March 13 coronavirus news
Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Michigan and New Mexico have become the first US states to shut all K-12 schools over coronavirus concerns.
Washington may be next; Gov. Jay Inslee told school districts across the state to prepare to close, while some large school districts have already shut.
In Maryland, all schools will close for two weeks, from March 16-27.
In Ohio, all schools -- including public, private, and, charter -- will close from March 16 through at least April 3, a closure that impacts 1.66 million students.
In Kentucky, all public and private schools are suspending in-person classes starting March 16, for at least two weeks. If approved by the state's education department, school districts may use “non-traditional instruction” instead, like remote learning.
In New Mexico, all public elementary and secondary schools will close starting March 16, for three weeks.
In Michigan, all K-12 schools will be closed from March 16 through April 6.
It's not just states -- many cities have also decided to close entire school districts, including San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta, Austin, Dallas, Houston, Seattle, and New Rochelle in New York state.
As the coronavirus began spreading around the world this year, one common refrain from skeptics was that it was just like the flu -- dangerous to sensitive groups but routine and not something to get into lockdown over.
We now know that assessment is wrong. At its lowest estimated fatality rate based on current data, Covid-19 is thought to kill some 1-2% of known patients, compared to around 0.1% for winter influenza, and it appears to be about as infectious as the flu, if not more so.
There is one area in which experts hope the virus will still behave like influenza, however, by tapering off in spring.
Warm weather slows the flu: Influenza thrives in cold and dry conditions, and behavioral differences in winter can also have an effect.
Nelson Michael, a leading US military medical researcher, predicted the coronavirus may behave like the flu and give us "less trouble as the weather warms up," but, he cautioned, it could come back when the weather gets cold again.
But warm countries around the world still have outbreaks. More than 100 cases have been confirmed in Singapore, where it's hot and muggy pretty much year round. Australia, Brazil and Argentina, all currently in the middle of summer, have also reported dozens of cases. And some of the worst hit areas around the world -- from Wuhan, where the virus was first detected, to Iran, Italy and South Korea -- are on more or less the same latitude, with similar temperatures and relative humidity
A variety of other factors also affect how this pandemic will play out, making influenza an inexact comparison -- for instance, the infectiousness of the virus and behaviors to reduce its spread.
"We are not dealing with a virus like influenza that behaves predictably every year," said Debra Chew, an assistant professor of medicine at Rutgers.New Jersey Medical School.
Read the full analysis here.
As the coronavirus outbreak stabilizes in China, attractions and hotels are slowly getting back to business.
According to Ctrip, China’s leading travel site, about 25% of the China-based attractions on its platform have begun receiving visitors again.
These attractions include the Top of Shanghai Observatory at Shanghai Tower -- the tallest building in China -- and the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower observation deck, both of which reopened doors to tourists on Thursday.
Visitors to both towers are required to wear face masks and will have their temperatures taken at the door. They must also show their personal color-coded mobile QR code -- a system recently implemented by China to monitor citizens’ quarantine status -- before entering.
A staffer from the Philippine Mission to the United Nations who tested positive for coronavirus met two delegates from another mission at the UN on Monday.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric confirmed the meeting in a statement Thursday, saying that UN medical services officials are reaching out to the two delegates. The individual did not have contact with UN staff, he said.
"The delegate was last in UN headquarters on March 9 for about 30 minutes around mid-day and visited only one meeting room, which has gone through three cleaning cycles since then," the statement said.
"The delegate did not have contact with UN staff but met two delegates from another mission. UN Medical services is reaching out to them."
Acting Philippine Ambassador to the UN Kira Azucena said in a letter that the staffer was asymptomatic during the visit.
The next day, she had flu like symptoms and did not go to work, according to the letter. She saw her doctor, tested positive for the flu and was prescribed Tamiflu. She tested positive for the coronavirus Thursday, according to the letter.
The Philippine Mission is in lockdown, and all personnel are instructed to self-quarantine and to seek medical attention should they develop the symptoms.
"We are assuming that all of us have been infected," Azucena said.
The employee doesn't work at agency headquarters in Langley, Virginia, in the Washington suburbs, but does work in the area and the individual's condition is not a result of CIA-related travel.
People this person came into contact with were notified and deep cleaning took place where they work.
There's been no impact so far at CIA headquarters. A workforce email said all non-mission-critical domestic US travel is postponed until further notice; all ceremonies, internal events and conferences canceled or postponed until further notice but some waivers are possible; and all non-mission-critical visits to agency facilities in the Washington metro area are postponed through April 10.
"CIA's first priority is the safety of our officers, and we continue to enact measures consistent with CDC guidelines and our mission to protect the health and well-being of our global workforce," said CIA spokesperson Tim Barrett.
South Korea’s coronavirus cases continue to slow, with the country reporting 110 new infections on Wednesday -- the lowest daily increase since February 22.
The national total now stands at 7,979, according to the South Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).
The KCDC also confirmed one additional death, bringing the national death toll to 67.
The southern city of Daegu, which lies at the heart of the national outbreak, also saw its lowest daily increase since February 23. Some 61 of Wednesday's new cases came from Daegu.
Nearly 90% of all cases nationwide are from Daegu and the surrounding North Gyeongsang province.
Signs of slowdown: The country's health minister told CNN earlier this week that he hopes the recent slowdown in cases meant they had "passed the peak" of the outbreak.
The country saw its cases skyrocket in February, with most cases linked to a religious group based in Daegu -- but the past month has also seen widespread, aggressive testing that experts credit for South Korea's success in early detection and containment.
Australia's Minister for Home Affairs has confirmed that he tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
In a statement released today, minister Peter Dutton said that he woke up this morning "with a temperature and sore throat" and was "subsequently tested for COVID-19."
Dutton was advised by Queensland Health that his tests returned positive this afternoon.
Under the policy of Queensland Health, "anyone who tests positive is to be admitted into hospital and I have complied with their advice," Dutton said. He added that "I feel fine and will provide an update in due course."
China continues to report a drop in daily cases and a lower death toll from the novel coronavirus, with the latest tallies for both categories in single digits.
Seven more people died in mainland China yesterday, according to the country's National Health Commission (NHC).
There were eight new confirmed cases, five of which were in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic.
The drop in new daily cases is especially striking given that just a month or two ago, the country was reporting thousands of new cases per day.
Total cases: China has reported 80,813 cases and 3,176 deaths since the outbreak began last December.
Total recoveries: 64,111 patients have recovered and been discharged from hospital, according to the NHC.
All land, sea, and air transport will be suspended in the Metro Manila region from Sunday through April 14, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said in an address to the country yesterday.
Metro Manila, also known as the National Capital Region, is home to 12.8 million people across 16 cities.
Duterte said the Philippine National Police and military will work with a coronavirus task force to implement the restrictions, adding that these measures do not constitute martial law. He also called for neighborhoods to go into quarantine when cases are confirmed.
Duterte added that public transportation would remain operational but social distancing must be enforced, according to state-run Philippine New Agency.
The country has 52 confirmed cases, according to the World Health Organziation, most of which were reported in the past week.
Duterte is being tested: The President is also undergoing testing, after some cabinet members were exposed to infected patients, according to a Facebook post by presidential aide Bong Go.