February 15 coronavirus news

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8:55 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

State department says it will evacuate Americans stranded on Japan cruise ship

Passengers walk along the deck of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, on February 14, 2020.
Passengers walk along the deck of the Diamond Princess cruise ship, docked in Yokohama, Japan, on February 14, 2020. Charly Triballeau/AFP/Getty Images

The US State Department said earlier today that it would evacuate about 380 Americans who are currently on the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked under quarantine in Japan, once the quarantine lifts next week.

"We continue to collaborate closely with Health and Human Services (HHS), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Government of Japan, and Carnival Cruise lines on all aspects of this dynamic situation. The US Embassy remains in close contact with all relevant authorities to ensure US citizens aboard the ship, and their families, are fully informed as the situation develops," said the State Department in a statement.
"Our primary goal is to ensure the welfare and safety of all US citizens involved."

Stranded at sea: The cruise ship, carrying more than 3,700 people, has been moored in Yokohama Bay under quarantine since February 4.

So far, 219 cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed on the ship. The quarantine is scheduled to end on February 19.

8:55 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

Hong Kong Disneyland will lend some of its sites for quarantine facilities

A sign at Hong Kong Disneyland announcing the park's closure on January 26, 2020.
A sign at Hong Kong Disneyland announcing the park's closure on January 26, 2020. Ayaka McGill/AFP/Getty Images

Hong Kong Disneyland has agreed to lend vacant sites to the government as potential quarantine facilities, said city officials in a press conference yesterday.

“We need quarantine facilities for surveillance. We will leave no stones unturned … We have secured the company’s consent to use part of the site if it is needed,” said Edward Yau Tang-wah, head of the Commerce and Economic Development Bureau.

The government has not released any schedule or plans on whether or when the designated site will be used. There are currently 56 cases of confirmed novel coronavirus in Hong Kong.

A hard year for Disneyland: Hong Kong Disneyland, which welcomed 6.7 million guests in the 2018 fiscal year, announced it was temporarily closing in late January in response to the outbreak.

The coronavirus has served a second blow to the theme park, after it struggled throughout 2019. Violent political unrest in Hong Kong saw tourism numbers drop dramatically, and the park was often quiet and scarcely-populated -- even in summer, which is typically a peak season.

Take a look at the protest-hit Disneyland.

12:39 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

CNN visits an infectious diseases hospital in Beijing

CNN photojournalist Justin Robertson visited an infectious diseases hospital in Beijing this week, speaking with a survivor who had recovered from the coronavirus.

The CNN team had their temperature taken and hands sanitized before they entered the building, passing through heavy security.

This patient said that she thinks people shouldn't be afraid of the disease, and they should trust the country, trust the hospital, and trust the doctors," Robertson said.

The patient also claimed that after being fed traditional Chinese medicinal soup every day, she was recovered from the virus.

Safety measures increased: Robertson also documented his flight from Frankfurt to Beijing on Tuesday, as airlines ramp up safety measures over the coronavirus.

Everyone was wearing a mask on the Air China flight, and there were pre-recorded announcements warning people of the dangers of the virus.

Come mealtime, all food is served in disposable, one-time use packaging for hygiene reasons, he said.

Take a look at their hospital visit:

8:55 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

The world's biggest work-from-home experiment has been triggered by coronavirus

A woman walks along a shuttered business street in Beijing on February 4.
A woman walks along a shuttered business street in Beijing on February 4. Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images

In offices across Asia, desks are empty and the phones are quiet, as the region grapples with a deadly virus.

Instead, millions of people are holed up in their apartments, in what may be the world's biggest work-from-home experiment.

Frustrations at school: Many schools have been suspended, instead conducting classes remotely through digital learning tools -- but this has proved more difficult for children with special learning needs or disabilities, and their educators.

"We use a lot of hands-on learning, so it's been really challenging trying to make our online learning meaningful for the kids when we're not in a classroom environment," said Karen, a special education teacher in Hong Kong, who requested a pseudonym to avoid identifying the school.

Like other schools, Karen and her colleagues have relied on digital tools such as video calls and Google Docs -- but challenges are made harder because her students need a lot of adult support.

The parents are also working from home, and are having to also be teachers -- it's almost an impossible situation," she said.

Benefits in other sectors: For other digital-based sectors, working from home has instead been surprisingly effective.

"It's a test run that we didn't really choose to implement, but we're quite happy with it," said Brice Lamarque, sales and accounts director at a web and branding agency in Hong Kong. Nearly all the agency's employees have been working from home this month.

"Before (the epidemic) happened, we were not really keen on letting our team work from home because we value collaboration," said Lamarque. "But this experience actually showed us that the whole team collaborates quite well even if they're not in the same room, so we're looking at adding that into our employee benefits ... maybe two to three weeks a year."

Read the full story here.

8:56 a.m. ET, February 15, 2020

Coronavirus numbers, broken down

People line up to order food from a stall in Shanghai on February 14.
People line up to order food from a stall in Shanghai on February 14. Noel Celis/AFP/Getty Images

The coronavirus continues to spread, with the number of cases jumping after China broadened their definition of a confirmed case. It has now reached 28 countries and territories. Here are the key numbers, broken down:

Deaths

  • In mainland China: 1,523
  • Outside China: 3
  • Global total: 1,526

Cases

  • In mainland China: 66,492
  • Outside China: 605
  • Global total: 67,097

According to China's National Health Commission, a total of 8,096 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital. 

11:42 p.m. ET, February 14, 2020

The coronavirus crisis is raising questions over China's relationship with the World Health Organization

Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization, and Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 28, 2020 in Beijing, China.
Tedros Adhanom, Director General of the World Health Organization, and Chinese President Xi Jinping on January 28, 2020 in Beijing, China. Naohiko Hatta - Pool/Getty Images

Sitting alongside Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in January, World Health Organization director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was effusive in his praise of the country's response to the coronavirus crisis.

But even as Ghebreyesus lauded "the transparency (China has) demonstrated," revelations were emerging that officials in Hubei province and Wuhan -- the city where the virus was first detected -- had downplayed news about the virus, even threatening medical whistleblowers with arrest.

Days later, the WHO declared a global public health emergency, and once again Tedros praised Beijing's response -- leading some critics to question the relationship between the two entities.

What is the WHO? The WHO was founded in 1948 under the auspices of the still infant United Nations (UN), with a mandate to coordinate international health policy, particularly on infectious disease.

Is it independent? The agency relied on funding and the cooperation of members to function. This gives wealthy member states considerable influence -- and has renewed a longstanding debate about whether the WHO is sufficiently independent to allow it to fulfill its purpose.

Many of WHO's critics argue that it is overly bureaucratic, bizarrely structured, too dependent on a handful of major donors, and often hamstrung by political concerns. 

Is it an investigative body? The WHO does not usually have its own teams on the ground gathering information. Instead it relies on data provided by member states -- a structure that was blamed for the delays in declaring the 2013-2016 Ebola outbreak an emergency.

This means that the WHO is only as informed as its member states want it to be. If a country where an epidemic is developing does not share data, there is little the WHO can do about it.

With a government like China's, with a historical aversion to transparency and sensitivity to international criticism, that can be a problem.

Read the full analysis here.

11:32 p.m. ET, February 14, 2020

Doctors Without Borders is sending medical supplies to a Wuhan hospital

Staff at a store open a box of surgical masks on January 29, 2020 in Hong Kong.
Staff at a store open a box of surgical masks on January 29, 2020 in Hong Kong. Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

International humanitarian non-profit organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), also known as Doctors Without Borders, is sending specialized medical equipment to Wuhan, the Chinese city at the heart of the coronavirus outbreak.

MSF is sending 3.5 metric tonnes (3.8 US tons) of equipment to Wuhan Jinyintan hospital -- one of the hospitals on the frontlines, MSF said in a statement yesterday.

MSF has also launched a health education project in Hong Kong to provide information to vulnerable communities about how to identify symptoms and protect themselves from the disease.

MSF will send one metric tonne (1.1 US ton) of protective equipment to the Hong Kong St. John Ambulance service as well.

“Medical protective equipment is key. So, we want to contribute to supporting frontline health workers with the specialized protection they need to work safely in an outbreak of this magnitude," said Gert Verdonck, MSF’s emergency coordinator for the coronavirus.
11:19 p.m. ET, February 14, 2020

Small businesses drive China's economy. The coronavirus outbreak could be fatal for many

A man wearing a face mask rides his bicycle along an empty street in Beijing on February 12, 2020.
A man wearing a face mask rides his bicycle along an empty street in Beijing on February 12, 2020.

The small companies that drive China's economy are worried about how much damage the novel coronavirus outbreak will cause. Without help or a reprieve from the disease, many may have only weeks to survive.

While some larger companies are reopening after weeks of lockdowns, small businesses often can't comply with strict new health rules, or can't let employees work from home.

Businesses at risk: A survey of 163 companies across China found that less than half were able to get back to work this week, according to investment bank China International Capital Corp.

A third of roughly 1,000 small and medium-sized companies surveyed by Beijing academics last week said they could only survive for a month with the cash they have.

Why this matters: That could spell terrible news for China's entrepreneurs -- and an even worse reality for the country's economy. About 30 million small and medium-sized businesses contribute more than 60% of the country's GDP, according to government statistics.

The taxes they pay account for more than half of government revenue, and they employ more than 80% of China's workers.

"The coronavirus could be the straw that breaks the camel's back," said Zhao Jian, director of Atlantis Research Institute, earlier this month. He warned that if the outbreak doesn't end soon, we could see rising unemployment, spurring housing foreclosures and compounding the country's economic woes.

Read the full analysis here.

11:11 p.m. ET, February 14, 2020

Hmong men records alleged coronavirus discrimination at Indiana hotels

Two Hmong men in the United States say they faced discrimination in Indiana, sparked by fear of the coronavirus, while they were looking for a hotel room.

Kao Lor and his uncle Lee Lor, members of the Hmong Asian ethnic group, tried to get a room at a Super 8 Motel in the northern Indiana city of Plymouth -- but after they entered, an employee asked if they was Chinese, Kao Lor said. Lor began recording the encounter, capturing the male employee repeating the question.

When Lor asks why he needs to know, the man responds, "Ever heard of the coronavirus?"

"If you are from China, I need to know," the employee said, later adding it was company policy that "anyone from China has be picked up and quarantined for two weeks."

Eventually Lor and his uncle decided to try another hotel.

Then, it happened again -- at a Days Inn, Lor recorded a hotel employee who seemed to acknowledge Asians are not being allowed because of the virus.

"Deeply troubled": Wyndham Hotels, which franchises both the Days Inn and Super 8 brands, told CNN in a statement they were "deeply troubled by these incidents as they're not reflective of our values or our expectations of franchisees." Wyndham said they were "addressing with the owners of both hotels" and working to reach out to the Lors.

Watch the video: