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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Muslim pilgrims wear masks at the Grand Mosque in Mecca

Muslim pilgrims wear masks at the Grand Mosque in Saudi Arabia's holy city of Mecca on Feb. 27, 2020. Saudi Arabia suspended visas for visits to Islam's holiest sites for the "umrah" pilgrimage, an unprecedented move triggered by coronavirus fears that raises questions over the annual hajj.Abdulgani Basheer / AFP - Getty Images

Three senior Iranian officials diagnosed with coronavirus

Three members of the Iranian Parliament were confirmed on Thursday to have coronavirus, according to videos released by officials. 

Ahmad Amirabadi Farahani and  Mojtaba Zonnouri from the holy city of Qom, and Mahmoud Sadeghi from capital Tehran were confirmed to have contracted the virus. 

"In the name of God the compassionate and the merciful, my coronavirus test has came positive. It's an epidemic," Zonnour said in a video. "God willing, our nation will defeat corona and coronavirus will be overwhelmed by our people."

Iran’s Health Ministry announced 245 new cases of the virus on Thursday, up from 139 the day before. Officials also put the number of those dead at 26, up from 19 on Wednesday.

Coronavirus cases jump to 1,766 in South Korea

South Korean authorities announced 1,766 cases of coronavirus on Thursday, up from the 1,261 reported a day earlier, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDCP). 

The KCDCP also reported 13 deaths on Thursday, up from 12 Wednesday.

There are currently 21 confirmed cases within South Korea’s military, Kim Joon Rak, the Director of South Korea’s Public Affairs Office told NBC News on Thursday.

Japan to close schools nationwide to control spread of virus, AP reports

TOKYO — Japan will close all elementary, junior and high schools after a plea by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, government officials said on Thursday.

The measure affects 12.8 million students at 34,847 schools nationwide, the education ministry said, according to the Associated Press. 

“The coming week or two is an extremely important time,” Abe said. “This is to prioritize the health and safety of the children and take precautions to avoid the risk of possible large-scale infections for many children and teachers who gather and spend hours together every day.”

Children wearing face masks play at Ueno park in Tokyo on Feb. 23, 2020.Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters

The decision comes amid growing concern about the rise in the number of untraceable cases of the virus in northern Japan and elsewhere. Japan now has more than 890 cases, including 705 from a quarantined cruise ship.

An eighth death from the virus was confirmed Thursday in Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido, now considered a site of growing cluster.

Abe's announcement came hours after several local governments announced their own decisions to suspend classes.

McDonalds workers don protective suits amid coronavirus outbreak

McDonalds workers wear protective suits as they deliver food in the epidemic's epicenter of Hubei province on Wednesday. AFP - Getty Images

U.S. and South Korea postpone joint military operations

Joint South Korean-U.S. military drills planned for the first half of this year have been postponed as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, South Korean and U.S. officials said on Thursday. 

"The containment efforts of COVID-19 and the safety of [the Republic of Korea] and U.S. service members were prioritized in making this decision,” the military officers said during a news conference in Seoul.

The U.S. military reported its first case of coronavirus on Wednesday at the Camp Carroll Army Base, which is located 12 miles from Daegu, where most of South Korea’s cases have been reported.

U.S. military officials from the Army Garrison Humphreys camp in South Korea provided an update on measures in a video posted on Facebook.

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.

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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.