The Latest: Virus disrupts work at U.S. state capitols

The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:

Concerns about the new coronavirus are disrupting work in U.S. state capitols across the country.

The Illinois and Delaware legislatures and the Missouri Senate canceled sessions for next week.

Officials at other state capitols canceled tours and urged the general public to stay away while they work.

Leaders of the Maryland General Assembly said Thursday that they were limiting public testimony at committee hearings, instead encouraging people to submit comments electronically about pending legislation.

Lawmakers in Washington state, where most of the U.S. deaths from COVID-19 have occurred, are rushing to finish work on a budget that includes funding for the state’s coronavirus response before their session comes to its regularly scheduled adjournment on Thursday.

In South Dakota, state Rep. Spencer Gosch felt ill and left to get tested for the virus on Thursday while his colleagues kept working, trying to finish the state budget.


A Chinese medical team and surplus ventilators, protective masks and other equipment are heading to Italy in a remarkable exchange of medical knowhow and material from the source of the coronavirus outbreak to its current epicenter.

The Italian Red Cross says a plane bringing a nine-person Chinese team of experts and nine cargo pallets of medical equipment would land late Thursday in Rome.

The team includes Chinese ICU specialists, pediatricians and nurses who helped manage the crisis in China.

Italian officials say they are eager to learn from the Chinese experience, particularly clinical data and experimental drug regimens.

With 15,113 positive cases Thursday and 1,016 dead, Italy’s fatality rate is running at 6.7%, far higher than other countries. Italy has the second oldest population in the world after Japan.


New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says the state will ban all gatherings with 500 or more people in an effort to contain the virus.

Cuomo says the ban will start for most places on 5 p.m. Friday. Broadway theaters will be affected earlier.

Cuomo said Thursday that venues of under 500 people can only be filled to half their capacity.

The move comes after several major cultural institutions in New York City including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall announced they would temporarily close.


California Gov. Gavin Newsom says nearly 500 passengers remain aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship docked in Oakland, California. He hopes they will all be off the ship by the end of the day Thursday.

In addition to the 21 people who previously tested positive while aboard the ship, Newsom says at least two more people have tested positive after leaving.

Newsom expects the number to climb as more people are tested.

He says the refusal by Lachland Air Force Base in Texas to take non-Texan U.S. citizens “has not helped our logistics to be candid with you.”

Newsom says that bases in California and Georgia have welcomed other stranded Americans.

The ship was carrying about 3,500 passengers and crew when it docked earlier this week in Oakland.


A top U.S. Health and Human Services department official is criticizing news reports that the Trump administration held coronavirus briefings and discussions in classified facilities to control the spread of information,and to exclude medical and scientific experts.

Robert Kadlec, assistant HHS secretary for preparedness and response, told lawmakers that while numerous briefings and discussions were held in classified facilities, “the nature and content of those conversations are not classified.”

Kadlec was questioned by Rep. William Clay, D-Mo., during a hearing before the House Oversight and Reform committee.

Kadlec cited the White House situation room as an example of such a classified facility and says such facilities are administered under special rules For example, escort is required. “The nature of the conversations remained unclassified in those settings,” he said.

NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci reassured lawmakers, saying, “There is nothing that we say in there that we’re afraid to say to you right here.”

Clay read out a section of the federal statute on official secrets, which stipulates that classification shall not be used to cover up potentially damaging or embarrassing information.


The body that oversees elections in the United Kingdom has requesting a delay to the local elections due to take place in May to because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Electoral Commission’s chief executive Bob Posner says there are “real risks to the successful delivery” of the elections, including to the post of Mayor of London, that are due to take place on May 7.

He says in a letter to top U.K. members of governments that it has “become clear that the risks are so significant as to raise serious concerns about the polls continuing to their current timetable.”

Posner says a decision must be be taken soon because formal procedures that kick-start elections in the U.K. take place later this month.

Polling stations have to be secured, set up and accessed, something that Posner says local authorities have concerns about. He also is raising concerns that there will be “significant numbers” of voters who will not feel like voting.


Spain’s benchmark Ibex 35 stock market index has registered it’s worst day in 28 years, with stocks dropping by 14 percent as panic over the economic impact of the virus outbreak intensified.

Thursday’s drop surpassed a a plunge on June 24, 2016, the day after the Brexit referendum. The Ibex 35 it fell 12 percent that day,

Spain announced a serious of health and economic packages to try to combat the effects of the virus, including transferring 2.8 billion euros ($3.1 million) to regional governments to help boost their strained health services.

The government also approved a measure that will allow small and medium business stall repayments on taxes for six months.

Spain, Italy and France are among the countries worst hit by the virus so far in Europe.


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called the coronavirus pandemic “the worst public health crisis for a generation” and said “many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”

Johnson called Thursday for Britons to unite behind efforts to slow the spread of the epidemic, saying “the most dangerous period is not now but some weeks away.”

Britain has 590 confirmed cases of the virus and 10 deaths, but Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser, said the actual number of infected people could be up to 10,000.

Johnson said from now on anyone with a fever or persistent cough — symptoms of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus — should stay at home for a week.

Some scientists have criticized Britain’s measured response to the outbreak. Unlike many European countries, the U.K. has not announced the widespread closures of schools or other gathering-places.


A Chinese government spokesman has suggested that the U.S. Army could be responsible for bringing the new coronavirus to China.

Lijian Zhao offered no explanation for his allegation in a late Thursday night tweet that read in part “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe(s) us an explanation!”

Wuhan is the Chinese city where the first cases of the disease were detected in December.

China has taken offense at Trump administration officials blaming the outbreak on China.

Worldwide, 126,000 people have been infected with the new coronavirus, 68,000 have recovered and 4,600 have died.


Top U.S. health officials are defending President Donald Trump’s new travel restrictions on Europe.

Under questioning Thursday at a House hearing, NIH’s Dr. Anthony Fauci and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said the travel restrictions were a response to the changing nature of the pandemic. Fauci has served six presidents and is considered the country’s pre-eminent infectious disease expert, while Redfield is a Trump political appointee.

Fauci told the House Oversight and Reform committee that 70% of new infections in the pandemic are coming from Europe.

He says “it was pretty compelling that we needed to turn off the source from that region.” Fauci said he would be supportive of additional travel restrictions “if the dynamics of the outbreak mandate that.”

Redfield agreed with that assessment.


Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has suspended flights to Europe and Colombia for a month, citing concerns for the new coronavirus.

Maduro added in a national broadcast that the illness has not yet been detected in Venezuela, despite it being confirmed in each bordering country, including Colombia, Brazil and Guyana.

Venezuela’s health services are in a state of collapse after years of economic deterioration and political paralysis.


Italy, the center of Europe’s coronavirus pandemic, has hit the milestone of 1,000 deaths since it saw its first cases in mid-February.

Italy’s positive cases continued their upward trend Thursday, registering 15,113 confirmed cases and the death toll hit 1,016.

More than half of those who are in intensive care in Italy are located in hard-hit Lombardy provice, which on Thursday reported 605 ICU patients in a region with only 610 ICU beds.

Hospitals in Lombardy are are overflowing with the dead. Lombardy’s top health care official, Giulio Gallera, said at the request of the hospitals, the region had simplified the bureaucracy needed to process death certificates and bury the dead.


The European stocks index has ended the day with its biggest loss on record.

The Stoxx Europe 600 index, which measures major stocks across the region, fell 11.5% on Thursday, its worst day on record. It eclipsed the 8.5% drop during the 1987 stock market crash.

Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 10.9%, its worst loss since 1987. Germany’s DAX plunged 12.2%, which is more than it lost after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. France’s CAC 40 12.3% and Italy’s FTSE MIB a massive 16.9%.

Investors worried about a U.S. travel ban that covers much of Europe and could presage tougher government limits on business activity in order to clamp down on the virus outbreak.


Austria reported its first COVID-19 fatality in a 69-year-old man who fell ill after a trip to Italy.

Vienna’s Kaiser-Franz-Josef Hospital said the patient died of “multiple organ failure,” appeared to have recovered from the virus but suffered irreparable damage as a result of infection.


The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City says it is closing all three of its locations in the city starting Friday as a precautionary measure in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak.

The museum, popular with art lovers and tourists, said it would remain closed indefinitely and its buildings will undergo a deep cleaning. Met President Daniel Weiss said there were no confirmed cases tied to the museum.


The communications chief for Brazil’s president has tested positive for the new coronavirus just days after flying with his boss to Florida where he also met U.S. President Donald Trump.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director Fábio Wajngarten tested positive and Bolsonaro’s office says measures are being taken to protect the president’s health.

Wajngarten joined Bolsonaro on a three-day trip to the U.S.. On Saturday, he was at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and posted a photo of himself posing beside Trump. A video from the event also showed him standing directly behind both presidents as they spoke to the crowd.

Wajngarten initially denied a report on Wednesday that he had been tested for the virus, saying on his social media account that his health was fine. He is now in self-quarantine at home.


Officials on both sides of the Atlantic say Europe is the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

CDC Director Robert Redfield told U.S. lawmakers in House hearing that “within the world now, over 70% of new cases are linked to Europe. … Europe is the new China.”

The head of the Danish Health Authority, Soeren Brostroem, said Thursday that “ the epidemic has gotten a new epicenter, and that is Europe.”

He told reporters that “if one looks at day-by-day developments, Europe has the greatest growth now. And it is not just Italy, but also a number of other countries in Europe that have had a worrying development.”

The European Center for Disease says the continent has more than 22,000 cases of the new coronavirus and 943 deaths.


CDC Director Robert Redfield says his agency is working to make sure that uninsured Americans can get tested for coronavirus if it’s medically needed.

About 28 million Americans are uninsured. Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat from California, pressed Redfield on their predicament Thursday at a congressional hearing. Porter says the Health and Human Services department has the legal authority to pay for health costs.

After going back and forth with the congresswoman, Redfield said he agreed. He says “those individuals who are in the shadows can get the health care that they need during the time of us responding to this crisis,” he said.


Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Thursday that a 67-year-old man is the state’s first death from coronavirus. The man tested positive for the virus March 7 and had “underlying medical conditions.”


Mountain climbing expedition operators on Mount Everest says Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the world’s highest mountain due to fears of coronavirus.

On the other side of the mountain in Nepal, operators say cancellations for the popular spring climbing season have been pouring in, despite the mountain being open for business.

As the virus is coming under control in China, officials there are taking steps to prevent new infections coming from abroad, including by putting overseas travelers arriving in Beijing into 14-day quarantines.

China has seen nearly 81,000 infections but some 61,000 of them have already recovered. Over 3,000 virus victims have died in China, the world’s hardest-hit nation.


President Donald Trump sought to assure the markets mid-day Thursday as he took questions from reporters while meeting with Ireland’s prime minister. The president often takes credit for market gains in the last three years, though the bull market that ended this week began in early 2009.

“You have to remember the stock market, as an example, is still much higher than when I got here,” Trump said. “It’s taken a big hit, but it’s going to all bounce back and it’s going to bounce back very big at the right time.”

Trump decision to ban travel from most European countries for 30 days has rattled markets around the world and sent stocks plummeting.


Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is self-isolating at home after wife has exhibited flu-like symptoms.

Trudeau’s office said Sophie Grégoire Trudeau returned from a speaking engagement in the United Kingdom and began began exhibiting mild flu-like symptoms including a low fever late Wednesday night. She is being tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results.

The statement said “Out of an abundance of caution, the prime minister is opting to self-isolate and work from home until receiving Sophie’s results.”


The Southeastern Conference has cancelled the remainder of its 2020 men’s college basketball tournament in Nashville after holding two games the first day. It marks the first time since 1978 that it hasn’t held a tournament.

The SEC tweeted its cancellation a little more than an hour before Alabama was to face Tennessee in the first of four second-round games at Bridgestone Arena. It comes less than a day after the conference announced that spectators would be banned.


Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said religious leaders have agreed to cancel weddings, baptisms, funeral services and other ceremonies in the coming weeks to help prevent spread of the new coronavirus.

Kurz said Thursday the measures were part of efforts to enforcing “social distancing” that also includes closing middle schools and high schools beginning Monday and postpone local elections March 22 in the state of Styria. Burials are still allowed.

Austria has 302 confirmed cases.


Borders are re-emerging in Europe due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Czech government declared a state of emergency Thursday due to coronavirus and was renewing border checks at its borders with Austria and Germany.

People will be banned from crossing in at any other place.

Prime Minister Andrej Babis said people from 13 risk countries that include not only China, South Korea and Iran but also EU nations such as Italy, Spain, France, Austria and Germany as well Britain will not be allowed to enter the Czech Republic.


Congress is shutting the Capitol and all House and Senate office buildings to the public until April in reaction to the spread of the new coronavirus.

The House and Senate sergeants at arms said that the closure will begin at 5 p.m. EDT Thursday. Only lawmakers, aides, journalists and official visitors will be allowed into the buildings. The statement says officials are acting “out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public.”

Politicians in Europe, Iran and China have contracted the virus and several U.S. lawmakers have already self-quarantined due to exposure. The virus has infected over 126,000 people worldwide and killed over 4.600 but over 68,000 victims have already recovered.


World markets are enduring violent swings amid uncertainty about how badly the outbreak will hit the economy.

An early plunge of 7% on Wall Street triggered a trading halt as a sell-off slamming global markets continued.

The Dow Jones industrials dropped more than 1,600 points, or 7%, the S&P 500 fell a similar amount. Trading resumes after 15 minutes.

The rout came after President Donald Trump imposed a travel ban on most of Europe and offered few new measures to contain the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

Benchmarks in Europe fell more than 7% even after the European Central Bank announced more stimulus measures.


Princess Cruises has announced, due to the new coronavirus, it will voluntarily pause global operations of its 18 cruise ships for 60 days, affecting trips departing March 12 to May 10.

Cruise ships have been particularly hard hit amid the new pandemic and have been turned away by dozens of ports and countries. The Diamond Princess cruise ship, which Japanese officials held in a flawed quarantine operation, infected hundreds of passengers and crew.

Passengers on a Princess cruise that will end in the next five days will continue to sail as expected. Current voyages that extend beyond March 17 will end at the most convenient location for guests.

Under normal operations, the company handles more than 50,000 passengers a day.


Britain, which is exempt from the U.S. travel ban on most European nations, has not taken the stringent measures seen in other European countries, such as closing schools or banning large events.

The U.K. has 456 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus and eight deaths. But the centerpiece of official British advice so far is that people should wash their hands often in warm, soapy water.

On Thursday, Britain’s Conservative government is expected to announce that it is moving from attempting to contain the virus to delaying its spread. That is likely to bring wider measures, including a recommendation that people with flu-like symptoms stay home for a week. But there are so far no plans for travel bans or large-scale closures of schools or other institutions.

In Ireland — which is also excluded from the U.S. travel ban — 43 cases have been confirmed and one person has died.

U.S. President Donald Trump has golf courses in Scotland and Ireland.


Iran has asked for an emergency $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to combat the outbreak of the novel coronavirus there, which has killed more than 360 people and infected some 9,000 nationwide.

Iran’s economy has been battered by U.S. sanctions, which have choked Tehran’s ability to export oil widely. The virus outbreak prompted all of Iran’s neighbors to shutter their borders and nations have cut travel links with Iran, including shipping in some cases, affecting imports, as well.


Ireland is closing all schools and cultural institutions until March 29, in a major escalation of its response to the new coronavirus.

Prime Minister Leo Varadkar announced the measures would take effect at 6 p.m. Thursday. He said the closure applies to schools, colleges, childcare facilities and cultural institutions. All indoor gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor events with more than 500 are also canceled.

Speaking during a trip to Washington, Varadkar said people should work from home as much as possible.

So far 43 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Ireland and one person has died.


The European Union has slammed the new anti-virus travel ban announced by U.S. President Donald Trump, lashing out at the “unilateral” decision.

In a joint statement, EU Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen insisted that the coronavirus pandemic is a “global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action.”

Trump’s new restrictions apply only to most foreign citizens who have been in Europe’s passport-free travel zone at any point within 14 days prior to their arrival to the United States.

The so-called “Schengen” area comprises 26 countries including EU members France, Italy, German, Greece, Austria and Belgium, where the EU has its headquarters, but also others like Switzerland, Norway and Iceland.

Trump said the monthlong restriction on travel would begin late Friday. He accused Europe of not acting quickly enough to address the “foreign virus” and claimed that U.S. clusters were “seeded” by European travelers.

Von der Leyen and Michel dismissed Trump’s suggestion that the EU has not done enough.


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