Coronavirus live updates: WHO declares pandemic; US death toll rises to 31; 'it's going to get worse'

John Bacon USA TODAY Published 2:21 PM EDT Mar 11, 2020 WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Wednesday declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic as the global death toll rose above 4,300 and the number of confirmed cases exceeded 121,000.

“We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” Tedros said at a news conference. “We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: All countries can still change the course of this pandemic.” The U.S. death toll climbed to 31 and the number of U.S. cases rolled past 1,000, federal health officials said. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield told a congressional committee the virus has spread to at least 38 states.  “Right now the epicenter – the new China – is Europe,” Redfield said. “And there’s a lot of people coming back and forth from Europe that are now starting to seed these communities.”

Here’s the latest on the outbreak of COVID-19: 

  • Cruise ships will bring 100K people to US ports this week. Amid coronavirus, will they be welcome?
  • Stocks: The Dow takes a dive on pandemic news.
  • Speaking of pandemics, what does that mean and what took so long?
  • Plenty of labs can now test for coronavirus. But a key testing component is in short supply.
  • Tax Day: Trump officials consider extending April 15 tax filing deadline
  • Coronavirus, explained: Everything to know, from symptoms to how to prepare
  • US coronavirus map: Tracking the outbreak

WHO: First coronavirus outbreak to be designated a pandemic 

The current coronavirus outbreak is the first to have drawn a pandemic designation, Tedros said. For weeks he balked at calling the outbreak a pandemic, and Wednesday he noted that 81 nations have reported no cases of the virus. Another 57 have reported 10 cases or less.

More than 90% of confirmed cases are in four countries, and two of them – China and South Korea – are seeing cases decline, he said.  Containment remains as important as mass treatment of the infection, Tedros stressed. “Several countries have demonstrated that this virus can be suppressed and controlled,” he said. “Even those countries with community transmission or large clusters can turn the tide.”

‘Bottom line: It’s going to get worse’

Dr.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told lawmakers Wednesday that the U.S. has yet to see the worst of the new coronavirus outbreak. He explained that any time there is an outbreak with enough cases of “community spread,” which means the source of the infection is unknown, “you’re not going to able to effectively and efficiently contain it.” How much worse will depend on the ability of the U.S. to contain the influx of infected people from other countries and the ability to contain and mitigate the virus here.

“Bottom line: It’s going to get worse,” he said. – William Cummings

Coronavirus cover-up in China ‘cost the world community’

National security adviser Robert O’Brien, who is a member of the coronavirus task force, accused Beijing of concealing the outbreak and hampering a faster response worldwide. “Unfortunately rather than using best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up,” he said, referring to doctors who were silenced while trying to sound alarm bells over coronavirus. “It probably cost the global community two months to respond.”  Speaking at the conservative Heritage Foundation, O’Brien said that if teams from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had earlier access on the ground in China, it would have “dramatically curtailed what happened in China and what’s happening across the world.”

– Courtney Subramanian

Washington, D.C., wants large gatherings canceled

Washington, D.C, issued a health advisory recommending that all “non-essential mass gatherings” of 1,000 people or more be postponed or canceled through March 31. “We also recommend that any social, cultural or entertainment events where large crowds are anticipated be reconsidered by the organizer,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said. The city had four confirmed cases Wednesday, according to the Johns Hopkins data dashboard. Neighboring state of Virginia and Maryland had nine each.

Seattle poised to ban large gatherings

Washington Gov.

Jay Inslee was expected to announce a ban Wednesday on gatherings and events of more than 250 people in the Seattle metropolitan area, where the virus that has killed more than 20 people. The ban could force the Seattle Mariners to relocate their home games for at least some part of the upcoming Major League Baseball season.  There have been 273 confirmed cases in Washington state; 19 deaths are linked to one suburban Seattle nursing home. Authorities in King County believe the virus has spread to at least 10 long-term care facilities.

The three counties affected by the ban, King, Pierce and Snohomish, are home to nearly 4 million people.

1,000 passengers still on Grand Princess cruise ship

The Grand Princess cruise ship was set to continue unloading passengers for a third day Wednesday in Oakland, California. As of Tuesday, 1,406 people had disembarked from the ship, leaving at least 1,000 still on board. Nineteen crew members who tested positive but “have been deemed asymptomatic” remain on the ship in isolated cabins, the company said. The ship has been a floating limbo since Thursday when coronavirus cases were discovered on board. 

Meanwhile, at least 30 cruise ships currently at sea with about 100,000 people list port destinations in the United States sometime this week, according to a USA TODAY satellite tracking analysis of 380 of the world’s largest cruise ships. It’s not clear if all ports will be open to receive them. – Morgan Hines and David Oliver

Cruise ship plan would tighten rules for elderly

A proposal submitted to the White House by the leading cruise trade organization would deny cruise boarding to any person over 70 unless they are able to present a doctor’s note verifying their fitness for travel, according to a person familiar with the situation but not authorized to speak publicly.

Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) submitted a plan to Vice President Mike Pence proposing enhanced measures across the industry. Coronavirus concerns have forced two ships of passengers into quarantine and escalating fears on others.  – Morgan Hines

Markets tumble; tax deadline could be delayed

U.S. markets opened sharply lower Wednesday, wiping out much of the gains recorded Tuesday.

Stocks have been swinging wildly for days but remained more than 10% below record highs. The Trump administration is weighing extending this year’s April 15 deadline for filing income taxes to soften the impact of coronavirus on U.S. households and businesses, The Wall Street Journal reported. Treasury officials are reportedly considering how long the filing extension will be and the logistics of how it will work. No final decision has been made yet. 

– Jazmin Goodwin

G7 ministers to meet virtually instead of in Pittsburgh

The State Department said it would change a planned in-person meeting of G7 foreign ministers to a virtual session conducted by video conference. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was scheduled to host the Group of 7 leaders – from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States – in Pittsburgh on March 24-25. Morgan Ortagus, the agency’s spokeswoman, said the move was “out of an abundance of caution.”

– Deirdre Shesgreen

Massachusetts infections more than double

Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency after state health officials said the number of presumptive positive cases of the COVID-19 virus in Massachusetts is now up to 92, more than doubling in one day. The state identified 51 new cases of the coronavirus since Monday, Massachusetts Health Secretary Marylou Sudders said at a news conference with the governor.

The vast majority, 70, are tied to a conference the biotech company Biogen held in Boston last month. Four are travel-related and 18 are under investigation. Baker urged older adults and those with health issues to avoid large crowds and large events.

He recommended that employers and other large organizations limit or eliminate non-essential travel, limit or eliminate large events where possible and explore telework where appropriate. Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said the Boston Marathon scheduled for April 20 is still on – for now. The annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade has been canceled.

– Joey Garrison

Germany: 70% of country could get coronavirus

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said 60%-70% of her country’s population could eventually become infected with coronavirus and that the key was to slow the spread as much as possible. The government has recommended the cancellation of all events with more than 1,000 people, among other measures. Merkel said the focus should be on making sure the “health system not be overwhelmed,” according to a translation from Deutsche Welle. “So, it’s not the case that it doesn’t matter what we do,” she said. “First and foremost, it’s about gaining time.”  – William Cummings

Michigan reports first cases, declares state of emergency

In announcing Michigan’s first two coronavirus cases Tuesday night, Gov.

Gretchen Whitmer pledged to harness all of the government’s resources to slow the spread of the virus. “We’re Michiganders. We’re tough,” Whitmer said. “We know how to take care of each other. We will get through this, but for now, please make sure your family and friends are taking every preventative measure available to keep yourselves safe.”

– Kristen Jordan Shamus, Detroit Free Press

National Guard rolls out in New York City suburb

The National Guard has been deployed to a New York suburb after Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered schools, houses of worship and other large gathering places in a portion of New Rochelle to temporarily close. Cuomo announced a plan Tuesday to enforce a “containment area” of a 1-mile radius around the Young Israel synagogue at the center of the cluster, which includes part of the city of New Rochelle and stretches into the town of Eastchester, both of which are about 20 miles north of New York City in Westchester County. Any large gathering places within that containment area will be required to shut down through March 25, Cuomo said. Westchester remains at the epicenter of New York state’s coronavirus outbreak with more than 100 confirmed cases.

The National Guard will help residents under precautionary quarantine and help disinfect public areas, Cuomo said. – Jon Campbell and Joseph Spector

Italy’s deaths surge

Italy remained in a nationwide lockdown as confirmed coronavirus cases jumped past 10,000. The death toll stood at 631, second only to China, with an increase of 168 fatalities recorded Tuesday. Premier Giuseppe Conte said he will consider requests from Lombardy, Italy’s hardest-hit region, for a shutdown of nonessential businesses and public transportation on top of travel and social restrictions already in force.

Universities switch to online classes, tell students to stay home 

An increasing number of universities and colleges throughout the country – some responding to the impact of the coronavirus in their area, others taking preemptive steps – are suspending in-person classes.

Some of them are on spring break and plan to begin online classes when students return, but some are already alerting students that in-person teaching may not resume again this school year. Several universities have also suspended their international programs.  Elite schools such as Harvard, Princeton and Stanford and big state schools such as the University of Maryland and the University of Washington are among dozens going virtual. Tracking college closures:Colleges closing, going online due to coronavirus

More on the outbreak of COVID-19: 

  • ‘They’re getting pummeled’: Travel industry reeling from coronavirus concerns
  • Break a coronavirus quarantine in the US? Yes, you could face jail time
  • How Donald Trump changed his coronavirus message amid fear, confusion in the White House

Map: Which states have coronavirus cases?

Here’s a look at which U.S. states have reported cases of COVID-19: 

What’s the worldwide death toll?

The global death toll jumped to 4,373 Wednesday morning, according to a Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. The total of confirmed cases was more than 121,000; more than 80,900 in mainland China, where the virus has killed more than 3,100 people. More than 10,100 cases have now been reported in Italy. The virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms for most people, such as fever and cough, but can progress to serious illness including pneumonia, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems.

The World Health Organization says mild cases last about two weeks, while most patients with serious illness recover in about three to six weeks. Contributing: Steve Kiggins, USA TODAY; The Associated Press More on coronavirus 

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