In an Oval Office address, President Donald Trump announced new plans to combat the spread of the coronavirus on the same day the World Health Organization declared a global pandemic.
The address came after a member of the Trump administration stated in congressional testimony that the worst is yet to come.
“The bottom line: It is going to get worse,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the House Oversight Committee. “People always say, ‘Well, the flu does this, the flu does that.’ The flu has a mortality of 0.1%. This has a mortality of 10 times that.”
The president said he was taking “strong but necessary” actions to keep new cases of the coronavirus from entering the U.S. by suspending all travel from Europe for 30 days, beginning on March 13, with an exemption for Britain.
Additionally, he confirmed health insurance companies agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments and extend insurance coverage to cover coronavirus treatments. Other actions he called for included having the Small Business Administration provide loans to businesses affected by the virus and asked Congress for $50 billion more for loan programs as well as a payroll tax cut.
There were no new plans announced to test for and treat those who have the virus in the U.S. nor was a national emergency declared.
Eight New New Jersey Cases
In New Jersey, the number of coronavirus cases increased by eight, including four more in Bergen County, bringing the statewide total to 23 positive tests with one death on March 11. All of the eight news cases are in hospitals, Gov. Phil Murphy said, but he did not have details about their locations available.
The updated figures in New Jersey include 23 presumptive positive tests (12 in North Jersey) with one death; 57 negative tests; 20 tests in process; and 37 persons under investigation.
But the larger issues for New Jersey health officials is two new positive cases of the coronavirus could possibly be a result of “community spread.”
“Simply put, community spread is defined as person-to-person transmission without exposure to a confirmed case,” New Jersey Department of Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Community spread indicates that the coronavirus is amongst us. We have an expectation that that may be the case.”
Murphy, in his first public comments since he had surgery to remove a likely cancerous tumor from his kidney, told News 12 New Jersey 20 of those who tested positive are currently hospitalized.
“My guess is it gets worse before it gets better,” said Murphy. “And that’s not just a statement about New Jersey. That’s a statement about America and the world. We have been preparing for that and we just have to continue to do what we can to stay out ahead of that.”
The state has received $14 million in federal grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to assist in its ongoing efforts to contain the spread.
Gottheimer Looks for Answers
Rep. Josh Gottheimer is leading the call of New Jersey’s Democratic congressional delegation looking for more information from the CDC regarding when the state should expect to receive confirmation of the 23 pending presumed positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases on which the state continues to wait.
“While we understand that the CDC is quite busy handling this crisis, it is important the states can confirm a positive or negative test result in order to contain a potentially further damaging outbreak in our communities,” the letter to CDC Director Dr. Robert R. Redfield, M.D. states. “Additionally, with the administration’s plan to distribute millions of test kits this week, we must ensure that the CDC can quickly and efficiently analyze test results. The gaps in testing we are currently experiencing hinder the nation’s ability to mitigate the spread of the COVID-19 virus.”
The members requested information regarding CDC’s plans to increase their capability to analyze tests, CDC’s policy to confirm a state’s presumptive positive test, and the possibility of partnering with state, local, and commercial labs to allow them the capability to confirm test results.
New Jersey was anticipating confirmation of initial presumptive cases by March 7, and the CDC did not meet its own deadline. The CDC was not able to provide an explanation for the delays.