The Latest: Puerto Rico sees its first cases of coronavirus

Coronavirus COVID-19 background
Posted at 12:14 AM, Mar 13, 2020

The Latest on the world's coronavirus pandemic:

Officials say tests have confirmed three cases of the new coronavirus in Puerto Rico, the first for the U.S. territory.

Gov. Wanda Vazquez said Friday night that the public school system would close for 14 days and that no cruise ships or the ferry from the Dominican Republic would be allowed to dock.

Vazquez said one of the cases involved a local man who had relatives who traveled off the island and the other two are tourists from northern Italy who arrived on a cruise ship.

Even before the announcement, several events including concerts and a circus performance had been canceled on the island due to worries about the virus, which has spread around the world. The University of Puerto Rico and some private colleges canceled classes.


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

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

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

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

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


The U.S. Transportation Security Administration has relaxed restrictions on carry-on items to allow passengers containers of liquid hand sanitizer up to 12 ounces (355 milliliters).

TSA regulations currently prohibit liquids, gels and aerosols larger than 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters).

The change comes as the agency housed under the Department of Homeland Security acknowledges on its website that the virus outbreak "is at the forefront on the minds of travelers, as health officials are encouraging that individuals wash their hands frequently."

The allowance is in effect until further notice. TSA says passengers at airport security checkpoints should expect separate screenings for containers larger than the standard size.


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

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

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

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

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

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


Jack Ma, founder of the Chinese tech giant Alibaba, says his foundation will donate 500,000 COVID-19 testing kits and 1 million masks to the U.S.

"Drawing from my own country's experience, speedy and accurate testing and adequate personal protective equipment for medical professionals are most effective in prevent the spread of the virus," Ma said in a statement Friday on Twitter. "At this moment, we can't beat this virus unless we eliminate boundaries to resources and share our know-how and hard-earned lessons."

Ma said the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Foundation have already donated items to Japan, South Korea, Italy Iran and Spain, and he hopes the latest donation will help Americans fight against the pandemic.


U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has asked all 3,000 staff members at U.N. headquarters in New York to work from home for three weeks starting Monday unless they are needed to carry out essential services.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric, who made the announcement late Friday, said meetings of the Security Council, General Assembly and other key bodies and committees can still take place.

Dujarric said Guterres made the decision to drastically reduce the number of staff at U.N. headquarters in order to reduce social contact to a minimum in light of the new coronavirus.

Dujarric said Friday that no U.N. staff member has been reported testing positive for COVID-19, but a diplomat from the Philippines assigned to their U.N. mission did test positive.


A national memorial in New Zealand to commemorate the 51 people who were killed when a gunman attacked two mosques one year ago has been canceled due to concern over the new coronavirus.

Thousands of people were expected to attend the Sunday service in Christchurch to mark the anniversary of the March 15 shooting.

New Zealand has had just six confirmed cases of COVID-19. All of those cases have been connected to people returning from abroad and so far there haven't been signs of a local outbreak. The most recent case, involving a man in his 60s who recently returned from the U.S., was announced by health officials Saturday.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern the decision to cancel the service, also announced Saturday, was pragmatic and precautionary.


A cruise ship that docked in Oakland, California, on Monday after being struck with the coronavirus has disembarked 2,450 passengers and transported them to appropriate quarantine sites.

Princess Cruises said only 14 international passengers remained on board while waiting to be repatriated to their home countries.

California officials said after they get off, the ship will be anchored somewhere in San Francisco Bay while crew members wait for chartered flights to their destination.


The State Department on Friday summoned China’s ambassador to the U.S. to complain about recent comments from a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman suggesting that the U.S. Army may have introduced the coronavirus to Wuhan.

The department said it had protested the comments from deputy ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian and noted that China’s storyline about the COVID-19 virus “has been shifting away from the Wuhan Huanan market since mid-January indicating that China is trying avoid responsibility for the outbreak.”

“The U.S. is not interested in assigning blame, but asks the Chinese government to offse full access and transparency in order to prevent further loss of lives inside and outside the PRC,” the department said.


President Donald Trump is tweeting that four major cruise ship companies have agreed to suspend trips from the U.S. for 30 days, effective at midnight.

Trump says that Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC Cruises all agreed to the suspensions.

The U.S. State Department advised Sunday against any travel on cruise ships, particularly for those with underlying health conditions.


Utah is dismissing public school classes for at least two weeks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, Gov. Gary Herbert said Friday.

The “soft closure” starts Monday, though doors will stay open to allow kids to get things like meals and tutoring if needed.

Teaching for Utah’s 667,000 public school students will move online or to take-home packets. The state has a handful of cases, including high-profile Utah Jazz NBA players Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell.


Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who had previously declared a state of emergency in the nation's capital, asked that all gatherings of more than 250 people be avoided.

That's down from the original request earlier this week, which set the requested limit at 1,000 people. Bowser has shut down the District of Columbia's schools through the end of March and all non-essential Washington government officials will begin teleworking starting next week.

Washington DC has 10 identified case of coronavirus infection.


The Kosovar government on Friday decided to close the country’s land border points and air routes in an effort to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.

Earlier Friday authorities reported two coronavirus cases, the first in the tiny Western Balkan country, a 20-year old Italian woman and a 77-year old Albanian man.


Idaho has its first confirmed case of coronavirus, state health officials announced Friday afternoon.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare said Gov. Brad Little would make an official announcement about the case at the end of the business day Friday. The news came several hours after he declared a state of emergency because of coronavirus.

The Republican governor said he wanted the state to be prepared and guard against healthcare systems being overwhelmed.


Oklahoma used more than half its testing capacity Wednesday to test 58 members of the Utah Jazz basketball organization after a player tested positive. Those tests results showed a second player, Donovan Mitchell, also tested positive.

Oklahoma state epidemiologist Laurence Burnsed said it would have been too risky to transport the team back to Utah for testing without knowing who might be positive.

Oklahoma State Commissioner of Health Gary Cox said the state's testing capacity was 100 per day at the time the team was tested.

A spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Department of Health said the tests on the members of the Utah Jazz did not disrupt testing of any Oklahoma patient samples.


Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered the closing of every school in the state until March 30 starting Tuesday amid concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

Pritzker announced his decision Friday in Chicago where more than 355,000 public school students will be affected. Statewide, nearly 2 million students will not be returning to the classroom for two weeks.

Illinois officials also reported an additional 14 cases of people who had tested positive for the virus on Friday, bringing the state's total number of cases to 46.


Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers on Friday ordered all of the state’s public and private K-12 schools closed from March 18 until April 5, saying they could close earlier if they wished and the reopening date may be delayed.

There were 19 confirmed cases in Wisconsin, including one who had recovered.


The number of people who have died from the new coronavirus in the U.S. jumped by eight on Friday – from 41 to 49.

Washington state health officials reported six new COVID-19 deaths on Friday making the state’s total 37. Three of the new fatalities were associated with a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, that has been the epicenter of the disease in the state.

Colorado health officials reported the state’s first coronavirus death. A woman in her 80s with underlying health conditions died in El Paso County.

California Department of Public Health announced Friday that the state now has 247 confirmed cases and one new death, bringing the fatality total to five.


Gov. Kate Brown said Friday that Oregon will help find childcare for the children of frontline medical workers and first responders as schools statewide are closed for two weeks to slow the spread of the new coronavirus.

Oregon also obtained a federal waiver Friday to allow districts to serve free and reduced-price lunches to lower-income students outside a school setting, at places such as bus stops, churches and community centers.

About half of the 580,000 children in Oregon affected by the two-week closure of all school statewide receive meal subsidies, Oregon Department of Education Director Colt Gill said.

As for childcare for doctors and nurses, Brown equated it to a wartime effort to make medical workers available.


The World Health Organization’s chief has launched a global fund on Friday to raise money to help the world’s nations respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “Every dollar donated is a dollar towards saving lives.”


President Donald Trump has said he is likely to take a test for the coronavirus after all.

Trump over the weekend was near Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director, Fábio Wajngarten, who tested positive for the virus just days later.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement Thursday that “both the President and Vice President had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time.”

Trump was asked at a press conference Friday if he was being selfish by not undergoing testing, prompting Trump to reply: “I didn’t say I wasn’t going to be tested.”

“Most likely, yeah,” Trump added while downplaying his interaction with the Brazilian official at this resort in Florida. “Not for that reason, but because I think I will do it anyway. Fairly soon, we’re working out a schedule.”


The Catalan government wants to fully isolate the northeastern region of 7.5 million to stop the spread of the new coronavirus, its regional chief said late on Friday, urging central authorities in Spain to help enforcing the total lockdown.

Quim Torra spoke in a televised address on the same day when some 70,000 residents were confined to four towns of the region where a virulent cluster of the COVID-19 has infected dozens in a matter of days.

Central authorities in Spain announced Friday a state of emergency that will give the government extraordinary powers from Saturday and until the end of March to take over private facilities, restrict freedom of movement and impose mandatory supply of food and medicines.

Authorities in the Madrid region, with nearly half of the country’s more than 4,200 infections, have also urged the central government to order the total lockdown there.

In a press conference late in the evening, regional president, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, confirmed that hotels had been designated to be used as makeshift hospitals in order to reach at least 1,000 rooms with intensive care capabilities in coming weeks.


Hungary is closing schools starting Monday.

Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Friday night in a video posted on the government's Facebook page that classes will be held for students only through distance learning.

He also asked that children staying at home not be left in the care of grandparents, who, because of their age, are among those most at risk regarding the coronavirus.

Hungary already suspended university classes earlier this week because of the large number of foreign students.

Hungary has reported 19 cases of the coronavirus.


Washington’s governor has ordered a six-week closure of all public and private schools in the state, which has seen the most COVID-19 deaths in the United States.

Gov. Jay Inslee had previously ordered all greater Seattle area schools to shut down. Inslee’s order requires schools to close from March 17 to April 24. In Washington state, there are more than 1.1 million public school students.

At least 31 deaths from coronavirus have occurred in Washington, most in the Seattle area.


President Donald Trump is criticizing legislation in the House designed to help Americans dealing with the new coronavirus, saying, “we just don’t think they’re giving enough.”

Trump claimed that Democrats, in the end, “didn’t agree to certain things they agreed to.”

Central to the House package is free testing for the virus and guaranteed sick pay for workers who are taking time away from jobs, along with an infusion of dollars to handle unemployment benefits and boost food programs for children, families and seniors.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday the House would approve the aid package and implored the Trump administration and congressional Republicans to “put families first” by backing the effort.


President Donald Trump says he will waive interest on student loans being held by the federal government “until further notice” as part of an emergency action to help Americans deal with the new coronavirus.

Trump says he has also instructed his secretary of Energy to purchase large quantities of crude oil for the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which stores fuel for emergency use.

Trump says “we’re going to fill it right up to the top” and the move would save American taxpayers and help the oil industry. Trump made the announcements during a White House press conference on Friday.


President Donald Trump has announced that he is officially declaring a national emergency over the new coronavirus.

The president spoke at Rose Garden press conference and said no resource will be spared in responding to the virus. He says that the declaration will free up nearly $50 billion to help the states and cities.

Trump says he is also asking every hospital in the U.S. to activate their emergency preparedness plan.

He is facing growing criticism about his mixed messages on the severity of the outbreak and over the administration's scattershot response.

But the president is defending the administration’s response, particularly its temporary ban on travel from Europe, saying it will save lives. He says of the virus that “this will pass” and the nation will emerge stronger.


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