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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New roadblocks emerge to coronavirus testing
Doctors’ offices are telling private labs they are running low on supplies needed to take specimens from patients for coronavirus testing, including “swabs, N95 respirators, viral transport media, masks, [and] gloves,” according to the American Clinical Laboratories Association, which represents commercial and hospital labs.
“Just being able to locate, gowns, gloves, or goggles is a challenge,” said Dr. Stephen Ezeji-Okoye, chief medical officer for Crossover Health, a large primary care provider with clinics in California, New York and Texas.
Testing also takes up other resources, he added. After a patient is tested, the room needs to be vacated for two hours and undergo a thorough cleaning. Crossover Health is also still abiding by the CDC’s strict guidelines for testing, which prioritize certain groups over others.
And while the Trump administration has now sent out millions of test kits, labs are still scrambling to acquire enough of the other equipment essential for testing. “They don’t have enough of the machines necessary to process these kits,” said Andy Slavitt, who served as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid under the Obama administration. “They’re running into a bottleneck at a time.”
(Disclosure: Crossover Health operates a clinic at NBC News headquarters in New York.)
Votes will go on Tuesday in primary states, officials say
Voting will proceed as planned in four states holding primaries on Tuesday, election officials said in a joint statement Friday.
While Louisiana announced Friday that it would postpone its April 4 primary due to the coronavirus outbreak, election officials from Florida, Arizona, Ohio and Illinois said their March 17 primaries would proceed as planned — but with some extra precautions.
The four secretaries of state said they "are working closely with our state health officials to ensure that our poll workers and voters can be confident that voting is safe."
"Further, guidance from voting machine manufacturers on how best to sanitize machines, guidance from CDC on best practices for hand washing, and guidance from our respective state health officials is being provided to every polling location," the statement said.
Virginia closing K-12 schools for at least two weeks
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered all K-12 schools across the state to close for a minimum of two weeks, the governor's office announced Friday.
“We are taking this action to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible, and to minimize exposure to COVID-19,” Northam said in a statement. “I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus.
Sanders: ‘We are always as safe as the least insured person in America’
Sanders called for additional medical resources to combat the coronavirus, before urging the nation to consider how "Medicare for All" would affect fighting this crisis.
“As we begin to see the failures and vulnerabilities of the current health care system, my guess is those numbers and the demand for universal health care will only go up,” Sanders said on Friday in Burlington, Vermont.
He called for more test kits, medical facilities and personnel, and protective equipment, arguing that the country needs paid family leave and the ability to see a doctor without charge to adequately combat the crisis.
“We are always as safe as the least insured person in America,” the Democratic presidential candidate said.
Social distancing at the Pentagon
ESPN turns to rolling news, documentaries after sports cancellations
With just about all major sporting events suspended, ESPN is taking things a day at a time.
The cable news company is revealing its scheduling on a daily basis for now, sharing updates on Twitter. The primary ESPN channel is showing rolling news coverage from SportsCenter, while its sister network, ESPN 2, is carrying episodes of the documentary franchise “30 for 30.”
A spokesperson for NBC Sports, part of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, said its channels would show "encore presentations of events, specials and feature programming."
The mass cancellation and postponement of sports events across the U.S. and overseas is leaving TV sports networks to scramble for programming ideas. Basketball games from major college conferences had been scheduled for Friday.
Ultimate Fighting Championship, one of the few leagues not to suspend its operations, is still slated to air on ESPN on Saturday.
CNBC: Disney pausing production on all live-action movies
Correction: CNBC has since updated its reporting after Disney said that production on "some" of its live-action movies will be suspended "for a short time" amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Italy records 250 deaths in one day
Italy recorded 250 deaths in the space of 24 hours, the country's Civil Protection Agency said Friday.
The 25 percent rise — the largest rise in absolute terms since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy— brought the total number of dead to 1,266, it added.
The total number of cases in the country, the worst hit in Europe, has gone up by 17 percent, from 15,113 to 17,660, it said.
West Virginia closing schools starting Monday
The state of air pollution
Separate the sick from the healthy: Why social distancing works
In the past 48 hours, America has stepped closer to lockdown: Several states have closed schools, professional sports leagues have suspended their seasons, and companies across the U.S. have asked employees to work from home. These measures are all intended to limit social interactions, and hopefully, slow the spread of the coronavirus.
And while the response may seem extreme, one of the best methods in public health to slow the spread of a virus and minimize its effects on the most vulnerable populations is this very strategy, called social distancing.
Massachusetts governor announces ban on large gatherings
The office of Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker has issued a recent order that will prohibit large gatherings of 200 people or more in the state, effective immediately. The annual Boston Marathon that was slated to take place in April has been postponed until mid-September.
Similarly, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday that he is also instituting a ban on gatherings of 500 people or more starting Friday at 5 p.m. ET.
Louisiana becomes first state to postpone election due to coronavirus
WASHINGTON — Louisiana became the first state Friday to postpone an election due to the coronavirus outbreak, saying it will push back its April 4 primary, in which Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders will face off, until June 20.
The action comes as election officials across the country are taking steps to mitigate voters' exposure to the virus in upcoming votes in the Democratic presidential primary and local races.
"The two-month delay of this election will continue to allow our office to procure necessary supplies to put our state in best possible posture for the time when this election is conducted," Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin said at a press conference Friday, adding that municipal general elections, previously scheduled for May 9, will now take place on July 25.
Ardoin said the decision was made especially with local election commissioners in mind. Over half of them are 65 or older, he said, a population that is at heightened risk for the COVID-19 disease.
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WHO head says Europe is now epicenter of coronavirus outbreak
Europe is now the epicenter of the global coronavirus outbreak, WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.
Tedros said that Europe is more reporting more cases on a daily basis than China reported at the height of its outbreak.
Italy has been particularly hard hit by the virus, while Spain, Germany and France have also confirmed thousands of cases.
Afternoon roundup of coronavirus coverage
The coronavirus is creating a huge, stressful experiment in working from home [The Atlantic]
Some kids in New York’s coronavirus containment zone are worried their 'Corona Break' will set them back [BuzzFeed News]
Movie theaters battle to stay open despite shelved films, but for how long? [The Hollywood Reporter]
Miami mayor tests positive
Miami mayor Francis Suarez said Friday he has tested positive for coronavirus and is in isolation to protect his family and contacts. "I feel completely healthy and strong," the 42-year-old mayor said in a statement,
"If we did not shake hands or you did not come into contact with me if I coughed or sneezed, there is no action you need to take whatsoever. If we did, however, touch or shake hands, or if I sneezed or coughed near you since Monday, it is recommended that you self-isolate for 14 days, but you do not need to get tested."
Suarez provided contact information for guidelines on testing for Florida residents: Floridahealth.gov or the state health department at 866-779-6121 or Miami’s COVID-19 call center, 305-960-5027.
Cases ramping up in Africa as six new countries confirm infection
Cases of the new coronavirus are ramping up in Africa, with six new countries announcing confirmed infections in the past 24 hours.
Across Africa, 18 of the continent's 54 countries have now registered COVID-19 cases. The majority of these cases are imported, authorities say.
On Friday, Kenya, Guinea and Ethiopia reported their first cases, while Gabon and Ghana did so late Thursday. Sudan also reported its first case, a person who had already died.
Experts warn that on the booming continent of more than 1.3 billion people, containment is key as Africa's already strained health systems could likely lead to a higher mortality rate and deeper crisis that would have global impact.
Canada moves to restrict travel, suspend House of Commons
Canada has moved to reduce the number of airports accepting overseas travelers, increased screenings of travelers, advised against non-essential foreign travel and suspended cruises until July in response to the coronavirus outbreak.
The country's House of Commons will also be suspended.
"The agreement we reached with other parties to suspect the House gives us the flexibility to do the things we need to do in order to protect Canadians," said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau from Rideau Cottage, where he is in self-isolation after his wife tested positive for coronavirus. Trudeau said he is not symptomatic.
He urged Canadians not to worry about the economy as officials are planning to unveil a "significant fiscal stimulus package" in the coming days. "These are significant steps, and we will do more," Trudeau said. "We are pulling out all the stops." The Canadian government has also allocated $1 billion to fight the spread of the virus.
Los Angeles, San Diego closing public schools to 750,000 students for two weeks
Los Angeles and San Diego unified school districts will close for instruction to their combined 750,000 students for two weeks beginning Monday to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, Superintendent Austin Beutner announced Friday morning.
Beutner had forestalled making the decision, citing the district's high rate of families living in poverty. "Our schools provide a social safety net for our children," Beutner said in an email to parents announcing the closing. "The closing of any school has real consequences beyond the loss of instructional time. This is not an easy decision and not one we take lightly."
Los Angeles' school district announced a partnership with two local public television stations, PBS SoCal and KCET, to offer educational programming during the closure, and Beutner said family resource centers would be open beginning Wednesday.
Norwegian Air lays off half its staff after Trump travel ban hits transatlantic flights
Low-cost international airline Norwegian Air announced Thursday it was canceling over 4,000 flights and temporarily laying off almost half its workforce.
The move follows President Donald Trump’s announcement this week that the U.S. is restricting visitors from certain European countries.
“This is an unprecedented situation and our main priority continues to be the care and safety of our customers and colleagues,” Jacob Schram, CEO of Norwegian, said in a statement. “We urge international governments to act now to ensure that the aviation industry can protect jobs and continue to be a vital part of the global economic recovery.”
The cutbacks will last until the end of May, the announcement said.
Broadband companies offer price cuts on internet service
Internet service providers are beginning to advertise temporary discounts, including for students whose schools are closed because of the coronavirus.
Charter Communications said Friday it would offer free broadband and Wi-Fi access for 60 days to households with K-12 or college students who do not already have a broadband subscription. Cox Communications said it was offering one month free to new customers of its low-income service beginning Monday, and increasing the service’s speed beginning Tuesday.
AT&T said Thursday it was waiving internet data overage fees for customers who did not already have unlimited home internet access. Comcast said it would give its Internet Essentials service away for free for 60 days (Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News).
Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal, parent company of NBC News, made a number of new customer commitments late Friday, including opening its Xfinity WiFi hotspots to anyone around the country that wants to use them free of charge.
The Federal Communications Commission said Friday that Chairman Ajit Pai was “calling on broadband and telephone service providers to promote the connectivity of Americans impacted by the disruptions caused by the #coronavirus pandemic.”
U.K's Johnson postpones English local and mayoral elections for a year
The U.K.'s Prime Minister Boris Johnson has postponed May's local and mayoral elections in England for a year due to the coronavirus outbreak.
His office made the announcement after Britain's Electoral Commission watchdog said the polls should be put off until the autumn to "mitigate" the impact of the virus.
The elections were due to appoint some 120 English local councils, eight directly elected mayors including in London and 40 police and crime commissioners in England and Wales.
Ten people have died with the virus in the U.K. and 798 cases have been confirmed across the country.
New Rochelle lockdown
Sign of the times, cont'd
Schumer: Trump 'must not overstep his authority'
New York Public Library to close through the end of month
The New York Public Library announced Friday that it would be closing through at least March 31, starting Saturday.
New York City's library system, which services Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island, is a vital resource for the city's most vulnerable populations including the elderly and homeless, especially during the coldest and hottest months of the year.
"While we have been proud to stay open to serve the public amid storms and other emergencies, the best way we can serve our patrons now is to help contain the virus, especially as our patrons include many seniors and others at high risk," it said in an email sent out to library card holders.
'Make-or-break days' in U.S. fight against coronavirus, Los Angeles mayor says
These are "make-or-break" days in America's fight against the new coronavirus, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Friday.
The mayor of the country's second-largest city spoke to MSNBC on Friday, a day after announcing stringent protective measures such as banning all events or conferences for more than 50 people on city-owned properties.
Garcetti said he is impressed by state and local officials across the country taking similar steps to try to slow the spread of the virus.
They "know that these are the most critical days we have. We will look back on this period and this will be the make-or-break days," the mayor said.
The novel coronavirus has killed 41 people in the United States and surpassed 1,700 confirmed or presumptive cases as of Friday morning. Los Angeles County has 32 confirmed cases and 1 death so far from coronavirus. A total of four people have died from the virus in California.
ISIS publishes advice on how to avoid coronavirus
ISIS has issued “advice” to its followers on how to avoid the coronavirus, although the tips are mainly religious as opposed to scientific.
Publishing the guidelines in the 225th edition of its weekly newsletter al-Naba, the terror group urged people to pray to avoid diseases, but stressed “the importance of believing that diseases themselves are not infectious and the everything is destined by God,” according to a translation by global security firm and NBC News analyst, Flashpoint Intelligence.
On a more practical level, it said that people should cover their mouths when yawning or coughing, wash their hands and avoid going into contaminated areas and vice versa.
Trump plans to declare national emergency to combat coronavirus
President Donald Trump plans to declare a national emergency Friday to allow more direct relief to Americans affected by the coronavirus, two administration officials told NBC News.
The move could help open up tens of billions of dollars to help fight the rapidly spreading pandemic.
Trump announced earlier in the day that he will hold a 3 p.m. press conference Friday afternoon about the response to the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump has come under increasing fire in recent weeks over his response to the pandemic while his administration weathered criticism for the lack of coronavirus testing being done compared with other countries.
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Chinese official suggests U.S. Army to blame for outbreak
Chinese officials have sidestepped questions about whether Beijing blames Washington for the coronavirus outbreak after a foreign ministry spokesman suggested it could have been planted by the U.S. Army.
"When did patient zero begin in U.S.? How many people are infected? What are the names of the hospitals? It might be U.S. army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan,” Zhao Lijian tweeted in both Chinese and English on Thursday. “Be transparent! Make public your data! U.S. owe us an explanation!"
UPS workers see holiday shopping-level volume
Online shopping has risen sharply around the country as people are encouraged to social distance because of coronavirus, say retail analysts. Delivery volume is up around the country and has reached holiday season-levels in some places, according to UPS workers in several states, with one describing it as “like Christmas.” During what they say is normally a slower time of year, UPS drivers and union representatives in Florida, Georgia and New York told NBC News they are seeing volumes they normally only see during the holiday season, with some working 12-hour days or longer to keep up with demand.
“We had a guy this morning go out with an entire truck with just toilet paper on it,” a driver in Wisconsin said.
G7 leaders to meet on videoconference on Monday, Macron says
Why the coronavirus is different from the flu
They spread in similar ways and share many of the same symptoms — but the flu and the coronavirus have key differences.
While President Donald Trump has repeatedly compared the coronavirus to seasonal influenza, experts say the coronavirus can be more insidious for several reasons: It is more contagious; it has a higher mortality rate; and, unlike the flu, currently there is no vaccine for it.
"We have much more capability and expertise to treat and prevent the flu that we don't yet have with coronavirus," said Dr. Sankar Swaminathan, an infectious diseases expert and virologist at the University of Utah Health.
Rep. Joe Kennedy temporarily suspends Senate campaign activities for a week
Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., is temporarily suspending his Senate campaign at close of business Friday, his campaign manager Nick Clemons said in a statement.
"We don't believe it is appropriate or wise to continue political activities given the reality that Massachusetts families and communities are facing. Our top priority is ensuring our staff, supporters, community, and the general public are safe," Clemons said.
The suspension, he said, will last a week and they will reassess the situation by close of business on March 20. Kennedy is challenging incumbent Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass., in the state's primary.
Sen. Ron Johnson weighing decision to self-quarantine after meeting with Spanish official who tested positive
A spokesman for Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc., said Friday the lawmaker is deciding if he needs to self-quarantine after meeting with an official who tested positive for COVID-19.
“Senator Johnson is consulting with doctors about the need to self-quarantine, but he feels healthy and well," the spokesman said.
Johnson, the chair of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, met with a member of the Spanish parliament on March 2, who later tested positive for coronavirus, the spokesman said. His office did not disclose the name of the official. Spain had more than 3,800 cases by Friday morning and at least 84 deaths.
Johnson, who is also chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Europe and Regional Security Cooperation, regularly meets with European government officials and diplomats in his Washington office, the spokesman said.
How long does coronavirus live on surfaces?
Touching any surface suddenly seems dangerous in the era of the coronavirus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates it could be viable for “hours to days.”
A preliminary study published this week found the virus could be detected in the air for up to three hours after it was aerosolized with a nebulizer, 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 newest research, which has not yet been peer reviewed, was conducted by scientists at the National Institutes of Health, Princeton University, the University of California and the CDC.
Bitcoin plunges nearly 50 percent in one day amid market sell-off
The price of bitcoin plunged Thursday from about $9,000 per coin to $4,000, with roughly $93 billion wiped from the broader, highly volatile cryptocurrency market within a 24-hour period, according to data from coinmarketcap.com
The price of bitcoin recovered slightly within minutes, and as of late morning Friday the digital currency was trading at about $5,700.
The swift drop occurred around 10 p.m. ET, following a broader market sell-off that saw the stock market enter “bear market” territory, a 20 percent drop from recent highs amid broader pessimism.
Spain declares a state of emergency
Spain has declared a state of emergency for the next 15 days to better combat the coronavirus, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Friday, in a dramatic increase to the policy response that will allow authorities to confine people and ration goods.
The state of emergency, which Sanchez said will formally be decided by a cabinet meeting on Saturday, will give the government power to take wide-ranging measures including temporarily occupying factories or any other premises except private homes.
"The government of Spain will protect all its citizens and will guarantee the right life conditions to slow the pandemic with as little inconvenience as possible," Sanchez said.
He did not spell out what specific measures the government will take, but schools have already shut down across the country and many cinemas, theatres and playgrounds have also closed. Court cases have also been suspended in several regions as normal life came to a halt in the euro zone's fourth-largest economy.
U.S. general 'fairly certain' North Korea has COVID-19 cases
The top American general in South Korea said Friday he is fairly certain North Korea has not been spared by the COVID-19 outbreak that began in neighboring China, although the North has not publicly confirmed a single case.
Speaking by video-teleconference from his headquarters in South Korea, Army Gen. Robert Abrams told reporters at the Pentagon that the North had halted military training for a month — including a 24-day hiatus in military flying — but has since resumed.
“It is a closed-off nation, so we can’t say emphatically that they have cases, but we’re fairly certain they do," he said. “What I do know is that their armed forces had been fundamentally in a lockdown for about 30 days and only recently have they started routine training again."
Trump to hold afternoon news conference
Federal agencies encouraged to provide telework flexibilities to vulnerable employees
The Office of Management and Budget is encouraging federal government departments and agencies to provide more flexible telework policies for employees who are at high risk for serious complications from COVID-19 and who have weakened immune systems like pregnant women.
The guidance was released in a memo Thursday by OMB which says that some of the vulnerable people are those who "have chronic health conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease or compromised immune systems."
"Agencies do not need to require certification by a medical professional, and may accept self-identification by employees that they are in one of these populations," it says.
The memo also instructs agencies to consult with public health officials to determine whether to extend telework flexibilities to all eligible workers in areas where the disease has spread.
U.S. Department of Defense shuts schools across Europe
The U.S. Department of Defense says it's temporarily shutting down all schools on continental European military facilities as a precaution against the spread of the COVID-19 virus, affecting tens of thousands of students.
Department of Defense Schools spokesman Stephen Smith told The Associated Press on Friday the closures as of Monday would affect 63 elementary, middle and high schools in Germany, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands, and likely Ankara, Turkey. Three schools in the U.K. will remain open for the time being, he said.
In all, some 27,000 students attend the Defense Department schools in Europe, Smith said, adding that the schools will be closed through the April break and then the situation will be reassessed.
Starting next week, a distance learning plan, already in use for the students in Italy and Bahrain, will be implemented in Europe, he said.
Chinese-language media in U.S. are debunking coronavirus misinformation
The warning on Chinese-language social media was dire — unless you want the coronavirus, avoid the Gold City Supermarket in Flushing in the New York borough of Queens.
The report turned out to be false, one in a string of fake news stories shared widely on WeChat, a platform popular with Chinese-language speakers, many of them from mainland China.
It was eventually debunked by Chinese-language media in New York — home to the largest Chinese population of any city outside Asia.
Boston Marathon postponed until Sept. 14
The marathon, originally scheduled for April 20, will now be held on Sept. 14, the Boston Athletic Association said in a statement.
“On matters of public health and safety we take our guidance from the officials entrusted with protecting the public in this area,” said Tom Grilk, CEO of the association. “We understand our role, along with our partners, in ensuring a safe environment for all participants, volunteers, spectators, and supporters that meets the standards set by those officials.”
Masters golf tournament postponed
"Considering the latest information and expert analysis, we have decided at this time to postpone the Masters Tournament, the Augusta National Women’s Amateur and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals," said Fred Ridley, Chairman of Augusta National Golf Club.
The Masters had been scheduled for April 9 through 12.
France bans gatherings for over 100
France has banned gatherings for more than 100 people to contain the outbreak of coronavirus in the country, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced Friday.
The move comes after French President Emmanuel Macron announced Thursday that schools, daycare centers, and universities would close starting the following Monday.
In a televised interview, Macron called coronavirus the "most serious sanitary crisis France has ever known in a century." The country had more than 1,500 confirmed cases of the virus as of Friday.
Michigan suspends outside visits at state prisons
Michigan is halting in-person visits at its more than three dozen state prisons in an effort to limit the potential spread of the coronavirus, although officials said there have been no cases among its prison population.
The state has at least 12 cases of COVID-19. "This was not a decision we arrived at lightly, as we understand and recognize the importance of family contact with the prison population," Heidi Washington, the director of the Michigan Department of Corrections, said in a statement Friday.