8th case of coronavirus confirmed in the U.S. amid skyrocketing outbreak

An employee wears a protective mask as he sits in an Apple store after it shut Saturday in Beijing. Apple announced it was closing all 42 of its stores in mainland China until Feb. 10 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
An employee wears a protective mask as he sits in an Apple store after it shut Saturday in Beijing. Apple announced it was closing all 42 of its stores in mainland China until Feb. 10 because of the coronavirus outbreak.
Kevin Frayer | Getty Images

Authorities announced the eighth case of the novel strain of coronavirus in the U.S. on Saturday, as officials struggle to stem a soaring outbreak.

The infection was confirmed in a Boston man in his 20s, who had recently traveled to Wuhan, China, according to Massachusetts state health officials.

He sought medical care soon after his return to the U.S. and has been in isolation, health officials said. His "few close contacts have been identified and are being monitored for any sign of symptoms," the Massachusetts state department of health said in a statement.

The disease has spread rapidly from its epicenter in Hubei province, mostly within mainland China. To date, the respiratory disease has infected some 12,000 people in the country, and killed more than 250, according to official counts.

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More than 150 cases have been reported in more than 20 countries outside of China. The spread of the virus prompted the World Health Organization on Thursday to declare a global health emergency.

On Friday the Trump administration declared a public health emergency. Despite the declaration, U.S. health officials have emphasized that at this time, the overall risk to Americans is low and that the threat of flu remains much greater.

Still, the U.S. is working to ensure the coronavirus does not gain a foothold in the country. The State Department is warning Americans not to travel to China and urging those already in the country to leave.

More than a dozen airlines are suspending flights to and from China's mainland, including major U.S. carriers such as American Airlines and Delta.

Additionally, the Trump administration has announced that beginning Sunday, all foreign nationals who have traveled in China within the past 14 days will be denied entry into the U.S. Exceptions will be made for permanent residents and immediate family of U.S. citizens.

Passengers on incoming flights from China will be directed to one of seven U.S. airports for health screenings. Citizens returning from Hubei province will be subjected to up to two weeks of mandatory quarantine.

On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention imposed a mandatory 14-day-quarantine on nearly 200 Americans evacuated from Wuhan. The evacuees are being housed at the March Air Reserve Base in California.

"While we recognize this is an unprecedented action, we are facing an unprecedented public health threat," said Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC. "And this is one of the tools in our toolbox to mitigate the potential impact of this novel virus on the United States."

Because the strain of the disease is new, much remains unknown. So far, experts say, it seems less deadly than SARS, another coronavirus.

To reduce the risk of the novel coronavirus spread, the WHO is encouraging old-fashioned techniques, including good hand-washing, avoiding close contact with those who have fever or cough, and sneezing into a crooked elbow or a tissue.

Meanwhile, Apple announced on Saturday that it is temporarily closing all of its stores in China.

"Out of an abundance of caution and based on the latest advice from leading health experts, we're closing all our corporate offices, stores and contact centers in mainland China through February 9," the company said in a statement.

Apple operates more than 40 stores in mainland China.

Most Apple products are made in China in factories owned and operated by outside contractors, including the electronics giant Foxconn.

For now, the Taiwan-based Foxconn says it won't be changing its production timeline, but in a Jan. 28 earnings call, Apple CEO Tim Cook said the company is working on backup plans to minimize any potential supply disruptions.

With its announcement on Saturday, Apple joins a growing list of major American companies — including Starbucks, McDonald's and KFC — in suspending business in China.

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