The US reported at least six deaths from the coronavirus on Monday as officials warned of a “substantial outbreak” in the state of Washington and states of emergency were declared in various parts of the country.
Both patients were being treated at the same health centre in Kirkland, east of Seattle, where six of the state’s 12 cases have now been confirmed and 50 others are being tested for the virus. As the number of nationwide cases approaches 100, sales of face masks have surged among the general population.
Meanwhile, at least one patient was mistakenly released by the CDC and later tested positive for the deadly Wuhan coronavirus, with the mayor of San Antonio describing the development as “unacceptable” in a statement.
Health officials in Washington state meanwhile said on Sunday night that a second person had died from the coronavirus — a man in his 70s from a nursing facility near Seattle where dozens of people were sick and had been tested for the virus.
Researchers said earlier the virus may have been circulating for weeks undetected in Washington state.
In a statement, Public Health—Seattle & King County said the man died Saturday. On Friday, health officials said a man in his 50s died of coronavirus, the first death from the virus in the US.
Both had underlying health conditions, and both were being treated at a hospital in Kirkland, Washington, east of Seattle.
Washington state now has at least 13 confirmed cases.
State and local authorities stepped up testing for the illness as the number of new cases grew nationwide, with new infections announced in California, Florida, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York and Washington state.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press
Good morning and welcome to The Independent's rolling coverage of the coronavirus outbreak in the US and further afield.
Here's the latest:
- Two deaths reported at a single hospital in Washington State, raising concerns of a cluster of cases within the area
- Number of confirmed infections up to 88
- 23 cases were announced on Saturday and Sunday in Washington, California, Illinois, Rhode Island, New York, Florida and Oregon
- Public health emergency declared in Florida
- US vice president Mike Pence and health and human services secretary Alex Azar call for calm among public
- Thousands of testing kits have been distributed to state and local officials, with thousands more to come, according to officials
- Patient in San Antonion tests "weakly positive" after initially appearing to recover from coronavirus
Fresh from his victory in the South Carolina primary, former vice-president Joe Biden criticised Donald Trump's reaction to the coronavirus crisis, writes Phil Thomas in New York.
Addressing the president's reference to the crisis as a "hoax" during a political rally, Mr Biden said: "The idea that Donald Trump said just several days ago this was a Democratic hoax -- now what in God's name is he talking about? What in God's name is he talking about?
"Has he no shame?"
Read more below:
US agency investigating production of faulty coronavirus test kits
The US Department of Health and Human Services has confirmed that it is investigating a manufacturing defect in some initial coronavirus test kits that prompted some states to seek emergency approval to use their own test kits.
On Saturday, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state would immediately begin using its own test kit developed in-state after asking the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Friday for permission to do so.
The FDA said on Saturday it would allow some laboratories to immediately use tests they have developed and validated to achieve more rapid testing capacity for the coronavirus.
On Sunday, New York confirmed its first case of coronavirus.
FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said in a statement that "upon learning about the test issue from CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), FDA worked with CDC to determine that problems with certain test components were due to a manufacturing issue. We worked hand in hand with CDC to resolve the issues with manufacturing."
'We're facing an already substantial outbreak in Washington State'
Health officials in Washington state said Sunday night that a second person had died from the coronavirus — a man in his 70s from a nursing facility near Seattle where dozens of people were sick and had been tested for the virus.
Researchers said earlier the virus may have been circulating for weeks undetected in Washington state.
In a statement, Public Health—Seattle & King County said the man died on Saturday. On Friday, health officials confirmed the death of another man in his 50s. Both had underlying health conditions, and both were being treated at a hospital in Kirkland, Washington, east of Seattle.
Washington state now has 12 confirmed cases, a number of which have come from the LifeCare nursing facility in Kirkland, where health officials said 50 people are sick and being tested for the virus.
(Healthcare workers transport a patient on a stretcher into an ambulance at the LifeCare Center in Kirkland, Washington)
Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said on Sunday they had evidence the virus may have been circulating in the state for up to six weeks undetected — a finding that, if true, could mean hundreds of undiagnosed cases in the area.
Trevor Bedford, an associate professor who announced the preliminary findings on the virus in Washington state, said that genetic similarities between the state's first case on 20 January and a case announced on Friday indicated the newer case may have descended from the earlier one.
"I believe we're facing an already substantial outbreak in Washington State that was not detected until now due to narrow case definition requiring direct travel to China," he said on Twitter.
Health emergency declared in Florida
A public health emergency has been declared in Florida after two cases of coronavirus were confirmed in the state on Sunday evening.
The patients, both adults from Florida's Gulf Coast, tested “presumptive positive” for the virus, health officials said.
The cases, tested by a public health laboratory, are now awaiting confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Shortly after the announcement, governor Ron DeSantis issued an executive order declaring a public health emergency, releasing resources to tackle the spread of coronavirus, otherwise known as Covid-19.
'Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!'
America’s top doctor has urged people to stop buying face masks, insisting they “are not effective in preventing” the spread of coronavirus among the general population.
Dr Jerome Adams, the surgeon general of the US, has echoed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in warning the public that they do not need to wear a mask if they are healthy or not caring for someone who is ill.
“Seriously people — STOP BUYING MASKS!” Dr Adams said in a tweet over the weekend. “They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if health care providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!”
The warning comes amid a surge in demand for face masks across America, in particular the N95, which is thicker and fits more tightly around the mouth and nose.
Read more below:
The latest figures reported by each government's health authority:
— Mainland China: 2,912 deaths among 80,026 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei
— Hong Kong: 98 cases, 2 deaths
— Macao: 10 cases
— South Korea: 4,335 cases, 26 deaths
— Italy: 1,694 cases, 34 deaths
— Iran: 1,501 cases, 66 deaths
— Japan: 961 cases, including 705 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, 12 deaths
— France: 130 cases, including one on the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, 2 deaths
— Germany: 130 cases
— Singapore: 106
— United States: 80 cases, 2 deaths
— Spain: 71
— Kuwait: 56
— Bahrain: 47
— Thailand: 43 cases, 1 death
— Taiwan: 41 cases, 1 death
— United Kingdom: 35 cases, 1 death
— Malaysia: 29
— Australia: 24 cases, 1 death
— Canada: 24
— Switzerland: 24
— Iraq: 21
— United Arab Emirates: 21
— Norway: 19
— Vietnam: 16
— Sweden, Austria: 14
— Israel, Lebanon, Netherlands: 10
— Belgium, Croatia: 8
— Greece: 7
— Finland, Oman: 6
— India, Russia: 5
— Denmark, Mexico, Pakistan: 4
— Philippines: 3 cases, 1 death
— Algeria, Czech Republic, Qatar, Romania: 3
— Belarus, Brazil, Egypt, Georgia, Indonesia: 2
— Afghanistan, Andorra, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Iceland, Ireland, Lithuania, Monaco, Nepal, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Portugal, San Marino, Sri Lanka: 1
The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said on Monday that the EU's disease prevention agency had raised its assessment of the coronavirus risk from 'moderate' to 'high', as the virus continues to spread across the continent.
"The ECDC (European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control) has announced today that the risk level has risen from moderate to high for people in the European Union. In other words, the virus continues to spread," she told a news conference in Brussels.
Health commissioner Stella Kyriakides said 2,100 cases of coronavirus were confirmed in 18 of the 27 EU states, and 38 EU citizens had died from the disease.
This comes as Paolo Gentiloni, the European commissioner for economic and financial affairs, said the EU is ready to use all policy options to safeguard growth against the spread of Covid-19.
Two cases confirmed in India
India reported two more cases of coronavirus on Monday, taking the number of people who have tested positive in the country to five.
One of the new cases was detected in the capital, New Delhi, while the other was in the southern state of Telangana, the government said in a statement.
The patients had a travel history from Italy and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, respectively, the government said. Both patients were stable and being closely monitored.
"The government is monitoring the situation at the highest-level," Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told a briefing in New Delhi.
Authorities were screening travelers arriving from 12 countries, Vardhan said, adding that more than 1 million people had been screened on the border with Nepal.
South Korea officials press for murder charges against leaders of cult church
Officials in South Korea have asked prosecutors to launch a murder investigation into leaders of a cult church at the centre of a ballooning coronavirus outbreak in the country.
A total of 599 new cases were reported in South Korea on Monday, taking its nationwide tally to 4,335. There have been 26 confirmed deaths.
Of the new cases in South Korea, 377 were from the southeastern city of Daegu, home to a branch of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, to which most of South Korea's cases have been traced.
According to local reports, members of the church had visited the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease emerged late last year.
Now, the Seoul government is looking to take action against the church and its founder Lee Man-hee.
(South Korean medical workers wearing protective gear visit a residence home to a number of suspected patients in Daegu)
Seoul mayor Park Won-soon said that if Mr Lee and other heads of the church had cooperated, preventive measures could have saved the people who died.
"The situation is this serious and urgent, but where are the leaders of the Shincheonji, including Lee Man-hee, the chief director of this crisis?" Park said in a post on his Facebook page late on Sunday.
Seoul's city government said it had filed a criminal complaint with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, asking for an investigation of Mr Lee and 12 others on charges of murder and disease control act violations.
Mr Lee apologised on Monday that one of its members had infected many others, calling the epidemic a "great calamity".
"We did our best but was not able to stop the spread of the virus," he told reporters.
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