Home Social Corona-Virus: Global Deaths Pass 4,600; Countries Begin to Shut Down

Corona-Virus: Global Deaths Pass 4,600; Countries Begin to Shut Down

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Summary:

  • Scott Gottlieb says US can still avoid “Italy-like” outcome
  • Cuomo closes Broadway, bans all events in NY with over 500 ppl, reduces venue max capacity by 50%
  • NCAA cancels ‘March Madness’
  • F1 Australia Grand Prix to be held without crowd
  • Trump Campaign tells employees to work from home through Monday
  • Maryland & Ohio cancel school
  • Dr. Fauci appears to endorse European travel ban
  • Spain, Italy ban short selling
  • Charles Barkley to self-quarantine
  • UK reports 2 more deaths
  • NYC declares state of emergency
  • Cali bans gatherings with more than 250 ppl
  • China sending a medical team and equipment to Italy
  • Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta tests positive for Covid-19
  • Disney closes park in Anaheim
  • American Air confirms pilot tested positive for Covid-19
  • Italy closes Catholic churches
  • NBA player apologizes for making light of virus
  • Trudeau and wife to self-quarantine after wife reports flu-like symptoms
  • France death toll climbs to 61
  • Houston closes schools until end of the month
  • Spain death toll climbs to 86
  • Ohio bans gatherings with more than 100 ppl after confirming 5th case
  • Gabon, Ghana confirm first cases of the virus
  • PA. Gov. Tom Wolf shuts down much of Montgomery County
  • 2nd Utah Jazz player tests positive
  • Slovakia closes all borders, international airports
  • NJ cutting off nightclub liquor sales after 10pm
  • Deaths in Italy above 1,000
  • NHL “pauses” play
  • MLB will delay start to 2020 season by 2 weeks
  • Chelsea Football Club player Callum Hudson-Odoi tests positive
  • Dr. Fauci says test shortage is major government ‘failing’
  • Rick Scott 2nd Senator to self-quarantine over virus
  • Senate cancels recess, will stay open next week
  • Reporter claims Gobert was careless in the locker room
  • Premier league to hold emergency talks Friday as clubs push to suspend play
  • 2020 champions league tournament postponed until next year
  • US Major League soccer suspends play
  • Trump says we may need to extend travel ban
  • Reports claim once again that Merkel is ready to whip out the checkbook
  • Goldman asks workers in NY to work from home in ‘staggered shifts’
  • EU officials condemned Trump’s travel ban
  • Trump says ‘markets are going to be fine’
  • Spain has approved a €2.8 billion rescue package
  • Olympic torch lit in front of just 100 spectators
  • La Liga suspends season after Real Madrid player tests positive
  • 3 F1 racers quarantined
  • Blackstone advises portfolio companies to draw down revolving credit lines
  • NHL rumored to be planning a league play suspension as playoffs begin
  • Passenger on JetBlue flight from NY to FLA tests positive for virus
  • Spanish cabinet being tested for coronavirus
  • Scandinavia begins shuttering schools
  • Iran reaches out to 3 million Iranians who may have been infected
  • Market participants wary of dissipating bond market liquidity
  • Global deaths pass 4,600

*  *  *

Update (2230ET): A few hours ago, we reported that PM Justin Trudeau and his wife, Sophie Gregoire, had gone into self-quarantine after his wife had exhibited symptoms of the virus after visiting London recently.

Well, the test results are in. And Gregoire, the first lady of Canada, is positive for Covid-19.

She and the Prime Minister will be self-isolating for 14 days.

As we wait for the Premier League’s emergency tomorrow, news has broke that Chelsea Football Club player Callum Hudson-Odoi has tested positive for the virus and will remain in self-isolation. Callum displayed symptoms on Monday morning, and hasn’t been to the team’s training ground since. The rest of the team and its coaching staff will now self-isolate.

*  *  *

Update (2020ET): The Trump Campaign has asked workers to work from home through Monday.

In other news, Charles Barkley said he plans to self-quarantine after falling ill. He has been tested for the coronavirus, but is awaiting the results.

*  *  *

Update (2000ET): Like we mentioned earlier, Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta has tested positive, and as sports leagues around the world suspend play, the Premier League is reportedly holding emergency crisis talks on Friday, according to the Independent.

Many of the clubs owners want play to be shut down and disagree with the decision to continue so far. Some are even pushing for the entire season to be voided.

Also: In further bad news for the airline industry, American Air has confirmed that one of its pilots tested positive for the virus. And Disney has just announced a decision to close theme parks in Florida and Paris – rounding out most of its biggest parks around the world. They closed Disney Land in California earlier today.

*  *  *

Update (1930ET): Seattle became the first major US city to shutter its school system last night, and just a few hours ago, Maryland and Ohio announced state-wide shutdowns of their own.

Now, the Houston Independent School District, one of the largest in the US with more than 200,000 students, closes all schools until March 30 due to the outbreak.

At least 17 cases of the virus have been diagnosed in the Houston area, most of them directly related to a group who recently traveled to Egypt.

Across the US, the coronavirus panic is intensifying, as people continue to hoard supplies, even nonessentials like toilet paper, in a blind panic.

Two new African countries reported their first cases of the virus on Thursday, including Gabon and Ghana.

*  *  *

Update (1905ET): Spain reports 869 new cases of coronavirus, and 31 new deaths, bringing the national total to 3,146 cases and 86 deaths.

*  *  *

Update (1845ET): Chatter form earlier today claiming that Dr. Fauci personally signed off on President Trump’s travel ban has been confirmed.

  • FAUCI SAYS EUROPE TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS RIGHT PUBLIC HEALTH CALL

The celebrated epidemiologist said during a recent TV appearance that, if Trump hadn’t restricted travel from China, there would have been “many more travel-related cases”.

On the Continent, regulators in Italy and Spain have banned short-selling amid a brutal global selloff.

Walking out of the Capitol building after his hearing, Dr. Fauci stopped to take a few questions from reporters, and clarified that enough tests are now available that any patient whose doctor believes a test is necessary can get one.

We mentioned earlier that three Formula-1 racers have tested positive for the virus in Australia. Well, the Australian Grand Prix, the organizers of which were criticized for refusing to taking proper steps to protect spectators and drivers from the virus, will be held without a live crowd.

One more thing: apparently ‘fake virus news’ is becoming a problem in NYC. What’s wrong? Too many gullible hipsters can’t figure out for themselves whether a tweet from a random, unverified account is a hoax?

Finally, in Europe, Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta has tested positive for Covid-19, the first Premier League player or coach to test positive.

*  *  *

Update (1725ET): Maryland and Ohio have cancelled schools across each state, with Maryland shuttering schools until March 27 (two weeks) and Ohio shuttering them for three weeks.

In addition, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan directed the Maryland Emergency Management to the highest activation level and issued an executive order that moves the National Guard to a higher state of readiness. The state has only confirmed 12 cases of the virus.

Here’s the release from the Maryland Superintendent of schools:

And the rest of Hogan’s press conference, where he made the announcement.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine said the decision to close schools and have an “extended spring break” came after consulting with experts, the closure will be “reviewed” at the end of the period.

In Italy, catholic churches are set to completely close.

Rudy Gobert, the first Utah Jazz player to be diagnosed with the virus, took to Instagram on Thursday to thank people for their support and also to apologize for his actions seen in a now-viral video of him earlier this week deliberately touching microphones and recorder during a press conference, in an act of mockery of the viral panic.

“The first and most important thing is I would like to publicly apologize to the people that I may have endangered. At the time, I had no idea I was even infected. I was careless and make no excuse. I hope my story serves as a warning and causes everyone to take this seriously. I will do whatever I can to support using my experience as way to educate others and prevent the spread of this virus,” he said.

*  *  *

Update (1630ET): The NCAA just delivered a huge blow to college sports fans by confirming that it will cancel men’s and women’s “March Madness” tournaments, after earlier confirming that any games associated with the tournament would be played in front of empty crowds.

Earlier, all of the biggest conferences in the country cancelled their men’s championship tournaments.

Here’s more from CNBC:

The NCAA has canceled its March Madness basketball tournaments – and “all remaining winter and spring” championships – as coronavirus fears upend the sports world.

“This decision is based on the evolving COVID-19 public health threat, our ability to ensure the events do not contribute to spread of the pandemic, and the impracticality of hosting such events at any time during this academic year given ongoing decisions by other entities,” the organization said in a statement.

Earlier Thursday, major conferences canceled their championship tournaments and sports organizations across the world rolled out fan restrictions and suspensions of play in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Southeastern Conference, Big Ten Conference, Pac-12 Conference, Big East, Big-12 Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference all canceled their men’s championship tournaments ahead of the NCAA’s announcement. At least two high-profile teams also individually announced their withdrawals from the tournament.

The decision comes after nearly every major sports league in the country that’s currently active suspended play, and the MLB delayed the start of its season.

Disney also just announced plans to close Disneyland Park and Disney California adventure in Anaheim.

*  *  *

Update (1615ET): With all of Wall Street in a panic, and officials at JFK scrambling after a passenger aboard a JetBlue flight to Fla. was confirmed positive after taking off, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio has decided to declare a state of emergency, citing the “intense” increase in the number of confirmed cases in the city, and that the situation is evolving “hourly”.

“The last 24 hours have been very sobering,” he said. The declaration will allow the city to access emergency funds. However, the mayor insisted this isn’t a run-up to cancelling school. He added that “we want our schools to remain open, we intend for our schools to remain open.” Though after-school sports, PTA meetings, and other activities will be cancelled for the time being.

As the situation worsens, de Blasio said the city government recognizes the struggles of all New Yorkers during this difficult time.

“We’re very concerned about people’s loss of livelihood…We’re worried about folks having trouble paying the rent,” de Blasio said.

The decision comes five days after Gov. Cuomo declared a state-wide emergency.

Watch the rest of his press conference below:

New York is presently battling it out with Washington State for mantle of worst outbreak in the US. They represent the worst outbreaks on their respective coasts right now.

In an effort to combat ‘fake news’ – always a problem during city-wide emergencies, as we first learned during Hurricane Sandy, the city’s first major natural disaster of the Twitter era – the NYPD tweeted that reports it was planning to shut down the subway were “false”.

So far, 96 cases have been confirmed in NYC.

*  *  *

Update (1545ET): California is following in New York’s footsteps and cracking down on large “non-essential” gatherings. According to a statement, gatherings with 250+ people must be postponed until the end of March, at the earliest.

LA County took things a step further by banning gatherings of 50+ in publicly-owned buildings.

Watch the governor’s address below:

In other news, China is sending a medical team and supplies to Italy to help them fight the virus, in Beijing’s latest gesture of condescension toward the West.

*  *  *

Update (1540ET): Macron is still speaking. Watch the rest of his statement below:

*  *  *

Update (1510ET): As France and Germany scramble to suppress their own national outbreaks while casting a wary eye toward Italy – yet they stubbornly refuse to close borders like other European countries have – French President Emmanuel Macron has just announced that he plans to close schools and universities in the country beginning on Monday.

France also reported 595 new cases of coronavirus, and 13 new deaths, raising its total to 2,876 cases and 61 dead.

Italian officials said earlier allowed Italian citizens to defer mortgage payments due to the outbreak. Macron told citizens that the government would delay a March tax deadline to put more money in the hands of citizens.

Spain has reported 782 new cases of coronavirus and 31 new deaths so far today, raising the country’s total to 3,059 cases and 86 dead.

Slovakia, which was one of the last countries in Europe to confirm a case of the virus, announced that it’s planning to close all of its borders to non-residents and close all international airports as part of a drastic ban on international travelers that puts the US travel ban to shame. The country’s decision is a direct blow to the EU’s “open borders” agenda, one Twitter wit noted.

The decision to close borders comes just hours after Slovakia, The Czech Republic and Hungary declared state of emergencies over the outbreaks, despite having relatively few cases. Slovakia only has 5 confirmed cases, equivalent to the number of confirmed cases in the US state of Ohio.

Speaking of Ohio, the state just became the newest US state to ban large gatherings. A few minutes ago, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine said the state is banning gatherings of 100 or more people, with some exceptions, after confirming a fifth case of Covid-19, a 55-year-old man in Trumbull County.

Finally, MLB said it would delay Opening Day by at least 2 weeks, meaning it will be more than a month from now before we see any MLB pro baseball played in the US.

Meanwhile…in Congress…

*  *  *

Update (1500ET):  NBC News has just confirmed that MLB plans to announce plans to delay the start of the 2020 season and suspend Spring Training, which we mentioned below.

*  *  *

Update (1440ET): Earlier local media reports claimed that the total presumptive positive cases in PA. has climbed to 21, including a doctor at a children’s hospital in Philadelphia. Gov. Tom Wolf announced massive closings in Montgomery County, a suburban county near Philly, after the number of cases in that county climbed to 13, more than half of the state’s total, according to CBS 3 Philly.

A doctor at Saint Christopher’s Hospital for Children has tested positive at a local lab, and his sample is now being sent to the CDC, according to Drexel University officials. The doctor is an independent physician with admitting privileges at St. Christophers. He was last at the hospital on Feb. 26.

In other news, the CDC announced Thursday that it has tested 11,000 “specimens”, which doesn’t mean 11,000 people, as most people are tested at least twice. But CNBC also noted that “drive thru testing” in at least one state. In Minnesota, the Mayo Clinic in Rochester has launched “drive thru” testing allowing patients to drop off samples after a phone conversation with a doctor. Patients must be directed by a doctor before their sample will be accepted and tested.

Read part of the clinic’s statement below:

Mayo Clinic is conducting a drive-through process in Rochester to collect COVID-19 specimens for testing. Transmission of the coronavirus is increasing nationwide, and other institutions have successfully used the drive-through approach.

Patients who meet criteria for testing are directed to the location. Mayo Clinic staff collect the specimens, using appropriate precautions, and send them to the Minnesota Department of Health for analysis. This process reduces the need for other critically constrained resources.

Patients are required to have a phone screening first to determine if testing is appropriate. If approved, patients then will be directed to the drive-through location. There is no additional charge for the drive-through service.

We’ve also found the clip from today’s Congressional testimony where Dr. Fauci delivered a withering criticism of the US’s virus response.

Meanwhile, according to the Washington Post, as of 2:50pmET, the US had 1,281 cases confirmed, and 36 deaths:

*  *  *

Update (1420ET): Gov. Cuomo announced during his daily coronavirus outbreak press update that he would close down NYC’s Broadway district at 5 pm Thursday night for theaters with a capacity of more than 500, and shutting down all events – concerts, conferences etc. – with 500 or more people in the city beginning Friday night.

Restrictions on smaller gatherings, the legal capacity on all buildings will be reduced by 50%.

Watch the rest of his press conference from Albany below:

*  *  *

Update (1352ET): Italy’s civil protection agency has reported yet another unsettling jump in newly confirmed cases and deaths, bringing the death toll within the country above 1,000 deaths, becoming the first country outside China to (officially) top that threshold (we suspect Iran has secretly recorded at least as many).

The death total in Italy from the coronavirus climbed to 1,016 from 827, while the number of confirmed cases in Italy climbed to 15,113 from 12,462, marking the fourth straight day with more than 100 deaths and more than 1,000 new cases confirmed.

With the new numbers, the country’s mortality rate has climbed to 6.7%.

*  *  *

Update (1345ET): Rick Scott just became the second US Senator to self-quarantine after potentially being exposed to the virus.

Though Scott said he doesn’t believe he interacted with the individual (the press secretary we noted in an earlier post), he is taking precautions “out of an abundance of caution”.

*  *  *

Update (1345ET): Confirming reports from earlier, the NHL just announced that it’s planning to “pause” the 2019-2020 season.

*  *  *

Update (1330ET): As far as we can tell, Jersey City is about to become the first in America to crack down on drinking and partying in the name of fighting the coronavirus.

More from BBG:

Jersey City is cutting “larger nightclub” liquor sales after 10 p.m. to reduce the potential of having crowds of people exposed to the new coronavirus, Mayor Stephen Fulop said.

The state’s second most-populous city, a Wall Street business and residential haven across the Hudson River from Manhattan, had no coronavirus cases as of Thursday, Fulop said at a news conference. Still, he said he was being cautious: limiting City Hall visits to those with appointments, suspending parking-permit sales and renewals and canceling all city-sponsored or permitted events, he said.

He also asked banquet halls and large restaurants “to be tracking attendance, best as they can” in case health officials must track down contacts with anyone who tests positive for coronavirus.

The nightclub liquor restrictions will start this weekend, he said.

This comes after the PM of Italy said last night that bars, restaurants would also be closed as part of the national shut down. But just imagine catching the coronavirus at a skeezy nightclub in Jersey City…oof.

*  *  *

Update (1320ET): Major League Baseball is reportedly planning to delay spring training and the start of the 2020 season, per unconfirmed reports. An announcement is expected shortly.

The news follows a flurry of tweets like this warning of senior citizens’ exposure.

Out of Washington, there are reports that McConnell will keep the Senate open next week and cancel its regular recess.

*  *  *

Update (1320ET): Following in the footsteps of the NBA, MBS, NCAA and sports organizations around the world, the NHL is reportedly preparing to suspend play.

According to the New York Post, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman reached out to clubs Thursday morning to tell them the regular season would be suspended due to the spread of the coronavirus, a source indicated to The Post. An inter-league call was scheduled for 1 pm to work out details. The news will likely be announced publicly in the coming hours.

The league already cancelled practices on Thursday and told teams to start preparing for make-up games that could run as late as June.

Per the NYP, since locker rooms are filled with sweaty equipment, every year teams experience team-wide outbreaks and sometimes more serious illnesses.

*  *  *

Update (1250ET): Following reports from earlier in the day claiming that JPM had asked its New York and New Jersey employees to work from home until the outbreak ends, Bloomberg is reporting that Goldman has asked its employees to work from home “in staggered shifts.”

*  *  *

Update (1216ET): Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his wife are planning to self-quarantine after the PM’s wife, Sophie Gregoire, recently returned from London, where she visited for a speaking engagement, developed a low fever and other symptoms of the virus last night, according to a statement from the PM’s office.

She immediately sought medical advice, and is being tested for the virus.

Though doctors recommended that the prime minister could continue his daily activities while monitoring himself for symptoms, “out of an abundance of caution” (a phrase we’re hearing more and more lately) he has decided to self-quarantine as well.

The PM will spend Friday and the rest of Thursday doing virtual meetings and briefings at home.

*  *  *

Update (1125ET): With testimony before the Committee on Oversight and Reform continuing on Thursday for a second day after Dr. Fauci and other officials were called away, the doctor appeared again on Thursday, and offered some deeply critical words about the administration’s ability to supply enough tests.

Dr. Anthony Fauci described the response as “a failing” because of the tests.

  • NIH’S FAUCI SAYS CORONAVIRUS TESTING SYSTEM IS NOT “GEARED TO WHAT WE NEED RIGHT NOW” IN U.S., CALLS IT “A FAILING” -CONGRESSIONAL HEARING

The hearing was abruptly called to recess, but readers can watch it live here when it returns:

*  *  *

Update (1115ET): As sports-betting operations and sports fans around the world wait to hear whether the NBA playoffs will be suspended or cancelled, it’s been reported that a second Utah Jazz player has tested positive for the virus.

The new patient is star guard Donovan Mitchell, who joins teammate Rudy Gobert.

The two sick players, pictured together

A reporter claimed sources close to the team said Gobert had been ‘careless’ in the lockerroom, after demonstrating his disdain for the public panic around the virus.

This would suggest that the virus has been spreading among the teammates.

At the White House, President Trump said he doesn’t support House Democrats’ plan for the emergency economic package, and accused them of stuffing it with “goodies.”

He also said that the US may need to extend travel ban for longer, or “we could shorten it.”

We neglected earlier, but in Australia, three Formula One team members have been placed into isolation amid concerns they may have contracted the coronavirus, stoking more criticism of the decision to go ahead with the Australian Grand Prix, the Guardian reports.

*  *  *

Update (1105ET): As Democrats and Republicans duke it out on Capitol Hill over the coronavirus emergency fiscal package, Spain has just approved a €2.8 billion package to support social services in its provinces as the country battles the outbreak. Meanwhile, President Trump is telling reporters that ‘markets are going to be fine’ amid the second bone-shaking, trade-halt-provoking selloff this week.

Trump also said he will not use his powers under the Stafford Act to declare a national state of emergency, though he didn’t rule it out in the future.

Italy has also proposed a rescue package of €25 billion, according to reports.

And in the US, it appears the American professional soccer league is following La Liga and the champions league and suspending play, according to Sports illustrated.

  • MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER TO SUSPEND ALL PLAY IMMEDIATELY: SI

*  *  *

Update (1055ET): Weeks after declaring that nothing would stop Euro 2020 champions league tornament, it appears its organizers are ready to throw in the towel.

According to media reports, the European soccer league is planning to postpone the 2020 tournament until next year because of the coronavirus.

Earlier, La Liga, the Spanish top-flight football club, announced it would follow the NBA by suspending its season. Now, football fans across Europe are about to be very disappointed.

*  *  *

Update (1045ET): UK public health officials have reported two more deaths Thursday morning after President Trump exempted the country from the travel ban last night, bringing the death toll to 8, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.

Meanwhile, UK coronavirus cases have reached 590, an increase of 134 in the last 24 hours.

Different news organizations are reporting different death tolls for the UK. Sky News is saying 10, though only 8 have been confirmed by by the DHSC.

We also neglected to mention earlier that another lawmaker, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, has closed his Washington DC office because some of his staff were reportedly potentially exposed to the virus.

*  *  *

Update (1030ET): The ceremonial lighting of the Olympic torch was held in Olympia (not the one in Washington State) on Thursday and video has been posted on YouTube for anybody who wants to watch.

We’re sharing because nobody except 100 “accredited” spectators were allowed to watch the ceremony. Typically, the event draws as many as 12,000 spectators.

Following rumors they might ask that some of the events be delayed, the Japanese government has said that cancelling the Olympics is impossible, even as sports leagues suspend play.

*  *  *

Update (0906ET): Earlier, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio said New Yorkers need to brace for changes like subway shutdowns amid ‘community spread’ of the virus in the city during an appearance on CNN.

Now, reports claim an NYC student has tested positive, and that school district officials are temporarily shutting down two schools. It’s the first confirmed case in the city’s schools. Gov. Cuomo said yesterday that the city and state had decided to keep schools open.  The city almost never closes schools, because thousands of students depend on free and subsidized lunches for food, and would have nowhere else to go.

  • NYC SCHOOLS GET FIRST CORONAVIRUS CASE, TWO BRONX SCHOOLS TO CLOSE – REPORT

Over in Europe, officials in the Netherlands confirmed that the number of cases has climbed to 614 from 503 yesterday.

CNBC viewers this morning probably noticed Jim Cramer’s rant about the federal government’s response.

*  *  *

Update (0850ET): Former FDA Director Dr. Scott Gottlieb posted another thread of advice about the outbreak before appearing once again on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Thursday morning.  In it, he said the outbreak would last for a few more months, and that the US has the tools to mitigate the impact of the virus on both public health and the economy.

Gottlieb said it’s still possible for the US to avert an “Italy-like” outcome where deaths begin to spiral by improving testing capacity to quickly address the outbreak.

He also recommended the creation of “surge capacity” in hospitals as an influx of Covid-19 patients hammers hospitals that are already busy due to the wintertime flu and infection season.

One more thing: if you don’t want to contract the virus, remember this: “social separation works”.

According to this analysis, Trump’s latest travel ban is a step in the right direction. But much more needs to be done domestically.

*  *  *

Update (0834ET): Here we go again with this.

24 hours after Angela Merkel warned that up to 70% of Germans might eventually contract the coronavirus, we’re seeing yet another headline about German fiscal stimulus, though it didn’t do much to lift the market’s mood.

  • GERMANY READY TO DITCH BALANCED BUDGET TO COMBAT CORONAVIRUS

Of course, this is Germany, and many remain skeptical about deficit spending (even though there probably isn’t a German alive who remembers the Weimar Republic hyperinflationary era).

But liberals and Merkel have been pushing for some level of expanded spending to boost the economy since late last year. Now, the perfect excuse for more stimulus has fallen in their lap (along with a genuine threat to the economy).

As Bloomberg points out, Merkel’s decision to support additional spending due to the “exceptional” circumstances created by the outbreak represents a “u-turn” for her party, which for years positioned itself as a guardian of fiscal discipline in Germany.

Given the threat of an economic recession from the pandemic, Merkel and her economic team are now willing to accept deficit spending to help finance containment measures, according to people with direct knowledge of the government’s economic policy. The virus-triggered crisis is one of the “exceptional circumstances” under the constitutional debt brake that allows for additional borrowing, said the people, who requested not to be named because the discussions are not public. While Merkel’s government is ready to explore additional spending, no decisions have been made on specific measures or an amount. The government did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The change in stance amounts to a u-turn for Merkel’s Christian Democratic-led bloc which for years has upheld fiscal discipline as one of its mantras.

Some lawmakers have already said they would oppose any decision to suspend debt limits.

Also remember: During his speech last night, Trump blamed Europe for refusing to close its borders to fight the spread of the virus. His new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight.

*  *  *

Update (0822ET): Rumors are flying around (they were mentioned on CNBC earlier, and it looks like BBG just fired off a headline) claiming the NHL might join the NBA in suspending the season just as the playoffs are set to begin. The league is expected to hold a conference call at 11am ET Thursday morning.

In New York, JP Morgan has finally joined a handful of its peers (including Barclays and Morgan Stanley) in telling its NY employees to work from home because of the virus.

*  *  *

Update (0720ET): A passenger on a JetBlue flight from JFK to Palm Peach has been stuck on a runway in Palm Beach for hours after a passenger tested positive for the coronavirus, WPTV reports.

Flight 253 from JFk, which carried 114 passengers and crew, was stuck at Palm Beach International Airport for more than three horus after landing at around 9 pm last night.

with 114 passengers and crew aboard, landed at Palm Beach International Airport shortly before 9 p.m. Wednesday but remained on the tarmac until just before 11, when the plane finally proceeded to the gate.

“The person across the way from me was taken to the back of the plane. He was wearing masks and gloves. His wife was sitting in the same row as me and mentioned to others that he wasn’t feeling well. She said he had gotten a phone call with his test results right before we had taken off, implying that he had a positive test but not actually saying it,” said passenger Scott Rodman.

State health officials briefed every passenger and crew member aboard the ship, according to an emailed statement to WPTV. Those who sat nearby the Covid-19 patient, who reportedly received a call with his test results just before takeoff, were advised to monitor for symptoms.

“The person across the way from me was taken to the back of the plane. He was wearing masks and gloves. His wife was sitting in the same row as me and mentioned to others that he wasn’t feeling well. She said he had gotten a phone call with his test results right before we had taken off, implying that he had a positive test but not actually saying it,” said passenger Scott Rodman.

Florida’s state health department has since completed its “assessment” of the situation.

Following in the footsteps of the NBA, Spain’s “La Liga” – its top soccer league – has suspended play for at least two weeks. In addition, Real Madrid players have been quarantined after a member of the club’s basketball team tested positive for COVID-19. The soccer and basketball teams train at the same complex and share many of the same equipment, according to local media reports.

Both teams, plus their staff, have gone into quarantine.

*  *  *

Following last night’s Oval Office unveiling of a 30-day travel ban affecting roughly two dozen European countries, though not the UK, which confirmed its 7th death from the outbreak. Notably, the ban will only affect the movement of people (and American citizens are of course exempt) but not trade in goods, as the White House hastily clarified when they saw the market’s initial reaction, and will exempt the UK.

London was notably silent after the surprise announcement, but in Brussels, the bureaucrats running the EU were somewhat less than pleased. EU leaders slammed President Trump’s “unilateral” travel ban and warned the coronavirus pandemic is an international problem that demands coordinated action (like what Christine Lagarde demanded yesterday?). European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen European Council Leader Charles Michel issued a joint statement on Thursday that highlighted European alarm at the US move. “The coronavirus is a global crisis, not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action,” they said, per the FT.

Von der Leyen and Michel

Meeanwhile, Spain’s entire cabinet is being tested for coronavirus, with the results due to be announced on Thursday afternoon, and countries in Scandinavia have begun shutting down schools less than a day after Sweden reported its first virus-related death.

Notably, the ban leaves out all of Asia, stymieing liberals who were ready to pounce on another “racist” Trump travel ban. Though many are still bellyaching about Trump’s decision to leave out the UK, which is run by Trump’s ‘good friend’ Boris Johnson. But as Rencap’s Charlie Robertson pointed out, Trump’s decision to exempt the UK was based on epidemiological evidence.

Across the US, private schools appear to be closing under pressure from parents.

This comes after Seattle became the largest city in the US to close its schools over the virus. We’ve heard rumors that Utah is planning to close its public-college campuses.

But the biggest blow to market confidence last night arrived courtesy of the NBA, which cancelled Wednesday’s matchup between the Utah Jazz and Oklahoma City Thunder, then announced that it would suspend the season for the time being after Rudy Gobert, Utah’s star center, tested positive for the virus, becoming the first American professional athlete to test positive for the virus.

A few days ago, Gobert infamously made light of the hysteria by ‘touching’ all the microphones in the press room.

In hindsight, it looks like this might have been a mistake.

Around the same time, actors and husband-wife duo Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson revealed in an Instagram post that they had also tested positive. The response was pandemonium on social media.

Moving on to Thursday morning, futures have been limit-down all night once again, just like we saw Sunday into Monday,

The CDC recommended last night that companies in Silicon Valley and Seattle start implementing mandatory temperature checks for all employees, according to the LA Times.

Bloomberg reported last night that Blackstone had recommended that its portfolio companies had drawn down on their revolving credit facilities, something that the FT’s Robert Smith pointed out would be an “instant capital hit” to banks.

Yesterday, Boeing shocked the market by announcing that it would immediately draw down on its $13.825 billion revolving credit facility to ward off any “liquidity issues,” something that we warned soon after would could represent the beginning of a liquidity crisis for banks, whose shares have already been badly beaten thanks to the Fed’s “emergency” 50bp rate cut and record-low Treasury yields. Now, with their clients in full-on panic mode, it’s hardly surprising that companies want to bulk up their balance sheets for the coming economic storm.

The only problem, is that this is essentially the equivalent of a corporate bank run…

…as companies aren’t so much worried about their own future, but the banks’ future, because why else would anyone want to hold cash in their wallet when they can keep it safe and sound in a bank…unless they were worried that it was no longer ‘safe’ to do so.

Moving from one liquidity risk to another, during the opening of CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Thursday morning, Andrew Ross Sorkin declared that some of his hedge fund sources had been trading notes and hopping on conference calls to discuss strange trading patterns in the 10-Year Treasury. We highlighted some suspicious activity in a post from yesterday.

Sorkin’s sources are worried about shortages of liquidity that could once again create potentially destabilizing rictions in credit markets.

For more on this, we’d like to remind readers of a post from a few years back that offers a straightforward explanation of this phenomenon).

It seems sell-side analysts have already seized on the issue: Bank of America also warned in a research note about deteriorating Treasury market liquidity.

Looking ahead, will America follow Italy’s lead in the direction of – if not outright national domestic travel bans – but the ‘social distancing’ concept that has been bandied about in recent days. Notably, CNBC was practicing its own ‘social distancing’ with Becky Quick reporting in from New Jersey while Sork and Joe Kernen reported from different locations in NY. Heading into the US trading day, the WHO said 124,519 cases as of Thursday morning. Globally, we’ve seen at least 4,607, with Italy reporting 827 deaths. In the US, the Washington Post counted 1,281 cases, a count that includes as-yet-unconfirmed by the CDC but “presumptively” confirmed in state labs.

Washington Post

In Italy, the country woke up to a national travel ban and mass closures of schools and businesses for the first time. In South Africa, officials reported the first case of local transmission of the coronavirus on Thursday, There are concerns that African health systems could be overwhelmed if local transmission accelerates, which is why reports that surfaced a few minutes ago about a man who just traveled back to the country – after recently visiting New York – apparently tested positive, though it’s not clear if these cases are the same.

South Africa’s Health Ministry said a 32-year-old man contracted the virus after contact with a Chinese businessman at a time when China is claiming that its economy is nearly 100% back online after the crisis, CNBC reported. It also reported that the death toll from the collapse of a makeshift quarantine in China has climbed to 29.

Iran’s health minister said Thursday that a national plan to root out all those who are infected contacted 3.5 million people out of the country’s population of 80 million. Dr Saeed Namaki said 270 patients had been hospitalized after being contacted in accordance with the effort, which began last week.

Meanwhile, on CNBC, Mohamad El-Erian, who has correctly warned investors to stay away from the market since the most recent selloff began, said there’s nothing the world can do now to prevent a recession as more surprises like the NBA suspending its season are inevitably in store.

“We are going into a global recession We are going to see a string of sudden economic stops,” said Mohammad El-Erian, an economist at Allianz and formerly Bill Gross’s No. 2 at PIMCO.

So, instead of the “v”-shaped recovery we were promised, it looks like we’ll be getting the “u” shaped rebound, or possibly even the dreaded “l-shaped” recovery, especially if Trump’s battle over the payroll tax holiday eats up more time before the fiscal stimulus package hits. Others will focus on how long until the NBA restarts the season.

via zerohedge

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