Coronavirus live updates: Houston energy conference canceled, Pence says markets will recover

FAN Editor

People wearing face masks walk on the promenade of the Bund along the Huangpu River in Shanghai on February 28, 2020.

Hector Retamal | AFP | Getty Images

12:55 pm: CERAWeek energy conference in Houston canceled due to virus 

The annual Ceraweek energy conference, which beings together oil ministers and industry executives, has been canceled. The conference was set to start on March 9 in Houston, Texas, with delegates from over 80 countries expected to attend. 

IHS Markit, the London-based consultancy that hosts the event, cited increased concerns over the virus outbreak, including the World Health Organization raising the threat level on Friday; the U.S. government canceling a summit meeting in Las Vegas; and the increasing number of companies that are halting employee travel over virus concerns. — Newburger

12:29 pm: UK PM Johnson says coronavirus likely to “spread a bit more” in UK

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he expected the new coronavirus to spread further inside Britain, following the announcement of another 12 positive tests on Sunday.

“We’ve found about 35 people in this country have, or have had, the illness and clearly there may be more. That is likely now to spread a bit more,” Johnson said during a visit to a public health facility in London. — Reuters 

12:28 pm: Rhode Island confirms state’s first case of virus 

Rhode Island Department of Health officials confirmed on Sunday the state’s first case of the coronavirus. The patient, who is the 25th confirmed local case in the US, is in their 40s and traveled to Italy in mid-February. 

The patient had limited travel in Rhode Island and did not go to work since returning from Italy, which has recently seen a surge in virus cases. 

“We are not seeing widespread community transmission in Rhode Island, and the general level of risk for Rhode Islanders is still low,” said Rhode Island DPH director Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott. — Newburger 

11:30 am: Delta temporarily suspends flights to Milan 

Delta Airlines has temporarily halted service between New York City and Milan, which recently experienced a surge in coronavirus cases. American Airlines has also suspended flights to the Italian city until April 25. 

The airline’s last flight from JFK to Milan will leave on Monday, March 2, and the last flight from Milan to JFK will depart on Tuesday, March 3. Service to and from Milan will resume on May 1 and 2, the airline said.  — Newburger 

11:22 am: US investigating whistleblower complaint that staff was inadequately protected from virus, Health Secretary says

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is looking into a whistleblower’s complaint that staff had inadequate protection from the coronavirus, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said. 

“We are looking into these allegations. I am personally involved in doing so,” Azar told CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

A whistleblower has said workers from HSS were sent, without proper training and gear, to retrieve the first Americans evacuated from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus.

Those workers were deployed in California, the person said. Azar said Sunday: “There was no spreading of the disease from this.” – Thomas

11:06 am: Still unclear how first American to die contracted virus, Health Secretary Azar says

It remains unclear how the first person to die from the coronavirus in the U.S. contacted the virus, U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar said Sunday morning on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“We do not know how he contracted the virus yet,” Azar said. “So that’s why we, and the state of Washington, are deployed out there to try to trace who he had contact with, and how he might have gotten the virus.” 

It was confirmed on Saturday that a man in his 50s died from coronavirus. His case is currently being referred to as a “potential community case.” There is currently no “discernable connection” that this man traveled to South Korea or any other impacted areas, Azar said.

Health officials have said that more than 50 people in a Washington state nursing facility called Life Care are also sick and being tested for the virus. Azar said the U.S. “will have more community cases. … It’s a matter of math.”

11:02 am: Vaccine trials weeks away, Pence says, but won’t be available this season

Clinical trials for a coronavirus vaccine could be just six weeks away, Vice President Mike Pence said on Fox New Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

“Dr. Fauci made us aware a couple days ago that because of the expedited process that the FDA has approved, we actually are going to be able to go to clinical trials in six weeks on a vaccine for the coronavirus,” said Pence.

The vaccine likely won’t be available for this season, Pence clarified. “But were working very earnestly with multiple providers and multiple researchers to develop a vaccine. We are clearing the red tape out of the way, the FDA is providing great leadership on this front to have a vaccine for the American people by next year.” – Fitzgerald

10:30 am: Biden criticizes Trump administration response: ‘We knew this was coming’

Former Vice President Joe Biden criticized President Donald Trump’s response to the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., accusing the administration of being largely unprepared.

“We knew this was coming … back as far as January,” the current Democratic presidential hopeful said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “They didn’t even begin to prepare the testing kits. … That is kind of elementary.”

“The fact is, other nations have had thousands of test so far,” Biden said on CNN. “What are we doing? Why are we just getting started?”

“The idea that this is not a pandemic … is absolutely bizarre,” the former vice president said. — Thomas

10:00 am: Pence says more than 15,000 coronavirus testing kits are on the way to health professionals

More than 15,000 coronavirus testing kits are in the mail this weekend en route to health professionals, according to Vice President Mike Pence.

There has been a concern that capacity is limited across the country to conduct tests amid a potential epidemic. The latest numbers show only 472 people so far have been tested in the U.S, according to the CDC. 

“The FDA has approved a testing regime that state and local officials can be using,” Pence said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” He added the government is working with another “commercial provider” to send another 50,000 kits out. He did not provide details on the timing of when those kits would be finished. — Thomas 

10:00 am: Pence says stock market will recover

Vice President Mike Pence is confident the stock market’s weakness last week will recover. “This economy and particularly the stock market that saw some downturns this week, it’ll come back,” Pence said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday.

The stock market experienced its worst week since the financial crisis as investors worried about the coronavirus denting global economic growth.

“The fundamentals of this economy are strong. We just saw new numbers come out in housing, consumer confidence, business optimism, unemployment’s at a 50 year low,” Pence added. Pence said the Trump administration is focused on the health and safety of the American people. — Fitzgerald

9:33 am: Europe could see other surprise coronavirus outbreaks like Italy’s, WHO chief warns

The World Health Organization’s director-general cautioned Sunday that other countries within the European Union might see coronavirus outbreaks similar to the rapid spread seen in Italy. 

Italy has 1,128 confirmed cases as of Sunday, according to the WHO, which is the largest in Europe and the third largest globally. Infections are now being seen beyond the original epicenter in the north, with cases in Tuscany, Le Marche, Emilia Romagna, Alto Adige, Piedmont, Liguria, Lazio and Sicily, far south of the capital in Rome. 

“Europe may have some surprises like Italy. You know, other developed countries in Europe may have surprises,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble during a panel discussion at the King Salman Humanitarian Aid Center’s International Humanitarian Forum in Riyadh. — Clinch 

9:00 am: England reports 12 new coronavirus cases 

There were 12 new coronavirus cases reported in England on Sunday morning, bringing the total number of cases in the U.K. to 35.

Three of the patients were close contacts of a known case, while one patient — a resident in Essex — had no known travel history. The other cases were patients who had recently traveled from Italy and Iran, according to U.K. health officials. — Newburger 

8:31am: Trump says US will screen travelers from high risk countries upon arrival to US 

President Donald Trump on Sunday morning tweeted that passengers traveling from high risk countries will be screened prior to boarding as well as when they arrive to the U.S. The administration on Saturday expanded travel restrictions against Iran and raised an advisory that Americans refrain from visiting regions of Italy and South Korea impacted by the coronavirus.

“In addition to screening travelers ‘prior to boarding’ from certain designated high risk countries, or areas within those countries, they will also be screened when they arrive in America,” Trump wrote on Twitter. — Newburger 

8:30 am: Australia, Thailand and U.S. report first virus-related deaths over weekend 

Australia, Thailand and the U.S. all reported their first deaths from the coronavirus over the weekend as the outbreak continues to stretch across the globe. 

In the U.S., a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions died in Washington state. There was no evidence that he got the infection through travel or contact with another infected person, raising fears over a local community spread within the U.S. 

In Thailand, a 35-year-old man who was also sick from dengue fever died of the coronavirus. Thailand has reported a total of 42 cases. 

A 78-year-old man also died of the virus in Australia on Sunday. He was one of the evacuated passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship quarantined off Japan. Australia has confirmed a total of 26 cases. 

“We still need to make the point very clear that there isn’t community spread within Australia,” said Andrew Robertson, chief health officer at the Western Australia Department of Health. “This very tragic case is still related to the Diamond Princess. The public shouldn’t be panicking at this stage.” — Newburger 

6:55 am: Iran’s death toll now at 54, confirmed cases jump to 978 amid suspicions about government reporting

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus hit 54 on Sunday, its health ministry said, just days after the Iranian government denied 50 deaths from the virus reported by a lawmaker in the city of Qom, the center of the country’s outbreak.

Based on the number of fatalities, health experts believe the number of infected people must be higher than what the government is reporting. — Turak, Kemp

3:06 am: WHO chief says global markets ‘should calm down and try to see the reality’

Market panic over the fast-spreading new coronavirus is uncalled for, the World Health Organization’s director-general said Sunday as governments around the world rush to contain its spread.

“Global markets … should calm down and try to see the reality,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told CNBC’s Hadley Gamble during a panel discussion at the King Salman Humanitarian Aid Center’s International Humanitarian Forum in Riyadh. “We need to continue to be rational. Irrationality doesn’t help. We need to deal with the facts.”

The comments come after global stocks were slammed in their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis. The Dow Jones plunged a whopping 3,500 points across the week, more than 12%, its largest weekly point loss ever and biggest percentage drop in 12 years. — Turak 

— CNBC’s Natasha Turak, Ted Kemp, Matt Clinch, Lauren Thomas and Maggie Fitzgerald contributed reporting 

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