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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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.
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.
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.
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.