WASHINGTON, D.C. (KXAN) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Tuesday that the U.S. only has five confirmed cases of the Novel Coronavirus, while there are more than 4,500 in China.
That information came during a lengthy press conference with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and several CDC officials, including the agency’s director, Dr. Robert Redfield.
“Americans should know that this is potentially a very serious public health threat,
but at this point Americans should not worry for their own safety,” Azar said during his remarks. “This is a very fast-moving, constantly-changing situation.”
Azar may have tried to calm people’s fears about the risk of infection, but he reiterated the federal government could take further steps to protect people if the situation worsens. That may include additional travel restrictions.
“Late on Monday, the CDC and the State Department issued a level three travel advisory for all of China,” Azar said. “This higher level of alert means that Americans should reconsider or postpone travel to any part of China.”
He said the State Department, however, has a level four travel warning to Hubei province in China, where experts say the Coronavirus outbreak originated. This warning means that no Americans should travel there.
Dr. Redfield said Tuesday that the CDC decided to reassess its entry strategy by expanding the screening of travelers from five airports originally to 20 in the U.S.
“Right now there is no spread of this virus in our communities here at home. This is why our current assessment is that the immediate health risk of this new virus to the general public is low in our nation,” Dr. Redfield said. “The coming days and weeks are likely to bring more confirmed cases here and around the world, including the possibility of some person-to-person spread, but our goal of the ongoing U.S. public health response is to contain this outbreak and prevent sustained spread of the virus in our country.”
When asked if Americans should consider wearing masks, Azar said that preventative step is “unnecessary” at this time.
“In the United States, the risk to any individual American is extremely low,” he said. “We are taking the steps to be prepared for this. We are taking aggressive action, but the individual American, this should not be an impact to their day-to-day life. That would be an unnecessary step.”