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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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.

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.    

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.

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
A man stretches while exercising near a makeshift barricade wall in Wuhan on March 4, 2020.Getty Images