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Americans prepare for a weekend at home as government declares coronavirus emergency

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Posted at 10:39 AM, Mar 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-14 12:56:15-04

Americans are waking up to a country under a national emergency.

In many neighborhoods, grocery shelves will be empty. International travel is now heavily restricted. Some church services may be canceled or livestreamed this weekend. There won't be NBA, golf or soccer games to watch. Broadway shows have halted, too. And in many states, mass gatherings are outright banned.

Every state except West Virginia has reported positive tests, with more than 2,300 cases across America.

At least 51 people have died, with the majority of deaths in Washington state.

New York reported its first coronavirus-related death on Saturday, an 82-year-old woman who'd been "long suffering with emphysema," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. She had tested positive for the virus and died Friday at a New York City hospital, the governor said.

Earlier this week, the World Health Organization (WHO) labeled the virus a pandemic, with global cases now topping 142,000.

"We cannot say this loudly enough, or clearly enough, or often enough: all countries can still change the course of this pandemic," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday.

President Donald Trump declared the national emergency Friday, freeing up $50 billion in federal resources to combat the outbreaks.

"No resource will be spared, nothing whatsoever," he said.

Millions more tests available, Trump says

Trump's announcement came nearly two days after he said he was banning travel from Europe, a restriction his administration later clarified would apply only to foreign nationals and not to American citizens who had been screened prior to entering the US. The ban went into effect yesterday.

In further efforts to curb the spread of the virus, the Trump administration said Friday it was partnering with the private sector to also boost testing capacity -- with both more tests and a new method of drive-through testing.

The country's testing system has so far received stark criticism by health officials and residents who say they were turned away despite showing symptoms. Dr. Anthony Fauci, with the National Institutes of Health, said earlier this week the US testing system was failing to meet the public's needs.

"The idea of anybody getting it (a test) easily, the way people in other countries are doing it, we're not set up for that," he told a congressional committee Thursday. "Do I think we should be? Yes, but we're not."

On Friday, Trump said 5 million coronavirus tests would be available within a month, adding American retail executives would be donating resources to facilitate drive-through testing across the country. But those companies later said they had few details on what they could offer or when test kits would be available.

Meanwhile, facilities in New York, Illinois and Colorado have begun offering drive-through testing.

"Drive through testing means people in this community can call a telephone number, make an appointment and then can come to be tested and literally drive through the testing facilities," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. "it's not only faster and easier, it's also smarter and safer because you're not exposing people who may be positive."

Sports, entertainment, church halted

The virus has touched every part of American culture.

On Capitol Hill, nine US lawmakers are taking steps to self-quarantine after coming into contact with an infected person. And courts across the US are delaying trials due to coronavirus concerns.

In New York, The Broadway League said it was suspending shows through April 12.

And shows like "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," "The Daily Show with Trevor Noah," "Last Week Tonight," "Jimmy Kimmel Live" and "Real Time with Bill Maher" will all temporarily halt production.

The Walt Disney Company also announced its resort in Florida would be closing its doors through the end of the month, along with Disneyland in California.

All that as governors across the country banned public gatherings.

Cuomo directed events in New York with more than 500 people to be canceled or postponed. In Washington state, Gov. Jay Inslee banned all events with more than 250 people in the state's largest three counties.

Similar guidance was issued in California, Oregon, New Mexico, Ohio and Utah.

The NCAA also announced it was canceling March Madness -- the biggest annual event in college basketball.

Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, US Soccer, the National Hockey League and PGA Tour all canceled events as well. NASCAR announced it was restricting attendance to only "competitors, crews, officials and other necessary personnel to conduct the race."

On Wednesday, the NBA announced it was suspending its season to "determine next steps moving forward in regard to the coronavirus pandemic." At least two NBA players also tested positive.

The Boston Marathon, originally set for April 20, was also postponed to September.

Worship services are changing their ways too.

Earlier this week Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear recommended churches across the state cancel services over the weekend.

"I believe that God gives us wisdom to protect each other and we should do that," he said. "We have a lot of opportunity for virtual services."

In New York City, live stream traffic has almost doubled in the last week for St. Patrick's Cathedral, according to an Archdiocese of New York spokeswoman.

Employees, children staying home

As more residents are encouraged by their state leaders to stay home, major companies have begun rolling out policies for working remotely.

On Saturday, Apple announced it was shutting down all stores outside Greater China and encouraged employees who could work remotely to do so. All hourly employees will continue getting paid, Apple CEO Tim Cook said.

AT&T, the owner of CNN, also directed employees who can to work from home. The message was similar to the one sent out by other major companies, like Google and Amazon.

That means many parents will have to juggle work and family as at least 18 states have announced school closures. At least 21 million students have been affected due to school closures across the country, according to Education Week.

Empty grocery aisles

As Americans try to prepare for what's next, across the country, more and more are faced with empty store shelves.

Several grocery store chains announced they would reduce their hours to help keep their employees safe and allow more time for cleaning and restocking.

Publix stores and pharmacies will close two hours early, at 8 p.m. The Giant Company, which has nearly 200 stores across the mid-Atlantic, will begin closing its 24-hour locations at midnight and reopening at 6 a.m. And Harris Teeter, a large chain in the Southeast, will close its stores at 9 p.m. beginning Sunday.

The hope is these changes will help stores cope with the demand seen in recent days.

One Massachusetts resident told CNN it took nearly half an hour to check out at the local grocery store, and staff members were reassuring shoppers over the intercom the store would be open all weekend.

The co-owner of Morton Williams Supermarkets in New York told CNN Wednesday they saw a 300-400% increase in sales in a day.

"As you see here in these shelves, we cannot stock these items quickly enough," Avi Kaner said.

In New York City, Richie Maruffi of Arnold Bread Distributor said he cannot keep bread on the shelves in stores.

"The beginning of my week was normal -- Monday and Tuesday was normal. Came out here like in the middle of the week, and it just got insane. So, I can't keep up," he said. "This week's pretty much done already. I have to preorder like a week ahead."

Earlier this month, a spokesperson for Walmart told CNN shopping patterns were similar to those "you would see as people prepare for a major storm."

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