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Coronavirus updates from March 15, 2020

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The new normal amid coronavirus crisis

Follow Monday's latest coronavirus updates here.

As the country continued its efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said schools there would close Monday and reopen April 20 at the earliest. He also announced Sunday that all restaurants in the city will be limited to delivery or take-out orders, and venues such as movie theaters and concert halls will be temporarily closing beginning Tuesday at 9 a.m.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti limited restaurants to takeout or delivery. Schools there are closed.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close. The move affect's the nation's third-largest city, Chicago. "I cannot let the gravity of the choices prevent us from taking the actions that the science and the experts say will keep people safe," Pritzker said. He'd already ordered all schools statewide shuttered until at least the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to nearly zero to prop up the economy during the pandemic. 

On Saturday night, weary travelers who returned to the U.S. amid coronavirus-related travel restrictions were greeted with packed, hours-long waits for required medical screenings at airports.  

Posts on social media indicated passengers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport waited upward of four hours in winding lines, eliciting criticism from elected Illinois officials. Pritzker tweeted at President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, noting that the customs process is under federal jurisdiction and demanding they take action to address the crowds.

Pritzker said Sunday that he had spoken to Vice President Mike Pence and Chad Wolf, the acting homeland security secretary, who told him the federal government was boosting staffing at the airport. The governor said the development was "welcome news."

While U.S. citizens, green card holders and some others are allowed to return home, travelers from Europe are being funneled to one of 13 U.S. airports where they're subject to health screenings and quarantine orders.

Acknowledging the long lines at those airports in tweets posted just after midnight, Wolf said the screenings take about a minute per passenger.

"Right now we are working to add additional screening capacity and working with the airlines to expedite the process," the acting secretary tweeted. "I understand this is very stressful. In these unprecedented times, we ask for your patience."

The dense crowds at the selected airports — among the busiest across the country — formed even as public health officials call for "social distancing" to stem the spread of the virus. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide topped 156,000 by Sunday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 5,800 people have died, and nearly 74,000 have recovered.

Virus Outbreak Dallas
In this photo provided by Austin Boschen, people wait in line to go through the customs at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in Grapevine, Texas, on Saturday, March 14, 2020. AP

Mr. Trump announced at a press conference Saturday that he himself took a coronavirus test, and his physician announced later Saturday that the president tested negative. Pence also said the European travel ban is being extended to Ireland and the U.K., effective at midnight on Monday.

Travelers from restricted countries in Europe, China and Iran are being advised to self-quarantine for 14 days after reaching their final destination in the U.S.

"If you don't have to travel, I wouldn't do it," Mr. Trump said.

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

 

LA bars and restaurants restricted, gyms closed

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti added his city Sunday night to the growing list of places limiting restaurants and bars, and closing gyms:

By Brian Dakss
 

Brothers' hand sanitizer profits plan squashed

Thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and packs of antibacterial wipes and medical masks have been donated after a failed attempt by two Tennessee brothers to resell them for huge profits profit during the coronavirus outbreak.

Boxes were taken Sunday from a storage unit and the home of Matt Colvin of Hixson, Tennessee, news outlets reported. The items, including 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer, were donated to a local church and some supplies will head to Kentucky, where Colvin had cleared store shelves.

Colvin and his brother, Noah Colvin, had cleared store shelves of the items before online retailer Amazon stopped their sales and the state attorney general sent a cease-and-desist letter.

The purchases were first featured in a story in a story in The New York Times that reported the brothers drove to stores scooping up supplies around Chattanooga, Tennessee, on March 1, the day after the first U.S. coronavirus death was announced.

— The Associated Press

 

Lindsey Graham says he tested negative for coronavirus

Senator Lindsey Graham announced Sunday on Twitter his test for coronavirus came back negative. 

"I'm very grateful and like everyone else will follow the best practices to stay negative," the senator added.

By Jordan Freiman
 

Oklahoma and Maine declare states of emergency

Both Oklahoma and Maine declared states of emergency Sunday amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Oklahoma reported its eighth confirmed case of the coronavirus, according to a statement from Governor Kevin Stitt. 

Maine Governor Janet Mills advised in a press conference Sunday that all hospitals should halt elective surgeries, according to CBS affiliate WABI. Mills also recommended closing all schools in the state.

By Jordan Freiman
 

Washington state restaurants to close, limited only to delivery and take-out

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced Sunday night that all restaurants and bars throughout the state will be temporarily closed, only providing delivery and take-out service. The announcement came shortly after New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a similar policy for the nation's most populous city.

"I will sign a statewide emergency proclamation tomorrow to temporarily shut down restaurants, bars and entertainment and recreational facilities," Inslee said in a statement. "Restaurants will be allowed to provide take-out and delivery services but no in-person dining will be permitted."

Inslee noted the ban "will not apply to grocery stores and pharmacies."

The governor also banned gatherings of 50 people or more, and said that gatherings of less than 50 people would also be prohibited, "unless previously announced criteria for public health and social distancing are met."

Inslee will sign the order Monday.

By Jordan Freiman
 

NYC restaurants limited to delivery and take-out orders

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday night that restaurants in the city may now only provide take-out and delivery orders. The mayor also announced that venues such as movie theaters and concert halls must close beginning Tuesday.

"Tomorrow, I will sign an Executive Order limiting restaurants, bars and cafes to food take-out and delivery," de Blasio said in a statement. "Nightclubs, movie theaters, small theater houses, and concert venues must all close. The order will go into effect Tuesday, March 17 at 9:00 AM."

By Jordan Freiman
 

Las Vegas casinos shut down

Wynn Resorts and MGM Resorts International said Sunday they are temporarily closing their casinos in Las Vegas.

Wynn operates the Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, and expects the closure to last at least two weeks beginning Tuesday. It said it would pay full-time workers during that time.

MGM runs several casinos, including the Bellagio, Mandalay Bay and Mirage, and said it would suspend operations "until further notice."

"Despite our commitment to dedicating additional resources for cleaning and promoting good health, while making difficult decisions to close certain aspects of our operations, it is now apparent that this is a public health crisis that requires major collective action if we are to slow its progression," said MGM CEO  Jim Murren. "Accordingly, we will close all of our Las Vegas properties as of Tuesday, March 17th, for the good of our employees, guests and communities."  

By Lex Haris
 

Coronavirus takes center stage at Democratic debate

The coronavirus took center stage at the 11th debate of the presidential primary season as Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were tested on their approaches to the epidemic if they were president. 

Both candidates were pressed about how they would address the spread of the deadly virus and agreed it is vital to ensure hospitals have access to the equipment and tests needed. Americans, they said, should be protected from the economic fallout from the coronavirus, especially those who may find themselves out of work as businesses are forced to temporarily close their doors.

"This is bigger than any one of us," Biden said. "This calls for a national rallying of everybody together. 

Sanders, meanwhile, said President Trump should be silenced, as it is "unacceptable" for the president to be "blabbering with unfactual information, which is confusing the general public."

By Melissa Quinn
 

Ski industry hit hard by coronavirus outbreak

Ski industry is the latest business to suffer from the coronavirus outbreak
By Jordan Freiman
 

CDC recommends cancellation of gatherings of 50 people or more for next eight weeks

The Centers for Disease Control issued new guidance Sunday as public health officials work to slow the spread of the coronavirus and urged event organizers to either call off or postpone in-person gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks. The CDC cited conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events and weddings as examples of mass gatherings.

The agency recommended that "when feasible," events should be modified to be virtual.

"This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus," the CDC said.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Starbucks shifts to "to-go" model

Starbucks said in a statement Sunday it would be "pausing" the use of all seating in its stores in the U.S. and Canada for at least two weeks. Customers will be able to order at counters or using the Starbucks app. Temporary closures or reduced hours are possible in high-risk areas.

By Caroline Linton
 

Federal Reserve cuts interest rates to near zero

The Federal Reserve took emergency action Sunday and slashed its benchmark interest rate by a full percentage point to nearly zero. At a Coronavirus Task Force briefing Sunday afternoon, President Trump praised the fed for the move, saying it "makes me very happy." 

Associated Press contributed to this report.  

By Caroline Linton
 

All NYC schools will close until April 20

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that public schools in New York City, the nation's largest public school system, will close. The city's mayor, Bill de Blasio, said at a press conference Sunday evening schools will close Monday and will remain closed until at least April 20. 

"This is a very troubling moment. A moment where I am distraught but I became convinced that this was the best choice," de Blasio said.  

De Blasio said remote learning will begin on Monday, March 23, CBS New York reports

"Now that we will not have our normal school schedule, kids in our normal school buildings, we are going to come up with a number of alternatives to try to, as much as possible, provide our kids with an education remotely and to provide a physical location for the children of those crucial public workers — those health care workers, transit workers, first responders. Those locations will be in various places around the five boroughs. We hope between the remote learning and the specialized sites for the children of essential workers that we can keep enough going to support our health care system, but it will not be easy," de Blasio added.  

By Caroline Linton
 

Another Capitol Hill staffer tests positive for coronavirus

Republican Congressman David Schweikert of Arizona said Sunday that a member of his staff in Washington, D.C., tested positive for the coronavirus.

As a result of the diagnosis, Schweikert said he and his staff will be working from home.

The Arizona congressman said the staff member is "resting comfortably at home and following guidance from local health officials."

"As a result of this positive test, my DC office will be closed with staff members working from home until further notice. Out of an abundance of caution, I have also made the decision for my Scottsdale office to work remotely until further notice. Given that I have interacted with the employee who tested positive, I will be working from home until otherwise told by doctors," Schweikert said in a statement.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Illinois governor orders bars and restaurants to close starting Monday

 Illinois governor J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants to close starting Monday, March 16, until March 30. 

"I cannot let the gravity of the choices prevent us from taking the actions that the science and the experts say will keep people safe," Pritzker said.

Pritzker said the state was looking at ways to keep restaurant kitchens open, and drive-through and curbside pickup service from restaurants will be allowed to continue, CBS Chicago reports

Pritzker's announcement comes hours after Mayor Lori Lightfoot said the city of Chicago would require bars and liquor establishments to have less than half their regular maximum capacity of customers and a maximum of 100 people.

By Caroline Linton
 

Pope makes two surprise visits to churches

Pope Francis walks in a deserted Rome to pray at two shrines for the end of the coronavirus pandemic, in Rome
Pope Francis walks in a deserted Rome to pray at two shrines for the end of the coronavirus pandemic, in Rome, Italy March 15, 2020. VATICAN MEDIA VIA REUTERS

Pope Francis left the Vatican Sunday for surprise visits to two churches, which included a stroll down Rome's deserted streets.

Francis prayed in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, then went to a church which has a crucifix carried in a 1522 procession in Rome when the city was stricken with plague, according the Associated Press. 

The Vatican announced hours earlier that Holy Week ceremonies will continue but without public attendance. Holy Week begins on April 5 and will last until Easter Sunday on April 12, the holiest day of the year for Catholics. Tens of thousands of people normally crowd St. Peter's Square for the pope's blessing. 
  
Italy is Europe's most severely affected country and the country has gone under lockdown. Some churches are allowed to stay open for individual prayer, but all public masses are forbidden.

By Caroline Linton
 

D.C. mayor announces new restrictions for restaurants and bars

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser announced new rules for local restaurants, nightclubs and other facilities to limit the spread of the coronavirus. 

Under the district's prohibition of mass gatherings, dining establishments must limit occupancy to no more than 250 people, suspend the use of bar seating, no longer serve standing patrons, limit table seating to a maximum of six people and ensure there is a minimum of six feet between occupied tables.

Bowser also ordered nightclubs and "multi-purpose facilities" in the district to suspend operations.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Reported cases in New York rise to 729, the highest in the U.S.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the number of reported cases in the state now stands at 729, the highest in the U.S. He said 69 of the cases were new and three people have now died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, after the death of a 79-year-old woman with "multiple, major underlying health issues."

At a press conference Sunday, Cuomo said there have been 5,272 tests conducted in the state so far, with 442 tests since Saturday night.

The governor said closing schools in the state is "not that simple," since many serve as child-care providers and sources of meals for low-income students.

— Angel Canales

 

Chef José Andrés closes D.C.-area restaurants, will offer to-go meals for those in need

Chef José Andrés is closing his restaurants in the Washington, D.C., area indefinitely due to the coronavirus and will turn some of them into "community kitchens," offering to-go meals for those in need, he announced Sunday.

"People of America...Important News: All my restaurants in DC area are closed until further notice. Here at @thinkfoodgroup safety of employees & guests is too priority. Some restaurants will transform into Community Kitchens to offer to-go lunches for those who need a meal," Andrés said in a series of tweets. "These Community Kitchens will be part of @WCKitchen efforts across the country in the coming days & weeks. Not for enjoyment....but a service for people in need of a plate of food during this emergency."

He also said he would be paying "every single employee for the next two weeks."

Andrés said that as the country works to slow the spread of the coronavirus, all restaurants and bars should be closed.

"This is the only way," he tweeted. "In this moment, loving each other means staying away from each other. This is about We The People. Each of us has a responsibility to act for others, not just ourselves. We are all together in this fight...and we will win."

About a dozen of Andrés' restaurants are located in Washington, Maryland and Virginia.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Top impeachment investigator tests positive for coronavirus

Daniel Goldman, the former director of investigations for the House Intelligence Committee who played a leading role in the impeachment inquiry, has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Chairman Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, announced Sunday that a former employee was diagnosed with the illness. He did not identify the staff member, saying only the person left the office 10 days ago.

"Medical professionals believe that my former staff member likely contracted the virus after leaving the office, but we will still be taking additional precautions over the next few days," Schiff said in a statement. "The former staffer is feeling better and no current staff have reported any flu-like symptoms at this time."

US-POLITICS-CONGRESS-TRUMP-IMPEACHMENT
Daniel Goldman questions witnesses before the House Intelligence Committee as Chairman Adam Schiff looks on during a hearing on Capitol Hill on November 19, 2019. SHAWN THEW/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Goldman, a former federal prosecutor, was hired by Schiff after Democrats took control of the House in 2019 and led closed-door depositions of more than a dozen witnesses during House Democrats' impeachment inquiry. He also was the lead questioner for Democrats in public hearings. His last day working for the House Intelligence Committee was March 6.

He confirmed his test results in a tweet on Sunday.

Goldman began tweeting about his experiences trying to get tested for the coronavirus on March 11. He reported having a fever and headache and tested negative for the flu. On March 12, Goldman said he was at a New York City hospital and after undergoing testing, was told to return to his home and self-isolate. The next day, Friday, he tweeted that he had driven to Stamford, Connecticut, for a curbside coronavirus test.

— Olivia Gazis and Melissa Quinn

 

Kudlow expects Senate to move on coronavirus bill "pretty rapidly"

Top Trump adviser Larry Kudlow says coronavirus bill "not perfect" but will help average Americans

Top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow predicts the Senate will pass a legislative package addressing the economic impacts of the coronavirus "pretty rapidly" and said the bill "would be a big plus."

"It may not be a perfect bill, but it gets done essentially what we want it to get done: take care of individuals, people on hourly wages, families, kids home, if your spouse is home. A lot of people may have to stay home in the weeks ahead, we want them to get paid," Kudlow said Sunday on "Face the Nation."

The House passed a bill to limit the economic effects of the coronavirus outbreak at midnight Saturday with bipartisan support. The Senate is expected to consider the legislation, which has the backing of President Trump, next week. 

With schools closing and companies urging employees to work from home, photos and videos have spread on social media of long lines at grocery stores and empty shelves.

Kudlow said he expects Americans will be able to get groceries, though he conceded there "may be some exceptions.""I've read about some situations where this is a difficulty, but most of our supply lines are working pretty well in the domestic United States," he said.

By Melissa Quinn
 

2 TSA agents in Florida test positive for coronavirus

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) said two employees in Florida have tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total number of TSA agents with confirmed infections to six.

The agency said a screening officer at Orlando International Airport and another at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport had come down with the virus. The agent in Orlando was last at work on March 10, and the Fort Lauderdale employee last worked March 3.

The agents are "receiving medical care and all TSA employees they have come in contact with over the past 14 days are self-isolated at home," the agency said in a statement.

Four other officers in San Jose, California, have also tested positive.

Kathryn Krupnik and Sarah Jackson contributed.

By Stefan Becket
 

Fauci says "everything is on the table" to fight coronavirus

Dr. Anthony Fauci says "everything is on the table" to fight spread of coronavirus

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Sunday that all options are on the table for slowing the spread of the coronavirus and said vulnerable populations should avoid crowded places as public health officials work to combat the deadly illness.

"You don't want to make a pronouncement that no one should ever go into a restaurant," Fauci said on "Face the Nation" on Sunday. "I mean, I think that might be overkill right now, but everything is on the table."

Fauci said he personally wouldn't visit a crowded restaurant "because I don't want to be in a crowded place," and said high-risk populations should "think twice" before traveling on a plane or going to a crowded place for an extended period of time. Teleworking, he added, "should be done to the extent it can be."

"I have an important job to do," he added. "I don't want to be in a situation where I would be all of a sudden self-isolating for 14 days."

Read more here.

By Melissa Quinn
 

Major archdioceses cancel Mass until further notice

The archdiocese of New York canceled all public Mass on Saturday, beginning immediately. Churches in New York remained open for "private prayer," and a private Mass at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan is being broadcast by the Catholic Faith Network, according to a statement from the archdiocese.

The archdiocese said the decision comes after Dutchess County, New York, prohibited gatherings of more than 20 people on Friday.

"It is also intended to provide clarity and consistency throughout the ten counties that comprise the Archdiocese of New York (Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island, Westchester, Putnam, Orange, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Dutchess)," the archdiocese said.

The archdioceses of Boston and Washington, D.C., similarly canceled Mass.

Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley, the archbishop of Boston, said in a statement that the decision was "motivated by an abundance of caution and concern for those most vulnerable and the need to do our part to help limit and mitigate the spread of the illness."

Catholic weddings and funerals in Boston and Washington are allowed to proceed, but should be limited to immediate family, according the archdioceses for those cities. 

By Audrey McNamara
 

Iran reports 113 new coronavirus deaths, a new high

Virus Outbreak Mideast Iran
Firefighters disinfect a square against the new coronavirus, in western Tehran, Iran, Friday, March 13, 2020. Vahid Salemi / AP

Iran's official leading its response to the new coronavirus acknowledged Sunday the pandemic could overwhelm health facilities in his country, which is battling the worst outbreak in the Mideast while under heavy U.S. sanctions. Iran also reported 113 new deaths from the virus, bringing its death toll to 724.

Iran is battling one of the worst outbreaks outside China. The 113 new deaths reported on Sunday by the Health Ministry were the first time a daily reported death toll exceeded 100. The fatalities brought the country's death toll to 724 so far, amid nearly 14,000 confirmed cases. The real number of infections could be even higher, as questions have been raised about the government's transparency.

"If the trend continues, there will not be enough capacity," Ali Reza Zali, who is leading the campaign against the outbreak, was quoted as saying earlier by the state-run IRNA news agency.

Iran is believed to have around 110,000 hospital beds, including 30,000 in the capital, Tehran. Authorities have pledged to set up mobile clinics as needed.

Zali also acknowledged that "many" of those who have died from the COVID-19 illness caused by the virus were otherwise healthy, a rare admission by local authorities that the virus does not only prey on the sick and elderly.

Health Ministry figures show that while 55% of fatalities were in their 60s, some 15% were younger than 40.

By Associated Press
 

White House expands Europe travel ban as outbreak worsens

White House expands Europe travel ban as outbreak worsens
 

Oregon reports first death, total U.S. deaths now at 60

The state of Oregon announced its first coronavirus-related death Saturday. "A 70-year old man, a resident of Multnomah County who had underlying medical conditions, became the first person in Oregon to die from COVID-19," Oregon Health Authority said in a statement.

At least 60 people in the U.S. have died from the novel coronavirus. There are confirmed cases in 49 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

By Jordan Freiman
 

Detroit Pistons player tests positive for coronavirus

A player for the Detroit Pistons has tested positive for the coronavirus, the team announced Sunday. Christian Wood is "under the care of team medical staff and in self-isolation since Wednesday night," the team said.

The Pistons played the Utah Jazz on March 7. Two Jazz players, Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, tested positive for coronavirus. Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive for the virus, prompting the NBA to suspend the 2020 season on Wednesday.

By Stefan Becket
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