Coronavirus live updates: Cases top 20,000, Macao asks casinos to close

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This is a live blog. Please check back for updates.

All times below are in Eastern time.

Total cases: About 20,900 as of Tuesday morning.
Total deaths:  429 as of Tuesday morning.

8:49 am: American Airlines suspends Hong Kong flights

American Airlines on Tuesday suspended its Hong Kong service to and from Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles through Feb. 20 citing a drop in demand as the coronavirus spreads. The union that represents some 15,000 American Airlines pilots had sued the carrier last week to end China flights, including service to Hong Kong. American last week suspended its mainland China flights through March 27 but intended to continue flying to Hong Kong. Delta and United took similar steps.

8:21 am: Washing hands will help combat the coronavirus

The “most important” way to stop the spread of China’s coronavirus is to wash your hands, according to the professor who headed the World Health Organization’s global response to SARS. ”One of the most important ways of stopping respiratory outbreaks such as this is washing hands,” David Heymann, who led WHO’s infectious disease unit at the time of the 2003 SARS epidemic, said at a Chatham House press briefing in London. That’s because “if you touch a patient, if you shake hands, if you touch a door that has a droplet on it — which could theoretically happen — then you touch your face (or) your mouth and you become infected.”

7:05 am: Chinese aviation officials urge airlines to continue flights to non-restricted countries

The Civil Aviation Administration of China told domestic airlines that when they cancel a portion of flights due to falling market demand, they need to ensure they continue to operate to countries where flights are allowed,  unless the country has placed restrictions). That’s according to an online post from the administration’s official news service midday Tuesday.

6:20 am: Fatality rate ‘should gradually decline’

The fatality rate in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus, “should gradually decline,” Jiao Yahui, deputy director of the medical affairs and hospital administration of the National Health Commission, said Tuesday at a daily press conference in Mandarin, according to a CNBC translation. Jiao pointed out that 74% of coronavirus deaths, or 313, are Wuhan where there is a case-fatality rate of 4.9%. That’s primarily due to lack of hospital beds in the early days of the virus’ spread, she said. At that time, she said there were only three designated hospitals with 110 beds for the critically ill.

5:40 am: Macao closes casinos for two weeks

Macau, the world’s biggest gambling hub, has asked all casino operators to suspend operations for two weeks to help curb the spread of the virus. The announcement by Macau’s chief executive Ho Iat Seng came as the former Portuguese colony reported at least 10 confirmed cases of the virus and tight restrictions on movements in and out of the Chinese territory. Residents have been instructed to wear masks when traveling around the city and been advised to stay home as much as possible.

4:34 am: WHO pushes back on rampant misinformation

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