First Case Confirmed in California’s Napa County: Coronavirus Updates From Feb. 18

February 17, 2020 Updated: February 18, 2020
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Countries around the world are taking measures to stem the spread of the new coronavirus, dubbed COVID-19, as the death toll continues to rise.

This page has updates from Feb. 18. For updates from Feb. 19, click here.

First Case Confirmed in California’s Napa County

The first case of the new coronavirus has been confirmed on Tuesday in Napa County, California, and a second person in the county is under investigation, according to a news release.

The release states that the two patients are not Napa county residents; they had been under quarantine on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked off Japan and were among those who were evacuated to the United States.

The evacuated group from Japan was flown to the Travis Air Force Base in Solano County. Health officials identified seven among them as needing testing or hospitalization, and five of the seven were sent to local hospitals in Solano County.

The two remaining patients were transferred to Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa county because there was a shortage of isolation beds in Solano county.

The patient in Napa county confirmed to have COVID-19 had tested positive for the virus in Japan, but doesn’t currently have any symptoms typically associated with the virus so far, according to the release.

The other patient, who is under investigation, is experiencing symptoms suspicious of the virus and is currently being tested. This patient had tested negative for the virus while in Japan.

Both patients are under federal quarantine. The city and state of origin for both patients is not known at this time.

Napa County Public Health Officer Karen Relucio said that there is “minimal risk for Napa County residents” and that the two patients at the medical center are “in isolation, and are receiving medical care and undergoing testing.”

‘No Information Whatsoever’ That Virus Is Bioweapon: US Official

The U.S. assistant secretary for health responded to speculation that the new coronavirus strain is the product of Chinese bioweapons research.

“We have no information whatsoever about this being a manufactured virus,” Brett Giroir, the assistant secretary for health, told reporters Tuesday.

The origins of the virus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, are not clear, he said before adding there was “a lot more work that needs to be done.” Giroir said he believes the virus probably originated from an animal, as many other coronavirus strains have done.

Read more here.

Chinese Regime Hints of Political Infighting

Chinese leader Xi Jinping recently called out Hubei officials for not following his instructions to stem the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.

Previously, local officials complained that they were unable to disclose details about the outbreak because the central government did not allow them.

Meanwhile, state-run media published, then quickly deleted, a report about Gao Fu, current director of China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, being disciplined for violating Party rules.

Read more here.

China Pulls Out of Tennis Tournament in Romania

China is no longer participating in the Davis Cup to take place next month in Romania due to travel restrictions amid the new coronavirus outbreak.

“The increased restrictions in response to the current Coronavirus outbreak have resulted in the China, P.R. team being unable to travel to this tie. Romania will advance to play in World Group I in September,” the International Tennis Federation (ITF) announced on Twitter.

The China team was set to play against Romania on March 6-7.

WHO Reports 92 Cases of Person-to-Person Transmission

World Health Organization (WHO) officials reported 92 cases of human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus in countries other than China on Tuesday.

In the past 24 hours alone, 110 new cases outside China were confirmed, including 99 on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that’s docked in Yokohama, Japan, WHO’s chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

Still, officials “have not yet seen the sustained local transmission except in specific circumstances like the Diamond Princess cruise ship,” Tedros said.

But officials don’t have enough data “to make a meaningful comparison on the severity of disease or the case fatality rate,” he also said.

Russia to Ban All Chinese Citizens

Russia’s government announced it would ban all Chinese citizens from entering its territory, according to a statement from the Kremlin on Tuesday, which added that new restrictions will go into effect starting Thursday.

From 12 a.m. local time on Feb. 20, Russia will “temporarily suspend the passage of citizens” from China to enter its territory “for the purpose of employment, for private, educational, and tourist purposes,” said a statement from the Kremlin carried by state-run news outlet TASS.

The move is designed to curb the spread of the new coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, from spreading inside Russia. Several weeks ago, Russia announced it would close its 2,500-mile border with China amid fears of the virus.

Health Minister Tatyana Golikova told TASS that documents, registration, and invitations to enter Russia to work will be suspended for Chinese nationals. This entails documents for foreign workers, private purposes, and education.

Read more here.

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A family wearing a face mask walk in Biblioteka Imeni Lenina metro station in Moscow, Russia on Feb. 7, 2020. (Dimitar Dilkoff/AFP via Getty Images)

Britain to Evacuate Citizens From Cruise Ship

British officials said they’re working on a plan to evacuate citizens who are quarantined on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

“Given the conditions on board, we are working to organise a flight back to the UK for British nationals on the Diamond Princess as soon as possible. Our staff are contacting British nationals on board to make the necessary arrangements. We urge all those who have not yet responded to get in touch immediately,” a Foreign Office spokesperson said in a statement.

Japan’s health ministry said earlier Tuesday that 88 more people have tested positive for the new coronavirus on the ship.

There are now 542 known cases on the cruise ship.

David Abel and his wife, Sally, a British couple, have emerged as two of the most visible people on the ship, repeatedly posting on Facebook and YouTube about their life under quarantine. They said Tuesday that they were among those who tested positive.

“There is going to be a time of quiet. We have been proved positive and leaving for hospital soon. Blessings all xxx,” Abel wrote on Facebook.

WHO Reports 92 Cases of Person-to-Person Transmission

World Health Organization (WHO) officials reported 92 cases of human-to-human transmission of the new coronavirus in countries other than China on Tuesday.

In the past 24 hours alone, 110 new cases outside China were confirmed, including 99 on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that’s docked in Yokohama, Japan, WHO’s chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

Still, officials “have not yet seen the sustained local transmission except in specific circumstances like the Diamond Princess cruise ship,” Tedros said.

But officials don’t have enough data “to make a meaningful comparison on the severity of disease or the case fatality rate,” he also said.

First Coronavirus Patient Had No Link to Wuhan Seafood Market: Report

The first coronavirus (COVID-19) patient in China did not have contact with a wild animal and seafood market in Wuhan, the city where the outbreak began, according to a new report.

The unidentified man, known as “patient zero,” was a pensioner in his 70s who was bedridden from a stroke and suffered from dementia. He fell ill on Dec. 1, 2019—one week earlier than what was reported by Wuhan health authorities, who said the first patient appeared on Dec. 8.

The revelation is consistent with a Jan. 24 study published in The Lancet analyzing the first 41 cases of coronavirus patients who fell ill between Dec. 1, 2019 and Jan. 2, 2020.

“He lived four to five stops [public transport stations] away from the seafood market,” Wu Wenjuan, a co-author of The Lancet study, told the BBC.

“And because he was ill, he basically didn’t go outdoors,” she said.

Read more here.

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A police officer wearing a mask stands in front of the closed seafood market in Wuhan, Hubei province, China on Jan. 10, 2020. (Stringer/Reuters

No Known Cases in North Korea: WHO

There are no signals or indications of any known COVID-19 cases inside North Korea, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.

North Korea shares a border with China, where the virus emerged late last year.

But there’s “no reason to believe” that there are cases in the country, Dr. Mike Ryan, a top WHO official, said at a briefing.

He said that WHO was sending supplies to North Korea. There was also a one-on-one meeting between WHO and a representative from North Korea planned for Feb. 19 in Geneva, where WHO is based.

The United States said last week that it was ready to help North Korea prevent cases of the virus.

Director of Hospital at Virus Epicenter Dies

A hospital director in the novel coronavirus outbreak epicenter of Wuhan has died of the deadly disease.

Liu Zhiming, 50, was the head of Wuchang Hospital and a neurologist. State media have confirmed that he died on the morning of Feb. 18. He is the highest level health official to succumb to the virus, also known as COVID-19, so far.

The director and party secretary of the publicity center within the Health Commission of Hubei reported that Liu had died around 10:00 p.m. local time on Feb. 17 through Weibo, a popular Twitter-like Chinese social media platform.

In the post, which was subsequently deleted, he described Liu as the first hospital director to have “sacrificed” his life to fight the virus and expressed “profound condolences.”

Read more here.

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Dr. Liu Zhiming, head of Wuchang Hospital, has been confirmed dead from the Novel Coronavirus on Feb. 18, 2020. (Wuchang hospital Wechat)

Japan to Test HIV Medication as Potential Treatment

Japan is preparing to hold clinical trials using HIV medication as a potential treatment for the new coronavirus, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters at a press briefing.

The National Center for Global Health and Medicine is leading preparations “so that clinical trials using HIV medication on the novel coronavirus can start as soon as possible,” he said.

Suga said he could not comment on how long it would take for the new drug to be approved.

Japan keeps reporting new cases and the largest cluster outside of China is among the passengers of a cruise ship docked in Yokohama. The United States evacuated more than 300 Americans who were on the ship and other countries are now preparing to fly their citizens out.

Domestic Helper Gets Infected

Hong Kong officials announced the 61st confirmed coronavirus case in the city, the first known infection of a domestic helper.

The new patient, a 34-year-old Filipino, is a domestic helper employed by an infected patient, according to Chuang Shuk-kwan, head of the Communicable Disease Branch of the Center for Health Protection. On Feb. 2, she began having a cough and fever and was hospitalized on Feb. 14.

After the announcement, Filipino authorities said that overseas Filipino workers could return from Hong Kong and Macau. The policy change is an exemption to a travel ban on domestic workers.

One of the only deaths from the new virus outside of China took place in the Philippines, which has three confirmed cases, all among Chinese nationals.

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Employees of the Hong Kong Jockey Club (front and back) wearing face masks as a preventative measure against the COVID-19 coronavirus, guide Jockey Zac Purton (C) of Australia during the Hong Kong Gold Cup day at the Sha Tin racecourse on Feb. 16, 2020. (Philip Fong/AFP via Getty Images)

Shanghai to Start Online Courses

Liu Jing, director of Shanghai’s education committee, said on Tuesday that all the city’s schools will remain closed, according to China’s state-run media.

He added that online courses will be provided to students, starting with those in primary and secondary schools on March 2.

Taiwanese Company Working With NIH to Develop Vaccine

Taiwan-based Medigen Vaccine Biologics signed a contract with the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) on Sunday to cooperate on the development of a new vaccine for COVID-19, according to TechNews.

Medigen has been working with NIH since 2015 to develop vaccines, including one for dengue fever.

The company will obtain the candidate viruses for the vaccine from NIH for experiments and clinical trials in Taiwan.

Taiwan Thanks 105 European Lawmakers for Bid to UN’s WHO

Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has thanked 105 lawmakers from more than 10 European countries for voicing support for Taiwan becoming an observer at the upcoming World Health Assembly (WHA), the decision-making body of the World Health Organization (WHO).

Taiwan has continually sought to become a WHO member. But Beijing, which views Taiwan as a renegade province that is part of its territory, has sought to diminish the island’s sovereignty by blocking it from joining international organizations such as the WHO.

From 2009 to 2016, Taiwan’s health ministers took part in the WHA as observers. However, since 2017, Taiwan has been barred by China from taking part in the assembly and its meetings.

On Feb. 16, Taiwan’s government-run Central News Agency reported that these 105 lawmakers had sent letters to WHO’s secretary general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, voicing their support for Taiwan’s participation in the upcoming WHA.

The 73rd WHA is scheduled to be held in Geneva from May 17 to 21.

Taiwan has 22 known cases of coronavirus with one death, but has been excluded from taking part in recent meetings about the novel coronavirus outbreak held by the WHO Emergency Committee.

Israel Bans Foreigners from 4 Regions in Asia

Israeli Interior Minister Aryeh Deri said on Monday that foreigners who traveled through Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, or Thailand in the past 14 days will be banned from entry, according to local newspaper The Times of Israel.

Before the announcement, the Israeli Ministry of Health had required from Feb. 16 all travelers from the four Asian jurisdictions to be quarantined at home for at least 14 days.

In late January, Israel banned entry for foreign nationals who had recently traveled through mainland China, the paper reported.

1-Year-Old Baby With Coronavirus Recovers, Discharged

A 1-year-old child who contracted COVID-19 after being evacuated from virus epicenter Wuhan, China, made a full recovery and was discharged from a hospital in Singapore.

The child was evacuated on Feb. 9 without symptoms. The child was quarantined when he entered Singapore, the Ministry of Health said on its website.

In a Tuesday update, the child—called “Case 76”—by health authorities “fully recovered from the infection” and was “discharged from the hospital,” according to the ministry.

Read more here.

People Can Disembark From Cruise Ship Soon

Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters on Tuesday that people abroad the cruise ship Diamond Princess can disembark on Feb. 19 if they test negative for the virus and are experiencing no symptoms, according to local outlet NHK.

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People still in quarantine due to fears of the new COVID-19 coronavirus stand on balconies of the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked at the Daikoku Pier Cruise Terminal in Yokohama, Japan on Feb. 18, 2020. (Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images)

The ship has been docked in Yokohama for 14 days.

Samples from all passengers had been collected as of Monday, and all test results will be available by Wednesday, Kato said.

The disembarkment process will take about three days.

NHK stated that there were about 3,200 passengers and crew members remaining on the quarantined ship as of Monday. Over 400 individuals had already been removed from the vessel after testing positive for the virus.

Officials said that more passengers from the Westerdam cruise ship in Cambodia will fly home on Tuesday.

“Today more than 300 tourists will fly from Phnom Penh to Dubai on a (Boeing) 777 airplane, I have learned from the ship’s crew,” Prime Minister Hun Sen said in a speech.

An American woman who had been on the Westerdam cruise ship tested positive for the virus at the weekend after a special flight chartered by the cruise line reached Malaysia, prompting renewed scrutiny for the hundreds of passengers and crew still on board or ashore in Cambodia.

He said samples from the remaining passengers were being flown by helicopter for testing in the capital, Phnom Penh. Once health officials have confirmed negative results, the tourists will be allowed to disembark.

Holland America Line, which is owned by cruise giant Carnival Corp, said 255 guests and 747 crew are still aboard the Westerdam, which docked at the port of Sihanoukville on Friday, awaiting clearance.

“We anticipate this will take several days and greatly appreciate the thoroughness of all authorities involved in resolving this situation,” a statement from the cruise line said.

Another 406 passengers who had been transferred to Phnom Penh have tested negative for the infection.

“Cleared guests may travel home, and arrangements are being made for those guests,” the company statement said.

Some 1,455 passengers and 802 crew boarded the cruise ship when it set sail on Feb. 1 from Hong Kong.

South Korea Evacuates Citizens From Cruise Ship

A South Korea presidential jet will take off at around noon local time on Tuesday and land in Japan’s Haneda Airport to pick up South Korean nationals confined on the cruise ship Diamond Princess, local newspaper The Korea Times reported, citing the country’s vice health minister Kim Gang-lip.

The plane will return to Gimpo International Airport, which is located west of South Korea’s capital Seoul early Wednesday.

None of the 14 South Koreans on the Diamond Princess cruise, including nine passengers and five crew members, are thought to have contracted the novel coronavirus.

According to The Korea Times, only five of the 14 South Koreans will board the plane while the rest want to stay in Japan “largely due to their residential status and lack of connection to South Korea.”

Of the 14, 11 are permanent residents in Japan, the paper reported, citing the country’s foreign ministry.

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Mask-clad commuters get off a train at a Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stop in Taipei, Taiwan, on Jan. 30, 2020. (Sam Yeh/AFP via Getty Images)

South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan Report New Infections

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Tuesday a new case of novel coronavirus, bringing the national total to 31.

The new case involves a 59-year-old Korean woman whose test results just returned positive. She does not have any recent travel outside of the country.

Malaysia’s Health Ministry director-general Datuk Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah wrote on his official Facebook page on Tuesday that two Malaysians on the cruise ship Diamond Princess have tested positive for the virus. The two are under isolation under the care of Japanese authorities.

The cruise ship, which has been quarantined in Japan since Feb. 4, remains docked in Yokohama. At least 454 passengers and crew members have tested positive for the virus among the almost 3,700 that were abroad the ship.

Singapore’s Ministry of Health announced on Monday two new cases of infection, bringing the country’s total to 77.

One new case involves a one-year-old Singaporean boy who was among a group of Singaporeans repatriated from Wuhan on Feb. 9. He did not have symptoms of the virus when he was onboard the flight home. The boy tested positive on Feb. 16.

The second case involves a 35-year-old Singapore man with no recent travel history to China. He tested positive on Feb. 17. However, the man did come in contact with the country’s 50th confirmed case—a 62-year-old Singaporean man who also did not travel to China recently.

Of the 77 cases, 24 people have fully recovered and been discharged from hospital. Four patients are in critical condition.

Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control reported two new cases late Monday night, bringing the total known cases on the island to 22.

The two new patients, a woman in her 80s and a man in his 30s, are both relatives of the island’s first death from the virus—a taxi driver living in central Taiwan. They both tested positive on Feb. 17.

Chen Shih-chung, Taiwan’s health minister, said on Monday that the dead taxi driver might have contracted the virus from a Taiwanese businessman working in eastern China’s Zhejiang province.

The taxi driver picked up the businessman on Jan. 22, the latter having a serious cough at the time. However, the businessman—who was not tested for the virus back in January—tested negative for the virus when authorities tracked him down for a health check a few days ago.

For updates from Feb. 17, click here.

Frank Fang, Cathy He, Zachary Stieber, Eva Fu, Jack Phillips, and Reuters contributed to this report.