Washington state reported new deaths from the coronavirus Tuesday, raising the U.S. death toll from the virus to nine. With illness spreading unpredictably and Americans bracing for an increasing impact at home, the Federal Reserve made an emergency interest rate cut earlier in the day, slashing the benchmark U.S. rate by half a percentage point.

The central bank has not made an emergency move like this since late 2008. It was also a sign that global central banks are prepared to act to contain the economic fallout from the coronavirus. The move came after President Trump, in a tweet, called for a “big” interest rate cut by the Federal Reserve “to make up for China’s coronavirus situation and slowdown.”

The markets quickly rallied after the Federal Reserve announced the decision. The rebound came after a volatile morning, with futures pointing positive and then making a U-turn. The Dow Jones industrial average ended the day down 786 points, nearly 3 percent.

Meanwhile, South Korean President Moon Jae-in declared “war” on the coronavirus as government officials were placed on 24-hour alert and health tests expanded in virus-hit areas. The number of confirmed cases in South Korea tops 5,000, the most outside China. About 70 countries have reported incidences of the virus, with the number of cases in the United States topping 100 across 15 states.

China, the epicenter of the outbreak and still the worst-hit, announced its lowest number of new cases since late January — 125 in 24 hours — and 31 deaths, bringing its totals to 80,151 infections and 2,943 deaths. The country has pledged to help other nations hit by the outbreak, offering advice to Iran, which has reported 2,336 confirmed cases and 77 deaths.

  • King County, which includes Seattle, has emerged as an epicenter for the virus outbreak with 27 confirmed cases, including nine deaths.
  • The World Health Organization said that covid-19, the disease the virus causes, has killed about 3.4 percent of those diagnosed with the illness globally — higher than what has previously been estimated.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services sent a memo Tuesday to members of Congress in response to questions about an HHS whistleblower report; however, some lawmakers said the memo was inadequate and did not address their concerns.
  • New York state reported its second coronavirus case, a 50-year-old man in Westchester County, a suburb of New York. New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) said he is pushing to provide paid sick leave and job protection for coronavirus patients.
  • Chile and Argentina reported their first infections, as cases of the virus slowly start to increase in Latin America.
2:44 a.m.
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China’s reported coronavirus cases continue to decline

China on Wednesday reported 119 new coronavirus cases and 38 new deaths in the past 24 hours. It marks the lowest number of new cases announced by China’s National Health Commission since Jan. 20. All of the deaths but one took place in the country’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the global epidemic.

Chinese officials have cited the country’s efforts to contain the outbreak in Hubei as a primary reason for the declining trend. Also on Wednesday, the health commission said 2,652 people were discharged from hospitals and 390 severe cases were downgraded.

2:37 a.m.
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South Korea announces emergency funds to offset economic hit from coronavirus

SEOUL — South Korea announced emergency funds of nearly $10 billion on Wednesday to offset the economic hit from the fast-spreading coronavirus.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 516 new cases of the virus on Wednesday, bringing up the national tally of the virus to 5,328, the most outside China.

Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki said the stimulus package of 11.7 trillion won ($9.8 billion) seeks to “help repair virus damages and revive the economic momentum.”

The supplementary budget that is subject to parliamentary approval will inject money into medical institutions, funding for small-to-medium-size businesses and child-care support among others.

South Korea will issue treasury bonds of 10.3 trillion won to fund the proposed budget. Hong called the bond issuance “inevitable” in order to support the damaged economy despite concerns about financial stability.

2:17 a.m.
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Some face masks, but coronavirus did not appear to significantly limit Super Tuesday turnout

Coronavirus did not appear to significantly limit turnout around the country or cause problems at the polls, election observers said.

In California, officials in several counties took extra health precautions around the vote, such as distributing hand sanitizer, sterilizing voting machines and posting public health notices about the virus and how to prevent its spread. The state had nearly 50 cases of coronavirus as of Tuesday night.

“We saw a lot of poll workers wearing face masks and also some who were very vigorously wiping down every ballot-marking system after voters finished,” Kathay Feng, Common Cause’s Los Angeles-based national redistricting director, said on a conference call with reporters. “A few voters were nervous, asking if they [should] come out to vote. But given the long lines [in California] … there are a lot of voters who are still turning out.”

In Texas, in the region surrounding Austin, some election judges and poll workers were no-shows Tuesday morning, with a few citing concerns about the coronavirus. But Travis County Clerk Dana DeBeauvoir said all polling locations were functioning normally by 9 a.m.

“It was a little bigger problem than we usually have,” she said in an interview with The Post. “But we had business resumption within two hours. I’m really pretty pleased with how it worked out.”

Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said she was aware of only a few examples of poll workers not showing up for their assignments over potential coronavirus concerns.

“This has not been an issue that we’ve seen or heard about across the country today,” she told reporters on a conference call.

2:00 a.m.
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Orange County, Calif., health officials confirm two cases of novel coronavirus

Health officials in Orange County, Calif., confirmed two presumptive cases of the novel coronavirus Tuesday and said they expect to see more.

Both patients — a man in his 60s and a woman in her 30s — had recently traveled to countries with widespread coronavirus transmission, the county’s health agency said in a news release. Additional information about the patients was not immediately available.

“The more you look for something, the more likely you are to find it,” county health officer Nichole Quick said in a statement. “Now that our Public Health Laboratory is able to perform COVID-19 testing, we expect to see more cases here in Orange County."

The county’s health agency is following up with others who were in close contact with the two people who have the virus.

1:42 a.m.
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Amazon employee in Seattle tests positive for covid-19

Amazon notified employees Tuesday afternoon that a colleague who works in one of its downtown Seattle buildings has tested positive for covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

The company said the employee went home feeling ill on Feb. 25 and had not returned to work at Amazon’s offices since, according to an email the company’s safety office sent to employees.

“We’re supporting the affected employee who is in quarantine,” Amazon spokeswoman Jaci Anderson said in an emailed statement. (Amazon chief executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

Amazon has notified employees who were in close contact with the ill worker. The safety office email encouraged employees experiencing symptoms of the virus to stay home and seek medical attention. The company also updated its work-from-home guidelines Tuesday, giving employees the option to stay at home if they prefer.

King County, which includes Seattle, has emerged as an epicenter for the virus outbreak with 21 confirmed cases reported by public health officials, as well as eight virus-related deaths.

1:20 a.m.
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Brazilian police investigate evangelical church for promising spiritual immunization against coronavirus

By Heloisa Traiano

RIO DE JANEIRO — An evangelical church in southern Brazil is being investigated by Brazilian police for suspected charlatanism after it held a service Sunday that falsely purported to offer spiritual immunization against the coronavirus.

“The power of God against the coronavirus,” the Global Cathedral of Holy Spirit in Porto Alegre promised in its advertisement. “Because there will be anointing with consecrated oil … to immunize against any epidemic, virus or disease.”

Only two cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed in Brazil — with 433 cases suspected — but widespread fear of the virus in Latin America’s largest country has increasingly made it a target of purveyors of scams. Fake news and purported homemade cures — such as drinking whiskey and honey or specific kinds of teas — are circulating, along with the international conspiracy theory that 5G cell service is linked to the virus.

“We’ve launched an investigation [into] whether or not there was a crime of charlatanism,” detective Laura Lopes told the Brazilian newspaper Folha.

Authorities are trying to determine whether the local pastors were exercising their religious freedom rights or exploiting fear and uncertainty for financial benefits.

Local journalists who attended the service Sunday reported that the epidemic was mentioned several times by the pastor who led the ritual, but not with the intensity necessary for there to be a crime. Police have also said no apparent crime was committed at the service.

The Brazilian government has now created a platform for people to ask questions about the coronavirus to help them discern fake news from real news about the epidemic.

1:00 a.m.
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Dispute over vaccine affordability delays emergency spending bill on Hill

An approximately $7.5 billion emergency spending bill to address the coronavirus outbreak in the United States is hung up in a dispute over vaccine affordability, lawmakers and aides in both parties said Tuesday.

Negotiations continued, with members on both sides of the aisle expressing optimism about finalizing the legislation quickly, hopefully in time to move it through the House and Senate by week’s end.

But hopes for releasing the bill Tuesday faded as negotiators squabbled over language Democrats want in the legislation that would ensure affordability of vaccines, such as by requiring reasonable prices and providing funding for the Health and Human Services Department to provide vaccines free, according to a House Democratic aide.

Some Republicans view the Democrats’ requests as price fixing and inflation caps outside the scope of precedent, which risks slowing development of drugs for vaccines and therapeutics, according to a House GOP aide.

Both aides spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the ongoing negotiations.

“We all believe we will have a bill passed and on the president’s desk by the end of this week,” Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters, while adding: “We believe that the vaccine should be very cost-effective and not be out of the reach of average folks, and that’s one of the arguments that’s still being disputed.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he was optimistic that “we’re going to come together on a bicameral, bipartisan basis with a package. … I think we’re on the way to getting it through the House this week and with cooperation could get it through the Senate as well.”

President Trump also sounded bullish as he spoke during a visit to the National Institutes of Health.

“We‘re doing very well in terms of getting the funding we need, the necessary funding. I asked for X, and they want to give us more than X, and that’s okay,” Trump said. The initial funding proposal from the White House sought $1.25 billion in new money to fight the virus, plus $1.25 billion in repurposed funds from other accounts.

Government scientists say it will take at least a year for a vaccine to be widely available.

12:33 a.m.
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First covid-19 case confirmed in Berkeley, Calif.

Berkeley, Calif., health officials on Tuesday announced that a resident had tested positive for the new coronavirus — the first confirmed case in the city.

Lisa Hernandez, the city’s health officer, said the resident had returned to Berkeley on Feb. 23 from “one of the growing numbers of countries with a covid-19 outbreak,” but did not specify where. She added that the resident had stayed at home under a voluntary quarantine due to concerns about being infected.

She added that Berkeley Public Health Division was investigating to see whether the person had come into contact with others. Additional information about the patient was not immediately available.

“While the risk of infection remains low, the expanded presence of the virus in our community is a reality we should all prepare for,” Hernandez said in a statement.

12:14 a.m.
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Health officials detail recent coronavirus deaths in Washington state

KIRKLAND, Wash. — In Washington’s King County, home to the city of Seattle, the death toll rose to eight people Tuesday. County public health officials said the total number of confirmed cases in the county is 21.

Officials confirmed three new deaths Tuesday, all residents of the Life Care Center of Kirkland, a nursing facility that has experienced an outbreak in this city northeast of Seattle.

Two of the deaths occurred on Feb. 26, county health officials said in a news release, including a woman in her 80s who died at home. A 54-year-old man also died that day at the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, two days after he was admitted directly from the nursing home, according to the hospital. The third patient, a woman in her 70s, died on Monday at the EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, officials said.

King County is home to 2.2 million people, almost a third of the Washington state population of 7.5 million, according to census estimates.

“This is a very fluid, fast-moving situation as we aggressively respond to this outbreak,” Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health — Seattle & King County, said in a statement. “People with suspected or confirmed exposure to COVID-19 should reach out to their healthcare provider. As public health professionals we really appreciate clinicians on the front lines of patient care and they are critical to this response.”

12:06 a.m.
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Should I get tested for coronavirus? Here’s when to stay home or see a doctor.

By now, you may have memorized some of the most common symptoms of coronavirus: fever, cough and a runny nose. In other words, many of the same symptoms as the common cold or the flu.

But as the coronavirus outbreak progresses, experts say it’s increasingly likely that you might have the new illness.

“This is much more widely spread than people realize,” said Amesh Adalja, an infectious-disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “The events in Washington state really show that this has established itself in our communities and will continue to do so.”

So how do you know if you have coronavirus, and when should you see a doctor?

Not only can you self-manage from the comfort of your couch if your symptoms are mild, but health officials want you to do so. You should stay home if your symptoms can be handled with over-the-counter cold and flu aids from your local drugstore.

Evidence from the more than 80,000 coronavirus cases that have been reported in China indicates that about 80 percent of illnesses are mild. If everyone with a cold floods their local emergency rooms, it will be harder for health-care workers to treat patients who are critically ill. Plus, you could pick up the virus in the hospital if you don’t already have it.

“If you feel well enough that if it weren’t for coronavirus you wouldn’t see a doctor, don’t see a doctor,” said Lauren Sauer, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

It’s a good idea, however, to call your primary care doctor if you have both fever and a cough, said Maria Raven, chief of emergency medicine at University of California at San Francisco. And if you have shortness of breath, unremitting fever, weakness or lethargy, it’s definitely time to get in touch with a health-care professional, according to Adalja. Those could be signs of pneumonia, which is common in severe cases of coronavirus.

Read more here.

12:01 a.m.
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India restricts drug and drug ingredient exports amid disrupted supply chains

India is restricting the export of more than two dozen pharmaceutical drugs and drug ingredients because of the impact of the coronavirus epidemic on supply chains. The medicines include antibiotics, progesterone and vitamin B12, Reuters reported.

India is one of the world’s leading suppliers of generic drugs but relies on China for many of its ingredients. In the United States, about a quarter of medicines come from India.

The commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration told lawmakers in Washington on Tuesday that India “has restricted the export of 26 active pharmaceutical ingredients ... which represents about 10 percent of their export capacity.” Stephen Hahn, the commissioner, said his office is working to assess what these changes will mean for the U.S. drug supply.

Last week, Hahn said the United States was closely monitoring the pharmaceutical supply chain and doing “everything possible to mitigate the shortage.”

His office also reminded drug manufacturers of “legal requirements for notifying the FDA of any anticipated supply disruptions,” he said in a statement.

11:32 p.m.
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2nd coronavirus case in New Hampshire; 1st patient went to event after being told to self-quarantine, authorities say

A second person in New Hampshire has tested positive for the novel coronavirus after coming in close contact with the state’s first patient, who health officials said had attended an event after being told to self-isolate.

The New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that the second patient is an adult male from Grafton County, in the state’s northwest. The man is isolated at home as officials seek out people with whom he had contact and “expect additional cases may be identified that are related to this investigation.”

Authorities also said that the state’s first covid-19 patient had, “despite having been directed to self-isolate, attended an invitation-only private event on Friday, February 28.” Health officials will contact other attendees who were in contact with the patient, who is an employee of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center and had recently traveled to Italy, to recommend 14-day self-quarantine.

State officials said they are waiting for confirmation on the test results for both individuals by the CDC.

11:20 p.m.
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Santa Clara health officials announce two new coronavirus cases, raising county’s total to 11

Health officials in Santa Clara County, Calif., announced two new confirmed coronavirus cases Tuesday, bringing the county’s total to 11.

At a Tuesday afternoon news conference, the county’s health officer, Sara Cody, said officials had not determined how the two new patients became infected. She said area schools were considering their procedures, and warned county residents that the risk of severe illness associated with coronavirus increases with age.

“The people at greatest risk of severe sickness are those 80 and over,” she said. She reminded those listening that people with underlying medical conditions and those who with compromised immune systems face a greater risk.

11:03 p.m.
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First responders remain in quarantine after potential exposure at Wash. nursing home

KIRKLAND, Wash. — Kirkland, a city of 90,000 people northeast of Seattle that has been the epicenter of the outbreak, much of it linked to a nursing home, remained in emergency mode Tuesday.

Fire Chief Joseph Sanford said 26 firefighters and three police officers -— including one who was added to the group Monday night — remained in mandatory quarantine. Most are at home. A dozen of them were exhibiting mild flu-like symptoms.

City workers call them twice a day to check in and are urging them to take their temperatures often. For those holed up in a firehouse near the nursing home and in another undisclosed location, latex-gloved workers are ferrying them fruit, vegetables and “breakfast, lunch and dinner,” he said.

They are under quarantine mainly because of their exposure to the Life Care Center of Kirkland, the nursing facility in a tree-lined residential area just six minutes from Fire Station 21. The outbreak has taken a quarter of the Kirkland Fire Department offline, but officials said the department remains fully staffed. One firefighter is back on the job after completing a 14-day quarantine period.

Sanford, a 63-year-old who has been with the department since his early 20s, said it is accustomed to handling emergencies, such as the health-related calls that drew them often to the nursing home.

But he said it has been a new challenge to face so much uncertainty, when they are usually the ones helping. Kirkland is under the microscope because it is the first in the United States to experience a significant outbreak.

“Most of the time, the emergencies are a lot shorter. We can mitigate them in a short period of time,” he said. “This one’s just ongoing, day-to-day, and it’s changing.”