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Eighth US coronavirus case confirmed in Boston

Officials in China have started using drones equipped with speakers to warn citizens to wear masks as coronavirus continues to spread in the country.

Posted: Feb 1, 2020 7:00 PM
Updated: Feb 1, 2020 7:00 PM

An eighth case of coronavirus in the United States has been confirmed in a Boston man in his 20s, health officials said Saturday.

The man, a student at the Boston campus of the University of Massachusetts, recently returned from Wuhan, China, the epicenter of the outbreak, health officials said.

The man sought medical care after his return on January 29, according to health officials, and he's been isolated since then. His few close contacts have been identified and are being monitored for symptoms.

The case poses no increased risk to other students on the university's campus, said Dr. Jennifer Lo, medical director of the Boston Public Health Commission, on a call with reporters on Saturday.

"He was very appropriate in seeking medical attention. He did not participate in any university activities from the time he arrived in the United States to his home," Lo said during the call.

The student is "doing quite well" and is quarantined at his home, which is not in a residence hall, Lo said. He is being monitored by public health nurses who call him regularly.

"We won't release him from isolation until we are satisfied it's safe to do so," said Dr. Larry Madoff, medical director of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health's Bureau of Infectious Disease and Laboratory Sciences.

The state public health department and the Boston Public Health Commission were notified late Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the positive test results.

"Our priority is not only to protect and inform the residents of Boston but also to help this man continue to recover," said Rita Nieves, executive director of the Boston Public Health Commission. "We are pleased that he is doing well."

Nieves said the risk to the general population "remains low."

"And we continue to be confident we are in a good position to respond to this developing situation," Nieves said.

CDC is sole US lab that can confirm cases of virus

This is the first case in Massachusetts. There are three confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus in California, one in Washington state, one in Arizona and two in Illinois. The second Illinois case is the first instance of person-to-person transmission in the United States.

The CDC is the only lab in the United States that can confirm cases of the novel coronavirus. It said Friday there are 241 patients under investigation in 36 states. Among them, 114 had tested negative and 121 had results pending.

Almost 12,000 cases have been confirmed worldwide, with more than 11,800 of those in China. At least 26 other countries have reported cases, including three in Japan, two in the UK and two in Australia Saturday.

The US government on Friday declared the virus a public health emergency, and President Donald Trump signed a proclamation suspending the entry of foreign nationals who have traveled in China in the last two weeks.

In response, Delta Air Lines moved up its planned suspension of all US flights to China to Sunday, February 2. The last flight from the US to China until April 30 will leave Saturday, and the last to the US from China will be Sunday, Delta said Saturday in a news release.

American and United airlines have canceled flights to China, and American moved up its planned suspension beginning Friday, January 31 until March 27. United said Friday it is suspending flights from its US hub cities and Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai from February 6 to March 28.

Sunny Gao, a project manager who lives in Atlanta and was visiting her parents in Shanghai, caught one of the last flights back.

She originally was scheduled to return to the United States a week from Sunday, but her boss helped her arrange an earlier flight and she returned to Georgia on Saturday.

She said the situation in Shanghai is still good.

"But because my parents are there, so I'm also a little bit worried. Because I want all my family and my friends to stay safe and healthy," Gao said.

She said she'll work at home for the next two weeks.

China asks EU for help

China has asked the European Union for help in buying medical supplies, the Chinese government said, as the country is running out of beds and supplies. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang spoke with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, according to a government statement, and is hoping to buy supplies through "commercial channels" from EU countries.

Struggling to contain the spread of the virus, China's Hubei Province, where Wuhan is the capital, has extended the Lunar New Year holiday break until February 13. Schools and some government offices will remain closed.

China's government had extended the holiday until February 2. The break originally was to take place from January 24 to January 30.

Villages and cities in China have resorted to using drones with speakers to patrol streets, scolding people who are out in public without masks, Chinese state media reported.

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