Coronavirus updates: Suburban New York community to enact 'containment' area, close schools

ALBANY, N.Y. – Schools, temples, churches and other large gathering places within much of New Rochelle will be ordered to close for two weeks as New York tries to stop the spread of one of the country’s worst coronavirus clusters.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday announced plans to enforce a “containment area” for a 1-mile radius around the center of the cluster, an area that includes much of the city of New Rochelle and stretches into town of Eastchester, both of which are in Westchester County.

Any large gathering places within that containment area will be required to shut down from Thursday through March 25, Cuomo said. That includes several of New Rochelle’s public schools. Those that fall within the containment zone will remain shut down for two weeks.

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Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll rose to 27, infections spread to all but a handful of states and two cruise ships languished on each side of the country Tuesday as the coronavirus rolled unabated across the nation and around the world.

The global death toll that has now topped 4,000 and the number of confirmed cases approached 115,000. The epidemic continued its global torment, prompting Dublin and Boston to cancel their famous St. Patrick’s Day parades.

Following the worst drop in U.S. stocks since 2008, President Donald Trump said he would be proposing “very major” and “very dramatic” measures to help workers and businesses hurt by the virus outbreak. Stocks were sharply higher when the market opened Tuesday.

While acknowledging that the threat of a pandemic was “very real,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus also noted that 93% of the worldwide cases were confined to four countries and insisted that “we are not at the mercy of this virus.”

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

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 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 6pm 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.”

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. Those with mild symptoms are being treated on site, per CDC, he said. Killian also said the facility has been unable to acquire test kits for 65 employees, now in self-quarantine, showing symptoms of the infection.

Passengers await exodus from Grand Princess

More than 2,000 passengers and crew anxiously awaited exodus from the Grand Princess cruise ship when disembarkation continues 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 novel 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 and Jorge Ortiz

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 the month of  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 also said visitors will not be allowed at all in the agency’s 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. Princeton has announced a similar plan. 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 that it was suspending production on “The Amazing Race” in response to the outbreak. “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, amd 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.

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 surpassed 4,000 on Monday night, pushed by a rising number of fatalities in Italy (463), Iran (237), South Korea (54), according to a Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

The total of confirmed cases is nearing 115,000, 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. WHO says mild cases last about two weeks while patients with serious illness recover in about three to six weeks.

Contributing: The Associated Press

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