Here’s what you need to know:
House passes a sweeping relief package as the coronavirus spreads to 49 states.
The House has passed a sweeping relief package to assist people affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus, moving to confront a growing pandemic that has upended lives and wreaked havoc on financial markets.
The vote followed a roller-coaster day of negotiations that threatened to veer off track as President Trump criticized the plan during a White House Rose Garden news conference in which he declared a national emergency. Instead, by dusk, Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote to House Democrats saying they had reached an agreement with the administration, and Mr. Trump later tweeted that he would sign the bill “ASAP!”
As the coronavirus continues to spread in the United States, people are increasingly worried that it could have a disproportionate effect on the nation’s poor and disadvantaged. The virus has now been reported in more than 2,100 people in 49 states, as well as Washington and Puerto Rico, and has killed at least 48 people.
When officials in Washington State chose two locations to house people exposed to the virus, they picked areas in mostly low-income neighborhoods, drawing ire from local officials who noted that the communities had not yet experienced any cases. Dana Ralph, the mayor of Kent, south of Seattle, said residents wondered if their neighborhoods were being sacrificed to protect wealthier ones.
Their fears came true when a person who was housed in a converted motel wandered away and hopped on a bus. The bus was taken out of service, but the community was angered.
And the closing of schools in more than a dozen states continues to create concerns that children may miss meals and parents may not be able to stay home from work. Mayor Bill de Blasio, under increasing pressure to close New York City schools, has maintained that the schools are a lifeline for the city’s most vulnerable and refused to cancel classes.
After Los Angeles Unified School District announced it was closing, school officials said that they would open 40 family resource centers to provide child care and meals to students whose parents cannot get out of work.
Warnings that prisons could be overtaken with the virus — as they have in some other countries — began to seem increasingly plausible. On Friday, Washington State announced that a prison employee tested positive for the virus. A jail employee in Hancock County, Ind., also tested positive.
The announcements came as the Bureau of Prisons, which runs federal prisons that hold more than 175,000 people, suspended all visits to prisoners for 30 days, including most by lawyers.
Apple says it will close most stores worldwide for two weeks.
Apple said on Friday that it would temporarily close most of its stores worldwide, becoming one of the first major retailers to take such drastic measures.
The company’s chief executive, Timothy D. Cook, said that Apple would shutter all stores until March 27, excluding those in mainland China — where infections have significantly declined recently — and in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
“The most effective way to minimize risk of the virus’s transmission is to reduce density and maximize social distance,” Mr. Cook said in a statement posted to the company’s website.
Many firms around the world are contemplating similar measures. Patagonia, the outdoor-clothing retailer, said on Friday that it would shut its stores until late March. Starbucks has said it would consider closing stores temporarily as a “last resort.”
The virus has already taken a toll on many businesses, disrupting supply chains and hurting demand in critical markets.
Apple recently reopened all of its 42 stores in China, after closing them for more than a month. But the company has struggled to ramp up production of smartphones amid delays at its factories in China.
Italians cope with quarantine by singing on their balconies.
Italians may be stuck at home — the country is now locked down, in the face of what is so far Europe’s most severe coronavirus outbreak — but they are still getting their voices heard.
At precisely noon on Saturday, millions of Italians, from Piedmont to Sicily, leaned out of windows or stood on their balconies to applaud the health care workers in hospitals and other front-line medical staff who have been working round the clock to care for coronavirus patients.
As church bells normally drowned out by traffic pealed in the surreal silence that defines Italy since Wednesday’s lockdown, applause filled streets, piazzas and even country roads, after messages went viral on social media calling Italians to put their hands together.
There was a similar response to another online appeal Friday evening, asking Italians to sing the national anthem — or play it on a musical instrument — at exactly 6 p.m. The socially distant flash mob swept social media.
Naturally, not everyone is blessed with a voice like Pavarotti. Some Italians preferred banging on pots and calling out, “We will make it.”
It’s unclear who began the musical interlude, but in the land that gave the world opera, it’s clearly not meant to be a cacophonous mess, and a program for more songs is spreading online. At 6 p.m. on Saturday, Italians will sing “Azzurro,” a 1968 hit by the singer Adriano Celentano, and on Sunday, “Ma il cielo è sempre più blu,” by Nino Gaetano, which topped the charts in 1975.
At U.S. airports, lax screening raises concern.
As thousands of Americans flee from Europe and other centers of the coronavirus outbreak, many travelers are reporting no health screenings upon departure and few impediments at U.S. airports.
Since January, officers from Customs and Border Protection have been on heightened alert for travelers who might spread the virus. The Department of Homeland Security has told employees to look for physical symptoms, search through travel documents and review a federal tracking database.
But travelers, including some who say they showed visible signs of illness, say screening has been lax. Members of Congress this week grilled senior Homeland Security officials over what some described as a porous screening process.
Even top officials at the department acknowledge that fully sealing the United States from the virus is impossible.
“We are trying to reduce and delay the biggest peak in the virus wave hitting on the United States of America,” said Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security. “And all of these steps reduce and delay. They do not stop the virus.”
Everyone entering New Zealand must self-isolate, as nations tighten restrictions.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern of New Zealand has announced that everyone arriving in the country after Sunday night will have to isolate themselves for 14 days. Quarantine for travelers and self-isolation, she said, is the only way to protect the country from community outbreak. The measure applies to citizens of New Zealand as well as foreigners.
“We must go hard, and we must go early,” she said at a news conference Saturday. “We must do everything we can to protect the health of New Zealanders.”
She said the travel restrictions would be reviewed in 16 days. She also announced a suspension of all cruise ship arrivals until at least the end of June.
Many other nations began tighter restrictions to deal with the pandemic:
After Spain put its capital under lockdown on Friday, the country at large braced for more drastic measures to be announced later on Sunday. “We’re the new Italy,” said Francisco Gutierrez, a 33-year-old street cleaner for the city of Madrid. “We don’t know how long it’s going to last, and we don’t know how much Spain will suffer from this yet.”
In Indonesia, which reported a sharp increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on Saturday, the governor of Jakarta announced that schools in the capital would close for two weeks. Achmad Yurianto, the government’s chief spokesman for the coronavirus outbreak, said on Saturday that the number of cases in the world’s fourth most-populous country had risen by 27 the day before to 96. Five people have died from the virus, he said.
Rwanda reported its first case on Saturday, an Indian national who arrived on March 8 from Mumbai, the Health Ministry said in a statement on Saturday. The man showed no symptoms on arrival but sought medical help on March 13, the ministry said. Rwanda, in eastern Africa, is the 19th African nation to report the presence of coronavirus, Reuters said.
Namibia, in southern Africa, reported its first two cases of coronavirus on Saturday: a Spanish couple who arrived there on Wednesday. They are both under quarantine, Health Minister Kalumbi Shangula said in a news conference on Saturday. He said the government would continue with plans to celebrate Namibia’s Independence Day on March 21.
The president of Colombia ordered that the border with Venezuela be closed as part of its coronavirus containment measures.
Poland will close its borders to everyone but citizens on Sunday. The government announced that all international air and rail travel would be suspended for at least 10 days. Schools in the country were closed on Wednesday, and the Polish authorities said they would also cancel public gatherings for more than 50 people and close businesses, including some shopping malls, clubs, pubs and restaurants. So far, Poland has noted 68 cases of infection. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have announced similar measures.
Ukraine will bar all foreign visitors from entering, starting on Sunday afternoon. Ukrainian citizens will be allowed to return, though they may be quarantined, depending on where they are coming from.
In Denmark, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that all foreigners who did not have an essential purpose for visiting the country would be turned away. Cargo transports are exempt, but passenger ferries and trains will stop running. Danish citizens are free to return. The measures will be in effect until at least April 13.
Iranian state TV said the death toll from the coronavirus had risen to 611, with 12,729 confirmed cases in the country.
Under pressure, the U.K. government appears ready to ban mass gatherings.
After criticism of its measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the British government appeared on Saturday to be ready to change tack and ban mass gatherings, something that it had so far resisted.
But much is still unclear about the plan: The government has not revealed what size of gatherings would be restricted, or how it would enforce a ban.
Scores of events have already been canceled by organizers, including high-profile soccer matches in the country’s Premier League, where Mikel Arteta, the head coach of Arsenal, said he had tested positive for the virus.
With events apparently overtaking it, the British government said it was now considering new measures that could ban events from next weekend. The country’s care minister, Helen Whately, told the BBC that such a move would have limited impact on the spread of the virus, but could free up emergency workers.
“We are following the evidence. As the chief medical officer said, and I have been advised, the evidence tells us that stopping mass gatherings doesn’t have a huge impact on the spread of the virus,” Ms Whately said.
The government has said that transmission of the virus was unlikely in open-air stadiums and that people were more likely to pass it on if they were watching sports events in bars instead.
But critics argued that spectators usually travel to mass gatherings on crowded public transportation and often visit pubs or bars there, too.
In Scotland the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, had already called for all events with more than 500 people to be canceled.
The British government’s move to reverse course comes after Nadine Dorries, a health minister who became the first member of Parliament to test positive for the coronavirus, said on Friday that her mother was also infected.
“We have had my 84yo Mums results through,” Ms. Dorries said in a post on Twitter. “She tested positive. She’s a pre war baby, doing ok. Made of strong stuff.”
Several lawmakers have been self-isolating after being in contact with Ms. Dorries, including International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who told local news outlets on Friday that she had tested negative but would stay in isolation as a precaution.
Another self-isolating Conservative lawmaker, Andrew Bridgen, told The Guardian newspaper that he and his family, including his 18-month-old son, were being tested after he had lunch near Ms. Dorries last week.
“I said two weeks ago we should have closed Parliament to visitors,” he added. “Parliament is like an airport — we have got people coming in from all over the world.”
South Korea’s aggressive testing may be paying off.
For a second day in a row, the number of coronavirus patients released from South Korean hospitals has exceeded the number of newly confirmed infections, a potential sign that the country’s aggressive test-and-treatment approach is paying off.
Unlike China and Italy, which have locked down entire cities, South Korea has not blocked the movement of people in and out of regions heavily affected by the outbreak. Instead, it has launched an aggressive campaign of tracking, testing and treating patients, conducting more than 10,000 diagnostic tests a day.
Heath officials said it was still too early to say that the country’s outbreak was under control, but they were encouraged by the recent figures. The number of recovered patients surpassed that of new infections by 177 to 110 on Friday, and by 204 to 107 on Saturday.
The improvement was due largely to a sharp decline in the number of new patients in the city of Daegu, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak and the focus of the testing campaign. So far, the country has tested more than 260,000 people. Of these, 8,086 have tested positive for the virus.
President Trump will not be tested for the virus, doctor says.
Over the past 24 hours, a question has loomed large over the White House: Would President Trump, 73, be tested after interacting with at least two infected members of the Brazilian delegation that visited his Mar-a-Lago estate last weekend?
Late Friday, Sean P. Conley, the White House physician, offered an answer: Mr. Trump would not be tested — nor would he self-quarantine.
Trump’s interactions with the infected individuals qualified as “LOW risk,” so quarantine was not recommended, Dr. Conley said in a statement. He added that because the president showed no symptoms of the virus, “testing for Covid-19 is not currently indicated.”
Pressure on Mr. Trump to get tested has been growing since Fabio Wajngarten, a top communications aide to President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, tested positive after visiting Mar-a-Lago. On Friday, two other senior Brazilian officials who accompanied Mr. Bolsonaro on his Florida trip disclosed that they, too, had tested positive for the coronavirus and had gone into quarantine.
One of them, Nestor Forster, Brazil’s top diplomat in Washington, sat at a dinner table with Mr. Trump.
Some medical experts say testing should not be ruled out for people who are asymptomatic, since there is evidence that they can spread the virus to others.
Defense Department bans official travel for service members in U.S.
The Pentagon on Friday said it was halting all official travel for military service members in the United States beginning on Monday for nearly three months.
The decision by David L. Norquist, the deputy defense secretary, was another severe measure taken by an American institution to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
The new travel restrictions apply to service members, civilians employed by the Department of Defense, and families who are assigned to Department of Defense facilities in the United States. They only apply to official travel. In an unsigned statement, the department said there may be exemptions for “compelling cases” in which the travel is essential to a mission, warranted for humanitarian reasons or necessary because of “extreme hardship.”
Your home dynamics have changed. Here’s how to manage the shift.
More schools are closing, more companies are asking employees to work remotely. Here are some tips to help you work from home more efficiently, and balance home schooling for your children.
And here is more coverage on how the coronavirus affects your day-to-day life here.
China, a top maker of face masks, is only now sharing them with the world.
As hospitals and governments hunt for respirators and surgical masks to protect doctors and nurses from the coronavirus pandemic, they face a difficult reality: The world depends on China to make them, and the country is only beginning to share.
China made half the world’s masks before the coronavirus emerged there, and it has expanded production nearly 12-fold since then. But it has been claiming that output for itself in large part.
“Mask exports are still not authorized, but we are following the situation every day,” said Guillaume Laverdure, chief operating officer of Medicom, a Canadian manufacturer that makes three million masks a day at its Shanghai factory.
Worries about mask supplies are rising worldwide, putting pressure on China to meet the needs, even as it continues to grapple with the coronavirus itself. Although government data suggests China has brought infection rates under control, epidemiologists warn that its outbreak could flare again as officials loosen travel limits and more people return to work.
The rate of new infections in China has continued to slow. On Friday, just 11 new cases were confirmed, officials said — four in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began, and seven among travelers who had arrived from abroad. Thirteen deaths were also reported, bringing China’s total official death toll from the outbreak to 3,189, out of 80,824 infections.
A silver lining: Social isolation reduces carbon emissions.
Can social isolation help reduce the production of greenhouse gases and end up having unexpected consequences for climate change?
“Any time you can avoid getting on a plane, getting in a car or eating animal products, that’s a substantial climate savings,” said Kimberly Nicholas, a researcher at the Lund University Center for Sustainability Studies in Sweden.
Many people trying to avoid the coronavirus are already two-thirds of the way there.
“For average Americans, the biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions is driving,” Dr. Nicholas said. Anything that reduces driving, including working from home, “has a big impact on our climate pollution.”
Avoiding air travel can have a large effect as well: One round-trip flight from New York to London, she said, produces as much greenhouse gas emissions as the preventive climate impact of nearly eight years of recycling.
Reporting was contributed by Liz Alderman, Johanna Berendt, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Keith Bradsher, Stephen Castle, Damien Cave, Emily Cochrane, Javier Hernandez, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Andrew Kramer, Richard C. Paddock, Elian Peltier, Elisabetta Povoledo, Peter Robins, Choe Sang-Hun, Marc Santora, John Schwartz and Muktita Suhartono
View original article here Source