Key updates for March 24, 2020:
- Trump and experts spoke at the White House to update the public on Tuesday
- LaGuardia Tower goes into "staffing-related" ground delay program, report
- Person under 18 dies of coronavirus related health issue in Los Angeles County
- Liberty University opens amid virus outbreak as President Jerry Falwell Jr. deals with complaints and concerns
- President Trump is weighing how to refine nationwide social-distancing guidelines.
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis with 40,000 people in intensive care
- In an unprecedented move, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics have officially been postponed until 2021.
- India's Prime Minister has ordered a 'total lockdown' for the country's 1.3 billion residents.
- A coalition of restaurants are encouraging people to join 'The Great American Takeout' Tuesday by ordering food from your favorite restaurant.
- Congressional officials say a deal may be reached today on a $2 trillion coronavirus aid package.
- The Olympic Torch Relay was scheduled to start Thursday with no torchbearer, crowd or ceremony. It's unclear whether those plans will now be scrapped, given the Olympic postponement, but officials said the Olympic flame will stay in Japan until the games next Summer.
- Chinese authorities are lifting a lock-down of Hubei province, the area most heavily hit by the virus. Domestic cases continue to subside.
China reports 47 new COVID-19 cases, 0 in Wuhan
China’s National Health Commission has reported 47 new COVID-19 cases, all of which it says were imported infections in recent arrivals from abroad.
No new cases were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak. Wuhan will remain locked down until April 8, while the two-month lockdown of surrounding Hubei province ended at midnight Tuesday.
As the number of domestic community transmissions has dwindled, China is shifting its focus to individuals coming into the country from affected regions like the U.S. and Europe.
Starting on Wednesday, all individuals arriving in China’s capital from overseas must take a COVID-19 test in addition to being quarantined, the Beijing municipal government said in a notice. Those who have entered the city within the last 14 days will also undergo mandatory testing.
NHL extending isolation period for players and staff
The NHL is extending its recommendation for players and staff to self-isolate and stay away from team facilities. The NHL has asked that players and staff extend their self-quarantine 10 days beyond the original March 27 timeline to April 6. That further pushes back the earliest team facilities can reopen.
The league over the past two days has held conference calls with its Board of Governors and general managers to update them and take questions regarding the current situation.
There is still no clarity on when the NHL might resume its season. The league has said it's optimistic about staging playoffs and awarding the Stanley Cup.
Iowa reports first COVID-19 death
The Iowa Department of Public Health learned Tuesday of the first death associated with the coronavirus in Iowa.
The individual was an older adult, 61-80 years of age and a resident of Dubuque County. The name of the person has not been released.
Trump, experts update public at White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing
President Trump began the briefing by saying the White House is hoping to ease up on the strict guidelines amid the coronavirus outbreak by Easter. The president
President Trump said “this is a medical crisis, this isn't a financial crisis.” Dr. Deborah Birx said that while they are still working on a backlog sorting out the number of cases and deaths they are encouraged by the numbers coming out of Italy. Mortality rates in Italy are improving.
60% of new cases are coming out of the New York City metro area according to Dr. Birx, and those in the New York City metro area and who have just left are urged to self-quarantine for 14 days.
As transportation journalist Ethan Klapper of Yahoo News reports, LaGuardia Tower "which had a confirmed case of COVID-19" has made the decision to go into a "staffing-related ground delay program." Klapper reports, "this does not necessarily mean there is a new case, instead it is possible that individuals who came into contact with the positive individual cannot come to work."
A person under 18 died of coronavirus-related complications in Los Angeles
Los Angeles County confirmed four additional deaths linked to the coronavirus pandemic including one person under 18. As the Los Angeles Times reports, the number of deaths in LA County had reached 11 by Tuesday.
A Los Angeles health official was quoted saying this is "a devastating reminder that COVID-19 infects people of all ages." CNN's Jon Passantino reports that this is "believed to be the first child death" in the U.S. from the virus.
However, officials said the juvenile fatality that the Los Angeles County Department Public Health reported earlier today will require further evaluation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Though early tests indicated a positive result for COVID-19, the case is complex and there may be an alternate explanation for this fatality. Patient privacy prevents our offering further details at this time.
Officials field complaints as Liberty students return
Officials in Lynchburg, Virginia, say they are fielding complaints and concerns about the hundreds of students that have returned from their spring break to Liberty University, where President Jerry Falwell Jr. has welcomed them back amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Liberty is among the largest and most prominent evangelical institutions in the country. The university has moved most instruction online but has welcomed students back to campus, a move at odds with many other higher education institutions. Liberty spokesman Scott Lamb said that as of Tuesday morning, the university had about 1,100 students back on campus.
Playwright Terrence McNally dies at 81
One of America’s great playwrights who won Tony Awards for the plays "Love! Valour! Compassion!" and "Master Class" as well as the musicals "Ragtime" and "Kiss of the Spider Woman," has died. Terrence McNally died Tuesday of complications from the coronavirus. He was 81.
His plays and musicals explored how people connect — or fail to. With wit and thoughtfulness, he tackled the strains in families, war, and relationships and probed the spark and costs of creativity. He was an openly gay writer who wrote about homophobia, love and AIDS. He won four Tonys and an Emmy.
New York University gave him an honorary doctorate in 2019.
Trump hopes the country will be reopened by Easter
President Donald Trump is weighing how to refine nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job amid the coronavirus outbreak. At a virtual town hall hosted by Fox News on Tuesday, Trump said he is hoping the country will be reopened by Easter.
“I gave it two weeks," Trump said during the virtual town hall from the Rose Garden. He argued that tens of thousands of Americans die from the seasonal flu or in automobile accidents and “we don't turn the country off.”
Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction, staying home from work and isolating themselves, the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths.
While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread.
Harvard University president and wife test positive for COVID-19
Harvard University president Lawrence S. Bacow and his wife, Adele, have tested positive for COVID-19. The president announced his test results in a letter to the university.
Bacow said he and his wife started exhibiting symptoms Sunday and were tested Monday. He says neither he nor his wife know how they contracted the virus.
"We will be taking the time we need to rest and recuperate during a two-week isolation at home," he wrote. "I am blessed with a great team, and many of my colleagues will be taking on more responsibility over the next few weeks as Adele and I focus on just getting healthy. Thanks, in advance, for your good wishes. Thanks also for your understanding if I am not as responsive to email as I normally am."
New York governor sends dire warning
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his most dire warning yet about the coronavirus pandemic, saying the infection rate in New York is accelerating and the state could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis that projects 40,000 people in intensive care.
Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which now have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide.
Cuomo says the rate of new infections is doubling about every three days. While officials once thought the peak in New York would come in early May, they now say it could come in two to three weeks.
“We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own,” he said during a briefing in New York City. “One of the forecasters said we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train.”
There were nearly 26,000 positive cases in New York state with 210 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
India's PM orders 21-day lockdown
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a “total lockdown” in the country of 1.3 billion people during a televised address Tuesday night, the most extensive stay-at-home order yet in the world's fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The 21-day lockdown was set to begin at midnight.
“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” Modi said, adding that if the county failed to manage the next 21 days, it would be set back by 21 years.
Indian health officials have reported 469 actives cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 10 deaths.
FedEx weekend operation helps move test specimens to labs
FedEx Express says it ran a special operation over the weekend to help the government deliver coronavirus test specimens from more than 50 remote drive-thru testing sites across 12 states to 10 labs.
The company said it dedicated 28 flight legs to the special mission and will continue to provide support seven days a week as more remote testing sites open.
Restaurants urge people to join 'The Great American Takeout' campaign on Tuesday
A coalition of restaurants nationwide wants to encourage people to order out on Tuesday, March 24. They’re calling it the #GreatAmericanTakeout.
Many restaurants around the country have had to close entirely or transition to solely delivery and takeout operations, in order to combat the spread of coronavirus.
Waffle House Index shows 365 locations closed
An odd way the Federal Emergency Management Agency sometimes measures how bad a storm will be is by how many Waffle Houses turn red.
EHS Today in 2011 said if a Waffle House store is open and offering a full menu, the index is green. If it is open but serving from a limited menu, it’s yellow. When the location has been forced to close, the index is red. Because Waffle House is well-prepared for disasters… it’s rare for the index to hit red.
So, Waffle House released the numbers on Tuesday for how bad the coronavirus storm was looking by store location statistics. Tuesday 365 locations were closed with 1,627 still open.
Yelp adding donate buttons for local businesses
Yelp announced Tuesday that users will soon be able to donate to local businesses from their Yelp pages.
The move is part of a partnership with GoFundMe and the two companies plan to match the first $1 million in donations.
According to Yelp, the fundraisers will begin to appear on the pages of businesses in some of the hardest hit areas starting Tuesday, and it will be rolled out to all eligible businesses nationwide over the next couple days.
Tokyo Olympics postponed to 2021
The Tokyo Olympics have been officially postponed until 2021.
The International Olympic Committee along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and local organizers have decided that the Tokyo Games cannot go ahead as scheduled this year because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The IOC says the games will be held “not later than summer 2021” but they will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Japanese TV says Abe asked for 1-year delay on Olympics
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he proposed a one-year postponement for the Tokyo Olympics during talks with IOC President Thomas Bach and Bach agreed "100%."
Abe said a postponement is unavoidable if the 2020 Games cannot be held in a complete manner amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Abe held telephone talks with Bach after IOC said it would make a decision on the Tokyo Games over the next four weeks.
Thailand imposes state of emergency to control coronavirus
Thailand's government is imposing a one-month state of emergency allowing it to impose stricter measures to control the coronavirus that has infected hundreds of people in the Southeast Asian country.
The move, which takes effect Thursday, gives the government additional powers to implement curfews, censor the media, disperse gatherings and deploy military forces for enforcement.
Details will be announced later about that exact measures that will be imposed. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha assured the country that he is not instituting a lockdown yet. He said a decision on whether to impose stricter measures depends on whether people cooperate.
UN: 85% of new infections, deaths coming from Europe and US
A spokeswoman for the World Health Organization says case counts and deaths globally from the new coronavirus are expected to increase “considerably” when global figures are published later Tuesday.
Dr. Margaret Harris, a WHO spokeswoman, said overnight reporting showed 85% of the new cases were being reported in Europe and the United States.
Speaking at a regular U.N. Geneva briefing, Harris also cited a “glimmer of hope” in hard-hit Italy after two days of slight declines in the number of new cases and deaths, while cautioning it’s “early days yet” — and the trend needed to be monitored.
Global figures compiled by WHO at 17:00 GMT Monday showed more than 334,000 total cases globally, Harris said, “but in fact the outbreak is accelerating very rapidly and the case numbers we received overnight will put that up considerably.”
She said she did not have the exact figures to hand.
The latest WHO Situation report issued late Monday cited 14,788 deaths worldwide, including 1,727 over the latest 24-hour span.
“Just to put it in proportion: It took two years in the worst Ebola outbreak we ever had, the West African outbreak, to reach 11,000 deaths," Harris said. "So we are really seeing an enormous outbreak here."
Harris said an increasing in the rollout of testing for new coronavirus infections could partly explain the surge in case counts.
Negotiators close on a nearly $2 trillion virus aid package
Top congressional and White House officials emerged from grueling negotiations at the Capitol over the nearly $2 trillion coronavirus rescue package saying they expected to reach a deal Tuesday.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said they had spoken by phone with President Donald Trump during the long night of negotiations. While the two sides have resolved many issues in the sweeping package, some remain.
At midnight Monday, they emerged separately to say talks would continue into the night.
“We look forward to having a deal tomorrow,” Mnuchin told reporters after exiting Schumer's office.
“The president is giving us direction," Mnuhcin said. "The president would like to have a deal, and he's hopeful we can conclude this.”
Moments later, Schumer agreed that a deal was almost within reach. “That's the expectation — that we finish it tomorrow and hopefully vote on it tomorrow evening," he said.
At least two members of congress have tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Worldwide the coronavirus has infected more than 375,000 people and killed over 16,000. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems.
More than 100,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
China to lift lockdown in most of virus-hit Hubei province
Chinese authorities are lifting a two-month lockdown of most of coronavirus-hit Hubei province, as domestic cases of the virus continue to subside.
People who are cleared will be able to leave the province after midnight Tuesday. The city of Wuhan, where the outbreak started, will remain locked down until April 8.
China barred people from leaving or entering Wuhan starting Jan. 23 and expanded it to most of the province in succeeding days. The drastic steps came as a new coronavirus began spreading to the rest of China and overseas during the Lunar New Year, when many Chinese travel. Hubei has seen almost no new infections for more than a week.
CDC releases new data on Diamond Princess outbreak
The Centers for Disease Control and prevention have released data from a study looking at how the U.S. and Japan responded to the outbreak of COVID-19 on a Diamond Princess cruise ship.
The ship was quarantined in Japan in early February after a passenger, who had departed in Hong Kong, tested positive for the new coronavirus. Passengers were later repatriated to their home countries after testing was done.
Among 3,711 Diamond Princess passengers and crew, 712, or 19.2% had positive test results for COVID-19. Of the 712 positive cases, 331, or 46.5% were asymptomatic. The CDC said the "high proportion of asymptomatic infections could partially explain the high attack rate among cruise ship passengers and crew."
The study also found that a "variety of surfaces in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic infected passengers up to 17 days after cabins were vacated." The study stressed that the data could not be used to determine whether the virus spread from contaminated surfaces. According to the CDC, the virus is mainly spread through respiratory droplets.
Amazon fights back against price gouging
Amazon recently updated its customers on how the company is combating price gouging. The company said in a blog post it had removed "more than 3,900 selling accounts in our U.S. store alone" for violating fair pricing politics.
USA Gymnasts join others in favor of Olympics postponement
USA Gymnastics says a majority of senior national team members have indicated in an anonymous survey that they were in favor of the Tokyo Olympics being pushed back from its scheduled July opening.
USA Gymnastics President Li Li Leung says the organization would not specify how long of a delay it is asking for but added that most respondents were pushing for a year.
USA Swimming and USA Track and Field also have called for a postponement to the games while the International Olympics Committee considers postponing the Summer Games because of the
Olympic torch relay: No torch, no torchbearers, no public
The Tokyo Olympic torch relay will start as planned in northeastern Fukushima prefecture. But it will go on with no torch, no torchbearers, no public, and little ceremony to avoid spreading the coronavirus.
There will, however, be an Olympic flame carried in a lantern and transported by a vehicle along what organizers hope will be empty roadsides, and with any casual viewers practicing social distancing.
The Tokyo Games and the relay have been caught in limbo since International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said four weeks were needed to decide on an inevitable postponement of the planned opening on July 24. Most expect the Olympics to be held in 2021.
Trump says he intends to reopen country in weeks, not months
President Donald Trump says he wants to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months, and he claims, without evidence, that continued closures could result in more deaths than the coronavirus pandemic.
Trump said Monday that "we have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems." Trump acknowledged there are trade-offs but said that if closures stretch on for months, there would be “probably more death from that than anything that we're talking about with respect to the virus.”
The comments were further evidence that Trump has grown impatient with the pandemic, even before it has reached its expected peak.
South Africa's cases leap again as 3-week lockdown looms
South Africa's coronavirus cases have leapt again to 554. It's the most of any country in Africa.
Its 57 million people are rushing to prepare for a three-week lockdown that begins Thursday. Across Africa, 43 of its 54 countries now have cases, with the total at 1,788. Thirteen countries have reported 58 deaths.
Elsewhere in Africa, Nigeria's ban on international flights begins. And Ethiopia's government has issued a proposal to the G20 global forum for economic cooperation ahead of its summit, saying “COVID-19 poses an existential threat to the economies of African countries."
Arizona death prompts warning against self-medication
A Phoenix-area man has died and his wife is in critical condition after the couple took an additive used to clean fish tanks known as chloroquine phosphate, similar to the drug used to treat malaria.
Banner Health said on Monday that the couple in their 60s got sick within half an hour. Last week, President Donald Trump touted that the malaria medication chloroquine was a known treatment for COVID-19. The chief of the Food and Drug Administration clarified that the drug still needs to be tested for that use.
The woman told NBC that the president said the drug was essentially a cure. She said people should not taking anything and call their doctors. Banner Health is warning against self-medicating.
Texas' lieutenant governor says US should get 'back to work'
Texas' lieutenant governor says the U.S. should get back to work in the face of the global pandemic and that people over the age of 70 will “take care of ourselves.”
Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick made the comments Monday night on Fox News' “Tucker Carlson Tonight." The Centers for Disease Control says people over the age of 65 are at higher risk from the coronavirus that causes the disease COVID-19.
Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction, the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system. Patrick went on the program after President Donald Trump sad he wanted the country getting back to business in weeks, not months.
U.S. Representatives introduce an act to help postal service
Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Gerry Connolly, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations released a statement after a stimulus package with emergency funds to save the Postal Service from imminent bankruptcy was introduced.
“The Postal Service is in need of urgent help as a direct result of the coronavirus crisis. Based on a number of briefings and warnings this week about a critical fall-off in mail across the country, it has become clear that the Postal Service will not survive the summer without immediate help from Congress and the White House. Every community in America relies on the Postal Service to deliver vital goods and services, including life-saving medications. The Postal Service needs America’s help, and we must answer this call.”
The Postal Service said it's facing a potentially drastic direct effect in the near term on mail volumes and could be forced to cease operations as early as June.
Stopping Postal Service operations could have a serious impact across the country.