March 16, 2020

'Hunker down': Officials want Americans to close bars, cancel weddings, and more

Daily Briefing

    CDC on Sunday recommended U.S. businesses and residents cancel all in-person events with at least 50 people for the next eight weeks, as federal, state, and local governments implemented more drastic measures to contain the new coronavirus' spread in the United States.

    Map: How ready is your state to cope with a COVID-19 outbreak?

    About the global pandemic

    Reports of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, first surfaced in early December 2019 in Wuhan, China. While the number of new cases of COVID-19 reported in China has been dropping, newly reported cases of the disease have spiked in other countries, with COVID-19 reaching global pandemic status.

    On Friday, World Health Organization (WHO) officials said Europe is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus explained, "More cases are now being reported [in Europe] every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic."

    As of Monday morning, officials reported more than 167,400 cases of COVID-19 globally. Officials said as of Monday morning there had been at least 6,329 deaths linked to the new coronavirus, and about half of those deaths occurred outside mainland China.

    The spike in COVID-19 cases in Europe has caused several countries to implement stringent containment measures. For example, Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte last week announced strict travel restrictions throughout the entire country, essentially locking down the country's 60 million residents. Italy has reported the most cases and deaths of COVID-19 of any country outside of mainland China, with 24,747 reported cases and 1,809 related deaths as of Monday morning.

    Spain also has announced a nationwide lockdown, and Israel and France have closed nonessential businesses in the country, such as restaurants and movie theaters.

    US officials implement stricter containment measures as COVID-19 cases rise

    The United States saw its first COVID-19 case in late January, and cases have spiked since then. As of Monday morning, state and federal officials had reported 3,602 cases of COVID-19 in the United States and 66 deaths linked to the new coronavirus.

    The rising number of COVID-19 cases prompted federal, state, and local officials this weekend to implement new measures intended to contain the new coronavirus' spread.

    For example, the Trump administration announced that it is expanding its European travel restrictions to include Ireland and the United Kingdom, bringing the total number of European countries affected by the ban to 28, the Washington Post reports. The Department of Defense separately announced new restrictions that prohibit U.S. servicemembers and civilians working for the department from traveling within the United States from March 16 through May 11.

    In addition, CDC on Sunday issued new guidance calling for U.S. businesses and residents to cancel all in-person events with at least 50 people for the next eight weeks. CDC said, "Examples of large events and mass gatherings include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, and other types of assemblies. These events can be planned not only by organizations and communities but also by individuals."

    Further, CMS in a memo sent to state survey agency directors on Friday called for nursing homes to no longer allow any visitors at the facilities except in "compassionate care situations, such as an end-of-life situation."

    Some states and localities also expanded their containment measures.

    According to Axios, as of Sunday night, the governors of California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Ohio, and Washington called for or ordered bars, entertainment, and recreational facilities in the states to either close down completely or restrict their services to carry-out and delivery. The mayors of Hoboken, New Jersey; Los Angeles; New York City; and other localities have implemented similar measures.

    Officials in Georgia and Louisiana have announced that they are delaying the states' primary elections, while Wyoming has suspended in-person voting for its primary election, relying instead on its vote-by-mail and ballot drop-off systems, the New York Times reports. Officials in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, and Ohio have announced that they intend to hold their primary elections on Tuesday, as scheduled, but said they will take extra precautions intended to prevent the new coronavirus' spread.

    More federal guidanceand possibly more containment measurescoming

    Federal officials on Sunday said the United States could see additional containment measures if cases of COVID-19 continue surging in the country.

    Vice President Pence said the Trump administration on Monday will release new guidance on social distancing for Americans, though he did not provide details on what that guidance will include.

    Separately, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, on Sunday did not dismiss the possibility of implementing stricter containment measures in the United States.

    During an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press," Fauci said, "Americans should be prepared that they are going to have to hunker down significantly more than we as a country are doing."

    According to the Wall Street Journal, Fauci during a White House news conference later on Sunday said, "The worst is, yes, ahead for us. It is how we respond to that challenge that's going to determine what the ultimate endpoint is going to be." He continued, "To protect the American people, we'll consider everything and anything on the table" (Samuels, The Hill, 3/15; Feuer et al., CNBC, 3/13; New York Times, 3/16; Knowles et al., Washington Post, 3/14; Smith et al., New York Times, 3/16; Department of Defense release, 3/13; Owens, "Vitals," Axios, 3/16; CDC guidance, 3/15; Basu, Axios, 3/16; Esch, Associated Press, 3/16; de Kretser, Reuters, 3/16; Corasaniti/Saul, New York Times, 3/16; Cole/Main, CNN, 3/15; Kendall et al., Wall Street Journal, 3/15; McCaskill/Cancryn, Politico, 3/15).

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