California prepares to dock cruise ship with 21 coronavirus cases

COVID-19 response shifts to mitigation phase

(AP) - Gov. Gavin Newsom and the mayor of Oakland are seeking to reassure the public that none of the passengers from a ship with at least 21 cases of the new coronavirus will be released into the public before undergoing a 14-day quarantine.

The Grand Princess carrying more than 3,500 people from 54 countries is expected to dock in Oakland, in the east San Francisco Bay, on Monday.

The governor says those who need acute medical care or hospitalization will come off first in a process that could take up to three days.

Meanwhile, the U.S. death toll from the virus hit 21 on Sunday.

As testing increased, the number of infections in the United States climbed above 500.

Federal officials say the Department of State is working with the home countries of several hundred passengers to arrange for repatriation to their countries.

Grand Princess Capt. John Smith said after medical screening, California residents who don’t require acute medical care “will go to a federally operated isolation facility within California for testing and isolation."

U.S. guests from other states will be transported by the federal government to facilities in other states. Crew will be quarantined and treated aboard the ship.

The Grand Princess had been forbidden to dock in San Francisco amid evidence that the vessel was the breeding ground for a cluster of nearly 20 cases that resulted in at least one death after its previous voyage.

Dozens of Americans who are on the cruise ship will be securely transferred to a military base outside Atlanta to undergo coronavirus testing.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said 34 Georgians are among the U.S. citizens expected to arrive at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta on either Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Kemp said people from other eastern U.S. states would also be quarantined at the military base, but he did not specify how many.

Connecticut announced its first case of the coronavirus Sunday, while the governor of Oregon declared a state of emergency, CNN reports.

3 US residents who took Egypt tour have virus

Three cases of COVID-19 have been identified in the U.S. state of Iowa, Gov. Kim Reynolds said Sunday.

All three individuals with COVID-19 recently took a cruise in Egypt before returning home to Johnson County in Iowa. They are recovering at home in isolation.

Iowa health officials said one of the individuals is between 41 and 60 years old. The other two individuals with COVID-19 are between 61 and 80 years old.

The cruise that the three individuals were on ran from Feb. 17 to March 2. The individuals returned home on March 3.

"While these are the first cases, it may not be the last and it’s why Iowans must continue to practice safe habits like hand-washing and staying home from work when sick,” Reynolds said.

Health officials will work to determine who the three individuals had contact with since they returned, State Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati said. It wasn't immediately clear whether people who were in contact with the individuals will have to self quarantine.

Iowa health officials have now tested 37 individuals for COVID-19. Twenty-six tests were negative, and eight tests are still pending results. Those results are expected Monday.

The virus has infected more than 100,000 people and killed more than 3,400 globally, although most people who have contracted the virus since December have now recovered.

Cruise ship being held off Florida coast

A cruise ship is being held off the coast of Florida on Sunday awaiting test results on whether two crew members have contracted the new coronavirus.

The Miami Herald reports that the Regal Princess was supposed to dock in Port Everglades on Sunday morning but was instead sailing up and down the coast. The crew members in question had transferred from the Grand Princess cruise ship in California where nearly two dozen on board have tested positive for the virus, including 19 crew members.

The Coast Guard delivered testing kits to the Regal Princess on Sunday morning and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a “no-sail order” for the ship.

It is unclear how many people are on board, but the cruise line's website says it has a capacity of 3,560 guests. Emails and phone calls to the cruise line, Coast Guard and port were not immediately returned Sunday.

The Regal Princess’ next cruise scheduled to leave Port Everglades for a seven-day Caribbean trip was also canceled.

Officials confirm first coronavirus case in U.S. capital

Officials in Washington, D.C., say a man in his 50s has tested positive for coronavirus, marking the first presumptively confirmed case in the nation’s capital.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said Saturday that the man started exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 in late February and was hospitalized Thursday. She said another man, from Nigeria, who had passed through Washington has also tested positive for the virus in Maryland.

President Donald Trump says he isn’t concerned “at all” about the coronavirus getting closer to the White House after the first Washington case and an attendee of a recent political conference where Trump himself had spoken also tested positive for the virus.

No fans, no fun: Athletes uneasy over empty-arena solutions

As U.S. sports leagues weigh whether to bar fans from ballparks and stadiums to help stall the coronavirus outbreak, San Francisco Giants pitcher Jeff Samardzija is one of the few players who can tell them exactly what that looks like.

He pitched for the Chicago White Sox in a 2015 game played without fans in Baltimore due to riots in the city.

“It’s not very fun,” he said.

The NBA has already warned franchises that empty-stadium games might prove necessary, as has already become common in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

With MLB’s opening day, March Madness and the Masters coming up, athletes are worried about the prospect of locked-down venues.

California public venues, schools close to stop virus spread

A cruise ship hit by the new coronavirus and headed to the port of Oakland, California, will remain in international waters for at least another day as officials work on plans to transport passengers to facilities around the country.

Meanwhile, local officials began ordering the closure of schools and public spaces to try and stop the spread of the virus.

The largest school district in Northern California has canceled classes for a week after it was discovered that a family in the district had been exposed to COVID-19.

The Elk Grove School District, which is near Sacramento, has nearly 64,000 students.

UK health secretary outlines emergency plans

Britain’s health secretary has outlined emergency plans to deal with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, pledging to do "all we can" to contain the virus.

The plans, which will likely go through Parliament by the end of the month, are expected to include measures to allow some court proceedings to be conducted via telephone or video. Volunteers who leave their main jobs to help health care systems will also be given employment safeguards.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he wants “to ensure government is doing everything in its power to be ready to delay and mitigate this threat.”

Some 206 people in the U.K. have tested positive for the virus, according to data last updated on Saturday. Two people have died.

Italy now 2nd to China in number of virus cases

Italy’s total known number of COVID-19 cases crept past that of South Korea, becoming the country with the second-highest number of infections Sunday after China.

Italian government authorities say the country now has 7,375 cases. That is 62 more than South Korea.

China has more than 80,000 cases.

Early in the outbreak, Italy was zealous in testing those living in hotbed areas, even if they had no symptoms or close contact with someone known to be infected. So far, Italian health personnel have performed some 50,000 tests.

Most of Italy’s deaths and cases have occurred in Lombardy, a populous northern region which the government ordered under lockdown Sunday until April 3.

Italy announces virus quarantine affecting 16 million people

Italy’s prime minister has announced a sweeping coronavirus quarantine, restricting the movements of about a quarter of the country’s population in a bid to limit contagions at the epicenter of Europe’s outbreak.

Shortly after midnight Sunday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree affecting about 16 million people in the country’s prosperous north, including the Lombardy region and at least 14 provinces in neighboring regions.

World Health Organization answers questions about coronavirus

The extraordinary measures will be in place until April 3.

Italy’s Rai state TV says the governor of Piedmont in northern Italy has the coronavirus, the latest Italian governor to test positive.

On Saturday, the governor of Lazio, the region including Rome, announced that he was staying in quarantine because he had been told he’s positive for the virus.

Earlier in the outbreak, the governor of Lombardy, the populous northern region at the heart of the outbreak, announced he was putting himself in quarantine because a close aide had tested positive.

Lockdown has southern Italy officials concerned

Authorities in southern Italy have expressed concern that a mass movement of people moving from north to south would only spread the coronavirus to regions that have had relatively few cases.

The worries come after Italy announced a sweeping quarantine early Sunday for its northern regions, igniting travel chaos as it restricted the movements of a quarter of its people in a bid to halt the coronavirus' relentless march across Europe.

Gov. Michele Emiliano, who leads the region of Puglia in the ‘’heel’’ of the boot-shaped Italian peninsula, said in his dramatic appeal, "Don’t bring the Lombard, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna epidemic into our Puglia, by running away to prevent the government decree” from effectively taking effect.

He said he signed an ordinance requiring a quarantine for all those who arrive in Puglia from Lombardy and the 11 other northern provinces covered by the lockdown. Italian state TV reported that other governors in the south, which includes the Campania region around Naples and Sicily, were intent on doing the same.

Pope delivers Sunday noon blessing via video

In an extraordinary measure aimed at discouraging crowds, Pope Francis didn’t appear at a Vatican palazzo window to deliver his Sunday noon Angelus blessing and remarks.

Instead, a video of his reading his comments and reciting prayers standing at a lectern near a microphone in the Vatican’s apostolic library was beamed on maxi-screens set up in St. Peter’s Square to the faithful.

The bells of St. Peter’s Basilica tolled as the window opened and Francis appeared for a few seconds to wave to the people below in the square. But he made no comments from the window, having already delivered the broadcast remarks.

The measure — which was announced on Saturday — was aimed at discouraging crowds from gathering in the square, where on days with good weather like this Sunday as many as 40,000 people can turn out to watch the pope in the window. Several thousands of tourists and faithful turned out anyway, scattered across the vast, cobblestone square.

Around the world, more and more countries were bracing for a surge in virus cases. Western countries have been increasingly imitating China – where the virus first emerged late last year — by imposing travel controls and shutting down public events.

Sistine Chapel among shuttered Vatican museums

Already staggering under weeks of fears about the spread of the coronavirus, Italy’s tourism industry has now taken an even more punishing blow.

The Vatican announced Sunday that in coordination with drastic Italian government measures aimed at containing Italy's virus outbreak, Europe's worst, it is shutting down its museums, which include access to the Sistine Chapel, until April 3.

The chapel’s ceiling and altar wall, frescoed by Michelangelo, are one of the world’s biggest tourist attractions, and a high point of Vatican Museums visits.

The Vatican said its one case of coronavirus is that of a person who had come to the Holy See’s health facilities as part of a doctor’s visit ahead of being hired. Five people who had close contact with that person have been put in quarantine as a precaution.

The Italian government’s decree also shut down outdoor sites like Pompeii’s extraordinary archaeological ruins and a blockbuster exhibit in Rome of more than 100 paintings and drawings by Raphael, which was mounted to mark the Renaissance artist’s 500th anniversary of his death from a fever in the city.

Bulgaria confirms its first cases of coronavirus

Bulgaria has announced its first four coronavirus cases.

The national coronavirus task force confirmed Sunday that a 27-year-old man from the northern town of Pleven and a 75-year-old woman from the central town of Gabrovo had tested positive for the virus.

Chief state health inspector Angel Kunchev said the two had not traveled or contacted anyone who had returned from a country with a coronavirus outbreak.

Both had been hospitalized a few days ago with severe respiratory problems.

After health officials tested a total of 70 people who had been in contact with the two infected, they announced that the samples of a 61-year-old man from Pleven and a female health worker from Gabrovo had tested positive.

The Balkan country of 7 million, which is one of the last in the region to report coronavirus cases, is already facing a nationwide influenza epidemic, with schools closed and hospitals packed with patients.

Germany urges postponements of large gatherings

Germany's health minister is urging event organizers to consider postponing any gatherings with more than 1,000 people as a measure to help stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Jens Spahn told the dpa news agency on Sunday that in his view, organizers are still going ahead with too many events like sports games, concerts and trade fairs.

He says "I am aware of the consequences this will have for citizens and organizers — we will talk about how we will deal with the economic consequences in the next few days."

Germany's governing parties are meeting Sunday night to talk about several measures, including bridge loans and possible tax deferrals for particularly hard-hit sectors such as the travel and hospitality industries.

They’re also talking about relaxing labor laws to allow more short-term employees to help companies with many workers out sick, and moving ahead a tax cut with the hope of stimulating the economy.

Iran says 49 more die from virus, death toll reaches 194

Iran says the new coronavirus has killed 194 people amid 6,566 confirmed cases in the Islamic Republic.

Iran saw 49 people die in 24 hours alone. That’s according to Health Ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour, who gave the figures at a news conference Sunday.

There are over 6,900 confirmed cases of the new virus across the Mideast.

Mideast stock markets sharply drop on oil, coronavirus fears

Stocks markets in the Mideast are suffering sharp drops in early trading over fears about the new coronavirus and falling demand for crude oil. That comes amid a failure by OPEC and allied nations to cut production.

The Dubai Financial Market saw stocks drop by over 8% in a steep selloff early Sunday. Boursa Kuwait stopped trading as shares fell below 7%. The Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange dropped by 6%. Saudi Arabia’s Tadawul stock exchange fell over 6% as the market opened.

OPEC and key ally Russia failed to agree on a cut to oil production Friday. That saw crude oil prices, the bedrock commodity of the Mideast, drop.

Copyright 2020 Associated Press. All rights reserved.