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Coronavirus death toll tops 1,000 in China, WHO issues new name

As the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak reaches 1,016 in China, here is the latest on the crisis.
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•Deaths in mainland China rise to 1,016 as confirmed cases reach more than 42,000

• Virus given official name: COVID-19

• 195 U.S. evacuees from Wuhan prepare to end 14-day quarantine

• Hong Kong leader tells residents to stay at home “as much as possible”

• China’s leader appears in public wearing a mask

• 13th confirmed case of the coronavirus recorded in the United States

First group of evacuated Americans released from quarantine

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

Coronavirus gets official name: COVID-19

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

WHO emergency head: We must stop 'infodemic'

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

Fed chair: Resist temptation to speculate on economic impact

In semiannual testimony before Congress, Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday that more information is required in order to determine the effects of coronavirus on the U.S. economy.

"We have to resist the temptation to speculate on this," he said. — Lucy Bayly

Incubation period for coronavirus likely no more than 14 days

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.

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

Number of coronavirus deaths exceeds 1,000 in mainland China

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 bars cruise passengers from disembarking

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.

Image: Holland America Line's MS Westerdam at sea
Holland America Line's MS Westerdam at sea.Holland America Line

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

195 U.S. evacuees from Wuhan prepare to end 14-day quarantine

Nearly 200 evacuees prepared Tuesday to end their two-week quarantine at a Southern California military base where they have been living since flying out of China during the deadly viral outbreak.

The quarantine was in place to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

None of those who flew into March Air Reserve Base have tested positive for the coronavirus, health authorities said.

The group, which includes children, arrived from China on Jan. 29, taking chartered flights from Wuhan. — The Associated Press

Coronavirus fears cause building evacuation in Hong Kong

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

Hong Kong leader tells residents to stay at home “as much as possible”

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam on Tuesday appealed for residents to stay indoors as much as possible.

“As part and parcel of enhancing social distancing, we are making an appeal to the people of Hong Kong to stay at home as much as possible,” Lam told reporters.

“But at the moment, we’re making this appeal, we’re not going for compulsory closures because Hong Kong is a free society.”

Parts of Hong Kong, including restaurants, shopping malls and cafes, have been deserted as people work from home and schools remain closed. — Reuters

China’s leader appears in public wearing a mask

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.

"But we must have confidence," Xi added. "We shall overcome this virus." — The Associated Press, Reuters and Leou Chen

13th confirmed case of the coronavirus recorded in the United States

A case of the new coronavirus has been diagnosed in San Diego County, California, bringing the total number of cases in the U.S. to 13.

The patient had been evacuated from Wuhan and had been under a 14-day federal quarantine at the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, according to a statement from UC San Diego Health.

The patient, who was doing well and had minimal symptoms, was under observation and isolation at UC San Diego Health, the statement said. — Erika Edwards