State, national health officials talk preparation for potential community spread of Coronavirus


HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The coronavirus strain called COVID-19 has infected more than 81,000 people worldwide, killing more than 2,700. So far the CDC says there are 15 confirmed American cases, which means case that are detected in the United States, but none in Pennsylvania.

President Trump and Pennsylvania’s Secretary of Health, Dr. Rachel Levine, both said Wednesday that the risk for Americans remains low.

But their message is consistent — now is the time to prepare.

“We know through our work and planning for disease outbreaks that it is best to prepare now,” Levine said.

She says the Department of Health has activated its emergency operation center allowing for better coordination and monitoring statewide, before an issue starts.

“We want to be prepared so again that’s why there is such regular contact with other states and the CDC to make sure we’re all coordinated,” Levine said.

Levine won’t discuss their symptom monitoring process, but stresses Pennsylvania has no confirmed cases.

Right now, as Pennsylvania awaits new test kits, all testing is being done at the CDC.

“If a test is done then that patient will be asked to stay at home, and we will monitor that they are staying at home, and how they’re feeling and they’re doing,” Levine said.

“We’re very, very ready for this,” President Trump said Wednesday, also announcing Vice President Mike Pence will head the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

Pence will work with governors, and state leaders to track response to the virus.

“Whether it’s going to be a breakout of larger proportions or whether or not we’re, you know, we’re at that very low level,” Trump said.

The CDC says the trajectory is unknown but travel restrictions to China, as well as quarantine efforts are working.

In addition to the 15 cases detected in the U.S., there are still another 45 cases of repatriated Americans with the virus: three from Wuhan, China and 42 from aboard the Diamond Princess cruiseship.

“The degree of risk has the potential to change quickly and we can expect to see more cases in the United States,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar.

Officials say a vaccine is still a year or more away, as any potential medicine has to undergo rigorous trials and testing.

President Trump says more travel restrictions to Italy and South Korea are a possibility as the virus spreads.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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