In the United States, an additional 18 people tested positive for the coronavirus, the CDC said Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed U.S. cases to 53.
Even as cases tick upward globally, the World Health Organization declined to declare the outbreak a pandemic Monday, saying the rapidly spreading disease has “pandemic potential” but does not yet require that designation.
China’s leaders also postponed the biggest event on their political calendar, the National People’s Congress, as the country’s battle against the virus disrupts the ruling Communist Party’s agenda and hammers the domestic economy.
In a speech to party officials Sunday, President Xi Jinping warned that the outbreak was a “crisis” that would inevitably jolt the country’s economic development, but he pledged that the disruption would be temporary and manageable.
Meanwhile, the epidemic is surging around the world. Just four days ago, Italy had only confirmed three cases. As of Monday, it has the largest known outbreak outside Asia.
Here are the latest developments:
● South Korea on Tuesday reported 60 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the country’s national tally of infected people to 893. Afghanistan reported its first case. Kuwait, Iraq and Bahrain reported new cases, as well.
● Official figures released Tuesday showed there had been 508 new cases of the novel coronavirus and 71 new deaths from the outbreak in China by the end of Monday, bringing the total confirmed cases to 77,658, with a cumulative death toll of 2,663.
● WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said officials are preparing for a potential pandemic.
●● The coronavirus has arrived with force in Italy, with case numbers spiking almost hourly and the virus jumping from one region to the next across the country’s north.
Japanese stocks plummet as coronavirus spreads outside China
Japanese stocks fell sharply early Tuesday as economic fallout from the coronavirus epidemic continued to rattle global financial markets.
The Nikkei was down about 700 points, or 3 percent, late Tuesday morning after opening to a 1,000-point plunge. The Topix index fell 62 points, or 3.7 percent, in early morning trading.
Australian and Chinese stocks felt the pinch, too, with the ASX 200 and Shanghai Composite each falling roughly 2 percent before noon. South Korea’s Hang Seng was down slightly after opening in the black.
The dropoffs came a day after the Dow Jones industrial average sank by more than 1,000 points, or 3.6 percent, in response to the rapidly spreading disease outbreak.
Parts and labor shortages are straining supply chains around the world as millions of people remain under quarantine or restricted movement.
Federal judge delays decision on whether to house coronavirus patients in Costa Mesa, Calif.
A federal judge on Monday directed the City of Costa Mesa, Calif., and state and federal officials to work together this week to resolve questions the city has raised about bringing quarantined people exposed to coronavirus to a closed mental health facility in the city.
Judge Josephine Staton issued a temporary restraining order last week to prevent state and federal officials from transferring people exposed to the virus and now being kept at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California.
Staton summoned all the parties back to her courtroom Monday, March 2.
“When decisions are made in a hurry, mistakes are made,” the judge said.
She cautioned that the city, and county, if it joins the effort, do not have veto power over the state and federal government’s decision to set up a quarantine station at the old mental health facility for, at least initially, about 10 people who have tested positive for the virus but have not become ill.
Staton also admonished the state and federal lawyers to resolve how the quarantine program would work, who would staff it and how the surrounding population would be protected.
City officials and many in the 100-plus people who crowded the courtroom in Santa Ana, contend that better, more isolated facilities exist to house people exposed to the virus.
White House asks Congress for $1.8 billion to bolster coronavirus response
The White House late Monday asked Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency spending to respond to the coronavirus as the epidemic spread around the globe and sent shock waves through financial markets.
The request includes $1.25 billion in new funding for the Department of Health and Human Services, as well as the ability to transfer an additional $535 million set aside to fight Ebola and use it for the coronavirus response instead.
“To this point, no agency has been inhibited in response efforts due to resources or authorities. However, much is still unknown about this virus and the disease it causes,” acting White House Office of Management and Budget Director Russell T. Vought wrote to congressional leaders. “The administration believes additional federal resources are necessary to take steps to prepare for a potential worsening of the situation in the United States.”
The request reflects the fast-evolving nature of the crisis confronting the administration, which until recently had insisted no additional funds were necessary. But Democrats immediately slammed the request as too low, with House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey (D-N.Y.) calling it “woefully insufficient.”
U.S. and South Korean military officials may scale back training exercises due to outbreak
Asked about the possibility of altering upcoming joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises due to the coronavirus outbreak, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said on Monday that U.S. and Korean military leaders were “looking at scaling back the command post training due to concerns about the coronavirus.”
Speaking to reporters during a visit to the Pentagon by his South Korean counterpart, Esper said the two countries would “remain fully ready to deal with any threats that we might face together.”
The South Korean minister, Jeong Kyeong-doo, said U.S. and South Korean officials would “make the right decision through close coordination,” adding that regardless of the circumstances the two countries would work to strengthen their military ties and prospects for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
CDC raises South Korea travel advisory to highest level
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday raised its travel advisory for South Korea to its highest level after the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the country surged past 800.
The Level 3 warning means Americans should avoid all nonessential travel to South Korea, which has the highest concentration of coronavirus infections outside China.
The CDC is instructing people who must travel to talk to their doctors first and avoid contact with sick people once they arrive, saying there is limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas.
China, where the outbreak originated, is the only other country with a Level 3 travel warning.
South Korea is battling a rapidly growing wave of new Covid-19 cases, the majority in Daegu, the country’s fourth-largest city. New infections spiked last week after nearly 200 people from an obscure religious group in the sprawling southeastern metropolis fell ill.
The virus has since spread to nearly every major city in the country, prompting officials to take extreme measures to contain the outbreak. Government operations have been disrupted, thousands of soldiers have been quarantined, and millions of people in Daegu have been ordered to stay indoors.
As of Tuesday, South Korean health officials reported 893 confirmed Covid-19 cases.
China reports 71 more deaths, more than 500 new infections
Chinese health officials on Tuesday reported 71 new coronavirus deaths, 508 new infections and 530 suspected cases in the country.
The number of deaths was less than half reported the previous day, though health experts have cautioned against drawing any sweeping conclusions about what course the virus will take.
China has reported a total of 77,658 confirmed cases and 2,663 deaths to date, the vast majority in Hubei Province.
There were at least 74 confirmed cases in Hong Kong; 28 in Taiwan, and 10 in Macau.
CDC says 36 Diamond Princess passengers in U.S. have tested positive for coronavirus
Another 18 people in the United States have tested positive for coronavirus, all of them passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday.
The new infections doubled the number of confirmed cases from the cruise ship to 36.
Overall, 53 people in the United States have tested positive for the novel virus.
All the cruise ship passengers have been isolated in federal facilities since being evacuated last week from the vessel, which was docked in Japanese waters.
Earlier, three people were diagnosed with the virus after returning from Wuhan, the disease epicenter in central China, on government-chartered flights. Another 14 people tested positive on U.S. soil after coming into contact with an infected person or returning from traveling abroad.
Trump touts coronavirus response as markets tumble and new cases surge
President Trump on Monday voiced optimism about the global response to the coronavirus epidemic, even as financial markets plunged and new disease clusters ballooned on multiple continents.
“The Coronavirus is very much under control in the USA. We are in contact with everyone and all relevant countries,” the president said in an afternoon tweet.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization “have been working hard and very smart,” he wrote. “Stock Market starting to look very good to me!”
Trump’s comments came at the end of a catastrophic day for global markets that highlighted the outbreak’s widening economic toll. The Dow Jones industrial average plummeted more than 1,000 points, or 3.5 percent, and the Nasdaq index fell by more than 3.7 percent, as factories around the world grappled with shortfalls in parts and labor.
South Korea, Italy and Iran reported a flurry of new covid-19 cases on Monday, further fueling concerns that the disease could become a pandemic.
In the United States, an additional 18 people tested positive for the novel virus on Monday, bringing the total number of confirmed U.S. cases to 53, according to the CDC.
Trump has previously expressed confidence about the federal government’s ability to contain the coronavirus, suggesting in a speech earlier this month that the outbreak could subside “by April.” But disease experts say there is no way to tell at this stage what course the coronavirus could take. “This virus can do anything it wants,” Allison McGeer, an infectious-disease epidemiologist at the University of Toronto, told The Washington Post.
U.S., global markets plunge as coronavirus cases spike outside China
Financial markets sounded the alarm Monday about the relentless spread and widening economic impact of the coronavirus, which after ravaging China now threatens havoc on a global scale.
The Dow Jones industrial average sank by more than 1,000 points or 3.5 percent, to close at 27,961.01 as Wall Street interpreted disease clusters in South Korea, Italy and Iran as a sign that the respiratory illness has outraced confinement efforts in China. The technology-heavy Nasdaq index sank by more than 3.7 percent.
Factories around the world are grappling with parts shortages as their Chinese suppliers struggle to resume normal operations. As global economic engines sputter, the Federal Reserve and other central banks are facing calls for emergency help.
But central bank chiefs may be ill-equipped to battle the economic consequences of the flulike illness. Interest rates are already in negative territory in Europe and near historic lows in the United States. And making credit less expensive — the Fed’s standard tool for combating a slump — may offset some of the financial upheaval, but will do little to remedy broken supply chains or ease worker and consumer fears of contagion.
“There’s just growing angst in the investor community that this thing is more serious than we realized,” said Chris Meekins, an analyst with Raymond James and former Trump administration preparedness official. “When you’re worried about catching a disease, you’re not going to go out to dinner; you’re not going to go to the movies or sporting events or concerts. The only question is how widespread this becomes.”
It’s still ‘too early’ to call coronavirus a pandemic, WHO says, even as experts argue otherwise
World Health Organization officials were pressed repeatedly Monday as to why they are holding off declaring the coronavirus a pandemic, especially with some experts saying the disease’s spread has already crossed that point.
“It’s too early,” said Michael Ryan, WHO’s director of health emergencies. “We’re still trying to avoid that reality.”
Ryan acknowledged that, especially in cases of influenza viruses, it is often easier to see when a virus is becoming a pandemic because scientists know much about how such diseases spread. But he insisted that much is still unknown about the coronavirus — particularly the exact nature of how it transmits. And those unknowns, he said, give WHO hope that the coronavirus can still be contained.
Ryan pointed to the drastic measures — such as entire city lockdowns instituted in China — and how they appear to have had a strong effect on decelerating the number of new cases. “The hope we have from the efforts in China is that it is clear that China and countries with smaller events have been able to suppress and contain,” Ryan said.
WHO is the body with authority to officially declare a pandemic. But WHO officials will be reluctant to make that declaration unless absolutely necessary. That’s because declaring any outbreak a pandemic is not just a medical decision but a political and economic one as well.
The last time WHO declared a pandemic — during the H1N1 outbreak in 2009 — the decision was later roundly and harshly criticized by many countries, who thought that it spread fear and led to unnecessarily aggressive responses.
H1N1 turned out not to cause the massive deaths and chaos some initially feared. But the pandemic declaration triggered requirements, for example, that governments buy pandemic vaccine — which some countries thought was a waste of money. Some critics even accused WHO advisers of pushing toward the declaration because of ties to the vaccine industry, according to a history of the controversial decision published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization.
There was even a mini-scandal when WHO revised its website’s definition during the 2009 outbreak, deleting a reference — after a reporter asked about it — to pandemics causing “enormous numbers of deaths and illness.” The Council of Europe accused WHO afterward of changing the definition to make it easier to declare a pandemic. WHO said the website description was outdated and that it had not changed its official definition.
What is a pandemic and who gets to define it?
Disease experts use the term pandemic when an epidemic has become rampant in multiple countries and continents simultaneously.
The word “pandemic” evokes fear, but it describes how widespread an outbreak may be, not its deadliness.
“I think one of the things people misunderstand when it comes to pandemics is it’s not about how severe it is or how many cases there are or even how worried we need to be,” said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It’s about literal geography,”
The term comes from adding the Greek word pan (meaning “all”) and demos (meaning “people”).
What matters most, however, is how the World Health Organization defines pandemic, since most countries and health officials follow its lead on such outbreaks.
On its website, WHO defines a pandemic in quite vague terms, giving it large leeway for making that declaration. “A pandemic is the worldwide spread of a new disease,” its website says.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses a similarly vague definition: “Pandemic refers to an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people.”
The main reason epidemiologists pay particular attention to the geographic spread, which characterizes pandemics, is that it has a direct effect on how likely authorities are to be able to contain an outbreak. Rivers, for example, likened fighting epidemics and pandemics to fighting forest fires: It’s much easier to fight and contain one fire — no matter how intense or large — than to fight multiple smaller fires across vast stretches of land and prevent those from growing and spreading, she said.
U.S. military dependent in South Korea tests positive for virus
A U.S. military dependent in South Korea has tested positive for coronavirus, U.S. Forces Korea announced Monday, in the first such reported incident as the number of people diagnosed in the country has rapidly increased.
The military said in a statement that the patient is a 61-year-old woman who visited Camp Walker Post Exchange on Feb. 12 and 15. Her diagnosis has prompted Korean and U.S. military officials to launch “contact tracing to determine whether any others may have been exposed,” the statement said. U.S. personnel have also been advised to scale back in-person gatherings and travel.
Gen. Robert Abrams, commander of U.S. Forces Korea, tweeted that the patient is a retired soldier’s widow. “We were saddened to hear of her contracting the virus,” he wrote. “We pray for her recovery.”
Anniston, Ala., leaders explain decision to not have coronavirus patients come to city
Anniston, Ala., became the latest city Sunday to ask the Trump administration to back off plans to transfer patients infected with or exposed to coronavirus to a local facility, arguing that doing so would pose a risk to public health.
The city hosted a special meeting Monday to explain the decision to house the patients elsewhere. City council members said after they heard that two federal agencies, including the Health and Human Services Department, had determined that a former Army base in the city would be used to house patients who had been evacuated from the Diamond Princess luxury liner in Japan, they immediately began having conversations with their local legislative and congressional delegations, as well as senior officials at HHS.
City officials also spoke with the state’s governor, Kay Ivey (R), and it was ultimately determined that Anniston’s facilities were not suitable for evacuees, Mayor Jack Draper said at the Monday meeting.
“In no way should this be interpreted as a lack of compassion for these individuals who were infected by this virus at no fault of their own,” Council member Millie Harris said. “My concern was that, is this facility appropriate for that.”
Canada confirms two new cases of coronavirus
TORONTO — Canadian public health officials said Monday that two people have tested positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of infected people in the country to 11.
In British Columbia, a man in his 40s tested positive for the virus, provincial health officer Bonnie Henry told reporters. He is a close contact of a woman who health officials said last week tested positive for the virus after traveling to Iran, and is in stable condition at home.
Henry described the woman’s case as a “sentinel event” because it indicated that there could be “more widespread transmission” of the virus since she had not traveled to China or its neighboring countries.
Earlier Monday, Eileen de Villa, Toronto’s medical officer of health, said that a woman in her 20s who recently traveled to China also tested positive for the virus. She arrived in Toronto on Friday and had spent some time in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the outbreak.
The woman had an intermittent cough, de Villa said, and wore a mask during her travel. At the airport, officials told her to call Telehealth Ontario, a free medical advice hotline. When she described her symptoms and recent travel to the nurse on the phone, she was advised to go to a hospital.
The woman was eventually discharged from North York General Hospital, north of Toronto, and is self-isolating at home, de Villa said.
Public health officials said that they will contact passengers sitting close to the Ontario woman on the flight to Canada. They said the risk to Canadians of becoming infected with the coronavirus is low.
On Sunday, the federal government updated its travel advisory for South Korea, advising Canadians to “exercise a high degree of caution” because of the rapid spread of the virus there.