US coronavirus cases surpass 1,000, Johns Hopkins University data shows

A person wearing a protective mask waits for a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) train in San Francisco, California, on Thursday, Feb. 27, 2020.

David Paul Morris | Bloomberg | Getty Images

COVID-19 cases surpassed 1,000 in the United States on Tuesday as the new flu-like coronavirus sweeps across the country.

As of late Tuesday evening, there were at least 1,020 cases in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The virus is now present in at least 35 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost half of all U.S. cases are in Washington state, California and New York, where the governors have all declared states of emergency to free up funding for communities battling outbreaks.

At least 28 people have died in the U.S. due to the virus, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was reported in Washington state in January.

There were just over 100 confirmed cases in the U.S. on March 4, according to the World Health Organization. Since then, the virus has spread rapidly from the U.S. epicenter in Washington state across the country.

Federal missteps

State officials have criticized the federal response, particularly with regard to the U.S. capacity to test for the virus. The tests were initially marred by quality control issues, delaying testing for Americans who were or thought they were infected and prompting some states such as New York to seek emergency approval to use their own test kits.

Lack of funding has hampered the federal government’s response to the outbreak, the Director of the CDC Robert Redfield told lawmakers Tuesday.

“The truth is we’ve under-invested in the public health labs,” Redfield said. “There’s not enough equipment, there’s not enough people, there’s not enough internal capacity, there’s no search capacity.”

The Trump administration has enlisted private companies to help cut the difference. The CDC is partnering with Integrated DNA Technologies to manufacture the tests under a CDC contract. IDT is partnering with commercial labs, including LabCorp and Quest, for the testing.

Last week, President Donald Trump signed an $8.3 billion spending bill to combat the spread of the new coronavirus, pumping billions of dollars into prevention efforts and research in hopes of quickly producing a vaccine for the deadly disease.

Broader spread

Epidemiologists and public health specialists say the number of infections is likely much larger than the number of lab-diagnosed cases. The CDC has warned that the virus is likely to continue to spread.

“It’s fair to say that, as the trajectory of the outbreak continues, many people in the United States will at some point in time, either this year or next, be exposed to this virus and there’s a good chance many will become sick,” Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said earlier this week.

Most people won’t develop serious symptoms, the CDC has said, but 15% to 20% of the people who are exposed to the virus get severely sick. U.S. officials have emphasized the risk to the average American remains low. The CDC has warned those most at-risk — older people and those with underlying health conditions — to avoid crowds, touching “high-touch” surfaces in public areas and close contact with people who are sick.

“This seems to be a disease that affects adults and most seriously older adults,” Messonnier said. “Starting at age 60, there is an increasing risk of disease and the risk increases with age.” 

Country prepares

Cities hit by COVID-19 are now taking steps to contain the virus. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday the state is deploying the National Guard to New Rochelle, a coronavirus hot spot just north of New York City. The state’s health commissioner, Dr. Howard Zucker, said the state is moving from “a containment strategy to more of a mitigation strategy.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee warned Tuesday that cases could reach 64,000 by May if health officials and the public aren’t able to contain the outbreak now. 

“If we assume there are 1,000 or more people who have the virus today, what the experts are telling us, in an epidemic like this, looking at the characteristics of this virus, people who are infected will double anywhere from five to eight days,” he said. “If you do that math, it gets very disturbing.”

Dozens of universities have canceled classes on campus and moved courses online to prevent the spread. Several companies have told employees to work from home including Google, which has expanded the policy to its more than 100,000 employees in North America.

Markets have fluctuated wildly amid the spread of the virus. Stocks suffered through a historic sell-off Monday, but clawed back much of those losses during Tuesday’s trading session.

‘Light at the end of the tunnel’

Earlier this week, WHO officials said some countries have been able to slow down, and even stop, transmission of the virus — pointing to Singapore. Whether a country controls an outbreak depends on how quickly and how much world leaders do to contain the spread in their individual countries. 

“It is in our hands. … In many countries, it will get worse before it gets better,” said Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead of WHO’s emergencies program. “Absolutely, we see a light at the end of the tunnel, but how quickly we get there depends on what countries do.”

— CNBC’s Berkeley Lovelace, Noah Higgins-Dunn, Lauren Hirsch, Yelena Dzhanova and Jennifer Elias contributed to this report.