/Coronavirus updates: US death toll rises to 26 as WHO warns of very real pandemic threat

Coronavirus updates: US death toll rises to 26 as WHO warns of very real pandemic threat

ALBANY, N.Y. – Schools, temples, churches and other large gathering places within much of the New York City suburb of New Rochelle will be shut down for two weeks as the state battles to contain of one of the nation’s worst coronavirus clusters.

The National Guard will be called in to help clean facilities and deliver food, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. 

Cuomo announced plans to enforce a “containment area” for a 1-mile radius around the center of the cluster, an area of Westchester County that includes much of the city of New Rochelle and stretches into the town of Eastchester. As of Tuesday afternoon, the state had 174 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, second only to Washington state.

“This is literally a matter of life and death,” Cuomo said.

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More than 100 cases are in Westchester County, tied to an Orthodox Jewish community where a lawyer was the first case in the region. 

Any large gathering places, including several public schools, within the containment area will be closed from Thursday through March 25, the governor said. Residents who live within the containment area will be free to leave their homes and the area so long as they have not otherwise been ordered to quarantine, Cuomo added. 

In New York City, the United Nations closed its headquarters to the general public and suspended guided tours in an effort to prevent spread of the virus.

Here’s the latest on the outbreak of COVID-19: 

US death toll rises to 28

The U.S. death toll due to coronavirus has risen to 28, as infections spread to all but a handful of states. The global death toll topped 4,000 and the number of confirmed cases approached 117,000. New Jersey reported its first death, a 69-year-old Bergen County man with several underlying health complications including emphysema, diabetes and hypertension. State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said the man went into cardiac arrest Monday night and was revived, but died Tuesday morning after going into cardiac arrest again. 

Trump: ‘It will go away, just stay calm’

President Donald Trump sought to allay concerns over the spread of coronavirus Tuesday on Capitol Hill after pitching Senate Republicans on his plan to provide relief to those affected by the economic uncertainty amid the outbreak. 

“It will go away, just stay calm,” he told reporters after the meeting. “Everybody has to be vigilant and has to be careful. But be calm. It’s really working out.” 

The president’s proposed stimulus package is expected to include a payroll tax cut, a provision that has been met with mixed reaction among some Republican senators. 

“They were just about all there, mostly all there,” Trump said.

Trump also said he feels “extremely good” and didn’t “think it’s a big deal” to be tested for coronavirus, and the White House doctor told him he saw “no reason to do it.”

Some lawmakers who been in close contact with Trump in recent days have self-quarantined after coming into contact with a person who tested positive for coronavirus at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Maryland last month. Top among them was Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who flew with Trump aboard Air Force One from Florida back to Washington on Monday, and Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who was recently named Trump’s chief of staff.

Gaetz tweeted Tuesday that he tested negative but will remain in quarantine until Thurs

– Courtney Subramanian

Sanders cancels Cleveland rally

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has cancelled tonight’s rally in Cleveland, Ohio, where the candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination was planning to await the results of a big day of primaries.

Mike Casca, communications director for the Sanders campaign, released a statement that said safety concerns prompted the decision.

“We are heeding the public warnings from Ohio state officials, who have communicated concern about holding large, indoor events during the coronavirus outbreak,” the statement said.

Sanders trails former Vice President Joe Biden by more than 70 delegates in the race for the nomination. Six states — Idaho, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota and Washington — are holding primaries today.

– Jorge L. Ortiz

Pence: Insurers to waive copays for coronavirus testing

Vice President Mike Pence said Tuesday that health insurers have agreed to waive copayments for coronavirus testing and extend coverage for COVID-19 treatment in all of their benefit plans.

Pence, who is heading the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, made the announcement at a White House meeting with representatives of insurance companies and the health industry.

Insurers also have agreed to cover the cost of telemedicine and promised “no surprise billing” for coronavirus-related costs, Pence said.

– Michael Collins

Italy paralyzed by national lockdown

Severe lockdown protocols that had been in place across northern Italy were expanded to the entire nation of 60 million people on Tuesday. Italians have been told to avoid all unnecessary travel and to stay at home, except for essential work and to buy groceries. All gatherings in public places have been banned, bars and restaurants must close by 6 p.m. and most sporting events are not allowed. The measures will be in place until at least April 3, Premier Giuseppe Conte said.

“Italy’s future is in our hands,” Conte said. “At stake is the health of our loved ones, our parents, our children, our grandparents.”

Italy has had 10,149 reported cases and 631 deaths, both of those the second largest figures in the world.

No tests for nursing home employees at center of US outbreak

Another 31 residents have tested positive for the coronavirus at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, that is the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak. At least 19 residents of the Life Care Center have died.

Center spokesman Tim Killian said 120 people lived at the center when the outbreak began and that 53 remain. He said those with mild symptoms are being treated on site, following instructions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Killian also said the facility has been unable to acquire test kits for 65 employees, now in self-quarantine, showing symptoms of the infection.

Markets stabilize after plummeting

Stocks rose sharply early Tuesday, but had given up much of their gains by mid-afternoon. That followed a plunge of about 7% the previous day, the worst drop in U.S. stocks since 2008. Trump has said he would propose “very major” and “very dramatic” measures to help workers and businesses hurt by the virus outbreak.

Passengers await exodus from Grand Princess

More than 2,000 passengers and crew anxiously awaited exodus from the Grand Princess cruise ship when disembarkation continued Tuesday in Oakland, California. 

More than 20 passengers dealing with acute illness and scores of Canadians bound for a flight home were among the first group to exit the ship Monday. The vessel had been floating off the California coast since Thursday, when 21 of those aboard – including 19 crew members – tested positive for the coronavirus. U.S. passengers are bound for quarantine at military bases.

On the East Coast, the Caribbean Princess faced a no-sail order from the CDC after learning two crew members had transferred from another vessel where at least one guest tested positive for the virus. Neither crew member appears symptomatic, Princess Cruises said in a statement. 

The Caribbean Princess will make a brief stop at Grand Cayman for test kits and then is expected to anchor off the coast of Florida until the no-sail order is lifted, the statement said.

– David Oliver

Airlines cut flights, warn things could ‘get worse’

American Airlines announced sweeping flight cutbacks due a steep drop in travel demand. And unlike the significant cuts announced by United last week, they extend into the peak summer travel season.

American said it is reducing international seat capacity by 10% this summer, including a 55% reduction in flights across the Pacific. Flights within the United States will be reduced by 7.5% for April. Travelers will be rebooked on other flights or offered a refund, even if they have nonrefundable tickets.

Delta CEO Ed Bastian said bookings are down 25% to 30% and his airline is prepared for things to “get worse.” The airline is cutting international flight capacity by 20% to 25% and domestic by 15%. “This clearly is not an economic event,” Bastian said. “This is a fear event probably more akin to 9/11 than what we saw in (the recession) in 2009.”

– Dawn Gilbertson 

Veterans Affairs nursing homes in ’emergency situation’

Veterans Affairs medical facilities are screening patients and restricting visitors as the agency grapples with five cases of COVID-19. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said visitors are not allowed at the agency’s roughly 135 nursing homes, which house more than 8,000 veterans, saying those facilities are “going into an emergency situation.” One veteran has a confirmed case of the virus, VA officials said. Four others have tested positive, but those findings have not yet been confirmed.

– Donovan Slack, USA TODAY

Ohio State halts in-person classes

Ohio State became the latest university to suspend in-person classes in favor of virtual, online instruction through at least the end of the month amid coronavirus concerns. Stanford, Princeton and Harvard have announced similar plans. OSU also suspended all university-sponsored international travel until at least April 20.

“We are being proactive in an effort to prevent illness and continue the important work of the university,” President Michael V. Drake said in an email to the campus community.

– Jennifer Smola, The Columbus Dispatch

‘Wheel of Fortune’ spins without an audience

The popular NBC game show “Wheel of Fortune” is the latest television project to shift plans amid the coronavirus scare. The show is taping without live studio audiences, USA TODAY has confirmed. Last week, CBS announced it was suspending production on “The Amazing Race” in response to the outbreak. “Wheel of Fortune” tapes months in advance, so the presumably quieter shows will not immediately be noticeable to viewers at home. Both are filmed at a studio in Culver City, California.

– Cydney Henderson

Locker rooms off limits to media

Officials from four major professional sports leagues – MLB, NBA, NHL and MLS – have announced that team clubhouses and locker rooms will temporarily be closed to the media and non-essential personnel, effective Tuesday.

Instead, all interviews will take place in designated areas outside locker rooms. The media will also be asked to maintain a six-foot distance from players during those Q&A sessions.

– Gabe Lacques, Bob Nightengale and Jeff Zillgitt

California county cancels mass gatherings following first death

Santa Clara County in California has canceled mass gatherings of more than 1,000 people, a move that could have a significant impact on three local sports teams. The order, issued by the county’s Public Health Officer on Monday night, comes in the wake of the county’s first coronavirus death. The mass-gatherings ban goes into effect at 12 a.m. PDT Wednesday and will last at least three weeks. 

The move will directly impact events held at San Jose’s SAP Center — home of the NHL’s Sharks and AHL’s Barracuda — as well as at Earthquakes Stadium — home of the MLS’ Earthquakes — and potentially events at Stanford University in Palo Alto. 

— Jace Evans

More on coronavirus: 

Chinese President Xi makes first visit to Wuhan since coronavirus outbreak

President Xi Jinping visited China’s virus epicenter Tuesday for the first time since cases of a then-unidentified respiratory illness emerged in the city of Wuhan in December. The disease’s spread in China cast scrutiny on Xi’s leadership, and he was conspicuously absent from the public eye during the early days of the crisis. Initial failures to react quickly were pegged on municipal and provincial-level officials.

Xi’s visit may indicate that the ruling Communist Party is feeling confident about the results of its anti-virus campaign, which shut down much of the world’s second-largest economy starting in late January.

Tennessee clamps down on info

As the number of confirmed coronavirus cases increases in Tennessee, state officials have said they will no longer release county-level data — a move critics say is a step backward that will generate confusion.

After the state announced its first case of coronavirus last week, Department of Health Commissioner Lisa Piercey said the 44-year-old man was a Williamson County resident. But since then, the state government has clamped down on what and how often information is released.

Health departments in states across the country with confirmed cases of coronavirus have released a wide range of information.

— Joel Shannon

Map: Which states have coronavirus cases?

Here’s a look at which U.S. states have reported cases of COVID-19: 

What’s the worldwide death toll?

The global death toll surged to 4,259 by Tuesday afternoon, pushed by a rising number of fatalities in Italy (631), Iran (291) and South Korea (54), according to a Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

The total of confirmed cases has surpassed 117,000, with more than 80,700 in mainland China, where the virus has killed more than 3,100 people. Six other countries have at least 1,000 cases — Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Germany and Spain.

For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough, but it can progress to serious illness including pneumonia, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. The World Health Organization says mild cases last about two weeks, while most patients with serious illness recover in about three to six weeks.

Contributing: The Associated Press