Coronavirus Updates: Countries Intensify Efforts to Halt Outbreaks


Around the world, there were more than 90,000 cases and 3,000 deaths, with outbreaks in South Korea, Italy and Iran leading the authorities to take more drastic action. In Italy and Iran, all schools and universities have been ordered shut. Major conferences, trade shows, cultural events and sporting competitions have been canceled across Europe.

As the effects of the virus rippled around the world, with financial markets fluctuating wildly, the sense of crisis deepened in America.

The authorities in the Seattle area stepped up their efforts to contain an outbreak there, the worst so far in the country, closing a school district that serves 20,000 students — part of a global disruption that has affected roughly 300 million students.

A Seattle nursing home at the center of the outbreak will be the subject of a federal investigation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Most of the 10 victims of the virus in Washington have been residents of the facility, the Life Care Center in Kirkland.

Another fatality was reported late Wednesday in California, a 69-year-old man who had recently traveled aboard the detained cruise ship, the Grand Princess, which remains at sea while passengers are tested for the virus.

On the East Coast, the number of confirmed cases in New York jumped to 11, including a patient whose source of infection remained unclear. Hundreds of people who had contact with known patients were ordered to isolate themselves as transit officials sought to reassure a jittery public that the trains and subways were safe to ride.

With the prospect that the virus was spreading locally, there was a growing sense of anxiety in the city of New Rochelle in Westchester County, about 5 miles from the northern border of New York City. Normally crowded stores and shops were seeing a drop in business, and state officials warned of more cases to come.

Reports of the first positive case in New Jersey brought the number of states with infected patients to 17.

As the sense of urgency grew, lawmakers in Congress said they would devote $8.3 billion to fighting the virus. However, even as the federal authorities promised to step up testing and relaxed guidelines so that anyone could be tested with a doctor’s approval, there were concerns that the demand could overwhelm the health care system.

A cruise ship returning to California from Hawaii that has suspected links to two coronavirus cases, one of them fatal, is being held off the coast of San Francisco as public health officials prepared to screen everyone on the ship, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said on Wednesday.

Eleven passengers and 10 crew members on the boat were showing symptoms on Wednesday, the governor said. “That number may significantly understate” the scope of infection, he said, or “it may indeed be abundance of caution.”

“The ship will not come on shore until we appropriately assess the passengers,” Mr. Newsom added.

The governor also said that the state was declaring a state of emergency to help mobilize its response to the coronavirus outbreak. The number of cases in the state shot up to 54 on Wednesday, the most in the nation.

Mr. Newsom said that about 2,500 people, more than half of them Californians, had been aboard the ship, identified by its owners as the Grand Princess, during a recent voyage to Mexico from San Francisco.

One of those passengers died Wednesday in Placer County, Calif., the first U.S. coronavirus death outside Washington State and the 11th over all. Another passenger was being treated for the illness in Sonoma County. State and federal officials were racing to contact others who had been onboard.

Mr. Newsom said the ship had gone on to Hawaii after its stop in Mexico, and then had sailed back toward California with some passengers from the original San Francisco-to-Mexico leg of the voyage still onboard.

The person who died in Placer County had underlying health conditions and had been in isolation at a hospital after falling ill. Officials believe the patient was probably exposed to the virus on the San Francisco-to-Mexico part of the voyage last month.

Health officials in Los Angeles County announced six new cases on Wednesday, and Santa Clara County announced three more cases. The virus has been detected across the United States, but so far has been concentrated on the West Coast.

A person who conducted medical screenings at Los Angeles International Airport tested positive for the virus, the Department of Homeland Security said on Wednesday. The person last worked at the airport on Feb. 21, eight days before showing symptoms of infection, the agency said.

Each of the six new cases reported by Los Angeles County was linked to a known exposure, a history of international travel or contact with someone who had traveled or been diagnosed with the virus, officials said.

The authorities in Berlin are warning residents that the number of coronavirus cases will continue to rise. Three of the German capital’s 13 cases could not be traced to others in the city, raising the threat of local transmission.

“We must accept that this will continue and we will have more new cases confirmed,” said Dilek Kalayci, the local health minister. “No one is able to stop this from spreading.”

Many of Germany’s more than 400 cases stem from a man who took part in a Carnival celebration last month in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia, where hundreds of other revelers became infected. Among them was a Polish man who returned to his home country, bringing Poland its first recorded case of the illness.

Health experts at the Robert Koch Institute, Germany’s public health institute, urged officials around the country to continue with an aggressive strategy of ordering anyone who had come into contact with an infected person to stay at home.

Initial cases in Germany were traceable to northern Italy, the epicenter of the European outbreak. More than 3,000 people have been infected in Italy, and more than 100 deaths recorded. Switzerland has reported its first death from the virus, a 74-year-old woman who had a pre-existing illness.

But unlike in Italy, where officials have decided that all sporting events will take place in the absence of fans, or Switzerland, where the government has banned events involving more than 1,000 people, German officials are insisting that public life should be allowed to continue as normally as possible.

All primary schools in the Indian capital, New Delhi, were ordered closed on Thursday, affecting more than two million children as the authorities sought to prevent the small number of cases in the country from turning into a major outbreak.

In a tweet, Delhi’s deputy chief minister, Manish Sisodia, said the action was being taken “as a precautionary measure.”

Under the order, all public and private schools through the fifth grade will be closed from Friday until March 31. The sprawling city has more than 2,700 primary and pre-primary schools, according to recent government data.

The Indian government also said that all travelers from Italy and South Korea would be barred unless they could show proof that they had tested negative for coronavirus before leaving those countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also postponed plans for a March 13 visit to Brussels for a summit meeting between India and the European Union.

Iran is stepping up measures to control the spread of the coronavirus by temporarily shutting schools, universities and other education centers, and canceling concerts, sporting events and other large public gatherings, the state news media reported on Thursday.

Health Minister Said Nakami said at a news conference that the authorities would encourage people to reduce the use of paper money and that checkpoints would be imposed to restrict travel between major cities, The Associated Press reported.

Iran has been among the countries hardest hit by the outbreak, with the toll rising at a steady pace. On Thursday, officials said that 107 had died and 3,513 had been infected, news agencies reported.

Mr. Nakami said that the country was introducing a national mobilization plan in places where the virus has spread most rapidly, and that it would be expanded in the coming days, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

President Hassan Rouhani, in a statement issued Wednesday, said that almost all of the provinces in the country had been affected by the coronavirus.

“This disease is a widespread disease,” Mr. Rouhani said. “It has reached almost all our provinces, and in one sense it’s a global disease.”

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, on Thursday postponed a highly anticipated visit to Japan that would have been the first by a Chinese Communist Party chief in over a decade.

The announcement comes as both countries are taking stark measures to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.

The first cases of the virus appeared in China late last year, and over 80,000 of the more than 90,000 cases reported globally have been in China.

Since the country began taking draconian measures to stop its spread, however — including the largest lockdown in human history, with about 700 million people ordered to isolate themselves — the pace of new infections there has slowed. Now, new cases and related deaths outside China are outpacing those inside the country.

Japan had reported 33 new cases on Wednesday, its largest single-day increase since the outbreak there began. It now has 331 cases — not including those aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which was docked at Yokohama for several weeks in February.

While far short of the severity of the outbreak in South Korea, where there were 5,766 cases as of Thursday, the spread in Japan has attracted extra attention in part because the Summer Olympics are set to begin there in July.

Initial tests for the coronavirus of a New Jersey man who was hospitalized this week just across the Hudson River from New York City, came back positive, according to state officials.

The state Department of Health said it was waiting for a more detailed analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to confirm “presumptive positive results,” but the presence of the virus in New Jersey would bring the total number of states with patients to 17.

It was not immediately clear how the man contracted the virus.

The patient, a man in his 30s, went to the emergency room at Hackensack University Medical Center on Tuesday and presented symptoms that made the hospital’s staff suspect that he could be infected with the coronavirus, said Dr. Daniel Varga, the chief physician executive for Hackensack Meridian Health.

Dr. Varga said the patient was in stable condition on Wednesday night.

He said that the patient was in isolation and that workers who had treated the patient had taken the appropriate precautions to protect themselves. He added that the hospital was working with public health officials on quarantine protocols for staff members who came into contact with the patient.

Dr. Varga said that five to six patients had been tested for the coronavirus during the past five days, but that only one had tested positive.

A school district serving more than 20,000 students in the Seattle area said on Wednesday that it would cancel classes and shutter buildings for at least the next two weeks — the largest shutdown in the United States as a result of the outbreak.

The Northshore School District, based in the town of Bothell, Wash., is just north of the nursing home in Kirkland that is at the center of the state’s outbreak.

Superintendent Michelle Reid said in a letter to families that a parent volunteer at one of the district’s elementary school had tested positive for the virus. Twenty-six of the district’s schools have had some direct or indirect exposure, Ms. Reid said, adding that 20 percent of students did not attend classes on Wednesday.

“We have community members who are even now anxious about exposure risks and awaiting diagnosis either for themselves or a family member,” Ms. Reid said.

The nearby Monroe School District announced plans to close all of its schools Thursday for a day of cleaning and to allow time for contingency planning.

The announcements came on the same day that Facebook said a worker in the company’s Seattle offices had tested positive for the coronavirus, making it the second major tech company in the city to be affected.

The company said that its Seattle office would be closed for three weeks and that it had asked its Seattle-based employees to work from home until the end of this month.

Amazon and Microsoft have also told their employees to work from home.

The New York Times asked Chinese readers from around the world to share their views on how the country responded to the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Hubei Province in central China.

Most expressed serious disappointment in how the Chinese government has handled the crisis. But others argued that China, as a developing nation, has responded effectively. Here are some of their stories, edited and condensed for clarity.

I immediately ordered masks and disinfectant online for my family, and asked them not to leave our building complex unless there was something urgent. But then because the government dispelled the so-called rumors over and over again and blocked information, almost everyone began to let their guard down, and I was no exception. No freedom of speech and the misconduct of government officials are the main culprits that brought about this disaster, and made everyone so angry. — Liang Yi, Tianmen, Hubei Province

The outbreak has confirmed my belief that when looking at China, one must give it a fair assessment. I believe the critique of China during this outbreak is rather unfair. When critically analyzing the situation, one must keep in mind, despite all of the development since China’s economic miracle, China is still a developing nation. For a developing country, it has responded quite well. The mobilization of resources in response to the outbreak was only possible in a very centralized government. — Arthur Chan, London

I am currently going to medical school on Long Island, where I am a third-year medical student doing rotation at a hospital. Ever since the coronavirus outbreak, I have heard hospital staff “joking” about pandemics. They taunt about the foods people eat in China, as if all Chinese people are barbarians. They make statements about how Huoshenshan Hospital is actually a concentration camp incapable of taking care of patients. They ignore the Chinese government’s efforts to respond to the outbreak. — Yujie Jiang, Long Island

Reporting was contributed by Vindu Goel, Melissa Eddy, Michael Wolgelenter, Marc Santora, Niki Kitsantonis, Mitch Smith, Sarah Mervosh, Davey Alba, Mike Baker, Tiffany May, Claire Fu, Elaine Yu, Farah Stockman, Ed Shanahan, Neil Vigdor, Lauretta Charlton and James Gorman.





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