The U.S. State Department on Thursday warned Americans to no longer travel abroad, and urged those already abroad to return, for fear they may become stranded as other countries increasingly lock down in the coronavirus pandemic.
Italy has surpassed China in total deaths connected to the coronavirus, with the country reporting 3,405 fatalities as of Thursday afternoon Eastern Time.
For the first time since the global coronavirus outbreak began, China has reported no new domestic cases of the illness.
Only eight deaths were reported for Wednesday, all of which occurred in Hubei province, which includes the city of Wuhan where the pandemic started. Globally, the number of coronavirus cases has topped 200,000, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Efforts to contain the spread of the virus in the U.S. and Europe have brought life in many major cities to a standstill, and governments are launching a variety of aid packages meant to alleviate the worst of the economic impact.
Markets were calmer on Thursday with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing slightly up by around 200 points.
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San Francisco Mayor London Breed said Thursday that bicycle repair shops may remain open during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown as the city continues to refine what it means to be “essential.”
Outdoor exercise is allowed in San Francisco under Breed’s public health order shutting down non-essential activities, but bike shops had generally closed their doors when the order took effect Tuesday.
Testing for coronavirus, and number of positive tests, spike at VA
As of Thursday, the Veterans Health Administration has administered more than 848 tests nationwide, and recorded 83 total positive test results and one death in the Portland, Oregon, VA system.
That is a more than 150 percent increase in the number of reported tests from the total released by the VA Wednesday, and a nearly 100 percent increase in the number of positive test results.
The death number has not changed since March 14, when that first death occurred.
Photo: Shopping for the Persian New Year
How long has coronavirus really been in New York City?
The New York City Department of Health has published data showing that influenza-like illness reports to city emergency rooms began to increase starting March 1, which the agency is calling “unusual” and is investigating.
In addition, the number of pneumonia admissions to city ERs rose concurrently with the flu symptoms.
The two increases occurred a month after flu-like cases started to decrease in ERs. In other words, once the regular flu died down, did the new jump signify the arrival of COVID-19?
Early observations show pollution decline as U.S. cities slow
Early observations have found that extreme social-distancing measures in San Francisco, New York City and the Seattle area are likely contributing to temporary drops in the concentration of fine particulate matter — tiny particles in the air that are dangerous because they can be breathed deeply into the lungs — in all three cities.
Jordan Wildish, a project director at Earth Economics, an environmental non-profit organization based in Tacoma, Washington, developed an online dashboard to track air quality in all three regions, comparing the measurements with figures from the same time last year.
In San Francisco, which is under shelter-in-place orders to control the spread of the coronavirus, the average concentration of fine particulate matter over the past five days was almost 40 percent lower than the previous year. In New York City, there was a 28 percent drop over the same period of time, and the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue saw a 32 percent decrease.
These local statistics follow similar trends that have been seen country-wide for nations that have also been under widespread quarantine orders. Satellite observations observed drops in airborne nitrogen dioxide in both China and Italy over the past two months.
Italy’s death toll has surpassed China’s
Italy has overtaken China as the country with the most deaths related to the coronavirus outbreak, registering 3,405 fatalities.
China has so far reported 3,242 coronavirus-related deaths.
Coronavirus threatens to shut schools until the fall
When Gov. Laura Kelly this week made Kansas the first state to order all public and private schools closed through the end of the school year to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, she created a host of challenges.
Her move — which many suspect will soon be followed by other governors across the country — has thrown into turmoil everything from college admissions to kindergarten readiness.
It’s triggered deep sadness among students, parents and teachers, who will miss important rituals and celebrations, as well as serious concerns for the children whose lives and learning have been disrupted.
Read the full story here.
Photo: ‘Fearless Girl’ dons a mask
Local officials close Florida beaches after governor refused
Local officials in Florida are closing beaches amid the coronavirus outbreak after Gov. Ron DeSantis refused to do so — even as spring breakers and others crowded the shores.
Beaches are or will be closed in these cities and counties:
The mayors Miami Beach and Fort Lauderdale issued orders to close their beaches this past Sunday.
Public beaches in the city of Tampa are closed until further notice. Naples announced Wednesday that it would close its beaches until March 30.
All public beaches in Miami-Dade County will close Thursday night. Beaches in Lee County, where tourist hot spots Fort Myers and Sanibel are, will also close Thursday night.
On Wednesday, Clearwater voted to close its beaches starting Monday, March 23. Pinellas County, where Clearwater and St. Petersburg are located, voted Thursday afternoon to close its beaches starting Friday and until at least April 6.
State Dept. to tell Americans not to travel abroad
The State Department is expected to raise its global travel advisory to the Level 4, the highest possible, warning Americans against traveling abroad amid the coronavirus pandemic, two U.S. officials with knowledge told NBC News.
The guidance comes as Americans traveling in countries abroad struggle to make their way home amid widespread border closures and nationwide quarantines as countries scramble to contain the outbreak.
The decision comes less than a week after State Department raised its global travel advisory to level 3, telling Americans to reconsider travel.
The State Department has not yet responded to NBC News request for comment.