Health officials announced Friday that a second case of coronavirus contracted through community spread — where the patient had no apparent contact with a known case and did not travel to a region experiencing an outbreak — has been confirmed in California, 90 miles away from the state's first community transmitted case. Within hours, state officials in Oregon also reported a case of unknown origin.
The news hit as the World Health Organization confirmed that the new virus, known as COVID-19, has now spread to 54 countries.
What are the details?
Santa Clara County's Public Health Department issued a statement saying the new case in their California county "had no known exposure to the virus through travel or close contact with a known infected individual" and warned, "now is the time to prepare for the possibility of widespread community transmission."
California's first case of community spread COVID-19 was announced Wednesday and confirmed to be in Solano County, roughly 90 miles away from Santa Clara.
Jennifer Nuzzo, senior scholar at Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security reacted to news of the second case, telling The Washington Post, "I think there's a strong possibility that there's local transmission going on in California. In other words, the virus is spreading within California, and I think there's a possibility other states are in the same boat — they just haven't recognized that yet."
Sure enough, The Washington Post reported in a separate story within hours that a resident of Washington County, Oregon, had also contracted the coronavirus through community spread.
There are currently 59 known cases of COVID-19 in the United States, and according to the World Health Organization's running count, there are now more than 83,000 confirmed cases across 54 countries (after Mexico announced its first two confirmed cases on Friday, Fox News reported). More than 2,800 people have died from the new coronavirus as of this writing.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said during a press conference Friday, "This is a reality check for every government on the planet," TIME reported. Ghebreyesus' message to leaders was: "Wake up, get ready. This virus may be on its way and you need to be ready. You have a duty to your citizens, you have a duty to the world to be ready."
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told Fox News' Bill Hemmer on Friday, "We have been very transparent from day one that the risk to Americans at the present time is low, that that could change rapidly and that we must be prepared."
Azar continued, "We, your government are taking this seriously, we are working with Congress, we are preparing across the federal, state and local levels, but for the everyday American, the risk to them is low and it does not result in a change to their lifestyle right now."
The HHS secretary added, "But that can change, and we want to make sure we're transparent about that."