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White House Task Force: Avoid gatherings of more than 10, elderly should stay home

The White House Coronavirus Task Force announced on Monday that American should avoid gatherings of more than 10, and to avoid schools and restaurants. (Getty Images)

The White House is recommending that older people and those with underlying health conditions “stay home and away from other people” as it continues to step up efforts to halt the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The White House is laying out steps it is encouraging Americans to take as part of a campaign that it is calling, “15 days to slow the spread.”

Officials recommend that large swaths of the population isolate themselves and everyone avoid social gatherings or groups of more than 10 people.

They also want Americans to work from home if possible, avoid eating or drinking in bars and restaurants, and “avoid discretionary travel, shopping trips, and social visits.”

The White House is also advising governors in states with evidence of community transmission to close schools and says that states with evidence of community spread should close restaurants, bars, gyms, and other venues where people gather.

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The United Nations says its teams around the world are working with government authorities to help prepare and respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including providing full-time staff, fast-tracking procurement of essential items and helping get emergency funding including from the World Bank.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Monday that an unprecedented number of children, young people and adults are not attending schools or university because of the COVID-19 virus. UNESCO says 56 countries have closed schools nationwide, affecting more than 516 million children and youth.

Dujarric says the U.N. World Food Program said Monday it is providing $500,000 worth of ventilators and oxygenation equipment to help China’s frontline hospitals in Hubei, where the COVID-19 outbreak began, to treat critically ill patients.
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Sirens blared across Puerto Rico’s busiest beaches as police cleared hundreds of tourists from the U.S. territory’s coast in a crackdown on people violating a newly imposed curfew aimed at curbing the new coronavirus.

Using loudspeakers, police in patrol cars ordered people off the beach Monday: “Please stay at home. Governor’s executive orders. The beach is closed.”

The sweep surprised many tourists in the capital of San Juan, some of whom disregarded orders to stay inside their hotels on a sunny day.

“Why would I get sick at the beach? I’m not going to be touching anything,” said 46-year-old David Zimmer of Richmond, Minnesota, as he joined a group of family and friends flip-flopping their way to a beach that police had driven through just an hour ago to empty it out.

Other tourists heeded the warnings and shuffled back to their hotels, many carrying take-out meals before locking themselves in.
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The Russian government says that it has decided to bar entry to all foreigners starting Wednesday.

Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin announced the decision Monday to deny entry to all foreign nationals starting from Wednesday until May 1.

The decision will not apply to diplomats, foreigners permanently staying in Russia, plane and ship crews and truck drivers.
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Actor Idris Elba says he has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Elba tweeted Monday that he has no symptoms so far and has been isolated since Friday when he found out about his possible exposure.

Elba is the latest high profile celebrity to have tested positive for the virus. Last week, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson said they had also tested positively in Australia.

Elba in a video message said that his wife has not been tested yet but is feeling OK.

“This is serious. Now’s really the time to think about social distancing, washing your hands,” Elba said.
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With the coronavirus spreading, people can’t be blamed for wanting an island hideout. One island in Maine has made it clear: Newcomers are not welcome.
The North Haven Select Board voted Sunday to ban visitors and seasonal residents immediately to prevent the spread of the coronavirus to the Penobscot Bay island, where there have been no cases yet.

Maine has 15 islands reachable only by boat or airplane that are inhabited year-round. Rob Snyder from the Island Institute said North Haven is the only one so far to resort to such a drastic measure to protect islanders from the virus.

The town, which has a year-round population of about 375, has an older population and it’s so small that it could be overwhelmed if people become sick. The town has only one medical clinic and the emergency medical technicians are all volunteers.
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The lead U.S. agency handling the coronavirus outbreak says it is investigating a potential cyber incident.
Federal agencies are under continual cyberattack, and the Department of Health and Human Services said in a statement Monday that it had put extra protections in place as it prepared to deal with the coronavirus.

Spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement that the department on Sunday “became aware of a significant increase in activity on HHS cyber infrastructure and are fully operational as we actively investigate the matter.”

HHS said it’s coordinating with federal law enforcement to find out what happened.
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A day after the Dutch government sparked panic buying of pot from the country’s famed weed-selling coffee shops by announcing they had to close for three weeks, authorities said the shops can reopen — but only for takeaway sales.

People hoping to stock up on weed formed long queues outside coffee shops across the country Sunday night after the government ordered bars, restaurants and coffee shops closed for three weeks in an effort to tackle the spread of the coronavirus.

In a clarification of the closure order, the government said Monday that restaurants and coffee shops can remain open “for orders that are to be picked up.”
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he will close the border anyone not a citizen or a permanent resident amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Trudeau announced the move Monday outside his residence, where is self-isolating after his wife tested positive for the virus. He also asked all to Canadians to say home as much as possible amid the pandemic.

Trudeau says his government will restrict flights to Canada to airports in four major cities. Canada is mandating air carriers to screen passengers with symptoms of the novel coronavirus out of lines so they don’t board planes home.

He said the country is taking “increasingly aggressive steps” to keep everyone safe.
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Britain is dramatically ramping up measures to combat the new coronavirus, telling U.K. residents to avoid “all unnecessary contact” with others.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson says people should work from home whenever possible and avoid pubs, theaters and restaurants. If anyone in a household has a fever or persistent cough, everyone there should stay at home for 14 days.

He said that these new restrictions are “particularly important” for people over 70, pregnant women and those with underlying health conditions. Johnson said the most vulnerable should be shielded from social contact for 12 weeks starting this weekend.

Until Monday, the U.K. had resisted taking some of the tough measures seen in other European countries. But Johnson said that the “without drastic action” cases of the virus in the U.K. could double every five to six days.
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A top World Health Organization outbreak expert says evidence shows that children can be infected with the new coronavirus but tend to have “mild infection” and said officials are “not seeing transmission in settings like schools.”

Maria Van Kerkhove, technical lead for WHO’s emergencies program, cautioned Monday that “we have seen children die from this infection, so we can’t say universally it’s mild in children.”

“From the evidence that we are seeing, we’re not seeing transmission in settings like schools — where we would worry about amplification of transmission,” she told a news conference at WHO headquarters in Geneva.

She said children appear to be infected at a lower rate than adults, “which is different to what we would see from influenza.”
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Organizers of the biggest international Arctic research expedition say they are suspending aerial survey campaigns after being hit bit government restrictions and a positive case of the new coronavirus.

Germany’s Alfred Wegener Institute said Monday that a researcher who was due to participate in the MOSAiC mission tested positive for the virus in Bremen last week, forcing organizers to postpone plans to conduct survey flights focusing on the atmosphere and sea ice.

A Norwegian government requirement for all travelers from non-Nordic countries to be placed in quarantine for 14 days caused expedition organizers to suspend the aerial survey campaigns entirely.

The main expedition remains ongoing aboard the German icebreaker Polarstern currently in the Arctic. Organizers say a planned crew rotation by plane in early April “should – barring unforeseen developments – still be possible.”
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Switzerland’s government has declared a state of emergency, ordering shops, restaurants, bars and other facilities to be shut down in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The measures exclude health care operations and supermarkets but include entertainment and leisure facilities, which will be closed until April 19.

The nation, which had already implemented border controls on people coming from risk areas, extended them to include checks on the borders with Germany, Austria and France.

The government approved the use of up to 8,000 members of the military to help in hospitals, as well as where needed with logistics and security.
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The U.S. Transportation Security Administration says that at least six screening officers at three airports in two states have now tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

TSA reported the most recent case Sunday at the Orlando International Airport in Florida. The agency says on its website that the officer’s last day at work was March 10.

It said some security checkpoints may close as a result but gave no immediate details.

TSA says all fellow employees who came into contact with the officer who tested positive are in self-quarantine at home for 14 days.
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Spain is restoring border controls and severely restricting who can enter the country.

Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska announced Monday that beginning at midnight only Spaniards or residents in Spain, people who work just across the border or who have a compelling need will be allowed through.

Spain has borders with France and Portugal, as well as with the British territory of Gibraltar, the principality of Andorra and with Morocco, due to its two North African enclaves.

Spain is the fourth-most infected country in the world, with more than 9,000 cases and 309 fatalities.
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The head of the World Health Organization says social distancing and other measures to limit contact between people can help fight the spread of the coronavirus, but testing people who might have the disease is its No. 1 priority.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says the COVID-19 outbreak is the “defining global health crisis of our time” and will “be a test of our resolve.”

“We have not seen an urgent enough escalation in testing, isolation and contact tracing, which is the backbone of the response” to determine who is sick, he said.

“You cannot fight a fire blindfolded and we cannot stop this pandemic if we don’t know who is infected,” he said. “We have a simple message for all countries: test, test, test.”
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The multimillion-dollar effort to reconstruct Paris’ Notre Dame cathedral is being suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The former French army chief who French President Emmanuel Macron chose to lead the yearslong restoration project announced the decision Monday.

The public restoration body Gen. Jean-Louis Georgelin oversees says the general believed safety measures against the coronavirus put in place, such as “minimum security distances,” mean that it is impossible to continue restoration work at this stage.

On Monday, Paris parks such as the historic Buttes Chaumont created by Emperor Napoleon III in 1867 will also close to the public as the city restricts its population’s movement to contain the COVID-19 crisis.
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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.