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February 21 coronavirus news

Our live coverage of the coronavirus outbreak has moved here.

Fifty-nine Hong Kong police officers will be quarantined after a 40-year-old male officer tested positive for novel coronavirus on Thursday, according to a statement released by Hong Kong police.

“Police are highly concerned about the case and would fully co-operate with the Department of Health (DH) in tracing the pathology, by proactively providing information such as the duty record of the officer over the past 14 days,” the police statement read.
The University of Hong Kong
The University of Hong Kong

There are 34 people who have tested positive for coronavirus in the United States, according to an announcement Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

This includes 21 cases among repatriated individuals, as well as 13 US cases.

"We are keeping track of cases resulting from repatriation efforts separately because we don't believe those numbers accurately represent the picture of what is happening in the community in the United States at this time," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters Friday.

About the cases: The 21 repatriated include 18 former passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship that docked in Japan, plus three who had been previously evacuated from China. There are 10 additional passengers among the Diamond Princess evacuees who tested positive for the virus in Japan, and who Messonnier said will likely be added to the official US count once the Japanese test results have been adjudicated. 

The 13 US cases include seven in California, one in Massachusetts, one in Washington state, one in Arizona, two in Illinois and one in Wisconsin. Among these cases, there are two instances of person-to-person transmission, one in Illinois and one in California.

The 13th US case was confirmed overnight in Humboldt County, California. County officials offered few details but said a close contact with symptoms was also undergoing testing, and both are self-isolating at home. 

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will now track confirmed cases of novel coronavirus in the United States in two separate and distinct groups: those repatriated by the US Department of State and those identified by the US public health network.

What this means: By these new metrics, there are now 21 confirmed cases among repatriated Americans and 13 confirmed cases among Americans first identified on US soil, said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease.

Eighteen cases have been confirmed among passengers from the Diamond Princess cruise ship now back in the United States. Three cases have been confirmed among passengers from the Wuhan repatriation flights now back in the United States.

Up until yesterday, the CDC was reporting 15 confirmed cases in the United States. The reason that number has dropped to 13 is because two cases have moved into the case count of repatriated individuals.

The change in the counting system starts today.

Today, 253 people who tested negative for coronavirus after 14 days of quarantine disembarked from Diamond Princess cruise ship, according to the press release from the Japanese Ministry of Health.

The disembarkation of passengers from the ship will continue at least through Saturday, a spokesperson for Princess Cruises told CNN.

Nine new cases of the novel coronavirus have been confirmed in Japan, bringing the countrywide total to 726, according to the press release by the Japan Ministry of Health.

The total number of confirmed cases from the Diamond Princess cruise ship stands at 639 and the number of land-based cases in Japan stands at 87.

China has changed how it counts coronavirus cases in Hubei province three times now — but a World Health Organization official told reporters during a media briefing on Friday that is normal during an active outbreak.

“It’s not unusual to count things in different ways as the epidemic evolves,” said Sylvie Briand, WHO director of the infectious hazards management department.

"It’s really numbers for action and not numbers for numbers,” she said. “As long as we understand how things are counted and what the numbers include then it helps us to make the best possible decision to protect the health of people.”

Last week, China announced it would count “clinically diagnosed” cases in its tally for Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak. Then yesterday, the government changed its approach and “clinically confirmed” were excluded from the tally of confirmed cases.

"China has revised their guidance on case classification for COVID-19, removing the classification of 'clinically diagnosed' previously used for Hubei province, and retaining only 'suspected' and 'confirmed' for all areas, the latter requiring laboratory confirmation,” WHO officials wrote in a situation report on Thursday. "Some previously reported 'clinically diagnosed' cases are thus expected to be discarded over the coming days as laboratory testing is conducted and some are found to be COVID-19-negative."

There’s great concern about the spread of the novel coronavirus in countries outside China and among people with no connection to China or Wuhan, World Health Orginization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.

There’s still a window of opportunity to contain the virus, Tedros said, “but the window of opportunity is narrowing.”

WHO is calling on countries to continue containment measures while preparing for community transmission, he said. He said China’s containment measures in Wuhan and elsewhere are “hammering” the virus and can help contain it.

"We must not look back and regret that we failed to take advantage of the window of opportunity we have,” he said.

The outbreak can still go any direction, Tedros said, and countries need to prepare for any eventuality.

Dr. Sylvie Briand, director of the World Health Organization's Infectious Hazards Management Department, said the agency is working to prepare countries’ health care workers with training and making sure they know how to protect themselves, and to make sure countries have enough workers to handle a number of cases.

The World Health Organization-led joint mission working on coronavirus in China will travel tomorrow to Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today during a press briefing. It’s up to the team what it wants to focus on there, Tedros said.

So far, the team has been working Beijing, Sichuan and Guangdong, he said.

Tedros said previously the team includes experts from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US National Institutes of Health, as well as experts from Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Nigeria, Germany and Russia. The team includes experts in epidemiology, virology, clinical management, outbreak control and public health.

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