The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States continued to mount on Saturday, bringing the nationwide total to more than 400. At least 19 people have died.
At least 5,861 coronavirus tests have been completed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health laboratories, said Dr. Stephen Hahn, US Food and Drug Administration commissioner, in a briefing at the White House Saturday.
However, that does not mean 5,861 people have been tested. Currently, each person tested typically has two swabs taken — one from the nose and one from the throat. This number does not include tests performed at private or commercial labs.
Health officials at the White House Saturday could not say exactly how many people have been tested.
Positive tests are coming from all over the country, including Washington, DC, which confirmed its first presumptive positive case on Saturday, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser. The patient has no travel history outside of the US and there is no evidence of widespread community transmission of coronavirus in Washington, DC, Bowser said.
But most of the cases were in communities in Washington state, New York and California. Authorities were working to contain the spread of the virus on a cruise ship off California’s coast.
Passengers heard about cruise ship outbreak from news
The 449 US cases include at least 379 people diagnosed through the US public health system and 70 people repatriated to the US, including 21 people aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship.
Of the 21 infected on the ship, 19 were crew members who served passengers, according to Dr. Grant Tarling, chief medical officer for Carnival Corporation.
The ship was about 50 miles off the coast of San Francisco on Saturday, according to a news release from Princess Cruises. It was unclear where the ship was headed and whether passengers would be allowed to disembark.
The ship has been in limbo since Wednesday, when officials learned a California man who’d traveled to Mexico on the ship last month died of the coronavirus this week.
With the number of cases aboard, the captain said Friday it was unlikely the ship would be disembarking Saturday morning as originally scheduled.
Princess Cruises is working with a team of health officials to help determine when and where passengers can disembark but no timeline for a decision has been given, said Jan Swartz, group president of Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia, during a conference call Saturday afternoon.
“We need to get the ship into a port as soon as possible,” Swartz said.
Some passengers are low on crucial medications they need. Melissa Fuller told CNN her grandmother and great-aunt were on the Grand Princess. She said her grandmother is 84 years old and is completely dependent on a cocktail of medication.
Fuller’s family found out four days ago about the outbreak on the ship and has had issues connecting with the ship’s doctor.
“We’re terrified,” Fuller told CNN. “They are the elderly, immunocompromised, at-risk population. They should never have been allowed to board this boat in the first place … I don’t understand why it’s so complicated for the ship to just get her medicine.”
Fuller’s grandmother and great-aunt have been quarantined to their room for two days now.
“There’s a masked man sitting a desk down the hall making sure that people are not getting out of their rooms,” Fuller said. “They’re at the point now where they’re scared and they’re not getting any information from the cruise line and they don’t have answers or know what’s happening.”
Swartz said the ship’s crew is asking patients what medications they may need and sending the prescription requests to land to be filled.
Passengers remain isolated in their cabins and are receiving all meals in their rooms, delivered by crew members who are wearing protective masks, Tarling said.
One “critically ill” passenger and a companion were “medically disembarked” from the ship early Saturday morning by the US Coast Guard, Princess Cruises said, but the passenger was receiving treatment “unrelated” to the coronavirus.
Another passenger aboard, Steven Smith, previously told CNN the captain said a helicopter airlifted a passenger to San Francisco.
The Coast Guard also delivered personal protective equipment like gloves and face masks to supplement the ship’s current supply, the news release said.
Vice President Mike Pence announced the ship’s positive cases at a press briefing on Friday, but it was the first time passengers aboard heard about the test results.
“I thought the passengers were supposed to be notified first,” said Debbi Loftus, who’s celebrating her father’s 84th birthday aboard the Grand Princess. “The fact that we weren’t told first made us quite upset and angry. … There’s no excuse for this.”
“All passengers and crew will be tested for the coronavirus and quarantined as appropriate,” Pence said at a meeting with members of the cruise line industry in Florida on Saturday. “Those that require additional medical attention will also receive it.”
Residents at a nursing home linked to deaths are stuck in their rooms
Of the 16 coronavirus deaths in Washington state, at least 14 have been associated with Life Care Center in suburban Seattle, according to the King County Health Department.
Sixty-three residents remain at the facility and 54 have been transferred to various hospitals, according to Tim Killian, a spokesman for the Kirkland facility.
Of the remaining residents, six are showing symptoms, Killian said in a briefing Saturday. All residents remain confined to their rooms.
Additionally, 70 employees were showing symptoms, he said, and have been asked not to return to work. There were 180 employees as of February 19.
The CDC has provided extra nurses, doctors and other health care personnel to the Life Care Center, Killian said.
Life Care Center has been a focal point of the state’s coronavirus crisis since last weekend. The outbreak has left family members in a desperate search for answers about what kind of procedures the nursing center was following and whether residents are being tested for the virus.
Pat Herrick, whose mother died Thursday at the facility, said she was pushing officials to have her mother’s remains tested to see if she had the virus. The cause of death was listed as natural causes, Herrick said.
Her mother had lived at the facility for nearly seven years. Herrick emphasized the care her mother received from the nursing home workers had been excellent, but she didn’t think the staff has enough resources to deal with the outbreak, she added.
Two new coronavirus cases were announced in Tacoma Saturday night, according to a Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department news release. One case is a woman in her 30s who was discharged from a local hospital and is recovering at home, the news release said.
The other case was a man in his 40s who is currently at Tacoma General Hospital as of Saturday. Both the man and woman are Tacoma residents.
Across Washington state, at least 105 people have tested positive for the virus.
Thousands are asked to self-quarantine
New York state announced 16 new cases on Sunday, bringing the state’s total to 105.
Fifty-seven of the cases are in Westchester County, where health officials previously ordered a synagogue in New Rochelle to halt services over fears a man who tested positive for the virus may have exposed others.
“Westchester is an obvious problem for us,” Cuomo said Saturday.
The county’s health commissioner urged congregants who attended certain events last month to self-quarantine until at least Saturday. The rabbi of the synagogue tested positive for the virus Friday, officials said.
Local health officials were taking steps to clean public facilities but are not restricting public gatherings, they said. New Rochelle is a suburb about 20 miles from New York City.
“This is a significant and fast-evolving challenge for our community, but it’s important not to panic,” New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said in a statement. “Public health experts remind us that the majority of people who contract coronavirus will recover without incident, and only a small fraction will experience life-threatening circumstances.
The governor has asked more than 2,500 people in New York to self-quarantine as officials search for anyone who may have come in contact with ill residents.
Officials on Tuesday confirmed one case of the virus spreading from person-to-person. By Friday, that number had jumped to more than 40 cases.
“We want to keep testing and finding more people who are testing positive because that’s how you contain the outbreak - find the person who got infected, quarantine them and reduce the infection rate,” Cuomo said in a news release.
CNN’s Giulia McDonnell Nieto del Rio, Sarah Moon, Shimon Prokupecz, Andy Rose and Alta Spells contributed to this report.