Coronavirus live updates: US death toll rises to 15; SXSW canceled

(NEW YORK) — More than 95,000 people around the world have been infected by an outbreak of the novel coronavirus and more than 3,200 of them have died.

The newly identified virus was first detected in December in Wuhan, China, which remains the epicenter of the global outbreak. The virus, known officially as COVID-19, has since spread to every continent except Antarctica and the World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a global health emergency. South Korea, Italy and Iran have the highest national totals of confirmed cases behind China, respectively.

In the United States, at least 188 confirmed cases have been detected through the local public health system. There are an additional 49 Americans diagnosed with the virus who were either repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan or were evacuated from Wuhan on a U.S. government-chartered plane. So far, 12 Americans infected with the virus have died.

The states reporting cases are Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

Today’s biggest developments:

U.S. death toll from coronavirus at 12
American tourist becomes 1st confirmed case in Bhutan
Tech giants tell staff to work from home as employees contract virus
Johns Hopkins bars fans from NCAA Division III basketball tournament
Cases surge in Belgium and Switzerland
Vatican reports 1st positive case

Here’s the latest on the developing situation. All times Eastern. Please refresh this page for updates.


5:03 p.m. SXSW canceled

SXSW has been canceled due to novel coronavirus, the film festival organizers announced.

“We are devastated to share this news with you. ‘The show must go on’ is in our DNA and this is the first time in 34 years that the March event will not take place,” according to a statement from South by Southwest.

Event organizers said they are exploring options to reschedule and working to provide “provide a virtual SXSW online experience as soon as possible for 2020 participants, starting with SXSW EDU.”

An estimated 417,400 are believed to have attended festival last year.

Last year, according to numbers provided by SXSW, it brought in $355.9 million dollars of revenue.

“We understand the gravity of the situation for all the creatives who utilize SXSW to accelerate their careers; for the global businesses; and for Austin and the hundreds of small businesses – venues, theatres, vendors, production companies, service industry staff, and other partners that rely so heavily on the increased business that SXSW attracts,” the statement read.

4:56 p.m. Death toll rises to 15 in US

At least 15 people have now died from novel coronavirus in the United States, with all of them concentrated in Washington state and California, authorities said.

There have been 14 deaths in Washington, with one in California. Twelve of the deaths have taken place at Evergreen Hospital in King County, Washington.

The ages or identifies of those who died was not immediately clear.

4:30 p.m. Minnesota reports 1st case

The Minnesota Department of Health announced the state’s first case of novel coronavirus.

The patient, an older resident of Ramsey County, is in quarantine at home and is recovering, according to officials. That person had recently traveled on a cruise ship with a known COVID-19 case, officials said.

The case is a presumptive positive case, meaning it will need to be confirmed through CDC testing.

4:10 p.m. ‘On the verge’ of 100,000 confirmed cases globally: WHO

There are now 98,192 confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the world, with 2,873 being new cases in the past 24 hours, according to the World Health Organization.

“We are now on the verge of reaching 100,000 confirmed cases,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General, said.

The majority of the global cases — 80,711 — were in China, the WHO reported. The majority of the new cases, however, happened outside of China (2,727) compared to those in China (146).

Bhutan, Cameroon, Serbia and South Africa all reported their first cases of the virus in the last 24 hours, according to the report.

3:17 p.m. Seattle Comic Con postponed

The popular Emerald City Comic Con has been postponed until summer 2020 in light of novel coronavirus, organizers announced.

‘We did everything that we could to run the event as planned, but ultimately, we are following the guidance of the local public health officials indicating that conventions should now be postponed,” according to a statement from Reedpop, the organizers of the event.

The Seattle event was supposed to begin next week. Last year nearly 100,000 people attended.

The city has turned into “a ghost town” since the virus began to spread, Microsoft employee Alina Nadoyan told ABC News Thursday.

Eleven people have died from the coronavirus in Washington State, with dozens more infected with the virus.

3:01 p.m. Federal workers call on White House to approve telework

The largest union of federal workers called on the White House to allow government agencies to begin approving telework.

American Federation of Government Employees President Everett Kelley called the guidance currently in place “insufficient and inadequate.”

“Many federal employees are in direct contact with the public, in some cases working in areas where people have tested positive for the coronavirus or been quarantined, yet they have been provided no protective equipment or specific information on how to avoid infection,” Kelley wrote in a letter to Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Dale Cabaniss.

“I cannot stress how urgent it is for OPM to ensure the well-being of federal employees, reduce the spread of COVID-19 among citizens, and provide the maximum protection of economic activity and vital government services during this crisis through the authorization of widespread telework usage in all federal agencies,” he continued.

OPM issued guidance earlier this week that agencies should have a plan that allows as many employees to telework as possible but did not tell agencies to start approving telework in communities affected by outbreaks.

The union, however, highlighted that many of the administration’s policies have made it more difficult for federal employees to telework overall.

2:13 p.m. ‘A breakdown’ occurred at Washington state nursing home

A task force of of more than two dozen medical professionals will arrive in Washington state to help provide services at a nursing home connected to eight novel coronavirus deaths, officials said.

The 30-person team composed of U.S. Public Health Service employees will land Saturday at the Life Care Center in Kirkland, according to Dow Constantine, the King County Executive.

“We are grateful the cavalry is arriving,” Constantine said.

He acknowledged there had been “a breakdown here.” Family members of residents living there had previously said they’d been unable to reach loved ones and couldn’t get any information on what was happening.

As of Friday morning local time, 69 residents still were living at the nursing home. While officials said they have begun testing the residents for novel coronavirus, there was no timeline for when it would be completed.

Fifteen people have been transported from Life Care over the last 24 hours to hospitals in the area, but their conditions were not immediately clear.

“We’ve had some challenges with Life Care and I’m losing my patience with them,” Constantine said. 

12:56 p.m. Thousands in precautionary quarantine in New York

There are now 4,000 people in precautionary quarantine for novel coronavirus in New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced. Of those quarantines, 2,700 are in New York City.

He also said there are 44 people in mandatory quarantine.

The number of cases in the state rose to 33, with all 11 new cases related to the Westchester lawyer, according to Cuomo. He said five of the 33 patients are currently hospitalized.

“This is like a flu on steroids,” Cuomo said.

12:35 p.m. Indiana declares public health emergency

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb declared a public health emergency after reporting the state’s first case of novel coronavirus.

Holcomb said, “Indiana is responding to this case as we have planned and prepared for weeks.”

The patient is a Marion County resident who recently traveled to Boston, according to the state’s department of health. The person is in isolation, and officials are working to ensure that anyone who had contact with him or her, including those on the person’s flight from Boston, is identified and monitored.

“Given the global spread of this illness, the question was never if Indiana would have a case, but when it would arrive,” State Health Commissioner Kris Box said. “I want to stress that this is an isolated case, and that this patient and the hospital did everything possible to limit the risk of exposure to other individuals.”

The case is a presumptive positive case, meaning it tested positive at the ISDH labs and will be confirmed positive through CDC testing.

11:06 a.m. Vatican reports 1st positive case

The Vatican has confirmed its first case of the novel coronavirus.

A Vatican spokesman told reporters on Friday that an unidentified person has tested positive for COVID-19 at a clinic in the city-state, a papal enclave within Rome that serves as the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church.

No further details about the patient were disclosed.

All non-emergency medical services at the Vatican clinic have been suspended while health officials disinfect the premises, according to the spokesman.

10:30 a.m. Cases surge in Switzerland

Switzerland reported 130 new confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus on Friday, bringing the national total to 210, Swiss Federal Office of Public Health spokesperson Daniel Dauwalder told ABC News.

More than 3,500 people have been tested for the virus in Switzerland so far. Dauwalder said a vast majority of the positive cases were people who had recently traveled to Italy, which has become a hot spot in the global outbreak.

All those who tested positive have been placed in isolation, according to Dauwalder. It’s unclear how many of them were hospitalized and what their conditions were.

One person has died.

9:44 a.m. Google tells employees in Washington State to work from home

Google has become the latest tech giant to encourage employees in Washington State to work from home.

A Google spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Friday that the company encouraged employees in its Washington offices to work from home if their roles allow.

Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft have also advised staff to work from home, if possible, for the next few weeks.

9:18 a.m. Belgium sees spike in new cases

The number of confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in Belgium have more than doubled to 109 after 59 new patients tested positive Friday, Jan Eyckmans, a spokesperson for the Belgian health ministry, told ABC News.

Three of the new patients have been hospitalized while the rest are in isolation in their respective homes, Eyckmans said.

Most of the new cases are linked to recent travel to Italy, where at least 3,296 people have been infected with the virus. Several of the new patients are related to individuals who traveled to Italy, according to Eyckmans.

8:45 a.m. Egypt reports 12 new cases from Nile cruise ship

Twelve people from a Nile cruise ship in Egypt have tested positive for the novel coronavirus, officials said Friday.

The infected individuals are Egyptian workers from the boat, which sailed along the Nile River from Aswan to Luxor. They are all asymptomatic, according to a joint statement from Egypt’s health ministry and the World Health Organization.

Tests revealed a Taiwanese tourist of “American origin,” who was a passenger on the ship, was the “main case that infected other cases,” according to the statement.

The 12 workers were quarantined due to suspicions of infection. They tested positive on the final day of their two-week isolation despite not showing any symptoms. Other people on board who had come in contact with the tourist were also quarantined for 14 days, according to the statement.

The 12 new positive cases brings Egypt’s national total to 15.

7:30 a.m. Passenger aboard Grand Princess cruise ship speaks out

The Grand Princess cruise ship remained docked off the California coast Friday morning as health officials await results from dozens of coronavirus tests.

Test kits were delivered to the vessel via helicopter on Thursday after it was determined that the first person to die from the novel coronavirus in California had previously sailed on the ship in February.

The Grand Princess was originally scheduled to return to San Francisco on Saturday but the 15-day voyage had to be cut short due to fears that the virus could be present on board.

Samples were collected from 45 people currently on board who were showing symptoms and sent to a California Department of Public Health lab in Richmond for testing, according to a statement from Princess Cruises, which operates the ship. The results were expected later Friday.

Meanwhile, all passengers have been told to stay in their rooms, pending the test results.

American Debbi Loftus and her elderly parents are among those on board. She told ABC News they are healthy and in good spirits.

“We’ve not been tested because we feel fine, we’re totally healthy, no symptoms,” Loftus said in an interview Friday on Good Morning America.

“We did take the precaution of packing extra medication in case this would happen,” she added. “We were hoping it wouldn’t, and hopefully still the test results come back negative and we can all go home tomorrow.”

6:53 a.m. Johns Hopkins bars fans from NCAA Division III basketball tournament due to coronavirus

Johns Hopkins University announced it’s barring fans from attending the first two rounds of the NCAA Division III men’s basketball tournament in Baltimore on Friday and Saturday, after a cluster of cases of the novel coronavirus popped up in Maryland.

“In light of Maryland’s recently confirmed cases of COVID-19, and based on CDC guidance for large gatherings, we have determined that it is prudent to hold this tournament without spectators,” the school said in a statement Thursday night. “While we await further guidance from public health authorities, we will be assessing large events on a case-by-case basis. We regret any inconvenience to the families and fans of the players.”

Health officials confirmed the first three positive cases of COVID-19 in Maryland on Thursday, prompting the governor to declare a state of emergency.
5:14 a.m. Tech giants tell staff to work from home as employees contract virus

Two Microsoft employees have been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus in Washington State, a company spokesperson told ABC News on Friday.

Both employees are located in the Puget Sound region, a coastal area that includes several major cities such as Seattle, Bellevue and Redmond, the site of Microsoft’s corporate headquarters. One of the employees works for LinkedIn, a Microsoft subsidiary.

“We have learned that a Microsoft employee and a LinkedIn employee, both in Puget Sound, are among those diagnosed with COVID-19,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “We are working closely with local public health authorities to provide the necessary support for our colleagues and their co-workers. We continue to provide real-time guidance for employees and take appropriate actions in accordance with public health guidance.”

On Wednesday, Microsoft instructed all employees in the Puget Sound region and California’s Bay Area to work from home, if possible, for the next three weeks. The company also restricted employee travel and said it would continue cleaning and sanitizing its office locations.

Amazon and Facebook are also encouraging Seattle-area staff to work from home amid the mushrooming outbreak in Washington state, which has confirmed 71 cases so far with 11 deaths. Eight of those deaths have been linked to a nursing home in Kirkland.

Meanwhile, Facebook announced it is closing its Seattle office until Monday after a contractor tested positive for the virus. The company is asking all employees in Washington state’s largest city to work from home for the rest of the month.

3:30 a.m. American tourist becomes 1st case in Bhutan

An American tourist in Bhutan has been diagnosed with the novel coronavirus as the first confirmed case in the South Asian country, situated on the Himalayas’ eastern edge, prompting officials there to temporarily ban all incoming tourists and shutter schools in three regions.

Bhutan’s Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet announced the case in a press release early Friday morning, saying the patient is a 76-year-old U.S. citizen who had entered the country via a flight from India on Monday.

The man left Washington, D.C., on Feb. 18 and toured India from Feb. 21 to March 1. He was traveling with his 58-year-old partner, according to Bhutan’s Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Upon arriving at Bhutan’s Paro International Airport, officials assessed the man’s health declaration form, on which he had indicated “negative” against all conditions. He did not show any signs of fever, officials said.

However, upon reaching the capital, Thimphu, later that afternoon, the man went to a hospital complaining of bloat and nausea. He suffers from chronic hypertension and is on medication. At that time, he did not have any flu-like symptoms, officials said.

On Wednesday, the man traveled to Punakha, a town in the Himalayas of Bhutan, where he stayed at Densa Boutique Resort. Upon returning to Thimphu on Thursday, he went back to the hospital again and was found to have a fever, sore throat, cough and shortness of breath. He was kept under observation at the flu clinic, which has become a designated coronavirus hospital, and samples were collected and sent to Bhutan’s Royal Center for Disease Control for testing, officials said.

The test results came back positive for COVID-19 late Thursday night and were validated early Friday morning. Since then, he has been isolated in the coronavirus hospital.

By Friday morning, health officials have traced more than 90 people who had come in contact with the American tourist in Bhutan.

In response to the detection of COVID-19 in the country, the government of Bhutan has ordered the closure of schools and institutions in three regions and has banned public gatherings in the affected localities.

The government has also imposed a two-week restriction on all incoming tourists, effective immediately.

“This is to enable rigorous monitoring, source assessment of infection and mitigate the situation,” Bhutan’s Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet said in a statement Friday. “The government will assess the situation after two weeks and accordingly decide on the restrictions.”

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