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A charter plane lands in California carrying U.S. citizens evacuated from Wuhan. Photo: Matt Hartman/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. State Department has placed U.S. diplomatic staff and their families in China on "authorized departure," meaning they are permitted to leave the country amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Driving the news: Approximately 210 U.S. citizens were evacuated Wednesday from Wuhan, where the outbreak began and has spread most widely. The virus has killed at least 171 people in China and infected over 8,000, and was declared a Global Health Emergency on Thursday by the World Health Organization.

A State Department spokesperson told Axios the "authorized departure" notice applied to "all non-emergency U.S. government employees at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the consulates general in Chengdu, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenyang."

  • "As needed, the State Department will review the authorized departure status of the U.S. Embassy in Beijing and the consulates general in China," the official said, noting that consulate staff in Wuhan are under "ordered departure."
  • "The Department of State made the decision to put the U.S. Embassy and consulates general on authorized departure status out of an abundance of caution related to logistical disruptions stemming from restricted transportation and availability of appropriate health care related to the novel coronavirus," the official said.
  • "The U.S. Embassy and consulates general across China will continue to provide consular services, as resources allow."

Between the lines: The decision is one step down from an order for personnel to leave the country.

Go deeper

Exclusive: White House meeting with members of Problem Solvers Caucus

Members of the Problem Solvers Caucus discuss the COVID-19 relief bill in December. Photo: Oliver Contreras/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Top White House officials will meet Wednesday with a bipartisan coalition of House lawmakers as the administration tries to enlist moderates to support the president's infrastructure proposal.

Why it matters: The meeting is something of an olive branch after President Biden's team courted groups of progressives to back the $2.2 trillion package.

1 hour ago - Health

The new vaccine threat is fear itself

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The FDA’s decision to pause the use of Johnson & Johnson's coronavirus vaccine has set off a chain reaction of fear — about the safety of the vaccine, and about whether the FDA is overreacting — that's causing unnecessary drama just as the vaccine effort is finally picking up speed.

The big picture: Throughout the pandemic, the public and the media, and sometimes even regulators, have struggled to keep risks in perspective — to acknowledge them without exaggerating them, and to avoid downplaying them because other people will exaggerate them.

Cryptocurrency giant Coinbase heads to Wall Street

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Coinbase, the country's largest cryptocurrency exchange, is expected to go public today at what could be a valuation north of $100 billion.

Why it matters: This gives crypto a Wall Street seal of legitimacy, after an early existence marred by ties to illicit goods.