The Trump administration is urging Americans to avoid travel to parts of Italy and South Korea amid growing concern about the spread of coronavirus.
In a press conference Saturday, Vice President Mike Pence announced that the U.S. has raised the travel warning to level 4 – its most severe warning – regarding travel to affected areas of Italy and South Korea.
In addition, the existing travel ban on Iran is being extended to include any foreign national who has visited Iran in the last 14 days, Pence said.
The "president has also directed the State Department to work with our allies in Italy and in South Korea to coordinate a screening, a medical screening, in their countries of any individuals that are coming in to the United States of America," Pence said.
The new advisory applies to two regions in northern Italy: Lombardy, home to Milan, and Veneto, which includes Venice. Milan and Venice are major Italian vacation destinations.
U.S. airlines serving Italy already have waivers in place allowing travelers with upcoming trips to Italy to make fee-free changes for a certain period of time. But so far airlines have not cut flights between the United States and Italy like they have to China, Hong Kong and South Korea. American, Delta and United each offer nonstop flights between the United States and Milan and Venice.
Vice President Mike Pence, addressing coronavirus concerns in the U.S. on Sunday morning talk shows, said the risk of Americans contracting COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, “remains low” though future deaths are “possible.” “There will be more cases. There’s no question,” he said in an interview on NBC’s “Meet The Press,” during which he also accused Democrats of overhyping and politicizing the virus.
Pence, who was tapped by President Donald Trump last week to oversee the administration’s response to the outbreak, stressed that despite the recent death of a Washington man, “the vast majority” of cases will recover. Individuals facing the greatest risk of death from COVID-19 are those with other health concerns.
“For people that have other conditions that would militate toward a worse outcome ... we could have more. We could have more sad news,” he said in a separate interview with CNN’s State of the Union. “But the American people should know the risk for the average American remains low.”
There have been 22 confirmed and presumptive positive cases of the virus in the U.S. since late January, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This figure does not include the 44 cases involving people who were recently repatriated to the U.S. from Asia.
The CDC is investigating a nursing home over concerns of a potential COVID-19 outbreak after a staff member and resident tested positive for the virus. More than 50 others have been quarantined, with officials waiting for their test results.
A man in his 50s in Washington state with underlying health problems became the first person in the U.S. to die after contracting the coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19. The patient, whose name was not revealed by officials, did not have a travel history and was admitted to a hospital near Seattle to receive treatment for severe respiratory illness.