Doctors Fear Bringing Coronavirus Home: ‘I Am Sort of a Pariah in My Family’

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One doctor dreamed he was surrounded by coughing patients. “Most physicians have never seen this level of angst and anxiety in their careers,” a veteran emergency room doctor said.

SEATTLE — After her shifts in the emergency room, one doctor in Utah strips naked on her porch and runs straight to a shower, trying not to contaminate her home. In Oregon, an emergency physician talks of how he was recently bent over a drunk teenager, stapling a head wound, when he realized with a sudden chill that the patient had a fever and a cough. A doctor in Washington State woke up one night not long ago with nightmares of being surrounded by coughing patients.

“Most physicians have never seen this level of angst and anxiety in their careers,” said Dr. Stephen Anderson, a 35-year veteran of emergency rooms in a suburb south of Seattle. “I am sort of a pariah in my family. I am dipping myself into the swamp every day.”

As the coronavirus expands around the country, doctors and nurses working in emergency rooms are suddenly wary of everyone walking in the door with a cough, forced to make quick, harrowing decisions to help save not only their patients’ lives, but their own.

The stress only grew on Sunday, when the American College of Emergency Physicians revealed that two emergency medicine doctors, in New Jersey and Washington State, were hospitalized in critical condition as a result of the coronavirus. Though the virus is spreading in the community and there was no way of ascertaining whether they were exposed at work or somewhere else, the two cases prompted urgent new questions among doctors about how many precautions are enough.

“Now that we see front-line providers that are on ventilators, it is really driving it home,” Dr. Anderson said.

Doctors, nurses and other staff members in a variety of hospital departments face new uncertainty. In intensive care units, for example, health care providers must have extended exposure to people who have contracted the virus. But they know in advance of the risk they face.

In emergency departments, the danger comes from the unknown.

Patients arrive with symptoms but no diagnosis, and staff members must sometimes tend to urgent needs, such as gaping wounds, before they have time to screen a patient for Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. At times, the protocols they must follow are changing every few hours.

“Many of us have trained for disasters, like Ebola and hurricanes,” said Dr. Adam Brown, the president of emergency medicine for Envision Healthcare, the largest provider of contract physicians to emergency rooms. “This is different because of the scale and scope of the disease.”

Add to that the shortage of protective gear and delays in testing, and health care workers fear they are flying blind.

Though the numbers are still low, Envision, which employs 11,000 emergency clinicians across the United States, has five times as many doctors under quarantine as it did a week ago, Dr. Brown said.

Several providers spoke on the condition of anonymity because their employers have told them not to talk to the news media.

The personal strain is cascading as the virus reaches new parts of the country. “Everybody feels the stress, but everybody is pulling together,” said Dr. K. Kay Moody, an emergency room doctor in Olympia, Wash., who runs a Facebook group with 22,000 emergency physicians. “That is what is keeping us OK.”

A few doctors said they were talking about bunking up in Airbnbs to create “dirty doc” living quarters to avoid endangering their children when they go home. Some are showing their partners where to find their passwords and insurance, should they end up in intensive care. Dr. Moody said she knew of at least one doctor whose former spouse was threatening to take their children away if the doctor went to work.

Many emergency physicians work as contractors, not hospital staff, so they will not necessarily be paid if they are quarantined. “As it stands, that is one of the most anxiety-provoking things,” Dr. Moody said, “on top of fear for your life.”

Nurses face similar challenges, though with less pay and support. An emergency nurse in Milwaukee said she bought her own goggles after hearing that protective gear was running low. A nurse at a rural hospital near Lake Tahoe in California said that the hospital was providing physicians with shower facilities as well as clean scrubs to wear, but that nurses had to wash their work clothes at home. She said that the physicians she worked with lobbied the hospital to provide clean scrubs for the nurses, but that the hospital concluded it would cost too much.

One doctor, who spoke on condition that the identity of the veterans hospital where she worked was not revealed, said the protocols have not kept up with the changing reality on the ground. When determining if a patient should get a separate room, she said, the emergency department still asks patients if they have been to high-risk countries, like China and Italy, even though community transmission of the virus has been well established.

Doctors have begun building plans for how they will ration supplies when there are more patients than their hospitals can handle. Emergency room doctors have experience sitting families down to advise discontinuing care because it would be futile. But in the United States, they are not used to making such calls based on resources alone.

Some said they were looking to Italy, where doctors on the front line have sometimes had to ration care in favor of younger patients, or those without other complicating conditions, who are more likely to benefit from it.

“If we get it all at once, we don’t have the resources, we don’t have the ventilators,” said Dr. William Jaquis, chair of the American College of Emergency Physicians.

Last week, Italian media reported that Bergamo, a city northeast of Milan, saw roughly 50 doctors test positive for the virus. In the region of Puglia in the south, local media reported that 76 employees had been quarantined after being exposed to patients who contracted Covid-19.

After the coronavirus broke out at a nursing facility near Seattle, Dr. Anderson sat with the leaders of his hospital, MultiCare Auburn Medical Center, to talk about how urgently they should prepare. Their hospital is ringed by nursing homes and other care facilities, and he rattled off those most at risk for fatal cases of the virus: males over 60, and those with cardiac and pulmonary problems. “I literally stopped what I was saying and realized that that was me,” he said.

He said his hospital was down to a two-day supply of surgical masks — he wears one per shift. “Those are supposed to be disposable,” he said. Now he must carefully remove and clean the mask each time he takes it off and on. “That may sound just like a nuisance, but when you’re potentially touching something that has the virus that could kill you on it, and you’re doing it 25 times a shift, it’s kind of nerve-racking,” he said.

His wife has moved to their mountain cabin, and they have given up on their retirement cruise in Europe. “I haven’t slept for longer than three hours in the past two weeks,” he said.

In the early hours of Monday morning, he could not sleep. More than 200 emails had come into his inbox since he went to bed, including news that three other health care providers had been admitted to a hospital overnight, he said.

But he plans to be at his next shift nonetheless.

“I have been doing this for 35 years,” he said, “and I’m not going to stop now.”

 

 

 

 

Pelosi, Trump strike deal on coronavirus response package

https://thehill.com/homenews/house/487402-pelosi-trump-strike-deal-on-coronavirus-response-package

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Trump have struck a deal on a multibillion-dollar stimulus package aimed at assisting millions of Americans directly hurt by the coronavirus outbreak.

Pelosi announced the deal on Friday evening after days of roller-coaster negotiations that put the outcome in doubt, as the nation’s leaders raced to ease public anxiety and stabilize volatile markets. Trump said on Twitter that he looked forward to signing the legislation.

“I have directed the Secretary of the Treasury and the Secretary of Labor to issue regulations that will provide flexibility so that in no way will Small Businesses be hurt. I encourage all Republicans and Democrats to come together and VOTE YES!” Trump wrote in a series of tweets.

Just hours before the deal was announced, Trump said in a Rose Garden address that he wasn’t on board, suggesting a bipartisan deal was out of reach even as the number of cases in the U.S. approached 2,000.

And even after Pelosi’s announcement, there was widespread confusion across the Capitol about whether Trump had endorsed the package. Several GOP lawmakers said no agreement had been secured, and even House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) suggested Friday evening that the talks were still in flux.

Yet Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who has been leading the negotiations with Pelosi, seemed to put the confusion to rest just before 8 p.m. when he told Fox Business that there was, in fact, a deal.

“We have an agreement that reflects what the president talked about in his speech the other night. He’s very focused on making sure that we can deal with the coronavirus,” he said.

The frantic, eleventh-hour talks that brought the sides together highlight the urgency facing leaders from both parties to take aggressive actions to contain the fast-moving virus, for reasons of both public health and national morale.

“As Members of Congress, we have a solemn and urgent responsibility to take strong, serious action to confront and control this crisis and to put Families First and stimulate the economy,” Pelosi wrote in a letter to Democratic members announcing the deal.

The deadly pandemic has roiled the stock market, upended small businesses and large industries alike, and cancelled major sporting and political events around the country. Millions of Americans could lose income — or their jobs entirely — due to mass public closures, work-from-home orders and the economic downturn sure to follow.

The agreement announced Friday aims to ease some of the economic stress by providing financial assistance to those most directly affected by the crisis, including unemployment and paid leave benefits. Perhaps more importantly, the deal aims to calm some of the public trepidation and market turmoil of recent weeks by demonstrating that Washington policymakers can put aside partisan differences and unite quickly behind an emergency response befitting — at least in rhetoric — the severity of the crisis.

On Friday, Pelosi and Mnuchin spoke no fewer than 13 times by phone as they neared an agreement, aides said.

To get there, they had to iron out a small handful of stubborn wrinkles that threatened to sink the entire package — disagreements that were finally resolved late Friday evening.

Republicans, for instance, had insisted on the inclusion of language, known as the Hyde Amendment, explicitly barring the use of federal funds for abortions. Democrats conceded and threw it in.

Republicans also balked at Democrats’ initial paid leave provision, which would have required employers to provide the benefit not only for the coronavirus, but for all future public health emergencies. The final compromise bill removed the permanent language, limiting the benefit to the current outbreak.

In addition, Republicans were concerned about the effects of the paid-leave expansion on small businesses. The final bill provides subsidies to businesses with 500 employees or fewer, Mnuchin said.

“Obviously, we expect the bigger corporations to pick up these costs,” he told Fox.

The deal comes on the heels of an initial $8.3 billion package, signed by Trump last week, that focused largely on the most immediate health concerns surrounding the crisis, including a  boost in the nation’s efforts to locate victims, treat them and stop the spread of the deadly epidemic.

The second round of relief focuses more squarely on mitigating the economic fallout of the coronavirus, giving priority to those most directly affected by the outbreak.

House lawmakers are now set to vote on the bipartisan package late Friday night, before heading home for a 10-day break. The Senate has canceled its recess plans for next week and will take up the House-passed measure then.

The fast-moving events reflect the heightened urgency facing lawmakers as they try to assess the scope of the coronavirus and contain its economic fallout around the country and the world.

Early in the week, House leaders signaled they would pass a Democratic bill on Thursday and then leave town for their pre-scheduled 10-day recess, pushing the bipartisan negotiations to the week of March 23.

But leaders sped up their timeline for talks amid a chaotic 48-hour stretch that saw broad changes in American society.

Trump put sharp restrictions on travel from parts of Europe. The NBA and NHL suspended their seasons. The NCAA nixed March Madness. Disneyland shuttered its doors. Officials closed the U.S. Capitol to the public after a Hill staffer tested positive. One of America’s most beloved actors, Tom Hanks, and his wife Rita Wilson, announced they had tested positive for the virus. And the Dow Jones Industrial Average plunged roughly 15 percent over the course of two days, including Thursday’s 2,300-point drop, which marked its worst day in more than 30 years.

Also on Thursday, lawmakers in both chambers had been briefed behind closed doors by public health experts and other administration officials leading the coronavirus response. Many lawmakers emerged from those meetings exasperated that, weeks after the first case was diagnosed in the U.S., test kits have been slow to be analyzed and the number of cases remains anyone’s guess.

“There’s too many basic numbers that they don’t have,” said a frustrated Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), who represents much of hard-hit Seattle. “Lab capacity. It doesn’t matter how many kits are out there; if you don’t have the lab capacity to process those tests, then it means nothing.”

The crush of calamities put pressure on leaders of both chambers to roll up their sleeves and secure an agreement, prodded by vulnerable lawmakers wary of facing voters in their districts without doing so first.

While House and Senate Republicans had objected to the Democrats’ initial bill, Trump’s support for the revised package is likely to convince many Republicans in both chambers to get on board.

Central to the package are provisions to provide paid sick leave for affected workers; bolster unemployment insurance for those who lose their jobs as a result of the crisis; expand federal food aid for low-income families and children; and ensure free coronavirus testing.

Pelosi said Friday that it’s the last provision that’s the most crucial.

“We can only defeat this outbreak if we have an accurate determination of its scale and scope, so that we can pursue the precise, science-based response that is necessary,” she said.

 

 

 

This is the coronavirus math that has experts so worried: Running out of ventilators, hospital beds

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For weeks now, America’s leaders and its public have been obsessed with one set of numbers: How many people have died? How many confirmed cases? And in what states?

But to understand why experts are so alarmed and what may be coming next, the public needs to start paying attention to a whole other set of numbers: How many ventilators do we have in this country? How many hospital beds? How many doctors and nurses? And most importantly, how many sick people can they all treat at the same time?

Consider the ventilators

For those severely ill with a respiratory disease such as covid-19, ventilators are a matter of life or death because they allow patients to breathe when they cannot on their own.

In a report last month, the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins estimated America has a total of 160,000 ventilators available for patient care (with at least an additional 8,900 in the national stockpile).

planning study run by the federal government in 2005 estimated that if America were struck with a moderate pandemic like the 1957 influenza, the country would need more than 64,000 ventilators. If we were struck with a severe pandemic like the 1918 Spanish flu, we would need more than 740,000 ventilators — many times more than are available.

The math on hospital beds isn’t any better

The United States has roughly 2.8 hospital beds per 1,000 people. South Korea, which has seen success mitigating its large outbreak, has more than 12 hospital beds per 1,000 people. China, where hospitals in Hubei were quickly overrun, has 4.3 beds per 1,000 people. Italy, a developed country with a reasonably decent health system, has seen its hospitals overwhelmed and has 3.2 beds per 1,000 people.

The United States has an estimated 924,100 hospital beds, according to a 2018 American Hospital Association survey, but many are already occupied by patients at any one time. And the United States has 46,800 to 64,000 medical intensive-care unit (ICU) beds, according to the AHA. (There are an additional 51,000 ICU beds specialized for cardiology, pediatrics, neonatal, burn patients and others.)

A moderate pandemic would mean 1 million people needing hospitalization and 200,000 needing intensive care, according to a Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security report last month. A severe pandemic would mean 9.6 million hospitalizations and 2.9 million people needing intensive care.

Now, factor in how stretched-thin U.S. hospitals already are during a normal, coronavirus-free week handling usual illnesses: patients with cancer and chronic diseases, those walking in with blunt-force trauma, suicide attempts and assaults. It’s easy to see why experts are warning that if the pandemic spreads too widely, clinicians could be forced to ration care and choose which patients to save.

No one knows how bad it will be

This is where we need to say that no one knows how bad this is going to get. But, as many experts have pointed out, that is part of the problem.

“The problem with forecasting is you have to know where you are before you know where you’re going and because of the problems with testing, we’re only starting to know where we are,” said Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

The speed at which the number of U.S. cases is rising hints we are headed in a bad direction.

But because so much is still unknown, exactly how bad could range widely. It will depend largely on two things: The number of Americans who end up getting infected and the virus’s still-unknown lethality (its case-fatality rate).

One forecast, developed by former CDC director Tom Frieden, found that infections and deaths in the United States could range widely. In a worst-case scenario, but one that is not implausible, half the U.S. population would get infected and more than 1 million people would die. But his model’s results varied widely from 327 deaths (best case) to 1,635,000 (worst case) over the next two or three years.

This is why experts have been yelling so much about testing, social distancing and hand washing

“Slowing it down matters because it prevents the health service becoming overburdened,” said Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “We have a limited number of beds; we have a limited number of ventilators; we have a limited number of all the things that are part of supportive care that the most severely affected people will require.”

The sooner you interrupt the virus’s chain of transmission, experts say, the more you limit its climb toward exponential growth. It’s similar to the compounding interest behind all those mottos about invest when you’re young. Early action can have profound effects.

That math is also why so many health officials, epidemiologists and experts have expressed frustration, anger and alarm over how slowly America as a country has moved and is still moving to prepare for the virus and to blunt its spread.

 

 

 

 

 

Coronavirus updates: State Department urges Americans not to travel abroad

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The State Department issued a global level 3 health advisory late Wednesday advising Americans to “reconsider travel abroad due to the global impact” of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The big picture: President Trump announced hours earlier European travel to the U.S. will be restricted for 30 days, with some exemptions, and the NBA suspended its season. There are more than 126,000 cases in over 100 countries and territories and more than 4,600 deaths. There are over 1,300 cases in the U.S.

LAST 48 HOURS
  • Travel restrictions: The Trump administration’s new rules affect European member states of the Schengen Area, which includes most but not all of the EU. The United Kingdom and Ireland are not in the zone and are not affected by the restrictions.
    • In Israel, all travelers entering from any country — including Israeli citizens — are required to self-quarantine for 14 days.
  • Travel advisory: “Many areas throughout the world are now experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks and taking action that may limit traveler mobility, including quarantines and border restrictions,” the State Department advisory reads. “Even countries, jurisdictions, or areas where cases have not been reported may restrict travel without notice.”

 

  • U.S. cases: Nearly 40 states reported at least 1,220 cases as of Wednesday, and roughly two dozen have declared a state of emergency. The novel coronavirus has now killed at least 30 Americans in five states.
    • Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser announced a state of emergency Wednesday, as well as six new COVID-19 cases. There are now 10 presumptive cases in D.C. — including person-to-person transmission and at least two individuals who contracted the virus from unknown causes.
    • A staffer in the D.C. office of Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) has tested positive to the virus — the first known case of a congressional staffer becoming infected with the virus.
    • California’s Los Angeles County announced six additional cases on Wednesday — including one that health officials presume is the county’s second case of community spread transmission.
    • The state’s health officials now recommend that events larger than 250 people be canceled.
    • There are now four deaths in California after Los Angeles County announced Wednesday the death of an “older adult” who “traveled extensively over the past month,” including to South Korea.
    • Virginia announced that a teenager in the Chickahominy Health District, who recently traveled internationally, has tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday, marking 9 current cases in the state. The affected teen did not attend school.
    • The states with the most cases as of Wednesday are: WashingtonNew York and California — where three TSA officers at Mineta San Jose International Airport were confirmed to have tested positive for the virus Tuesday night.
    • Maryland now has 9 confirmed cases after a 70-year-old Montana resident who was visiting Anne Arundel County came in close contact with someone who had contracted the virus, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Wednesday.
    • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he planned to deploy the National Guard to the New York City suburb New Rochelle on Tuesday to establish a one-mile “containment zone” and help contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

 

  • Pandemic classification: The World Health Organization classified the outbreak as a pandemic Wednesday.
  • Global impact: Cases continue to surge in Spain, Germany, France and Italy, which is on complete lockdown with more than 12,000 cases — second-highest to China.
  • Business: Twitter announced Wednesday night that it instructed all employees globally to work from home.
  • Google recommended Tuesday that all its employees in North America work from home until at least April 10 amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, one of the most sweeping cautionary edicts.
    • The Securities and Exchange Commission is the first federal agency to direct its staff at its D.C. office to work remotely after an employee with respiratory problems was told they may have the virus.
    • IBM is encouraging its employees who live or work in New York City and Westchester County to work from home. Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft and Salesforce have similar practices in place.
    • Deloitte has recommended its staff return from areas impacted by COVID-19 to work from home for 14 days from their return date. The consulting firm has asked workers to defer nonessential international and domestic travel.

 

  • Australia: Actor Tom Hanks confirmed Wednesday he and his wife, Rita Wilson, tested positive for the virus while in Australia, which now has 128 cases.
  • Federal aid: The Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday it is allocating over $560 million to states and local areas to assist with COVID-19 response.
  • Cruise ship: Nearly 300 people left the docked Grand Princess ship in Oakland, Calif. on Tuesday, with more than half sent to Travis Air Force base and 98 to Lackland Air Force base in Texas, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday.
  • Community spread warning: Some areas in the U.S. have passed the point of containment and communities should focus on mitigation plans, such as canceling events, CDC director Robert Redfield said Tuesday.
  • Conferences and events: Music festival Coachella has been postponed until October. Many international and domestic conferences affecting all businesses, trades and entertainment are being either postponed or canceled.

 

  • Financial impact: U.S. stocks have taken a toll with various dips and corrections all week. Worries are growing that the outbreak could shrink global GDP and perhaps sink the U.S. dollar.
  • Oil: Already struggling with mounting debt and falling market valuations, energy companies are at serious risk for mass bond defaults.
  • Diagnostics: Health insurers and regulators are working to ensure coronavirus diagnostic tests are covered — but that doesn’t necessarily mean COVID-19 treatment will be affordable. Concerns linger as to how the health care system can meet the demands of high-volume testing.
  • Universities: As colleges cancel classes and boot students off campus because of the coronavirus, they’re creating logistical and financial nightmares that could leave many students in a bind.
  • Tourism: White House advisers are looking at policy changes to help relieve the travel and hospitality industry. Tourism and travel operators have had to reprice globally, as airlines, hotels and travel operators see major declines in bookings and revenue.
  • Social media: A large part of the problem is the “infodemic,” as stories get shared that are designed to drive fear rather than build understanding about the illness, according to NewsWhip data provided to Axios.

 

 

 

 

WHO declares the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic

WHO declares the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic

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The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the rapidly spreading coronavirus outbreak a pandemic, acknowledging what has seemed clear for some time — the virus will likely spread to all countries on the globe.

Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the situation will worsen.

“We expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” said Tedros, as the director general is known.

As of Wednesday, 114 countries have reported that 118,000 have contracted Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, known as SARS-CoV2. In the United States, where for weeks state and local laboratories could not test for the virus, just over 1,000 cases have been diagnosed and 29 people have died. But authorities here warn continuing limits on testing mean the full scale of spread in this country is not yet known.

The virus causes mild respiratory infections in about 80% of those infected, though about half will have pneumonia. Another 15% develop severe illness and 5% need critical care.

“Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus,” Tedros said at the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, in making the announcement. “It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.”

At the same time, Tedros said: “This is not just a public health crisis, it is a crisis that will touch every sector — so every sector and every individual must be involved in the fight.”

The virus, which probably originated in bats but passed to people via an as yet unrecognized intermediary animal species, is believed to have started infecting people in Wuhan, China, in late November or early December. Since then the virus has raced around the globe.

While China appears on the verge of stopping its outbreak — it reported only 24 cases on Tuesday — outbreaks are occurring and growing in a number of locations around the world including Italy, Iran and the United States.

South Korea, which has reported nearly 8,000 cases, also appears poised to bring its outbreak under control with aggressive measures and widespread testing. But other countries have struggled to follow the leads of China and South Korea — a reality that has frustrated WHO officials who have exhorted the world to do everything possible to end transmission of the virus.

“The bottom line is: We’re not at the mercy of the virus,” Tedros said on Monday. “The great advantage is that the decisions we all make as governments, businesses, communities, families and individuals can influence the trajectory of this epidemic.”

“The rule of the game is: Never give up,” he insisted.

The WHO has been criticized and second-guessed for not declaring the outbreak a pandemic sooner. Mike Ryan, head of the agency’s health emergencies program, admitted in a press conference on Monday that the agency fears that countries may interpret a pandemic declaration as a sign efforts to contain the virus have failed and they no longer need to try.

“For me, I’m not worried about the word. I’m more concerned about that the world’s reaction will be to that word. Will we use it as a call to action? Will we use it to fight? Or will we use it to give up?” Ryan asked.

 

 

 

First Case of Coronavirus Lands in U.S.

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The first travel-related case of the novel coronavirus has been detected in the U.S. in a man from Washington state, CDC officials said on Tuesday.

The man tested positive for the novel coronavirus via laboratory testing, CDC officials said. According to Washington health officials, he arrived without symptoms on an “indirect” flight into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on Jan. 15, prior to implementation of the new screening procedures at other U.S. airports. Described as “an astute gentleman,” the passenger was aware of the virus and promptly shared information with his provider when his symptoms developed.

Currently, the patient is hospitalized “out of an abundance of caution,” but not because of severe illness. He reported he did not visit any of the implicated markets in the Wuhan area.

A statement released by the CDC details how the man sought care at a nearby medical facility, where health professionals suspected novel coronavirus, and based on the patient’s travel history and symptoms, sent specimens out for testing. CDC confirmed the diagnosis on Monday.

Washington health officials emphasized that this was one of the hospitals that had “done a drill” about this type of illness, including how to transport a patient in an ambulance and what type of isolation is needed. They said that the patient here is “isolated and poses low risk to staff or to the general public.”

Julie Fischer, PhD, of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., told MedPage Today that this looks to be a similar pattern for human-to-human transmission as SARS, where currently most cases of this novel coronavirus “are probably close contacts,” including healthcare workers. Chinese health officials announced that 14 healthcare workers had been infected.

“This is a big heads up to the rest of the world to go ahead and start preparing your healthcare workers and make sure they have proper equipment,” she said. “It’s a reminder of what we already knew was a risk.”

Fischer said that in addition to taking precautions to avoid infection (such as personal protective equipment), clinicians should “pay attention to evolving guidance.”

The CDC had already decided to step up screening at two additional U.S. airports prior to this case being reported, with additional screening being added at both Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and Chicago O’Hare International Airport (ORD) this week. In addition, passengers from Wuhan will be “funneled” into airports with enhanced screening measures, CDC officials said.

“The long incubation period [for the virus] also makes early detection much harder, especially as we do not know how many passengers have flown abroad and how many will do so in the coming weeks,” Stratfor Senior East Asia analyst Zhixing Zhang said in a statement.

Fischer added that screening will be especially challenging, given that this is in the middle of increased flu activity in the U.S. and that clinicians must rely on a “non-specific, place-based case definition” (based on travel) until new diagnostics emerge.

She emphasized the importance of “a good diagnostic test,” saying that only a handful of labs are capable of testing for the virus now. Once molecular testing is available, such as a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, the CDC will figure out how best to optimize it and share it more widely, Fischer said.

Indeed, CDC officials said that they are having “active conversations” about diagnostics, as well as research into vaccines.

Over the weekend, the case count for the novel coronavirus rose to over 300, with 6 deaths, according to news reports. The World Health Organization (WHO) is scheduled to meet on Wednesday about whether this virus constitutes an international health emergency.