The number of deaths from the coronavirus saw the steepest increase yet over the last 24 hours, as Chinese officials announced that there have been 43 more deaths from the mysterious respiratory illness, for a total of 213. There are now almost 9,800 cases of coronavirus worldwide, 2,000 of which were confirmed over the last day in China — a 26 percent increase.
The sharp increase in coronavirus cases comes as the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a “public health emergency,” after a week of deliberations and a previous decision to hold off on any declarations.
And on Thursday night, German researchers published a new study that found that the disease can spread from people who have not yet shown symptoms — a worrying new development that led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control to place a federal quarantine on a plane of Americans who were evacuated from Wuhan, the disease’s epicenter, on Wednesday. This is the first federal quarantine in over 50 years.
The CDC initially planned to hold the 195 passengers at an air force base in Ontario, Calif. for three days to monitor their symptoms, and the passengers could opt out if they wanted to leave. However, the news that the disease could spread in asymptomatic people pushed the CDC to enforce a federal quarantine, and the passengers will be kept there for 14 days, what is believed to be the extent of the virus’ incubation period.
“We are preparing as if this is the next pandemic, but we are hoping that is not the case,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control, in a press briefing on Friday.
The majority of cases of the virus, currently referred to as 2019-nCoV as researchers work to understand more about this version of coronavirus, are in China, stretching outwards from Wuhan. But it has now spread to 19 different countries, including the United States, where six people have been infected. A seventh case was rumored to be confirmed in Queens, New York, but New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot denied that report Friday morning.
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Up until Thursday, all U.S. cases of the disease were in people who had traveled to Wuhan. But the CDC announced that the first U.S. case of human to human transmission occurred in a husband and wife in Chicago.
Still, the CDC stresses that the majority of Americans are at a “low” risk of contracting the virus, particularly as several major airlines, including Delta and American, have announced that they are cancelling all flights to or from China for the next few months.
Messionnier urged Americans to “not let fear or panic guide your actions,” in trying to avoid coronavirus. She also emphasized that it is not right to assume that a person of Asian descent has the coronavirus.
“Please do not assume that because a person is of Asian descent, that they have this new coronavirus,” she said. “There are 4 million Chinese-Americans in this country.”
On Friday, a high-ranking Chinese official said he feels “guilty” for not acting quicker to stop the spread of coronavirus, The New York Times reported.
“Above all, I feel guilty and remorseful and I reproach myself,” Feng Guoqiang, the Communist Party secretary of Wuhan, said in an interview on China’s main television network, CCTV. “I’ve been constantly thinking that if I’d made the decision earlier to take the kind of strict controls we have in place now, the outcome would have been much better than now.”