Coronavirus: Live Coverage and Updates

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A second person in Northern California has been infected with the coronavirus without having any known risk factors, such as travel to China or exposure to somebody known to be infected.

The findings hints that the coronavirus may already circulating locally in California, passing from person to person.

Earlier this week, a person who had no known risk factors tested positive for the virus in Solano County, between San Francisco and Sacramento. The new infection is in Santa Clara County, south of San Francisco, which includes the city of San Jose; it was confirmed by Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s public health director.

Hundreds of Americans who were potentially exposed to the virus in Asia have been quarantined at military bases in California, including Travis Air Force Base in Solano County.

A whistle-blower complaint made public on Thursday alleged that federal health officials were sent into quarantine areas at the bases without proper training or protective gear, and then were allowed to roam around, on and off the bases.

From eastern Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the Americas and Africa, a steady stream of new cases on Friday fueled fears that the new coronavirus epidemic may be turning into a global pandemic, with some health officials saying it may be inevitable.

In South Korea, Italy and Iran — the countries with the biggest outbreaks outside China — the governments reported more than 3,500 infections on Friday, about twice as many as two days earlier. South Korean officials were rushing to test thousands of members of a church at the center of that country’s outbreak.

Africa has long been a source of concern, and a case in Nigeria raised fears that more infections might lurk there undetected.

In Europe, caseloads soared as Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, Wales and Northern Ireland reported their first confirmed infections.

More than 83,000 people in at least 56 countries have been infected, and more than 2,800 have died.

Unnerved by the rapid spread of the virus and the growing threat it poses to economies, financial markets around the world continued their slide on Friday, with U.S. stocks recording their worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

Even as countries prepared for the likelihood of significant outbreaks, early missteps raised troubling questions about how nations — even those with robust health care systems — will handle a flood of cases.

A whistle-blower complaint in the United States outlined how federal health care workers had interacted with quarantined Americans without proper training or safety equipment.

President Trump could use a Korean War-era law to require manufacturers to speed up production of emergency supplies needed to fight the new coronavirus, Alex M. Azar II, the health and human services secretary said on Friday.

The Defense Production Act, enacted in 1950, allows the president to exert control over parts of the civilian economy when it is necessary for national defense — forcing industries to step up production, reallocating basic resources and imposing price controls.

Mr. Azar, at a White House press briefing, said there was no need to invoke the law so far, but it could be used, for instance, to help stockpile face masks and other supplies.

  • Updated Feb. 26, 2020

    • What is a coronavirus?
      It is a novel virus named for the crownlike spikes that protrude from its surface. The coronavirus can infect both animals and people and can cause a range of respiratory illnesses from the common cold to more dangerous conditions like Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands frequently is the most important thing you can do, along with staying at home when you’re sick.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      The C.D.C. has warned older and at-risk travelers to avoid Japan, Italy and Iran. The agency also has advised against all nonessential travel to South Korea and China.
    • Where has the virus spread?
      The virus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has sickened more than 80,000 people in at least 33 countries, including Italy, Iran and South Korea.
    • How contagious is the virus?
      According to preliminary research, it seems moderately infectious, similar to SARS, and is probably transmitted through sneezes, coughs and contaminated surfaces. Scientists have estimated that each infected person could spread it to somewhere between 1.5 and 3.5 people without effective containment measures.
    • Who is working to contain the virus?
      World Health Organization officials have been working with officials in China, where growth has slowed. But this week, as confirmed cases spiked on two continents, experts warned that the world was not ready for a major outbreak.

“I don’t have any procurements I need it for now, but if I need it, we’ll use it,” Mr. Azar told reporters.

President Harry Truman made extensive use of the law during the Korean War, and it has been invoked occasionally in the decades since then.

Stocks tumbled for a seventh consecutive day on Friday, recording the market’s worst week since the 2008 financial crisis.

The S&P 500 index fell about 0.8 percent, and the Dow Jones industrial average fell more than 1 percent. The S&P index lost more than 11 percent in the week, and almost 13 percent since its peak on Feb. 19.

The sell-off was fueled mostly by worry that measures to contain the coronavirus would hamper corporate profits and economic growth, and fears that the outbreak could get worse. The selling has in a matter of days dragged stock benchmarks around the world into a correction — a drop of 10 percent or more that is taken as a measure of extreme pessimism.

In Europe, the Britain’s FTSE 100 fell more than 3 percent and the Dax in Germany fell more than 4 percent. In Asia, the Nikkei 225 in Japan closed down 3.7 percent, the KOSPI in South Korea dropped 3.3 percent and the Shanghai Composite in China dropped 3.7 percent

The World Health Organization on Friday raised its assessment of the global coronavirus risk from “high” to “very high,” the most serious assessment in its new four-stage alert system.

“This is a reality check for every government on the planet,” said Dr. Michael J. Ryan, deputy director of W.H.O.’s health emergency program. “Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way.”

The assessment addresses the risks of both uncontrolled spread of the virus and the resulting impacts.

United States health officials have given similarly alarming assessments, though President Trump has played down the threat.

The W.H.O. does not officially use the word “pandemic,” often defined as the worldwide spread of a new disease, but many health experts say the coronavirus epidemic is one, or soon will be.

In a new report, the organization praised the aggressive quarantine approach used by China, where the epidemic began and the majority of cases have occurred. After initially downplaying the outbreak in the city of Wuhan, the government closed off entire cities, shut down transportation networks and schools, and isolated many people who might have been exposed.

“China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic,” the report said, noting that new, confirmed infections had fallen from more than 2,000 per day to a few hundred.

China’s strategy “has averted or at least delayed hundreds of thousands” of cases, and “played a significant role in protecting the global community.”

Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, on Friday blamed the media for exaggerating the seriousness of coronavirus because “they think this will bring down the president, that’s what this is all about.”

Speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of conservative activists, Mr. Mulvaney played down concerns about the virus that is spreading around the globe and panicking investors.

Mr. Mulvaney said the administration took “extraordinary steps four or five weeks ago,” to prevent the spread of the virus when it declared a rare public health emergency and barred entry by most foreign citizens who had recently visited China.

“Why didn’t you hear about it?” Mr. Mulvaney said of travel restrictions that were widely covered in the news media. “What was still going on four or five weeks ago? Impeachment, that’s all the press wanted to talk about.”

The news media has been covering the global spread of coronavirus since early January.

As the coronavirus spreads, early research is drawing a clearer picture of how the pathogen behaves and the key factors that will determine how it can be contained.

Here are the considerations: The virus spreads easily, making it hard to contain. The fatality rate may be more than 1 percent, much higher than the flu. The incubation period is between two and 14 days, allowing the illness to go undetected. And the virus has spread rapidly because it started in a transportation hub.

In terms of response, the World Health Organization has praised China’s efforts, but critics fear a pandemic. A few drugs are being tested in clinical trials, but a vaccine is still at least year away.

The State Department on Friday issued an advisory telling Americans to “reconsider travel” to Italy because of the coronavirus.

The department set the new advisory at Level 3. The highest alert, Level 4, is reserved for the most perilous situations.

“Many cases of COVID-19 have been associated with travel to or from mainland China or close contact with a travel-related case, but sustained community spread has been reported in Italy,” the department said in its alert. “Sustained community spread means that people have been infected with the virus, but how or where they became infected is not known, and the spread is ongoing.”

Italy reported more than 800 infections on Friday — 531 of them in Lombardy, which includes the city of Milan. Eighty-five patients in Lombardy are in intensive care.

The U.S. Navy on Friday ordered all ships that have made stops in the Pacific, about 30 to 40 vessels holding several thousand sailors and Marines, to self-quarantine at sea for 14 days and said that all sailors who had traveled to high-risk areas should be closely monitored.

“At this time, there are no indications that any U.S. Navy personnel have contracted coronavirus,” the Navy said in a statement. “The health and welfare of our sailors, civilians and their families is paramount, and our efforts are directed at detection and, if required, prevention of the spread of this illness.”

“Operational impact is minimal, if at all,” said a senior Navy officer with experience in the Pacific. “Most deployed ships in 7th Fleet already stay out to sea for that long, if not longer, and there is no better place for a ship operationally than at sea. I would expect some schedule impact to ships that do have port visits within two weeks, but no cancellations.”

The American military has already confirmed one coronavirus case: A 23-year-old soldier based near Daegu, South Korea, has tested positive for the virus, the military said on Wednesday. He has been quarantined in his off-base residence, the military said.

South Korea is experiencing the largest coronavirus outbreak outside China.

The United States and South Korea have also postponed their joint military drills.

The official count of cases in Iran, the center of the Middle East’s coronavirus spread, continued to rise at an alarming rate, from 139 on Wednesday to 245 on Thursday to 388 on Friday, with 34 deaths.

And that, an independent count claimed, was a gross underestimate.

BBC Persia reported that it had asked Iranian hospitals one by one, and found 210 fatalities, suggesting that there were several thousand infections either undetected or unacknowledged.

The authorities in Iran denied the report, but the health minister warned of a “pretty difficult week” ahead.

The conflicting information…

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