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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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935d ago / 5:51 PM UTC

NHL suspends play over coronavirus

Image: Detroit Red Wings v Washington Capitals
A skater is alone on the ice prior to a scheduled game between the Detroit Red Wings and the Washington Capitals in Washington on Thursday. The NHL announced Thursday it has suspended their season, joining the NBA, MLS, and other sporting leagues around the world suspending play because of the coronavirus outbreak.Patrick Smith / Getty Images

The National Hockey League said Thursday that it has paused its season, beginning with games set to take place on Thursday, over concerns about the spread of the new coronavirus.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said the news from the NBA that a player had tested positive had influenced the NHL's decision.

“[F]ollowing last night’s news that an NBA player has tested positive for coronavirus – and given that our leagues share so many facilities and locker rooms and it now seems likely that some member of the NHL community would test positive at some point – it is no longer appropriate to try to continue to play games at this time,” Bettman said in a statement.

935d ago / 5:41 PM UTC

Trump: Restricting travel in U.S. a 'possibility' if coronavirus pandemic gets 'too hot'

President Donald Trump said Thursday that it's a "possibility" the administration could impose travel restrictions within the United States to limit exposure to the coronavirus if certain areas get "too hot."

"We haven't discussed that yet," Trump continued when asked about the option at a bilateral meeting with Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar. "Is it a possibility? Yes. If somebody gets a little bit out of control, if an area gets too hot."

"You see what they're doing in New Rochelle, which is good frankly," Trump said, referring to the city just north of Manhattan where there is a growing cluster of coronavirus cases. "It's the right thing, but it's not enforced, it's not very strong. But people know they're being watched. New Rochelle, that's a hot spot."

Imposing travel limits in the U.S. interior would a significant step in the effort to mitigate cases as coronavirus fears roil the economy and cripple various industries.

Read the story.

935d ago / 5:40 PM UTC

'Everyone's losing': College campus closures a stark reality for students


This week, University of California, Santa Barbara, University of Michigan, and dozens of others schools moved classes online. Like Amherst, Wesleyan College, Grinnell College, and Harvard University, took it a step further, ordering students to leave campus for the remainder of the semester. 

The universities say the decision to close is meant to stem the spread of the virus on campuses where students live in close quarters and aren’t too likely to heed public health warnings. But telling students to head home and take classes online for the rest of the semester isn’t as simple as it sounds, and for many students, it feels more devastating than contracting the virus itself.

Read full story here.

935d ago / 5:39 PM UTC
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935d ago / 5:36 PM UTC

Fed to feed $500 billion into markets as stocks continue to crater

The stock market pared losses Thursday afternoon after the Federal Reserve made a surprise announcement that it would be injecting $500 billion into Treasury markets choked by the coronavirus.

The move is intended to "support smooth functioning of funding markets as market participants implement business resiliency plans in response to the coronavirus," the Fed said in a statement posted on its website Thursday afternoon.

Treasury bonds have fallen to historic lows of 0.3 percent in the past week, but rallied to 0.68 percent Thursday afternoon.

Wall Street also rallied after the Fed announcement, with all three major averages down by just 6 percent, from their earlier losses of more than 9 percent.

935d ago / 5:35 PM UTC

Brazilian official who met Trump at Mar-a-Lago tests positive for coronavirus

A Brazilian official President Donald Trump met with over the weekend has tested positive for the coronavirus, but Trump said Thursday he's "not concerned" about their interaction.

Fabio Wajngarten, press secretary for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, posed for a picture with Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Bolsonaro at Trump's Florida resort over the weekend that he posted on Instagram. The press office at Brazil's presidential palace confirmed to NBC News Thursday that Wajngarten had tested positive for the coronavirus.

His condition was not immediately clear. The office said he is in home quarantine. Bolsonaro is being monitored as well, the press office said in a statement.

Click here to read more.

935d ago / 5:27 PM UTC

McConnell says Senate will cancel recess

935d ago / 5:22 PM UTC

Coronavirus could 'wreak havoc' on U.S. jails, experts warn

An outbreak of coronavirus inside the walls of a U.S. prison or jail is now a question of when, not if, according to health experts. And interviews with several jail staffers, prisoner advocates and former correctional medical personnel revealed deep concerns over the potential for the illness to wreak havoc behind bars.

The U.S. has roughly 5,000 adult detention facilities — a mix of jails, which house inmates awaiting trial or serving short sentences, and prisons, where people convicted of serious crimes go to serve time. No cases have yet been reported in any of the facilities.

But the environments, with inmates packed together in often grimy spaces with limited ventilation, provide a prime breeding ground for the spread of infectious diseases, experts say.

Read the full story here.

935d ago / 5:21 PM UTC

Library of Congress to be closed to the public

All Library of Congress buildings and facilities will be closed to the public beginning 5 p.m. Wednesday until April 1 to reduce the risk of coronavirus as the disease continues spreading across the U.S., the library said in a statement Thursday.

Employees, authorized visitors and credentialed Capitol Hill staff will continue to have access to the facilities, the library said.

935d ago / 5:15 PM UTC

Florida Sen. Rick Scott plans to self-quarantine

Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., plans to self-quarantine after coming into potential contact with a member of Brazilian President Bolsonaro's delegation in Miami, the lawmaker said in a statement."

"While I do not believe I interacted with the infected person, that individual was in the same room as me. The Embassy said the person had no symptoms leading up to or the day of the conference," Scott said.

"After consulting with the Senate’s attending physician and my personal doctor, I have been told that my risk is low, and I don’t need to take a test or quarantine," Scott added. "However, the health and safety of the American people is my focus and I have made the decision to self-quarantine in an abundance of caution. I am feeling healthy and not experiencing any symptoms at this time."

935d ago / 5:08 PM UTC

Prayers in Gaza City

Palestinian workers wearing protective gear pray in the courtyard of al-Omari mosque, after spraying disinfectant products as a means of prevention against the spread of COVID-19, in Gaza City on Thursday.Mahmud Hams / AFP - Getty Images


935d ago / 5:07 PM UTC

Greece reports its first coronavirus related death

Greece reported its first fatality from a coronavirus infection Thursday as it extended a closure of schools to include cinemas, theatres and nightclubs to help prevent a spread of the disease.

The 66-year-old man had returned from a religious pilgrimage to Israel and Egypt at the end of February. He had been in hospital for little over a week and had underlying health issues, the country's health ministry said.

There were 117 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Greece on Thursday, with 18 new infections added in the past 24 hours. Most of those affected had mild symptoms, Sotiris Tsiodras, the health ministry coordinator, said.

The closure of gyms, cinemas, nightclubs and theatres would apply for a period of two weeks, and followed a decision in the week by authorities to shut schools across the country.

936d ago / 5:01 PM UTC

New Hampshire courts cancel all criminal, civil jury trials

New Hampshire Superior Courts will cancel all criminal and civil jury trials for the next 30 days starting on Friday because of the coronavirus outbreak, Chief Justice Tina Nadeau said in a statement Thursday. 

Those called for jury duty service were told not to appear to the courthouse between March 13 and April 13, and those who had a report date on April 14 or later were encouraged to check the court's website for updates before appearing.

The court left open the opportunity to extend the 30-day period "on an ongoing basis." Plaintiff and defendants were told that if their cases were scheduled between those two dates they would be given notice of a new trial date.  

936d ago / 4:59 PM UTC

What we know about the MLB's plans for the baseball season

Image: Young fans looking for autographs react with disappointment after being told by a baseball player that he couldn't sign, prior to a spring training baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Atlanta Braves
Young fans looking for autographs react with disappointment after being told by a baseball player that he couldn't sign, prior to a spring training baseball game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Atlanta Braves, Tuesday, March 10, 2020, in Sarasota, Fla.Elise Amendola / AP

Imagine if Pete Alonso smacks a home run in front of 41,922 empty Citi Field seats March 26 when the Mets are scheduled to open the regular season at home against the defending World Series champion Nationals.

One major league executive was asked about that exact scenario Wednesday, and said that all the buzz at spring training sites in Florida and Arizona this week has been team owners, executives and players contemplating — and preparing for — a brave new sports world in the time of the coronavirus.

Read the full story here.

936d ago / 4:53 PM UTC

NYC's Metropolitan Museum reportedly to close

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the most iconic museums in New York City, plans to temporarily close its three locations across the city starting on Friday, according to The New York Times.

“The Met’s priority is to protect and support our staff, volunteers, and visitors,” Daniel Weiss, the Met’s president and chief executive, said in a statement to The Times.

936d ago / 4:52 PM UTC

1st coronavirus death in Georgia

The Georgia Department of Public Health confirmed on Thursday the state's first death from the coronavirus.

The patient, a 67-year-old man, had been hospitalized after testing positive for the illness Saturday. Public health officials said the man also had underlying health conditions.

In all, 39 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. 

936d ago / 4:49 PM UTC

PGA Tour continues play — but without fans

The Professional Golf Association announced Thursday that the PGA Tour would continue holding tournaments but would close them to fans. 

PGA Commissioner Jay Monahan said the change will go into effect Friday on the second day of The Players Championship.

Fans are still allowed to attend tournament play on Thursday, the first day of the Players Championship. Any fans who were scheduled to attend Thursday but now feel uncomfortable will be able to get a refund.

Monahan said he spoke with President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, where the Tour is headquartered. He said the situation was “incredibly fluid and dynamic.” The restriction will continue through the Valero Texas Open, which is scheduled to end on April 5.

936d ago / 4:31 PM UTC

DOJ building closed for santization overnight after employee self-quarantines


A Justice Department building in Washington, D.C., was shuttered overnight for sanitization after a government lawyer who traveled to California and then developed symptoms was deemed to be a presumptive case of coronavirus, U.S. officials tell NBC News.

An employee working in the DOJ Civil Division’s Liberty Square Building in Northwest Washington exhibited symptoms consistent with coronavirus, and is self-quarantining for two weeks on the recommendation of their doctor, according to an email from Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt sent to employees late Wednesday obtained by NBC News.

A Justice Department official told NBC News that the employee in question is an attorney in the department’s Office of Immigration Litigation who traveled to San Francisco last week for a court proceeding. The lawyer then returned to Washington and came into the office late last week and early this week before coming down with symptoms.

The official said that employees are being told that the lawyer is “presumptively” considered a coronavirus case but has still not been tested because of the strict eligibility requirements to qualify for a coronavirus test. The situation has created significant concern and uncertainty among Justice Department employees about whether they are at risk and whether they should continue traveling for official purposes, the official said.

936d ago / 4:30 PM UTC

NCAA’s five 'power conferences' cancel basketball tournaments

The NCAA’s five “power conferences,” the Pac-12, Big 10, ACC, Big 12 and SEC, all called off play on Thursday due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

In a flurry of tweets, the power conferences and others, including the Mid-American Conference and American Athletic Conference, announced the immediate cancellations of their tournaments. The Big East, which was in the middle of a game as other conferences were pulling out, canceled its tournament during halftime.

In some instances, the announcements came shortly before play was set to begin on the second day of play. The move comes a day after the NCAA announced that its annual men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, known as March Madness, would be open to only essential staff and limited family members. 

936d ago / 4:28 PM UTC

Pelosi: Mnuchin made 'very reasonable' suggestions for coronavirus relief bill


House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters Thursday morning that Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin made several suggestions for the coronavirus relief bill that are "all very reasonable."

"I think that none of them is, would prevent us from moving forward with the bill," Pelosi said. "They are options that we considered in our own caucus, some of them. And we went one route, they want to go another route, that's fine."

Pelosi said she hopes that Republicans don't further "move the goal posts." The speaker spoke with Mnuchin for a third time Thursday after her press conference, according to her aide Drew Hammill on Twitter.

936d ago / 4:27 PM UTC

Paramount postpones global release of 'A Quiet Place Part II'

Paramount Pictures, a unit of Viacom/CBS, said on Thursday it was postponing the horror sequel "A Quiet Place Part II" until later this year, citing concerns about coronavirus and some bans on social gatherings. The movie was scheduled for release in North America on March 20.

“As insanely excited as we are for all of you to see this movie ... I’m gonna wait to release the film til we can all see it together. So here’s to our group movie date! See you soon!” tweeted John Krasinski, the movie's director.

Paramount said in a statement that it would move the worldwide release of the movie and would confirm future plans "once we have a better understanding of the impact of this pandemic on the global theatrical marketplace." 

936d ago / 4:24 PM UTC

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau to self-isolate amid outbreak

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be self-isolating amid the outbreak after his wife showed “mild flu-like symptoms” following a trip to London, according to a statement from his spokesperson.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau is being tested for the coronavirus and self-isolating, the statement said. The prime minister is not exhibiting any symptoms, according to the statement.

936d ago / 4:23 PM UTC

'Fast & Furious 9' delayed a year

The release of the ninth installment in the popular "Fast & Furious" movie franchise has been pushed back about a year amid the outbreak, Universal Pictures announced Thursday.

"F9" will now debut on April 2, 2021, instead of May 22, 2020, the studio said in a news release. (Universal Pictures, like NBC News, is a unit of the Comcast-owned NBCUniversal.)

936d ago / 4:22 PM UTC
936d ago / 4:12 PM UTC

What laws let U.S. officials ban travel and large gatherings?

Laws such as those that give the president, governors and mayors authority to impose travel restrictions and quarantines and to ban large public gatherings as a way to slow the transmission of disease are common worldwide. They're also some of the oldest on the books, stemming from the experiences of past pandemics, especially the plague in the mid-1300s and the 1918 Spanish flu.

President Donald Trump imposed the European travel ban by invoking his general authority to restrict immigration. Federal law says he can suspend the entry of any noncitizens "whenever the president finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States." This is the same provision Trump has invoked, with varying degrees of success, to limit travel from mostly Muslim countries and to restrict immigration at the southern border.

Separately, federal public health laws give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the power to detain and examine anyone arriving in the U.S. suspected of carrying a communicable disease. All states and the District of Columbia have laws, as part of their general police powers, authorizing quarantine, which is a restriction on people who may have been exposed to see if they become sick, and isolation, which is intended to stop people known to be sick from spreading a disease. 

As far as banning large public gatherings, states give governors and mayors broad authority to act in emergencies.

936d ago / 4:09 PM UTC

“It’s going to all bounce back and it’s going to bounce back very big,” says Trump as markets dive

“It’s going to all bounce back and it’s going to bounce back very big,” President Donald Trump said Thursday, after Wall Street took another beating.

Trading on the New York Stock Exchange was halted twice Thursday, as concerns mount about the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak and the U.S. government's response to the pandemic.

The S&P 500 fell briefly into bear market territory Thursday morning, the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by more than 2,200 points, or 9 percent, and the Nasdaq index fell by 8 percent.

936d ago / 4:01 PM UTC

Italy deepens lockdown as coronavirus spreads

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MILAN — Normally packed tourist sites, shops and restaurants stood deserted across Italy on Thursday, a day after authorities drastically tightened a nationwide lockdown in a bid to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Milan, the country’s financial capital, was a ghost town as residents woke up to an order to close all shops except supermarkets, food stores and pharmacies. In a city center normally bustling with shoppers, a handful of people mingled at a street market that had just one stand open.

In the university area of the city, almost all shops were closed and people, most wearing masks, lined up to get into a drug store. Inside, pharmacist Andrea De Leo, 26, said they were running out of masks but were expecting a new delivery at the end of the week. Despite the most severe restrictions since World War II, De Leo said that the city would persevere.

“We are getting used to this,” he said. “We will resist.”

Read the full story here.

936d ago / 3:49 PM UTC

GOP senator McSally urges cancellation of congressional break

Sen. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., who’s up for re-election in November, said Thursday that congressional leaders should cancel recess until the House and Senate address the outbreak. 

“Americans all over the country are looking to us to lead on mitigating the impact of this virus,” McSally said in a statement. “It is totally unacceptable for us to leave Washington, D.C., and recess without further acting to support our constituents.”

The House and Senate are on recess next week and there’s no guarantee Congress will pass an aid package before leaving for the break, although the House was scheduled to vote on a sweeping aid package Thursday.

936d ago / 3:47 PM UTC
936d ago / 3:44 PM UTC

Hillary Clinton weighs in

936d ago / 3:42 PM UTC

Pelosi calls travel ban 'strange,' questions why the U.K. is excluded

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that Vice President Mike Pence and Dr. Anthony Fauci called her the night earlier to brief her on the travel ban that was announced by President Donald Trump in his Oval Office address.

Pelosi said that Fauci said it was a "scientific medical decision."

"It’s just strange because they’re saying it’s easy to travel among these countries but they’re separate from the U.K. Well you can just get on the Chunnel and you’ll be in the U.K.," she said. 

936d ago / 3:36 PM UTC

Two more people die in the U.K.

Two more people have died from COVID-19 in the U.K., Britain's Department of Health and Social Care said Thursday.

A total of eight people have now died in the country from the respiratory illness and 590 people from the 29,764 tested, have been found to be carrying the disease.  

936d ago / 3:19 PM UTC

Italians distancing themselves at supermarkets

People waited a safe distance apart from one another on Thursday as they lined up in a supermarket in the Italian city of Florence as the nationwide lockdown continued.   

"There are very few people outside, and all walking," Francesco Corti, 49, told NBC News by phone Thursday, adding that people were "respecting" the distance between one another to try to avoid the spread of COVID-19, which killed 200 people in Italy on Wednesday alone. 

"It’s pretty funny because you know the Italians love to stay very close to each other. It’s not happening these days," he said, adding that most people were remaining calm and trying to follow the government's advice. 

He also said he had not seen panic-buying at the supermarket.

936d ago / 3:18 PM UTC
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936d ago / 3:18 PM UTC

South Korea's coronavirus death toll reaches 67

Nearly 70 people have been killed by the coronavirus in South Korea, according to health authorities in the country.

The death toll from the global pandemic reached 67 on Thursday, according to information from South Korean health officials.

936d ago / 3:18 PM UTC

'That was simply the worst briefing': House Democrats react to meeting by administration officials


Many Democrats left a briefing for all House lawmakers on Capitol Hill Thursday frustrated with what they described as an unsatisfactory briefing in which they left with many lingering questions.

"That was simply the worst briefing I have ever received in seven or eight years of Congress," said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., to reporters after the closed-door meeting.

"The administration has no good answers, no plan and no leadership. I think members from both parties are frustrated and angry and they have every right to be. I think its time for the White House to take the training wheels off and provide real leadership for this public health emergency," he added.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, D-Wash., who represents most of the Seattle area, a region significantly impacted by the virus, praised some of the briefers like Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who she called "excellent." 

"So, we just need to be honest with the American people about where we are," she said. "And I don't think that this president or some members of the administration are doing that."

936d ago / 3:00 PM UTC

Romney criticizes Trump's Europe travel ban

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, criticized President Donald Trump's restrictions on travel from Europe amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Romney, who announced yesterday that he is closing his Capitol Hill office as a precautionary measure, told reporters ahead of a Senate briefing Thursday that he’s not sure what a travel ban would do and that the U.S. response should focus on community spread, defined as a transmission within the community without a known source. Romney added that there is a need for more testing kits.

Pence defended the president in an interview with CNN on Thursday, saying that Trump took a "historic step" in restricting travel from Europe and that the administration's health experts agreed with the decision. 

"The truth is, we learned yesterday, 70 percent of all the new cases for coronavirus in the world happened in Europe," Pence said. "We're not doing a travel ban as our strategy. The suspending all travel for 30 days from Europe is a part of the strategy. The other part is an aggressive mitigation strategy."

936d ago / 3:00 PM UTC

After rush on airports, American Airlines is the first to cap prices on flights

American Airlines is placing price limits on U.S.-bound flights from Europe as people rush to return home in response to the President Donald Trump’s restrictions on overseas travel, the company confirmed to NBC News on Thursday.

“We are placing caps on our fares for all cabins on flights from Europe to the U.S. that are affected by the government-imposed travel restrictions,” the company said in an emailed statement.

The move comes after Trump announced in an Oval Office address on Wednesday night that he would be “suspending all travel from Europe” as of midnight on Friday. The White House later clarified that Trump’s comments did not refer to U.S. residents or permanent citizens and only "suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who have been in certain European countries at any point during the 14 days prior to their scheduled arrival to the United States."

936d ago / 2:55 PM UTC

936d ago / 2:51 PM UTC

Sen. Tom Cotton closes Hill office, calls outbreak the 'Wuhan virus'

Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., has temporarily closed his office in Washington, D.C., to protect the health of his staff, who will continue to work from home, his office announced Thursday.

Cotton has been calling the coronavirus the "Wuhan virus," referring to the Chinese city that initially became the epicenter of the outbreak — a term that some critics worry could contribute to anti-Asian bias. Cotton has been on TV in recent weeks suggesting without evidence that the virus came from a secret Chinese lab in Wuhan.

"Since I first heard reports of an unknown virus spreading in central China in early January, I have endeavored to protect you and your family from this menace," Cotton said in the news release announcing his office's closure. Cotton referred to news that a staff member in another Senate office had tested positive for the virus in announcing his plans.

Sen. Maria Cantwell's office announced Wednesday that the Washington Democrat would temporarily close her Capitol Hill office for cleaning after a staff member tested positive for the virus, saying staff would work remotely.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, also said Thursday that he was closing his Senate office in response to another senator's aide becoming infected — an apparent reference to Cantwell's staffer. Cruz had self-quarantined  at his home in Texas because of contact with an infected person; his office said that he was ending his self-quarantine Thursday.

936d ago / 2:45 PM UTC

International exchange programs paused, State Department says


The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) will temporarily pause all of its programs that involve travel to and from countries with heightened travel advisories, the State Department said in a statement Thursday. 

As a result, the Fulbright Program and the International Visitor Leadership Program, which "cultivates lasting relationships" between "emerging foreign leaders" and their American counterparts, will likely be affected. 

The ECA has already evacuated or offered voluntary departure for U.S. citizen exchange participants from countries where there are elevated warning levels, like in China, Italy, and South Korea.

936d ago / 2:31 PM UTC

Love in the time of coronavirus

A couple kiss at the airport in Barcelona airport, Spain, on Thursday. Travelers scrambled to rebook flights and markets reeled on Thursday after President Donald Trump imposed sweeping restrictions on travel from Europe, hitting battered airlines and heightening global alarm over the coronavirus.Emilio Morenatti / AP
936d ago / 2:24 PM UTC

Biden's coronavirus speech provides him a contrast moment with Trump

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What transpired Wednesday night in the two hours after President Trump’s remarks to the nation on the coronavirus was some of the most disruptive and unsettling news we can remember — at least in a 120-minute span.

The NBA suspended the season. Tom Hanks and his wife, Rita Wilson, tested positive for the coronavirus. Dow futures dropped. A staffer in the D.C. office of Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., tested positive.

The disease, the disruption and the fear are spreading fast. And at 1 p.m. ET, Democrat Joe Biden gets a contrast moment with President Trump, when he delivers remarks on the coronavirus from Delaware.

Get the rest of First Read.

936d ago / 2:18 PM UTC
936d ago / 2:01 PM UTC

White House, Capitol tours canceled, officials say

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The White House and Capitol Building are being closing to the public in response to the coronavirus outbreak, officials have announced.

“Out of an abundance of caution and until further notice, White House tours have been canceled,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said Thursday.

In an advisory to congressional offices, the House and Senate sergeants at arms said the Capitol Building, including its Visitor Center, also will stop holding public tours and will allow only limit access to those on official business until April 1, according to congressional sources.

936d ago / 1:49 PM UTC

Trading halted on NYSE for second time in one morning

Trading was halted on the New York Stock Exchange just minutes after the opening bell on Thursday after President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus epidemic led to a massive sell-off that triggered a circuit breaker, which stops all trading for a 15-minute period.

The S&P 500 plunged by 7 percent and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by 1,700 points.

The sell-off came after Trump’s Oval Office address Wednesday night failed to satisfy traders who were hoping for more concrete steps to stanch any economic slowdown from the viral outbreak.

It was the second time trading was temporarily halted on Thursday morning, after all three major averages sank below the 5 percent "limit down" marker in premarket activity.

936d ago / 1:49 PM UTC

Trump's proposals: Executive action vs. congressional approval


In his Oval Office address Wednesday night, President Donald Trump laid out various proposals to try to boost the economy in the face of the coronavirus outbreak — some are executive actions, which Trump can take unilaterally, and others must be approved by Congress.

As far as executive actions, Trump called on the Small Business Administration to provide loans to firms that have been affected by the coronavirus. While Trump can do that himself, another of his requests — that funding for the agency be increased — requires congressional approval.

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Trump also instructed the Treasury Department to defer tax payments for three months without penalties for some individuals and businesses that have been affected by the outbreak, which a White House official said could be done by executive action. The president did not detail how such deferments would be allocated, however.

Of the proposals that need congressional action, Trump has asked Congress to pass a payroll tax cut through the end of the year, but Democrats and some Republicans oppose the idea. 

Lawmakers from both parties say Congress should act on relief measures quickly with both chambers going into recess next week. House Democrats are expected to pass an aid package unveiled by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday. 

936d ago / 1:43 PM UTC

Princess Cruises to pause global operations for two months

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.

936d ago / 1:33 PM UTC

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


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.

936d ago / 1:23 PM UTC

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

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.


936d ago / 1:20 PM UTC

House Democrats release coronavirus relief measure, vote Thursday

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.

936d ago / 1:09 PM UTC

Schools, cultural institutions to close in Ireland


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. 

936d ago / 1:03 PM UTC
936d ago / 12:54 PM UTC

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

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
936d ago / 12:47 PM UTC

Japan must plan for Olympic cancellation, senior politician says

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. 

936d ago / 12:26 PM UTC

Iran asks IMF for billions in loans to fight coronavirus

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.  

936d ago / 12:07 PM UTC

936d ago / 12:01 PM UTC

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

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.

936d ago / 11:57 AM UTC

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

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.

936d ago / 11:46 AM UTC

Europe wakes up to chaos and confusion after Trump travel ban

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.

936d ago / 11:41 AM UTC

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

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."

936d ago / 11:35 AM UTC

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

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.  

936d ago / 11:13 AM UTC

Coronavirus: A glimpse at global market reaction to spreading virus

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
936d ago / 10:30 AM UTC

936d ago / 10:26 AM UTC

California bans mass gatherings to slow spread of COVID-19

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. 

936d ago / 9:01 AM UTC

936d ago / 8:58 AM UTC

Plane writes 'wash hands' message in sky above Sydney

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.

936d ago / 6:59 AM UTC

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.

936d ago / 5:21 AM UTC

Beauty retailer Sephora suspends in-store makeup services

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.

936d ago / 3:53 AM UTC

Las Vegas movie exhibition CinemaCon canceled

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.”

936d ago / 3:01 AM UTC
936d ago / 2:59 AM UTC

Senate staffer tests positive

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.