In an address to the nation Wednesday night, President Donald Trump informed Americans that all travel from Europe to the United States will be banned for 30 days as the world continues to attempt to get control over the novel coronavirus.
The travel ban will go into effect at midnight on Friday. The United Kingdom is not included in the ban.
“We are at a critical time in the fight against the virus,” said Trump.
Just before Trump’s address, a game between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder was abruptly postponed just before tipoff, and fans we instructed to leave the Thunder’s Chesapeake Energy Arena. It was later revealed that Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, and both teams were quarantined inside the arena.
Following the news of the positive test, the National Basketball Association announced that the 2019-20 season was suspended indefinitely.
“The NBA is suspending game play following the conclusion of tonight’s schedule of games until further notice,” the league said in a statement. “The NBA will use this hiatus to determine next steps for moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic.”
Dozens of major sporting events, parades, concerts, conventions and other gatherings across the U.S. were scaled back or canceled, colleges announced one after another they would offer classes online only, more school districts shut down and the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic over COVID-19 on Wednesday.
“WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO, said during the announcement.
“We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear.”
The announcement came on the same day the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. topped 1,000, the death toll rose to 38 and one of the nation’s top health officials warned that the outbreak will continue to spread.
“I can say we will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a U.S. House committee Wednesday morning, according to The Associated Press.
Fauci says controlling the virus depends on whether the U.S. can curtail the influx of travelers who may be spreading it, and whether state and local communities can contain outbreaks.
Fauci said was asked if the worst was yet to come.
His answer: “Yes, it is.”
The NCAA announced its Division 1 men’s and women’s basketball tournaments would be held in nearly empty arenas. Only essential staff and a limited number of family members would be able to view the games in person, NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.
Emmert said other upcoming championship competitions would follow the same rules.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee announced on Wednesday that public gatherings with more than 250 people would be banned in King, Snohomish and Pierce counties through at least the end of March. At least 29 people have died as a result of COVID-19 in Washington state, nearly all of them in the Seattle area.
San Francisco banned gatherings of more than 1,000 people for at least two weeks, as did Santa Clara County, where San Jose and Silicon Valley are located.
The rules affect everything from church services to conventions and professional sports. It doesn’t apply to schools or workplaces.
“This is not a time to be going out into public in close contact,” Inslee told reporters. “It’s just too dangerous.”
There were 366 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Washington as of Wednesday. Dr. Jeff Duchin, public health officer for Seattle and King County, said models show there could already be at least 1,000 cases. Officials said those could quickly grow exponentially if no action is taken to slow the spread.
“We expect a large-scale outbreak in weeks and this will be a very difficult time,” Duchin said. “It’s similar to what you might think of as an infectious disease equivalent of a major earthquake that’s going to shake us for weeks and weeks.”
Shortly after Inslee’s announcement, Seattle Public Schools announced a closure of at least two weeks. The district serves more than 53,000 students in 104 schools.
By the Numbers
-The number of infections in the U.S. was at 1,311 as of Wednesday night, according to the Johns Hopkins coronavirus dashboard.
-At least 38 people have died in five states. The number includes 30 in Washington, four in California, two in Florida and one each in South Dakota and New Jersey.
-Infections have been confirmed in at least 38 states and Washington D.C.
-More than 124,000 people had been infected as of Wednesday afternoon. At least 4,360 have died, according to Johns Hopkins.
-Cases surged in Italy, where at least 12,460 people had been infected as of Wednesday afternoon and 827 had died.
-Iran confirmed 9,000 coronavirus cases, the second-highest number outside of China, after Italy. At least 354 people there had died.