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US Supreme Court stops oral arguments for first time since 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak due to coronavirus pandemic



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The US Supreme Court is stopping oral arguments for the first time since the Spanish Flu outbreak in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus.

It announced it will be postponing oral arguments scheduled to take place between March 23 and April 1 in “keeping with public health precautions”.

The court will still hold its scheduled conference on Friday, March 20, with some Justices participating remotely by telephone.

It came as the White House urged all older Americans to stay home and everyone to avoid crowds and eating out at restaurants as part of sweeping guidelines meant to combat an expected surge of coronavirus cases.

Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force (AP)

The 1918 Spanish Flu pandemic infected a third of the world’s population and killed 50 million people over the course of three years. It is considered one of the deadliest epidemics in human history.

In a statement the Supreme Court said: “In keeping with public health precautions recommended in response to COVID-19, the Supreme Court is postponing the oral arguments currently scheduled for the March session (March 23-25 and March 30-April 1).  

“The Court will examine the options for rescheduling those cases in due course in light of the developing circumstances.  

“The Court will hold its regularly scheduled Conference on Friday, March 20. Some Justices may participate remotely by telephone.”

Empty Europe during Coronavirus – In pictures

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The Pariser Platz in front of the Brandenburg Gate is almost empty in Berlin

AP

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The Arc de Triomphe in Paris is deserted

Getty Images

3/34

Barcelona’s cathedral, Spain

AP

4/34

Duomo Square in Milan, Italy,

AP

5/34

Colosseum in central Rome

AFP via Getty Images

6/34

The Autobahn 12 is completely empty shortly before the German-Polish border crossing near Frankfurt

AP

7/34

Closed shops following an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Brussels, Belgium

Reuters

8/34

The Malagueta beach is cordoned off in Malaga, Spain

AFP via Getty Images

9/34

Vienna, Austria

AP

10/34

Deserted Hotel de Ville in Paris, France

Getty Images

11/34

The highway leading to Barcelona is seen empty of cars

AP

12/34

City of Gdansk in Poland is virtually deserted

Reuters

13/34

Ratusz Arsenal metro station visually deserted, amid coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, in Warsaw, Poland

via Reuters

14/34

The Royal palace in downtown Madrid, Spain

AP

15/34

St. Peter’s Square, Vatican in Rome, Italy

Reuters

16/34

The usually busy Larios street remains empty in Malaga

AFP via Getty Images

17/34

A view of an empty square in Naples, Italy during a lockdown across all of the country, imposed to slow the outbreak of coronavirus, in Naples, Italy

Reuters

18/34

Galleria Umberto in Naples, Italy

Reuters

19/34

A street is almost empty in downtown Naples

AP

20/34

An empty beach in Barcelona, Spain

AP

21/34

Homes and an empty street are seen under partial lockdown as part of a 15-day state of emergency to combat the coronavirus outbreak in downtown Ronda, southern Spain

Reuters

22/34

Restaurants remain closed on a seaside promenade in Valencia in Spain

AFP via Getty Images

23/34

A deserted Westland shopping center in Brussels

BELGA/AFP via Getty Images

24/34

A view of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele shopping arcade in Milan, Italy

AP

25/34

An empty street in the Porta Nuova district in Milan, Itlay

Reuters

26/34

An almost empty Roemerberg square, the main tourist spot in Frankfurt, Germany

AP

27/34

An empty Via Condotti street in Rome, Italy

Reuters

28/34

Piazza Trilussa in Rome, Italy

Reuters

29/34

The Louvre Museum

Getty Images

30/34

Musee du Louvre in Paris is closed to the public

AFP via Getty Images

31/34

The Eiffel Tower is seen next to a board that reads: “In the context of the COVID-19 the Eiffel Tower closes

Reuters

32/34

An empty Disneyland Paris

PA

33/34

Old Town area visually deserted, amid coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, in Warsaw, Poland

via Reuters

34/34

Old Town area is visually deserted, amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) concerns, in Warsaw, Poland

via Reuters

1/34

The Pariser Platz in front of the Brandenburg Gate is almost empty in Berlin

AP

2/34

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris is deserted

Getty Images

3/34

Barcelona’s cathedral, Spain

AP

4/34

Duomo Square in Milan, Italy,

AP

5/34

Colosseum in central Rome

AFP via Getty Images

6/34

The Autobahn 12 is completely empty shortly before the German-Polish border crossing near Frankfurt

AP

7/34

Closed shops following an outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Brussels, Belgium

Reuters

8/34

The Malagueta beach is cordoned off in Malaga, Spain

AFP via Getty Images

9/34

Vienna, Austria

AP

10/34

Deserted Hotel de Ville in Paris, France

Getty Images

11/34

The highway leading to Barcelona is seen empty of cars

AP

12/34

City of Gdansk in Poland is virtually deserted

Reuters

13/34

Ratusz Arsenal metro station visually deserted, amid coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, in Warsaw, Poland

via Reuters

14/34

The Royal palace in downtown Madrid, Spain

AP

15/34

St. Peter’s Square, Vatican in Rome, Italy

Reuters

16/34

The usually busy Larios street remains empty in Malaga

AFP via Getty Images

17/34

A view of an empty square in Naples, Italy during a lockdown across all of the country, imposed to slow the outbreak of coronavirus, in Naples, Italy

Reuters

18/34

Galleria Umberto in Naples, Italy

Reuters

19/34

A street is almost empty in downtown Naples

AP

20/34

An empty beach in Barcelona, Spain

AP

21/34

Homes and an empty street are seen under partial lockdown as part of a 15-day state of emergency to combat the coronavirus outbreak in downtown Ronda, southern Spain

Reuters

22/34

Restaurants remain closed on a seaside promenade in Valencia in Spain

AFP via Getty Images

23/34

A deserted Westland shopping center in Brussels

BELGA/AFP via Getty Images

24/34

A view of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele shopping arcade in Milan, Italy

AP

25/34

An empty street in the Porta Nuova district in Milan, Itlay

Reuters

26/34

An almost empty Roemerberg square, the main tourist spot in Frankfurt, Germany

AP

27/34

An empty Via Condotti street in Rome, Italy

Reuters

28/34

Piazza Trilussa in Rome, Italy

Reuters

29/34

The Louvre Museum

Getty Images

30/34

Musee du Louvre in Paris is closed to the public

AFP via Getty Images

31/34

The Eiffel Tower is seen next to a board that reads: “In the context of the COVID-19 the Eiffel Tower closes

Reuters

32/34

An empty Disneyland Paris

PA

33/34

Old Town area visually deserted, amid coronavirus (COVID-19) concerns, in Warsaw, Poland

via Reuters

34/34

Old Town area is visually deserted, amid coronavirus disease (COVID-19) concerns, in Warsaw, Poland

via Reuters

The statement said that the building will remain open for “official business”  and filing deadlines will not be extended.

“The Court is expanding remote working capabilities to reduce the number of employees in the building, consistent with public health guidance. The building will remain closed to the public until further notice,” it said.

“The Court’s postponement of argument sessions in light of public health concerns is not unprecedented.  The Court postponed scheduled arguments for October 1918 in response to the Spanish flu epidemic. 

“The Court also shortened its argument calendars in August 1793 and August 1798 in response to yellow fever outbreaks.”

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The announcement comes as Donald Trump, in a marked shift in tone about a crisis that has enveloped the globe, for the first time acknowledged the pandemic may send the US economy into a recession and suggested the nation may be dealing with the virus until July or August.

The guidelines, which would rewrite the norms of American society for half a month, were released as the US government tried to blunt the impact of an expected surge of cases, racing to bolster testing and aid even as financial markets tumbled.

For the next 15 days it was recommended that Americans should not gather in groups of more than 10 people, schooling should be at home, discretionary travel and social visits should be avoided, and if anyone in a household tests positive for the virus, everyone who lives there should stay home.

The administration did not define what an an older American was in terms of the recommendation to stay home.

Donald Trump speaks during a press briefing with the coronavirus task force (AP)

“We will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus,” the president said. “We can turn the corner and turn it quickly.”

Asked when the pandemic would subside, he said that “if we do a really good job” the crisis could pass by the height of summer.

That was a far less optimistic take than in his earlier predictions that it could be over within weeks. He also acknowledged that the virus, which has battered global markets, may send the nation’s economy into a recession, a potentially brutal blow for an incumbent in an election year.

Mr Trump was unusually sombre about the matter after playing it down for weeks. He acknowledged the pandemic was “not under control” in the US or globally but he did not yet plan to call for domestic travel restrictions and was reluctant to advise states to cancel primary elections.

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