's operations, treatment of patients, protection for medical workers and scientific research at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province, China March 10, 2020. Xie Huanchi/Xinhua/REUTERS

Manufacturers, food processors and other businesses in Wuhan that are essential to the national economy or providing daily necessities can resume operation, the provincial government announced Wednesday.

The changes are meant to "accelerate establishment of economic and social operation order, compatible with the epidemic prevention," said a government statement. It said companies that reopen are required to make "epidemic control" plans, inspect employees for signs of disease and keep workplaces disinfected.

Controls have been eased in other areas of China that are considered at low disease risk, but travel and other curbs still are in place.

- Associated Press

 

For coronavirus, Europe is "the new China," CDC chief says

An increasingly locked-down Italy counted more than 10,000 infections and recorded soaring deaths among its aging population. 

"Right now, the epicenter - the new China - is Europe," said Robert Redfield, the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Rome's usual boisterous hum was reduced to a whisper as Italy's 62 million people were told to mostly stay home. Though shops, cafes and restaurants remained open, police around the country were enforcing rules that customers stay 3 feet apart and certain businesses shutter by 6 p.m.

Authorities said 631 people have died of COVID-19 in Italy, with an increase of 168 fatalities recorded Tuesday. 

- Associated Press

 

CDC urges older Americans to prepare as Washington state focuses on care facilities

With COVID-19 cases in 10 nursing homes in King County alone, Washington Governor Jay Inslee has imposed some of the strictest requirements in the country for older adults at all long-term facilities in the state, including limiting visitors to one per day; requiring visitors to wear special protective gear; and screening employees for symptoms before each shift.

"If you do the math, it gets very disturbing," Inslee said. "If it's 1,000 [infections] today, in seven to eight weeks there could be 64,000 people infected in the state of Washington if we don't somehow slow down this epidemic. And in the next week it could be 120,000, and in the next week a quarter of a million." 

Coronavirus highlights outbreak risk at nursing homes

Adults — 60 and over — are at higher risk for the virus, especially those who have chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes or lung disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now advising those people to:

  • Stock up on groceries and medicines
  • Stay home as much as possible
  • Keep space between themselves and others
 

Michigan announces 1st presumptive positive cases, declares state of emergency

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced the state's first two presumptive positive coronavirus cases on Tuesday night. Whitmer also declared a state of emergency to help fight the virus. 

"We are taking every step we can to mitigate the spread of the virus and keep Michiganders safe," Whitmer said. "I have declared a state of emergency to harness all of our resources across state government to slow the spread of the virus and protect families."

In a press release, officials described one patient as "an adult female from Oakland County with recent international travel" and the other as an "adult male from Wayne County with recent domestic travel."

The release said their samples have been sent to the CDC for testing. 

By Victoria Albert
 

California reports third coronavirus death

Health officials in California reported Tuesday that a woman in Sacramento has died of complications related to the coronavirus, bringing the state's death toll to three. 

A press release from Sacramento County Public Health described the patient as a woman in her 90s who resided in an assisted living facility. The release said she had an underlying health condition. 

At least 32 people have died of the virus in the United States. Most of the deaths have occurred in Washington. 

By Victoria Albert
 

Azar contradicts Trump's claim that "anybody" can get tested

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday contradicted Mr. Trump's Friday claim that "Anybody that wants a test can get a test."

"I think there's a false premise in your question," Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told a reporter who asked about testing capacity. "That just because I as a person say, 'Oh, I'd like to be tested for the novel coronavirus, I should be going to a minute clinic or some other facility and just walking in and saying, 'Give me my test, please.'" 

"That's not how diagnostic testing works in the United States, or frankly almost anywhere in the world," Azar added. 

When asked about the difference between his and Mr. Trump's comments, Azar said, "We've always been clear. If their doctor or public health physician believes that they should be tested — it needs to always be clinically indicated to receive a test." 

By Victoria Albert
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