If there’s one thing we’ve learned since the coronavirus outbreak went global in January, it’s that a lot can change in 24 hours. Seemingly overnight, the viral hysteria has apparently arrived in the US, alongside the news of the first virus-related death in Washington State.
Hoarding has already begun. President Trump has issued “do not travel” warnings affecting ‘hot zones’ in Italy and South Korea. In Italy, the Level 4 State Department advisory affects the hardest-hit provinces of Lombardy and Veneto, where ‘community transmission’ has already been confirmed. In South Korea, it affects the city of Daegu. In Europe, France and Switzerland have banned large gatherings over 5,000, and cancelled all sporting events. Games, events and conferences across the world have been cancelled as airlines continue to cut back on routes, with the focus turning to Italy and South Korea.
Adding to the growing list of cancellations, the American Physical Society has cancelled one of the world’s major international scientific conferences just a day before it was supposed to begin.
In South Korea, Samsung announced that a worker at its smartphone plant in Gumi had contracted the virus. The pace of newly confirmed cases is growing so rapid, it’s becoming difficult to keep up: The number of confirmed cases worldwide has reached nearly 87,000, with more than 7,000 cases outside mainland China. The virus has now been detected in at least 60 countries and/or territories.
As frustration against a strange cult-like church at the center of the country’s outbreak intensifies, officials are pushing for the leaders of a church at the center of the country’s outbreak be investigated on murder charges as the country’s death toll hit 18.
With 71 cases confirmed in the US (75 if you count the “presumptive” case announced by Illinois public health officials late last night and a new case in Rhode Island), the outbreak has spread much more quickly than most Americans had realized, though we should also point out that the bulk of these cases were already quarantined when they were confirmed, since they were evacuees from either the ‘Diamond Princess’, or ‘Wuhan’.
Perhaps the most shocking news out of Italy on Sunday was that Juventus, the Serie A soccer club based in the northern city of Turin, has quarantined its entire under-23 squad after 3 players on an opposing team and their coach tested positive for the virus. The team has also cancelled training and suspended matches, including amatch against Inter Milan, a team that recently played a match before an empty stadium has been postponed.
According to the Daily Mail, the Serie A outfit announced the decision after their youth team played Serie C Pianese, a team that has seen three players and a manager test positive for the virus, causing an uproar in European soccer.
Following President Trump’s Saturday press conference, where he and Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged the virus coronavirus-related death outside Seattle in Washington State (note: the deceased was identified as a male, following earlier inaccurate reports claiming the victim was female), the president attended CPAC’s annual conference, where he claimed during his keynote address that the US would be willing to help the Iranians contain their brutal outbreak, the NYT reports. Officials in Washington State fear the virus may have been circulating in the state for weeks.
“If we can help the Iranians, we have the greatest health care professionals in the world,” he said, adding that “we would love to be able to help them.”
“All they have to do is ask,” he said.
Over in Iran, officials said the total number of confirmed cases had climbed to 978, with 54 confirmed deaths, just days after government officials denied reports that 50 had died in the city of Qom. Recently, the BBC reported that the true death toll has already surpassed 200.
Hoping to quell the growing sense of panic following a brutal week for US stocks, Trump appealed to the press and politicians in Washington to “not do anything to incite a panic” during his press conference, where he also said he was ‘considering’ closing the southern border, a remark that elicited a frustrated response from the Mexican foreign ministry.
Courtesy of NYT
During separate Sunday appearances on Fox News, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said 75,000 test kits are now available to detected cases of the virus. More cases are expected, Azar said, adding that “we don’t know where this will go,” as public health officials in Washington, California, Oregon, Illinois and Rhode Island scramble to trace the contacts and movements of the newest cases.
About 90 minutes ago, public health officials in Rhode Island announced the state’s first “presumptive” case of the virus, reporting that the individual is in their 40s and recently returned from a trip to Italy in mid-February, before the outbreak in that country had accelerated, Boston 25 News reports. That’s a relief: The clear path of origin means that the latest American patient isn’t another case of “unknown origin”. Health officials are still assuming the worst: That the lack of a clear source of transmission for at least 4 American patients indicates that potentially dozens of others might also be infected, even if they aren’t yet exhibiting symptoms.
After emerging as a model of outbreak suppression, Thailand reported its first virus-linked death on Sunday.
Elsewhere, Australia, a country with only 25 confirmed cases (several from the ‘Diamond Princes’), has reported its first COVID-19-linked death: An elderly man from the remote city of Perth who had traveled aboard the Diamond Princess became the first Australian to die from the virus. The 78-year-old man and his 79-year-old wife were among the 164 Australians who traveled aboard the ‘Diamond Princess’. According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the elderly couple were initially flown to Howard Springs in the Northern Territory where Australia’s Diamond Princess evacuees were sent.
Speaking of the Diamond Princess, Japan’s Health and Labor Minister Katsunobu Kato said Sunday that the last passengers and crew, including the captain, had disembarked on Sunday.
Great, now go out and find that thing an iceberg! https://t.co/K0vGzJmzkD
— Mark B. Spiegel (@markbspiegel) March 1, 2020
While Italy remains the uncontested epicenter of the outbreak in Europe, twelve more people have tested positive for the virus in the UK, including a second case of an individual believed to have caught the virus inside the country. Health officials are trying to trace a 35-year-old man from Shenzhen who had reportedly been working in Bristol, the Guardian reports.
During an appearance on the Andrew Marr, the UK’s premier political talk show, on Sunday, UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed that the NHS is bringing doctors out of retirement to fight a potential outbreak, before adding that the UK is leaving the option of China-style, city-wide lockdowns on the table, saying the government needs to consider all available tools:
Marr asked Hancock: “China, of course, isolated entire cities. Is it conceivable under any circumstance, you try and cut off the city in this country?”
Hancock replied: “There’s clearly a huge economic and social downside to that. But we don’t take anything off the table at this stage, because you’ve got to make sure that you have all the tools available, if that is what’s necessary. But I want to minimise the social and economic disruption.”
As of Sunday, Spain has confirmed 73 cases, according to Fernando Simón, the head of the country’s Center for the Coordination of Health Emergencies and Alerts. He added that 90% of the cases were imported or related to imported cases of the virus.
In France, which has reported 100 cases, the Louvre Museum closed on Sunday, and said it would remain shut as workers objected to the risk of catching the virus while working among the millions of visitors who pass through the museum, the AP reports.
As Brazil confirms a second case, international health authorities pointed out that the fact Africa has only reported 3 cases so far, one in Egypt, one in Algeria and one in Nigeria, is something of a miracle, even as the Nigerians have identified 100 people who may have come into contact with the sick individual, as France 24 reports.
Finally, we’d like to leave readers with a glimpse of levity before we go: We’d like to draw readers’ attention to the front page of the Saturday Star, a Canadian daily.
This is the only way Canadians can process any type of information pic.twitter.com/jAs29Le9si
— Chase Mitchell (@ChaseMit) February 29, 2020
You know it’s bad when the Canadian newspaper editors start whipping out the Wayne Gretzky comparisons.