Rima Abdelkader, Mohammed Syed and Janine Phakdeetham
23d ago / 9:11 PM UTC
Islam's holiest site, empty
Photos circulating on social media Thursday showed a dramatic change at the Grand Mosque in Mecca, Saudi Arabia — a site that is typically crowded with worshippers is now nearly empty. Saudi officials are working to curb the coronavirus since suspending the umrah pilgrimage and tourist visas to Mecca and Medina last week.
The umrah, which can be performed any time of the year, is seen as a significant revenue stream for the kingdom, according to Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Statistics. In December alone, more than 2.3 million visas were issued and more than 2 million pilgrims visited the kingdom, most recent estimates from the Ministry of Hajj and Umrah show.
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Dan De Luce
23d ago / 8:17 PM UTC
Study: China’s early intervention prevented an exponentially bigger outbreak
A new academic study found China’s early actions to contain the coronavirus were effective and that even a delay of one week could have resulted in an exponentially larger outbreak, more than 60 times the scale of the current epidemic.
“If they didn’t take any of those measures, they could be looking at 65 times the size of the outbreak that they actually saw,” one of the authors of the study, Andrew Tatem, a professor of spatial demography and epidemiology at the University of Southampton in Britain, told NBC News.
However, if China had launched diagnostic testing, isolation of infected patients and restrictions on travel and mass public gatherings days earlier, the scale of the outbreak would have been drastically reduced, according to the study from the WorldPopProject released this week.
If the combination of measures were carried out “one week, two weeks, or three weeks earlier in China, cases could have been reduced by 66 percent, 86 percent, 95 percent respectively, together with significantly reducing the number of affected areas,” according to the study, which was based on mobile phone data from Chinese search engine Baidu. Tatem said his colleagues hope to carry out similar studies elsewhere.
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23d ago / 8:06 PM UTC
Los Angeles County reports 4 more cases
Four more people in Los Angeles County, California, have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, bringing the total number of cases in the county to 11.
The four were part of a group who had traveled to northern Italy, according to LA County public health officials.
They are now in isolation, and anyone who had close contact with those confirmed cases has been asked to self-quarantine and monitor for symptoms.
For a dozen days, Carl Goodman’s world was reduced to a 20-by-30-foot containment room and his only visitors came bearing coronavirus testing kits and bottles of Gatorade while dressed head to toe in Hazmat suits.
Goodman contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and while he's now in lower-level housing at the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit in Omaha he remains quarantined.
And he has no idea when he’ll be allowed to go home.
The number of people with the coronavirus in Washington state rose sharply Thursday, from 43 to 74.
King County, where Seattle is located, has 51 cases; Snohomish County has 18; and Grant County has one.
Ten people in the state have died from the illness; mare associated with a long-term care facility called Life Care Center in Kirkand.
Four of the patients in the state were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
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Ali Vitali and Rebecca Shabad
23d ago / 6:51 PM UTC
Pelosi ensures Capitol employees will have tech to work remotely in case of outbreak
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday at her weekly press conference that "God forbid" there is a need for people who work at the U.S. Capitol to do their jobs from home, they have the technology to do that.
Pelosi said it was discussed during a classified briefing a day earlier with only the top congressional leaders and officials, saying they just want to make sure everyone is "good enough in case we need to work from home."
When asked about the Democratic presidential race, Pelosi said she noted last week that Democrats will madly "embrace" the eventual nominee, but joked that they will now have to "madly elbow bump" whoever wins the nomination.