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Coronavirus updates: New York mayor declares city 'epicenter'

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Image: An Indonesian police officer sprays disinfectant in the Baiturrahman grand mosque, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Banda Aceh
An Indonesian police officer sprays disinfectant in the Baiturrahman grand mosque, amid concerns of the COVID-19 coronavirus, in Banda Aceh on March 20, 2020.Chaideer Mahyuddin / AFP - Getty Images

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Wall Street took another dive Friday as the Dow Jones Industrial Average sunk by 916 points and saw 18 percent of its value disappear over the course of the week.

The Dow saw all the gains made since President Donald Trump took office erased.

Also in New York City, the suspended presidential campaign of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg told staffers Friday there was a confirmed case of COVID-19 at its Times Square headquarters, a campaign official confirmed to NBC News.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday evening the city has 5,151 coronavirus cases and 29 deaths associated with the virus. "We are now the epicenter of this crisis" in the United States, he said.

In California the number of cases, more than 1,000, has doubled in three days. Los Angeles County, the nation's most populous, reported it now has a total of 292 cases.

There are now more than 250,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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Washington state preps for possible rationing of care and ventilators for coronavirus patients

Wednesday night, 280 clinicians in Washington state dialed into a three-hour webinar to hear about the possibility that medical professionals across the state will have to begin rationing health-care — including precious ventilators — for coronavirus patients.

Officials say the trigger for rationing care, or invoking what are known as “crisis standards,” will be when there are more COVID-19 patients than ventilators. 

“If you are above a certain age and we have a shortage of ventilators, you don’t get one,” Cassie Sauer, CEO of the Washington State Hospital Association explained. “This has never happened in America at this level for this sustained time. … It is unprecedented and it should not happen.”

2010 study found Washington state had fewer than 1,000 ventilators. As of Thursday it had more than 1,300 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and had reported 74 deaths.

Sanders turns his campaign to coronavirus relief

Bernie Sanders is shifting his focus from building political support to supporting efforts to respond to the coronavirus spread. The Vermont senator announced on Friday that he will host an online roundtable in Burlington, Vt., where he is "assessing the state of his campaign." 

The roundtable will be the first public comments from Sanders since he snapped at a reporter on Wednesday for asking about his timeline for deciding on the future of his campaign. Sanders has not publicly addressed Tuesday night's primaries, which were unanimously won by former Vice President Joe Biden.   

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) arrives at the U.S. Capitol for a vote on March 18, 2020.Win McNamee / Getty Images

Since then, Sanders senior adviser Tim Tagaris said the campaign has used social media platforms, email and text lists to "educate and activate people around his coronavirus response and raise big-money for charities helping people impacted.” On Thursday, the campaign sent an email to supporters prompting them to use a campaign-established fundraising page to donate to up to five charities helping people during the pandemic. 

Sanders also released a $2 trillion proposal on Monday that he said he would present to Democratic leadership that includes having Medicare, as it exists now, pay for all medical bills accrued during this emergency, whether or not the bill is related to the coronavirus.  

U.K. prime minister says restaurants and bars must temporarily close

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced Friday that all bars, pubs and restaurants in the country must close on Friday and remain close, echoing similarly drastic measures taken in other parts of the world to stop the spread of the coronavirus. 

Coast Guard cadet tests positive for coronavirus

A Coast Guard Academy cadet in Florida has tested positive for COVID-19, the Coast Guard announced Friday. The Florida Department of Health's lab confirmed the results of a test received Thursday.

The cadet, a 20-year-old male, traveled to Europe for spring break along with six other cadets and a civilian friend. The group was visiting Spain when they were ordered to return to the United States based on the Presidential Proclamation suspending travel from Europe.

Upon returning home to Florida, the cadet became symptomatic and sought treatment and screening. The civilian from the group also tested positive for the coronavirus. The infected cadet remains in self-quarantine and the other six cadets are in self-isolation at their homes while arrangements are made for testing. They are in daily contact with the Coast Guard Academy's medical staff.

On March 13, Rear Admiral William Kelly, the superintendent of the academy, directed cadets to remain away from the academy for an additional two weeks following spring break.

Photo: Social distancing at London mosque

Attendees distance themselves from others as Friday prayers are observed at the Baitul Futuh Mosque in London. The mosque usually attracts around 7,000 people for Friday prayer but only a few hundred came this week.Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

'You're a terrible reporter': Trump berates NBC News reporter over coronavirus question

President Donald Trump on Friday excoriated an NBC News reporter as a “terrible reporter” after he asked the president for his message to Americans who are scared about the coronavirus pandemic.

At the Trump administration's coronavirus task force's daily briefing, NBC News’ Peter Alexander asked Trump about efforts being made to produce vaccinations for coronavirus and whether the president's “positive spin” regarding the potential drugs was giving Americans false hope.

“Is it possible that your impulse to put a positive spin on things may be giving Americans a false sense of hope?” Alexander asked.

“No, I don’t think so,” Trump replied. Read more on the story here.

Trump to suspend federal student loan payments for borrowers who want it

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said Friday that borrowers with federally held student loans would “have the option” to suspend their payments for at least two months.

In a statement delivered as President Donald Trump was speaking at his administration’s daily coronavirus task force briefing, DeVos said she had "directed all federal student loan services to grant an administrative forbearance to any borrower with a federally held loan who requests one" and that the forbearance "will be in effect for a period of at least 60 days."

DeVos said she had also authorized an automatic suspension of payments for any borrower more than 31 days delinquent as of March 13, 2020.

Trump said the waiving of interest on all federally held student loans — something he announced days earlier — was now going into effect.

U.S. closes border with Mexico to all 'nonessential' travel

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Friday that the U.S. and Mexico have agreed to restrict “nonessential travel across our border” due to the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Pompeo, standing alongside President Donald Trump and other federal officials, made the announcement at the administration’s daily coronavirus task force briefing.

The restrictions go into effect on Saturday.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the restrictions will not apply to essential travel, which includes travel for medical purposes and emergency response, public health services, attendance at educational institutions and “lawful cross-border trade.” 

Wolf said the U.S. will turn away all immigrants on the border who lack proper entry documentation.

Education Secretary allows states to cancel standardized tests

The students forced to stay at home due to school closures across the U.S. can bypass standard testing for the 2019-2020 school year, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced Friday.

"Upon a proper request, the [Education] Department will grant a waiver to any state that is unable to assess its students due to the ongoing national emergency, providing relief from federally mandated testing requirements for this school year," the department said in a news release.

Navajo Nation's coronavirus cases rise to 14

Two days after confirming its first case of COVID-19, Navajo Nation officials said late Thursday that 14 people have now tested positive on the reservation, making up just over half of the cases in the state of Arizona.

Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said the community of Chilchinbeto, with a population of 500 people, was being quarantined and isolated to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The majority of the 14 cases involve individuals who initially reported their symptoms to the nearby Indian Health Service unit in Kayenta.

Nez said his order to shelter in place may also be applied to the entire Navajo Nation — the largest tribal reservation in the U.S., with 350,000 members — if reports become widespread.

Astronomy observatories will halt science operations

Several major telescopes and astronomy observatories around the world are closing and halting science operations until further notice.

The European Southern Observatory (ESO), an intergovernmental research organization made up of 16 member nations, announced Friday that its Paranal, La Silla and APEX astronomy observatories — all located in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile — will reduce the number of staff on site and gradually cease science operations.

“The sites are transitioning into a safe state with a minimal team on site to ensure the safety of the facilities and the remaining people,” ESO officials said in a statement.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/Submillimeter Array, a huge collection of radio telescopes located on Chile’s Chajnantor plateau, will also be shut down until further notice, according to ESO.