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Acting Brazilian ambassador Nestor Forster, who sat at President Trump’s table Saturday night during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the embassy said late Friday. Forster is the third person who visited the president’s South Florida resort last weekend to test positive for the novel virus.

Trump declared a national emergency over the coronavirus pandemic Friday as public life in America continued to grind to a halt. Trump’s announcement sent the Dow soaring nearly 2,000 points.

Concerns about the coronavirus rippled across the globe, as schools closed to millions of students; more events were canceled, more landmarks shuttered; and the Group of Seven leaders planned a virtual crisis conference.

Here are some other significant developments:

  • After facing heated, bipartisan criticism, the Trump administration announced a series of steps to boost the availability of tests and said it would partner with the private sector to set up drive-through testing sites.
  • The World Health Organization warned that Europe “has now become the epicenter" of the pandemic.
  • Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said he tested positive for the virus after attending an event in Florida with a top Brazilian government aide who has also tested positive. A senior Australian official also tested positive just days after meeting with U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr in Washington.
  • Scientists have found that the coronavirus can stay infectious for days on some surfaces. They also discovered that the coronavirus can be shed by people before they develop symptoms and can linger in the body for many weeks.

Acting Brazil ambassador tests positive after dining with Trump at Mar-a-Lago

2:46 a.m.
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Acting Brazil ambassador Nestor Forster, who sat at President Trump’s table Saturday night during a dinner at Mar-a-Lago, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the embassy said late Friday. Forster is the third person who visited the president’s South Florida resort last weekend to test positive for the virus.

Another Brazilian official who visited Mar-a-Lago that night, Fabio Wajngarten, communications secretary for the country’s president, tested positive on Wednesday.

Wajngarten had posed for a photo with Trump. Forster was also in close contact with the president.

“Following medical advice, Amb. Forster will extend his self-quarantine, which he had already placed himself into as a precautionary measure, for another two weeks,” the embassy said in a tweet.

The other person who tested positive after visiting Mar-a-Lago was an individual who attended a Sunday luncheon hosted by Trump Victory, a committee that raises money for the Trump campaign and the Republican Party, according to an email from party officials.

White House says Google is building a coronavirus testing website, but details are fuzzy

2:32 a.m.
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The White House is turning to Google to build a new screening website for anyone wanting information on how to get tested for the coronavirus, President Trump said on Friday. However, there are some discrepancies between the White House and Google versions of what the site will be able to do, where it will do it, and when.

The site will actually be built by Verily, the life sciences division of Google parent company Alphabet that focuses on research and development around health issues, the company confirmed.

The president said 1,700 engineers were working on the triage website and that it would be done “very quickly.” Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said they wanted to bring it “across the continent.” Vice President Pence said they would have more information about when the website would be available starting Sunday evening.

“I want to thank Google. Google is helping to develop a website. It’s going to be very quickly done, unlike websites of the past, to determine whether a test is warranted and to facilitate testing at a nearby convenient location,” said Trump during a news conference to declare the coronavirus a national emergency.

But in a short statement shared on Twitter an hour and a half after the announcement, Verily said the website was only in “the early stages of development.” The tool will start in the San Francisco Bay area first with “the hope of expanding more broadly over time.”

Read more here.

Restaurant traffic takes a hit in D.C. and worldwide

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Restaurant traffic has taken a dive in the past week, according to data from the reservation service OpenTable, with seated diners down 31 percent globally and 32 percent nationally Thursday compared with a year ago.

In the United States, the data shows, restaurants started seeing a downturn on March 3. The decline became more dramatic this week, with Thursday the worst day yet.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is making many of us stay home and our community of nearly 60,000 restaurants is facing a severe reduction in diners,” OpenTable chief operating officer Andrea Johnston wrote on a company blog, noting that “things seem to be getting worse quickly.”

At the city level, Thursday’s restaurant traffic was down 37 percent in Washington, 52 percent in New York City, 38 percent in Los Angeles, 58 percent in Seattle and 22 percent in Miami compared with one year earlier.

“Please support your local restaurants during this turbulent time,” Johnston wrote, suggesting home delivery as an alternative to going out. “Another option is to buy restaurant gift cards for future use.”

Public health officials have cautioned against large gatherings and recommended that older people, especially those older than 80, avoid person-to-person contact.

Patagonia shuts its doors and stops online sales

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As concerns about the effects on the supply chain during the coronavirus pandemic mount, Patagonia has become the first major retailer to bow out — closing its stores and shutting down its website.

The outdoor outfitter said it will stop business on Friday, reassess and give an update on March 27. All Patagonia employees will receive their regular pay during the closure, CEO Rose Marcario wrote in a statement.

“The scale of impact is still unknown, and we want to do our part to protect our community especially while testing availability is unknown,” Marcario said.

Some employees will work from home, and there will be delays on orders and customer service requests, Marcario said.

Since the virus initially began spreading in China, where many American companies outsource production to, executives have expressed some uncertainty about how they will be able to replenish their supply, especially as fear has intensified demand for certain items like food.

Rhode Island elementary school student infected by NBA player

1:38 a.m.
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A Rhode Island elementary school student was infected with the novel coronavirus by an NBA player while getting an autograph during a Utah Jazz-Boston Celtics game on March 6, Westerly Police confirmed in a news conference on Friday.

Jazz center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell tested positive. While Police Chief Shawn Lacey didn’t specify during the news conference which player signed the student’s autograph, he later told that the child’s parents told him it was Gobert.

The NBA suspended its season after Gobert was confirmed to have the coronavirus.

At a news conference on Monday, three days after coming into contact with the Rhode Island student, Gobert joked about coronavirus and touched all the microphones and recording devices that reporters had placed on the table in front of him.

Two days later, he tested positive.

Lacey wouldn’t say how old the child is, but he confirmed there were two young patients, one in second grade and the other in preschool, who had tested positive for the coronavirus. Both are being isolated at home.

State Department official confronts China’s ambassador about disinformation

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The State Department summoned China’s ambassador to the United States on Friday morning after a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry accused the U.S. military of starting the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan.

Ambassador Cui Tiankai refused to comment on his conversation with David Stilwell, the assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, as Cui was leaving the State Department about 11 a.m. He ignored questions shouted by three reporters who followed him as he walked from the building’s front door and got into the back of a car.

A State Department official said Stilwell gave a very “stern representation” of the facts to the Chinese ambassador, who was described as “very defensive.”

Lijian Zhao suggested on Thursday that the U.S. Army was responsible for originating the infection in Wuhan.

“When did patient zero begin in US?” Lijian tweeted Thursday. “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan.”

The State Department decided to confront the Chinese directly over what officials said was a growing disinformation campaign. Morgan Ortagus, a State Department spokeswoman, said China is seeking to deflect blame for its role in “starting a global pandemic and not telling the world.”

“Spreading conspiracy theories is dangerous and ridiculous,” she said. “We wanted to put the government on notice we won’t tolerate it for the good of the Chinese people and the world.”

The Chinese have complained that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and other administration officials and allies have referred to the virus as the “Wuhan virus,” in an effort to emphasize that its origin is foreign. China has called the word choice “slander.” The disease caused by the virus is known as covid-19.

The State Department has been increasingly aggressive at countering claims by China and Iran, which also is struggling with an outbreak that has killed at least 500 people, the third highest number of fatalities after China and Italy.

On Thursday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif charged that U.S. sanctions against Iran have caused medical shortages. Ortagus tweeted that Iran should release American and other foreign prisoners held unjustly amid fears the virus is spreading in Iranian prisons. She also rejected Zarif’s charge that sanctions were responsible for Iran’s medical shortages.

“The U.S. offered — and continues to offer — assistance to the Islamic Republic of Iran on #COVID19 and the regime rejected it,” she tweeted. “We don’t discriminate. Nor should Iran.”

Trump announced the expansion of drive-through testing, but details remain sketchy

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Trump announced Friday that the government is partnering with private companies to set up drive-through coronavirus testing sites after a week of unrelenting criticism from lawmakers and frustrated Americans unable to find out whether they might be infected.

At a Rose Garden news conference, the president said the push to let people get tested from their vehicles would involve a new Google website to advise consumers about whether they should get tested and where, and big-box companies and drugstores that would host drive-through testing sites in their store parking lots. State and federal health workers would staff the sites and perform the testing, officials said.

But several key participants said the administration was overstating the plans, including its scope, timetable and other aspects.

“This surprised all of us,” said one state health official who requested anonymity to speak frankly about how state health departments had gotten no advance notice. “This is bizarre,” the official said, pointing out that many of the U.S. Public Health Service’s 6,000 officers are deployed elsewhere and could not readily be shifted.

An hour after the news conference, a Google communications account tweeted a comment from Verily, the life sciences division of Google parent company Alphabet, that suggested the plan to build a broadly available website is nowhere close.

“Verily is in the early stages of development, and planning to roll testing out in the Bay Area, with the hope of expanding more broadly over time,” it said.

Washington Monument will suspend public tours, official says

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The Interior Department decided Friday evening to end tours at the Washington Monument, according to a senior administration official, making it the first National Park Service site in the country to shutter part of its operations because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Interior Secretary David Bernhardt visited the monument Thursday and Friday with the Interior Department’s chief medical officer to evaluate the potential risk of virus exposure for tourists and employees there, according to two federal officials. To ascend to the top of the monument, visitors ride an elevator in relatively cramped quarters.

The administration official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the decision had yet to be formally announced. Visitors can still walk around the monument’s grounds.

Park Service officials at the Statue of Liberty and other park sites in New York City have asked their superiors for permission to shut down tours and access to monuments, according to two people familiar with the decision who spoke on the condition of anonymity to comment on internal deliberations. To access the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, visitors travel by ferry.

Asked whether Park Service officials in New York City had asked headquarters Friday for approval to restrict visitors’ access, Interior Department spokesman Nick Goodwin said in an email, “We have not received such a request.”

Trump offers support for cruise lines — while asking them to stop sailing

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President Trump on Friday praised the battered cruise industry — and shut it down in the United States for a month.

In a tweet late Friday, he said major operators Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian and MSC had agreed to his request that they halt outbound sailings from the United States for 30 days, effective at midnight Friday night.

The Cruise Lines International Association confirmed the tweet soon after, saying oceangoing lines would be “voluntarily and temporarily suspending cruise ship operations from and to U.S. ports of call.”

Earlier in the afternoon, Trump spoke in support of the cruise industry, whose largest three companies are headquartered in the Miami area but incorporated in other countries.

“As far as the cruise line business, we’re with them all the way,” he said during a news conference. “It’s a great business. It’s a great U.S. business.”

Trump also hinted that the federal government could offer a bailout to some hard-hit travel companies.

“I can tell you it’s an industry that was very badly impacted by what’s going on with the virus, and it’s a great industry, it’s a very important industry,” he said. “And we will be helping them and we will be helping the airline industry if we have to, assuming we have to.”

Last week, cruise executives from the four lines the president named in his tweet met with Vice President Pence in Port Everglades in Florida. Officials gave the industry leaders three days to come up with a plan to address the coronavirus threat, which has forced hundreds of passengers into quarantine.

Among the proposed solutions are requiring anyone 70 or older to have a doctor’s note to board, taking the temperature of all passengers before they get on a ship, adding coronavirus test kits and staffers to monitor for the virus and conducting daily temperature checks on crew members, according to a synopsis of the plan.

14 states and several major cities close K-12 schools

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Fourteen states are closing all their public schools, as are several large urban districts — including Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest, and Washington, D.C.

District of Columbia schools will be closed starting Monday through March 31, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said Friday. Schools plan to resume normal operations April 1. West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced Friday that all schools in his state will close indefinitely, WSAZ-TV reported.

As of Friday evening, states that had announced school closures were Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, Alabama, Louisiana, Oregon, New Mexico, Utah, West Virginia and Washington state.

Closing schools is a growing trend across the country as state education officials look to contain the spreading coronavirus through social distancing measures, but the efforts present complications for families who rely on public education for food access and child care.

State officials who had previously seemed reluctant to shutter schools changed course Friday, when a cascade of states began announcing closures.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzer (D) said Thursday he did not plan to close schools. But, he said during a news conference Friday, his thinking changed after contemplating new information that came in overnight and through the day. He also said he had been thinking about state officials’ decision to limit large gatherings.

“I really came to the conclusion that we’re telling adults, essentially, don’t gather in large groups, but we’re telling kids that you can bump up against each other in a hallway, even if you might not have an assembly,” he said.

Oregon had worked hard to keep schools open, but student absences and workforce issues there had made it “impossible to functionally operate schools,” said Gov. Kate Brown (D). Earlier this week, she banned gatherings of more than 250 people, another social distancing rule being adopted across the country.

An increasing number of cities and other localities, including Boston, San Francisco, San Diego and Sacramento, have made similar moves. Kentucky stopped short of a mandatory order but recommended that all schools, both public and private, halt in-person classes. Florida also provided “strong recommendations” that schools extend spring break.

In all, at least 46,000 schools were closed, scheduled to close or had closed and reopened as of Friday evening, according to Education Week, with at least 26 million students affected.

Idaho is 49th state to announce coronavirus within its borders

11:19 p.m.
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Idaho on Friday night became the 49th state to announce a case of the novel coronavirus within its borders.

The patient, a woman in her 50s, had attended a conference in New York City and traveled through Boise Airport. She lives in Ada County, where Boise is located, officials said in a news conference. She is isolated at home and had mild symptoms. Officials did not say what conference she had attended.

The only state to not confirm a coronavirus case as of Friday was West Virginia.

Coronavirus isn’t stopping one huge annual fundraiser in Pennsylvania’s Amish country

11:18 p.m.
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Though coronavirus fears are shutting down events nationwide, they’re not stopping one huge fundraiser in Pennsylvania’s Amish country that annually attracts thousands of people.

In defiance of warnings by state and local officials, the two-day Gordonville Fire and EMS Company “Mud Sale” — where Amish-made quilts, crafts and furniture are offered up — started as planned Friday afternoon.

The group went forward despite confirmed coronavirus infections in the state increasing 50 percent in the past 24 hours, to 33 cases, with tests on another 130 people pending. Almost all of those confirmed cases are clustered in southeastern Pennsylvania, though none has yet surfaced in nearby Lancaster County.

The Paradise Township Board of Supervisors issued a statement Thursday “strongly encouraging” the event not be held. The fire company declined, saying in a statement Friday that canceling at the last minute would have “crippled” its operations for the coming year.

Still, the group agreed to put in place additional measures to protect attendees. Most auction items are being moved out of enclosed buildings, hygiene informational pamphlets distributed and hand-washing stations set up at all entrances, restrooms, food vendors and other high-traffic sites.

“We still believe it’s in the best interest not to have it,” Adam Bills, a Paradise Township supervisor, said after the decision. He voiced particular concern for Amish and Mennonite families, who live in close proximity to one another and, because they lack TV or Internet, have more limited information about the coronavirus. “They gather in large numbers in close quarters, so an outbreak could spread,” Bills said. “I hope that this helps educate the Amish.”

These sales are held in what are usually “muddy” fields during springtime, hence the name. On average, they generate a third of local fire companies’ annual revenue and draw big crowds of tourists from numerous states in addition to many Amish and Mennonites shopping for new buggies or plow horses. Many of the companies have sizable numbers of Amish and Mennonite volunteers.

The fire company’s Facebook page drew some angry responses to its decision to proceed. “For all of you foolish to attend,” one person wrote, “I have posted the address and phone # to the local hospital.”

Carnival, Royal Caribbean, Norwegian halt cruises temporarily

11:12 p.m.
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Ocean and river cruise lines around the world have announced they are suspending some or all of their operations temporarily in response to the new coronavirus as ports turn ships away, attractions close and travelers call off their trips.

President Trump said in a tweet late Friday that at his request, several cruise lines including Carnival and Royal Caribbean had agreed to suspend cruises leaving the United States for 30 days.

The Cruise Lines International Association confirmed the suspension less than 15 minutes later in a statement.

Royal Caribbean Cruises, the world’s second-largest cruise operator, had announced the move earlier in the day. The decision affects 114 sailings on 26 ships over the next month; the company’s brands include Royal Caribbean International and Celebrity Cruises.

Also Friday, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings said it would suspend all sailings through April 11 on its three lines: Norwegian Cruise Line, Oceania Cruises and Regent Seven Seas Cruises. MSC Cruises will stop new voyages from the United States until April 30.

The first to announce a global pause were Viking Cruises and Princess Cruises, which has been hit hard by the outbreak: Passengers and crew on two different ships, Diamond Princess and Grand Princess, have been sickened and subject to quarantine since February. The line said the stoppage will stretch through May 10.

Britain-based Fred Olsen Cruise Lines said Friday it is pausing ocean cruises until May 23. Five people on one of its ships, Braemar, tested positive for the virus Tuesday during a Caribbean sailing, and the company was scrambling Friday to find a port where it could let passengers off.

Other lines announcing widespread cancellations for long stretches include Disney Cruise Line, Windstar Cruises, Uniworld, AmaWaterways, Avalon Waterways and Carnival Corp.-owned European lines AIDA Cruises and Costa Cruises.

Upstart line Virgin Voyages postponed the maiden voyage of its first new ship for several months, to early August.

White House taps Google sister company Verily to build coronavirus site

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Google will build a screening tool to assist CDC coronavirus testing, President Trump announced March 12 at the White House. (The Washington Post)

The White House is turning to Google to build a new screening website for anyone wanting information on how to get tested for the novel coronavirus, President Trump announced Friday.

It will be built by Verily, the life sciences division of Google parent company Alphabet that focuses on research and development around health issues.

The site will start with a survey that asks people about their symptoms and risk factors. If it determines that they should get a test, it will direct them to the nearest drive-through testing center, according to Deborah Brix, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator.

The president said 1,700 engineers were working on the triage website and that it would be done “very quickly.”

In a short statement shared on Twitter an hour and a half after the announcement, Verily said the site was only in “the early stages of development.” The tool will roll out in the Bay Area first with “the hope of expanding it more broadly over time.”

Vice President Pence said they would have more information about when the website would be available starting Sunday evening.

Google and Verily did not have any other additional information about the site, including when it would be online or how it would handle users’ personal medical data.