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Millions of people are holing up at home, stocking up on supplies and keeping a wary eye on how close they get to friends and neighbors as the coronavirus spreads to more places. The number of cases worldwide neared 175,000 with 6,705 deaths, but 77,000 people have already recovered from the illness.

These are some of the latest developments Monday:

ASIA NOW ACCOUNTS FOR LESS THAN HALF OF GLOBAL CASES

The coronavirus outbreak has shifted away from its original epicenter in Asia to Europe. China, where the virus was first detected in December, now accounts for less than half of the world’s nearly 175,000 cases, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. But as the virus spreads to the west, it is leaving millions of fearful people hunkered down in their homes in Europe, the United States and beyond. Public life in many places was increasingly shut down: many restaurants were offering only takeout, if they were open at all. Schools, concerts, sporting events — even small-scale St. Patrick’s Day parties — were canceled.

SPAIN BECOMES WORLD’S FOURTH-MOST INFECTION COUNTRY

Spain officially became the fourth-most-infected country in the world, surpassing South Korea as its arc of contagion curved higher. Only China, Italy and Iran have more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than Spain, where the health ministry said the number of infections increased overnight by roughly 20% to 9,191 and the number of fatalities rose to 309. The actual figure was presumed to be even higher, because Spain switched to a new system of reporting.

VACCINE TRIAL STARTS IN U.S.

The first participant in a clinical trial for a vaccine to protect against the new coronavirus will receive an experimental dose at a research institute in the U.S. state of Washington. Officials caution, however, that it will still take from a year to 18 months to fully validate any potential vaccine. Dozens of research groups around the world are racing to create a vaccine as COVID-19 cases continue to grow. The National Institutes of Health is funding the trial, which starts Monday at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute in Seattle. 

CRISIS GIVES BOOST TO DEMOCRATS’ JOE BIDEN

Former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders are both seeking to be the Democrats’ presidential candidate and have both sought to cast themselves as best-positioned to lead the U.S. through a global pandemic. But Biden seems to be the one getting the bigger boost as he stresses his governing experience and appears to be the less risky choice. During a Sunday evening debate, Biden repeatedly cited his experience in the White House situation room, where former President Barack Obama’s administration contained an Ebola threat and helped avoid a global economic collapse. Biden and Sanders faced each other from lecterns strategically placed six feet apart in line with the recommendations of health experts. A live audience was barred from attending. They did not shake hands. 

“PREPPERS” HOPE TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY

In the United States, “preppers” — or people who prepare for emergencies by stockpiling food, ammunition and other supplies — have often been mocked. Now some feel that they have the right to be taken seriously as those around them take to panic shopping. The widespread shopping has emptied store shelves amid growing fears that many Americans will have to self-quarantine for weeks at home. Survival supply stores now can’t keep up with the demand for food kits and medical supplies and people are reaching out to preppers for advice.

The Associated Press 

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