As WHO warns ‘pandemic is accelerating,’ Donald Trump wants US to soon ‘open for business’; Britain on lockdown

Near the end of another day packed with dreary developments amid the coronavirus pandemic, President Donald Trump insisted Monday that the U.S. would soon be “open for business.”

That proclamation, which Trump repeated several times during a media briefing by his coronavirus task force, came at the midpoint of the 15-day period the president had outlined when announcing guidelines for combating the virus March 16.

As one member of the International Olympic Committee said the Olympics will be postponed, Britain went on lockdown, the number of Americans facing quarantines or other tight restrictions surpassed 100 million, and the global figure reached 1.5 billion.

“The pandemic is accelerating,” the World Health Organization warned.

In addition, congressional negotiations on an economic stimulus package stalled for a second day in light of Democrats’ opposition to the Senate plan. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell angrily said a vote on the measure could be delayed until the end of the week. Critics said the plan was too generous to big corporations and too stingy for working families. 

The U.S. reported more than 46,000 confirmed cases, trailing only Italy and China. Confirmed cases are a function of how much testing is done, experts say. The national death toll reached 586. Globally, more than 16,500 people have died of the virus and more than 381,000 people have been confirmed to have it, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.

One week ago, the U.S. death toll rose to 85, and there were more than 4,600 confirmed cases. Global deaths stood at 7,100.

Our live blog on the coronavirus is being updated throughout the day. Refresh for the latest news. More headlines:

Donald Trump: ‘I’m not looking at months’ of coronavirus quarantine

With the stock market continuing to dive and unemployment claims on the rise, President Donald Trump emphasized the importance of restarting an economy that has tanked amid guidelines that encourage people to stay at home and avoid gatherings of more than 10.

Public health experts have said those measures are critical to slow down the virus’ spread, but they have resulted in countless stores and businesses temporarily shutting down.

“America will again, and soon, be open for business,” Trump said. “Very soon, a lot sooner than the three or four months that somebody was suggesting. A lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.’’

Trump conceded last week that it could be as late as July or August until life returns to normal in the U.S., but sounded considerably less patient Monday when asked if the social-distancing measures would remain in place for weeks or months.

“I’m not looking at months, I can tell you right now,’’ he said.

ICE orders immigration lawyers to wear gloves, masks to visit detainees

Immigration lawyers are being ordered by federal immigration authorities to provide their own masks, gloves and eye protection to visit clients detained behind bars at a time when there is already not enough personal protective equipment to go around for health care workers to guard against the spread of the new coronavirus.

The new rule, which ICE unveiled over the weekend, went into effect Monday, when several immigration lawyers in Arizona and other states were turned away from detention facilities after arriving without PPE.

The ICE directive contributed to a growing chorus of calls from immigration groups for the Justice Department to temporarily close all immigration courts and for the government to release immigration detainees, beginning with the most vulnerable, to protect against the spread of the disease inside detention facilities and in immigration courts.

Immigration lawyers say ICE’s directive will divert personal protective equipment away from hospitals and health care workers. The directive will prevent lawyers who can’t acquire the personal protective equipment from meeting with thousands of immigrants being held in ICE custody in 140 immigration detention facilities across the country.

– Daniel Gonzalez, Arizona Republic

Britain goes on lockdown: ‘You must stay at home,’ Boris Johnson orders

Boris Johnson has become the latest European head of state to order a lockdown.

The British prime minister Monday mandated the closure of most retail stores and banned gatherings for three weeks to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The decision follows similar steps taken by hard-hit Italy and Spain, as well as France.

Previously, the British government had resisted calls for stricter measures beyond closing schools, bars and restaurants and urging people to stay home.

In an evening address, Johnson said that he was giving “the British people a very simple instruction — you must stay at home.’’

2020 Tokyo Olympics will be postponed, IOC member says

The International Olympic Committee has decided to postpone the Summer Games in Tokyo because of the coronavirus pandemic, veteran International Olympic Committee member Dick Pound told USA TODAY Sports. The Games likely will be held in 2021, he said.

“The parameters going forward have not been determined, but the Games are not going to start on July 24,” he said. Pound, a Canadian who has been one of the most influential members of the IOC for decades, said he believes the organization will announce its next steps soon.

On Sunday, IOC President Thomas Bach said he was going to take the next four weeks to decide the fate of the Tokyo Olympics. Bach ruled out canceling the Games, however.

– Christine Brennan

Stimulus package remains stalled as Republicans, Democrats disagree

An effort in the Senate to move forward with a nearly $2 trillion economic stimulus package to combat the coronavirus crisis has stalled for the second day over continued disagreements between Republicans and Democrats.

The largely party-line vote (with Republicans for and Democrats against) was 49-46 to end debate and move forward. Sixty votes were needed to advance the measure for a final floor vote.

The measure is designed to provide direct payments to most Americans, throw a lifeline to small businesses shuttered across the country and rescue large industries, such as the airlines, battered by the pandemic. But Democrats want more protections for workers from layoffs and loss of heath coverage, more money for states to deal with the crisis and more aid for students facing student debt repayment.

– Ledyard King

WHO: ‘The pandemic is accelerating’

Sixty-seven days from the first reported coronavirus case, the total was 100,000 cases. It took 11 more days to reach 200,000 – and just four more to reach 300,000, the head of the World Health Organization said.

“The pandemic is accelerating,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned. “But we’re not prisoners to statistics. We’re not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory.”

Social distancing is a valuable tool in slowing the outbreak, Tedros said. But government and health officials also must “attack,” he said, by testing every suspected case, isolating and caring for every confirmed case and tracing and quarantining every close contact. He warned that using unproven treatments without the proper testing could raise false hope “and even do more harm than good.”

Washington state orders lockdown: ‘Stay at home, stay healthy’

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Monday announced a state-wide “stay at home, stay healthy” order, closing all non-essential businesses and banning all social, spiritual and recreational gatherings, including weddings and funerals. He said the order will be effective for a minimum of two weeks.

Washington is the latest state to initiate a lockdown or a shelter-in-place order, following such states as Indiana, Illinois, Louisiana, Ohio, West Virginia, and New Jersey. Late Monday night, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Bottoms also issued a stay at home order.

“The more of us who stay home, the fewer of us will be infected and more lives will be saved,” Inslee said in a televised address. He noted that essential businesses include grocery stores, pharmacies and doctor’s offices. First responders are also considered essential, as well as some government offices, and those would stay open as well. Restaurants can continue to do take out and delivery.

– Lindsay Schnell

Southwest Air cuts 1,500 daily flights as bookings hit ‘unimaginable low’

Southwest Airlines plans to cancel 1,500 daily flights beginning Friday as the airline and its competitors take increasingly dramatic steps to offset historic declines in travel demand from the coronavirus crisis.

The increased flight cuts, up from a planned 1,000 daily flight cancellations announced just days ago and put in place Sunday, were disclosed in a memo to employees Monday. A copy of the memo was obtained by USA TODAY.

They come a day after Southwest CEO Gary Kelly told employees in a videotaped message that the airline is in the “fight of our lives” to protect the company and its operations. 

“The pandemic and the government response have sunk passenger levels and future bookings to unimaginable lows across the industry,” he said.

Southwest, the nation’s largest domestic carrier, has about 4,000 daily flights, so the latest cuts represent a nearly 40%  reduction.

– Dawn Gilbertson

Amazon removes nearly 4,000 sellers because of coronavirus price gouging

Amazon announced Monday that it has removed more than 3,900 selling accounts in its U.S. store for “violating our fair pricing policies.”

As coronavirus fears began to spread in early March, the company said it was investigating. On Monday, the retail giant also said in a blog post it has removed more than half a million items from its stores because of “coronavirus-based price gouging,” about half the amount it had previously said it removed in response to price gouging or misleading claims. 

– Josh Rivera

Repatriation of Americans from Peru

The U.S. Embassy in Lima said Monday in a press release that it is working with the Peruvian government to charter expatriation flights for hundreds of stranded Americans.

This comes just days after Peru Defense Minister Walter Martos said in an interview with Canal N that President Martín Vizcarra ordered that the border be “closed permanently” on Sunday, March 28.

The U.S. Embassy said that, as of Monday afternoon, approximately 600 Americans had already left Peru on repatriation flights. The Embassy warned Americans against scams and said Peru was “limiting air traffic to repatriation travel for U.S. citizens facilitated through the U.S. government.”

Jared Anderson, a 37-year-old New Yorker who told USA TODAY on Friday that he was stranded in Peru, said via text Monday that he still hasn’t been able to leave.

“Overall feel that the Peruvian government has done a good job of managing things for the most part and feel the issue around repatriation falls squarely on the Us (sic) government,” Anderson wrote.

– Lorenzo Reyes and Doug Stanglin

NYC has 5% of global total; state testing 16,000 people daily

New York City confirmed more than 16,000 cases, about 5% of the worldwide total. The city was in virtual lockdown, although grocery stores, pharmacies, bodegas, liquor stores, laundromats, parks and car and bike repair shops remained open, the mayor said on social media. Restaurants remain open for takeout and delivery. 

“This crisis is affecting our entire nation and New York City is its epicenter,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state is testing more than 16,000 people per day. His statewide actions include prohibiting all nonessential businesses from having their employees report to work on site. Residents are limited to trips to the grocery store, outdoor exercise with appropriate social distancing and other essential travel.

More than 100 million Americans are in lockdown amid coronavirus crisis

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb delivered a statewide address ordering state residents to remain in their homes except for permitted activities – such as work, taking care of others or food shopping – from March 25 to April 7.

Ohio, Louisiana and Delaware issued similar stay-at-home orders over the weekend, all kicking in Monday or Tuesday. New York, California and Illinois are among states that already had tight restrictions, and Michigan and Massachusetts joined them Monday.

In total, more than 100 million Americans are under stay-at-home orders.

Global lockdown surpasses 1.5 billion

More than 1.5 billion people around the world were in forced or voluntary lockdown as the global death toll continued to climb. This despite an easing of restrictions across China, where the crisis began in December. Nations are scrambling for masks, respirators and other equipment, and China has begun shipping the items around the world.

While deaths in China have slowed to a trickle, Italy added 651 people to its total on Sunday, down from 793 the previous day but still bringing the country’s COVID-19 death toll to more than 6,000. 

Anthony Fauci: ‘I can’t jump in front of the microphone’ and stop Donald Trump

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, frequently appears alongside Trump during task force news conferences. But he and the president have not always agreed on the facts: Fauci has contradicted Trump on such things as the timetable for a vaccine and the severity of the outbreak. 

In an interview with Science magazine, Fauci said that he and Trump don’t disagree on substantive issues. Sometimes the physician disagrees with Trump on details, but he says he “can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.”

Fauci did not attend Monday’s briefing at the White House. 

– Will Cummings

Stocks fall as NYSE goes virtual

Stocks continued their resolute decline Monday while the New York Stock Exchange went virtual, its iconic trading floor shut down for the first time in NYSE’s 228-year history. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 600 points Monday afternoon, while Standard & Poor’s 500 also was lower. The economic signs were gloomy: U.S. unemployment aid applications are projected to surge to more than 2 million in the latest week, Goldman Sachs analysts forecast.

St. Louis Federal Reserve President James Bullard predicted the U.S. unemployment rate could reach 30% in the coming months, a level worse than the peak of the Great Depression in the 1930s. 

– Jessica Menton

Virginia to keep schools closed

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday that schools will remain closed for the rest of the academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic. He had previously closed all K-12 schools through Friday of this week.

Northam said school division leaders will decide how students will learn the information that was expected to be covered for the remainder of the academic year.

Last week, Kansas became the first state to announce schools would not reopen this school year, although instruction would continue online. 

Arizona man dies, wife critical after self-medicating for the virus

A man has died and his wife was in critical care Monday after the couple ingested a chemical in an attempt to self-medicate for the coronavirus, a health care provider confirmed Monday.

The couple, both in their 60s, ingested chloroquine phosphate, a press release from Banner Health said. Within 30 minutes of ingestion, they experienced effects that required admittance to a Banner Health hospital.

The hospital did not disclose the couple’s identity. It’s unclear whether or not they were infected with the new coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19.

Chloroquine is an antimalarial medicine that President Donald Trump said in a March 19 news conference is being tested as possible a COVID-19 therapy.

– The Arizona Republic

More coronavirus news, tips and information from USA TODAY:

  • Coronavirus, explained: Everything you need to know, from symptoms to how to protect yourself.

  • Face masks, including N95 masks that provide more protection than loose-fitting surgical masks, are becoming scarcer, subject to increasing demand and even facing price gouging as local officials seek to bolster their stockpile through the private sector.

  • Oregon police recovered thousands of N95 masks after a man allegedly stole at least 20 cases of them, worth nearly $2,500. They are now being donated.

  • The International Olympic Committee was forced to make the right call – the only call. What columnist Nancy Armour has to say about the status of the Olympics.

  • Celebs: Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson ‘feel better,’ offer hope in update about coronavirus. And Neil Diamond changed ‘Sweet Caroline’ to coronavirus PSA, plus more stars helping out.

  • CVS Health is hiring 50,000 workers and delivering bonuses to employees who are required to work on-site during the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Should you be wiping down packages and disinfecting letters? No, but keep washing your hands, experts say. 

Coronavirus updates in your inbox, every day: Sign up for USA TODAY’s newsletter.

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Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus updates: Britain locks down; Olympics postponed

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