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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Iran's coronavirus death toll rises to 43, the highest outside of China

Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has reached 43, a spokesman for the country's Health Ministry, told state TV on Saturday, adding that the number of infected people across the country has reached 593.

“Unfortunately nine people died of the virus in the last 24 hours. The death toll is 43 now. The new confirmed infected cases since yesterday is 205 that makes the total number of confirmed infected people 593,” said Kianush Jahanpur.

Iran, which has the highest death toll outside China, has ordered the shutting of schools until Tuesday and the government has extended the closure of universities and a ban on concerts and sports events for a week.

Kim Jong Un says there will be 'serious consequences' if coronavirus spreads in North Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un has called for stronger anti-virus efforts to guard against COVID-19, saying there will be "serious consequences" if the illness spreads to the country.

During a ruling party meeting, Kim called for the country's anti-epidemic headquarters to strengthen screening and tests to seal off all "channels and space through which the infectious disease may find its way," Pyongyang's official Korean Central News Agency, or KCNA, said Saturday.

Kim emphasized that all fields and units of the country should "unconditionally" obey quarantine instructions laid-out by the anti-epidemic headquarters and he called for the strict enforcement of preventive measures against what he described as a tricky virus that spreads rapidly.

"In case the infectious disease spreading beyond control finds its way into our country, it will entail serious consequences," KCNA quoted Kim as saying during the politburo meeting of the Workers' Party.

The North has yet to report its first infection from the new coronavirus, but it has been pushing a tough campaign it has described as a matter of "national existence."

The country has shut down nearly all cross-border traffic, banned tourists, intensified screening at entry points and mobilized tens of thousands of health workers to monitor residents and isolate those with symptoms.

Kuwait urges citizens to avoid traveling

Kuwait has urged its citizens to avoid traveling over concerns of coronavirus contamination, a health ministry official told a media conference Saturday.

The Gulf state has not registered any new coronavirus infections over the past 24 hours, she said.

The total number of people infected with the disease in Kuwait is 45, the health ministry said on Friday. No deaths have been reported there. 

South Korea urges people to stay indoors after biggest daily spike in cases

South Korea urged citizens on Saturday to stay indoors as it warned of a "critical moment" in its battle on the coronavirus after recording the biggest daily jump in infections, with 885 new cases taking the tally to 3,150.

The country is grappling with the largest outbreak of the virus outside China, as a new death took the toll to 17, amid a record daily increase in infections since the country confirmed its first patient on Jan. 20.

"We have asked you to refrain from taking part in public events, including a religious gathering or protest, this weekend," Vice health minister Kim Kang-lip told a briefing.

It was a "critical moment" in reining in the spread of the virus, he said, adding: "Please stay at home and refrain from going outside and minimize contact with other people."

As many as 476 of the new cases were from southeastern Daegu city, the site of a church at the center of the outbreak, and 60 from the nearby province of North Gyeongsang, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.

Health authorities have run tests on more than 210,000 members and 65,000 trainees of the church linked to a majority of cases after a 61-year-old woman known as "Patient 31" attended religious services there before testing positive.

More than 88 per cent have been checked, and about 3,300 have shown symptoms such as fever, Kim added.

California town wins fight to keep out coronavirus patients from cruise ship

The federal government said it has canceled plans to use an empty Orange County, California, building to house 35 or more Golden State coronavirus patients who were evacuated from the virus-plagued Diamond Princess cruise ship in Asia.

A government filing Friday sought to halt a court challenge by the city of Costa Mesa, which argued that safeguards for locals weren't considered in the transfer of patients from Northern California's Travis Air Force Base to the state-owned Fairview Development Center, a defunct assisted living center in the center of town.

Read the full story here. 

2 new presumptive cases reported in Washington state, including high school student

Washington state health officials on Friday announced two new preliminary positive cases of the coronavirus illness COVID-19, including a high school student with no known travel history or exposure to known infected people.

The cases are being classified as presumptively positive because the tests have come back locally as positive but are pending confirmation from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testing, said Dr. Kathy Lofy, health officer for the Washington State Department of Health.

A high school student in Snohomish County became ill Monday with fever, body aches and a headache and was seen at two clinics, Snohomish Health District Health Officer Dr. Chris Spitters said.

The student was feeling better and attempted to return to school Friday morning, but a local test result came back with a preliminary positive result. The student returned home before attending class, he said. The student is in home isolation and is doing well.

The last time the student was in class was before any symptoms. A small number of students had contact with the individual and will remain at home for 14 days and be monitored for symptoms, Spitters said. The school campus will be sanitized and closed Monday, and people at the clinics are being notified. Spitters urged people to remain calm and stay informed.

The second new case was a woman in King County in her 50s who had recently visited South Korea, returned to Seattle, went to work Tuesday and had symptoms, Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County said. The local test was done Thursday and came back Friday as preliminary positive.

The woman never needed medical care and took care of herself at home and is recovering, Duchin said. Her husband is well and without symptoms and is in home quarantine, he said.

Navy's Pacific Fleet to schedule 14 days between ports amid coronavirus spread

The U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet will schedule a minimum of 14 days between ports in order to monitor for symptoms of the coronavirus illness COVID-19, a defense official said.

There are no indications that any Navy personnel has contracted the coronavirus illness, the official said. The coronavirus illness has killed more than 2,800 people in mainland China as of Saturday morning local time, according to China’s National Health Commission. It has also spread to other countries.

The 14 days order is intended to permit adequate time for surveillance and monitoring for the development of symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Fourteen days is the same time period being used by health officials in quarantines in possible exposure cases.

Also Friday, U.S. Forces Korea said that the spouse of a U.S. service member stationed in South Korea who had tested positive for COVID-19 had also tested positive. She has been in self quarantine since Wednesday after her husband’s test, the military said, and was being moved to a U.S. military hospital.

Two students at Palo Alto school district sent home after possible parent exposure

Two students in the Palo Alto Unified School District in California’s Santa Clara County were sent home and will be excluded from school after a parent may have been exposed to the coronavirus illness COVID-19, the superintendent said.

Superintendent Don Austin said in a message to parents Friday that the district acted as a precautionary measure. One is a student at Palo Alto Senior High School and the other attends JLS Middle School, he wrote.

Austin stressed in an email that there are zero cases in the district, but "we have a parent who was exposed to a confirmed case."

"We have no parents, staff or students with reported symptoms," Austin said.

There are three confirmed cases in Santa Clara County, including one announced Friday that involved a person who does not have a travel history or any known contact with a traveler or infected person.

Palo Alto and Santa Clara County are in the San Francisco Bay area.

Trump says coronavirus is Democrats' 'new hoax'

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. — At a political rally Friday, President Donald Trump insisted the government's response to the global coronavirus epidemic was "magnificently organized" and argued that foes in the Democratic Party ere exaggerating its dangers for political gain.

"This is their new hoax,” Trump told supporters on the eve of the state's Democratic primary. "Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus."

Attacking the White House’s response to the coronavirus has become the Democrats' "single talking point," he claimed.

The president has contradicted his own health officials on the potential of the disease's domestic spread, which they have described as almost inevitable.

Oregon reports presumptive case of coronavirus

Oregon health authorities say that they have the state’s first “presumptive case” of the coronavirus illness known as COVID-19 and that the patient has no known travel exposure and is likely an instance of community spread.

A local test of the person, who lives in Washington County and is being treated at a hospital, came back positive for COVID-19, but officials are waiting for a Centers for Disease Control test for confirmation, Oregon Health Authority Director Pat Allen said Friday.

 "If the test comes back from Atlanta positive then we'll stop calling it presumptive and say it's a positive case," Allen said. "But the guidance from CDC is we should treat a presumptive case as a case until we have any further information."

The patient's age, gender or condition was not released, but they are an adult.

Allen said the person spent time in the Forest Hills Elementary School in Clackamas County but would not be more specific because of patient privacy.

Contact tracing is being conducted and is a top priority, Allen said. Health officials say they are prepared for cases of the coronavirus illness in Oregon.