Coronavirus updates: 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

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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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L.A. County announces 'safer at home' order

Los Angeles County officials on Thursday announced stricter guidelines for one of the most populated regions in the country. All residents are urged to stay home except for essential needs.

The "safer at home" order requires that all indoor malls, shopping centers, playgrounds and non-essential retail businesses close. It also prohibits gathering in enclosed spaces of more than 10 people at a time.

The directive goes into effect Thursday at midnight and will remain through April 19. Residents can leave their homes to visit grocery stores, pharmacies or doctors or for outdoor exercise. Food delivery and pick-up will remain available.

"This is not a request. This is an order," L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

Inside the process of creating the COVID-19 vaccine

Pence chief of staff has no update on coronavirus virus test site

The chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday said that he did not have a status update about a coronavirus website promised by the president last week.

“I don’t have an update right now, sorry,” Marc Short said.

President Donald Trump on Friday said that Google had 1,700 engineers working on a site that would “be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location.”

The testing website has launched, but it is not yet close to what was promised.

A company called Verily, which is Google’s sister company under the corporate umbrella of Alphabet, on Sunday deployed a site that asks about symptoms and points people to testing locations in two San Francisco Bay Area counties. On Thursday afternoon, the site included a note saying, "We are working to rapidly expand testing in every way that we can; please check back soon as we add more testing sites and may expand eligibility criteria." 

“Verily launched a pilot website late Sunday to counties in the Bay Area, and is working with authorities to scale this effort further," a Google spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday.

“With local and national guidance evolving rapidly, Google will continue working with relevant agencies and authorities to roll out a website later this week that will surface authoritative information for people in the U.S., including on screening and testing," the statement said.

Trump in late February put Pence in charge of the administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak.


Players, staff from the Lakers, Celtics and 76ers test positive

NBA players and staff from the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers have tested positive for coronavirus. 

Marcus Smart of the Boston Celtics announced on Twitter that he was positive and encouraged young people to practice self-distancing even if they might be at low risk for COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus. 

"Ive been self quarantined since the test, thank goodness. COVID-19 must be taken w the highest of seriousness," Smart said. 

The Lakers announced Thursday that two players, who were not identified, have tested positive and are not symptomatic. All staff and players have been asked to observe self-quarantine and shelter-in-place guidances, the Lakers said. 

Three from the 76ers also tested positive after the entire organization was tested, the team said in a Thursday statement. The team did not specify whether the positive results came from players, coaches or staff. 

"All other test results are currently negative. We have reported this information to state and local health authorities as required," the team said.

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FDA warns there are no at-home tests as scam kits are on the rise

A pathologist holds a nasal swab from a COVID-19 test kit in Lake Success, New York, on March 4, 2020.Michael Nagle / Bloomberg via Getty Images

The rush to create higher capacity for coronavirus testing has created an opening for scams and fly-by-night operations making unverified or outlandish claims in an effort to capitalize on public fear of the virus — including for at-home tests.

The FDA responded to the shortage of tests this week by relaxing regulatory restrictions, which approved the emergency distribution of new tests and allowed for states to authorize laboratories to develop tests.

But there are currently no FDA-approved at-home COVID-19 tests available in the U.S.

“No at-home test has been granted an emergency use authorization,” an FDA spokesperson said in an email. “And at-home test kits are explicitly exempt as part of our recent coronavirus diagnostics policy. We are looking into this further.”

Read the full story here. 

Trump cancels in-person G7, summit to be held via video conference

President Donald Trump canceled the in-person G7 conference that was set to be held at Camp David this June, the White House confirmed to NBC News Thursday. 

The summit between leaders from the Group of Seven nations will instead be held through video conferencing in an effort to conform with advice from medical professionals regarding social distancing to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

The G7 consists of the United States, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Germany. 

Italy has been hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic as it surpassed China in total deaths connected to the coronavirus Thursday.

Photo: The scene in the Philippines

A government employee reacts as she is sprayed Thursday with disinfectant before entering a government office building in Pasig City, Metro Manila, Philippines. The Philippine government has sealed off Luzon, the country's largest and most populous island, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.Ezra Acayan / Getty Images

Who's eligible for coronavirus checks under Senate GOP plan?

The direct cash payment plan to help Americans hurt by the coronavirus pandemic, unveiled by Senate Republicans Thursday night, would send checks of up to $1,200 per person — and payments would be based on income.

Under the plan, the details of which were revealed on the Senate floor by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., individuals making up to $75,000 annually would be eligible for a $1,200 check from the federal government.

Married couples who file their taxes jointly must make less than $150,000 to qualify for their payment, which would be $2,400. From there, according to McConnell's proposal, the payments decrease.

Read more on this story here

California governor says projections show almost 26 million residents will be infected

Governor Gavin Newsom said Thursday that California has projected that almost 26 million residents will be infected by the coronavirus.

“We project that roughly 56 percent of our population — 25.5 million people — will be infected with the virus over an eight week period,” Newsom wrote in a letter sent to President Donald Trump

Newsom added that the state has seen 126 new cases of the virus in the past 24 hours with the rate of infections detected doubling every four days. Newsom urged the president to “immediately deploy” the USNS Mercy hospital ship to the port of Los Angeles in response to the expected influx of patients, though, that ship may already be on its way to Seattle.

State Department warns Americans against traveling

The U.S. State Department raised the global travel advisory Thursday to Level 4: Do Not Travel, citing the coronavirus pandemic.

Americans should consider returning to the U.S. immediately through whatever commercial means are available, the advisory warned. The guidance comes as Americans traveling abroad struggle to make their way home amid widespread border closures and nationwide quarantines as countries scramble to contain the outbreak.

"If you choose to travel internationally, your travel plans may be severely disrupted, and you may be forced to remain outside of the United States for an indefinite timeframe," the advisory said.

Read the full story here.