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Stanford University will move classes online due to coronavirus

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In a growing sign of how coronavirus is disrupting California, Stanford University said Friday night that it will move classes online for the final two weeks of the winter quarter.

Stanford also said large events would be “canceled or adjusted.”

“The university is actively monitoring the local and global health situation and is taking precautionary measures in an effort to help limit the spread of infection,” officials said in a statement.

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The move comes after a faculty member tested positive for the virus.

USC said Friday that it would conduct lectures and seminars online rather than in classrooms for three days next week to test the ability to operate remotely should the coronavirus spread and force the campus to suspend in-person contact. The University of Washington announced Friday it was moving all instruction online for the next two weeks, keeping more than 50,000 students out of classrooms as the death toll from COVID-19 in that region continued to rise.

Meanwhile, coronavirus continued its spread across California and the nation on Friday, with new cases reported from Los Angeles to Placer County, while cruise passengers stuck off the coast of San Francisco were tested amid what appears to be an outbreak on board.

At least seven of California’s cases have been tied to the cruise, including one confirmed death in Placer County.

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Speaking at the White House on Friday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence said a total of 21 people on the Grand Princess have tested positive for coronavirus, including 19 crew members.

Our special edition newsletter breaks down the latest coronavirus news, including the cancellation of the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

He said the federal government is working with the state of California to bring the cruise ship in to a non-commercial port over the weekend and to quarantine passengers as necessary.

“All passengers will be tested,” the vice president said. “Those that need to be quarantined will be quarantined.”

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Pence said 24 people on the cruise ship had tested negative, and one test has been inconclusive.

Meanwhile, L.A. County confirmed two additional cases of the new coronavirus Friday, bringing the total to 13.

That comes as more cases of the virus continue to be reported elsewhere in California and in other states, including Texas, prompting the city of Austin to cancel the massively popular South by Southwest festival.

Of the most recent cases announced in L.A. County, one person is part of a group of travelers who went to northern Italy. Seven other members of that same group had already have tested positive for COVID-19.

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The second is a second screener at Los Angeles International Airport. A screener at LAX also was diagnosed with the virus earlier in the week, sources familiar with the matter said. The L.A. County Department of Public Health has asked the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for help investigating those two cases.

The individuals’ close contacts are being self-quarantined in case they also develop symptoms.

The new cases still don’t point to community spread in Los Angeles County, L.A. County Department of Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

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She estimated that 50 people in the county have been tested for COVID-19 and emphasized that more tests are coming back negative than positive.

The low numbers of tests run in L.A. County so far have been due to limited testing capacity at the lab, not a shortage of test kits, she said. Lab workers had been putting in at least 18-hour days, she said.
On Thursday night, commercial lab LabCorp came online, and on Monday, Quest Diagnostics is expected to begin offering testing as well, she said.

“This is all good news,” Ferrer said. “The limitation of our lab was not the lab kits, but we’re only one lab and we could only process a certain number of tests in one day.”

She said these changes does not mean that everyone will be tested for the virus. Providers will determine which patients with symptoms require testing.

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As of Friday, L.A. County expanded its criteria to follow guidelines to test for anyone a doctor recommends, not just people with a travel history to countries with major outbreaks, Ferrer said.

“Now it’s up the individual provider to make that determination,” she said, adding that providers are encouraged to consult CDC criteria.

Yolo County reported its first case of the new virus Friday — a woman who officials think contracted the virus in the community.

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The woman has underlying health conditions and has been hospitalized, officials said. She appears to have acquired the virus “through community transmission,” the Yolo County Health and Human Services Agency said in a news release. The agency will monitor the woman’s close personal contacts for symptoms of the illness and said staff is working with healthcare providers to identify potential additional cases.

“Given the rapid spread of COVID-19 around the world, I am not surprised that the virus is in our county,” Dr. Ron Chapman, the county’s public health officer, said in a statement.

The county plans to declare local and health emergencies, the agency said.

Solano and Santa Clara counties also have reported coronavirus cases that are believed to have been contracted through community contact — that is, by people who have not traveled to areas where COVID-19 is widespread or by those who have come in direct contact with another confirmed case of the virus.

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New coronavirus cases were also reported Friday in Placer, Ventura, Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Alameda counties.

In Placer County, three cases were announced, all of them among people who had traveled on the Grand Princess cruise ship from San Francisco to Mexico on Feb. 11-21. The ship docked in San Francisco on Feb. 21, with some passengers disembarking before the ship moved on to Hawaii. The ship is now being held off the coast of San Francisco amid an outbreak of COVID-19.

Two of the people had mild symptoms that have already resolved, while the third continues to experience mild symptoms, the Placer County Public Health Department said in a news release. None of them required hospitalization, and all three are isolated at home, officials said.

The public health department is working on tracing the people’s contacts to identify more possible cases, officials said.

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Several elementary and secondary schools in the Seattle area have closed, and more may follow soon, but health officials warned that such a move could backfire.

“We are moving as quickly as possible to limit the spread of disease,” Dr. Aimee Sisson, the county’s health officer, said in a statement. “To be frank, we would not be surprised to see a second wave of cases connected to these cruise passengers given the amount of time that’s passed since they disembarked.”

Placer County had previously reported two cases of the coronavirus, including one death.

Ventura County’s public health lab also confirmed a positive result for a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise ship. The person had only mild symptoms and was being quarantined at home, officials said. It was the county’s first case of the new virus.

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“There is no evidence of community transmission in Ventura County,” Dr. Robert Levin, the county health officer, said in a statement. “This is a travel-related case.”

The state Department of Health on Wednesday night notified the Ventura County Public Health Department that six county residents had traveled on the cruise, and public health officials contacted all of them, the Ventura County Public Health Department said in a news release.

One of the travelers had been in contact with their primary care doctor, who had requested that the person be tested for COVID-19, officials said. The doctor had the patient stay in their vehicle while dropping off the sample curbside to limit possible exposure, officials said.

The person diagnosed with the virus had remained home resting since returning from the cruise, and only left to seek medical attention, officials said. Public health officials said they were working with the state Department of Public Health to notify anyone else who may have come into contact with the person while they were seeking medical attention or in transit to Ventura County from San Francisco, where they disembarked the cruise.

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The person’s spouse, who was also on the cruise but did not have symptoms of the virus, was also being quarantined at home, officials said.

Of the four remaining Ventura County residents who were on the cruise, one was symptomatic and being tested, officials said. The other three had reported no symptoms.

In Contra Costa County, two of the three cases announced Friday were also passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship. The third person had close contact with a person who was diagnosed with the coronavirus in another jurisdiction, county health officials said. All three people were being isolated at their homes.

The county is now recommending that adults over 50 and people with underlying medical conditions that could put them at risk of contracting COVID-19 avoid mass gatherings like parades, sporting events or concerts.

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Public health officials in Santa Clara County reported four new cases Friday, bringing the total there to 24.

One was a man whom officials described as a household contact of a previously confirmed COVID-19 case in Santa Clara County, and another was a male who had recently returned from a trip to India, officials said. Both people were isolated at home.

Officials weren’t sure how the other two people contracted the virus. One was a male who was isolated at home; the other was a woman who was hospitalized, officials said. Both cases were under investigation.

In Alameda County, the health department confirmed a third case of COVID-19 — an older adult with underlying health conditions who was a passenger on the Grand Princess cruise ship from Feb. 11 to 21.

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At the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, 25 lab employees were sent home Thursday for a 14-day period of self-monitoring after an employee informed the lab of having been exposed to coronavirus, said Lynda Seaver, spokesperson for the facility. The employee in question had shown symptoms of the virus, Seaver said, and “we are presuming it’s coronavirus, but we don’t have verification.” The Alameda County lab has 7,500 employees.

And in Riverside County, the Murrieta Valley Unified School District announced Friday night that it would close Murrieta Valley High School after an employee who recently traveled to a country affected by the coronavirus outbreak became ill and will be tested. The school district said the school would be closed until testing was completed.

The number of coronavirus cases worldwide has surpassed 100,000 — with California recording at least 69 — as officials work to contain the virus despite its rapid spread.

World Health Organization officials pressed countries Friday to aggressively pursue containment and expand testing for COVID-19 as the outbreak swells.

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WHO director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that trying to contain the epidemic and slow it buys time for more research and preparedness to handle cases when they do arrive. “Every day we can slow the epidemic is another day, governments can prepare their workers to detect, test, treat and care for patients,” he said.

In California, officials announced what may be the state’s second virus-related death in Santa Clara County, where residents are being urged to postpone or cancel large gatherings and events, and minimize work in big groups.

The number of positive COVID-19 test results in the state reached 60 Thursday as authorities announced what may be the state’s second virus-related death in Santa Clara County. That number is expected to grow.

UCLA Chancellor Gene Block announced early Friday that three students were being tested for the virus. By that night, Block reported that the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health informed the university that each of the three students had tested negative for the virus.

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In Sacramento County, officials declared a public health emergency Thursday. The action follows Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state of emergency declaration related to the virus. Several other counties and cities across California have made similar proactive decrees, which will allow them to ask for help if their own resources become exhausted.

At least 15 counties in the state have reported cases, with the highest counts in Santa Clara and Los Angeles counties.

San Francicso, where Mayor London Breed declared a public health emergency last week, reported its first two cases Thursday. Officials think the cases indicate the virus is spreading in the community because the two new patients — a man in his 90s and a woman in her 40s who are not related — have no travel history to places with COVID-19 and had no contact with anyone who’s tested positive for the illness.

California has recorded at least 157 cases of COVID-19, including four deaths, in more than a dozen counties.

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“We do not know at this point how they were exposed to the virus,” Dr. Grant Colfax, San Francisco’s director of health, said in a statement.

On Friday, San Francisco’s public health department issued new guidance to reduce the spread of the disease, including recommendations that people over 60, or with underlying health conditions, “stay home as much as possible,” avoid gatherings of 50 or more people unless necessary and telecommute if possible. The city’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade was also postponed “until further notice” on Friday in an effort to contain the disease, and events at the Davies Symphony Hall, home to the San Francisco Symphony, and War Memorial Performing Arts Center venues were canceled for two weeks.

And on Thursday, Nevada announced its first confirmed case of COVID-19, in Las Vegas, a man in his 50s who had recently traveled to Washington state, where dozens of cases have been reported. He is hospitalized in isolation, officials said.

President Trump on Friday signed an $8.3-billion emergency spending package intended to help with prevention and response efforts to the virus, including the extension of telemedicine services to seniors, one of the groups most vulnerable to the virus.

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The day before, authorities in Santa Clara County reported the death of a 72-year-old man who had been on a cruise with two passengers suspected of having the coronavirus — but cautioned they have not yet confirmed whether he had contracted the virus.

Officers performed CPR on the unresponsive man, who later died, then learned from his family about his cruise travels, said Phan Ngo, chief of the Sunnyvale Department of Public Safety. On Friday night, Santa Clara County officials announced that the man tested negative for COVID-19.

Santa Clara County announced Thursday that the number of cases there had grown from 14 to 20. Four are related to travel, nine had contacts with other confirmed COVID-19 patients and seven were believed to have caught it in the community, officials said.

“Our cases to date indicate to us that the risk of exposure to the virus in our community is increasing,” Dr. Sara Cody, the county’s health officer, said Thursday.

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In response, county health officials issued more stringent recommendations meant to slow the spread of the virus, calling on residents to postpone large gatherings and cancel large events. Employers should take steps to minimize large group meetings, consider allowing employees to telecommute and stagger work start and end times, they said.

In San Jose, Mayor Sam Liccardo said he would propose a temporary moratorium on evictions in the city for renters contending with lost wages due to the coronavirus outbreak. San Jose State President Mary A. Papazian said she would move the university’s State of the State address online and anticipated that other spring campus events would be affected by the outbreak. There are no reported cases of COVID-19 at the campus.

Lockheed Martin reported that one of its employees in Sunnyvale tested positive for the virus, and like other businesses, the company is taking extra precautions to safeguard workplace areas.

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“We have taken actions to ensure a safe workplace for employees and visitors, including deep cleaning of work areas and common spaces. The health and well-being of our employees is our top priority,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement.

Health officials aren’t recommending that schools or businesses be closed but said they’ll consider such closures on a case-by-case basis if a school employee or student is confirmed to have the coronavirus. At this point, officials have recommended that schools consider online learning possibilities in the event that a school is closed and that businesses have a work-from-home contingency plan.

Lowell High School in San Francisco announced Thursday it would close and cancel all events and gatherings for the rest of the week after learning that a relative of one of its students is being treated for COVID-19.

San Mateo County’s health officer, Dr. Scott Morrow, said in a statement Thursday that COVID-19 “has likely been spreading for weeks, perhaps months.”

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“We now all need to take assertive actions to inhibit the spread of this new virus,” Morrow said.

Among other steps, Morrow recommends that people stop shaking hands, use a barrier such as a paper towel or tissue to touch door handles, elevator buttons and other commonly touched surfaces and “under all circumstances, stop touching your face, eyes, nose, or mouth with your unwashed hands.” Echoing Santa Clara officials, he said residents should cancel or postpone nonessential gatherings.

In the future, other steps may be needed, Morrow said, including school closures that are “extensive and extended,” rationing of critical supplies and social distancing — that is, staying at least six feet away from other people.

Ferrer said there is no evidence of community spread in L.A. County at this point, but there are mild cases that have gone undiagnosed.

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“At some point and at one point soon we will have a case of a person who was symptomatic, who we can’t trace back to a known exposure and that will allow us to confirm that in fact there’s community spread,” she said. “Do we have more novel coronavirus here than we have cases? I would say the answer to that is probably yes.”

She said that for now the county has the capacity to do contact tracing for known cases and keep up with demand, but that could change.

“We have capacity right now; should there be hundreds of cases, we will just flip to mitigation, and with a concentration on working with institutions where there might be small outbreaks,” she said.

She said that more extreme measures, such as closing schools, canceling mass gatherings and shutting down public transit, will be considered as the outbreak grows. She said at this point, county health officials feel confident in their ability to find people who are symptomatic and identify and quarantine their contacts.

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“If we have a lot more cases … we would move toward more widespread social distancing measures, and if we have exposures in places like schools where lots of people got exposure and needed to be quarantined you would see possible closures,” she said.

Los Angeles County health officials on Thursday confirmed four more cases of the coronavirus among patients who had recently returned from a group trip to northern Italy. Three travelers in that group had previously tested positive for the virus.

The San Diego area reported its third case, an employee of an AT&T store in Chula Vista. Six stores were closed and deep-cleaned, the company said in a statement.

In the Bay Area, theGrand Princess cruise ship was being kept offshore amid concerns that more people on board might be sick after a 71-year-old passenger on an earlier voyage died this week of the virus.

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Sonoma County health officials confirmed that a second passenger on the cruise tested positive and was in isolation.

Health officials said they were contacting Sonoma County residents who were on the cruise or on the shuttle that carried passengers to and from the ship.

Meanwhile, Newsom and state Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced they were ordering all public and commercial insurance plans to fully cover the cost of testing for the coronavirus as an essential benefit.

The order will ensure that Californians will not incur any out-of-pocket expenses, including co-pays and deductibles, even if they are tested at hospital emergency rooms or urgent care facilities, they said.

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“This action means that Californians who fit the testing requirements can receive the test at no cost. We’re all in this together, and I’m grateful to those health providers who have already stepped up and heeded our call,” Newsom said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

Californians without insurance should contact their county public health departments for information about their options for testing and screening, state officials said.

Visiting Washington state Thursday afternoon, Vice President Mike Pence acknowledged that the federal government still has not been able to get enough coronavirus test kits to hospitals, clinics and health departments around the country.

“We still have a ways to go,” Pence said. But he again promised millions would be on the way soon, predicting that 4 million tests would be distributed by the end of next week. Pence and other Trump administration officials had promised that 1 million would be distributed by the end of this week, but there has been no verification that has occurred.

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Washington remains the hardest-hit state, with 70 confirmed cases, including 11 people who have died.

World Health Organization officials said Thursday that it is not too late to curb the spread of the virus, which as of Friday morning had infected 100,685 people wordwide and killed approximately 3,460.

In parts of China, where the outbreak originated, the daily new infection rate has been brought down to the single digits, health officials said. Eight provinces have not reported any new cases in the last 14 days.

Officials emphasized that tried-and-true public health measures, like testing and isolation, are working to control the virus.

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Countries need to take proactive steps, said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the WHO’s acting head of emerging diseases. “You need to look for all of your cases aggressively.”

Times staff writers Ruben Vives, Anita Chabria, Noam Levey, Rong-Gong Lin II and Phil Willon contributed to this report.


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