US coronavirus cases pass 1,500 as panic over outbreak spreads

Markets suffer dramatic fall amid calls for President Trump to be tested for virus

FILE PHOTO: Members of a Servpro cleanup crew wearing hazardous material suits prepare to enter Life Care Center of Kirkland, the Seattle-area nursing home at the epicenter of one of the biggest coronavirus outbreaks in the United States, in Kirkland, Washington, U.S. March 11, 2020.  REUTERS/Jason Redmond/File Photo

Coronavirus cases in the US on Thursday exceeded 1,500 and have now been confirmed in 46 states as markets plunged, more schools closed and gatherings were banned across the country.

As of Thursday afternoon, there were 1,504 cases in the US, The New York Times reported.

Washington state continued to report the highest number of new infections, confirming 373, while Wyoming, North Dakota and Maine each registered one case.

Nearly 40 deaths have been reported across the US so far.

 

Financial markets continued to plummet after a speech by US President Donald Trump announcing a 30-day travel ban extending across most of Europe.

The Dow Jones was down 2,100 points, or 8.9 per cent, in the early afternoon, while the S&P 500 was off by 8.2 per cent.

Disney announced it would close its theme parks from Friday until the end of the month starting on Friday for what is reportedly only the fourth time.

The other three closures followed the September 11 attacks, the Northridge earthquake and the national day of mourning after the assassination of President John F Kennedy.

Questions were raised on Thursday about Mr Trump’s exposure to the virus, after Fabio Wajngarten, communications secretary to Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, tested positive. He met the US President last week in Florida.

Mr Wajngarten posted a photograph on Instagram with Mr Trump and Vice President Mike Pence from March 8, prompting calls to test the US leaders.

But White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham insisted the two had “almost no interactions” and that there was no need for a test.

The fast-spreading virus also forced more US politicians to quarantine themselves, bringing the number up to nine.

Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz, Doug Collins, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar, Mark Meadows, Julia Brownley, Rick Scott, and Don Beyer have now isolated themselves to contain the spread of the virus.

But the Senate on Thursday cancelled its week-long pause to address the coronavirus outbreak and pass legislation.

The Democratic frontrunner for presidential candidacy, Joe Biden, without mentioning Mr Trump by name, criticised his administration’s response to the crisis.

In Delaware on Thursday, Mr Biden said that downplaying the pandemic “or spreading misinformation is only going to hurt us and further advantage the spread of the disease. But neither should we panic or fall back on xenophobia".

“Labelling Covid-19 a foreign virus does not displace accountability for the misjudgments,” he said.

Mr Biden called for a more urgent search for vaccines and a greater economic response.

Across the US, states including New York and Utah banned large gatherings, while Maryland ordered all schools to be closed.

The National Collegiate Athletic Association said on Thursday that it would cancel its men’s and women’s basketball tournaments because of Covid-19, following suit with the NBA and other sports leagues that have cut fixtures

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