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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2nd coronavirus case with no known origin in California

The newly announced coronavirus case in Santa Clara County, California has no known source of infection, the county health department said on Friday.

“This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” Dr. Sara Cody, Health Officer for Santa Clara County and Director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, said in a press release. “I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease.”

The individual is an older woman with chronic health conditions who was hospitalized for a respiratory illness, according to the press release. Health officials are working to identify contacts. 

This is second case in the U.S. with an unclear origin. The first was also in northern California. 

False claims online distort coronavirus symptoms, promote bogus cures

False posts online have distorted symptoms of the coronavirus and peddled miracle cures. Members of the public are urged to follow the advice of established institutions like WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and to beware of claims suggesting ways to prevent the virus.

Read more about some of the claims spreading online, and the facts you need to know about them.

Pence to Limbaugh, who claimed virus is overhyped: 'We're all in this together'

Vice President Pence went on Rush Limbaugh's radio show on Friday to assure Americans that threat posed by the coronavirus in the United States is "low" but "we're ready for whatever may come."

Limbaugh, who has vigorously defended the administration's handling of the crisis, has previously compared the coronavirus to "the common cold" and complained that concerns about an outbreak in the U.S. were being "weaponized" by Democrats and the media.

Pence, who has been placed in charge of the administration's response by President Trump, preached unity and caution in his remarks on the right-wing talk show host's program.

"We're all in this together," Pence told Limbaugh.

Read the full story here.

White House considering special powers to produce more protective gear

The Trump administration is weighing using special executive authority to spur the production of gear like protective masks that could be used to slow the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S., health secretary Alex Azar confirmed Friday.

Read the full story here.

Coronavirus could be 'once-in-a-century' pathogen, Bill Gates says

Bill Gates warned on Friday that the new coronavirus "has started behaving a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about."

"I hope it’s not that bad, but we should assume it will be until we know otherwise," Gates wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Gates' foundation has been promoting vaccine research for developing nations for more than a decade. He noted that the combination of the fatality rate of COVID-19 (the disease caused by the new coronavirus) and its ease of transmission between people make it a serious threat.  

Gates said he is ready to commit up to $100 million to fight the spread of the virus in "low- and middle-income countries."

New coronavirus case confirmed in northern California

A new coronavirus case has been confirmed in northern California, in Santa Clara county.

The county's department of public health announced the case on Friday. They will hold a press conference at 7 p.m. ET. 

Santa Clara county has already had two confirmed coronavirus cases. The two cases were unrelated to one another. Both were in travelers returning from China. At least one of the two has recovered.

The total number of cases in the U.S. is now 63.

Trump blames the media for stock market drops

Trump sought to calm fears and blamed the media for creating the concerns that have led to the declines in the stock market before departing for a campaign rally Friday afternoon.

“It's the unknown, you know, they look at it and they say how long will this last. I think they're not very happy with the Democrat candidates when they see them and I think that has an impact,” Trump said.

He said he was considering whether to impose further travel restrictions on other countries and that he hopes the Federal Reserve takes action following the stock market rout.

After missteps, CDC says its coronavirus test kit is ready for primetime

Some states received test kits that were inconclusive or only partially accurate. Other states said they were hamstrung by testing criteria so narrow, it limited who they could screen for the new coronavirus.

Technical difficulties reduced the number of laboratories in the U.S. with working test kits to only about a dozen, including CDC headquarters in Atlanta. That delayed results for suspected patients and frustrated public health authorities.

But things changed this week. Here's how.

Health secretary: 'Blocking and tackling' to find source of infection in CA woman

Federal, state and local health officials are rushing to investigate the source of a hospitalized California woman's coronavirus infection, health secretary Dr. Alex Azar told reporters on the White House lawn Friday afternoon.

Azar said the investigation would be a "blocking and tackling" effort. The woman, who is hospitalized at UC Davis Medical Center, is believed to be the first case in the U.S. of someone who was infected by an unknown source.

“This is a potential community transmission case because we do not have an evident source of how she was infected,” Azar said. “No contact that we know of that we can trace immediately to travel, say, from Wuhan or in China.”

He also said that very soon private labs will “be able to create their own test based on essentially the recipes that the CDC has used in their test kits,” further expanding the country’s testing capabilities.

VP Pence: The government response is an 'all-hands-on-deck effort'

Sign of the times, cont'd

Kristen Curley, owner of Nitro-Pak, puts items into a backpack as part of personal protection and survival equipment kits ordered by customers preparing against coronavirus at Nitro-Pak in Midway, Utah.George Frey / Reuters