Trump reaches aid deal with Democrats as cases mount

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Image: Servpro workers file in to begin a third day of cleaning at Life Care Center of Kirkland
Servpro workers begin a third day of cleaning Friday at Life Care Center of Kirkland, Wash., a long-term care facility linked to several confirmed coronavirus cases. Lindsey Wasson / Reuters

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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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New roadblocks emerge to coronavirus testing

Doctors’ offices are telling private labs they are running low on supplies needed to take specimens from patients for coronavirus testing, including “swabs, N95 respirators, viral transport media, masks, [and] gloves,” according to the American Clinical Laboratories Association, which represents commercial and hospital labs.

“Just being able to locate, gowns, gloves, or goggles is a challenge,” said Dr. Stephen Ezeji-Okoye, chief medical officer for Crossover Health, a large primary care provider with clinics in California, New York and Texas.

Testing also takes up other resources, he added. After a patient is tested, the room needs to be vacated for two hours and undergo a thorough cleaning. Crossover Health is also still abiding by the CDC’s strict guidelines for testing, which prioritize certain groups over others.

And while the Trump administration has now sent out millions of test kits, labs are still scrambling to acquire enough of the other equipment essential for testing. “They don’t have enough of the machines necessary to process these kits,” said Andy Slavitt, who served as head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid under the Obama administration. “They’re running into a bottleneck at a time.”

(Disclosure: Crossover Health operates a clinic at NBC News headquarters in New York.)

Votes will go on Tuesday in primary states, officials say

Voting will proceed as planned in four states holding primaries on Tuesday, election officials said in a joint statement Friday.

While Louisiana announced Friday that it would postpone its April 4 primary due to the coronavirus outbreak, election officials from Florida, Arizona, Ohio and Illinois said their March 17 primaries would proceed as planned — but with some extra precautions.

The four secretaries of state said they "are working closely with our state health officials to ensure that our poll workers and voters can be confident that voting is safe."

"Further, guidance from voting machine manufacturers on how best to sanitize machines, guidance from CDC on best practices for hand washing, and guidance from our respective state health officials is being provided to every polling location," the statement said.  

Virginia closing K-12 schools for at least two weeks

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has ordered all K-12 schools across the state to close for a minimum of two weeks, the governor's office announced Friday.

“We are taking this action to keep Virginians as safe and healthy as possible, and to minimize exposure to COVID-19,” Northam said in a statement. “I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus. 

Sanders: ‘We are always as safe as the least insured person in America’

Sanders called for additional medical resources to combat the coronavirus, before urging the nation to consider how "Medicare for All" would affect fighting this crisis.

“As we begin to see the failures and vulnerabilities of the current health care system, my guess is those numbers and the demand for universal health care will only go up,” Sanders said on Friday in Burlington, Vermont.

He called for more test kits, medical facilities and personnel, and protective equipment, arguing that the country needs paid family leave and the ability to see a doctor without charge to adequately combat the crisis.

“We are always as safe as the least insured person in America,” the Democratic presidential candidate said.

Social distancing at the Pentagon

The Pentagon is exercising social distancing by keeping reporters' chairs four feet apart from each other during briefings. Here, Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, talks to journalists about the military response to rocket attacks that killed two U.S. and one U.K. service members in Iraq during a news briefing at the Pentagon on Friday. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

ESPN turns to rolling news, documentaries after sports cancellations

With just about all major sporting events suspended, ESPN is taking things a day at a time.

The cable news company is revealing its scheduling on a daily basis for now, sharing updates on Twitter. The primary ESPN channel is showing rolling news coverage from SportsCenter, while its sister network, ESPN 2, is carrying episodes of the documentary franchise “30 for 30.”

A spokesperson for NBC Sports, part of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News, said its channels would show "encore presentations of events, specials and feature programming."

The mass cancellation and postponement of sports events across the U.S. and overseas is leaving TV sports networks to scramble for programming ideas. Basketball games from major college conferences had been scheduled for Friday.

Ultimate Fighting Championship, one of the few leagues not to suspend its operations, is still slated to air on ESPN on Saturday.

CNBC: Disney pausing production on all live-action movies

Correction: CNBC has since updated its reporting after Disney said that production on "some" of its live-action movies will be suspended "for a short time" amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Italy records 250 deaths in one day

Italy recorded 250 deaths in the space of 24 hours, the country's Civil Protection Agency said Friday. 

The 25 percent rise — the largest rise in absolute terms since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak in Italy— brought the total number of dead to 1,266, it added. 

The total number of cases in the country, the worst hit in Europe, has gone up by 17 percent, from 15,113 to 17,660, it said. 

West Virginia closing schools starting Monday

The state of air pollution