Coronavirus Cases Top 1,000 in United States

(CN) – Confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States surpassed 1,000 on Wednesday, continuing a massive surge through 38 states and causing panic over the weakening of the economy.

As of noon Wednesday, there were 1,050 coronavirus cases in the U.S. and 29 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. New infections popped up in Michigan and South Dakota over the last 24 hours.

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention illustration of COVID-19, a novel coronavirus.

“The bottom line — it’s going to get worse,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a House committee this morning.

Concerns over the coronavirus have canceled some of the country’s largest events, including Chicago’s massive St. Patrick’s Day parade and the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, both slated for this weekend.

Democratic presidential contenders Senator Bernie Sanders and former Vice President Joe Biden also called off rallies this week. Schools and universities across the country are moving classes online.

Stocks continued to tumble, with the S&P 500 down 3.7% and Dow Jones Industrial Average down 4% by noon Wednesday.

Several states have called a state of emergency over the virus, known as COVID-19, including Colorado, Massachusetts and Florida, where two people have died.

In Washington state, Governor Jay Inslee announced new emergency measures Wednesday including a ban on all gatherings of more than 250 people in the state’s three largest counties – a move that will shut down major sporting events including Seattle Mariners baseball games and Seattle Sounders soccer matches.

“This is not just your ordinary flu,” Inslee said in announcing the new restrictions for King, Snohomish and Pierce counties.

The state is also laying the groundwork for possible school closures, and Inslee will meet with school superintendents from the three counties for discussions Wednesday.

King County, where the majority of the Evergreen State’s COVID-19 cases have occurred, announced a ban on smaller events of under 250 people unless organizers can guarantee social distancing by keeping attendees at least 6 feet apart and screen employees for COVID-19 symptoms.

“This is an unprecedented public health situation and we can’t wait until we’re in the middle of it to slow it down,” Inslee said. “We’ve got to get ahead of the curve. One main defense is to reduce the interaction of people in our lives.”

In California, San Francisco officials announced a prohibition on gatherings of 1,000 people or more.

“We know that this order is disruptive, but it is an important step to support public health,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed said in a statement Wednesday.

The Golden State Warriors basketball team will be affected by the ban and are “in support” of the efforts to halt COVID-19 exposure, Breed said. The team announced it will play its Thursday game in an empty arena, and the rest of its schedule through at least March 21 will be canceled or postponed.

The Seattle Mariners baseball team released a statement after Inslee’s proclamation, saying:

“Following Washington Governor Jay Inslee’s announcement this morning that he is banning large group events through March, the Seattle Mariners are working with the Major League Baseball Office of the Commissioner on alternative plans for our games that were scheduled for the end of March at T-Mobile Park in Seattle.

“While we hope to be back to playing baseball in Seattle as soon as possible, the health and safety of our community is the most important consideration.”

How soon life returns to normal depends at least in part on testing for the virus. Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the House Oversight Committee hearing that the public health system currently has the capacity to test only about 75,000 people.

“As we experience the growing community spread in the United States, the burden of confronting this outbreak is shifting to states and local health professionals on the front lines,” he said.

So far, 37 states and Washington, D.C., have confirmed positive cases of COVID-19. Washington state, the epicenter of the disease, has 267 cases, followed by 173 in New York and 157 in California. Florida has 28 cases and two deaths.

According to Johns Hopkins University and state health departments, confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S are at 1,050, though the exact numbers are constantly shifting. The university only lists 29 deaths, but CDC Director Redfield told lawmakers today there have been 31 deaths.

The CDC only lists 938 cases.

“In the event of a discrepancy between CDC cases and cases reported by state and local public health officials, data reported by states should be considered the most up to date,” the agency said.

Many public health officials have criticized the federal government’s response to the outbreak, including the lack of tests and President Donald Trump’s diminishment of the risks.

“The White House often downplays the seriousness of the epidemic, comparing to a cold or flu,” Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert and professor at Georgetown University, said in an email. “But health professionals are telling a different story of ongoing spread and serious disease, even more deaths.”

Gostin disputes recent comments by federal officials, such as the surgeon general, about the virus being contained in certain areas of the country.

“We are doing so little testing that there is no area in the country where we can definitely say COVID is contained,” he said. “And even if it were, it could become resurgent as people travel to and from that vicinity.”

The coronavirus has spread from Wuhan, China, to every continent except Antarctica. The number of worldwide cases surpassed 120,000 on Friday. COVID-19 has so far killed more than 4,300 people across the globe.

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