COVID-19 death toll climbs above 1,300, as quarantined cruise ship cases rise
• Coronavirus death toll on mainland China rises to more than 1,300
• Coronavirus illness gets official name from WHO: COVID-19
• People of Asian descent worldwide share examples of coronavirus-related xenophobia on social media
• Outspoken Chinese lawyer critical of government missing in Wuhan, family says
• American Airlines cancels flights to mainland China and Hong Kong through April 24
• 218 cases now confirmed from quarantined cruise ship in Japan
• Chinese epidemiologist says outbreak could be over by April
• 14th person in the United States has been diagnosed
44 more people confirmed to have coronavirus on cruise ship quarantined in Japan
Forty-four more people have been confirmed to have novel coronavirus from a quarantined cruise ship in Japan, bringing the total number to 218, Japan’s Health Ministry said Thursday local time.
The Diamond Princess is being quarantined off Yokohama, and testing began after a man who was on the ship last month later tested positive for the coronavirus.
Of the 44 newly confirmed cases, 29 are Japanese, Japan’s health minister, Katsunobu Kato, said at a news conference. Forty-three are passengers and one is a crew member. They were confirmed to have the virus after an additional 221 people from the ship were tested.
The nationalities of the 44 newly diagnosed people were not immediately identified, but the overall cases from the cruise ship include at least 32 Americans.
The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said that on Wednesday, Japan’s health ministry confirmed seven more Americans had been diagnosed, bringing the total number of Americans to 32. The seven new cases involving Americans were among 39 additional cases previously reported.
Of all the people from the cruise ship who have tested positive for the coronavirus so far, five are considered to be in serious condition, Kato said. There have been no deaths from the cruise ship.
The novel coronavirus had killed more than 1,300 people in mainland China as of Thursday morning local time, according to Chinese authorities.
Everyone on the cruise ship, which had been reported to have around 3,700 passengers and crew aboard, is being quarantined until at least Feb. 19.
Princess Cruises Executive Vice President Rai Caluori said in a video message this week that the company is doing all it can to ensure the comfort and safety of all those aboard. — Arata Yamamoto and Phil Helsel
“Reassuring” coronavirus news, though outbreak is far from over
The rate of new COVID-19 cases appears to be slowing, though public health experts said that doesn’t mean the outbreak is ending.
“The stabilization in cases in the last number of days is very reassuring,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s health emergencies program, said during a news conference Wednesday.
He and other members of the WHO added that the virus doesn’t appear to be as “aggressive or as accelerated” outside of China, but that it’s much too soon to suggest the outbreak has peaked.
“This outbreak could still go in any direction,” said the WHO’s director-general, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Wednesday afternoon, the WHO reported that more than 45,000 cases had been diagnosed, nearly all in China. Just 441 cases of COVID-19 had been diagnosed in other countries, including 13 in the U.S.
The number of deaths in China — more than 1,000 as of Wednesday — continues to rise. Ryan said many of the latest deaths reflect patients became ill several weeks ago, and developed severe complications.
“The length of illness is quite long,” Ryan said. “We’re seeing an unfortunate consequence of so many people still being sick.” — Erika Edwards
Coronavirus test kits need to be fixed
Coronavirus test kits shipped from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to labs across the country and around the world last week have had problems detecting the virus, the CDC said Wednesday.
During a briefing with journalists, the CDC’s Dr. Nancy Messonnier said some labs were getting “inconclusive” results from the test. As such, the test will need to be fixed.
The problem was found during initial routine run-throughs with the test to make sure it was working correctly before using it to diagnose COVID-19, as the illness is now called, in actual patients.
The issue with the diagnostic test has not been reported in all states. The Illinois Department of Public Health said Wednesday it had not experienced trouble with its test kits, and is able to move forward with testing for the coronavirus. It’s unclear how many of the test kits shipped were flawed.
All samples will also be tested at the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta to confirm the results.
The CDC said the problem is unrelated to a different situation that occurred in San Diego earlier this week.
A passenger who’d flown from Wuhan and was quarantined at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar was accidentally released from a local hospital and back into quarantine before it was discovered the patient did, in fact, have COVID-19.
The CDC blamed the error on mislabeling of the samples. — Erika Edwards
First case confirmed in London
The first case of coronavirus has been confirmed in London, a spokesperson for the U.K’s Department for Health and Social Care, told NBC News.
The person had traveled from China to Britain’s capital.
It is the ninth case of the respiratory illness to be confirmed in the U.K., Britain’s Chief Medical Officer, Prof. Chris Whitty, said in a separate statement.
He added that the patient had been transferred to a center at the Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in London.
It comes as the two-week quarantine of 83 U.K. nationals flown back to Britain from Wuhan is set to end on Thursday, amid reports they have all tested negative for coronavirus. They had been monitored Arrowe Park Hospital on the Wirral in the U.K.’s northwest. — Henry Austin
Major telecom event canceled
Mobile World Conference, a major wireless industry event, was canceled by its organizers on Wednesday due to concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
“The global concern regarding the coronavirus outbreak, travel concern and other circumstances, make it impossible” to hold the event, John Hoffman, chief executive officer of conference organizer GSMA, told Bloomberg News.
The event was planned to be held from Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona, but many major attendees had pulled out due to safety concerns. — Jason Abbruzzese
Study: Pregnant women don’t pass coronavirus to fetus
A small study suggests that the coronavirus cannot pass from a pregnant woman to an unborn child.
The question was raised after a newborn in China reportedly developed COVID-19, as the illness is now called, within 36 hours of birth, sparking concerns over whether the baby had been infected in utero or after birth.
The study looked at nine women diagnosed with COVID-19 late in their pregnancies. All went on to give birth, though two babies experienced forms of fetal distress.
Doctors reviewed the medical records for all nine of the women, and tested amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood and breast milk from six moms, and throat swabs from six babies. No evidence of the virus was detected in any of the samples, though doctors cautioned that additional studies may be necessary.
Respiratory viruses in general are not known to pass from mother to baby during pregnancy.
The new research was published Wednesday in The Lancet. — Erika Edwards
Coronavirus death toll in China rises to 1,113
Chinese health officials said Wednesday the death toll from the novel coronavirus has reached 1,113. It stood at 1,016 on Tuesday.
Officials at China’s National Health Commission said there were now 44,653 confirmed cases in mainland China.
More than 500 cases have been recorded outside mainland China so far — 2 of them fatal. One person died from the virus in the Philippines on Feb. 1 and another in Hong Kong several days later. — Yuliya Talmazan
Coronavirus gets official name from WHO: COVID-19
The new coronavirus now has an official name: COVID-19. It stands for the coronavirus disease that was discovered in 2019.
The World Health Organization (WHO) announced the name Tuesday, saying it was careful to find a name without stigma.
“We had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, or an individual or group of people,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a call with reporters.
It’s also easy to pronounce, he added. — Erika Edwards
World must consider coronavirus ‘public enemy No. 1’: WHO
Coronavirus outbreak poses a “very grave threat for the rest of the world” and should be viewed as “public enemy No. 1,” the head of the World Health Organization said Tuesday.
Ghebreyesus, referring to some governments’ counterterrorism measures, said during a press conference in Geneva: “To be honest, a virus is more powerful in creating political, economic and social upheaval than any terrorist attack.
“A virus can have more powerful consequences than any terrorist action. If the world doesn’t want to wake up and consider this enemy virus as public enemy No. 1, I don’t think we will learn from our lessons,” he added.
Asians worldwide share examples of coronavirus-related xenophobia on social media
From New York City to Los Angeles and various other cities around the world, people of Asian descent have been documenting xenophobic incidents on social media following the recent outbreak of the new coronavirus.
NBC News has been tracking social media reports of harassment targeting Asian communities globally as the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus continue to spread internationally, including 13 in the United States.
Read some of their stories here. — Ali Gostanian, Suzanne Ciechalski and Rima Abdelkader
Outspoken Chinese lawyer critical of government missing in Wuhan, family says
A Chinese lawyer who had been documenting the coronavirus outbreak in the city of Wuhan has not been seen or heard from since last week, and friends and family say they fear he may have been forcibly quarantined by the Chinese government.
The lawyer, Chen Qiushi, 34, made a series of social media posts about the outbreak in Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, starting Jan. 25, several days after the city was locked down by the Chinese government to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.
Calling himself a “citizen journalist,” Chen posted videos and messages reporting hardships faced by Wuhan residents seeking medical help and supplies, as well as hospital overcrowding.
His last update came Thursday. He has not been seen or heard from since, his friends and family say. — Ali Gostanian and Yuliya Talmazan
First group of evacuated Americans released from quarantine
The first group of American citizens who were evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the center of the epidemic, are healthy and have been released from their 14-day quarantine imposed by the federal government.
All 195 passengers had been housed at the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, California, since late January. None of them have developed what’s now called COVID-19.
Those quarantined have been “deemed safe to reenter their communities,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Dr. Nancy Knight said during a news conference Tuesday. — Erika Edwards
American Airlines cancels flights to mainland China and Hong Kong through April 24
American Airlines has extended the suspension of flights to and from mainland China and Hong Kong.
Flights between Dallas-Fort Worth and Los Angeles and mainland China will be suspended through April 24, as will be the flights between the two hubs and Hong Kong.
“We will continue to evaluate this schedule and make any adjustments as necessary,” the company said in a statement. — Jay Blackman
650 U.S. passengers aboard Holland America cruise ship; no suspected coronavirus cases
There are more than 600 Americans aboard Holland America’s cruise ship MS Westerdam that was barred from docking in Thailand on Tuesday, the latest country to turn it away amid fears of the coronavirus despite no confirmed infections on board.
A company spokesperson said Tuesday there were 1,455 guests, including 650 U.S. citizens, and 802 crew members on board.
“We have no reason to believe there are any cases of coronavirus on board the ship,” the spokesperson said.
The cruise ship was expected to disembark in Bangkok on Thursday, but Thai Deputy Transport Minister Atirat Ratanasate said in a Facebook post Tuesday that while the ship would not be allowed to dock, Thailand “will gladly help in providing fuel, medicine and food” to the ship.
Holland America said Wednesday the ship has received “all approvals” to dock in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.
“Guests will be able to go ashore,” the company said in a statement, thanking Cambodian authorities.
It reiterated that all guests on board are healthy.
— Ann-Kathrin Pohlers and Reuters
174 cases confirmed aboard quarantined cruise ship in Japan
Japan’s health ministry said Tuesday that 39 additional cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed aboard a cruise ship being quarantined off Yokohama, south of Tokyo, with 3,700 passengers and crew members on board.
The latest batch of confirmed cases came from additional 53 samples that were taken on the ship.
Japan’s health minister also reported one case involving a quarantine officer.
All will be transferred to medical facilities on shore.
That brings the total number of confirmed cases aboard the ship to 174 — the highest number of confirmed cases outside mainland China. So far, 492 people have been screened.
Japanese broadcaster NHK reported Wednesday four people among the confirmed cases are in serious condition. Two of them are in intensive care and the other two are on respirators, NHK said. — Arata Yamamoto
Chinese epidemiologist says outbreak could be over by April
The coronavirus outbreak is hitting a peak in China this month and may be over by April, a senior government medical adviser said Tuesday.
In an interview with Reuters, Zhong Nanshan, 83, an epidemiologist who won fame for combating the SARS epidemic in 2003, was optimistic the new outbreak would soon slow, with the number of new cases already declining in some places.
The peak should come in middle or late February, followed by a plateau and decrease, Zhong said, basing the forecast on mathematical modeling, recent events and government action. — Reuters
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