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

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.

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.

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.

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.


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