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Spread of coronavirus in U.S. appears inevitable, health officials warn, as Trump defends response

Medical face masks are often used during flu season or a virus outbreak. Demand for masks has skyrocketed amid the coronavirus outbreak. (Video: The Washington Post)
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Health officials in the United States warned Tuesday that the spread of the novel coronavirus in the country appears inevitable, marking a significant change in tone as global travel disruptions continued to worsen, South Korea exceeded 1,000 cases, Italy saw a 45 percent one-day increase in cases, and Iran reported at least 15 deaths.

China and South Korea announced new cases of the coronavirus, raising concerns in both nations about how long it could take for normal life to return. South Korea confirmed 144 more cases, bringing its total to 977, the most outside China. President Moon Jae-in visited the city of Daegu, where more than half of the country’s confirmed cases have been found, Tuesday afternoon local time.

In Italy, the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak, the death toll rose to 11 amid 322 confirmed infections. Austria, Croatia and Switzerland reported their first cases, most of which health authorities linked to Italy.

Travel disruptions also continued to spread, with the United Arab Emirates, one of the world’s most critical aviation hubs, saying it would suspend all travel to and from Iran, the Middle East’s coronavirus epicenter. Health authorities in Bahrain, Iraq, and Oman also announced new cases Tuesday, while in Iran, an opposition lawmaker and the deputy health minister were among 95 people who’ve tested positive for the virus. The latter had appeared on Iranian television just the day before, offering assurance the situation was under control.

Early Tuesday, global markets appeared to stabilize after Monday’s heavy losses — until the Dow Jones fell 900 points.

Here are the latest developments:

● The Dow Jones dived 900 points Tuesday afternoon after the CDC warned of coronavirus inevitability in the United States. “Ultimately, we expect we will see community spread in the United States,” Nancy Messonnier, a top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters. “It’s not a question of if this will happen but when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illnesses.”

● A Chinese health official warned that at least 28 days without new cases are needed to be able to say an area is free of the outbreak, raising questions about how long it will take for normal life to resume.

● A fourth former passenger from the Diamond Princess cruise liner has died. Japan says 691 people on the ship tested positive for the virus, although that figure does not include more than 20 people found to have the virus after returning to their home countries.

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