The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 466,000 people and killed over 21,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 113,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
– US Marine becomes first person stationed at Pentagon to test positive
– Colorado issues statewide stay-at-home order
– Pentagon halts movement of US troops, Defense Department civilians overseas
– White House says NY residents who left metro area recently should self-isolate for 14 days
WASHINGTON – A U.S. Marine has become the first person stationed at the Pentagon to test positive for coronavirus.
The Marine has been in isolation at home since March 13, when a member of his immediate family began to show symptoms. The Pentagon said his workspace has been cleaned and a contact investigation is underway.
Two other defense workers who had visited the Pentagon have tested positive, but they were not assigned to the building.
DENVER – Colorado Gov. Jared Polis is issuing a statewide stay-at-home order in an attempt to stem the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
Polis said he is taking this â€œextreme measure,â€ effective Thursday until April 11 because restrictions taken to date haven’t done enough to reduce the spread of the virus. People should only leave home when they absolutely must, he said, for grocery shopping, to seek medical care or to care for dependents. Polis’ order comes after six Colorado counties issued stay-at-home orders affecting nearly 3 million people.
More than 1,086 people in Colorado have tested positive for the virus and at least 20 people have died.
WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has halted for 60 days the movement of US troops and Defense Department civilians overseas as a further measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
The stoppage is expected to affect about 90,000 troops scheduled to deploy abroad or to return from abroad over the next two months. Some exceptions are allowed, and the order by Defense Secretary Mark Esper will not stop the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan as called for in last monthâ€™s deal with the Taliban.
WASHINGTON – The White House says New York residents who have left the metro area in recent days should self-isolate for 14 days, clarifying guidance announced Tuesday which had applied to anyone who had visited New York recently.
Dr. Deborah Birx issued the new guidance Wednesday from the White House press briefing room, saying it applied to â€œresidents of the metro area that may have gone to second homes or other places to reside.â€
She says: â€œWeâ€™ve asked all of them to carefully monitor their temperatures and self-isolate from the communities where they went just to ensure their own health and the health of their communities.â€
The New York metro area is now the epicenter of the outbreak in the U.S., accounting for more than 50% of all new infections reported in recent days.
UNITED NATIONS – U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is welcoming calls by some groups for an immediate ceasefire to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, and says he sees â€œa clear conscience emergingâ€ that itâ€™s time to concentrate on the war against COVID-19.
He pointed to communist guerrillas in the Philippines announcing a ceasefire from Thursday to April 15 in response to his appeal, and said he was encouraged to see a truce in Libya between the warring parties â€œholding with difficulties.â€
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric also noted the humanitarian truce called for by the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the countryâ€™s northeast to deal with the virus. The group was allied with the United States in the fight against Islamic State extremists.
Guterres said at a humanitarian briefing Wednesday that the Palestinian Authority and Israel have also been able to work together on COVID-19, â€œeven if we know the extreme division that exists politically between the two.â€
He said U.N. envoys around the world are talking to warring parties about ceasefires and he expressed hope that â€œit will be possible in Yemen and Syria to make serious progressâ€ to end fighting and tackle the coronavirus.
HELSINKI – The Finnish government says it will block the movement of citizens into and out of a key southern region that includes the Nordic nation’s capital, Helsinki, to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus to other areas.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin said late Wednesday the measure concerns the Uusimaa region including Helsinki and affects the daily lives of some 1.7 million people, nearly a third of Finland’s population.
The government made the decision as the “risk of substantial spreading of the infection from the Uusimaa region to rest of Finland is high” through non-necessary travelling, said Krista Kiuru, the social affairs minister.
Police are set to enforce the new regulation, which is set to begin March 27 and end April 19. It will cease all non-necessary human traffic to and from Uusimaa, the region that has been hit worst by the virus.
Nationwide, Finland has so far confirmed 880 cases of COVID-19 and three deaths.
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – The Palestinian Health Ministry says seven new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in the Gaza Strip, putting the total at nine.
The ministry said Wednesday that the seven cases were security workers who made contact with the first two people infected with the virus. Those two men had returned to the Palestinian enclave from Pakistan and tested positive last Thursday.
The ministry said the new patients have been in quarantine since the first cases were detected.
The Gaza Strip has been reeling under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade, raising concerns about the capabilities of its poor health system to handle an outbreak in the overcrowded territory.
About 1,500 Palestinians who returned to Gaza via Israel and Egypt have been placed in obligatory quarantine at hastily set-up facilities.
LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County officials say they no longer are including a 17-year-old boy in the tally of coronavirus deaths until they do more to determine his precise cause of death.
The countyâ€™s public health director, Barbara Ferrer, said Wednesday that sheâ€™s asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate the death of the youth from the desert city of Lancaster.
She said that while the child did test positive for the coronavirus, there were â€œextenuating circumstances that pointed to an alternative diagnosis as well.â€
The death is no longer being counted among LA Countyâ€™s 13 total fatalities from the virus.
Gov. Gavin Newsom chided county officials, calling the backtrack a reminder that â€œin this moment itâ€™s not just speed, itâ€™s accuracy that must be front and center.â€
A report last week by the CDC found no coronavirus deaths in the U.S. among people 19 and under.
ANKARA, Turkey – Turkey’s health minister says 15 people have died from the new coronavirus in the past 24 hours, raising the total number of deaths to 59.
Fahrettin Koca tweeted Wednesday that 561 more people have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the number of infections in the country to at least 2,433.
BERLIN – The U.S. Army Europe says it has delivered medical supplies and equipment to help fight the new coronavirus in Italy’s hard-hit region of Lombardy.
The move, which was part of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency’s humanitarian assistance program, saw the 405th Army Field Support Brigade deliver hospital beds, mattresses, adjustable IV poles and other supplies from the U.S. Army Camp Darby in Livorno, Italy.
In a statement Wednesday, U.S. Army Europe’s commanding general, Lt. Gen. Christopher G. Cavoli, said the effort demonstrated â€œthe U.S commitment to our NATO ally and the people of Italy during this crisis.â€
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania lawmakers voted Wednesday to delay the state’s primary election by five weeks to June 2, potentially past the spike of the state’s spreading coronavirus cases.
The measure passed both chambers of the Republican-controlled state Legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, said he will sign it. As a result, Pennsylvania will join more than 10 states in delaying primaries.
PARIS – President Emmanuel Macron launched a special military operation Wednesday to help fight the new coronavirus in France, one of the worldâ€™s hardest-hit countries.
As part of the new â€œOperation Resilience,â€ France is deploying helicopter carriers to help transport patients in overseas French territories in the Caribbean, South America and the Indian Ocean.
Striking a combative tone on a visit to a military field hospital in the virus-ravaged eastern city of Mulhouse, Macron paid homage to medics who have died, â€œwho paid with their lives to save other lives.â€
Macron also promised a â€œmassiveâ€ new investment plan for public hospitals, after years of cost cuts in Franceâ€™s renowned health care system that have complicated efforts to stem the spread of the virus.
Facing criticism that his government was too slow to lock down the country as the virus spread, Macron criticized those â€œwho would fracture the country, when we should have one obsession: to be united to fight the virus.â€
Reiterating that France is at â€œwarâ€ with the virus, Macron warned: â€œWe are just at the beginning. But we will make it through, because we will not surrender, because we have the strength.â€
BERLIN – Seven German medical associations have published recommendations for how doctors should determine which seriously ill patients with the new coronavirus can be given intensive care treatment when demand outstrips available capacity.
The 13-page guide published Wednesday states that “according to current information about the COVID-19 pandemic it is likely that despite capacity increases already made there soon won’t be sufficient intensive care resources available also in Germany for all patients who would need them.”
The document, posted on the website of Germany’s Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive and Emergency Medicine, recommends not providing intensive care if the process of dying has irreversibly begun, treatment wouldn’t result in improvement or stabilization, survival would depend on permanent intensive care or the patient refuses intensive care.
The guide, which is backed by six other medical associations, suggests that decisions on allocating available beds may be necessary “analogous to triage in disaster medicine.” It suggests that survival chances of patients with other serious illnesses should also be weighed and that age alone shouldn’t be the deciding factor.
About 1,000 of the over 30,000 COVID-19 patients in Germany are currently receiving intensive care. The government aims to double the 28,000 intensive care beds in the country to cope with a predicted increase in cases.
ST. PAUL, Minn. – Gov. Tim Walz on Wednesday ordered Minnesota residents in nonessential jobs to stay at home for two weeks in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent the coronavirus from overwhelming the state’s health care system.
The governor’s order begins at midnight Friday. He said the restrictions were critical to allow the state to protect its most vulnerable people and give time to build up the state’s capacity to handle a flood of infections.
â€œIâ€™m asking for your patience, your cooperation and your understanding,” Walz said in a live video message. â€œMy pledge to you is to use the valuable time you’re giving us.â€
Walz had held off on issuing the order because he wanted to see data and modeling to show whether it would make enough of a difference to justify the disruptions that could last for weeks or months.
BOISE, Idaho – Idaho Gov. Brad Little has issued a statewide stay-at-home order as the coronavirus continues to spread.
Little announced the order Wednesday, saying it would remain in effect for 21 days.
Idaho has more than 91 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. Idaho has a population of about 1.7 million.
GENEVA – The head of the World Health Organization commended U.S. President Donald Trump on Wednesday for â€œtaking responsibilityâ€ for leading the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a virtual press briefing in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the U.N. health agency has called repeatedly for heads of state to lead a â€œwhole-of-governmentâ€ response to the new coronavirus.
â€œThatâ€™s exactly what heâ€™s doing which we appreciate because fighting this pandemic needs political commitment,â€ Tedros said, referring to Trump.
Tedros has previously warned that countries taking measures to lock down their societies must use the time wisely to implement other aggressive interventions, including widespread testing and efforts to track down the virusâ€™ transmission chains. WHO and other experts say it could be months before the outbreak peaks and loosening such controls too soon could allow the virus to resurge.
On Tuesday, Trump suggested the lockdown measures in the U.S. might be lifted by Easter and predicted there would be â€œpacked churchesâ€ across the country.
â€œI know heâ€™s doing all he can,â€ Tedros said, noting he and Trump spoke recently. â€œI believe that kind of political commitment and political leadership can bring change or can stop this pandemic.â€