The latest news from around the U.S. and the world on coronavirus:

TRUMP RESTRICTS TRAVEL FROM EUROPE FOR 30 DAYS

Taking dramatic action, President Trump announced Wednesday that he is sharply restricting passenger travel from 26 European nations to the U.S. and moving to ease the economic cost of a viral pandemic that is roiling global financial markets and disrupting the daily lives of Americans.

Trump, in a rare Oval Office address to the nation, said the month-long restriction on travel would begin late Friday, at midnight. After days of playing down the coronavirus threat, he blamed Europe for not acting quickly enough to address the “foreign virus” and claimed that U.S. clusters were “seeded” by European travelers.

Trump said the restrictions won’t apply to the United Kingdom, and there would be exemptions for “Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings.” He said the U.S. would monitor the situation to determine if travel could be reopened earlier.

The State Department followed Trump’s remarks by issuing an extraordinary global health advisory cautioning U.S. citizens to “reconsider travel abroad” due to the virus and associated quarantines and restrictions.

WHO DECLARES CORONAVIRUS A PANDEMIC

The World Health Organization declared coronavirus a pandemic Wednesday, signaling that health experts believe efforts should be focused less on containing the virus and more on stockpiling materials, getting hospitals ready to handle an influx of patients and enacting social distancing policies.

“We are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity and by the alarming levels of inaction,” WHO Director-General Ted ros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

The declaration came as the number of novel coronavirus cases surpassed 120,000 worldwide. In the United States, where more than 30 people have been killed by the coronavirus, the total number of cases has doubled in a matter of days, surpassing 1,000 late Tuesday.

The WHO’s announcement does not trigger any new funding, protocols or regulations. But it is an acknowledgment of reality.

For weeks now, the WHO has hesitated to make the declaration because there is little upside, and it could create widespread panic. “It may cause fear,” Tedros said at a briefing earlier this month.

But Wednesday, Tedros noted the scale of the outbreak. “There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives,” he said.

FEARS OF VIRUS SEND STOCKS FALLING INTO BEAR MARKET

Stocks tumbled again Wednesday as fears about the economic damage from the coronavirus intensified and investors questioned whether any economic response from Washington would be enough – if it happens at all.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 1,464 points, dragging it 20 percent below the record set last month and putting it in a bear market. The broader S&P 500 index, which professional investors watch more closely, is a single percentage point away from falling into its own bear market, which would end one of the longest bull markets in Wall Street history.

The decline has been one of the swiftest sell-offs of this magnitude. The fastest the S&P 500 has ever fallen from a record into a bear market was over 55 days in 1987.

Vicious swings like Wednesday’s session are becoming routine as investors rush to sell amid uncertainty about how badly the outbreak will hit the economy. The day’s loss wiped out a 1,167-point gain for the Dow from Tuesday and stands as the index’s second-largest point drop, trailing only Monday’s plunge of 2,013.

LAYOFFS ON THE RISE AS VIRUS SLOWS ECONOMIC ACTIVITY

The coronavirus outbreak is taking a deep toll on the U.S. economy, prompting hundreds of layoffs over the past week alone and halting a historic 11-year bull market in stocks.

Strong job growth and soaring financial markets have fueled the U.S. economic expansion over the past decade. Now the rapid market decline and initial layoffs are heightening fears that the longest economic expansion in U.S. history could come to a sudden end, just a month after unemployment stood at a half-century low.

Airlines, hotels, travel agencies and event companies have all been suffering, but interviews with more than two dozen firms and workers reveal that the pain is now translating into layoffs in a wider circle of industries, including a bakery and a chain restaurant.

Economists fear more layoffs in the coming weeks as supply chains come to a halt and people stay home and spend less.

NBA SUSPENDS SEASON AFTER PLAYER TESTS POSITIVE FOR VIRUS

The NBA suspended its season Wednesday night “until further notice” after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for the coronavirus, only hours after the majority of the league’s owners were leaning toward playing games without fans in arenas.

Now there will be no games at all, at least for the time being. A person with knowledge of the situation said the Jazz player who tested positive was center Rudy Gobert. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because neither the league nor the team confirmed the presumptive positive test.

“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said in a statement sent shortly after 9:30 p.m. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”

The test result, the NBA said, was reported shortly before the scheduled tip-off time for the Utah at Oklahoma City game on Wednesday night was called off. Players were on the floor for warm-ups and tip-off was moments away when they were told to return to their locker rooms. About 30 minutes later, fans were told the game was postponed “due to unforeseen circumstances.”

NCAA SAYS NO FANS IN THE STANDS FOR MARCH MADNESS

College basketball’s March Madness will be played in largely empty arenas in an effort to slow the coronavirus pandemic, the NCAA announced Wednesday, a move that threatens to drain the signature school spirit from one of the biggest events on the sports calendar.

NCAA President Mark Emmert said only essential staff and limited family will be allowed to attend the men’s and women’s tournaments, which begin next week.

“You dream of this situation where you’re playing for the highest stakes on the biggest stage, and it’s hard to imagine that if nobody is around to see it,” said Bill Self, the coach of the top-ranked Kansas Jayhawks. “But I told the guys: `Why did we all start loving this game and playing it? Did we do it because we need people to watch us, or did we do it because we loved it?’

The pinnacle of the college basketball season, the NCAA Tournament is a month-long festival of pep bands and face-painting and a cash cow that, along with football, helps fund non-revenue sports at schools throughout the country. The decision to play in fanless arenas will cost those programs millions in ticket sales but preserve billions in TV rights fees.

TOM HANKS SAYS HE AND HIS WIFE HAVE THE VIRUS

Tom Hanks and his actress-singer wife, Rita Wilson, have tested positive for the coronavirus, the actor said in a statement Wednesday.

Hanks said the couple were in Australia and felt tired, with colds, body aches and slight fevers. “To play things right, as is needed in the world right now, we were tested for the coronavirus and were found to be positive,” Hanks said.

The 63-year-old Oscar-winner said they will be “tested, observed and isolated for as long as public health and safety requires.”

OUTBREAK MAY PROMPT U.S. TO PUSH BACK INCOME TAX DEADLINE

The Trump administration is working on plans to delay the April 15 federal tax deadline for some taxpayers in a bid to soften the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the U.S. economy.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress on Wednesday that the administration is looking to provide relief for most individual taxpayers as well as small businesses.

Mnuchin said the administration believes a payment delay would have the effect of putting more than $200 billion back into the economy that would otherwise go to paying taxes next month. He did not indicate what the new deadline would be.

CLUSTER OF CORONAVIRUS CASES TIED TO BOSTON BUSINESS MEETING

A biotech meeting at a hotel in downtown Boston appears to be the source of a cluster of the coronavirus in the U.S. – and a warning for employers who are still holding big gatherings as the outbreak spreads.

Seventy-seven of the 95 confirmed cases in Massachusetts have been linked to a meeting of executives with Biogen, a company based in Cambridge, next to Boston, that develops therapies for neurological diseases, state officials said.

An additional 12 people who have tested positive for the virus outside Massachusetts have been linked to the Feb. 26-27 meeting, including five in North Carolina, two in Indiana, and one each in New Jersey, Tennessee and Washington, D.C., officials said. Two tested positive in Europe, Biogen spokesman David Caouette said Wednesday.

The Biogen cluster underscores the danger in continuing to host business gatherings as the virus, which has sickened tens of thousands of people since emerging in China in December, spreads, said Marc Lipsitch, a Harvard University infectious disease epidemiologist.

A STRONG WARNING FROM GERMANY’S LEADER

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is citing expert estimates that up to 60% to 70% of the population could be infected by the new coronavirus as she insists on the necessity of measures to slow its spread. She said the reason is because people do not yet have immunity to the virus and there are so far neither vaccines nor therapies to fight it.

With some 1,300 infections and two deaths, Germany’s government has recommended the cancellation of all events with more than 1,000 people, among other measures. Merkel said such measures “are giving us time” and are invaluable.

CORPORATE DEBT POSES RISK AS VIRUS HITS ECONOMY

A gyrating stock market is seizing headlines as the coronavirus threatens corporate profits and economic growth. Yet it’s in the normally temperate bond market, where companies go to borrow money, where the gravest dangers may lurk.

Investors fear that businesses that have borrowed heavily, especially energy, airline and cruise line companies, will struggle to pay their debts as customers cancel trips and hunker down at home. The shutdown of normal business is shrinking demand for energy in particular, sending oil prices sinking and intensifying pressure on indebted oil-and-gas production firms.

Having binged on borrowing, companies that are outside the financial sector owe $9.6 trillion in the United States – up more than 50 percent in a decade. Worldwide, companies have issued $13 trillion in bonds, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. That’s twice what they owed in the financial crisis year of 2008. Corporate debt in China alone has soared from virtually nothing to $590 billion.

Struggling to meet debt payments under the pressure of a virus-induced economic slump, companies are more likely to lay off workers, delay investments and cut costs. All of which could deepen any economic downturn.


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