A cruise ship remains at arms length from San Francisco and the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Washington state ballooned to 70 on Thursday – pushing the U.S. total above 200 – as the global struggle against the outbreak intensified.
The nation’s death toll rose to 12, 11 of them in Washington. Fifty-one of the confirmed cases are in King County, home to Seattle, where ten of the deaths have occurred, state health officials said. Many of the cases have stemmed from an outbreak at Life Care Center of Kirkland.
Nearby Snohomish County had 18 cases and Grant County, in the central part of the state, reported its first case Thursday.
More than 3,300 deaths and almost 100,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide, the vast majority of them in mainland China.
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Here’s the latest on the outbreak of COVID-19:
Cruise ship kept away from San Francisco
About 3,500 passengers are being asked to stay in their rooms on Princess Cruises’ Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California as they wait for coronavirus test results, regardless of whether they were one of the fewer than 100 passengers who were tested.
A Coast Guard helicopter lowered test kits onto the 951-foot Grand Princess by rope Thursday as the vessel lay at anchor off Northern California, and authorities said the results would be available on Friday.
Passengers on board the ship may have been exposed to the coronavirus after sailing with 62 passengers company officials say had previously been on a voyage with a man who eventually died from the virus. The group of fewer than 100 identified for testing includes passengers who sailed the previous voyage and remain on board and passengers and crew who have coronavirus symptoms.
– Morgan Hines
CDC cancels employee travel
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is canceling nonessential travel for employees.
According to an internal email obtained by USA TODAY, the agency, as well as the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, “is canceling all travel except mission-critical and response-related travel.”
The email, with the subject line “Protecting Your Health and Safety During the COVID-19 Response,” encourages CDC supervisors consider letting employees telework “to ensure the safety of CDC staff.”
– Curtis Tate
Dow tumbles 970 points
U.S. stocks fell sharply, tumbling 970 points and extending a week of wild swings as jittery investors continued to fret over the potential economic fallout from the outbreak.
Treasury yields fell to more record lows as the market swung back to fear about the effects of a fast-spreading virus in its latest yo-yo move. Now that a growing list of companies are warning about how the virus is hitting their sales and profits, investors are left with a lot of uncertainty about just how much economic growth and corporate profits will be affected.
– Jessica Menton
US adds virus screening at borders
Federal officials have implemented some additional measures along the country’s borders with Canada and Mexico to contain the outbreak. Top leaders at U.S. Customs and Border Protection said the procedures could even include shutting down the U.S.-Mexico border, if needed.
“If the health risk shifts and the CDC and the medical experts decide that there is an increased risk to the Southwest border, and CBP will be part of those discussions on what we need to do then to operationalize and reduce that risk,” Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan told reporters Thursday morning.
– Rafael Carranza, Arizona Republic
New Jersey and Nevada report cases, await CDC confirmation
New Jersey and Nevada reported their first possible cases on Thursday.
Two patients in New Jersey have tested “presumptive positive” for the virus, officials announced at a press conference. One of the cases was a 32-year-old Fort Lee man, who was in isolation.
“Presumptive positive” means the patients’ tests were positive by a public health laboratory but were awaiting confirmation from the CDC.
A Southern Nevada man in his 50s tested “presumptive positive” for the virus late Wednesday night. He recently took trips to Washington and Texas, where the virus has been reported in the community. The news sent Las Vegas casino stocks plummeting.
The reports would bring the total number of states with coronavirus cases to 17.
Senate passes $8B emergency spending bill
The Senate passed a roughly $8 billion supplemental spending package Thursday afternoon that aims to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., sending the massive bill to President Donald Trump for his signature.
The package, which passed in the Senate on a 96-1 vote, will replace the initial White House request of $2.5 billion, an amount that lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agreed was not enough to battle the virus that has rapidly spread across the globe and so far killed at least 11 people in the U.S.
The package includes more than $3 billion for research and the development of vaccines and $2.2 billion that will help in prevention, preparedness and response. It also allocates $1 billion for state and local response, about half of which would go to specific cities. Each state would receive no less than $4 million.
– Christal Hayes
WHO: No pandemic; nations must ‘pull out all the stops’
The director of the World Health Organization urged all nations Thursday to “pull out all the stops” in the fight against the coronavirus and reiterated that the global outbreak is not a pandemic. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the situation in China, the epicenter for the outbreak, continues to improve, and that many countries still have few or no cases. But Tedros said some countries have not made adequate preparations for an outbreak. And he stressed that while public health assets must be directed at treatment, containment of the outbreak remains important.
“If we get there, we will say it,” Tedros said of a pandemic. “We should not give up on containment strategies. WHO is saying ‘Don’t give up, don’t surrender.'”
Megachurch leaders under quarantine
Two high-profile leaders of an Oklahoma-based megachurch – one of the largest churches in the country –are under quarantine after they attended an overseas conference where a scheduled guest speaker was diagnosed with the coronavirus.
The Rev. Craig Groeschel, founding senior pastor of Life.Church, and the Rev. Bobby Gruenewald, Life.Church pastor-innovation leader, attended a February conference in Karlsruhe, Germany. The two men learned about the diagnosis when they were headed back to Oklahoma.
The pastors said they planned to stay in self-imposed quarantine for 14 days.
– Carla Hinton, The Oklahoman
Trump credits his own efforts, questions WHO stats
President Donald Trump tweeted a pat on the back to his own administration for efforts to combat the coronavirus: “With approximately 100,000 CoronaVirus cases worldwide, and 3,280 deaths, the United States, because of quick action on closing our borders, has, as of now, only 129 cases (40 Americans brought in) and 11 deaths. We are working very hard to keep these numbers as low as possible!”
Trump earlier dismissed a World Health Organization report estimating the death rate at 3.4%, telling Fox News that people with mild symptoms don’t get tested and thus skew the data. That issue is frequently raised by health officials estimating the lethality of the outbreak. Trump estimated the true rate at less than 1%.
Tennessee, reeling from tornado, now has virus case
Tennessee, still recovering from a series of tornadoes and storms that killed 25 people and destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses, now is faced with its first case of coronavirus. Gov. Bill Lee announced the first confirmed case in the state. The patient, a 44-year-old Williamson County man with a recent history of out-of-state travel, is currently quarantined at home with mild symptoms, the Tennessee Department of Health said.
“We prepared early,” Lee said. “We continue to remain confident in our ability and in the measures we are taking to prevent the spread of this infection.”
– Brett Kelman and Joel Ebert, Nashville Tennessean
Airlines could lose $113 billion in revenue
The coronavirus outbreak could cost airlines up to $113 billion in 2020 global revenue, The International Air Transport Association estimated. IATA said losses would reach at least $63 billion even if COVID-19 is contained in current markets.
“The turn of events as a result of COVID-19 is almost without precedent,” CEO Alexandre de Juniac said. “In little over two months, the industry’s prospects in much of the world have taken a dramatic turn for the worse.”
Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly said the nation’s largest domestic carrier has seen a “very noticeable, precipitous decline in bookings” in the past week, a decline that continues daily. The plunge in new bookings has a “9/11 like feel,” Kelly said in an interview with CNBC. Southwest said the financial hit will be an estimated $200 to $300 million in revenue in the first quarter.
– Dawn Gilbertson
Seattle-area district closes schools for 22,000 students
A suburban Seattle school district closed all its schools for 14 days in an effort to slow the coronavirus outbreak that has infiltrated King and Snohomish counties. In a lengthy letter posted to the Northshore School District website and emailed to all parents on Wednesday night, Superintendent Michelle Reid said she arrived at her decision with support from local leaders, describing the move as a “strategic approach” for the health and well-being of staff and the district’s 22,000 students.
US schools are in a ‘state of alert’ amid coronavirus outbreak:Are they overreacting – or not doing enough?
Amtrak takes action to combat coronavirus threat
Amtrak is intensifying its cleaning protocol for trains and stations and waiving reservation change fees through the end of April. The rail service issued a statement detailing the increased cleaning measures as a safety move, adding that it has had no confirmed cases of coronavirus exposure to passengers and employees and there are no current travel restrictions.
Amtrak says it plans to accelerate cleaning frequency on trains and at stations, sometimes on an hourly basis. Additional antibacterial products, including sanitizers and wipes, will be provided at stations, on trains and in employee work areas.
– Bill Keveney
Can’t find Purell or other hand sanitizes? Here’s how to make it at home with vodka or rubbing alcohol
Dogs and cats can’t pass coronavirus to humans
Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Departments has concluded that pet cats and dogs cannot pass the new coronavirus on to humans, but they can test positive for low levels of the pathogen if they catch it from their owners. This comes after a quarantined dog tested weakly positive for the virus Feb. 27, Feb. 28 and March 2.
Health experts in Hong Kong have agreed that the dog has a low-level of infection and it is “likely to be a case of human-to-animal transmission.” The dog will be tested again before being released. The department suggested any pets, including dogs and cats, from households where someone has tested positive for the virus should be put into quarantine.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Iran: Put down that paper money
Iranian authorities ordered all educational and cultural institutions closed across the nation through the Persian New Year on March 20 and urged citizens not to use paper money as the coronavirus death toll rose to 107. More than 3,500 cases of the virus have been confirmed there. Officials also have set up checkpoints to limit travel between major cities.Tehran announced that all the city’s public places, including the metro trains and buses, are being disinfected hourly.
How many cases of coronavirus in the US, and where?
There were at least 215 confirmed cases as of Thursday afternoon, according to a coronavirus dashboard run by Johns Hopkins University. That number is expected to rise, as the CDC has expanded its testing efforts and encouraged more testing at health centers across the country. Common signs of infection include fever, cough and breathing difficulties. If the infection worsens, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.
What’s the worldwide coronavirus death toll?
The global death toll was at least 3,348 Thursday afternoon, with more than 2,900 in mainland China, where the outbreak began in the bustling capital of the country’s Hubei province, Wuhan. The worldwide count of confirmed cases was at 97,879.
Map of US coronavirus cases
Here’s a look at how coronavirus is spreading in the U.S.