On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the coronavirus a global health emergency. The coronavirus has now been identified in 18 countries and has infected 9,709 people. 213 people have died from the coronavirus. Countries are beginning to evacuate citizens from China and the United Kingdom, Australia, South Korea, Singapore and New Zealand are quarantining evacuees. Australia is quarantining its evacuees on Christmas Island, which is more than 1,000 miles from mainland Australia. The CDC ordered a 14-day quarantine for 195 Americans that returned from Wuhan to California on January 29, 2020, and has thus far investigated 241 patients in 36 states for the virus.
On the day of the Americans’ arrival, President Trump announced the creation of a coronavirus task force, headed by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. A statement released by the White House provided that “[t]he Task Force will lead the Administration’s efforts to monitor, contain, and mitigate the spread of the virus, while ensuring that the American people have the most accurate and up-to-date health and travel information.”
The CDC announced the first person-to-person transmission in the United States, the husband of the first reported case of coronavirus in Illinois, and stated that “[i]t is likely there will be more cases of 2019-nCoV reported in the U.S. in the coming days and weeks, including more person-to-person spread.” However, CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield stated that “[w]e understand that this may be concerning, but based on what we know now, we still believe the immediate risk to the American public is low.” Subsequently, the Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases confirmed, based on a study published January 30 by German researchers, that the virus can be spread asymptomatically, which may require more dramatic controls measures.
In response to the spread of the virus, China is quickly building multiple 1,000 bed hospitals. In the meantime, airlines have begun canceling flights to China and Russia closed its border with China to prevent the spread of the virus. China has also invited U.S. experts to the country to assist.
The Health Law Pulse will continue to provide updates as more is known about this public health crisis.