WASHINGTON — Key coronavirus updates for Friday, March 20:
- Member of Vice President Mike Pence's staff tests positive for coronavirus.
- Amid a huge surge in testing in New York, medical providers in New York City have been told to only test those sick enough to be hospitalized.
- Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has ordered the state's residents to remain in their homes except for essential needs.
- Connecticut's governor ordered non-essential businesses closed and urged residents to stay home.
- USA Swimming has urged the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee to speak out and get the Tokyo Olympic Games postponed to 2021.
- U.S. officials announced new restrictions on travel between the U.S. and Mexico due to the pandemic.
- The worldwide death toll due to the new virus has surpassed 10,000.
- California's governor says all 40 million residents should stay at home except for essential jobs, errands and exercise. He says he doesn't expect police enforcement will be necessary.
- Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are expected to meet Friday to negotiate a $1 trillion rescue deal.
Starbucks going drive-thru only
Starbucks is going drive thru and delivery only while offering to pay its workers for the next month, whether they come to work or stay home.
The Seattle-based coffee chain said it will pay its workers for the next 30 days, whether or not they come to work, or stay home. It also said it's temporarily closing access to its stores across the U.S.
With the duration of the viral outbreak unknown, major corporations are piling up cash to ride it out. AT&T canceled a $4 billion accelerated stock buyback program scheduled for the second quarter. Meanwhile, Target Corp. says it will give a $2 an hour wage increase to its 300,000-plus workers who have been scrambling to help customers. And Mercedes-Benz and BMW became the latest automakers to announce that they're pausing production, bringing almost the entire U.S. auto industry to a halt.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury plan to work together over the weekend on a "stay home" order to influence social distancing with the hopes of curbing the spread of the coronavirus.
Details of the potential order were sparse and it was unclear whether the order would be citywide, countywide or statewide. Those details will be worked on over the weekend, Brown said.
United Airlines warns of massive layoffs without federal aid
United Airlines is hinting that major layoffs could be coming if Washington doesn’t pass an airline bailout by the end of this month.
United executives and leaders of four airline unions said Friday that without federal aid the company will have to cut payroll to match a 60% reduction in flying next month. That could be job cuts or pay cuts. United has nearly 100,000 workers.
So far, no major U.S. airline has announced layoffs because of the COVID-19 outbreak, although two small regional carriers have said they will shut down next month. Airlines have canceled thousands of flights due to the virus.
White House: VP Pence staffer tests positive
The White House says a member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff has tested positive for coronavirus.
Pence’s spokeswoman Katie Miller said Friday that the staff member, who is not being identified, did not have “close contact” to either the vice president or President Donald Trump.
Miller said contact tracing, or contacting everyone the individual has been in contact with, is being conducted in accordance with guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Miller says Pence’s office was notified Friday evening of the positive test result.
“This evening we were notified that a member of the Office of the Vice President tested positive for the Coronavirus. Neither President Trump nor Vice President Pence had close contact with the individual. Further contact tracing is being conducted in accordance with CDC guidelines,” the vice president's press secretary said.
Connecticut governor orders non-essential businesses closed
Connecticut Gov. Lamont urged residents who aren't "essential" employees to stay home to help combat the spread of coronavirus.
An executive order detailing which Connecticut businesses can stay open will go into effect by 8 p.m. Sunday.
NYC will only test hospitalized patients from now on
New York City health officials have directed medical providers to stop giving patients tests for COVID-19 except for those sick enough to require hospitalization. Widespread testing is exhausting supplies of protective equipment.
In an advisory issued Friday, the health department said outpatient testing should stop unless results would impact treatment for the patient.
The order came amid a huge surge in testing in New York.
As of Friday morning, more than 32,000 people had been tested in the state, almost a third of them in the last day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
More than 7,000 New Yorkers have tested positive. More than 1,200 have been hospitalized.
Illinois governor orders shelter in place
Illinois is joining New York state and California in ordering all residents to stay in their homes unless they have vital reasons to go out.
Together, the actions by the states' governors amount to the most sweeping efforts in the U.S. yet to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
The three states encompass more than 70 million people and the three biggest cities in America: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
The Chicago Tribune was the first news outlet to confirm the impending state shutdown.
XFL cancels remainder of 2020 season
The XFL has officially canceled the remainder of its 2020 season due to the coronavirus pandemic.
"While we are disappointed to not complete the 2020 season, our hearts are full of appreciation of your overwhelming support," XFL's Commissioner and CEO and President and COO said in a letter.
USA Swimming calls for Tokyo Olympics delay
USA Swimming has sent a letter to the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee calling on the group to push for a one year postponement of the Tokyo Olympics.
"Our world class swimmers are always willing to race anyone, anytime and anywhere; however, pressing forward amidst the global health crisis this summer is not the answer," USA Swimming Chief Executive Tim Hinchey III said in a letter.
During a conference call earlier in the day, the leaders of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee said it's still too soon to decide about whether the Tokyo Games should go on as scheduled.
Italy sees biggest day-to-day rise in coronavirus deaths
Italy has recorded its highest day-to-day-rise in the number of deaths of people infected with the new coronavirus.
Civil Protection Chief Angelo Borrelli said Friday the country recorded 627 more deaths in the 24 hours since Italy surpassed China on Thursday as the nation with the most COVID-19-related deaths. The total now stands at 4,032.
Authorities said most of the people who died had existing health problems such as heart disease and diabetes before they were infected with the virus. Borrelli says Italy also saw a staggering increase of 5,986 cases from a day earlier, bringing the official total in Italy to 47,021.
Army closing recruit stations, moves to online recruiting
The top Army officer says all of the service's recruiting stations are now closing, as the military takes more dramatic steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Gen. James McConville, chief of staff of the Army, tells Pentagon reporters that the service will move to “virtual” recruiting.
It will woo recruits more heavily through a variety of social media sites and other online activities.
Olympic organizers: Too soon to decide fate of games
Leaders of the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee say it's still too soon to decide about whether the Tokyo Games should go on as scheduled.
Uncertainties caused by the coronavirus have pushed many athletes to call for a postponement of the Games. But the USOPC leaders sounded a lot like their colleagues at the IOC. They call for patience and say they need more information from world health experts before doing anything drastic. They also acknowledged the uncertainty is taking its toll.
The USOPC is increasing the availability of mental and emotional counseling for athletes who have seen their Olympic hopes thrown into limbo.
Florida orders beaches, gathering spots closed in 2 counties
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered the closure Friday of beaches, movie theaters, concert halls, gymnasiums and similar businesses in two major counties hard hit by the coronavirus.
DeSantis also ordered all Broward and Palm Beach county restaurants and bars with seating for more than 10 closed. Restaurants can still provide drive-thru and takeout service. Broward and Palm Beach are the second- and third-most populous counties in the state. The mayor of Miami-Dade County, the most populous, issued a similar order Thursday. Fort Lauderdale and some other Broward and Palm Beach cities had already banned beach-going and set restrictions on bars and restaurants.
Exemptions are made for restaurants that are part of hospitals and airports and gyms that are an amenity at a hotel or residential complex as long as the capacity is less than 10. Florida now has 520 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 70% of them in those three neighboring South Florida counties. That is about a 30% jump since Thursday. There have been nine deaths statewide.
Indiana's May 5 primary postponed due to coronavirus threat
Indiana political leaders say they decided to postpone the state's May 5 primary because of concern about the coronavirus pandemic.
Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb said during a news conference with the state GOP and Democratic chairmen that the primary will instead be held on June 2. Political leaders have agreed that all voters will have the option to cast mail-in ballots for the primary.
The announcement came shortly after Indiana health officials reported that the state had 23 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. That raised the state's total count to 79, including two patients who died. Neighboring Ohio and Kentucky are among at least seven other states that have postponed their primaries.
US, Mexico agree to limit travel on Southern border
President Donald Trump says the U.S. and Mexico will sharply curtail cross-border travel to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.
The limits on travel will apply only to recreational and tourist travel. Trade will not be affected.
The restrictions are similar to limits the U.S. and Canada put in place earlier this week along their shared border
There also will be no ban on people traveling for work or other essential activities.
Trump says these actions taking with America’s North American partners “will save countless lives.”
Department of Education will waive K-12 standardized testing requirements
President Donald Trump says the Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing requirements for students in elementary through high school for the current year.
Trump said students have already been through a lot with schools opening and closings.
He says his administration also has temporarily waived all interest on federally held student loans and he says he's directed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to tell federal lenders to allow borrowers to suspend their student loans and loan payments, without penalty for at least the next 60 days.
New York joins California in locking down against the virus
New York state is joining California in ordering nearly all residents to stay home, as governors watch with growing alarm as southern Europe buckles under the strain of the coronavirus outbreak.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo says New York is going to “close the valve," because its hospital system could become overwhelmed. The move came after California, the nation's most populous state, with some 40 million people, all but confined its population in the biggest lockdown in the U.S.
Cuomo ordered all workers in nonessential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide. He said he'll sign an executive order Friday. He also says nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are canceled or postponed.
Income tax filing deadline moved to July 15
Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin has announced that the deadline to file income taxes will be moved to July 15 from April 15, at President Trump's direction. All taxpayers and businesses will be get additional time to file and make payments without interest or penalties.
The Grand Ole Opry to play on in an empty theater
The Grand Ole Opry, the longest running radio show in history, is playing on through the coronavirus outbreak.
The country music institution, which has been airing Saturday nights for 94 years, is set to broadcast live on television this week from a mostly empty venue.
Country singer Marty Stuart will perform Saturday with just a guitar and a mandolin. He says people need music to give them hope and take their minds off their burdens.
Dan Rogers, the show's executive producer, said the Opry's crew and artists would be maintaining safe distances and cleaning recommendations to prevent the spread of the virus.
NBC News employee dies after testing positive for COVID-19
NBC News announced one of its employees died after testing positive for the new virus. Chairman Andy Lack announced the death in an email sent to staff.
The employee, Larry Edgeworth, worked in the equipment room at NBC's offices at 30 Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan. His wife said he had other health conditions. According to NBC, he had spent 25 years working for the company as an audio technician.
TODAY Show anchor Savannah Guthrie wrote saying she "adored him."
"He was full of spirit and joy and humor," she wrote. "We traveled in 2008 on a campaign plane for two months. He was a bright light every day."
FAA closes air traffic facilities in New York and Indianapolis
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is temporarily closing two facilities after workers tested positive for coronavirus. The control tower at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and the Indianapolis Air Route Traffic Control Center will close for cleaning.
JFK remains open with air traffic controllers moving to an alternate location on airport property. Flights handled by the Indianapolis center will be rerouted.
Air traffic control towers in Las Vegas and at Chicago's Midway airport remained closed after other coronavirus cases were reported earlier this week.
Scripps National Spelling Bee is canceled
The Scripps National Spelling Bee won’t be held as scheduled this year because of the coronavirus. Scripps informed The Associated Press of its decision Friday morning, citing recommendations against large gatherings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the ongoing state of emergency in Maryland.
The bee had been scheduled for the week of May 24 at a convention center in Oxon Hill, Maryland, just outside Washington. Scripps said it would try to reschedule the bee for later this year but it did not commit to a new date. It’s possible the bee won’t be held at all.
4,000 US National Guard reservists in 31 states
Defense Secretary Mark Esper says more than 4,000 National Guard reservists have been deployed in 31 states to help battle the coronavirus.
Esper told Fox News that the Army Corps of Engineers were in New York three days ago working to help identify sites, such as college dorms or hotels, that it could renovate for hospital beds. Esper says the military also is preparing Army units to assemble field hospitals.
Esper, who has spoken with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, says the Comfort hospital ship will be in New York. He says the Mercy hospital ship will be deployed early next week on the West Coast.
He adds 67 U.S. service members are infected with coronavirus and that 1,500 Americans are quarantined on four U.S. bases in an effort to lighten the burden on the nation's civilian medical facilities.
Global death toll surpasses 10,000
The global death toll of the new virus has surpassed, 10,000 according to a tracker from John Hopkins University.
Italy, with 60 million citizens, has recorded 3,405 deaths, exceeding the 3,248 in China, a country with a population over 20 times larger. Spain, second behind Italy in Europe, reported 1,002 deaths and 19,980 infections. The U.S. death toll rose to 205.
“Certain medical centers are suffering stress that is reaching the limit,” said Fernando Simón, director of Spain’s center for health alerts and emergencies. “The difficult days in which we must bear down are coming now. We must keep our focus.”
Though the illness is mild in most people, the elderly are particularly susceptible to serious symptoms. Italy has the world’s second-oldest population, and the vast majority of its dead — 87% — were over 70.
UK asking doctors, nurses to come out of retirement
Britain is asking 65,000 retired nurses and doctors to return to work to help fight the coronavirus.
The government is sending letters to 50,000 former nurses and 15,000 retired doctors, and Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped “many, many thousands will respond” to the appeal. He said volunteers would be given training over the next few weeks before being allocated to hospitals.
Final-year nursing and medical students could also be drafted to bolster health care staff.
40 million Californians ordered to stay home
California's 40 million residents should stay home indefinitely and venture outside only for essential jobs, errands and some exercise, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday, warning that the coronavirus threatens to overwhelm the state's medical system. It's the most sweeping move by any state so far to curb the spread of the virus.
He assured residents that they “can still take your kids outside, practicing common sense and social distancing. You can still walk your dog.” Restaurant meals can still be delivered to homes.
The governor said he doesn't expect police will be needed to enforce his stay-at-home order, saying “social pressure" already has led to social distancing throughout the state.
Trump's team, senators to negotiate $1 trillion economic rescue deal
Members of President Donald Trump's economic team will convene on Capitol Hill to launch negotiations with Senate Republicans and Democrats racing to draft a $1 trillion-plus economic rescue package amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has unveiled a sweeping economic rescue plan to pump $1,200 checks directly to taxpayers, $300 billion for small businesses to keep idled workers on payroll and $208 billion in loans to industries.
The negotiations are certain to encounter difficulties ahead, as some Republicans object and Democrats say it doesn't go far enough.
Arizona governor calls up National Guard, halts surgeries
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday he's activating the National Guard to help grocery stores and food banks, halting elective surgeries and closing businesses in areas with known cases of COVID-19.
Ducey intensified his response to the coronavirus outbreak under growing pressure from other elected officials to take more aggressive action. His actions came on a day public health authorities reported the biggest day-to-day jump in cases, from 30 to at least 46.
Trump urges states to do more as hospitals sound alarms
President Donald Trump responded to increasing pressure from states by calling on them to do more to secure their own critically needed masks, ventilators and testing supplies for hospitals coping with a rising number of coronavirus patients.
He asserted Thursday that the federal government is not a “shipping clerk." This, as governors complained that they're running short of needed supplies in some states and need more federal help.
Reports: US senators sold stocks before market crash
Four U.S. senators reportedly sold off millions of dollars in stock combined prior to the market crash from the coronavirus pandemic, according to multiple independent reports.
Richard Burr, R-NC, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, dumped more than $1 million of stock after reassuring the public about officials' response to what's now the coronavirus pandemic.
The selloff by the Republican senator from North Carolina came around the time he and the committee were getting daily briefs on the threat of the new virus, news outlets reported.
The Daily Beast reported Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., also.sold off hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of stock in late January, as senators began to get briefings on the virus, also according to Senate records. Loeffler took to Twitter to call the report a "baseless attack" and that she was not aware of the sales until weeks later.
The New York Times, citing public disclosure documents, also reported Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., sold stocks around the same time. TEGNA has reached out to them for comment.
Paper money shunned for fear of virus spread
A growing number of businesses and individuals worldwide have stopped using banknotes in fear that physical currency, handled by tens of thousands of people over their useful life, could be a vector for the spreading coronavirus.
Public officials and health experts have said that the risk of transferring the virus person-to-person through the use of banknotes is small. But that has not stopped businesses from refusing to accept currency and some countries from urging their citizens to stop using banknotes altogether.
Low-cost airline suspends all flights
The Hong Kong low-cost airline HK Express, part of the Cathay Pacific Group, is suspending all flights through the end of April due to falling demand from the coronavirus outbreak.
The airline said it tentatively plans to resume flying May 1. HK Express normally flies 25 routes throughout Asia.
Olympic flame arrives in Japan as Games remain in question
The Olympic flame has arrived in Japan from Greece and was greeted in a scaled-down ceremony at an air base in northern Japan.
The flame touched down amid doubts if the Tokyo Games can open as scheduled on July 24 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Organizers and the IOC say it will, but postponement or cancellation is seen as a growing option.