The first group of American citizens who were evacuated from Wuhan, China are healthy and have been released from their 14-day quarantine imposed by the federal government.
All 195 passengers had been housed at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California since late January. Not a single one has developed what’s now called COVID-19.
Those quarantined have been “deemed safe to re-enter their communities,” the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Knight said during a news conference Tuesday. “They pose no health risks to themselves, to their families, to their places of work, school, or their communities.”
Knight also addressed reports of harassment of workers at the base. People who work at March have been physically separated from those under quarantine, but some have faced discrimination from community fear of COVID-19.
Knight pointed to an example of a little girl who endured bullying in the form of name-calling at school simply because her mother works on base. She said another worker complained of being denied housing because of employment on base. — Erika Edwards
The new coronavirus that’s sickened more than 42,000 people in China finally has an official name: COVID-19. It stands for the coronavirus disease that was discovered in 2019.
The World Health Organization announced the official name Tuesday, saying it was careful to find a name without stigma.
“We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, or an individual or group of people,” WHO's director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said during a call with reporters. — Erika Edwards
Dr. Michael Ryan, head of the World Health Organization's Health Emergencies Programme, warned Tuesday that the spread of accurate information is essential in effectively fighting and containing the new coronavirus, now called COVID-19.
He warned against guessing at the virus' spread or attempting to forecast its impact.
"It seems people want to accelerate the infodemic and not contain the epidemic," he said. "We need to be very careful with throwing around figures, speculating or scaring people." — Jason Abbruzzese
The World Health Organization urges caution when interpreting new information on cases of the new coronavirus, now called COVID-19, as much more data is needed to gain a proper understanding of how the virus works and acts in humans.
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An example is a study recently published by doctors in China that suggested the incubation period for the coronavirus — that is, the time it takes from when a person is infected to when symptoms develop — may be as long as 24 days.
If true, that would mean current guidelines about quarantine periods are far too short. The WHO and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both maintain that everything scientists already know about other coronaviruses points to a maximum of 14 days for an incubation period.
While potentially alarming, the WHO said the unusually long incubation period gives a false impression that the virus could lurk undetected in a person's body for so long. Instead, it suggests a patient was exposed to the virus twice.
"A very long incubation period can reflect a double exposure," Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the WHO's health emergencies program, said during a call with journalists Monday. "The 24 days is an outlying observation. We need to be really, really careful when we look at outlier figures."
Indeed, the study from China concluded the average incubation period is three days. More than 1,000 patients with COVID-19 were included in the analysis.
Neither the WHO or the CDC has plans to change quarantine guidelines at this time. — Erika Edwards
The number of deaths attributed to the coronavirus outbreak in China rose by more than 100 on Tuesday, bringing the total number of deaths across the country's 31 provinces to 1,016, officials said.
The number of deaths is well beyond the toll of the 2002-03 outbreak of SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which was caused by a virus related to the current pathogen and claimed the lives of almost 800 people.
The country's National Health Commission said there were more than 42,600 confirmed cases.
Earlier, Chinese authorities said that there was hope the spread of the coronavirus might soon reach a turning point.
But WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said there had been "concerning instances" of transmission from people who had not been to China.
"The detection of a small number of cases may indicate more widespread transmission in other countries; in short, we may only be seeing the tip of the iceberg," he said in Geneva. — Tim Stelloh and Reuters
Thailand on Tuesday barred passengers from Holland America's cruise ship MS Westerdam from disembarking, the latest country to turn it away amid fears of the coronavirus despite no confirmed infections on board.
It has already been turned away by Japan and the Philippines.
Holland America Line cruises said in a statement Monday that the ship was not in quarantine and there was no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus onboard.
Another cruise ship, the Diamond Princess, with 3,700 passengers and crew onboard, is quarantined in the port city of Yokohama, south of Tokyo, with 135 cases of coronavirus detected on the vessel. — Colin Sheeley and Reuters
Authorities in Hong Kong evacuated an apartment block after two cases among its residents raised suspicion the virus may be spreading through the building's plumbing.
Hong Kong’s health ministry said Tuesday a 62-year-old woman and a 75-year-old man who were confirmed to have the virus lived in the building, but on different floors, prompting an investigation into whether the infections were related.
“Symptomatic residents will be sent to the hospital for isolation while asymptomatic residents will be issued quarantine orders and be transferred to quarantine center,” the ministry said in a statement. — Ed Flanagan
China’s leader Xi Jinping visited a health center Monday to rally public morale amid little sign the contagion is abating.
In a bid to boost morale, Xi was featured on state broadcaster CCTV's main news report visiting the community health center in Beijing and expressing confidence in the “war against the disease.”
The country's president and leader of the ruling Communist Party was shown wearing a surgical mask and having his temperature taken before expressing his thanks to health workers on behalf of the party and the government.
Xi also spoke with some locals about the epidemic’s impact on their lives.
“This is a special period, so we will not shake hands,” he said, prompting laughter from the group of residents.