Coronavirus updates: Stock crash, schools close and a warning – CDC says no large gatherings for 8 weeks

Millions of American children were stuck at home, the stocks rollercoaster plunged once again and the fate of domestic travel hung in the balance Monday as the coronavirus pandemic gained momentum across the nation.

Markets halted trading for 15 minutes moments after opening Monday when stocks immediately fell more than 7%. When trading resumed the drop continued.

The CDC issued new recommendations late Sunday, saying that gatherings of 50 or more people should not take place in the U.S. for the next eight weeks. The recommendation does not apply to businesses or schools. 

There were slivers of light in the darkness – U.S. health officials on Sunday pledged to ramp up testing efforts by the tens of thousands. Additionally, testing of a possible vaccine was reportedly scheduled to begin.

But the U.S. death toll rose  to 69, with more than 3,770 known cases as of Monday morning. The global death surged past 6,500. 

In an attempt to slow the virus, more than 30 states ordered the shuttering of all schools. Included in those closures are New York and Los Angeles public schools, the two largest districts in the nation that serve more than a combined 1.8 million K-12 children.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force, let by Vice President Mike Pence, was meeting Monday at the White House. Pence and President Donald Trump then planned to teleconference with governors on the crisis.

Other important headlines on coronavirus

  •  Disney World officially closes its doors amid coronavirus; more Disney-related closures have been announced. Meanwhile, major hotels on the Las Vegas Strip are starting to close, including Wynn Resorts and MGM.
  • Think you have coronavirus? It could be allergies, but maybe this new pathogen has taken up residence in your body. How to know? The nine steps the CDC recommends.
  • Roughly 2,000 labs are expected to come online across the nation in the coming weeks, and they will be able to process both drive-thru and walk up coronavirus tests quickly. 
  • More than 30 states have closed schools, and there’s no guarantee they’ll re-open anytime soon. 
  • The race to find a coronavirus treatment: One strategy might be just weeks away, scientists say, but no vaccine yet. Meanwhile, what we don’t know about COVID-19 is “epic.” Can you have influenza and coronavirus at the same time? We answer readers’ questions.

CDC: No large gatherings for 8 weeks; more guidelines coming today

The CDC issued new guidance recommending against gatherings of 50 or more people “for the next eight weeks,” saying those who have already planned events with that many people should cancel or postpone. 

“This recommendation is made in an attempt to reduce introduction of the virus into new communities and to slow the spread of infection in communities already affected by the virus,” the CDC wrote on its website. The guidance notes it “does not apply to the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses.” Events of any size should stress protect vulnerable populations through hand hygiene and social distancing, the CDC wrote.

The CDC promised to release more detailed guidelines Monday. On Sunday, leaders of the federal coronavirus task force did not rule out some adjustments to domestic travel. Most flights carry more than 50 passengers.

– Jordan Culver and Dawn Gilbertson

Stocks plunge again

Stocks plunged at the opening bell Monday despite the Federal Reserve’s emergency action to cushion the economy from the pandemic that is shutting down global business and travel. The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged more than 2,000 points and S&P 500 took a similar hit, triggering a 15-minute halt in trading. When trading continued the skid continued. The central bank’s efforts, including an interest rate cut and crisis-era bond purchases, had little or no impact. 

“Investors aren’t happy because these rate cuts won’t stimulate the economy in the near term. You can’t stimulate demand if everyone is stuck in their house,” says Shana Sissel, a senior portfolio manager at CLS Investments.

– Jessica Menton

School go dark across most of USA

New York City closed its 1,900 public schools on Monday, a difficult decision made by dozens of states and big cities as the coronavirus crisis swept through the nation’s educational system. Mayor Bill de Blasio had balked at the move affecting more than 1 million students, in part due to meal plans that keep hundreds of thousands of low-income kids fed. The city was providing “grab and go” breakfast and lunch at all schools.

“We made the painful decision to suspend classes,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to begin remote digital learning on Monday March 23, and we’ll do everything in our power to help our kids through this.”

Los Angeles, Houston, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, D.C. are among a long list of big cities that shuttered their schools. Disadvantaged families that rely the most on schools for stable services, such as meals and access to learning materials, will be some of the most negatively affected, experts said. “Wide-scale learning loss could be among the biggest impacts coronavirus has on children,” said Betsy Zorio, vice president of U.S. programs at Save the Children, an international children’s charity.

– Erin Richards

Coronavirus news: What to know

A roundup of additional important coronavirus news you need to know today:

About coronavirus testing: Vice President Mike Pence, other health officials said Sunday they are planning to ramp up coronavirus testing by tens of thousands of additional people a week, beginning this week.

Worried you have symptoms of coronavirus? This is what you should do first.

Travelers are frustrated, angry, confused. Are domestic travel restrictions coming?

‘You can’t Netflix them all day.’Coronavirus closed this school where the kids have special needs. 

People are buying guns. It’s not just toilet paper people are stocking up on. Related: Here’s where you can still buy toilet paper.

At the Grand Ole Opry, there was no audience. But a poignant show went on, as it always does.

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More:Ustedes nos hicieron muchas preguntas sobre el coronavirus, nosotros se las respondemos

Disney World officially closes its doors

As Disney lovers waved goodbye to Walt Disney World, which closed Sunday night in response to the coronavirus pandemic, the company announced that several park-adjacent hotels, dining and shopping experiences would also shut down.

The additional closures include Disney-owned and -operated locations Downtown Disney in Anaheim, California, and Disney Springs in Orlando, Florida, both of which will shut down Tuesday. Non-Disney tenants in those locations “will make decisions on whether to continue or adjust operations,” read an announcement from Disney Parks shortly after midnight Monday morning.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and maintain regular contact with the appropriate officials and health experts,” the Twitter announcement added. It did not include any projected re-opening dates.

– Hannah Yasharoff

Schools are closed. Does online learning really work?

Thousands of schools across the nation were closed Monday and will remain closed for weeks. Some school districts are trying to cope using online studies. But many students have no access to the Internet at home, and teachers and advocates worry the crisis will worsen the existing education gap for low-income households, even as they take steps to try to accommodate students with paper packets or loans of electronic devices.

In Paterson, New Jersey, where more than a quarter of the city lives below the poverty level, about 22% of households don’t own a computer, tablet or smartphone and 36% lack an internet subscription, according to 2019 Census data.

“Whenever possible, we will be using the district’s website and resources like Google Classroom,” said school district spokesman Paul Brubaker. “But we will still need to make resources available on paper for many of our students.”

– Hannan Adely and Ashley Balcerzak, Bergen Record

Pilot coronavirus screening website launches in California

coronavirus screening pilot website for some California counties has been launched by a sister company of Google. The site – which President Donald Trump had hailed as a nationwide screening site in a press conference that reportedly caught Google off guard – is now live and for people in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. Verily created the website in collaboration with federal, state and local officials. The goal is to take the site statewide. Californians can input their personal health information and then are directed to mobile testing sites for a nasal swab test. They’ll get test results within days. Only “high-risk individuals” are initially eligible.

– Nathan Bomey

Vaccine tests begin today, mass vaccinations a year away

The first participant in a clinical trial for a vaccine to protect against the new coronavirus will receive an experimental dose on Monday, according to a government official. The National Institutes of Health is funding the trial, which is taking place at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. The official who disclosed plans for the first participant spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the move has not been publicly announced.

Public health officials say it will take a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine. Testing will begin with 45 young, healthy volunteers with different doses of shots co-developed by NIH and Moderna Inc. There’s no chance participants could get infected from the shots, because they don’t contain the virus itself, the official said.

– Associated Press

States start shuttering bars and restaurants, encourage takeout 

The governors in several states — California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, New York and Washington among them — mandated the closings of bars, restaurants and wineries on Sunday in an effort to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Describing coronavirus as “incredibly contagious” at a Sunday news conference, Massachusetts, Gov. Charlie Baker told reporters, “If we take decisive steps now and everyone plays their part by following the best medical guidance, we can slow down the spread.”

More:What is social distancing? When should I quarantine versus isolate?

Also Sunday, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf ordered all restaurants and bars across five counties (Allegheny, Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery) to close dine-in facilities to help control the spread of the virus, beginning Monday.

– Lindsay Schnell

Health care officials say tests will ramp up nationwide this week

Vice President Mike Pence and other health officials said two factors will allow them to increase testing capacity dramatically in coming days: Some 2,000 labs coming online across the nation to process tests and high throughput tests that can be used for drive-through or walk-up test centers. 

Admiral Brett P. Giroir, assistant secretary of health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said gear and federal health care workers would being shipping out Monday. 

Health officials said they were focusing those tests on two groups: Healthcare workers and first responders as well as those who are 65 and older with a respiratory symptom and a fever of at least 99.6 degrees. The officials implored Americans to help prioritize those two groups. 

– John Fritze and David Jackson

Map: Which states have coronavirus cases?

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