The Latest: Trump: Some student loan interest waived for now
The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:
President Donald Trump says he will waive interest on student loans being held by the federal government “until further notice” as part of an emergency action to help Americans deal with the new coronavirus.
Trump says he has also instructed his secretary of Energy to purchase large quantities of crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which stores fuel for emergency use.
Trump says “we’re going to fill it right up to the top” and the move would save American taxpayers and help the oil industry. Trump made the announcements during a White House press conference on Friday.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a ramp-up Friday in testing for the new coronavirus in Florida, where more than 50 people have been infected with the virus including the Miami mayor.
DeSantis said the state was purchasing kits that allow for testing up to 625,000 people, with 40 percent of them already in hand and 60 percent of them on the way.
So far, people have tested positive for COVID-19 in at least 20 counties in Florida, most of them after traveling internationally or to other affected U.S. states. Two people in Florida have died.
Guatemala President Alejandro Giammattei says the country has its first confirmed case of coronavirus.
The Guatemalan man had arrived in the country Wednesday from Italy with relatives. There were also five citizens of El Salvador who arrived on the same flight and were immediately redirected to that country.
The man was taken to a local hospital that had been prepared to treat those with the illness. The man’s relatives were being monitored.
Neighboring Honduras confirmed its first two cases earlier this week.
President Donald Trump has announced that he is officially declaring a national emergency over the new coronavirus.
The president spoke at Rose Garden press conference and said no resource will be spared in responding to the virus. He says that the declaration will free up nearly $50 billion to help the states and cities.
Trump says he is also asking every hospital in the U.S. to activate their emergency preparedness plan.
He is facing growing criticism about his mixed messages on the severity of the outbreak and over the administration’s scattershot response.
But the president is defending the administration’s response, particularly its temporary ban on travel from Europe, saying it will save lives. He says of the virus that “this will pass” and the nation will emerge stronger.
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency says airlines across the EU must take measures to reduce the risk of spreading the new coronavirus through flights to and from high-risk areas.
The ‘safety directive’ requires airlines to disinfect and clean aircraft which operate from high-risk destinations after each flight.
EASA said it is also recommending that when flights are not full, passengers should be spaced throughout the cabin and provided with single-use disinfection wipes where possible.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem ordered a state of emergency on Friday and ordered public schools to close in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The move marks an intensification of Noem’s response to the virus outbreak. She ordered all public schools to close for a week to clean facilities and prepare for a potential reopening the following week.
This comes after another person in the state, a man in his 30s who had traveled outside the state, had tested positive for the virus, bringing the state total to nine cases. One of the men who tested positive for the virus died on Tuesday.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on Friday ordered the cancellation or postponement of all events and gatherings of more than 250 people in an attempt to combat the spread of the coronavirus, exempting industrial work, mass transit and the purchase of groceries or consumer goods.
The move came a day after she announced that all public and private schools — covering more than 1.5 million kids — would be closed for three weeks starting Monday due to the pandemic.
As of Thursday, Michigan had 12 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam on Friday ordered all schools in Virginia to close for at least two weeks as the coronavirus spreads, a move that follows similar orders in several other states.
Schools will close Monday until at least March 27, Northam said in a statement.
“I recognize this will pose a hardship on many families, but closing our schools for two weeks will not only give our staff time to clean and disinfect school facilities, it will help slow the spread of this virus,” Northam said.
Northam’s decision follows the near doubling of coronavirus cases in the state. Virginia has 30 people who have tested positive, up from 17 a day ago, The Virginia Department of Health said Friday.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy says the number of positive COVID-19 cases has climbed to 50, up from 29.
The 21 positive cases amount to the biggest jump since the first positive test last week.
Murphy also said that the state is preparing for closing schools statewide, though he stopped short of taking that step. He said it’s a matter of when, not if, they close.
Gov. Tom Wolf is ordering the closure of all schools in Pennsylvania for two weeks as the state takes sweeping measures aimed at slowing the spread of the new coronavirus.
The order affecting more than 1.7 million school children in public and private schools came as confirmed cases in the state leaped to 33 from 22, including the first patient under age 18.
Wolf ordered all schools, day cares and other facilities closed in hard-hit Montgomery County, in the Philadelphia suburbs, home to more than 800,000 people.
Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said the country is temporarily restoring its border with its European Union neighbors and introducing strict controls for car traffic into Poland.
The decision will be effective for 10 days but can be extended by another 20 days and then by a month.
Starting at midnight local time Saturday, the country will suspend international flights and international railway connections.
The Russian government is sharply cutting passenger air traffic with countries of the European Union — but not Great Britain — as well with Norway and Switzerland.
The government’s operational center on Friday said all regular flights to and from those countries will be cancelled as of Monday, with the exception of flights connecting Moscow with the countries’ capitals and charter flights and charter flights taking citizens to their home countries.
A cruise ship was docked in isolation in northeastern Brazil on Friday after two passengers were found to have symptoms resembling that of the new coronavirus, according to local authorities.
The Brazilian state of Pernambuco’s health secretariat said it decided on Thursday to keep the ship — with its 318 passengers and 291 crew members — in isolation in the capital Recife.
The first passenger suspected of having the virus, 78, was removed from the ship and admitted to a private clinic after displaying respiratory problems. The result of his coronavirus test will dictate whether the ship’s passengers are placed into quarantine, the state’s health secretary, André Longo, said in a televised interview with network Globo.
Authorities reported a second possible case on Friday. The passenger had a fever and difficulty breathing, so was placed in a private health unit to perform the coronavirus test.
Louisiana’s governor planned to postpone the state’s presidential primaries due to fears of the coronavirus, an aide said Friday, which would make it the first state to do so.
Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards planned to sign an executive order delaying the April 4 primary until June 20, said his spokeswoman Christina Stephens.
“We are experiencing community spread of coronavirus in Louisiana, and the governor is taking decisive action to slow its progress,” Stephens said on Twitter.
French Health Minister Olivier Veran has said in the daily address Friday that there are now 3661 confirmed cases in France — a figure that represents a rise of more than 800 since Thursday.
Veran said there have been 18 new deaths reported, bringing the French death toll to 79. All non-urgent actions in hospital are being postponed.
A count of 154 infected people are in a serious condition.
Mexico’s stock exchange said Friday that its president tested positive for coronavirus, but has yet to display any symptoms.
In a statement, the Mexican Stock Exchange said that Jaime Ruiz Sacristán had tested positive on Thursday. It said he would work from home for two weeks on the recommendation of his doctor.
It did not explain why Ruiz was tested if he had not displayed any symptoms.
The Walt Disney Co. says its shutting down many of its live-action productions, including “The Little Mermaid,” due to the coronavirus.
Hollywood on Friday continued to halt shoots of most films and television series to help control the spread of the virus. For Disney, that also includes “The Last Duel” with Matt Damon, Adam Driver and Ben Affleck; Marvel’s “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings”; a “Home Alone” remake and more.
“While there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 on our productions, after considering the current environment and the best interests of our cast and crew, we have made the decision to pause production on some of our live-action films for a short time,” said a spokesman for Disney.
The Walt Disney Co. on Thursday said it would shutter its theme parks, including Disney World and Disneyland, and it delayed the releases of several upcoming films, including “Mulan.”
University of Texas President Greg Fenves said his wife has tested positive for coronavirus and he is encouraging anyone who has been in close contact with him or his family self-quarantine for 14 days.
Fenves said he has been tested as is awaiting results. Another family member who works on the 50,000-student campus is presumed to be positive as well, he said.
Fenves and his wife Carmel traveled to New York City last week for several events with alumni and students. She started exhibiting mild flu-like symptoms after their returns. Her positive test for COVID-19 was returned this morning.
Seven new cases of coronavirus were confirmed in Bulgaria on Friday, bringing the total number of cases to 30 with one fatality, the country’s health minister said.
Following the announcement of a one-month state of emergency in the Balkan country of 7 million, the government said that it was ordering a shutdown of kindergartens, schools, restaurants, entertainment establishments and shops. Only food stores and pharmacies would remain open.
Parliament approved a law amendment setting the penalties for infected people who do not observe quarantine procedures to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 25,000 euro.
Authorities in the Madrid region have ordered the closure of all establishments except those selling food and other essential items, such as pharmacies.
The measure Friday came as the number of COVID-19 cases in the Spanish capital region surpassed 2,000 and deaths reached 64.
That means the Madrid region accounts for about half of the country’s cases and deaths, which national health officials said stood at 4,209 cases and 120 dead.
Gibraltar’s government has announced that due to the coronavirus pandemic it is postponing a planned March 19 referendum on whether to allow abortion.
The government of the tiny speck of British territory on Spain’s southern tip says it is taking the step so as not to expose vulnerable elderly voters to the new coronavirus. It had previously advised elderly people to remain at home.
A government statement says the vote will be held at a date to be decided by parliament. In mostly Catholic Gibraltar, abortion currently is a crime, with “child destruction” punishable by life in prison.
Gibraltar’s population is around 34,000. It has so far recorded one case of the virus.
Pakistan government has postponed the upcoming March 23 national day military parade amid increasing cases of coronavirus, information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said.
Pakistan showcases its military hardware at the parade. Thousands of people witness the parade at a open public place in the capital Islamabad.
So far, 28 people have been tested positive across the country. The latest seven cases were detected at the Taftan border near Iran where about 4000 people returning from Iran have been quarantined.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced in a tweet on Friday that an extraordinary summit of G7 leaders would be held Monday by videoconference to coordinate efforts on a vaccine and treatment of the COVID-19 virus, and “work on an economic and financial response.”
“It’s not division that will allow us to respond today to a world crisis,” Macron said during his solemn address to France in which he announced the closing of all schools and other measures.
His reference to divisions apparently referred to U.S. President Donald Trump’s announcement of sharp restrictions on travel to the United States from 26 European countries — without advance consultations.
The U.N. children’s agency says handwashing with soap is critical in the fight against the new coronavirus but billions of people around the world don’t have ready access to a place to wash their hands.
UNICEF said in a statement that according to the latest data only three out of five people worldwide — 60% — have basic handwashing facilities.
According to the latest estimates, UNICEF said 40% of the world’s population, or three billion people, don’t have a facility with water and soap at home, and in the world’s poorest countries the figure rises to 75%.
Italian civil protection authorities say the number of coronavirus infections has soared by more than 2,500 in the last 24 hours while virus-related deaths make largest single-day jump of 250.
That brings the total number of infected in Italy to 17,660 since the outbreak began on Feb. 21, and the number of related deaths to 1,266.
Italy is the epicenter of the virus outbreak in Europe.
Nearly 400 doctors in Oregon have signed a letter to Gov. Kate Brown asking her to take more dramatic steps to protect Oregonians from the coronavirus and prepare the state’s health care system for an influx of patients.
The letter says “we see ourselves making decisions in the next two weeks on who will live and who will died because we don’t have resources sufficient to care for them.”
The doctors are asking Brown to create a statewide call center, a statewide helpline for medical workers and a medical ethics team, whose members would create guidelines on how to use medical resources if there are not enough supplies to treat everyone equally.
Brown did not immediately respond to the letter but all Oregon schools will be closed for two weeks starting Monday.
Science policy leaders from around the globe are calling on publishers to immediately make available all research and data on the new coronavirus.
They are asking in a letter addressed to members of the scholarly publishing community to make coronavirus research available in the PubMed Central repository and the World Health Organization’s COVID data base.
The science advisers said a prompt response from the scientific and publishing committee will accelerate global efforts to contain the virus “and thus save lives.”
The Los Angeles Unified School District and San Diego school districts will close starting March 16 because of the coronavirus threat.
The decision was announced by superintendents of both districts, which together serve 750,000 students.
They are the latest in a growing number of districts across the U.S.
West Virginia, Idaho and Montana are the last states without a confirmed case of the coronavirus after Alabama announced one.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice still shuttered schools statewide on Friday in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. has 1,701 cases and 41 deaths.
Greece has announced new sweeping closures in an effort to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, amid a significant jump in confirmed cases.
Health Minister Vassilis Kikilias said the extra measures were being taken because people were not adhering to advice for social distancing.
Greece’s confirmed cases jumped Friday from 117 to 190.
Tsiodras said closures would now extend to all shopping malls, cafes, bars and restaurants, except those that provide only take-away food. Greece has already shut down schools and universities, gyms, cultural centers and cinemas.
The mayor of Miami has tested positive for the new coronavirus after meeting with a Brazilian senior official who was also in close proximity to President Donald Trump.
Mayor Francis Suarez said Friday he was not feeling any symptoms and advised anyone who shook hands with him or was close to him to self-isolate for 14 days.
Florida has reported about 43 cases of the new coronavirus.
The head of the World Health Organization says Europe, not China, is now the epicenter of the world’s coronavirus pandemic.
Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva that “more cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”
He says Europe now has “more reported virus cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China.”
Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
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