The Trump administration Saturday announced additional travel restrictions affecting Iran, Italy and South Korea in response to the coronavirus outbreak following the first death from the virus in the United States.

Vice President Pence said the existing travel ban on Iran would extend to foreign nationals who had been in that country the past 14 days. The State Department also is increasing its warning advising Americans not to travel to parts of Italy and South Korea affected by the virus.

Right before the White House’s news conference, health officials in Washington state confirmed a person diagnosed with coronavirus in King County has died.

President Trump described the patient as a “wonderful woman” and a “medically high-risk patient” in her late 50s, at the news conference. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later said it had mistakenly described the patient’s gender in a briefing to Trump and Vice President Pence, and local health officials clarified the deceased was a man with underlying conditions.

More coronavirus infections were reported from South Korea to France to Qatar on Saturday as health officials in Washington state, Oregon and California reported another worrying development: new cases among people who have not traveled recently to countries hit hard by the outbreak or come into contact with anyone known to have the disease, which public health officials refer to as community transmission.

Washington state on Saturday announced three new cases of the virus — including the person who died — with circumstances that suggest person-to-person spread in the community. The other patients were a health-care worker at a long-term nursing facility and a female resident in her 70s from the same center.

California has reported three cases of community transmission, two of which are in Santa Clara County and one of which is in Solano County. Illinois reported a third case Saturday but did not say how the person may have gotten the virus.

Here are the latest developments:

  • The five new cases announced Saturday bring the number of infections in the United States to 24, excluding repatriations, according to the CDC. Forty-seven other people who have been repatriated to the United States from Wuhan, China, and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship also have the virus.
  • The new cases in Washington state included the first possible outbreak in a long-term nursing facility. Health officials have said older people and adults in poor health face the highest risk from the virus.
  • The Food and Drug Administration expanded coronavirus testing by speeding up hospitals’ abilities to test, though some worried the changes fell short in reducing logistical burdens.
  • Italy became the third country, in addition to China and South Korea, to confirm more than 1,000 cases of the virus. Of the 1,049 patients, 401 are hospitalized and the rest are self-isolated at home.
February 29, 2020 at 10:28 PM EST

Japan school closure causes a new problem: Nurses stay home to care for kids

TOKYO — Japan’s controversial decision to close schools in March could make it harder for the country to battle not only coronavirus but also provide general health care, as nurses face a stark choice: go to work or stay home to look after their children, the Asahi newspaper reported.

The country’s northernmost province of Hokkaido closed schools Friday, ahead of the rest of the country, as it has seen a spike in cases.

The immediate knock-on effect was a shortage of nurses at a hospital in Obihiro city in the east of the island, forcing authorities to turn away patients who did not already have a reservation or were facing a medical emergency.

More than 20 percent of the hospital’s 700 staff have school-age children, the newspaper reported, while hospitals around Japan are also facing staff shortages.

“March is normally a time when many staff quit and is the time of year when staff numbers are at its lowest,” said Takao Aizawa, chairman of the Japan Hospital Association.

“More hospitals may stop seeing patients if school closures should spread.”

The paper quoted a nurse in Tokyo as saying staff had also been told to stay home if they displayed even the slightest symptoms such as a fever or respiratory problems to prevent further infections, while the hospital has also stopped accepting volunteer support staff.

By Simon Denyer
February 29, 2020 at 9:52 PM EST

Australia reports first coronavirus death

A 78-year-old man who contracted the coronavirus after spending time on the Diamond Princess cruise ship died Saturday in a Perth hospital, becoming Australia’s first death from the disease.

The man and his 79-year-old wife were among 164 Australians who were evacuated from the cruise ship, which was docked in Japan while people on board were quarantined, and flown to Australia for treatment last week.

The man tested positive for coronavirus on the flight back and was placed in isolation at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Western Australia’s chief health officer Andrew Robertson told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

His wife was also placed in isolation, where she tested positive Friday. Robertson said she was in stable condition.

“She had the opportunity to talk to him prior to his death, but she’s understandably quite upset. And I obviously ask that people respect their privacy,” Robertson told Australia’s national broadcaster.

Australia has reported 25 cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

By Derek Hawkins
February 29, 2020 at 9:36 PM EST

Illinois announces third coronavirus case

Another person in Illinois has tested positive for the coronavirus, marking the state’s third case of the illness.

The test is a presumptive positive and will have to be confirmed by the CDC, Illinois health officials said in a statement. The patient, whose gender and age were not disclosed, is hospitalized in isolation.

Officials did not provide any information on how the person may have contracted the virus.

They said they are trying to identify and monitor people who were in close contact with the patient and will ask the CDC to send a team to Illinois to help with that task.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) also asked the state’s hospitals to more frequently test for the virus, according to the statement. The Food and Drug Administration on Saturday authorized certain hospital laboratories to use their own tests before the federal agency clears them — dramatically expanding testing.

Two people in Illinois have recovered from confirmed cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, state officials said. The patients’ symptoms have ranged from mild to severe respiratory illness with fever, cough and trouble breathing.

By Marisa Iati
February 29, 2020 at 9:06 PM EST

China and South Korea each report hundreds of new cases

Chinese health officials early Sunday, local time, reported an additional 573 confirmed cases of the coronavirus and 35 deaths on the country’s mainland. In keeping with the pattern throughout the outbreak, the vast majority of those cases and deaths were in Hubei province, where the virus first emerged.

The total number of cases on the mainland reached 79,824, and the total number of deaths hit 2,870. There have also been 95 cases and two deaths in Hong Kong, 10 cases in Macao, and 39 cases and one death on the self-governing island of Taiwan.

In nearby South Korea, health officials reported 376 additional cases of the coronavirus, 333 of which were in the southern city of Daegu. The virus appears to have spread widely there among members of a regional branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus. The fringe church has been temporarily shut down because of the outbreak.

The total number of cases in South Korea stands at 3,526, and the death count is 17.

By Marisa Iati
February 29, 2020 at 8:48 PM EST

Gig workers face the spread of coronavirus with no safety net

SAN FRANCISCO — Some workers here who provide on-demand rides and delivery services, but are independent contractors without many protections, are bracing for the spread of the coronavirus.

Drivers have been scrubbing down their cars “inch by inch” at local airport parking lots between rides, said Edan Alva, who drives full-time for Lyft in the Bay Area.

Alva said the company has not communicated with drivers about coronavirus, despite the risk of infection.

“No support, no advice, no guidance regarding what we do if we suspect any indicators of the problem,” said Alva, who added that he has been spraying his car with Lysol twice a day.

As coronavirus spreads globally, prompting some companies to instruct employees to stop traveling or to work remotely, one of the most vulnerable groups is likely to be tens of thousands of gig workers such as Alva.

Lyft spokeswoman Alexandra LaManna said there is no indication of a unique risk to Lyft drivers and that the company is monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, Uber sent an in-app message to U.S. drivers Friday with guidance on how to protect themselves and others. The suggestions included standard advice from health officials, such as staying home if they feel sick and washing their hands frequently. Uber also urged drivers to clean and disinfect often-touched surfaces in their vehicles.

Read more here.

By Nitasha Tiku
February 29, 2020 at 8:43 PM EST

‘No visitors allowed’ at nursing home linked to two coronavirus cases

KIRKLAND, Wash. — At the nursing home here where a resident and a health-care worker have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, signs at the door Saturday barred people from entering.

“We are having a respiratory outbreak,” Life Care Center’s signs read. “Notice: no visitors allowed.”

The facility has banned visits from families, volunteers and vendors as a precaution, Executive Director Ellie Basham said in a statement distributed to people outside the nursing home. She said the center also has paused admissions of new residents to fully focus on current residents and staff.

An American Medical Response Vehicle arrived at the nursing home around 3:30 p.m. Pacific time. Two people who appeared to be paramedics put on protective gowns and masks before entering the facility and then exiting with a person on a gurney a few minutes later. The vehicle left the center shortly after 4 p.m.

Phlebotomist Antonia Lopez, 42, told reporters outside Life Care that on Saturday, she drew the blood of about four residents at the facility.

Lopez, who works for an outside company and declined to share the name of her employer, said it seemed to her that the facility has been operating the same as always. The only difference is that she now wears a mask when drawing residents’ blood.

Lopez likened the coronavirus to a “blown-up flu” and said that at any medical facility, she would be expected to take extra precautions, such as wearing gowns before entering a room and changing gowns before seeing another patient if residents had the flu. It’s typical protocol to have signs notifying visitors at the door if people have the flu, she said.

“This place is like any other place,” Lopez said of wearing a mask to draw patients’ blood. “They don’t take precautions if it’s not necessary.”

She noted that no one inside the facility has tested positive for the coronavirus. The health-care worker and resident who have the virus are at hospitals.

Of Life Care’s more than 108 residents and roughly 180 staffers, local health officials said earlier Saturday that 27 residents and 25 staff members have shown coronavirus symptoms.

By Ashley Nguyen
February 29, 2020 at 7:39 PM EST

Covid-19 patient died at Kirkland, Wash., hospital after coming in with ‘serious respiratory issues'

The first covid-19 patient to die in the United States came to EvergreenHealth in Kirkland, Wash., with “serious respiratory issues,” the hospital said in a statement Saturday, though it remains unclear when the patient was admitted, when the symptoms first appeared and how long it took health officials to test the person for the novel coronavirus.

According to EvergreenHealth’s statement, the patient was tested for covid-19 per guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The test came back positive, the hospital said. A second patient also tested positive and is in isolation receiving appropriate treatment.

“We are working with the CDC and the Washington Department of Health to ensure that those who have come into contact with the patient are screened and tested as appropriate,” EvergreenHealth’s statement said.

The name of the patient who died has not been released. At a news conference at the White House on Saturday, President Trump initially erroneously identified the person as a “wonderful woman” in her late 50s. The CDC later said it had mistakenly described the patient’s gender to Trump and Vice President Pence, and local health officials clarified the deceased was a man.

In a letter obtained by KIRO-TV News in Seattle, officials advised patients and their families of the death at EvergreenHealth and offered additional information that was not included in the hospital’s official statement.

The letter said the two patients tested positive at the hospital Friday night. “While the patients have no travel history, they were both receiving treatment for severe respiratory illness in our emergency department and critical care units,” the letter said.

Officials assured EvergreenHealth patients and their families that the hospital was working closely with state and local health departments to ensure that anyone who may have had contact with the patients is screened for the novel coronavirus.

By Katie Mettler
February 29, 2020 at 7:38 PM EST

White House gives details on first coronavirus death, imposes new travel restrictions

President Trump gave the initial details Saturday about the first death inside the United States from the new coronavirus, saying the victim in Washington state was a woman in her 50s who had underlying health problems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention later said it had mistakenly described the patient’s gender to Trump and Vice President Pence, and local health officials clarified that the deceased was a man.

Trump said additional cases are likely in the United States but said the illness will be survivable for the vast majority who contract it. He called for calm and said he will meet at the White House on Monday with representatives of major drug companies about accelerated development of a vaccine.

Vice President Pence said the risk to most Americans remains low, as he announced additional travel restrictions on Iran, where the virus is spreading rapidly. On top of existing travel restrictions on that country, the United States will now exclude any foreign national who has visited Iran in the last 14 days, Pence said.

The State Department has also raised its warning about travel to Italy and South Korea, Pence said. The recommendation is now “do not travel to certain regions of both countries,” Pence said.

Pence and Trump addressed reporters in a hastily called news conference at the White House. Trump assured Americans that “our country is prepared for any circumstance."

“We are having very good initial feedback” about a vaccine, Trump said.

By Anne Gearan
February 29, 2020 at 7:38 PM EST

CDC announces three new cases in United States, identifies nursing facility as possible epicenter

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed three new coronavirus cases in Washington state Saturday, including the first U.S. death from the virus. The new cases bring the total number of infections contracted in the United States to 22.

The cause of the three new infections is unknown, but the CDC said circumstances suggest person-to-person spread in the community.

State health officials said the person who died, a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions, had no recent history of travel or contact with people known to be infected. (President Trump earlier had said the victim was a woman. The CDC later said it had mistakenly described the patient’s gender in a briefing to Trump and Vice President Pence.)

The other two new cases signaled the first possible outbreak in a long-term nursing facility and raise the level of concern for certain communities, said Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. Jeffrey S. Duchin, the chief health officer for Seattle and King County, identified the nursing facility as Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash.

One of the infections there involves a female health-care worker in her 40s who is in satisfactory condition at Overlake Hospital, state health officials said. She has no known recent travel outside the United States.

Another patient from Life Care is a female resident in her 70s, who is in serious condition at EvergreenHealth hospital. Officials have not said whether she had traveled recently.

Duchin said he would not be surprised to find additional cases at the nursing home as an investigation continued. Of Life Care’s more than 108 residents and roughly 180 staffers, Duchin said 27 residents and 25 staff members have shown coronavirus symptoms.

The death occurred at EvergreenHealth but is not associated with the long-term nursing facility.

The CDC said it was sending a team of experts to Washington to support its investigation.

In addition to the cases contracted in the United States, 47 other people who have been repatriated to the United States from Wuhan, China, and from the Diamond Princess cruise ship have the coronavirus. The government has involuntarily quarantined hundreds of people who were exposed to the virus.

By William Wan, Marisa Iati and Katie Mettler
February 29, 2020 at 7:32 PM EST

Santa Clara County, Calif., confirms another coronavirus case

A day after it announced its first coronavirus case of unknown origin, California’s Santa Clara County has confirmed that another person tested positive for covid-19. The adult woman is a “household contact” of Friday’s case and is not showing any symptoms.

She is self-quarantined at home and is being monitored for signs of illness, county officials said. The person she contracted the virus from is hospitalized in Mountain View, Calif.

The county said it expects to see more cases in the area. It has the ability to run its own coronavirus tests locally at the County Public Health Laboratory, which will help it identify cases faster, the county said.

The case brings the number of infections in the United States to 23, not including people who were repatriated from Wuhan, China, and the ill-fated Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Santa Clara County is south of San Francisco and contains the city of San Jose, as well as many of Silicon Valley’s biggest tech companies.

By Heather Kelly
February 29, 2020 at 7:30 PM EST

Mexico hits back at Trump’s comments on possibly closing border because of coronavirus

Mexico’s government reacted with polite astonishment to President Trump’s comment Saturday that it might be necessary to close the southern border to prevent transmission of coronavirus, noting that “there are four cases of covid-19 registered in our country and 22 in the U.S.”

The Foreign Ministry said the U.S. and Mexican governments were in close contact on the issue, and Mexico was willing to cooperate with Washington to protect public health.

“The Health Ministry is implementing mitigation measures in line with the recommendations of the WHO (World Health Organization) and similar to those of countries like Canada and the United Kingdom, and maintaining an alert at the country’s entry points” for people with symptoms of the virus arriving from nations where it has spread, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Trump initially said the United States was looking “very strongly” at the possibility of shutting down the southern border to keep out people with the disease. But he later toned down his comments.

“We’re thinking about all borders, we have to think about that border,” Trump said. “This is not a border that seems to be much of a problem right now. We hope we will not have to do that.”

Few cases of coronavirus have been reported in Latin America. Ecuador reported its first confirmed case Saturday, and two cases have been confirmed in Brazil.

By Mary Beth Sheridan
February 29, 2020 at 6:44 PM EST

Iraq closes government offices as infections continue to rise

BAGHDAD — Iraqi officials said Saturday that they were closing government offices that are usually open to the public as the number of coronavirus cases in the crisis-hit country rose again.

The interior ministry announced that visa and traffic departments would close their doors for a week, which is likely to put a temporary halt on the processing of much-needed documents, including residency papers and visas.

Thirteen people have been diagnosed with coronavirus in Iraq in the span of five days. The health ministry said Saturday that all of the individuals had recently traveled to Iran. There have been no deaths.

Millions of Iranians visit Iraq every year, and the Baghdad government has closed the border with its neighbor.

Iraq’s interior ministry called for security forces to help implement a decree ordering the shuttering of cafes, parks and cinemas, after many citizens ignored it and continued to visit them.

By Louisa Loveluck
February 29, 2020 at 6:19 PM EST

Pelosi to bring coronavirus funding bill to floor next week

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Saturday sent a letter to colleagues announcing plans to bring an emergency funding bill for the coronavirus to the floor for a vote next week.

Although she did not indicate a price tag, she said the funding package must be new money and “not stolen from other accounts.” She said House appropriators will work to ensure there is a firewall around the funds so the president cannot use the money for anything other than fighting the coronavirus.

“An important step that Congress must take is to ensure the government has the resources needed to combat this deadly virus and keep Americans safe,” Pelosi wrote. “To that end, House appropriators are working to advance a strong emergency funding supplemental package that fully addresses the scale and seriousness of this public health crisis, which we hope to bring to the Floor next week.”

Pelosi said the funding package should also include money to make eventual vaccines available to everyone, loans for small businesses hurt by disruptions, and reimbursement for state and local governments responding to outbreaks.

Trump has said repeatedly that he will accept any amount of money Congress agrees on for the coronavirus, leaving the perennial fight over how much to spend on a crisis and where to get it from to House Democrats and Senate Republicans to figure out.

By Colby Itkowitz
February 29, 2020 at 6:00 PM EST

Ecuador announces first coronavirus case

Ecuadoran health officials on Saturday reported the country’s first case of coronavirus: a woman who traveled to Ecuador from Spain and did not have symptoms when she arrived.

The woman then developed a fever and began to feel ill, Health Minister Catalina Andramuño Zeballos said at a news conference. She said the woman tested positive for the virus.

The patient was older than 70 and was in critical condition, the Associated Press reported. She arrived in Ecuador on Feb. 14, according to the AP.

Ecuador’s Interior Ministry has banned large gatherings in the cities of Guayaquil — where the infected woman was — and Babahoyo, the AP reported.

There have been two other coronavirus cases confirmed in South America, both in Brazil.

By Marisa Iati