The Latest COVID-19 Updates (March 24)

10 p.m. -- BEIJING — China’s National Health Commission has reported 47 new COVID-19 cases, all of which it says were imported infections in recent arrivals from abroad. No new cases were reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the country’s outbreak. Wuhan will remain locked down until April 8, while the two-month lockdown of surrounding Hubei province ended at midnight Tuesday. As the number of domestic community transmissions has dwindled, China is shifting its focus to individuals coming into the country from affected regions like the U.S. and Europe. Starting on Wednesday, all individuals arriving in China’s capital from overseas must take a COVID-19 test in addition to being quarantined, the Beijing municipal government said in a notice. Those who have entered the city within the last 14 days will also undergo mandatory testing.

6:30 p.m. -- WASHINGTON (AP) — The woman in charge of the U.S. response to the coronavirus says everyone leaving the New York metro area should self-quarantine for 14 days. Deborah Birx said at a White House briefing that people leaving the hardest hit area of the United States might not be sick, but could have been exposed to the virus. She advises people heading for Long Island, or Florida, North Carolina or other states to stay home for two weeks. Birx says about 56% of the cases in the United States are coming out of the New York metro area. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is advising President Donald Trump on the pandemic, says about one per 1,000 people leaving New York are infected. He says that's eight to 10 times more than in other areas.

4:45 p.m. -- NEW YORK — The Associated Press reports that the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged to its best day since 1933 as Congress and the White House neared a deal on Tuesday to inject nearly $2 trillion of aid into an economy ravaged by the coronavirus. The Dow burst 11.4% higher, while the more closely followed S&P 500 index leaped 9.4% as a wave of buying around the world interrupted what has been a brutal month of nearly nonstop selling. Despite the gains, investors were far from saying markets have hit bottom. Rallies nearly as big as this have punctuated the last few weeks, and none lasted more than a day.

3:30 p.m. HARRISBURG — The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed Tuesday that new positives for COVID-19 have brought the statewide total to 851, as of 12 a.m. March 24. One of the new cases was in Clearfield County. There have been seven total deaths.
Penn Highlands Healthcare reported that the Clearfield County patient was not in any of its facilities.
Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine provided other updates on COVID-19 during the department's daily press conference.
She said rural counties now seeing their first cases should expect to see that spread continue, though their numbers won't be quite as high as larger counties because of their lower population density. Gov. Tom Wolf's stay-at-home order, issued to several Pennsylvania counties, is responding largely to evidence of community spread. If that becomes visible in rural counties, they may be subjected to similar orders as necessary. Levine said those decisions are reevaluated every day.
Asked whether rural hospitals might see transfers from elsewhere in order to handle the surge, Levine said the option is on the table, but the state would prefer not to do that if at all possible.
She also focused on ways people can help.
"This is an uncertain time for all of us," she said. "But Pennsylvanians are strong and resilient, and are asking, 'What can I do to help?'"
Levine said there is an urgent need for blood donations as hospitals prepare for a surge in coronavirus cases. Platelets, blood and plasma are all needed. Precautions have been taken to protect donors.
Levine also encouraged to donate to food banks as many Americans are out of work as a result of the crisis. She said this can be done safely while practicing social distancing. Contact your local food bank to find out how to donate at this time.
In response to submitted questions, Levine also clarified a statement from Monday's press conference in light of some hospitals requesting that people sew and donate masks. She said her comment that those masks are not helpful applied only to COVID-19, which requires healthcare professionals to wear N95 masks. Those masks can still be useful for other healthcare concerns, though their effectiveness remains limited. She discouraged having a false sense of security because you are wearing a homemade mask.
Other subjects touched upon during the press conference:
• Levine was asked whether the state is considering restricting access to certain drugs that are running low in pharmacies because Donald Trump named them as potential treatments for COVID-19 — particularly chloroquine. Levine said there's anecdotal evidence that chloroquine and other medications might help with COVID-19, but it isn't an accepted standard of care at this time and it is not recommended that physicians prescribe it, particularly to outpatients or as a prevention measure. Some doctors may try chloroquine and other medications as an experimental treatment for patients in life-or-death situations, but they are not recommended for routine treatment.
"What is really critical is that the right medicines be used to treat COVID-19 at the right dose at the right time," Levine said. "All that will happen with clinical trials sponsored by NIH, the National Institute of Health."

2 p.m. WASHINGTON (AP) — With lives and the economy hanging in the balance, President Donald Trump said Tuesday he is hoping the county will be reopened by Easter, as he weighs how to refine nationwide social-distancing guidelines to put some workers back on the job amid the coronavirus outbreak.
As many public health officials call for stricter, not looser restrictions on public interactions, Trump said he was already looking toward easing the advisories that have sidelined workers, shuttered schools and led to a widespread economic slowdown.
“I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter," he said during a Fox News virtual town hall.

1 p.m. STOCKHOLM — Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg says on social media that she believes she has recovered from mild symptoms of COVID-19 experienced during a period of quarantine following a European trip.
The teenager called on young people to protect groups at greater risk from the disease. Thunberg says her mild symptoms are “what makes it so much more dangerous” due to the risk of on passing the virus without knowing it.
Sweden only tests patients for coronavirus if they require hospital care. Others are urged to isolate themselves and rest. She urged people to stay at home to slow the spread of the pandemic.
WASHINGTON — The federal Bureau of Prisons is instituting a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all new inmates entering any of the 122 federal correctional facilities in the U.S. in response to coronavirus concerns.
The announcement comes as the number of confirmed cases continues to grow among inmates and staff members at Bureau of Prisons facilities. There are more than 175,000 inmates in the federal prison system.
Union officials have raised concerns about whether there are adequate supplies of personal protective equipment for officers and inmates to slow the spread of the virus.
The Bureau of Prisons says it is working with court officials, local and state correctional institutions and the U.S. Marshals Service to "mitigate the risk of exposure in pretrial detention and jail facilities" and ensure safe inmate transfers.
HONOLULU — The state of Hawaii has recorded its first death from COVID-19.
State officials say the unidentified adult suffered from multiple underlying health conditions, and that the available history of the person suggests they had a potential indirect travel-related exposure.
The person was tested at a clinical commercial laboratory, but the results were indeterminate.
Authorities say the person died Friday, and follow-up testing at a state lab on Monday confirmed the cause was COVID-19. Other than they lived on Oahu, officials didn’t release the person's age or gender. The state health department says Hawaii has 77 positive cases with a majority of those on Oahu.
NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his most dire warning yet about the coronavirus pandemic, saying the infection rate in New York is accelerating and the state could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis that projects 40,000 people in intensive care.
Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which now have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide.
Cuomo says the rate of new infections is doubling about every three days. While officials once thought the peak in New York would come in early May, they now say it could come in two to three weeks.
“We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own,” he said during a briefing in New York City. “One of the forecasters said we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train.”
There were nearly 26,000 positive cases in New York state with 210 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.
NEW DELHI — India will begin the world's largest lockdown.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced it in a TV address Tuesday night, warning that anyone going outside risked inviting the coronavirus inside their homes. He pledged $2 billion to bolster the country's beleaguered health care system.
“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” said Modi, adding that if the country failed to manage the next 21 days, it could be set back by 21 years.
India's stay-at-home order puts nearly one-fifth of the world's population under lockdown.
Indian health officials have reported 469 active cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths. Officials have repeatedly insisted there is no evidence yet of communal spread but have conducted relatively few tests for the disease.

11:30 a.m. HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — Pennsylvania's state corrections officers' union wants the state prison system to stop all transfers of inmates as a preventative measure against potential spread of the new coronavirus from one institution to another.
Meanwhile, more businesses are challenging Gov. Tom Wolf's order closing the physical locations of businesses determined to be “non-life-sustaining" as state officials warn that coronavirus cases will continue growing.
Also Tuesday, Allegheny County reported another death from COVID-19, bringing the total reported in Pennsylvania to seven. The victim was a woman in her late 70s and the county medical examiner is handling the case, the county said.
In the meantime, Wolf has ordered schools closed through at least April 6 and ordered 5.5 million people in the state's hardest-hit counties to stay home, other than going to work at a business that’s still open or another errand involving health and safety.

11 a.m. The Jefferson County commissioners have extended their declaration of a disaster emergency for another 30 days. There still are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Jefferson County at this time.
On Tuesday, the commissioners held their first attempt at a virtual public meeting. Until the social distancing protocols are eased, Jefferson County will hold its public meetings through a conference line available on Access information for future meetings will be posted beforehand. Jefferson Place and the Jefferson County Courthouse are operating by appointment only. The Jefferson County Jail and Jefferson County Emergency Management are closed to all outside access.

9 a.m. WASHINGTON (AP) — Top congressional and White House officials say they expect to reach a deal Tuesday on a nearly $2 trillion measure aimed at easing the economic damage inflicted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said they had spoken by phone with President Donald Trump during the long night of negotiations. While the two sides have resolved many issues in the sweeping package, some remain.
Ahead of the resumption of talks Tuesday morning, U.S. futures rose sharply after the leaders signaled resolution was in sight.
WASHINGTON (AP) — As cases of coronavirus rise, President Donald Trump said that he wants to reopen the country for business in weeks, not months, and claimed, without evidence, that continued closures could result in more deaths than the pandemic itself.
"We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem," Trump told reporters at a briefing Monday, echoing a midnight Sunday tweet. “We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems."
Health experts have made clear that unless Americans continue to dramatically limit social interaction — staying home from work and isolating themselves — the number of infections will overwhelm the health care system, as it has in parts of Italy, leading to many more deaths. While the worst outbreaks are concentrated in certain parts of the country, such as New York, experts warn that the highly infectious disease is certain to spread.
But with the economic impact now snapping into focus and millions of people out of work, businesses shuttered and the markets in free fall — all undermining Trump's reelection message — the chorus of backlash is growing louder, with Trump appearing to side with them.
TOKYO — The International Olympic Committee along with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and local organizers have decided that the Tokyo Games cannot go ahead as scheduled this year because of the coronavirus outbreak.
The IOC says the games will be held “not later than summer 2021” but they will still be called the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
HELSINKI — Martti Ahtisaari, the former Finnish president, UN diplomat and recipient of the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize, has tested positive with the coronavirus.
The office of the Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said Tuesday Ahtisaari, 82, was confirmed with the new coronavirus on Monday and he was doing fine "under the circumstances."
No details were provided of how Ahtisaari became infected, but his wife was confirmed positive with coronavirus on Saturday.
Ahtisaari served as the Finnish head of state for one six-year term from 1994 until 2000.