Coronavirus Updates: Cruise Ship Held Off California as State Declares an Emergency

The authorities in the Seattle area stepped up their efforts to contain an outbreak there, the worst so far in the country, closing a school district that serves 20,000 students — part of a global disruption that has affected roughly 300 million students.

A Seattle nursing home at the center of the outbreak will be the subject of a federal investigation by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Most of the 10 victims of the virus in Washington have been residents of the facility, the Life Care Center in Kirkland.

Another fatality was reported late Wednesday in California, a 69-year-old man who had recently traveled aboard the detained cruise ship, the Grand Princess, which remains at sea while passengers are tested for the virus.

On the East Coast, the number of confirmed cases in New York jumped to 11, including a patient whose source of infection remained unclear. Hundreds of people who had contact with known patients were ordered to isolate themselves as transit officials sought to reassure a jittery public that the trains and subways were safe to ride.

With the prospect that the virus was spreading locally, there was a growing sense of anxiety in the city of New Rochelle in Westchester County, about 5 miles from the northern border of New York City. Normally crowded stores and shops were seeing a drop in business, and state officials warned of more cases to come.

Reports of the first positive case in New Jersey brought the number of states with infected patients to 17.

As the sense of urgency grew, lawmakers in Congress said they would devote $8.3 billion to fighting the virus. However, even as the federal authorities promised to step up testing and relaxed guidelines so that anyone could be tested with a doctor’s approval, there were concerns that the demand could overwhelm the health care system.

A cruise ship returning to California from Hawaii that has suspected links to two coronavirus cases, one of them fatal, is being held off the coast of San Francisco as public health officials prepared to screen everyone on the ship, Gov. Gavin Newsom of California said on Wednesday.

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 said 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 onboard.

Mr. Newsom said the ship had gone on to Hawaii after its stop in Mexico, and then had sailed back toward California with some passengers from the original San Francisco-to-Mexico leg of the voyage still onboard.

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.

Iran is stepping up measures to control the spread of the coronavirus by temporarily shutting schools, universities and other education centers, and canceling concerts, sporting events and other large public gatherings, the state news media reported on Thursday.

Health Minister Said Nakami said at a news conference that the authorities would encourage people to reduce the use of paper money and that checkpoints would be imposed to restrict travel between major cities, The Associated Press reported.

Iran has been among the countries hardest hit by the outbreak, with the toll rising at a steady pace. On Thursday, officials said that 107 had died and 3,513 had been infected, news agencies reported.

Mr. Nakami said that the country was introducing a national mobilization plan in places where the virus has spread most rapidly, and that it would be expanded in the coming days, according to the state-run IRNA news agency.

President Hassan Rouhani, in a statement issued Wednesday, said that almost all of the provinces in the country had been affected by the coronavirus.

“This disease is a widespread disease,” Mr. Rouhani said. “It has reached almost all our provinces, and in one sense it’s a global disease.”

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 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’s 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.

He said that the patient was in isolation and that the staff members who treated the person had taken the appropriate precautions to protect themselves from the virus. He said that they had worn N95 respirators, gowns, gloves and eye shields, and that the hospital was working with public health officials on appropriate quarantine protocols for staff members who came into contact with the patient.

Dr. Varga said that five to six patients had been tested for the coronavirus during the past five days, but that 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 school district that serves more than 20,000 students in the Seattle area said on Wednesday that 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 20 percent of students did not attend classes on Wednesday.

“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 allow time for contingency planning.

By Wednesday, 22 countries on three continents had announced school closings 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 over 290 million students worldwide, the United Nations said.

Students are out of school in South Korea, Iran, Japan, France, Pakistan, Mongolia and elsewhere. In Italy, which is suffering one of the deadliest outbreaks outside China, officials said Wednesday that they would extend school closings 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.

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

Facebook said on Wednesday that a worker in the company’s Seattle offices had 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 its Bay Area headquarters. It had 5,000 employees in the region as of last September, when it announced plans to expand even further.

The contractor was last in the office on Feb. 21, the company said, adding that 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 this month.

Amazon and Microsoft also told their employees to work from home.

In a message to employees on Wednesday night, Amazon said it was recommending that all employees in the Seattle region work from home this month 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.

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.

A makeshift hospital that treats coronavirus infections in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the heart of the outbreak, will check patients’ blood for antibodies before discharging them, after several people were sent home only to be readmitted with symptoms of infection.

The test for antibodies, an immune system response to fighting infection, is supposed to more accurately assess whether a patient has cleared the virus. The hospital, in Jiang’an district, began using the secondary tests on Thursday, according to the Paper, a state-owned Chinese news outlet.

The test detects two antibodies specific to the new coronavirus, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Some coronavirus patients have tested positive for the virus weeks after apparently recovering from the infection, complicating efforts to contain the outbreak.

Experts said it was possible that low levels of the virus were still present in discharged patients, which normal testing failed to pick up. The tests are difficult to administer and often inaccurate. It is less likely that patients were infected a second time, because recovered individuals often develop short-term immunity.

Several other countries, including Singapore, have used serological tests to trace contacts and detect links between clusters of coronavirus infections. The antibodies identified by these tests provide a “significant piece of evidence” between cases, the Singaporean Ministry of Health has said.

Reporting was contributed by Melissa Eddy, Michael Wolgelenter, Marc Santora, Niki Kitsantonis, Mitch Smith, Sarah Mervosh, Davey Alba, Mike Baker, Tiffany May, Claire Fu, Elaine Yu, Farah Stockman, Ed Shanahan, Neil Vigdor, Lauretta Charlton and James Gorman.

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