(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of novel coronavirus, which began in China just three months ago, has tightened its grip around Europe and North America.
The new respiratory virus, known officially as COVID-19, has spread to every continent except Antarctica as well as every single European country.
There are more than 229,000 diagnosed cases globally and over 9,300 fatalities, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. Over 84,000 people with diagnosed cases have recovered.
There are 10,755 diagnosed cases in the U.S., spanning all 50 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico. At least 153 people have died in the U.S., according to ABC News’ count.
Here’s how the news is unfolding Thursday. All times Eastern:
12:09 p.m.: Malaria drug, recovered patients’ blood are potential treatments
President Donald Trump said Thursday the malaria drug chloroquine will be made available “almost immediately” to treat COVID-19. He said the drug is being studied and the FDA had already approved its use.
Chloroquine, an old malaria drug, may help treat novel coronavirus, doctors say
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the malaria drug is one “the president has directed us to take a closer look at, as to whether an expanded-use approach to that could be done to actually see if it benefits patients.”
“We want to do that in the setting of a clinical trial,” he said. Hahn also spoke about convalescent plasma as a potent treatment. He said officials are looking into collecting recovered patients’ blood to provide to others who are sick to try to help strengthen their response to the virus.
11:06 a.m.: Prince Albert II of Monaco tests positive for COVID-19
Prince Albert II of Monaco has tested positive for COVID-19. A statement posted to the palace’s Facebook account says his condition “does not cause concern.”
The statement says the prince, who is the son of Prince Rainier III and Grace Kelly, is working from his private apartment and taking containment measures to limit contact with others.
10:50 a.m.: 75% of New Yorkers must work from home
As cases increase in New York state, no more than 25% of employees can be in the workplace at the same time, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo mandated. The other 75% must work from home.
There are 4,152 people in New York diagnosed with coronavirus, though Cuomo cautioned that there’s many others who have the virus but haven’t been tested.
Of those diagnosed in the state, 19% are in hospitals, he said.
Cuomo chastised the young people still flocking to beaches for spring break, calling it “so unintelligent and reckless I can’t even begin to express it.”
Cuomo also announced some economic relief for New Yorkers.
“If you are not working, if you are working only part-time, we’re going to have the banks and financial institutions waive mortgage payments for 90 days,” the governor said.
10:02 a.m.: White House aims to send most US adults $1,000, Mnuchin says
The White House is working to send $1,000 dollar checks to most adult Americans and an additional $500 per child, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo in a phone interview.
These checks would be part of the trillion dollar plan for “phase 3,” which would be the third stimulus package passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in response to COVID-19.
Mnuchin said another round of identical payments would be sent out in another six weeks if the country was still experiencing a national emergency.
8:25 a.m. ‘This is absolutely serious,’ U.S. surgeon general warns
U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams is urging young Americans to take the novel coronavirus pandemic more seriously and cooperate with health precautions, as throngs of college students were seen crowding beaches and bars for spring break.
“This is absolutely serious. People are dying,” Adams told ABC News in an interview Thursday on Good Morning America.
“Think about your grandmother, think about your grandfather,” he added. ” You’re spreading disease and that could be what ultimately kills them.”
Adams advised all Americans — young and old — to restrict non-essential travel, to stay home from work if possible and to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people.
“If we all do that across the country, then we can have our trajectory like China which overnight, good news, reported no new domestic cases,” he said. “Italy looks like the worst case scenario and it’s why we are ringing the alarm, why we’re telling America to take this seriously. But we have a better case scenario and China is reassuring. China shows us that if we do this, then in six to eight weeks we will hit our peak and start to come back down again.”
The surgeon general emphasized that everyone has a role to play in fighting the epidemic and “little things that you do add up to big changes over time.”
“If you are negligent, if you don’t practice good hygiene, if you go out and spread disease to someone else, then it can add up over time,” he said. “But good behaviors add up over time and what I tell people is, I want everyone to act as if you have the virus. Whenever you’re interacting with someone else, just imagine you have the virus and act as if you want to protect them or that they have the virus and you want to protect from getting it.”
When asked about the frustration surrounding the lack of diagnostic tests for COVID-19, Adams said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “was never designed to provide millions of tests.”
“What we’re really focused on now is making sure people who are at highest risk, including our health care workers, critically important, and people who have symptoms can get tested,” he said. “Thousands more tests this week, tens of thousands increasing by the day, and we’re not where we want to be but we feel like we’re moving in the right direction.”
“Unfortunately, people who are asymptomatic or don’t really need to be tested based on priorities are out there getting tests and clogging up the lines,” he added. “Then our older people and sicker people, our health care workers won’t be able to get that testing.”
7:51 a.m. CDC releases new data showing young patients are being hospitalized, too
Out of 508 patients known to be hospitalized for novel coronavirus in the United States, a decent portion of them were actually relatively young, according to data released late Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The new data shows that 20 percent of those 508 hospitalizations were patients who ranged in age from 20 to 44. Another 18 percent were between the ages of 45 and 54.
COVID-19 is still significantly more dangerous for older people, with 80 percent of deaths associated with adults over the age of 65. But the new data is noteworthy considering evidence that young people may be taking warnings about social distancing less seriously. The more younger people who require hospitalization, the less resources there are for the older patients who are more likely to die from the disease.
6:56 a.m. 50 new infections per hour in Iran, health ministry spokesman says
A spokesman for Iran’s health ministry revealed Thursday just how badly the novel coronavirus is ravaging his country.
Kianoush Jahanpour said on Twitter that 50 people are contracting COVID-19 every hour in Iran, with one person dying from the disease every 10 minutes.
“In terms of this information, make a conscious decision about travel, traffic, transportation, and sightseeing,” Jahanpour tweeted.
More than 17,360 people in Iran have been infected with the new virus and 1,135 of them have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering. Iran has the third-highest national total of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the world.
Iran’s deputy health minister, Alireza Raisi, urged residents on Wednesday to “please follow the guidelines and stay at home.”
6:30 a.m. EU’s Brexit negotiator tests positive
The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator revealed Thursday that he has tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
Michael Barnier, a French politician serving as the European Commission’s Head of Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, made the announcement on Twitter.
“I am doing well and in good spirits. I am following all the necessary instructions, as is my team,” Barnier tweeted. “For all those affected already, and for all those currently in isolation, we will get through this together.”
I would like to inform you that I have tested positive for #COVID19. 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.
— Michel Barnier (@MichelBarnier) March 19, 2020
Barnier was scheduled to hold talks over a future trade deal between Britain and the European Union on Wednesday with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Europe adviser, David Frost. But the negotiations were cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Although the United Kingdom formally left the European Union on Jan. 31, the country is in a Brexit transition period as both sides work to agree on a trade deal before the end-of-year deadline.
4:40 a.m. Honolulu denies two cruise ships from disembarking
Passengers and crew aboard two cruise ships set to dock in Honolulu won’t be allowed to disembark in Hawaii’s capital, officials said, even though there are no positive coronavirus cases on either vessel.
State authorities and cruise line officials previously said passengers and crew would be allowed to leave the ships at Honolulu Harbor. But on Tuesday, Hawaii Gov. David Ige asked visitors to postpone their travel to the island state for at least 30 days as part of efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. The two vessels were already at sea at the time.
Now, the ships will only be allowed entry to refuel and restock on food and supplies. The Maasdam, operated by Holland America Line, is scheduled to arrive at Honolulu Harbor on Friday and depart the following day. The Norwegian Jewel, operated by Norwegian Cruise Line, is scheduled to arrive Sunday.
“The health and safety of all people in Hawaii is always at the forefront of operational decisions. 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,” Hawaii Department of Transportation Director Jade Butay said in a statement Wednesday night. “HDOT and the State are allowing the ships to dock at Honolulu Harbor so they may refuel and restock. Neither ship had originally planned to make Hawaii its final port and both will carry on to mainland destinations, where more resources can be marshaled to handle the passengers and crew properly.”
4:09 a.m. Virus shuts down Las Vegas air traffic control tower
The air traffic control tower at McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas has temporarily closed after an air traffic controller tested positive for the novel coronavirus on Wednesday, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Las Vegas Terminal Radar Approach Control has assumed control of the airspace. McCarran International Airport remains open and operations will continue at a reduced rate until the situation is resolved.
The FAA continues to maintain close contact with airports, airlines and other stakeholders during the situation, a spokesperson told ABC News.
“The safety of our staff and the traveling public is the FAA’s top priority,” the spokesperson said in a statement late Wednesday. “Our controllers, inspectors and others with critical safety or security sensitive roles are essential components of our national airspace.”
3:50 a.m. Half of the world’s student population out of school
More than 861.7 million children and youth — roughly half of the world’s student population — are not attending school as 107 countries enforce nationwide closures of educational institutions in an attempt to contain the coronavirus pandemic, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
An additional 12 countries have implemented localized school closures and, should these become nationwide, millions of more students will be impacted, UNESCO warned.
2:30 a.m. China reports no new domestic transmissions for 1st time since outbreak began
China’s mainland has reported no new domestic transmissions of the novel coronavirus for the first time since the outbreak started — a major milestone in the country’s fight against the epidemic.
The Chinese National Health Commission said on Thursday that there were 34 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the mainland during Wednesday, but all were imported from overseas. There were no new cases of any kind reported during Wednesday in the city of Wuhan nor its surrounding Hubei province, the original epicenter of the virus outbreak.
The newly identified virus first emerged in Wuhan back in December and, within weeks, the city was reporting thousands of new infections daily at the height of the country’s epidemic. Overall, China has reported more than 81,000 confirmed cases, mostly in Hubei province.
Earlier this month, Chinese state media reported that the last of a dozen makeshift hospitals built to house coronavirus patients in Wuhan had wrapped up operations and officially closed. The first groups of Chinese medical teams who were deployed to Wuhan to assist with the outbreak began leaving on Tuesday.
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