Coronavirus Updates: Global Infections Approach 90,000 as U.S. Scrambles to Slow Spread


Health officials across the United States were scrambling on Monday to trace all those who had come into contact with infected patients, even as they struggled to get a handle on how far the virus had spread in the country.

To date, the American authorities have reported a total of 88 cases nationwide, with two fatalities, both of them older adults with underlying health problems.

A genetic analysis of the virus in Washington State, where the deaths occurred, suggested that the illness could have been spreading within the community for as long as six weeks before the first case was detected.

The coronavirus, now present on every continent except Antarctica, has infected nearly 90,000 people, killing more than 3,000.

In China, where the epidemic erupted and where the overwhelming majority of cases have been identified, officials reported 202 new cases — the lowest daily total since January.

But in South Korea, the number rose to more than 4,000. And in Iran, the scale of the largest outbreak in the Middle East remained unclear, with public health experts expressing concern that the official numbers were unreliable.

Across Europe, countries reported steady increases in the number of cases, while officials warned residents to prepare for large outbreaks.

As coronavirus cases show up around the globe, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development cut its outlook for 2020, suggesting that global growth could be cut in half if infections spread more widely outside China.

The United States recorded its first two deaths attributed to the coronavirus over the weekend, as states from coast to coast reported new infections leading to a significant jump in the total number of cases.

On Friday, there were 65 cases and no known deaths in the United States. Less than 48 hours later, a single hospital in Washington State reported two deaths, the makings of a cluster, and the total number of cases nationwide jumped 35 percent, to 88.

One state, Florida, declared a public health emergency, even as Vice President Mike Pence, tapped to lead the federal response to the crisis, sought to calm the public’s nerves.

Officials in Washington State said on Sunday that a second person, a man in his 70s with underlying health conditions, had died at the EvergreenHealth hospital in Kirkland, a Seattle suburb. That is the same hospital where officials identified the United States’ first coronavirus death on Saturday — a man in his 50s. The man in his 70s had been a resident at a nursing facility in Kirkland, run by Life Care Centers of America.

Twenty-three cases were announced on Saturday and Sunday in California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island and Washington. The new cases included a mix of people who had traveled to high-risk countries and those who were believed to have contracted the disease domestically.

[Do you know anyone who lives or works at Life Care Center in Kirkland, Wash.? If so, please email our reporter, Mike Baker, at]

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Sunday confirmed New York State’s first case of the coronavirus, saying that a woman contracted the virus while traveling in Iran and was in New York isolated in her home.

“The patient has respiratory symptoms, but is not in serious condition and has been in a controlled situation since arriving to New York,” Mr. Cuomo said in a statement.

A New York state official said that the positive case was in Manhattan. The case is the 32nd tested from New York. All previous cases had tested negative.

New York’s state lab was granted the ability to test for the virus on Saturday after an appeal from Mr. Cuomo.

“There is no reason for undue anxiety — the general risk remains low in New York,” the governor’s statement said. “We are diligently managing this situation and will continue to provide information as it becomes available.”

Early on Monday, the governor told CNN that he expected “community spread,” but urged calm.

In an earlier appearance, on CBS This Morning, he said the woman who had contracted the virus was a “unique case.” She was a health care worker, he added, so “she knew to take precautions and stay in a controlled situation.”

The European Union raised its alert level from moderate to high on Monday as new cases of infection were reported across the Continent.

The coronavirus has now spread to 18 of the 27 member states, with more than 2,100 confirmed cases of infection, according to bloc officials, costing member states about $1 billion a month in lost tourism revenues.

In a news conference, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, praised European coordination in the crisis and urged calm. Announcing the new level of risk, she said, “In other words, the virus continues to spread.’’

Still, she added, the union was not considering shutting borders.

In Italy, the epicenter of the European outbreak, the number of new infections jumped by about 50 percent to 1,577, from 1,029, with 34 deaths. The government announced plans to inject billions into the economy to mitigate the effects of the virus.

The economics commissioner, Paolo Gentiloni of Italy, said that the bloc would consider Rome’s request for flexibility on European Union fiscal rules on debt, “in the spirit of solidarity and understanding.’’

Elsewhere, the authorities in Berlin and Moscow reported their first cases of the virus.

An infected man in Berlin has been placed in isolation in the city’s main research hospital, where was said to be in stable condition.

In France, which has reported 130 cases since January and two deaths, the Louvre remained closed to visitors on Monday as museum officials discussed how to handle large crowds in ways that would limit the potential spread of the virus.

Stocks were unsteady in global markets on Monday as investors bet that the world’s governments and central banks would step in to help a global economy slammed by the coronavirus outbreak.

In Europe, stock markets started the day with gains, but those began to fade as trading continued, with shares in France and Germany falling by early afternoon.

Most Asian indexes finished the trading session higher. Futures markets indicated that investors expected Wall Street to open lower.

Oil prices rose on Monday, reversing last week’s slide, as confidence grew that OPEC and Russia would agree to a cut in production this week.

The volatile opening for stocks followed one of the worst weeks for global markets since the 2008 financial crisis, with several major indexes around the world falling more than 10 percent in a few days — a stunning decline that came as investors grappled with the potential economic toll that the outbreak could take.

The coronavirus epidemic, which led China to lock down some 700 million people, has also had an impact on one of the country’s most important and powerful institutions: the People’s Liberation Army.

China’s military, the world’s largest, with more than two million troops, has been forced to suspend its regular training exercises and postpone its spring recruitment, senior commanders said in Beijing on Monday.

China, on paper, still maintains a conscription force, with two years of compulsory service for most young men. But in practice, the military recruits enough volunteers to fill most of its ranks.

The military has reported no cases of the coronavirus, officials said, adding that the steps had been taken as a precautionary measure to ensure that the country’s forces remained at full strength.

“Through our vigorous, orderly and effective prevention and control measures, the troops can have very orderly training and life and be in a good state of combat readiness,” said Maj. Gen. Chen Jingyuan, director general of the Medical Service Bureau of the Central Military Commission’s Logistic Support Department.

The armed forces have dispatched more than 4,000 medical workers to Wuhan, where the epidemic has hit hardest, and also opened up 63 military hospitals across the country to civilian patients.

The world’s most visited museum, the Louvre in Paris, was shut for the second day in a row on Monday after staff members refused to work out of concern over the coronavirus.

The Louvre had already been forced to close on Sunday after workers used their “right to withdrawal” under French law, which allows employees to stop work in cases of imminent and serious threats to safety or health.

The museum logged more than nine million visitors in 2019, with nearly three-quarters of those coming from abroad, mainly China and the United States, as well as from other European countries, particularly Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain.

The French government has banned all indoor gatherings larger than 5,000 people in an attempt to slow the spread of the coronavirus. There have been 130 cases and two deaths in France since the end of January.

The Paris book fair, for instance — one of the biggest literary events in France, scheduled for the end of March — has been canceled.

The authorities say that the Louvre is not covered by the ban because, although tens of thousands of visitors walk through every day, it is not a single enclosed space.

That has not allayed the fears of museum staff, however, who noted that some rooms were regularly packed with visitors in close quarters.

Cultural institutions elsewhere across Europe were also feeling the impact. In Italy, the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the country’s premier opera house, was among the venues that announced on Sunday that performances were suspended until at least March 8, after a government decree limiting public gatherings was extended.

In Venice, the Teatro La Fenice opera house said it would broadcast on YouTube a chamber music concert scheduled for Monday.

The coronavirus and the flu are often compared these days. But what are their basic similarities and differences?

So far, the coronavirus seems to be deadlier. On average, the seasonal flu strain kills about 0.1 percent of people who become infected. Early estimates of the death rate in the coronavirus outbreak’s epicenter in Wuhan, China, have been around 2 percent.

The rate could fall if it turns out that many cases aren’t detected because they are so mild or even symptom-free.

As with influenza, the coronavirus is most dangerous to people over the age of 65, or who have chronic illness or a weak immune system.

So far in the current season, the flu has sickened more people than the coronavirus. In the United States, there have been 32 million cases of flu, several hundred thousands of hospitalizations and 18,000 deaths, according to the C.D.C. By contrast, about 88 people in the United States have been infected with the new coronavirus, and there have been two deaths.

One area where the two ailments diverge is treatment. There is no approved antiviral drug for the coronavirus, but several are being tested. For those infected with any viral illness, doctors recommend rest, medicine to reduce pain and fever, and fluids to avoid dehydration. For the flu, doctors can offer four prescription medicines and they tend to work best within a day or two of when symptoms start.

There are no coronavirus vaccinations available, but one may be available in a year or two. Flu vaccines are widely available and generally 40 percent to 60 percent effective.

Lee Man-hee, the founding leader of the church at the center of South Korea’s explosive coronavirus outbreak, bowed in supplication at a news conference on Monday and apologized amid growing anger at his handling of the crisis.

“I have never imagined this kind of thing would happen,” Mr. Lee, 88, said in a choking voice during a nationally televised news conference. “I am still trying to understand how this could happen.”

Mr. Lee called the news conference after Seoul and other cities asked prosecutors to investigate him for potential criminal charges, including murder through willful negligence. They accused Mr. Lee and his Shincheonji Church of Jesus of contributing to the nation’s rising death toll — 22 as of Monday — by impeding the government’s efforts to fight the outbreak.

Among other things, the church was accused of failing to provide a full list of its members fast enough for the government to track them down for testing.

By Monday, South Korea reported more than 4,000 total cases. At least 60 percent of the cases were among members of a Shincheonji branch in Daegu, a city in southeast South Korea, and people they had been in contact with.

Mr. Lee denied the accusations against his group, saying that his church was fully cooperating with the government.

Reporting was contributed by Steven Erlanger, Melissa Eddy, Marc Santora, Anton Troianovsky, Elisabetta Povoledo, Steven Lee Myers, Clair Fu, Russell Goldman, Sheri Fink, Mitch Smith, Richard C. Paddock and Aurelien Breeden.


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