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READ UPDATES IN CHINESE: 新冠病毒疫情最新消息
U.S. lawmakers reach deal on $8.3 billion emergency coronavirus bill.
Racing to confront a growing public health threat, key lawmakers in the House and Senate reached a deal on Wednesday to provide $8.3 billion in emergency aid to combat the novel coronavirus, and the House planned a vote later Wednesday to approve it, according to three officials familiar with the negotiations.
The bipartisan package, which includes nearly $7.8 billion for agencies dealing with the virus and came together after days of rapid negotiations, is substantially larger than what the White House initially proposed in late February.
It also authorizes roughly $500 million to allow Medicare providers to administer tele-health services so that more elderly patients, who are at greater risk from the virus, can receive care at home, according to two of the officials. They spoke on condition of anonymity in advance of a formal announcement.
With six new cases, Los Angeles County declares a local state of emergency.
Officials in Los Angeles County announced six new cases of the coronavirus and declared a local state of emergency on Wednesday, the latest developments in an unfurling health crisis that is spreading in the United States with a concentration so far on the West Coast.
Officials said each of the six new cases had been linked to a known exposure, a history of international travel or contact with someone who had traveled or been diagnosed with the virus.
“This means that as of today, we still don’t have known cases of community transmission,” Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, said at a news conference on Wednesday morning.
Still, she and other officials warned that they expected to see more cases in the coming days, and that families should steel themselves for potential school closures and cancellations of public events.
“This is the time for people to have a plan for what they would do should their child’s school need to close,” Dr. Ferrer said.
New York confirms that family members of the man in its second case also test positive.
The family members and a neighbor of a man who was confirmed as New York’s second case of the new coronavirus have also tested positive, state officials said on Wednesday.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, at a news conference, said that the man’s wife; his son, 22, who is a student at Yeshiva University; and daughter, 14, were all confirmed cases.
The man was hospitalized in Manhattan in serious condition while his family were quarantined in their home in New Rochelle.
The neighbor in Westchester County, who also tested positive, drove the man to the hospital.
The additional results bring the number of cases of the new coronavirus in New York State to six.
The authorities announced the state’s first confirmed case of the virus on Sunday, saying that a health care worker had been infected in Iran, where the illness is raging. She began exhibiting symptoms after returning home but had kept herself largely isolated.
Her husband was tested for the virus but the tests came back negative, Governor Cuomo said.
Italy surpasses 3,000 cases and 100 deaths, as virus continues to spread fast in Europe.
In Italy, site of by far the biggest outbreak in Europe, the number of infections and deaths surged again on Wednesday, and the country ordered all schools shut down from Thursday until at least March 15.
The number of deaths in Italy that the government has attributed to the coronavirus jumped from 79 on Tuesday to 107 on Wednesday — more than in any country but China, where the epidemic began. Most of the victims have been elderly.
Italian officials reported 3,089 people infected so far — up more than 400 from Tuesday — a figure surpassed only in China and South Korea. Italy has 295 coronavirus in intensive care, and the health care system in parts of Lombardy, the northern region that has been hardest hit, is straining under the burden.
The school closure, announced by Education Minister Lucia Azzolini, affects everything from day care through universities. It was not “an easy decision to make,” she said.
Just as many of the early outbreaks around the world traced back to travel in China, many others, particularly in Europe, are linked to travel in Italy.
The next-largest outbreaks on the continent are in France, with 285 cases reported by Wednesday; Germany, with 240; and Spain, with 193. One of the sharpest increases was in Britain, which reported 85 cases, up from 51 on Tuesday. Poland recorded its first infection, in a person who had recently traveled to Germany.
In Spain, officials said they believe the death from pneumonia of a 69-year-old man in Valencia on Feb. 13 was the earliest known fatality in Europe connected to Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
The announcement suggests that the virus was circulating in Spain earlier than previously believed.
The Louvre reopens, but has some new rules.
After the Louvre in Paris was closed to the public for several days, the museum’s management has agreed on a raft of measures intended to lessen the concerns of staff members at the world’s most visited repository of art.
Some are simple, such as giving workers hand sanitizers.
Others are more complicated, including what to do about the Salle des États — the room containing the Mona Lisa, Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic painting, which is typically mobbed by crowds.
To satisfy the workers’ demands, the management has agreed that guards will no longer have to move among the crowds to stop visitors gawping at the masterpieces and causing bottlenecks.
But, at least on Wednesday, that was not much of a problem. There were only a few dozen visitors in the room after the museum reopened. There was even space to take selfies in front of the Mona Lisa.
Christian Galani, a Louvre employee and union representative, said that further changes might be needed when the crowds return in full force.
“The problem is that once the room is full of people I don’t see how agents could not be exposed to the virus,” he said. “At some point, we will probably have to regulate the number of visitors in the room.”
France has had over 200 confirmed cases of the virus so far, with several deaths.
Meanwhile, the producers of the James Bond movie franchise said on Wednesday that the release of the latest film, “No Time to Die,” would be delayed from April until November. It is one of Hollywood’s first significant responses to the potential worldwide threat of the coronavirus.
A Seattle high school was closed after a student tested positive for the virus.
A high school in the Seattle suburbs was closed on Wednesday through the rest of the week after a student was confirmed to have been infected with the new coronavirus, the school district said.
The Seattle area is rapidly emerging as a focal point for the coronavirus in the United States. On Tuesday, officials said that two people who died last week in the Seattle area were infected with coronavirus, suggesting that the illness had spread in that region days earlier than health officials had previously known.
That took the death toll in the United States to nine, all of them in the Seattle area. On Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence said the C.D.C. had raised the number to 10.
The other deaths, all announced over the last few days, included residents of a nursing care facility in Kirkland, a Seattle suburb.
Renton School District, which includes Hazen High, the school that was closed, said it had learned of the positive test result for the student late Tuesday and had decided to close the school on the advice of county health officials. The student was at home recovering, the district said. County health officials were tracing all those who had come into contact with the student in recent days.
Also on Tuesday, Amazon emailed its staff in the Seattle area saying that it had learned that an employee in one of its many office buildings in the South Lake Union neighborhood had 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.
New York transit authorities vow to regularly disinfect the subway.
Hoping to dispel some fears, officials said late Monday that an industrial-grade disinfectant would be used to clean the entire New York City transit system — from train cars to MetroCard machines — every 72 hours.
From Monday evening to midday Tuesday, transit workers disinfected nearly all of the system’s 472 subway stations, more than 1,900 subway cars and nearly 2,000 buses, officials said. Officials said the cleaning process would begin again 72 hours later.
Officials in New Jersey, which has its own vast commuter rail and bus network, have also ramped up their cleaning regimen.
Research on the new coronavirus is still in the early stages, but a 2011 study on a possible influenza outbreak in New York City found that only 4 percent of infections were likely to occur on the subway.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that essential services like public transit continue to operate so that health care workers can get to work.
The virus is deadlier than the seasonal flu but may not transmit as easily, the W.H.O. says.
Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, is much deadlier than seasonal flu but may not spread as easily, World Health Organization officials have reiterated.
But their statements also reinforced how much efforts to quantify the epidemic remain little more than rough estimates.
Among people who catch seasonal flus, about 0.1 to 0.2 percent die from the illness, though the number varies widely from year to year, depending on the strain of the virus and other factors. It has been apparent since January that the new virus had a significantly higher fatality rate — though lower than those of other coronaviruses like SARS and MERS.
“Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported Covid-19 cases have died,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the W.H.O.’s director general, said on Tuesday at a news conference in Geneva.
But the figure came loaded with caveats. Experts, including those at the W.H.O., say that when more is known about the epidemic, the death rate will be considerably lower.
The death rate Dr. Tedros cited does not include mild cases that were not detected because people did not seek medical attention. And it primarily reflects the experience in Wuhan, the Chinese city where the epidemic began — and where the numbers soared before China’s medical systems had gathered the knowledge and marshaled the resources to fight it.
Earlier estimates of the mortality rate in China had been closer to 2 percent.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, who is leading the W.H.O.’s coronavirus efforts, said he expects that ultimately, it will turn out to be between 1 and 2 percent. And it could be below 1 percent, according Dr. Anthony S. Fauci and Dr. H. Clifford Lane, of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and Dr. Robert R. Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The extent and mortality of the epidemic will not be known with great accuracy until a reliable test is developed for the antibodies present in people who have been infected, and that test is administered to large numbers of people.
The 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 were 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.
Some companies and public health officials cast doubt on the government’s assurances, saying in some cases that tests under development were still weeks from approval.
And public health laboratories have said that their capacity to process the tests is limited. A spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services said on Monday that the labs currently could handle 15,000 tests a day, though that figure was expected to grow.
Deaths outside China exceed those inside the country for the first time.
The number of deaths from the coronavirus outside of China on Wednesday surpassed for the first time those reported within the country — the latest sign that the front line of the epidemic may be shifting.
The silver lining in that news is that the pace of infections in China is continuing to drop by the day.
The Chinese government on Wednesday reported 38 more deaths from the virus, bringing the nationwide toll to 2,981. At the same time, the number of new infections grew by only 119, to 80,270, according to official figures. Most of the new infections and deaths were reported in Hubei, the central Chinese province at the center of the outbreak. Shanghai has reported only one new infection in the past six days.
Experts said the downward trend in official figures outside of Hubei was a strong indication that the draconian measures put in place by the government to contain the spread of the virus were working, at least for now. Those measures include strict quarantine and travel restrictions on broad swaths of the country as well as the closures of schools and workplaces.
“It’s very clear that the actions taken in China have almost brought to an end their first wave of infections,” said Professor Benjamin Cowling, an infectious disease expert at Hong Kong University.
The concern in China now, experts say, is what will happen once the country begins to normalize economic activity and people start going back to work and school. There are also worries about infected travelers coming back into the country and reintroducing the virus to recovered communities. Already, local governments are taking steps to quarantine people returning from certain countries abroad.
“The question is what will happen if there’s a second wave,” Professor Cowling said, “because the kind of measures that China has implemented are not necessarily sustainable in the long term.”
As cases in France rise, the kiss must go.
With France now reporting one of the highest numbers of infected patients in Europe, with 257 cases and four deaths, President Emmanuel Macron said the country had “entered a phase that will last weeks and probably months.”
“We’ll continue to stand together, it’s what we owe to our country,” Mr. Macron said during a visit on Tuesday to the country’s Health Ministry.
The main clusters of cases so far have been in the Oise area of northern France, the Haute-Savoie area of the French Alps and the Morbihan area of Brittany, on the Atlantic coast. More than 100 schools have been closed, affecting nearly 45,000 students.
However, there was growing concern Wednesday about a new cluster of cases in Mulhouse, a city in eastern France. The authorities have tied the outbreak there to a local evangelical community that gathered several thousand people from Feb. 17 to Feb. 24. Health officials have asked participants to watch their health and to report any signs of sickness.
Some supermarkets were reporting runs on supplies, and the police were investigating the theft of thousands of masks over the past few days from hospitals in Paris and Marseille.
As a nervous public tried to assess their own individual risks, the government said it was requisitioning stocks of certain types of protective masks to avoid shortages.
Bruno Le Maire, the economy minister, also announced on Wednesday that the government would regulate the price of antibacterial gels after “isolated cases” of price gouging.
And officials continued to drive home the importance of social distancing.
“I have formally advised against the practice of handshaking, the reduction of social contact in a physical manner, and that would include the practice of ‘la bise,’” Olivier Véran, the French health minister, said recently.
La bise refers to the French custom of kissing both cheeks upon greeting.
After watching nervously, India confronts arrival of the virus.
Until this week, only a handful of cases of the new coronavirus had been reported in India.
But on Tuesday, the first case was reported in New Delhi, with a man who had recently traveled to Italy testing positive. Six of his family members were also found to have the illness, and all were placed under quarantine, the government said, as officials rushed to trace all those who had come into contact with the group.
On Wednesday, the number of cases jumped to 28, including 16 Italian tourists.
And there were concerns that, in a country where only 22 percent of deaths are medically certified, the true rate of infection might already be higher.
Airports have started screening passengers, and visas issued to nationals of Iran, Italy, Japan and South Korea have been canceled. An existing visa ban on Chinese citizens remains in place.
With hundreds of Indian students and workers in Iran, where there has been a major outbreak, the Indian government also announced plans on Wednesday to send several scientists there to set up a laboratory for testing.
Holi, a major religious festival, takes place next week, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged Indians to remain calm but to cancel gatherings.
The festival brings together entire neighborhoods across India, with friends and relatives applying colorful powders to each other’s faces while children stage giant water fights and share food.
Reporting was contributed by Maria Abi-Habib, Alex Marshall, Constant Méheut, Melissa Eddy, Michael Wolgelenter, Emily Cochrane, Elian Peltier, Elisabetta Povoledo, Joanna Berendt, Roni Caryn Rabin, Sarah Mervosh, Michael Gold, Azi Paybarah, Sean Plambeck, Mike Baker, Marc Santora, Iliana Magra, Aurelien Breeden, Amy Qin, Sui-Lee Wee, Choe Sang-Hun, Katie Rogers, Christina Goldbaum, Vindu Goel, Reed Abelson, Sopan Deb, Mike Isaac, Karen Weise, Dave Itzkoff, Paul Mozur, Keith Bradsher, Elaine Yu and Sarah Kliff.