February 27 coronavirus news

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11:43 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

US health official: If coronavirus spreads, "it’ll look and feel to the American people more like a severe flu season"

Andrew Harnik/AP
Andrew Harnik/AP

US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said the United States is in “active containment mode” and is using isolation units for positive coronavirus patients to contain spread. 

This morning, speaking with the House Ways & Means Committee about the 2021 budget, Azar said currently, when a patient tests positive, they go into an “Ebola-like isolation unit” adding “that is not what’s indicated medically for these individuals.”

“It's really important we correct this impression that it will require this massive hospital isolation for normal patients,” Azar said. “If we end up having broader spread, it’ll be a much more common approach. As [CDC’s Principal Deputy Director Dr. Anne] Schuchat called it, it’ll look and feel to the American people more like a severe flu season, in terms of the interventions and approaches you see.”

Azar said most people who get coronavirus will have mild to moderate symptoms and will be able to stay home, treating it like the severe flu or cold.

10:46 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

Five Spanish citizens sent home from Wuhan

From CNN's Laura Perez-Maestro in Madrid.

Five Spanish citizens have been repatriated from Wuhan, China, by Spain’s Foreign Affairs Ministry and in cooperation with the European Union, according to a statement released by the Ministry on Thursday afternoon. They arrived in Spain at 2:20 p.m. local time.

Here's their statement:

"They have already been admitted to the Gómez Ulla Hospital in Madrid, where they will now start 14 days of quarantine. None of them showed any symptoms, according to the tests performed on their departure from China and those performed on arrival in our country. The plane that transferred them to Spain landed at Torrejón Air Base at 2.20 pm."

Spain has reported a total of 17 cases in total:

  • 15 in quarantine: 4 Tenerife, 4 Madrid, 3 Barcelona, 2 Valencia region (includes Castellon), 1 in La Gomera and 1 in Seville.
  • 2 who have recovered from the illness.
11:43 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

What should I do to prepare for coronavirus? 

Your coronavirus questions, answered

In general, the public should do "what you do every cold and flu season," said Dr. John Wiesman, the health secretary in Washington state — where the first US case of Wuhan coronavirus was confirmed.

That includes washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

The World Health Organization recommends staying at least 3 feet (or 1 meter) away from anyone who may be infected.

If you're the one feeling sick, cover your entire mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. But don't use your hands. Use either your bent elbow or a tissue that you throw away immediately afterward.

While the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend N95 respirator masks for the general public, it does recommend them for health care workers.

But certain types of facial hair can prevent respirators from working effectively. So, the CDC created an infographic showing which styles of facial hair are riskier than others.

11:43 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

US health secretary offers more details on Mike Pence’s role in coronavirus task force

Speaking with the House Ways & Means Committee about the 2021 budget, US Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar spoke about Vice President Mike Pence’s new role in charge of the US government response to coronavirus.   

Azar explained that he will remain the chairman of the interagency task force, adding, what the Vice President will do is similar to what the President’s acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney has already been doing.

“He’s able to clear barriers, get alignment across cabinet departments and agencies, and frankly deal with and coordinate areas that are outside of the health care expertise, broader economic questions, trade issues, etcetera,” Azar said.  

“And the Vice President’s involvement with the leadership across the whole of government brings just the weight of the office of the Vice President to that task,” Azar concluded.  

11:43 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

US stock market on track for worst weekly drop since the financial crisis

From CNN’s Anneken Tappe 

Stocks have turned sharply negative as coronavirus fears continue to mount. The Dow has lost more than 900 points.

All three indexes are on track for their worst weekly percentage drop since the financial crisis. For the Dow and the S&P, it promises to be their worst performance since October 2008, while the Nasdaq hasn't dropped this much in a week since November 2008.

11:44 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

US health secretary says Trump has acted decisively against coronavirus

From CNN's Ross Levitt

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testifies during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday.
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar testifies during a House Ways and Means Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, Thursday. Andrew Harnik/AP

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is appearing this morning in front of the House Ways & Means Committee to talk about the 2021 budget.

CNN obtained Azar's opening statement in which he praises the President's team for their actions so far.

Here's Azar's complete opening statement:

The Budget reflects how seriously we take the threat of other infectious diseases, such as the novel coronavirus. It prioritizes CDC’s infectious disease programs, raising spending by $135 million from FY2020 levels to $4.3 billion, and maintains $675 million in state and local preparedness funding.
We have only 15 cases of the novel coronavirus detected here in the United States; alongside 3 cases among Americans repatriated from Wuhan; and 42 cases among American passengers repatriated from the Diamond Princess.
As President Trump, Vice President Pence, and I emphasized yesterday, the immediate risk to the American public remains low—in significant part because of the President’s decisive actions so far.
We are working closely with state, local, and private sector partners to prepare for mitigating the virus’s potential spread in the United States, because we expect to see more cases here.
In terms of identifying cases, CDC has been able to test 3,625 specimens as of this morning. At least 40 public health laboratories should now be able to test using modified existing CDC test kits. In addition, a newly manufactured CDC test can be sent to 93 public health labs as soon as Monday, and there is a privately manufactured test based on the new CDC test that can be sent to those same labs as soon as tomorrow, pending FDA clearance.
On Monday, OMB sent a request to make funding available for preparedness and response, including for therapeutics, vaccines, personal protective equipment, state and local support, and surveillance.
As the President made clear yesterday, we are open to your views on what levels of spending may be appropriate and politics have no place in our mutual efforts to keep the American people safe. As Chairman of the President’s coronavirus task force, and working in conjunction with the administration’s lead for the virus, Vice President Pence, I look forward to engaging with Congress on that.
11:45 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

Should I be wearing a mask?

Your coronavirus questions, answered

Passengers arrive at the Hongqiao railway station in Shanghai on February 26.
Passengers arrive at the Hongqiao railway station in Shanghai on February 26. Noah Celis/AFP/Getty Images

As the number of coronavirus cases increase, reports are showing that there is a growing worldwide mask shortage. This has people asking themselves if they should be wearing one.

Tariro Mzezewa, a New York Times travel reporter, tells CNN the measure is not necessary unless you are sick or are interacting with sick people.

"If you're not interacting with somebody's who's sick or you're not the person who's sick, you don't really need a mask. The people who are sick need those, and you know, there are various kinds of masks. CDC has a whole guide on its side that's breaking down the differences between the kinds of masks and so on. If you're not the sick one, you probably don't really need it," Mzezewa said.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not recommend Americans wear surgical masks in public. Surgical masks are effective against respiratory infections but not airborne infections.

Watch Mzezewa on CNN's Newsroom:

9:59 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

Several Iranian government officials have coronavirus

From CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi, Ramin Mostaghim and Sara Mazloumsaki 

Iran’s Vice President for Women and Family Affairs, Masoumeh Ebtekar, is the latest high-profile government official to test positive for novel coronavirus.  

Here's a look at other high-profile cases:

  • Two members of parliament, including the chair of the parliamentary committee for national security, have also been infected by the virus. 
  • One of the country’s top clerics, Hadi Khosroshahi, died on Thursday after he contracted the sickness. 
  • Deputy Health Minister Iran Haririchi announced on social media Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19 — just 24 hours after he tried to downplay the threat of the virus in a press briefing. 

Ebtekar, one of Iran’s most high-profile female politicians, was last seen at a cabinet meeting Wednesday with President Hassan Rouhani. During the meeting, Rouhani warned about COVID-19 turning into a “weapon at the hands of our enemies” for “propaganda” purposes. 

Iran has emerged as a regional breeding ground for the pathogen, with the most confirmed cases — 245 cases including 26 deaths — in the region. The vast majority of coronavirus cases across the Middle East have been linked to Iran.  

11:45 a.m. ET, February 27, 2020

Trump had some details of the new California coronavirus case before his press conference, source says

From CNN's Kevin Liptak

President Trump had some — but not all — the details of the new COVID-19 coronavirus case in Sacramento before coming out for last night’s briefing at the White House, a person familiar with the matter tells CNN. 

He was given a quick update on the case beforehand, but it was non-comprehensive, the person said. He was told the case didn’t appear to be connected to other cases in the US, but it’s not clear whether he was given details on the possibilities of its origin.

Why this is important: This individual, a resident of Solano County, California, who has novel coronavirus might be the first example in the country of "community spread," a situation in which the patient did not have "relevant travel history or exposure to another known patient," the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.