Coronavirus Live Updates: Long Waits at U.S. Airports for Inbound Passengers; Trump Tests Negative

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Travelers were reporting long lines and confusion at U.S. airports on Saturday as the president’s new European travel restrictions went into effect.

In addition to barring foreigners from 26 European countries, President Trump’s new restrictions funnel Americans to designated airports in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Virginia, Detroit, Dallas, Newark, Boston and Miami. The travelers were undergoing enhanced health screenings, and the crush of Americans returning from Europe appeared to be making those screenings that much harder.

Frustrated travelers shared images of the long lines on social media.

Rhea Paul, 70, a speech language pathology professor, landed at Kennedy International Airport at about noon on Saturday and said the American Airlines pilot made no mention of the coronavirus or what would happen once they got to New York during the eight-hour flight from Paris.

When they landed, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents wearing paper and plastic masks boarded the plane and handed passengers a questionnaire to fill out before leaving the plane. On the jetway, an agent took each person’s temperature.

John Mixon, 86, a retired law professor, said he waited nearly two hours at Kennedy International Airport after arriving from Amman, Jordan, missing his connecting flight to Houston because of the slow screening process.

Mr. Mixon said he and his wife were shuffled into a packed room with more than 100 others for hours before a few C.D.C. officials came in and asked everyone if they had been to China or Italy. Only one man raised his hand, and everyone else was told they could leave after getting their temperatures taken, Mr. Mixon said.

Since January, officers from Customs and Border Protection have been on heightened alert for travelers who might spread the virus. The Department of Homeland Security has told employees to look for physical symptoms, search through travel documents and review a federal tracking database.

Members of Congress this week grilled senior Homeland Security officials over what some described as a porous screening process. Even top officials at the department acknowledge that fully sealing the United States from the virus is impossible.

“We are trying to reduce and delay the biggest peak in the virus wave hitting on the United States of America,” said Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II, the acting deputy secretary of Homeland Security. “And all of these steps reduce and delay. They do not stop the virus.”

President Trump tested negative for the coronavirus, his doctor said in a memo released Saturday evening. The president’s health had been a concern since he spent time at his Florida resort last weekend with a Brazilian official who was later found to have the illness.

“One week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation at Mar-a-Lago, the president remains symptom-free,” said Dr. Sean P. Conley, Mr. Trump’s doctor, in that memo.

At a news conference earlier Saturday, Mr. Trump announced that he had been tested for the coronavirus on Friday night and was awaiting the results. Vice President Mike Pence also announced the extension of the administration’s European travel ban to the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Whether the president would be tested had been a matter of speculation since it first emerged that a member of a Brazilian delegation that visited Mar-a-Lago had tested positive. Two other people who were with the president at Mar-a-Lago have tested positive, and various members of Congress have been self-isolating after interacting with some of those same people.

Mr. Trump, wearing a “USA” baseball cap, said he decided to be tested for the coronavirus after his news conference on Friday, during which he declared a national emergency.

“People were asking, did I take the test,” he said.

Asked when he expected to have the result, Mr. Trump said, “A day, two days.”

“They send it to a lab,” he said.

It was unclear if Mr. Pence, who interacted with some of the infected Mar-a-Lago visitors, had known that the president was tested. Asked about his own status, Mr. Pence said, “I’m going to speak immediately after this news conference with the White House physician’s office,” which he said had previously advised him that neither he nor his wife needed to be tested.

The White House has begun checking the temperatures of anyone in close contact with Mr. Trump or Mr. Pence. White House staff checked the temperatures of everyone arriving at the news conference.

Reporters pressed Mr. Trump about “mixed messages,” asking about why he shook hands with a row of chief executives who attended his news conference on Friday where he announced a national emergency.

“It almost becomes a habit and you get out of that habit,” he said, noting that “getting away from shaking hands is a good thing.”

Mr. Pence said that, effective at midnight Monday night, the federal government’s European travel ban would apply to Britain and Ireland.

The House passed a sweeping relief package to assist people affected by the outbreak, after a roller-coaster day of negotiations on Friday, and it now goes to the Senate.

At the news conference, Mr. Trump signaled his approval of the measures, which he noted had bipartisan support.

“It was very nice to see it,” he said.

The measures in both countries follow similar moves in Italy, the hardest hit country in Europe. Italy has been locked down since early in the week, with only groceries, pharmacies and banks allowed to operate. On Saturday, the country reported 175 new deaths, with a total of 1,441, and 2,795 new cases, with the total crossing 21,000.

Officials in Louisiana, New York and Virginia reported their first deaths tied to the coronavirus on Saturday as the number of known cases nationally surged past 2,500. By evening, 49 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., had confirmed cases of the illness. Only West Virginia was without a diagnosis.

Nationwide, businesses, schools and public officials continued to struggle with an outbreak that has left more than 50 people dead and upended nearly all aspects of public life. More than 400 new cases have been reported in each of the last three days.

In the Omaha area, officials reported the first known instance of community spread. In Illinois, a nursing facility where a woman tested positive for the virus was placed on lockdown. And in Pittsburgh, where the first local cases were announced on Saturday, city leaders urged bars to promote social distancing by limiting the number of people they allowed inside.

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“This time the government’s control of free speech has directly damaged the interests and lives of ordinary people,” said Li Datong, a retired newspaper editor in Beijing. “Everyone knows this kind of big disaster happens when you don’t tell the truth.”

China’s tally of new coronavirus infections rose slightly on Saturday, but most were among travelers coming from abroad, as transmissions within its borders continued to peter out. Just 20 new cases were reported in the latest daily count — four in Wuhan and the rest among recent arrivals to the country.

There were also 10 more deaths from the virus, the authorities said, bringing the official death toll to 3,199. The Chinese government’s total infection count for the coronavirus is now 80,844.

Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on Saturday that digital and technological means would be employed to track citizens known to have contracted the virus, an extraordinary measure he said was drawn from Israel’s war on terrorism.

In a televised address on Saturday night, he said that Israel was “at war” against an “invisible enemy.”

Acknowledging that the surveillance would impinge on personal privacy, Mr. Netanyahu said he had sought and received permission from the Justice Ministry.

As the country’s caseload rose to nearly 200, the government mandated the closure of all leisure venues starting on Sunday, including cafes, restaurants, gyms and cultural institutions. Public gatherings are to be limited to 10 people, and workers have been told to work from home if possible.

Many other countries increased restrictions:

  • In Denmark, Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that all foreigners who did not have an essential purpose for visiting the country would be turned away. Passenger ferries and trains will stop running but cargo transports will continue. The measures will be in effect until at least April 13.

  • Iran’s state TV said the death toll from the coronavirus had risen to 611, with 12,729 confirmed cases in the country.

  • The government of Jordan announced on Saturday that it was suspending all incoming and outgoing passenger flights. Jordanian officials said all schools and universities in the country will be suspended for two weeks and mosques, churches, gyms, cinemas, youth centers and swimming pools will also close.

An Italian couple tested positive for the coronavirus in San Juan, Puerto Rico, late on Friday, five days after they disembarked a cruise ship heading across the Atlantic.

Costa Cruises, an Italian subsidiary of Miami-based Carnival Corp., says the ship, the Costa Luminosa, is now heading to Marseilles, France.

The Costa Luminosa set sail on March 5 from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for a trans-Atlantic voyage. The ship called for an ambulance when it docked in San Juan on Sunday, March 8.

Puerto Rican doctors suspected that the woman, 68, had the coronavirus and hospitalized her. Her husband, 70, was asymptomatic. By the time Puerto Rico announced the hospitalization, hundreds of passengers had spent the day mingling in colonial Old San Juan, and the ship had left port.

It took five more days to confirm the cases. The island had no tests, so samples were taken from the couple and sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

Gov. Wanda Vázquez of Puerto Rico called the delay “unacceptable.”

All the while, the Costa Luminosa has been at sea, passengers circulating freely. Shows have been canceled, but the gym, pool and Jacuzzi remain open. Only on Saturday did the crew rework the lunch buffet to serve passengers directly, said Kathryn Bitner, a 66-year-old passenger from San Diego, Calif.

“No one I know of has been tested in our ship,” Ms. Bitner said in a WhatsApp message.

Costa Cruises said that the ship was not in quarantine, but that the “sanitary protocol” on board had been increased and close contacts of the passengers who tested positive had been isolated in their cabins. Costa Cruises also said that it was instituting a daily temperature check for crew and passengers.

The ship’s final destination is unclear. Passengers were first told that they would get off in the Canary Islands, off West Africa. Then Málaga, Spain. But it now appears that Spain is suspending new cruise ship arrivals, and passengers got a letter from the cruise ship company Friday night telling them that the latest plan is to disembark in Marseille, France, on March 19.

Costa Cruises said that it would be contacting the French authorities to report the health situation onboard and that any special rules for disembarkation would be “strictly” followed.

On Saturday, Puerto Rico officials announced that another ship, the Celebrity Summit, a Royal Caribbean ship that had been scheduled to disembark in San Juan, would not be doing so after a Canadian woman who had been on the ship tested positive for coronavirus. Puerto Rico officials said they would allow the ship to resupply, but that they would delay any departures for a week.

At precisely noon on Saturday, millions of Italians, from Piedmont to Sicily, leaned out of windows or stood on their balconies to applaud the health care workers in hospitals and other front-line medical staff who have been working round the clock to care for coronavirus patients.

As church bells normally drowned out by traffic pealed in the surreal silence that defines Italy since Wednesday’s lockdown, applause filled streets, piazzas and even country roads, after messages went viral on social media calling Italians to put their hands together.

There was a similar response to another online appeal Friday evening, asking Italians to sing the national anthem — or play it on a musical instrument — at exactly 6 p.m. The socially distant flash mob swept social media.

Naturally, not everyone is blessed with a voice like Pavarotti. Some Italians preferred banging on pots and calling out, “We will make it.”

It’s unclear who began the musical interlude, but in the land that gave the world opera, it’s clearly not meant to be a cacophonous mess, and a program for more songs is spreading online. At 6 p.m. on Saturday, Italians will sing “Azzurro,” a 1968 hit by the singer Adriano Celentano, and on Sunday, “Ma il cielo è sempre più blu,” by Nino Gaetano, which topped the charts in 1975.

Reporting was contributed by Andrea Salcedo, Mitch Smith, Mariel Padilla, Robert Chiarito, Isabel Kershner, Adam Nossiter, Mujib Mashal, Najim Rahim, Andrew Kramer, Maria Varenikova, Livia Albeck-Ripka, Helene Cooper, Hannah Beech, Elisabetta Povoledo, Marc Santora, Johanna Berendt, Stephen Castle, Richard C. Paddock, Muktita Suhartono, Elian Peltier, Peter Robins, Damien Cave, Javier Hernandez, Zolan Kanno-Youngs, Mihir Zaveri, Patricia Mazzei, Frances Robles and Annie Karni.



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