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Supreme Court pushes back hearings in response to pandemic

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday it is postponing oral arguments scheduled for this month in response to growing concerns over the COVID-19 pandemic.

The high court said in a statement that it will decide when to reschedule those hearings “in due course in light of the developing circumstances.”

The court had several high-profile cases on its March calendar, including a fight over access to nearly a decade of President Donald Trump’s personal financial records, including his tax returns. The justices were also scheduled to hear a high-stakes tech battle between Google and Oracle over whether companies can copyright certain types of computer code.

The delay caused by the coronavirus is the first time the Supreme Court has pushed back oral arguments since 1918, when it postponed hearings amid the Spanish pandemic.

The court had already closed to the public last week in light of the COVID-19 outbreak.

Operations of the court are ongoing and the justices will hold a regularly scheduled conference on Friday by telephone. They will issue an order list next Monday as well, at the regularly scheduled time of 9:30 a.m. Eastern.

The Supreme Court building is open for official business but it is expanding remote working capabilities to lower the number of people in the building, following the lead of many American companies responding to the pandemic. The court has not said when the building will reopen to the public.

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg did not immediately return an email request for comment Monday.

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The high court’s response reflects recommendations from public health officials and the federal government as the U.S. continues to combat the virus, which has infected more than 3,800 people in 49 states as of Monday morning.

Last week, President Donald Trump declared a 30-day ban on travelers from European countries, with the exception of U.S. citizens and lawful residents like green card holders. That ban was expanded to Britain and Ireland on Saturday, as the Trump administration also considers some restrictions on travel inside the U.S.

By Friday, Trump declared a national emergency over the virus. The House of Representatives also passed a coronavirus response bill late Friday that includes free COVID-19 testing, paid sick leave and other unemployment benefits.

The president’s health has been under scrutiny during the outbreak. A press secretary for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tested positive for COVID-19 after coming into contact with Trump at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Trump was tested for the virus Friday and the results came back negative, the White House said.

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