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63,000 Travelers Referred to CDC for Enhanced Testing
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said it has referred more than 63,000 travelers for enhanced health screenings from Feb. 2 to March 4 amid the coronavirus spread.
The travelers—mostly citizens of the United States, China, Canada, Vietnam, and India—were referred to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for further screening, according to CBP.
The majority were air passengers, with an additional 766 land travelers and 113 sea travelers also being screened.
“If CBP observes individuals with symptoms of COVID-19, we will continue to work with the CDC to determine if a traveler is a possible public health risk by referring them to CDC for enhanced health screening,” a CBP spokesperson said in an email.
Fed Quarantines Cash from Asia In Precautionary Bid
A Federal Reserve spokesperson told Reuters Friday that banknotes coming into the United States from Asia were being subjected to a mandatory quarantine due to concerns over potential coronavirus contagion.
The quarantine, which lasts from 7 to 10 days, pertains to shipments of physical bills the Fed routinely receives from Asian countries that are first processed and then redistributed within the United States.
The spokesperson said the policy—which was introduced on Feb. 21—was a precautionary measure to help combat the spread of the virus on U.S. soil.
Trump Administration Considering Financial Assistance to People, Industries
The Trump administration is considering giving some assistance to people and industries impacted by the new coronavirus, a top adviser said on Friday.
Officials are looking at “a timely and targeted micro approach,” Larry Kudlow, director of the National Economic Council, said during an appearance on Fox Business.
“We are not looking to give everybody $1,000, which would not have any long-term growth effect on the economy. We’ve done this before under both parties and it does not work,” Kudlow said. “We’re not looking at big, expensive, macro cash rebates, helicopter money from the sky, that never works.”
Some of the things the administration is considering: help to people “who are stranded at home and losing pay;” small businesses in certain areas; and certain sectors that need help with cash flow.
Inuit Concerned About Potential Virus Spread
The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) says if the novel coronavirus spreads to the North, communities in Canada, Alaska, and Greenland are at a much higher risk of exposure because of a chronic lack of basic infrastructure and resources.
The group says the Inuit must be considered in government responses because of the potential compounding threat to basic health and well-being in those communities.
The ICC says many communities lack sewers and running water, putting people at greater risk of contracting the virus and its accompanying respiratory disease, COVID-19.
Indiana Governor Declares Public Health Emergency Over First Case
A patient in Indiana tested positive for the disease caused by the new coronavirus, officials said, prompting Gov. Eric Holcomb to declare a public health emergency.
A sample tested at the state laboratory came back positive but will be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For now, the case is being treated as confirmed.
The patient, who is from Marion County, recently traveled to Boston for an event before coming into contact with a person who had contracted the virus while traveling. Officials did not say whether the case was linked to a Biogen meeting, which spawned the first case in Tennessee.
University of Washington Moving All Classes Online
The University of Washington is moving all classes online next week due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus in the state, the hardest-hit in the nation, after the school announced that a staff member tested positive for the virus.
Seventy-nine cases have been confirmed in the state. Eleven patients have died, including 10 in King County, according to county officials.
Starting March 9, classes on all three campuses at the University of Washington will no longer be meeting in person, said university President Ana Mari Cauce in a message to staff, faculty, and other academic personnel.
Subway Rider Sprays Febreze at Fellow Passenger
Police are investigating a video that appears to show a man spraying Febreze at an Asian New York City subway rider amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
The clip was shared by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which wrote that “racism” isn’t an effective means to combat the spread of the virus.
“What works in stopping the spread of coronavirus: 1. Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds 2. Cough and sneeze into your elbow 3. Stay home if you’re sick,” the post read. “What doesn’t work: 1. Racism.”
US Prisons on Alert
The nation’s jails and prisons are on high alert, stepping up inmate screenings, sanitizing jail cells, and urging lawyers to scale back in-person visits to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading through their vast inmate populations.
There have been no reports of COVID-19 inside U.S. jails or prisons. But more people are incarcerated per capita here than in any other country in the world and prisons have become hot spots in other nations touched by the outbreak.
Coronavirus suddenly exploded in China’s prisons last week, with reports of more than 500 cases spreading across five facilities in three provinces. Earlier this week in Iran, 54,000 inmates were temporarily released back into the country amid virus fears.
Jail operators in the United States are coming to the growing realization that it’s only a matter of time before it strikes here.
China Gave Imperfect Data on Epidemic
China has delivered imperfect data on the new coronavirus, which emerged in the country in late 2019 before spreading to more than 50 countries around the world, a top U.S. official said on Friday.
“Remember, this is the Wuhan coronavirus that’s caused this,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, using a colloquial name for SARS-CoV-2, the new virus. “And the information that we got at the front end of this thing wasn’t perfect and has led us now to a place where much of the challenge we face today has put us behind the curve.”
Infectious disease doctors have told Pompeo that how the situation unfolded isn’t the way it should have gone, the secretary of state said during an appearance on CNBC.
“It has proven incredibly frustrating to work with the Chinese Communist Party to get our hands around the dataset, which will ultimately be the solution to both getting the vaccine and attacking this risk,” Pompeo said.
Five Pennsylvania Schools Close
Five schools in the state of Pennsylvania have closed after people in Central Bucks School District might have been exposed to the new coronavirus.
“Members of the Central Bucks community were exposed to a confirmed case of the coronavirus that originated in another state,” Dr. John Kopicki, the district superintendent, wrote in a statement on Friday.
Community members who might have been exposed to the virus had contact with Butler Elementary School, Central Bucks South High School, Titus Elementary School, Tamanend Middle School, and Tohickon Middle School.
Three Biogen Workers Test Positive
The Massachusetts-based drugmaker said in a statement that some of its employees reported flu-like symptoms after the meeting in Boston last week. Three of the patients tested positive for the new virus, which causes a disease called COVID-19, while others were diagnosed with the flu.
COVID-19 has symptoms similar to the flu, including shortness of breath, fever, and coughing, health officials have said.
“At the present time, these individuals are doing well, improving and under the care of their healthcare providers,” Biogen said.
Two of the patients traveled to Boston from a state outside Massachusetts while the other two are from Europe, the company said.
The Tennessee Department of Health said the first patient who tested positive in the state traveled on a round-trip flight between Nashville International Airport and Boston. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker later confirmed that the patient is a Biogen employee.
Rabbi of Synagogue at Center of NY Outbreak Tests Positive
It’s at least the 18th case linked to a man who attended the synagogue with his family in a cluster that includes the man’s children and wife, a neighbor who drove him to the hospital, and a friend he spent time with, as well as the friend’s children and wife.
The new patient is Rabbi Reuven Fink, the rabbi of Young Israel of New Rochelle in Westchester County.
The rabbi has been in self-quarantine due to his contact with the 50-year-old lawyer who lives in New Rochelle and works in the Manhattan borough of New York City, Dr. Ari Berman, president of Yeshiva University, said on Friday. The rabbi announced to his congregation that he tested positive, according to a notice Berman sent to students and staff members.
Trump Signs $8.3 Billion Coronavirus Bill
President Donald Trump on Friday signed a more than $8 billion spending bill to curb the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, injecting funding into developing a vaccine and other prevention measures.
The $8.3 billion aid package was agreed to earlier this week by Senate and House appropriations managers before it was overwhelmingly passed in both chambers of Congress. Trump, meanwhile, told reporters last week that he would be willing to sign a larger coronavirus spending package after the White House proposed an approximately $2.5 billion plan of its own.
“In situations like this, I believe no expense should be spared to protect the American people, and in crafting this package none was,” said Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) in a statement to media outlets. “It’s an aggressive plan, a vigorous plan that has received an overwhelming positive reaction.”
Johnson: UK to Face Period of Disruption
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says it looks like the UK will face a “substantial period of disruption” from the new coronavirus outbreak and the government plans to put aid for affected businesses in the national budget.
The number of people in Britain infected with the virus increased to 163, the government reported Friday. A woman in her 70s with underlying health conditions who died Thursday became the country’s first casualty of the COVID-19 disease.
After visiting a laboratory of a company that is involved in efforts to develop a rapid method for diagnosing virus infections, Johnson said a vaccine or rapid test would be “life-changing and life-saving.”
“If we can get a test kit, of the kind they are producing here in the next few months, in a realistic timetable …. If we can get a vaccine as well, then humanity is going to push back the legions of disease,” he said.
Chinese Patient Dies After Initially Recovering
Makeshift hospitals in the central Chinese city of Wuhan have stopped discharging patients, after one suddenly died of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, upon being released.
In more than a dozen stadiums, school gyms, and exhibition centers across the city—where the outbreak first emerged in China—Wuhan authorities have designated makeshift hospitals to treat patients with mild or moderate symptoms. Some patients have reported limited medical treatment and unsanitary conditions at such facilities.
Meanwhile, hospitals across China have found that some people who recovered from the virus later relapse.
South Korea Confirms 309 More Cases
South Korea reported hundreds of new cases of the novel coronavirus on March 6. The country also lodged a protest with Japan over the latter’s new quarantine measures.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) on Friday reported 309 new cases over the past 16 hours, bringing the total number of infections to 6,593, local media Yonhap News Agency reported.
South Korea has seen a dramatic rise in infection cases since Feb. 20 when its total confirmed cases stood at 104. The country now has the largest number of confirmed cases outside of China.
Germany Reports Over 100 New Cases
Germany on Friday reported 534 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, the Robert Koch Institute said.
“This shows you that the numbers are increasing,” Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch institute for disease control said at a news briefing.
“We don’t know when the peak will be reached, we want to delay it as long as possible,” he added.
More than half of the cases, 281, are in the western region of North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany’s most populous state.
Tokyo Olympics Hold Test Event Without Fans, Top Athletes
Despite the spreading virus, Tokyo Olympic organizers have finally held a test event.
The recent outbreak of the coronavirus has forced them to rearrange or postpone several. But they allowed a sport climbing event on Friday to go ahead, with a few restrictions: no fans and no top athletes. Instead, they used amateurs to test the climbing facility.
Almost all sports events and large gatherings have been shut down in Japan.
Preseason baseball is being played without fans, the soccer J-League is suspended until March 18, and a spring sumo event will be contested in an empty arena. Schools are also closed across the country.
The International Olympic Committee and local organizers say the Olympics will open as scheduled on July 24. The Paralympics are set for Aug. 25.
Virologists, however, say it’s impossible to tell if the spreading virus will allow that to happen, and a cancelation or postponement are possible.
Twelve deaths in Japan have been attributed to the virus, which has spread to over 50 countries across the world.
Thailand Imposes Requirements on People From Six Places
People arriving in Thailand from six countries and territories will have to submit daily reports on their health as a measure against the spread of the new virus.
Thailand’s Public Health Ministry announced the new regulation Friday after officially designating South Korea, China, Macao, Hong Kong, Italy, and Iran as “dangerous communicable disease areas.”
Dr. Thanarak Plipat, deputy director of the Bureau of Epidemiology under the Public Health Ministry’s Department of Disease Control, said officials can order people to be placed under quarantine if they are suspected of having the virus.
Both Thai citizens and foreigners who visited those areas must produce daily reports on their health and their whereabouts for 14 days, with officials collecting the information either online or by phone.
The government has been reluctant to impose broad restrictions on travelers. Thailand’s tourism industry is huge, both in terms of revenue and people employed, and visitors from China—where the virus outbreak began—comprise the greatest share of arrivals. Hotels and other tourism-related businesses have reported sharp losses.
First Cases Confirmed in the Vatican, Cameroon
A Vatican spokesman has confirmed the first case of coronavirus at the city-state, as did officials in the African nation of Cameroon.
Vatican Spokesman Matteo Bruni said Friday that non-emergency medical services at the Vatican have been closed so they can be sanitized following the positive test on Thursday.
More details on the identity of the person testing positive were not made available.
Vatican medical services are also available to staff and family members of people working at the Vatican.
The pope, meanwhile, is recovering from a cold, and the Vatican has said that he has no other pathologies.
Cameroon’s Ministry of Public Health said its first patient is a 58-year-old French citizen who arrived in the Central African country on Feb. 24. The ministry said Friday that surveillance has been put in place, and the patient is in solitary confinement in a hospital.
Infectious Disease Experts: Challenges in Estimating Fatality Rate
Professor Joseph Wu of Hong Kong University (HKU) Medical School of Public Health, and Professor Gabriel Leung, chair of public health medicine at HKU Medical school and founding director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology and Control, have briefed reporters in Hong Kong on their research addressing the fatality risk of COVID-19.
The professors explained the challenges with the various numbers that have been announced, given the differences in methods of reporting and transparency of information from different countries, The Guardian reported.
Leung said that the 3.4 percent rate referenced by WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Tuesday was based on “bad data”—calculated from current numbers for the cumulative deaths among cumulative cases.
“This is the wrong number and will continue to be wrong unless and until the entire epidemic has run its full course,” he explained.
Leung added that different estimates were confusing because “you haven’t actually estimated the total number of infected cases … because you haven’t tested everybody.”
The modeling they are looking at, Leung said, involved three ways of studying the fatality rate: the infection fatality risk, the symptomatic fatality risk, and the hospitalization fatality risk.
He said that his current estimate of the symptomatic fatality rate, which considers deaths against the number of people presenting to health authorities with symptoms, stands at 1.4 percent.
But he added, “If it turns out that this disease, COVID-19, has quite a lot of asymptomatic cases, there will be very different estimates.”
And even at 1.4 percent, Leung said, “This is a very serious concern, especially among the older adult population.
“Children seem to be relatively spared,” he added, but schools remain closed “because of the precautionary principle: We cannot afford to be wrong.”
Four Patients Test Positive in Houston Area of Texas
Harris County officials announced three new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon and Thursday night.
The afternoon announcement marked the first known cases of coronavirus in Harris County. The cases involved a man and a woman from an unincorporated part of northwest Harris County, outside of Houston. The two cases were travel-related and were reported one day after neighboring Fort Bend County reported a presumptive case.
The Houston Chronicle reported that Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said that the Harris County and the Fort Bend individuals who had tested positive had traveled together to Egypt and were exposed overseas returned in late February.
Hidalgo added that one of the two patients in Harris County is an employee at Rice University. She also said that the patients, in their 60s, are in local hospitals in stable conditions.
Harris County later announced a presumptive case in a man in his 60s, also residing in the unincorporated area of northwest Harris County, outside Houston. The case “also acquired abroad and is related to the cases disclosed earlier today,” the announcement stated, noting that “[t]here is no evidence of community spread.” The man is hospitalized and in stable condition.
Within an hour of the Harris County presumptive case being announced, the City of Houston announced its first presumptive case. The case involves a man in his 60s, who has mild symptoms of the virus and is currently in self-quarantine at home. The City of Houston noted that he is part of the same group that traveled to Egypt.
In total, Harris County has four cases (2 new, 2 presumptive), and Fort Bend County has one presumptive case.
New Jersey Reports Second Presumptive Case
A second person in New Jersey has tested positive with local authorities for COVID-19.
While a confirmation test is being sought from the CDC, the positive test from the New Jersey Department of Health at the New Jersey Public Health Environmental Laboratories (PHEL) brings the state’s total number of presumed cases to two after 13 were tested, according to the health department.
The female in her 30s joins a male, also in his 30s, as the state’s first presumptive cases.
The woman is in self-isolation at home while the man has been isolated at a hospital in Bergen County since March 3.
“While we have identified our second presumptive positive case, New Jersey residents should remain calm and vigilant in their personal efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” said Governor Phil Murphy. “By working in tandem with our state agencies, federal partners, and local authorities, we are confident in our ability to respond expeditiously to additional positive cases of COVID-19.”
Acting Governor Sheila Oliver added, “These two cases of COVID-19 do not come as a surprise, as our state has been prepared, for weeks, for the eventuality that one of our residents would test positive for the coronavirus.
“We put a plan in place for preparedness and rapid response and the threat to the public remains low.”
Japan to Quarantine Chinese, South Korean Visitors, and Suspend Visa
Japan will suspend existing visas for visitors from China and South Korea and quarantine them for two weeks in response to the widening coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday, March 5.
The measures will go into effect on March 9.
US Death Toll Rises to 12
Washington State announced its 11th death due to the new coronavirus on Thursday, March 5.
The latest case involves a woman in her 90s who died on March 3 in King County. She was hospitalized at EvergreenHealth.
A statement from King County, Washington, noted that she is the 10th person to die in the county.
The woman’s death is the 11th in Washington state and the 12th in the United States. The other death in the United States was in California.
News of her death came alongside 20 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 in King County. The 20 new results mean that the total number of cases in King County rises to 51.
“As more laboratory capacity for testing comes online, more tests and results will be reported. We will no longer be routinely providing details about each case,” King County officials announced in a statement.
“This is a critical moment in the growing outbreak of COVID-19 in King County,” county officials added. “Together, we may potentially impact the spread of the disease in our community.”
Test Results Pending for Passengers Aboard Grand Princess
On Thursday, the U.S. Coast Guard airlifted a batch of diagnostic kits to the Grand Princess cruise ship via helicopter, with public health officials saying that the samples collected would be flown back to a San Francisco Bay Area state laboratory for testing.
Results were expected in about 24 hours, said Mary Ellen Carroll, executive director of the city’s Department of Emergency Management.
The Princess cruise line said fewer than 100 passengers and crew from the Hawaii voyage of its Grand Princess have been identified for testing, including 35 who are ill.
Tests were given to dozens of holdover passengers from the Mexico trip who stayed on the ship for the voyage to Hawaii, as well as “guests currently under care for respiratory illness,” the cruise line said in a statement. They will remain quarantined on the ship until cleared by medical staff.
Specialists from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were working with local health authorities and the Coast Guard to coordinate the operation.
They also were seeking to contact some 2,500 passengers who disembarked in San Francisco on Feb. 21 after the earlier cruise to Mexico. One of them, a Canadian woman from the province of Alberta, tested positive for the virus this week, health officials there said.
State and local officials made the decision to hold the vessel offshore after learning that 35 people aboard the ship were experiencing cold and flu symptoms, and that two passengers who had traveled on the same vessel for a voyage last month between San Francisco and Mexico later tested positive for coronavirus after returning to the mainland.
One, an elderly man from Placer County near Sacramento with underlying health conditions, died this week, marking the first documented coronavirus fatality in California. The other, from the Bay area, was described by Newsom as gravely sick.
Health officials say both individuals likely contracted the virus while they were aboard the ocean liner.
Colorado, Maryland Report First Patients Testing Positive
Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) said at a news conference on Thursday that two cases of the new coronavirus confirmed in the state are unrelated to each other.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said in a release the first case involves a male in his 30s who had contact with a known case of COVID-19 outside of the state. The male was visiting Summit County, and he is now in self-quarantine in the Denver metro area.
“Because the testing was done at the state level, the [first] case is a ‘presumptive positive’ and results will be sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for confirmation,” the health department said.
“We are hopeful that the patient will have a swift recovery,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the health department. “Like other states, we expected to begin seeing cases in Colorado and that is why we have been preparing for the past couple of months, in conjunction with local public health agencies and healthcare partners. Our goals are to protect the public from the disease, get people the care they need, and minimize disruption to daily lives.”
Maryland authorities, meanwhile, reported the state’s first three cases.
Gov. Larry Hogan announced Thursday night that he’s declaring a state of emergency.
“A thorough investigation is underway to determine their recent interactions with the public,” he said of the couple. “This news is serious,” but “this is exactly what our state has been actively and aggressively preparing for many weeks now,” Hogan said at a press conference. “I encourage all Marylanders not to panic, but to take this seriously and to stay informed as we continue to provide updates.”
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Mimi Nguyen-Ly, Melanie Sun, Charlotte Cuthbertson, Tom Ozimek, Zachary Stieber, Jack Phillips, Frank Fang, Nicole Hao, the Associated Press, the Canadian Press, and Reuters contributed to this article.