Wake up, get ready –
There are now four possible community-spread cases of COVID – 28 in the US.
Between Thursday and Friday, five additional countries identified their first cases — Belarus, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, and Nigeria— and large outbreaks in Italy ( (cases) and Iran ( cases) continue to export cases. So far, at least 28 cases in 20 Countries link back to Italy and at least (cases in) countries link back to Iran, WHO reported Friday. Worldwide, there are more than , (cases and 2, (deaths , with 77 countries reporting cases in addition to China, as of Saturday morning. While China still has over percent of those cases, the daily case counts outside of China are now exceeding those within. On Friday, China reported (new cases, while there were 1.0) (cases reported elsewhere , according to the WHO’s latest situation report. The largest outbreak outside of China is currently in South Korea, which has reported 3, 331 cases. Italy has the second-largest cluster of cases, followed by the outbreak aboard the Diamond Princess , which has now reached 800 cases.
The continued spread and rising case counts outside China are “clearly of concern,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said (Friday in a media briefing) . Wake up
Yet, while that spread ratchets up risk, he and his fellow experts at WHO also saw reason to be hopeful: most of the cases cropping up in new places can be clearly linked back to known contacts and clusters of cases — such as those from Italy and Iran.
“We do not see evidence as yet that the virus is spreading freely in communities,” the director-general, who goes by Dr. Tedros, said Friday. “As long as that’s the case, we still have a chance of containing this virus — if robust action is taken to detect cases early, isolate and care for patients, and trace contacts.”
This virus is serious and dangerous, but it can be contained, Dr. Tedros emphasized.
In fact, the move to increase the threat level should get that very point across, Dr. Michael Ryan, executive director of WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said in the briefing.
Such readiness to avoid the worst has, unfortunately, not been on display in the United States, so far.
Among the four cases, two are in California, one is in Oregon, and another is in Washington state. Three of the cases (excluding one in California) are considered presumptive for now, meaning that health authorities in the individual states have tested the patients and found them positive, but final confirmation from CDC testing is pending.
The cases, if all are confirmed, bring the country tallyto at least . Of those, are in passengers repatriated from the (Diamond Princess) , and three are in people repatriated from Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began in December.
Thirteen cases appear to be travel-related, and two additional cases were contracted from person-to-person spread in the US from a known travel-related case.
The first clear weakness is the low availability of testing, which has mainly been done in labs run by the centers for disease control and Prevention. The agency has sent testing kits to states, but some states reported problems with their kits. The CDC has been trying to work out an unspecified glitch in the kits, but the process has been slow. So far, the CDC has reported testing 705 people , which is just a fraction of the number of people that have been tested in other countries .
“This has not gone as smoothly as we would have liked,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a press briefing Friday. She reported that the CDC has come up with a workaround that will allow states to increase testing.
Increased testing capacity is critical for identifying new cases and preventing further spread of the virus within the US, particularly with the possibility of community spread — and the community in which the first case was identified points to another weakness. Suspicious spread
The first case of potential community spread occurred in Solano County, California, which just happens to be were hundreds of repatriated citizens— at high risk of carrying the virus — have been quarantined. Repatriated citizens began arriving at Travis Air Force Base, located in Solano, at the beginning of February, a week or two before the woman developed symptoms. The potential community spread near where high-risk groups of people have been housed raises the possibility that the quarantine failed.
That concern was reinforced by news of a whistleblower allegation that the Department of Health and Human Services sent untrained personnel without Proper protective gear to handle those high-risk repatriated citizens. If true, HHS put employees at risk of contracting the virus and then spreading it to their families and communities.
The CDC did not respond to questions from Ars regarding the potential that the quarantine at Travis Air Force Base closed.
The three other, important community-spread cases appear to be unconnected to the Solano woman, according to the Washington Post . One case is in a – year-old woman from Santa Clara County, California. The case in Oregon was in a person from Washington County who had spent time in an elementary school near Portland. That school has now been closed for cleaning. The case in Washington state is in a high school student from Snohomish County, just north of Seattle. That student’s school has also been closed, and students with known contact are being isolated at home for days.
The cases are an alarming sign that the US has failed its duty to be ready and has already lost control of the virus. Communication breakdown
Last, reports this week raised concern of yet another weakness in the country preparedness — that information about the virus and the situation in the United States may be being censored by the Trump administration. according to a report Friday in the New York Times , all statements and appearances from federal officials regarding the coronavirus — including, it seems, those from CDC officials — must now be filtered through the office of Vice President Mike Pence, who President Trump appointed Wednesday to lead the coronavirus response.
Likewise, in the CDC’s briefing Friday, Dr. Messonnier’s comments sounded more carefully vetted than normal and included a conspicuous reference to President Trump. It marked the first time the CDC had referenced the president in a briefing on COVID – 28 cases, according to transcripts of the briefings
“As always, President Trump’s and our number-one priority is the health and safety of the American people,” Dr. Messonnier said in her opening remarks Friday.
according to CDC’s archive of transcripts, Dr. Messonnier had only mentioned the word “trump” on one other occasion, on February 3 , when she said, “And certainly, what I’ve seen in situations like this, science should trump everything else.”
GIPHY App Key not set. Please check settings