Daily Briefing

10 things you need to know today: March 8, 2020

Tim O'Donnell
Deserted square in Milan.
Emanuele Cremaschi/Getty Images


Italy locks down northern regions over coronavirus

The Italian government Sunday announced the drastic measure of shutting down much of the country's north in an effort to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, restricting movement of around 16 million people in places like Milan and Venice until at least April 3. Italy now has more than 5,800 confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 233 people of died from the virus, the highest amount of deaths outside China, where it originated. Most of those cases have occurred in Italy's northern regions, especially Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, and Veneto, which combined account for 40 percent of the country's economic output, so the restrictions will almost certainly damage the Italian economy in the short-term. Some confusion remains about what the exact measures and nature of enforcement will be, and regional and local officials have complained the national government did not effectively communicate the plan before a draft leaked. [The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal]


Harris endorses Biden

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) on Sunday became the latest former Democratic presidential candidate to endorse former Vice President Joe Biden for the nomination. Harris, who dropped out of the race last December, said she was backing Biden because she believes the United States "needs a president who reflects the decency and dignity of the American people; a president who speaks the truth; and a president who fights for those whose voices are too often overlooked and ignored." Harris will "do everything in my power" to get Biden to the Oval Office, she wrote on Twitter. Harris and Biden clashed during some of the early primary debates, but the two reportedly had a strong relationship prior to that. [CNN, Kamala Harris]


Trump is not 'concerned at all' after CPAC attendee tested positive for coronavirus

President Trump on Saturday said he was "not concerned at all" about the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, after it was reported an attendee at the Conservative Political Action Conference last week tested positive. Both Trump and Vice President Mike Pence were also at the event. The American Conservative Union put out a statement Saturday saying the attendee, who is now in quarantine in New Jersey, had no contact with either Trump or Pence and did not attend events in the main hall. Trump, meanwhile, said he plans to continue holding rallies despite the virus' spread and criticism that his administration is downplaying the threat. "We'll hold tremendous rallies," he said. [The Guardian, New York]


Cruise ship with coronavirus cases to dock in Oakland

A cruise ship containing passengers and crew who have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, will dock Monday in Oakland, California, where California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has given permission for its thousands of passengers to disembark. The Grand Princess was held off the coast of California on Wednesday so people with symptoms could get tested for the virus, and it was forbidden to dock in San Francisco amid evidence it was a breeding ground for a cluster of COVID-19 cases from a previous voyage. In the United States, the death toll from the virus rose to 19 on Saturday, and the number of confirmed cases surpassed 400. New York State declared a state of emergency. [The Mercury News, The Associated Press]


Coronavirus quarantine hotel collapses in China

A five-story hotel used to quarantine people potentially exposed to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, in Quanzhou, China, collapsed Saturday, reportedly trapping around 70 people and killing 10. Reuters reports 23 are still in need of rescue. A woman staying under quarantine at another hotel said she tried contacting her relatives who were in the hotel, but has not yet been able to reach them. Some people are reportedly demanding an investigation into how the hotel collapsed, the reason for which is not currently known. But the incident will likely do little to quell anger directed at Beijing from China's citizenry over how the government has handled the COVID-19 outbreak from the beginning. [ Reuters, BBC]


Saudi Arabia continues major security crackdown

Saudi Arabia's crackdown on an alleged coup by two prominent members of the kingdom's royal family reportedly extends much further. It was reported Friday that guards arrested King Salman's brother, Prince Ahmed bin Abdulaziz al Saud, and nephew, Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al Saud, as well as one of his brothers. But since then there have been reports other royal rivals, government officials, and military officials have been rounded up as well. The security sweep is widely viewed as an attempt to consolidate Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's power by rooting out any potential threats. The number of arrests of princes reportedly could be as high as 20. [The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times]


Trump, Brazil's Bolsonaro discuss Venezuela crisis

President Trump hosted Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on Saturday. The two leaders reportedly discussed the crisis in Venezuela, where Washington is backing efforts helmed by opposition leader Juan Guaidó to oust Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro. During the dinner meeting, Trump and Bolsonaro reportedly agreed they support the opposition's efforts. The two also reportedly discussed a future trade deal between the Western Hemisphere's two largest economies as Trump — despite his high opinion of the conservative, populist Bolsonaro — said he couldn't make any promises about whether he would hold off placing new tariffs on Brazilian steel and aluminum. [Reuters, Bloomberg]


Aramco shares dip below IPO price for first time

Shares in Saudi Arabian state oil giant Aramco fell by as much as 9 percent Sunday as fears over the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, sent oil prices plummeting. It was the first time since Aramco's record-breaking initial public offering that the company's shares dropped below its listing price of 30 riyals. Another factor in the fall of oil prices was a disagreement Friday between Russia and the Saudi-led Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, which ended a four-year collaboration. Per The Wall Street Journal, the fall in prices is a major blow for Saudi Arabia which sold a 1.5 percent stake in the company. The kingdom is also dealing with political upheaval after Crown Prince Mohammed launched a crackdown of potential rivals this weekend. [Reuters, The Wall Street Journal]


Iditarod to begin with smaller-than-normal field

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins Sunday in Alaska. Only 57 mushers are lining up for the nearly 1,000-mile race that culminates in the town of Nome. It's the second-smallest field in two decades, but is larger than last year's, in which only 52 people participated. There was a ceremonial start Saturday in Anchorage, but the real, grueling race commences Sunday around 2 p.m. local time. The trail this year is expected to be snowy, which has prompted mushers to arm themselves with handguns to protect themselves and their dogs from moose in case they opt to take a path with easier mobility. [Anchorage Daily News, The Associated Press]


Warren makes surprise appearance on SNL

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) made a surprise appearance Saturday during Saturday Night Live's cold open, just days after she ended her Democratic presidential campaign. Warren appeared as a guest on Fox News, where Kate McKinnon's Laura Ingraham interviewed her about her bid and the decision to call it quits. Warren said she has no regrets and made some jokes about her primary debate performances in which she zeroed in on billionaire and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who also bowed out of the race this week. The sketch ended with McKinnon switching over to her Warren character, joining the senator on stage. [The Week]

Around the web