March 12 coronavirus news

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8:14 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

US Health and Human Services warns employees of malware in fake coronavirus map 

From CNN’s Julia Jones in Seattle

US Health and Human Services employees were warned yesterday of malware in a fake coronavirus mapping website, an HHS employee not authorized to speak on the record told CNN. 

“A malicious website pretending to be a live map for coronavirus Covid-19 global cases by Johns Hopkins University is circulating on the Internet waiting for unwitting Internet users to visit the website,” an email to employees read.

The warning came in a department-wide correspondence that detailed the malware as an "information stealing program which can exfiltrate a variety of sense of data,” adding that anyone searching for coronavirus information on the internet could unwittingly click on the fake map.

“Our cybersecurity team is working with numerous stakeholders to ensure this map is taken offline,” the email read. 

HHS did not respond to CNN's request for comment. 

8:14 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

California confirms two more coronavirus cases

California confirmed two new coronavirus cases on Wednesday -- one in Ventura County, and one in Riverside County, both close to Los Angeles.

That brings the state’s total to 138 cases and four deaths.

Ventura County case: The patient had traveled to Italy and was a presumptive positive case, meaning they had tested positive in public health labs. The patient remains under home quarantine in Ventura County. This is the county’s second case.

Riverside County case: There are no details available about the patient, except that this is the second locally-acquired case. The county has five cases in total.

1:31 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

The US is blaming China for the coronavirus just as Beijing wants everyone to forget where it emerged 

Analysis from CNN's James Griffiths

President Donald Trump addresses the nation from the Oval Office about the widening coronavirus crisis on March 11, 2020 in Washington.
President Donald Trump addresses the nation from the Oval Office about the widening coronavirus crisis on March 11, 2020 in Washington. Doug Mills-Pool/Getty Images

If United States officials are clear about one thing as they scramble to respond to the worsening coronavirus pandemic, it's where they feel the blame lies. 

Addressing the nation on Wednesday night, President Donald Trump emphasized that the "foreign virus" began "in China." His comments come after multiple US lawmakers and officials have criticized Beijing's initial handling of the outbreak, or pointedly referred to the coronavirus as the "Wuhan virus" or "China virus." 

Speaking earlier in the day, Trump's national security adviser Robert O'Brien said that "this virus did not originate in the United States, it originated in Wuhan in Hubei province in China."

"Unfortunately, rather than using best practices, this outbreak in Wuhan was covered up," he added. "It probably cost the world community two months to respond ... had a WHO team been on the ground, had a CDC team been on the ground -- as we offered -- I think we could have dramatically curtailed what has happened in China and the world."

These statements couldn't have come at a worse time for Beijing, just as it is attempting to reframe the narrative around its response to the virus as one of success, and take something of a victory lap. New infections have slowed to a trickle, thanks largely to China's -- albeit often draconian, extreme -- response in recent weeks. 

Those moves however came as a rearguard action to a widely criticized initial response, including an apparent cover-up by officials in Wuhan, which may have cost precious time to rein in the virus before it spread through the country and the world. 

While there was a brief reckoning in China over these mistakes, particularly in the wake of the death of whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, Beijing has begun pushing back hard against any criticism overseas and censoring discussion at home. State media has also started pushing the line that there is uncertainty where the virus originated, even though the first outbreak was undoubtedly in Wuhan. 

With US officials apparently determined to lay the blame at Beijing's door -- distracting from their own handling of the outbreak at home -- and their Chinese counterparts equally determined to avoid it, this argument will likely continue for some time. 

1:15 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Australia reports 126 confirmed cases of coronavirus

From CNN’s Karen Smith in Atlanta.

Australia now has a total of 126 coronavirus nationwide, the country’s Ministry of Health said today. 

The death toll remains at three.

 Here's how the cases break down across the states:

  • New South Wales: 64 cases
  • Queensland: 17 cases
  • South Australia: 8 cases
  • Tasmania: 2 cases
  • Victoria: 18 cases
  • Western Australia: 7 cases
  • Diamond Princess cruise ship: 10 cases
8:40 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Australia unveils $11.4 billion stimulus plan to cushion coronavirus impact

From Akanksha Sharma in Hong Kong

Australia has unveiled a 17.63 billion Australian dollars ($11.4 billion) economic stimulus plan, the country's Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a news release on Thursday.

The package includes wage subsidies and cash payments for small businesses, to counter the impact of the novel coronavirus.

“Our plan will back Australian households with a stimulus payment to boost growth, bolster domestic confidence and consumption, reduce cash flow pressures for businesses and support new investments to lift productivity”, Morrison said.

To achieve this the plan is split in four parts focusing on boosting business investment, providing cash flow for small and medium sized businesses, supporting affected communities and backing Australian households.

"Australia is not immune to the global coronavirus challenge but we have already taken steps to prepare for this looming international economic crisis," Morrison said in the news release.
"Both this financial year and in the next two financial years, the gross impact of that stimulus is $14.82 billion US dollars (A$22.9 billion). That's 1.2% of GDP".
8:40 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

Japanese store puts a curse on its toilet rolls to prevent thefts

By CNN’s Emiko Jozuka

Mink Itachibe
Mink Itachibe

Panic buying has been rife amid the global spread of the coronavirus, with shoppers stockpiling goods like toilet paper, hand sanitizer and canned food. 

In Japan, those who couldn’t buy toilet paper have resorted to pilfering supplies from public restrooms. 

But one Japanese store has cursed its toilet rolls to prevent thefts. 

Mink Itachibe, who works at a convenience store in Niigata prefecture, noticed people stealing between three to five rolls of toilet paper each day. She sketched an image that shows three eyes and several kanji characters and stuck it up in front of the toilet rolls.

Some store owners use images of eyes to give the impression that they are watching out for potential thieves, Itachibe told CNN. The kanji below imply that if someone takes the toilet paper from the store, a hungry monster will hunt them down and gobble them up. 

“I did it as a joke, but it seems to have worked,” Itachibe told CNN. “As people were stealing toilet paper, I wanted this to shock them and think they might get hexed. People can be quite superstitious in Japan.”

Itachibe has reported no thefts of toilet paper from her store since she put up the sketches. 

8:39 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

California prisons are suspending visits because of the coronavirus

Prisons in California are suspending visiting due to the coronavirus, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) announced on its website today.

“Normal visiting will be canceled statewide until further notice,” the department said. This includes non-contact visits, which occur with a glass partition between the inmate and their visitors.

“Family visits will be held as scheduled,” they added. These visits occur in private, apartment-like facilities on prison grounds, according to the CDCR.

"CDCR values visitation as an essential part of rehabilitation, but at this time the Department must make difficult decisions in order to protect the health and wellness of all who live in, work in, and visit state prisons," the statement said.
8:39 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

New York cancels its St. Patrick's Day parade

The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in New York City has officially been canceled, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office. 

The statement said the governor had discussed the issue with the parade organizers, as coronavirus cases and anxieties ramp up in the city and state.

"Following those conversations, I recommended and the parade's leadership agreed to postpone this year's parade due to the high density and the large volume of marchers and spectators who attend," said Cuomo in the statement.
"While I know the parade organizers did not make this decision lightly, public health experts agree that one of the most effective ways to contain the spread of the virus is to limit large gatherings and close contacts, and I applaud the parade's leadership for working cooperatively with us."

The parade was originally set to take place on March 17.

New York now has 216 cases -- the second highest number of any state. Washington is the hardest-hit US state, with 373 cases and 30 deaths, and California follows New York, with 133 cases and four deaths, according to CNN's tally.

8:15 a.m. ET, March 12, 2020

South Korea confirms 114 new coronavirus cases and 6 more deaths

From CNN's Hyoungjoo Choi in Seoul

Workers wearing protective gear disinfect as a precaution against coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul on Wednesday, March 11.
Workers wearing protective gear disinfect as a precaution against coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul on Wednesday, March 11. Kim Sun-woong/Newsis via AP

South Korea confirmed six new deaths and 114 more cases of the novel coronavirus yesterday, according to the South Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC). 

That raises the national death toll to 66 and the total confirmed cases to 7,869.

The number represents a drop again in new daily cases -- on Monday, the country had recorded 131 new cases, the lowest single-day increase in weeks, sparking cautious hope that the worst of the outbreak may have passed.

Then, a new cluster was identified in Seoul -- and the number of new cases shot up to 242 on Tuesday.

The drop back down to 114 new cases on Wednesday appears to fall more in line with the previous downward trend.

73 cases were from Daegu: The southern city is at the heart of the national outbreak, and this is the lowest daily increase in Daegu since February 26.

8 cases were from North Gyeongsang province: This province surrounds Daegu -- about 89% of cases nationwide are from Daegu and North Gyeongsang combined.

19 cases were from Seoul: The capital has seen a recent rise, after a cluster was identified at a call center -- 102 cases had links to the office. The building where the call center is located has been closed and disinfected, and Seoul has designated the area an "infectious disease special zone."