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Coronavirus live updates: State Department warns against cruise travel; Ted Cruz shook hands with CPAC patient

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/9/2020 Lateshia Beachum, Kim Bellware, Hannah Knowles, Brittany Shammas, Teo Armus

Slideshow by photo services

The coronavirus epidemic continued to prompt new travel restrictions and emergency declarations around the world, with the U.S. State Department on Sunday warning citizens against cruise travel and Italy resorting to a massive lockdown affecting millions of people.

The epidemic ravaging northern Italy can be traced to an outbreak at a car parts manufacturer in Germany, according to a study by Italian virologists — findings that are likely to shatter assumptions that German authorities had successfully contained the first major cluster in Europe.

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In the United States, the death toll rose to 21 on Sunday to include two more residents of an infection-stricken nursing home. U.S. cases have surpassed 500 and affected more than 30 states, as well as the District of Columbia, where a church rector had the city’s first confirmed infection. Maryland announced two more cases on Sunday, while Virginia reported one more. 

With positive cases reported among attendees of major gatherings — including a conservative conference attended by the president — some political organizations have reassessed their plans for large-scale events. But Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Sunday that he is moving forward with plans to hold campaign rallies ahead of Tuesday’s primaries in six states. 

In China, where the outbreak has begun to subside, a hotel in the southeast that served as a quarantine facility for 71 people collapsed late Saturday, killing at least 10 people and trapping scores in the rubble. 

Here are the latest developments:

  • U.S. citizens, particularly those with health issues, should not to travel by cruise ship, the State Department announced Sunday.
  • Nine patients have now tested positive in the D.C. area.
  • Seventeen of the coronavirus deaths in the country are in Washington state’s King County, where a nursing home outbreak has killed the elderly, strained staff and left families deeply worried.
  • Egypt announced its first coronavirus fatality, a 60-year-old German tourist.
  • After being stuck in limbo for days off the coast of San Francisco, the virus-stricken Grand Princess cruise ship is headed to Oakland, Calif., on Monday to dock, the cruise line said early Sunday.

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11:56 PM: Five new likely cases reported in Georgia, Hawaii

Health officials in Georgia and Hawaii reported new likely cases of the coronavirus Sunday, as the number of total cases in the United States continues to climb past 530.

In Georgia, Gov. Brian P. Kemp (R) said that four people in the greater Atlanta area had tested positive for the rapidly spreading virus.

All four — two in Cobb County, one in Cherokee County, and one in Fulton County — tested positive for covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. They have been hospitalized as their test results await confirmation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

None of the cases are related, Kemp said, and it is unclear how the people contracted the virus. Georgia had previously announced five confirmed cases of the virus, in addition to two other presumptive cases.

In Hawaii, Gov. David Ige (D) announced the state’s second likely case of the coronavirus late Sunday, in an elderly resident of Oahu.

The man had traveled to Washington state, Ige said at a news conference, according to KHON, and began to feel sick on March 2. Upon returning to Hawaii two days later, he went immediately to an urgent care facility and was then hospitalized.

Positive test results for both the Oahu man and Hawaii’s first reported patient are also awaiting CDC confirmation.

By: Teo Armus

11:52 PM: Universities switch to online classes temporarily amid coronavirus fears

Stanford University canceled in-person classes for the final two weeks of the quarter, switching to online instruction amid rising concern about the coronavirus outbreak.

As the coronavirus first reported in China spreads in the United States, several schools have taken this step as a precaution, hoping to avoid further infections on campus.

The University of Washington, which has more than 55,000 students on three campuses, announced Friday that it would switch to virtual classes, and some smaller schools in and near the hard-hit Seattle area, such as Pacific Lutheran University, announced similar plans.

On Sunday, Rice University in Houston canceled in-person classes for the week of March 9 and canceled gatherings of 100 or more people through the end of April. An employee tested positive for covid-19 earlier this week after traveling out of the country, university officials said in issuing the alert.

In New York, where multiple cases have been identified, Columbia University announced Sunday that classes were canceled Monday and Tuesday and that the university strongly discouraged nonessential gatherings of more than 25 people.

The decisions, which affect tens of thousands of students and faculty members, will be closely watched as university leaders grapple with how best to fight the outbreak.

Read more here.

By: Susan Svrluga

11:04 PM: Three states now have more than 100 coronavirus patients each 

Three states now have more than 100 coronavirus patients each as the number of cases in the United States tops 500.

Washington state continued to lead the country in confirmed patients, with public health authorities reporting 136 cases. Two newly announced deaths at a nursing home there pushed the state’s death toll to 18 on Sunday.

California on Sunday announced 114 positive tests, including 14 cases where the infection was transmitted in the community. More than 10,000 people in the state are self-monitoring after returning to the United States through San Francisco International Airport or Los Angeles International Airport, officials said.

New York’s case total reached 106, up 16 from the day before. Announcing the updated numbers at a news conference, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) slammed the federal government for not doing enough to allow widespread coronavirus testing and said that he would be “nervous” if the state’s patient tally did not increase.

“The more tests we run, the better,” Cuomo said.

By: Hannah Knowles


10:54 PM: Stocks plunge amid oil price war caused by coronavirus outbreak

Stock futures sank deep into the red Sunday, with the Dow Jones industrial average expected to open as much as 1,200 points down Monday morning, as a new oil war sparked by the coronavirus outbreak sent prices plummeting.

The price of West Texas Intermediate crude, largely used in the United States, fell from about $41 to $32 a barrel Sunday night, a low not seen in four years. Although the tumble should lower prices at the pump for consumers, it is terrible news for stock markets, as well as oil companies and their massive workforces, which could face hard times ahead.

Asian markets plunged on the news, with Japanese stocks falling 4 percent after they opened. Australia’s market declined 5 percent at the open. Meanwhile, the yield on the U.S. 10-year treasury momentarily slipped below .5 percent for the first time in history on Sunday night as investors fled for safe havens.

Read more: “Stock futures sink deep into the red as oil prices plummet and coronavirus fears spread”

By: Will Englund

10:45 PM: Puerto Rico announces first presumptive case of covid-19

Puerto Rico has announced it first presumptive case of covid-19 after an Italian tourist aboard a cruise ship from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., arrived in San Juan and began feeling ill.

Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced said the 68-year-old woman, who is from northern Italy, showed signs of respiratory distress similar to the virus’s symptoms while aboard the Costa Luminosa vessel. She was treated on board and transported early Sunday from the ship to the emergency room at Ashford Presbyterian Community Hospital in San Juan. The woman and her husband, who is not showing symptoms, were isolated at the hospital.

Last month, the governor put together a task force to prepare for the virus’s arrival but said the U.S. commonwealth did not have any local capacity for testing. Test kits would not be available on the island archipelago for at least another week. The specimen taken from the sick woman will be sent early Monday to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta for confirmation.

Puerto Rico has experienced an economic crisis that has led to a collapsing health-care system in recent years. Those problems have been aggravated by devastating natural disasters, including Hurricane Maria in 2017 and, more recently, successive powerful earthquakes. As one of the United States’ poorest territories, the island of more than 3 million people has a high prevalence of chronic disease, and more than half the population relies on government assistance for food and health care.

By: Arelis R. Hernández

9:31 PM: Virus’s spread in China continues to slow

China on Sunday announced 40 new cases of coronavirus and 22 additional deaths — a sign that the epidemic was continuing to slow in the country where it began.

Daily new infections in China had dropped into double digits Friday for the first time since figures began coming out in January.

As usual, the toll in China was concentrated in Hubei province, the outbreak’s epicenter. Twenty-one of the reported deaths were in Hubei, and 36 of the new cases were in its capital city, Wuhan. But even in Wuhan, Chinese officials have been signaling optimism. The Communist Party boss there said Friday he would begin a citywide “thankfulness education” campaign to encourage people to show their appreciation for leaders helping the country combat coronavirus.

China’s infections total 80,735, while deaths total more than 3,100, the government says.

More than 19,000 coronavirus patients remain in the hospital, with about 5,000 of them deemed critical, health authorities said. The government reports that 58,600 people have recovered and been discharged.

By: Lyric Li and Hannah Knowles

9:30 PM: Cruz, Gosar say they interacted with CPAC patient and will self quarantine 

Ted Cruz wearing a suit and tie: WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: (L-R) U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) question witnesses during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing concerning the role of aviation in containing the spread of infectious diseases, in the Russell Senate Office Building on March 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. The hearing examined the role of the global air transportation industry in mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 04: (L-R) U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) question witnesses during a Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation hearing concerning the role of aviation in containing the spread of infectious diseases, in the Russell Senate Office Building on March 4, 2020 in Washington, DC. The hearing examined the role of the global air transportation industry in mitigating the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19). (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
© Drew Angerer/AFP/Getty Images

HOUSTON — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) said Sunday that they interacted with an attendee at last month’s Conservative Political Action Conference who has tested positive for covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Cruz said that he shared a brief conversation and handshake with the attendee 10 days ago and that he is not experiencing any symptoms.

I feel fine and healthy,” he said.

According to his statement, Cruz was not required to self-quarantine but will stay at his Texas home “until a full 14 days have passed since the CPAC interaction.”

“Everyone should continue to treat this outbreak seriously and be driven by facts and medical science,” he said.

Gosar, who represents Arizona’s 4th Congressional District, tweeted Sunday evening that he and three of his senior staff members are under self-quarantine after “sustained contact at CPAC with a person who has since been hospitalized" with coronavirus. Gosar said his office will be closed for the week.

Late Saturday, the American Conservative Union announced that a person who attended CPAC less than two weeks ago had tested positive. President Trump, Vice President Pence and other top White House officials had appeared at the four-day event in Maryland.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham said neither Trump nor Pence was in “close proximity to the attendee,” but ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp told The Washington Post on Saturday that he had interacted with the infected person at the event. The precise chronology could not be learned, but Schlapp did shake Trump’s hand onstage on the last day of the conference.

By: Seung Min Kim

8:11 PM: D.C. woman unable to be tested highlights confusion

A story of a D.C. woman who had traveled through the Seoul airport and was unable to access a coronavirus test made the rounds on social media over the weekend, highlighting the confusion many Americans feel about the spread of the virus and who should be tested.

Maggie McDow, 46, of the Forest Hills section of the District, said that, to her alarm, the D.C. Department of Health overruled an emergency room doctor treating her Friday at George Washington University Hospital, preventing her from being tested for the virus. She wrote about the experience in a Facebook post shared widely on Saturday.

“It’s really worrisome to me when a doctor feels you should have a test and someone’s overruling them,” McDow said in a phone interview Saturday while self-quarantined with achiness and chills. “To me, that’s just wrong.”

A top Health Department official said McDow did not qualify for a test because airport exposure, even in a country such as South Korea with community spread of the disease, does not warrant testing. “We bring a different perspective to that single clinical encounter,” said Anjali Talwalkar, senior deputy director for the community health administration at the D.C. Department of Health. She made the comments Saturday evening at a news conference in the District. “An airport is not considered by CDC to be that kind of exposure.”

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) sought to quell concern about the case.

“I will be very sure that our health department has checked and double checked to make sure that we’re are making the test available to everyone who meets the guidelines,” she said at the news conference. She added that the District would consider contacting people who previously didn’t warrant testing, if the guidelines change.

The situation left McDow frustrated about halfway through a period of self-isolation that kept her away from her 13- and 14-year-old daughters for more than two weeks.

McDow rushed to her flight for a week-long trip to Thailand on Feb. 23. When she arrived on her layover in Seoul, she learned that the worries about the virus had exploded overnight. She quickly bought a face mask during her 1½-hour layover and proceeded to her connection. After a week in Thailand, she began to feel sick on her flight home to Dulles, and in the next few days twice contacted the D.C. Department of Health for guidance, she said.

She said she was told that she was low risk, but finally went to the emergency room at GWU Hospital, where she said a doctor ruled out the flu and other illnesses and wanted to test her for coronavirus, but District health officials refused.

“I didn’t know I should have stayed in Thailand to get better medical care,” McDow said. “We’re supposed to be the best in the world at this. There’s just a false sense of security.”

By: Jenna Portnoy

7:45 PM: Iowa announces first three cases, all passengers aboard cruise ship in Egypt

Iowa officials on Sunday evening announced the state’s first three cases of covid-19.

The patients live in Johnson County and were passengers aboard a cruise ship in Egypt, Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) told reporters at a news conference. One is between the ages of 41 and 60, while the others are between 61 and 80, officials said. Two had underlying health conditions.

The governor’s office said in a news release that none of the three required hospitalization and that all are recovering at home.

“While these are the first cases, it may not be the last and it’s why Iowans must continue to practice safe habits like hand washing and staying home from work when sick,” Reynolds said in the release.

By: Brittany Shammas

7:09 PM: Pelosi, Schumer call for paid sick leave, unemployment insurance in any stimulus plan

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said Sunday that any coronavirus economic stimulus plan from the administration must include paid sick leave and unemployment insurance, among other worker-friendly provisions.

Their statement comes as administration officials are considering a variety of economic responses to the coronavirus, including possibly targeted tax breaks for affected travel and tourism industries.

“We are demanding that the administration prioritize the health and safety of American workers and their families over corporate interests,” Schumer and Pelosi said.

They called for inclusion of paid sick leave; enhanced unemployment insurance; expanded food stamp, school lunch and other nutrition programs; widespread and free coronavirus testing; and anti-gouging provisions.

By: Erica Werner

6:28 PM: Italy provides the first glimpse of a coronavirus lockdown, European-style

ROME — Italy on Sunday implemented a complicated and urgent plan to restrict the movement of about 16 million people, a measure that unleashed confusion about how it could be enforced and whether it would be enough to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

The plan to lock down large swaths of the north was the first major attempt by a democracy during the coronavirus crisis to radically halt the routines of daily life — an effort that will have significant effects on civil liberties. But in the hours before and after the measure became law, people continued to stream out of the northern hubs of Milan and Venice on trains and planes for southern Italy or elsewhere in Europe.

Sunday, then, provided the first glimpse of a coronavirus lockdown, European-style — a test of how the open-borders spirit of this continent might change as countries grapple with the scale and risks of the disease.

Read more here.

By: Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli

6:08 PM: Maryland confirms two more coronavirus cases, bringing state’s total to 5

Two more people have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Maryland, bringing the state’s total confirmed cases to five, Gov. Larry Hogan (R) tweeted Sunday evening.

The two newly announced patients include a Harford County woman in her 80s and a Montgomery County man in his 60s. Both were infected overseas and were hospitalized, though the man has been released, authorities say.

Health officials do not believe there is a major risk of community exposure or a connection to earlier cases in Montgomery County, meaning the state has no evidence of community transmission.

“We continue to hope for the best, and actively plan for the worst,” Hogan said in a statement. “I encourage all Marylanders to remain calm, but to take this seriously and continue to stay informed.”

Sixty-two tests for the virus have come back negative, the governor said.

Hogan said he would update the public further at 3:30 p.m. Monday, nearly 22 hours after announcing the state’s new cases.

Spokesman Michael Ricci said the governor has a previously scheduled appearance at a conference of firefighters and a noon call about the coronavirus response with Vice President Pence and other governors.

The event will also serve as a bill-signing ceremony for an emergency measure that grants him immediate access to up to $50 million to respond to the crisis. The governor declared a state of emergency late last week as Maryland announced its first positive tests. Nine people have now tested positive in the D.C. region.

By: Erin Cox and Hannah Knowles

5:51 PM: Canada to evacuate citizens on board the Grand Princess cruise ship

TORONTO — Canada will evacuate its citizens from the Grand Princess cruise liner, the country’s foreign ministry said Sunday, after the United States asked its northern neighbor for assistance repatriating Canadians.

“Given our shared border, Canada recognized the importance of working together with the United States to limit the spread of covid-19 within North America and beyond,” said a statement from Global Affairs Canada, referring to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. “The extent and frequency of interaction amongst cruise passengers and the close quarters found on most cruise ships presents a unique environment where covid-19 can easily spread.”

A government-chartered plane will evacuate the 237 Canadians who are on the ship. The plane will depart San Francisco and arrive at a Canadian military base in Trenton, Ontario, where the passengers will be quarantined for 14 days.

It is not clear when the flight will depart. The ship, which is carrying more than 3,500 people, is expected to dock in Oakland, Calif., on Monday.

More than 50 people in four provinces have tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Canada. Most of the cases are travel-related, but there has been community transmission in British Columbia, where officials declared an outbreak at a long-term care home on Saturday. Several provinces have cases linked to the Grand Princess.

Adrian Dix, the provincial health minister, urged Canadians to reconsider cruises. “There are risks that can’t fully be calculated right now,” he told reporters.

By: Amanda Coletta

5:38 PM: U.S. can impose lockdown similar to Italy’s on parts of the country, health official says

The United States could follow Italy’s recent plan to restrict a large portion of its population to prevent the new coronavirus from spreading, according to the government’s top health expert.

Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, told Fox News’s Chris Wallace on Sunday that it’s possible for the country to implement a policy similar to Italy’s. The boot-shaped country launched a plan early Sunday morning that will limit about 16 million people in much of the northern areas from moving about.

“You don’t want to alarm people, but given the spread we see, you know, anything is possible,” Fauci said. “That’s the reason why we’ve got to be prepared to take whatever action is appropriate to contain and mitigate the outbreak.”

Fauci, a prominent expert on infectious diseases, went on to say that a vaccine that proves to be effective against the novel coronavirus will probably take about a year or a year and half. The comment was in contrast to President Trump’s comments last week that a vaccine could be available within months.

“The test we’re doing right now, getting it into phase one trial, is the fastest we’ve ever done,” Fauci said. “Don’t confuse that with when you can put it in someone’s arm in a deployable way.”

Fauci also clarified who can get tested with the 1.1 million Centers for Disease Control and Prevention kits distributed to nonpublic health labs. Vice President Pence said earlier Sunday anyone seeking a test can get one.

A doctor actually orders the test for a person, Fauci said. He warned the public, especially elderly people and those with underlying health conditions, to distance themselves from crowds or public places. “Above all, don’t get on a cruise ship,” he said. “That is a health issue.”

By: Lateshia Beachum

4:50 PM: U.S. citizens should not travel by cruise ship, State Department says

U.S. citizens, particularly those with health issues, should not travel by cruise ship, the State Department announced Sunday.

Warning Americans of the risks they could face if they depart on cruises, the State Department noted that other countries with strict screening procedures have stopped passengers on cruise ships from disembarking or subjected them to lengthy quarantine periods. Americans aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in January and February were eventually evacuated and isolated for two weeks after being stranded for weeks aboard the ship as eight people died and 700 passengers became infected.

“While the U.S. government has evacuated some cruise ship passengers in recent weeks, repatriation flights should not be relied upon as an option for U.S. citizens under the potential risk of quarantine by local authorities,” the announcement said.

The State Department’s guidance echoed a warning that Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, gave during a Sunday appearance on Fox News. Fauci said that people with underlying health conditions, especially the elderly, should “absolutely” not get on a cruise ship.

“Right now, I’m telling the American people … that if you are an individual who has an underlying condition, particularly an elderly person with an underlying condition … you should start to distance yourself from the risk, crowds, getting on a plane, on a long plane trip, and, above all, don’t get on a cruise ship,” he said. “That is a health issue.”

The State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment seeking further information on the announcement.

By: Kim Bellware

4:17 PM: U.S. fatalities rise to 21 as two more Washington nursing home residents die

The coronavirus death toll in the nation rose to 21 on Sunday as public health authorities said two more residents of an infection-stricken nursing home in Washington state had died.

Seventeen coronavirus deaths have been reported to officials in King County, where an outbreak at the Life Care Center in Kirkland has ravaged the elderly, strained staff and left families deeply worried. As of late Saturday, all but one of the county’s deaths are associated with the nursing facility, authorities said. The elderly are most vulnerable to the infections.

The two new fatalities announced Sunday are a woman in her 80s who died Friday and a man in his 90s who died Thursday. Both were hospitalized.

Washington has been hit hardest by the virus in the United States, with more than 100 cases and now 18 deaths. A patient also died in California, and Florida announced two deaths on Friday, the first outside the West Coast.

King County’s cases rose by 12 through Saturday to 83.

Sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked within the newsletter are free to access.

By: Hannah Knowles

4:16 PM: Apple CEO, citing coronavirus concerns, says most global employees can work remotely in week ahead

Apple employees in at least 10 of the company’s worldwide offices have the option to work from home in the coming week, chief executive Tim Cook announced in a Sunday memo to employees, according to Bloomberg News.

The announcement expands on the company’s earlier offer to California- and Washington-based employees to work remotely in an effort to mitigate the potential spread of the novel coronavirus during what Cook called “a challenging moment.”

“Please feel free to work remotely if your job allows” for the week of March 9 to 13, Cook wrote.

The offer applies to Apple’s corporate offices in the United States, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

The remote work offer appears to apply only to employees at major corporate offices and not in retail stores.

With its global footprint and a supply chain tied closely to China, Apple stands to be especially harmed by the outbreak; all 42 of its stores in China were shuttered in January (nearly all have since reopened) and Chinese factory closures caused enough slowdowns in iPhone manufacturing that the company last month lowered its second-quarter earnings expectations.

By: Kim Bellware

3:48 PM: Saudi Arabia flooding market with oil, prompting predictions of further decline Monday

Saudi Arabia is making a 180 degree turn and moving to flood a market depressed by the coronavirus with hundreds of thousands of barrels of additional oil per day. And it is offering steep discounts to refineries around the world.

It’s the beginning of an oil price war between the Saudis and Russia – but it’s going to put a tight squeeze on American shale oil producers, as prices are expected to head sharply downward. While it lasts, of course, that’s good news for oil consumers but a concern in areas of the country that rely on jobs in the energy sector.

West Texas International crude, one of the industry’s price benchmarks, fell 10 percent Friday before the Saudi announcement, closing at $41.28 a barrel. Analysts expect it to fall into the $30’s – perhaps deeply into the $30’s – when markets open Monday. The last time West Texas Intermediate fell below $40 was in August 2016.

Read more here.

By: Will Englund

3:44 PM: San Antonio bracing for more infected and exposed cruise ship passengers after botched release last week

San Antonio city officials learned late Saturday that Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland will receive up to 120 cruise ship passengers from California for quarantine.

The announcement came after a week of tensions between the city and federal officials following the botched release of an infected patient into San Antonio last week. City leaders sued the federal government to demand greater protection protocols and more information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention teams working on the ground. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services called Mayor Ron Nirenberg directly with the news of the passengers, city officials confirmed. The latest cohort will bring the number of evacuees San Antonio has hosted to more than 300 since February.

San Antonio will again be charged with transporting the infected but asymptomatic patients from the Grand Princess cruise ship to local hospitals to be isolated in negative pressure rooms. It’s still unclear how many, but leaders say they have limited spots — about a dozen — left while 10 infected patients from the previous cohort of cruise ship passengers remain at the Texas Center for Infectious Disease awaiting release.

The majority of quarantined people are Texas residents. They could arrive as early as Monday night.

Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said he stands with the city of San Antonio in obtaining reassurance from federal officials to keep the quarantine as secure as possible to protect the public from possible spread.

“All of the repatriated citizens will remain at Lackland under quarantine until they clear the revised and heightened testing protocol to ensure they are not affected by the COVID-19 virus,” the governor’s office said in a statement, referring to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

The patients will be released home “using the same public safety protocol used for the Diamond Princess passengers who were previously quarantined at Lackland.”

The state also confirmed the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has taken over quarantine operations from the CDC after the episode involving the release of the infected patient.

By: Arelis R. Hernández

3:22 PM: Gates-backed project may introduce home-testing kits

A project backed by billionaire Bill Gates may soon offer home-testing coronavirus kits, the Seattle Times reported Sunday. The kits will allow people who think they may have the virus to swab their noses and send the samples to a lab for analysis. After one or two days, results will be shared with local health authorities.

It is not immediately clear when the project will launch, but in its initial phase, it will be able to test up to 400 samples a day, said Scott Dowell, who heads the coronavirus response at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The foundation announced last week that it is committing $5 million to assist public health agencies in the Seattle metropolitan area, which has emerged as an epicenter for the virus in the United States. Sixteen people have died from the novel coronavirus in Washington state. A majority of them have been linked to the Life Care Center, a nursing home just outside Seattle.

Sign up for our Coronavirus Updates newsletter to track the outbreak. All stories linked within the newsletter are free to access.

By: Rebecca Tan

2:55 PM: Grand Princess passengers to be quarantined at military bases in California, Georgia and Texas: HHS

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Sunday identified the four federal facilities to which the more than 3,000 passengers aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship will be transferred as they begin a 14-day mandatory quarantine. Passengers and crew members have been stranded for two weeks aboard the cruise liner and have been circling the waters off the California coast in recent days as at least 21 passengers on board have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

HHS still has not said what time the cruise ship will temporarily dock in Oakland, Calif., when it pulls into the non-passenger port Monday, but the department said in a statement that nearly 1,000 passengers who are California residents will go into isolation at Travis Air Force Base, about 50 miles northeast of Oakland and Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.

Travis Air Force Base also served as the quarantine location for passengers evacuated last month from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

Residents from other states will complete their quarantine period at Joint Base San Antonio Lackland in Texas or Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia.

The news was met with criticism from at least one Texas congressman who voiced his displeasure over the decision shortly after the HHS announcement.

"While appropriate that Texans are helping Texans, San Antonio has been placed on the front lines of this pandemic without adequate federal support,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) said in a statement Sunday. Doggett urged the cruise ship passengers to remain at Lackland saying San Antonios’ health system had limited capacity to test people.

It was unclear now many international passengers are aboard the ship, but HHS said the State Department is working with passengers’ home countries to handle repatriation.

By: Kim Bellware

2:24 PM: Va. officials say two presumptive cases pose low community risk

The two presumptive cases of the novel coronavirus in Virginia pose a low risk of exposure to the general public, state officials said in a news conference Sunday. The two individuals, whose identities have been withheld to protect their privacy, appear to have contracted the virus while traveling.

The Fairfax City resident in his 80s who tested positive Saturday was showing symptoms similar to other cases in the nation after returning from a Nile cruise. He developed signs of sickness Feb. 28 and was hospitalized Mar. 5 with fever, fatigue and shortness of breath, said Benjamin Schwartz, Fairfax County’s lead epidemiologist. As of Sunday, he was in stable condition.

The individual had “very little exposure” to the community after returning home and had no interaction with school-age children before being hospitalized, Schwartz said. The resident’s spouse is not showing symptoms of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, but is being tested.

The other case in Virginia involves a U.S. Marine who lives on Marine Corps Base Quantico but is receiving treatment at Fort Belvoir. He was traveling overseas when he developed symptoms Feb. 14, officials said. He returned to the United States Feb. 17 and was hospitalized several days ago. The Defense Department is leading the effort to trace his contacts, local authorities said. It is not clear whether he interacted with school-age children or the elderly before being hospitalized.

As of Sunday, Virginia has two kits that can be used to test up to 400 people — an adequate amount given the number of existing cases, said the state’s director of lab services, Denise Toney. More test kits are on their way, she added.

Jeff McKay, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, added that the county is well-resourced, and: “No one should panic. That’s the number one thing we need from the public.”

By: Rebecca Tan

2:20 PM: Sanders says he will press ahead with campaign rallies amid coronavirus crisis

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) said Sunday he is moving forward with plans to hold campaign rallies ahead of Tuesday’s primaries in six states despite mounting public concerns about the spread of the novel coronavirus.

With the U.S. outbreak now affecting 30 states, some political organizations have reassessed their plans for conferences and large-scale events. The AFL-CIO, the largest group of labor unions in the country, announced it is canceling its presidential forum, which had been scheduled for Thursday in Orlando. Sanders and his main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, former vice president Joe Biden, had planned to attend.

Sanders said Sunday his own campaign is full steam ahead — barring any advice to the contrary from public health officials.

“We are in communications with public health officials wherever we go,” Sanders said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union” when asked whether he would consider curtailing his travel or political rallies to curb Americans’ possible exposure to the coronavirus.

He added: “We will not endanger the health of anybody in this country. … We are watching this thing very, very carefully. What is most important is the health of the American people.”

Biden appears to be moving ahead with his scheduled events as well. On Sunday his campaign announced Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), who just endorsed Biden, will join the former vice president for a get-out-the-vote event Monday in Detroit.

Read more here.

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By: Felicia Sonmez, Juliet Eilperin and Paige Winfield Cunningham

2:18 PM: First confirmed case of coronavirus in D.C. is the rector of Christ Church Georgetown

The first confirmed case of the coronavirus in the District is the rector of Christ Church Georgetown, church and city officials said Sunday.

The Rev. Timothy Cole, the church’s top-ranking clergyman, tested positive Saturday, a church official said. D.C. officials confirmed he was the same man in his 50s with no recent international travel whom they identified as the first presumptive case.

The historic Episcopal church canceled Sunday services and has been calling and emailing parishioners. Cole has been hospitalized since Thursday and is in stable condition, officials said. His wife and son are self-quarantining in their home.

Church spokesman Rob Volmer said Cole fell ill shortly after returning from a Feb. 22 Episcopal conference in Louisville, KY. He said Cole’s health improved before he oversaw services last week attended by 550 people.

Cole did not appear to show symptoms then, had been vigilant about using hand sanitizer and washing his hands, and had spent part of his services reminding parishioners about good hygiene practices, Volmer said. Cole’s health deteriorated in the days after the Sunday services before his Thursday hospitalization.

Cole told parishioners there was “no need to panic” in a Sunday email.

“First, I want to assure you that I will be okay,” Cole wrote. “I am receiving excellent care and am in good spirits under the circumstances. I will remain quarantined for the next 14 days as will the rest of my family.”

By: Fenit Nirappil

2:07 PM: Italian virologists trace coronavirus outbreak in Italy to German car parts manufacturer

BERLIN — The coronavirus epidemic ravaging northern Italy can be traced to an outbreak at a car parts manufacturer in Germany, according to a study by Italian virologists, findings that are likely to shatter assumptions that German authorities had successfully contained the first major cluster in Europe.

Virologists at the Luigi Sacco University Hospital in Milan have tested the sequences of the virus that has infected at least 6,387 people in Italy and killed 366 and they closely match those from the outbreak in southern Germany in January, said Massimo Galli, head of infectious diseases at the institute. A paper will be published soon, he said. The Webasto outbreak in January, which infected 16 people, had been held up as an example of how to contain the virus through rapid testing and isolation. The company’s offices were shut down for two weeks after the first infection was detected following a visit by an employee from Shanghai who later tested positive.

“That virus probably spread more than recognized,” Galli said of the cluster in Bavaria.

A person infected with the virus then probably traveled from Germany to Lombardy, the region of Italy hit hardest by the virus, in late January, and it spread undetected in the community for at least two or three weeks. The area’s aging population has been particularly vulnerable.

“The sequences are so close that it’s very probable that at least a large part of the epidemic happening in Italy was generated by a virus introduction” from Bavaria, Galli said, adding that the same infection chain spread from Italy to other European and South American countries.

The findings also underscore the challenges of containing the virus within the open borders of Europe. Italy had acted swiftly to stop flights from China in late January after two Chinese tourists tested positive.

“The intervention of our government to stop flights from China, an intervention which was particularly cautious, probably was nullified by the penetration of the virus in a way that was completely unexpected,” Galli said.

By: Loveday Morris

1:34 PM: German tourist dies in Red Sea hospital, in Egypt’s first virus-related death

CAIRO — A 60-year-old German tourist died in a Red Sea hospital after being infected with the coronavirus, Egypt’s Health Ministry said in a statement. The tourist’s death is the country’s first related to the virus.

The tourist had been in Egypt for seven days, the Health Ministry said. He traveled Friday from Luxor in southern Egypt to Hurghada along the country’s Red Sea coast where he experienced symptoms. He tested positive at a hospital and was placed in intensive care after refusing to be quarantined at another medical facility, the Health Ministry said. His condition deteriorated Sunday, authorities said.

His death came a day after Health Ministry officials announced 33 new cases of the virus on a Nile cruise ship that traveled from Aswan and docked in Luxor Friday. The 19 infected passengers on the ship included Americans and 14 Egyptians. Twelve crew members reportedly had tested positive for the virus, but Egypt’s health minister said 11 of the Egyptian cases later tested negative. It’s not known whether the German tourist was a passenger on the ship.

The total number of coronavirus cases in Egypt stands at 49. They include a Chinese citizen who later recovered, a Canadian oil worker and an Egyptian who recently returned from Serbia.

By: Sudarsan Raghavan

1:03 PM: Grand Princess captain tells passengers specific arrival time remains uncertain

The Grand Princess continues floating off the San Francisco coast with plans to dock at the Port of Oakland on Monday, but the specific time of arrival remains unclear, the ship’s captain told passengers Sunday morning.

He said one passenger needing hospital care would be taken off the ship Sunday but government authorities have not yet told cruise officials when the remaining passengers would be able to arrive at port.

“We know this will be a disappointment to you, and we share in that disappointment,” he said in the message, which was broadcast over the ship’s loudspeakers. “However, we are required to follow the government instructions.”

A passenger shared a recording of the message with The Washington Post.

More than 3,500 people are aboard the Grand Princess, and of the 46 tested for the coronavirus so far, 21 have tested positive. When the ship docks, the cruise line says, guests who are California residents will undergo health screenings and go to federal facilities in the state, while Americans from other states will be taken to locations elsewhere in the country. The crew will be quarantined and treated aboard, the cruise line said Saturday.

The captain said the ship would rendezvous with a U.S. Coast Guard cutter to collect prescription medicines and other medications for people on board. One of the passengers requires “shoreside hospital care,” he said, so that person will go to shore. The captain did not elaborate on the person’s condition or say whether the person was among those who tested positive. Cruise officials are hopeful for more details about arrival plans, the captain said, while acknowledging the difficulty of the “unusual circumstances” facing the passengers and crew alike.

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By: Mark Berman

12:40 PM: Pence addresses concern about mask supplies, says more than a million tests distributed

Vice President Pence said Sunday that Congress will seek to ensure that health-care workers have access to needed masks when treating patients diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, as hospitals across the nation struggle to keep an adequate supply on site.

In an interview with Fox News’s Jeanine Pirro, Pence, who has been tasked with leading the administration’s response to the virus, said the manufacturing conglomerate 3M has been producing 35 million masks a month since January. “They ramped up when they heard about coronavirus,” he said. The FBI made a bulk order with 3M last month as part of its “pandemic preparedness.”

Federal regulations require hospital workers to throw away masks after a single use. Washington state officials have scrambled to have enough masks for health-care workers who are at the forefront of combating the spread of the virus. The state had the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States as of Saturday. Pence reiterated that for most Americans, the threat of contracting the virus is low unless there are underlying health conditions. He also backed up President Trump’s Friday assertion that the distribution of coronavirus testing kits has been good.

“Every state lab in the country can actually conduct coronavirus testing today,” Pence said, stressing that more than a million tests have been distributed. He also credited the president with getting two commercial laboratories to collaborate on creating test kits for the virus that he said will be market-ready by the end of the week. The test includes a cotton swab that goes in the nose and can be processed in about four to six hours, he said.

Stephen M. Hahn, commissioner of food and drugs for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, said in a statement Saturday that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has shipped enough test kits to public health laboratories to evaluate about 75,000 people.

“All public health laboratories that originally received a CDC test have received replacement tests,” he said, adding that more than 1.1 million tests have been sent to nonpublic health labs. “Laboratories in areas with the highest need for testing based on the outbreak have received additional tests, however, all state public health labs now have tests available to them,” Hahn said.

More than 1,500 patients have been evaluated using the CDC tests, he said.

By: Lateshia Beachum

12:03 PM: HUD Secretary Ben Carson refuses to discuss plan for 3,500 passengers on Grand Princess cruise ship

Federal officials gave no clear answer Sunday about what its role or response would be when 3,500 passengers stranded for two weeks aboard the Grand Princess cruise liner finally disembark in Oakland, Calif., on Monday. At least 21 passengers on the ship have tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

In an appearance Sunday morning on ABC News’s “This Week,” Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson refused to discuss details of the federal response plan. Carson would share only that Vice President Pence and CEOs of major cruise lines met Saturday and would come up with a plan “within 72 hours of that meeting.”

When pressed to give details on a plan with imminent implementation, Carson demurred, saying such an announcement should come from “one solitary person,” presumably Pence, whom President Trump put in charge of leading the U.S. response to the outbreak.

“The plan will be in place by that time, but I don’t want to preview the plan right now,” Carson said, explaining the plan “hadn’t been fully formulated."

The Trump administration has faced criticism for its handling of the epidemic, including its slow response in the early days of the outbreak and its delay in helping state and local officials on the front lines of the crisis prepare.

California officials on Sunday were more forthcoming about plans at the state and local level: Passengers needing urgent care will be treated at hospitals after they disembark; uninfected or asymptomatic passengers from California — roughly one-third of the passengers on the Grand Princess — will be held and tested in federally run isolation facilities in the state; and passengers from out of state will be taken to federal facilities outside California, the Los Angeles Times reported.

By: Kim Bellware

11:32 AM: CPAC chair says he has spoken to patient, talked to own doctor and taken precautions

American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp said Sunday in a Fox News interview that he had “incidental contact” with an attendee at the Conservative Political Action Conference who has since tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The brief interaction occurred nearly two weeks ago at the American Conservative Union-hosted conference in Maryland, which many White House officials attended. Schlapp, 52, said on “Fox & Friends Weekend” he had a phone conversation Saturday night with the patient, who is being treated in New Jersey and “seems to be on the mend.” The conservative grass-roots leader said he has been talking to his own doctor and taking precautions.

“I feel healthy as a horse. My kids do, as well,” he said. “So there is no indications from anybody I’ve talked to that there are any more problems.”

President Trump and Vice President Pence also attended the conference, but White House spokeswoman Stephanie Grisham told The Washington Post that neither of them had met or were in contact with the ill person. Schlapp echoed the White House’s statement, adding that during the event he saw the president “scrub down his hand and clean his hands.”

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) advised conference attendees to check their temperature twice a day and notify their medical provider and health officials if they reach a temperature of 100.4 or more. Anyone with a fever, a cough or trouble breathing should remain in their home until a health-care provider or the local health department instructs otherwise, Hogan said.

Schlapp said he would release more information “as we learn it.”

“I want to reiterate,” he said, “nobody who was at the conference should panic about what happened.”

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By: Lateshia Beachum

11:12 AM: No new Maryland cases as Gov. Hogan says state is doubling testing capacity

No new test results came back positive overnight, Maryland officials announced Sunday. The state stopped updating the public on the number of pending results because testing is no longer centralized in a state lab. Private laboratories also are conducting tests. Maryland announced three positive cases on Friday.

Maryland officials said they are working with Conservative Political Action Conference organizers to trace the interactions of a New Jersey patient with coronavirus who attended CPAC’s event at National Harbor in Prince George’s County in late February.

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) said in an appearance Sunday on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” the state’s testing capacity is about to double and, “at this point in time, we have the necessary resources.”

But he also cautioned the coronavirus crisis “is escalating so rapidly. Information is changing on a daily basis, but also on an hourly basis.”

Hogan, who at times criticized President Trump’s style and decisions on other matters, did not answer whether he thought Trump might undermine the effectiveness of the federal response.

“Has the president been perfect in his communication? I can say he hasn’t communicated the way I would and the way I might like him to, but I think the rest of the team has been doing a pretty good job,” the governor said.

The expansion of testing beyond state laboratories also has widened the criteria for who can be tested for the virus. State guidance issued to physicians late Friday said, “Testing at commercial or hospital laboratories does not require health department review or approval, and is based on the clinical judgment of the health care provider.”

By: Erin Cox

10:53 AM: Virginia officials announce second presumptive case of coronavirus

Virginia has its second presumptive case of coronavirus, health officials announced Sunday, bringing the total number of cases in the Washington area to seven.

Officials described the second presumptive positive patient as a Fairfax resident in their 80s who recently traveled on a Nile River cruise similar to other patients who have tested positive for covid-19. The patient was hospitalized on Thursday after developing symptoms a week earlier.

This announcement comes less than a day after the state announced its first presumptive positive patient — a U.S. Marine assigned to Fort Belvoir in Fairfax County. The patient returned recently from “official business” overseas, tweeted Jonathan Rath Hoffman, assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs.

The Virginia Health Department said the state government is working with officials at the hospital and described the risk to the general public as low.

In addition to the two cases in Virginia, D.C. has reported two patients and Maryland has three.

Read more here.

By: Kim Bellware and Rebecca Tan

10:27 AM: Saudi Arabia isolates key province in coronavirus outbreak

ISTANBUL — Saudi Arabia suspended travel to and from a key eastern province and ordered businesses and government offices there closed after confirming four new cases of the novel coronavirus on Sunday, bringing the total number of infections to 11.

Authorities temporarily restricted traffic in and out of Qatif province, state media reported, quoting an official at the Interior Ministry. The official told the Saudi Press Agency that the measures were being taken to “prevent the spread of the virus” after all 11 cases were detected in Qatif. The region has a majority-Shiite population, and some of the first cases appeared in residents who recently had traveled to Iran, the epicenter of a wider outbreak across the Middle East. Qatif also has been the site of political and sectarian unrest against Saudi Arabia’s Sunni rulers.

Authorities said Sunday Qatif residents would be allowed to return home but all businesses and government departments in the province should be closed, with the exception of “basic facilities to provide security … [and] supply necessary services.” A resident of Qatif said roads out of the province already had been blocked. Authorities in a text message sent to teachers announced classes would be suspended for two weeks, according to a resident.

By: Erin Cunningham

9:52 AM: Trump defends ‘fine tuned’ coronavirus plan as virus continues to spread

President Trump on Sunday continued to defend his administration’s efforts to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the nation, even as infections emerge in more states.

The White House has a “fine-tuned plan” against the spread of the novel coronavirus, Trump tweeted Sunday morning.

“We moved very early to close borders to certain areas, which was a Godsend,” he wrote, praising Vice President Pence — the administration’s point person on the response to the outbreak — for his efforts against the virus. “The Fake News Media is doing everything possible to make us look bad. Sad!”

The president’s tweet came shortly after Virginia officials announced a second presumptive case Sunday morning, just a day after reporting its first case. Washington also announced its first two confirmed cases Saturday night. Trump was criticized Friday for remarks in which he appeared to discredit medical professionals standing next to him and rebuffed accusations that the administration has been slow in distributing coronavirus testing kits.

As The Post reported, the administration’s effort “has been undermined by mixed messages, contradictions and falsehoods — many of them emanating from the president himself, including this week when he repeatedly spread false information about just how soon a coronavirus vaccine would be available.”

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By: Lateshia Beachum

9:00 AM: Hong Kong announces third coronavirus fatality amid fears of outbreak resurgence

BEIJING — Hong Kong’s Hospital Authority said Sunday evening that a 76-year-old woman died, marking the third coronavirus fatality in the semiautonomous city, as a government adviser warned the epidemic may flare up again at the end of the year.

The total number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong rose to 113 on Sunday as authorities confirmed four more infections, including a man who contracted the virus while traveling in Mumbai, officials said.

Fifty-eight people have so far recovered and been discharged, the Hospital Authority added.

Hong Kong, adjacent to mainland China and one of the hardest-hit centers during the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak, has enacted some of the most stringent response measures in the world, including widespread school closures.

But a leading microbiologist who advises city officials warned cases might return in the winter as the virus spreads around the world from China and back. University of Hong Kong professor Yuen Kowk-yung said in a television interview Sunday, “we think the epidemic will not come to an end” by late 2020.

“There will be what we called reverse import cases,” Yuen said, according to the South China Morning Post. “In the beginning other countries feared us, now we fear them.”

To prevent the contagion from being brought back to the Asian travel hub, Hong Kong has enacted mandatory 14-day quarantines for travelers arriving from Iran and some parts of South Korea and Italy.

Mainland China is enforcing similar quarantine measures as its number of cases brought in from abroad soar, reaching 63 as of Saturday.

By: Gerry Shih

8:51 AM: WHO praises Italian lockdown of the north to stop virus spread

ROME — The World Health Organization is praising Italy for its “genuine sacrifices” after the country announced it would greatly restrict movement across its northern regions to contain its coronavirus outbreak.

“The government & the people of Italy are taking bold, courageous steps aimed at slowing the spread of the #coronavirus & protecting their country & world,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a tweet on Sunday.

Italy overnight announced it would lock down three broad sections of the north, encompassing 85 percent of the country’s total coronavirus cases. As of Sunday afternoon, there was still plenty of confusion about how the measures would be carried out or enforced.


Planes and trains were still running — with flights departing for international destinations from Milan and Venice — and it was unclear whether there was tighter screening for people getting on board. One government official in Rome, whose office was involved in the new decree, said dealing with the outgoing trains and planes was a “problem.”

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, in his middle-of-the-night news conference, said people were allowed to leave the restricted zones only for emergencies, health issues or urgent work matters. “Not everything will stop,” Conte said. “But from now on, we need to adopt the viewpoint that there are rules that need to be respected.”

In a morning press briefing, the governor of the northern Veneto region, Luca Zaia, said he was unsure whether the decree had yet come officially into force. Zaia said his region was opposed to the new measures, and he had written to Conte requesting them to be repealed. “We all know laws are not precise to an inch,” Zaia said. “But a decree this important should have gotten rid of some doubts that we want to clarify and deal with.”

By: Chico Harlan and William Booth

8:08 AM: WHO warning against Chinese traditional medicine absent from its Chinese and English language websites

BEIJING — Does the World Health Organization warn against relying on traditional herbal medicines as a remedy against the coronavirus?

Depends on which version of its website you’re reading.

Chinese Internet users noticed Sunday that WHO appeared to warn people against smoking, wearing multiple masks, taking self-medication or taking traditional herbal medicine — in all languages but English and Chinese.

There is no mention of or any kind of warning against using traditional medicine in the Chinese and English versions of the website for users accessing the site from within China.

The discrepancy raised suspicions among some Chinese that WHO made the omission to appease the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping, who has strongly backed traditional Chinese medicine as part of a broader, nationalistic campaign to promote Chinese culture. WHO has not yet responded to a request for comment.

In China, as elsewhere, the coronavirus has revived long-standing debates about the efficacy of such medicine when it comes to contagious diseases, with many Chinese doctors pointing out that there is no scientific evidence to back the use of herbal remedies to treat covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

State media outlets and some state institutions — including the Wuhan Institute of Virology — have promoted the remedies, particularly a pill known as shuanghuanglian that has been widely used in China for decades to cure respiratory ailments and fight off infections. Reports promoting the drug, which is made from the bud of the Lonicera japonica honeysuckle flower and other plant sources, spurred a run on nationwide supplies and huge price spikes in early February.

More than 60,000 covid-19 patients have been treated with Chinese medicine, the Communist Party’s official newspaper, the People’s Daily, reported this week.

Clinical evidence of its efficacy, however, remains murky.

A 2014 literature review by researchers at the School of Chinese Medicine at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who examined hundreds of studies published in China found that shuanghuanglian may help lessen symptoms like fever, cough and sore throat, but they warned that there was not enough evidence to reach a conclusion.

In the past month, WHO has repeatedly faced questions about its independence from contributor nations, particularly China, after its top officials repeatedly praised China’s handling of the outbreak and criticized other countries for cutting off transportation links with China at the start of the crisis.

WHO officials have strongly denied suggestions that their decisions and statements have been politically influenced.

China on Saturday announced an additional $20 million donation to WHO, which it said would help fight the coronavirus worldwide, particularly in developing countries.

By: Gerry Shih

7:40 AM: Iran reports 49 new deaths, suspends flights to Europe

ISTANBUL — Iran on Sunday reported 49 deaths and more than 700 cases of the new coronavirus over the past 24 hours, as authorities urged citizens to stay home and avoid travel between cities.

The new cases bring the official death toll in Iran to 194, with a total of 6,566 infections, according to the Health Ministry.

The outbreak is one of the largest outside China, where it is believed the virus originated.

A number of Iranian officials have contracted the virus — which causes the respiratory disease known as covid-19 — and several have died from infection.

Also Sunday, Iran’s flagship carrier IranAir suspended flights to Europe because of “restrictions” placed on the airline, state media reported, citing Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization.

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By: Erin Cunningham

7:19 AM: Czech Prime Minister says Italy should bar its citizens from traveling in Europe

LONDON — The prime minister of the Czech Republic Sunday said Italy should bar all its citizens from traveling to other countries in Europe to contain the coronavirus.

“Italy should ban all its citizens from traveling to Europe, because we are not able to order such a thing within Schengen,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told Czech Television Sunday.

“Schengen” is shorthand for the 26 countries in Europe where 420 million citizens of the member-states can travel freely across each other’s borders without passport control. Most Schengen countries are members of the European Union, but the free travel area also includes non-EU members Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte early Sunday announced his country was locking down a vast swath of its north, including all of the populous Lombardy region, with restrictions on movement applying to roughly 16 million people.

The Washington Post reported the Italian measures would mark the most significant coronavirus restrictions taken anywhere outside of China. It essentially would paralyze the most prosperous parts of Italy — from Venice to the economic capital of Milan — in an attempt to contain the virus.

By: William Booth

7:09 AM: Italian governor tests positive for coronavirus — the second in two days

ROME — The governor of Italy’s northern Piedmont region, Alberto Cirio, has tested positive for coronavirus, the ANSA news agency reported Sunday morning.

Cirio, 47, a member of the center-right Forza Italia party, is the second regional Italian leader in two days to contract the virus.

ANSA said Cirio’s condition is “okay” and he will continue to stay on the job, “inevitably at a distance.”

Cirio’s Piedmont region has roughly 200 cases, and several parts of the region were put under lockdown early Sunday morning amid a government decree restricting travel across parts of the north.

Until this weekend, there had been relatively few high-profile cases in Italy, even as the virus spread rapidly across the country and infected nearly 6,000 people. But on Saturday, the leader of the country’s center-left party, Nicola Zingaretti, said that he had contracted the disease and was in isolation at home.

Zingaretti is also governor of the Lazio region, which includes Rome.

By: Chico Harlan

6:30 AM: British finance minister says NHS will get ‘whatever it needs’ in battle against the virus

LONDON — Britain’s Finance Minister Rishi Sunak Sunday said the government stands ready to give the National Health Service “whatever it needs” to fund its battle against the coronavirus contagion.

In his first broadcast interview, the newly appointed chancellor told Sky News the government not only would boost funding for the NHS but was prepared to help out struggling businesses as well.

“I’m working hard with the team to make sure that we have the interventions required to help anyone through a difficult period,” Sunak said.

”First and foremost, supporting public services but also helping vulnerable people and also businesses to get through anything that might be coming our way,” he said. “We stand ready to give the NHS whatever it needs.”

Sunak, who controls the state budget, said he was preparing soon to issue a plan for helping businesses facing “cash flow” problems because of coronavirus.

Britain has 209 confirmed cases and two deaths caused by the novel virus. Epidemiologists say Britain likely will see 1,500 cases by the end of the week.

By: William Booth

5:57 AM: Argentina confirms first coronavirus death in Latin America

A coronavirus patient in Argentina died Saturday, the country’s health officials said, marking Latin America’s first fatality in the outbreak.

The patient was a 64-year-old man with underlying health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic bronchitis and kidney failure, the Argentine Health Ministry said in a statement.

He had recently traveled to Europe and fell ill with a fever, cough and sore throat in Buenos Aires, where he lived.

He was admitted to an intensive care unit on March 3 and placed on a ventilator, according to the ministry.

Officials said they were tracing the man’s close contacts to see who else may have been exposed.

By: Derek Hawkins

5:46 AM: Toll in collapse of Chinese quarantine center climbs to 10; workers said pillar buckled during renovations

BEIJING — At least 10 people staying in a hotel during quarantine have died in southeastern China after the building collapsed Saturday evening, trapping 71 people, Chinese state media reported.

As of 4 p.m. Sunday, 48 people, including the 10 who died, had been pulled from the rubble of the Xinjia Hotel in Quanzhou, a city in Fujian province. Search operations are ongoing for those remaining. Photos from the scene showed firefighters pulling people, including young children, from piles of rubble.

Many local Chinese governments have requisitioned hotels to house workers returning from other cities and provinces after the Lunar New Year holiday. After a 14-day quarantine, they are allowed to resume work.

The collapse appeared to have occurred during renovations at the seven-story building, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing Quanzhou housing and construction bureau official Zhang Yi. It’s not clear why the hotel was being renovated while it was serving as a quarantine facility. The hotel had 66 rooms on top of a lobby that was being worked on, Zhang said.

Zhang said construction workers reported to the building owner that a pillar on the first floor was noticeably bent less than five minutes before the entire structure crumbled. The building owner, who police have identified as a Quanzhou man surnamed Yang, is in custody, Xinhua reported.

Although construction and safety standards have improved in recent years, China is still often plagued by building collapses and industrial accidents.

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By: Gerry Shih

5:30 AM: Bahrain’s Formula One race will be off-limits to the public due to the outbreak

DUBAI — Bahrain announced Sunday it will be holding its Formula One event for “participants only” because of the continuing global spread of the coronavirus.

The event, which in 2004 became the first Formula One race to be held in the Middle East, is the premier international sporting event for this tiny island kingdom in the Persian Gulf.

“Given the continued spread of Covid-19 globally, convening a major sporting event, which is open to the public and allows thousands of international travelers and local fans to interact in close proximity would not be the right thing to do at the present time,” said a statement by the Bahrain International Circuit that was published by the official news agency.

The March 22 event will be televised.

Bahrain has reported 85 cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, with most being traced back to neighboring Iran, which with more than 5,000 cases has one of the world’s worst outbreaks.

The country’s Health Ministry on Saturday asked all travelers from Italy, South Korea, Egypt and Lebanon to quarantine themselves for two weeks from the day of their arrival. Any Bahrain citizens or foreign residents who have recently visited these countries should contact the government to schedule a medical exam and avoid contact with others.

Saudi Arabia meanwhile closed its land borders to all but commercial traffic. Arrivals to the country can only come in through one of three airports.

In the United Arab Emirates, 15 new cases were reported over the weekend, taking the total to 45, including two students. Schools are closed for the next month, and the government of this international travel hub has cautioned against all international travel.

Cultural and sporting events across the region have also been canceled.

By: Paul Schemm

5:23 AM: New virus cases continue to drop in China, the origin of the epidemic

BEIJING — Chinese authorities announced 44 new cases of coronavirus on Saturday — a smaller daily rise than South Korea and other countries are experiencing — as cases taper off in the country where the epidemic first broke out.

The new national total of confirmed cases reached 80,695, and the death toll in China rose by 27 to 3,097. Tens of thousands of patients have been discharged from hospitals.

New infections appeared to be transmitting through travelers flying back to China from hot spots including Italy, where there is a large Chinese immigrant community. As of Saturday, China tallied a total of 63 cases of patients who contracted the disease abroad.

Beijing, the capital, said Saturday it found two new cases — travelers who arrived from Italy and Spain.

The epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan, in Hubei province, accounted for 41 of the new cases discovered Saturday, but the rate of increase was a fraction of the steep rise in early February, when the province added thousands of new cases every day.

Wuhan said Saturday it was closing the largest of three makeshift hospitals as large numbers of patients are discharged and the outbreak fades after six weeks of strict quarantine measures.

By: Gerry Shih

4:37 AM: Grand Princess cruise ship will dock in Oakland; timing unclear

After being stuck in limbo for days off the coast of San Francisco, the coronavirus-stricken Grand Princess cruise ship is headed to Oakland to dock, the cruise line said early Sunday.

The ship’s captain initially told passengers disembarkation could begin Sunday, but Princess Cruises said in an update shortly after that the ship wouldn’t berth in Oakland until sometime Monday.

Releasing passengers from the ship is likely to be complicated since the thousands of people aboard represent a mix of American and international travelers.

Guests who require medical treatment and hospitalization will be allowed off first and sent to medical facilities in California, Princess Cruises said.

After that, guests who are California residents will undergo health screening and then go to a federally operated facility in the state for testing and isolation, according to the cruise line.

The federal government will transport non-Californians to facilities in other states, Princess Cruises said, while the crew will be quarantined and treated aboard the vessel.

Earlier in the night, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) tweeted the ship was headed to Oakland and passengers were expected to be quarantined at the Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio. The base has been a quarantine site for evacuees from the coronavirus epicenter in Wuhan, China, and others exposed to the virus aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship last month.

A representative from the San Antonio Mayor’s Office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

At least 19 crew members and two passengers from the Grand Princess have tested positive for covid-19. The ship was held in waters off San Francisco while officials debated whether to let the ship’s roughly 3,500 people ashore.

Passengers learned about the decision to dock in Oakland from the ship’s captain Saturday night.

“An agreement has been reached to bring our ship into the port of Oakland,” Captain John Smith said, according to the Associated Press. “After docking, we will then begin a disembarkation process specified by federal authorities that will take several days.”

“We are working to obtain more details overnight,” Smith said. “I’m sorry I can’t provide you more details right now.”

By: Derek Hawkins, Faiz Siddiqui and Scott Wilson

4:01 AM: D.C. health officials probe possible coronavirus exposure at Georgetown church

Hours after announcing the District’s first coronavirus case, the D.C. Department of Health said early Sunday it was investigating whether members of a Georgetown church were exposed to the deadly virus.

The health department told The Washington Post in a statement it had determined that “an individual’s visitation to Christ Church Georgetown warrants precautionary measures.”

The department said it was recommending that the historic Episcopal church suspend services out of an abundance of caution.

“We are currently conducting an intensive investigation to identify any exposures to covid-19 that may have occurred at the church,” the department said. “DC Health will reach out to potentially impacted congregants and visitors as we continue to gather more information to ensure the health and safety of the public.”

A representative from Christ Church Georgetown did not immediately respond to requests for comment early Sunday.

The move came after D.C. officials announced Saturday evening that a man in his 50s had been hospitalized with covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said the man was not believed to have traveled outside the United States or been in close contact with anyone else who was infected. He was admitted to a hospital Thursday, and his infection was confirmed by the city’s health lab Saturday afternoon.

The case is a presumptive positive, meaning the results haven’t yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Another man developed symptoms of covid-19 after traveling in the district, then went to a hospital in Maryland for testing, according to Bowser. His test results haven’t been released yet.

The health department is tracing the patients’ close contacts to find out who else may have been exposed. Officials said there was no widespread community transmission in the District and that the risk to residents remained low.

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By: Derek Hawkins and Clarence Williams

1:57 AM: Chinese hotel used for quarantine collapses, killing six

BEIJING — A hotel that served as a quarantine facility for 71 people collapsed in southeast China late Saturday, killing at least six people and trapping scores in the rubble, Chinese media reported.

About 50 people had been pulled out of the Xinjia hotel in Quanzhou in Fujian province as of 8:20 a.m., according to state media. Reports showed the structure reduced to a pile of splintered building materials and firefighters carrying survivors, including small children, out of the rubble.

Among the 50 rescued, six were dead as of Sunday morning, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Chinese media reports did not give an official explanation for the collapse or indicate whether it was because of shoddy construction or an accident. An eyewitness told the Economic News he heard a massive sound around dinnertime Saturday that he initially believed to be an explosion.

The building was about five stories high.

Many local Chinese governments have set aside hotels as quarantine facilities where workers who return from other cities and provinces after the Lunar New Year holiday must spend two weeks before they may resume work.

Although construction and safety standards have improved in recent years, China is plagued by building collapses and industrial accidents. The owner of the building has been placed under “police control” pending an investigation into whether the management was at fault for the collapse, Xinhua reported Sunday.

By: Gerry Shih

1:38 AM: Oakland council member says top officials learned of plans to dock in city on Saturday night

SAN FRANCISCO — Oakland council member Larry Reid, of the city’s Seventh District, said he was informed Saturday night that the cruise ship would dock in the city at a site known as Ports America in West Oakland.

Reid confirmed an initial tweet from Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.), who said the ship was going to dock in the city, and an announcement from the cruise captain that the ship was headed to Oakland Sunday where passengers would disembark, a process that could take days.

The news surprised city officials — particularly for the council, which Reid said did not have a hand in the decision. Reid said the Oakland Fire Department was expected to play a role in taking passengers off the ship.

Reid was puzzled, however, at the decision to dock the ship in Oakland instead of its original site in San Francisco.

“I just don’t understand why if it’s safe enough for them to offload the passengers into Oakland, why isn’t it safe enough for them to offload the passengers in San Francisco, where they have the facilities for the cruise line that’s docked in San Francisco on a daily basis?” he asked.

Reid said the decision was made between federal and state officials, who involved the city’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, in discussions. Schaaf did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Reid said the governor’s office held a conference call earlier Saturday night with top city officials informing them of an “urgent update” of the situation involving the ship.

Asked whether it seemed the move was a signal of Oakland’s seeming second-fiddle status in political power, Reid said: “That’s something they would say, and a lot of Oakland residents would say.”

He demanded an explanation, saying he had concerns about the safety of the city’s more than 400,000 residents.

“There are people that live in West Oakland,” he said. “They may not live right there on the water, but the Port of America site is maybe a mile or mile and a half away from the residential neighborhoods in West Oakland.”

By: Faiz Siddiqui

12:59 AM: Missouri reports first coronavirus case

The coronavirus continued to spread through the Midwest, with Missouri officials reporting the state’s first case late Saturday.

Officials said the patient was a woman in her 20s from St. Louis County who had recently traveled to Italy, whose northern provinces have been hit hard by the outbreak.

She is in isolation at home with family members who have also been isolated, according to a statement from Gov. Mike Parson (R). Health officials are investigating her close contacts and monitoring her symptoms.

“I am confident in the work of the Department of Health and Senior Services and the St. Louis County Public Health Department and know that they will do what they can to protect the health and safety of Missouri communities,” Parson said.

The case is a presumptive positive, meaning that the state’s lab results have not yet been confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Missouri’s health department said it had tested 26 people for covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, including the case announced Saturday. Three additional tests are awaiting results, according to the department.

At least five other Midwestern states had reported covid-19 cases as of Saturday night: Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin.

By: Derek Hawkins

12:51 AM: Grand Princess’s arrival ashore is mired in uncertainty

SAN FRANCISCO — Carnival Cruise Line officials had no clearer indication Saturday of where the Grand Princess ship being held off California’s coast was headed.

They said they had been in touch with federal and state officials as well as the Port of San Francisco. Frustration, however, was mounting about uncertainties as to when the ship would dock and where, as well as what Carnival officials called a lack of an established testing regimen for passengers and crew members, 21 of whom have tested positive for the novel coronavirus. Nineteen of the patients are employees.

“Our guests who expected to disembark today still do not know what to expect next,” Jan Swartz, group president of Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia, said on a conference call with reporters Saturday.

Passengers were dismayed about sparse information and the fact that they learned about positive tests for the virus through a Friday afternoon news conference.

“We, too, were disappointed that we were not officially notified and could share that with the guests in advance of the announcement being made,” Swartz said.

Grant Tarling, chief medical officer for Carnival Corp., said he believed the virus arrived on the ship and infected the crew by community transmission from California. The patient originally infected, who was on a Feb. 11- 21 cruise, was from Placer County, Calif., and was served by two waiters who later tested positive for coronavirus aboard the ship.

That patient reported to the ship’s medical center with what Tarling called a “six- to seven-day history of symptoms of acute respiratory illness.”

“We believe his illness was probably community-acquired somewhere in California before he joined the ship,” Tarling said. “We believe both the waiters that served that [person’s] table may have been infected.”

Aboard the ship, more than 3,500 passengers and crew are confined to their staterooms. There are 2,422 passengers and 1,111 staff members representing 64 countries, company officials said — including 2,016 passengers from the United States and 938 from California.

Among those who tested positive were crew members from the Philippines and passengers from the United States, the company said. Few of the crew members are from the United States, according to the officials.

Tarling said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had not settled on a testing protocol for crew and other passengers aboard the ship. It was unknown, he said, whether everyone on the ship would be tested or whether individuals would face a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon disembarking.

“There’s a number of scenarios they are apparently still working on,” said Tarling, who said the company had been in touch with the CDC. “One of them is testing, who will be tested. We do not know that information.”

Vice President Pence has said people onboard will be quarantined as needed. CDC spokeswoman Belsie González said in an email Saturday that the agency is “committed to protecting the health and safety of all Americans.”

“The U.S. Government is taking measures to protect the Grand Princess passengers and crew, their loved ones, the traveling public, and communities within the United States,” González wrote.

By: Faiz Siddiqui and Hannah Knowles

12:36 AM: United Airlines to offer free flight changes, shares plan for when passenger shows symptoms

United Airlines has created a coronavirus plan that includes free flight changes to adapt to how the virus is influencing travel, chief executive Oscar Munoz said in an email to customers Saturday.

“We are in the business of serving people and in the midst of this coronavirus outbreak it’s important that we give you as much flexibility as possible when planning your next trip,” he said. “But it’s also important that we give you as much information as possible about the procedures we follow to clean our aircraft and maintain a sanitary environment once we’re in the air.”

From Saturday until March 31, any flights booked with the airline to any destination and of any price can be changed free over the next year.

The company has been communicating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and other federal and global health agencies to make sure they are carrying out comprehensive and appropriate service.

Medical experts and industrial hygienists are overseeing airplane cleaning that includes wiping down most frequently used surfaces with “high-grade disinfectant and multipurpose cleaner,” Munoz said.

The airline also has a plan in place should the CDC advise that a passenger who traveled onboard is displaying symptoms of coronavirus. The plane will be taken out of service and put through a thorough decontamination process.

Munoz told customers that all United Airlines planes have high-quality air circulation systems similar to what’s found in most hospitals. However, to curtail person-to-person contact, attendants will wear gloves and hand beverages directly to customers.

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By: Lateshia Beachum

12:30 AM: Vermont reports first coronavirus case

Vermont health officials on Saturday night reported the state’s first coronavirus case.

The patient is an adult who tested presumptive positive, meaning the lab results were awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the Vermont Department of Health.

With Vermont’s announcement, every New England state except Maine has reported cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. Maine is still awaiting CDC approval for in-state testing.

The Vermont patient has been hospitalized in an isolation room, according to the health department. Officials said they were investigating the person’s travel history and tracing the person’s close contacts.

“Those individuals will be assessed for their exposure risk and provided with guidance for their health, and recommendations for self-isolation or other restrictions,” the health department said in a statement.

The department did not disclose how long the person had been infected or where the person was located.

“Our first thoughts are with this patient and for their recovery,” Health Commissioner Mark Levine said in a statement.

Levine added that the state was expecting more cases. “While we had hoped the virus would not come to Vermont, we have been preparing for this eventuality,” he said.

By: Derek Hawkins


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