California, Oregon confirm 2 more coronavirus diagnoses from community spread

Cases in the U.S. rose to 64, including three instances of community spread.

February 28, 2020, 10:04 PM

Countries around the world are scrambling to respond to the influx of new novel coronavirus cases outside of China.

The number of cases in the United States grew to more than 60 on Friday, including the second and third cases of the disease from so-called "community spread."

There have been 2,791 deaths in China, among more than 78,000 cases, and 67 deaths outside of China, according to the World Health Organization.

Here is how the situation unfolded Friday (all times eastern).

9:39 p.m. 3rd community spread case identified

A third U.S. case of coronavirus of unknown origin -- not through travel or known contact with an infected individual -- was announced by health officials in Oregon Friday night.

The case, which was diagnosed through one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's testing kits, was found in an individual who works as a school employee in Clackamas County, who "may have exposed students and staff there," according to the Washington County Department of Health and Human Services. The sample will be sent to CDC's Atlanta headquarters for confirmation.

The school where the person works is being closed as an investigation is ongoing and parents of students are being informed.

"We are awaiting confirmation of the test results from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but at this time we are considering this a presumptive case," Dr. Dean Sidelinger, the health officer and state epidemiologist for the Oregon Public Health Division, said in a statement. "The person in now appropriate isolation and appropriate care."

As long as it is confirmed, this would be the third case of community spread, added to cases in Santa Clara and Solano counties in California.

6:31 p.m. New case reported in Santa Clara, California

Santa Clara County, California, said it has identified a new case of novel coronavirus -- the third case in the county.

Health officials said the case was diagnosed in an "older adult woman" with chronic health conditions, and said she had no known exposure through travel or contact with someone else who is infected, raising the possibility the case is a "community transmission."

"This new case indicates that there is evidence of community transmission but the extent is still not clear,” Dr. Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County and director of the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department, said in a statement. "I understand this may be concerning to hear, but this is what we have been preparing for. Now we need to start taking additional actions to slow down the spread of the disease."

This would be the second novel coronavirus case not related to travel or contact with a sick individual after officials in California's Solano County confirmed a first on Wednesday.

5 p.m. Pence warns threat remains 'low'

Newly minted novel coronavirus point man, Vice President Mike Pence, stopped at a coronavirus response meeting with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during his fundraiser trip today to speak with media.

His comments mirrored President Donald Trump's on the White House South Lawn.

"The threat of the coronovirus spreading in the United States remains low," Pence said.

"About a day and a half ago the president asked me to lead the White House effort on coronavirus and I can assure you that we are going to work very closely with Florida and states across this country," Pence said.

Pence said he's spoken to a number of governors in recent days and he learned in the task force meeting Thursday that the country has "screened 47,000 people at airports through the airports the country."

Pence said the country would be in a very different place if the president hadn't taken unprecedented action to cancel flights.

"The president has made it clear that our objective is to be ready. This is an all-hands-on-deck effort."

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters before leaving the White House, Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, in Washington, to attend a campaign rally in North Charleston, S.C. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

4:45 p.m Trump: 'I hope the Fed gets involved'

President Trump spoke to reporters as he left the White House on the way to a campaign rally in South Carolina, commenting on the bad week for stocks and whether he thought this was an economic crisis or a public health crisis.

"I think it's just people don't know," Trump said. "It's the unknown. You know, they look at it and they say how long will this last? I think they are not very happy with the Democrat candidates when they see them, I think that has an impact."

"I think that basically it is the unknown a little bit, but I feel very confident and our people are doing a fantastic job," he said.

Trump said it was up to the Fed as to whether it should intervene – but that he hoped it did.

"I hope the Fed gets involved and I hope they get involved soon," he said.

Trump said he was confident in the job that the U.S. government had done so far and repeatedly touted his decision to impose restrictions on people coming from China -- referring to them as closing the border -- as what had prevented any deaths in the United States and only 15 cases so far.

"We haven't lost anybody yet, and hopefully we can keep that intact," Trump said. "There have been no deaths in the United States, at all. A lot of that’s attributable to the fact that we closed the border very early. Otherwise, it could be a different story."

4:05 p.m. ET -- Stocks close down over 350 points

The Dow Jones Industrial Average plummeted more than 350 points during a volatile trading day on Friday, but the total drop ended up being better than it could have been.

Prior to a statement from Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell saying his agency was "closely monitoring" the situation and could act, the Dow was briefly down by more than 900 points during intraday trading.

Still, on the whole, the week was the worst for the Dow since the financial collapse of 2008.

4:01 p.m. ET -- School closings a possibility, health secretary says

Closing schools in the United States because of novel coronavirus is a possibility that would depend "on what circumstances we end up facing,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said at a Friday briefing.

In the case of an outbreak, epidemic or pandemic, "there is a whole continuum of mitigation steps that one could do,” Azar told reporters. "Under certain circumstances that it might make sense to close a school or schools. Every option needs to be on the table."

Other nations, including Japan, Italy and Germany, have closed some or all schools because of coronavirus transmissions in their respective countries.

3:24 p.m. ET -- Amazon tells employees not to travel

Amazon on Friday halted all non-essential employee travel, including trips within the United States, due to novel coronavirus.

"We're asking employees to defer non-essential travel during this time," an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement to ABC News.

In January, the company, which has 798,000 full- and part-time employees, restricted employee travel to China as the outbreak escalated there.

2:51 p.m. ET -- New COVID-19 case confirmed in Solano County, California, actually from Diamond Princess

After Solano County health officials initially confirmed a new case of COVID-19 Friday in a person who was under quarantine at Travis Air Force Base, new information clarified the case was someone transferred from the Diamond Princess. Jayleen Richards, the county's public health administrator, had earlier told ABC News that the individual was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and then immediately transferred to a separate health care facility. The patient is at home under self-quarantine because they are asymptotic, according to Richards.

Richards did not offer any more information on the case at the time, citing HIPAA constraints, but said that the individual had no contact with the public other than interacting with health care workers.

1:19 p.m. ET -- Local health departments to have diagnostic tests by next week

The CDC is continuing to investigate the case of COVID-19 in a patient in Northern California. This person does not appear to be connected to any infected person nor has traveled to countries where there has been an outbreak.

"It's possible that this could be the first instance of community spread," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said Friday at a news conference.

The case marks the third instance of human-to-human transmission in the United States. Further investigation may show that the patient had an interaction with a traveler who was infected, or it may mark the first transmission of the disease in a community in the U.S.

The intelligent distribution robot is sending packages 'contactlessly' during the COVID-19 outbreak in Guiyang, Guizhou, China on Feb. 26, 2020.
PG via ZUMA Press

Messonnier said that the CDC expects that there will be additional cases of COVID-19 diagnosed among people who had contact with the sickened individual, such as family members and health care workers.

In addition to the case in California, two new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in people who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, bringing the total number of cases in the United States to 63. Of those 63 cases, 16 were diagnosed by the U.S. health care system and 47 were among people who were repatriated to the U.S. on charter flights from Wuhan, China and the Diamond Princess.

Messonnier acknowledged that testing for COVID-19 in local health departments "has not gone as smoothly as we would’ve liked." Problems with the testing kits that were rolled out to states several weeks ago has meant that the CDC continues to do the bulk of COVID-19 testing in Atlanta.

"Our goal is to have every state and local health department online and doing their own testing by next week,” Messonnier said.

12:15 p.m. ET -- United Airlines cuts service to Asia

United Airlines is further reducing flights to Japan, the airline company announced Friday. United, which offers the most flights to Asia of any U.S. carrier, is suspending flights between Tokyo and Los Angeles and Houston until late April and between Tokyo and Chicago until late March. The airline is also reducing flights to Osaka, Singapore and Seoul, the company said in a statement.

Noon ET -- Stock markets continue to plunge

U.S. equities continued their slide on Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average suffering its worst week since the financial crash of 2008, down more than 3,500 points since Monday.

At midday, the Dow had fallen more than 10% for the week, as the S&P 500 and Nasdaq similarly tumbled.

11:49 a.m. ET -- Gov. Cuomo: Positive test in New York 'virtually inevitable'

It's "virtually inevitable" that someone in the New York state will test positive for novel coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a Friday news conference.

There's currently one individual in New York City who recently traveled to Italy and whose COVID-19 test is pending.

PHOTO: Mask-clad commuters make their way to work during morning rush hour at the Shinagawa train station, in Tokyo on Feb. 28, 2020. \
Mask-clad commuters make their way to work during morning rush hour at the Shinagawa train station, in Tokyo on Feb. 28, 2020. A growing number of events are being cancelled or postponed around Japan and schools were closed till April as COVID-19 cases continue to increase.
Charly Triballeau/AFP via Getty Images

"Tens of thousands of people have already tested positive in different countries," he said. "I don’t give a darn about anybody’s politics, we have to be ready."

Cuomo has assured Vice President Mike Pence, who is leading the United States' coronavirus response, that New York is capable of conducting its own coronavirus testing. Currently the state is sending its diagnostic tests to the CDC in Atlanta to be processed.

11:18 a.m. ET -- WHO raises global risk from 'high' to 'very high'

The World Health Organization upgraded its global risk assessment of the novel coronavirus' potential for spread and impact from "high" to "very high," WHO Director General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced at a Friday news conference in Geneva.

While the designation is the WHO's highest possible alert level, Dr. Tedros specifically did not call the virus a pandemic, noting that "we do not see evidence yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities."

Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO's Health Emergencies Program warned that calling COVID-19 a pandemic prematurely would be "essentially accepting that every human on the planet will be exposed to the virus." If countries take the containment measures necessary to break the virus' transmission, "that does not need to be the history of this event," Ryan said.

PHOTO: Two women leave Tokyo Disneyland on the day it announced it will close until March 15th because of concerns over the COVID-19 virus, on Feb. 28, 2020 in Japan.
Two women leave Tokyo Disneyland on the day it announced it will close until March 15th because of concerns over the COVID-19 virus, on Feb. 28, 2020 in Japan. A growing number of events are being cancelled or postponed around Japan while some businesses are closing or asking their employees to work from home.
Carl Court/Getty Images

Dr. Tedros urged people around the world to follow steps to avoid disease transmission, like hand washing, avoiding traveling while sick and seeking care immediately upon feeling ill. Those over 60 years old, or who have underlying health issues, may wish to take added precautions, like avoiding crowded spaces and not interacting with people who are sick.

There is no treatment for COVID-10, but there are more than 20 vaccines being developed in countries around the world and several therapeutics in clinical trials. While a potential vaccine is more than a year away from being available, the WHO expects to see results from clinical trials for treatments in the next few weeks.

9:45 a.m. ET -- Two more Diamond Princess cruise ship deaths

Two more patients who had been passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship died, Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare reported Friday. The individuals, a British man and a Japanese woman, are the fifth and sixth passengers to die from COVID-19 after being aboard the quarantined cruise ship.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it has been alerted to the first manufacturing shortage of an unnamed drug due to the deadly novel coronavirus outbreak that began in China and has now reached the U.S..

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said the agency has been "closely monitoring" the medical product supply chain "with the expectation" that the outbreak of the novel coronavirus would "likely" have an impact.

"A manufacturer has alerted us to a shortage of a human drug that was recently added to the drug shortages list," Hahn said in a statement Thursday night. "The manufacturer just notified us that this shortage is related to a site affected by coronavirus. The shortage is due to an issue with manufacturing of an active pharmaceutical ingredient used in the drug."

"It is important to note that there are other alternatives that can be used by patients," he added. "We are working with the manufacturer as well as other manufacturers to mitigate the shortage. We will do everything possible to mitigate the shortage."

Hahn said the issue continues to be "an evolving and very dynamic" one.

People line up at a pharmacy to purchase N95 face masks in advance of the potential coronavirus outbreak in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, Feb. 27, 2020.
Carlo Allegri/Reuters

The newly identified virus, known officially as COVID-19, emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan last December and has since spread overseas to at least 46 other nations, with South Korea, Italy and Iran seeing recent surges in case numbers. The World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak a global health emergency and said the virus has "pandemic potential," recorded more than 82,000 confirmed infections globally by Thursday. More than 95% of those cases were in China.

At least 2,804 people have died from the virus, according to the latest data from the WHO.

This photo taken on Feb. 22, 2020, shows a nurse preparing equipment in an intensive care unit treating patients infected with the novel coronavirus at a hospital in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province.
Str/AFP via Getty Images

South Korea has the second-highest national total of coronavirus cases behind China. Of the more than 81,000 people tested in the country, 2,337 had tested positive for COVID-19 as of Friday afternoon -- up 571 from the same time the previous day. More than 30,000 others were awaiting test results, according to South Korea's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“It is hard to say, at this point, when the outbreak will reach its peak here,” the agency's vice director, Kwon Jun-wook, said at a press briefing Friday.

A majority of the cases in South Korea have been linked to a secretive religious sect in the city of Daegu. More confirmed cases are expected this weekend among members of the Shincheonji Church of Jesus.

Japan has the third-highest national total, when including the hundreds of confirmed cases related to the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

The cruise ship has been quarantined at Yokohama port since Feb. 5 and at least 705 people who were on board have tested positive for COVID-19. Six passengers have died, including a British man whose death was confirmed Friday, according to Japan's Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.

All those who have been infected were brought ashore for treatment, while the rest were confined to their rooms until the quarantine period ends. Passengers who have tested negative for the virus disembarked the ship last week.

Beyond the cruise ship, an additional 186 cases have been confirmed in Japan, according to the WHO.

PHOTO: Disinfection professionals wearing protective gear spray anti-septic solution against the novel coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, on Feb. 28, 2020.
Disinfection professionals wearing protective gear spray anti-septic solution against the novel coronavirus at a subway station in Seoul, South Korea, on Feb. 28, 2020. The South Korean government has raised the coronavirus alert to the "highest level" as the number of confirmed cases keeps rising.
Chung Sung-jun/Getty Images

So far in the United States, 60 people have been diagnosed with the disease. The majority of the cases are Americans who were on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was placed under quarantine in Japanese waters as hundreds of passengers became infected with the new coronavirus.

The newest case is being investigated by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as possibly the first instance of "community spread" on American soil.

The patient, who is a resident of California's Solano County, had no known exposure to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected individual, according to the California Department of Public Health. The individual was transferred to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento on Wednesday, the hospital confirmed.

It's the first COVID-19 case of unknown origin in the U.S., indicating there could be "community spread," which means the virus is circulating among the local community and infecting people, including some who are not sure how or where they became infected, according to the CDC.

The CDC said it would continue to investigate the source of the infection. It's "possible" that the individual "may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected," an agency official said in a statement Wednesday.

A man wearing a protective face mask, following an outbreak of the novel coronavirus, stands at the Shinagawa station in Tokyo, Japan, Feb. 28, 2020.
Athit Perawongmetha/Reuters

The Chinese government has imposed severe restrictions on virus-hit areas, including a lockdown on the city of Wuhan. The United States, among many other nations, has put in place strict travel restrictions on people who have recently visited China.

The FDA said Thursday that it is "not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging."

COVID-19 causes symptoms similar to pneumonia, ranging from the mild, such as a slight cough, to the more severe, including fever and difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. There is no vaccine yet for the virus.

A man wearing a face mask rides on a bicycle at a shopping complex in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in China's Hubei province, Feb. 26, 2020.

Meanwhile, a whistleblower within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has filed a complaint alleging that more than a dozen workers were sent to receive the first Americans repatriated from Wuhan, China, without proper training or protective gear for coronavirus infection control. The complaint, filed to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, was first reported by The Washington Post on Thursday.

ABC News has not reviewed the complaint and lawyers representing the whistleblower have refused to provide it. Ari Wilkenfeld, one of the whistleblower's attorneys, told ABC News that The Washington Post article accurately describes the allegations laid out in the complaint. "We are hopeful that Congress and the OSC will investigate this case in a timely and comprehensive manner," Wilkenfeld told ABC News in a statement. "This matter concerns HHS's response to the coronavirus, and its failure to protect its employees and potentially the public. The retaliatory efforts to intimidate and silence our client must be opposed."

Moreover, a spokesperson for the U.S. Office of Special Counsel confirmed to ABC News that it has received the whistleblower's complaint as described in The Washington Post and that the case has been assigned.

When asked for comment, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Caitlin Oakley told ABC News: "We take all whistleblower complaints very seriously and are providing the complainant all appropriate protections under the Whistleblower Protection Act. We are evaluating the complaint and have nothing further to add at this time."

ABC News' Joohee Cho, Katherine Faulders, Kate Hakyung Lee, Alexander Mallin, Catherine Thorbecke, William Carr, Benjamin Gittleson and Sophie Tatum contributed to this report.

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