February 29 coronavirus news

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1:16 a.m. ET, February 29, 2020

A high school student in the US with no travel history is one of two new "presumptive positive" cases in Washington State

A high school student who has no history of traveling to infected areas has been diagnosed with coronavirus, according to Washington State Department of Health. 

The student is one of two new presumptive positive cases of novel coronavirus in the state of Washington. The second presumptive case is a female in her 50's from Snohomish County who recently traveled to South Korea. 

Presumptively positive means the tests have come back positive from the public health laboratory in Washington and are pending confirmation at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The boy -- who is a high school student in Washington state -- visited two different clinics in Snohomish County this week, according to Snohomish Health District interim health officer Dr. Chris Spitters. 

The student planned to go to school on Friday morning, but was notified of his test results and returned home before attending any classes.

The boy's school, Jackson High School, will be closed on Monday for three days to allow for deep cleaning.

The student who tested positive is currently in home isolation and doing well. A small number of students that came into close contact with the student were notified by local health officials, and will stay home for the next 14 days. Health officials are also working to notify any health care workers and patients that may have come into contact with the student.

The boy's sibling, who attends Gateway Middle School, is being tested and will remain out of school in quarantine until his test results are back, according to a letter to families from Everett Public Schools, which runs Jackson High School. According to the letter, the sibling is not currently symptomatic.

1:07 a.m. ET, February 29, 2020

Millions of children across the world aren't going to school. That's causing problems

For 18-year-old Huang Yiyang, school starts when she opens up her laptop.

Over the past two weeks, there have been no school bells, bustling corridors, busy canteens or uniforms. Instead of physically traveling to her public school in Shanghai, Huang sits at her laptop from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. often in her pajamas, watching livestreamed class after livestreamed class.

For physical education class, her teacher performs exercises for students to follow. For English, she sits silently through lectures to virtual classrooms of 20 to 30 students.

She puts stickers or tissues over her webcam, so her classmates can't see her if a teacher calls on her to answer a question. "We're at home, so we don't look so good," she says.

Huang barely leaves the house, and she hasn't seen her friends for a month. But while she is isolated, she's also part of what may be the world's largest remote learning experiment.

A teacher gives a lecture with her smart phone during an online class at a middle school in Donghai in China's eastern Jiangsu province on February 17, 2020.
A teacher gives a lecture with her smart phone during an online class at a middle school in Donghai in China's eastern Jiangsu province on February 17, 2020. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

In a bid to stop the spread of the disease, schools across China are closed, leaving about 180 million school-aged children stuck at home.

And mainland China is just the start. Millions of students in Hong Kong, Macao, Vietnam, Mongolia, Japan, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Italy have been affected by school closures. For some, that means missing class altogether, while others are trialing online learning. Authorities in the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom have indicated that, if the outbreak gets worse, they could shut schools, too.

But while online learning is allowing children to keep up their education in the time of the coronavirus, it's also come with a raft of other problems. For some students, the issues are minor -- shaky internet connections or trouble staying motivated. For others, the remote learning experiment could come at a cost of their mental health -- or even their academic future.

Read more about the world's largest remote learning experiment here.

12:57 a.m. ET, February 29, 2020

US Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue calls coronavirus a "pandemic"

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Friday called the coronavirus a "pandemic," using a term that has not been used by the White House or government health agencies as the Trump administration struggles to stay on message in response to the virus' outbreak.

"Hopefully we can get past this coronavirus pandemic very quickly and get back to the trade," Perdue said while speaking to farmers at the Commodity Classic conference in San Antonio, according to audio of his remarks obtained by CNN.

The secretary's use of the word is out of sync with the official message from the Trump administration, which has sought to downplay fears of a pandemic. Global health officials have not labeled the virus' outbreak a pandemic, either.

All public messaging on the coronavirus is supposed to be cleared by Vice President Mike Pence's office, an attempt to get the Trump administration on the same page after administration officials blamed a series of mixed messages from senior officials earlier in the week for critical media coverage.

Pence is leading the administration's efforts to combat the coronavirus.

The basis for Perdue's use of the term is unclear. 

CNN has reached out to the Department of Agriculture for clarification but has not yet heard back.

The White House is declining to comment.

Read the full story here.

12:46 a.m. ET, February 29, 2020

The number of coronavirus cases are increasing in the US. That's rattling markets and worrying politicians

Some retailers are warning that demand for products like hand sanitizer may create shortages.
Some retailers are warning that demand for products like hand sanitizer may create shortages. CNN

Over the past week, the coronavirus outbreak has shaken stock markets and prompted concern from US politicians.

The country has 64 confirmed cases and no deaths -- still relatively small numbers compared to mainland China, where 79,251 people have been infected, and other more recent hotspots, such as South Korea, Iran and Italy, where outbreaks are expanding rapidly.

But concern over coronavirus is certainly leaving its mark.

Preparation concerns

After a briefing Friday, Democrats said that the country is not prepared to deal with the public health threat, while Republicans were less critical but still said that more needs to be done to combat the spread of the disease.

"This is potentially an enormous issue for the country and I do not think we're prepared," Rep. Pramila Jayapal, a Democratic Judiciary Committee member, said.

Panicked markets

The three major stock indexes posted their worst weekly percentage drops since the 2008 financial crisis. Trillions of dollars have been wiped out of the stock market in a week.

Spiking demand for hand sanitizer

US drug stores, retailers and suppliers are racing to keep up with surging interest for cleaning products as fears over coronavirus intensify. Pharmacy CVS has warned that the demand for those products could cause supply shortages.

Cancellations

The fears are also impacting the entertainment industry. Production for the upcoming season of hit show "The Amazing Race" has been temporarily suspended, and California punk rockers Green Day suspended concerts in Asia over the virus.

Community spread

Several people are believed to have become infected despite not traveling to an infected area, or having come into contact with a person known to be infected with the virus.

Less obvious impacts

Companies such as footwear manufacturer Crocs, which has a large retail presence and consumer base in Asia, have been hit hard. In the case of Crocs, the company relies solely on non-US third party manufacturers, and says it expects a considerable sales hit this year because of the coronavirus.

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on February 28, 2020 in New York City.
Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange on February 28, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)

12:38 a.m. ET, February 29, 2020

South Korea's vice health minister warns of more virus cases in Daegu

There are already more than 2,000 confirmed coronavirus cases in the South Korean city of Daegu -- but South Korea’s Vice Health Minister Kim Gang-lip warned that number will continue to rise.

In a daily briefing Saturday, Kim said the confirmed cases would rise as tests on the Shincheonji religious group members continue. 

The religious group is now at the heart of South Korea's novel coronavirus outbreak, particularly in the city of Daegu.

In total, South Korea has 2,931 confirmed coronavirus cases, with 2,055 of them in Daegu.

“The proportion of confirmed cases among them (Shincheonji religious group) is considerably high. As a result, over the next few days when tests on the Shincheonji religious group are being completed, confirmed cases in Daegu are expected to continue to rise at a substantial level,” Kim said. 

He also said that this weekend will be a crucial moment in preventing additional spread of the virus and urged citizens to avoid going to events where many people gather in enclosed spaces.

South Korean medical workers wearing protective gear carry samples as they visit the residence of people with suspected symptoms of the  coronavirus, near the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji religious group on February 27, 2020. (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)
South Korean medical workers wearing protective gear carry samples as they visit the residence of people with suspected symptoms of the coronavirus, near the Daegu branch of the Shincheonji religious group on February 27, 2020. (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images) (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)

12:34 a.m. ET, February 29, 2020

There are now 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Canada

Canada has 16 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

The latest case is an 80-year-old man with a travel history to Egypt, according to a statement from Dr David Williams, Ontario's Chief Medical Officer of Health. Egypt only has one reported coronavirus case.

The man arrived in Toronto on February 20, and went to the Scarborough Health Network’s emergency hospital on February 27.

The patient was cared for at the hospital and was tested and isolated while there. He was discharged home the same day and went into self-isolation, where he remains.

Most of Canada's cases are in British Columbia or Ontario, with one case in Quebec.

12:27 a.m. ET, February 29, 2020

UC Davis student tested for coronavirus, two other roommates isolated

A University of California Davis student is being tested for coronavirus following potential exposure, Dr. Cindy Schorzman announced in a press call.

That person is being isolated at home, and two other students are being isolated off campus as well, Schorzman said.

All three are roommates at a UC Davis residence hall, according to Schorzman.

Test results for the student under investigation are not expected for a few days, as the nasal and orals swabs were sent to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, which is processing hundreds of tests from around the country, Yolo County health officer Dr. Ron Chapman said. The other two students are asymptomatic.

Citing privacy laws, health officials would not say whether the student was potentially exposed to someone with the virus or if they had recently traveled to a suspect location.

A Solano County woman is being treated at UC Davis Medical Center for what might be the first ‘community spread’ case of coronavirus. The UC Davis Medical Center is not on campus, but is about 17-miles away in Sacramento.

12:21 a.m. ET, February 29, 2020

Is the coronavirus outbreak stabilising in mainland China?

At the start of February, mainland Chinese authorities were reporting over 1,000 new coronavirus cases each day.

This week, confirmed new coronavirus cases increased by the hundreds.

On Friday, for instance, there were 427 new confirmed cases, with almost all of them in Hubei province where the outbreak is believed to have started, according to China’s National Health Commission. Since the start of the outbreak, 79,251 have been infected with coronavirus and 39,002 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital, the commission said.

The recent numbers suggest that the outbreak may be stabilizing on the mainland. That's how state media China Daily is presenting it -- in a report Saturday, the paper ran the headline: "Epidemic easing at its epicenter."

A Chinese transit worker wears a protective mask as he waits at a bus station on February 25, 2020 in Beijing, China.
A Chinese transit worker wears a protective mask as he waits at a bus station on February 25, 2020 in Beijing, China. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

How China is reacting to the drop in numbers

Some parts of China have lowered travel restrictions and began the slow process of getting back to work.

Liaoning, a province in northeastern China that borders North Korea, was the first to downgrade the coronavirus emergency response level from the highest level -- Level 1 -- to Level 3 on Saturday, according to a statement by the provincial government.

This was followed by Shanxi, Guangdong, Yunnan, Gansu and Guizhou, accounting for some 305 million people.

Why that could be an issue

The problem is, the danger may be far from over.

Outside of the epicenter in Hubei province, where a huge amount of resources and emergency staff have been deployed, there are fears that cases may have been missed or gone undiagnosed.

Similarly, it may be weeks before it is safe for people to begin moving around freely again or gathering in large numbers. We know that the virus can lie dormant and there is strong evidence that it is spread while people are asymptomatic.

Read more about how China is handling the outbreak here.

11:54 p.m. ET, February 28, 2020

Chinese factory activity contracts at record rate in February

Workers producing protective clothing at a factory in Wuxi, in China's eastern Jiangsu province on February 8, 2020.
Workers producing protective clothing at a factory in Wuxi, in China's eastern Jiangsu province on February 8, 2020. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Chinese manufacturing activity slowed at record pace in February, confirming the impact of the novel coronavirus on the world’s second largest economy.

The official manufacturing purchasing managers’ index (PMI) was 35.7 in February, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) said on Saturday.

A reading below 50 indicates a contraction in manufacturing activity.

This is the lowest reading since January 2005 when it was first released. The second lowest was 38.8 in November 2008, during the global financial crisis. 

Since the outbreak began in December last year, more than 78,000 cases have been confirmed inside of Mainland China, with the death toll rising to more than 2,700. 

China's leaders have taken dramatic steps to rein in the virus, quarantining millions of people and putting much of the country on lockdown.