The Latest: Virginia joins US states in closing all schools
The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:
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.
From midnight local time Saturday and through March 26, government offices, cinemas and gyms, among other premises, are to shut. Restaurants and bars providing home delivery will be allowed to continue operating.
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.”
Macron had announced during an address to the nation on coronavirus Thursday night that he would be discussing the summit Friday with President Donald Trump as the United States currently holds the G7 presidency.
“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 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%.
UNICEF Director of Programs Sanjay Wijesekera said the agency is continuing its efforts to make basic hygiene and sanitation available to people in every country.
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.
The leaders come from a dozen countries, including the United States, Italy, Japan and South Korea. 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.”
Over 135,000 people have been infected worldwide, the most in China, where over 3,000 patients have died and over 62,000 have already recovered.
The number of people in the U.K. testing positive for the new coronavirus jumped 35% over the past day as criticism over the government’s approach to the outbreak escalated.
The British government said 798 people had tested positive for the COVID-19 disease by Friday, up from 590 the day before. Ten people have now died. In total, 32,771 people have been tested.
The Conservative government’s strategy to contain the outbreak has come under criticism for not yet ordering the mass closure of schools, banning large events or introducing “social distancing” measures” that have been adopted elsewhere.
The Trump administration on Friday named a testing “czar” at the Department of Health and Human Services after numerous complaints about the shortage of coronavirus tests in the U.S.
Separately, the FDA posted on Twitter that labs having problems getting supplies for collecting patient samples for testing should call the agency’s toll-free information hotline.
The testing czar is Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health. He will be responsible for coordinating between CDC and FDA, as well as private labs and state and local governments.
The United States has tested far few people per capita than other countries like South Korea and Italy.
The Trump administration is awarding $1.3 million in federal money to two companies trying to develop rapid COVID-19 tests that could detect whether a person tests positive for the new coronavirus within an hour.
The Trump administration has been criticized for its lack of testing for the virus, compared to other nations around the world.
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