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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now urging a nationwide halt to gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks, citing the risk of the coronavirus.

If followed, the guidance — the strongest and most sweeping to date from the agency — will significantly increase the pandemic’s disruption to U.S. public life for the next two months. Governments worldwide are already making tough decisions aimed at keep their citizens safe.

Here are some other significant developments:

  • The Federal Reserve made an emergency interest rate cut to zero on Sunday night.
  • A slew of new states and cities, including Illinois, Washington state and New York City, have announced plans to close schools and severely restricted their nightlife by shuttering bars, restaurants and clubs, allowing takeout food only or cutting hours.
  • Outdoors retailer REI, casino and hotel giant MGM Resorts, athletic clothing chain Lululemon and more joined the cascade of businesses announcing closures.
  • Iraq and Lebanon said Sunday that they were grounding flights as the two crisis-hit nations announced new measures to slow the spread of covid-19.
  • Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said Sunday that it was “unacceptable” that travelers at U.S. airports were thrown into chaos in the aftermath of a travel ban on European countries. But Wolf said conditions have now improved.
3:44 a.m.
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New York City, L.A., Washington state close bars, limit restaurants to takeout and delivery

Washington state and the cities of New York and Los Angeles will close all bars and nightclubs and only allow pickup and delivery from restaurants, some of the most sweeping measures yet to contain the new coronavirus.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee (D) said late Sunday he will sign a statewide emergency proclamation mandating the order, which will also ban any gatherings of 50 or more people. The rules will go into effect immediately in King County, which includes Seattle and has emerged as an epicenter of the outbreak.

“I know there will be significant economic impacts to all our communities,” Inslee said on Twitter. “But every hour counts as we bend the curve of infection.”

The rule would also shut down gyms, health clubs and similar facilities, though grocery stores and pharmacies would be allowed to stay open.

Also on Sunday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) announced emergency action to close eateries and entertainment venues in his city, adding that Los Angeles would also impose a moratorium on evictions.

Earlier in the day, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) made a similar announcement, as a slew of other states and cities throughout the nation take aggressive measures to combat the novel coronavirus that will transform public life.

“The virus can spread rapidly through the close interactions New Yorkers have in restaurants, bars and places where we sit close together,” de Blasio said in a statement. “We have to break that cycle.”

The decision comes as the city decided to shut down its public school system, which is the nation’s largest, and as iconic landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island said they would be closing their doors, too.

The measure is certain to disrupt the lives of 8 million people in New York, many of whom live in small apartments and frequent restaurants regularly. Grocery stores in Manhattan have been emptying for several weeks, with canned goods, toilet paper and pasta flying off shelves and lines going out the doors. The mayor said Sunday that there are 329 cases of the coronavirus in the city and that five people have died of it.

3:09 a.m.
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Festival that drew more than 10,000 people says guest tested positive for coronavirus

A guest at a week-long festival that drew more than 10,000 people this month in Miami Beach has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, organizers said Sunday night.

“We are grateful to them for alerting us, particularly given that they were not experiencing symptoms” during the festival, National LGBTQ Task Force executive director Rea Carey said in a statement posted to the Winter Party Festival’s social media accounts. The event raises money for the LGBTQ community.

The announcement came the same day that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention urged a nationwide halt to gatherings of 50 people or more and as local and state governments embrace increasingly dramatic restrictions on public life to combat the pandemic. Public health officials have long been warning that mass events will spread an already-quick-moving virus.

Carey said that “information and circumstances have changed rapidly” since the event took place March 4 through 10. At that time, organizers said, staff put up “educational posters” and distributed thousands of hand sanitizers — but the party went on.

“While we know there are many places people could have been exposed before and after Winter Party as this virus has developed, we wanted to make sure you have this information as soon as possible,” Carey stated.

2:44 a.m.
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Peru and Argentina announce border closures to stem spread

Peru and Argentina announced plans to shut their borders Sunday, and Peru declared a national quarantine for 15 days to try to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra announced a national state of emergency Sunday night, saying he would close the country’s borders and suspend certain constitutional liberties such as freedom of assembly. He also called for civilians to practice social isolation for 15 days. Peru has confirmed 71 cases of the virus.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández said Sunday that his country, which has 56 confirmed cases, would be closed to all nonresidents.

The moves were the latest attempts in both South American countries to implement measures to contain the virus.

Although Latin America has not reported as many cases as Europe and the United States, some countries in the region have been quick to implement policies aimed at keeping the disease from spreading. Peru had earlier suspended flights from Europe and Asia and shut schools and universities, while Argentina had issued a 30-day ban on nonresident travelers entering the country.

Other countries in the region such as Bolivia, El Salvador and Paraguay have also ramped up policies to contain the virus, after the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic.

2:43 a.m.
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NYC schools to close later this week, joining growing number of other cities, states

New York City schools, the nation’s largest school district, will close Monday, joining a cascading number of states and major cities that have shuttered their schools amid coronavirus concerns.

On Sunday alone, Arizona, Minnesota, Montana, Connecticut and North Dakota announced school closings, while Wyoming and Iowa strongly recommended that its districts do the same. More than a dozen states and several large cities have shuttered their schools as officials aim to stem the spread of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) said Sunday that schools would be closed Monday through at least April 20 and that it is possible that they will be closed through the end of the school year.

“I know the full cost of shutting our schools. It’s very painful. It’s going to be very difficult for a lot of families,” he said Sunday. “So this is a decision I have taken with no joy whatsoever, with a lot of pain. But we are dealing with a challenge, a crisis we have never seen in our lifetimes.” He said there have been five covid-19 deaths in New York City.

The decision was announced earlier by New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D), who initially said the city’s schools would close “early this week.” He called for the schools to put a plan in place in the next 24 hours to provide child care for “essential workers,” as well as a plan to feed students who depend on schools for meals.

“This action is necessary to reduce density and mitigate the spread of #COVID19,” Cuomo wrote on Twitter.

He said schools would also close in Nassau and Suffolk counties on Long Island and in Westchester County, just north of New York City. De Blasio had resisted closing city schools, citing concerns about parents who work in critical jobs and who might have to miss work. He also expressed worries about feeding students who rely on schools for meals.

“We have a huge number of single-parent households where they don’t have another place for their kids. They can’t bring their kids to work. There’s a lot of very practical problems,” he told CNN last week.

But he came under enormous pressure from teachers unions, parents, political figures and others to shutter the schools, especially as governors nationwide ordered their schools closed.

De Blasio said Sunday that this week schools will be open for children to pick up “grab and go” meals.

2:36 a.m.
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All bets are off: Casinos grind to a halt over coronavirus

Outside Maryland’s MGM National Harbor Resort & Casino, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted much of everyday life and sent the U.S. economy hurtling toward a recession.

But on Saturday night, a man bathed in neon lights on the gaming floor donned a respirator mask and black plastic gloves to test his luck at a slot machine called “Kronos: Father of Zeus.”

He would be one of the casino’s last patrons.

Over the weekend, the intensifying coronavirus outbreak — and its unprecedented economic fallout — triggered huge shutdowns within the casino industry. Wynn Resorts announced that it would close its Wynn Las Vegas and Encore properties starting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, adding that all full-time employees would be paid through the temporary closures. MGM Resorts International said that it would shutter all Las Vegas casino operations on Monday and that the hotels would follow Tuesday. It also said it would not accept reservations before May 1.

Now casinos are feeling pinched as patrons shy away from handling chips, cash, slot machines and playing cards. Social distancing is a hard sell at the baccarat tables.

Read more here.

2:34 a.m.
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Google’s CEO said there are two coronavirus websites in the works. It’s still confusing.

Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Google and its parent company, Alphabet, said the firm was working on two projects to help people during the coronavirus pandemic, both of which will launch Monday.

In a blog post Sunday, Pichai said one is an informational site from Google that will include basics such as prevention tips and the latest from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The other is a project from Verily, a separate Alphabet company focused on life sciences. It will be an early test version of an online tool to help people find testing sites, but it will be available only in the San Francisco Bay area to start.

Verily is also working to help establish physical testing sites.

The details about what exactly Google is working on have been the source of confusion over the past three days. On Friday, President Trump announced that 1,700 Google engineers were working on a nationwide site with a questionnaire that would help people determine whether they need a coronavirus test, then connect them with a nearby testing location.

The company, seemingly caught off guard, eventually tweeted that the project was being done by Verily and was much smaller in scope — starting as a test in the Bay Area.

But on Saturday night, in another tweet, Google said it was working on a nationwide site. Details provided in a blog post Sunday indicate it is not the personalized scheduling site first described by the White House, but just a central page for the latest information about the coronavirus.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) said Sunday that the state is also working closely with Verily on the test-finding site, confirming that it was just a limited version in the Bay Area to start.

His announcement was closely coordinated with the company, which sent out a news release ahead of time. Newsom said the state had an “advanced partnership” with the Alphabet-owned company that was initiated “well over a week ago,” predating the White House announcement.

2:33 a.m.
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NBA’s evolving schedule plans complicated by CDC guidelines

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Sunday announced new recommended guidelines for mass gatherings that could complicate the NBA’s plans to salvage what remains of the 2019-20 regular season and playoffs in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak.

Commissioner Adam Silver suspended the NBA’s season and placed the league on a 30-day hiatus last week, while noting that the National Basketball Players Association and the league’s television partners shared a desire to resume the schedule later this summer if possible. That hiatus, which was set to run through April 11, has now been effectively extended to May 15 in light of the CDC’s recommendation.

That extension could have wide-reaching logistical ramifications for individual NBA teams, which are awaiting guidance from the league office on next steps. Before the coronavirus crisis, non-playoff teams were anticipating that their seasons would end April 15. The CDC’s two-month stoppage would theoretically require teams to keep their players in market for a month past the standard conclusion of the regular season without any guarantee that games would resume, with or without fans in attendance.

Most NBA players have returned to their teams’ home cities, but have family and other obligations elsewhere. NBA teams also have been advised to hold individual workouts rather than team practices, which has left players in professional limbo and could keep them away from their families for at least two months.

These complexities led two high-ranking team executives, who both spoke on the condition of anonymity, to predict that the NBA would be forced to cancel the balance of the regular season and significantly alter the upcoming Draft Combine, set for May 21-24 in Chicago.

Potential measures to save the playoffs, some executives said, could include pushing back the start date to June, playing games in empty arenas, eliminating extra rest days between games, cutting down the 16-team field or holding a single-site tournament to reduce travel between multiple markets.

“The playoffs are in jeopardy,” one high-ranking team executive said.

Read more here.

2:28 a.m.
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Lindsey Graham says he tested negative for coronavirus, as another senator’s staffer reports a positive

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday night that a doctor said his coronavirus test came back negative.

“I’m very grateful and like everyone else will follow the best practices to stay negative,” Graham tweeted after 9 p.m., saying he was just informed of the result.

Graham announced Thursday that he was self-quarantining while awaiting results of a coronavirus test that he took after spending time at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida after another guest later tested positive for the virus.

The senator was staying with the president, who was pictured with the infected person. Trump also has been tested and does not have the virus, his physician said.

A staffer for Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.), meanwhile, has tested positive for the virus, a spokeswoman for the lawmaker said Sunday.

The staffer, who is based in Delaware, is self-quarantining and is not seriously ill, the spokeswoman said. The person has not traveled to the District recently and has not been in contact with any members of Congress since developing symptoms, according to Carper’s office.

Members of Carper’s staff who came into contact with the person while that individual showed symptoms will be self-isolating at home for 14 days, Carper’s office said. And all of Carper’s staff in the District and in Delaware will be working remotely from Monday on.

2:25 a.m.
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Intensifying coronavirus fears rattle voters and election officials ahead of Tuesday primaries

Voters, campaigns and election officials in four states holding contests Tuesday are braced for a presidential primary day unlike any in memory, as the surging threat of the novel coronavirus has forced major changes at voting locations, rattled poll workers and left voters worried about how to cast their ballots.

In Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio, election officials have raced to replace poll workers who have said they will not show up on Tuesday, supply thousands of precincts with sanitizing supplies and notify voters whose polling locations, many in senior-care facilities, have been moved as a result of the pandemic.

Voters, meanwhile, have flooded information hotlines. Among their urgent questions: where to vote, how to deliver a ballot if they are under quarantine and how to vote if they registered while attending a college that is now closed.

Read more here.

1:19 a.m.
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Starbucks, Lululemon, REI among major stores to close or change their hours because of coronavirus

The coronavirus outbreak in the United States is leading to store closures and altered business hours, with retail heavy-hitters closing shops to contain the spread of the virus as health officials warn against crowds.

Most are compensating their hourly employees amid the disruption and keeping their online operations open for business.

Here’s a running list of stores that are closing or changing their hours:


The outdoor clothing, gear and footwear retailer has closed all of its stores through March 27.

MGM Resorts

The company is suspending operations at its Las Vegas casinos and hotels until at least May 1.


The popular athletic clothing outfit is shutting down its stores until March 27.


The coffeehouse chain is temporarily closing some locations in the United States and Canada, and is shifting thousands of its North American stores to a “to go” model for at least two weeks.


Nike stores across the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand will be closed as of Monday until March 27, the company said.

Warby Parker

The eyeglasses retailer told customers Saturday that its stores will close from Sunday until March 27.


The sustainable-resource shoemaker tweeted Saturday that its stores will be closed from Sunday until March 27.

Urban Outfitters

The lifestyle and clothing seller announced Saturday that all its global stores would shut down until at least March 28.


The giant retailer is cutting back its hours starting Sunday, the company said Saturday. The 24-hour locations will operate from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. until further notice.


All the company’s stores outside greater China will be closed until March 27. Apple locations will undergo deep cleaning, and Apple offices will roll out health screenings and temperature checks.


The outdoor clothing retailer closed its stores, offices and other operations Friday and will consider reopening March 27. The company will also pause taking customer orders online.


The cosmetics and skin-care company postponed opening a new location in Arizona and closed all retail outlets for about two weeks.

1:08 a.m.
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French luxury giant’s perfume factories to make free hand sanitizer for the public

French luxury company LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton said Sunday that it will be using its perfume and cosmetics factories to make hand sanitizer, as France has experienced a shortage in antibacterial gel amid the coronavirus outbreak.

In a statement, the company said the factories usually devoted to manufacturing fragrances and makeup for brands such as Christian Dior and Givenchy will be repurposed starting Monday to produce “substantial quantities of hydroalcoholic gel to be provided to public authorities” across France, free.

“Through this initiative, LVMH intends to help address the risk of a lack of product in France and enable a greater number of people to continue to take the right action to protect themselves from the spread of the virus,” the statement said.

On Sunday, France’s health minister reported 29 more coronavirus deaths, marking France’s biggest single-day jump in fatalities from covid-19. Over the weekend, the government joined other European countries, including Italy and Spain, in taking measures to stop the virus’s spread, closing its restaurants, cafes, entertainment venues and all nonessential businesses.

Local elections, however, were held Sunday, amid concerns about low turnout and the possibility of spreading the virus.

12:28 a.m.
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CDC says Americans should cancel all gatherings of 50 people or more for the next eight weeks

Federal health officials on Sunday said Americans should cancel or postpone events involving 50 or more people for the next eight weeks throughout the United States.

“Large events and mass gatherings can contribute to the spread of COVID-19,” the disease caused by the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention posted in a statement on its website. “Examples … include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings.”

If followed, the guidance — the strongest and most sweeping to date from the CDC — is certain to upend and reshape American life for the next two months.

The CDC said its recommendation does not apply to the daily operations of schools, institutes of higher education or businesses — although a slew of schools, colleges and companies nationwide announced plans to shutter or restrict their hours over the weekend.

Former CDC director Tom Frieden said the new guidance makes sense.

“The covid-19 pandemic is unprecedented — never before has a respiratory virus other than influenza emerged and been documented to spread around the world,” he said. “Protecting medically vulnerable people is crucial, and those who are at high risk should avoid potential exposures.”

11:51 p.m.
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Iraq, Lebanon to ground flights in bid to slow spread of covid-19

LONDON — Iraq and Lebanon said Sunday that they were grounding flights as the two crisis-hit nations announced new measures to slow the spread of covid-19.

In Baghdad, a state of emergency was declared, consigning citizens to their homes for a week from Tuesday night as flights in and out of the capital were also stopped. In Beirut, the Lebanese cabinet decided to shut the airport, land borders and sea ports for 11 days from Wednesday.

Iraq has recorded 124 cases of the coronavirus and nine deaths. Lebanon says it has confirmed 99 cases and three deaths.

Both countries were beset with troubles even before the coronavirus threatened to push their health systems into crisis. Anti-establishment protests have forced each nation to change their government, and the cycle of unrest has hit Lebanon’s economy particularly hard. On Sunday, President Michel Aoun said he was declaring a “medical emergency.” He called on people to work from home, urging them to think of it as neither “a prison nor a punishment.”

“Everyone is invited to continue their work, from home, in the manner that they deem appropriate, so that learning is pursued for students, and work for workers, and so that institutions remain as ‘alive’ and active as possible,” he said.

11:27 p.m.
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California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio among states that are shutting down nightlife in bid to fight coronavirus

Gov. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) announced March 15 that restaurants and bars in the state would close sit-down service indefinitely starting at 9 p.m. (The Ohio Channel)

States and cities throughout the nation severely restricted their nightlife on Sunday — closing bars, restaurants and clubs or cutting hours — in drastic measures intended to fight the coronavirus and certain to wreak economic havoc.

In Boston, the mayor shut down all beer gardens and asked nightlife venues to close by 11 p.m., not long before the governor of Massachusetts announced that restaurants would be allowed to serve food only by takeout or delivery. In Chicago, establishments with liquor licenses were told to limit capacity to 100 people and prevent people from forming lines outside — an instruction rendered moot mere hours later, when Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) shuttered all bars and restaurants in Illinois through March.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) ordered that all bars and restaurants in his state be shut down effective at 9 p.m. Sunday. “We’re two days from St. Patrick’s Day, when people get together and crowd into bars,” he said. “We are at a crucial, crucial stage.”

DeWine said he had no idea how long the shutdown would last, saying: “It will be in effect as long as it needs to.”

The closures come amid reports and photos on social media of revelers packing bars and restaurants across the country over the weekend, despite increasingly dire warnings from officials that people should stay at home. Federal health authorities have recommended that Americans practice “social distancing” — avoiding crowded places, working from home and generally keeping inside.

Health officials also have pointed to Italy as a warning. Many Italians flouted the calls to stay home once work and school were canceled — and, on Sunday, their country announced a 25 percent one-day spike in its death toll from the virus. The number of active cases in Italy had been rising almost 20 percent daily.

In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) held a news conference Sunday to urge bars, nightclubs and brewpubs to close — though he said it was not a legal order. He also asked that restaurants practice “deep social distancing,” including reducing occupancy by half.

The sweeping closures leave business owners and employees in the country in a predicament without precedent in recent memory. In announcing Ohio’s closures, DeWine sought to throw his state’s workers a lifeline: He said he hoped restaurants and bars would stay open to offer delivery and takeout options.

Still, DeWine acknowledged that the closings would probably devastate small-business owners and their staffs. He apologized for the suffering he was about to inflict but insisted that he had to act now to ensure that Ohio’s health-care system does not break down under the pressure of accepting an ever-rising tally of coronavirus patients.

As of Saturday afternoon, the state had 36 confirmed cases, with at least 350 awaiting pending test results, according to Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health.