Mar 16 Coronavirus Mainstream Narrative

Measures to Slow Coronavirus Intensify

Reporting was contributed by Michael Cooper, Karen Weise, Reid J. Epstein, Katie Glueck, Shane Goldmacher, Jeanna Smialek, Neil Irwin, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Safak Timur, Emmet Lindner, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Aurelien Breeden, Raphael Minder, Melissa Eddy and Tiffany May | Original New York Times article here.

Global restrictions rise, but so do the number of new infections.

Countries closed borders, cities from New York and Los Angeles to Paris and Madrid closed bars and restaurants, schools closed more classrooms and hundreds of millions of people closed their doors on one another as the authorities took ever more drastic steps to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

The consequences of China’s harsh measures to halt the virus — restricting the movement of about 700 million people at one point — became apparent on Monday when the government released economic data showing industrial output falling to its lowest level in decades and unemployment rising at its highest rate ever in February.

While the economic ramifications of China’s approach are still playing out, Beijing did succeed in slowing the rise of new infections, as the total number of cases outside the country has for the first time surpassed those inside it.

The Federal Reserve, seeking to steady financial markets, cut interest rates to near zero and said it would buy hundreds of billions of dollars in U.S. government debt. But global stocks still tumbled on Monday.

As the virus continues to spread across the United States, public life is increasingly shut down. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends a ban on gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks.

And as Americans are asked to isolate themselves, the United States has stepped up plans to isolate itself from the world, with travelers from Britain and Ireland on Monday joining the list of other European countries barred from entering the country

But even as a patchwork of new restrictions were put in place across the country — with different states and localities charting their own course — there was growing concern that hospitals could soon be overwhelmed.

“We have an impending catastrophe when this wave of growth crashes on the hospital system,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said in an appearance on CNN on Monday.

Within Europe, countries are closing themselves off. The Czech Republic, Cyprus, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia have all closed themselves off to foreigners. And Germany, the economic engine of the Continent, said that it would partly close its borders with five neighboring countries.

Still, the number of new cases across the Continent continues to surge, and there is growing worry that the health care systems of Spain and France could soon face the kind of dire situation playing out in Italy — where doctors have had to make grim decisions about which patients to treat.

There is a scramble across the Continent to step up production of ventilators, with leaders calling for the kind of effort seen in wartime to produce munitions. The Spanish government warned on Monday that it would probably extend the state of emergency and keep people indoors beyond the initial period of 15 days.

Jérôme Salomon, a top official at the French health ministry, said the situation was “deteriorating very quickly.” He told France Inter radio on Monday that many people did not seem to be taking calls for social distancing seriously, and he tried to dispel the notion that the virus seriously threatens only the elderly. There are 300 to 400 people in intensive care in France, he said, and roughly half of them are under age 65.

Across America, States Limit Public Interactions.

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.

Restaurants and bars were ordered closed in 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.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for people 65 and older to shelter in their homes. He also issued guidelines calling for the closing of all bars, night clubs and wineries. He said that restaurants could remain open, but they must reduce their occupancy by half 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 said on 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. New York City, the largest district in the nation, with 1.1 million students, said on Sunday that it would shut down, and Massachusetts moved to close schools across the state beginning Tuesday, joining other school systems around the nation that decided to close earlier.

Investors drive global shares lower, in a bad sign for Wall Street.

Global stocks tumbled on Monday despite the U.S. Federal Reserve’s emergency measures to address the economic slowdown. European markets opened more than 4 percent lower on Monday, then fell more than 8 percent as the morning continued. France’s main stock index briefly fell 10 percent.

The glum opening followed a difficult day in Asian markets, where sentiment soured throughout the day. Australia led the region’s drop with a 9.7 percent plunge in the S&P/ASX 200 stock index, leaving it down about 30 percent from its high last month.

The Fed cut interest rates to near zero and said it would buy hundreds of billions of dollars in government debt, moves 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.

Benchmark global and American crude oil prices were also lower, signaling concern that global demand for crude would continue to fall as the world’s biggest economies temporarily shut down to fight the virus.

New York City is closing all schools, restaurants and bars.

New York City is closing down the nation’s largest school system and said that all bars and restaurants would close, limiting those outlets to takeout and food delivery. And Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo called for the Army Corps of Engineers to expand hospital capacity to deal with a surge in patients and keep the health care system from being overwhelmed.

The measures by New York City — the most aggressive and disruptive efforts so far to stem the spread of the coronavirus — were announced after local authorities came under intense scrutiny for a limited response.
“I’m very, very concerned that we see a rapid spread of this disease, and it’s time to take more dramatic measures,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday afternoon. “This is a decision I have taken with no joy and a lot of pain.”

The city’s schools will be closed on Monday for all students and employees, but teachers will be asked to report to work later in the week for training on how to provide remote learning, Mr. de Blasio said, adding that his goal was to reopen all schools on April 20.

Some locations will reopen on March 23 as “enrichment centers,” set up to provide instruction and services for vulnerable children, including homeless students and children with special needs. But Mr. de Blasio there was a strong chance that schools would not reopen at all this school year. Later on Sunday, he ordered that all restaurants bars and cafes limit their operations to to food take out and delivery. Nightclubs, movie theaters and concert venues will also close starting on Tuesday.

Across the Hudson River in Hoboken, N.J., that city has also introduced severe restrictions, including a curfew from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. beginning Monday. All bars and restaurants will be limited to takeout and delivery services.
All public and private schools in Nassau County, which includes some of the most densely populated areas of Long Island, are closed starting Monday, and New Jersey’s governor said on Sunday that a statewide school shutdown was “imminent.”

In Connecticut, all public schools will shut down on Tuesday and remain closed until at least March 31.

U.K. officials consider adding restrictions amid growing pressure.

British officials are expected to announce measures this week to combat the coronavirus, as cases more than quadrupled in the country from a week earlier. The government has been criticized by scientists, public health officials and citizens for mixed messaging about what measures will be taken.

The government is holding an emergency meeting on Monday to discuss its next moves and whether to adopt some of the more stringent regulations being put in place across the Continent.

It is likely to release advice on social distancing, including measures that will ask people over 70 to remain in their homes, according to government ministers who spoke about the issue over the weekend. Matt Hancock, Britain’s health secretary, told the BBC that every person over 70 in the country would be instructed “within the coming weeks” to self-isolate at home for an extended period. He did not provide a time frame, but said it could be for “a very long time.”

The government also said it planned to hold daily televised news conferences, delivered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson and senior ministers, to update the public starting on Monday afternoon.

Downing Street also said Mr. Johnson would speak with British manufacturers to seek support in producing essential medical equipment, including ventilators that are vital in treating severe coronavirus cases.

No gatherings of 50 or more for now, urges the Centers for Disease Control.

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 did 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.”

The C.D.C. also 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.”

Italy’s deaths jump, Germany seals its borders, and France sounds the alarm.

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

In an interview published Monday, Italy’s prime minister said the government could take further action to stem the spread and bolster the economy.

“The approved measures are not sufficient,” the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, told the newspaper Corriere della Sera.

“After the coronavirus, nothing will be as before,” he said of a country that is effectively under a nationwide lockdown. “We will have to sit down and rewrite the rules of trade and the free market.”

Other countries in Europe also began taking more serious measures. Germany will close its borders with Austria, Denmark, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland, the country’s interior minister said on Sunday.
Spain and France — the countries hardest hit after Italy — announced drastic countrywide restrictions this weekend.

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.

France announced the closing of all “non-indispensable” businesses, including restaurants, bars and movie theaters, after a sharp rise 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. By Monday, Jérôme Salomon, an official in France’s health ministry, said the situation in that country was “extremely worrying” and “deteriorating very quickly.”

“We are seeing that the number of cases is doubling every three days,” he told France Inter radio.

Mr. Salomon warned that young people were also at risk. About half of the country’s patients in intensive care because of the virus are younger than 65, he said, adding that the health care system would soon be under great strain.

Turkey, which has recorded 20 cases, said on Monday that it would close bars, night clubs and discos until further notice.

In Latin America, Argentina and Peru said they would close their borders, and Honduras went into virtual lockdown.

Argentina’s president, Alberto Fernández, said 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.

Biden and Sanders say the military can help in the fight against the virus.

As they faced off in a debate that was transformed in ways large and small by the coronavirus pandemic, the two rivals for the Democratic presidential nomination, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, agreed on at least one thing: a greater role for the U.S. 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 said that the pandemic was highlighting weaknesses in the health care system. Mr. Biden warned that it was 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 the crisis highlighted 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 they were taking steps to avoid contracting the virus, including canceling events, using hand sanitizer and washing their hands regularly.

The coronavirus shaped not just the content of the debate, but also its format. The face-off was moved from Phoenix to Washington, D.C., there was no live audience, and the candidates parried from lecterns kept six feet apart. And when they took to the stage, they dispensed with the customary handshake in favor of an elbow bump.

There are now more new cases outside China than in the country, where the outbreak began.

As the coronavirus epidemic continues to surge worldwide, there are now more total confirmed cases outside 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.

The 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, has recorded a grim rise in infections and deaths in recent days, and said that total cases in the country 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 top leader, Xi Jinping, has trumpeted his efforts to bring 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 had reached 3,213. More than three quarters of those occurred in Wuhan, the provincial capital of Hubei, where the outbreak has struck hardest. To date, more than 3,100 have died outside China.

As the outbreak expands outside, the authorities took measures on Monday to further protect Beijing, the capital. All travelers to the city will undergo a 14-day quarantine at sites designated by the government. Previously, arriving travelers were allowed to self-isolate at home.

Other places including Anhui Province, Inner Mongolia and the city of Sanya on Hainan Island announced similar quarantine measures.

Also on Monday, Jack Ma, China’s richest man, said he had donated surgical masks and testing kits to the United States, just weeks after China desperately imported medical equipment from around the world to handle its outbreak. “All the best to our friends in America,” Mr. Ma, the founder of the e-commerce giant Alibaba, said on Twitter on Monday.

Sailor aboard crowded Navy vessel tests positive.

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 people 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 ability to transport 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, Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Safak Timur, Emmet Lindner, Marc Santora, Megan Specia, Aurelien Breeden, Raphael Minder, Melissa Eddy and Tiffany May.