Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

The Grand Princess, a cruise liner returning from Hawaii with more than 2,000 people on board, is being held off the coast of San Francisco to check whether there are coronavirus cases on board.

Two people who were on the ship’s previous voyage, to Mexico, were later found to be infected; one has died.

Health officials flew test kits out to the ship by helicopter on Thursday to screen about 100 passengers and crew, including 21 with symptoms and 62 who stayed on from the Mexico voyage. Results probably won’t be announced until Friday, officials said. In the meantime, the operator, Princess Cruises, is telling those who are tested to stay in their cabins and order room service.

Nurses dealing with the onslaught of coronavirus cases in California and Washington, two of the hardest-hit states, say they often lack the equipment and training they need to protect themselves and their patients.

“If nurses aren’t safe, then really, our community isn’t safe,” said Jenny Managhebi, a clinical nurse at the University of California Davis Medical Center, where 24 nurses were asked to self-quarantine after a patient tested positive for the virus.

Many registered nurses in the two states have told their unions that they’ve had to beg for N95 masks, which protect against the virus. Others say they are often ridiculed by managers when they raise concerns.

At least eight health care professionals in the two states have tested positive for the coronavirus so far.

Looking ahead: Karen Weise, a Times reporter who has been covering the virus from Washington State, said school closures could worsen the strains on nurses: “It’s hard to work, you end up with nurses who stay home with their kids, and then you might have a short-staffed medical facility.”

It’s the question on everyone’s minds, but a difficult one to answer, writes Max Fisher, one of our Interpreter columnists.

First, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the coronavirus. Because many cases are mild and some are asymptomatic, it’s difficult to track its deadliness and the extent of its spread.

Second, the risk level largely depends on how prepared societies are to deal with the virus. This is thought to be a reason that the death rate in China, where the virus first emerged late last year, is around 4 times that of South Korea, which was able to prepare before the virus arrived.

In December, Mr. Fisher got pneumonia — an illness similar to the one caused by the virus — and that experience helped clarify how an outbreak could affect society as a whole. While he was sick, family and friends helped with personal obligations, and he was able to quickly see doctors and get prescriptions.

“If a big fraction of my neighborhood in West London had all fallen sick at once, it would’ve been a different story,” he said. His local health office might not have been able to see him as quickly. Friends and family could have other sick people to help, or could be sick themselves.

“The risk from the virus’s impact on you individually is probably low,” he concluded. But its impact on society could be profound.

  • Italy, the hardest-hit country in Europe, reported 41 new coronavirus deaths on Thursday, a big jump in the toll there (now 148 overall). Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands all reported sharp increases in confirmed cases.

  • The New York cluster doubled in a day: two new cases in New York City, eight more in the Westchester suburbs, one on Long Island and one in Ft. Lee, N.J. Some were found by tracing the contacts of a patient from New Rochelle, N.Y., but others had no link to that case.

  • India said it would not let in any travelers from South Korea or Italy unless they’ve tested negative. Primary schools in New Delhi were closed.

  • In Japan, public anger is mounting over the halting, opaque handling of the outbreak by the government of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Stop touching your face: It’s one of the best ways to prevent the spread of infection, but it’s easier said than done. Tips for cutting back: Notice when and why you do it; use a tissue when you have to; keep your hands busy with other things.

Don’t believe the myths: Vitamin C isn’t an effective way to boost your immunity. Wearing gloves to touch surfaces probably won’t prevent infection. Flu shots don’t protect against the coronavirus (but you should still get one).

Should you cancel your vacation? It depends on the destination, especially if it’s outside the United States. If you go, consider travel insurance, monitor the C.D.C.’s website for alerts, and take precautions when flying, like bringing alcohol wipes to clean surfaces.

Your daily reminder: The experts’ top recommendation is to wash your hands a lot. Be sure to do it the right way.

If the virus spreads by touching your hands to your own face, and everyone seems to do this constantly, why not paint fingernails red as a reminder?

— Jeanne Kinney, San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Let us know how you’re preparing. Send us a response here, and we may feature it in an upcoming newsletter.

Melina Delkic, Adeel Hassan, Adam Pasick, Lara Takenaga and Tom Wright-Piersanti contributed to today’s newsletter.

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