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As the U.S. death toll hit 11 Wednesday, both California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti declared states of emergency and announced six additional cases of the deadly coronavirus that has health officials around the world scrambling for answers.
More than 150 cases have been confirmed across the nation. Los Angeles had confirmed just one before Wednesday's announcement.
A death reported Wednesday by California's Placer County, near Sacramento, represents the first fatality outside of Washington state.
County officials referred to the victim as "an elderly adult with underlying health conditions.'' They said the patient was in isolation at a local hospital and was probably exposed to the virus on a trip aboard a Princess Cruises ship that traveled from San Francisco to Mexico in February.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating a group of coronavirus patients in Northern California who were passengers on that ship.
“The State of California is deploying every level of government to help identify cases and slow the spread of this coronavirus,” Newsom said. “This emergency proclamation will help the state further prepare our communities and our health care system in the event it spreads more broadly.”
Florida and Washington state have already declared emergencies.
Garcetti said the emergency declarations would help state and federal funding be available to "keep our communities safe." Health officials said one of the new patients was hospitalized, the others were under home quarantine.
Later in the day, the Department of Homeland Security said a medical screener at Los Angeles International Airport has contracted the virus. The agency said no travelers screened at LAX have tested positive for coronavirus.
County Supervisor Hilda Solis said the outbreak of the virus, which began in China, has fueled bias against the local Asian community.
"There's been too much misinformation spreading around and, as we expected, it's cultivating fears and leading to racial profiling," Solis said. "The last thing we want to do is create more fear."
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Here's the latest COVID-19 developments:
Washington state keeps schools open, encourages telecommuting
Officials in the area of Washington state experiencing an outbreak of the virus are recommending that people work from home but they're not closing schools.
In Seattle, King County Executive Dow Constantine encouraged workers to telecommute when possible for the next three weeks, saying the county will reassess the risk at the end of every week. County officials also recommended businesses stagger the arrival and departure of employees to minimize contact with each other.
The county has decided not to close schools “unless there’s been a confirmed case within that school,” said Patty Hayes, the director for public health in Seattle and King County.
The Seattle metropolitan area has been at the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., with 31 cases and nine of the country's 11 deaths. Most of the victims have been patients of a nursing home in suburban Kirkland.
The county is recommending, but not requiring, that people in higher-risk groups stay home and away from large groups if possible. Higher-risk people include those 60 and older, people with underlying health conditions, people who have weakened immune systems and pregnant women.
In explaining the county's measures, health officer Jeffrey Duchin recognized the need to “keep our society functioning, our businesses functioning and schools functioning.” He emphasized that they’re not asking for anyone to completely put their lives on hold, but to remain cautious and conscious.
Another cruise ship may be carrying patients
A cruise ship heading from Hawaii to San Francisco is carrying aboard 62 passengers who may have been exposed to a “small cluster’’ of patients from a previous voyage who have contracted the coronavirus.
Princess Cruises said in a news release it has been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is investigating a handful of cases in Northern California of passengers who traveled on the company’s Grand Princes roundtrip from San Francisco to Mexico from Feb. 11-21.
One of those patients, described in the release as a 71-year-old male, died Wednesday at a hospital in Placer County, northeast of Sacramento. He’s the first person to die of coronavirus in California and the 11th in the U.S.
The Grand Princess’ chief medical officer said the ship was at sea off the coast of Mexico and will skip a scheduled stop in Ensenada and return directly to San Francisco, where CDC and cruise officials will meet to determine the next course of action. The ship is expected to dock in San Francisco on Thursday.
Princess Cruises said the 62 passengers, who remained on board after the previous cruise and headed for Hawaii, along with some crew members have been told to remain it their cabins until getting screened by the ship’s medical personnel.
It’s not clear how many of the passengers on the cruise will have to be isolated, but last month another Princess Cruises ship was quarantined for two weeks in Yokohama, Japan, and more than 700 passengers and crew members came down with the virus.
“The CDC is continuing to actively collect information and is collaborating with us to determine what, if any, actions need to be taken during the current Hawaii cruise and upon the ship’s return to San Francisco,’’ the company’s statement said. “We have shared essential travel and health data with the CDC to facilitate their standard notification to the State and County health authorities in order to follow up with individuals who may have been exposed to the people who became ill.’’
Facebook employee in Seattle tests positive for coronavirus
A Facebook employee based in Seattle has tested positive for the coronavirus, the social network confirmed to USA TODAY on Wednesday night.
“A contractor based in our Stadium East office has been diagnosed with the COVID-19," Tracy Clayton, a Facebook company spokesperson, said in a statement. "We’ve notified our employees and are following the advice of public health officials to prioritize everyone’s health and safety."
The Seattle Facebook offices are closed immediately until March 9, which is the end of the incubation period. However, because of King County's updated guidance released Wednesday, Facebook is encouraging all Seattle-based employed work from home until March 31.
The announcement comes a day after Amazon said an employee who works at the company's Brazil building near downtown Seattle was diagnosed with the virus.
AIPAC advises conference-goers of possible coronavirus exposure
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee issued an advisory to its conference attendees, some of whom include lawmakers, that a group of conference-goers may have had contact with a coronavirus patient before traveling to Washington, D.C., for the March 1-3 event.
The pro-Israel lobbying group said in a statement to attendees, speakers, administration and Capitol Hill offices that the D.C. Health Department deems the potential exposure as "low-risk."
The individual with coronavirus did not attend the conference, but may have been in proximity to the group of individuals from New York who attended, AIPAC said, noting that the Health Department said there is no reason to "sound the alarm" at this point.
"To our knowledge, no one who attended the conference has tested positive for coronavirus at this time," the statement reads.
The group that may have had the initial exposure is in a self-quarantine, according to the statement.
Attendees and speakers at the conference include Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., former 2020 Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg, former candidate Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and several other lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.
—Jeanine Santucci and Savannah Behrmann
GOP, Dem lawmakers agree on $8.3 billion virus bill
Leaders from the Democrat-controlled House and the GOP-led Senate came to a compromise deal that will provide $8.3 billion to both combat the spread of coronavirus in the U.S. and help treat those affected. The number is more than triple the $2.5 billion President Donald Trump originally asked for last month. The package includes more than $3 billion for research and the development of vaccines and $2.2 billion to help in prevention, preparedness and response to the threat of the virus.
United reduces flights, freezes hiring
United Airlines, faced with a steep drop in travel demand due to the coronavirus crisis, is aggressively cutting April and May flights, freezing hiring and offering employees voluntary unpaid leave.
The airline announced the unprecedented steps, the first by a U.S. airline since the outbreak began, in a memo to employees Wednesday.
The airline did not provide specific routes being targeted but said it is reducing its international schedule by 20%, including previously announced cuts to China and Hong Kong, and 10% in the United States.
UNESCO: 290M students out of school
In its first global tally, UNESCO said the education of 290.5 million students is being disrupted by school closures prompted by the coronavirus. The organization is trying to help countries set up remote teaching options.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization said 22 countries in three continents have announced or put into effect school closures, 13 of them on a nationwide basis. Two weeks ago, China was the only country to require those measures.
"While temporary school closures as a result of health and other crises are not new unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education,” Director-General Audrey Azoulay said.
Wife, kids, neighbor of New York patient infected
The wife, two children and a neighbor of a suburban New York man hospitalized in critical condition with the coronavirus have all tested positive for the disease, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The neighbor drove the New Rochelle man, 50, to the hospital, Cuomo said. One of the children, a 20-year-old son, attends Yeshiva University, which canceled classes on its Manhattan campus Wednesday.
The state now has six confirmed cases, including a New York City health care worker who recently returned from Iran. Cuomo also said hundreds of state university students studying abroad in China, Italy, Japan, Iran or South Korea will be brought home and quarantined for 14 days "out of an abundance of caution."
WHO: Face mask, gloves shortages risk lives
A severe and mounting disruption to the global supply of masks, respirators, gloves and other personal protective equipment is putting lives at risk from the new coronavirus and other infectious diseases, the World Health Organization said. The agency blamed the shortage on rising demand because of panic buying, hoarding and misuse, and it called for a 40% increase in production. Physicians, nurses and other front-line workers are "dangerously ill-equipped" to care for COVID-19 patients, WHO said.
“Without secure supply chains, the risk to health care workers around the world is real," Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement. "Industry and governments must act quickly to boost supply, ease export restrictions and put measures in place to stop speculation and hoarding."
New Jersey has its first case
The first case of coronavirus in New Jersey was confirmed on social media by Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday night.
Murphy tweeted that he and Acting Governor Sheila Oliver were announcing the first presumptive positive case in Bergen County.
Tonight, Acting Governor @LtGovOliver and I are announcing the first presumptive positive case of novel coronavirus, or #COVID19, in New Jersey. The individual, a male in his 30s, is hospitalized in Bergen County and has been hospitalized since March 3rd. pic.twitter.com/E2QtB1Wzut
— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) March 5, 2020
A man in his thirties has been hospitalized since Tuesday. Murphy also noted that officials are taking the situation “very seriously and have been preparing for this for weeks” while urging residents to remain calm.
Donald Trump jokes: 'I haven't touched my face in weeks'
President Donald Trump unexpectedly dropped in on a White House meeting of airline executives and health officials trying to reassure the traveling public that flying remains safe. Trump, a self-acknowledged germophobe, also brought a little levity to the discussion.
When reporters pressed him on what precautions people should take before getting on a flight, health officials in the Roosevelt Room urged the flying public to wash their hands and not touch their face.
"I haven’t touched my face in weeks!" Trump said to laughter. "I miss it."
– John Fritze
Italian sports without fans
The Italian government said all sporting events will be closed to the public until April 3 as the country deals with a coronavirus outbreak that has sickened more than 3,000, the third largest number in the world.
The Italian pro soccer league will likely resume in full this weekend after taking a week off, but fans won't be allowed to attend the games.
SXSW gets support from health official
There is no evidence that canceling the South by Southwest Conference and Festivals or any major event will make the community safer, public health officials in Austin, Texas, said. Mark Escott, interim director of the city Health Authority, said SXSW organizers have been “extremely responsive to mitigation strategies,” such as promoting hygiene tips and making hand sanitizer readily available. Facebook is among several big companies that have already pulled out.
“Today the threat of community spread remains low, but we are prepared for it to happen here,” Escott said.
– Kelsey Bradshaw, Austin Statesman-American
Bond film ‘No Time to Die’ delayed by virus
The release date for Daniel Craig's final James Bond film "No Time to Die" has been postponed until November amid the global coronavirus outbreak. The film's producers announced Wednesday that "after careful consideration and thorough evaluation of the global theatrical marketplace" the release would be postponed from its original April release date. In February, Paramount Studios scrapped a three-week “Mission: Impossible VII” shoot in Venice, Italy, in what would have been the first day of production for the action franchise.
– Bryan Alexander
After 4 weeks in quarantine: A trip to Margaritaville
Peter and Cindy Molesky set sail from Japan on a Diamond Princess cruise ship back on Jan. 20. When their 15-day cruise ended, they went into quarantine, first on the ship and then at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. They were released Tuesday and immediately hit up the Margaritaville at the San Antonio airport.
“We figured we deserved it,” Cindy Molesky said while the couple waited for their 5 p.m. flight back to their home in New York. “We’ve been released from prison,” she told the Observer-Dispatch in Utica. “It’s a little scary. I still want to wear my mask. I feel naked without it now.”
– Amy Neff Roth, Observer-Dispatch
Death rate rises to 3.4%
The death rate among reported coronavirus patients is now about 3.4%, a far higher percentage than previous estimates, the WHO said. Tedros said the virus is more lethal than the flu, which kills tens of thousands of Americans each year but does not spread as easily.
The death rate for the seasonal flu in the U.S. is far less than 1%. Previous global mortality rate estimates for the coronavirus had been around 2%, and the 3.43% estimate is not firm because it remains unclear how many people actually have been infected.
"COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity," Tedros said. "That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe disease."
England total almost doubles, to 80
England's confirmed case total jumped by 32 on Wednesday, to a total of 80. All but four of the new patients had recently traveled to countries with relatively large outbreaks or were part of "recognized clusters" that were being investigated, the government said. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland have had a total of five cases.
Upside: More than 16,500 tests across the U.K. have come back negative, according to the Department of Health and Social Care.
Italy closes schools, Iran cancels prayers, Saudis halt pilgrims
• Italy's schools will close Thursday and remain shuttered until March 15. "It is a decision of impact, I hope the pupils will return to school as soon as possible," Education Minister Lucia Azzolina said.
Italian officials have put in place several enhanced measures to reduce the spread of the virus. Starting Tuesday, passengers on U.S.-bound flights who had a temperature above 99.5 degrees Fahrenheit were not allowed to board.
• Iran, where at least 92 have died and almost 3,000 cases have been confirmed, canceled Friday prayers that devout Muslims normally perform in a communal setting.
• Israeli health authorities ordered everyone from a central Israel high school and dozens of soccer fans into home quarantine after their possible exposure to a teen boy who tested positive for the coronavirus.
• Saudi Arabia banned its citizens from pilgrimages to Mecca, among Islam's holiest cities. The country had banned foreigners from such pilgrimages last week.
How many cases of coronavirus in the US, and where?
That number is expected to rise, as the CDC has expanded its testing efforts and encouraged more testing at health centers across the country.
Common signs of infection include fever, cough and breathing difficulties. If the infection worsens, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and death.
What's the worldwide coronavirus death toll?
The global death toll was at least 3,285 late Wednesday, with more than 2,900 in mainland China, where the outbreak began in the bustling capital of the country's Hubei province, Wuhan.
The worldwide count of confirmed cases was at 95,413 on Wednesday night.
Facebook gives free advertising to combat virus misinformation
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the social network is stepping up its efforts to combat virus-related misinformation by giving the WHO free advertising. Zuckerberg said in a post on his Facebook account that the company is working with national health ministries and global organizations like the WHO, the CDC and UNICEF to get out timely and accurate information on the virus. Zuckerberg said Facebook will also give “support and millions more in ad credits” to other unspecified organizations.
Contributing: Morgan Hines, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus update: First California death, face mask shortage