Coronavirus Update: NYC Closing Schools, Restricting Restaurants, As Is L.A.

Monday, March 16th 2020, 1:18 am
By: CBS News, Associated Press

As the country continued its efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said schools there would close Monday and reopen April 20 at the earliest. He also announced Sunday that all restaurants in the city will be limited to delivery or take-out orders, and venues such as movie theaters and concert halls will be temporarily closing beginning Tuesday at 9 a.m.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti limited restaurants to takeout or delivery. Schools there are closed.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker ordered all bars and restaurants in the state to close. The move affect's the nation's third-largest city, Chicago. "I cannot let the gravity of the choices prevent us from taking the actions that the science and the experts say will keep people safe," Pritzker said. He'd already ordered all schools statewide shuttered until at least the end of the month.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to nearly zero to prop up the economy during the pandemic. 

On Saturday night, weary travelers who returned to the U.S. amid coronavirus-related travel restrictions were greeted with packed, hours-long waits for required medical screenings at airports.  

Posts on social media indicated passengers at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport waited upward of four hours in winding lines, eliciting criticism from elected Illinois officials. Pritzker tweeted at President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, noting that the customs process is under federal jurisdiction and demanding they take action to address the crowds.

Pritzker said Sunday that he had spoken to Vice President Mike Pence and Chad Wolf, the acting homeland security secretary, who told him the federal government was boosting staffing at the airport. The governor said the development was "welcome news."

While U.S. citizens, green card holders and some others are allowed to return home, travelers from Europe are being funneled to one of 13 U.S. airports where they're subject to health screenings and quarantine orders.

Acknowledging the long lines at those airports in tweets posted just after midnight, Wolf said the screenings take about a minute per passenger.

"Right now we are working to add additional screening capacity and working with the airlines to expedite the process," the acting secretary tweeted. "I understand this is very stressful. In these unprecedented times, we ask for your patience."

The dense crowds at the selected airports — among the busiest across the country — formed even as public health officials call for "social distancing" to stem the spread of the virus. The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide topped 156,000 by Sunday morning, according to Johns Hopkins University. More than 5,800 people have died, and nearly 74,000 have recovered.

Mr. Trump announced at a press conference Saturday that he himself took a coronavirus test, and his physician announced later Saturday that the president tested negative. Pence also said the European travel ban is being extended to Ireland and the U.K., effective at midnight on Monday.

Travelers from restricted countries in Europe, China and Iran are being advised to self-quarantine for 14 days after reaching their final destination in the U.S.

"If you don't have to travel, I wouldn't do it," Mr. Trump said.

Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for detailed information on coronavirus treatment and prevention.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.