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The White House announced Wednesday morning that an upcoming visit from Spain’s king and queen to America had been postponed due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia had been scheduled to make a state visit to the U.S. and to the White House on April 21 to “celebrate our two countries’ close friendship and shared history, and reaffirm our commitments to stand together to address today’s global challenges,” the White House said on Feb. 11.
In a new statement on Wednesday, however, Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham acknowledged how much the world had changed since last month.
“In order for the United States and Spain to continue to devote their full resources and attention to the COVID-19 response, the April 21, 2020, White House State Visit by Their Majesties King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain has been postponed,” Grisham said.
Spain announced that Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s wife, Maria Begona Gomez Fernandez, tested positive for the virus on Saturday.
The European country had the fourth-highest number of confirmed coronavirus patients in the world, with nearly 14,000, as of Wednesday afternoon. There have been 623 deaths there.
In the U.S., the total number of confirmed cases was about 5,900 while 107 people have died as of Wednesday.
As the U.S. government began advising the public to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people this week, in an extension of the strategy of “social distancing” urged by health officials, nearly every aspect of life has been changed either by the virus’ spread or the steps taken to combat it so as not to overwhelm health care resources.
“President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump look forward to welcoming Their Majesties to the United States and the White House in the near future,” Grisham said in her statement on Wednesday. “The United States will continue to work with Spain and all of our European partners to minimize the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
President Trump’s tone regarding the virus has dramatically changed as well.
Less than a month ago, he said the new coronavirus was being politicized by Democrats as a “hoax” aimed at damaging him. This week, Trump admitted the virus and its impact on everything from public health to the economy was “bad.”
“This is a pandemic,” Trump said Tuesday, claiming he took the threat of the virus seriously all along. “I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic.”
The novel coronavirus has infected hundreds of thousands of people around the world, including a list of government officials.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for the virus last week following a recent trip to the U.K. Trudeau said he hadn’t been tested and felt “fine” while his family was in isolation as a precautionary move.
Government officials in France, Iran, Brazil, Australia and Italy have also tested positive for the virus, which causes the deadly respiratory disease COVID-19.
To prevent the spread of the virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages maintaining basic forms of hygiene including careful hand washing, avoiding touching the face, moving away from people who are coughing or sneezing and staying home at signs of illness.
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