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Team USA pushes for Olympics delay as millions more ordered to stay at home

Here are the latest updates from around the world.
Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York
A member of Joint Task Force 2, composed of soldiers and airmen from the New York Army and Air National Guard, wears a face mask while carrying paper towels as he arrives to sanitize and disinfect the Young Israel of New Rochelle synagogue in New Rochelle, New York, on March 23, 2020.Andrew Kelly / Reuters

The United Kingdom went into lockdown Monday as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to stem the spread of coronavirus, which has infected more than 5,000 people and killed hundreds in his country.

More American states did the same, too. Officials in Louisiana, New Mexico, Washington and West Virginia issued stay-at-home orders. “Right now, every time you leave your house, you are putting yourself, your family and your community at risk,” New Mexico Gov. Lujan Grisham said.

Team USA's Olympic and Paralympic Committee called for the International Olympic Committee Summer Games in Tokyo.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

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More inmates released from Rikers Island

Hawaii, Alaska close businesses, tell residents to stay home

Hawaii and Alaska ordered businesses shuttered and told residents to stay home on Monday, becoming the latest states to implement sweeping measures in an attempt to limit the spread of coronavirus.

In Hawaii, where 77 cases have been confirmed, Gov. David Ige said that beginning Wednesday, people should leave their homes only to go to the grocery store, bank or another “essential” business. He said outdoor exercise is allowed as long people remain six feet apart from each other.

“The threat of COVID-19 is unprecedented, and it requires even more actions,” he said.

In Alaska, officials closed hair salons, barbershops and other businesses where people gather. Visitors from out of state will also be required to self-quarantine for two weeks. The orders go into effect Tuesday and Wednesday, Alaska Department of Health Commissioner Adam Crum told reporters.

Trump order makes it a crime to stockpile medical supplies

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has signed an executive order making it a crime to excessively stockpile personal protective equipment that is needed by medical personnel fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

Attorney General William Barr says the Justice Department has already launched investigations into people who are hoarding supplies and price gouging. 

“If you are sitting on a warehouse with surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door,” he said. 

The executive order allows the president to designate some items as “scarce.” No specific items have been identified yet and the Justice Department will work with Health and Human Services to enforce the president’s order.

Las Vegas' neon lights go dark as outbreak leaves thousands unemployed

Image: Las Vegas Casinos Close Their Doors In Response To Coronavirus Pandemic
Most of the exterior building lights at Paris Las Vegas, including on its 50-story replica Eiffel Tower, are turned off except for the marquee as parts of the Las Vegas Strip go dark as a result of the statewide shutdown on March 19, 2020.Ethan Miller / Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has caused a wave of restaurant, bar and casino closures across the country, as state officials from California to Vermont have scrambled to reduce large gatherings of people to limit the spread of COVID-19. According to the American Gaming Association, at least 973 commercial and tribal casinos — or 98 percent of all gaming properties in the United State — have closed, directly affecting about 649,000 casino gaming employees.

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak's statewide order last Tuesday shutting down casinos and restaurants for 30 days — which police began enforcing Friday — came after health officials reported the state's first coronavirus death, a Clark County man in his 60s. As of Monday afternoon, there were 245 reported coronavirus cases in the state and four deaths.

The impact of the sweeping closures was felt immediately in tourism-reliant Las Vegas. It's a city where card dealers, servers, bartenders, housekeepers and others keep the 24/7 revelry running for about 40 million visitors a year. By early Wednesday morning, after the governor's order, barricades were placed outside casino doors. Cash machines were emptied. Slot machine screens were turned off. Tables had been wiped down and bar stools stored.

Read the full story here. 

More than 100 NYPD employees infected with COVID-19

More than 100 New York Police Department employees have tested positive for COVID-19, a senior law enforcement official told NBC News.

One hundred of those infected are sworn officers, the official said. Twenty-nine are civilians. They are among more 2,400 employees who are out sick.

The department employs 36,000 officers and 19,000 civilians.

The NYPD distributed 75,000 face masks to its officers over the weekend, but the official said the number of infected employees is expected to rise “given the nature of the virus.”

The official added that the employees' absences have so far had little impact on public safety.

COVID-19 timeline: From patient zero to NYC as epicenter

West Virginia issues stay-at-home order

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on Monday issued a statewide stay-at-home order aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19, telling residents the disease is “really serious stuff.”

The order, which goes into effect Tuesday morning, urges West Virginians to stay at home for anything beyond essential travel. It also closes casinos, restaurants, parks and other places or limits the number of people who can visit them.

The state has seen the fewest number of positive cases in the country, but Justice said that a recent diagnosis was confirmed at a nursing home — a signal that "community spread" had begun.

West Virginia joined New Mexico, Washington state and Louisiana, which issued similar orders Monday. California, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey and New York already had stay-at-home policies in effect.

Some companies boost hiring to keep supply chain running

Washington residents ordered to ‘Stay Home, Stay Healthy’

Washington has joined other states in issuing a "stay home" order that urges residents to shelter in place. 

Gov. Jay Inslee announced the order Monday, telling residents they must stay home unless they are "pursuing an essential activity." The governor also asked that people resist the urge to hoard goods during their grocery shopping, which is deemed essential under the order. 

"If each of us maintains our normal shopping habits, we will avoid the problem of empty shelves," Inslee said.

Nearly 2,000 cases have been confirmed in Washington state, where 95 deaths have been blamed on the coronavirus. 

Team USA urges IOC to postpone Olympics

Team USA's Olympic and Paralympic Committee released a statement urging the International Olympic Committee to postpone the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo.

Team USA surveyed more than 1,700 athletes, just under half of the country's Olympic and Paralympic competitors, about continuing with the games as planned. Nearly 70 percent of the athletes said their training has been severely impacted by public health restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, and about 68 percent said they don't believe the games could be fairly competed if they continue as scheduled. 

"To that end, it’s more clear than ever that the path toward postponement is the most promising, and we encourage the IOC to take all needed steps to ensure the Games can be conducted under safe and fair conditions for all competitors," the USOPC statement said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged Monday that the Tokyo Games could be delayed due to the coronavirus as countries began threatening to keep their athletes from traveling to Japan.

Trump jokingly walks away as doctor says she had fever over weekend

The Trump administration's coronavirus task force had a moment of levity on Monday when President Donald Trump playful walked away from panel member Dr. Deborah Birx after she revealed she had a fever over the weekend and was tested for the virus.

She was negative.

Read the full story here.

Trump postpones REAL ID deadline over coronavirus

The October 2020 deadline for compliance with the federal REAL ID program is postponed indefinitely, President Trump announced Monday.

The REAL ID Act was passed after the 9/11 attacks and sought to make all state-issued identification cards more secure with uniform national standards.

Just before the coronavirus epidemic began to sweep the United States, NBC News reported that airports warned of “chaos” if Trump did not postpone the October 2020 deadline because so few Americans had obtained the new type of identification, which usually are marked with a star on the front of the card.

Trump on Monday said the new deadline would be announced “in a very short moment.”

New York first state to test treatment with blood from recovered patients

Image: Army Spc. Reagan Long and Pfc. Naomi Velez register people at a coronavirus mobile testing center in New Rochelle, N.Y., on March 14, 2020.
Army Spc. Reagan Long and Pfc. Naomi Velez register people at a coronavirus mobile testing center in New Rochelle, N.Y., on March 14.U.S. Army National Guard / via Reuters file

Hoping to stem the toll of the state’s surging coronavirus outbreak, New York health officials plan to begin collecting plasma from people who have recovered and injecting the antibody-rich fluid into patients still fighting the virus.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the plans during a news briefing Monday. The treatment, known as convalescent plasma, dates back centuries and was used during the flu epidemic of 1918 — in an era before modern vaccines and antiviral drugs.

Some experts say the treatment, although somewhat primitive, might be the best hope for combating the new coronavirus until more sophisticated therapies can be developed, which could take several months.

Read the full story here.

Trump, slammed for calling coronavirus 'Chinese virus,' says it's important to 'protect' Asian Americans

President Donald Trump, accused of fueling racism by labeling the coronavirus the "Chinese virus," tweeted Monday that the country must "protect our Asian American community."

"They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form. They are working closely with us to get rid of it. WE WILL PREVAIL TOGETHER!" the president tweeted.

NBC News has previously reported that Asians across the globe have reported experiencing xenophobia as a result of coronavirus fears, with several incidents involving physical harassment. Republican lawmakers and Trump have referred to the coronavirus as the “Wuhan virus” or “Chinese virus,” which experts say could be fueling real-life acts of discrimination. 

The president defended his use of the term, saying last week he did not believe it was "racist at all" to call coronavirus the "Chinese virus."

Man dies after ingesting chloroquine in attempt to prevent coronavirus

An Arizona man died after ingesting chloroquine phosphate in an attempt to protect himself from becoming infected with the coronavirus. The man's wife also ingested the drug, and is currently under critical care.

The drug chloroquine is used to treat malaria, and some early research suggests it may be useful in treating COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus.

There are no drugs approved to prevent or treat the coronavirus.

Read the full story here.

Local officials call for 'substantial' election stimulus funding

More than 30 election officials are calling for Congress to include "substantial" increases to a proposed $140 million in election funding in the coronavirus stimulus bill.

In an open letter published by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University Law School, state and municipal officials charged with administering elections said the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic are stark — and have already forced the postponement and rescheduling of primary and local elections.

"Our colleagues have been forced to make last-minute changes to polling places, and conduct elections without sufficient staff or poll worker support, as we work to balance public safety and the sacred right to vote," the officials wrote. "$140 million is a start but it is simply not enough."

A report by the Brennan Center found that a thorough election funding package could cost up to $2 billion and would appropriate funds to ensure that all Americans could vote by mail or in person at a COVID-19-safe election facility, as well as fund online registration and voter registration efforts to let people know about coronavirus-related changes. 

FDNY boss: Our supply of personal protective equipment 'dangerously low'

New York City Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro told NBC News that supplies of personal protective equipment are “dangerously low” and the department has weeks—not months—worth of the gear its members don every time they respond to a call for a person with flu-like symptoms.  

Nigro said that 46 FDNY members, which include EMS workers, have tested positive for COVID-19 and two are currently hospitalized. A FDNY spokesperson said none of the cases were acquired through interaction with a patient.

"All that we can hope for is that the pleas from the governor and the mayor have been heard in Washington and that a supply stream will open and that we will get the equipment that our members need to operate safely," Nigro said.

Progressive tax group targets GOP senators over corporate stock buybacks

A progressive group is launching a $1.2-million ad campaign targeting Republican senators in four battleground states for their votes supporting the 2017 tax bill that included billions in tax relief to large corporations now poised to receive billions more in bailout money from proposed coronavirus legislation.

The group, Tax March— whose goal is to push for the closing of tax loopholes for large corporations — will run radio, television and digital ads in Georgia, Maine, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, starting later this week. 

President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax bill, which Republicans said would help raise wages and spur hiring, actually ended up funding record stock buybacks by corporations. Progressive groups, as well as several Democrats in Congress, say they oppose the current coronavirus stimulus package because the language allows for corporations to keep bailout money while still firing workers — and because there are very weak stock buyback restrictions in the current proposal.

Read more on the story here.

U.K. imposes 3-week national lockdown, enforced by police

The British government on Monday unveiled strict new measures aimed at limiting people's movements amid fears that the British health service may be overwhelmed by coronavirus unless the epidemic's spread is slowed.

In a televised address to the nation, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted to "give the British people a very simple instruction: You must stay at home."

Johnson had resisted forcing his population to adopt the types of lockdown measures seen in the United States and across Europe, although he had announced that schools, pubs, cafes, restaurants, nightclubs and gyms were to close down. 

Read the full story here. 

Stocks sink again, after emergency fiscal stimulus package fails for second time

Stocks sank again on Monday, after an emergency fiscal stimulus package was twice rejected by the Senate and even a new round of cash injection from the Federal Reserve failed to raise trader optimism.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed with a decline of almost 600 points, tracking its way toward the worst month for the blue-chip index since 1931. 

"These large market declines can reverse themselves over time. This is the history of the U.S.," Larry Kudlow, head of the National Economic Council, told CNBC earlier on Monday. "There's no reason why we can't get through this period."

The S&P 500 closed down by around 3 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq held up best, with a decline of just 0.2 percent.

Read the full story here.

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Union for New York City's UPS workers pleads for cleaning supplies

The union representing more than 7,300 UPS workers in the New York City area is sounding the alarm about protections for UPS workers. The leaders of Teamsters Local 804 — which serves much of New York City, Westchester and Long Island — are warning against a decrease in delivery capacity if too many workers fall ill and asked the public to help by contacting their local and state elected officials and requesting resources be allocated to help clean and sanitize UPS facilities and trucks.

"There is just no way our current staffing can accommodate the urgent need for increased cleaning and sanitizing of the facilities and the trucks that deliver so much of what New Yorkers need to their homes," the leaders said in a news release Monday.

While warehouse workers and drivers are taking "every precaution possible," without additional resources, "there is little chance the virus can be contained," they said, cautioning that as more Teamsters get infected and are unable to work, delivery capacity will fall.

Instacart to add 300,000 gig workers in coronavirus-driven hiring

Instacart said on Monday it plans to hire 300,000 gig workers over the next three months, more than doubling its current base, as demand surges for grocery delivery services due to the coronavirus pandemic forcing people to shop from home.

The hiring is huge compared to those announced by major retailers. Amazon said last week it would hire 100,000 warehouse and delivery workers in the United States to deal with a surge in online orders. Walmart said it would hire more than 150,000 hourly workers through the end of May in its stores and fulfillment centers.

Instacart said order volumes had risen over 150 percent in the last few weeks.

IOC member says Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be postponed — but IOC remains quiet

International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA Today on Monday that the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will be postponed to 2021 in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

But that decision does not appear to be final. The IOC said in a statement that "it is the right of every IOC Member to interpret the decision of the IOC [Executive Board] which was announced yesterday.” The IOC announced Sunday that it would be increasing its “scenario-planning” for the 2020 Games. These plans could include modifying the Olympics but keeping the July 24 start date or changing the start date.

The organization did not comment further on the report of postponement. But in a letter to athletes on Sunday, IOC President Thomas Bach said “cancellation would not solve any problem and would help nobody.”

South Africa to go into nationwide lockdown

JOHANNESBURG — South Africa, Africa's most industrialized economy and a nation of 57 million people, will go into a nationwide lockdown for 21 days starting Thursday to fight the spread of the coronavirus.

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the measures Monday in response to the increase of COVID-19 cases. South Africa will be the third country in Africa to close down all but essential economic activity, after Rwanda and Tunisia.

South Africa's coronavirus cases jumped to 402 Monday, the most in Africa and up 47 percent from the day before.

Rhode Island postponing presidential primary until June 2

Rhode Island on Monday became the latest state to postpone its presidential primary election.

Gov. Gina Raimondo announced the state will shift its planned April 28 primary to June 2.

Photo: NYC convention center becomes field hospital

Army National Guard
Army National Guard line up at the Jacob Javits Center as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announces plans to convert the the center on Manhattan's West Side into a field hospital on Monday. The Big Apple has the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the United States and Bill de Blasio said the city's hospitals were at breaking point.Bryan R. Smith / AFP via Getty Images

NBC Washington: Virginia schools closing for the rest of the year

Read the full story at NBCWashington.com.

Rand Paul says amid criticism that more Americans should be able to get tested for coronavirus

Sen. Rand Paul insisted Monday that more Americans should be able to get tested for the novel coronavirus even if they are asymptomatic after he faced criticism for being tested for COVID-19 despite not having symptoms and for continuing on with his daily life while awaiting the results.

In a lengthy statement, Paul, R-Ky., said that he was tested because he and his wife traveled extensively in the weeks prior to the widespread societal shutdown and that he was at higher risk for complications because he had part of his lung removed after he was attacked by his Kentucky neighbor in 2017.

"For those who want to criticize me for lack of quarantine, realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a T, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol," he added.

Read the full story here.

Thousands of Americans remain stuck in foreign countries

Approximately 13,500 Americans abroad have contacted the State Department for help in getting back to the United States since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, a senior State Department Official told reporters Monday.

A repatriation task force is “working around the clock" to help Americans get home, said the official, who was only authorized to speak on condition of anonymity. 

Since the effort began, the State Department has repatriated 5,000 Americans from 17 countries and will bring home “thousands more in the coming days and weeks,” the official said.

Afternoon roundup of coronavirus coverage

How ProMED crowdsourced the arrival of Covid-19 and SARS [Wired]

My biggest coronavirus fear is my kid's mental health [Vice]

The weekend when box office hit zero for the first time [The Hollywood Reporter]

 

Stay-at-home Americans are reading about gardening and canning

Consumers are abandoning travel, fitness and self-improvement books in favor of reading about gardening and education, according to the latest data from data analytics firm NPD BookScan. 

With millions of Americans hunkering down to limit the spread of coronavirus, container gardening book sales are up by 30 percent week-on-week, while books on canning and preserving rose by 29 percent for the week ending March 14, according to NPD.

Other categories on the rise include educational books for children, reference and language titles, which collectively rose by 38 percent week-on-week. 

However, overall book sales fell 10 percent week on week, with sales affected by the lack of open stores. Year-to-date, book sales are still up 0.7 percent, or 123 million units. 

Half the economy will receive assistance, says Larry Kudlow

The government's economic stimulus package will "cover the whole broad-based economy," including "small and medium business," and not be "limited to a few corporations," National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow pledged on Monday.

Half the economy will receive assistance, he told CNBC, noting that "the Treasury and the U.S. government are guaranteeing" the financial aid, with the Federal Reserve also backstopping credit for businesses and individuals.

"We are doing the best we can, mobilizing America's resources. We are capable of dealing with problems and coming out the other side," Kudlow said.

"There's no reason why we can't get through this period. These large market declines can reverse themselves over time. This is the history of the U.S.," he said.

NASA halts work on James Webb Space Telescope

NASA is suspending work on its next-generation James Webb Space Telescope as part of an agency-wide effort to prioritize essential operations while maintaining the safety of workers across all centers.

Testing and integration work on the Webb telescope in California has been put on hold to ensure the safety of the workforce, NASA officials said in a statement released Friday.

Preparations for the agency’s 2020 Mars rover mission have been deemed a priority and will continue, though many employees and contractors will be conducting their work remotely, according to NASA.

All work associated with the International Space Station will continue, including flight control operations at the agency’s Mission Control Center in Houston. Astronaut training will also continue, in addition to work on NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Andrew Yang draws a line

Former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang on Monday sought to draw a line between legitimate criticism of China's reaction to the initial coronavirus outbreak and the ongoing racism and xenophobia that has spiked in the U.S. and around the world.

Trump's continued use of the term "Chinese" in relation to the virus has alarmed many in the Asian American community who worry that such rhetoric is fueling racism.

Boeing to shut down production in Washington state for two weeks

Boeing will temporarily halt production at its Washington state plants, following a state of emergency approved on Sunday.

For two weeks beginning on Wednesday, Boeing will suspend operations at sites across the Puget Sound area while it deep cleans its factories. 

"These actions are being taken to ensure the well-being of employees, their families and the local community, and will include an orderly shutdown consistent with the requirements of its customers," the company said in a statement.

The company will reduce production starting Monday, while operations in support of airline, government, and maintenance and repair customers will continue, according to the statement.

Rush hour traffic in Los Angeles is down by as much as 87 percent

Cities are seeing dramatic declines in traffic, as more and more states implement lockdowns. Rush hour traffic in Los Angeles is down by as much as 87 percent.

In the New York City region, Monday morning traffic fell by 52 percent, after tumbling as much as 86 percent last Friday, according to location tracking company TomTom.

Even cities not yet hit hard by the pandemic are seeing larger declines. Baton Rouge traffic is down by as much as 32 percent, and Nashville by 44 percent.

For those still on the road, less traffic has allowed a big increase in speeds, especially during rush hour, according to Inrix, another tracking service.

Total number of confirmed deaths in England reaches 303

An additional 46 people who tested positive for the coronavirus have died, bringing the total number of confirmed reported deaths in England to 303.

World Health Organization says 300K+ cases reported

'Sesame Street' tries to lift spirits

German leader Angela Merkel tests negative

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has tested negative for the coronavirus, a spokeswoman for the government press office confirmed.

Merkel will continue to work from home quarantine in order to protect others as she awaits further tests in the next few days, the spokeswoman added.

3 therapy trials to begin in New York this week

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the state will begin three studies of potential treatments for the coronavirus this week.

One of those experimental therapies will involve taking antibodies from the plasma of patients who had been sick with COVID-19, and injecting them into patients who are currently ill.

Researchers will also study the safety and effectiveness of combining two drugs already approved for other conditions: hydroxychloroquine, often used to treat lupus and some forms of arthritis, and the antibiotic azithromycin, more commonly called a Z-Pak.

Cuomo also announced the state is working on blood test to determine whether a person has already had the virus and recovered. 

"We believe thousands and thousands of people have had the virus and self-resolved. If you knew that, you would know who is now immune to the virus and who you can send back to work," the governor said during a briefing Monday.

Biden warns against 'blank checks' for corporations in coronavirus stimulus

Joe Biden, in the first live appearance he's made in days, told supporters Monday that while President Donald Trump is not to blame for coronavirus, he “does bear responsibility for our response.”

In a virtual event livestreamed on his campaign website, Biden, who in recent days had held only telephone calls with reporters, called on the federal government to coordinate the acquisition and dissemination of critical medical supplies to states "so we don't have governors competing against one another" for the equipment. That call echoed one made by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

Biden also praised several Republican governors for how they were handling their states' response to the pandemic — including Ohio's Mike DeWine, Massachusetts' Charlie Baker and Maryland's Larry Hogan — before calling on Congress to make sure the aid packages for large corporations include "an enforceable commitment that they will keep workers on the payroll."

"No blank checks," Biden said.

Coronavirus cases reach more than 20,000 in New York

The number of coronavirus cases in New York state has grown to more than 20,000, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday.

There were 20,875 cases statewide as of Monday morning, with 12,305 in New York City, Cuomo said during a news conference. The governor said New York was testing more people than anywhere in the U.S., having tested some 78,000 people in all, with 16,000 new tests overnight.

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Michigan governor signs 'stay home, stay safe' order

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Monday signed a "stay home, stay safe" executive order to tame the spread of coronavirus.

The order provides exemptions for certain workers, as well as outdoor exercise and visits to the grocery store or hospital. It will bar businesses from requiring employees to leave their homes unless they are necessary to sustain or protect life, or to conduct minimum basic operations.

"The most effective way we can slow down the virus is to stay home. I know this will be hard, but it will be temporary. If we all come together, get serious, and do our part by staying home, we can stay safe and save lives," Whitmer said in a statement.

Italian mayor says coronavirus death toll probably several times higher than official reports

The mayor of Bergamo, a city in northern Italy devastated by coronavirus, said on Monday that the actual death toll from the pandemic is likely several times higher than official count. 

Giorgio Gori told NBC News on Monday that the total deaths in Bergamo are three to four times higher than during an average year, signaling that the virus is killing many more people than medical authorities have reported.

"We [have] evidence now in our territories that many people are unfortunately dying in their homes or in the residence for [seniors]," Gori said via Skype. "They are not officially tested because the test is only for people that go to the hospital with serious symptoms."

Bergamo is in Lombardy, Italy's most affected region with 27,206 cases and 3,456 deaths reported since the outbreak began. 

88-year-old Holocaust survivor is Israel’s first coronavirus death

An 88-year-old Holocaust survivor who hid from the Nazis in a basement in Hungary as a boy and later served as an Israeli diplomat is the first person in Israel to die from the coronavirus.

Arie Even died on March 20 in Jerusalem after the assisted living home where he was living saw several cases of the coronavirus, according to Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Read the full story at TODAY.com.

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker issues stay-at-home guidance

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday issued a stay-at-home advisory and ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses. 

Residents above the age of 70 are encouraged to limit interactions with others, Baker said. 

"Effective March 24 at noon, all non-essential businesses shall close their physical workplaces and facilities to all workers, customers and the public," Baker said at a morning news conference.

The advisory and order will be in effect through at least April 7.

Grocery stores, pharmacies and other businesses that provide essential goods and services will continue to operate.

Italian medical worker shares selfie after a 13-hour shift

"I don't love selfies," Nicola Sgarbi wrote on his now viral March 14 Facebook post. "Yesterday, though, I took this photo. After 13 hours in ICU after taking off all my protective devices, I took a selfie."

The Italian medical worker's picture has helped drive home just how much the coronavirus outbreak has strained Italy's health care system.

image: Nicola Sgarbi, an Italian medical worker, posted a selfie after working 13 hours in an ICU treating coronavirus patients.
Nicola Sgarbi, an Italian medical worker, posted a selfie after working 13 hours in an ICU treating coronavirus patients.Nicola Sgarbi

In the photo, Sgarbi is seen with deep indents on his face from wearing medical gear for an extended period of time.

He said he doesn't "feel like a hero" and described himself as a "normal person" who is proud to be on the front lines of the fight. "That's why I don't care about the many hours," Sgarbi said. "This will all pass."

Italy has 53,578 cases of coronavirus and 4,285 deaths as of Sunday, according to an NBC News tally.

"It will also pass thanks to you and your hard work and sacrifices. It will pass if we are united in one immense joint effort," Sgarbi wrote. "Don't give up. Never."

Amy Klobuchar says her husband has coronavirus

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said Monday morning that her husband, law professor John Bessler, has coronavirus.

"While I cannot see him and he is of course cut off from all visitors, our daughter Abigail and I are constantly calling and texting and emailing," Klobuchar said in a statement on Medium. "We love him very much and pray for his recovery. He is exhausted and sick but a very strong and resilient person."

Utah Jazz's Rudy Gobert experiencing 'loss of smell and taste'

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert, who is recovering from the coronavirus, said he is experiencing "loss of smell and taste."

"Just to give you guys an update, loss of smell and taste is definitely one of the symptoms, haven't been able to smell anything for the last 4 days. Anyone experiencing the same thing?" Gobert posted on his Twitter account Sunday afternoon.

Gobert was the first NBA player to test positive for COVID-19 on March 11, prompting the league to suspend its regular season indefinitely.

His teammate Donovan Mitchell tested positive on March 12.

With no stimulus bill in sight, markets continue their slide

Wall Street turned briefly positive Monday morning after a new round of emergency action from the Federal Reserve, before sinking into the red again.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average opened with a loss of around 350 points, with the S&P 500 down by around 2 percent and the tech-heavy Nasdaq lower by 1.25 percent.

With traders laser focused on the stimulus plan that is currently stalled on Capitol Hill, stocks slid despite “extensive new measures to support the economy” announced by the Federal Reserve. 

"We need to get this thing passed today," Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Monday.

Pompeo: Iran supreme leader's 'fabrications' about coronavirus put lives at risk

Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s "fabrications" about the coronavirus are dangerous and put the lives of Iranians and people around the world at greater risk, the U.S. State Department said Monday. The comment came after Khamenei characterized the U.S. offer to help Iran fight coronavirus as strange, describing U.S. leaders as “charlatans and liars."

In a statement released Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo accused the Iranian regime of ignoring repeated warnings from its own health officials, and denying its first death from the coronavirus for at least nine days. More than 1,800 people have died from the virus in Iran so far, with the total number of cases now over 23,000. 

"The regime continues to lie to the Iranian people and the world about the number of cases and deaths, which are unfortunately far higher than the regime admits," Pompeo said.

He also added that the United States has offered over $100 million in medical assistance to foreign countries, including Iran, but Khamenei rejected the offer because "he works tirelessly to concoct conspiracy theories and prioritizes ideology over the Iranian people."

 

Angela Merkel tested for coronavirus, remains in self-imposed quarantine

German Chancellor Angela Merkel was tested for the coronavirus Monday as she remains in self-imposed quarantine after coming into contact with a coronavirus-infected doctor. 

Germany’s government spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters Merkel, 65, is doing well and that she led the cabinet by phone today from home. “She was tested today and we’re waiting for the results,” he said, adding that she received many messages of support. 

Image: The empty chair of German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin. She participated by video conference.
The empty chair of German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the weekly cabinet meeting at the chancellery in Berlin. Merkel participated by video conference. She went into a self-imposed home quarantine on Sunday after a doctor who she saw on Friday tested positive for coronavirus over the weekend.Fabrizio Bensch / AFP - Getty Images

Seibert said they do not know when the test results would be back.

Last week, Merkel received a vaccine shot against pneumococcus, a pneumonia-causing bacteria, from a doctor who later tested positive for coronavirus, her office said Sunday. 

Asked for further details on how the chancellor was set up to work from home and if her husband was in quarantine as well, Seibert refused to comment, only adding that “the chancellor is in a position to conduct business.” 

CVS to hire 50,000 workers, including those furloughed from other companies

CVS Health plans to immediately hire 50,000 new workers, with many roles filled by people who were furloughed from other companies because of the coronavirus, the company announced Monday.

The drugstore chain said it will hire temporary, part-time and full-time store associates, home delivery drivers, distribution center workers and customer service representatives.

It plans to hire employees from major clients who have had to furlough workers, including Hilton and Marriott.

CVS Health employees will also receive $150 to $500 bonuses and an additional 24 hours of paid sick leave in addition to 14 days of paid leave for any employee who tests positive for COVID-19 or needs to be quarantined as a result of potential exposure.

Photo: The scene in Cairo

Image: A worker disinfects the Royal Mummies Hall at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo on March 23, 2020.
A worker disinfects the Royal Mummies Hall at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo on Monday.Khaled Desouki / AFP - Getty Images

Global infections on track to reach 350,000; over 15,000 deaths worldwide

The number of global coronavirus infections is on track to reach 350,000 on Monday, according to the data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. 

The number of deaths worldwide has climbed to 15,308 after big overnight increases in Italy and Spain. 

Italy is the hardest-hit nation in the world in terms of total number of deaths, with its death toll reaching 5,476 deaths Monday as its health care system struggles to cope with outbreak. 

Numbers provided by the World Health Organization, which slightly differ, suggest more than 292,000 global infections and 12,784 deaths. 

Chinese billionaire Jack Ma donates supplies to Africa

A plane carrying 6 million face masks and other life-saving equipment donated by Chinese billionaire and Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma arrived in Ethiopia on Sunday as Africa scrambles to contain a growing number of coronavirus cases, Ethiopia's prime minister tweeted.

The shipment also includes over a million coronavirus testing kits, and 60,000 protective suits and face shields. Ma's foundation said the supplies would be distributed across Africa, going first to countries that were particularly vulnerable to the pandemic.

For several days, governments across the continent have imposed tough measures to restrict travel and close public spaces to curb the spread of the virus. 

The African region has so far registered 739 cases of coronavirus and 20 deaths, according to the latest numbers from the World Health Organization, but there are concerns about how well health care systems in Africa's developing nations could handle the coronavirus pandemic.

Harvey Weinstein tests positive for coronavirus

Convicted rapist and disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein tested positive for coronavirus, the head of the New York state corrections officers union told NBC News.

Weinstein, 68, was transferred to Wende Correctional Facility, a maximum-security state prison east of Buffalo, NY, on Wednesday. There, he tested positive for coronavirus, Michael Powers, president of the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association, learned on Sunday and told NBC News Monday.

Weinstein is currently in isolation at the prison, Powers said, and several staff at the facility have also been quarantined.

Read the full report here.

Federal Reserve pledges asset purchases with no limit to support markets

The Federal Reserve said Monday it will launch a barrage of programs aimed at helping markets function more efficiently in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

Among the initiatives is a commitment to continue its asset purchasing program “in the amounts needed to support smooth market functioning and effective transmission of monetary policy to broader financial conditions and the economy.”

Others include an unspecified lending program for Main Street businesses and the Term Asset-Backed Loan Facility implemented during the financial crisis. Markets reacted positively to the moves, cutting most of the losses in stock market futures that had once been “limit down” in overnight trading.

Read the full story here.

Baghdad's coronavirus travel ban extended

The Iraqi government has extended a ban on travel in and out of Baghdad to March 28 as it tries to stem the coronavirus outbreak.

The move comes after hundreds of thousands of people defied coronavirus restrictions and attempted to visit a shrine sacred to Shiite Muslims in Baghdad over the weekend, forcing the Iraqi government to deploy troops to close the area. 

The government has also extended its ban on all flights in and out of the country’s airports.

Iraq has so far recorded 233 cases and 20 coronavirus deaths, according to the country's heath officials.

'This week, it's going to get bad'

WASHINGTON — U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams warned Monday that the coronavirus outbreak will worsen this week and said that people across the country are not taking the threat seriously enough.

“I want America to understand this week, it's going to get bad,” Adams said in an interview on the “TODAY” show.

The disease is spreading, he said, because many people — especially young people — are not abiding by guidance to stay at home and practice social distancing.

“Right now, there are not enough people out there who are taking this seriously,” he said.

Read full story here.

What scams should I watch for during the coronavirus outbreak?

The watchdog for the U.S. Health and Human Services Department has issued a fraud alert for coronavirus scams such as fraudulent testing kits and treatment across the country.

A spokesperson for the HHS inspector general says telemarketers have been calling people offering fake coronavirus tests while other scammers have been looking to hire phony technicians to swab multiple people, charge them for tests, but never provide results.  The inspector general's agents have also noticed an uptick in “door to door visits and social media ads about unapproved treatments.”

Other scams have offered fake telemedicine as part of an identity theft scheme, the inspector general warned.  The office has also found fake charities applying for grants to help people in the community who are needy. 

Spain's coronavirus death toll tops 2,000

Spain's death toll from the growing coronavirus pandemic has now topped 2,000, only three days after its number of deaths hit 1,000

The country's health ministry said Monday there are now 33,090 confirmed coronavirus cases and 2,182 deaths in the country. 

Spain, the second hardest-hit country in Europe after Italy, sought to extend its state of emergency Sunday by another two weeks until April 11. Announced on March 14, it was intended to last 15 days, and bars people from all but essential outings. The extension would need to be approved by Parliament. 

“We are at war,” the country's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told a news briefing.

Iran records more than 1,400 new cases in 24 hours

Iran confirmed more than 1,400 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours on Monday as the country struggles to contain its coronavirus epidemic. 

Health officials also announced 127 new deaths, bringing the death toll to 1,812.

There are now a total of 23,049 confirmed cases in Iran, one of the global hot spots of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei rejected the U.S. offer to help in its fight against the virus, accusing U.S. leaders of being “charlatans and liars."

Rep. Ben McAdams hospitalized after coronavirus positive test

WASHINGTON — Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, who tested positive last week for the disease caused by the coronavirus, said Sunday night that he has been hospitalized since Friday because of “severe shortness of breath.”

McAdams said in a statement that he experienced worsening symptoms Friday evening and he called the hotline for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. He said he was told to go to the hospital.

“I was admitted and have been receiving oxygen as I struggled to maintain my blood oxygen at appropriate levels. I am now off oxygen and feeling relatively better and expect to be released as soon as the doctor determines it is appropriate,” he said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

McAdams said his experience has shown him “how critical it is to follow the advice of the CDC and the Utah Department of Health in order to stop the spread of this virus.”

Florida closes all state parks

All state parks in Florida will close Monday for the foreseeable future as the state tries to stop the spread of coronavirus.

The decision, made by Gov. Ron DeSantis, was announced late Sunday evening. Florida State Parks said on Twitter that while "many measures" had been taken to attempt to safely provide access to the parks, "this has not resulted in the reductions needed to best protect public health."

Florida's announcement comes after the state fell under intense national scrutiny for keeping its beaches open for too long. Local officials in Florida towns and cities ended up taking it upon themselves to close beaches last week after the governor's initial refusal.

Florida had 768 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 12 deaths as of Sunday, according to NBC News tallies.

Cuban health workers arrive in Italy to staff field hospital

A delegation of 52 Cuban health workers arrived in Lombardy, Italy on Sunday to work in a field hospital in the region at the heart of Italy's coronavirus outbreak. 

The team, which includes doctors and nurses specializing in pulmonology, intensive care, infectious diseases and emergency medicine, will work at a newly-built field hospital in Crema, Lombardy, according to regional officials. 

Lombardy has been Italy's most affected region in the pandemic, with 27,206 cases and 3,456 deaths reported. 

On Sunday, 651 people across Italy as a whole died from the virus, and 952 more people had officially recovered, Italy's Civil Protection Department confirmed in a press conference on Sunday.

Coronavirus may force Olympics to be postponed, Japan's Abe says

Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged for the first time on Monday that the Summer Olympic Games could be delayed due to the coronavirus as countries began threatening to keep their athletes at home.

"If it’s difficult to proceed in its complete form, then we must think about the athletes first and consider postponing," Abe told Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee told reporters it would not make a final decision for another four weeks.

"Cancellation would not solve any problem and would help nobody," the international committee's president, Thomas Bach, said Sunday. He added that canceling the games would "destroy" the dreams of 11,000 athletes from around the world.

Read the full story here. 

Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound closed over coronavirus fears

Image: The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City stands deserted Monday after closing to help stem the spread of coronavirus.
The Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem's Old City stands deserted Monday after closing to help stem the spread of coronavirus. Ahmad Gharabli / AFP - Getty Images

Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque compound was closed to worshipers on Monday to help stem the spread of coronavirus, the Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs in Jordan, which acts as custodian of the site, announced.

Employees who work at the compound, also home to the Dome of the Rock shrine, will continue to be able to access the area, and the call to prayer will still take place.

The closure, which took effect at dawn on Monday, is in place until further notice. 

Israel has so far recorded 1,238 cases of coronavirus and one death. 

London Tube packed as government warns people to stay apart

Image: Passengers squeeze into a busy Underground train at Stratford station in east London on Monday.
Passengers squeeze into a busy Underground train in Stratford in east London on Monday. The U.K. government has warned people to practice social distancing, but has kept public transport running, and shops and parks open.Daniel Leal-Olivas / AFP - Getty Images

Hong Kong to ban tourist arrivals as coronavirus numbers rise

Image: Pedestrians wear face masks in Hong Kong on Monday.
Pedestrians wear face masks to protect against coronavirus in Hong Kong on Monday.Anthony Wallace / AFP - Getty Images

Hong Kong authorities said Monday they are banning tourist arrivals from the global financial hub as the city is facing a growing number of coronavirus cases. The city government announced 39 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, 30 of which had a recent travel history, bringing its total to 357 and four deaths.

The order kicks in on Wednesday. 

The semi-autonomous territory detected its first cases as early as January, but thanks to severe social distancing measures and a strong community response it has managed to avoid the scale of contagion seen in other countries and territories.

It is now faces the risk that visitors carrying the virus could spread it, undoing efforts to contain it.

500 U.S. tourists depart Peru after border closure

Hundreds of Americans have left Peru after getting stranded in the country amid travel chaos caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The U.S. Embassy in the country's capital Lima said they are working with the Peruvian government on all options for U.S. citizens to depart the country and are arranging charter aircraft.

It said approximately 500 American tourists departed Peru this weekend, including some of the most urgent medical cases. 

Earlier this month, Peru issued a state of emergency, closing all international borders and leaving many Americans stranded and unable to get out.

British public warned of 'tougher measures' after weekend of gatherings

Image: People gathered on Sunday at the seafront in Whitstable, east of London, despite requests for social distancing from the government.
People gathered on Sunday at the seafront in Whitstable, east of London, on Sunday despite official pleas for social distancing. The U.K. government has warned of tougher measures if the British public continues to ignore the measure. Ben Stansall / AFP - Getty Images

Saudi Arabia imposes nationwide curfew amid coronavirus epidemic

Image: A cleric calls for prayer at an empty mosque on Friday as prayers were suspended following the spread of coronavirus.
A cleric calls for prayer at an empty mosque on Friday as prayers were suspended following the spread of the coronavirus in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Ahmed Yosri / Reuters

Saudi Arabia has imposed a nationwide curfew as it tries to stem the spread of coronavirus, the country's state news agency reported Monday. 

Saudi ruler King Salman issued an order for a curfew between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. local time, Saudi Press Agency said. 

The curfew kicks in Monday evening and will be in effect for the next 21 days. 

Employees in the so-called vital sectors, whose work requires continued performance during the curfew, are exempt from the order. 

Saudi Arabia has taken some of the most drastic steps in the region, including halting international flights, suspending work at most institutions and closing public venues.

The country has recorded 119 new cases on Sunday, bringing the total to 511.

War-ravaged Syria records its first coronavirus case

Image: A Syrian Red Crescent member sprays disinfectant along an alley of the historic Hamidiyah souk (market) in the old city of Syria's capital Damascus
A Syrian Red Crescent member sprays disinfectant along an alley in Damascus on Sunday as part of efforts against the coronavirus pandemic.Louai Beshara / AFP - Getty Images

Syria registered its first case of coronavirus Sunday, the country's health officials said, according to Syrian state news agency SANA.

Health officials said the individual who tested positive came from abroad, without specifying a country, SANA reported. 

Health Minister Nizar al-Yaziji told state media “necessary measures” had been taken regarding the individual, who he said would be quarantined for 14 days and given medical checks.

Damascus announced a ban on public transport on Sunday as it stepped up a lockdown introduced in recent days, including the closure of schools, parks, restaurants and various public institutions, as well as calling off army conscription.

The country ravaged by nine years of civil war has a wrecked health care system that many fear would not be able to handle an epidemic, but government authorities have denied any outbreak or cover-up.

How are imposters imitating the World Health Organization?

The World Health Organization warned over the weekend of an uptick in criminals disguising themselves as WHO workers to steal money or personal identity information vulnerable people. 

The United Nations branch responsible for public health around the globe urged people to verify the authenticity of anyone claiming to be from WHO. It also issued a list of questions and information the organization will never ask for.  

The only request for financial support WHO has made, it said, was for people to give to the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. "Any other appeal for funding or donations that appears to be from WHO is a scam," the organization said.  

The World Health Organization will:

never ask for your username or password to access safety information

never email attachments you didn’t ask for

never ask you to visit a link outside of www.who.int

never charge money to apply for a job, register for a conference, or reserve a hotel

never conduct lotteries or offer prizes, grants, certificates or funding through email.

WHO

 

IOC says canceling Tokyo Olympics wouldn't solve anything and 'isn't on the agenda'

The International Olympic Committee said Sunday that canceling the Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo "is not on the agenda," even as Australia and Canada became the first two countries to pull out of the games because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Olympic committees of both countries issued statements late Sunday (midday Monday in Australia) saying they wouldn't send teams unless the games are postponed for a year. The games are scheduled to open in just four months.

In a long statement, the International Olympic Committee, or IOC, said the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, had led the organization's executive board to conclude that "the IOC needs to take the next step in its scenario-planning."

But it said "a cancellation of the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 would not solve any of the problems or help anybody."

"Therefore, cancellation is not on the agenda," it said.

Parks, trails closed in Los Angeles area

More than 75,000 acres of parks and trails were closed indefinitely in and around the Los Angeles region Sunday because of the coronavirus pandemic, authorities said.

The announcement, by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, expands on an order Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti issued earlier Sunday closing sports and recreation at city parks and parking at city beaches as images of packed trails and beaches sparked an outcry while California is under a statewide stay-at-home order.

"This is serious. Stay home and save lives," Garcetti tweeted.

The two orders effectively close all parks and restrict access to many beaches across tens of thousands of acres from Los Angeles north across the San Fernando Valley, including the popular Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy.

Canada, Australia pull out of Olympics

Canada and Australia will not send athletes to the Olympics later this year if the games are not delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic, officials said Sunday.

In a statement, the Canadian Olympic Committee said it was “urgently” calling on the groups that organize the games to postpone the event for one year. “This is not solely about athlete health — this is about public health,” the group said.

In a similar statement announced Monday in Australia, that nation's organizing committee said its board had "unanimously agreed that an Australian Team could not be assembled in the changing circumstances at home and abroad."

Read the full story.