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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.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

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CEOs band together to form business task force

Michael Cappetta

In one of the most consolidated efforts yet from the business world to respond to growing threats from te new coronavirus, thirteen major CEOs have formed a “COVID-19 Task Force” supported by the Business Roundtable, a trade group made up of major U.S. companies.

The purpose of the task force is to increase coordination between the private sector and the U.S. government. Marriott CEO Arne Sorensen and Union Pacific CEO Lance Fritz will serve as the co-chairs.

The task force also includes CEOs from: Pfizer, JPMorgan Chase, NASDAQ, Johnson & Johnson, Stanley Black & Decker, The Home Depot, CVS Health, United Airlines, American Airlines, Steelcase, and Accenture.

Inside a coronavirus quarantine

For a dozen days, Carl Goodman’s world was reduced to a 20-by-30-foot containment room and his only visitors came bearing coronavirus testing kits and bottles of Gatorade while dressed head to toe in Hazmat suits.

Goodman contracted COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, and while he's now in lower-level housing at the Nebraska Biocontainment Unit in Omaha he remains quarantined.

And he has no idea when he’ll be allowed to go home.

Read more here.

Tennessee confirms first case of coronavirus

Tennessee's first confirmed case of coronavirus involves a 44-year-old man residing near Nashville who recently traveled out of state, state health department officials said Thursday.

The Williamson County man has a mild illness and has been isolating himself at home, they add. Officials said they are working to identify others who may have come into contact with him to "contain the spread of this disease in our communities."

A hotline has also been established for Tennessee residents seeking more information about COVID-19.

Amid growing coronavirus cases, another number increasing: recoveries

It only took a few days for the Wisconsin patient to get over the fever and a cough — and feel well enough to get out of bed and back to normal life: shop for groceries, hang out in a coffee shop, maybe see a new movie.

But that wasn't an option, because the patient wasn't getting over the common cold or even the flu. Instead, the individual had the new coronavirus, meaning it would be several weeks before the person — who remains unidentified for privacy — could leave the house or invite friends and family to visit.

Read more about coronavirus recoveries.

Walmart restricts employee travel, cancels Dallas conference

Walmart is restricting employee domestic and international travel, allowing only "business-critical trips," the company announced Thursday, citing an abundance of caution related to the coronavirus. 

The company also said it will cancel its annual Walmart U.S. Customer Conference, which was scheduled to be in Dallas next week, and will instead have "a virtual form" of the meeting.

Walmart said the new guidelines will remain in place at least until the end of April.

FCC bans 'non-critical' travel; closes buildings to anyone who visited infected countries recently

The Federal Communications Commission has closed its buildings to visitors, employees, and contractors who have recently traveled to China, Italy, Iran, or South Korea.

"Visitors who, during the most recent 14 days, have been in any country that is the subject of a COVID-19-related CDC Level 3 Travel Warning are not being allowed to enter FCC facilities, including its Washington, DC Headquarters," the agency said in a statement Thursday.

It is also suspending "until further notice non-critical FCC domestic and international travel" and "any FCC involvement in non-critical large gatherings."

U.K. confirms 115 new cases as bank sends staff home


Isobel van Hagen


Isobel van Hagen, Patrick Smith and Reuters

The United Kingdom government confirmed Thursday there are 115 coronavirus cases in the country — an increase of 30 on Wednesday's figure. The Department of Health said 25 of those cases are in London, by far the country's biggest city.

There are no recorded deaths related to the new coronavirus in the U.K.

Meanwhile, international bank HSBC sent home more than 100 of its London staff Thursday after a worker tested positive for the coronavirus, the first known case at a major company in Europe's main financial hub.

Greece confirms 21 more cases, shuts schools and bans public meetings

Isobel van Hagen


Isobel van Hagen and Reuters

Greece reported 21 cases Thursday — all linked to a 66-year-old person who recently traveled to Israel and Egypt on a pilgrimage, health authorities said.

The country's total now stands at 31 and a big rise is expected in the weeks ahead.

On Wednesday, Greece ordered the closure of schools and banned public gatherings in three districts in the west of the country as a precaution until Friday, following Italy, which is trying to combat the worst outbreak in Europe.

100 new cases in France, first death in Switzerland

Isobel van Hagen


Isobel van Hagen and Reuters
Image: Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airpor
The customs line at Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport on Thursday afternoon.Seth Sanders

The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in France jumped by 92 to 377 on Thursday, while the number of deaths rose by two to six, according to the French Health Ministry.

The two people to die after contracting virus are a 73-year-old man and a 64-year-old man

France is currently in “stage 2” of the management of the spread, which is focused on limiting infection and secondary cases.

Separately, authorities in Switzerland confirmed the first death there from the coronavirus outbreak, a 74-year-old woman from Vaud, a mountainous district bordering France.

Grant County, Washington reports new case

Prayers against the virus

A Muslim worshipper attends a prayer against COVID-19 in Dakar on March 4, 2020, after two cases were confirmed in Senegal in the previous days.
A Muslim worshipper attends a prayer against COVID-19 in Dakar on Wednesday, after two cases were confirmed in Senegal in the previous days.John Wessels / AFP - Getty Images

Top commercial diagnostic lab to launch coronavirus test service


U.S. lab operator Quest Diagnostics said on Thursday it was launching a test service for coronavirus, a day after the Trump administration met with private lab test developers to discuss increasing the availability of diagnostics.

Quest said it would be in position to receive specimens for testing and begin to provide testing next week.

How does the coronavirus compare to MERS, SARS?

Dow falls 750 points as rollercoaster week continues

Wall Street plunged on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling by 750 points the morning after a 1,200-point rally.

Traders continued to digest the economic impact of the coronavirus, after the number of confirmed U.S. cases mounted overnight.

Within minutes of the opening bell, every single component on the 30-member Dow index was down. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were both trading lower by just over 2 percent.

It's day four of a wild week for markets, with the Dow posting its second-biggest points gain on Wednesday after key wins by former Vice President Joe Biden on Super Tuesday.

New York confirms 2 more cases, state-wide total now 13

Two more people in New York have tested positive for the new coronavirus, according to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, bringing the total across the state so far to 13.

Speaking on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" on Thursday, de Blasio said the patients were a man in his 40s and a woman in her 80s.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo confirmed the existence of 11 cases in the state on Wednesday, including the wife, son, daughter and neighbor of a Manhattan lawyer, who is being treated in a hospital.

Also in New York, two school districts in Westchester County have shut down schools until Monday after two students from the same family and a parent from a separate family were possibly exposed to the virus. Mount Vernon has shut 16 schools, while Hastings-on-Hudson has shut all three of its schools.

Both school boards stressed there were no confirmed cases among staff, students or parents and that the closures were to enable a deep clean under an "abundance of caution."

The two students who may have been exposed to the virus will be off school for two weeks.

What happened to an attempt to find a coronavirus vaccine?

HOUSTON — Dr. Peter Hotez says he made the pitch to anyone who would listen. After years of research, his team of scientists in Texas had helped develop a vaccine to protect against a deadly strain of coronavirus. Now they needed money to begin testing it in humans.

But this was 2016. More than a decade had passed since the viral disease known as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, had spread through China, killing more than 770 people. That disease, an earlier coronavirus similar to the one now sweeping the globe, was a distant memory by the time Hotez and his team sought funding to test whether their vaccine would work in humans.

Read the rest of the story here.

Try not to touch your face, if you can

Illustration of woman wearing mask starting at her own hands while ghost hands surround her.
Jackson Gibbs / for NBC News

President Donald Trump confessed Wednesday that for the last few weeks he's been missing something: touching his face.

"I haven't touched my face in weeks,” Trump said during a meeting about coronavirus with airline executives. "I miss it."

He's not alone. The emergence of a new coronavirus around the world has triggered widespread warnings about personal hygiene and habits in an effort to limit its spread: wash your hands, limit unnecessary travel and don't touch your face.

Read the full story here.

Japan to quarantine all visitors from China and South Korea


Arata Yamamoto

Isobel van Hagen

Associated Press

Arata Yamamoto, Isobel van Hagen and Associated Press
Image: A man wearing a face mask walks near the Olympic Rings in Odaiba on March 5, 2020 in Tokyo, Japan.
A man wearing a face mask in Odaiba on Thursday in TokyoCarl Court / Getty Images

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Thursday that visitors from China and South Korea — two countries hardest hit by the outbreak so far — would need to complete a two-week quarantine at a government facility, and would be barred from public transport

Japan has so far confirmed more than 300 cases and at least seven people have died, according to WHO data.

Meanwhile, Japan's Olympics minister signaled the Tokyo Olympics would go ahead as planned even as the outbreak spread to new parts of the country, with the western Shiga prefecture confirming its first case on Thursday. 

Japan also said Chinese leader Xi Jinping's state visit planned in April has been postponed.

Middle East: Palestine shuts down schools and religious buildings, Iraq death toll rises to two


Lawahez Jabari

Charlene Gubash

Amin Khodadadi

Lawahez Jabari, Charlene Gubash and Amin Khodadadi

Public buildings including schools, colleges, mosques and churches in the biblical city of Bethlehem will be closed for the next 14 days as concerns about coronavirus in the region grow. 

The Palestine Health ministry announced the move Thursday and said events such as lectures, conferences and sporting events will be shut down as well.

Bethlehem's Nativity Church, built on the spot where Christians Jesus was born, will also close Thursday. The church was expecting a large number of visitors over the forthcoming Easter holiday. 

This comes after four people were identified as suspected virus-carriers in a Bethlehem hotel, which hosted Polish and American guests. Cases samples were sent to Israeli labs, the results of which are still unknown.

While there are no confirmed cases yet in the West Bank, there have been 15 cases confirmed in Israel.

Israel has dramatically enhanced it’s protective measures, restricting travel from Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, and Spain (in addition to Italy and countries in Asia) as well as cancelling joint military exercises scheduled with United States European Command.

Meanwhile, Iraq confirmed its second coronavirus death on Wednesday.

Iran's schools and universities are closed till the end of the Iranian calendar year, Mar. 20, as the death toll there rises to 107.

Kuwait also confirmed two more cases on Thursday, bringing its total to 58.

Vietnamese government's public health music video wins fans online

Isobel van Hagen

A music video released by the Vietnamese Health Ministry to increase awareness of coronavirus is winning fans not just for its public health advice but for its catchy tune.

The music video shows an animated green germ to represent the coronavirus, with showing people wearing masks and washing their hand to fight it off.

The song also recommends avoiding face-touching and limiting time in crowded places.

"We should definitely raise our vigilance to not let it spread," the English subtitles read, as a cartoon foot squashes the bright green virus.

The video was released by the ministry in late February and has been viewed more than three million tiems, but it has since become a hit on TikTok where many are replicating a hand-washing dance by Vietnamese dancer Quang Đăng.

Kim Jong Un hopes South Korea will overcome outbreak

Stella Kim

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has expressed hope that neighboring South Korea will overcome its coronavirus outbreak, South Korea's President Moon Jae-in's office said Thursday.

In a letter to Moon delivered Wednesday, Kim also voiced concern over Moon's health, according to the presidential office.

"Chairman Kim underlined his unwavering friendship and trust towards President Moon and said that he will continue to quietly send his best wishes for President Moon to overcome COVID-19," said Yoon Doo Han, a senior press secretary for South Korea.

Image: North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a drill of long-range artillery sub-units of the Korean People's Army, in North Korea
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits a drill of long-range artillery sub-units of the Korean People's Army, in North Korea on Monday.KCNA / Reuters

South Korea is fighting the biggest epidemic outside China. It reported 438 new infections on Thursday, making the total 5,766 confirmed cases.

Amazon asks Seattle-based employees to work from home

Isobel van Hagen

Colin Sheeley

Isobel van Hagen and Colin Sheeley
Image: People walk out of an Amazon Go store, Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Seattle
People walk out of an Amazon Go store on Wednesday. On Tuesday, an Amazon spokesperson said an employee who worked in a building on the company's campus in Seattle had tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus.Ted S. Warren / AP

Amazon has asked its Seattle-based employees who are able to work from home to do so through the end of March, according to a company spokesperson, after an employee tested positive for COVID-19 on Tuesday.

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the greater Seattle area climbed to 39 as of Wednesday, including 10 deaths, up from 27 cases and nine deaths a day earlier.

All 39 cases are clustered in two counties in the Puget Sound region, making it the largest concentration detected to date by the U.S. public health system.

Read more on efforts to contain the outbreak in Washington State.

About 100 people on cruise ship off California to be tested

Fewer than 100 people aboard a cruise ship being delayed off California's coast have been identified for testing for the coronavirus illness COVID-19, Princess Cruises said Wednesday night. 

Two patients on an earlier trip aboard the Grand Princess in mid-February later tested positive for illness in California. One of those people died in Placer County, officials there announced Wednesday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has said that 11 passengers and 10 crew are symptomatic.

Princess Cruises said in a statement there are no confirmed COVID-19 cases currently on the ship. It said the tests are expected to arrive by U.S. Coast Guard helicopter Thursday morning. The cruise company said that all those identified for testing have been asked to stay in their staterooms. 

Avoid large gatherings if you can, Seattle and King County says

In King County, Washington, where 31 people have tested positive for the coronavirus illness, and nine have died, officials are urging people to do all they can to stay healthy. 

Officials on Wednesday announced a list of recommendations that urges people at higher risk for severe COVID-19 illness, which includes those who are pregnant or 60 and older, to stay home and avoid large groups. 

It called on employers to allow anyone who can work from home to do so. 

All residents were asked to avoid visiting hospitals, long-term care facilities and nursing homes. Large gatherings of people should be avoided and postponed if possible, the officials recommend. 

Australia adds restrictions on travelers from South Korea

Australia's prime minister on Thursday announced new travel restrictions barring foreign nationals from South Korea from entering the country amid a coronavirus outbreak there.

The rules prohibit people in South Korea from entering Australia for 14 days from the time they left or traveled through South Korea. Australians are exempt but are required to self-isolate at home.

They add to similar restrictions already in place involving mainland China, where the coronavirus outbreak began, and Iran, which has nearly 3,000 cases.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also announced "enhanced screening measures" for travelers from Italy. The prime minister said that reason there was no travel ban for Italy is because Australia has seen far more people coming from South Korea than Italy.

Seattle scrambles to contain outbreak

Image: Medics wheel out a person on a stretcher from the Life Care Center of Kirkland
Medics wheel out a person on a stretcher from the Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, on Wednesday.Lindsey Wasson / Reuters

SEATTLE — The University of Washington School of Medicine announced Wednesday new lab testing capabilities aimed at addressing the national testing shortage. Rather than wait for the CDC’s permission to test people for coronavirus, the Seattle-based lab can perform its own testing.

The UW Medicine Virology Lab anticipates being able to test between 1,000 and 1,500 samples a day by the end of the week, up from the current 200 a day.

The lab received emergency authorization from the Federal Drug Administration after federal and state health officials acknowledged problems from slow and inaccurate testing. UW received permission Saturday to begin testing, but researchers there said they had started working on the problem in January.

Netflix will sit out SXSW

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — Netflix is canceling its South by Southwest screenings and events amid concerns about the outbreak of the new coronavirus.

A company spokesperson confirmed to the Associated Press on Wednesday that the streamer is pulling out of the annual Austin-based festival, which kicks off next week. 

Netflix is not the only company to scrap its festival plans. Others skipping the event include Apple, Amazon Studios, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Mashable and Intel.

Organizers and the city of Austin have said the music, technology and entertainment festival will still happen March 13-22. 

Texas reports first positive case of COVID-19 not involving evacuees

Texas health officials on Thursday reported the first positive test of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 involving the state that doesn't involve evacuees from China or the cruise ship that was quarantined off Japan.

The patient was described by Fort Bend County officials as a resident in his 70s who had recently traveled abroad, and he is hospitalized and isolated and is stable.

The positive local test will be confirmed by testing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is considered a travel-related case, which is different than possible "community spread" cases in other states where the exposure source is unknown. Fort Bend County is southwest of Houston.

Facebook contractor in Seattle tests positive for COVID-19

Jo Ling Kent

A contractor for Facebook at the company’s Seattle office has been diagnosed with the coronavirus illness COVID-19, the company said Wednesday.

The person was last in the office Feb. 21, and the office will be closed until Monday, which would be the end of the incubation period, the company said.

The social media giant said it notified its employees and is following the advice of public health officials. It is also encouraging all Seattle work sites to work from home.

Thirty-one people in King County have tested positive for the coronavirus illness, and nine have died, according to health officials. One other patient has died in Snohomish County. Earlier this week, Amazon said that an employee at its office in Seattle tested positive for COVID-19.

Microsoft asks staff in Seattle area, Silicon Valley to work from home


Microsoft Corp. on Wednesday joined the growing number of U.S. companies asking employees to work from home to limit exposure to the spreading coronavirus outbreak as it responded to cases near its headquarters near Seattle and in California.

Microsoft asked many of its employees in the Seattle region near its headquarters and the San Francisco Bay Area to work from home if possible until March 25.

It also asked employees to suspend any business travel to the areas "unless essential for the continuity of Microsoft." Microsoft also said employees should cancel nonessential travel to areas with active coronavirus cases — which includes much of Europe, Asia and the Americas. 

Coronavirus cases grow by more than 400 in South Korea; 3 new deaths reported

Stella Kim

Stella Kim and Phil Helsel

South Korea's health agency reported an additional 438 cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 on Thursday, bringing the number of total confirmed cases to more than 5,700, as well as an additional three deaths. The 438 new cases is less than the 516 reported the previous day.

Thirty-five deaths in South Korea have been linked to the coronavirus illness, according to the latest numbers from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have also been 5,766 confirmed cases, but 88 were classified as full recoveries. 

South Korea has one of the largest outbreaks of COVID-19 outside mainland China. The U.S. military said Wednesday that two dependents of U.S. Forces Korea members stationed in Daegu have also tested positive and have been in self-quarantine since late February.

As of Thursday morning local time, China’s National Health Commission says there have been 3,012 deaths on mainland China, including 31 new deaths that occurred in China's Hubei Province which is where the outbreak began. There have been more than 80,400 confirmed cases in the mainland.

Apple pulls out of SXSW 2020


Apple CEO Tim Cook last year at the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference in San Jose, California.Jeff Chiu / AP file

Apple is no longer participating in the SXSW 2020 festival as concerns heighten over the spread of COVID-19, Variety has confirmed.

The tech giant had been set to premiere three new Apple TV Plus originals at the 2020 SXSW Film Festival, including Spike Jonze's documentary film "Beastie Boys Story," and was scheduled to host a discussion of Apple's "Little America" with docuseries creators Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon. Those have now been canceled.

Apple joins others that have backed out of attending this year's SXSW, including Amazon Studios, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, Mashable and Intel.

Organizers of SXSW continue to say the annual music, technology and entertainment festival in Austin, Texas, is still on for March 13-22. On Wednesday, officials for the city of Austin said the festival will still go forward.

New Jersey announces first presumptive case of coronavirus

Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday night announced the first presumptive case of coronavirus in New Jersey.

Murphy said the patient is a male in his 30s who has been hospitalized since March 3 and is currently in a hospital in Bergen County.

The presumptive positive result came from the New Jersey Department of Health and samples have been sent to the CDC for confirmatory testing of coronavirus infection.    

21 on cruise ship linked to two COVID-19 cases showing symptoms, Calif. governor says

A Princess cruise ship that has been linked to at least two cases of COVID-19 in California, including that of a person who died, has 21 people — 11 passengers and 10 crew members — on board who are showing symptoms, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday.

The Grand Princess was headed to San Francisco but is being delayed off the coast "to provide ample opportunity for the CDC" to conduct tests, Newsom said. 

The two confirmed COVID-19 cases involved passengers who had been on a previous voyage between San Francisco and Mexico in mid-February, officials said. Placer County announced Wednesday that one of those people, an elderly man with underlying health conditions, had died. The other person, who was on the same cruise, tested presumptively positive in Sonoma County.

The Grand Princess then went on a trip to Hawaii, and 62 people on that trip had also been on the previous Mexico voyage, Princess Cruises said in a statement. Those guests and potential close crew contacts have been asked to stay in their staterooms until screened, the company said.

The ship stopped in Hawaii, but the director of the state health department said no specific risk has been identified, NBC affiliate KHNL of Honolulu reported.

Officials say coronavirus tests are here. But where are they?

After a weekslong delay, thousands of coronavirus test kits are headed to state and local laboratories, Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday.

But questions remain about when, exactly, those promised test kits will arrive and how well they will work.

Read the full story here.

Top hospital braces for pandemic

Calculations are being made by health care professionals across the country as hospital systems eye their supplies in preparation for an influx of patients needing treatment.

One of those is Massachusetts General Hospital, which has a warehouse full of supples waiting until the day it needs an emergency infusion of items like IV fluid, gloves and gowns.  

"We are trying to hold out as long as we can to tap into that warehouse because we think there's a chance we will see sustained transmission in the community," said Dr. Paul Biddinger, chief of the division of emergency preparedness at Mass General, noting that the facility "takes us through the worst two weeks."

Shortages of essential medicines had already been an issue for hospitals and now, with the spread of coronavirus worldwide, Biddinger says his team has been working to map out what drugs could be impacted and whether there are any alternatives.

Gov. Gavin Newsom declares state of emergency after first coronavirus death in California

Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency Wednesday as California deals with more than 50 confirmed coronavirus cases. 

The Golden State is the third to declare a state of emergency amid the coronavirus outbreak, following Washington and Florida.

California reported it's first death from coronavirus earlier Wednesday, an elderly person with underlying health conditions in Placer County.

Santa Clara County in California confirms 3 new cases of coronavirus, bringing total to 14

White House increasing regulations on nursing homes after coronavirus deaths, Pence says

The White House is upping regulations on nursing homes amid the concerns that coronavirus might spread to elderly Americans, Vice President Mike Pence said at a press conference Wednesday. 

The vice president said that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has issued new guidelines on nursing homes nationwide. Pence said the intention of the new guidelines are to raise the bar on infectious disease control. "People operating the nursing homes, like many of the CEOs that we met with today, are complying with the new standards to keep our elderly safe," Pence said.

Seema Verma, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services administrator, said the department sent out a memo Wednesday about limiting visitors to nursing homes and monitoring staff. "And then finally we put out some information to our state surveyors that are going to be surveying our nation's nursing homes and hospitals around infection control," Verma said. 

majority of the nine deaths reported in the U.S. so far from the virus were residents of a long-term care center in Washington state. Last July, the Trump administration proposed rolling back regulations requiring all nursing homes and other long-term care facilities to employ infection prevention specialists at least part time, citing “excessively burdensome requirements” on the industry.

AIPAC says New York attendees to conference may have been in contact with coronavirus patient

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee issued a statement saying some attendees from New York who came to its Washington, D.C., conference may have been in contact with someone who contracted coronavirus.

The AIPAC Policy Conference, held this year from March 1-3, is billed by the group as "the largest gathering of America's pro-Israel community." The official website for the conference says over 18,000 people were in attendance.

The coronavirus patient who came into contact with the attendees was not at the conference, the AIPAC statement said. The attendees who were potentially exposed are in self-quarantine.

AIPAC says, to their knowledge, no one who attended the conference has tested positive for coronavirus.

Image: Two men speak over a makeshift barricade to control the entry and exit into a residential area in Wuhan on March 4, 2020.
Two men speak over a makeshift barricade to control the entry and exit into a residential area in Wuhan on March 4, 2020.Getty Images
Image: A man stretches while exercising near a makeshift barricade wall in Wuhan on March 4, 2020.
A man stretches while exercising near a makeshift barricade wall in Wuhan on March 4, 2020.Getty Images

Senator calls on Amazon to prevent price gouging

Five new cases confirmed in New York

The University of Missouri-Kansas City cancels men's basketball game at Seattle University

The University of Missouri-Kansas City men's basketball team cancelled its Saturday game at Seattle University, citing the spread of coronavirus.

Hours earlier, another school from the Western Athletic Conference, Chicago State University, announced it had called off its men's and women's basketball games this week.  Despite these cancellations, all WAC teams are expected to play at next week's conference tournament in Las Vegas, league spokesman Chris Thompson told NBC News on Wednesday afternoon.

Airbnb offers free cancellations for affected hosts and guests

Ahiza García-Hodges

Airbnb has activated its “extenuating circumstances policy” amid the increasing spread of the coronavirus.

Under the policy, guests and hosts have the option to cancel eligible reservations free for travel from or within mainland China and South Korea during a specific booking window. 

The policy also covers reservations that must be changed or canceled in other countries, in “compliance with disease control restrictions” put in place by authorities, the company noted, while also urging people to continue to abide by its nondiscrimination policy.

The policy also covers cancellations by those diagnosed or suspected of being infected.

Annual MiPTV media conference in Cannes canceled

Claire Atkinson

A global media conference in France that attracts thousands of senior American TV executives has been canceled, the organizers announced Wednesday.

MiPTV, or Marché International des Programmes de Télévision, is a crucial annual conference for TV executives who buy, sell and co-finance new TV shows from around the world.

Closure of the event, scheduled for March 30 in Cannes, France, comes after the French government issued new regulations preventing gatherings of more than 5,000 people

May's annual Cannes Film Festival, some of which takes place at the same venues as MiPTV, issued a statement last week saying that the event would proceed as scheduled.

Visitors at the MIPTV - The Global TV and Digital Content Market - in Cannes on April 9, 2018.Valery Hache / AFP via Getty Images

In big move, United Airlines reduces number of domestic, international flights

Tom Costello

Elizabeth Chuck and Tom Costello

United Airlines plans to reduce its North American flights by 10 percent in April and its international flights by 20 percent, an unprecedented move the airline is making due to a drop in passenger demand amid the coronavirus outbreak.

United said the reductions are likely to continue in May. The airline said it will park planes and offer voluntary unpaid leave to employees as it manages the impact of the coronavirus.  

The announcement came hours after President Trump held a meeting with CEOs of major airline carriers to discuss the industry's response to the virus and the potential threat it poses to travelers. After the meeting, Trump stressed that the public should feel safe to travel, especially in the United States. 

"If you look at a percentage, we have a very, very small percentage" of the more than 92,000 coronavirus cases diagnosed around the world, he told reporters. So far, there have been more than 140 cases identified in the U.S.  

1st coronavirus death in California

An elderly person with underlying health conditions has died in Placer County, California, the first coronavirus death in the state.

"We extend our deepest condolences to the loved ones of this patient," Dr. Aimee Sisson, health officer for Placer County, said in a news release on Wednesday.

Health officials said the patient was likely infected during international travel from Feb. 11 to Feb. 21 on a Princess cruise ship that departed from San Francisco to Mexico. 

A total of 11 people in the U.S. have died from the virus. Ten deaths were in Washington state.

Another Washington patient dies, bringing U.S. total to 10

Another coronavirus patient in Washington has died, bringing the state's total to 10 deaths. Washington is the only state that has reported coronavirus deaths.

The individual was a resident of King county, according to the state's Department of Health. Eight other King county residents have died from the infection, including several residents of the Life Care Center, a long-term care facility. 

The remaining two deaths in the state were in the neighboring county of Snohomish. 

Earlier today, Vice President Mike Pence said that a 10th American had died from the virus but did not specify where the death occurred. 

Sign of the times, cont'd

Image: MTA worker Duane Clark sanitizes the Avenue X subway station in Brooklyn on March 3, 2020.
MTA worker Duane Clark sanitizes the Avenue X subway station in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday.Kevin Hagen / AP

Pence: 10th American has died from coronavirus

A 10th person in the U.S. has died from the coronavirus, Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday.

"Word this morning from the CDC is that one more American has expired and their family has our condolences," Pence said during a White House meeting. "Ten Americans have succumbed to this disease."

"We all grieve the loss of American lives," he said.

Pence did not say where the death occurred. All previous nine deaths were in Washington state.

New York governor provides update on 2nd case in state

VP Pence is heading to Washington state

Italy closes schools and universities until March 15

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Italy's Public Education Minister Lucia Azzolina said schools and universities would shut for 10 days. Tiziana Fabi / AFP - Getty Images

All Italian schools and universities will close for 10 days from Thursday, as part of an effort to contain a growing outbreak of coronavirus, Education Minister Lucia Azzolina said Wednesday. 

"I hope pupils can return to school as soon as possible," he said. The schools will be shut until at least March 15.  

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that the health service risked being overwhelmed because of the high number of infected people. He added that the government was doing all it could to contain it. 

The death toll in Italy jumped by 28 over the past 24 hours to 107, the Civil Protection Agency said on Wednesday, while the accumulative number of cases jumped to 3,090, up from 2,502 on Tuesday.

Congressional leaders strike roughly $8 billion bipartisan emergency funding deal


Rebecca Shabadis in Washington, D.C.

Frank Thorp Vproducer and off-air reporter

Alex Moe

Congressional leaders in the House and Senate on Wednesday reached a bipartisan deal on a roughly $8 billion emergency funding bill to fight the coronavirus that has been spreading throughout the United States, according to Democratic and Republican appropriators.

The deal would provide $7.8 billion to fight the coronavirus and would include a mandatory funding authorization for $500 million over a 10-year period to be used toward a remote healthcare program.

Soon after the agreement's overall framework was released, but before the legislation's text was unveiled, two Democratic leadership sources told NBC that the House is expected to vote on the deal later in the day. It will need two-thirds of the House to pass it and leadership expects it to pass with bipartisan support.

Trump had submitted a $2.5 billion request to Congress to combat the virus, but Democrats quickly said that that amount would be insufficient. Senator Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., responded with an $8.5 billion proposal. 

Click here for the full story.

Chicago State University cancelling men's and women's basketball games

The men's and women's basketball teams at Chicago State University will not play their final regular season games this week, citing the spread of the coronavirus.

The men's team was scheduled to play at Seattle University on Thursday and at Utah Valley State in Orem, Utah, on Saturday. The women's squad had been set to play host to those same two schools, also on Thursday and Saturday.

The cancellations appear to be the first by a major sport in the United States due to the virus. The disease's spread has already prompted professional baseball teams in Japan to play preseason games in empty stadiums and threatens the start of the regular season.

The scene in Hefei, China

Passengers react as a worker wearing a protective suit disinfects the departure area of the railway station in Hefei, China's eastern Anhui province on Wednesday.Noel Celis / AFP - Getty Images

'I don't pick up from airports' — how Uber and Lyft drivers are dealing with coronavirus

Alyssa Newcomb

Uber and Lyft are closely monitoring the spread of the coronavirus and have established internal task forces — but some drivers say that is not enough.

“I wear rubber gloves,” one Uber driver told NBC News. “And when I pick up more than two riders, I wear a mask.”

While Uber and Lyft told NBC News they are closely monitoring the spread of the coronavirus and have established internal task forces, some drivers say the rideshare companies should provide sick leave and protective equipment for contractors and gig economy workers.

Read the full story here.

'No Time to Die,' 25th James Bond movie, delayed until November

The North American release of "No Time to Die," the 25th installment in the James Bond film franchise, has been pushed from April to November amid global fears over the outbreak, the movie's producers announced Wednesday.

The film, starring Daniel Craig in his fifth outing as 007, was originally slated to hit U.S. screens on April 10. But it will now debut on Nov. 25.

Israel tightens coronavirus travel restrictions

Paul Goldman

Israel has tightened travel restrictions in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. The country's Health Ministry said that Israeli's returning from France, Germany, Spain and Austria will be charged with isolating themselves at home for 14 days.

Similar measures are already in place for those traveling from Italy, China and Singapore. 

People of other nationalities traveling from those countries will not be able to enter unless they can prove that they can isolate themselves. International conferences will also been prohibited, as will gatherings of more than 5,000 people, the ministry said. It also placed a blanket ban on health care workers from traveling abroad.

At a news conference where the new measures were announced, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advised Israelis to stop shaking hands to help halt the spread of the virus.


Obama: 'Listen to the experts, and follow the science'

Former President Barack Obama urged Americans to follow "common sense" health practices in a tweet on Wednesday. 

"Let's stay calm, listen to the experts, and follow the science," he added.

L.A. officials announce six new cases, declare local health emergency

Six new cases of the novel coronavirus have been identified in Los Angeles County in the last two days, officials said Wednesday, while announcing they had declared a local health emergency. 

The county now has seven cases total, according to Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. One is hospitalized and five are isolated at home, being closely monitored by the health department, Ferrer said. The other patient, who was diagnosed in January, has since recovered.

All six new cases have known connections to other patients identified with the virus, Ferrer added. Three traveled together to Italy, which has become the European epicenter of the outbreak; two had close contact with a family member outside of Los Angeles County who had tested positive; and the other case was a person whose job "exposed them to travelers from other countries who may have been infected," Ferrer said.

Proclamations of a local health emergency were declared by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors and the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The declarations will "support our preparedness efforts," including seeking aid to slow the spread of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, Ferrer said.

Pro tip: Cover your coughs, sneezes with a tissue

Mariah Carey nixes Hawaii concert

Gwen Aviles

Image: Mariah Carey performs in Los Angeles in 2018.
Mariah Carey performs in Los Angeles in 2018.Mario Anzuoni / Reuters file

Mariah Carey announced that she is postponing her March concert in Honolulu to November because of "evolving international travel restrictions" amid the spread of coronavirus.

"Aloha Hawaii!! I'm so so sad to have to announce that I'm postponing my show to November," Carey wrote. "I was so excited to come back to Hawaii on my 'anniversary month' but evolving international travel restrictions force us to consider everyone's safety and well being."

Read the full story here.

Delta reduces weekly flights to Japan

Delta Air Lines, the world's second-largest carrier, said Wednesday it is cutting down on the number of weekly flights between the U.S. and Japan through April 30, while suspending its summer service between Seattle and Osaka, Japan, for 2020.

The reduction was done in response to the spread of the virus across the globe, and Delta said it "will continue to monitor the situation closely and may make additional adjustments as the situation continues to evolve."

For a current list of flight schedule changes, visit Delta's website.

The scene in Hong Kong

Customers wearing masks eat at a street stall during the evening rush hour in Hong Kong on March 4, 2020.
Customers wearing masks eat at a street stall during the evening rush hour in Hong Kong on Wednesday.Vivek Prakash / AFP - Getty Images

NY governor announces recall of students, faculty studying abroad in 5 countries

Students and faculty from the State University of New York (SUNY) and the City University of New York (CUNY) who are studying abroad in five countries will be recalled, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced at a news conference Wednesday.

The 300 students and faculty studying in China, Italy, Japan, Iran, and South Korea will land at Stewart International Airport and then be quarantined in dorm-like rooms for 14 days, Cuomo said.

Could coronavirus trigger a recession?

Martha C. White

Economists now say it is increasingly likely that virus-related financial fallout will spill over into the second quarter, cutting into GDP growth — and potentially even drag the American economy into recession.

“For the short run, consumption is still going to be strong but travel and tourism is going to be a drag on GDP," one analyst told NBC News.

"If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is right and this becomes a meaningful pandemic and shows up here to the point that we’re closing schools, it’s going to be pretty tough to avoid a recession," one economist projected.

Read the full story here.

Four people linked to New York man with coronavirus test positive

Several family members and a neighbor of the Westchester, New York, man who tested positive for the coronavirus Monday are also positive. 

The man's wife, along with a son, a daughter and a neighbor who drove him to the hospital, all tested positive, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday.

The son, 20, attends Yeshiva University in New York City, and the daughter, 14, attends the Jewish SAR Academy in Riverdale.

The husband, 50, is an attorney and works in midtown Manhattan. Officials said he has an underlying respiratory illness and is in serious condition.

Louvre reopens after virus-inspired staff walkouts

Visitors queue outside the Pyramid, the main entrance to the Louvre, as the Paris museum reopened Wednesday after it was forced to close for three days as staff walked out saying they were concerned about catching the coronavirus from visitors. Staff exercised their right to stay at home under French legislation which allows workers to leave work if they fear there is a clear and imminent danger to their health or safety.Philippe Lopez / AFP - Getty Images

Fox's Lachlan Murdoch cancels appearance at major media conference

Claire Atkinson

Lachlan Murdoch, head of media giant Fox and son of mogul Rupert Murdoch, has pulled out of a major investor conference, citing "an abundance of caution" due to the coronavirus.

He was scheduled to deliver a speech at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference on Wednesday.

Fox News also canceled a presentation to advertisers, but there has been no word yet on the future of the May "upfront" presentations in New York, where advertisers watch "sizzle reels" that tease upcoming shows and commit billions of dollars to TV schedules and related streaming platforms.

Image: Lachlan Murdoch
Lachlan Murdoch arrives during the Allen & Co. Media and Technology Conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, on July 11, 2019.Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

Watch live: Infectious diseases chief testifies before House

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who heads the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases, is slated to testify before the House starting at 10 a.m. ET.

Third coronavirus case confirmed in New York

A third case of the new coronavirus has been reported in New York, with Yeshiva University announcing that one of its students has tested positive for the illness.

The son of a New York lawyer who tested positive for coronavirus is a student of the university, though it was not immediately apparent if the two cases are within the same family.

The university said it was cancelling all classes on Wednesday at its Wilf Campus in Washington Heights on the upper part of Manhattan.

Iranian medical workers dance on the coronavirus frontline

NBC News

A number of videos appearing to show healthcare workers dancing amid a growing coronavirus outbreak in Iran have been widely shared on social media. 

The videos show medical workers in protective suits, face masks, gloves and goggles, bust out some dance moves, in what appears to be a hospital setting. 

Iran is one of the main coronavirus hot spots outside of mainland China, where the epidemic started. 

So far, 92 people have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, and nearly 3,000 people have been confirmed to have the virus in Iran. 

NBC News

Australian grocery chain limits purchase of toilet paper

NBC News

Image: Empty shelves in an Australian Woolworths supermarket after panic buying due to the Coronavirus on March 4, 2020.
Empty shelves in a Woolworths supermarket in Melbourne, Australia, on Wednesday. Chris Putnam / Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Australian grocery chain Woolworths is limiting customers to four packs of toilet paper amid “panic buying” by shoppers concerned by the coronavirus outbreak.

The company said in a statement Wednesday that the limit, which also applies to online shoppers, was to ensure every customer had access to the products.

“It will help shore up stock levels as suppliers ramp up local production and deliveries in response to higher than usual demand,” the company said.

The vast majority of the products remain available for their customers as normal, it added.

The outbreak has led to shoppers emptying out shelves in their local grocery stores and pharmacies around the world as the fear of product and medicine shortages continues to spread.

Anxiety in Milan region as death toll in Italy approaches 100

Bill Neely

Image: A woman wearing a protective mask crosses Piazza Duomo on a bicycle in Milan
A woman wearing a protective mask crosses Piazza Duomo on a bicycle in Milan on March 2, 2020.Miguel Medina / AFP - Getty Images

The death toll passed fifty in Italy Monday, most of the fatalities in the Milan region. By Tuesday it was 79, a fifty per cent increase in one day, with 27 new deaths. There’ve been several big spikes in the number of infections.

But today, the fear is mild, just like 80 percent of the infections that arise from the virus. Most people I see in the city centre are not wearing masks. I have seen two groups of Asian tourists, every one of whom was wearing a mask.

Milan is about to learn whether the measures its regional government has taken so far have been effective. Eleven towns, most of them just south of the city, have been quarantined for almost two weeks, with not one of the 50,000 inhabitants allowed in or out.

Most clubs and bars have been closed. In cafés, customers are supposed to sit at tables and maintain a distance between one another.

Later this week triage tents will be set up outside prisons in Milan and the wider region. More tents will be set up outside every hospital here.

The warm spring and summer temperatures, which experts believe will help to kill off the virus, can’t come soon enough.

First coronavirus death recorded in Iraq

NBC News

Health officials in Iraq have confirmed the country's first coronavirus death. 

A 70-year-old man from Sulaymaniyah, in the country's east, died from the virus, spokesman for Kurdistan Regional Government's Health Directorate, Mohammed Qader Khushnaw, told NBC News on Wednesday. 

It is not confirmed if the man returned from Iran or was infected in Iraq, he added. 

This brings total number of confirmed cases in Iraq to 33. 

Prince William discusses coronavirus fears on Dublin trip

NBC News

Japan still preparing for Olympics as planned


Japan is preparing to host the Tokyo Summer Olympics as planned, the government’s top spokesman said on Wednesday, amid speculation the Games could be postponed because of the coronavirus threat.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga made the commitment at a regular news conference.

Olympic Minister Seiko Hashimoto had said on Tuesday that Tokyo’s contract with the International Olympic Committee “could be interpreted as allowing a postponement” until the end of the year, although she reiterated that the government remained committed to the Games starting on July 24.

Long lines to buy face masks in South Korea

NBC News

Image: People stand in a long queue to buy face masks at a post office, after a shortage of masks amid the rise in confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19, in Daegu, South Korea
People stand in a long queue to buy face masks at a post office after a shortage of masks amid the rise in confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Daegu, South Korea on Wednesday.Kim Kyung-Hoon / Reuters

WHO issues warning over shortage of protective equipment

Image: A mannequin in protective suit is displayed as people buy masks and hand sanitizers at a market in Jakarta, Indonesia
A mannequin in protective suit is displayed as people buy masks and hand sanitizers at a market in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, March 4, 2020. IDita Alangkara / AP

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned of a shortage of personal protective equipment that's endangering health workers fighting the COVID-19 outbreak worldwide. 

WHO officials said on Tuesday there was "severe and mounting disruption" to the global supply of personal protective equipment, caused by rising demand, panic buying, hoarding and misuse, which is putting lives at risk.

It said shortages are leaving doctors, nurses and other front-line workers "dangerously ill-equipped" to care for COVID-19 patients, due to limited access to supplies such as gloves, medical masks, respirators, goggles, face shields, gowns, and aprons.

Since the start of the outbreak, WHO said prices have surged, with surgical masks seeing a sixfold increase.

Meanwhile, N95 respirators that protect from airborne particles and from liquid contaminating the face have trebled and gowns have doubled, WHO added. 

Based on WHO modelling, an estimated 89 million medical masks are required for the COVID-19 response each month along with 76 million of examination gloves and 1.6 million safety goggles.

It has called on industry and governments to increase manufacturing by 40 percent to meet the rising global demand. 

Iran temporarily releases 54,000 prisoners to prevent spread of COVID-19

NBC News

Image: Prison guard stands along corridor in Tehran's Evin prison
A prison guard stands along a corridor in Tehran's Evin prison on June 13, 2006.Morteza Nikoubazl / Reuters file

Iran has temporarily released thousands of prisoners as it faces a growing outbreak of coronavirus that has already claimed 77 lives in the country, sickening more than 2,300.  

Gholamhossein Esmaili, the judiciary spokesman, announced in a weekly press conference Tuesday that 54,000 prisoners have been temporarily released to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Iranian prisons.

On Tuesday, the lawyer for an American held in Iran said that his client was at “serious risk” of contracting the coronavirus after another inmate held near his cell tested positive for the illness.

California's Placer County announces second presumptive case

Officials in Placer County in Northern California on Tuesday reported a second case of COVID-19 and declared a local health emergency, which is intended to ensure it has enough resources.

The patient is presumptively positive, meaning it was through a local test but Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tests will need to confirm it, Placer County Public Health said in a statement.

The patient is an older adult who is critically ill and exposure likely occurred during international travel on a Princess cruise ship that left San Francisco for Mexico in February, the department said. The patient is in isolation and close contacts are being quarantined and monitored.

Placer County also said the same cruise is associated with another presumptive positive case reported Monday in Sonoma County, also in Northern California. Monday's Sonoma County statement did not name the cruise ship but said it went from San Francisco to Mexico.

Princess Cruises did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday. It said Monday in responding to the Sonoma County report that its chief medical officer contacted officials in Sonoma County for more information but it was not known whether there was an exposure risk to people who sailed on board its ship. The Sonoma County patient is said to be stable.

South Korea's president cancels overseas trip to deal with COVID-19 outbreak

Stella Kim

Stella Kim and Phil Helsel

South Korean President Moon Jae-in will not travel as planned to the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Turkey in mid-March in order to focus on the coronavirus outbreak in his country, presidential spokesperson Kang Min Suk in a text briefing.

Most of the cases of COVID-19 are in mainland China, but South Korea has one of the largest outbreaks outside  that country with more than 5,000 cases and 32 deaths, according to the latest numbers from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

"We have decided not to go ahead with the overseas trips as was in the planning in order to respond to COVID-19 with full attention and strength amid concern that the outbreak can spread throughout the whole nation," the presidential spokesman said.

Moon has said that "the whole country has entered a war against the infectious disease," and that South Korea has been strengthening its prevention strategy and identifying confirmed cases quickly.

Shoppers looking for sanitizing supplies, groceries greeted with empty shelves

IMage: Target store in San Rafael, California
Empty shelves that once held soap at a Target store in San Rafael, California, on Monday, March 2, 2020.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

People stocking up on sanitizing supplies, paper products and groceries have cleared some stores' shelves, consumers around the country have discovered. 

Hand sanitizer, wipes, cleaning supplies and other products have been wiped out by people fearing quarantine and prolonged illness from the coronavirus. 

Contra Costa County says first resident tests positive for COVID-19

Contra Costa County, California, health officials on Tuesday reported the first presumptive case of the coronavirus illness COVID-19 that involves a resident of the county. The person, who has underlying health issues, is in isolation at a hospital and is in critical condition.

The patient is being treated as presumptively positive because a local test came back positive Tuesday afternoon but has not been confirmed by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tests, Contra Costa Health Services said.

The person was admitted to a hospital on Sunday with flu-like symptoms, Dr. Ori Tzvieli with Contra Costa Health Services said at a news conference.

The person involved has no known travel history or contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, the department said. Contra Costa County is in the San Francisco Bay area. Another county in that region, Santa Clara County, has also reported cases.

Seattle a 'ghost town' as residents face uncertainty of growing coronavirus outbreak

In Seattle, bracing for coronavirus also means preparing for what could be a devastating economic impact. Business owners and residents have already seen a drop-off in tourists.

Nine people in the United Stated have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus — all of them in Washington, which has reported 31 cases of coronavirus.  

As the death toll climbed Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, a Democrat, proclaimed a civil emergency. The declaration allows her to bypass regulations to increase city spending, contracting and borrowing to address the growing public health threat. 

Community members say that the move suggests that local leaders are taking the threat seriously but that it also points to hard times ahead for businesses dependent on tourism and pedestrians.

Read the full story here.

South Korea reports more than 500 new cases, 4 more deaths

Stella Kim

Stella Kim and Phil Helsel

South Korea reported an additional 516 cases of the coronavirus illness known as COVID-19 Wednesday morning local time and an additional four deaths.

The country has seen 32 deaths and 5,328 confirmed cases, but 41 of those cases have been said to have fully recovered, according to the latest numbers from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. South Korea has one of the largest outbreaks outside mainland China, which is where the majority of global cases have been reported.

Deaths in mainland China also rose by an additional 38 as of Wednesday morning local time, China's National Health Commission reported.

All but one of the new deaths occurred in Hubei Province, which has been at the epicenter of the outbreak and where the city of Wuhan is located. The number of confirmed cases on the mainland rose by 119 as of the end of Tuesday local time, bringing the total cases that have been confirmed to more than 80,200.

Quarantined U.S. cruise ship passengers released in Texas

The Associated Press

SAN ANTONIO — Dozens of U.S. passengers who were moved to a Texas air base after potentially being exposed to the coronavirus on a cruise ship were released Tuesday and allowed to go home, a day after local leaders declared a public health emergency and sought to delay the process so that more patient testing could be done.

More than 120 passengers who were moved two weeks ago from a Diamond Princess cruise ship stranded in Japan and kept in quarantine on Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio were released “in an orderly way to minimize potential exposure to the San Antonio community,” according to a statement issued by city officials. 

San Antonio officials had wanted additional assurances that none of the released passengers had tested positive for the new coronavirus, after a woman was mistakenly released from quarantine over the weekend despite testing positive for it.

Seven passengers were kept in quarantine at the air base for various reasons, Laura Mayes, a city spokeswoman, told The Associated Press.

More cases confirmed in California

Two new coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Northern California’s Santa Clara County, bringing the total there to 11, local officials said Tuesday.

The source of the transmission of the virus that causes the COVID-19 illness is under investigation, the Santa Clara County Public Health Department said in a statement.

Of the 11 confirmed cases there, two have been determined to be "community transmission" which means the source of infection is not clear. Four others are thought to be travel-related, and three are thought to have occurred through close contacts to known cases, the health agency said.

In Orange County in Southern California, health officials said they have two presumptive positive cases of COVID-19, identified as a man in his 60s and a woman in her 30s, both of whom recently traveled to countries with widespread transmission. CDC testing will confirm the local tests.

Amazon employee in Seattle in quarantine after testing positive

Ezra Kaplan

A Seattle-based Amazon employee has tested positive for the coronavirus illness COVID-19, the company confirmed Tuesday.

An email sent to employees said that the employee based out of its "Brazil" office building in Seattle went home feeling unwell Feb. 25 and has not entered Amazon offices since. The email says the company received news Tuesday that the employee tested positive for COVID-19, and that the employee is in quarantine. 

"We're supporting the affected employee who is in quarantine," an Amazon spokesperson said.

A company spokesperson confirmed the email’s authenticity to NBC News. The email says the company notified employees who had been in contact with the infected employee. The risk to those who had not been in close contact with that employee remains low, the email says.

The company is conducting deep cleaning and sanitization of the office. Amazon is headquartered in Seattle.

Pope Francis has a cold, no symptoms of other illness, Vatican says

Claudio Lavanga

Claudio Lavanga and Phil Helsel

The Vatican said in a statement Tuesday that Pope Francis has a cold that is running its course, “without symptoms related to other diseases.”

The pontiff this week said he was canceling his participation at a weeklong spiritual retreat in the Roman countryside because of a cold.

"The cold diagnosed to Pope Francis in previous days is running its course, without symptoms related to other diseases. In the meantime, the Pope celebrates Mass daily,” and follows the spiritual exercises ongoing in Ariccia, the Vatican said in a statement, referring to the sit of the Lenten retreat. It’s the first time the pope has not taken part, The Associated Press reported.

On Tuesday, the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero reported that Francis tested negative for the coronavirus, according to the AP. The Vatican statement makes no mention of a test. Italy is grappling with a coronavirus outbreak that has killed 79 people. More than 2,500 cases have been confirmed in the country, Italian officials said.

How officials are preparing for a coronavirus outbreak

Berkeley, California, confirms first case, patient had been in Italy

Chile, Argentina confirm first cases of coronavirus


An airline staff member wears a protective mask in Santiago on March 3, 2020.Javier Torres / AFP - Getty Images

Chile recorded the first confirmed case of coronavirus in the country, the health ministry said on Tuesday.

The patient is a 33-year-old man in the city of Talca, south of Santiago.

Neighboring Argentina also confirmed its first case on Tuesday, a 43-year-old man who had traveled to Italy.

Hand sanitizer and gloves: How polling stations are allaying coronavirus fears

Low tech solutions in a high tech city

New Hampshire confirms 2nd coronavirus case

A second case of coronavirus has been confirmed in New Hampshire. The patient is a close contact of the state's first case, who state health officials said defied directions to self-isolate.

On Tuesday, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said the first patient attended an invitation-only private event on Friday, Feb. 28, despite being instructed by public health officials to remain isolated. As a result, the state issued an official order to keep the patient in isolation.

That first patient is an employee of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center. Now the facility is monitoring anyone who has been in close contact with that person. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center said it's unaware of any patient exposures.

It's unclear whether the second patient was exposed as a result of the first patient's broken isolation.

Dr. John Torres shares latest updates and answers questions on the coronavirus outbreak

Chart: See coronavirus cases from around the world overtake new cases in China

Jeremia Kimelman

Jeremia Kimelman and Joe Murphy

New coronavirus cases in mainland China have tapered off as new cases in the rest of the world have increased. 

Since Feb. 25, the majority of new cases each day have been diagnosed outside of mainland China. Before that, mainland China had the most cases when compared with the rest of the world.
Since Feb. 25, the majority of new cases each day have been diagnosed outside of mainland China. Before that, mainland China had the most cases when compared with the rest of the world.

Get the latest numbers around the world with the NBC News coronavirus world map.

CDC issues guidance on how to limit exposure at polling places

Archdiocese of Chicago issues virus guidance to priests

With four cases of coronavirus reported so far in Illinois, the Archdiocese of Chicago has released guidelines aimed at preventing the disease from being spread during Mass.

First and foremost,  all priests, deacons, altar servers and others are required to wash their hands before Mass and use an “alcohol-based, anti-bacterial before and after distributing Holy Communion.”

And instead of placing the host on the tongue as it customary, priests will place it in the hands of parishioners. They are also advised to refrain from shaking hands when it comes time to exchange the “Sign of Peace.” (A nod will do.)

San Francisco Fire Department gets the word out

Dow closes down almost 800 points as reality of epidemic sinks in

The Federal Reserve's historic, emergency rate cut was not enough to assuage Wall Street on Tuesday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunging wildly to end the day down by almost 800 points.

Nervous traders loaded up all day on "safe haven" assets such as gold and Treasury notes — pushing yields to record levels — amid growing realization that the coronavirus might not be as fleeting as President Donald Trump's administration has conveyed.

The emergency rate cut was intended to "boost household and business confidence," Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said. However, it spooked investors, pushing down all three major averages after he spoke. 

Image: Traders work on the floor at the NYSE in New York
Traders work on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday.Brendan McDermid / Reuters

Sign of the times, elbow bump edition

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee bumps elbows with a worker at the seafood counter of the Uwajimaya Asian Food and Gift Market on Tuesday in Seattle's International District. Inslee said he's doing the elbow bump with people instead of shaking hands to prevent the spread of germs, and that his visit to the store was to encourage people to keep patronizing businesses during the coronavirus outbreak. Ted S. Warren / AP

Google cancels its major developers conference

Google has cancelled its largest annual conference for software developers, Google I/O, citing concerns around the coronavirus, according to numerous people who have posted screenshots of emails from Google notifying them of the change.

The three-day event had been scheduled to begin May 12 near Google’s corporate headquarters in Mountain View, California. CNBC confirmed the cancellation with the company. 

Google separately barred its employees from traveling internationally for work unless they were granted an exception for critical work, a company spokesperson said, confirming a report from Business Insider. 

The conference attracts thousands of people each year to hear from the tech company’s executives as they roll out new products and outline projects they’re working on, from search to cloud computing to automated restaurant reservations.

Google plans to explore other ways to “evolve” the conference over the coming weeks, the company said.