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CDC walks back coronavirus panic: ‘US risk remains low’ days after saying outbreak will happen & ‘could be bad’

A health worker wore a protective suit at the infectious disease clinic in Zagreb, Croatia, where the first coronavirus case in Croatia is hospitalized, Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020. Croatia confirmed its first case of coronavirus in a man who had been to Milan, the capital of Lombardy, Italy. (AP Photo/Darko Bandic/TNS)
February 28, 2020

In a conference call for media on Friday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) walked back earlier panic about a potential U.S. coronavirus outbreak, saying now that the U.S. risk remains low.

On Tuesday, CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases Director Dr. Nancy Messonnier had told the American public to prepare for the worst and warned of an inevitable outbreak on U.S. soil.

On Friday, however, Messonnier presented a different tune by downplaying the virus and asserting that the risk to the American public “remains low.”

“The immediate risk to the general American public remains low,” Messonnier said during the conference call. “Our strategies have been largely successful. As a result, we have very few cases in the United States.”

Messonnier touted the CDC’s “aggressive containment strategy” along with a “border strategy” of screening incoming individuals as the key to keeping the coronavirus cases in the U.S. at low levels.

The number of Americans infected with coronavirus has now risen to 59. Two more U.S. citizens repatriated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship tested positive for coronavirus, bringing the total to 44.  Of the remaining 15, 12 individuals became infected after traveling to China, and three were infected in the U.S. through person-to-person spread.

Messonnier confirmed that two of the individuals infected from person-to-person transmission were spouses of individuals that became infected after traveling to China.

The CDC and the California State Health Department have not been able to confirm the origin in which the third person was infected, calling it “unknown exposure in the community” which likely involved contact with an infected person.

“We expect we will find additional people who have had contact with this patient” such as family members and healthcare workers, Messonnier explained.

Though the risk in the U.S. remains low, the virus is still spreading rapidly around the world.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus announced the organization’s increased risk assessment for the virus.

“Our epidemiologists have been monitoring these developments continuously, and we have now increased our assessment of the risk of spread and the risk of impact of COVID-19 to very high at a global level,” Ghebreyesus said.

Although China reported its lowest cases in a single day in more than a month – 329 cases – the country has reported 78,959 total infections and 2,791 deaths.

Additionally, 4,351 infections and 67 deaths have been identified outside of China across 49 countries.

In the last 24 hours, Denmark, Estonia, Lithuania, Netherlands and Nigeria have reported their first confirmed cases of coronavirus, all tracing back to Italy.