coronavirus update
March 19, 2020

The State Department reportedly wants every American out of the country to return home.

As COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the world and the U.S., the State Department is preparing to issue the strongest travel advisory it can, two individuals familiar with the decision told Politico Thursday. It'll tell Americans abroad to either return to the states or prepare to shelter in place — a Level 4 advisory, those sources said.

China and Mongolia are currently the only countries subject to a State Department level 4 travel advisory due to spread of the new coronavirus. The rest of the world is under a level 3 global health advisory, which suggests travelers reconsider their plans. The escalated level would instruct Americans to halt all travel out of the country; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has approved the measure, Politico reported.

A State Department official confirmed the forthcoming announcement, but the department's press office didn't respond to Politico's request for comment. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 13, 2020

House Republicans are wary of supporting a coronavirus aid package until President Trump gives his stamp of approval, Politico reported Friday.

While House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said late Thursday that she and the White House are "near to an agreement" on an aid package to respond to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, Republican lawmakers have backed away from initial support of a bipartisan bill, feeling "skittish" about the move until Trump voices support, says Politico.

The package would require businesses to give employees up to 14 days of paid leave if they have to stay home with the new coronavirus, and reimburse companies through tax credits. It also has measures to boost paid family leave, unemployment benefits, and nutrition programs, while providing free coronavirus testing.

Pelosi said she expected a vote on the deal on Friday, but Politico now says it's "stalled." While Democrats, who have the House majority, could pass the bill along party lines, it would likely hit a roadblock in the Senate, where the Republican majority may not bring the bill for a vote if it doesn't have Trump's approval.

Trump publicly suggested a payroll tax cut as a response to the outbreak, but Politico reports "congressional leaders in both parties have been lukewarm to Trump's proposal at best."

Several lawmakers, as well as Mnuchin, have said the package is as good as done, now that Pelosi has hammered out the details, but Trump tweeted on Friday to again push for payroll tax cuts, which are currently not a part of the bill, signaling he could oppose the package and spook Republicans away from an approving vote. Read more at Politico. The Week Staff

March 13, 2020

China reported its second day of single-digit COVID-19 coronavirus cases in the pandemic's epicenter, the city of Wuhan, on Friday, and China's National Health Commission declared that the country's epidemic has finally peaked. There were five new cases in Wuhan on Thursday, and eight total in China, the commission said Friday. The other three cases — two in Shanghai, one in Beijing — were from people who had traveled to China from areas abroad that have their own outbreaks, the health commission said. Wuhan reported eight new cases on Wednesday, part of 15 new cases nationwide.

Mainland China has reported 80,942 coronavirus cases, including 67,786 in Hubei province, home to Wuhan. Hubei has registered 3,062 COVID-19 deaths, the bulk of the 4,728 deaths worldwide. As of Friday, there have been 128,392 cases of the coronavirus confirmed in the world since the pandemic started in January.

Still, "two months into the coronavirus epidemic in China, tens of millions of people are still under quarantine and much of the economy remains in a deep freeze," The Wall Street Journal reports. China was able to control its epidemic through strict quarantines, "mandates from central authorities against hoarding and profiteering," and heavy central planning. "It isn't clear if other countries will want to go as far as China, whose central government intervenes often in commerce," the Journal notes. But "keeping its stores filled with food and other essentials — even in hard-hit places like the city of Wuhan — [was] a crucial factor in maintaining public order throughout the crisis." Peter Weber

March 9, 2020

The epicenter of Washington state's coronavirus outbreak has a disturbing status update.

Life Care Center of Kirkland, Washington, outside of Seattle, has seen 15 of its residents die after contracting COVID-19, and dozens of its workers haven fallen ill. The center's remaining 55 residents are going to be tested for the virus, and while only six of them are currently sick, that doesn't necessarily mean good news, The New York Times reports.

As the Times put it, Life Care "had seen some residents go from no symptoms to death in just a matter of a few hours." "It was surprising and shocking to us that we have seen that level of escalation from symptoms to death," said Tim Killian, a spokesperson for the nursing home. Efforts to contain the spread from Life Care aren't going well either, seeing as 70 of the center's 180 workers were out sick as of Sunday, but "there weren't enough test kits yet for them," the Times reports. Three of those workers had been hospitalized, and one of them tested positive for COVID-19.

It's important to note Washington state has reported just three deaths from the new coronavirus that weren't tied to the nursing home. Life Care is home to people who are elderly or recovering from illnesses, so those who died likely had weaker immune systems and were more susceptible to COVID-19. "Kids and adults have done extremely well in terms of recovery so far," Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency medicine doctor at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, notes to ABC News.

Washington has second highest number of both COVID-19 deaths and cases among all U.S. states, while New York has 142 cases and zero deaths. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 6, 2020

The number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus approached 99,000 on Friday and the deaths attributed to the new virus topped 3,300 in at least 15 countries. The infection rate is slowing in the epicenter of the global outbreak, China's Hubei province, but the coronavirus is still spreading in the U.S. and elsewhere. "This is not a drill," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization, warned nations on Thursday. "This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops."

In the U.S., at least 13 people have died from COVID-19, 12 of them in Washington State, and more than 230 people have tested positive for the virus. A cruise ship with 3,500 people is under quarantine off San Francisco, after one person died and at least four were infected and one died after the previous cruise. A military helicopter lowered test kits down to the Grand Princess by rope. And in New York City, the Department of Health says it is monitoring 2,733 people in home isolation, mostly under self-quarantine. Peter Weber

March 5, 2020

COVID-19 has reached the southern tip of Africa, extending its spread around the world.

South Africa has confirmed its first case of the new coronavirus, South Africa's health minister Zweli Mkhize announced Thursday. A 38-year-old man who had recently traveled to Italy tested positive for the disease, and he and the doctor who treated him are now in quarantine.

Africa's coronavirus cases had previously been confined to the northern part of the continent, with several cases confirmed in Senegal, as well as 17 in Algeria and other countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. Most of those cases could be tied directly to travel in Europe, and had so far been slow to spread.

Meanwhile in the U.S., California reported its first death related to coronavirus on Wednesday, bringing the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. to 11. Seventeen states have reported COVID-19 cases, and four of them have declared states of emergencies. A cruise ship coming from Hawaii holding 2,500 people is now being held off the California coast for screening. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 4, 2020

Bipartisan negotiators from the House and Senate agreed to an $8.3 billion emergency spending package to fight COVID-19 on Wednesday.

The bill includes close to $7.8 billion for the federal agencies managing the coronavirus, which is more than the White House originally proposed, The New York Times reports. Another $500 million will go to Medicare providers to offer telehealth services to elderly patients at their homes, as older people are more likely to contract the virus.

The House is reportedly planning to vote on the bill later Wednesday, per the Times. The deal will then have to pass the Senate and get President Trump's signature before going into effect.

The U.S. counted at least 130 COVID-19 infections across 16 states as of Wednesday. Nine people in the U.S. with the virus have died. Kathryn Krawczyk

March 2, 2020

Those lucky enough to be on the White House's email list got a special press release from Vice President Mike Pence's office on Monday night. The entire statement is a collection of tweets from Republican politicians saying nice things about how President Trump and Pence, whom Trump put in charge of the U.S. coronavirus response effort, are doing in their effort to respond to the growing coronavirus outbreak.

"This ludicrous press release from the Office of the Vice President presumably has an audience of one: Donald Trump," tweeted Bill Kristol, prominent conservative Never-Trumper. "That the VP's office felt they had to do this to try to pacify the president suggests how nuts things must now be in the White House." Peter Weber

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