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WHO declares COVID-19 disease to be a pandemic

The coronavirus crisis continues to unfold across the globe as the World Health Organization uses the word for the first time.
Image: Slovakia
A worker wearing protective clothes disinfects the inside of a public bus in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Wednesday.Vladimir Simicek / AFP - Getty Images

For the first time, the World Health Organization called the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, a pandemic. Meanwhile, the United States now has more than 1,000 people infected with the coronavirus — but testing in the country is still ramping up, meaning that number could continue to climb.

WHO defines a pandemic as the worldwide spread of a new disease for which most people do not have immunity.

On Wednesday, the governor of New York questioned the number of people who have been tested for the virus in the U.S.

“When they do the retrospective on this one, they are going to say, 'Why did it take the Unites States so long to bring up the testing capacity?'” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on "TODAY." On Tuesday, Cuomo announced that he was implementing a "containment area" around a one-mile radius in the city of New Rochelle, home to one of the largest clusters of coronavirus cases in the country.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that more than 8,500 specimens have been tested for the coronavirus across the U.S. Because multiple specimens are required from each individual, the number of actual patients who have been tested is likely far lower.

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TV show 'Riverdale' suspends production over coronavirius

“Riverdale” has suspended production after a team member on the television show recently came into contact with someone who has tested positive for the coronavirus illness and is "currently receiving medical evaluation," COVID-19, Warner Bros. said Wednesday.

The show is produced in Vancouver.  “We are working closely with the appropriate authorities and health agencies in Vancouver to identify and contact all individuals who may have come into direct contact with our team member,” the company said.

“Riverdale” is a drama based on the characters from Archie Comics. 

Fears of the spread of the coronavirus has prompted several shows to no longer record in front of live studio audiences for the time being.

Beauty retailer Sephora suspends in-store makeup services

NBC News

Beauty retailer Sephora said Wednesday it is suspending all paid and free in-store services, makeup and skincare applications until further notice to reduce the spread of COVID-19, the disease from coronavirus.

Its enhanced safety measures include disinfecting all high-touch areas, work stations, product displays and hygiene stations with hospital-grade disinfectant and cleaning all display testers with disinfectant multiple times a day, as well as increasing weekly deep cleanings of its stores and distribution centers, the company said in a statement.

Las Vegas movie exhibition CinemaCon canceled

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The annual movie exhibition and trade show CinemaCon has been canceled in Las Vegas due to coronavirus, scuttling one of Hollywood's premier hype machines.

The week-long conference, which brings together everyone from Hollywood studio executives and celebrities to movie theater owners and equipment and concession manufacturers, had been scheduled to begin March 30 at Caesar’s Palace.

The cancellation was announced Wednesday in a joint statement by John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theater Owners, and CinemaCon's managing director, Mitch Neuhauser.

“While local outbreaks vary widely in severity, the global circumstances make it impossible for us to mount the show that our attendees have come to expect," they said. "After consultation with our attendees, trade show exhibitors, sponsors, and studio presenters, NATO has decided therefore to cancel CinemaCon 2020.”

Senate staffer tests positive

NBC News

A staff member in the Washington, D.C., office of Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease from coronavirus, her office said Wednesday.

The person has been in isolation since starting to have symptoms, and on the advice of an attending physician, Cantwell has closed the office this week for deep cleaning, the office said in a statement. Staff will be teleworking, and her offices in Seattle and Washington, D.C., will continue to serve constituents remotely, it said.

The person who tested positive has had no known contact with Cantwell or other members of Congress, the statement said.

Dow futures plunge nearly 1,000 points as Trump speech disappoints investors

Fred Imbert, CNBC

Thomas Franck, CNBC

Fred Imbert, CNBC and Thomas Franck, CNBC

Futures contracts tied to the major U.S. stock indexes fell on Wednesday night after an address from President Donald Trump failed to quell concerns over the possible economic slowdown from the coronavirus. 

The move comes after the Dow Jones Industrial Average ended its historic 11-year bull market run by closing in a bear market. As of 10:17 p.m. Wednesday, Dow futures were down 1,032 points, indicating a loss of about 992.22 points at Thursday’s open. S&P 500 and Nasdaq 100 futures were also sharply lower.

In his address, Trump announced travel from Europe will be suspended for 30 says as part of the government’s response to the coronavirus. Trump also said the administration would provide financial relief for workers who are ill, caring for others due to the virus or are quarantined. 

These announcements were not enough for investors who were looking for a more robust fiscal response to curb potentially slower economic growth.

Read the full story.

Trump suspends travel from Europe amid coronavirus pandemic, cancels events

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he would be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days amid the growing coronavirus outbreak.

"The European Union failed to take the same precautions and restrict travel from China and other hot spots,” Trump said, speaking from the Oval Office Wednesday night. “As a result, a large number of new clusters in the United States were seeded by travelers from Europe.”

The travel ban goes into effect Friday at midnight. The restrictions only apply to foreign nationals and not U.S. citizens, green card holders or the family of U.S. citizens, the Department of Homeland Security said. U.K. citizens are also exempt.

In addition to the travel restrictions, Trump also offered a series of economic relief actions meant to help workers and companies deal with the outbreak. He did not offer any new rules aimed at preventing the spread domestically, including expanding access to testing kits, increasing funding to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, restricting travel within the U.S. or providing resources to state health departments.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement on Wednesday that Trump is also canceling upcoming trips to Colorado, Nevada and Wisconsin amid concern over the pandemic.

Read more here.

NBA suspends all games until further notice

Ahiza García-Hodges

Image: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver Press Conference
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the media during a press conference at the United Center in Chicago on Feb. 15, 2020.Stacy Revere / Getty Images file

The NBA suspended all games Wednesday until further notice after a player on the Utah Jazz preliminarily tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The test result was reported shortly prior to tip-off of Wednesday night’s game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder. The game was canceled immediately.

Read more here.

Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson test positive for coronavirus in Australia

Oscar-winning actor Tom Hanks said Wednesday night that he and his wife, actress Rita Wilson, tested positive for the coronavirus while in Australia, where he is reportedly shooting a movie.

"We Hanks’ will be tested, observed, and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires," Hanks said in an Instagram post. "Not much more to it than a one-day-at-a-time approach, no? We’ll keep the world posted and updated."

Italian soccer club Juventus player Rugani tests positive

The Associated Press

MILAN — Italian soccer club Juventus announced Wednesday that one of its players, defender Daniele Rugani, has tested positive for COVID-19.

Rugani, who also plays for the Italian national team, is the first player in the country's top soccer division to test positive for the disease, which is caused by the new coronavirus.

Juventus, which has won the last eight Serie A titles, announced the result on its website and social media channels.

The club said Rugani and "those who have had contact with him” are being isolated. It also said Rugani is not showing any symptoms of the disease.

Private labs still facing obstacles and delays for testing

Image: A nurse holds a completed test with patient samples at a drive-through testing site for coronavirus, flu and RSV, currently by appointment for employees at UW Medical Center Northwest
A nurse holds a completed test with patient samples at a drive-through testing site for coronavirus, flu and RSV, at UW Medical Center Northwest in Seattle on Monday.Lindsey Wasson / Reuters

Even though the federal government has assured the public that millions of tests for the coronavirus are on the way, many private laboratories in the United States are still not able to conduct their own tests, in part because of a demanding government approval process, leading lab experts and industry groups say.

One hospital lab says it could have performed thousands of tests by now. These delays — which have also been driven by a shortage of materials and lack of information from the federal government about how much labs will be reimbursed — have prolonged waiting times for diagnosing infected patients while the virus has spread further, according to lab directors and public health experts.

Private labs have been in touch with the Department of Health and Human Services since mid-January about developing their own coronavirus tests, according to the American Clinical Laboratory Association, which represents commercial and hospital labs. But the federal government did not issue new rules speeding the approval process for commercial, research and academic labs until Feb. 29.

Even after that, however, private labs have continued to face hurdles.

Read the full story.

Congress shutting down Capitol tours

The two sergeant at arms of the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate are preparing to announce that they will stop visitors tours of the Capitol Building due to coronavirus, three congressional sources told NBC News Wednesday.

The tours are enormously popular, but lawmakers from both sides of the aisle had called for the be halted in the wake of the virus's spread. 

"We should take this step. Not doing so is putting health and safety of tourists at risk," tweeted Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., the third-ranked Republican in the House.

New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democrat, told reporters Wednesday morning that temporarily halting the tours would be a prudent move. 

"That's a measure we should consider. Absolutely," Ocasio-Cortez said, and "probably soon, especially some of these tours with hundreds of people. I think we should be reconsidering that.”

Tests show new virus lives on some surfaces for up to 3 days

The Associated Press

An employee disinfects the glass cover of a butcher counter to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus in a food store in Budapest, Hungary, on Wednesday.Tamas Kovacs / AP

The new coronavirus can live in the air for several hours and on some surfaces for as long as two to three days, tests by U.S. government and other scientists have found.

Their work, published Wednesday, doesn’t prove that anyone has been infected through breathing it from the air or by touching contaminated surfaces, researchers stress.

For this study, researchers used a nebulizer device to put samples of the new virus into the air, imitating what might happen if an infected person coughed or made the virus airborne some other way.

They found that viable virus could be detected up to three hours later in the air, up to four hours on copper, up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to two to three days on plastic and stainless steel.

Italy orders all stores to close except pharmacies, markets

Lidia Sirna

Image: Day two of Italy's nationwide coronavirus lockdown, in Pioltello, near Milan
People wearing protective face masks arrive at a supermarket in Pioltello, near Milan, Italy, on Wednesday.Flavio Lo Scalzo / Reuters

ROME — All stores and restaurants in Italy, except for pharmacies and food markets, will remain closed starting Thursday morning, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced.

At least 800 people in Italy have died from COVID-19, the disease associated with coronavirus. 

The ban includes bars and cafes.

The restrictions come less than one week after Italy locked down several major cities, including Milan and Venice. But with more than 12,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, Italy has become the European center of the coronavirus outbreak, with the number of sick people overwhelming hospitals.

Ahiza García-Hodges

New York late night television shows, including CBS' “The Late Show,” NBC's “The Tonight Show,” and HBO's “Last Week Tonight” will be taped without a studio audience over concerns about spreading coronavirus in crowds.

A growing number of other shows will also take steps to limit crowds and audiences, including NBC's “Today” show and “Today with Hoda and Jenna and Friends,” Comedy Central's "Full Frontal with Samantha Bee," and Fox's “The Wendy Williams Show.”

NBC is owned by NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC News.

Dems urge Trump to help states tap $42.6B through disaster declaration

Dartunorro Clark

Dartunorro Clark and Julie Tsirkin

Senate Democrats urged President Donald Trump on Wednesday to make disaster declaration to help states tap into $42.6 billion in aid to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, of New York, Patty Murray of Washington, Gary Peters of Michigan and 33 other Democrats sent a letter to Trump pressing him to use a "whole-of-government approach" to allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide emergency protective measures to states at a cost-share ratio of 75 percent federal to 25 percent state funds.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported 938 COVID-19 cases and 29 deaths across 38 states and Washington, D.C., as of Wednesday.

Quest Diagnostics will do tens of thousands of tests within 6 weeks

Quest Diagnostics, one of the largest providers of diagnostic testing in the country, says they “expect to be able to perform tens of thousands of [coronavirus] tests a week within the next six weeks.”

The company first rolled out its coronavirus testing this Monday. According to the company’s website, Quest has 2,000 locations nationwide.

The Quest tests are performed using “respiratory specimens” collected by health care providers and sent to Quest.  The company urges any patients who are suspected of having the illness to submit specimens through their doctors and not show up at a Quest Diagnostics office.

The announcement comes on a day when Trump administration officials were grilled on Capitol Hill about the delayed rollout in diagnostic testing for the coronavirus nationwide. 

Markets plunge again on coronavirus worries

Biden changes two upcoming rallies to 'virtual events' due to coronavirus

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Joe Biden has changed two upcoming campaign events to be "virtual events" with no large crowds attending.

A previously scheduled Friday event in Chicago and a previously scheduled Monday event in Miami will now both be "virtual" events, Biden’s campaign said Wednesday.

"The health and safety of the public is our number one priority. We have been and will continue to consult with relevant officials, including our recently announced Public Health Advisory Committee, regarding steps the campaign should take to minimize health risks for staff and supporters," the campaign said. "As a result of those conversations and at the request of elected officials in Illinois and Florida, we will no longer hold large crowd events on Friday and Monday in those states."

The campaign said it will provide additional  details about the format and timing of the virtual events — and on future campaign events — "in the coming days."

Trump to make prime-time address on coronavirus at 9 p.m. ET

President Donald Trump said he will address the nation on the coronavirus Wednesday night.

The president said he would be making "both" health and economic related announcements in the Oval Office address, which comes as the number of coronavirus cases across the country exceeded 1,000, with 31 deaths. The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell more than 1,400 points.


He tweeted that the address would take place at 9 p.m. ET.

Trump's earlier remarks came during what he described as a "very important meeting" with big bank executives in the White House.

Click here to read more.

CBS News sends New York City employees home after 2 test positive for coronavirus

CBS News has ordered New York City employees to stay home for the next two days after two workers tested positive for coronavirus. 

Viacom CBS CEO Robert M. Bakish said in a statement Wednesday that one of the employees worked in the Broadcast Center while another worked in the company's 57th Street offices. "CBS This Morning," CBSN streaming, "48 Hours," "Sunday Morning," and "60 Minutes" all have offices at the CBS building on 57th street.

"All employees in both buildings will work remotely for the next two days while the buildings are cleaned and disinfected," Bakish said.

Employees who had direct contact with the employees who tested positive will be contacted and instructed to self-quarantine for the next 14 days.

NCAA to have limited attendance for March madness

The NCAA announced Wednesday that the upcoming March Madness basketball tournaments will severely restrict attendance to only "essential staff and limited family" due to the coronavirus outbreak.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement that the organization, which oversees all college athletics, "will continue to monitor and make adjustments as needed."

"While I understand how disappointing this is for all fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how COVID-19 is progressing in the United States," Emmert said.

Emmert said the NCAA has been consulting with public health officials and its own advisory panel.

Dow closes down 1,400 points, enters bear territory

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down more than 1,400 points on Wednesday, crossing firmly into bear market territory, or a 20 percent decline from a 52-week high. The losses came as the World Health Organization labeled the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic.

The S&P 500 and the Dow are currently down more than 14 percent from the record highs they hit just last month, making this the fastest drawdown from peak to decline.

Wednesday's massive sell-off is a response to the lack of concerted policy action from President Donald Trump's administration, which has been criticized for its mixed messaging about the best ways to address and contain the virus.

Read more here.

Seattle schools closed for at least 2 weeks

The Seattle public school system announced Wednesday it would be closing its doors for at least 14 days in an effort to slow community spread of coronavirus.

The closure, which begins Thursday, will impact school instruction, childcare programs and student healthcare, according to a joint statement from Superintendent Denise Juneau and the Seattle School Board.

“The decision to close the district was extremely difficult,” the statement said. “We know that closing our schools will impact our most vulnerable families and we recognize that working families depend on the consistency and predictability of supports and services our schools offer.” 


Houston closes its rodeo, one of the city's biggest annual events

The city of Houston ordered the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo to close on Wednesday. 

The rodeo and livestock show, which was schedule to run from March 3 through March 22, is one of the city's biggest annual events.

Biden campaign forms coronavirus advisory committee

Joe Biden's presidential campaign has formed a public health advisory committee to assist it with responding to the rapidly spreading coronavirus.

In a statement, the Biden campaign said it formed the body "to provide science-based, expert advice regarding steps the campaign should take to minimize health risks for the candidate, staff, and supporters."

"Members of the committee will provide ongoing counsel to the campaign, which will in turn continue to update the public regarding operational decisions," the campaign said.

The campaign said the committee would consist of six members — all doctors or former government officials  — including Dr. Zeke Emanuel, a noted oncologist, the vice provost of global initiatives at the University of Pennsylvania and the brother of former Obama chief of staff, Rahm Emanual.

The formation of the committee comes one day after Biden canceled a campaign event Thursday in Tampa, Fla., and replaced it with a speech on the coronavirus epidemic in his hometown, Wilmington, Del.

Hundreds of coronavirus self-test kits sitting in U.S. awaiting FDA approval

Ivy League cancels spring athletics

The Ivy League, the athletic conference of eight universities including Harvard University and Princeton University, said Wednesday that it has decided to cancel all upcoming competitions and practices. 

The schools will be able to decide whether to participate in postseason competitions.

"With further developments in the outbreak of COVID-19, the Ivy League Presidents are announcing their unanimous decision to cancel all spring athletics practice and competition through the remainder of the academic year," the league said in a press release.

American on coronavirus lockdown in Italy: 'It's surreal. It's dystopian.'

For nearly two weeks, Cristina Higgins, an American who lives in Italy, has traveled no farther from her apartment building than the driveway. Her days begin at the breakfast table with her husband and three children before the kids log online to do their schoolwork from home. The family spends their evenings playing Monopoly in their apartment.

Throughout the day, Higgins looks at the news for updates on the growing number of coronavirus cases in the country and checks in on friends. Each night, overwhelmed with anxiety over the spread of the virus, she finds it hard to sleep.

Read more here.

At the Italian border

A medical worker measures the body temperature of a motorist Wednesday at the Slovenian-Italian border crossing near Nova Gorica, Slovenia, after Slovenia's government announced it would close its border with Italy, hard hit by the outbreak of the new coronavirus.Jure Makovec / AFP - Getty Images

Why you might start hearing 'flatten the curve' more

A mantra has emerged among public health professionals calling for aggressive action on the coronavirus outbreak: “Flatten the curve.”

What does the catchy phrase mean? It refers to a so-called epidemic curve that is commonly used to visualize responses to disease outbreaks. The chart shows how public and individual efforts can help avoid a sharp uptick in new cases over a short time in order to make sure healthcare systems and their limited resources are not overwhelmed.

Flattening the curve slows the infection rate, leaving healthcare systems better placed to treat people, which can save lives. Containment efforts, such as banning large gatherings and encouraging people to limit their exposure to others, are crucial parts of the process. 

Read the full story here.

Italy confirms almost 200 deaths in 24 hours

Michele Novaga

Almost 200 people died from the coronavirus in 24 hours, Italy's Civil Protection Agency confirmed Wednesday — the highest daily increase in absolute terms registered anywhere in the world since the respiratory illness emerged in China at the end of last year.

In response, the country's prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, told reporters the government would allocate 25 billion euros ($28.3 billion) to help mitigate the impact on the fragile economy. Only a week ago, he estimated it would need just 7.5 billion. 

From Tuesday to Wednesday, 196 people died, bringing the total number of deaths to 897, the Civil Protection Agency said in a statement. Confirmed cases across the country rose to 12,462 from a previous 10,149.   

After an initial lockdown in the north failed to prevent the spread, the government on Monday banned all nonessential travel and public gatherings throughout Italy until April 3, halted all sports events and extended a shutdown of schools.

Dow plunges by 1,500 points, edges closer to a bear market

The Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by more than 1,500 points on Wednesday afternoon, edging into a bear market.

The Dow is currently trading below 23,641, the point at which U.S. will officially be in a bear market if the 30-stock index remains at or below that number when the closing bell rings. 

A bear market indicates a 20 percent decline from the Dow's 52-week high.

The market meltdown was a response to the continued lack of concerted policy action from President Donald Trump's administration, which has been criticized for its mixed messaging about the best ways to address and contain the virus.

Hoyer: House expected to vote on coronavirus economic relief bill Thursday

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Leigh Ann Caldwell and Rebecca Shabad

The House is expected to vote Thursday on a Democratic bill to provide economic relief to U.S. communities amid the coronavirus outbreak, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday. 

The bill hasn't been released yet, but NBC News reported some of its likely provisions Wednesday morning. 

Meanwhile, Senate Democrats have released their own version of an economic relief bill. Several Senate Republicans appear to be changing their tune about immediately passing such a measure. Several have said that they are open to acting on legislation sooner than later and willing to entertain ideas that are expected to be wrapped into the House bill.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., for example, said of paid sick leave, which is likely the centerpiece of the House bill: “That’s very practical, very significant help to folks.” Others are a bit more wary, with Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., not dismissing a relief measure outright but saying he "wants to see it."

College Basketball Invitational calls off tourney, could March Madness be next?

The College Basketball Invitational, one of the sport's four post-season championship tournaments, cancelled its competition on Wednesday, citing uncertainty about the coronavirus.

The tournament is on the third tier of men's college basketball competitions, behind the NCAA Tournament and National Invitation Tournament, and alongside the Postseason Tournament. 

Organizers of the NCAA Tournament, widely known as March Madness, said earlier this week they're "consulting with public health officials ... and will make decisions in the coming days."


Warriors to play Nets in first NBA game with no fans

Ahiza García-Hodges

The Golden State Warriors tweeted on Wednesday that they would be playing Thursday night’s game against the Brooklyn Nets at the Chase Center — but without fans.

The move comes after the city of San Francisco instituted a ban on gatherings of 1,000 or more people in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Fans with tickets to the game will get a refund for the amount they paid. All events at Chase Center through March 21 will be cancelled or postponed.

Congressional doctor expects 70M to 150M people in U.S. will contract coronavirus

The attending physician of Congress and the Supreme Court, Brian Monahan, briefed Senate staff on Tuesday afternoon in a closed-door meeting and said that he expects 70 million to 150 million people in the U.S. will contract the coronavirus, two sources tell NBC News. 

The meeting didn't include any senators but was for administrative staff and personnel from both parties. Monahan briefed staff on how they can keep healthy and ways to prevent the virus from spreading, including not shaking hands, advice that is not being followed by some senators, as we’ve seen this week.

In addition to getting briefed on prevention and treatment, staffers asked questions, including if any travel restrictions should be put in place for members. On international travel, Monahan said members should not go if they don’t have to, whereas for domestic travel, no restrictions have been put in place.

Monahan also told staffers that, right now, coronavirus testing would be administered only to members of Congress, and that staff should go to their doctors if they are experiencing any symptoms.

Monahan also told staffers that ultimately, 80 percent of those who contract the coronavirus will be fine.

Large gatherings banned in San Francisco and Seattle

Ahiza García-Hodges

San Francisco Mayor London Breed tweeted on Wednesday that the city would prohibit all gatherings of 1,000 people or more.

The ban is effective immediately and represents the city’s latest effort to slow the spread of the new coronavirus. On Friday, the mayor’s office issued new recommendations to fight the outbreak, including advice to those over 60 to limit outings and advice to businesses to suspend nonessential travel.

Washington state is also banning events of 250 people or more in the Seattle region. Governor Jay Inslee said impacts will be “profoundly disturbing to a lot of the ways that we live our lives.” The ban goes through at least March, including the start of the Seattle Mariners season and the ongoing Golden State Warriors season.

The Seattle Mariners announced Wednesday that they would be finding “alternative plans” for their games in late March. They were supposed to take place at T-Mobile Park in Seattle but will now be crediting and refunding tickets.

San Francisco leases RVs to provide coronavirus self-isolation facilities

NBC News

N.J. store owner charged after homemade spray sanitizer burns youths

Associated Press

7-Eleven store owner Manisha Bharade.
7-Eleven store owner Manisha Bharade.Bergen County Prosecutor's Office via AP

A convenience store owner in New Jersey reacting to the coronavirus outbreak created and sold a spray sanitizer that left four children with burns, state and county law enforcement officials said.

Manisha Bharade, 47, of Wood-Ridge, was issued a summons charging her with endangering the welfare of children and deceptive business practices.

Bharade mixed commercially available foaming sanitizer, which wasn't meant for resale, with water and packaged the bottles in her store, authorities said. “An apparent chemical reaction from the mixture caused the burns” to the three 10-year-olds and an 11-year-old, authorities said.

Read the full story here.

Unaccompanied migrant children won't be placed in California, Washington

Unaccompanied migrant children in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services have stopped being placed in California and Washington amid the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Out of an abundance of caution, children have stopped being placed in those two states, the department's Administration for Children and Families said in a statement Wednesday. As of March 10, "there have not been any suspected or confirmed" cases of the COVID-19 disease among children in its care facilities, the agency said. 

The agency said children with a travel history to places at high-risk of the coronavirus would undergo a risk assessment "to determine appropriate public health actions" and those with symptoms of respiratory disease would be isolated and tested. 

Using a CT scan as a workaround to diagnose coronavirus? Experts say no

With delays in lab tests to confirm coronavirus, some doctors have asked asking if CT scans can be used as a way to diagnose the disease. On Wednesday, the American College of Radiology said despite a series of recently published tests from China, a CT scan or chest X-ray should not be used to determine if a patient has the illness.

“There is no role for imaging,” said Dr. Ella Kazerooni of the University of Michigan Medical Group and the chair of the American College of Radiology Thoracic Imaging Panel. Kazerooni said markings on a CT scan are not specific enough and could be confused with seasonal flu. She also said a CT scan is not necessary to make the decision that someone should be quarantined. 

Questions from physicians, frustrated with the lack of testing, led the radiology association to clarify their position.  

Dow drops 1,200 points as WHO says coronavirus is a pandemic

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged even further on Wednesday afternoon, after the World Health Organization said the coronavirus outbreak can be classified as a pandemic.

Market reaction was swift, with the Dow tumbling by almost 5 percent. The S&P 500 fell by 4 percent and the Nasdaq by 3.8 percent. 

Wall Street has been on a roller-coaster ride all week as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus swell each day and governments struggle to contain the outbreak. Corporate America has largely taken its own counsel on managing the virus, asking employees to work from home where possible, and canceling all large gatherings.

WHO says coronavirus outbreak can be called a pandemic

The World Health Organization on Wednesday said that the new coronavirus outbreak "can be characterized as a pandemic," applying the term for the first time to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

"WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO's director-general.

WHO defines a pandemic as the worldwide spread of a new disease for which most people do not have immunity.

He said that calling the outbreak a pandemic "does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this #coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do."

Tech companies to meet with White House on coronavirus response

The White House is meeting with representatives from Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Twitter on Wednesday to coordinate efforts over the growing coronavirus outbreak, a spokesperson from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy told Reuters.

U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios will lead the meeting, with some participants attending via teleconference, according to the spokesperson.

Currently, the U.S. has more than 1,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus. The number is expected to climb as testing becomes increasingly available.

Senate Dems unveil bill to provide economic relief amid outbreak

Leigh Ann Caldwell

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Leigh Ann Caldwell and Rebecca Shabad

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democratic senators are introducing a relief proposal Wednesday to help the economy and U.S. communities as they address the coronavirus outbreak. 

Schumer's office said the measure would include the following provisions:

  • Six months of forbearance on federal student loans and mortgages.
  • Disaster grants to help local economies and direct grants for small businesses to help them survive during an economic downturn resulting from the virus. 
  • Grants for child care centers and K-12 schools that are affected by the virus. 
  • Transit assistance to help local transportation systems remain open.
  • Rental and mortgage payment assistance to those not covered under the six-month forbearance on federal loans.
  • Additional provisions would include paid sick days, emergency unemployment insurance, an increase in food stamps, food for kids during school closures, and free testing testing for the virus.

House Democrats are also preparing similar stimulus legislation, while President Donald Trump is pushing for a measure that includes a payroll tax cut. 

Deep cleaning at The New York Times

Treasury Department may delay tax deadline

The Treasury Department may extend the April 15 tax filing deadline in an attempt to mitigate the economic disruption caused by coronavirus, an administration official said on Wednesday.

In normal circumstances, individuals who don't meet the April 15 deadline are charged an additional interest fee or penalty.

Extending the deadline could relieve pressure for individuals and businesses, as the fallout from coronavirus has closed schools, forced workers to stay home and disrupted the global economy.

Fauci says of outbreak: 'Bottom line, it's going to get worse'

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Alexandra Bacallao

Rebecca Shabad and Alexandra Bacallao

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned Wednesday that the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. will get worse. 

Fauci's comment came at a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform Committee when he was asked whether the worst is yet to come. 

"Yes, it is," Fauci told lawmakers at the hearing, which featured testimony from other federal health officials involved in combatting the outbreak. 

Fauci explained that when there's enough community spread in an outbreak — meaning the proliferation of an illness whose source of infection is unknown — "then it becomes a situation where you're not going to be able to effectively and efficiently contain it."

"Although we are containing it in some respects, we keep getting people coming in from the country that are travel-related," he said. "We've seen that in many of the states that are now involved. And when you get community spread, it makes the challenge much greater."

"So I can say we will see more cases, and things will get worse than they are right now," Fauci said. "How much worse we'll get will depend on our ability to do two things: to contain the influx of people who are infected coming from the outside, and the ability to contain and mitigate within our own country. Bottom line, it's going to get worse."

The scene in Codogno

Residents wait to do their shopping outside a supermarket in Codogno, southeast of Milan, on Wednesday, a day after Italy imposed unprecedented national restrictions on its 60 million people. Italy's coronavirus crisis began in Codogno on Feb. 21 when the first patient tested positive at a Codogno hospital.Miguel Medina / AFP - Getty Images

Coronavirus precautions impact on Italy’s ‘dolce vita’

Peter Jeary

State media says Iran's first vice president has coronavirus as cases reach 9,000

Amin Khodadadi

Ali Arouzi

Amin Khodadadi and Ali Arouzi

Iran's first vice president, second in command to President Hassan Rouhani, has been diagnosed with coronavirus, Iran's state news agency reported Wednesday.

Fars news agency said Eshaq Jahangiri has tested positive. He was absent this morning from a cabinet meeting.

Meanwhile, Iran's health ministry reported 958 new cases, bringing the total to 9,000 since the outbreak began last month. 

A total of 354 people have died from the virus, with 63 new deaths compared to the day before.

Iran, along with South Korea and Italy, is one of the three global hot spots of the coronavirus epidemic.

Coronavirus conference canceled due to coronavirus

Coronavirus containment steps are disrupting the ability of leaders to come together in person to grapple with the virus itself.

The Council on Foreign Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based foreign policy think tank, announced it canceled a meeting scheduled for Friday in New York called "Doing Business under Coronavirus," because of caution surrounding the coronavirus epidemic.

The group has canceled all external events through April, a spokesperson told NBC News.

"It's mostly for health concerns in light of the coronavirus outbreak. We would like everybody to take precautions," the spokesperson said.

Seoul subway trains disinfected as coronavirus cases increase in South Korea

NBC News

London enhances 'cleaning regime' amid coronavirus outbreak

London's public transport is getting a deep clean amid the coronavirus outbreak, the mayor said Wednesday.

In a video message on Twitter, Sadiq Khan said they have stepped up the cleaning regime on the public transit network to use an enhanced anti-viral fluid common in hospitals. 

All buses will now have regularly touched areas, such as poles and doors, carefully wiped down with the strong disinfectant every day. 

Key interchanges will also be cleaned more regularly than usual, including during the day.

"I want to reassure Londoners and visitors that the advice from experts is to continue with our daily lives as normal, including using public transport," Khan said. 

More than 370 cases of coronavirus and six deaths have been reported in the U.K. 

Coronavirus could be worst economic disaster since financial crisis, warns head of Europe's central bank

Europe could be facing an economic fallout on the same scale as the financial crisis in 2008, warned Christine Lagarde, head of the European Central Bank.

Lagarde made the comments Tuesday in a call with European Union leaders, saying that unless they worked together to address the epidemic, Europe would see "a scenario that will remind many of us of the 2008 Great Financial Crisis."

Italy, one of the financial centers of Europe, is grappling with 10,000 cases of the coronavirus, with the entire country shut down as attempts continue to contain its spread. Germany Chancellor Angela Merkel warned Wednesday that up to 70 percent of that country could eventually be infected.

Dow tumbles almost 800 points as questions mount regarding Trump's stimulus package

Wall Street plunged on Wednesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average sinking by almost 800 points after the opening bell, as fears mounted about the possibility — and timing — of an economic aid package from the White House in the face of the growing coronavirus epidemic.

All three major averages were down by around 3 percent in morning trading on Wednesday.

Market participants remain concerned about a global economic slowdown and potential recession if the administration does not step in to shore up the U.S. economy, especially small businesses.

While Trump has floated ideas such as a permanent payroll tax cut, there is concern that such efforts may not be legislated in time to have an effect.

“We need to see meaningful support for economic activity and credit backstops especially for small businesses, not a targeted approach executed only by the executive branch,” wrote Joe Kalish, chief global macro strategist at Ned Davis Research, in a note to investors. “We will likely need congressional involvement."

Doctor tweets his experience of having Coronavirus

A doctor in Spain is tweeting daily updates of life under quarantine with coronavirus, even sharing ultrasounds of his lungs. 

Yale Tung Chen, 35, said over the phone that he contracted coronavirus while treating patients in his work as an emergency physician at Hospital Universitario La Paz in Madrid. 

He was diagnosed on Sunday and has been in quarantine in his home in Madrid ever since. 


Chen said he wanted his experience to be educational, but wasn't expecting the compassionate response he received from social media users. “It meant the whole world to me to receive support from people all around the world,” he said. 

Uber may suspend accounts of riders, drivers who test positive for coronavirus


Uber notified riders and drivers that it may temporarily suspend the accounts of anyone who has tested positive for the coronavirus or have been exposed to it, the ride-hailing company said on Wednesday.

The company, which has already taken action in some affected markets, said it had a team working around-the-clock to support public health authorities in their response to the epidemic.

Uber last month suspended 240 accounts of users in Mexico who may recently have come in contact with someone possibly infected with the new coronavirus.

Man rescued after being trapped 69 hours in collapsed coronavirus hotel

NBC News

Lufthansa cancels 23,000 flights due to 'exceptional circumstances'

Andy Eckardt

German air carrier Lufthansa announced Wednesday it will have to cancel a total of 23,000 short-, medium- and long-haul flights due to "exceptional circumstances" caused by the spread of the coronavirus.

The airline published a reduced flight schedule for the period from March 29 to April 24, with adjustments mainly affecting routes in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

It said further cancellations are expected in coming weeks.

Airlines have been hit hard by the growing coronavirus epidemic, with many having to cancel or cut back flights as demand for flying falls amid fears of a possible pandemic. 

Coronavirus casts shadow over tsunami, Fukushima disaster anniversary ceremonies

Morgan Coates

Image:Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, observes a moment of silence to mark the moment nine years ago a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off Japan's coast, triggering a devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, center, observes a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. (1:46 a.m. ET) — the moment nine years ago that a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off Japan's coast, triggering a devastating tsunami and nuclear disaster. During the ceremony in the prime minister's offices in Tokyo, officials sat in chairs placed a few feet apart in effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.Yoshitaka Sugawara / AP
Image: Japanese monks pray for victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster during a memorial service on the coast in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture.
Japanese monks pray for victims of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster during a memorial service on the coast in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture.AFP - Getty Images

Flight diverted after passengers caused disruption in response to sneezes

Associated Press

Growing public concern about the coronavirus is beginning to manifest in problematic ways. 

A United Airlines flight was diverted Sunday after several passengers became disruptive because they were seated next to someone they thought was sick. 

The flight, scheduled to go from Colorado ski country to Newark, New Jersey, landed in Denver. Denver police said three people were upset about sick person on their flight.

The diversion adds to other examples of people acting out due to fear of coronavirus, including numerous instances of racism directed at Asian people.

New York biotech company works on antibody treatment for coronavirus

As the new coronavirus continues to envelop much of the globe, a lab outside New York City is racing to find a antibody treatment that could temporarily protect from the illness — or even treat it.

The biotech company Regeneron is in early development of a treatment that could guard against catching the coronavirus for several months using antibodies from mice that have been genetically modified with immune systems to mimic those of humans.

The process involves exposing the mice to a "pseudo coronavirus" — the virus without its ability to replicate — which was created by Regeneron scientists who hope the mice will then develop the right transferable antibodies to fight the virus in humans.

"We are optimistic, because we've done this approach to treat many human diseases," CEO Leonard Schleifer said.

Read the full story here. 

Here are details of House Democrats' bill to provide coronovirus relief


Leigh Ann Caldwell

Carol E. LeeCarol E. Lee is the Washington managing editor.

Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Leigh Ann Caldwell, Carol E. Lee and Rebecca Shabad

House Democrats are expected to vote on an economic funding package to help people affected by the coronavirus on Thursday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Wednesday.

The bill, which has not been released yet, is geared toward helping people who will be most affected economically and does not include the president’s top priority, a payroll tax cut, according to several congressional sources.

The measure's provisions, which could shift before the details of the bill are released, include paid sick days for those who are quarantined and who contracted the virus — proposals the Democrats have publicly prioritized. The bill would provide workers with seven days of paid sick leave and provide an additional 14 days for workers during a public health crisis.

In addition, the measure includes an extension of unemployment insurance, expanded food stamps and food for children who receive free and reduced lunch at school but are out of school because of school closures. 

It’s unclear if the White House would sign off on any of the provisions. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin met with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Tuesday to start negotiations. Pelosi also met with her committee chairs Monday night to start hashing out the details.

Other factors that could result in changes to the proposal include a Congressional Budget Office estimate on its cost.

Gov. Cuomo questions low rate of coronavirus testing in U.S.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo questioned on Wednesday why so few people have been tested for coronavirus in the U.S.

“When they do the retrospective on this one, they are going to say, 'Why did it take the Unites States so long to bring up the testing capacity?'” said the governor on TODAY. “China did something like 200,000 tests per day. South Korea did about 15,000 tests per day. The United States has only done about 5,000 tests to date.”

On Tuesday, Cuomo announced that he was implementing a "containment area" around a one-mile radius in the city of New Rochelle, a New York City suburb that is home to the largest cluster of cases in the country. 

Westchester County, where New Rochelle is located, had 108 cases of the virus on Tuesday. New York state has 173 cases. Cuomo also urged the federal government to "just take the handcuffs off me and let New York State do what New York State can do."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that more than 8,500 specimens have been tested for the coronavirus across the U.S. Because multiple specimens are required from each individual, the number of actual patients who have been tested is likely far lower.


Bank of England announces emergency interest rate cut over coronavirus

Associated Press

NBC News

Associated Press and NBC News

The Bank of England slashed its key interest rate by half a percentage point to 0.25 percent on Wednesday, in an emergency response to the “economic shock" of the coronavirus outbreak.

"The Bank of England's role is to help UK businesses and households manage through an economic shock that could prove large and sharp but should be temporary," Bank of England governor Mark Carney said at a press conference on Wednesday.

The cut takes the main rate to the record low that it stood at in the aftermath of Britain's vote in June 2016 to leave the European Union.

The cut follows similar reductions from the U.S. Federal Reserve and the Bank of Canada. The European Central Bank is also expected to announce a package of stimulus measures on Thursday.


German chancellor: Up to 70 percent of people will get the coronavirus


Carlo Angerer

Reuters and Carlo Angerer
Image: German Chancellor Angela Merkel leads the weekly cabinet meeting
German Chancellor Angela Merkel leads the weekly cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Markus Schreiber / AP

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Wednesday that up to 70 percent of the population is likely to be infected with the coronavirus.

In a briefing with reporters in Berlin, Merkel said since there is currently no cure, the focus has to be on slowing the virus' spread.

"When the virus is here and the population has no immunity, no immunizations exist and no therapy possibilities, then a high percentage - experts say, 60 to 70 percent - of the population will be infected," she said. "The course of action has to be focused on not overburdening the health system, but the possibilities of the health system that have to be used to slow the spread of the virus."

Germany has recorded 1,296 coronavirus cases so far. It confirmed its first two deaths Wednesday. 

It's official: Don't shake hands, World Health Organization says

You can greet people with a wave, a nod or a bow — just don't make it a handshake. 

That's the advice the World Health Organization (WHO) issued Wednesday as it reiterated that respiratory viruses like the new coronavirus can be passed by shaking hands and touching one's eyes, nose and mouth.

While alternative greetings have been gaining popularity as the coronavirus spreads around the world, it's the first time WHO has advised to avoid handshakes.

NBC News

U.K. lawmaker and health minister tests positive for coronavirus

British lawmaker, junior health minister and former nurse Nadine Dorries has tested positive for coronavirus, she announced on Tuesday.

“It’s been pretty rubbish but I hope I’m over the worst of it now,” tweeted Dorries, a Conservative lawmaker in Prime Minister Boris Johnson's government. 

“More worried about my 84yo mum who is staying with me and began with the cough today,” she added.

Dorries, who is now self-isolating, said in a statement that Public Health England has started “detailed contact tracing.”

There are currently 373 people in the U.K. diagnosed with coronavirus and six people have died.

The Times newspaper reported that Dorries met hundreds of people in Parliament in the past week and attended a reception with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. NBC News was not able to confirm this reporting. 

Manchester City, Arsenal postpone game after coronavirus contact

Two of the world’s most prominent soccer clubs have postponed their game because players on one of the teams were in contact with someone who had contracted coronavirus. 

The Wednesday game between Manchester City and Arsenal was pushed back because Arsenal players met with Evangelos Marinakis, the owner of Greek club Olympiakos Piraeus, following their meeting last month. 

Marinakis tested positive for the virus on Tuesday. 

In a statement, Arsenal said the risk to these players of developing COVID-19, the diseases the virus causes, was “extremely low," adding that they will self-isolate in their homes for two weeks. 

It’s the first fixture in Premier League, the top-tier soccer league in England, to be affected by the virus. 

The league said it had no alternative but to postpone the game to complete a proper risk assessment.

It added that there were currently no plans to postpone other games.

Police break up crowd of University of Dayton students after housing closure news

Kurt Chirbas

Police at the University of Dayton in Ohio fired "pepper balls" and cleared a street early Wednesday after a disorderly crowd or around 1,000 gathered after learning that the college would be shutting down student housing over fears of the novel coronavirus.

University officials said in a statement that one person was injured by a thrown bottle. University and Dayton police moved to clear the street around 2:15 a.m.

The university's student-run newspaper, the Flyer News, reported that the crowds gathered in reaction to news that the university housing would close Wednesday.

The university announced Tuesday that it would suspend in-person classes and ask students to return home and do online learning.  "Students will remain off campus for at least two weeks following spring break," the university said.

“There were some social media reports and rumors that this was a protest against our coronavirus measures — those reports are inaccurate. Indications are that the students wanted one last large gathering before spring break and the size and behavior of the crowd required police to take action,” the university said in a statement to NBC News early Wednesday.

South Dakota has 5 presumptive cases, including one person who has died

Five presumptive cases of COVID-19 have been identified in South Dakota, the governor said Tuesday. That count includes one person who died, but it is unclear what killed that patient, she said.

"We have one person that has passed away that had underlying medical conditions, and we will continue to wait for a medical examination to see if the virus had anything to do with that —  although we do not have confirmation that that is the reason that the patient is deceased," Gov. Kristi Noem said at a news conference. The person who died was a man in his 60s.

The five cases, which are not in any single community, are the first presumptive cases for South Dakota. Cases are called presumptive when local tests come back positive but when CDC testing has not yet confirmed that result.

If the death was caused by COVID-19, the death would mark the 31st in the United States, according to a count of reported cases by NBC News. The four other people with presumptive positive cases are at home and contact tracing is being done, the governor said.

22 more deaths in mainland China, bringing total to 3,158

China's National Health Commission reported 22 new deaths, all of them in Hubei Province, bringing the total across the mainland to 3,158 as of Wednesday morning.

The coronavirus outbreak began in Hubei Province, which is where the city of Wuhan is located. There have been more than 80,700 confirmed cases reported in mainland China, according to the health commission.

There are outbreaks in other countries, with some of the highest number of cases outside mainland China being reported in South Korea, Italy and Iran. The United States has more than 1,000 confirmed or presumptive cases, according to a count of reports by NBC News. Thirty people have died in the U.S.

Person at New Orleans journalism conference tests positive

Someone who attended a journalism conference in New Orleans this month has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, organizers said Tuesday.

The attendee at the NICAR20 conference last week has mild symptoms and is expected to make a full recovery, the nonprofit organization Investigative Reporters and Editors said in a statement.

The person is self-quarantining at home for 14 days. The case is being considered a presumptive positive because it has not been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"Based on the onset of the limited symptoms, they could have contracted the virus either before, during or after the conference," IRE said. The organization said the person as well as the organization is notifying anyone who had close contact or who attended a class with that person.  

Three TSA officers at San Jose airport test positive

Three security officers at the international airport in San Jose, California, have tested positive for the novel coronavirus that causes the COVID-19 illness, the TSA said Tuesday.

"The officers are receiving medical care and all TSA employees they have come in contact with over the past 14 days are quarantined at home,” The Transportation Security Administration said in a statement to NBC Bay Area.

The officers worked at Mineta San Jose International Airport, which is in Santa Clara County.

"Screening checkpoints remain open and the agency is working with the CDC, as well as the California Department of Public Health and the Santa Clara County Public Health Department to monitor the situation as well as the health and safety of our employees and the traveling public," the TSA said.

Santa Clara County has seen 45 positive tests, and the increase in cases that could be instances of community spread prompted health officials there to ban mass gatherings of 1,000 or more people for three weeks. One person died in Santa Clara County Monday morning, the health department said.

More than 1,400 have disembarked from Grand Princess cruise ship

More than 1,400 people have disembarked from the Grand Princess cruise ship, the vessel that was delayed off the coast of California after it was linked to the coronavirus illness COVID-19, the cruise company said Tuesday evening.

There were 3,533 people aboard the ship — including 2,422 guests and 1,111 employees — when it returned from Hawaii to California last week, the cruise company has said. Princess Cruises said that as of 7 p.m. Tuesday, 1,406 people had disembarked.

The ship was delayed for testing after several people from a voyage in mid-February tested positive for COVID-19, including one who died last week in Placer County. On Friday, tests that were flown to the ship came back positive for 21 people aboard, which included 19 crew and two passengers.

On Monday people began disembarking, and California officials have said that 407 people disembarked then.

Officials have said that those disembarking would be subject to a 14-day quarantine, many of them at military bases. Disembarking all of the passengers "will be a multiple day process," Princess Cruises said.