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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.

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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

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

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

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

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

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.

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

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.