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Top Health Official Urges Elderly People To ‘Absolutely’ Avoid Cruise Ships




A top U.S. health official on Sunday urged elderly people and individuals with underlying conditions such as heart disease and diabetes to “absolutely” avoid cruise ships as the coronavirus continues to spread across the world.
Anthony Fauci, a doctor and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, warned vulnerable populations against unnecessary travel — especially on cruise ships — during a series of appearances on Sunday morning talk shows.
“Something that’s important that I hope the American people appreciate is that the risk of getting into trouble with this infection … is overwhelmingly weighted towards people with underlying conditions and the elderly,” Fauci told NBC’s “Meet The Press.”
“If you are an elderly person with an underlying condition, if you get infected, the risk of getting into trouble is considerable,” he continued. “When I say protect, I mean right now, [don’t] wait until things get worse, say ‘no large crowds, no long trips, and above all, don’t get on a cruise ship.’”
WATCH: “Don’t get on a cruise ship” if you have an underlying health condition, the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warns on #MTP. Dr. Anthony Fauci says people who are already vulnerable to health infections should take extra precautions. pic.twitter.com/i9zdrJVR1C— Meet the Press (@MeetThePress) March 8, 2020

Over 100,000 people worldwide have tested positive for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus first documented in December in Wuhan, China. The virus has killed over 3,500 people globally, with the vast majority of deaths in China.
In the U.S., the coronavirus has killed at least 18 people and infected over 350, Fauci told “Fox News Sunday.” At least 46 of those confirmed cases were individuals who traveled aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship to Southeast Asia earlier this year. Passengers were quarantined aboard the ship in Japan for weeks.
Another cruise ship suffering a coronavirus outbreak is scheduled to dock in Oakland, California, as early as Monday, officials said. It is carrying 3,000 passengers ― 21 of whom have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We’re having an acceleration of cases now,” Fauci told Fox News’ Chris Wallace on Sunday. “What we’re seeing is what is called ‘community spread’ in certain regions of the country, particularly in the area of Washington state.”
Earlier on Sunday, Italian officials announced a quarantine of a region in northern Italy that includes Milan and Venice that will restrict the movement of roughly 16 million people amid an outbreak of coronavirus.
Asked if that could happen in the U.S., Fauci said it’s “possible.”
″We have to be realistic,” Fauci said. “I don’t think it would be as draconian as nobody in, nobody out. But there’ll be, if we can continue to get cases like this. particularly at the community level, there will be what is called ‘mitigation,’ where you’ll have to do essentially social distancing.”
“It’s particularly important among the most vulnerable,” he continued, adding that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department would be announcing new recommendations against travel for people with underlying conditions.
“Those are the most vulnerable ones, particularly elderly people with underlying conditions ― heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes ― [should] take a look at things that are at high risk: crowded places, getting on airplanes and absolutely don’t get on a cruise ship,” he said.
Doctor Anthony Fauci joined FOX News Sunday to give the latest on the spread of the coronavirus and the death toll. The virus has hit Italy hard and the government has shut certain areas down. Chris asked Doctor Fauci if this will be a reality in the U.S. #FNS pic.twitter.com/K9qBarQSVb— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) March 8, 2020

Wallace asked Fauci about the White House’s conflicting messages about the coronavirus. President Donald Trump claimed Friday that tests for the virus are available to everyone who needs them, but Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the White House’s coronavirus task force, said a day earlier that the U.S. does not have enough tests to meet the demand.
“Can anybody who needs a test get a test now?” Wallace asked.
Fauci didn’t directly answer the question, but said there are currently 1.1 million tests “out there now” with an additional 640,000 expected on Monday.
“The fact is, the tests are out there,” he said. “There was a misstep early on with regards to the test, mainly a technical difficulty.”
Democrats and some public health officials have criticized Trump for downplaying the deadly impacts of coronavirus and for botching some of the related science. In describing what it’s like to work with Trump on the issue, Fauci told Politico last week that “you should never destroy your own credibility.”
“You don’t want to go to war with a president,” he said. “But you got to walk the fine balance of making sure you continue to tell the truth.”
Fauci said Sunday that he tries his best to stay away from political spin while discussing the coronavirus.
″When you have the evidence, you give it as it is,” he told Wallace. “If you don’t have all the evidence ’cause we’re in a dynamic situation, you use your best judgment in recommendations and guidelines. But you must always ― always ― be truthful with the American public.”
Doctor Anthony Fauci talks about staying away from political spin when addressing the American public about the risks of the coronavirus. #FNS pic.twitter.com/PCiqLmGsqQ— FoxNewsSunday (@FoxNewsSunday) March 8, 2020

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White House Overruled CDC Push For Elderly Not To Fly Due To Coronavirus: Official




NEW YORK (AP) — The White House overruled health officials who wanted to recommend that elderly and physically fragile Americans be advised not to fly on commercial airlines because of the new coronavirus, a federal official told The Associated Press.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention submitted the plan this week as a way of trying to control the virus, but White House officials ordered the air travel recommendation be removed, said the official who had direct knowledge of the plan. Trump administration officials have since suggested certain people should consider not traveling, but they have stopped short of the stronger guidance sought by the CDC.
The person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity did not have authorization to talk about the matter. The person did not have direct knowledge about why the decision to kill the language was made.
In a tweet, the press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, Katie Miller, said that “it was never a recommendation to the Task Force” and called the AP story “complete fiction.”
On Friday, the CDC quietly updated its website to tell older adults and people with severe medical conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease to “stay home as much as possible” and avoid crowds. It urges those people to “take actions to reduce your risk of exposure,” but it doesn’t specifically address flying.
Pence, speaking Saturday after meeting with cruise ship industry leaders in Florida, targeted his travel advice to a narrower group: older people with serious health problems.
“If you’re a senior citizen with a serious underlying health condition, this would be a good time to practice common sense and to avoid activities including traveling on a cruise line,” Pence said, adding they were looking to cruise line officials for action, guidance and flexibility with those passengers.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Vice President Mike Pence, center, along with Florida Sen. Rick Scott, far left, and Gov. Ron DeSantis, left, and CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield, right, speaks to the media after a meeting with cruise line company leaders to discuss the efforts to fight the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus, at Port Everglades, Saturday March 7, 2020, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar suggested older Americans and those with health problems should avoid crowds “especially in poorly ventilated spaces.”
For most people, the flu-like viral illness causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But — like the flu — it can cause pneumonia and be much more lethal to people made frail by old age and by conditions that make it harder for their bodies to fight infections.
Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, this week warned U.S. lawmakers against minimizing the viruses risk for vulnerable people. During a Congressional hearing, he said the coronavirus “is like the angel of death for older individuals.”
Some experts this week said clearer and louder guidance should be made to vulnerable people, so they take every possible step to avoid settings where they might more easily become infected.
“The clear message to people who fit into those categories is; ‘You ought to become a semi-hermit. You’ve got to really get serious in your personal life about social distancing, and in particular avoiding crowds of any kind,’” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University expert on infectious diseases.
That can include not only avoiding essential commercial travel but also large church services and crowded restaurants, he added.
Dr. Tom Frieden, a former CDC director, said whether to recommend the frail and elderly avoid air travel is “a difficult question,” but clearly this is a time when such conversations should be taking place.
“At this point the risk in the U.S. remains low, but we are seeing it spread rapidly. We are going from the calm before the storm to the beginning of the storm,” said Frieden, who now heads Resolve to Save Lives, an organization promoting global public health.
The new virus is a member of the coronavirus family that can cause colds or more serious illnesses such as SARS and MERS. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.
The virus first emerged late last year in mainland China, but this year has increasingly been spreading around the world. More than 100,000 illnesses have been reported globally, in more than 90 countries and territories. the count includes more than 3,500 deaths.
For weeks, cases in the U.S. remained very low, but the count has been accelerating in the last several days.
President Donald Trump visited the CDC in Atlanta on Friday, where he defended his administration’s handling of the outbreak and tried to reassure Americans that the government had the virus under control. But Trump also detoured from that message, calling Washington state’s governor a “snake” and saying he’d prefer that people exposed to the virus on a cruise ship be left aboard so they wouldn’t be added to the nation’s tally.

Associated Press writers Lynn Berry in Washington and Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, contributed to this report.

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Cruise Ship Hit By Coronavirus To Dock In Oakland, California




SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A cruise ship hit by the new coronavirus is headed to the port of Oakland, California, the captain told passengers, though they were destined to stay aboard the ship for at least another day.
Grand Princess Capt. John Smith, in a recording provided by passenger Laurie Miller of San Jose, told guests the ship will dock in Oakland. Princess Cruises says it’s expected to arrive on Monday. The ship is carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries.
“An agreement has been reached to bring our ship into the port of Oakland,” he told passengers Saturday night. “After docking, we will then begin a disembarkation process specified by federal authorities that will take several days.”
Smith said passengers who need medical treatment or hospitalization will go to health care facilities in California, while state residents who don’t require acute medical care “will go to a federally operated isolation facility within California for testing and isolation.”
U.S. guests from other states will be transported by the federal government to facilities in other states. Crew members will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship.
Smith said the information he was given did not include any details about what would happen to passengers from other countries.
“We are working to obtain more details overnight. … I’m sorry I can’t provide you more details right now,” he said.
The Grand Princess had been forbidden to dock in San Francisco amid evidence that the vessel was the breeding ground for a cluster of nearly 20 cases that resulted in at least one death after a previous voyage.
Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll from the virus climbed to 19, with all but three victims in Washington state. The number of infections swelled to more than 400, scattered across the U.S., as passengers aboard the ship holed up in their rooms.
Steven Smith and his wife, Michele, of Paradise, California, went on the cruise to celebrate their wedding anniversary. The Smiths said they were a bit worried but felt safe in their room, which they had left just once since Thursday to video chat with their children.
Crew members wearing masks and gloves delivered trays with their food in covered plates, delivered outside their door. They’ve occupied themselves by watching TV, reading and looking out the window.
“Thank God, we have a window!” Steven Smith said.
The ship was heading from Hawaii to San Francisco when it was held off the California coast Wednesday so people with symptoms could be tested for the virus. Cruise officials on Saturday disclosed more information about how they think the outbreak occurred.
Grant Tarling, chief medical officer for Carnival Corporation, said it’s believed a 71-year-old Northern California man who later died of the virus was probably sick when he boarded the ship for a Feb. 11 cruise to Mexico.
The passenger visited the medical center the day before disembarking with symptoms of respiratory illness, he said. Others in several states and Canada who were on that voyage also have tested positive.
The passenger likely infected his dining room server, who also tested positive for the virus, Tarling said, as did two people traveling with the man. Two passengers now on the ship who have the virus were not on the previous cruise, he said.
Some passengers who had been on the Mexico trip stayed aboard for the current voyage — increasing crew members’ exposure to the virus.
Another Princess ship, the Diamond Princess, was quarantined for two weeks in Yokohama, Japan, last month because of the virus. Ultimately, about 700 of the 3,700 people aboard became infected in what experts pronounced a public-health failure, with the vessel essentially becoming a floating germ factory.
Hundreds of Americans aboard that ship were flown to military bases in California and other states for two-week quarantines. Some later were hospitalized with symptoms.
An epidemiologist who studies the spread of virus particles said the recirculated air from a cruise ship’s ventilation system, plus the close quarters and communal settings, make passengers and crew vulnerable to infectious diseases.
“They’re not designed as quarantine facilities, to put it mildly,” said Don Milton of the University of Maryland.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 100,000 people and killed more than 3,400, the vast majority of them in China. Most cases have been mild, and more than half of those infected have recovered.

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Italy Plans Mandatory Quarantine For 16 Million People In Region Including Milan, Venice




Italy is preparing to establish a mandatory quarantine in the northern part of the country that will affect Milan and Venice, in a desperate bid to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Under new regulations expected to be passed overnight, people living in the Lombardy region — of which Milan is the capital — and 11 nearby provinces must “absolutely avoid any movement into and out of the areas,” according to a draft decree from the Italian prime minister’s office seen by The Wall Street Journal.
The quarantine is set to last until April 3 and residents could face fines or jail time if they attempt to enter or leave the area before then (unless they obtain permission for a serious reason), The Guardian reported. 
In addition, the decree would ban all public events and religious and civil ceremonies like weddings and funerals. Cinemas, theaters, gyms, bars, ski resorts and museums would be shut down. Schools and universities have already been closed, and that would continue.
People would be instructed to move about only for emergencies and work obligations that absolutely can’t be postponed.
In Italy, which is facing Europe’s largest coronavirus outbreak, nearly 6,000 people have been infected with COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and 233 have died from it. The country has documented the largest number of infections outside Asia, which jumped by nearly 1,200 in a single 24-hour period ending Saturday.
The outbreak in Italy began two weeks ago and the northern regions of Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna and Veneto have so far suffered 85% of cases and 92% of the deaths.
Currently some 50,000 Italians have been affected by some quarantine measures and the new, more restrictive quarantine is set to take effect Sunday if it passes. It would affect a quarter of Italy’s population and would be the most radical action to deal with COVID-19 since China quarantined some 500 million people earlier this year, which has appeared to significantly slow the spread of the disease there.
“We will win this battle if our citizens adopt a responsible attitude and change their way of living,” Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy’s civil protection agency, said at a press conference on Saturday.

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Cruise Ship Circles Off California Coast After 21 Test Positive For Coronavirus




SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Thousands of people were confined Saturday to a cruise ship circling in international waters off the San Francisco Bay Area, after 21 passengers and crew members tested positive for the new coronavirus.
The Grand Princess was forbidden to dock in San Francisco amid evidence that the vessel had been the breeding ground for a cluster of more than 10 cases that resulted in at least one death after its previous voyage.

(California National Guard via AP

In this image from video, provided by the California National Guard, a helicopter carrying airmen with the 129th Rescue Wing flies over the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California Thursday, March 5, 2020.

Meanwhile, Florida reported two coronavirus deaths — the first outside the West Coast. Health officials said the people in their 70s died in Santa Rosa County in Florida’s Panhandle and in the Fort Myers area after traveling overseas. Florida also raised the number of people who have tested positive for COVID-19 — the disease caused by the coronavirus — from four to seven.
The U.S. death toll from the virus climbed to 16, with all but three victims in Washington state. The number of infections swelled to more than 200, scattered across about half of the U.S. states. Pennsylvania, Indiana, Minnesota and Nebraska have reported their first cases.
In California, state authorities were working with federal officials around-the-clock to bring the Grand Princess cruise ship to a non-commercial port over the weekend and test everyone for the virus. There was no immediate word on where the vessel will dock.
Two passengers on the ship said Friday night that the captain has notified them that they were moving to a location 20 miles off the coast for easier delivery of supplies. The captain said a guest required medical attention and might be airlifted out, the passengers said.

Chief Master Sgt. Seth Zweben/California National Guard via AP

In this Thursday, March 5, 2020, photo, released by the California National Guard, Guardian Angels, a group of medical personnel with the 129th Rescue Wing, working alongside individuals from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, don protective equipment after delivering virus testing kits to the Grand Princess cruise ship off the coast of California.

While health officials said about 1,100 crew members will remain aboard, passengers could be disembarked to face quarantine, possibly at U.S. military bases or other sites. That’s what happened to hundreds of passengers who were exposed to the virus on another cruise ship in January.
“Those that will need to be quarantined will be quarantined. Those who will require medical help will receive it,” Vice President Michael Pence said Friday as he announced that 19 crew members and two passengers had tested positive for COVID-19.
President Donald Trump, speaking Friday at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said he would prefer not to allow the passengers onto American soil but will defer to the recommendations of medical experts.
“They would like to have the people come off. I’d rather have the people stay but … I told them to make the final decision,” the president said.
“I don’t need to have the numbers (of U.S. cases) double because of one ship that wasn’t our fault,” Trump said while touring the CDC in Atlanta. “And it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship either. Okay? It wasn’t their fault either. And they are mostly American, so I can live either way with it.”
Passengers aboard the Grand Princess remained holed up in their rooms as they awaited word about the fate of the ship. Some said ship officials only informed them of the confirmed coronavirus cases after they first learned about it from news reports.
Steven Smith and his wife, Michele, of Paradise, California, went on the cruise to celebrate their wedding anniversary.
The Smiths said they were a bit worried but felt safe in their room, which they had left just once since Thursday to video chat with their children.
Crew members wearing masks and gloves delivered trays with their food in covered plates and left them outside their door.
To pass the time they have been watching television, reading and looking out the window.
“Thank God, we have a window!” Steven said.
The ship was heading from Hawaii to San Francisco when it was held off the California coast Wednesday so 46 people with possible coronavirus symptoms could be tested. On Thursday, a military helicopter crew lowered test kits onto the 951-foot (290-meter) ship by rope and later flew them for analysis at a state lab.
Health officials undertook the testing after reporting that a 71-year-old man who had been on a February voyage of the same ship to Mexico contracted the virus and died this week at a hospital in Placer County in Northern California. Others who were on that voyage also have tested positive in Northern California, Minnesota, Illinois, Hawaii, Utah and Canada. A “presumed positive” patient was self-isolating at home in Nevada, health officials there said.
Health officials confirmed another case in California on Saturday involving a Madera County resident who developed symptons after returning from a Princess cruise.
Some passengers who had been on the Mexico trip stayed aboard for the current voyage — increasing crew members’ exposure to the virus.
Another Princess ship, the Diamond Princess, was quarantined for two weeks in Yokohama, Japan, last month because of the virus. Ultimately, about 700 of the 3,700 people aboard became infected in what experts pronounced a public-health failure, with the vessel essentially becoming a floating germ factory.
Hundreds of Americans aboard that ship were flown to military bases in California and other states for two-week quarantines. Some later were hospitalized with symptoms.
An epidemiologist who studies the spread of virus particles said the recirculated air from a cruise ship’s ventilation system, plus the close quarters and communal settings, make passengers and crew vulnerable to infectious diseases.
“They’re not designed as quarantine facilities, to put it mildly,” said Don Milton of the University of Maryland.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 100,000 people and killed over 3,400, the vast majority of them in China. Most cases have been mild, and more than half of those infected have recovered.

A previous version of this story incorrectly reported President Trump made his comments about the cruise ship in an interview with Fox News. He said it during a tour of the CDC in Atlanta.

Associated Press writers Janie Har and Daisy Nguyen in San Francisco; Gene Johnson, Martha Bellisle and Carla K. Johnson in Seattle; Adriana Gomez Licon in Miami ; Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; and AP researcher Monika Mathur in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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Chinese Hotel Collapses While Being Used To Observe Coronavirus Contacts




BEIJING (AP) — A hotel used for medical observation of people who had contact with coronavirus patients collapsed in southeastern China on Saturday, trapping some 70 people, state media reported. There were no immediate reports of deaths.
At least 23 people were rescued from the wreckage of the Xinjia Express Hotel in Quanzhou, a city in Fujian province, the Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily and other outlets reported.
The 80-room hotel had been converted by the city government for observation of people who had contact with virus patients, according to People’s Daily.
The hotel collapsed at about 7:30 p.m., news reports said, citing the city government. 

STR via Getty Images

Rescuers search for survivors in the rubble of a collapsed hotel in Quanzhou, in China’s eastern Fujian province on March 7, 2020. – Around 70 people were trapped after the Xinjia Hotel collapsed on March 7 evening, officials said. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Photos on news websites showed rescue workers with flashlights climbing over the debris. Rubble was piled on cars in front of the building.
The hotel opened in June 2018, with rooms on the fourth to seventh floors of the building, the newspaper Beijing Youth Daily said.
An unidentified hotel employee cited by the Beijing Youth Daily said the owner carried out ”foundation-related construction” before the disaster. It gave no details.
China, where the virus first emerged in December, has confirmed more than 80,000 cases, by far the most in the world. It reported 99 new cases on Saturday, its first daily increase of less than 100 since Jan. 20. The government also reported 28 new fatalities, raising the mainland’s death toll to 3,070.

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Larry Kudlow Again Insists Coronavirus Is ‘Contained,’ Urges Americans: ‘Stay At Work’




As health experts warn of increasing coronavirus cases and urge workers to telecommute, President Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser, Larry Kudlow, declared again on Friday that the disease is “contained” and urged Americans: “Stay at work.” 
Trump also insisted Friday: “We stopped it,” apparently referring to cases coming in from China.
The comments underscored a widening rift. Health experts are warning of a serious outbreak of a dangerous disease and the necessity for immediate, focused action. The president and his officials, however, are claiming that the threat has largely been quelled.
Kudlow, who has no known background in medical science, said on CNBC that the coronavirus “frankly, so far … looks relatively contained.”
He also said it was “contained … pretty close to airtight”  last month when the number of cases was a fraction of the current toll.
Kudlow urged Americans to “stay at work.” He told CNBC anchor Scott Faber: “I’m saying we should not overreact. In many ways, America should stay at work. We should stay at work.”
In the U.S., COVID-19 is now being passed via community transmission, which means its spread can be extremely difficult to contain.
A Westchester lawyer who was in serious condition with the new coronavirus in a New York City hospital was commuting daily to work in Manhattan until he became ill. At least 28 other cases have been linked to him so far, The Business Insider reported Friday.
A total of more than 2,770 people are now under self-quarantine for the illness in New York City alone for symptoms or contacts, The New York Times reported Friday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging workers to telecommute if possible, and to definitely stay home and not go to work with suspected coronavirus symptoms, no matter how mild, because they could spread the disease and threaten lives. Some businesses and organizations have shut offices to help stop the spread of the disease, while others are experimenting with telecommuting before it’s necessary. 
Trump on Thursday also claimed most people with the disease would suffer few ill effects and could continue working — though he said in a tweet later that he wasn’t encouraging people to go to work sick.
Sticking with the administration’s narrative, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also insisted Friday that the virus was “contained.” Challenged by a Fox News reporter, who pointed out that cases are increasing, Conway snapped: “Are you a doctor?”
ME: Why didn’t they [send out #coronavirus tests and prepare hospitals] while it was contained? Get ahead of it?@KellyannePolls: It is being contained. And, do you not think it’s being contained?MORE: https://t.co/EDtr5CEyFR pic.twitter.com/CuqXMjsESP— Paula Reid (@PaulaReidCBS) March 6, 2020

Trump insisted “we’re in great shape” concerning the effect of COVID-19 on the economy in remarks in the Oval Office after signing a bill allocating $8.3 billion in the battle against COVID-19, which has infected more than 100,000 people worldwide.  
“This came unexpectedly, a number of months ago,” he told reporters, referring to the disease. “I heard about it in China … and we made a good move. We closed it down, we stopped it …. It was a very early shut down.” He may have been referring to an announcement by his administration Feb. 7 to bar foreign travelers coming from China. 
Trump praises himself on coronavirus response: “I think we’re in great shape. … I think we made a great move. We closed it down, we stopped it.” pic.twitter.com/5RZmTwtoW3— Oliver Willis (@owillis) March 6, 2020

A community-transmitted case of the disease in Washington state discovered later that month has been traced by genetic sequencing to a resident who returned from Wuhan, China, in January.  
Last week, Trump boasted at a press conference that the 15 domestic COVID-19 cases in the U.S. would “within a couple of days … be down to close to zero.” He added: “That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
As of Friday, there were more than 290 confirmed cases in the U.S. in 23 states, and 15 deaths (14 in Washington state, 1 in California).
The president later in the day during a visit to CDC headquarters in Atlant said the tests for COVID-19 are now “all perfect — just like the “letter was perfect,” apparently referring to a phone call last July in which he pressured Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into unfounded accusations against political rival Joe Biden and his son.
Trump at CDC: “But as of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test, that’s the important thing. And the tests are all perfect like the letter was perfect. The transcription was perfect. Right? This was not as perfect as that but pretty good.”— Meridith McGraw (@meridithmcgraw) March 6, 2020

Initial tests for coronavirus, designed by the CDC, were defective and worked predictably in only a handful of labs, creating a dangerous backlog. The CDC until recently also only allowed use of the test on people who had recently traveled to China or who had contact with an individual with a confirmed case of the disease.
Marc Lipsitch, professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, told Bloomberg he believes hundreds of thousands of Americans could already be infected, but cases are undetected because so few have been tested. South Korea has now tested about 110,000 people, while the U.S. has tested fewer than 2,000 people, The Atlantic reported Friday.
Dr. Matt McCarthy, an infectious disease expert who works as an emergency room doctor at New York-Presbyterian hospital in Manhattan, called the dearth of testing a “national scandal” that would soon morph into a “cover-up.”
Vice President Mike Pence, whom Trump has placed in charge of the response to coronavirus, earlier this week promised that production of tests would be ramped up. But he conceded to reporters Thursday: “We don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.” 

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Coronavirus Wreaks Financial Havoc As Global Infections Pass 100,000




LONDON/LOS ANGELES, March 6 (Reuters) – Business districts around the world began to empty and stock markets tumbled on Friday as the number of coronavirus infections passed 100,000 and the economic damage wrought by the outbreak intensified.
An increasing number of people faced a new reality as many were asked to stay home from work, schools were closed, large gatherings and events canceled, stores emptied of staples like toiletries and water, and face masks a common sight.
In London, Europe’s financial capital, the Canary Wharf district was unusually quiet. S&P Global’s large office stood empty after the company sent its 1,200 staff home, while HSBC has asked around 100 people to work from home after a worker tested positive for the illness.
In New York, meanwhile, JP Morgan divided its team between central locations and a secondary site in New Jersey while Goldman Sachs sent some traders to nearby secondary offices in Greenwich, Connecticut and Jersey City.
The outbreak has radiated across the United States, surfacing in at least four new states plus San Francisco.
More than 2,000 people were stranded on the Grand Princess cruise ship after it was barred from returning to port in San Francisco because at least 35 people aboard developed flu-like symptoms. Test kits were delivered at sea to the vessel.
Moves by some major economies including the United States to cut interest rates and pledge billions of dollars to fight the epidemic have done little to allay fears about the spread of the virus and the widening economic fallout.
European stocks continued their slide after the Japanese market dropped to a six-month low, with 97% of shares on the Tokyo exchange’s main board in the red. Airline and travel stocks have been among the worst hit as people canceled non-essential travel.
“If this really ramps up, we could see a lot more kitchen-sinking updates from the travel industry and airlines,” said Chris Beauchamp, chief market analyst at IG. “What’s impressive about the current move is it probably understates the degree of disruption we could be facing across the U.S. and Europe.”
The yield on benchmark 10-year Treasury notes fell to a record low of 0.7650% as investors sought safe havens.
More than 98,000 people have been infected in over 85 countries and over 3,300 people have died, according to a Reuters tally. Johns Hopkins University puts the tally above 100,000. Mainland China, where the outbreak began, has accounted for more than 3,000 deaths, while the toll in Italy stood at 148. 
In the United States, the world’s economic powerhouse, at least 57 new cases of coronavirus were confirmed as the virus struck for the first time in Colorado, Maryland, Tennessee and Texas, as well as San Francisco in California. Some 230 people have been infected in total, and 12 have died.
Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft advised employees in the Seattle area to work from home, after some caught the virus. The companies’ work-from-home recommendation will affect more than 100,000 people in the area.
The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed an $8.3 billion bill to combat the outbreak, joining a slew of countries including China and South Korea in bolstering their war chests.
(Additonal reporting by Steve Gorman and Cath Turner in LosAngeles, Hideyuki Sano in Tokyo, Pamela Barbaglia, Karin Strohecker, Thyagaraju Adinarayan, Ritvik Carvalho and Tommy Wilkes in London, Sruthi Shankar in BengaluruWriting by Pravin CharEditing by Mark Heinrich)

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Cruise Passengers Off California Await Virus Test Results




SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Coronavirus test results were expected Friday for some passengers and crew aboard a cruise ship held off the California coast.
The Grand Princess lay at anchor near San Francisco on Thursday after a traveler from a previous voyage died of the disease and at least four others became infected. While the more than 3,500 aboard the 951-foot (290-meter) vessel were ordered to stay at sea as officials scrambled to keep the virus at bay, only 45 were identified for testing, Princess Cruises said in a statement.
“The ship will not come on shore until we appropriately assess the passengers,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said.
A Sacramento-area man who sailed on the ship in February later succumbed to the coronavirus. Two other passengers from that voyage have been hospitalized with the virus in Northern California, and two Canadians who recently sailed aboard the ship tested positive after returning home, officials said.
Northern California officials also are awaiting test results from a man who died Thursday after being on a cruise where others have tested positive.
Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus climbed to 12 on Thursday, with all but one victim in Washington state, while the number of infections swelled to over 200, scattered across 18 states. Colorado and Nevada reported their first cases.
Nine of the dead were from the same suburban Seattle nursing home, now under federal investigation. Families of nursing home residents voiced anger, having received conflicting information about the condition of their loved ones. One woman was told her mother had died, then got a call from a staffer who said her mother was doing well, only to find out she had, in fact, died, said Kevin Connolly, whose father-in-law is also a facility resident.
“This is the level of incompetence we’re dealing with,” Connolly said at an emotional news conference in front of the Life Care Center in Kirkland.
The federal investigation of the nursing home will determine whether it followed guidelines for preventing infections. Last April, the state fined it $67,000 over infection-control deficiencies after two flu outbreaks.
The coronavirus has infected more than 98,000 people worldwide and killed over 3,300, the vast majority of them in China.
U.S. health officials said they expect a far lower death rate than the World Health Organization’s international estimate of 3.4% — a high rate that doesn’t account for mild cases that go uncounted.
U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Brett Giroir cited a model that included mild cases to say the U.S. could expect a death rate somewhere between 0.1% — akin to the seasonal flu’s — and 1%. The risk is highest for older people and anyone with conditions such as heart or lung disease, diabetes or suppressed immune systems.
Some major businesses in the Seattle area, where researchers say the virus may have circulated undetected for weeks, have shut down some operations or urged employees to work from home. That includes Microsoft and Amazon, the two tech giants that together employ more than 100,000 people in the region. The 22,000-student Northshore district announced it will close for up to two weeks as a precaution.
With many commuters off the road, traffic on the Seattle area’s notoriously congested freeways were much lighter Thursday.
King County is buying a motel for $4 million to house patients and hopes to have the first of them in place within days at the 84-room EconoLodge in Kent, about 20 miles (32 km) from Seattle. The rooms’ doors open to the outside rather than to a central hallway, reducing the likelihood of contact between patients.
The plan was met with resistance from local leaders, including Kent Police Chief Rafael Padilla, who called it “ill-advised and dangerous” and warned: “At any point a patient can simply walk into our community and spread the virus.”
Around the country, New York’s mayor implored the federal government to send more test kits to his state, which saw its caseload double overnight to 22, all of them in or near the city. Gap Inc. said it has closed its New York office and is asking employees to work from home “until further notice” after learning that one of its employees was confirmed to have the new virus.
In Rhode Island, about 200 people were quarantined because of their connections to a school trip to Italy that has so far resulted in three cases. Amid four cases in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the risks remain low for most people planning trips to the state for spring break or baseball’s spring training.
On Wall Street, fears about the outbreak led to a sharp selloff, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 970 points, or 3.6%. The drop extended two weeks of wild swings in the market, with stocks fluctuating 2% or more for the fourth day in a row.
The ship off California was returning to San Francisco after visiting Hawaii. Some of the passengers remained on board after sailing on its previous voyage, to the Mexican ports of Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas.
Princess Cruise Lines said that no cases of the virus had been confirmed among those still on the ship. But dozens of passengers have had flu-like symptoms over the past two weeks or so, said Mary Ellen Carroll, executive director of San Francisco’s Department of Emergency Management.
“Once we have results from the tests,” she said, authorities “will determine the best location for the ship to berth.”
A military helicopter lowered by rope and later retrieved the test kits Thursday, bound for a lab in Richmond, California, authorities said.
Michele Smith, a Grand Princess passenger, posted video of the helicopter to Facebook. Another video shows a crew member wearing gloves and a mask and spraying and wiping a handrail.
“We have crews constantly cleaning our ship,” Smith is heard saying.
In a post, Smith said she and her husband are not quarantined and were told only the people who had been on the Mexico voyage or those showing flu-like symptoms had to isolate.
“Spirits are as high as can be under these circumstances. We are blessed to be healthy, comfortable and well-fed,” she wrote.
But a late-night statement Thursday from the cruise line said all guests were asked to stay in their rooms while results were awaited, following CDC guidelines.
A passenger from the Mexico voyage, Judy Cadiz of Lodi, California, said she and her husband became ill afterward but did not given it much thought until learning a fellow traveler had died of the virus. Now, they cannot get a straight answer about how to get tested, she said.
With Mark Cadiz, 65, running a fever, the couple worries not only about themselves, but about the possibility that — if they contracted the infection — they could have passed it on to others.
“They’re telling us to stay home, but nobody told me until yesterday to stay home. We were in Sacramento, we were in Martinez, we were in Oakland. We took a train home from the cruise,” Judy Cadiz said Thursday. “I really hope that we’re negative so nobody got infected.”

Geller reported from New York. Associated Press writers Janie Har and Jocelyn Gecker in San Francisco; Christopher Weber in Los Angeles; Gene Johnson, Martha Bellisle and Carla K. Johnson in Seattle; Rachel La Corte in Olympia, Washington; and AP researcher Monika Mathur in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

The Associated Press receives support for health and science coverage from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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Nurses Blast Government And Hospital Readiness For Coronavirus




Nurses fighting the spread of coronavirus unleashed a flood of criticism on the federal government and their employers Thursday, saying they have been left poorly equipped to care for their patients and protect themselves amid the outbreak.
Members of the union National Nurses United said they have faced shifting guidelines and a shortage of supplies as the tally of known infections has increased. They called on the Centers for Disease Control to quickly increase testing for COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, and demanded that federal officials implement emergency standards for hospitals and clinics around the country.
“The CDC has been behind the ball at almost every step of the way,” said Jane Thomason, an industrial hygienist for the union.

Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

Jane Thomason, an industrial hygienist for National Nurses United, said the government and health care facilities have been unprepared for coronavirus.

Bonnie Castillo, a registered nurse and the union’s executive director, said nurses were confident they could help contain the spread of the virus, but only if “we are given the protections and resources we need to do our jobs.” 
More than 80 of the union’s nurses have been quarantined due to possible contact with infected patients, and Castillo said many facilities still lack the personal protective equipment that workers need to handle the outbreak.
“It is not a successful strategy to leave nurses and other health care workers unprotected,” Castillo said at a press conference in Oakland on Thursday. “When we are quarantined, we are not only prevented from caring for COVID-19 patients, but we are taken away from caring for cancer patients, cardiac patients and premature babies.”
The union released the results of a recent survey it conducted of 6,500 members around the country on the question of COVID-19 preparedness. Among the findings:
Only 44 percent said their employer had given them information about the virus.
Only 63 percent said they have access to N95 respirators. (These are recommended for health care workers handling potentially infected patients, but not the general public.)
A little less than two-thirds say they have been trained in how to put on and take off the appropriate protective gear.
Only 30 percent said they believe their facility has enough protective gear onhand.
Nearly a quarter said they don’t know if their facility has a plan to isolate infected patients. 

Not only is the protective equipment hard to come by, union officials said many nurses still have not been trained in how to appropriately put it on and remove it in a way to avoid contamination. 
“Nurses need this hands-on training now,” said Cathy Kennedy, a registered nurse and vice president with the union. “Management has told us the training is coming. Well, it’s been several weeks and the training is slowly evolving.”
After initially laying out tight guidelines on who can be tested, the CDC has loosened them so that anyone with symptoms can undergo a test with a doctor’s approval. But the test kits are still in short supply, and local health agencies say they are being overwhelmed by the demand. 

The CDC has been behind the ball at almost every step of the way.
Jane Thomason, National Nurses United

At its press conference, the union shared the statement of an unnamed member who works at a Kaiser Permanente facility and was required to self-quarantine for 14 days after contact with a COVID-19 patient. The nurse has not been able to undergo a test despite exhibiting symptoms, according to the statement. 
“I’m appalled at the level of bureaucracy that’s preventing nurses from getting tested,” the member said.
California and Washington state declared emergencies due to the virus on Wednesday, the same day U.S. officials confirmed the 11th COVID-19 death and at least 150 cases in 18 states. More than 3,000 have died in China, where the number of cases has begun to ebb. South Korea and Italy have also been hit hard.
The House and Senate have approved an $8 billion spending package to address the outbreak, sending the legislation to the White House Thursday for President Donald Trump’s signature. Trump has continued to minimize the seriousness of the virus, telling Sean Hannity in an interview Wednesday that he believes the death rate to be much lower than what health officials have said.
National Nurses United and other unions have been calling on the Trump administration to issue an emergency standard for infectious disease through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, so that hospitals and other employers have safety guidelines for coronavirus that they are legally required to follow. There is no such standard currently on the books. 
“This is not the time to relax our approach,” Castillo said. “This is the time to step it up.”

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