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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

2 hours ago - World

Report: LGBTQ+ Afghans' lives "dramatically worsened" under Taliban rule

Taliban fighters in Kabul, Afghanistan, earlier this month. Photo: Mohd Rasfan/AFP via Getty Images

LGBTQ+ Afghans have been threatened, attacked and "faced an increasingly desperate situation and grave threats to their safety" since the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan last August, per a report published Wednesday.

What they're saying: "We spoke with LGBT Afghans who have survived gang rape, mob attacks, or have been hunted by their own family members who joined the Taliban, and they have no hope that state institutions will protect them," per a statement from study co-author J. Lester Feder.

3 hours ago - World

Canadian Indigenous group finds 93 suspected unmarked graves

A makeshift memorial honoring the 215 children whose remains were found in a mass grave in Brantford, Ontario, Canada, last May. Photo: Cole Burston/AFP via Getty Images

Indigenous leaders in Canada's western province of British Columbia said Tuesday they believe they've found 93 unmarked graves near a former boarding school.

The big picture: Hundreds of mass graves have been found at the grounds of former residential schools for Indigenous children since last May, when the remains of 215 children were uncovered at one such site in B.C.

6 hours ago - World

Coast Guard searches for 39 people after boat capsizes off Florida coast

A U.S. Coast Guard ship leaving its base in Miami Beach, Florida, in July. Photo: AP/Marta Lavandier

U.S. Coast Guard crews were searching into the night for 39 people whose boat sank off Florida's coast over the weekend after traveling from the Bahamas.

The big picture: A "good Samaritan" contacted the Coast Guard about 8 a.m. Tuesday to say they "rescued a man clinging to a capsized vessel" 45 miles east of Fort Pierce, per a tweet from the agency, which noted it was dealing with "a suspected human smuggling venture."