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Americans warned not to travel, Italy death toll surpasses China's

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Image: A woman walks through the nearly empty Times Square subway station in New York on Thursday.
A woman walks through the nearly empty Times Square subway station in New York on Thursday.Lucas Jackson / Reuters

The U.S. State Department on Thursday warned Americans to no longer travel abroad, and urged those already abroad to return, for fear they may become stranded as other countries increasingly lock down in the coronavirus pandemic.

Italy has surpassed China in total deaths connected to the coronavirus, with the country reporting 3,405 fatalities as of Thursday afternoon Eastern Time.

For the first time since the global coronavirus outbreak began, China has reported no new domestic cases of the illness.

Only eight deaths were reported for Wednesday, all of which occurred in Hubei province, which includes the city of Wuhan where the pandemic started. Globally, the number of coronavirus cases has topped 200,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Efforts to contain the spread of the virus in the U.S. and Europe have brought life in many major cities to a standstill, and governments are launching a variety of aid packages meant to alleviate the worst of the economic impact.

Markets were calmer on Thursday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing slightly up by around 200 points.

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Trump again advises governors to acquire critical medical supplies themselves

President Donald Trump on Thursday once again urged governors to purchase critical medical supplies needed to help combat the coronavirus pandemic — like face masks — themselves, instead of only relying on the federal government to supply them.

On a lengthy conference call with multiple U.S. governors at the Federal Emergency Management Agency in Washington, D.C., Trump was told by Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker that his state had tried to put in “three big orders” of masks “but lost” them to the federal government. Baker asked how states could best take advantage of the Defense Production Act — a 1950 law the president invoked on Wednesday that allows him to force American businesses to produce materials in the national defense, such as ventilators and medical supplies for health care workers.

Trump replied that “we like you going out and seeing if you can get it faster.” The president has in recent days repeatedly advised governors to try to acquire medical supplies themselves.

Vice President Mike Pence added that he would advise governors to “reach out to construction companies” for the masks, because “they’re in possession of a lot.”

New Yorkers believe they are at low-risk of contracting coronavirus, study shows

At least 60 percent of New Yorkers believe they are at no risk or low risk of contracting coronavirus, according to a study by the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.

The survey results, published Thursday, found that despite feeling that they are at no great threat of catching the virus, more than 68 percent support measures taken to stop the spread. Researchers at the city university plan to conduct more studies on the pandemic as time goes on. 

Image:
Students wait on premises to receive school laptops for home study at the Lower East Side Preparatory School on March 19, 2020 in New York, as coronavirus restrictions shuttered classrooms throughout the city.John Minchillo / AP

“We conducted this survey and will update it regularly over the course of this public health crisis as part of our unique mission within the City’s largest public university,” CUNY SPH Dean Ayman El Mohandes said.

New York now leads the country in confirmed coronavirus patients with more than 4,000 people tested positive in the state.

Photo: Preparing for Sunday services in Sweden

Image:
Paul Fried, a minister at Katarina church in Stockholm, pre-records on Thursday a service on that will be broadcast on Facebook, YouTube and the church's website on Sunday after the Swedish government banned gatherings of more than 500 people to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.Jonathan Nackstrand / AFP - Getty Images

Mark Zuckerberg to interview Dr. Anthony Fauci on Facebook

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. health official who has been lauded for his straightforward communication on the coronavirus outbreak, will make a public appearance Thursday, after all.

Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will speak live on Facebook with CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the tech executive wrote on his Facebook wall.

Facebook said the discussion would happen at 4 p.m. PT (7 p.m. ET).

"He'll discuss the measures we can all take to fight the spread of the coronavirus and what the government is doing to respond to the pandemic. We'll have time for some questions from the community, so if there's a question you think I should ask, reply here in the comments," Zuckerberg wrote.

The phrase "Where is Dr. Fauci?" was trending on Twitter in the afternoon after he did not appear at a White House news conference. 

Cannes Film Festival cancels May dates due to coronavirus

The Cannes Film Festival, set to be held in May, has been postponed amid the rampant spread of the coronavirus. 

"Several options are considered in order to preserve its running, the main one being a simple postponement, in Cannes, until the end of June-beginning of July, 2020," organizers said on Thursday in a press release. 

The team will be working with the French government and Cannes city hall to find alternative solutions to host the internationally acclaimed festival. 

"In the meantime, the Festival de Cannes lends its vocal support to all of those who firmly call on everyone to respect the general lockdown, and ask to show solidarity in these difficult times for the entire world." 

Carnival Cruises offers ships as hospitals for non-coronavirus patients

Carnival Cruises said Thursday that it was offering its ships to serve as temporary hospitals for non-coronavirus patients in an effort to free up hospital beds. 

"These temporary cruise ship hospital rooms can be quickly converted to install and connect remote patient monitoring devices over the ship's high-speed network – providing cardiac, respiratory, oxygen saturation and video monitoring capabilities," the company said.

President Donald Trump announced earlier Thursday that he had spoken with Carnival Corporation Chairman Micky Arison and that Arison offered his ships as "floating hospitals." 

The ships have seven intensive care units with ventilators and all of its rooms allow for self-isolation if necessary, the company added. 

'Lost' actor Daniel Dae Kim says he tested positive

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Numbers continue to spike in New York City

More than 3,600 people have tested positive for the coronavirus in New York City, marking another significant spike in tracking the deadly disease, authorities said Thursday. 

There have been 3,615 positive tests to go along with 22 deaths during the pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

There had been 1,871 reported cases in America's largest city, officials had said Wednesday. There had been 10 reported dead on Tuesday.

 

Connecticut delays primary to June

San Francisco says bicycle repair shops are essential during shutdown

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Thursday that bicycle repair shops may remain open during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown as the city continues to refine what it means to be "essential." 

Outdoor exercise is allowed in San Francisco under Breed's public health order shutting down non-essential activities, but bike shops had generally closed their doors when the order took effect Tuesday. 

Testing for coronavirus, and number of positive tests, spike at VA

As of Thursday, the Veterans Health Administration has administered more than 848 tests nationwide, and recorded 83 total positive test results and one death in the Portland, Oregon, VA system.

That is a more than 150 percent increase in the number of reported tests from the total released by the VA Wednesday, and a nearly 100 percent increase in the number of positive test results.

The death number has not changed since March 14, when that first death occurred.

Photo: Shopping for the Persian New Year

Image: An Iranian woman wears a protective face mask and gloves, amid fear of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as she walks at Tajrish market, ahead of the Iranian New Year Nowruz, March 20, in Tehran
An woman wears a protective face mask and gloves, amid fear of coronavirus, as she walks in Tajrish market, ahead of the Iranian New Year Nowruz, in Tehran, Iran, on Wednesday.West Asia News Agency / via Reuters

How long has coronavirus really been in New York City?

The New York City Department of Health has published data showing that influenza-like illness reports to city emergency rooms began to increase starting March 1, which the agency is calling “unusual” and is investigating.

In addition, the number of pneumonia admissions to city ERs rose concurrently with the flu symptoms.

The two increases occurred a month after flu-like cases started to decrease in ERs. In other words, once the regular flu died down, did the new jump signify the arrival of COVID-19?

Early observations show pollution decline as U.S. cities slow

Early observations have found that extreme social-distancing measures in San Francisco, New York City and the Seattle area are likely contributing to temporary drops in the concentration of fine particulate matter — tiny particles in the air that are dangerous because they can be breathed deeply into the lungs — in all three cities. 

Jordan Wildish, a project director at Earth Economics, an environmental non-profit organization based in Tacoma, Washington, developed an online dashboard to track air quality in all three regions, comparing the measurements with figures from the same time last year.

In San Francisco, which is under shelter-in-place orders to control the spread of the coronavirus, the average concentration of fine particulate matter over the past five days was almost 40 percent lower than the previous year. In New York City, there was a 28 percent drop over the same period of time, and the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue saw a 32 percent decrease.

These local statistics follow similar trends that have been seen country-wide for nations that have also been under widespread quarantine orders. Satellite observations observed drops in airborne nitrogen dioxide in both China and Italy over the past two months.

Italy's death toll has surpassed China's

Italy has overtaken China as the country with the most deaths related to the coronavirus outbreak, registering 3,405 fatalities.

China has so far reported 3,242 coronavirus-related deaths.

Coronavirus threatens to shut schools until the fall

Kids work on art kits that were frantically purchased as the COVID-19 news got more serious.
Kids work on art kits that were frantically purchased as the COVID-19 news got more serious.Sarah McGinnity

When Gov. Laura Kelly this week made Kansas the first state to order all public and private schools closed through the end of the school year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, she created a host of challenges.

Her move — which many suspect will soon be followed by other governors across the country — has thrown into turmoil everything from college admissions to kindergarten readiness.

It’s triggered deep sadness among students, parents and teachers, who will miss important rituals and celebrations, as well as serious concerns for the children whose lives and learning have been disrupted.

Read the full story here.

Photo: 'Fearless Girl' dons a mask

The "Fearless Girl" statue
The "Fearless Girl" statue wears a mask outside the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. Stocks are swinging between gains and losses in early trading on Wall Street Thursday, but the moves are more subdued than the wild jabs that have dominated recent weeks.Kevin Hagen / AP

Local officials close Florida beaches after governor refused

Local officials in Florida are closing beaches amid the coronavirus outbreak after Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to do so — even as spring breakers and others crowded the shores.

Beaches are or will be closed in these cities and counties: 

The mayors Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale issued orders to close their beaches this past Sunday.

Public beaches in the city of Tampa are closed until further notice. Naples announced Wednesday that it would close its beaches until March 30.

All public beaches in Miami-Dade County will close Thursday nightBeaches in Lee County, where tourist hot spots Fort Myers and Sanibel are, will also close Thursday night.

On Wednesday, Clearwater voted to close its beaches starting Monday, March 23. Pinellas County, where Clearwater and St. Petersburg are located, voted Thursday afternoon to close its beaches starting Friday and until at least April 6. 

State Dept. to tell Americans not to travel abroad

The State Department is expected to raise its global travel advisory to the Level 4, the highest possible, warning Americans against traveling abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic, two U.S. officials with knowledge told NBC News. 

The guidance comes as Americans traveling in countries abroad struggle to make their way home amid widespread border closures and nationwide quarantines as countries scramble to contain the outbreak.

The decision comes less than a week after State Department raised its global travel advisory to level 3, telling Americans to reconsider travel.

The State Department has not yet responded to NBC News request for comment.

Photo: The scene in New York

Image: A shopper pushes their cart full of supplies from a Costco in Brooklyn on March 19, 2020.
A shopper pushes their cart full of supplies from a Costco in Brooklyn on Thursday.Victor J. Blue / Getty Images

NBA commissioner defends league, calls triaging of tests 'unfortunate'

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver on Wednesday responded to criticism of the league's testing players who weren't sick for the coronavirus, an issue that has highlighted concerns over whether society's elite are getting priority screening for the deadly virus.

"It's unfortunate we're at this position as a society where it's triage when it comes to testing," Silver said in an interview Wednesday night on ESPN's "SportsCenter". "And so the fundamental issue is obviously there are insufficient tests."

Read the full story here.

U.K. could close ports, cancel funerals as part of sweeping emergency laws

The British government has introduced sweeping new legislation to tackle the spiraling spread of the coronavirus. 

The bill is 329 pages long and would give authorities power to close the ports and airports on short notice, and for police to detain and isolate people suspected of being infected.

It would also roll back regulation so recently retired doctors and trainees could help out a beleaguered health service. The measures warn funeral services may be canceled because "the death management industry may be rapidly overwhelmed."

These laws would last for two years, and the government says its powers could be switched on and off as necessary. It is expected to be fast-tracked through Parliament next week, as the British death toll rose to 137 as of Thursday.

The country has 2,689 confirmed cases but the government says the true figure could be at least ten times that number.

Medical TV dramas donate masks, gloves

They're saving lives on the small screen and in real life. Fox's medical drama "The Resident" donated supplies from the set to doctors and staff at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta for treatment of coronavirus patients.

Other TV dramas are lending a helping hand, including "Station 19" which gave N95 masks to the City of Ontario Fire Department and "The Good Doctor" which plans to donate gear in Vancouver, Entertainment Weekly reported. 

Read the full story at TODAY.com.

Trump pushes to fast track 3 coronavirus treatments

President Trump is pushing federal health officials to fast track potential treatments for the coronavirus.

During a press briefing Thursday, Trump mentioned three treatments under investigation.

The first is remdesivir, an antiviral that's shown early promise for other types of coronaviruses. The drug is being studied in clinical trials, with results expected in late April.

He also talked about chloroquine, which is already approved as an anti-malaria treatment, as well as convalescent serum, which uses virus-fighting antibodies from the blood of previously infected patients.

None of the treatments has been approved yet to treat the coronavirus, as investigations are still underway.

Monaco's head of state Prince Albert II has coronavirus

PARIS — The palace of Monaco says its ruler, Prince Albert II, has tested positive for the new coronavirus but his health is not worrying.

Albert, 62, appeared to be the first head of state who has publicly said he contracted the virus.

In a statement Thursday, the palace said he is being treated by doctors from the Princess Grace Hospital, named after his U.S. actress mother. It says Albert is continuing to work from his home office in the palace and is in constant contact with members of his government.

Photo: Temperature check in Pakistan

Image:
A health official checks the temperature of a passenger amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus at the Lahore Railway station in Pakistan on Thursday.Arif Ali / AFP - Getty Images

Experimental drug holds promise for treating the coronavirus

There are early signs that an experimental treatment for people who become very sick from the coronavirus may start working within 24 hours of the first dose.

The treatment, an antiviral therapy called remdesivir, is thought to work by blocking the virus from reproducing itself in the body.

Read the full story here.

Could Congress hold remote votes?

Many members of Congress have suggested that the House and Senate should authorize remote voting for a strictly limited period of time and solely on matters pertaining to the public health crisis. Would that be constitutional? 

The constitutional issue comes from Section 5 of Article I, which says "a majority of each [house] shall constitute a quorum to do business." The Senate, however, seldom polices its own enforcement of this requirement and simply presumes that a quorum is present, unless a member suggests it is not. The House largely operates under the same presumption that a quorum is present, unless a member objects.

Whatever reasons the leadership may have for opposing remote voting, there's a strong argument that as long as both chambers presume a quorum is present and no member objects, there would be no constitutional obstacle. If someone later sued and claimed a bill was passed unconstitutionally, the courts would likely  decline to second-guess how Congress conducts its business. That's what happened in 1890 when the House changed its rules for counting a quorum.

The Supreme Court said, "The Constitution has prescribed no method of making this determination, and it is therefore within the competency of the house to prescribe any method which shall be reasonably certain to ascertain the fact"  that a quorum was present.

Gov. Cuomo: New York state needs 30,000 ventilators

New York has identified about 5,000 to 6,000 available ventilators, far fewer than the 30,000 the state would need to be prepared for the increasing number of patients who may be compromised by the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday.

"This is a nationwide problem," adding that "every state is shopping for ventilators." He would like the federal government to play a larger role to ensure hospitals don't face ventilator shortages.

During his daily news conference with reporters in the state capital of Albany, Cuomo also said:

  • New York, and New York City in particular, will not be quarantined or force people to stay "locked up" in their homes or shelter in place. "None of that is going to happen," he said.
  • The total number of positive coronavirus cases in New York has shot up dramatically because more people are being tested. Statewide, there are now 4,152 positive cases, with 1,769 of them new.
  • There will be a 90-day mortgage relief plan for homeowners in which mortgage payments will be waived based on financial hardships. Foreclosures will also be postponed or suspended during this time and there will be a grace period for loan modifications.
  • There will also be no overdraft or overage fees for ATM and credit cards.

Spain's death toll climbs by over 200 overnight

Spain’s death toll from the epidemic soared by 209 in 24 hours to 767 fatalities the health ministry said on Thursday. Spain is the second worst affected country in Europe, as only Italy has had more cases and deaths.

The total number of cases also climbed by a quarter to 17,147 on Thursday — on Wednesday, there were 13,716 cases in Spain.

This comes as Spain announced a 200 billion euro (about $215 billion) package on Tuesday to help companies and protect workers affected by the spiraling outbreak crisis.

More than half of jobs in Spain are dependent on small or medium-sized companies in a country with one of the developed world’s highest unemployment rates.

Morning roundup of coronavirus coverage

Wanted: People willing to get sick to find coronavirus vaccine [The Wall Street Journal]

Amid coronavirus outbreak, drive-in movie theaters find their moment [The Los Angeles Times]

COMIC: I spent a day in coronavirus awareness mode. Epidemiologists, how did I do? [NPR]

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Photo: The scene in Greece

Image: A worker in a protective suit disinfects a classroom at an elementary school in Ioannina, Greece, on March 19, 2020.
A worker in a protective suit disinfects a classroom at an elementary school in Ioannina, Greece, on Thursday.Dimitris Rapakousis / Reuters

Mexico, former swine flu hub, drags feet on border closures

Mexican officials are dragging their feet on border closures and coronavirus containment measures, in what critics call a high risk strategy driven by bad memories of a shutdown a decade ago that deepened the country’s recession during the swine flu epidemic.

While neighboring U.S. and other countries in Latin America have suspended flights, banned public gatherings and closed schools, in Mexico City tens of thousands of music fans rocked out to Guns and Roses at a festival at the weekend.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also went on tour, hugging surging crowds of supporters and kissing babies.

Some Mexican scientists — receiving news of Europe’s growing lockdown — are increasingly worried that Mexico’s highly restrained approach to the outbreak could lead to a bigger epidemic down the road.

ESPN turns to alternative sports — including marble racing

ESPN is turning to fringe sports in an effort to replace some of the thrills and spills of its usual sports programming.

The network said that this Sunday its ESPN2 channel would become "ESPN8: The Ocho," a reference to the fictional channel from the movie "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story."

The TV line-up includes a range of unusual sports competitions including marble runs, cherry pit spitting, sign spinning, the Stupid Robot Fighting League and the questionably titled Death Diving Championship of 2019.

Here’s a list of other little known sporting competitions coming to ESPN’s airwaves on Sunday. 

E.U. asks Netflix to limit high-definition streaming

Many people in Europe are working from home and staying in at night, and that means more internet-based video conferencing and streaming.

In an effort to make sure everything functions properly, E.U. Commissioner Thierry Breton has asked Netflix to limit high-definition streaming. 

Photo: Medical experts wait to screen foreign visitors at Moscow airport

Image: Moscow
Russian medical experts wait to check passengers arriving from foreign countries Thursday at Sheremetyevo airport outside Moscow. Pavel Golovkin / AP

400 foreigners stranded in Panama after festival

Image: A health worker checks the temperature of an attendee of the Tribal Gathering festival rock in Cuango, Colon province, Panama
A health worker checks the temperature of an attendee of the Tribal Gathering festival rock in Cuango, Colon province, Panama on Wednesday.Luis Acosta / AFP - Getty Images

Between 400 and 500 people are stranded in Panama after a “tribal” festival and music event ended with many of them being quarantined at the concert site near the Caribbean beach of Playa Chiquita, an organizer said.

James Baker of Manchester, England, told the Associated Press that those attending the festival included people from countries around the world, including Spain, Canada, the U.S., Denmark, France, Britain, and Hungary.

Authorities in Panama have required that those seeking to leave prove they had been in Panama for at least 14 days. While many attendees have been able to leave, Baker said many of the remaining festivalgoers and staff would need help getting back to their home countries due to flight and transport cancellations. He told the AP that "the mood is generally good" and the group had tents, medial support and food for about a month.

Markets calm amid silent opening bell ahead of switch to all-electronic trading

Markets were calmer on Thursday, just two days before the New York Stock Exchange closes its main trading floor and converts to all-electronic trading due to safety concerns about coronavirus.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down by around 200 points, with the S&P and Nasdaq down by just under 1 percent each.

Newly released data that showed a significant spike in unemployment levels put some pressure on stocks on Thursday, with 281,000 people filing claims, far higher than last week's 211,000.

Read the full story here.

Pelosi demands Trump authorize production of critical supplies to fight coronavirus

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., implored President Donald Trump on Thursday to use his authorities to force the mass production of critical supplies that the U.S. is lacking in the fight against the coronavirus.

“The president must immediately use the powers of the Defense Production Act to mass-produce and coordinate distribution of these critical supplies before the need worsens and the shortages become even more dire,” Pelosi said in a statement issued from her district in San Francisco.

Pelosi’s statement comes after Trump tweeted Wednesday evening that he signed the Defense Production Act so that he could use it in a "worst case scenario."

Read the full story here.

Cruise ship docks in France with more than 200 Americans on board

The Costa Luminosa cruise ship with more than 200 Americans on board docked on Wednesday evening in Marseille, France, after it was barred from docking in the Canary Island as three passengers diagnosed with COVID-19 disembarked earlier in the trip.

A health inspection has been underway since last night and is still being carried out aboard the Miami-based Carnival Corporation ship, port authorities said. Health officials will make the decision if any non-French passengers can disembark the ship today, or if it will continue to its final destination in Genoa, Italy.

French authorities said that an American plane is on standby to repatriate them to the U.S. French passengers will be taken by health officials in Marseille and immediately put into quarantine.

Queen Elizabeth leaves Buckingham Palace for Windsor Castle

Image: Britain's Queen Elizabeth leaves Buckingham Palace for Windsor Castle to socially distance herself amid the coronavirus pandemic, London,
Britain's Queen Elizabeth leaves Buckingham Palace for Windsor Castle to socially distance herself amid the coronavirus pandemic, London, Thursday, March 19, 2020.Aaron Chown / AP

Harley-Davidson suspends production

Iconic motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson announced Wednesday that it has temporarily suspended U.S. production. 

“We recognize the unprecedented nature of this global crisis. In order to best support our employees and following the social distancing guidance issued by public health authorities, we are temporarily suspending the majority of production at our U.S. manufacturing facilities,” said Jochen Zeitz, acting CEO and president, Harley-Davidson, in a press release.

U.S auto manufacturers have partially shut down factories as the coronavirus outbreak pushes people to limit social contact but also hampers economic activity.

London to essentially close underground as mayor says city is in crisis

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Thursday that the coronavirus crisis in the country's capital was nowhere near its peak.

In a streamed speech, Khan said the outbreak was the biggest crisis the city had faced "since the Second World War,” noting 41 deaths in London so far. He also said "the normal rules of the game are gone" when asked about flexibility with the government budget.

Image: The deserted area around the Winston Churchill statue in Westminster
The deserted area around the Winston Churchill statue in Westminster as the spread of the coronavirus disease continues in London on Thursday.Hannah McKay / Reuters

This came after Transport for London introduced new reduction measures across London's underground in an attempt to contain the spread, urging only essential journeys.

The U.K. will also close all schools starting Friday until further notice. Britain had initially been as one of the few European countries enforcing only minor daily-life restrictions relating to the virus.

'I felt like I had a belt around my chest': Rep. Ben McAdams shares details after testing positive for coronavirus

Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, who has tested positive for the coronavirus, said Thursday that it feels like "worst cold I've ever had" and that any members of Congress who had close contact with him since Friday should be concerned.

“What I've been told by the House physician is that anyone who had close contact with me from Friday onward should be should be concerned and should probably take precautions,” McAdams said in an interview on NBC’s “TODAY” show.

McAdams said there aren’t a lot of members who would be in that category, but the “few members that I had contact with in that period probably should be quarantined.”

Read the full story here.

Conan O'Brien's show to return via iPhone

Newlyweds dance alone after coronavirus restrictions limit wedding plans

Minnesota classifies grocery store workers as emergency personnel

Minnesota has classified grocery store workers as emergency personnel, allowing them to access free child care provided by the state.

As people continue to practice social distancing and restaurants and bars remain closed, grocery store workers have essentially become first responders to the crisis, making sure everybody stays fed.

For this reason, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz added store clerks, stockers, food preparation personnel, cleaning staff and deli staff at grocery stores to the list of "Emergency Tier 2" workers, according to an executive order dated for Tuesday. Workers with school-age children are now entitled to free-care provided by school districts.

In a Wednesday tweet, the Minnesota Grocers Association thanked the governor, saying it will allow workers to keep doing their job.

Vermont's governor said on Wednesday he will take the same measure.

EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tests positive

The European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tested positive for coronavirus on Thursday, saying he was "in good spirits."

Last week, Britain and the E.U. agreed to cancel face-to-face trade negotiations planned for this week in London due to the outbreak.

Cuomo: Fear and panic is a 'worse problem' than the coronavirus right now

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that the fear and panic in the U.S. right now is a “worse problem” than the coronavirus. 

“We know what we have to do on the virus. It's going to be hard, it's going to be disruptive but we know what we have to do there. The fear and the panic can actually get out of control more than the virus can,” he said in an interview on “TODAY” with Savannah Guthrie.

While he warned against increasing fear and panic, Cuomo said, “This is a war, Savannah. We have to treat it like a war.”

Asked about public figures having easier access to tests when they don’t present symptoms as people who have symptoms, Cuomo said, “That should not happen.”

Christmas lights ‘spread happiness’ during pandemic

It may be March but some people are turning their holiday lights back on to help spread some cheer during the coronavirus outbreak.

Rob Makowsky posted a photograph of his lit-up house on twitter, noting that he “figured the world could use a bit more brightness.”

Others have taken similar actions to “spread happiness” during the outbreak. One Delaware man noted that the effort was easy — he hadn't yet taken his lights and decorations down.

Amazon closes NYC warehouse after employee diagnosed with coronavirus

Amazon closed one of its facilities in New York City after a worker there was diagnosed with coronavirus, a spokesperson for the company told NBC News. 

Employees at the Queens warehouse were sent home with full pay, and "we are supporting the individual who is now in quarantine," the spokesperson said. It is unclear when Amazon plans to reopen the site, in Woodside.

The Queens worker is the first known U.S. Amazon employee to be diagnosed with the virus, according to CNBC. Amazon confirmed on Monday that at least five workers at warehouses in Spain and Italy had tested positive. 

Australia and New Zealand close borders to foreigners

Image: The Qantas check in at an empty Sydney International Airport on Thursday.
The Qantas check in area stood empty at Sydney International Airport on Thursday.Mark Metcalfe / Getty Images

Both New Zealand and Australia closed their borders to all foreigners starting Friday, as they stepped up efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told a press conference that citizens and permanent residents can still return, but their options are running out as many commercial airlines are cancelling flights.

“I’m not willing to tolerate risk at our borders,” Ardern told the media conference. New Zealand so far has 28 cases of coronavirus, but no deaths.

The announcement came shortly after neighboring Australia announced the same measure. Australia has recorded around 600 confirmed coronavirus cases and six deaths as of Thursday — a relatively small number compared to other countries. However, officials are growing increasingly concerned about the prospect of an exponential rise in cases.

Biden and Sanders campaigns 'in regular contact' to discuss coronavirus

Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign said late Wednesday that it's been in touch with Sen. Bernie Sanders' campaign since last week and have been exchanging ideas about how the U.S. should respond to the coronavirus outbreak. 

Biden's deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield told NBC News that they've been in "regular contact at a senior level," talking about how the outbreak is affecting their campaigns and how to adjust their activities in the 2020 presidential race. 

Bedingfield said the two campaigns have their differences, but they are collaborating to promote the health and safety of their staff. Sanders returned to Vermont late Wednesday after being in Washington Wednesday to vote for the coronavirus aid bill.

Olympic flame handed over to Japan for 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo

Image: A performer in Athens at the Olympic flame handover ceremony for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.
A performer stands next to the Olympic flame in Athens, Greece during the Olympic flame handover ceremony on Thursday. The flame will travel to Japan ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics.Aris Messinis / AFP - Getty Images

European Central Bank announces $810 billion emergency plan

The European Central Bank announced a 750 billion euro, or $810 billion, plan late Wednesday to calm markets and help the economy in the "euro area" — the monetary union of 19 of the 27 European Union member states.

The central bank said it would use the fund, named the "Pandemic Emergency Purchase Program," to buy government debt and well as private sector securities before the end of 2020. 

The announcement comes as markets and local economies around the world are increasingly unstable, and confirmed coronavirus case numbers are rising significantly across Europe and the U.K.

Italy to extend lockdown as death toll surges

Italy will remain under lockdown beyond the deadline that was due to expire in early April, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Thursday.

In comments to the Corriere della Sera newspaper, Conte said measures taken to close schools and universities, as well as restrictions on movement would have to be prolonged past the previously set date of April 3.

“We have to use our common sense, and act with the greatest caution. Sanctions for those who do not respect the rules will be strictly implemented,” he said.

Under current measures, Italy's 60 million people are only allowed to travel for work, medical reasons or emergencies. Currently the worst hit country in Europe, Italy reported a surge in deaths and the toll now stands at 2,978. The country reported 475 deaths in 24 hours on Wednesday, its largest single day increase since the pandemic began.

Up to 20,000 U.K. military personnel to go on standby

The U.K.’s Ministry of Defense will double the size of the military’s civil contingency unit to create a 20,000-strong “COVID Support Force,” the defense secretary announced on Wednesday.

An additional 10,000 troops will be added to the already 10,000 held at "higher readiness" in case of a civil emergency, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said. Reserves are also on standby to support public services.

The U.K. will also close schools until further notice starting Friday, and new measures were introduced Thursday across London's transport network in an attempt to contain the spread.

"People should not be traveling, by any means, unless they really, really have to," London Mayor Sadiq Khan said. There were more than 2,600 confirmed cases in the U.K. as of Thursday.

San Francisco, ordered to shelter in place, faces uneasy life in lockdown

San Francisco’s tourism industry has ground to a halt and some restaurants closed as residents wondered about the future amid orders to “shelter in place.” 

"Everything is out of our control," Trish Tracey said in her shuttered restaurant in San Francisco’s Mission District. She does not know when it will reopen.

San Francisco and surrounding counties are days into the restrictions, which involve millions of people being told to stay home and stay put except for essential needs such as shopping for groceries, getting medications, caring for others and exercising.

San Francisco is an early test of what the rest of the U.S. may see in the coming days as mayors and governors curtail daily life to try to slow the spread of the virus.

Read the full story here.

Las Vegas airport tower closed after controller tests positive

The air traffic control tower at Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport has been temporarily closed after a controller tested presumptively positive for the coronavirus, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman said.

The Las Vegas Terminal Radar Approach Control assumed control of the airspace and the airport remains open, but operations will continue at a reduced rate until the situation is resolved. 

The air traffic controller tested presumptively positive for the virus, which causes the illness COVID-19, on Wednesday. Presumptively positive is a term often used when a local test comes back positive but before that result is confirmed by the CDC.

The presumptive positive at McCarran comes a day after the air traffic control tower at Chicago’s Midway International Airport was closed after several technicians tested positive. That airport remained open but at reduced operations.

Critical care nurse: Lack of supplies causing 'fear and insecurity'

Playboy, citing coronavirus, says next issue last for print this year

Playboy magazine says that due to supply challenges because of the coronavirus pandemic, its spring issue will be the last to hit newsstands this year.

"Last week, as the disruption of the coronavirus pandemic to content production and the supply chain became clearer and clearer, we were forced to accelerate a conversation we've been having internally: the question of how to transform our U.S. print product to better suit what consumers want today,” Playboy Enterprises CEO Ben Kohn said in an open letter posted online Wednesday.

The Spring 2020 Issue, which is set to hit newsstands this week, will be its last printed publication for the year in the United States, Kohn wrote.

Kohn said the company will move to a “digital-first publishing schedule" for all of its content. It will publish print materials next year but those were described as new forms like "special editions, partnerships with the most provocative creators, timely collections and much more."