Italy is locking down much of the north, its economic engine.
Italy’s government is taking the extraordinary step of locking down entire sections of the country’s north, restricting movement for a quarter of the population in a sweeping effort to fight the coronavirus not seen outside of China.
“We are facing an emergency, a national emergency,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in announcing the government decree in a news conference after 2 a.m.
The move is tantamount to sacrificing the Italian economy in the short term to save it from the ravages of the virus in the long term. The measures will turn stretches of Italy’s wealthy north — including the economic and cultural capital of Milan and landmark tourist destinations such as Venice — into quarantined red zones until at least April 3. They will prevent the free movement of roughly 16 million people.
Funerals and cultural events are all banned under the measures. The decree requires that people keep a distance of at least one meter from one another at sporting events, bars, churches and supermarkets.
The Italian outbreak, already the worst in Europe and the worst outside of Asia, has inflicted serious damage on one of the Continent’s most fragile economies and prompted the closing of Italy’s schools.
Italy’s cases more than doubled this week from about 2,500 infections on Wednesday to more than 5,800 on Saturday, according to the Italian authorities and the World Health Organization. Deaths rose by 36, to 233.
Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of Italy’s governing coalition’s Democratic Party, announced that he was now a patient. “Well, it’s arrived,” he said in a Facebook video from his home. He said he would follow all the protocols suggested by the authorities, who have urged infected people to self-quarantine.
France is also now one of the main centers of the epidemic in Europe. Health authorities on Saturday reported two more deaths, both in northern France, and 103 new infections, since Friday. France now has a total of 949 cases, including a member of the French Parliament.
France, Germany and other countries have imposed limits on the export of protective medical equipment, some of which is badly needed but in short supply.
In Spain, about 470 people have the virus, and fatalities reached 10 on Saturday. Barcelona officials have called off a marathon scheduled for March 15, but a big street rally on Sunday in Madrid for International Women’s Day will go ahead as planned.
The smallest E.U. nation, Malta, reported its first confirmed case on Saturday: a 12-year-old girl recently returned from a vacation in northern Italy. Her condition was described as good.
Attendee of conservative conference where Trump and Pence spoke tests positive.
An attendee of a conservative conference where President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence spoke last week has tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the host of the conference.
The American Conservative Union, which hosts the annual Conservative Political Action Conference outside Washington, said the attendee was exposed to the virus before the four-day event and tested positive for it on Saturday.
“This attendee had no interaction with the president or the vice president and never attended the events in the main hall,” the group said in a statement. “The Trump administration is aware of the situation, and we will continue regular communication with all appropriate government officials.”
The attendee has been quarantined in New Jersey, the statement said.
Mr. Trump said on Saturday that he was not worried that the infections seemed to be getting closer to the White House.
“No, I’m not concerned at all, no,” he told reporters at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, where he was spending the weekend.
Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, said in a statement that there was “no indication that either President Trump or Vice President Pence met with or were in close proximity to the attendee.”
Others who spoke at the conference included Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia.
Also in attendance were Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and adviser, and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son.
The American Conservative Union has said that the event draws thousands.
The group’s chairman, Matt Schlapp, said he had had “incidental interaction with the person,” and added, “I feel bad for my friend who is in the hospital.”“We’ve talked to him,” he said. “He sounds very good.”
At the conference, which draws thousands, Mr. Trump gave his administration good grades for its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, while his acting chief of staff at the time, Mick Mulvaney, said in a separate speech that journalists were hyping the coronavirus because “they think this will bring down the president.”
Mr. Mulvaney also minimized concerns over the virus.
“The flu kills people,” he said. “This is not Ebola. It’s not SARS, it’s not MERS. It’s not a death sentence; it’s not the same as the Ebola crisis.”
What everyone wants to know: What’s the fatality rate?
Understanding how deadly the coronavirus can be is a central factor for governments to gauge how drastic their countermeasures should be and for individuals to adjust their own anxiety.
But the real rate is elusive.
The World Health Organization’s estimate this week of 3.4 percent seemed to shock experts, some of whom said that 1 percent was more realistic.
There are several reasons we still don’t know the right number.
Not enough people have been tested. Incomplete testing means the reported death rates probably skew high; if many more cases were detected, the rates would fall. Until this week, people in the United States were only tested if they had traveled to China or had contact with other ill people. We now know that there were many infected people in the country who weren’t being counted.
The number of coronavirus deaths could also be incomplete. Cases where infected people died without being tested might be missed. And people can be infected for a long time before becoming sick enough to be at risk of death — which can throw off a short-term calculation.
The rate won’t be the same everywhere. Experts say differences in populations and health systems can raise or lower the death rate by country. For example, there is strong evidence that older people are at a higher risk of dying, so countries with more elderly may end up with a higher rate.
The Trump administration continues to send mixed messages on who can get a coronavirus test kit.
President Trump said “anyone who wants a test can get a test” on Friday as he toured the Atlanta headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary, later clarified Mr. Trump’s promise and defended his phrasing.
Mr. Azar said only those who have gone through a doctor or medical professional can be approved for a test. Mr. Trump’s phrasing, he said, was a reflection of a recent shift in federal regulations.
The C.D.C. lifted all restrictions on testing for the coronavirus on Wednesday. Instead of federal regulators and those shipping the test kits, doctors and professional public health officials now decide who can get tested.
Mr. Azar said Mr. Trump used “shorthand” to make that point.
Dr. Stephen Hahn, the F.D.A. commissioner, said that more than 5,860 samples have been tested. In addition, more than 1.1 million tests have been shipped to private health labs and hundreds of thousands more are being surveyed for quality at the C.D.C., he added.
Despite Mr. Azar’s assurance that any ill person with a doctor’s recommendation can readily obtain a test, health professionals and patients across the country have clamored for tests believed to be in short supply.
In California, only 516 tests had been conducted as of Thursday. Health officials in Washington State have more cases than they can process. In New York City, officials have pleaded for more test kits from the C.D.C.
State officials facing a growing number of cases criticized the Trump administration this weekend for what they described as its contradictions. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York said that he was “battling” mixed messages, with the president saying anybody can get a test and the vice president saying we don’t have enough tests to meet the anticipated demand.
A Starbucks employee tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting a downtown Seattle shop to close.
After a Starbucks employee was confirmed to have the virus on Friday, the company immediately closed the downtown Seattle store and issued a statement saying it is following health authority guidelines to protect customers and employees.
The company, founded in Seattle in the early 1970s, also said it was taking additional steps to reduce the risk of exposure at its stores, including barring customers from using their own coffee containers.
The coronavirus has hit the Seattle area harder than anywhere else in the United States, with 16 deaths in Washington State, most from a nursing home northeast of the city. The virus and its public health implications have rippled through the community, affecting how and where people work and gather.
Many employees and students at the University of Washington, for example, are working and taking classes remotely.
“Seattle is freaking out,” said Lenny Galaviz as he stopped to take a photograph through a window of the closed store, a Starbucks Reserve where alcohol is also served and glass beakers are lined up for specialty drinks.
Reporting and research were contributed by Jason Horowitz, Amie Tsang, Kirk Johnson, Noah Weiland and Michael Levenson.