JFK will screen passengers for deadly new virus from China

The Bobster

Senior News Editor since 2004

JFK will screen passengers for deadly new virus from China
By Yaron Steinbuch
January 17, 2020 | 3:12pm

Federal health officials announced Friday that they will screen airline passengers arriving at three US airports – including JFK – for a new virus that has killed two people and sickened dozens.

Starting Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will take temperatures of passengers at JFK and the Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports who arrive from the outbreak city of Wuhan.

“To further protect the health of the American public during the emergence of this novel coronavirus, CDC is beginning entry screening at three ports of entry,” the agency said.

“Investigations into this novel coronavirus are ongoing and we are monitoring and responding to this evolving situation,” Dr. Martin Cetron, director of the CDC’s Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, said in a release.

The CDC added that the risk from the virus — 2019-nCoV — to the public is currently deemed to be low.

Officials estimate that about 5,000 passengers will go through the process in the next couple of weeks at the three airports. The first direct flight was expected late Friday at JFK, and the next expected Saturday morning in San Francisco.

More than 40 cases of the newly identified coronavirus have been confirmed in Asia, including two deaths — at least one involving a prior medical condition.

Officials have said it probably spread from animals to people but haven’t been able to rule out the possibility that it spreads from person to person.

“This is a serious situation,” Nancy Messonnier, who oversees the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told the Washington Post, adding that it was crucial for the US to be proactive.

At least a half-dozen Asian countries have begun screening airline passengers arriving from central China.

The list includes Thailand and Japan, which both have reported cases of the disease in people who had come from Wuhan.

The CDC said the screenings are part of an effort to better detect and prevent the virus from the same family of bugs that caused global outbreaks of SARS and MERS that began in 2002 and 2012.

The CDC did not screen incoming passengers during those outbreaks, and some public health experts questioned whether they should do so now.

“It’s not a particularly effective intervention, and it potentially offers a false sense of security,” said Dr. Kamran Khan, a researcher at the University of Toronto who has studied airport screenings during the SARS and Ebola outbreaks.

Screeners will likely flag a lot of travelers with other germs during the ongoing flu season while missing infections from the new virus – and experts believe it may take up to two weeks between the time someone is infected and when they develop a fever and other symptoms.

The only time the CDC has performed airport screenings was in 2014, when thousands of passengers from three West African countries were checked for Ebola but no illnesses were detected.

In fact, one infected passenger who had no symptoms passed through the screenings and then developed symptoms after arriving in the US.

Some have argued that screenings have less to do with good science than with politicians hoping to convince the public that it is being protected.

But Cetron, the CDC official, rejected that notion.

“There’s widespread consensus we should be doing this now,” among both political appointees and government scientists, he said.

The Bobster

Senior News Editor since 2004

Death toll rises from mystery coronavirus in China
By Yaron Steinbuch
January 21, 2020 | 8:52am | Updated

The death toll from the new coronavirus in China climbed to six Tuesday as new cases of the mysterious flu-like illness surged beyond 300, raising concerns of a major outbreak during the Lunar New Year travel rush.

Anxiety grew both at home and abroad after Zhong Nanshan, chief of the National Health Commission, confirmed fears late Monday that the virus can spread from human to human.

Officials have confirmed more than 300 cases in China, mostly in the central city of Wuhan, a major transportation hub, where the virus may have originated at a seafood market.

There have been six deaths in that city, Mayor Zhou Xianwang told Chinese state media Tuesday.

But the virus has been spreading around other parts of China, including more than 20 cases in the capital of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong province in the south and Zhejiang in the east. Fifteen medical workers are among those infected.

Abroad, Thailand has reported two cases and South Korea one, all involving Chinese travelers from Wuhan. Japan and Taiwan also confirmed one case each, both nationals who had been to that city.

“Information about newly reported infections suggest there may now be sustained human-to-human transmission,” said Takeshi Kasai, the World Health Organization’s regional director for the western Pacific, Reuters reported.

So far, the WHO has not recommended trade or travel restrictions but such measures could be addressed during a meeting Wednesday.

In the US, officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are taking temperatures of passengers at New York’s JFK and the Los Angeles and San Francisco international airports who arrive from Wuhan.

Airports in Australia, Japan and South Korea also have begun screening passengers from the city, where officials have been using infrared thermometers to screen passengers since Jan. 14.

Images of long lines of people lining up to buy face masks were circulating widely on Chinese social media during the Lunar New Year, a major holiday for Chinese, many of whom travel to join family or have a foreign holiday.

The Chinese government has estimated people will make about 3 billion trips during the travel season, but some social media users have said they may stay home amid concern about the virus.

Some online vendors were limiting sales of masks and hand sanitizers as demand skyrocketed. Several online retailers were sold out of masks, which were being sold for more than 10 times their original price.
see also
Human-to-human transmission confirmed in China coronavirus

Users of the popular Weibo social media platform urged people to wash their hands and stay home. Initial symptoms of the new coronavirus include fever, cough, chest tightness and shortness of breath.

The coronavirus has caused alarm because of its genetic similarities to SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which first infected people in southern China in late 2002 and spread to dozens of countries, killing nearly 800.

The Chinese government announced it was classifying the new outbreak in the same category as SARS, meaning mandatory isolation for those diagnosed with the disease and the potential to implement quarantine measures on travel.

China initially tried to conceal the severity of the SARS epidemic, but its cover-up was exposed by a high-ranking physician.

The Bobster

Senior News Editor since 2004

NYC shops hit with face mask shortage amid coronavirus fears
By Natalie O'Neill
January 24, 2020 | 4:58pm | Updated


A worker wears a mask in Chinatown on Friday. Reuters

Shops in the Big Apple sold out of face masks Friday amid fears over the deadly coronavirus.

Pharmacies and medical supply stores in Manhattan are bracing for a shortage of the protective gear — with some reporting empty shelves — as the number of people infected by the flu-like virus surged worldwide, workers told The Post.

“We are totally out of stock of face masks. There’s been an uptick in sales for the last three days,” said Rob Luckman, a manager at Halpern Pharmacy on 23rd Street near Second Avenue.

He said the pharmacy had sold hundreds of the masks in recent days due to concerns about the outbreak — which has soared to 830 infections worldwide, and triggered screenings of Chinese travelers at JFK airport.

Many of the customers flooding the pharmacy were of Chinese decent — buying the supplies for relatives who can’t get them back home, where residents face serious shortages, Luckman said.

“The biggest thing I’m seeing is people buying them to send them back to China,” he said. “One doctor told me he bought a box for his family and friends who can’t get them there.”

In other cases, surgeons and medical students were stocking up on the protective facial gear in case they become harder to find in New York, Luckman said.

The face masks were also flying off the shelves at the Falk Surgical supply shop on the Upper East Side, a rep from the store said.

“We’re about to sell out,” he said, before declining to elaborate. “I can tell you they are selling a lot.”

He said the store plans to get more masks by Monday — if they’re still in stock with wholesale providers.

The virus, which is believed to have originated in Wuhan, China, had killed at least 26 people Friday.

The Bobster

Senior News Editor since 2004

Coronavirus reaches Europe with two cases confirmed in France
By Lia Eustachewich
January 24, 2020 | 3:44pm

Two cases of the coronavirus were confirmed in France on Friday — the first cases in Europe.

Both patients had traveled to China, the epicenter of the deadly outbreak that’s cropped up in a half-dozen other countries, leaving at least 26 people dead.

“We have two cases,” said France’s Health Minister Agnes Buzyn. “We will probably have other cases.”

One of the people sickened is a 48-year-old man who passed through Wuhan — where the coronavirus originated — before traveling to France on Wednesday. He is hospitalized in the southwestern city of Bordeaux, while the second person is hospitalized in Paris.

Buzyn said the second person also traveled to China but she had little other information on their case.

The minister said France is the first European country to have confirmed coronavirus cases partly because it’s developed a test allowing medics to rapidly diagnose the illness.


Senior News Editor since 2011

Patient Tests Positive for Wuhan Coronavirus in Orange County in 3rd Documented Case in U.S.

Posted 11:35 PM, January 25, 2020

Health officials in Orange County on Saturday confirmed a case of the Wuhan coronavirus, marking the third known case in the United States.

The patient recently traveled from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak is believed to have originated, according to the Orange County Health Agency. The person has been in contact with the agency and "was provided guidance in order to reduce exposure to the public while awaiting laboratory confirmation," the OCHCA said in a written statement.

Now that the diagnosis has been confirmed, "The individual has now been transported to a local hospital and is in isolation in good condition," the statement said.

County health officials were contacting up with those who have had close contact with the patient, putting them at risk of infection.

The Bobster

Senior News Editor since 2004

Wesleyan University student being monitored for coronavirus in Connecticut

By Jackie Salo
January 26, 2020 | 8:48am | Updated

A student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut is being monitored as a possible case of the deadly new coronavirus, school officials said.

The unidentified student complained of cough and fever after traveling through an airport where another person was identified to have the flu-like virus, the Hartford Courant reported.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are working with the state Department of Public Health and the Centers of Disease Control to determine if the student has contracted the coronavirus or not,” spokeswoman Lauren Rubenstein said in a statement. “No diagnosis has been confirmed yet.”

The Middleton college said the patient is being isolated and officials have notified everyone “with whom the student had close contact since returning to campus in order to monitor them.”

The university wouldn’t say where the student is being treated, citing their privacy, the outlet reported.

There have been three confirmed cases in the US of the flu-like virus, which emerged in Wuhan, China, last month.

The illness — which can be transmitted from person to person — has killed 56 people, all in China, and sickened around 2,000 more, health officials said.

The Bobster

Senior News Editor since 2004

Third US case of coronavirus confirmed in California
By Laura Italiano
January 26, 2020 | 4:51am | Updated

California is now home to the third US case of the deadly coronavirus, officials there revealed early Sunday, joining Chicago and the Seattle, Wash. area, where the first cases were announced last week.

The news was announced as health officials in China said that the virus’ ability to spread was stronger than earlier thought.

That’s because unlike with SARS, the coronavirus is infectious during its one-to-14-day incubation period, China’s National Health Commissioner, Ma Xiaowei, said at a Sunday press conference, Reuters reported.

News of the California case was announced by officials with the Orange County Health Care Agency.

“The OC Health Care Agency’s (HCA) Communicable Disease Control Division received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this evening that an Orange County, California case has tested positive for the novel coronavirus,” the agency said in a tweeted release.

The patient, whose identity was kept private, was described as a traveler from Wuhan, China — the outbreak’s epicenter.

The patient had reached out to the agency prior to being diagnosed, and “was provided guidance in order to reduce exposure to the public while awaiting laboratory confirmation from the CDC,” the release said.

“The individual has now been transported to a local hospital and is in isolation in good condition.” Persons the patient had close contact with are being monitored.

No additional details were released.

Worldwide, an estimated 2,000 people, almost all of them in China, have been sickened by the virus, Reuters reported.

China’s National Health Commission said Sunday that 56 people, all in China, have been killed by the disease.

Isolated cases have been reported throughout Asia, and in France and Australia.

The first case in Canada was reported Saturday night, Reuters reported.

The CDC advises that while there is as yet no vaccine, all viruses can be prevented by washing one’s hands, especially before eating, and by avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, or close contact with people who are sick.

The Bobster

Senior News Editor since 2004

Coronavirus ‘whistleblower’ nurse says China has 90,000 sick
By Laura Italiano
January 26, 2020 | 3:32am | Updated


The coronavirus whistleblower Jin Hui

The coronavirus now has a whistleblower — a nurse in Wuhan who insists in a shocking online video that close to 90,000 people in China have the disease, far more than the 1,975 reported by officials.

“I am in the area where the coronavirus started,” her video begins. Wuhan is the epicenter of the outbreak.

“I’m here to tell the truth,” the anonymous nurse says in the video, which shows her wearing a full-head face mask.

“At this moment, Hubei province, including the Wuhan area, even China, 90,000 people have been infected by a coronavirus.”

She does not reveal how she arrived at the sobering statistic.

The video has been viewed on YouTube some two million times, the Daily Mail reported.

Other horrifying videos have shown dead bodies covered in sheets lying in hospital hallways.

The Bobster

Senior News Editor since 2004

Three new cases of coronavirus confirmed in US, four more being tested in NY

By Israel Salas-Rodriguez, Joseph Konig and Jackie Salo
January 26, 2020 | 10:35pm | Updated

The United States confirmed three new cases of the deadly coronavirus over the weekend — while officials in New York said four possible patients are being tested here.

The latest confirmed cases — which were detected in Arizona and California — brought the number of people being treated for the infectious disease nationally to five, health officials said.

All of those patients had traveled to ground zero of the outbreak — the central Chinese city of Wuhan — before showing symptoms of the virus, which can be transmitted between people.

One of the new cases was a student enrolled at Arizona State University in Tempe, state health officials said. The Arizona patient, whose identity wasn’t released, is not severely ill and is being kept in isolation to keep the virus from spreading.

Southern California was home to the other two patients — a man in his 50s who tested positive in Orange County and another person diagnosed in Los Angeles County with the flu-like virus, NPR reported.

Both were being treated at local hospitals, where they were placed in isolation, according to reports.

Meanwhile, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said seven possible cases in the Empire State have been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing — with three coming back negative and results on the four others still pending.

“We’ve been through this a couple of times before with different situations so we’re prepared and we’re doing everything we can, and at this time, people should feel … as calm and confident as you can be with everything going on in this world,” Cuomo said Sunday. “But we’re on top of the situation.”

The four people remained in isolation Sunday, Cuomo’s office said.

Several people were seen on Sunday wearing masks at Chinese New Year celebrations in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

“There are just too many people right now. We just have to be careful,” said Sylvia Chen, 24, of Bensonhurst.

People were also seen wearing masks in Chinatown, and in Flushing, Queens.

Meanwhile, a student at Wesleyan University in Connecticut is being monitored as a possible case of the virus. The unidentified student complained of cough and fever after traveling through an airport where another person was identified as having the illness, the Hartford Courant reported.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we are working with the state Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control to determine if the student has contracted the coronavirus or not,” the school said in a statement.

The Middleton college said the patient is being isolated and officials have notified everyone “with whom the student had close contact since returning to campus in order to monitor them.”

Students said Sunday they were on alert for any coronavirus symptoms — such as fever or trouble breathing — after being notified by email of the possible case.

“I’ll definitely start taking precautions, like going to the health center immediately to prevent anything,” Charlie Hertz, a 19-year-old student, told The Post.

Health officials have said there’s currently no cure for the ailment, but viruses can generally be avoided by washing one’s hands and avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands, or coming in close contact with people who are sick.

The Bobster

Senior News Editor since 2004

NYC cabbies avoiding Chinese neighborhoods over coronavirus fears
By Michael Kaplan
February 15, 2020 | 2:50pm | Updated


Ada Robinson, 37, originally from Hong Kong :confused: attempts to hail a taxi. Stephen Yang

Fear of catching the coronavirus has some cabbies and ride-share drivers discriminating against customers.

“I feel bad about it, but when I see Chinese passengers, I just go,” one cab driver — who asked that his name be withheld, lest his hack license get suspended — told The Post. “I don’t pick up anyone Chinese. I’m scared. I don’t want to get the disease.” :D

Other drivers are avoiding certain areas of the city.

“If I drop off somebody in Flushing [the Queens neighborhood with a Chinese population of some 70,000], I deactivate the app [and drive to another area],” an Uber driver told The Post. “I don’t know who has it . . . I worry for myself, my family and my passengers.”

Ada Robinson, who moved to New York from Hong Kong 10 years ago, believes she was discriminated against by two Lyft drivers last Sunday.

When the first driver showed up to retrieve Robinson, she told The Post, “I pointed to him, he looked at me, and he left. Then he canceled the ride. A second driver came, looked at me and drove around the corner. He hesitated and drove off.”

Robinson, a 37-year-old accountant and the mother of one who lives on the Upper East Side, said she had to wonder if she was snubbed “because of coronavirus phobia.”

As of Friday evening, there were 15 confirmed cases of the virus in the US and none in New York State. The Centers for Disease Control warned this week that the spread of the disease in the US is “likely.”

Discrimination is also spreading across the country.

On Tuesday, the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, called the virus “public enemy number one” and said: “A virus is more powerful in creating political, social and economic upheaval than any terrorist attack.”

On Feb. 5, the NYPD hate crimes unit released a video in which a face mask-wearing woman at a Chinatown subway station is attacked in what may be a coronavirus-related incident. NBC News this week reported on a Thai-American woman being verbally assaulted by a man — spouting coronavirus condemnations — on Los Angeles public transportation.

“We have no confirmed cases of the coronavirus in New York City,” said Allan Fromberg, Deputy Commissioner of Public Affairs for the TLC. “Of greater concern would be any attempt to sow bigotry and fear in the name of safety, which will not be tolerated in New York City.”

The Taxi & Limousine Commission Web site shows a $500 penalty for a driver’s first incident of discrimination; $1,000, plus a possible 30-day suspension, for the second within 24 months; and $1,000 plus possible license revocation for the third.

According to Uber’s website, “Any rider or driver found to have [discriminated based on national origin among other qualities] will lose access to the platform.” As for Lyft, an email from the press department stated: “Discrimination against riders or drivers can and has led to deactivation.”

Meanwhile, a second cabbie — who is from mainland China himself — told The Post that he is no longer picking up any fares at JFK Airport due to concerns about contagion.

“There is a greater chance of somebody carrying the virus [on] international flights,” he told The Post.

The Bobster

Senior News Editor since 2004

14 Americans aboard evacuation plane from Japan stricken with coronavirus
By Kenneth Garger
February 17, 2020 | 2:57am | Updated


US passengers embark for the US on a plane at the Haneda Airport, in Tokyo.

Fourteen Americans being evacuated by plane from Japan to the US after disembarking a cruise ship have tested positive for the coronavirus :eek:, officials said early Monday.

The infected were among a group of over 300 US citizens who were allowed off the coronavirus-stricken Diamond Princess cruise ship Sunday, according to the US State Department.

US officials said they learned of the positive test results as the evacuees were preparing to return to America on two chartered Boeing 747s.

“These individuals were moved in the most expeditious and safe manner to a specialized containment area on the evacuation aircraft to isolate them in accordance with standard protocols,” the statement said.

“During the flights, these individuals will continue to be isolated from the other passengers.”

One flight is headed to Travis Air Force Base in California and the other to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, the Defense Department said.

It’s unclear whether the coronavirus patients were traveling on one or both planes.

The group was said to be screened for symptoms of the novel coronavirus before they were allowed to board the planes.

Officials said that upon arrival, all passengers will undergo an additional 14-day quarantine.

The Bobster

Senior News Editor since 2004

Diamond Princess reports 79 more coronavirus cases as expert slams ‘completely inadequate’ quarantine
By Amanda Woods
February 19, 2020 | 8:48am | Updated

An additional 79 cases of coronavirus have been reported aboard the infection-ravaged Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan — as an expert called the lack of disease control on the vessel “completely chaotic.”

Japan’s health ministry confirmed the new cases on Wednesday, bringing the total number of infections to 621, Channel News Asia reported.

The new figures emerge just as an initial batch of passengers were evacuated from the vessel following a 14-day quarantine in the Yokohama port. Some 300 US citizens were evacuated from the ship on a chartered jet Sunday — and other countries are following suit.

The Diamond Princess holds the largest cluster of COVID-19 infections outside of China, where more than 74,000 are infected and over 2,000 killed, according to new figures.

Meanwhile, in a scathing video uploaded to YouTube Tuesday, Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease expert at Kobe University, who spent time on board the Diamond Princess, said that the vessel’s infection control measures leave much to be desired.

“The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of the infection control,” Iwata said. “There was no distinction between the green zone, which is free of infection, and the red zone, which is potentially contaminated by the virus.”

Iwata said he was on board as a member of the disaster medical assistance team, after being denied permission to enter in his own capacity as an infection control expert.

The expert, who has spent two decades working with infectious diseases — including the 2003 SARS outbreak in China and the more recent Ebola outbreak in Africa — said he never previously “had fear of getting infection myself.”

“I was so scared of getting COVID-19 because there’s no way to tell where the virus is,” he said. “No green zone, no red zone, everywhere could have the virus.”

He said he also observed crew members, some wearing full protective gear and some not, wandering around and potentially cross-contaminating different areas of the vessel. Some ate lunch with their medical gloves on and used their phones while wearing their protective suits, he recalled.

The virus could have even been transmitted through a printed informed consent form passed “back and forth, back and forth” to authorize tests for coronavirus, he said. Officials ignored his suggestion to ask passengers for verbal informed consent instead, he said.

Iwata said someone from the ship’s quarantine office later ordered him to disembark.

The country’s vice minister of health Gaku Hashimoto said that Iwata couldn’t give him a clear answer as to why he was on board, so he was politely asked to leave, in a series of Japanese-language tweets translated by Quartz.

An official from the country’s ministry of health and labor told Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun that “it is a misconception that amateurs are working to prevent infections [on the Diamond Princess] without specialists.”