Trump declares virus emergency; Pelosi announces aid deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump has declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency in order to free up more money and resources.

President Donald Trump shakes hands before a dinner with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at Mar-a-Lago, Saturday, March 7, 2020, in Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

He has denied any responsibility for delays in making testing available for the new virus, whose spread has roiled markets and disrupted the lives of everyday Americans.

Late Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced a deal with the Trump administration for an aid package from Congress that would provide free tests, sick pay for workers and bolster food programs.

Trump has also waived interest on federally held student loans and moved to prop up energy markets, by directing the Department of Energy to buy oil to fill the strategic petroleum reserve.

Trump says “we’re going to fill it right up to the top” and the move would save American taxpayers and help the oil industry.

Pelosi spoke at the Capitol ahead of Trump’s new conference. Trump has not yet publicly backed the package.

The coronavirus pandemic is inching ever closer to Trump, his top aides and his family as questions swirled about why the president wasn’t going into self-quarantine or being tested for COVID-19.

The U.S. Defense Department is planning to halt all domestic travel for military members after President Donald Trump declared the coronavirus pandemic a national emergency.

The Pentagon says Deputy Defense Secretary David Norquist has approved new travel restrictions on service members and Defense Department civilians assigned to military installations and surrounding areas within the United States and its territories.

The new guidance takes effect Monday and last through May 11. The Pentagon says it will “halt all domestic travel, including Permanent Change of Station and Temporary Duty.”

Service members will be authorized local leave only, although the Pentagon says exemptions may be granted “for compelling cases.”

The Defense Department has also suspended "unofficial visits" to the Pentagon and other facilities in the Washington area.

The White House is grappling with a string of potential and confirmed exposures. A top Brazilian official tested positive after spending time with Trump and others at the president’s private club in Florida last weekend.

Also testing positive: An Australian Cabinet minister who met a week ago with top administration officials including U.S. Attorney General William Barr and Trump’s daughter and senior adviser Ivanka.

Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro said Friday he tested negative for the virus, refuting earlier reports from the country’s media and his family.

Eduardo Bolsonaro, the president’s son, told Fox News earlier Friday that he had a preliminary positive test. In a later appearance, he said the Brazilian president was negative for COVID-19.

Bolsonaro met with Trump and other U.S. officials over the weekend at Mar-a-Lago. It was announced Thursday that Bolsonaro’s communications director had tested positive.

Trump said Thursday he had no plans to get tested or self-quarantine, despite being in proximity with someone who was infected.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced Friday that he tested positive for the new virus, the Miami Herald reported. He was present during Bolsonaro’s visit over the weekend.

The U.S. now has 50 coronavirus deaths, and cases in all but one state.

California’s sixth death from the disease, reported south of San Francisco, put the nation at 50 deaths overall. Santa Clara County officials reported Friday that a woman in her 80s died from COVID-19.

Most deaths have occurred in Washington state, which reported six more on Friday, bringing its total to 37. Florida, New Jersey, South Dakota, Georgia, Kansas and Colorado also have reported deaths.

Also Friday, Alabama, Idaho and Montana reported their first coronavirus cases. That leaves West Virginia as the only state with no cases confirmed.

Montana's governor declared a state of emergency ahead of his announcement that the state had four cases.

In Seattle, the largest city in Washington state, Mayor Jenny Durkan said she would issue an emergency order for a temporary moratorium on residential evictions in the city because of COVID-19.

On Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci with the National Institutes of Health told Congress the country is “failing” to get tests where they are needed.

Responding to numerous complaints about the shortage of tests in the U.S, the Trump administration on Friday named a testing “czar” at the Department of Health and Human Services.

The testing czar is Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health, and head of the government’s uniformed Public Health Service. He will be responsible for coordinating between CDC and FDA, as well as private labs and state and local governments.

Separately, the FDA posted on Twitter that labs having problems getting supplies for collecting patient samples for testing should call the agency’s toll-free information hotline.

Medicare announced it will pay about $36 for the CDC coronavirus test and around $51 for tests from other providers.

The U.S. has tested far few people per capita than other countries like South Korea and Italy.

The intensifying spread of COVID-19 beyond Asia has dashed hopes about a quick containment, even with travel and social events curbed drastically.

The coronavirus reached directly into the world’s centers of power, with politicians either testing positive for the virus or quarantining themselves.

Australian Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton is in isolation at a hospital after testing positive for the coronavirus. He returned to Australia on Sunday from Washington, D.C., where he met U.S. Attorney-General William Barr and President Donald Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, last week.

Dutton also attended a conference with other representatives of the Five Eyes intelligence network, which includes the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

Dutton said Friday he was in isolation in a hospital after confirmation he has the virus.

Australian authorities have stepped up their response to the outbreak by recommending people avoid nonessential gatherings of 500 or more and to reconsider all international travel.

Australia has more than 120 confirmed cases.

The coronavirus pandemic has lent a surreal quality to the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the globe.

It has disrupted daily routines, overwhelmed hospitals, shuttered schools and offices and halted many sporting and entertainment events.

If that weren’t enough, many are also forced to grapple with fears about the financial toll, from lost jobs and businesses to shrinking retirement accounts.

Among notable people who have been infected are the Canadian prime minister’s wife and a Brazilian official who met with President Donald Trump recently. Meanwhile, actor Tom Hanks and wife Rita Wilson are recovering from the disease in Australia, saying they are fine but remaining isolated to protect others.

AP Exclusive: Visits to federal inmates halted over virus

Inmates at all 122 federal correctional facilities across the country are no longer being allowed visits for the next 30 days, in response to the new coronavirus.

Officials tell The Associated Press that effective Friday, the Bureau of Prisons is suspending all visits.

No federal inmates or Bureau of Prisons staff members had tested positive for COVID-19, as of Friday morning.

The plan to temporarily suspend visitation, curtail staff travel and pause inmate transfers is the result of concerns for the 175,000 inmates in BOP custody.

Staff members who work in areas with “sustained community transmission” are subject to enhanced health screenings That includes having their temperature taken.

Louisiana postpones primary voting

Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin announced Friday that next month’s primary was been postponed due to COVID-19 concerns, WAFB reported.

The primary was originally scheduled for April 4.

Ardoin said the election will be postponed at least two months.

Los Angeles, San Diego among school districts closing

The Los Angeles Unified School District and San Diego school districts will close starting March 16 because of the coronavirus threat.

The decision was announced by superintendents of both districts, which together serve 750,000 students.

They are the latest in a growing number of districts across the U.S.

By Monday, more than 1 million of Georgia’s 1.8 million public school students will have been kept home by 50 or more school districts.

Public schools in Washington D.C. were closed beginning Monday until April 1 affecting some 47,000 students. Fairfax County, Virginia also closed schools on Friday, affecting 180,000 students.

The European Union pushed back against Trump’s sharp restrictions on travel from Europe to the United States, declaring the virus a crisis that was “not limited to any continent.”

The ban will bar most foreign visitors coming to the U.S. from continental Europe for 30 days starting at midnight Friday.

An industry trade group notes there were 200,000 flights last year between the United States and the 26-nation area of Europe covered by Trump’s ban, accounting for $20.6 billion in airline revenue.

Airlines are already reeling from a drop in travel caused by the new coronavirus, and the ban will put enormous pressure on carriers.

The crisis has wreaked havoc on businesses and financial markets, sending U.S. stocks to their worst losses since the Black Monday crash of 1987.

An economist in Paris says, “We are in the deep unknown.”

Big city, big worry: New Yorkers fret as bustling city slows

New Yorkers are finding the coronavirus has left their famously bustling city with no Broadway, no basketball and no more big events.

Restaurants and subways cars are noticeably emptier.

Residents known for their brashness are laying low amid worries about an ever-worsening crisis.

The big questions revolve around what will happen next. Will schools close? Will mass transit shut down?

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he hopes to avoid such drastic measures.

California virus scare closes venues, delays weddings

From art shows to weddings, closures and cancellations due to the new coronavirus are rapidly mounting across California.

Among the major venues closing are the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim and Dodger Stadium, where the March 26 Los Angeles Dodgers-San Francisco Giants game was to take place.

Most venues hope to reopen in April. For some the return to normal will definitely be longer, however.

Southern California events planner Jimmy Koh says several of his wedding clients are rescheduling their nuptials.

More important to him is the business he’s losing as he cancels an annual conference for 5,000 Asian American lawyers.

Virus darkens stages, silences orchestras across the US

The ongoing fears surrounding the coronavirus have shuttered places where Americans and others have long gathered to escape the world and also to engage with it.

Almost everything that draws crowds has now sent them all away.

The list of venues where people can no longer find entertainment or diversion in the U.S. continues to climb — so far scrapped or shuttered are everything from Coachella and Carnegie Hall, Major League Soccer, Disneyland and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The virus’ arrival comes just as Americans shake off the winter blues and generally plan spring events like concerts, games and shows. But no more.

Some US colleges cancel, postpone graduation over virus

Some U.S. colleges are starting to cancel or postpone spring graduation ceremonies over fears about the new coronavirus.

Schools including Brigham Young University, the Savannah College of Art and Design and Berea College are among those telling students they have canceled currently scheduled commencement ceremonies.

Dozens of other schools say it’s too soon to make a decision, leaving families wondering whether to book flights and hotels and students unsure of whether to purchase caps and gowns.

Some students acknowledge the need for caution around graduation but say they still would feel robbed if they missed such an important milestone.

Canadian Parliament shuts until April 20 due to pandemic

Canada’s Parliament has voted to shut for at least five weeks to help ensure lawmakers do not contribute to the spread of for new coronavirus.

Trudeau says his government will likely recommend that Canadians avoid travel outside the country except for essential purposes.

The prime minister, who is quarantining himself at home after his wife tested positive for the new coronavirus, will address the nation later Friday.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau fell ill after returning from Britain. The couple have three children, but Trudeau’s wife is the only member of the family with symptoms, the prime minister’s office said.

Trudeau himself as not been tested because he is not showing symptoms, his office said.

Trudeau said “we are going to be able to get through this if everyone is going to follow the advice of our medical professionals and experts.”

Trudeau is spending the day in briefings, phone calls and virtual meetings from home. He spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.

Spain orders 1st mandatory lockdown for 60,000

Spain’s has ordered its first mandatory lockdown, confining over 60,000 people to four towns as infections for the new coronavirus increase sharply.

The rise is straining health services and putting more pressure on the government to act faster to fight the pandemic.

The country had more than 3,800 cases by Friday morning and at least 84 deaths. The Spanish capital, Madrid, has nearly 2,000 cases alone, many linked to nursing homes.

The government has closed museums and sports centers, sent home nearly 10 million students, asked people to work remotely and limited crowds at public events in high risk areas. But questions are rising whether the measures are enough.

Madrid’s vice president said Friday that the region is in dire need of medical supplies, despite announcing an unprecedented plan to pool intensive care units from both public and private hospitals and to use hotel rooms for medical needs.

Italy’s virus-related deaths soar to 1,266 total

Italian civil protection authorities say the number of coronavirus infections has soared by more than 2,500 in the last 24 hours while virus-related deaths make largest single-day jump of 250.

That brings the total number of infected in Italy to 17,660 since the outbreak began on Feb. 21, and the number of related deaths to 1,266.

Italy is the epicenter of the virus outbreak in Europe.

Europe epicenter of pandemic

The head of the World Health Organization says Europe, not China, is now the epicenter of the world's coronavirus pandemic.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva that "more cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic."

He noted that "5,000 people have lost their lives, a tragic milestone."

He says Europe now has "more reported virus cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China."

Over 135,000 people have been infected worldwide, the most in China, where over 3,000 patients have died and over 62,000 have already recovered.

Queen Elizabeth II, royals cancel events

Buckingham Palace says Queen Elizabeth II is canceling some public events "as a sensible precaution" during the coronavirus outbreak.

The palace says two planned visits by the 93-year-old monarch in London and northwest England have been postponed on medical advice. The queen will still hold audiences at Buckingham Palace.

The queen’s son, Prince Charles, and his wife Camilla have postponed a trip planned for next week to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cyprus and Jordan because of the pandemic.

The number of people in the U.K. testing positive for the new coronavirus jumped 35% over the past day as criticism over the government's approach to the outbreak escalated.

The British government said 798 people had tested positive for the COVID-19 disease by Friday, up from 590 the day before. Ten people have now died. In total, 32,771 people have been tested.

The Conservative government's strategy to contain the outbreak has come under criticism for not yet ordering the mass closure of schools, banning large events or introducing "social distancing" measures" that have been adopted elsewhere in Europe.

Instead, Britons have been urged to wash hands frequently and asked to stay at home for a week if they have a new persistent cough or signs of a fever.
Canadian Parliament shuts until April 20 due to pandemic

Canada’s Parliament has voted to shut for at least five weeks to help ensure lawmakers do not contribute to the spread of for new coronavirus.

Trudeau says his government will likely recommend that Canadians avoid travel outside the country except for essential purposes.

The prime minister, who is quarantining himself at home after his wife tested positive for the new coronavirus, will address the nation later Friday.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau fell ill after returning from Britain. The couple have three children, but Trudeau’s wife is the only member of the family with symptoms, the prime minister’s office said.

Trudeau himself as not been tested because he is not showing symptoms, his office said.

Trudeau said “we are going to be able to get through this if everyone is going to follow the advice of our medical professionals and experts.”

Trudeau is spending the day in briefings, phone calls and virtual meetings from home. He spoke with U.S. President Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday.
Spain orders 1st mandatory lockdown for 60,000

Spain’s has ordered its first mandatory lockdown, confining over 60,000 people to four towns as infections for the new coronavirus increase sharply.

The rise is straining health services and putting more pressure on the government to act faster to fight the pandemic.

The country had more than 3,800 cases by Friday morning and at least 84 deaths. The Spanish capital, Madrid, has nearly 2,000 cases alone, many linked to nursing homes.

The government has closed museums and sports centers, sent home nearly 10 million students, asked people to work remotely and limited crowds at public events in high risk areas. But questions are rising whether the measures are enough.

Madrid’s vice president said Friday that the region is in dire need of medical supplies, despite announcing an unprecedented plan to pool intensive care units from both public and private hospitals and to use hotel rooms for medical needs.

China says it wants to offer virus assistance

Chinese President Xi Jinping has told the U.N. that his nation wants to conduct joint research on drugs and vaccines and offer “as much assistance as it can" to countries where the novel coronavirus is spreading.

State media reported Friday that Xi told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres by phone that economic and daily life are gradually returning to normal in China thanks to “arduous endeavors" at prevention and control.

Xi was quoted as saying: “The Chinese people will definitely prevail over the COVID-19 epidemic and will also definitely realize its intended targets for economic and social development."

He was also quoted as saying that the Chinese people's “hard work has won precious time for and made important contributions to other countries' epidemic prevention and control."

China, where the virus was first discovered, recorded just eight new infections on Friday.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. Gray Media Group, Inc., contributed to this report.