The coronavirus outbreak began nearly three months ago. But on Thursday, the magnitude of the pandemic hit home in America. The outbreak was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization on Wednesday. A slew of major cancellations in the US followed soon after, including sports seasons and movie premieres. In the US, there are nearly 1,700 confirmed cases, and 41 people have died from the disease. Grade schools are shuttering to keep students at home, and universities are extending spring breaks and hosting online classes. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The coronavirus was officially declared a pandemic on Wednesday. The next day, the magnitude of the situation hit home in America. The virus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, has been found in more than 100 countries outside of the outbreak's epicenter in Wuhan, China. Since the outbreak began late last December, the number of coronavirus cases has surpassed 128,000, with a death toll of at least 4,720. In the US, there are nearly 1,700 confirmed cases, and at least 41 people have died from the disease. Though, two weeks ago, Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sounded the alarm saying, "It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness," before Wednesday night, and to a greater degree on Thursday, the US had a mixed response to the coronavirus outbreak. Americans appeared to respond by panic-buying supplies, but social distancing practices were not immediately put into effect. States only began to declare emergencies at the end of February, the White House continued to give mixed messages about the severity of the outbreak, and testing for COVID-19 has lagged behind other countries. There were signs that the country was moving in the direction of social distancing measures: This week SXSW was canceled, Coachella and Stagecoach were postponed. Tech companies began asking employees to work from home and a spooked stock market tumbled into bear territory; on Thursday, the Dow Jones Industrial reached its lowest since 1987. But then the dam broke. On Wednesday night, two-time Oscar winner Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson announced they had tested positive for the coronavirus, while they were in Australia for pre-production of the upcoming untitled Elvis Presley biopic. The Hanks' announcement hit at the same time as a televised address by President Donald Trump. In his speech, which necessitated several clarifications from the White House thereafter, President Donald Trump announced that travel from Europe except for the United Kingdom would be suspended for 30 days — adding to the nation's existent travel advisories to parts of Asia. He also announced potential economic measures as the US braces for the economic fallout of the disease, including asking Congress to provide payroll tax relief and waivers for small businesses. The dominoes continued to tumble. The coronavirus — which shut down much of China for a month and forced an unprecedented country-wide lockdown in Italy — was real. Though the president has not declared a national emergency, 25 states have declared emergencies, and companies have stepped in to implement social distancing measures — banning large gatherings and canceling events. US sports and entertainment have taken a hit. Wednesday evening, the NBA also announced it would suspend its 2019-2020 season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, also prompting a quarantine on the teams he had played in the days prior to his diagnosis. On Thursday, the MLB, NHL, and NCAA followed suit, canceling all games and postseason tournaments like March Madness. NASCAR and Indycar will continue to hold races but with no fans in attendance. Aside from sports, the entertainment industry in the US has also borne the brunt of the disease. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo banned gatherings of more than 500 people, shuttering Broadway until mid-April. Disney postponed the premieres of upcoming movies, including the must-anticipated release of the live-action "Mulan." Major US amusement parks at Disneyland, Disney World, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Orlando Resort announced that their doors would be closing to visitors until the end of the month. Grade schools are shuttering and universities are extending spring breaks and hosting online classes. Universities in the US — including Columbia, Harvard, and Ohio State — are moving students off-campus and shifting over to remote classes amid the outbreak. Local school districts have also been moving to cancel classes and keep students at home, including Houston Independent School District, which is the seventh-largest school district in the country. This is only a sampling of the ways the US has been responding to the coronavirus outbreak, and it exemplifies the sudden reactive approach the country is taking to the outbreak nearly three months since it began. In comparison, China imposed an unprecedented quarantine on tens of millions of people living in the country, including the 11 million people living in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. Italy, which has been the second hardest-hit country by the coronavirus, put the entire country on lockdown and shut down all stores except for groceries and pharmacies. While the coronavirus has not yet impacted the US on the same level as it has others, these measures will likely help prevent the spread of the disease as the US continues to grapple with the stark reality of the coronavirus outbreak on American soil.
Read more: 21 states have declared states of emergency to fight coronavirus — here's what it means for them The sports world is coming to a grinding halt because of coronavirus, and now the NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA are canceling their seasons. Here's the full list. Columbia, Harvard, Ohio State, and other major US colleges and universities that have switched to remote classes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus Parents are struggling to cope as coronavirus worries shut down schools, leaving kids scared and confused SEE ALSO: Here are the major events that have been cancelled or postponed due to the outbreak of the coronavirus so far Join the conversation about this story » NOW WATCH: Here's what happens to your brain when you get a concussion
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