A young man wearing a face mask walks across an empty Charles Bridge in Prague, Czech Republic, Monday, March 16, 2020. The Czech government has imposed further dramatic restrictions on the movement in efforts to contain the outbreak of the coronavirus. Prime Minister Andrej Babis said the government is declaring a quarantine for the entire country, an unprecedented measure in his country's history that became effective on Monday. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)

What's Happening: Millions holed up, vaccine trial starts

March 16, 2020 - 5:55 am

Millions of people began holing up at home, stocking up on supplies and keeping a wary eye on how close they get to friends and neighbors as fear of the coronavirus spread to more places. The number of cases worldwide surpassed 169,000 with 6,513 deaths, but among those, 77,000 have recovered from the illness.

These are some of the latest developments Monday:


The coronavirus outbreak continued to move away from its original epicenter in Asia. China, where the virus was first detected in December, now accounts for less than half of the world’s more than 169,000 cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. But it continued to spread elsewhere, leaving millions of fearful people hunkered down in their homes in Europe, the United States and beyond. Public life in many places was increasingly shut down: many restaurants offered only takeout, if they were open at all. Schools, concerts, sporting events — even small-scale St. Patrick’s Day parties — were canceled.


The first participant in a clinical trial for a vaccine to protect against the new coronavirus will receive an experimental dose at a research institute in the U.S. state of Washington. Public officials caution, however, that it will still take from a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine. Dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine as COVID-19 cases continue to grow. The National Institutes of Health is funding the trial, which starts Monday at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle.


Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders have both sought to cast themselves as best-positioned to lead the nation through a global pandemic. But Biden seems to be the one getting the bigger boost as he stresses his governing experience and appears to be the less risky choice. During a Sunday evening debate, Biden repeatedly cited his experience in the White House situation room, where he and former President Barack Obama administration contained an Ebola threat and helped avoid a global economic collapse. Biden and Sanders faced each other from lecterns strategically placed six feet apart in line with the recommendations of health experts. A live audience was barred from attending. They did not shake hands.


In the United States, “preppers" — or people who prepare for emergencies by stockpiling food, ammunition and other supplies — have often been mocked. Now some feel that they have the right to be taken seriously as those around them take to panic shopping that has emptied store shelves amid growing fears that many Americans will have to self-quarantine for weeks at home. Survival supply stores now can’t keep up with the demand for food kits and medical supplies and people are reaching out to preppers for advice.


Erna Solberg, the prime minister of Norway, held a live news conference about the coronavirus for children on Monday. She and the ministers for children's affairs and education explained the reasoning behind school closures and other measures to avoid spreading the disease. Children had sent in questions, including how long schools will stay closed and why they cannot celebrate birthdays with older relatives. Amalie, 10, and Rebekka, 8, sent a joint question asking: “Dear prime minister, what do you do to strengthen your immune system?” Solberg's reply: “I try to sleep, to sleep is important to get stronger, get some fresh air and try to work out as much as possible.”


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