Travel Ban Blasted by E.U. Leaders As Congress Prepares Relief Package

Markets were in free fall Thursday morning as investors absorbed news of new travel restrictions for people flying from Europe and the continuing fallout surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic. The National Basketball Association also announced they were suspending the remainder of their 2020 season after a player for the Utah Jazz tested positive for the virus, and beloved actor Tom Hanks, and his wife, Rita Wilson, announced they tested positive for the illness.

Meanwhile, with more than 1,300 cases now confirmed around the U.S. and at least 38 people dead, according to the latest numbers from Johns Hopkins, lawmakers are working to put together an economic relief package for workers who have been affected by the coronavirus, with House Democrats ready to vote on a package Thursday.

Globally, more than 127,000 people have been infected with the novel coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19 with the death toll surpassing 4,700. At least 68,000 people worldwide have recovered from the illness.

European Leaders Blast Trump's Travel Restrictions Over Coronavirus Outbreak

During an address from the Oval Office on Wednesday, President Donald Trump announced a ban on travel from 26 European countries, causing chaos at several major airports on the continent and prompted anger from E.U. lawmakers who say they weren't consulted.

In a joint statement from Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, the presidents of the European Commission and European Council, the E.U. leaders called the novel coronavirus a "global crisis not limited to any continent and it requires cooperation rather than unilateral action."

"The European Union disapproves of the fact that the U.S. decision to impose a travel ban was taken unilaterally and without consultation," the statement added. "The European Union is taking strong action to limit the spread of the virus."

According to the Department of Homeland Security, the travel restrictions suspends the entry of most foreign nationals who'd recently traveled to any of the 26 countries named in the ban over the last 14 days.

Trump said that exemptions would be made for Americans who'd "undergone appropriate screenings."

The restrictions, set to go into effect beginning midnight Friday, only apply to foreign nationals, and not U.S. citizens, green card holders, or the families of U.S. citizens.

Countries included in the travel ban:

Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

News of the travel ban caused immediate chaos at several major airports in the E.U., where passengers were desperately trying to book last-minute flights home, with some paying as much as $20,000 for a seat, according to New York Times reporter Mike McIntire.

California Bans Mass Gatherings Of More Than 250 People

California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced late Wednesday that mass gatherings of more than 250 people should be postponed or canceled until at least the end of March amid the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak in California.

“Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease,” Newsom said in a release. “Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects — saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now.”

The governor asked the non-essential gatherings limited to no more than 250 people, with smaller events allowed to go forward, if organizers can implement social distancing practices of having at least six feet per person.

Health officials added that people in the higher risk groups of COVID-19 should avoid gatherings of ten people or more, while also following social distancing guidelines.

Health officials have confirmed 170 cases in California, with at least four deaths across the state.

White House, Capitol Tours Canceled Until Further Notice

White House officials announced Thursday that tours at the White House and the Capitol building would be canceled until further notice amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

"Out of an abundance of caution and until further notice, White House tours have been canceled,” White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said Thursday.

The announcement comes following news that a Senate aide for Washington Senator Maria Cantwell tested positive for COVID-19. It's the first known case among congressional staff.

The staffer, who works in Cantwell's office in Washington D.C. reportedly had "no known contact with the senator or other members of Congress," according to a statement from Cantwell's office. The aide was placed in isolation after they first began experiencing symptoms. It's unclear whether other staff were exposed to the disease.

Several Republican lawmakers, including Texas Senator Ted Cruz and Reps. Paul Gosar, Doug Collins, Matt Gaetz, voluntarily went into self-quarantine after they learned they'd been potentially exposed to the virus at CPAC.

Princess Cruise Lines Announces Pause in Global Operations for Two Months

Princess Cruises announced Thursday that it was immediately suspending all operations for the next two months due to concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a statement posted to the company's website, the company will voluntarily pause global operations of all of its 18 cruise ships over the next sixty days. The move impacts all voyages scheduled to depart between March 12 and May 10.

“Princess Cruises is a global vacation company that serves more than 50,000 guests daily from 70 countries as part of our diverse business, and it is widely known that we have been managing the implications of COVID-19 on two continents,” said Jan Swartz, president of Princess Cruises. “By taking this bold action of voluntarily pausing the operations of our ships, it is our intention to reassure our loyal guests, team members and global stakeholders of our commitment to the health, safety and well-being of all who sail with us, as well as those who do business with us, and the countries and communities we visit around the world,” added Swartz. 

Passengers currently aboard a cruise scheduled to end over the next five days will continue to sail on as expected. Passengers aboard voyages that go beyond March 17 will be rerouted to the "most convenient location for guests, factoring in operational requirements."

Guests will be compensated with a credit for a free cruise with an "additional generous future cruise credit benefit" they can use toward another cruise.

Customers are also allowed to request a cash refund online.

Princess Cruises has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak, with the Diamond Princess and its 3,700 passengers being quarantined off the coast of Japan for two weeks after a guest, who didn't have any symptoms while on board the vessel, tested positive for the disease. Many other passengers aboard became infected with the virus, with several passengers dying after they disembarked.

“We’ve been asked, and we’ve asked ourselves, why COVID-19 seems to be impacting Princess so heavily,” Swartz said in a video shared to the company's Twitter account. “We don’t really know.”

Jet Blue Passenger Diagnosed With Coronavirus After Landing in Florida

A passenger aboard a Jet Blue flight from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City to Palm Beach, Florida, tested positive for the novel coronavirus, health officials in Florida said.

According to Palm Beach County Fire Rescue, the plane landed at around 8:30 p.m. Wednesday evening. Passengers and crew remained on the tarmac for several hours while health officials spoke with the passengers on board.

"At this time passengers in the vicinity of the positive patient were advised of monitoring procedures," Palm Beach County Fire Rescue said in a statement. "The rest of the passengers were released to go home," and given directions to call the health department with any medical concerns.

Airline workers are working to sterilize the "limited containment area" where passengers deplaned. The containment area is located away from the airport's main terminal, officials said.

House to Vote on Coronavirus Relief Measures Thursday

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that the House was preparing to vote on a series of relief measures amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.

"We cannot fight coronavirus effectively unless everyone in our country who needs to be tested knows they can get their test free of charge," Pelosi said in a statement. "We cannot slow the coronavirus outbreak when workers are stuck with the terrible choice between staying home to avoid spreading illness and the paycheck their family can’t afford to lose."

According to the bill's language, the legislation includes free testing for the coronavirus, paid emergency leave for workers, and food security assistance for those affected by the outbreak. However, the bill does not contain President Trump's proposed payroll tax cut. The House is expected to vote on the package Thursday and send it to the Senate before Congress leaves for a week-long recess next week.

In his speech Wednesday evening, President Donald Trump asked Congress to pass some kind of stimulus package. The White House said the House's coronavirus relief package, "currently falls short" of what's necessary for a deal, NBC News reported Thursday.

To keep up to date on the latest news about the coronavirus and to understand what you need to stay safe and healthy, check out the Coronavirus: Fact vs Fiction podcast from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Photo: Getty Images

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