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Americans face dramatic limits on public life as schools, theme parks, events shut down

The crisis continues to unfold across the globe as the World Health Organization uses the term "pandemic" for the first time.
Medical workers at Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco on March 12, 2020.
Medical workers at Kaiser Permanente French Campus test a patient for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, at a drive-thru testing facility in San Francisco on Thursday.Josh Edelson / AFP via Getty Images

The United States on Thursday surpassed 1,600 confirmed or presumptive cases of the coronavirus, and the death toll climbed to 41. Kansas reported its first death Thursday.

Wall Street recorded historic losses as fears intensified over the economic fallout from the pandemic, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling by 10 percent, and the Nasdaq and the S&P 500 both down by 9 percent.

It was the worst point drop ever for the Dow and its worst performance since the market crash in 1987.

Disruptions in the sports world continued, with March Madness canceled, the suspension of MLB's spring training and a pause on the National Hockey League season.

Health and government officials continue to call for the end of large gatherings, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints suspended public gatherings worldwide, the Smithsonian announced it will close indefinitely all museums in Washington, D.C. and New York City and Broadway theaters canceled performances through April 12.

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This live coverage has ended. Continue reading March 13 Coronavirus news.

Princess Cruises to pause global operations for two months

888d ago / 1:43 PM UTC

Princess Cruises announced Thursday it will voluntarily pause global operations of its 18 cruise ships for two months, affecting voyages departing March 12 to May 10, according to a news release.

“Princess Cruises is a global vacation company that serves more than 50,000 guests daily from 70 countries as part of our diverse business, and it is widely known that we have been managing the implications of COVID-19 on two continents,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. 

The company owns the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which had passengers quarantined for two weeks off the coast of Japan in February, many of them becoming infected with coronavirus aboard the ship. 

Viking Cruises also announced on Wednesday they plan to suspend their cruise operations until May 1. "I am sure you recognize that COVID-19 has made travel exceedingly complicated," Viking Chairman Torstein Hagen said.

White House says Pelosi's coronavirus aid package 'currently falls short'


888d ago / 1:33 PM UTC

The legislation unveiled by House Democrats to provide aid and an economic boost to help U.S. communities handle the coronavirus outbreak said the bill “currently falls short” of what’s necessary for a deal, a Trump administration official told NBC News on Thursday.

The administration is concerned with “unfunded mandates on businesses, slow to start new programs and no funds as needed for presidential policies outlined last night,” the official said. “It currently falls short of what’s necessary to strike a good accord." 

The official said that the administration wants to “keep working with the speaker to try for a bipartisan, bicameral bill, but if she’s going to persist in pushing a partisan package, everyone will have to be realistic about that, and then we’ll keep looking to find a way forward on the Hill.”

Thursday morning, Pelosi again spoke with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin about the legislative package, and Pelosi’s aide, Drew Hammill, tweeted that language of the measure continues to be discussed. The House is expected to vote on the legislation on Thursday and send it to the Senate for a vote.

Plane with COVID-19 patient lands at Palm Beach International Airport

888d ago / 1:23 PM UTC

A passenger who arrived on a commercial flight that landed at Palm Beach International Airport in Florida has tested positive for the coronavirus, local officials said. 

Palm Beach County's health officials responded and spoke with all passengers on board the aircraft, Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said in a statement. 

Passengers in the vicinity of the positive patient were advised of monitoring procedures, and the rest were released to go home, the statement added. 

The airport is sterilizing the limited containment area where the passengers were deplaned, which was a separate location from the main terminals of the airport.


House Democrats release coronavirus relief measure, vote Thursday

888d ago / 1:20 PM UTC

House Democrats unveiled a 124-page coronavirus relief bill late Wednesday that would help U.S. communities handle the outbreak. 

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that the legislation includes paid emergency leave, with both 14 days of paid sick leave and up to three months of paid family and medical leave; free coronavirus testing; enhanced unemployment insurance; and food security assistance. It would also provide protections for health care and other workers who have contact with those exposed to the virus. The bill would also include increased funds for Medicaid to help states with increased costs. 

“We cannot fight coronavirus effectively unless everyone in our country who needs to be tested knows they can get their test free of charge,” Pelosi said in a statement. “We cannot slow the coronavirus outbreak when workers are stuck with the terrible choice between staying  home to avoid spreading illness and the paycheck their family can’t afford to lose.”

The House is expected to vote on the legislation Thursday, sending it to the Senate for a vote. The bill does not include the payroll tax cut that President Donald Trump requested earlier this week as part of a proposed economic stimulus package.

Schools, cultural institutions to close in Ireland


888d ago / 1:09 PM UTC

Schools and other public facilities in the Republic of Ireland will close from 6 p.m. local time on Thursday, according to the country's Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. 

Varadkar said the measures would stay in place until Mar. 29. He added that where possible people should work remotely. Cultural institutions will also close, and mass gatherings should be cancelled, he added. 

Ireland’s Health Ministry confirmed its first death of a patient diagnosed with the coronavirus on Wednesday. In total 43 people have been diagnosed with the respiratory illness in the country. 

888d ago / 1:03 PM UTC

An Italian family place a banner on a balcony that reads "everything will be fine" in Turin

888d ago / 12:54 PM UTC
Image: An Italian family place a banner on a balcony that reads "everything will be fine" after Italy orders a lockdown on the whole country aimed at beating the coronavirus, in Turin
A family in the city of Turin place a banner on a balcony that reads "everything will be fine" after the Italian government ordered a lockdown of the whole country on Wednesday, Massimo Pinca / Reuters

Japan must plan for Olympic cancellation, senior politician says

888d ago / 12:47 PM UTC

Japan should start planning for the postponement or cancellation of this years Olympic Games, a leading politician in the country said late Wednesday. 

Image: Xanthi Georgiou
An actress playing the role of the High Priestess lights up Olympic torch during the flame-lighting ceremony in southern Greece on Thursday. It was closed to the public due to coronavirus concerns.Thanassis Stavrakis / AP

Shigeru Ishiba, a heavyweight in Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and outspoken critic of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said that the fate of the games, which are due to start on Jul. 24, was a decision best left to the International Olympic Committee.   

“Not thinking about worst-case scenarios won’t eliminate the risk of them materializing,” Ishiba, who is seen as a leading candidate to be the next prime minister, told the Reuters press agency. 

However, Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike insisted on Thursday that the plans for the games had not changed. 

Iran asks IMF for billions in loans to fight coronavirus

888d ago / 12:26 PM UTC

Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund for billions of dollars worth of emergency funding to help it fight the coronavirus outbreak, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a tweet Thursday.

Iran’s Central Bank chief Abdolnaser Hemmati also wrote on his Instagram page that “in a letter addressed to the head of IMF, I have requested five billion U.S. dollars from the RFI emergency fund to help our fight against the coronavirus."

It was unclear whether IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva had responded to the request, but the IMF has said it stands ready to support countries battling the virus, which Iran has been hit hard by. 

At least 10,000 people have been infected with the respiratory illness in the country and 429 have died. Many members of Iran's political elite have also been diagnosed with the disease.  

888d ago / 12:07 PM UTC

Trading temporarily halted on Wall Street as Trump's stimulus package underwhelms

888d ago / 12:01 PM UTC

Wall Street futures trading was temporarily halted early Thursday morning ahead of the opening bell, after all three major averages sank below their thresholds.

The 5 percent "limit down" marker was breached after an address from President Donald Trump on Wednesday night tipped already-queasy traders into sell-off mode.

Markets were underwhelmed by Trump's economic stimulus package, which offers emergency loans to small businesses, deferred tax payments for some people, but made no mention of paid sick leave or free testing for the coronavirus, which continues its spread across the U.S.

The Dow looks set to open with a decline of more than 1,100 points. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq are currently down by just under 5 percent.

Discarded face masks clutter Hong Kong's beaches, threatening wildlife

888d ago / 11:57 AM UTC
Image: Gary Stokes, co-founder of marine conservation group OceansAsia, shows face masks that washed up on the beach of Soko Islands, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Hong Kong
Gary Stokes, co-founder of marine conservation group OceansAsia, shows face masks that washed up on the beach of Soko Islands last week, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, in Hong Kong, China.Yoyo Chow / Reuters

Discarded face masks are piling up on Hong Kong’s beaches and nature trails, with environmental groups warning that the waste is posing a huge threat to marine life and wildlife habitats.

Most of Hong Kong’s 7.4 million people have for weeks been putting on single-use face masks every day in the hope of warding off the coronavirus, which has infected 126 people in the city and killed three as of Thursday.

Many of the masks are not disposed of properly, and have instead ended up dumped in the countryside or the sea, where marine life can mistake them for food, washing up on beaches along with the usual plastic bags and other trash.

Environmental groups, already grappling with the flow of marine trash from mainland China and elsewhere, say the cast-off coronavirus masks have compounded the problem and also raised concern about the spread of germs.

Europe wakes up to chaos and confusion after Trump travel ban

888d ago / 11:46 AM UTC

There was chaos and confusion at airports across Europe after President Donald Trump's decision to restrict most travel to the U.S. from 26 European countries early Thursday. 

Image: Passengers, wearing protective face masks, wait for checking-in before boarding their flights to the U.S. at Madrid's Adolfo Suarez Barajas airport
Passengers wearing protective face masks wait for checking-in before boarding their flights to the U.S. at Madrid's Adolfo Suarez Barajas airport in Spain on Thursday.Sergio Perez / Reuters

Both American citizens and foreigners were scrambling to work out what it meant for their travel plans, while others questioned the logic of Trump's decision and whether it would actually help the effort to slow down the spread of the deadlyrespiratory illness.

The travel ban comes into effect at midnight on Friday at midnight. The restrictions apply only to foreign nationals, and not U.S. citizens, green card holders or the families of U.S. citizens.

Read the full story.

European Union says it was not consulted on Trump's coronavirus travel ban

888d ago / 11:41 AM UTC

European Union leaders on Thursday criticized President Donald Trump's decision to restrict travel from 26 European nations, and said that they were not consulted beforehand.

"The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action," said a joint statement from Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, presidents of the European Commission and European Council respectively.

"The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation," they added. "The European Union is taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus."

Staff at Tel Aviv's branch of U.S. Embassy self-isolate

888d ago / 11:35 AM UTC

Staff at the branch of the U.S. Embassy in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv are self-isolating after an individual who tested positive for COVID-19 visited it last week. 

While everyone affected was quarantined, the embassy said in a statement that the visa department would remain open, while taking recommendations from Israel's Ministry of Health.   

The announcement came as the ministry revealed that 100 people had contracted the respiratory illness in the country.  

Coronavirus: A glimpse at global market reaction to spreading virus

888d ago / 11:13 AM UTC
Image: A currency dealer looks at his mobile phone in front of electronic boards showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index (KOSPI) and the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and South Korean won, at a dealing room of a bank in Seoul
A currency dealer looks at his mobile phone in front of electronic boards showing the Korea Composite Stock Price Index and the exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and South Korean won, at a dealing room of a bank in Seoul on Thursday.Kim Hong-Ji / Reuters

888d ago / 10:30 AM UTC

California bans mass gatherings to slow spread of COVID-19


888d ago / 10:26 AM UTC

Health officials in California have announced that mass gatherings of 250 people or more should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March in response to the growing coronavirus outbreak.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced the measure late Wednesday, saying non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of six feet per person.

Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, the disease the virus causes, should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social distancing guidelines, his office added. 

“Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease,” Newsom said in a release. “Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects — saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now.”

More than 170 coronavirus cases and four deaths have been reported in California so far. 

888d ago / 9:01 AM UTC

Plane writes 'wash hands' message in sky above Sydney

888d ago / 8:58 AM UTC

An airplane scrawled the words "wash hands" above the International Convention Center in Sydney, Australia on Thursday.

The video shot and posted on Twitter by Chris Dugan shows advice recommend around the world to slow the spread of the global virus.

The WHO recommends hand-washing with soap as a basic yet highly protective measure against the disease. 

Australia had 126 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including three deaths, as of Thursday.

TV show 'Riverdale' suspends production over coronavirius


888d ago / 6:59 AM UTC

“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

888d ago / 5:21 AM UTC

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

888d ago / 3:53 AM UTC

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.”

888d ago / 3:01 AM UTC

Senate staffer tests positive

888d ago / 2:59 AM UTC

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.