As states ramp up measures to stem the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended canceling gatherings of more than 50 people for the next eight weeks. At least 33 states have announced school closures of some kind. New York City and Los Angeles — the nation’s two largest school districts — are shutting down classes starting today.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the closures Sunday, after intense pressure from teachers, healthcare workers and concerned New Yorkers. De Blasio said it was possible schools might remain closed through the rest of the school year; 1.1 million New York City students and their families will be affected. New York now has the highest number of coronavirus cases in the country, with at least 730 infections and six deaths. Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state has some 3,000 ICU beds and that 80% are currently occupied.
At least seven states, including New York, Illinois, Massachusetts and Ohio, are closing bars and restaurants to eat-in business, but most will remain open for delivery or takeout.
Major retail chains, including Walmart, Kroger and Trader Joe’s, are restricting shopping hours, while Apple closed all its stores outside Greater China. Nike is also closing U.S. stores, and Disney is closing all hotels and retail stores.
Whole Foods CEO John Mackey is under fire after he sent out an email to employees saying workers could “donate” accumulated paid time off to fellow employees with medical emergencies or a death in the family during the outbreak.
In Los Angeles, all jury trials are reportedly being suspended, and all new criminal and civil trials are being put off for at least 30 days. The murder trial of real estate heir Robert Durst will be postponed.
In Colorado, the state Legislature has shut down.
The Peace Corps is suspending its operations and evacuating its volunteers around the world.
In media news, the Associated Press had to temporarily shut down its D.C. office after a staffer came into contact with a possible coronavirus patient. Six CBS employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, and Vox closed its offices after an employee tested positive.
The aviation industry has taken a major hit. American Airlines said it would cut international flights by 75% and U.S. flights by 20% through May. Delta Air Lines announced a systemwide 40% capacity cut and plans to ground up to 300 planes.
Trump added the U.K. and Ireland to the coronavirus European travel ban over the weekend. People returning home from overseas in recent days were made to wait hours for screening tests at airports, in some cases in overcrowded spaces. Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker tweeted, “The crowds & lines at O’Hare are unacceptable & need to be addressed immediately. @realDonaldTrump @VP since this is the only communication medium you pay attention to—you need to do something NOW. These crowds are waiting to get through customs which is under federal jurisdiction.” He added, “The federal government needs to get its s@#t together. NOW.” Pritzker said Sunday a Trump staffer called and “yelled” at him for the tweets.
Meanwhile, two emergency room doctors — one in New Jersey and one in Washington state — are in critical condition, raising more fears for those delivering frontline services. The Chinese experience supports the fear that healthcare workers are at particularly high risk.
In other medical news, scientists at Johns Hopkins Hospital are developing a treatment option involving using blood serum from recovered patients, which could be just weeks away.
In Puerto Rico, Governor Wanda Vázquez signed an executive order shutting down most businesses and imposing a 9 p.m. curfew on the island. Restaurants that offer delivery or takeout, pharmacies, gas stations and banks will be spared.
In financial news, the Federal Reserve cut the interest rate to near zero, plunging Dow futures by 1,000 points Sunday, triggering a “limit down,” which prevents stocks from dropping further. The Fed also says it will inject money into the markets by buying $700 billion in bonds. Trump congratulated the Fed on the move Sunday.