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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

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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1077d ago / 7:05 PM UTC

Some Americans are avoiding Corona beer, aren't sure if it's connected to the coronavirus

Almost 40 percent of American beer drinkers said they won't buy Corona beer, with about 15 percent of those saying they aren't sure if the pale imported lager has anything to do with the coronavirus, according to a new survey by PR firm 5W.

While the only thing they have in common is a similar name, that hasn’t stopped the beverage brand’s buzz from fizzing as the outbreak spreads.

Purchase intent for the beer has fallen to its lowest in two years, according to polling firm YouGov. In early February the terms “corona beer virus” and “beer virus” trended on Google search results.

Shares in Constellation Brands, which makes Corona and other brands, fell over 5 percent amid a broader market sell-off this week. In a statement the company said sales remain strong and its customers “understand there is no link between the virus and our business.”

1077d ago / 6:59 PM UTC

Shares in video-conferencing and telecommuting companies soar as more people consider staying home

As tech stocks tumble, teleconferencing stocks are seeing a bump. Zoom Video Communications, known for its online video-conferencing platform, has seen its shares rise 18 percent this month.

Investors are betting that telecommuting tools will take off as the coronavirus spreads, especially in view of CDC guidelines that recommended replacing in-person meetings with video or telephone conferences as a protective measure against spreading the virus.

Zoom Communications isn’t the only company to see stocks increase this week as the country’s three major indices went into correction. TeamViewer AG, a cloud-based web conferencing platform, saw its stock price surge by about 21 percent.

1077d ago / 6:53 PM UTC

Death toll rises in Italy to 21

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Italy's death toll from the novel coronavirus jumped to 21, with more than 820 infection cases reported, health officials said Friday.

At the beginning of the week, there were six deaths and more than 220 people infected nationwide.

Currently, about 345 people are being hospitalized with symptoms, and more than 60 are under "serious medical treatment," said Angelo Borrelli, Italy's civil protection chief.

In addition, the US Pianese, a soccer club in the Italian region of Tuscany, said three players and one staff member have tested positive for the coronavirus.

1077d ago / 6:51 PM UTC

The scene in South Korea

Image: Concern In South Korea As The Wuhan Covid-19 Spreads
Disinfection professionals wearing protective gear spray anti-septic solution against the coronavirus (COVID-19) at a subway station on Feb. 28, 2020 in Seoul, South Korea.Chung Sung-Jun / Getty Images
1077d ago / 6:46 PM UTC

State Department: U.S. ready to help Iranian response

The U.S. is "prepared to assist the Iranian people in their response efforts," Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement Friday afternoon.

The offer was formally conveyed to Iran via Switzerland's government, Pompeo added.

1077d ago / 6:43 PM UTC

Pelosi calls for 'science-based, evidence-based' response

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, speaking to reporters Friday afternoon, said it was important for the federal government to have "a well-coordinated, science-based, evidence-based approach" in tackling the virus.

She also called for "calm" preventative measures instead of "panic."

1077d ago / 6:19 PM UTC

Google provides insight into public questions about coronavirus

Data from Google shows that people in the U.S. have questions about the new coronavirus, including "how to prepare" and "how many people have died."

The top question in the past week is straightforward: "What is coronavirus?"

But people are also searching for how many U.S. cases there are and what they should do if the contract the virus.

Google

Google's data also shows that search interest has been strongest in Hawaii, followed by areas in and around San Francisco.

1077d ago / 6:11 PM UTC

From Cannes to cars to concerts, global events face coronavirus challenges

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The Cannes Film Festival will continue as planned this year, despite the fact that a resident tested positive for the coronavirus, the organization said on Friday.

The A-list festival, which runs from May 12-23, is the latest major event to face the challenges of the viral outbreak. On Thursday, Facebook said it would cancel its biggest event of the year, the F8 developer conference, which had been scheduled for May 5 and 6 in San Jose, California.

The Geneva International Motor Show was canceled on Friday, and Mobile World Congress, the world’s largest mobile phone trade show, was canceled this month.

However, organizers for SXSW 2020 in Austin, Texas, are currently proceeding with plans to host the annual music, film and interactive festival March 13-22. 

 

1077d ago / 5:52 PM UTC

CDC: 62 coronavirus cases in U.S.

There are a total of 62 confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S., the CDC said Friday.

Of those cases, 44 cases are among individuals repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, head of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Two of these cases are new, she said.

Three cases are among individuals repatriated from Wuhan, China.

The remaining 15 cases are among individuals diagnosed in the U.S. Twelve of these patients had traveled back from China and two contracted the illness through close contact with a traveler; the source of one case is still unclear.

1077d ago / 5:44 PM UTC

South Korea launches 'drive-thru' testing facilities

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1077d ago / 5:36 PM UTC

SXSW organizers: We have no plans to cancel at this time

The annual festival of media, film and music in Austin, Texas, is "proceeding as planned," a spokesperson said. The festival is slated to run from March 13 to March 22.

"Safety is a top priority for SXSW, and we work closely with local, state, and federal agencies year-round to plan for a safe event," the spokesperson said. "Where travel has been impacted, especially in the case of China, we are seeing a handful of cancellations. However, we are on par with years past in regard to registrants who are unable to attend."

The spokesperson added that SXSW organizers were ramping up efforts to halt the spread of the virus according to Austin's public health recommendations.

1077d ago / 5:30 PM UTC

CVS addresses reports of hand sanitizer shortages

"We're working with our suppliers to meet customer demand for these products," the pharmacy chain said in a statement.

"This demand may cause temporary shortages at some store locations and we re-supply those stores as quickly as possible."

1077d ago / 5:18 PM UTC

Illinois virus patients have fully recovered, governor announces

Both of the coronavirus patients from Illinois have made a "full recovery," the state's governor said in a news release.

"The immediate health risk to the state remains low," Gov. J.B. Pritzker's office said.

1077d ago / 5:04 PM UTC

Holy Land Catholic churches to give communion by hand only

Roman Catholic authorities in Jerusalem have instructed their priests to give communion by hand only, rather than placing the wafers on worshippers' tongues, and to empty holy water fonts — both as precautions against the spread of the coronavirus.

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem announced the measures on Thursday, shortly after the start of Lent, the 40-day season leading up to Easter. Millions of pilgrims frequent Jerusalem and other holy cities such as Nazareth and Bethlehem each year.

1077d ago / 5:02 PM UTC

Sign of the times

Image: A pharmacy displays a sign that there is no returns on N95 face masks in advance of the potential coronavirus outbreak in the Manhattan borough of New York City
A pharmacy displays a sign that there is no returns on N95 face masks in the Manhattan borough of New York on Feb. 27, 2020.Carlo Allegri / Reuters
1077d ago / 4:56 PM UTC

Buttigieg: Virus isn't going to be 'stopped by a big wall'

Pete Buttigieg, campaigning in South Carolina, highlighted the coronavirus as an example of the type of high-level national security issue that will await the next president.

The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana, then appeared to criticize President Trump, saying: "This virus does not care what country it is in. It's not going to be stopped by a big wall."

1077d ago / 4:49 PM UTC

U.S. intel agencies warned of rising risk of outbreak like coronavirus

The U.S. intelligence community has failed to anticipate some big developments, from the disintegration of the Soviet Union to the rapid rise of ISIS.

But the spies did forecast something like coronavirus.

For years, American intelligence agencies have been warning about the increasing risks of a global pandemic that could strain resources and damage the global economy.

Read more here.

1077d ago / 4:32 PM UTC

Sanders to Trump: 'Why don't you worry about the coronavirus?'

Sen. Bernie Sanders, campaigning in South Carolina ahead of the Democratic primary there, slammed President Trump for coming down to the state for a Friday evening rally amid the outbreak. Gary Grumbach, one of our campaign embeds, is with the Sanders campaign today:

1077d ago / 4:27 PM UTC

Obama's Ebola czar: U.S. is 'far behind' on response

1077d ago / 4:15 PM UTC

White House not ruling out suspending trade tariffs on China in the face of the viral outbreak, says Kudlow

The White House is not ruling out suspending trade tariffs on China in the face of the viral outbreak, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said Friday, noting that he and President Donald Trump have had "discussions" on the matter.

"We do not have any precipitous actions planned right now," Kudlow told reporters at a press briefing.

He also reinforced the administration's position that the U.S. economy is strong enough to withstand any hit from the epidemic, noting that “our threat assessment is low and the economy is fundamentally sound.”

Kudlow also categorized the historic week on Wall Street as overreaction, and said the U.S. had withstood worse. "I don't think this stock market plunge is going to have any long-term effect," he said, though he did caution, "It depends how long this lasts and how deep it goes."

1077d ago / 4:07 PM UTC

Biden slams Trump's response, but says 'this isn't a time to panic'

Former Vice President Joe Biden, campaigning in Sumter, South Carolina, ahead of that state's Democratic primary Saturday, criticized President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence over reports they have "silenced" medical experts from informing the public unless they check with the White House first.

Biden cautioned that "this isn't a time to panic," but added that the spread of the virus needs to be taken seriously.

1077d ago / 3:58 PM UTC

Morning rush hour at the Shinagawa train station in Tokyo

Mask-clad commuters make their way to work during morning rush hour at the Shinagawa train station in Tokyo on Feb. 28, 2020.
Mask-clad commuters make their way to work during morning rush hour at the Shinagawa train station in Tokyo on Feb. 28, 2020.Charly Triballeau / AFP - Getty Images
1077d ago / 3:50 PM UTC

Iraq's health ministry: 2 new cases, 6 total

Two new cases of the virus were recorded in Iraq on Thursday, the country's health ministry said in a statement — one in Baghdad, the other in Kirkuk. 

The total of Iraqis infected with the virus is now six, according to the health ministry.

1077d ago / 3:37 PM UTC

WHO raises coronavirus risk assessment

1077d ago / 3:25 PM UTC

Geneva Motor Show canceled as coronavirus cases rise in Switzerland

In an unprecedented move, organizers have canceled the Geneva International Motor Show, one of the global auto industry’s largest public events, due to concerns about the spreading coronavirus.

The 90th running of the show, which was to have begun March 3 with a two-day media preview and continued through March 15, was scheduled to see dozens of new cars, trucks and crossovers introduced by manufacturers as diverse as Audi, Hyundai, Ferrari and Aston Martin.

The decision to cancel the event came as the number of cases of the disease soared, with Switzerland now reporting 15 cases.

The auto industry as a whole has been hard hit by the coronavirus epidemic. Click here for the details.

Image: SWITZERLAND-TRANSPORT-AUTO-SHOW-AUTOMOBILE-VIRUS-HEALTH-EPIDEMIC
Workers dismantle the Audi stand on Feb. 28, 2020, after the Geneva International Motor Show was cancelled.Richard Juilliart / AFP - Getty Images
1077d ago / 3:12 PM UTC

Switzerland bans gatherings of more than 1,000 people

The Swiss government put an immediate ban Friday on all public and private events involving more than 1,000 people in order to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

The ban on big events will last until at least March 15, one of the latest major steps by governments to fight an outbreak that has infected more than 82,000 people and killed over 2,700 worldwide. The Swiss move highlights the growing impact of the virus on daily lives and livelihoods.

“We are aware that this measure will have a significant impact on public life,” said Switzerland’s interior minister, Alain Berset.

1077d ago / 3:02 PM UTC

Pence's handling of 2015 HIV outbreak gets new scrutiny

President Trump's choice of Vice President Mike Pence to oversee the nation's response is bringing renewed scrutiny to the former governor's handling of an HIV outbreak in southern Indiana when he was governor.

Pence reluctantly agreed to authorize a needle exchange program in Scott County in March 2015 after the epidemic centered there saw the number of people infected with HIV skyrocket, with nearly 200 people eventually testing positive for the virus that year.

Despite his own misgivings, he initially issued an executive order allowing one in Scott County before later signing a law allowing the state government to approve them for counties on a case-by-case basis.

Greg Millett, director of public policy at amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, said Indiana's HIV outbreak would have been “entirely preventable” if Pence had acted earlier in response to data that was available to Indiana public health officials and clearly showed an outbreak was imminent.

Read the full story here.

1077d ago / 2:59 PM UTC

CDC expands coronavirus testing recommendations

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its guidance Thursday on who should be tested. The guidance now includes certain individuals with no clear source of exposure, as well as individuals who recently traveled to Italy, Iran, Japan or South Korea.

The previous guidance only recommended testing for people with symptoms — including fever and cough — and recent travel to China or contact with an infected individual.

For individuals without a known source of exposure, the updated guidance advises testing in patients hospitalized with severe acute lower respiratory illness for which other causes, such as flu, have been ruled out.

1077d ago / 2:50 PM UTC

Dr. John Torres on simple steps to protect against coronavirus

1077d ago / 2:39 PM UTC

Dow falls 1,000 points for third time this week on heightened coronavirus fears

The stock market cratered again on Friday, marking the seventh day of a massive sell-off sparked by rising fears about the coronavirus epidemic.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged by another 1,000 points Friday morning, on the heels of Thursday's historic decline of 1,190, the biggest drop ever for the blue-chip index. The S&P 500 was down by 3.7 percent in early-morning trading on Friday, and the Nasdaq saw losses averaging 3.5 percent.

The meltdown comes as traders appear to lose any hope that the spread of the highly infectious disease has been staunched, with the number of cases continuing to spiral globally.

1077d ago / 2:35 PM UTC

Mexico confirms its first two cases of coronavirus

Mexico's assistant health secretary announced Friday that the country now has two confirmed cases of the new coronavirus.

Hugo Lopez-Gatell said one of the patients is in Mexico City and the other in the northern state of Sinaloa, and neither is seriously ill.

At least five family contacts of the first patient have been placed in isolation. He said one of the men had contact with someone who had traveled to northern Italy where there has been an outbreak.

Brazil on Wednesday confirmed Latin America's first confirmed case of the new coronavirus in a man who traveled to Italy this month.

1077d ago / 1:49 PM UTC

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."

1077d ago / 1:48 PM UTC

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.

1077d ago / 1:41 PM UTC

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.  

1077d ago / 1:13 PM UTC

Amazon cracking down on misleading coronavirus products

1077d ago / 1:10 PM UTC
1077d ago / 12:49 PM UTC

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.

1077d ago / 12:26 PM UTC

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.

1077d ago / 12:07 PM UTC

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.

1077d ago / 11:52 AM UTC

Coronavirus deaths hit 2,788 in mainland China

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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.

1077d ago / 11:41 AM UTC

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.

1077d ago / 11:34 AM UTC

1077d ago / 11:22 AM UTC

WHO says coronavirus outbreak 'getting bigger' after Nigeria reports first case

Coronavirus outbreak is "getting bigger," the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday after Nigeria confirmed sub-Saharan Africa's first case, reiterating its warning that the virus could reach most "if not all countries."

WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told a Geneva news briefing that it was looking into reports of some people getting re-infected, which would include reviewing how were tests taken, adding: "But in general a person who had coronavirus infection would be immune at least for a while."

1077d ago / 10:40 AM UTC

Coronavirus crash wipes $5 trillion off world stocks

Coronavirus panic sent world share markets crashing again on Friday, compounding their worst week since the 2008 global financial crisis and bringing the wipeout in value terms to $5 trillion.

The rout showed no signs of slowing as Europe's main markets slumped 2-3 percent early on and the ongoing dive for safety sent yields on U.S. government bonds, seen as probably the securest asset in the world, to fresh record lows.

Hopes that the epidemic that started in China would be over in months, and that economic activity would quickly return to normal have been shattered this week as the number of international cases have spiraled.

Bets are now that the Federal Reserve will cut U.S. interest rates as soon as next month and other major central banks will follow to try and nurse economies through the troubles and stave off a global recession.

Read the full story here.

1077d ago / 10:31 AM UTC

Tokyo Disneyland theme parks closed

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The two Disney-branded theme parks in Tokyo are to close for two weeks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus, the operator said on Friday. 

"Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea have decided to proceed with an extraordinary closure from Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020, through Sunday, Mar. 15," the operator said in a statement posted to its Japanese website. "The reopening date is scheduled for March 16 (Monday), but we will contact closely with the relevant administrative organs and will inform you again."

1077d ago / 8:34 AM UTC

BTS calls off South Korean concerts because of outbreak

SEOUL, South Korea — K-pop superstar group BTS has canceled a series of planned concerts in Seoul in April over concerns about a soaring viral outbreak in South Korea, its management agency announced Friday.

“We regret to announce that the BTS MAP OF THE SOUL TOUR ... has been cancelled," the Seoul-based Big Hit Entertainment said in a statement.

It said the COVID-19 "outbreak has made it impossible at this time to predict the scale of the outbreak during the dates of the concert in April.”

The seven-member boy band was scheduled to perform April 11-12 and April 18-19 at Seoul’s Olympic Stadium. The concerts would have involved a number of global production companies and a large number of foreigners among its expert crew, with more than 200,000 concertgoers expected, according to the agency.

South Korean media described the concerts as the inaugural Seoul leg of BTS's new world tour.

“We must take into consideration the health and safety of hundreds of thousands of guests as well as our artists and the dire impact a last-minute cancellation may have on guests from overseas, production companies and staff,” the agency said.

It said it has determined it is "unavoidable that the concert must be cancelled without further delay.”

The agency said its decision was also meant to support the South Korean government’s push to restrict massive public events.

The coronavirus that causes the new illness has infected more than 2,000 people and killed 13 others in South Korea in the largest outbreak outside mainland China.

BTS has a large international following and was the first K-pop act to debut atop the Billboard Album chart in 2018 with “Love Yourself: Tear.”

1077d ago / 3:19 AM UTC

The latest coronavirus numbers

As of now: 83,000-plus confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,857 deaths reported. There are now more than 40 countries with confirmed cases, up from 30 a week ago.

Of the new coronavirus cases in the last 24 hours, 327 were reported in mainland China and 969 were reported in the rest of the world. Also in the last 24 hours, 3,622 people in mainland China recovered from the virus, according to China's National Health Commission.

1077d ago / 3:08 AM UTC
1077d ago / 2:01 AM UTC

CDC investigating reported delay in COVID-19 test for California patient

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday it is concerned about reports that there was a delay caused by the federal agency in testing a California coronavirus patient who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, in what may be the first case of community spread in the United States.

The CDC says it is investigating carefully, but a preliminary review of its records indicates the first time the centers were informed of the case was Sunday, and samples were ordered for testing that same day. 

Two top officials with UC Davis Health said in a memo to staff Wednesday that after the patient was transferred to its Sacramento medical center on Feb. 19, "our team asked public health officials if this case could be COVID-19. We requested COVID-19 testing by the CDC."

"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 memo stated. It said the CDC ordered testing for the patient on Sunday and on Wednesday the positive test was confirmed.

The case could be the first person-to-person transmission among the general public in the United States involving a person not believed to have been exposed to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected person.

The "CDC is concerned about reports that testing for COVID-19 for the California patient announced on February 26 was delayed as a result of CDC," CDC press officer Richard Quartarone said Thursday in an email.

"We are investigating this carefully, however, a preliminary review of CDC records indicates that CDC was first informed about this case on Sunday, February 23," Quartarone said.

He said that the federal agency requested samples that day from the patient in order to test for COVID-19 and that samples were sent via courier on Monday and received Tuesday. "Test results were confirmed and communicated on Wednesday, February 26," Quartarone said.

A spokesman for UC Davis Health said no information would be released beyond Wednesday's memo. 

Quartarone also said that under CDC guidelines, testing is allowed for patients who do not meet the specific criteria for testing if clinical suspicion of COVID-19 is high. He said that the situation is "rapidly evolving" and that CDC guidance is being regularly reviewed and updated. 

1077d ago / 1:04 AM UTC

Outbreak spread sparks fears for American travelers

Some Americans thinking about vacations this spring and summer are reconsidering their travel plans as the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread around the world.

More than 81,000 cases have been reported in at least 40 countries, leaving some travelers concerned as the virus continues to spread.

Summer Mutz, 23, of new Jersey and been looking forward to a dream trip to Europe, where she would see the sights in Rome, Vienna and Paris.

"It’s hard and I have a feeling I’m going to end up going because I’ve been dreaming of getting to Europe for years, and now I’m torn," she said. "Coronavirus is a big, scary thing. Right now it’s fear versus dreams."

After going back and forth on whether to cancel, she recently decided she would save her European vacation for another time when things were less uncertain.

Read more on how coronavirus is affecting travelers and the travel industry.

1077d ago / 11:14 PM UTC

The new coronavirus hasn't mutated much — what does that tell scientists?

Scientists working to contain the spread of the new coronavirus have noticed something curious about the newly identified pathogen — it hasn't mutated much.

Genetic analyses have shown that the coronavirus has not undergone many significant changes since it first emerged in China in December, according to Timothy Sheahan, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health.

It's an important detail because that stability suggests why the new coronavirus is effective at moving from person to person.

“Viruses are into efficiency, and if you have a virus that spills over into the human population and isn’t that good at replicating in a person or human-to-human transmission, it may just die out,” he said.

1078d ago / 9:35 PM UTC

Health officials go into detective mode after new California case

A California patient who appears to be America's first case of a coronavirus transmission of unknown origin has prompted two major questions: How was she exposed to the virus, and who else might have it?

California public health officials on Thursday said they are trying to find those answers through contact tracing, a process that entails tracking down anyone in recent weeks who might have had contact with the patient, a woman whose identity they are not revealing.

Dr. Sonia Angell, director of the state's Department of Public Health, said at a news conference that since Wednesday — when the test came back positive for the coronavirus — local, state and federal health officials have been "contacting any individuals who might have been exposed, and they're isolating them."

Read more about how health officials are working to track down the source of the infection.

1078d ago / 9:15 PM UTC

Dow plunges nearly 1,200 points as coronavirus fears send markets diving

Wall Street suffered brutal losses on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average swinging wildly through more than 1,000 points before closing with a loss of 1,200 points for the worst week since the financial crisis.

The Dow has now lost more than 3,200 points this week, or 10 percent, including a decline of 1,031 points on Tuesday and 879 points on Wednesday.

The S&P 500 fell by 4.4 percent and the Nasdaq Composite was down by around 4.6 percent. Transport-related stocks, tech stocks, and the energy sector all took the heaviest hits, as fears spread that the coronavirus epidemic would strangle global movement.

Read more here.

1078d ago / 8:38 PM UTC

U.S. could see some empty shelves by mid-April if coronavirus epidemic worsens

Coronavirus has the potential to become a global pandemic, temporarily emptying retail store shelves in the coming months and depressing some consumer-facing businesses, experts say, with government officials advising families to take measured steps to stock up on certain essentials.

A pandemic is the rapid spread of an infectious disease to a large amount of people in a short period of time across international boundaries.

Ahead of any pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security says families should check their prescription drug supplies, store two weeks supply of water and food, and have non-prescription drugs and health supplies on hand, including pain relievers, cough and cold medicines, and fluids with electrolytes.

Read the full story here.

1078d ago / 8:25 PM UTC

U.S. companies will see zero growth this year because of coronavirus, Goldman Sachs says

Earnings growth for U.S. companies will be stagnant in 2020 as a result of the coronavirus, according to Goldman Sachs.

The Wall Street firm revised its earnings estimate for the year to $165 per share from $174 per share, representing 0 percent growth in 2020. That is a dramatic move from the consensus. Forecasts still expect earnings to climb 7 percent this year.

Read the full story here.

1078d ago / 7:31 PM UTC

Tim Cook says some China factories reopening

Apple CEO Tim Cook said Thursday he is “optimistic” about China’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic, noting that his company has ramped up production as factories in the country have come back online.

"It feels to me that China is getting the coronavirus under control," Cook told Fox Business Network in an interview from Alabama, his home state. "You look at the numbers, they're coming down day by day by day. And so I'm very optimistic there."

"When you look at the parts that are done in China, we have reopened factories, so the factories were able to work through the conditions to open, they're reopening," Cook said. "They're also in ramp. So I think of this as sort of the third phase in getting back to normal, and we're in phase three of the ramp mode."

Apple warned last week that it would not meet its guidance for the next quarter due to the epidemic. The trillion-dollar company has seen billions wiped off its value since the outbreak of the virus. Twenty percent of Apple’s iPhone sales come from China, and 50 percent of the product build happens there.

1078d ago / 6:51 PM UTC
1078d ago / 6:17 PM UTC

Facebook has canceled its yearly F8 developer conference, one of the company's signature events.

“This was a tough call to make -- F8 is an incredibly important event for Facebook and it’s one of our favorite ways to celebrate all of you from around the world -- but we need to prioritize the health and safety of our developer partners, employees and everyone who helps put F8 on,” Facebook's director of platform partnerships, Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, wrote in a blog post.

Papamiltiadis wrote that the company is planning to host a series of local events and livestreams in place of the event.

1078d ago / 6:11 PM UTC
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1078d ago / 4:57 PM UTC

Sen. McConnell eyes getting funding package through Congress in next two weeks

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, applauded the Trump administration’s response to the coronavirus, saying, “There seems to be little question that COVID-19 will eventually cause some degree of disruption here.” 

And McConnell criticized Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, for criticizing the funding request by President Trump, calling it “a strange and clumsy effort to override normal, bipartisan appropriations talks before they even happen and replace them with top-down partisan posturing.”

McConnell said that the bipartisan leaders of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are working on a funding package in response to the WH request, and is hoping to pass it through Congress in the next two weeks.

1078d ago / 4:52 PM UTC

Pelosi says lawmakers 'close' to reaching a deal on coronavirus emergency response money

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters at a news conference on Thursday that officials are "coming close" to a bipartisan agreement on emergency funding for the U.S. coronavirus response. 

Pelosi also criticized the Trump administration's response to the virus as "opaque and often chaotic."

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a joint statement Thursday any emergency funding proposal must include provisions to ensure that President Donald Trump cannot transfer any of the money to other priorities; that vaccines are affordable and available to those who need them; that interest-free loans are available to small businesses hurt by the outbreak; and that state and local governments are reimbursed for the costs of assisting federal agencies in the response.

“The United States government must do more to address the spread of the deadly coronavirus in a smart, strategic, and serious way, and we stand ready to work in a bipartisan fashion in Congress and with the administration to achieve this necessary goal," the Democratic leaders said.

1078d ago / 4:28 PM UTC

'The president is right' to compare coronavirus prevention to flu, WHO chief says

The director-general of the World Health Organization said that President Donald Trump was right when he compared some approaches to preventing the coronavirus to the flu.

"You treat this like a flu," Trump said Wednesday at a news briefing. "You want to wash your hands a lot, you want to, if you're not feeling well, if you feel you have a flu, stay inside."

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus agreed with this advice. 

"If I am asked to advise the communities to prevent this virus, I would give them the same advice as what you give to flu: wash your hands with water and soap, and also don't rub your face, and also six feet distance," Tedros said during a media briefing Thursday. "I think with that regard, especially absent of vaccines and so on, in people taking care of themselves, it's the same."

Tedros added, "Scientifically, you can say it's not flu." 

But "there are many things in common, and you can prevent it using the basic things we use to prevent flu, so the president is right to say that," he said. 

Dr. Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offered similar advice at the news conference Wednesday as Trump.

"The coronavirus that we’re talking about is a respiratory virus. It’s spread in a similar way to the common cold or to influenza," Schuchat said. "Those everyday sensible measures that we tell people to do every year with the flu are important here. Covering your cough, staying home when you’re sick, and washing your hands." 

Right now, one of the biggest differences between the coronavirus and the flu is that while the flu is well understood, predictable and has a vaccine, there are many unknowns about the coronavirus. 

"We don't know this virus," Dr. Bruce Alyward, leader of the WHO joint mission with China to study the virus, said at a news briefing Tuesday. "We don't know what's going to happen next."

1078d ago / 3:20 PM UTC

1078d ago / 3:15 PM UTC

Students at Prince George’s school are being tested for coronavirus

Some students at the London school attended by the U.K.'s Prince George and Princess Charlotte have stayed home as they await test results for coronavirus, NBC News has confirmed.      

Although the exact number of children staying home is not known, Thomas's Battersea school remains open.

It is unclear whether the son and daughter of Prince William, Britain's second in line to the thrown, and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, have stayed home. George, 6, and Charlotte, 4, are the great grandchildren of Queen Elizabeth II.      

Most London schools are asking students who have visited China or other areas impacted by the virus to stay home if they exhibit any flu-like symptoms. 

1078d ago / 3:04 PM UTC

U.S. firms in China expect a reduction in revenues

Nearly half of U.S. businesses based in China expect to lose revenues if the effects of the coronavirus outbreak continue after Apr. 30, according to a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in the country.

The results showed that 10 percent of its 169 member companies were losing at least 500 thousand yuan ($71,345) per day because of the COVID-19 outbreak. 

One in five respondents predicted 2020 revenues will decline by more than 50 percent if the virus epidemic extends through August 30. 

1078d ago / 1:25 PM UTC

Muslim pilgrims wear masks at the Grand Mosque in Mecca

Image:  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
1078d ago / 1:06 PM UTC

Three senior Iranian officials diagnosed with coronavirus

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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.

1078d ago / 11:56 AM UTC

Coronavirus cases jump to 1,766 in South Korea

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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.

1078d ago / 11:50 AM UTC

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

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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.”

Image: Children wearing protective masks play at the Ueno park in Tokyo
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.

1078d ago / 11:25 AM UTC

McDonalds workers don protective suits amid coronavirus outbreak

Image: McDonalds workers wear protective suits as they deliver food in the epidemic's epicenter of Hubei province
McDonalds workers wear protective suits as they deliver food in the epidemic's epicenter of Hubei province on Wednesday. AFP - Getty Images
1078d ago / 11:05 AM UTC

U.S. and South Korea postpone joint military operations

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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.

1078d ago / 9:24 AM UTC

Saudi Arabia halts pilgrimages over virus

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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.

1078d ago / 8:58 AM UTC

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. 

1078d ago / 5:55 AM UTC

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

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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. 

1078d ago / 4:40 AM UTC

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.

1078d ago / 3:31 AM UTC

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. 

1078d ago / 2:54 AM UTC

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.

1078d ago / 1:35 AM UTC
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1078d ago / 1:02 AM UTC

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.

1078d ago / 11:08 PM UTC

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.

1078d ago / 11:07 PM UTC

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

1078d ago / 10:56 PM UTC

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.

1078d ago / 10:16 PM UTC

'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.

1078d ago / 10:13 PM UTC

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.

1078d ago / 10:07 PM UTC

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.

1079d ago / 9:23 PM UTC

Colleges suspend Italy study abroad trips amid coronavirus fears

Image: Italy Coronavirus
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.