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Live updates: California governor issues statewide stay-at-home order; Confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. doubled in two days

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A critical-care physician at the University of Washington Medical Center discussed how his hospital is getting ready for a surge of coronavirus patients. (Video: Tim Matsui, Whitney Leaming/Photo: EPA/The Washington Post)
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California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a statewide stay-at-home order starting Thursday evening. “This is a moment we need to make tough decisions," Newsom said at an online news conference. It is the strongest statewide restriction yet aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. The announcement follows similar orders issued in the past few days across the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles.

As the novel coronavirus continued to spread globally, the number of confirmed cases in the United States doubled: A figure that surpassed 5,700 on Tuesday climbed above 11,500 on Thursday. The dramatic increase stems in part from more testing, but also indicates just how much the virus has spread. Officials say the number will continue to rise sharply as more test results become available.

Here are some other significant developments:

  • Senate Republicans introduced a $1 trillion fiscal package — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — which includes sending direct cash payments to many Americans.
  • The State Department warned Americans not to travel internationally and advised all Americans who are abroad to return to the United States or make preparations to shelter in place.
  • Italy on Thursday hit a grim milestone, surpassing China for the largest number of coronavirus-related deaths, at 3,405. Morgues in Italy are running out of capacity.
  • To address medical supply shortages, new legislation provides manufacturers of N95 face masks protection against lawsuits when selling certain masks to healthcare workers. That will free producers including 3M and Honeywell to sell tens of millions more masks per month to hospitals, according to Vice President Pence, who said "they are available now.”
  • CDC data now shows that younger adults are a large percentage of coronavirus hospitalizations in the United States.
  • India barred incoming commercial flights for a week, and Australia and New Zealand closed their borders to everyone except citizens and residents. The United Arab Emirates went further, stopping expatriate residents from returning to the country. Meanwhile, Italy is extending lockdown measures.
  • President Trump cancelled the in-person G-7 summit scheduled for June at Camp David, due to the coronavirus pandemic, deciding instead to hold the annual meeting by videoconference.
7:58 p.m.

Haiti, Argentina crack down on residents’ movement

Argentina's President Alberto Fernández announces measures to contain the outbreak of the new coronavirus near Buenos Aires on Thursday. (Juan Mabromata/Afp Via Getty Images)

Haiti and Argentina on Thursday both announced strict new limits on residents’ freedom of movement and public life, the latest countries turning to increasingly drastic measures to combat the novel coronavirus.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández declared a nationwide quarantine that will go into effect midnight Friday through the end of the month. Residents are ordered to stay at home except to get essential goods.

“It is time for us to understand that we are caring for the health of Argentines,” Fernández said at a news conference. “We have now dictated this measure trying to make the effects on the economy as least harmful as possible.”

Previously, the South American country had shut down its borders to fight the pandemic.

Haitian officials also announced broad measures Thursday, including a border closure, a curfew to last from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Friday, and the shutdown of schools, ports, airports and more, Reuters reported. President Jovenel Moïse said at a news conference, though, that the flow of goods would continue, according to the news agency.

By Hannah Knowles
7:51 p.m.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) sold large amount of stock before sharp declines in market

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who had expressed confidence in the country’s preparedness for the coronavirus outbreak, sold a significant share of his stock portfolio last month, according to public disclosures.

The sales included stocks in some of the industries that have been hardest hit by the global pandemic, including hotels and restaurants, shipping, drug manufacturing and health care, records show.

Until about a week ago, President Trump and GOP leaders had projected optimism in the country’s ability to manage the global outbreak of the coronavirus.

As head of the powerful Intelligence Committee, Burr reportedly was receiving daily briefings on the threat of the virus. In mid-February, he sold 33 stocks held by him and his spouse, estimated at between $628,033 and $1.72 million, Senate financial disclosures show.

It was the largest number of stocks he had sold in one day since at least 2016, records show. The Feb. 13 stock sales were first reported by ProPublica.

Read more here.

By Michelle Lee and John Wagner
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7:46 p.m.

California issues statewide ‘stay at home’ order

California Gov. Gavin Newsom gives an update to the state's response in Rancho Cordova, Calif., earlier this week. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

In a Thursday night address, Calif Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a statewide stay-at-home order, a move he said would help “bend the curve in the state of California.”

By ordering California residents to stay at home except for essential activities, Newsom followed the lead of counties in the San Francisco Bay area which recently issued similar orders, as well as Los Angeles County, which announced a stay-at-home order earlier Thursday. He said the directive would go into effect Thursday evening and did not give a timeline for how long it will last.

Newsom said he hoped people would abide by it, “do the right thing and meet this moment … to protect themselves, protect their families and protect the broader community.”

The governor said the sweeping changes, which cover some 40 million people in the country’s most populous state, are necessary to avoid overwhelming the health-care system with coronavirus patients. California’s hospitals are not currently able to meet projected patients, Newsom warned.

The National Guard will provide support at food banks and other humanitarian businesses that have lost volunteers, he said.

“We can make decisions to meet moments. This is a moment we need to make tough decisions,” he said. “This is a moment where we need some straight talk and we need to tell people the truth. We need to bend the curve in the state of California.”

According to Newsom, at the current rate, 56 percent of the state — 25.5 million residents — will have the coronavirus within eight weeks. Newsom shared the projection in a letter to President Trump in explaining his request for the Navy’s USNS Mercy, a hospital ship, to be sent to the California coast.

Newsom closed his remarks by decrying the racism and xenophobia directed at Asian Americans in the state.

“We are better than that. We are watching that,” Newsom said.

By Michael Brice-Saddler and Candace Buckner
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6:38 p.m.

Los Angeles County’s more than 10 million residents ordered to stay home

Los Angeles County joined a growing number of jurisdictions around the country in ordering residents to stay inside their homes and limit nonessential activities. With more than 10 million residents, the county, which includes the city of Los Angeles, is the most populous in the United States.

“We know this will have an impact on the social fabric of our communities. We still encourage individuals to stay connected to their community and their loved ones in creative ways, and to spend much-needed time outdoors,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement. “We won’t have to maintain these restrictions forever, and they will have an invaluable long-term impact.”

The order requires malls, shopping centers, playgrounds and nonessential retail businesses to close and prohibits indoor gatherings of more than 10 people. Similar orders were made in the nearby cities of Long Beach and Pasadena.

“This is not a request. This is an order,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said. He has asked residents to “self-enforce.”

The Bay Area and Sacramento have taken similar stances.

A second person in Los Angeles County died of the coronavirus, officials announced, and the total number of confirmed cases of infection climbed by 40 to 230.

By Steven Goff
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6:35 p.m.

NYC reports seven positive coronavirus cases among the homeless; officials expect numbers to rise

New York City has recorded seven positive cases among its homeless population, according to Isaac McGinn, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Social Services. One of the cases has stabilized, and the person has been discharged from the hospital but remains in isolation.

McGinn said the Department of Social Services has developed an internal screening protocol for thousands of shelters to help identify people who are experiencing possible symptoms of coronavirus disease.

“As cases rise across the country and the city, we anticipate cases will rise amongst the New Yorkers experiencing homelessness who we serve,” McGinn said. “With several thousands more New Yorkers tested overnight citywide, we can confirm a handful of additional cases.”

There are fears about the impact of coronavirus on homeless people nationwide, who are particularly vulnerable. Advocates say outbreaks could occur in encampments on the street, where people may lack the ability to self-quarantine or receive medical attention.

McGinn said cases have been observed in six shelter locations.

“Following the lead of our city’s health experts, we are working together across agencies to monitor the constantly evolving situation and rapidly respond in support of our most vulnerable,” he added.

By Michael Brice-Saddler
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6:13 p.m.

Two Lakers, Celtics’ Marcus Smart are NBA’s latest to test positive for coronavirus

LOS ANGELES — Four NBA teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, announced Thursday that members of their organizations have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the league’s tally to at least 14 positive tests.

The Lakers, who announced plans to test their players earlier this week after four Brooklyn Nets players tested positive, had two unidentified players test positive despite being asymptomatic. The Lakers and Nets played each other in Los Angeles on March 10, one night before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver suspended the 2019-20 season following Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s positive coronavirus test.

The Celtics announced that one player had tested positive, and that he was asymptomatic. Marcus Smart said in a video posted to Twitter shortly thereafter that he had tested positive.

“I was tested [five] days ago and the results came back tonight, which were positive,” Smart, a 26-year-old guard, wrote on Twitter. “I’ve been self quarantined since the test, thank goodness. COVID-19 must be taken w the highest of seriousness. I know it’s a #1 priority for our nations health experts, & we must get more testing ASAP.”

Read more here.

By Ben Golliver
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6:02 p.m.

Bank of America to offer deferred payments on mortgages

Bank of America, one of the nation’s top lenders, will offer homeowners emergency relief on mortgages amid the economic uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the bank announced a program in which borrowers can defer payments on mortgages as well as auto loans and small business loans to the end of the loan. Late fees will also be refunded on consumer and small business credit cards and business loans. Deferments and refunded late fees will come on a case-by-case basis, the bank said.

Earlier in the week, lenders consisting of Citigroup, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Quicken Loans announced a plan for clients to defer payments during the public health crisis, the New York Times reported.

U.S. banks are following the lead of financial institutions elsewhere in the world. Lenders in Britain and Italy, a country hard-hit by the coronavirus, will delay mortgage payments for borrowers who experience financial hardships, CNN reported. In Australia, banks have also agreed to take emergency measures to help mortgage borrowers, according to Australian media.

By Candace Buckner
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5:31 p.m.

Senate Democrats propose bailout for student loan borrowers

As the White House and Congress assemble a stimulus package to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Senate Democrats are pushing for widespread relief for the 42 million Americans with a total of $1.5 trillion in federal student loans.

“The coronavirus outbreak brought with it crushing economic uncertainty, and students and borrowers need targeted, quick relief from payment burdens,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who introduced the planThursday with Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

By Danielle Douglas
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4:57 p.m.

Chicago mayor orders everyone who’s sick to stay home or ‘there will be consequences’

In an online address late Thursday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a “stay home if sick" order to any city residents showing symptoms of covid-19, as well as people over 60 who are vulnerable to the virus.

“If you violate this order, there will be consequences. Be smart, be safe, and stay home if you are sick. That’s an order,” she said. She did not indicate the nature of consequences if there are violations.

Illinois currently has four deaths and a statewide total of 422 cases related to the coronavirus. So far the only municipality in the state that has a shelter-in-place order is suburban Oak Park, located west of Chicago. On Wednesday the village announced two emergency room doctors at a local hospital tested positive for the virus. The order for all residents to self-isolate goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday and will last through April 3.

In her address, Lightfoot also said Chicago public schools will remain closed through April 20.

To date, Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) have blasted the Trump administration’s response to the novel coronavirus, specially Saturday when social media was filled with images showing incoming travelers waiting for hours to go through screening at O’Hare International Airport. Lightfoot said she is working with Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Tammy Duckworth to direct federal stimulus funds to Chicago in the forms of unemployment benefits and grants and loans for small businesses.

“Localities like Chicago should not be shouldering this burden alone. This is a ‘B-sized’ problem, meaning something that can only be solved with billions in needed stimulus support from the federal government,” she said.

By Mark Guarino
4:30 p.m.

Trump cancels in-person G-7 summit at Camp David

President Trump has canceled the in-person Group of Seven summit scheduled for June at Camp David because of the coronavirus pandemic, deciding instead to hold the annual meeting by videoconference, the White House said Thursday.

“In order for each country to focus all of its resources on responding to the health and economic challenges of COVID-19 and at President Trump’s direction, National Economic Council Director and U.S. Sherpa for the 2020 G7 Larry Kudlow has informed his Sherpa colleagues that the G7 Leaders’ Summit the U.S. was set to host in June at Camp David will now be done by video-teleconference,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

The cancellation was first reported by Reuters.

Trump, who participated in a videoconference with the heads of the world’s leading economies earlier this week to coordinate efforts on the pandemic, plans to convene similar meetings in April and May, Deere said.

The G-7 is composed of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, and the countries rotate hosting duties. The White House said last year that Trump would host the summit at one of his properties, Trump National Doral near Miami, but abruptly changed course amid criticism, including some from his own party, of a conflict of interest.

The decision to cancel an in-person summit at the president retreat in Maryland comes the same day as the Trump administration issued the most severe travel warning available, advising Americans not to go abroad as the virus spreads. Traveling for the summit also would have consumed significant resources and staff of the seven countries.

By Seung Min Kim
4:27 p.m.

Law enforcement, attorneys nationwide working to limit inmate population

Law enforcement officials and defense attorneys in Maryland, the District and throughout the country are taking steps to release inmates, drop pending prosecutions and lock up fewer new defendants to thin crowded prisons that public health officials say are ripe for spreading the coronavirus.

The top prosecutor and public defender in Prince George’s County asked a judge Thursday to release from jail about 40 people who have been charged with low-level, nonviolent crimes and are awaiting trial.

“We are safely and responsibly recommending release” for pretrial defendants, State’s Attorney Aisha N. Braveboy said, because of concerns that the jail could become a “breeding ground and further prolong this crisis.”

Nationally, a group of more than two dozen prosecutors in cities such as New York, San Francisco, Dallas and Baltimore called on police to cite and release suspects they arrest who pose no physical threat. Prosecutors also are asking jailers to release those who cannot afford cash bail and those who are elderly or within six months of finishing their sentences.

Also, police departments are increasingly turning to warnings and citations instead of arrests and incarceration, and court officials are confirming cases of covid-19 among inmates and guards.

In the nation’s capital, Robert E. Morin, the D.C. Superior Court’s chief judge, signed a citywide order giving D.C. police as well as federal and local prosecutors discretion to decide whether to detain people who are arrested or to instead hand out a citation and order them to appear in court at a later date.

By Ann Marimow and Tom Jackman
3:56 p.m.

Coalition of criminal justice and public policy groups launch initiative tackling coronavirus in prisons and jails

A coalition of criminal justice, public policy and right-leaning organizations on Thursday launched an initiative to urge local, state and federal correctional facilities to enact sweeping measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among incarcerated populations.

The groups are working with governors in 21 states and federal agencies to enact changes, including limiting physical contact in prisons and jails, providing greater access to medical care and equipment for inmates and staff, using alternatives to incarceration for those who are of low public safety risk, and providing remote alternatives to parole or probation supervision.

“We believe there’s a real chance that our prisons and jails could become a hotbed of the virus and spread the disease back into our communities,” said Jessica Jackson, chief advocacy officer at the Reform Alliance, one of the groups leading the effort. The initiative, named the SAFER plan, is promoted by a number of groups that have been working on other criminal justice policy changes, such as the bipartisan First Step Act of 2018, aimed at improving reentry programs.

The groups include the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, American Conservative Union and the National Urban League. State and federal officials are already taking steps to improve jail and prison conditions recommended in the SAFER plan, Jackson said, including providing free phone calls for inmates in lieu of visitation, suspending co-pays for medical services in prison and suspending transfers between correctional facilities.

“These are common-sense ideas backed by science,” said David Safavian, general counsel of the American Conservative Union, noting that medical and public-health professionals had helped the group finalize its plan. “I don’t think there’s anything more important in terms of criminal justice right now than this set of issues.”

By Michelle Lee
3:51 p.m.

Spain orders closure of all hotels

Paramedics arrive with a patient on Thursday to Gran Hotel Colon in downtown Madrid that has begun to host coronavirus patients with mild symptoms. (Luca Piergiovanni/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Spain ordered all of its hotels to shut down Thursday in the country’s continued effort to combat the novel coronavirus.

The decree, published Thursday in the Official State Gazette, orders hotels to close within seven days.

It comes after Spain imposed a nationwide lockdown Saturday, ordering 47 million people to mostly stay in their homes with the exception of essential reasons, including work, medical appointments or to buy food.

By Michael Brice-Saddler
3:45 p.m.

Tesla bows to pressure, suspending operations at its California plant

Tesla's main factory in Fremont, Calif., on Wednesday. (John G Mabanglo/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

Tesla is suspending production at its Fremont, Calif., factory amid widespread criticism over its decision to keep its production line going despite a Bay Area-wide shelter-in-place order.

In a news release Thursday, the company said it had decided to “temporarily suspend” production at the Fremont factory, which employs about 10,000 workers, beginning Monday. That timeline, the company said, “will allow an orderly shutdown.”

“Basic operations will continue in order to support our vehicle and energy service operations and charging infrastructure, as directed by the local, state and federal authorities,” the company said, adding that a Buffalo factory would also suspend production.

Tesla’s action came after intervention from local officials, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, which said this week that Tesla was not an “essential business” under the order, and Fremont police, who said they were meeting with factory management Thursday.

By Faiz Siddiqui
3:30 p.m.

Bill de Blasio, Hillary Clinton highlight urgent need for medical supplies

As hospital workers have resorted to drastic alternatives such as bandannas and homemade face shields to protect against the coronavirus, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) warned that his city was just weeks away from running out of vital medical supplies of its own.

The grim warning — which comes as health-care workers across the country have expressed a desperate need for masks, gloves and ventilators — was echoed in a Thursday evening tweet from Hillary Clinton, who also underscored the urgent need for additional supplies. She called on President Trump directly to order more using the Defense Production Act, a 1950 law that could allow the federal government to compel the private sector to accelerate the development of critical medical equipment.

Trump said Wednesday that he would invoke the Defense Production Act, though it wasn’t clear how long it would take to get the equipment to the front lines.

“Hospitals are already running out of ventilators and beds. Nurses are using bandanas as masks,” Clinton wrote. “If you’ve already ordered more with the Defense Production Act, tell us now. If you haven’t, you’re failing to lead and failing Americans.”

By Michael Brice-Saddler
3:28 p.m.

Senate Republicans propose economic relief package with blanket payments to Americans

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks back to his office after he spoke on the Senate floor at the U.S. Capitol March 19, 2020 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The Senate is back in session today as GOPs and Democrats work behind the scenes to produce phase three of the coronavirus response bill to combat the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images) (Alex Wong/AFP/Getty Images)

Senate Republicans introduced a $1 trillion fiscal package to blunt the economic pain from the coronavirus, which includes sending direct cash payments to many Americans.

Individuals who make up to $75,000 or joint filers who make up to $150,000 will be eligible for $1,200 per person. Americans will receive an additional $500 for every child. The amount decreases incrementally for higher earners and phases out completely for those who earn more than $99,000 individually or $198,000 jointly.

In addition to the direct financial aid to Americans, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, will also guaranteed loans to small businesses and financial bailouts to hard-hit industries like the airlines.

This massive proposal is just a starting point for negotiations with Democrats over how best to prop up the U.S. economy during this crippling public health crisis.

“We need to take further steps to continue addressing our nation’s health-care needs,” McConnell said. “And we need to help protect American workers, families and small business from this unique economic crisis that threatens to worsen with every single day. We need to have the American people’s backs.”

In response to the Senate Republicans’ offer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said sign-off from Democrats will require a bill that includes “new, strong and strict provisions that prioritize and protect workers, such as banning the recipient companies from buying back stock, rewarding executives, and laying off workers.”

“We look forward to working in a bipartisan way to deliver for the American people as soon as humanly possible,” she said.

By Colby Itkowitz
3:24 p.m.

American students stranded in Peru

LIMA, Peru — Under its state of emergency, which runs until March 30, Peru has implemented some of the most draconian restrictions anywhere, including a nationwide 8 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew on top of a daytime ban on people leaving home other than to buy food or receive medical treatment.

The abrupt closing of its borders Sunday night has also left many Americans stranded in the Andean nation. One, Maeve Flaherty, a junior at Columbia University on a student exchange, is frantically trying to find a seat on any charter flight specially scheduled to repatriate U.S. citizens.

“It’s really scary down here,” said Flaherty, 22, from Norwalk, Conn. “You can’t go out and all the military are in the streets wearing masks. It’s like a dystopian movie. I put myself on a waiting list with [Colombian airline] Avianca, which was suggested by the U.S. Embassy, but I don’t want to wait on them.”

She had been on a bus full of international tourists returning to Lima from a day trip to the desert when news broke at about 9 p.m. Sunday that President Martín Vizcarra had taken the dramatic step of halting flights in and out of the country, whose economy relies heavily on tourism.

“I was surrounded by people panicking,” Flaherty said. “Everyone was freaking out and trying to contact their families. It was just so surreal. I went to the airport the next day and it was just absolute chaos.”

Flaherty said that as the pandemic exploded globally last week, just before Peru declared its state of emergency, university administrators had appeared overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis. “We were getting contradictory information from Columbia. First they would say ‘you can stay’, then they would say ‘come home’, then ‘stay’ again. I had whiplash,” she said.

Flaherty was speaking just after the State Department warned all Americans not to travel abroad. “U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” the State Department advisory said.

“Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice,” the statement added.

By Simeon Tegel
3:17 p.m.

U.K. turns to car manufacturers to make ventilators in wartime-like effort

LONDON — Faced with the prospect that waves of coronavirus patients struggling to breathe will soon overwhelm its hospitals, the British government issued a cry for help from manufacturers — the builders of automobiles, jet engines, dialysis machines, excavation equipment — to switch their assembly lines over to make mechanical ventilators.

It is a desperate, almost absurd appeal, but the government said it had received hundreds of replies in the span of four days from businesses offering to try.

The call for a “national effort,” issued this week by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, is unprecedented in peacetime, and recalls the life-or-death scramble of the late 1930s, which saw Morris Motors turn its factories from the assembly of boxy sedans to the building of Spitfire fighters.

Now, the tool-and-die set are being asked not to repel a blitz of Luftwaffe bombers but to mass produce stripped-down, “simple, functional” mechanical ventilators to push life-sustaining saturated oxygen into the lungs of critically ill patients in intensive-care wards. British technologists say, in theory, that it would be possible for a Rolls-Royce or Mini Cooper factory, with their sophisticated tooling and skilled staff, to turn itself into a ventilator manufacturer.

But can the British boffins DIY the country out of this crisis? The challenges are daunting.

“There’s the skill and capability in the U.K. to do it. But how quickly?” said Robert Harrison, professor of automation at Warwick University. “These are life-critical, very sophisticated instruments, composed of electronics, sensors, valves, pumps,” he said, adding that the machines are also highly regulated medical devices, not vacuum cleaners.

Read more here.

By William Booth and Karla Adam
3:04 p.m.

U.S. and Mexico in talks to limit border crossings to ‘essential travel’

The Trump administration is in talks with the Mexican government to limit border crossings to essential travel only, according to officials from both countries with knowledge of the discussions.

The restrictions, which could take effect as soon as tomorrow, would apply to vehicle passengers and pedestrians crossing at legal ports of entry. Commercial goods arriving via rail and truck would be exempt.

The United States has already reached a similar accord with Canada, but negotiations with Mexico have been stickier, because the volume of people crossing each day to shop, visit family members and conduct business is much larger.

With nearly 1 million people crossing each day, the U.S.-Mexico land border is considered the busiest in the world.

A Mexican official who was not authorized to discuss the talks publicly said the country’s government was working closely with U.S. authorities to limit the spread of the virus while urging Americans to take into account the potential impact for Mexico while defining what would constitute “essential travel.”

“The nature of our border and the nature of the movement is completely different, given the number of border crossings,” the official said, so whatever agreement is reached “has to be something appropriate to the circumstances of the U.S.-Mexico border.”

While the United States has more than 11,000 confirmed cases and more than 150 deaths, Mexico has fewer than 150 cases and only 1 death to date.

A senior U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the talks said the overall goal was to minimize the risk of spreading infection.

U.S. and Mexican officials are also in talks over possible emergency measures that allow U.S. Border Patrol agents to quickly process and return migrants who cross illegally, to minimize the number of detainees in U.S. custody. President Trump said he was preparing to announce such a measure yesterday, but Homeland Security officials acknowledge that such an arrangement will require cooperation from Mexican authorities.

By Nick Miroff
2:54 p.m.

Pennsylvania governor orders all non-life-sustaining businesses to close

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D) ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in the state to close their physical locations, beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday.

The mandatory closures, which are aimed to slow the spread of coronavirus, will be enforced this weekend. Special exemptions will be made for businesses that provide services for health-care providers. The edict comes after Wolf urged some businesses to shut down earlier in the week.

“Unfortunately, we have not seen full compliance,” he said.

Food establishments will still be able to offer carryout, delivery and drive-through food and beverage services, he said in a statement. Restaurants and bars that do not stop dine-in services will be subject to citations, fines and license suspensions.

“I have heard from business owners that are worried about the financial repercussions of a closure, I’m aware of it,” he said, adding that his administration was working on solutions. “Before we can save livelihoods, we have to save lives.”

Wolf’s decision comes as myriad cities and states have shut down restaurants and bars in an effort to mitigate the spread of coronavirus — while others have not. Local leaders have called on the White House to issue a federal mandate to spur more uniform closures.

By Michael Brice-Saddler
2:36 p.m.

Saints Coach Sean Payton says he tested positive for coronavirus

Mandatory Credit: Photo by DAN ANDERSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock (10588754a) (FILE) A file picture of New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton on the sidelines while playing against the Minnesota Vikings during the NFL American football NFC Wild Card playoff game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, 05 January 2020. NFL (National Football League) confirmed on 19 March 2020 that Payton as been tested positive for the coronavirus. New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton tested positive for coronavirus, USA - 05 Jan 2020 (Dan Anderson/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton has tested positive for the new coronavirus, he told ESPN. Payton’s case makes him the first NFL coach, front-office executive or player known to have tested positive during the global coronavirus pandemic.

Payton told ESPN that he was publicizing his case because he wants people to heed advice about social distancing to limit the spread of the virus.

“This is not just about social distancing,” Payton told ESPN. “It’s shutting down here for a week to two weeks. If people understand the curve, and understand the bump, we can easily work together as a country to reduce it. Take a minute to understand what the experts are saying. It’s not complicated to do what they’re asking of us. Just that type of small investment by every one of us will have a dramatic impact.”

“I was fortunate to be in the minority, without the serious side effects that some have,” he continued. “I’m lucky. Younger people feel like they can handle this, but they can be a carrier to someone who can’t handle it. So we all need to do our part. It’s important for every one of us to do our part.”

By Mark Maske
2:35 p.m.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio confirms first case at Rikers Island, says other inmates have shown symptoms

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday confirmed Wednesday reports that an inmate at Rikers Island had tested positive for the coronavirus. He said eight other inmates have shown symptoms.

De Blasio said the inmate who tested positive, a man in his 30s, was “doing okay health-wise” and was moved to isolation. He said other inmates were also tested, and eight of them showed symptoms. Those inmates were relocated to a disease unit, he said.

Rikers Island in recent years has come under fire for reports of inhumane conditions. It was not immediately clear Thursday how many inmates were tested or potentially exposed.

During his address, de Blasio told New Yorkers to brace for the fact that things could get worse before they get better.

“But it will get better,” he added. “But it will get better in the end. And we will see it through.”

By Michael Brice-Saddler
2:31 p.m.

Netflix reduces streaming speed in Europe at request of European Commission

Streaming giant Netflix announced Thursday that it would slow down its streaming quality in Europe to alleviate possible strain on the continent’s Internet infrastructure as more people are staying at home.

The announcement came after European Union Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton said Wednesday that he had called on Netflix CEO Reed Hastings to take action.

“Teleworking & streaming help a lot but infrastructures might be in strain. To secure Internet access for all, let’s #SwitchToStandard definition when HD is not necessary,” Breton wrote on Twitter, adding he spoke on the phone with Hastings.

The company would “begin reducing bit rates across all our streams in Europe for 30 days,” a Netflix spokesperson told Business Insider. “We estimate that this will reduce Netflix traffic on European networks by around 25 percent while also ensuring a good quality service for our members.”

As Europe becomes the epicenter of the novel coronavirus, more than 250 million people are on lockdown, virtually confined to their apartments to work, live and learn. The transition has seen a staggering rise in Internet usage as teleworking and online schooling become a fact of life for most. Some experts worry that the Internet capabilities will buckle under the high volume of streaming demands.

By Ruby Mellen
2:05 p.m.

As the world retreats due to coronavirus, NATO is still holding meetings

BRUSSELS — Deep into the global coronavirus pandemic, NATO is taking an unconventional approach to its daily operations: packing senior leadership into conference rooms to push on with some of its business as usual.

The continued in-person meetings have unsettled some senior diplomats posted to the headquarters of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels. They prefer that the alliance leaders start following the example across much of the world: communicating by videoconference and further scaling back bureaucratic committee meetings.

After a routine Wednesday meeting of NATO ambassadors and senior leadership packed 150 people into a room, at least one ambassador was seeking coronavirus testing to be made available to delegations, according to two senior NATO diplomats familiar with the worries. The diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose health concerns within the alliance.

The stiff-upper-lip style has been pushed by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who said Thursday that the alliance needed to continue to project strength throughout the pandemic.

Wednesday’s meeting of senior leadership, in which the coronavirus response was a major topic, seems to have been a particular flash point for frustrations from some NATO diplomats who felt as though Stoltenberg was not taking their health concerns seriously.

“The number of staff in the few meetings that are now taking place has been reduced drastically,” said Oana Lungescu, a NATO spokeswoman.

Read more here.

By Michael Birnbaum
1:41 p.m.

Confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. double in two days

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States doubled Thursday compared with two days before — a dramatic increase that stems in part from more testing but also indicates just how much the virus has continued to spread.

On Tuesday, there were just over 5,700 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States. That number surpassed 11,500 on Thursday, and officials indicated the number will continue to rise sharply as more test results become available. Early Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) attributed a surge of new cases in his state to thousands of newly available tests.

In a Wednesday briefing, Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, explained that new, high-speed platforms will allow for “tens of thousands of tests per day.” An increase in the number of positive results will follow, she added.

“So we will see the number of people diagnosed dramatically increase in the next four to five days,” she said. “To every American out there, it will be five to six days worth of tests being run in 24 to 48 hours. So our curves will not be stable until sometime next week.”

By Michael Brice-Saddler
1:29 p.m.

Trump administration sidelines CDC during pandemic

As the United States enters a critical phase in fighting the coronavirus pandemic, the country’s leading public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, appears to be on the sidelines, with its messages increasingly disrupted or overtaken by the White House.

Neither CDC Director Robert Redfield nor Principal Deputy Director Anne Schuchat — who has played key roles in the agency’s emergency responses stretching back two decades, including the 2009 influenza pandemic — have appeared on the podium during White House briefings by the coronavirus task force for more than a week.

Redfield joined a smaller briefing Wednesday afternoon, his first such appearance since March 9. He and three other task force members stood with President Trump and Vice President Pence for the day’s second task force appearance. The event, which lasted seven minutes, followed a meeting with nurses groups, the White House said. Only Trump and Pence spoke. They took no questions.

The CDC, which has come under fire because of protracted delaysin the rollout of agency-developed test kits, has not conducted its own telephone briefings for reporters in more than a week. Recent CDC recommendations on school closuresand mass gatherings were overtaken by different guidelines issued by the coronavirus task force, creating confusion, experts and officials said.

Read the full story here.

By Lena Sun
1:19 p.m.

Connecticut becomes sixth state to push back its presidential primary

Connecticut on Thursday became the sixth state to push back its presidential primary because of the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Ned Lamont announced the move on Twitter, saying he would work with his secretary of state to reschedule the contest, originally scheduled for April 28, to June 2.

The Democratic governor said the decision was part of “an effort to carry out democracy while keeping public health a top priority.”

While three states went ahead with primaries on Tuesday, five have delayed votes — Louisiana, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland and Ohio. Wyoming suspended the in-person portion of its caucuses, scheduled for April 4, and Democrats in Kansas, who control that state’s primary, were already planning to mail out ballots to all registered Democrats.

Connecticut’s decision is significant because it is the second, after Maryland, of a cluster of states — including Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island — set to vote on April 28 to push back the balloting. A spokesman for Lamont said the governor’s office was in communication with New York and Pennsylvania about the state’s plans.

By Isaac Stanley-Becker
12:49 p.m.

The State Department warns Americans not to travel abroad

The State Department warned Americans not to travel internationally Thursday and advised all Americans who are abroad to return to the United States or make preparations to shelter in place to reduce the chance of contracting the novel coronavirus.

The agency raised its travel advisory for all international travel from 3 to 4, the most serious category, reflecting the difficulty thousands of Americans are having returning to the United States as borders close and airlines cancel flights.

“U.S. citizens who live in the United States should arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period,” the State Department advisory said. “Many countries are experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and implementing travel restrictions and mandatory quarantines, closing borders, and prohibiting non-citizens from entry with little advance notice,” the statement added.

Particularly high numbers of American travelers have been stranded in Morocco, Peru, Honduras and Tunisia, where some have complained that U.S. embassies have not provided adequate help in getting them home.

President Trump told reporters at the White House on Thursday that the United States was considering tapping the military to help stranded travelers, including hundreds of Americans in Peru, though he did not offer specifics.

“We have a group of young people in Peru, and we’re working on taking care of that with the military,” said Trump. “We’re trying to get them out. They got caught. … It’s a large group, it’s about 300.”

By John Hudson
12:36 p.m.

Trump administration waives entrance fees at national parks

The Trump administration is waiving entrance fees at national parks, encouraging Americans to get outside during a time when most indoor gatherings are curtailed because of fears of the spread of coronavirus.

“This small step makes it a little easier for the American public to enjoy the outdoors in our incredible national parks,” Interior Secretary David Bernhardt said in a statement Wednesday.

But the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks, a group of current and former park employees and volunteers, questioned whether that would cause crowding at a time when public health experts are urging Americans to stay six feet apart and President Trump has requested that gatherings be limited to no more than 10 people to slow the spread of the pandemic.

By Darryl Fears
12:22 p.m.

Trump repeats incorrect claim that FDA has approved a malaria drug to fight the coronavirus

President Trump incorrectly said in a Thursday news briefing that chloroquine, a malaria drug, has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to fight the novel coronavirus and that there were plans to “make that drug available almost immediately.” But after Trump spoke, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn clarified that chloroquine would first need to be tested for use on the virus.

“We want to do that in the setting of a clinical trial, a large pragmatic clinical trial,” Hahn said.

Trump had called the drug a possible “game changer.”

“That’s where the FDA has been so great,” he said. “They’ve gone through the approval process, it’s been approved. They took it down from many, many months to immediate, so we’re going to be able to make that drug available by prescription.”

Later Thursday, during a video teleconference with governors, Trump repeated the incorrect claim several more times. Hahn, Trump said, “got it approved very quickly; I won’t even tell you how quickly."

”But let’s put it this way," Trump added. “It’s approved, and we’re encouraging you to take a look at it. We have ordered a lot of it. And you can do it by prescription.

But Hahn earlier emphasized the importance of testing and safety.

“We need to make sure that with these new treatments, we’ll get the right drug to the right patient at the right dosage at the right time,” he said. “As an example, we may have the right drug, but it may not be in the appropriate dosage from right now, and that may do more harm than good.”

By Meryl Kornfield and Felicia Sonmez
12:15 p.m.

Italian military dispatches trucks to collect coffins of coronavirus victims as morgues run out of capacity

The Italian military dispatched some of its trucks to one of the most virus-stricken towns Wednesday night to move coffins — which had been piling up for days there — to other provinces.

Funeral facilities in the town of Bergamo had been overwhelmed in recent days, as Italy grapples with one of the highest per capita coronavirus death tolls in Europe.

“Morgues and health institutions are collapsing,” Claudia Scotti, a funeral home co-owner in Bergamo, told The Washington Post before the Italian military was brought in.

With the death toll rapidly mounting in Europe, soldiers have been dispatched in numerous countries to fill critical gaps. While the military is now transporting some of the dead in Italy, soldiers across Europe are also enforcing lockdown orders and border closures or are rushing in to ensure that critical supply chains aren’t disrupted.

A Spanish soldier stands guard at Nuevos Ministerios commuter train station in Madrid on March 19. (Mariscal/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

In Britain, where the government long refrained from the dramatic restrictions imposed in continental Europe, the Ministry of Defense has announced a doubling of the military’s civil contingency unit. Once completed, a total of 20,000 personnel will be deployable to help with the coronavirus response. The British government has denied reports that it plans to rely on those troops to enforce a lockdown in London.

More specific plans were announced by Hungary, where troops will be deployed to more than 100 companies deemed critical for the coronavirus response.

In Germany, a country where the military’s leeway for domestic action is strictly regulated, there has been little resistance to efforts to rely on soldiers amid the current crisis. Military personnel are expected to help with setting up a temporary coronavirus hospital in Berlin. The German army has also urged reservists to join the efforts.

By Rick Noack
12:04 p.m.

National Guard expects ‘tens of thousands’ of mobilizations

The National Guard anticipates tens of thousands of its members will be mobilized across the country in a growing coronavirus response, its chief said Thursday at a news conference.

More than 2,000 members of the National Guard have been activated across 27 states, but the Pentagon expects that to double by the weekend and then mushroom from there, said Air Force Gen. Joseph L. Lengyel, chief of the National Guard Bureau.

“It’s like we have 54 separate hurricanes in every state and the District of Columbia,” Lengyel said, using a number that includes U.S. territories.

Members of the National Guard have distributed food in the epicenter of New York’s outbreak, collected samples for virus testing in Florida and delivered a half-million test kits in Tennessee, among other work, Lengyel said. Other roles will include supporting state health agencies and various logistical missions, he said.

Members of the National Guard and reservists will also play a critical role in servicing two 1,000-bed hospital ships dispatched to the east and west coasts in coming weeks.

USNS Comfort will sail for New York’s harbor and USNS Mercy will anchor at Seattle, defense officials have said, both near the country’s hardest-hit regions.

By Alex Horton
11:55 a.m.

Trump’s briefing notes show ‘Corona’ crossed out, replaced with ‘Chinese’ virus

A close-up of President Trump's notes is seen where “Corona” is crossed out and replaced with “Chinese” virus as Trump speaks with his coronavirus task force during a briefing Thursday. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

As Trump took the podium at Thursday’s briefing, his effort to blame China for the spread of the coronavirus was evident in his briefing notes.

A Washington Post photographer captured a photo of Trump’s notes showing that the word “Corona” had been crossed out in his typed notes and replaced with “Chinese,” written by hand. Trump on Thursday repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus,” a phrase that critics have argued is racist and puts Asian Americans at risk.

When Trump delivered that part of his remarks, however, he skipped over the word “Chinese,” simply describing the coronavirus as “the virus.”

Correction: This post has been updated to reflect that it is unclear who crossed out the typed notes.

By Felicia Sonmez and Jabin Botsford
11:53 a.m.

Americans remain stranded by global travel bans

Hundreds of U.S. citizens remain stuck around the world — from Morocco to Peru to Ukraine — struggling to return home after suddenly becoming cut off by flights and travel bans.

Chester Rose, 64, traveled to Peru three weeks ago to test whether he wanted to retire there as a painter. Then Sunday, Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra announced a ban on international flights and a mandatory two-week lockdown of the country.

It all happened fast, he told The Washington Post. There was no way out. Days later, Peru put in place a nightly curfew, during which security officials patrol the streets.

Rose, who is in a hotel with a few other English speakers in Arequipa, can go to the supermarket, but basically all else is closed. He has no idea how he’ll get home.

Win Rockwell, 71, is part of a group of roughly 35 U.S. citizens also frantically trying to leave Lima, Peru. He was on a tour organized by Smith College and Dartmouth College, along with the tour provider Cohagan & Company, for alumni of the schools. The majority of those on the trip are older than 70, and some have preexisting medical conditions.

Rockwell said no one from the schools, tour company or government have provided a plan for how they could leave. Hundreds of U.S. citizens also remain stuck in Morocco, which swiftly suspended international travel Sunday, and are pleading for help from Washington.

American tourists, many in their 60s and 70s, along with American students and other travelers, have been crowding the Casablanca airport for days, trying to seize a free seat on one of the few specially chartered planes.

By Miriam Berger
11:48 a.m.

VIPs go to the head of the line for coronavirus tests

For 11 days, Luke Janka, an educator from Brooklyn, went from doctor to doctor to emergency room, pleading for a coronavirus test. As his lungs tightened and his desperation spiked, he was finally admitted to a hospital, put on oxygen and administered the test.

At the same time, the entire roster of the Brooklyn Nets was quickly tested, even though most players appeared in perfect health. Results came back fast; four players, including star Kevin Durant, tested positive.

Actors, politicians and athletes have had quick and easy access to coronavirus tests while other Americans — including front-line health-care workers and those with obvious signs of infection — have been out of luck.

The nationwide shortage of coronavirus testing kits has amplified inequities in a health-care system in which some merely call a concierge physician, while others hope for attention in crowded emergency rooms.

“I think it’s unfortunate that we live in such a wealthy nation, and we can’t even provide access to the backbone of the nation, the people who actually do the work for the nation,” said Janka, who is awaiting results of his test from his hospital room. “And I think that it just helps to further illustrate the hypocrisy of our society, and who really gets valued in this country by the people with power and money.”

By Juliet Eilperin and Ben Golliver
11:41 a.m.

Sen. Burr offered dire warning about the coronavirus at private luncheon three weeks ago

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), at a private luncheon three weeks ago, compared the potential impact of the novel coronavirus to the unusually deadly 1918 flu epidemic, offering a far more dire assessment than Trump and Republican lawmakers were publicly relaying at the time.

A recording obtained and aired Thursday by NPR prompted scrutiny over whether Burr had offered a more frank warning at a Capitol Hill event attended by North Carolina business leaders than he and his colleagues were sharing more broadly.

“There’s one thing I can tell you about this: It is much more aggressive in its transmission than anything we have seen in recent history,” Burr said, according to the NPR recording, which was not disputed by his staff. “It’s probably more akin to the 1918 pandemic.”

The 1918 pandemic, caused by an H1N1 virus, is estimated to have infected about 500 million people worldwide and led to at least 50 million deaths, with about 675,000 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Read more here.

By John Wagner
11:33 a.m.

Jordan uses its army to put capital, Amman, on lockdown

Jordan sealed off its capital, Amman, from the rest of the country on Thursday, sending in the military to close off the main entrances to the sprawling city as the country tries to slow the spread of coronavirus, according to media reports.

The Xinhua News Agency said that Jordanian armed forces set up checkpoints around the city of more than 3 million, as the number of confirmed cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, rose to 56. Only authorized personnel will be allowed to enter the capital, the state-run Petra news agency reported.

According to the report, Jordan’s Tourism Ministry had put into quarantine some tourists already in the country, as well as thousands of Jordanian nationals returning home.

On Tuesday, King Abdullah II issued a royal decree giving the government powers to enforce a state of emergency to fight the pandemic, Al Jazeera reported. The measures allow Prime Minister Omar Razzaz to impose curfews, close businesses and place restrictions on freedom of movement of the people, the report said.

Correction: A previous version of this report incorrectly characterized the thousands of people quarantined in Jordan. They include both tourists and Jordanian nationals.

By Ruth Eglash
11:17 a.m.

Biden says Trump should exercise Defense Production Act powers now

Former vice president Joe Biden on Thursday knocked Trump for not immediately using powers granted under the Defense Production Act to direct private companies to mass-produce ventilators, masks and other equipment needed to respond to the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump signed the rarely invoked wartime-powers measure Wednesday but said in a tweet that he plans to utilize it only “in a worst-case scenario in the future” to combat what he called “the Chinese Virus.”

“Yesterday, President Trump said he was invoking the Defense Production Act, then turned around and said he wasn't planning to use it,” Biden, the leading Democratic White House hopeful, tweeted. “The President should exercise these powers now. We need more ventilators, protective equipment, and critical supplies. We need action, not words.”

Biden said that “doctors and nurses are making their own makeshift face masks today as they risk their lives to care for others.”

“What other finding do you need to see to convince you to use every power you have to expand our supply of essential equipment, Mr. President?” Biden asked.

His criticism echoed that of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who said earlier Thursday that Trump should take immediate action under the measure, which was first enacted in 1950 in response to the start of the Korean War.

By John Wagner
11:14 a.m.

The private sector is escalating mask production for hospitals, Pence says

Vice President Pence said Thursday that companies including Honeywell and 3M have ramped up production to meet the need for masks for health-care workers on the front line of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Pence said the government needed the help of the private sector to supplement its Strategic National Stockpile, a reserve of emergency equipment meant to equip health-care workers amid shortages in a crisis, which hasn’t been significantly replenished since 2009.

Pence said legislation that President Trump signed Wednesday night would extend companies’ liability protection, allowing for masks that were previously to be used only for construction to be sold to hospitals.

“The legislative change means that all 35 million of those (masks) that started to be produced at full capacity in January, can now be sold to hospitals,” he said. “That’s the distinction here. It’s a very important change. And it’s part of the way the president has been engaging the private sector, pushing the kind of regulatory reform and the kind of liability reform that has greatly expanded the availability of masks.”

Pence said he visited Honeywell and 3M production sites where more masks were being made. According to Pence, 3M is increasing output to 420 million masks per year and Honeywell repurposed a factory for masks production.

Although Pence said Honeywell had increased assembly by 120 million masks, the company told The Washington Post that while it has hiked production across the world, that figure fluctuates weekly. The 120 million number cited by Pence may refer to the Honeywell bid at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, company spokesman Eric Krantz said.

Masks ordered by the government would would only be produced in U.S. factories.

3M didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The administration previously announced plans to buy 500 million N95 respirators over the next 18 months.

When asked by a reporter about new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowing health-care personnel to use homemade masks like bandannas and scarves when caring for coronavirus patients, Trump said he had not seen that and passed the question to Pence. CDC made the recommendation while noting that the capability of homemade masks to protect workers is “unknown.”

Pence responded by expressing optimism that the government, with help from the companies, would be able to meet the burgeoning demand for masks amid a global pandemic.

“We know we’ll meet that need,” Pence said.

By Meryl Kornfield
11:14 a.m.

Two cruise ships hoped to disembark passengers in Hawaii. The state just turned them away.

Two cruise ships that had planned to let passengers disembark in Honolulu after the coronavirus forced the global industry to shut down will need to make new plans, state officials said.

In a statement Wednesday, the Hawaii Department of Transportation said the Norwegian Jewel, a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, and the Maasdam, a Holland America Line ship, would be allowed to refuel and get more supplies at Honolulu Harbor but would not be permitted to let passengers off as intended. The state said the Maasdam is carrying about 850 passengers and the Norwegian Jewel has about 1,700; neither ship has any cases of the virus onboard, according to the operators.

The Maasdam is scheduled to arrive in Honolulu on Friday morning, local time. The Norwegian Jewel was expected to get there Sunday after locations including New Zealand and Fiji turned it away, forcing the ship to scramble for a new destination.

“The health and safety of all people in Hawaii is always at the forefront of operational decisions,” said Jade Butay, director of the state’s transportation department, in the statement. “Presently, all state resources are focused and directed towards containing the spread of covid-19. Allowing more than 2,500 passengers and crew to disembark will further strain these resources.”

Butay said both ships would “carry on to mainland destinations, where more resources can be marshaled to handle the passengers and crew properly.”

Hawaii’s decision to deny the cruise lines’ requests to let passengers and crew disembark came after the governor announced efforts to slow the spread of the virus, including asking tourists to postpone trips there for at least a month.

By Hannah Sampson
11:08 a.m.

The coronavirus is killing far more men than women

With over 200,000 coronavirus cases worldwide and thousands of deaths, a striking pattern is appearing in the hardest-hit countries: More men are dying than women.

Nowhere is this trend more pronounced than in Italy. Men make up nearly 60 percent of people with confirmed cases of the virus and more than 70 percent of those who have died from covid-19, the illness caused by the virus, according to the country’s main public health research agency.

Figures from China’s Center for Disease Control, based on tens of thousands of cases, also showed a strong gender breakdown of deaths, which were 64 percent male and 36 percent female.

Even in South Korea, where about 61 percent of confirmed infections have been in women, the majority of fatalities — 54 percent — were in men.

These statistics could be a product of behavior, biology, or both, scientists say. Men in Italy, China and Korea have a lower life expectancy than women, and are more likely to smoke and drink. Perhaps not coincidentally, men in these countries die more frequently from heart disease, respiratory disease and other illnesses that are thought to complicate coronavirus infections.

But there are also underlying biological differences between men and women that may make covid-19 worse in men, several researchers pointed out. Women generally have stronger immune systems than men and are better able to fend off infections. The X chromosome contains a large number of immune-related genes, and because women have two of them, they gain an advantage in fighting disease, according to a recent study in the journal Human Genomics.

Studies have also found that estrogen was protective in female mice infected with the virus that caused the 2003 SARs outbreak. During that epidemic, human men had a much higher case fatality rate than women.

“When [a] severe outcome is caused by an inability to rapidly control the infection, then it is often adult males who suffer worse outcomes than females,” Sabra Klein, a professor at Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, wrote in an email.

By Sarah Kaplan, Min Joo Kim and Chris Mooney
11:02 a.m.

Here’s how coronavirus will radically alter the U.S., based on models, projections, past pandemics

When Jason Christie, chief of pulmonary medicine at Penn Medicine, got projections on how many patients might soon be flocking to his Philadelphia hospital, he said he felt physically ill.

“They were terrified,” he said of his front-line providers. “And that was the best-case scenario.”

Experts across the country have been churning out model after model to try to predict the coming chaos.

In one rigorously researched worst-case scenario, the United States is on a trajectory toward 1.1 million deaths. That model would mean the sick pouring into hospitals, overwhelming even makeshift facilities in parking-lot tents.

Doctors would have to make agonizing decisions about who gets scarce resources. Shortages of front-line clinicians would worsen as they get infected, some dying alongside their patients. Trust in government, already tenuous, would erode further.

But that grim scenario is by no means a foregone conclusion.

At the heart of all the algorithms and models is this scary but empowering truth: What happens next depends largely on us — our government, politicians, health institutions and, in particular, 327 million inhabitants of this country — all making tiny decisions on a daily basis with outsize consequences for our collective future.

Read more here.

By William Wan, Joel Achenbach, Carolyn Y. Johnson and Ben Guarino
10:52 a.m.

Russia reverses announcement of its first coronavirus death

Moscow's Red Square in front of St. Basil's Cathedral on Tuesday. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP/Getty Images)

MOSCOW — Russian authorities on Thursday announced the nation’s first death due to the coronavirus, only to reverse the announcement hours later after a postmortem was done on the deceased patient, a 79-year-old woman.

The postmortem found she died as a result of a brain clot that was not directly caused by the virus. The woman, who became ill on Friday, had tested positive for the coronavirus. She died in an isolation ward in Moscow’s Infectious Diseases Hospital No. 2.

No information was available on whether she or members of her family had traveled recently.

Russia has carried out 133,000 tests for coronavirus, its Federal Service for Health and Consumer Rights said Thursday, and more than 22,000 people are under observation for possible indications of the disease. Since January, nearly 63,000 people have been placed under observation.

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin said Russia had produced 700,000 test kits and has an adequate number of ventilators.

Russian authorities have reported 147 cases of the virus. Staffers in the Kremlin have been tested as part of measures to protect President Vladimir Putin.

By Robyn Dixon
10:43 a.m.

Trump: Carnival Cruise Line offered to send ships to help with virus response

Trump said Thursday that the chairman of Carnival cruise lines, Micky Arison, has offered to send cruise ships to help with the response to the coronavirus crisis.

“He’s going to make ships available, so in addition to the big medical ships that you have coming, if we should need ships with lots of rooms, they’ll be docked at New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco — different places,” Trump said.

Carnival said in a statement that ships from some of its brands, including Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America Line and Princess Cruises, would be made available “as temporary hospitals” to treat patients who are not infected with the coronavirus, “freeing up additional space and expanding capacity in land-based hospitals to treat cases of covid-19,” the illness caused by the coronavirus.

The company said interested parties around the world would “be asked to cover only the essential costs of the ship’s operations while in port."

Trump said he would speak with the governors of New York, California and other states about the offer Thursday.

By Hannah Sampson
10:39 a.m.

Colombia bars all travelers from abroad, including citizens

CARACAS, Venezuela — Colombia has imposed a 30-day ban on all international flights and travel, including on Colombian citizens entering the country, starting Monday.

The measure, announced Thursday by President Iván Duque in a televised address to the nation, is perhaps the most stringent travel ban in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Until this weekend, we will allow Colombians coming from other countries,” Duque said. “This is a painful measure, but it’s necessary.”

Duque’s directive marks a shift from his stance earlier in the week, when he said he would still allow in Colombian citizens after ordering all borders to close Tuesday.

Colombia has had 108 coronavirus cases. Neighboring Ecuador, Brazil, Panama, Peru and Venezuela also have confirmed cases.

Other countries, such as Canada, Israel and Argentina, have temporarily banned international travelers or, such as Morocco, Peru and Saudi Arabia, have suspended international flights. But Colombia’s decision to bar its own citizens traveling home from abroad marks an even more severe step toward isolation.

By Ana Vanessa Harrero and Miriam Berger
10:33 a.m.

Trump accuses U.S. media outlets of ‘siding with China’ on coronavirus coverage

At Thursday’s news briefing, Trump lashed out at U.S. media outlets, accusing them of “siding with China” for their critical coverage of his recent efforts to label the coronavirus a “Chinese virus.”

“They are siding with China,” Trump said, naming The Washington Post, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal in particular. “They are doing things that they shouldn’t be doing. They are siding with many others; China is the least of it. So why, why they’re doing this, you’ll have to ask them. But if we had an honest media in this country, our country would be an even greater place.”

Notably, the three outlets Trump mentioned by name also happen to be the three U.S. newspapers whose American journalists were effectively expelled from China this week as part of retaliation for Trump administration limits on U.S.-based Chinese state media.

By Felicia Sonmez
10:30 a.m.

Italy death toll hits 3,405, surpassing China’s

ROME — Italy on Thursday hit a grim milestone, surpassing China for the largest number of coronavirus-related deaths, at 3,405.

The virus has proved particularly deadly in Italy because of the country’s large older population and its increasingly stressed health-care system, which is struggling in the hard-hit Lombardy region to care for the sick.

Though Italy has seen a slight deceleration in growth of cases, the death toll has been staggering — with more than 2,000 reported dead over the last week alone. On Thursday, Italy registered 427 deaths, the fifth day in a row in which its daily death toll surpassed 300.

China, where the virus first erupted, has reported a total death toll of 3,250. But it has been dealing with the virus for longer than Italy has, and it has seen twice as many cases.

Italy is particularly vulnerable to the outbreak because it has the world’s second-highest proportion of seniors, after Japan. Among Italy’s first 2,000 deaths, 87 percent were people 70 or older.

Italy has instituted a nationwide lockdown to slow the pace, but politicians in the north — citing data from cellphone companies — say people are still moving around more than they should.

By Chico Harlan
10:29 a.m.

Mexico’s first coronavirus death and another case linked to heavy metal concert

MEXICO CITY — Mexico’s first coronavirus-related death and at least one other case have been linked to a heavy metal concert here in early March, prompting concerns that there are hundreds or thousands more cases than the government has acknowledged.

Mexico has come under heavy criticism for refusing to cancel large public events, allowing one of Latin America’s biggest music festivals to take place last weekend as the virus was spreading. The country’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, posted videos of him kissing and hugging his supporters as recently as Sunday.

On Wednesday, a 41-year-old man died of the coronavirus in Mexico City. His family later said that he had attended a concert of the Swedish heavy metal band Ghost, held in the capital’s Palacio de los Deportes on March 3. About 12,500 people attended the event, video of which shows a sprawling mosh pit.

This week, another case linked to the concert came to light. A doctor at Mexico City’s Bite Medica told The Washington Post that he is treating a 43-year-old man, who he believes contracted the virus at the concert.

The patient had no exposure to any other likely carriers of the virus, the doctor said, and fell ill six days later. He had no underlying health condition, the doctor said, but rapidly devolved into critical condition.

“Imagine how many other people could have been exposed,” said the doctor, who spoke on the condition of anonymity out of concern for his and his patient’s privacy.

Less than two weeks after the Ghost concert, the same event promoter, OCESA, held the Vive Latino music festival in Mexico City, attended by roughly 40,000 people. Numerous public health experts encouraged the Mexican government to cancel the festival, but they refused. Many concertgoers attended both events.

The Mexican government has denied that community transmission of the virus has begun, but medical experts say such transmission started weeks ago, as the concert-related cases suggest.

The wife of the man who died Wednesday spoke to the Milenio news channel about what she described as poor medical treatment at a hospital designated for coronavirus patients.

“The hospitals have absolutely nothing,” she said. “We had to buy everything — medicine, surgical material. Many things are missing, and there are no protocols.”

By Kevin Sieff
9:50 a.m.

Austria locks down ski resorts at center of an international cluster

Austria locked down the Alpine ski region of Tyrol on Thursday after the area’s popular resorts became a center of contagion causing coronavirus outbreaks across Europe.

Around 750,000 people live in 270 towns nestled in the picturesque region frequented by tourists, Bloomberg reported. Now, under quarantine until April 5, the region is closed to foreigners, and residents must remain at home, with a few exceptions. The governor of Tyrol, Guenther Platter, announced the new measures Wednesday in a video message.

Health officials have traced hundreds of coronavirus cases across Scandinavia, including in Iceland and Norway, to a village, Ischgl, which some unsuspecting European tourists infected with the virus visited in February.

As cases among travelers connected to Ischgl started to rise in early March, Austria faced calls to close ski resorts, a move authorities initially rejected, Politico reported. Then on March 10, Austrian authorities ordered all Ischgl bars to close and three days later imposed a quarantine; however, they continued to allow ski lifts to operate, thereby permitting people to congregate on mountain tops.

Thursday’s measures formally forbade any skiing in the winter wonderland.

By Miriam Berger
9:22 a.m.

Trudeau says U.S.-Canada border could close to ‘nonessential’ traffic by Friday night

TORONTO — The closure of the border between Canada and the United States to “all nonessential travel” is likely to go into effect late Friday or early Saturday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Thursday.

He said the two sides are still hammering out the details of the “mutual” agreement to shut down the world’s longest undefended border — an unprecedented measure that officials hope will stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The partial border closing, which was announced Wednesday by both countries’ leaders, will allow the movement of essential goods and workers. But travel for tourism or shopping trips by residents of border communities will not be permitted.

Trudeau spoke to reporters outside Rideau Cottage, his official residence in Ottawa, where he has been working in self-isolation since his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for the coronavirus last week after returning home from a trip to Britain.

More than 700 people in Canada have tested positive for the coronavirus, and several provinces have declared a state of emergency. On Wednesday, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said he expects cases to peak in the province within four or five weeks and said social-distancing measures could be in place for months.

By Amanda Coletta
9:05 a.m.

India bars incoming commercial flights for a week and announces one-day ‘people’s curfew’

NEW DELHI — No international passenger flights will be allowed to land in India for a week, and the government is asking its more than 1.3 billion citizens to observe a 14-hour curfew Sunday.

The flight ban is the most dramatic step that India has taken to insulate itself from the pandemic. The request for a “people’s curfew” — made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a prime-time television address Thursday — was framed as a way for the country to show its resolve and prepare for future challenges.

In the meantime, Modi urged people older than 65 to remain at home and asked Indians to postpone elective surgeries and avoid going to the office if possible. Nearly all schools across the country are already closed.

India, the world’s second-most-populous country, is grappling with a rising number of infections. It has reported 173 coronavirus cases, more than double the figure from a week ago, and four deaths.

Previously, India canceled nearly all short-term visas for foreigners and barred flights from more than 30 countries. Thursday’s flight ban announcement will make it very difficult for anyone to enter the country, including Indian citizens. India has already severely restricted entry via land borders with its neighbors.

By Joanna Slater
8:50 a.m.

Albert II of Monaco tests positive for coronavirus

PARIS — Prince Albert II of Monaco has tested positive for the coronavirus, his office confirmed to French media Thursday.

“His condition inspires no concern,” his office told France’s BFM television network.

Albert, 62, is the son of Prince Rainier III and the American actress Grace Kelly. His diagnosis made him the latest international celebrity to test positive for the virus.

Earlier Thursday, Michel Barnier, the European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, announced via Twitter that he, too, had tested positive for the virus.

“I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team,” Barnier wrote in a statement. “For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.”

Albert’s infection came as France was on its third day of official lockdown, a 15-day moratorium on nonessential movement outside the home that government officials suggested could be extended. On Tuesday evening, Albert had addressed the tiny principality of Monaco, surrounded by France but for the part facing the Mediterranean Sea, and called the coronavirus “one of the worst health crises our country has faced in its history.”

Following France, he imposed a similar lockdown in Monaco starting Wednesday night at midnight, urging residents to remain in their homes except for essential shopping trips or medical reasons.

As of Thursday, France had confirmed over 9,000 cases of the coronavirus and 264 deaths.

By James McAuley
8:44 a.m.

U.S. military in Afghanistan stops movement of some troops, adopts screening in response to coronavirus

The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that 21 service members there are in isolation with flu-like symptoms amid the coronavirus pandemic as he paused the movement of some troops to and from the war zone.

Army Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller said in a statement that he also has limited access to bases to essential personnel, reorganized to create more space between people and established screening areas in which people live temporarily after arriving in Afghanistan.

“Approximately 1,500 multi-national service members, civilians and contractors who have arrived in theater within the past week are living in screening facilities prior to onward movement,” Miller said. “Most are either newly-arriving or returning from leave. Let me be clear — these service members are living in screening facilities out of an abundance of caution, not because they are sick.”

The statement did not say whether any service member had tested positive for the coronavirus, but Miller acknowledged that samples from those potentially infected must be sent to Germany for testing.

The U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan is requesting that nations sending troops there put them in quarantine before they are deployed, to keep pressure off Afghanistan’s health-care system, a defense official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. To date, no coalition service member in Afghanistan has tested positive for the virus, the official said.

The adjustments come as the coalition prepares to withdraw a few thousand service members in the coming weeks as part of a deal reached with the Taliban. The United States is expected to reduce its deployed service members from about 12,000 to 8,600, with the withdrawal of additional troops afterward possible if Miller decides it is feasible.

By Dan Lamothe
7:53 a.m.

Africa ‘very likely’ has many more unreported cases

The head of the Africa Centers for Disease Control warned Thursday that the continent is “very likely” to see a rise in rates of coronavirus infection because many cases are going unreported or untested.

“We are picking some people, but we are also missing some people,” Africa CDC director John Nkengason told a news conference, Reuters reported. “The situation will get worse before it gets better because the chances are clear that people have slipped through.”

Nkengason also criticized countries imposing travel bans without a long-term strategy. Along with cutting off travelers to slow the virus’s spread, these movement restrictions can limit peoples’ access to necessary health-care services and severely hurt local economies.

“Anyone who has followed pandemics over the years, you know that that doesn’t work,” he said. “When you lock down countries, you should understand clearly how to unlock the country.”

The coronavirus has not spread as widely in Africa as it has in Europe and in the United States. But the virus is in 34 African countries — and experts worry that health-care systems in many places there will buckle under an outbreak.

In a separate news briefing Thursday, World Health Organization South Africa Representative Owen Kaluwa said that while all the initial cases in Africa were among travelers from abroad, mainly Europe, some countries are seeing swift rises in local transmission.

Matshidiso Moeti, WHO regional director for Africa, and Lucile Imboua-Niava, WHO Senegal representative, said at the same news conference that along with limited tests and hospital supplies, poor communities face a confluence of barriers to mitigating the virus.

People who live in crowded neighborhoods without access to clean running water, for example, cannot be expected to socially distance themselves or to frequently wash hands with soap and water. Instead, they said, governments and health-care providers need to develop specific strategies tailored to those conditions.

By Miriam Berger
7:09 a.m.

Younger adults make up nearly 40 percent of coronavirus hospitalizations in United States

The deadly coronavirus has been met with a bit of a shrug among some in the under-50 set in the United States. Even as public-health officials repeatedly urged social distancing, the young and hip spilled out of bars on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. They gleefully hopped on flights, tweeting about the rock-bottom airfares. And they gathered in packs on beaches.

Their attitudes were based in part on early data from China, which suggested that covid-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, might seriously sicken or kill the elderly — but spare the young.

Stark new data from the United States, the Netherlands and France suggests otherwise.

Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus task force czar, has warned that “young people [are] getting seriously ill and very seriously ill in the ICUs.”

Read more here.

By Ariana Eunjung Cha
7:01 a.m.

Brazilians are banging on pots to protest president’s handling of crisis

RIO DE JANEIRO — People across Brazil banged on pots from their apartment windows Wednesday night to demonstrate their mounting frustration with President Jair Bolsonaro’s laissez-faire reaction to the ballooning coronavirus crisis.

The protests — called panelaços — rang through the country’s largest cities, but appeared to be particularly pronounced in the metropolises of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, which have historically been a base of support for Bolsonaro.

The panelaços underscored the mounting dismay with Bolsonaro’s handling of the coronavirus crisis. He has repeatedly diminished the epidemic, calling it overblown, a “small crisis” and a “fantasy.”

On Sunday, Bolsonaro abandoned his isolation after testing negative for the virus to greet and touch supporters — over the warnings of his own government. Then this week, he criticized measures to slow the disease’s spread as “hysteria.”

The number of cases in Brazil has meanwhile been rising sharply, reaching 529 on Thursday morning — by far the most in Latin America. Researchers expect there will be nearly 5,000 within a week.

By Terrence McCoy
6:26 a.m.

Elon Musk’s companies will make ventilators 'if there is a shortage,’ he says

Futurist Elon Musk said one or more of his companies will make ventilators “if there is a shortage,” after he was pressed Wednesday night on Twitter during an exchange about the coronavirus pandemic.

Officials and health experts have sounded the alarm on the limited availability of ventilators, which help patients breathe or breathe for them, and shortages in the United States could lead to rationing as the respiratory infections crush resources.

But Musk appeared skeptical of such dangers in a reply to FiveThirtyEight editor Nate Silver, who said resources are already strained.

“Tesla makes cars with sophisticated hvac systems. SpaceX makes spacecraft with life support systems. Ventilators are not difficult, but cannot be produced instantly. Which hospitals have these shortages you speak of right now?” Musk said to Silver.

SpaceX and Tesla did not return a request for comment about their potential role in ramping up production.

Ford and General Motors are already in talks with the White House to shift production from automobiles, which has been suspended, to medical equipment like ventilators, Reuters reported.

Hospitals may be reluctant to buy more costly machines if they are only needed for the short term, The Washington Post has reported. The Pentagon has offered to distribute 2,000 ventilators from its strategic reserves.

It is unclear if Musk, with his history of bombastic statements, was serious about the offer. In 2018, as the world watched the rescue efforts of 12 boys trapped in a cave in Thailand, Musk offered a small submarine for assistance. His plan was rejected.

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) on Thursday reiterated the need for the breathing machines.

“The way we needed missiles in world wars, we need ventilators,” he said on MSNBC.

By Alex Horton
6:25 a.m.

New York cases crest 4,000 as state braces for crowded hospitals, Cuomo says

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) speaks during a news conference March 13 at a coronavirus infection testing facility at Glen Island Park in New Rochelle, N.Y. (John Minchillo/AP)

New York conducted thousands of tests for the novel coronavirus Wednesday night, with more than 4,100 now tested positive, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said in a news conference Thursday, part of a recent big jump he said was related to the testing boost.

Cuomo announced additional restrictions and relief measures in New York, now home to the most coronavirus cases in the United States, and accounting for nearly two dozen deaths there.

Businesses and facilities can only staff at a quarter of their usual levels, he said, unless they are essential services such as pharmacies, hospitals and grocery stores. The remainder must work from home, he said.

He also announced a 90-day relief on mortgage payments to give financial help to stressed homeowners, and said foreclosures would be postponed or suspended.

As he has said in recent days, Cuomo stressed the brutal reality of his state’s ventilator shortage, saying hospitals need 5 to 6 times the amount it has on hand to treat coronavirus patients.

The state needs about 30,000 ventilators across New York, but has only 5,000 to 6,000, Cuomo said.

State health officials project a peak of cases in about five or six weeks, he said, with an anticipated crush of more than 110,000 hospitalizations.

As many as a third of those may need ICU beds, he said, in a scenario “that vastly overwhelms our health-care capacity.”

The Navy will dispatch the USNS Comfort — a 1,000-bed floating hospital complete with medical facilities — to dock in New York’s harbor in a federal effort to help the state.

The ship, which specializes in treating trauma, will most likely be used to relieve New York hospitals dealing with other medical problems so they can focus on the coronavirus.

By Alex Horton
6:09 a.m.

Pelosi urges Trump to immediately use powers granted by Defense Production Act

A ventilator of Hamilton Medical is transported on a conveyor at a plant in Switzerland. (Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters)

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday called for President Trump to immediately use powers provided by the Defense Production Act to direct private companies to mass-produce ventilators, masks and other equipment needed to respond to the novel coronavirus outbreak.

Trump signed the rarely invoked wartime-powers measure on Wednesday but said in a tweet that he plans to utilize it only “in a worst case scenario in the future” to combat the virus.

“Right now, shortages of critical medical and personal protective equipment are harming our ability to fight the coronavirus epidemic, endangering frontline workers and making it harder to care for those who fall ill,” Pelosi said in a statement. “The President must immediately use the powers of the Defense Production Act to mass produce and coordinate distribution of these critical supplies, before the need worsens and the shortages become even more dire. There is not a day to lose.”

Last week, a group of 57 House Democrats wrote Trump a letter urging him to use the powers granted to him by the act, which was enacted in 1950 in response to the start of the Korean War.

As of Wednesday, it remained unclear how Trump’s signing of the Defense Production Act would be implemented.

By John Wagner
5:58 a.m.

281,000 filed for unemployment last week, Labor Dept. says

As novel coronavirus cases rise in the United States, so will joblessness, with more than a million expected to lose their jobs by the end of March, economists say.

American workers getting laid off at an unprecedented pace is a dramatic turnaround from February when the unemployment rate was near a record low. The Labor Department reported Thursday that 281,000 people applied for unemployment last week, up 33 percent from the prior week.

On the same day, U.S. markets were poised for more losses with the Dow Jones industrial average futures calling for losses of more than 500 points at the open, despite late-night announcements of a 750 billion euro bond-buying program by the European Central Bank and a special lending facility by the Federal Reserve to backstop money market mutual funds.

Ball State University economist Michael Hicks predicts this month could be the worst for layoffs in U.S. history especially for the hardest-hit industries: travel, hospitality, retail and restaurants.

“Though we don’t have data available on benefits, it is near certain these workers are in occupations well known to have lower incidence of sick days, stable work hours and other forms of workplace benefits,” Hicks said in a comment emailed to The Washington Post. “This makes staying home from work and accessing medical treatment (or even diagnosis) difficult for infected workers. And, given the types of tasks performed by these workers, it is difficult for co-workers to maintain appropriate social distances, increasing the transmission of the virus.”

By Taylor Telford and Thomas Heath
4:52 a.m.

Cases in Spain surge 25 percent in one day

A worker disinfects the street to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Barcelona, Spain, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (Emilio Morenatti)

Confirmed coronavirus cases surged 25 percent within 24 hours, according to Spanish authorities, rising from 13,716 announced Wednesday to 17,147 on Thursday.

Deaths increased from 598 to 767 within the same timespan.

After Italy, Spain has been the hardest-hit country in Europe, with many cases centered around the capital Madrid.

Last weekend, Spain became the second European country to impose a nationwide lockdown, ordering its 47 million people to mostly stay in their homes as coronavirus cases surged and the government announced that the wife of the Spanish prime minister had tested positive for the virus.

The decision by Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to put the nation on lockdown came less than a week after Italy’s government effectively shut down that country amid an escalating outbreak.

Pamela Rolfe and Loveday Morris contributed to this story.

By Rick Noack
4:44 a.m.

Iran confirms 1,046 new coronavirus cases, death toll hits 1,284

An Iranian carpet seller waits for customers ahead of Persian New Year's eve, “Nowruz,” at Tehran's grand bazaar on March 18. (Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Iran on Thursday reported 1,046 new cases of the coronavirus with 149 new deaths, bringing the total number of dead since the outbreak began to 1,284 — one of the worst in the world.

Deputy Health Minister Alireza Raeisi added that 17,631 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in Iran, with the number of sick increasing daily, according to the Mehr News Agency. He added that of those diagnosed with the virus, 5,979 had recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

With the Iranian new year, Nowruz, beginning on Friday, authorities called on people to avoid traveling over fears it would spread the virus more widely. Traditionally, the holiday is a time of travel all across the country to visit family.

In effort to discourage people from traveling, Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour wrote on social media that 50 people in Iran were being infected every hour on average with one dying every 10 minutes, according to the Associated Press.

Iran says its fight against the virus has been hampered by strict U.S. sanctions that interfere with its efforts to purchase necessary medical material.

By Ruth Eglash
4:31 a.m.

Analysts predict severe recession for E.U.'s biggest economy

Loaded vehicles from German car manufacturer Volkswagen are transported at the freight station in Munich on March 18. (Christof Stache/AFP/Getty Images)

BERLIN — With car production plants shuttered across Europe and life approaching a standstill in many regions, economic analysts slashed their forecasts for 2020 this week.

Germany may face an economic contraction by 4 to 5 percent this year, according to an analysis by Deutsche Bank. As the E.U.’s biggest economy, the country would be more affected than most other major economies — it heavily depends on exports and the global supply chains that have been disrupted by the coronavirus fallout.

“Within days lockdown measures and [temporary] factory closures have reached a level that suggests a far bigger … contraction [during the first half of the year] than previously thought,” Deutsche Bank’s chief economist Stefan Schneider said, according to Reuters.

In an update, Deutsche Bank also noted “the service sector will be hard hit, too,” adding further headaches for the German economy, which was already expected to deteriorate this year amid trade wars and other systematic issues.

A separate analysis by the Kiel Institut for the World Economy, IfW, came to a similar conclusion Thursday, even though the researchers cautioned the fallout could be even more pronounced if lockdowns remained in place for a prolonged period of time.

It remains unclear to what extent measures taken by central banks and governments can mitigate the economic fallout. For instance, the European Central Bank has announced an $820 billion emergency bond-buying program, among other emergency measures.

Despite the announced measures, Europe’s STOXX 600 index was down Thursday around noon local time, after initially rising earlier in the day.

By Rick Noack
3:48 a.m.

European Union’s top Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier says he tested positive for coronavirus

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s top Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, 69, said Thursday that he had tested positive for coronavirus.

On his verified Twitter account, Barnier posted a video, accompanied by a tweet that read: “I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team.”

“For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together,” he wrote. In the video, Barnier said everyone has a role to play in winning what he called a “war” against the coronavirus.

Barnier’s public profile grew widely over the last years, as he led the European Union’s negotiations with the British government over the country’s terms of exiting the bloc. Described by some as “the Brussels equivalent of a rock star,” the French citizen was expected to continue to lead the negotiations over future trading arrangements between the E.U. and Britain.

Talks on the post-Brexit deal were supposed to be held this week but were canceled because of the coronavirus crisis.

British and European negotiators will still review their own post-Brexit draft deal in the coming weeks. Around 200 people are working on those trade talks. A British spokesman said Wednesday evening negotiators “will now analyze each other’s texts and we expect further conversations between the teams next week.”

By Quentin Aries and Rick Noack
3:25 a.m.

Queen addresses U.K., urges people to follow expert advice

Britain's Queen Elizabeth leaves Buckingham Palace for Windsor Castle to socially distance herself amid the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday. (Aaron Chown/PA/AP)

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II released a statement Thursday urging people to follow expert advice “to change our normal routines and regular patterns of life for the greater good of the communities we live in, and, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them.”

She also told citizens that she knew they were up to the challenge, as the British government continues to unroll new restrictions.

“At times such as these I’m reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal,” she wrote in the statement released to the public.

Buckingham Palace also confirmed Thursday that the planned state visit by the Emperor Naruhito of Japan had been postponed and would be rescheduled at a later date.

Earlier this week, the royal family announced several changes to the queen’s calendar of events, noting that some would be canceled or postponed, including a string of garden parties planned to take place at Buckingham Palace and this year’s Maundy service in April.

The decision comes as the queen’s granddaughter Princess Beatrice, who is due to be married in May, is said to be reviewing her wedding plans. The BBC reported Wednesday that the reception, which was slated to take place at the palace and be hosted by the queen, has been canceled.

On Thursday, the queen, who is 93, relocated to Windsor Castle, about 20 miles away from her official London residence. She is expected to stay there until after the Easter period.

Taking to Instagram, the queen’s grandson Harry and his wife, Meghan, shared a message of hope amid the current coronavirus outbreak. “This moment is as true a testament there is to the human spirit,” the post read, along with a lengthy caption that noted: These are uncertain times. And now, more than ever, we need each other.”

The White House announced Wednesday that an April 21 state dinner for the Spanish royals, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia, had also been postponed.

This is a message released on Thursday from Britain's Queen Elizabeth II amid the coronavirus outbreak. (AP)
By Jennifer Hassan
3:06 a.m.

Italy to extend lockdown as death toll mounts

A worker carries out sanitation operations in Piazza dei Miracoli in Pisa, Italy, on Tuesday. (Laura Lezza/Getty Images)

Italy will extend lockdown measures implemented to slow the spread of the coronavirus, as the death toll mounts and the country continues to grapple with new cases.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that the government has no choice but to prolong the current restrictions, which prevent tens of millions of people from traveling within the country for any non-urgent reasons. The extensions would also apply to schools and universities that have shut down, he reportedly said.

The lockdown has been in place since March 9.

Italy has pressed charges against around 40,000 people for violating the terms of the lockdown, the Guardian reported this week.

On Wednesday, the country recorded 475 deaths linked to the virus — its highest death toll since the crisis began.

By Siobhán O'Grady
1:58 a.m.

London Underground discourages people from using subway services

A commuter wearing a protective face mask on a train at Clapham North underground station in London on Mar. 18 2020. (Hannah McKay)

LONDON ⁠— The London Underground took further steps Thursday to discourage people from using the subway service amid the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Forty stations across the capital have been closed and bus services will also be reduced.

“It is critical that public transport in London is only used for absolutely essential journeys. Please don’t travel for any other reason,” Heidi Alexander, the deputy mayor for transport, tweeted.

On Wednesday, one Twitter user shared a photo of an overcrowded platform as commuters stood in proximity to one another as they waited for the train.

“Social distancing? This morning’s commute on the Victoria line. Perhaps some clearer guidance from the government would help,” the tweet read.

While many companies have asked employees to work from home, people have still been going about their daily lives as normal in the capital. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been widely scrutinized for his handling of the outbreak, with critics saying his advice has not been clear enough.

On Wednesday, Johnson announced that schools, colleges and nurseries across Britain would close on Friday — a move critics say should have happened long ago. So far, the country has 2,644 confirmed cases of the virus and 71 deaths.

By Jennifer Hassan
1:36 a.m.

Mexico announces first death, but few containment measures

Thousands of music fans attend the music festival Vive Latino in Mexico City over the weekend. (Reuters)

Mexico reported its first death from the novel coronavirus late on Wednesday, a troubling sign for health experts who worry the country has not done nearly enough to contain the outbreak.

The victim, a 41-year-old man with diabetes, had been hospitalized for over a week — though not before he attended a massive concert by a Swedish rock band earlier this month, according to El Universal newspaper.

Still, reports of his case did not keep more than 10,000 people from jamming out to Guns N’ Roses over the weekend at a multiday music festival that Mexico City’s mayor repeatedly refused to shut down.

As nearby countries impose strict travel restrictions and massive shutdowns, public health experts in Mexico worry that relatively scant containment measures could lead to a massive outbreak down the road.

President Trump said Wednesday he would ban nonessential travel across the U.S.-Mexico border and block migrants from crossing illegally. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has closed schools but refused to restrict travel or shut down businesses.

Earlier this week, Mexican officials clashed with the president of El Salvador, who claimed a plane traveling there from Mexico was carrying a dozen passengers who had allegedly tested positive for the coronavirus.

López Obrador himself has largely ignored any suggestion of social distancing. He spent the weekend on his regular routine walking through throngs of supporters in the countryside, at one point kissing babies on the cheek.

Two days later, Hugo López-Gatell, Mexico’s deputy health minister, said the president should contract the virus because he would “spontaneously recover” and become immune.

“The president’s strength is moral. It is not a force of contagion,” López-Gatell said.

By Teo Armus
1:15 a.m.

UAE to ban resident expatriates from returning for two weeks

People use a traditional abra to cross the Deira Creek on March 18, 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (Francois Nel/AFP/Getty Images)

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates announced that foreign residents currently outside the country will not be allowed back in for at least two weeks starting Thursday, adding that the period could also be renewed.

Emirati citizens have also been banned from traveling abroad and all visas on arrival for qualifying countries have been suspended. Visas that have already been issued have also been suspended, along with new labor permits for drivers and domestic workers until further notice.

While a host of countries have closed their borders to non-citizens, most recently Australia and New Zealand, the move by the UAE is particularly striking since more than 85 percent of the population are non-citizen residents — many of whom were born in the UAE or have lived there most of their lives.

“The development comes as a precautionary measure to ensure the safety of those affected by the decision, which is subject to renewals depending on the health status measures taken due to the novel coronavirus outbreak,” said the statement from the Foreign Ministry.

Expatriates abroad were urged to get in touch with their closest UAE Embassy to see about returning. UAE’s Education Ministry closed schools early and moved back spring break, prompting some families to go abroad in mid-March.

Attorney General Hamad Al Shamsi also announced late Wednesday that all arrivals to the country would have to undergo 14 days of home quarantine.

While UAE was the first country in the Middle East to report a virus case — Chinese tourists from Wuhan, the city where the outbreak emerged late last year — growth has been slow, with only 113 cases and extensive testing around the country.

Outside of Iran, where there are more than 17,000 cases, the Persian Gulf region has 1,227 cases, with Saudi Arabia reporting 67 new cases Wednesday, bringing its total to 238.

By Paul Schemm
1:15 a.m.

Israeli authorities send text message warnings those who may have been exposed to virus

JERUSALEM — Israel’s Health Ministry on Wednesday night sent out the first batch of 400 text messages to people who were identified by their cellphone data as coming into contact, wittingly or not, with a person infected with the novel coronavirus.

People with confirmed cases of the virus were also sent messages informing them that their cellphone data was being used to warn others who may have been exposed to them.

The emergency tracking measures, used by the police and Israel’s Security Agency to catch criminals and terrorists, were controversially approved in the early hours of Tuesday morning in a telephone vote by the government.

The Health Ministry published out a sample text message, which informs the recipient they either tested positive for the virus or came in close contact with someone who did and orders them to self-quarantine. Individuals who are identified as having been in proximity to someone diagnosed with the virus will also be informed through the text of which day the contact occurred.

“According to an epidemiological investigation, you were on [== / == / ==] next to a Corona patient,” reads the text sent out. “You must immediately go into isolation until [== / == / ==] to protect your relatives and the public.”

Opposition leaders, who have been trying to revive Israel’s parliament after a year of political limbo, protested the move, saying the government was acting with no oversight at a time of crisis.

Civil rights groups filed a legal petition against the measure, saying it violated human rights and demanding the process be stopped immediately.

Speaking on a local radio station Thursday, Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan dismissed concerns that authorities would use the information for anything other than to warn those who might be infected.

By Ruth Eglash
1:05 a.m.

Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido lifts coronavirus state of emergency

TOKYO — Japan’s northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido said Thursday it would lift its state of emergency over the coronavirus at midnight, after bringing infections under control and following criticism that the economic costs of a further shutdown would outweigh the benefits.

“There was no surge of infected patients that led to a collapse of the medical environment,” Hokkaido Gov. Naomichi Suzuki told a news conference, according to Kyodo News. “We’re now able to battle [the virus], as we’ve strengthened the test capability and bed capacity in hospitals.”

The relatively sparsely populated island of Hokkaido has 154 out of Japan’s 923 confirmed cases of coronavirus, the highest of any prefecture. The governor declared a state of emergency from Feb. 28, asked schools to close and requested residents to remain indoors for a time.

But there were complaints about the economic costs of the measures, including on restaurants, according to a survey by a federation of small and midsize companies.

“Not only has the number of tourists decreased but local customers as well,” one company complained in the report, according to Kyodo. “There could be companies that go bankrupt.”

Suzuki said the government aims to move to a “new stage,” where it continues to contain the virus while aiming for a recovery in social and economic activities, according to the Hokkaido Shimbun newspaper. He said people should still avoid mass gatherings.

By Simon Denyer
12:31 a.m.

Australia, New Zealand ban entry to non-citizens, non-residents

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks at a news conference in Canberra, Australia on Friday. (Lukas Coch/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Leaders in Australia and New Zealand said they will shut their borders to nearly all foreigners, as both countries try to contain the coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent economic fallout.

The sweeping measures, which go into effect Friday night, mark another instance of how the global pandemic has prompted a nearly unprecedented clampdown on international travel.

The orders do not apply to citizens or residents of either country and their families, but will keep some foreign visa holders from entering. Australia and New Zealand were both already requiring travelers coming from abroad to quarantine themselves for two weeks.

Yet Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that with most covid-19 cases being imported from overseas, more extreme measures were necessary to keep the virus out.

On Thursday, the Reserve Bank of Australia also cut interest rates to a record-low 0.25%, a move aimed at warding off what would be the country’s first recession in almost three decades. Australia’s benchmark stock index sank to a new four-year low on Thursday.

The central bank will also buy government bonds for its first-ever quantitative easing program, and Morrison said he was working to roll out a second economic relief package. A stimulus plan he announced last week included spending initiatives and payments to low-income individuals and small businesses.

Announcing similar measures in New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the potential risks of the outbreak justify “extraordinary" steps.

“At no time in New Zealand’s history has a power like this been used," she said. “But we have to make decisions in best interests of the health of those who live here.”

By Teo Armus
11:53 p.m.

Hedge-fund manager apologizes after video shows him wiping saliva on Hong Kong train handrail

HONG KONG — A man filmed licking his finger and touching a handrail on a Hong Kong subway train publicly apologized on Thursday, after the footage circulated widely online and featured prominently in local media.

“I made light of the covid-19 situation in a parody video that was only intended for a handful of friends,” Joel Werner, who Reuters identified as a hedge fund manager, wrote in a post on Facebook. “But I now realize that I shouldn’t have done that. A global pandemic is no laughing matter.”

Werner said that he used hand sanitizer immediately before and after licking his finger, and also said he applied the gel to the part of the rail that he touched. A second clip showed appeared to show him wiping liquid on his hands and the handrail.

He also said he called Hong Kong police and subway officials “to explain the video and personally apologize for any distress caused.”

Fears have mounted in Hong Kong in recent days over a growing number of cases imported from abroad. Hong Kong has largely contained the virus, recording fewer than 200 cases since the outbreak began.

By Siobhán O'Grady
10:30 p.m.

With steep jumps in cases, health officials prepare for the worst

The new coronavirus continues to infect hundreds of Americans by the day and prompts growing layoffs, forcing health workers and government officials in the United States to brace for the worst.

Doctors are making difficult decisions about daily life, cash-strapped hospitals are struggling to order ventilators, and authorities nationwide are turning to lockdowns, mass closures and bans on large gatherings as they try to “flatten the curve."

But a chilling new U.K. study raises the question of whether it may be enough. The study, reportedly being examined by the White House’s coronavirus task force, suggested that only trying to slow the spread of the virus could nonetheless overwhelm hospital beds and lead to upwards of a million deaths in the United States.

As of late Wednesday, more than 8,700 cases had been reported across the United States, including more than 130 deaths. Two members of Congress, Reps. Ben McAdams (D-Utah) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), said Wednesday they had tested positive.

New York in particular announced a steep climb of 1,008 new cases since Tuesday, through Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) attributed the increase to expanded testing. The state now has more confirmed cases than all but 10 countries in the world.

Also on Wednesday, White House officials announced several measures to tighten the United States’s land borders: Authorities would immediately send migrants who cross the southern border illegally back to Mexico, they said, while closing the northern border to nonessential traffic.

The outbreak and its dramatic impact on the economy appear to be redefining Donald Trump’s presidency, with more than half of Americans saying he has downplayed the virus too much, according to a new survey.

Throughout the day on Wednesday, Trump ramped up his attempts to rebrand the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus," brushing aside concerns that is unscientific and could incite racial attacks.

“It’s not racist at all,” he said Wednesday. “It comes from China, that’s why.”

By Teo Armus
10:26 p.m.

European Central Bank launches $820 billion emergency bond-buying program

The European Central Bank announced emergency measures to try to deflect the massive economic downturn caused by the coronavirus, including an $820 billion emergency bond-buying program as business grinds to a halt across Europe.

“Extraordinary times require extraordinary action,” said Christine Lagarde, president of the bank. “There are no limits to our commitment to the euro. We are determined to use the full potential of our tools, within our mandate.”

The bank said the measures to try to stave off economic turmoil would continue through the “crisis phase” of the outbreak.

Policy makers globally have been stepping up their response to the economic turmoil sparked by the pandemic. With businesses shuttered across a swath of Europe and households fearful of an extended downturn, the bond-buying program aims to push down borrowing costs and calm volatile markets.

By Siobhán O'Grady
9:35 p.m.

Negotiations intensify on Capitol Hill over massive stimulus legislation

The Trump administration and congressional leaders rushed on Wednesday to assemble a massive stimulus package aimed at preventing the U.S. economy from plummeting into its worst collapse since the Great Depression, as fears about the coronavirus pandemic brought much of American life to a standstill.

The administration’s $1 trillion proposed rescue plan, which forms the basis for fast-moving negotiations on Capitol Hill, includes sending two large checks to many Americans and devoting $300 billion toward helping small businesses avoid mass layoffs. Priorities laid out in a two-page Treasury Department document also include $50 billion to help rescue the airline industry and $150 billion to prop up other sectors, which could include hotels.

The White House is vetting these proposals with Senate GOP leaders before engaging more fully with Democrats, so the package is certain to evolve in coming days. Democrats, meanwhile, are eyeing their own priorities, largely aiming to shore up safety-net programs and the public health infrastructure, as well as send money directly to American taxpayers, while shunning corporate bailouts. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) proposed on Wednesday having the Federal Reserve send $2,000 to every American adult and $1,000 to every American child until the crisis ends.

Meanwhile, President Trump has signed into law a bill to ensure paid leave benefits to many Americans as part of the broader proposed stimulus.

The emerging government stimulus package could be unprecedented in its size and velocity, dwarfing the $800 billion stimulus law passed during the Obama administration and the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program enacted during the Bush administration. All told, between several legislative packages advanced on Capitol Hill and other actions the government has taken, the White House is pushing an economic plan that is “over $2 trillion and counting” to try and arrest the coronavirus’s economic wrecking ball, a senior administration officials said. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to reveal details of the planning.

By Erica Werner, Jeff Stein and Mike DeBonis
9:33 p.m.

Analysis: While coronavirus ravages Iran, U.S. sanctions squeeze it

A firefighter uses a fog machine to disinfect an office inside the city hall building following the outbreak of coronavirus in Tehran on Wednesday. (Ali Mohammadi/Bloomberg)

Iran has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus, and things may get far worse. On Tuesday, a state television reporter who is also a medical doctor warned that the death toll could be in the “millions” as worshipers forced their way into two Shiite shrines closed by the outbreak.

That’s not idle speculation. The death toll in Iran from covid-19 infections passed 1,000 on Wednesday after the largest single-day rise in the number of deaths since Iran’s outbreak began. Deutsche Welle reported this week that researchers at Sharif University of Technology in Tehran created a computer simulator to analyze scenarios.

Under current circumstances, the researchers said, infections would not peak until late May. The death toll could be as high as 3.5 million.

That figure might seem enough to stop anyone in their tracks. But this week, the United States announced that it would be expanding its sanctions on Iran, as well as on entities that aided the Iranian government in its trade in petrochemicals and other restricted activities. It’s a strategy that worries allies and enemies alike.

The Guardian reported on Wednesday that Britain was privately pressing the United States to ease sanctions on Iran amid the crisis, while China has publicly called on the United States to lift its Iran sanctions.

But the United States, which reimposed sanctions on Iran after President Trump unilaterally pulled out of the nuclear agreement with Iran and other nations in 2018, has refused; on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for Iran to release U.S. citizens being held in the country “as a humanitarian gesture, given the risk that is posed” by the coronavirus pandemic.

By Adam Taylor
9:32 p.m.

While the world grinds to a halt, Apple pumps out a new iPad Pro and MacBook Air

An Apple store on New York's Fifth Avenue is closed due to coronavirus concerns on Wednesday. (Evan Agostini//Invision/AP)

Apple on Wednesday announced two new computers and a new iPad, a test of how well it can manufacture, ship and sell products during the coronavirus outbreak.

Like companies across the United States, the consumer electronics giant has been disrupted by the virus. Its Cupertino, Calif., headquarters are in the middle of a shelter-in-place zone, it moved its June WWDC developers conference online, and it shut down its hundreds of retail stores outside of “greater China” until at least March 27.

But Apple is trying to leverage its size, power and cash reserves to continue to ship and sell products during the outbreak. Some of the new devices it announced Wednesday will be available to ship as early as next week.

Manufacturing experts say the new products were likely impacted less severely than products scheduled for release later in the year. That’s because the early stages of designing and manufacturing the product probably took place many months before the coronavirus outbreak.

Apple declined to comment.

By Reed Albergotti and Heather Kelly
9:32 p.m.

GOP senator says only small percentage of population might die of coronavirus

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), speaks to reporters in Washington on Jan. 27. (Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

As President Trump cast the nation’s battle against the coronavirus as war, one high-ranking Republican senator seemed to play down the gravity of the pandemic, saying the number of Americans who might die would be 3.4 percent of the population at most.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, called covid-19 a “nasty disease” that is devastating to those who contract it.

“Getting coronavirus is not a death sentence except for maybe no more than 3.4 percent of our population . . . probably far less,” Johnson said in an interview with his home-state newspaper, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, published Wednesday. “We don’t shut down our economy because tens of thousands of people die on the highways.”

If 3.4 percent of the U.S. population perished, that would mean millions of fatalities and would be 10 times the U.S. deaths in every war that the United States has fought.

By Colby Itkowitz

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