(CNN)Amid a coronavirus outbreak in the United States, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging older people and people with severe chronic medical conditions to “stay at home as much as possible.”
Early data suggests older people are twice as likely to have serious illness from the novel coronavirus, according to the CDC.
A Trump administration official tells CNN that the US Department of Health and Human Services “is in the process of doing targeted outreach to the elderly community and those that have serious underlying health conditions.”
The CDC guidance comes as two top infectious disease experts with ties to the federal government have advised people over 60 and those with underlying health problems to strongly consider avoiding activities that involve large crowds.
Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University professor and longtime adviser to the CDC, said these two groups should consider avoiding activities such as traveling by airplane, going to movie theaters, attending family events, shopping at crowded malls, and going to religious services.
People in these two groups “should strongly consider not doing these activities at this juncture,” Schaffner said.
“This ought to be top of mind for people over 60, and those with underlying health problems, such as heart or lung disease, diabetes, or compromised immune systems,” Schaffner added. “The single most important thing you can do to avoid the virus is reduce your face to face contact with people.”
Michael Osterholm, the former state epidemiologist for Minnesota, agreed that people over age 60 should take such steps.
“I think clearly the time has come to take these steps,” said Osterholm, who has served on committees advising the federal government on public health issues and is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
Both experts, who are over age 60, said they have taken some of these steps themselves.
“When my wife and I need to go shopping, we’re going late at night when there are no crowds, and we get in and out efficiently,” Schaffner said.
He added that his wife goes to a bridge club with dozens of other people — but not anymore.
“She enjoys bridge and it’s an important part of her life and it keeps her mentally active, but she’s going to give it up for a while,” he said.
Osterholm said he has canceled some air travel plans.
“It’s always been easy to be abstract when you’re a public health person when something’s happening in Africa or Asia or the Arabian peninsula,” he said. “But now it’s happening here, and we have to internalize this.”
Schaffner and Osterholm said data from China shows that elderly people and those with underlying health issues are most at risk of becoming seriously ill and of dying from the novel coronavirus. Younger and healthier people often get only mild to moderate symptoms, or sometimes no symptoms at all.
The basics of ‘social distancing’
Schaffner and Osterholm said their advice has some flexibility for important events.
“This is not an instruction. This is not an order,” Schaffner said. “I’m not asking everyone to stay at home and lock the door for a month. I’m saying, be thoughtful every time you contemplate getting together with a crowd or group.”
Ms Dorries, the MP for Mid Bedfordshire, said in a statement that Public Health England had started tracing people she had been in contact with, and the department and her parliamentary office were closely following its advice.
The Department of Health said she first showed symptoms on Thursday of last week – the same day she attended a Downing Street event hosted by the prime minister – and had been self-isolating since Friday.
No 10 did not comment on whether Boris Johnson had undergone testing, or whether he will now be tested.
Public Health England will advise those who have had recent contact with Ms Dorries, including ministers and officials, as to whether they need to self-isolate and report any symptoms.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted that Ms Dorries had “done the right thing” by self-isolating at home and wished “her well as she recovers”.
Public Health England, which has already carried out more than 25,000 coronavirus tests across the UK, is set to expand the number of people it can test a day to 10,000 – currently 1,500 are being carried out.
Confirmation of any positive test results will also be accelerated with most people getting a result back within 24 hours.
NHS chief scientific officer Prof Dame Sue Hill said the health service was preparing to cope with more cases.
“Every hospital across the country, and the healthcare professionals who run them, are now actively planning to respond flexibly to manage new demand.”
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be expected to roll out their own testing services, but there will be some shared capacity between nations, depending on need.
“It’s the weirdest holiday I think I’ve ever been on,” said Hannah Butcher, from Newbury, Berkshire, who is in Rome with her husband for their first holiday alone since having a child.
“We arrived on Sunday. The advice then was as long as you’re not going into Italy’s red zone, you’re OK.
“We’re currently sitting in a restaurant and everyone here is in staggered rows because they have to sit one metre apart. It’s quite weird seeing families spread across multiple tables.”
She added that people are “only allowed to enter shops one at a time”.
“All the attractions are closed; there are queues out the door of supermarkets and the butchers. There are police driving round making sure the rules are enforced and a noticeable armed police presence, presumably to keep order.”
She said they were due to fly home with Ryanair on Wednesday morning and had not been informed of any flight updates.
(CNN)Medical supply stores in central Texas are experiencing a medical mask shortage after a Texas A&M student, having recently traveled to Wuhan, China, may have contracted coronavirus.
The student has experienced symptoms of an upper respiratory virus and went to a local hospital Wednesday evening. A sample has been sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing, according to the Brazos County Health Authority.
Results are expected over the weekend or Monday, the authority said. The student is being kept isolated at home until the testing is complete.
Genese Smith, who works at MediCare Equipment in Bryan, Texas, just a few miles from campus, told KBTX that the story typically stocks about 50 masks.
But on Thursday, just a day after the student checked into the hospital, multiple people came into the store looking to buy masks.
“Within about 30 minutes of word getting out, we started getting phone calls asking if we have the masks, what kind of masks did we have, and how many we had available,” Smith told KBTX. “Quite a few people started coming in, asking, and purchasing.”
The store has already ordered more masks, Smith said. Other stores in the area, including Texas A&M’s own Health Services Department, say they’re awaiting shipments of more masks after quickly running out, KBTX reported.
Two confirmed cases of coronavirus in US so far
Wuhan coronavirus, a virus similar to SARS and MERS, first appeared last month in Wuhan, China, but has quickly spread across the world, reaching as far as France and the US. As of Friday, at least 41 people in mainland China have died from the virus, where there are more than 1,300 cases reported so far.
Two cases of coronavirus have been confirmed so far in the US, one in Chicago and one in Washington state. The World Health Organization recommends avoiding close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness, like coughing and sneezing.
But, in general, the public should do “what you do every cold and flu season,” said Dr. John Wiesman, the health secretary in Washington state, where the first US case of Wuhan coronavirus was confirmed. Wash your hands, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay home from work when you are sick.
Highest levels of PFAS in Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans, Environmental watchdog report finds
The contamination of US drinking water with manmade forever chemicals is far worse than previously estimated with some of the highest levels found in Miami, Philadelphia and New Orleans, said a report on Wednesday by an environmental watchdog group.
The chemicals, resistant to breaking down in the environment, are known as perfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. Some have been linked to cancers, liver damage, low birth weight and other health problems.
The findings here by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) show the groups previous estimate in 2018, based on unpublished US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data, that 110 million Americans may be contaminated with PFAS, could be far too low.
Its nearly impossible to avoid contaminated drinking water from these chemicals, said David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG and co-author of the report.
The chemicals were used in products like Teflon and Scotchguard and in firefighting foam. Some are used in a variety of other products and industrial processes, and their replacements also pose risks.
Of tap water samples taken by EWG from 44 sites in 31 states and Washington DC, only one location, Meridian, Mississippi, which relies on 700ft (215m) deep wells, had no detectable PFAS. Only Seattle and Tuscaloosa, Alabama had levels below 1 part per trillion (PPT), the limit EWG recommends.
In addition, EWG found that on average six to seven PFAS compounds were found at the tested sites, and the effects on health of the mixtures are little understood. Everyones really exposed to a toxic soup of these PFAS chemicals, Andrews said.
In 34 places where EWGs tests found PFAS, contamination had not been publicly reported by the EPA or state environmental agencies.
The EPA has known since at least 2001 about the problem of PFAS in drinking water but has so far failed to set an enforceable, nationwide legal limit. The EPA said early last year it would begin the process to set limits on two of the chemicals, PFOA and PFOS.
The EPA said it has helped states and communities address PFAS and that it is working to put limits on the two main chemicals but did not give a timeline.
In 2018 a draft report from an office of the US Department of Health and Human Services said the risk level for exposure to the chemicals should be up to 10 times lower than the 70 PPT threshold the EPA recommends. The White House and the EPA had tried to stop the report from being published.
New York (CNN Business)United Airlines became the first airline to cut its US flight schedule on Wednesday, as passenger worry about the coronavirus has caused a sharp drop in demand.
United will ax flights in the United States and Canada by 10% and overseas flights by a total 20% in April from its original international schedule. That includes overseas flights that were canceled several weeks ago. United is looking at similar domestic and international cuts in May.
The moves were disclosed in an email Wednesday to employees made available to CNN. It also disclosed a hiring freeze, a program of voluntary unpaid leaves of absences or a reduced schedule for US employees and a delay of scheduled pay raises for management employees.
The airline plans to cut the schedule “in a way that minimizes the impact on our employees and our operation,” according to the email, including reducing frequency of flights per week between two cities or cutting routes with alternative travel options via indirect flights.
The email did not give details about how much travel had fallen at United amid the growing fears of the spread of the coronavirus in the United States. The crisis “continues to evolve rapidly” for the airline industry, said the email from CEO Oscar Munoz, and Scott Kirby, United’s president who is set to succeed Munoz in May.
“We sincerely hope that these latest measures are enough, but the dynamic nature of this outbreak requires us to be nimble and flexible moving forward in how we respond,” said the email.
United had already warned investors that the crisis had cut virtually all of its revenue on flights to China and Hong Kong during the current quarter, and about 75% onother trans-Pacific flights. But it said that it still expects to hit its earnings target for the quarter due partly to lower spending on fuel. Besides the fuel savings that comes from canceling flights, the price of jet fuel has plunged in recent weeks.
But the email did not give any new guidance on earnings. And it warned that “a lot has changed since this weekend.”
Shares of United (UAL) closed up 2% on Wednesday as stocks rebounded from a recent sell-off. But shares are still down 23.8% since Feb. 21.
American Airlines (AAL) was the only US airline to immediately respond to a request for comment on its plans in light of United’s announcement.
“We are continuing to closely monitor the situation and will make any updates as necessary,” said American.
Executives from most of the major airlines, including United CEO Oscar Munoz, met with President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence Wednesday to discuss the impact of the coronavirus on air travel and how to coordinate activity between the industry and the government.
In response to a question, President Trump said he did not believe that the airlines would need a bailout, similar to the one they received in 2001 in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
“Don’t ask that question please, because they haven’t asked [for] that. I don’t want you to give them any ideas,” said Trump about the possibility of a bailout. He said the idea had not been discussed. He also said he believes flying is safe.
“Where these people are flying, it’s safe to fly,” he said.
Passenger uncertainty about travel has prompted major US airlines to suspend their change fees, which itself is hurting their revenue.
JetBlue (JBLU) was the first to announce a suspension of the fee last week, and American suspended its fees on Sunday.
Delta (DAL) suspended the fees for international travel on Monday evening and on all tickets Wednesday. United announced Tuesday it would suspend its change fee. But fees are only being suspended on newly booked tickets.
The airlines take in a tremendous amount of money on change fees. In the third quarter alone the US carriers took in $739 million in change fees, and $2.8 billion in change fees for the 12 months ending in September.
Southwest (LUV) in the only major US airline that generally does not charge change fees. A spokesman for the company said it is monitoring the situation and “will make any necessary adjustment we see fit.”
The woman, who was being treated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, is believed to have caught the virus in the UK, said the country’s chief medical adviser Prof Chris Whitty.
She is not thought to have been abroad recently, BBC health correspondent Nick Triggle added.
Officials are now trying to trace the people she was in contact with.
Prof Whitty offered his sincere condolences to her family and friends and asked that their request for privacy is respected.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson also said “his sympathies are with the victim and their family”.
Mr Johnson reiterated that the UK was “still in the contain phase” – the first stage of the government’s response to the outbreak.
He said scientists and medical staff are making preparations for the next phase – the “delay” phase.
According to the latest government figures, as of 9:00 GMT on Thursday there were 115 cases across the UK. Another case was later confirmed in Wales.
The UK cases include 105 patients in England as well as six in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and two in Wales.
Alder Hey Hospital in Liverpool confirmed a child there had tested positive for coronavirus. It is not known how old the child is.
Around 45 of the confirmed cases have been self-isolating at home, while 18 people have recovered.
There are currently 10 cases where the authorities do not know how the individual was infected, said our health correspondent. They have no links with foreign travel, he added.
Mr Johnson said the UK was still in the first phase of its four-part plan to tackle the virus outbreak, which is made up of: contain, delay, research and mitigate.
The government is still deciding what measures will be taken in the delay phase, but has previously said this could include banning big events, closing schools, encouraging people to work from home and discouraging the use of public transport.
Meanwhile, a 33-year-old British woman who works for the United Nations is one of four people who have been diagnosed with the virus in Senegal, after travelling there from London.
And in California, more than 140 British nationals are stranded on board a Princess Cruises ship as officials test passengers for Covid-19.
The government has now updated its guidance to travellers arriving in the UK from Italy – the country in Europe that has been hit worst by the virus, with more than 3,000 cases.
On Thursday, the government said the whole of Italy – not just the north of the country – is now classed as a recognised area of concern, meaning if people develop symptoms after returning from the country they should self-isolate.
For those returning from the quarantined towns in Italy, people should self-isolate even if they do not show symptoms.
In other developments:
Bank HSBC says an employee at its Canary Wharf offices in London has been diagnosed and it is “deep-cleaning the floor where our colleague worked and shared areas of the building”
Ireland records another seven cases, bringing its total up to 13
Iran will close schools and universities until 20 March in an attempt to curb the spread
Worldwide, authorities have confirmed more than 92,000 cases of coronavirus – of which more than 80,000 are in China, where the virus began.
More than 3,000 people have died globally, with the vast majority in China.
Earlier, Prof Whitty told MPs on the health and social care committee that half of all coronavirus cases in the UK are most likely to occur in just a three-week period, with 95% of them over a nine-week period.
He said the health service would be stretched by people needing oxygen and some “things may be considerably less well done” during the peak of an epidemic.
But he said neither elderly people nor people with asthma should self-isolate yet, adding there was no evidence of “deep harm” in children with asthma.
“These are terrible sacrifices for the families. And these guys are heroes, they’re real warriors and did a great job for the American people,” O’Brien said. “These are tough times. It’s tough for the president but he thinks it’s important to be there for the families and recognize them.”
Gutierrez was born in Jacksonville, N.C. He had also served in Iraq. Rodriguez was born in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He deployed eight times in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel, which began in 2015. Both men were posthumously promoted to Sgt. 1st Class and awarded the Bronze Star Medal and Purple Heart.
Six U.S. service members have been killed in Afghanistan since the start of 2020, including Saturday’s casualties. Last year, 20 U.S. service personnel died in combat there and there were two non-combat deaths.