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Trump to Discuss Economic Steps; Italy Halts Most Travel; Stocks and Oil Prices Plunge | Press "Enter" to skip to content

Trump to Discuss Economic Steps; Italy Halts Most Travel; Stocks and Oil Prices Plunge


The Italian government on Monday night extended restrictions on personal movement and public events to the entire country in a desperate effort to stem the coronavirus outbreak — an extraordinary set of measures in a modern democracy that values individual freedoms.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced in a prime-time news conference that public gatherings were banned and that people would be allowed to travel only for work or for emergencies.

Those restrictions had been placed on the “red zone” created in northern Italy, covering about 16 million people, but Mr. Conte extended them to an entire nation of 60 million.

“We all have to renounce something for the good of Italy,” said Mr. Conte, saying that the government would enact more stringent rules over the entire Italian peninsula.

Italy has recorded more than 9,000 coronavirus infections and 463 deaths — well over half the toll for Europe — and the numbers continue to climb fast.

President Trump announced on Monday that he would work with Congress on measures to bolster the economy following the steepest market drop in more than a decade, fueled by fear over the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr. Trump told reporters at the White House that he would meet with Senate leaders and House Republicans on Tuesday to discuss a “very substantial” payroll tax cut and legislation intended to protect hourly wage earners who may have to miss work because of the virus. He also said he would ensure that the Small Business Administration extends more loans.

“This was something that we were thrown into, and we’re going to handle it, and we have been handling it very well,” Mr. Trump said. He added, “The main thing is that we’re taking care of the American public, and we will be taking care of the American public.”

At the same news briefing, Vice President Mike Pence said that more than a million coronavirus tests have been distributed, and that another four million tests would be distributed by the end of the week.

Neither Mr. Pence nor Mr. Trump has been tested. The president’s spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, said on Tuesday night that Mr. Trump would not be tested “because he has neither had prolonged close contact” with confirmed patients “nor does he have any symptoms.”

Asian markets opened mixed on Tuesday, in an apparent sign that investors were trying to regain their footing one day after the worst financial rout in years. Stocks in the United States had suffered their worst single-day decline in more than a decade on Monday, as the coronavirus and an oil price war fueled concerns about the global economy.

The S&P 500 fell 7.6 percent on Monday, falling so swiftly in early trading that trading was briefly halted early in the day — a rare occurrence meant to prevent stocks from crashing. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 2,000 points, or 7.8 percent.

The S&P index ended the day 19 percent below the peak it reached last month. A decline of 20 percent from that high would be seen as marking the end of the bull market that began exactly 11 years ago.

Tokyo fell more than 1 percent in early trading on Tuesday, and shares in China opened nearly 1 percent lower. But Australian shares were up nearly 1 percent and Hong Kong opened more than 1 percent higher. Futures markets were predicting that Wall Street and Europe would open higher later on Tuesday.

Oil prices rose about 6 percent, though they remained well below levels from last week, before Saudi Arabia announced it would slash prices amid a dispute over supplies with Russia. Futures tracking the price of gold, long seen as a safe haven for nervous investors in times of trouble, fell in Asian trading.

Monday’s drop was the worst for stocks in the United States since December 2008, when the country was still reeling from the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the housing crisis that dragged the economy into a recession.

Test results have come back on 35 more residents of a locked-down nursing home in the Seattle suburbs that is already linked to 19 coronavirus deaths, and nearly all of them are infected, officials said on Monday.

Tim Killian, a spokesman for the home, Life Care Center of Kirkland, said 31 out of 35 residents tested positive but none of them had symptoms serious enough to require hospitalization. He said test results were still pending on 20 more residents.

Vanessa Phelps said she got a phone call from Life Care late on Monday afternoon telling her that her 90-year-old mother, Fiona, had tested positive for the coronavirus.

Her mother has severe chronic lung disease, Ms. Phelps said. “She needs to get out of there and be in a hospital,” Ms. Phelps said. “She has the disease. She has the virus.”

Residents have been pleading for days to be tested. Mr. Killian said on Saturday that the facility had received enough test kits to check all its residents, but not all its employees, dozens of whom are showing symptoms of illness.

In addition to the 19 known coronavirus deaths, at least one other resident connected to the home had already tested positive before Monday. There have been 11 more deaths at the home since Feb. 19, for which the facility has no post-mortem test results.

A cruise ship isolated off the coast of California amid a coronavirus outbreak has docked at the Port of Oakland, and officials are preparing to quarantine the thousands of people who have been stranded on board.

Passengers who had been stuck inside their cabins for days cheered and smiled as the ship passed under the Golden Gate Bridge on Monday. “We’re home,” one passenger said.

They waved from their balconies as they approached the port, where portable hand-washing stations and a crew of employees in khaki uniforms awaited them.

State and federal agencies had been putting together a detailed plan for how to contain coronavirus cases from the vessel, which is carrying 2,421 passengers and 1,113 crew members. Last week, 45 people on the ship were tested for coronavirus and 21 tested positive, 19 of them crew members.

Everyone on the ship, the Grand Princess, will be quarantined for 14 days, with the majority being held at military bases or on the ship itself.

It is expected to take two to three days to clear the ship, with priority given to the patients who tested positive and other people who need medical care.

The Securities and Exchange Commission, in response to a potential coronavirus case, on Monday required a part of its staff to stay away from the agency’s Washington headquarters and advised all other employees there to work from home as well, a person briefed on the matter said. The move was reported earlier by The Washington Post.

An email that the agency sent to workers said the requirement applied to those on the ninth floor of the headquarters, the person confirmed. The email said a doctor had told an S.E.C. employee with respiratory symptoms earlier that they could be because of the coronavirus.

Federal health officials are urging older Americans and their families to take a host of precautions against infection.

In addition to the basics recommended for everyone like washing hands often, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on Monday that people over 80 should:

  • Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated areas;

  • Stock up on medications, groceries and other necessities now;

  • Have a backup plan for health care if they are homebound;

  • Try not to make contact with high-touch surfaces in public areas;

  • Forget about traveling aboard a cruise ship.

Older adults with additional health conditions are far more likely to become severely ill or die from a coronavirus infection than younger people are. According to a study of more than 72,000 patients in China, the death rate was less than 1 percent of those under 50, but rose to 8 percent for those in their 70s and 15 percent for those in their 80s.

The United States faces an accelerating pace of new coronavirus case reports as well as the prospect of more sweeping measures to fight the spread of the virus. On Monday, the national total of infections surpassed 700 and the death toll hit 26; it was the seventh consecutive day with more diagnoses than the previous day.

A number of new cases have raised concerns about transmission in public places.

In Kentucky, a patient who tested positive had worked at a Walmart in Cynthiana, near Lexington, officials said. In Washington, D.C., a church rector who gave communion and shook hands with parishioners at Christ Church Georgetown was identified as a patient, prompting officials to urge hundreds of parishioners to self-quarantine. The church organist later tested positive, a church spokesman said Monday night.

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington said he was considering mandatory measures to keep people apart. School districts in several states have shut down, universities are moving classes online, companies are telling employees to work from home, and houses of worship are limiting services.

The Army announced on Monday that the commander of U.S. forces in Europe, Lt. Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, along with several members of his staff, had been exposed to the coronavirus and would self-quarantine as they wait to see if they develop symptoms.

In Georgia, the Fulton County school system, covering suburbs of Atlanta, announced it would close on Tuesday — the largest U.S. district to do so — after an employee tested positive.

But U.S. officials are not yet talking about locking down whole cities, as China and Italy have done.

“I don’t think you want to have folks shutting down cities like in northern Italy — we are not at that level,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the leading American expert on infectious diseases, said in an interview. “Social distancing like in Seattle is the way to go.”

The coronavirus outbreak has prompted the cancellation of one of Boston’s iconic events: the city’s St. Patrick’s Day parade.

“This decision is being made out of an abundance of caution, to ensure that we are doing what is needed to keep the residents of Boston safe and healthy,” Mayor Martin J. Walsh said on Monday.

The parade, which draws thousands to South Boston, was scheduled to take place next Sunday, the weekend before the holiday.

Twenty-eight coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Massachusetts, and another 22 cases across the country have been traced to a recent business conference in Boston.

Representatives Matt Gaetz of Florida and Doug Collins of Georgia said on Monday that they had interacted, at the Conservative Political Action Conference, with a person who had tested positive for the virus and would isolate themselves voluntarily. Also putting himself into isolation was Mark Meadows, the president’s newly designated White House chief of staff, who tested negative for the coronavirus after coming into contact with the same person.

The president’s spokeswoman said Mr. Trump would not be tested because he had no symptoms and no prolonged close contact with confirmed patients.

Two other Republicans, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Representative Paul Gosar of Arizona, said on Sunday they would self-quarantine after coming into contact with the same conference attendee.

Mr. Gaetz boarded Air Force One with Mr. Trump on Monday before announcing that he had been tested. A flamboyant ally of the president, he turned heads last week when he wore a gas mask on the House floor before a vote on an emergency virus-related spending bill.

Mr. Collins interacted directly with Mr. Trump on Friday, shaking the president’s hand and standing directly behind him as he toured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

New York has 142 confirmed cases, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said on Monday, and one of them is the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Rick Cotton.

The cluster of cases in Westchester County has grown to 98 cases, Mr. Cuomo said. Nineteen cases are in New York City, 18 are on Long Island (all but one in Nassau County), and four are in Rockland County. Three cases are farther upstate: one in Ulster County and two in Saratoga.

In New Jersey, where 11 cases have been confirmed, Gov. Philip D. Murphy declared a state of emergency and a public health emergency on Monday, effective immediately.

Mr. Cotton is one of the most prominent public officials in the United States to have contracted the virus. The agency he leads operates the metropolitan area’s three major airports, as well as numerous other transportation facilities including bridges and tunnels, bus terminals and seaports.

University of California, Berkeley, and New York University are among the latest schools to suspend in-person classes and move to an online format. Amherst College announced that students will need to move off campus completely by next Monday.

N.Y.U. said that it would move to online learning on Wednesday, and that students could leave campus early for spring break if they want to take remote classes from home. After the break, N.Y.U. will continue to hold classes online through at least March 27.

Princeton University has said it would make a similar move starting on March 23, after its spring break.

The schools join a snowballing list of colleges and universities that have suspended in-person classes, including the University of Washington, Stanford, Columbia, Barnard, Juilliard, Rice, Fordham University and Yeshiva University.

The number of infections in Europe continued to surge at an alarming pace, more than doubling in three days to more than 14,000 confirmed by Monday, with more than 520 deaths.

Italy, with 9,172 cases and 463 deaths by Monday, surpassed South Korea over the weekend to become the country with the second-largest outbreak, after China.

Ireland’s government canceled all St. Patrick’s Day parades, including Dublin’s.

Germany, France and Spain each have well over 1,000 cases, and France’s culture minister, Franck Rister, announced that he had tested positive for the virus. Switzerland, the Netherlands, Britain, Sweden, Belgium and Norway each have more than 200.

The French government announced a ban on almost all public gatherings with more than 1,000 people, and said that the Champions League soccer game between Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund on Wednesday would be played without fans in the stadium. A France-Ireland rugby game scheduled for Saturday was postponed.

Germany’s status as the only country with a large outbreak but no fatalities came to an end, with its first two coronavirus deaths.

Saudi Arabia shut off air and sea travel to nine countries in an effort to slow transmission of the virus as the kingdom grappled with a simultaneous blow to its economy from a severe plunge in oil prices.

Effectively isolating itself from its neighbors, Saudi Arabia closed air and sea travel to the Arab states of Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Syria and the United Arab Emirates, as well as to Italy and South Korea. The kingdom had already closed its land borders, and travel to and from neighboring Qatar has been banned since 2017 because of a political dispute.

The kingdom has also suspended pilgrimages to the holy cities of Mecca and Medina.

Washington State, the state hardest hit by the virus, is holding its 2020 primary on Tuesday. It votes by mail, which eliminates most concerns about viral transmission.

Looking ahead to November, Congress should right now be considering federal legislation that would address potential voting trouble, said Rick Hasen, an election law expert at the University of California-Irvine’s law school. “The closer we to get to the election, the harder it’s going to be to come up with rules that look fair,” he said.

Public health officials have said adults over 60 are most at risk and should avoid crowds. Joseph R. Biden Jr. is 77, Bernie Sanders is 78 and Mr. Trump is 73.

Mr. Sanders, asked by the CNN host Jake Tapper whether the three candidates should all limit their travel and avoid crowds, replied: “In the best of all possible worlds, maybe. But right now, we’re running as hard as we can.”

Reporting was contributed by Mitch Smith, Sarah Mervosh, Thomas Fuller, Jim Tankersley, Alan Rappeport, Anemona Hartocollis, Peter Baker, Roni Caryn Rabin, Elisabetta Povoledo, Declan Walsh, Matthew Haag, Carlos Tejada, David Kirkpatrick, Marc Santora, Steven Lee Myers, Claire Fu, Alissa J. Rubin, Gillian Wong, Jason Horowitz, Emma Bubola, Ellen Tumposky, Neil Vigdor, Russell Goldman, Eric Schmitt, Kirk Johnson, Campbell Robertson, Richard Pérez-Peña, Katie Benner, Patrick McGeehan, Isabel Kershner and Nicholas Fandos.


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