- A majority of the cases have been in Washington State, California or New York, where everyday life swiftly began to change. Businesses closed. Colleges canceled class. Governors urged people to avoid crowds.
- But the virus is now found in every region of the country, including Massachusetts, where dozens of new cases were announced on Tuesday, and South Dakota, where the governor announced the state’s five first cases, including one man who died. The number of states with no reported cases now stands at about a dozen.
- Thirty-one deaths across the country have now been linked to the coronavirus. Officials in Sacramento County, Calif., said on Tuesday that a woman in her 90s died after contracting the illness.
Britain’s health minister says she is infected.
Nadine Dorries, the British health minister, confirmed reports late on Tuesday that she had tested positive for the coronavirus. She had attended a reception at Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s official residence two days earlier.
Ms. Dorries said in a post on Twitter that she had felt “pretty rubbish” but hoped that the worst of the viral illness had come and gone. British news reports said she was the first member of Parliament to test positive.
Health officials were rushing to trace her contacts, which included dozens of constituents and lawmakers, as well as co-workers at the Department of Health and Social Care, according to British news outlets. She was at 10 Downing Street, Mr. Johnson’s residence, on Sunday for International Women’s Day.
The news sparked discussion in Britain about whether Parliament would need to be suspended. Lawmakers meet in the cramped House of Commons, sitting shoulder to shoulder on green leather benches and often spilling into the aisles and standing room areas, creating fertile conditions for illness to spread.
Ms. Dorries started feeling ill on Friday as she was signing a statutory instrument that declared coronavirus to be a “notifiable disease,” a step that allowed British companies to obtain insurance coverage.
Some observers noted that Ms. Dorries appeared to have voted in the House of Commons about a week ago, meaning she had at least brief contact with other lawmakers at a time when she may have been contagious.
But her most dangerous contact may have been with her 84-year-old mother, who is staying with her, Ms. Dorries wrote on Twitter late Tuesday night. “Thanks for so many good wishes,” Ms. Dorries wrote, adding that her mother had developed a cough.
Delays in testing set back the U.S. coronavirus response.
Dr. Helen Y. Chu, an infectious disease expert in Seattle, wanted to repurpose tests from a flu research project to monitor the coronavirus after the first confirmed American case landed in her area in late January.
But nearly everywhere she turned, state and federal officials repeatedly rejected the idea, interviews and emails show, even as weeks crawled by and outbreaks emerged in countries outside of China, where the infection began.
By Feb. 25, Dr. Chu and her colleagues could not bear to wait any longer. They began performing coronavirus tests, without government approval.
What came back confirmed their worst fear. They quickly had a positive test from a local teenager with no recent travel history. The coronavirus had already established itself on American soil without anybody realizing it.
“It must have been here this entire time,” Dr. Chu recalled thinking with dread. “It’s just everywhere already.”
In fact, officials would later discover through testing, the virus had already contributed to the deaths of two people, and it would go on to kill 20 more in the Seattle region over the following days.
Federal and state officials said the flu study could not be repurposed because it did not have explicit permission from research subjects; the labs were also not certified for clinical work. While acknowledging the ethical questions, Dr. Chu and others argued there should be more flexibility in an emergency during which so many lives could be lost. On Monday night, state regulators told them to stop testing altogether.
The failure to tap into the flu study was just one in a series of missed chances by the federal government to ensure more widespread testing during the early days of the outbreak, when containment would have been easier. Instead, local officials across the country were left to work blindly as the crisis grew undetected and exponentially.
Washington State prepares to restrict gatherings as U.S. crisis grows
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State will announce on Wednesday a prohibition on community gatherings of 250 or more people in the Seattle area as the state takes extraordinary steps to contain a coronavirus outbreak, according to a person involved in the discussions.
The announcement, according to the person involved, is expected to target events such as sporting and entertainment gatherings while offering exceptions to things like retail stores. Schools will not be affected, but districts will be expected to review things like sporting events that may draw significant crowds.
Washington State and the Seattle area have adopted increasingly stringent controls as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases has approached 300 — the most in the country — and the number of deaths has reached 24.
Santa Clara County, Calif. — which includes the city of San Jose and much of Silicon Valley — has already banned large public gatherings, and man employers have temporarily closed down or asked people to work at home. On Tuesday, Google recommended that tens of thousands of its North American employees work from home. Previously, it had only extended that policy to workers in the Seattle area.
In addition, Ohio State University and Harvard University joined the growing list of universities and colleges that have suspended in-person classes — just one of many fronts in the battle to slow the spread of virus across the United States.
Harvard, whose spring break begins on Saturday, asked students not to return to campus when the break ends on March 23, a decision few schools have made so far. On Monday, Amherst College asked all students to leave campus by as early as next week.
Some of the best-known fixtures in higher education have mandated a switch to online-only classes to keep people apart, hoping it will slow the spread of the virus: Cornell University, New York University, Columbia University, the University of Washington, Stanford University, American University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Princeton University, Barnard College, Hofstra University, Rice University and the University of California, Berkeley.
No audience for the debate in Arizona on Sunday.
There will be no live audience. No spin room. Virtually no traveling members of the press. This is a presidential primary debate in the age of coronavirus.
CNN and Democratic officials announced on Tuesday that “at the request of the campaigns and out of an abundance of caution,” the Democratic debate in Phoenix on Sunday between former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Bernie Sanders would be a significantly pared-down affair.
The live audience — whose jeers and cheers can be a major variable for the candidates onstage — will be missing. Instead, Mr. Biden and Mr. Sanders will debate each other in an empty theater, joined only by a handful of moderators and television crew members.