U.S. Seeks to Contain Novel Coronavirus

February 3, 2020

After the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the outbreak of the novel coronavirus a public health emergency of international concern, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar on Friday declared a public health emergency for the entire U.S. to aid the nation’s healthcare community response to 2019 novel coronavirus.

“While this virus poses a serious public health threat, the risk to the American public remains low at this time, and we are working to keep this risk low,” Azar said. “We are committed to protecting the health and safety of all Americans, and this public health emergency declaration is the latest in the series of steps the Trump Administration has taken to protect our country.”

The emergency declaration gives state, tribal, and local health departments more flexibility to request that HHS authorize them to temporarily reassign state, local, and tribal personnel to respond to the novel coronavirus, if their salaries normally are funded in whole or in part by Public Health Service Act programs. These personnel could assist with public health information campaigns and other response activities.

Azar’s remarks on the declaration of a public health emergency in the U.S. can be read here.

Also on Friday, President Trump issued a proclamation suspending immigrant and nonimmigrant entry in to the U.S. for people who pose a risk of transmitting the novel coronavirus. Specific details of who can enter the U.S., and when, are outlined in the proclamation.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to provide information and guidance to the public and healthcare providers to contain and prevent the spread of the virus in the U.S. Data from the CDC says that as of Feb. 3, 260 people in the U.S. are under investigation for the novel corona virus in 36 states. Thus far, 11 total confirmed cases are reported in Illinois, Arizona, California, Massachusetts, and Washington. More than 17,000 cases have been reported worldwide, with more than 360 deaths.

The latest CDC Health Alert Network communication provides updated and interim novel coronavirus guidance for clinicians and healthcare providers. The CDC also continues to provide the latest virus updates on its coronavirus situation summary webpage.

IHA has developed a novel coronavirus webpage with links to various resources for healthcare providers.