Viral Alerts

  • Millions quarantined in Italy as Coronavirus Continues Spreading Across the Globe


    Italy's government has placed more than 16 million people — a quarter of the population — under lockdown in a drastic bid to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

    The Lombardy region, including the city of Milan, has been quarantined, as have other cities, including Venice, Parma and Modena.

    Meanwhile in the U.S., the first case has been confirmed in the capital, Washington, D.C., and hundreds of other cases have been reported around the country.

    Anxiety in an aging Congress as coronavirus spreads across U.S.

    WASHINGTON — Members of Congress are becoming increasingly anxious about coronavirus, and there is growing pressure on leadership to take steps to protect lawmakers — even potentially recessing for a period of weeks — two Democratic congressional sources said Sunday.

    Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., said he will close his office in Washington and will self-quarantine at home in Arizona for 14 days after he came into "extended" contact with a person who is hospitalized with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus. They came into contact at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Gosar said.

    Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, announced late Sunday that he will stay home in Texas this week because he had a brief interaction with a person attending CPAC who has tested positive. Gosar and Cruz said they were experiencing no symptoms but were acting out of caution.

    "Members are very nervous," a senior Democratic leadership aide said. "There's a lot of concern that members could bring it home."

    But some members were urging Congress to stay the course to "show leadership in a time of great anxiety" and conduct oversight of the Trump administration's response.

    Rice University cancels all classes for a week

    Rice University in Houston said Sunday that it is canceling classes this week and prohibiting all on-campus gatherings of more than 100 people through the end of April after an employee contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

    The employee was exposed to the coronavirus while traveling overseas last month, the university said.

    All classes will be canceled this week out of caution and to give faculty time to prepare for possible remote instruction for the rest of the semester, said the university, which has an enrollment of about 6,700.

    In addition to banning large on-campus gatherings, the university said it's also banning all university-sponsored international travel for faculty, staff and students through April 30.

    Columbia University suspends classes over coronavirus exposure

    Columbia University in New York said Sunday that it is suspending classes Monday and Tuesday and is planning to teach classes remotely the rest of the week after a person affiliated with the university was quarantined as a result of exposure to the new coronavirus.

    In a note to the university's staff and students, Columbia President Lee Bollinger stressed that the quarantined person was known only to have been exposed and hadn't been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

    "Please understand that the decision to suspend classes does not mean that the university is shutting down," Bollinger said, adding that non-classroom activities, including research, will continue. "At this point, just to restate what is important to know, we do not have a confirmed case of the virus on campus. This action is intended to prevent the virus from spreading."

    Three staffers at coronavirus-hit Washington state care center hospitalized

    Three employees of the Seattle-area care center at the center of the U.S. coronavirus outbreak have been taken to hospitals, at least one of whom has tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, health authorities said Sunday.

    Authorities continue to test residents and staff at Life Care Center in the Seattle suburb of Kirkland, in King County, and now have enough test kits to examine everyone who lives or works there, officials said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.

    Nineteen people are known to have died in Washington, 17 of them associated with Life Care Center. An 18th person previously died in neighboring Snohomish County, and authorities in Grant County, in central Washington more than 100 miles east of King County, confirmed Sunday that a 19th person had died there.

    The Grant County Health District said the victim was an elderly resident who hadn't reported any recent travel outside the county, indicating the illness may have been acquired locally.

    Two people are confirmed to have died in Florida, as well as one in California.

    Coronavirus in the US: Map, case counts and News

    About 545 people in the U.S. have been confirmed to have the virus. Of those, 21 people have died, with deaths in Washington (17), California (1) and Florida (2).


  • China coronavirus death toll rises sharply as fears grow

    Authorities confirmed on Monday, January 27, 2020, that the death toll from China's coronavirus has hit 82 while the number of confirmed cases has reached more than 2 700. Beijing officials also reported the capital's first fatality who was a 50-year-old man who visited Wuhan.

    From 26 fatalities and 830 confirmed cases on Friday, January 24, the figures showed a sharp increase in just a matter of days, prompting China to further make efforts in containing the virus, including limiting travel among its citizens.

    All tour groups and sale of tour group packages for overseas travel have been suspended beginning Monday.

    According to Beijing's health commission, the city's first victim came from Wuhan on January 8 and had developed a fever after returning to Beijing just a week later. He was sent to the hospital on January 21 but succumbed to respiratory failure on January 27.

    Meanwhile, South Korea just confirmed its fourth case, while scattered cases have also been verified in Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia, Nepal, as well as France, Canada, Australia, and the United States.

    In Africa, health authorities in Ivory Coast are investigating a possible case of coronavirus in a female student who came from China-- the first person to be tested for the epidemic on the continent.

    In the U.S., cases were reported in Washington, Chicago, southern California, and Arizona. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said it was investigating 110 people across 26 states for possible cases-- 32 had tested negative while 73 were pending.

    U.S. President Donald Trump said in a tweet that his health officials were "in very close communication" with Chinese counterparts and that the government had offered China "any help that is necessary."

    Hong Kong also reported two more cases, raising its total to eight.

    According to health department official Dr. Chuang Shuk-kwan, all cases were connected to Hubei province, and there is no indication yet that the virus-- officially dubbed 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)-- is spreading to the city's general population.

    However, as a safety measure, Hong Kong has started banning residents from Hubei province.

    "We haven't disclosed information in a timely manner, and also did not use effective information to improve our work," he said.

    On Saturday, January 25, a Chinese doctor in Wuhan who treated patients with the coronavirus died. According to China Global Television Network, Dr. Liang Wudong, 62, was "at the frontline" of the outbreak.

    On January 27, head of the World Health Organization (WHO) Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus held a special meeting with Beijing officials to discuss how to contain the infection.

    Although the organization has yet to declare a public health emergency of international concern, they said it was an emergency in China.

    The country's government has so far sent 1 200 more medical professionals to Wuhan, while the health ministry ordered a nationwide effort to promptly determine and isolate suspected coronavirus cases.

  • China Enacts Wartime Measures as Coronavirus Cases Surge

    • China’s Hubei province reported an additional 116 deaths and 4,823 new cases as of the end of Feb. 13.
    • Of the new cases, the government said that 3,095 were “clinically diagnosed.”
    • In total, Hubei authorities said that 51,986 people have been infected in the province.


    Coronavirus Death Toll

    1,491 people have died so far from the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak as of February 14, 2020, 01:22 GMT.

    There are currently 65,247 confirmed cases in 28 countries.

    An overnight spike of nearly 15,000 in China’s reported coronavirus cases upended world markets on Thursday, stoking new fears that the outbreak was moving into a potentially more deadly phase.

    The death toll climbed to nearly 1,400 deaths while those infected topped 60,000— the majority located within or near China.

    Meanwhile, the U.S. reported its 15th case, this time in Texas, and the Centers for Disease Control expect there could be more cases as 600 evacuees from Wuhan continue to remain in quarantine. The CDC is going to increase its screenings in major cities by using the flu detection system to scan for coronavirus.

    The U.S. response remains in the hands of individual departments, as the National Security Council lacks a global health security expert. Senators, lead by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, sent a letter to Advisor Robert O'Brien requesting an expert be named to the post amid the outbreak.

    Reports on Thursday called into question whether China’s official statistics could be trusted, in the face of concerns that the government may be under-reporting the scope of the epidemic.

    World Health Organization officials cautioned that the spike was a result of a February 6 change in guidelines from the National Health Commission of China, and may represent a temporary bump in official reporting. This change included adding clinically diagnosed individuals only in Hubei province, but not in the rest of China.

    The rounded-up case numbers “are not newly identified in the last 24 hours only. They include retrospectively identified cases from earlier in the epidemic; it is not uncommon for surveillance data to be updated as new definitions are adopted,” a WHO spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

    “The government has re-doubled efforts recently to address the scale of the outbreak in Hubei and the considerable need for treatment services by the population,” the spokesperson added.

    Nevertheless, China’s epidemic ricocheted across the world, and fueled concerns about global growth with the country all but quarantined from the rest of the world.

    Although most of the cases are isolated in the mainland, there are concerns about the disease’s appearance in other regions given the uncertainty about how its transmitted.

    “I think now that it’s in more countries — even Singapore, which is really good at tracing cases, has found some cases that aren’t linked to previous known cases — it’s clear that there are probably many cases in countries where we haven’t yet found them,” Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told the Harvard Gazette earlier this week.

    “This is really a global problem that’s not going to go away in a week or two,” he added.

    Latest Updates on the Coronavirus

  • China Races to Contain Spread of Coronavirus as Infections Continue Rising

    Nearly half of China's population -- more than 780 million people -- are currently living under various forms of travel restrictions as authorities race to contain the spread of a deadly virus.

    The novel coronavirus outbreak has killed 1,770 people and infected another 70,000 in mainland China. According to a CNN analysis, travel limitations of varying degrees are still being enforced in provinces and cities across the country, including Hubei, Liaoning, Beijing and Shanghai.
    Restrictions include everything from self-quarantines to limits on who can come and go from neighborhoods.
    Some of the strictest measures can be found in four cities in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, which saw an additional 100 deaths reported Sunday.
    The cities of Wuhan, Huanggang, Shiyan and Xiaogan have completely sealed off all residential complexes and communities, while the use of non-essential vehicles on local roadways is also banned. Residents in each city receive daily necessities from neighborhood and community committees as they are not permitted to leave their homes.
    On Sunday, Hubei announced new measures, including province-wide traffic restrictions on all non-emergency vehicles and the closure of all non-essential public venues. Already there are reports of residential compounds being completely sealed off, with no one able to go in or out except in rare circumstances.
    Health screening is to be stepped up, with officials going door-to-door to look for new cases. Anyone displaying potential symptoms "should be immediately reported to the local community or village," the government said in a circular announcing the new restrictions.
    Anyone suspected or confirmed to be infected with the virus, their close contacts, or anyone with a fever, should be "timely treated or placed in quarantine instead of self-isolation at home," it said.
    On the economic side, Hubei said that "companies should not resume production unless allowed by local epidemic prevention authorities."

    When did Xi know?

    Officials in Hubei have faced increasing scrutiny about whether they intentionally downplayed reports of the virus when it emerged late last year, or ignored evidence that it was being spread from person-to-person, delaying any efforts to contain it before it was too late.
    Multiple officials have been removed from their positions, while others have offered to resign. It had been thought that any blame for the delay in response was contained to Hubei itself, and that central authorities were as in the dark as the international community until late January, when Chinese President Xi Jinping stepped in himself, ordering "all out efforts" to rein in the virus' spread.
    Over the weekend, however, a transcript of a speech Xi gave earlier this month was published. In it, Xi said he first "issued requirements for the prevention and control of the new coronavirus" on January 7.
    While the speech underlines that Xi has been personally directing the response to the outbreak -- something that has been repeatedly emphasized in state media -- the revelation that he knew about the virus when Hubei officials were publicly downplaying its danger, exposes him to the risk of being blamed, along with them, for failing to properly handle the outbreak in its early weeks.
    It also raises additional questions for the World Health Organization (WHO), which has previously praised China for its "transparency" and for sounding the alarm early and enabling a global response to the virus.
    China is not only sending mixed messages over when and what Xi knew. With the country facing increasing economic pressure -- which could have global ramifications -- many cities are attempting to return to something like normality.
    Speaking last week, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang urged continued efforts "to advance science-based epidemic control, and resume production in an orderly way to better support outbreak response and preserve normal economic and social order."
    A specially customized train left Guizhou in western China for Hangzhou carrying around 300 migrant workers, state media reported. Carriages have "strict temperature monitoring, better ventilation and scattered seating," and it is hoped it could be a model for returning workers to travel while not being exposed to potential infection.
    At the same time, however, cities and provinces most affected by the outbreak are facing stringent new controls, on top of existing lockdowns which have left people trapped inside their homes and unable to work.

    Increase in cases

    There have been more than 71,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide, with the vast majority of those in mainland China.
    The largest outbreaks outside of China have been in Singapore and Japan, where the Diamond Princess cruise ship has been docked for almost two weeks now, while health officials tested the thousands of passengers and crew on board.
    So far, more than 456 cases have been confirmed aboard the ship, with 99 cases confirmed by Japanese health authorities on Monday.
    More are expected before the official end of the quarantine period, after which Japanese officials said it would take two or three days for passengers to disembark, during which they will be tested once again.
    Hundreds of Americans on board the ship were able to leave Sunday, on a specially-chartered flight organized by the US government.
    They are swapping one quarantine for another, however, with US authorities saying Saturday that on their return stateside, the passengers will have to undergo another two-weeks of observation and testing at one of two military bases.

    Global spread

    Taiwanese authorities on Sunday reported the island's first death from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus.
    The man in his mid-60s tested had a history of hepatitis B and diabetes and no history of traveling abroad. His death came as another case was confirmed in Taiwan, bringing the total number of cases on the island to 20.

    While the vast majority of deaths have occurred in mainland China, there have been fatal cases of the virus in Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan and France. Cases of the virus have been confirmed in more than two dozen countries worldwide, affecting nearly every continent.
    "Right now we're in an aggressive containment mode," Robert Redfield, director of the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), told CNN last week. "We don't know a lot about this virus. This virus is probably with us beyond this season, beyond this year, and I think eventually the virus will find a foothold and we will get community-based transmission."
    While more research is needed to fully understand the virus, Redfield said that the CDC has focused on surveillance to track cases and containment strategies to slow possible progression of the virus in the US.
    Slowing progression gives more time for researchers to work on developing and testing a vaccine and antiviral drugs for this novel coronavirus. Currently, there is no known cure for the virus.
    Latest Updates on the Coronavirus Epidemic
  • Confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. doubled in two days, Italy hits grim milestone

    As the novel coronavirus continued to spread globally Thursday, in the United States the number of confirmed cases doubled. The dramatic increase stems in part from more testing, but also indicates how much the virus has spread.

    On Tuesday, there were just more than 5,700 confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States. That number climbed above 11,500 on Thursday, and officials indicated the number will continue to rise sharply as more test results become available.

    Meantime, the State Department warned Americans not to travel internationally and advised all Americans who are abroad to return to the United States or make preparations to shelter in place.

    Here are some other significant developments:

    • Italy on Thursday hit a grim milestone, surpassing China for the largest number of coronavirus-related deaths, at 3,405. Morgues in Italy are running out of capacity.
    • Hospitals and health-care facilities are running out of supplies. In the hardest-hit cities, workers are making their own safety equipment out of supplies from hardware stores.
    • CDC data now shows that younger adults are a large percentage of coronavirus hospitalizations in the United States.
    • India barred incoming commercial flights for a week, and Australia and New Zealand closed their borders to everyone except citizens and residents. The United Arab Emirates went further, stopping expatriate residents from returning to the country. Meanwhile, Italy is extending lockdown measures
    • Prince Albert of Monaco has tested positive for the coronavirus. That announcement came hours after the European Union’s top Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, said he had tested positive.
    • As lawmakers finalize a massive stimulus package, President Trump said Thursday that he supports the federal government taking equity stakes in private companies that take bailout funds.


    Here are the LATEST Global Coronavirus Figures

    Coronavirus Cases:          

    Here are the LATEST U.S. Coronavirus Figures
    Coronavirus Cases                 Deaths              Recovered
    13,304                                     185                     108
  • Coronavirus 20 times more lethal than the flu. Death toll exceeds 2000

    2,010 people have died so far from the coronavirus COVID-19 outbreak as of February 19, 2020, 02:10 GMT.

    There are currently 75,213 confirmed cases in 30 countries and territories.

    Study: Virus far more lethal than flu

    The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention put the overall death rate for the virus at 2.3%. The season's flu death rate in the U.S. thus far is about 0.1%, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

    Still, the coronavirus death rate is far below that of severe acute respiratory syndrome – SARS – a coronavirus that swept across China almost two decades ago. The SARS death rate was almost 10%, although fewer than 10,000 SARS cases were ever confirmed.

    The Middle East respiratory syndrome is even more lethal: Since 2012, about 2,500 MERS cases in 27 countries have killed more than 850 people, or about one in three of those infected.

    Michael Ryan, emergency programs director for the World Health Organization, said Tuesday that the new virus death rate could turn out to be lower than it appears. In the first weeks of the outbreak only severe cases were recognized, he noted.

    "Now we are going out and looking for less-sick people," Ryan said. "Our hope is that as we find more and more milder cases, that the overall mortality rate will be less."

    The Chinese study also found that more than 80% of the cases have been mild, the sick and elderly are most at risk, and men are more likely to die than women. The report suggests the outbreak peaked in late January.

    Shortages of crucial medical supplies possible

    In the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration said it has pulled inspectors from China because of virus concerns and warns that the nation might face shortages of “critical medical products”if the outbreak persists. The federal agency halted inspections of drug and device factories after the State Department warned against travel to China. The FDA has faced congressional scrutiny for its oversight of overseas factories after high-profile recalls of blood-pressure-lowering medications and reports revealing fewer overseas inspections in recent years.


  • Coronavirus Cases Soar in Middle East and Europe as U.S. Markets Tumble

    Stock market suffers worst drop since 2011.

    Global markets tumbled for a sixth consecutive day on Thursday, dragging the S&P 500 down more than 10 percent in just over a week, reflecting rising fears over the coronavirus spreading quickly around the world.

    The benchmark index fell 4.4 percent on Thursday, the worst single-day slide for the market since August 2011. It is on pace for its worst weekly performance since the 2008 financial crisis. Stocks in Europe and Asia were also hard hit on Thursday, Feb. 27.

    The sell-off came after infection figures in Europe and the Middle East continued to soar, public health officials in the United States and Germany said new patients in each country had no known connection to others with the illness, complicating efforts to track the virus.

    The speed of the slump has been stunning, with the S&P 500 falling more than 10 percent from its Feb. 19 high, a drop that Wall Street labels a market correction to suggest the decline is more significant than a few days of downbeat trading.

    The last time stocks in the United States fell that much was late 2018, when investors worried that the trade war and rising interest rates might tip the U.S. economy into a recession. The Dow Jones industrial average also fell into a correction on Thursday, as did shares in London.

    Stocks in Europe and Asia were also hard hit on Thursday, and the blow to investor confidence spread far beyond stocks. Crude oil fell more than 4 percent, and money flooded into Treasury markets, pushing prices sharply higher, and yields —which move in the opposite direction — to once unthinkable depths.

    Financial markets continued their weeklong declines.

    The virus sweeps the globe, with cases in at least 47 countries.

    The fight to contain the coronavirus entered an alarming new phase on Thursday as caseloads soared in Europe and the Middle East, and health officials in the United States and Germany dealt with patients with no known connection to others with the infection.

    The German and American cases raised the possibility that the virus could have begun to spread locally, or that infected people had spread it to others sequentially, making it virtually impossible to trace and isolate the origins.

    Either way, the cases, thousands of miles apart, underscored how quickly the virus was making its way around the globe after emerging in China.

    Japan’s government closed all schools through March in an effort to combat the outbreak. Iran canceled Friday Prayers in major cities, a cornerstone ritual of the Islamic Republic. Saudi Arabia barred pilgrims from visiting Mecca and Medina.

    President Trump announced that Vice President Mike Pence would lead the American effort to combat the virus, but the administration continued to send mixed messages. Public health officials warned of potentially “major disruptions,” while Mr. Trump blamed Democrats and cable news channels for overstating the threat.

    In the Middle East, concerns built about the growing severity of the outbreak in Iran, the source of infections in many other countries. The government said on Thursday that 245 people had been infected and 26 had died, but experts say there are probably many more cases.

    Several countries registered new infections that illustrated the diverse ways the pathogen could cross borders.

    Two new cases in Britain, for instance, were linked to Italy and to Tenerife in the Canary Islands of Spain. While the spread of the virus from northern Italy has been taking place for some time, the spread from Tenerife — where a hotel remains under lockdown after two guests tested positive — would be a first.

    The number of coronavirus cases in Italy soared on Thursday, and the count of European countries reporting infections rose to 15.

    Leaders are struggling to find a balance between slowing the epidemic and avoiding panic or economic disruption — debating, for example, the wisdom of holding major events that draw from across the continent.

    The Netherlands, Denmark, Estonia, Norway and Romania all reported infections for the first time, joining Italy, Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Greece, North Macedonia, Spain, Sweden and Britain.

    Italian officials reported 650 cases as of Thursday night — up from 400 a day earlier — with 17 deaths. The number of infections had doubled in just two days, as Italy grapples with the largest outbreak outside of Asia, centered in the northern region of Lombardy.

    Whole towns have been isolated, and Lombardy’s governor, Attilio Fontana, started a period of self-isolation after a co-worker tested positive.

    Most other affected European nations have just a handful of cases, but national leaders say that these early days will prove crucial.

    “We have before us a crisis, an epidemic that is coming, we know that certain countries are already much more affected than us,” President Emmanuel Macron of France said during a visit to the Paris hospital where a coronavirus patient died this week. “We are going to have to confront it as best we can, even as life goes on.”

    Hours later, officials in France reported that the number of cases there had jumped to 38, from 18 a day earlier.

    In Spain, where there are 17 cases, the latest patient, announced Thursday, was a soccer fan from Valencia — one of thousands who had traveled to Milan, the capital of Lombardy, earlier this month to watch a Champions League match.

    Hermenelinda Vanaclocha, a regional health official in Valencia, said “three or four” others fans who made the same trip showed symptoms of coronavirus infection, and were being kept isolated at home.

    Ballooning outbreak in Iran reaches the president’s cabinet.

    The coronavirus toll in Iran continued to climb fast on Thursday, as a member of President Hassan Rouhani’s cabinet fell ill — one of at least seven government official to test positive, including one prominent cleric who has died.

    The official, Iran’s highest ranking female official, attended a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, in which she may have exposed others, including Mr. Rouhani.

    The Health Ministry reported 245 cases, up from 139 on Wednesday, with 26 deaths. Health experts say that given the number of fatalities, the number of infections is probably far higher than the official figure.

    Dozens of cases involving people who recently visited Iran have popped up in recent days in Bahrain, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Oman, Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Georgia and Kuwait.

    The sick cabinet member, Masoumeh Ebtekar, is Mr. Rouhani’s deputy for women’s affairs. A young revolutionary during the Tehran hostage crisis four decades ago, Ms. Ebtekar was a spokeswoman for the captors of the 52 Americans held at the U.S. Embassy.

    She announced that her infection on Thursday and said she was quarantined at home.

    Despite the Iranian authorities’ earlier claims that the outbreak, centered in the city of Qom, had been exaggerated by enemy propaganda, they canceled Friday Prayers in Tehran and 22 other cities, and ordered schools and universities closed until March 21. All cultural and sports events will remain shut down for another week, the Ministry of Culture said.

    Hadi Khosroshahi, 81, a prominent cleric and former ambassador to the Vatican, was sickened by the coronavirus and died in a hospital, Iran’s official media have reported. The outbreak has also killed Elham Sheikhi, 22, a member of the women’s national soccer team.

    he virus can be deadly, but so far, it most often isn’t.

    The new coronavirus has sown fear and anxiety, with more than 81,000 cases and nearly 3,000 deaths.

    But so far, it appears that the vast majority of those infected have only mild symptoms and make full recoveries. And those who get the virus develop powerful antibodies that should protect them from reinfection.

    In China, people who have been infected are being asked to donate blood plasma, in the hope that their antibodies can be used to treat sick patients.

    The largest study of the virus to date, published by China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, concluded that 81 percent of the 44,000 cases confirmed in China by mid-February were mild — defined by the study’s author’s as involving little or no pneumonia.

    Just under 14 percent were deemed severe, involving shortness of breath, low blood oxygen saturation or other lung problems. Just under 5 percent were critical, involving respiratory failure, septic shock or multiple organ dysfunction.

    By Thursday, of the 78,487 confirmed cases in China, 32,495, or 41 percent, had been discharged from the hospital, according to China’s National Health Commission. About 8,300 patients were in serious condition. More than 2,700 people had died, giving an overall mortality rate of 2.3 percent, far higher than the seasonal flu’s rate of about 0.1 percent.

    The number of mild cases creates its own complications.

    Those with few or no symptoms may not know they have contracted the virus, or may misidentify it as a cold. They may then continue their daily lives, coming into close contact with others and spreading the virus without anyone knowing.

    German authorities scramble to find all those who came into contact with infected man.

    Health officials in Germany reacted aggressively on Thursday after a man with no known connection to anyone infected with the coronavirus tested positive for the illness.

    In addition to closing schools in the community where he lived, they reached out to hundreds of people who took part in a carnival celebration over the weekend where the man was also present, urging them to stay home for 14 days.

    Karl-Josef Laumann, the health minister for the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where the man lives, said that the authorities were still trying to figure out how the man had contracted the virus.

    He remains critically ill and cannot provide information about his recent travels, including the period of time when he was infected and contagious but not showing symptoms.

    Still, German officials said they would resist taking measures like those seen in China and, to a lesser extent, in Italy, where entire towns and cities have been locked down.

    They cautioned against panic, pointing to success in preventing the spread of the virus last month through simply encouraging people to stay home.

    After a man from China infected several employees of an auto producer in Bavaria in January, about 400 people who could have been at risk of spreading the virus were identified and placed in isolation in their homes.

    That effectively stopped the spread of the virus, and there are no known cases of infection at this time, said Dr. Lothar H. Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute, the German government’s disease control and prevention agency.

    Chinese government scientist says China’s outbreak will be contained by late April.

    The coronavirus epidemic will be brought under control in China by the end of April, Dr. Zhong Nanshan, a scientist who is leading a government-appointed expert panel on the outbreak, said in a news conference on Thursday.

    Dr. Zhong said his team had correctly predicted that the outbreak would peak in mid- to late February in China and that it would “basically come under control by the end of April.”

    International experts painted a less optimistic picture. A report published on Friday by scientists at Imperial College London estimated that “about two-thirds of Covid-19 cases exported from mainland China have remained undetected worldwide, potentially resulting in multiple chains of as yet undetected human-to-human transmission outside mainland China.” Covid-19 is the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

    Global clusters of the virus also showed the difficulty in judging the true number of infections, amid concerns about underreporting and China’s shifting definitions of confirmed cases.

    The virus is thought to have come from a seafood market in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province. More than 2,600 deaths from the epidemic have been reported in Hubei, far more than in any other place in China or abroad.

    If forced to close, U.S. schools might be asked to teach remotely. Can they?

    Federal officials warned this week that a coronavirus outbreak could force schools to close for a long period, and Japan ordered its schools closed for a month.

    The U.S. announcement caught educators and parents off guard, leaving them asking how to manage such a crisis.

    Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, suggested that a temporary system of “internet-based teleschooling” could replace traditional schools.

    But most schools have no experience in providing online instruction on a large scale, and American families have uneven access to computers and broadband internet.

    Parents would be forced to juggle their own work responsibilities with what could amount to “a vast, unplanned experiment in mass home-schooling,” said Kevin Carey, vice president for education policy at New America, a think tank.

    Dr. Messonnier said she had contacted her own local school superintendent to ask if the district was prepared, and she advised parents to do the same.

    Even as they struggled to absorb the federal warning, schools were busy making their own plans, or updating those drafted during previous scares over viruses like H1N1 influenza and Ebola.

    Many districts have already sent home letters about the coronavirus, asking parents to keep sick children away from school and to remember basic prevention measures like hand washing, cough covering and flu vaccination. Officials have tried to ratchet down panic among parents, reminding families that face masks are not broadly recommended and that the overall risk to most people appears to be low.

    Federal rules delayed testing of a California patient.

    A person in California who was not exposed to anyone known to be infected with the coronavirus, and who had not traveled to countries where it is circulating, had to wait days to be tested because of restrictive federal criteria, despite doctors’ suggestions.

    The patient, who has tested positive, may be the first person to be infected through community spread in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

    Public health officials said the infected individual was a resident of Solano County, in Northern California, but they have not disclosed any other information to protect the patient’s privacy.

    Doctors at the University of California, Davis Medical Center considered the novel pathogen a possible diagnosis when the patient was first admitted last week.

    But the C.D.C. has restricted testing to patients who either traveled to China recently or who know they had contact with someone infected with the coronavirus.

    The C.D.C. could not be immediately reached for comment.

    The new case, in which the source of infection is unknown, is cause for concern, experts said.

    “That would suggest there are other undetected cases out there, and we have already started some low-grade transmission,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University.

    South Korea and U.S. call off joint military exercises.

    The fast-growing coronavirus outbreak touched South Korea’s military alliance with the United States on Thursday, as the two countries announced that they would postpone their joint spring military exercise “until further notice.”

    The decision came as South Korea reported 505 new cases of the coronavirus on Thursday, bringing the total number to 1,766, the largest outbreak outside of China. Most of the patients were from Daegu, a city in southeastern South Korea, and in nearby towns.

    On Wednesday, the U.S. military reported the first case of a soldier being infected. The soldier was stationed at a base near Daegu.

    South Korea has placed itself on the highest possible alert to deal with the outbreak, suspending nonessential military training and placing more than 9,500 troops under quarantine.

    Saudis halt religious visits to Mecca and Medina.

    Saudi Arabia on Wednesday temporarily barred Muslim pilgrims from entering the country to visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, a stark illustration of the fear the spread of coronavirus has stirred.

    The Saudi royal family derives much of its stature in the Islamic world from its role as guardians of the holy sites, and it very rarely closes them off. The Saudi response contrasts with that of Iran, which has kept its pilgrimage sites open despite a significant coronavirus outbreak. Cases linked to Iran have now appeared in a number of countries.

    Each year, millions of Muslims make the Hajj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, or Umrah. It takes place in a specific part of the lunar year, which this year falls in midsummer.

    Many Muslims also visit the mosque in Medina established by the Prophet Muhammad.




  • Coronavirus cases spike to over 7,700, death toll rises: Things to Know About the Virus

    The death toll from the deadly new virus continues to rise as the first cases are reported in the United Arab Emirates, Tibet and Finland.

    A never-before-seen virus first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan has claimed 170 lives and infected almost 7,700 Chinese citizens with a pneumonia-like illness, according to the country's National Health Commission. The virus, known as 2019-nCoV, was first reported to the World Health Organization on Dec. 31 and has been under investigation since. Chinese scientists have linked the disease to a family of viruses known as coronaviruses, which include the deadly SARS and Middle East respiratory syndrome.

    On Jan. 23, a special WHO committee decided it was still too early to declare a public health emergency on a global level. However, after human-to-human transmission was confirmed outside China, WHO has decided to hold another emergency meeting Thursday.

    Authorities around the world are taking steps to guard against the spread of 2019-nCoV. Travel limitations to and from mainland China have been imposed by Hong Kong, the US announced increasing screening measures at 20 different ports of entry and further spread has been detected in Germany and Japan. On Wednesday, new cases appeared in the United Arab Emirates, Finland, Tibet, Australia and Singapore.

    The situation is rapidly evolving. We've collated everything we know about the mystery virus, what's next for researchers and some of the steps you can take to reduce your risk.

    What is a coronavirus?

    Coronaviruses belong to a family known as Coronaviridae, and under an electron microscope they look like spiked rings. They're named for these spikes, which form a halo or crown around their viral envelope. 

    Coronaviruses contain a strand of RNA within the envelope and, as a virus, can't reproduce without getting inside living cells and hijacking their machinery. The spikes on the viral envelope help coronaviruses bind to cells, which gives them a way in, like blasting the door open with C4. Once inside, they turn the cell into a virus factory, using its molecular conveyor belt to produce more viruses, which are then shipped out of the cell. The virus progeny infect other cells and the cycle starts anew.

    Typically, these types of viruses are found in animals ranging from livestock and household pets to wildlife such as bats. When they make the jump to humans, they can cause fever, respiratory illness and inflammation in the lungs. In immunocompromised individuals, such as the elderly or those with HIV-AIDS, such viruses can cause severe respiratory illness, resulting in pneumonia and even death.

    Extremely pathogenic coronaviruses were behind SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) and MERS (Middle East respiratory syndrome) outbreaks in the last two decades. These viruses were easily transmitted from human to human. SARS, which showed up in the early 2000s, infected more than 8,000 people and resulted in nearly 800 deaths. MERS, which appeared in the early 2010s, infected almost 2,500 people and led to more than 850 deaths.

    Where did the virus come from?

    The virus appears to have originated in Wuhan, a Chinese city about 650 miles south of Beijing that has a population of more than 11 million people. The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market sells fish, as well as a panoply of meat from other animals, including bats and snakes. After infections were linked to the marketplace, Chinese authorities shut it down on Jan. 1. 

    Markets have been implicated in the origin and spread of viral diseases in past epidemics, including SARS and MERS. A large majority of the people so far confirmed to have come down with the new coronavirus had been to the Huanan Seafood marketplace in recent weeks. The market seems like an integral piece of the puzzle, but researchers continue to test and research the original cause. 

    Prestigious medical journal The Lancet published an extensive summary of the clinical features of patients infected with the disease stretching back to Dec. 1, 2019. The very first patient identified had not been exposed to the market, suggesting the virus may have originated elsewhere and been transported to the market, where it was able to thrive.

    An early report, published in the Journal of Medical Virology on Jan. 22, suggested snakes were the most probable wildlife animal reservoir for 2019-nCoV, but the work was soundly refuted by two further studies just a day later, on Jan. 23.


    "We haven't seen evidence ample enough to suggest a snake reservoir for Wuhan coronavirus (2019-nCoV)," said Peter Daszak, president of nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance, which researches the links between human and animal health.

    "This work is really interesting, but when we compare the genetic sequence of this new virus with all other known coronaviruses, all of its closest relatives have origins in mammals, specifically bats. Therefore, without further details on testing of animals in the markets, it looks like we are no closer to knowing this virus' natural reservoir."

    Another group of Chinese scientists uploaded a paper to preprint website biorXiV, having studied the viral genetic code and compared it to the previous SARS coronavirus and other bat coronaviruses. They discovered the genetic similarities run deep: The virus shares 80% of its genes with the previous SARS virus and 96% of its genes with bat coronaviruses. Importantly, the study also demonstrated the virus can get into and hijack cells the same way SARS did.

    All good science builds off previous discoveries -- and there is still a lot to learn about the basic biology of 2019-nCoV before we have a good grasp of exactly which animal vector is responsible for transmission -- but early indications are the virus is similar to those seen in bats. A report by the New York Times on Jan. 28 suggested the Chinese horseshoe bat could be the main culprit.

    How many confirmed cases have been reported?

    Authorities have confirmed over 7,700 cases as of Wednesday. The bulk are in China, but cases have been confirmed in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia and Nepal. In Europe, Germany, Finland and France are the only three countries with confirmed cases. The United Arab Emirates announced its first confirmed cases on Wednesday while Australia saw two new cases, taking the country's total to seven.

    In the US, five cases have been confirmed: Two in California and one each in Washington, Illinois and Arizona. Canada has two confirmed cases: one in Ontario and one in British Columbia.

    There are over 12,000 suspected cases and 124 people have been discharged from hospital so far.

    Here's the breakdown as it stands:

    • China: 7,728 confirmed cases (Hong Kong: 10; Macau: 7)
    • Thailand: 14 confirmed cases 
    • Singapore: 10 confirmed cases  
    • Taiwan:8 confirmed cases
    • Japan: 7 confirmed cases
    • Malaysia: 7 confirmed cases  
    • Australia: 7 confirmed cases
    • US: 5 confirmed cases
    • South Korea: 4 confirmed cases  
    • Germany: 4 confirmed cases
    • France: 4 confirmed cases
    • United Arab Emirates:4 cases
    • Vietnam: 2 confirmed cases  
    • Canada: 2 confirmed cases
    • Cambodia:1 confirmed case
    • Nepal:1 confirmed case
    • Sri Lanka:1 confirmed case
    • Tibet: 1 confirmed case
    • Finland:1 confirmed case

    How many deaths have been reported?

    The death toll passed a grim milestone on Monday, with the confirmation 100 people have been killed by the novel virus.

    The toll now stands at 170.

    No deaths have been recorded outside China.

    How do we know it's a new coronavirus?

    In short, science!

    The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention dispatched a team of scientists to Wuhan to gather information about the new disease and perform testing in patients, hoping to isolate the virus. Their work, published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Jan. 24, examined samples from three patients. Using an electron microscope, which can resolve images of cells and their internal mechanics, and studying the genetic code, the team were able to visualize and genetically identify the novel coronavirus.

    Understanding the genetic code helps researchers in two ways: It allows them to create tests that can identify the virus from patient samples, and it gives them potential insight into creating treatments or vaccines.

    Additionally, the Peter Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia, was able to identify and grow the virus in a lab from a patient sample. They announced their discovery on Jan. 28. This is seen as one of the major breakthroughs in developing a vaccine and provides laboratories with the capability to both assess and provide expert information to health authorities and detect the virus in patients suspected of harboring the disease.

    How does the coronavirus spread?

    This is one of the major questions researchers are still working hard to answer. The first infections were potentially the result of animal-to-human transmission, but confirmation that human-to-human transmission has followed was obtained in late January.

    On Jan. 20, the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported that health workers in China had been infected with the virus. During the SARS epidemic, this was a notable turning point, as health workers moving between countries were able to help spread the disease. 

    "The major concern is hospital outbreaks, which were seen with SARS and MERS coronaviruses," MacIntyre said. "Meticulous triage and infection control is needed to prevent these outbreaks and protect health workers."

    There is some suggestion the virus can spread before symptoms appear, according to a report by the BBC citing Chinese officials. The incubation period -- when the virus is building up in the body -- can last between one to 14 days without a patient realizing they are infected. However, it must be stressed, experts still aren't sure how infectious this period is. 

    How is China combating the spread? 

    In Wuhan, authorities are rushing to build a thousand-bed hospital to treat coronavirus patients as the province struggles with hospital bed shortages. It's aiming to open the facility on Feb. 3, giving construction workers 10 days to get it ready.

    China shut down Wuhan to reduce the spread of the virus, canceling transportation leaving the city starting at 10 a.m. Thursday. The travel restrictions were extended to four other cities (Huanggang, Ezhou, Chibi and Zhijiang) later that day, and constraints were announced in eight more cities on Friday -- impacting more than 35 million people. 

    The restrictions were enforced during a busy travel period for China, when citizens typically travel for the Lunar New Year. Major public events Chinese capital Beijing were canceled, and both Beijing's Forbidden City and Shanghai's Disneyland closed down from Jan. 25. All of the restrictions and closures will last indefinitely.

    The scale of the global efforts to contain the disease is immense. Hong Kong closed many public facilities on Jan. 28 and has prevented traveling between mainland China. The US announced sweeping border control measures at 20 ports of entry and has been considering cancelling flights to and from the outbreak epicenter in Wuhan. Esports tournaments have been postponed, Olympic women's soccer tournaments have been moved entirely, and McDonald's has shuttered thousands of locations across China where the virus is spreading. 

    British Airways on Wednesday suspended all flights to and from mainland China "for the next few days," a spokesperson confirmed via email.

    How infectious is coronavirus?

    A widely shared Twitter thread by Eric Feigl-Ding, a Harvard University epidemiologist, suggests the new coronavirus is "thermonuclear pandemic level bad" based on a metric known as the "r nought" (R0) value. This metric helps determine the basic reproduction number of an infectious disease. In the simplest terms, the value relates to how many people can be infected by one person carrying the disease. It has been widely criticized. 

    Infectious diseases such as measles have an R0 of 12 to 18, which is remarkably high. The SARS epidemic of 2002-2003 had an R0 of around 3. A handful of studies modeling the 2019-nCoV outbreak have given a similar value with a range between 1.4 and 3.8. However, there is large variation between studies and models attempting to predict the R0 of novel coronavirus due to the constantly changing number of cases. 

    In the early stages of understanding the disease and its spread, it should be stressed these studies are informative, but they aren't definitive. They give an indication of the potential for the disease to move from person-to-person, but we still don't have enough information about how the new virus spreads. 

    "Some experts are saying it is the most infectious virus ever seen -- that is not correct," MacIntyre said. "If it was highly infectious (more infectious than influenza as suggested by some) we should have seen hundreds, if not thousands of cases outside of China by now, given Wuhan is a major travel hub."

    China has suggested the virus can spread beforesymptoms present. Writing in The Conversation on Tuesday, MacIntyre noted there was no evidence for these claims so far but does suggest children and young people could be infectious without displaying any symptoms. This also makes airport screening less impactful, because harboring the disease but showing no signs could allow it insidiously spread further.

    WHO doesn't declare a public health emergency

    Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, convened an emergency committee on Jan. 22 and Jan. 23 to determine whether this new virus constitutes a public health emergency. The committee decided that it was still too early to declare a public health emergency of international concern. 

    "If WHO declares a public health emergency of international concern, it enables WHO greater powers for disease control using the International Health Regulations," MacIntyre said.

    In the fall, an emergency committee met regarding the Ebola virus epidemic in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The meeting outlined key strategies and commitments to strengthen and protect against the spread of the disease.

    What are the symptoms?

    The new coronavirus causes symptoms similar to those of previously identified disease-causing coronaviruses. In currently identified patients, there seems to be a spectrum of illness: A large number experience mild pneumonia-like symptoms, while others have a much more severe response.

    On Jan. 24, prestigious medical journal The Lancet published an extensive analysis of the clinical features of the disease.

    According to the report, patients present with:

    • Fever, elevated body temperature.
    • Dry cough.
    • Fatigue or muscle pain.
    • Breathing difficulties.   

    Less common symptoms of coronavirus include:

    • Coughing up mucus or blood.
    • Headaches.
    • Diarrhea.

    As the disease progresses, patients also come down with pneumonia, which inflames the lungs and causes them to fill with fluid. This can be detected by an X-ray and was present in all 41 cases studied.

    Is there a treatment for coronavirus?

    Coronaviruses are notoriously hardy organisms. They're effective at hiding from the human immune system, and we haven't developed any reliable treatments or vaccines that can eradicate them. In most cases, health officials attempt to deal with the symptoms.

    "There is no recognized therapeutic against coronaviruses," Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, said during the Emergency Committee press conference Wednesday. "The primary objective in an outbreak related to a coronavirus is to give adequate support of care to patients, particularly in terms of respiratory support and multi-organ support."  

    That doesn't mean vaccines are an impossibility, however. Chinese scientists were able to sequence the virus' genetic code incredibly quickly, giving scientists a chance to study it and look for ways to combat the disease. According to CNN, researchers at the US National Institutes of Health are already working on a vaccine, though it could be a year or more away from release.

    Notably, SARS, which infected around 8,000 people and killed around 800, seemed to run its course and then mostly disappear. It wasn't a vaccine that turned the tide on the disease but rather effective communication between nations and a range of tools that helped track the disease and its spread.

    "We learnt that epidemics can be controlled without drugs or vaccines, using enhanced surveillance, case isolation, contact tracking, PPE and infection control measures," MacIntyre said.

    A handful of organizations and research institutes have started work on vaccines, according to Global Times. 

    How to reduce your risk of coronavirus

    With confirmed cases now seen in the US, Thailand, Japan, South Korea and potentially Australia, it's possible that 2019-nCoV could be spreading much further afield. The WHO recommends a range of measures to protect yourself from contracting the disease, based on good hand hygiene and good respiratory hygiene -- in much the same way you'd reduce the risk of contracting the flu.

    Meanwhile, the US State Department has issued a travel advisory, urging people to "exercise increased caution in China." A warning from the CDC advises people to "avoid nonessential travel."

    A Twitter thread, developed by the WHO, is below.

  • Coronavirus Continues Spreading Across the U.S.

    At a Glance

    • At least 12 have died in the U.S. from the coronavirus, 11 of whom were in Washington.
    • Two passengers on an earlier cruise of the Grand Princess later tested positive.
    • The U.S. Senate approved an $8.3 billion spending package to fight the coronavirus.
    • Seattle employees of Amazon and Facebook have been told to work from home.

    An 11th person has died from COVID-19 in Washington state, bringing the death toll in the United States to 12 from the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

    The patient was a woman in her 90s who was hospitalized at EvergreenHealth in the Seattle area, the King County Health Department announced Thursday. She died on Tuesday.

    Meanwhile, a cruise ship with suspected links to the first COVID-19 death in California was being held off of San Francisco Thursday while officials prepared to test passengers and crew for the disease.

    It was just one more example of the worldwide disruptions the new coronavirus is causing as the number of cases continues to jump daily.

    “Countries should be preparing for sustained community transmission,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, leader of the World Health Organization, said of the 2-month-old virus outbreak. “Our message to all countries is: This is not a one-way street. We can push this virus back. Your actions now will determine the course of the outbreak in your country.”

    California Cruise Ship

    Two former passengers of the Grand Princess, who were on the ship between Feb. 11 and Feb. 21 for a cruise to Mexico, were later confirmed to have the coronavirus. One of them, a person from Placer County, California, died Wednesday. The other person is being treated in Sonoma County.

    By the time authorities learned the two people had been on the ship, the Grand Princess had departed for a cruise to Hawaii, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. It returned to California on Wednesday.

    On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard flew about 200 test kits to the ship. So far, 20 people onboard are showing flu-like symptoms. Sixty-two of the current passengers were also on the Mexico cruise.

    By the Numbers

    -The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in California climbed to 53 on Thursday. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared a state of emergency. One person has died in California.

    -Washington state officials said the number of positive cases there was at 70 as of 11 a.m. PST Thursday. Most of those were in King County, where a total of 10 people have now died. The total number of deaths in the state is 11.

    -The number of coronavirus cases in New York state doubled Thursday to 22. Two newly diagnosed cases in New York City, a man in his 40s and a woman in her 80s, are both in intensive care, Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

    In the U.S., 215 cases have been confirmed, according to Johns Hopkins University, and 12 deaths have been linked to the virus. The cases are spread across 18 states.

    -Globally, nearly 98,000 people had been infected as Thursday evening, according to Johns Hopkins University. There have been more than 3,347 deaths.

    -Germany saw a jump of 109 cases in 24 hours. The country now has 349 cases.

    -South Africa reported its first case: a 38-year-old man had who traveled to Italy with his wife. Elsewhere in Africa, cases have been confirmed in Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia.

    -Chinese officials said more than two-thirds of the patients in China who contracted the new coronavirus have been discharged from hospitals, AP reported. The number of new cases each day has slowed. On Thursday, officials reported 139 new cases of infection and 31 more deaths. In all, the country has reported 80,409 cases and 3,012 deaths.

    Latest Developments

    -New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo activated three emergency operations centers to monitor and respond to the COVID-19 outbreak: One in Albany, one in Hawthorne and one in New Rochelle.

    -A nurses union said 80 of its members nationwide are self-quarantined because of the new coronavirus. Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and executive director of National Nurses United, announced the numbers Thursday at a news conference, CNN reported.

    -The U.S. Senate voted 96-1 Thursday to approve an $8.3 billion spending package to fight the coronavirus. The measure, which passed the House on Wednesday, next goes to the White House for President Donald Trump's signature.

    -A Clark County resident is the first “presumed positive” coronavirus case in Nevada, the Southern Nevada Health District announced in a statement Thursday. The man in his 50s said he had recently traveled to Washington state and Texas. He is hospitalized now, the health district said.

    -Colorado's first presumed positive case was confirmed Thursday afternoon by Gov. Jared Polis.

    -Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee announced Thursday the first confirmed case of coronavirus has been detected in the state. The patient, a 44-year-old man who lives in Williamson County, had recently traveled out of state, according to the Tennessean. He is quarantined at home with mild symptoms.

    -Seattle city officials have bought an Econo Lodge motel in Kent, Washington, for $4 million to use as a quarantine facility, AP reported. The two-story motel's 84 room have doors that open to the outside, instead of into a hallway. Each room also has individual heating and cooling units, which cuts the chance of the coronavirus spreading through a ventilation system.

    -Officials in Bothell, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, shut down all Northshore School District schools for up to 14 days, the Seattle Times reported. The move affects 23,577 students, who will take classes online.

    -Worldwide, more than 300 million children are out of school because of the new coronavirus, according to the United Nations. Schools have been closed nationwide in at least 13 countries to contain the spread of COVID-19, UNESCO reports. Another nine countries have seen schools closed in various locations.

    -Facebook temporarily closed its Seattle office after a worker was diagnosed with the new virus. Employees have been told to work from home.

    -An Amazon employee also tested positive for the virus at that company's Seattle office, and employees there also have been told to work from home.

    -The United Kingdom reported its first death from the coronavirus. An elderly person with underlying health issues died after being admitted to a hospital in Berkshire, the BBC reported.

    -An airline trade group, IATA, says the new coronavirus could cost the industry as much as $113 billion in lost revenue, CNN reported.

    -In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said all visitors from China and South Korea will be quarantined at a government facility before they are allowed an entry permit, The Associated Press reported. Japan has more than 1,050 confirmed cases.

    -Switzerland recorded its first COVID-19 death, a 74-year-old woman, AP reported. As of Wednesday afternoon, 58 infections had been confirmed in Switzerland.

    -Britain's Chief Medical Adviser Chris Whitty told Parliament it is “highly likely” that there is now some level of community transmission of the coronavirus in the United Kingdom, CNN reported. He said the UK has 87 cases, but he is expecting the number to "only go up."

    -Palestinian authorities are prohibiting all tourists from entering the West Bank and have closed the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem indefinitely. Many Christians believe the church is built above the place Jesus was born. It was expected to draw tens of thousands of visitors and worshipers during the Easter holiday next month.


  • Coronavirus Crisis Reaches the Arctic, Imperils Research Expedition

    The coronavirus crisis has reached the Arctic…

    A team member of a massive international scientific project called MOSAIC has been tested positive for Covid-19 while the Polarstern research vessel is locked in Arctic ice.

    Corona in the Arctic?

    A researcher involved has tested positive for the coronavirus forcing the quarantine of the other 20 team members.

    Although non of them are currently stationed in the Arctic, their absence will disrupt the aerial component of the research since most of that team has been quarantined.

    The mission MOSAIC is operating from the German research vessel Polarstern, an icebreaker which has been intentionally frozen in Arctic sea ice since last October.

    The Polarstern is currently stationed near the North Pole, where it serves as a central hub for the expedition.

    An ice camp consisting of several structures is stationed nearby, along with a runway for incoming and outgoing aircraft. It’s basically a temporary city built on an ice floe.

    The science project aims at understanding why the Arctic climate changes so rapidly.

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The Alfred Wegener Institute writes:

To minimize the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, all team members who are scheduled to join MOSAiC…are tested for coronavirus before departing their homes for Svalbard, Norway, from where they leave for the ship. There, they are tested a second time before they are allowed to depart. The infected individual had been at a workshop in Bremerhaven on March 5th with other aircraft members; the first round of testing was done as part of this meeting.

The last thing these mission members need right now is for the COVID-19 outbreak to reach the Arctic, where the disease could spread to members in the camp and those on the ship.

As shown by recent turmoils on cruise ships, viruses spread like wildfire on boats and thus this quarantine makes a lot of sense.

And now the alarming coronavirus pandemic threatens a team working close to the North Pole.



  • Coronavirus infects more than 100,000 worldwide, Wreaking Financial Turmoil

    The number of people infected with coronavirus surpassed 100,000 across the world on Friday as the outbreak reached more countries and intensified economic damage, with business districts beginning to empty and stock markets tumbling.

    An increasing number of people were asked to stay home from work, schools were closed, large gatherings and sports and music events were canceled, stores were cleared of staples like toiletries and water, and face masks became a common sight.

    The outbreak has killed more than 3,400 people and spread across more than 90 nations, with six countries reporting their first cases on Friday.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) said every country should make containing the epidemic its top priority, pointing to Iran’s national action plan to combat one of the worst outbreaks after a slow start.

    Iran’s death toll from the virus jumped to 124, as more than 1,000 new cases were diagnosed over 24 hours.

    In the United States, the world’s economic powerhouse, at least 57 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed as the virus struck for the first time in Colorado, Maryland, Tennessee and Texas, as well as San Francisco in California. Some 230 people have been infected in total and 12 have died.

    More than 2,000 people were stranded on the Grand Princess cruise ship after it was barred from returning to port in San Francisco because at least 35 people aboard developed flu-like symptoms. Test kits were delivered at sea.

    U.S. President Donald Trump signed a bill allocating $8.3 billion to bolster testing for the virus and other action.


    Moves by some major economies including the United States to cut interest rates and pledge billions of dollars to fight the epidemic have done little to allay fears about the spread of the disease and the economic fallout. Supply chains are crippled around the world, especially in China, where the outbreak began.

    “There’s concern that while there has been a response from the Fed, given the nature of the problem, is this something the central bank can really help with?” said John Davies, G10 rates strategist at Standard Chartered Bank in London.

    In New York, JPMorgan (JPM.N) divided its team between central locations and a secondary site in New Jersey while Goldman Sachs (GS.N) sent some traders to nearby secondary offices in Greenwich, Connecticut and Jersey City.

    In London, Europe’s financial capital, the Canary Wharf district was unusually quiet. S&P Global’s large office stood empty after the company sent its 1,200 staff home, while HSBC asked around 100 people to work from home after a worker tested positive for the illness. 

    Facebook (FB.O) said it was closing its London offices until Monday after a visiting employee from Singapore was diagnosed with the virus.

    European stocks continued their slide after the Japanese market dropped to a six-month low, with 97% of shares on the Tokyo exchange’s main board in the red. [MKTS/GLOB]

    Airline and travel stocks have been among the worst affected as people canceled non-essential travel. Norwegian Air Shuttle (NWC.OL), the hardest-hit stock among European carriers, lost more than quarter of its market value on Friday and has fallen almost 70% since the start of February.

    “If this really ramps up, we could see a lot more kitchen-sinking updates from the travel industry and airlines,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG.


    Yields on U.S. Treasuries plunged to historic lows on Friday as fears the outbreak will slam the global economy drove investors to snap up risk-adverse assets and dump equities, overshadowing data highlighting a strong U.S. labor market.

    MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe .MIWD00000PUS shed 1.87% and emerging market stocks lost 2.43%.

    In Europe, the pan-regional STOXX 600 index fell 3.35%. The travel and leisure sub-index .SXTP slid 3.9%.

    New York's Dow Jones Industrial Average .DJI fell 1.5%.

    More than 100,300 people have been infected globally, according to a Reuters tally based on statements from health ministries and government officials.

    Mainland China has seen more than 3,000 deaths, but the epidemic is now spreading faster elsewhere. The death toll in Italy, which has suffered Europe’s worst outbreak, rose to 197.

    About 3.4% of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus - known as COVID-19 - have died, far above seasonal flu’s fatality rate of under 1%, the WHO said this week.

    Singapore reported 13 new infections on Friday, its biggest daily jump, including a Singapore Airlines (SIAL.SI) cabin crew member.

    Google (GOOGL.O), Facebook, Amazon (AMZN.O), and Microsoft (MSFT.O) advised employees in the Seattle area to work from home, after some caught the virus. The companies’ work-from-home recommendation will affect more than 100,000 people in the area.

    Starbucks Corp (SBUX.O) said it had stopped accepting reusable cups and thermos flasks from customers in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, though it will still honor the promised discount for anyone carrying one.


  • Coronavirus Outbreak: 33 Million People in Lockdown, Infections Spreading Rapidly

    China's coronavirus has killed 26 people and infected 830 as of Friday, January 24, 2020, the National Health Commission (NHC) confirmed. The worsening case prompted more cities in Hubei province to restrict travel, following the lockdown of Wuhan-- the center of the infection.

    From 17, the death toll spiked to 26 in just a day, with two of the fatalities reported outside of Wuhan for the first time-- one in northern Hebei province which borders Beijing, and another in Heilongjiang which borders Russia and is more than 2 000 km (1 243 miles) from Wuhan, the local government said.

    NHC also confirmed that the number of cases had jumped to 830, with 177 deemed severe. Cases were also confirmed in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Singapore, South Korea, Vietnam, and the United States.

    As of Friday morning, 10 patients in California, one in Texas, and one in Tennessee were being isolated as they await test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    Meanwhile, the Philippines is still investigating the case of a five-year-old boy from Wuhan who tested positive for a virus. 

    In Australia, 13 people in New South Wales and Queensland had themselves tested after traveling from Wuhan, in which 11 resulted in negative while two are still awaiting results.


  • Coronavirus Spreads as Major Chinese Cities in Lockdown, CDC Issues Warnings

    BEIJING—Two more Chinese cities were put on lockdown by the government on Thursday, as authorities in the Chinese gambling center of Macau said they were weighing closures of its casinos, expanding an unprecedented experiment to try to contain a fast-spreading virus that has killed 17 people and infected more than 600.

    On Thursday, authorities in Huanggang—a city of 7.5 million people—said they wouldn’t let long-distance trains and buses run from the urban center and would shut its public transportation system in the lockdown zone, effective midnight Friday local time. Ezhou, another neighboring city with just over a million residents, said it would enact similar restrictions, bringing the total number of cities with travel restrictions to three.

    Huanggang is about 35 miles east of Wuhan, a city of 11 million and a major hub for travel, where the new pneumonia-causing coronavirus originated. Wuhan just hours earlier halted outbound trains and flights and shut down its public-transportation system.

    The Huanggang local government, in a statement on its website, also said movie theaters, internet cafes and other entertainment and cultural facilities in the city center would temporarily halt operations and a central market would be shut down for an indefinite period. Starting Thursday, the local government said it would inspect every person and car entering and exiting the urban center.

    Separately, the chief executive of Macau, the Chinese special administrative region that is the world’s biggest gambling market, said Thursday he was considering closing all of the territory’s 40-some casinos, following the confirmation of a second coronavirus infection case there, government-run broadcaster Radio Television Hong Kong reported.

    The Hong Kong government confirmed its first two cases of the new coronavirus Thursday evening and said some people who had been in close contact with them were quarantined at one of the centers the government has set up at campsites. One close contact was suspected of being infected, the government said.

    Singapore’s Ministry of Health also confirmed its first case of the coronavirus Thursday evening. A 66-year-old Chinese tourist from Wuhan became the city-state’s first case of the virus. the tourist developed a sore throat on the flight to Singapore, then a fever and cough, the ministry said in a statement. One of his travel companions, a 37-year-old male, is suspected to carry the virus, the ministry added.

    By imposing blanket restrictions on people’s movement, Chinese authorities are doubling down on a high-stakes strategy that experts say is an untested approach to dealing with infectious diseases.

    “To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science. It has not been tried before as a public-health measure, so we cannot at this stage say it will or will not work,” Gauden Galea, the World Health Organization’s country representative for China, said in an interview Thursday with the Associated Press, referring to the Wuhan lockdown.

    Mr. Galea added that while such a radical measure “obviously has social and economic impacts that are considerable,” it also “demonstrates a very strong public health commitment and a willingness to take dramatic action.”

    Tom Inglesby, an expert on epidemics who is director of the Center for Health Security at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said “large-scale quarantine efforts in the past have not been successful in changing the outcome of disease outbreaks.”

    Chinese authorities have suggested the coronavirus is spreading between people primarily through coughing, kissing or contact with saliva. It emerged from a seafood and livestock market in Wuhan and has spread across China and into the U.S., Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

    On Thursday, Chinese health authorities said the coronavirus had reached the northeastern and northwestern corners of China, including the provinces of Heilongjiang, which borders Russia, and Xinjiang, the majority Muslim region that borders Kazakhstan. Jilin province, in the country’s northeast, and Jiangsu province, just north of Shanghai, also reported their first cases. The total confirmed cases in China rose to more than 600, according to state media.

    The decision to ban people from leaving or entering Wuhan rippled across China and beyond its borders, sparking confusion and elevating fears about a growing contagion ahead of the Lunar New Year, the busiest travel period of the year in China and many other parts of Asia.


    In Tokyo and Seoul, face masks and hand sanitizer disappeared from some store shelves, while across China, seven movie openings were scrapped as film studios and theaters worried about moviegoers fearful of setting foot outside. In Wuhan, a boxing qualifier for this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo slated to take place starting Feb. 3 was canceled by the local organizing committee.

    Primary and secondary schools in Hubei have postponed reopening after Lunar New Year to an undetermined date, according to the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily. In Beijing, major events over the holiday were canceled.

    Japan and the U.S. each raised their alert levels for travel to Wuhan. Tokyo advised its citizens not to travel to the city unless necessary, while Washington recommended exercising caution but stopped short of advising travelers to avoid the city.

    In Wuhan, local authorities urged calm, calling on citizens not to panic or hoard supplies. “With the close care of General Secretary Xi Jinping, ” a government notice read, “Wuhan has sufficient reserves and smooth supplies of commodities, food and medical protection products.”

    Operators from the transportation-service hotline in Wuhan said more than 8,000 buses in the city and all nine subway lines had stopped running as of 10 a.m. Thursday. Many entrances to the highway from the Wuhan area were closed, while vehicles could still get off the highway and enter the city, according to the local highway information service early Thursday.

    Meanwhile, a few flights continued to depart Wuhan’s Tianhe International Airport even after the 10:00 a.m. lockdown began, according to the flight-tracking site FlightAware. Most of the flights were transiting through Wuhan from other cities, though some direct flights—including to Beijing and Paris—were among those allowed to take off after the lockdown deadline.

    Within Wuhan’s city limits, people expressed frustrations online over a lack of transportation services and dwindling resources at hospitals. The Wuhan Health Commission acknowledged long lines outside fever clinics and a shortage of hospital beds. It said the city was designating more hospitals as centers for fever patients.

    The central government is shipping 10,000 sets of protective clothing and 50,000 sets of gloves to Wuhan from its reserve medical supplies, according to the Ministry of Industry and Information, which posted the information through its account on the Twitter -like Weibo service.

  • Coronavirus Surges in Several Countries, Pandemic Warning Seems Likely as Dow Plummets


    On Friday, the head of the World Health Organization offered a stark warning about the chances of containing the global spread of the novel coronavirus amid ominous outbreaks of the disease outside of China.

    “The window of opportunity is still there, but our window of opportunity is narrowing,” explained WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. By Sunday, it seemed clear that window may have already closed.

    Authorities are now struggling to contain — and understand — escalating outbreaks in three countries, South Korea, Iran, and Italy, while additional countries, like Lebanon and Israel, have recently reported their first cases as well.

    Below is a look at the scope and scale of these new outbreaks, and what the spike in global cases could mean for the rest of the world.

    Red alert in South Korea

    In South Korea, 602 cases of the Covid-19 novel coronavirus have been confirmed, resulting in six deaths — the largest known outbreak outside of China. On Sunday, President Moon Jae-in instituted the highest possible alert level over the virus, giving the government new power to contain the outbreak, including locking down cities if necessary.

    Iran’s outbreak may be even worse

    Since last Tuesday, Iran’s government has reported 43 confirmed cases and 8 deaths caused by the illness — the highest death toll outside of China. But there is much reason to believe the real size of the outbreak is much larger and that Iran’s regime has not only mismanaged its response, but hid the escalating crisis from both Iranians and the world.

    On Sunday, Turkey and Pakistan closed their borders with Iran, and Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, and Iraq have restricted, or outright banned, travel from Iran. It’s not clear how wide Covid-19 had been transmitted in Iran, or for how long, before these measures were taken. In addition, the size of Pakistan’s border with Iran will make it difficult to monitor.

    A surge of cases in Italy

    In Italy, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases has tripled over the weekend to 152, with three reported deaths — constituting the largest outbreak in Europe.

    At least 50,000 Italians are now living under lockdown in the northern Lombardy region, where 90 percent of the cases have occurred, primarily near the town of Cordogno, where the region’s outbreak seems to have begun. Police are patrolling the streets of 11 towns in Lombardy, and issuing fines to anyone caught leaving or entering the locked-down areas.

    Meanwhile, at least 25 cases have been confirmed in the Veneto region, including two in Venice, where 20,000 people attended the city’s annual Carnival event on Sunday morning. Officials have since canceled the two remaining days of the celebration. On Sunday night, a train carrying passengers from Venice was denied entry into Austria over concerns a few passengers were showing symptoms of the virus.

    Schools and universities in at least six regions will all reportedly be closed starting Monday. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has urged Italians to “have faith in the political and scientific institutions, which are doing everything possible,” while health officials have asked people to avoid crowds and isolate themselves if they’ve been exposed to anyone with the coronavirus.

    The big picture, by the numbers

    Though the vast majority of nearly 80,000 confirmed Covid-19 cases have been in mainland China, thanks to these troubling new outbreaks, the number of cases outside of China is spiking fast. Subtracting the 634 people who were infected aboard the quarantined Diamond Princess cruise ship, more than 1,100 people in 28 countries have been infected outside of China as of Sunday — and those are just the laboratory-confirmed cases that countries have been able or willing to report. As this graph of the global cases reveals, efforts to contain the coronavirus have not succeeded:

    The latest Death Toll: 2628 as of Feb 24, 2020, 17:50 GMT

    Dow slides more than 950 points as coronavirus stirs fears of global economic hit

    U.S. stocks tumbled Monday, joining a global equity selloff, as the spread of COVID-19 beyond China raised worries that the hit to overseas economic growth could be more persistent than investors expect, hampering the prospects for a global recovery in 2020.


  • Coronavirus Updates: Cases Accelerate in South Korea and Iran, Virus Spreading in Chinese Prisons

    As the total number of COVID-19 cases reaches 77,000 globally, here is the latest news on Feb 21.

    Total number of infections stands at 77,253 in 32 countries and territories .

    • Death toll 2250

    Two more deaths, and new cases in Iran

    South Korean city declared 'special management zone' following spread from church

    • China reports spike in coronavirus cases in prisons

    • China says earliest coronavirus vaccine to be submitted for trials late April


    Amazon says it will pull products that claim to cure coronavirus

    Amazon has told sellers it will remove listings from its e-commerce platform that make false claims about their ability to cure or kill the coronavirus, according to an email obtained by CNBC.

    The coronavirus outbreak has drawn global reaction and attention, which has led to attempts to take advantage of fear in a variety of ways including email phishing attempts. A variety of products have also sprung up claiming to offer some sort of remedy.

    At this point, there is no proven effective treatment to stop the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.

    Amazon recently met with the WHO to discuss efforts to stop misinformation about the coronavirus.


    Ukrainian police detained 24 over quarantine clashes

    Novi Sanzhary, a village in central Ukraine’s Poltava region, is calmer Friday after clashes the day before over evacuees brought from coronavirus-stricken Wuhan, China, according to media reports and a statement from the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

    Poltava region police said 24 people were detained yesterday, 23 of whom have been released, after local residents resisted a government plan to quarantine 45 Ukrainians and 27 foreign citizens at a facility, despite assurances from authorities that none were carriers of the virus.

    In Thursday's clashes, nine police officers were injured and five are still in the hospital, according to Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, while 200 law enforcement officers are patrolling the facility around the clock.

    In order to “reassure” local residents, Minister of Health Zoryana Skaletska announced on her Facebook page that she will spend the next 14 days in quarantine with the people evacuated from Wuhan to the town of Novi Sanzhary.

    Ukrainian Prime Minister Oleksiy Honcharuk put in an appearance in the town, and said that he talked to people in quarantine and made sure they have everything needed. “The facility is under the care and supervision of infectious disease physicians. The situation is under the complete control of the government,” he said.

    In a session in Parliament Friday, he said: “The events that took place yesterday, in my opinion, are the result of an information war, which continues in our country both from the inside and from the outside. I expect that the provocations will continue.”


    Total number of infections stands over 77,000 globally

    More than 77,000 people have been infected with the coronavirus worldwide, and at least 2,250 people have died as of Friday. The vast majority of the deaths are in mainland China.

    In Hubei province — the epicenter of the virus outbreak — the number of new confirmed cases in the province was revised from 411 to 631, and the total number of confirmed cases was revised from 62,442 to 62,662 as of Friday.


    Two more deaths in Iran, as 13 news cases are confirmed

    Kianoush Jahanpour, a spokesperson for the Iranian Health Ministry, confirmed 13 new cases of coronavirus in Iran in a tweet on Friday. Two more people died Friday, bringing the total numbers of virus-related deaths in Iran to four.

    Seven new cases were confirmed in the city of Qom, four in the country's capital, Tehran, and two in Gilan province. The total number of cases in Iran now stands at 18.


    South Korea declares 'special management zone' following spread from church

    The mayor of the South Korean city of Daegu said it was facing an “unprecedented crisis” after a series of coronavirus infections were linked to a single church service, as worries mounted in the country.

    The number of cases of coronavirus in South Korea has doubled in 24 hours, reaching 204.

    As the government works to prevent the spread of the virus, events have been canceled or delayed, and some facilities are being closed down until further notice.

    The total number of COVID-19 cases stemming from “patient 31” in the city of 2.5 million people — which is two hours south of the capital, Seoul — comes to 58, and of the total 42 made contact at the church.

    Another 15 were infected at the local hospital, and one has died, according to a briefing from Korea’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

    The Shincheonji Church of Jesus — whose leader claims he is an angel of Jesus — has become the biggest cluster of viral infections in South Korea, where a surge in new cases has raised fears that the outbreak is getting out of control.

    Daegu Mayor Kwon Young-jin on Thursday urged the city’s 2.5 million people to stay home and wear masks even indoors if possible.

    Little is known about the woman known as “patient 31" except that she is in her early 60s, had no recent record of overseas travel and was diagnosed with pneumonia last weekend.


    More than 500 cases reported in Chinese prisons

    Hundreds of new coronavirus cases in China on Friday traced back to four prisons on the mainland, including two in Hubei, the center of the outbreak.

    In Hubei, the Wuhan Women’s prison has 230 cases, and the Shayang Hanjin prison reported 41 on Friday.

    Rencheng Jail in eastern China’s Shandong province has also confirmed 207 cases of the virus.

    The Shandong government said that a prison guard at the jail started showing symptoms in early February. All 2,077 people held or working at the prison were given the nucleic acid test and, as of Thursday, 200 prisoners and seven prison officers had tested positive for the virus.

    In Zhejiang province, 34 prisoners have been infected at Shilifeng jail. The provincial government said these were imported cases from Wuhan, and two prison officials had been removed from their roles.


    China says earliest coronavirus vaccine to be submitted for trials late April

    The earliest vaccine for the coronavirus that has killed more than 2,000 in China alone will be submitted for clinical trials around late April, Vice Science and Technology Minister Xu Nanping said on Friday.



  • Coronavirus: 'This beast is moving very fast'

    The repatriation of 565 Japanese citizens from Wuhan, China, in late January offered scientists an unexpected opportunity to learn a bit more about the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) raging in that city. To avoid domestic spread of the virus, Japanese officials screened every passenger for disease symptoms and tested them for the virus after they landed. Eight tested positive, but four of those had no symptoms at all, says epidemiologist Hiroshi Nishiura of Hokkaido University, Sapporo—which is a bright red flag for epidemiologists who are trying to figure out what the fast-moving epidemic has in store for humanity. If many infections go unnoticed, as the Japanese finding suggests, that vastly complicates efforts to contain the outbreak.

    Two months after 2019-nCoV emerged—and with well over 20,000 cases and 427 deaths as of 4 February—mathematical modelers have been racing to predict where the virus will move next, how big a toll it might ultimately take, and whether isolating patients and limiting travel will slow it. But to make confident predictions, they need to know much more about how easily the virus spreads, how sick it makes people, and whether infected people with no symptoms can still infect others.

    Some of that information is coming out of China. But amid the all-out battle to control the virus, and with diagnostic capabilities in short supply, Chinese researchers cannot answer all the questions. Countries with just a handful of cases, such as Japan, can also reveal important data, says Preben Aavitsland of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health. “It’s up to all countries now that receive cases to collect as much information as possible.”

    With the limited information so far, scientists are sketching out possible paths that the virus might take, weighing the likelihoods of each, and trying to determine the fallout. “We’re at this stage where defined scenarios and the evidence for and against them are really important because it allows people to plan better,” says Marc Lipsitch, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. These scenarios break into two broad categories: The world gets the virus under control—or it doesn’t.

    Scenario 1: containment

    The most optimistic scenario is one in which 2019-nCoV remains mostly confined to China, where 99% of the confirmed cases have occurred so far. (By 4 February, two dozen other countries had together reported 195 cases.) “There has obviously been a huge amount of spread within China, but [elsewhere], there’s no evidence of any kind of substantial human-to-human transmission,” says Robin Thompson, a mathematical epidemiologist at the University of Oxford. “The risk probably isn’t as high as some models have been projecting.”

    If no other countries see sustained transmission and the quarantines and other measures taken in China start to reduce the number of infections there, the risk of spread might gradually go down, and the virus might eventually be quashed. This happened with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in 2003, which ended after fewer than 9000 cases.

    That’s what the World Health Organization (WHO), which last week declared the outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, hopes for this time. In a press conference, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called for a global version of the approach his team took in the current Ebola outbreak: Fight the disease at the source and try to keep it from gaining a foothold elsewhere. “Focus on the epicenter,” Tedros said. “If you have several epicenters, it is chaos.”

    Epidemiologist Marion Koopmans of Erasmus Medical Center says it may not be that hard to contain the virus in a new locale as long as the first cases are detected and isolated early—provided the virus is not highly transmissible. “We don’t see it taking off in the 200 or so cases seeded outside of China,” Koopmans says. If that pattern holds, “there still is the possibility it will bend off.”

    She and others suspect the climate may help. Influenza typically only spreads during the winter months and hits northern and southern China at different times. If that is true for 2019-nCoV, its spread might start to slow down in the Northern Hemisphere within a few months. “That is a big question mark we’re trying to assess at the moment,” says Joseph Wu, a modeler at the University of Hong Kong.

    But is containment realistic? Success will depend in part on whether infected people who don’t have symptoms can spread the virus. Asymptomatic people are hard to find and isolate, so if they can spread disease, 2019-nCoV “will be very difficult to stop in China,” says Alessandro Vespignani, a modeler of infectious diseases at Northeastern University. But if asymptomatic transmission is rare, he says, “isolation and social distancing can have a big impact.”

    I would be really shocked if in 2 or 3 weeks there wasn’t ongoing transmission with hundreds of cases in several countries on several continents.

    Marc Lipsitch, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

    So far it has been difficult to get a handle on this question. Some data from China seem to support asymptomatic transmission, but none are clear-cut. A widely reported 30 January letter in The New England Journal of Medicine described the case of a Chinese businesswoman who touched off a cluster of four cases in Germany before she became sick herself. But 4 days later, it became clear the researchers had not contacted the woman, who had flown back to China, before the paper was published. In a later phone interview, she said she had experienced some symptoms while in Germany.

    In follow-up results announced in a 4 February press release, the researchers noted that some patients they studied shed virus even though their symptoms were mild. That’s almost as bad as asymptomatic transmission, says virologist Christian Drosten of the Charité University Hospital in Berlin: Patients with mild symptoms are unlikely to seek medical care and may not even stay home, giving the virus ample opportunities to spread far and wide.

    Scenario 2: pandemic

    Based on what they have seen so far, many researchers think it’s probably too late to contain the virus. “As the virus continues to spread in China, the risk of exportation to other countries grows and sooner or later we will see it spread in another country,” Aavitsland says. So far there has been no sustained transmission outside of China, but Lipsitch expects that to change: “I would be really shocked if in 2 or 3 weeks there wasn’t ongoing transmission with hundreds of cases in several countries on several continents.”

    If the virus does spread to all corners of the world in a pandemic, several questions will loom large: What percentage of the population will become infected, and of those, how many will get very sick or die? More severe cases place heavier demands on health care systems—hospitals in Wuhan are already overwhelmed—and result in greater fears and disruption of daily life. A deadly pandemic might force the world to make stark choices about fair access to medicines or vaccines, if they become available. It might also lead to widespread restrictions on domestic travel akin to those already in force in China, Aavitsland says. If, on the other hand, 2019-nCoV resembles the common cold or a mild flu, the spread of the virus would be less alarming. Existing travel bans likely would be lifted.

    Understanding the severity and case fatality rate is a challenge with any new pathogen. When a new influenza strain emerged in 2009—and went on to cause a pandemic—many worried it might turn out to be a nasty variety. It took months to establish that the new virus killed only about one in 10,000 patients.

    So far, mortality among known 2019-nCoV cases is about 2%, and some reports say 20% of infected people suffer severe disease. But these figures may overlook tens of thousands of people with mild disease—say, a sore throat or a low-grade fever—who never seek medical care and may not even know they were infected with 2019-nCoV. Many may have no symptoms at all. “So what looks like a horrific disease may be the horrific tip of a very large iceberg,” Lipsitch says.

    The fact that four Japanese evacuees were asymptomatic is a case in point. Studies in China have also reported some cases with few or no symptoms. What’s missing is a large study in China, Lipsitch says. He suggests some fraction of the tests that are available in a place with many cases should be set aside for that purpose. (Current recommendations in China call for testing people with clear symptoms only.)

    If indeed 2019-nCoV becomes pandemic, humanity may be stuck with it indefinitely. After spreading far and wide, the virus might become endemic in the human population, just like four other coronaviruses that cause the common cold, and occasionally cause fresh outbreaks. How much death and disease it would cause is anyone’s guess.

    The silver lining of the epidemic is that scientists have collected and shared information at record speed. “Every day that goes by we know more and every day that goes by we can do better modeling,” Vespignani says. “Unfortunately, this beast is moving very fast.”

    Latest Figures: 

    638 people have died so far from the Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak as of February 7, 2020, 01:00 GMT.

    There are currently 31,481 confirmed cases in 28 countries. The fatality rate is still being assessed.

  • Coronavirus: Spain set to declare national lockdown

    The Spanish government is poised to declare a 15-day national lockdown on Monday to battle coronavirus.

    Under the decree being finalised, people would be allowed out only for emergencies, to buy food, or for work.

    With 191 deaths and 6,046 infections, Spain is the worst-hit country in Europe after Italy, which declared a nationwide lockdown on Monday.

    The US is extending its European travel ban to the UK and the Republic of Ireland from Monday.

    President Donald Trump confirmed the news in answer to a reporter's question at the White House.

    On Friday, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Europe was now the "epicentre" of the pandemic.

    Italy has seen 1,266 deaths and 17,660 infections.

    Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus urged countries to use aggressive measures, community mobilisation and social distancing to save lives.

    Several European countries have reported steep rises in infections and deaths in recent days.

    What is the situation in Spain?

    Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez discussed the emergency measures at a meeting of his cabinet in Madrid. The restrictions are expected to come into force at 08:00 (07:00 GMT) Monday.

    All public transport would be cut back with airline, train, bus and boat operators told they need to cut their services by at least half and that any plane, train, bus or other means of transport can only be a third full, Reuters news agency reports.

    The interior ministry would control all police forces, including those at local and regional level.

    Adding to the drama, Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias broke his own quarantine - which he went into after coming into contact with an infected colleague - to attend Saturday's talks.

    It had not been possible for Mr Iglesias, who did not test positive for the virus, to attend remotely and his presence was agreed with the government after sanitary measures were taken, government sources told Efe news agency.

    Two other ministers who are ill with coronavirus, Irene Montero and Carolina Darias, did not attend.

    This will be the second state of emergency in the country since the transition to democracy began in 1975, the first being a 2010 air traffic controllers' strike.

    Some measures have already been enforced at local level. The authorities in Madrid and its surrounding area have ordered the closure of most bars, restaurants and shops.

    Shops selling foodstuffs, pharmacies and petrol stations are exempt. Similar measures have been brought in elsewhere, including the regions of Galicia and Catalonia.

    The mayor of the southern city of Seville said he had suspended the famous Easter processions.

    Catalan regional leader Quid Torra has said he wants to seal off the whole region, and has asked the authorities in Madrid to block access by air, rail and sea.

    On Thursday the region's authorities locked down four towns north of Barcelona with a high number of cases.

    Airlines are also stopping flights to Spain. Low-cost leisure airline Jet2 turned back planes in mid-air on Saturday as it announced it was cancelling all flights.

    All but "essential travel" to parts of Spain should be avoided, says the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

    Why is Europe the 'epicentre'?

    More than 132,500 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in 123 countries around the world, according to the WHO.


    The total number of deaths has reached about 5,000 - a figure Dr Tedros described as "a tragic milestone".

    "Europe has now become the epicentre of the pandemic, with more reported cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, apart from China," he said.

    "More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic."

    As well as the increases in Spain and Italy, France has now confirmed 3,661 cases and 79 deaths.

    Germany has seen 3,675 cases and eight deaths. There have been 798 confirmed infections in the UK and 11 deaths.

    A number of European states are enforcing border closures:

    • Denmark:Closes borders to foreign visitors from Saturday
    • Czech Republic: Bans all foreigners from entering the country, except those with residence permits. Bans most of its own nationals from leaving
    • Slovakia: Closes borders to all foreigners except those with a residence permit.
    • Austria: Closes three land border crossings with Italy to all foreigners, except those with a medical certificate issued within four days. No restriction on Austrian nationals
    • Hungary:Closes land borders with Austria and Slovenia
    • Poland:From Sunday will close borders to foreign visitors
    • Russia:Closes land borders with Poland and Norway
    • Ukraine: Closes border crossings to foreigners (except diplomats) for two weeks

    Belgium, France, Switzerland and parts of Germany are among the latest countries to close schools.

    There are also widespread curbs on large gatherings and measures to close theatres, restaurants and bars.

    Why Europe could be worse off than China

    The number of cases of coronavirus reported every day in Europe has surpassed China at its peak.

    But Europe is in a worse position.

    The overwhelming majority of China's cases were in one place, Hubei province, and those were largely concentrated in one city, Wuhan.

    The outbreak was dealt with by an authoritarian government that imposed the biggest quarantine in human history.

    While there are hotspots in Europe, this is an outbreak across a continent, and different countries are adopting very different strategies for dealing with coronavirus.

    All these figures are based on cases that have been detected, but scientists fear there could be large outbreaks going on unnoticed in countries that don't have the tools to spot them.


    Latest Coranavirus figures from the U.S.

    2449 Cases

    252 New Cases

    55 Deaths

    6 New Deaths


  • FEMA preparing for coronavirus emergency declaration

    WASHINGTON — The Federal Emergency Management Agency is planning for the possibility that President Donald Trump could make an emergency declaration to bring in extra funds and personnel to assist the administration's coronavirus response, according to internal documents obtained by NBC News.

    FEMA officials are preparing for an "infectious disease emergency declaration" by the president that would allow the agency to provide disaster relief funding to state and local governments, as well as federal assistance to support the coronavirus response, according to agency planning documents reviewed by NBC News.

    The Trump administration would have to use the 1988 Stafford Act to enable FEMA to provide such disaster assistance. Emergency declarations are most often used in the event of natural disasters but can be used to help manage disease outbreaks.
    "To me this is another indication that the president and the White House are finally aware of the gravity of the situation," said Michael Coen, who was FEMA chief of staff during the Obama administration. "They need to consider all tools available to them and have contingencies for action."

    "I actually find this reassuring," said Tim Manning, who was a FEMA deputy administrator under President Barack Obama. “I hope this discussion has been happening continuously over the last couple of months."

    An emergency declaration would allow FEMA to provide disaster medical assistance teams, mobile hospitals and military transport, among other kinds of federal support, Manning said.

    FEMA's disaster relief fund has a current balance of $34 billion, according to the latest agency update. "It's money that’s sitting there and ready," said another former FEMA official, who declined to be identified.

    FEMA spokesperson Lizzie Litzow said the agency is currently focused on supporting the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which separately declared a "public health emergency" on Jan. 31, allowing HHS to access funds and other resources to aid the government's virus response. "At this time, there isn't anything additional to the HHS public health emergency," Litzow said.

    Confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States

    There has been two U.S. deaths, in Washington. NBC News has confirmed at least nine patients have recovered: Four in California, two in Illinois, one in Washington, one in Arizona and one in Wisconsin.

    The White House did not respond to a request for comment.

    It would not be the first time the federal government has used FEMA's resources to assist in a medical event.

    In 2000, President Bill Clinton used a Stafford Act emergency declaration for outbreaks of the West Nile virus in New York and New Jersey, ordering up to $5 million in federal aid to supplement state efforts to combat the mosquito-borne virus.

    Emergency declarations are distinct from "major disaster" declarations, which are more far-reaching and are typically used for hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters.


    4 more deaths in Washington state, U.S. death toll at 6

    COVID-19 Coronavirus Outbreak Info

    Coronavirus Cases: 90, 300

  • Italy Deploys the Military after 627 Coronavirus Deaths Reported in 24 Hours

    1,500 deaths in three days; officials call for even stronger measures to stop spread; 40,000 infected but top scientist says true figure could be 100 times higher

    ROME — Italy on Friday reported a record 627 new deaths from the novel coronavirus and saw its world-leading toll surpass 4,000 despite government efforts to stem the pandemic’s spread.

    The Mediterranean country’s daily death rate is now higher than that officially reported by China at the peak of its outbreak around Wuhan’s Hubei province.

    Italy’s previous one-day record death toll was 475 on Wednesday. Italy has seen more than 1,500 fatalities from COVID-19 in the past three days alone

    It has now recorded the five highest one-day tolls officially registered around the world.

    Italian media broadcast pictures it said was military vehicles brought into the Bergamo area to transport away the hundreds of coffins.

    Italy’s total number of deaths now stands and 4,032. Infections rose by nearly 6,000 to 47,021.

    The nation of 60 million currently accounts for 36.6 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths after surpassing China’s total on Thursday.

    The soaring numbers come despite a national lockdown that drastically limits when residents are allowed to leave their homes. Police have issued citations to thousands of people for being out and about without valid reasons, such as going to work or shopping for food.



    Mayors and governors throughout the country have been demanding even stricter measures. Italy’s national government is widely expected to respond soon.

    For days now, Italian authorities have said at daily briefings that the virus outbreak that emerged in northern Italy four weeks ago could reach its peak in a matter of days and the number of new infections might start going down.

    “There are so many people walking around who have the virus and who are at risk of infecting others,” Matteo Bassetti, the director of the infectious diseases department at Genoa’s San Martino clinic, told Italy’s AGI news agency.

    “The 40,000 cases we are talking about could actually be 100 times higher.”

    The Italian government intends to extend a ban on public gatherings and the shutdown of almost all businesses past their March 25 deadline.

    Regional leaders and city mayors are urging the Italian government to adopt even tougher restrictions such as a ban on outdoor exercises and the closure of all stores on Sundays.



  • Italy under Lockdown in Drastic Attempt to Contain Covid-19 Epidemic


    The entire population of over 60 million in Italy is now under lockdown as the government extends drastic measures across the nation to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced at a press conference late Monday, March 9, 2020. The country has been struggling to cope with the virus, which has killed 463 and infected 9 172 as of Tuesday, March 10.

    "There is no more time. I will take responsibility for these measures," said Conte. "Our future is in our hands."

    The death toll in the country solely saw a sharp rise from 366 on Monday to 463 on Tuesday, while the casesstand at 9 172, overtaking South Korea as the country with most fatalities and cases after China.

    "The figures show we are experiencing a serious increase in infections, an increase in people hospitalized in intensive care – and an increase, unfortunately, in deaths. We need to change our lifestyle. We need to change it now. That’s why I have decided to adopt these hard measures," said the PM.

    "I am going to sign a decree that can be summarized as follows: I stay at home," he continued. "The whole of Italy will become a protected zone."


    Conte has imposed travel restrictions all over the country and banned all public gatherings, cinemas, gyms, pubs, funerals, weddings, and sporting events, including Serie A matches. Furthermore, all schools and universities remain shut until April 3.

    Checkpoints on highways, train stations, airports, and toll booths are expected to be implemented on Tuesday. Moreover, under the new decree, citizens will only be able to travel for emergency purposes. Up to three months of jail time will be served for those who will break the quarantine rules.

    Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a briefing late Monday that the threat of a pandemic "has become very real."

    "We are not at the mercy of the coronavirus. Over the weekend we crossed 100 000 reported cases in 100 countries," Ghebreyesus said. "But it would be the first pandemic in history that could be controlled."

    As of Tuesday, there are 114 549 COVID-19 cases and 4 028 fatalities worldwide.




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