TUESDAY, March 3, 2020 (HealthDay News) — Coronavirus continued to spread throughout the United States on Tuesday, with more than 100 cases confirmed in 15 states and nine deaths now reported in Washington state.
Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Wisconsin and Washington state either have cases confirmed by health officials or have been treating patients with coronavirus-like symptoms, the Washington Post reported. Late Monday, Georgia health officials said a couple in Atlanta had tested positive for coronavirus after returning from a trip to Italy.
“My concern is as the next week or two or three go by, we’re going to see a lot more community-related cases,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a media briefing late Monday. “That’s of great concern.”
Also on Monday, federal health officials announced a measure that will make more respirators available for U.S. health care workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
Currently, most respirators are approved for use only in industrial settings, but the emergency measure means that certain National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health-approved respirators, including N95s, that are not approved by the FDA can be used by health care workers during the coronavirus outbreak.
And as health officials raced to boost production of testing kits on Monday, U.S. lawmakers were close to agreement on a $7.5 billion coronavirus package, two people familiar with the negotiations told the Post.
More states report cases
Washington state appears to be the hardest hit so far, with an outbreak occurring at the Life Care Center nursing home in the town of Kirkland, CNN reported. Washington state officials said Tuesday that a total of nine people have died from COVID-19 infection, with most either living at or connected with the nursing home.
The two new fatalities reported Tuesday in Washington state actually occurred prior to Feb. 26, but only now has coronavirus been identified as a cause of death, CNN reported.
According to King County health officials, the two newly reported deaths include a woman in her 80s who died at her family home and man in his 50s who died at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Both had been residents at the Life Care Center, however.
According to the Washington state health department’s website, 27 cases have been reported so far in the state, but more cases are expected.
While most people with robust immune systems appear to recover from COVID-19, frail and elderly nursing home residents may be at particular danger, experts noted.
Officials in Seattle say special isolation centers are being opened to house people who may have had contact with people already affected by the new coronavirus.
A troubling sign showed up in Texas on Monday, when the top two governing officials of the San Antonio area blocked the release of quarantined cruise ship evacuees, declaring a public health emergency after a woman allowed to leave quarantine later tested positive for coronavirus, the Associated Press reported.
All passengers must test negative for the virus three times before they can be released, officials there said.
Florida, which has reported three cases, has also declared a state of emergency, CNN reported.
In just over three days, the U.S. case count has climbed from 65 to over 100, CNN reported.
Scientists say that genetic analysis of the virus in Washington State suggests the coronavirus may have been spreading within the community for as long as six weeks before the first case was detected, the New York Times reported.
On Saturday, the Trump administration placed travel restrictions on three foreign countries that are battling COVID-19 outbreaks.
A complete travel ban was issued for Iran, while the highest-level travel advisory was issued for parts of Italy and South Korea. The travel advisory urges Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to affected areas of those two countries.
The U.S. developments came after the World Health Organization raised its risk assessment of the new coronavirus’ spread to “very high.” Cases of infection have now been spotted in 74 countries and on every continent except Antarctica.
Also on Friday, Nigeria announced the first case of coronavirus in sub-Saharan Africa, identified in an Italian contractor who fell ill upon returning to his workplace north of Lagos.
“We are on the highest level of alert or highest level of risk assessment in terms of spread and in terms of impact,” Dr. Mike Ryan, executive director of WHO’s health emergencies program, said during a media briefing in Geneva on Friday. “This is a reality check for every government on the planet: Wake up. Get ready. This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready. You have a duty to your citizens, you have a duty to the world to be ready.”
As of Tuesday, WHO has reported more than 90,000 cases of coronavirus worldwide, including more than 3,000 deaths, the vast majority of which have occurred in China, where the outbreak began.
In the United States, efforts are underway to prepare for what most experts say is an inevitable large-scale domestic outbreak of coronavirus. On Friday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said President Trump might invoke a 1950 Korean War-era law, the Defense Production Act, to ramp up production of medical supplies needed in an outbreak, the Times reported. Those supplies would include more than 300 million high-tech N95 face masks for use by health care personnel.
U.S. interventions, global spread
Meanwhile, schools across America are canceling trips abroad and preparing online courses as they brace for the possibility that coronavirus could spread into their communities, the AP reported. Many are also preparing for possible school closures that could stretch for weeks or longer.
On Wednesday, President Trump tapped Vice President Mike Pence to lead the U.S. response to a potential coronavirus pandemic.
Internationally, hopes of containing the coronavirus are fading fast.
South Korea and Iran are each battling major outbreaks of COVID-19. In Europe, a similar fight is raging in Italy, even as new cases were recorded in other European countries, the Times reported. In Japan, a state of emergency was declared Friday in a northern province because of the growing number of coronavirus cases there, the AP reported. Japan has also taken the unusual step of closing all schools for the month of March to protect children.
On Wednesday, Brazil announced that it had identified the first case of COVID-19 in Latin America, and on Friday Mexico announced it had its first two cases.
In Wednesday’s press conference in which Trump appointed Pence to head the U.S. response to coronavirus, Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, reminded Americans that the best way to protect themselves and others is to take the same sort of precautions as they would during cold and flu season.
“It’s spread through coughs and sneezes, and so those everyday sensible measures we tell people to do every year with the flu are important here — covering your cough, staying home when you’re sick and washing your hands,” Schuchat said. “Tried and true, not very exciting measures, but really important ways you can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on the new coronavirus.
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