Coronavirus spreads as outbreak clusters grow on a ship at sea, in a nursing home and near New York

Posted at 9:21 AM, Mar 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-07 11:21:43-05

The number of US coronavirus cases more than tripled this week, and local officials are asking thousands of residents to stay indoors to stop the spread of the disease.

More than 330 have tested positive and at least 17 people have died from the illness, most of them from Washington state.

But positive tests are coming from all parts of the country. Utah officials reported the state's first case Friday, a patient over 60 who'd just returned from a cruise ship that's now facing an outbreak off California's coast.

That same day, Florida reported its first two deaths, both patients who had recently traveled internationally.

And outbreak clusters have developed rapidly in the past days:

Cruise passengers found out about ship outbreak from news

A cruise ship with thousands aboard and 21 infected with the virus is coming closer to land as one passenger required medical assistance, the captain announced in a video sent to CNN.

"This will allow greater ease in managing logistics and the delivery of supplies," the captain said. A helicopter was dispatched to the ship to airlift a passenger early Saturday to San Francisco, according to another passenger aboard, Steven Smith. The captain made the announcement over the ship's internal public address system, Smith told CNN.

With the number of cases aboard, the captain said Friday it was unlikely the ship would be disembarking Saturday morning as scheduled.

Vice President Mike Pence announced Friday that people aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship, which has been in limbo off the California coast, tested positive for the virus.

It was the first time passengers aboard heard about the test results.

"I thought the passengers were supposed to be notified first," said Debbi Loftus, who's celebrating her father's 84th birthday aboard the Grand Princess. "The fact that we weren't told first made us quite upset and angry. ... There's no excuse for this."

Test kits were dropped aboard after officials learned that a California man who died of the virus this week traveled on the same ship in February to Mexico.

The nursing home at the heart of US outbreak

Seven residents at the Life Care Center in suburban Seattle have died from coronavirus, according to the King County Health Department.

More than 50 people were experiencing symptoms and will be tested, said Jeffrey Duchin, the county's health officer.

The Kirkland facility's outbreak left family members in a desperate search for answers about what kind of procedures the nursing center was following and whether residents are being tested for the virus.

Pat Herrick, whose mother died Thursday at the facility, said she was pushing officials to have her mother's remains tested to see if she had the virus. The cause of death was listed as natural causes, Herrick said.

Her mother had lived at the facility for nearly seven years. Herrick emphasized the care her mother received from the nursing home workers had been excellent, but she didn't think the staff has enough resources to deal with the outbreak, she added.

Across Washington state, 80 people have tested positive for the virus and 14 have died, including the Life Care residents.

One New York community hit with more than 2 dozen cases

In New York, Westchester health officials ordered a synagogue to halt services after fearing a man who tested positive for the virus may have exposed others.

The county's health commissioner urged congregants who attended certain events last month to self-quarantine until at least Saturday. The rabbi of the synagogue tested positive for the virus Friday, officials said. The synagogue is in New Rochelle, a suburb 20 miles from New York City.

Thirty-four of the state's total 44 cases are in Westchester County. Local health officials were taking steps to clean public facilities but are not restricting public gatherings, they said.

"This is a significant and fast-evolving challenge for our community, but it's important not to panic," New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson said in a statement. "Public health experts remind us that the majority of people who contract coronavirus will recover without incident, and only a small fraction will experience life-threatening circumstances.

The governor has asked more than 2,500 people in New York to self-quarantine as officials search for anyone who may have come in contact with ill residents.

Officials on Tuesday confirmed one case of the virus spreading from person-to-person. By Friday, that number had jumped to more than 40 cases.

"We want to keep testing and finding more people who are testing positive because that's how you contain the outbreak - find the person who got infected, quarantine them and reduce the infection rate," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a news release.


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