The Journal Gazette
Sunday, March 29, 2020 1:00 am

Coronavirus roundup

Cruise ship with 4 dead passengers seeking port

News services

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Passengers remained in limbo Saturday aboard a Holland America cruise ship that is seeking to dock at Port Everglades, despite carrying four dead and dozens of sick people.

The Zaandam was still anchored on the far side of the Panama Canal awaiting authorization to pass north and cruise toward Florida. If it is denied passage, it will not be permitted to dock in the eastern United States.

After being denied entry to Chile early in the week because it had – at the time – 42 sick people aboard, the liner with 1,243 guests and 586 crew headed instead for Port Everglades, Fla., where it had hoped to dock Monday.

Since then, four people have died, two have tested positive for the new coronavirus, and the number of passengers and crew with flu-like symptoms has ballooned to 138.

LA shuts down beaches, trails

While touring a Silicon Valley firm that is refurbishing outdated ventilators for hospitals, California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Saturday that the number of people hospitalized across the state spiked to more than 1,000 and that overnight the number of people admitted to intensive care units doubled from 200 to more than 400.

It has been more than a week since Newsom issued the stay-at-home order for 40 million residents, restricting them from all but essential outside activities. However, reports of people packing beaches and hiking trails has prompted local governments to close recreation areas. Los Angeles this weekend began a three-week shutdown of beaches, piers, beach bike paths and parking lots along with public trails, including one leading to the famous Hollywood sign. Golf courses, tennis courts and skate parks also were shuttered.

“We are now seeing the spike that we were anticipating,” Newsom declared the day before while standing in front of the 1,000-bed Navy hospital ship Mercy that arrived in the Port of Los Angeles. It will take non-virus patients to free up rooms at hospitals for infection cases.

Close immigration courts, suit says

Six nonprofit organizations that provide legal services to immigrants and practice in the immigration court system sued members of the Trump administration – including President Donald Trump – for keeping immigration courts open during the coronavirus pandemic.

The suit, filed Friday in a Portland, Ore., district court, contends that by keeping the immigration courts open and forcing attorneys, judges and those fighting their immigration status to appear in person at the court, the federal officials have turned the court system into a “public health hazard.” The Trump administration, the groups claim, is using COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus, “as a tool to further weaponize the immigration court system.”

Just a little flu, Brazil's leader says

Even as coronavirus cases mount in Latin America's largest nation, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has staked out the most deliberately dismissive position of any major world leader, calling the pandemic a momentary, minor problem and saying strong measures to contain it are unnecessary.

Bolsonaro says his response to the disease matches that of President Donald Trump, but the Brazilian leader has gone further, labeling the virus as “a little flu” and saying state governors' aggressive measures to halt the disease were crimes. On Thursday, Bolsonaro told reporters in the capital, Brasilia, that he feels Brazilians' natural immunity will protect the nation.

“I think a lot of people were already infected in Brazil, weeks or months ago, and they already have the antibodies that help it not proliferate,” Bolsonaro said. “I'm hopeful that's really a reality.”

Bolsonaro, 65, shows no sign of wavering even as the nation's tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases approach 4,000, deaths top 100 and Brazilians overwhelmingly demand tough anti-virus measures. Pollster Datafolha this month found 73% of people supported total isolation, and 54% approved of governors' management of the crisis. Bolsonaro's backing was just 33%.

Loss of smell, taste symptom of illness

The coronavirus is capable of attacking key cells in the nose, which may explain the unusual finding that some COVID-19 sufferers lose their ability to smell and taste, Harvard Medical School researchers found.

Their study of human and mice genomic data found certain cells at the back of the nose harbor the distinctly shaped proteins that the coronavirus targets to invade the body. Infection of these cells could directly or indirectly lead to an altered sense of smell, they said in a paper published Saturday.

Doctors around the world are reporting anecdotal COVID-19 cases in which patients have experienced an abrupt and unexplained total or partial loss of smell and taste. The group, based in Alexandria, Va., proposes that these symptoms be added to the list of screening tools for possible COVID-19 infection.

People experiencing the symptoms in the absence of other known causes should consider self-isolation and get tested, the group said.

'Contagion' cast joins for message

The stars of the 2011 virus thriller “Contagion” – a prescient film these days – have reunited for a series of public service announcements to warn about COVID-19.

Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Ehle have teamed up with scientists from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health to offer four individual homemade videos.

“Wash your hands like your life depends on it,” Winslet says in her PSA. “Because right now, in particular, it just might.”

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