Coronavirus Live Updates: Schools to Close in At Least 6 States; China Records Lowest Infections

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At least six states and several large school districts moved on Thursday to close schools for at least two weeks, extreme measures that they hope will stem the spread of the coronavirus, but which come at the cost of upending the daily lives of 6 million schoolchildren and their parents.

All public schools, and many if not all private schools, in Oregon, Ohio, Michigan, Maryland, Kentucky and New Mexico were told to close beginning next week, and the governor of Washington State ordered all schools shut in three counties near Seattle. The Houston Independent School District, the largest school district in Texas, also said it was closing for two weeks.

China has recorded its official lowest tally yet from the coronavirus since the country went into a virtual state of emergency in January.

The National Health Commission said on Friday there had been eight new officially confirmed infections from the virus in the past 24 hours, and seven deaths from it.

Five of the new infections were in Wuhan, the central Chinese city where the outbreak began, and the other three were diagnosed among travelers arriving from abroad.

According to the latest official count, China has confirmed a total 80,813 from the virus, including 3,176 fatal cases.

China says the trend proves that its containment measures — which include a lockdown on nearly 60 million people in Hubei and strict quarantine and travel restrictions for hundreds of millions of citizens and foreigners — are working. But its campaign has come at great cost to people’s livelihoods and personal liberties.

Congress on Thursday neared a deal with the White House on a sweeping economic rescue package to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

After a day of intense negotiations between Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Ms. Pelosi told reporters that “we’ve resolved most of our differences” and that the House would vote on Friday on the measure, “one way or another.” It would then go to the Senate, which called off a recess that had been scheduled for next week.

The legislation, Democratic aides said, will include enhanced unemployment benefits, free virus testing and aid for food assistance programs. The package also ensures 14 days of paid sick leave, as well as tax credits to help small- and medium-size businesses fulfill that mandate. Language was still being drafted for provisions related to family and medical leave, according to a Democratic aide, as aides worked through the night to prepare the bill.

The fast-moving measure reflects a sense of urgency in Washington to enact a fiscal stimulus in the face of a pandemic that has wreaked havoc on the financial markets, which have proven impervious to other interventions.

The negotiations hit snags as Republicans balked at the sweeping proposal to provide paid sick leave, something Senate Republicans had already blocked when Democrats sought earlier in the week to bring up a separate bill. Mr. Mnuchin, in a frantic attempt to keep talks on track, spoke by phone at least seven times with Ms. Pelosi, negotiating additional changes to the House legislation so it could have a chance of winning the support of Mr. Trump and Senate Republicans.

Ian Shepherdson, the chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, warned that even a large stimulus package might not stop the fall in markets and that the worst may still lie ahead.

“What stops the fear is evidence that the rate of increase of infections is slowing — believable evidence,” he said. “Everywhere you would look for reassurance, for leadership, for policy action, for reliable information — all are absent.”

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, the wife of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, has tested positive for the coronavirus, the prime minister’s office said in a statement on Thursday night.

“She is feeling well, is taking all the recommended precautions and her symptoms remain mild,” the statement said.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Trudeau announced that he, Ms. Grégoire Trudeau and their three children had voluntarily isolated themselves at the prime minister’s residence in Ottawa as they awaited the test result.

Mr. Trudeau continues to perform most of his official duties, although his meetings have become conference calls and he was absent from the House of Commons. He spoke with several world leaders during the day, including President Trump.

On the advice of physicians, Mr. Trudeau will continue to work from home for the next 14 days, the statement said, although he shows no symptoms and physicians are not testing him for the virus.

Earlier in the day the government said that Ms. Grégoire Trudeau felt ill after returning from a trip to Britain. Doctors decided to test for the coronavirus on Wednesday after she developed a mild fever, which has since passed.

Mr. Trudeau will make a speech to Canadians about the coronavirus pandemic on Friday following a conference call with the country’s provincial leaders

“The system is not really geared to what we need right now, what you are asking for,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, who leads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, in testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Thursday. “It is a failing. I mean, let’s admit it.”

The inability to test widely in the United States — which is far behind other countries in this regard — has severely hampered efforts to contain the outbreak. An early test rolled out to states by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was flawed, and delays have continued ever since. Public health experts have warned that each day people do not know whether they have the virus, they risk spreading it more widely.

A diplomat from the Philippine mission to the United Nations tested positive on Thursday for the coronavirus, prompting a lockdown at the consular offices on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, officials said.

It was the first known case among the international diplomatic corps in New York.

In a statement issued by the mission, it said, based on the advice of the city’s health department, it directed all diplomatic employees to quarantine themselves and seek medical attention if they developed any symptoms.

Europeans who try to dodge the coronavirus by escaping to tropical Thailand often “dress filthily and don’t bathe,” said Thailand’s health minister, Anutin Charnvirakul, in a post on a Twitter account set up by his aides.

Thailand’s economy is dependent on tourism, but Mr. Anutin has made a habit of criticizing foreign visitors. While handing out surgical masks at a monorail station in Bangkok last month, Mr. Anutin said Westerners should be kicked out of the country for refusing to wear them. He later apologized for his remarks, which included a derogatory term for foreigners.

Thai officials have sent contradictory messages about how the country would deal with visitors from places that have been affected by the virus. Earlier this week, the government said it would no longer provide visas on arrival for citizens of China, India and other countries, or allow people from Italy, Hong Kong and South Korea to enter without visas. The next day, officials reversed that policy.

Thailand has confirmed 75 cases of the coronavirus but has not instituted widespread testing. Two of those who have tested positive work at Suvarnabhumi Airport, the nation’s biggest international gateway. The airport’s director, Sutheerawat Suwannawat, resigned on Thursday, amid speculation that he was frustrated by government policy around the virus.

Last week, about 80 Thai undocumented workers — known locally as “little ghosts” — who had returned from South Korea, which is dealing with a major outbreak, avoided health screening at the airport and scattered across the country, leading to fears that they might be spreading the virus.

The mayor of one town complained that doctors were forced to decide not to treat the very old, leaving them to die. In another town, patients with coronavirus-caused pneumonia were being sent home.

In less than three weeks, the coronavirus has overloaded the heath care system all over northern Italy. It has turned the hard hit Lombardy region into a grim glimpse of what awaits countries if they cannot slow the spread of the virus and ‘‘flatten the curve’’ of new cases — allowing the sick to be treated without swamping the capacity of hospitals.

If not, even hospitals in developed countries with the world’s best health care risk becoming triage wards, forcing ordinary doctors and nurses to make extraordinary decisions about who may live and who may die. Wealthy northern Italy is facing a version of that nightmare already.

“This is a war,” said Massimo Puoti, the head of infectious medicine at Milan’s Niguarda hospital, one of the largest in Lombardy.

This week Italy put in place draconian measures — restricting movement and closing all stores except for pharmacies, groceries and other essential services. But they did not come in time to prevent the surge of cases that has deeply taxed the capacity even of a well-regarded health care system.

Italy’s experience has now underscored the need to act decisively — quickly and early — well before case numbers reach crisis levels. By that point, it may already be too late to prevent a spike in cases that stretches systems beyond their limits.

Today, we look at how the places you interact with daily are ensuring they stay safe while still being able to function, including how gyms should be disinfecting their equipment, new guidance for building managers, and how needed changes may affect workers.


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