March 4 coronavirus news
Austin health and city officials say they currently have no evidence that closing South by Southwest (SXSW) or other major events will make the community safer.
Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world attend the annual days-long multi-industry event comprised of conferences, panels and festivals, according to the SXSW website.
Health officials are exploring options for "social distancing" and limiting proximity between people at SXSW, Dr. Mark E. Escott, medical director of the EMS System for the City of Austin and Travis County, said at a news briefing Wednesday.
Health officials urged the public to follow personal hygiene practices like covering their sneezes and coughs and washing their hands.
Escott said coronavirus is bad but "it's not Ebola, it's not SARS, it's not MERS."
Austin Mayor Steve Adler said public health officers would make the recommendation to cancel the festival if the community would be safer as a result, but at this point that is not the case.
"SXSW is working closely on a daily basis with local, state, and federal agencies to plan for a safe event. As a result of this dialogue and the recommendations of Austin Public Health, the 2020 event is proceeding with safety as a top priority," event organizers said in a statement on its website.
One of the festival's featured speakers, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, canceled plans to speak at SXSW after the social media company said it was banning “all non-critical business travel and events,” the company said in a release over the weekend.
No coronavirus cases have been confirmed in Austin, though there are individuals in the area who are being monitored until test results are complete, Escott said.
SXSW runs from March 13 to March 22.
The Italian government is closing all schools across the country starting tomorrow until March 15 due an outbreak of coronavirus, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Education Minister Lucia Azzolina announced today.
Some international schools had already issued letters informing parents and guardians they will be closed as a preventative measure as of Thursday, with remote online teaching beginning Friday.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the United States should be proactive when it comes to testing for the coronavirus.
Fauci explained what he means by proactive testing:
"Proactive means, I don't know what's in the community so I'm going to go to a bunch of emergency rooms and when people present with symptoms that look like they might be coronavirus, even though they have no connection with anybody who has coronavirus, they didn't travel anywhere, and test them to see if their infected."
Fauci explained that there aren’t enough resources to have this at every single emergency room in the country.
“So what the CDC has done, they've started by taking six sentinel cites and now they are expanding that to many more cities. Essentially doing sentinel surveillance in surveillance in different places. And that will give us a good idea or at least a partially good idea of what's under the radar screen that we're missing,” Fauci said.
CDC has said the six cities are Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, New York, Chicago and Seattle.
WeWork said one of its New York City locations got "enhanced cleaning" after a company in the coworking space reported one of its employees may have been exposed to someone who is believed to have coronavirus.
Yesterday, WeWork was notified that an employee of a company that works in one of its Midtown buildings "may have had exposure to someone who is believed to have contracted Coronavirus." According to a WeWork spokesperson, "this person exited the building immediately and will self-quarantine at home for 14 days."
WeWork immediately informed other members at the location. The building then received "enhanced cleaning overnight" and remains open.
The member has been identified as an employee of the financial organization Teachers, Insurance and Annuity Association, or TIAA.
According to a TIAA spokesperson, "the associate, who has no symptoms, will be working from home for a period of 14 days in self-quarantine, in alignment with CDC guidance. We have, and will continue to take all necessary precautionary measures, following the advice of public health officials."
There are 137 cases of the novel coronavirus, including nine deaths, in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as state and local governments.
According to the CDC, there are 49 cases from repatriated citizens. According to CNN Health’s tally of cases detected and tested in the United States, there are 88 cases in 13 states. Bringing the total of coronavirus cases to 137.
This includes presumptive positive cases that tested positive in a public health lab and are pending confirmation from the CDC, and confirmed cases have received positive results from the CDC.
Here's the state breakdown of the US cases:
- Arizona – 2
- California – 33
- Florida — 3
- Georgia — 2
- Illinois — 4
- Massachusetts — 2
- New Hampshire — 2
- New York — 6
- North Carolina — 1
- Oregon — 3
- Rhode Island — 2
- Washington state — 27 (includes 9 fatalities)
- Wisconsin — 1
US congressional negotiators have struck a deal on a sweeping spending package to spend billions on dealing with the coronavirus, according to two sources involved with the talks.
The White House is expected to back the deal, which is set to be voted on by the House today.
Asked for comment, a spokesman for the House Appropriations Committee said they are “very close” to a deal.
International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said that neither the words “cancellation” nor “postponement” were mentioned during a two-day executive board meeting focusing on preparations for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Bach again reiterated that he did not want to “take part in any kind of speculation”’ regarding hypothetical scenarios which could impact the Summer Games and reiterated his full backing to the Games going ahead as planned adding, “It is still to true and it is even more true – we are fully committed to a successful Olympic Games Tokyo 2020.”
Bach did, though, admit that the virus has meant challenges with some of the Tokyo 2020 qualification events being cancelled, namely there may now need to be quota allocations to decide which athletes complete at the Games in some disciplines – although he did not elaborate on how such a proposal would be put into practice.
President Trump tried to reassure the public that the fatality rate from coronavirus could drop as more tests are done.
“If you add many, many people that have it and they don’t know they have it,” the President said during a meeting with airline executives on Wednesday. “I think that number will probably be a lot different number.”
“I think that’s an important thing for people to know,” he added.
More on this: In a news briefing on Tuesday, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said, "While many people globally have built up immunity to seasonal flu strains, COVID-19 is a new virus to which no one has immunity.
That means more people are susceptible to infection, and some will suffer severe disease. Globally, about 3.4% of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1% of those infected."
An increasing number of travel advisories have been issued by countries around the world, urging caution for select destinations, and discouraging travel to others.
The US State Department's travel warning for China is at the highest level — Level 4: Do not travel. The department's warning for travel to Iran, which was already at Level 4 prior to the outbreak, was recently updated to add information about coronavirus.
The State Department is advising travelers to reconsider travel to Italy and South Korea, while travel to specific areas of those countries — Lombardy and Veneto in Italy and Daegu in South Korea — is discouraged. The department also advises travelers to reconsider travel to Mongolia.
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is discouraging nonessential travel to China, South Korea, Italy and Iran.
Japan and Hong Kong carry lower-level CDC advisories.