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The White House to discuss the coronavirus battle plan as stock markets plunge

 


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – US President Donald Trump will meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and other business leaders on Monday to assess possible actions to stem the fallout from a growing coronavirus epidemic, Reuters told an administrative officer.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, the United States, on March 9, 2020. REUTERS / Bryan R Smith

The Trump administration, which downplayed the threat posed by the epidemic, weighs a number of potential policy measures, including paid sick leave, the official said on condition of anonymity.

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States was 566, including 22 deaths, according to state public health authorities and an ongoing national count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

About three-quarters of the 50 US states have reported COVID-19 respiratory disease infections that can cause pneumonia.

US stock markets, which have sold in the past two weeks, fearing that the coronavirus epidemic will drag the global economy into a recession, plummeted when the markets opened Monday, triggering a halt to trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The main American indices fell more than 4% at the end of the morning.

Asked about the latest plunge in the stock market, US Health Secretary Alex Azar told reporters that the federal government is actively working on the crisis. "We take COVID-19 incredibly seriously," he said.

Trump, often points to the stock market as a gauge of his economic record, has criticized media coverage of the epidemic and accused Democrats of hyping the situation "far beyond what the facts would justify. "

The Republican President had no coronavirus-related events in his schedule until Monday.

INTERRUPTIONS

The coronavirus epidemic, which started in China at the end of last year, has spread to at least 105 countries and territories. More than 110,000 people have been infected and around 3,800 have died. Italy, which has the second highest death toll, has cordoned off much of its wealthy industrial north in an effort to contain the epidemic.

As flu-like illness spreads, daily life in the United States has been increasingly disrupted, with concerts and conferences canceled and universities telling students to stay home and take online courses .

Anthony Fauci, head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health in the United States, told CNN that the epidemic was changing and that the United States was in a "fog of war" similar to the early days of the HIV epidemics and avian flu.

Fauci and other health officials say older Americans, especially those with chronic medical conditions, should probably avoid large social gatherings, cruise ships and air flights, given the rapid spread coronavirus.

Warnings from Fauci and others about the need for greater "social distancing" – the practice of minimizing unnecessary contact in public places – came in the middle of the disclosure of an example High profile of the risks now inherent in large gatherings.

Senator Ted Cruz and US representative Paul Gosar announced over the weekend that they would self-quarantine after coming into contact at a conservative political conference with a participant who was subsequently tested positive for the virus.

Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, who leads the administration's response to the crisis, also attended the conference. The White House said there was no indication that they contacted the infected participant.

White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told Fox News that she was confident that Trump would not get sick. The President "is quite a hand basin. He uses a hand sanitizer. He is not at all concerned about this. "

As recently as Saturday, Trump said he would continue to organize political rallies, which sometimes attract as many as 20,000 people. Key Democrats vying to challenge him in the November 3 presidential election, Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden, have so far canceled no events the country.

CRUISE SHIP CRISIS

The hardest hit place in the U.S. is a nursing home on the outskirts of Seattle in Kirkland, and Washington State is considering mandatory measures such as banning large gatherings, but not necessarily the imposition of massive quarantines.

The Life Care Center nursing home is responsible for 13 of the 18 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in Washington State.

In California, authorities are moving ahead with a plan to disembark 2,400 passengers aboard the cruise ship Grand Princess, which was prevented from returning to San Francisco last week due to an epidemic of coronavirus on board.

Most of the passengers will go to quarantine centers at four military bases across the country, those requiring immediate medical care going to hospitals. The crew of 1,100 will be quarantined and treated on board the ship, unless they require acute care off the ship.

The ship was ordered to stay at sea last week after a group of passengers and crew developed flu-like symptoms, and health officials learned that some passengers from a previous cruise on the same ship later contracted a coronavirus. One is dead.

California has more than 100 confirmed cases.

The number of people who tested positive throughout New York State rose to 142 from 105 the day before, Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday.

Slideshow (3 Pictures)

Most of the cases are in Westchester County, where a Manhattan lawyer who is believed to be at the center of the epidemic resides, Cuomo said at a press conference.

Rick Cotton, executive director of the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, which controls airports and other major travel centers, has tested positive for coronavirus and will be quarantined and working from home, added Cuomo.

Report by Steve Holland, Susan Heavey and Lisa Lambert in Washington and Nathan Layne in New York; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Bill Berkrot

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