Americans face dramatic limits on public life as schools, theme parks, events shut down

The crisis continues to unfold across the globe as the World Health Organization uses the term "pandemic" for the first time.
Medical workers at Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco on March 12, 2020.
Medical workers at Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco on Thursday.Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images

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The United States on Thursday surpassed 1,600 confirmed or presumptive cases of the coronavirus, and the death toll climbed to 41. Kansas reported its first death Thursday.

Wall Street recorded historic losses as fears intensified over the economic fallout from the pandemic, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling by 10 percent, and the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 both down by 9 percent.

It was the worst point drop ever for the Dow and its worst performance since the market crash in 1987.

Disruptions in the sports world continued, with March Madness canceled, the suspension of MLB's spring training and a pause on the National Hockey League season.

Health and government officials continue to call for the end of large gatherings, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suspended public gatherings worldwide, the Smithsonian announced it will close indefinitely all museums in Washington, D.C. and New York City and Broadway theaters canceled performances through April 12.

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This live coverage has ended. Continue reading March 13 Coronavirus news.

Iran asks IMF for billions in loans to fight coronavirus

Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund for billions of dollars worth of emergency funding to help it fight the coronavirus outbreak, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet Thursday.

Iran’s Central Bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati also wrote on his Instagram page that “in a letter addressed to the head of IMF, I have requested five billion U.S. dollars from the RFI emergency fund to help our fight against the coronavirus."

It was unclear whether IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva had responded to the request, but the IMF has said it stands ready to support countries battling the virus, which Iran has been hit hard by. 

At least 10,000 people have been infected with the respiratory illness in the country and 429 have died. Many members of Iran's political elite have also been diagnosed with the disease.  

Trading temporarily halted on Wall Street as Trump's stimulus package underwhelms

Wall Street futures trading was temporarily halted early Thursday morning ahead of the opening bell, after all three major averages sank below their thresholds.

The 5 percent "limit down" marker was breached after an address from President Donald Trump on Wednesday night tipped already-queasy traders into sell-off mode.

Markets were underwhelmed by Trump's economic stimulus package, which offers emergency loans to small businesses, deferred tax payments for some people, but made no mention of paid sick leave or free testing for the coronavirus, which continues its spread across the U.S.

The Dow looks set to open with a decline of more than 1,100 points. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are currently down by just under 5 percent.

Discarded face masks clutter Hong Kong's beaches, threatening wildlife

Gary Stokes, co-founder of marine conservation group OceansAsia, shows face masks that washed up on the beach of Soko Islands last week, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Hong Kong, China.Yoyo Chow / Reuters

Discarded face masks are piling up on Hong Kong’s beaches and nature trails, with environmental groups warning that the waste is posing a huge threat to marine life and wildlife habitats.

Most of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million people have for weeks been putting on single-use face masks every day in the hope of warding off the coronavirus, which has infected 126 people in the city and killed three as of Thursday.

Many of the masks are not disposed of properly, and have instead ended up dumped in the countryside or the sea, where marine life can mistake them for food, washing up on beaches along with the usual plastic bags and other trash.

Environmental groups, already grappling with the flow of marine trash from mainland China and elsewhere, say the cast-off coronavirus masks have compounded the problem and also raised concern about the spread of germs.

Europe wakes up to chaos and confusion after Trump travel ban

There was chaos and confusion at airports across Europe after President Donald Trump's decision to restrict most travel to the U.S. from 26 European countries early Thursday. 

Passengers wearing protective face masks wait for checking-in before boarding their flights to the U.S. at Madrid's Adolfo Suarez Barajas airport in Spain on Thursday.Sergio Perez / Reuters

Both American citizens and foreigners were scrambling to work out what it meant for their travel plans, while others questioned the logic of Trump's decision and whether it would actually help the effort to slow down the spread of the deadlyrespiratory illness.

The travel ban comes into effect at midnight on Friday at midnight. The restrictions apply only to foreign nationals, and not U.S. citizens, green card holders or the families of U.S. citizens.

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European Union says it was not consulted on Trump's coronavirus travel ban

European Union leaders on Thursday criticized President Donald Trump's decision to restrict travel from 26 European nations, and said that they were not consulted beforehand.

"The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action," said a joint statement from Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, presidents of the European Commission and European Council respectively.

"The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation," they added. "The European Union is taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus."

Staff at Tel Aviv's branch of U.S. Embassy self-isolate

Staff at the branch of the U.S. Embassy in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv are self-isolating after an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 visited it last week. 

While everyone affected was quarantined, the embassy said in a statement that the visa department would remain open, while taking recommendations from Israel's Ministry of Health.   

The announcement came as the ministry revealed that 100 people had contracted the respiratory illness in the country.  

Coronavirus: A glimpse at global market reaction to spreading virus

A currency dealer looks at his mobile phone in front of electronic boards showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index and the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and South Korean won, at a dealing room of a bank in Seoul on Thursday.Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

California bans mass gatherings to slow spread of COVID-19

Health officials in California have announced that mass gatherings of 250 people or more should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the measure late Wednesday, saying non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of six feet per person.

Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social distancing guidelines, his office added. 

“Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease,” Newsom said in a release. “Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects — saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now.”

More than 170 coronavirus cases and four deaths have been reported in California so far.