Although Chinese health officials show the number of daily coronavirus cases stabilizing, international and U.S. health officials said Wednesday that it is too early to predict a foreseeable end to the crisis.
“It’s way too early to try to predict the beginning of the end” of the virus outbreak that erupted in China in December, Dr. Mike Ryan, the head of emergencies for the World Health Organization (WHO), told reporters in Geneva.
His comments followed the latest report from China that the 2,015 new cases counted on Tuesday was the second straight daily decline, down from nearly 3,900 a week ago. Commission spokesman Mi Feng said the situation is still grim, but “we have seen some positive changes.”
Like Ryan, however, Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cautioned Wednesday not to read too much into the latest reports.
“I’m going to be optimistic that is a sign that their aggressive actions have been effective, but I really do think it’s too soon to say that for sure, not having hands on the data ourselves,” she said.
Messonnier said she hopes an advance team from WHO now in China will be able to examine the findings: “It would certainly be reassuring if we were now seeing at least a slowdown of this outbreak in China.”
The total number of cases in mainland China is now 44,653 and the death toll has increased to 1,113. Two people have died elsewhere, one in Hong Kong and one in the Philippines. The virus outbreak started in December in Wuhan, China.
Last week, four planes brought U.S. citizens from China to Travis Air Force Base, southwest of Sacramento, California; Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, north of San Diego; Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio; and Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska.
All 195 U.S. citizens who flew to March Air Reserve Base in California, where they were quarantined and tested for the coronavirus, have been released from quarantine and cleared to begin traveling to their homes in other parts of the country.
Officials at the air base on Tuesday said none of the travelers, who have been isolated since Jan. 29, will need medical follow-ups and all will now be able to continue with their daily lives.
"We want to make sure you understand there should be no concern of novel coronavirus from these 195 individuals. They’ve been watched more than anyone in the United States at this time,” said Rear Adm. Dr. Nancy Knight, director of the CDC's Division of Global Health Protection. "This is a huge celebration for all of us at March Air Reserve Base."
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The group was mostly U.S. diplomats and their families, and they were the first to be transported to a military facility from China. Health officials circulated a photo that showed members of the group throwing their breathing masks into the air – much like graduates tossing their mortarboards aloft at the end of a commencement ceremony.
Jamie Fouss, who served as a U.S. consulate general in Wuhan – one of the 195 Americans who'd been quarantined on the air base – told reporters Tuesday that the 14-day quarantine as "much easier and better than imagined."
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There have been 13 U.S. cases of coronavirus in Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Washington and Wisconsin. One U.S. citizen diagnosed with the coronavirus has died in Wuhan.
Cruise ship allowed to dock in Cambodia
A Holland America cruise ship that was turned away by five governments has gotten permission to stop in Cambodia to allow its 2,200 passengers and crew to get off. The MS Westerdam had been denied permission to dock in the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan and Guam, although the cruise line says it has no confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
The ship had departed Hong Kong on Feb. 1 and was originally scheduled to disembark in Shanghai on Saturday before coronavirus gripped mainland China and forced a change in its itinerary.
"All approvals have been received, and we are extremely grateful to the Cambodian authorities for their support," the line said in a release provided by public relations director Erik Elvejord to USA TODAY. The ship will dock in Sihanoukville on Thursday.
Meanwhile, in Japan, 39 new cases were confirmed on a cruise ship quarantined at Yokohama, bringing the total to 174 on the Diamond Princess.
Coronavirus gets new name
WHO announced a formal name for the coronavirus – COVID-19.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said officials needed a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people. It also had to be pronounceable and related to the disease, he said.
"Having a name matters, to prevent the use of other names that can be inaccurate or stigmatizing," he said. "It also gives us a standard format to use for any future coronavirus outbreaks."
Contributing: John Bacon, Morgan Hines and Jayme Deerwester, USA TODAY.
Follow Colin Atagi on Twitter: @tdscolinatagi.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY NETWORK: Coronavirus: Health officials say it's soon to predict end to crisis