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California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a statewide stay-at-home order starting Thursday evening. “This is a moment we need to make tough decisions," Newsom said at an online news conference. It is the strongest statewide restriction yet aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. The announcement follows similar orders issued in the past few days across the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles.

As the novel coronavirus continued to spread globally, the number of confirmed cases in the United States doubled: A figure that surpassed 5,700 on Tuesday climbed above 11,500 on Thursday. The dramatic increase stems in part from more testing, but also indicates just how much the virus has spread. Officials say the number will continue to rise sharply as more test results become available.

Here are some other significant developments:

  • Senate Republicans introduced a $1 trillion fiscal package — the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act — which includes sending direct cash payments to many Americans.
  • The State Department warned Americans not to travel internationally and advised all Americans who are abroad to return to the United States or make preparations to shelter in place.
  • Italy on Thursday hit a grim milestone, surpassing China for the largest number of coronavirus-related deaths, at 3,405. Morgues in Italy are running out of capacity.
  • To address medical supply shortages, new legislation provides manufacturers of N95 face masks protection against lawsuits when selling certain masks to healthcare workers. That will free producers including 3M and Honeywell to sell tens of millions more masks per month to hospitals, according to Vice President Pence, who said "they are available now.”
  • CDC data now shows that younger adults are a large percentage of coronavirus hospitalizations in the United States.
  • India barred incoming commercial flights for a week, and Australia and New Zealand closed their borders to everyone except citizens and residents. The United Arab Emirates went further, stopping expatriate residents from returning to the country. Meanwhile, Italy is extending lockdown measures.
  • President Trump cancelled the in-person G-7 summit scheduled for June at Camp David, due to the coronavirus pandemic, deciding instead to hold the annual meeting by videoconference.
March 19, 2020 at 10:58 PM EDT

Haiti, Argentina crack down on residents’ movement

Haiti and Argentina on Thursday both announced strict new limits on residents’ freedom of movement and public life, the latest countries turning to increasingly drastic measures to combat the novel coronavirus.

Argentine President Alberto Fernández declared a nationwide quarantine that will go into effect midnight Friday through the end of the month. Residents are ordered to stay at home except to get essential goods.

“It is time for us to understand that we are caring for the health of Argentines,” Fernández said at a news conference. “We have now dictated this measure trying to make the effects on the economy as least harmful as possible.”

Previously, the South American country had shut down its borders to fight the pandemic.

Haitian officials also announced broad measures Thursday, including a border closure, a curfew to last from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting Friday, and the shutdown of schools, ports, airports and more, Reuters reported. President Jovenel Moïse said at a news conference, though, that the flow of goods would continue, according to the news agency.

By Hannah Knowles
March 19, 2020 at 10:51 PM EDT

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) sold large amount of stock before sharp declines in market

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-N.C.), who had expressed confidence in the country’s preparedness for the coronavirus outbreak, sold a significant share of his stock portfolio last month, according to public disclosures.

The sales included stocks in some of the industries that have been hardest hit by the global pandemic, including hotels and restaurants, shipping, drug manufacturing and health care, records show.

Until about a week ago, President Trump and GOP leaders had projected optimism in the country’s ability to manage the global outbreak of the coronavirus.

As head of the powerful Intelligence Committee, Burr reportedly was receiving daily briefings on the threat of the virus. In mid-February, he sold 33 stocks held by him and his spouse, estimated at between $628,033 and $1.72 million, Senate financial disclosures show.

It was the largest number of stocks he had sold in one day since at least 2016, records show. The Feb. 13 stock sales were first reported by ProPublica.

Read more here.

By Michelle Lee and John Wagner
March 19, 2020 at 10:46 PM EDT

California issues statewide ‘stay at home’ order

In a Thursday night address, Calif Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) issued a statewide stay-at-home order, a move he said would help “bend the curve in the state of California.”

By ordering California residents to stay at home except for essential activities, Newsom followed the lead of counties in the San Francisco Bay area which recently issued similar orders, as well as Los Angeles County, which announced a stay-at-home order earlier Thursday. He said the directive would go into effect Thursday evening and did not give a timeline for how long it will last.

Newsom said he hoped people would abide by it, “do the right thing and meet this moment … to protect themselves, protect their families and protect the broader community.”

The governor said the sweeping changes, which cover some 40 million people in the country’s most populous state, are necessary to avoid overwhelming the health-care system with coronavirus patients. California’s hospitals are not currently able to meet projected patients, Newsom warned.

The National Guard will provide support at food banks and other humanitarian businesses that have lost volunteers, he said.

“We can make decisions to meet moments. This is a moment we need to make tough decisions,” he said. “This is a moment where we need some straight talk and we need to tell people the truth. We need to bend the curve in the state of California.”

According to Newsom, at the current rate, 56 percent of the state — 25.5 million residents — will have the coronavirus within eight weeks. Newsom shared the projection in a letter to President Trump in explaining his request for the Navy’s USNS Mercy, a hospital ship, to be sent to the California coast.

Newsom closed his remarks by decrying the racism and xenophobia directed at Asian Americans in the state.

“We are better than that. We are watching that,” Newsom said.

By Michael Brice-Saddler and Candace Buckner
March 19, 2020 at 9:38 PM EDT

Los Angeles County’s more than 10 million residents ordered to stay home

Los Angeles County joined a growing number of jurisdictions around the country in ordering residents to stay inside their homes and limit nonessential activities. With more than 10 million residents, the county, which includes the city of Los Angeles, is the most populous in the United States.

“We know this will have an impact on the social fabric of our communities. We still encourage individuals to stay connected to their community and their loved ones in creative ways, and to spend much-needed time outdoors,” L.A. County Supervisor Kathryn Barger said in a statement. “We won’t have to maintain these restrictions forever, and they will have an invaluable long-term impact.”

The order requires malls, shopping centers, playgrounds and nonessential retail businesses to close and prohibits indoor gatherings of more than 10 people. Similar orders were made in the nearby cities of Long Beach and Pasadena.

“This is not a request. This is an order,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) said. He has asked residents to “self-enforce.”

The Bay Area and Sacramento have taken similar stances.

A second person in Los Angeles County died of the coronavirus, officials announced, and the total number of confirmed cases of infection climbed by 40 to 230.

By Steven Goff
March 19, 2020 at 9:35 PM EDT

NYC reports seven positive coronavirus cases among the homeless; officials expect numbers to rise

New York City has recorded seven positive cases among its homeless population, according to Isaac McGinn, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Social Services. One of the cases has stabilized, and the person has been discharged from the hospital but remains in isolation.

McGinn said the Department of Social Services has developed an internal screening protocol for thousands of shelters to help identify people who are experiencing possible symptoms of coronavirus disease.

“As cases rise across the country and the city, we anticipate cases will rise amongst the New Yorkers experiencing homelessness who we serve,” McGinn said. “With several thousands more New Yorkers tested overnight citywide, we can confirm a handful of additional cases.”

There are fears about the impact of coronavirus on homeless people nationwide, who are particularly vulnerable. Advocates say outbreaks could occur in encampments on the street, where people may lack the ability to self-quarantine or receive medical attention.

McGinn said cases have been observed in six shelter locations.

“Following the lead of our city’s health experts, we are working together across agencies to monitor the constantly evolving situation and rapidly respond in support of our most vulnerable,” he added.

By Michael Brice-Saddler
March 19, 2020 at 9:13 PM EDT

Two Lakers, Celtics’ Marcus Smart are NBA’s latest to test positive for coronavirus

LOS ANGELES — Four NBA teams, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics, announced Thursday that members of their organizations have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, bringing the league’s tally to at least 14 positive tests.

The Lakers, who announced plans to test their players earlier this week after four Brooklyn Nets players tested positive, had two unidentified players test positive despite being asymptomatic. The Lakers and Nets played each other in Los Angeles on March 10, one night before NBA Commissioner Adam Silver suspended the 2019-20 season following Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert’s positive coronavirus test.

The Celtics announced that one player had tested positive, and that he was asymptomatic. Marcus Smart said in a video posted to Twitter shortly thereafter that he had tested positive.

“I was tested [five] days ago and the results came back tonight, which were positive,” Smart, a 26-year-old guard, wrote on Twitter. “I’ve been self quarantined since the test, thank goodness. COVID-19 must be taken w the highest of seriousness. I know it’s a #1 priority for our nations health experts, & we must get more testing ASAP.”

Read more here.

By Ben Golliver
March 19, 2020 at 9:02 PM EDT

Bank of America to offer deferred payments on mortgages

Bank of America, one of the nation’s top lenders, will offer homeowners emergency relief on mortgages amid the economic uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic.

On Thursday, the bank announced a program in which borrowers can defer payments on mortgages as well as auto loans and small business loans to the end of the loan. Late fees will also be refunded on consumer and small business credit cards and business loans. Deferments and refunded late fees will come on a case-by-case basis, the bank said.

Earlier in the week, lenders consisting of Citigroup, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Quicken Loans announced a plan for clients to defer payments during the public health crisis, the New York Times reported.

U.S. banks are following the lead of financial institutions elsewhere in the world. Lenders in Britain and Italy, a country hard-hit by the coronavirus, will delay mortgage payments for borrowers who experience financial hardships, CNN reported. In Australia, banks have also agreed to take emergency measures to help mortgage borrowers, according to Australian media.

By Candace Buckner
March 19, 2020 at 8:31 PM EDT

Senate Democrats propose bailout for student loan borrowers

As the White House and Congress assemble a stimulus package to blunt the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, Senate Democrats are pushing for widespread relief for the 42 million Americans with a total of $1.5 trillion in federal student loans.

“The coronavirus outbreak brought with it crushing economic uncertainty, and students and borrowers need targeted, quick relief from payment burdens,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who introduced the plan Thursday with Sens. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

The Democrats are calling for at least $10,000 in tax-free debt cancellation for all federal student loan borrowers. They want the Education Department to assume loan payments for the duration of the national emergency and then institute a three-month grace period during which borrowers can forgo their payments without penalty. Payments made by the department would still count toward loan forgiveness for borrowers in public service jobs.

The plan would temporarily halt wage garnishment, tax refund seizure and reductions in Social Security benefits to repay past-due student debt. It would also codify into law President Trump’s order last week to waive interest on federal education loans.

Warren first floated the idea of loan forgiveness as an economic stimulus amid the health crisis last week. Congressional aides say the senator from Massachusetts has since been negotiating with colleagues to hammer out the details and get the measure included in the Senate Democrats’ $750 billion stimulus package.

“Last time our economy crashed, this country made a devastating mistake: We turned our backs on students and families to bail out the giant banks,” Warren said Thursday. “Student loan borrowers — especially students of color — never fully recovered from that economic punch to the gut. This time around, by canceling student debt payments for millions, we will fix the mistake that still holds back a generation of people and dragged down our economy.”

Read more here.

By Danielle Douglas-Gabriel
March 19, 2020 at 7:57 PM EDT

Chicago mayor orders everyone who’s sick to stay home or ‘there will be consequences’

In an online address late Thursday, Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot issued a “stay home if sick" order to any city residents showing symptoms of covid-19, as well as people over 60 who are vulnerable to the virus.

“If you violate this order, there will be consequences. Be smart, be safe, and stay home if you are sick. That’s an order,” she said. She did not indicate the nature of consequences if there are violations.

Illinois currently has four deaths and a statewide total of 422 cases related to the coronavirus. So far the only municipality in the state that has a shelter-in-place order is suburban Oak Park, located west of Chicago. On Wednesday the village announced two emergency room doctors at a local hospital tested positive for the virus. The order for all residents to self-isolate goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Friday and will last through April 3.

In her address, Lightfoot also said Chicago public schools will remain closed through April 20.

To date, Lightfoot and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) have blasted the Trump administration’s response to the novel coronavirus, specially Saturday when social media was filled with images showing incoming travelers waiting for hours to go through screening at O’Hare International Airport. Lightfoot said she is working with Sens. Richard J. Durbin and Tammy Duckworth to direct federal stimulus funds to Chicago in the forms of unemployment benefits and grants and loans for small businesses.

“Localities like Chicago should not be shouldering this burden alone. This is a ‘B-sized’ problem, meaning something that can only be solved with billions in needed stimulus support from the federal government,” she said.

By Mark Guarino
March 19, 2020 at 7:30 PM EDT

Trump cancels in-person G-7 summit at Camp David

President Trump has canceled the in-person Group of Seven summit scheduled for June at Camp David because of the coronavirus pandemic, deciding instead to hold the annual meeting by videoconference, the White House said Thursday.

“In order for each country to focus all of its resources on responding to the health and economic challenges of COVID-19 and at President Trump’s direction, National Economic Council Director and U.S. Sherpa for the 2020 G7 Larry Kudlow has informed his Sherpa colleagues that the G7 Leaders’ Summit the U.S. was set to host in June at Camp David will now be done by video-teleconference,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement.

The cancellation was first reported by Reuters.

Trump, who participated in a videoconference with the heads of the world’s leading economies earlier this week to coordinate efforts on the pandemic, plans to convene similar meetings in April and May, Deere said.

The G-7 is composed of the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Japan, and the countries rotate hosting duties. The White House said last year that Trump would host the summit at one of his properties, Trump National Doral near Miami, but abruptly changed course amid criticism, including some from his own party, of a conflict of interest.

The decision to cancel an in-person summit at the president retreat in Maryland comes the same day as the Trump administration issued the most severe travel warning available, advising Americans not to go abroad as the virus spreads. Traveling for the summit also would have consumed significant resources and staff of the seven countries.

By Seung Min Kim
March 19, 2020 at 7:27 PM EDT

Law enforcement, attorneys nationwide working to limit inmate population

Law enforcement officials and defense attorneys in Maryland, the District and throughout the country are taking steps to release inmates, drop pending prosecutions and lock up fewer new defendants to thin crowded prisons that public health officials say are ripe for spreading the coronavirus.

The top prosecutor and public defender in Prince George’s County asked a judge Thursday to release from jail about 40 people who have been charged with low-level, nonviolent crimes and are awaiting trial.

“We are safely and responsibly recommending release” for pretrial defendants, State’s Attorney Aisha N. Braveboy said, because of concerns that the jail could become a “breeding ground and further prolong this crisis.”

Nationally, a group of more than two dozen prosecutors in cities such as New York, San Francisco, Dallas and Baltimore called on police to cite and release suspects they arrest who pose no physical threat. Prosecutors also are asking jailers to release those who cannot afford cash bail and those who are elderly or within six months of finishing their sentences.

Also, police departments are increasingly turning to warnings and citations instead of arrests and incarceration, and court officials are confirming cases of covid-19 among inmates and guards.

In the nation’s capital, Robert E. Morin, the D.C. Superior Court’s chief judge, signed a citywide order giving D.C. police as well as federal and local prosecutors discretion to decide whether to detain people who are arrested or to instead hand out a citation and order them to appear in court at a later date.

By Ann Marimow and Tom Jackman
March 19, 2020 at 6:56 PM EDT

Coalition of criminal justice and public policy groups launch initiative tackling coronavirus in prisons and jails

A coalition of criminal justice, public policy and right-leaning organizations on Thursday launched an initiative to urge local, state and federal correctional facilities to enact sweeping measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among incarcerated populations.

The groups are working with governors in 21 states and federal agencies to enact changes, including limiting physical contact in prisons and jails, providing greater access to medical care and equipment for inmates and staff, using alternatives to incarceration for those who are of low public safety risk, and providing remote alternatives to parole or probation supervision.

“We believe there’s a real chance that our prisons and jails could become a hotbed of the virus and spread the disease back into our communities,” said Jessica Jackson, chief advocacy officer at the Reform Alliance, one of the groups leading the effort. The initiative, named the SAFER plan, is promoted by a number of groups that have been working on other criminal justice policy changes, such as the bipartisan First Step Act of 2018, aimed at improving reentry programs.

The groups include the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity, American Conservative Union and the National Urban League. State and federal officials are already taking steps to improve jail and prison conditions recommended in the SAFER plan, Jackson said, including providing free phone calls for inmates in lieu of visitation, suspending co-pays for medical services in prison and suspending transfers between correctional facilities.

“These are common-sense ideas backed by science,” said David Safavian, general counsel of the American Conservative Union, noting that medical and public-health professionals had helped the group finalize its plan. “I don’t think there’s anything more important in terms of criminal justice right now than this set of issues.”

By Michelle Lee
March 19, 2020 at 6:51 PM EDT

Spain orders closure of all hotels

Spain ordered all of its hotels to shut down Thursday in the country’s continued effort to combat the novel coronavirus.

The decree, published Thursday in the Official State Gazette, orders hotels to close within seven days.

It comes after Spain imposed a nationwide lockdown Saturday, ordering 47 million people to mostly stay in their homes with the exception of essential reasons, including work, medical appointments or to buy food.

By Michael Brice-Saddler
March 19, 2020 at 6:45 PM EDT

Tesla bows to pressure, suspending operations at its California plant

Tesla is suspending production at its Fremont, Calif., factory amid widespread criticism over its decision to keep its production line going despite a Bay Area-wide shelter-in-place order.

In a news release Thursday, the company said it had decided to “temporarily suspend” production at the Fremont factory, which employs about 10,000 workers, beginning Monday. That timeline, the company said, “will allow an orderly shutdown.”

“Basic operations will continue in order to support our vehicle and energy service operations and charging infrastructure, as directed by the local, state and federal authorities,” the company said, adding that a Buffalo factory would also suspend production.

Tesla’s action came after intervention from local officials, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, which said this week that Tesla was not an “essential business” under the order, and Fremont police, who said they were meeting with factory management Thursday.

By Faiz Siddiqui