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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Mulvaney says coronavirus will probably force some schools to close

Acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said Friday that some schools "probably" will have to close because of the coronavirus.

"Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably," Mulvaney said at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Oxon Hill, Maryland. 

"May you see impacts on public transportation? Sure, but we do this," he continued. "We know how to handle this. And so that's one of the things that you should — that's the message you try and get out. There are professionals who know how to handle this. There's professionals handling it, and we're going to do the very best that we can."

Whistleblower: Feds helping evacuees lacked virus protection

A government whistleblower has filed a complaint alleging that some federal workers did not have the necessary protective gear or training when they were deployed to help Americans evacuated from China during the coronavirus outbreak.

The complaint deals with Department of Health and Human Services employees sent to Travis and March Air Force bases in California to assist the quarantined evacuees. The Office of Special Counsel, a federal agency that investigates personnel issues, confirmed on Thursday that it had received the unnamed whistleblower's complaint and had opened a case.

Rep. Jimmy Gomez, D-Calif., said the whistleblower recently contacted his office, also alleging retaliation by higher-ups for having flagged safety issues.

Although team members had gloves at times and masks at other times, they lacked full protective gear and received no training on how to protect themselves in a viral hot zone, according to a description provided by the congressional office. They had no respirators. While helping the evacuees, team members noticed that workers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were in full gear to protect them from getting sick.

Read the full story here.

Man on quarantined cruise ship off Japan becomes first Briton to die of virus

A British man who was on a quarantined cruise ship near Tokyo has died from COVID-19, Japan's Health Ministry said on Friday. 

The man was the sixth death on the Diamond Princess, the ministry added in a written statement.

"Out of consideration to protect this persons privacy they will refrain from releasing any additional information," it added.  

Amazon cracking down on misleading coronavirus products

Where did the new coronavirus come from? Past outbreaks provide hints.

As scientists and public health officials around the world scramble to contain the deadly coronavirus outbreak, some researchers are also racing to solve the enduring mystery of where the newly identified virus came from.

The coronavirus, which first sickened people in China in December, is thought to have passed from animals to humans, like many similar pathogens, but nothing has been confirmed yet by any peer-reviewed scientific research, global public health agency or academic expert. Beyond that, little is known about its origin.

Although finding the source wouldn't necessarily help scientists develop vaccines or other direct treatments, it could provide crucial pieces of information on how it emerged and evolved. And scientists are using lessons learned from previous outbreaks to know how to approach this one.

Read the full story here.

Green Day cancels upcoming Asia tour

Green Day has canceled scheduled tour dates in Asia due to the coronavirus epidemic. The band's Hella Mega tour would have taken them throughout the continent in March — and in countries with confirmed cases of the virus — starting in Singapore and stopping in Bangkok, Manila, Taipei, Hong Kong, Seoul, Osaka and Tokyo.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees — who released their 13th studio album "Father of All ..." on Feb. 7 — released a statement which reads: "We have unfortunately made the difficult decision to postpone our upcoming shows in Asia due to the health + travel concerns with coronavirus. We know it sucks, as we were looking forward to seeing you all, but hold on to your tickets we'll be announcing the new dates very soon."

It is unclear if Green Day will continue with the European leg of their tour, which would kick off in Moscow in May.

There's no Plan B for Olympics

TOKYO — Tokyo has no Plan B for this year's Summer Olympics despite alarm over the spread of the coronavirus in Japan and elsewhere with under five months before the event, a senior official said on Friday.

"There will not be one bit of change in holding the Games as planned," Katsura Enyo, deputy director general of the Tokyo 2020 Preparation Bureau at the city government, told Reuters.

Having prepared for years and invested some $12 billion, Japan is eager to quell fears the Games might be called off, postponed or moved to a different location due to the virus.

Though on the decline in China where it originated, the flu-like disease is moving fast around the world, including more than 200 cases and five deaths in Japan.

In a telephone interview, Enyo said organizers were "facing up to" the coronavirus - but it would not derail the July 24-Aug. 9 event. "We are not even thinking of when or in what contingency we might decide things. There is no thought of change at all in my mind," she said.

Coronavirus deaths hit 2,788 in mainland China

China's Health Commission on Friday reported 44 new deaths from coronavirus, compared with 29 deaths the day earlier, bringing the total number of deaths on the mainland to 2,788. 

Forty-one of these deaths were in Hubei province, the epidemic's epicenter. 

Officials reported 327 new confirmed cases for a total 78,882. 

Meanwhile, Hong Kong reported 93 new cases and two deaths.

Hong Kong finds coronavirus in pet dog samples

Hong Kong authorities said on Friday they quarantined a pet dog of a coronavirus patient after its nasal and oral samples tested "weak positive" for the virus, though they added they did not yet have evidence that it can be transmitted to pets.

The dog did not have any symptoms.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) said it will conduct further tests to confirm if the dog had been infected with the virus or if the samples were only the result of environmental contamination.

"At present, the AFCD does not have evidence that pet animals can be infected ... or can be a source of infection to people," it said in a statement.

The dog will be put under quarantine for two weeks.

The World Health Organisation website says so far there has been no evidence that companion pets can be infected with the coronavirus.