(AP) — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she and the Trump administration are close to agreement on a coronavirus aid package, as negotiators struggle to hammer out a deal to provide funding and resources for American workers, families and businesses reeling with health and financial problems amid the crisis.
The Brazilian president's press secretary has tested positive for coronavirus, days after meeting with President Donald Trump. (Instagram/@fabiowajngar/CNN)
Final details are being worked out but Pelosi expects an announcement Friday. The House could swiftly vote.
The sudden announcement came at the end of an otherwise tumultuous day, as Washington strained for a comprehensive response to the coronavirus outbreak that is testing the nation’s political, financial and health care systems.
Brazil official who met with Trump has virus
The communications chief for Brazil’s president tested positive for the new coronavirus just days after flying with his boss to Florida where he also met President Donald Trump.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director Fábio Wajngarten tested positive, and Bolsonaro’s office says measures are being taken to protect the president’s health.
It marks the first time that someone known to have the virus was in close proximity to the president. The White House says Trump does not plan to be tested or go into self-quarantine.
Wajngarten joined Bolsonaro on a three-day trip to the U.S. On Saturday, he was at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and posted a photo of himself posing beside Trump.
A video from the event also showed him standing directly behind both presidents as they spoke to the crowd.
The office of Sen. Lindsey Graham says he has decided to self-quarantine himself and work remotely because he was in Florida at the event attended by Waingarten. A statement from Graham’s office Thursday says Graham was tested for the virus and is waiting for the result.
Wajngarten initially denied a report Wednesday that he had been tested for the virus, saying on his social media account that his health was fine.
He is now in self-quarantine at home, according to the statement. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., also attended and said he plans to self-quarantine.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress on Thursday that the U.S. is “failing” in getting tests for the virus to people and healthcare providers who need them. The CDC reported around 10,000 specimens had been tested in total since mid-January.
In comparison, South Korea has been testing approximately 10,000 per day since late February, The New York Times reported.
“The system is not really geared to what we need right now," said Fauci to a House committee. "What you are asking for - that is a failing. It is a failing, let’s admit it. The fact is, the way the system was set up is that the public health component that (CDC Director) Dr. Redfield was talking about was a system where you put it out there in the public and a physician asks for it and you get it.
"The idea of anybody getting it easily the way people in other countries are doing it, we’re not set up for that. Do I think we should be? Yes, but we’re not.”
In Washington, Congress is shutting the Capitol and all House and Senate office buildings to the public until April in reaction to the spread of the coronavirus.
The House and Senate sergeants at arms said in a statement that the closure will begin at 5 p.m. EDT Thursday.
Lawmakers, aides, journalists and official visitors will be allowed into the buildings.
The statement says officials were acting “out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public.”
The U.S. snapped to attention Wednesday about the toll of the new coronavirus that is spreading quickly through the country.
President Donald Trump says he is sharply restricting travel from Europe to the U.S. for 30 days beginning midnight Friday as he seeks to combat a viral pandemic. He made the announcement Wednesday in an Oval Office address to the nation.
He blames the European Union for not acting quickly enough to address the coronavirus and says U.S. clusters were “seeded” by European travelers.
The restrictions do not apply to legal permanent residents of the U.S. or their families when they are returning from Europe. They also do not apply to U.S. citizens coming back from Europe, as Trump acknowledged.
However, Americans returning from Europe will be subject to enhanced health screening.
Trump says the restrictions won’t apply to the United Kingdom and the U.S. will monitor the situation to determine if travel can be reopened earlier.
As well, it apparently does not apply to Ireland, Romania, Croatia, Ukraine and several other European states. The proclamation released by the White House says the travel ban will affect the 26 European states in what’s known as the Schengen Area.
The White House has also canceled a planned trip by the president to Nevada and Colorado this week, “out of an abundance of caution.”
The new travel ban is likely to further roil the airline industry, which is fighting a drop in bookings and a rise in people canceling their reservations because of fear of contracting the virus. Trump said he made the decision to impose the ban after talking with top government health professionals.
The European Union has slammed the travel ban, lashing out at an “unilateral” decision taken “without consultation.”
In a joint statement by EU Council president Charles Michel and the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, the two leaders insisted that the coronavirus pandemics is a “global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action."
”The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to improve a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation," they said.
Von der Leyen and Michel also dismissed Trump’s suggestion that the EU has not done enough in fighting the disease.
Trump also announced he will instruct the Treasury Department to allow individuals and businesses negatively affected by the coronavirus to defer their tax payments beyond the April 15 filing deadline.
Meanwhile, House Democrats are pushing an economic assistance plan to confront the spread of coronavirus. It would include free testing nationwide and emergency funding to reimburse lost paychecks for those in self-quarantine, missing work or losing jobs.
The ambitious package should breeze through the House on Thursday, but Senate Republicans are likely to seek changes.
After Trump’s announcement Wednesday, the U.S. Department of State advised U.S. citizens to reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact of COVID-19.
Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions. Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.
Trump moves away from rallies — for now
President Donald Trump says he’s temporarily halting his trademark rallies as his campaign bows to the coronavirus outbreak that is rapidly reshaping the political landscape.
The rallies have long been Trump’s most potent political weapon. They energize the candidate and give him a powerful platform from which to attack his adversaries while his team collects a treasure trove of voter data.
But the spread of the virus, which has closed schools and shuttered professional sports leagues, has also touched the 2020 presidential campaign.
The two leading Democratic contenders, Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, canceled their scheduled rallies earlier this week.
New York bans events of more than 500
Starting at 5 p.m. Friday, gatherings with 500 people are more are not permitted, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced.
Some of New York City's cultural institutions announced they are temporarily shutting down because of the virus, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Metropolitan Opera and Carnegie Hall.
Disneyland announces closure
Disneyland in California will close on Saturday because of concerns over the spread of the new coronavirus.
Disneyland Resort said in a statement Thursday that the resort and Disney California Adventure that are next door to each other in the Los Angeles suburb of Anaheim will remain closed through the end of the month.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife tests positive for coronavirus
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife has tested positive for coronavirus.
Trudeau’s office said Thursday that Sophie Grégoire Trudeau returned from a speaking engagement in Britain and had mild flu-like symptoms, including a low fever, late Wednesday night.
The prime minister quarantined himself at home.
Georgia announces first coronavirus death
Gov. Brian Kemp has confirmed the first death from coronavirus in Georgia.
According to a statement, Kemp said the victim was a 67-year-old male that was hospitalized at WellStar Kennestone in Cobb County since testing positive for COVID-19 on March 7.
The victim also had an underlying medical issue.
Los Angeles County marks 1st death from coronavirus
A woman with underlying health conditions has died of the coronavirus in the most populous county in the U.S., making her one of at least 33 people nationwide to succumb to COVID-19.
Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Wednesday that the woman lives outside the county and had been visiting friends after recent travel, with a long layover in South Korea. She was over 60 and died in a hospital.
It’s the first death from the virus in Los Angeles County, which has 27 cases. Most of the deaths have been in Washington state.
Separately, seniors at a Northern California assisted living facility have been placed in a two-week quarantine after a woman in her 90s died of the coronavirus.
Cluster of coronavirus cases is tied to US biotech meeting
A biotech meeting at a hotel in downtown Boston appears to be the source of a cluster of the coronavirus in the U.S. — and a warning for employers who are still holding big gatherings as the outbreak spreads.
Officials say 77 of the 95 confirmed cases in Massachusetts have been linked to a meeting of executives with Biogen. The company is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Officials say at least 12 people who have tested positive for the virus outside Massachusetts have been linked to the late February meeting, including five in North Carolina and at least two in Europe.
Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson in Australian hospital with new virus
Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson are isolated in stable condition in an Australian hospital after contracting the new coronavirus. The double Oscar winner is easily the most famous person yet to disclose they have COVID-19.
Hanks said he and Wilson, both 63, had felt tired, with colds, aches and slight fevers before testing positive. He added they’ll be “isolated for as long as public health and safety requires.”
Hanks was in Australia working on an untitled Elvis Presley biopic directed by Baz Luhrmann. It has suspended production.
Australian officials say people who’ve been in close contact with Hanks and Wilson will have to self-quarantine.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.
NBA, MLS, tennis suspends season; March Madness, Players Championship going without fanss
The NBA became the first major American sports league to suspend play because of the coronavirus pandemic, raising questions about the future of college basketball’s March Madness and other pro sports.
It looked as if the NBA might be moving toward playing in empty arenas before it announced Wednesday that a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus and it had decided press pause on its season.
The NCAA has canceled its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments because of the spread of coronavirus.
The move puts an abrupt end to the season less than a month before champions were to be crowned.
The decision comes a day after the NCAA announced the games that were scheduled to start next week would go on but played in mostly empty arenas.
That plan was scrapped as every major American sports league from the NBA to MLB put the brakes on its season due to concerns about the pandemic.
The NCAA canceled all of its spring championships in every sport, which include hockey, baseball and lacrosse.
The ATP has suspended all men's professional tennis tournaments for six weeks because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Major League Soccer and men’s professional tennis followed suit on Thursday, with reports saying that the soccer season is on hold until further notice.
No ATP Tour or ATP Challenger Tour events will take place through the week of April 20.
The tournament at Indian Wells, California, scheduled to begin main-draw play Wednesday already had been called off.
The affected events are the Miami Open, the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships in Houston, the Grand Prix Hassan II in Marrakech, the Monte Carlo Masters, the Barcelona Open and the Hungarian Open.
The next Grand Slam tournament, the French Open, is still scheduled to be held in Paris beginning May 24.
The Players Championship is keeping fans out for the final three days at the TPC Sawgrass.
A person involved in the discussions over how to handle the new coronavirus tells the AP that only key personnel will be allowed at the course.
The tour is expected to announce an update later Thursday. The source says the policy will be in place at PGA Tour events for the next several weeks starting with the Valspar Championship next week in the Tampa Bay area.
The only other times the tour has kept fans from the course were for safety issues related to weather.
Baseball’s Mariners say they will move their games out of Seattle for all of March because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
'Quiet Place 2' delayed, as Hollywood braces for shut down
Director John Krasinski announced on Twitter that the opening of “Quiet Place 2” will be delayed.
The entertainment industry is a business predicated on drawing crowds in theaters, cinemas and concert venues. But it is bracing for potential shutdown in the coming weeks due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The virus' spread, and dawning awareness of its reach, has already forced the cancellation of all major imminent events on the calendar, including South by Southwest, CinemaCon, Coachella and vital television events like the NBA season.
On Thursday, as California and some states were calling for bans of not just the largest events but also gatherings of more than 250 to help stymie the virus' spread, a new focus came on Broadway, multiplexes and smaller concert venues.
WHO declares coronavirus a pandemic, urges aggressive action
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic and urged aggressive action from all countries to fight it.
Speaking in Geneva on Wednesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the spread of COVID-19 had reached the level of a pandemic, noting there are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries and 4,291 deaths.
He said that while the declaration “doesn’t change what countries should do” to aggressively contain the virus, the U.N. health agency is "deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity.”
Soaring cases in the U.S. and Europe’s status as the new epicenter of the pandemic underscore the challenge.
While Italy exceeds 12,000 cases and the United States has topped 1,300, China reported a record low of just 15 new cases. Three-fourths of its patients have recovered.
Iran asks for billions in loans as virus deaths climb to 429
Iran says it’s asked the International Monetary Fund for an emergency $5 billion loan to help fight the spread of the new coronavirus. More than 10,000 people have been infected there.
An Iranian Health Ministry spokesman said Thursday that 75 more people have died of the virus in the last 24 hours. That’s raised the death toll to 429 people.
Iran is the hardest-hit country in the Mideast by the new coronavirus, which sickens but largely doesn’t kill those afflicted.
The rising casualty figures each day in Iran suggests the fight against the new coronavirus there is far from over.
Real Madrid in quarantine
Real Madrid says its soccer and basketball teams have been put into quarantine after a basketball player for the club tested positive for the coronavirus.
The Spanish club says the soccer team was also affected because it shares training facilities with the basketball team.
The decision by the club came moments before the Spanish league said the next two rounds of Spain’s first- and second-division matches are being suspended due to fears of the coronavirus outbreak.
Guides say China is shutting Everest due to virus fears
Expedition operators on Mount Everest say that Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the mountain due to fears of the coronavirus.
On the others side of the mountain in Nepal, operators say cancellations for the popular spring climbing season have been pouring in despite the mountain being open for business.
Dawa Shepra of Kathmandu-based Climbalaya Treks and Expeditions said Chinese officials told them though the virus was getting under control in China, they could not risk bringing in foreign climbers.
He said the conversation with the China Tibet Mountaineering Association officials was over the phone and no official emails, faxes or messages were sent.
European Central Bank offers stimulus to offset virus impact
The European Central Bank is deploying new stimulus measures to cushion the economic pain inflicted by the virus outbreak.
The central bank decided Thursday to buy up 120 billion euros more in bonds, money that is newly created and injected into the financial system.
That comes on top of purchases worth 20 billion euros a month it is already carrying out.
Some economists say the 19 countries that use the currency could be facing a recession this year.
Spike in cases in Gulf pushes Mideast past 10,000 infections
A spike in cases in the Gulf has helped push infections in the Middle East for the new coronavirus past 10,000 cases.
As of Thursday, most cases were either in Iran or from travelers recently there. Iran has asked the International Monetary Fund for an emergency $5 billion loan.
Countries in the region have imposed varying levels of restrictions on travel. They range from wholesale halting of all commercial flights in Kuwait, to Saudi Arabia’s ban on travel to more than three dozen countries.
Regional stock markets were also down, reflecting investor concerns and nerves felt globally as oil prices plunge and business is disrupted by the virus.
Outside of Iran, only Iraq, Egypt and Lebanon have recorded deaths from the virus in the Middle East.
Philippine president imposes travel limits, quarantines
The Philippine president is suspending domestic travel to and from the Manila area for a month and authorizing sweeping quarantines in the region to fight the new coronavirus.
President Rodrigo Duterte is also banning large gatherings in the metropolis, suspending most government work and extending the suspension of classes by a month in new restrictions announced Thursday in a nationwide TV address.
He is warning that violators and officials who refuse to enforce the restrictions would face possible imprisonment. Health officials have confirmed 52 cases of the virus, and two people, a Chinese and a Filipino, have died.
Philippine officials say Duterte has been tested for the new virus after meeting with Cabinet officials who were exposed to infected people.
They say Duterte has no symptoms but wanted to make sure he is healthy and can continue to engage with the public.
At least nine Cabinet members have self-quarantined after being exposed to virus patients.
Officials say buildings in the presidential palace complex, where the president holds office and meetings, are being disinfected.
Australia unveils $11.4 billion in virus outbreak stimulus
Australia has announced a $11.4 billion stimulus package meant to allay the impact of the virus outbreak on its economy and ward off a recession.
The plan announced Thursday includes cash payments for small businesses and welfare recipients to counter the impact of the disease, which has infected more than 126,000 people worldwide.
Australia has recorded 127 cases of the virus and three deaths.
Will WHO's ‘pandemic’ ruling impact the Tokyo Olympics?
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike acknowledges that the World Health Organization’s declaration that the coronavirus is a pandemic could impact the Tokyo Olympics. But she says “I believe cancellation is impossible.”
Japanese organizers and the International Olympic Committee say the games will open as planned on July 24.
But the reality is that any decision to cancel or proceed rests ultimately with the Switzerland-based IOC. The contract with Japanese authorities gives the IOC leverage to terminate the Olympics for many reasons.
One clause in the contract says it can terminate if the “safety of participants in the games would be seriously threatened or jeopardized for any reason whatsoever.”
Most coronavirus patients recover, still anxiety, fear loom
Despite the global fears of coronavirus, more than 60,000 people who contracted the disease have recovered. Most have mild symptoms and rebound within two weeks, while those with more serious ailments — including pneumonia — may not improve for up to six weeks.
Mental stress can be part of the problem, too.
Some patients who got sick and were quarantined in a cruise ship off Japan say they struggled with the anxiety of spending days in isolation while worrying about the future. Some have wondered whether they will be stigmatized and treated differently once they return home.
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