U.S. soldier in South Korea tests positive as coronavirus pandemic fears grow

NBC News
·8 min read

• More than 78,000 confirmed cases in China, death toll reaches 2,715

• U.S. soldier stationed in South Korea tests positive for COVID-19

• Iran's Deputy Health Minister tests positive for virus

• WHO: Coronavirus not a pandemic yet

• White House seeks $2.5 billion for coronavirus

• Italy hardest hit in Europe with 283 cases

U.S. soldier in South Korea tests positive for COVID-19

A U.S. service member stationed in South Korea has tested positive for the coronavirus illness COVID-19, United States Forces Korea said in a statement.

The 23-year-old soldier stationed at Camp Carroll, which is northwest of Daegu, is the first U.S. service member to test positive. He is in self-quarantine at his off-base residence, the military said.

U.S. Forces Korea said that it was conducting "contract tracing" with the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to determine if anyone else may have been exposed.

The U.S. soldier visited Camp Walker, which is in Daegu, on Monday and Camp Carroll from Friday to Tuesday, the military said.

U.S. Forces Korea said that it "is implementing all appropriate control measures to help control the spread of COVID-19 and remains at risk level "high" peninsula-wide as a prudent measure to protect the force." The military is encouraging all personnel to practice strict hygiene procedures to prevent the spread of the virus.

South Korea has seen an increase in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases, and on Wednesday morning local time the health authority reported a total of 1,146 cases. There have been 11 deaths in South Korea.

The coronavirus outbreak is centered in mainland China, where there have been more than 2,700 deaths linked to COVID-19. There are more than 78,000 confirmed cases in mainland China as of Wednesday morning local time, according to the latest figures from China's national health commission. — Phil Helsel

Deaths in mainland China pass 2,700

The number of deaths in mainland China linked to the coronavirus illness known as COVID-19 rose to 2,715 as of Wednesday morning local time, that country's national health commission said.

There were 52 new deaths in mainland China, all of which were reported in Hubei Province, which is at the center of the coronavirus outbreak and where the city of Wuhan is located, according to the health commission.

There are now more than 78,000 confirmed cases in mainland China. Previously, the number of deaths was reported at 2,663, and the number of confirmed cases was put at more than 77,600.

There were 406 new confirmed cases reported as of the end of the day Tuesday local time, China’s national health commission said. — Salina Lee and Phil Helsel

South Korea reports 169 new coronavirus cases, bringing total to more than 1,100

South Korea’s health agency reported 169 new cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus that has killed more than 2,600 people in China, bringing the total number of cases in South Korea to 1,146.

Eleven deaths linked to COVID-19 have been reported in South Korea. The new cases were reported Wednesday morning local time by the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Previously, the number was 977 total cases.

The country has one of the largest numbers of confirmed cases outside of mainland China. Twenty-two people in South Korea have made full recoveries, according to that country's health authority.

The epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak is in mainland China, and the majority of cases and deaths have been reported there.

The eleven deaths from the virus in South Korea have mostly been at a hospital in the county of Cheongdo, near Daegu, The Associated Press reported. Many of the cases have been tied to a Daegu church. The 11th death involved a Mongolian man who was born in 1984, which would have made him around 35 years old, the KCDC said. He died on Feb. 25. — Nayeong Kim and Phil Helsel

San Francisco mayor declares emergency

The mayor of San Francisco declared a local emergency on Tuesday amid growing concerns about the spread of coronavirus.

San Francisco Mayor London Breed said the declaration will help free up city and federal resources to prevent the virus from taking hold in the city, according to NBC Bay Area.

"Although there are still zero confirmed cases in San Francisco residents," Breed said at a press conference, "the global picture is changing rapidly and we need to step-up preparedness." — Doha Madani

President Donald Trump defends $2.5B coronavirus request

President Donald Trump said at a business forum in New Delhi on Tuesday that the urgent $2.5 billion plan he sent to lawmakers will prepare the U.S. in case of an outbreak.

Trump also said at the forum that the money will help other nations that “really aren't equipped to do it”. — AP

Senior Iranian official tests positive

Iran’s Deputy Health Minister Iraj Harirchi has tested positive for coronavirus, according to a tweet posted by his adviser Ali Vahabzadeh.

Harirchi held a joint press conference on Monday with the government spokesman Ali Rabiee. — Amin Khodadadi

Italy hardest hit in Europe with 283 cases

Italian authorities have confirmed a total number of 283 cases nationwide, up from the 229 cases on Monday.

Seven people have died and one person has recovered, according to Italy’s civil protection agency.

Lombardy is the most affected region with 212 cases, up from 172 on Monday, followed by Veneto with 38 cases, up from 33 on Monday, the agency said. — Claudio Lavanga and Michele Novaga

Airline diverts flight from Tehran

A Turkish Airlines flight traveling from Tehran to Istanbul has been diverted to Ankara at the Turkish Health Ministry’s request because of suspicions a passenger on board has coronavirus, an aviation source said.

Turkish Airlines is suspending flights to all regions in Iran, apart from Tehran, until March 10, and all flights to mainland China until Feb. 29, the company said on its website. — Aziz Akyavas

11 dead, 977 cases in South Korea

South Korean officials have confirmed 11 deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and 977 infections, up from the 8 deaths and 833 cases confirmed on Monday.

South Korea's Korean Air also confirmed a crew member had contracted the virus. The U.S. CDC has recommended travelers avoid all non-essential travel to South Korea.

The U.S. and South Koran military are considering scaling back command post training due to heightened concerns about the coronavirus, the defense ministers of both countries said during talks in Washington on Monday. — Reuters and Stella Kim

Apple reopens 29 of its 42 stores in China

Apple has reopened 29 of its 42 stores in China, after they were closed because of problems in production and demand due to the outbreak, the company said on its website.

The opening hours for most stores will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (9 p.m. to 5.a.m ET). Some stores will open for less than eight hours even though a normal work day is usually 12 hours, the company said. — Salina Lee

Too early to talk about cancelling Olympics, Japan says

Japan’s health minister said on Tuesday it was still too early to talk about cancelling the Tokyo Summer Olympics, which start on July 24, due to the virus and its spread in Japan.

But Dick Pound, the longest-serving member of the IOC, said there is a three-month window to decide the fate of the event. — Arata Yamamoto and The Associated Press

Death toll in mainland China passes 2,600

China’s health officials said Tuesday the number of deaths from novel coronavirus in mainland China had reached 2,663. The number of dead stood at 2,592 a day earlier.

There was an increase of 71 deaths, almost all of them in Hubei province, the center of the outbreak.

More than 500 new cases have also been reported as the total number of confirmed cases across the country reached more than 77,600. — Phil Helsel and Salina Lee

WHO: Coronavirus not a pandemic yet

The coronavirus epidemic in China is not yet a pandemic but has the potential to become one if countries don't work together to slow its spread, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Monday.

A team of experts with the WHO has concluded its mission in China, reporting that the epidemic there reached its peak between Jan. 23 and Feb. 2 and that the number of cases have since been steadily declining.

However, "the sudden increases of cases in Italy, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Korea are deeply concerning," WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a media briefing. — Erika Edwards and Jane Weaver

White House seeks $2.5 billion for coronavirus

The White House is asking Congress for $2.5 billion to respond to the coronavirus, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called the request inadequate.

The administration's supplemental funding plan was designed "to accelerate vaccine development, support preparedness and response activities and to procure much-needed equipment and supplies," said Office of Management and Budget spokeswoman Rachel Semmel.

Pelosi, D-California, said in a statement that the administration's request is “is long overdue and completely inadequate to the scale of this emergency.” — Phil Helsel