A cruise ship off California is believed linked to the first U.S. death outside Washington State.
Gov. Gavin Newsom of California announced on Wednesday that a cruise ship returning to the state from Hawaii that had suspected links to two coronavirus cases, one of them fatal, was being held off the coast of San Francisco, as public health officials prepared to screen everyone on the ship.
Eleven passengers and 10 crew members on the boat were showing symptoms on Wednesday, the governor said. “That number may significantly understate” the scope of infection, he said, or “it may indeed be abundance of caution.”
“The ship will not come on shore until we appropriately assess the passengers,” Mr. Newsom added.
The governor also announced that the state was declaring a state of emergency to help mobilize its response to the coronavirus outbreak. The number of cases in the state shot up to 54 on Wednesday, the most in the nation.
Mr. Newsom said that about 2,500 people, more than half of them Californians, had been aboard the ship, identified by its owners as the Grand Princess, during a recent voyage to Mexico from San Francisco. One of those passengers died Wednesday in Placer County, Calif., the first U.S. coronavirus death outside Washington State and the 11th over all. Another passenger was being treated for the illness in Sonoma County. State and federal officials were racing to contact others who had been on board.
Mr. Newsom said the ship had gone on to Hawaii after its stop in Mexico, and then had sailed back toward California with some of the passengers from the original San Francisco-to-Mexico leg of the voyage still on board.
The person who died in Placer County had underlying health conditions and had been in isolation at a hospital after falling ill. Officials believe the patient was probably exposed to the virus on the San Francisco-to-Mexico part of the voyage last month.
Health officials in Los Angeles County announced six new cases on Wednesday, and Santa Clara County announced three more cases. The virus has been detected across the United States, but so far has been concentrated on the West Coast.
A person who conducted medical screenings at Los Angeles International Airport tested positive for the virus, the Department of Homeland Security said on Wednesday. The person last worked at the airport on Feb. 21, eight days before showing symptoms of infection, the agency said.
Each of the six new cases reported by Los Angeles County was linked to a known exposure, a history of international travel or contact with someone who had traveled or been diagnosed with the virus, officials said.
New Jersey reports its first presumptive case, bringing total to 17 states.
Officials in New Jersey on Wednesday announced the state’s first infection, increasing the total to 17 states.
The patient in New Jersey is a man in his 30s who had been hospitalized in Bergen County, just across the Hudson River from New York City, since Tuesday.
Gov. Philip D. Murphy said in a statement that the state’s Department of Health had received a “presumptive positive result” from a sample that was being submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for further confirmation.
It was not immediately clear how the man contracted the virus.
The patient went to the emergency room at Hackensack University Medical Center on Tuesday and presented symptoms that made the hospital staff suspect that he could be infected with the coronavirus, according to Dr. Daniel Varga, the chief physician executive for Hackensack Meridian Health.
Dr. Varga said the patient was in stable condition and resting comfortably on Wednesday night.
Dr. Varga said the patient was in isolation and that the hospital staff that treated the person took the appropriate precautions to protect themselves from the virus. He said they wore N95 respirators, gowns, gloves and eye shields. He said the hospital was working with public health officials on appropriate quarantine protocols for hospital staff who came into contact with the patient.
Dr. Varga said five to six patients had been tested for the coronavirus during the past five days, but only one person had tested positive.
With the announcement, New Jersey became the 17th state with a confirmed case of the virus. In New York, where officials announced the state’s first case on Sunday, five more cases were confirmed on Wednesday, bringing the total number to 11.
Health officials in Texas announced a similarly “presumptive positive” case in Fort Bend County. If the case is confirmed, the state will have 12 known cases of the coronavirus.
The patient in Texas was a man in his 70s who had recently traveled abroad, officials said.
A Seattle-area school district is the largest in the U.S. to close on account of the virus.
A school district that serves more than 20,000 students in the Seattle area said Wednesday it would cancel classes and shutter buildings for at least the next two weeks — the largest shutdown in the United States as a result of the outbreak.
The Northshore School District, based in the town of Bothell, Wash., is just north of the nursing home in Kirkland that is at the center of the state’s outbreak.
Superintendent Michelle Reid said in a letter to families that a parent volunteer at one of the district’s elementary school had tested positive for the virus.
Twenty-six of the district’s schools have had some direct or indirect exposure, Ms. Reid said, adding that on Wednesday, 20 percent of students did not attend classes.
“We have community members who are even now anxious about exposure risks and awaiting diagnosis either for themselves or a family member,” Ms. Reid said.
The nearby Monroe School District announced plans to close all of its schools Thursday for a day of cleaning and to give staff time for contingency planning.
By Wednesday, 22 countries on three continents had announced school closures of varying degrees, leading the United Nations to warn that “the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled.”
The tumult now affects 290.5 million students worldwide, the United Nations said.
Students are out of school in South Korea, Iran, Japan, France, Pakistan, Mongolia and elsewhere. In Italy, suffering one of the deadliest outbreaks outside China, officials said Wednesday that they would extend school closures beyond the north, where the government has imposed a lockdown on several towns, to the entire nation. All schools in Italy will remain closed until March 15.
Chinese readers share their coronavirus stories.
The New York Times asked Chinese readers from around the world to share their views on how the country responded to the coronavirus outbreak, which originated in Hubei Province in central China.
Most expressed serious disappointment in how the Chinese government has handled the crisis. But others argued that China, as a developing nation, has responded effectively. Here are some of their stories, edited and condensed for clarity.
I immediately ordered masks and disinfectant online for my family, and asked them not to leave our building complex unless there was something urgent. But then because the government dispelled the so-called rumors over and over again and blocked information, almost everyone began to let their guard down, and I was no exception. No freedom of speech and the misconduct of government officials are the main culprits that brought about this disaster, and made everyone so angry. — Liang Yi, Tianmen, Hubei Province
The outbreak has confirmed my belief that when looking at China, one must give it a fair assessment. I believe the critique of China during this outbreak is rather unfair. When critically analyzing the situation, one must keep in mind, despite all of the development since China’s economic miracle, China is still a developing nation. For a developing country, it has responded quite well. The mobilization of resources in response to the outbreak was only possible in a very centralized government. — Arthur Chan, London
I am currently going to medical school on Long Island, where I am a third-year medical student doing rotation at a hospital. Ever since the coronavirus outbreak, I have heard hospital staff “joking” about pandemics. They taunt about the foods people eat in China, as if all Chinese people are barbarians. They make statements about how Huoshenshan Hospital is actually a concentration camp incapable of taking care of patients. They ignore the Chinese government’s efforts to respond to the outbreak. — Yujie Jiang, Long Island
A Facebook contractor in Seattle has tested positive for the virus.
Facebook on Wednesday said that a worker in the company’s Seattle offices tested positive for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, making it the second major tech company in the city to be affected by the outbreak.
The tech industry is vital to the economy of Washington State, where a cluster of infections has taken root and 10 people have died, leading companies there to take extra measures to halt the spread of the virus.
“A contractor based in our Stadium East office has been diagnosed with Covid-19,” said Andy Stone, a company spokesman. “We’ve notified our employees and are following the advice of public health officials to prioritize everyone’s health and safety.”
The Seattle area is Facebook’s largest engineering outpost outside of its Bay Area headquarters. It had 5,000 employees in the region as of last September, when it announced plans to expand even more.
The contractor was last in the office on Friday, Feb. 21, the company said. The Seattle office would be closed for three weeks. As an extra precaution, Facebook asked its Seattle-based employees to work from home until the end of March.
Amazon and Microsoft also told their employees to work from home.
In a message to employees Wednesday night, Amazon said it was recommending that all employees in the Seattle region work from home for the month of March, if their job can be done from home. The message came a day after Amazon told employees that a worker in one of its many office buildings in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood had tested positive for the virus.
“We are supporting the affected employee, who remains in quarantine,” said Drew Herdener, an Amazon spokesman.
Late last week, Amazon indefinitely halted all nonessential travel of its employees, including domestic trips.
On Sunday, Twitter said it would also limit all nonessential business travel for its employees and partners.
Japan records highest single-day increase in new cases since the outbreak’s start.
Japan reported 33 new cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, its largest single-day increase since the outbreak began.
The spike brought the country’s total number of cases to 317, not including hundreds of cases on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was docked for weeks in Yokohama in February. On Thursday, Japan’s caseload increased again, to 331.
While far short of the severity of the outbreak seen in South Korea, where there were 5,766 cases as of Thursday, the spread in Japan has earned extra attention due in part to the upcoming Summer Olympics, set to begin there on July 24.
Starbucks will serve drinks only in disposable cups at its North American stores.
Starbucks said on Wednesday that it would no longer offer drinks in washable mugs or customer-owned cups at its North American stores in an effort to reduce the spread of germs amid the coronavirus outbreak.
The chain had previously offered a 10 percent discount to customers who used reusable cups. The discount will still apply to customers who ask for it, but everyone will be served from disposable cups, the company said in a statement.
“We will continue to stay close to our partners and local health officials, and we are optimistic this will be a temporary situation,” Rossann Williams, a company executive, said in the statement.
The effort is a setback to the company’s sustainability efforts. Starbucks in January set a target to halve the waste it sends to landfills by 2030.
The company operates about 30,000 shops around the world, about half of which are in the United States.
In a similar effort to reduce transmissions, the company in January shut many of its 4,200 shops in China. By last week, 85 percent of stores in the country were open, Kevin Johnson, the company chief executive, said in a statement.
Starbucks has taken other steps to reduce transmissions in China, the center of the outbreak. In January, employees at a shop in Beijing checked customers’ temperatures upon entering and asked them to sanitize their hands. Signs also asked patrons to wear face masks unless they were eating or drinking.
Man infects dog. That’s the theory behind the sole canine case.
The Hong Kong authorities on Wednesday updated their reports on the lone dog that appears to have a low-grade infection from coronavirus, saying it’s likely a case of a human transmitting it to the dog.
A spokesman for the government’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department said the dog, which has been tested several times, is still under quarantine but is not sick.
More than 3,000 people have died from the virus as it spreads around the globe.
But you should not be worried about the welfare of your pets, or other people’s pets, according to the authorities.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States as well as the World Organization for Animal Health have issued advisories saying there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the virus. “Therefore, there is no justification in taking measures against companion animals which may compromise their welfare,” the animal health organization said.
The government of Hong Kong said, “Apart from maintaining good hygiene practices, pet owners need not be overly concerned and under no circumstances should they abandon their pets.” The government of Hong Kong did suggest that if members of a family were sick with the virus, they might want to consider quarantining their pets.
He’s gotten death threats. So many angry strangers called his phone that he changed his number. His neighbors offered to bring food to his doorstep if he agreed to stay inside his house.
Frank King was among 650 Americans who returned to the United States last month after being stuck for more than a week on a cruise ship that no country initially allowed to dock because of fear of coronavirus.
“I have a whole new respect for the plight of pariahs,” Mr. King said.
The ship was eventually allowed to dock in Cambodia. An international panic began after one person from that ship, the Westerdam, was said to have tested positive on the way home.
But in the days that followed, hundreds of crew members and passengers tested negative, including Mr. King. Nonetheless, he and others from the ship say they have been shunned by friends and family and targeted by angry strangers because of their association to the coronavirus.
“The primary way we think about risk is through our gut feelings,” said Paul Slovic, professor of psychology at the University of Oregon who is also president of Decision Research. “The modern way to deal with risk is through science and statistics. We can think that way, but it’s hard to do.”
Reporting was contributed by Mitch Smith, Sarah Mervosh, Davey Alba, Mike Baker, Tiffany May, Claire Fu, Farah Stockman, Ed Shanahan, Neil Vigdor, Lauretta Charlton and James Gorman.