TOP OF THE HOUR: —British PM bans gatherings of more than 2 people as part of tougher measures. —Trump: US economy could reopen in weeks, not months. —Washington state issues stay-at-home order
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered non-essential businesses to close and the state’s more than 7 million residents to stay home unless necessary in order to slow the spread of COVID-19.
The stay-at-home order will remain in place through April 6. It expands previous actions taken by Inslee last week that ordered the statewide closure of bars, dine-in restaurants, and entertainment and recreation facilities and banned large gatherings. Several other states had already issued similar orders, including California and New York.
“This is a human tragedy on a scale we cannot yet project. It’s time to hunker down in order to win this fight,” Inslee said during a televised address.
All businesses other than those deemed essential — a long list that includes grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, and gas stations — will need to close by Wednesday night. All public and private social, spiritual and recreational gatherings are also now banned, including weddings and funerals. As of Monday, more than 2,200 coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the state, and at least 110 people have died.
China’s National Health Commission on Tuesday reported 78 new cases of COVID-19, including 74 which it says are “imported” infections in recent arrivals from overseas.
There was one new case in the central city of Wuhan, where the virus outbreak first emerged, and it did not come from abroad.
For more than a week, the vast majority of mainland China’s reported cases have been found in people coming from other countries, while community transmission inside the country has dwindled, according to the National Health Commission.
More than 400 cases have come from abroad, the commission said. Around 90% of its total reported 81,171 infected patients have recovered.
Seeking to prevent a resurgence of the virus, the government is imposing a strict quarantine on individuals entering the country.
The U.S. capital has announced 21 new positive infections from the COVID-19 coronavirus, including an infant girl, bringing the total up to 137, with two deaths so far.
As with the previous three days, Monday’s count brings a high percentage of young people. 13 of the 21 new cases are below age 40, including a 1-year-old girl.
Mayor Muriel Bowser has declared a state of emergency and closed all schools through the end of the month. The popular Cherry Blossom Festival has been postponed, White House and Capitol tours have been cancelled and the National Zoo, Smithsonian museum network and Kennedy Center have closed. Police have blocked off dozens of streets, bridges and traffic circles to limit the crowds coming to see the Washington’s signature blooming cherry blossom trees.
British Prime Minster Boris Johnson has ordered the closure of most retail stores and banned public gatherings of more than two people in a stepped-up response to slow the new coronavirus.
The British government had been taking a more relaxed approach to the pandemic until Johnson announced tougher measures during an address to the nation.
He told the public to "stay at home" for all but a few exceptions. Johnson ordered shops that don't sell essential items to close immediately. He says weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies will be stopped. Funerals are an exception.
Johnson says the coronavirus is the “biggest threat this country has faced for decades.”
President Donald Trump says he thinks the U.S. economy, which has been virtually shut down because of the coronavirus, could be reopened in weeks, not months.
When asked if doctors on his team agreed with his belief that re-opening the economy could be done while the nation continues to battle the virus, Trump says if it were up to doctors, they would shut down the entire world.
Trump says, "I'm not looking at months, I can tell you right now. We're going to be opening up the country."
The president wouldn't say when businesses would reopen. He says the lessons learned about fighting the virus in past weeks will allow the country to continue prevention and open up the country at the same time.
Trump had said earlier that the U.S. might not get back to normal until July or August.
The Australian government is asking the newly jobless to wait a few days before registering for unemployment benefits after long lines formed outside welfare offices.
The lines across the country were reminiscent of the Great Depression after a government website crashed after tens of thousands of online applications.
Social Services Minister Anne Ruston appealed for “patience and calm.”
Australia put thousands out of work by shutting down bars, gyms, cinemas, nightclubs, restaurants and a host of other places where large groups of people gather in a bid to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.
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. He says investigators will go after people who are “hoarding these goods on an industrial scale for the purpose of manipulating the market.”
The executive order allows the president to designate some items as “scarce.”
Barr says, "If you are sitting on a warehouse with surgical masks, you will be hearing a knock on your door.”
No specific items have been identified yet and the Justice Department will work with Health and Human Services to enforce the president’s order.
COVID-19 is attacking nearly 1 of every 1,000 persons in the New York metro area of New Jersey, New York City and parts of Long Island.
Deborah Birx, coordinator of the U.S. coronavirus response, says that's five times what other areas are seeing.
She says that 28% of the specimens from the New York metro area are testing positive, compared with less than 8% in the rest of the country. New York officials are asking that only people with severe symptoms get tested.
Birx says clearly the coronavirus has been circulating in the New York metro area for a number of weeks for it to have that level of penetration into the general community.
President Donald Trump says the federal government is postponing the deadline for obtaining REAL ID-compliant identification cards because of the coronavirus.
Travelers would have been required to present REAL ID cards to board U.S. flights starting on Oct. 1. The president says a new deadline will be announced soon.
Under the law, Americans are required to visit their state’s Department of Motor Vehicles and obtain a REAL ID-compliant card, or alternative such as a U.S. passport, if they want to fly domestically or access federal facilities.
The nation's governors have urged the Department of Homeland Security to extend REAL ID deadline for no less than a year.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis says he plans to issue an executive order mandating that anyone arriving on a flight from New York City and the surrounding area submit to self-quarantine for two weeks.
DeSantis says over 100 such flights arrive daily in Florida and he believes each one contains at least one person infected with the coronavirus. Passengers will be screened when they arrive and told they must self-quarantine. They won't be allowed to stay with family or friends because that is one way the virus is spread.
DeSantis says he's been in contact with federal officials about curtailing such flights, but hasn't heard back yet. He didn't say how the self-quarantine would be enforced.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio says he understands DeSantis' order since New York is an epicenter for the virus in the U.S. However, he has mixed feelings about travel restrictions and says, “I'm not sure it's the most enlightened approach.”
In Brazil, the head of Sao Paulo state’s center overseeing the fight to stop the spread of coronavirus has tested positive.
Gov. João Doria on his official Twitter account confirmed the diagnosis of Dr. David Uip, an infectious disease specialist.
Doria appeared with Uip in multiple news conferences recently. Doria says he was recently tested for Covid-19 and will release results once they are available.
Brazil has reported 1,891 cases of coronavirus, the most in Latin America. Almost 40% are in Sao Paulo, which is Brazil's most populous state. That's wherer 30 of the nation’s 34 deaths have occurred.
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — All commercial passenger flights bound for Puerto Rico will be forced to land at the island’s main international airport.
Gov. Wanda Vázquez says the Federal Aviation Administration approved her request in a bid to curb coronavirus cases.
The Luis Muñoz Marín airport in San Juan is the only one in the U.S. territory with temperature scanners. The National Guard is posted there and has screened over 25,000 passengers. At least nine are awaiting test results.
Puerto Rico has a total of seven airports, including a second international one located in the northwest town of Aguadilla. The island has reported two deaths and 31 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
ROME — The man known in Italy as Patient No. 1 in the country’s devastating outbreak of the coronavirus is out of the hospital a month after he arrived in critically ill condition.
Authorities in Italy's hardest hit region of Lombardy played an audio message recorded by the 38-year-old man in which he says, “You can get cured of this illness.”
The man identified only by his first name of Mattia spent 18 days in intensive care on a respirator. After that time, he says he began to do on his own “the most simple and beautiful thing: that is, to breathe.”
The man is awaiting the birth of a child within days. Last week, Italian media reported the death of his father, who lived in one of the first towns in Lombardy that were at the heart of the outbreak’s start.
Italian doctors say that even before Mattia's case, they suspect the virus was circulating in Italy and that some patients who died of pneumonia last fall might have had coronavirus.
PHOENIX — An Arizona man has died and his wife is in critical condition after the couple took an additive used to clean fish tanks.
Banner Health says the couple in their 60s took chloroquine phosphate and got sick within 30 minutes.
Last week, Trump misstated that the malaria medication chloroqine was a known treatment for COVID-19. Even after the FDA chief clarified that the drug still needs to be tested, Trump overstated the drug’s potential upside in containing the virus.
Dr. Daniel Brooks, medical director of Banner Poison and Drug Information Center, says the last thing health officials want is for emergency rooms to be swamped by patients who believe they found a vague and risky solution that could potentially jeopardize their health.
KIRKLAND, Wash. — Federal inspectors say they found three serious problems during their check of a Seattle-area nursing home hard-hit by the new coronavirus.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, along with state regulators, found in a March 16 inspection that the Life Care Center of Kirkland failed to rapidly identify and manage sick residents and didn't notify the Washington Department of Health about the increasing rate of respiratory infections among residents. The nursing home also lacked a backup plan in the absence of Life Care's primary doctor, who fell ill.
At least 35 COVID-19 deaths are linked to the nursing home. Life Care officials didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
VATICAN CITY — The Vatican’s daily newspaper is suspending its print edition as a result of the coronavirus-related shutdown.
It is only the second time in its more than 150-year history that L’Osservatore Romano will cease printing starting Thursday. The other time was on Sept. 20, 1870, when Italian forces entered Rome in the final major push of the process to unify the Italian peninsula and defeat the Papal States.
Editor-in-chief Andrea Monda says the newspaper's online edition will continue unchanged throughout the crisis, and the print edition will return as soon as possible. Italy, the European epicenter of the virus pandemic, has ordered all non-essential industry to shut in a bid to contain the virus.
L’Osservatore Romano prints a daily edition in Italian and weekly or monthly editions in English, Spanish, French, German and Polish. The content skews heavily toward international news and features on religion and culture, though the daily also publishes papal speeches, decrees and appointments.
CAIRO — Sudan’s transitional authorities say they are releasing over 4,200 prisoners as part of government measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
SUNA, the official news agency, says the first group went free Monday from a prison in Om Dorman, the twin city of the capital Khartoum. It said the rest would be released in the coming days.
Sudan announced a nightly curfew across the country starting Tuesday to stem the spread of coronavirus. Sudan has two cases, including a fatality.