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Trump reaches aid deal with Democrats as cases mount

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Image: Servpro workers file in to begin a third day of cleaning at Life Care Center of Kirkland
Servpro workers begin a third day of cleaning Friday at Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash., a long-term care facility linked to several confirmed coronavirus cases. Lindsey Wasson / Reuters

President Donald Trump declared a national emergency on Friday, the most significant move yet by the U.S. government to head off the coronavirus outbreak, and House Democrats and the White House later reached a deal on an aid package.

Trump's declaration came as many public and private institutions have taken action — including canceling major events, temporarily banning large gatherings, closing schools and telling people to work from home — in an effort to slow the spread of the virus.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average tumbled, soared, and then closed with a gain of 1,900 points after the emergency declaration. Wall Street had reeled Thursday afternoon after coronavirus fears drove the markets to their worst day since the Black Monday crash in 1987.

The United States as of Friday afternoon had surpassed 2,000 confirmed or presumptive cases of the coronavirus, and the death toll climbed to 41.

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988d ago / 7:18 AM UTC

Apple closing all stores outside China

Apple is closing all its retail stores outside China until March 27 in order to protect workers and help stop the spread of the coronavirus illness COVID-19, the company announced early Saturday. The company is also committing $15 million to help with the worldwide response to the crisis, CEO Tim Cook said. 

Apple’s stores in China have already re-opened. The company said it learned lessons about best practices and the situation in China, which is where the coronavirus outbreak began.

“One of those lessons is that the most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” Apple said.

"All of our hourly workers will continue to receive pay in alignment with business as usual operations," Apple said.

988d ago / 6:31 AM UTC

Montana has first presumptive cases

Four people in Montana have presumptively tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the governor said Friday.

The four people – three men and a woman, in Gallatin, Yellowstone, Silver Bow, and Lewis and Clark counties – appear to be the first reported within the state. They were described as being in their 40s and 50s.

Montana’s health department previously said that a Montana resident had tested positive but that the patient got the coronavirus illness COVID-19 out of state and has not yet returned.

Tests are considered presumptively positive until they are confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Montana's cases mean that 49 out of 50 states and Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico, have reported confirmed or presumptively positive cases, according to an NBC News count of reports. As of Friday, West Virginia's health department has not reported any positive cases, but said tests were pending for five people.

988d ago / 6:04 AM UTC
988d ago / 5:42 AM UTC

President's doctor says Trump doesn't need to be tested

The president does not need to take a test to determine if he's positive for coronavirus because two interactions he had with known patients were "low risk," a White House doctor said in a memo released Friday.

The memo was made public hours after Trump said he would be tested.

"Not for that reason, but because I think I will do it anyway," the president said Friday when asked about his interaction at his Mar-a-Lago resort last weekend with an aide to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, Fabio Wajngarten, who turned up positive.

Physician to the president, Sean P. Conley, argued that because Trump's interaction was minimal, including a handshake, and because Wajngarten and another patient were not exhibiting symptoms at the time they socialized with the president, Trump's unlikely to get the virus.

Read more here. 

988d ago / 4:33 AM UTC

Pentagon halts all domestic travel starting Monday

In response to the global coronavirus pandemic, the Pentagon is imposing new travel restrictions on employees, including service members and their families. The limits will start Monday, the Department of Defense announced Friday night.

All domestic travel will be stopped as of next week. This includes domestic travel, permanent change of station and temporary duty. Civilian hiring at Department of Defense installations will also be halted.

Read more here.

988d ago / 4:01 AM UTC

Roundup of coronavirus coverage

They survived the coronavirus. Then they tested positive again. Why? [The Los Angeles Times]

Why do we touch strangers so much? A history of the handshake offers clues [National Geographic]

Las Vegas books scramble for content day after sports stopped [Las Vegas Review-Journal]

Social distancing: This is not a snow day [Medium]

Everybody ready for the big migration to online college? Actually, no [The New York Times]

The coronavirus is creating a huge, stressful experiment in working from home [The Atlantic]

988d ago / 3:37 AM UTC
988d ago / 3:32 AM UTC

Denver moves to limit police contact with public

Denver police will limit contact with the public when possible in order to limit the spread of coronavirus, the mayor announced Friday.

Mayor Michael Hancock said residents with low-level complaints would be directed to make them online or over the phone "to further reduce person-to-person interactions." 

 "To be clear, this change will not impact the dispatching of officers to high-priority emergency incidents," he said.

In a statement, the city said low-priority reports could include a property crime that previously occurred, theft, vandalism, lost property or identity theft. It said the policy would begin "immediately on a small scale."

988d ago / 3:15 AM UTC

D.C. Metro reduces subway, bus service starting Monday

D.C. Metro announced Friday that services on subway and bus lines will be reduced to weekend schedules to help slow the spread of coronavirus starting Monday. 

Trains will run every 12 minutes Monday through Saturday. On Sundays, trains will run every 15 minutes.

Click here for more details.

988d ago / 2:47 AM UTC

NCAA to extend eligibility of spring sports athletes

The NCAA is planning to extend the eligibility of athletes on spring sports teams by one year to make up for the season lost to the new coronavirus.

The details of how the extra eligibility will work are being ironed out.

All three NCAA divisions would potentially allow another year for athletes in the 14 spring sports, which include baseball, softball, lacrosse and golf. The decision comes after the NCAA announced Thursday that its winter and spring championships would be canceled as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus.

Some, but not all, conferences have announced that their spring sports teams would not continue their regular seasons.

988d ago / 1:50 AM UTC

Sixth death reported in California

Santa Clara County, California, health officials on Friday announced a second death from the coronavirus illness COVID-19, bringing the state's death toll to six. 

Nationwide, there have been at least 50 deaths, according to an NBC News count of official reports.

The latest Santa Clara County death was a woman in her 80s who was hospitalized Monday, the county health department said.

Santa Clara County has had at least 79 cases of coronavirus as of Friday afternoon. The county’s health department on Monday announced the first COVID-19 death in the county, an adult woman in her 60s who had been hospitalized for several weeks. 

988d ago / 1:41 AM UTC

Puerto Rico confirms island's first cases

Puerto Rico announced its first three cases of coronavirus, including a 68-year-old woman and her 70-year-old husband. 

A 71-year-old man not related to the couple also tested positive for COVID-19. 

988d ago / 1:37 AM UTC

Biden shows no symptoms, hasn’t been tested

 Joe Biden will not be tested for COVID-19 as he is not showing any symptoms, according to a statement by his presidential campaign team. 

"Biden has no fever, no cough, no shortness of breath or other symptoms consistent with coronavirus, and the campaign has not been informed of or become aware of any relevant contact with an individual who has tested positive," the campaign said in a statement.

The former vice president will continue to campaign and follow safety and health recommendations from public officials.

988d ago / 1:23 AM UTC

Washington Monument to close

One of D.C.'s most popular attractions is closing starting Saturday.

Elevator access to the Washington Monument will no longer be available as of March 14. Visitors can continue to walk through the grounds, according to the National Park Service.

988d ago / 1:12 AM UTC
988d ago / 1:12 AM UTC

HBO, Netflix, Disney pause productions on several shows, movies

HBO, Netflix and Disney announced Friday that production will pause on several shows and films starting next week.

A spokesperson for Netflix said all scripted TV and movie production in the U.S. and Canada will be postponed for two weeks to comply with travel and other coronavirus-related restrictions imposed by the two countries.

HBO Max, the new streaming services offered by HBO, announced that its show "Full Frontal with Samatha Bee" will go on hiatus next week. The decision to halt production came after HBO learned that the CBS production office where Bee tapes her show had been compromised. Last week, two CBS employees tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus.

Disney, meanwhile, is hitting the pause button on the "Tamron Hall Show" beginning Monday. 

988d ago / 12:57 AM UTC
988d ago / 12:56 AM UTC

New Zealand ceremony marking 2019 mosque attack canceled

A national remembrance service planned for Sunday to mark the anniversary of an attack on two mosques that killed 51 people has been canceled over fears of the spread of coronavirus, the Christchurch City Council said in a statement.

The March 15, 2019, attack was carried out by a white supremacist who has been charged with terrorism, murder and attempted murder counts. 

“Tomorrow, we can still reflect on the incredible ways the community came together in response to the events of that tragic day, and think of ways that we can build on the compassion and unity that was so poignantly shown in our city, across the country and throughout the world,” Christchurch Mayor Lianne Dalziel said in a statement Saturday local time.

New Zealand has five confirmed coronavirus cases and two probable cases, according to the Ministry of Health

988d ago / 12:50 AM UTC
988d ago / 12:47 AM UTC

NBA players pitch in to help sport's hourly workers

NBA players are helping the hourly workers who work in arenas that host pro basketball.

An outpouring of donations has come after games were suspended for at least 30 days when two players tested positive for the coronavirus.

Among a growing list of players who have already pledged donations are the Cleveland Cavaliers' Kevin Love, Zion Williamson of the New Orleans Pelicans, the Detroit Pistons' Blake Griffin and Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks.

In an Instagram post on Thursday, Love said he was donating $100,000 to help "arena and support staff that had a sudden life shift due to the suspension of the NBA season."

Read more here.

988d ago / 12:33 AM UTC
988d ago / 12:26 AM UTC

Patagonia shutting down operations, will continue to pay employees

Outdoor outfitter Patagonia announced Friday that all stores, offices and other operations will shut down temporarily starting Friday. 

Employees will continue to receive their regular paychecks during this break. The company will reassess and post an update on March 27, according to a statement by CEO and president Rose Marcario.

"Over the years, as our Patagonia community has been faced with challenges, I have always been inspired by how we emerge stronger and with an even deeper sense of purpose. We will persevere through this challenge, too,"  Marcario said.

988d ago / 12:18 AM UTC
988d ago / 12:17 AM UTC

Instagram posts spread conspiracy theory about Bill Gates

A video touting an unfounded conspiracy theory that Bill Gates is behind the coronavirus outbreak has gone viral on Instagram with the help of the accounts of celebrities such as Cedric the Entertainer, D.L. Hughley and Derrick Lewis, a mixed martial artist.

The video has been viewed more than 2.2 million times, according to data from social media analyst CrowdTangle. It was reposted by 20 verified Instagram users, and more than 50 other users.

"Bill Gates either predicted or planned the coronavirus outbreak," text on the video reads.

An Instagram spokesperson said the videos had been sent to its fact-checking partners for review.

Read the full story here.

988d ago / 11:38 PM UTC
988d ago / 11:37 PM UTC

Boston public schools to close until late April

Boston public school will close starting Tuesday until April 27. School will be in session Monday, according to the school district.

988d ago / 11:35 PM UTC

Yelp reports rise in searches for delivery versus eating out

People searching for food on Yelp are turning more of their attention to delivery, in another sign of Americans taking up social distancing to slow the spread of the coronavirus. 

The search app has been tracking a number it calls the dine in/out ratio: the number of U.S. restaurant searches seeking delivery availability against the number seeking reservations or wait lists. Yelp doesn’t release the exact ratio, but Yelp Data Science Editor Carl Bialik said that the ratio was up 7.7 percent Thursday from a day before and up 31.1 percent since March 1. 

The ratio has risen for 11 consecutive days, Bialik said in an email. “It’s higher than at any time this past winter, including much colder periods.”

Reservation app OpenTable said it was seeing a 30 percent drop-off in total seated U.S. diners from a year earlier, with the decline as high as 45 percent in Seattle.

988d ago / 11:30 PM UTC
988d ago / 11:27 PM UTC

Opinion | Coronavirus is killing the campaign rally. Here's why that helps Biden.

You know it’s bad when President Donald Trump is canceling campaign rallies. The massive gatherings of loyal devotees are events he feeds off and are central to his re-election strategy: Whip up the base to make sure they vote and get as much free media attention as possible while doing it.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., takes a similar approach to rallying the masses, even turning his large crowds into rock concerts to jack up the energy and attract new eyeballs. He purports to be leading a revolution, after all, so he needs to use the power of his personality and bully pulpit to realize that.

Sanders purports to be leading a revolution, after all, so he needs to use the power of his personality and bully pulpit to realize that.

Which means that both Trump and Sanders stand to lose much more by the coronavirus shutting down large public campaign activities than their shared opponent, Joe Biden. The former vice president is more comfortable with a teleprompter than speaking extemporaneously; his trademark is an avuncular one-on-one connection with voters rather than issuing a rabble-rousing call to arms in a cavernous arena.

Read more here.

988d ago / 11:10 PM UTC

Cruise lines suspend voyages

President Trump tweeted Friday evening that Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC Cruises agreed to suspend outbound cruises for 30 days at his request. All of these companies had already announced suspended voyages earlier in the day.

The country’s biggest cruise companies announced a spate of suspensions throughout Friday afternoon. Royal Caribbean said it will halt all U.S. voyages for 30 days beginning Saturday. Carnival Corporation said it will stop dozens of voyages, and its subsidiary Princess Cruises will suspend its cruises through April 30. Norwegian said it suspended its ships until April 11. MSC Cruises canceled all its U.S. cruises through April 30.

988d ago / 10:49 PM UTC

Idaho reports state's first patient

Idaho officials Friday announced the state's first case of coronavirus.

The patient, a woman older than 50, recently returned to the southwestern part of the state after traveling to New York City for a conference, where three people reported they were positive for the virus, said state health administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch.

"Fortunately this individual is doing well," she said. "They’re at home. They’re recovering from mild symptoms that did not require hospitalization."

Earlier in the day, the governor signed a "proactive emergency declaration." 

988d ago / 10:45 PM UTC

Utah public schools close for 2 weeks

All Utah public schools will close for a two-week period starting Friday. After that time, the state will reassess conditions and decide whether students can return to the classroom.

988d ago / 10:41 PM UTC

Researchers: Blood of recovered patients could be used in treatment

A pair of Johns Hopkins University researchers says harvesting virus-fighting antibodies from the blood of previously infected patients could help some of those suffering from COVID-19.

The method of using "convalescent serum" dates back more than a century but has not been used widely in the United States in decades.

In a paper published Friday in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Drs. Arturo Casadevall and Liise-anne Pirofski argued that collecting blood serum or plasma from previously infected people might be the best hope for treating severe cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, in the absence of vaccines or antiviral drugs.

Read the full story.

988d ago / 10:24 PM UTC

House Democrats and White House reach deal on coronavirus aid package

, and

House Democrats and Trump administration have reached a deal on a coronavirus aid package that includes free testing, paid emergency leave and other resources intended to help stem the crisis and stabilize the financial markets, House speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday.

Pelosi said earlier the House is expected to vote on the bill Friday, which would send it to the Senate for a vote as early as Monday.

The deal was struck after numerous conversations over the last two days between Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

“The three most important parts of this bill are testing, testing, testing,” Pelosi said Friday outside the speaker’s balcony on Capitol Hill.

Read what's in the deal.

988d ago / 10:10 PM UTC

Italians break into song during quarantine in moving video

As Italy enters its first weekend under a countrywide lockdown, residents in the city of Siena found a new way to connect with one another: through song. 

In a Twitter video that already has more than 1.5 million views, Italians singing from their balconies in unison. “E mentre Siena dorme” (“And While Siena Sleeps”), is a traditional folk song for the people of Siena, usually sung to show local pride. 

"In Siena, the city to which I am very attached, you stay at home but you sing together as if you were on the street," wrote one of the Twitter users who shared the video. "I was moved."

988d ago / 10:09 PM UTC

The Bureau of Prisons is suspending inmate visits at all federal correctional facilities

The Bureau of Prisons is suspending inmate visits at all 122 federal correctional facilities for at least 30 days, the agency announced Friday.

The directive applies to friends and family members of prisoners, as well as lawyers. But exceptions will be made to attorneys on a case-by-case basis, the agency said.

The move is the most dramatic yet taken by the federal prison system to combat the spread of the coronavirus. 

Several state correctional departments announced on Thursday a suspension of inmate visits. The nation’s prisons and jails are especially vulnerable to outbreaks, experts say, due to the close confinement of inmates and often grimy conditions.

988d ago / 9:48 PM UTC

Senator tweets letter he sent Trump about pandemic team more than 600 days ago

988d ago / 9:43 PM UTC

Trump says he will probably get tested soon for the coronavirus

President Donald Trump said Friday that he would "most likely" get tested for coronavirus but denied it was because he interacted with a man who later tested positive.

Trump was asked about the testing issue in the White House Rose Garden, where he declared a national emergency.

"Not for that reason, but because I think I will do it anyway," Trump said, when questioned by a reporter about standing next to an aide to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at his Mar-a-Lago resort last weekend. Later, the aide, Fabio Wajngarten — who is seen in photos with Trump on social media — tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

Read the full story here.

988d ago / 9:41 PM UTC
988d ago / 9:39 PM UTC

'I didn't do it': Trump claims no knowledge of White House pandemic unit's disbanding

President Donald Trump said Friday that he did not know anything about the elimination of jobs addressing global pandemics at the White House National Security Council.

Veterans of past disease outbreaks have said the downsizing of staff at the NSC's Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense — a unit sometimes referred to as the White House pandemic office — in 2018 was likely to hamper the U.S. government's response to the coronavirus.

"I didn't do it," Trump said when asked about the unit at a news conference to announce a national emergency declaration in response to the coronavirus outbreak. "We have group of people. I could ask perhaps — my administration — but I could perhaps ask Tony [Fauci] about that because I don't know anything about it." He added, "It's the administration, perhaps they do that. You know, people let people go." 

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, stood alongside Trump and other administration and business officials during the new conference. Fauci commented at a House hearing this week on the scrapping of the NSC unit, saying, "We worked very well with that office. It would be nice if the office was still there."

988d ago / 9:34 PM UTC

University of Texas president in isolation after wife tests positive

The president of the University of Texas' main campus said Friday he was in isolation after his wife tested positive for coronavirus.

Gregory L. Fenves said in a statement that the Austin, Texas, institution was closed and classes have been canceled after the first case of the virus was reported in "our UT community."

"It is difficult for me to write this because the person who tested positive is my wife Carmel," he said. "And a second member of my family (who works at UT) is presumed to have COVID-19 as well. I have now been tested for the virus, and the three of us are in self-isolation."

Fenves said he and his wife recently traveled to New York City for alumni and student events and returned Saturday.

988d ago / 9:29 PM UTC
988d ago / 9:24 PM UTC

Boston archdiocese suspends Catholic masses

Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, suspended all weekend masses in the city until further notice. 

The directive is effective as of 4 p.m. Saturday and applies to all archdiocesan parishes, missions and campus ministries.

Baptisms, confirmations, weddings and funerals will be allowed to go on as planned with attendance limited to only immediate family, according to the Archdiocese of Boston.

People are encouraged to participate in daily mass via broadcast using the Catholic TV channel. Click here for more details.

988d ago / 9:14 PM UTC

Europe now 'the epicenter of the pandemic,' WHO says

More coronavirus cases are reported each day outside of China than China reported at the peak of its epidemic, the World Health Organization said Friday.

"Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said during a media briefing.

Read more here.

988d ago / 9:13 PM UTC

Washington's statewide school closures extended until end of April

 

988d ago / 9:12 PM UTC

Colorado announces first death

Colorado announced its first coronavirus death on Friday, bringing the national death toll to 43.

The patient was a woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions who lived in El Paso County.

The state now has 72 cases. 

988d ago / 9:11 PM UTC

Movie theaters remain open, but AMC cuts capacity

With few exceptions, movie theaters across North America are remaining open while Broadway theaters, sports arenas and museums close their doors to help curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

While Hollywood studios have canceled most upcoming films, this weekend is going forward with a slate of new releases and holdovers. The largest chains, AMC, Regal and Cinemark, are all operating, though some theaters are taking extra precautions.

AMC Theaters announced Friday that it would cut audience capacity by 50 percent starting Saturday through April 30. The chain based in Leawood, Kansas, said it would do so by capping ticket sales.

It also said it would limit its larger theaters to a maximum of 250 people. "AMC is taking aggressive, nationwide steps to provide additional space between guests within all its U.S. theatres," the company said in a statement.

988d ago / 8:55 PM UTC

Alabama records its first patient, a resident who traveled out-of-state

Alabama officials Friday announced the state's first coronavirus case.

A Montgomery County resident tested by the state Bureau of Clinical Laboratories was positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, the state Department of Public Health said in a statement.

The patient, who had traveled outside the state recently, was in isolation, officials said.

"Health officials urge anyone experiencing symptoms to first notify their healthcare provider so that proper precautions can be taken," the department said.

988d ago / 8:54 PM UTC
988d ago / 8:47 PM UTC

Handshakes optional at the White House

Image: Donald Trump
Bruce Greenstein of LHC Group, a home health care services company, bumps elbows with President Donald Trump during a news conference about the coronavirus in the Rose Garden at the White House on Friday. Trump shook hands with several business leaders as he introduced them at the lectern — a breach of best practices recommended by public health experts across the U.S.Evan Vucci / AP