Up to the minute: Mormons cancel church services

The Associated Press

President Donald Trump says he's temporarily halting trademark rallies

The Associated Press

The Latest on the world's coronavirus pandemic:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is suspending all of its worship services globally because of the spread of the new coronavirus.

The decision was made hours after Utah's governor recommended limiting group gatherings in the state to no more than 100 people for at least two weeks. 

The Utah-based faith sent a letter Thursday to members informing them of a decision that also calls on a temporary suspension of all church activities until further notice. 

The move comes a day after the faith announced it would hold a major conference in early April without attendees. 

It is first time since a 1957 flu epidemic that the religion has taken the step of barring church members from attending in person.

Spring break is over

Officials in Miami Beach have declared spring break is over as they suspended permits for concerts and an LGBTQ festival.

Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber told reporters that venues are shutting down altogether or canceling events. 

The city will not issue permits for spring break concerts and the Miami Beach Gay Pride parade, scheduled for early April. Public beaches are still open.

Gelber says that "to the extent that anyone can declare spring break is over, it is over this year."

Many people have canceled Florida flights and hotel reservations. 

The Miami Herald newspaper reported that Miami Beach's Ocean Drive Association of property and business owners says hotels are struggling and that some are laying off workers.

Belgium closes schools, cafes and night clubs

Belgium has announced new measures aimed at halting the spread of the new coronavirus, including closures of schools, cafes, restaurants and night clubs.

Belgian Prime Minister Sophie Wilmes insisted late Thursday that the country is not on lock-down and appealed to people not to hoard food, saying doing so would disrupt the system and prevent others from eating "correctly."

She says social and cultural activities will be canceled regardless of their size. Supermarkets, pharmacies, and food stores will remain open. The measures start Friday and last until April 3.

No Trump rallies for now

President Donald Trump says he's temporarily halting his trademark rallies as his campaign bows to the coronavirus outbreak that is rapidly reshaping the political landscape. 

The rallies have long been Trump's most potent political weapon. They energize the candidate and give him a powerful platform from which to attack his adversaries while his team collects a treasure trove of voter data. 

But the spread of the virus which has closed schools and shuttered professional sports leagues has also touched the 2020 presidential campaign. 

Leading Democratic contenders Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders canceled their scheduled rallies earlier this week.

Entertainment on hold

The coronavirus is bringing the entertainment world almost to a standstill. 

Upcoming movies have been canceled, and all Broadway performances suspended. TV networks have eliminated live audiences from shows until it's safe to welcome crowds back. 

To curb the spread of the disease, Hollywood has paused the normal hum of TV productions and the bustle of red-carpet movie premieres. 

After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned gatherings of more than 500 people, Broadway theaters announced that they would close immediately and remain dark through April 12.

Portugal schools are closed

Portugal's government has ordered that all the country's public and private schools and universities remain closed from next Monday for almost a month to help stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

The measure announced late Thursday affects about 2 million students.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a televised address to the nation that the government will offer financial assistance to working parents who have to stay at home with their children. Businesses will get tax breaks.

Authorities will also shut night clubs and limit how many people can enter government buildings, shopping malls and restaurants.

Costa said people are "in a fight for survival" against the COVID-19 virus. Portugal has reported 78 cases but no deaths.

Schools closed in Maryland

Maryland officials say the state closing all public schools for two weeks in response to the coronavirus outbreak. 

State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said schools will be closed from Monday until March 27.

And on North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper has urged that meetings of more than 100 people to be cancelled, postponed or modified starting Friday. 

That includes church services and sporting events and other activities. The state's number of identified cases has grown from eight to 15, with no deaths.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice suspended high school basketball tournaments due to concerns over the new coronavirus just hours before he was supposed to coach his girls team in a game. West Virginia is among the few U.S. states without a confirmed virus case.

Iran calls US sanctions 'economic terrorism'

Iran's foreign minister is demanding that the United States immediately halt what he called a "campaign of economic terrorism" and lift sanctions. The sanctions have made it virtually impossible for Iran to import medicine and medical equipment, including to identify and treat coronavirus patients.

Mohammad Javad Zarif says U.S. sanctions have also made it increasingly difficult for the country to export oil and stranded thousands of Iranians abroad.

He says it has also led to what he called "Google's immoral censoring" of a new government app designed to help Iranians identify potential symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.

The virus has swept across Iran, with the death toll rising to 429 and confirmed cases to 10,075.

NRA calls off annual meeting

The National Rifle Association has announced the cancellation of its upcoming annual meeting in Nashville, Tennessee because of the coronovirus outbreak.

The NRA says in a statement Thursday that it made the decision "to help ensure the safety and well-being of our NRA members, guests, and surrounding community.

The gun-rights group in 1998 scaled back its convention from three days to one after the Columbine mass shooting. 

The annual meeting is used to rally the group's faithful and to elect board members. The organization says it will announce later time how that will take place. 

Soccer championship is cancelled

The deepening virus outbreak has prompted the cancellation of Champions League soccer for the first time. 

The high-profile match between Manchester City and Real Madrid was postponed along with the Juventus game against Lyon. Both were scheduled for Tuesday. 

The soccer calendar was becoming increasingly fragmented as the pandemic took its toll on leagues and cup competitions. The Spanish league was postponed for the next two round. 

Dutch soccer authorities canceled all matches until the end of the month. Major League Soccer in the United States was also shutting down for a 30-day period.

Disneyland closed through end of the month

Disneyland has announced that it's shutting down its California theme parks on Saturday over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak. 

The company said in a statement Thursday that Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park will be closed through the end of the month though there have been no reported cases of the new virus.

It is closing after reviewing guidelines by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that limit gatherings of more than 250 people. 

Newsom had said earlier Thursday that the guidance did not yet apply to amusement parks. 

US test is 'failing'

A top federal health official says the U.S. effort to test for the coronavirus is "a failing." 

Public health experts warn that the nation's hobbled testing rollout has left them with little indication of how the virus is spreading. 

The lack of comprehensive figures means U.S. health providers could quickly be overwhelmed by undetected cases. The effort initially endured delays in getting testing kits out to public health labs, but the stumbles have continued. 

U.S. health officials, for example, promised nearly a month ago to tap into a national network of labs that monitor for flu. That system is only just getting started.

Self-quarantine in the Senate

The office of Sen. Lindsey Graham says he has decided to self-quarantine himself and work remotely because he was in Florida at an event attended by a top Brazilian government official who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

A statement from Graham's office Thursday says Graham was tested for the virus and is waiting for the result.

The statement from Graham's office says took the steps because of advice from his doctor.

The White House says U.S. President Trump has no plans to be tested for the new coronavirus or go into self-quarantine after attending the same events last weekend.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro's communications director tested positive days after traveling with Bolsonaro to the meeting with Trump and senior aides in Florida. Bolsonaro is also awaiting test results.

French confirms 2,800 cases

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that all of the country's schools, kindergartens and universities will be closed until further notice starting Monday, in a strategy to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Macron in a televised address Thursday called the outbreak the most serious health crisis for France in a century and that is priority is to protect the most vulnerable. He urged people over age 70 to stay home.

Macron says "non-essential" treatment in hospital is also postponed.

French General Director of Health Jérôme Salomon says there have been more than 2,800 confirmed cases of the virus in France and 61 deaths.

Ohio schools closed

Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered that all of Ohio's public and private schools serving kindergarten through 12th grade shut down for at least three weeks to help reduce the spread of the new coronavirus. 

Thursday's order doesn't apply to preschools or daycares. 

It takes effect at the end of the day on Monday, though some districts, including Columbus, also plan to close that day. 

As parents start to navigate resulting childcare issues, schools are scrambling to make or finalize plans to continue providing learning opportunities and meals for students while they're at home. 

More than 700,000 Ohio school children, or about one in every four, are eligible to receive lunch for free or reduced costs and often eat breakfast and lunch at school.

In Arkansas, state officials have told public schools in four counties to temporarily close. 

And San Francisco officials announced all city schools would close for three weeks, affecting about 57,000 students.

No spring training

Spring training games came to a halt as Major League Baseball put the sport on pause because of the virus outbreak. 

A few exhibitions were being played in Florida when MLB made the announcement that there would be no more games by late in the afternoon.

 MLB also said opening day had been postponed for at least two weeks. 

The St. Louis Cardinals and Miami Marlins were in the late innings when the word came. Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter summed it up this way, saying: ""It felt like the most meaningless baseball game in the history of the sport."

Chinese send medical team to Italy

A Chinese medical team and surplus ventilators, protective masks and other equipment are heading to Italy in a remarkable exchange of medical knowhow and material from the source of the coronavirus outbreak to its current epicenter.

The Italian Red Cross says a plane bringing a nine-person Chinese team of experts and nine cargo pallets of medical equipment would land late Thursday in Rome. 

The team includes Chinese ICU specialists, pediatricians and nurses who helped manage the crisis in China.

Italian officials say they are eager to learn from the Chinese experience, particularly clinical data and experimental drug regimens. 

With 15,113 positive cases Thursday and 1,016 dead, Italy's fatality rate is running at 6.7%, far higher than other countries. Italy has the second oldest population in the world after Japan.

China says US Army brought virus 

A Chinese government spokesman has suggested that the U.S. Army could be responsible for bringing the new coronavirus to China.

Lijian Zhao offered no explanation for his allegation in a late Thursday night tweet that read in part "It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! US owe(s) us an explanation!"

Wuhan is the Chinese city where the first cases of the disease were detected in December.

China has taken offense at Trump administration officials blaming the outbreak on China.

Worldwide, 126,000 people have been infected with the new coronavirus, 68,000 have recovered and 4,600 have died. 

Italy now reports 15,000 cases, 1,000 deaths

Italy, the center of Europe's coronavirus pandemic, has hit the milestone of 1,000 deaths since it saw its first cases in mid-February.

Italy's positive cases continued their upward trend Thursday, registering 15,113 confirmed cases and the death toll hit 1,016. 

More than half of those who are in intensive care in Italy are located in hard-hit Lombardy provice, which on Thursday reported 605 ICU patients in a region with only 610 ICU beds.

Hospitals in Lombardy are overflowing with the dead. Lombardy's top health care official, Giulio Gallera, said at the request of the hospitals, the region had simplified the bureaucracy needed to process death certificates and bury the dead.

CDC working on testing kits

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield says his agency is working to make sure that uninsured Americans can get tested for coronavirus if it's medically needed.

About 28 million Americans are uninsured. Rep. Katie Porter, a Democrat from California, pressed Redfield on their predicament Thursday at a congressional hearing. Porter says the Health and Human Services department has the legal authority to pay for health costs.

After going back and forth with the congresswoman, Redfield said he agreed. He says "those individuals who are in the shadows can get the health care that they need during the time of us responding to this crisis," he said.

Mountaineering on hold

Mountain climbing expedition operators on Mount Everest say Chinese mountaineering officials will not allow spring climbs from their side of the world's highest mountain due to fears of coronavirus. 

On the other side of the mountain in Nepal, operators say cancellations for the popular spring climbing season have been pouring in, despite the mountain being open for business. 

As the virus is coming under control in China, officials there are taking steps to prevent new infections coming from abroad, including by putting overseas travelers arriving in Beijing into 14-day quarantines.

China has seen nearly 81,000 infections but some 61,000 of them have already recovered. Over 3,000 virus victims have died in China, the world's hardest-hit nation.

Justin Trudeau is in isolation

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is self-isolating at home after wife has exhibited flu-like symptoms.

Trudeau's office said Sophie Grégoire Trudeau returned from a speaking engagement in the United Kingdom and began began exhibiting mild flu-like symptoms including a low fever late Wednesday night. She is being tested for COVID-19 and is awaiting results.

 The statement said "Out of an abundance of caution, the prime minister is opting to self-isolate and work from home until receiving Sophie's results."

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