Friday morning news – March 13, 2020

Sports leagues suspend play amid COVID-19 outbreaks » All major sports leagues in the United States are shutting down amid coronavirus outbreaks. 

NBA officials on Wednesday suspended the season after a Utah Jazz player tested positive for COVID-19. And on Thursday, other leagues followed suit. 

The NCAA canceled the Division I basketball tournaments and all remaining winter and spring NCAA championships. Big East Conference Commissioner Val Ackerman said canceling is the right thing to do.

ACKERMAN: We do not want to be imprudent as it relates to the safety of the participants and our fans. You know, and it’s terrifying, frankly, what’s evolving. 

The NHL and Major League Soccer are also shutting down for now. And Major League Baseball suspended all Spring Training games, and it is delaying the start of the 2020 season by at least two weeks. 

Multiple cruise lines are also halting operations, and all Disney parks across the globe will close by next week. 

Fed moves to calm Wall Street » Meantime, the Federal Reserve is trying to calm frightened investors as Wall Street had its worst day in more than 30 years. The Fed moved Thursday to try to ease the fallout from the coronavirus. WORLD’s Anna Johansen has more. 

ANNA JOHANSEN, REPORTER: The Fed announced it will sharply increase its purchases of short-term Treasury bonds. It’s making available at least $2 trillion in short-term lending to help stabilize the Treasury market. It’s also expanding its ongoing $60 billion-a-month purchases of Treasuries to include longer-term bonds.

Initially, the Fed’s actions led the stock market to pare its deep losses, before share prices fell back down. By mid-afternoon, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was still off more than 8 percent.

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen. 

Brazilian official who attended events with Trump tests positive for COVID-19 » A Brazilian official who attended weekend events with President Trump in Florida has tested positive for the coronavirus. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director tested positive just days after traveling to a meeting with Trump and senior aides in Florida. White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said in a statement “Both the President and Vice President had almost no interactions with the individual who tested positive and do not require being tested at this time.” 

Meantime, the wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also tested positive for the virus. Trudeau’s office issued a statement saying Sophie Trudeau is feeling well and will remain in isolation. And so far—quote— “The prime minister is in good health with no symptoms.” But it added that as a precaution, he too will be in isolation for 14 days.

DHS clarifies Europe travel ban amid criticism » The Department of Homeland Security has clarified some details about the European travel ban President Trump announced Wednesday night. It takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time tonight, but DHS said the government will provide numerous exemptions. Among those exempted will be legal permanent U.S. residents and those married to such residents, as well as foreign government officials and crews of ships and planes.  

Many officials in Europe sharply criticized the travel ban, and they weren’t alone. The president’s top political rival, Joe Biden, said: 

BIDEN: Banning travel from Europe or any other part of the world may slow it, but as we’ve seen, it will not stop it. And travel restrictions based on favoritism and politics, rather than risk, will be counterproductive. 

But at a House hearing on Thursday, the head of infectious diseases at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Anthony Fauci, backed up the ban. He said “70 percent of the new infections” in the world are “coming from Europe, seeding other countries.” 

FAUCI: Of the 35 or more states that have infections, 30 of them now most recently have gotten them from a travel related case from that region. 

Fauci urges social distancing » But Fauci also contradicted President Trump’s claim that access to testing is adequate. He said the United States has a problem right now regarding access to COVID-19 tests. He called that a “a failing” and said for that reason, you can’t let your guard down, even if there are no confirmed cases reported in your area. He urged vigilance and “social distancing.”

FAUCI: Right now, all of us, regardless of what testing is going on need to be doing the kind of distancing, avoiding crowds, teleworking where possible. I’ve said it many times, I’ll say it again. This is not business as usual. 

Fauci’s warning comes on the heels of a federally funded study that the NIH posted on Wednesday. It indicates that the coronavirus can live in the air up to 3 hours after aerosolization.

The study is still subject to peer review. But it could reveal that the coronavirus is highly airborne and that just sharing the room with an infected person is enough to spread the virus. 

Some health officials say due to limited testing, the virus may already be much more widespread than official numbers indicate. 

Republican Senator Ben Sasse called on the Senate to cancel next week’s recess to deal with the crisis. In a statement he said—quote—“Nursing home operators in Nebraska are telling me they’re worried because they have patients who might have coronavirus, but they don’t have enough testing kits to find out.”

Sasse cited—quote—“obvious deficiencies in our diagnostic testing pipeline.”

Two American service members killed in rocket attack in Iraq » The U.S. launched airstrikes Thursday in Iraq, targeting the Iranian-backed Shia militia members. The strikes came one day after a rocket attack killed two American service members at a military base in Iraq. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin reports.

KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: U.S. officials said fighter jets hit five locations and mainly targeted Kataib Hezbollah weapons facilities inside Iraq. The Pentagon said the strikes were designed to—quote—“significantly degrade their ability to conduct future attacks.”

U.S. officials say Iran-backed groups were behind Wednesday’s rocket attack, when nearly 20 rockets struck the Taji military base in Iraq. Two Americans and one British soldier died, and at least 12 other people were injured.

Attacks have increased in the region since a U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq. 

Lawmakers in the House voted Wednesday to curb President Trump’s ability to take military action against Iran without congressional approval. But the House does not have the votes needed to override a certain presidential veto. 

Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.

(Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel via AP) The seats are empty at the Amway Center in Orlando, home of the NBA’s Orlando Magic, on Thursday, March 12, 2020. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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