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Chinese Report Says Lion's Share of Coronavirus Cases Are Mild

TUESDAY, Feb. 18, 2020 -- New details on nearly 45,000 cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in China show that 80% of cases are mild and the number of new cases has been declining for most of February.

The report, released Monday by the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, offer some hope that the outbreak might be abating, the Associated Press reported.

Still, "it's too early to tell if this reported decline will continue. Every scenario is still on the table," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director of the World Health Organization, said during a media briefing Monday.

Among the cases studied in the Chinese report, 14% developed pneumonia and 5% developed critical illness. The fatality rate has been 2.3% -- 2.8% for males and 1.7% for females.

Health care workers have high exposures to COVID-19, and the AP reported that another Chinese doctor on the front lines of fighting the virus has died Tuesday from complications tied to the illness.

Liu Zhiming directed the Wuchang hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak. The 51-year-old is the eighth health care worker to die of the disease, the Washington Post noted.

On Tuesday, the case count in mainland China reached 72,436, while the number of deaths hit 1,868, the AP reported.

Outside China, 14 of the more than 300 U.S. passengers evacuated from a cruise ship hit by the coronavirus outbreak tested positive for infection during their flights home, U.S. health officials announced Monday.

The news came from a joint statement from the U.S. Departments of State and Health and Human Services. The 14 passengers aboard the Diamond Princess, docked in Yokohama, Japan, tested positive for the new COVID-19 virus during the disembarkation process, officials said. They were part of an evacuation process involving two flights back to military bases in the United States.

"After consultation with HHS officials, including experts from the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, the State Department made the decision to allow the 14 individuals, who were in isolation, separated from other passengers, and continued to be asymptomatic, to remain on the aircraft to complete the evacuation process," the agencies said in the news release.

One of the flights landed at Travis Air Force Base near Fairfield, Calif., on Sunday, while the other arrived at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in San Antonio, Texas, on Monday, CNN reported.

All of the passengers aboard the two flights are being closely monitored, the government statement said. Upon landing, any passengers who test positive or develop symptoms will be sent to "an appropriate location for continued isolation and care," the agencies said.

Even those patients who do not test positive for COVID-19 or show symptoms will remain under quarantine for 14 days.

The U.S. evacuation was an about-face after a week of reassurances that such a move was not deemed necessary. But the level of danger to the American passengers on board the ship was thought to have become too high to allow them to remain on board. A total of more than 3,700 passengers and crew were on the ship, and more than 542 cases had been reported by Tuesday.

In a news briefing held Friday, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, had said that "we are concerned that the data coming out of Japan suggests there's a higher risk among the people on the ship, and therefore their safety is of utmost importance."

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak -- and the global response to it -- continues to evolve globally, with the first death outside Asia reported in France on Saturday, The New York Times reported.

The first case of infection on the continent of Africa was also identified on Friday, involving a person in Egypt who has tested positive for coronavirus but has so far shown no symptoms. The patient is in quarantine in a hospital, Egyptian health ministry spokesman Khaled Megahed told Ahram Online.

U.S. health officials also said Friday that COVID-19 appears to be most infectious when patients are at the peak of their illness.

"Based on what we know now, we believe this virus spreads mainly from person to person among close contacts, which is defined as about six feet, through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes," Messonnier told reporters during the media briefing.

"People are thought to be the most contagious when they are most symptomatic, that is when they are the sickest," she added.

Meanwhile, two new cases were confirmed in the United States earlier last week, upping the total from 13 to 15.

Both of the new cases involved quarantined patients who were among hundreds of American evacuees from China's Hubei province.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added that testing of all evacuees is still underway, and "there will likely be additional cases [identified] in the coming days and weeks."

Earlier this month, the United States began to bar entry to any foreigners who have recently traveled to China. U.S. citizens who have recently traveled to the Hubei province of China, where Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, is located, will be quarantined for up to 14 days, U.S. health officials said. U.S. citizens who have recently traveled to other parts of China will face health screenings and voluntary quarantines of up to 14 days.

The temporary entry ban applies to foreign nationals, with the exception of relatives of citizens and permanent residents.

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Posted: February 2020