March 4 coronavirus news

By Julia Hollingsworth, Adam Renton, Steve George, Emma Reynolds, Mike Hayes, Rachel Bowman and Meg Wagner, CNN

Updated 10:15 p.m. ET, March 4, 2020
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6:07 p.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Pence: Coronavirus risk “remains low” and “no need for Americans to buy masks"

From CNN's Betsy Klein 

Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images
Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

There are more than 100 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the US as of Wednesday, including domestic cases and Americans who have returned from China or the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Vice President Mike Pence said this afternoon during a press briefing. 

Pence insisted that the American public’s risk of contracting the novel coronavirus “remains low" while stressing that there is “no need for Americans to buy masks.”  

However, Pence said, “It does appear that the elderly are the most vulnerable, and especially those with serious health issues,” something both Ambassador Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, echoed.

As a result, the administration is releasing new guidelines for the nation’s nursing homes.

For the foreseeable future, Pence said, the administration will “focus all of our inspection resources… on compliance with infection control standards,” meaning that inspectors who monitor for abuse and neglect at nursing homes will focus “exclusively” on making sure the facilities are complying with these new standards.

Seema Verma, an administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, said there were three memos released today: one for hospitals on triaging patients with coronavirus symptoms, one with information for nursing homes about limiting visitors and monitoring staff and another to state nursing home surveyors.

Pence also noted that his meeting with lab industry representatives “gave us great hope for great progress” on expanding testing across the country.

Working together: The labs have created a consortium to share information and resources. Pence also said it has been conveyed to state governments that all state laboratories and university labs at the state level can conduct coronavirus tests without additional assets or resources from the federal government.

Pence noted that “many members of the task force” will be traveling with him to Minnesota and Washington state for meetings with representatives from 3M and Gov. Jay Inslee, respectively.

Watch:

5:54 p.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Ireland confirms 4 more cases of novel coronavirus

From CNN’s Mia Alberti in London 

Ireland announced on Wednesday that four people from the same family tested positive for coronavirus, raising the total number of infections in the country to six, according to a statement released by the Irish government. 

The patients are two men and two women who are all "associated with travel from the same affected area in Northern Italy.”

Dr. Ronan Glynn, deputy chief medical officer of Ireland’s Department of Health, said in a statement Wednesday, “there is still no evidence of widespread or sustained community transmission in Ireland, as seen in some other EU countries.” 

5:43 p.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Spain confirms second death from coronavirus

From CNN’s Claudia Rebaza in London 

Spain confirmed a second death from coronavirus on Wednesday, according to a statesmen released by the Heath Department for the Basque Country.

“It was a 82-year-old man with pre-existing chronic conditions who also had pneumonia,” the statement said.

By the numbers: The total numbers of cases in Spain is now 219.

The capital, Madrid, is the region with most cases with 76 people infected with the virus.

5:28 p.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Los Angeles coronavirus patient is a medical screener at LAX airport

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

One of the newly announced coronavirus cases in Los Angeles county is a medical screener at Los Angeles International Airport, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

This contract worker had not been at work for more than a week before developing symptoms, DHS says. It is unclear whether the virus was contracted through their work with travelers or via community spread.

The patient is currently isolated at home with mild symptoms.

5:22 p.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Slovenia confirms its first case of coronavirus

From CNN’s Mia Alberti in London

Slovenia confirmed its first case of coronavirus today, according to a statement from the government of Slovenia on its official website. 

Before this infection, 352 coronavirus tests had been carried out in Slovenia and the results were all negative, the government said.

The statement said the occurrence of the first confirmed case of the COVID-19 virus in the country was only “a matter of time.”

“All competent institutions are constantly monitoring the situation and informing the public about preventive measures. Measures to curb the spread of infections in our country that may be required in the future are also prepared,” the government said.
5:18 p.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Brazil confirms third case of novel coronavirus 

From CNN’s Shasta Darlington

Brazil's third case of the novel coronavirus was confirmed by Brazil's Health Ministry today.

A 46-year-old Colombian man tested positive upon returning to Brazil from a trip to Spain, Austria and Germany, the Health Ministry said.

In all three cases, the patients became ill after visiting Europe and did not contract the virus in Brazil, according to the Health Ministry. 

5:15 p.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Seattle-area groups asked to stagger office work times due to coronavirus

From CNN's Andy Rose

Businesses around Seattle are being asked to stagger work times at their offices in order to cut the number of people crowded into mass transit vehicles at rush hour. 

In a press conference, King County Public Health Director Patty Hayes also encouraged community events organizers to postpone large gatherings.

“If you can feasibly avoid large groups of people together, consider postponing those meetings," Hayes said.

Hayes emphasized that they currently are not asking any schools to close “unless there has been a confirmed case within that school.”

5:48 p.m. ET, March 4, 2020

Princess Cruises to end cruise ship voyage early due to the coronavirus

From CNN's Cheri Mossburg

Princess Cruises will cut short the current sailing of the Grand Princess, which was most recently in Hawaii.

At least two patients from the ship’s previous sailing have tested positive for coronavirus. One of those patients has since died.

“We are saddened to learn of the announcement made by Placer County Public Health that a 71-year-old male guest who had sailed on the previous voyage has died,” a statement from the cruise line stated. “All of us at Princess Cruises offer our sincerest and heartfelt condolences to the family and all who are impacted by this loss.”

Princess is cancelling their scheduled stop in Ensenada, Mexico, and will return to San Francisco early. The exact time and date is to be determined, according to the statement.

Princess is working closely with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the statement says, and is following its recommendations.

Coronavirus is hitting the travel industry hard:

5:00 p.m. ET, March 4, 2020

New York confirms 5 new cases of coronavirus

From CNN’s Anna Sturla, Sheena Jones Giulia McDonnel Nieto del Rio

Another family in New York has been confirmed to have the coronavirus, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tweeted this afternoon.

The family from New Rochelle is believed to have been in contact with the 50-year old attorney, who has since been hospitalized. The attorney and his family were confirmed to have the virus earlier today.

This brings the total number of confirmed cases in New York to 11.

Read Cuomo's tweet: