Coronavirus updates: The latest news on the outbreak and the global response

There are now 18 countries that have confirmed cases of coronavirus. More than 7,700 people have been diagnosed with the virus in China and 170 people have died in that country.
iMAGE: A security official stands guard as an ambulance arrives with a coronavirus patient at Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong on Jan. 22, 2020.
A security official stands guard as an ambulance arrives with a coronavirus patient at the Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong on Jan. 22, 2020.Justin Chin / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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By Leticia Miranda, Jason Abbruzzese and Phil Helsel
  • Americans evacuated from area near Wuhan
  • Finland confirms its first case
  • British Airways halts flights to and from China
  • WHO to reconvene to discuss risk of global outbreak
  • Companies restrict employee travel

Trump announces 'coronavirus task force' to lead U.S. response

President Donald Trump on Wednesday announced the formation of the "president's coronavirus task force," which the White House says will lead the U.S. government’s response to the outbreak that has sickened thousands of people in China.

The novel coronavirus has been confirmed in five people in the U.S.

The task force is led by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, who has already played a role in the U.S. response to novel coronavirus, also known as 2019-nCoV.

By far, most of the confirmed novel coronavirus cases have been in China. There are more than 7,700 confirmed cases in that country and 170 deaths, Chinese health officials said Wednesday.

All five confirmed cases in the U.S. involved people who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the virus. The five are in isolation, and no person-to-person spread has been detected in the U.S., the CDC says.

"The Task Force will lead the Administration's efforts to monitor, contain, and mitigate the spread of the virus, while ensuring that the American people have the most accurate and up-to-date health and travel information," the White House said in a statement.

Azar said this week that "at this point, Americans should not worry for their own safety." The White House statement says the risk of infection for Americans remains low. "This virus is NOT currently spreading in the community in the United States," the CDC says. — Phil Helsel

U.S. will keep tariffs in place, White House advisor says

White House trade advisor Peter Navarro told CNBC on Wednesday that the U.S. will not lift tariffs on Chinese imports if the coronavirus begins to hurt China's economy.

“That’s a spin that’s coming right out of Wall Street, and it really, I think, it does a disservice to this whole crisis to bring that into the discussion,” Navarro said in response to a question about whether the U.S. would lift tariffs if the coronavirus crisis deepens.

China and the U.S. remain locked in a tense economic struggle. Two weeks ago, the two countries signed the first phase of a trade deal. U.S. tariffs on $360 billion in Chinese goods remain in place. — Jason Abbruzzese

Chinese goods, services expected to take a hit

The most significant economic impact of the virus will be in Chinese goods and services with reverberations around the world, according to a report from financial services company Moody's.

Moody's said it expects the outbreak to have a temporary impact on China’s economy. But the country’s consumer goods and services sectors will likely take the biggest hit, according to the report.

Chinese travel, transportation, lodging, restaurants, retail and services sectors will face a slowdown as people avoid crowded areas and international travel. Chinese travelers may avoid trips to Hong Kong, Macao, Thailand, Japan, Vietnam and Singapore, which have been the top destinations of Chinese tourists in recent years.

The virus will likely impact the country’s robust international manufacturing sector as workers become sick and companies face potential delays in production as a result of the Lunar New Year holiday. This could have a domino effect across the globe as China accounts for 27 percent of global manufacturing. — Leticia Miranda

Rep. Mark Green offers coronavirus basics

Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., posted a breakdown of some of the basics of the coronavirus on his Twitter account.

Green, a former emergency room physician, laid out the symptoms, mortality rate and precautions people can take to avoid getting sick — something he emphasized since it's flu season. — Jason Abbruzzese

Some U.S. stores sell out of face masks

Some stores in the U.S. are selling out of face masks, as concerns about the spread of the coronavirus in the U.S. grow.

“We have a huge epidemic of coronavirus anxiety in the U.S. and this purchasing and use of masks is a symptom of that,” Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told TODAY.

China has already seen a dramatic spike in demand for the masks. One Canadian company that says it sells face masks in China saw its stock surge by 70 percent. — Agnes Pawlowski

Google temporarily closing China offices amid outbreak

Google is temporarily closing its offices in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, according to CNBC.

"Google has at least four offices in China’s mainland and five in Taiwan, according to Google’s website. It is also telling current China employees who have immediate family members returning from the country to work from home for at least 14 days following their departure," CNBC's Jennifer Elias reported.

Online retail giant Amazon also said Wednesday that it is restricting business travel to and from China until further notice out of an abundance of caution over the coronavirus outbreak.— Jason Abbruzzese

Australia to quarantine hundreds of citizens

Australia is planning to quarantine hundreds of its citizens that are being evacuated from Wuhan, China, amidst the coronavirus outbreak.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that around 600 Australian citizens will be flown out of Wuhan and neighboring cities in China’s Hubei province and will be isolated for up to 14 days on Christmas Island, located about 1,600 miles northwest of Australia, in the Indian Ocean.

Christmas Island houses a controversial immigration facility that Australia used to detain asylum-seekers from 2003 until 2018. Morrison reopened the center in 2019, despite criticism from the United Nations that the country’s detention policies were “inhumane.” — Denise Chow

Experts worry coronavirus fears fueling xenophobia

As the coronavirus continues to spread, experts point out that misinformation and misguided precautions, often rooted in racially insensitive stereotypes, have proliferated.

Experts said they are concerned that increasing xenophobia could be another side effect of the illness.

“If anything, I am tempted to predict that xenophobia will rise in significance to precisely the degree to which our sources of information — all of them, not just media — give us stuff to panic about,” Robert Fullilove, a professor of sociomedical sciences at New York’s Columbia University Medical Center, told NBC News. “More panic, more temptation to blame the outsider -- the other.” — Julian Shen-Berro and Kimmy Yan

Coronavirus hits the movie industry

Chinese movies slated for release on the first Saturday of the country’s new year have been pulled from theaters amid the coronavirus outbreak, according to The Hollywood Reporter — a decision that could deal a major blow to the second-largest box office in the world behind the United States.

Chinese film distributors usually debut some of their biggest blockbusters over Lunar New Year week, and the country’s theaters had been projected to gin up as much as $1 billion in ticket sales over the next few days, THR reported.

IMAX, a Canada-based company that runs over 600 theaters across China, said in a statement that “the safety of Chinese audience is our top priority.”

“IMAX supports the decision to postpone the release of the Chinese New Year film slate and believes it to be the best course of action in an unfortunate situation,” the company said in a statement, adding: “We have every expectation that these films will be released in 2020 and that audience demand for these releases will remain high.” — Daniel Arkin

World Athletics postpones 2020 indoor championships

The World Athletics, the international governing body of a variety of sports including track and field, has postponed its indoor championships, which were scheduled to take place in Nanjing from March 13-15.

"We know that China is doing all it can to contain the new Coronavirus and we support them in all their efforts but it is necessary to provide our athletes, Member Federations and partners with a clear way forward in what is a complex and fast-moving set of circumstances," the organization said in a press release. "The advice from our medical team, who are in contact with the World Health Organisation, is that the spread of the Coronavirus both within China and outside the country is still at a concerning level and no one should be going ahead with any major gathering that can be postponed." — Jason Abbruzzese

Twitter introduces prompt on coronavirus

Twitter announced that it put in place a prompt on searches for coronavirus in an effort to direct people to "authoritative health sources." Various pieces of disinformation have circulated on social media about the virus. — Kalhan Rosenblatt

American Airlines cancels flights to Shanghai, Beijing

American Airlines said Wednesday morning that the company had suspended flights from Los Angeles to Shanghai and Beijing, citing a decline in demand.

The company is still flying from Dallas/Forth Worth in Texas to the two cities. — Jason Abbruzzese

Scientists work toward a vaccine

Scientists around the world are mobilizing to produce a vaccine that can help stop the new coronavirus.

While a vaccine is probably still at least a few months away, efforts to develop vaccines for previous coronavirus outbreaks combined with new technologies are shortening what remains a lengthy and arduous process.

Chinese scientists have already sequenced the genome of the virus — a string of more than 34,000 letters. Scientists in Australia were the first to grow the virus in a lab. — Denise Chow

American evacuees land in California

Finland confirms first case

Finland has confirmed its first case of coronavirus, according to Finnish news service Yle.

A hospital in Lapland found that a Chinese tourist visiting the country had contracted the virus. — Jason Abbruzzese

WHO to reconvene to assess threat

The head of the World Health Organization tweeted Wednesday that the group will reconvene to decide "whether the current outbreak constitutes a public health emergency of international concern."

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the WHO, wrote that person-to-person transmission in three countries outside of China created the potential for global spread of the coronavirus.

He also wrote that the WHO "deeply regrets" labeling the current risk as "moderate."

"This was a human error in preparing the report," he worte. "I have repeatedly stated the high risk of the outbreak." — Jason Abbruzzese

Governor of China's Hubei province: 'We will certainly win this hard battle.'

The Xinhua News Agency, China's state-run news operation, tweeted out video of a press conference in which the governor of China's Hubei provience, which includes the city of Wuhan, expressed confidence — while wearing a facial mask — that the country will be able to stop the coronavirus. — Jason Abbruzzese

Americans evacuated

American consulate personnel and citizens have been evacuated from an area of China close to the outbreak.

Their chartered flight made a refueling stop in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday night, where state health officials screened all 201 passengers. They were also monitored on the flight.

“All passengers had already been through two screenings in China and were monitored during the flight,” the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services said in a statement. “In Anchorage, all passengers were screened twice more and approved to continue on to California by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).”

The flight was cleared to proceed to California. — Jason Abbruzzese

Live map

There are now 17 countries that have confirmed cases of coronavirus.

More than 6,000 people have been diagnosed with the virus and 132 have died. — Jason Abbruzzese

Airlines on alert

British Airways said Wednesday that it has stopped flights to and from China, adding to a growing list of airlines that are reducing or entirely halting travel to the country.

Indonesia's Lion Air, South Korea's Air Seoul, Finland's Finnair, Air Canada and Singapore-based Jetstar Air have also reduced flights to China, NBC News' Patrick Smith reported. — Jason Abbruzzese

Facebook restricts China travel

Social media giant Facebook and other U.S. companies are restricting travel to China in an effort to keep employees safe, CNBC's Annie Palmer reported.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we have taken steps to protect the health and safety of our employees,” Facebook spokesperson Anthony Harrison said.

Companies have also been warning about broader disruptions to global business. Automakers have withdrawn employees from China, and Starbucks CEO Kevin Johnson told CNBC that the company had closed more than half of its stores in China and would not hesitate to close more. — Jason Abbruzzese

Denise Chow, Daniel Arkin, Kalhan Rosenblatt, Julian Shen-Berro, Kimmy Yam, Leticia Miranda and Jason Abbruzzese reported from New York, Yuliya Talmazan and Patrick Smith reported from London, Agnes Pawlowski reported from Atlanta, and Phil Helsel reported from Los Angeles.