Coronavirus Update: A Mystery in Northern California and an Olympic-Sized Worry

This scanning electron microscope image shows SARS-CoV-2 (yellow)—also known as 2019-nCoV, the virus that causes COVID-19—isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells (blue/pink) cultured in the lab.

By Al Perrotta Published on February 27, 2020

The United States stands “ready to adapt and we’re ready to do whatever we have to” to beat back the coronavirus. So President Trump assured the nation Wednesday. Trump expressed his customary confidence in ultimate victory. But it won’t come without a struggle.

Yesterday afternoon, the CDC confirmed the nation’s first coronavirus case of unknown origin. A patient in Northern California has tested positive for the virus. Thus far officials don’t know how he contracted it. “The individual had no known exposure to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected individual.”

Watching Cases Closely

However, California’s public health official, Dr. Sonia Angell, says such a case shouldn’t surprise us. Her agency has been monitoring the outbreak since the first cases in China late last year. “We have been anticipating the potential for such a case in the U.S.,” Dr. Angell said in a statement. “[G]iven our close familial, social and business relationships with China, it is not unexpected that the first case in the U.S. would be in California.”

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Up the coast in Washington, Bothell High School was closed Thursday. A staff member reported that a family member who had traveled with them internationally had fallen ill and was being quarantined. Superintendent Michelle Reid explained.

At this time there is no confirmation that the family member’s illness is connected to the coronavirus outbreak, but out of an abundance of caution, the family member is being tested.

The CDC thought the risk to teachers and students was minimal. Even that the school didn’t need to be closed, but Reid didn’t want to take any chances.

Fears over the California case and spread of coronavirus sent the Dow spiraling again Thursday. The market closed down over 1100 points. That’s the biggest one day point drop in history.

Not a Time for Politically-Motivated Lies

Joe Biden and Michael Bloomberg earned criticism from the Associated Press. Each falsely claimed that Trump cut finding for the CDC and National Institutes of Health. Bloomberg also lied about Trump firing a pandemic specialist at the White House. Fellow Democratic candidate Tom Steyer is also predicting — or is it hoping — coronavirus will be President Trump’s Hurricane Katrina.

Democratic leaders seem more obsessed with TDS than COVID-19. Meanwhile, President Trump continues taking practical steps to defeat the virus.

We Need 300 Million Masks

HHS Secretary Alex Azar confirmed more testing kits are on their way to public health care clinics. Within two weeks at least 40 public health labs should be able to test for cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus.

Trump is also considering invoking special powers through a law called the Defense Production Act, Reuters is reporting. The law allows a president to force industrial production of key materials or products for national security and other reasons. In this case, says Reuters, Trump would “rapidly expand domestic manufacturing of protective masks and clothing to combat the coronavirus in the United States.”

Trump May Get Tough

The need is real. The U.S. needs a stockpile of about 300 million N95 face masks (respiratory protective devices.) According to HHS Secretary Alex Azar, China “controls a lot of the raw materials as well as the manufacturing capacity” related to face masks. As a DHS official told Reuters, “Very little of this stuff is apparently made in the (United) States, so if we’re down to domestic capability to produce, it could get tough.”

If Trump invokes the law, he can order corporations such as 3M and Honeywell International to focus their production on N95 masks, rather than less protective masks like those worn by painters.

The Tokyo Olympics at Risk

The Olympic Flame may fall victim to the coronavirus. Japan has been hit hard. In fact Japan today ordered all schools closed in an effort to stem the virus’ spread. The World Heath Organization says it’s already in talks with Olympic officials about the fate of this summer’s Tokyo games. No decision is expected soon.

In fact, during a conference call Thursday with Japanese reporters, the International Olympic Committee wouldn’t even take questions about possibly moving or postponing the Tokyo games. IOC President Thomas Bach declared the IOC “is fully committed to a successful Olympic Games in Tokyo starting July 24.”

IOC member Dick Pound is less confident. He told the AP this week the Games may have to be cancelled or postponed. “In and around that time, I’d say folks are going to have to ask: ‘Is this under sufficient control that we can be confident about going to Tokyo or not?'”

 

Al Perrotta is the Managing Editor of The Stream and co-author, with @JZmirak, of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Immigration. You can follow him at @StreamingAl. And if you aren’t already, please follow The Stream at @Streamdotorg.

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