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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Saudi Arabia halts pilgrimages over virus

Saudi Arabia announced on Thursday that it was suspending entry for the Umrah pilgrimage and tourism from countries where the new coronavirus has spread.

The ban is part of measures to prevent coronavirus from entering the Kingdom, according to a statement released on the Foreign Ministry's official Twitter account. 

Officials also said that the suspensions were temporary but provided no timeframe for their expiry. It was unclear if the hajj pilgrimage, which is scheduled to begin in late July, would be impacted.

North Korea marathon cancelled over coronavirus fears

Organizers of the annual Pyongyang Marathon announced Thursday that the event had been cancelled this year.

"This is due to the ongoing closure of the North Korean border and COVID-19 virus situation in China and the greater region," partner Koryo Tours said in a written statement.

North Korea has not recorded any cases of the virus. 

CDC didn't immediately test COVID-19 patient, California medical system head says

The head of a Sacramento health system says that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not immediately test a patient in what may be the first case of person-to-person transmission of COVID-19 in the general public in the United States.

University of California, Davis, Health CEO Dr. David Lubarsky said in a note to staff obtained by NBC News that after the patient was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center on Feb. 19, it asked the centers to conduct testing but the federal agency declined.

"We requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC, since neither Sacramento County nor CDPH is doing testing for coronavirus at this time," said the note, which was signed by Lubarsky and UC Davis Medical Center interim CEO Brad Simmons. (CDPH is an acronym for California’s department of public health).

"Since the patient did not fit the existing CDC criteria for COVID-19, a test was not immediately administered. UC Davis Health does not control the testing process," the two officials wrote in the letter.

Click here to read the full story. 

Deaths in mainland China continue to grow, now reported at 2,744

China's National Health Commission on Thursday morning local time reported 29 new deaths linked to the coronavirus illness COVID-19, bringing the total number of deaths on the mainland to 2,744.

The National Health Commission also reported 433 new confirmed cases by the end of Wednesday, bringing the number of confirmed cases on the mainland to more than 78,497.

Previously, the health commission had reported 2,715 deaths linked to the novel coronavirus illness out of 78,064 cases.

Of the 29 new deaths reported Thursday, 26 were in Hubei province, which is the center of the coronavirus outbreak and where the city of Wuhan is located.

Analysis: Trump's not worried about coronavirus. But his scientists are.

President Donald Trump congratulated himself for protecting the public from the deadly coronavirus Wednesday, reassured Americans that there's a "very low" risk of an outbreak in this country and handed off any future responsibility to Vice President Mike Pence and Congress.

Then, with subtle grace, the highest-ranking career official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention delivered a slightly different message from the same podium in the White House briefing room: Not so fast.

"Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working," Principal Deputy Director Ann Shuchat said. "However, we do expect more cases, and this is a good time to prepare."

Trump, speeding to catch up with his administration's public relations response to evidence of a potential pandemic, had just taken the equivalent of a victory lap in the midst of what experts are warning could be an Iron Man race.

Click here to read the full analysis. 

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