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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

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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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Live Blog

Fed chair: The virus presents 'evolving risks' to U.S. economy

“The fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong,” Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said in a statement released Friday afternoon.

“However, the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity. The Federal Reserve is closely monitoring developments and their implications for the economic outlook. We will use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.”

Read more here.

Officials warn about election meddling amid outbreak

Internet trolls backed by foreign governments interested in meddling in the U.S. election could try to exaggerate the threat of the coronavirus to keep Americans from going to the polls in upcoming elections, according to government officials and experts.

Read more here.

The world's largest tourism fair has been cancelled

ITB Berlin, the world's largest tourism trade fair, has been canceled amid concerns over the outbreak, the event's organizers said on Twitter. The fair was slated to take place on March 4.

Is there a right or wrong way to wash your hands to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus?

When it comes to protecting yourself from the coronavirus, masks aren’t the answer, according to the World Health Organization. What is? Something as routine as washing your hands. But it’s not as simple as running them under water with a bit of soap and calling it a day. 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) breaks it down into these five steps:

  1. Wet your hands (to the wrist) with clean, running water (the temperature doesn’t matter). Turn off the tap and apply a good amount of soap — it doesn’t matter what kind.

  2. Lather up the soap by rubbing your hands together. Don’t forget to spread that lather to the backs of your hands up to your wrists, between your fingers, and under your nails.

  3. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Try singing the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning-to-end twice to get the timing right.

  4. Rinse your hands thoroughly under clean, running water.

  5. Dry your hands using a clean paper towel or air dryer. Germs can be transferred more easily from wet hands than dry. 

Get more handwashing tips here.

CBS reportedly halts production of 'The Amazing Race'

CBS temporarily shut down production of the 33rd season of the globe-trotting reality series "The Amazing Race" amid fears over the virus, according to an exclusive report in Variety.

The decision was reportedly made out of an abundance of caution. The virus has not affected anyone directly involved with the show, Variety reported.

France sees 'new stage in the epidemic' with 57 cases

French health officials said Friday that a "new stage in the epidemic has been reached" with 57 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, up from 38.

The country is grappling with new cases in Annecy, a city of more than 126,000 people in southeastern France, and in Montpellier, a city of 285,000 near the southern coast, French Health Minister Olivier Véran said. Some of the new cases involve people who returned from organized trips to Egypt.

Veran also recommended people refrain from shaking hands in order to prevent infection, Reuters reported.

Hand hygiene, not face masks, should be main focus for coronavirus prevention

Frequent hand-washing, not wearing a face mask, is the most important step the public can take to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization said Thursday.

Michael Ryan, the executive director of the WHO Health Emergencies Programme, addressed the use of face masks during a media briefing Thursday. The WHO stance regarding surgical masks being worn by the general public is that only those who are already sick with a respiratory illness should wear them.

Read more here.

Top Amazon search result for coronavirus points to 'herbal prepper'

While Amazon has removed millions of products that made false claims of being able to protect coronavirus, the top result on the platform when searching "coronavirus" on Friday yielded a book written by a self-labeled "herbal prepper."

The book, which Amazon says was published on Feb. 15, includes "what was provable, searching out both media and scholarly articles, with some ideas for pandemic preparedness, plus some herbal knowledge on respiratory ailments," according to the author's website. 

There are currently no legitimate treatments for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, and health professionals have warned about an "infodemic" of bad information, both intentional and unintentional. 

Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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.”

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.

Death toll rises in Italy to 21

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.