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Fears grow of a coronavirus pandemic as markets stumble again; Japan shuts schools

As of early March, people have tested positive for the coronavirus in about 70 countries. Officials are taking "unprecedented" actions. (Video: The Washington Post)

U.S. markets fell sharply Thursday after the first coronavirus case in the United States that could not be linked to foreign travel was confirmed.

California is calling the case, first reported by The Washington Post, its first instance of community transmission. The hospital is monitoring the health of scores of staff members who may have come in contact with the patient.

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The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus also raised the specter of a global pandemic as governments ramped up their emergency responses and international financial markets slumped again Thursday, despite signs that the outbreak may be easing in China.

Japan told schools to close through the spring break, which for most students typically means early April. Australia’s leader warned that a pandemic was inevitable, and an Iranian lawmaker said he has tested positive for the virus. New infections and deaths from covid-19, as the disease caused by the coronavirus is known, emerged from the Middle East to Europe and South Korea. The State Department, meanwhile, issued a Level 3 travel advisory for South Korea, portending extended economic disruption in Asia.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Nigeria confirmed its first case Thursday, making the first confirmed instance of coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Thursday that the state is monitoring 8,400 people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus after traveling to Asia. They join thousands of people across the United States who have been requested to self-isolate or check themselves for coronavirus symptoms this month.
  • House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she spoke with Vice President Pence on Thursday morning and conveyed to him her concern that he is leading the administration’s coronavirus response effort.
  • In the financial markets, the three major U.S. indexes plummeted into correction territory at their afternoon close, having fallen more than 10 percent from their recent highs. The Dow Jones industrial average fell 1,191 points, or 4.4 percent. The Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index and the Nasdaq composite fell 4.4 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.
  • A 13th person has tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Canada, public health officials said Thursday, after previously warning that Canadians should prepare for a possible pandemic by ensuring that they are stocked up on food and medication, particularly if a family member falls ill with the virus.

Mapping the spread of the coronavirus | What we know about the virus | How to prepare for coronavirus in the U.S. (Spoiler: Not sick? No need to wear a mask.)