Emergency declared in California as cruise ship delayed off shore

Here's the latest on the coronavirus outbreak.
Image: The Grand Princess cruise ship passes the Golden Gate Bridge as it arrives from Hawaii in San Francisco
The Grand Princess cruise ship passes the Golden Gate Bridge as it arrives from Hawaii in San Francisco on Feb. 11, 2020.Scott Strazzante / AP file

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California has declared an emergency over the coronavirus outbreak, as tests continue Thursday on board a Princess cruise ship that has been linked to two cases of the illness in the state.

The first death in California related to coronavirus was confirmed Wednesday, while another fatality in Washington brought that state's death toll to 10.

Congressional leaders have agreed on an $8 billion emergency funding package to help fight the coronavirus that is headed to the House.

The virus is now spreading more rapidly outside China, where the epidemic started, with mainland China recording just 119 new confirmed cases while hundreds of cases were reported globally.

South Korea alone recorded an additional 516 cases of coronavirus Wednesday, bringing the total to 5,328 confirmed cases, the largest outbreak outside of mainland China.

Governments around the world are introducing a range of measures to stop the spread of the disease. In Italy, where there have been more than 2,000 cases, all schools and colleges are shut for 10 days.

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Fact checking Trump on coronavirus

President Donald Trump tried to stick to the facts Wednesday in a news conference at the White House after being criticized for downplaying the coronavirus threat.

He accurately told the nation that the risk to Americans is low but that the country should prepare out of an abundance of caution. He said a vaccine is in the works.

Asked whether he agreed with health officials' view that coronavirus will inevitably spread in the U.S., Trump said: "I don't think it's inevitable. It probably will. It possibly will. It could be at a very small level, or it could be at a larger level. Whatever happens, we're totally prepared."

Read more on what the president said and what the facts are.

Coronavirus case with unknown source confirmed in California

The source of a new case of the coronavirus in California is unknown, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement Wednesday. 

The case near Sacramento is the 15th in the U.S. not involving a person who was evacuated from Wuhan, China, or the Diamond Princess cruise ship. There have been 45 cases among those evacuated patients, bringing the total in the country to 60. 

The sources of 14 of the cases not related to evacuations are known: They stem either from travel to China or from close contact with another infected person. The newest case does not have a clear source. 

"At this time, the patient's exposure is unknown," the statement said.

"It's possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States. Community spread means spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown. It's also possible, however, that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected."

The CDC noted that the case was detected through the public health system.

Why is Iran's reported mortality rate for coronavirus higher than in other countries?

Iran has the highest reported number of deaths from the coronavirus outside China, raising questions about how the government is handling the public health crisis and whether the often secretive regime has been fully transparent about the extent of the outbreak.

Iran's health ministry spokesman said on Wednesday that 19 Iranians have died out of a total of 139 positive cases. And Iran's reported mortality rate — about 14 percent — surpasses the rate for other countries by a dramatic margin.

Click here to read the full story.

Trump to hold White House news conference on coronavirus efforts

As warnings on the spread of the deadly coronavirus intensified and markets plummeted, President Donald Trump announced he will hold a White House news conference on the outbreak Wednesday evening alongside representatives from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others.

Trump is expected to speak at the White House around 6:30 p.m. ET.

Read more on the president's reaction to the coronavirus outbreak here

Major U.S. stock indexes drop for third straight day

The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 — the two most closely watched U.S. indexes of stocks — dropped for a third straight day Wednesday.

Concerns over a larger global outbreak of the coronavirus have pushed many companies to issue warnings that they could be hit by declines in demand and problems with their supply chains, especially if they are closely tied to China.

The Dow finished Wednesday down 123 points, or about 0.5 percent. The index, which is a collection of major U.S. companies, has lost almost 2,400 points since Thursday.

The broader S&P 500 declined 0.4 percent. The tech-heavy Nasdaq provided some reason to believe the market decline has slowed. It added 0.2 percent.

'The people have vanished': Some bars and clubs reopen in Milan

Bars and clubs in Milan can reopen in the evenings, local authorities announced on Wednesday, in the first rollback of tough restrictions imposed at the weekend to try to contain a coronavirus outbreak in Italy.

The move came even as the number of cases nationwide jumped by almost 100 in a day to more than 400, while the death toll rose to 12 since last Friday.

The outbreak is centered on Italy’s industrial heartlands of Lombardy and Veneto, and the government has closed schools and universities, shuttered cinemas and banned public events in an effort to prevent the spread of the highly infectious disease. Hotels say they have been hit by cancellations while bar, club and disco owners wrote to the mayor of Lombardy’s capital, Milan, to urge him to lift a 6.00 p.m. curfew on their operations.

But even though early closing was lifted in time for Wednesday evening trade, there seemed to be few people around to take advantage in the eerily empty city.

“We have reverted to usual hours,” said Antonio Musotto, manager of the Archimede Caffe. “The problem is the people have vanished.”

The most recent death reported was a 69-year old man in the northern region of Emilia Romagna. In all, almost 420 cases have been registered, including at least six children.

Hospitals across the U.S. prepare for coronavirus

Before the first confirmed U.S. case of the new coronavirus infection showed up at a hospital in late January, the patient did exactly what hospital officials in Washington state had hoped for: He gave them a heads-up he was coming.

"What we really want patients to do is call and click through virtual ways, so when they come in, we're ready for them," said Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, executive vice president and chief clinical officer of Providence St. Joseph Health, the health care system which includes the hospital in Everett to which the patient went.

Preparation is key, she said, and if health care workers can activate so-called disaster readiness plans before patients arrive, the likelihood of containing and properly treating the illness goes up. It's a lesson learned from prior outbreaks, such as Ebola, and other coronavirus epidemics, including severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, and Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS.

Read more on how hospitals across the country are preparing for the coronavirus.

Azar: 'We have a 15th confirmed case' of coronavirus

In testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee meeting Wednesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said that there was a new coronavirus case confirmed in the U.S.

"Coming into this hearing, I was informed that we have a 15th confirmed case, the epidemiology of which we are still discerning," Azar said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention breaks down U.S. cases into two main categories: Travel-related, which includes person-to-person spread, and repatriated individuals.

A total of 45 repatriated individuals, who were evacuated from either Wuhan, China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship, have tested positive. 

There were fourteen cases among individuals who traveled back to the U.S. on their own or individuals who were infected through close contact with one of these travelers. It is unclear how the new case mentioned by Azar was infected. 

NBC News has reached out to the CDC for more information.

Colleges suspend Italy study abroad trips amid coronavirus fears

A woman with a protective facemask walks across the Piazza del Duomo, in front of the Duomo, in central Milan, on Feb. 24, 2020.Andreas Solaro / AFP - Getty Images

Hundreds of American college students in Italy are expected to head back to the United States as global concern over the coronavirus continues to increase, as schools suspend or postpone their study abroad programs there.

Syracuse University, Fairfield University and Elon University are among the schools suspending their programs in Florence for the remainder of the semester. New York University is shutting its Florence campus down until at least March 29; however, students will continue their classes online. The University of New Haven is also recommending that its students in Tuscany return home.

“Students from Florence will not return to the Syracuse University campus until after spring break, which is consistent with the CDC’s 14-day incubation period guideline,” Chancellor Kent Syverud said in a statement Wednesday.

Janean Lawyea’s daughter Camryn is one of 342 students from Syracuse University in the Florence program and is being sent home immediately. “It is concerning because the students are taking a full class load while they are doing their study abroad program. My daughter is taking 16 credits this semester,” Lawyea told NBC News.

Sacred Heart University asked its 17 students studying in Rome to return to the U.S., a spokesperson said. Those students will be allowed to return to campus on March 9, following spring break.

More than 36,000 American students studied in Italy during the 2017-18 school year, according to the Institute of International Education’s annual Open Doors report.