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Over 80 million Americans under virtual lockdown as restrictions tighten

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Image: Surfside
A beach entrance is cordoned off in Surfside, Fla., on March 21, 2020.Wilfredo Lee / AP

The number of Americans under virtual lockdown grew Saturday to over 80 million, with New Jersey joining the list of states issuing a stay-at-home order or other sweeping mandates to fight the spread of the new coronavirus.

“We must flatten the curve and ensure residents are practicing social distancing," New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy said, adding, “Even with this order in effect … life in New Jersey does not have to come to a complete standstill.”

New Jersey's stay-at-home order applies to nearly all of its 9 million residents. It comes after Illinois issued a similar mandate Friday for its 13 million residents and following California's stay-at-home order for its population of 40 million.

In New York, with a population of over 19 million, the governor has ordered that all nonessential businesses keep their workers home. Pennsylvania's governor has also ordered that all businesses that are not "life-sustaining" close.

New York also announced Saturday that the number of coronavirus cases there now tops 10,000.

Worldwide, there are now more than 275,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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1172d ago / 8:47 PM UTC

Most cases in New York City are of people under 50


Most people who have tested positive for coronavirus in New York City are younger than 50, according to figures released by the city Saturday.

This does not reflect the ages of those who have died, only people confirmed to be infected with the virus.

Overall, 57 percent of those who have tested positive in the city are 49 or younger. People 18 to 49 years old make up the majority, 54 percent, the city said. The next largest group are those age 50 to 64, who account for 23 percent of positive test results so far.

The accounting reflects data known to the city through 5:30 p.m. Friday. 

On Friday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "We are now the epicenter of this crisis" in the United States.

1172d ago / 7:55 PM UTC

Coronavirus briefly halts flights to all NYC-area and Philadelphia airports

Image: JFK International Airport
An air traveler prepares to board a Delta flight to San Francisco at JFK International Airport, in New York, on March 17, 2020.Shannon Stapleton / Reuters file

Flights to all New York City-area and Philadelphia airports were briefly halted Saturday, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

The agency temporarily grounded flights after it said Saturday that an air traffic controller trainee tested positive for the coronavirus. The trainee worked out of the New York Air Route Traffic Control Center in Ronkonkoma, on Long Island.

Read the full story here

1172d ago / 7:30 PM UTC

Over 2K retired medical workers volunteer to help, NYC mayor says

Retired medical providers in New York are offering their help to combat the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

"Over 2,000 retired medical personnel have answered the call to come back out of retirement to protect people," the mayor said Friday.

The number of coronavirus cases in New York state increased by more than 3,000 and now tops 10,000. New York City alone has 6,211 cases, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday.

1172d ago / 7:14 PM UTC

White House won't say when healthcare workers can expect to have additional supplies

The White House did not provide a concrete timeline Saturday about when healthcare professionals can expect to have much-needed supplies, such as masks and ventilators.

Vice President Mike Pence told reporters at a press briefing that “companies would be producing millions of masks within a matter of weeks” and said that President Donald Trump “expanded liability protections to industrial masks so that they could now be used in hospitals.”

Trump, Pence and other members of the coronavirus task force were asked by reporters when healthcare workers could expect to have the supplies. No one was able to provide a timeline. 

Trump instead criticized reporters and insisted that, despite having been in office for over three years now, any slow response or lack of preparedness was because of a broken system he inherited.

1172d ago / 7:07 PM UTC

'What do we have to lose?': Trump continues to promote untested drug treatments for coronavirus

President Donald Trump insisted Saturday that there was cause for optimism about drug therapies for coronavirus, despite caution from his top government scientists that the treatments’ effectiveness was not proven.

“Look, I feel, as the expression goes: what do we have to lose?,” Trump said, making the case for offering different drugs, which he also tweeted  about earlier in the day, that have been used in other countries to combat the coronavirus but have not been proven to work in any controlled studies.

"I feel very confident. I've seen things that surprise me frankly,” Trump said, speaking at a press briefing at the White House.

Trump’s director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci, reminded the public during the same briefing that there is not evidence to claim that the drugs work.

“Many of the things that you hear out here are what I had called anecdotal reports. They may be true, but they are anecdotal,” Fauci said. “The president is talking about hope for people.” 

1172d ago / 6:37 PM UTC

1172d ago / 6:11 PM UTC

Italy's death toll continues to soar, with 793 in one day

Image: Cremona hospital
A nurse at the Cremona hospital pushes an emergency trolley, on March 11, 2020m in Lombardy,I taly.Paolo Miranda / AFP - Getty Images

Italy's death toll from coronavirus continues to soar, with 793 fatalities in the last 24 hours.

Deaths from COVID-19 in the country now stand at 4,825.

The total number of cases in the state also shot up by 6,557 since Friday to a total of 53,578 coronavirus cases, officials said Saturday.

Angelo Borrelli, chief of civil protection, said 6,072 people have recovered after contracting the disease.

1172d ago / 5:46 PM UTC

Vice President Mike Pence says he will get tested for the coronavirus

WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence said he and his wife, Karen Pence, would get tested for the coronavirus Saturday afternoon after a member of Pence's staff tested positive for the virus Friday night.

“I am pleased to report he's doing well,” Pence said of the staffer. “He had mild cold-like symptoms for about a day and a half. He has not been to the White House since Monday. Neither the President nor I had direct contact with that staff person."

Pence said that both him and his wife felt fine and were not displaying any symptoms.

But given his “unique position” as vice president and as head of the White House’s coronavirus task force, Pence said he would go ahead and get tested.

Click here for the full story.

1172d ago / 5:42 PM UTC

New Jersey issues stay-at-home order for nearly all 9 million residents

Gov. Phil Murphy of New Jersey has issued a stay-at-home order for nearly all of the state's 9 million residents.

New Jersey now joins the list of other states ordering such sweeping restrictions in the bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Read the full story here.

1172d ago / 5:21 PM UTC

NYC: Only test those that are hospitalized as protective equipment 'extremely limited'


New York City's hospitals are sounding the alarm about a critical lack of Personal Protective Equipment, PPE, and are limiting tests of COVID-19 to those that are hospitalized in the "epicenter" of the coronavirus outbreak and to stop testing outpatients, documents obtained by NBC News show.

NBC News has reviewed a letter from NYU Medical Langone Hospital which says that the capacity to test for COVID-19 at labs in the region remains "critically limited."The letter says that as of Friday NYU has told staff that the testing of COVID-19 was to be restricted to hospitalized patients only. In part, the letter says, because supplies of test swabs and other necessary testing components remains low.

NYU's directives come on the heals of a sweeping memorandum from the New York City Department of Health. The directive says, "there is a national shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE), collection swabs, and viral transport media supplies and it is critical that laboratory testing be prioritized for hospitalized patients."

The memo says that applies to testing first responders who aren't hospitalized either and says, "outpatient testing must not be encouraged, promoted or advertised."

1172d ago / 5:21 PM UTC

Coronavirus cases in Switzerland jump 25 percent in a day

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Switzerland has jumped from 2,650 to 6,113 in the last 72 hours, NBC News numbers show.

Swiss officials said the number of coronavirus went up 25 percent in just 24 hours, with hospitals in Ticino, which borders hard-hit Italy, under pressure, Reuters reported.

The number of deaths in Switzerland is at least 56.

1172d ago / 4:15 PM UTC

Coronavirus economic relief package could total $2 trillion, Kudlow says

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s top economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, said that the new economic emergency package to combat the coronavirus pandemic could total more than $2 trillion.

“The package is coming in at about 10 percent of GDP,” Kudlow said to reporters as he arrived at the Capitol Saturday morning to continue negotiating a deal with a bipartisan group of senators, adding that it would likely come out to be more than $2 trillion.

“We’re just trying to cover the right bases,” he said, declining to provide any further details on what agreements Senate Republicans and Democrats were nearing.

Lawmakers spent all Friday meeting in the Capitol to hammer out a deal, but failed to reach Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ambitious midnight deadline to come to an agreement. They reconvened Saturday morning to finish negotiations.

Click here for the full story.

1172d ago / 4:10 PM UTC

Coronavirus cases in New York State now top 10,000

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Saturday morning that the number of coronavirus cases in the state has increased by more than 3,000 and now tops 10,000.

New York City alone has 6,211 cases, an increase of about 1,800, Cuomo said.

The state has conducted 45,437 tests, he said, and now has a total of 10,356 coronavirus cases.

"The more tests you take, the more positives you find," he said, adding that New York is now conducting more tests per capita than China or South Korea.

Read the full story here.

1172d ago / 3:24 PM UTC

Why hospitals in the eastern U.S. are already sounding the alarm

1172d ago / 2:12 PM UTC

Confined by lockdown, Frenchman runs marathon on his balcony

In the age of confinement, Elisha Nochomovitz figured out a way to run a marathon anyway - back and forth on his 23-foot-long balcony

He saw the 26.2 miles as a physical and mental challenge, but he told the Associated Press that he also shared the images online as a way "to extend my support to the entire medical personnel who are doing an exceptional job,"

Like athletes who ran around their Wuhan apartments or cyclists who found ways to train in their locked-down Abu Dhabi hotel rooms, Nochomovitz said he wanted to show others from his apartment in Balma, a suburb of the southern French city of Toulouse, that it is possible to stay fit as virus containment measures tighten around the world.

He also wanted to lighten the mood. "It was about launching a bit of a crazy challenge and bringing a bit of humor, to de-dramatize the confinement situation," he said.

1172d ago / 1:34 PM UTC

What could follow mild early coronavirus symptoms?

As physicians across the country diagnose and care for a growing number of people with COVID-19, distinct patterns are emerging, giving clues about how the illness manifests in patients.

Very often, people start off with minor physical complaints — slight cough, headache, low-grade fever — that gradually worsen.

Image: Italy coronavirus
Medical personnel at work in the intensive care unit of the hospital of Brescia, Italy on Thursday.Claudio Furlan / LaPresse via AP

"Patients tend to have symptoms for about a week before either getting better, or getting really sick," said Dr. Joshua Denson, a pulmonary medicine and critical care physician at Tulane Medical Center in New Orleans.

Denson, who estimated he's treated 15 to 20 patients with the coronavirus, described that first phase of the illness as "a slow burn."

Read the full story here.

1172d ago / 12:46 PM UTC

Jordan blares sirens for start of nationwide curfew


Sirens blared out as Jordan began a nationwide curfew on Saturday, limiting the mobility of its 10 million citizens to combat the spread of coronavirus. The government ordered all shops to close indefinitely and all people to remain off the streets until at least Tuesday.

Amman-based academic Nadwa Dawsari filmed the curfew coming into effect in Jordan, with sirens and restrictions read from mosque loudspeakers. 

Anyone violating the curfew — which restricts movement beyond emergencies and essential services — can be jailed up to a year, the army said. Thousands of soldiers have been deployed in cities and on main highways.

Jordan’s Health Ministry said on Friday that 85 cases of coronavirus had been confirmed in the country. 

1172d ago / 12:14 PM UTC

China gives first COVID-19 vaccine to volunteers, local media reports

Clinical trials of coronavirus vaccines are being conducted on volunteers, local media in China reported on Saturday. 

Chen Wei, the project leader — a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering — explained the process to the Tech Daily newspaper as constructing the vaccine using genetic engineering methods to "express the new coronavirus antigen."

There are not many volunteers required for Phase I trials, the newspaper reported. They are limited to residents of Wuhan, and residents of the Wuchang, Hongshan and Donghu Scenic Areas are preferred.

Volunteers will be divided into three groups of low-dose, medium-dose and high-dose groups, with 36 people in each group, Tech Daily said.

1172d ago / 11:51 AM UTC

Hundreds of thousands defy Iraq's curfew to visit martyred imam's shrine

The Iraqi government has been forced to deploy troops after hundreds of thousands of people defied coronavirus and attempted to visit a shrine sacred to Shiite Muslims, two senior security sources with knowledge of the situation told NBC News.

An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people arrived at the shrine of Musa al-Kadhim, the seventh of the 12 imams who are considered to be the spiritual and political successors of the Prophet Muhammad, to the north of the country’s capital Baghdad, one of the sources said Friday. More were expected Saturday.

“Security forces closed the area around the shrine in order to prevent people from entering them, gathering inside,” he said, adding: “We believe that the number of infected people will increase next week because of this visit.”

Iraq imposed a weeklong curfew Monday after 10 deaths were recorded in the country. Another three people have since died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, and 195 cases have been confirmed.

Read the full story here.

1172d ago / 10:57 AM UTC

WHO partners with WhatsApp for health alert messaging service

The World Health Organization partnered with social messaging platforms WhatsApp and Facebook to launch a “WHO Health Alert” messaging service to provide the latest news and information on COVID-19, including details on symptoms and how people can protect themselves. 

The “easy-to-use” messaging service has the potential to reach 2 billion people — from government leaders to health workers and family and friends, the WHO said in a press release Friday.

Similarly, on Saturday Alphabet Inc’s Google said it launched a United States — focused website with information about coronavirus guidance and testing, as the country works on slowing the outbreak.

The site ( will be available in more languages and countries in coming days, Google said in a blog post.

1172d ago / 10:19 AM UTC
1172d ago / 9:48 AM UTC

National Spelling Bee called off

Image: Annual National Scripps Spelling Bee winners
Co-champions hold up the trophy during the championship of the Scripps National Spelling Bee in 2019 in National Harbor, Maryland.Alex Wong / Getty Images

The Scripps National Spelling Bee won’t be held as scheduled this year because of the coronavirus, meaning years of preparation by some of the country’s top spellers could be for naught.

Scripps cited both state and federal recommendations against large gatherings Friday, as it canceled plans to hold the contest during the week of May 24. Scripps said it would try to reschedule but did not commit to a new date — it’s possible the bee won’t be held at all.

“Canceling the bee would cause an emotional breakdown for most spellers,” Navneeth Murali, a 14-year-old bee veteran from Edison, New Jersey, told The Associated Press. “It would basically be crushing their dreams.”

Most nationally competitive spellers devote years of their lives to mastering the dictionary and learning roots and language patterns, hoping for a win before they age out. Navneeth — who finished fifth in 2018 and 11th last year — is among the eighth-graders preparing for their last shot at the title.

1172d ago / 8:51 AM UTC
1172d ago / 8:50 AM UTC

Overseas passengers flying to Beijing may be quarantined in Inner Mongolia

Overseas passengers flying to Beijing may have to quarantine in Inner Mongolia — an autonomous region of northern China — if they have the coronavirus or have been in close contact with anyone that does, local news reported Saturday.

The Chinese capital is rerouting flights to three other cities as it tries to prevent fresh outbreaks started by infected people arriving from abroad. One is Hohhot — the capital of China’s Inner Mongolia region — about 250 miles northwest of Beijing. The other cities are Tianjin and Taiyuan.

This comes as China has recently reported a slow-down in domestic cases, and more internationally imported cases — more than 80 in recent weeks.

As of Saturday, Wuhan — the virus outbreak’s epicenter — reported no new or suspected cases for a third straight day. It even allowed some businesses to reopen.

1172d ago / 8:13 AM UTC

Weekend curfew begins in Sri Lanka as South Asia accelerates battle against virus

Mosques in Sri Lanka were shut indefinitely on Friday, as the island imposed a countrywide curfew across the whole weekend until Monday, as South Asian countries step up efforts to check the spread of COVID-19 cases.

The densely populated region of some 1.9 billion people has been less badly affected than other parts of the world, but new cases in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka have all been accelerating recently. The total cases across South Asia now exceeding 850 and seven people have died in the region.

India’s western state of Maharashtra has also decided to close all shops and offices except those providing essential services — including in India’s financial capital Mumbai — until the end of the month.

Authorities worry that these countries could be especially at risk, should the virus begin to spread locally, due to poor health facilities and infrastructure in much of the region.

1172d ago / 6:18 AM UTC

Priest celebrates Mass with pews full of parishioners' pictures

1172d ago / 5:58 AM UTC

U.N. officials warn of risk to 100M people in war zones

The United Nations says consequences of the coronavirus could be devastating for the 100 million people living in war zones and other emergency settings.

It noted many people are living in cramped conditions with little or no access to proper sanitation and basic health services.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said humanitarian officials are concerned people who depend on U.N. assistance are able to keep getting life-saving help while trying to avoid “the catastrophic impact that the COVID-19 outbreak could have on them.”

He said U.N. humanitarian officials will be launching an appeal for funds early next week to deal with the coronavirus threat. The U.N. has already released $15 million from its emergency fund to deal with the coronavirus in vulnerable areas, and U.N.-managed funds in Afghanistan, Sudan and Jordan have also been released to scale up preparedness.

1172d ago / 5:46 AM UTC

Wuhan to allow some businesses to re-open

BEIJING — While entry and exit from Wuhan remains tightly restricted, businesses such as supermarkets, convenience stores and shops selling fresh fruit, vegetables and other daily necessities can re-open.

Only one person per household bearing a special pass can go out each day, with shopping time limited to two hours.

Wuhan, the virus outbreak’s epicenter, reported no new or suspected cases for a third straight day.

Meanwhile, Premier Li Keqiang on Friday urged “efforts to stabilize and support market entities to strengthen the engines for economic recovery,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency. Li “stressed a stronger sense of urgency on the work and production resumption, as well as the recovery of economic and social order,” including financial assistance to small and medium-size enterprises that form a core source of employment and key links in supply chains.

“Unreasonable restrictions that hinder the resumption of work” should be lifted, Li said. “With effective prevention and control measures, necessary health monitoring and emergency response forces in place, epidemic prevention and work resumption can be advanced in a synchronized way.”

Among measures to help people find new jobs, the central government has launched a website that it hopes will help fill 10 million vacancies by the end of June.

1172d ago / 5:04 AM UTC

Residents in Anchorage, Alaska, told to 'hunker down'

The residents of Alaska’s largest city on Friday were told to “hunker down” as much as possible to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz said the order, effective Sunday through March 31, is necessary so the health care system does not get overwhelmed, noting that the city is the medical center for the state and that “we are the only game in town for thousands of miles.”

Several states and cities have made similar moves as the number of coronavirus cases in the United States increases. Anchorage has four positive cases, all of them considered travel-related, and the state overall has 12, according to Alaska's health department.