Coronavirus live updates: WHO says containment of novel coronavirus ‘is feasible’ and ‘top priority’

(NEW YORK) — A viral outbreak that began in China has since spread to every continent across the globe except Antarctica, infecting nearly 90,000 people.

Although the spread of the novel coronavirus appeared to be slowing down in China, it has picked up speed elsewhere in the world, including in the United States.

Here’s the latest on the developing situation. Please refresh this page for updates.

1:00 p.m. ET Pentagon updates work on vaccine

Defense Secretary Mark Esper told reporters that the U.S. military’s labs are working hard to come up with a vaccine. The science labs at Fort Detrick, Maryland, are part of the efforts and specialists will work with civilian medical authorities to develop the vaccine, according to Esper.

“We’ll see how that develops over the next couple of months,” he said.

In the meantime, the Pentagon will work with military families to ensure they stay safe at bases locally and abroad, the defense secretary said.

Esper said he is prepared to answer questions from bases about what resources they need to “number one, protect our service members and their families; number two, ensure that our mission is safeguarded, that we can conduct our missions, and number three, support the inter-agency for the whole of government approach.”

11:18 a.m. ET WHO director-general: ‘We are in uncharted territory’

The director-general of the World Health Organization said containment of the novel coronavirus “is feasible and must remain the top priority for all countries.”

“We are in uncharted territory,” Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters at Monday’s daily briefing in Geneva. “We have never before seen a respiratory pathogen that is capable of community transmission, but which can also be contained with the right measures.”

“With early, aggressive measures,” he said, “countries can stop transmission and save lives.”

Acknowledging that many people are afraid and have concerns, Tedros said the WHO “will not hesitate to describe this as a pandemic if that’s what the evidence suggests.”

“But we need to see this in perspective,” he added, noting that a vast majority of countries with cases have not demonstrated community-level transmission and about 90% of all confirmed cases were reported in China, mostly in a single province.

There also isn’t a “one-size fits all approach” to fighting the outbreak, Tedros said, because “different countries are in different scenarios.”

China, where the viral outbreak began in December, is seeing an overall decline in new cases, with just 206 confirmed in the past 24 hours — the lowest amount since Jan. 22. Meanwhile, over 130 countries around the globe have not yet detected any cases of the newly identified virus, known officially as COVID-19.

“Some [countries] have rapidly expanding epidemics, with signs of community transmission,” Tedros said. “And some have declining epidemics and have not reported a case for more than two weeks. Some countries have more than one of these scenarios at the same time.”

The epidemics in South Korea, Italy, Iran and Japan remain the WHO’s “greatest concern,” according to Tedros.

“Our message to all countries is: this is not a one-way street. We can push this coronavirus back,” he told reporters. “Your actions now will determine the course of the COVID-19 outbreak in your country. There’s no choice but to act now.”

10:45 a.m. ET WHO staff member tests positive for coronavirus in Iran

A staff member of the World Health Organization has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, according to WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

The employee, who works in the WHO Country Office in Iran, has “mild disease,” Tedros told reporters at Monday’s daily briefing in Geneva.

A WHO team arrived in Tehran on Monday afternoon to deliver medical supplies and provide support to the country, where the number of confirmed cases has continued to tick upward.

10:13 a.m. ET More info on New York’s 1st coronavirus case

During a Monday morning press briefing, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo provided more information about the state’s first confirmed case of the novel coronavirus.

The woman is a 39-year-old health worker who had recently traveled home from Iran, where hundreds of people have been infected. The unnamed woman is currently isolated in her Manhattan apartment with her husband, who is also being tested and presumed to be positive, according to Cuomo.

Health officials don’t believe the woman was contagious when she flew back to New York City and took a private car home. But out of an abundance of caution, Cuomo said health officials are contacting the woman’s livery driver as well as the other passengers who were on her plane.

Cuomo also announced that he will ask state lawmakers for an additional $40 million to ensure health officials have the necessary resources to respond to the viral outbreak.

The New York State Department of Health is partnering with hospitals to expand surge testing capacity to 1,000 rests per day statewide for the new coronavirus. The state will also institute a new cleaning protocol in schools, in the public transportation system and elsewhere, which the governor said is a good idea during flu season anyway.

“We have the best health-care system in the world, and we are leveraging that system to help contain any potential spread of the novel coronavirus in New York,” Cuomo told reporters. “This isn’t our first rodeo — we are fully coordinated, we are fully mobilized, and we are fully prepared to deal with the situation as it develops.”

8:07 a.m. ET Trump teases meeting with drug-makers

U.S. President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Monday morning to tease his upcoming meeting with major drugmakers at the White House, saying there was progress on the development of a vaccine for the novel coronavirus.

“I am meeting with the major pharmaceutical companies today at the White House about progress on a vaccine and cure. Progress being made!” Trump tweeted.

Over the weekend, Trump said a vaccine is being developed “very quickly” and “very rapidly.” However, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned last week that the process is likely to take “about a year to a year and a half.”

7:22 a.m. ET Health worker from Iran is 1st coronavirus case in New York

In an interview Monday on “CBS This Morning,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed that the state’s first patient to test positive for the novel coronavirus is a female health worker who lives in Manhattan and had just returned from Iran, which has reported hundreds of confirmed cases. She is under isolation in her apartment.

“This is somewhat of a unique case because this woman was a health care worker, coming back from Iran,” Cuomo said. “She knew to take precautions herself, which was fortunate.”

The governor added that “New Yorkers should not be surprised.”

“We’ve been talking about this for days. I have said, it’s not a question of if but when,” Cuomo said. “You see the number of cases around the globe. New York is the gateway to the world. So that’s not shocking.”

New York state now has the federal authority to test for the new virus, which the governor said will allow health officials to “scale up very, very quickly.” Cuomo also urged the public to remain calm.

“We want to have a healthy diligence about this issue, but we don’t want an unnecessary anxiety we don’t want people overreacting,” he said. “We have to treat it. We have to be serious, but there’s the fear, in my opinion, is outpacing reason at this point.”

Earlier

Two people sickened with the novel coronavirus have died in the U.S., as the global death toll from the viral outbreak that began in China nears 3,000.

Both patients who succumbed to the newly identified virus, known officially as COVID-19, were residents of Washington state’s King County, officials said. The second death was announced Sunday night.

The U.S. has confirmed at least 74 cases of COVID-19 so far, including several community-acquired cases in which the patients had no known exposure to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected individual.

At least six residents of a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington state, were among those who had contracted the virus, according to the public health department for the city of Seattle and King County.

The new coronavirus emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan back in December and has since spread overseas to at least 58 other countries, with South Korea, Italy and Iran seeing the biggest surge in case numbers recently. The World Health Organization, which has declared the outbreak a global health emergency and said it has “pandemic potential,” has recorded more than 87,000 confirmed infections globally. Over 91% of those cases were in China.

At least 2,873 people have died from confirmed cases of the virus, all but 104 in China, according to the latest data from the WHO.

COVID-19 causes symptoms similar to pneumonia, ranging from the mild, such as a slight cough, to the more severe, including fever and difficulty breathing, according to the CDC. There is no vaccine yet for the virus.

South Korea has the second-highest national total of cases, behind China. As of Monday, South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had recorded 4,212 people who had tested positive for the novel coronavirus and 22 fatalities. A majority of the cases have been linked to a secretive religious sect in the city of Daegu.

Meanwhile, Italy has the third-highest national total, with 1,577 cases confirmed as of Sunday night. At least 34 of those patients had died, according to the Italian Ministry of Health. The epicenter is in the northern region of Lombardy.

 

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