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Amid virus outbreak, U.S. communities brace for disruption

As U.S. cases of COVID-19 rise, officials are stepping up efforts to control the outbreak's spread. Communities across the country are bracing for disruption, with many schools closing or holding remote classes. Also, two GOP congressmen who were with President Trump recently are self-quarantining after a conference attendee with whom they met tested positive for the virus. Amna Nawaz reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    The coronavirus outbreak has etched grim new headlines tonight.

    In U.S. financial markets, the viral spread, coupled with a 25 percent plunge in world oil prices, sent the Dow Jones industrials average down more than 2,000 points, to close at 23851. The Nasdaq fell 625 points, and the S&P 500 was down 225.

    All three indexes were off more than 7 percent today, and they are down nearly 20 percent from their peaks just last month.

    We will return to the economy and the markets in just a moment.

    But, first, Amna Nawaz looks at the new deadly toll from the coronavirus, including 26 here in the U.S., and drastic new quarantine measures.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    As the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. continues to rise, officials are stepping up measures to control the virus spread, heeding a weekend warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health.

  • Anthony Fauci:

    In real time, you got to evaluate the situation. If we continue to see the community spread go up, I think you seriously need to look at anything that's a large gathering, again, I have to underscore, Chuck, particularly if you are an individual who has an underlying condition and are vulnerable.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Across the country, communities are bracing for disruption. Airlines now say they could lose more than $110 billion.

    And schools are assessing their own closures in real time. After a member of New York's Columbia University was exposed to COVID-19, classes were canceled today and tomorrow, with remote classes planned for the rest of the week.

    Further north in Westchester, Scarsdale public schools have closed until March 18, after a middle school faculty member tested positive. And across the country, Stanford University canceled in-person classes until March 22, after a faculty member contracted the virus.

    Earlier today, in Oakland, California, officials prepared to receive thousands of passengers from the Grand Princess cruise ship, docked since March 4; 21 people aboard have tested positive for coronavirus.

    On Twitter, the president wrote — quote — "Last year 37,000 Americans died from the common flu. At this moment, there are 546 confirmed cases of coronavirus, with 22 deaths."

    The virus, which affects the respiratory system, has proven to be more dangerous for older people.

    In Albany today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo urged seniors to remain cautious. At least 142 people in his state have tested positive.

  • Governor Andrew Cuomo:

    The fear and hysteria is outpacing the reality of the situation, but the reality of the situation is, people in that target group should be careful.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    Meanwhile, in London, store shelves lay bare. Tesco, the country's largest retailer, has now restricted bulk purchases of products like antibacterial gel and dried pasta.

    German health officials today lauded their country's preparedness, like this roadside testing in Southeast Germany.

  • Thomas Linhart (through translator):

    One advantage, of course, is that we are here on an open space, far away from infrastructure. This means that, with this station, we contribute to keeping the general practitioners from being overloaded and, above all, keep the hospitals free and operational.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    In Italy, officials over the weekend locked down the hard-hit northern region, including Milan and Venice, and today expanded the quarantine to the entire country, 60 million people, in an effort to contain the coronavirus.

    One Milan residents said the restrictions are sparking fear outside the quarantine zone.

  • Barbara Michelon (through translator):

    You can see the terror in people, even via e-mail. In my job, I have to travel to other cities and abroad. All these travels have been canceled also because of people's fear.

  • Amna Nawaz:

    But, in Paris, Disneyland remains open and crowded, even after one worker tested positive for coronavirus.

    Meanwhile, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today all Israelis entering the country from abroad must self-quarantine for 14 days.

    Still, there are signs of recovery. In China, where the virus began, authorities say the number of new cases in recent days are in single digits. And the mayor of South Korea's most affected city said new cases over the weekend are the lowest in a week-and-a-half.

    Late today in the U.S., questions about President Trump's contacts with two Republican congressman who are now self-quarantined. Doug Collins of Georgia shook hands with the president on Friday, and Matt Gaetz of Florida flew with the president on Air Force One today.

    Both had contact with a conference-goer in the D.C. area who was later diagnosed with coronavirus.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Amna Nawaz.

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