With cases of the new coronavirus picking up worldwide, the Centers for Disease Control are urging Americans to get prepared for the virus to spread at home. And while it may seem like a good idea to stock up on surgical-style face masks — much like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Hudson did for their recent flights — people who buy them but don’t necessarily need them limit the supply for medical professionals who do.
On Tuesday, both Hudson and Paltrow posted about their new face masks. Hudson first shared a picture of herself on a flight wearing a medical face mask, with the caption, “Travel. 2020.” A few hours later, Paltrow, donning a more upscale Airinum mask (which is currently sold out on Amazon and on the brand’s website), said she’s “En route to Paris” and joked about her 2011 movie Contagion coming true.
President Donald Trump's administration has barred one of the top US experts on infectious diseases from speaking out about the coronavirus outbreak without permission from the White House, The New York Times reported Thursday, in an apparent bid to stop contradictory messages about the public-health crisis.
At a Wednesday press conference, Trump announced that Vice President Mike Pence — who has faced criticism for his handling of an HIV outbreak as Indiana governor — would lead US efforts to halt the spread of the illness and that Pence would report directly to Trump.
Among the first steps Pence took was to institute measures to coordinate messaging, which would require top officials to seek clearance before making public statements on the illness.
Those officials included Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. He told associates the White House "had instructed him not to say anything else without clearance," The Times said.
Trump repeatedly downplayed the potential for more COVID-19 cases in the U.S., and even suggested, falsely, that the number of American cases would fall.
Referencing the 15 known cases detected in the U.S. at the time of the press conference — a tally that does not include an additional 45 repatriation cases — Trump said, “the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero. That’s a pretty good job we’ve done.”
Later, after being asked about the CDC’s recommendation for schools and other institutions to dust off their preparedness plans, Trump again suggested that the case total was in decline.
“I don’t think it’s going to come to that, especially with the fact that we’re going down, not up,” he said. “We’re going very substantially down, not up.”
Trump is likely thinking of people with COVID-19 getting better, thereby dropping the total, but that’s not how the CDC counts cases. The CDC reports cases cumulatively, and does not subtract cases if a person recovers, so the case count will never be zero.
More important, public health officials had been saying for days, including during the same press conference, to expect more American cases.
“Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working and is responsible for the low levels of cases that we have so far,” said Anne Schuchat, the CDC’s principal deputy director, speaking minutes before Trump referred to a falling number of cases. “However, we do expect more cases, and this is a good time to prepare.”
The day before, Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, also said in a telebriefing that the agency fully anticipated seeing community spread of the virus within U.S. borders.
“It’s not so much a question of if this will happen anymore,” she said, “but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen and how many people in this country will have severe illness.”
Trump, however, conveyed different odds of that possibility in the press conference.
“I don’t think it’s inevitable,” he said in response to a reporter’s question. “It probably will. It possibly will. It could be at a very small level or it could be at a larger level. Whatever happens, we’re totally prepared.”
In the telebriefing, Messonnier noted that while the agency has been planning for a respiratory illness similar to COVID-19 for years, and is better prepared than two decades ago, “we are never going to ever be able to be so completely prepared that we’re prepared for any inevitability.”
Less than an hour after the press conference concluded, the CDC announced that the 15th case the president mentioned may be the first case of community spread in the U.S. The patient, a woman who is being treated at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento, had not traveled to an area with a known outbreak, nor did she have contact with anyone known to be infected.
Others in Trump’s circle have previously oversold the effectiveness of U.S. efforts at containment. In a Feb. 25 CNBC interview, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow said, “We have contained this. I won’t say [it’s] airtight, but it’s pretty close to airtight.”
Shortly before his comments, Messonnier had given the telebriefing in which she said the agency expected the novel coronavirus to spread within the U.S. She had also been warning about that possibility for weeks, calling it “likely” as early as Feb. 12, despite relatively few cases.
While Kudlow may have been looking at the number of cases and the fact that there hadn’t yet been demonstrated community spread in the U.S., it was misleading for him to suggest that containment had already occurred or was “close to airtight.”
President Donald Trump said on Wednesday the United States may in the future have to restrict travel to Italy, South Korea and other countries due to outbreaks of the coronavirus but now was not the right time.
Asked at a news conference about travel restrictions, Trump said: “At the right time we may do that. Right now it’s not the right time.”
He said the United States was checking “a lot of people” for signs of the virus. “South Korea has been hit pretty hard, Italy’s been hit pretty hard,” Trump said.
Donald Trump said Wednesday he was considering US travel restrictions on Italy and South Korea over coronavirus fears, adding the situation would not inevitably worsen in the United States.
The president's optimism about containing the pathogen contradicted a senior health official in his own administration and came as authorities said they had identified the first case of unknown origin in the United States.
"I don't think it's inevitable. I think that there's a chance that it could get worse, a chance it could get fairly substantially worse, but nothing's inevitable," Trump told reporters at the White House.
He appointed Vice President Mike Pence to lead the response to the disease.
The message was at odds with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which urged Americans a day earlier to be prepared to cancel mass gatherings and said schools and businesses should look at developing teleworking plans.
"It's not so much a question of if this will happen anymore, but rather more a question of exactly when this will happen," said the CDC's Nancy Messonnier, citing the global spread of the virus that has now infected 80,000 people and killed more than 2,700, mostly in China.