Coronavirus disrupts U.S. schools, sports, late-night television
By Alexandra Alper and Deborah Bloom WASHINGTON/SEATTLE (Reuters) - Coronavirus spurred more disruptions to U.S.
By Alexandra Alper and Deborah Bloom
WASHINGTON/SEATTLE (Reuters) - Coronavirus spurred more disruptions to U.S. daily life on Wednesday as the largest public school district in Washington state announced a two-week closure, and the governor banned public gatherings of more than 250 people in the Seattle region.
The greater Seattle area is the epicentre of the deadliest, and one of the largest, clusters of coronavirus infections in the United States, accounting for the bulk of at least 32 people killed by the highly contagious respiratory illness, also known as COVID-19.
The outbreak took a major toll on U.S. sports as the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced Wednesday that its wildly popular "March Madness" basketball tournament games will be played in arenas without fans.
The Golden State Warriors of the National Basketball Association (NBA) likewise said it will play home games in empty stadiums after San Francisco on Wednesday banned non-essential social events of 1,000 people or more.
Even late-night television is taking a hit, with at least two shows produced in New York City - NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon" and CBS' "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" - planning to begin taping without a live studio audience for the first time, Hollywood trade publication Variety reported.
The federal government appeared likely to take action to discourage Americans from visiting Europe and a top health official warned that the U.S. outbreak will grow worse.
Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told a congressional hearing that the outbreak was headed on an upward trajectory.
"We will see more cases and things will get worse than they are now," Fauci told the House of Representatives Oversight Committee.
President Donald Trump, who has publicly downplayed the risks from coronavirus in recent weeks, said he would address economics and healthcare aspects of the outbreak in remarks from the White House at abound 9 p.m. EDT (0100 GMT).
"I am fully prepared to use the full power of the Federal Government to deal with our current challenge of the CoronaVirus!" Trump wrote on Twitter.
STOCKS PLUNGE AGAIN
Wall Street stocks plunged due to uncertainties surrounding coronavirus, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average <.DJI> confirming a bear market for the first time in over a decade. [L1N2B42ID]
The market concern was compounded by a Reuters report that the White House has ordered federal health officials to treat top-level coronavirus meetings as classified.
Sources familiar with the matter said the White House was considering issuing advisories against Americans' visiting Europe as well as potential new restrictions on travellers from some European nations entering the country.
In Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee prohibited gatherings of over 250 people in three Seattle-area counties and said he may soon close all schools as the state suffered the deadliest outbreak in the United States.
Seattle Public Schools announced a cancellation of all classes and other activities, including childcare and athletics, for at least two weeks starting on Thursday in a measure designed to "disrupt widespread infection" by the coronavirus.
The closure, idling some 53,000 students, is believed to mark the first U.S. big-city school district to halt instruction due to the coronavirus.
Washington state has documented more than 281 coronavirus cases, including 24 cases, most of them concentrated in the Seattle area around a long-term care facility in the suburb of Kirkland.
The number of infections nationwide has climbed steadily, with cases identified in nearly three-quarters of U.S. states. More than 1,100 cases and 32 deaths have been reported overall, according to Johns Hopkins University.
The World Health Organization described the coronavirus, which emerged late last year in China and causes a respiratory illness that can be fatal, as a pandemic on Wednesday for the first time.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the Trump administration was looking into steps that could put hundreds of billions of dollars into the U.S. economy to shield it from a slowdown brought on by the disruption from coronavirus.
The White House is examining payroll tax relief measures, loan guarantees, reimbursing workers for lost pay, aid to small and mid-sized businesses and support for airlines, hotels and other travel businesses, Mnuchin said.
"Whatever we do, kind of in the next 48 hours, that's just the first step. ... And I think there's big bipartisan support," Mnuchin told a House committee.
Social and public routines have seen widespread disruptions for weeks, with concerts and conferences cancelled and universities closing their campuses as they shift to online instruction.
Public gatherings have been suspended in a coronavirus "hot zone" in New Rochelle, a New York City suburb.
Democratic presidential contenders Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders were reassessing how to campaign in the face of the spreading outbreak.
(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, David Lawder, Andrea Shalal, and Richard Cowan in Washington and Maria Caspani and Michael Erman in New York; Writing by Alistair Bell and Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.
By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States
BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.