The boy attends Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Wash., about 22 miles north of Seattle in Snohomish County. The superintendent of Everett Public Schools has closed school Monday to allow for three days of deep cleaning. State officials are trying to trace the origin.
Health officials announced a second positive diagnosis in King County, a woman in her 50s who traveled to Daegu, South Korea. She is also in home isolation. Both cases are considered “presumptive” diagnoses until the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention verifies the positive test results.
“Now that we are able to expedite test results here at the Public Health Lab in Shoreline, we’re getting results on suspected local cases a lot faster,” said State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy in a statement. “Given the extent of global spread, we expect to identify more individuals with COVID-19 in Washington.”
The revelation came after two announcements in Oregon and California earlier Friday that patients were diagnosed with COVID-19 despite no travel to high-risk countries and no known exposure to an infected person. The first patient with a presumed community transmission was diagnosed Wednesday and has been hospitalized for more than a week in Sacramento.
Oregon reports suspected coronavirus case of unknown origin; elementary school to be closed temporarily
Oregon officials confirmed a presumptive case of coronavirus with no known origin, marking the third case of likely community spread in the United States.
The patient, who has no known recent travel or contact with an infected individual, is an adult who lives in Washington County and is an employee at an elementary school in the suburbs of Portland. Officials are working to identify people who had close or prolonged contact with the patient, who is in a hospital and isolated.
School officials at Lake Oswego School District, where the person works, are closing down the elementary school through Wednesday. It is the first instance of a school closing in the United States for coronavirus. The school, Forest Hills Elementary, will be deep cleaned in the meantime.
Another person in Oregon is being tested for coronavirus, and there is no connection between the two individuals, officials said Friday.
Earlier Friday, California reported the second case of suspected community spread of the virus. The cases are in different counties.
Coronavirus becomes political talking point at Trump rally
President Donald Trump at a South Carolina rally tried to cast the global outbreak of the coronavirus as a liberal conspiracy intended to undermine his first term, lumping it alongside impeachment and the Mueller investigation.
He blamed the press for acting hysterically about the virus, which has now spread to China, Japan, South Korea, Iran, Italy and the U.S, and he downplayed its dangers, saying against expert opinion it was on par with the flu.
“The Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus. They’re politicizing it,” he said. “They don’t have any clue. They can’t even count their votes in Iowa. No, they can’t. They can’t count their votes. One of my people came up to me and said, ‘Mr. President, they tried to beat you on Russia, Russia, Russian.’ That did not work out too well. They could not do it. They tried the impeachment hoax.”
Then Trump called the coronavirus “their new hoax.”
At the rally — held on the eve of the Democratic primary in South Carolina — he sought to manage Americans’ expectations about the White House’s ability to fight it.
After Trump had downplayed the risks of coronavirus, he reassured supporters that the White House was “magnificently organized” in fighting it.
“Whether it is the virus that we’re talking about or many other public health threats, the Democrat policy of open borders is a direct threat to the health and well-being of all Americans. Now, you see it with the coronavirus. You see it. You see it with the coronavirus. You see that. When you have this virus or any other virus or any other problem coming in, it’s not the only thing that comes in through the border and we are setting records now at the order,” Trump said.
FDA commissioner joins coronavirus taske force at Pence request
Vice President Mike Pence added FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn to the White House’s coronavirus task force this afternoon, according to a senior HHS official familiar with the decision.
Trump on Wednesday put Pence in charge of the government’s response to the outbreak, taking over the supervisory role from HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who is still chairing the task force. Azar had not initially included Hahn or any FDA staff on the task force, despite the agency’s numerous responsibilities related to the outbreak.
FDA is monitoring the supply chain for shortages of drugs and medical devices, given China’s significant role in manufacturing. It announced the first drug shortage due to the outbreak Thursday.
FDA has also been coordinating closely with CDC and other diagnostic developers who are working on coronavirus tests. FDA is in charge of approving diagnostics and plays a role in overseeing clinical trials of potential coronavirus vaccines and treatments.
HHS referred questions about why Hahn was not previously on the task force to the White House. Pence’s office declined to comment.
— Sarah Karlin-Smith
Northern California has 2nd case of community-transmitted coronavirus
OAKLAND — A Northern California patient is believed to be the second person to contract coronavirus in the U.S. from an unknown origin — a troubling development that suggests the virus may be starting to circulate more widely in the community.
Officials from the Santa Clara County Department of Public Health said Friday that an older adult woman with chronic health conditions was diagnosed Friday with coronavirus without having traveled or been in close contact with anyone with the disease.
Sara Cody, health officer for Santa Clara County and director of the Santa Clara County Public Health Department, said the woman’s physician contacted county health officials on Wednesday evening — the same day the first coronavirus case of unknown transmission was confirmed in a Vacaville resident.
The physician suggested the patient’s symptoms were compatible with the novel coronavirus strain. The county tested the woman and, after learning the results Thursday evening, began the process of identifying anyone she may have come in contact with.
Cody told reporters at a press conference late Friday afternoon that the case signals that it’s “now time to shift how we respond.”
“The public health measures we’ve taken so far — isolation, quarantine, contact tracing, travel restrictions — have helped to slow the spread … but now we need to add other public health tools in the mix,” she said.
The county said in an earlier statement that “now is the time to prepare for the possibility of widespread community transmission.”
The woman is being treated at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View. El Camino Hospital officials declined to give details about the patient, but said the hospital has “standard protocols” in place for dealing with infectious diseases.
Santa Clara County has nearly 2 million residents and is considered the heart of the densely populated Silicon Valley. It is home to the city of San Jose, which accounts for about half of its population.
It’s about 90 miles from Solano County, where the first case of unknown transmission of the coronavirus strain known as COVID-19 occurred. Solano County is home to Travis Air Force Base, where U.S. patients from China and the Diamond Princess cruise ship off Japan have been quarantined. County health officials have stressed that the patient has had no known contact with anyone connected to the base.
— Victoria Colliver
FDA prepares to allow certain lab-made coronavirus tests
Some hospital and academic labs across the U.S. may soon be able use an in-house coronavirus test with the blessing of the Food and Drug Administration, a step that could dramatically increase the health care system’s ability to detect any spread of the virus.
“We’re going to be announcing very soon expanded testing capabilities in the United States, flexibility from the FDA, that will allow more labs to do testing,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said on Fox News on Friday.
FDA and CDC are preparing guidance that would enable certain sophisticated labs to develop FDA-authorized tests in-house within weeks, Azar said. That step would allow high complexity labs regulated under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments to not rely on CDC for materials.
A source close to the White House tells POLITICO the goal is to allow major academic hospital labs to develop their own tests instead of relying on a diagnostic developed by the CDC. That test had a rocky rollout — with many public health labs struggling to verify it for use.
Labs that attempt to create in-house tests would have to send samples — including their first positive and negative results — to another lab for confirmation, the source said. Examples of a reference lab could include CDC or other public health labs.
The idea is similar to a request sent to the FDA on Monday by the Association of Public Health Laboratories. The group argued that expanding testing capacity by allowing laboratory developed tests is needed given the threat posed by the coronavirus.
Agency Commissioner Stephen Hahn told APHL Wednesday that FDA was open to allowing laboratory developed tests for coronavirus, but cautioned that “appropriate oversight” must be ensured.
— David Lim, Adam Cancryn, Dan Diamond and Rachel Roubein
Florida Gov. DeSantis hints at new coronavirus travel restrictions
New U.S. travel restrictions could be coming as a result of overseas outbreaks of coronavirus, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday after a meeting with Vice President Mike Pence.
“I know that’s actively under consideration and we may end up having some news on that very shortly,” DeSantis told reporters in West Palm Beach after the meeting. “If you look at some cases in South Korea, if you look at some places in Italy, taking those measures I think could help interrupt the spread.”
Florida health officials currently are testing four people for the virus, Surgeon General Scott Rivkees said. The state has tested 15 others and has no confirmed cases so far.
The state also is monitoring 152 people who are voluntarily self-isolating for two weeks after returning from China.
In total, the state has monitored some 700 people since the outbreak began, Rivkees said.
Departing from remarks Thursday, DeSantis today said he had changed his mind regarding his administration‘s interpretation of a Florida law that protects the identity of individuals being investigated for diseases that could pose a risk to public health.
“Information where a patient’s personal information is not provided, we think that would be fine,” DeSantis said, adding that he told Rivkees to provide as much detail as he could to the public on the subject.
— Alexandra Glorioso
Trump: Coronavirus ‘unknowns’ fueling drop in stock markets
President Donald Trump on Friday continued to express confidence in his administration’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, telling reporters as he left the White House for a campaign rally that “we are very well organized, we have great talent, great doctors, great everyone.”
But he also appeared to continue downplaying the severity of the outbreak, saying that he hoped the number of infections within the U.S. would continue to decline. He also continued to blame this week’s stock market rout on fears over the Democratic candidates for presidents, though he added that some of the turmoil could be attributed to uncertainties surrounding the outbreak.
“I think it’s just people don’t know, it’s the unknown. You know they look at it and they say how long will this last, I think they are not very happy with the Democrat candidates when they see them, I think that has an impact,” he argued. “We think we are going to win, win easily but you never know it is an election. I don’t think that’s helping. I think that basically it is the unknown a little bit, but I feel very confident and our people are doing a fantastic job.”
He defended his administration’s travel restrictions early on in the outbreak, teasing a decision “very soon” on a potential addition of new countries to his travel ban, and also applauded Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s suggestion that he could intervene should economic conditions worsen.
The president also ripped media coverage of the disease, singling out CNN in particular, and accused some Democrats of “trying to gain political favor by saying a lot of untruths.”
Education Department releases new details on coronavirus task force
The Department of Education Friday afternoon released new details on its coronavirus task force members after rolling out a web page with guidance for schools on the disease.
Frank Brogan, the assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, is leading the K-12 response, and Bob King, the assistant secretary for postsecondary education, is leading the higher education response, including Federal Student Aid, Liz Hill, a department spokesperson, wrote in an email.
Secretary Betsy DeVos announced at a congressional hearing Thursday that she set up the task force, led by her top deputy, Mick Zais, to coordinate the department’s response to the disease.
“Every principal office will report up through this structure,” Hill wrote.
Along with leading the department’s working group, Zais is also the department’s liaison for the interagency coronavirus task force, Hill wrote.
The web page, which went live at 4 p.m., has the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for administrators of child care programs and K-12 schools. It will also include any guidance to the field from the Education Department, if needed, Hill wrote.
The page is also accessible from the department’s homepage under “Coronavirus information.”
On Friday, Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, warned of potential school shutdowns during the Conservative Political Action Conference.
“Are you going to see some schools shut down? Probably. May you see impacts on public transportation? Sure. But we do this. We know how to handle this,” Mulvaney said.
Federal public health officials have urged schools to brace for more cases of the virus in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that schools across the country develop contingency plans for school dismissals and closures, as well as the continuation of classes online.
President Donald Trump said during a news conference on Wednesday that “schools should be preparing and get ready, just in case.”
— Nicole Gaudiano and Michael Stratford
Selloff continues, spurring Wall Street’s worst week since 2008
Deepening worries about the global coronavirus outbreak triggered another day of steep losses in the stock market, marking Wall Street’s worst week since 2008.
Major indices tumbled despite attempts by Trump administration aides to calm investors and a signal from the Federal Reserve that it would cut rates if needed. The Dow Jones Industrial Average finished Friday down around 350 points, a rebound of sorts after falling by more than 1,000 points during the day. But the Dow still ended the week in correction territory, down more than 13 percent.
And while the Nasdaq rallied to end the day around even, it was down 12 percent for the week along with the S&P 500.
— Caitlin Oprysko
Coronavirus funding bill on track for House passage next week
Congressional spending leaders aim to complete work on their bipartisan, multibillion-dollar coronavirus response measure over the weekend, despite feuding over whether the Trump administration is even equipped to maximize the cash to stem a U.S. pandemic.
House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) said she expects Congress’ top four appropriators will be able to finish the emergency funding bill in the next few days, enabling House passage next week.
The Senate is then likely to vote the week of March 9 to send the legislation on for President Donald Trump’s signature, unleashing funding in the potential range of $6 billion to $8 billion to help contain the U.S. spread of the virus.
“We have to get it out fast,” Lowey told POLITICO about the bill on Friday.
— Jennifer Scholtes
Finance & tax
Fed opens door to rate cut after week of plunging stocks
Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell opened the door on Friday to an interest rate cut next month after a week of investor panic in financial markets that has sent stocks plunging 10 percent.
“The fundamentals of the U.S. economy remain strong,” Powell said in a statement released by the central bank. “However, the coronavirus poses evolving risks to economic activity. The Federal Reserve is closely monitoring developments and their implications for the economic outlook. We will use our tools and act as appropriate to support the economy.”
— Victoria Guida
Kudlow: Economy holding up well to coronavirus
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow on Friday said U.S. health experts still believe the risks from the coronavirus outbreak “are on the low side” and said real-time economic data show no reason for pessimism, even as the stock market is set for its worst week since the Great Recession.
“We believe and our top career health experts believe that the risks here, the health risks and so forth are on the low side,” Kudlow said on Fox Business, adding that “there’s no higher priority than the health and safety of the American people.”
“If things do get materially worse, we will be on top of that, and we would be able to deal with that,” he said.
As for the economy, Kudlow pointed to recent data showing a positive outlook for jobs and the housing market, as well as strong consumer spending.
“I’m sure in the U.S. and elsewhere there will be more reports of coronavirus cases, but that does not mean that this thing is going to skyrocket in North America and the USA,” he said.
“I’m not belittling this. I’m still seeing this as a human tragedy out of China,” the National Economic Council chief added. “Alls I’m saying the real-time numbers … are holding up nicely.”
— Victoria Guida
Mulvaney dismisses concern as media panic
The acting White House chief of staff accused the media on Friday of stoking fear over coronavirus as a plot to take down President Donald Trump, warned of potential school shutdowns and appeared to chastise investors for monitoring news coverage of the outbreak.
The freewheeling commentary at a conservative activist conference in Maryland contradicted instructions he had given a day earlier to bring order to the administration’s coronavirus messaging strategy by routing it through the office of Vice President Mike Pence.
“That’s what this is all about. I got a note today from a reporter saying, what are you going to do today to calm the markets? Really what I might do today to calm the markets is tell people to turn their televisions off for 24 hours,” Mulvaney said at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
— Myah Ward
Republicans storm out of briefing after Democrat rips Trump’s response
Several House Republicans walked out of a closed-door coronavirus briefing Friday with Trump health officials in protest after a senior Democrat blasted the Trump administration’s handling of the response effort.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) kicked off the briefing sharply criticizing the administration as disorganized and lacking urgency in combating the coronavirus, lawmakers said. Her eight-minute speech frustrated Republicans and some Democrats assembled to hear from the slate of officials from the CDC, NIH and State Department.
“If I wanted to hear the politics of it, I’d read POLITICO or something, let’s be serious,” said Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-Mich.), who was among the walkouts.
— Adam Cancryn and David Lim
CDC says ‘every’ state and local health department could have coronavirus test next week
The Centers for Disease Control hopes to have “every” state and local public health department equipped to test for coronavirus by the end of next week, a top agency official said Friday.
Nancy Messonnier, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, also pushed back on reports that some states have found flaws in the agency’s revised coronavirus diagnostic.
“As more cases have been identified and more cases have been available, it has become clearer that with two of those three reactions, we actually are appropriately sensitive and specific in identifying cases,” Messonnier told reporters. States that have already validated the original CDC diagnostic can still use that test.
Problems with the first version of the test have delayed its roll out to public health laboratories across the country, amid increasing fears that coronavirus could circulate undetected in the U.S.
Messonnier said today that public health laboratories should validate existing CDC diagnostic kits using new instructions intended to bypass the issues that tripped up many earlier attempts. CDC and FDA say that the change, which drops one of three main components of the test, will not reduce the diagnostic’s accuracy.
— David Lim and Sarah Karlin-Smith
Kudlow says response will boost Trump’s reelection chances
White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow predicted on Friday that Trump’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak would have a “very positive effect” on his 2020 reelection campaign.
Kudlow’s assertion comes the Trump administration has faced fierce criticism, some of it bipartisan, over its response to the spreading virus.
Calling Trump’s news conference on the outbreak earlier this week “one of the best” he’d seen the president give, Kudlow touted his own credentials as a longtime Trump friend, “watcher” and now associate. He said he believes voters will be impressed by what he labeled as “historic and unprecedented actions” taken by the White House to help blunt the virus’ spread.
“This is a government-wide effort,” he said, “and so I think that folks are gonna look at that and say: ‘You know what, he’s doing his job very well.’ And therefore I think at the end of the day, it’s gonna actually help him on that.”
Kudlow also denied that the administration sought to “stifle” scientific experts within the government, dismissing a report that health officials were being required to clear all communications on the outbreak through the office of Vice President Mike Pence.
“We always need to clear things,” he argued, insisting to reporters that the White House was merely trying to “coordinate” its response and that “no one’s being stifled, no one’s being told what to say.”
Citing the wide swath of agencies involved in outbreak prevention efforts, Kudlow added that “there’s a big difference between stifling and coordinating, and I think you have to coordinate.”
— Caitlin Oprysko
State Department offers humanitarian aid to Iran
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said the United States is prepared to assist Iran in its coronavirus response efforts.
But Pompeo also called on the Islamic Republic’s leaders to “cooperate fully and transparently” with international health organizations.
“This offer of support, which has been formally conveyed to Iran through the Government of Switzerland, underscores our ongoing commitment to address health crises and prevent the spread of infectious diseases,” Pompeo said in a State Department statement.
The secretary of state’s response followed hours after a House Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on the Middle East quickly switched to the secretary of state’s role in the response. Pompeo, who was grilled by the committee on the administration’s communications with Iran about the virus, addressed concerns about Iran’s willingness to accept international assistance in his statement.
“The United States calls on Iran to fully and transparently with international aid and health organizations,” the statement said. “We will continue to work closely with countries in the region to help address unmet needs in response to the virus.”
— Myah Ward
Steyer calls coronavirus Trump’s Katrina
Amid already fierce criticism from Democratic presidential candidates of the administration’s coronavirus response, Tom Steyer predicted Friday that the White House’s management of the outbreak could result in a national crisis akin to Hurricane Katrina.
“We are witnessing a total failure on the part of the White House right now that risks a Katrina level disaster for our country,” the billionaire activist said in a statement, referencing the Category 5 storm that ravaged New Orleans in 2005.
Steyer argued that Vice President Mike Pence was ill-equipped to coordinate the government’s efforts to counter the epidemic, and charged that “the pathetic response and chaos that reigns inside the White House risks putting millions of American lives at risk.”
President Donald Trump also had harsh words Friday morning for Steyer, urging South Carolina voters to cast their ballots for another Democratic candidate in the state’s presidential primary Saturday.
“To the people of South Carolina, Tom Steyer is a joke, laughed at by everyone, a total incompetent. He made money in coal, now he ‘hates’ coal,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Did you see him fawning over Crazy Bernie? Has no chance, a loser for South Carolina, doesn’t deserve your vote!”
Responding to the president’s post, Steyer tweeted: “The Coronavirus is your Hurricane Katrina — and yet here you are. You are failing in front of the whole world. Go do your damn job.”
— Quint Forgey
Pompeo dodges coronavirus questions on Capitol Hill
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo could barely contain his annoyance at being asked about the coronavirus Friday during a House committee hearing that was supposed to focus on the Middle East.
“Is that the question? … We agreed that I would come here today to talk about Iran,” Pompeo said early on after being asked about the virus.
Pompeo managed, however, to use the coronavirus questions to slam two of his favorite targets, Iran and China, alleging that the two countries had misled the world about the virus’ impact, though he also said the U.S. has offered assistance to Iran.
Perhaps the most tense moment came when Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) pressed the secretary on whether he agreed with comments by White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney that media outlets were playing up the coronavirus news to bring down President Donald Trump.
At one point, Mulvaney used the phrase “hoax of the day” — which Lieu latched onto in demanding to know if Pompeo agreed.
Pompeo wouldn’t directly say yes or no. “I’m not going to comment on what others are saying,” he said, insisting that the State Department is doing what it can to protect Americans from the illness.
Pompeo accused Lieu of trying to score a “gotcha moment.” But his reluctance to contradict Mulvaney is par for the course for Pompeo. He takes great pains to avoid publicizing differences between himself and the White House.
— Nahal Toosi
Trump says Democrats are blaming him for outbreak
President Donald Trump accused congressional Democrats early Friday morning of unfairly blaming the coronavirus’ threat to Americans on his administration, tying the global health epidemic even closer to domestic politics.
“So, the Coronavirus, which started in China and spread to various countries throughout the world, but very slowly in the U.S. because President Trump closed our border, and ended flights, VERY EARLY, is now being blamed, by the Do Nothing Democrats, to be the fault of ‘Trump,’” the president wrote on Twitter just after midnight.
In another message roughly half an hour later, Trump suggested Democratic lawmakers had been “wasting time” on other legislative priorities and efforts to denigrate Republicans as the coronavirus outbreak proliferated.
“The Do Nothing Democrats were busy wasting time on the Immigration Hoax, & anything else they could do to make the Republican Party look bad, while I was busy calling early BORDER & FLIGHT closings, putting us way ahead in our battle with Coronavirus. Dems called it VERY wrong!” Trump wrote.
— Quint Forgey