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Coronavirus Live Updates: Across U.S., Schools Are Closed and Gatherings Canceled | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Coronavirus Live Updates: Across U.S., Schools Are Closed and Gatherings Canceled

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As the coronavirus continued to spread through the United States on Sunday, officials took some of their most aggressive steps yet to try to halt its progress, including ordering bars and restaurants closed in New York City and elsewhere, shutting down more school systems, and recommending a limit on gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks.

Restaurants and bars were ordered closed in several parts of the United States, including New York City, Massachusetts, Ohio, Washington and Puerto Rico; in some places officials said establishments could still sell food for takeout or delivery. The move will close bars in New York City, Boston and California, among other places, for the St. Patrick’s Day holiday on Tuesday, which is typically one of their busiest days of the year.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that no mass gatherings with 50 people or more — including weddings, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events or conferences — should be held in the United States for the next eight weeks. It was one of the federal government’s most sweeping efforts yet to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for people 65 and older to shelter in their homes. “We are calling for the home isolation of all seniors in California,” Mr. Newsom said at a briefing Sunday. He also issued guidelines calling for the closure of all bars, night clubs and wineries. But he said that restaurants could remain open, but they must reduce their occupancy by half in order to allow for more “social distancing” among diners.

And movie theaters and gyms were closed in Los Angeles by its mayor, Eric Garcetti, who also announced Sunday evening that he was temporarily closing bars, nightclubs, and restaurants, except for takeout and delivery.

The number of coronavirus cases in the United States climbed to over 3,100 across 49 states on Sunday, and after weeks of conflicting signals from the federal government, state and local officials across the nation began enacting stricter measures to try to slow its spread.

As the school week began, more schools shut down. While the C.D.C. said that its recommendation did not apply to schools, many systems decided to close. New York City, the largest district in the nation, with 1.1 million students, announced on Sunday that it would shut down, and Massachusetts moved to close schools across the entire state beginning Tuesday, joining other school systems around the nation that decided to close earlier.

The Federal Reserve, meanwhile, worked to try to contain the economic impact of the outbreak, which has sent stocks down and slowed economic activity around the country. The Fed slashed interest rates to near zero, in an effort to help goose the economy by making it cheaper for households and businesses to borrow money.

As they faced off in a debate that was transformed in ways both large and small by the coronavirus pandemic, the two rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, both agreed on at least one thing: a greater role for the United States military in helping the nation deal with the outbreak.

“I would call up the military now,” Mr. Biden said. “They have the capacity to provide the surge help that hospitals need and is needed across the nation.”

Mr. Sanders was slightly less direct, but agreed. “Using the National Guard is clearly something that needs to be done,” he said.

Both men said that the pandemic was highlighting weaknesses in the health care system. Mr. Biden warned that it is ill-equipped to handle the expected surge of coronavirus cases, saying, “We should be planning where we are going to put these temporary hospitals.”

Mr. Sanders said that it was highlighting the shortcomings of America’s for-profit health industry. “Let’s be honest and understand that this coronavirus pandemic exposes the incredible weakness and dysfunctionality of our current health care system,” he said.

Both men — Mr. Biden is 77, and Mr. Sanders, 78 — said that they were taking steps during the campaign to avoid contracting the virus, including canceling events, the heavy use of hand sanitizer and regular hand washing.

The coronavirus shaped not just the content of the debate, but its format too. The face-off was moved from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., over concerns about the outbreak. There was no live audience, in an effort to promote the social distancing health experts are calling for. The rival candidates parried from lecterns that were kept six feet apart. And when they took the stage they dispensed with the customary handshake in favor of an elbow bump.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Sunday that no gatherings with 50 people or more — including weddings, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events or conferences — be held in the United States for the next eight weeks in one of the federal government’s most sweeping efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The C.D.C. said that its recommendation, which would drastically change life in the United States for the next two months, does not apply to “the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses” and added that it was not intended to supersede the advice of local health officials.

“This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities,” it said, “and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus.”

And the C.D.C. urged people to take care with even small gatherings. “Events of any size should only be continued if they can be carried out with adherence to guidelines for protecting vulnerable populations, hand hygiene and social distancing,” its recommendation said. “When feasible, organizers could modify events to be virtual.”

The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates nearly to zero and unveiled a sweeping set of programs — including plans to snap up huge amounts of government and mortgage-backed debt — in an effort to backstop the United States economy as the spread of coronavirus poses a dire threat to economic growth.

“The coronavirus outbreak has harmed communities and disrupted economic activity in many countries, including the United States,” the central bank said in a statement on Sunday. “The Federal Reserve is prepared to use its full range of tools to support the flow of credit to households and businesses.”

At a news conference on Sunday afternoon, President Trump congratulated the Federal Reserve for its slashing rates to nearly zero.

“It makes me very happy,” he said.

Lowering interest rates is supposed to help goose the economy by making it cheaper for households and businesses to borrow money, which they will hopefully use to buy houses, cars and invest in new plants and equipment.

Besides cutting its key interest rate by a full percentage point, returning it to a range of 0 to 0.25 percent, the Fed said that it would increase its holdings of Treasury securities by at least $500 billion and its holdings of government mortgage-backed securities by at least $200 billion “over coming months.”

“The committee will continue to closely monitor market conditions and is prepared to adjust its plans as appropriate,” it said.

The Fed also encouraged banks to use its discount window, which provides ready access to financing, and said it was “encouraging banks to use their capital and liquidity buffers as they lend to households and businesses.” The Fed also eliminated bank reserve requirements — a suite of efforts meant to free up cash for the banks to keep lending.

As the coronavirus epidemic continues to surge worldwide, there are now more total confirmed cases outside of China than inside China, the country where the virus first spread, according to numbers released Monday.

Statistics released by China’s National Health Commission showed that by Sunday, the country had recorded 80,680 infections, including the 16 most recent.

The global total for the rest of the world — everywhere outside mainland China — exceeded 85,000, according to figures tabulated by Johns Hopkins University. Italy, in particular, recorded a grim rise in infections and deaths in recent days, and said that total cases now are near 25,000.

Since January, China has imposed sweeping restrictions on travel, commerce and transport, especially in Hubei Province where the outbreak began. The country’s leader, Xi Jinping, has trumpeted his efforts bringing the epidemic under control.

Fatalities from the virus outside China are also approaching the number recorded there since January. By Sunday, China’s official death toll from the coronavirus had reached 3,213. More than three quarters of those deaths occurred in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, where the outbreak has struck hardest. To date, more than 3,100 have died outside of China.

Futures on the S&P 500 and crude oil prices signaled continued pessimism about the outlook for the economy at the start of trading in Asia on Monday, after the Federal Reserve took emergency measures to address the economic slowdown taking hold in the United States.

The Fed cut interest rates to near zero and said it would buy hundreds of billions of dollars in government debt, moves that are reminiscent of its actions during the financial crisis in 2008.

The central bank’s moves are aimed at supporting the economy from the fast-spread of the coronavirus. But financial markets remained on edge.

Asian markets were mostly lower in Monday trading. In Japan, the Nikkei 225 index was trading modestly higher, but it was the exception. Australia’s market was down 7.5 percent, leading major markets in the region. Hong Kong was down 2.2 percent. In mainland China, the Shanghai market was down 0.6 percent. South Korean shares were down 1.6 percent.

The coronavirus continued its assault on Italy, the hardest hit country outside of China, with officials on Sunday reporting the number of deaths rose to 1,809 — a 25 percent increase over the day before and the largest one-day uptick yet of any country.

Germany will close its borders with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the country’s interior minister said on Sunday, following several other European Union member states in restricting the freedom of movement across the continent.

Spain and France announced drastic countrywide restrictions this weekend. The countries are the hardest hit after Italy.

On Sunday, Spanish officials reported nearly 8,000 cases of coronavirus and 288 deaths. The country ordered all residents to confine themselves to their homes — and to leave only to buy food, go to work, seek medical care or assist older people and others in need. The government also ordered all schools, restaurants and bars to close.

The Spanish authorities said that the prime minister’s wife, Begoña Gómez, had tested positive for the virus.

France announced the closing of all “non-indispensable” businesses, including restaurants, bars and movie theaters, after a sharp uptick in coronavirus cases. The number of French cases passed 5,420 on Sunday, with 127 deaths.

On Sunday, France’s transportation minister said the country would begin reducing plane, train and bus services between cities.

In Latin America, Aregentia and Peru both said they would close their borders.

Argentina’s president, Alberto Fernández, announced on Sunday night that the country would shut down its borders for inbound foreigners for at least 15 days.

Peru on Monday declared a state of emergency, restricting travel and authorizing the military to take over public roads.

A sailor aboard the U.S.S. Boxer, an amphibious assault ship crewed by hundreds, tested “presumptive positive” for the coronavirus, the Navy said in a statement on Sunday, making it the first case aboard a U.S. Navy ship.

People who had close contact with the sailor were ordered into “self-isolation” the statement said, adding that none of those individuals were aboard the ship.

“U.S.S. Boxer is taking appropriate preventive measures and conducting a thorough cleaning in accordance with specific guidance from the C.D.C. and Navy-Marine Corps Public Health Center,” the statement said.

Amphibious assault ships, like the Boxer, are often characterized as miniature aircraft carriers. They are sprawling vessels with several berthing areas, multiple decks and the capability of transporting hundreds of Marines and their aircraft.

Reporting was contributed by Michael Cooper, Karen Weise, Reid J. Epstein, Katie Glueck, Shane Goldmacher, Jeanna Smialek, Neil Irwin and Thomas Gibbons-Neff.


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