February 29 coronavirus news

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8:54 p.m. ET, February 28, 2020

Italian hospitals face an "overcrowding crisis"

From CNN’s Jo Shelley and Nicola Ruotolo in Milan, Livia Borghese in Rome and Mia Alberti in London

 A paramedic wearing a mask exits a tent set up outside the emergency ward of the Piacenza hospital in Piacenza, Italy, on Thursday, February 27.
A paramedic wearing a mask exits a tent set up outside the emergency ward of the Piacenza hospital in Piacenza, Italy, on Thursday, February 27. Claudio Furlan/LaPresse/ZUMA Press

Hospitals battling Italy's growing coronavirus outbreak are facing a "crisis," according to health officials in the southern European nation.

Italy now has over 820 cases, making it one of the worst hit countries in the world. Lombardy, in northern Italy, has 531 confirmed cases and a death toll of 17, the region's health secretary Giulio Gallera said Friday.

And hospitals are struggling to cope.

If the (coronavirus) keeps spreading, there will be a crisis of the hospitals, not only for those infected, but for all patients,” Gallera said.

Professor Massimo Galli, head of the department of infectious diseases at Sacco Hospital in Milan, said that some hospitals were already facing an overcrowding crisis.

The strain on health care infrastructure has long been a concern attached to the outbreak. In the Chinese province of Hubei, where the virus is thought to have originated, hospitals were initially unable to cope with the influx of new patients, a situation that is thought to have helped accelerate the spread of the virus during the early stages of the outbreak.

8:40 p.m. ET, February 28, 2020

Here's the latest on the coronavirus outbreak

If you're just joining us, here's what's been happening over the last few hours.

Highest level of alert: The World Health Organization increased the global risk from the outbreak from high to very high. “This thing can go in any direction. We’re not undermining the risk, it’s there," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization, said during a press briefing in Geneva on Friday. 

Global spread: The total number of confirmed cases now stands at more than 84,000, with more than 5,000 cases outside of mainland China. Though the number of new cases is beginning to ease inside of China, new clusters are fast expanding elsewhere, with rising infection rates in South Korea, Iran and Italy. In total, the virus has now spread to more than 56 countries and territories outside of mainland China.

Italy's hospitals overflowing:  Health officials from Italy’s Lombardy region have warned also warned of a “hospital crisis” if the coronavirus continues to spread. According to Professor Massimo Galli, the head of the department of infectious diseases at Sacco Hospital in Milan, his hospital has already reached the limit for the hospital beds in intensive care wards.

US reports 64th case: The US has reported its 64th case in California -- the individual was a Travis Air Force Base evacuee and passenger of the Diamond Princess cruise ship. The announcement comes amid growing concerns in the US. According to public health authorities, the country's 63rd case, which was reported earlier Friday, is the second US case of unknown origin, indicating that there's evidence of the virus transmitting within the community.

Shutting down: From conferences to concerts, an increasing number of events around the world are being canceled. CBS also temporarily suspended the production of its show “The Amazing Race” due to “increased concerns and uncertainty regarding the coronavirus around the world,” a CBS spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the WHO headquarters on Friday, February 28, in Geneva.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the WHO headquarters on Friday, February 28, in Geneva. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images