February 8 coronavirus news

By Angela Dewan, Joshua Berlinger and Jenni Marsh, CNN

Updated 8:20 p.m. ET, February 8, 2020
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3:41 p.m. ET, February 8, 2020

World Health Organization to send a team to investigate the coronavirus outbreak in China

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad in London

The World Health Organization will send an international team to investigate the coronavirus outbreak to China, with the team leader leaving for China on Monday or Tuesday, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press conference in Geneva on Saturday.

Ghebreyesus said the rest of the experts on the team will follow “after that.”

When asked whether the international team will include officials from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Ghebreyesus said, “We hope so.”

2:40 p.m. ET, February 8, 2020

New study explores how the coronavirus is spreading and how little we know about it

From Dr. Tom Frieden

A study published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that 41% of the first 138 patients diagnosed at one hospital in Wuhan, China, were presumed to be infected in that hospital.

This is big news. In plain English, it means that nearly half of the initial infections in this hospital appear to have been spread within the hospital itself. This is called nosocomial transmission. (Doctors use big words to hide bad things: Nosocomial means caught it in the hospital.)

What's more, most spread doesn't appear to have been the result of a so-called "super-spreader event," in which a single patient transmits infection to many other people. In these — where a doctor inserts a tube into the patient's lungs — can result in many infections.

This would be a concern, but not nearly as much as what appears to have happened: Many health care workers and many patients got infected in many parts of the hospital. What's more, since there's a broad spectrum of infection and only patients who were sick were tested, it's quite likely that there was even more transmission in the hospital.

So, like SARS and MERS — other coronaviruses — before it, the Wuhan coronavirus is spreading in hospitals.

What does this mean? The virus appears to be quite infectious, health care workers are at especially high risk, and we urgently need more information about just how infectious the virus is. The virus might well be impossible to contain — just as the common cold and influenza can't be stopped, but the health and societal impacts can be blunted.

China's extraordinary efforts to stop the spread of the virus, even if unsuccessful, may slow its spread and improve China and the world's ability to limit the harm the virus causes.

Dr. Tom Frieden is the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and former commissioner of the New York City Health Department. He is currently president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, a global non-profit initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and part of the global non-profit Vital Strategies

2:04 p.m. ET, February 8, 2020

Global spread: Nearly 35,000 cases of coronavirus confirmed worldwide

World Health Organization figures show that the virus has affected at least 28 countries, many of them in Asia, and has reached as far as the US and Australia.

The vast majority of the cases and deaths are in mainland China.

3:43 p.m. ET, February 8, 2020

Hundreds of Americans were evacuated from Wuhan on chartered flights Friday

From CNN’s Jennifer Hansler

Roughly 800 Americans, including US citizens, immediate family members and permanent legal residents, were evacuated from Wuhan on chartered flights that landed in the US on Friday, State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus said in a statement.

“We remain committed to our vital mission of ensuring the welfare of US citizens overseas and providing important information to help them stay safe,” Ortagus said. “Our team here in Washington and at our Embassy and consulates in China are working closely with PRC authorities to offer all possible support to US citizens throughout China.”

The statement did not mention the American citizen who died of coronavirus in Wuhan.

12:28 p.m. ET, February 8, 2020

Misinformation and conspiracy theories make fighting the coronavirus harder 

From CNN's Lindsay Isaac

The World Health Organization (WHO) is not only fighting to contain the coronavirus, it is also "battling the trolls and conspiracy theorists that push misinformation and undermine the outbreak response," the organization said Saturday. 

"While the virus spreads, misinformation makes the job of our heroic health workers even harder. It is diverting the attention of decision makers. And it causes confusion and spreads fear to the general public," WHO Director General, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a press briefing. 

Ghebreyesus outlined a four pronged approach the WHO is undertaking to fight back.

"In essence, to fight the flood of misinformation, we are building a band of truth-tellers that disperse fact and debunk myths," Ghebreyesus added.

3:44 p.m. ET, February 8, 2020

Two French schools to shut down next week

From CNN’s Arnaud Siad in London

Two schools near a ski resort in eastern France where five Britons have tested positive for coronavirus will shut down next week as a precaution, local officials said on Saturday. 

One of those infected is a student, local health official Jean-Yves Grall said.

Speaking at a news conference, Grall said 11 Britons, including the five who tested positive for the virus, are being examined in local hospitals. The group includes a 9-year-old child who recently spent time in a school in Contamines-Montjoie, a mountain village of which he was also resident, as well as in another school where he took French lessons. 

Speaking to BFM TV, Contamines-Montjoie mayor Étienne Jacquet said three of the British children being examined, including the child who tested positive, attended local schools. 

Jacquet said that while two schools were being shut down, there was no discussion of a “confinement situation” for the time being.

Jacquet added: “All people diagnosed are in hospital care.”

Earlier on Saturday, France’s Health Minister Agnes Buzyn said at a press conference “none of them are in serious condition.”

Grall also said a British national had traveled from Singapore to Contamines-Montjoie ski resort on Jan. 24 for a four-day trip and had sojourned with the British nationals before returning to the UK on Jan. 28.

3:44 p.m. ET, February 8, 2020

Princess Dream Captain says medicine, better internet and support hotline ready for passengers stuck on ship

From CNN's Sandi Sidhu in Yokohama

A CNN reporter in Yokohama, Japan, near the Diamond Princess overheard the captain announcing a plan to improve conditions aboard the ship, including medical supplies, better internet signal and a hotline for people to call for emotional support.

The Japanese military would carry out a transfer of test results and medicine into the cruise ship to top up people's prescriptions, he said.

He also said he appreciated letters of support from people on board, and read out the phone number for the emotional support hotline.

He said the cruise ship was due to arrive in Yokohama Port at 9 a.m. Sunday and that extra medical staff would come on board to help with prescriptions and tests. He said he would allow guests to get out onto the deck again on Sunday.

Passengers had told CNN earlier that they were being confined to their cabins, except for around one hour a day where they could leave their rooms under supervision.

6:50 a.m. ET, February 8, 2020

14-day quarantine in Hong Kong kicks in for travelers from mainland China

At midnight Saturday, authorities in Hong Kong began imposing 14 days' quarantine for all travelers arriving from mainland China.

Hong Kong's Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters that 161 people had been placed under quarantine Saturday, 148 of whom are isolated at home. Eleven others are in hotels or two other facilities.

"We will call them [those quarantined at home] to ensure they are home and remind them not to leave, otherwise it's illegal and they will be subject to a six-month imprisonment. We also do random check-ups -- in fact, police have already done 10 and everyone has been at home," she said.

She said authorities considered the travelers a low risk, but explained they would be required to check in with the government to confirm their live locations via WhatsApp or WeChat.

As of 4 p.m. Saturday, a total of 8,953 people came to Hong Kong, the vast majority through the airport.

Lam announced the new measure to quarantine travelers from the mainland on Wednesday, saying it was only the second time the measure had been enacted. She said she hoped the quarantine would act as a deterrent for people crossing the border.

12:09 p.m. ET, February 8, 2020

Global spread: More than 31,000 cases in mainland China, 28 territories affected

World Health Organization figures show that the virus has affected at least 28 countries, many of them in Asia, and has reached as far as the United States and Australia.

The vast majority of the cases and deaths are in mainland China.

The graphic here is based on WHO data from Friday. The WHO updates its figures daily.