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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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998d ago / 8:49 PM UTC

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.

998d ago / 8:41 PM UTC

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.

998d ago / 8:33 PM UTC

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.

998d ago / 8:02 PM UTC

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.” 

 

998d ago / 7:57 PM UTC

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.

998d ago / 7:51 PM UTC

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.

998d ago / 7:45 PM UTC

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

998d ago / 7:40 PM UTC

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.

998d ago / 7:38 PM UTC

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.

998d ago / 7:35 PM UTC

At the Italian border

Image: SLOVENIA-ITALY-HEALTH-VIRUS
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
998d ago / 7:26 PM UTC

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.

998d ago / 7:12 PM UTC

Italy confirms almost 200 deaths in 24 hours

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.

998d ago / 7:07 PM UTC

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.

998d ago / 6:57 PM UTC

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

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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."

998d ago / 6:40 PM UTC
998d ago / 6:30 PM UTC

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 CollegeInsider.com 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."

 

998d ago / 6:20 PM UTC

Warriors to play Nets in first NBA game with no fans

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.

998d ago / 6:08 PM UTC

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.

998d ago / 5:55 PM UTC

Large gatherings banned in San Francisco and Seattle

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.

999d ago / 5:38 PM UTC

San Francisco leases RVs to provide coronavirus self-isolation facilities

999d ago / 5:25 PM UTC

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

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.

999d ago / 5:23 PM UTC

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. 

999d ago / 5:15 PM UTC

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.  

999d ago / 4:56 PM UTC

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.

999d ago / 4:30 PM UTC

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."

999d ago / 4:17 PM UTC

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.

999d ago / 4:05 PM UTC

Senate Dems unveil bill to provide economic relief amid outbreak

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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. 

999d ago / 3:47 PM UTC

Deep cleaning at The New York Times

999d ago / 3:37 PM UTC

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.

999d ago / 3:19 PM UTC

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

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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."

999d ago / 3:17 PM UTC

The scene in Codogno

Image: ITALY-HEALTH-VIRUS
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
999d ago / 3:15 PM UTC

Coronavirus precautions impact on Italy’s ‘dolce vita’

999d ago / 3:11 PM UTC

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

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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.

999d ago / 2:51 PM UTC

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.

999d ago / 2:35 PM UTC

Seoul subway trains disinfected as coronavirus cases increase in South Korea

999d ago / 2:34 PM UTC

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. 

999d ago / 2:01 PM UTC

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.

999d ago / 1:47 PM UTC

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.

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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."

999d ago / 1:35 PM UTC
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999d ago / 1:32 PM UTC

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. 

999d ago / 1:26 PM UTC

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.

999d ago / 1:17 PM UTC

Man rescued after being trapped 69 hours in collapsed coronavirus hotel

999d ago / 1:17 PM UTC

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

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. 

999d ago / 12:51 PM UTC

Coronavirus casts shadow over tsunami, Fukushima disaster anniversary ceremonies

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
999d ago / 12:27 PM UTC

Flight diverted after passengers caused disruption in response to sneezes

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.

999d ago / 12:19 PM UTC

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. 

999d ago / 12:07 PM UTC

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

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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.

999d ago / 11:43 AM UTC

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.

 

999d ago / 11:39 AM UTC

Bank of England announces emergency interest rate cut over coronavirus

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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.

 

999d ago / 11:23 AM UTC

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

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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.