US states race to contain coronavirus as cases near 1,000
As coronavirus cases crop up across the United States, some governors and other leaders are scrambling to slow its spread, banning large public gatherings, enforcing quarantines and calling National Guard troops.
With new deaths reported and the number of confirmed U.S. cases closing in on 1,000, lawmakers and health officials set up containment zones and quarantine areas and sought to limit contact with those who might be infected.
In Washington state, the governor was expected to ban gatherings of more than 250 people in virtually the entire Seattle metro area, home to some 4 million people. Schools and houses of worship were shuttered in a New York City suburb where a cluster of cases could be the largest in the nation, and the governor sent National Guard troops to help clean public spaces and deliver food.
The moves came as the battle to stop the virus from spreading intensified. More schools and universities, including UCLA, Yale and Stanford, have announced plans to send students home and move classes online.
The virus has infected more than 800 people in the U.S. and killed at least 30, with one state after another recording its first infections in quick succession.
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For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. For some, especially the elderly and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Most people recover in a matter of weeks, as has happened with three-quarters of those infected in China.
For those in the middle of a quarantine, it's an anxious time waiting for the threat to pass.
Judy Aqua, who's in her 60s, is quarantining herself at home in New Rochelle, outside New York city, after possibly being exposed to someone with the virus.
"People are really afraid to go to the supermarket. They're afraid to go to the cleaner," she said. When her husband made a recent run to a post office, she told him to wear gloves.
Life in many places went on as usual, but many major events were canceled or postponed, including the Coachella music festival that draws tens of thousands to the California desert near Palm Springs every April.
The United Nations announced it would close its New York headquarters to the public and suspend all tours, and one of the biggest resort operators in Las Vegas, MGM Resorts International, said it would close buffets at all of its Las Vegas Strip casinos as a precaution, although the casinos were staying open.
The ban on gatherings in Washington state would apply to sporting events such as Seattle Mariners baseball and Seattle Sounders soccer games, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the matter publicly. It could be just the beginning of disruptions to sports: Already, some college sports games will be played without fans in Ohio and California, and the NCAA said it would "make decisions in the coming days" about its men's and women's basketball tournaments after two conferences banned fans from their championships and the Ivy League cancelled its basketball tournaments altogether.
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker declared a state of emergency as cases statewide jumped from 51 to 92. Of that number, 70 are now connected to a meeting held last month by biotech company Biogen at a hotel in downtown Boston.
Baker said the state of emergency will give him greater authority to take such actions as shutting down large events, gaining access to buildings or stockpiling protective gear. Santa Clara County in California, home to San Jose and Silicon Valley, has banned on all gatherings of 1,000 people or more.
Presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden abruptly canceled rallies in Cleveland because of worries about the virus.
As many people considered whether it's prudent to travel, the news that everyone on a flight from Italy may have been exposed had health officials urging those passengers to self-isolate. A woman from suburban Houston flew home after testing positive to consult her own doctor, and now everyone on the two flights she took could be at risk.
Some airport workers are also dealing with the outbreak, with several Transportation Security Administration officers at Mineta San Jose International Airport testing positive. They were receiving medical care and all TSA employees who had contact with them over the past 14 days are being quarantined at home, the agency said.
In Oakland, California, restless passengers on a coronavirus-struck cruise ship awaited their turn to disembark. After being forced to idle for days off the California coast, the ship docked Monday with about 3,500 passengers and crew, including at least 21 who tested positive for the virus. Passengers from Canada and other countries were to be flown home, while Americans were being sent to military bases in California, Texas and Georgia for testing and 14-day quarantines, and others were still waiting to get off.
"We're trying to stay calm and were trying to stay positive, but it's getting harder and harder. They can't make up their minds how to keep us safe," said passenger Beryl Ward, 77, of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
By Tuesday night, Princess Cruises said about 1,400 people had gotten off the ship. About 1,100 crew members were to remain aboard.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom urged the state's nearly 40 million residents to avoid sporting events, concerts and large gatherings and adamantly warned the elderly to stay away from cruise ships.