The Latest: US CDC recommends strict 8-week limit on crowds

Coronavirus

Vice President Mike Pence points to a question as he speaks during a briefing about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 167,000 people and killed more than 6,400. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms but most people, but severe symptoms are more common in the elderly or people with other health conditions. Nearly 76,000 people have recovered from it so far, mostly in China.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that gatherings of 50 people or more in US be canceled or postponed over the next eight weeks because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The dramatic recommendation Sunday night came Americans struggled to come to terms with how to change their daily habits.

The CDC added that proper precautions should be taken at any event, including making sure people are washing their hands and not getting too close.

But in a sign of the difficulty of striking the right balance, the statement from the CDC also said the recommendation does not apply to “the day to day operation of organizations such as schools, institutes of higher learning, or businesses.”

The death toll from COVID-19 in the United States climbed to 64, while about 3,500 have been infected with the virus that causes it.

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An emergency room doctor at a suburban Seattle hospital that has treated many people with coronavirus has contracted the disease.

EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington, said in a statement Sunday that the doctor was in “critical condition but stable.”

At least 42 people have died from COVID-19 in Washington and there are more than 750 confirmed cases statewide.

Dr. Liam Yore, the immediate past president of the Washington Chapter of the American College of Emergency Physicians, told The Seattle Times the doctor was in his 40s.

Yore told the newspaper the doctor had used personal protective equipment and that it was not known whether the physician contracted COVID-19 in the community or at work.

Twenty-nine of the deaths in Washington state are linked to the Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing home at the center of the outbreak in the hard-hit region.

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A gun store customer that gave his name only at John waits in line, Sunday, March 15, 2020, in Burbank, Calif. As consumers are buying all kinds of goods in large quantities amid coronavirus concerns, putting pressure on inventories, John stated that he was there to buy ammunition because most other stores were out and he wanted to stock up. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Guatemala has confirmed the Central American nation’s first death from the new coronavirus.

The Health Ministry announced in a Sunday news conference that the patient was an 85-year-old man who had traveled to Spain recently. He died in the department, or province, of Guatemala that comprises the capital Guatemala City.

The ministry said there would be no wake and the man’s body would be buried immediately.

Health Minister Hugo Monroy said the condition of another patient, age 27, who also tested positive for the virus was “evolving positively.”

The first of Guatemala’s two cases was announced Friday.

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Schools in Massachusetts will close for at least three weeks and all gatherings of more than 25 people will be banned in the latest attempt to arrest the spread of the coronavirus, Gov. Charlie Baker announced Sunday.

The governor also ordered all bars and dine-in restaurants to close for a month. Take-away and delivery services won’t be affected by the rules, nor will grocery stores or pharmacies.

“I realize these measures are unprecedented,” Baker, a Republican, said at a news conference announcing the directives. “But we’re asking our residents to take a deep breath and understand the rationale behind this guidance.”

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The Czech government has imposed further restrictions on public movements in an effort to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus.

Prime Minister Andre Babis said the government is declaring a quarantine for the entire country, an unprecedented measure in his country’s history that will become effective Monday.

Babis said the government bans traveling in the country, apart from those going to work or if the travel is linked to performing a particular job.

People will be allowed to shop and visit doctors and hospitals. Also, the visits of family members and close relatives won’t be banned.

Babis said the government orders the citizens “to limit the movement at public spaces to a necessary minimum” and “to limit the contacts with other people to a bare minimum.”

The Czech Republic has 253 cases of COVID-19, 64 more than the previous day – the biggest day-to-day increase so far.

Also on Monday, the Czechs imposed further travel restrictions, barring all foreigners from entry except those who have residency in the country. At the same time, Czech citizens are not allowed to travel abroad.

Checks on the border with Austria and Germany have been renewed and the government is deploying the military to guard the border on Monday.

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An employee of the pubic transport company wearing protective equipment walks during the daily disinfection of busses, part of the procedures to limit the spread of the coronavirus, in the early morning hours in Bucharest, Romania, Sunday, March 15, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro has ordered residents in the capital of Caracas and six states to stay home under a quarantine bid to control the spread of the coronavirus.

Under Maduro´s order, all but essential emergency service, health care and food distribution workers must remain home beginning early Monday. Venezuela has 23 states and the six ones chosen are where cases have appeared.

Venezuela’s socialist president said in a national television address Sunday that the South American country has 17 confirmed cases. There have been no reported deaths.

Authorities announced the first two cases Friday, raising anxiety in the crisis-stricken nation where many hospitals lack basics, such as water and soap, and struggle to treat even common ailments.

Authorities have already suspended flights from Europe, Colombia, the Dominican Republic and Panama for 30 days. School and university classes have been suspended.

Colombian President Iván Duque closed its long border with Venezuela as a containment measure.

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Vice President Mike Pence says the federal government will release updated guidance concerning restaurants, bars and other establishments amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Pence said at a White House briefing Sunday that the recommendations are being reviewed and will be made public on Monday.

California and Illinois are among the jurisdictions that have ordered restaurants and bars to close to help slow the spread of the virus.

When asked whether restaurants and bars should close, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s infectious disease chief, said he didn’t want to get ahead of the promised guidance but said “that could be.”

Fauci promised to answer in greater detail after the guidance has been issued.

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Starbucks says it’s moving to a to-go model for all its stores in the U.S. and Canada for at least two weeks over concern about the new coronavirus.

The Seattle-based coffee giant said Sunday it is closing seating in its cafes and patio areas, but customers can still order at the counter, at drive-thrus or on the Starbucks app.

The company will also temporary close stores in what it calls “high social-gathering locations,” such as malls and university campuses, and it will close stores or reduce hours in areas where there are clusters of COVID-19 cases.

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New York City is closing the nation’s largest public school system, sending over 1.1 million children home in hopes of curbing the spread of coronavirus.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that schools will close early this week. The decision follows a growing number of school closures in communities and states around the country, as well as mounting pressure in New York from residents, City Council members and others.

The shutdown affects the city’s nearly 1,900 public schools. Many private schools already have closed.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio had been reluctant to close the school system because of the consequences for students and families.

Just Saturday, the Democratic mayor said keeping schools running was critical. He worried that health care workers, first responders and other needed workers would have to stay home to care for children, and that hundreds of thousands of poor students could go hungry without their free or reduced-price school meals.

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President Donald Trump is urging the public to stop hoarding groceries, telling Americans to “take it easy” and “relax.”

Trump’s Sunday message comes as many supermarket shelves across the country have been picked bare, with people stockpiling supplies like canned goods and toilet paper.

Trump said at a White House briefing that stores are working to keep up with demand, but added “there’s no need for anyone in the country to hoard” essentials.

“You don’t have to buy so much. Take it easy. Just relax” because “it all will pass,” the president said, adding: “Can you buy a little bit less, please?”

Trump held a call earlier Sunday with the officials from the nation’s leading grocery stores. He said he was told the stores are stocking up even more than they would around Christmas time.

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Spain’s Defense Ministry said the government will deploy military units under a state of emergency that it has declared to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

The ministry said the emergency units, whose mission is to respond to domestic natural disasters and often assist in fighting wildfires, will go on a reconnaissance Sunday of areas considered virus hotspots. Those include Madrid, Sevilla, Valencia, Zaragoza, León and two of the Canary Islands.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Friday that he would include the deployment of military resources as part of a battery of measures to stem the contagion curve.

Using powers given it under the two-week state of emergency declared Saturday, Spain’s government has restricted movements to essential errands and commuting to and from work. It has also closed restaurants, bars and most retail shops.

Police units are enforcing the confinement, patrolling the streets and public areas like parks.

The ministry has also called up military doctors from the reserve and ordered for military pharmacies to increase production of disinfectant solutions and other generic medicines.

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Thousands of Brazilians ignored warnings to avoid mass gatherings and staged demonstrations in favor of President Jair Bolsonaro and against his antagonists in Congress and the Supreme Court on Sunday.

Bolsonaro himself had urged supporters to skip the demonstrations, which were announced weeks ago, due to the spread of the new coronavirus. But he apparently changed his mind Sunday morning, joining a rally in the capital of Brasilia where he shot selfies and shook hands with demonstrators.

Bolsonaro’s office announced Thursday that tests showed him free of the new virus despite his chief spokesman and other aides having tested positive following a visit to Washington, where they met U.S. President Donald Trump.

“This is priceless, what the people are doing in spite of my recommendation,” Bolsonaro said on Facebook Live.

Many of the protesters in Rio de Janeiro wore medical masks while carrying placards supporting the president.

“The corruption kills a lot more than the virus,” said Alisson de Oliveira, 42, though he acknowledged he was worried by the illness.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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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.

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