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Latest On Coronavirus

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The coronavirus continues to spread. There are more than 300 confirmed cases in the U.S. And off the California coast, 21 people on a cruise ship have been tested - have tested positive so far. The highest numbers in the country are in Washington state, where there are more than 80 confirmed cases and 14 people have died.

Will Stone of member station KNKX in Seattle has been covering this story. Will, thanks for joining us.

WILL STONE, BYLINE: Good morning.

SIMON: And what is the situation like in Seattle?

STONE: Well, every day brings a batch of new confirmed cases, especially in the last few days. The numbers have jumped significantly, as well as the deaths being reported. And these aren't just confined to a few hot spots. They're popping up really all throughout the metro area, among staff at the University of Washington or at Amazon and Starbucks, hospital workers and even in rural communities three hours away from the coast in the middle of the state.

SIMON: What do public officials there say about the increasing number of cases?

STONE: They're issuing very strong warnings and asking people to reconsider their plans. We have emergency declarations in cities. Schools are shutting down. The university has canceled in-person classes. Festivals are being canceled. Even employees at major tech companies are being told to work from home. Generally, the public is being asked to avoid large gatherings.

And there is recognition among public health leaders that all we can do now is try to mitigate the damage. This is how Dow Constantine, executive of King County, puts it.

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DOW CONSTANTINE: We must prepare this region for the inevitable continued spread of this virus, at least in the short run. But we will do everything we can to slow its spread, to protect those who are most likely to become seriously ill from it.

STONE: And Constantine made these comments as he fielded questions about a nursing home called Life Care Center, where the virus has swept through, leaving many residents ill and killing some.

SIMON: How are people in Seattle coping?

STONE: Many are adjusting their day-to-day routines, whether that's working at home or not going to yoga class or to restaurants. It's not a ghost town yet, but there is a noticeable difference in people riding public transit and at the airport. And those who are at high risk, which is defined as people over 60 or with underlying health conditions or pregnant - they're having to preemptively isolate themselves. One such person is Morgan Larson (ph). She's 29 years old, works at a hospital. And she has multiple sclerosis. She was reluctant at first to just stay home.

MORGAN LARSON: So I kept making excuses why I should be going to work. But at the end of the day, this is a very serious matter. And especially in King County, we're just taking the highest precaution as we can.

STONE: For Larson, that means her doctor has advised her to stay home until March 23.

SIMON: Will, you've been covering the outbreak as it develops all over the West Coast. What's the latest about that cruise ship off of San Francisco?

STONE: Vice President Mike Pence announced yesterday that nearly half the people tested aboard the Grand Princess, a cruise ship being held off San Francisco, have been infected with coronavirus - 21 out of 46 people tested - 19 were crew members and two were passengers. They're about 3,500 people on board the ship. The vice president said it would be brought to a noncommercial port this weekend where testing would continue. And this is, of course, the second cruise ship to be affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

SIMON: Will Stone of member station KNKX in Seattle, thanks so much.

STONE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.