March 3, 2020

As the number of U.S. coronavirus deaths rose to six as of Monday, federal officials are focusing on containing the virus' spread and say nearly one million people could be tested for the virus this week.

Our analysis: The 'recurring themes' of disease outbreaks

About the coronavirus epidemic

Reports of the new coronavirus first surfaced in early December 2019 in Wuhan, China. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the main symptoms of the virus are fever and lesions in both lungs. Some patients also have reported difficulty breathing, WHO said.

As of Tuesday, officials reported more than 92,100 cases of the virus globally, with most of those cases occurring in mainland China, the New York Times reports. Officials said as of Tuesday there had been at least 3,125 deaths linked to the virus, and all but 180 of the deaths occurred in mainland China.

The number of newly reported cases in China has slowed, but the number of newly reported cases in other countries has surged over the past few weeks.

US coronavirus cases, deaths rise

In the United States, officials as of Tuesday had confirmed or presumed positive about 103 cases of the new coronavirus, the Los Angeles Times reports. CDC as of Monday said 48 of the cases involved Americans who contracted the virus elsewhere and then repatriated to the United States, 17 cases involved patients who had contracted the virus while traveling abroad and were diagnosed after returning to the United States, and 22 cases involved patients who contracted the virus via human-to-human transmission in the United States.

CDC has noted that several U.S. patients with the virus—including patients in California, Oregon, and Washington—have no known connections to individuals who had either traveled to other countries affected by the virus or who had a suspected or confirmed case of the virus. That indicates the cases likely stemmed from so-called "community spread" of the virus in the United States.

State officials also have reported six U.S. deaths linked to the virus, all of which occurred in Washington state. Officials have linked eight of the state's coronavirus cases and four deaths to the Life Care Center nursing home in Kirkland, Washington, and at least 50 of the center's other residents and staff members have reported symptoms of the virus, according to the Washington Post. King County officials have declared a state of emergency over the virus, and public health officials have said they are investigating whether the outbreak has reached surrounding counties, the Post reports.

Federal officials focus on containing virus, say nearly one million people could be tested this week

As the number of new coronavirus cases and deaths rise in the United States, top Trump administration officials during a White House briefing on Monday said they are now focusing on containing the virus, Politico reports.

Vice President Pence said, "Now we're focused on mitigation of the spread, as well as the treatment of the people affected."

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn during the briefing said he expects nearly one million people could be tested for the coronavirus in the United States by the end of this week, the New York Times reports. Hahn said new regulatory guidance will allow private companies and academic laboratories to develop and validate their own coronavirus tests to expand screenings.

Federal officials during a congressional staff briefing said 337 additional testing kits were made available for distribution last week and each of those kits could test about 350 people. Officials said they hope a private manufacturer can help produce 2,500 additional kits by the end of the week.

Hahn said, "We expect to have a substantial increase in the number of tests this week, next week, and throughout the month."

Meanwhile, Congress is hoping to quickly pass an emergency funding bill to help local, state, and federal agencies respond to the virus, The Hill reports.

Trump meets with pharma execs

President Trump on Monday met with pharmaceutical executives to discuss their developments on a coronavirus vaccine.

J. Joseph Kim, CEO of Inovio Pharmaceuticals, said his company plans to begin human trials for a vaccine next month, but that it would take the company until the end of the year or early next year to make the vaccine available to the public.

"We can produce as much as one million doses by the end of this year using our existing capacity and resources," Kim said. "But we need help from the U.S. government and resources ... If we have a successful vaccine, we need to make hundreds of millions of doses."

Trump plans to visit NIH on Tuesday afternoon. According to the New York Times, NIH has received at least one experimental vaccine for human testing from a drugmaker (Lai et al., New York Times, 3/3; Maria Sacchetti et al., Washington Post, 3/2; Wigglesworth et al., Los Angeles Times, 3/2; Calfas, Wall Street Journal, 3/2; Weiland/Cochrane, New York Times, 3/2; Samuels/Hellmann, The Hill, 3/2; Ehley, Politico, 3/2; Renken, "Shots," NPR, 3/2; CDC website, 3/2).

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