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US coronavirus cases top 400 as outbreaks grow on a cruise ship, in a nursing home and near New York

US coronavirus cases top 400 as outbreaks grow on a cruise ship, in a nursing home and near New York
Christina Maxouris, Dakin Andone and Amir Vera, March 8, 2020

(CNN)The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States continued to mount on Saturday, bringing the nationwide total to more than 400. At least 19 people have died.

At least 5,861 coronavirus tests have been completed by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health laboratories, said Dr. Stephen Hahn, US Food and Drug Administration commissioner, in a briefing at the White House Saturday.

However, that does not mean 5,861 people have been tested. Currently, each person tested typically has two swabs taken — one from the nose and one from the throat. This number does not include tests performed at private or commercial labs.

Health officials at the White House Saturday could not say exactly how many people have been tested.

Positive tests are coming from all over the country, including Washington, DC, which confirmed its first presumptive positive case on Saturday, according to Mayor Muriel Bowser. The patient has no travel history outside of the US and there is no evidence of widespread community transmission of coronavirus in Washington, DC, Bowser said.

But most of the cases were in communities in Washington state, New York and California. Authorities were working to contain the spread of the virus on a cruise ship off California's coast.

Passengers heard about cruise ship outbreak from news

The 449 US cases include at least 379 people diagnosed through the US public health system and 70 people repatriated to the US, including 21 people aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship.

Of the 21 infected on the ship, 19 were crew members who served passengers, according to Dr. Grant Tarling, chief medical officer for Carnival Corporation.

The ship was about 50 miles off the coast of San Francisco on Saturday, according to a news release from Princess Cruises. It was unclear where the ship was headed and whether passengers would be allowed to disembark.

The ship has been in limbo since Wednesday, when officials learned a California man who'd traveled to Mexico on the ship last month died of the coronavirus this week.
With the number of cases aboard, the captain said Friday it was unlikely the ship would be disembarking Saturday morning as originally scheduled.
Princess Cruises is working with a team of health officials to help determine when and where passengers can disembark but no timeline for a decision has been given, said Jan Swartz, group president of Princess Cruises and Carnival Australia, during a conference call Saturday afternoon.
"We need to get the ship into a port as soon as possible," Swartz said.
Some passengers are low on crucial medications they need. Melissa Fuller told CNN her grandmother and great-aunt were on the Grand Princess. She said her grandmother is 84 years old and is completely dependent on a cocktail of medication.

Fuller's family found out four days ago about the outbreak on the ship and has had issues connecting with the ship's doctor.

"We're terrified," Fuller told CNN. "They are the elderly, immunocompromised, at-risk population. They should never have been allowed to board this boat in the first place ... I don't understand why it's so complicated for the ship to just get her medicine."

Fuller's grandmother and great-aunt have been quarantined to their room for two days now.

"There's a masked man sitting a desk down the hall making sure that people are not getting out of their rooms," Fuller said. "They're at the point now where they're scared and they're not getting any information from the cruise line and they don't have answers or know what's happening."

Swartz said the ship's crew is asking patients what medications they may need and sending the prescription requests to land to be filled.

Passengers remain isolated in their cabins and are receiving all meals in their rooms, delivered by crew members who are wearing protective masks, Tarling said.

One "critically ill" passenger and a companion were "medically disembarked" from the ship early Saturday morning by the US Coast Guard, Princess Cruises said, but the passenger was receiving treatment "unrelated" to the coronavirus.
Another passenger aboard, Steven Smith, previously told CNN the captain said a helicopter airlifted a passenger to San Francisco.

The Coast Guard also delivered personal protective equipment like gloves and face masks to supplement the ship's current supply, the news release said.

Vice President Mike Pence announced the ship's positive cases at a press briefing on Friday, but it was the first time passengers aboard heard about the test results.

"I thought the passengers were supposed to be notified first," said Debbi Loftus, who's celebrating her father's 84th birthday aboard the Grand Princess. "The fact that we weren't told first made us quite upset and angry. ... There's no excuse for this."

"All passengers and crew will be tested for the coronavirus and quarantined as appropriate," Pence said at a meeting with members of the cruise line industry in Florida on Saturday. "Those that require additional medical attention will also receive it."