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Coronavirus: More than 600 cases in U.S.; clergyman infected

By Don Jacobson & Daniel Uria & Darryl Coote
Coronavirus: More than 600 cases in U.S.; clergyman infected
Christ Church Georgetown said the Rev. Timothy Cole was the first person diagnosed with COVID-19 in the Washington, D.C. area., Photo by Tasos Katopodis/UPI | License Photo

March 9 (UPI) -- A Washington, D.C., church identified the leading member of its clergy as one of the first positive COVID-19 cases in the area on Monday, as the United States documents more cases nationwide.

Christ Church Georgetown said the Rev. Timothy Cole tested positive for the coronavirus Saturday, and Washington, D.C., officials confirmed he was the man in his 50s with no international travel identified as the city's first presumptive case.

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The church canceled services Sunday, and has been reaching out to parishioners as health officials said they launched an intensive investigation to identify exposure at the church.

Church spokesman Rob Volmer said Cole became ill shortly after attending a conference in Louisville on Feb. 22, and his health improved before a March 1 service attended by 550 people in which he handed out Communion to parishioners.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in its update Monday that 75,000 COVID-19 tests are available to states. The CDC said there are 423 cases nationwide and 19 deaths as of Monday afternoon. The Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, which also tracks the disease, lists the U.S. case total at 607 and deaths at 22.

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As the number of cases continued to climb on Monday, Rhode Island, Ohio, New Jersey and Illinois joined California, Florida, New York, Oregon, Washington and several others in declaring a state of emergency.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said she made her declaration to make available "more tools in our toolbox."

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"It will enable us to better tap into resources of the National Guard, if necessary, it'll make sure that we are first in line for any federal resources and it'll just give us more degree of freedom to address the virus if and as the need arises," she announced during a press conference.

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine also declared a state of emergency on Monday after announcing Ohio's first three COVID-19 patients, all from Cuyahoga County.

"It's important for us to take aggressive action to protect Ohioans, and therefore, I have declared a state of emergency in Ohio," he said on Twitter.

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The declaration allows for state departments and agencies to better coordinate their response, the Ohio Department of Health said in a statement.

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy declared a state of emergency as the state records five more confirmed cases of COVID-19, increasing its total to 11.

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And Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced during a press conference on Monday before issuing a disaster proclamation, Illinois' version of a state of emergency, that the state had recorded four new COVID-19 cases, increasing its tally to 11.

"This declaration also reduces red tape across state government -- so that moving forward, we will have all the tools in play and rapidly available to assist cities and counties across Illinois," he said.

Thirteen states have declared states of emergency amid the coronavirus crisis, he said.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday the head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is one of the patients with the coronavirus disease.

Cuomo and the Port Authority said chief Rick Cotton tested positive for the virus and has been placed under quarantine.

"He is going to be on quarantine," Cuomo said. "He'll be working from home."

As Port Authority chief, Cotton's duties include overseeing international transit hubs in the New York City metro area, including John F. Kennedy International Airport, LaGuardia Airport, Newark-Liberty International Airport and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.

"He's been at the airports, obviously, when many people were coming back with the virus," the governor said.

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During his briefing, the governor said 142 confirmed cases exist in New York. The largest hot spot is New Rochelle in suburban Westchester County.

Cuomo also said schools in the area could remain closed for weeks.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency after two people died in the state over the weekend and 18 Floridians have tested positive for the coronavirus.

"That allows us to create a unified command structure, it also allows, if need be, out-of-state medical personnel to operate in Florida," he said. "It allows us to more swiftly purchase any necessary supplies including masks and materials and equipment necessary to set up field hospitals. It allows pharmacists to dispense up to 30-day emergency prescription refill of maintenance medication."

The Grand Princess cruise ship, which was carrying 21 people who tested positive for the virus, docked in Oakland on Monday with about half of its 2,421 passengers expected to be disembarked today.

Earlier Monday, trading was halted for 15 minutes on Wall Street after stocks plummeted and an emergency circuit breaker cut power to market infrastructure. The emergency safeguard hadn't been activated since the financial crisis in 2008.

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President Donald Trump said that he will hold a press conference on Tuesday to discuss efforts to lessen the economic impact of the virus and that he and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force met with Congress to discuss a payroll tax cut relief and relief for hourly workers.

"We are going to be asking tomorrow, we're seeing the Senate. We're going to be meeting with House Republicans, Mitch McConnell, everybody discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief," he said. "We're also going to be talking about hourly wage earners getting help so that they can be in a position where they're not going to ever miss a paycheck."

Princeton University announced plans Monday to begin "mandatory" virtual classes on March 23, and urged students to remain home following spring break. Other colleges around the county are switching in-person classes to online instruction.

"Medical advisers tell us that we should proceed on the assumption that the virus will spread more broadly and eventually reach our campus," Princeton President Chris Eisgruber said in an open letter Monday.

Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said the 75,000 tests have been made available by the CDC to 78 state and local public health labs in all 50 states. She also said research indicates that the elderly over age 80 face the greatest risk from COVID-19, as well as those with serious underlying medical conditions.

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Messonnier said it's likely "many" U.S. residents will be exposed to the virus in the coming months and years -- but, she added, "based on what we know about this virus, we do not expect most people to develop serious illness."

Eighty percent of Chinese cases, she said, saw only mild symptoms and just 2 percent involved patients under 19. The virus originated in China in December.

Also Monday, the U.S. Navy barred families from attending boot camp and other candidate school graduation events and canceled "Liberty" for grads.

"This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution, to both ensure the welfare of sailors and that [Recruit Training Command] can continue its essential mission of producing basically trained sailors," the Navy Recruitment Training Command said. "RTC recruits impacted by this change are being authorized to call home to directly inform their loved ones.

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