The Dallas Morning News

Global econ­omy looks woozy

Test process faulted in Cal­i­for­nia’s new case

- By GE­OF­FREY A. FOWLER, LENNY BERN­STEIN and LAU­RIE MCGIN­LEY

VA­CAV­ILLE, Calif. — Cal­i­for­nia has launched a far­reach­ing ef­fort to find any­one who might have come in con­tact with a new coro­n­avirus pa­tient in­fected de­spite hav­ing no known link to oth­ers with the ill­ness.

The di­ag­no­sis, con­firmed Wed­nes­day, marks an es­ca­la­tion of the out­break in the United States be­cause it means the virus could now spread be­yond the reach of quar­an­tines and other preven­ta­tive mea­sures. But state health of­fi­cials sought to re­as­sure the pub­lic that the risk of widespread trans­mis­sion re­mained low.

Mean­while, fed­eral of­fi­cials tried to fix a faulty test­ing process that has ham­strung their abil­ity to track how widely the dis­ease is spread­ing. And the COVID­19 virus con­tin­ued its re­lent­less march around the globe. From the Mid­dle East to South Korea to parts of Europe, the num­ber of deaths and in­fec­tions con­tin­ued to grow.

In Wash­ing­ton, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence con­vened his first meet­ing as the new head of the task force bat­tling the virus.

In Cal­i­for­nia, Gov. Gavin New­som, a Demo­crat, and state health of­fi­cials sought to re­as­sure jit­tery res­i­dents that pub­lic health of­fi­cials would be able to han­dle the first U.S. case of

“com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion,” in­volv­ing a woman from Solano County.

Com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion means the spread of an ill­ness for which the source of in­fec­tion is un­known, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion.

Pro­ject­ing an air of calm dur­ing a mo­ment of ris­ing anx­i­ety, New­som said that meth­ods of trac­ing the Solano County woman’s con­tacts have been honed in re­sponse to other pub­lic health crises, from tu­ber­cu­lo­sis to the swine flu.

“This is not our first great chal­lenge as it re­lates to pub­lic health,” New­som said. “Quite the con­trary. Th­ese pro­to­cols have been per­fected.”

Fed­eral of­fi­cials have faced crit­i­cism for overly nar­row cri­te­ria about who should be tested and for ship­ping coro­n­avirus test kits to pub­lic health labs that in­cluded a com­po­nent that in most cases did not work cor­rectly.

But on Thurs­day, the CDC ex­panded the fed­eral guide­lines for test­ing to in­clude peo­ple who have un­ex­plained se­vere res­pi­ra­tory symp­toms and peo­ple with symp­toms who have re­cently trav­eled to Iran, Italy, Ja­pan and South Korea as well as China.

Test prob­lems

Fed­eral health of­fi­cials also are mov­ing to try to cor­rect the prob­lems with the test kits. Scott Becker, executive di­rec­tor of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Pub­lic

Health Lab­o­ra­to­ries, said that al­though only eight pub­lic health labs are able to run the tests, fed­eral of­fi­cials have ap­proved a pro­ce­dural change that may al­low about 40 more labs to come on­line very shortly.

New tests are ex­pected to be sent out to labs next week. That should re­sult in all 100 pub­lic health labs across the country be­ing able to run tests by the end of two weeks.

New­som and state health of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged the Solano County woman was in the com­mu­nity and show­ing symp­toms of the dis­ease be­fore she was ad­mit­ted to a lo­cal hos­pi­tal Feb. 15. That is a wor­ri­some prospect be­cause the virus is highly trans­mis­si­ble, espe­cially when some­one with the dis­ease has its flu­like symp­toms. Of­fi­cials did not share any de­tails about the woman’s fam­ily, work or so­cial con­tacts, cit­ing pa­tient pri­vacy.

At the same time, ex­perts re­minded the pub­lic that, in other parts of the world at least, most cases of the virus are mild. To date, the coro­n­avirus has killed 2,801 peo­ple and sick­ened more than 82,000, the vast ma­jor­ity of them in China. The United States has had 60 cases, none fatal, and most of them have been among peo­ple who caught the virus while quar­an­tined on a cruise ship off Ja­pan.

Nev­er­the­less, the CDC warned Amer­i­cans on Tues­day that com­mu­nity spread is al­most cer­tain and that they should pre­pare for the pos­si­bil­ity of sig­nif­i­cant dis­rup­tion in their daily lives.

“This virus has adapted ex­tremely well to the hu­man species,” said An­thony Fauci, di­rec­tor of the Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases and a key mem­ber of the coro­n­avirus task force. “This one has the ca­pa­bil­ity of spread­ing read­ily from hu­man to hu­man.”

Cal­i­for­nia case

Solano County, where the new case emerged, is home to Travis Air Force Base, where hun­dreds of Amer­i­cans repa­tri­ated from China and from the Di­a­mond Princess cruise ship have been quar­an­tined. Of­fi­cials have said the woman had no known con­tacts with peo­ple quar­an­tined on the base.

New­som said the CDC was send­ing 10 staffers to aid state and lo­cal per­son­nel in trac­ing the woman’s con­tacts.

The pa­tient brought her­self to Northbay Va­caval­ley Hos­pi­tal, a 50­bed com­mu­nity hos­pi­tal in Va­cav­ille, Calif., with flu­like symp­toms on Feb. 15.

When the woman’s health con­tin­ued to de­cline, she was trans­ferred to Uc­davis Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Sacra­mento, which has more ca­pac­ity and ex­per­tise with pul­monary pa­tients. Uc­davis of­fi­cials said she ar­rived there on Feb. 19.

Doc­tors there said they asked the CDC to test the woman for the virus on Feb. 19. But they said the CDC did not ap­prove the test­ing un­til Sun­day, the 23rd, “since the pa­tient did not fit the ex­ist­ing CDC cri­te­ria” for the virus, ac­cord­ing to a memo posted to the hos­pi­tal’s website.

CDC spokesman Richard

Quar­tarone said a pre­lim­i­nary re­view of agency records in­di­cates the agency did not know about the woman un­til Sun­day, the same day she was tested. Quar­tarone said the agency is con­cerned about re­ports of de­layed test­ing and is “in­ves­ti­gat­ing this care­fully.”

Else­where, South Korea re­ported 256 ad­di­tional cases of the coro­n­avirus Fri­day, rais­ing the to­tal in the country to 2,022, mostly in the Daegu area. Health au­thor­i­ties said the country had 13 deaths from the COVID­19 virus.

China’s Na­tional Health Com­mis­sion re­ported 327 new cases and 44 deaths over the pre­vi­ous 24 hours, most of them in Wuhan, the city where the COVID­19 ill­ness emerged in De­cem­ber. Main­land China’s to­tal cases are now 78,824 with 2,788 deaths.

 ?? Jeenah Moon/the New York Times ?? Traders on the New York Stock Ex­change watched as stocks fell for the fourth straight day Thurs­day. The Dow Jones in­dus­trial aver­age tum­bled nearly 1,200 points. The S&P 500 has plunged 12% from its all­time high just a week ago.
Jeenah Moon/the New York Times Traders on the New York Stock Ex­change watched as stocks fell for the fourth straight day Thurs­day. The Dow Jones in­dus­trial aver­age tum­bled nearly 1,200 points. The S&P 500 has plunged 12% from its all­time high just a week ago.
 ?? Justin Sul­li­van/getty Im­ages ?? A video mon­i­tor at the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health in Sacra­mento dis­played COVID­19 cases around the world on Thurs­day as the state in­ves­ti­gated the pos­si­ble first U.S. case of “com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion” of the virus.
Justin Sul­li­van/getty Im­ages A video mon­i­tor at the Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health in Sacra­mento dis­played COVID­19 cases around the world on Thurs­day as the state in­ves­ti­gated the pos­si­ble first U.S. case of “com­mu­nity trans­mis­sion” of the virus.

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