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Coronavirus Declared a Global Pandemic by World Health Organization; Washington State Bans Large Public Events

  • COVID-19 is a global pandemic, the World Health Organization announced Wednesday.
  • U.S. cases hit 1,000 while worldwide there have been more than 121,000 cases.
  • At least 31 people have died in the U.S.
  • Passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship arrived at a Georgia military base.
  • Washington state bans gatherings with more than 250 people.

The World Health Organization announced Wednesday that the novel coronavirus has become a global pandemic.

“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, said during the announcement.

(MORE: U.S. Troops in Italy, South Korea in Limbo as Pentagon Acts Against Coronavirus)

The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has topped 1,000, as one of the nation’s top health officials warns that the outbreak will continue to spread.

“I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a U.S. House committee Wednesday morning, according to The Associated Press.

Fauci says controlling the virus depends on whether the U.S. can curtail the influx of travelers who may be carrying the virus, and the whether state and local communities can contain outbreaks.

Fauci said was asked if the worst was yet to come.

His answer: “Yes, it is.”

At least 31 people had died in the U.S. due to the illness as of Wednesday morning, according to the New York Times.

Infections have been confirmed in at least 38 states and Washington D.C., while Arkansas and New Mexico became the latest states to announce their first cases Wednesday.

Most of the deaths remain in Washington state, where at least 24 people have died and a cluster of cases is linked to a nursing home in suburban Seattle. Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Wednesday that public gatherings with more than 250 people would be banned in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties through at least the end of March.

“This is not a time to be going out into public in close contact,” Inslee told reporters. “It’s just too dangerous.”

The Internal Revenue Service is considering giving Americans more time to file their federal taxes in an attempt to help stimulate the U.S. economy, according to a report by the Wall Street Journal. Sources told the Journal an extension to the April 15 filing deadline was likely, but details were still being worked out.

President Donald Trump has proposed a temporary ban on payroll taxes as part of an economic stimulus package.

In New York, meanwhile, the National Guard began arriving to help deliver food and clean school buildings in New Rochelle, where officials hope a one-mile “containment area” will help curb a cluster of coronavirus cases there.

Overseas, German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that two-thirds of the German population could be end up with COVID-19, according to the Times.

“Given a virus for which there is no immunity and no immunization, we have to understand that many people will be infected, the consensus among experts is that 60 to 70 percent of the population will be infected,” she said.

By the Numbers

United States:

-The number of infections in the U.S. was at 1,050 as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins.

-The Washington state health department says at least 22 people have now died in King County and at least 190 are infected. Two other people have died in separate counties. In all, more than 260 people in the state have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

-Deaths have occurred in at least four other states – Florida, California, New Jersey and South Dakota.


-More than 121,000 people had been infected as of Wednesday afternoon. At least 4,360 have died, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus dashboard.

-In Italy, at least 10,419 people are infected and 631 have died.

-Iran confirmed 8,042 coronavirus cases, the second-highest number outside of China, after Italy. The country said 291 people had died.

-The European Commission says all 27 member states now have patients confirmed with the coronavirus.

Latest Developments

United States:

-E3, the largest video game convention in North America, is canceled. The event was scheduled for June 9 to June 11 in Los Angeles.

-Arkansas announced its first case of COVID-19 Wednesday.

-New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a news release that two of the people infected there are a husband and wife in their 60s who recently returned from a cruise in Egypt. The other is a woman in her 70s who recently traveled to New York City.

-Chicago’s annual St. Patrick’s Day parade became the latest large celebration to be canceled over coronavirus fears. Organizers made the announcement Wedesday morning.

-Officials in Santa Clara County, California, have banned all gatherings with more than 1,000 people, including sporting events and concerts, the Mercury-News reported. The new rule started today and will be enforced by police.

-Some passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship arrived Wednesday morning at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia to start a 14-day quarantine period, the AP reported. It wasn’t clear how many passengers were at the base. The ship was held off the coast of California after at least 21 people aboard tested positive for the coronavirus. It docked in Oakland, where passengers will still disembarking on Wednesday.

Passengers Leave the Grand Princess

A medical worker assists a passenger from the Princess Cruises Grand Princess cruise ship before boarding a charter plane at Oakland International Airport on March 10, 2020, in Oakland, California. Passengers were slowly disembarking from the Princess Cruises Grand Princess a day after it docked at the Port of Oakland. Some passengers will be flown to other states where they will quarantine for 14 days. The ship was held off the coast of California after 21 people on board tested tested positive for COVID-19.

(Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

-No one will be in the audience at the next Democratic presidential debate. The Democratic National Party announced Tuesday that the debate between presidential contenders Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden, set for Sunday in Phoenix.

-South Dakota on Tuesday afternoon announced both its first cases and first deaths. Five people were infected, according to the state’s health department. Gov. Kristi Noem said one person infected with the virus had died, but officials had not confirmed his cause of death, The Associated Press reported. The man, in his 60s, was from Pennington County in the western part of the state.

-MGM Resorts International is shutting down buffets at its ARIA, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Luxor and Excalibur resorts and casinos in Las Vegas starting Sunday, KLAS-TV reported. The decision will be evaluated on a weekly bases. The company also announced it closed the Yonkers Raceway in New York on Tuesday afternoon after an employee of another organization based there was confirmed to have died from COVID-19. There was no word on when the raceway would reopen.

-Beginning Friday, schools will close for two weeks in the New Rochelle containment area, New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday. New Rochelle, which is about 15 miles from Midtown Manhattan, is at the center of an outbreak of at least 108 cases in Westchester County, out of 173 statewide. He said it may be the largest cluster of cases in the U.S.

-Gov. Cuomo also said he is deploying the National Guard to the New Rochelle containment area to help deliver food to homes and clean public spaces, AP reported. The state and a private health system are setting up a testing facility in the area, and large gathering places and houses of worship will be closed for at least two weeks, he said. The containment area with a one-mile radius is centered around a synagogue thought to be at the center of the cluster, officials told the New York Times.

The Holiday Goes On

Yirmeyahu Gourarie performs a Purim reading from the Book of Esther for residents under self-quarantine because of potential exposure to the new coronavirus, on Monday, March 9, 2020, in New Rochelle, New York. Student volunteers from a Jewish secondary school in Westchester County were fanning out in teams to read the megillah on Monday evening and during the day Tuesday outside the homes of about 120 families from the community who are quarantined.

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)

-Officials in New York’s Nassau County said the 19 confirmed coronavirus cases there include two school bus drivers that transport between them about 80 students on several routes on Long Island, the CNN reported. Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said most of the students’ families have been contacted by the department of health. Some schools have closed in response.

-North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper declared a state of emergency on Tuesday saying the declaration allows increased flexibility to respond to and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. North Carolina has seven presumptive positive cases.

-Gov. Jared Polis declared a state of emergency for Colorado, where there are 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.

-Massachusetts announced 51 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday as Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency. The state has a total of 92 confirmed cases.

-In addition to Massachusetts, Colorado and North Carolina, 13 other states have declared a state of emergency: California, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

-Florida health officials are asking anyone who recently traveled through Port Everglades to isolate themselves for 14 days if they start experiencing symptoms after three employees of a company that greets cruise ship passengers tested positive for the new coronavirus, AP reported.

-Florida’s Broward County declared a level 2 emergency Tuesday, which requires the partial activation of emergency service personnel, the Sun Sentinel reported. In addition to the three cruise greeters, a fourth person has tested positive for the coronavirus in Broward.

(MORE: Quarantined Patient Details Life Aboard Diamond Princess and in Isolation Units)

-U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told CNN on Tuesday morning that his department does not know how many Americans have been tested for the coronavirus because many of the tests are done by private labs and hospitals that don’t currently report to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Prevention. “We’re working with the CDC and those partners to get an IT reporting system up and running hopefully this week where we would be able to get that data to keep track of how many we’re testing,” he said.

-The United Nations will closed its New York complex to the general public and temporarily suspend all guided tours because of coronavirus concerns, CNN reported.

-Saying the facilities are “going into an emergency situation,” Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie announced visitors will not be allowed in the agency’s 135 nursing homes, USA Today reported. The same “no visitor” policy will also be extended to the VA’s 24 major spinal cord injury and disorder centers, CNN reported. One veteran has a confirmed case of the coronavirus, and four others have tested positive and are awaiting confirmation, VA officials told USA Today.

Universities and Colleges:

-The University of Notre Dame in Indiana, Duke University in North Carolina, the University of Virginia, the University of Southern California, the University of California-Los Angeles and at least four other UC campuses are among the latest to announce a move to mostly online classes.

-Ohio State University, American University in Washington, D.C., Harvard University and Princeton University had announced suspensions of face-to-face teaching in favor of online classes. Harvard’s president, Larry Bacow, also asked students not to return to campus after spring break ends on March 22.

-In New York City, Columbia University, Barnard College, Fordham University, St. John’s University, Yeshiva University, and New York University announced that classes would be canceled or offered online. Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, announced it would move to online classes when students return from spring break on April 6.

-Other schools canceling classes or moving to online-learning included Amherst College, Hofstra University, Seattle University, the University of Washington, University of California Berkley, UC San Diego, UC Santa Cruz, and Stanford University.

-The Ivy League has canceled the upcoming Ivy League Men’s and Women’s Basketball Tournaments, according to a news release from the league. The league’s regular-season champions, Princeton women and Yale men, are the automatic qualifiers to the NCAA Tournaments.

-The National College Athletic Association said March Madness will begin as planned next week, but the group has prepared for several scenarios to keep COVID-19 from spreading, including the possibility of playing games without spectators.

Travel Restrictions in Italy

Police officers check citizens and tourists at the Venice Santa Lucia railway station to make sure that they are not violating the quarantine before they get on the trains to leave the city on March 10, 2020, in Venice, Italy. The Italian Government has taken the unprecedented measure of a nationwide lock-down, in an effort to fight the deadly coronavirus outbreak.

(Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)


-Italy began the first day of a nationwide lockdown with soldiers and police enforcing a travel ban. The government assured citizens that grocery stores will stay open and stocked after panic buying erupted, AP reported. The restrictions last until April 3.

-The Vatican announced Saint Peter’s Square and Saint Peter’s Basilica are closed to the public. Pope Francis, whose daily masses are being broadcast, prayed for “all those who are sick, medical personal, all those suffering from the epidemic” during Tuesday’s mass. He also asked people to pray for priests so that they might have courage to visit the sick, according to Vatican News.

-Air Canada, British Airways and Ryanair canceled all flights to and from Italy.

-Austria closed its borders to Italians unless they have a medical certificate, the BBC reported. Austrians returning from Italy will need to self-isolate for 14 days, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz said. Slovenia’s acting prime minister also ordered the closure of the country’s border with Italy.

-China’s President Xi Jinping’ made his first visit to the coronavirus’ epicenter of Wuhan in the province of Hubei, AP reported. His visit is a significant show of confidence in the country’s containment measures. With the number of new daily cases dropping in the area, the last two of 14 field hospitals hastily erected in Hubei province are set to close.

-There were only 19 new cases reported Tuesday in mainland China — 17 in Wuhan and 2 imported from overseas. Nearly 60,000 people who contracted COVID-19 have recovered.

-UNESCO, the United Nation’s education agency, said the coronavirus outbreak has interrupted schooling for nearly 363 million students worldwide. Fifteen countries have ordered nationwide school closures and 14 have implemented localized closures.

St. Peter’s Square Closed

The Vatican has announced that St. Peter’s Square will be closed to the public beginning Tuesday, March 10, 2020.


-Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa said “all classes in schools, nurseries and universities, as well as all the extra-curricular activities,” will be suspended for 15 days in several “high community transmission risk areas,” including the Madrid region and the cities of Vitoria and Labastida in the Basque Country. Spain has confirmed more than 1,200 cases of the coronavirus.

-The Czech Republic has ordered all schools and universities to close and banned gatherings of more than 100 people, CNN reported.

-Europe’s airports said they expect 187 million fewer passengers this year because of the virus outbreak, AP reported. That translates to $1.5 billion in lost revenue.

-The United Arab Emirates closed its ports to cruise ships, according to the Federal Transportation Authority.

-Anyone caught reselling a face mask for a profit in Japan could face up to a year in jail or a fine of up to 1 million yen ($9,500) or both, the Washington Post reported.

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Workers wearing protective gears disinfect as a precaution against the new coronavirus at the subway station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Kim Sun-woong/Newsis via AP)

Flu Insights with Watson helps people better assess and prepare for their flu risk, up to 15 days in advance, down to their ZIP code. Check your local risk in The Weather Channel app.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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