Coronavirus U.S. Update: New York, New Jersey Report Fresh Cases As Number of States With Infections Rises to 15

The number of COVID-19 virus cases in the U.S. has reached 159, with California reporting its first death and Washington its tenth, bringing the U.S. death toll to 11. New cases have also been confirmed in New York and New Jersey and the virus has reached at least 15 states.

The deadly virus was first detected in China's Wuhan city in the Hubei province. It has infected at least 96,788 people and claimed the lives of 3,303 globally, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

While the recent deaths have caused a wave of fear over the threat of the virus in the country, "the risk to the American public of contracting the coronavirus remains low," Vice President Mike Pence said at a briefing. "With some of the data that we're [the U.S.] evaluating from around the world, it does appear that the elderly are the most vulnerable... especially those with serious health issues," he added.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the briefing: "We've said many a time, if you talk about risk of infection throughout the country, it's a low risk."

"The risk of getting into difficulties is very heavily weighted towards people with underlying conditions and the elderly...but the risk for a young person who gets infected to getting into trouble is really low, based on a lot of data that's coming out of foreign countries, particularly out of China," he added.

Ambassador-at-Large Dr. Deborah Birx said at the briefing: "The elderly and [those with] preexisting conditions have a more serious illness when confronted with the coronavirus. Reassuringly, in South Korea, no one has died under 30...And the median age in Italy was 81, of those who succumbed. Those who became ill, the median age was 60."

California reports first death

The U.S. death toll climbed to 11 on Wednesday, following the death of an infected patient in California. The 71-year-old resident from Rocklin, Placer County, had underlying health conditions and tested positive after going on a cruise from San Francisco to Mexico on February 10, returning on February 21, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The patient traveled on the Grand Princess cruise ship from Princess Cruises. The same cruise line operates the Diamond Princess, which was quarantined in Japan last month after a passenger from Hong Kong was diagnosed. According to the latest figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 46 Americans on the Diamond Princess tested positive. The American evacuees from the ship who tested positive were taken to a hospital near the Travis Air Force base in Fairfield, California.

The Grand Princess made a trip to Hawaii after reaching Mexico and was due to dock early in San Francisco on Wednesday. However, it is currently being held off the coast of San Francisco, with passengers being tested for the virus.

"There are fewer than 100 guests and crew identified for testing, including all in-transit guests (guests who sailed the previous Mexico voyage and remained on board for the current Hawaii voyage), those guests and crew who have experienced influenza-like illness symptoms on this voyage, and guests currently under care for respiratory illness," Princess Cruises said in a statement.

"Public health officials have advised that no guests will be permitted to disembark until all results have been received. Out of an abundance of caution, all guests who have been identified for testing have been asked to remain in their staterooms. We will continue to proceed under the guidance of the U.S. CDC and local authorities," the statement said.

Nearly 2,500 passengers who were aboard the ship are also being traced by health officials to be screened for possible exposure, the LA Times reported.

A state of emergency has been declared across California on Wednesday following the latest death, Governor Gavin Newsom confirmed.

"The State of California is deploying every level of government to help identify cases and slow the spread of this coronavirus," Newsom said in a statement.

"This emergency proclamation will help the state further prepare our communities and our health care system in the event it spreads more broadly," he added.

The declaration allows for "provisions that protect consumers against price gouging, allow for health care workers to come from out of state to assist at health care facilities, and give health care facilities the flexibility to plan and adapt to accommodate incoming patients."

A state of emergency has also been declared in Los Angeles County, which reported six new infected individuals, raising its total confirmed cases to seven. Most of the patients are people who recently traveled to countries heavily affected by the outbreak.

Washington sees tenth death

Washington state announced another death on Wednesday, marking the tenth person in the state to die after contracting the virus. The state has 39 confirmed cases, with 31 in King County (including nine deaths) and eight in the neighboring Snohomish County (including one death), according to the latest figures from the state's department of health.

The latest death was a woman in her 90s who was a resident of LifeCare, the nursing facility where six of the ten people in Washington who died from the virus lived.

Researchers from the researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and the University of Washington reportedly say they have evidence showing the virus may have been circulating in the state for up to six weeks without being detected, meaning there may be hundreds of people that have yet to be diagnosed in the area.

State officials are recommending elderly people with underlying health conditions and those who are pregnant or sick remain at home and avoid large gatherings.

"We are encouraging employers to maximize telecommuting and to make it possible for employees who can work from home to do so," King County Executive Dow Constantine said.

"Community groups should avoid creating large gatherings," he added.

"This is a very stressful situation for the families of the residents of the center and for loved ones, and I want to emphasize how distressing we understand this is, and again extend our heartfelt sympathy and condolences to the family members of those who have died and are ill," the health officer for public health Seattle and King County Jeff Duchin, said at a press briefing.

Cases in New York soar overnight

New York's total confirmed cases rose to 11 by Wednesday, increasing by nine cases since Tuesday. The spike took place after a 50-year-old Manhattan commuter (a lawyer from Westchester County) was infected, who was the second person to contract the virus in the state.

The lawyer's 20-year-old son (who is a student of Yeshiva University's Washington Heights campus) and 14-year-old daughter (a student of SAR Academy and High School in the Bronx), as well as his wife, also tested positive, Governor Andrew Cuomo confirmed in a statement.

A male friend of the lawyer was also diagnosed, along with the friend's wife and three children.

The SAR school will be closed through Tuesday, while classes at Yeshiva University will be canceled through Tuesday. Residence halls and dining venues at Yeshiva will remain open, the governor confirmed.

Around 100 people in New York City have been asked to self-quarantine themselves following the recent new cases.

Yeshiva University New York City March 2020
Yeshiva University students wear face masks and gloves on the grounds of the university on March 4, 2020 in New York City. Getty Images

"There is a lot of overlap and this is the most complex case that we have had in terms of the number of interactions. There was the attorney, as you know, who works at the law firm in Manhattan," the governor said in the statement.

"Family in Westchester, they had attended schools—both Yeshiva University and the SAR school. They had been to synagogue services that had a large number of people. So it is the most complex detective investigation matter," he added.

The New York State Department of Health confirmed there are currently 98 persons under investigation (PUI) in New York for possible exposure to the virus.

The state's first case was a woman who had returned from a trip to Iran. She is currently in isolation at her home.

New Jersey sees first case

The state of New Jersey also confirmed its first "presumptive positive case" of the virus, which means the case has been tested at a public lab and is awaiting confirmation from testing by the CDC.

The patient was reported to be a male in his 30s hospitalized in Bergen County since March 3, according to a post on the official Twitter account of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

"Any case of novel coronavirus in our state is concerning, however most New Jersey residents are at very low risk of contracting COVID-19," New Jersey Department of Health Acting Commissioner Judith Persichilli said in a statement.

Tonight, Acting Governor @LtGovOliver and I are announcing the first presumptive positive case of novel coronavirus, or #COVID19, in New Jersey. The individual, a male in his 30s, is hospitalized in Bergen County and has been hospitalized since March 3rd.

— Governor Phil Murphy (@GovMurphy) March 5, 2020

Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco also released a statement adding: "As I stated yesterday in my press conference, we know the COVID-19 virus will happen in New Jersey, and if it should happen in Bergen County, we will be prepared and ready," CBS New York reports.

"Bergen County, through its Office of Emergency Management, Health Department and other county agencies, are prepared and are taking all appropriate action to address the situation despite the very low risk COVID-19 poses to the general public."

The graphic below, provided by Statista, illustrates the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the U.S. as of March 5.

Statista Map U.S. Coronavirus March 5, 2020
A map by Statista shows the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the U.S. as of March 5.