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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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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.