U.S. COVID-19 cases top 1,000; cities cancel mass gatherings

March 13, 2020

"Bottom line, it's going to get worse."

Those were the words of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) Director Anthony Fauci, MD, during a House Oversight Committee hearing discussing the coronavirus response. His comments came just hours after cases in the United States crossed the 1,000-case mark.

During questioning, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D–New York, asked Fauci if the coronavirus pandemic will get worse before it improves in the United States.

"We will see more cases and things will get worse than they are right now," he said. Fauci also warned lawmakers that the novel virus was at least 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.

Throughout the country, officials from cities and regions with community spread put a temporary ban on mass gatherings, including parades, sporting events and conventions.

In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed issued a statement saying the city's health officer is banning all events with more than 1,000 people effective until April 21. That city currently has 14 cases and evidence of community spread.

"This is necessary to slow the spread of COVID-19, and builds on our previous public health recommendations," Breed tweeted.

Santa Clara County, the site of the first community spread case in the United States, has also canceled mass gatherings of more than 1,000 people. The county has had 45 cases, and 1 death from COVID-19.

The New York Post reported three Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents from San Jose International Airport had tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

In the most drastic step taken in Washington state, the site of the nation's deadliest COVID-19 outbreak, Governor Jay Inslee said three counties with ongoing COVID-19 transmission—King, Snohomish, and Pierce—will be banned from having gatherings of more than 250 people.

"This is an unprecedented public health situation and we can't wait until we're in the middle of it to slow it down," Inslee said during press conference. "We've got to get ahead of the curve. One main defense is to reduce the interaction of people in our lives."

King County said 10 local long-term care facilities had cases, the hardest hit being the Life Care Center in Kirkland. Washington state has also reported 23 new deaths.

In Texas, the Department of State Health Services issued a statement on what is likely the state's first case of community spread in Montgomery County. Texas has reported 21 cases, all of which had been linked to international travel until March 12. Montgomery County had several cases who had contracted the virus during a Nile river cruise in Egypt.

"From the very start, the state of Texas has anticipated the possibility of community spread of COVID-19, and the proactive strategies we have in place were developed with this very scenario in mind," said Governor Greg Abbott in a press release. "State personnel are trained and equipped to respond to this situation and are actively working to mitigate the impact of community spread."

Community spread was also behind four new cases announced in Oregon. The cases come from Polk, Marion, Umatilla and Deschutes counties, and bring Oregon's total to 19.

In New York state, Governor Andrew Cuomo said there were 43 additional COVID-19 cases, bringing the state's total to 216. Cuomo encouraged social distancing measures, including working from home, during a press briefing from Albany, and said all state employees asked to quarantine will be paid during the two-week period.

Cuomo also confirmed New York state will begin contracting private labs to test for the coronavirus. He said he has had discussions with 28 private labs so far.

Walmart also said all hourly employees will get paid leave if forced to quarantine because of the coronavirus. According to the Associated Press, the nation's largest private employer announced the decision after an employee in a Kentucky store tested positive for the virus earlier this week.

Two states reported initial COVID-19 cases: South Dakota said the state had identified five presumptive positive cases, all travel related, including one fatality. In Michigan, two cases in the Detroit-Metro area were recorded, one in Oakland County and another in Wayne County. Governor Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement that the Oakland County patient had a history of international travel, and the Wayne County patient had a history of domestic travel.

As of March 12, the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracking map showed 1,135 cases in the United States, including at least 31 deaths.

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