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Washington state reports second death; first case confirmed in New York

The Washington Post logo The Washington Post 3/2/2020 Kim Bellware, Joel Achenbach, Katie Mettler, Alex Horton, Meryl Kornfield
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New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) confirmed the state’s first case of coronavirus Sunday night, announcing that a woman in her late 30s contracted the virus after traveling to Iran. President Trump on Saturday extended a travel ban on Iran to apply to any foreign nationals who had been in that country over the past 14 days.

Also on Sunday, Washington state reported its second death in King County, which is also the second death in the United States.

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The coronavirus has probably been spreading undetected for about six weeks in Washington state, where the first U.S. death was reported this weekend, according to new research. A genetic analysis suggests that the cases are linked through community transmission and that the virus is likely to have been spreading undetected for weeks, with hundreds of infections possible in the state. 

Officials in the Seattle area are monitoring a possible outbreak at a long-term nursing home. The elderly are considered especially vulnerable to infection. One patient is a health-care worker in her 40s who was in satisfactory condition, according to state health officials. The other, a resident in her 70s, is in serious condition.

The global death toll has surpassed 3,000 on four continents. The first U.S. death, in Washington state, was a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions, officials said. The patient had no recent travel history or contact with people known to be infected, officials said.

Here are the latest developments:

11:35 PM: Florida announces first two likely coronavirus cases as Rhode Island reports its second

Likely cases of the novel coronavirus spread further across the East Coast on Sunday night, as health officials in Florida announced two probable cases of covid-19 and Rhode Island reported a second presumed patient — up from just one earlier in the afternoon.

On Florida’s Gulf Coast, two likely cases of covid-19 prompted the office of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) to issue a public health emergency. Both adults are in isolation, the Florida Department of Health said in a statement.

One of the patients resides in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, and has a history of travel to Italy, which has recorded more than 1,500 infections.

The other person, in neighboring Manatee County, appears to have contracted the virus through community spread. Florida health officials said this patient had not been to any countries where travel has been restricted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including China, Iran, South Korea and Italy.

In Rhode Island, officials reported a case of a teenager who tested positive for covid-19. An adult in her 30s has also been tested, and both people are at home experiencing mild symptoms, the state’s Department of Health said.

Both individuals had traveled to Europe in mid-February alongside Rhode Island’s first likely case of coronavirus, a man in his 40s who had been chaperoning a Catholic preparatory school’s trip to Italy, France and Spain. The school, Saint Raphael Academy in Pawtucket, will be closed this week.

The adult in her 30s whose tests are still pending works at Achievement First Academy, which has Providence and Cranston campuses, both of which will be closed for three days this week. Nearly 40 people went on the trip to Europe, and all will be under quarantine for two weeks with public health supervision, officials said.

Any presumptive positive cases must be confirmed by the CDC, Rhode Island health officials said earlier Sunday.

By: Teo Armus

Slideshow by photo services

9:33 PM: Second U.S. coronavirus death confirmed in Washington state

A second person in the United States has died of the novel coronavirus, health officials in Washington state confirmed Sunday, as they announced new cases in the Seattle area. The news comes one day after officials in the state confirmed the first U.S. death, a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions. Both deaths occurred in King County.

A Seattle-area man in his 70s who also had underlying health conditions died Saturday after being hospitalized at EvergreenHealth, Seattle and King County Public Health officials said in a statement Sunday.

The man’s death was among four new confirmed cases of covid-19 in King County, bringing the local total of confirmed cases to 10. All four patients in the newest confirmed cases, including the death, were residents of Lifecare, a nursing facility in Kirkland, Wash., that is associated with two other previously confirmed cases in the area.

All three of the surviving patients in the newest confirmed cases range in age from their 70s to 90s, have underlying health conditions and are in critical condition, health officials said. Lifecare said that it is not uncommon for residents to exhibit cold and flulike symptoms this time of year and that they may be hospitalized as a precaution so they can be tested for covid-19.

As a precaution, all visits to the facility from families, volunteers or vendors are not allowed, the facility said in a statement Saturday.

Gov. Jay Inslee (D) declared a state of emergency Saturday as more than 231 Washington residents remain under public health supervision. The state has 13 confirmed coronavirus cases overall, with the majority in King County.

By: Kim Bellware

9:30 PM: Quarantined patient in Texas was released, but later tested positive

Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are retesting a patient they discharged from isolation at a Texas medical facility after the person spent several hours in the general public and later tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

The patient, who had been quarantined for weeks after returning from China’s Wuhan province, tested negative for the virus twice and was not showing any symptoms while being quarantined at the Texas Center for Infectious Disease in San Antonio.

The CDC released the person to a local hotel on Saturday but had to retrieve the person hours later when a third test sample was “determined to be weakly positive,” according to a CDC news release. “Out of an abundance of caution, CDC decided to bring the individual back into isolation.”

Local health officials, including the San Antonio Metro Health District, are now tracing the patient’s steps and interactions.

The incident realized the worst fears of Bexar County and San Antonio city officials, who raised concerns with federal officials after the first flights from China and the Diamond Princess cruise ship landed at Lackland Air Force Base early last month and patients were taken to area hospitals.

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg called the release of the coronavirus patient “unacceptable,” but he added that the exposure risk remains low for city and county residents.

“This is exactly why we have been asking federal officials to accept the guidance of our medical community,” he said in a statement.

The remaining passengers of the cruise ship still in quarantine are expected to be released Monday.

Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff, who wrote letters with the mayor outlining their worries to federal officials, said additional protocols are needed to lower the risk of local transmission from the military and state facilities being used to isolate patients.

“To date, no response or even acknowledgment of our concerns has been made,” he said in a statement on Saturday.

The CDC said it is dealing with many unknowns and making decisions on a “case-by-case basis using the best available science at the time.”

By: Arelis R. Hernández

8:46 PM: New York confirms state’s first coronavirus case

New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) confirmed the state’s first case of coronavirus Sunday night, announcing that a woman in her late 30s contracted the virus after traveling to Iran. The announcement comes just one day after President Trump extended a travel ban on Iran to apply to any foreign nationals who had been in that country over the past 14 days.

Cuomo assured residents in a statement that the overall risk in New York state remains low and sought to head off any panic as he noted that state officials have been anticipating cases.

“There is no cause for surprise — this was expected,” Cuomo said. “As I said from the beginning, it was a matter of when, not if, there would be a positive case of novel coronavirus in New York.”

He said the patient did not show severe symptoms and is recovering in isolation at home.

New York is the 10th state to confirm a case of the coronavirus. Authorities announced the first U.S. death from covid-19 on Feb. 29, in King County, Wash.

By: Kim Bellware

6:14 PM: Recession fears grow as Wall Street investors worry about economic impact of coronavirus outbreak

Last week, the Dow Jones industrial average plunged 12.4 percent, or 3,583 points, as investors’ fears and uncertainty about the potential economic fallout from the coronavirus built to a crescendo.

There’s growing concern that the steep market losses and mounting death toll from the outbreak will trigger broader alarm, prompting American consumers to rein in their spending, beyond just canceling vacations and cruises. For a decade, consumer spending propped up not just the U.S. economy but the global economy, keeping factories around the world humming and giving U.S. business owners optimism.

But the momentum of fear is a powerful force — in the markets and the broader economy. About half of Americans have money invested in the stock market, often in a retirement plan that baby boomers are now tapping, and even those without market exposure are often influenced by big drops.

Coronavirus has also caused significant supply-chain disruptions affecting toys, medical equipment, auto parts and smartphones from China, none of which will be easy to smooth out, even if the virus ebbs within a month or two. The twin blows to consumer confidence and supply chains have significantly raised the chance of a recession, according to economists.

“The odds of a recession are roughly a coin toss, and that’s exceptionally high,” said Edward Al-Hussainy, an analyst at Columbia Threadneedle Investments. “Conferences are getting canceled. Corporations are asking people to work from home. Schools are getting closed. That is a massive hit to demand."

Read the full report.

By: Heather Long and Jena McGregor

4:48 PM: Scotland confirms first coronavirus case, raising number of infected in U.K. to 36

A Scottish patient who recently traveled from northern Italy has tested positive for covid-19, marking Scotland’s first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, Scottish health officials announced late Sunday. The patient, who has been hospitalized and put into isolation, brings the total number of reported coronavirus cases in the United Kingdom to 36, according to a tally by the BBC.

It’s unclear how long the patient has been back from northern Italy — the “red zone” of the country’s outbreak — or whom they may have come into contact with. The Scottish government would only disclose that the patient resided in the central Scottish region of Tayside and that officials were tracing the patient’s contact history since their return.

Scottish Chief Medical Officer Catherine Calderwood said in a statement Sunday that officials have anticipated mounting a response since the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, and that “Scotland is well equipped to deal with infections of this kind."

Since last Monday, Wales, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland have each confirmed their country’s first cases of the coronavirus. The infection in the Welsh patient, whose case was confirmed Feb. 24, stemmed from recent travel to northern Italy.

Britain, which already had more than a dozen confirmed coronavirus cases, reported 13 new cases on Sunday, which included the second patient to test positive who did not travel outside the country, fueling concerns that the virus has started to circulate locally.

The United Kingdom is still in the “containment phase” of the outbreak, British Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Sunday. Containment is the United Kingdom’s first step in a four-phase plan to combat the virus’s spread.

By: Kim Bellware

4:32 PM: Italy enforces modest restrictions in its northern regions

a person walking down a street in front of a building: A man wearing a protective mask walks past the Church of St. Louis of the French in Rome on March 1, 2020. © Filippo Monteforte/AFP/Getty Images A man wearing a protective mask walks past the Church of St. Louis of the French in Rome on March 1, 2020.

ROME — Italy’s government on Sunday placed new restrictions on certain events in several northern regions in its latest effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

But the measures were fairly modest and seemed tailored to allow public life to continue in a quieter form.

Restaurants and bars are allowed to remain open, for instance, so long as they can assure that customers remain roughly three feet apart from one another. Worship ceremonies can go forward, as well, provided they can give the same assurance. Northern Italy’s popular ski destinations can remain open — but the operator must take steps to keep the facilities well below capacity.

Even soccer matches can continue, provided they are held behind closed doors.

Large or typically crowded events, including in discos and at movie theaters, are prohibited, though. The measures, signed by Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, apply to three regions — Emilia-Romagna, Veneto and Lombardy — and small parts of two others. They will be in place for at least a week. Lombardy is the apparent epicenter of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, with more than half of the country’s 1,577 cases.

Italy also has sealed off 11 towns, all in the north, heavily restricting people from entering and exiting. Those measures remain in place.

By: Chico Harlan

3:32 PM: Qatar bans travelers originating in Egypt, which faces questions over its testing

CAIRO — Qatar on Sunday banned all visitors, except its own citizens, flying in from Egypt through intermediate cities, even as authorities in Egypt say only one case of coronavirus has been detected there.

“As a public health measure, the State of Qatar has imposed a temporary entrance restriction to its territories on all those who are coming from Egypt through intermediary points,” Qatar’s state news agency tweeted, adding that the measure was taken to prevent the “spread” of the novel coronavirus.

Since November 2017, there have been no direct flights between Egypt and Qatar because of a regional diplomatic crisis. All passengers from Egypt, which has a population of more than 100 million, have to travel to intermediate airports to reach Qatar.

The measure by Qatar underscores growing questions surrounding Egypt’s testing and reporting of coronavirus cases. On Sunday, a Health Ministry spokesman denied reports of two new cases being transferred to a hospital and quarantined in northern Egypt, according to Ahram Online, a pro-government newspaper.

The denial came a day after Health Minister Hala Zayed said there was a “high probability” that Egypt will see more cases. On Sunday, Zayed traveled to China to offer what she described to reporters as “a message of support” from President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi to the Chinese government.

At a news conference, she said Egypt had tested 1,443 people but that only one — a Chinese citizen, according to local media reports — was infected. That person, identified by Egyptian health authorities last month, tested negative a few days later and was discharged from the hospital.

French authorities said last week that six travelers returning from Egypt tested positive for the virus, prompting Egypt to test the staff at the sites the travelers visited.

In the Egyptian capital, Cairo, and in other cities, rumors are spreading about possible additional coronavirus cases, prompting lawmakers on Friday to deny them and promise full transparency in addressing the epidemic.

By: Sudarsan Raghavan

2:38 PM: As virus spreads across Europe, kissing hello is not advised

a person waiting for a train at a train station: People wearing protective masks kiss on a subway platform in Hong Kong on Valentine's Day. © Justin Chin/Bloomberg News People wearing protective masks kiss on a subway platform in Hong Kong on Valentine's Day.

As coronavirus spreads to new countries around the world, in places where a kiss on the cheek is a customary greeting, people are finding new ways to say hello.

In France and Italy, where a smooch is a typical reception, officials have told residents to limit their physical contact to slow the spread of the virus.

French Health Minister Olivier Véran had said people should merely avoid shaking hands, but on Saturday he advised the French also to cut back on “la bise,” the custom of kissing or air-kissing each other’s cheeks, the Associated Press reported.

There are about 100 confirmed cases in France.

In Italy, where more than 1,100 people are infected, the special commissioner for the coronavirus response, Angelo Borrelli, suggested the virus’s swift spread may be due to Italians’ demonstrative nature.

“We have a collective social life that is very florid, very expansive. We have lots of contact, we shake hands, we kiss each other, we hug each other,” Borrelli said, according to the AP. “Maybe it is better in this period not to shake hands, and do not have too much contact, and try to be a bit less expansive, which is different from how I am.”

At Fashion Week in Milan, attendees quit cheek kissing in favor of other gestures, including tapping fingertips, which one fashionista dubbed, “the new coronavirus kiss,” the AP reported.

Sharmine Narwani, a political analyst focused on the Middle East, tweeted a video from Iran of men tapping feet as a greeting.

“No kissing, no hand shaking, no hugs,” Narwani wrote.

Even in the United States, Miami Mayor Carlos A. Gimenez told reporters Thursday that residents should nod instead of kissing or shaking hands.

Not everyone has taken those warnings to heart. Time reporter Vera Bergengruen tweeted from Miami International Airport two women pulling back face masks to kiss cheeks.

Face masks do not prevent the wearers from getting sick, and only N95 masks, if fitted properly, filter airborne particles, The Post previously reported.

By: Meryl Kornfield

2:11 PM: Washington state officials report two new cases in King County, bringing state’s total to eight

Dow Constantine wearing a suit and tie: King County Executive Dow Constantine speaks about the first patient death from novel coronavirus in the United States during a news conference in Seattle, Washington on Feb. 29, 2020. (REUTERS/Ryan Henriksen) © Ryan Henriksen/Reuters King County Executive Dow Constantine speaks about the first patient death from novel coronavirus in the United States during a news conference in Seattle, Washington on Feb. 29, 2020. (REUTERS/Ryan Henriksen)

Health officials reported two new confirmed cases of covid-19 in King County, Washington on Sunday, raising the county’s total number of novel coronavirus cases to six and the state’s caseload to eight. Those numbers are expected to rise in the wake of the CDC’s decision to widen testing guidelines last week.

The new patients are men in their 60s with underlying health conditions. One man is hospitalized in critical but stable condition at Valley Medical Center in Renton. The other man is in critical condition at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle.

A spokesperson with the county health department told The Washington Post that officials have confirmed at least one of the cases is not connected to the possible coronavirus outbreak at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash., where more than 50 residents and staff are reportedly ill with symptoms.

All six King County cases have been confirmed in the last three days. Officials said that at least two are connected to the Life Care facility; one is a health-care worker in her 40s who was in satisfactory condition, and the other is a resident in her 70s who was in serious condition as of Saturday afternoon. The first coronavirus death was also reported in King County over the weekend, a man in his 50s with underlying health issues and was admitted to EvergreenHealth with severe respiratory symptoms.

After the CDC changed its testing guidelines, EvergreenHealth opted to screen two of its most critically ill patients — the man in his 50s who died and the LifeCare resident — Dr. Frank Riedo said at a news conference. The tests were taken on Thursday and confirmed on Saturday, Riedo said.

The man who died and the nursing home resident did not have any known contact with other COVID-19 patients, nor had they traveled outside the U.S., raising concerns about increasing cases of community transmission of the infection.

By: Katie Mettler

2:10 PM: Leader of messianic South Korean church faces murder charges for role in outbreak

a group of people performing on a stage: Army soldiers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in front of a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, South Korea, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (Lee Moo-ryul/Newsis via AP) Army soldiers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in front of a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu, South Korea, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (Lee Moo-ryul/Newsis via AP)

The leader of the messianic church at the heart of South Korea’s outbreak faces charges of murder and other criminal counts, according to the BBC.

The Seoul city government filed a legal complaint that alleges Lee Man-hee, founder of the Shincheonji Church, and 11 others submitted false documents and impeded medical officials, the Korea Times reported, as they raced to understand how the virus exploded among the congregants.

More than half of confirmed cases in the country, which eclipsed 3,700 on Sunday, have been traced to church members at a regional branch, officials have said, with more than 20 deaths. “It was like they sprayed the virus within the church,” a city official in Daegu, where the church outbreak began, told the Wall Street Journal.

Followers of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, formally known as the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony, believe Lee is the second coming of Jesus. They traverse the country to recruit outsiders, complicating efforts to contain the virus.

The church said it was victimized by “stigmatization, hatred and slander” and was cooperating with government officials, Reuters reported.

South Korean officials temporarily shut down Shincheonji on Feb. 23 in an effort to curb the outbreak.

By: Alex Horton

1:51 PM: Last of Diamond Princess crew disembarks the ship

a plane in the rain: Health officials in protective suits prepare to transport Indonesian crew members evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Kertajati airport in Indonesia on March 2, 2020. © Aldi Mahardika/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock Health officials in protective suits prepare to transport Indonesian crew members evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Kertajati airport in Indonesia on March 2, 2020.

One month since the first confirmed coronavirus case aboard the Diamond Princess was reported, the last group of about 130 crew members vacated the ship Sunday, the Associated Press reported.

Passengers disembarked Feb. 20. More than 700 of the ship’s passengers and crew members became infected after the boat was controversially quarantined for nearly two weeks in the Japanese port of Yokohama, near Tokyo. Experts have said that the decision allowed the virus to spread through the ship.

Among more than 300 U.S. residents who were flown home from the ship on two chartered flights, 14 were confirmed to be infected but were still allowed to travel back with noninfected passengers, The Washington Post reported.

One of the infected passengers died this weekend in Australia, the country’s first coronavirus death, The Washington Post previously reported.

The now-empty ship will be sterilized and prepared for its next voyage, Japanese Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said at a news conference. He did not provide a timeline.

The crew members who disembarked Sunday will be quarantined for 14 days before they can return to their home countries, Japanese media reported.

By: Meryl Kornfield

1:09 PM: Rhode Island announces first likely coronavirus case

The first presumptive positive case of the novel coronavirus in Rhode Island was announced Sunday by the state’s Health Department.

The patient is in his 40s and traveled to Europe in mid-February, Gov. Gina Raimondo (D) and Health Director Nicole Alexander-Scott said at a news conference. The patient is being treated in a hospital after officials identified the case Saturday.

He had limited travel in Rhode Island since returning from Italy, France and Spain and had not returned to work since being abroad, according to the Health Department. Alexander-Scott said he may have come into close contact with about 40 people, whom the department reached out to and who are quarantined and self-monitoring for symptoms for 14 days.

Saint Raphael Academy, a Catholic preparatory school in Pawtucket, said in a statement that the patient is “a member of our community” who was traveling with students and chaperones in Europe. The school will close Monday and Tuesday.

Presumptive positive cases must be confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but that “might change in the coming days,” according to the state Health Department. Rhode Island had expedited the final steps of implementation to run the test that identified this case.

Rhode Island had earlier announced that about two dozen people were being monitored. On Sunday, Alexander-Scott said the patient was not among them.

While the state has enough tests, it is testing only those people who are exhibiting symptoms, she said.

Raimondo said she had not been in touch with Vice President Pence, who was tapped to oversee the federal government’s response to the coronavirus, but that her office was in communication with the White House. She said she also spoke with the state’s congressional delegation about receiving federal support.

“It is my sincere hope that the federal government will provide additional resources for states that are going to have to deal with coronavirus,” the governor said.

By: Meryl Kornfield

12:56 PM: Delta, American suspend flights to Milan amid outbreak in Italy

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a tarmac at an airport: A Delta Air Lines plane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. © Ted S. Warren/AP A Delta Air Lines plane at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

After U.S. officials upgraded travel advisories over the weekend and urged Americans to avoid nonessential travel to Italy, two U.S. airlines suspended daily flights to Milan.

Delta announced Sunday that it is temporarily stopping service from New York’s JFK International Airport to Milan after Tuesday. The flights will resume May 1. American Airlines declared a similar stoppage Saturday, saying flights between Milan and airports in Miami and New York will be postponed through April 25.

Both airlines are offering customers an opportunity to rebook their flights or get a full refund.

Milan, a global fashion hub, is the capital of Lombardy, one of two regions in the northern part of Italy that the U.S. State Department has told Americans to avoid. In Lombardy and Veneto, the coronavirus is spreading rapidly, and some residents are living in quarantine zones.

American, Delta and United Airlines have previously announced flight cancellations involving other high-risk countries as global health and government officials scramble to prevent the spread of the novel virus.

Read more about other canceled flight paths here.

By: Katie Mettler

12:56 PM: First case in Dominican Republic will test vulnerable Haiti

Dominican Republic health officials said Sunday the first confirmed patient with coronavirus is a 62-year-old Italian tourist. And right over the border is Haiti, home to the worst indications of health in the Americas.

The response will test an already vulnerable region. Haiti is among the least prepared countries in the world to respond to an epidemic, according to the Global Health Security Index. Civil unrest, political scandals and a constant threat of natural disasters have hollowed out its health-care system.

Physicians struggle with constant shortages of equipment, blood and essential items like oxygen, Doctors Without Borders said. Communicable diseases can spread easily in such an environment, where HIV/AIDS is the seventh leading cause of death.

The Dominican Republic has many air and sea lanes to the United States, including Puerto Rico, the Miami Herald notes, which could escalate fears of the virus spring-boarding off the island. Health officials there told its citizens to remain calm.

By: Alex Horton

12:36 PM: New cases announced in Middle East as governments take measures to control spread

CAIRO — Across the Middle East on Sunday, governments took measures to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus as several nations in the region reported new cases.

Bahrain confirmed six new cases, according to the gulf country’s state news agency. In Lebanon, three more people tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving from Iran, raising the total infected to 10, the Health Ministry said. The three have been quarantined in a Beirut hospital, the ministry said.

Iraq reported six new cases, bringing the total there to 19 people. All of the patients had recently visited Iran, one of the worst-hit countries outside of China, where the coronavirus originated. In a tweet on Sunday, Qatar’s Health Ministry reported two new cases, both individuals who were evacuated from Iran three days earlier and have been under quarantine. On Sunday, the Kuwaiti Health Ministry reported one new case, bring the total number of infected to 46.

Lebanon has closed all schools this week and stopped flights from China, Iran, Italy and South Korea — all nations severely affected by the outbreak. On Sunday, Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry announced that 25 hospitals have been equipped to test and handle the virus.

Egypt’s prime minister said late Saturday that authorities have been testing staff at a site where tourists visited. At least six people returning to France last week from Egypt had tested positive for the virus, said French health authorities, raising questions about the extent of the virus’s presence in Egypt. The country — the Arab World’s most populous — has announced only one case of the coronavirus, last month, and later reported that the person had recovered and tested negative.

By: Sudarsan Raghavan

12:32 PM: HHS secretary predicts more spread of coronavirus and possible drug supply disruptions

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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar warned on Sunday that more coronavirus infections will be found within the United States.

“We cannot make predictions as to how many cases we’ll have, but we will have more, and we will have more community cases,” he said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “It’s simply just a matter of math."

The administration is monitoring the possibility of drug shortages from disruptions to the pharmaceutical supply chain in China, Azar said.

“We’re very concerned about the intermingling of our supply chain with China in particular,” he said. “The FDA has gone out and worked proactively with drug manufacturers, and there are 20 drugs for which the entire molecule or a critical element of the molecule is made exclusively in China, and so we’re working aggressively with the manufacturers to determine whether there are any shortages.

"We are aware of one drug which has many, many replacements in terms of that therapeutic class available that may be in shortage for a short period of time. … But this is a drug in a class where there are many, many, many alternatives available. It’s a generic drug, very available.”

Read more about the potential for drug supply disruptions here.

By: Tory Newmyer

12:20 PM: Czech Republic reports first cases of coronavirus, all involving people who traveled to Italy

Three people in the Czech Republic have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus, Health Minister Adam Vojtech said Sunday.

Reuters reported that the patients, all of whom are showing mild symptoms, had recently traveled to places in northern Italy, health officials said at a news conference. One of the patients was an American student who studied in Milan, and the other two are Czech nationals. Two of the patients are in Prague, Reuters reported, and the third is about 60 miles north in the town of Usti nad Labem.

Vojtech asked Czech citizens to avoid northern Italy, which rapidly became the center of Europe’s coronavirus outbreak and has reported the highest number of confirmed cases outside Asia.

“We ask everyone to very seriously consider not traveling to those [affected] regions for holiday or ski trips unless necessary, because the danger exists,” he said during the news conference, according to Reuters.

By: Katie Mettler

11:38 AM: Iraq confirms six new cases, bringing the total to 19

a person wearing a mask: An Egyptian Quarantine Authority employee scans the temperature of an incoming traveler at Cairo International Airport. © -/AFP/Getty Images An Egyptian Quarantine Authority employee scans the temperature of an incoming traveler at Cairo International Airport.

CAIRO — Six new coronavirus cases emerged in Iraq on Sunday, according to the Health Ministry, bringing the total number of cases in the country to 19. Two of the new cases were detected in Baghdad, and the other four were in the northern city of Sulaymaniyah in the Kurdish region.

Like the other cases, the newly inflected had traveled to Iran, one of the worst-affected nations outside of China, the epicenter of the epidemic. Iran has long-standing cultural and religious ties to Iraq. Millions of Iranian pilgrims visit Shiite Muslim holy sites in Iraq every year.

An Iranian student in the central Iraqi city of Najaf was the first to get infected and was sent back home. Since then, though, the number of infections has steadily risen. Last week, Iraq banned public gatherings and prevented the entry of visitors from Kuwait and Bahrain, where cases have been found, as well as other nations where the virus has spread.

By: Sudarsan Raghavan

11:17 AM: Social media rumors and polarized politics undermine confidence in the government’s plans

a man that is standing in the grass: Urologist Michael Kline protests a plan to quarantine patients infected with covid-19 at a facility in Anniston. © Todd Frankel/The Washington Post Urologist Michael Kline protests a plan to quarantine patients infected with covid-19 at a facility in Anniston.

ANNISTON, Ala. — A doctor in a biohazard suit staged a one-man protest along a highway here late last week.

“The virus has arrived. Are you ready?” his sign asked.

The town of Anniston, Ala., didn’t think it was. Residents were unnerved by strange stories circulating on Facebook and in text messages that helicopters were secretly flying in sick patients, the debunked conspiracy theory that the virus was grown in a Chinese lab, and that someone — either the media or the government — was lying to them about what was really going on.

A quarantine plan hastily hatched by the administration was soon scrapped by President Trump, who faced intense pushback from Alabama’s congressional delegation, led by Republican Rep. Mike D. Rogers. Americans evacuated after falling ill aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan would not be coming to Anniston, a town of 22,000 people in north-central Alabama, after all. They would remain in the same Texas and California sites where they were taken after leaving the cruise ship.

What happened here over the past week illustrates how poor planning by federal health officials and a rumor mill fueled by social media, polarized politics and a lack of clear communication can undermine public confidence in the response to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease named covid-19. The rapidly spreading virus has rattled economies worldwide in recent weeks and caused the deaths of more than 2,900 people, mostly in China.

The panic and problems that burned through Anniston also provided a preview of what could unfold in other communities, as health experts consider the spread of the virus inevitable.

Read the full report here.

By: Todd C. Frankel

11:10 AM: Coronavirus has probably been spreading undetected for six weeks in Washington state, study says

a group of people standing in front of a building: An assessment team from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle — Krista Reitberg, Lucy Greenfield, John Lynch, Santiago Neme and Michelle Steik — carry protective and testing supplies on Saturday while preparing to visit the home of a person potentially exposed to the novel coronavirus. © David Ryder/Reuters An assessment team from Harborview Medical Center in Seattle — Krista Reitberg, Lucy Greenfield, John Lynch, Santiago Neme and Michelle Steik — carry protective and testing supplies on Saturday while preparing to visit the home of a person potentially exposed to the novel coronavirus.

Genetic analysis of samples taken from two patients suggests that the coronavirus has been spreading for about six weeks in Washington state, where the first U.S. death from covid-19 was reported this weekend. The finding could have broad implications for the spread of the disease in the rest of the country.

Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, announced Saturday night on Twitter that an analysis of the virus specimen from a newly diagnosed patient in Snohomish County closely matched that of a specimen from a person who traveled from China in January and was the first known coronavirus case in the United States.

The evidence overwhelmingly suggests that these cases are linked through community transmission, Bedford wrote — and that this has been going on for weeks, with hundreds of infections likely.

“This strongly suggests that there has been cryptic transmission in Washington state for the past 6 weeks,” he wrote. “I believe we’re facing an already substantial outbreak in Washington State that was not detected until now due to narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China.”

By: Joel Achenbach

10:58 AM: Tokyo Marathon ends on eerily quiet streets amid virus fears

a crowd of people: At right, runners fill the street at the start of the Tokyo Marathon in 2019. At left, runners at the 2020 marathon on March 1. (Kyodo/Reuters) At right, runners fill the street at the start of the Tokyo Marathon in 2019. At left, runners at the 2020 marathon on March 1. (Kyodo/Reuters)

Ethiopia’s Birhanu Legese won the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, greeted by a handful of mask-donned spectators where usually thousands roared at the finish line.

The premier event expected 38,000 participants, but coronavirus fears prompted organizers to limit the field to only 200 people across all categories, the Associated Press reported. The streets were eerily quiet along the route as people avoid large gatherings for fear of contracting the virus. The marathon drew nearly 700,000 spectators last year.

The muted race came amid growing concern about the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, slated for late July. Infectious-disease experts have pointed to a worldwide gathering as the perfect vehicle for amplifying the virus, but others have cautioned that it is too early to make a decision given the unknowns about the virus. Organizers have said a decision on whether to cancel the Games would have to come by late May.

Legese won the marathon with a time of 2 hours, 4 minutes and 15 seconds. Lonah Chemtai Salpeter of Israel won in the women’s category with a time of 2 hours, 17 minutes and 45 seconds.

The marathon also doubles as the Olympic trial for Japanese runners, the AP reported.

By: Alex Horton

10:44 AM: Pence attempts to reassure public of Trump administration’s response to virus

Vice President Pence tried to reassure the American public on Sunday that the Trump administration is leading an aggressive, whole-of-government response to the coronavirus that has kept the threat of the flulike illness at a low level for the average citizen.

“The good news is, of the 22 Americans that have contracted the coronavirus, more than half of them are almost fully recovered. And I think it’s all a reflection of the fact that early on in this crisis, the president took the unprecedented step of suspending all travel from China and establishing a quarantining effect,” Pence said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Referring to the first U.S. death, reported Saturday in Washington state, he said, “We could have more sad news, but the American people should know the risk for the average American remains low.” He added that “they can be confident” in the administration’s handling of the contagion.

On the same show, Biden criticized the administration’s response, saying more protective gear and test kits should have been available sooner.

“We knew this was coming. Back as far as January. They didn’t even begin to prepare the testing kits. This is something that’s elementary,” he said.

By: Joel Achenbach

10:37 AM: Louvre museum closes, with no scheduled reopening announced

a man standing in front of a building: People walk by the Louvre museum in Paris on Sunday. (Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP) People walk by the Louvre museum in Paris on Sunday. (Rafael Yaghobzadeh/AP)

Tourists faced closed doors at the Louvre on Sunday after the world-famous Paris museum announced it wouldn’t open because of the coronavirus.

The museum, which was visited by about 10 million people last year, posted about the closure on its website but didn’t say when the Louvre would reopen.

The announcement came a day after France banned all public indoor gatherings that include more than 5,000 people, as well as some outside events. Numerous conferences and races were canceled as a result of the policy, including a half-marathon scheduled for Sunday in Paris, The Washington Post reported.

The 2,300 workers who guard the Louvre’s priceless art are concerned about getting infected by visitors, who come from all over the world, Andre Sacristin, a union representative and museum employee, told the Associated Press.

“We are very worried because we have visitors from everywhere,” Sacristin said. “The risk is very, very, very great.”

Staffers requested masks but were given only an alcohol-based solution to disinfect their hands, Sacristin told AP.

“That didn’t please us at all,” he said, adding that union representatives will meet with management on Monday to discuss virus prevention.

The museum is offering employees with “chronic pathologies” access to medical services, Louvre spokeswoman Sophie Grange told The Post.

Museum employees also are concerned that workers from northern Italy are visiting the Louvre to collect works by Leonardo da Vinci that were loaned for an exhibition about the artist. Italy is the virus’s epicenter in Europe.

Grange said visitors can email the museum to be reimbursed for tickets.

By: Meryl Kornfield

10:12 AM: Trump says travelers from high-risk countries will be screened upon arrival in U.S.

In an early morning tweet, President Trump said that people traveling from “high risk countries” will be screened for covid-19 both before they board their flight and once they land in the United States.

The CDC has issued Level 3 warnings and encouraged Americans to avoid nonessential travel to South Korea, Italy, China and Iran.

The announcement appears to be another change in travel protocol surrounding the novel virus outbreak, which is expanding in the U.S. by the day. At a news conference Saturday where Trump spoke on the nation’s first coronavirus death, the president announced other new travel restrictions.

They included an extension to the existing travel ban on Iran, which now applies to any foreign nationals who has been in that country over the past 14 days. Trump raised the warning level for travel to Italy and South Korea, recommending Americans not travel to regions where outbreaks are concentrated. Trump said he is also considering restrictions across the southern U.S. border, though Mexico’s Foreign Ministry later pointed out the country has fewer coronavirus cases than the United States.

By: Katie Mettler

9:50 AM: Teachers union leader lambastes Trump on response to virus

Appearing on CNN early Sunday, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, criticized President Trump and the administration’s response to the coronavirus, saying officials had “pretended this didn’t exist” and put schools at risk.

“We pushed very hard to get the Trump administration, you know, back in January and February to do something as opposed to pretending that this was not real,” she told host Christi Paul.

Weingarten further took shots at the administration over budget and staffing cuts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, saying the White House should be guided by science.

“There are still — I mean, I know that the president basically got rid of all the pandemic experts in the White House — but there are still scientists at the CDC who really understand and know what they’re doing,” the union head said. “There are scientists around the country who know what they’re doing.”

The union has been working directly with officials on the cases in California and Oregon related to schools. Every school should have a plan in place for emergent cases, she said.

By: Meryl Kornfield

9:34 AM: WHO chief calls for markets to calm down, while warning that pandemic is possible

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wearing a suit and tie: World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a daily news briefing on the novel coronavirus in Geneva on Feb. 28, 2020. © Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images World Health Organization Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at a daily news briefing on the novel coronavirus in Geneva on Feb. 28, 2020.

DUBAI — The director general of the World Health Organization urged Sunday for global markets to calm down in the face of fears of the spreading coronavirus, while admitting that countries should prepare for a pandemic.

Speaking from a humanitarian forum in Saudi Arabia, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told CNBC that global markets “should calm down and try to see the reality.” He urged everyone to not be irrational and to deal with facts.

“Based on the facts on the ground, containment is possible,” Tedros said, reiterating that “panic and fear” were the real enemies. The past week registered some of the worst global stock market results since the 2008 financial crisis, including a 12 percent drop in the Dow Jones industrial average.

Tedros has repeatedly praised China’s response to the virus and initially backed its assessment that the virus was under control — before it eventually spread to 60 countries and infected about 85,000 people.

The WHO chief has increasingly been striking a sober note about the spread of the virus, warning that developing nations, especially those in Africa with underdeveloped health sectors, could be badly hit. “The window of opportunity for containing it is narrowing. So we need to be preparing side by side for a pandemic,” he said.

By: Paul Schemm

9:24 AM: Nike closes sprawling Oregon campus for ‘deep cleaning’

Nike shuttered its enormous campus in Beaverton, Ore., over the weekend after confirmation of presumptive coronavirus in Washington County.

“While we have no information indicating any exposure to Nike employees, out of an abundance of caution, we are conducting a deep cleaning of campus,” Nike said in a statement, according to local media. “All [world headquarter] buildings and facilities, including fitness centers, will be closed over the weekend.”

An employee of Forest Hills Elementary School in nearby Lake Oswego tested positive for coronavirus, which precipitated the decision by Nike, the company said.

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The weekend closure is significant given the size and use of Nike’s world headquarters, which operates like a small town for its 12,000 employees. Staffers traverse miles of running trails, eat at restaurants and use child development centers on-site.

It is unclear whether other companies on the West Coast will follow suit and shut down to rid their facilities of virus remnants. Forest Hills Elementary will reopen Wednesday after an in-depth scrubbing.

By: Alex Horton

7:51 AM: British and German officials don’t rule out putting cities or regions under lockdown

A sign advertising the sale of protective face masks is marked “sold out” inside a Berlin shop on Feb. 28, 2020. (David Gannon/AFP/Getty Images) © David Gannon/Afp Via Getty Images A sign advertising the sale of protective face masks is marked “sold out” inside a Berlin shop on Feb. 28, 2020. (David Gannon/AFP/Getty Images)

BERLIN — Governments across Europe were pushing ahead with plans to contain or slow down the spread of the coronavirus on Sunday, with British Health Secretary Matt Hancock and Germany’s Interior Minister Horst Seehofer both refusing to rule out more extreme measures.

Hancock told the BBC that no measures were “off the table.”

Among discussed measures, said Hancock, were road closures or a plea to recently-retired nurses and doctors to return to work.

Putting entire cities with large outbreaks under lockdown, said Hancock, would pose “a huge economic and social downside,” but he added that “we don’t take anything off the table at this stage.”

Germany’s interior minister similarly indicated that lockdowns could be considered, even though they “would be the last resort,” according to the Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

France on Saturday banned all public interior gatherings with over 5,000 individuals as well as some outside events, forcing the cancellation of numerous upcoming conferences and races, including a half marathon that was supposed to take place in Paris on Sunday.

As staff at the Louvre museum assembled for a coronavirus response meeting in Paris on Sunday, the museum temporarily shut its doors to visitors. It was expected to reopen later on, Reuters reported.

By: Rick Noack

7:07 AM: Coronavirus cases and deaths in Iran rise sharply within 24 hours

a group of people walking down the street: A pedestrian wearing a face mask crosses a street in western Tehran, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi) © Vahid Salemi/AP A pedestrian wearing a face mask crosses a street in western Tehran, Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

DUBAI — Iran announced another spike in coronavirus infections on Sunday with a total of 978 cases in the country, up from just under 600, and a rise in deaths to 54.

Iran has experienced one of the most rapid growths in the covid-19 disease, with no confirmed cases just 10 days ago and now by far most in the entire Middle East. The number of cases have been jumping by hundreds a day — including even the deputy health minister.

Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the cases were mostly concentrated in the city of Tehran and the holy city of Qom, a pilgrimage center, where it was first discovered.

Authorities are struggling to contain the rapid spread of the virus and have ordered all hospitals to admit virus patients and have expanded the number of facilities to carry out testing — which could also be behind the discovery of hundreds of new cases. There have also been efforts to disinfect and fumigate public places.

Iran’s foundation for veterans asked those suffering from the long term effects of exposure to chemical weapons to stay at home. Many Iranians were exposed to poisoned gas during the war with Iraq during the 1980s, which resulted in long-term health conditions.

While rarely fatal, the coronavirus is especially dangerous to the elderly and those with preexisting respiratory conditions.

Cases from Iran have now been traced to several nearby countries, including Bahrain, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon and Oman, prompting several countries to halt flights.

By: Paul Schemm

6:48 AM: Germany ponders financial stimulus package, as number of cases more than doubles in two days

BERLIN — As the number of coronavirus cases in Germany surged on Sunday, German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz suggested the possibility of an economic stimulus package “in case the situation demands it.”

Authorities confirmed 117 cases on Sunday, up from 53 on Friday morning. Most cases were reported in North Rhine-Westphalia, the country’s most populous federal state.

Speaking to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, Scholz, who is also German vice chancellor, said the country was well prepared for the economic fallout of a wider outbreak, even as analysts warned it could slash growth significantly.

The European Union’s biggest economy is still recovering from a number of recent setbacks, including a weakening economic outlook partially due to President Trump’s trade disputes with China and other countries that hit the export-dependent German economy.

Sunday’s suggestion of a stimulus package in Germany came as a top Italian official vowed billions of dollars to help country’s embattled economy, even though it remained unclear how or when that funding would become available.

a harbor with a city in the background: Gantry cranes stand as containers sit stacked at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminal in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg) © Paul Yeung/Bloomberg Gantry cranes stand as containers sit stacked at the Kwai Tsing Container Terminal in Hong Kong, China, on Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020. (Paul Yeung/Bloomberg)

German officials have said they believe the virus is likely to become an epidemic in the country. There are still far less confirmed cases in Germany than in virus-stricken Italy, where the case tally has crossed the 1,000 threshold. But Germany now has more cases than other major European nations, including France, where more than 100 infections were confirmed Sunday, and Spain with over 70 cases.

German authorities hope new measures could slow down the spreading of the virus.

A major travel trade show in Berlin, ITB, which was set to begin next week, was abruptly canceled. Airlines are now required to report the health status of all travelers from South Korea, Japan, Italy, China and Iran. Some companies have asked their employees to work from home until further notice.

By: Rick Noack

6:03 AM: Recovered coronavirus patient has lung transplant in China

BEIJING — A Chinese man who had recovered from coronavirus but sustained severe and irreversible damage to his lungs underwent a transplant this weekend, with his doctors reporting he was in a stable condition.

The lungs, which came from a brain-dead patient, traveled seven hours on a high-speed train to get to Wuxi in Jiangsu province, where renowned surgeon and vice president of Wuxi People’s Hospital, Chen Jingyu, performed the transplant.

The 59-year-old recipient was diagnosed with coronavirus on Jan. 26 and was treated and recovered, the Beijing Youth Daily reported Sunday. But he had irreversible respiratory failure in both lungs and was on a ventilator.

After repeatedly testing negative for coronavirus, the man underwent the transplant this weekend, an operation that took five hours, the paper reported, adding that he is in stable condition.

The surgery “opens the gate of hope for the treatment of more end-stage coronavirus patients who are critically ill,” Chen said.

By: Anna Fifield

5:54 AM: American Airlines suspends flights to Milan following travel warning

a large passenger jet sitting on top of a runway: American Airlines at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. (Angus Mordant/Bloomberg) © Angus Mordant/Bloomberg American Airlines at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. (Angus Mordant/Bloomberg)

American Airlines said Saturday it was suspending flights to and from Milan after the State Department raised its travel warning for parts of Italy hit hard by the coronavirus outbreak.

The airline said daily flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Miami International Airport would cease starting Sunday and could resume by April 25.

“Our teams are contacting affected customers directly to accommodate their needs. American continues to review the airline’s flight schedule to ensure that customers’ needs are accommodated and will make additional refinements as necessary,” American Airlines said in a statement.

Italy is grappling with the world’s third largest coronavirus outbreak after China and South Korea. More than 1,100 people have been infected and more than two dozen have died.

The State Department on Saturday told Americans not to travel to the northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, where the virus was spreading rapidly and where quarantine measures were in place. Milan is the capital of Lombardy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has urged Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to the country.

By: Derek Hawkins

5:21 AM: Chinese man sentenced to death for stabbing two workers at virus checkpoint

BEIJING — A man in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan was sentenced to death for murder on Sunday after killing two people working at a coronavirus checkpoint last month.

The man, a 23-year-old called Ma Jianguo who had only a primary school education, had been driving between two villages in Honghe county on Feb. 6 with a man called Ma Kelong.

When they arrived at a checkpoint where officials were taking temperatures, an angry Ma Kelong tried to push the roadblock aside, against the orders of the workers, according to a statement by Yunnan government's publicity department.

When he wouldn't stop, one of the workers at the checkpoint, Zhang Guizhou, took out his phone to document the actions.

Ma Jianguo was unhappy that the workers were filming his friend and pulled out a fruit knife, stabbing and killing Zhang and then another worker, Li Guomin, when he tried to intervene.

Both Zhang and Li were local party cadres.

The Honghe Intermediate People’s Court of Yunnan province on Sunday deprived Ma Jianguo of his political rights for life, meaning he will have no freedom of speech, and sentenced him to death.

By: Anna Fifield

4:14 AM: Satellite images show pollution disappearing as large parts of China remain shut

a close up of a map: Satellite images from NASA show a drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution over China. Satellite images from NASA show a drop in nitrogen dioxide pollution over China.

BEIJING — The extent of China’s industrial shutdown in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak is clearly visible from the sky, with NASA and European Space Agency satellites showing pollution almost completely disappearing over China this month.

The images, comparing the periods of Jan. 1-20 and Feb. 10-25, show an astonishing drop in concentrations of nitrogen dioxide, a noxious gas emitted by motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial facilities.

Businesses were already closing down ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday, which officially began Jan. 24, when Chinese authorities began shutting down cities — starting with Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak — on Jan. 23.

The reduction in nitrogen dioxide pollution was first apparent near Wuhan, but soon spread across the country with the lockdowns.

“This is the first time I have seen such a dramatic drop-off over such a wide area for a specific event,” Fei Liu, an air quality researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, said in a statement.

The drop was much faster and much more enduring than during other periods of slowdown, like the 2008 economic recession and the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Liu said.

While lower emissions are expected during the holiday, when most businesses close for at least a week, it usually returns soon after. This year, it has not.

“This year, the reduction rate is more significant than in past years and it has lasted longer,” she said. “I am not surprised because many cities nationwide have taken measures to minimize spread of the virus.”

By: Anna Fifield

4:05 AM: Tokyo marathon takes place without public participation, sumo contest to be held in empty arena

a group of people on a city street: A street in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is seen empty after the start of the Tokyo Marathon 2020. © Kiyoshi Ota/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock A street in front of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is seen empty after the start of the Tokyo Marathon 2020.

TOKYO — A massively scaled-back Tokyo marathon was held on Sunday on often empty streets, with spectators discouraged, viewing stands dismantled and only a few hundred elite runners allowed to take part.

Meanwhile, Japan’s spring sumo tournament in the western city of Osaka will be held in an empty area, the event’s organizers announced on Sunday. The Japan Sumo Association had been considering canceling the event outright but decided instead to go ahead without spectators, Japanese media reported.

The news underlines the sort of dilemmas that the International Olympic Committee may ultimately have to face over the Summer Games in Tokyo if the virus continues to spread.

Japan’s soccer and rugby leagues have postponed games in March, while two preseason baseball games involving the Yomiuri Giants were played in an empty Tokyo Dome this weekend, after the government asked organizers of mass events to postpone, cancel or scale them back.

Japan has confirmed 242 cases of the new coronavirus, including 14 people who were evacuated from China, but not including more than 700 cases among passengers and crew of the Diamond Princess. In all, 11 people have died, and 56 are in serious condition, according to a tally by public broadcaster NHK.

Ethiopia’s Birhanu Legese won the Tokyo Marathon for the second year in a row.

By: Simon Denyer

3:35 AM: Members of religious sect linked to Daegu outbreak visited Wuhan in January, South Korean officials say

a bicycle parked on the side of a building: A man wearing a face mask rides a bicycle in front of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu on Feb. 27, 2020. (Jung Yeon-je / AFP/Getty Images) © Jung Yeon-Je/Afp Via Getty Images A man wearing a face mask rides a bicycle in front of the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus in Daegu on Feb. 27, 2020. (Jung Yeon-je / AFP/Getty Images)

SEOUL — Members of a religious sect linked to a coronavirus cluster in South Korea visited the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than half of South Korea’s 3,526 coronavirus cases are linked to a branch of Shincheonji Church of Jesus in southern city of Daegu. After authorities identified the church as a hotbed of the coronavirus, Christian churches and Buddhist temples across the country called off meetings and held services online.

KCDC Vice Director Kwon Jun-wook at a briefing on Sunday said members of the church visited Wuhan in January. Kwon said it was unclear how many members traveled to Wuhan and the role of the trip in the outbreak at the South Korean church.

South China Morning Post, citing unnamed sources, reported last weekend that members of the church held meetings in Wuhan until December. Shincheonji said in a statement last month that its branch in Wuhan had been closed several years ago.

South Korean health authorities rolled out a plan to test more than 200,000 members of Shincheonji Church of Jesus, formally known as the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony.

The church said on Sunday that its leader Lee Man-hee will be tested for the virus. Lee, who founded the church in 1984, is equated with second coming of Jesus by his followers.

By: Min Joo Kim

3:12 AM: Chinese villagers hospitalized with poisoning after taking disinfection tablets

BEIJING — Twenty-two people from 14 households in Huangmei County, southeast of the virus outbreak epicenter of Wuhan, have been hospitalized after taking effervescent chlorine dioxide disinfection tablets issued by their local epidemic prevention and control headquarters.

An investigation has been launched into how the people came to take the tablets, the Huangmei County publicity propaganda department told local media on Sunday.

The residents were ordered to drink the disinfectant tablets, dissolved in water, while the local party cadres took photos to verify that the treatment had been administered, the news outlet reported.

A nurse at Huangmei County People's Hospital confirmed Sunday that more than 20 people were being treated for poisoning, it said.

Screenshots of a group chat from Feb. 29, posted online, show a nurse from Huangmei County People’s Hospital saying they were rescuing more than 20 people from the village and that they were being treated at in the hospital’s emergency room.

By: Anna Fifield

2:40 AM: UAE shutters children’s nurseries, cancels events in effort to stop virus

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: A spectator wears a protective face mask at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis ATP Championships 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, February 28, 2020. (Ali Haider/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock) © Ali Haider/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock A spectator wears a protective face mask at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis ATP Championships 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, February 28, 2020. (Ali Haider/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

DUBAI — The United Arab Emirates closed all children’s nurseries for two weeks starting Sunday as part of a raft of new measures to combat the spread of the coronavirus in this Middle East travel hub.

In a news conference on Saturday, Minister of Health Abdul Rahman Al Owais said there were now 21 cases of the virus in the country, including two Italian team members with the UAE Tour who came into contact with 612 people, all of whom are being tested. So far five of those infected with the virus have fully recovered.

The UAE tour has been canceled and 181 students involved in the biking event are being quarantined at home for 14 days.

The minister also said that two aircraft are being readied to evacuate UAE nationals from the Iranian capital of Tehran and the resort island of Qeshm. There has been an explosion of the virus in Iran, just across the Persian Gulf from the UAE, with more than 40 deaths out of nearly 600 cases.

The Education Ministry has also ordered all private schools to cancel field trips and any competitions or festivals involving multiple schools. There are currently no confirmed cases of the virus in the school system.

A fake tweet purporting to be from the education department saying all schools were closed Sunday was vigorously denied and condemned by the government. Reports of a case in a residential compound in the capital Abu Dhabi were also denied.

UAE, which is a travel hub and home to two major international airlines, Emirates and Etihad, was the first Middle Eastern country to report cases of the virus — a tourist from China.

By: Paul Schemm

2:15 AM: Thailand reports first coronavirus death

A 35-year-old Thai man has died of causes related to the coronavirus, becoming Thailand’s first fatality in the outbreak, the country’s health officials said Sunday.

The man, a retail worker, contracted dengue fever and the coronavirus at the same time and had been hospitalized for weeks, Thai health officials said at a briefing, according to Bloomberg News.

He tested negative in mid-February, but “the damage was already done to his body,” said Tawee Chotpitayasunondh, adviser to the Department of Disease Control.

Thailand had more than 40 confirmed covid-19 cases as of Sunday.

By: Derek Hawkins

1:37 AM: China seeks to play the hero as outbreak spreads globally

BEIJING — As the coronavirus that began in China spreads rapidly across the world, China is seeking to portray itself as a benevolent provider of advice for dealing with the outbreak.

A group of five experts from the Red Cross Society of China arrived in Iran this weekend to help the country fight the outbreak there and to bring medical supplies from China, the People’s Daily newspaper reported Sunday.

China’s ruling Communist Party always tries to portray itself in the best light through its official propaganda outlets, but even by those standings, the framing will raise eyebrows.

Not only did the virus originate in China, but the news came even as health-care workers struggle to contain the virus in the epicenter of Hubei province and to get adequate supplies.

The Chinese ambassador to Iran, Chang Hua, met the experts at the airport in Tehran, saying they had arrived in the capital at a critical moment and calling them “heroes in harm’s way,” the paper reported.

The People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the party, quoted an unnamed Iranian health officials as saying the country could “learn from China’s rich experience combating the virus.”

Meanwhile in Europe, where the virus as erupted in Italy, China said it was poised to help.

“China follows the development of the outbreak in European countries and stands ready to share its experience with the E.U. to jointly tackle the challenge,” the Chinese Mission to the European Union wrote in a news release.

By: Anna Fifield

1:14 AM: Armenian authorities report country’s first infection

MOSCOW — Armenian authorities Sunday announced the first case of coronavirus in the former Soviet country.

The patient is a 29-year-old Armenian man who Friday returned from Iran with this wife, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan posted on Facebook.

Other former Soviet countries close to Iran, Georgia and Azerbaijan, have also discovered cases in recent days related to the Iranian outbreak of the illness.

By: Robyn Dixon

1:10 AM: Family of Washington teen with coronavirus ‘did everything right’ in responding to illness, health officials say

The family of the Seattle-area high school student who tested positive for coronavirus took all the right precautions in dealing with the teen’s illness, health officials in Washington said Saturday, seeking to calm backlash from the community.

The student from Jackson High School in Snohomish County fell ill with a fever and body aches at the beginning of the week and tested negative for the flu at a local clinic, according to officials from Snohomish Health District.

On Friday morning, after being fever-free for 48 hours, he spent about five minutes on campus, then was told to return home immediately when the family learned he was being tested for covid-19, the district said. Health officials announced the test results a few hours later.

“The family did everything right,” Heather Thomas, the health district’s public affairs manager, told The Washington Post, adding that the family has faced a flurry of attacks on social media.

“They went above and beyond,” she said. “He was only on campus for minutes. The risk to the community was low.”

The teen is currently isolated at home and will stay there until his covid-19 tests come back negative and he is deemed clear by health officials, Thomas said. Jackson High will close through Monday for cleaning.

The student’s family said he is now “symptom-free.”

“We are taking this situation very seriously,” the family said in a statement through the health district. “Please know that we have been following all guidance and instructions from both the health care providers that treated our son, as well the Snohomish Health District. We understand the concerns and anxiety raised, but we ask that the community and media please respect our family’s privacy.”

Health officials are investigating how the student became infected and tracing his contacts to see who else may have been exposed. Some students who had close contact with the patient have been quarantined for two weeks, as the Seattle Times reported.

By: Derek Hawkins

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