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US coronavirus cases top 1,200 and officials call off events

Schools, sporting events adjust after coronavirus concerns

(CNN) — For the first time in 11 years, the World Health Organization has declared a pandemic as a top US health official calls for “all hands on deck” to fight coronavirus.

A pandemic is defined as the “worldwide spread” of a new disease.

  • WISH-TV will broadcast President Trump’s address to the nation and livestream it

The US has more than 1,200 cases of novel coronavirus. And growing clusters of the disease are forcing many Americans to change their daily lives.

One of the biggest sports events of the year, the men’s Division I basketball tournament, known as March Madness, will be played with only family members and essential personnel in attendance, NCAA President Mark Emmert announced. The women’s tournament also will be played to largely empty arenas.

“While I understand how disappointing this is for fans of our sports, my decision is based on the current understanding of how Covid-19 is progressing in the United States,” he said.

Other large events have been postponed or canceled. Dozens of universities are temporarily shutting down campuses. A New York suburb now has a “containment zone.” And more companies are urged to let their employees work from home.

“Keeping the workplace safe, keeping the home safe, keeping the school safe and keeping commercial establishments safe — this should be universal for the country,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“We would like the country to realize that, as a nation, we can’t be doing the kinds of things we were doing a few months ago,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in a state that has no cases or one case. You have to start taking seriously what you can do now. Everybody should say, ‘All hands on deck. This is what we need to do.’”

No big crowds allowed

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced Wednesday the ban of events with more than 250 people in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

The Seattle Sounders of Major League Soccer announced that their March 21 match against FC Dallas will be rescheduled for later in the regular season, which ends in early October.

Some California cities and counties have similar bans.

The NBA’s Golden State Warriors, who play in San Francisco, won’t have any fans at Thursday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets, according to league spokesman Mike Bass.

San Francisco is halting group gatherings of 1,000 people or more in an effort to slow the spread of novel coronavirus, Mayor London Breed announced.

Several cities have canceled their St. Patrick’s Day parades, including Boston, Dallas, New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Savannah, Georgia. Chicago officials called off the parade and said they won’t dye the Chicago River green this year.

And several universities have told students on spring break not to return to campus and be ready to take classes online.

‘It is the hot spot in the nation’

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a 1-mile “containment” area in the suburb of New Rochelle, where more than 100 residents have been infected.

He’s deploying the National Guard to help clean public spaces and deliver food to homes in the suburb of about 80,000 people.

“It is the hot spot in the nation” for coronavirus, Cuomo said.

The rapid outbreak in New Rochelle started with one resident — an attorney who works in Manhattan. His wife, children and neighbor are among the dozens infected.

The containment protocols, which start Thursday, include closing schools, houses of worship and other large gathering facilities.

The 1-mile radius originates from Temple Young Israel.

People can move freely within the area. Cuomo told CNN “People can come, people can go, there’s no limitation on movement, but no large gatherings because the large gatherings are where it spreads.”

The protocols end March 25.

Where the cases are now

More than 1,200 cases are spread across at least 41 states and the District of Columbia.

At least 37 people have died: 29 in Washington state, four in California, two in Florida, one in New Jersey and one in South Dakota.

But the number of confirmed cases is expected to rise significantly because there has been a major backlog in testing. So some people with coronavirus might not even know it.

“We have very little access to testing,” Dr. Carlos Del Rio, a professor of medicine and global health at Emory University, said Wednesday.

“I think the lack of access to testing continues to be a barrier to taking care of patients efficiently and rapidly.”

Vice President Mike Pence said Monday that another 4 million tests would be available by the end of the week. He said that’s on top of at least 1 million tests already in place across the country.

But US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said his department didn’t know how many people have been tested.

“We don’t know exactly how many, because hundreds of thousands of our tests have gone out to private labs and hospitals that currently do not report” to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Azar said.

He said the government is now working with the CDC to create a reporting system to help “keep track of how many we’re testing.”

A delay in testing came after the CDC had to remake a part of the testing kits sent to states after some were deemed faulty.

It wasn’t until this week that public health labs in all 50 states were able to test for the virus.

Del Rio said the testing difficulties are exacerbating the outbreak.

“There was a lot of failure. There’s been a lot of mishap in the developing of tests by the CDC,” he said. “Catching up will not be easy.”

Cruise ships propose new guidelines to government

The cruise industry has been hit hard by coronavirus after outbreaks on at least two ships.

Wednesday, some passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship arrived at the Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia to begin their quarantine.

More than 2,000 passengers will be placed in quarantine at multiple military bases for two weeks. The ship docked this week in Oakland, California, 21 people on board tested positive.

On a sister ship, the Diamond Princess, more than 700 people were infected with coronavirus. At least seven of those patients have since died.

The cruise industry suffered another blow when the Department of State urged Americans to not go on cruises.

“Like many other viruses, Covid-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships,” the CDC said.

Pence said the cruise line industry has proposed new measures such as advanced screening and upgraded medical services aboard each ship.