COVID-19 Update: US Expands Travel Restrictions After First Fatality
On Saturday, the State of Washington announced the first fatality in the United States arising from the coronavirus, with a second announced on Sunday. Washington Governor Jay Inslee has declared a state of emergency. As of Monday March 2, 2020, there were 89,197 total confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide and 3,048 resulting deaths. U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said on Sunday that the U.S. “will see more cases” and “will see continued community spreading.” Secretary Azar also said that the U.S. now has the ability to field test 75,000 people for the coronavirus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced on February 29, 2020 that qualified labs may develop and use their own coronavirus screening test without waiting for authorization from the agency. The guidance provides that “[f]or a reasonable period of time after validation and while they are preparing their EUA requests, FDA does not intend to object to the use of these tests for specimen testing” and that “15 days is a reasonable period of time to prepare an [emergency use authorization] submission for test that has already been validated.”
President Trump announced he would meet with pharmaceutical executives on Monday about progress towards a coronavirus vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control expanded restrictions on entry to the United States to include travel from Iran and urged travelers to avoid all nonessential travel to South Korea and Italy. In a series of tweets, the U.S. Surgeon General urged Americans to “stop buying masks” and stating that they are not effective to prevent contracting the coronavirus. The Surgeon General went on to note that “the best way to protect yourself and your community is with everyday preventive actions, like staying home when you are sick and washing hands with soap and water, to help slow the spread of respiratory illness”. He further noted that getting the flu shot reduces the number of flu patients and frees more resources to fight the coronavirus.