Back to Home

Health News

Christina Maxouris
Associate Writer
Fresh from Greece (where she was lucky enough to grow up). She began reporting for the Georgia State University newspaper, The Signal, throughout my college career.


The US coronavirus death toll is rising and the CDC says communities should start thinking about ways to stop its spread

As the US death toll from the coronavirus climbed to nine, the CDC said it has heightened concerns and urged local communities to begin thinking about ways to stop the virus from spreading. As more areas see community spread, local communities may start employing tools that encourage social distancing, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a Tuesday news conference. The goal of social distancing is to limit exposure by reducing face-to-face contact and preventing spread among people in community settings.

There are now at least 137 known coronavirus cases across 13 states. Nine people have died -- all in Washington state and eight from the same county. Five of the dead had ties to Life Care Center, a long-term nursing home in a Seattle suburb. At least 50 residents and staff members of the nursing home were experiencing symptoms and were tested for the virus, King County health officer Jeffrey Duchin said Monday.

The center's outbreak and a series of new cases over the past few days in states including Florida, Georgia and Rhode Island have heightened our concern for certain communities in the US, Messonnier said. What is happening now in the United States may be the beginning of what is happening abroad, she said. We will continue to maintain for as long as practical an aggressive national posture of containment. That said, you might see some local communities taking specific actions to mitigate the disease, she added.

Governments, businesses and religious organizations in the states with the largest outbreaks have already taken steps to do so, canceling large events and encouraging people to avoid touching one another. Earlier this week, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the state was looking at ways we can prevent the spread through large groups. We have numerous groups, non-profits and others that are starting to think about whether it makes sense to carry on with some of the larger get-togethers, he said Monday. In Seattle, the Catholic Archdiocese urged anyone feeling sick to stay home from Mass and told church-goers to avoid hand-to-hand contact during Our Father. Our response to this spreading virus must reflect how we, as disciples of Jesus, express our love of God and neighbor, Seattle's Catholic Archbishop Paul Etienne wrote in a March 2 letter to parish leaders.

There have been 27 cases of coronavirus reported in Washington state. Thirty-three cases have been reported in California, including six new cases announced Wednesday in Los Angeles County. Following the example of other governments, the county and three cities -- Los Angeles, Pasadena and Long Beach -- declared local emergencies Wednesday, in part so that they can be reimbursed by the state and federal governments for money they spend to prepare for the disease's spread. Los Angeles County health department Director Barbara Ferrer urged people Wednesday to consider social distancing -- including by greeting people verbally instead of shaking hands, and keeping 6 feet of distance from strangers at large events. She also urged businesses to allow employees to stay home if they're feeling ill, without the risk of being penalized, financially or otherwise. Santa Clara County officials urged higher-risk residents Tuesday to avoid "mass gatherings such as parades, sporting events and concerts where large numbers of people are within arm's length of one another."

Last week, Google announced it was canceling its upcoming Google News Initiative Global Summit -- its biggest event of the year -- "due to concerns around the coronavirus." The two-day event, held in Google's Sunnyvale, California, office, would have brought together hundreds of people in the media industry. In New York, where the number of reported cases rose to six Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced he was recalling about 300 college students and faculty from study-abroad programs in countries with significant outbreaks: China, South Korea, Japan, Iran and Italy. The order affects only State University of New York and City University of New York students. They will come back on charter planes, and will be quarantined for 14 days in dormitory facilities upon return, Cuomo said.

The 137 coronavirus cases across the US include both confirmed cases and presumptive positives: cases that tested positive in public health labs but are still awaiting confirmation from the CDC. The number also includes 46 repatriated citizens from the Diamond Princess cruise ship -- which docked in Japan last month after an outbreak and quarantine -- as well as three people repatriated from Wuhan, China. The number of US cases has continued to rise since health officials allowed more labs to conduct tests for the virus.

The CDC said Tuesday, public health labs across the country using CDC test kits were expected to test up to 75,000 people by the end of the week. That's on top of the nearly 1 million people expected to be tested through commercial labs that were approved for testing by the US Food and Drug Administration over the weekend. Last week, health officials also loosened the guidelines on who should be tested for the virus. The change came after the first confirmed coronavirus case of unknown origin, a patient who wasn't initially tested because they didn't meet existing CDC testing guidelines. On Tuesday, Vice President Mike Pence announced that any American, with a doctor's order, can now be tested. The new CDC criteria calls for "Americans (to) be tested (for coronavirus), no restrictions, subject to doctors' orders," Pence said Tuesday describing the new policy.