February 17 coronavirus news

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4:09 p.m. ET, February 17, 2020

Delta is reaching out to Hawaii-Japan passengers after coronavirus scare

Delta airplanes sit on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on Thursday, January 31, 2020 in New York City.
Delta airplanes sit on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on Thursday, January 31, 2020 in New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Delta Air Lines said today it is “proactively reaching out” to its passengers who recently traveled on one of its flights between Honolulu and Nagoya, Japan, after it became aware that two passengers on that flight are being reportedly treated for the novel coronavirus.

Here's the statement from Delta:

“We are communicating with the appropriate public health officials, including U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local Japanese authorities. The health and safety of our customers and crews is our top priority, and in cooperation with Japanese health officials, we are proactively reaching out to customers who were onboard that flight as well as taking the necessary steps to ensure the safety of our customers and crew."

6:44 p.m. ET, February 17, 2020

13 people evacuated from cruise ship moved to Nebraska

Dr. William Walters, the Executive and Managing Director of Operational Medicine at Bureau of Medical Services at State Department, said that 328 people were evacuated on the two chartered flights out of Japan.

The flight to California: The aircraft that went to Travis Air Force Base carried 177 people, he said on a briefing call today. Seven of those people “had isolated coronavirus positive,” and an additional three were isolated during the flight because of fever. These three people were not virus positive by test.

Six people were moved to Omaha to be treated at the University of Nebraska, Walters said, adding there were “three spouse pairs, which means four folks that were coronavirus positive but asymptomatic were taken to health care facilities in the vicinity of Travis Air Force Base.”

Dr. Robert Kadlec, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) at United States Department of Health and Human Services, said this was prearranged with local health authorities.

The flight to Texas: There were 151 individuals on the flight to Lackland Air Force Base, Walters said, and seven were isolated with a positive lab test and no symptoms.

“Two additional personnel were placed in isolation during the flight for fever in accordance with the protocol we’ve discussed,” Walters said.

In total, 144 people stayed at Lackland and seven went on to Omaha, he told reporters.

This post has been updated with the total number of passengers on the two flights.

2:45 p.m. ET, February 17, 2020

14 passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for coronavirus

American citizens evacuated from the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship that has been kept in quarantine in Yokohama board a U.S. government-chartered plane at Tokyo's Haneda airport on Monday, February 17.
American citizens evacuated from the coronavirus-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship that has been kept in quarantine in Yokohama board a U.S. government-chartered plane at Tokyo's Haneda airport on Monday, February 17. Getty Images/Kyodo News

Fourteen people who were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship and flown back to the United States on charter flights tested positive for novel coronavirus, according to a joint statement from the US Departments of State and Health and Human Services.

The passengers are among the more than 300 people removed Sunday from the ship, which docked off the Japanese port city of Yokohama, and flown to military bases in the United States.

While the US is evacuating its citizens from the ship, other countries have not yet said if they will do the same.

There are 74 British nationals on board, but the UK government has not announced if they will do the same service for their citizens.

1:38 p.m. ET, February 17, 2020

UNICEF says it needs over $42 million to respond to the coronavirus

UNICEF says it urgently needs over $42 million to scale up its response to the coronavirus, with the executive director calling it a “race against time.”

“The immediate focus is to reduce human to human transmission but also to help children in areas where their access to essential services has been disrupted," UNICEF's Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.

More context: UNICEF’s current response focuses on supporting China and the broader East Asia and Pacific region countries. UNICEF has flown in 13 tons of supplies to the countries, including protective suits, masks, goggles and gloves for use by health workers since January 29.

1:06 p.m. ET, February 17, 2020

Hong Kong confirms 3 new coronavirus cases

An official stands guard outside an entrance to the Hong Mei House residential building at Cheung Hong Estate in the Tsing Yi district, on Tuesday, February 11, in Hong Kong.
An official stands guard outside an entrance to the Hong Mei House residential building at Cheung Hong Estate in the Tsing Yi district, on Tuesday, February 11, in Hong Kong. Billy H.C. Kwok/Getty Images

Three new cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Hong Kong, bringing the city-wide total to 60 confirmed cases, including one death, the Hong Kong Health Ministry announced on Monday.

The new cases are:

  • A 69-year-old man with underlying illness and no recent travel history
  • A 45-year-old man linked to a previous case
  • A 46-year-old woman married to a patient who was confirmed to have the virus on Sunday
12:51 p.m. ET, February 17, 2020

467 people in the US have been investigated for coronavirus

A clock showing different timezones is displayed on the wall of CDC Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, January 13.
A clock showing different timezones is displayed on the wall of CDC Emergency Operations Center in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, January 13. Will Lanzoni/CNN

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has listed 467 people under investigation for the novel coronavirus in 42 states, according to an update posted to the agency's website Monday.

Of them...

  • 15 have tested positive
  • 392 have tested negative
  • 60 are still pending

Keep in mind: The latest count "does not include [people under investigation] in the US that were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, including 14 presumptive-positive cases that are being retested,” the CDC says.

These numbers are cumulative since Jan. 21 and include people with travel history to China, as well as those who have been in close contact with confirmed cases or other people under investigation.

The 15 confirmed cases in the US include eight in California, one in Texas, one in Massachusetts, one in Washington state, one in Arizona, two in Illinois and one in Wisconsin. There are two instances of person-to-person transmission, one in Illinois and one in California. Two California cases and the Texas case are among evacuees from China.

This is an increase from Friday, when the CDC listed 443 people under investigation in 42 states, including 15 positive, 347 negative and 81 pending cases.

11:27 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

Why the World Health Organization isn't calling the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic

World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme executive director Dr. Michael Ryan on January 29 in Geneva, Switzerland.
World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme executive director Dr. Michael Ryan on January 29 in Geneva, Switzerland. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of the World Health Organization’s Health Emergencies Programme, said the organization is still not classifying the coronavirus outbreak a "pandemic."

“I think we need to be extremely cautious in using the term ‘pandemic.’ We had lots of controversies during the H1N1 situation, around when it was pandemic and when it wasn’t pandemic, and I think we need to be careful,” Ryan said.

Ryan continued:

“The real issue here is whether we’re seeing efficient community transmission outside of China. And at the present time, we’re not observing that. And as such, we’re not in a position to have that discussion. What we’re seeing is, again, as we’ve said previously, the majority of cases outside China have a direct link still back to China. And of that transmission that’s occurred in countries outside China, the majority of that transmission can be traced through existing transmission chains. So therefore I think we have to be very, very careful not to drive fear in the world right now, and be very cautious in using the words you have used. We’ve said that the risk is very high in China, it’s high regionally and it’s high around the world. That is not, ‘the risk is high of a pandemic.’ The risk is high that the disease may spread further, and I think at face value, that is true."

Dr. Sylvie Briand, director of WHO's Infectious Hazards Management Department, agreed, adding, “The difficulty with certain words is that their interpretation varies, and for [the] general public, very often ‘pandemic’ is really the worst-case scenario. And so I think we need, before qualifying the event as the worst-case scenario, we need a lot more evidence and a lot more data. And so that’s why I think we need to be cautious, because it can really create panic unnecessarily.”

11:05 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

It's too soon to tell if decline in new cases will continue, health expert says

Recent data from around the world — and in particular from China — appear to show a decline in new cases. The World Health Organization says the new data must be analyzed "cautiously."

“This trend must be interpreted very cautiously. Trends can change as new populations are affected. It’s too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO, said during a press conference today. 

He added that the virus seems to be "not as deadly as other coronavirus including SARS and MERS."

“More than 80% of patients have mild disease and will recover. In about 14% of cases, the virus causes severe diseases including pneumonia and shortness of breath. And about 5% of patients have critical diseases including respiratory failure, septic shock and multiorgan failure. In 2% of reported cases, the virus is fatal, and the risk of death increases the older you are. We see relatively few cases among children. More research is needed to understand why,” Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.

Here's a look at the decline in cases, according to WHO data. These numbers may differ from those reported by national health authorities, who report updated totals at different times than the WHO.

10:51 a.m. ET, February 17, 2020

Taiwan and Singapore each confirm 2 new cases

Two new cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Singapore, bringing the city-wide total to 77 confirmed cases, the Singapore Ministry of Health announced today.

One of the new cases in Singapore is a 76-year old man who was evacuated from Wuhan, China on Feb. 9. The other is 35-year-old man with no recent travel to China and is linked to a previous case.

Five people diagnosed with the coronavirus in Singapore were discharged from the hospital, bringing Singapore’s total of discharged patients to 24 people, the ministry said.

Additionally, Taiwan’s Health Ministry announced two new cases of the novel coronavirus, bringing the total to 22 confirmed cases, including one fatality. 

The first new case in in Taiwan is a woman in her 80’s and the second case is a man in his 30’s. Both are related to cases announced yesterday, the ministry said.