Officials in Washington state say a person has died of COVID-19, the first such death in the United States.
Health officials in California, Oregon and Washington state worried about the novel coronavirus spreading through West Coast communities after confirming three patients were infected by unknown means.
The patients — an older Northern California woman with chronic health conditions, a high school student in Everett, Washington and an employee at a Portland, Oregon-area school — hadn't recently traveled overseas or had any known close contact with a traveler or an infected person, authorities said.
Earlier U.S. cases include three people who were evacuated from the central China city of Wuhan, epicenter of the outbreak; 14 people who returned from China, or their spouses; and 42 American passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, who were flown to U.S. military bases in California and Texas for quarantining.
Convinced that the number of cases will grow but determined to keep them from exploding, health agencies were ramping up efforts to identify patients.
The California Department of Public Health said Friday that the state will receive enough kits from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to test up to 1,200 people a day for the COVID-19 virus — a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom complained to federal health officials that the state had already exhausted its initial 200 test kits.
Santa Clara County in the San Francisco Bay Area reported two cases where the source of infection wasn't known. The older woman was hospitalized for a respiratory illness, and rapid local testing confirmed in one day that she had the virus, health officials said.
"This case represents some degree of community spread, some degree of circulation," said Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County and director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department.
"But we don't know to what extent," Cody said. "It could be a little, it could be a lot."
"We need to begin taking important additional measures to at least slow it down as much as possible," she said.
Cody said the newly confirmed case in Santa Clara County is not linked to two previous cases in that county, nor to others in the state.
The Santa Clara County resident was treated at a local hospital and is not known to have traveled to Solano County, where another woman was identified Wednesday as having contracted the virus from an unknown source.
Dozens of people had close contact with the Solano County woman. They were urged to quarantine themselves at home, while a few who showed symptoms of illness were in isolation, officials said.
At UC Davis Medical Center at least 124 registered nurses and other health care workers were sent home for "self-quarantine" after the Solano County woman with the virus was admitted, National Nurses United, a nationwide union representing RNs, said Friday.
The case "highlights the vulnerability of the nation's hospitals to this virus," the union said.
Earlier Friday, Oregon confirmed its first coronavirus case, a person who works at an elementary school in the Portland area, which will be temporarily closed.
The Lake Oswego School District sent a robocall to parents saying that Forest Hills Elementary will be closed until Wednesday so it can be deep-cleaned by maintenance workers.
Washington state health officials announced two new coronavirus cases Friday night, including a high school student who attends Jackson High School in Everett, said Dr. Chris Spitters of the Snohomish County Health District.
The other case in Washington was a woman in in King County in her 50s who had recently traveled to South Korea, authorities said.
Both patients weren't seriously ill.
The number of coronavirus cases in the United States is considered small. Worldwide, the number of people sickened by the virus hovered Friday around 83,000, and there were more than 2,800 deaths, most of them in China.
But health officials aren't taking any chances. Some communities, including San Francisco, already have declared local emergencies in case they need to obtain government funding.
In Southern California's Orange County, the city of Costa Mesa went to court to prevent state and federal health officials from transferring dozens of people exposed to the virus aboard a cruise ship in Japan to a state-owned facility in the city. The passengers, including some who tested positive for the virus and underwent hospital care, had been staying at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California.
On Friday, state officials said the federal decided it no longer had a crucial need to move those people to the Fairview Developmental Center in Costa Mesa. That's because of the imminent end of the isolation period for those passengers and the relatively small number of persons who ended up testing positive, officials said.
The new coronavirus cases of unknown origin marks an escalation of the worldwide outbreak in the U.S. because it means the virus could spread beyond the reach of preventative measures like quarantines, though state health officials said that was inevitable and that the risk of widespread transmission remains low.
California public health officials on Friday said more than 9,380 people are self-monitoring after arriving on commercial flights from China through Los Angeles and San Francisco. That's up from the 8,400 that Newsom cited on Thursday, though officials said the number increases daily as more flights arrive.
Officials are not too worried, for now, about casual contact, because federal officials think the coronavirus is spread only through "close contact, being within six feet of somebody for what they're calling a prolonged period of time," said Dr. James Watt, interim state epidemiologist at the California Department of Public Health.
The virus can cause fever, coughing, wheezing and pneumonia. Health officials think it spreads mainly from droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how the flu spreads.
As infectious disease experts fanned out in the Solano County city of Vacaville, some residents in the city between San Francisco and Sacramento stocked up on supplies amid fears things could get worse despite official reassurances, while others took the news in stride.
The woman in the community who has coronavirus first sought treatment at NorthBay VacaValley Hospital in Vacaville, before her condition worsened and she was transferred to the medical center in Sacramento.
Sacramento County's top health official told The Sacramento Bee on Friday that he expects several medical workers to test positive themselves in the next few days. Numerous workers at both hospitals have been tested, but the tests were sent to labs approved by the CDC and generally take three to four days to complete.
Peter Beilenson, Sacramento County's health services director, said he expects even those who test positive to become only mildly ill.
Confusion over how quickly the woman was tested for coronavirus concerned McKinsey Paz, who works at a private security firm in Vacaville. The company has already stockpiled 450 face masks and is scrambling for more "since they're hard to come by." The company's owner bought enough cleaning and disinfectant supplies to both scrub down the office and send home with employees.
But they appeared to be at the extreme for preparations.
Eugenia Kendall was wearing a face mask, but in fear of anything including the common cold. Her immune system is impaired because she is undergoing chemotherapy, and she has long been taking such precautions.
"We're not paranoid. We're just trying to be practical," said her husband of 31 years, Ivan Kendall. "We wipe the shopping carts if they have them, and when I get back in the car I wipe my hands — and just hope for the best."
The United States signed a peace agreement with Taliban militants on Saturday aimed at bringing an end to 18 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan and allowing U.S. troops to return home from America's longest war.
Under the agreement, the U.S. would draw its forces down to 8,600 from 13,000 in the next 3-4 months, with the remaining U.S. forces withdrawing in 14 months. The complete pullout, however, would depend on the Taliban meeting their commitments to prevent terrorism.
President George W. Bush ordered the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in response to the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Some U.S. troops currently serving there had not yet been born when the World Trade Center collapsed on that crisp, sunny morning that changed how Americans see the world.
It only took a few months to topple the Taliban and send Osama bin Laden and top al-Qaida militants scrambling across the border into Pakistan, but the war dragged on for years as the United States tried establish a stable, functioning state in one of the least developed countries in the world. The Taliban regrouped, and currently hold sway over half the country.
The U.S. spent more than $750 billion, and on all sides the war cost tens of thousands of lives lost, permanently scarred and indelibly interrupted. But the conflict was also frequently ignored by U.S. politicians and the American public.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the ceremony in Qatar, where the Taliban have a political office, but did not sign the agreement. Instead, it was signed by U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
The Taliban harbored bin Laden and his al-Qaida network as they plotted, and then celebrated, the hijackings of four airliners that were crashed into lower Manhattan, the Pentagon and a field in western Pennsylvania, killing almost 3,000 people.
Pompeo had privately told a conference of U.S. ambassadors at the State Department this week that he was going only because President Donald Trump had insisted on his participation, according to two people present.
Dozens of Taliban members had earlier held a small victory march in Qatar in which they waved the militant group's white flags, according to a video shared on Taliban websites. "Today is the day of victory, which has come with the help of Allah," said Abbas Stanikzai, one of the Taliban's lead negotiators, who joined the march.
Trump has repeatedly promised to get the U.S. out of its "endless wars" in the Middle East, and the withdrawal of troops could provide a boost as he seeks re-election in a nation weary of involvement in distant conflicts.
Trump has approached the Taliban agreement cautiously, steering clear of the crowing surrounding other major foreign policy actions, such as his talks with North Korea.
Last September, on short notice, he called off what was to be a signing ceremony with the Taliban at Camp David after a series of new Taliban attacks. But he has since been supportive of the talks led by his special envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad.
Under the agreement, the Taliban promise not to let extremists use the country as a staging ground for attacking the U.S. or its allies. But U.S. officials are loath to trust the Taliban to fulfill their obligations.
The prospects for Afghanistan's future are uncertain. The agreement sets the stage for peace talks involving Afghan factions, which are likely to be complicated. Under the agreement, 5,000 Taliban are to be released from Afghan-run jails, but it's not known if the Afghan government will do that. There are also questions about whether Taliban fighters loyal to various warlords will be willing to disarm.
It's not clear what will become of gains made in women's rights since the toppling of the Taliban, which had repressed women and girls under a strict brand of Sharia law. Women's rights in Afghanistan had been a top concern of both the Bush and Obama administration, but it remains a deeply conservative country, with women still struggling for basic rights.
There are currently more than 16,500 soldiers serving under the NATO banner, of which 8,000 are American. Germany has the next largest contingent, with 1,300 troops, followed by Britain with 1,100.
In all, 38 NATO countries are contributing forces to Afghanistan. The alliance officially concluded its combat mission in 2014 and now provides training and support to Afghan forces.
The U.S. has a separate contingent of 5,000 troops deployed to carry out counter-terrorism missions and provide air and ground support to Afghan forces when requested.
Since the start of negotiations with the Taliban, the U.S. has stepped up its air assaults on the Taliban as well as a local Islamic State affiliate. Last year the U.S. air force dropped more bombs on Afghanistan than in any year since 2013.
Seven days ago, the Taliban began a seven-day "reduction of violence" period, a prerequisite to the peace deal signing.
"We have seen a significant reduction in violence in Afghanistan over the last days, and therefore we are also very close to the signing of an agreement between the United States and the Taliban," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday in Brussels.
He was in Kabul on Saturday for a separate signing ceremony with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and U.S. Defence Secretary Mark Esper. That signing was intended to show continuing NATO and U.S. support for Afghanistan.
"The road to peace will be long and hard and there will be setbacks, and there is a risk always for spoilers," Stoltenberg said. "But the thing is, we are committed, the Afghan people are committed to peace, and we will continue to provide support."
A viral outbreak that began in China has infected more than 85,000 people globally. The World Health Organization has named the illness COVID-19, referring to its origin late last year and the coronavirus that causes it.
The latest figures, based on World Health Organization and national counts:
— Mainland China: 2,835 deaths among 79,251 cases, mostly in the central province of Hubei
— Hong Kong: 94 cases, 2 deaths
— Macao: 10 cases
— South Korea: 3,150 cases, 17 deaths
— Japan: 941 cases, including 705 from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, 11 deaths
— Italy: 888 cases, 18 deaths
— Iran: 593 cases, 43 deaths
— Singapore: 98 cases
— United States: 62
— France: 57 cases, 2 deaths
— Germany: 57 cases
— Spain: 46
— Kuwait: 45
— Thailand: 42
— Taiwan: 39 cases, 1 death
— Bahrain: 38 cases
— Malaysia: 24
— Australia: 23
— United Kingdom: 20 cases, 1 death
— United Arab Emirates: 19 cases
— Vietnam: 16
— Canada: 14
— Sweden: 11
— Switzerland: 10
— Iraq: 8
— Norway: 6
— Oman: 6
— Austria: 5
— Russia: 5
— Croatia: 5
— Israel: 5
— Philippines: 3 cases, 1 death
— Greece: 3 cases
— India: 3
— Lebanon: 3
— Romania: 3
— Pakistan: 2
— Finland: 2
— Netherlands: 2
— Georgia: 2
— Mexico: 2
— Egypt: 1
— Algeria: 1
— Afghanistan: 1
— North Macedonia: 1
— Estonia: 1
— Lithuania: 1
— Belgium: 1
— Belarus: 1
— Nepal: 1
— Sri Lanka: 1
— Cambodia: 1
— Denmark: 1
— Brazil: 1
— New Zealand: 1
— Nigeria: 1
— Azerbaijan: 1
— Monaco: 1
The coronavirus outbreak's impact on the world economy grew more alarming on Saturday, even as President Donald Trump denounced criticisms of his response to the threat as a "hoax" cooked up by his political enemies.
New data released by manufacturing powerhouse China, where the virus was first detected in December, showed a sharp drop in the purchasing managers' index to 35.7 in February, down from 50 in January. Any reading above 50 indicates expansion, while a reading below shows contraction.
National Bureau of Statistics senior statistician Zhao Qinghe said the novel coronavirus outbreak was a direct cause of the sharp decline.
An Iranian Health Ministry spokesman said Saturday that the virus has killed 43 people amid 593 confirmed cases in the Islamic Republic. Iran has the world's highest death toll outside of China.
Earlier Saturday, Bahrain threatened legal prosecution against travelers who came from Iran and hadn't been tested for the virus, and also barred public gatherings for two weeks.
Saudi Arabia said it would bar citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council from Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina over concerns about the virus' spread. The GCC is a six-nation group including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
On Thursday, Saudi Arabia closed off the holy sites to foreign pilgrims over the coronavirus, disrupting travel for thousands of Muslims already headed to the kingdom and potentially affecting plans later this year for millions more ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan and the annual hajj pilgrimage.
Elsewhere around the world, already slumping financial markets dropped even lower on Friday, while virus fears led to emptied shops and amusement parks, canceled events, and drastically reduced trade and travel.
Despite anxieties about a wider outbreak in the U.S., Trump has defended measures taken and lashed out Friday at Democrats who have questioned his handling of the threat, calling their criticism a new "hoax" intended to undermine his leadership.
Shortly before Trump began to speak, health officials confirmed a second case of coronavirus in the U.S. in a person who didn't travel internationally or have close contact with anyone who had the virus.
Some Democrats have said Trump could have acted sooner to bolster the U.S. response to the virus. Democratic and Republican lawmakers also have said his request for an additional $2.5 billion to defend against the virus isn't enough. They've signaled they will provide substantially more funding.
The list of countries touched by the virus has climbed to nearly 60 as Mexico, Belarus, Lithuania, New Zealand, Nigeria, Azerbaijan, Iceland and the Netherlands reported their first cases. More than 85,000 people worldwide have contracted the virus, with deaths topping 2,900.
Even in isolated, sanctions-hit North Korea, leader Kim Jong Un called for stronger anti-virus efforts to guard against COVID-19, saying there will be "serious consequences" if the illness spreads to the country.
China has seen a slowdown in new infections and on Saturday morning reported 427 new cases over the past 24 hours along with 47 additional deaths. The city at the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan, accounted for the bulk of both.
South Korea, the second hardest hit country, reported 813 new cases on Saturday — the highest daily jump since confirming its first patient in late January and raising its total to 3,150. Emerging clusters in Italy and in Iran have led to infections of people in other countries. France and Germany were also seeing increases, with dozens of infections.
Streets were deserted in the city of Sapporo on Japan's northernmost main island of Hokkaido, where a state of emergency was issued until mid-March. Seventy cases — the largest from a single prefecture in Japan — have been detected in the island prefecture, where experts have raised concern about growing clusters of patients with unknown transmission routes.
The head of the World Health Organization on Friday announced that the risk of the virus spreading worldwide was "very high," while U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the "window of opportunity" for containing the virus was narrowing.
Stock markets around the world plunged again Friday. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones index took yet another hit, closing down nearly 360 points. The index has dropped more than 14% from a recent high, making this the market's worst week since 2008, during the global financial crisis.
In Asia, Tokyo Disneyland and Universal Studios Japan announced they would close, and events that were expected to attract tens of thousands of people were called off, including a concert series by the K-pop group BTS.
Tourist arrivals in Thailand are down 50% compared with a year ago, and in Italy — which has reported 888 cases, the most of any country outside of Asia — hotel bookings are falling and Premier Giuseppe Conte raised the specter of recession. The Swiss government banned events with more than 1,000 people, while at the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, basins of holy water were emptied for fear of spreading germs.
In a report published Friday in the New England Journal of Medicine, Chinese health officials said the death rate from the illness known as COVID-19 was 1.4%, based on 1,099 patients at more than 500 hospitals throughout China.
Assuming there are many more cases with no or very mild symptoms, the rate "may be considerably less than 1%," U.S. health officials wrote in an editorial in the journal. That would make the virus more like a severe seasonal flu than a disease similar to its genetic cousins SARS, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or MERS, Middle East respiratory syndrome.
Given the ease of spread, however, the virus could gain footholds around the world and many could die.
Europe's economy is already teetering on the edge of recession. A measure of business sentiment in Germany fell sharply last week, suggesting that some companies could postpone investment and expansion plans. China is a huge export market for German manufacturers.
Economists have forecast global growth will slip to 2.4% this year, the slowest since the Great Recession in 2009, and down from earlier expectations closer to 3%. For the United States, estimates are falling to as low as 1.7% growth this year, down from 2.3% in 2019.
But if COVID-19 becomes a global pandemic, economists expect the impact could be much worse, with the U.S. and other global economies falling into recession.
An Iranian Health Ministry spokesman on Saturday said the Islamic Republic is preparing for the possibility of "tens of thousands" coming to test for the new coronavirus, underscoring the concern over the outbreak there.
Kianoush Jahanpour spoke at a news conference where he said the illness the virus causes has killed 43 people amid 593 confirmed cases in the Islamic Republic.
The new figures from Iran this pushes the total cases in the Middle East to over 720. Iran has the highest death toll in the world outside of China, the epicenter of the virus.
Jahanpour denied reports by the BBC's Farsi service putting the death toll over four times as high, saying foreign media outlets had "political" biases and no access to Iran's laboratories.
However, his acknowledgment of the number of people potentially wanting testing shows how concerned Iran is over the virus, especially after days of officials downplaying it.
Jahanpour also urged people not to attend funerals of the dead, as a mass gathering could help spread the virus.
Earlier Saturday, Bahrain threatened legal prosecution against travelers who came from Iran and hadn't been tested for the new coronavirus, and also barred public gatherings for two weeks.
The tiny island nation off the coast of Saudi Arabia has been hard-hit with cases and shut down flights to halt the spread of the virus, which causes the illness named COVID-19 by experts.
All of Bahrain's cases link back to Iran, whose death toll of 34 killed is the worst outside of China, the epicenter of the virus. Iran alone has 388 cases of the virus, including top officials, and experts fear that number may be far greater, something Iranian officials themselves have begun to hint.
Bahrain's Interior Ministry said in a statement that 2,292 people had come to the kingdom from Iran before the announcement of the outbreak there. Of those, only "310 citizens" had called authorities and undergone testing, the ministry said, raising the possibility of the untested being arrested and charged if they refuse.
The ministry "affirmed that the required legal proceedings would be taken against anyone who returned from Iran in February and didn't call to make appointments for the tests," the Interior Ministry said. "It highlighted that preventing the outbreak of the infection is the responsibility of individuals and society as a whole."
Sunni-ruled Bahrain has engaged in a yearslong crackdown on all dissent in the island kingdom since its 2011 Arab Spring protests, which saw its majority Shiite population demand greater political freedoms. Militants have launched small, sporadic attacks in the time since which Bahrain security forces blame on Iran, the Mideast's Shiite power.
Meanwhile Saturday, Saudi Arabia announced it would bar citizens of the Gulf Cooperation Council from Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Medina over concerns about the virus' spread. The GCC is a six-nation group including Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
Saudi Arabia on Thursday closed off the holy sites to foreign pilgrims over the coronavirus, disrupting travel for thousands of Muslims already headed to the kingdom and potentially affecting plans later this year for millions more ahead of the fasting month of Ramadan and the annual hajj pilgrimage.
It represented an unprecedented move, one which wasn't taken even during the 1918 flu epidemic that killed tens of millions worldwide,