CDC official calls actions, which will re-route returning passengers with China travel in last 14 days to 11 U.S. airports, with quarantines for Hubei province departures “science-based” and “an aggressive response to an unprecedented situation”
Announcing that 11 people in the United States are now confirmed to have been infected with the novel coronavirus spreading rapidly in China and to countries worldwide, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discussed the new travel restrictions and quarantine requirements that are the latest measures in an evolving response.
Four of the new infections confirmed over the weekend in the U.S. were in people with recent travel history in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus was first detected, Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the CDC said. One was in a person who she described as a “close household contact” or one of the already confirmed to have the virus after traveling from Wuhan to the U.S. — the second instance of infection from a person who had visited Wuhan to a person who hadn’t, in the U.S. so far.* One of the people newly confirmed to have the virus is in Massachusetts, the other four – Including the person exposed to the infection here, are in California. While Messonnier declined to provide details of the impacts of the virus on the currently confirmed infected people, she said that symptoms have ranged, in the course of illness from “pretty mild,” to some “more severely ill at points”, to “ups and downs,” to some requiring oxygen. All but one of the deaths resulting from the coronavirus have occurred in China, where, Messonnier said, older people with underlying health problems continue to account for most of the deaths.
While Messonnier said 167 people in the United States have now “tested negative” for the coronavirus, she has also said, and did again today, that a negative test result with the current diagnostic tool does not eliminate the possibility of an infection that has not yet progressed to the point that it is detected by the means currently available. The CDC is in the process of determining results, or awaiting samples from tests of another 82 people.
Messonnier expressed certainty that more infections will be confirmed in the U.S. and said new travel restrictions are hoped to “catch the majority” of people who are infected and “slow entry of this virus into the U.S.”
All travelers returning to the United States who have traveled in China in the last 14 days will now be re-routed to one of 11 United States airports, in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle-Tacoma, Honolulu, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, DC, Newark , Dallas-Fort Worth, and Detroit. Passengers will be screened and assessed, and if symptomatic will be transferred to a healthcare facility with isolation capacities. All travelers who have traveled to Wuhan in the last 14 days will be quarantined for 14 days — with arrangements still pending on where. The 195 Americans who were flown from Wuhan last week remain under quarantine, with additional flights carrying Americans who have been living in that city expected this week. Those passengers also will be quarantined upon their arrival.
CDC officials are still awaiting permission to travel to China and participate in responses and investigations of the coronavirus there. Acknowledging that China has expressed criticized travel restrictions and other actions taken by countries as unfounded and likely to inflame fears, Messonnier noted that China’s actions which have included cordoning off entire cities and halting travel within them also have been aggressive. Calling the measures announced during the last week “science-based,” she added that with information on the spread of the virus still lacking, aggressive measures are demanded by an “unprecedented situation.”
“Our recommendation is that if we act now, we have a chance to slow this thing down.”
*The previous person was the husband of the second patient diagnosed in the U.S., a woman in her 60s,who had travelled in Wuhan, and whose infection was confirmed in Chicago. The CDC has described him as having underlying, additional health concerns.