READ UPDATES IN CHINESE: 新冠病毒疫情最新消息
Here’s what you need to know:
- U.S. expands testing for people who fear they have been infected.
- Death toll in the U.S. rises to nine after two earlier deaths in Washington State are tied to the virus.
- Production disrupted, India curbs the export of key drugs.
- Facebook gives global health officials free advertising to combat misinformation.
- As Chinese hospitals focus on the coronavirus, other patients are ignored.
- N.B.A.’s African league postpones start of its inaugural season.
U.S. expands testing for people who fear they have been infected.
Vice President Mike Pence said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would lift all restrictions on testing for the coronavirus, and would release new guidelines to fast-track testing for people who fear they have the virus, even if they are displaying mild symptoms.
The guidelines “make it clear that any American can be tested, no restrictions, subject to doctor’s orders,” Mr. Pence told reporters at the White House. The federal government had promised to ramp up testing after drawing criticism for strictly limiting the tests in the first weeks of the outbreak.
“The estimates we’re getting from industry right now — by the end of this week, close to a million tests will be able to be performed,” the head of the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Stephen Hahn, said at a White House briefing on Monday.
Some companies and public health officials cast doubt on the government’s assurances, saying in some cases that tests under development are still weeks from approval.
And even if a million test kits were available, public health laboratories say they would not be able to process nearly that many within a week. A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said on Monday that public health labs can test 15,000 people daily, though that figure is expected to grow.
Coronavirus Map: Tracking the Spread of the Outbreak
The virus has infected more than 93,100 people in at least 76 countries.
Death toll in the U.S. rises to nine after two earlier deaths in Washington State are tied to the virus.
Two people who died last week in the Seattle area were infected with coronavirus, officials said on Tuesday, suggesting that the virus had spread in that region days earlier than health officials had previously known.
That brought the death toll in Washington State, and in the United States, to nine. So far, those deaths have all been in the Seattle area.
The confirmation of additional deaths adds to an escalating emergency in a region that has rapidly emerged as a focal point for the virus in the United States, where there have now been at least 120 cases of coronavirus in more than a dozen states, as local health authorities from coast to coast raced to assess the risk to schools, medical centers and businesses.
The other deaths, all announced over the last few days, included residents of a nursing care facility in Kirkland, a Seattle suburb.
Also on Tuesday, Amazon emailed its staff in the Seattle area saying it learned that an employee in one of its many office buildings in the South Lake Union neighborhood tested positive for the virus. “The employee went home feeling unwell on Tuesday, February 25 and has not entered Amazon offices since that time,” the email said.
Health officials in North Carolina announced that state’s first case of coronavirus on Tuesday afternoon. They said the patient there had traveled to Washington and been “exposed at a long-term care facility” where there was an outbreak, an apparent reference to the Life Care nursing center in Kirkland, Wash.
The North Carolina patient was said to be doing well and isolated at home in Wake County.
Production disrupted, India curbs the export of key drugs.
The spreading coronavirus may soon affect people’s health in a different way: The outbreak is starting to hurt the supply of essential drugs.
Drug makers are struggling to get raw ingredients for common antibiotics and vitamins from Chinese factories, which were closed for weeks as China battled to contain the coronavirus. Now, even as some of China’s factories have restarted, shortages of some drugs may develop.
The disruption is being felt most acutely in India, where the authorities on Tuesday ordered the country’s vast pharmaceutical industry to stop exporting 26 drugs and drug ingredients, most of them antibiotics, without government permission.
That’s a problem for the rest of the world, which relies on India’s drug makers for much of its supply of generic drugs. India exported about $19 billion of drugs last year and accounted for about one-fifth of the world’s exports of generics by volume, according to the India Brand Equity Foundation.
Facebook gives global health officials free advertising to combat misinformation.
Facebook said on Tuesday it was taking measures to help curb the spread of the coronavirus by partnering with the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and governments around the world.
The social network said it had been working with different groups over the past month to use its ample resources for global aid during the outbreak by offering insight into the behavior of the 2.9 billion people who use its products, or the ability to spread correct information about how to deal with and prevent the virus.
“We’re focused on making sure everyone can access credible and accurate information,” Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, said in a post to his Facebook page. “This is critical in any emergency, but it’s especially important when there are precautions you can take to reduce the risk of infection.”
If someone now searches for the coronavirus on Facebook, they will see a pop-up on the site directing them to the W.H.O. website or a local health authority for the most up-to-date information. The company is also handing out free advertising to global health agencies — including unlimited free advertising for the W.H.O. — to spread information on how to combat the virus.
Facebook has played a role in the spread of misinformation around the coronavirus since the outbreak began. Some people have posted ads claiming false cures and other bogus information to turn a profit. Conspiracy theorists have used the company’s platforms — including Facebook, Messenger and WhatsApp — to spread misleading information around how the disease is spread. Facebook said it was doing what it could to identify and limit such activity.
As Chinese hospitals focus on the coronavirus, other patients are ignored.
The coronavirus outbreak is straining China’s already overburdened health care system, and many patients with other illnesses are now falling through the cracks.
In Wuhan, China, the center of the outbreak, many hospitals have been converted into facilities for treating only patients with the coronavirus. Elsewhere, other facilities have closed amid shortages of medical workers or rejected patients because of fears of cross-infection in the wards.
Elective surgeries have been postponed indefinitely. Many cities have imposed travel restrictions and quarantine requirements that, for many critically ill patients, mean delays they cannot afford.
With the daily tally of new coronavirus infections now on the decline, Chinese officials have begun to tout the country’s efforts to combat the epidemic as a victory.
But the outbreak is straining a health care system that was overburdened even before the coronavirus surfaced, and many patients with other illnesses are now falling through the cracks. The concern is the country’s containment efforts may be saving some lives at the expense of others.
Chen Xi, an assistant professor of health policy and economics at the Yale School of Public Health, said he thought it was likely that preventable deaths from strokes, heart attacks and other acute diseases could outnumber the lives saved from treating coronavirus patients.
N.B.A.’s African league postpones start of its inaugural season.
Joining many other sports organizations altering schedules in response to the spread of the coronavirus, the Basketball Africa League — the professional association in Africa that is backed by the N.B.A. — announced on Tuesday that it was postponing the start of its inaugural season. The league, which consists of 12 teams across Africa, was set to begin play on March 13 in Dakar, Senegal.
“Following the recommendation of the Senegalese government regarding the escalating health concerns related to the coronavirus, the B.A.L.’s inaugural season will be postponed,” Amadou Gallo Fall, the league’s president, said in a statement. “I am disappointed we are not able to tip off this historic league as scheduled but look forward to the highly anticipated launch of the B.A.L. at a later date.”
As the N.B.A. continues trying to expand around the globe, the B.A.L. is viewed as a pipeline for future talent.
Reporting was contributed by Amy Qin, Sui-Lee Wee, Katie Rogers, Christina Goldbaum, Vindu Goel, Reed Abelson, Sopan Deb, Mike Isaac, Karen Weisse, and Sarah Kliff.