More than 400 people have tested positive in the United States and at least 19 people have died from the illness, most of them from Washington state.
At least 5,861 coronavirus tests have been completed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health laboratories, said Dr. Stephen Hahn, US Food and Drug Administration commissioner, in a briefing at the White House Saturday.
However, that does not mean 5,861 people have been tested. Currently, each person tested typically has two swabs taken — one from the nose and one from the throat. This number does not include tests performed at private or commercial labs.
But positive tests are coming from all parts of the country.
Utah officials reported the state’s first case Friday, a resident over 60 years old who’d just returned from a cruise ship that’s now facing an outbreak off California’s coast. That same day, Florida reported its first two deaths, both patients who had recently traveled internationally.
And outbreak clusters have developed rapidly in the past days:
Passengers heard about cruise ship outbreak from news
At least 21 people are infected aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, which was about 50 miles off the coast of San Francisco on Saturday, according to a news release from Princess Cruises.
But it was unclear where the ship was headed and whether passengers would be allowed to disembark. Cruise operators are awaiting guidance from the CDC and the California Department of Health.
The ship has been in limbo since Wednesday, when officials learned a California man who’d traveled to Mexico on the ship last month died of the coronavirus this week.
With the number of cases aboard, the captain said Friday it was unlikely the ship would be disembarking Saturday morning as originally scheduled.
One “critically ill” passenger and a companion were “medically disembarked” from the ship early Saturday morning by the US Coast Guard, Princess Cruises said, but the passenger was receiving treatment “unrelated” to the coronavirus.
Another passenger aboard, Steven Smith, previously told CNN the captain said a helicopter airlifted a passenger to San Francisco.
The Coast Guard also delivered personal protective equipment like gloves and face masks to supplement the ship’s current supply, the news release said.
Vice President Mike Pence announced the ship’s positive cases at a press briefing on Friday, but it was the first time passengers aboard heard about the test results.
“I thought the passengers were supposed to be notified first,” said Debbi Loftus, who’s celebrating her father’s 84th birthday aboard the Grand Princess. “The fact that we weren’t told first made us quite upset and angry. … There’s no excuse for this.”
“All passengers and crew will be tested for the coronavirus and quarantined as appropriate,” Pence said at a meeting with members of the cruise line industry in Florida on Saturday. “Those that require additional medical attention will also receive it.”
The nursing home at the heart of US outbreak
Of the 16 coronavirus deaths in Washington state, at least 14 have been associated with Life Care Center in suburban Seattle, according to the King County Health Department.
Officials on Friday confirmed the death of a man in his 60s. He was not a resident of the nursing facility, but was a visitor, the King County Health Department said in a news release.
The Kirkland facility has been a focal point of the state’s coronavirus crisis since last weekend. The outbreak has left family members in a desperate search for answers about what kind of procedures the nursing center was following and whether residents are being tested for the virus.
Pat Herrick, whose mother died Thursday at the facility, said she was pushing officials to have her mother’s remains tested to see if she had the virus. The cause of death was listed as natural causes, Herrick said.
Her mother had lived at the facility for nearly seven years. Herrick emphasized the care her mother received from the nursing home workers had been excellent, but she didn’t think the staff has enough resources to deal with the outbreak, she added.
Across Washington state, 103 people have tested positive for the virus.
One New York community hit with dozens of cases
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced 21 new cases on Saturday, bringing the state’s total to 76. The rising number of cases prompted the governor to declare a state of emergency, which permits officials to hasten purchasing, hiring and testing protocols related to the disease.
Fifty-seven of the cases are in Westchester County, where health officials previously ordered a synagogue in New Rochelle to halt services over fears a man who tested positive for the virus may have exposed others.
“Westchester is an obvious problem for us,” Cuomo said Saturday.
The county’s health commissioner urged congregants who attended certain events last month to self-quarantine until at least Saturday. The rabbi of the synagogue tested positive for the virus Friday, officials said.
Local health officials were taking steps to clean public facilities but are not restricting public gatherings, they said. New Rochelle is a suburb about 20 miles from New York City.
“This is a significant and fast-evolving challenge for our community, but it’s important not to panic,” New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said in a statement. “Public health experts remind us that the majority of people who contract coronavirus will recover without incident, and only a small fraction will experience life-threatening circumstances.
The governor has asked more than 2,500 people in New York to self-quarantine as officials search for anyone who may have come in contact with ill residents.
Officials on Tuesday confirmed one case of the virus spreading from person-to-person. By Friday, that number had jumped to more than 40 cases.
“We want to keep testing and finding more people who are testing positive because that’s how you contain the outbreak – find the person who got infected, quarantine them and reduce the infection rate,” Cuomo said in a news release.