The first case of coronavirus where the origin of the disease is unknown has been confirmed in the United States, officials revealed Wednesday.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the person, a resident in Northern California, had not recently returned from a foreign country, and had not been in contact with another confirmed case.
The news suggests that fears of the disease spreading locally in the U.S. could now be a reality – while President Trump continued to tell the public that the risk to Americans is ‘low’.
The U.S. has taken extreme precautions to ensure that anyone traveling back from China has been quarantined in order to limit the spread of the disease.
Questions are now being asked over how the disease could have infected the individual.
Workers spray disinfectant as a precaution against COVID-19 at Saemaeul traditional market in Seoul, South Korea, on 26 February 2020 – the same day that the first case of coronavirus where the origin of the disease is unknown was confirmed in the US
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that the person, a resident in Northern California, had not recently returned from a foreign country, and had not been in contact with another confirmed case
A statement from CDC confirmed the first possible instance of ‘community spread’ in the US Wednesday evening.
‘At this time, the patient’s exposure is unknown. It’s possible this could be an instance of community spread of COVID-19, which would be the first time this has happened in the United States. Community spread means spread of an illness for which the source of infection is unknown,’ the statement said.
The CDC did not rule out that the patient may have been in contact with a case that is yet to be confirmed.
‘It’s also possible, however, that the patient may have been exposed to a returned traveler who was infected,’ the statement said.
‘This case was detected through the U.S. public health system — picked up by astute clinicians. This brings the total number of COVID-19 cases in the United States to 15.’
Officials are now tracing the infected individual’s contacts to see how they may have been infected and if any other individuals may be at risk.
‘It is a confirmed case. There is one in Northern California,’ CDC spokesman Scott Pauley told The Sacramento Bee just before 4 p.m. Wednesday.
President Donald Trump announced Vice-President Mike Pence will be in charge of the nation’s response to the disease, and that the U.S. was willing to spend ‘spend whatever’s appropriate’ to deal with the outbreak. It comes as a new case of coronavirus has been confirmed in the Untied States, with officials unsure of how it has been contracted.
Pauley declined to elaborate on the details.
The CDC did not confirm the identity of the sufferer or where in Northern California the case was discovered.
However, according to KPIX 5, CA Dept. of Public Health has said the patient is from Solano County and is receiving care in Sacramento County.
Coronavirus cases in the US have now risen to 60 with the addition of this case together with two more Diamond Princess cruise evacuees on Wednesday.
The 60 includes 42 passengers who were aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship, three people repatriated from China and 15 on US soil.
Before news of the unknown origin case broke, only two cases of human-to-human transmission of coronavirus had been confirmed in the US.
However, CDC officials had previously warned that it was no longer a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ the virus would be active in US communities.
The shock news that the disease is spreading came as President Donald Trump continued to insist that the risk to Americans is ‘low’ and that the nation is ‘very ready’ to tackle cases.
Trump announced Vice-President Mike Pence will be in charge of the nation’s response to the disease at a White House press conference Wednesday night.
He also declared the U.S. would spend ‘whatever’ it takes to beat coronavirus.
‘We’re very, very ready for this, for anything,’ even if it’s ‘a breakout of larger proportions.’
‘Every aspect of our society should be prepared. I think schools should get ready – just in case,’ he added later.
The president also revealed one of the 15 Americans diagnosed with coronavirus in the US is ‘pretty sick’ and being treated in a hospital.
As he spoke the CDC confirmed a mystery new case in California, this time of a person had not recently traveled, and had no connection with other cases. It was unclear if he knew about the diagnosis when he spoke.
But Trump said the risk to Americans’ health remained ‘low,’ and that the number of people diagnosed with the virus was small.
Trump said Pence would report to him. Pence has no medical training; Trump praised his running of healthcare in Indiana when he was governor.
The vice president said extra personnel would be brought in to the White House for ‘this whole of government response,’ to the mounting worldwide health crisis.
The president boasted that he had made ‘early decisions’ which had kept the level of coronavirus down in the U.S. – but said that he would make sure government health workers have the resources they need.
‘They can do whatever they want,’ Trump said at a White House press briefing surrounded by top officials including Alex Azar, his Health and Human Services Secretary – who had denied he was being replaced by a czar just hours earlier.
‘If Congress want to give us the money, we’ll take the money.’
At the podium, Trump defended his administration’s response to the Coronavirus thus far, including shutting out non-citizens from China, where the first outbreak was reported. ‘Decisions that were ridiculed from the very beginning,’ the president said.
‘A lot of people thought we shouldn’t have done it that early, but we did and it turned out to be a very good thing.’
Asked directly about closing the borders to people from areas with worse infections he said: ‘At the right time we may do that, right now it’s not the right time.
‘But at the right time, and we are checking people as they come through, specifically for the problem, the problem that we’re dealing with.
‘So we’re checking a lot of people coming from South Korea, that’s been hit pretty hard, Italy’s been hit pretty hard. China, it’s obvious what’s happening in China, but again the numbers seem to be leveling off and going down in China which is very good news.’
He was also asked if he was prepared to quarantine entire cities – as has happened in Italy and China already – and replied: ‘We do have plans on a much larger scale, should we need that.
‘We don’t think we’re going to need it, but you always have to be prepared.’
Trump marveled at the number of people killed annually by the flu, explaining that in the U.S. it numbered between 25,000 and 69,000 a year.
‘That was shocking to me,’ Trump said.
The president said just 15 people in the U.S. have thus far had coronavirus, with eight returning home, one in the hospital and five fully recovered.
Trump also pulled out a visual, a piece of paper he said that listed the best prepared countries to deal with an epidemic, a product of research from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
‘John Hopkins, I guess, is greatly respected,’ Trump said. ‘We’re rated No. 1 for being prepared.’
Trump also noted how the U.S. brought in 40 people – American citizens – from a Japanese cruise ship where they had been diagnosed with the virus.
‘We thought we had an obligation to do that,’ he said. ‘We found that it was an obligation that we have, we could have left them and it would have been really bad.’
The White House had asked for $2.5 billion in extra funding for the Centers for Disease Control, but had come under pressure to increase that spending by both Republicans and Democrats.
The press conference was an apparent attempt to claim fears over the virus, which has seen stock markets plunge and Democrats and Republicans both criticizing the official response.
Trump instead suggested that the Democratic 2020 field was largely responsible for the 2,000 point drop in the Dow Jones since Monday morning.
The CDC confirmed the positive test results of an additional six cruise evacuees Wednesday, including four that had already been announced by local health departments.
At least five of the new patients were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship last week. They were then transported to three different quarantine sites: military bases in California and Texas and the National Quarantine Unit in Nebraska.
Global cases have now surged past 81,000, with well over 2,700 deaths – though the vast majority of fatalities have still occurred in China, where the outbreak began.
The announcement comes after CDC officials warned Americans to prepare for the infection to spread, despite President Trump’s reassurances that the virus is ‘under control’ in the US.
The CDC’s point person on the coronavirus outbreak, Deputy Director for Infectious Diseases Dr Nancy Messonnier advised parents to talk to their kids’ schools about ‘teleschooling’ in the event the event of quarantines or class cancellations amid an outbreak.
She’s already called her own children’s schools.
‘I told my children that they are not at risk now, but we as a family need to prepare for significant disruption in our lives,’ Dr Messonnier told reporters in a Tuesday press briefing.