What's Happening: Virus empties public spaces, spreads in US

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In this Feb. 25, 2020, file photo, workers in protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the COVID-19 at an indoor gymnasium in Seoul, South Korea. As the coronavirus spreads around the world, many events that normally would draw large numbers of people are being canceled or played without fans. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man, File)

PARIS – The new coronavirus is entering additional territories, from megacities to seaside villages, and casting a fast-growing shadow over the world economy.

Here’s a look at some of the latest developments:


There are now more than 100 cases in about a dozen U.S. states, including in New York and New Hampshire. Additional deaths were also reported in Washington state, where researchers have said the virus may have been circulating undetected for weeks. Bit by bit the virus is spreading in the U.S., disrupting lives, schools and businesses. Expanded guidelines for who should be tested is starting to shed light on how the virus is spreading in the country.


Japanese parents are struggling to find child care after the government recommended school closures for four weeks. One mother says she’s worried about the “undesirable temptations” for her son at home, such as screen distractions. The burden is falling especially on mothers, who are still widely expected to be responsible for child-rearing in the country. It’s even harder for parents of children with special needs. In France, where some children are being kept at home after trips to virus-hit regions, some schools are including quarantined school children in class via Facetime or other apps.


As the virus spreads around the world, emptying stadiums, museums and beaches, China is seeing signs of relief. The World Health Organization said nine times more cases were reported outside the country than inside it over the past 24 hours. And the director of the biggest temporary hospital in China set up in response to the outbreak says all patients could be discharged by the end of March, bringing its “historical mission” to an end. In the meantime, the country's skies got clearer with factories shut. But the dip in pollution isn't expected to last.


Japanese electronics maker Sharp is shifting its expertise to mask making. Amid worldwide shortages of surgical and other masks because of the virus, Sharp Corp. will start making 150,000 masks a day at a plant that usually makes electronics displays. Other companies are scrambling to adapt, too. Nike temporarily shut down its European headquarters in the Netherlands after an employee tested positive for the virus. A global agency says the virus could make the world economy shrink this quarter for the first time since the international financial crisis more than a decade ago.


As the virus spreads, Europeans are rethinking customary greetings that require physical contact. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s outstretched hand was rebuffed by her interior minister at a meeting Monday. In France, officials are advising people to scale back on “la bise,” or kisses on the cheek. Some in Italy, Europe’s epicentre of the virus, are foregoing cheek-kissing as well. During Milan Fashion Week, one fashionista dubbed a little double kiss to the fingertips “the new coronavirus kiss.”


Democracy, too, is being disrupted by the virus. As Israelis voted Monday to decide the fate of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, authorities set up 15 special balloting stations for hundreds of Israelis who have been ordered to remain in home-quarantine after possible exposure to the virus. Fears of virus spreading may hinder turnout, already threatened by voter fatigue as they face their third election in less than a year. In France, two mayors have come down with the virus as campaigning heats up for nationwide municipal elections this month.


Even royal families are having their lives disrupted by the virus. Sweden’s royal household has decided to postpone an official dinner scheduled for Wednesday because of the coronavirus, after 14 cases were reported in Sweden in recent days. King Carl XVI Gustaf and his wife Silvia will have to make more modest plans for dinner instead.


Angela Charlton in Paris, Jan Olsen in Copenhagen, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Dake Kang in Beijing, Carla K. Johnson in Seattle and Christina Larson in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.


Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak