What's Happening: Pandemic declared, virus survival studied

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Staff and shoppers wear face masks inside a supermarket in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. Spain's health minister on Monday announced a sharp spike in coronavirus cases in and around the national capital, Madrid, and said all schools in the region, including kindergartens and universities, will close for two weeks from Wednesday. 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. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)

New clusters of the novel coronavirus are expanding in the United States and Europe as Italy replaces China as the current epicenter of a worldwide outbreak.

For most people, the virus 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.

These are some of the latest developments on Wednesday:

WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION DECLARES PANDEMIC

The World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic but said it’s not too late for countries to act. By using the word it had previously shied away from, the U.N. health agency appeared to want to shock lethargic countries into pulling out all the stops as cases mount globally. “We have called every day for countries to take urgent and aggressive action. We have rung the alarm bell loud and clear,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

VIRUS SURVIVAL TIME

A study by U.S. scientists found the new coronavirus could be detected in the air up to three hours after being sprayed. It could live up to 24 hours on cardboard and up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. To determine their findings published Wednesday, researchers used a nebulizer device to put samples of the new virus into the air, simulating what might happen if an infected person coughed or made the virus airborne some other way.

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