Another 41 people tested positive for the novel coronavirus on board the quarantined cruise ship Diamond Princess in Japan, bringing the total number of cases on the vessel to 61.
Coronavirus infections in mainland China also rose sharply again on Thursday to reach more than 31,000 confirmed cases, more than 4,800 of which were critical, authorities said Friday morning.
China has reported more than 630 coronavirus deaths, including one in Hong Kong, and one person has died in the Philippines.
Foreigners on Thursday continued to be evacuated from China’s Hubei province, where the outbreak began, with many travelers entering quarantines when they arrived in their home countries. China, meanwhile, imposed penalties on tech platforms that published what it called “illicit” content about the outbreak that could cause citizens to panic.
● The Defense Department approved 11 military installations to potentially house quarantined U.S. travelers if the Department of Health and Human Services does not have enough space.
● Two U.S. planes with about 300 passengers departed Wuhan on Thursday night. The flights were expected to be the last ones chartered by the U.S. government to evacuate Americans and their families from the center of the outbreak.
● Experts in Hong Kong have declared a community outbreak in the city, with the coronavirus spreading on its own without people coming from the mainland.
● The Anti-Defamation League, an organization that opposes anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, said that extremists were weaponizing the coronavirus outbreak to spread conspiracy theories.
9:00 PM: Passengers evacuated on 2 U.S. planes from Wuhan, monitored from 7,500 miles away
WASHINGTON — Two U.S. planes carrying about 300 passengers flew out of Wuhan on Thursday night and were expected to arrive in the United States on Friday morning.
Most of the passengers were Americans, but among the evacuees were 60 Canadians who were given seats on the U.S. charter flights at the request of the Canadian foreign minister. These are expected to be the last flights chartered by the U.S. government to get Americans and their families out of the epicenter of the coronavirus oubreak.
In the operations center of the State Department, where the flights were being monitored, cheers erupted around the glass-top conference table at 6:40 p.m. Washington time when the day’s first flight took off and a woman monitoring its progress shouted out, “Wheels up!”
The second flight took off at 7:18 p.m. in Washington, which is 13 hours behind Wuhan. State Department officials declined to specify which U.S. airports would receive the flights, but said the trips were expected to last about 12 hours.
The evacuations have been organized and monitored by a task force that brought together staff from the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Health and Human Services, which includes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The task force includes specialists from the State Department’s China desk, Consular Affairs and Diplomatic Security. It also included medical workers from the State Department’s Operations Medicine staff, who specialize in crisis medicine such as a large-scale evacuation.
About a dozen people gathered around the large conference table, each sitting before a computer screen and a phone that connected them with U.S. Embassy and consulate staff on the ground in China, flight trackers, and medical experts who were aboard the planes to conduct medical screenings in flight and isolate ailing passengers if necessary.
By: Carol Morello
Dozens more people test positive for coronavirus on board quarantined cruise ship
By Simon Denyer and Akiko Kashiwagi
TOKYO — Another 41 people have tested positive for coronavirus on board the quarantined cruise Diamond Princess, bringing to 61 the number of people on board the ship who have been diagnosed with the virus, Japan’s health minister said on Friday.
The latest test results came from the final 171 tests carried out on people on board the ship. A total of 273 people on board the ship were tested for the virus, out of 3,711 passengers and crew. The tests were carried out on people deemed at highest risk of having caught the virus, either because they showed symptoms or because they had mixed with a passenger from Hong Kong who is believed to have carried the virus onto the ship.
Japan’s Health Minister Katsunobu Kato said Thursday that the quarantine would not “in principle” be extended, but he has not ruled out testing more people.
The people who tested positive will be taken to local hospitals, he said on Friday.
Speaking about the people still on board, he said: “We will give the highest priority to ensuring their health, and in order to prevent the spread of infection, we will implement measures thoroughly.”
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What life is like for Americans under quarantine at military bases after being flown from Wuhan
By William Wan, Lena H. Sun and Neena Satija
WASHINGTON — Twice a day, 195 American evacuees at the March Air Reserve base in Riverside, Calif., have their temperature checked by medical staff in protective gear. They are forbidden to stray from a small patch of land on a military base surrounded by armed soldiers. So they have found creative ways of filling the days.
“When people hear quarantine, they think of the zombie apocalypse, movies like ‘World War Z,’ ” said Matthew McCoy. “But the reality is it’s what you make of it.”
Amid the country’s first federal quarantine in more than 50 years, complete strangers have become confidants. Many have started offering classes on their areas of expertise: Boxing classes led by a boxing enthusiast. A seminar on preparing income taxes by an accountant. Zumba classes from a workout fiend. McCoy, who worked as a theme park designer in China, has experience drawing murals. So he’s planning a class for children on how to doodle with chalk using the barrack’s sidewalk as their canvas.
Confirmed cases and deaths continue to tick upward
By Marisa Iati
WASHINGTON — Chinese health officials said Friday morning that they had confirmed more than 31,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, including 16 on the self-governing island of Taiwan. More than 4,800 of the cases were considered severe.
The death toll rose to more than 630, up from about 560 the previous day. The deaths remain almost entirely confined to China, with the exception of a man who died in the Philippines. That man, 44, was a resident of Wuhan in Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak.
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National Symphony Orchestra’s decision to cancel tour to China hits home for one clarinetist
By Peggy McGlone
WASHINGTON — For National Symphony Orchestra principal clarinet Lin Ma, next month’s planned tour to Japan and China was more than a business trip.
A native of China, Ma studied clarinet in Beijing before coming to the United States at age 17. Now 30 and in his second year with the NSO, Ma was anticipating a joyous homecoming and the chance to perform — as a principal in a major American orchestra no less — for family and friends he had left behind.
But the school reunion and a vacation with his parents, whom he hasn’t seen since last year, won’t happen. The NSO decided to cancel three concerts in China because of the coronavirus outbreak, leaving it with five performances in Japan from March 6 to 11.
“It is disappointing,” said Ma, who was to meet his clarinet teachers and friends from the middle and high school attached to the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. “I was going to have a great time in China. My parents were planning to go to Shanghai for the last performance of the tour, and after we were planning to do a small trip to cities around Shanghai.
“For me, it’s unfortunate, but it’s bigger than the tour,” he said. “I hope the virus can be contained as soon as possible.”
Wuhan’s signature noodles become a symbol of solidarity amid the outbreak
By Emily Heil
WASHINGTON — This is how most Americans have come to know the Chinese city of Wuhan, where health workers are trying to contain the spread of the deadly coronavirus outbreak: a panicked metropolis, a hastily constructed hospital built to accommodate masses of victims and an eerie scene of empty streets.
But Wuhan has other faces — such as its thriving punk scene, abundant cherry blossoms and historic temples. Then there’s the city’s signature dish, hot dry noodles, or re gan mian. Picture a bowlful of springy spirals coated in a thick brown paste of toasted sesame, sometimes graced with flecks of fiery red pepper, pickled vegetables, green onions or soft herbs.
With Wuhan on lockdown and the world watching through the grainy lens of newspaper photos or the remove of websites and smartphones, hot dry noodles have become its unlikely ambassador, a reminder that Wuhan, the river-crossed home to more than 11 million people, is more than just the epicenter of a lethal virus.
Defense Department approves military installations as possible housing for quarantined travelers
By Marisa Iati
WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper has identified 11 military installations that could house quarantined travelers returning to the United States if Department of Health and Human Services facilities become filled, the Defense Department said Thursday.
Each installation pairs with one of the 11 airports where flights from China have been directed to land because of the coronavirus outbreak. As many as 20 people could stay at each installation during their mandatory 14-day quarantine, DOD said in a statement.
HHS will bring any evacuee who is ill to a civilian hospital and ensure they do not go to a DOD facility. The Defense Department also plans to provide office space for HHS employees through Feb. 22.
Here are the chosen military installations with their corresponding airports.
JB Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii (Honolulu)
Naval Station Great Lakes, Ill. (Chicago O’Hare)
Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Tex. (Dallas-Fort Worth)
March ARB, Calif. (Los Angeles)
Travis AFB, Calif. (San Francisco)
Dobbins ARB, Ga. (Atlanta)
Fort Hamilton, N.Y. (New York — JFK International)
Naval Base Kitsap, Wash. (Seattle/Tacoma)
Joint Base Anacostia, D.C. (Washington-Dulles)
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, N.J. (Newark)
Fort Custer Training Center, Mich. (Detroit)
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Scientists seek a new name for the new coronavirus
By Joel Achenbach
WASHINGTON — Scientists are wrestling with the sticky question of what to call the novel coronavirus. Right now, it is officially “2019 nCoV,” which is inelegant at best and does little to describe either the virus or the resulting disease in humans.
But the virus could acquire a new, more easily communicated name in the coming days. It could be a variant of an existing name, SARS, which stands for severe acute respiratory syndrome, according to two scientists involved in the decision.
The SARS virus emerged in southern China in 2002 and killed more than 700 people before it was contained. The new virus is genetically similar. Both are coronaviruses of the type found in bats.
“They likely had a common ancestor in the bat population,” said Stanley Perlman, a virologist at the University of Iowa who is part of the Coronavirus Study Group, a subset of the International Committee on the Taxonomy of Viruses.
“It’s like a cousin. They probably started from a common ancestor some years ago in bats, and they mutated and evolved, and that’s what you have now,” he said.
He said the committee favors including SARS in the name of the new virus.
“It’s close to SARS. But it’s not SARS. You could say a SARS-like virus, slash Wuhan, slash 2019,” he said. “From a taxonomic point of view, it’s so related to the previous virus, it needs to be included in its name.”
Of the roughly 30,000 nucleotides (or “letters”) in the virus genome, about 6,400 are different, according to Benjamin Neuman, a virologist at Texas A&M at Texarkana who is also in the Coronavirus Study Group.
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Japan’s Abe tells parliament that the Olympic Games will go on as planned despite the coronavirus
By Adam Taylor
WASHINGTON — Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told lawmakers that there was no discussion of canceling the 2020 Summer Olympics, which will be held in Tokyo in a few months, despite the outbreak of the coronavirus.
“In terms of whether to hold the Tokyo Games, I’d like to make it clear that there have been no talks or plans being considered between organizers and the International Olympic Committee since the World Health Organization declared an emergency,” Abe told parliament Thursday, Kyodo News agency reported.
The reassurance comes as the coronavirus spreads, causing travel chaos across the region. Japan has 45 confirmed cases of the virus.
The Olympic torch is due to arrive in the country’s northern Miyagi prefecture in six weeks, with the games themselves set to begin July 24. The virus has already disrupted some Olympic qualifiers, causing officials to worry.
“We might possibly even see another outbreak in the middle of the Olympics,” Hitoshi Oshitani, a virology professor at Tohoku University’s School of Medicine, said in an interview last week. “We have to be well prepared for that possibility. It is not something unthinkable.”
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Extremist groups spreading coronavirus conspiracy theories, ADL says
By Adam Taylor
WASHINGTON — The Anti-Defamation League said that extremist groups are using the coronavirus outbreak to spread conspiracy theories, including ones focused on anti-Semitism and a future race war.
“Extremists hope the virus kills Jews, but they are also using its emergence to advance their anti-Semitic theories that Jews are responsible for creating the virus, are spreading it to increase their control over a decimated population, or they are profiting off it,” the ADL wrote Thursday.
“Some extremists have tied reports documenting Chinese efforts to safely dispose of victims’ bodies to cast doubt on the number of Jews who died during the Holocaust,” the organization added.
The ADL is one of the oldest U.S. organizations that collects data on hate around the world. Although it is a Jewish organization, it also catalogues other forms of extremism.
The group noted that on platforms used by extremists such as Telegram and 4chan, users “regularly share racist messages or caricatures of Chinese people, mocking their eating habits, accents and hygiene” and hope that the virus will spread to predominantly nonwhite countries.
If you’ve seen or experienced discrimination, racism or xenophobia connected to the ongoing coronavirus epidemic, The Washington Post wants to hear your story.
Evacuation underway for Canadians in Wuhan
By Amanda Coletta
TORONTO — Nearly 200 people in Wuhan are boarding a chartered flight that will take them from the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak to a Canadian military base in Ontario, where they will be quarantined for two weeks, Canadian officials said Thursday.
A total of 347 people have asked to be evacuated from China’s Hubei province, Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne told reporters in Ottawa. Of 211 people on a manifest for the flight early Friday, 194 showed up. A U.S. flight leaving later in the day and a second Canadian plane slated to depart Wuhan on Feb. 10 will evacuate some of the remaining Canadians.
Patty Hajdu, Canada’s health minister, said all passengers were being screened before boarding and will undergo health checks during the flight. Anyone showing symptoms of coronavirus at the gate will not be permitted to board the airplane. Passengers who fall ill en route to Canada will be transported to local health facilities upon arrival.
“It is a critical time in the global efforts to contain and limit the outbreak,” Hajdu said.
Champagne said that two Canadians are among the passengers who have tested positive for the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise liner anchored in Japan’s Yokohama harbor. They have been transferred to health facilities there. Thirty Canadians are on a second cruise ship docked in Hong Kong, but it’s unclear whether any of them have the virus, Champagne added.
Theresa Tam, Canada’s public health officer, said there is “no clear evidence” that asymptomatic people can transmit the disease, and even if they could, such transmission would be “very rare,” based on what is known about coronaviruses and what drives the spread of epidemics.
Singapore reports 30th coronavirus case
By Benjamin Soloway
WASHINGTON — Two more people in Singapore have contracted the coronavirus, according to the country’s Ministry of Health, raising the total number of patients there to 30, the Straits Times reported Thursday.
One of the new patients had not traveled to China recently.
Singapore was among the first countries to implement restrictions on travelers from or who had recently visited China in response to the outbreak.
At least three people who attended an international business meeting at the Grand Hyatt Singapore last month have been infected, Reuters reported.
Singapore is the country third-most-affected by the new coronavirus, after Japan, where 45 cases have been confirmed, and China, the epicenter of the epidemic, where more than 99 percent of known cases have been found.
Video shows strict procedures aboard U.S. evacuation flight from Wuhan
By Siobhán O’Grady and Adam Taylor
WASHINGTON — A video shot by a U.S. citizen aboard a flight out of Wuhan shows strict quarantine measures in place due to the novel coronavirus outbreak.
“I know I am talking loud because I really cannot measure my tone at all in this ghostbuster outfit,” a man in a hazmat suit tells the passengers, traveling via cargo plane on a flight arranged by the U.S. government.
Ningxi Xu, 30, who lives in New Jersey and was visiting family in Wuhan, shared the footage with The Post. Xu was on a flight that landed at Travis Air Force Base, southwest of Sacramento, on Feb. 5, then continued to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego.
Xu is under a mandatory 14-day quarantine at the Miramar base, part of the first quarantine ordered by federal health officials in more than 50 years.
In a phone call Wednesday, Xu said that the medical staff on board were friendly and upbeat — a feat after an overnight delay in the Wuhan airport and a nearly 12-hour flight to California. “They were all really nice and helpful and I think some of them had also been working 24-hour shifts,” she said.
Each passenger was given a wristband with a number and everyone on the plane wore masks. Most slept throughout the journey and even once they woke, the passengers mainly tried “to keep to themselves,” Xu said. Their temperatures were recorded before takeoff, twice during the flight and again when they landed in California. There, Xu was called to the front of the plane because her temperature had risen slightly.
“When I walked down the aisle people sitting in the aisle were trying to not get close to me,” she said, calling it a brief but “nerve-racking episode.”
Her temperature was still well within the normal range, so officials let her de-board quickly and head toward the hotel on the base, where she and the other passengers will stay in quarantine for two weeks.
Philippines prepares to quarantine travelers returning from China
By Regine Cabato
MANILA — A village that housed athletes during the Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines has been converted to a quarantine facility for Filipinos returning from China amid the novel coronavirus outbreak.
Officials announced Wednesday that the Athletes’ Village in New Clark City, about a two-hour drive north of Manila, would house those repatriated from Hubei province, where the epidemic began.
A total of 45 Filipinos are expected to return to the country over the weekend, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Those exhibiting symptoms will be taken to hospitals, while asymptomatic passengers will stay for two weeks in quarantine.
Health officials said one room would be allotted per person, but a room could also fit a family of three.
“We will be providing the needed medical logistics including hygiene kits, disinfectant solutions, transportation, and other things that will be needed in the quarantine process,” said Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.
The Philippines has reported three confirmed cases of the virus, while 178 patients are under observation.
Hong Kong residents rush to buy toilet paper as fears over shortages rise
By Siobhán O’Grady
WASHINGTON — As coronavirus has spread across Asia, so have fears over shortages of supplies. In Hong Kong, where experts have declared an outbreak of the virus and one person has died, residents are urgently stocking up on face masks, soap, rice — and toilet paper. Lots and lots of toilet paper.
Photos shared on social media show empty supermarket shelves where rows of toilet paper would normally be. “Thought it was a joke but can confirm #HongKong has run out of toilet paper (and hand soap),” one person tweeted, sharing footage of vacant shelves.
A Bloomberg News reporter visited eight supermarkets in a busy neighborhood Wednesday evening and couldn’t find a single roll. Other videos shared online show people scrambling to get their hands on what’s left in stores, as employees in some cases try to limit purchases of paper towels and other goods to one package per person.
The city is already experiencing a shortage of face masks, which doctors are urging people to wear to limit the spread of infection.
The South China Morning Post’s Hong Kong edition tweeted that a leading supermarket chain is trying to debunk what they call rumors over the toilet paper shortage. But whether there’s an actual shortage or not, the panic buying doesn’t seem to be slowing down. On Wednesday, a Washington Post reporter saw one foreigner packing at least a dozen bags of toilet paper into his vehicle.