Health Secretary Alex Azar defended the Trump administration’s response to the novel coronavirus, saying his department is “working to keep” the number of new cases “low.”, Azar said he is personally involved in examining allegations raised by a whistleblower who claims agency employees who helped quarantined American evacuees from Wuhan, China, lacked proper training and protective gear.
“We are aggressively looking to see whether there is validity to the concerns,” Azar said. “What the American people need to know is that we now have passed well over 14 days since any HHS employee had contact with the individuals involved. Nobody is symptomatic. Nobody has the disease.”
Azar’s comments come one day after the first death from coronavirus in the U.S. was reported in Washington state. The man who died was in his 50s and had underlying medical conditions, officials said.
There have been a total of 74 confirmed cases in the U.S. so far, according to reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments. Rhode Island reported its first case Sunday and two new cases were reported in Kings County, Washington.
Trevor Bedford, a computational biologist at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, tweeted Saturday that an analysis of a specimen from a new case in Snohomish County closely matched the specimen of the first known coronavirus case in the U.S., a person who had traveled recently from Wuhan, China. He said that indicates the virus has been spreading undetected in Washington for six weeks.
Meanwhile, the number of cases in Italy climbed to 1,377 total as Delta and American Airlines temporarily suspended service from New York City to Milan.