The Latest: IRC starts $30M campaign to aid vulnerable areas

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People wearing face masks walk at a down town street in Hong Kong Monday, March 16, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

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The Latest on the coronaviruspandemic, which has infected more than 180,000 people and killed more than 7,100. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms but most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or people with existing health problems. More than 78,000 people have recovered from it so far, mostly in China.

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The International Rescue Committee is launching an emergency campaign to raise $30 million to help refugees, people displaced in their own countries and those living in nations with weak health systems respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

IRC President and CEO David Miliband said that “while coronavirus is a serious threat where there is a health system, its dangers are magnified in communities where there is no such system.”

He said in a statement that “refugees, families displaced from their homes, and those living in crisis will be hit the hardest by this outbreak.”

COVID-19 is now confirmed in crisis-affected countries where the IRC operates like Afghanistan, Iraq, Burkina Faso and Venezuela, Miliband said, warning that the virus “will thrive in active war zones like Yemen and Syria, putting the lives of thousands of civilians in even more danger.”

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A Pennsylvania distillery owner who grew increasingly angry as he saw the skyrocketing price of hand sanitizer has decided to temporarily convert his operation into a production line for the suddenly hard-to-find, alcohol-based disinfectant.

Eight Oaks Farm Distillery filled its first 20 bottles Monday, a batch destined for charitable groups that need hand sanitizer but haven’t been able to get it because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The family-owned distillery plans to dramatically boost production this week and distribute the bottles to charities as well as offer them online and at farmers markets where it sells its spirits. The price: Whatever people decide to donate.

Other distilleries are also putting their spirits to work to help fill the shortage of hand sanitizers. Green Mountain Distillers is Morrisville, Vermont, is giving away a hand sanitizing solution and Durham Distillery in Durham, North Carolina, is donating one to hospitality colleagues, using high-proof alcohol and other ingredients.

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Health officials report that six more people have died of the new coronavirus in Washington state, bringing the death toll there to 48.

King County officials said Monday that the latest victims ranged in age from 50 to a woman in her 90s who was a resident of nursing center in Redmond. None was identified as being a resident of the Life Care Center in Kirkland, which has been the epicenter of the virus in the state.

Washington has nearly two-thirds of the total coronavirus deaths in the United States.

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The governor of the only U.S. state without a confirmed case of the new coronavirus has declared a state of emergency so certain rules on personnel and purchasing could be waived.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice said Monday that he doesn’t want the state to be “asleep at the switch” because it hasn’t had a positive test.

Justice has repeatedly said the virus is likely in the state but is undetected because of a national lack of testing.

U.S. Sen Joe Manchin, a Democrat, echoed concerns about the small amount of available testing.

“If it gets a hold of our state, we don’t have the health care in order to defend ourselves. It could be devastating,” he said in a conference call.

About 20% of West Virginia’s population is over age 65, one of the highest rates in the nation.

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President Donald Trump says the United States “may be” headed toward a recession as the economy continues to be battered amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump spoke to reporters Monday at a White House briefing as cases in the U.S. continue to spike.

The president says his administration’s focus is on stemming the virus. Once the spread of the virus is stopped, Trump said he believes the U.S. economy will see a “tremendous, tremendous surge.”

The president also is pledging federal support for airlines struggling because of the pandemic, saying he’s “going to back the airlines 100%.”

Trump also says governors that need ventilators, respirators, masks and other equipment for medical professionals should first try to acquire the items on their own before turning to the federal government for help.

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France is imposing nationwide restrictions on how far from their homes people can go and for what purpose as part of the country’s strategy to stop the spread of the new coronavirus.

French President Emmanuel Macron said “movements will be very strongly reduced” for 15 days starting at midday Tuesday.

He says residents will only be permitted to leave their homes for necessary trips such as going to work or the supermarket.

Macron said in televised remarks that the government decided to order the restrictions because people haven’t complied with earlier public health measures and “we are at war.”

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Officials in six San Francisco Bay area counties have issued a shelter-in-place mandate affecting nearly 7 million people.

The order issued Monday says residents must stay inside and venture out only for necessities for three weeks starting Tuesday in a desperate attempt by officials to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The order affects the counties of San Francisco, Marin, Santa Clara, San Mateo, Alameda and Contra Costa, as well as the city of Berkeley.

People should work from home unless they provide essential services such as public safety, sanitation and health care.

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Top public health officials are urging Americans to abide by new recommendations aimed at halting the spread of the coronavirus that will dramatically alter American life.

The White House is urging all older Americans and those with underlying health conditions to stay home and away from other people. And it is recommending that all Americans work from home, avoid bars and restaurants, and avoid social gatherings or groups of more than ten people.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci says the recommendations are commensurate to the crisis and warns that, “They will fail if people don’t adhere to them”

Trump says the U.S. could be coping with the virus until July or August,” and maybe “longer than that.”

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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.

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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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.

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