White House to seek possible payroll tax relief amid virus outbreak

WASHINGTON (AP/Gray News) - President Donald Trump says his administration will ask Congress to pass payroll tax relief, as he looks to calm financial markets’ fears over the impact of the new coronavirus epidemic.

Trump told reporters Monday that the administration was seeking “very substantial relief."

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Larry Kudlow, the director of the national economic council, were expected to make the request of Senate Republicans on Tuesday afternoon.

Trump stepped forward with the contours of an initiative after markets dropped sharply and as the outbreak spread.

Several Trump confidants in Congress disclosed they were isolating themselves after potential exposure to the virus.

One traveled with the president from Florida on Air Force One on Monday.

Reporters asked Vice President Pence if President Trump has been tested for coronavirus.

“Let me be sure to get you an answer to that. I honestly don’t know the answer to the question," he said.

Monday night, CNN reported that a White House spokesperson said the president has not been tested for coronavirus.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is asking all personnel based at its headquarters to work from home because an employee may have coronavirus, CNN reports. It is the first federal agency to ask Washington D.C. employees to work remotely.

Officials in the United States are reporting four more deaths of people infected with the new coronavirus, bringing the total in the country to 26, most of them in Washington state.

Health officials in Washington on Monday reported three more coronavirus deaths, all residents of a Seattle-area nursing home that has been racked by COVID-19.

Washington state has now at least 22 deaths linked to the coronavirus. Authorities say 19 of those are associated with the Life Care Center of Kirkland.

In California, officials reported the second COVID-19 death in the state after a Santa Clara County woman in her 60s died Monday.

The other two U.S. virus-related deaths took place in Florida.

The virus has infected at least 600 people in the U.S.

In Washington D.C., several hundred people are being asked to self-quarantine after potential exposure to the first identified case of the new coronavirus in the nation’s capital, now publicly identified as the rector of prominent Episcopal church.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser says anyone who entered Christ Church Georgetown on Feb. 24 or between Feb. 28 and March 3 is asked to self-quarantine for two weeks from the date of their entrance to the church.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser says anyone who entered Christ Church Georgetown on Feb. 24 or between Feb. 28 and March 3 is asked to self-quarantine for two weeks from the date of their entrance to the church.
District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser says anyone who entered Christ Church Georgetown on Feb. 24 or between Feb. 28 and March 3 is asked to self-quarantine for two weeks from the date of their entrance to the church. (Source: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky/AP)

The church rector announced Sunday that he was the initial virus case that city officials had been referring to as ‘patient 1.’

The Rev. Timothy Cole, the rector of Christ Church Georgetown, was in stable condition after being hospitalized Saturday night. That is according to a statement from the Rev. Crystal Hardin, the assistant rector.

The Capitol’s attending physician’s office says “several” members of Congress had contact with a person who attended a Maryland political conference and who subsequently developed the illness caused by the new coronavirus.

The office told lawmakers Monday the ill individual had recalled “specific names of people he had contact with during the meeting.”

It says several of these individuals "were identified and were contacted” Saturday. Their symptoms were reviewed, and the individuals are considered to be at “low risk” of contracting the disease and remain in good health.

Two members of Congress, Sen. Ted Cruz and congressman Paul Gosar, say they are isolating themselves after determining they had interacted at a political conference with a man who has tested positive for coronavirus.

Cruz says he had brief contact with the man at the Conservative Political Action Conference nearly two weeks ago and will spend the next few days at his home in Texas until a full 14 days had passed since their interaction.

Gosar says he had sustained contact with the man at CPAC and that he and three members of his senior staff are under self-quarantine. The office of Gosar, an Arizona Republican, will be closed for the week.

Meanwhile, Maryland reported two new cases on Sunday, raising to five the total of confirmed cases in the state. Virginia reported its second case.

In Georgia, Fulton County school district dismissed early on Monday and will remain closed Tuesday, March 10 after an employee tested positive for coronavirus. The employee is being treated at a local hospital. Additional closures are being decided. The school district is the fourth largest school system in Georgia.

The executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that runs the metropolitan area’s airports, tested positive and is isolated in his home, according to New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Cuomo noted that director Rick Cotton had been at the facilities while travelers were returning from hotspots.

Meanwhile, the official who runs the Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports of Paris also confirmed positive.

The U.S. death toll from the virus reached at least 22 and the number of cases worldwide soared above 110,000.

Infected cruise ship unloads passengers in California

A cruise ship with at least 21 cases of coronavirus cases began unloading passengers at a port in the San Francisco Bay Area after it was forced to idle off the California coast for days.

The Grand Princess pulled into the Port of Oakland on Monday.

Health and Human Services said officials hope to unload about half the 2,400 passengers Monday.

Americans will be transported to military bases in California, Texas and Georgia to be tested for the COVID-19 virus and quarantined.

People from other nations will be taken home.

Two tents with Canadian flags on them were on the tarmac to great nearly 240 Canadians aboard.

Personnel covered head to toe in protective gear Monday woke up passengers on the Grand Princess to check whether they were sick.

Fences were installed at an 11-acre site at the port as authorities readied flights and buses to whisk the more than 2,400 passengers to military bases or their home countries for a 14-day quarantine.

A cruise ship held off Florida’s coast while two crew members were tested for the new coronavirus has docked at a port.

The Regal Princess was to have docked Sunday morning in Port Everglades, but pulled into the port around 10 p.m.

Princess Cruises said the test results came back negative.

The two staffers had transferred weeks ago from the ship Grand Princess in California, where nearly two dozen aboard tested positive for the virus.

Princess Cruises said the two crew members didn’t exhibit any symptoms and were past the 14-day incubation period.

Princess Cruise line officials say passengers on a third ship have been ordered to stay on board while crew members are tested for COVID-19. The ship was placed under a “no sail” order by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Princes Cruises says the ship will dock in Grand Cayman to receive the test kits, but passengers won’t be able to disembark.

The ship will then set sail for Fort Lauderdale, where it will remain off the coast until further notice.

The U.S. Department of State issued a warning Sunday that “U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection has noted an increased risk for infection from COVID-19 on cruise ships. Officials also warn those that do travel by cruise risk being quarantined by authorities in other countries.

31 residents in Washington care home have virus

A spokesman for the Seattle-area nursing home that is the site of the worst COVID-19 outbreak in the United States said Monday that 31 residents still in the facility have tested positive for the virus.

Authorities have said 19 coronavirus deaths have been linked to the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, including three made public earlier Monday.

Life Care Center spokesman Tim Killian said tests have been performed on the remaining residents. Besides the 31 positives, Killian said three tests were inconclusive and one was negative. Results are still pending on 20 other tests. Killian said residents who have tested positive will be treated at the Life Care Center, and those who test negative will be moved to a different area of the facility.

Before the outbreak there were 120 residents at Life Care. Now there are fewer than 60.

U.S. warns 7 companies over fraudulent coronavirus claims

Federal regulators are warning seven companies to stop selling soaps, sprays and other concoctions with false claims that they can treat the new coronavirus — or keep people from catching it.

There are no approved treatments for the virus, and none are likely to be ready for months or years.

The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission sent warnings on Friday to the companies, which are based in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.

The warnings were announced Monday.

Nearly all the companies complied by then, with mentions of the virus or products to treat it removed from their websites.

NBA, MLB, NHL, MLS closing locker rooms amid virus scare

The NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer are closing access to locker rooms and clubhouses to all non-essential personnel in response to the coronavirus crisis.

The leagues made the announcement in a joint statement Monday night.

The leagues said they made the decision “after consultation with infectious disease and public health experts.”

They say the changes will be temporary and that media will still have access to players.

Florida theme parks keep eye on virus as spring break nears

Florida tourism officials say cases of the new coronavirus are having little visible impact on the state’s biggest industry so far.

George Ague leads a tourism promotion agency for Orlando and says there have only been a handful of inquiries about the virus by people planning trips to central Florida. But that could change at any moment.

With spring break around the corner, cancellations could be devastating during one of the busiest times of the year in the Sunshine State.

Theme parks in Asia have closed because of the virus.

Orlando park officials say they’re adding more hand sanitizers and monitoring the situation.

Israel announces 2-week quarantine for all overseas arrivals

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government has decided to place anyone arriving from overseas into quarantine in a move to contain a growing coronavirus outbreak.

Netanyahu announced the 14-day quarantine on Monday after consultations with Cabinet ministers and senior health officials.

“This is a difficult decision, but it’s necessary to protect public health. Public health comes before everything else,” Netanyahu said.

The decision comes weeks before the busy Passover and Easter holiday seasons.

WHO: 70% of sick in China have recovered

Officials at the World Health Organization said Monday that of about 80,000 people who have been sickened by COVID-19 in China, more than 70% have recovered and been discharged from hospitals.

Patients are typically released when they test negative twice for the virus within 24 hours, meaning they’re no longer carrying the virus, although some countries may be using a slightly different definition, that may include when people have no more respiratory symptoms or a clear CT scan.

The World Health Organization said it could take considerably longer for people to be “recovered,” depending on the severity of disease.

Dr. Mike Ryan, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, said it can take up to six weeks for people to fully recover from COVID-19 infections, which could include pneumonia and other respiratory problems in serious cases.

He said the numbers of reported patients have not always been systematically provided to World Health Organization although the U.N. health agency is asking every country with cases for further information.

Public barred from 2020 Olympic flame lighting in Greece

Spectators will be kept away from the Olympic flame-lighting ceremony in Ancient Olympia on Thursday because of the coronavirus.

The Greek Olympic committee says only 100 accredited guests will be allowed to attend the traditional event.

A dress rehearsal on Wednesday for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic flame will also be closed to the public to comply with Greek government restrictions to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Tokyo organizing committee says it will “reduce the size of its traveling delegation as much as possible.”

Tokyo officials previously said they would not send 140 children to Greece to give the flame a send-off next week on its journey to Japan.

Pope Francis coughs during the Angelus noon prayer he recited from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 1, 2020. A coughing Pope Francis told pilgrims gathered for the traditional Sunday blessing that he is canceling his participation at a week-long spiritual retreat in the Roman countryside because of a cold. It is the first time in his seven-year papacy that he has missed the spiritual exercises that he initiated early in his pontificate to mark the start of each Lenten season.
Pope Francis coughs during the Angelus noon prayer he recited from the window of his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, March 1, 2020. A coughing Pope Francis told pilgrims gathered for the traditional Sunday blessing that he is canceling his participation at a week-long spiritual retreat in the Roman countryside because of a cold. It is the first time in his seven-year papacy that he has missed the spiritual exercises that he initiated early in his pontificate to mark the start of each Lenten season. (Source: AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

Pope celebrates Mass by himself, live-streams it

Pope Francis has celebrated morning Mass all by himself in the chapel of the Vatican hotel where he lives, and has offered up prayers for those infected with coronavirus and those caring for them.

The Holy See live-streamed Francis’ Mass on Monday, evidence of new measures the Vatican City State has taken to contain the spread of the virus in line with restrictions adopted by the Italian government. With 7,375 people infected, Italy has the most cases outside Asia.

At 83, and with part of one lung removed, Francis would be at risk for serious complications if he were to catch the virus. He came down with a cold two weeks ago, but appears to have recovered and on Monday resumed private meetings, including with bishops from France and two departing ambassadors.

The Vatican, a 108-acre city state in the heart of Rome, has confirmed one positive case. The Vatican Museums have closed and nationwide, the Italian Catholic Church has suspended Masses and other celebrations to prevent people from congregating.

Sporting events in Italy to be halted because of virus

All sports in Italy are expected to be halted because of the virus outbreak. That includes games in the country’s top soccer division and preparatory events for the Tokyo Olympics.

The Italian Olympic Committee oversees all sporting events in the country.

It says the suspension will last until April 3 and that it would request a government decree to impose its decision.

Serie A has not been canceled since World War II. Events around the world have been affected by the spreading virus.

Italy imposes nationwide restrictions to contain new virus

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte says he is restricting travel nationwide to try to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

Conte said Monday night a new government decree will require all people in Italy to demonstrate they need to work, have health conditions or other limited legitimate reasons to travel outside their home areas.

He said the restrictions will take effect on Tuesday and like those imposed northern Italy on Sunday will be in place until April 3.

Pubs had been closed in northern Italy, with eateries and cafes also ordered to close at dusk. Now, that crackdown is extended to the entire country.

Italian penitentiary police say six inmates protesting virus containment measures at a northern Italian prison have died after they broke into the infirmary and overdosed on methadone.

The protest Sunday in Modena was among the first of more than two-dozen riots at Italy’s overcrowded lock-ups that grew Monday.

Human rights advocates have been warning that increasing tensions over fears of coronavirus were hitting inmates particularly hard, especially after restrictions were imposed on family visits to prevent transmissions.

On Monday, inmates climbed onto the roof of the San Vittore prison in Milan and held up a painted sheet reading “Indulto,” Italian for pardon.

People wear masks to help guard against the coronavirus on a street in downtown Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Iran says the new coronavirus has killed another 43 people, pushing the death toll to 237 amid 7,161 confirmed cases.
People wear masks to help guard against the coronavirus on a street in downtown Tehran, Iran, Sunday, Feb. 23, 2020. Iran says the new coronavirus has killed another 43 people, pushing the death toll to 237 amid 7,161 confirmed cases. (Source: AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

Death toll rises in Iran

Iran says the new coronavirus has killed another 43 people, pushing the death toll to 237 amid 7,161 confirmed cases.

The Health Ministry announced the new figure at a news conference Monday. There are over 7,640 confirmed cases of the virus across the wider Mideast.

Some experts worry Iran may be underreporting its cases.

The rising death toll comes as Mideast stock markets have significantly dropped amid the outbreak and oil prices are falling by levels unseen since the 1991 Gulf War.

The new virus has caused major economic disruptions, including in global aviation, which has helped slow the demand for oil.

Germany’s Bundesliga soccer teams to play without fans

In a first, games in Germany's Bundesliga soccer league can now take place without fans.

The governor of Germany's western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, Armin Laschet, which has been hardest-hit by the spread of the virus, said he would implement the national health ministry's recommendations to cancel events with more than 1,000 people.

A Wednesday game between FC Cologne and Borussia Moenchengladbach will take place without audience, the state's health minister said.

Germany has reported 1,040 cases of the new coronavirus.

Also, after an overnight meeting, Germany's coalition government says Monday it will ease and financially support regulations for short-time work. The government also wants to financially support companies that are suffering losses because of the virus sweeping the globe.

World Health Organization answers questions about coronavirus

Philippines declares public health emergency

The Philippine president has declared a state of public health emergency throughout the country after health officials confirmed over the weekend the first local transmission of the new coronavirus.

Health officials reported Monday a doubling in just a day of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines to 20 confirmed infections.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration, which he made public on Monday, says the viral outbreak “constitutes an emergency that threatens national security which requires a whole-of-government response.”

Under the declaration, authorities could order mandatory reporting of infections, enforce quarantines and other disease-control actions, including calling in police and other law enforcement agencies to help deal with the COVID-19 threat.

Singapore will let cruise ship with 2,000 dock

Singapore will allow the Costa Fortuna cruise ship to dock on Tuesday, after it was rejected by Thailand and Malaysia.

Singapore’s port authority and tourism board said in a joint statement Monday that the ship has declared that none of its passengers had any symptoms of respiratory illness. The statement also said all the ship’s passengers had earlier underwent temperature screening and checks on their travel history before they boarded the ship, which last departed Singapore on March 3.

The statement said the doctor on board the cruise liner will check all passengers and crew to ensure they are healthy before disembarkation. It said Singapore’s cruise terminals remain open to scheduled cruise calls out of Singapore but unscheduled calls have been banned since last month.

Thailand last week refused to let the ship, which has some 2,000 passengers, to dock at the resort island of Phuket since it carried 64 Italians. Malaysia on Saturday also banned the ship from stopping at a northern port.

North Korea launches projectiles amid global coronavirus outbreak

North Korea flies out foreign diplomats amid virus fight

A special North Korean flight carrying presumably dozens of diplomats and other foreigners arrived in Russia’s Far East as the country tightens its lockdown intended to fend off the coronavirus.

North Korea has not publicly confirmed a single case of the COVID-19 illness, but its state media have indicated thousands of people have been quarantined.

Seemingly dozens of passengers lined up at Pyongyang International Airport. North Korean health workers wearing white protective suits scanned them for fevers. It wasn’t immediately clear how many were on the flight.

The North lifted a monthlong quarantine on foreign diplomats last week, allowing them to leave the country if needed.

China records another low in new virus cases

China recorded another new low in its coronavirus outbreak Tuesday.

Just 19 new cases of the new virus were recorded over the previous 24 hours, the lowest update since China began reporting national figures on Jan. 20. All but two of the cases were recorded in the epicenter of Wuhan, where the outbreak began in December. The city also accounted for 16 of the additional 17 deaths, bringing China's national total to 3,136.

China has registered 80,754 cases in total, with almost 60,000 having been released from hospital and 17,721 still receiving treatment.

Tellingly, only 36 new suspected cases were reported, pointing to a further decline in future new cases.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved. Gray Media Group, Inc., contributed to this report.