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The Latest: Seminole Tribe closes its Florida casinos

March 20, 2020 GMT
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A Department of Public Works worker places a closed sign near an entrance to a playground at an elementary school, in Walpole, Mass., Friday, March 20, 2020, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
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A Department of Public Works worker places a closed sign near an entrance to a playground at an elementary school, in Walpole, Mass., Friday, March 20, 2020, out of concern about the spread of the coronavirus. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

The Latest on the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 246, 000 people and killed more than 10,000. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. More than 86,000 people have recovered so far, mostly in China.

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Seminole Tribe to close Florida casinos despite immunity from government orders

— Illinois to join states ordering residents to stay in place except for essentials

— Southwest Airlines limits traffic at Midway International Airport in Chicago

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — The Seminole Tribe of Florida is closing its six casinos statewide Friday night. The casinos generate billions annually and employ 14,000 people.

As a sovereign tribal nation, the Seminoles did not have to follow the governor’s orders to limit gatherings or close outright, but the tribe said in a statement it no longer felt operating the casinos was safe.

At the tribe’s Hard Rock Casino near Fort Lauderdale on Friday afternoon, vacationers, gamblers and bored locals enjoyed the last few hours of play, but the noisy clangs from the machines were muted. Nearly half the machines were disabled to force players, some wearing gloves, to use machines feet apart.

Dr. Brian Cheung, a 34-year-old Miami anesthesiologist, had planned a trip to Nashville this week, but when it got canceled he came to stay at the Hard Rock’s hotel and gamble in the casino. The hotel will remain open for now.

“Hopefully the pool is still open,” Cheung said, walking down an empty hallway of shuttered restaurants.

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CHICAGO — Southwest says it has not canceled all flights out of Midway International Airport and instead has only scaled back traffic out of its Chicago hub.

The limitations come after federal authorities closed the airport’s control tower after technicians tested positive for the coronavirus. Southwest Airlines spokeswoman Brandy King said the Dallas-based airline canceled about 170 of its roughly 250 daily flights in and out of Midway due to the airspace restrictions that followed the control tower’s closure.

“We’ve had to pull that back by canceling around 170 flights. We’re averaging four to six flights per hour,” she said. “There are only so many flights they’re letting in and out of Chicago.”

King said it’s not clear how long the airline will keep its reduced flight level in and out of Midway, and that decision is tied to how long the airspace restrictions continue.

Earlier reports were that Southwest Airlines had canceled all flights in and out of Midway, which King denied.

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SPRINGFIELD, Ill.: Gov. J.B. Pritzker is expected to add Illinois to the list of states ordering residents to remain in their homes except for essential needs to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Two government officials with knowledge of the directive told The Associated Press that Pritzker’s order will still allow the state’s 12.6 million residents to seek essentials including groceries and medicine. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly ahead of the governor’s announcement expected Friday.

The Chicago Tribune was the first news outlet to confirm the state shutdown that will come into force Saturday.

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PARIS — Tooting horns or playing ragtime, French people in lockdown added a musical touch to their nightly round of applause for medical professionals fighting the new virus.

For the fourth straight night, Parisians opened apartment windows at exactly 8 p.m. and applauded and cheered.

And to mark the first Friday night when all restaurants across France were closed, people played music or raised toasts from their balconies this time, too.

Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” rang out from one neighborhood, church bells from another. A pianist played “The Entertainer,” while others enthusiastically blew horns.

The evening applause is among gestures by people around Europe showing solidarity even when people can’t gather together.

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MOSCOW — The mayor of Kharkiv says Ukraine’s second-largest city is suffering a transport collapse because of restrictions imposed by national authorities to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Authorities this week ordered the subway systems in Kharkiv, Kyiv and Dnipro closed and limited the number of people who can ride on other mass-transit vehicles to 10.

Kharkiv Mayor Hennadiy Kernes said in an open letter to the Ukrainian government released Friday that the restrictions have provoked widespread disorder in the city of 1.5 million, including people storming buses and beating drivers.

Some drivers are refusing to work, he said and appealed to the government to allow limited use of the subway system.

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ROME — All parks, public gardens and playgrounds will be closed in Italy starting Saturday for at least five days.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza signed an ordinance Friday that also aims to crack down on citizens who have ignored rules stipulating that exercise outside of one’s home must not be done in groups and that people must stay at least one-meter (yard) apart.

The new measures says people who do outdoor exercise must now do it only near one’s home while practicing social-distancing. Rome had already banned exercise in parks and Turin’s mayor urged the government to do so nationwide.

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LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered Michigan doctors and dentists to postpone all nonessential medical procedures Friday.

Whitmer said procedures should be scratched by Saturday afternoon unless necessary to “preserve the health and safety of a patient.”

“By postponing all nonessential medical and dental procedures, we expect to reduce the strain on the health care system and protect people,” the governor said.

Whitmer also said the state has been flooded with claims for unemployment aid from residents suddenly out of work.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Dutch King Willem-Alexander made an emotional televised speech to his 17 million subjects.

The king made a rare speech to the nation aimed at praising and promoting unity and soothing fears. He praised health care workers battling the virus and other professions — from cleaners to teachers to police officers — while expressing concern for business owners facing possible financial ruin.

Willem-Alexander, his wife Queen Maxima, and their three daughters have been practicing social distancing this week in their palace in The Hague because they recently took a skiing holiday in an Austrian village where a number of people later tested positive.

The king’s speech came hours after the country’s public health institute reported that 30 people had died in the previous 24 hours, bringing the country’s death toll in the outbreak to 106. There have been 2,994 positive tests.

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WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has its first two confirmed coronavirus cases.

The Air Force confirmed Friday an active duty airman who works at the Defense Health Agency in Falls Church, Virginia and had been inside the Pentagon on Monday has tested positive.

The individual has received medical treatment and has self-quarantined at home.

Also, an Air Force defense contractor who works in the Pentagon has tested positive for the virus and has been self-quarantined since March 7, the Air Force said.

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SALEM, Oregon — Gov. Kate Brown wants a statewide eviction moratorium, to suspend enforcement on expired automobile tabs and driver licenses and has asked the federal government for a one-year extension for compliance the REAL ID act.

Brown said she is not ready to enact more stringent social distancing requirements like those imposed by California and New York this week. Brown has already ordered a six-week statewide school closure, a ban on gatherings of more than 25 people and shutdowns of bar and restaurant operations other than takeout and delivery for at least four weeks.

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CHICAGO — Southwest Airlines has canceled all of its fights in and out of Midway International Airport after federal authorities closed the airport’s control tower because technicians tested positive for the coronavirus.

The airline’s move resulted in more than 173 canceled flights on Friday.

The Federal Aviation Administration closed Midway’s control tower on Tuesday after the federal agency said “several” technicians tested positive for coronavirus.

The FAA said in a statement that the airport remained open and operations would continue at a reduced rate until controllers and technicians have a safe working environment.

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JACKSON, Miss. —- Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced postponing the upcoming Republican primary runoff in the state’s 2nd Congressional District to June 23rd.

Mississippi joins a number of other states that have postponed elections amid the global pandemic.

The Republican runoff originally scheduled for March 31 is between Thomas L. Carey and Brian Flowers, who are running low-budget campaigns.

The winner will advance to the November general election to face Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson, who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Officials at Denali National Park and Preserve have suspended issuing climbing permits for the tallest mountain in North America.

No permits have been issued to climb either Denali or Mount Foraker, another Alaska Range peak, this year. The climbing season in the Alaska national park about 180 miles (290 kilometers) north of Anchorage usually begins in late April and ends in mid-July.

No permits have yet been issued for this year’s climbing season, and refunds will be issued to those who have started the registration process.

“Considering the anticipated longevity of the international coronavirus response, social distancing protocols, and travel restrictions, park managers have determined the most appropriate course of action is to suspend all 2020 permitting,” Denali officials said in a statement.

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ROAD TOWN, British Virgin Islands — The British Virgin Islands won’t bill for water for the next month.

Officials also have closed schools and limited air and sea travel to certain passengers seeking to enter the British Caribbean territory.

The BVI is one of only a handful of islands in the Caribbean with no confirmed cases.

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WASHINGTON — Officials in the nation’s capital have announced the first death of a patient from the COVID-19 illness.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the death of the 59-year-old man on Friday.

She said he was admitted to the hospital last week after showing coronavirus symptoms, including a fever and cough, and tested positive. The mayor said the man also had “other underlying medical conditions” but provided no additional details.

DC health officials said there were 71 confirmed cases as of Thursday night.

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GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization has sent a message to young people about the new coronavirus: “You’re not invincible.”

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus says health officials are continuing to learn about the virus that causes COVID-19 disease. He said older people are hardest hit but “younger people are not spared.”

He said data from many countries shows people aged 50 and under make up a “significant proportion” of patients who need hospitalization.

“Today I have a message for young people: You’re not invincible,” Tedros said. “This virus could put you in hospital for weeks or even kill you. Even if you don’t get sick, the choices you make about where you go could be the difference.”

He also advised people to be mindful of mental health at a time of rising anxiety about the outbreak, offering some suggestions.

“Listen to music. Read a book or play a game, and try not to read or watch too much news if it makes you anxious,” Tedros said.

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LONDON — The British government has unveiled a massive economic support package to protect workers through the coronavirus pandemic.

Treasury chief Rishi Sunak called the economic intervention an “unprecedented” response by a British government and that it is one of the most comprehensive in the world. It will involve for the first time in the history of the British state the government helping to pay the wages of those in the private sector.

Also announced: Support measures for those who have lost their jobs and for those who are self-employed. A series of taxes, including those on sales, have been deferred while a business interruption loan scheme, worth 330 billion pounds, will be interest free for 12 months.

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BELGRADE, Serbia — Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic announced the first recorded death from the coronavirus.

The death was announced as a 59-year-old man from the northern town of Kikinda.

Brnabic said Serbia has 135 cases of the virus, including eight people in serious condition.

Brnabic said all public transport in Serbia will be halted and restaurants, cafes and shopping malls will close this weekend. Serbia previously had imposed a curfew and banned all citizens over 65 years old from leaving their homes.

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WASHINGTON — More than 3,300 Air and Army National Guard professionals in 28 states were actively supporting the COVID-19 response Friday.

The numbers change rapidly as states identify needs and communicate them to their National Guard.

Already, 27 states and Puerto Rico have National Guard personnel activated.

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MOSCOW — Uzbekistan ordered teahouses, canteens, karaoke clubs, billiard halls and hookah lounges be closed by Saturday.

The government also banned large weddings, burials and wakes beginning Monday.

Uzbekistan has recorded 33 cases of coronavirus infection since the first one was reported on March 15.

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ROME — Italy has recorded its highest day-to-day- rise in the number of deaths of persons infected with COVID-19.

Civil Protection Chief Angelo Borrelli announced Friday there were 627 new deaths. The number of new cases also shot staggeringly higher: 5,986 cases.

That brings the official total of new deaths overall to 4,032 and of cases to 47,021.

Authorities said most of the dead had existing health problems before they were sickened with the coronavirus, such as heart disease and diabetes. The soaring numbers in the country with Europe’s largest outbreak come despite a national lockdown to drastically limit the reasons citizens can leave their homes.

Mayors and governors throughout the country have been demanding even stricter measures. Italy’s national government is widely expected to respond soon.

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SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico’s Health Department says the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. territory have more than doubled to 14.

Officials said two of the patients have not traveled. The other patients recently visited places including New York, Florida and Colorado. The majority of those infected are under quarantine at home while one remains hospitalized in isolation.

Officials say there are 52 pending test results. No deaths have been reported.

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PARIS — French authorities are imposing a growing crackdown on people who do not respect confinement measures aimed at fighting the spread of the coronavirus.

On the French Riviera, the mayor of Nice, Christian Estrosi, who has himself been infected with the COVID-19 disease, announced Friday a local curfew at 8 p.m. (1900 GMT).

Paris police imposed a ban for the weekend on the Seine River banks, the Invalides Plaza and the Champ-de-Mars near the Eiffel Tower. City parcs are already closed.

“In some areas of the capital, numbers of people are too important,” the police stressed Friday.

Interior minister Christophe Castaner said no national curfew will be established on the French territory. But the government supports initiatives form mayors who take measures specific to their cities, he said. Some mayors are banning access to beaches and woods.

French citizens are only allowed to leave their homes for necessary activities such as shopping for food, going to work or taking a quick walk.

Some 100,000 police are patrolling to ensure respect for the stay-home orders since the country has been put into lockdown on Tuesday.

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LONDON — The British government is ordering all pubs, restaurants, movie theaters and gyms to close in sweeping new restrictions to fight the spread of coronavirus.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said those venues, as well as nightclubs, theaters and leisure centers, should close Friday and not reopen until further notice. His advice to anyone considering one last trip out on Friday night: “Please don’t.”

Johnson said the situation would be reviewed every month to see if the measures can be relaxed.

Restaurants can continue to serve takeout food.

Britain has already asked people to avoid unnecessary contact with others and avoid pubs, restaurants and other venues, and urged Londoners to use public transport only for essential journeys. While many people have complied, some have not.

As of Friday, Britain had recorded 177 deaths among people with the virus, 40 more than the day before.

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MADRID — There are still 80,000 tourists on Spain’s Canary Islands six days before the closing of all hotels in the country as part of a lockdown against the coronavirus.

Authorities said Friday that they expect 30,000 tourists to leave that day.

The Canary Island government is posting social media messages in eight different languages to strongly encourage the remaining tourists to contact their national embassies to help them get home before hotels close on government order on March 26 .

The rush to leave has led to large crowds at airports on the islands while authorities are ordering people to maintain their distance and stay at home to stop the spread of the virus.

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PRAGUE — Czech officials have urged citizens to spend the weekend at their secondary houses and cottages, a popular local pastime.

The government banned traveling across the country unless it is for going to work or the travel is linked to doing a particular job. People are only allowed shop, visit doctors and hospitals and family members and close relatives.

The Health Ministry said if people need to go to their weekend homes they have to stay inside of them.

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said “it is important not to walk around the places, that’s extremely dangerous.”

Prague’s 774 positive cases is the most in all 14 Czech Republic regions.

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LISBON, Portugal — Beer is being used as a disinfectant in Portugal to help fight COVID-19.

Portuguese distillery Levira and beer producer Super Bock Group say they are diverting some 56,000 liters of alcohol from beer production and using it instead to make disinfectant gel to help fight the spread of the new coronavirus.

Portugal has recorded just over 1,000 cases and six deaths.

The distillery said Friday it is aware of a shortage of the gel. It plans to switch more production to disinfectant.

The gel is to be given to three public health service hospitals in the region of Porto, the country’s second-largest city.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says feet-washing ceremonies will be omitted from Holy Thursday services, which falls three days before Easter.

The decree issued Friday noted that the disposition against feet-washing, a symbol of humility by priests toward their flock which evokes Jesus’ doing the same to his disciples, comes “by mandate of the Supreme Pontiff, for the year 2020 only.”

In past years, Francis has washed the feet of various people, including jail inmates, during Holy Thursday evening Mass. It was not clear if he would omit the feet-washing ritual at his own Mass.

The Vatican earlier this week already announced that Holy Week ceremonies like Palm Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Square won’t take place.

The Vatican said “expressions of popular piety and processions” normally held in the run-up to Easter Sunday can be transferred to suitable days later this year.

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ATHENS, Greece — Greek health and civil protection authorities have tightened measures to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Civil Protection head Nikos Hardalias said Friday restrictions on the number of people in supermarkets were being tightened to one person per 15 square meters instead of per 10 square meters.

All visits to prisons are banned, and inmate furloughs and transfers suspended. Private pleasure boats are banned from leaving or entering port, and those currently at sea are ordered back to port by midnight Saturday.

No picnics or group sports are allowed. Farmers’ markets will be shut on Saturday, and restricted in size from next week.

“This is not a drill. It is a real battle,” Hardalias said.

Ferry services to the islands will only be accessible to permanent residents of the islands as of 6 a.m. Saturday, in an effort to prevent the virus from spreading to rural areas with poor health facilities, by people heading to their country homes or native villages.

Sotirios Tsiodras, the Health Ministry’s chief infectious diseases specialist, announced 31 new confirmed cases and three deaths over the last 24 hours, bringing Greece’s total number of confirmed infections to 495 and the death toll to nine.

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THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Netherlands’ government is extending its package of aid for businesses’ hit by the coronavirus to three Caribbean islands considered Dutch municipalities.

Bonaire, Sint-Eustatius and Saba, usually magnets for tourism, have been crippled by worldwide measures aimed at halting the spread of the virus.

“This has serious consequences for businesses’ profitability and for employment,” said Raymond Knops, the minister responsible for the far-flung outposts of the Dutch kingdom.

Among the support measures, employers will be able to apply for welfare payments and defer paying taxes.

The government also is looking at how it can help three other largely autonomous former Dutch territories — Curacao, Aruba and Sint-Maarten.

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ATLANTA — A jet carrying 359 people including hundreds of American and Canadian cruise ship passengers returning home from France landed Friday at Atlanta’s international airport, where emergency responders prepared to screen them for the coronavirus.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said three people on the flight tested positive for COVID-19 but have no symptoms, while 13 others are sick but haven’t been tested.

Some passengers complained on social media that there were no health care workers or doctors on the plane and they had not been given food in 24 hours.

The passengers from the trans-Atlantic cruise ship Costa Luminosa, which struggled to find a port in Europe after sick passengers were taken away in the Caribbean and the Canary Islands, now face more screening and quarantines.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says the Department of Education will not enforce standardized testing requirements for students in elementary through high school for the current year.

Trump said students have already been through a lot with schools opening and closings.

He says his administration also has temporarily waived all interest on federally held student loans and he says he’s directed Education Secretary Besty DeVos to tell federal lenders to allow borrowers to suspend their student loans and loan payments, without penalty for at least the next 60 days.

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TORONTO — Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says his government has received 500,000 applications for employment insurance compared to just 27,000 for the same week last year.

Trudeau says they are receiving a historic number of calls from concerned Canadians amid the pandemic.

Those laid off are able to access employment insurance. The criteria for those eligible was expanded earlier this week.

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SOFIA, Bulgaria — Bulgaria has confirmed at least 127 cases and 3 deaths from the coronavirus. One patient has recovered.

Health Minister Kiril Ananiev on Friday said the government is declaring a quarantine for the entire country taking effect Saturday.

Bulgarian citizens are not allowed to travel abroad. Traveling between cities in the country is banned except to carry out work duties, due to health reasons or to return to home.

Under the state of emergency imposed last week, people can shop from grocery stores and pharmacies and restaurants are limited to take-out and delivery services.

The new limitations foresee that people over 60 years can shop only for two hours between 8.30 and 10.30 a.m.

People in the cities will be banned from going to parks, playgrounds and other outdoor facilities to limit contacts wit

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NICOSIA, Cyprus — The United Nations peacekeeping force in Cyprus says new personnel arriving to the ethnically split country will undergo a 14-day period of isolation to prevent the potential spread of the coronavirus.

U.N. mission spokesman Aleem Siddique said Friday peacekeepers continue their operations including patrolling the 120-mile buffer zone that cuts the island nation into a breakaway north and an internationally recognized south.

He said the mission has stepped up measures to protect staff including instructing civilian personnel to work from home. It’s also working with Turkish Cypriots and Greek Cypriots to assist in any medical emergencies and in the exchange of information.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says the U.S. and Mexico will sharply curtail cross-border travel to curtail the spread of the coronavirus.

The limits on travel will apply only to recreational and tourist travel. Trade will not be affected.

The restrictions are similar to limits the U.S. and Canada put in place earlier this week along their shared border

There also will be no ban on people traveling for work or other essential activities.

Trump says these actions taking with America’s North American partners “will save countless lives.”

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JAKARTA, Indonesia — Jakarta Gov. Anies Baswedan is ordering a work-from-home policy in the usually bustling city of Indonesia’s capital for two weeks starting Friday.

Baswedan said the city is under disaster emergency state of coronavirus as the country has had 32 deaths from COVID-19, the most in Southeast Asia, and has 369 cases. There has been 19 deaths in Jakarta alone.

“The situation in Jakarta is different from 2 weeks ago or last week,” Baswedan said at a news conference, “The death toll is increasing and we are grieving.”

He instructed the closure of offices in the city with a population of 10 million and asked companies to order their employees to work from home for the next two weeks.

The governor has earlier announced the city closure of schools, tourist destinations, entertainment places and suspended religious mass gatherings.

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NEW YORK — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo is ordering all workers in non-essential businesses to stay home and banning gatherings statewide.

“Only essential businesses can have workers commuting to the job or on the job,” Cuomo said of an executive order he will sign Friday.

Nonessential gatherings of individuals of any size or for any reason are canceled or postponed.

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The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.