Coronavirus Updates: California Declares State of Emergency

Coronavirus Updates: California Declares State of Emergency


Credit…Max Whittaker for The New York Times

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.

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.

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.

On Tuesday, Amazon told employees via email 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.

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.

The coronavirus epidemic reached deeper into daily life across the world on Wednesday, with a sweeping shutdown of all schools in Italy and warnings of school closures in the United States.

Only a few weeks ago, China, where the outbreak began, was the only country to suspend classes. But the virus has spread so quickly that 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 says.

“I don’t have data to offer, but can’t think of any instances in modern times where advanced economies shut down schools nationally for prolonged periods of time,” said Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington.

Students are now out of school in South Korea, Iran, Japan, France, Pakistan and elsewhere — some for only a few days, others for weeks on end. 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 will remain closed until March 15.

On the West Coast of the United States, the region with the most American infections, Los Angeles declared a state of emergency and advised parents to prepare for school closures. Washington State, which has reported at least 10 deaths, has closed some schools, while in New York, newly diagnosed cases have led to the closure of several schools.

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, Farah Stockman, Ed Shanahan, Neil Vigdor, Lauretta Charlton and James Gorman.

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