The death toll due to deadly coronavirus has now swelled to 2,233 in China as Hubei province reported 115 more casualties on Friday. The vast majority of the deaths were in the provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December, according to a daily update from the Hubei health commission. Around 75,000 people have been infected by the new coronavirus in China, and hundreds more in over 25 countries.
Meanwhile, four Americans who tested positive for the new virus that caused an outbreak China are being sent to a hospital in Spokane, Washington, for treatment, officials said Thursday.
The four were passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship and were flown back to the U.S. over the weekend, according to a spokeswoman for the Department of Health and Human Services. They were being transferred from Travis Air Force Base in California, hospital officials said.
Two patients arrived at the hospital Thursday in satisfactory condition with two more expected soon, said Christa Arguinchona, who manages a special isolation unit at Sacred Heart Medical Center. The hospital is one of 10 in the nation funded by Congress to treat new or highly infectious diseases.
“The risk to the community from this particular process is zero,” said Bob Lutz of the Spokane Regional Health District at a briefing Thursday at the hospital.
When it docked in Japan, the Diamond Princess was put under quarantine. But more than 600 passengers and crew have been infected with the coronavirus that has caused a large outbreak in China. The virus causes a flu-like illness and can lead to pneumonia.
Over 300 American passengers were flown home on U.S.-chartered airplanes last weekend, including 14 with infections. They were all placed in quarantine at military bases in California and Texas or a hospital in Omaha, Nebraska.
Centers for Disease Control spokesman Scott Pauley said test results for the cruise ship passengers have continued to trickle in from Japan even after their return to the U.S. The four patients moved to the Spokane hospital Thursday are among those with more recent test results. They would not have been separated from other passengers while on the flight back to the U.S.
South Korea declares Daegu a ‘special zone’ over virus cases
South Korea on Friday declared the southeast city of Daegu and the surrounding region a “special management zone” after a surge in virus cases that city officials say threaten to overwhelm the region’s health system.
Prime Minister Chung Se-kyun said the national government will concentrate its support to the region to ease a shortage in sickbeds, medical personnel and equipment.
“A month into the (COVID-19) outbreak, we have entered an emergency phase,” Chung said. “Our efforts until now had been focused on blocking the illness from entering the country. But we will now shift the focus on preventing the illness from spreading further in local communities.”
Sixty-nine cases of COVID-19, as well as the country’s first death of a virus patient, have been confirmed in the southeast city of Daegu and nearby areas over Wednesday and Thursday, a sudden jump that raised fears that the outbreak is getting out of control.