Please Note

The Washington Post is providing this important information about the coronavirus for free. For more free coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter where all stories are free to read.

The rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak continued to upend life around the world Tuesday as more countries tightened quarantine measures.

All 50 states and the District of Columbia have confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, after West Virginia announced its first patient Tuesday. At least 100 people infected with the virus have died in the United States, a toll that experts expect to rise quickly.

Schools, offices, bars, restaurants and many stores remain closed across major U.S. and European cities, and dozens of countries are shutting their borders or implementing mandatory self-isolation for travelers arriving from abroad.

Here are some other significant developments:

3:29 a.m.
Link copied

U.S., Canada appear to be in talks to close border to nonessential travel

The United States and Canada are likely to close their borders to nonessential travel within the next two days, another sweeping restriction on travel meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

According to reports from CNN and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the move would not affect business and trade between the countries, whose 5,500-mile border is the longest international boundary in the world.

The directive, a mutual agreement between Canadian and U.S. officials that may be announced as early as Wednesday, comes as both nations have put restrictions on international travel.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau previously announced that he would be shutting the country’s borders to everyone except Canadian citizens and permanent residents, with an exception for U.S. citizens.

Canadian and U.S. officials are still discussing how to define “nonessential travel,” though their directive is likely to bar all shoppers and tourists from crossing.

3:00 a.m.
Link copied

Kansas becomes first state to close schools for the rest of the academic year

Kansas on Tuesday became the first state to close K-12 schools for the rest of the academic year, in a drastic step to combat the coronavirus that will upend life for hundreds of thousands of families.

“The reality of this pandemic is that it cannot be controlled statewide if school buildings return to normal operations or if they respond inconsistently within our local communities,” Gov. Laura Kelly (D) said at a news conference. “Unprecedented circumstances threaten the safety of our students and the professionals who work with them every day, and we must respond accordingly.”

In-person instruction will stop for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year, while administrative offices and support facilities remain open for “limited purposes,” Kelly said.

After being sanitized, some school buildings will be reopened to allow small groups of staff to draw up plans for how instruction might continue, according to the governor. All school employees will continue to be paid.

Kelly offered few details about what the closures will mean for students’ education, saying she was awaiting recommendations from a state task force.

“But today’s actions will give educators and parents a sense of what’s coming,” she said, “so they can begin to adapt and make plans as needed.”

Dozens of states and localities have ordered schools to close temporarily in response to the pandemic, affecting about 40 million students across the country, according to Education Week. Others could soon join Kansas in closing schools for the rest of the year.

Late Tuesday, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) indicated schools in his state probably will stay closed for the rest of the academic year.

“Boy, I hope I’m wrong,” Newsom told his 6-year-old daughter, “but I believe that to be the case.”

2:24 a.m.
Link copied

Voters confront pandemic-fueled confusion at the polls

Voters in Chicago on Tuesday confronted shuttered precincts, missing poll workers and confused officials struggling to administer an election during a public health crisis, a chaotic situation that voting advocates said created barriers for those trying to participate in the state’s Democratic presidential primary.

The problems in Illinois appeared to be the most acute examples of issues in three states that voters faced related to the coronavirus outbreak. Arizona, Florida and Illinois chose to proceed with their contests this week, while a fourth state — Ohio — postponed in a controversial 11th-hour move on Monday night.

The last-minute challenge facing election officials was unprecedented, experts said: making sure people could visit polling locations and cast their ballots safely — even as health officials were issuing dire warnings about the need to stay isolated to stop the spread of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, advocates say.

Read more here.

2:07 a.m.
Link copied

Facebook says technical glitch caused coronavirus posts to be marked as spam

Facebook said it has restored posts about the coronavirus and other topics that were incorrectly marked as spam on Tuesday evening.

“This was an issue with an automated system that removes links to abusive websites but incorrectly removed a lot of other posts too,” tweeted Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president for integrity.

Earlier in the evening, Facebook marked legitimate posts and articles as spam, including news stories about the coronavirus, prompting a flurry of complaints from confused users.

The links came from reputable news sites including the Atlantic, Politico and BuzzFeed News. Users received an automated warning saying that the posts violated community standards against false advertising, fraud and security breaches.

After Facebook’s former chief security officer Alex Stamos tweeted about the issue, Rosen responded that the problem stemmed from a bug in an anti-spam system.

“We’re on this,” Rosen wrote just before 8 p.m. “We’re in the process of fixing and bringing all these posts back. More soon.”

The glitch came a day after Facebook ordered thousands of content moderators to work from home in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Rosen said the removal of the posts was “unrelated to any changes in our content moderator workforce.”

Facebook has been trying to beat back misinformation about the coronavirus that has proliferated on its platform since the beginning of the pandemic. In January, the company announced that it would remove posts, photos and videos that peddle falsehoods about the outbreak.

The company has also temporarily banned advertisements for face masks and other medical equipment to stem price-gouging during the public health crisis.

1:18 a.m.
Link copied

Supermarkets limit shoppers as FDA officials warn against excessive buying

The novel coronavirus has pitched grocers onto the front lines of an accelerating public health crisis, forcing many chains to reduce hours and put buying caps on such high-demand foods as ground beef and frozen pizzas. Now some chains and independent grocers are restricting the number of shoppers in their stores or offering hours only for the elderly.

In a statement Tuesday, FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn discussed additional steps to help preserve the food supply chain as “grocery stores face unprecedented demand.”

“While we are confident that stores will remain open and supply will continue to meet demand nationwide, we ask all Americans to only purchase enough food and essentials for the week ahead,” Hahn said.

Industry experts and trade groups say it’s only a matter of time before supermarkets take even more drastic measures, as they look for ways to curb the spread of the highly contagious virus among customers and employees. Many are looking abroad for guidance.

In Italy, Lidl is capping stores to 20 shoppers at a time, who are limited to 10-minute slots. In the United Kingdom, some supermarkets are opening an hour early, at 8 a.m., to accommodate elderly shoppers, who are at higher risk if they contract the virus.

In China, at the height of its outbreak, stores checked customers’ temperatures at the door and required them to stand at least three feet apart from others in line.

U.S. chains such as Kroger, Walmart and Dollar General have already begun shortening store hours to allow employees enough time to restock and disinfect at the end of the day. Costco said in an email to members on Tuesday that it would begin restricting the number of shoppers in stores in the interest of social distancing but did not provide details on how it would do so. Target announced it would reserve an hour on Wednesday mornings for elderly shoppers and those with underlying health conditions.

Read more here.

1:16 a.m.
Link copied

Diamond Princess food workers were especially vulnerable to coronavirus spread, study shows

After the novel coronavirus arrived on the Diamond Princess with a passenger in Japan, it spread quickly among crew members who made food for their fellow workers, a new study shows.

The first known infected crew member was a food service worker who developed a fever on Feb. 2, tested positive for the virus and was allowed off the ship two days later. By Feb. 9, there were 20 cases among crew who sought medical attention. Of those 20 people, 15 prepared food for other crew.

“The crew dining area was identified as the primary area of congregation for the crew; passengers did not have access to this part of the ship,” said the study, which was released Tuesday in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Even after passengers were quarantined on Diamond Princess, crew members kept working, delivering meals to passengers, doing their regular jobs and staying in their cabins when they were not working, the report said. Any crew members who showed symptoms had to stay in their cabins.

Ultimately, more than 700 people on the ship tested positive for the coronavirus. The first passengers who tested positive were people who developed symptoms on Jan. 22 and remained on the ship when it arrived in Yokohama on Feb. 3, along with a person who developed symptoms Jan. 23 and got off the ship two days later. That passenger’s case was identified on Feb. 1.

The report only addresses the initial phase of the investigation into the spread among crew members from Feb. 4-12.

Interviews with nine infected crew members indicated that the virus apparently spread among people who lived on the third deck and worked in food service, “probably through contact or droplet spread,” according to the study. Eight of the 20 initial crew members with confirmed cases shared a cabin; five of those eight cabin mates had also developed the illness as of March 4.

12:34 a.m.
Link copied

Mental health experts offer counsel on staying calm during the outbreak

The coronavirus pandemic is becoming a brutal psychological test. This public health crisis can take a mental toll, especially on people struggling with anxiety, depression and other conditions.

One common emotion that might not be immediately obvious: grief.

“Right now people are feeling grief over the loss of routines, certainty, and a perception of themselves as being generally healthy and protected,” says psychiatrist Joshua Morganstein, the chair of the American Psychiatric Association’s Committee on Psychiatric Dimensions of Disasters.

He and other mental health experts say there are steps people can take to ease some of that anxiety. “Things like getting good sleep, eating regularly, staying hydrated, exercising. When we take care of our body… our ability to think clearly, our ability to solve problems, our ability to manage our emotions, are all optimized,” Morganstein said.

Kathy HoganBruen, a Washington-based clinical psychologist specializing in anxiety disorders, echoes that advice: “Now is the time to start establishing some healthy habits.”

Joshua Gordon, a neuroscientist and psychiatrist who is the director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), suggests that everyone develop a plan for how to deal with this moment. It’s a form of mental therapy.

“Having conversations with your family about what they can do to protect themselves and also what they can do to stay active, physically and socially, can be therapeutic in and of itself,” Gordon told The Washington Post.

12:11 a.m.
Link copied

NASA orders employees outside of mission-essential personnel to telework

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine on Tuesday ordered employees and contractors, except for mission-essential personnel, to telework, an action he said would help curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

In a statement, Bridenstine said that “a limited amount of employees” had tested positive for the coronavirus but that “it is imperative that we take this pre-emptive step to thwart further spreading of the virus among the workforce and our communities.”

The decision comes as many of the nation’s 2.1 million federal employees continue to go to work, even as health officials have urged social distancing and telework whenever possible, creating widespread anxiety for those who believe they are putting themselves or others at risk.

“NASA’s early and thoughtful actions in coordination with our country’s unified response to this health emergency is an incredible display of national solidarity,” Bridenstine wrote. “Please make certain you are giving the appropriate attention to your health and that of your family.”

11:45 p.m.
Link copied

Americans stranded in Morocco amid mass confusion over travel bans

Sixty-two-year-old Rhonda Klein wants her vacation to end. But she can’t figure out how to get home.

The Atlanta-based lawyer is one in a tour group of 12 Americans stranded in Marrakesh, Morocco, unsure how to leave a day after much of the country went into a sudden lockdown to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Klein has been frantically calling the State Department and members of Congress, she said, but so far they have not been able to do much.

“The State Department has not been of any help,” she told The Washington Post. “Not only can no one tell us anything, but what we do get told is conflicting information.”

“We know we have a lot of congresspeople who are supposedly, and I’ll trust are, trying to help us,” she said. “But I think there’s only so much they can do, which isn’t a lot.”

A State Department official told The Post that it’s aware some countries have imposed new flight suspensions and it’s “considering all options to assist U.S. citizens in these countries and are continuously assessing travel conditions in all areas affected by COVID-19.”

Morocco on Sunday announced it was suspending all international flights and on Monday closed restaurants, mosques and entertainment centers.

That left Klein’s tour group, which also included a Canadian citizen, in a desperate bind as borders worldwide continued to close. Seven people in the group are 60 or older, and at least two people, including Klein, have a preexisting health condition, putting them in the most at-risk bracket. Klein said she needs a medication she cannot easily get in Morocco.

Before the trip, Klein had some apprehension about traveling during a global outbreak, but her overall sense was that Morocco would remain a relatively safe bet.

Since the border closed, she has watched Canadian tourists in similar situations find a way home, while she said she has struggled to get a straight answer from a U.S. official over what planes are flying into the United States.

“It’s a mess over here,” she said.

In February, the United States evacuated hundreds of U.S. citizens and residents from Wuhan, China, then the epicenter of the epidemic. Some evacuees described the journey as disorganized and frustrating.

In recent days, the United States has put in place bans on travelers from Europe, leaving U.S. citizens in a desperate dash to return on the few remaining outbound planes. Subsequent crowds arriving in U.S. airports have been packed together at customs, forced to violate the official directive to maintain a safe distance.

11:23 p.m.
Link copied

Europe is closing borders to slow the coronavirus. Reopening them may be hard.

Modern Europe is built on the idea of binding countries together by stripping away borders. But in the space of just a week, the coronavirus pandemic has led countries to reimpose hard borders across the continent, challenging the European Union’s basic model in ways that may reverberate for years.

Until last week, citizens of the E.U. could move across the continent with ease, even as the virus slowly spread through its population. Just as a resident of Maryland can easily pack bags and head to Virginia, so, too, could a Pole cross into Germany.

The about-face in Europe is proving as disruptive as it would be if U.S. states imposed border controls on one another. And since Europe’s countries are no longer built for self-sufficiency and no country manufactures or grows everything it needs, the effect of the internal blockade could quickly become catastrophic.

Already, trucks trying to enter Poland from Germany were backed up 25 miles on Tuesday as Polish border guards checked drivers’ temperatures, overall health and documents before allowing them through.

Leaders of the E.U. institutions in Brussels, watching national leaders erect walls around their countries, have been desperately trying to keep the internal borders open, at least partially. One major risk, they say, is that medical supplies necessary to combat the novel coronavirus will pile up in trucks that have been stopped at national frontiers, hobbling Europe as it fights the crisis.

“For the E.U., this is really an existential threat,” said Stefano Stefanini, an Italian former diplomat who is a security consultant in Brussels. “If the E.U. is seen as not having done enough or not having cared enough or not having been up to the challenge, people will double down on the question of what is the E.U. for.”

11:02 p.m.
Link copied

Coronavirus confirmed in all 50 states and D.C., after West Virginia confirms first case

Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus, which has rapidly spread across United States in a matter of weeks, have now been reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

West Virginia became the last state to confirm its first case Tuesday as local municipalities, state governments and the White House have worked to broaden testing access and implement mitigation protocols with the hope of slowing down the infection’s spread.

“Our health officials came to me and said we do have our first positive in the Eastern Panhandle,” West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice (R) said in a news conference. “We knew it was coming. We’ve prepared for this, and we shouldn’t panic.”

Alabama, Idaho and Montana were among the final states to report covid-19 cases.

In a statement issued Wednesday evening, Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) underscored the urgent need for additional testing in the state, which he said contains the highest percentage of adults 18 and over. As of yesterday, West Virginia had conducted 84 coronavirus tests and had just 500 tests available, he added.

Manchin said Stephen Hahn, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, had committed to supplying more tests.

“I am hearing from West Virginians across the state about being denied testing despite having physical symptoms,” Manchin wrote. “Medical professionals, community leaders and so many others are also reporting a shortage of the equipment they need to do their job safety.”

Manchin said he had also called on Health and Human Service Secretary Alex Azar to help better equip local medical personnel.

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 5,500 people and killed more than 100 in the United States since January, when the first confirmed case was reported in a Washington man who had traveled to Wuhan, China, to visit family.

10:57 p.m.
Link copied

Chicago’s Midway airport issues ground stop after air traffic control technicians test positive

The air traffic control tower at Chicago’s Midway airport was temporarily closed Tuesday after several technicians tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the Federal Aviation Administration said in a statement.

The agency said it would clean the tower and reopen it, allowing flights to resume at reduced levels. A ground stop, an order halting new flights from taking off or departing for the airport, was issued just after 5 p.m. Tuesday.

“The air traffic system is a resilient system with multiple backups in place,” the agency said. “This shift is a regular execution of a longstanding contingency plan to ensure continued operations. Each facility across the country has a similar plan that has been updated and tested in recent years.”

The FAA said the airport remained open.

On Monday, the FAA disclosed that three other employees had been diagnosed.

10:41 p.m.
Link copied

Trump’s Bedminster Club will close indefinitely

President Trump’s company has closed down its Bedminster golf club, the club told its members on Tuesday. That appeared to make Bedminster — the New Jersey club Trump visits often and calls his “Summer White House”— the first Trump property to close because of the novel coronavirus.

In an email to members of Trump Bedminster, obtained by The Washington Post, General Manager David Schutzenhofer said that the clubhouse, fitness center and restaurants are all closed. Schutzenhofer cited guidance on Monday from New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), which limited gatherings to 50 people and required restaurants to close at 8 p.m. The only part of the club that will remain open, Schutzenhofer said, was one of the club’s two golf courses — but golfers would have to play it without caddies or motorized carts.

“Accounting and administrative offices will remain open, but we are staggering schedules and practicing social distancing,” Schutzenhofer said. “If staff members are able to work from home, we have encouraged them to do so.”

His email concluded with the admonition: “Wash your hands!”

Other Trump clubs have reduced services in recent days, according to messages to their members obtained by The Post. The Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida closed for a day of cleaning, and canceled the seafood buffet. Trump’s Northern Virginia golf club has closed its locker room, canceled the valet service, shut the steam room, and offered meals to go, according to an email sent to members last night. At Trump Doral, the spa has been closed.

The Trump Organization did not respond to questions about whether other clubs or Trump hotels would follow Bedminster and close, or whether employees at Trump Bedminster will be paid during the closure. Schutzenhofer’s email did not say when the club was expected to reopen.

10:37 p.m.
Link copied

DNC urges states to expand vote-by-mail to avoid more delays in primary calendar

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez is urging states to adopt vote-by-mail, no-excuse absentee voting and expanded polling place hours to prevent more delays in the primary calendar, after Ohio and four other states have rescheduled their elections in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

“As our country deals with the uncertainty of COVID-19, it is critical that states provide clarity and not confusion, which could lead to disenfranchising voters,” Perez said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.

Perez urged states to make vote-by-mail available to all registered voters. He also recommended the expansion of no-excuse absentee voting, “whereby a voter can either drop a ballot off at convenient locations or drop it in the mail.”

“And, where in-person voting can still take place under public health guidelines, states should expand days and hours of early voting to reduce lines,” he said.

Perez pointed to the confusion that has stemmed from Monday’s battle among Ohio officials over whether to postpone the state’s primary.

“What happened in Ohio last night has only bred more chaos and confusion, and the Democratic Party leadership in Ohio is working tirelessly to protect the right to vote,” he said. “Eligible voters deserve certainty, safety, and accessibility. That’s why states that have not yet held primary elections should focus on implementing the aforementioned measures to make it easier and safer for voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote, instead of moving primaries to later in the cycle when timing around the virus remains unpredictable.”