The Latest: Trump cancels rallies, virus reshapes politics

The Latest on the world’s coronavirus pandemic:

President Donald Trump says he’s temporarily halting his trademark rallies as his campaign bows to the coronavirus outbreak that is rapidly reshaping the political landscape.

The rallies have long been Trump’s most potent political weapon. They energize the candidate and give him a powerful platform from which to attack his adversaries while his team collects a treasure trove of voter data.

But the spread of the virus which has closed schools and shuttered professional sports leagues has also touched the 2020 presidential campaign.

Leading Democratic contenders Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders canceled their scheduled rallies earlier this week.

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The coronavirus is bringing the entertainment world almost to a standstill.

Upcoming movies have been canceled, and all Broadway performances suspended. TV networks have eliminated live audiences from shows until it’s safe to welcome crowds back.

To curb the spread of the disease, Hollywood has paused the normal hum of TV productions and the bustle of red-carpet movie premieres.

After New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned gatherings of more than 500 people, Broadway theaters announced that they would close immediately and remain dark through April 12.

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Portugal’s government has ordered that all the country’s public and private schools and universities remain closed from next Monday for almost a month to help stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

The measure announced late Thursday affects about 2 million students.

Prime Minister Antonio Costa said in a televised address to the nation that the government will offer financial assistance to working parents who have to stay at home with their children. Businesses will get tax breaks.

Authorities will also shut night clubs and limit how many people can enter government buildings, shopping malls and restaurants.

Costa said people are “in a fight for survival” against the COVID-19 virus. Portugal has reported 78 cases but no deaths.

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Maryland officials say the state closing all public schools for two weeks in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

State Superintendent of Schools Karen Salmon said schools will be closed from Monday until March 27.

And on North Carolina, Gov. Roy Cooper has urged that meetings of more than 100 people to be cancelled, postponed or modified starting Friday.

That includes church services and sporting events and other activities. The state’s number of identified cases has grown from eight to 15, with no deaths.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice suspended high school basketball tournaments due to concerns over the new coronavirus just hours before he was supposed to coach his girls team in a game. West Virginia is among the few U.S. states without a confirmed virus case.

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Iran’s foreign minister is demanding that the United States immediately halt what he called a “campaign of economic terrorism” and lift sanctions. The sanctions have made it virtually impossible for Iran to import medicine and medical equipment, including to identify and treat coronavirus patients.

Mohammad Javad Zarif says U.S. sanctions have also made it increasingly difficult for the country to export oil, stranded thousands of Iranians abroad, and led to what he called “Google’s immoral censoring” of a new government app designed to help Iranians identify potential symptoms of the COVID-19 virus.

The virus has swept across Iran, with the death toll rising to 429 and confirmed cases to 10,075.

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The mayor of Miami has announced plans to self-quarantine after attending an event earlier this week with a Brazilian official who later tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Mayor Francis Suarez posted a video on Twitter Thursday afternoon saying that he doesn’t believe he had direct contact with the staff member during a South Florida visit with President Jair Bolsonaro where President Donald Trump was also present.

Suarez says he is not displaying symptoms, but is isolating himself out of an abundance of caution and will lead city government remotely.

Florida’s Sen. Rick Scott also met Bolsonaro in Miami and announced that he will self-quarantine.

Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez is also self-isolating, though it wasn’t immediately clear if he had contact with the Brazilian officials.

Trump also met with Bolsonaro and his staff. The White House has said Trump has no plans to be tested for the virus infection or go into self-quarantine.

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The deepening virus outbreak has prompted the cancellation of Champions League soccer for the first time.

The high-profile match between Manchester City and Real Madrid was postponed along with the Juventus game against Lyon. Both were scheduled for Tuesday.

The soccer calendar was becoming increasingly fragmented as the pandemic took its toll on leagues and cup competitions. The Spanish league was postponed for the next two round.

Dutch soccer authorities canceled all matches until the end of the month. Major League Soccer in the United States was also shutting down for a 30-day period.

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Disneyland has announced that it’s shutting down its California theme parks on Saturday over concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.

The company said in a statement Thursday that Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park will be closed through the end of the month though there have been no reported cases of the new virus.

It is closing after reviewing guidelines by California Gov. Gavin Newsom that limit gatherings of more than 250 people.

Newsom had said earlier Thursday that the guidance did not yet apply to amusement parks.

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A top federal health official says the U.S. effort to test for the coronavirus is “a failing.”

Public health experts warn that the nation’s hobbled testing rollout has left them with little indication of how the virus is spreading.

The lack of comprehensive figures means U.S. health providers could quickly be overwhelmed by undetected cases. The effort initially endured delays in getting testing kits out to public health labs, but the stumbles have continued.

U.S. health officials, for example, promised nearly a month ago to tap into a national network of labs that monitor for flu. That system is only just getting started.

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The Canadian province of Ontario has closed all publicly funded schools from March 14 to April 5 because of the pandemic.

Ontario is Canada’s most populous province and a statement from the province says the decision was based on advice from Ontario’s chief medical officer of health.

March break for students begins next week for many schools that will closed for two weeks.

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The office of Sen. Lindsey Graham says he has decided to self-quarantine himself and work remotely because he was in Florida at an event attended by a top Brazilian government official who tested positive for the new coronavirus.

A statement from Graham’s office Thursday says Graham was tested for the virus and is waiting for the result.

The statement from Graham’s office says took the steps because of advice from his doctor.

The White House says U.S. President Trump has no plans to be tested for the new coronavirus or go into self-quarantine after attending the same events last weekend.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s communications director tested positive days after traveling with Bolsonaro to the meeting with Trump and senior aides in Florida. Bolsonaro is also awaiting test results.

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French President Emmanuel Macron has said that all of the country’s schools, kindergartens and universities will be closed until further notice starting Monday, in a strategy to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Macron in a televised address Thursday called the outbreak the most serious health crisis for France in a century and that is priority is to protect the most vulnerable. He urged people over age 70 to stay home.

Macron says “non-essential” treatment in hospital is also postponed.

French General Director of Health Jérôme Salomon says there have been more than 2,800 confirmed cases of the virus in France and 61 deaths.

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Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has ordered schools closed for three weeks beginning Monday.

He acknowledged the disruptions it will mean for families but said it’s necessary to help prevent the spread of the virus. The announcement came as state Health Department Director Dr. Amy Acton issued an order banning gatherings of over 100 people.

The ban is not absolute and exempts work places, religious gatherings, weddings and funerals, and other events. Numerous cancellations preceded the announcement across the state.

In Arkansas, state officials have told public schools in four counties to temporarily close. State health officials said Thursday they had identified five more people with the coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19. The five were being isolated in their homes.

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Major League Baseball is likely to cancel the rest of its spring training game schedule due to the coronavirus. MLB probably will also announce that the start of the season will be delayed, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The people spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no decision had been announced. They said Commissioner Rob Manfred planned a conference call with his executive council Thursday to discuss the situation and then a call with team owners.

MLB had continued to play into Thursday, when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said he strongly recommended to local authorities and organizers that they limit all mass gatherings.

The major league season had been scheduled to start March 26, its earliest opening other than for international games.

— Reporting by AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum

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