Daily updates on the emerging novel coronavirus from the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.
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March 12, 2020

Note: although we include case counts to help provide situational awareness to our readers, the numbers are constantly changing. Please refer to the WHO or the public health agencies of affected countries for the latest information.

EPI UPDATES The WHO COVID-19 Situation Report for March 11 reported 118,322 confirmed cases globally, including 4,292 deaths, up 4,623 cases and 280 deaths from the previous day. 

China’s National Health Commission reported 15 new confirmed cases and 11 deaths, 10 of which occurred in Hubei province. Nationally, a total of 80,793 cases and 3,169 deaths have been reported in China. Iran’s Ministry of Health reported 1,075 new cases and 75 new deaths, bringing the total there to 10,075 cases and 429 deaths. South Korea’s CDC reported 7,869 confirmed cases (114 new), including 66 deaths (6 new). In total, South Korea has performed nearly 235,000 cases nationwide since the onset of the epidemic.

Italy’s Ministry of Health has reported a total of 10,590 cases, including 827 deaths nationwide. The Italian government also announced additional social distancing measures , including the closure of non-essential businesses nationwide. Only stores that “sell basic necessities” (e.g., food and gasoline) will remain open; other stores must close. Restaurants and bars will be closed, but food delivery services will remain active. Essential services such as laundry and funerary will remain available, but other businesses in the service sector such as hairdressers and barbers will be closed. Banks, post offices, and government offices will remain open as will industries necessary to maintain the national supply chain. The government is encouraging those who can work from home to do so.

The WHO Situation Report also included a link to recently published guidance for protecting children and schools . The guidance, published by the WHO, UNICEF, and the International Federation of the Red Cross, emphasizes the need to mitigate the negative downstream effects of school closures, including those that impact children’s learning and development. The guidance also details recommendations for children and their parents to prevent infection, promotes hand hygiene, outlines processes for cleaning and disinfecting buildings and surfaces, and recommends increasing ventilation.

The US CDC reported 938 confirmed cases and 29 deaths across 38 states and Washington, DC. Other estimates for US cases, including The New York Times and the Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard , report more than 1,300 cases nationwide and at least 38 deaths.

US RESPONSE US President Donald Trump delivered an address from the White House Oval Office yesterday evening to provide updates on the COVID-19 epidemic and associated response activities and policies. The new policy initiatives included restrictions on travel from European countries —excluding the United Kingdom and Ireland—in an effort to reduce imported COVID-19 cases. Foreign nationals who have been in any European country in the past 14 days will be prevented from entering the United States, and US citizens and permanent residents (as well as several other excepted groups) will be required to undergo screening upon their arrival. The address also announced an economic stimulus package to mitigate the impact to the US economy, including increased small businesses loans, deferral of tax payments for affected individuals and businesses, and financial support for quarantined or ill individuals affected by COVID-19. The President also called on the US Congress to approve payroll tax relief. The travel restrictions have already appeared to have negative economic impact for the airline industry , and some warn that they may not be effective at meaningfully slowing domestic transmission. European Council President Charles Michel and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen issued a joint statement condemning the travel restrictions , noting that the pandemic is a “global crisis” and that “the U.S. decision...was taken unilaterally and without consultation.”

Notably, the US CDC issued a blanket Level 3 travel warning (“avoid nonessential travel”) for 29 European countries and a global Level 2 travel alert (“practice enhanced precautions”) for all international travel.

In other news, the House and Senate sergeants at arms said in a statement released Thursday morning that the Capitol will be closed to the public until April 1. Only members, staff, journalists and visitors on official business will be permitted entry. The AP quoted their statement as saying, “[w]e are taking this temporary action out of concern for the health and safety of congressional employees as well as the public, … We appreciate the understanding of those with planned visits interrupted by this necessary but prudent decision.”

US SPORTS Yesterday, the NBA abruptly announced that it is suspending the current season until further notice after one of its players was confirmed to be infected. Several games were cancelled after fans had already arrived in the arena . The infected player was not at the arena for the game, but his Utah Jazz teammates were reportedly quarantined temporarily at the Chesapeake Energy Arena while awaiting testing. Additionally, the NBA has reportedly asked teams that played the Utah Jazz in the past 10 days to stay at home.

Following the NBA announcement, the NHL is expected to make an announcement today regarding its response to COVID-19. The Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks have already announced that they will play their remaining home games without fans in the arena, and the game scheduled tonight between the Blue Jackets and the Pittsburgh Penguins would be the first major league sports game in the United States to be played in an empty arena.

The NCAA also announced that it will conduct upcoming sports championships, including the Division I men’s and women’s basketball championships (also known as March Madness) without fans in attendance.  Attendance will be limited to essential staff and family members. The NCAA COVID-19 Advisory Panel also recommended closing all NCAA sporting events to the public due to concerns about SARS-CoV-2 transmission.  Additionally, several college football teams, including the University of Michigan and The Ohio State University, have cancelled their scheduled Spring Game and implemented restrictions on coaches conducting recruiting activities and visits to the university.

In the wake of these other decisions, there have been multiple calls for Major League Baseball (MLB) to take similar steps , including suspending Spring Training and delaying the start of the 2020 season. The league has already implemented restrictions to close locker rooms to the media, and discussions were already underway to potentially identify alternate sites to host games for teams located in cities with restrictions on mass gatherings.

TESTING REAGENTS The German molecular testing company Qiagen said yesterday that it is working to expand production of a particular chemical that is critical to the diagnostic testing of COVID-19 samples. The company is adding staff and manufacturing capacity, but it noted that meeting the extraordinary demand would be “challenging.”