US health officials hold news briefing on coronavirus outbreak

US health officials hold news briefing on coronavirus outbreak


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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services officials are holding a press conference Tuesday to update the public on the coronavirus outbreak, which has infected more than 80,200 and killed at least 2,704 overseas so far.

Named COVID-19, the virus has shuttered commerce across much of China and is hitting company earnings, global stock markets and manufacturing across the world. The Trump administration last month declared the virus a public health emergency in the United States. The declaration came with travel restrictions and mandatory federal quarantine orders for Americans returning from the epicenter of the outbreak in China.

Members of the White House’s coronavirus task force will speak at the press briefing, according to the HHS’ website. The White House reportedly asked Congress on Monday for $1.25 billion in additional funding to bolster its coronavirus response.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stepped up its call Tuesday for the public to start preparing for a possible pandemic outbreak in the U.S.

“We are asking the American public to work with us to prepare for the expectation that this could be bad,” a top CDC official told reporters in a conference call outlining what schools and businesses will likely need to do if the COVID-19 virus starts to spread throughout the U.S.

Schools should consider dividing students into smaller groups or close and use “internet-based teleschooling,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said.

In the past week, the virus has spread substantially beyond China. The localized outbreaks in places such as Italy and Iran are fueling concerns among infectious disease experts and scientists that the virus is spreading too quickly and may be past the point of containment. Health officials are warning the public to prepare for a potential global pandemic.

On Monday, U.S. airlines said they would waive cancellation and change fees for travelers booked to South Korea as the coronavirus spreads beyond China, prompting a warning from government officials about travel there.

As the virus spreads, director-general of the WHO Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus is calling the international community to action before it’s too late.”The window of opportunity is still there, but our window of opportunity is narrowing,” he said on Friday. “We need to act quickly before it closes completely.”

The CDC confirmed late Monday 53 cases in the U.S., a majority of which came from passengers repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off the coast of Japan.

The data shows that 36 of the cases are attributed to the cruise ship, three patients were infected in Wuhan and later evacuated to the U.S. and the rest were largely infected while traveling overseas. Just two cases were contracted through person-to-person contact in the U.S., the CDC said.

There are currently no proven therapies for the virus and a vaccine will take at least a year to develop, health officials say.

Tedros said last week that preliminary results from two clinical trials testing potential treatments for COVID-19 are expected in three weeks.

The U.S. is planning a clinical trial of Gilead’s experimental drug, called remdesivir, for the novel coronavirus, according to a posting on a government clinical trials database.

Read CNBC’s live updates to see the latest news on the COVID-19 outbreak.


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