March 3 coronavirus news

TOPSHOT - This photo taken on February 19, 2020 shows laboratory technicians testing samples of virus at a laboratory in Hengyang in China's central Henan province. - The death toll from the COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic jumped to 2,112 in China on February 20 after 108 more people died in Hubei province, the hard-hit epicentre of the outbreak. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Here's how the novel coronavirus outbreak unfolded
02:32 - Source: CNN
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Our live coverage of the coronavirus outbreak has moved here.

Amazon says Seattle-based employee diagnosed with coronavirus

Amazon is informing employees that one of its Seattle-based workers has been diagnosed with coronavirus. 

According to a mass email for all staff members in Seattle and Bellevue, Washington, the employee infected with the novel coronavirus first became ill on February 25 and has not been back to work since that time. 

The company said it has directly notified all coworkers who had been in close contact with the patient. The worker was based at the downtown office building the company refers to as Amazon Brazil, according to the email.

An Amazon spokesperson confirmed the authenticity of the email to CNN, adding, “We’re supporting the affected employee.” 

It was not immediately clear whether the case was included in Washington state’s count of coronavirus patients in King County, which stood at 21 on Monday.

New Zealand reports second case of novel coronavirus

New Zealand has reported a second case of the novel coronavirus, the country’s Ministry of Health said in a statement on Wednesday, local time.

The patient is a New Zealand citizen in her 30s who recently returned to Auckland from northern Italy, the statement said. She does not require hospital level care and is currently under self-isolation at home.

“Although we have our second case of COVID-19, with continued vigilance the chance of widespread community outbreak is expected to remain low,” the statement said.

The country’s first case — which was confirmed last month — is a New Zealand citizen who traveled to Iran and returned to New Zealand via Bali.

Malaysia confirms 7 additional coronavirus cases

In this photo released by Malaysia's Ministry of Health, a health worker wearing a full protective suit waits for the arrival of evacuated Malaysians from China's Wuhan, the epicenter of the new coronavirus outbreak, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Wednesday, Feb. 26.

There are seven new cases of novel coronavirus confirmed in Malaysia, bringing the country’s total to 36, Noor Hisham Abdullah, the director general of Health Malaysia, announced on Twitter Tuesday.

The director general said all the new cases are close contacts of a patient who previously contracted the virus and they are currently in a stable condition.

Senior administration official calls lack of coronavirus testing kits "a flashpoint right now"

A senior administration official acknowledged that the Trump administration is feeling a major sense of urgency to distribute testing kits for the coronavirus amid bipartisan criticism that the kits are being deployed too slowly.

The official conceded that the question from health professionals nationwide, and from both Republican and Democratic lawmakers, is: “Why can’t the feds give us tests?”

This official went on to note that roughly one million kits are expected to be distributed throughout the country in the coming days. The official emphasized that the administration is eager for the kits to be deployed in order to obtain the data needed to assess just how widespread the outbreak is becoming, something that cannot be clearly determined at the moment.

Ohio festival will be held without spectators due to coronavirus concerns

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine speaks at a news conference at the statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, Tuesday, March 3, to announce impacts on the Arnold Sports Festival of the coronavirus.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced that most events of the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio, will be held without spectators this weekend based on guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on preventing the spread of coronavirus. 

The Arnold Sports Festival is an annual multi-sport festival held in Columbus that includes the Arnold Classic, a bodybuilding competition named for Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Today we had new guidance from the CDC about mass public gatherings,” DeWine told reporters. “We have all decided to move forward with the athlete competition at the Arnold Classic, but not to allow spectators or the trade show to continue with the exception of the Arnold Classic Finals on Saturday night at the convention center.”

Schwarzenegger called the decision a “very sad moment for us, for my partners Jim Lorimer and Bob Lorimer, because we have been doing this now since 1976 when we held the first Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe competition in Columbus, Ohio, and ever since we have been doing this without any interruption whatsoever.” 

The former California governor added, “Let me be very clear that we have the biggest and the best health and fitness festival in the world, but we would never choose making money over people’s health.”

3 new cases of coronavirus confirmed in British Columbia

The British Columbia Ministry of Health announced three additional confirmed cases of coronavirus in the Canadian province this evening.

This brings British Columbia’s coronavirus total to 12, according to Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer.

According to Henry, the new cases include…

  • A man in his 60s who recently returned from Iran.
  • An adult woman who also recently traveled to Iran.
  • A woman in her 30s who was a household contact of British Columbia’s eighth confirmed case — a woman in her 60s who is visiting family in British Columbia and lives in Iran.

The three individuals did not require hospitalization and are recovering in their homes, according to Henry.

By the numbers: These new cases bring Canada’s total number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases to 33, including 20 in Ontario, 12 in British Columbia and one in Quebec.

Pence pledges that upcoming coronavirus briefings will be on camera

Vice President Mike Pence pledged that upcoming briefings on coronavirus would be on camera, following a Tuesday evening on the record briefing led by Pence that the White House press office insisted remain off camera. 

The press office also insisted that reporters not broadcast any sound from the briefing, in which the vice president announced several new US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention initiatives, including a change in policy that now allows any American to receive a coronavirus test, if a doctor deems it necessary. 

When pressed about the briefing being off camera, Pence said it was because President Trump had already made multiple on camera statements today.

“You’re going to see us in here every day answering questions… but the president was at NIH today and the president addressed the country today,” Pence said.

He added that “I expect we’ll be back on camera tomorrow.” 

Some context: On two occasions last week, Trump and members of the Coronavirus Task Force briefed reporters on camera from the briefing room.  

How much does coronavirus testing and treatment cost? It depends.

Now that coronavirus is spreading in the US, lots of people are going to their doctors, urgent care clinics or emergency rooms to find out whether their coughs, sneezes and fevers mean they have the coronavirus.

But some are worried about the cost of that testing after the Miami Herald wrote a story about a man who went to the hospital with flu-like symptoms and was told he might owe $3,270. (Turns out he actually had the flu, but his limited-coverage insurance policy left him with a $1,400 bill.)

Here’s how much it will cost you if you seek care: The coronavirus test itself shouldn’t generate a bill – for now – since the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is picking up the tab. That could change as more labs start running the test.

But the visit and other tests aren’t free. How much you’ll owe depends on several factors, including what insurance you have, where you seek treatment and what tests providers give you. For instance, those who haven’t satisfied their deductibles will likely be on the hook for more of the bill. Going to the emergency room is typically far more pricey than visiting your doctor or an urgent care clinic.

Those feeling sick can call their insurers to learn what the costs they might incur.

State governments and the Trump administration are also looking to relieve the financial burden so Americans don’t hesitate to get checked out — which could worsen the disease’s spread.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday required health insurers in his state to waive any cost sharing associated with testing for coronavirus. And the Trump administration is looking at providing hospitals with funding to care for the uninsured.

Congress is still hashing out a multi-billion supplemental spending bill to respond to the public health emergency.

The final sticking point: Making an eventual vaccine affordable.

Coronavirus testing to be covered by Medicare and Medicaid

An administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said today that any costs associated with the coronavirus test would be covered by Medicare and Medicaid. 

Seema Verma’s remarks followed an announcement by Vice President Mike Pence Tuesday evening saying that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would issue new guidance that “any American can be tested (for coronavirus), no restrictions, subject to doctors’ orders.”

Asked by CNN if the testing would be free and what would be done to help those who could not afford it, Pence said guidance was going to be sent out immediately that notes that Medicare and Medicaid covers the test. 

Verma noted that it is a diagnostic test so it would be covered under insurance as an essential health benefit and is a covered service in the exchanges — in Medicaid and in Medicare.

CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield added that the test the CDC provides to the public health community is provided free of charge to public health labs across the country.

Pence said that there was concern that some people felt they could not be tested if they were only mildly symptomatic, but the new guidance will make clear “that any clinician or health authority can administer the test.”

Singapore confirms 2 new cases of coronavirus

Singapore confirmed two new cases of novel coronavirus Tuesday evening, bringing the country’s total to 110, according to a statement posted by the Ministry of Health.

The two patients include two male citizens aged 70 and 33, who have not reported travel history to affected countries and regions, the statement said. The 33-year-old is linked to a cluster of cases at Wizlearn Technologies.

In response to the outbreak, Singapore has banned visitors who recently traveled to Iran, northern Italy, and South Korea, the minister for National Development, Lawrence Wong, announced Tuesday.

Singaporean citizens and residents returning from those locations will be placed on a mandatory 14-day home quarantine upon their return, he added.