Select Page

An American Dies From the Virus in Wuhan, China

An American Dies From the Virus in Wuhan, China

[This briefing has ended. Read about the latest developments in the coronavirus outbreak here.]

A United States citizen has died from the new coronavirus in Wuhan, China, in what appeared to be the first death of an American from the outbreak.

Few details about the American, who died on Thursday, were immediately available. The person was around 60 years old, according to the United States Embassy in Beijing.

“We offer our sincerest condolences to the family on their loss,” said a spokesman for the embassy. “Out of respect for the family’s privacy, we have no further comment.”

The cruise company Royal Caribbean announced Friday that it had barred all guests holding Chinese, Hong Kong or Macau passports from boarding its ships.

A coronavirus screening had already led Royal Caribbean to delay a cruise ship scheduled to leave New Jersey on Friday. In its statement announcing the passport rule, the company said it was taking a number of steps to keep passengers safe, including “thoroughly sanitizing the cruise ship terminal before and after every sailing” and adding medical staff.

“We take this very seriously and have a responsibility to maintain a safe and healthy environment onboard our ships,” the statement said.

The vast majority of affected passengers would be on ships leaving China, which account for only 6 percent of the company’s business, according to Rob Zeiger, a spokesman for Royal Caribbean.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus in January, thousands of passengers on cruise ships have been placed under quarantine.

On Monday, the Japanese government quarantined a ship in Yokohama, the Diamond Princess, with more than 3,700 crew and passengers aboard, after learning that a man who had disembarked in Hong Kong on Jan. 25 had tested positive for the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has offered for more than a month to send a team of experts to China to observe its coronavirus epidemic and help if it can. But no invitation from China has come — and no one can publicly explain why.

The World Health Organization, which made a similar offer about two weeks ago, appears to be facing the same cold shoulder, though a spokeswoman said it is just “sorting out arrangements.”

A possible reason, experts noted, is that outsiders could discover aspects of the outbreak that are embarrassing to China. For example, the country has not revealed how many of its doctors and nurses have died fighting the disease.

In private phone calls and texts, some Chinese medical professionals have said they are overwhelmed and would welcome not just extra hands, but specialized expertise.

On Friday, Alex M. Azar II, secretary of health and human services, said at a news briefing that he had recently reiterated the offer of a team to his Chinese counterpart, Dr. Ma Xiaowei.

Asked what the holdup was, Mr. Azar answered: “It’s up to the Chinese. We continue to expect fully that President Xi will accept our offer. We’re ready and willing and able to go.”

China is forging ahead in the search for treatments for people sickened by the new coronavirus that has infected more than 28,000 people in a countrywide epidemic, killed more than 500 and seeded smaller outbreaks in 24 other nations.

The need is urgent: There are no approved treatments for illnesses caused by coronaviruses.

On Thursday, China began enrolling patients in a clinical trial of remdesivir, an antiviral medicine made by Gilead, the American pharmaceutical giant.

The drug has to be given intravenously, is experimental and not yet approved for any use, and has not been studied in patients with any coronavirus disease. But studies of infected mice and monkeys have suggested that remdesivir can fight coronaviruses.

And it appears to be safe. It was tested without ill effects in Ebola patients, although it did not work well against that virus, which is in a different family from coronaviruses.

President Trump praised China’s response to the virus outbreak on Friday after speaking by telephone with its leader, Xi Jinping, who he said was leading “what will be a very successful operation.”

  • Updated Feb. 5, 2020

    • Where has the virus spread?
      You can track its movement with this map.
    • How is the United States being affected?
      There have been at least a dozen cases. American citizens and permanent residents who fly to the United States from China are now subject to a two-week quarantine.
    • What if I’m traveling?
      Several countries, including the United States, have discouraged travel to China, and several airlines have canceled flights. Many travelers have been left in limbo while looking to change or cancel bookings.
    • How do I keep myself and others safe?
      Washing your hands is the most important thing you can do.

“He is strong, sharp and powerfully focused on leading the counterattack on the Coronavirus,” Mr. Trump said in a pair of Twitter posts on Friday. “He feels they are doing very well, even building hospitals in a matter of only days. Nothing is easy, but he will be successful, especially as the weather starts to warm & the virus hopefully becomes weaker, and then gone.”

Mr. Trump has frequently praised Mr. Xi and spoken warmly of their relationship, even while engaging in a fierce trade war against China.

China’s state television network, CCTV, had reported earlier that the two leaders had spoken by telephone on Friday. It said Mr. Xi had told Mr. Trump that the Chinese government had spared no effort in what he called “a people’s war” on the virus.

A week ago, the Trump administration announced it would bar entry to any foreign citizens who had traveled to China during the last 14 days, saying the coronavirus constituted a public health emergency even though the United States had relatively few cases.

On Friday, Stephen Biegun, deputy secretary for the Department of State, said that the agency was prepared to spend $100 million of existing funds to assist China and the W.H.O. on containing the coronavirus. The State Department also helped ship nearly 18 tons of medical supplies, including masks, to Hubei province.

The death toll and the number of infections have grown again, according to official data released early Saturday.

Nationwide, 86 new deaths and 3,399 new cases emerged in the previous 24 hours, the national health authorities said.

The new figures brought the total number of deaths in China to at least 722. And the total number of confirmed cases rose to 34,546.

Most of the newly reported deaths, 81, occurred in Hubei Province, the heart of the outbreak.

Many doctors believe that deaths and infections in China are undercounted because hospitals and laboratories are under severe strain to test for the virus.

Credit…Li Wenliang, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Li Wenliang, the doctor who was among the first to warn about the coronavirus outbreak in late December — only to be silenced by the police — died on Friday after becoming infected with the virus, the hospital treating him reported.

The death of the 34-year-old doctor set off an outpouring of grief and anger on social media, with commenters on Weibo, a Twitter-like website, demanding an apology from the authorities to Dr. Li and his family.

China’s ruling Communist Party, bending to public pressure, said on Friday that it would send a team from its powerful anticorruption committee to investigate the issues surrounding the whistle-blower doctor, who had died hours earlier in the city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.

Last week, Elsie Chen, a Times researcher working with our correspondents Chris Buckley and Steven Lee Myers, interviewed Dr. Li. He caught the virus from a patient and was hospitalized when Ms. Chen interviewed him on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, via the WeChat social media platform.

Here are some edited and condensed excerpts from the interview. Read more here.

When did you first realize that this new virus was highly contagious? It seemed that you hadn’t taken any precautions when you were infected.

I knew it when the patient I came in contact with infected her family, and I was infected right afterward. Thus I discovered it was highly contagious. The patient had no symptoms, so I got careless.

How did you feel when the police accused you of spreading rumors?

The police believed this virus was not confirmed to be SARS. They believed I was spreading rumors. They asked me to acknowledge that I was at fault.

I felt I was being wronged, but I had to accept it. Obviously I had been acting out of good will. I felt very sad seeing so many people losing their loved ones.

Union leaders representing hospital employees who have been staging a five-day walkout announced on Friday the end of the protest after a majority of members voted to return to work.

The vote by members of the union, the Hospital Authority Employees Alliance, came hours before a new rule that would subject all people entering the city through mainland China to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. The rule was scheduled to come into effect at midnight. The government announced the restrictions earlier in the week, after hospital workers began their industrial action.

Thousands of workers from the union — formed during the antigovernment protest movement in Hong Kong — participated in the strike to demand that the government shut down all mainland border checkpoints to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

Of the 7,000 hospital workers who voted on Friday, around 4,000 voted against extending the strike.

Two flights evacuating approximately 300 Americans from Wuhan, China, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, arrived in the United States on Friday. The first reached Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego at 9 a.m. local time, officials confirmed, after stopping in Vancouver, British Columbia.

The second plane landed at Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, where passengers were screened for signs of illness before continuing on to Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio and Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Neb. Passengers will be quarantined at hotel-like facilities on the grounds of the bases, government officials said.

The arrival of the two jets brings the total number of evacuation flights to five. The first carried 195 Americans out of Wuhan last week; they are quarantined on a military base in Riverside, Calif. Two more flights landed in the United States early on Wednesday.

Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, a deputy director at the Centers for Disease Control Prevention who is overseeing the Lackland quarantine, told reporters Thursday that while the American evacuees were on base, every precaution would be taken to “quarantine them and isolate them from the base community and from the San Antonio community, and we’re doing this to prevent transmission.”

Also Friday, a plane carrying Canadians from Wuhan landed at a military base in Ontario, where they will spend 14 days under quarantine, The Associated Press reported.

Japanese officials said on Saturday that 64 people had tested positive for the coronavirus on a quarantined cruise ship in Yokohama, a steep increase from the 20 confirmed cases on Thursday.

Officials have screened 279 passengers they said were potentially exposed to the virus. The new patients were to be taken off the ship for medical treatment.

More than 2,000 passengers on the Diamond Princess ship have been stuck inside their cabins for days as part of a two-week quarantine. Meals have been irregular, and only on Thursday were small groups finally permitted to go outside and breathe some fresh air.

“I keep hearing painful coughs from a foreigner in a nearby room,” one passenger wrote on Twitter on Thursday, noting with concern that crew members were delivering meals from room to room. “I might get infected today or tomorrow.”

Other passengers who have been whiling away some of the time on social media told of more hopeful signs. One noted that supplies were being moved into the port and that ambulances were in position. Another said that entertainment crews had been visiting guest rooms to cheer people up, and that toilet paper had been distributed.

A report published on Friday on 138 coronavirus patients in Wuhan reveals disturbing details about the illness and how it spreads. Many patients — 41 percent — were presumed to have been infected in the hospital, including 17 people who were already hospitalized for other illnesses, and 40 health care workers.

One patient is thought to have infected more than 10 health care workers in the hospital’s surgical department, where the person was admitted because of abdominal symptoms, and the coronavirus was not initially suspected.

Reporting in JAMA, the authors said their data suggested that rapid person-to-person spread of the virus had occurred among their cases, in part because of patients like the one admitted to the surgical department, who had symptoms that misled doctors into suspecting other illnesses and failing to take precautions to prevent spread of the virus until it was too late.

Another cause for concern is that some patients who appeared mildly or moderately ill at first took a turn for the worse several days or even a week into their illness. The median time from their first symptoms to when they became short of breath was five days; to hospitalization, seven days; and to severe breathing trouble, eight days. Experts say that pattern means patients must be carefully monitored, and it is not safe to assume that someone who seems to be doing well early on is out of the woods.

For this series of patients, who were treated at Zhongnan Hospital of Wuhan University, the death rate was 4.3 percent.

Air China, the largest operator by passengers flown of nonstop flights between the United States and China, was granted permission to drastically limit service between the two countries, the Transportation Department said on Thursday.

The airline formally asked on Sunday to replace its current American network with flights between Beijing and four American cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington and New York.

Air China intends to operate seven flights per week, in both directions. In 2018, it operated an average 129 flights per week to and from the United States, according to federal data.

The carrier had asked for permission to limit service for 180 days starting Feb. 11, but the United States agency granted the request effective immediately. It will remain in effect until March 7.

Hainan Airlines, which carried one in 10 nonstop passengers between the United States and China in 2018, suspended service between the two countries on Sunday.

China Eastern, the third largest operator of U.S.-China flights, said on Tuesday that it was greatly reducing much of its service between the countries.

American carriers have also stopped flights between the United States and mainland China: Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines all suspended their services last week.

For many of the Chinese social media users mourning Li Wenliang on Friday, the tragedy was a lesson about the importance of free speech — one that the government didn’t understand.

Beijing has increased its censorship over investigative reports that exposed missteps by officials who underestimated and played down the threat from the coronavirus. China’s top leaders have stepped up efforts to make the news coverage focus more on positive developments in the battle against the epidemic.

The hashtag #wewantfreedomofspeech#, created on the Twitter-like service Weibo at 2 a.m. on Friday, had over two million views and over 5,500 posts by 7 a.m., amid the online outcry over Dr. Li’s death. It was deleted by censors, along with related topics, such as ones saying that the Wuhan government owed Dr. Li an apology.

“I love my country deeply,” read one post under that topic. “But I don’t like the current system and the ruling style of my country. It covered my eyes, my ears and my mouth.”

The World Health Organization said on Friday that there was a chronic worldwide shortage of gowns, masks, gloves and other equipment to protect against the spread of the coronavirus.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the organization’s chief, said he would speak to suppliers “to identify the bottlenecks and find solutions,” as well as pushing for “fairness in distribution of equipment.”

An increased demand for personal protective gear like face masks has driven up prices and depleted stockpiles needed by doctors and nurses on the front lines of the coronavirus epidemic, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, said on Friday.

The shortages are driven largely by inappropriate use of protective gear by people who are not taking care of patients, he said.

Demand for the equipment is 100 times greater than normal, and prices are up to 20 times higher than they were before the outbreak. Backlogs of up to six months are hampering efforts to stem the coronavirus outbreak, he said.

To fix the problem, W.H.O. officials are discussing the shortages with manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers along the supply chain.

There are no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Africa yet, but with steady traffic to and from China, experts worry that an outbreak of the epidemic could overrun the continent’s already strained health systems.

There are few facilities even to test for the virus, and doctors are already struggling to contain deadly outbreaks of other diseases, like Ebola, malaria and measles.

Africa has large numbers of Chinese workers, many now returning to the continent after visits to China for the Lunar New Year.

If the coronavirus hits, said Dr. John Nkengasong, director of Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, “it will be massive.”

Tens of thousands of students from Africa also study in China, and some are now heading home. The first African to be diagnosed with coronavirus is a 21-year-old Cameroonian student at Yangtze University in Hubei Province. That has raised fears that other students might have contracted the virus.

Chinese leaders are seeking to reassure the public that the economic devastation of the coronavirus will be short-lived and controlled. But they are taking steps to weather extended factory shutdowns and store closures.

The deputy governor of the People’s Bank of China, Pan Gongsheng, said on Friday that controlling the virus was a “top priority.” This week, the central bank pumped some $175 billion into the financial system, and the government has issued a flurry of financial aid measures at the local level.

The country has been on virtual lockdown for weeks, with major factories and highways closed, trains shut and airplanes grounded. Some of the world’s biggest companies have already felt the impact, including Starbucks, Ikea and Apple.

Toyota on Friday said its non-plant operations would reopen on Feb. 10 but that its production plants would remain closed for at least another week. Uniqlo said it would close 370 of its 750 stores in China because of the outbreak, Reuters reported.

Major brands across virtually every sector of the world economy — from food to fashion to entertainment to technology — have seen their business in China suffer as the virus spreads, forcing companies to restrict corporate travel to mainland China or temporarily shutter stores, offices, restaurants and theme parks.

While it’s too early to assess the full financial impact of the outbreak, big companies have revealed over the last few days how the virus has affected them.

Disney’s theme park closures in Shanghai and Hong Kong are expected to reduce the company’s operating income by $175 million in the second quarter.

Many auto plants have shut down in China because of the virus, including factories run by Tesla, Ford and Nissan.

Several hundred of the approximately 3,300 McDonald’s restaurants in China have closed. But the company’s chief executive, Chris Kempczinski, said the overall impact on profits would be “fairly small” if the virus stayed contained.

Nike has shut about half its stores in China, and Tapestry, the American luxury giant that owns Kate Spade, Coach and Stuart Weitzman, said the outbreak could reduce its sales by up to $250 million in the second half of the year.

Reporting and research were contributed by Daniel Victor, Eimi Yamamitsu, Steven Lee Myers, Sui-Lee Wee, Li Yuan, Elaine Yu, Elsie Chen, Claire Fu, Albee Zhang, Christopher Buckley, Isabella Kwai, David Yaffe-Bellany, Denise Grady, Liz Alderman, Denise Grady, Alexandra Stevenson, Scott Reyburn, Raymond Zhong, Vivian Wang, Zoe Mou, Simon Marks, Abdi Latif Dahir, Adeel Hassan, Roni Caryn Rabin, Manny Fernandez, Donald G. McNeil Jr. and Zolan Kanno-Youngs.

Source link

About The Author

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *