Coronavirus live updates: 4 more die in Seattle area, bringing US death toll to 6

John Bacon, USA TODAY

Four more people have died of the coronavirus in Washington state, raising the death toll in the state and the nation to six, health officials said Monday.

Jeffrey Duchin, a health officer in King County and Seattle, said at a news conference that five of the deaths were people from King County and one was from Snohomish County, north of Seattle.

Researchers said earlier that the virus may have been circulating for weeks undetected in Washington state.

"To increase your chances of staying healthy, avoid crowded settings if possible," King County Public Health said on Twitter. "Especially if you are over 60, or have other chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, or a weakened immune system."

There's particular concern about the spread of the virus in nursing homes. One such  facility, Life Care Center in Kirkland, Washington, said in a statement that one of its residents and one of its associates have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The center is banning visitors for now.

The worldwide death count surpassed 3,100 Monday, and the number of confirmed cases increased to more than 90,000. Though 80,000 of those have been reported in mainland China, the crisis appears to be shifting away from that country, where hundreds of patients have been released from hospitals.

The World Health Organization reported that nine times as many new infections were recorded outside China as inside it over the past 24 hours.

In the U.S., the number of cases has reached 105, and companies are taking steps to continue operating while keeping their employees safe. Social media giant Twitter said in a posting that starting Monday it was "strongly encouraging all employees globally to work from home if they’re able.''

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Here's the latest on the outbreak of COVID-19: 

China says cases are waning; 'containment is feasible'

China’s coronavirus caseload continued to wane Tuesday even as the epidemic took a firmer hold beyond Asia, with three countries now exceeding 1,000 cases and the U.S. reporting its sixth death.

The health ministry announced just 125 new cases detected over the past 24 hours, China’s lowest number since Jan. 20. Another 31 deaths were reported, all of them in the hardest-hit province of Hubei. The figures bring China’s total number of cases to 80,151 with 2,943 deaths.

The global shift in the COVID-19 epidemic was apparent with 2,410 recovered patients being released from Hubei’s hospitals and treatment centers, many of them hastily built over recent weeks to cope with the thousands of people sickened by the virus. But new infections outside China were far surpassing its totals.

Clusters of disease grew in South Korea, Italy and Iran, and the virus has turned up for the first time in New York, Moscow and Berlin, as well as Latvia, Indonesia, Morocco, Tunisia, Senegal, Jordan and Portugal. The worldwide death toll topped 3,000, and the number of cases tops 89,000 in about 70 countries.

Global health officials sought to reassure the public that the virus remains a manageable threat.

“Containment is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Trump meets pharma CEOs

President Donald Trump told pharmaceutical CEOs on Monday that he wants them to work together and speed development of a vaccine for coronavirus, though other government officials have said that process could take at least a year.

“We will confront this challenge together," Trump told drug executives who were invited to a meeting at the White House. "We will continue to do exactly what we’re doing.”

The guests, including the leaders of GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer, nodded their heads when Trump spoke of cooperation.

Trump said he heard a vaccine could be ready in as little as three or four months, but Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said a new vaccine wouldn't be ready to "deploy" for at least a year.

Alex Azar, the secretary of Health and Human Services, told the group Trump wants to challenge the normal lines for drug development, saying they "can be a little slow and bureaucratic.”

Development and government approvals of vaccines for new viruses can take months or even years.

Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the White House coronavirus task force, said the drugmaker CEOs have agreed to form a "consortium" to try to develop a vaccine.

Travel restrictions to and from portions of Italy and South Korea are being put in place, Pence said, and anyone who comes to the United from those countries will be screened.

– David Jackson, USA TODAY

Washington state ramps up efforts

King County officials announced plans to buy a local motel and turn it into a quarantine facility for those who need to be isolated. The building is expected to be available by the end of the week.

The county, where five of the six deaths from coronavirus in the U.S. have been reported, will also place modular units on public properties.

“We have moved to a new stage in the fight to contain and mitigate this outbreak,'' King County Executive Dow Constantine said. 

Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency after the first death was announced Saturday.

Multiple schools around the state have closed as a precaution, as districts undergo significant deep cleaning and disinfectant protocols. 

San Antonio mayor declares public health emergency

The mayor of San Antonio on Monday blocked the release of quarantined cruise ship evacuees, declaring a public health emergency after a woman allowed to leave quarantine later tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Mayor Ron Nirenberg's declarations of a local state of disaster and public safety emergency effectively puts the more than 120 passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in limbo, unaware of how long they will be held in seclusion at Lackland Air Force Base to prevent the further spread of COVID-19.

Nirenberg and other San Antonio officials also said all passengers must test negative for the virus three times before they can be released.

The woman who sparked the mayor's alarm tested positive for the illness last month after she was evacuated from Wuhan, China, but was released from quarantine Saturday following two negative tests, officials said. After the woman's release, health officials learned that a third lab test came back “weakly positive.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Sunday that she was asymptomatic at the time of her release and met all criteria for release, and that she was returned to quarantine after the new positive test was discovered.

She was out of quarantine for about 12 hours, during which time she went to a hotel and a shopping mall, said Dr. Anita Kurian, assistant director of San Antonio Metropolitan Health Department.

Nirenberg said Monday that it was “totally unacceptable” that the woman was released from quarantine.

“We simply cannot have a screw-up like this from our federal partners,” he said.

NYC: 'It was a case of not if, but when'

New York state reported its first case, a 39-year-old Manhattan woman who contracted the virus while traveling in Iran, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The woman, a health care worker, is isolated in her home with "respiratory symptoms" but is not in serious condition, he said. Expect more cases, he added.

"We said early on it was a case of not if, but when," Cuomo said at a news conference. "This is New York, we're a gateway to the world. To see all these cases around the world, around the country, of course we are going to have here."

Cuomo said the risk remains low in New York and that the challenge is containment. Testing will help with that, he said, setting a goal of 1,000 tests daily statewide within a week. Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city had set aside 1,200 beds for coronavirus patients.

How many people have died from the coronavirus?

The death toll from confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide stood at 3,085 on Monday evening, according to a coronavirus dashboard run by Johns Hopkins University. More than 2,900 of them were in mainland China, and more than 2,800 of them were in Hubei Province, the epicenter of the outbreak. Iran has reported at least 66 deaths, Italy 52 and South Korea 28. 

How many cases of coronavirus are there in the United States?

Johns Hopkins University's coronavirus dashboard tallies 102 U.S. cases. The number is expected to rise significantly as testing becomes more pervasive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has expanded thcriteria for coronavirus testing and is set to allow every state and local health departments begin testing this week. 

Common signs of infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. If the infection worsens, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure or even death.

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First case in New Hampshire

A hospital employee who recently traveled to Italy is the first person in New Hampshire to test positive for the new virus, state officials said.

State epidemiologist Benjamin Chan said the male patient has mild symptoms and remains at home in Grafton County while health officials investigate.

Petitioners want SXSW fest canceled

A petition on Change.org to cancel the sprawling SXSW Conference and Festivals because of fears of spreading the coronavirus has swelled to more than 16,000 signatures. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, a featured speaker, is among groups and guests that have pulled out of the event scheduled to start March 13 in Austin, Texas.

SXSW draws tens of thousands of people from around the world for 10 days of film, tech and music. Austin Public Health officials have said there are “no imminent plans to postpone to any current events,” including SXSW, which has a nearly $400 million annual economic impact on the region. SXSW has never been canceled in its 37-year history.

– Rick Jervis, USA TODAY

Funding soon on the way

Democratic and Republican aides said an agreement on funding to confront the virus is almost complete. The $7-8 billion measure may be unveiled by Tuesday, with the hope of getting it through the House and Senate by the end of the week.

The emergency measure would finance both federal and state response efforts, fund the federal government’s drive to develop and produce a vaccine, and offer Small Business Administration disaster loans to help businesses directly affected by the growing coronavirus crisis.

Florida reports first two cases

Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a public health emergency after two Florida residents tested “presumptively positive” for the coronavirus. A presumptive positive case means that the patient has tested positive by a public health laboratory and is pending confirmatory testing at the CDC.

The cases were reported in Hillsborough County, which includes Tampa, and in Manatee County just to the south. “Both individuals remain in isolation at this time,” the Florida Department of Health said in a press release.

– Zac Anderson, (Sarasota) Herald-Tribune

Coronavirus infections in Italy have passed the 2,000 mark

The number of coronavirus cases in Italy has climbed to 2,036.

Authorities reported Monday that 52 people who had tested positive have died but stressed that all of them had preexisting serious health problems, from cancer to kidney or heart disease, and nearly all were elderly, including many in their late 80s or early 90s.

So far, health officials have administered more than 23,000 swab tests in the country of nearly 60 million people.

National health institute officials said it could be 10 to 14 days before it is known if Italy’s restrictive measures, including quarantining 11 towns in the north, where nearly all the cases have been reported, is slowing the spread of the virus.

Wuhan shuts down makeshift hospital

Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the coronavirus outbreak, has shut down one of its 16 makeshift hospitals because of a steady decline in new cases, state media reported. The Chinese mainland reported 202 new confirmed cases, the lowest number in six weeks, the National Health Commission said Monday.

More than 80,000 cases have been confirmed across China in less than three months, the vast majority of them in Hubei Province, home to Wuhan.

"While the rise has been halted, the overall battle is far from over," said Zhou Jiaxi, a researcher of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences.

Texas patient tests positive after release from quarantine

San Antonio Mayor Ron Nirenberg criticized the CDC on Sunday after the agency reportedly released a patient who later tested positive for the coronavirus. Nirenberg said the patient was quarantined, fully treated, tested negative for the virus twice and was discharged from the Texas Center for Infectious Disease in San Antonio on Saturday. A third test returned positive, Nirenberg said.

Nirenberg declared a public health emergency Monday to keep more than 120 patients evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship at Lackland Air Force Base in the city for further testing. At a news conference, he again tore into the CDC.

“As mayor of this city, I find it totally unacceptable that the CDC would release a patient prior to receiving all test results and potentially exposing the public to this harm,” he said. "We cannot have a screw-up like this from our federal partners.”

– Brandon Mulder, Austin American-Statesman

Lawmaker among Iran's victims

A member of Iran's Expediency Council, which provides counsel to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, died Monday of the coronavirus, the Tehran Times reported. Seyed Mohammad Mirmohammadi, 71, served as the representative from Qom for two four-year terms.

Mirmohammadi’s mother also died from the coronavirus in recent days, the Times said.

Contributing: David Jackson, Joseph Spector, Lindsay Schnell, Jorge L. Ortiz, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

The coronavirus has not yet reached pandemic levels, health official says

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus live updates: US death toll rises to 6 with 4 more deaths