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CDC developing coronavirus kits for 75,000 Americans; WA says ‘possible outbreak’ at nursing facility

A CDC laboratory test kit for infection with coronavirus. The kit was found to be flawed, but a replacement has not yet been distributed. (Star Tribune/TNS)
February 29, 2020

In a conference call with media on Saturday, the CDC said it is quickly developing test kits and plan to make enough to test 75,000 people.

CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Dr. Nancy Messonnier told reporters that the test kits are rapidly being developed and more labs are coming online in the U.S. to test for the virus.

However, she maintained that the risk to the U.S. remains low.

“Most people in the U.S. will have little immediate risk to the virus. However, some people will be at increased risk depending on their exposure,” Messonnier said.

Messionnier had said on Friday that the CDC was manufacturing brand new test kits that are now corrected after identifying a glitch.

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Previous test kits were developed in the U.S. before the nation’s first coronavirus case based on sequencing posted online by China. After several confirmed cases, the CDC and the FDA later determined that only two of three test components were necessary in testing for the virus, so the new kits will include only those two specific components.

Messonnier also confirmed Saturday that three new cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in Washington, along with three presumptive positive cases, which initially tested positive and are pending final results.

One of the three individuals who are considered presumptive positive passed away on Saturday, state health officials confirmed. The individual was from King County, Wash., and was a man in his 50s with underlying health conditions. His test results were only reported to CDC on Friday.

Dr. Jeff Duchin, health officer for Public Health, Seattle & King County, said that the state is currently investigating the man’s death to determine “potential exposures the patient may have had.” He added that they currently have no links to affected individuals.

Duchin said that the other two presumptive positive cases of coronavirus in Washington are associated with the Life Care long term care facility in Kirkland, Wash.

One of the individuals had no known travel, is an employee of the facility, and is currently listed in satisfactory condition. The other individual was described as a resident of the facility, and is a woman in her 70s. She is currently receiving treatment at Evergreen Hospital and is in serious condition.

Of the 108 residents and 180 staff at the Life Care facility, 27 residents and 25 staff members have experienced possible coronavirus symptoms. The CDC sent an emergency team to the facility, which will be helping assess individuals and providing guidance.

“We are very concerned about an outbreak in a setting with older people,” Duchin said, adding that those most susceptible include older adults and adults with underlying chronic conditions whose immune systems are weakened.

“We recognize that populations of people who are medically fragile would be at higher risk if there is transmission in their communities,” Messonnier added.

Washington State Health Officer Dr. Kathy Lofy said the coronavirus situation is “evolving rapidly” in the state and officials are beginning to see spread in the community.

“The risk to the American public is increasing,” Lofy said.

President Trump said during a press conference on Saturday that 22 Americans had been diagnosed with coronavirus in the country, while dozens were diagnosed after their repatriation from the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan.

During the press conference, Vice President Mike Pence – who was recently appointed to lead the U.S. coronavirus response – announced new travel restrictions and warnings. Travel to Iran is banned as the country is having swelling coronavirus numbers. Pence also warned Americans not to travel to Italy and South Korea, which have also been a source of rising coronavirus infections.